Friday, November 30, 2012

The Gingerbread Boy

Posting for Lori Lapekes:


Written November 25, 2012, (at Schuler Books and Music, Grand Rapids, MI)

Author Forward to Readers of Upcoming Book “The Gingerbread Boy”

Many years have passed since I first wrote “The Gingerbread Boy,” and it’s only now I have the peace to wrench it from my soul and share it. Although it is largely fiction, enough parallels have come to pass between my life and this story that not only was it emotional to re-read, but to edit as well.

Emotional--and healing.

You see, a young man named Paul Ferner was once my “Gingerbread Boy.” I dedicate this book to his memory. “Paul Esquire” he liked to call himself, was a charming, intense, and soulful young man with a quick wink and witty word. A man who loved the company and wisdom of the elderly yet still loved children’s toys like plastic cowboys and Indians, spinning tops and yo-yos.

The last time I saw him, he was jerking in spasms from eurmic poisoning his parent’s dingy living room. He mouthed “I love you” with his lips, for he could no longer speak without vomiting. He then turned over to face the wall.

He’d turned his back on me.  And was gone from this earth three days later, a month before his 30th birthday.

That last scene haunted me for over twenty years. I was invaded by unsettling dreams. Dreams where I’d hear that Paul was “back in town.”

Back in town? I’d wonder. Yet in that fuzzy, befuddling dream-world, I didn’t wonder that he hadn’t actually died, but wondered if he’d forgotten to tell me he’d moved away for some experimental procedure, and would only return when healed.

 So, why hadn’t he contacted me upon his return? Was he waiting for me to contact him? How could I do so if he didn’t know if I knew he’d returned? Didn’t he want me to know? Wasn’t he thinking of me at all? Did he still love me?
Now I believe those dreams were a symbol of unfinished business. The inadequate closure as I struggled with the question, why did he turn his back on me that final day?

Now, I know. It was out of love. He spared me his last moments on earth-- moments I would later learn I would not want cemented in my memory for the rest of my life if it could be helped.

Yet, there will forever be a Paul-shaped hole in my heart. I’ve come to believe and hope that it is now a much kinder heart, a more gentle and understanding heart. One that holds a unique appreciation for true love, even a lost love, and how marvelous it was I’d been lucky enough to have known it at one time.

And, the sweetness of the realization that true love can be found anew.

Mr. Paul Esquire, you will always be an “epitome.”


From C.S. Lewis:

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Being Thankful

Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I'd mention a few things I'm thankful for - this list is by no means complete or we'd be here for about a month. But I thought I'd list a few of the really important ones.

My family - I'm so grateful for the unconditional love, the insane bouts of laughter and the sense of peace and belonging I feel with my husband, sons, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I love them all.

My friends - I'm grateful for the same unconditional love, insane bouts of laughter and sense of peace and belonging with my friends. I'm so incredibly lucky to have the friends that I do.

My cats - again with the unconditional love. Also, they keep me warm while I'm writing.

My home - it may not be perfect, but we have enough to eat, a roof over our heads and if nothing else, the crazy neighbors double as book fodder.

My jobs - writing and editing have allowed me to stay home with my kids which is something I always wanted to do as a parent and I'm thrilled that I've been able to manage it.

My favorite authors - for putting out books to escape into and to inspire me to write my own.

My home state - Michigan is an amazingly beautiful place to live and I'm reminded of that every day.

My writing group - Yep - that's you people - GRRWG. I'm thankful for your friendship and support - not just to me, but to all our members, our guests and the community at large.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you awesome food, a full belly and wonderful companionship. If you plan to brave Black Friday, I wish you safety, luck and good deals. And if you're winding down on NaNo, I wish you effortless plot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Prep Day

Just a little trivia, did you know that traditionally, today and Christmas eve are the 2 busiest for pizza places? Yep...too busy cooking to cook dinner. Okay, on to the fun stuff.

        It was about this time last year that I threw some stuff into a backpack and a small suitcase and aimed my car toward Minnesota. My brother,Rick, was in the VA hospital and not expected to live long. I won't say how long it took to get there, but it was way faster that what the trip-tik said. I spent a week there, he rallied and we had a belated birthday party for him. His work and cop buddies came by- I was the surprise...Rick had always talked about searching for his family, he knew he had a sister out there. I on the other hand, only knew there was a missing sibling- I had no idea who I was searching for. Watching their faces was priceless, as we cracked jokes or groused about something-they began to chuckle and shake their heads..."Boy can you tell you two are related." was a popular line.
      Now and then he would do something, and I had to stifle a laugh because it was a 'mom move', some mannerism that had her name all over it. He sent his daughter to get a special present for my sister-in-law and gave it to her at his birthday- an inscribed heart locket. One of the lines was "I love you more." He laughed and joked and had the nurses cracking up. That was also the beginning of the end. As I drove home through the UP I was totally lost in thought until the moose stepped out of the trees. She was huge, and I drive a small car- I found the brakes fast. Next to her stood a pair of calves...well for a split second, then they romping all around the small stand of trees. They made me laugh & I needed that wake up call on two fronts, one was obvious-pay attention dumb ass. The other, was don't forget to laugh. Rick laughed often, a joker, a prankster. He lost his battle with agent orange on Dec. 15th. and I made that trip again. I came back just a couple days before Christmas, still numb.
       On my return trip I was thinking about that moose family when the blue lights started flashing. The State Trooper's first words were not "do you have any clue how fast you were going?" They were "are you okay?" I ended up telling him about Rick & he in turn lectured me about driving too fast and thanking me for my service to our country as well as Rick's. He told me where the next gas station with decent coffee was and sent me on my way.
         So the point to this is, when I list the things I am thankful for this year, it will include those days with my brother. I'm thankful that after everything, I can still find humor in things that mystify others, thankful for the family and friends still with us, thankful for the moose and the cop who didn't give me a ticket but instead gave me some of his time. Happy Thanksgiving.

          OH! Yeah, if you need a good last minute dish for the vast array of parties and dinners, I love this one and it's so stinkin easy. It's my (in)famous Candy bar salad. (I'm southern- we see food differently)
 2-4 green apples, cored and diced
2-4 crisp red apples, cored and diced
2 large Milky Way –cut up
2 large Snickers- cut up
2 Three Musketeers-cut up
1 cup of dried cranberries (craisons work)
1 Tub of whipped topping
1/8 tsp. of Vanilla

If you chill the candy it cuts up easier, but don’t freeze it- unless you have someone with lots of muscles to help chunk it for you. Mix the vanilla into the topping first, then drop in everything else and stir. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reader Be Aware

I’ve been trying to be an active and aware reader lately. I try to take a step back and notice what keeps me turning the page. What is it about the character that captivates me? Which books do I stay up until 3 am for even though I have to get up early for work? (Usually it’s a book where I can’t bear to stop at the end of a chapter). What things annoy me or piss me off? How vividly can I see the events? When does it lag? When does it feel like work to read it?

I spent 50% of my time as a teenager with my nose in a book. By the way I recommend this as a coping skill for the teenage years!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer or because I’ve read a million books, but I’m a fussy reader and I don’t have a lot of patience. If you don’t have me after the first few pages, I’m onto something else. I also have a tendency to start three books at once and it’s always interesting to see which one wins out, which one I finish first.

I also love movies and I’ve noticed a parallel between good acting and good writing. When I’m watching a movie with a good actress, I don’t notice that she’s a good actress because well, in my mind, she IS the heroine. I’m absorbed, obsessed with the actual story. I don’t even have the thought that she’s a good actress. When it’s bad acting, I notice the acting, NOT the story it’s trying to tell. And I find myself thinking, wow what a bad actor.

Writing is similar. I’ve found that aware reading is much easier to do when I’m reading a poorly written book. I’m constantly analyzing it and can usually pinpoint what’s wrong. If it’s a book I love, I forget to take that step back because I’m so engrossed in what’s happening. I finish the last sentence and I think, oh no—I missed it, how did the author do it? I wasn’t even aware because I was so immersed in the story that I forgot, well, it’s just a story.

 I’m reading a book like that right now and have had to make a very conscious effort to slow down and notice how this author is captivating me (Anya Seton, a historical fiction writer). It’s annoying to read books that way because it’s work and it’s much more fun to be swept away into another world. But it’s also intriguing to dissect, and I’m hoping it will improve my own writing. I realize that it’s not quite as matter-of-fact as science and there’s no Algebra equation that will result in a masterpiece, but for years I viewed writing as completely creative and artistic with no boundaries or methods. I was waiting for that inspiration that would suddenly produce the masterpiece. However I’m finding that there are some broad paint strokes that can guide a work of art and cause one piece of writing to be better than another.

 It seems like common sense, but for a creative person who always hated math because it had only one correct answer, it was at first a little disappointing, but later exciting to learn that some methods can improve the story.  And yet it’s still an intricate and delicate art that allows for some subjectivity unlike blah and boring mathematics!



Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Yummy New Dessert for the Holidays!

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! My name is Lisa Orchard and I'm the guest today at the GRRWG Blog! With the Holidays coming up I thought I'd share my famous dessert with everyone. It's great for Thanksgiving if you're a chocolate lover and don't want to go the traditional route with pumpkin pie! :)

It's also great for those Christmas parties that are coming up in December! So, check it out and let me know what you think!



1 package Lorna Doone Cookies (or any shortbread cookies will do)

Add melted butter to cookies (approximately ¼  to ½ cup)

1 7 oz package of chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons of Sugar

2 ½ Tablespoons of water

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 egg whites


Crush the Lorna Doone cookies and add melted butter to the crust. Put crust in 10” baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until crust starts to brown. Remove from heat and cool.


Combine chocolate chips, sugar, and water in double boiler until blended. Remove from heat and add egg yolks, beat after each one. Add vanilla and chill slightly. (I usually stick it in the refrigerator until the pan feels cool approximately 10 to 15 minutes.)


Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into chocolate mixture. Spread over cookie crust and top with whip cream.


I usually double this and put it in a 9x13 dish.


This dessert is the BOMB! And speaking of BOMBS, check out the second book in the Super Spies series, “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber.”
Check out the blurb and the cover below:


This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah and her sister Lacey are now living with their Aunt and Uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?

You can find my second book in the Super Spies series at these sites:
Here's the first book in the series, and it's now available in Paperback! :) This is a great new series for your tween/teen!
This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman. One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.  The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…

You can find me at these social media sites:



Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you enjoy the dessert as much as I do! :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Setting is Important

Setting is Important

For those participating in NaNo, the month is more than half over, and you should be closing in on your goal.  Even if you don’t make it, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished!  The courage to start something so ambitious is more important than what word count you have at the end of the month.

Once you’ve completed your work (whether this December or some future month), it’s time to start editing it.  One of the goals of NaNo is to take off the editing filters and write from your gut, trusting in your muse, or the Girls in the Basement or your subconscious to lay a foundation.  Editing fills in the NaNo holes.

You might, like I do, rush through your WIP, scurrying to put down the words before they evaporate.  When I’m in the groove, I concentrate on my strengths, like dialogue and pacing.  I fix my weaknesses in the edit phase.

I’ll be the first to admit, setting is not my forte. Fellow GRRWG members Bronwyn Green and Tanya Eby can write settings like nobody’s business, using it almost as another character and establishing mood, place, and time to anchor me in their stories.  My characters exist in a vacuum, while theirs are full of color and the five senses.  I’m envious and vow to write better.

Besides establishing mood, it’s important to establish societal character.  I never thought about this until I moved from Michigan to Hawaii, probably because I'd never lived anywhere else.  Yes, there are vast cultural differences, but there’s also different phrasing of everyday words.  This is probably obvious to anyone who has lived in more than one place for any length of time.

In the past, there’s been different internet discussions on pop vs. soda and sneakers vs. tennis shoes, but local phrasing goes beyond that.  Accuracy adds flavor to your work.

Following is some of the differences between Michigan and Hawaiian terms.

Grocery cart
Flip flops
Stick shift or manual or 5 speed

Of course, if your setting is another world, you can pretty much call anything whatever you want.

If you want to be authentic, it shouldn’t be hard to get help.  A request to one of your writing groups, Twitter or Facebook will bring a response.  Yesterday’s six degrees of separation has narrowed to three and a half.

While you edit, don’t let setting be an afterthought.  It’s an overlooked tool and can add tremendous strength to your story.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Older Women + Purple = Perfect Match

For whatever reason, I have found that older women and the color purple just seem to go together.
Perhaps it's because purple has long been associated with royalty and goddesses. Perhaps we're trying to reconnect with our inner goddess. Or perhaps it's because of the Red Hat Society and that now infamous poem of "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me..."

Whatever the reason, I find it comforting to know that women of all ages have a fondness for purple. I've loved purple since I was a kid. My favorite colors were blues and purples, perhaps some greens. Always the deep rich warm colors, not the pastelly-girly stuff, but the serious stronger colors.  It is only now, that I have reached a certain age point and comfort in my career, do I really reach for the purple in my clothes. I have always tried to dress for comfort, even when working under strict dress codes, but my current job allows for a bit more "laxness" in clothing choices, so my most favorite purple shoes ever surround my feet in cozy, sqooshy, warm comfort on a chilly day.

You see, today I have on my F-Ughs (Fake Ughs) that I bought yesterday; they are uber cool because they are purple. And a pretty purple I might add.  All the older women in my office noticed them right away and talked about the color, asked if they were comfy and where I got them. The guys all asked "are those slippers?". No boys, they are not slippers. They are acceptable footwear - if you stretch the dress code hard enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Encouragement Bounce

Two weeks ago, I attended the Ready, Set, Write conference sponsored by our very own Grand Rapids Region Writers Group. Since I arrive home, I've actually been writing. I'm going to attribute this to tips from Jennifer Armintrout's workshop on time management.

I've been discouraged lately for a variety of reasons, but a main one being that my kids' schedules are changing and the 'free' times I had before aren't there.

Jennifer had some great tips for working around this, and reminding me of things I used to do that I have somehow forgotten.

What I took away from her workshop:

- I have resources I am not using: notebooks in my purse or around the house, Evernote on my Kindle and phone, and software on my computer, Scrivener. Each of these I can and will be using more effectively.

- Don't expect quiet hours, expect minutes. I never have hours; I have minutes. Ten minutes while the kids are playing nicely (haha!), twenty minutes while I'm waiting for my daughter to go to the bathroom, fifteen minutes while they are having rest-time in the afternoon. Instead of wasting this time on Pinterest, I can spin out a blog post or edit a couple paragraphs.

All these minutes add up to words on the page, but more importantly, they are encouraging. I'm working on the story more. Instead of feeling like it's stagnating, I feel like it's moving forward, even if it's only word by word and sentence by sentence rather than chapter by chapter.

Sometimes you only need something little to make a difference.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friendships and Family in a Small Industry

Conferences are approaching. That's nothing new. There are several big conferences a year that writers go to. Either to learn more about their craft, to help others, or meet and inter act with readers. The weeks leading up to a conference is generally chaotic for writers. Aside from their regular commitments, they also need to make sure they have any and all books and promo material together that they'll need. And that it is the right promo for them and for the conference. When you're organizing a conference of any size, you effectively are taking on another full time job. Talk about chaos. I'm sure many events meet themselves coming and going.

The publishing industry as a whole, is really not that big. When you look at e-publishing, it's even smaller. Or maybe not truly smaller, but tighter knit. I don't know if authors from the traditional New York houses get that same feeling or not. Writing is a very solitary occupation, and it can be hard to connect with people. Writing e-books, means there can be less opportunities for booksignings, after all the bookstores can't order them and stack them in a pretty display, but the flip side of that is that as we talk to each other. On Facebook. On Twitter. And on E-mail loops. Short conversations or word count accountability messages become conversations that become friendships. Then we get to go conferences and meet those people and friendships deepen.

I'm heading for GayRomLit in Albuquerque, NM to spend a week with old friends and new ones and to remember those that we lost this year. In the days leading up to GRL there are more and more emails that say things like  "I'm useless at work, is time to go yet?". It is an event that readers and authors alike look forward too. Earlier this year I received a heart-wrenching email from one of my publishers titled "A Death in the Family", informing me of the unexpected death of William Neale, a friend and fellow author. Writers and readers alike, we've become a close knit community. We mourn the loss of friends and family, cheer for successes and good news, send thoughts and prayers and words of encouragement to those in need. And when we're lucky enough to meet them in person and again, it's like coming home. Those emails have led to friendships, to families of friends.

To Old Friends and New....I can't wait to see everyone in Albuquerque!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Blogging and Book Tours

By W. S. Gager

I’m in the midst of writing 15 blogs for a blog tour with 14 other authors that kicks off on Black Friday and runs for two weeks. I did this same tour last November and really saw a jump in sales and even better I reached a bunch of new readers.

The tour is called Murder We Write and features mystery authors from across the country. The beauty is you get exposure to each of their fans and followers. The down side is this is a lot of prep work.  Setting up such a blog tour requires one person to organize and be the “official” decider of issues and they do show up.

Many in the tour want all the posts at least a month in advance to have it preposted and ready to go. That makes sense because it is a very busy time and easy to forget. Each author gets to pick what they want from the other authors for their own blog. Each post also contains at least one book cover, typically the latest release, links to the author’s website and buy links. Each author also does some type of giveaway but that isn’t mandatory. With the last one, we as a group gave away 45 books and that generated a lot of interest when it was promoted on Facebook and Twitter.

The downside is writing all the posts in a short span of time. I’m struggling through them and only have a handful to go. The good thing is it is a nice mix of requests from interviews, excerpts, pieces on setting and other bits of writing craft. 

Another key is going to each of the blogs and commenting during the tour. Some fans won’t seek out other authors but the one they already like. Each comment on other people’s blogs shows readers more about you and helps push them to look at your site and then to buy your books. 

We all struggle with promotion and making it pay. One way to maximize our resources is to do group blog tours. Everything that is done is multiplied by the number participating. For a person to reach hundreds of new fans within two weeks, is worth struggling through writing all the blogs.  I just keep repeating that mantra. Only three more to go…

What results have you gotten from blog tours?

Award-winning mystery author W.S. Gager has lived in West Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him. Her third book, A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, was a finalist in the 2012 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. A CASE OF VOLATILE DEEDS, her fourth in the Mitch series will be out this February.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Release!

It's only November, but in the publishing world, the Christmas holiday began long ago. Christmas stories are often written during the hot, humid days of summer and edited while the leaves are beginning to change color. This year, Astraea Press put out a call for Christmas Regency stories centering around a Christmas Eve Ball at the home of Lord and Lady Kringle at Holly Hall on Christmas Eve, 1812. I decided to take the challenge and with the help of my amazing critique partner Stephanie Michels, I submitted a story called The Partridge and the Peartree for consideration in this series. The story was accepted and I'm so pleased that my novella is part of the lineup! Here's the blurb:
Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett, dreamed of a peaceful life with a suitable mate until a hunting accident left him scarred and nearly deaf.  Resigned to spending the rest of his days alone, Phillip has devoted himself to rebuilding his family estate.  But, a chance encounter with a lovely young woman in a dusty bookstore rekindles his almost-forgotten hopes and dreams.

Lady Amelia Partridge has no time for the frivolity of the London social scene. She is much too busy.  In addition to her work with the Ladies Literary Society, she has a mission – educating poor children in the city. She also has a secret life, one she fears might drive away the young duke who has become increasingly important to her.

Astraea Press is going to be well-represented at our conference. The owner, Stephanie Taylor, senior editor Kim Bowman, and cover artist Elaina Lee (who designed my lovely cover above) are all coming!

Patty Kiyono