Writing is my life. Life is my hobby. ~Emma Lai

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thank you for having me here, Emma, and Happy New Year to everyone.

I’ve been making plans.

Even though I gave up resolutions a few years back—well, quite a few, actually, since I don’t remember the last time I actually made one—I still think up trips and lunches-with-friends and what I’ll plant in the new flower bed alongside the back porch. I plan my wardrobe for summer, because one of my plans is to be thin. Rather, thinner, because at my age thin doesn’t work so well anymore. I look at paint strips from Home Depot and think This for the kitchen. This for the laundry room. This for the living room.

I do the same thing with stories. Not necessarily at New Year’s, but when a book is finished and it’s time to start another, I make plans. I’m a People First writer, so I’m seldom surprised if I’m awakened in the middle of the night by a fully developed set of protagonists with a scene chockfull of conversation and even a little string of conflict. (No plot, of course. I never have a plot. Sigh.) It is as exciting as a trip  or a facelift-by-paint or maybe even being thinner.

Now for the truth of the matter.

Lots of my plans—and my stories—never see fruition. I would love to visit Europe every couple of years but the fact is I’ve been there once. I’d love to have the interior of the house painted but we put it off because we both hate painting and can’t agree on colors. I go way too long without seeing friends. My flower beds are…eclectic at best. My wardrobe is even more so. If I am thinner, stick around a month or two and I’ll likely be chubby again. The heroine and hero who are perfect at three AM may not be so by noon, the conflict will be nebulous, and…what do you mean, I need plot?

The other part of the truth is that it doesn’t matter. Plans are fun and they are important. In our writers’ heads and hearts, our stories are, too. And sometimes, sometimes, as Hannibal Smith would say and frequently did on The A-Team, the plan comes together.

In ONE MORE SUMMER, my January 2 release from Carina Press, the plan did indeed come together. It is the book of my heart and I hope you like it, too. Thanks for coming by.

I’d love to have you visit my website http://lizflaherty.com/ or http://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/ where I hang out with some of my best writer friends.

Grace has taken care of her widowed father her entire adult life and the ornery old goat has finally died. She has no job, no skills and very little money, and has heard her father's prediction that no decent man would ever want her so often she accepts it as fact.

But she does have a big old house on Lawyers Row in Peacock, Tennessee. She opens a rooming house and quickly gathers a motley crew of tenants - Promise, Grace's best friend since kindergarten, who's fighting cancer; Maxie, an aging soap opera actress who hasn't lost her flair for the dramatic; Jonah, a sweet gullible old man with a crush on Maxie.

And Dillon, Grace's brother's best friend, who stood her up on the night of her senior prom and has regretted it ever since. Dillon rents Grace's guest house for the summer and hopes to make up for lost time and past hurts - but first, he'll have to convince Grace that she's worth loving...


It was no use.

Grace had taken her lengthy bath in the claw foot tub, shaved her legs and nicked her ankle right on the bone where it hurt most, and put on her chenille robe. She’d poured a tumbler full of the expensive wine Steven had brought a case of and sat on the couch with the book she’d gotten at the library when she’d read to the kids earlier in the week. Louisa May slept on the couch back, twitching her tail occasionally and smacking Grace in the face with it. Rosamunde dozed contentedly in the baseball cap Dillon had left on the lamp table. The window behind the couch was open, affording Grace a cooling breeze scented by the rain that had fallen that evening.

She’d already gotten up once and closed the pocket doors between the living room and the dining room. But she could still hear it.

Laughing. There were Jonah’s guffaw, Maxie’s theatrical trill, and the husky whoop that was always such a surprise coming from Promise’s soprano throat. Now and then another laugh slipped in, quieter than Jonah’s but no less gleeful. Dillon was there too. They sat on the screened porch, a good forty feet from where Grace sat with her feet up, and still she could hear them.

They were playing Monopoly. Grace hadn’t played that since the day before her mother died. She remembered that last game, the board balanced on a bed tray across Debbie Elliot’s legs in the room that smelled of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder and sickness and medicine. Faith had sat on one side of her mother, Promise on the other, and Grace at the bed’s end.

“Sit on my feet a little, baby,” Debbie had said. “You keep them so nice and warm.”

Grace had won the game, and the next day—when Debbie was dead and life for the rest of the Elliots had irrevocably changed—she had hated herself for buying Boardwalk and Park Place and forcing her mother into bankruptcy.

“I made her die,” she’d told Steven.

“Her heart made her die,” he’d responded, but Grace hadn’t really believed him until he became a cardiac surgeon.

Sometimes, she still wondered. If Debbie had napped in the evening as she often did, would that hour of rest have made the difference? If Grace hadn’t sat on her mother’s feet with her eighty-five pounds of almost-twelve-year-old exuberance, would the final heart attack not have happened?

But she refused to think about those things now, nor would she consider the game of Monopoly with an inward shudder of dread. She thought instead of the laughter that was dancing along her nerve endings, and wondered if anyone else was using the little iron as their token for moving around the board. The iron had always been her favorite. She liked the way it felt between her fingers.

If she just got off her couch and wandered toward the porch like she was bored with her own company—which she was—would anyone make a big deal out of it? If Promise or the others acted surprised by her presence, Dillon Campbell would think she’d joined them just because he was there. Which was nonsense.

Of course it was.

She remembered how Dillon’s hand had felt when he pulled her to her feet the night before. She’d avoided unnecessary touch all her adult life, and one squeeze of Dillon Campbell’s fingers had her wondering if that hadn’t been a mistake.

More nonsense.

She tried again to devote full attention to the book, but finally gave up and laid it aside. She sat in the harsh light from the reading lamp and sipped her high dollar wine and listened to the laughter of the others. Isolation and loneliness wrapped around her, not new feelings by any means, but somehow deeper and darker tonight.

Maybe this time, as Promise often accused, she was excluding herself and the loneliness was of her own making. Maybe if she stepped onto the back porch, no one would make a fuss and no one would make her feel as though she didn’t belong. It was, after all, her porch.

Carrying her glass, she whispered open the pocket doors and strode barefoot through the deserted dining room and the kitchen with its ever-present light over the sink. After a moment’s hesitation, she pushed open the door to the porch.

“Replacement power. Just in time.” Promise’s smile was wide and brilliant. Welcome to the human race. Grace heard the words she didn’t say. “Now that I’ve been trounced, Grace can take my place while I make popcorn. No one’s using your iron, so have at it.”

Grace sat in the chair Promise vacated, taking the little metal iron from the Monopoly box. It still felt nice between her fingers.

“I’m the banker,” Jonah informed her, passing money around the table. “Since I’m better at losing money than anyone else, I was unanimously elected.”

“I don’t even know why I play.” Maxie sighed, fluffing her blond hair with heavily be-ringed fingers. “I seem to spend all my time in jail. Unless Dillon rescues me with his ‘get out of jail free’ cards,” she added with a flutter of eyelashes.

“I’m just a soft touch for a pretty lady.” Dillon smiled at her, his eyes glinting silver in the dim, yellow light on the porch.

Grace’s heart hammered against her ribs.

Geezy Pete, Grace, grow up.


Kristina Knight said...

fun interview Emma and Liz! We don't have plans for New Year's - usually (yes, we're boring) we stay in and watch movies, have pizza or something and wait for the ball drop. That way we don't have to deal with the traffic, etc.

Liz Flaherty said...

Hi, Kristi. I'm always asleep before the ball drops, if we want to talk about boring! Thanks for coming by.

D'Ann said...

I'm boring, too!

I'd like to stay home and read this book! I have to get it!

Shawn said...

Last year I celebrated with a case of food poisoning. We're usually at my sister's waiting for the peach drop.

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Calisa Rhose said...

I like to plan. I don't make resolutions. I love to plot new stories-- but only in my head. Nope. Plans rarely pan out for me either. But that excerpt sounds like your book sure did! I love the sound of it, the motley characters sound delightful.

Liz Flaherty said...

Thanks for coming by, everybody.

Allison said...

It's great fun to find out how other authors get introduced to characters whether those story people get used or not. Great blog.

katemacnicol said...

I love your take on resolutions Liz. Judging from your books and the amount of words you write, I have a sneaking suspicion you get a whole lot more of your plans accomplished than you know. Love that the book of your heart is winging it's way to us! I wish you every success and I can't wait to read it.

Emma Lai said...

A belated thanks to Liz for being a guest. I've been under the weather and desperately playing catch up today.

Emma Lai said...

Thanks for visiting Kristina, D'Ann, Shawn, Calisa, Allison and Kate. Sorry for the spam message about phone sex operators all!