Sunday, October 26, 2014

As writers, our words can be powerful; could mine have saved a life?

The worst thing about getting older is that friends start dying.

But you don't expect one of your close ones to take his own life.

And this has made me ask myself "what if?" a hundred times. What if my words had been able to talk him off the ledge, to comfort him enough that he would have chosen to live? I'm a writer, I might have been able to reach him. If only I'd known he was in pain.

My friendship with Dan goes all the way back to high school. We had the one thing in common that bonds a lot of teenagers; we were both hopelessly uncool. We came from very different backgrounds; Dan's father was a corporate VP of a fortune 500 company, mine ran a delicatessen. None of that made any difference to two kids who lived for Star Trek and never had a date in high school. Dan was a kind, gentle soul born with a facial deformity that required about a dozen surgeries. He once had his jaw wired for a month. To me, that made him one of the toughest kids in class.

His house was on the way home from school, so on practically every day my best friend Steve and I would end up at Dan's house, playing ball in the backyard or ping pong in the basement. We had countless dinners at his house, our second home.

College put distance in our friendship but couldn't end it. Dan went off to Georgetown, Steve to Villanova, while I ended up at the University of Connecticut. But we'd send letters during the school year to keep in touch. Every summer and every holiday we'd get together. 

Dan got married, moved to Colorado and had two sons. As is often the case with couples who have children and those who don't (neither Steve nor I have kids), friendships can take a back burner. Kids were the one thing we didn't have in common. Our meetings became less frequent but we still stayed in touch. Words, via letters or phone calls, kept us together.

Then Dan's wife was stricken with cancer and passed away. We didn't know since he didn't call. Why, I have no idea. He was obviously in great pain because a few months later he took his own life.

And my "what if?" thing started to haunt me.

Last week Steve and I took the ride up to Connecticut to visit Dan's parents. The house that had been a second home seemed so different without him. His parents were obviously devastated and told us they had no indication he would do such a thing. It was so out of character, out of the blue, for someone so peaceful and non-violent. I don't think I ever remember Dan getting mad. Before we left I took a long look at Dan's photo, studying his face like never before, wondering how in the hell someone I thought I really knew could take his own life.

Why am I sharing this? Because as writers our words have power. We often hear our words have the power to change lives, but how about the power to save them? If you know someone who is going through a tough time, someone you're concerned about, use your words. To comfort, to share, to convey love and caring. To touch a heart that needs a friend. You may save a life without ever knowing it. 

I just wish I'd had the chance.







Monday, October 6, 2014

Why men need a platonic female friend to pick out an engagement ring

Men can't shop.

Yeah, I know. Major newsflash. Alert the networks.

You gals know I'm right. Let's face it, if you sent the man in your life out to buy you some footwear for the office he'd come back with hooker shoes and thigh-high leather boots. Clothes? You might end up with hot pants and halter tops if he happened to have an NFL cheerleader fantasy. (Not that I would know about such things. I've just heard stories.)

But at some point a single guy is going to have to make the most important purchase of his life. Nope, not the mid-life crisis chick-magnet convertible, though it's high on the Y-chromosome bucket list. It's the engagement ring.

The rock. The item that not only says she's taken but makes her proud to stick out her left hand. Screw up this purchase and you've got one foot in the doghouse and she'll roll her eyes for years. Do it right and you forever get to see that faraway look when she glances at the ring.

The TV commercials have it wrong, showing the couples shopping in a jewelry store. Where's the surprise in taking your future wife to shop for her own engagement ring? You'll never get to see the look of astonishment on her face when you drop to one knee, when she lights up as the waiter delivers a glass of champagne with a ring in it, when you ask her to marry you out of the blue. (And she'll never see you break out in hives when you look at the price tags.)

Hence, the platonic female personal shopper.

My story starts in 1988, oddly enough while covering the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Another reporter and good friend named Lance was also about to propose, we had the morning off, so we hit one of the city's major department stores. A few minutes into reading the brochure about the four C's (cut, clarity, and whatever.... the only C we cared about was cost) it was clear we were babes in the woods known as diamond hunting.

And then we met Hedda.

She noticed our confused looks, came over and took my arm, then hit us with advice in an accent that was pure two-packs-a-day Brooklyn. "Honey, you don't shop for an engagement ring in a department store. You want I should rip you off?"

Hedda, our Jewish mother guardian angel who apparently didn't work on commission, explained that Atlanta was the shortest overseas flight from South Africa, home of the diamond industry, and that we should shop for loose stones with the dozens of diamond merchants in town who got their rocks hot off the plane. We would save thousands.

Still, I was the fifth C. Clueless. I didn't want my girlfriend to know I was getting a ring, but needed help. So I called Kathie, my southern belle friend who would read Brides magazine even if she wasn't dating anyone. She had impeccable taste and also knew my girlfriend.

Hedda had given me several names of dealers, so I made an appointment and a few weeks later Kathie and I went back to Atlanta. The dealer brought out several stones and Kathie scrutinized them like a pro with a jeweler's loop. She shook her head at the first one. "Nope, bad clarity. Looks like there's a snowstorm in it." The prices were literally one fifth of those in the department store, so I figured I could afford a bigger ring and pointed at a large stone. "No," she said. "Your girlfriend has long thin fingers and it wouldn't look right. You need this one." She chose an oval cut, then picked a setting and I wrote the check. The jeweler would have the ring shipped to me.

And then my surprise was killed by my answering machine.

We had just been out to dinner and when we came back to my apartment I saw the machine flashing. I hit the button and we both heard, "Your engagement ring will be delivered by FedEx tomorrow morning."

Naturally, my future wife was camped out by the door the next morning.

Bottom line, the surprise was gone but she thought the ring was perfect and really appreciated what Kathie had done. She still thinks the ring is perfect, doesn't want an "upgrade" and gets that faraway look from time to time.

So guys, don't try this by yourself. Embrace the fact that you're clueless about jewelry. Give yourself the chance at the surprise. Get the help of a platonic female friend with good taste.

And don't forget to turn off the answering machine.



 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fictional selfie

My main character in Twitter Girl apparently has the same problem with bed-head as the rest of us...


Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's Release Day for Twitter Girl!

Thanks to everyone at HarperCollins for their help in getting this book published, especially editor Charlotte Ledger and artist Alex Allden.

Hope you'll drop by and check out the lead character's Twitter feed @TwitrGrlCassidy

Paperbacks out November 20th and available for pre-order...

Amazon 

Barnes & Noble 

iTunes 




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Guest post from author Zara Stoneley: In Praise of the Older Hero and Heroine




Thanks for inviting me over here today, Nic! 


When I went to the Festival of Romance last year, to do a reading and book signing, there was a gentleman who was very politely quizzing nearly all the authors about why there weren’t more mature (as in over a certain age) people in the romance stories we wrote.


Now there were actually quite a few authors present whose books featured older hero’s and heroine’s, but he did have a point – they’re in the minority.


In ‘Stable Mates’ there are a lot of characters, and they span the generations. Which made it great fun to write. One of the strongest characters in the story has to be Elizabeth Stanthorpe, Lottie’s gran. She’s a real mischief maker and likes to use her age as an excuse for doing more or less whatever she likes. 

And at the other end of the scale is teenage Tabatha, who has a crush on more than one of the riders, much to her father’s dismay.


I don’t want to give the story away, but the romance isn’t limited to the twenty-something’s. Young love, and mature love, are very different and there’s room for both in a good romance. And there’s definitely room for both in Tippermere!





EXCERPT
Elizabeth Stanthorpe had been born in Tipping House, and fully intended on dying there. After she’d ensured that her family would continue running the estate in the way it deserved to be.

‘I imagine that young Rory thinks Dominic is gay.’ She raised an eyebrow as Lottie spluttered a shower of gin and tonic over one of the black Labradors and then hastily tried to rub it in with the back of her hand.

‘I’m not sure that’s why they don’t like each other, not that I think Uncle Dom is gay, of course.’

‘Well, I did.’ She took another swig of her own drink.

‘Gran, you can’t say that.’

‘Well he can be so bloody prissy at times, not a bit like his father was. If it hadn’t been a home birth I would have thought there had been a mix up at some point. No one would have ever have accused your grandfather of batting for the other side, although those private schools can bring out the worst in boys.’ She focussed back on her only granddaughter, only grandchild, who was going a funny shade of pink. ‘Well, you did bring it up, darling. Pour me another drink whilst you’re up, there’s a good girl.’

Lottie had been about to say she wasn’t actually up, but knew it was useless to argue with her grandmother, who had what she referred to as ‘backbone’.

As she sloshed a good measure of Bombay Sapphire gin into the chipped crystal, she decided that it was a good job they didn’t make them like that anymore. Although the matriarch could be more fun than the rest of the family put together when it suited her. Nothing stopped Elizabeth when she got the bit between her teeth, and Lottie secretly thought that her grandmother wasn’t as batty, forgetful and deaf as she liked to make out.

‘All I said,’ she passed the drink to Elizabeth who sniffed it as though she suspected it might be laced with something, or more likely not strong enough, ‘was that Rory thought it was strange when Uncle Dom turned up at the dressage. Did you have anything to do with that?’

‘I may have mentioned it.’ She tapped a long nail against the side of the glass, piercing blue eyes fixed on Lottie. ‘You could do a lot better than that man, Charlotte.’ She shook her head slowly. ‘You are so like your mother in some ways.’




Zara Stoneley



Bestselling author Zara Stoneley lives in deepest Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When she’s not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in her sexy high heels or green wellies, she can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!

Zara writes hot romance and bonkbusters. Her latest novel, ‘Stable Mates’, is a fun romp through the Cheshire countryside and combines some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!

She writes for Harper Collins and Accent Press.

Find out more about Zara:

Website      Twitter        Facebook        Google+



 

Stable Mates

Blurb -

Secrets and scandals, love and lust – when the ‘Cheshire Set’ are up against the ‘Footballer’s Wives’ the only common ground is carnal…

Flirting and fun seem the perfect antidote for Lottie's battered heart, and where better to find them than back in tranquil Tippermere, home of sexy eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O'Neal, and mysterious newcomer, model Tom Strachan?

But when landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, and the threat of his waggish wife Amanda selling the heart of the village out from under them looms large, things look like they're about to heat up in and out of the saddle.

With tensions running high, and the champagne flowing as freely as the adrenalin, is it any wonder that love catches more than one of them unawares?



Buy links –

Amazon       Barnes & Noble      Kobo   Foyles  Waterstones  

Sainsbury’s      Google Play        iTunes    Blackwells





Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Incredible promotion

Looking back, it's kind of amazing a bunch of authors told me not to sign my book deal last year, telling me the publisher would never promote it.


Thankfully I didn't listen, as the marketing department managed to get my paranormal YA book chosen as Apple's book of the week.


Seriously, you think I would have gotten this type of promotion on my own?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wow. Just wow.


To say I'm blown away at having Apple choose my paranormal young adult novel as the iTunes book of the week is putting it mildly...