Miracles can be small gifts – the monarch butterfly that drifts over the hollyhock in your garden then pauses for you to admire. Or they can be big, life-changing events that grab you by the shoulders. The birth of a child. Or the rebirth of a book.


Francesca, 3 weeks old

I’ve experienced both in the last month. Beautiful Francesca, a little Buddha baby who makes me sigh with pleasure each time I hold her, arrived on July 30.

At the same time, Swimming with Maya, my literary baby, has been reborn.

The book has toddled off on a wave of Facebook posts, tweets, Kindle Books and Nook discounts, e-newsletters, and guest blogs, and now seems sturdy enough for Kindergarten. This weekend it’s the featured book on the Kindle Books and Tips blog.

Like any mother, I’m awestruck, proud, and a little afraid to let go. Through the magic of easy, affordable e-book downloads, Swimming with Maya has a new crop of readers. They give stars, or offer “likes,” or write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Sometimes, they write to me about how the book has helped them overcome grief, or changed the way they relate to their kids. What could be more miraculous?

I follow Kristen Lamb’s fine blog for writers. She makes a strong case for building a robust digital platform in her latest post. Traditional publishing is an option for those authors with name recognition, a marketable story, and an agent. The rest of us need to create connections to our readers and be agile enough to ride the tides of independent or self-publishing, fine options from where I sit.

I went through the traditional publishing process initially. Capital Books published swimming with Maya in 2004. It was a beautiful hardcover book priced at $28. Despite garnering favorable reviews and publicity (I was interviewed on CNN and several local TV shows, and featured in many articles), we sold about 2,000 books before Capital closed its doors in 2010.

By then, the whole publishing landscape had radically changed. Social media was becoming the way to build an author platform and lots of new options for publishing, including very small companies like Dream of Things, my current publisher, were springing up. As luck would have it, a dear friend of mine, Madeline Sharples, had a memoir out, Leaving the Hall Light On, which was suddenly dropped when her very small publisher closed.

Eleanor and Madeline at the Swimming with Maya launch party

Eleanor and Madeline at the Swimming with Maya launch party

She found Dream of Things, introduced me to publisher Mike O’Mary, who read my book and agreed to reissue it in formats that are much less expensive to produce and sell than a hardcover edition.

What I instantly loved and recognized in Mike was someone who was passionate about books and narrative nonfiction, including memoir and personal essays. Mike has been a genie in finding the right virtual venues for promotion. During a BookBub promotion earlier in July we sold more e-books in one weekend than Capital sold in hardcover in 6 years! Swimming with Maya is currently the featured book on Kindle Books and Tips, a blog with more than 40,000 followers, and Mike dropped the price to 99 cents for two days, ensuring healthy sales. The power of this kind of “viral marketing” can’t be overstated.

So as I tweet and post from my couch in Oakland, I’m grateful for being connected to readers everywhere, and grateful that Swimming with Maya lives on to inspire and uplift people. It is as miraculous as a butterfly and almost as wondrous as a new baby.



Everyday Heroes

“I’m drawn to those defiant souls who refuse to submit to tough circumstances, those who jut out their chins and stubbornly defy the odds.”

— Donald Dempsey, author of Betty’s Child

Don Dempsey and his son

Don Dempsey and his son

I’m pleased to welcome fellow Dream of Things author Donald Dempsey for a guest post today. Don gives us insight into resilience and writing. For a chance to win a copy of his book, please post a comment and I’ll randomly select a winner.

About Betty’s Child

In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela’s Ashes, Betty’s Child tells the story of life with a cruel and neglectful mother, her abusive boyfriends, a dangerous local thug who wants twelve-year-old Donny to burglarize homes and deal drugs, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save young Donny’s soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. In a world where it’s “fight or flight” at every turn, Donny uses his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. He usually makes the right choice, but whenever he makes a wrong move, he pays the price.

Some of his experiences are horrifying, but you’ll want to keep reading because Dempsey manages to maintain a sense of humor while sharing the gritty details of his story.

Please join me in welcoming Don Dempsey to “That’s the Way Life Lives” for his insights on resilience and everyday heroes. Let us know how you practice being resilient or tell us about role models you turn to for inspiration.

Don’s Guest Post

I’ve never been one to idolize.  I like watching sports and live for football season, but I’ve played enough to realize great athletes are born with their gifts.  Actors?  Give me a break.  And I feel the same way about singers and musicians, although there are quite a few I really enjoy listening to.  I can appreciate the talents of these people, but I don’t feel there is necessarily anything better about them than you or I.

But if I’m channel surfing and happen upon a story about a lady who paints with her feet, or a man who taught himself to drive with no arms?  I’ll watch that story every time.  I love the survivors.  I’m drawn to those defiant souls who refuse to submit to tough circumstances, those who jut out their chins and stubbornly defy the odds.  People are capable of accomplishing unimaginable feats.  I know this.  But the thrill seekers have never really impressed me.  I tend to find those I want to emulate in my everyday life.

I’ve always found ways to try and stem my tendencies toward melancholy.  Whenever I start to get down or begin to feel sorry for myself, I think of a dear friend of mine who lost his wife after a horrible battle with M.S.  I have another close friend who has Lupus, and undergoes one surgery after another, and yet never complains or loses faith.  When I think of them putting one foot in front of the other, it helps me to do the same without complaining.

Lately I have been introduced to a few people who inspire perseverance, especially when it comes to writing about tough subject matter.  And I didn’t have to look far.  I recently finished Madeline Sharples book “Leaving the Hall Light On”.  She writes about losing her son.  And I have scanned over and will soon be reading “Swimming With Maya” by Eleanor Vincent.  She writes about making the tough decision to donate her daughter’s organs to help others retain life.  The courage of these women amazes me, and lately I’ve thought often about what they must have endured.

My publisher Mike O’Mary overcame a tough childhood.  I’ve received so many inspiring messages from readers who have survived terrible circumstances.  One of my readers, who suffered an unbearable childhood, actually works everyday to assist those in need.  She donates hours to the homeless, organizes fund drives, and manages her own family, all the while laughing and joking about her past tribulations and even convincing her children to work alongside her.  She’s yet another person I’ve added to my list.

A couple of times while working with these blog submissions I struggled.  I found some of the topics unpleasant to write about.  I asked myself what I had gotten myself into.  I don’t feel very qualified to express opinions on such serious issues.  Once I even tried to back out of an article.  And along would come Crystal Otto, the coordinator of my Women On Writing blog tour.  Upbeat, energetic, encouraging, running her dairy farm, raising her kids, helping out at the church, caring for her mom, and babying me.  Oh, and she’s pregnant and dealing with other medical issues.  Her constant positive attitude literally shamed me into completing my appointed tasks.

Like I said earlier, I tend to find my heroes in my everyday life.  It’s not hard to do if you look around and take notice.

Betty's Child CoverBook Summary
“Heartrending and humorous. In scene after vivid scene, Dempsey presents his inspiring true story with accomplished style. Dempsey’s discipline as a writer lends the real-life tale the feel of a fictional page-turner.” ~ Kirkus
Paperback: 438 pages
Publisher: Dream of Things (March 26, 2013)
ISBN: 0988439018  ISBN-13: 978-0988439016
Twitter hashtag: #BCDempsey
Betty’s Child is available at Amazon.
About Don Dempsey
Don experienced childhood abuse and neglect first hand, but went on to have a fulfilling family life as an adult and to own his own business. “If you’re lucky, you make it to adulthood in one piece,” says Don. “But there’s no guarantee the rest of your life is going to be any better. Abused kids are often plagued by fear and insecurity. They battle depression and have trouble with relationships. In the worst cases, abused children perpetuate the cycle.” But Don is living proof that you can overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect. “You start by letting go of as much of the guilt (yes, abused kids feel guilty) and as many of the bad memories as possible. At the same time, you hold on to the things that helped you survive. For me, it was the belief that you can make life better by working at it and earning it. It helps to have a sense of humor, too.”
Find out more about the author by visiting him online at the Betty’s Child website:
Donald Dempsey Facebook:

New Life

For months, I’ve stared at the grainy ultrasound on my daughter’s refrigerator. But on July 30, that black and gray image came into focus. Francesca Blanche Coleman arrived, all 8 lbs., 1 oz. of her.

Todd, Lucia, and Francesca

Todd, Lucia, and Francesca

The moment I held her in my arms – little pointed chin, rosebud lips, velvety cheeks – I got that surge of grandmother love all over again.

Her big sister, Lucia Maya, age 3, is a larger than life ball of energy who adores her new little sister and is out of her mind with jealousy. Lu just wants Chesa to wake up and play. She pokes, she prods, and last night she ripped the baby’s cap off her soft little head. “Fontanel” means nothing to Lu.

You’d think being a grandmother would be old hat by now. But it’s not. As the writer Anne Lamott says, “It’s the bonus round.” If you live long enough to see your children have children, you get this amazing second chance at parenthood with all the fun and none of the responsibility. Well, at least a very modified version of it.

I was the designated babysitter during the labor and birth.  Lu and I watched “Nanny McPhee” for the sixth time (I think she’s getting ideas from those misbehaving children), put together puzzles, ate hash browns with ketchup (lots of ketchup), visited the neighbors’ new puppy, and otherwise had a ripping good time. Helping her manage her wild emotions – one minute sunny and bright, the next minute raging and crying – took all the patience and creativity I could muster. I guess Ms. Lamott never promised me a rose garden.

Once the new baby came home with her proud, exhausted parents, I had to turn around and go back to my corporate editing job. Why can’t we have grandparent leave?

Like many in my generation I’m at that awkward stage — old enough to know the Social Security check will soon be in the mail, but still too young to stop working. Lots of working grandparents actually raise their grandchildren. I’m one of the lucky ones: I just have to figure out how to juggle occasional babysitting with trips to the zoo. I get to spoil the little muffins and then hand them back to mommy and daddy. Nonetheless, I worry that work is cutting into my time with the girls.

I dealt with mommy guilt for years as a single mom, and now I’m on to grandmommy guilt. Work-life balance is a challenge at every stage. But I remind myself that staying present for those I love, and for my writing, and for my making-a-living are problems I’m lucky to have.

I just wish I had one of those magic sticks like Nanny McPhee. Then everyone would behave!