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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prince Charming...

We all have our ideals. Who would be your perfect match? George Clooney for the ladies? Collin Ferrell is tops on my list. That person that would make life worth living, no matter what...

The paradigm for Baby Steps is Snow White and Grumpy...but it's more than that, because our Lily has her Prince Charming already but she's losing him. She's running from him, actually. And he's exactly what she needs, especially since she's hurting and he's the one she's always turned to when she needed rescuing. Sounds kind of stupid and she thinks so, until Grumpy comes along and his grumpiness is coming from a place where he doesn't want to belong to anyone, so no one can hurt him. Snow White understands--sometimes it feels like she's the only one. And that's when she realizes...she and Grumpy are running from the same thing.

Don't run from your dreams and the people who want to help you get there. I don't care how you've failed in the past or who's hurt you before, if you have someone in your life now who wants you to succeed and help you get what you need, then you're living your own fairytale. Don't run from that, find a way to take your first step toward believing.

Anyway, that's what the novella's about. And the Snow White and Grumpy thing. And foster care. And knitting back together a marriage in jeopardy. I just spent a few days weaving the Disney magic better into my story. We'll see what the editor thinks. Oh--and I'm giving you one more taste below. Put Mother's Day '08 on your calendar now, if you're dying to read the whole thing.

Got great news over the weekend--The Runaway Daughter's a Book-Seller's Best Finalist!!! A very cool contest I've been dying to rock for a couple of years now, judged completely by booksellers, so I'm doing a happy dance. Would be nice if I won the thing, but that would be greedy, so I'll keep the wishing on a star stuff to myself and just say it's an honor to be nominated ;o)

And...I have my October cover--for the first in the Atlanta Heroes series. Because of A Boy turned out to be a great "suspensish" romance. And the Atlanta skyline on the cover totally rocks!!! Look for it in October, and for great excerpts out here once I get my act together after this latest deadline.

Now...about the next scene in Baby Steps...you need to meet Lily's Prince Charming...


"Because she's a teacher," Tyler Brooks explained to his gym class truant. Lily was also the most beautiful woman Tyler had ever met, not that now was the time to make that point. "And even if she wasn't, she's an adult. Don't talk to adults that way, period, and you might tunnel out of detention before the end of the school year."

"Oh, okay. But Nathan Grover can call me a bastard all he wants!" the kid spat back.

"Of course it's not okay."

"He called you what?" Lily stepped closer. A petite dynamo, she was barely taller than the kids she taught.

"Some of the boys were playing four square, and Dakota's our new all-star." Tyler dragged his attention away from his wife's peaches and cream complexion and dark auburn hair, and nudged Dakota's shoulder. "Seems Nathan doesn't take kindly to losing, so—"

"So! He cheats. And he calls me names when you're not looking. And—"

"You kicked him, Dakota, right before you bolted out of the gym without a pass." Tyler watched his wife circle a gentle arm around the fourth grader's shoulder. Caught up in the day's latest injustice, the child forgot to resist the nurturing that came as second nature to Lily as breathing. "No matter what another kid does, there's no excuse for—"

"Defending myself?" Dakota's gaze slid to where Lily's hand rested on his shoulder. He sidestepped until they were no longer touching.

"There's no excuse for hitting." Lily wrapped her arms around her chest. She caught Tyler's smirk and shot him an eat me look, because she knew that he knew how much she wanted to still be hugging the kid. "And there are smarter ways to defend yourself. You let Nathan goad you into losing your cool, and you're the one who gets caught. Meanwhile, he looks clean as a whistle?"

"Screw you!" Dakota made a bee-line for the door.

Luckily, Tyler had the reach of an albatross. A handy thing on a basketball court, where he'd made many of his best high school memories. An essential for a career in corralling hyperactive school children into organized physical activity. He snagged Dakota and turned him around.

"First." He tightened his grip when the kid tensed for another sprint. "Apologize to Mrs. Brooks and Ms. Hastings. Second, help clean up their..." Tyler gazed at the piles of fuzzy white stuff, brown fabric and what looked like overweight chickens strewn about the floor, "...whatever. Then you and I are meeting Nathan at the AP's office for a little chat."

"Nathan?" Dakota peered up at him.

"He started the fight, didn't he? He's going to stand up for his part in what happened."

Mr. Confrontation looked suddenly younger. Confused. Stunned, even. Tyler smiled over his student's head, catching his wife's nod of approval. He squeezed Dakota's shoulder and shoved him forward.

"S...Sorry," Dakota said to the two ladies he'd sent crashing to the mint green floor.

Sincerity and belligerent ten-year-olds... An unnatural combination if Tyler ever saw one. The kid began clearing his mess, mumbling under his breath. Something about how stupid adults were.

That kind of spunk was a good thing not a pain in the ass, Tyler reminded himself. A child like Dakota learned to be tough from the cradle. Had to stay that way just to get through the day. Tyler understood that better than most. More than he cared to.

Lily motioned him closer to the door.

"New student?" Her chocolate brown eyes drank him in. When they were in their nineties, she'd still be able to bring him to his knees with just one look.

"Dakota started with Alma Rushing's class on Monday. He's having a little trouble settling in with the other kids."

"So it would seem." Lily held his gaze until he was the one to look away, hiding the need to pull her closer. "Sounds like he and Nathan's problems are more than just boys being boys in PE. You're going to make sure that Ms. Emory gives him a break?"

"Yeah, I'll handle it."

"You always do."

He frowned at the accusation, then started when she took his hand, reaching for him for the first time since she'd moved out. Their fingers tangled together out of habit. A perfect fit.

"You're amazing when you're fighting for one of your kids." Her smile was so hesitant, as if she wasn't sure of its welcome, it broke his heart. "You're going to make a great father."

Tyler's throat stung against the urge to start a conversation they couldn't have. Not there. Enough of their personal issues had already followed them to school if even his newest student knew about their separation.

Temporary separation. It had only been two weeks. It just felt like forever.

He squeezed her fingers and kissed them. Kept the rest to himself. The sparkle in her eyes dimmed at his non-response—eyes he'd once read so easily.

"Ready for our appointment at four?" she asked.

It wasn't really a question.

"How about I meet you there, as soon as I get things settled in the gym?"

It wasn't really an answer.

With a worried nod, Lily turned to help clean up whatever she and Amanda had been working on. Tyler dove in, too, his mind racing with the two battles looming before him that afternoon. And he'd be damned if he felt ready to tackle either.

He had to find a way to motivate a lost little boy to fight for the second chance only Dakota could make for himself. Then he had to convince his wife to accept the truth that had come as a crushing blow to them both, before what was left of their marriage slipped away.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Take a ghost walk with me...

This has become a ghost blog of late...good news, I'm including an excerpt to make amends...so keep reading ;o)

Only fitting, in light of my eerie absence, that we talk of things ghostly and ethereal. Come take a ghost walk with me this weekend... I'm signing in my home town on the 23rd and taking a short weekend getaway with my family to catch up with ghosts of long before and savor as much salt air as I can get down...

Anyone out there wanna guess where we're going?

Savannah, my friends, that lovely grand dame of the deep south exceded in beauty only by Charleston, the place of my birth. Those of you in the lowcountry who have nothing at all to do on the 23rd but wander a bit, come see me and two of my Georgia Romance Writer friends at the Barnes and Nobel ant Oglethorpe Mall (off Abercorn) from 2:00 to 4:00. (Hey Missy/Melissa S.! Looking forward to seeing you there, and at UGA in July ;o)
If you miss out, catch me at one of the local cemetaries later in the day, where I L-O-V-E to write (I head down at least once a year on my own to those lovely, quiet places where the world holds its breath and the breeze speaks to us about years gone by and lives lived either to their fullest or in vain). Here's a look at the civil war cemetary where I sat on a bench and wrote one fine day last December... When the moss sways in the breeze, it's almost like the oak trees themselves are breathing... I was working on finishing up Because of a Boy then...was that really just six months ago!

Of course, it's just as likely I'll be near the water (the river, the ocean or the inter-costal). I grew up surrounded by all three, and sometimes I think it's the humidity that fed my creativity as the child. When the air around you takes on a life of its own, haunting your breath, cloaking you in heat, its nurturing embrace feeding you the same as it does the year-around vegitation that thrives down there, how can you not grow up to write about secret matters of the heart and enchanting worlds that aren't quite real?

Okay, we need a spooky headstone or two to seal the deal. Come to Savannah and enjoy yourselves sometime soon. Come to the signing if you can. But if not, don't miss out on a taste of something truely unique and unbelievably real--a glimpse of the life many of you likely fell in love with in The Prince of Tides (which was set around Charleston, I know, and shot mostly in New York, but when I watch that movie I go back home to where the tides dictate everyone's moods and the sea gulls tell you whether it's time to head out on the water or not).

Now, about that excerpt. I've just finished the rough draft of my '08 Mother's Day novella...tentatively titled, Baby Steps. I'll tell you more what the story's about in the next blog post. For now, enjoy the first scene (can't share too many, since there's only a 100 pages to it to begin with).

A little hint, I'm playing off a theme from a familiar Disney fairytale. The blog faithful might remember which one. I chatted about it earlier this year. Anyone wanna take a guess??? I'm betting there's a prize in it for someone...

"Lilly, the chicken's bottoms aren't fat enough. Do you have any more stuffing?"

"If I had a dollar for every time someone's asked me that..." Lilly Brooks looked up from her portable sewing machine and handed over a bag of cotton batting. "And for the last time, Amanda. They're hens. Happy mothers, all."

The stars of her Mother's Day booth for Silent Springs Elementary's upcoming Spring Fling.

"Okay, then." Amanda Lawson crammed a brown, corduroy bottom with more fuzzy, white filling. "I don't think top-heavy hen's toppling over and smothering live chicks is what Ms. Emory had in mind when you volunteered to do something special for the K-3rd grade moms."

"Good point." Lilly grabbed a handful of cotton, plumped the nearest chicken's tush to find the hidden Velcro seam and pried it open. "I'm going for memories the families can look back on and cherish. Not scarring children for life."

She'd pitched the assistant principal an exhibit where carnival attendees could stop and play with baby chicks, then smile for a commemorative Polaroid that the kids would decorate for a Mother's Day present. Another fabulous idea, Annette Emory had cooed. I'm sure you'll pull it
off as effortlessly and successfully as you do everything else.

Lilly stuffed and sighed.

So far she'd lined up a local farmer to provide the chicks, arranged to rent a tent from the same company providing the dunking booth, and she and her best friend Amanda would be spending their lunch hours for the next two weeks effortlessly sewing and painting a picturesque barnyard motif for other women to enjoy with their kids.

A perfect Mother's Day surprise that would take a month to make a success.

She glanced around the cluttered, colorful art room. Amanda put her energy into exploring and enjoying the school day with her students. Getting the most out of each moment. Not so much with the planning and worrying that everything be perfect. Lilly had the corner on that.

She tossed a chicken at her carefree friend.

Amanda giggled and lobbed the lovingly-stuffed bundle onto its growing pile of peers. "So, what's next?"

"Mr. Klein offered to bring enough animals for a petting zoo, if we had a large enough space." Lilly had been his granddaughter's third grade teacher last year, and she'd encouraged little Molly's parents to test her for Dyslexia. Since starting treatment, the formally shy, withdrawn child had blossomed, and the Klein family was convinced Lilly was their angel's fairy godmother. "But I'm not sure—"

"Do it!" Amanda ran her hands over at the bolts of bargain-bin fabric Lilly was morphing into easily controlled replicas of living, breathing, pooping stable inhabitants. "Sewing everything would be a safer solution, especially now that the chickens—hens—are looking less like the bad end of a funhouse mirror. But a little chaos is a good trade-off. Things might get crazy, mixing things up with the kids and real animals, but they'll love it!"

Crazy...mixing things up...

Panic bloomed at the mere suggestion. Lilly was starting to hate that about herself.

"Maybe... Maybe it wouldn't be so out of control," she heard herself agreeing, when she'd promised their very conservative AP a calm, picture-perfect photo op. "As long as we're careful about which animals Mr. Klein brings..."

"Dakota, stop running in the hallway!" a familiar voice boomed, a split second before a whirlwind dressed in jeans, tee-shirt and ball cap blurred through the doorway and ran smack into Lilly and Amanda's poultry assembly line.

"Look out!" Amanda dove left.

Lilly ducked right. "Ah!"

The boy hit his knees and slid beneath the table, catching a table leg with his sneaker. Corduroy and butt stuffing flew into the air. The table clattered to on its side. Their hen-assailant kept on sliding, until he'd crashed into the easel Amanda had set up to teach the second graders coming in after lunch.

"Ow!" he yelped.

The wooden frame collapsed on top of him.

"Are you ladies okay?" His pursuer's emerald gaze connected with Lilly's. Tyler knelt on one knee and helped her to her feet.

His frown warmed to a heart-tugging smile in response to her nod that she was fine. When his touch slid slowly away and he turned toward Amanda, Lilly forced herself to let go and head for the struggling heap of little boy and art supplies in the corner.

"Nice slide into home-plate slide, kiddo." She extricated the easel, then the blank canvas that had been propped on top of it. The kid's shaggy, dark hair partially obscured the dark eyes glowering up at her. "I bet you're a champ on the ball field."

"Baseball's for sissies, stupid!" His insult missed it's mark. His scowl was simply too adorable to pull it off.

"Dakota, you know better than that!" Silent Springs' impossibly tall, impossibly handsome PE teacher corrected. He stepped to her side. "Apologize to Mrs. Brooks for your bad manners."

The child struggled to feet that were covered in unlaced, hole-riddled sneakers that were as black as everything else he wore--except his Atlanta Braves ballcap. Lilly thought she caught a hint of embarrassment, maybe even regret, touch his hostile expression. Then he wiped his hair from his eyes, and everything but anger disappeared.

"Why do you care how I treat to your wife," Dakota demanded. "Everyone in school knows you two aren't even living together anymore?"

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Monday, June 11, 2007


6 days 'til my next GRW chapter and board meeting--you know, that fun little president's job that's not suppposed to take up days at a time emailing and phoning people, but somehow it always does, especially the week before...got team!!!

16 days 'til my next workshop--a hands-on, interactive hour or so with other writers, teaching about rewriting (handy, since I'm digging into the draft of my Mother's Day novella this week)

17 days 'til the Mother's Day novella is due to my agent

1 month 'til my next conference--RWA Nationals in Dallas where I'm attending the RWA chapter president's retreat, the literacy booksigning, the Booksellers Best reception (because The Runaway Daughter finalled!!!), the librarian's luncheon and bookseller's tea, am giving two workshops, attending the RITA ceremonies to support my bestest writing buddy, Tanya Michaels, who's a finalist, and let's not forget networking with other authors, agents and editors. Good thing I have a week to fit it all in!!!

1 month and 7 days 'til the event after that--Giving a 3-hour interactive workshop at the University of Georgia's Hariette Austin writer's confernce in Athens. My first cross-genre speaking event.

2 months 'til my second Atlanta's Heroes book is due to my agent (Remember Me, is its current title, because the plot's based around an amnesia hook, but who knows what they'll end up calling it before I'm done)--and I currently only have written only the chapter and the synopsis I sold it on.

And that only gets me through early August, at which point my son goes back to school and between now and then I'll also be rewriting and quite possibly doing first-round edits for the novella. Then we move on to two more conferences, an additional speaking engagement, oodles of GRW responsibilities, the launch of Because of a Boy (Atlanta Heroes, Book 1), on shelves in October, and of course the third Atlanta's Heroes manuscript is due the second week in November.

So, believe me when I say that I get the whole feeling like you're behind before you start and just spinning your wheels thing. I live daily with the acceptance that something on my list won't get done the way I want it to...it's just a wait and see proposition to determine what that neglected possibility will turn out to be.

But...and with me, you know there's always a but...I'm determined to see the 'tils as just the anxiety I need to keep me going and working toward my dreams. Anxiety can be different than fear, if we choose to see it that way.

Fear to me feels more like I can't. Or I've already failed, because I'm so sure time's going to run out. Anxiety is about how much I really want what I'm working so hard for... It's the part of the dream that no one talks about--the part where hope intertwines with your reality and you realize how much is at stake and how much you're really willing to give up to have the prize.

Within a dream (and dreams should always be what drives us, not fear of failure) there is no real time--not if we refuse to giveu p. What's real is us setting ourselves into motion, making those possibilities happen, and then channeling that dependable thing, anxiety, to keep us moving forward no matter how daunting the road ahead appears. At least that's the formula I'm subscribing to as I race, screaming, into the next few months.

Embrace your 'tils. Don't dread them. You'll get there. The ride might not be what you expected it to be, but who cares! The point is, you'll get there, and from there, you'll strike out again for the next dream that's even one more horizon down the road. Life is never-ending that way, at least the kind of life I want.

So, I'm embracing the anxiety that fuels me today, and I'm racing onward to the next 'til.

Join me, won't you?

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