All posts by belleami

Makin’ It Happen

Sometimes the direction of your life leads you astray from your passions, and then, inexplicably, those same forces bring you face-to-face with your demons. For me and my nom de plume Belle Ami, such was the case. Marriage and children consumed my days, leaving little desire to pursue the dreams of youth. However, the oft repeated excuse of a hectic life was not the only reason that I failed to pick up a pen. Secretly, I harbored a fear of failure, and worse yet, criticism.

In 2010 everything changed. I found myself unfulfilled and desirous of a long ignored passion. I desperately wanted to be creatively productive. Introspection led to the undeniable truth, my biggest failure was being a failure to myself. It was time to take advantage of my God-given talents and put them to work. Tossing care to the wind, I adopted the motto ‘no guts, no glory’ and ‘this ain’t no dress rehearsal’.

The first book I wrote was a labor of love, written about a subject that I knew intimately and thoroughly, my mother Dina. In the Face of Evil is the story of Dina’s survival of the Holocaust. Dina was the only member of her immediate family, and one of only three of her large extended family to survive. When the war ended, after work camps and concentration camps, by virtue of sheer wits and luck, she lived to tell the tale, or heck, I wouldn’t be here writing this now. The book is an inspiring journey from tragedy to redemption. It took two years to write, but I finally self-published In the Face of Evil as a novel told in Dina’s voice in 2010. Then, came a major boost to my confidence, I got a congratulatory pat on the back from the universe. In the Face of Evil was awarded Finalist in the National Jewish Book Awards. I was on my way, having faced my demons of failure.

After writing a book that zapped me emotionally, I felt the need to lighten up.  After hearing all of the fuss about Fifty Shades of Gray I was intrigued, just like everyone else. I read the first two books in the trilogy, and even though I pooh-poohed the quality of the writing, I found myself unable to put the books down. Fifty Shades led to my reading many other authors in the genre. Some books were better than others, just like in every other genre. What I did discover was that romantic, suspenseful, and erotic novels tend to be quick reads, absorbing, and often funny. When an idea came to me for a novel about betrayal and murder, a novel that asked the question ‘How well do you really know the one you love?’, I was hooked and my pseudonym Belle Ami was born. The Only One series is the first effort of my writing in this genre: (The One #1, and The One & More #2), and my newest release One More Time is Not Enough #3. One More Time is Not Enough, is a romantic, suspenseful, sexy read that is filled with obsessive love, betrayal, and dark secrets. It also has a well-researched subplot about scandal and conspiracy in the anthropogenic (man-made climate change) movement, and best of all it has a serial killer who is killing climate change deniers. Whether you like Belle’s novels or not, one thing is for certain, they are guaranteed page turners. One More Time is Not Enough, really showcases my penchant for suspense. It culminates with a heart-stopping conclusion and a happy-ever-after ending.

Already bubbling in the cauldron of my creative mind is a new series itching to be written.

Now a passionate advocate of self-discovery and following your dream, I believe that the greatest lesson to be learned by an author is that there is no substitute for diligence and hard work. Writer’s write is not a metaphor, but a way of life.  So, I will continue to hammer away at the computer keys, content with the knowledge that I’ve found my happy medium between family, creativity, and my hobbies of gourmet cooking, playing classical music on the piano, and physical fitness.ONE MORE TIME IS NOT ENOUGH-Soulmate 105_105x158 (002) 34KB Cover

If You Really Want to Travel, Read!

There is nothing more lasting in the mind of a reader than a description of a place, be it a city or village, barren desert or a mountaintop, a room in a shabby inn or the majesty of a castle. When a reader finds themselves transported, not unlike a time machine, to a place far from the reality of their life or experience it is simply magic.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California, in the remains of an orange grove that over time was sold off and became a typical Valley tract home neighborhood. Reading was my time machine ticket to the world, my escape from the mundane world in which I lived. Hence, I was never without a book in my hand. While other kids played outdoors on a Saturday, you’d find me laying on the living room couch reading a book. Often times those were classics, since we had a full set of Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, Tolstoy, well, the list goes on and on. I think my mother was in a mail order book club that sent a new classic literature book every month. Of course, I progressed to more current literature like Dr. Zivago (one of my favorites), and all of the James Bond books (loved those), and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, all of Hemingway (my favorite author).  I was a reading machine, and to tell the truth, I had no favorite genre. I read sci-fi, literary, paranormal, romance, historical, biographical, fantasy, none of that mattered. What spurred me was my desire to travel the world, to live in another’s skin, to embrace the long tide of history. In a nutshell, to understand the world I lived in, or maybe, the world I’d rather live in.

I thought it might be nice to share a few favorite descriptions from novels that are unforgettable.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy – “That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running…”

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen – “The Cicada sing an endless song in the long grass, smells run along the earth and falling stars run over the sky, like tears over a cheek. You are the privileged person to whom everything is taken. The Kings of Tarshish shall bring gifts.”

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice – “Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets–as vast and indestructible as nature itself. All was embraced by her, by her volatile and enchanted populace thronging the galleries, the theaters, the cafes, giving birth over and over to genius and sanctity, philosophy and war, frivolity and the finest art; so it seemed that if all the world outside her were to sink into darkness, what was fine, what was beautiful, what was essential might there still come to its finest flower. Even the majestic trees that graced and sheltered her streets were attuned to her–and the waters of the Seine, contained and beautiful as they wound through her heart; so that the earth on that spot, so shaped by blood and consciousness, had ceased to be the earth and had become Paris.”

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac – “On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — Something good will come out of all things yet — And it will be golden and eternal just like that — There’s no need to say another word.”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – “Though we’d been driving a while, there were no landmarks, and it was impossible to say where we were going or in which direction. The skyline was monotonous and unchanging and I was fearful that we might drive through the pastel houses altogether and out into the alkali waste beyond, into some sun-beaten trailer park from the movies.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – “Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches.”

In my own writing, painting a sense of place is as important to me as creating my characters. One without the other would be a barren landscape, a painting or a book without color.

In my work in progress, working title Saving Layla I describe the Grand Bizarre in Tehran, Iran. Here’s a taste.

“The largest bazaar in the world, with more than six miles of merchants’ shops, teemed with locals and tourists. Cyrus held tightly to Layla’s hand as they walked. His eyes monitored everyone around them, searching for a tail as he pulled her through the crowd. Layla, wearing a dark pink scarf wrapped around her head and neck, appeared excited to be out among people. Her eyes flitted left and right as she tried to process the human energy around her. Stopping on occasion, Cyrus gave authenticity to their visit by pointing out architectural elements, explaining that some of the oldest buildings, walls and passages were more than four hundred years old.

“A footnote in the history of Persia,” he explained to her, “a land whose history and civilization dates back thousands of years before the birth of Christ.”

He wanted to make her comfortable in the environment. He pointed out the domes and the towering, vaulted ceilings that sported skylights admitting natural light. Streams of sunlight poured down like waterfalls that were strangely alive with dancing dust motes. Like a tour guide, he pointed out the beauty of the intricate tile and brickwork, artistically laid out in traditional Persian patterns that, after the Islamic conquest of Persia, nearly fourteen hundred years ago, were adapted into Islamic architecture.

Each corridor contained a different world. Everywhere Layla looked fruit and vegetable stalls, filled with a cornucopia of produce, overflowed their boxes and baskets. The scent of spices perfumed the air. It was exotic and intoxicating, the endless array of orange and yellow saffron, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon, their pungent fragrances stimulating their senses. Each corridor of the bazaar specialized in different products for sale. One alley was devoted to figs, dates, and nuts, in all varieties, both dried and fresh. In the fabric corridor, thousands of yards of fabrics of every quality and for every purpose, from embroidered needlepoints for upholstery to fine silks from India and China, were displayed on bolts or rolled around cardboard tubes. If you could imagine it, it was for sale somewhere amid the hundreds of vendors flanking the passages. At one point Layla stopped, forcing Cyrus to wait as she admired a shop window containing hundreds of gold bangles strung across a display that covered the entire width of the store.

Layla had never seen anything like the Grand Bazaar, and Cyrus was pleased to see the color return to her cheeks and a smile on her face.”

 

A Sense of Place

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California, in the remains of an orange grove that over time was sold off and became a typical Valley tract home neighborhood. Reading was my time machine ticket to the world, my escape from the mundane world in which I lived. Hence, I was never without a book in my hand. While other kids played outdoors on a Saturday, you’d find me laying on the living room couch reading a book. Often times those were classics since we had a full set of Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, Tolstoy, well, the list goes on and on. I think my mother was in a mail order book club that sent a new classic literature book every month. Of course, I progressed to more current literature like Dr. Zivago (one of my favorites), and all of the James Bond books (loved those), and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead,  and all of Ernest Hemingway (my favorite author).  I was a reading machine, and to tell the truth, I had no favorite genre. I read sci-fi, literary, paranormal, romance, historical, biographical, fantasy, none of that mattered. What spurred me was my desire to travel the world, to live in another’s skin, to embrace the long tide of history. In a nutshell, to understand the world I lived in, or maybe, the world I’d rather live in.

I thought it might be nice to share a few favorite descriptions from novels that are unforgettable.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy – “That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running…”

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen – “The Cicada sing an endless song in the long grass, smells run along the earth and falling stars run over the sky, like tears over a cheek. You are the privileged person to whom everything is taken. The Kings of Tarshish shall bring gifts.”

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice – “Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets–as vast and indestructible as nature itself. All was embraced by her, by her volatile and enchanted populace thronging the galleries, the theaters, the cafes, giving birth over and over to genius and sanctity, philosophy and war, frivolity and the finest art; so it seemed that if all the world outside her were to sink into darkness, what was fine, what was beautiful, what was essential might there still come to its finest flower. Even the majestic trees that graced and sheltered her streets were attuned to her–and the waters of the Seine, contained and beautiful as they wound through her heart; so that the earth on that spot, so shaped by blood and consciousness, had ceased to be the earth and had become Paris.”

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac – “On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — Something good will come out of all things yet — And it will be golden and eternal just like that — There’s no need to say another word.”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – “Though we’d been driving a while, there were no landmarks, and it was impossible to say where we were going or in which direction. The skyline was monotonous and unchanging and I was fearful that we might drive through the pastel houses altogether and out into the alkali waste beyond, into some sun-beaten trailer park from the movies.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – “Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches.”

In my own writing, painting a sense of place is as important to me as creating my characters. One without the other would be a barren landscape, a painting or a book without color.

In my work in progress, working title Saving Layla, I describe the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran. Here’s a taste.

“The largest bazaar in the world, with more than six miles of merchants’ shops, teemed with locals and tourists. Cyrus held tightly to Layla’s hand as they walked. His eyes monitored everyone around them, searching for a tail as he pulled her through the crowd. Layla, wearing a dark pink scarf wrapped around her head and neck, appeared excited to be out among people. Her eyes flitted left and right as she tried to process the human energy around her. Stopping on occasion, Cyrus gave authenticity to their visit by pointing out architectural elements, explaining that some of the oldest buildings, walls and passages were more than four hundred years old.

“A footnote in the history of Persia,” he explained to her, “a land whose history and civilization dates back thousands of years before the birth of Christ.”

He wanted to make her comfortable in the environment. He pointed out the domes and the towering, vaulted ceilings that sported skylights admitting natural light. Streams of sunlight poured down like waterfalls that were strangely alive with dancing dust motes. Like a tour guide, he pointed out the beauty of the intricate tile and brickwork, artistically laid out in traditional Persian patterns that, after the Islamic conquest of Persia, nearly fourteen hundred years ago, were adapted into Islamic architecture.

Each corridor contained a different world. Everywhere Layla looked fruit and vegetable stalls, filled with a cornucopia of produce, overflowed their boxes and baskets. The scent of spices perfumed the air. It was exotic and intoxicating, the endless array of orange and yellow saffron, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon, their pungent fragrances stimulating their senses. Each corridor of the bazaar specialized in different products for sale. One alley was devoted to figs, dates, and nuts, in all varieties, both dried and fresh. In the fabric corridor, thousands of yards of fabrics of every quality and for every purpose, from embroidered needlepoints for upholstery to fine silks from India and China, were displayed on bolts or rolled around cardboard tubes. If you could imagine it, it was for sale somewhere amid the hundreds of vendors flanking the passages. At one point Layla stopped, forcing Cyrus to wait as she admired a shop window containing hundreds of gold bangles strung across a display that covered the entire width of the store.

Layla had never seen anything like the Grand Bazaar, and Cyrus was pleased to see the color return to her cheeks and a smile on her face.”

In Love With Your Characters? I Am.

Author Belle Ami Wants Characters To Live
First Published on

Release Date June 16, 2016

Release Date
June 16, 2016

Stacy Hoff’s Nights of Passion Blog

Hello, Passionate Readers! Today I’m having author Belle Ami talk about a subject near and dear to my writer’s heart—the pain of having to let go of the characters we create. It’s tougher than you might think! Don’t believe me? Here’s Belle in her own words:

Let it be known, I do not like saying farewell to the characters in my novels. After all, I’ve slept with them, dreamt with them, fought with them, empathized with them, hated them, and, of course, loved them. They are like my children, oft times difficult, doing things I don’t approve of and a real pain in the ass, but when all is said and done, they are mine, and just like my children, I will defend them with my last breath. However, there does come a time when, as Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, you have to let them fly on their own. I quote, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth,” which can easily be applied to your characters. Even though you’ve created them and breathed life into them, there comes a time when you have to let them go. Mr. Gibran also wisely wrote: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” If that’s not true of your characters, I don’t know what is.

My new book soon to be published by Soul Mate Publishing is actually the third book in my The Only One series. It is a stand-alone romance/suspense novel that is the last in this three book series. I love my characters for their optimism, their cynicism, their idiosyncrasies, and their flaws. I like to think that they are fully developed people who reflect not only what life has dealt them in the past, but people who wish to change and improve who they are in the present. That’s what brings them to life and that’s what places them with their feet firmly on the ground as living, breathing beings.

Miles Bremen is a billionaire who has fought his way to the top. Everything he has gained in this life he has earned. Perhaps that accounts for his possessive nature, his inability to trust, and his desire to keep what he considers his. His flaws are many, but he attacks life with an unbridled passion. His failed marriage to Adelia Lindstrom is a stain on his otherwise perfect world, a world in which he is usually in control. Adelia is the one woman he ever loved and he lost her. He is determined to do whatever it takes to win her back.

Adelia Lindstrom seemingly has everything, wealth, beauty, perfect twin children, and a career she loves. But, beneath the veneer of success and prosperity lies disappointment, tragedy, and unending lies. Her parents were murdered, her marriage ended in a custody battle, and she is confused by the feelings she has for the two men in her life. Her ex-husband who betrayed her in an unforgivable manner is back on the scene determined to win her back. Her best friend and lover, FBI agent David Weiss, has always been there for her, but his new career with the bureau has made him unavailable and removed. What’s a girl to do? In the beginning of the series, she was a young, trusting, vulnerable woman, but her trials and tribulations have matured and made her wise. She is no longer a girl, but a woman who knows who she is, and isn’t afraid to risk everything for what she wants. But, what does she want?

Throw in an added obstacle for good measure, she’s about to become the target of a serial killer. Can David protect her? Can Miles win her back? Can she have her cake and eat it too? Is there a happily-ever-after for these three. You bet there is, but not without pain, discovery, and overcoming obstacles. There is a Zen saying that I like to apply to my characters: Leap and the net will appear.

I digress, getting back to letting go of your characters. It turns out I’m not very good at it. In my new series that I am writing, in the second book, I’ve decided to bring back FBI Agent David Weiss. He with his firecracker partner, Cassandra Saladino, is investigating a terrorist attack on the United States. I’m very excited about bringing back one of my favorite guys.

Oh, the joy of not having to say goodbye to a character, to allow them to live and love again.

EXCERPT: One More Time is Not Enough – Release date June/July 2016

Northern California

Route One

The sports car hugged the road as David down-shifted into a hairpin curve on Route One. Adelia brushed the wind-blown wisps of hair that had escaped her braid from her eyes. She leaned her head against the headrest and absorbed the late Summer sunshine. The radio station The Highway blared over the radio, competing with the engine’s roar. At the academy, David had fallen in love with country music thanks to Preston. A song came on the radio next, and he turned up the volume.

“Listen to the words, I believe this is our song.”

She turned to look at him but his dark aviator sunglasses hid his eyes. With her curiosity piqued, she listened. A sexy baritone voice filled the air.

When you walked through the door

I knew…you were the one

My heart said hello, but my head said run

Before I knew it I’d asked you to dance

Time stands still in the arms of romance

Pulled you close, kissed your lips, felt your fingers

in my hair;

Turning slowly, falling fast, trying hard not to care;

You’re like whiskey and music

With your hands all over me

Turnin’ me on, like a sexy song

Making it hard for me to breathe

I should have seen the writing on the wall

One more time is not enough

When there’s nowhere left to fall

Adelia switched off the radio and turned away from him as she fought back her tears. “Are you trying to hurt me? I don’t remember you ever being cruel.”

“No, I’m trying, to be honest with you. We both know this magical escape is an illusion. A week from now I’ll go to Washington and you’ll go back to your kids, and Miles will convince you to remarry him. Just like the song says, One more time is not enough, when there’s nowhere left to fall. We were never meant to be.”

“You don’t know a thing, David Weiss.” Frustration simmered inside of her. “Can’t you for once just live in the moment?”

“One of us has to try and keep the moment real.”

“I still don’t understand why you had to join the FBI? You’ve made it impossible for us to be together. It’s as if you’re doing everything in your power to put obstacles in our way. All your professed love for me, was it all a lie?”

He reached over and took her hand, raising it to his lips, then kissed her knuckles. “I’d take a bullet for you, and you know it.”

“Then show me what you feel, show me you love me.”

“I’m here, aren’t I? Isn’t that enough.”

She turned away from him. “No, it’s not. Like the song says, it will never be enough.”

Tema Merback

Writing as Belle Ami

http://bookshow.me/TheOne

http://bookshow.me/TheOneAndMore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/belle.ami.96…

Twitter: @BelleAmi5

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/belleami96/

Website: http://belleami.us

The Impossibility of Doing It All

Lately, I’ve awoken with a series of panic attacks. None of that compression in my chest, or inability to fill my lungs with air, has anything to do with writing. No, it’s the mounting self-inflicted pressure of having to complete a blog post, catch up on e-mail, check out my Twitter accounts, and, of course, there’s Facebook. I’m fairly certain, when I decided to become a writer an allow my creative juices to churn out bestsellers, this wasn’t what I had in mind. But, then again, I haven’t quite reached that bestseller status yet, so perhaps this is my comeuppance.

Often, I’m amazed at what other authors accomplish. Churning out books in 8 weeks’ time, writing a blog (sometimes 2 or 3) every week, belonging to 50 groups on Facebook and posting regularly (in some cases every hour) about their books, their drop in sale price, their blog appearances, their upcoming book-signings.  You name it, like flies on sherbet, their postings are everywhere:  Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, LinkedIn, ReadersInTheKnow, Kindle this, Kindle that, Tweet, Tweet, Tweeting, the list goes on-and-on. Is it possible that they have a team of elves, secret slaves tied-up in the basement, maybe a high school cheerleading squad, or a full-time personal assistant with staff at their beck-and-call? Where do they find the time to do all of this, and still write their next book?

What I find the most annoying is all the advice writers shell out about writing. I’m not ungrateful, everyone wants to know the secret to success and is anxious for those precious tips, but, what is the most important tip they give you, or should give you? It’s to write, stupid! Yes, W-R-I-T-E!  All of the rest of it doesn’t mean a darn thing if at the end of the day you haven’t written 300 or 1,000 words in your manuscript. For me that requires plotting time to boot. I have to visualize that next chapter. Hell, I have to smell it, taste it, touch it, wrap my arms around it, do everything with it, but have sex with it, and, actually, I do that too, since my novels are very sexy. And, because I’m a bit of an obsessive/compulsive (I didn’t know this until I started writing), I have to reread everything I write countless times and self-edit as I go. I can’t just let go and write 50 pages. 10 yes, 20 once in a great while, but most likely I’ve gone over those 10 or 20 pages’ innumerable times perfecting them, cutting this, changing that, only to throw the whole damn thing out and start again.

What is strange, and I didn’t know this until I researched this post, is that my process of writing is uncannily similar to Ernest Hemingway’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing myself to the 20th century’s most influential writer. Our similarity in our process of writing has probably more to do with a psychological flaw than anything else. I certainly don’t plan on killing myself anytime too soon. But, unbeknownst to me, until I wrote this post and went searching for Papa’s advice, his process of writing, reading and editing as you create your novel, are exactly the habits I employ, and why I now consider myself to be compulsive.

So without further ado, I give you a snippet of his advice to writers: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along. Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece. And when you go over it, cut out everything you can. The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away. If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good.”

And my favorite part of Papa’s advice is the following: “Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It’s the hardest work there is. I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”

Wait, I’m starting to itch just thinking about those emails filling up my in-box as I write this post. Now I know why Hemmingway drank. Oh, I forgot, he didn’t do any of this virtual stuff, he just wrote. Perhaps, the best advice as we attack this difficult job of writing, is to just take a deep breath, because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to do it all. There are not enough hours in a day, or in a night for that matter.

Speaking of night, as of late, when the Facebooker’s and the Tweeterer’s curl up in their nests, and the virtual highway becomes a road less travelled, I find myself contentedly propped up by pillows, in bed with my laptop balanced on my lap, coffee in my hand, and all sound and distraction suppressed, contained, and relegated behind a closed door. In this cave of silence, I write and rewrite, listening to my inner voice, or voices, and channeling the advice of one of my favorite author’s Ernest Hemingway.https://www.google.com/search?q=Hemingway+photos&espv=2&tbm=isch&imgil=8COBMLf3kA1X6M%253A%253BgqsjEyH4nHMdMM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.biography.com%25252Fpeople%25252Fernest-hemingway-9334498&source=iu&pf=m&fir=8COBMLf3kA1X6M%253A%252CgqsjEyH4nHMdMM%252C_&usg=__-D72KozvYHoyR4oXTfYjCWxd0s4%3D&biw=1920&bih=955&ved=0ahUKEwiXxaquqO7MAhUEHB4KHZkCCZUQyjcIPQ&ei=1_pBV9f9HYS4eJmFpKgJ#imgrc=8COBMLf3kA1X6M%3A

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First appearing on Joanne Guidoccio’s blog.

Thanks Joanne Cover for giving me this opportunity to air my dirty laundry, well not all of it. I have to save something for those titillating sex scenes.

Every writer’s journey is fraught with humorous anecdotes, stumbles, pitfalls, and miracles. Yes, it is a journey that perfectly mirrors this adventure we call life, and just like life, you better hold on tight, because as the country western lyric says, it’s going to be “one Hell of a ride”.

I have always been a writer, or, at least, dabbled in it, whether it be speeches, short stories, poetry, or screen treatments. It was my sideline not my profession. However, my serious journey began in 2010, when I published In the Face of Evil, my labor of love historical novel based on my mother’s survival of the Holocaust. I should say self-published as no one showed any interest in doing it for me. Much of that was due to the lack of editing, and not knowing the publishing business. It took me three years to write, and a stack of rejection notices wasn’t going to stop me from publishing it. Call it beginners luck, but that book became a Finalist in the National Jewish Book Awards. Not bad. Imagine if I would have had it professionally edited? To this day, it is one of the highest rated books on Amazon and Goodreads, not easy to maintain with those angry trolls that cruise the virtual world and live and breathe to contribute those abusive one and two-star reviews. Anyway, after toiling, suffering, through one of the darkest times in human history I definitely needed to write something lighter, less taxing on my psyche.

Just around that time, I read this little book entitled Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, it doesn’t get lighter than that. Although not a particularly well-written book, it definitely held my interest. I The Onebegan to study the romance genre, reading voraciously, everything from paranormal to BDSM. Oh, my goodness those sweaty nights of reading, who wouldn’t be hooked. I was literally infected with the romance germ and the only cure was for me to pass it on through my writing. In February 2014, I self-published (at this point I was fairly turned off by the publishing industry) my first book in the Romance/Sexy/Suspense genre The One, which became the first in my The Only One series. In June, I published The One & More, bringing me to my upcoming release with Soul Mate Publishing One More Time is Not Enough coming April/May 2016, keep your fingers crossed on that not written in stone date.The One and More

What I’ve learned along the way could fill a book, however, I have no interest in writing that one. Suffice it to say, I’ve spent a lot of money on poor editing, PR, advertising, the list goes on-and-on. I’ve tried the self-publishing route and it has not worked for me. Yes, I’ve sold books in a vacuum, despite myself. What I wanted was a home, a place to hang my hat. Fellow authors to communicate with, share ideas, brainstorm, all of which had been lacking in my creative world.

My goodness, what an inspiration it is to finally develop a writing family. I have a notebook filled with review site possibilities, book tour companies, rafflecopter events, marketing tips, and a whole slew of new Facebook and Twitter friends. I’m learning what works and what doesn’t work, from writers who’ve walked barefoot over the burning coals and are kind enough to share, preventing me from burning my Tootsies. My thanks to all who have come before and who continue to be an inspiration. It just keeps getting better, and the future looks ever so bright. I’ve just finished another book, working title No Way Out, tweaked my genre from Romantic/Sexy/Suspense to a new cross-genre designation: Romantic/Sexy/Thriller and can’t wait to see where the road will lead.One More Is Not Enough

FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR CHARACTERS

Could this be Cyrus?

Well, it’s happened, I’ve fallen in love with one of my hero characters, Cyrus Hassani. Cyrus is the “you-gotta-love him” hero of the book I’ve just finished writing, No Way Out of Iran (working title).

Who would have thunk, that I would become infatuated with a deep-cover, MOSSAD mole, with an Iranian name? He’s a sexy, alpha male with Nile green eyes, and black hair. A cigarette smoking, nuclear physicist;  Cyrus is the classic anti-hero, dedicated to his mission with no interest in love or relationships. Why you might ask, is he so appealing? Cyrus has this one attribute; he is dedicated to preventing Iran from becoming nuclear. He risks his life on a day-to-day basis for the safety of mankind. Cold, calculating, and unlovable, he needs nothing and no one. He’s a MOSSAD trained, a lethal killer, who would have remained undercover in the shadow world of espionage were not for a Jewish Harvard student who manages to get herself kidnapped in Dubai by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Now Cyrus has been activated and assigned a new mission. He must rescue Layla Rose Wallace and escape from Iran, or he must eliminate her before her nuclear physicist father can become a target of blackmail. The complication: Cyrus and Layla are dangerously attracted to one another. Fighting that attraction is a battle that both are determined to win. But, who knows in love and war, what the outcome will be?

The hunt is on, with Cyrus’s boss, Jalal Rahimi, the Deputy Director of Oghab2 (Eagle2), Iran’s covert nuclear watchdog, promising to find and kill Cyrus for his treason, and take the beautiful Layla as his concubine and tool for power and domination over Israel. This is an epic battle of wills, and a battle to survive. Can Layla and Cyrus escape Iran? Can they ever find their happily-ever-after?

An international thriller that exposes the fanatical regime in Tehran, Iran, life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the opulent world of Dubai, and the struggle to survive of Israel. You won’t be able to resist this thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Everything in this book is a real possibility and well researched. Iran stands poised to continue its path to nuclear proliferation. Let’s hope there is a real Cyrus Hassani out there behind the scenes.

The Power of Music

There is nothing that inspires me more in my writing than the power of music. I can be suffering from writer’s malaise, a failing of words or ideas, and hearing the words of a song, will release a plethora of fresh ideas and direction. It really is uncanny, the connection that occurs. It often feels as if the music forces the computer to reboot, untangling the knots of inertia that are strangling creativity, and like an infusion of nourishment the brain’s neurons fire up and the engine once more chugs forward. I have pretty well convinced myself that there is no such thing as “writer’s block”, only a temporary clog that calls for a dose of writer’s Drano—musical catnip.

In every book I write there is always a song inspiring the emotion of a scene. Oft quoted, inserted, like a love object, it breathes life into the scene. In my first book, The One, my heroine Adelia’s marriage has imploded, she faces a bitter custody battle with her wealthy ex-husband, she is at the lowest point of her life. Her best friend, Detective David Weiss, is determined to help her pick up the pieces of her broken heart. Believing in her, he knows that she must fight to live again; that the curtain of darkness dropped into her life will disappear if only she can see her way through to pull the cord and raise it, flooding the room, hence her life with light.

He brings her a compact disc and the printed words of a song that he hopes will better express the depth of his feelings, whereas he fears the ineptitude of his words might fail. The songwriter is Peter Gabriel, the CD version I use is sung by P!INK and John Legend, the words are simple:

Don’t give up

‘Cause you have friends.

Don’t give up,

You’re not the only one.

Don’t give up.

     She cries, they embrace, and she gains the fortitude to fight.

In the third book in The Only One Series, One More Time is Not Enough, which is in edit with my publisher Soul Mate Publishing, my hero and heroine, now divorced, are thrown together again and sparks fly. In a romantic scene, where what they still feel for each can’t be denied, they dance to John Legend’s “All of Me.”

EXCERPT:

Adelia hit a button on her iPod and the romantic lyrics of John Legend’s “All of Me” filled the silence. She lit candles, and then took a bottle of champagne from the wine fridge in the bar and poured two flutes with the bubbly vintage. Handing him a glass, they sipped and listened until their glasses were emptied.

My head’s under water

But I’m doing fine

You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

She didn’t know if what she was doing was wrong or right, and she didn’t care. She felt an inexorable need to follow it through. She had once loved him so completely. Perhaps it was possible to love him again.

You’re my downfall, you’re my muse

My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues

I can’t stop singing, in my head for you

She stood inches from Miles, and when he opened his arms to her, she walked into them. She clasped her hands around his neck, and his arms encircled her waist, pulling her close to him. They slow-danced, turning in circles to the music.

Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me

I’ll give my all to you

“Did you pick this song for a reason?”

“Maybe.”

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts

Risking it all, though it’s hard

‘Cause all of me

Loves all of you

“What happens when it ends?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t end. Maybe it just continues.”

“The song or us?”

She smiled, “The song.”

His brows furrowed.

She placed a finger on the deep vertical line between his brows, smoothing the tension away. “What if I said, us?”

“I’d think I was dreaming.”

“Why do you love me, Miles?”

“I’ve tried not to.”

“I know. Me too. I’ve tried not to love you.”

I give you all of me

And you give me all of you

“We belong together.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know.” His hands encircled her face, he bent to kiss her. “It’s playing again.”

Her eyes were closed, and her lips held a shadow of a smile. “Is it?”

“It is.” His kiss was like the song. It swept through her taking with it all of the debris of the past. She could feel his body tense against hers. She released her hands from his neck and slipped them beneath his shirt resting them on his strong muscular back, encouraging him.

***

It’s easy to understand why so much of our lives and memories, are linked to and recalled because of the lasting imprint of lyrics and notes; the creative coalition called music that reflects who we are, or where we were, at any given time in our lives.

 

 

 

The Unintended Consequences of Divorce

All of us have experienced the devastation (sometimes joy) of a friend’s divorce.  We’ve watched with vicarious amazement as demonstrative profound undying love suddenly transforms into the hissing vituperative viper of disdain and hatred.  People are mutable, particularly within the emotional realm of who did what to whom.  They say “know thy enemies” but I contend it is far better to “choose thy partners well”.  For many people, the happiest day of life is not when they got married, but when their divorce was final.  Battle-scarred they emerge from the divorce arena wary, but wiser (one hopes).  Only time and distance can fade the lines that were drawn in the sand when two titans clash.

One of my friends several years back lived through her personal slice-of-Hell divorce that left her financially comfortable and free as a new born Monarch butterfly of its cocoon.  She embraced her new found identity swearing never to dip even a painted toenail in the unchartered waters of a new relationship.  Even dating was taboo as she had become the world’s biggest proponent since Greta Garbo of “I vant to be alone.”   I listened to her propound in rhapsodic flights of fancy the sanctity of inner peace and the contentment of “no strings attached”.  Naturally, after many months of self-imposed isolation and endless lunches with “the girls” the thrill, as they say, wore off.  Standing at the kitchen counter in pajamas devouring left over lasagna and brain deadened by the inane reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (she would have been better off watching First Blood) was perhaps not the surest path to nirvana. The revelation that heaven was not to be found at the bottom of a burnt lasagna pan or that Forest Gump’s cliché “life is (definitely not) a box of chocolates” was for her an earthshaking moment of truth. What to do?  What to do?

So, let the fun begin… my femme fatale friend was off and running.  Naturally, being an avid listener and never one to lack an opinion, I became the joyful recipient of the tales of courtships, that did or mostly didn’t ensue.  First, there were the “ghosts of boyfriends past”.  What a mistake that was, like trying to resurrect the dead.  Some things are better left in the hazy mists of memory, youth, and drink, rather than exposed to the harsh realities of cognizance and the elevated intolerance levels of an emancipated divorcee.  Next came the blind first date with a lawyer, recovering alcoholic and member of AA, who confessed to being overcome with “love at first sight” feelings, fell off the wagon and got tanked, and repeatedly proposed marriage in such an assertive loud voice that half a restaurant was perched on the edges of their seats eavesdropping as my friend slunk ever lower in her seat embarrassed, wishing she was capable of dematerialization.  In other words, “Quick Scotty, beam me out of here.”

Never one to be flustered for too long my girlfriend returned to her copacetic demeanor and marched forward, which led her to my particular favorite close encounter.  Picture Skybox, Lakers game, fun, food, fix-up, friends, and entertainment; sounds good to me. We’ll just call this one “The Texter”.  Game over, she goes home (alone), goes to bed.  The next day her “blind date” forwards her a strange text message from some guy she has never seen before.  She sees a photo of a handsome, smiling black man with the words, “Sorry I missed the game.  It sounds like we had a Hell-of-a lot of fun last night. Maybe we can go to a game together some other time.”  What you might sensibly ask is this all about?  It seems our date “The Texter” in his anxiousness to communicate with his new love interest what a good time he had last night, misspoke, I mean miss-thumbed and reached a black homosexual gentleman who immediately texted him back at midnight eager to arrange a future date.  Our “Texter” immediately responded with a text that he must have made a mistake and that the gentleman was not the intended recipient.  It seems the texting recipient could not let it rest at that and immediately phoned to press his suit.  I guess after a long conversation in the middle of the night the two men worked it out.  At least our “Texter” had a wonderful sense of humor and shared the comedic situation.  Otherwise, we would have missed this particularly titillating tale and the laughter it delivered.

All good stories should have a happy ending, and far be it from this writer to diverge from that time-honored course.  Once more our heroine embarked on that enigmatic phenomenon known as the “blind date”.  This time sparks were flying, pheromones were filling the air, and the stage was set for seduction.  The wine flowed, little bites were shared, and with effusive gushing remarked upon with favor.  When a cake arrived with sparklers twinkling brightly it seemed only natural to partake in it.  Our Romeo, thinking that their friends must have sent a cake to celebrate their meeting, immediately picked up his fork (they say muscles have memory) and began to feed his Juliet.  The perfect spell could only be broken by a voice from a neighboring table, uttering in astonishment, “Oh, look it’s their anniversary too!”

It seems they were eating someone else’s anniversary cake.  Oh, the embarrassment.  What to do?  What to do?  Rather than confess the error of their ways they decided “mum’s the word” and continued to eat the cake feigning innocence.  The waiters, knowing the error of their ways, but loathe to confess, ran to the kitchen in a frenzy to procure another cake.  Meanwhile, that same voice of a wife wondering where her cake was and why it was taking so long continued to comment on what a coincidence it was that two tables next to each other were celebrating their anniversary.  The winds of fate, at least for one evening, had conspired to transform our romantic divorcees into one more happily married couple…?

To be continued…

The Oscars – A Night Not to be Remembered

Maybe I just have been watching them for too many years? I’ve always considered Oscar night to be something special. Nice bottle of wine, delicious dinner, curl up on the couch and drool over the beautiful people, their attire, and all of the hoopla. Boy was I disappointed last night. The evening dragged and the stars didn’t shine. Could it have been the rain?

The people were beautiful, but except for a few exceptions they didn’t shimmer. No Angelina, no Brad, no Clooney, no Charlize, no Halle, it seemed like there was a boycott from a lot of the big names in the biz.

Neil Patrick Harris, who is usually wonderful, seemed not to be present His jokes were mostly flat, and he didn’t look particularly thrilled to be there. Of course, that was nothing compared to how unhappy Ben Affleck looked. He looked totally miserable. What gives? You deliver an award, walk back stage with the recipient, smile for a nanosecond, and then when the guy’s back is to you, you return to a perpetual frown.

As for the nominees for best song, the choices were good, even if there were no Henry Mancini’s among them, but where were the dancers and the big productions? Except for Glory, which was a beautifully produced number, the rest of the songs were just sung. I love Tim McGraw, but he never moved from his seat. What did you do to him, handcuff him?

Musically, Lady Gaga was the highlight of the entire evening. Her singing and the montage of numbers from the original Sound of Music was like a spoonful of sugar. She was spectacular! Broadway is in her future, or can be if she wants it. What a beautiful operatic voice she has, and when Julie Andrews hit the stage it almost made up for all of the non-excitement of the previous hour.

For me the biggest disappointment was the “In Memorium” which really is so important to the show. Most people have a personal memory link to films and the actors and actresses that populate them. It is very emotional and moving to watch film snippets of the career of a beloved actor, actress, director, producer, or cinematographer who has passed on. It stirs memories and evokes tears. Last night’s tribute was an embarrassment. In fact, it was less interesting than a commercial break. I suppose the drawings were very equalizing, but drawings, really? These luminaries worked in film, moving pictures, not pictures at an art gallery. It is unimaginable that Jennifer Hudson would sing a song supposedly in celebration of movie people’s lives and the camera would remain for the duration simply locked on her face. Whose tribute was this anyway? Where, pray tell, was a big screen with images from films that marked the careers of these beloved stars. Simply shocking! I couldn’t wait for it to end. Robin Williams, nothing but a footnote in the show. How tawdry and pathetic. All things and all careers are not equal!

Naturally, we couldn’t get through an Academy Award ceremony without somebody’s political messaging being front and center. Twisting the truth to fit one’s beliefs comes easily to those whose modus operandi is creating characters and worlds of their imagination. I wonder if everyone caught Sean Penn’s allusion that just because a film is big box office (American Sniper), hint, hint, hint, that doesn’t make it worthy of being considered art. As if Hollywood was in the business of art. Give me a break, it’s all about the money and the box office.

Of course we all knew that Birdman would win Best Picture, after all there is nothing that Hollywood likes more than immortalizing their own medium and portraying themselves as extraordinary artists. I loved Birdman, but it was a year of remarkable films.

After such a let down my inclination would be not to watch the Academy Awards next year, but I know that with time comes forgiveness, not to mention forgetfulness. I’m sure I’ll be front and center awaiting with baited breath next year’s show of shows.

PS Thank God that Downton Abbey came on right after the awards. At least I could go to bed happy and satisfied.