I’m a slow learner, but I’m hoping to catch on quickly

Brandon kissing his baby 2

My oldest son, Brandon, and his lovely Maira have made me a grandmother.

I thrive on routine, mainly because I’m a slow learner.  It took me about ten years to feel like a real teacher. After a decade of sports officiating, I was finally comfortable wearing stripes. I’ve been writing novels for almost 25 years and, only now, am I finding my footing in the publishing world. So, slow and steady has worked pretty well for me. Abrupt changes, not so much. Just traversing that crossover from summer vacation to the school year sometimes leaves me in a tizzy.

But life has a habit of taking sudden turns. Things we never expect land squarely at our feet. Seven years ago, a fifteen-year-old boy, a former student of mine, needed a place to live. In a matter of weeks, I was attending foster mom school. I’d never been able to have children. And then, suddenly, I was a mom.

Today, I have three sons, all grown and handsome and charming. (Do all moms say that?) And this morning, I became a grandmother. Never in my imagination did I ever consider the possibility.

I can’t remember ever holding an infant, except for the time a kind gentleman passed me his baby on a plane so he could reach under the seat to retrieve my glasses. I’ve heard that babies have a certain irresistible smell. I’ve never experienced the fragrance. And that newborns have soft spots on the tops of their tiny heads. I’ve never touched one. And that when someone hands you an  infant you might be reluctant to let go. I don’t know about that either.

But I do know I’m going to give this grandma thing a go, and, hopefully, I’ll catch on quickly.

Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

Friday Feature Cookies and we’re not talking Oreos

Wish I had some of these right now!

C.D. Hersh

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Twisted Chocolate Chip Cookies

by

Anne Montgomery

When Ruth Graves Wakefield invented chocolate chip cookies in 1938 – hence forth named Toll House Cookies for the inn she owned in Whitman, Massachusetts – the confection became an instant American classic. So, perhaps, no one should be messing with these gooey, nutty hunks of near perfection. Ah, but I couldn’t help myself. As I’ve gotten older my taste buds seem to dance less at the prospect of excessive sweetness and more for. . . something else. I began tinkering with Ruth’s invention – I hope she doesn’t mind – and came up with these jam-packed babies that I call. . .

Twisted Chocolate Chip Cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips*
1…

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FLDS women and girls fight back

 

A number of those who have read my novel The Scent of Rain have suggested that, while they like the story, some of the elements seem a bit far-fetched. The irony, of course, is that while the story of Rose Madsen’s escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a work of fiction, many of the traumas the 16-year-old endures are based on actual situations.

I interviewed Flora Jessop, who twice escaped from the cult, at length. I interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby who worked with the people in Colorado City and encouraged them to stop inbreeding to avoid the devastating birth defects that plague the community. I visited Colorado City and nearby Hurricane to observe what life is like in the communities on the Arizona Strip. I wrote about what I heard and what I saw with little embellishment.

The conditions in the area the people call Short Creek remain harrowing, but life for the cult members is improving. I was delighted to see an article last week titled “Ex-FLDS women, girls learn to stand up to sexual violence” by reporter Emily Havens of The Spectrum & Dailey News in St. George, Utah. Havens details efforts at the first-ever Brave Youth camp, where FLDS survivors learn about self-defense, how to deal with sexual violence, healthy dating relationships, and other social issues to prepare them for the real world outside the controlling strictures of the cult in which they were raised. http://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2017/08/03/ex-flds-women-girls-learn-how-stand-up-sexual-violence/536777001/

With FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs imprisoned, serving a life-plus-20-years sentence for his sham marriages to under-age girls – one as young as 12 – and the state of Arizona finally taking steps to rectify the horrifying abuses – forced marriage, sexual violence, child abuse, animal abuse, child slavery – there is now hope for the people of Colorado City.

 

Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

If you don’t have your Kindle copy of The Scent of Rain, now would be a good time to buy

This month Amazon is promoting my new novel The Scent of Rain.

You can purchase the Kindle edition for just $1.99.

So stop procrastinating. Get your copy today.

 

Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

Disney weddding dresses leave me disconcerted

disney dress 2

Who knew Disney wedding dresses were a thing? The whole idea has me flustered.

Recently, a huge wedding dress retailer filed for bankruptcy, leaving countless orders unfilled. The wedding industrial complex is now in chaos. In an article in the Arizona Republic detailing the demise of the dress company, I read the following: “I have known about this Disney collection since it came out,” said a grieving bride-to-be. “I always said I would have that dress when it was my turn to get married. It caused tears in my mom’s and grandmother’s eyes, and I was shocked because I didn’t think that was possible.”

I, too, was stunned, not thinking it possible. Not the loss of the gown or the weeping relatives, but the fact that a grown woman wanted to dress like a Disney princess on her wedding day.

A quick search of the Internet showed I could, in fact, purchase an Ariel-inspired wedding frock with mermaid features. (I’m not sure how a bride would progress down the aisle with a fish tail, but I digress.) If Pocahontas is your preferred princess, there’s an off-the-shoulder number for you. Cinderella, Snow White, Moana, Elsa, Mulan, pick your royalty. “All of these dresses are seriously enough for anyone to feel like a total princess on their big day!” raved one lifestyle blogger.

Why my unease at Disney-themed dresses? First, I’m a high school teacher. I sometimes share with my students the time-honored sequence of success: education, job, marriage, children. Note there’s nothing in that list about being scooped up and rescued by a handsome prince. It would appear some of the message is getting through. The age of first-time marriage in the US for women is now 27, for men 29. (Back in 1960, the numbers were 20 and 22, respectively.)

I wondered about the age of the women who aspire to Disney princess perfection. While I searched the Internet again, on the off chance that someone had actually studied this phenomenon, I found nothing assuring me that only very young brides succumb to this princess envy.

But here’s the thing. If you’re planning to get married, no matter your age, if you still desire to emulate a Disney princess, perhaps you’re just not mature enough to take the plunge. Let’s remember that today a typical wedding averages a little over $35,000, an all-time high, which is 63% of median annual income. And that doesn’t include the honeymoon. About one-third of couples admit they can’t afford to pay up front for the big day and opt to go into debt. Yikes!

Now, I must place a disclaimer here. When I got married, I had nothing to do with the plans. I was a busy reporter and quite happy to leave the details to my mom. I cared only that the cake was chocolate. (I do have certain standards.) That said, I recently sat with my partner of twenty-some years in a tiny restaurant on the coast of St. Croix. The centuries-old building faced the turquoise Caribbean. Sea breeze wafted through thick stone archways. Polly’s served grilled cheese sandwiches that I’m pretty sure were the best on the planet. A rum-soaked coconut cake was orgasmic. Marriage came up, and, though it’s possible Ryan only loves me for my teacher pension and my access to good health care, we discussed how that day might look.

“Here would be good,” I said from Polly’s patio, a cobblestone affair where a cheeky chicken – reminiscent of Moana’s dimwitted friend – lingered for a handout. “I’d wear white.”

Ryan paused, then raised both eyebrows, grilled cheese midway to his mouth.

“White t-shirt and shorts and socks and sneaks. And we’d have grilled cheese and coconut rum cake.”

Later, after a stop at the Captain Morgan Distillery, Ry and I sipped chilled adult beverages as we watched the sun set on the sea. We agreed that serving the Cap’n’s Black Spiced Rum might also be nice.

So, clearly, I am not a member of the Disney Princess Wedding Dress target audience.

My hope is that girls and young women find more non-princess role models to emulate. And so, I was delighted by a recent photograph in National Geographic. A tiny girl wearing a puffy white suit replete with boots and space helmet. Tethered to six shiny silver balloons, she appeared ready to lift off.

“Sophia used to wear princess dresses,” said her father, Juan Carlos Osorio. “But one day she decided to dress like an astronaut instead.”

Imagine that.

Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should I review your novel if you review mine?

Reviews

Book reviews are hard to come by. Authors spend countless hours tracking down reviewers who are willing to take the time and effort to critique their work. So, what’s the harm in authors trading reviews? That depends on who you ask.

I recently got a request from an author. “If you review my book, I’ll review yours,” he said in a cheery e-mail.

I paused, not wanting to offend him. But the idea of a quid pro quo exchange of commentary on our novels made me uneasy. The idea seemed wrong, but was it?

I checked into the issue and, like many matters in the constantly changing world of publishing, the opinions were mixed. Some authors find nothing wrong with the idea of swapping reviews. But what happens if your book is brilliant and theirs is, um . . . not?

There seems to be a whiff of expectation involved in this author-to-author review dance. Writers understand the long hours and toil required to birth book babies, so surely, we would never speak harshly of another author’s creation, would we?

And even if the reviews turn out to be similar – filled with praise for both authors’ plot lines, character development, and skillful prose – does not this mutual patting of backs seem disingenuous?

The idea of trading author reviews seems on par, at least to me, with asking family members and loved ones to critique our books. In the vast majority of cases, aren’t those the people who want to extol our accomplishments? Find the good in our efforts? Skip over the poorly-written paragraphs and heavy-handed dialogue?

Both of the above cases make me squeamish. That said, authors need reviews. Reviews sell books. Getting reviews is demanding and often depressing work. Most reviewers will not even respond to queries. But that doesn’t mean you stop asking. Grit your teeth. Search the Internet for those book blogger lists and wade in with your eyes open. Here’s one I just tackled: http://www.tweetyourbooks.com/p/free-reviews.html. And here are two more: http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/             http://www.bookrevieweryellowpages.com/book-reviewer-list.html

Read what each blogger is looking for carefully. Click on their website to see if it’s up to date and if they’re currently accepting submissions. Then send your query.

When you do get that 5-Star Review from a complete stranger who owes you nothing, I think you’ll understand.

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Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

Anne Montgomery’s Love of Cake

chrispavesic

Fellow author Anne Montgomery joins me in the virtual kitchen today.  Take it away Anne!


Cake

One of the finest inventions known to man.

Unfortunately, too often cake is a second thought; a mere conveyor of mounds of icing and cute decorations. In the interest of cake, and understanding the fact that few of us have time to make the confection from scratch, here’s a simple way to – I can’t help it – have your cake and eat it too.

This recipe was created by my foster son Troy who is working hard to become a pastry chef.

Jazzed Up Chocolate Cake
1 chocolate cake mix (use Devils Food)
Eggs, oil, water: according to box directions
1 cup walnuts
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix the cake as directed on the box.

Finely chop the walnuts. You can also use a food processor. The idea is to reduce them…

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What to do about nothing to do

Nothing to do 400X400

So, I found myself in a rather precarious situation.

One day, recently, I had nothing to do. Not a thing. Even the house was relatively clean and the laundry put away. There was nothing more I could do for the garden, which was on its way to the summer desert-char season, where all things green are reduced to sticks and straw. I could find no new reporters, bloggers, reviewers, or book clubs to pitch my novel to. There was nothing to edit or update. No e-mails to return or query letters to revise. And, gosh, with school out for the summer, there were no teenagers to supervise, unless you count my youngest son, who’s twenty and thinks he’s all grown up and doesn’t need my guidance anymore.

It was…quite frankly…frightening.

I know what you’re thinking. In the inimitable words of Mrs. Blue, when she first faces Forrest from her porch, “What are you crazy or just plain stupid?”

Now, as a teacher, I don’t use the word stupid. Five letters, yes, but, in the classroom, it’s lumped in with the dastardly four-letter variety. Still, when I tried to explain the cause of my anxiety to a friend, he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Stupid, indeed.

I went on line and, because I had nothing else to do, I took what was billed as the 7 Minute Anxiety Test. I agreed or disagreed with all sorts of statements on a link called the Calm Clinic:  I have sweaty or cold, clammy hands. I am afraid of crowds, being left alone, the dark, strangers, or traffic. I am able to relax.

That last one gave me pause. Even when I go on vacation, it takes me a few days to stop searching for a purpose, to find that sweet spot where I can take a nap or crack a mindless novel in the middle of the afternoon without guilt. The test results showed that I’d scored a 25 out of 100 on the Anxiety Scale: Apparently, my case was nothing more than mild.

Still, why the trepidation when I’m not under pressure? I put on my Sherlock deerstalker cap and, since I had nothing else to do, I gave it a good think.  I ruminated on the fact that I have spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time being insanely busy. Sometimes, I flash back to my newsroom days, where the frantic preparation for the next show could, at any moment, be wrenched in a new direction, necessitating the tossing of the previous plan moments before going live on the air. (I still have nightmares about not being prepared when the red camera light blinks on.) When I first became a teacher, my panic at those relatively short TV segments seemed silly when faced with the proposition of five hours each day staring down children in the classroom, who glared back, waiting. I felt like an animal in the zoo. I used to be a server in a restaurant in Washington, D.C. where very busy people wanted their food “Right now!” As a sports official, decisions must be instantaneous. There’s no, “Let me think about this and get back to you,” allowed when it’s time to throw a flag or keep it neatly tucked in your belt.

And then, I paused. Everyone is busy. Our world dictates that we run from one responsibility to another with crushing regularity. Busy defines us.  And, clearly, I’m not the only one who feels a bit queasy when things slow down. More than half of Americans – 55% – responding to an on-line survey admitted to leaving vacation time unused in 2015, which totaled 658 million days.

Perhaps we’re just out of practice in regard to relaxing. Like anything else, one must train to become adept at a skill. One can’t just jump in without extensive repetition and expect to excel. So, I’ll solve my free-time anxiety problem by devising a plan, creating coherent steps in order to discern the proper route to relaxation, and then…

You know, all this thinking is making me sleepy. Maybe, I’ll take a nap and ponder the problem later.

 

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Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

“I say this is a must read!”

5-Stars for The Scent of Rain

Gabriela Trofin-Tatar – Chicachiflada Books

https://s2.netgalley.com/book/110131/review/375619

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Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.