Category: The Shape of Mercy

The book with no pages

A while back, when e-books were the newest electronic thing and authors like me were squirming because e-books don’t look like books or feel like books or a smell like books, we didn’t quite know what to make of them. And when people asked us how we felt about them, all we could do is shrug our shoulders and offer a creased brow of concern.

How are you supposed to feel about something you aren’t quite sure is good or bad for you career-wise? And if you decide it’s bad, what is the use of hanging onto that negative attitude when you can do nothing to stop that thing from happening?

Someone asked me this very question a couple days ago when I announced on Facebook that The Shape of Mercy in e-book format is a featured 99-cent download for the month of June. Truth be told, I have neither good vibes or bad vibes about e-books. I cannot make someone who loves e-books buy my bound book. People who love e-books want books in e-book form. If my books aren’t in that format, they will likely never read anything written by me and I will have lost an entire segment of readers.

The scary thing is, that segment of readers – readers of e-books – is growing all the time. I must embrace that notion or be content with reaching only certain kinds of readers, not every kind. That doesn’t seem like a great idea. When books began to show up on tape and then CD, did we not think this was an innovation that would gain for us new “readers?”

Someday I would like to own a Kindle. I truly would. I am in the middle of writing a novel with a Civil War thread and I have more than a dozen research books lying around. The thought of having all those books inside a device I can fit in my purse is invigorating, from a research standpoint. Will I still buy other books on paper? To my dying day.

Every new advance that replaces – to a large extent – something old creates devotees of the older thing who refuse to budge. Not budging makes them happy and they usually harm no one. There are probably a few people out there who refuse to write a novel on a computer, they use their typewriter. And then perhaps there are even fewer people out there who refuse to use a typewriter and instead write on a legal pad with a fountain pen. And maybe there are fewer still who write with a quill on parchment. And maybe there is one person out there who insists on writing his story on the wall of his cave. Who knows?

I am okay with the e-book revolution. I will always love the “real” thing better, not because a story is better told on paper but because books with pages are part of my lifetime experience on the planet. I like them. I love them. I like having them near me after I’ve read them, and I like that their lovely, colorful spines whisper hello to me each time I pass one of the many bookcases in my house.

But if you want my book in e-book fashion, well, you can have it. . .Please do.

No last page

More than once I’ve finished reading a novel where I’ve connected deeply with the characters and found myself a little depressed when I turned the last page. It’s been like having to say goodbye too soon to people I’ve learned to care about.

I’ve felt that same way about books I’ve written, too. I’ve grown attached to the make-believe people who shared my days – and sometimes nights. It’s not surprising really. My goal is always to create characters that seem real. I want them to seem real to you and to do that they must seem real to me.

This was especially true with the characters in my newest release, The Shape of Mercy. I wanted these characters – Lauren, Abigail, Esperanza, Raul, Clarissa, and even Mercy – to keep breathing, to keep talking to me, prodding me even though the book was done. So I’ve decided to let these characters live on in a blog that will allow me to continue their fictive lives.

You can find it here: http://theshapeofmercy.blogspot.com. These posts won’t comprise an online sequel. The posts won’t be story; they will be emails between Lauren and Raul, advice from unconventional Clarissa, stories and poems from Mercy’s recovered storybook, insights on life and literature from learning-to-let-go-of-regrets Abigail and kicky recipes from Esperanza, Abigail’s devoted housekeeper.

Hope you’ll stop by. And if you’ve read The Shape of Mercy and made friends of these people, I hope you will stop by often!

Mercy takes shape. . .

It is the eve of the release of my tenth novel, The Shape of Mercy. Tomorrow it will hit the street, as they say.

Every book I’ve written I’ve invested into it threads of myself. And I don’t just mean time and mental gymnastics. But this one. . . This one emerged from somewhere deep inside me. I found myself pondering just about everything that really matters when I was writing this one. A novelist bleeds his or her worldview onto the pages when he or she writes; Sometimes we bleed a little, sometimes the pages seem red when we’re done.

The concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with me long after I finished it, which was nearly a year ago. And I know why it did. I am guilty of the weakness Lauren my protagonist had to discover – and admit – about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance. But it happens often enough to know I might[‘ve easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I can’t see myself accusing my innocent neighbor of bewitching me, but I might’ve said nothing – out of fear for my own life -when someone else did the finger-pointing. And I might’ve said nothing still when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang. We tend to fear what we can’t comprehend. And we tend to understand only what we want to.

There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn’t garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death. I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we’re worth – even if it means we give up everything for it.

It wasn’t all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem. There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good.

This book isn’t a book about the Trials, just a contemporary look at what they teach us.

And so it begins; my little roving commentary on the things we must learn from our weaker moments in history.

And the things we must commemorate. . .