Redemption

re·demp·tion
rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

The next book in my Beach Haven series is A Soul Redeemed, so I wanted to take a look at the word “redemption” before I share a little excerpt from the first chapter.

I like the idea that redemption can also mean being saved from error, not just sin or evil. Every single one of us has erred in life in some way, big or small. We’ve all sinned, too, for that matter, but I doubt that most of us can relate to doing anything that is truly evil. In this book, I wanted to explore some of those errors and the regrets that go with them.

In short, I wanted to give a couple of my favorite supporting characters a chance to redeem themselves.

Jacqueline’s need for redemption is pretty obvious in light of her manipulative behavior in Her House Divided. To be perfectly honest, this character has really been bothering me since the end of that book. I’ve been wanting to tell her story, to explain why she does the horrible things she does. I wanted to face the challenge of somehow getting readers to like an unlikable character.

Ben, though, seems like a pretty nice guy, doesn’t he? The kind, easygoing, laid-back attorney has been sort of an understated comic relief character throughout the series. But what if he has a secret? What if he is the one who is truly in need of redemption?

That was my starting point for A Soul Redeemed.  I am tentatively looking at Friday, July 15 as a release date, but that date is not firm yet.

Ready to check out a sneak peek at Chapter one?

*****

A Soul Redeemed

Ben Jacobs took a deep breath and resisted the urge to kick the door of his car. It wasn’t the car’s fault that he was having a bad morning, after all. He tried shifting his briefcase, the box of doughnuts, the bouquet of flowers, and what remained of his coffee – having spilled half of it down the front of his suit on the drive to work – but still couldn’t manage to free one hand so he could shut the door.

Grunting, he put the box of doughnuts on top of the car and tried again. The box slid down the windshield, flipped over, and promptly landed upside-down on the pavement.

He closed his eyes. Bad enough that he had dumped the doughnuts on the ground; no man could be expected to gaze upon the tragedy of a fresh apple fritter destroyed in such a manner. The cruller and the éclair were acceptable losses on a day like today, but not the fritter.

Ben sighed. He set everything down on the ground and closed the car door with exaggerated care, after which he gathered his things and slowly made his way to his office. He half-expected the sky to open and dump buckets of rain on him just to continue with the whole theme of his morning, but the bright blue May sky remained annoyingly clear and cheerful, almost as though the universe itself were trying to get on his last nerve.

His assistant looked up in surprise when he dropped the flowers on her desk. “Happy birthday, Beverly,” he told her. “There were doughnuts, too, but they didn’t make it.”

“Thank you. My birthday is next month.”

“Of course it is.”

“The flowers are lovely, Ben. This was very sweet of you.” Beverly smiled up at him, taking in the rumpled and stained suit in one sweeping glance. “Spilled your coffee again?”

He nodded.

“And the white stuff on your shoulder?”

“Seagull.”

“Again?”

“Again.”

She chuckled. “Welcome back. I’ve put your mail on your desk,” she told him. “Along with your phone messages. Tiffany has already called twice this morning about the dog. And . . . I’m about to ruin your day a little bit more. There’s someone waiting for you in your office. I told her to wait out here, but she insisted. I’m sorry.”

Ben swore. His assistant was a deceptively tiny, middle-aged woman with the iron will of an army drill sergeant, and he knew from experience that there was only one person who refused to be intimidated by her. If that person was waiting for him in his office, his day was definitely going to continue with its downward trend.

He took yet another deep breath, squared his shoulders, and marched into his office. That’s right, he told himself. My office. Mine. This is my territory, my turf, and I am not going to let Jacqueline Davis push me around.

Jacqueline was seated at his desk rather than in one of the plush brown chairs that were intended for his clients. She was impeccably dressed as usual, in a mint-green dress that played up her porcelain skin and shoulder-length blond hair. There was an elegant grace in the way she moved when she leaned forward to rest her chin on one delicate hand, her lips curving into a humorless smile.

“Running a little late this morning, Ben?”

“Why are you here?” he asked. “Don’t you have some orphans to evict or something?”

“That’s on this afternoon’s schedule. I cleared this morning’s schedule so I could meet with you.”

“Fantastic. Beverly already told you that I have no interest in representing you,” he said. “Besides, you have an attorney, and you don’t need me.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. Please, sit down so we can discuss my situation.”

“You’re . . . in my chair, Jacqueline.”

Her laugh scraped on his nerves. She stood and strolled around to the front of his desk like a spoiled housecat strutting in front of a captive audience, and he couldn’t keep his gaze from sweeping up and down her trim figure and appreciating what he saw.

She was a tall woman, her eyes almost even with his when she stopped directly in front of him. There was a triumphant gleam in her eyes that told him she had noticed exactly where he had been looking.

 

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Dream a Little Dream

A funny thing happened on the way to my next novel.

It took me three years to write my first book.  I self-published it before it was ready, and had to spend the next several months playing a game of Learn-As-You-Go as I scrambled to fix all of my mistakes.  My second book took a year to write, but I was much more prepared when I self-published that one.  My third is now in progress, tentatively heading toward a June release, which means it will only take me about six months to write when all is said and done.

And that’s where the wheels fall off the wagon.

First, I wanted to name my heroine Bobbie. I like that name, and it would have worked very well for the character.  However, I work with a woman named Bobbie, and that could become really awkward, really fast when I start writing a sex scene. So I asked Bobbie if she would mind my using her name for this book, as long as I promised that the character was not based on her in any way.

She gave her permission to use her name, but with the stipulation that she wanted the Bobbie in my book to be a villain.  Evil. A terrible, horrible, simply awful creature.

Well, crap. Since my first two books contain a beautiful but cruel female antagonist, I really wanted to avoid doing that again.  So the idea of “Evil Bobbie” had to be shelved for a while, and I went back to finding just the right name for my heroine.

A few nights later, I had a really vivid dream. I dreamed out the entire plot of a new story that was so realistic, so detailed, that it was like watching a movie.  It was the story of a divorcee who has spent the past year living in a sort of a fog, unable to move on from her divorce.  Her children go off to spend a month with their father over summer vacation, and she is at a loss about what to do during an entire month by herself.  Of course, she has a guy friend.  And since this is a romance novel, the guy friend is one hot and sexy studmuffin. Mr. Studmuffin convinces the heroine to make a list of things she’s never done before, and they spend the month working their way through the list as their friendship gradually grows into something more. The big question is whether or not she is ready to let herself take a chance on love, and I think the ending may come as a bit of a surprise.

I woke up and wrote it down.  I even found a place for “Evil Bobbie,” although she’s not so much evil as just unpleasant, and her name lost a letter somewhere along the line.

Some of you know that I’ve gone through my own divorce in the past year, so you may be wondering how much of myself I’ve put into this one.  Rest assured, the story is a work of fiction.  However, in the same way that Her House Divided is a piece of fiction that contains my real car accident and injuries, Love’s Little List is a piece of fiction that contains a few real emotions. Divorce sucks, even an amicable one like mine, and it felt really good to dig down deep and exorcise a few personal demons.

list

If that makes any sense at all.

I am very proud of Love’s Little List.  It turned out to be an 18,000-word mini-novel that may possibly be the most personal thing I’ve ever written, even though it is completely fictional.  I feel like I hit just the perfect tone with this one, somewhere in between the usual serious tone of my romance novels and the lighter tone of my blog. It’s not quite a romantic comedy, but it has a lot more humor than I’ve ever put into a novel before.  It’s not technically a part of my Beach Haven series, although it is set in the same town and even contains a few minor characters from the series.

I’m nervous about this one, especially since I released it with no fanfare, no publicity. I’m afraid I may have made a huge mistake by publishing it as-is instead of trying to flesh it out into a full-length novel, but time will have to tell if I did the right thing or not. This story basically wrote itself; who am I to tell it to grow to 50,000 words?

And just for the record, if there is a real Mr. Studmuffin out there looking for a middle-aged, overweight, divorced mother of three, would he please step out of the romance novel and give me a call?

Pretty Pretty Shiny Shiny

Question:  How many people with ADHD does it take to change a light bulb?

 Answer:  Let’s go for a bike ride!

No matter how much I want to write my novel, I struggle every day with focus.  I am so easily distracted that it is a major effort for me to keep my mind on the chapter I am writing.  I start thinking about the next chapter, or about the short story I want to write, or about the fabulous book I just read, or about the pretty cardinal on the tree outside my window, or . . .

In the wise words of my nephew, it shouldn’t be called ADHD.  It should be ADOS:  Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny!

Now that I have all of this free time, I’ve been doing some research into things like writing software and writing networks or websites.    I’ve joined Romance Writers of America, which has provided me with some fabulous online classes and discussion groups to improve my skills.    I have my blog here on WordPress and I just started a Twitter account, although I freely admit to being utterly clueless about things like Tweets and hashtags.

#OverMyHead

All of this technology begs the question:  Is it really helping me write my novel, or is it just a whole new bunch of shiny objects?

A few weeks ago, I splurged on a program called WriteWay.  It’s sort of a template for organizing one’s thoughts while writing.  A writer can set up note cards for characters and chapters or even scene-by-scene diagrams.  There are places to plug in research and new ideas and comments.  It is incredible.

In theory, anyway.

In reality, I’m starting to realize that it’s just another distraction so far.   I have spent so much time setting it up and learning my way around that I haven’t really accomplished anything.    Well, that’s not entirely true.  It has really helped me in two ways.

It has helped me really define my characters in much more depth.  I always thought it was silly to come up with all kinds of background information for my characters if that information wasn’t going to be part of the actual story.   Really, is it important to know the Hero’s birth order or favorite song?  Does it matter that he’s allergic to peanut butter or that his father abandoned the family when he was only two years old?

I’m exaggerating, of course, but I have learned that it really does help me to know my characters better.  If I can’t see them as fully-developed three-dimensional people, how can I make anyone else see them that way?

Now my character Evan has a reason to fight for his grandmother’s house, as well as a very good reason to avoid falling in love with Tara.  And poor Tara has become far less pathetic.  Her quirkiness now has a cause beyond Let’s-Make-Her-Interesting-For-No-Apparent-Reason-Syndrome.  And there is a villain now, although for the life of me I can’t come up with a name for her.  She’s a Barbara, no doubt about it, but I have a Barbara in my life who is nothing like this character and who would probably be supremely offended.

The other lesson I have learned from WriteWay is that I am nowhere near as prepared to write this book as I thought I was.  I know the beginning and I know how it’s going to end, but everything in the middle is just a big ol’ melodramatic muddle.  With a couple of very awkward sex scenes in which I tried really hard to find synonyms for “erection”.

In the long run, I think this is going to be a big help, as soon as I stop being overwhelmed and start buckling down.   I’m the kind of person who needs direction, and I am hoping that this will give me that direction.  Otherwise, I’m afraid I’m just going to continue meandering helplessly from scene to scene without ever writing the actual story.

I’d like to hear from other writers about WriteWay or other writing software programs.  What do you think:  distractions or direction?  Worth the money, or a useless extravagance?

And what the heck am I supposed to do now that I’m on Twitter?