Romance is in the air or at least it is prevalent in the tour we host today. Thanks for stopping by and welcome to our stop on the Healing Notes Blog Tour. Healing Notes is the second book in the Sweetwater Canyon series by Maggie Jaimeson. We have a terrific interview with the author and a sweet excerpt that will grab at the heartstrings. Read on and don't forget to comment to be entered into the author's giveaway.
Healing Notes (Sweetwater Canyon #2) by Maggie Jaimeson
Paperback, 351 pages
Published July 2012 by Windtree Press (first published September 29th 2011)
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Forgiving yourself is the first step, but helping others forgive
may be just too hard.
Rachel Cullen grew up in Scotland with a fiddle in her hand from the age of four. She couldn't imagine life as anything but a musician. When her husband brought her to America she was immediately embraced by the Celtic and Bluegrass communities. But after her divorce, Rachel's life is a mess.
A year of trying to prove to herself that she's woman enough for any man, and then a vicious rape while on tour with the band, leaves Rachel reeling. When she meets Noel Kershaw, an English teacher who is poetry in motion, she is definitely attracted. But he has a young child and he's suffering from his own divorce. The last thing Rachel needs in life is more baggage.
First, Rachel must reconcile who she is, what she wants, and how to get there. Maybe then she'll know how to be a part of the family she's always wanted.
Claire crawled onto a stool on the other side of the island and smiled. Neither of them talked for several minutes as they listened to the water in the pot heat.
“When I grow up, I’m going to play with Sweetwater Canyon all the time.”
“Are you sure you want to hang out with all us old folks?”
“You’re not all old. Well maybe a little old. But Kat isn’t old.”
Rachel smiled. “That’s true. She’s only seventeen.” And going on twenty-five it seemed sometimes.
“Oh, seventeen? That is old.” Claire put a finger to her lips and furrowed her brow. “How old do I have to be to play in the band all the time?”
“Probably at least eighteen.”
“But, you just said Kat—”
“Kat is different, because her mother plays in the band and can watch her all the time.”
“Well, you can watch me all the time. You can be my mother.”
“Well, can’t you?”
“Can’t she what?” Noel walked in the room and lifted Claire off the chair in a big hug, swinging her around the room. “Can’t she what? She can do anything she wants.”
“See,” Claire leaned forward and looked at Rachel over Noel’s shoulder. “See, even Daddy thinks you can be my mother.”
“Whoa.” Noel set Claire back on the stool. “I’m not sure what I walked in on here.” He sent an accusing glance to Rachel. “You already have a mother, Claire.”
“I know. Not my real mother. My second mother. You know, like my friend, Megan. Her mommy and daddy got divorced and her daddy married a new mommy. So, Megan has two mommies now. See? Rachel can be my second mommy. Okay?”
About the author:
Maggie Jaimeson writes romantic women’s fiction and romantic suspense with a near future twist. She describes herself as a wife, a step-mother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher and an IT administrator. By day she is “geek girl” – helping colleges to keep up with 21st century technology and provide distance learning options for students in rural areas. By night Maggie turns her thoughts to worlds she can control – worlds where bad guys get their comeuppance, women triumph over tragedy, and love can conquer all.
HEALING NOTES is the second book in the Sweetwater Canyon Series of four books. The final two books will be available in 2013.
with Maggie Jaimeson
What was your inspiration for Sweetwater Canyon? Is it a real place or fictional? How did you know you wanted to write a series? Is it easier or harder to write a series?
My husband is a musician. He currently plays guitar in a classic rock band. However, in the past he has played everything from blues to bluegrass and folk to Celtic music. So, I’ve always had an interest in bands and music. In 2004 I began following a local all-women Americana band called Misty River. That put in my mind the idea that I could write a book about an all-women band and follow the love lives of each character.
I approached Misty River about following them on tour for two weeks in order to get a good flavor for the challenges and triumphs of a small, touring band. From that research I was able to begin the series. Though the five women in the Sweetwater Canyon band are nothing like the Misty River women, I will always be grateful to Misty River for allowing a new author to hang out with them and learn some inside lessons.
Writing a series is neither easier nor harder in my mind. Writing any novel is plain hard. A series provides the opportunity to carry your characters stories forward further than they would in a single book, and I think readers like to spend more than one book with characters they enjoy. On the other hand, a series is challenging in that each book needs to stand alone and it is a balancing act of rebuilding the world for a new reader while not repeating yourself for the reader who has followed from the beginning.
Can you tell us a little about Rachel and Noel?
Both Rachel and Noel are suffering from deep wounds in their past. In the case of Rachel, she was viciously raped while on though on an intellectual level she knows it was not her fault, on an emotional level she still questions if she had been a different person could she have avoided it. She wants a man who will accept her for her past but provide a different life for her future.
Noel is a single parent who’s ex-wife is in jail. She is a drug addict and the environment she provided at home for their daughter was quite scary. Consequently, Noel is looking for the “perfect” woman with no hint of a dark past. In many ways he is the perfect person for Rachel—a solid, caring, teacher and poet. But Rachel and her past definitely do not fit Noel’s idea of the best woman for he and his daughter.
Music and poetry--your main characters are passionate about these. Any reason why you chose them?
As I said above, I’ve always wanted to write a character who was in a band. I believe music is an important way that we express our emotions—whether as a musician or as a listener. The lyrics in music are based in poetry, whether the songwriter begins as a poet or not. I also believe that poetry plays a unique role in language. Through the use of imagery and rhythm and sound it can dig deep into the soul more quickly and more effectively than regular prose.
I always admired poetry and dabbled in it in both high school and college. It is the most difficult type of writing and I would never purport to be a true poet. However, the poem that Noel writes to Rachel over the course of the book is one I wrote specifically for the novel. Although the entire poem is only 36 lines. I labored over it the equivalent hours of writing 100 pages of the novel., and whenever I look at it again I find at least 10 things to change. Though that poem would never win any awards, I do believe that it is reflective of the stages of Noel and Rachel’s relationship and of both their healing. In other words it does the task I needed it to do for the story. As a poem—perhaps if I worked on it for a couple of years it could finally come into its own.
This book tackles the sensitive subject of rape. How did you decide how much to write into the scene(s) and what would you like your readers to take away from reading your novel? Was it important to add some humor to such an emotional subject?
This is hard to answer without giving away important parts of the story. I will say that Rachel’s rape, which was violent and horrific, is not depicted at all. It happens before this book opens. In fact, it happens in the previous book, UNDERTONES. But even there, only the beginning is portrayed not the rest. I think showing the violence of rape, for me, is too much. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
For me, I needed to ask and answer the question about what constitutes rape. That is, in fact, the question the courts ask and the question that every woman who is ever raped asks herself. It is easy for the courts to adjudicate when rape is violent and horrific. It is easy for courts to adjudicate when rape is perpetrated on children or the elderly. But the reality is that most rapes don’t fit those scenarios. The court scene in Healing Notes was important for me to portray accurately because it is realistic and it is the reason that the majority of women never press their cases.
If you begin kissing a boy and then petting and then things start to go too far and you want it to stop but don’t say stop until his pants are off and he’s already on top of you, is it rape? If you are promiscuous as an adult and you are engaging in bondage play, then your partner get’s violent as a part of that “play” and you don’t or can’t stop it, is it rape? If your husband demands sex and you don’t want to do it, but he forces himself upon you is it rape? If you choose to go out at night to bar and get a little tipsy, enough that you aren’t fully in control of yourself, and two men take you outside and accost you, is it rape? Or did you “ask” for it?
For me the answer to all of those questions is Yes, it is rape and no woman ever asks for it. But depending on the country you live in, if you are in the U.S. the state you live in, and the lawyer you are able to obtain, the answer is “maybe it is rape and maybe it’s not.” And then the question is, what does the woman think of herself when the answer is “maybe”? How does the woman balance the devastation and pain in her heart with all the other messages she receives from friends, family, police, church, society? It is quite overwhelming sometimes and it is not at all easy.
I hope that in telling Rachel’s story and the story of all women or young girls, who have been raped under a variety of circumstances, that we see them not only as victims but as whole people with entire lives behind them and ahead of them, of which the rape is one part. It is an important, emotional, and often devastating part—but it is still only one part. I believe that women want and need to be seen as whole women, not only the “rape victim” and that the more we can see them in that way the more likely we can help them to heal and we can one day stop this horrible crime.
As you were writing, did any scenes or characters surprise you? Did you envision something going one way only to have it go in another direction?
Goodness, this happens all the time to me. I think the relationship between Kat and Rachel was deeper than I originally thought and because of events in the book it has a lot of parallels. I also didn’t plan to have Noel’s ex-wife get out of jail and re-enter the picture, but she insisted and she insisted that she wasn’t going to come back as a junkie either. Oh, the complications that arise when characters decide to tell their story in their own way. :)
How many books do you have planned for the Sweetwater Canyon series? Which characters are up next?
I have always planned only four. The next book is Sarah’s book. It will be quite different from the first two because Sarah is a staunch Christian and does not believe in sex before marriage. Given what you already know about the other women, you can imagine there will be some interesting conversations. The final book is both Theresa and Kat’s book. As a mother/daughter combination, it seemed important to portray any love interest for Theresa as tied up with her relationship with Kat. Though Kat will be 18 when the final book takes place, Theresa is NOT ready to let her be on her own and that certainly complicates both of their love lives.
Sarah’s story, HEART STRINGS, is due to be released in July and Theresa and Kat’s story, TWO VOICES, is due in November.
What is your day like and when do you write?
My first nine books (of which only 4 have been published) were written around a 50-60 hour per week job over the past eight years. However, as of September 2012 I have been in a position where writing is my full-time job and other work is part-time or less.
So a typical day for me is to wake around 6:30-7:00am and leisurely fix breakfast, eat and read the paper until about 9am. I’m not naturally a morning person so this as been wonderful for me. At 9am I do an hour of Zumba to DVDs and then shower. This puts me at my desk about 10:30 am to begin my writer’s job.
I spend approximately 1 hour checking email, making blog posts, FB and Twitter posts. Then I get down to writing pages or editing pages, depending on where I am in the two or three manuscripts I’m tracking. I write or edit straight through until about 1:30pm. Then I take a half-hour break for lunch. I return to writing and editing until somewhere around 6pm when I check with my husband about dinner. He is the primary cook in the family, so the check-in is to see what is planned and what my role will be in the preparation. Most of the time, I return to writing for another hour.
We typically eat dinner and talk about our day from 7:30-8:30pm. Then depending on how good I feel about my accomplishments for the day, I either return to my desk until 10 or 11pm (if I’m in the groove or need to still write more pages to make my goal) or I attend to other social or church commitments. Once or twice a week I do share the sofa with my husband and watch a couple of TV shows we’ve recorded.
Wash, rinse and repeat six days a week. I try to take one day off (usually Sunday) for household chores and other commitments. That really is my daily routine.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I suspected I had the bug after coming in second place in a national essay contest in 4th grade. I was asked to read my winning paper at an all school assembly where my parents attended and everyone clapped. However, I never believed being a writer was a career choice for me because I never knew anyone who actually made more than a couple hundred dollars as a writer.
Writing has always been the way I’ve had a voice in my life and my career. When I approached my 50th birthday I decided to stop dabbling with poetry and short stories and the occasional sell and instead pursue writing novels. That was when I committed to being a writer.
Any thoughts on publishing today? Is it easier for authors to get their books on the market and reach readers?
Certainly, the rise in self-publishing and the ease with which one can reach worldwide markets through ebooks is an amazing evolution. In that way it is easier for authors to get their books to market. However, reaching readers is not any easier as far as I can see. There is still the problem of discoverability.
With over 300,000 books released each year, it is very difficult for your book to be “found” by readers. Though we hear a number of stories about unknown authors who have made millions—Amanda Hocking and E.L. James are always mentioned—the reality is that the majority of published authors (self-published or traditional) don’t make near that money.
The publishing marketplace in definitely in flux. Traditional publishers are still the best at getting immediate discoverability with books—ebooks or paper books. They have invested decades in building marketing power, networks, and a cachet of quality (deserved or not). On the other side, self-published authors generally don't have the marketing power, and so rely on word-of-mouth or what little promotion they can muster up themselves. So no matter how good the book, it may not get noticed. I’ve heard successful mid-list self-published authors say that books need time to be discovered and the best way to get discovered is to write and put up more books. A timeline of three or four years is not unreasonable.
I personally believe that a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing is what makes the best career. There will always be good books that are not going to be bought by traditional publishers because they don’t match genre, are too cutting edge or “last years” model. But these books can find a readership in self-publishing and MAY make the author some decent money—not necessarily amazing money but let’s say $5,000 to $10,000 over three or four years. That is if the book is well-written, well-edited, and has a cover that entices the reader. Traditional publishing will continue to buy the “big” book, the large commercial concept, that is well-written.
It is the author who needs to decide how good the book is, how “big” it is and in what way it is best published. That is not easy. If I had all the answers I would be rich myself. I think everyone—authors, publishers, editors, agents—are still figuring out what the right formulas are. In the meantime, just keep writing.
What are you working on now?
I completed my first YA Fantasy novel in October and it is being marketed to traditional publishers now under the pen name of Maggie Faire (http://maggiefaire.com). It is conceived as a series, and I am simultaneously working on the next book in that series while finishing up the final two books in my Sweetwater Canyon series. I plan to continue to have a career both in YA and in Adult Romance in the future, so this is the beginning of me learning how to manage both genres at the same time.
Maggie will award one autographed cover flat to a randomly drawn commenter at each blog stop. In addition, she will award a $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner's choice) as a grand prize to one randomly selected commenter on this tour, and a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner's choice) to a randomly drawn host. You must leave an email address to be entered into any of the drawings.
Follow the tour and comment to better your chances of winning.
The tour dates can be found here.