Posts tagged ‘“Life in Harmony”’

Inspiration for Harmony Shop Closes

Wampum Trading CompanyThe Wampum Trading Post in Sam Simeon, California closed late in April 2016. Wampum Trading was the original inspiration for the “Gifts from the Sea” shop in my novel, Life in HarmonyWampum Trading with its seashell souvenirs, incense, and Native American jewelry and artifacts became Ruth’s shop in Harmony in my novel (minus the Native American items).

Wampum Trading had been a long-time staple just south of Hearst Castle along Highway 1 between Monterey and San Luis Obispo. I spoke with Nancy, the owner, early in the week that the store closed. She informed me that the building that houses Wampum and Castle Warehouse was being torn down for a new development by the land owner.

Wampum Trading like Gifts from the Sea was an easily missed treat to those speeding along Highway 1 up and down the coast. It was a quaint little gem for those who appreciated it. I invite you to read some of the Yelp! reviews for the store and it’s neighboring store Castle Warehouse (while there are two different businesses both share the same roof so it was really hard to tell the difference). Many of the reviews are similar stories to what happen to Kate and Michael in Life in Harmony.

Sometimes we stumble into a new adventure along life’s highway when and where we least expect it. Wampum Trading Post was that store for me and so many others. Sadly as Joni Mitchell said, “Don’t it always seem to go, You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

 

Couples in Harmony: A Contrast in Marriage

What first drew me to the town of Harmony (besides the serenity of its locale) was its population of 18. I wondered how in a state like California could there still be a town with such a fictionally small number of residents. When I began building the cast of characters that lived in Life in Harmony, I surrounded the central couple with other couples in various stages of marriage. I wanted Kate and Michael to see examples of how each marriage is different. Here’s a rundown of the other couples of Harmony and the role they play in the story.

Beck and Lucy

Beck and Lucy are the mature couple who run the Acadia Inn (Acadia is derived from the Greek word for idyllic place/harmony with nature). They are an example what love looks like after years of marriage. They certainly argue but at the heart of their relationship is love. From Beck’s calling Lucy “a pretty little thing” as she is walking Established 1973away to his speech at the dinner party where he tells everyone that if his wife (and daughter) believes in miracles that’s all he needs. He loves her so much that her beliefs surpass his own. Beck and Lucy are also an example of a happy life after the loss of a child. In addition, they help keep things light by providing some comic relief with those private details of married life (usually geared around toilets).

Sunny and Holla

Our hippie couple reminds us the book is set in California where people freely live by their own set of rules. I wanted their kumbaya, melting-pot religious philosophy to counter what Ruth was selling. Make no mistake they are selling their lifestyle. They seem a “sunny” and happy couple whose pick-and-choose philosophy appears to work for them (on the surface).

I encourage you to look at the journey Holla is on in the book. It is a subtle story. She is quick to caution Kate about Ruth’s God but motherhood is changing her. She wants different things now that she has her son. What seemed like her path before, may not be working for her. She has doubts about her beliefs and wants there to be more to life than what Sunny is selling. She also wants reassurances that her deceased father’s life did not just end. Her story is a work in progress that comes to an understated conclusion at the end of the book. Father Tom leads those gathered in prayer and the chapter ends with As Father Tom prayed, Raye bowed her head and without thinking so did Holla.

Stan and Tess

The last couple in Harmony is one that is only together in one of the first chapters. Stan and Tess are the couple having dinner in Juanita’s that first night Kate and Michael visit Harmony. They are a punk rock couple who seem out-of-place in the peaceful setting. They argue. It is ugly. Tess walks out and we never see her again in the book.

The Harmony Chapel mentioned in the book. It sits behind the Creamery Building.

The Harmony Chapel mentioned in the book. It sits behind the Creamery Building.

Stan and Tess remind Kate of what she sees in her own faulty marriage. It was two chapters before where we see Kate and Michael fight in much the same way. Kate herself wonders if staying married is the right choice for her. Stan and Tess’s breakup signifies that all is not peaceful in Harmony. There is reality and choices to be made. Kate  wonders if like Tess she will walk out.I can tell you there is certainly more to the Stan and Tess story but the rest of it was left out of this book.

I can tell you there is certainly more to the Stan and Tess story but the rest of it was left out of this book. Life in Harmony is about Kate and Michael. It was an editorial decision that details in Stan and Tess’s story was left out entirely. I know it leaves unanswered questions in their journey and I apologize. Perhaps that is a story for another book

With these three couples, we see a marriage that works in the long run, one that ends abruptly and one that seems alright on the surface but may be beginning to crack. They are examples for us to compare the main characters’ relationship to and hopefully add richness to the story.

Small disclaimer: The residents in the novel, Life in Harmony, are all fictional characters and are not likenesses of the actual residents of Harmony. While some may share trades and locations as those in the real town of Harmony, they are works of fiction. I know the book’s website, harmonynovel.com, does a fantastic job of blurring the lines of reality and fiction but the book is and always has been a work of fiction.


 

LIH Cover 2015

Living in the smallest of towns with an array of hippies, farmers and artists, who are as different as they are close, can be taxing enough without the realization that some of Harmony’s residents may not be what they appear. When Michael and Kate uproot their lives in LA after a miscarriage and move to Harmony, CA (Population 18), they had no idea they’d be sharing their home with a spiritual apparition of a four-year-old girl named Ruby. “Life in Harmony” entertains the thought that the trials we face happen for a reason, and sometimes it takes supernatural intervention for us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.

Life in Harmony is available now from Pangloss Sea. Click one of the links below to purchase the book today!

Amazon Print Edition

Amazon Digital Edition


If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, please do so (at the top right). My blog focuses on stories and ideas to inspire. If you are looking for positive reminders and inspirational stories, you can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click this link for social media connections.

“Life in Harmony” Book Giveaway on Goodreads.com

Goodreads-Logo-1024x576-7abf5bd8d98b9d10Goodreads.com is hosting a Book Giveaway for Life in Harmony. Go to the Goodreads link (Click Here) by 2/16/16 to enter to win a copy of the book sent to you for free!

Goodreads is an online community for book lovers and authors to discuss, share and review books. It is a great place for any book lover. Life in Harmony is already generating some great reviews. Here are a few reviews being listed on the Giveaway Page for the book.

“Life in Harmony is one of those books that draws you in, chapter after chapter. The characters are well drawn, the plot well crafted, and the novel well written.”

“A great feel-good book. Picked it up and couldn’t put it down!”

“I’ve told my sister about the book. Her husband died last year and it has been a tough year for her. I hope it brings her some joy. I really can’t wait to see what she thinks of it. Can’t wait to talk to someone about it.”

“Truthfully, wasn’t sure what to expect from it but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a quick read. Before I knew it, I was halfway in and couldn’t put it down. I loved the characters from the town (Harmony) that season the book. It was a delightful story and filled with things I would have never imagined the book would have it in. Before I knew it, the book was over and I was really left wanting more.”

I invite you to go over the Goodreads Giveaway page and enter to win. I would also ask that you invite your friends to enter. For more info, visit https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/sh…

The House as a Metaphor

MILD SPOILER ALERT!

In the book, Life in Harmony, the settings play a significant part in the story as it unfolds. When Kate and Michael uproot their lives in LA for a new life in the small town of Harmony, the house they buy there and renovate is a metaphor for their relationship.

The house in Harmony that inspired the location of where Kate and Michael would live. The house in the book is much smaller and the descriptions vary greatly.

The house in Harmony that inspired the location of where Kate and Michael would live. The house in the book is much smaller and the descriptions vary greatly.

I love when the couple settles in to spend their first night in their new home. I am sure you can recall in your own experiences how your own first night in a new place felt. You’re a little uncomfortable as the surroundings aren’t familiar. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 7:

That first night proved to be a trying one. Michael laid the mattress down on a bed sheet that Kate used to cover the cold living room floor. The two lay there side by side looking up at the water damaged ceiling. There in the stillness of the house was a crackling sound like that of the silent interlude between songs on an old record album. They listened as the old house settled in around the two of them.

From this passage, we find similarities to where the couple is in their relationship at this moment. The couple is finding the house cold. The water-damaged ceiling above them a reminder of recent tears shed. Then there are those new sounds to remind us that we are in a new place in our life, a new chapter. That final line gives a glimpse that this couple and house are coming together. An intentional hint that this house will a play a part in describing how the journey for the couple will unfold.

The renovations of the house are detailed throughout the book to parallel the restoration the couple makes in their own lives. The first things they fix are the windows. Visible damage they want to hide from the world. Symbols that tells others there is something wrong. The new windows give an illusion that things are alright. They add warmth to the house and are a first barrier of protection against the outside world for a couple who is on the edge.

As you read through the rest of the book and follow the renovations, you will start to see the story the house is telling about the couple. Kate focuses on the kitchen, a place she felt comfort in as a child. Then there is the bathroom, where we are reminded that the necessities of life can’t be ignored. Finally, as Kate starts to put her life in better perspective, there is the living room (once messy and cluttered with moving boxes and renovation trash) and the finishing touches there that make the house come alive. Living returns to the house.

All that remains unfinished is the bedroom. By the time of the house warming party, the bedroom is nearly done but painted in a color Kate doesn’t like and without pictures on the wall. This should call back her bedroom from the house in LA that opens the book. “The blank, pale walls of their undecorated bedroom were cold and gray; colorless reminders of her recent losses.”

The "Red House" in Harmony that is used as the house that Raye lived in.

The “Red House” in Harmony that is used as the house that Raye lived in.

Reading the book, we know the couple’s intimacy issues are constantly a focus of the story. In fact, it is itself a symbol of the couple’s reconstructing their own relationship. When everything else seems fixed, at the center of the couple is this void between them in their intimate relationship. The unfinished bedrooms that bookend the story before the climax reminds us that an important part of their marriage is not fixed.

In writing the book, I paid careful attention to the details and descriptions of the house including use of color choices because I wanted the reader to be able to visualize the journey. I also included details for most of the other
locations in the book. Raye’s house is red as it’s as fiery as she is as she represents the spirit of the book. Beck and Lucy’s house is big, bright white with clean trim. It is a well-tended and settled house. Ruth’s shop almost an afterthought in town easily missed, seemingly unimportant. Locations, setting descriptions and colors play an important part in adding deeper value to the story.

If you’ve already read Life in Harmony, I’d invite you to go back through the book and pay attention to the details the setting plays in the story. If you haven’t read the book yet, I would encourage you to give it a try.


LIH Cover 2015

Living in the smallest of towns with an array of hippies, farmers and artists, who are as different as they are close, can be taxing enough without the realization that some of Harmony’s residents may not be what they appear. When Michael and Kate uproot their lives in LA after a miscarriage and move to Harmony, CA (Population 18), they had no idea they’d be sharing their home with a spiritual apparition of a four-year-old girl named Ruby. “Life in Harmony” entertains the thought that the trials we face happen for a reason, and sometimes it takes supernatural intervention for us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.

Life in Harmony is available now from Pangloss Sea. Click one of the links below to purchase the book today!

Amazon Print Edition

Amazon Digital Edition

 


If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, please do so (at the top right). My blog focuses on stories and ideas to inspire. If you are looking for positive reminders and inspirational stories, you can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click this link for social media connections.

Sending Spirituality into a Secular World

Sunset at Santa Rosa CreekThe divide between a believer and a non-believer has never been greater in our lifetime. Faith communities are places for us to feel safe and secure among people who share our beliefs. They shelter us away from a world that takes pleasure in challenging our beliefs. What we end up with is isolated communities that separate us from the world we are commissioned to reach out to.

So how does a non-believer full of skepticism and distrust find a way into a relationship with God when our walls of safety prevent them from finding a way in? Can there be a bridge between what is secular and what is Christian safe? In writing Life in Harmony, I hoped it would help non-believers find a way to a relationship with God. One Christian publisher told me Life in Harmony wasn’t Christian enough to be considered Christian Fiction. The book was also seen as too spiritual by traditional publishers. It was caught somewhere in the middle and that is exactly where I am glad the book is.

Christian Fiction’s audience is solely Christian and doesn’t bridge the gap between believer and non-believer. There are certain elements in Christian Fiction that are necessary to satisfy its audience. For a secular world, those elements can be perceived as being sanitized versions of reality.

Life in Harmony, while being filled with spirituality, avoids exclusionary tactics. The couple at the heart of the story demonstrates very little in the way of Christian aspects in much of the book. They are non-believers and non-Christians. They use mild profanity and God’s name is taken in vain in at least once in the book. In addition, sex plays a very important part in the book yet still within the confines of marriage.

These details were included because they are typical aspects of what occurs in our world. I wanted the book to be interesting to the most people possible. When editing the book, we looked for the balance to be as non-offensive to the widest number of people as possible. In making those decisions, wording for religious discussions in the book were specifically selected to be as non-threatening to denominational differences and non-believers as possible.

What I wanted the reader to focus on is the imperfection of the main characters. Kate and Michael are filled with lacking self-worth, skepticism, they frequently argue and show some very unflattering characteristics. I wanted the two of them to feel real and to do that they needed to sound real, talk about real things and do things that real people do. Things that Christian Publishers didn’t think matched what their audience was looking for.

I believe Life in Harmony encourages non-believers to a spiritual life. The book, I hope, demonstrates a God-filled story without hitting the reader over the head with religion. My goal with it is to send spirituality into a secular world and hopefully show a path to God in a non-judgment, non-threatening way.

If you have an avid reader in your life who hasn’t found a relationship with God in their life yet, I encourage you to share Life in Harmony with them.


LIH Cover 2015

Living in the smallest of towns with an array of hippies, farmers and artists, who are as different as they are close, can be taxing enough without the realization that some of Harmony’s residents may not be what they appear. When Michael and Kate uproot their lives in LA after a miscarriage and move to Harmony, CA (Population 18), they had no idea they’d be sharing their home with a spiritual apparition of a four-year-old girl named Ruby. “Life in Harmony” entertains the thought that the trials we face happen for a reason, and sometimes it takes supernatural intervention for us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.

Life in Harmony is available now from Pangloss Sea. Click one of the links below to purchase the book today!

Amazon Print Edition

Amazon Digital Edition

 


If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, please do so (at the top right). My blog focuses on stories and ideas to inspire. If you are looking for positive reminders and inspirational stories, you can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click this link for social media connections.

Cures for Unhappiness on WebMD?

happiness-next-exitYes, believe it or not, the site where you check out what your symptoms mean, has articles on treatments for the “medical condition” known as unhappiness.

For you skeptics out there, check out this link (I know seeing is believing).

Anne Stuart wrote an article with cooperation from Dr. Brunilda Nazario on happiness for WebMD.com titled “Why You’re Not Happy.”

Here’s the simple-6 part treatment for the cure:

  1. Simplify (pare down)
  2. Slow Down (pause)
  3. Let Go! (mindful meditation)
  4. Feel the Real (feel emotions, express feelings)
  5. Stay Hopeful
  6. Connect with Others

Sounds simple enough but we know real life can be messy, hard to navigate and not easy to overcome. Most of our resistance to finding a cure to our ailment is because we often feel like our issues are more complicated than can be cured with simple answers.

That’s our problem. In the modern, technology-driven world, we complicate things. When in reality, life is simple: breathe, eat, sleep, excrete. Everything else is gravy or heartache or inessential however you want to describe it.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her tome about life (Gift from the Seawrote much about the six principles of happiness that Ms. Stuart writes as her “medical” cure for unhappiness.  Interesting enough, these principles also unfold in my book, Life in Harmony.

The main characters, Kate and Michael, are facing complicated modern problems: infertility, in vitro fertilization, LIH Cover 2015bankruptcy, cancer and modern jobs (data collection and advertising). Life for them is involved and overwhelming as the book opens. They are at a crossroads in their lives. And what does it take for them to find their way back to their happiness?

The “prescribed” dose of simplicity, slowing down, letting go, real feelings, hope and connecting with others helps guide Kate and Michael to hopeful resolutions. Pairing and slowing down are the start to curing what ails them. The rest unfolds as the book goes along. Life is a journey and finding the cure for a happy life is simple if you let it be. 

If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, please do so (at the top right). My blog focuses on stories and ideas to inspire. If you are looking for positive reminders and inspirational stories, you can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click this link for social media connections.

If you’re looking for a good book with an uplifting story, check out my novel, Life in Harmony. Click this link to buy the book!

 

 

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