Friday, February 28, 2014

Hailey on Freebooksy!

I'm so honored to have Hailey featured on Freebooksy! (Don't forget, Hailey is free until Monday!)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Every Writer Needs a Dog

As a writer, it’s easy to let myself escape into my head. I consider this a really important part of my job. Some refer to this as being in the flow, in the moment, or in the zone as if it’s a physical place rather than a state of mind. Wikipedia describes “flow” as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. And this immersion is a good thing. Mostly.

According to Wikipedia, when I’m not in the flow I am depressed. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow.

Here’s me when I’m not writing: Carol drops by with a pan of brownies. She looks like a teenager in that halter top. She says, “I brought these for your husband to thank him for helping me fix that broken window.” I say thank you, but inside I’m thinking I really wish she’d wear more clothes. I wonder what she was wearing when Larry was at her house, for how long was that? I can’t compare myself to her—I had six kids and she has a cat. Maybe my abs would look like that if I had countless hours to spend at the gym. Does she work out at the same gym as Larry? Why does she call him all the time? He doesn’t even like brownies. But I love them. I bet she knows that. She knows that I’m going to eat this entire pan of brownies because now I’m so depressed and one or two or five brownies isn’t going to matter because I’m going to be divorced, single and fat. I better call Larry, although I just talked to him, and he’ll be home for lunch in twenty minutes. I need to hear his voice.

Here’s me when I’m writing: the doorbell rings but I don’t hear it because I’m deep into my story. Somehow Mercy has to stop Eloise from going on a drive with horrid Mr. Steele. What can she do—should she confide in Eloise? In the real world, my dog is pawing at me. No. Eloise is a blabber mouth. She can’t be trusted. My dog knows someone has come to the door and she pulls at my sock with her teeth. I shake her off, but she’s so annoying that I have to investigate. Someone has left brownies on my front porch with a thank you note. It’s from Carol, that darling girl from across the street. I consider the brownies and inspiration hits—Mercy will bake Eloise a pie laced with a draught that will make her sleep through her rendezvous with Steele. I put the brownies on the counter and save them for when Larry comes home for lunch. I hurry back to Mercy, Eloise and Mr. Steele, wondering how to make a sleeping draught.
 (FYI- Neighbor Carol is fictional, used to make a point about my own lunacy and not a commentary on my highly respectable, modestly clothed and admirable neighbors or my good husband who always lets me eat more than my fair share of brownies.)

Being a writer isn’t an excuse for poor citizenship. Just because you’re thinking about your book and not about the road doesn’t mean you get to run red lights. Once while writing at the Mission Viejo library, I turned off my laptop, stood up, only to suddenly realize that a person on the other side of the glass partition, not more than eight feet away, must have had some sort of collapse. The room was filled with paramedics, a gurney, and a crowd of about forty people. As I left the library, I passed an ambulance pulled up to the curb, lights flashing. I don’t know how I missed all of this, but I’ve since taken it as a life lesson. I never want to be so caught up in my own private world that I can’t recognize and help someone in need.
This is why I need a dog. Sometimes I need someone, preferably someone furry, someone willing to tug on my socks with their teeth, to drag me out of the flow. And Grendel needs me to feed her, clean up after her, and take her for walks. I also need her for other things, like chasing the bunnies out of my yard and letting me know when the Girl Scouts are at my door to sell cookies.

Is it possible to become so immersed in the flow that I can’t get out? Sure. We all know the very real, gritty stories of the writers who lost their minds. It’s happened to the best of us. A flow so strong can carry us away and before we know it, we’re drowning. Hemmingway had cats, but cats won’t tug on your socks with their teeth. They just won’t.

That’s why every writer needs a dog.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Romance is in the Air Blog Hop!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog hop where I'm giving away a $20. Sees Candy gift certificate and my the first two novels of my Beyond Series.
When Petra Baron goes into the fortuneteller’s tent at a Renaissance fair, she expects to leave with a date to prom. Instead, she walks out into Elizabethan England, where she meets gypsies, a demon dog and a kindred spirit in Emory Ravenswood. 

Emory must thwart the plans of religious zealots. His mission is dangerous, his enemies are fanatical, and Petra Baron is a complication that Heaven only knows he does not need. Or does he? Although Emory is on Heaven’s errand, he learned long ago that Heaven does not always play fair. 

As Petra slowly falls for Emory, she wonders if he really is who he seems, or if he is just as lost as she is. How can they have a future while trapped in the past? Or is anything possible Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent?
Petra Baron and her immortal boyfriend, Emory Ravenswood, are living their happily ever after in modern day Orange County, California until Dane, a heart-stoppingly handsome man from Petra's past shows up. Petra can't remember Dane, or anything else about her time in Tarrytown, New York two hundred years ago, but Emory does, and he knows she's lucky to have forgotten all about Dane and the nightmarish episode in the fall of 1810. 
When Emory disappears so suddenly after Dane’s appearance, Petra doesn’t know whether Dane can lead her to Emory or to the nightmare she can’t remember. But what she does know is that once upon a time really means two hundred years ago, and that if she wants to find Emory the first place to look is Sleepy Hollow, 1810. 
With a collection of Washington Irving's writings in her hand and a prayer that the same nine-pin playing ghosts that gave carried away Rip Van Winkle will give her a drink of their ale, Petra heads into another time defying adventure. 
Beyond the Hollow is the second book in the Beyond series, where Petra is reminded that love is always timeless. 

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

I picked it up at the library. It was on the corner aisle and I liked the title, flipped it open and fell in love with the prose, so I brought it home. And now, a few hours later, I think I’m done with it. Why?

I love the premise, the small town on the coast setting. I like Violet—the way she repeatedly uses the word “damn” and the way she describes her world. I’m even okay with the furry-toothed creature living in a tunnel.

And I love the prose. “Our town was small enough that I never developed a healthy fear of strangers. To me, they were exciting things, gift-wrapped and full of possibilities, the sweet smell of somewhere else wafting from them like perfume. And so River West, stranger, didn’t stir in me any sort of fear, only a rush of excitement, like how I felt right before a really big storm hit, when the air crackled with expectation.”
And, “I was beginning to feel stupid, like some dumb girl who opens her mouth and lets all her thoughts fall out.” Who hasn’t felt like that?

So, why did I put it down on page 63? Because Violet did something that no heterosexual, seventeen year old girl could ever do. She took a NAP with a boy that she just met that morning. A boy she likes. A “strong, lean” brown-eyed boy with “been-in-the-summer-sun-every-day skin.” She lies down on a sofa, her back pressed into his torso, and falls asleep for hours.

So not happening.
 I’ve been napping for more than half a century and I can tell you that if a boy I liked asked me to lay next to him for a nap—it wouldn’t happen. I might pretend to sleep. And maybe if I hadn’t slept in days and days it could happen, but more than likely, I’d be thinking about my knees and how they bump together, and wondering where to put my hands, and worried that my hair would tickle his nose. My mind would race and so would my blood and sleep just wouldn’t happen.

So, even though April Genevieve Tucholke writes sentences as beautiful and mysterious as her name, I’m pretty sure I’m done with this book.

I actually went to the library to pick up two books, Kathryn Harrison’s Enchantments: A novel of Rasputin's daughter and the Romanovs and Robert Alexander’s Rasputin’s Daughter, because the story brewing in my head—the book that I know how it ends and how it starts but haven’t a clue what happens in between—will have something to do with Rasputin…and the Pre-Raphaelites…even though their glory days happened decades apart…and on different continents.

Maybe falling asleep beside a boy with a straight nose, a crooked smile and panther hips isn’t as improbable as Rasputin meeting the Pre-Raphaelites…

But no. It totally is.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Stuck's First Chapter Again

Just finished the first draft of Stuck, the novella I'm writing for an anthology. I like my characters so much that I might have to write a sequel and go with them to Kenya. KENYA. What was I thinking? I know nothing about Kenya!
It's always interesting to look at my first attempt (I've heard the first draft called vomit on the page--just spit it all out--is the writerly advice--and revise, revise, revise) versus the final, or in this case, the nearly final rendition. I published my first chapter of Stuck a few weeks ago. You can read it here:

 And here's what the chapter looks like after having spent time with my writing group and my critique partners.


 Click. Click. Click. Stainless steel and glistening marble. No family pictures or personal mementos. Emotionally dead. A zombie. 
Andie pushed open the walk-in closet and tweaked her assessment. A zombie wearing Armani. She snapped a few photos of the shoes lined up like soldiers on the shelves and the shirts hung with every collar facing north. Tempted to grab a fistful of the pinpoint Oxford shirts and wrinkle the heavy starched fabric, she controlled herself and instead searched the ground and dark corners, hoping to find a stray jock-strap or a Twinkie wrapper—anything incriminating. But Grayson Dodd was too good. Or, more likely, he hired someone to make him look good. He probably had someone come in to keep the contents of his medicine cabinet in alphabetical order and his sock drawer color coordinated.
 She snapped a few more shots of the bedroom before heading to the balcony. In a few more minutes, she would be rewarded with a view of Catalina lying in a blue, sparkling sea. The Newport shots required patience and perfect timing. The morning marine layer often wouldn’t burn off until noon and by four p.m. it generally returned. This meant that she usually ate her lunch in a fast food parking lot, napkins carefully protecting her work uniform—a black linen skirt and creamy lace top. 
Andie sat at the bistro table with the chairs strategically placed so that the balcony rail wouldn’t interfere with the view, and waited for the sun to work its magic. Far below her the cars moved along the crowded parkway. Clients and sellers wanted to see Catalina Island—not Southern Orange County’s busy streets. 

Andie scrolled through the photos on her camera, assuring herself that as soon as she had the ocean shots she would have the bones of a decent flier. She let the sun warm her shoulders and closed her eyes, imagining Grayson Dodd’s reaction to her work…She knew it wasn’t fair to dislike him just because he was marrying her cousin, Kayla. Sure, he had an apartment with all the warmth and appeal of a Modani showroom, but maybe he was a decent guy. She had only met him a few times. It was nice of him to give her mom the listing. 
Andie stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew that Kayla and Grayson were a set match. Everyone said so. And even if they had their flaws—Grayson’s million dollar view was perfect. When the sun finally overcame the fog, she snapped the photos, said goodbye to Catalina, tucked her camera into her case, locked all the doors and headed for the elevator.
 Verbiage ran through her head while she waited. Location, location, location! Ocean views from this cozy (aka small) Newport Coast charmer (aka last century condo.)Typically, she loved her job…well, she didn’t hate it…at least she was a photographer…but now, as the elevator slid between floors, a funk she didn’t know how, or didn’t want to acknowledge settled over her as heavy and dense as the Newport fog. She couldn’t look at it too closely, because she knew if she did she’d find the cause of her bad mood…Jeremy Zimmerman. And she didn’t want to find Jeremy Zimmerman anywhere, especially not inside her head. It was bad enough knowing that she would have to face him at Kayla’s wedding. 
The doors slid open. Andie looked up from her camera’s display screen and saw Grayson Dodd leaning against the back wall, wearing a pair of khaki shorts, a Camp Pendleton Mud Run T-shirt and a pair of leather flip flops. Where were the pinpoint Oxford shirt and wingtip shoes? 
She nodded at him and pushed the elevator button. 
“Hey,” he said as the doors closed. “Hi.”
 She smiled and hoped it looked sincere and not as forced as it felt. “I just shot your condo.”
 “That seems harsh.” He grinned. “Did it bleed?”
 “Huh, no. Do you want to see? I got some pretty good shots of Catalina.”
 “So—you’re not only a condo killer, but an island assassin.” 
“I have a camera. I know how to use it.” She tried to read him. His light gray eyes stared back at her from behind wire rimmed glasses. She didn’t know this Grayson. He was different—and the difference extended beyond his wardrobe. “I can shoot you too. Right here. Right now.” 
He shuddered. “Scary.” 
She shrugged and grinned. “I can plaster you all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I even do LinkedIn.” Her voice caught as the elevator hiccoughed and bounced. 
Andie stopped thinking of shooting Grayson when the elevator shuddered a mechanical sigh and stopped. The lights flickered and died.
 “What the—?” Andie reached for the control panel and ran her fingers over the buttons. She blinked at them. Maybe her eyes would adjust to the perfect dark. But maybe not. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out her phone. 
No service. 
 It provided a faint, milky light and she used it to inspect the control panel. A red plaque had the words In case of an emergency, please call:1-800-555-help. 
“Good to know,” Grayson said as he pulled out his phone. “Assuming you had service.” 
Andie spotted a large red button and pushed it. Almost immediately, an alarm wailed. It echoed through the tiny space and filled Andie’s head. “Someone will come now right?” She had to yell to be heard over the alarm. “The alarm will tell someone that we’re stuck.” 
But no one came. 
Time grounded to a halt. 
 “Why don’t I lift you up?” Grayson suggested. “Maybe you can crawl through the roof.”
 “And then what? I’m not Laura Croft. This isn’t an action movie.” 
He laughed again, a soft sound, barely audible above the alarm. “I’m not looking for action.”
 “Oh!” she harrumphed. She actually harrumphed. Little old ladies like Grammy Dean harrumphed and now she was harrumphing too. Next thing—knitting, canasta, and Bonanza reruns. “You are not picking me up.” She winced at the double entendra. 
 “Well, I would suggest you pick me up, but I don’t think you could…at least not in the literal sense.” 
Was he flirting with her? Ew. She tried to ignore him. Leaning against the far wall, as far as possible from Grayson, she was hypersensitive to him. He didn’t say anything, but she still felt him. She really couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the alarm, but she could swear she felt him breathe. His nearness crackled like electricity. Her skin prickled. He smelled like soap. A really nice, lavender sort of soap. Which made her wonder if males should use lavender soap. Maybe it was Kayla’s soap. Which made her think of bathing, which led to bathrooms, and the absence of such an important necessity…
Panic fluttered in Andie’s belly. She pounded on the door until her hands throbbed. She sat on the floor and used both of her feet to kick the door. Her screaming barely rose above the wailing alarm. 
 “Hello?” A voice from the outside. “Is someone in there?” 
Finally! Andie breathed a sigh of relief that all of her banging and yelling had actually been useful. “Yes!” she screamed.
 “Are you hurt?” the voice asked. 
“Only my feelings,” Grayson said.
 “I’ll go and get security,” the voice said. 
“It won’t be long now,” Grayson told her. 
Andie harrumphed again. She was getting good at it. 
 Time stretched and slowed until it stood still. 
“Security here,” said a new, deeper voice. “Are you still there?” 
“Where did you think we would go?” Andie rolled her eyes for the benefit of no one. Eye rolling and harrumphing had become her fallback positions. 
“Pull the emergency button!” the voice instructed. 
“I did that!” Andie yelled. 
A light flickered as Grayson used his phone to located the red knob. He tried pulling it. “It’s stuck,” he confirmed. 
“Call the fire department!” Andie yelled. 
“What are they going to do?” Grayson asked. “Use the jaws of life?”
 “Why is that stupid?” 
“Did I say it was stupid?” 
“No, but you said it like you thought it was stupid.” Andie wasn’t sure because she couldn’t see him, but she thought Grayson rolled his eyes. “Hello?” Andie pressed her nose against the heavy metal doors and tried calling through them. 
“Hello,” Grayson said. 
She rested her forehead on the doors. They felt smooth, cold and solid. “I’m not talking to you!”
 “Too bad. We’ve been in here for almost a half hour and I’m getting bored.” 
They sat in silence for hours, or maybe a few minutes. Andie wasn’t sure which.
 “Okay!” The security voice returned. “Just called the elevator guy. He can be here in 40 minutes.” 
 “Forty minutes!” Andie and Grayson both said at the same time.
 “I can’t stay here for another 40 minutes,” Andie complained.
 “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” 
She knew exactly what the worst thing that could happen was. She would have to designate a pee corner and she would have to squat and pee in front of Grayson Dodd. She fumbled in her purse for…anything. She pulled out her keys and tried wedging the skinniest one under the red knob. It didn’t budge. Using her phone for a light, she studied the control panel. It had four tiny holes for a screw driver. Knowing she didn’t have anything the right size, she swung the light at Grayson. 
He blinked at her behind wire rimmed glasses. Without thinking twice, she ripped the glasses off his face and broke off an arm. 
 “Do you want to stay in here?” Andie pointed the broken glasses at him with a shaky hand. “Do you want to pee in a corner?” 
“Huh, no.” 
“Me neither.” She tried poking the broken arm of the glasses into one of the tiny holes. Nothing. 
“Here, give it to me.” Grayson held out his hand. 
Sighing, she handed it over. 
 Grayson bent it to form a loop and eased it under the knob. Holding onto the broken eyeglass arm, he leaned back, using all of his weight. Nothing. He turned to her. “Help me?” 
 Andie opened her mouth to complain, but soon realized his plan and complied. She put her arms around his waist and tried to not stand too close.
 “Better idea. Switch places.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her so that she stood in front of him. Taking the newly created wire loop, he wrapped it beneath the red knob. “Lean against me,” he said.
 She leaned. Nothing. Well, something, but it was more an internal, zipping blood thing than a mechanical, fix the elevator sort of thing. 
“On the count of three, jump backwards,” Grayson said. “Don’t be afraid to hurt me.” 
Andie nodded. She felt dizzy standing in the circle of Grayson’s arms. 
“One. Two. Three.” 
The knob popped as they jumped away. Grayson fell to the floor, and Andie landed on top of him. 
The light flickered on and the alarm went silent. The elevator lurched once before starting and grinding to a stop. The doors slid open. 
Andie blinked against the sudden light and tried to sit up without touching Grayson. She scrambled away from him, crablike, stood and brushed off her skirt. She knew that she should say something, anything, but she hurried away, relieved that she wouldn’t need the pee corner after all.