My Life in Books 2011

 Last year Elyse at PCN (Pop Culture Nerd) hosted a great meme, sort of a Mad Libs with book titles. I had such a great time with last year’s post, so when I saw her post, I decided it was perfect timing! You simply fill in the blanks with book titles.

Thank you to The Picky Girl’s blog where I heard about this!

One time at band/summer camp, all I can say is it involved The Angel Experiment (James Patterson) and a Kiss (Ted Dekker & Erin Healy)

Weekends at my house are over in the Blink of an Eye (Dekker)

My neighbor is Teaching in the Land of Kimchi (Melissa Christine Karpinski)

As am I! And yes, I do like kimchi!

My boss is full of… Wisdom (Amanda Hocking)

This is not sarcasm. Really. Okay, this may have been true of one of my bosses, but I love my boss now!

My ex was the Boyfriend from Hell (E. Van Lowe)

This is actually true. This one is not a joke or sarcastic comment. Now if only I can find my Earth Angel (E. Van Lowe’s sequel to above title)

My superhero secret identity is made of Wizard and Glass (Stephen King)

And is the best getup ever. Very sturdy and still haven’t figured out all the tricks it can do yet.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because Bloody Little Secrets… (Karly Kirkpatrick)

…will be all that’s left of you…mwaHaha!

I’d win a gold medal in Keeping the Moon (Sarah Dessen)

Or should I say the sun too? Sleep is for the weak.

I’d pay good money for The Truth about Forever (Dessen again)

Wouldn’t we all? I do know the truth, actually. Just ask me. It has to do with Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott.

If I were president, I would Never Let You Go (Erin Healey)

(referring to holding the office…and my dear citizens of course) 28 year term? Monarchy? What?

When I don’t have good books, I ask where the Needful Things are (King)

I need them to live.

Loud talkers at the movies should be Hush, Hush (ed) (Becca Fitzpatrick)

(and this will be done with a Showdown (Dekker) on The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and then you will be Gone (Michael Grant) Sorry if that scares you, I love you, dear reader, too much Stephen King on the brain? No, I take full credit.  *sweet smile*)

Would love to hear your version of the tale! Post your answers in the comments- or please comment with your link if you post on your blog!

“You heard it here first”: Interview Part 2 with E. Van Lowe, Author of Boyfriend from Hell

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Part 2 of the Interview: The latest announcement on E. Van Lowe’s books- read below!

To read Part 1 of the interview, click here. Read my review on Boyfriend from Hell.

E, Thank you for joining me again. I am excited to share with everyone the news that you have! Also: where you get your inspiration from and some bonus writing tips! As well as some discussion for Stephen King fans!

8.  At the end of the last interview, we talked about different forms of writing (plays, TV scripts, novels) More switch-ups: You have mentioned before that you like to read many different genres and types of books. I also noticed that you write in different genres as well, such as the horror alter ego you write in- Sal Conte. Do you have to switch gears between these two genres that you write? And how does this affect your writing?

Yes, I do need to switch gears between Sal and E. Sal writes graphic horror, which is a big departure from paranormal romance. It’s only recently that I am writing as both Sal and E. I haven’t written a Sal Conte book in a long time, so it took a while for it to feel right. I threw out the first two drafts of The Toothache Man. That’s something I never do. One thing that helped when I wrote it was to write it in first person. YA is a first person genre, so that gave me some comfort. But it took a few days to find the right balance of sarcasm and gross out horror. LOL. Wow! That sounded ridiculous. Anyway, I think my horror fans will enjoy the story. I plan to bring it out as an e-book around Halloween along with my old Dorchester titles from the 80s, Childs Play and The Power. If you or any of your fans would like to know when they’re coming, please go to my website and sign up for my newsletter. http://evanlowe.com/. As for your second question, once I get my footing the writing isn’t affected at all.

9. Talking about different characters again (and the love/hate relationship we might have with them) If you had to kill off a character that you loved, what would you do? Would this be very challenging for you?

When I was a young man, I read The Lord of The Rings. When Gandalf  died I got this hollow feeling inside. I thought Frodo can never make it now. Of course, we all know what happened with Gandalf and Frodo, but I always look back on that feeling. When a favorite character unexpectedly dies, it tells the reader this is serious. It leaves you not knowing what to expect… which is why I look for opportunities to kill off beloved characters. In the sequel to Boyfriend From Hell, I kill off a beloved character. I  can’t tell you who or how I did it, and I definitely had second thoughts about it. I still wonder about my decision. So, yes, it was challenging. You will have to read both books to find out who.

Sounds scary. And it sure did have an emotional impact when Gandalf died. I am scared to think of who may be the one to die in your next novel.

10. Do you have a writer that you look up or that inspires you? Who was one of your favorite childhood authors or what books do you remember reading when you were younger?

The list of writers I look up to is too long to list. In general: JD Salinger. Horror: Stephen King, and YA: Meg Cabot. These are people I definitely try to emulate in my writing. I read a lot of boy stuff when I was a kid, Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond series and Sax Rohmer who wrote the Dr. Fu Manchu series. What can I say, I was really into the macho boy adventure stuff back then.

11. Related to this, imagine you were stuck in a novel of a writer we both love… (Drum roll, please): Stephen King! Would there be any escape or would you need Sal Conte to help you with this? Any idea what novel it would be and what characters you might come across? (Or what characters you definitely DO NOT want to come across?)

I’m smiling as I answer this one. Definitely no escape for E. I’m a lover not a fighter. I’d definitely need a hard-ass like Sal to help me out. I’d probably encounter The Walkin’ Dude from The Stand or Pennywise from It. And even with Sal along I’d still probably lose. LOL.

That does send some shivers down my spine thinking of The Walkin’ Dude. He has appeared in quite a lot of Stephen King’s novels and I would not want to run into him either!

12. What is some advice that you would like to give to aspiring writers? Anything that writers must do to be successful?

Do not give up on your dream. There will be lots of people coming at you with good and valid reasons to give up. Don’t listen to them—even if they’re your parents. My father thought writing was a lousy profession. I know he was doing what he thought was best. Now that I’ve made a very good living at it, he’s changed his mind. But regardless of money, everyone should follow their dreams. You do not want to wake up one day wishing you had. Give your writing career a fair and honest shot.

13. I know you have been working on editing your next novel. How is that going and what can you tell us about the editing process?

What can I say? I hate the process. It is necessary and it definitely improves the book, but I hate it. It is hard going through a book two, three, four, five times after you’ve written it and turned it in. I don’t know a writer who enjoys it. You hate the book by the time it’s done. I am happy to say I turned in what I hope is the last edit for Earth Angel, the second book in the Falling Angels Saga, and sequel to Boyfriend From Hell. The book was scheduled to come out in March, but due to the response of Boyfriend From Hell, my publisher pushed it up to December. You heard it here first.

Very exciting stuff! Thank you for sharing that 🙂 I can’t wait to read it!

14. Bonus Question for the writers out there: Give us a writing prompt to get those creative minds flowing!

Write emotion. It’s all we really care about. Allow emotions to lead and plot to follow. Think of all the movies you love and books you love, and think about what you love about them. It’s rarely the plot. We love Bella and Edward—emotion. I know Harry Potter is filled with all sorts of wonderful images, but it’s Harry’s emotional state, his emotional conundrums, that hook us in. Check out how these amazing authors keep emotions alive, then go back and look at your manuscripts. Want to be an awesome writer? Write emotion.

That is some great advice! It is very important to have that emotional connection with the characters.

That looks like all the questions I have for now! Who would have thought? LOL 😉 Whew! You made it! Thank you so much for your time! Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Yes. I’d like to add there’s precious little time to take advantage of the Boyfriend From Hell pre-pub sale. Boyfriend From Hell Kindle or Nook is now available for just $2.99. On September 1st (the publication date) the book will go up to its regular price.

(To purchase the Boyfriend from Hell e-book on sale, click on the picture below- that will take you right to Amazon.)

E’s Blog

Thank you again for the interview, it was really great to learn more about you. I am looking forward to reading Earth Angel and I will definitely review that as soon as it comes out! Everyone, thank you for joining us and please stay tuned (please follow or sign up for email updates on the right side of the page)  for more info and news on E’s books! Happy Reading!

Interview with E. Van Lowe: Author of Boyfriend from Hell

Interview: Part 1

E. Van Lowe is the author of Never Slow Dance with a Zombie and Boyfriend From Hell, which this interview will be focusing on. 

From my review: Boyfriend from Hell defies the traditions of the paranormal romance realm and delves into the deep end. With shocking twists at every turn, the main character, Megan feels like she doesn’t know who is who anymore or what is going on, as her life totally changes once her mom starts dating. Megan digs up some rather serious dirt on her mom’s boyfriend, but no one believes her. After all, who would believe a teenage girl saying that her mom’s new love interest is from hell? Click here to read my review of this unique and thrilling paranormal romance/comedy or look for it on the right hand side of the page.  Be sure to check back for Part 2- sign up for updates to the right!

 Interview

Thank you so much for joining me! Excited to talk with you today!

 1. What made you decide to make the main character, Megan, struggle so much in her relationships with her two best friends?

 One thing I experienced in high school is how fleeting friendships can be.  At times it was painful for me.  It’s still the case in high school today.   Very few of us grownups are best friends with our high school friends.  When I write, even though I try to interject some humor, I like to start out with real characters in relatable situations.  For Megan, it was her struggles with her friendships, and her mother wanting to date.

 Where did the idea come from?

 I was on YouTube one evening, clicking around and entertaining myself, when I clicked on the video for Lucy, Daughter of The Devil.   That was my aha moment.  I thought Satan would be a perfect paranormal subject.  A short time later I came up with the title, Boyfriend From Hell, and then the pieces started falling into place.

2. Related to this, do you identify with these characters? Did you enjoy writing one of the characters from the novel more than the others? Which one out of the two best friends do you identify with more?

 Wow, that’s a bunch of questions rolled into one.  In order: I identify with all the characters.  The love that Matt was holding onto for so long is something I personally experienced.  My favorite character in the novel is Megan, because her concern over her world changing made her a horrible person.  My favorite thing in the book was watching her grow.  By the end of the book Megan is a very likable character.  As for which of the best friends I identified with more, I’d again have to say Matt.  I was a jock who also hung with smart kids, and I had that love thing going on.

 3. There seems to be a theme of not being able to trust different people and Megan’s relationships with everyone is constantly changing. How much will this factor into the sequel?

 Trust is always a big issue with young people.  In the sequel, Megan winds up not trusting her new boyfriend, Guy.  This lack of trust leads to catastrophic consequences.

 4. I know you don’t want to give too much away, but what can you tell us about the character of the Guardian and his role in the continuing saga?

 I think I just did.  LOL.  There are also several new characters who I think you’ll love or hate.

 5. Let’s touch on your writing process. Do you have a certain “method” to your writing (or is it all madness)? How about a mindset that you have to get into or a favorite writing place and/or time?

 There you go with another three part question.   LOL. I have no writing method.  It is all madness.  I liken my writing style to walking around in a darkened room all day constantly bumping into things.  I have no idea what’s in the room, or where I’m going.  Every once in a while the light comes on just long enough for me to straighten a few things out.  It’s a maddening process but I love it.  I don’t like writing in one place all the time.  Right now I’m in my office.  My favorite place to write is the dining room.  It’s right next to my favorite distraction—the fridge 😉

 6. There are many shocking twists in the story. Do you plan these as you write or are you ever surprised with how things turn out?

 One of the things I loved about reading when I was a kid is being shocked or surprised.  It was a great treat for me when something I read surprised me.  I want to instill that same feeling in my readers, so I always plan to have big surprises in my books even though I have no idea what they will be when I start out.  The kitchen scene with the grisgris in Boyfriend From Hell is my favorite scene in the book.  You’ve read it so you know what a big, unsuspecting surprise that scene is.  I’d been making notes on it for weeks before I got the chance to write it.  So many reviewers (you included) have talked about the big surprises in the book.  I know you guys are referring to that scene in your reviews.  That puts a big ole smile on my face.

 7. You have experience with writing in many different forms, from television scripts and stage plays to novels that both teens and adults enjoy. Does this help you in your writing today or do you need to “switch” your mindset between the types of writing?

 I like writing in all forms.  They’re different, and yet in an important, way they’re all the same.  It’s never easy, but no matter which genre I write I try to let the story be driven by character emotions—never the plot.  The plot should follow along.  I don’t need to switch my mind set when I’m writing different forms, since I am always trying to accomplish the same goal.  It’s accomplished differently in each medium: in theater its words alone, in TV its words and actions, in film it always visual first and the words support the visual, in the novel it’s all of the above including introspection.  The novel is the hardest to write, takes the most time, but it’s also the most fun and rewarding.  I hope that made sense.  LOL.  It does to me.

Thank you very much for the interview! It was great to hear your answers. And yes, I admit, I do like asking lots of  questions (and trying to disguise that fact with multiple questions rolled into one, you gave it away my secret!) LOL 😉

This is Part 1 of the Interview- be sure to stay tuned for the upcoming Part 2 to hear even more about the author’s books and where he gets his inspiration from as well as bonus writing tips for all the writers out there!

My review on Boyfriend from Hell.

To learn more about E. Van Lowe, visit the author’s blog here.

To purchase E. Van Lowe’s books on Amazon, click on the pictures below. The E-book sale for Boyfriend from Hell is from now until August 31st!

Love/Hate Relationship with my Guardian Angel

When having a guardian angel might be dangerous…

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

(Series Order: Hush Hush, Crescendo, Silence)

I did not know if this book would live up to the hype, so I delayed getting it, already having quite the list of books to read. However, once I gave it a taste, I could not put it down. (The only good thing about not reading it right away is that now I don’t have to wait too long for the newest installment!)

The characters are not only out of this world, they are also believable and you truly fall in love with them and with their story. It is a magical world, yet also very realistic and you can definitely relate to the main character, Nora, who soon sees that she may have the very worst (or best) of both worlds.  You can definitely believe in Nora’s world and you can even see yourself there as Nora is easy to relate to and understand and this world welcomes you in grabs you in with both hands (and wings) and doesn’t let you go.

I love the tension of the characters and not knowing the back story of the mysterious characters in Nora’s life, although maddening, it adds to the mystery and magnetism of the story. Nora doesn’t know who loves her or hates her, who wants to protect her or who to avoid if she doesn’t want to die. This is wonderfully and artfully done, so much so that the tension and contrast of the ever changing mood and relationship between the characters is delicious (ravishingly so!). To put it simply: You will fall in love.

You develop strong feeling for the characters and so you fear even more for them when it seems things could go wrong. You hope against hope that it doesn’t go the one way you feared it would because you felt what Nora felt and cannot believe the worst about anybody, especially the ultimate paradox of a character that is Patch. Enough said. (You have to discover this character for yourself!)

Guardian Angels or Dark Angels? Angels of Death?

It is very interesting to see a whole different side of what is termed an “angel”. Guardian angels are not the half of it and this is what makes it so much more thrilling. I don’t want to give away the major points, but angels have no sense of touch and they don’t feel physical pain, which adds an important element to the story.

Unlike the angels, Nora feels a lot of pain throughout the novel, to put it mildly, both physical and emotional. But she is a fighter all the way! She is dead set on finding out the truth. She does not trust anyone and stands her ground, even when doing so puts her life at risk. So much so that even the guardian angels may not be able to save her.

Archangels, Roller-coasters, and…Guardian Angels that kill?

Does the one she loves the most truly have her best at heart? Or is something else going on? Is it all pretend? And will Nora’s desire to find out the truth do more harm than good?

Throughout the novel, I found myself on a gripping and breathless emotional roller-coaster ride, which is similar to the Archangel Roller-coaster that Nora goes on.

On this ride, she experiences something that makes her doubt everything and fears for her life even more. But even in the midst of the white hot tension, there are feel good parts that make you cling even tighter to the bars of the roller-coaster, hoping that your fears don’t come true.

Although the novel is character driven, the plot also carries it along, punch for punch, even threatening to overtake the characters at some points. Very interesting twists and surprises and you never know who is hiding what or what new twist will be thrown at you in the darkness of the tunnel when you are on the roller-coaster. Then you are dropped suddenly and your stomach lurches and everything is upside down. The maximum feeling of this to the nth degree is what this book makes you feel.

Hush, Hush is reminiscent of the wildest roller-coaster ride of your life. It’s the one called the Archangel. Where even the angels can kill you.

There is no question that you will ache to get the next book right away, Crescendo . Check out my review on that here. Then the third book in this absolutely amazing saga is Silence, stay tuned for reviews on this! Please click on the Amazon affiliate picture link below if you do buy the book-perfect time to get it so that you are ready for the finale!

(Note: The picture of the book above takes you right to Amazon) Thank you for reading! Please comment below about your thoughts on this version of guardian angels and if you would want a guardian angel, knowing there might be… erm, risks.

Interview with Terri Giuliano Long, Author of In Leah’s Wake

Announcing the In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour—WooHoo!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the In Leah’s Wake Kindle edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including a Kindle, 5 autographed copies of the book, and multiple Amazon gift cards (1 for $100, 3 for $25, 5 for $10, and 10 for $5 – 19 in all)! Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, August 26th, so you don’t miss out.

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of In Leah’s Wake for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the form on the author’s site to enter for prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book!

And I can win $100 too if you vote for my blog over on the author’s website. The blog host that gets the most votes in this traffic-breaker polls wins, so please cast yours right after purchasing In Leah’s Wake and entering the contests!

The featured events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Tuesday, Twitter chat with the author! Tweet with us between 4 and 5 PM Eastern Time, using the hashtag #emlyn. We’ll be talking with the author about her favorite books and best writing advice. Bring your questions about In Leah’s Wake and don’t forget to use #emlyn or to follow Terri @tglong. By joining in the tweet chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Wednesday, Google+ video chat with the author! Join our hangout between 12 and 3 PM Eastern Time to talk with the author and us via video chat. We’ll be gabbing about great books including In Leah’s Wake and about writing. Did you know that Terri is a creative writing instructor at Boston College? She’s got tons of good advice for aspiring writers. By joining in the Google+ video chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Thursday, Facebook interview with the author! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and ask Terri questions. She’s chosen three of her favorite topics to talk about: writing, parenting, and gourmet cooking. Of course, you’re welcome to ask about In Leah’s Wake too. Leave a comment or question as part of the thread, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget tolike Terri’s Facebook page or to visit her blog to enter for the other prizes!

Friday, Fun & games based on the book! We want to close this whirlwind social media tour with a gigantic bang, which is why we’ve set-up two interactive book-themed features on the author’s blog. You can take the official Facebook quiz to find out which In Leah’s Wake character is most like you and learn how that character ties into the story. Then try out our crossroads story game. Throughout the course of the narrative, you’ll have several decisions to make. What you choose will affect the outcome of the story. Play as either rebellious teenager Leah or the trampled peacemaker and mother Zoe. Leave a comment or question on any of Terri’s blog entries, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to check out the other give-away contests while you’re on Terri’s blog!

About In Leah’s Wake: The Tyler family had the perfect life – until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn’t want to be perfect anymore. While Zoe and Will fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah’s younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake. Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn’t enough? Jodi Picoult fans will love this beautifully written and absorbing novel.

An interview with Terri Giuliano Long, author of In Leah’s Wake

*Questions courtesy of BookBundlz

Terri’s book was voted the 2011 book club pick of the year by the BookBundlz staff and community!

Author Terri LongAbout Terri:

1. If you could have coffee with any 3 authors, living or dead, who would they be?

This is a tough question. Let’s see: Joan Didion – I love her work. The Year of Magical Thinking is a powerful book. I’d like to have coffee with her because she’s a brilliant, courageous woman, a true pioneer, and she’s led a varied and interesting life. I’d love to hear her stories.

Cormac McCarthy – although I’m not a fan of his early work – too macho for my taste – he hooked me with No Country For Old Men. I enjoyed the novel so much that I taught it in one of my classes. The Road is the most moving novel I’ve ever read. The man says to his son: “You have my whole heart. You always did.” That line has stayed with me – as have so many stark, tender moments. I’m in awe. I think I’d be too dumbstruck to talk. I’d probably just sit there.

Alice Hoffman – I love her work and I admire her ability to write a bestselling novel, year after year. It took me several years to finish In Leah’s Wake. To produce a book a year requires tremendous determination and discipline. You’ve got to be willing to sit down and write, whether you feel like it or not. That discipline helped her overcome breast cancer, after which she established the Hoffman Breast Center at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. She’s also written screenplays and children’s books. And friends who know her say she’s a lovely, giving person.

2. If you could only take one book, food item and drink with you to a deserted island what would they be?

Oh, goodness, another tough question! If I had to choose one book, I’d take the Bible. The stories are fascinating, with so many layers of meaning, and the imager and language are captivating. You can read the stories over and over and never grow tired. For nourishment, champagne and dark chocolate – I’d be tipsy and fat, but I would be smiling.

3. What are your secret indulgences?

Travelling and trying new foods – my husband, Dave, and I have had the great fortunate of visiting many beautiful, interesting places. I love ethnic foods and I’m fairly gutsy when it comes to trying new dishes. In Beijing, a few years ago, we went to a tiny restaurant with two students we met. The restaurant was a local spot, as opposed to a tourist trap, the menu written in Chinese, so they ordered for us. When the steaming bowl arrived, I dipped my chopsticks into the stew – and pulled out a frog. The head was gone, thank goodness, but the body was fully intact. I realize that a lot of people eat frog; this was actually green. I thought Dave would gag when I ate it. To his credit, he didn’t.

4. What about you would surprise your readers?

When they meet me, people almost always assume I’m in my thirties, so they’re surprised to learn that I have adult children and grandkids. I was 18 when I married Dave and he’s the love of my life. Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we still enjoy each other’s company, we have fun, and we love being together. This surprises people.

5. What is your perfect day as an author?

Being in a quiet place, with beautiful scenery, and no phone or Internet. A few years ago, we spent a heavenly winter in Stowe, Vermont. I would sit at my desk, looking out at the mountains. Dave would be working in the other room, so I wasn’t alone; we’d work all day, then have dinner together, maybe a glass of wine by the fire. Now I’m actively involved with social media, which I really enjoy, but I long for a quiet day with no interruptions, no distraction.

6. If you could be any fictional character who would it be?

Sara Paretsky’s PI, V.I. Warshawski – I have a special place in my heart for police officers. They risk their lives for us, every day, and they’re the connectors, the glue that holds communities together. I’ve always admired Gail Mullen Beaudoin, a police officer in Chelmsford, MA. Gail brings strength, dignity and grace to a very difficult job. In a fictional character, V.I. is the closet I can come to Gail – two very strong, caring, centered women. Theirs are very big, wonderfully feminine shoes to fill.

7. What are the book(s) you are reading now?

The Trust, an engaging, fast-paced legal thriller by Sean Keefer, and A Walk in the Snark, a wise, sexy, very funny nonfiction read by Rachel Thompson, and Take One Candle Light a Room, an insightful, gorgeously textured literary novel by National Book Award finalist Susan Straight.

8. What was your favorite book as a teenager, and why?

Please don’t laugh – The Exorcist. By today’s standards it’s tame; then The Exorcist was a shocking literary sensation. I was a bit of a rebel when I was younger. I didn’t use drugs or take the risks Leah takes in my novel, but I hated being told what to do. Although I’ve always loved reading, I never got the full enjoyment from the classics we were forced to read in school. That The Exorcist was forbidden gave it a wonderfully sweet edge. I also loved Exodus, a glorious book by Leon Uris, about the birth of the nation of Israel. It was, to my mind, the first truly important book I ever read.

9. (Aside from your own) What book(s) have you read that you think are perfect for book clubs?

Elizabeth Strout’s heartbreaking novel Abide With Me would make a terrific book club selection. Her Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, is one of my favorite books. Abide With Me, a moving story about a young minister struggling to raise two small children after the premature death of his wife, is so real and relatable on so many levels, and it raises thought-provoking questions about family and life.

About In Leah’s Wake:

10. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

Years ago, I wrote a series of feature articles about families with drug and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children, their heartbreaking struggles. Those stories stayed with me.

My husband and I have four daughters. Most families struggle during their children’s teenage years. We’re no different – though, thank goodness, we experienced nothing remotely akin to the problems and challenges the Tylers face in the book. As a parent, I knew how it felt to be scared, concerned for your children’s welfare and future. These were the primary forces driving me to write this story.

My work with families, my personal experiences and core beliefs – all these things played on my conscious and subconscious mind, and ultimately emerged as this book.

11. They say every book written is the author telling a personal philosophy. What personal philosophy are you trying to get across?

The epigraph, from The Grand Inquisitor, says it best: “everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything.” Hillary Clinton famously said that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe we must all do our part, be supportive members of the village. The Tyler family is far from perfect, but they love one another. Our flaws make us human and that humanity connects us. I very much hope that readers feel this sense of connection—and hope.

12. Writers are often surprised by something that happens in their book. Perhaps a character says or does something you did not think they would, or something you thought would only be a couple of paragraphs turns into 10 pages. What surprised you about your book?

The challenges Leah faces in the aftermath of her sexual awakening. In the first draft, she lost her virginity; in the context of her rebellion, that felt right. In later drafts, darker incidents emerged. As a mom, I found these scenes hard to write, but they felt very true to Leah’s character and experience.

About Terri’s Writing Process:

13. What is your writing process like?

With the first draft of In Leah’s Wake, I had no idea where I was going – in writing programs, this sort of organic writing is usually encouraged. In the revision process, I looked for and developed themes. In Leah’s Wake is character driven, so outlining would have produced a different book. I think it’s helpful to know who we are, as writers, and what our goals are. For literary fiction, the goal is to develop and understand character. I hope I’ve done this adequately.
My novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, is a psychological thriller, so I’m approaching that differently. I’ve mapped a partial outline – plot points to use as markers – and writing the sections organically. While I recognize the benefits of outlining or plotting, sticking firmly to either feels limiting. Giving myself this freedom allows for possibilities. Of course, it also makes for a messier process.

14. What gets you in the mood to write?

When I first sit at my desk, especially if I’ve been away for a few days, I often feel blocked, the nasty editors on my shoulders heckling: A writer? Are you crazy? Nine times out of ten, I dig in; the writing may be choppy at first, but eventually I regain fluidity. If the demons are too loud to ignore, I read. Reading, like meditation or yoga, settles my mind, calms me. Soon I find my mind wandering to my story, and I can’t wait to start writing.

15. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself. I know wonderful writers whose first, second or third books, really good, strong books, were rejected. To deal with the rejection, boot your computer, day after day, when it seems as if no one cares, the stars misaligned – or to indie publish in a world that still privileges the traditionally published – you have to believe in yourself.
Writing is a lonely profession. Most of the time, we’re alone with our work. The loneliness can wear on you, and cause you to question yourself. A few supportive writer friends, supporting and encouraging you, can make all the difference.
Hold onto your dreams. You can make them happen. Don’t ever give up!

Boyfriend from Hell: When it all seems too perfect (Or fiery teenage rebellion from the not-so-good girl)

Review: Boyfriend from Hell by E. Van Lowe

This book defies the traditions of the paranormal romance realm and delves into the deep end. With shocking twists at every turn, the main character, Megan feels like she doesn’t know who is who anymore or what is going on, as her life totally changes once her mom starts dating. The man seems perfect, almost too good to be true, (in her mom’s eyes, at least) until she digs up some serious dirt on him. Not your average dirt either. But no one believes her, because it sounds too crazy. Who would believe a teenage girl saying that her mom’s new love interest is from hell?

What she doesn’t know will hurt her

So many changes are going on in Megan’s life that she responds at first in the usual teenage way. She breaks her tradition of being the good girl who is known for following the rules and starts to do what she wants. Rules be damned! Things get more serious when she is in danger and has to break some rules, this time for a reason- she has to protect her mother and cannot tell her what is really going on.

The relationships are what drive the book forward with an ever increasing momentum. Just as she doesn’t know who she truly is at times,  she now doesn’t feel she really knows everyone around her, let alone if she can trust them any longer.

As far as love interests go, as the title does say boyfriend– Megan does have a new love interest. And when her two best friends start dating, this throws a whole new dynamic to her friendships. Along with her mom’s new boyfriend situation, Megan does not know who she can really trust or love, let along if they are really there to protect her or hurt her. This definitely adds layers of tension and mystery to the already fast paced story. The complexity of the relationships alone is a great reason to check out the book to see how her relationships fare and how this affects the story, as well as her very chances of survival.

The ending pulls you so completely in that you need to know what happens next. Just enough is revealed so that it leaves you craving more to see what happens next between the characters that you come to love (or hate/fear, depending on who we are talking about). It’s all about the dynamics and this book nails them down.

Megan has to fight to protect her best friends, loved ones and her mom, who she loves more than anything. But who will fight for her? And what if the ones she fights for turn their backs on her?

For information on the author, visit here.

Now is also the perfect time to get your e-copy. The E-book sale is from now until August 31st, check it out here!

Boyfriend From Hell is the first book of the saga, which is great, as it definitely leaves you looking forward to the next one, Earth Angel!

 

In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour

Announcing the In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour—WooHoo!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the In Leah’s Wake Kindle edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including a Kindle, 5 autographed copies of the book, and multiple Amazon gift cards (1 for $100, 3 for $25, 5 for $10, and 10 for $5 – 19 in all)! Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, August 26th, so you don’t miss out.

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of In Leah’s Wake for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the form on the author’s site to enter for prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book!

And I can win $100 too if you vote for my blog over on the author’s website. The blog host that gets the most votes in this traffic-breaker polls wins, so please cast yours right after purchasing In Leah’s Wake and entering the contests!

The featured events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Tuesday, Twitter chat with the author! Tweet with us between 4 and 5 PM Eastern Time, using the hashtag #emlyn. We’ll be talking with the author about her favorite books and best writing advice. Bring your questions about In Leah’s Wake and don’t forget to use #emlyn or to follow Terri @tglong. By joining in the tweet chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Wednesday, Google+ video chat with the author! Join our hangout between 12 and 3 PM Eastern Time to talk with the author and us via video chat. We’ll be gabbing about great books including In Leah’s Wake and about writing. Did you know that Terri is a creative writing instructor at Boston College? She’s got tons of good advice for aspiring writers. By joining in the Google+ video chat at the designated time, you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to visit the author’s blog to enter for the other prizes!

Thursday, Facebook interview with the author! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and ask Terri questions. She’s chosen three of her favorite topics to talk about: writing, parenting, and gourmet cooking. Of course, you’re welcome to ask about In Leah’s Wake too. Leave a comment or question as part of the thread, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget tolike Terri’s Facebook page or to visit her blog to enter for the other prizes!

Friday, Fun & games based on the book! We want to close this whirlwind social media tour with a gigantic bang, which is why we’ve set-up two interactive book-themed features on the author’s blog. You can take the official Facebook quiz to find out which In Leah’s Wake character is most like you and learn how that character ties into the story. Then try out our crossroads story game. Throughout the course of the narrative, you’ll have several decisions to make. What you choose will affect the outcome of the story. Play as either rebellious teenager Leah or the trampled peacemaker and mother Zoe. Leave a comment or question on any of Terri’s blog entries, and you may win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to check out the other give-away contests while you’re on Terri’s blog!

About In Leah’s Wake: The Tyler family had the perfect life – until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn’t want to be perfect anymore. While Zoe and Will fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah’s younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake. Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn’t enough? Jodi Picoult fans will love this beautifully written and absorbing novel.


An excerpt from In Leah’s Wake

The prologue and first chapter

. . . little heart of mine, believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything. I dont know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even. And how is it we went on living, getting angry and not knowing?

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Grand Inquisitor

Prologue

March

Justine strikes a pose before the full-length mirror hanging on her closet door. Chin up, hands by her sides. She draws a breath. “My dear. . .” she begins, and stops mid-sentence. Wrinkles her nose. She’s got it all wrong. She’s too—Too stiff. Too grownup. Toosomething.

She rakes her fingers over her short dark hair, sweeping the bangs out of her eyes, tugs at the hem of her pink baby-doll pajamas. She’s scheduled to deliver the candidates’ address at her Confirmation Mass this afternoon. When she learned, six months ago, that she had been selected speaker, Justine was ecstatic. Now, the very idea of standing in front of the whole congregation, telling hundreds, maybe thousands, of people how she’s learned from her own family what it means to be part of God’s larger family makes her sick to her stomach.

She has no choice. She made a commitment.

She folds her hands primly, setting them at chest height on her imaginary podium, glances at her cheat sheet, rolls her lower face into a smile, and begins again. “My fellow Confirmation candidates,” she says this time. Justine crumples the paper, tosses it onto her bed. My fellow Confirmation candidates. What a dork. She sounds about twenty, instead of thirteen.

She screws up her face. “I can’t do this,” she says, wagging a finger at the girl watching her from the mirror. She would feel like a hypocrite.

Justine plods to the bathroom, pees, pads back to her bedroom. The forecasters are predicting snow, starting later today. A dismal gray stratus hangs over her skylight. Her room is dark, the air raw. Her sister’s blue and gold Cortland High sweatshirt lies in a heap at the foot of her bed. Justine pulls the sweatshirt over her head, retrieves the balled-up paper. With the back of her hand, she flattens it out, and returns to the mirror to practice.

As always, on first glance, the girl in the mirror takes Justine by surprise. She’s grown two inches since Christmas, isn’t chubby anymore, her belly flat, the clavicle bones visible now at the base of her throat. She pushes her bangs out of her pale, darkly fringed eyes. With her fingertips, she touches her cheeks. Her features have matured, her nose long and straight, like her mother’s, her cheekbones defined. She curls and uncurls her toes. She wears a size six shoe, a size and a half smaller than Leah. Her toes are long and slim, the nails painted blue.

Justine crushes the sheet of paper, tosses it in the trash, strolls to her window, raises the honeycomb shade. Spring feels a long way away, the yard empty, the trees bare. A rush of cold air streams in, under the sash. The air smells of snow. Justine presses her hand against the cool glass, the way she and her sister used to do on the windshield of their father’s car, when they were small. Stop, their father would scold. Youre making a mess. She smiles, remembering how Leah loved egging him on. She pulls her hand away from the glass, watches her prints disappear.

Justine wishes, sometimes, that she could disappear, too. Poof, just like the handprint.

Poof, just like her sister.

Chapter One: Just Do It

September

Zoe and Will Tyler sat at the dining room table, playing poker. The table, a nineteenth-century, hand-carved mahogany, faced the bay window overlooking their sprawling front yard. Husband and wife sat facing one another, a bowl of Tostitos and a half-empty bottle of port positioned between them. Their favorite Van Morrison disc—Tupelo Honey—spun on the player in the family room, the music drifting out of speakers built into the dining room walls.

Dog, their old yellow Lab, lay on a ratty pink baby blanket, under the window.

Zoe plucked the Queen of Hearts from the outside of her hand, and tucked it center. She was holding a straight. If she laid it down, she would win the hand, third in a row, and her husband would quit. If she didn’t, she would be cheating herself.

The moon was full tonight, its light casting a ghostly shadow across the yard. The full moon made Zoe anxious. For one of her internships in grad school, she’d worked on the psych ward at City Hospital, in Boston. On nights when the moon was full, the floor erupted, the patients noisy, agitated. Zoe’s superiors had pooh-poohed the lunar effect, chalked it up to irrationality, superstition. But Zoe had witnessed the flaring tempers, seen the commotion with her own two eyes, and found the effect impossible to deny—and nearly all the nurses concurred.

“Full moon,” she said. “I hadn’t noticed. No wonder I had trouble sleeping last night.”

Will set his empty glass on the table. With his fingers, he drummed an impatient tattoo. “You planning to take your turn any time soon? Be nice if we ended this game before midnight.”

“For Pete’s sake, Will.” Her husband had the attention span of a titmouse. He reminded her of Mick, a six year-old ADD patient she counseled—sweet kid, when he wasn’t ransacking her office, tossing the sand out of the turtle-shaped box, tweaking her African violets.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, sulking.

She shook her head—nothing, Mick—and forced a straight face.

“You’re laughing at me.”

“Don’t be silly. Why would I be laughing at you?”

He peered at his reflection in the window. Smirking, he finger-combed his baby-fine hair, pale, graying at the temples, carving a mini-pyramid at his crown.

“Nice do. Could use a little more gel,” she said, feeling mean-spirited the instant the words slipped out of her mouth. The poor guy was exhausted. He’d spent the week in California, on business, had flown into Logan this morning, on the red-eye. Though he had yet to fill her in on the details, it was obvious to her that his trip had not gone well. “Sorry,” she said. “Just kidding.” She fanned out her cards, hesitated for an instant, and laid down the straight.

“Congratulations.” Scowling, he pushed away from the table. “You win again.”

“Way to go, grumpy. Quit.”

“I’m getting water,” he said, tamping his hair. “Want some?”

Dog lifted her head, her gaze following Will to the door, yawned, and settled back down.

Her husband stomped across the kitchen, his footfall moving in the direction of the family room. The music stopped abruptly, and the opening chords of a Robbie Robertson tune belted out of the speakers. Zoe loved Robbie Robertson, “Showdown at Big Sky” one of her favorite songs. That didn’t mean that the entire state of Massachusetts wanted to hear it.

“Will,” she said, gesturing from the kitchen. “Turn it down. You’ll wake Justine.”

She waited a few seconds, caught his eye, gestured again. The third time was the charm.

Exasperated, she returned to the dining room, bundled the cards, put them away in the sideboard, and gathered the dishes. The toilet flushed in the half-bath off the back hall. Seconds later, she heard her husband rattling around the kitchen, slamming the cabinet doors. Last spring, Will had won a major contract for his company, North American Construction. Since then, he’d been back and forth nonstop to the West Coast, spending two weeks a month in San Francisco, servicing the client. Zoe hadn’t minded his traveling, at first. Over the past two years, with the glut of office and manufacturing space in the northeast, construction starts had dropped, and his sales had taken a serious hit, his commissions steadily dwindling. To compensate, initially they’d relied on their savings. In January, they’d remortgaged the house. When the California job arose, Will had jumped on the opportunity. He had no choice, especially with Leah headed to college next year. But the situation, lately, was brutal. Will hated traveling, hated flying, hated living out of a suitcase. And he resented missing Leah’s soccer games. Last November, as a sophomore, their daughter had been named Player of the Year on theBoston Globe All-Scholastic team. A week later, in his year-end summary, the sports reporter from the Cortland Gazette had called Leah the “best soccer player in the state.” The head coaches from the top colleges in the area—Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston College, BU—had sent congratulatory letters, expressing their interest. Will wanted to be home to guide her, meet the prospective coaches, help her sort through her options. Zoe didn’t blame her husband a bit. But it didn’t seem to occur to Will that his traveling disrupted her life, too. Last year, she’d developed a motivational seminar, called “Success Skills for Women on the Move.” Now that the girls were practically grown, the workshops were her babies. The extra workload at home, added to the demands of her fulltime job at the counseling center, left her with no time for marketing or promotion, and the workshops had stagnated. Zoe understood her husband’s frustration. It irked her when he minimized hers.

Will appeared in the doorway, a few minutes later, empty-handed. Will was tall, a hair shy of six-one. He’d played football in college, and, at forty-five, still had the broad shoulders and narrow waist of an athlete. Amazing, really: after eighteen years of marriage, she still found him achingly sexy. Crow’s feet creased the corners of his intelligent blue eyes and fine lines etched his cheekbones, giving his boyish features a look of intensity and purpose, qualities Zoe had recognized from the start but that only now, as he was aging, showed on his face.

After work, he’d changed into a pair of stonewashed jeans and a gray sweatshirt, worn soft, the words “Harvard Soccer Camp” screened in maroon lettering across the chest. Absently, he pushed up his sleeves, and peered around the room as though looking for something. “Zoe—” Normally, he called her Honey or Zo.

“I put the cards away.” She thumbed the sideboard. “You quit, remember?”

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at the cuckoo clock on the far wall. “Ten past eleven. So?”

“Where’s Leah?”

At the football game, with Cissy. “They’ve been going every week. Did you forget?”

“She ought to be home by now.”

“She’s only ten minutes late.” Their daughter was a junior in high school. They’d agreed, before school started this year, to extend her weekend curfew to eleven. “She’ll be here soon.”

Will stalked to the window, grumbling. Dog rose, and pressed her nose to the glass.

Their driveway, half the length of a soccer field, sloped down from the cul-de-sac, arced around the lawn, and straightened, ending in a turnaround at the foot of their three-car garage. In summer, the oak and birch trees bordering the property obscured their view. Now that most of the leaves had fallen, the headlights were visible as vehicles entered the circle.

“She has a game in the morning.” Will stretched his neck . His upper back had been bothering him lately, residual pain from an old football injury he’d suffered in college.

Zoe came up behind him, pushing Dog’s blanket aside with her foot, and squeezed his shoulders. “You’re tight.”

He dropped his chin. “From sleeping on the plane. Got to get one of those donut pillows.”

“You know Leah. She has no sense of time. I’ll bet they stopped for something to eat.”

“I can’t see why Hillary won’t set a curfew. Every other coach has one.”

“Relax, Will. It’s not that late. You’re blowing this out of proportion. Don’t you think?”

A flash of headlights caught their attention. An SUV entered the cul-de-sac, rounded the circle, its lights sweeping over the drive and across their lawn, and headed down the street.

Bending, Will ruffled Dog’s ears. “Reardon’s coming tomorrow, specifically to watch her. She plays like crap when she’s tired.”

The Harvard coach. She should have known. “So she doesn’t go to Harvard,” she said, a tired remark, fully aware of the comeback her words would elicit, “she’ll go someplace else.”

“There is no place else.”

No place that would give her the opportunities, the connections… blah, blah, blah. They’d been over this a million times. If their daughter had the slightest aspiration of going to Harvard, Zoe would do everything in her power to support her. As far as she could tell, the name Harvard had never graced Leah’s wish-list. It was a moot point, anyway. For the last two terms, Leah’s grades had been dropping. If she did apply for admission, she would probably be denied.

“Reardon has pull,” he offered, a weak rebuttal in Zoe’s opinion. “He’s been talking to Hillary about her. She can’t afford to blow this opportunity.”

Opportunity? What opportunity? “Face it, Will. She doesn’t want to go to Harvard.”

“If she plays her cards right, she can probably get a boat.”

Zoe opened her mouth, ready to blast him. He’d received a full football scholarship from Penn State, and dropped out of college. Was that what he wanted? A college drop-out in a couple years? Noticing the purple rings under his eyes, she held back. “You’re exhausted.” His plane had barely touched ground at Logan Airport when he was ordered to NAC’s corporate office in Waltham, for a marketing meeting. He hadn’t had time to stop home to change his clothes, never mind take a short nap. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait up.”

The look he returned implied that she’d lost it. “You think I could sleep?”

“For all we know, they had a flat.”

“She would have called.”

“So call her.” Duh.

“I did. I got voice mail.”

Shoot. “You know Leah. Her battery probably died.” She was grasping at straws. Leah was sixteen years old. That phone was her lifeline. Still, it could be true. It was possible. Right?

Leah had totally lost track of time. She and Todd had been hanging out at the water tower for hours, perched on the hood of Todd’s Jeep, drinking Vodka and OJ, admiring the beautiful night. This place was perfect, the most perfect place in the universe, maybe. Big sky, lots of trees. From here, they could see the whole town, just about—the river, the railroad tracks. An orchard. In the valley, lights began to blink out. Leaning back on her elbows, she gazed up at the heavens. “Look,” she said, mesmerized by the inky black sky, the billions and billions of stars. “The Big Dipper.” As she stared into space, time fell away, the past merging seamlessly with the future, this moment, up here, with Todd, the only reality there ever was or ever could be.

Todd took her hand, drawing her close, so close she could smell the spicy deodorant under his armpits. Just being with Todd Corbett made her feel dizzy all over. Todd was, by far, the most beautiful boy she had ever laid eyes on. His hair was long on top, short on the sides. He had full lips, and the most fabulous blue eyes, like, like crystals or something. A Romanesque nose, the exact nose she’d once told Cissy she’d die for, only now that she’d seen it on Todd, she realized that that particular nose was meant for a boy. Best of all, he had this incredible aura, all purple and blue, like James Dean or Curt Cobain.

She curled her legs under her, laid her head on Todd’s chest.

They met at a party, the Friday before school started. Todd had been on tour for the past two years, working as a roadie for a heavy metal band called “Cobra.” Leah knew he was back—that was all anybody was talking about—had recognized him instantly, from all the descriptions.

She couldn’t believe her luck. Todd Corbett! And alone! She’d heard he was hot. He was even better looking in person. Looking back, she couldn’t believe she’d been so brazen. She left Cissy in the lurch, sashayed right over to him, took a seat beside him, on the living room floor.

The movie he was watching was stupid. People clopping across a field like zombies, their arms outstretched. They reminded her of herself and Justine when they were little, playing blind. Even the makeup looked phony.

“What are you watching?” she asked.

Night of the Living Dead. Flick’s a classic. Hey, haven’t I seen you someplace before?”

Maybe, though she couldn’t imagine where. Todd couldn’t possibly have remembered her from high school. She was only a freshman when he dropped out.

“Leah Tyler, right? You’re that soccer chick.”

The wind swished through the trees. Leah shivered and Todd shrugged out of his worn leather bomber, draped his jacket over her shoulders. He reached into the pocket of his jeans, retrieved a small plastic bag half-full of weed, began rolling a joint. He licked the edge of the paper, lit the joint, inhaling deeply, and handed it to her, the smell rich and exotic and sweet.

Leah had never smoked marijuana until she met Todd. She used to be scared, which was dumb: weed was totally harmless. (The first few times she smoked, she had to admit, she’d been disappointed.) She pulled, her chest searing, struggled to hold the ice-hot smoke in her lungs.

Suddenly, she was coughing, waving her arms.

“You OK, babe?” Todd rescued the joint. With the other hand, he patted her back.

Once she was breathing easily again, he laughed, a sweet laugh that left her feeling dignified, rather than cheesy or stupid. He pinched the joint between his index finger and thumb, took a hit to demonstrate, and brought it to her lips, holding it for her. “That’s it, babe. Good.”

They smoked the joint to its stub, and he showed her how to fashion a roach clip from twigs. Afterward, he offered to drive her home. “Don’t want you getting in trouble or nothing.”

“That’s OK,” Leah said dreamily. “I don’t have to go yet.”

Todd hopped off the hood of the Jeep, pulled a flannel blanket from the back of the truck, and spread the blanket on the grass, under a giant oak tree. Leah watched him smooth it out, his hands dancing, the whole world intensely colored, brilliantly alive. She heard the lonely trill of a cricket, calling from deep in the valley, smelled the damp autumn earth, felt the cool blue breeze on her face. Todd was gliding toward her now, floating on air. He scooped her into his arms, lifting her from the hood of his Jeep, and laid her on the blanket. And kissed her.

At eleven thirty, Zoe dialed Leah’s cell phone again. When Leah didn’t pick up, she tried Cissy, both times reaching voice mail. “I don’t believe those two,” Zoe said, infuriated. “I’ll bet they changed their ringers. The little devils probably know it’s us.”

“That’s your daughter for you,” Will huffed.

“She’s my daughter now?”

By eleven forty-five, Zoe was chewing her cuticles. And Will was pacing.

“This is it,” Will announced. “I’m calling the cops.”

“You can’t be serious. What do you plan to tell them?”

He opened his cell phone. “I can’t sit here, doing nothing.” He glared at the screen.

“You can’t call the cops. She’s forty-five minutes late. They’ll think we’re crazy.”

He clicked his cell shut, dug his keys out of his pocket. “Fine. I’ll find her myself.”

Find her? Where on earth did he plan to look?

“I’ll start at the high school.”

“The game was over hours ago.”

“I’ll drive by the Hanson’s.” He headed for the garage, Dog at his heels.

“And do what?” Cissy’s mom, a nurse, worked the early shift at St. John’s. Judi was probably in bed by now. He would frighten her if he knocked on the door. “Will? Answer me.”

He swiveled to face her. “Look for the car,” he snapped, and ushered Dog out the door.

Zoe stood in the mudroom, at a loss, staring blankly at the door her husband had closed. The house, she realized when she came to, was an icebox. She rooted through the hall closet, found a fleece jacket of Will’s, and pulled it on, kicked off her shoes, the ceramic tile cool under her bare feet, went to the bathroom, crossed the hall to the laundry, tossed a load of clean clothes into the dryer, and wandered back to the kitchen. She poured a glass of water, gathered the dishes they’d left on the dining room table, and emptied the uneaten chips into the compactor. She loaded the dishwasher. After she finished washing the counter, she flung the rag into the sink, and grabbed the cordless phone, so she would have a phone handy if Will or Leah tried to call.

A family portrait, commissioned last year, hung over the stone fireplace in the family room. For the photograph, the four of them had dressed in blue; their blue period, they’d joked when the photographer showed them the proofs. In the photo, Zoe is sitting on a stool, leaning toward the camera, Will standing behind her, flanked by the girls. Looking at the portrait, you’d never guess how hard it had been for the photographer to capture the shot, the kids squabbling, Will impatient, Zoe frustrated, both parents clenching their teeth. Restless, Zoe stepped down into the family room, sank into the oversized chair next to the fireplace, and curled her legs under her, clutching the phone.

Waiting, she tried to think positive thoughts. Leah’s responsible. She can handle herself. If the girls had been in a car accident, the police would have contacted them by now. As usual, her effort to avoid negative thoughts conjured them up. Something wasn’t right. Leah had been late a few times before, never like this. A half hour was one thing. Zoe often lost track of time herself. She would be at her office, transcribing her notes, look up, notice the clock, and realize she was supposed to have picked up one of the girls—at school, at the mall, at a friend’s—fifteen, twenty minutes before. She would rush around her office in a tizzy, collecting her folders and purse, cursing herself for being a neglectful mother, and drive like a madwoman to her destination. But an hour? She checked her watch. And fifteen minutes? This wasn’t like Leah.

She wondered if she had missed something. A signal. A hint. This morning, Leah, out of bed by seven, had moseyed into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes. Spotting the sauce pan on the front burner, she’d whined about having to eat oatmeal again. But she always whined when Zoe made oatmeal, which on certain days she found “revolting,” on others “disgusting” or “gross.” Zoe set the bowl in front of her. “Quit bellyaching,” she said. “Oatmeal is good for you.”

They were running late. So the girls wouldn’t have to rush to catch the bus, Zoe offered to drive them to school. Justine rode shotgun, while Leah dozed in the backseat. At two, Leah called Zoe at work to remind her that she and Cissy planned to go to the game. She was headed directly home after practice, Leah had said; she would fix dinner. At six thirty, when Zoe opened the back door, she smelled Leah’s spicy, cumin-laced chili. On the island counter, Zoe found place settings for her, for Will, for Justine, three glasses filled with ice water and lemon. Justine was upstairs in her room, doing her geometry homework. Leah had already left for the game.

Zoe closed her eyes, breathing deeply, attempting to center herself, and, counting backward from ten. . . eight, seven, six. . . summoned an image of her daughter. Leah’s face materialized, and her body slowly came into focus. Directing her energy outward, Zoe enclosed her daughter in a protective circle of light. Be safe, baby, she whispered. Be safe.

Will drove along country roads canopied by the boughs of towering oak trees, the winding streets bordered by stone walls erected in the late 1700’s, by the farmers who’d settled the town. In those days, the stone walls served as boundary markers, the average farm occupying fifty acres of land, most of it orchards. It was a hard life, Will thought, working eighteen hours a day, building walls, cultivating the land. He reached for Dog, on the passenger seat, ruffled her ears. “What do you say, Girl?” Dog cocked her head. “Was life harder then? Or harder today?”

The Hansons lived a mile outside the center, on a corner lot in a modest sub-division, built in the late-eighties, a neighborhood of center-entry colonials, garrisons, expanded Capes, set on cramped one-acre lots. Will slowed as they approached the Hanson’s newly remodeled Salt Box, he and Dog rubber-necking together. Onion lamps flanked the entrance and the garage doors; matching pole lights lined the drive. The house was dark, the driveway empty. Will turned left, onto the adjacent street, hoping to find a light on in the back of the house, in which case he would knock on the door. Nothing, not even a porch lamp. Frustrated, he rounded the block, passed by the front of the property again, in case he had somehow managed to miss Cissy’s car the first time, and headed for the high school, on the off-chance that the girls were still there.

The parking lot was dark when Will pulled in, the lights extinguished hours ago. He pulled down the sloping driveway behind the school, passing the rubberized track, where the soccer players practiced their sprints. He swung by the service entrance, then by the gym, doubled back, and circled the deserted lot, scanning the playing fields. At the ticket booth by football stadium, he parked, and just sat, thinking, Dog curled beside him on the passenger seat.

They’d had no idea, he and Zoe, how easy they’d had it when the girls were young. In their eyes, every little thing seemed like a crisis. They would glance at the window, catch three- year-old Leah zooming down the drive on her Big-Wheel, her legs outstretched, little hands reaching for the sky. In a panic, they would tear out of the house, always an instant too late, too far from their daughter to do anything except cross their fingers and watch. “Leah—” Will would holler, his stomach churning, “hold on.” And Zoe would cover her eyes, both parents envisioning the worst, the Big-Wheel rocketing off course, crashing into a tree. Later, the rope swing he’d hung by their deck replaced the Big-Wheel as the most obvious threat. They’d worried about random accidents, obsessed over tragedies they watched on News Center 5 or read about in the Globe: that the girls would fall into the hidden shaft of a well or drown in a neighbor’s backyard pool, that a stranger would kidnap one of their daughters when she was outside playing or taking a walk. It was tough being a parent, the welfare of their children utterly dependent on them, yet as long as they were vigilant, as long as they did their job, kept a trained eye on their daughters, their children would be safe. Now that she was older, they had no way of keeping tabs on their daughter. Once the car she was riding in rolled out of the drive, her fate was out of their hands. She could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone. They had no way to protect her.

“What do you say, girl?” he said finally. “Doesn’t look like she’s here, does it?”

In a last ditch effort, he took another run by the Hanson’s place.

Zoe had fallen asleep clutching the portable phone, her head resting on the wing of her chair. He brushed a curl out of her face, touched her shoulder gently, so he wouldn’t startle her.

His wife blinked up at him. “Did you find her?”

He shook his head, dejected.

Dog nuzzled Zoe’s leg. Yawning, she scratched the dog’s head. “What time is it?”

“Close to one.”

“My God.” She pulled herself to an upright position. “What do you think is going on?”

Hard to say at this point, he told her. “She didn’t call, did she?”

Zoe shook her head in alarm. “You don’t think anything’s happened, do you?”

“We’d have heard by now.”

“I’m worried, Will. This isn’t like her.”

Will rubbed his neck, squeezing the trapezius muscles, hoping to release some of the tension. “I don’t know where else to look. Figured it’d be stupid to keep driving in circles.”

His wife attempted to stifle a yawn.

“You look beat,” he said. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait up.”

“You’re as tired as I am.”

“Go. I can sleep in. You’ve got to get up in the morning.”

“Maybe I should,” she said, shifting position. “Have to be up at six. Had to—” She paused, her glazed eyes fixed on the palladium window at the far end of the room. “Sorry.” She blinked. “I had to shift my schedule around. Workshop Sunday. Wake me when she comes in? You won’t forget?”

“I won’t forget.”

Will helped his wife out of her chair, walked her to the front staircase, kissed her, and told her to sleep well. From the foot of the staircase, he watched her climb the stairs and wander down the hall to their bedroom. When she closed the door, he went to the kitchen, filled a glass with spring water, brought the glass to the living room, sat on his leather recliner by the window, adjusted the back, and put up his feet. Dog lay on the floor, next to his chair. In ten minutes, she was snoring. He plucked an old issue of Sports Illustrated out of the pleated leather pocket on the side of his chair, flipped through. Unable to focus, he tossed it on the floor.

On the windowsill, in front of an eight-by-ten studio portrait of the girls, taken when Justine was a toddler, sat a framed snapshot of Leah. He picked up the photo. They’d been in Cortland for about a year when he snapped the shot. Leah was not quite seven, the youngest child on the under-ten team. Her uniform was two sizes too big, her baggie blue T-shirt skimming the hem of her shorts. The team was in the midst of a game, Leah racing to the net, blond ponytail flying, the ball jouncing in front of her, her tiny face focused, intense.

His daughter was an exceptional player, fast, agile, fiercely competitive, the best player from Massachusetts ever, some coaches said. Since she was a child, Will had been grooming her, encouraging her, fostering her talent. Youth soccer, traveling teams. Scholarship to Harvard—that was their plan. They’d practiced, strategized, prepared. Through the rain, the snow, he’d been right there with her. All in service to the crimson uniform she would one day wear. That was her dream, wasn’t it? She hoped to play pro. But Harvard first. Time and again, they’d discussed the importance of a good education, the one thing in life that can never be taken away.

Will pushed her, he knew. He wanted the best for his kids. He would do whatever it took to help them succeed, prevent them from repeating the mistakes he’d made. In the spring of his junior year, he’d left Penn State, surrendering a full scholarship, trading his education for a long shot at a music career. In one hour, the time it took to inform his dean he was quitting, walk to the registrar’s office and sign a couple of forms, he’d managed to screw up his life. Look at him: forty-five-years-old, stuck in a dead-end job, kissing the asses of people who ought to be working for him. He refused to sit back, watch Leah throw her life away. Kids needed guidance, a motivational coach to push them, keep them focused, drive them when they didn’t feel like practicing, pump them up when they lost confidence, spur them on when they wanted to quit.

Will closed his eyes. God help him. Tell him he hadn’t pushed her away.