LOVE, LOOK AWAY: The non-sequel to Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!

 

Greetings, friends:

I never imagined that I would write a romantic comedy. But in 2009, I published one, Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, and believe it or not, I didn’t even think of it as a rom-com. Rather, I thought of it as a book that allowed me to flex my comedy-writing muscles. And here I am, having just published my second romantic comedy, Love, Look Away.

Humor has always been part of my work. Even when I’m writing what might be considered dark and heavy, comedy is usually lurking around the corner, waiting to jump in and stir things up. Conversely, when I’m writing comedy, darkness often lurks as well.

Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! features a 32-year-old woman, a newspaper journalist in her home town of Swansea, New York (fictional), who has given herself one year to find Mr. Right.

To introduce Molly to readers, about eight months before the book’s publication, I started an illustrated blog at mollyhacker.com. Molly, the journalist, interviewed many creative people, but she also blogged about her own life, especially her dating life. The blog was tough to write, because I didn’t want to cover any topics that were in the novel or that in any way conflicted with the story.

As it turns out, Molly made lots of friends throughout the years. And the number one question from readers was almost always, “Are you going to write a sequel?” I always answered with a hard no. For one, Molly’s story had an ending and I had no idea where I could possibly take a sequel.

Additionally, while I had written a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series, I didn’t want to write another series. I just wanted to write standalone novels that could be read in any order. Lastly, I didn’t expect I’d even write another rom-com.

But when I went to write my ninth book, after having written two literary fiction books in a row, Barrie Hill Reunion and Hotel Obscure: A Collection of Short Stories, I wasn’t ready to dive into my next idea. With everything going on in the world and my own state of being, it felt too burdensome for me. Like a lover of good food taking a spoonful of sorbet after each course of a gourmet meal, I needed a palate cleanser. And I needed to write more comedy.

So, I thought, while I’m not going to write a sequel about Molly’s life, why not write a new romantic comedy and set in the same town? Wouldn’t it be great to introduce brand-new characters, bring back Molly and a few others as supporting characters, and watch the fun begin? And that’s exactly what I did.

The heroine of Love, Look Away is 29-year-old Sage Gordon. Unlike Molly, a lover of designer clothes and Jimmy Choos, Sage prefers the Bohemian look and runs a metaphysical-themed gift shop, Sage Earth Gifts. Whereas Molly was always on the lookout for Mr. Right, Sage is on the “look away” from them.

As the book opens, Sage, after being burned five months prior by her fiancé, has no interest in meeting anyone. Aside from being hurt by the breakup, she’s never gotten over her childhood love, Jimmy Cole, who disappeared with his parents when Sage and he were both eleven years old. As a child, she always thought she’d marry him someday. As an adult, she knows he’s long gone. Nearly two decades have passed and there’s no trace. She wants to move on; but cannot deny that his disappearance not only haunts her but somehow keeps her from wanting to find someone new. She’s content to run her store, Sage Earth Gifts, and spend time with her dog, Rufus, her two cats, Finlay and Babaloo, and her friends and family. Do things become more complicated? Well of course they do!

Sage’s dog, Rufus

In Love, Look Away, Molly and her co-worker/best friend Randy, are friends of Sage’s. And, as in Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, the town’s most visible socialite, Naomi Hall Benchley (The “She-Devil”), is still causing all kinds of trouble and sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. Seriously … some people just have nothing better to do!

Maybe some Molly readers who choose to pick up Love, Look Away will indeed see the book as a sequel, though I’m certainly not calling it that. (For readers who haven’t read Molly, but may wish to, rest assured the ending is not given away in the new book.)

Maybe, if I ever write a third book set in Swansea, I’ll probably give in and call it a series.

Thanks for reading and helping me introduce Love, Look Away.

 All of my books are available in both paperback and Kindle editions. And for those who are members of Kindle Unlimited, you can ready any of my books for free.

Click here (Amazon.com) to purchase either the Kindle of paperback edition.

 

 

 

 

HOTEL OBSCURE: A LONG ROAD TO THE BOOK I NEVER THOUGHT I’D WRITE

 

Short stories were never my thing. In my youth, with no direction but always a burning passion to write, I wrote one incomplete story after another. One story, however, many decades later, turned into my seventh novel, Barrie Hill Reunion. That anomaly aside, the writing of incomplete stories seemed like little more than a writing exercise for a young, searching mind.

Like many writers, I have folders filled with examples of my youthful angst and confusion: long-winded stream-of-consciousness musings, depressing poetry, and once in a while, a random ray of sunshine. Here’s one such wonder from my teenaged mind:

Wisdom entails years of sleep,

And waking to find the river is deep,

Falling closely, avoiding the rocks,

Knowing the world in a time without clocks.

 

Waves rush fiercely to salvage the drift,

Creations dancing on a whitened cliff.

Spring of water and honey pie,

Miraculous wonder which never can die.

 

But most of my poetry read more like this:

 

Trapped in a cage of gloom,

I wander all over the room.

At every bar, I chance for escape,

Forgetting it’s me in the long black cape.

 

And sometimes, my poetry was on the artistic side:


At the age of nineteen, I wrote 150 pages of an unfinished novel. As time went on, still without direction, I wrote four screenplays and two plays.

Years later, after a decade-long writer’s block and much introspection, figuring out that I had a simultaneous fear of both rejection and success, I started writing again. By now, I’ve learned that in order to complete something, I need to know what I want to complete. There’s nothing wrong with getting into a car and going for a ride without a destination, but after so long, I need to arrive somewhere.

The realization of what had been holding me back spurred me to write my first novel, Squalor, New Mexico, a 1970s coming-of-age story that takes place in East Coast suburbia.

I went on to become a multi-genre author of seven novels. People had often asked me if I’d ever written short stories. “No,” I had always replied. “My mind doesn’t work that way. My mind only works in long form. I need to write novels.”

And for the most part, maybe that’s true. But in 2015, when I was asked to write two short stories for an anthology called Triptychs: Mind’s Eye Series Book 3, I responded in the affirmative. After completing two short stories, inspired by two photos I was given, I realized the writing of short stories was not beyond my ken. (Insert smart-ass remark here from my brother, Kenneth; I know one is coming.)

While writing for the anthology showed me I could write short stories, it wasn’t enough of an impetus to write more. It was during the writing of my YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series, that I became increasingly frustrated by the limitations on language. So, after I finished the first book, while waiting for my edits to be returned, I unleashed my frustration by writing a short story in the literary fiction genre. Ah, what a joy it was to use any words that meandered through my mind. Before too long, I wrote another story.

Writing these stories not only made me feel good, but I found a way to keep on writing during the waiting period. While some authors can easily delve into a new novel, I only like to work on one at a time so I can completely immerse myself in the nuances of my story.

It was around that time that I decided I would slowly start building a themed collection. After three years, Hotel Obscure was finished. My goal had been to have at least fourteen stories, but to my delight, I ended up with seventeen.

Here’s the synopsis for Hotel Obscure:

In a run-down neighborhood in an unnamed city, people live and die in “the Obscure.”

Whether anyone remembers the real name of the derelict establishment is a mystery. In this six-story building, most who occupy the rooms are long-term residents, though some stay for as little as an hour.

The patronage is an eclectic group: musicians, writers, addicts, hookers, lonely people, poor people, rich people, once-well-off people, and those who have reason to hide from their former lives or to escape the demands of a disapproving and punishing society.

As shabby as the Obscure is, as long as its walls keep out the wind and the rain, it remains a shelter, a hideaway, and a home for the many bewildered souls.

Hotel Obscure is a collection of seventeen short stories that all take place in or around the “the Obscure.” While the stories stand alone, they are to be read in order. Some characters appear in multiple stories, and sometimes, a story will continue in an unexpected way.

The Obscure is life. It is death. In the blink of an eye, it may appear supernatural. It is a place we all visit … whether metaphorically or physically, at least once in our time on Earth.

And yes, my ninth book will be a novel. However, I have no doubt that I’ll slowly begin to build another short story collection. Not only do I enjoy literary fiction and having something to do between books, I also find the process of exploring themes and stories without turning them into novels extremely satisfying. But wow, what a trip it’s been to get here.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

LINKS TO BUY HOTEL OBSCURE

Kindle Edition

(FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited)

Paperback Edition

BARRIE HILL REUNION: The Very Long Birth of a Novel

When I was eighteen years old, and a drama student at Pace University in New York City, my grandmother came to visit me for the weekend.

That Sunday, she took me for brunch at the Algonquin Hotel. I had no idea what an impact this outing would have on my writing life.

While we were enjoying our meal, my grandmother told us about the Algonquin Round Table, the celebrated group of literary New Yorkers who met for lunch every day from 1919 to 1929 or thereabouts. I wish I could tell you more about what happened, but my memory of that day is so vague it barely exists. All I can distinctly remember is being fascinated, looking around at the décor, and deciding that I was going to write a story, based on a hotel like this, about the reunion of a college literary group. And I felt very passionate about it. Maybe the ghosts of members past had whispered to me. I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

(standing, left to right) Art Samuels and Harpo Marx; (sitting) Charles MacArthur, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott

I can’t even remember when I actually began writing my short story. I really loved the concept, but I was not the disciplined writer I am today. I do remember the first line, though: “Leah received her invitation on Tuesday.”

In my early twenties, I was living in Queens, NY with my roommate, Gail, who worked in an office. I was working as a bartender at the time. Because I had no access to a copy machine (which everyone called a “Xerox machine” back then), I asked Gail if she could make me a copy of my story. I knew it was special, and I didn’t want to lose it.

It was so special that when Gail forgot to make a copy for me, I completely forgot I had ever asked.

Fast forward several years. I was living in Los Angeles, working at Paramount Studios. One day, I received a piece of mail from Gail. She had been going through her things, purging a lot of stuff she had saved, and found my story. She thought I might want it. Did I ever! I was ecstatic! It was like being reunited with a dear friend whose existence I’d forgotten. That said, I’ve never forgotten the existence of any dear friends. Only this one.

It didn’t take me long to turn my unfinished story into a one-act play. I mailed my nascent creation to theaters all over the country. I did receive some positive feedback, but no luck. The play was not without its fans though, as many of the people who read it had a strong positive reaction.

Years later, back East, my mother (a Journalism professor) introduced me to the director of Temple University’s theater. He read the play and really “got” the characters, but told me that it needed to be a two-act play. I agreed with him, and promptly reworked it as per his suggestion. He had been enthusiastic about reading the new, expanded play, but when I gave it to him, he simply never got around to it. For years, every time my mother would run into him on Temple’s campus, he would lament, “Oh, I never got around to reading your daughter’s play.”

In 1996, I finished writing my first novel, Squalor, New Mexico. I knew then that I wanted to write novels, not plays, and I went on to write five more novels. Finally, something in my brain decided it was time to dust off “Barrie Hill Reunion” and turn it into a novel.

 I wanted to stay true to the original characters, which for the most part I did, but there were some major tweaks in a few of them, as I was now writing a much more nuanced and in-depth story. Also, while I had never attributed a specific year to the play, I knew that the novel could not take place in the current year. Nothing about that felt right. It made sense that the characters had gone to college in the 1960s and were meeting again, twenty years after graduation, in 1986. It was important to me that there were no cell phones or personal computers involved. To modernize the story that much, would have destroyed it.

It was a really interesting process to write a novel with characters that had been with me for a lifetime. While I’ve written villains in other stories, I don’t think I’ve ever written a character as cruel as Leah Brent, one of the Barrie Hillers who attends the reunion. While writing her dialogue, I would often look at the computer and curse her out for what she had just said. Yeah, I called her some really bad names. I think my writer friends will understand this; others might think I am a bit nuts.

Some of the original dialogue from the one-act play appears in the book, but that said, I did not force it. In fact, after I while, I stopped following the play altogether. As I do in all of my novels, I create multiple story arcs, something I could only hint at in play form. So it was important to go in some new directions.

I don’t want to say too much more, only that I’m happy to finally bring this story to life. You can read the synopsis below or on Amazon.com.

In the mid-1960s, at an elite college in the quaint town of Barrie Hill, Connecticut, a group of literary-minded students met regularly off-campus at the Vanessa Grand Hotel. Often late into the night, they would discuss the day’s news, analyze literature, philosophize, trade barbs, and socialize.

Twenty years after graduation, in 1986, the group’s founder, Clare Dreyser, organizes a weekend reunion. Seven former Barrie Hillers and one guest get together, eager to re-create an extraordinary time in their lives and reunite with old friends.

From the outset, and baffling the group, Leah Brent displays a brash, condescending attitude for nearly everyone and everything. To the chagrin of actor Bart Younger, Leah immediately lays out the unwelcome mat for his wife, Aimee. No one, not even Leah’s husband, Colin, is immune to her wrath, but Leah is relentless in her bizarre and cruel quest to bring down her primary target: Clare.

As the reunion progresses, the Barrie Hillers strive to enjoy their time together as they become enmeshed in personal dramas, struggle with matters of ethics, and weather escalating uncertainties that threaten to destroy their lives. By Saturday night, the second day of the reunion, karma makes a surprising and shocking visit. As the Barrie Hillers’ time together draws to an end, each is changed forever.

Thanks for reading!

Kindle (Universal link)

Paperback (U.S.)

Barrie Hill Reunion is also free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Save

Save

Save

Save