Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Sad Ending


I posted a few weeks ago about a young man from my neighborhood who had gone missing the night before Thanksgiving. This past Saturday, he was found. Unfortunately, it was not the outcome that anyone in my community had hoped and prayed and wished for. Shane Montgomery's body was recovered from the Schuylkill River not far from where he was last seen by a volunteer diving group called the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit. These wonderful, compassionate people began searching at the request of the family in addition to police resources. Maureen Wittman, a family member of Shane has advised me that: "Garden State was called in as an additional resource. The Philadelphia Marine Unit was out on the river searching for our Shane every day." Fortunately and unfortunately, it was Garden State who ultimately found Shane. Fortunately, at least he was returned to his loved ones and they no longer have to wonder or search. Unfortunately, he has passed away and his death is devastating to his family and our entire community. He will be laid to rest this Friday after services on Thursday and Friday. You can read about that here.

I just want to thank everyone who shared my post or my posts on Facebook and who left kind comments. As I had indicated in my first post about this young man, his disappearance deeply moved my entire community. I have never seen anything like the mobilization I saw in this neighborhood after this young man went missing. It was truly humbling. I feel blessed, lucky and privileged to live among people like the ones who make up Manayunk and Roxborough. As this article in Philly.com says, "If love could rescue Shane Montgomery, he would have been home by dinner on Thanksgiving."

In their last press appearance, the parents of Shane Montgomery asked for privacy in the coming weeks and months so that they can mourn their son and move forward. I know that people are going to have questions about his death. (His uncle has said that it was ruled accidental but no other information has been released.) I can tell you from experience that the very best thing people can do is to respect that request for privacy. Because no amount of answers will satisfy our very human need to make some sense out of this tragedy. You can ask questions, speculate, theorize, grill others for information and talk yourself around and around what might or might not have actually happened until you're blue in the face. At the end of the day, it doesn't change a damn thing. It will not ameliorate the sense of loss that people who knew him feel or that the community at large feels from having lost one of their own. I can tell you from experience that even after you've unearthed every answer, even after you've satisfied every question your personal curiosity can come up with, the sadness doesn't go away.

I had a friend who lost children many years ago and I often acted as a buffer between her and the rest of the world. People always said to me, "I don't know what to say to her." Because there is nothing you can say. There are no words. There literally are not any words and believe me, people can say things that they mean as comfort but those things end up offending loved ones. The best thing you can do is to offer your condolences (just "I'm sorry for your loss" will do) and let the family and loved ones know you're there if they need something. But after that, it is a journey that loved ones must take on their own. Privately.

So to the Montgomery family I say: I am so very sorry for your loss. You will be in my prayers and in my thoughts.

Finally, please consider doing as the family has asked and donating in Shane's name to the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit or to Friends of Saint John the Baptist--both were essential to the ongoing search for Shane Montgomery. You can find information on where to send your check here.

Rest in Peace, Shane Montgomery.





Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Real Life Drama: Shane Montgomery


If any of you are Facebook friends or followers then you've seen me post about this since just after Thanksgiving.



Please look at this young man's face. This missing persons case is deeply personal to me. Shane Montgomery is from my neighborhood. He grew up here, just like me, just like my husband, just like both of our families. His family lives one block over from where I've worked every day for the last decade, which is only blocks away from my home. In fact, they live only a few doors down from where my grandparents lived for decades. (My grandmother just sold the family home about 6 weeks ago).


It was reported that this is the shirt he was wearing when he disappeared.

He is 21 years old. He is a senior at West Chester University but he is from my neighborhood. He was home for Thanksgiving break. On Thanksgiving Eve, he and his cousin went out for the night, hitting some bars on Main Street in Manayunk. (Manayunk and my neighborhood, Roxborough are side by side, with Manayunk at the bottom of "the hill", closer to the river, but we're not talking about a huge area here). Anyway, he left Kildare's Pub at approximately 1:50 a.m. and seemingly vanished into thin air. A cell phone ping at 2:38 a.m. indicates that at that time he or at the very least, his phone, was still in this area (i.e. Manayunk/Roxborough). The case is extremely baffling on just about every level.



Philadelphia Police and the FBI are hard at work on this case--make no mistake. But so is my community. People in my amazing neighborhood have turned out in droves to help search, post and hand out fliers, share on social media and raise money to help this family search for their son.



There is a reward for reliable information leading to his whereabouts that is up to $65,000 as of today.

Look, my neighborhood--Roxborough/Manayunk--it is extremely tight-knit. Everyone knows everyone and if you don't know the person, you usually know of the person. (Don't even get me started on all the weird connections my husband and I had in terms of family and friends before we even met!) In fact, I did know of the Montgomery family and Shane's mother's family before this happened. They are decent, hard-working people who deserve answers as to what happened to their son. For those of us who live here, Shane Montgomery is "one of us" on such a fundamental level, that it is hard to put into words. I wake up every morning with this young man on my mind and I go to sleep every night thinking of him and his family--praying, praying, praying that the next time I turn on the television or the next time I go onto Facebook, there will be good news about him. If you live here, if you have roots here, then you've likely gone bar-hopping in your 20s on Main Street and walked home safely and without incident. We've all done it. It could have been anyone's son, brother, nephew, cousin. Any of us, really.



So I'm asking you to please look at Shane Montgomery's face. Even if you live nowhere near here, please look at his face. Yes, the search has focused primarily on this area but the bottom line is that we do not know what happened to him yet and because of that, no possibility can be ruled out. So please. Look at his face. Visit the website and the Facebook page. Share his photo. Pray.



Most importantly, if you see something or if you know something, say something.

If you live here or you were in the Manayunk area over Thanksgiving and you think you may have seen something, please come forward. If you were out and about in the Manayunk area, check your phone for all photographs you took on Thanksgiving Eve. There might be something useful in the background.

People do not vanish into thin air. If you read my books or you know me or you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know how passionately I feel about missing persons. This case hits home for me in a major way. People don't go poof and disappear forever. Someone knows something. Perhaps they don't even know that they know it. Or maybe they know exactly what happened but they're not speaking up. Maybe that someone or someones will never read this but if they do, I would like to say this:

This is not going to end until the Montgomery family gets the answers they deserve. This will not end until Shane is home. If you think for one moment that his family or this community will stop looking for him--stop looking for answers--you could not be more wrong. This will not die down or blow over. You better believe that when you see Karen Montgomery on the news saying that she will never, ever stop looking for Shane and that she will go to the ends of the earth, she means it. I know this because I am a mother too. I live here too. I am raising my child here too. A mother does not stop looking for her child. Ever. And as you can see by the fliers and green ribbons on damn near every tree and telephone pole in this neighborhood, and in the windows and on the doors of damn near every local business, the rest of this community will not stop either. So end this now. Pick up the phone and call the FBI. 215-418-4000. Do it right now.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Finding Claire Fletcher T-shirt Fundraiser



I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the Finding Claire Fletcher t-shirt fundraiser! As you may know, I am raising funds for a non-profit called Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) whose goal is to stop child pornography and human trafficking. You can check them out here:

https://www.ourrescue.org/

My campaign ended on 11/12. My goal was to sell 30 shirts and I sold 35 so YOU GUYS ARE TOTALLY AWESOME!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! (Yes, multiple exclamation points.)

Many people have asked me if they can still get shirts. As I understand it, if Teespring receives 15 reservations for shirts, they'll reopen the campaign and bring the shirts back. So if you're interested, you can go to the link below, reserve a shirt and hope that 14 other people do too. :)

http://teespring.com/findclaire

I'd love to see O.U.R. get more money! But if it doesn't work out, I am thrilled with what we've accomplished! Again, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your support!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Predictability v. Expectations

So I read this book recently where the killer turns out to be . . . well, the killer. What I mean by that is the main character is convinced that the person who was convicted of killing her loved one is innocent and that the real killer is still out there. So the book follows her along this odyssey--her fight to bring the "real" killer to justice but in the end, it turns out that they had the right guy all along. I thought this was brilliant although perhaps it just spoke to the part of me who knows what it feels like to have lost a loved one and want answers that are never, ever going to satisfy. At any rate, many other readers were extremely disappointed and angry. I, however, thought it was a really novel way to end a suspense/crime novel. I mean I don't think I've ever read one where the killer turns out to be the killer they had behind bars the whole time! So to me that was satisfactorily unpredictable. (I'm not going to name the book cause I don't want to spoil it for other readers.)

I see this whole complaint about books being predictable all the time. ALL THE TIME. I read reviews of books before I buy them so I read a lot of reviews.  I read my own reviews too. Readers want books that are unpredictable but in the back of my mind, I'm thinking: "Do we? Do we really?"

Most readers I know read primarily in the same genre or genres--there are usually one or two genres they prefer over all others. Many readers I know only read romance or only read crime fiction and so on. Like me, I really only read crime fiction. I'll pick up books in other genres from time to time but for the most part, I enjoy crime fiction the most, so that's what I read. So having read a ton of crime fiction books, I have certain expectations about what's going to happen. There are certain conventions that each genre uses and as much as readers like to be surprised, we also don't like it when writers stray too far from the accepted conventions. In other words, I think it's a fine line between giving readers the unpredictability we crave and meeting our expectations of the genre.

For example, I read a book many years ago that was part of a series where, at the end, the author killed off one of the two main characters. Yeah, killed him. Dead. Gone. Forever. (It would be like watching the Lethal Weapon movies and at the end of the third one, Riggs gets killed off. I mean, really?) So was the book I'm talking about unpredictable? Hell, yes. But not the kind of unpredictability I find acceptable as a reader. I did return to that series but it wasn't for a long, long time.

So my question is: how much unpredictability do you really like as a reader? I mean is it okay if, at the end of a romance novel, the two main characters don't end up together?  Is it okay if, at the end of a crime novel, the mystery is not solved or the bad guy gets away? Or to a lesser degree, take movies for example--would it be okay to have the story in an action movie wrap up without a big, long, protracted chase scene at the end? Or a big old showdown between the good and bad guys? Would it be okay for a Disney princess movie to end without an impending wedding? What truly is an acceptable level of unpredictability in storytelling?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

200

Today, Finding Claire Fletcher got its 200th five star review on Amazon.

That's right. My own little underdog novel that took me literally years to sell to a publisher now has 200 FIVE STAR reviews on Amazon. You can check out the lengthy Agent Rejection Pictorial here.

Big Pub 1 to Agent (11/5/10):
Thanks for the FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER material. The real-life background is horrific, of course, but I'm not that sold on the novel itself.
Good luck with it!

Some writers might think, "So what? Big whoop. I've got a bajillion of those." Other writers might think, "I'd give my right kidney for 2 reviews let alone 200!"  You'll see both ends of that spectrum in this business. For me, it is very special because this book was so hard to get into the hands of readers. I don't bring it up to gloat. I mean it is pretty freaking amazing. I'm astounded and humbled and ecstatic, to say the least. The real reason I bring it up is two-fold. First, I want to say:

THANK YOU

to all the readers who gave my book a chance. Even if you hated it, even if you left a scathing review, I'm still grateful to you. I'm grateful that you would spend your money and your precious time on something that I wrote. Thank you to ALL the people who left reviews, whether they were 5 stars or not. I'm happy and grateful for each and every review I get--yes, even the bad ones because bad reviews do lend your book some credibility. Not everyone is going to like it. As a reader, I am always suspicious of a book that has no bad reviews.



Big Pub 2 to Agent (1/27/11):
Thanks for sending Lisa Regan's sample chapters. We've both looked at the material and while the premise is very intriguing, the writing wasn't as strong as we'd hoped. But we wish you lots of luck finding a good home for this project.

Second, I want to maybe offer hope to writers who feel like I did just a few years ago--like this dream was never going to happen. Ever. I had no reason to believe that this book was going to be published, even after I got my agent. It was tough. I'm not saying I had it tougher than anyone else. I'm just saying it was tough for me.


Big Pub 3 to Agent (12/15/10):
[Name Redacted to Protect the Overworked] passed this submission along to me when she left the company, and I've just now had a chance to look at FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER by Lisa Regan. The concept for this story is quite strong and I was immediately drawn into the story. Unfortunately, however, I just didn't love the execution and thus I will be passing.

Even after Sapphire Star Publishing was awesome enough to take a chance on me, several people warned me not to expect too much. Small press authors don't sell books, I heard again and again. You'll be lucky if you sell 250 copies of your book lifetime. The message was clear--your dream may be coming true but you're in for some major disappointment.




Big Pub 4 to Agent (1/3/11):
With regret, I will not be offering on Lisa Regan's FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER,  which doesn't seem right for the PUBLISHER NAME REDACTED list at this time.
The author generates a powerful and absorbing premise, bringing out the  tension in the worst nightmare for any parent. In developing the characters  of this novel, alas, it seemed that the human element never quite lived up  to the more terror-inducing aspects, and without a strong sense of the  people at the center of this novel, it would be difficult to position in our  glutted marketplace.
Thank you for the opportunity to consider FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER. I wish  you and Ms. Regan great success in finding the perfect publishing home for  it.
I'll admit that my first royalty check was quite the shock. It wasn't even how little money the book had made, it was how few copies had sold. But I was still happy. I was still living the dream and since my 6 year quest to have Finding Claire Fletcher published had involved so much work on my part, I wasn't about to give up after a month. I did what I could to promote it. I was extremely lucky because I had so many family members and friends to spread the word. And really, I was just plain lucky. Many of my friends and fellow authors whose books are far better than mine, who were doing all the same things I was doing, were not having the sales or exposure that my book got.

Big Pub 5 to Agent (1/13/11):
Thanks for sending Lisa Regan's proposal for FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER. I found it kind of intriguing, I have to say, but it just doesn't quite fit anywhere on the list. It's not the kind of suspense we do, certainly not the kind of women's fiction on our list. 
I'm going to have to pass but good luck with it. Someone should do well with it.


This book that over 100 agents passed on, that every big publishing house turned down, that even most small presses turned down has now sold thousands of copies and it's still going. For someone who was told no consistently year after year and for someone who was told that, even after signing a contract, I wasn't going to sell many books that is pretty darn incredible. I know that there are far more talented authors than me out there who are lucky to sell one book in a month. I know that I am lucky and blessed and more grateful than I could ever express with words.
Big Pub 6 to Agent (11/9/10):

Thank you so much for sending FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER by Lisa Regan to [Name Redacted to Protect the Overworked], who then passed it on to me after my enthusiasm for the proposal. I must say, I really enjoyed this project. As I read the story, I felt as if I was there with every one of the characters. I thought the voice was good, the characters well developed, and the anticipation leading up to Connor's recovery of Claire kept me on edge the entire time. Despite all I like about this book, I feel that the plot is problematic. [I redacted this part because of spoilers but the gist is that it is not believable or plausible that a kidnap victim would stay with the kidnapper when there was ample opportunity to go home or go to the police.] So unfortunately, while I do think the writing shows potential, right now I think the problems with the plotting are fundamental enough to keep this story from working on our list. 
I'm so sorry this project didn't work out for us, but I wish you the very best on placing this project with another publisher.

What I hope is that other writers out there who are working on their own Finding Claire Fletchers will not give up on their dreams. Not even necessarily dreams of finding an agent or a publisher but of finding READERS. Readers are where it's at. True story. When I started out, I didn't have the kind of self-publishing opportunities that are out there now. Now you can bypass the gatekeepers and go directly to the readers. Don't get me wrong, it takes a ton of work and luck to get those readers because you'll be doing your own marketing and promotion, but writers have options now. So whether you're going traditional or indie, I hope you won't give up on your writing dreams. 



In sort of related news, my T-shirt fundraiser was a success! I sold 35 t-shirts which is 5 over the 30 I was hoping to sell. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who bought a Finding Claire Fletcher shirt! You guys are super-awesome! I'm waiting for Teespring to send me a check so that I can forward it to Operation Underground Railroad, which is the charity I chose for the fundraiser. You can check out their website here



Monday, November 10, 2014

Yay for Re-Release Day & Last Call for Finding Claire Fletcher T-shirts!




So tomorrow is the big day! VETERANS DAY! Yes, it really is and I hope that tomorrow you will say a prayer for all the servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much so that we can live in relative safety and have all sorts of freedoms, big and small. If you see a servicemember--any day of the year--walk up to them, shake their hand and thank them for their service. I do it all the time. I've done it at parades, just walking down the street, on the bus, in airports, in restaurants, in stores, in public restrooms (the ones for females of course!), any place I have the privilege to run into someone in uniform, I do this. My daughter sees me do it so that she knows it is important. My grandfathers, my dad, my husband, many of my uncles, my brother, many of my family members, former coworkers and friends have proudly served this country and I am eternally grateful for their willingness to put themselves in harm's way, to give their lives if necessary to ensure the safety and freedom of the rest of us. It is really astounding if you think about it. Think about what they've signed up for, what they have agreed to do, what they have agreed to sacrifice if necessary. It will make your head spin. We are lucky and blessed to have such people in our midst.



Tomorrow is also Re-Release Day! My third novel will be re-released by Thomas & Mercer tomorrow. I'm super-excited to see where this journey will take me next. If you haven't read HOLD STILL yet, then get yourself a brand-spanking-new copy tomorrow!



Finally, you have one day left to get a Finding Claire Fletcher T-shirt. As you may or may not know, I'm holding a fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad which is a non-profit organization that uses cutting-edge technology to track down child pornographers and human traffickers. They assist law enforcement all over the world in stopping these monsters. All profits from the sale of these FCF T-shirts will go to O.U.R. You can check out their website here. I have actually already met my goal but you can still purchase T-shirts until November 12th. The more shirts I sell, the more money O.U.R. gets! The T-shirts WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE AFTER NOVEMBER 12th. I will not have any. There will not be extra. So if you're interested, please order them from Teespring now.

Finally, I want to say a great big THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who already ordered T-shirts! You guys are the best! I deeply appreciate you supporting me and this cause, which is extremely, extremely important to me. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!



Also, BROKEN EMBRACE by Dana Mason is on sale for only 99 for ONE MORE DAY! It is a Kindle Countdown deal and it ends soon! I love this whole series and you can read them in any order so treat yourself and get this one on sale now!

****

And oh, right, I was going to check in a month after my So Many Things post to let you know of my progress with COLD-BLOODED after plotting it all out. The news is that there is no news. October was ridiculous and in a way, I suspect plotting the whole book out took a lot of the fun and excitement out of it for me. But mostly, it was simply a time issue. So I'm resetting the clock now on November 11th. Let's see if I can find the time to write the first draft of this book before December 11th!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finding Claire Fletcher T-Shirt Fundraiser


So, Claire Fletcher, who is the protagonist of my first novel has a birthday today!

In honor of her birthday, I'm holding a t-shirt fundraiser. Buy a Finding Claire Fletcher t-shirt and all profits will go to Operation Underground Railroad or O.U.R., a non-profit organization founded by a former CIA/Homeland Security agent. They use cutting-edge technology to locate and track child pornographers and human traffickers. They use their findings to assist law enforcement all over the world to stop these monsters and rescue kidnapped children.

You can read about them here:

http://venturebeat.com/2014/04/26/tech-startup-operation-underground-railroad-is-saving-kids-from-human-traffickers/

And check out their website here:


Since this is my first stab at fundraising, I've set my goal at selling 30 t-shirts.

IF I DON'T REACH MY GOAL, THE T-SHIRTS WILL NOT BE PRINTED AND YOUR MONEY WILL BE REFUNDED.

YOU HAVE UNTIL NOVEMBER 12, 2014 TO PURCHASE A SHIRT.

YOU CAN PURCHASE ONE HERE:

http://teespring.com/findclaire