Monday, October 27, 2008

Jake's Return Wins the Golden Leaf Award!

Hi, everybody! Sorry I've been MIA for so long. I've been trying to get Ashton's Secret and a few freelance projects out the door. Still busy, busy, busy. Now I have even more to do! Over the weekend, I got a call from Rhonda, the owner of The Wild Rose Press. She was calling to congratulate me. It seems on Friday night Jake's Return (blurb and excerpt below) won the New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf Award, the same award my contemporary romance Thin Ice won last year.

Wow. This is amazing. Two wins in a row. I am thrilled and stunned at the same time.

Thanks for letting me share. And remember, if you buy a copy of Jake's Return or Thin Ice between now and December 15, it enters you in the drawing for a Sony E-reader.

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when
he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head
librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake
hadn't wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with
his former best friend, he'd hit the open road.
Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy
who'd been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts
together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender,
loving man who'd given her their daughter, Katie.
But who is Jake now? That's what everyone wants to know,
including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake
back to prison, by any means available.
Jake's been running from love for all of his life. Will he
find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?


Rebecca Reed would never forget the sound of Jacob Donovan walking back into her life. The sharp hiss of startled gasps that suddenly swept across the town library’s main reading room was enough to grab anyone’s attention. She frowned and straightened from where she was shelving books in the children’s section, looked to see what had happened, and felt her heart stop.
Omigod, she thought. He’s here. He’s really here. In Warner.
Her heart jerked to a start again, and she was sure every soul in the building could hear its wild, erratic beat in the shocked silence that had settled over the room.
Jake stood at the front desk, his left profile turned toward her and the rest of the main reading room. He looked tall, dark and rangy in faded denims and a black T-shirt that matched his windswept hair. The clerk behind the desk finished checking out a patron with two small children. A short, stout, no-nonsense woman who had never married, Eunice Lee Larmer had been with the library for as long as most of the town could remember. She looked up at Jake and froze, her eyes rounding with recognition. Her face two shades paler, she stepped back carefully.
The sight of Eunice’s fear sparked a surge of protective anger in Rebecca, taking her by surprise. Damn. She’d thought she was prepared for this.
Obviously not. Telling herself she was rescuing the situation—not Jake—Rebecca started forward just as Jake turned her way. His expression stopped Rebecca in her tracks. He looked completely out of place. Completely unapproachable. A lone wolf barely tolerating the trappings of civilization.
An eternity passed as she bore the weight of his sharp scrutiny from across the now suffocatingly silent room. Rebecca would have sworn she actually felt his cold, dark gaze move from the top of her French twist to the tips of her navy pumps.
She shivered.
Sounding as if it were right next door instead of three blocks away, the daily noon wail of the firehouse siren pierced the unnatural silence. The familiar sound seemed to nudge everyone back to life. Rebecca swallowed hard and braced herself to meet Jake again, to speak with him for the first time in eight years.
The first time since the night he’d given her Katie.
Amid a rising tide of rustles and scandalized whispers, Jake seemed to recall why he’d come to the library. As he slowly wended his way across the crowded reading room to where Rebecca stood, neither of them smiling, a paralyzing thought struck her.
What if he still doesn’t want anything to do with us?
She beat back her own wave of fear, and focused on Jake. He was leaner now, harder and tougher-looking than she remembered. True, he’d always looked tough, but his toughness as a teenager had been a façade. One she’d seen through from the start. But this was different. This was no small town bad boy trying to make the best of his messed-up life alone. This was a grown man who’d spend most of his adult life in hell.
With a sinking sense of dread Rebecca realized she’d made a mistake. She was staring into the face of a stranger.
“Hello, Rebecca.”
His voice was rougher, deeper than she remembered. Deep enough to send a shot of awareness down her spine. “Jake.”
“Been a long time.”
Rebecca knew exactly how long it had been. Counting Jake’s four-year stint in the army, with the exception of those few unforgettable hours they’d shared in Pittsburgh eight years ago, they’d been apart for almost twelve years.
Before that, they’d been the town outcasts together.
“You’re looking good,” he said quietly.
“Thank you. You”
He arched a dark brow. “Considering I spent the last eight years locked up, you mean?”
Rebecca flushed. A nearby cough reminded her everyone within earshot would shamelessly repeat anything she or Jake said, first chance they got. A town like Warner had precious few secrets, and Jake obviously didn’t intend to play down his recent parole from prison.
She squared her shoulders and offered Jake her most professional smile. “Would you like a cup of coffee? My office is right behind the desk.”
“Your office?” He looked blank, then over his shoulder at the checkout desk, the open door that led to the tiny office behind it. The eavesdroppers’ expressions ranged from indignant to shocked. Frowning, Jake turned back to Rebecca. “You’re head librarian?”
She understood his confusion. She wasn’t even supposed to be in Warner, much less working at the library. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had much bigger plans. “For three years now.”
Jake stared at her a moment longer, then ran a slow, speculative gaze over her short-skirted navy summer suit and heels. Just as slowly, he smiled. “Well, I’ll be damned.”
Rebecca’s knees nearly buckled. His smile was vintage Jake. Reckless, unrepentant, and sexier than black satin sheets. Her heartbeat soared, her palms broke into a sweat. With what she considered an amazing amount of grace, given the state of her nerves, she managed to smile back neutrally and avoid tripping over anything as she led Jake past their astonished audience, and into her office.
Once inside, she made a beeline for the coffee pot, then forced herself to take a deep breath before she handed Jake a steaming mug of coffee. “Black still okay?” Her hand only trembled a little.
His slow half-smile hovered between some private amusement and pleasant surprise. “You remembered.”

Liana Laverentz
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE Award Winner)
Jake's Return (NJRW Golden Leaf Award Winner)
Now through December 15...
Purchasing one or the other enters you
In a drawing for Sony E-Reader
check it out at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest Contributor, Ellen Dye

Selling When You’re Without A System
By Ellen Dye

Back in the fall of 2007 it seemed that absolutely everybody I knew had one. Literally.

Some were works of art, color-coded with bright sticky note tabs and highlighted with a rainbow of markers. Others were utilitarian tables sectioned off with clean black-lined blocks. All were amazing---and what’s more, all were working.

Of course, I’m talking about a system. A real, honest-to-goodness Writing System. And not wanting to be left out I promptly decided I just had to get one of my very own.

Why just the other morning I’d been hit with a Great Idea, and now that I’d been privy to the “Can’t Lose By Having A System” approach it seemed like unbelievable serendipity. Clearly the cosmos wanted me to succeed as a book length published author.

I arose at 4 a.m. the next morning to put my plan in motion. After a mere four shot cup of black espresso I managed to peck out a few lines. Well, progress can be slow; I bolstered my spirits as I switched off the computer an hour later and made my way upstairs, still blinking sleepy grit from my eyes, to wake my son for school.

A few hours later I drop Cubby with his Special Education Aide at school and prepare to sprint to my car and get back to work with my system blowing full bore.

Unfortunately, before I clear the front door I’m stopped by several school personnel.

One reminds me that the PTO play is in two days and asks if I have Cubby’s dinosaur costume ready. I nod, trying not to think about the many pieces of green fur cut out and waiting to be assembled that are currently scattered across my office and sewing machine. Two more people remind me of Cubby’s upcoming scholastic goals, which he’s not meeting. “Isn’t somebody helping with that?” I ask, and then duck my head as they solemnly say, “Yes, Mrs. Dye, that would be you.”

But still, I am determined, as I dash home, toss a stuffed mostly complete dino tail from my keyboard and fire up my computer.

Fifteen minutes later I’m staring at a blank screen after realizing what I’d written at 4 a.m. made no sense at all and deleting the lot. Eighteen minutes later I really have no idea why I thought my Great Idea was any good at all.

But that’s okay, because the phone is ringing. It’s Cubby’s therapy coordinator reminding me of the upcoming home visit she’s scheduled and also saying she needs to pick up his monthly paperwork. “Great,” I respond. “And when is this?” There was no amusement in her voice when she reminds me the meeting was scheduled for today, at four sharp.

Crap. Must clean house before she arrives and discovers we trudge daily through massive quantities of cat fur---very unhealthy for children. Oh, and must find paperwork---nope, I shortly discover, it’s must do paperwork.

It’s now time to run back to the school to pick up Cubby. I nod politely to various school officials who tell me of his day’s transgressions and also promise that he will not eat tonight’s homework. Finally I extract Cubby from beneath the cafeteria table with a bribe of ice cream at DQ.

As I’m driving, slurping away on a chocolate shake, I think that maybe my Great Idea did have some merit after all. Maybe it just needs a little tweaking...

Bolstered on four more ounces of black espresso I make it through the home meeting, get Cubby settled and take a step toward my computer. Cubby screams, “Mommy, I’m hungry!” Naturally I reverse direction and head toward the kitchen.

Suddenly I realize I have no idea what we’re having for dinner. This is bad. I’m a Mom, Moms are supposed to know this stuff. I frantically tear through the cabinets hoping a nutritious, fully prepared meal will appear. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Crap. Why do kids have to eat every day anyway?

I hastily pull together a much less than nutritious dinner, deeply thankful Cubby thinks tater tots are vegetables. Then follows the after dinner blitz of dishes, bath, homework, speech, reading and story. I’ve downed another four ounces of black espresso by the time I’ve tucked Cubby in and crawled back to my computer.

A scream echoes through the house before my fingers make contact with the mouse. I dash to my son’s room and throw open the door. “Dino costume!” he screams.

My espresso-addled mind vaguely remembers hearing this somewhere before...

And so it went for the remainder of the week with my Writing System. Cubby gained a delightfully fuzzy, bright green dinosaur costume which he wore while giving a stellar performance as a Trick or Treater. And I lost the ability to fasten the top button of my jeans---those shakes do add up. But I hadn’t managed to write a single coherent line of prose.

So, with the loss of my lovely system I decided to return to my old system. Namely, “Carry A Notebook And Scribble Like Mad Whenever You Can”. I wrote while waiting in grocery store lines. I scrawled notes in the car on the off days where I arrived five minutes early for after school pickup. And, little by little, I eventually scribbled out and typed up my novel.

And, interestingly enough, an emailed query lead to a reply from an editor which eventually led to a contract for that very novel in my mailbox.

So, if like me, you have troubles getting a Writing System in place in the midst of your crazy life, don’t despair. You’ll get that contract, even if it comes just a few jotted sentences at a time.

Three’s The Charm, Ellen Dye’s first novel from The Wild Rose Press was released electronically August 22, 2008 and will be in print November 28, 2008. Visit anytime

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Success, Character, Reviews and Criticism

With thanks to Wendy, who sent most of the gems below along.

I finished the final edits for Ashton's Secret yesterday, sent the manuscript off to be turned into a book. Next time I see it will be in galley form. All I have to do is proof read it, approve the galley and the next step is...a release date!

So this first quote has particular meaning to me, today, although I like them all.

"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world." --Tom Clancy

"It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does." -- William Faulkner

“From my close observation of writers...they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.” --Isaac Asimov

"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." --Franklin Jones

"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." --Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beginning Your Book With a Bang

Okay, so I decided to publish it here, after all. The article I wrote last Wednesday got accepted by two newsletters and a website, and nobody wanted to retain rights, so I'm posting it here, as well.

Today I want to talk about beginnings. Opening lines. And since only I know what the meaning is behind my opening lines, I’m going to have to use the opening lines from my own books to explain.

When you’re writing a book, you want to draw the reader in immediately. You can’t take a whole bunch of pages to get to where your story really begins, because in doing so, you run the very real risk of losing your reader, or losing a sale. You know who I’m talking about. Those readers who stand in the book aisle and pick up books and start reading the first page, then either put the book in their cart or back on the shelf. I figure you have about 30 seconds tops to capture their attention, a page or two at most.

So your opening has to be a grabber. One that gets the reader wondering what is going on here immediately. In a mystery or suspense, we say, start with a body on the floor.

So here goes:

In Thin Ice, my original opening line was: If there was such a place as hockey player hell, Eric Cameron was in it.

Unfortunately, that was in the prologue, and the prologue got cut during edits. But the rest of the paragraph went on to explain how his team was losing, time was running out, and it was up to him to pull off a win. His reputation was on the line, his having been named Captain of the team earlier that day by the owner with a public challenge to turn the team around.

Unfortunately, the other team knew this and were gunning for him. He knew it, they knew it, and in short order, the fight was on.

Instead, I opened with: It was no way to spend a birthday, drinking alone in some hole in the wall dive, but it beat sitting at home alone, staring at the contents of his rented apartment.

Not quite as engaging, but it still draws you in. Why is this guy sitting alone in a bar on his birthday with no one to go home to? No home to go to, really, if the stuff in his apartment is rented.

Obviously he lost the game he was supposed to win, and was on everyone’s s*** list from the owner to his teammates to the fans.

Why? How did this come about? I’m hoping the reader will want to know and read on.

In Jake’s Return, the opening line is: Rebecca Reed would never forget the sound of Jacob Donovan walking back into her life.

Sort of sums the book up, doesn’t it? You have the heroine on the first page, reacting to---what’s the book about???—Jake’s return.

Return to where? Why did he walk away? Why did he come back? What happened between them? How will his return affect Rebecca?

I’m hoping the reader wants to know.

Next, Ashton’s Secret: It was a hell of a homecoming.

Okay, so that alone won’t do it. I could have done better. I’ll add the next line and see if that helps:

It was a hell of a homecoming. No sooner had he rented the slip at the Ashton Marina than people had gathered on the doc. People he’d known most of his life, people whose expressions ranged from surprise to wariness to outright hostility.

Now we know that somebody has just come home and it’s not going well. Why? Why did he leave? Why is it not going well? What happened to make the people of Ashton hate/mistrust/dislike this man so? And why would he come back if he knew they would feel that way?

Justice is a Lady: “What do you mean, the gun isn’t there?”

This is from my current WIP. Samantha Dallas is an assistant district attorney, on her way into the courtroom for a trial against a gang member, and she’s just found out, in the corridor outside the courtroom, that a key piece of evidence has gone missing from the evidence property room. Suddenly she’s looking at a case that’s going down the tubes.

First, the gun gets your attention. Then the fact that it is missing. Missing guns make everybody nervous. Where is this gun, who is missing it, why do they need it, and why are they so upset that it is gone? (as indicated by the italics on the word “mean.”)

I’m hoping the reader will want to find out.

Letters to Laura, written in epistolary format:

June 15, 2002
8:15 a.m.

Dear Laura,
In an hour and 45 minutes I will begin my 25th year in prison.

Okay, you know it is a letter, you know it is about a real person, you know someone is in prison and has been for 25 years, and you know they know and remember the exact moment they entered prison.

I’d want to find out who Laura was, who’s writing the letter, why this person has been in jail for 25 years, and how it could be that they would remember the exact date and time their life changed forever.

But that’s just me :).

Personally, my favorite way to open a book is with a line of dialogue. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in all cases. You have to go with what fits the story. A lot of people like to open up their stories with describing the scenery, or the weather. This only works if you use the setting or the weather as a character in your story. In Eileen Dreyer’s Sinners and Saints, the weather is as much a character in the story as the characters themselves.

The story is set in New Orleans as a hurricane looms on the horizon, and she describes its imminent arrival as if it were an ominous character coming to town. Here is the opening to chapter one:

Omens come in all sizes. Hair standing up at the back of the neck. Crows on a telephone wire. Shapes in a cloud or a chill in the wind.

In, say a story that takes place in a haunted house, or haunted village, or a different planet, you would want to set the scene right from the beginning.

But in a contemporary or even historical work of fiction, unless the weather or setting is to be used as a character element in the story, I’d highly recommend a snappy line of dialogue, a short one-liner that grabs the reader’s attention and implies something big is about to happen, or something philosophical (profound or whimsical, depending on the mood of the story) from the main character’s point of view. Here’s one I just made up:

If she’d known this was to be her last day in Jamaica, she might have chosen to call her mother before she disappeared.

Who is she? Why is she in Jamaica? Why does she disappear? How does she disappear? What will her mother think when she doesn’t hear from her daughter?

Try it. Just play around with opening lines. You never know. You might even come up with an idea for a book :).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Mouse in the House

I got up Friday morning and captured a mouse in the house. My son and I were watching the vice presidential debates Thursday night, and afterward I was just sitting there, thinking about the debates (my vote is solidified, that’s for sure), and this mouse runs across the floor.

I start eeeking. Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! My son comes out of his room and says, “What’s wrong?”’

The mouse has run behind the entertainment center. My first inclination is to put our best hunter of our three cats, cat number one, on the job, but she soon gets bored and walks away, since it won’t move. My son shoos it out from behind the entertainment center with a broom, and I am supposed to direct it out the back door with another broom. It shoots out from behind the entertainment center, hits my broom, bounces off it and heads not outside (the door is open) but across the room and under the china cabinet. I squeak some more and walk around wondering what to do. Finally I go to sleep. There is nothing I can do and it is 11:30 and I am exhausted.

I wake up at 4:30 and go to the bathroom. I close the door and sit down. I notice cat number two is in the bathroom, and I closed the door behind me. I look at the door again to make sure she didn’t follow me in. It is closed. I look up. The mouse is on top of the shower curtain, looking down at me. It is so cute, like the kind you see in children's books. I get my rubber gloves and a bucket and a hand broom, and gently tip it into the bucket. Then I put the bucket outside and tip it over, so the mouse can escape.

Here I thought I was safe, going to bed. For some reason I didn’t think mice could crawl up the sides of things, like bed legs. Fooled me. On top of the shower curtain, indeed. It must have come into the house while I was unloading groceries that day. I had the door to the garage open for a while, while I was bringing stuff in. It must have been in the garage. Otherwise, I have a hole in my house and will be getting little visitors all winter.

I feel good that I’ve saved a little life. Then, yesterday, I’m working on my manuscript, all is quiet in the house, and I hear thumping against the wall beside me. I look up and cat number three is looking in the window, with a mouse in her mouth.

Can it be? Did the little mouse really not run away?

I open the door and it startles the cat so much she drops the mouse. It starts running in circles. So it’s alive. I scoop up the cat and bring her in, so the mouse can escape. The cat is adamant about wanting to go outside again. Now, this particular cat is slower than the other two, so I figure I’ll give the mouse five minutes to scramble to safety. I let the cat out again, and within seconds, she’s dancing with the mouse again.

But it doesn’t run away. It sits there and glares up at her, nose to nose, like “You’re not going to get the best of me!”

She bats at it and it goes flying. The mouse pulls itself together and runs not away, but directly between the cat’s paws and under her, not once but three times—kamikaze diving the cat. Meanwhile the cat is jumping in the air and twisting around like it’s being zapped by an unseen zapper, before I take pity on the both of them and scoop the cat up again. The mouse runs under a plant, right next to the back door. Death awaits it for certain if it stays there.

My son comes home and I say, “It’s that mouse again. We need to save it from the cats." He gets a bucket and manages to scoop the mouse into it, and shows it to me. It sure looks like the same mouse. He takes it to the edge of the yard and lets it go.

I hope it stays out of trouble this time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.
--Toni Morrison, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize