Monday, December 30, 2013

Flash Fiction - How to Dig Up a Bestselller

  The Story Farm by Amber Polo

     The farm cottage wasn’t charming or particularly cute, just a step up from ordinary. She didn’t even know if anyone lived in it. The crone’s hand-drawn map indicated this house was the only building on the Story Farm. The old woman had promised her, that if she buried her writing here, the story’s memories would forever be cast off from her heart. And her life would at last move forward.

    Behind the cottage, mounds of fresh soft dirt dotted the field as if gophers mined for gold beneath her feet. Urged on by Desperation, she could not go back now. Choosing a serviceable spade from an assortment of shovels, she began to dig in an untouched spot. The soil was harder than she’d expected, but after a couple of tries, her shovel pierced the surface. When the hole was a foot deep, she lifted a thick sheaf of papers from her bag and smoothed them flat to the hole’s bottom. Refilling the hole, she patted down the dirt, let out a loud sigh of relief, and left the farm.

    An hour after the woman left, a man walked into the field. He moved with purpose, led by what he called Inspiration, took up his usual shovel, strode to the freshest mound of earth, and harvested the papers. Holding the sheets up, he shook off the dirt. Here on Story Farm there was only one rule. Once touched, the papers could not be put back, nor could the finder return for a year and a day. But the man had learned to trust in his first selection and today, as he scanned the smudged pages, he knew he’d chosen well. This woman’s story would become, like each of the others, a best-selling novel.
Short fiction isn't usually the form I'm drawn to, but this little tale wouldn't leave my mind.

My flash fiction story was printed first by Paula in Flurries of Words blog on December 6, 2013.  Flurries offers Book reviews, flash fictions, interviews and x of free and bargain ebooks.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Shapeshifters' Library Series Free on Kindle & a New Release!

I Love Receiving...

This week I received a special Christmas present.

As some of you know I spent a part of my life in libraries. I worked in quite a few libraries, often as an Acquisitions Librarian. One wonderful memory was of my time in Arlington, Virginia where I had the opportunity to work with two of the finest librarians in the country. These amazing women were true book people. They knew books and knew how to build a wonderful library collection. Acting as their assistant I learned a lot about books and book reviews.

In those days, besides a few respected newspapers and literary journals, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Virginia Kirkus Service book reviews were the mainstays of libraries and bookstores. A bad review in one of those powerful forces could doom a book.

Since I never expected to actually write a book myself, I didn't understand reviews from the author’s point of view. But now I have my own Kirkus review!

And I’m thrilled!

Recovered, the third in my Shapeshifters’ Library series, was reviewed by Kirkus.
And here’s what it said:

“Author Polo does an excellent job organizing the details of her inviting series for new and returning readers... At its core, the narrative illustrates how… kindness can heal humans and dogs—and maybe even cats… A fanciful read that remains loyal to its noble principles.” – Kirkus Reviews 

To celebrate:

More NEWS:
I have revised and republished Flying Free, one of my Arizona romances, as Heads in the Clouds. I added another dog (it's like cooking & adding more wine). And Connie Fisher created a gorgeous new cover. Heads in the Clouds is available for Kindle readers at an introductory price of $.99 until January 1, 2014.

Thanks for reading
and stay tuned for Book 4 as dog-shifters try to shut down book-pirating werewolves.

And a Goodreads Giveaway

Heads in the Clouds
an Arizona Aviation Romance
(print copy)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heads in the Clouds by Amber Polo

Heads in the Clouds

by Amber Polo

Giveaway ends January 05, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Magic Trees of Sedona

The Magic Trees of Sedona

     Something magical happens in Sedona every December.  Well since it’s Sedona, let’s say something more magical happens in December.  Along Highway 179, between Bell Rock and the Town of Sedona, Christmas trees appear along the road.  They just appear.  One day they’re not there and the next morning they are.  Not ordinary Christmas trees, these are heavy with thick tinsel garlands and bright round balls.  Each tree is different but they all seem to be decorated in the same style, as if there were a plan.  This year among the reds and greens, silvers and golds, and purples and blues, there are many covered with red, white, and blue garlands and ornaments. 

          Since the trees appear on Coconino National Forest land where federal regulations require visitors to stay on the trails, decorating trees isn’t allowed.  It is rumored that families sneak along the road late at night with boxes of decorations, but that rumor is harder to believe than magic.

          Wherever these magic trees come from, they disappear as mysteriously as they appear.  On New Year’s Day there are no trees.  If you look carefully you might find a few shards of a red or silver ornament or a bit of glittery purple tinsel, but the trees are gone.  The red rocks and the green trees are still there and still magnificent, but they seem a little drab for a few days.                               


I wrote this in 2001. Since then the trees don't appear. The nature-loving people of Sedona have stopped decorating forest trees for fear birds will be attracted to the glittering decorations, eat, and die. So let's keep our trees indoors or with animal friendly decorations.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Wassail Gingerkuchen Excerpt

The Wassail Gingerkuchen Excerpt

   “May I escort you, Mistress?” He led her into the Reading Room alight with glowing candles and whispered, “Don’t they look real? The only bad news is the man you hired to play St. Nicholas came down with the flu.”
“What will I do?” Alarmed, Liberty fumbled in the brocade pouch at her waist for her cell phone. “We can’t do this without St. Nicholas.” 
 “You will have your St. Nicholas, madam.” Gregory stepped close to her side and smiled down at her. “I have experience.” He gently placed her arm on his. His St. Nicholas outfit was no rented Santa costume. The smooth velvet of his red jacket caressed her bare arm. The ruffled shirt, tight black pants, and high black boots complemented his masculine form perfectly. 
Before Liberty could speak, Lily announced, “Wassail time.”
Aldwyn, in a dinner jacket, entered carrying a steaming silver punch bowl, followed by Emma and Rebecca holding platters piled high with spicy, fragrant gingerkuchen.
Liberty whispered to Gregory, “Is it safe for you here?”
“Perfectly safe. This is a magic night.”
Outside the window, a flash of lights illuminated the huge outdoor tree and they heard the loud “Ah” as the people of Shipsfeather gasped in pleasure.
The strains of “Greensleeves” floated from the Local History Room. Liberty didn’t remember hiring a quartet. 

Within moments the library doors were thrown open and guests paraded in. Gregory served wassail and Liberty passed out warm gingerkuchen, greeting smiling Shipsfeather residents and their visitors. Many of Liberty’s regular library patrons passed by. Gregory embraced members of old Shipsfeather families. An elderly gentleman called him Chronus and a woman with a British accent curtsied and addressed him as Sir Gregory. Replying to foreign visitors in their own languages, Gregory was the perfect host. He looked handsome, courtly, and comfortable in ruffled shirt and velvet jacket and each guest lit up at his attention. 

Buy Released 
Read "Researching St.Nicholas Eve" for my personal remembrance of the celebration.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Prescott Library Displays Professional Writers of Prescott Books

Thanks to the Prescott (AZ) Public Library for displaying 85 books published by 36 members of the Professional writers of Prescott (PWP). Special thanks to the library for agreeing to add the books to their collections!

Photos and publishing biographies of each author are posted on the wall behind the books.

Thanks to PWP and especially President Jeannie Leighton; Secretary Carole Bolinski; Membership Chair Marian Powell; Bulletin Creator Susan Lanning; and Members Cathleen Cherry, Jessie Lincoln, Ronny de Jong, Connie Johnson and David Ganci for setting up this great showcase of books!

What a great way to show off local authors. 

On display for the month of December.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

St. Nicholas Excerpt from "The Shapeshifters' Library"

The Shapeshifters' Library Book 1
The St. Nicholas Eve Excerpt
Gregory and Liberty paraded back into the rotunda and on to the entrance to the Children’s Room. Children in pinafores and breeches clustered around Bliss in her shimmering princess dress. The children turned, saw Gregory, and little voices called, “St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas.”
Gregory placed his hand on Liberty’s waist and escorted her to the middle of the room. “Children, this is Lady Liberty.”
Children cheered and tiny hands clapped. “Lady. Lady.”
Gregory whispered to Liberty, “Say something.”
“Welcome children. To the library. On St. Nicholas Eve.”
The quartet’s violin player fiddled a merry tune, as a huge Newfoundland in a silver-studded harness pulled a cart to the doorway.
Gregory smiled. “And now, it’s time for presents.”
The children cheered. The dog lumbered in and small hands reached out to pat the gentle giant who, compared to the toddlers, appeared as large as a draft horse. Gregory stepped to the cart. “Stand back.” The children obeyed. “Now, one at a time.” He reached into the cart and took out a small toy horse and beckoned to a little girl in a crisp petticoat. She skipped forward to receive her painted wooden horse and a large orange. Liberty selected a book from the cart for the girl, who skipped off to show her friends.
Bouncing in stiff, shiny shoes, children waited their turns. Next a boy was given a miniature dog and cart. He held it high for all to see, then accepted his book. One by one, each child received a small toy, an orange, and a book. Every child seemed more thrilled with simple wood animals than if they’d received the latest electronic wonders. The entire scene was reminiscent of another more charming century.
When all the children had received gifts, the fiddler announced, “Time for St. Nicholas to leave,” and the children let out a collective, “Ah.”
Gregory reached one more time into the cart and presented a wrapped gift to Bliss. “Dear lady, for your kind ministrations to the children.” Bliss curtsied.
As children raced past to show toys to parents and grandparents, Gregory took Liberty’s arm. No longer the center of attention, the couple walked to the rotunda. Sparkling lights reflected like stars on the glass dome above.
“I cannot stay,” Gregory said softly. “I’m tired.”
Liberty nodded. “Thank you for making this night so beautiful.”
“Shipsfeather always celebrated St. Nicholas Eve like this. I am grateful your library made it possible once again. Now you see why this town and people are so special.”
“Where did the children’s gifts come from?” She looked around. “And where is the dog cart … and the music? This was the most magical night of the year.”
He laughed. “Ah, now you want magic explained. Tonight is only the beginning of the Season. The true magic will happen on the night of the Winter Solstice.”
“What could be more beautiful and amazing than tonight?”
“Nothing could be as amazing and beautiful as you. You are a most good and wonderful woman, Liberty Cutter, my Mistress of the Fete.” He leaned down and kissed her lips. A tender kiss tasting of cinnamon and warmed cider. Straightening, his eyes held her gaze.
“Tonight,” she whispered, “I feel like a princess.”
“You are a princess. My princess, dear one.” He lifted her hand to his lips. “Sweet Liberty.” He slid his hand into his jacket pocket. Holding her left hand, he slipped a ring onto her finger. “Forever, my princess, my love.”
She gasped as warm gold encircled her finger. She looked down at the intricately carved band. When she looked up, he was gone. Over the music and laughter, she heard the sound of boots descending the stairs.

Buy Released 
Read "Researching St.Nicholas Eve" for my personal remembrance of the celebration. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Researching St. Nicholas Eve

 This year St. Nicholas Eve falls on December 6th.

When I was small Christmas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and St. Nick were all mixed up – but it didn’t matter.

Wikipedia says:
In Northern Germany, Sankt Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel outside the front door on the night of 5 December. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. If they were not, they will have a tree branch in their boots instead. Sometimes a Nikolaus impersonator also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they have been good (sometimes ostensibly checking his golden book for their record), handing out presents on the basis of their behavior.

Here’s what I remember. When I was a young child, St. Nicholas Eve was the start of the Christmas season.

Everyone in the family hung stockings. The socks my brother and I wore were much too small, so my grandmother donated her long baggy cotton stockings.
I don’t remember really big gifts. Everything had to fit in the stocking. But there was always an orange in the toe (which made the stocking really long and funny looking) and some candy. Maybe there were small toys. I think the excitement was more important than the gifts. Gifts and surprises weren’t ordinary. And little things meant more. (And Christmas meant big presents.)To awake to find a bulging stocking was pure magic. 

It fits the Northern German tradition. Stockings instead of boots. And St Nicholas as the beginning of the annual “be good or Santa will bring you coal” time of year. Behavior was very important. I also remember threats that bad children could get a switch (ah the old tree branch). 

I’m not sure when we stopped hanging St. Nicholas stockings, but we never hung stockings on Christmas Eve and I always wondered why anyone would do that. Sadly, I think in my family the St. Nicholas traditions disappeared because they didn’t fit the melting pot American Santa Claus images. 

* The perverted story “Six to Eight Black Men” by David Sedaris in Holidays on Ice  provides politically incorrect outrageous holiday laughs at the expense of Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands.
Read the story online - originally published in Esquire  Or listen to Sedaris read it at Carnegie Hall on YouTube

For a more delightful version of St. Nicholas Eve as celebrated by the dog-shifter librarians of Shipsfeather, Ohio read the Wassail Excerpt and the St. Nicholas excerpt  posts.