Waters Rise #1 Ranked Book on Amazon

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Yep, my debut novel, Waters Rise, made it to #1 in three different categories on Amazon for three days in a row! Thanks to every book lover who got a copy. I hope you enjoy it and pass it along to someone you think will enjoy it too.

So happy and proud of finally doing what I love. This is proof that, when you find your passion and do it no matter what people say, your wishes will come true. Bigger dreams on the horizon!

 

Yallwest!

 Emory Towns at Santa Monica Pier

Emory Towns at Santa Monica Pier

Yallwest!

Giving a shout out to Yallwest Fans! Can’t wait to see some of my favorite authors (like, Nic Stone, Maurene Goo, Melissa de la Cruz, Gloria Chao) and hear what they have to say and share this experience with my fellow book nerds. And best of all it’s in my backyard—Santa Monica, California.

I’m a Yallwest newbie but excited to be volunteering this year. As a new indie author of young adult fiction books (Waters Rise), I’m thrilled to see what’s it all about and hopefully make some new friends, inspire some new fans, and find a few mentors.

Are you going? Which authors inspire you most? Did you download my FREE book?

Like Oprah Says

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It all started with a single conversation. But it would forever change the course of my life. I didn’t go on vacation that summer thinking I’d write a book about the topic we discussed at great length while the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Nor did I ever think I’d leave my job. I was always the one searching for the best beach reads and new romance novels. Fast forward two-years. I published my first young adult fiction book.  I’m writing new novels every day. And I left that job to start my own business.

So, what compelled me to write my first book? It’s the question I get asked most frequently. Well, I’ll tell you. It was that conversation that creeped into my mind every single day. It wouldn’t leave me—not in the shower, not driving my car, not walking to the beach. Any time I had some “down time,” it was there.

Like Oprah says, those ah-ha moments start as whispers then bang us over the head until we listen. That’s what happened to me. The only way to stop the thoughts were to write about them. What was it? A national mandatory community service program. Very controversial. Very intriguing. Very ambitious.

What would a mandatory service program look like? Why do it? Who would it help? Those were questions I would mull over in my head. What would someone’s life be like if they actually had to do this program? And then a lighting bolt hit me over the head. I couldn’t wait to get home , put the kiddo to bed and bring that someone to life. Her name is Ashlyn Waters. And Waters Rise is the story of how working in a year-long mandatory community service program, I call U Serve America, forever changed her life.

Who’s Ashlyn? Well, she’s a darling NYC socialite forced to leave behind her picture-perfect world for the complete unknown in the Redwood National Park. Her idea of camping is staying at the Ritz. In her mind she’s being sent to nature jail. What could go wrong?

I hope that you will take the journey with Ashlyn. She’s more relatable than you might think. Maybe you’ll be inspired by the characters and idea of U Serve America, too.

The Ritz of Camping

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"My idea of camping is staying at the Ritz." That’s exactly what Ashlyn Waters would tell you, because that’s exactly how she felt her entire life. Only a five-star hotel with room service, a spa, pool and a private penthouse would do. She would cringe at the thought of trees, bugs, and bears. Don’t even mention a tent or sleeping bag—completely out of the question, even if it were designed by Tori Burch or Gucci. It would never have entered her mind to visit a national park—ick!

But I’m not Ashlyn. She’s a figment of my imagination, in all her beauty product, hair styling, couture world. Even though her worst nightmare comes true and she’s sent to the Redwood Forest for a year of community service in the novel, Waters Rise, I actually crave the quietness of the forest. I love leaving the crazy concrete jungle of LA and escaping to the lush greenscape of Prairie Creek, where the only noise is the rustling of the trees, not the honking of horns. The smell of Christmas trees fills the air when you least expect it. And I can take a deep breath and feel it move into every cell of my body.

And while Ashlyn may not want to celebrate this place I find magical, I will along with lots of other Redwood National Park fans. It’s their 50th Anniversary this year. And you can escape to this stunning scene for free every second Saturday during 2018. See where Ashlyn’s adventures (or as she would say misadventures) all began.

$1 from every book of Waters Rise sold goes to the National Park Service. What are you waiting for?

She Was Drafted and Not By Mistake

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Ashlyn Waters woke up that morning like every other morning, spending hours getting her hair, make-up and clothes just right and leaving little time for breakfast. Most days she’d grab a tea or coffee at her favorite café before walking to school on the upper East side of Manhattan. But today was no ordinary day. It was the day her life would change forever. 

Her picture-perfect world shattered as she read the words that seemed to leap off the letter she read just before leaving her house. Ashlyn had been drafted into the national work service program, U Serve America. Nothing could have prepared her for this twist of fate. 

She would be helping others alongside strangers from all parts of the country whom were nothing like her. She would either sink or swim. But there was no getting out of it. 

Does she make it? Who does she meet? Who are they helping and why?  

It’s the plot for Waters Rise. But it’s the story behind this one that’s most intriguing.  

What if U Serve America were real? What if we enlisted and/or drafted young adults into community service programs? What if we mixed young adults from around the country and channeled their passions into projects designed to tackle these problems? What if it was amazingly successful? 

Well, let’s face it. We have a lot of problems in this country. And we have a lot of smart and kind people who want to make a difference in their lives and the lives of the people around them. That’s what the fictional series, Volunteer Year, is about. Each book follows one person's journey in U Serve America. 

It’s intended to start a conversation, plant some seeds, raise some awareness of what could be accomplished if young adults were given the opportunity to help solve the challenges we face—poverty, school safety, education, racism, climate change.  

Now is the time. Young adults are waking up, taking stock of the future they are being handed, and demanding changes. We can fix this if we work together; if we serve one another; if we support each other. 

The world is waiting. Let’s start now. Let’s start the conversation of a mandatory work service program to end poverty, reform education, rebuild our infrastructure, and plan for the future. Some, people may gasp at this thought. But just let it sink-in. 

Most high school graduates don’t have a clue what they really want to do. They haven’t figured out what they like and who they really are. But they have tremendous energy and hope. If they were given the opportunity to try-out a career through a work service program and get paid (stipend or college tuition/credit), while at the same time making the world around them a better place, wouldn’t that be amazing. 

Individuals, private companies, and government working together to solve the problems we complain about but have felt incapable of tackling could literally change America forever— for the better. It’s National Volunteer Week (April 15-21, 2018) and what a perfect time to start. 

Did I Say Goodbye?

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It’s been seven years since my mom passed away. I was lucky enough to say goodbye—sort of. In March of 2011 she got a really bad cold that lingered. Her cough got worse, and I got more anxious. Being 2,000 miles away was difficult but this made it worse. I was helpless. She played it cool but that cough said something else. As I made one of my frequent lunch calls to get advice on my choice of kindergarten my my son, she said her sister had come to visit and was taking her to the hospital. 

Shock, worry, gratefulness got all mixed up in my head and heart at this news. My aunt is a nurse. She heard what I heard—a cough that screamed, “get help now.” So off to the hospital they went, and my dad met them there after driving an hour from work. 

I knew this day would come. I’d known it since I was twelve when my mom was diagnosed with liver disease after her OBGYN saw her very enlarged and mottled liver during her hysterectomy to help ease the brutal pain of endometriosis. My mom rarely drank alcohol. How could this be? We never found out. 

I lived with the fear that mom would progressively get sicker and eventually die if she didn’t have a liver transplant. But it would take years. So, there was hope. But there was fear. Every time she called or my dad called (which was rare), I would answer the phone holding my breath and preparing for The News. 

So, it wasn’t a shock that she was going to the hospital some twenty-years after her diagnosis. But the call I got that night was a shock. It wasn’t liver disease that put her in the hospital. Nope. It was stage four lung cancer. My mom never smoked. How could this be? We never found out. 

I hoped on a plane without looking back. I arrived to meet my sister, brother, and lots of family. And once again there was hope. It turned out that he also had a gall bladder stone.  After a “routine” operation that went terribly wrong, in which the wire basket meant to collect the stone fell off the scope and landed somewhere in her body, they got the basket but not the stone. So, she was left recovering from a failed surgery, lungs filling daily with cancerous fluid, and a liver too sick to function. 

Needless-to-say, the doctor that had given us hope that she would recover and beat the lung cancer was never allowed to see my mom again. We regrouped and begged her new doctor to give us the real story. “Keep her comfortable. Say your goodbyes.” That’s what he said. And that’s what we did. 

My mom was one of eleven. Every single of on her brothers and sisters left their homes and jobs and came one-by-one to her side to say good-bye. For several days she had a stream of loved ones, come to her bedside at the hospital. It was profound. She found the strength to be alone with each person and give them encouragement to live their life to the fullest. Everyone left her room knowing how much she loved them. 

She wouldn’t make it on the cruise her sisters were planning, so the cruise came to her room. In just hours, we transformed the room into a party ship with Hawaiian leis, sunglasses, bright pink wine glasses, h'ordeuvres and lots of laughter.  It was bittersweet, but it kept us all going. We just wanted more time. 

But we’d only get a few more days. Mom decided to go home and have hospice care. And so, the party moved to the house I grew up in on a small dead-end street that once again felt like a universe all its own. We made the dinning room her place to hold court. It looked out to the backyard and patio where a large group hung out cooking jambalaya and crawfish (yes, this is in Louisiana) and shrimp. The room was large enough to hold forty or so people. She was never alone.  

And over the next two days she slowly faded into herself, and then it was time to say good-bye. The room full of people gathered around her bed holding hands. Two of my cousins began to sing, the priest said a prayer, followed by my dad and one of her brothers. She took her last breath as we gripped one another’s hands for support and to show our love. It was the most beautiful and sad moment of my life. She left this world surrounded by love and beauty. And I’m grateful for this extraordinary experience. 

Even though I said the words “goodbye” that day, my heart didn’t. As I celebrate her life seven years since she left us, my heart is still saying hello. 

 

#GetThingsDone

 
 

Get things done. That’s exactly what we need to happen in America right now to fix all the problems we face: poverty, health care, education, the environment. Are we willing to stop complaining and do something about it? Is national community service the answer?

My newly published novel, Waters Rise, raises this question. What would happen? Would lives be changed? Would we find solutions that work not just band-aids but long-term fixes? Would our young adults rise to the occasion to help others while learning new skills and receiving compensation for higher education?

Waters Rise tells the journey of Ashlyn Waters, a Manhattan socialite who’s forced to give up her silver spoon for a shovel when she’s drafted into the national community service program. She must overcome her fears and judgments to survive a year in the middle of a national park with people who are nothing like her.

This coming-of-age book highlights the barriers that can be broken when people from all backgrounds join together to create something bigger than themselves. That’s exactly what happens in real life when young and old team up to carry out projects through AmeriCorps, our nation’s largest national volunteer service program.

While mandatory community service may not appeal to everyone, just stop and think about what it could do. What if businesses with cash and big ideas came to the table with young people eager to learn and earn money for school and government to assist in organizing it? Could we put our difference aside and work together? Could we offer our future generations a safe and engaging place to learn new skills, meet new people, and be the change we want to see?

When we serve others, we lift-up the world. I hope that my books inspire young people to find themselves, use their voice, see others as part of the same human and serve one another.

“America’s greatness comes from the extraordinary acts of ordinary citizens.”-AmeriCorps

This week, March 11-17, AmeriCorps is celebrating and thanking all the volunteers that get things done to end poverty, improve education, protect our environment, and provide aid during natural disasters. In California last year, more than 23,000 members provided support at over 3,600 sites with $219 million in funding local and federal funding.

Thank you to every AmeriCorps volunteer for your tireless efforts!

To get a free copy of Waters Rise, email me and join my fan club (while supplies last). Thanks for supporting my dream!

I was that Ugly, Awkward 5th Grade Girl

When I was in fifth grade, I was the tallest person in my grade—and had been since kindergarten. I cut my hair short in the Dorothy Hamill (one of my idols and Olympic figure skater from the 70’s) style which was all the rage way back then. But my unruly cow licks made my short hair look like two, blond parenthesis framing my forehead. And I was one of the very few girls that had to wear a bra—yep, that started in third grade. Did I mention zits?

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So, when my teacher, Sister Josie, a short Hispanic nun in a white habit whom really didn’t like me, assigned us a short story to write and act out in front of the entire class, I was terrified. My worst fear had come true—my gangly, over-developed, pimply body would be on display. At first, I decided that I would contract some awful disease and not be able to recite my story. But I didn’t want to get too sick. I was on the basketball team, and we had game that week. Plus, I didn’t think I could fool my mom.

After several days of putting it off and trying to figure out how to get out of the whole thing, I just started writing. And I fell in love. OMG. I had been boy crazy and thought I knew what love was. But this was so much more. I fell in love with my character and the story and the way I wanted to share it with my classmates. I wrote and edited and wrote some more. I felt alive like I never had before. I practiced and practiced and practiced until I’d memorized every line and every gesture.

And then the day came when I stood up and delivered my tale of a fuzzy brown bear that felt all alone in the world but came to realize he had a special power to heal people and as he healed more people his power got stronger until it literally lifted him up into the sky, and he began to fly. With this super power, he could help more people all over the world. He was never alone again. He was a hero.

I was so in the moment that I didn’t care if no one liked it. I loved it. I loved everything about it, and I loved how I felt delivering it. I had the time of my life giving that performance. And as I finished with a Superman pose as if to take flight, I heard loud clapping even from Sister. Josie. I came back from whatever zone I’d been in and felt like I really belonged and that they liked me—all of me. Classmates asked me to perform it several more times over the next few days. That’s when I knew that I had to write. I had to share stories that made people feel uplifted and that they could have super powers too.

My self-esteem skyrocketed for the rest of that school year. And even though I struggled with (and still do at times) my body image, I knew that I was okay just being me. And that my biggest fear was my biggest teacher.

As for writing, my thoughts stuck to the pages of many diaries without ever seeing the light of day. Until a little over a year ago, I couldn’t resist any longer. And I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Then I shared it. And the loudest applause came from deep inside my heart. My soul was lifted, and I’ll never let it land again.

What’s your super power?

Waters Rise, my first novel, is available on Amazon. Thanks for reading and helping me reach my dream!

I Hit the Simple Button AND…

 
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After two (okay, three) decades of procrastinating, I decided to write my first novel. I had no idea what I was going to write. But the need to pound out some words into a Word doc was so strong that in January 2017 after working a ten-hour day, helping the kiddo with homework and hand-washing a stack of dishes, I sat down at my computer and wrote two pages without hesitating. I felt great followed by the realization that I didn’t know anything about writing novels. Followed by the next realization that I didn’t know anything about publishing.

I needed help. My husband’s a screen writer, so I was hesitant to ask him. He uses a special program for screen plays and that’s not what I needed. I wanted something simple and free. But I asked anyway. And lo and behold, he sent me a link. I hit the button and poof, a template appeared.

I love my husband and he’d give the shirt, shoes, and socks off his body to help someone. I can’t thank him enough for sending me that link. And I love that Tom Corson-Knowles at TCK Publishing helped make me an author with that one simple Word doc. And the help didn’t stop coming, William ODay, a friend and oh-so-admired, thriller author gave me invaluable insights and turned me onto Joanna Penn, another wizard of self-publishing.

Thanks, Tom, Will and Johanna, and all the writers out there that are not only sharing their stories but their lessons learned and tools. I published my first novel, Waters Rise, in January 2018 and every month more people are helping make my dream come true.

Who are the people that are helping you live your dream? Have you thanked them?

Jack Canfield Asked for My Autograph

A few days ago, I got to bask in the glory of some of my heroes. It was EPIC Day in Santa Monica, and the name of the event couldn’t be more fitting. Yes, from just inches away (I was at the front row table—thank you, Alexa and Tina) I got to hear and feel the words of Lisa Nichols, Dr. Demartini, Jack Canfield, Rebecca Rosen and Rev. Michael Beckwith.

The gist of the day was a roadmap to launching, living and loving your own epic life in 2018. The take-aways were:

 
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  • What you place the highest value on in your life is what you manifest
  • Take five actions every day to reach your goal and report to your accountability friend everyday for thirty days, no exceptions.
  • Visualize twice a day in detail you reaching your goal (every little detail and how you feel in that moment)
  • Ask for help—you must become an “askhole” (love that, Jack Canfield)
  • You are you. You are weird. Your dream is not anyone else’s

Most of us are, you guessed it, out of sync with these because we compare ourselves to everyone else. News flash—they are not us. Go figure. So, we live small, avoid risks and asking for help. But, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”-Dr. Demartini.

So, I became an askhole. I sat at my table after hearing Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, trying to get up the courage to actually follow everyone’s advice from that day. With sweaty palms, I grabbed my book, Waters Rise, from my purse and walked over to Jack who was sitting just a few feet away. My heart was racing, and I was going over what I would say. But I had one chance to do it.

Jack was by himself—what are the odds. It was breaktime and everyone at his table had left. He was looking down and didn’t see me approaching. From behind, I said in a shaky voice, “Hi, Jack. I wanted to introduce myself and give you a copy of my book that I just self-published. It’s a young adult book to inspire young people to use their voice, overcome their challenges. It’s one of a series I plan to write to start to a conversation about community service and how it can help make the US a better place to live.”

Jack turned to me and looked up as I gave my pitch. “Well, first of all, I want to congratulate you for writing a book. That is no small feat. I will read your book. Thank you.” He opened the cover and handed me a pen to autograph it. I signed my name, thanked him and went back to my seat.

I overcame fear that just a few years ago would have crippled me. But, what do I have to lose. The worst that could happen is that he never reads it. The best that could happen is that he reads it, loves it and helps me reach my goal to sell 1,000,000 copies. Maybe somewhere in between is what will happen and that will be enough, because the real help I got that day was from me—to finally start living big!

Thank you, Marcy Cole, for being a warrior of light and bringing these amazing people into our lives and for the amazing work of CMomA and Kidsave, helping families adopt and care for older kids and kids with special needs.

Dogs Rule! Happy Chinese New Year

It’s another cause to celebrate for dog lovers everywhere.  On February 16, 2018 the Chinese New Year will kick off the year of the dog, which is purported to bring fortune but not without a few struggles (just to make sure you’re genuinely grateful?). I’ve always enjoyed the celebration in China Town in downtown Los Angeles. The parade is a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, dance, and artistry. But I love the drums most of all, even though I lack all sense of rhythm. 

My kiddo was born in the year of the dog, and surprisingly fits the description perfectly. So, if it holds up for those born in 2018, may you prosper easily and happily. Happy Chinese New Year! 

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Raccoon, Fox, or Pomeranian?

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I never get more than a few feet before someone stops me to say, “Your dog looks like a raccoon or an arctic fox. Wow!” And I reply with pride, “Yes!” We have no idea what mix of pooches has graced our Ruby—part raccoon, part arctic fox, part Pomeranian. Who knows? But it makes for a good way to meet our neighbors and strangers. 

Ruby came to us just before Christmas. We rescued her. She had been thrown from a moving car breaking her pelvis and bruising ribs as she crashed onto the street in Venice, California. A dog lover scooped her up and brought to the vet hospital not far from the accident—that was no accident. She was treated and housed in the adjacent shelter. And then we found her. 

After all that, you would think she would be scarred for life or at least weary of people and cars. But no, she’s all love just waiting for the next ride in the front seat of my car tethered by her doggie seatbelt. She leaves lick marks on the window and paw prints on the tan leather, but my heart is full of love for this little gem of a puppy. 

She is my shadow now and spends her days right by me in her cozy little bed—watching me write and giving me boundless inspiration. Maybe she’ll appear in one of my upcoming books. Our family has grown by one, and we are still celebrating her arrival. And many more will be celebrating dogs this year, too. On February 16, 2018 the Chinese New Year will kick off the year of the dog, which is purported to bring fortune. Hopefully, my writing career will launch to new heights—thanks to each of my fans new and long-time! And those born in the year of the dog, may you prosper easily and happily. 

Thanks to Perfect Pet Rescue and Dr. Stephanie Wallen for giving Ruby a second chance at love and rides.