The Power of Story

My husband and I were searching through Netflix and Hulu a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across the 1990’s film, “HouseSitter,” with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.  Beyond the wonderful early decade hair and clothes, I loved the film both for its humor and romance.

But something much more important goes on in “HouseSitter” than the surface action.  The movie asks a bigger question: What’s more important, “reality” or “story?”

Newspaper clipping that started it all.

Reality and fiction mix to become story.

My life has been a struggle between the two seemingly opposing forces.   I lived with a dad who was an engineer and focused on everything real (except when “reality” came in the form of messy, noisy, and abundant amounts of kids who constantly asked why and had no notion of what the numerous scripts and rules he imposed actually meant.)  Dad could deconstruct the most complex mechanical objects, play music with precision if not feeling, and burnt the steaks on the grill with relish.  He couldn’t really handle the emotional stew brewing at home, so he hid away at the office, doing “important stuff.” Dad was very “real.”

And then there was my mom.  She did the 1950’s homemaker role perfectly.  She cooked enough to feed an army (with nine children, the army of “Braun Brats” was significant), sewed, wallpapered, and —

–And Told Stories . . .

Mom made the retelling of the day’s events into adventures of enthusiasm.  People didn’t complement, they raved.  Everywhere we went, a family of so many children was an oddity  of note, even though “good Catholics” all around us were producing their own litters of kids at the time.  Mom was, in short, a compulsive liar.  But she was a whole lot more fun to listen to than Dad.  She talked about being the leader of an all-boy gang growing up in Detroit, of running faster than all of her friends, and of being so tough she’d be happy to knock you around the block if you didn’t straighten up and fly right.  Mom, all of five-foot two inches and willowy slim was this tough person to be feared. Hmm…

But the wonderful thing about both my parents was their love of story.  They read to each other and to us kids.  Even when television started to produce its programs in color, we’d have the occasional “family read” of stories like “A Secret Garden” and “The Little Princess.” As we grew older and sisters moved away to start their own lives and families, the reading stopped, replaced by things less fun to think about. Real things like the loss of a brother, the drinking and fighting that followed, the reality of discovering we lived in a “broken home.”

As a teen, I bought into the concept of “being real” and tried my best to avoid the drama that was mom. Teen and real?  Teen and no drama?  Teen in the late 1960’s, we-do-drugs-and-we’re-proud-of-it-Beatles era? Hmm, hmm and double hmm.

Back to HouseSitter.  In the story, Goldie plays a con artist who makes up whatever story suits her needs at the moment.  She invents a marriage in her “husband’s” home town, decorates an abandoned house with her “mother-in-law’s” help, develops marriage problems, charms her “father-in-law” and all the neighbors and on and on.  We are treated to these lies over and over and things become more and more complicated (and funnier and funnier too).

At the same time, Goldie’s fictional husband, played by Steve Martin, finds himself first supporting, then embellishing her lies for his own convenience, as he’s trying to get the girl he lost, and built the abandoned house for.

But it is the ending I treasure most.  Spoiler alert here…

Goldie is getting on a bus to leave town, to step away from the place of so much great make-believe, and Steve comes to stop her.  He cajoles and pleads to no avail. But then he tells her one whopper of a totally false memory that involves him wrapping up and sending himself to her in a special delivery package.  He even goes so far as to tell her what her reaction was to this event.

Goldie jumps off the bus and into Steve’s arms, and we the viewers know that their lives going forward will be a new kind of rich and wonderful reality.  It is the story of our lives, after all, and the way we choose to note and remember it, that’s important.  As the song from “Gigi” goes, “Ah yes, I remember it well.”

Wishing you a life well lived and a story of your own realities.

IT’S BOOK LAUNCH DAY!! Thank You, Thank You!

I’ve been awake since about 4:30 this morning, waiting like a kid on Christmas for the day to begin.

Faith on the Rocks Book Cover

My first novel’s launch is today!


Today is the day Daisy Arthur steps away from the publisher’s desk and onto bookshelves around the country. I’m not sure what is supposed to happen on a launch day, but I’ll take notes and let you know, should anything at all exciting occur.  Here are some bookstores that, to the best of my knowledge, have agreed to carry “Faith on the Rocks:”

  • Amazon.Com – They aren’t shipping until mid-July, but you can pre-order at this date.  Check this link to see the page online.
  • Barnes & Noble – Again, no shipping until July, but yes, you can pre-order here as well.
  • Who Else! Books – This is a small bookstore on Broadway in Denver.  I’ll be doing a book signing here on July 13th.  Owners Ron and Nina have been supporting local authors for years, and they are a delight to work with.  Stop in and see them when you get a chance.
  • Three Chimneys Natural Surroundings – Located in the heart of old town Littleton, this wonderful gift shop has books and much more to browse through.  I’d save at least a half hour in your day for a visit to this shop.  You’ll find a clean, fun-filled array of items to delight the eye and capture your interest.


So now, the question becomes not “when” but “is it worth it?”  To help you decide, here are some of the reviews I’ve received so far:

Publishers Weekly Review 4/5/13
This title publishes JUNE 2013
. . . entertaining first novel . . . Gabe, the single father of one of Daisy’s special-needs students, lends some romantic interest . . . cozy fans will look forward to seeing more of Daisy.
Kirkus Review 4/15/13
This title publishes JUNE 2013
A Colorado widow with dreams of a writing career finds that sleuthing just might be her métier. Malik’s debut mystery offers some interesting characters along with enough motives to make everyone in Littleton look suspicious.
Gumshoe Review 6/13/13
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432827137
“Daisy is a likeable if inept sleuth. Her humanity, humor, and determination will endear her to readers.”
Joan Johnston, New York Times bestselling author of Wyoming Bride:

“Malik shows great promise as a debut novelist.    Her characters are fun and quirky, and I kept chuckling right through to the end.  A great read!”  


No project great or small is the result of one person’s efforts alone.  Life wouldn’t be worth living and projects wouldn’t be successful without the generous spirit of the people in our communities.  So here is my meager effort to acknowledge people who have made “Faith on the Rocks” possible.  Thank you to all my friends, including:

  • Rocky Mountain News where the story behind the story came from
  • My GREAT family – sisters, brother, husband, children, glorious granddaughter – you give me my spirit
  • My family of friends both next door and afar who ask about my work and keep their fingers crossed for my writing success. I am humbled by the wonder of community
  • My dear Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers friends. The learning I have had in your care has been wonderful.
  • Writer’s Digest – I have subscribed to this magazine for most of the 35 years I’ve spent interested in becoming a “real” published author.
  • My SUPERB critique group from the Southwest Plaza mall.  My Thursday evenings over the past ten years have been a delightful journey not only in skill development, but in reading some great works of art.  I only wish I could have mentioned every one of the 70 or so members from this group in my book’s acknowledgement section. I can’t thank you enough for all of your help.
  • FIVE STAR PUBLISHING – Especially Deni Dietz who is a successful author, editor, and all round special person who had the faith in me to keep me going.  Thank you Tiffany Schofield for your patient and superb direction of this project from the minute Five Star acquired this manuscript to today.  Thank you to Alice Duncan and Tracey Matthews for your terrific edits, and to the great marketing and sales department who have given me a wonderful book cover, publicity, and (fingers crossed) super sales prospects.


If you are reading this, and believe in “Faith on the Rocks” I hope you will send a link of this post along to your mystery-reading friends.  New “unknown” authors have a limited budget for promotion, so the help of well-meaning friends is invaluable in their success.  Thank you for coming along with me on this journey to first publication.

I wish you every success in your making your dreams come true and happy reading always.


Ballroom Dance Anyone?

Life in Littleton is good.  I have the first draft of my second book done, had a successful writer’s workshop last Saturday, and am ready for a short break–with ballroom dance.

Colorado Star Ball

Oh, the glitter and shine!

You heard me right.  I love to ballroom dance.  I love the music, the movement, the people and the bigness of it all.  Ballroom dance is also a great exercise for people of all ages and skill sets.  I like that “all skill sets” part because I’m not normally what you’d call dance “gifted.” Not like my friend, Uni, who has moves you wouldn’t believe, and the attitude to go with them.

But I’ll be dancing with Uni and nine other friends in a Ladies Performance routine Saturday afternoon.  Good luck to Melissa, Sandy, Barb, Debbie, Benedetta, Beth, Carol, and Stephanie.  Thank you, Lindsey, for another great routine.  And Diane in Houston, we’ll be missing you!

I’m not gifted in dance like my teachers at Colorado DanceSport. They dance for about 12 hours a day, six days a week.  These young people start their routines by working out at a gym. Then they have staff meetings, warm-ups, and stretches.  By the time the first students enter the dance studio, my teachers have already put in a few hours of uncompensated time to improve their physical well-being and professional skill sets.  When other professional dancers come into town, my teachers take lessons individually as well as with the students who invest in extra coaching.  This is an impressive group of people who maintain up-to-date dance moves, make dance fun, and help you keep in shape at the same time.

I’m not gifted either, like my husband, who takes lessons five days a week and goes to several competitions each year.  Did I mention that ballroom dance has a lot of opportunity to make the most of your vacation time?


I am very excited to be heading off to the one competition I enjoy each year–Colorado Star Ball.  This event, held in Westminster, Colorado (smack in between Boulder and Denver), is amazing, with dancers from all over the world and of every level of skill.  Do you know Jonathon Roberts and Anna Treybunskaya (hint: think Dancing With The Stars)?  Yep. They’ll be at Star Ball this year.

And, rumor has it that TLC will be filming for a new television show at the event.

Ballroom Dance Supplies

The stuff of dreams

But more important than all that is the DAZZLE!  You should see the dresses, the make-up, the hairdos, the spray-on suntans!  Everything is over-the-top and breath-taking.  For a few days you get to play dress-up to your heart’s content in Swarovski crystals, feathers and every color combo to catch the eye. Who cares if you know the steps?  “Winners” only get stickers, or glasses, sometimes a trophy you could buy for yourself at any trophy shop.  No, winning isn’t determined by the things you get at one of these events.

Winning is hearing your friends shout out your name or dance number in wild abandon as the music swirls around you.  Winning is taking yourself out of your comfort zone and flying across the floor with all of your heart–remembering to keep the shoulders down and the head up.  Winning is the smile that forms somewhere deep inside you and doesn’t stop  the entire length of the competition.  Winning is watching the pros inspire awe and admiration throughout the Saturday evening competition.  They dance so close you could reach out and touch them, but you don’t.  But sometimes, because they’re pros, they see you and wink at you with a smile that says “come join the fun.” And, of course, you get all mushy inside and promise yourself to practice harder in the year ahead.

Ballroom dance.  It’s another world.  But it’s well worth exploring.

No time or energy for this exercise?  No problem!  Check out Ella Barrick’s Ballroom Dance Mysteries.  Great fun with a little more blood than you’d usually find at a dance studio–no matter how “cutthroat” the competition.  I’ll be bringing my copy of Dead Man Waltzing with me to Westminster this weekend.

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.  Please cross your fingers for my success with  terrific dance partners–Mitch and Jay– at Colorado Star Ball.