Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why Baby Why

Standard

Why Baby Why

 

I don’t know about you, but I get hung up in the why loop. I think this peculiarity is what made me a writer. I always wonder why. Why things are the way they are. Why people are the way they are. Especially why people are the way they are. Why do some people like being around other people, and why are others more introverted and struggle in crowds. Why do some people love the holidays while others don’t? Why do some people like to cook and others prefer to not. Some people have tons of motivation; others don’t. Why?

But here’s where I can really get hung up. Why do I feel like I do? Why do I think the way I do. Why can’t I get excited about that holiday gathering? Why do I have days or weeks where there’s much that I am thankful for and excited about followed by days or weeks where I struggle to get excited about anything. The things I enjoyed last week don’t interest me now. Highs and lows. I think highs/excitement suck my energy and the lows naturally follow. It’s ebb and flow, right? Don’t get me wrong; they’re not debilitating lows. It’s just a kind of ambivalence for everything. But it passes. When the lows don’t pass, I know I’m in trouble.

I watch other people when I’m ambivalent. I’m interested in people who are upbeat all the time. These are my favorite people. They fascinate me. They are the perky cheerleader types. They are encouragers. They decide they’re going to have a positive outlook no matter what. But I think all that energy they put into being positive affects their productivity, because they don’t seem to get much done. But I do appreciate the encouragement they spread. Some of us really need it!

And then there are the driven people. I used to be driven. I was determined that I could achieve my goals. I set some high ones. I wanted a college education. Check. Then I wanted a masters degree. Check. I wanted a career. Check. I’ve had several. I wanted to be a published author. People used to ask me, do you really think you can be published? Honestly, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be published. So add another check. And boy, has this led me down a rabbit hole where I have absolutely no control over many, many aspects of this beast called publishing.

For example, I can write a really great book. And that’s pretty much it. The rest is not up to me. I can’t make a publisher want to publish it. I can’t make them want to market my books. I can’t control whether people will buy the book. I can’t control whether they’ll like the book if they read it. And Oh Mercy, when there is a promotion going on, like this month where two of my titles are 1.99 on Amazon, I can make myself nuts watching the numbers. While I’m so grateful that the publisher is doing a promo for me, it makes me crazy. I can’t NOT look at the numbers and wonder. Why is my book doing just okay while others are doing great? What ramifications will an average promo have for me? Why can’t I just be grateful that people are buying my books? I am grateful people are buying the books, but there’s so much other stuff going on in my head that sometimes the grateful gets crowded out.

So, yeah. I used to be driven until I realized that I’m no longer driving. Nope, I’m just along for the ride, wondering where I’ll wind up. Is there going to be a spectacular crash or is there a sweet little luxury car that will take me into the future? I, of course, am hoping for the latter!

Which brings me back to why people are the way they are. Clearly, I overthink things. And often my thinking is wrong. That, they tell me, is part of depression. So, I try to recognize it. I even do that self-talk thing where I say to myself, “Stop thinking that way. Think another way.” Usually it helps.

Mostly I wonder, why baby why?

 

Debbie

Help Feed My Insanity, Buy a Book

A Home for Christmas and What the Heart Wants

Both Still 1.99

BUY NOW

Two is Better Than One

Standard

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I received a number of wonderful, encouraging posts last week in response to Stepping Off Cliffs, which I posted last Monday. By way of update, I was talking about taking the leap and writing something different from the old-fashioned sweet romances that I’ve been writing. In short, I was talking about writing something steamier and how it terrified me to do something different.

I am happy to report that thanks to your encouragement, I polished some chapters, wrote a synopsis and cover letter, and updated my CV. And now it’s out of my hands. We’ll see what the powers that be say. Am I still terrified? Absolutely. But I’m also thrilled to have taken a positive step for myself in overcoming the fear. So, thank you for helping me do that!

You may be wondering what the title of this post means. Two is Better Than One. As you know, Amazon chose What the Heart Wants as one of the titles in their 100 Novels for 3.99 or Less for the month of November. It’s only 1.99 all this month. To add to the joy and get you in the Christmas spirit, my publisher has lowered the price of A Home for Christmas to 1.99 through November 30. Can I get a Yay to that?

The opening to A Home for Christmas is my favorite that I’ve written so far. There’s an old Victorian near mine that always got completely decked out in icicle lights by its owners at Christmas. It could have been used for Hallmark Christmas cards, but instead, I used it for inspiration. I decided to write a book where the owner lives in that house. In the opening scene, he’s putting out the Christmas lights at Thanksgiving.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving All!

–Debbie

 

Excerpt from A Home for Christmas

The Second Angel Ridge Novel

 

Janice slid her sunglasses off and laid them in the empty passenger seat next to her. She always got sentimental around the holidays. She didn’t know why. Her formative years had been spent at exclusive boarding schools. Christmases always involved a trip, either with her parents, or more often, with school friends. Each year, her grandmother had invited her to spend Christmas break in Angel Ridge, but her mother wouldn’t hear of such a thing. She’d always been embarrassed by her humble roots and didn’t want her daughter revisiting them.

Janice hadn’t been in Angel Ridge, Tennessee since she’d gone behind her parents’ backs and borrowed a friend’s car when she was sixteen to come during her spring break. It hadn’t changed much. Tall, old houses lined one side of a street that ran high above the Tellassee River, with church steeples just visible a few blocks over. It was a sleepy little town that time seemed to have forgotten, but for some reason, it burned in Janice’s memory like a warm, inviting fire on a cold winter morning.

A movement in her peripheral vision made her refocus on the old Victorian. She noticed that a man had appeared from behind the house carrying a ladder. The sun glinted off a pile of tangled Christmas lights, bunched near the steps of the porch, drawing her attention. Janice smiled. She was glad to see that this man, whoever he was, continued her grandfather’s tradition of decking the house out in grand style for Christmas.

The man leaned the ladder against the house. As he turned toward the mound of lights, he noticed her and smiled. Her breath caught and hung inside her chest. It was an easy smile, full of good humor that enticed a person to come sit a spell on the porch and enjoy the unseasonably warm, late autumn sunshine.

Tall and lean with whipcord muscles, he wore faded and well-worn jeans with a T-shirt that looked like it had once been black, but now was more a soft charcoal dotted with paint stains. A tan leather tool belt slung low across his narrow hips. A lock of thick, dark hair fell across his tanned forehead as he bent to retrieve the lights.

Janice shifted and the leather seat creaked. A sheen of sweat misted her forehead, and she cracked the window.

What must the home’s owner be thinking? But he acted as if seeing a strange woman in a new silver BMW parked outside his house was an every Saturday morning occurrence. He turned, and without giving her a second glance, started up the ladder. Stopping about eight rungs up, he leaned to his right, toward one of the bay windows on the ground floor.

Shifting the lights to his other hand, he reached out to pull at something above the window. He teetered. One foot went up in the air as he tried to shift back to find his balance. But the ladder tipped sideways with the movement, and Janice watched in horrified disbelief as he began to fall.

Years of medical school, emergency room rotations, residency, and private practice had honed her instincts so that she didn’t even give it a conscious thought. She was out of her car and at his side almost before he hit the boxwoods and rolled to the ground.

“Ah, jeez . . .” he groaned.

Janice had already clicked into professional mode. “Don’t worry, I’m a doctor. Try not to move.” She ran her hands down his arms, checking for broken bones. “Where does it hurt?”

The man chuckled. It was a low rumble that had a crazy effect on her. And that smile . . . it should be registered as a lethal weapon.

“If I said everywhere, would you keep doing that?”

Her hands froze on his hard, muscled thigh. Get a grip, she told herself. The man had fallen at least ten feet. He needed to be checked out. Thoroughly. She gave him what she hoped was a look that conveyed that this was a serious matter and continued down his leg. Firm muscles contracted and bunched beneath the soft, nearly threadbare denim.

Janice cleared her throat and tried to speak around the knot that had formed there. “That was quite a fall. Does anything feel broken? Strained? Any pain at all?”

The man tried to sit up, but she restrained him with a firm hand at his shoulder. “You really shouldn’t move.”

“Dr., um . . .”

“Thornton. Janice Thornton.”

“Dr. Thornton, I’m fine. Really,” he insisted, grabbing her hand as she began checking his other leg. “I’d have to fall further than that to hurt anything other than my pride.”

Janice frowned. She was almost completely distracted by the crinkles at the corners of his eyes that said a smile came easy to him, but she knew that often one could have injuries that didn’t present with pain after a fall like that. She turned her attention to his head. “You could have a concussion.”

She sank her fingers into his thick, dark hair at the place where a nearly indiscernible sprinkling of gray fanned out from his temples. His scalp felt warm, and her fingers tingled as she checked for knots. She faltered when she looked into his eyes. Fringed by incredibly long, inky eyelashes, they were a striking silvery blue that stood out against the framing of his dark hair and skin.

He propped himself up on one elbow so that his torso almost touched hers. When she felt his breath, warm and enticing against her cheek, she stopped breathing. He reached out to touch her face, but Janice sat back on her heels.

“There doesn’t seem to be any knots. No bruising or contusions.” She couldn’t stop herself from removing a sprig of rich, green boxwood leaves from his hair. “Um, what about your neck? Does it hurt?”

Before he could answer, she slid her fingers around to the back of his neck and grasped his chin with her free hand. He had a strong jaw. She’d always been a sucker for guys with strong jaws. “Gently,” she whispered, as she turned his head from one side to the other. “Any pain?”

She felt a sensual web forming around them, powerless to extricate herself from its seductive weave. Janice watched in fascination as the Adam’s apple bobbed in the tanned column of his throat.

He wrapped a big, callused hand around her wrist and said, “I wish, because despite the fact that I know your interest here is purely professional, I’m enjoying having your hands on me…too much.” He turned his head then, and with his fascinating mouth slightly opened, pressed a warm kiss against the pulse point at her wrist.

© Deborah Grace Staley

ONLY 1.99 – BUY NOW

 

Stepping Off Cliffs

Standard

Okay, Friends.

I’m on the horns of a dilemma here.

Admittedly, a poor choice of words given the circumstances, but that’s just the way it’s going for me right now.

I’ve written five Angel Ridge Novels. There’s only going to be one more. There. I said it, and I’m putting it out there for the whole Internet to read. As a writer, I’m moving on. As a person, that scares me to death. AR has been good to me. Those books gave me my start in this business. I’d be lying if I said writing something else wasn’t scary. However, if I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s this:

IT’S LIKE STEPPING OFF A CLIFF

And you don’t know what’s going to happen after you fall. Could be good. Could be unbelievably amazing. Could be disastrous. And yet, you do it: take a blind, terrifying, leap of faith. It’s not for the faint of heart, and little secret about me—I’m not all that brave.

So, here I stand, one foot dangling off the edge. The other foot on safe, solid ground. And it’s like that safe foot is freaking nailed down. My gut is telling me what to do, but I can’t let go. Fear’s got me good.

I wrote something new this weekend. Something Non-Angel Ridge. Actually, I wrote something else a few months ago, but I put it away after taking it to my writers’ group and reading it to a shocked audience. An audience of people who know my Angel Ridge, MFA in Creative Writing ways. And they were Shocked (capital S). And it scared me, because what I had written was risky for me, and I was scared, and I don’t know why I’m tearing up while I write that, but I am. Okay, I know why. I’m still scared. And taking it to the group was a self-defeating action, because I actually knew what would happen, even though it shocked me when it did. So, I put-it-away.

I wrote something else this weekend. The beginning of a new small town southern set series that is supposed to be like my sweet, old-fashioned Angel Ridge romances, except it’s going in the same direction as those three chapters I wrote months ago. And today, I’m feeling freaked out and unsettled about it. As I’m wont to do, I’m writing about it to try and make sense of it.

Last week, I was talking to my best friend. And she brought up the chapters I had written several months ago, of course she did, because that’s the way the universe works. Once you start spinning, it grabs you and won’t let you go. You see, I’d sent her those chapters right after I wrote them. Bless her, she reads everything I write. She thought I’d already submitted the thing because that had been the plan. Write three chapters and a synopsis, then submit. When I told her I hadn’t done anything with it, she (as we say in the South) Got All Over Me about it. It started out with something like, “What’s wrong with you? Get that out this week,” as I stuttered excuses, and then she progressed to, “Send that out while we’re talking.” Me? I’m still stammering the excuses out. And I didn’t. Send it out. I did, however, revise it this weekend before I wrote the first chapter of the new series. And you know what? I made hardly no changes.

What the crap?

Back to the horns of the dilemma. Here it is. What’s coming out is steamy romance. History lesson. When I first began writing a hundred years ago, I wrote steamy romances. Couldn’t sell them to save my life. I believe it was because I was learning and my writing was not that great. It had potential, but I didn’t have story structure down. Plus, the publisher I was writing for was very prescriptive about how the stories they publish are written, and I always, always strayed from the formula. Of course, when I told my husband what I was writing now, he gives me the old, “You know, you used to write steamy and it didn’t work out. Maybe you should pay attention to that.” Like it was a sign or something. And I so believe in signs. Okay, and I have good girl, Baptist, Preacher’s Daughter, guilt. Sigh…

But when I sit down to write, that’s what’s coming. (Sorry. Another poor word choice.) And all those years ago when I couldn’t sell what I was writing, I was trying to write something that, at the time, didn’t feel right to me. So I turned completely away from it and wrote something sweet and old-fashioned and just for fun, to have a break from all the rejection, and Angel Ridge was born. Yeah. I was writing small town, sweet romances before Debbie Macomber, but no one in New York would roll the dice on it. Long story short, I went small press. It wound up with Bell Bridge Books, and it’s done great. And who knew? Small town romance is all the rage! And I’m thankful, but I can’t write Angel Ridge for the rest of my life. I have to move on. Intellectually, I know books like Angel Ridge are what I ought to keep writing because that’s what my readers expect, but it’s not coming. (Sorry—word choice again.)

So, here I stand. One foot dangling off the cliff. On foot on safe ground. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

–Debbie

P.S. What the Heart Wants is still 1.99 on Amazon Kindle. Please go buy one so I can keep being a working writer. If you already have it, there’s a handy button there that says “Give as Gift.” Ever thankful for your support. Buy Now

Win free Downloads of What the Heart Wants for your Kindle!

Standard

In honor of What the Heart Wants being part of Amazon’s November 100 Books for 3.99 or Less, I thought I’d give away some copies for all of you Kindle owners. Actually, you don’t have to own a Kindle to enjoy this giveaway. All you need is a Kindle app or your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

To whet your appetite, I’m posting an excerpt here. To win, all you need to do is post a comment ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE–NOT HERE. There’s a link to that page next to this post (it’s to the right on my computer. So, comment and win!

Good Luck!

Winner of the HOLT Medallion

for Single Title/Mainstream Romance

“Hello?” A deep, masculine voice called from the front.
The voice did not belong to Mr. DeFoe. Candi backed out of the storeroom, and cautiously replied, “Who’s there?”
A tall man with wide shoulders wearing a uniform appeared in the back room almost as soon as Candi got the words out.
“I think that’s my line.”
A frown creased the man’s wide brow, and a badge on his jacket declared him a lawman. His hand rested on his gun as he eyed her suspiciously. That made him the second person in town today who’d looked at her that way. Aunt Ruby said to never trust a lawman because they were all crooked, always looking for something to harass you about. She felt her hackles rising.
“I’m perusing the shop, sir. Mr. DeFoe gave me the key.” She held it up for him to see. “I might be interested in renting it.”
He took off his dark brown cowboy-style hat and raked a hand through reddish-brown hair cut short, but not short enough to conceal its tendency to wave. A ruddy complexion and freckles that went along with his hair color sprinkled across his nose and cheeks making him look younger than the creases on his forehead indicated. A jagged scar on his chin marred what might have otherwise been wholesome features.
“My apologies, ma’am.” He approached and held out a hand, “I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace.”
Candi reluctantly gave him her hand, but retrieved it after only a brief shake.
“When I was making my rounds this morning, I noticed the front door standing open and came in to check it out. This building’s been empty for nearly a year now, so naturally, seeing that door open led me to believe that someone had broken in.”
“Naturally?”
“Well, sure. Someone might have been looking for shelter for the night, or teenagers could have been up to some mischief.”
“Well, I’m not a teenager, and I didn’t spend the night here, nor would I,” she said.
“Oh, I wasn’t implying that you would.” “What were you implying, then?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”
“I didn’t give it.”
He took a breath, twirled his hat on his hand, and smiled. “How about if we start over.”
She stared at him blankly. She had no idea what he meant.
“I’m Sheriff Grady Wallace,” he said and extended his hand again.
She looked at it, frowning. “We already shook.”
He smiled again, like he wanted to put her at ease, and twirled his hat again. “I apologize for bustin’ in on you. I imagine I must have given you a fright.”
“You did that.”
“You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
Great. She’d have to give him her name. He’d asked her point blank. She sighed and said, “Candi.”
“Just Candi?”
“Heart.”
“Excuse me?”
“My name is Candi Heart, sir.” Candi Heart? Saying it out loud to a stranger, it sounded stupid and unnatural. What was wrong with her? She should have decided on Jones or Smith or Collins or anything, but Heart? At first, she’d thought it was catchy and memorable, but now she just thought it sounded like some kind of fancy lady. She was not that kind of lady.
He chuckled and rubbed his fingertips across the scar on his chin. “Your name is Candi Heart?”
“Yes, sir. I reckon you could say my mama had a sense of humor.” She waited and watched, hoping the explanation made the lie go down easier.
“Please, call me Grady.”
“Oh, I couldn’t.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because you’re the law, and a body ought to show the proper respect.”
“Well, Ms. Heart, we don’t much stand on ceremony around here. If you’re plannin’ to live in Angel Ridge, you’ll find that out soon enough.”
Candi didn’t know what to say to that, so she didn’t say anything at all. He was quite a bit taller than her, and the fact that he was the sheriff, and that he still had a hand on his gun, made her uncomfortable. She remembered again Aunt Ruby’s warning about lawmen. Best to not say too much.
“So, you’re a hair dresser?”
He sure was nosey, askin’ all his questions. “No, sir.”
“I’m sorry. I just assumed that you might be since you’re thinking to rent Madge’s old shop.”
Candi continued to watch the man carefully. He seemed completely at ease. Confident and in control. Wonder how he did that when she felt like she might bust right out of her skin? She wished he’d get on his way.
“Mr. DeFoe will be coming by soon, and I’d like to look around a bit more before he comes, if that’s all right with you . . . sir,” she added.
“Of course. I’m sorry to hold you up.” He put his hat back on, and smiled widely this time. “I’ll just be on my way. But first, I need you to do something for me.”
Candi frowned. What could she possibly do for him? Still, she’d be crazy to get cross-wise of the law her first day in town. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Call me Grady.”
“I couldn’t—”
He held up a hand, halting her words. “Now, I insist. You callin’ me ‘sir’ makes me feel old before my time.”
Dixie Ferguson had said near the same thing earlier, but that was different. She could call Dixie by her first name because she ran a diner where interacting with people on a personal level was appropriate. This, however, was the sheriff. She couldn’t imagine ever calling him by his given name.
“I’m just bein’ respectful, sir. It’s nothin’ to do with your age. It’s to do with who you are—the sheriff.”
“I appreciate that, but if it’s just the same to you, I’d like you or anyone else in town to call me Grady. I’ve lived here my whole life, and as I said, we don’t stand on ceremony in Angel Ridge.” He looped a thumb in his gun belt and rocked back on his heels. “Would you be willing to give it a try?”
She took a breath and tried to at least act like she had relaxed into his easy manner, but found it terribly difficult. She chewed her lower lip, considering, and then said, “I’d be willin’ to try, say in a week or so, but certainly not with my just havin’ met you. I’m sorry, sir.”
Her words made a frown crease his brow again. “You mind me asking you where you’re from?”
She’d had about enough of his questions. “Yes, sir. I do.”
“Why’s that?”
“Meanin’ no disrespect, but unless I’ve done something wrong and there’s some official-like reason that you’d be askin’, I don’t see as it’s any of your business.”
“I see.” He pulled the brim of his hat down lower on his forehead. “My apologies. I don’t mean to offend. Most folks around here would call asking a newcomer in town where they’re from just makin’ conversation.”
“Is that why you asked? Because you were just ‘makin’ conversation?’” She looked deep into his hazel-colored eyes to discern the truth of his words. He looked right back.
“I was just curious. Your accent isn’t like what you hear in our foothills. It has the sound of the mountains in it.”
So, he was an observer of people and their ways. Candi supposed he’d need to be in his line of work. She’d have to work on being more neighborly. If she was going to run a shop, folks would expect her to be friendly, but she didn’t see how that meant she had to tell everybody her business. Still, she’d do well to hold to Aunt Ruby’s old sayin’, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
“You’re right, Sheriff. I am from the mountains.” She’d let him take that as he would. She wasn’t about to tell him she was from Laurel Mountain.
“Hello!” “Back here, Bud.” The sheriff called out to Mr. DeFoe, but didn’t break eye
contact with her. Let him look as long as he wants, Candi thought. He’s not gonna see anything but a stranger who’s just arrived in Angel Ridge.
“What are you doin’ here, Grady?”
At last he looked away to speak to Mr. DeFoe. Finally able to breathe again, Candi took a long, deep breath of the cool musty air filling the back room.
“Like I was tellin’ Ms. Heart here, I was doin’ my morning rounds and saw the front door to the building standin’ wide open. Since the place has been vacant for so long, I figured I ought to check it out.”
Mr. DeFoe slapped the sheriff on the shoulder and offered him his hand. “Well, I’m much obliged, Grady. Appreciate you keepin’ an eye on things around town.”
The sheriff took Mr. DeFoe’s hand. “That’s what you pay me for, Bud.”
“That it is.”
“I’ll leave you to your business, then.” The sheriff swung his gaze back to Candi and touched the brim of his hat. “A pleasure meetin’ you, Ms. Heart.”
Candi nodded, but didn’t say anything. Words sometimes were unnecessary.

© Deborah Grace Staley

Order What the Heart Wants for Only 1.99

Vote

Standard

Tomorrow is Election Day. My husband, many of my friends and, I’m sure, many of you, have already voted. But I will vote on Election Day. There’s just something about going to my community poling place to vote with my neighbors. We gather at a small elementary school, in its cafeteria, to cast our votes. I love seeing the retirees who run this poling place. They are patriots who take time out of their lives to come in before dawn and stay till well past sunset to make sure my neighbors and I can be part of the political process. These are retired businessmen, teachers, homemakers, and farmers. Pride glows on their faces as they greet us and demonstrate how to use the voting machines. Seeing them, happy to be there, fills me with pride. Pride that I live in a country where we have the privilege to elect those who serve in public office. Pride that although my great-grandmother wasn’t allowed to vote because she was a woman, I can. And I will. Always. I may not agree with what those running for office stand for, but at the end of the day, it’s not about that. It’s about appreciating the freedoms and rights that so many who came before me fought for. They fought not only for themselves, but for future generations. For me. My dad, my grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and others I don’t even know of. They fought for my freedom. I often wonder about the women in my family who sent their sons to war. Did they also fight or protest for the right to vote? If not, the other sisters who shared my gender stood for us all. I’m thankful for the sacrifices made. I’ll never forget them.

Tomorrow, I will go to that little elementary school that sits up on a hill, and I’ll go inside, privileged to be able to cast my vote. And after I do, I’ll walk outside, look at the mountains, and if I listen carefully, I just might hear freedom ring.

Debbie