Diane Chamberlain's Blog

August 18, 2017

Once a week, I play acoustic guitar with a casual group of musicians. We have an energetic leader who is gifted at keeping us on track, and we play mostly rock and roll with some country thrown in. We take turns picking songs from the songbook we use, and we all strum and sing. I’ve played weekly for a few years now. I’m not good, but it’s my only diversion from writing and I love losing myself in the music for an evening.


One of the first songs we played last week was the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week”. As we played, it suddenly occurred to me that I was the only person there who was old enough to have been to a Beatles concert.


“Hey,” I said, when we’d finished the song. “I’m the only person in this room old enough to have seen the Beatles live.”


That got a chuckle.


Then we played a song we play nearly every week: “For What it’s Worth”. You may not recognize the title, but you would recognize the ominous lyrics and eerie melody. There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear. . .


“Hey,” I said when the selection was announced. “I’m the only person in this room old enough to have sung this song during a protest march.”


Another chuckle, somewhat muted.


We sing this song nearly every week. As we sang it this time, I wondered what meaning the lyrics had to my fellow guitarists. I recalled marching in Trenton, New Jersey, protesting the Vietnam War with my fellow students while that song played on our transistor radios, the haunting lyrics resonating deep in our hearts and minds. Although Stephen Stills was inspired to write “For What it’s Worth” by a different protest (teenagers fighting a 1966 curfew in Los Angeles), to those of us in our teens and early twenties back then, the song quickly came to represent our anguish about the entire Vietnam era. Paranoia strikes deep. My male friends were waiting for the draft lottery, hoping and praying their birthdates wouldn’t be assigned to a number that would send them overseas to fight for their lives in a war they didn’t believe in under the leadership of a president they distrusted and despised. As we sang the song in our guitar circle, I was flooded by memories of those times and those marches and the feeling so many of us had of a desperate need to make our voices heard in an effort to bring about change. I was quickly too choked up to sing along, thinking of the recent protests in Charlottesville and other cities–protests that pitted good against evil and–in the case of Charlottesville–that ended in tragedy. I may no longer be able to put my body on the line, but I support in every other way the people brave enough to protest for equality and justice.


Toward the end of the evening, we played “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. I was tempted to point out that I’d been to seven Stones concerts by the time I was eighteen. Instead, I took in a long, steadying breath and decided to simply enjoy the music.


 


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Published on August 18, 2017 14:27 • 26 views

October 31, 2016

pretendingtodancecover-300


screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-20-44-amAbout a year and a half ago, I first saw the design for the hardcover edition of my latest book, Pretending to Dance. To say I was blown away is an understatement. I thought the image with that vibrant red dress was stunning. I could feel the movement of that dress, and the woman wearing it came to life for me. But once the book was published, I discovered a problem. “I thought it would be a book about dance,” readers would write to me. Or, “From the cover, I had no idea the book would be a page-turner.”


Hmm. The beauty of the cover and the prettiness of the title, taken together, gave a misleading impression of the story. To be honest, my editor had wanted to change the title before the book was published, but I was adamant that we keep it. The title has great meaning in the story, as those of you who’ve read the book understand. I am usually at a loss when it comes to titles for my book, but I had this one before the book was even written. I was so wedded to the title that  I couldn’t see my editor’s concerns . . . until after the book came out and I began to get that feedback from my readers.


So my publisher made the (very good) decision to change the cover when the book was reissued in paperback this month. Although the title is the same, the girl walking into the dark woods better depicts the suspense and mystery of the story, and I’ve been thrilled with the response from my readers. I was afraid that they would have loved the ‘pretty lady in red’ so much that this darker cover might turn them off. Their reaction has been the opposite. The new cover tells more of a story, and after all, that’s what readers are after. I’m grateful to my editor and publisher for making this change.


What are your thoughts? What does each cover say to you? How important is the cover image to you as a reader? Tomorrow, I’ll randomly pick one of your comments to win your choice of one of my available older novels. If you live outside the US, you’ll win a  gift certificate to the online bookstore of your choice.


Happy reading!


The post A Tale of Two Covers (and a Contest) appeared first on Diane Chamberlain.

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Published on October 31, 2016 11:52 • 416 views

July 4, 2016

MyXlong-agoXgoldensXXChapelXandXBen Giving my office a deep cleaning, I stumbled across this essay I wrote about my golden retrievers, Ben and Chapel, at the end of Ben’s life in the late ’90s.  Have any of you had a similar experience?


Best Buddies Forever


by Diane Chamberlain


            I sat in the breeder’s kitchen, waiting to meet the dog she was giving away. Only a few days earlier, I’d lost my three-year-old golden retriever, Kona, to a post-surgical infection. When I called the breeder to see if she had any puppies available, she asked if I would be interested in an older dog. Having recently decided to stop showing her five-year-old golden retriever, Ben, she’d had him neutered and was looking for a good home for him. Although a five-year-old dog was hardly what I’d had in mind, I said I would take him for a week to see how he got along with my husband, our year-old golden, Chapel and myself.


The breeder called Ben into the kitchen. He trotted into the room, his tail wagging and his very white, old man face peering out from inside a peach-colored bucket. He had a hot spot on his skin, the breeder explained. She’d cut the bottom from a plastic bucket and tied it to his collar to keep him from chewing at the sore spot. I don’t want an old dog with a bucket on his head, I thought to myself, but since I’d already promised to take him home for a visit, I headed out the door with him.


The breeder told me that Ben liked to ride in the passenger seat, so I opened the front door and he climbed in. Once next to him in the driver’s seat, I removed the bucket from his head for the ride to my house. As soon as I did, Ben lay down with his big head in my lap and I began to soften toward him. He was, I had to admit, a teddy bear.


Once home, I let him out in my yard where Chapel was wandering around like a lost soul without Kona. She took one look at Ben and literally jumped for joy, all four feet off the ground at once. She and Ben ran toward each other, took a moment for the requisite sniffing and wagging, then began romping around the yard as if they’d been best buddies for years. My mind was made up. No way was I taking this cuddly, amiable dog back to the breeder. Ben was ours.


From that moment, Chapel and Ben were inseparable. They explored together in the woods behind my house. They took obedience classes and earned their Companion Dog certificates together. They loved to play-fight over a toy, growling viciously, tails wagging furiously. When they were worn out from their adventures, they would lay together on the rug, Ben’s head resting on Chapel’s side.


Over the years, Ben’s face grew even whiter, and Chapel’s fur lightened as well. My dogs were aging. Ben began to stumble a bit. I took him to an acupuncturist who worked with dogs, and the stumbling was gone within a few months. At thirteen, he seemed almost like a pup again. Then one night, I noticed he was breathing more rapidly than usual. By the next morning, he was lethargic and showed no interest in his food. I took him to the vet, who x-rayed him and discovered the cancer in his lungs.


At the vet’s suggestion, I took Ben outside to have some time alone with him as I thought over my grim options. Ordinarily an extremely affectionate dog, Ben ignored me. He sat as far from me as his leash would allow, staring away from me, and I knew he was suffering. There was only one choice I could make.


As the vet and I discussed putting Ben to sleep, I was able to keep from crying until I thought of Chapel. Hard as it would be for me to lose Ben, what would it be like for her? I’d heard about dogs who searched relentlessly for their vanished mate, and I couldn’t bear to think of Chapel being confused by Ben’s sudden disappearance. I had also heard that it can be helpful to have the surviving dog present when his or her buddy is put to sleep. I mentioned this to the vet and he said it would be fine for me to bring Chapel in.


I left Ben at the vet’s, then returned with my husband and Chapel. When we walked into the small treatment room, Chapel bounced around in delight at finding her best friend there.


“She’s oblivious,” said the vet.


She certainly was, at least for the moment. But as soon as she realized that Ben was simply lying on the floor, looking sick and weary and not the least bit interested in her antics, she lay down next to him. The vet injected Ben with the lethal dose of anesthesia. As the breath left Ben’s body, Chapel rested her head against his, suddenly as somber and serious as if she’d been given a drug herself. The change in her was simple, quiet and stunning. No one will ever convince me that she didn’t understand that Ben had left her world.


Chapel did not once search for Ben. She, like my husband and myself, moped around for the first few days, but once she realized she was getting 100% of our attention instead of 50%, she perked up.


Her face was suddenly whiter, though, and her step was not so sure. I believe she was waiting, in that patient way goldens have, for the day she could play with her best buddy again.


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Published on July 04, 2016 06:05 • 294 views

October 6, 2015

When I was growing up, my sister Joann was my hero. Never mind the fact that she couldn’t stand me. I was seven years younger and when I came along, I took over her position as Princess of the Family. She didn’t bother masking her disdain for me. (You can even see it in this early picture of us with our mother. She’s thinking “how can I get rid of her??”) Still, I worshiped her. In my eyes, she was beautiful and sophisticated, self-confident and talented. I remember thinking, “when I’m her age, maybe I’ll be that amazing.” Yet I could never catch up. No matter what age I became, she was always seven years older and seven years more awesome than me.


During my teen years, something shifted in our relationship. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but we began to see each other as real people instead of as an enemy or an idol. We saw each other’s strengths and weaknesses more clearly and we became confidants and best friends.  


As an adult, Joann, who had been an artist for years, fell in love with community theater and became an actress, ultimately marrying a fellow actor, Mark. Then tragedy struck. Mark, who was seven years her junior, suddenly died of undiagnosed kidney disease at the age of thirty-eight. It was a terrible blow for our whole family—a family that had always seemed a little bit charmed with good health.


Shortly after Mark died, Joann visited me in Virginia. She said she’d been having some trouble walking. Her legs felt sluggish and she could no longer move quickly. I was a psychotherapist at the time and immediately jumped to the conclusion that she was having a psychosomatic reaction to her sudden widowhood. I wish that had been the case. What she was experiencing was an early manifestation of Multiple Sclerosis.


Her progressive form of MS didn’t respond to any of the available medications and she fought the disease hard as it stole her ability to walk. At first she used a cane to get around, but quickly progressed to a mobility scooter and later, an electric wheelchair. She married a man who saw the amazing woman behind the illness. Michael took good care of her for many years. During that time, she had to stop painting and–a harder loss to bear–she had to stop acting. She could still direct plays, though, and she took on that challenge with her usual energy.


When Michael died of cancer, Joann knew she couldn’t live alone. It was time to hire a twenty-four-hour aide. After a few false starts, she found Nina, who quickly became part of our family. The women and men who do that sort of work fill me with awe.


Not long after Joann’s initial diagnosis, I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. So much for our family’s run of great health! Jo and I had many long conversations about living with chronic illness and about end-of-life issues. Joann would say “when I can no longer scratch my own nose, I want to be able to end my life.” She became a passionate advocate for death with dignity and she remains active in that fight today.


For years now, she has been unable to scratch her own nose. Nina feeds her, bathes her, rolls her over in bed. Joann is completely dependent on her. She can no longer type, so she uses voice recognition software on her computer. She’s still active in community theater, although directing plays has become difficult without the use of her hands to make notes. She reads voraciously, belongs to several book clubs, is working on a memoir, and remains active in fighting for legislation to promote death with dignity.


Why am I telling you about Joann? Because she’s the inspiration for my character Graham in Pretending to Dance, my latest novel on sale today. Graham has the same type of MS as Joann and the same can-do attitude—as well as the same desire to have control over the end of his life. I admire Graham’s strength and creativity and I especially admire how deeply he loves his daughter, Molly, the young protagonist in the story.


As I wrote Pretending to Dance, I worried that Joann might be offended or upset by my portrayal of Graham. I asked her to read an early draft and was relieved when she said she loved it. She felt as though I’d captured life with progressive MS well.


But Pretending to Dance is not a story about Multiple Sclerosis. It’s a story about the love between a father and daughter, the value of truth in a family, and making peace with the past. I’m grateful to Joann for the inspiration she gave me in creating Graham’s character and for her openness and honesty in helping me paint a realistic picture of his life.


Joann may have lost many of her physical abilities, but there is one thing about her that hasn’t changed in all these years: she is still my hero, now more than ever.


The post The Hero Behind Pretending to Dance appeared first on Diane Chamberlain.

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Published on October 06, 2015 03:01 • 544 views

August 19, 2015

Dance Begins, TheThree years ago, I decided to write a short story that could serve as a prequel to my soon-to-be-released novel Necessary Lies in the hope the story would whet the my readers’ appetites for the book. I was not a short story writer, having written only one short story in the past, but I took a look at the finished manuscript for Necessary Lies and picked out an event I wanted to know more about (the night Mary Ella gave birth to Baby William, for those of you familiar with Necessary Lies. I loved writing the short story, which I called ‘The First Lie’. It gave me a chance to explore a dramatic event in my characters’ lives that hadn’t fit neatly into the book itself. I was also able to drop a (hopefully) tantalizing hint of what would come in the novel. It was so much fun that I wrote another short story (‘The Broken String’) for my next novel, The Silent Sister.


Since that time, many other authors have started writing prequel short stories. Most readers seem to love these stories now that they’ve caught onto them. At first, some readers were upset that the stories were, well, short and they complained about that fact in their reviews. I’ve tried now to make it very clear that these stories are between forty and fifty pages, about one tenth the length of my novels. They sell for 99¢ in the United States and the equivalent in other countries and are only available in digital format. A few readers also complained that the stories weren’t free. One reader wrote on my Facebook page “I refuse to pay money even for a novella; why should I pay for a short story?” I’m usually quite unflappable on Facebook, but her comment did prompt me to reply “Authors do have to eat!” I mean, really? A two hundred page novella can take many months to write. It takes me close to a month to come up with the idea for a short story and to flesh it out in my mind and another couple of weeks of solid writing to complete it. Then there’s the editing process and the cover creation, etc. All of that is followed, I hope, by the reader’s enjoyment. I think it’s worth 99¢, (though I’d love to know what you think.)


My most recent short story is ‘The Dance Begins’, which is a prequel to my upcoming novel Pretending to Dance. This was a tough one to write because I couldn’t figure out the story that should be the focus. Initially, I had a great idea . . . until I realized it gave away some of the major revelations in the book. As a matter of fact, every idea I came up with gave away something that I wanted to be a surprise for the reader of Pretending to Dance, so I really struggled with my storyline. I read through the book manuscript several times searching for inspiration. Then I noticed one sentence in the book. Fourteen-year-old Molly tells her friend, “I broke my arm on the Hill from Hell…” What if I wrote about the day she broke her arm?

I began thinking about how to flesh out that story. I made Molly six years old and her Dad, Graham, who has become one of my all-time favorite characters, (I picture him looking like a young Jeremy Irons) is coping with Multiple Sclerosis at a far earlier stage than he is in Pretending to Dance. While the book is written from Molly’s point of view, the short story is written from Graham’s and I loved being inside his head for a change. Oh, he’s a complicated man! It was fun to hint at things to come in the novel. I worried,  as I always do, that my readers would not be engaged by the story. When I received my copy-edited manuscript, though, and the copy editor had written ‘Beautiful story!’ at the end, I knew I’d hit the mark.

So far, my readers seem to love ‘The Dance Begins’ and no one has complained that it’s short (47 pages). One reviewer said my short stories are ‘integral to the novels’ without being necessary to them. I love it! That’s exactly my goal.


So how about you? Do you read short story prequels and if so, do you enjoy that early taste of a novel? Saturday morning at 10 EST, I’ll use a random number generator to pick one of you to win a gift certificate to the online bookstore of your choice. Doesn’t matter where you live. Good luck!


The post Do You Like those Short Story Prequels? (And a Giveaway) appeared first on Diane Chamberlain.

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Published on August 19, 2015 07:25 • 491 views

June 30, 2015

the journey home frnt cvr media fileYou are right. This does not look like a typical Diane Chamberlain cover. So let me explain.


Sometime in the early 2000s as I was happily working on one of my novels, I got a call from my friend Mary Kilchenstein, aka author Mary Kirk. She was about to begin editing an anthology of short stories. At that time, I had never written a short story and thought it would be fun, so I asked if I could participate and she happily agreed. It had to be a romantic story, though, she added before hanging up.


Well, all right. My early books certainly had a romantic bent to them and it might be fun to play in that genre again, so I was game.


She called me back a short while later. “I forgot to tell you,” she said. “It has to be about a soldier coming home from battle, wounded physically or emotionally or spiritually.”


Hmm, okay. I could do that. I put my thinking cap back on and began to play with ideas. That’s when Mary called once again. “One more thing I forgot to tell you,” she said. “It has to have a paranormal angle.”


Okaaaay, hold your horses! Now I was really out of my element. A romantic story with paranormal elements about a wounded warrior? Could I pull it off?


Well, you’ll have to read the anthology to judge for yourself. I absolutely loved the challenge of writing this story, which I called The Dreamer. It was fun to exercise different writing muscles and I was proud of the result. I also loved reading the other stories in the book, seeing the variety of ways different authors interpreted the wounded warrior-romance-paranormal theme. When The Journey Home came out in the mid 2000s, it was before the e-book revolution. I’m happy it’s once again available in both print and e-book format with its shiny new cover. I hope my readers will give it a try for a change of pace and that they’ll find it as much fun to read as I found The Dreamer to write.


Here’s the Amazon link, but you should be able to find The Journey Home  everywhere.


The post How I Ended up in a Book with a Hunky Half-Naked Hot Guy on the Cover appeared first on Diane Chamberlain.

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Published on June 30, 2015 07:38 • 250 views

May 16, 2015

dreamstime_xs_46163455I planned the theme for this Story Weekend long before the devastating crash that occurred this week. My heart goes out to the folks who were affected. Hopefully you have a happier train story to share–in one hundred words or less!


If you’re new to Story Weekend, here’s how it works: I pick a theme and you share something from your life that relates to that theme, however you interpret it. Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed. As always, there are a few “rules”:


▪ The story must be true


▪ Try to keep it under 100 words. Embrace the challenge! That’s about six or seven lines in the comment form. I want others to read your story, and most people tend to skip if it’s too long. I know how tough it is to “write tight” but I hope you’ll accept this as a challenge


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Published on May 16, 2015 03:12 • 115 views

May 9, 2015

dreamstime_xs_40298629In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend in the US, the theme for Story Weekend is Mom. Please share a story about your Mom or a woman who has made a difference in your life.


If you’re new to Story Weekend, here’s how it works: I pick a theme and you share something from your life that relates to that theme, however you interpret it. Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed. As always, there are a few “rules”:


▪ The story must be true


▪ Try to keep it under 100 words. Embrace the challenge! That’s about six or seven lines in the comment form. I want others to read your story, and most people tend to skip if it’s too long. I know how tough it is to “write tight” but I hope you’ll accept this as a challenge


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Published on May 09, 2015 03:10 • 82 views

May 2, 2015

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-child-blows-dandelion-seeds-image2351361I bet that you have something from your childhood that you never will forget. I hope you’ll share on of your favorite childhood memories with us.


If you’re new to Story Weekend, here’s how it works: I pick a theme and you share something from your life that relates to that theme, however you interpret it. Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed. As always, there are a few “rules”:


▪ The story must be true


▪ Try to keep it under 100 words. Embrace the challenge! That’s about six or seven lines in the comment form. I want others to read your story, and most people tend to skip if it’s too long. I know how tough it is to “write tight” but I hope you’ll accept this as a challenge.


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Published on May 02, 2015 03:00 • 136 views

April 25, 2015

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-valentines-dog-red-rose-his-mouth-taking-selfie-image41924426


Have you ever had a long distance romance? We’d love to hear your story!


If you’re new to Story Weekend, here’s how it works: I pick a theme and you share something from your life that relates to that theme, however you interpret it. Thanks to all of you who’ve contributed. As always, there are a few “rules”:


▪ The story must be true


▪ Try to keep it under 100 words. Embrace the challenge! That’s about six or seven lines in the comment form. I want others to read your story, and most people tend to skip if it’s too long. I know how tough it is to “write tight” but I hope you’ll accept this as a challenge.


 


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Published on April 25, 2015 03:30 • 100 views