Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Working Writer

I'm pleased to share my guest post on The Working Writer hosted by Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington. Here's their lovely FB introduction to my post:

Today on "The Working Writer": Arleen Williams on the magic of timed writing with friends. Read and be inspired--it's a great day to take your pen and notebook down to your own favorite coffee house! 

Click here to read "Writing at Louisa's" on The Working Writer.

While you're at it, you may want to pick up a copy of Kay and Barbara's first novel, The Paragraph Ranch. You won't be disappointed. Promise!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Post: Mary Rowen

I'm pleased to share this guest post from fellow Booktrope author, Mary Rowen, announcing her latest publication. 
Living by Ear, a women’s novel by Booktrope author Mary Rowen, was released on September 16, 2014.

Living by Ear is the story of a forty-six year old Boston musician named Christine Daley, who took a “short” break from music sixteen years ago, in order to marry and raise a family. Now, however, she’s rethinking everything. Chris adores her two teenage children, but her marriage has become a sham, and she longs to perform again.

So after filing for divorce, she does her best to reestablish her own rhythms—both in music and love—but quickly discovers she’s up against much more than she'd anticipated. Her kids seem to need her more than ever, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband is throwing every obstacle he can find into her way. Adding to the dilemma is the astounding progress in technology, which has made huge changes in both the music industry and the dating world. Is there room in the mix for Chris?
 Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write almost every day. She grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley and is a graduate of Providence College. She has worked as a teacher, writer, salesperson, and political canvasser. Her two music-inspired novels, Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear, are both available on Amazon,, and other places where books are sold.

 Please visit Mary online at:
Twitter: @maryjrowen

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Dad's Pennies

Many thanks to Kathleen Higgins-Anderson at Jersey Girl Book Reviews for a wonderful 5-star review on this last day of the Biking Uphill virtual tour hosted by Samantha March at CPL Blog Tours. In addition to the review and excerpt, Kathleen also posted the following guest post.

I heard a whisper of Dad's laughter over my right shoulder, saw the twinkle in his bright blue eyes, as I stood at the Coinstar machine pushing pennies through the tray and cringing at the racket I was causing.

I don't know how many years my dad collected pennies, but I do know that from the time I returned home after a dozen years of wandering a large, heavy glass water bottle stood in the corner of the kitchen collecting pennies. A few years later, when my daughter stood as tall as the jar, he'd put a penny in her tiny hand and guide it into the jar, listening for the plink, always making certain it never reached her mouth instead. Now my daughter is a lovely young woman of twenty-five and her Boppa has been gone since 2002.

For seven years after my father's death while my mother continued to live in the same house, the penny jar held its spot in the corner of the kitchen though few if any pennies were added to Dad's collection. After all, he had alternately referred to those pennies as his retirement fund or his vacation fund. Now he had no use for either.
During my mother's final years in dementia care, the penny jar went into a storage unit along with her other possessions. When she passed in 2013 and my siblings and I disposed of her small estate, the penny jar landed in the corner of my small writing room and there it stood forlorn and unwanted for another year and a half.

As summer comes to another close and I sort and organize in preparation for family visits and the start of a new academic year, my hours of silent writing and long bike rides coming to an end, I decide it's time to say good-bye to the penny jar.

In a task my back muscles whine about the following day, I heft the penny jar to a chair and tip it empty to the floor. The pennies fill two gallon-sized freezer bags. I settle them into a fabric grocery bag, but the weight is more than I can carry out to my car. I hear Dad reminding me of the dangers of "a lazy man's load" and make two trips to the car. In the supermarket parking lot I load the pennies into a shopping cart and head to the green Coinstar machine at the front of the store. "Out of Order." I push the cart back out to my car, cursing under my breath. At supermarket number two, I'm smarter. I walk in without Dad's pennies to check that the machine is in working order. Then back out to the car with a shopping cart to haul in my load. And there the racket begins.
As I sift through the pennies, pushing them into the machine, Dad is with me, his hand guiding my own, his calloused, arthritic fingers the last to have touched most of these coins. Tears of memory and mortality fill my eyes. I pull out three super shiny pennies for my daughter, my husband and myself, the kind Dad used to save for my daughter when she was a toddler. I reach the bottom of the second bag and push through the last of the rejected pennies my finger tips now coated in years black filth.

The machine makes its final calculation, and I laugh at the total. The monetary value, the gift my father left in the glass penny jar I empty on the eve of my sixtieth birthday comes to $60.60. I can still hear his laughter.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Another stop on the Biking Uphill virtual tour with a guest post at Reading in Black and White. I call it Mortality, but I think of it as my homage to Sher Kung.

As I push my bike out the front door, my husband tells me the news: a biker was killed the day before at 2nd and University in downtown Seattle. Sher Kung, 31-year old mother and attorney, died instantly when she was struck by a left-turning truck while in a designated bike lane.

"Bad timing," I tell him. I don't want fear to cloud my judgment as I ride. I don't want to be thinking about mortality when I need to be alert to every car and pedestrian, every bump, crack or broken bottle in the road, every parked car with a door that could fly open without a glance in the side mirror. Drivers are accustomed to car traffic. A biker is at greater risk and must be super alert. Always.

I pass an adolescent as I ride up my neighborhood street. Her long hair trails over her shoulders. Her helmet hangs from her handlebars. I know she doesn't want helmet hair. "You might want to put that on," I tell her as I pedal passed. She gives me a sheepish smile, and wonders, I'm sure, if I know her parents.

Alki Beach is sunny summer weekend insanity. I opt for the road instead of the beachside bike path. On busy days, the bike path is full of pedestrians. The drivers are usually more predictable than the kids, dogs, and tourists. I am alert and cautious. I see the small white car back out of a driveway just ahead of me. I expect him to pull forward and drive off. Instead, I realize, he's pulling back into the bike lane just as I approach. "No" I scream. He stops. His window is down and he hollers, "Don't you see me?"

I am shaking with anger. Would he holler this to another driver if he crossed their right-of-way? If bikers are expected to follow the rules of the road, then we must be treated with the same caution and respect as other drivers. A block later I see the white car again. This time he's making a U-turn. I realize he wasn't pulling out of a driveway when he almost hit me. He was trying to maneuver an illegal U-turn as he cruised Alki. Another danger to watch for, I tell myself.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deadlines: Walking Home

Here's another stop on the BIKING UPHILL virtual tour. This stop includes an excerpt and a guest blog. The interesting thing about this guest post (interesting to me anyway) is that from the time I submitted to the time it was published I have changed the working title of the novel mentioned. I suppose one could argue the process of revision clarified the essence of the story.
Ski-Wee's Book Corner: CLP BLOG TOURS presents BIKING UPHILL by Arleen Wi...

It takes a deadline to get me moving. Like most writers, I have a pesky day job. I'm a college ESL teacher. During three academic quarters I'm swamped with classes, office hours, and endless meetings. My time is tightly scheduled. But then summer arrives and I feel like a kid again. I kick back, free to make my own schedule and decide how to fill every hour. When my daughter was young, many of those hours were booked with the duties of motherhood. Now she is the adult and I am the child.

At the beginning of the summer, I set goals. This summer I knew I would be busy. I wanted to celebrate the release of my second novel, Biking Uphill, and do as much promotional work as seemed appropriate. I wanted to train for and participate in a 200-mile bike ride. I'd never participated in any organized ride before and wasn't even much of a cyclist, but the idea of commemorating my sixtieth birthday next month by doing something so totally new and different had a strong appeal. And my third and final goal was to finish writing the third novel in the Alki Trilogy: Walking Home.
The book launch for Biking Uphill was held at Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle's premier independent bookstore, in mid July, and I was on the top of the world. The readings and signings that filled spring and summer were a string of adventures. Goal #1 checked off.

As to my second goal, I scheduled rides, felt committed to my riding partners and trained hard. The Seattle to Vancouver, Canada ride in mid-August is a memory I will cherish as well as the friendships I gathered along the way. We'll continue to schedule several weekly rides for as long as the Seattle weather allows. Goal #2 achieved.
 Now there's that third goal: Walking Home. One of the challenges of writing is its solitary nature. There are only self-imposed deadlines, at least until manuscript submission. I don't have a publicist booking events or biking partners expecting me at show up for a ride. And though there are several timed-writing practices I frequent in Seattle, I haven't been as consistent as I'd like this summer.  Now I'm scrambling. College convocation is approaching. Now I have a fast-approaching deadline. The end of summer. In truth, I've always had that deadline, but as it nears, I see it more clearly. Now I'm working like a maniac to reach my final summer goal. I have a finished first draft, so I suppose I could argue that Goal #3 has been reached. Still, there's much work to be done. Perhaps I need a new goal, a due date, a deadline as Seattle gray descends: Walking Home will be released by Booktrope in early 2015. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Biking Uphill (Not the Novel)

Today Chick Lit Plus reviewed Biking Uphill. My favorite sentence: "I found myself getting into discussions with friends over some of the topics that were talked about in the book, and I absolutely love that in a novel." 

Biking Uphill is also featured at Book Reviews and More by Dee and includes a guest post I wrote about biking hills and setting goals. And here's a little follow up secret: my husband is getting a new bike for his birthday! 

From the Genesee Hill viewpoint
West Seattle is a hill, plain and simple. A big hunk of rocky peninsula across Elliott Bay from downtown Seattle with lots of lesser hills and gorges. My husband and I live on top of that big hunk of rock in one of the lesser gorges, or gulches as they were once called when this rocky peninsula was farmland and orchards, and Alki Beach was a playground for those wealthy enough to cross the water for a weekend or an extended summer getaway.

There was a time only a few short years ago (last summer, if I'm honest) when taking a bike ride with my husband involved careful planning to figure out how to get back up the hill to our home. Sometimes we'd drop the van at the bottom so we could ride down and drive up. Other times I'd beg my husband to ride up alone and come back to get me (and my bike). Still others, we'd resort to the bike rack on the front of a city bus to get us back to the top of West Seattle.

My second novel, Biking Uphill, was published in early spring just about the time I wiped the cobwebs off my bike and decided it was time to start training if I was really going to do the 200-mile ride in August I'd signed up for with my friend, May. The title of the novel was intended as a metaphorical reference to the challenges faced by the protagonist. When I settled on that title and submitted the book for publication last year, I had no idea the metaphor would become a reality in my own life. 

The day May and I headed out on one of our first rides together and she said, "I love hills," I knew I was in trouble. The first time she suggested doing the Mercer Island loop (another hilly rock), I whined. A summer of training and a 200-mile bike ride has silenced the whining. I'm fearless now. I love hills now. I no longer avoid biking uphill.
At the Sunset viewpoint
Riding the Mercer Island loop with my biking partners and planning afternoon rides for as long as the weather holds, I mentioned all the hills in West Seattle. "You could plan a ride like the Seven Hills of Kirkland," someone suggested. "Seven's nothing," I said. "We've got a whole lot more than seven hills in West Seattle."

Yesterday my husband and I were out riding our West Seattle mini loop and he had a second flat tire in as many rides. I told him I'd go get the car (again). We were on the flats of Alki Beach. I had options. I could continue on our planned route and ride up Jacobsen. Or I could head straight up Hillcrest to the tippy top of Genesee Hill. It was a hill I had yet to conquer. "But you have to go higher than you need to and then drop down to the house," my logical husband explained. "Jacobsen won't take you so high." But he was missing the whole point. 
Hubby's Sad Bike
Last night I sat down with memory and map to figure out just how many hills there are to conquer in West Seattle. My list now includes nineteen. I've ridden up eleven of those nineteen this summer. So I have two new goals: tackle the remaining eight hills (and any others I find to add to the list), and to map out a ride for my friends that includes as many hills as possible. Certainly more than seven.