The Centennial Story

It was brought to my attention a few days ago that my one hundredth book has come and gone and I didn’t even know it. Even stranger, it wasn’t the momentous occasion I once thought it should be. Why? I suppose because my world has become so wrapped up in caring for family members in varying stages of illness and disease, that keeping track of something that has become commonplace, like my writing, fell a long ways down  on the ‘to do’ list of my life.

Writing is still my safe place to fall. It is still the place I go when the reality of my life becomes overwhelming. Telling the stories that live in my head and sharing them with people who love to read is a priceless gift and the best therapy ever, but never doubt for a moment that I don’t treasure the ability, because I do.

My first published book was Sara’s Angel, written under my name, Sharon Sala, and it came out in the fall of 1991.

My one hundredth book, Going Twice, also written as Sharon Sala, came out last fall.

Poor Going Twice.

It was the middle child of my Forces of Nature trilogy and we all know what kind of attention the middle child gets, so I feel bad that there was no party, or even any cake. I didn’t take a picture. I didn’t make a banner across my page or hold contests and give away copies to my fabulous readers. But… it wasn’t because of a lack of pride in the story. It was just the overwhelming reality of what I was living. The one hundredth book took a back seat to life.

I think acknowledgment a year late is better than none.

I want my readers to know how much I value their presence in my life and I am making a promise that if I make it to the two hundredth book, I will throw the biggest party ever and you’re all invited.


On Spring, Daylight Savings, and Cookies

Like everyone else, I am tired of winter. I’m ready for green grass and new leaves on the trees; seeing the Forsythia bushes burst forth in butter-yellow blossoms and watching the Jonquils and Daffodil shoots popping up through old grass; as usual, anxious to be the first ones up.

Spring for me used to mean new baby calves and new foals stumbling around on tiny stilt-like legs; so fragile and yet icons of the promise of rebirth. Now Spring comes with new dress styles in shop windows and lawn-care businesses leaving flyers on your door. Life is about change; even if it’s nothing more than growing older.

I don’t like Daylight Savings and yet it’s here again, messing up my body clock and setting people’s teeth on edge. It’s always the topic of conversation the first few days; as if griping about it long enough might actually change the fact. It’s just an hour. Sixty minutes. I remind myself that it’s only a number on the clock face, not the end of the world.

My sure cure for frustration is baking; usually cookies. Today I made chocolate chip/pecan cookies and the house smells wonderful. My Little Mama has already sashayed through the kitchen twice for an excuse to watch me taking them out of the oven, and to sneak a still warm cookie with a glass of cold milk back to her room. Simple pleasures that even Daylight Savings and too many cold days cannot ruin.

And so I hunker down in my warm house and leaf through magazines with fluffy yellow chicks and baby rabbits on the covers and dream of sunshine and Easter.

I’m ready for Spring. Can you hear it coming? Let me know if you do. I can’t wait.


NEW BOOKS AND THE COLD WINTER BLUES

Winter has been brutal all over the country this year; the worst in my lifetime that I can remember. When everyone else was getting the -15 below weather and heaps of snow, we here in Oklahoma had the same temperature with freezing rain. By the time that storm phase passed, it had left over an inch of ice on every above-ground power line in the state. Power went out and the weather stayed cold so the ice couldn’t melt. You couldn’t drive a car; even with four-wheel drive, and you couldn’t stand up if you had to go outside. It was miserable.

It took over three days for our power to come back on, and even longer for everything to warm up. In that time I’d burned up every stick of wood I had left in the fireplace. It was, without doubt, the most trying 3 days of my life because my poor little mother, who is a week away from 94 years old and has dementia, couldn’t stay in her room. She wanted to. It’s her world and where she feels safe, but it was too cold.

So I moved her into the living room near the fire. She had a warm blanket over her legs, and a book to read and food to eat. She kept asking me to take her home. It was confusing for her and sad for me. We’re still trying to come out of those winter blues.

But there are good things on my horizon. I have new books on the horizon.

GOING TWICE, which is the second book in my Forces of Nature trilogy is out in print and will be out in ebook on February 1st. THE CURL UP AND DYE, which is my first southern women’s fiction with Sourcebooks, will be out February 4th. I love both of these books, but The Curl Up and Dye was a great chance of writing pace for me.

THE DOVE, which is the second book in my Prophecy series following WINDWALKER, which began the Native American paranormal romance trilogy, will be out around the first couple of weeks of March.

Check them out and let me know what you think when you’ve finished reading them. They are a sure cure for the cold winter blues.


GIVING THANKS

GIVING THANKS

I have much to be thankful for, and my readers are a great part of that. For twenty-two years you have read with me, laughed with me, cried with me through the pages of my books. There are well over ninety of them now and for one reason or another, I have a special memory attached to almost every one.

Annie and The Outlaw reminds me of Stephie Walker, the bookseller I knew so many years ago who was fighting the same battle that Annie was in the story. I had no idea when I wrote that book how personal it would become to Stephie, or how I would travel the road with her through the brain tumor that ultimately took her life. I am so thankful that story helped her find the courage to face her fate.

Out of The Dark became the story that helped one young woman I met finally tell her family about the sexual abuse she’d suffered as a child. I didn’t write it for that reason, or maybe I did and just didn’t know it. I’m always led to tell stories because they talk to me. I am so thankful that lady now walks without the burden of her past. The Boarding House was another such story and I knew it would dig the scabs off of old wounds, but sometimes that’s what it takes for something to heal.

Jackson Rule is probably the most requested and talked about book in my backlist. A good many of my readers still claim it to be their favorite, but for me, it’s linked to an award I won because of it. It was the $10,000 Janet Dailey award, given for the best romance of that year dealing with a pertinent social issue. Because of the money I won from that award, it afforded me the opportunity to begin a scholarship at my high school alma mater, given to a graduating senior in my sister’s name. So, because of Jackson Rule, I have been giving the $1,000.00, Diane Lynn Thompson scholarship, every year since 1997.

The Survivors, written under my pen name, Dinah McCall, was written during the time when I was losing the love of my life to cancer. As I wrote a book about people living through a traumatic event in their lives, he was dying. The dedication in that book has become the one most talked about by all my readers, and in an odd and unexpected way, it has kept the memory of my sweet Bobby alive, not only in my heart, but in the hearts of many, and for that I am truly thankful.

 


A TIME OF CHANGE

 

 

A TIME OF CHANGE

     October is a time for change. Here in Oklahoma, the hot season of summer is on the wane and we’re getting nights when the slight nip of fall is in the air. It is my favorite time of year. As a child of the country, and then a farmer’s wife for so many years, my life has always revolved around harvest of one sort or another. If we weren’t picking something from the garden to freeze or can, we were harvesting a crop. I’ve had my fill of that life, and do not miss long hot days in a wheat field, or cold wet days trying to save yet another year of a peanut crop from ruin.

And so it goes.

Now my life is always in a cycle of change. From the birth of a story that I dream, to the long hours of work getting it on the page. Then sending my new baby off to a publisher, praying they don’t cut it up too badly or rename it without my consent. Babies are precious, even when they’re books, because it’s a creation that comes from the heart. All this is a part of what I am, and what drives me to keep writing. Any work worth doing, is worth doing right.

Daily, I witness the changes in my little mother’s hold on life. She is in the autumn of her ninety-third year; a life in which she’s persevered and conquered that which would have laid a grown man in his grave.

She’s buried two of her three children; seen her ex-husband to his grave. Lost her parents, her only sibling, and every friend her age she’s ever made. She was a child of the depression. She lived through the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma and stayed put with her family when others turned tail and ran for their lives. She’s outlived everyone who knew her as a child, and when that happened; when there was no one left to know the story of ‘remember when’ – a part of her died with them. Now her memories are all confused. Ninety-three years of living all jumbled up in her head.  She’s changing, and I, as her only living child, stand mute witness to the deterioration and struggle not to weep.

Daily I remind myself that change comes to all of us, and change is good. Were it not for change, discoveries would never be made. I would never have known what a magnificent person my little mother really is; had I left the care of her last years to someone else.

She’s wicked funny, when she can remember the words she wants to use. She doesn’t like to be wrong and will never admit it. She likes things clean, clean, clean, and has OCD to the point of obsession when something is out of place. And within all the ‘stuff’ that comes from turning into the adult version of your little self, I have also seen her fears and felt blessed to be the one who stood between her and emotional devastation, just as she stood between me and danger when I was her little girl. She spent thirty-one years of her life educating other people’s children, and although she’s been retired since the early eighties, she still marks each day by if it’s a school day, or if it’s not.

My mother’s love for chocolate has never changed, and she has stashes of it all over her room. I know one day when I am going through her things I will find little hoards tucked in out-of-the-way places. I have already made myself a promise when I find one to have a piece of candy on her behalf.

As this October continues, I have seen great changes in her spirit. She’s done with this place, but hasn’t learned how to let go. I will cry some on that day, but I will also rejoice that her change of residence will have nothing to do with the love I have for her in my heart.

And, as I move through the changing seasons of my own life, I don’t have to look back to remember. Some things you never forget.

 

 

 


COLOR ME BAD And THE CURL UP AND DYE

I’m off on a new writing venture, so to speak, with the release of these two books set in the fictional southern town of Blessings, Georgia.

COLOR ME BAD is a novella, and is the story of an incident that begins in a beauty shop in Blessings called THE CURL UP AND DYE. It’s a slice of ordinary life in small town America, and reflective of how most of the drama and gossip manages to funnel through that little shop. The four hairdressers in the stories are common to both books, and there are also continuing characters that will always be in all of them. Some of the events are laugh out loud funny, and some have a tinge of poignancy or a hint of drama, but always there is the sense of familiarity and unity that only a small town can have.

THE CURL UP AND DYE is a full-length book with a bigger story of a young woman who got lost along the way to adulthood. Popular in high school and everybody’s vision of the perfect beauty queen, her fairy tale life begins coming undone as she experiences first one tragedy, and then another, leaving her foothold to stability completely gone. One year fades into another and then another to the point of stagnation. It’s not until a new man comes to town that she is yanked both mentally and physically out of her rut. Just when she thinks she knows what she wants out of life and how to get it, she comes up against yet another roadblock, and this time, discovers that the man with the key to her heart has been living next door, all along.

COLOR ME BAD will be released as ebook only, and will be out early in September 2013.

THE CURL UP AND DYE will be available in both print and ebook, and out in February of 2014.

So don’t delay if you want in on the ground floor of this series.

Pre-order now.  The people of Blessings are waiting for you to come visit. You won’t be sorry you stopped by.


Hot July Summer

I could have just called this July, and everyone in the state of Oklahoma would already know that meant hot summer.  We’re enjoying (I say that with just the tiniest bit of sarcasm) triple digit heat.  Ugh, and thank God for whoever invented air conditioning because it was non-existent when I was a kid.  I remember the first water-cooler my family bought.  We thought it was a miracle, but it did get a little crowded standing right in front of it where the air was the coolest.

Bedtime during those years meant plenty of hot sleepless nights.  We used to pray for a breeze, or an unexpected thunderstorm just to cool things off.  My sister and I would lie motionless on our backs, our arms out-flung, hoping to catch even the tiniest wisp of stirring air.  When our parents finally bought an old circulating fan, we took turns lying on the side of the bed closest to it, and we made a rule that no one slept on their side, because that would block the air.  It was either on your tummy or your back.

When the days got hot, it meant playing in the shade instead of out in the yard.  We still played, regardless of weather.  Where does that wonderful abandon go as we get older?  Do we trade creature comforts for joy?  I hope not.  I still remember what it feels like to run barefoot through hot sand, and the utter bliss of flying down the hillside toward the creek, knowing what that cool water was going to feel like on my hot bare feet.  Life was so simple then.  The sun came up.  We did our chores and played.  The sun went down.  We did our chores and went to bed.  The orchestrated ‘play dates’ parents make for their children now often leave me speechless.  Play should not be on a schedule for anyone under the age of ten.  It should be an inalienable right and batteries are not included.

But those days are nothing but fond memories.  All I would wish back from those times are my father and my sister.  They’ve been gone for far too many years.  Still, sometimes when the air is so hot that it burns the inside of my nose just to take a breath, I can almost hear my sister laughing as she would beat me to the creek; watching the water splashing up on the back of her legs and the joy on her face as she turned around and yelled.  “I won!”

Yes, she beat me at just about everything.  I imagine her now – never still – never quiet – and that clear, perfect laugh, ringing out all over heaven.

 

 

 


Following My Path

Isn’t this new website beautiful?  It’s a very personal reflection of both Sharon Sala and Dinah McCall and I hope you enjoy it in the days to come.  Sharon’s stories are usually romantic suspense, or straight fiction.  Dinah’s stories are the ones with Native American characters and a paranormal storyline.  Dinah’s stories honor my Native American ancestors.  Both of my daddy’s grandmothers were part Native American.  One was a three-quarter blood Cherokee and the other one part Cree.  The Native blood is very thin in my veins, but my heart and soul completely belong to the culture and to The People.

Most of you who know me and have been reading me for years might have heard this before, but for those of you who might wonder why I would do something so random and choose to have wolves on the page, let me share my story.

When I first started to school, my family lived way out in the country in a little rent house down on the river. It was a half mile from the house to the road where I walked to catch the bus.  The old dirt road was bounded on one side by a pasture and on the other side by a heavily wooded hillside that ran parallel to the road.  Laddie, a big yellow dog not unlike the Old Yeller dog from the movie, walked with me every day to catch the bus, and he was there waiting for me when I came home every evening.

Then one morning when the days were beginning to get colder and the air was still heavy with morning mist and frosty leaves, a big wolf appeared on the hill. It never threatened, it never made a sound.  But as we moved toward the bus stop, it began to follow me, staying high up in the tree line while we walked down on the road, pacing our every step.  Laddie knew it was there because the hair on the back of his neck would raise and he would growl all low in his throat.  But the wolf never threatened, and for some reason I wasn’t afraid.  It was just there.  This went on every day all the way to winter, and then one day it was gone.  I never told anyone and eventually forgot about it until one day I was telling the story in the midst of some Native American friends of mine.  An old man who’d been listening suddenly grabbed my arm and got all excited.  He told me that meant that the wolf was my totem, and that by appearing to me as it had, meant I had been marked for great purpose, and that I should pay attention to the opportunities that would come before me in my life.

I remember this every time I begin a new story, and when I get letters from readers who tell me that the stories in my books have helped them through some of their darkest times.  This is how I know I’m doing what I was chosen to do.  This is how I know I’m on the right path.  Wolves mate for life.  They are loyal to the pack and their family.  It is a good way to live.

So now when you see the wolves, remember a little girl beginning her journey into adulthood by walking a dirt path to catch a bus, and then look now at how far that path took her – all the way here to you!


The Resurrection of Dinah McCall

If you’re new to my work, you won’t know who Dinah McCall was. If you’ve been reading me for a while, then you do. So, FYI… Dinah McCall is my pen name, and the last book she wrote was THE SURVIVORS, which came out in 2006. I was writing The Survivors in 2005 when my Bobby became ill, and then was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died in our house, in my arms, and a piece of me and Dinah went with him. It took me over a year to finish that book after he died. Every time I sat down to try and write, all I could see was him, all I could remember was feeling his last breath on my cheek. I was a wreck.

Over time, I managed to get my act together, but thinking about writing a Dinah book just reminded me of the last one, which reminded me of him, and ultimately, Dinah quit. Thank goodness Sharon didn’t, or we would both be homeless.

Yes, my Bobby was gone, but his spirit is always around me. I know it. I feel him. When I am worried or down about something, I find pennies. His signal to me that he is near. When I travel…when I have a serious appointment at the doctor, when I am worried about my mother, my family, making the next mortgage payment, whatever it is, I know he is near.

And then a few months ago I had a dream. Again, for those of you who DON’T know, I dream my books. In color, with dialogue, etc… like you would go to the movies. So in this dream, my Bobby was showing me a scene (it’s in the first part of the book where the heroine is being attacked and then rescued). And then the next night, I got the rest of the story. Everything in this book is an homage to the Native American race and to their enduring spirit to be able to survive despite what would seem to many, overwhelming odds.. Bobby was from the Creek/Muscogee tribe. Both of my daddy’s grandmothers were of Native American descent. One was Cherokee, the other Cree. So we always shared a kindred spirit as well as the love.

So, it’s because of my Bobby, and the dream and the push he gave me, that prompted Dinah McCall to pull herself out of mothballs. This is the first book she’s written in seven years. She was afraid most people had forgotten about her. She was leery about a Native American paranormal when the hot topic in paranormal books seems to still be demons, vampires and witches. But this was the dream, and this is the book, and it’s from her (and me and my Bobby) to you, with love…


COUNTDOWN TO FALL

It rained today. I was beginning to think it would never happen again. We’re into our second year of short rainfalls and long drought conditions. Too many wildfires, and too many days of 110 degrees plus heat. I’m ready for fall.

When I was little, it always meant going back to school. For me, this was good and this was bad. I loved school and my friends. I did not like being a teacher’s kid, but what can you do? Mother was a teacher. We had to eat. Options over.

Fall is my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons. Growing up a farmer’s daughter, summer meant long days and long hours working, putting up produce from our garden, helping Daddy haul hay out of the field, milking cows, feeding pigs… you name it. I’ve done it. But fall was a time to slow down. Crops were nearly all put by. Sometimes Daddy would let the cows dry up so we wouldn’t have to milk through the winter, which I hated. Fingers so cold they didn’t want to squeeze the old cow’s udders anymore than she wanted my cold hands on her.

I love the way the air smells in the fall. A little crisp, like the way a ripe apple smells just before you take that first bite. And I love the days when the sun is still shining but you have to wear a jacket to be comfortable. The leaves on the trees begin to turn and the grass finally quits growing and no more days of mowing lawns. By the time the leaves begin to fall, I have already begun my nesting. Like a bear getting ready to den up, I gather things around me for the time when the nights are far longer than the hours of sunlight – like books I’ve been wanting to read, and renting movies I never got to see. I dig out recipes because it’s no longer too hot in the house to start an oven. I am counting down now. Waiting for the time to rest.