Almost a year ago, I was blessed to begin a professional relationship with my publisher, Musa Publishing. Musa is celebrating their one-year anniversary this month, with a Blog Hop. I feel honored to have Musa publish four of my novels—Road Apples (December 2011), The Curious Number (March 2012), Death By Bitter Waters (June 2012) and most recently, Big Lies In Small Town (September 28th, 2012). I look forward to Musa’s publication of my fifth novel, Small Town, Add Vice, in March of 2013.
To mark this celebration, Musa Publishing is giving away a GRAND PRIZE Kindle Fire (for US and Canada mailing addresses only). There will be two Swag Bags (US and Canada only). For everyone, which means INTERNATIONALLY, Musa is giving away a $50.00 Musa gift card. Please check the link for Blog Hop rules: http://musapublishingbloghops.blogspot.com/2012/09/musa-turns-1-and-we-are-celebrating.html
The blog tour starts on October 1st, 2012 at midnight EST, and ends on October 7th, 2012, at midnight PST. Winners will be drawn and posted October 9th.
I’m offering prizes from my blog as well, for those who visit and post a comment on my blog. A random drawing will take place on October 9th, 2012, so leave a comment and your contact info, and enter to win one of the following items:
First Prize—The full four-book collection of my current Musa novels, in the e-book format of your choice.
Second Prize—One signed Limited Edition Promotional Print Version of Road Apples or The Curious Number.
Third Prize—Select a single title from my Musa e-books in your preferred format.
While you mull these prizes over, I’ll give you a little backstory on the books I write, and why I’m compelled to write them.
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For most of the year, I live in Santa Clara, California, with my husband, and close to our extended family, including our grown children and young grandchildren. Approximately eight times per year, we drive up to Susanville, which is located in Lassen County, in northeastern California.
There’s a disparity between my official home, and my seasonal getaway, especially in the voting records. If you take the most recent presidential election (2008), you’ll find that in Santa Clara County, 69.5% voted Democrat, while only 28.6% voted for the Republican ticket. Lassen County is a rough opposite—31.5% Democrat, and 65.8% Republican. With those vague statistics, you can easily conclude that the political atmosphere and social concerns between these two California counties differ like night and day.
As an example—in 2008, 71.3% of Lassen County voters supported Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages. I don’t have the stats on Santa Clara County in regard to Prop 8, but I do know that after its unfortunate passage, Santa Clara County joined San Francisco and Los Angeles counties in a lawsuit, becoming the first governmental entities in the world to sue in support of same-sex marriage, essentially to overturn Prop 8 as discriminatory against homosexuals.
Although we’re a Catholic family, Prop 8 struck us as deeply exclusionary. Why should heterosexuals have all the fun—or, all the anguish—when it comes to marriage equality? The unilateral and heavy financial support that the Catholic Knights of Columbus gave to the Mormon Church in order to pass Prop 8 in California, galled us, and is the reason why my husband immediately withdrew his membership with the K of C.
Guilt is a required Catholic emotion, and often the butt of jokes. To keep this guilt in check, we regularly attend a more woman- and gay-friendly Catholic parish in Silicon Valley. When we’re in Susanville, we go to mass at Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart stands plainly on the corner of Nevada and Union Streets in Susanville. It’s an unassuming building, with concrete steps and an orderly exterior, a visual austerity that complements the high volume of conservatives in this ranching community, and former mill town (which at present is supported by employment with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation). The diagonal parking slots along Nevada Street are generous in width, painted with burly three-quarter-ton diesel pickup trucks in mind.
As Catholic churches go, Sacred Heart is far from ornate, a plain white stucco building, with a simple design. Once inside, the church has small town charm. The sanctuary exudes warmth, from dark wooden pews, to beautiful stained glass windows through which light is caught and enriched.
You can literally attend every mass in the United States—barring those that still follow Vatican I, or offer Latin High Mass—and the form is the same everywhere you go. After all, “catholic” means “universal.” The litany of definitions includes eclectic, broad-based, all-inclusive and liberal.
That word, “liberal,” is really the most intriguing of definitions. Alternate usages are: tolerant, unprejudiced, enlightened and progressive, ideals the Catholic Church upholds, but isn’t always keen on practicing. Strangely, if you search for antonyms to liberal, they include bigoted, narrow-minded and conservative.
“Conservative” is defined further as right wing, reactionary, Republican, and my all-time favorite, the informal “redneck.”
Some folks might be proud to define themselves as conservative, though I find it baffling that one would want to broadcast how small-minded and intolerant they are. Further, since the dictionary on my laptop has bound the word conservative tightly to the term, redneck, I must inform the reader that rednecks are, “working-class white people, especially a political reactionary from a rural area.”
I don’t want to give the reader the notion that Susanville is inhabited by rednecks. In fact, most of the people we’ve met have been gracious and welcoming, kind and hospitable. Walking around town with my husband in our obvious interracial marriage, we have yet to be disparaged for our multicultural configuration. However, I wouldn’t advise my son to hold hands with his boyfriend as they walk down Main Street. They tried that once in Livermore, California, and were called “fucking fags” by a very tall redneck walking his wife and two young daughters. Livermore is a town known as a bedroom community of the San Francisco Bay Area, and thus, is usually more tolerant and upscale than, say, Alturas, Bieber…or Susanville.
We love Lassen County, because we can do things that would garner us a citation in Santa Clara County. In the winter, we burn wood on our wood stove. During the summer, we spend hours riding our dirt bikes in the backcountry. There’s nothing like driving down the street from your rural home, and hitting potentially a thousand miles of unpaved and unchecked dirt biking freedom, populated by pronghorn, coyote, bear and eagles. Rarely do we ever glimpse a redneck.
The only blot on our experience would be the woman we met at Sacred Heart, who invited us to join the music liturgy. This was after the June 20th, 2006 edition of the local Susanville weekly newspaper, Lassen County Times that published a very crazy—at least by Silicon Valley standards—theocratic essay on why God is punishing gays. Entitled, “Signs of the Times, Judgment of America,” its content was quite sufficient to forever brand the Times as a wacky, far-right publication without any journalistic integrity whatsoever.
When our newfound musical benefactor at Sacred Heart began to paraphrase the Times article’s writer as though he was St. Paul, we knew the most sensible thing we could do was simply stay away from this church. We wisely departed, and, as I stated in a previous blog, spent those may Sundays fishing for Eagle Lake trout. God created fishing, so we intended to honor God’s creation.
Most recently, my husband and I attended Sacred Heart—it had been six years—with no trace of the woman. Whew! That was a close call.
I love Lassen County, so I write about Susanville from the perspective of a Catholic liberal (according to the Dictionary, that’s supposed to be redundant). I poke fun at everyone, but I also place many of my characters in serious jeopardy. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Susanville as a flashpoint of the Ku Klux Klan (no doubt, due to prison gangs in this region that offers the CDCR as the principal employer). A lot of what I write examines religious extremism, gun control, and race relations, pitting liberals against conservatives, and sometimes joining them at the hip.
I am at my best when I’m being provocative with the written word.
My latest novel with Musa Publishing, Big Lies In Small Town, explores these themes, along with female empowerment. One of my favorite recurring characters, Kate McLain Sumner, has emotional and spiritual firepower, and isn’t afraid to kick ass at the proper time. I hope you’ll find your way to the Musa Publishing site, and buy a copy of Big Lies In Small Town. Just like my tendency to drift back uphill to Susanville, you won’t regret it!