Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hero in Hand

Yesterday was a wonderful day for many reasons--and one of them came in padded manila envelope with an impressive Illinois return address: Tyndale House Publishers. In just moments, I caught my first glimpse of a finished copy of Disaster Status!

As usual, the Tyndale art department has done a stellar job: glossy, shiny, ember-warm colors of orange and yellow and sooty-black; perfect to set off the bold cover image of fire Captain Scott McKenna--so real, I could could almost smell the faint scent of smoke on my hero's skin.
Just holding the book in my hands made me giddy--I guess you can see that by the photo. And though this is actually the fifth time I've had this first-glimpse experience of a newly published novel, let me assure you: the thrill does not wane over time. That quick escape of breath, eye-darting perusal . . . sniffing of the pages (you doubt this?) happens, I'm told, to all authors--first book, fifth book, or fifty-fifth book. (Sans stretch marks and 2 AM feedings) welcoming a new book into the world is a lot like becoming a new parent. After long months of planning, preparing, and just plain labor, it's great to finally hold that much awaiting offspring in your hands. So, after cradling the new book, ogling its cover, sniffing the printed pages, what does a giddy author do next? Here's MY answer:

1) Read the cover quote (not included in any early images of the book's cover): "Candace Calvert has proven she knows her stuff on the ER stage." HANNAH ALEXANDER.

2) Check the back cover (in glorious orange): additional gracious endorsements by award-winning authors Hannah Alexander, Margaret Daley, and Diann Mills.

3) Check the dedication page: "For my amazing daughter, Brooklynn, who hikes to mountaintops, listens in pristine stillness . . . and knows her strength." (That's you, baby girl!)

4) Scan the Acknowledgements: agent Natasha Kern, Tyndale editors, my critique partner Nancy Herriman, generous resources, fellow medical folks, family, church, dear husband, Andy . . . all there, all so hugely important.

5) Blink, gasp in complete and delighted surprise at inside quotes (for Critical Care) from reviewers (some now dear friends), like: Relz Reviews, Mocha with Linda, Deena (a Peek at my Bookshelf), ChristianBookPreviews, Christian Retailing, Nora St. Laurent (Novel Reviews), and best-selling authors Susan May Warren, Colleen Coble, and Harry Kraus, MD.

6) Read the opening lines that I wrote, revised, agonized over for so many long months:

Fire captain Scott McKenna bolted through the doors of Pacific Mercy ER, his boots thudding and heart pounding as the unconscious child began to stiffen and jerk in his arms. He cradled her close as her small spine arched and her head thumped over and over against his chest. “Need help here. Seizure!” . . .

Yes, it's there. Just as I wrote it. And ready, now, to share with YOU. In hopes of entertaining, inspiring . . . touching your hearts.

I can hardly wait.


Fellow authors: How does it feel to hold that hot-off-the-press book in your hands?
Readers: How hard is it to wait for your favorite author's new book--do you look for authors with similar writing styles to fill that void? Where do you turn to "discover" new authors?

A big THANK YOU to Tyndale House (editors Jan Stob and Lorie Popp) for the awesome job they did in breathing life into Disaster Status. Along with massive kudos to cover designer Mark Anthony Lane II for his brilliant work--you "found" Scott McKenna. Way cool.

And now . . . back to sniffing those pages.

Disaster Status is on its way.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fiction . . . Challenged.

Ever had one of those moments when (for a split second) reality blurred and you weren't quite sure if you were dreaming? No (ahem) I'm not talkin' Senior Moments here (and thank you for reminding me of that). I mean one of those spooky times when the hair prickles on the back of your neck and you think you hear the Twilight Zone theme music. Yeah, that kind of moment. It happened to me this morning in the parking lot of a Staples store. When I saw the BMW Z-4.

Older model.


Exactly the one I'd written into my third Mercy Hospital book, Code Triage.

Hero (San Francisco police officer) Nick Stathos' car.

The car appears throughout the story, like in this early scene:

Sam glanced at Nick’s older model black BMW, parked next to a trio of Vespa scooters. “Okay if I ride with you to Golden Gate Mercy? That way, Carla can have the city car.” Her eyes—icy blue-violet in the morning light—met his and he knew she was forcing the causal expression. He hadn’t seen her in nearly three weeks. He’d planned it that way, mapped his days to accomplish it; no matter how crummy that made him feel.
“Not a good idea" . . . Nick met her gaze fully. “Leigh’s working.”

And here:

Leigh took a breath and looked Nick full in the face as she ticked off her last point. “I need the last of your boxes out, before the leasing agency--”
“They’re out.”
He stared at her for a moment, then reached for his shirt and yanked it over his head. “I’ll bag up what’s in the wheelbarrow and put the tools away. Then I’ll go.”
“Good,” she said again, her heart cramping.
Twenty minutes later, from inside the house, she heard his car start. She held her breath as it idled at the curb, and pulled away.

At this breath-catching moment:

He watched the young mother drive off, then walked back to his car. He unlocked the door, then leaned back against it, listening to the sounds of traffic in the distance and staring up at the waning moon. Thinking about the little girl who’d sent her favorite toy to a man who dragged her mother down a hospital corridor only this morning. She'd wanted him to remember Disneyland; wanted to believe in happy endings. Nick did too, or used to. Now he wasn’t sure anymore. That chance was waning like the moon, and—
He looked down to see Leigh standing in the moonlight.

And in this famous San Francisco setting:

But tonight he wanted to take the long way, because it might be the last time he drove through his favorite city with his wife. She was on to his plan way too soon.
“You’re kidding, right? Lombard Street—what do you think I am, a tourist?”
“I think . . . you’d better hang on tight.”
He steered the Z-4 downward into the first of eight hair-pin turns on the one-way section on Russian Hill, between Hyde and Leavenworth, known as “the crookedest street in the world.” A steep red-brick paved road on a 27% grade with a posted speed limit of 5 miles per hour. “No sweat,” he said. “We took these turns during training. I could do this at a raging six miles an hour . . . chewing gum.” Her grin made his chest warm.
“And wipe out an entire bank of hydrangeas,” she said, pointing across the lush hedges and leaning back—way back—in her seat. “Don’t be a maniac, Nick.”

Yes, the Z-4 was Nick Stathos' car. He got to drive it only because I, as the author of Code Triage, gave it to him. Made it black, convertible . . . and older, because he wasn't the kind of guy to drop a lot of money on a new car. I know this because he's fictional and I wrote him that way. Gave him (in addition to a cool car) a tough-guy cop exterior, an incredibly sensitive heart, a painful past, a deep faith . . . and determination to save his failing marriage.

His car. His past. His future. In my hands.

Because I write fiction.

Nice and tidy (and well-controlled) until this morning, when I drove to Staples, San Antonio, to get a black ink cartridge. And saw an equally black BMW Z-4. Exactly like the car I'd imagined (and penned) for my hero, Nick Stathos.

And, as I took it in . . . my jaw dropped. Then the hair prickled on the back of my neck.

Why? You say, after all, how many black BMW Z-4's are there? Lots, of course.

But it was the license plate letters that caught my eye.



Cue the Twilight Zone music.

Thank you for your empathetic goosebumps.

And now questions:

Readers--have you ever "met" a character in a favorite book?
Writers--ever had an experience like what happened to me this morning?

Do. Tell.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Winners!

Thank you to all who left comments for the Critical Care book giveaway--I so appreciate your encouragement. And now for the names of the three winners of signed book copies . . . They go to:

Bridget, Merry, and "Colorado Dreamin'"
I'm excited to send your books. I'll be contacting you via e-mail to ask your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized. It's great to have you "scrub in" with this first book of the Mercy Hospital series!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who You Are . . . And a Book Giveaway!

This photo--this lovely smile--was sent to me by a woman named Teri. She's a registered nurse "Traveler", specializing in hospice . . . and a woman of deep faith. She's also a wife, mother (whose"children" include a chocolate lab named B.J.), a fan of Starbucks peppermint mochas, a crafter, an avid reader--and a new friend. I'm delighted.

In the nine months since the release of Critical Care, I've had the pleasure of "meeting" many of you via e-mails, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes up-close-and-personal at conferences and book events. Most of the time you have questions-- about the writing of Critical Care, when the next book will be released, about me . . . and in the process I have the opportunity to learn about you. Like:

You're a college student, a high school senior, a nursing student, an O.B. nurse, an O.R. nurse, the sister of a firefighter, an ER ward clerk, a grandmother, a new mother, an aspiring writer, a multi-published author, a woman re-connecting with her faith, a survivor of loss, a caregiver, A Grey's Anatomy "fanatic" . . .

You live in:

California, Canada, North Carolina, Wyoming, Montana, the U.K., Australia, New York, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey . . .


a ranch, in mobile home park, a high-rise apartment, a suburban cul-de-sac . . .

And mostly I've learned:

That you love to read. That you're looking for stories of hope. And you sincerely appreciate it when a book provides that for you. Nothing means more to an author.

So, to show my appreciation to YOU, and to celebrate the upcoming release of Disaster Status:

I'm giving away two signed copies of Critical Care. If you've already read it--gift it to someone who needs a story of hope. If you haven't read it, here's your chance to get "up to speed" with the Mercy Hospital series before the second book hits the shelves.

Simply leave a comment below, and I'll put your name in the drawing. The two winners will be chosen on Sunday morning, Valentine's Day. I'll post the names here and notify them by e-mail as well. (please leave e-mail in this format: candace(at)candacecalvert(dot)com)

Teri, thank you for the photo. You put a lovely face on the many blessings bestowed by readers.