The saying in the title applies to things that are especially hard and opportunities that are difficult to seize. Miracles, if you will.
Such is a gushing Kirkus Review. Particularly one that arrives the first afternoon of a writers’ conference, before appointments with acquisitions editors from publishing houses that are the stuff of a writer’s dreams.
Kirkus, founded in 1933, is a distinguished voice in the world of book reviews. The company assesses works by established authors (like my favorites Daniel Silva and David Baldacci). Reviews of works by self-published and indie authors are few and far between.
My literary agent thinks Kirkus is important, so I submitted Book 2, The Brothers’ Keepers, in August. Bracing for impact, I tried to forget incoming carnage.
The first day of the conference, I received the email from Kirkus while trying to stay focused. I considered not opening it. Then decided it would distract me until I “womanned up.”
The results were astoundingly good and energized me to face teams from publishers whose names you would recognize. While sitting in front of an acquisitions editor from a Big Four (or Three, or Two, or however many are left), I handed over my material, pointing out the Kirkus review on top.
Before glancing at it, she informed me that Kirkus doesn’t like anybody. I said they like me. She said they don’t review indie authors. I said not only do they review indie authors, they even review self-published authors. I’ll spare you the rest of the appointment, but happily share the Kirkus review. Especially those of you who have been on this adventure with me for a while will be delighted.
The Brothers’ Keepers splintered the shell of a tough nut to crack.
“Revolving around archaeologist Grace Madison and her family of globe-trotting adventurers, the second installment of Horton’s Parched saga and sequel to When Camels Fly (2014) is a highly appealing fusion of spy fiction, eco-thriller, and historical mystery.
When Grace’s adult daughter, Maggie—one of the world’s foremost experts in hydrology—is kidnapped just days before she’s scheduled to present a speech on King Solomon’s treasure in Paris, her family members gather together in an attempt to locate and rescue her. The family—Maggie’s brother Jeff, a war correspondent for the BBC; Jeff’s wife, Becca, a former MI6 agent; Grace and her husband, Mark, a CIA operative–turned–Colorado rancher—mobilizes in France, then follows cryptic messages left by Maggie as they try to figure out who kidnapped her and why. At the center of the mystery are pieces of an ancient scroll that allegedly contain information about the whereabouts of a massive underground water system that, if found, could not only supply water to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria—“the world’s most highly stressed drought regions”—but also radically alter the political dynamics in the Middle East. The information on the scroll, if valid, is priceless because those who control the water in the region control the oil; more than a few organizations are willing to kill for it. Maggie’s escaping her abductors is just the beginning. With international agencies like Mossad, MI6, and the CIA involved, Grace and her family are forced to run for their lives while also trying to unravel the mystery of the scroll. Although the romance elements seem a little forced and some sequences a bit contrived, suspense/thriller fans will be satisfied with the novel and, indeed, the series. Exceptionally developed characters, vividly described locales, pedal-to-the-metal pacing, and nonstop action and adventure—all powered by a subtle spiritual undertone—make this a page-turner of the highest order.
Like 007 breaking The Da Vinci Code.”
Click here for the official version. And please excuse me as I dance in the street.
I sometimes feel as if I’m watching my neighbor’s kids grow up—except that my neighbors are deer and elk and fox and bear.
As autumn glides across this mountaintop, the spots on the fawns begin to fade. They eat voraciously, fattening for a snowy season they can’t even imagine. I try to shoo (with comic results) them out of the more cultivated areas of the property in July and August, but they can—with my blessings—eat anything they find in September. Those daisies and few late-blooming lupines delight my eye, but might save their lives if this winter is a harsh one.
Little bucks, their antlers covered with velvet that they’ll scrape off before the rut, pause at the fountain regularly now. I keep it full of water so animals will have a source in the upper reaches of the High Country. Seasonal streams on the valley floor have been dry for a month. Were these handsome young men the goofy fawns that delighted me two or three years ago, reminders of the continuity of life?
Then there’s Foxy. We moved here during the worst winter on record, and animals were starving. This little beauty kept begging at the window until some sap picked up dog food that just happened to be scattered on the snow every day or two. I know that this Foxy. She sings her yipping song around midnight as she swings through the meadow, and hunts for rodents on soft summer mornings. She pauses where the dog food mysteriously landed, and we stare at each other, co-survivors of snow and ice. It’s a symbiotic relationship: she gave me joy and made me a little more fully human, and someone (ahem) gave her food to sustain her until the very late thaw.
When I think of the seasonal rhythm of my life, I can’t help but remember some of the research for book 3. Archaeologist Grace Madison is in a heap of trouble in Syria, running for her life. She’s dodging rebels and refugees, government forces and gun-toting maniacs in a country where rhythm is measured in semi-automatic rounds, and thundering battles are the only lullabies some children know. Most of the immigrants creating Europe’s immigration crisis are fleeing Syria, with only-God-knows-who hidden in the throngs.
I remember the UN vehicles passing me as they fled the Disengagement Observer Force outpost at Daraa, tucked under the Golan Heights in southern Syria. I remember the booms of a distant bombardment when I stood thirty miles from Damascus. Like Grace Madison, I wanted to run.
I count my blessings habitually, but never more so than when I think of where I could be instead of where I am. I think I’ll buy a bag of dog food, just in case the snow flies early.
I’m writing this blog on Labor Day, and this post is a labor of love. My mountaintop is changing, an unseasonably wet early fall making me fret about too much winter snow. Golden grasses streak the range north of my office. Bucks in velvet regularly cross the property. One rogue aspen in the meadow has a wicked sense of humor, with a flash of crayola-orange tipping a branch. (Quick! Get the greens!)
As my world evolves, I’m preparing for a writing conference. Book 3 has moved from its third edit and into my literary agent’s capable hands. My adult children are inundating (a joyous invasion) us before the youngest starts grad school. I’m stealing desk time to share news with you.
I’m not much for awards. My client entered my company, then picked up the Waterford crystal trophy for my first professional award. I didn’t attend the gala ceremony because every moment not producing marketing and advertising material was invested in family.
The LYRA, from Bookstore without Borders, was the only contest I’ve ever actually entered (in the wee hours one morning). Months later on a Sunday evening, I received an email telling me The Brothers’ Keepers had won second place overall—beating thousands of entries in this prestigious contest.
Between meatloaves and churning Palisade peach homemade ice cream this past weekend, I received a text encouraging me to see if I had won a Readers’ Favorite award. I didn’t know an award was associated with the website I had used for critiques of both books, so put fresh sheets on the guest beds. I clicked through the link in the second text to see what works won. When Camels Fly took third place in General Christian Fiction.
Aside from the fact that I love what I do, few things could generate more momentum than professional recognition. The awards are icing on the cake of a wonderful life. Incredibly talented people tease the best from my stories, and I am privileged to share this journey with you.
Starting in October, as these mountains explode in orange and yellow, my blog posts will include more information about book 3. My agent, beta readers, and editors believe it’s the best yet, and I agree. So grab a mug of tea and prepare for another adventure. This one is . . . dangerous.