The Obituary: A Reflection

Thanksgiving 2014

On this, the first anniversary of my father’s passing, I am sharing an essay I wrote on the flight home after what I thought would be the last time I ever saw him. While waiting for the plane to reach cruising altitude so I could use my laptop, I started scribbling in a little spiral notebook, and I just couldn’t stop. Once the piece was written, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Put it away? Publish it somewhere? I couldn’t decide. It was so personal. But as we completed this year of firsts – first Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter without Dad – and approached this solemn anniversary, I realized I was ready to share these words. I’m sure so many of you will be able to relate to my experience of love and loss.

 

 

The Obituary

By Dana Corbit Nussio

Feb. 16, 2016

Feb. 13, 2016

I wrote my dad’s obituary last night. Even saying it now sounds strange. Wrong. After all, he’s still very much alive. I kissed him good-bye only twenty-five hours ago. He was walking slowly, carefully, but under his own power, as he pushed that rolling walker down the hall of his assisted living facility toward a dinner he would probably enjoy but wouldn’t really taste or be able to recall tomorrow.

I kissed him good-bye twice, I remember now, once in his tiny apartment that was really just a bedroom and once in that circular main area near the dining room. That place where some of the women gather every time I visit, none of them talking to each other.  Just waiting and watching for guests who never come. I could feel their curious gazes on me as I crossed the room to him and reached out for one more kiss on that stubble-roughened cheek. One more chance to say “I love you.” Not caring if all of them heard me say it but praying he would since he seldom hears me now when he can’t read my lips.

I squeezed his frail shoulders once, not too tightly, and then let go because I had to, turning away quickly so he couldn’t see the tears in my eyes. Even though it might have been the last time I ever hugged him.

I wrote my dad’s obituary last night. I know that’s the same for everyone, though the order of events is fluid. There are no guarantees of a tomorrow for any of us. But for Dad, the promise of many sunrises and sunsets is becoming as weak as his lungs. Cancer inside them is pillaging any remaining healthy tissue, killing him, breath by labored breath. My sister is in Tennessee watching the whole sad process and doing most of the work, while I’m three states away, filled with guilt because I can’t be there.

My daddy. Was yesterday the last time I’ll ever see him? Ever see that spark of humor in his eyes? Hear him tell me he’s proud of me when I’ve been misguidedly chasing his approval most of my life.

c. 1985

He left a touch of his cologne on my coat. I remember that now from my seat at thirty-six-thousand feet, the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign lit above me, the sunset bleeding orange over the western horizon outside my window. I grab my coat from the empty seat next to me.  I sniff at the collar. And sniff. Can I still smell him there? Is the mark of the first man who ever cradled me in his arms, the first man I ever loved, still there? I don’t know. I’m not sure. Is it really there, or am I just willing it to be?

Desperate, I inhale once more, hoping to catch a lingering whiff of my childhood, memories probably edited to make them a little less sad for those who read my stories. For myself as well. I recall them with a child-like innocence that a writer must conjure, just like the characters born in my mind.  Deleting some of the less pleasant moments for my own sake.

1990

I wrote my dad’s obituary last night. A simple recollection of an ordinary life that will be remembered without fanfare by precious few except his two daughters, the very people he hurt sometimes, but loved the best he could. The abbreviated notice doesn’t even contain the whole story. The twists and re-directions. The lifelong battle with demons inside twelve-ounce cans and tissue-searing packs of twenty. The arrivals and departures of stepmothers and step-siblings. Promises made and broken like the twist of a turnstile. Even one tragic passing in that awkward chasm of divorce.

Those are the things I couldn’t tell inside that formulaic collection of words I’d written for so many strangers during my newspaper-reporter days. Were the obituaries I wrote for those other people as empty as this one, just as devoid of the truth in the lives they recorded? I’m not sure, but I know these are the true puzzle pieces that marked my father’s life. And my sister’s. And mine.

I wrote my dad’s obituary last night. I wrote it, but I won’t show it to him, though it is perfectly pleasant and sterile and kind. Unless he asks. And he’s not asking a lot of questions right now, except how his body will be transported back to Kokomo, Indiana, for burial. To the city where a scared little boy and his family made that journey from Arkansas for work some sixty years ago. To the place where he lived most of his life and to the cemetery spot next to his late wife and where the unofficial plot of all our relatives looks like a family reunion.

I wrote my dad’s obituary last night. After promising him I would be there to see him when I could get off work again in seven weeks. And after making hotel reservations that were guaranteed refundable, just in case. He counted the weeks on his fingers against his two-month predicted death sentence, considered for a few long seconds and then shrugged.

“I plan to still be here,” he said with a small smile.

I hope so, Dad. I hope so.

***

I was blessed to have one last visit with my father before he passed away. It felt like a gift, and it was. 

Still missing you, Dad. See you soon!

 

James O. Corbit – 9/10/37- 4/30/16

 

 

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Author Speed Dating – Jennifer Lohmann

 

 

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match. 

This week’s guest: Jennifer Lohmann

 

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. If Disney made an animated movie about you as Princess Jennifer, which Disney hero would you choose as your Prince?

Does Robin Hood count as a prince? That was always my favorite Disney movie.

2. In which genres and sub-genres have you been published, and what does your narrow or sweeping focus say about you?

I’ve only written contemporary romances. While I love romance and writing about the developing relationship, what I really love is examining about a woman’s relationship with herself and the modern world.

3. Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio?

Denzel, every time.

4. What is one of the biggest risks you’ve taken as a writer?

I enjoy writing about women who’ve made serious personal mistakes in their past that have lasting consequences which they can’t escape, which include Renia Milek in THE FIRST MOVE, who gave a baby up for adoption when she was sixteen; Ruby Heart from WINNING RUBY HEART, who doped during the Olympics and had a gold medal taken away; and Mina Clements from LOVE ON HER TERMS, who believed a guy who said, “It’ll be okay, baby,” didn’t use a condom, and got HIV. Each of those books include sharp, emotional, and often painful moments that aren’t easy to read and could turn a reader off. But they make me a stronger writer, and the books are better for them.

5. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

CORNELIA’S HONOR by Lois McMaster Bujold. I turn to that book in moments of personal crisis, and, if I’m limited to one suitcase, it’s probably because there’s a moment of personal crisis happening.  As for my book? WINNING RUBY HEART. I wrote that book after my divorce, and it’s the book that most speaks to me coming into my own after a personal crisis.

6. How many rejections did you receive before you sold your first book, and what did you learn from them?

Don’t hate me, but zero. I’ve had rejections since, but not the first one. I sold it during “So You Think You Can Write”, Harlequin’s big writing contest. RESERVATIONS FOR TWO was my first book.

7. For your social-media fix, do you prefer crazy cat videos or trivia quizzes on ’80s movies and Biblical characters?

I’m a librarian, so cat videos all day, every day. Did I mention that I have three cats?

8. Which character from one of your own books do you wish you were more like?

Ohhhh…interesting question. Mina Clements from LOVE ON HER TERMS is outgoing and can draw. I’d love to be able to make small talk with strangers and draw anything more complicated than a stick figure. But Ruby Heart from WINNING RUBY HEART is an amazing athlete, something I’ve never been.  But I’m pretty happy where I’m at.

9. Perfect outfit: cowboy hat and boots or sundress and sandals?

Sundress and sandals, preferably retro.

10. Are you a pantser or a plotter in your writing, and have you always written this way, or have you changed methods throughout your career?

Team Pantser for the win!

11. What is your most ridiculous fear, and what have you done to challenge it?

If we’re going for ridiculous, I was once looking at a black mamba snake through a glass window in a serpentarium during a bad thunderstorm. I had a very brief moment of heart-stopping panic as I imagined that there would be a tornado. The glass would break and I’d die of a black mamba bite in Wilmington, North Carolina. I’m not actually afraid of snakes. Or storms.

On the serious side, I’m afraid of needles. I hate it, but I give blood a couple times a year to face my fear.

12. What are some of the activities you’ve participated in, people you’ve interviewed or places you’ve visited to do research for one of your books?

I did a lot of comic book drawing for LOVE ON HER TERMS and took a citizen’s police academy for A SOUTHERN PROMISE. And, of course, I go skiing every winter. 😊

13. Name the strangest snack or food combination you love to eat when no one is watching.

Goldfish and Thin Mints. Mmmm….good.

14. Faith Hill or Lady Gaga?

Lady Gaga.

15. In 10 words or less, give your best writing advice to aspiring authors.

Defend your writing time.

 

***

 

 

Love on Her Terms

By Jennifer Lohmann

 

 

Mina had met all of her neighbors except one. Given how rarely she saw him outside, it seemed like he was determined she not meet him or even lay eyes on him.

Still, she wasn’t used to not knowing her neighbors. Even in graduate school she’d made a point to meet all the people in her apartment building at least once. That way, she figured, even if they avoided her for the rest of their shared time in Chicago, they would be able to tell the paramedics her name if she were found gravely injured on the sidewalk outside the building.

Though how she would have managed being gravely injured on the sidewalk outside her apartment after being hit by a train was still a mystery.

Mina smiled as she crossed the property boundary. A death worthy of Anna Karenina was ridiculous, which was part of the pleasure of thinking about it. She was going to die from something prosaic and boring. A cold that turned into pneumonia. An allergic reaction. Basically, her own body turning against her. Nothing as spectacular as throwing oneself in front of a train after the betrayal of a lover.

She knocked on the door and almost laughed when her neighbor opened it, a death glare on his face that he didn’t even try to hide as he said, “Yes.”

Fortunately, death held little fear for her. It never had. Not even when in the form of a man who stood a head, a neck and a chest taller than her. Every other time she’d seen her neighbor, his black hair had been slicked back against his head, but this morning it was loose about his face, with locks hanging over his eyes. He obviously hadn’t shaven since yesterday at least, and maybe since the day before. One day, once her garden was put in and her bathroom redone, she’d make a study of his facial hair.

Today, she stuck her hand into the void between them, a desperate cover for wanting to push his hair out of his eyes. “I’m Mina. I moved in next door a couple weeks ago and wanted to introduce myself.”

His eyes were a surprisingly light brown, given how dark his hair was. She noticed this as she realized her hand…still hung in the air. She had offered him a strong handshake, like her dad had taught her. No weak wrists. People judged you on your handshake.

Or most people did. Her neighbor might never shake her hand, and he wouldn’t know that she’d practiced her handshake with strangers since she was five.

She was about to give up when his calloused hand slid into hers and gripped tightly enough that her knees went weak in the best possible way.

“Levi,” he said, his voice deep with sleep.

It seemed his dad had taught him to have a good handshake, too. His grip revealed shapely forearms with just a hint of vein under the skin. Enough that Mina wanted to see more. More forearms. More biceps.

More everything of her neighbor.

 ***

LOVE ON HER TERMS, an August 2016 release from Harlequin Superroomance, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Harlequin, iBooks and Kobo.

 

***

 

About Jennifer

Jennifer Lohmann is a Rocky Mountain girl at heart, having grown up in southern Idaho and Salt Lake City. She’s always been a reader–of romance novels, mysteries, nonfiction, cereal boxes, etc. If it had words, she tried to read it. Jennifer had been writing, on and off, for many years when she won the Romance Writers of America Librarian of the Year award in 2010. Being at the RWA conference reminded her how much she loved writing, and she became more serious about it. As part of Harlequin’s “So You Think You Can Write” Contest, she was offered a contract on her first book in 2012. She lives in the Southeast with her own personal Viking hero, three cats, two teenage stepchildren, and a boa constrictor. Visit her at jenniferlohmann.com and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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Author Speed Dating – Ruth Kaufman

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match. 

This week’s guest: Ruth Kaufman

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. If Disney made an animated movie about you as Princess Ruth, which Disney hero would you choose as your Prince?

Princess Sparkle (because I love all things glittery and shiny!) would choose Prince Charming, because he’s, well, charming, and she’d love to live in a castle.

2. In which genres and subgenres have you been published, and what does your narrow or sweeping focus say about you?

I’ve published 4 Medievals (and a Medieval novella), but my next two will be humorous women’s fiction. The one after those should be a time travel to Elizabethan England with a paranormal hero. I hope writing in multiple genres and mixing genres says I’m creative with a lot of ideas and characters and that I love research.

3. Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio?

Definitely Denzel. He’s so talented and cool.

4. What is one of the biggest risks you’ve taken as a writer?

I released two versions of my first book, one with an “open bedroom door” that has the hero on the cover and one with a “closed bedroom door” that has the heroine on the cover. I’d hoped to interest readers who like some heat and those who prefer sweet. Unfortunately, the heroine’s book didn’t do very well.

5. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

I’d take FOLLOW YOUR HEART, my second book, because I love the characters and that the heroine is a stained-glass painter. And I’d take Margaret George’s THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII because I couldn’t put it down and it’s very, very long.

6. How many rejections did you receive before you sold your first book, and what did you learn from them?

I received hundreds of rejections for more than 10 manuscripts and also at least a dozen revision letters from agents and editors before I self-published (meaning they were very interested in this or that project but wanted some changes before offering a contract). I learned that I wasn’t going to get the traditional publishing call I’d wanted, so I self-published.

7. For your social-media fix, do you prefer crazy cat videos or trivia quizzes on ’80s movies and Biblical characters?

None of the above. I’m also an actor, so if I’m going to spend time online in addition to following or contributing to my feeds, I’ll watch a web series or film someone I know is in or from someone I hope to work with.

8. Which character from one of your own books do you wish you were more like?

Annora of Amberley from my fourth book, MY ONCE & FUTURE LOVE. I appreciate her willingness to take risks, her determination and ability to remain mostly positive in the face of adversity. 

9. Perfect outfit: cowboy hat and boots or sundress and sandals?

Sundress and sandals.

10. Are you a pantser or a plotter in your writing, and have you always written this way, or have you changed methods throughout your career?

Pantser! And I give workshops about it. I read books about plotting and took workshops, and though I tried and tried, couldn’t get words on the page until I went back to pantsing.

11. What is your most ridiculous fear, and what have you done to challenge it?

I’m afraid of the dentist’s drill (my mom says it’s because when I was four, a dentist drilled with no Novocain). I force myself to go for a cleaning every time they send the reminder postcard because I’m more afraid of what might happen if I don’t.

12. What are some of the activities you’ve participated in, people you’ve interviewed or places you’ve visited to do research for one of your books?

For AT HIS COMMAND, I visited Castle Rising in England and made it the heroine’s home. And I took the picture of it that’s on the cover.

13. Name the strangest snack or food combination you love to eat when no one is watching.

Does everyone have a strange snack/combo except me? I love peanut butter and chocolate ice cream in general, and in particular Target’s Market Pantry version. I wish it came in a single-serve size because it’s so tempting….

14. Faith Hill or Lady Gaga?

Lady Gaga…amazingly talented.

15. In 10 words or less, give your best writing advice to aspiring authors.

Set weekly word goals and keep writing new pages.

***

 

 

At His Command

By Ruth Kaufman

 

 

 

Sir Nicholas Grey’s scout leaned forward in his saddle, holding up two fingers to let the others know two horses approached. Nicholas heard only the slight jangling of harnesses blended with wind rattling through the trees, but relied on his scout’s uncanny ability to hear what no one else could.

He and his eight men sat alert, deep enough in the forest to avoid being seen while maintaining a clear view of the road through leafless branches. Nine armed men could frighten travelers. ‘Twas best to let them pass.

Each man watched, each horse sinking deeper into chilling mire as a mud-covered, black palfrey plodded over the rise in the road, its long mane whipping in the frigid winds.

“No rider,” Martin, the scout, murmured.

“Look again,” Nicholas replied. At first he too had thought the horse was riderless. Now he could see a woman collapsed on the animal’s back. Her dark hair draped down its flank, mingling with the horse’s mane. The palfrey placed each step as if trying not to jostle its burden.

Another horse, this one a brown rouncey ridden by a thin, balding man, galloped after the palfrey. A look of triumph brightened the man’s face as he spotted the horse ahead of him. He bent forward, extending his hand. Fingers like talons grasped the woman’s tangled hair.

“Mine!” he cried.

Amice Winfield jerked awake. Agony forced her head back, allowing her to see the man who gripped her hair as though he’d perish if he let go.

Harry Winfield.

She screamed. Arrows of fear pierced her as she clawed at his fingers. Her horse bolted, leaving her dangling from Harry’s hand by a small clump of hair. The long strands held for a few seconds, then tore from her head.

Pain seared her scalp. She dropped into a puddle. Stunned by her fall and her stinging head, Amice could only stare at her tormentor while freezing water soaked her clothes. How she hated him. How she regretted her desperate flight from home. But what other choice did she have?

Harry gaped at the dark tresses hanging from his hand. He threw them to the ground as she struggled to rise. Panic gripped her as his hostile glare changed to a slow, confident smile.

“There’s nowhere to run. I’ll catch you if it’s the last thing I do,” he vowed. He leapt off his horse.

Amice tugged her sodden skirts, trying to haul them out of the puddle. Where was her mount? Too far away to reach without being caught, weighted down as she was. Sprays of water flew as she heaved her skirts over her arm. Heart racing, she ran for the trees. A branch snagged her. With a cry of frustration, she pulled the wet wool until it wrenched free.

Ignoring twigs tearing at her skin and icy mud that sucked away one of her shoes, she forged ahead. She gasped for air as she plunged into a tiny clearing, then came to an abrupt halt at the sight of a group of mounted men.

 

***

AT HIS COMMAND (Historical Romance Version), Wars of the Roses Brides Book 1, is available for purchase through Amazon.

 

***

About Ruth

Ruth Kaufman is the Amazon bestselling author of the Wars of the Roses Brides trilogy (AT HIS COMMAND, FOLLOW YOUR HEART and THE BRIDE TOURNAMENT) and MY ONCE AND FUTURE LOVE. Accolades include 2016 Booksellers Best Award Best Historical and Best First Book winner and Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® award winner.

An actor, speaker and storyteller with an M.S. and J.D, Ruth has had roles in independent feature films, web series, pilots, national TV commercials and hundreds of voiceover projects. She enjoys living in Chicago and singing in a symphony chorus. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com, www.ruthtalks.com and her blog “Gainfully Unemployed” . Follow her through these social-media channels:  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, her Amazon Author Page and Instagram @ruthjkchi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author Speed Dating – Liz Talley

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match. 

This week’s guest: Liz Talley

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. If Disney made an animated movie about you as Princess Liz, which Disney hero would you choose as your Prince?

Captain John Smith (Disney Version). Did you know that he named the opossum?

2. In which genres and subgenres have you been published, and what does your narrow or sweeping focus say about you?

I am published in romantic fiction, and my writing spans the scope from light/fun to emotional/dark. 

3. Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio?

Leonardo (I think).

4. What is one of the biggest risks you’ve taken as a writer?

I quit my job and said I could make it as a writer. Some years that’s been true. Others, not so much.

5. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

THE SWEETEST SEPTEMBER by me and OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. My title because it was my RITA finalist, and I love the heroine and hero. I don’t think I have to explain the other, do I? I mean, Jamie. That is all. 

6. How many rejections did you receive before you sold your first book, and what did you learn from them?

Lots upon lots. I learned I wasn’t good at writing queries, and I needed to learn more before I put my work out there as a professional.

7. For your social-media fix, do you prefer crazy cat videos or trivia quizzes on ’80s movies and Biblical characters?

Trivia quizzes. I love those!

8. Which character from one of your own books do you wish you were more like?

Kate in A LITTLE TEXAS. She’s the gal I want to be. 🙂

9. Perfect outfit: cowboy hat and boots or sundress and sandals?

Sundress and sandals.

10. Are you a pantser or a plotter in your writing, and have you always written this way, or have you changed methods throughout your career?

I’m organic. I write from an outline, but I let the plot unfold in a different direction if need be.

11. What is your most ridiculous fear, and what have you done to challenge it?

Failure. And I refuse to accept it. I’m stubborn that way.

12. What are some of the activities you’ve participated in, people you’ve interviewed or places you’ve visited to do research for one of your books?

I’ve interviewed a scientist on whooping cranes, a Mardi Gras float builder and a LSU football coach, and I’ve toured a fire station and ridden in the truck. Oh, and lots more. I love field trips!

13. Name the strangest snack or food combination you love to eat when no one is watching.

I’m not too adventurous with food. I like cheese melted on saltines. That’s boring, but it’s pretty good. 

 14. Faith Hill or Lady Gaga?

Lady Gaga.

15. In 10 words or less, give your best writing advice to aspiring authors.

It’s YOUR story, write it the way you want it.

 

***

 

All That Charm

By Liz Talley

 

 

 

The other girls cast suspicious glances toward Eden. She could feel the questions, the censure, and the incredulity that an untried ensemble member who’d shown up mere days ago might be the one to get the break they’ve all been hoping for. Eden didn’t return their regard. Instead she watched Frenchie. “I’ve been on the stage plenty of times. You saw my audition.”

Eden didn’t add that her onstage experience as Annie Oakley had come when she was a junior in high school. Hey, they’d sold out all three nights, and she’d gotten a nice write-up in the Morning Glory Herald. Not exactly chopped liver.

After long, countable seconds, Frenchie closed her eyes, opened them, and then snapped her fingers. “Get her the costume. Lisa, see if we have a wig. Make it red. Let’s get her as close as possible to Lola.”

“She’s almost a foot shorter than Sadie. No one is going to think she’s Lola LaRue. That’s ridiculous,” one of the ensemble girls said.

“Fine. She’ll be Lulu. Lola’s sister,” Frenchie said with a shrug of one thin shoulder. It seemed obvious the woman had made her decision. “Let’s make this happen. We don’t have time to think too hard. Someone give Fred the intro for Lulu. We’ll need to take a good six inches off the skirt, and someone find a padded bra. If I’m not mistaken, she’s a thirty-two with an A cup.”

“I’m a B cup,” Eden yelled, knowing full well the bra she was currently wearing was a 32 A.

But Frenchie was gone.

***

ALL THAT CHARM, A Morning Glory Novel Book 3 and a May 2, 2017, release from ARTalley Books, Inc., may be pre-ordered from Amazon.

***

About Liz

A finalist in both RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA contests, Liz Talley loves staying home in her jammies writing emotional contemporary romance. Her first book starred a spinster librarian – VEGAS TWO STEP – and debuted in June 2010. Since that time, Liz has published twenty-one more books with Harlequin, Berkeley and Montlake, reaching number one in Kindle romance with her latest series. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty. You can visit Liz at www.liztalleybooks.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook to learn more about her upcoming books.

 

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Author Speed Dating – Ellyn Oaksmith

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match. 

This week’s guest: Ellyn Oaksmith

 

 

15 Questions

1. If Disney made an animated movie about you as Princess Ellyn, which Disney hero would you choose as your Prince?

Princess Ellyn would fall for Shrek, from DreamWorks, not Disney. Yes, he’s green, but it would complement my eyes. He’s funny, low-maintenance and wouldn’t clutter up the bathroom with his manscaping products. Plus, I love the woods. Donkey would be a problem.

2. In which genres and sub-genres have you been published, and what does your narrow or sweeping focus say about you?

Oh boy. Romance first of all with a heavy dose of comedy. (My first book has talking breast implants — Yes, you read that correctly.) I also have a woman’s fiction, I’m working on a historical fiction, and my YA book is romance. I think I’m branching out as I get more confident. But they are all about overcoming obstacles and personal growth.

3. Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio?

No question. Denzel.

4. What is one of the biggest risks you’ve taken as a writer?

The biggest risk was my self-published book. I can still remember holding my finger over the “Publish” button and thinking — this is a big step. I was shaking. I shut my eyes and pressed down.

5. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

CHASING NIRVANA because it took me so much blood, sweat and tears to write. And it’s an allegory for my battle with depression, so it has great personal meaning. The other book would probably be LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER by Maya Angelou. So much wisdom and hopefulness in the face of despair. Nothing like a great lady telling you about the time she insulted her hostess. 

6. How many rejections did you receive before you sold your first book, and what did you learn from them?

Oh boy. I’m not too sure. With 50 ACTS, it was like 15, and then suddenly two publishers wanted it. But since I keep changing genres, I’ve had to seek out different publishers, so there have been a lot more rejections than that. The grand total over the years would hit three digits. Those are agents.

7. For your social-media fix, do you prefer crazy cat videos or trivia quizzes on ’80s movies and Biblical characters?

Anything with dogs on social media. And Facebook. Please someone save me from Facebook. I do not need to know that my cousin’s dog ate socks again. I just don’t.

8. Which character from one of your own books do you wish you were more like?

Well, they are all aspects of me, but probably the main character from CHASING NIRVANA. She’s like me but tougher and funnier. Plus, she’s young so I’d like her abs. 

9. Perfect outfit: cowboy hat and boots or sundress and sandals?

Sundress and sandals. One-piece dressing. I do love sundresses. 

10. Are you a pantser or a plotter in your writing, and have you always written this way, or have you changed methods throughout your career?

Plotter. Plotter. Hard-core plotter. And I will argue this one to my grave. You pantsers are all rewriting needlessly.

11. What is your most ridiculous fear, and what have you done to challenge it?

I have a fear of heights. I make myself look down sometimes. One time I did that and had a panic attack, so now I make sure I’m holding someone’s hand first.

12. What are some of the activities you’ve participated in, people you’ve interviewed or places you’ve visited to do research for one of your books?

I have been to Forks, Washington, for a screenplay I wrote about a logger. I’ve been to New York, which I didn’t know was really research at the time, but my main character in 50 ACTS OF KINDNESS lives in New York, so it worked out well. Most of my research is online. I know more about the band Nirvana than anyone I know.

13. Name the strangest snack or food combination you love to eat when no one is watching.

I love to eat raisins on peanut butter toast. Grosses my kids out. So I do it in front of them whenever possible. They have both hated raisins since Junie B. Jones said, “Raisins taste like dirt,” which is what I hear when I eat them.

14. Faith Hill or Lady Gaga?

Wow — two totally different ladies. Faith Hill, probably, but I do like Lady Gaga when she is old school. I like both their personas. Strong ladies. 

15. In 10 words or less, give your best writing advice to aspiring authors.

Edit, persevere, stay true to yourself and then edit more.

***

5o Acts of Kindness

By Ellyn Oaksmith

 

 

 

My heart clutched. I needed a cigarette. Now. “Whatever happened to any publicity is good publicity?”

He ignored my lame joke. “She’s threatening to file suit. I checked with legal. We can tie her up in court but the claim is legit.”

I inhaled sharply, forgetting, in my growing panic, to exhale.

“Breathe Kylie.”

“S-s-suing us?” Great, now I was stuttering.

“You called her fat. She says you created an unhealthy work environment.”

My jaw dropped. This was not the time to point out that, as a former chubette, I never, ever use the F word. “The operative word here is work. I was running on vapors.”

Bob got up, looked out the window at his fabulous view. “Stella, by the way, corroborates everything you’ve said.” My eyebrows shot up in alarm. “Yes, I’ve talked to her. I’ve talked to a few people but the point is that sooner or later we all have to deal with this. Pregnant women deserve—” He stared off into the silver buildings, the cloudless sky. When I entered, the view felt empowering. Now it was an invitation to jump. “Latitude. We are a family friendly company.”

I snickered bitterly. MLJK years were dog years. Most of the senior partners were divorced. “And what about women who aren’t ever going to have children? We just put up and shut up?”

He gazed at me, his eyes weary. “Come on. You’re what, not even thirty? You don’t know that.” Bob was still in his marriage of origin.

“Look at me Bob. My relationships have the longevity of a fruit fly. I have nothing left at the end of the day.”

“Maybe it’s time to branch out.”

Clearly he pitied Betsy. It was time to grab the controls. “I can fix this. I can smooth things out. Get my assistant her own assistant. At least until she’s had it.”

“Her baby is not an it,” he snapped.

“Did I say ‘it’?” I’d been talking so quickly. Had I just made a tactical error?

“Yes,” Bob said quietly, losing his starch. Crossing his arms he glanced at a framed photo. A gap-toothed pig-tailed toddler on a swing, pushed by his beaming, very pregnant wife. “You’re going to have to leave until this dies down.”

For a second I felt nothing but a weight pressing on the top of my head, a dull ringing in my ears. “This isn’t Survivor. You can’t let random strangers on YouTube vote me off because I lost my temper.”

“They’re not. Lance is.”

The CEO? I was in a tippy canoe and by golly, there went my paddle.

I made a tiny bubble of an objection as I sank. “She wasn’t doing her job.”

“Effective immediately,” he said. I knew what preceded those two words. Terminated.

This wasn’t a break.

This was permanent.

***

50 ACTS OF KINDNESS, a Gemma Halliday Publishing release, may be purchased through these and other retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

 

 

***

About Ellyn

Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today best-selling author of 50 ACTS OF KINDNESS, FAMILY SECRETS, FUNNY IS THE NEW SAD and ADVENTURES WITH MAX AND LOUISE. Ellyn’s upcoming book, (late 2017) is CHASING NIRVANA about a girl who tries to get Nirvana to play at her prom. Her work in progress is based on a story set in 1927 when Ellyn’s Nana kidnapped a baby. Ellyn lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family where she spends as much time as possible in or on the water or with her nose in a book. Connect with Ellyn through these social-media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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