Wordless Rest

FullSizeRender-4This is an in-progress drawing that’s been living on my desk the past week. It was a thin watercolor sketch from a photo I shot last summer, which I decided at the time didn’t appeal much. Somehow, I found it and started messing around with some excellent pens I found last summer when Mel Scott and I wandered around (one of) the gigantic Blick’s stores in New York.  It’s not meant to be great art; I’m posting it to show you how my creative process is evolving.

As I posted last week, I’ve been working with great focus on the Restoration project, Whi
tehall,** set in the court of Charles II of England, one of the most fascinating characters to ever hold the throne. I love everything about this era–the people and the clothes and the world hurtling from the old into the new. It was a time of burgeoning knowledge in the sciences, particularly “natural philosophy” an early term for the observation and recording of the natural world, in all arenas from medicine to botany, for which Charles also had a passion.The Royal Society, one of the world’s most revered scientific communities, had its first meetings at this time.

And who could help but love the brilliant, rakish, doomed John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester?

When I agreed last summer to do the project, I had a thimble-full of history about the era, which has meant fervid immersion in all things Restoration, which is a lot of intense mental work. Which is one of the reasons I became a writer, frankly–there’s nothing I love more than learning all about something–but it’s hard work. Tiring. I have to take breaks, look away, change both my mental focus and my visual focus.

So I’ve been painting and drawing more. I write/research for an hour, then spent ten or fifteen or twenty minutes drawing, painting, scribbling. Something. It moves my brain into a completely different mode, entirely non-verbal but also laser focused. Every molecule of my attention goes into the shape of a line, a petal, a shadow, this very minute portion of the work. Which is like writing in a way, of course–you can only write the sentence at hand.

But behind each sentence in a novel are dozens, maybe hundreds, of bits of information. Fifth grade grammar class and the research from how gardens were arranged and where they were located to the shoes of the characters and her undergarments and how her hair was curled and what how the fabric moved and the relative positions of the players and what I wrote in the former scene and what’s coming later. It’s a lot of heavy lifting.

A line is particular, but it is particular to itself and this drawing or painting. I am only interested in how it shapes this page. I suppose there is a lot behind that line I draw, the colors I choose, other studies I’ve made, classes I’ve taken, but it’s not words. For this writer, I suppose that’s the thing. There are no words in painting. I love to read and I love to write, but sometimes that part of my brain just gets very tired. That’s why I cook. That’s why I garden. And now, that’s why I paint and draw.

If you work with words, what are your tricks for resting your brain? If you work in other ways, do you need a different kind of rest? 

**The first episode of Whitehall will be released in mid-May. Sign up for my newsletter if you want to be sure to be reminded when it begins.

January Reads

128409807_d7047ebeea_zOne of my friends (Marie, looking at you) keeps a book log every year. I used to keep one all the time and I’m going to keep track this year. I don’t promise to make long commentary about all of them, but will add a word or two about each one so you can tell if it would be something you’d like to sink into.  My tastes are very broad and almost no one is going to read all the same things I enjoy.  Without further ado, the January list:

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah. Upmarket fiction. This book has made many best of the year lists and it is on mine, too. Every sentence is true and unflinching. Not a single false note anywhere, and I am a major WWII buff. Really, one of the best books I’ve read in ages and I highly recommend it.

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara. Literary. This is a bleak book. I loved a lot of it, and read to the end, but it has many dark literary turns. Be warned.

The Shameless Hour, Sarina Bowen. New Adult, very sexy. Well-written, intelligent, with a hot Latino hero who is a really good guy.

One Plus One, JoJo Moyes. Women’s Fiction. Addictive, romantic. Set in England. Fast becoming one of my favorite writers.

Rave Review

This kind of review is why writers stick with it. Thanks, Puppitypup.

from Amazon
5.0 out of 5 starsFiction/Romance –
So Much Deeper than I Expected
By puppitypup

The Lost Recipe for Happiness.
I was blown away by this novel. Somehow I was expecting lighthearted, chick-lit fluff.

What I got was story that broke my heart and stole my breath and brought tears to my eyes.

Ms. O’Neal has a gift for describing the nuance of a moment, making the novel so real that it hurts. This is a book I will not soon forget.

It is a sensual novel, one that will hold great appeal for anyone who loves to cook. The spice and texture and taste of Elena’s creations fairly jump off the page.

Ms. O’Neal also brought that elusive ingredient, without which I will never give 5 stars.

Letters to my new writer self

Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self:https://www.flickr.com/photos/rightee/1257384934/in/photolist-2V7qJA-f53bGW-aqLtfV-f53bNo-f53bKA-kfCw7-iGsrd3-bkW1jX-aj699g-5dNDc7-ifDfk3-5C5g1X-kzfbqM-8D4zwo-4SQXUM-bN1oSe-9PG53Y-j8p8pU-dmFX6J-gasMno-fxddKr-nr5Wr2-6xnrVk-eUhbNb-gsXvkx-6vaNSi-eUYdqL-bUQdeY-ezj98j-ezfUB6-ezfVik-5FQYQN-7WRZ8B-hnmLtF-dJzN2o-4VvLvq-bQu3Hz-4As9wf-9rnux-hcN3iz-3Prxu-4wZ2FW-5rnNZp-4ZZL89-7eVnCE-4wYZeh-4wZ8Ho-ek4Luu-f2BHW3-7kNGQf/

I am looking at you with great tenderness. Your passion for your craft, your hunger for publication, your commitment to continue to try makes my heart swell with pride. It is not easy, what you’re doing, writing, or rather, writing with the full intent to publish.  It’s easy to write if you are doing it only for yourself.  It’s only a joy, then, a secret pleasure, a tattoo on your inner thigh that you share only with your most intimate associates.

Writing for publication is a much more dangerous and challenging undertaking.  It means risking your ego and your standing in the community. People don’t understand your desire, even those you expect to understand, like reader friends and your librarian. Oh, I know how you’ve learned to dread that question at gatherings. You say you are a writer and someone says with excitement, “Are you published?”  You have to say no, and watch their eyes dim and their attention stray.

But you will not always have to say no. If you stay the course, you will be published.  For now, you go ahead and claim the title of writer, because you are a writer. You write. You put in the hours of study and practice, over and over, whenever you can fit it in. You do it even though no one does particularly understand or even believe that you can ever break into the hallowed company of Authors.  I am so proud of you.  Keep it up.

A few other things that will help you stay the course: pay more attention to what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. Time, reading, and practice will heal most of your flaws, but no one can do what you do as well as you do it, so stick with that. Polish it, explore it, love it.  That’s where your voice is, in the things you love and do well.

Keep reading a ton.  People tell you that writing will corrupt your process, but that’s how you came to writing in the first place, isn’t it? You read, more than anyone you know, always.  Keep doing that, and don’t just read in the areas where you write. Read everything—articles and essays and poems and books of fiction and non-fiction. Read crap and read classics. Read genre and read literary fiction. Just read. It teaches and guides new writers better than any other single thing.

Keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to keep trying on hats until you find the one that fits, and once you do, your life is going to change in such big ways that you will never believe it could be your life. You will eat a meal in New York City with an editor. You will see your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. You will get letters from readers who love your work more than any other writer out there. Honor her, that reader, with your will to stick with it.

One more thing: don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are busy, but they are always looking for the writer they connect with, the one they can publish, the one they adore. Some of them, over time, will become your friends for life.  Some of them will only make you crazy, but this is the great secret: editors and agents are your equal. You are all a corner in the great triangle of publishing. Don’t be intimidated.

Finally, you are more powerful than you know. Have faith in yourself, and the work, and trust it to take you where you want to do.

Love,
Your older, wiser, more experienced self

Want to read more letters from other writers to their younger selves?  Check out http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/

1-random-front  stoked_800  IMG_0222  echo_800  (click on covers to read more)

And don’t forget to like Lark O’Neal on Facebook, so you can stay current with new releases (and there are quite a few coming, my friends!)  https://www.facebook.com/LarkONealAuthor

Meet Lark O’Neal….Random is LIVE today!

Delighted to tell you that Lark O’Neal’s first book is live.   Amazon     Barnes and Noble     iBooks     Kobo     Paperback.

 

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Here are some of the things readers are saying about Random:

5 stars   Wow that was an awesome story. I was completely sucked in from the first chapter and pushed my bedtime back a couple hours because I was so enthralled in Jess and Tyler’s growing love. This book constantly keeps you guessing and there are quite a few of twist and turns.  Sade, Goodreads

5 stars    An engaging story that captivates the imagination and resonates with readers of similar experiences.  —Alexia Purdy

This was a great book to read because you’re constantly wondering what the heck is going on and what will happen.  –Luisa, Goodreads

I genuinely liked this story. It is different and there is a lot of drama but the characters are real and very like able. Jess and Tyler both have major issues and it is interesting to see them try to work them out together. They both have challenges with exes, Jess’s ex is a real nightmare and both have family issues. The chemistry between these two is off the charts from the start and the sex scenes are well written and hot.  –Steph, Goodreads

 

Have you visited LarkOneal.com yet?

Ta da! A surprise and a revelation….

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here’s a little background.

You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce this summer. So much has been happening behind the scenes!  It all started when I went to Breckenridge with Christopher Robin in late May to have a long weekend for my birthday. It snowed. A lot. Which meant we didn’t do any hiking or kayaking as we’d planned, but read and napped and ate and rested. Also good.

On the second morning, the Girls woke me up at 4 am with a book idea. I told them to go away and turned over. They insisted I need to get up and write this down. Like, now. So I got up and made a cup of tea, and by the time CR woke up, I had an entire book outline. Characters, plot, story, romance.  All of it.

Every now and then, I get a gift book. I don’t remember one coming to me so fully fleshed. Bemused, I set it aside and hung out with CR for breakfast. By afternoon, the book was bothering me again. I decided to take my notebook to the local Starbucks (which is so adorable and has amazing views).  I realized halfway down the hill that I’d forgotten a pen. It’s not that easy to find something like that in Breckenridge and I really didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel.  I was about to give up when the Girls said, “Oh, no you don’t. Go ask that boarder in the t-shirt shop if he has one you can borrow.” So I did. And he was like, “Sure, dude.”  I said, “I’ll bring it back.” He waved me away. “No worries.”

I went to Starbucks. I ordered a coffee. An hour later, I had 67 scenes, in order. Basically, uh, the whole book.

I’m no idiot. A book shows up like that, I’m going to show up, too, and write.  So write I did. The entire book over the summer. My fingers couldn’t keep up.  I had no interest in doing anything but showing up for the book. It was like living in a movie for the summer. It is the most fun I’ve had writing in about 100 years, and you know me, I love writing!

The thing is, this is not my usual realm. It’s not even Young Adult, which I’ve been writing on the side for awhile.  (More on that in a few weeks…yes, the OtherLands are finally going to be published.)  This attack book is New Adult, a genre I’ve been reading but really had had no plans to write until this 19-year-old girl showed up. To keep the branding straight for those of you who want my women’s fiction–that’s still Barbara O’Neal.  If you like the romances, that’s Barbara Samuel.  If you want New Adult and Young Adult, come see me as Lark O’Neal.

Here is her first book.  It will be out November 12, with book #2 to follow in the spring, 2014 and #3 in the summer, 2014.  You can pre-order now at Amazon and Apple.  Subscribe to Lark’s newsletter. Follow her on Facebook  and Twitter. Check out the website.

Ta-da! Here is the cover and back cover blurb:

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Life is random…

 

19-year-old Jess Donovan knows better than most that life is random. Her mom is dead, and she’s on her own, patching together a living as a waitress when a car crashes through the restaurant where she works. In two seconds, she loses her job, watches her best friend hauled away in an ambulance…and meets Tyler Smith, one of the hottest, most fascinating—and mysterious guys she’s ever met.

 

Both for the good and the bad…

 

Within days, Jess is swept up into the mesmerizing force that is Tyler. Their every touch sizzles, every kiss dissolves them both, and the sex is…fierce. But there’s more to Tyler than his hypnotic eyes. He’s adrift, too, and his body—and his soul—are covered with scars. How can she find herself with a guy who is lost himself?

 

Until you take charge….

 

Jess is determined to find her way, and make a life that is better than the one she was given. But how?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty excited, I think you can tell. :)

Also, for those who are pursuing NaNoWriMo this year, come make me your buddy.  I’m awriterafoot.

The True Story of Mattie Groves

A Lunch Hour Love Story by Barbara Samuel.

mattiegroves-reworkhelp

ALL NEW!  A haunting and romantic novella to read on your lunch hour, or in the car pool line, or while you’re waiting for swim practice to end…..

A ROMANTIC BALLAD….A HAUNTING MEMORY….

When Rose Lennox arrives in a medieval village in Scotland to help authenticate the grisly find of two lovers in a grave, she is both drawn and repelled by builder Robert Ayer. Big and brooding, darkly handsome, both hostile and hungry, Robert seems to call forth something in Rose that she never knew existed.

As the mystery surrounding the find deepens and Rose falls more and more under the spell of the village, it becomes urgent to discover the truth.  Did Rose love Robert in another life? Did he love her….or kill her?

Order now!  

Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apple

 

Cool off with In The Midnight Rain

On special this week at Amazon:  IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN:

Ellie Connor is looking for answers when she arrives in Gideon, Texas to stay in the guest house of Internet pal Blue Reynard.  She’s researching a book about the mysterious disappearance of a woman blues singer in the 1950’s, but she’s also seeking answers to a great mystery in her own life.  When she arrives in Gideon with her dog April, she has no idea she’s about to upturn her life and the lives of many of the residents of the small east Texas town–and none more than Blue himself.

This was my first women’s fiction, a book that haunted me for months, showing up when I opened up the oven, following me around like an  annoying child, nagging me to finish it.  It had been a “Sunday book,” a book I write as an experiment on the weekends around other projects, but it finally became quite insistent that I should finish it and submit it.

It was a life-changer, this one.  I found my current agent with this material, and that was the year I started writing women’s fiction almost exclusively.  I had very powerful feedback on the book, from so many segments of society, that it has long been one of my favorites. Please take a look at this sample chapter–maybe you’ll love it, too.

From IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN:

Turning off the computer and the lamp, Ellie slipped on a pair of thongs and headed up the hill. The house glowed with lights, and as she started out, Blue turned on an outside light that made it easier, but it was still very dark, a kind of dark she’d forgotten existed. Crickets whirred in the grass, and cicadas answered from the trees, the only sounds for miles and miles, and the air was thick and soft against her face, smelling of earth and river and sky. She inhaled it deeply, pausing to catch the moment close to herself.

Peaceful. Life was so peaceful in the country. Not the actual lives—emotions ruled people no matter where they lived, so there was always some drama or another waiting to make things chaotic—but the details were easier. She could think better without cars racing and roaring and people shouting in the apartment overhead, and even little things like televisions and radios in an unceasing undertone of constant sound. She liked smelling air, not fuel, and loved the sight of the sky overhead.

A shadow startled her, and she made a sound of surprise before Blue caught her hand. “It’s just me,” he said.

For that brief second, she let herself feel his big, strong hand, rough from his work. Impulsively, she curled her fingers around his, and said, “You have one sexy voice, Dr. Reynard.”

“Are you flirting with me, Miz Connor?”

She laughed softly. “Maybe so.”

“Good. I like that.” He walked up the path, hanging on to her. Ellie let it be. At the porch, he let her go, and gestured for her to take a chair. “I’m having bourbon, myself. What’ll be your pleasure? Other than me, of course.”

“I wouldn’t mind a bourbon, if you’ll walk me back down the hill.”

“Careful now. I might take that as an invitation.”

“You are amazingly arrogant, you know that?”

“Yes, I do. ” She heard ice clinking in a glass and the quiet flow of liquid, and he gave her a glass.

“Thank you.”

He settled on the step. “Not too many women drink straight bourbon these days.”

“I don’t very often.”

“But you got a little off balance today, didn’t you?”

She gave him a look. “So did you.”

Quietly, he said, “Yes, ma’am, that I did. Guess we both have our closets full of skeletons.”

“Most people do.”

“You think so? I don’t know. It seems like a lot of folks just get it right out of the gate. I see them in town, you know? Guys who’ve been making the right call since the day they were born, live quiet lives without a lot of turmoil, and just . . . keep it together. Never screw up their credit or forget to mow the lawn or leave a project half-done.”

Ellie sipped cold fire from her glass and listened.

“You ever notice,” he said, “that those people don’t ever seem to have big traumas, either? Like their kids never have wrecks and their houses don’t burn down. It’s like they’re protected with some big cloud of serenity”

“That’s seeing it from the outside, Blue. Nobody gets through life without sorrow and loss. It’s just part of the game.”

He turned his face toward her, and in the darkness, Ellie could see no details, but she sensed his attention. “You really believe that?”

“My grandma always says there are green seasons.” She tucked a foot up under her.

How One Writer Persisted

Here is the story of a novel.  

It was written in the wee hours before dawn before the writer’s family awakened and needed to be herded off to school.   Before the work of the day began,  before the brain was sullied by the noise of news and commerce and obligations.

And when it was finished, she sent it to her agent, who loved it. Declared it one of the best romances she had ever read. Ever.  She took it to market with great energy—but the book was rejected over and over with the kind of crushing rejections that say, “we love this book, but can’t imagine that it will sell very well.” The setting was wrong. The love story was too unusual.

After nearly a year, the writer admitted defeat and put the book away.

The writer was me, of course.  I was divorced and dating when the book arrived in my consciousness again, when Christopher Robin and I discovered we both knew the facts of the English arm of WWII backwards and forwards.  On one of our first dates, we eagerly exchanged facts about the landings at Normandy and Battle of the Bulge—but I one-upped him: I knew the history of the African American soldier in that war; knew that it was the bloody, bloody toll of Normandy, then the push across France that led to the Army finally dropping its policy of segregation, so black troops were armed and pressed into service, to fight against Hitler’s army in that harsh, terrible winter of 1944-45.  It was that year that led to the desegregation of the Army, and in my opinion, the eventual desegregation of the country.

I knew it because that was part of the story I told in that book I woke up early to write.  Isaiah High joins the Army to flee his hometown. Through his letters home, we see his journey, in England and through France, at last at Dachau, where he is part of the forces of liberation. It’s also a love story, of course, but the WWII aspect is very important.

CR was entranced.  It had been a long time since I’d read it, but I pulled it out and discovered that I had grown quite a lot as a writer and wanted to rewrite it, but the bones were good, and I still loved the characters madly.  The trouble was, I only had a hard copy, and scanning technology—which has taken off insanely the past couple of years, was extremely primitive.  The scan was a mess.  An absolute, practically unreadable mess.   I had deadlines and side projects and just didn’t have time to fix it.

And perhaps I was wary of getting my heart broken all over again.  As long as the book sat safely in my heart and drawer, it would never be rejected again.

But CR did not give up.  We visited the British War Museum.  We traveled to the beaches of Normandy.  He sometimes had a book on black soldiers sent to me, or linked me to a story online.

Two years ago, feeling the urge to maybe make some time to clean up the draft to see what I actually had there, I stumbled over a website devoted to the letters of a young WWII soldier home to his family.  He was stationed in England, just like Isaiah, and he was headed for Normandy.  I read, engrossed, one night, thinking of the letters Angel and Isaiah had exchanged.  I read to the very end of that soldier’s letters.   Powerfully moved, I decided that I would at least give The Book a chance.  Tucked between deadlines was a six week window that I could spare.  I booked a hotel room in a retreat center, and before I went, I cleaned up the worst of the typos and strange words in the scanned file.  By the time I arrived at the retreat center, I was ready to dig in.

I rewrote it, and then came home and rewrote again.  I knew my main publisher and agent would be wary, because it is a very different story than the books I am publishing now as Barbara O’Neal, and we’ve all put a tremendous amount of energy into branding those books.  I knew who I wanted to publish it—Belle Bridge Books.

But again, I was terrified.  What if they didn’t like it, either, and my baby, this book of my heart, was orphaned again? I sent it to a writer friend to read, and she emphatically pronounced it beautiful and moving, so with some trepidation, I sent a note to Deb Smith at Belle Bridge, and she responded in about two hours: SEND IT.

She loved it.  She made an offer in one of the shortest negotiations I’ve ever participated in.   I needed the time to go through it one more time.  One year later I am pleased to announce:

 The Sleeping Night is now on sale!

 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and soon will be in all outlets.

The reviews are amazing.  Read a few here:

Romance Reviews by Sallie:  “The Sleeping Night is a refined, romantic tale.  I imagine if Jane Austen wrote novels today, her stories would read a lot like Barbara Samuel’s.”  Read More >>>

From Karen Knows Best: “Told partially in the present day, partially in Angel and Isaiah’s past after the war, and partially through their wartime letters, this is not just a suspenseful forbidden love romance, but a powerful story about spiritual and emotional needs. The letters give rich historical detail about everyday life while showing the closeness of their connection, the depth of their sorrow over the ugliness of the world, and their need to understand how such awful things could happen.”  Read More >>>

From Angela Booth’s Writing Blog:  “I’m not sentimental; I can’t remember the last time a book made me break down in tears, but this book did it. Several times I had to resist the urge to stop reading because it was too painful. I’m glad I kept on, because it was worth it. The Sleeping Night is wonderful, precisely because the characters’ struggle is so agonizing.

(That said, if you hate books with unhappy endings be relieved — there’s a happy ending. :-))”  Read More>>>

 

There will be some giveaways for this book.  Check back soon.  Oh, and check out the dedication.  Can you guess who got it?