A Penny on the Tracks

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a program that challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month — 50,000 words in 30 days.  If it sounds insane, that’s because it is, but I’m sure I saw a quote somewhere from Stephen King stating that a writer should be able to finish a first draft in 30 days.

I have never finished a first draft in 30 days — not even a first draft of a 15,000 word short story I recently wrote. That tale took me two months to complete.

 

For four straight years, I have promised myself I’d take part in this challenge, and for the fourth November in a row, I backed out before I even began.  I’m not against pushing myself as a writer. I think this is a great motivator for people to actually finish writing a book because so many books are left unwritten because, well, writing is hard.

So, if this gets writers to stay in their seats and write, great. But I don’t approach writing with a word count. I really hate getting caught up in counting words, which is probably why I have not been motivated to take a shot at this challenge. I shut the word count feature off on my computer so that I can’t see the number as I write.

When I sit down to write, I tell myself, “Alicia, write one good, solid scene.” My hope is that I come up with a page or two of dialogue or prose that either advances the plot or develops the characters, basically anything that moves the story along.

I’m currently writing a book about a teenage girl in the 1950’s called, Annabel. Even if I wanted to compete in this NaNo challenge, I’m too far along in this story (about 250 pages, don’t ask me the word count, because I don’t know) to even attempt to write a thousand-plus words a day. I’m mostly in the “fill-in-the-blanks” part of the writing process.

My YA book, A Penny on the Tracks, will be released tomorrow. It is a 75,000 word novel that took me about a year to complete. I couldn’t tell you how long I had been working on the book before I finally had a first draft completed, but I can tell you there were a ton of revisions. An absolute ton.

But in the end, I came up with a story that I’m very proud of and was totally worth the many frustrating late nights I spent writing it.

Here is an excerpt from my coming-of-age book about life, love, and friendship:

I was making our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.
“Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”

The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.

Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room. I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.”  I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.

Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds.

We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.

The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.

Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.

“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.

“If I feel like it,” I answered.

“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.” 

I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.

But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”

I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey. Abbey didn’t take it.

“My mom said I drink too much pop.”

“Your mom’s not fucking here.”

Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand. About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.

I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”

“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.

“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”

Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.

 

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

 

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A Victorian Romance

With the right balance of dialogue and description Suzanne G. Rogers explores the fate of spinsters in 1800s Britain in her sweet Victorian romance Spinster. This delightful story is filled with clever twists so there’s never a dull moment. Spinster is a great book for YA fans and adults who enjoy a good read.

Staring down life as an old maid, newly jilted Clare flees to a country home she’s inherited from her grandmother. She doesn’t count on clashing with her handsome neighbor, whose gentlemanly manners and education are at odds with his workingman’s image. As their relationship unfolds, however, she discovers the mysterious Meriweather Holcroft is not what he appears to be.

EXCERPT
At the dinner table that evening, Clare decided to broach the topic of her future to her family.

“You’ve been walking on eggshells around me since I was jilted, and I feel dreadful for causing you such discomfort.”

“Nonsense.” Her father’s voice was gruff. “You’ve held up remarkably well, all things considered.”

Her sister’s response was far more dramatic. “If it had been me, I would have taken to my bed for weeks.”

Lady Ladd gave Clare a sympathetic glance. “We’ve just been worried about you, dearest.”

“I know, and I love you for it. But you needn’t worry about me any longer.” Clare cleared her throat. “On Monday, I’m going away.”

“I concur.” Sir Andrew glanced up from his cucumber soup. “A holiday might be just the thing to take your mind off your troubles.”

“Yes, indeed, that’s a wonderful idea.” Lady Ladd seemed relieved. “Perhaps a few days in London will pick up your spirits?”

“If you’re going to Brighton, do take me along.” Nell’s expression was hopeful. “I’d love to go sea bathing.”

“I’m not going on holiday.” Clare paused to let a sudden rush of emotion relax its grip on her throat. “Grandmama left me her cottage just outside of Stroud and a reasonable income. I’m going there to begin a new life on my own.”

Her pronouncement was met with a long moment of shocked silence.

“No.” Her father finally erupted in protest. “Are you out of your senses? It’s not proper for you to live alone and unchaperoned.”

“Unchaperoned?” Clare’s laugh sounded bitter, even to her own ears. “Papa, we must face the fact I’m no longer a debutante whose reputation must be carefully guarded. Forgive me for speaking plainly, but I’m on the shelf. Your eldest daughter is a spinster.”

Suzanne’s historical Victorian YA book is now available for your Kindle at Amazon.

Suzanne G. Rogers lives with her husband and son in romantic Savannah, Georgia, on an island populated by deer, exotic birds, and the occasional gator. She’s owned by two Sphynx cats, Houdini and Nikita. Movies, books, and writing are her passions.

Learn more about Suzanne G. Rogers on her historical romance blog and her fantasy blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be sure to check out the website for the Sweet Romance written by Suzanne G. Rogers.

Vala Kaye Introduces Her YA Novella, Ghost Writer

by Vala Kaye

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Not all the people you meet during your teen years will become your BFFs, but if you’re very fortunate, one or two might always be with you to share the ups and downs that happen to us as we go through life.

I have two “lifetime” friends. One I met in junior high and the other in high school. One is similar to me in temperament, while the other couldn’t be more different. We’ve shared school experiences; engagements, marriages and divorces; the birth of children; and the deaths of grandparents, parents and siblings.

Those are the big things, the huge emotional highs and lows that only time and the love and caring of true friends can help see you through. But we’ve also always been there for one another through the smaller things in life, everything from movie nights and mid-terms to concerts and cooking disasters.

When I was working on my YA paranormal novella, Ghost Writer, I gave my main character, Malden, a friend named Ashley. They go to the same school and I suspect they’re truly BFF’s. When I was writing the scenes where Malden and Ashley, though physically separated by hundreds of miles, are online in their school’s student chat room, I thought about how my friends and I sound when we’re filling each other in on “the latest.” Not only do we talk about what’s happening to us and what we’re feeling, but sometimes we also pick up on what our lifetime friends aren’t saying, what they’re holding inside because they’re afraid of being embarrassed or laughed at.

Because we love them, we have to gently remind them just who they’re talking to. With a lifetime friend, they’re safe. And it’s okay to share anything.

Here is a short intro to my YA Paranormal. I hope you enjoy it.

Tech-savvy teen Malden Montgomery leaves New York City anticipating nothing but boredom when her artist-mother brings her along on a two-week vacation to a family inn in rural Virginia.

What Malden doesn’t expect is the owner’s 17-year-old son, Jackson, who is totally to-die-for cute. But does she dare believe him when he tells her that her room at the inn may be haunted by a young woman named Emily, who died there more than 150 years ago?

Then Emily begins to communicate with Malden and she and Jackson realize they have to find a way to help Emily’s ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the darkness forever.

Read more about Ghost Writer on Amazon.

Vala Kaye grew up in Texas as an avid reader of science fiction, history and romance. Her favorite writers ran the gamut from Robert Heinlein to Margaret Mitchell, and included side journeys with Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and The Hardy Boys mysteries.

After graduating from college with a double major in Communications and History, Vala now lives and writes in warm and sunny southern California. She is addicted to movies, live theater, word games, salsa dancing and adaptations of the stories of Jane Austen.

In her first published YA novella, Ghost Writer, she explores what happens when a human ‘spirit’ meets computer technology. Vala’s newest title is book #1 of The Superhero Next Door series, Artificial Intelligence.

A Creative Treat by Author Leigh Goff

Please welcome Leigh Goff, a talented Young Adult author who blends fantasy and romance into her remarkable stories. Her latest book Disenchanted releases through Mirror World Publishing in print and eBook on June 1. The kitchen is all yours, Leigh!

These cookies are just what a white witch like sixteen-year-old Sophie Greensmith from my debut YA fantasy, Disenchanted, would bake after a long day of concocting potions with exotic flowers from her aunt’s enchanted garden.

Disenchanted takes place in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the home of the first American witch trials (not Salem!). As descendants of the original witches, Sophie and her aunt practice white magic and work in a little shop called Scents and Scentsabilities. Their organic bath and body products like Tulips to Kiss Stick to lushify lips and Forever First Love Lip Balm to lock in that true love are crafted to benefit the ordinaries in town. However, not all of the ordinaries approve and when danger catches up to Sophie, she’s left with an impossible choice—turning to black magic, a forever choice, to save the life of her forbidden first love. Will her true love still want her when her heart is touched by darkness?

This yummy recipe from the Foothill House B&B in California includes ginger to soothe the stomach, cinnamon to reduce puffiness, and walnuts to help you deal with stress.

Foothill House Sweet Dreams Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

1½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups unbleached flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. salt

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cream butter and mix in brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt and blend into butter mixture.

Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts (Sometimes I leave these out or substitute pecans.).

Refrigerate until dough is firm.

Lightly grease baking sheets.

Break off small pieces of dough and roll into 1″ rounds. Dredge in powdered sugar.

Arrange on prepared baking sheets at least 2″ apart.

Bake 10 minutes.

Cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Store in airtight container.

Yields 6 dozen cookies

Here is a brief intro to my novel that appeals to people of all ages. I hope you like it, too.

Disenchanted

A forbidden love. A dark curse. An impossible choice…

Descended from a powerful Wethersfield witch, sixteen-year-old Sophie is struggling to hide her awkwardly emerging magic, but that’s the least of her worries. When a dangerous thief tries to steal her mysterious heirloom necklace, she is rescued by the one person she’s forbidden to fall for, a descendant of the man who condemned her ancestor to hang. He carries a dark secret that could destroy them both unless Sophie learns how to tap into the mysterious power of her diamond bloodcharm. She will have to uncover dark secrets from both of their families’ wicked pasts and risk everything, including her soul to save them from a witch’s true love curse, but it will take much more than that.

Leigh Goff-150 RET

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Musa Publishing in December 2014. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog Stay connected on  FacebookInstagramPinterest, and  Goodreads.