Monday, July 20, 2015

How Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Ruined My Life

Back a few weeks ago, the husband and I took the kids to see the new movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, and you should, one of the concepts in the movie is that inside our brains we have Islands of Personality that are formed and supported by core memories that make us who we are.
When my granddaughter asked me what my Islands of Personality are, I had a sudden flash of Gene Wilder in a crazy purple top hat telling me to come with him to a land of pure imagination. When I was a little girl, that concept of the boundless possibilities of Imagination stamped itself on my vulnerable infant psyche, and Imagination Island was born.

Before long, I discovered that for me the easiest way to turn Imagination into something concrete and sharable was to write.  So I became a writer in first grade, penning a one-woman show starring Snoopy---my first authorial role model. I performed the show before my classmates, and even though the show opened and closed the same day, I was bitten by the writing bug.

After many years of school, then teaching English, I finally started to submit short stories. After a few acceptances, I finally finished a novel, had it accepted, and became a published author.
“Hooray!” the villagers on Imagination Island rejoiced.

But the joy was short-lived. Becoming a published author changed everything. Hard on the heels of writing the book comes marketing the book. I purely hate marketing.

“Market yourself,” I kept hearing. "Get a platform. You need followers."
“Well, I am screwed,” I replied. After all, in my psyche right next to Imagination Island is a monstrosity of a place called Nobody Likes Me Island, an island formed at least in part by my classmates’ less than positive reception of my first one-woman show.

The pressure to succeed, to turn my first books into a viable career (or at least no longer a money-losing avocation), ground at me constantly. I couldn’t write any more. Nothing. After all, what was the good of writing if no one would ever read it because I was an awful marketer of a self that Nobody Likes.
Couple this with a day job that sucks the soul from me, and you have one seriously thwarted individual.

Damn you, Willie Wonka. Damn your lies about creating endless possibilities!
I wish I could sink Imagination Island to the bottom of my psychic abyss and replace it with Balancing Spreadsheets Island or Grading Math Tests Island. Then I could find satisfaction in my day to day life.

As it is, the lure of becoming a reasonably successful writer still calls to me. It shines on the horizon and its damned sirens call out, “Just keep trying! Success is just around the corner. Don’t quit!” Easy for them to say.
I can’t turn off the desire to imagine, but the business of authorship grinds me down to my component powders. Facing the marketing of another book means looking Nobody Likes Me Island right in the face.

I wish I could just find a heroin dealer. I could sink Imagination Island under a sea of feel-good opiates and not worry about fulfillment or success or happiness. I could work my day job (who needs a soul anyway?), go home, make dinner, pay bills, do laundry, and be reasonably content.
If I could lobotomize this troublesome part of my brain so that I never had to see endless possibilities again, I would do it in a heartbeat, even knowing that doing so would fundamentally change my personality forever.

Screw optimism. Screw dreams. Screw imagination.
And screw you, Willie Wonka. You ruined my life.

If you thought this post would have a funny, happy ending, I apologize. It doesn’t get a happy ending until I do.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Leigh Daley Writes: Lifebound is here!

My alter ego tells all about her obsession with hot skateboarders!

Leigh Daley Writes: Lifebound is here!:   About four years ago, my teenage daughter developed a huge crush on snowboarder Shaun White and forced me to watch any number of You...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Do You Feel Safe?

Several years ago, I was a big fan of a fantasy author named Katherine Kurtz. I absolutely loved the world she created and had a huge crush on one of her characters. But Ms. Kurtz had the annoying habit of making me seriously care about a major character, then killing him or her off in the most tragic way possible.

I quit reading her books because that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a story that took me on an adventure and made me think about the world in a new way, but I didn’t want my heart ripped out in the process. Her books just weren’t safe.

By “safe” fiction, I don’t mean free of sex or violence or bad language. I mean that the reader can read with confidence that even though things may get rough and the obstacles may seem insurmountable, the major characters will make it through okay.

It’s the difference between Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy, between an Adam Sandler movie and a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. You know J. D. isn’t going to die in a fiery plane crash, but practically everyone did on Grey’s Anatomy. Nobody is safe on that show. Well, maybe Meredith Grey will make it because they’d have to change the name or end the series if she died. Hmmm. Expect that to happen in the series finale.

One reason why the romance genre is so popular is the guaranteed happily ever after. No matter what the characters go through, the couple will make amends, discover the truth, or just get over themselves and love each other forever. The hero isn’t going to die in a tragic carriage accident, nor is the heroine going to die in childbirth. They are safe.

Other genres also have their code of safety. In a mystery, the detective may get hurt but always lives to detect another day. The mystery gets solved and justice is served. When one leaves this safe territory, the book ceases to be a mystery and becomes a book with mystery elements. The same with a spy novel. Who wants a book where the evil Dr. X actually kills the spy with sharks wearing lasers on their heads and conquers the world? Unless the book isn’t about that spy at all, but about the villain or the ragtag team of “Mystery Men” who eventually save the day.

Some people denigrate “safe” books. They claim that there is some greater literary value in killing characters off and jerking people’s emotions around. I absolutely disagree. For instance, The Artist garnered rave critical reviews for its examination of popular culture and the veneration of fame – and even did it silent! But at the risk of spoiling (just go la-la-la with your eyes to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet) nobody has to die to do it. (I hope you went la-la-la ‘cause if you didn’t you’re going to hate my freaking guts when you watch it.)
I personally believe that genre does not dictate quality. Jane Austen is about as safe as you can get, but her books reveal the human experience in ways that are still pertinent to readers two hundred years after their initial publication. “Safe” book hating elitists can just kiss my you know what!

So, to all you lovers of safe books, I say huzzah! Stand up for your right to enjoy your reads and feel comforted by them instead of pummeled! Meanwhile, I’m going to keep writing them!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Clean Indie Reads: THE BLACKSMITH'S DAUGHTER: by Arley Cole Young Adult, Fantasy Winner of the 2012 OKRWA IDA award for YA Novel She believes she is only a blacksmith's daugh...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Casting the Book Is SO Much Fun!

Dream Cast for The Blacksmith's Daughter

Recently, my publisher Musa Publishing posted a challenge to authors in the Euterpe line to put together a dream cast for their books. I was so excited about it because I actually had a picture of Melanie Lynskey on hand when I was writing The Blacksmith’s Daughter! In fact the challenge was so fun, I decided to post it again here for you guys complete with photos of the cast. 

I have been a fan of Melanie Lynskey for years and thought she would be perfect as the heroine Enith Roweson because to me she comes across as very girl-next-door, but with a beauty that takes you by surprise and a strength you didn’t expect to see. She would need colored contacts though and at 5’7” is a little tall! One of my favorite details about Enith is that she's just barely five feet tall, but can still kick butt. 

For our hero Acwellen Lex’Magen, I have to admit having a serious thing for Chris Hemsworth. Thor is so hot! But I fell for Chris when he played George Kirk in the new Star Trek reboot. He was gorgeous, of course, but he firmly convinced me of his deep commitment to his job and his family, even to the point of death. That is very Acwellen.

Acwellen’s best friend Nerian Elidor should absolutely be played by a young Robert Downey, Jr. Back in about 1992, apart from his drug issues, Robert had the right mix of good looks and irony to play Nerian. I bet he could have kicked butt with a sword too. Since this is dream-casting, I can absolutely pull him out of 1992 and put him into rehab for the role. 

Juliana and Selwyn should go to a young Katherine Heigl and Zac Efron. Katherine is just beautiful, but handles comedy so well and Juliana certainly has some moments when she should not be taken seriously. Zac basically turned out to be much better looking than I ever thought he would and could pull off Selwyn, our youthful but serious young love interest for Juliana. 

Finally, I absolutely loved Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor/The Avengers and seriously considered him for Nerian. However, he does such a fabulously compelling bad guy that I decided to jump on that instead (so to speak). However, there are interesting things afoot for our villain Melanth Rouvin and Tom could absolutely bring his magic to that.

Well, now I am super stoked! When does filming start? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Guest, Vonnie Hughes

Well, let me just say that I am a huge fan of Vonnie Hughes' Regency Romance novels! And look! Her latest is a thriller! And it is set in New Zealand too -- one of my must-visit locales. I'm going to quit exclaiming now and let you all read the excerpt. Very tingly!

Lethal Refuge
by Vonnie Hughes 

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit "New Zealand's witness protection program" where she's expected to trust strangers with her life. It's psychologist Brand Turner's job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional.

When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him. Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide "can she trust Brand with her life?

Célie Francis ran faster than she ever had in her life. Fingers of fog rolling in from the sea grabbed at her as her feet alternately flew and stuttered over the uneven pavement of the ocean road. Where was he? How much time did she have?

The wash of the sea was a calm counterpoint to her harsh, frantic breathing. Above the sound of her thudding feet, the shriek of a bird pierced the air.

No, not a bird. Something was squeaking. Occy’s old bicycle. He had found her.

Faster, Célie, faster, shouted the little man on the treadmill in her mind.

I can’t, she sobbed. Fancy the consequences? No God, no! Then run faster. But her aching legs could not obey.

And on the roadway the relentless squeak, squeak kept pace with her. Frantically she zigzagged, seeking a haven in the fog. It was barely dawn on the lonely North Auckland cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.

No help anywhere. Have to hide. Have to hide. Her shoes slapped a rhythm. Salty sweat stung her eyes. Ignore it. The slap of her running shoes echoed then died in the mist.


Her brain, tumbling in an endless whirl of fear and futile questions asked—-why Occy? Why had he killed a man this time?

Up ahead loomed a deep grey cloud of mist. Thank you, God. She blasted into the fog bank and the squeaking receded behind her.

This is your chance, the little man said. Veering off the sidewalk, she streaked across a pristine lawn and crouched behind a lavender bush. Her chest heaving, she struggled to gulp another breath of sodden air.

Squeeeak. He was back. This was it. Eyes streaming, she curled into a ball on the cold ground and waited.

Something yellow zinged past her face and tickled her arm. A needle-sharp sting pierced her elbow, then another. Bees, irritated by her invasion, were trying to drive her out. No you won’t. What’s out there is a lot worse than what you can do, bees.

As the pinpricks tingled and burned, she pressed her lips together so hard that the muscles on the side of her face ached. Louder now, the squeaking advanced and receded. He was casting up and down, looking for her.

Please, please...

A sibilant whisper reached her through the clammy fog. “I know who you are, Célie. I know where you live.”

Available in both paperback and e-book from: The Wild Rose Press Amazon

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Guest, Samantha Combs

Today I have fellow Musa YA author Samantha Combs in the house!

I’m a Southern California author, with 8 published books, 4 paranormals and 4 horrors.  I’m a wife, a mom, a Risk Manager, a sister and a daughter.  I’m a life-juggler.  My blog at is a hodge-podge of it all and a great place to get “aspiring writer” tips.  I also have a muse; a cocky, arrogant, diva-like entity named Musina.  Her greatest delight is making me stay up writing till 3am without giving me a CLUE where the story is going.  She’s an evil bitch, but I kind of love her.

Tell us about your book.

More than any other book or story I have written, Waterdancer is the most autobiographical.  While there are parts of “me” in all my works, this book takes the biggest pieces from my teenhood.  And I am more like Bailey that I would care to admit.  New to the area, the school, and in a new marriage of her mother’s, Bailey is just trying to find her place in the world.  It doesn’t help that as she approaches her 16th birthday, a super secret family trait begins to show itself.  The story is about how she deals with that, and rebuilds relationships in her life she felt long past resurrection.

If you could only have one vice what would it be?

Gluttony.  I would like to be able to eat anything I want and not have any repercussions.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why?

I am partial to a cocky, confident chick in my 2nd book.  Sixx is the main character’s best friend, but she has a reckless passion for life and not caring what anyone else thinks of her.  Her confidence is intoxicating.  She reminds me of a friend from my teens.

What are you working on now?

My 9th book, The Deadlies, is with a publisher, hopefully to be accepted.  My 10th book, Wingspan, is a departure from what I normally write.  Dystopic in a way, of course paranormal, with lots of action, I am writing my first car chase, my first government conspiracy and *gasp* my first sex scene.  It is a challenge.  It was a NaNoWriMo project but I abandoned it when my father-in-law fell ill.  Back at it, I am more than 2/3 through and shocked daily by the plot twists and turns my Musina is taking me on.

 What’s your favorite quote?

An old Persian proverb:  Now that the barn has burned down, I can see the moon.  It’s a take on the “silver lining” thing and has sailed me through more of my own Bermuda Triangles than I can name.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.  I am a marinater.  This means I roll things around in my head until they gel.  Like jello.  Liquid at first, but given time and patience, super tasty jello.  And diamonds, hiding inside the rock.  Get it?

by Samantha Combs

For Bailey Wasserman, being Bailey has recently become an incredible challenge. It's not enough that she must come to terms with her mother's new husband, their new life, and a new surfer boyfriend. When she meets her real father for the first time, she discovers a secret family trait that will alter the course of her own life and those she loves…maybe forever.

Bailey and her mom have always met life’s challenges as a team of two, more like best friends than mother and daughter. But her mom’s recent marriage has changed all of that, and having her little brother Landry is the only good Bailey can find in that union.
The move to wealthy Del Mar from their humble beginnings has turned Bailey sour, until a chance meeting with surf hottie Jack West. Then Bailey's father, with his annoying Zen-surfer lingo and a talking turtle he claims is no less than her spirit guardian, reenters her life and threatens the only relationship Bailey thinks is working in her world.
She soon finds out that’s not all his arrival will do. His presence and their shared family trait could ultimately force Bailey to make a decision that will alter the course of her own life and those she loves…forever.

Check out all EIGHT of Samantha's books!


About Samantha Combs:
I am a Southern California author with eight published books, the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, currently in print and in production with, and GHOSTLY, both YA paranormals, SPELLBOUND's sequel, EVERSPELL, a middle grade horror called THE DETENTION DEMON, and three adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS, WAY PAST MIDNIGHT, and HELLOWEEN. WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, released in September of 2012. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience. I have plans for many more books in the future!

When I'm not writing, I work full time and enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. My guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. I truly believe I can accomplish anything if I have the right pair of shoes. And I adore totally inappropriate earrings.

I love writing and publishing my work and I am in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time I see a kid pick one up to read something it fills me with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. I am excited to see what our world has in store for literature and thrilled to be along for that ride.