Top 10 Moments from My Book Tour

If I had it to do all over again, I would. My sisterhood fly tour this summer was special, not only because it was the most amazing excuse ever to get to visit my girlfriends across three states, but also because adventure is its own reward. I visited Woodward, OK, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas and Dallas, Texas in July and August to promote FAMILY CHARMS and TWIN FALLS (Lena Brown YA). I want to thank my “fly sisters” who helped me organize the events and some of whom let me stay at their homes.

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True patrons of the arts: Tina Ross, Sheryl Lott, Deb Davis, Dani Stone,  Kari Edelman, Heather Lamb, Judy Breckenridge, Tina McGarry and Cynthia Dutton.

While some obvious highlights were meeting readers and reconnecting with old friends and sorority sisters (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING OUT!), I thought I’d share some less obvious special moments and photos from my tour, in no particular order.

1. The Art Deco building at the Kansas Aviation Museum.

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The building is a beaut – absolutely breathtaking – and I highly recommend a visit. My “moment” was standing outside the balcony on the second floor and feeling that moment of zen on a cool summer evening. And I love that my daughter and her BFF came with me and took some gorgeous dance pics in the place, too.

2. My mentor, J. Douglas Williams, interviewing me on K-101 radio in Woodward, OK.

IMG_1188 Cool because it was my first “real job” in high school, and it’s always fun to return to your roots and have the realization that you have achieved your dreams. Well, some of them, anyway! I’m not done yet. 

3. Yoga with my high school BFF’s daughter, Addison, 6. Isn’t it so cool to watch our kids’ grow up? I love seeing my friends’ kids grow up, too. I love Addison’s enthusiasm for trying something new and she totally nailed the warrior and the tree pose! IMG_4532

4.  The brownies at Cafe Eden by Chef Rita in downtown Woodward. Oh. My. God.

5. The ruby red lemon drop martini at The Grill in the Galleria in Dallas. The best martini I’ve ever tasted, bar none. Or, two. IMG_1360

6. The conversation with my sister Amanda on our way down to the 99ers Museum of Women Pilots in OKC. Even though we live in the same town, we don’t get time alone very often since we both have active kids. On our longish ride to the airport, we discussed FAMILY CHARMS, which she hadn’t read yet, but also her feelings on the estrangement from our bio mom. It was the appropriate soulful conversation on the way to the party to celebrate sisterhood and how far we’ve come. I had similar soulful conversations in EVERY city and anyone who knows me knows I like nothing more than a deep heart-to-heart. I don’t do small talk very well, but the deep stuff is my comfort zone.

1013933_10101592602798188_2113345036_n7. Getting kisses from two-year-old twins. I don’t get to hang out with little kids much anymore and I miss that cuddly stage. My soul sister, Cynthia, who used to be my business partner when we had an ad agency, is a wonderful grandma and I got to hang with her twin granddaughters for a couple of hours. So, yes, I got a few doses of adorable on my tour and that’s food for the soul, too.

8. The feeling of soaring and a huge dose of COURAGE when I toured the flight museums. Three out of five of my book parties were held in flight museums. The idea struck me just A WEEK OUT from my OKC party, but I got “yes’s” from all three and that defined my tour. Learning to fly – take the leap – and being the wind beneath others’ wings is so important. Since both of my books were about sisters and flight, I was excited I could bring something I love – museums – into the fold. As a kid I had flying dreams all the time and it’s the freest I’ve ever felt. In TWIN FALLS, one twin is afraid to fly and it’s all the other has ever wanted to do. I have no ambition to fly a plane, but I let my dreams fly all the time.

9. Seeing myself in the young readers. I was, and always will be, a bookworm. Some of my best adventures have been in a book. I love seeing the look on young readers’ faces and how thrilled they are to get a book signed for them.

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10. Smiling. Laughing. Connecting. Stories do that and a sisterhood book tour can be about that, too. From one sorority pledge sister being 37 weeks pregnant to another sending her daughter off to sorority rush to me shopping for my son’s car for his 16th birthday – we’re in different places but we’re all in this together. Life is about the intersections, and I’m so glad I took the time to go on tour and am very thankful to the readers for spending an evening – or longer – with me.

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Click over to the book pages to learn more about Family Charms and Twin Falls.

Keep Calm and Launch On: #FamilyCharms

flytourboxToday is the official launch day for my fifth women’s fiction novel, Family Charms. The journey to this story began when I was four years old and I took my first plane ride. My mother was leaving my father and going to stay with family and I presume start a new life. Within a year, my two sisters and I were back in Oklahoma and my paternal grandparents became our legal guardians. I’d be lying if I said life was peachy-keen after. On the outside, yes! Food, clothing, housing, love, vacations, love. But inside I was full of anxiety (I plucked out my right eyebrow before I slept each night) and worry that I would also lose my grandparents. Like Marlo, the big sis in the book, I worried about my sisters (which led to nagging them, too) and had a lot of fear about losing my husband when we first got married. Maybe not quite to the level of Marlo. (Mine wasn’t a worry about him cheating, but being hurt.) I did have some anxiety about having children of my own due to an unease about some DNA screw-up that would make me less of a good mother. (Which is why I wrote The Stork Reality.)

All stories begin with a “what if.” In this case, I thought, “what if the oldest sister got a letter in the mail from her mother, whom they hadn’t heard from in twenty years? What if Elizabeth (the mother) invited them on a trip around the world to see where she’s been? To walk in their mother’s shoes to understand her past before the girls agree to a reunion?” 

The story is fictionalized (and I’ve never traveled around the world), but the raw emotions are very real. My middle sister read an early copy of the book and she felt like I handled all three characters well. I suppose that’s the review I cared about the most because we’ve lived with the fallout from what happens when you lose a primary caregiver in your “formative years.”

Something struck me as I re-read the book the last week in one sitting, and that’s how far I have come in my spiritual journey. Though the book is not religious at all, it does have pieces of spiritual legends and rituals from Christian to Mayan to African and Buddhism. I love researching other cultures and was thrilled that it weaved so well into their story. While in some respects I am Marlo, it’s best to say I *was* Marlo because I have come so far in dealing with any fears and anxieties I’ve had. And yet we are all still a work in progress.

Our childhood definitely shapes who we become – the good and the bad – and I’m thankful my journey has led me to this writing career and to you. I hope readers will enjoy the theme of sisterhood, family bonds, forgiveness and not judging others unless we’ve walked in their shoes.

TOUR NEWS

If you’re in Oklahoma City, Wichita, Tulsa or Dallas, I hope you’ll consider bringing the “sisters” in your life to one of my book parties. Getting together with those you love is so important and due to technology we don’t connect in real life as much as we used to. Early sisterhood editions of the paperback will be available for $10 (and I’ll gift you the ebook, too!) and all of my other print books will be discounted. PLUS, I’ll bring some Buzz Book authors’ titles: TMI MOM by Heather Davis (will be at the Tulsa party!) PR ROCK STAR by Cyndy Hoenig and DANCE MOM SURVIVAL GUIDE I co-wrote with Jill Martin and Mari Farthing writing as Mari Hestekin in the SOMETHING WICKED anthology (all three at the OKC party). In Wichita, Buzz author Dani Stone (NEXT LEFT, SLEIGH RIDE) will be my special guest.

ABOUT THE BOOK

What if your mother left and you didn’t hear from her for 20 years?

Marlo came home from school one day to find her mother gone. Twenty years later, she gets a letter from Elizabeth inviting her three daughters on a trip around the world to see where she’s been the last 20 years – and what kept her away. What follows is an emotional ride for a family torn apart by abandonment, infidelity, cancer and a fear of commitment. Marlo, Taryn and Amelia are three sisters as different as they come, but united in their feelings of betrayal. Is it ever too late to trust in love?

Where to buy:

Amazon: Trade paperback and #Kindle

Barnes and Noble:  #nook

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all the readers (and friends/family!) who came to my first #flytour party in Woodward, OK and thanks to K-101 radio and the Woodward News for the lovely press. A writer’s life requires generous support of readers and the community. I’m forever grateful.

Self-discovery on the Road and the Sisterhood Tour

It’s one thing to navel gaze when you’re in your own element, but I believe you can discover who you really are when you’re away from your daily grind. This summer I’ve spent a lot of time traveling and am getting ready for five stops on my fly sisterhood tour to promote TWIN FALLS and FAMILY CHARMS. I’ve had time to see what I’m made of and it’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice.

I’ve noticed certain quirks surface. Annoyances seem to be magnified. Why not take note of it while you’re away? These actual journeys certainly contribute to our inner journeys. In writing fiction, we develop plot lines around those points. What in the physical journey brings about change inside? 

For my three sisters in FAMILY CHARMS, the trip around the world to see where their mother has been the last twenty years is all about bringing the pain and possibility to the surface. It’s also about the roles we play as sisters and when/if we can ever let our guard down. If we can open up to forgive and change and hold onto hope for a better future. Anytime we travel, we can let the experience change us for the better.

In talking to my dance mom bestie on our trip last week to nationals, I was reminded how nice it is to be able to share with a “sister,” how little revelations about your true self shine through in conversations over dinner or in between dance performances. I told Jill about how I hadn’t wanted to get married or have children when I was a child, mostly due to the extremely high divorce rate in my family. Or if I ever did have children, I certainly didn’t need a man. I was young, but observant. While I could’ve been defiant, I was also putting a shield up. I wanted to stave off future hurt. While I did end up marrying, I made my choice carefully and still believe parenting is the hardest job in the world. I somehow was able to see those things when I was a child, but along the way made the decision to have a family of my own. I could persevere. And I have. What beliefs early on have shaped our decisions and who we have become?

Note in your journal the little things, too. When you’re away, do different thoughts or moods come to you? Do you wake or go to sleep differently? Does being outside of your element invigorate or scare you? Does it make you appreciate certain things about your life back home? Or make you realize how you’d like to get rid of certain aspects of your life? 

I found that I had more energy while I was away and decided it had to do more with getting up and working out ever morning in the fitness room and walking more during the day. As someone who sits at a computer all day, I know the sedentary lifestyle is bad for my health. Being gone made me realize how much I need to stick to walking, working out and taking regular breaks from my computer.

Being gone also makes you aware of what you need and what’s missing. How do you feel fulfilled physically, mentally, emotionally? It was no surprise to me that technology is still a crutch, but I was thankful for the times I didn’t have wi-fi and couldn’t work so that I could do other things. It made me focus my time so I got my projects done and was able to then not feel guilty about the time to do other things. Why not bring that back home with me?

Since we were at a dance competition, I got an affirmation about how competitive I am and how it’s in my nature to want to fix things. I want to find a solution and quickly outline how it can happen. I use mistakes to motivate me to make improvements, but I don’t stop with my own mistakes. I want to fix others’ mistakes, too. That can be great if you’re a leader, but I found I need to recognize when to step back and let go of the intellectual hold those thoughts can have. You can’t fix everything nor are you supposed to. Be okay with not always being in charge. I call it, “adopted stress.” Why take on more stress when you have plenty of your own already?

While away, I was reminded how much satisfaction I get from getting things done. No, this wasn’t a clouds-parting sort of epiphany since I’ve been Type A all of my life, but I was aware of it happening and needed to remind myself to be happy in the present moment and in the “waiting mode.” I was waiting to hear back from several people regarding the book tour and waiting for the puzzle to come together requires patience. Hearing “no” means being able to handle disappointment and quickly get over it. I knew one no meant a future yes.

I also discovered how little satisfaction shopping and eating bring me, which may sound odd, but I used to love to shop. Now, I’d be happy to send out a personal shopper if I had one. (Just leave me in the shoe aisle.) The “thrill” of the find is no longer really there. It’s a task, a to-do, but not very “fun.” And while I knew I wasn’t a foodie, being in a city with restaurant choices that are new to you I figured would bring about some curiosity, but it seemed just stopping the hunger pains was all I needed. I’d love to find more joy in food, but there it is. (Best meal: ribs!) Coffee on the other hand? My roomie said her favorite part of the day was getting to go downstairs and drink coffee. (Highly recommend Royal Rainforest coffee. Thanks, Holiday Inn for serving it.) The peaceful morning routine is definitely something we should integrate into our “home lives.”

Mountains or city? The mall or museums? TV or Internet? Talk up a stranger or keep to yourself? Take it easy or stay on schedule? When you’re with others, you have to go with the flow (which makes you a good travel companion!) but it’s also good to note what choices we’d make if it were up to us. (I’m mountains, museums, friendly but prefer some alone time, schedule in plenty of free time for writing.)

Finding out what makes us tick not only leads to more personal fulfillment but can help us shape who we are and how we can succeed in life. Now if I could get my hands on some of that coffee, life would feel pretty perfect right now.

BOOK NEWS: If you live in Oklahoma, Kansas, or Texas, I hope you’ll join me at one of my sisterhood parties between July 17 and August 7th. Visit my tour page for full details.

Mojo Interview with Author Brenda Janowitz

First, welcome to all of my new readers who found me due to my sisterhood post last week. Thank you so much for sharing it and letting me know that it has resonated with you. One way I live the Symphony is to nurture sisterhood in my life, and that includes being a part of the Girlfriends Book Club where 40+ women authors share a blog and support each other. Not only are these great writers, but cool chicks. Today join me in welcoming Brenda Janowitz, whose novel, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE recently launched. I was also fortunate to work on Brenda’s book covers for her first two novels she recently re-released, SCOT ON THE ROCKS and JACK WITH A TWIST.
810v7Y6d6sL._SL1500_Brenda, what makes you feel the most creative?
Everything inspires me!  A beautiful day, a great song, overhearing a conversation at the coffee shop!
Do you have any rituals that get you in a creative mood?
Waste a ton of time on the internet before getting down to it.  Okay, no, that’s not really a ritual, but that IS what ends up happening!!
I’ve always written in the spaces between– a few stolen hours here or there– so I don’t have any rituals.  One thing I always do, though, is keep a notebook and pen handy, and my iPhone Voice Memo app at the ready.  That way, whenever creativity hits– I’m ready to capture it.
My definition of mojo is passionate power of purpose – how do you keep your mojo up for writing?
I love that!  For me, writing is something I have to do.  When I’m not writing, I’m just not myself.  A few years ago, I was going through a really down period.  I was out for dinner with a friend and she asked: “Have you been writing?”  And there it was, clear as day.  I remembered that I needed to write.  It’s what I do.
About RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE
Brenda Janowitz
Author, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE (St. Martin’s Press July 2, 2013)
www.brendajanowitz.com
twitter.com/BrendaJanowitz
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BOOK NEWS-

The dates for my FLY Sisterhood Book Tour to promote TWIN FALLS and FAMILY CHARMS has been set! Please save the dates for the following cities and message me if you’ll be able to attend! It’s a girls night out format – food, fun, friendship and books! Flyer coming soon!

Woodward, OK – Wednesday, July 17
Oklahoma City, OK – Thursday, July 25
Wichita, KS – Saturday, July 27
Tulsa, OK – Tuesday, July 30
Frisco, TX – Wednesday, August 7

Sooners, Sisterhood, and the Symphony

I was a small-town girl who wanted to make it in the big city. I wanted to be a Sooner. The University of Oklahoma was larger than the population in my hometown and I liked it that way.

Yet I knew I wanted a home away from home and my classmates and I were advised the best way to do that was to pledge a sorority. I’m pretty outgoing and since my best friends were also rushing (now called recruitment), I went for it. Bought new outfits, tamed my big ’90s hair and put on my brightest smile. I could do this. You quickly realize everyone is tanner, richer, and prettier than you are. Add smarter, funnier, more talented and more connected, and you start feeling like what rush week can do to your fragile 18-year-old ego. Still. You hold on and hope and smile some more. You want to find a house you can fit in with, not one that makes you feel you are less than. (And remember there is only one you in all your unique glory!)

I got a bid from Alpha Chi Omega, thanks in large part to having a Woodward alum (and big sister of one of my best friends) rooting for me. It’s so easy to fall through the cracks. I was thrilled to pledge AXO and get to know a hundred new girls. You could say I’m a sisterhood cheerleader. While sorority life isn’t for everyone and being Greek has its pros and cons, I knew what would be best for me, and twenty three years later, I’m still a sorority girl, trying to live the Symphony. In fact, I’m happy to share it with you. I love this creed for goodness, don’t you?

AXO_SymphonyPageSee, it says nothing in the Symphony about parties or trying to be number one. Does that happen in the Greek system? Sure. Is it the stupid stuff that goes viral? Yes. But here’s what I got from my sorority experience:

To learn to live with people with varied backgrounds, interests, personalities and goals. Yet we rallied and supported each other.

Leadership lessons through clubs, charity work and sponsored events.Someone I could talk into going to Huston Huffman to work out with me. (Step aerobics, anyone?)

A group of girls to watch Days of Our Lives and 90210 with in the TV room. Loneliness isn’t a problem.

Study partners. Suffering, support, Classic 50s happy hours.

Mentorship – direct and indirect. Lots of osmosis happening in a house full of girls.

Deep, abiding friendships with bonds that last forever, even if there are years that pass in between communication.

Friendships with sisters across the country, spanning from pledges from the 1940s until today. The connections you make are amazing and can help you when you least expect it.

Etiquette lessons. Really, I had no idea.

The importance of tradition, meaning, purpose, leadership and service.

Social skills that you carry with you through bad bosses, cranky co-workers and “grown up” friendships and parenthood. It’s a nice skill to be able to talk to a guy or girl you don’t know and be able to leave the conversation enriched instead of embarrassed. Okay, at least not embarrassed.

Organization skills. Though my roommates would beg to differ.

Empathy. Not only through the charity work, but the tough stuff your sisters go through. Parents’ divorcing, death, financial hardships. I shared at our reunion one of my most special memories was seeing my big sis and grand big sis at my grandmother’s funeral. They’d driven for hours to make it to Shattuck, Okla. It touched my heart then and still does. Without saying a word, a sister’s presence says, “I’ve got your back. You’re not alone.” (Thank you Tanya and Michelle!)

Free counseling. From romance to friendships to learning from bad choices, having a home and sisterhood seems to soften the blow. If I hadn’t had the support of my sisters when my grandmother who raised me died just before I moved into the house my sophomore year, I would’ve likely gone into a deep depression.

Learned when to keep my mouth shut, when to hold out a helping hand and when to let someone else shine.

How to plan a party or event. You don’t realize it then, but those skills will help you in business, managing your home life, in the PTA and in philanthropy. You learn how to budget, how to rally the troops (let’s roll out!), and how to get sh** done.

Keeping you in line. From making your grades to following the rules, there are standards to uphold and you will get in trouble if you become reckless.

My belief is it’s better to have and keep an open mind so everything is an adventure. I made wonderful memories and was able to cope with the stress of college, working, extra curricular activities and dating. The house is special to me for so many reasons – and yes, I was ready to move on when I was a senior – but one day you realize your home is calling you home  and a whole new generation could use your support, in big ways and small.

That’s why I help at rush (recruitment!), make financial donation to nationals and our Psi chapter, joined the alum chapter in Oklahoma City, and visit the house when I can. We recently had a reunion and several of my pledge sisters and sisters from the time I was in the house (’90-94) were there. They absolutely live up to the Real. Strong. Women. tagline of our sorority.

If you’ve found your way to this blog because you are going through recruitment (or your daughter is), I hope you’ll keep an open mind through the process and remember the other benefits of being in a sisterhood. And if you’re not in a sorority, remember that we are all sisters in the big scheme of things and are called to respect and love each other, “be her badge what it may.” We all have something to bring to life and it’s our duty to bring our best.

A few pics from our recent AXO OU reunion:

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Book News!

My YA paranormal, TWIN FALLS, is available now.
My YA paranormal, TWIN FALLS, is available now.

I’ll be going on a 5-city “fly” sisterhood tour in late July, early August to promote Twin Falls (my YA angel twins book under pen name Lena Brown) and my fifth women’s fiction novel about three sisters who fly around the world to see where there mother has been the last twenty years, Family Charms. It will be a happy hour/girls night out event for teen girls and grown-ups with a short sisterhood talk, activities, door prizes, photos and food. So if you’re in Woodward, OK, Oklahoma City, Dallas area, Tulsa, or Wichita, KS, message me at malenalott (at) me (dot) com or via Facebook and I’ll make sure you get an invite! I’m so lucky to have sister friends in these cities to help me make this tour happen. Thanks Tina Ross, Tina McGarry, Cynthia Dutton, Deb Davis, Heather Lamb and Kari Ernest. You gals rock.

Twin Falls is already available in trade paperback, ebook (Kindle and nook) and is currently on sale for .99 for a limited time in ebook format. Hope you enjoy my take on earth angels descended from Archangel Gabriel as they battle against evil and the Crusaders who wish to destroy them with a healthy heaping of teen romance.

Get it on Amazon here.

Get in B&N for nook here.