What do you want to read?

heart-772637_640Hi. Some of you know that I took a break from marketing and promotion over the winter. (Well, I guess you all know now.) I was burned out and needed some time to think about where I wanted to take not only this blog but my entire self-publishing adventure. After my break, I started dipping a toe back in here and there. I wrote. I caught up with news about the industry. I read a lot of blogs. I read a lot of books. I also had an opportunity to check out a ton of author newsletters.

That was good. And not so good. Some were done well. They gave me interesting information and were entertaining. Some just made me want to hit the “unsubscribe” button as fast as I could.

It made me realize what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to fill your in-boxes with a bunch of stuff that you don’t want to read.

So I’d like to know what you think. What would you like to see more of from me? Less of? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments, or if you’d prefer, put them in the contact form below. Thank you so much.

 

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A Sneak Peek from The Call: Wes

PrintWes is one of my favorite characters in The Call. I love the way his mind works, and often his voice would circle around in my head, talking about numbers and odds and the universe and his many, many sisters. When I read an article about the physics of baseball, I thought of him immediately and knew he had to be in the story. Here’s an excerpt from the book, from when he and Margie met at the umpire academy:

—–

As Margie rounded the right-field corner, Wes Osterhaus fell in beside her. His wiry limbs matched her stride, his pale, freckled cheeks pinking from the exertion and the Florida sun. In their morning classes, Wes sat Catholic-school-straight in the chair in front of hers, bobbing his head at the instructor. He always had the right answers, and a hundred other questions. The instructors had been patient with him, but more and more they said, “Let’s talk during lunch,” or told him to go look it up in the academy’s library. The “library” was a dingy, cinderblock-walled equipment room that smelled of sweat and old coffee and contained two metal folding chairs, an old TV, and an erector-set bookshelf of manuals and videotapes. Sometimes Margie passed the room on her way to Big Al’s office and Wes would be sitting there alone, staring at the screen, scribbling notes on his pad. She felt bad for the guy. He was smart, that much was clear, and he was one of the few people in camp who would talk to her. She overheard a couple of trainees calling him “Oster-cize,” and she wanted to kick them.

“Nice day for a run, huh?” Margie said.

“Technically, no.” Wes said some stuff about dew point and relative humidity that left Margie’s head spinning. Then he trailed off, and on the left-center warning track he said, “Forty-eight.”

“Excuse me?” Margie wiped the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand.

“Sixteen percent of three hundred.” He nodded toward the group of guys practicing on the field. “That’s how many candidates will get recommended for evaluation after we’re done. Fewer still will get minor-league assignments.”

She smirked. “I think you’re gonna do fine.”

He nodded toward Rocky Anderson, who was berating some guy until he hung his head. “But that instructor is lowering our chances. He’s doing it all wrong.”

Her eyebrows hopped up. “Whaddya mean, wrong?”

“Positive reinforcement has been shown to help long-term learning better than negative reinforcement.”

“You got English for that?”

“Okay, right,” he muttered, as if giving himself a reminder to dumb-down his vocabulary for the masses. “Your strike fist. If he said, ‘nice job’ when you tucked your thumb in, instead of making you do laps when you get it wrong, research says you’d learn better.”

“What, you saying I’m never gonna learn?”

“No, Margie, I believe you will.” He paused a moment and added, “Because you remind me of Doug Harvey. He’s the best umpire in the game.”

She grinned. “Really? Doug Harvey?”

“Yes. The way you make your calls. The way you know the rules.”

Damn. “You wanna race?”

“Not especially.”

She knocked an elbow into his arm. “Aw, come on. Race me to the on-deck circle. Loser picks up the beer tonight.”

“That’s negative reinforcement. And besides, I don’t drink.”

“Okay. Winner gets to pick the game tape in the library later.”

“See? Now I’ll do it,” he said. “Because you’re offering me a learning opportunity.”

He took off. She took off after him. For the first time in Margie’s life, a boy beat her in a footrace. Probably because she let him.

——

The Call will be live on Amazon on September 1, but you can preorder now. The print book should be out around then, too. Or possibly sooner.

Update on The Call

TheCall_IllustratorV2Just a quick message: because my team is so awesome, the e-book version of The Call will be ready two weeks early! If you preorder now, Amazon will deliver it on 9/1 to your reading device. Kind of like magic but without all the glitter and card tricks. Although if you want those, I know a guy you can call…

Thunder

A storm was coming, and Hannah knew it was a bad idea to be hiking on the mountain, but Josh insisted, and in all the years of their friendship, he’d hardly ever insisted on anything. When the storm swept in, they scuttled for the shelter of a cave they’d hidden in before. He spread out his sleeping bag and built a small fire, boy scout style. By the dim light she could barely see the lurid bruise beneath his right eye and the swelling of his lower lip, leaving her the illusion of his face as its usual cute, undamaged whole. She didn’t say much; he said less. The patter of the rain and the crackle of the flames and the thunder, now a gentle roll in the distance, made her drowsy.

The next thing she knew, the storm had passed. They could have resumed their hike at any time, but it was nice in there, with the fire and the metallic smell of damp rocks and his regular breathing. Josh was still asleep, and she felt comfortable lying next to him, the rhythm of his chest rising and falling a kind of meditation. She ached to touch his lip, his black eye, to soothe away the pain. To erase the memory of his seeing her kiss Ben Thompson, the humiliation of losing the fight and getting punched not just once but twice. She didn’t mean for it to happen. The kiss, or having Josh see it, or Ben being such a jerk. Maybe she’d been nervous about what would happen to her and Josh at the end of the summer. They’d been friends since grade school, but aside from the occasional family trip, they’d never really been apart. Even when she had her appendix out, he’d come to visit her at the hospital, and they’d played card games and shared her Jell-O. Could they still be friends in colleges at opposite ends of the country? When the subject even brushed the edges of their conversation, they flinched, changing the topic. She was tired of flinching.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

His eyes flickered, and he turned his head to face her. “Why? You didn’t make it rain.”

But the silence filling the cave after his last word made it clear he knew what she was apologizing for.

“I’m sorry because it was supposed to be you. It was always supposed to be you.”

His mouth opened slightly, making the puffy lower lip look even more painful. “You could have told me that before I made a total ass of myself.”

The fire hissed and crackled, dancing shadows along the rock.

“It would have changed everything,” she said.

He appeared to think a moment, nodded, then, with what she hoped wasn’t too painful a smile, said, “Change isn’t always bad.”

“Try saying that again when we’re living three thousand miles apart.”

He rolled toward her, touching her cheek as if she were exotic and breakable and, possibly, imaginary. “We have now. We have the rest of the summer. We can figure the rest out later.”

He was right, and wrong, and the rain started up again. When thunder shook the ground, she flinched, and he pulled her tight against him.

Women in Baseball: The Umpires

I knew I’d never get to play second base for the New York Mets—when I was a kid, girls weren’t even allowed to join Little League—but it was fun to watch the games and dream. Sometimes I’d even pretend to be an umpire. I’d watch those “You Make the Call” segments on TV, where they’d break down a complicated play and show why the ump called it the way he did. But I didn’t think they’d let girls be umpires, either.

Many years later, I learned that in 1972, a few months before my eleventh birthday, Bernice Gera put on a mask and chest protector and became the first woman in modern history to umpire a professional game. She’d sued the New York Professional Baseball League for sex discrimination, fought for five long, hard years in court, and finally won her case. She quit after working just one game of a double-header, citing the incivility of the other umpires and the baseball culture in general.

Many, many years later, her story still intrigues me. Why would a woman fight so hard to get a chance to call a game and then never set foot on the field again? What was it like for the women who came after her? Women like Christine Wren, Pam Postema, Theresa Cox-Fairlady, Ria Cortesio, Shanna Kook, and currently, Jen Pawol, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, and the indefatigable Perry Barber, one of the hardest working woman in amateur-level (but very professional) umpiring. And still, except for a handful of spring training and exhibition games, Pam Postema was the only one who’d made it to Triple A, just one rung below the majors.

It’s hard sometimes to believe that even as recently as 1982, there had only been three brave souls in professional baseball who had gone where no woman had gone before.

I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it might have been like for them to work in the game. Beyond the headlines. Beyond the “official stories.” And when I want to know more, I start writing. That’s when Margie popped into my head, and she had a story to tell. I’m excited that I’ll be publishing The Call later this summer, and you’ll get a chance to meet her, and her twin brother, and the rest of her world.

I’ll be posting an excerpt soon and more about the players.

Happy trails!

Salt: A Modern Fable

“Someday,” he said, clapping a small hand to the boy’s shoulder, “this will all be yours. It will be your legacy. It will be the salt to rub in your enemies’ wounds.”

salt-51973_640

I’ve never written a fable before, but when I caught a headline on Politico yesterday, this story jumped into my head. I wrote it for 2-Minutes-Go.

—-

Salt

More than his gold-plated golf clubs, more than his collection of celebrities on speed-dial, more than any of his trophies, the man loved his salt. He’d cultivated that salt with a patience he’d bestowed on no human in his life. He’d traveled the earth looking for the best location to harvest it, the ideal climate, the primo seaside sunbaked leeward cove, where the big-league crystals collected. But it still was not good enough, the haul too paltry, so he spent a million dollars of his fortune on a magician’s spell to make the minerals more powerful.

That was the ticket.

The salt colonized and crystallized and concentrated and sparkled. The ocean and magic combined to imbue it with the bitter tears of mermaids in mourning, the revenge of white whales, the last cries of drowning mariners, the shaking fist of Atlantis. He brought no one there except his favorite son, on secret missions, telling his wife they were going to the circus, or hunting tigers. The first time they reached the cliffs, the boy looked confused, and the man indulged in a wolf’s smile.

“Someday,” he said, clapping a small hand to the boy’s shoulder, “this will all be yours. It will be your legacy. It will be the salt to rub in your enemies’ wounds.”

The boy didn’t understand, and the man was angry, and the boy grew quiet. But he kept bringing the boy to the cliffs when he traveled to check on his salt, to make sure the enchantment still held, to make sure there would be enough. For he had a lot of enemies. He’d hoped to push some sense into the boy. Like his father had done to him.

During his next visit, as they beheld what the family fortune had purchased, the boy asked, “Is it time yet?”

The man lifted his chin and felt the sea breezes on his freshly exfoliated face. He licked a finger and raised it in the air. “Oh,” he said, relishing what was to come. “It’s time.”

And he took off his expensive shoes and rolled up his expensive trousers and picked down the rocks to where the salt deposits lay, all the while wincing at the pain in his soft, small, pedicured feet. The boy followed his lead, carrying the golden bucket, and soldiered on under its weight as the man filled it to the brim.

The salt was beautiful, and it was his, and the man felt a touch of pride as if it were another child.

When they returned to the city, he climbed to the highest tower, the boy in his footsteps, and opened the windows where the people gathered below. From their shouts he knew that most of them hated him, were envious of all he possessed and of the victories he’d claimed, but he waved and smiled, told a few jokes. Drawing them closer.

Then with one mighty hurl, he emptied the bucket over the ledge, but the wind blew the salt back at him. He tried to duck the onslaught—too late. The last thing he saw before the crystals blinded him was his son, standing behind him, smiling. A wolf cub’s smile.

A Sudden Gust of Gravity on Sale

GravityBookcoverSmallHi, everybody. I’ve been busy writing, but I just wanted to pick my head up and let you know that A Sudden Gust of Gravity will be on sale for 99 cents on Amazon through the weekend.

What readers have been saying about this book:

“Filled with magic, illusion, and allure, readers will be treated to a refreshing and quick read!” – inD’tale magazine

“What I really liked about this book was the original characters: a woman who aspires to be a magician and a sensitive Korean/American doctor with a gangster past. These are not the stereotypical characters you sometimes find in fiction. I also thought the author did a great job of showing the love/hate relationship invoked by an emotionally (and physically?) abusive partner. This was an entertaining read and should appeal to fans of romance as well as commercial fiction.” – Carrie (Amazon reviewer)

“Author Laurie Boris truly has a magician’s sleight-of-hand, transforming this study in potentially heavy, difficult reality into a heartlifting, thoroughly absorbing adventure.” – Amazon reader

And now I’ll return to my keyboard, but I’ll leave you with a new trailer for A Sudden Gust of Gravity. Have a great day!