Posts Tagged ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest’

Shazzie Reviews Schizandra

Schizandra and the Gates of Mu

Schizandra and the Gates of Mu

Review by Shazzie
I’ve always wondered where the novels were that I’d want to read! With more people waking up every day, the need for switched-on fiction is growing ever more pressing. Laura’s ability to write a book like this without everything becoming a raw-vegan-yoga-cliche is notable. She achieves this because she truly lives this lifestyle, fluttering from dimension to dimension, pulling it all back into 3D words. And happily, though the characters are also flitting from dimension to dimension, they are all very interesting and funny, with not a trace of brown rice and sandals to them. It’s like reading about people we know doing things we do: drinking yerba mate, ignoring phone calls, ’80s pop music, drowning in spam and emails, 2012, feeling ascension, finding crystals to heal instead of calling your GP, tarot card readings, synchronicities, modern classic literature, the history of the future and of course yoga. Laura even mentions the non-leather seats of a Jaguar, and all us vegans know how frustrating it is to have to buy half a cow when we just want a nice car.

With lines like “I will love you forever for thirteen cacao nibs”, “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay in paying it. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and then not pay” and “Give me liberty or give me death”, we are blissed with profound realisations coated in chocolate fun. And, yes, Laura squeezes the history of cacao, real chocolate into the novel. The novel draws us into the desert and its desolation, weirdness and otherworldliness so well you start to feel the cold odd nature of the place, despite its heat. Telepathy, teleporting, all we want and need to make a quantum leap to the next level of communication manifests in this work.

Laura skillfully weaves a tapestry of an orphan’s magical journey, the prophecies of 2012, a mystic grandmother descended from witches, twin maiden reflexologist great aunts and alien-like cacao guzzling frog creatures. The orphan, Schizandra, has an ability to see pain and illness in others, but she doesn’t really understand her power. However, it’s clear she is a metaphor for being the centre of the universe, a portal for transformation. And as with our personal growth, we can only truly heal when we become the centre of our own universe, creating life from our thoughts. We come to realise why so many have a foot in both worlds, afraid to truly let go: because this is the “time of no time” according to the Mayans. As she rebirths, we realise that we all have to do the same and leave the old world for once and for all.

The work we do on ourselves reflects perfectly in Schizandra’s condition. While reading tarot cards, Tom explains that Schizandra’s very reason for incarnation is to trigger evolution and ascension of the species. “This Ascension process would only occur in a calm and loving heart.” Yes! It’s all about the love, love. Laura pulls together the stories of all involved at the same time, as everyone works in their own way to save and rebirth Schizandra, which in turn does the same for all of humanity.

This unique work of heart is so fast paced it almost reads like a short story, yet it’s a full-sized flesh on vegan bone novel. I furiously flicked through the pages wanting to know how our own end will spark our own beginning, in rebirth.

Review by Shazzie.

You can find Schizandra and the Gates of Mu here, immediately on Kindle, or order an autographed copy here.

Lessons from ABNA Contest 2009: Cool Things I’ve Learned

As promised, I’m still posting occasional updates from Amazon’s 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  The first round has ended, but no one yet knows the results until they announce the Quarterfinals on or around March 16. Whether I make the Quarterfinals or miraculously win on my birthday, I have learned some pretty cool things by entering this contest. Below are a few of my favorites:

1 )  If you’ve ever wondered whether you “write like a girl,” you can find out here. I love the Gender Genie! More than just trivia, this little gizmo can actually help your writing. For example, if you blog and want to appeal primarily to women, then you can run your excerpts through the Gender Genie to have it tell you if “your voice” is male or female. If you write fiction from multiple points of view, the Gender Genie can tell you if your writing has a masculine or feminine slant.

Author’s gender may not always matter, but knowing where you fall on the spectrum can help you tweak style based on your intended audience. Very cool find brought to my attention by VisionScript a.k.a Rachel Rights!

2 ) It helps to have a sense of humor about rejection. This little gem was brought to my attention by Laura M, right after I had written a post on Rejection, Projection and Reflection. While I certainly don’t condone the writer’s reaction, it warmed my heart that people posted humorous pieces at a time when some of the contest writers expressed feelings of low self-confidence or negative feedback. Though a joke, the video does present an over-the-top glance into the inner workings of a projector.

3 ) There are sub-genres of Fantasy known as high fantasy and epic fantasy. No one seems able to agree upon exactly what falls into those categories, but I never knew they existed! Apparently, I write high fantasy (which includes lots of mythic elements and literary allusions), but this little English major with a Masters degree from the University of Chicago had never heard of the genre until she read a thread on ABNA. Thanks especially to Jacob Gowans and D. Howell for their thoughts and explanations.

4 ) It may have taken twenty-fold the editing of some parts of my novel, but I now know that I can write an effective “pitch.” Most writers dread having to market their writing, especially fiction. Unfortunately, it takes marketing know-how to sell books to publishers unless synchronicity’s on your side. Whatever happens, the process of distilling my plot and themes into 300 words, including a marketing analysis, taught me skills I never knew I had in me.

5 ) And here’s the one that feels most significant, even though it probably will have the least effect on my or anyone else’s life: 18-year-long mystery solved!

In college (actually it began even before college during summer orientation in 1991), I met two friends named Matt and Eric.  They taught me fun things like how to smoke a single Camel Light after calculus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. OK, so they didn’t stop with just one, but I did!  To this day, the smell of Camel Lights makes me nostalgic, although I normally hate cigarette odor and haven’t smoked in nearly two decades.

Eric became my calculus tutor, because this “ditzy English major” (me) was convinced that she knew nothing about math. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I would walk to South Campus with Eric after calculus class, watch cartoons while we did our homework, and then smoke a single Camel Light while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” 

After losing touch with these guys, I spied Eric again during senior year and ran up to him with profuse thanks for helping me pass calculus. He eyed me warily, then asked, “Are you serious? What grade did you get?” “I got an A-,” I said, then practically bowled him over with a hug. He laughed so loud the librarian shushed us. “I got a D! We just liked hanging out with you. I have no idea how you got an A.”

Chock another one up to the power of belief.

But I digress! These guys had introduced me to Pink Floyd, Camel Lights, “Abbey Road,” calculus by cartoons, afternoon naps, and linguistics. Everything they liked intrigued me, especially their love of language. Herein lay the mystery: they were both obsessed with Tolkien, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

Keep in mind, I was kind of a snobby English major who only read Renaissance Lit and The Sun Also Rises. I didn’t have time for Fantasy or cartoons (except during calculus homework). I tried to read the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings, and try though I might, I just couldn’t move beyond it. I liked the movie, but my goodness, that’s one long first chapter! Everything else Matt’n’Eric had recommeneded always turned out to be spot on, so I couldn’t figure out the lapse.

Occasionally, this mystery would cross my mind, even 12, 15, or 17 years later, because it just did not make sense. … And then, one day on an ABNA forum about first chapters, I discovered the answer quite by accident. According to the thread, TLOR’s first chapter does require patience and persistence — not my strongest qualities as a pleasure reader. (Pre-head-injury, I could slog through just about anything on a required reading list, but even when reading came so easily, I was picky with the novels!) According to this thread, I was not alone in my aversion to Chapter 1 of TLOR, and Matt’n’Eric were not alone in thier deep respect and admiration.

On this same ABNA forum, I learned that Tolkien was a linguist. He used TLOR to create a British mythology and also to create different types of language. Of course! That makes perfect sense, and now I get why Matt’n’Eric spent so many hours obsessing over their Tolkien class.

While this may seem like a small discovery, I really can’t do justice to the sense of satisfaction it brings. It feels like I have finally finished a book I left sitting bookmarked on the shelf for nearly 18 years without reading the final 2 pages.

Now I get it. Will I wade through Chapter 1 of TLOR? That remains to be seen, but the part of my mind going “why, why, why?” has discovered yet again: “Ask and you shall receive.” It may take 18 years, but you can always find an answer for a sincerely asked question.

So, thank you, ABNA! And thanks to all the forum folks. I don’t drop by often, but when I have, you’ve taught me much.

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

www.ifionlyhadabraininjury.com

www.lazyrawfoodist.com

ABNA Contest: Personal Anecdotes

As part of Amazon’s 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, contestants can share the story-behind-the-story of their novel’s creation … in 300 words or less. The public will only get to see the top 500 excerpts after March 16, during which time they may or may not view the novel’s background. People keep popping onto this site while searching for ABNA, so I thought I’d post my personal anecdotes here:

 

         Four months before starting a doctoral program in English Literature, a 1998 brain injury left me severely disabled. I lost the ability to read, along with my rational side. I needed to sleep and meditate most of the day just to keep my migraines in check. Although devastating to my intended career as an English professor, this experience awakened other parts of my brain. Synchronicity, uncanny intuition, and mythology replaced plans, logic, and a highly analytic side. Unable to read print, I learned to “read” in other ways; the world became my text. Years of art history, literary criticism, philosophy, and Biblical exegesis suddenly seemed key to navigating the “real world.” My quest for recovery also introduced me to alternative medicine and spiritual healing.

            I won a small insurance settlement — on my birthday — in 2001, but I still needed to find some way to support myself. My Seattle doctor offered me a part time job working as an Office Assistant/Medical Intuitive Consultant. I honed my Medical Intuitive skills on his clients in exchange for him teaching me his fifty-year’s worth of herbal knowledge. One herb stuck in my brain: schizandra. I researched its adaptogenic power to heal anything from asthma to impotence to hypo- and hyperthyroid. Unbidden, two characters named Schizandra and Ginger appeared, and I envisioned a family of women healers named for herbs.

SCHIZANDRA AND THE GATES OF MU revealed itself sporadically over seven years. A move to Sedona gave me the setting, and my meditation practice and Medical Intuitive/Life Coaching business provided rich fodder. Synchronicity plays such a huge role in my life that I found the fantasy elements easiest to pen. I finished writing on a key date in the novel, and ABNA’s prize date — May 22 — is my birthday!          

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

Related posts here and here.

“If I Only Had a Brain Injury” Wins Award

 

book-cover1

Back in 2008, I entered the 16th Annual Writer’s Digest  International Self-Published Book Award Contest.  According to Writer’s Digest,  “competition was particularly fierce this year.”  My first book, “If I Only Had a Brain Injury,” won Honorable Mention in the Inspirational Category.

Wow, thanks! I’ve had contests on the brain with the ABNA 2009 Contest, but I had honestly forgotten I entered the Writer’s Digest one. They gave me a nice certificate, a $50 voucher for any of their books, and will announce the winners online and in their April 2009 magazine issue.

I’m touched and honored and so pleased that a book on brain injuries, Lyme Disease, migraines, post-concussive syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other “medical mysteries” has received such recognition. It’s high time more people became aware of these conditions.  Many thanks and lots of healing to everyone!

You can purchase “If I Only Had a Brain Injury” online or directly through me if you’d like an autographed copy. I also have an ebook available at www.ifionlyhadabraininjury.com.  If you’d like to see a video related to the brain and consciousness, please click here. I’m also speaking at the Healdsburg Cafe Gratitude on Monday, March 9.

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

ABNA Update: My Novel “Pitch”

A normal Sedona school day in 2001 unravels fast when thirteen-year-old Schizandra faints. Nothing wakes her, and mysterious symbols and messages appear when anyone tries to help. lunar eclipse has activated her astrological chart, marking Schizandra to fulfill an ancient prophecy regarding 2012 and the Mayan Calendar. If she revives, Schizandra will spark human evolution into a new age.

SCHIZANDRA AND THE GATES OF MU follows her mythic journey and the awakening that confirms her destiny. While she remains in a coma, the veil separating conscious and unconscious worlds is translucent. The lives of a superstitious helicopter pilot, a midwife grandmother, cheerleader friends, talking crystals, twin spinster reflexologists, a lovesick nerd, an erudite frog king and a raw-cacao-loving Lemurian queen all converge within Sedona’s legendary beauty and mystique. This fantasy explores the tensions between rational and spiritual, shame and freedom, death and rebirth, as all heal through their interactions with Schizandra and each other. 

Written by a professional intuitive, Reiki Master Teacher and former Sedona resident, SCHIZANDRA AND THE GATES OF MU presents a natural healing extravaganza. Most fantasies go far beyond what people can imagine in their own lives, but supernatural twists in this book spring from solid research. People want to believe in the unexplained. Each year, four million tourists visit Sedona seeking spiritual renewal; alternative medicine has become the new mainstream; even Oprah advocates higher consciousness. With series potential, this 60,000-word novel offers crossover appeal for young adults and older readers. It’s THE CELESTINE PROPHECY meets ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. The plot surprises. The dialogue flies. Its characters will especially delight teens, caregivers, mystics, misfits, literary nerds and chocoholics. To a troubled world, SCHIZANDRA AND THE GATES OF MU brings hope. 

………………………………………………………………..

For those of you who don’t already know about the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, it’s Amazon’s second annual writing contest for full length novels. The competition runs from February 8, 2009 when entries closed, until May 22, 2009, when the winner receives a $25,000 book contract from Penguin Books. Along the way, the field of 10,000 or so contestants gets whittled down to 2,000, then 500, then 100 and finally to 3, at which point Amazon account holders (anyone who’s ever purchased something from Amazon.com) can vote on their choice for the winner.  For the first two levels, something known as “the pitch” plays an all-important role.  Judges will read the pitches and decide who gets to advance to a level of having an actual excerpt of the book read. Advance again, and you get your whole manuscript read and reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly. 

Because real readers get to vote on the final 3 excerpts, ABNA does run a bit like a literary American Idol. I decided to enter after a series of bizarre synchronicities, which you can read here. In any case, I’ve agreed to post occasional updates as the contest progresses.  I thought I’d share my pitch, just for fun. I’d welcome feedback from anyone who cares to comment.

 

 

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

(For those of you who are fans of Nestor the rabbit, she also makes a cameo appearance!) 

Synchronicity, Seattle, Schizandra and Amazon’s 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

Anyone who reads this blog or knows me also knows that synchronicity plays a dramatic role in my daily life.  The “coincidences” happen so often that my hubby and I joke about the phenomenon.  When I walk into the room, T.V. characters start talking about being vegetarian, doing a cleanse or eating only raw foods–even if the plot has nothing to do with any of those topics!  You might not know some of the following stories, though, or how they relate to Amazon, so I decided to share a little background.

While recovering from my devastating 1998 brain injury, I reached a point where I had run out of funds.  I had a nasty Worker’s Comp lawsuit going on, which looked like it was going nowhere soon.  I had already sold my car to pay my rent, and I was still unable to work.  Things looked bleak. 

In the midst of this, I started getting nightly “instructions” to move to Seattle by August 1, 2001 so that I could meet my future husband.  If I didn’t move by that date, I’d miss the boat entirely!  Nevermind that my lease went until September.  Nevermind that I had no way of paying June or July’s rent, let alone making a cross-country move to a place I’d only briefly visited!  Every night I would dream of my future husband’s eyes and a long list of characteristics by which I would recognize him.

At this point, I questioned my sanity, but without a rational mind, leaps of faith somehow made more sense.  I began bargaining for signs.  “If I’m really meant to move to Seattle, then I want to be sure.  If I’m meant to go by August 1, then I need something big: huge.  I want my Worker’s Comp settlement to come through on my birthday.  If that happens, then I’ll know these instructions are for real.”

From that day forward, I started talking about “my birthday settlement.”  People would shake their heads and say, “Poor Laura, she has a brain injury! She’s totally lost touch with reality!  Laura, don’t ruin your birthday by setting yourself up for disappointment.”  No matter what they or my lawyer said, though, I couldn’t shake the idea that I’d get a Worker’s Comp settlement on my birthday.  Even when May 22, 2001’s workday came and went, I continued talking about it that night.

The following morning, my Worker’s Comp attorney woke me up with a phone call about “an interesting conversation with the insurance company late yesterday afternoon.  Out of nowhere, they’ve decided to settle for more than we even thought we could expect.  You should have the check by late July.”  Vindicated, I made plans to move to Seattle, and the check arrived on July 28, the day before my movers took off, and I flew across the country.

The first weeks in Seattle felt wonderful because of the beauty and long, sunny days.  Summer in Seattle rocks!  But towards the end of August, I started to question myself.  Just where was this mysterious husband who needed to be met in August rather than September?  Had I made up the whole thing? 

And then it happened:  on August 24th, my parents’ wedding anniversary and the day after Stephen’s birthday, we met.  He had planned to leave Seattle in September. That meeting involved a whole slew of other synchronicities, but suffice to say we connected immediately through our love of writing and literature.  I had hauled certain books all the way from Evanston, Illinois, just because something told me to keep them–even though at the time, I could not read!  Stephen told me he was writing a historical fiction novel on Marie Antoinette; the books in question were all about the French Revolution.

When Stephen learned how much I wanted to write, he did not accept my (in my mind legitimate) excuse that I could no longer read for more than 5-20 minutes per day. He just said, “So, write poetry!” I did, and when I showed him, he said, “These are definitely publishable.  If you send these out, I guarantee you’ll be published by the end of the year.”  Hello?  Who guarantees that sort of thing?  It was October! 

Did he help me find the places for submission when I complained I couldn’t read the Writer’s Market Guide to Poetry? Nope. He told me to use my intuition and just pick some places. Having a brain injury and no rational side, I thought this sounded just crazy enough to work, and guess what?  It did! In December 2001, I had two poems published by a small, but national poetry magazine.  

Stephen and I eventually got married– on my brother’s birthday in 2003.  I won an Animal Communication Essay contest and started publishing online articles and essays in literary magazines. I healed completely; he caught Lyme Disease and retired from Life Coaching; he started a photography career, and I took over his coaching business; I published If I Only Had a Brain Injury; he healed enough to start his intuitive work again.  During this time, we moved all over the Southwest and West Coast, eventually landing just north of San Francisco.

This past winter, we began talking about places to live when our lease ends.  Having both recovered from massive health crises, we also talked about life goals we still had yet to meet.  I’ve published two non-fiction books (the brain injury one and The Lazy Raw Foodist’s Guide).  Still, I’ve always dreamed of writing a novel.  Even when I thought I’d be an English Professor, I always envisioned myself as a novelist first. 

We talked about possibly moving back to Seattle, where we met.  At some point, I said, “I don’t care whether we move there or just visit, but I see myself in Seattle on my birthday this year.  If we’re moving, I want to be there by Summer Solstice, so either way, let’s make a trip there for my birthday.”  We didn’t give it much more thought.  Then, in a separate conversation, I said, “I really want a book contract for my novel (Schizandra and the Gates of Mu) by my birthday.  (For those who don’t know about this project, it’s The Celestine Prophecy meets Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with a diverse cast of characters, including a raw cacao loving Lemurian queen.  To my knowledge, this is the first novel to discuss raw cacao and veganism in an obvious, open way. It also features Reiki, shapeshifting, reflexology, natural childbirth, astrology and other spiritual or natural healing topics.)

Back in January, I had planned two classes and a talk in Seattle, which got cancelled due to this winter’s bizarre weather there.  Because my calendar was empty, that weekend gave me the perfect concentrated time to finish the last few scenes of Schizandra and the Gates of Mu.  I completed the manuscript on a very significant date in the plot, which seemed fitting for a book about synchronicities and healing.

Two weekends ago, something similar happened.  I had made plans to visit some friends (Erin and Steve Pavlina) coming in from out of town.  We were all looking forward to a great visit at Cafe Gratitude, plus hanging out in San Francisco.  Out of “nowhere,” a family crisis arose.  It wasn’t clear that I would need to do anything, but I did need to be “on call” and ready for action.  I spent most of the time I would have been visiting with friends in front of the computer, trying to figure out what to do with Schizandra: the book is done; it has a Mayan Calendar theme, and it’s meant to be a series.  How would that play into a crumbled publishing industry not wanting to take chances on new writers?  I couldn’t afford to let it sit in the slush pile for four years.  Should I self-publish my novel even though I never meant to do it that way?  Should I release it as an ebook?  These questions and others plagued me that Saturday.

The next day, I received an email from Book Surge, a self-publishing company I had just begun to research.  The email mentioned the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, with its grand prize of a $25,000 publishing contract with Penguin Books.  “Cool!”  I thought. But it got better:  the grand prize winner will be announced in Seattle on May 22, 2009–my birthday!

I got started right away.  The contest requires some pretty intense pitch-writing and other prep work, plus I still needed to edit and format my manuscript.  Starting that weekend gave me just enough time to finish all the submission requirements to enter when the contest opened on February 2, 2009.  People can enter the contest until February 8, 2009 or until they receive 10,000 entries, whichever comes first. 

Anyway, it’s a long shot with many rounds of elimination, but I’m a huge fan of synchronicity, and this would be one heckuva publishing story if it happens!  Best wishes to everyone who enters.  I’ll keep you posted.  Thanks to everyone whose journeys and spiritual service have helped inspire me along the way.

 

www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

www.lazyrawfoodist.com

www.ifionlyhadabraininjury.com