Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Night Before Christmas Eve - Repost

And here we are at my final article for the Avalon Authors Blog. I hope these have been of some use to you in your writing journey. I've reposted them here because, even though Classic and Cozy will also include many of my Avalon Author colleagues and I will be contributing an article every month, on the 4th Tuesday, Avalon Authors will be an archive. Perhaps you can imagine how I feel about that! I also have another blog, if you're interested: Everwriting and you are welcome to join me there as well.

December 23, 2013

For the past twelve months, I have been writing a 6-part novel by installment: Nights Before. The final story, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve, was released on December 17th, the anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens's,  A Christmas Carol.

I began this novel in 2012 with 'Twas the Night Before New Year – a romantic comedy about a young woman, Jocelyn Tavers, whose boyfriend leaves her alone on New Year's Eve to take a skiing trip. Jocelyn determines she will not face another New Year's Eve party without a date and on that first night before the New Year, she meets three eligible hopefuls, the unwise princes.

Through a process of natural selection, self-inflicted disqualification and ultimate ineligibility, Jocelyn finds the love of her life and dreams, in time to secure a date for the last party night of the year. Through the year, she learns more about love and comes to understand what she really wants. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve and its five forerunners are all available on the iBookstore, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks and other major online retailers.

On this day before Christmas Eve, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The stories in this serial novel are:
'Twas the Night Before New Year, 'Twas the Night Before Valentine's Day, 'Twas the Night Before Mother's Day, 'Twas the Night Before Labor Day, 'Twas the Night Before Veterans Day, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve. They are all available on the iBookstore, Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks, and other online booksellers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pen, Paper, Journal - Repost

February 23, 2013

Desperately seeking a lost manuscript (remember those, handwritten in ink, possibly on lined paper?), I came across a stack of my journals from years in college, traveling, first years of courtship and marriage.

These journals – the diaries of old – have been replaced by digital explosions of shared communication in forms of blogs, tweets, posts, many of which have the same abandon that a private, locked diary once had for the diarist. I now tweet and blog and post, less frequently than some of my contemporaries, and with much less openness than I wrote in my journals.

My circumspection, even in private papers, has always been the result of my mother's stern warning: "Never put in writing anything you don't want someone else to read."

As it happens, that is also the advice of my current employer, an attorney at law. Similar advice has come to me from priests and academics. This same circumspection has afflicted women throughout history. Do you remember the saying: "A lady's name appears only thrice in publications: her birth, her marriage and her death." The same constraints kept me from even the thought of publishing my longer fiction until six years ago.

But here I am a writer, inviting people to read my words, willingly lashing myself to the mast of subjective taste. I want people to read – not my journals or random thoughts or insecurities – but my peculiar interpretation of what I see, hear and feel about this experience of living. Writers will put their best friends in their books, mothers, brothers, husbands. We can't help using the material living casts before us.

We are also dependent on the experience of others to inform our narrow view and that is why, in the last century, women's diaries, private pages, memoirs and autobiographical writing became the focus of academic study. When I edited three volumes of women's autobiographies, I was hopeful of the contribution their publication was making to the knowledge of 20th Century historians.

Where else will you find the eyewitness experience of a young Welsh nurse as she enters the gates of Belsen Concentration Camp? Who can tell you better about a little girl's journey from London on an evacuee train? Who knows better about a young mother's distress at the failure of her newborn to thrive during the Blitz? What cakes made without eggs or butter tasted like?

In this century, there is no dearth of such information. We are the most recorded, exposed and examined society of all far. But I wonder what all this information has to offer our imaginations and our creativity.

If all is known, what is left to discover?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writing Ambitions - Repost

If you're considering giving up on writing, read this.

January 23, 2013

I think I must have been all of three when I told my first story. Those few babbled words started an addiction I've never been able to shake, no matter how often I told myself that writing was not going to happen. No matter how often someone else told me not to be ridiculous. No matter who said not to expect anything.

And truly, no matter how many notes, cards and letters of rejections I received.
What kind of nut puts up with that kind of abuse and keeps going back for more?

Earlier this month, I had the good fortune to attend a writers' group seminar. One of my fellow nuts was the invited speaker. She hasn't given me permission to quote her but those who were there will know. 

One part of her talk was about her writing ambitions. These were: she wanted to get published and she wanted to get published big. I don't know many writers who wouldn't wholeheartedly agree. These are great ambitions, the stuff of driving forces, the goals that get you up in the morning and set you down in front of whatever tool you use to make your ambition a reality.

She created a character. She created a story. Both with these goals in mind. The character was a salable commodity. The story was a winner. Her contract allowed her to quit her day job. She's writing stories, selling books, and giving talks. Yay! And she is a really nice person. Double yay!

Her talk encouraged me to think about my ambitions. Well, all of the above, of course! And also, to paraphase Groucho Marx, "...if you don't like those, I have others."

A three-year old probably isn't thinking about the future. I just wanted to tell my dad a story about a house I dreamed about. I still want that house but I didn't become an architect to build it. The most important parts of that event were the telling and my dad's listening.

I wasn't gathering material to write a book that would enable me to quit my day job (although that's on my wish list) when I asked questions about the plaques on the wall above my head in the hotel that became the setting for Wait a Lonely Lifetime. When I began writing my latest novel, I didn't think about what gown I would wear to the premier when Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls became a movie (not seriously anyway) although I did consider the actors I would suggest to play the hero.

The stuff of driving forces for me is the relentless appearance of characters and ideas that demand I tell their story. Now, that's nuts. If I were in any other profession, I'd be certified and sectioned. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't living with people in my head, acting out their lives while I was living mine. 

Where do they come from? I'm as much at a loss as the person who asks me. At this moment, I'm writing a serial about a young woman by the name of Jocelyn who has one broken relationship after another. How did Jocelyn appear in my writing? 

This one is simple: Avon Impulse had put out a call for novellas with several holiday themes. Too late for Halloween and Christmas, I worked on a New Year's idea, inspired by the Clement C. Moore poem, The Night Before Christmas. I simply and purposefully started writing and there she was, along with her ex-boyfriend, Jason, and three delicious possibilities for new loves in her life. 

That novella, 'Twas the Night Before New Year, has become a serial novel, Nights Before, with 'Twas the Night Before Valentine's Day, the second installment, to be published next month and four more in the initial stages. Jocelyn must have a satisfying, happy ending. 

It's the very least I can do for her.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Release: Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Part I - Repost

A New Release post for my first self-published novel. You might remember, in my interview with Ilsa Mayr about her work, she draws on many of her personal interests. At the time I was writing Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, I was a performing member of a dance company. Dance and song have always been part of my life and their importance as outlets for creativity have not diminished. For my protagonist, Emily Burdis, they provide a sanctuary from disappointment and the sterility of the business-world she contends with every day. 

January 18, 2013

Emily’s promotion is on hold after her Public Relations VP transfers her to Legal to research for the corporation’s takes-no-prisoners lawyer, David Gitano. Her career isn’t the only part of her life on hold. Her closest friends are married and making babies. Her baby-clock is ticking and her doctor has no good news. Dance is the one part of her life not letting her down.

Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Part I: Dancing the lead in her ballet class recital is as close to her dream come true as Emily is likely to get.

As she digs into the liability case Gitano entrusts to her, Emily Burdis uncovers evidence she believes she has been hand-picked to overlook. Torn between her growing admiration for Gitano and her personal integrity, she buries her research and absconds with the evidence.

Gitano wastes no time in chasing her down, for more reasons than he’s ready to admit. Dealing with his own life-on-hold battles complicates his professional commitments as well as his private concerns. As Emily and David battle with each other for justice and self-preservation, the conflicts of their professional roles and personal ethics forge a bond that may answer all their needs.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Christmas Wishes - Repost

In our present society, there doesn't seem to be a time that won't call upon us to draw deeply from our strength and emotional resources. I'm reposting this in the hope that, in this season of renewal, we have a brighter future for our children. 

December 23, 2012

This year, there are special reasons we all want to hold our family and friends close. Between hurricanes, the murder of small children, threats of economic collapse or apocalyptic events, we have more than enough to shake our confidence in the future.

Yet, it is in our nature to face forward, to look relentlessly to a new day. If this was not so, we, as a species, would have fallen at the first hurdle.

We rely on one another as well as our faith in the positive reinforcement of our beliefs, our own creativity and strength of purpose. Our courageous struggle to survive against horrific events is a testament to our humanity and sense of community.

Heart-rending and heart-warming personal stories have touched and inspired us over the past months. Those who have lost and those who’ve found, express their grief and relief in one word. Love.

The most devastating events bring an outpouring of love toward our fellow humans, regardless of race or creed. At these times, we recognize our shared vulnerability and this is our strength.

And so, we encourage one another to acts of kindness, random and profound.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of the love and kindness in all our hearts.

Merry Christmas!
I write happily-ever-after novels of love and hope.
‘Twas the Night Before New Year, December 2012, Eres Books

PS: And now in April 2014, a Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't Blame the Pilgrims - Repost

Since writing this article, I have had the opportunity to read more about the War Between the States.  I now caution anyone setting a work of fiction during this period to research both sides of this tragic conflict. 

This post was written a few days before it was scheduled to appear. The 4th blessing mentioned below made his appearance on the day this post was published. 

November 23, 2012 

Nearly every culture has a ritual for giving thanks for life and blessings. We celebrate thanksgiving in the Fall of the year particularly because of the abundant harvest the Summer months have provided. In the United States, this celebration has taken on a mantel of national enormity but where has this holiday come from?

One Blessing
In most religions, thanksgiving is a spiritual recognition of the blessings bestowed upon the faithful, again usually around the time of the harvest. In ancient times, people made sacrifices of living creatures and this practice is still in evidence today with turkeys, lambs, goats. In religious establishments, there are formal offerings, services of appreciation, shared meals to celebrate the bounty of the earth.
Two Blessings

But Thanksgiving is something else. Most of us in the United States have grown up with the legend of the Pilgrims and their wretched struggles in the first year of their life in North America. As the story goes, after over half their number starved to death, they were helped to survive through the kindness and generosity of the established inhabitants, whose own journey to this continent was taken thousands of years before.
And a fourth!

This story may be true in its essence but it isn’t the origin of Thanksgiving as we know and celebrate it today. (Let’s assume we’re not talking about the folks who’ve formed tent-communities outside mega-stores in lieu of having a meal with their families.) The Pilgrims were most probably celebrating the religious thanksgiving, toward the middle of October with a religious service and a long sermon, rather than the more pagan celebration of life and all the bacchanalia surrounding a day of feasting, football and family feuds.

Thanksgiving began its journey to becoming National Holiday only in the 1860s, during the American Civil War. The author, Sarah Josepha Hale, promoted the idea of a national day of thanksgiving to politicians for over forty years. At the time, a day of thanksgiving varied from state to state. A few months after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, in part as an attempt to unify the northern and southern states, Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November in that year.

For seventy five years, subsequent Presidents kept the tradition by declaring a national day from year to year but it wasn’t until December 26, 1941 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law that Thanksgiving became fixed on the fourth Thursday of November by federal legislation. For nearly 400 years, people living on this continent have celebrated their good fortune and the blessings bestowed upon them through the observance, religious and secular, of a day of feasting.

This is one of my favorite holidays and it seemed only natural to include it as a pivotal point in my Avalon Romance, Wait a Lonely LifetimeI sincerely hope your day of thanksgiving was exactly that and may we continue to celebrate in the way that most fittingly shows our gratitude for our many blessings. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

What's So Great About Teachers? - Repost

September 23, 2012 

Students of all ages started back to school a little over three weeks ago, some as early as mid-August. Watching the kids riding the buses and streetcars, I remembered my own years of formal education – some more productive (and happier) than others. I’m also reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower – another nostalgic reminder of the people who inspired me to learn.

I think ‘teach’ is a misnomer. For most of what happens while we are in school, college and university – or actually what should happen – a better word is inspire. A teacher who inspires a love of learning does more than instruct. That teacher encourages an inquisitive mind, opening doors for the student that imparting of facts can never do.

I can remember so many teachers who captivated me with their love of their profession and their charges. Some were mysterious. Some were difficult. Some were cruel and some were saints.

I was never a particularly brilliant student. Competent in most subjects but with little commitment to the hard graft of getting good grades, particularly in Algebra. Girls were not supposed to be good at math or science. Equations evaded my grasp until my 7th grade math teacher, Miss Hughes, gave up her after school hours once a week to give four of us special tuition. When equations clicked for us, we had no idea then what her commitment to our understanding of a mathematical formula offered us and our futures.

If not for Miss Hughes, math would have continued to be my nemesis as it was for so many of my colleagues in community arts organizations. Miss Hughes’s few hours of tuition gave me a grounding in numbers that led to good jobs in the industry that most interested me as well as open opportunities in information technology that never occurred to me as a teenager.

A few years later, I sat in class and listened to Mr. Lombardi talk about language, particularly the English language. His love of language spoke to the heart of what I had always wanted to do, regardless of what job I might have to take. He also gave me the confidence to believe that a career in writing was a possibility for me, even if others urged me to be ‘practical’, be a teacher. 

While in university, I detoured into Art and Theater Studies. While studying Art, I found inspiration for my heroine in Wait a Lonely Lifetime (now in paperback). I also took courses in Astronomy and Physics. Eventually, I returned my love of language, first and foremost. The detours provided ample fuel for stories. They also extended my schooling by several years!  

During my post-graduate years, I had an opportunity to explore teaching as a career.  Although I had a few triumphs and amazing, special moments of being credited with changing someone’s life, I realized I had none of the commitment to the profession that I had experienced. I was and still am a student. 

A student can never be bored – there is always something new to discover. For this special gift, from those who are so gifted to inspire a love of learning, I am forever grateful. I would never have become a writer without you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Never Put in Writing - Repost

August 23, 2012

"Never put in writing anything you don't want people to read."  V.V.Verrill (1913-2005)

That is not the only quotation from my mother indelibly enscribed onto my brain but it is most pertinent today and not just for writers. I almost missed my appointed blog date and with only a few hours to spare, I have found a topic worth writing about. (One of my cardinal rules – not from my mother: Write for yourself but don't expect anyone to read it unless there is something of value for them.) So, until noon today, I had no topic. Therefore, no post ready for the midnight launch.

But at noon, I saw one of the scariest and most amazing things. I work in the financial district, many tall buildings, a few that qualify for skyscrapers status. I chose to have lunch on the roof of my building (small in stature compared to others in the area) and take time to work on my current work-in-progress. At a blurry juncture when my brain needed to sort through images and words to find the next step, I looked up and to the south.

On the ledge of a building twenty floors taller than mine, I saw a man washing the windows. He was balanced on his toes, his left hand gripping the top of the window while he scrubbed the panes of glass and wiped them dry with a cloth on his belt. I could see no visible sign of support and I couldn't take my eyes off him. One, for fear he would fall. Two, in abject fascination that he could do this. (I have difficulty walking over grates in the sidewalk, along the pedestrian area of bridges, looking down the 13 floors in the stairwell of my building to the ground floor.) Yet, here was a man hanging on the vertical wall of a 24-story construction with seemingly no way to stop himself from falling.

This is earthquake country. Anything can happen at any time. At last, he went into the room and after a while I saw that he was attached to a webbed belt locked into an eye-hook in the ceiling of the room. Still! Not anything I could do.

I looked around the area and saw two men in a gondola hanging from another building, on two wires that lowered the gondola as they finished one window and moved down to the next. And, on the ornate frontage of another building, another gondola suspended on wires, two men swinging in the air. Whether these two pairs of workers were tethered to their equipment I wasn't able to see. Brave? Foolhardy?

They trusted themselves, their ability and their equipment to keep them safe. (You may have seen photographs of skyscraper construction with men sitting on eye-beams and no visible sign of support – these photos make me weak in the knees!) All they had to trust were themselves and their co-workers. Were there safety nets out of sight of the camera lens?

And here we are, as writers, out on our own individual ledges, trusting ourselves, our ability and equipment to keep us from falling. My mother's edict is even truer today than when I was confined to notebooks and scraps of paper. At least then, someone had to find the notebook, steal it and read it in secret. In today's connected world, every word I put on the screen and upload to the cloud or the social media page, is available to hundreds of thousands of people. If I send my work in an email, I have no control over where that email will end its journey.

Some of us believe this is a grand thing. My mother would disagree. And I, for once, have to agree with her. There are some thoughts that are best kept in notebooks, locked away in drawers for which the keys have been lost. However, we also have to trust the recipients to respect our ownership as well as our freedom to write with honesty and integrity, according to our own beliefs and understanding.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dreams & Aspirations - Repost

During my tenure as director and editor for Honno, I encouraged my mother to write her World War II memoirs. I presented my siblings and my sons with a privately published copy on her 90th birthday. These memoirs were subsequently published as an ebook, Following the Troops: Life for an Army Wife, 1941-1945.

July 23, 2012

I read Andrew Galasetti's guest blog at on Saturday morning (July 21, 2012) that resonated with me. Near the end of this post, Galasetti writes about his grandfather's writing dreams and how they had nearly died with him. This was particularly moving to me because I spent many years as an editor for a women's cooperative press in Wales, selecting material for three volumes of autobiographical writing by women that, had it not been for Honno, would not have been published or recorded for history.

One of my proudest publishing moments was working on Parachutes and Petticoats and Iancs, Conshis a Spam, two volumes of women's writing about their experiences in World War II. Many of these accounts were harrowing, tragic or triumphant. All were about the indomitable human spirit and our willingness to sacrifice our lives for strangers.

The stimulus for both of these volumes was the stories my mother told me about her experiences during World War II and her childhood. Twenty years before her death, I asked her to write these stories down, intending to include them in one of the volumes. In the end, I edited and published them independently for my family and her grandchildren.

Several of my friends have created similar publications, so that their own personal journeys aren't lost and forgotten. During the latter part of the 20thC, there were hundreds of volumes of diaries and oral history projects undertaken to capture these stories for posterity. Until they were written, recorded or published, these experiences were stories passed on from one generation to another but often not. Now they are history, available to us all.

That is, as long as our smartphones, laptops, ereaders and tablets keep working. Galasetti's book, To Breathe Free, incorporates his grandfather's poetry and will be published in Fall 2012.

If you want a really good yarn, talk to your elders.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Among Friends - Repost

June 23, 2012

We here at Avalon Books have been in transition for a few months as my colleague, Kent Conwell, has mentioned in his blog this month. I’ve only been with Avalon for a little over a year but I’ve felt welcome and at home from the beginning.

My editor for Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Lia Brown, was the first person to read my novel and I will be forever in her debt for seeing the story as ‘a terrific romance’, and doing what editors do to get books they’ve enjoyed published.

Lia’s departure late last year was a blow, as losing editors has been for Kent. He has years of publishing experience to sustain him, as do all of the Avalon authors who’ve been with Avalon Books for a lot longer than I have.

I take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone here at the Avalon Authors Blog and the community established to help and support one another as writers, through transitions and uncertainties.

And to think, we’ve been called ‘jealous creatures’ (a line from the film, Midnight in Paris, attributed to Ernest Hemingway).

For a list of Avalon Books and all their authors, start at the publisher's website and go on to their full list of all Avalon authors. Find out what makes them all so special.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Avalon Author Leigh Verrill-Rhys by Rebecca L. Boschee - Repost

I hope you don't mind that I'm including the interview that my colleague, Rebecca L. Boschee, did for the Avalon Authors Blog. I haven't changed a word! 

June 20, 2012

Today we're talking to Avalon author Leigh Verrill-Rhys about her novel Wait a Lonely Lifetime. Join us to learn what makes this novel special...

Wait a Lonely Lifetime (Avalon Books, 2012)

Sylviana Langdon's marriage went bad from the start. She married the wrong guy, and there was no chance of ever making him right -- not for her. Divorced and dating again, she can't stop thinking about a smart guy she met a few weeks before Steve came into her life. Eric Wasserman walked away from her with no explanation back then. What would he want with an airhead artist's model now, fifteen years and two little girls later?

Captain Wasserman's best buddy, Steve Langdon, saved his life and stole his girl. The career Army officer's second-in-command drops a pretty blue envelope on his desk. The handwriting isn't familiar, but the name pulls the pin on the grenade that has been in Eric's mind since he walked away from the green-eyed girl his buddy wanted.
When he doesn't reply to either of the two letters and a third arrives, his ungentlemanly behavior threatens the morale of his combat support unit. For the sake of his unit, Eric takes the hit from his best buddy's wife, wondering why Steve has put her up to writing to a man she doesn't know.

Welcome, Leigh! We've read the synopsis, but please take a minute to tell us in your own words what your latest novel is about.

Besides girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back? I began with that basic framework and built in betrayal, loyalty, self-sacrifice, hope and determination. Sylviana is a wide-eyed innocent looking for direction. When she meets Eric, he’s a bit roughed up by four years in combat zones but still has a strong commitment to doing right. Their natural connection is torn apart by Eric’s best friend, who is also attracted to Sylviana. Steve is smarter and meaner. When all his lies come to the surface, Sylviana ends her marriage to him and turns back in search of the man she believes she was meant to marry.

There's lots to like about that set up. I understand a big part of Wait a Lonely Lifetime is written in letters and emails. What inspired you to take that approach? 

Epistolary novels have a long, respectable history especially in the Romance genre. If you remember the film You’ve Got Mail based on the eastern European story The Letter (also made into a film in the 1930/40s with James Stewart) as well as a musical, He Said, She Said, you’ll recognize the device. I didn’t really plan the book that way; it seemed the only way Sylviana could communicate with Eric, not knowing how to reach him once he had re-enlisted. A letter is a monologue. Until it receives an answer, it’s just one person, one-sided. A letter demands and expects an answer. Once it’s written, the writer is at the mercy of the recipient. A lot like writing a book. Writing Wait a Lonely Lifetime in letter and emails seemed the natural way to bring Sylviana and Eric back together, much safer than a phone call. No matter how dependent we are on electronic communication, nothing replaces a handwritten letter to send a heartfelt message, most especially a love letter.

I couldn't agree with you more. There's something inherently romantic about letters. And speaking of romantic...your novel is set partly in Firenze. You’ve been there and have described it as one of the most enchanting places you have even visited. Was there anything in your book based on real life experiences? 

The moment I arrived in Firenze, I knew I was going to write about it but I didn’t make notes or keep a travel diary. I had a camera but took no pictures. I observed and absorbed. What I wrote about the city is distilled from all I remembered. Quite a lot! I made mental notes of some details like the high water mark and the monument to the victims of the Mafia bombing. I wove those into the story because they were unique. I kept the tourist map so I could find my way around once I was back in Wales.

It sounds like a great place to fall in love. Your heroine, Sylviana, falls in love with Eric at first sight. I’m a big believer in this, but how does she know?

I believe this happens for many people. The moment doesn’t always lead to everlasting love but I think we know when we’ve met someone we will never forget. That chemistry is instantaneous – ignore it at your peril! A lot of that sense is hopeful. Some of it is intuition and instinct. I’ve only felt that way about one person. I married him pronto.

Smart move! Let's talk about your writing. What was your favorite scene to write and why? 

I’m particularly fond of the plaid pajamas with piping around the collar scene. The most dramatic scenes are when Sylviana escapes with her daughters from her house and they can’t reach Eric on Thanksgiving Day. I also loved writing about Eva’s first school dance. The whole book was fun and challenging. I couldn’t stop writing. Part of the joy of writing for me is discovery. I don’t plot beyond a basic outline, feeling my way through the boxes and barriers that these persnickety characters put in the way.

Based on your discovery writing style, you must have learned something from writing your book. What was it? 

The most amazing thing I learned was that I could actually write a novel, from beginning to end. I learned the essential ingredient of discipline and more discipline. When Lia Brown asked to read the first chapters, I had half of the book still in draft. A month later, when she asked to see the full manuscript, I was ready! I had the feeling I had to be prepared. 

Good thing you followed that instinct! Was there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? 

The list of authors I’ve read and been influenced by is pretty long. I studied Victorian literature and was enamored of George Eliot. I’ve read every book she wrote and put Daniel Deronda as my #1 of all time. Also Middlemarch but that is lower on my list. I’m reading a lot of more contemporary writers at the moment: Frank Waters, Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Isabel Allende’s short stories, Eva Luna and In the House of the Spirits are stunning. I’m a fan of Anne Tyler and enjoyed Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. I just bought a copy of Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite A Husband after I heard her speak at the San Francisco Area RWA chapter meeting. I’m reading as many of the Avalon authors’ books as I can find. I guess you don’t want to hear about things like Milton Freidman’s books on economics!

You've just made me add about a half dozen books to my reading list (with the exception of the one on economics). What about more books from you? What are your current works in progress? 

My current work is another contemporary novel but I’d call it women’s fiction with strong romantic elements rather than Romance. Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls is set in the financial district of San Francisco (hence the Milton Freidman!). This is another book I couldn’t stop writing but, like Michaelangelo, I am “finding the story in the words”, so to speak. 

I love the title—intriguing! What would you say has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

The toughest criticism is always a rejection. When I was just starting out, I kept all the polite notes from short story magazines. Nowadays they come in emails. I keep those too. There’s no honest criticism that you can’t learn from. I keep in mind it’s a lot easier to criticize than it is to create.

I'm sure many of us can relate to that. On the flip side, what has been the best compliment? 

The best compliments I’ve received are about Wait a Lonely Lifetime and my historical novel (written under my pen name) when people have told me they couldn’t put it down or that they were brought to tears, laughed out loud, are still thinking about the characters. When I read a book like that, it’s a lifelong treasure. 

And that's what makes it all worthwhile. In closing, do yo have any advice you'd like to give to aspiring writers? 

I considered myself an aspiring writer until I was mortified to hear myself say, “I always wanted to be a writer.” We’re only aspiring if we’re not writing. Once you write, you are a writer. My best advice is: Write the best book you can and then make it better.

Great advice. Thank you so much for your time today, Leigh and congratulations on your new Avalon release!

About the Author:

A native of Paris Hill, Maine, Leigh Verrill-Rhys spent most of her childhood and early adult years in San Francisco before emigrating to Wales to marry and raise three sons. She has been a writer, editor, and lecturer for most of her life, intermingled with career portfolios in marketing, finance, and community arts projects.
Wait a Lonely Lifetime is her first published novel. Leigh admits to running with scissors and leaping before she looks.

Follow Leigh at, her blog:, onTwitter: @EverWriting9, or Facebook:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Along for the Ride: Chapter 11 - Repost

Before you read this post, you may want to start at the beginning of the Avalon Authors Online collaborative novel, Along for the Ride.

June 18, 2012

Along for the Ride

Chapter Eleven

by Leigh Verrill-Rhys

After my initial burst of courage, I realized I was playing by their rules. Never trust a man who asks you to trust himanother pearl of wisdom my mother imparted before her deathSure, he had green eyes and his lips were kissable. And yes, I did feel safe when he held me. True, he turned up when the danger was dire. However, and this was a big however, Stan was always around when danger struck, like a lightning rod. 

Here I was filthy, exhausted, humiliated and angry. Mel wasn’t going to come with any voodoo feelings to make me any less angry so I took the only action of any sensible nature, precisely calculated to get me out of there and give me time to think. I reached into my deepest self and brought up all the reasons to confirm Seattle and everyone I had met was my worst nightmare and convinced myself I was never going to see the sun again.

Miraculous result. I sobbed. I sobbed inconsolably, threw my arms over my face and ran from that padded room. I wasn’t insane but I soon would be if I didn’t get my act together, take control and find an escape route, pronto. I also wasn’t as complete an idiot as either Stan or Mel thought I was. However, adorable that man was under normal circumstances, I had suffered more than enough to understand that he was not good for me.

Hmmm, cinnamon. Okay, yes, I knew the whole score. That fact did not change my determination to take back my life and purpose. I did not want to be involved in their intrigues. I wanted the sun, the heat and the frivolous structure of my desert idyll. 

The next best thing was a sharp turn at the end of the hallway, a white panel door and a flip of the wall switch. A double, tiled walk-in shower cubicle with a sports power head. The secondhand clothes were a distant memory, piled like so much waste paper on the floor and I stood under the pulsing spray, at the maximum temperature I could tolerate, just to feel warm and clean again.

Not for long. I twisted my head under the spray, soaking up as much hot water as possible as though I could find clarity in the massage and all the time Stan was pounding on the door, demanding to know what I was doing and, “I have to talk to you, Sonya. Once you hear everything I have to day, you’ll understand why we had to do this.”

As if I didn’t understand. As if I would find it all very amusing and of course I didn’t mind being terrified out of my wits. After all, this was all in the name of integrity, security, justice, good business, or whatever other excuse they used to justify manipulating me into their mysterious, nefarious, criminal, need-to-know affair. 

Not me. I wasn’t their pigeon anymore. I could live without someone of Stan’s character in my life. I could definitely live without that interfering matchmaker, Auntie Mel. Just let me get out of Seattle. Take me back to Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe , Chandler. Let me roam the high desert and cut cookies for the rest of my life. Please.

“Sonya? Sonya, darling, come out. We need to talk.”

I ignored the insistent tapping on the panelled door and the silky voice pleading with me to open it. Go away, Stan. The hot spray of water on my bare shoulders was the tonic I needed to get the aroma of cinnamon out of my head. Agent M4Mel and her voodoo feelings and cinnamon-colored hair.

I tilted my face into the spray, scrubbed away the streaks of mascara and blusher and who knew what my foundation had done to enhance my questionable allure. There was no doubt in my mind that the whole horrendous adventure had been a hugely unfunny practical joke, at my expense. I met my reflection in the steamy mirror. Bedraggled. All for a supposed Seatlle tourist destination or some such thing. Reality TV. Oh, please! Did they really think I was that gullible? Did they really think I was so desperate I’d fall for an admittedly handsome hunk who made me feel safe all the time he was tormenting me?

I don’t think so, Mel. I was screaming in absolute silence. Irate, insane beyond even the semblance of reasonable. “All I want,” I hissed into the slit between the door and the warped doorframe, “is a flight on Southwest right back to Phoenix – absolutely anywhere but this soaking wet, drip of a place. Do you hear me, Stanley whoever-you-are?”

“I hear you.”

He sounded as flat as my hair, plastered to my aching skull. “Not funny anymore, is it?”

“Not when you put it like that, Sonya.”

“Right. So you get on that computer you’ve got stashed away somewhere in this phoney hideout or whatever it is and find me a flight home.”

“I don’t think I can do that.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not very technical. And I really don’t want you to go.”

“You should have thought about that before you and Mel and Anna and Agent M4 and your mother and Darla and those fricky and fracky cousins got all your twisted minds together to entertain me in Nightmareville, Seattle, Lesser Twin of the Amazon Rainforest.”

“You’re mad, aren’t you? You’re pretty mad, I guess.”

“You know what makes me really, really mad?”

“What’s that, Sonya?” His voice was small, like a child trying to wheedle his way out of being sent to his room. “Anything I can do?”

“What makes me really mad, Stan with the green eyes and warm-cookie-smell and latte foam on his lips, is that I fell for it, even for a little while.” He murmured something to someone – probably Anna or Fricky-Frack but, even with my ear stuck to the door, I couldn’t hear. “And while you’re discussing my future, Stan, find me something to wear. Something befitting my character and temperament. I don’t want to arrive in Phoenix looking any less sophisticated than when I left.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

He was so accommodating, so gentle. How could I possibly continue being so mean to him? I looked straight into my face, stripped bare of any artifice. That’s why and how.

The tapping resumed after a lot more mumbling and Anna said something about the clothes I wanted. By now I was clued in to their tricks. All they got was a slim opening with my whole body braced against the door. The outfit was a bit wrinkled by the time it was shoved through the crack I allowed but not half bad for a phoney hideout somewhere in the Northwest. I had no illusions about what might happen when I emerged from the safety of the shower-room. At least, I no longer looked like the poor relation of a gorgeous travel agent.

Only Stan stood in the hallway. He’d found time to clean up, rest up and shave. His eyes were less haunted but still full of that you-know-you-can-trust-me concern. I glanced neither right nor left but grasped the inevitability of my inability to escape at that moment. I walked straight into his arms and did exactly as I had been dreaming of doing. I buried my face in his shoulder, inhaled with all my might.

“You’ll keep your promise, won’t you?”

“I will, Sonya. You can trust me.”


A dust-speckled ray of light struck at my eyelid. All across the room, shelves of sunshine forced their way through the Venetian blinds. I didn’t recognize the room, just the ever-present aroma of fresh-from- the-oven cinnamon cookies. When my head stopped spinning, I crept to the window and peeped out .

“Well, what do you know, Toto?  I’ve a funny feeling we’re not in Seattle anymore.”

Stan may have kept his promise, but there were very few rainbows in this part of the world.


look for Chapter 12 on July 2

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Men in Uniform - Repost

This article appeared a few weeks before Wait a Lonely Lifetime, my debut novel, hit the libraries and online booksellers. Amazon Publishing had already purchased Avalon and my career as a published author was already on shaky ground.

March 23, 2012

The forthcoming publication of my debut novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, with Avalon Books calls for some attention to the hero of this book:  U.S. Army officer, Eric E. Wasserman, who doesn’t feel comfortable in civilian clothes.

I admit, when I see a man in uniform, I look twice. I don’t know if this is a genetic anomaly or a primordial instinct but there is something about a human male impeccably dressed, starched, buttoned and tied that unleashes a basic response from me: instant & rarely unjustified trust, a sense of security and protection as well as a recognition of pride and courage.

This could be because so many of the most trustworthy, dependable men I have known have been the uniformed kind. This could also be the reason I have made my hero, Eric Wasserman, uncomfortable out of uniform when he first meets the love of his life and why he chooses to wear only military garb when they next meet.

His choice to return to Army life after a brief stint as a civilian has as much to do with the story development as with my own military-philia, having a long, proud history of U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force family members. Eric came to life when I saw him as a gawky, ex-GI out of his element among art college students.  

Readers of Wait a Lonely Lifetime will recognize this scene!
Feeling out of our element is something we all share at one time or another. Eric's second-in-command, Lt. Cleonina Jones, forces him to face his desertion of the only woman he has ever loved, Sylviana Innocenti, and take responsibility for his part in the unhappy outcome.

Eric Wasserman is a fictional character who embodies all I can imagine of the best of the male of our species: characteristics I have observed throughout my life; characteristics that are embedded in their genetic coding. My first novel for Avalon is my way of saying thank to people who have been important in my life – both familiar and unknown.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Title Search - Repost

This repost contains some music links to artists and songs that were inspirational to me for some personal as well as professional reasons.

February 23, 2012

Forget blurbs. Forget synopses. Forget even writing a novel or composing the jacket cover biography. The hardest job is finding a title. You've written a book to be proud of. You've put years of experience, months of work, weeks of revision, days of anticipation into the masterpiece. What keeps you awake night after night? The title. 

What comes to mind? Nothing as arresting, compelling, delightful, thrilling as the story. No. What do you do?

Sometimes I search the manuscript for phrases that catch the eye or the imagination. Funny thing. There never seems to be one that meets expectations. Does that mean...? Could that mean the book isn't as great as I thought? I don't entertain that thought for very long. That's just "Title Search Paranoia" whittling down writer confidence.

What's in a title, anyway? Just about everything, at least according to one of my college professors. Get that right and you've put a book in someone's hands. Get it wrong and you're overlooked for the catwalk creation sitting next to your wallflower. You need resonance. You need speaks to the heart/soul. What you get in the middle of the night is, well,... not much.

Sometimes, the best one comes to you as a flash of serendipity. Sometimes you agonize. Sometimes, you find a title before you know your characters' names or written a word.I carry a notebook in my bag. When a title presents itself, I make a note. Too often, the moment of inspiration passes without recognition. Just as often, the recorded title has no meaning when I next open that notebook.

Once in a while, I find myself locked into a title that is exactly perfect. Much more often, the novel is written, the characters ready for their moment to be read but the book is "untitled" or has the first name of one of the characters to distinguish it from all the other works in progress in my computer filing system.

In the case of my first novel for Avalon Books (to be released in April) the title came to me as I was walking to meet my lift to work. I was singing in my head and there it was. Wait a Lonely Lifetime has two significant events or connections to recommend it to me.

You may know it from the Beatles' song, "I Will":

Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.

This was the song in my head and is actually a musical reference to a song that always breaks my heart when I hear it and one that both my husband and I shared as a favorite when we first met - playing on the jukebox in a bar in Noe Valley - we were on our second date. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Bishop and the song's title is "Looking for the Right One":

Will I wait another lifetime,
Keep on looking for the right one?

Art Garfunkel also recorded this song but I prefer Bishop's original. You decide:

This line, these four words, were and are perfect for the story I tell in Wait a Lonely Lifetime, of two people who find "the right one" but are kept apart for a lifetime by the calculated interference of someone they both thought of as a friend.