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Friday, May 27, 2011

A taste of what if...

My blog is a bit late this month, and I apologize... I am still coming down off my high from this years Book Expo America. For those of you who aren't familiar with this book loving extravaganza, it's a four day gathering of all kinds of book industry professionals at New York City's famed Jacob Javits Center.

Everyone from authors, publishers and agents to book buyers, bloggers, reviews and every manner of distributor shows up for this annual event. Overwhelming to say the least.

In addition to this wealth of information and marketing, authors were given the opportunity to sign promotional copies of their books, and I was lucky to be counted among them. Unknowns rubbed elbows (almost literally) with the famous, as signing tables were set up in very close proximity due to spacing constraints. I myself was right next to Erica Jong, infamous for her 1970s title, "The Joy of Sex".

Climbing up on my chair, I glanced down the 30 foot aisle to the chain cordoning off the entrance to my row, holding my breath that I would be the one to personify the old saying, "you can't even give it away." BUT...much to my delight, I had a line out the door! People were actually waiting ahead of time for me to start signing.

Now, I know the books were free...I get it. But the only things these people had to spark their interest were the book's cover and its blurb, and believe me, there were many other books to choose from and lines to wait on, so I gotta believe they saw something good or why would they waste their time, right?

So, 75 signed copies of Hunter's Blood landed in the hands of reviewers, bloggers, libraries and book buyers in less than 20 minutes. It was a serious taste of what if, of the possibilities waiting out there for each and every one of us...and while it lasted, it felt great!

Miracle or just a free book feeding frenzy? To be honest, I don't really care. I could have been left alone with my pen, dragging all those books home with me. And maybe, just maybe, something good will come of it.

One can only pray.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Margie Wright

The twenty-fourth has rolled around. I am going to submit another story from a picture challenge I posted not long ago on Creative Writer’s. I’m not very good at getting the photo’s to show on my blogs. I’m not sure which code I am to use but the picture was of a bunch of purple crocuses standing tall and proudly blooming in the midst of snow. This is the story that goes with them . . .


I never realized how fragile life was until I got the phone call my husband was dead. Forty-five years old, young considering and yet he was gone. I was visiting my brother when it happened, a heart attack. He was in a high stress job, management, still I expected another thirty or more years, not the brief eighteen we had. I was left to raise my two teenage sons alone. That day was the epiphany of my life. I learned I didn’t have ‘forever’.

I walked through life in a fogged whirl afterwards; the funeral was a blur, the insurance check, the friends and family who offered condolences. I nodded and said thank you but I didn’t really grasp the concept of what I was saying . . . or doing.

That fog covered me for five years. During that time my boys grew-up, one graduating with honors, the second causing nothing but trouble. Money was getting short, too. I had invested the insurance money, which did good the first three years but in the second half of the fourth, the market crashed. I lost everything. Here I was, fifty years of age, hadn’t worked in twenty years and yet I was forced to look for a job. Who would hire me?

As the weeks went by and I went on interview after interview without results, I decided to go back to school. I enrolled in college, electing to become a Medical Assistant. It was a long and tedious two years but I graduated with honors the same year my first son graduated college with a degree in engineering.

My second son was still troublesome. He couldn’t hold a job for long, dropped out of college, and to make matters worse, I found out he had been stealing from me. Every piece of jewelry given to me by my mother and my husband was gone, even our wedding rings. I was devastated he could do such a thing.

“We’re not supposed to be poor,” he screamed when I confronted him.

“But we are,” I shouted back, “and you took the only means of helping us get out of debt and get back on our feet. I have student loans to pay, food to put on the table, a house to maintain. How could you?”

“Because I hate you! The wrong parent died.”

His words were knife in my heart. “Get out,” I told him, “and never come back.”

I called his brother and asked him to be with me while he gathered his clothes and left. Then I changed the locks and sat down on the couch and had a good cry.

Nothing was working out. Everything had gone downhill since my husband’s death. No mattered what I did, the investments, going back to school, getting a degree, it all ran into dead ends. I couldn’t find a job. I didn’t want to think it was my age but the thought nagged in the back of my mind.

“The economy is bad,” I heard day after day, interview after interview. “You’re well qualified but you have no experience. I’m sorry.”

How can I get experience if no one was willing to give me a chance, I wanted to scream. Instead I nodded and left. Each day I struggled to make ends meet. Each hurtle I faced only embittered me all the more. It wasn’t fair that I should have to work so hard in the latter years of my life. This was when things should be easy, not difficult. Why me, I silently asked God.

Why not you, echoed back. I closed my mind to it simply because the truth hurt.

I ended up taking a job cleaning offices. I couldn’t wait to find a job in my profession. I needed money now. Pride be damned. It was hard work, but I did it as I did anything: to the best of my ability. Besides all those years being a housewife had taught me how to clean real well, not that my employers cared. They just wanted the job done . . . and fast.

That, I later found out, was the key. I didn’t get enough offices cleaned so when I was suppose to get a raise and insurance after six months on the job I was let go. It was early spring, April when I walked outside with my last check. What was I going to do now, I wondered.

Angered welled as I walked home. I elected to walk in order to save gas. Prices on everything were going up . . . everything except my income.

It was cold, the sky overcast with clouds threatening rain. When they finally let loose it was snow . . . lots of it. Great! I didn’t wear my boots and these were my only shoes. What else could go wrong?

Gathering my coat closer to me, I lowered my head as a sharp wind began to blow. The park I passed daily was as empty as I felt. Overburdened by grief, I sat on a bench and covered my face with my hands. I can’t do this anymore, God. Please take me home.

As I sat there having a pity party, there was a squeal of tires, a scream, and then a thud. Looking up I saw a car fishtailing as it sped away. Six, five, O, L, three, nine. The numbers and letters of the license plate stuck in my head. But what did the car hit?

Through the whirlwind of snow I saw a crumpled heap by the curb. My heart rose in my chest. It can’t be, I thought. It can’t. Jumping up, I ran over and my fear was confirmed. It was a child, a young girl. A small amount of blood stained the pure snow on the side where her face lay. My medical training told me to be careful. If there are broken bones, which I was positive there were, one wrong move could mean life or death. Still I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

Someone, a woman, ran up to me, pulling out her cell phone.

“Call 911,” I ordered. “I’m a MA. I’ll see what I can do until they get here.”

She was a young woman, not much older than my sons, yet she called it in. I gently turned the girl over and saw she wasn’t breathing.

“Come here,” I yelled, not caring if I startled or scared the woman. “I need your help.”

She didn’t hesitate. “What do you want me to do?”

“Have you had any CPR training?”

“No.” She looked at me with nervous brown eyes and yet within them I saw determination.

I positioned the child’s head back to open her airway. “Come here. I am going to compress her heart. When I tell you, pinch her nose and then breathe into her mouth.”


I got into position and began to massage her heart. “One, two, three, four, five,” I counted to myself then, “Breathe!”

I don’t know how long we were at it. It seemed like forever but just as the ambulance turned the corner the girl coughed and then started to breathe on her own. I stayed with her until the paramedics took over.

I gave a statement to the police who arrived behind the medical personnel, telling them what I saw and giving them the numbers that stuck in my head. At the time I thought nothing of it but now I know God must have made me remember them. Justice was a heartbeat away, I thought as I was driven the rest of the way home by an officer.

Sleep evaded me that night. I worried about the child and prayed she was alright. None of my troubles compared to what that poor child was possibly going through. The next morning there was a knock on my front door.

I looked out the peep and saw a man in a long overcoat. He had brown hair and clear blue eyes. I opened the door a crack.

“Yes?” I asked.

He looked like he had been through the wringer. “Are you Margie Wright?”

I nodded.

“You don’t know me but I came here to thank you. You saved my daughter last night with your quick thinking. The woman who called the hit-and-run in said you are a MA.”

“Your daughter?” Oh my! This was the child’s father. I opened the door. “Do come in. I’m sorry if I seemed hesitant, it’s just that I’m leery of strangers.”

“With good cause.” He gave me a weary smile and stepped into the foyer.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“Please. I’ve been up all night.”

He slipped his coat off and laid it on the back of a chair before following me into the kitchen.

“How do you like your coffee,” I asked taking two cups from the cupboard. “I must admit that I haven’t slept all night either worrying about her. Is she okay?”

“Black is the answer to your first question and yes to the second. Your quick thinking saved her from permanent brain damage. The Dr. you work for is lucky to have such an exceptional employee.”

I blushed. Setting the coffee before him, I sat. “I’m not employed,” I admitted. “My husband died suddenly from a heart attack seven years ago and I needed a job so I went back to college. No one would hire me after I graduated, even though I passed the exam in the top six. I guess 52 is too old.” I couldn’t keep some of the bitterness from creeping into my voice.

I looked down, embarrassed I let it out so I didn’t see his look of surprise. When his fingers curled around mine I looked up.

“I am sorry to hear that, and yet I’m not. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Mark Summers, Dr Mark Summers, head of Pediatrics at Avery Hospital. I, too, am a widower, my wife dying of cancer exactly seven years ago also. Consider yourself hired Ms. Wright.”

I was stunned to say the least. Last night I sat on the bench in the park asking God to take me out. Instead He opened a door. Seeing that child crumpled in the street made me realize life was too precious to simply throw away.

“Why . . . why thank you Dr. Summers.”

“Mark,” he corrected, “and you’re welcome. It’s the least I can do for the woman who saved Annie’s life.”

We talked for a while longer, then coffee or no, the fatigue finally caught up. Mark felt it too and left, making me promise to come to his office tomorrow morning. As I was about the shut the door behind him, I noticed a bunch of purple crocuses poking up through the snow, blooming despite the adversity of the weather. I planted them there eight years ago and in all the time since, I had failed to see their beauty.

Or perhaps it was when I wanted to live again that I finally saw life.

©Copyright 2011

M.L. Huey

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Service dogs never stop serving

When I was just out of high school, I worked for a veterinarian and had many occasions to see service dogs. The very first time I saw a golden retriever was when his owner brought him in for shots, and I was so impressed with the noble dignity of these dogs trained to assist humans in so many ways.
I lived and worked in Michigan just north of Detroit, and found out that Leader Dogs for the Blind were trained in Rochester, not too far from where I worked. I made it a point to go there whenever I could to watch the training and pick up some tips for training my dogs. I still use some of their methods, which are based on positive rewards and repetition. There are no choke collars or harsh treatment used. It was incredible to watch those dogs change from rambunctious young pups to mature, dependable leader dogs.    

What I never thought about at the time was what happens to those service dogs when the master or mistress dies. And I only thought about it recently because a friend shared a touching story with me about the devotion of one of those dogs. She had just attended the memorial service for one of her friends who had a dog trained to be a companion for someone with emotional issues. The dog had lived with this family for five years and had formed a close bond with the man who suffered from post-traumatic stress. At the gathering after the memorial service, the family kept noticing how the dog was pacing and softly whining. The dog would walk to the front door, then back to a chair where his master used to sit, then back to the door.

After watching this for a little while, one of the daughters had the idea to put the dog in his "uniform." So they got the saddlebag and harness and put them on him. According to my friend, the minute the dog was in the uniform, he jumped to attention like a Marine coming on duty. Then the dog walked over and put his head on the widow's feet. He stayed near her for the rest of the afternoon.

My friend said that watching the dog was one of the most poignant experiences she had had in a long time, and it brought tears to my eyes as she related the story.

I asked my friend what was going to happen to the dog now, and she said that her friend will be able to keep the dog. She has been taking him out for daily walks with his "uniform" on, hoping that soon he will realize that his job now is to be with her and share the memory of the man they both miss.

 Since we all love a good story, I thought this one was worth sharing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Title Trouble: Rescuing a Good Book With a Bad Name

To date, I've written two contemporaries. Both call on my legal background. I think of 'em as taking place where love and the law intersect. Of course, both are romances. One of them - Griffin's Law - has a pretty good title that fits the book. It's my tribute to Grey's Anatomy and takes place in a law school in my native state of South Carolina. The other is E-Mail Enticement, set in Myrtle Beach, SC, and it's the subject of this post.

E-Mail pulls the reader inside a forbidden romance between a billionaire and a girl who's on the dangerous side of 18. It begins by taking the reader inside the Family Courtroom where the marriage between the billionaire- Alix Angelis - and his money-lovin' belle bitch of a wife - Sue - is being dissolved. The divorce frees Alix to go tiptoeing through the deadliest minefield of all - courting the girl he fell in love with at first sight - Sue's younger half-sister, Rachel. Alix needs to romance Rachel slowly, to give her time to mature. He must also keep the budding relationship secret from his business associates, his ex-wife and the community in general. Given that he needed to do all that while fighting his own explosive urges, Alix was bound to step right into one of those mines.

When he does, his world explodes. Alix finds himself on trial for an entirely false charge of rape and a partly true charge of having sent a minor e-mails designed to entice her into a sexual relationship. In South Carolina, both charges are felonies which would put the billionaire behind bars until he's a very old man. Rachel's testimony could clear Alix but she has disappeared after leaving behind a letter full of lies about their relationship. The story takes the reader inside the televised trial. The billionaire's best defense, his only defense, is showing the jury - and through the cameras, the world - his helpless adoration for the alleged and conspicuously absent victim. There is forbidden love, passion, danger, courtroom intrigue and a mystery - where is Rachel? Why did she leave? Is she a victim or a con artist?

E-mail is a romance that is also part suspense, part mystery, and part legal thriller. It has many elements that should appeal to a diverse group of readers. But I've come to believe that it's cursed with something that's not very appealing - a bad title. It's taken me a while to figure that out and now I find it funny in an ironic kind of way. I think E-Mail suffers from the same ailment as my first title - which never hit the presses. My original title for the book was Criminal Sexual Communication. People told me that it sounded like a law school textbook. And yeah, I now believe that E-Mail Enticement sounds like a textbook too - either that or it sounds like something a legislature would name the statute.

"E-mail Enticement" doesn't sound like what it is - a thrilling, sexy, exciting story. So I'm back to the drawing board with titles, and thought I'd call upon the blog readers for help. See I could really use some help because I tend to extremes - either too obvious or too obscure. I'm considering The Billionaire's Riskiest Business, The Billionaire's Biggest Gamble, The Tycoon's Wages of Send, or For Love or Money? My hubby suggested Minor Complications. There are bunches of others, of course. The story is set in Myrtle Beach, so it could be a play off the beach - its nickname (Grand Strand) or the region's reputation - The Bible Belt. For example, I could call the book something like - The Wages of Send In The Bible Belt. I could re-name it The Tycoon's Grand Strand Gamble or Myrtle Beach Madness.

Here's a chance for readers of this blog to help rescue a good book with a bad name. Whatever I label the champagne bottle I break over the bow of E-mail Enticement's new name, I don't want it to sound like a law school textbook or something a legislator might name a statute. If anyone has any preferences about the titles I'm considering or any thoughts on a better title, I'd surely appreciate the help.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The "Joys" of Editing

I'm a gardener. It's one of my great joys. In the spring, my heart goes pitty-pat when the first green buds poke their heads out of the thawing ground. I begin to think of annuals, perennials and vegetables -- OH MY!

As always, as my plants begin to grow, so do the weeds. Some days it feels as though someone came and sprinkled crabgrass and dandelion seeds in my flowerbeds. There are also these incredibly tenacious weeds with an unbelieveable root system that extends for many, many feet.

The good news is, I love to weed. I admit, I’m just a little odd. I find great satisfaction in weeding – in seeing the change between wild, untamed messiness to groomed, well-kept perfection. There’s something very zen about weeding. It’s a quiet time for me and only me -- my daughter runs the other way when I suggest weeding (though I insist she tends to her own garden ... I get the rest of them), so it becomes a time of introspection. I don't listen to music or anything else that might interrupt my mind, I simply allow it to drift as I select each weedy invader and pluck it out by its roots. Then, I don't just toss it! No! I add it to my compost pile. In a bit of irony, the weeds that would have smothered and killed my gardens as they lived will feed them after they die.

I think writing is like that? We pull out not only the things that don't work in a good story, but we pluck out those ideas or characters that come to you but you don’t know what to do with them. I’ve written stories with characters I love, but where the plot line is weak or is wrong for them. When that happens, I yank them out by their roots and add them to the compost pile. Eventually, they become fodder for something else.

Nothing is ever wasted in nature. Weeds become dirt. Carcasses become food. Excrement becomes fertilizer. So is nothing ever wasted in writing. Every word is a journey toward a destination. Even when that word is plucked, or we “kill our babies”, or edit out awful scenes, they feed us. We learn from our mistakes. We use our lessons to make our writing richer, better, stronger.

Weeding, like editing, is a necessary job. Like most people dislike weeding, editing is not my favorite part of writing. I grumble and fuss and fight it. I'm in the midst of editing a novella now, and it's making me terrifically cranky. WHY can't the words just tumble off my fingers, perfect in their composition from the first moment?

Still, I know that the work I put in now will make it better. And, I know the work my editor puts in later will polish it 'til it shines.

I love a neat, orderly garden. I'm trying to grow to love editing. It's a difficult process, and I'm not sure I'll ever truly love it, but I'm getting to where I resent it just a little, tiny bit less.

Visit Marianne Arkins at her website or blog.