I’ve spent the last two weeks revising one of my very first novels,The Unmasking.  The novel came out from Harlequin Superromance in, gulp, 19. . .

A long time ago.

As I read The Unmasking again,  I loved the story, but my writing has improved, well, enormously.  What took me twelve words to say now takes six.  I rarely use adjectives or adverbs and I make certain never to overuse them.  I also write “different” love scenes these days because expectations are different and so am I.

With that in mind, I decided to edit and revise the book, to tighten the story and prose, remove the adjectives, change the love scenes and some of the dialogue, even to sharpen the characters.  But did I change the dates?  This is a pre-Katrina novel, and had I revised it to take place after the devastating hurricane that destroyed so much of the Gulf Coast, I would have needed to change too many things. I liked this story the way it was, set in a simpler New Orleans, but one that seemed real enough for its time.

Despite the real changes so many things are still the same in the city, including most of the physical setting of The Unmasking.  The French Quarter and St. Charles Avenue, where Justin’s mother lives, survived Katrina with far less damage than some of the outlying areas, including Gentilly, where our house was located.  We were gone by the time Katrina arrived, but if you’ve ever lived in New Orleans, you understand that you never truly leave it.

Do you know what it means, to miss New Orleans? To miss it each night and day? I know I’m not wrong, the feelings’s getting stronger, the longer I stay away. . .

One of the things I missed and still miss after moving away is carnival, particularly Mardi Gras day. Carnival begins on Twelfth Night and ends on Mardi Gras day (Fat Tuesday), and the excitement builds through the season.

In the following scene Justin and Bethany, with their daughter Abby, experience carnival season and their first parade together.Justin,  New Orleans native, has never enjoyed carnival.  Bethany, a transplant, has to convince him that he’s been missing something fabulous.

I hope you get a taste of the celebration, too.  The illustration here is the one my daughter-in-law has adapted for the new cover which I’ll unveil next week, but I thought you would enjoy seeing the art work first.

The newly revised The Unmasking should be at online bookstores by Mardi Gras day.  Please remember it will only be available as an ebook, so fire up your Nook or Kindle because right now that’s the only way I’m allowed to publish it.

If you need a little Mardi Gras spirit, a chance to celebrate before the long days of Lent, come join in the fun. But for now, enjoy this excerpt.

***

The parade was several blocks away, and they could see the first float in the distance. After they found a place to watch Abby was so excited she couldn’t stand still. Bethany gave her a handmade drawstring bag of purple cotton, with “Mardi Gras” in gold-and-green appliqué.  New Orleans parades were invariably accompanied by the throwing of favors from the floats. Most of the time the throws were beads and specially manufactured collectible doubloons. But some parades also threw stuffed toys, plastic tumblers with emblems of the krewe sponsoring the parade, candy, plastic spears, even bikini panties. On St. Patrick’s Day, the New Orleans parades threw cabbages to the waiting crowds. Nobody in New Orleans went to a parade just to watch.

Bethany cautioned Abby, just as other mothers up and down the parade route were cautioning their children. “Remember, kiddo, don’t reach down to pick up anything on the ground. Cover it with your foot first, then reach for it.”

“I know!”

“And don’t run out in the street.”

“I know!”

They could hear the music from the first marching band, and the truck that checked for overhead clearance rolled by. Although some parades closer to Mardi Gras day had spectators lined up ten or more deep, this parade was less crowded, and their view was unimpeded as the small floats carrying the maids and finally the queen of the court came by. The women were dressed in costumes of gold and silver sequins, with white ostrich plumes on elaborate headdresses. The court in this parade wore thin sequined masks, not to hide their identity from their friends but to add a touch of mystery.

With royal dignity the court didn’t throw anything, and by the time the first large float filled with a dozen women dressed as mermaids rolled by, Abby was at fever pitch. “Justin, pick me up!”

With an expression that made Bethany chuckle, Justin put the little girl on his shoulders. In a minute the air around them was raining doubloons and beads. Bethany scooped throws off the ground that Abby had missed. Sneaking a look at Justin’s face, she began to laugh. He looked like a survivor of a major battle.

“They loved you, Justin. I’m not sure I’ve seen so many doubloons thrown at one person before.”

He shot her an irritated glance as Abby began to bounce on his shoulders. “Throw me something, throw me something,” the little girl shouted.

After three new storms of doubloons, Abby begged to get down. Although she couldn’t see as well on the ground, she was able to pick up more throws that came her way, and after watching a little boy make off with a cup that had been tossed in her direction, she was ready to join the skirmish.

The bands marching in between the elaborately decorated floats added an audibly cheerful note, and the bright colors and holiday atmosphere of the crowd couldn’t help but work their magic on Justin. Bethany noticed the change when she saw his foot was tapping in time to the music. The band passing by at that moment was playing “Maniac” from the movie Flashdance, and a crowd of young teenagers across the street were break dancing in response.

Although Justin still wasn’t actively catching throws, he didn’t protest when Bethany slipped several beaded necklaces over his head. “You look more festive now,” she said. And he looked even more festive when the next float came by and threw a cup directly at him. Justin, with all his money, couldn’t resist the lure of the plastic tumbler, and before Bethany knew what was happening—and probably before he did, too—he was out in the street, diving for it.

After that it was every man, woman and child for himself. Justin, Abby and Bethany scrambled for every throw. Doubloons were covered by dancing feet; beads were snatched from the reach of other bystanders. And the special prize of a stuffed unicorn, which was presented to Abby by a rider on a temporarily halted float, was gloated over as if it were pirate booty.

When the last float had passed by with its traditional blitz of throws, the three weary parade-goers headed back to the car. “I don’t know, Justin,” Bethany said with tongue in cheek, “you didn’t look like you hated that parade.”

***

If you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, sign up here to get bookstore links and more news when the book is available.

Question mark with different directionI’m so busy doing the edits and revisions of one of my first novels, The Unmasking, that I wasn’t able to blog yesterday, but please stay tuned for another preview of the book this week on Fiction Friday, in honor of Mardi Gras.

I hope to have The Unmasking online at all your favorite bookstores by Mardi Gras day. Remember, it won’t be a print book because at this time I don’t have the rights to reissue it that way.

Meantime on Friday I’ll show you the artwork on which we based the truly stunning cover designed by Tina McGee, my talented daughter-in-law.

I’m finding a good story and interesting characters cluttered with unnecessary words (particularly adjectives and “thats”), two of the mistakes a beginning novelist often makes. I’m rewriting so many sentences and yes, all the love scenes.  How many of these were the result of clunky editing and how many my own writing? In order to know I would have to visit the Popular Culture library at Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where the original manuscript resides, red pencil editing and all, to compare.  And in the end, does it matter?  Not at all.

I do know I like the revised book so much better now, and I think you’ll like it, too.


Two inspirational men this Sunday morning. The first is Michael Sam, the star college football player about to be drafted into professional football.  Michael is not only perhaps the best defensive players in college football and one of the toughest men you’ll ever see, but he’s had the courage to tell the world he is also a gay man.

Dale Hansen, a sports anchor in Dallas, Texas showed courage, as well, when he gave this stunning tribute to Michael Sam. I hope you’ll listen to his statement because Mr. Hansen says what so many of us would like to say to those who dehumanize minorities of every and any kind. May we all have the courage to speak the truth and to support those who do.

Dead BallI’m going to tell you a secret. One of the very best parts of being a writer is being with other writers. More often than not we’re together online, not in person, but there are always conferences, booksignings and brainstorming sessions where we meet and share stories into the wee hours of morning.

In the meantime I talk to friends online. One of them is Judith Arnold, and I featured her wonderful novel The April Tree back in November.  The April Tree is women’s fiction, a look at friendship and loyalty, one of the book’s of Judith’s heart. But when I heard that she’s just begun her first mystery series? How could I not want to feature that here, as well. It’s nice to see the range of an author’s talent, right?

So enjoy more from my buddy Judith Arnold, and I’ll race you to the bookstore to buy Dead Ball. Just read this excerpt and you’ll see why.

Here’s what Judith has to say to introduce herself, and I swear I didn’t prompt her to say nice things about my books while she was at it:

I’m thrilled to be back at Emilie’s Fiction Friday blog, celebrating the relase of Dead Ball, my very first mystery. After all, it’s partly her fault that I wrote this book. Although she’s justifiably well known for her wonderful women’s fiction and romance novels, she’s also written a delightful mystery series called “Ministry is Murder.” These mysteries are smart, clever and funny, and I devoured each installment the instant it was released. I thought, hey, I want to have that kind of fun, too! So I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. 

Now, don’t you want to know more about the series?  Here it is:

I did have a great deal of fun writing Dead Ball, the first book in the Lainie Lovett Still Kicking Mystery series. (The original title for Dead Ball was Still Kicking, but my publisher decided that would be the perfect name for the series.) In the series, Lainie Lovett is a spunky, widowed teacher whose passions are her two nearly-grown children, her fourth-grade students, and the Colonielles, the women’s soccer team run by the rec department in Rockford, a cozy Boston suburb with severe colonial pretentions. Lainie’s best friends are her Colonielle teammates, Angie and Sheila.

The excerpt below takes place after a soccer practice, when Lainie, Angie and Sheila retire for drinks at Rockford’s Mexican restaurant, Olde Towne Olé. While there, they spot Arthur Cavanagh, the husband of another Colonielle teammate, having a drink with a buxom young blonde. The next day, Arthur will turn up dead, shot in the head with a nail gun at a subdivision of McMansions his construction company is building. Lainie will have to figure out who murdered him to protect her teammate, to redeem a potential love interest, and ultimately to save her own neck. 

Boy, she sure got my attention.  Here’s the excerpt. (more…)

Oscar-nominated actor Jude Law stops by Sesame Street to visit his friends. Photo by Richard Termine for Season 41. Which Muppet are you?

There’s a new wave sweeping social media.  Take a few moments, take one of a gazillion possible quizzes and you’ll answer that all-important existential question.  Who am I?

Sort of.

For instance, this month I discovered that I am Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street, Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, Bones from Star Trek, Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, Fanny Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and either Luna Lovegood or Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter–that quiz needs work.  I am more like the Rolling Stones than other rock bands, and I would be happiest living in Wyoming–although another quiz insisted that judging from the way I express myself, I’m really all-Mississippi at heart.

How about you?  Psychotherapy should be so easy. (more…)


I was inspired by this 2 minute video on Youtube, and I think you will be too: Engage

It’s meant for Valentine’s Day, but shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day?

How do you plan to engage?

Two Day A Week Diet CookbookWhat a special treat today for Valentine’s day.  While I know this spot is billed as Fiction Friday, today’s excerpt is actually a recipe from a new cookbook, The Two Day a Week Diet Cookbook, designed for Amazon’s Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? You can read the recipes on your computer, smartphone or tablet by downloading the free app. In fact these days I put all my recipes on my iPad so I can easily use them in the kitchen.

Even more of a treat? Today the cookbook is free  So buzz over there to get it while you can. I can’t guarantee it will stay free long, but if you miss the promotion, you’ll find it’s reasonably priced every day.

About the time I was finishing No River Too Wide, I realized that I’d been finishing a few too many other goodies, like chips and hummus, neighbor’s homemade pies, pasta. The extras were showing. About the same time a group of writers began an online discussion about a new diet, the 5:2 diet, popular in the UK. Diets get old quickly, but this one was intriguing. So I decided to try it.

Ruth Glick was one of the authors on that loop, and Ruth, in addition to being Rebecca York, the novelist, is a cookbook author. With her friend Nancy Baggett, Ruth put together a wonderful diet cookbook with easy to follow and tasty recipes to try on “fast” days. Today she’s sharing one of those recipes with us.

While the past month has been tough on my diet–a cruise and a cold–I have still to date lost about eight pounds.  I’m confident that will continue.

Ruth can and will tell you more about the diet and her writing career, so I’ll turn the blog over to her. In addition to sharing a recipe, Ruth has agreed to answer questions, so if you have any, just comment above. Thank you Ruth Glick/Rebecca York for being here today. (more…)

Ideas Take Time to GrowNext to “where do you get your ideas?” the question I am most asked is how long it takes me to write a book.

That question is asked a variety of ways. Some people, when learning I’ve published more than seventy novels, seem to believe I walk into my study every morning, press a button and a new book shoots out of my printer as I finish my first cup of coffee. Writers struggling with their own books want reassurance that someday their own books will be finished. Readers hungry for more in a series or simply more of my writing want reassurance I’m working hard enough.

The honest answer to the question is this:  A book takes as long as it takes.  Some come quickly.  Some take years of starts and stops, hair-pulling and foot stomping, far too many moments of elation and despair.

And the truth about that?  The hardest to write are not necessarily the best.  Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises took barely two months to write.  Nobody’s complaining about the finished product. (more…)

Trumpet Fanfare from iStockphotoCongratulations to Sandy Heringer who was the winner of a copy of Tear Down and Die by Joanna Campbell Slan.  The first book in Joanna’s new mystery series was featured on Fiction Friday a week ago.  As always random.org made the selection.

Heart with green don't Forget framedIf you’ve read One Mountain Away, the first book of my Goddesses Anonymous series, you know that Charlotte, the main character, looks back on her life and the mistakes she’s made.

I stumbled across this passage and decided to post it  for Sunday Inspiration just before Valentine’s Day. Not because the quote is sentimental or effusive, which we often expect. Because I think what Charlotte says here in her First Day Journal is so important to remember as we approach the holiday.

When Ethan and I lived together, I was always in charge of coffee and Taylor’s school day while he cooked. Ethan’s culinary skills vanished at noon, but his breakfasts were extraordinary.

I’m sorry now that I didn’t eat more, that I worried about my weight or my schedule too much to sit across from him at the breakfast table enjoying his omelets or waffles. That whether Taylor’s hair was perfectly combed or her homework in the right section of her backpack mattered more to me than gratitude.

I ‘m sorry now that before we walked out the door to start our days, I so often forgot to tell them both how much I loved them.

Today’s inspiration is simple.  Forget the things that don’t matter, and remember to notice and celebrate the things that do.  Most important let’s never cease telling the people we love how much we love them.  Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day we’re together.

Charlotte was given a second chance to make things right.  If you need a second chance, could this be the day to make it happen?