Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Connecting the Dots

One of my least favorite things about writing -- connecting the dots. The more I think about it the more I realize that is my least favorite about any artwork I do.

If I'm painting a mural I'd much rather do the focal parts first -- like the animals or the people, then I lose interest when all that is left is the background scenery. When I'm sewing baby quilts (I don't do anything bigger because it takes too long and I get bored with the pattern), I love to design and piece the top, but the quilting gets tedious really fast.

It's the same with writing, I'm afraid. The big scenes come easily. I know what I want to have happen, and I craft those scenes with ease. Those are the "dots". Those scenes that are the focal points of the story. I get in the zone for those, and when I finish, I step back and admire my work. Ahhhhh! I love dots.

The problem comes when I'm trying to get from one dot to another. The hoursI spend and the anquish I endure on the tedious transitions from one big scene to the next. I mean, it has to be there, but... UGH!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday Sample: Work in Progress

After what seemed like an hour, though Kynan knew it had only been a moment or two, Brother Leroy cleared his throat, drawing Kynan’s attention back to the cold black eyes. “Do you know why I’ve called you in here?” he finally said, his deep voice resonated.
Kynan looked at Brianna. She looked like she was about to faint. It dawned on him then that she had probably never been in this office. Of course she would be freaking out. It was up to him to take care of this, no matter how terrifying it was.
“No, sir,” he answered.
Brother Leroy raised a thick disbelieving eyebrow. “No ideas?”
“No, sir,” Kynan said again.
“I see,” the teacher mumbled. He stood from his chair and moved to their side of the desk. He leaned back on it and crossed his hands over his chest, then fixed his gaze on Kynan again. “Let me see if I can jog your memories. Do you recall a certain old reference book? Perhaps something that went missing from the library yesterday and then turned up again just now in the hands of your friends?”
Kynan and Brianna exchanged glances. Then Kynan looked back to Brother Leroy. “I don’t think so, sir. Did you say you lost it yesterday? What did it look like?”
“Very clever, Mr. Murphy. I am familiar with this answering technique, however. I ask a question, you evade it by pretending you know nothing about it.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know what you mean.” Kynan shrugged. There was no way Brother Leroy could pin this on them. He hadn’t actually seen them with the book, had he? And surely Michael and Caitlyn wouldn’t have ratted them out – well, Michael wouldn’t have. It wouldn’t matter anyway. He would just deny, deny, deny until the end of time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't Miss This!

Consider this a community service announcement. :)

One new book you're not going to want to miss is The Seduction of Sebastian St. James by Rachel Van Dyken, releasing on Amazon and Barnes and Noble today. I read an advance copy, and I can tell you first hand -- it's amazing!

It is the second installment of the House of Renwick series, which began with The Ugly Duckling Debutante (released in September 2011). The third book is already in the works and a fourth is in the planning stages. *Happy Dance*

The Seduction of Sebastian St. James
When the angelic Duke of Tempest, Sebastian St. James, appeared unexpectedly at his boyhood friend’s home, he had but one goal: Find a suitable wife as soon as possible. However, his impeccable reputation made him a prime target for ambitious mothers of debutante daughters. He needed a plan.

Help came in the form of an unlikely alliance with Miss Emma Gates, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy viscount, who has deemed herself on the shelf, and only wants to marry in order to appease her parents. Together they could sort through the mire of would-be mates to find their perfect matches. That is, if they could keep their hands off each other long enough to pursue likely candidates.

When a man from Emma’s past makes a play for her hand, the truth about her life threatens to destroy Sebastian’s reputation, a reputation he has carefully guarded since his youth. In the end, the Angel Duke has to make a choice that will end up changing his reputation forever.

Intrigued? You can purchase it here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's In the Box?

Elaborate wood box Tom Tanaka

Sometimes I get stuck.

Actually, it happens a lot. I'll be writing, making good progress, when all of a sudden I'll come to a roadblock and the roll I'm on comes to a screeching halt.

For example, a character opens a box and says, "If you're going to join the search, you'll need these." But I have no idea what is in the box. I just know that whatever it is, they need it.

I know I could just skip to the next part and start writing and eventually it will come to me, but for some reason, most of the time, I just stop writing for awhile and worry about what is in that box. That stupid box taunts me and keeps me awake at night.

When you're co-authoring something, the solution is easy. Let someone else take a whack at it. While writing The Parting Gift I would leave holes and move on. I knew that if I couldn't fill in the gaps, Rachel would. But leaving holes when I'm writing on my own makes me nervous. Not sure why, but I just gotta know:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Work in Progress

“I don’t wanna ask. Did you see how mad he was?” Kynan begged off too.
            “Geez. Gotta do everything, don’t I?” Brianna rolled her eyes and stepped out of the alcove, looking both ways to see where the priest went.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample: The Parting Gift

Mara unbuckled her seatbelt and waited for her door to open. Blaine was there within seconds to help her out. When their gloved fingers touched a tremor radiated through her as he returned the pressure. They walked together in silence towards the rows of trees. It was enough to just to breath in the cool afternoon air.
“Pick one,” he said beside her.
Grinning like a little girl, Mara slipped her hand into his and led the way down the first row of trees.
“They’re all so beautiful, and so tall!” Many of them reached heights of at least ten feet. “It would be glorious to have such a massive tree in the house, don’t you think, Bl—Captain?”
He appeared to ignore her slip up. “This tree farm didn’t used to be here, you know. My father used to take my mother and me out to the country to find a wild tree. Mom always picked it. Do you see one that captures your fancy?”
Maybe it was in the way he said it, or the way his eyes seemed to darken when he asked that question – a question which her double-crossing heart leapt at. Indeed, she saw something that struck her fancy, and just the thought of it scared her to death.
“I, um...” She pushed the escaped hair back into her knit hat. “How about that one?”
The tree she pointed to was a blue spruce, full and alive with thousands of tiny needles. It was a solid seven feet and would fit perfectly in their—the Graham’s home. She needed to stop thinking of it as hers. It wasn’t hers. Temporary, it was only temporary. This – this thing with Blaine and David, it was a dying man’s last wish. Nothing more. It couldn’t be, because if it was, she was afraid her heart might not be able to take it.
“She’s a beauty,” Blaine said, never taking his eyes off hers.
Neither of them spoke for several seconds, then a voice broke through their moment.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: The Parting Gift

“I’m… um, I’m sorry, Captain. I’ve been staying in your
room.” He glared at her, allowing his indignation to reflect in his
glacial stare. “It’s just that it’s close to his, and sometimes he needs
me during the night.”

A slow, meaningful smirk rippled across his lips. “Of course
he does.”

Want to read the rest? Get your copy here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sweet Sample Saturday: Work in Progress

“What’s wrong?”Brianna asked, seeming suddenly concerned, her eyes searching his.
“Nothing really. Just thinking.”
“You’ve seemed a little off today. I mean, even before the shrine,” she said. Kynan stared at her a moment. How could she tell? “What’s really wrong?”
His eyes went back to the book in her hands. He might as well tell her. No one else was around. “Yesterday, my parents—they told me they’re getting—a divorce.” The last word gushed out with a heavy breath. Brianna rested a small cold hand on his forearm in a kind gesture.
“I’m sorry, Kynan. That sucks.” He didn’t look up at her, just kept staring at the book. Suddenly, she pulled her hand away and desperately started cramming the book into her satchel and muttering, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!”
Kynan looked up to see what was wrong. “What is it?” he asked looking around. But his eyes answered the question for him – across the lawn, coming towards them at a swift pace was Brother Leroy. “Oh crap!” he echoed. He reached into his own satchel and pulled out his Latin book. It was roughly the same color as the one Brianna had been holding. He snatched the printouts from her hands and shoved them in the back cover of the Latin text.
She was still fidgeting with her bag. Probably nerves. Being about to be caught with something you shouldn’t have will do that to a person. Kynan had learned that lesson earlier that day at the shrine. Brother Leroy was moving closer to them. They couldn’t run. It would look suspicious. But Brianna was being too obvious. He reached out and covered her hand with his to calm her. The touch seemed to surprise her as much as it surprised him. Her eyes darted to his. He smiled and could feel the heat rising in his cheeks again. “Um…,” he started out, then slipped his hand back to the book he held and pointed at a passage on the page. “Can you help me with this one, Brianna? I’m still having trouble with the conjugation,” he said just loud enough for Brother Leroy to hear.
“Any trouble, children?” Brother Leroy asked.
“No, sir,” Kynan replied. “Just studying. Latin verbs.”
“Wonderful. Glad to see you’re getting help, Mr. Murphy.”
“Yes, sir. Did you want something, Brother Leroy?”
“Um, no. I just noticed you two were still here. I thought perhaps there was a problem. But I see there was nothing to worry about. Carry on, children.”
“Actually, I’m gonna have to get home. Perhaps we can work on these verbs again later this evening, Kynan,” Brianna suggested. Brother Leroy glanced from Brianna to Kynan, scrutinizing them as if he knew they had taken the book and was waiting for them to confess. Swallowing nervously, Kynan glanced towards Brianna.
“Sure. Here. Let me give you my phone number.”
“Have a pleasant evening,” Brother Leroy muttered and turned back to the school.
As he retreated they both took a deep breath and started down the sidewalk together in the opposite direction.
“Holy crap. My heart is up here in my throat!” Brianna giggled. “I thought for sure he knew we had the book.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Memory Monday: A Piece of Quiet

originally posted 9/11/2008 on In a Word:

It was a Saturday evening. I had done the dumbest thing I have ever done in my teaching career and was paying the price for it. So I sat at my kitchen table, trying desperately to score a stack of about 150 position papers (almost all of which were plagiarized from the same three sources, I might add). I say "trying desperately" because I had NO desire whatsoever to be doing what I was doing.

I had been forced by the powers that be to inflict torture on myself via the aforementioned essay assignment. Foolishly, however, I made it into the semester final exam. Grades were due in just three days, and I had to grade them quickly.

First of all, grading essays is no picnic, regardless of the writing ability. But when you have to read essentially the same three essays 150 times -- and they weren't even that well written to begin with -- you get the strange, yet overwhelming desire to jab your red ink pen into your eye.

So there I sat at the kitchen table trying desperately to grade papers and to avoid my periodic involuntary attempts to put out my own eye. My two energetic and very boisterous children began to "play" in the living room about ten feet away from the table. This was more than I could handle. I stood up suddenly, slammed my hands down on the table and announced (or rather, bellowed), "I WANT PEACE - AND QUIET!!!"

My children were slightly taken aback at this outburst, but not really enough to move their game elsewhere. Instead, my son -- bless his heart -- sidled up to me slowly with his hand in his pocket. He pulled his hand out of his pocket wryly and handed me his fist. He said, "Mom, here is a piece of quiet. You can eat it... then, you can IGNORE us."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Work in Progress

A six sentence sample from the Valentine's Day story I'm working on right now:

Michael’s eyes grew wide. “The shrine?” he whispered, his voice growing quiet. “I don’t know, Spud. We could get into a lot of trouble – and it’s a holy place. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He carefully slid his treasure back inside the bag.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sweet Sample Saturday: The Parting Gift

A short and sweet sample from the prologue of the recent release, The Parting Gift:

The dirt landed with a spatter, emphasizing the close of this chapter of their lives. She was gone now. Nothing could change that.
David couldn’t change it, but he wished he could dull the pain… somehow.
The procession of mourners offering their condolences to the two of them seemed to drag on eternally. If he heard one more God bless you both, he was certain he would lose his temper. If this was God’s blessing, David wanted no part in it.
He quelled the urge to lash out with venom as the preacher shook his hand and offered his encouragement. He smiled and nodded and said, “Thank you, Reverend. It was a beautiful service.” All perfunctory words, because in the deepest part of his soul, David wanted to scream. He wanted to rip a hole in the cloudless sky with his voice and accuse God. It’s not right! It’s not fair! What happened to your justice? Where is your love?
But he said none of those things. Instead, he swallowed them, turned to Blaine and mumbled coldly, “Let’s go home.” And without looking back he started down the gravel path to where his Model A pickup waited.
He climbed into the cab and rested his head on the steering wheel. Exhaling slowly, he lifted his head and glanced out the passenger window.
Blaine hadn’t followed him. Instead, the boy had gravitated back to his mother’s grave and stood watching the old grave digger as he refilled the six-foot hole with rich dark earth. His small frame dropped to its knees, and even from where David sat he could see his son’s shoulders shuddering with forceful sobs; sobs caused by the same heart-shattering grief threatening to suffocate him now.
David wanted to go to him. He wanted to wrap Blaine up in his arms and hold him like he used to when he was a little boy, when things were simple. Before Emily got sick. Hold him and soothe away his tears. But he couldn’t. No matter how much he wanted to, his own pain paralyzed him. He slumped back against the glass and closed his eyes.
Waiting for Blaine felt like an eternity. David wanted to get home, out of the mocking cheerful weather, and lock himself in his dark room, away from the rest of the world, so he could grieve properly and maybe sleep off his indignation, if it were possible. Somehow he knew it wouldn’t be. Already he could feel the anger making itself at home in his heart, filling the gap left by the loss of his wife.
Out of desperation, David fired up the pickup and laid his fist on the horn. The familiar uh-ooga pierced through the quiet and brought Blaine back to his feet as if the weight of his grief was fighting his every effort to rise. David watched him turn and shuffle blindly toward the truck. Despair was evident in the boy’s sagging shoulders, and his head hung low. Again, David’s heart went out to his son, but he said nothing as the boy pulled the heavy door open and crawled into the cab beside him. The words weren’t there, and silence seemed the only respectful choice.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog Hop Winner

Congratulations to Cheryl the winner of a free copy of The Parting Gift. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Astraea Press Holiday Release Blog Hop.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Astraea Press Authors' Holiday Story Release Party Blog Hop November 25-27, 2011

I'm excited to announce the release of
The Parting Gift,
a holiday novella and my first book,
co-written with Rachel Van Dyken
available at Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Bookstrand.

At the tender age of eleven, Blaine Graham lost his mother. Grief over the loss drove a wedge between him and his father, and soon proved too difficult for him to deal with. At the age of sixteen, he falsified his papers and made the trip across the border into Canada with his best friend to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and enter the war in Europe as a pilot. Ten years later Captain Graham finds himself flying commercial jets in Boston – his estranged father and his past life all but forgotten, until the day he receives a telegram from his dying father asking him to come home.

The persistent Mara Crawford, a live-in nurse, has experienced her fair share of loss as well. Her attachment to Blaine’s father drives her desire to bring reconciliation between the two men before time runs out for her patient. But her best laid plans didn’t include falling in love again.


Rachel and I had a great time writing this together. My favorite part of the book is the scene in which Mrs. Smith the housekeeper comes in with the groceries and interrupts Blaine and Mara "having a moment". Her reaction cracks me up! There are a lot of funny scenes in this book, but don't be surprised if you also shed a tear or two.

The Parting Gift is set in 1950. The first color television came out in 1950, as did some very memorable movies. The top grossing movie in the year 1950 was Disney's Cinderella which made over $141 million. Amazing, considering the #2 movie only made $5.5 million -- King Solomon's Mines.

What's your favorite Christmas movie? Please leave a comment and your email address for a chance to win a free copy of The Parting Gift.

I hope you enjoy The Parting Gift this Christmas season! To find out how Rachel feels about it hop on over to Delicious Romance by Rachel

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sneak Peek at The Parting Gift

Her eye caught something dark trudging up the stairs. Turning, she saw Blaine walking towards her, dressed in his suit and looking sheepish and uncomfortable.

“May I escort you to dinner?”

Feeling her face grow hot, she broke eye contact and nodded. “That would be lovely, thank you.”

“Pop’s already at the table and says if we don’t hurry, he’s going to eat all the ham.”

“He’d better not!” Mara interjected. “I worked hard on that ham!”

“Easy,” Blaine’s grip on her elbow tightened as he guided her down the stairs and through the living room. “I set him as far away as possible, but we both know what happens when that man sees food.”

They shared an easy laugh and entered the kitchen. As predicted, David was using the end of the broom to try to pull the ham closer.

“Caught red-handed!” Mara announced.

“I was just…” David looked at the broom in his hand. “Sweeping.”

“You were sweeping the table? With the wrong side of the broom?” Blaine accused.

“Yes.” David chuckled heartily.

The Parting Gift by Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Friday

I'm not much of a shopper, especially not on Black Friday. I tried it once. Got up early. Waited in a line. When the doors opened, I went to the toy section to find one of fifteen Little People airports for $15. By the time I got there, they were all gone.


I don't like getting up early in the first place, so the fact that I went through all that for nothing -- well, let's just say, that was the last time I did that. That was in 2001.

So, why am I writing about a day I have been boycotting for the last ten years?

*insert giant cheese-eating grin here*

My book comes out that day! Just got my cover art proof today. And even though I rarely exhibit physical evidence of excitement, I'm doing a little happy dance right now. And I don't mind saying, Hooray for Black Friday!

The Parting Gift by Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders * Astraea Press