Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flash Fiction Fodder

Not sure why flash fiction is so addictive! But it's what I've been up to lately and it's taught me so much! I've mentioned Jeff Tsuruoka here before because he hosts a Mid-Week Blues Buster flash fiction contest that I adore!!! So much that I'm going to share some stories I've submitted. One or two have actually placed! Here's this week's submission titled Judgement Divine...
  
“I want you off the case, Marx. We need room to do our job.” The balding officer shifted his bulging frame deeper into a worn leather chair. It creaked under the abuse.

“Not happening, Lieutenant.”

The older man pursed his lips. “I’ve seen this before, son. It never ends well.”

Evan Marx faced his superior officer, not bothering to hide a ragged pain lurking behind tired eyes and nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I’m watching you. One wrong move, Marx…”

Dismissed, he strode past three donut-ripe deskhens feigning disinterest and entered his own office. He slammed the door and fell into his chair. The file lay open on his desk and he pushed aside a day old coffee and slid it closer.

“Hey muchacho.” A heavy Latino accent sang from the other side of the door.

“Go away.”

The door opened and Kevin Moruiz flashed a brilliant smile. “Hey man. How you holding up?”

Evan shot the man a cold stare and ran a hand through hair that hadn’t seen a comb in two weeks.

“Right. Listen, we got him. Routine traffic stop. Dude’s got some of her things in his car.” 

Evan’s heart flipped as he fingered the Glock in his holster. He grabbed his keys and Moruiz followed, spouting details on the way to the patrol car. He slid behind the wheel and gave the car hell until they reached the corner of Anthum and Gale where police strobes lit dark streets.

“Hey man, don’t lose your head, okay?” Moruiz pleaded. The car door slammed while Moruiz struggled with his seat belt.

Evan snaked behind three officers, their guns drawn. In the center of their circle, stood the man who’d stolen her. Clean cut and shaven, he looked almost sane. Evan crouched and snuck beyond the officers, headed for the subway stop he used every Sunday to meet his Aunt Shasta when he was nine. The shaft’s tunnels led to an oversized manhole he’d found by accident once and he headed for it.   

Evan reached the manhole and lifted the lid, climbing into the fresh night air once again. He drew his Glock and crouched on the ground beside a tall, brick platform. Stairs shielded him from view of the officers. Evan flipped the safety and aimed at the grinning man who’d caught sight of him.

“She was always mine, Marx.”

Hatred burned up Evan’s chest and roared in his ears. The man smiled again.

The officers opposite them shuffled and shouted orders.

“You knew it. From that day in the courtroom when I first saw her, you knew she was mine.”

 The hateful memory forced itself into a clear vision. Her face, her pleading eyes. 

I can’t do this, Ev. I thought I could testify, but seeing him…He murdered my mother.

You have to, Joss. He has to be put away.

“You didn’t expect I’d be acquitted. You didn’t expect I’d come back for her. You loved her, didn’t you, Officer Marx?”

Evan swallowed the singing heat his throat and zeroed in on the bastard’s adam’s apple.

One of the uniforms shouted again. “Marx! Put the gun down!”

Evan closed one eye.

“You can’t kill me and bring her justice too, Evan.”

“Stand down, Ev,” Moruiz pleaded.

“She died screaming your name.”

Evan tightened his finger on the trigger.

The monster’s smile fell. “You’ll never be a cop again. That means something to you.”

“You sure about that?”

Evan emptied the Glock into the man’s chest, seventeen bullets. One for each year he and Joss were partners since the Academy. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

COVER REVEAL!

MAGNOLIA BRIDES is almost here! Today, I got cover art for The Wedding Collection anthology and I couldn't wait to share it! What do ya think?



Release date is set for the week of June 9th and here's the deets!

Romance on a Louisiana plantation leaves Grandma Candi feeling thirty years younger, Preacher Bob in need of smelling salts and Jorrie wondering if her wedding will even happen! The ghost of Magnolia Mound Plantation has the answers to Jorrie's questions, but will she take the advice of a woman dead for centuries?

“You’ll miss my wedding!” Jorrie paced the carpet of Lita’s Tailoring & Tackle in her wedding day heels while the seamstress unfolded herself and shot the phone a disgusted glance. “I told you to fly in earlier.”


“Arms up,” the seamstress snapped.

“Sorry, Lita.” Jorrie resumed her stance in a homemade contraption straight from Dante’s torture emporium. She sucked in a gulp of air and returned her attention to the phone on a nearby stand. “Mother—”

“Calm down, Jorrie.” Lisella Parker’s voice rang through the speaker.

“Calm down? Mom, the wedding is tomorrow.”

“I’ll be there.”

“How can you do this to me?” She blinked away tears and motioned for the seamstress to continue. The older woman rolled her almond shaped eyes and jerked a pin from her pursed lips.

“I promised I’d be there. Hey, they’re paging me, gotta go.”

“Mom—”

“I’m trying to get flights switched now. I’ll talk to you soon, Jor, give Bronn a kiss for me.”

“Mom!” She lunged for the phone only to hear the disconnect crackle and the rip of a sleeve seam.

Jorrie tried to freeze but the squawk of Chinese expletives littering the air behind her made her jump. “Lita, tell me how bad it is in English, please.”

“Bad enough I dress you in burlap sack!” Lita threw her hands in the air. “First you want no sleeve, then sleeve. Now, look at this!”

Jorrie fingered the jagged fabric and offered an apologetic smile. “Wanna go sleeveless again?”

Lita let loose another string of what Jorrie assumed was more Chinese profanity and disappeared into the back room as Jorrie’s phone rang.

A groan overlapped her hello as she pushed the speaker button.

“Jorrie, Eleanor Lancaster. Darling, we’ve a slight problem.”

“Define slight.”

“Just a hiccup really. My best friend Beverly phoned last night to say she’s getting married tomorrow and asked if I’d prepare the flowers for her wedding.”

“Please tell me you’re doing them both.”

Eleanor cackled. “Oh, you’re a hoot. No, I’m not staffed to do both weddings and Bev and I have been attached at the hip since second grade.”

“This is Beverly’s fourth wedding!”

“Practice makes perfect, love. Now don’t be upset. I’ve a cousin who just opened her own business and she’s got an overstock of chrysanthemums you can have free of charge.”

“Just opened? Chrysanthemums? Eleanor, I’m supposed to have twelve dozen purple roses. I gave you months and months notice.”

“Of course you did, darling. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”

A dial tone halted Jorrie’s protest. She tossed the phone in her bag and fought the urge to hurl. “Lita!”

Lita appeared from the back carrying a brown tackle box in her left hand and a bolt of silk in her right. She raised the tackle box and pointed at Jorrie. “You crazy lady. Bronn even crazier for marry you.”

“My mother won’t make it in time, my dress will only have one sleeve and my roses are toast.”

“Dress have two sleeve.” She emptied her arms and held up two fingers. “You crazy lady. It no matter how long you plan, it all go wrong but you live through. You see.”

Jorrie looked down at her satin peep-toes then eyed the fishing poles and artificial bait lining one wall of the dress shop.

I’m the crazy one?


This story was so much fun to write because it's set in my home state and it features a redhot Granny who's got the hots for Preacher Bob. Who doesn't love a firecracker grandma? I can't wait to hear what you think and I hope you love it as much as I do.




Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Newfound Love of Flash

Happenstance and Orange Karen are out, Magnolia Brides is set to release in June and I'm between publishing dates and edit deadlines. I'm hard at work on my next novel but I needed a burst of inspiration. I found it at Jeff Tsuruoka's Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction contests. Thank you, Jeff!

Flash was something I reluctantly eased into because when I heard the word flash, I cringed at the thought of writing in unfamiliar genres. So when I won first place in a local writing chapter's flash contest, I was driven to find out more. Turns out, this was the BEST way to learn the art of paring. When you have to show conflict, resolution AND solution in the span of 100 words, the fluff gets cut. Very effective for a fluffer of my caliber.

I've entered a few times now and the great thing about Jeff's blog is the prompts. Each week, he chooses a song with a video. He hits every genre-romance, horror, suspense, paranormal, fantasy; his songs cover them all. This forced me to branch into areas I'd never written before and that terrified me. But I conquered and sometimes...I placed!

The stories presented themselves sometimes through lyrics, sometimes through melodies, and a couple times, the video inspired me. But every time, I was just the vehicle for the tale.

In the name of inspiration, I decided to post a few entries here. I don't know how long I'll be able to participate but I thought you might be interested in an entry or two and maybe encourage some capricious writer to lose their fear of flash. So go forth, enter...and dazzle. Jeff would love to see YOUR entry on his blog.

Here's one from last week:


The Getaway



Samantha pulled under a sagging awning and parked next to the gasoline pump. Despite the station’s desolate appearance, it teemed with patrons seeking reprieve from the baking heat. It was the only one she’d seen for miles but the rows of gas pumps on each side were all Sam cared about. She left the keys dangling in the ignition, brushed long locks off her shoulder and plopped her clutch on a dusty pump to pry her credit card from the wallet section. She pulled the nozzle out, made her selection and let the pump do its thing.

Sam pulled a squeegee from a once-white bucket and smeared muddy water over her windshield. As clumps of muck rolled off her car, a new Charger rolled to a stop at the pump next to hers. Its candy red paint gleamed under the white hot glare.

If I drove that, I’d be pulling into Sacramento instead of melting in Arizonian Hades.

The driver opened the sleek door and new leather scent wafted as he slid out. He nodded and went inside. Sam heard the pump click and stepped over to retrieve the hose. She was aiming the nozzle at its cradle when she heard her door slam. She turned, nozzle still in hand, to watch her car throw dirt in her direction as it fishtailed on the dusty lot.

“Was that your car?”

Samantha looked at the man heading toward her. The owner of the Charger.

“Are you okay?” he asked, shock covering his face.

Thought pistons fired in Samantha’s head as she formed a plan. She swallowed hard, slammed the nozzle down and snatched her wallet.

“Miss?” It worked. Her silence drew him close enough to grab his keys.

“I’m sorry,” She yelled as she hit the panic button and opened the driver’s door.

“No! Hell no! There’s no way I’m letting you steal mine.” He ran around the car and ducked inside before she threw it into gear and slung gravel. He clambered and grasped for a hand hold as he pulled his feet inside and reached to close the door. She braked and merged onto the highway, then shifted gears and roared past the station. “Are you insane? You can’t steal my car! How about calling the cops?”

She glanced at her captive. Dark hair, healthy tan, a thick build that filled a pair of faded jeans nicely. “I’ve had my fill of cops.”

“Right. How ridiculous to suggest law enforcement. What now, Deputy DoItYourself?”

Sam smiled and ran through the gears. Wide tires chirped and devoured pavement, transforming tumbleweeds into brown blurs.

“My name is Samantha. Everything I own is in that car. I didn’t survive two years of hell and a torturous divorce to have it stolen by some filthy meth-head.” She focused on her car coming into view. “What’s your name?”

The Charger’s owner seemed to balance his attention between the car ahead of them and what she had planned.

“Braxton Harper.”

“Fasten your seat belt, Harper.” He cringed but obeyed.

Sam squinted to judge distance, but her Honda wrinkled in shining heat waves. She drew up beside it and a grease-haired scuzz grinned at her from the driver’s seat. Harper threw questioning glares between them. Samantha let off the gas.

“What are you doing? Please do not hurt this car.”

Sam cut a hard right. The Charger’s nose rammed the Accord’s trunk, forcing it off the road and out of control. Rocks peppered their windshield. The carjacker overcorrected and left the highway again as soon as he entered it. Sam’s Honda spun in the dry desert brush until it came to a stop against a tall saguaro.

She killed the Charger and bolted out. The carjacker rested his bleeding head against the steering wheel. Sam yanked the door, grabbed his collar and tossed him to the dirt. She sank her boot into his ribs and when he rolled, she hooked him up with matching fractures.

Sam popped the trunk and pulled out two black duffel bags. She unzipped one and tossed them both in Harper’s lap.

Slowly, Harper peered at large bills peeking through the open zipper.

Samantha grinned. “Where to, Harper?”



Monday, May 13, 2013

If only I knew now...

On a trip home to Louisiana not long ago, I found a journal I kept when I was about nine. Flipping through it, I got a huge kick out of the things I'd written. All the entries were run-ins with grownups, animal occurrences or just the usual accident. I laughed so hard at how naïve I was back then. Man, what I wouldn't give to tell my nine year old self a few things!

That's one of the purposes of this blog. Not to explain how I fell off a bridge while riding my bicycle into a tepid pool of swamp water, no. But to utilize it as a writing journal. To share with you my experiences and hopefully shed light on a few of the topics I struggled to grasp when I first started out. Here's a few: Edits, social media and traditional publishing vs. self publishing.

A very good friend of mine (this beautiful hazel-eyed girl has seen this blog before) agreed to let me post a Blogcast she did that is so fantastic, I had to share the info here. It hits on all of the topics above plus some. Jennifer Gracen talks about her editing business. But more than that, she explains how she's a writer first. She hits on social media, support from our fellow writers and common mistakes we newbies love to make.

So if you're just starting out (or just want to know the difference in copy edit vs. content edits), please take a few minutes to listen. I think you'll come away with more writing wisdom than you know what to do with! Which is why you'll need a notebook. Happy listening!

Jennifer's website in case you miss it on the radiocast is here
Follow her on Twitter!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's up with all the Orange?

I've been busy posting snippets of Orange Karen authors over the past month or so to give you an insight about the book I'm lucky enough to be published in. But if you're still wondering about all this Orange business flooding Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media sites, here's the deal.

Karen DeLabar.

If you don't know her, you should remedy that ASAP. *waits while you follow her on Twitter* She's an amazing person with a massive heart that bleeds for everyone but herself. She's insanely talented and she's a fierce and passionate warrior who didn't expect to be fighting for her life after being stricken with Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Karen's inspiring and unfathomable story unfolds at www.karendelabar.com. As a result of her battle, a talented group of authors, editors, and artists came together donating their time, talent and efforts to produce a warrior anthology in her honor.

The book is finally here and it's taking media sites by storm. The outpouring of caring and support comes from a sincere effort to give Karen back some of the love she's shown us over the past few years. I've never known a tighter knit community than the awesome family of writers/readers I've met on my own personal journey. Let's keep it going. Please spread the word about this worthy cause. For a friend, from a friend.

Click HERE for Orange Karen paperback! Click HERE for Orange Karen ebook. Please tweet, retweet, share and pass this along. For Karen.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Orange Karen Antho: Author Highlight-Christopher Cantley!

Welcome Christopher Cantley, another Orange Karen antho author. This awesomeness releases Thursday, April 11th. Get on board!! Take it away, Chris!

Author Name: Christopher Cantley

Title of Short Story: My Orange Karen

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: This is a magical story about an old farmer who discovers a lost child in a storm, and their next few years together.

How did you come up with the concept for the story? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of the fantasy genre, but there are other inspirations for the story too. Karen DeLabar’s illness provided a key plot point. Much of the middle of My Orange Karen was an exploration of being a father. The final third or so was about Mrs. DeLabar being a strong fighter in her time of trouble, and all our willingness to help.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? Initially, it was my friend, Stephanie Fuller, who posted the project on Facebook. I really enjoy writing, too, so I figured I‘d give it a go. I also wanted to do this in honor of my mom. She’s a Karen, as well. Ultimately, though, it was the encouragement and support of my wife that made it possible.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio: I am huge movie buff, and ran a Quote of the Day contest on my Facebook page for quite a while.
What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Wow. This one’s tough. I’ll choose the orange of a flame, especially candles. Firelight always helps me relax.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? I’d ensure everyone would have a safe fire source, and no one would have to be cold again.

Who inspires you? Why? The person who always inspires me is my late Grandpa Keen. He was always willing to listen, and never had a harsh word for anyone. We would spend hours just talking, or playing some silly game I’d invented. I hope I make him proud.

Excerpt:
In the years after that tragedy, my fiery-haired daughter redoubled her efforts at hunting. With Lucille gone, and my age rearing its ugly head, farming was nearly impossible. It was only Karen’s sojourns that kept food on the table and money in our purses. Sometimes she would be gone for a week at a time. I knew she was working hard to keep us going, but I couldn’t help feeling sad at her absence.
During Karen’s last trip, I noticed something amiss. I would awaken in the night, feeling as though a steel band was wrapped around my lungs. Not long after, the incessant coughing started. When dark blood joined the coughs, I knew what was wrong. It was the same Deathlung sickness that took my first daughter. As much as I hated to, I had to send Karen away. Two nights later, she came back all smiles. I was sitting by the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket.
“I’m home, Papa!”
I had to smile. All grown up, yet she still called me Papa. I tried to greet her, but a fit of blood-filled coughing silenced me. Karen came into the living room, orange hair pulled back into ponytail.
“I found some boars yesterday,” she said hanging up her bow and quiver. “They were really tough but—”
She went quiet when she finally turned toward me. The smile faded from her face, but when she tried to step forward, I waved her back.
“What’s wrong, Papa? What’s happened?”
I struggled to take a breath.
“I’m dying, Karen. It’s Deathlung.”
“No,” she shook her head. “No! You can’t be dying!”
“It’s only a matter of time now, child. And you have to leave.”
Karen stumbled backwards, pain flaring in her eyes.
“You’re sending me away?”
I nodded as another fit of coughing wracked me. The young woman stood taller, hands balled into fists at her sides. She was furious.
“Why? Why can’t I stay and take care of you?”
“Because you could get sick, and I can’t allow it,” I said, voice straining to be heard. “You’re grown now, and you need to find your own life. Please go.”

SSPX0014

Bio: Christopher Cantley is a factory worker residing in Lapeer, Michigan. He’s a devoted husband to JoAnn and father to Samantha, Tabitha, and Andrew. He also has four fur kids: Mickey, Tinkerbell, Ninja, and Abbie. He heard about this project from his good friend Stephanie Fuller,  aka The Book Hipster, and leapt at the chance to contribute.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Author Antho Highlight-JL Gentry

 Welcome, JL! He's here today to tell us a little about himself and why he chose to volunteer his time to this most awesome cause, the Orange Karen Anthology. Take it away, JL...


Author Name: JL Gentry

Title of Short Story: Little Wing

In 25 words or less tell us what this story is about:  It is a fantasy of a young, winged woman and her winged guardian facing terrible obstacles to reach their final destination where the truth of their existence is revealed.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  My inspiration was the Jimi Henrdix song of the same title.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  I have been an e-friend of Karen’s for a long time. We share a love of writing and running as well as a birthday.  To top it off, she lives a few miles from where I grew up. How could we not be friends?

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio I’ve never watched any of the Twilight movies or read the books, so I don’t know what that glitter thing is all about.

What is your favorite “orange” item? Why?   Carrots. They are good in any form, add great taste to other dishes and don’t have a lot of attitude.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  It would be as an orange sonic screwdriver (tip o’ the hat to Doctor Who)

Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver combined with the power of “Orange” would be able to save the world!
 

Who inspires you? Why?  Music, my friends and family. Inspiration is all around me and I become more aware of it every day.

Excerpt:
The jolt of the air was devastating. Each attempt to reconcile her flying failed. She gasped as the pain of her injury seared through her body. The air around her was almost too violent to breathe. She coughed, trying to fill her lungs while falling through the stormy air toward land she could not see. A rocky peak appeared out of nowhere. She tilted her body, racked in pain, to avoid collision. Barely clearing the obstacle, she righted herself, lowering her flight to view a barren surface full of sharp rocks and dark sandy soil. The surface below the storm was like none she had ever seen or imagined. She had known only the fertile glades and hills of her homeland. This space, outside of the lochs that bounded her land, felt of desperation. It was a desolate place. A place they were only allowed to pass over on their final journey. So taken by the ragged, sharp vision, she lost perspective; the surface seemed to reach up and grab her, pulling her into its grip. She stumbled, lurching forward, wings clutched for protection, but still her limbs were bruised against the rocky surface. The wind roared around her and the blowing rain masked her tears of desperation and pain. Failure consumed her as she pulled herself into a ball and felt the irritation from the many cuts and scrapes administered to her by the unforgiving rocky surface.
      It was done. Her first and only mission. Her one goal in life, smashed against so many rocks on a desolate coast. The pity absorbed her as she shivered; the pain in her knees a suitable punishment for her inability to meet her obligation. With one deep breath, she envisioned her demise on the rocky shore. Her soul would abandon her long before she perished for lack of food or water. She had been raised to thrive in the bondage. Without that, she would fade away like the mist being devoured by morning sun.

J.L. Gentry is the author of SYN:FIN, the first in the Jim Harrison Chronicles. His alter ego is an IT professional with over thirty years of technical and managerial experience. When he is not working, writing, or harassing his family, he can be found running the roads and trails of wherever he happens to be that day. Enjoy life and run free.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

COVER REVEAL! Orange Karen:Tribute To a Warrior

It's finally here, folks! The Orange Karen Anthology will be released on April 11, 2013!!

I'm so excited about this book. Not because my story is included. But because all proceeds go to the rock-solid, heart of gold, fierce and true Karen DeLabar. By now, you all know she went through hell and back from a battle with TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). But she won. And her friends are pulling together to help this brave woman and her family with medical expenses. Here's what the organizer of this project, Christina Esdon, has to say about this awesome Tribute Anthology.

She gives some background info on Kip Ayers, the cover designer, and man...it's a REALLY cool cover. It makes me want to snuggle down and read. It has everything a writer/reader could ever want, complete with a jewel-encrusted swords and antique typewriter. What do you think? Don't you want to grab a cuppa and curl up? Get ready for this one...It's gonna be HUGE!





Sunday, March 24, 2013

Orange Karen Antho Highlight - Meet Editor Susan Ethridge

You have been introduced to some of the authors in the Orange Karen anthology, but there has been some amazing behind the scenes action from Team Orange. There’s one person in particular who works tirelessly behind the scenes, and her work is all over the pages of many of the stories. Who is she? Why, editor Susan Ethridge, of course! Once you’ve finished reading her interview, take a moment to pat her on the back, give her a fist bump, or even a beer (not too many though, we’ve got to keep her upright and ready to work!).

Thank you so much, Susan for all that you have done. We couldn’t have gotten this far without you.
Three cheers for Susan! Hip hip hooray!!


What’s been your favorite thing about being involved with the Orange Karen Anthology?

Reading all of the different stories that were submitted has been incredible.  Each of our authors was asked to use the color orange as a strong thematic element, and the talent and imagination they displayed in response to that simple constraint was phenomenal. Working with the other members of the Anthology team has also been really fun and rewarding – in the course of the last few months, I’ve enjoyed a number of new friendships with some incredibly funny, smart and generous people.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

I have a long-standing love of muscle cars and recently bought a ’72 Charger that I’m in the process of restoring. Rrrawwrr.


1972 Charger. Can we say, “Dukes of Hazard”? Bitchin’ wheels, Ma’am. :)


Hidden Talent:

I wouldn’t really call it a “hidden” talent, but I think I’m a pretty good cook. Maybe one day I’ll go to culinary school and turn it into a second career.



Susan dreams of going to culinary school one day…maybe we’ll see her on Chopped?


What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

When I think “orange” the first image that comes to mind is of those gumdrop candies that are shaped like little orange segments and coated with glittery sugar. My grandmother used to give them to me; it’s one of the simplest, happiest memories of my early childhood.
If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

I guess that would depend on the nature of the threat – it’s pretty hard to stop the bad guys with nothing but a bag of gumdrops. Maybe I could use them as bait, and trap the bad guys in a cave…or if the threat was some kind of bomb or chemical weapon, maybe I could encase it in a 20-foot-thick gumdrop shield, kind of like those Kevlar blankets the bomb squad puts on top of bombs to contain the explosion.


Who inspires you? Why?

People who do what they do with real passion, and experience evident joy in the process. I once watched an orchestral performance in which the solo was performed by a brilliant tubist; as he played, the expression on his face was literally one of rapture. It made me want to pursue my interests with that same intensity, and on a very fundamental level, it made me want to be a better person.

susan(1)

Susan Ethridge works in marketing, and enjoys graphic design, painting, cooking and writing. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Author Antho Highlight-Patty Blount

Today's featured author in the Orange Karen Anthology is Patty Blount. She's a very talented and established author and one amazing lady. I can't wait to be like her one day :D She's got great things in the works but today, she's focusing on donating her time to Karen DeLabar, our gorgeous and so lovely Twitter writing bud. So please share this link everywhere you can. We love her so. Welcome, Patty!


Author Name:  Patty Blount

Title of Short Story: Murder is a Job Best Left to Professionals

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: A former NASCAR champion deals with his professional jealousy over his much younger rival.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  When the request for “Orange” stories came out, I immediately thought of Home Depot. A few years ago, we’d tried to paint our kitchen a Tuscan orange color but what we got was the Home Depot trademark color. I knew I had to write a story set in or around Home Depot, which became “RenovateIT” in the story and the NASCAR sponsorship made that easy to do.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? The fabulous Jennifer Gracen is my RWA local chapter mate and through her, I learned all about Karen’s ordeal. Even though I’ve never met Karen IRL, I felt a connection to her through Jen and wanted to help make things a little easier for this amazing survivor.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:  I suffer terribly from self-doubt. Every success I’ve achieved is because I didn’t listen to my inner nag.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Have you ever heard of the chocolate orange? You whack it and then unwrap it and the chocolate is shaped like orange wedges. I am the world’s biggest chocolate addict. The chocolate orange is a big indulgence. I’ve had it maybe three times in my life, but it remains one of my favorites.


If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  *laughs* Save the world, one piece of chocolate at a time? I know the effect chocolate has on me. Calming. Soothing. I wonder if we could achieve world peace if we gave everybody on earth a piece of chocolate at the same time?

Who inspires you? Why? Maybe I’m old and jaded but I don’t try to emulate celebrities and sports stars anymore. Instead, I look at real people for inspiration. People like the school teachers who stood in front of a madman’s gun to protect their students. People like the passengers on the fourth flight that never hit its intended target on September 11th, 2001. And people like Karen, who could curl up in a ball and cry about what happened to them, but instead, fight and keep fighting.

Story Excerpt:
“Yo. Harlan Hot Shoe Anderson. I’m a ‘uge fan. ‘uge! The name’s Tony.” The man sticks his cigarette between his lips and holds his hands three feet apart to prove it.
I nod politely and he whips out a cell phone, slings his arm around my other shoulder, and clicks a photo without even askin’ first.
“Hey, yo, Bobby! Check it out, it’s freakin’ Hot Shoe himself. Don’t piss him off now, don’t want him throwin’ a helmet at ya!” the man called Tony shouts into the crowd.
“Come on, Tony, back off. Let the man breathe.” A smaller guy I’m guessin’ to be Bobby steps out of the crowd, slaps a hand on Tony’s chest, pushes him back a foot. I nod my thanks.
“Yo. We came here to see Beau Givens. Is he comin’ or what?” Another ornery voice shouts.
Before I can reply, Dwayne shifts and adjusts his NASCAR cap. “Well, ol’ Beau — he’s around here someplace. Here now, how ‘bout a nice T-shirt?” He reaches into the show car, pulls out a box. “Here, Harlan. Start tossin’ shirts to the crowd.”
“He’s here? Oh, shit!” The man callin’ himself Tony lights up like a swarm of lightnin’ bugs and turns to me. “You ain’t scared, are you, Hot Shoe? Heard you two mixed it up last week after the Nationwide race.”
“No, sir.” I shake my head. “Beau just needs to be reminded to act like he’s got some raisin’ up to be done still, and I reminded him is all.”
Big Tony blinks down at me like I’d spoken in tongues. That’s when Dwayne’s assistant come runnin’ out of the store, eyes buggin’ and pale as a ghost.
Dwayne takes her elbow, leads her away from the crowd. I follow. “What is it, sugar?”
“He’s dead, Dwayne,” she whispers in a shaky tone. “Oh, Lord, he’s dead. They found him in the restroom at the back of the store.”

About the Author 

Patty spends her days writing facts and her nights writing contemporary romantic fiction. A coworker once said if Patty were a super-villain, she’d be called The Quibbler. Her costume would be covered in exclamation points. Fueled by a serious chocolate obsession, a love of bad science-fiction movies, and a weird attraction to exclamation points, Patty looks for ways to mix business with pleasure, mining her day job for ideas to use in her fiction.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happenstance Needs Your Help!


My lovely publisher is putting on a TMP 2012 Best Read competition and Happenstance has been nominated! I'm so proud of my little novella :D I've had so much fun promoting it and watching reviews pile up on Amazon. What an awesome experience. So I'm here today to ask for a little more help from the readers.

If you read it and loved it or read it and liked it, or just saw the cover...lol, it could use your vote! Click on the link below and leave a comment stating you want to vote for Happenstance by Valerie Haight. Every comment counts for a vote so spread the word!

Happenstance and I thank you!

Best Of TMP 2012

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Author Antho Highlight-February Grace

February's all heart (no, that's not my attempt at a pun. It's true!) and she's here today to tell us why she wanted to contribute to the novel that's going to raise money for Karen DeLabar's medical expenses. Please share everywhere you can to help us get the word out! Hi February! and Welcome!


Author Name: February Grace

Title of Short Story: Henley’s Scars

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:
The journey of one woman and her beloved childhood best friend as they travel together through life, love and loss.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?
We were allowed to submit two stories, and this one was the one that actually just popped into my head first; a clear mental image of Henley. However the second idea was so vivid that I wrote it first and sent it in. Something about Henley though— even his name— stuck with me from the moment I imagined him and I finally sat down and wrote the story beginning to end without stopping.  Wouldn’t you know that he’d be the one that would stay with other people, too!
I could see him in my mind so clearly even though he doesn’t exist as he’s described; he was inspired by the little toys my Grandmother used to sew for my younger cousins (she tended to make me dresses, not toys, because I had a favorite bear already. Though she did a vast amount of repair work on my favorite blanket…)
I was also inspired by experiences I’ve had in my own life that have left visible, physical scars. It just all seemed to fit together, and fit the anthology. So I held my breath, hit the ‘send’ button, and submitted it.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?
From the moment I heard about Karen’s illness, which occurred not long after I’d first ‘met’ her on Twitter through the wonderful Jennifer Gracen, I wished that I could do even the smallest thing to help, somehow. When this opportunity presented itself there was just no question: I was going to try to submit. So many of us just want to help however we could, we are grateful for this way to try. I just wanted, so badly, to write something worthy of the cause, of Karen.  I tried my best. This story is a huge piece of my heart.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:
That I’m an incurably hopeful —not hopeless— romantic.

john-cusack-boombox1

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?
Sky’s the limit? That’s good, because I would have to say it’s the sun.
When I was losing my eyesight and they were telling me they didn’t think any of it could be saved, every night I would stop what I was doing and watch the sun set. Often I’d end up with tears running down my face because I didn’t know if that would be the last sunset I’d ever see. I never take for granted its warmth, the beautiful colors it casts to light the sky night and morning, or its ability to bring the new day. Yeah. The sun is cool.

Sun through the trees on a crisp fall day
Sun through the trees on a crisp fall day

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?
I wish I could find a way to make sunlight expedite the growth of love in the world. Turn the altering heat of its rays upon hate and greed and war until there was none left. If I could, I’d find a way to use the light to conquer all the darkness in our lonely world.  If only.

Who inspires you? Why?
Quiet courage, anywhere and in anyone I see it, inspires me on a daily basis.
There are people who have been through some really terrible things, health-wise, in their past or childhood, whatever the situation may be, but you would never know it. They don’t let it stop them. Somehow they keep going, make a better life for themselves and their families, even if they have to live with the memories every day in the form of mental and/or physical scars. No matter how hard they have to fight to do it, they just do it.
Soldiers coming home with stories they will never tell; people who have survived, against all odds, like Karen did. Those are the people who inspire me when I’m struggling, myself. Those are the real heroes in this life. I admire them all.

Excerpt:
Many times over the years, my friends tried to talk me out of carrying Henley around with me, or, when I got older, from displaying him on my bed. He was to be replaced, they said, first by dolls, then by electronics, and finally by a boy’s gifts — gaudy bears with rough synthetic coats and lifeless plastic eyes, won for me at carnival games and school Spring Flings.
I’d always end up giving such trophies away to younger siblings and their friends, feeling that to keep them would somehow be disloyal to my best friend, my one and only bright orange Henley, with his precious, artful scars.
I’m not ashamed to admit that Henley came with me on my honeymoon. Instead of making fun of me, the man I married understood that Henley was a member of the family and treated him as such. Henley has been photographed with landmarks and monuments alike, each picture lovingly arranged and appropriately captioned in his own special scrapbook.
Every trip he’d come back a little more worn, a little more frail. I never dreamed of attempting to repair him myself, though, no matter how old I got. That was a job that only one pair of skilled and loving hands could do.
So I would pack him up carefully and take him to see Grandma, and she would strain to see with aging eyes where the old stitches left off and begin to stitch in new thread, to give an old friend life again.
“We all have our scars, don’t we little guy?” she would say so gently, as she tucked in a little fresh stuffing to add to the old, sewed over the hole or weak spot, and always finished by giving him a little kiss on top of the head.
Every time she handed that bear back to me, I would feel the same love that I’d felt for him, and for her, when I was four.
Never did I imagine this day would come.
About February Grace:


February Grace is a published artist, writer, and poet. Her work has appeared in The Rusty Nail, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Poetry Pact Volume One, 2011. She released her debut novel, GODSPEED, in 2012.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Author Antho Highlight-Jonathan Gould

The Orange Karen Anthology is almost here! Each author will be spotlighted and I'm featuring them here. So excited about this! Not only because I'm going to be published in an antho. It's not just any antho, either. It's the Orange Karen Anthology, a benefit book for Karen DeLabar, our superpeppy Twitter bud. We're raising money to help her cover astronomical medical bills after being in a coma for almost a month.
Today's feature is Jonathan Gould. Do I love the way he approaches things because he's from "down under"? I don't know but dood...I'm so in with the pizza thing. Welcome, Jonathan!

Author Name: Jonathan Gould
Title of Short Story: Relief
In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:
A man arrives at work desperate for a drink. He doesn’t end up with a drink, but he does get relief of a kind.
How did you come up with the concept for the story?
When I thought orange, the first thing that came to mind was orange juice. This then raised the question of how to make a good story out of orange juice. I’m not sure if I managed to come up with a decent answer or not, but I had fun trying.
What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?
When I first became involved with social media, and particularly Twitter, I had no idea what I was doing and no contacts. One of my first discoveries was a bunch of people on Twitter using the hashtag #pubwrite to talk about writing and drinking and generally having a fun time. This turned out to be a really welcoming group who seemed happy to include me when I started to join in, and Karen was one of those generous people. When I heard she was unwell, I was happy to try to contribute to any supportive efforts.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:
I actually don’t drink much orange juice. I much prefer apple and blackcurrant.
What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?
I believe that orange is a mixture of yellow and red – which gets me thinking of the cheese and tomato on a pizza. And pizza is the top three items on my list of all-time favourite things.
If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?
Good question. If the world was being invaded by evil aliens, I would invent a pizza gun that would shoot giant sticky pizzas. Once the aliens had fallen to the force of my projectile pizzas and been sent away, we could all have one giant pizza banquet. Perfect.
Who inspires you? Why?
Can’t think of any individuals. Anyone who devotes their time to other people, rather than themselves.
About Jonathan:
Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market. He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
 
jgould, jonathan gould

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Author Antho Highlight-Jennifer Gracen

The Orange Karen Anthology is almost here! Each author will be spotlighted and I'm featuring them here. I'll be in there somewhere! So excited about this! Not only because I'm going to be published in an antho. It's not just any antho, either. It's the Orange Karen Anthology, a benefit book for Karen DeLabar, our superpeppy Twitter bud. We're raising money to help her cover astronomical medical bills after being in a coma for almost a month.

So please spread the word about this antho because like I said, it's not just another book. No one involved is making a dime. All proceeds go to help our dear friend Karen. She's worth it, folks.

Up today, Jennifer Gracen. You know her as the famous NaNo cheerleader. She's here to tell us about herself and her story. Please share!


Author Name:   Jennifer Gracen
Title of Short Story: “Killing The Fantasy”
In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:  Two forty-somethings meet through Twitter. First they’re friends, then more… or, it could be, if Wyatt would just let Catherine see him.
How did you come up with the concept for the story?  I’ve spent a lot of time online, and I’m a romance writer. The idea had been brewing for some time, and then the OKA came about… bingo. It’s kind of a love letter to Twitter.
What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  Karen DeLabar is my best friend. Nuff said.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:   I had such a hard time deciding whether to be a singer or a writer, that I only applied to 2 colleges (Berklee College of Music and Emerson College), figuring I’d let fate decide. All I knew was I wanted to go to Boston. The music college accepted me first, so I went there. And wrote every day in my dorm room.
What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Karen’s hair. Because it makes people smile. It’s inspired many conversations. It’s legendary. It’s fabulous!

Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.
Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? Haha, how would I use Karen’s hair to save the world?? (She will shake her head and laugh when she sees this.) Um… she had to cut her hair a few months ago, cut it really short. I guess I’d have taken the snippets, mixed them with magic pixie dust, and scattered them over the world to bring happiness, peace, and laughter.
Who inspires you? Why?  Other writers, because they are my brethren, and they make me want to be a better writer. My children, because they are the most important thing in my life, and they make me want to be a better person.
Story Excerpt:
The more their online friendship intensified, the more Catherine’s curiosity about what Wyatt looked like increased. She had pictures of herself on her Twitter account. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t on Facebook, Flickr, or Google Plus. It almost seemed as if, in a way, he didn’t exist. A huge part of his reticence was fed by his concern that his employees and clients should not see him in an unprofessional light. Catherine knew this, and understood. Yet between liking him as a friend and being attracted to his incendiary sexy talk, the need to know what he looked like burned to the point of distraction.
She tried to cajole him into sending her a picture, teased him mercilessly, asked to the point of almost pleading. He wouldn’t budge.
You don’t need to see what I look like, he would tell her.
It’s not about need, she would type back. It’s about want. I’m just curious. Curiosity is natural in this situation. We’ve talked almost every day for months now.
Curiosity killed the cat, he wrote. But before she could respond, he added, Oh God… your name is Cat. I didn’t mean that how it must have sounded! I was KIDDING. I’m an idiot!
Catherine let out a chuckle as she typed, I know you didn’t. It’s an old saying. No worries. You don’t scare me, sweets.
Well you scare me, lady, he wrote. Smart as a whip, strong single mom, & drop dead gorgeous. Talking to you is gonna get me in trouble. He immediately followed up with his own creative hashtags: #thebestkindoftrouble#viletemptress
By May — admitting to herself, but not to him, that she was quite smitten — they began talking on the phone, late into the night. Hearing his voice added a thrilling new dimension to their relationship. Still, she persisted with her one nagging desire.
One night, Wyatt sighed and said, “Fine, okay… I have light brown hair that’s going gray around the ears, light green eyes that are probably my only attractive feature, I wear glasses, and I’m six feet tall. Not fat, not thin. Not anything remarkable. Completely and boringly average.”
“What’s wrong with average? Hey, I don’t care if you don’t look like George Clooney.”
“Clooney? Ha! Catherine, I don’t even look like his gardener’s sickly cousin.”
She dissolved into laughter.
“Come ooooon,” she wheedled again the next week. “Please?”
“Maybe I’m horribly ugly. Have you thought of that? Like, pathetically so.”
“I don’t care,” she said in a firm tone. “Have you thought of that?”
“You say that now.”
“I say it because it’s the truth.” She sighed. “Wyatt. Do you think I’m that shallow, that I really care what you look like? That it would alter how I feel about you?”
“No,” he stammered. “Of course not. I don’t think you’re shallow at all. But I just don’t… I don’t understand why this is so important. Why do you need to see my picture?”
“I just want to put a face to the words onscreen, to the voice on the phone.” She grunted with exasperation. “I just want… a connection. Why don’t you get that?”
“I do get that,” he conceded quietly. “But I just… maybe I don’t want to… kill the fantasy.”
About Jennifer Gracen:
jgra

Jennifer Gracen wears several hats: contemporary romance writer, copy editor, social media addict, friend, wife, and (most important hat) mother of two young boys. If it wasn’t for the advent of Twitter, Jennifer would have never met her Favorite Redhead, Karen DeLabar, for which she will be forever grateful.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


While tooling around Twitter over a year ago, I met M.E. Franco, a lovely woman who writes with a passion. We kept in touch and finally stole enough time to sit and have a proper talk. I admire her tenacity and spirit so...I'm featuring her here! I know you'll love her as much as I do.

She's a short story and romance novelist with a special affection for the paranormal genre. She lives in California with her husband and children. She works as a Behavior Analyst Consultant during the day and writes in her fantasy world at night. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, playing outside, music, and chocolate. Let's see what she's got for us today!


Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Valerie! I appreciate you offering me the opportunity to share my books with your readers. Your enthusiasm and generosity caught my attention on Twitter in the ocean of infomercial tweets. You really go out of your way to connect with people and it shows. Congratulations on publishing Happenstance. I read it recently and really loved it!

After a lot of soul searching, I decided to self publish my books. Since then, I have published two books in my paranormal romance series. Here is a quick look:
 


As a San Francisco homicide detective, Mari Lucas was used to calling in favors to get her sister, Kerry, out of trouble, but this was the last straw. Instead of her usual minor brush with the law, Kerry landed herself in a locked psychiatric ward rambling about vampires who were out to get her. Working in San Francisco, Mari had seen a lot of crazy things, but vampires? Maybe Kerry had finally lost her mind. 

But when her sister goes missing from the secure psychiatric facility, Mari is forced to investigate her disappearance along with a disturbing increase in missing persons cases among the homeless population. Forced to work the case with an outside detective, Mari will stop at nothing to find her sister. But what she finds will change her life forever.

 


 


When a blood thirsty draugr terrorized his village, Reinn Gunnarson had no choice but to gather some men and follow the creature to its lair knowing they would never return. Mortally wounded, Reinn awoke to find the gods had cursed him to the same fate as the evil he had fought so hard to destroy – a draugr. He isolated himself inside the creature’s castle away from humans. This had worked well for over 1000 years until one rainy night when Kylee Shanon, a stubborn, foul mouthed woman knocked on his door looking for help, unaware of the danger within.

After escaping Raith Macrae and his team in San Francisco, Christopher Collins set up shop in a new location in Europe. A mistake by his men led to the discovery of a legendary draugr. Collins had heard the stories of how draugrs were hunted to extinction by the Díon because it was too dangerous to allow even one to exist; but if he could control it, he could use it to kill Raith and bring Mari Lucas back to his side where she belonged. 

When Reinn is forced to carry out Collins’s plan, a twist of fate gives Raith the chance to catch Collins while keeping Mari and his team safe. To do this; he will have to trust Reinn, a draugr. The type of creature Raith had been created to kill.

I am currently working on a historical romance, The Rustler's Daughter. I plan to publish it in February 2013. You can see what I'm up to by following me on Twitter @MEFranco1, Facebook, or on my blog!

Thanks for stopping by M.E.!! And for motivating me to follow my own weight loss goals! Yes! I've been reading your blog! :D Leave M.E. a comment here to show her some writerly love!