It's resolution time again. Time for broken promises to work out more and stress less and seize the day because we somehow aren't living if we don't stagger through life one martini at a time like a reality star. This is the year, we tell each other at the end of every December, to make something of ourselves. This one's gonna be special.
I'm not one for resolutions, but, I want to take the chance this New Year to...re-energize things around here. I want to be excited about something as we head into 2014. I want to be...one of those optimistic people who talk about positive things happening...and then have positive things happen...? Yeah, we'll go with that.
First off, the tentative release date for God Love Her is Friday, February 14th. Relationship ladies get chocolate, single ladies get books. Let's start the new year with some new fiction. Made for Breaking has been my best seller to date. I love the Walkers - they will always be my babies - but the Russells have gone like hotcakes so far, and I'm psyched to release the next, even bigger, even bolder installment in a few weeks. I am surprised and humbled and just can't wait to share it. I have plans to give some copies away, so if you'd like to help me spread the word about the book by being a reader, tweet me at @lauren_gilley, or contact me via Facebook: Lauren Gilley - Author.
I also want to establish some structure on the blog. I know the moment I give myself a framework for posting, I'll never be able to stick to it. So I'm starting with just one designated post series: Workshop Wednesdays. Look for the first post on that front this coming Wednesday.
A clear, cold sunrise greeted me this Christmas morning - the first in memory. It's so easy to get lost in the stress of the season, but the outdoors, the horses' breath misting like dragon smoke, everything crystal with frost, lends a certain mystic quality to the holiday.
It's been a small, quiet Christmas around here this year, but not without its spoils.
This luscious, beautiful, scrumptious cheesecake my mom made for last night, with homemade chocolate curls. Isn't it pretty? And the recipe's a cinch (see bottom of post).
The chocolate curls, though? Not so much. We melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, spread them in a thin layer on the back of a cookie sheet, popped it in the fridge for about ten minutes. And then, theoretically, we could peel strips up with a spatula and they would curl all on their own. It was much messier than that, but they were still tasty, and worth the effort.
I asked for only two things this year: new muck boots, and a new pair of tall "dress" boots. In my world, there are "muck" boots for working in the barn. And "dress" boots for wearing around town. Not to be confused with dressage show boots, also called dress boots. Not that you wanted to know that.
And behold: new muck boots. These are winterized Roper brand waterproof muck boots and they are the absolute best things ever. Better than chocolate (well, almost). My toes are forever cold in the wintertime. With these, my feet stay dry and toasty; the soles aren't heavy, so they're light to walk in, comfortable, durable, and I think they're kinda cute in a big-ol-boot sort of way. I got a pair for Christmas last year and they are, sadly, well-loved and well-mudded and full of holes.
Also behold: Ariat Hacienda boots in black.
Me gusta mucho. I admit that I picked these out myself, so there wasn't much of a surprise, but they were one of those rare have-to-have items. Ariat makes the softest, comfiest boots. Nice thick rubber soles. And the smell of the insides? Absolute heaven. And a good pair of boots will last you a lifetime. I have a couple pairs of cowboy boots that I've had since I was thirteen (show's you how much I've grown, huh?) and they're gonna last forever.
Look at the detail on the tops.
The fancy molding on the soles.
I found these for a steal online and love them. I'm frugal to the extreme lately, so I feel sort of guilty for having asked for any gifts at all. I'll get over it, I think. ;)
I hope everyone had a fantastic day. I have some fun, exciting, New Year's stuff coming up, announcements to make, new things to explore. So look for new posts in the next week. I'm looking forward to 2014.
In food processor, combine cookies, butter, 3 tablespoons sugar; spoon crumb mixture into bottom of 9inch springform pan; bake at 350 for ten minutes.
For cake, combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in mixer, mixing on med speed until well-blended. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Set aside one cup of batter, and blend chocolate into it. Spoon plain and chocolate batter into crust; cut through batter with knife to create marble effect. Bake at 450 for ten minutes; reduce heat and continue baking at 250 for 30 minutes. Cool before removing rim of pan. Chill.
Two days till Christmas, and it's 73 degrees and it's been raining for hours. I won't complain; Christmas is unnecessarily stressful, so it's a nice day to curl up with a book and The Hollow Crown, so that's just what I'm going to do. Henry V, here I come.
Season's Greetings, everyone, if I'm not back before Christmas. However you celebrate - whether it's with tinsel and presents, or reflective moments in the glow of tree lights, or with family, or in no particular way at all - I hope there's a measure of peace for all of you. I've learned, through the years, the sometimes the perfect holiday is a moment of stillness, doing nothing special.
It's a working holiday for me. Aren't they all? God Love Her is coming to a close quite nicely and should be ready for release soon. I have two January deadlines I'm working toward with submission pieces, one a contest and one a literary magazine, both of which I hope to be able to share here. It's been a busy year for words and fiction, and I'm grateful for the chance to be able tell my stories. I want to take a moment to thank, most sincerely, my readers. Every ounce of feedback puts the spurs to creativity; every finished story makes me want to start another. So I thank the kind readers who are willing to crack covers and take chances. You give me hope :)
**I can't wait to get this one finished. I'm excited about it, and nervous about it, and felt like I should utilize some of my outlaw MC research, especially considering the true-to-life club presence in GA. I'm really looking forward to sharing it all with readers when I'm done.**
From God Love Her
“No, thanks.” Layla couldn’t find a
real smile; the best she could do was a thin, false one. “I’m hoping this won’t
take very long.”
Sheppard, steaming paper cup of
coffee in one hand and a thick file in the other, paused in the act of sitting
down at his desk. They were in the detective squad room, amid the dull chatter
and buzzing phones of the other cops. It felt casual; he was trying to put her
at ease, make her think they were friends. That she could confide in him. He
twitched a frown and settled into his chair. “No,” he agreed, and sounded,
almost, disappointed. “I don’t guess it’ll take long.”
As he got sorted – flipping open the
file, sipping his coffee – she glanced around the stark squad room. The walls
and desk were all standard issue, but many of the other detectives had brought
mugs and framed family photos from home. One had an ugly ceramic statue she
thought must have been a cat that his child had doubtless made for him. Sheppard’s
partner, Barr, was shuffling paperwork and talking on the phone amid a sea of
framed school portraits of his kids. Sheppard, though, had nothing but a
paperclip holder by way of decoration.
An idea struck her. “You don’t have
any pictures,” she said in a conversational tone.
He glanced up; incoming sunlight was
unforgiving on the lines around his eyes and mouth. He had silver flecks in the
hair at his temples. For all that, he was terribly handsome in a rough,
weathered sort of way. But his eyes were dark, and bottomless, and not the
cut-crystal blue of Sly’s. Leo Sheppard didn’t wreak havoc on her pulse.
“No,” he said after a long moment.
She made a sympathetic face. “That
He frowned. “It’s not. Alright,
let’s – ”
“My boss,” Layla continued, “is a
fashion designer. And she’s perpetually single and perpetually angry with the
world. She snaps at everyone. Rides us about every little thing. But for a
couple weeks last year, she was going out with this fashion blogger…she was a
whole new woman. Work was blissful,” she said with a smile. “Sometimes
loneliness rubs off on the people around you.”
Sheppard’s face went rigid. “Let me
assure you, Miss Russell, that I’m not investigating your family because I need
She feigned innocence. “I thought
you were investigating the man who tried to kill my father. Not my family.”
She imagined she could hear springs
triggering. It was a modest trap, but she’d laid it all by herself, and he’d
stepped right into it.
He scowled. “Your family,” he said,
tone clipped, “has hired known felons to watch out for you. Did you know that?”
From the folder came a collection of mug shots that he fanned before her. She
recognized the Black Dogs: Rev, Corey, Jaeger, Tim, Doc, Taffy, Bruce, and a few
faces she hadn’t met yet.
She went cold all over, but wasn’t
about to let him see it. She shrugged. “The Black Dogs,” she said, proud of how
mild her voice was. “They’re sweet.”
He snorted. “They’ve all served
time. Assault.” Bruce. “Money laundering.” Corey. “Possession.” Jaeger. “Petty
theft.” Tim. “And that’s just the charges they’ve been brought up on. God knows
how much worse they’ve done. These outlaw biker guys, the real ones, they’re
bad news.” A little meaningful eye contact was meant to drive home the point.
“They’re a gang, Layla.” His voice dropped and became more intimate – the way
it shaped her name – than she was comfortable with. “MCs like this run drugs
and guns and hire themselves out as thug security.”
“Detective – ”
“Leo,” he corrected.
“ – I think you’ve watched too much
TV. The Black Dogs can’t be as bad as all that.”
His smile was crooked and
patronizing. “That’s what he wants you to think, I’m sure.”
“Hammond. You’re with him, aren’t
She didn’t need to ask for clarification.
As it turned out, Sheppard had a perceptive streak wider than she would have
thought. And if he could tell, in only a moment, that she was with Sly, how obvious was it to the rest
of the world?
It ticked her off. “Detective,”
Layla said, drawing herself upright. “I expected to come down here and help you
identify my father’s shooter; instead, we’re talking about bikers who are
totally unrelated to the case, and you’re probing into my love life, which is none of your business. If there’s nothing
further of any relevance, I’d like to leave now.”
His face remained taut, but the
edges of his ears and ridges of his cheekbones colored. Clearing his throat, he
sat back and started collected mug shots. “I do have some things to run by
you,” he said. He sounded chastised. His eyes flicked up to hers and were
troubled. His voice dropped even lower. “I’m just trying to help,” he said. “I
don’t think you know what you’re getting into – ”
She cut him off with a pointed look.
The Kindle version of Rosewood is live now, and can be found here, for $0.99. There's something wonky with the Amazon pages, so all the book summaries are being cut off at the top. Ugh. Whatever. The print version should be available shortly; I'll post the linky when it is. It's a quick read: the shorts "What Ails You," and "The Vacation" that were posted - for the most part - here, and an added Jo/Tam story, "Totaled." Support is love!
First off: It's Friday the 13th. I'm pretty superstitious, and even I don't get too tingly over this day, but it's always kind of a fun occurrence. This article at Mental Floss gives a succinct, inclusive recap of all the reasons this day and date combination is considered unlucky. I think it's fun to start digging through modern culture and realizing how many links there are back to Norse mythology. The article also touches on the custom of hanging mistletoe - another Norse tradition.
Listening to: "Burn" by Ellie Goulding. I'm working on a submission piece in the same vein as "Cold Again" and this is just so appropriate right now.
Looking forward to: The Hobbit! It releases in theaters today. I'll let the crush die down, and see it in a week or so, but I'm excited about this one.
On a related note - and whoa, I'm about to admit to being really nerdy, here - my dad gave me a copy of Discover Magazine with a small feature about the realistic depictions of equine movement in cave paintings versus the unrealistic movement in more modern paintings. It was a neat article. But there was also a piece talking about the "scientific" probability of dragons, a sort of "what if" that walked through their anatomy and abilities. Smaug from TDOS was their example, and at the end of the article, I stumbled across this amazing section of text.
Silken? Sexy? Methinks I detect a fangirl. I love it. And I shall not throw stones. He's not my fangirl-favorite Brit, but the voice is pretty magic.
Pinning: The Marietta Square decorated for Christmas, to go with a segment of the short "Totaled" in Rosewood. I don't live in Marietta anymore, but I will always love the Square; it's such a blend of charm and ambiance.
I work really hard to ensure that my characters aren't extensions of myself. To some extent, there's always a bit of the creator in a fictional character, but I strive to keep them their own unique people. Trust me, no one wants to read about me; my fictional people are much more well-rounded. They leave lasting impressions on those around them; they are good parents; they have personality. Fiction > Truth. I learned that a looooong time ago. Most likely in a movie theater or with my face in a book. But there are a few little true things about myself I can't seem to keep from incorporating.
The parts that are true:
- I love blue. It, more than any other color, has magical, superstitious power over me.
- Jade's horse Atlas in Whatever Remains IS my horse Markus. He's a special little snowflake.
- I ride dressage.
- I spend too much time basking in the sights, scents, sounds of the outdoors, just existing and breathing it in. So setting and landscape details are important. I crave the smell of wood smoke.
- I love cars. If I ever won the lottery, I'd blow all my money on leather jackets, boots, and cars. There's just something about the sound of a V8 turning over...
- I dig Jane Austen.
- I hate the superficial questions of first dates.
- Intelligent men are hot.
- I love old houses.
- I have tomboy fashion sense (or lack thereof).
- Black fingernail polish
- Visiting Ireland is on my bucket list.
It's funny, because the question I'm asked by readers, sometimes, is where I get my ideas. "Is this based on your real life?" they ask. The answer is, and always will be, no. But I can't resist injecting bits here and there.
“Danner!” Lisa’s voice
had that perfect blend of bitchiness and authority. One of these days, she’d
mature into a full-fledged lioness, one of those women in complete control of
everything. “You’re on the clock, jackass! You can’t just skip out.”
“Club comes first.” He almost looked
frightened as he held his phone up, offering the call he’d just received as a
shield between himself and the furious cousins staring him down. “If I ever
want to get patched in, I have to prove that I’m loyal to the club.”
“And the club was hired as security,”
Lisa shot back.
“Which doesn’t matter for shit when
the clubhouse is burning down!”
Layla stepped between them before
Lisa started hitting; she looked like a hitter. “Look,” she told Lisa, “we’re
not defenseless idiots.”
“I know that. I’m a better shot than he is! It’s the principle of the thing. He’s getting paid.”
Would love for the magazine to get some attention, but I wanted to post "Cold Again" here too for anyone who wants to read it and can't get the download to work.
The apple was small and withered, but when she bit into it, a
trickle of juice ran down her chin and the green skin snapped beneath her
teeth. She found a black piece of rot and dug it out with dirty, ragged
fingernails, and kept eating. She’d forgotten the names she’d always wanted to
give to her children, the color of her favorite dress, the things her mother
had told her about proper manners. All that existed was food, and shelter,
listening and living. All she knew was survival.
“It’s warmer by the fire, love.”
Lily picked up her head, swallowing apple. In the clearing where
they’d camped, Theo had built a sickly fire of damp wood and bark curls. He’d
tended it endlessly, until exhaustion had claimed him, and he’d joined the
others in fitful sleep, wrapped in a bedroll. The fire had burned on, without
his assistance, tended by another. Now she was alone, with Liam.
Happy Tuesday, all. I can't believe it's December already - December fourth, at that. It doesn't seem possible. I'm excited to start the month with another story published in The Opening Line. My short story "Cold Again" is the "Pick of the Month" for the magazine's Winter Spirit issue and you can find it on page fourteen of the mag that is free to download here.
For a while now, I've been considering doing something a little different with my side project historical story Slight of Hand, and Opening Line's December issue seemed like the perfect chance to explore the new ideas. I'm so glad, now, that I wrote this piece - and that it was well-received - because it's taken me down a whole new creative path with the Harwood sisters. Their stories have the potential to become magical and supernatural, and I can't wait to dive back into that project. Until then, you can read "Cold Again" and check out the rest of the December contributors.
I grew up to the sound of particular mantra: "Nothing ever works." Because life is rarely picturesque. It would be nice to believe that our days and nights unfold with the glossy perfection and tastefully arranged casualness of a Southern Living photo spread. On Facebook and Pinterest and blogs, we pretend we live magazine lives: candid shots of practiced laughter, warm light halos pouring over spotless floors, purposeful clutter arranged just so across bright kitchen counters. We want to feel unique, and in doing so, become like every other scrambling idealist searching to bring slick magazine polish to an otherwise ordinary life.
It's okay. I mean, we all do it. But I'm a realist, and it's important to remember, sometimes, that "nothing ever works," and that the holidays, more than any other time, prove this. Farming has taught me not to expect things to go off without a hitch, and, in my family, we're most thankful when we get through situations whole. And we learn to deal with all the minor, daily crises that make life not-so-magazine-worthy.
Because, sometimes, you forget to buy twine and you have to bind the turkey's legs with a zip-tie.
Because, sometimes, you realize you miscalculated something. Because some mornings, there's a headless rabbit sitting in front of your barn and you have so say, "Welp," and fetch the pitchfork so you can chunk him over the fence into the woods. Mud happens, and duct tape happens, and you drop whole bottles of wine on the concrete and watch them shatter in slow motion. Bottoms tear out of full garbage bags and you beat the shit out of your knee on the corner of a piece of furniture. Because the coming of Christmas means untangling extension cords and staying up with TVLand reruns because the potatoes just won't come to a boil.
But when you walk out the front of the barn, and glance up toward the house; when your breath fogs like dragon smoke and you catch the dazzling glitter of garland lights, beckoning with their warm yellow light, your heart swells and all the reality doesn't seem so real anymore. And then it doesn't matter if nothing ever works.
I had a lovely Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone else did too. Just feeling thoughtful this morning, and wanting to clarify that when I say "lovely" I don't ever mean pristine, or perfect, or without fault. And because I think, when we give thanks, it should be a thanks given to the laughter that buoys us in dark times, and to the spark of hope that keeps us reaching for unattainable dreams, and to the way nothing seems to work...and yet we've been given the strength to lace up our boots and tackle every day, every zip-tied turkey, like pros.
I'm thankful for reality. Somebody put that in a magazine.