Laura Hile

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Laura Hile last won the day on September 20 2016

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About Laura Hile

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    Plot Twister and Cliffhanger Queen
  • Birthday 08/10/1958

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    Beaverton, Oregon
  • Interests
    Well, let's see ...

    I was raised in a sailing family, but have no boat.

    I enjoy choral singing, but my church has a praise band now.

    I also like gardening, although my house sits atop what must have been a gravel pit. (Good luck with that, right?)

    And, being a hopeless idealist, I teach at a Christian school...for rather less money. So writing is both my hobby and my retirement plan!

    Thanks for stopping by.
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  1. Photo: Bruno Cordioli (Creative Commons Flickr) Oral surgeons have two doors at their offices. One is for incoming patients--a nicely-appointed waiting room with magazines and such. And then there is the exit to the parking lot, for those who have had extractions under general anesthesia. A week ago, my husband had a cracked wisdom tooth removed. A laughable situation really, because our positions were reversed. I, the weak and recovering-strength one, was helping him stagger to the car and then up the driveway. Anyway, from past experience (sons with wisdom teeth) we knew about the two-door thing. When we drove up to the office, we noticed that the back surgery door was ajar. And there was this big gray cat. Of course you know what was happening. That cat, being, well...a cat, was trying to get inside. "Oh, you," I said. And then I noticed the string. Ha, someone inside was playing with the cat. Sure enough, one of the scrub-clad techs came out, and we got to talking. It seems this friendly fellow is the office mascot. The staff had taken to feeding him, and Dr. TenHulzen liked him so much that he took him home as a pet. Then the cat disappeared. Four months later he showed up at the office--and that's where he's lived ever since. "To get back here he had to cross the 205 Freeway," the tech marveled. And yet here he was, in one piece and happy. Cross a freeway? No problem. Cats are like that. If a door is open, in they go. If the opening isn't large enough, they help it along with a paw. After all, there's food inside, and hands to scratch behind their ears or smooth their fur. A cat has every reason to give the door a try. And if he's not welcome, he is put out. Away he goes, no big deal, to look for other open doors. But when I come to a door that's ajar, I stop. Should I go in? Is it okay? Usually I stay outside because unlike the cat, I am hyper-responsible and am afraid to do the wrong thing. Also, I don't like being put out. It stings the pride, being told to leave. What about the door of opportunity? I am afraid to go through that one too. Likewise I'm reluctant to widen the opening with a gentle push. I can learn a thing or two from Dr. TenHulzen's office cat. "Be a cat, Laura." I need to squeeze my author body through narrow openings. How else will I see what opportunities are inside? Usually, it's food, and food equals money. Who cares if I get put out? Frees me up to find other open doors. Cross a freeway? Sure, why not? It's easy to do in the middle of the night. So like a cat I need to try stuff. Who knows what snug opportunity I will find? Like the fellow pictured below, who discovered the perfect cat-shaped sink. Must have been made just for him. His owners must have thought so too, else why would they take a photo? Meow! Photo: Melinda Seckington (Creative Commons Flickr) Originally posted at Jane Started It!
  2. A new crop of 7th graders now inhabits my classroom. They're coltish, talkative, and desperate to master the art of sarcasm. Uh-huh. They're not very good at it. I give them props for trying. Needless to say, they are no match for me. But if they'd like to take me on, hey, I'm game. "Bring it," I say, with a wink and a smile. One of my classroom standards involves not using "vulgar" words. Curse words are obviously forbidden, but I do not wish to be subjected to vulgar (potty) expressions either. Like the word c-r-a-p. I tell the students very nicely at the beginning of the year not to use this word. And then I wait, because it's only a matter of time until it slips out. Sometimes the violation is of epic proportions. Today I'll tell you about one of those times. So last year during work time, one of my jolliest, most talkative students was rummaging for something in his messy desk. "I can't find anything," he complained, "because of all of the crap in here." Some of last year's girls "What?" I said, in my best shocked-teacher voice. He turned around. My eyes were twinkling, but I did not crack a smile. The other students' heads came up in true "prairie dog" fashion. They knew to stay silent--or risk missing the show. "Look," I deadpanned, "it's bad enough that we have ants in here. Are you telling me that we have feces too?" Feces is one of their science vocabulary words. Nevertheless, amid the stifled giggles, there were whispers of "What's that?" "No, I didn't mean ... there's not really ..." the student managed to say, between gusts of laughter. And then he said, "Oh, crap." By now his classmates were close to losing it. Ah, but I am the master of the poker face. I reached for the container of Lysol Wipes. "See this?" I said. "It says that it kills 99.9% of germs." I put it on his desk. "Clean the number two up." He doubled over with laughter. But I wasn't finished. "Next time," I said somberly, "kindly excuse yourself and visit the men's room. Instead of using your desk." As if on cue, the break bell rang. Mirth exploded. Into the hall my students fled, to wail with laughter and share the joke with the 6th graders. I could have read those twelve-year-olds a lecture about vulgar speech and potty words. Instead I choose to be memorable. So much more effective, don't you think?
  3. Physical pain and emotional pain. If handled right, these keep readers turning pages. Of the two, I consider emotional pain to be the most hurtful. Broken relationships do not heal the way injuries do. But if your lead characters are to grow and change, pain must be part of their journey. If you can juxtapose pain with humor, it's even more poignant. Consider adding pain to your storytelling arsenal. Photo: Joe Penna (Creative Commons Flickr) In Chapter 9 of Darcy By Any Other Name, Darcy-as-Collins is coming to grips with his new reality. Readers smile and then grimace at Miss Bingley's whispered rudeness. And poor Darcy discovers that not only does his aunt have contempt for Mr. Collins--hardly a surprise--but so do his friends. Tomorrow: Q is for Questions...which you, the author, won't answer. Thanks so much for reading. Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
  4. I learned to write by posting serialized stories on a Internet fiction forum. I have tried to step aside from this practice, but I just can't. Having my work "go live" for a reading audience is just too valuable. Through doing this I have come face-to-face with this important fact: my readers are smart. Ve-ry smart. In their comments, they can't help guessing where the story might head next. (Wait, what? They figured it out? Dang.) Tell you what, their guesses keep me on my toes. Yes, my intelligent readers have made me a better writer. "Fiction for thinking readers" (see sidebar) has even become part of my brand! My books "go live" before they're in print,. For me, this has been extremely valuable. Photo: Rosmarie Voegtll (Creative Commons Flickr) Not that I take suggestions for where the story goes, but you know. It's too much fun to keep readers wondering. Do I cackle as I type a scene for them? Sometimes I do! So what have I written to foil readers? Aha, this, from Chapter 7 of Darcy By Any Other Name, is a deliberate tease. Everyone knows that in Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins ends up marrying Charlotte Lucas. So when Darcy-as-Collins encounters her, it puts the Austen readers' "Spidey-sense" on high alert. Because this Mr. Collins is intelligent and clever. Will Charlotte fall for him in earnest? Tomorrow's post for P is Pain. There's nothing like a little suffering to sweeten the ending, right? Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
  5. An advice column by Persuasion's Mary Musgrove If only I could sleep properly! But the demands of a household are myriad, and as you know I am the most responsible member of the family. Charles shrugs off our troubles, while I am kept awake thinking of solutions for future events. It's as if Thinking has become a profession. This is most unfair, for I am an Elliot and a gentlewoman. I should not have a profession! I should not have to think! One of the London papers had an article about sleeplessness recently, and the suggestions offered were idiotic. If my husband were to read them, my life would be worse, not better. I sent that newspaper straight into the fire. I share those so-called solutions here because I daresay you could use a laugh. Exercise and stay active. I walk quite enough, thank you. My husband will never purchase a proper carriage if he thinks strolling about will improve my health. It won't. Can I help it if I am always thinking? Avoid Naps. Bless me, if I do not nap, how will I stay awake at parties and assemblies? I am not about to become like one of the dowagers, snoozing open-mouthed on the sofa instead of dancing. Abstain from caffeine and wine. What am I to offer callers instead of tea, pray? Warm milk? I must serve wine with dinner and strong coffee with dessert. The sort of people who read London newspapers obviously have no social life. Moderate large meals, particularly those with meat. Look, when I am invited to dinner, of course I will eat meat and plenty of it. Meat is not only healthful but also expensive. I enjoy meat the most when my father-in-law is paying for it, thank you. Besides, hosts expect their guests to partake with enthusiasm. To abstain would be rude. Get out of the bed when not sleeping. And go where? Sharing a bedchamber is not easy. My husband will thrash about in his sleep and pull off the blankets. He says I hog them, but I act only in self-defense. Fill the bedchamber with pleasing floral aromas. As I said, I share with my husband. Not only do we not have flowers available year-round (for he refuses to put up a hothouse), but the scent in our room is far from floral! Hide the bedroom clocks. I would like a clock to hide! Charles will not purchase one for our bedchamber or any other room; he says they are unnecessary for country life. We have a mournful longcase clock in the entrance hall and an elegant ormolu clock--a wedding gift from Father--in the drawing room. And that's it. Buy a good mattress. This is the only decent suggestion of the lot. Ours was supposedly restuffed or refluffed or reticked (or whatever one does to mattresses) when we were married five years ago. I say my in-laws lied. This mattress has been around since before William the Conqueror. Yes, it would be just the thing for a battle-hardened Saxon brute. Alas, I must selflessly make do with what beauty sleep I can snatch. I trust you are able to do the same. Most cordially, Mary Elliot Musgrove Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart. Future Mistress of Uppercross Mary's "portrait" is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini
  6. Romance stories beg for nighttime scenes: The carriage traversing the torch-lit drive leading to the mansion. A stroll through an ornamental garden. A midnight chase, lit only by stars and moon. That rascal moon! Best to keep track of him in your novel, because he tends to wander off. Photo: Rachel Kramer (Creative Commons Flickr) Well, the moon can be a problem. Because you've got to know where you are. Mention it twice in your story, and you'd better have the phase right. Two full moons in two weeks? Oh, I've written it. I haven't (yet) forgotten the color of the heroine's eyes, but that moon is one slippery customer. And don't forget the nocturnes. Ha, vampires (if you write them), along with other nighttime hunters: birds (owls, nightjars, poor-wills, etc.), raccoons and foxes, mosquitoes and crickets and moths. And, of course, orb weaver spiders waiting on their newly-made webs. These add a touch of authenticity and, perhaps, unexpected drama. The cry of a distant nighthawk, the rustle of a fox in the hedgerow...or how about a full-on collision with a spider's web? (This is romantic comedy, after all.) To illustrate, I mention the moon in Chapter 28, as Darcy heads out (in borrowed clothes) to spy on Mr. Wickham. I bailed on the phase, as you will see. But my google doc spreadsheet tells me that it's six days past full, ha. So I was safe. Tomorrow's (oops) Monday's post for O is Outsmart. Because like me, you probably have very intelligent readers. Keeping ahead of them is a piece of work! Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
  7. We have a new member of our household, although I have no idea how he came to join us. His name is I. Dunno, and apparently he is responsible for much of what goes on behind my back. I mean, really. I cannot be expected to notice what happens in the house every minute of the day! Ask my eldest son any question: Who broke the vase? Who let the dogs out of the kennel? Who left the toy soldiers on the dining room floor? The culprit is always I. Dunno. This Mr. Dunno is a very busy person. And he is no gentleman, let me tell you. He is a nuisance and a bother, and the sooner he is gone, the happier I will be. The servants have begun to speak of him as well, no doubt encouraged by Little Charles' example. They use an additional surname: I. Dunno Ma'am. I would like to give Mr. I. Dunno a piece of my mind! It is most vexing. My husband is no help. He says that Little Charles has an imaginary friend. And then he laughs, as if this were funny. Is it any wonder that our youngest has begun to follow suit? He has a entire troop of these imaginary nuisances. Yes, he does, and I can name them: Howe Come and N. Uh and Was N. Tmee. Sometimes I think parenting will be the death of me. Already I have lost my figure and my youthful bloom. And now, it seems, I am losing my sanity as well. If imaginary friends come to call at your house, send them packing straightway! Most cordially, Mary Elliot Musgrove Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart. Future Mistress of Uppercross Mary's "portrait" is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini
  8. Years of practice (and failure) built this surfer's graceful skill. Photo: Miguel Navaza (Creative Commons Flickr) I've released a new book, and the process kind of reminds me of surfing. Okay, body surfing. I was never brave enough--or coordinated enough!--to try it with a board. Tanning on the beach? Forget that. Why lie in the sun when you can spend the afternoon catching waves? Many summer days at Santa Monica and Malibu taught me a thing or two. Surfing is about position, skill, and timing. This means hours in the water, being ready, watching wave after wave. Learning how to know a promising wave from a dud. Being willing to swim like crazy to catch the awesome one. You can't be lazy as a surfer. Position would be the intriguing story premise and the cover. These are what put me in the water, and each one represents a risk. I wasn't sure how the 'magical reality' element of the body swap would fly. And that sweet cover was spendy--but worth every cent. Skill? I've been writing for 17 years. If Darcy By Any Other Name is an instant success, know that I've been rolled under by plenty of waves. (Yeah, the wipeout thing.) I've learned to escape the worst by diving under, but multiple thousands of clunky words lie at my back. Then too, I teach fiction writing to high school students. What I've learned in helping them improve is a lot. And timing is about being in the right place at the right moment. There are more Austen readers now than ever before. No readers, no wave! Photo: Swell Surf Camp (Creative Commons Flickr) Surfing, like writing, only appears solitary. The photo at the top of this page shows a lone surfer, but I'm betting he wasn't the only one in the water that day. Bobbing heads beyond the line of surf are not attractive, so they're cropped out. Deal is, no one surfs alone. No one writes a book alone--or should. The fellowship of like minds is crucial. As with surfing, skills are developed alone but there is safety in companionship. In the water and out, surfers hang together and talk. If writing greats C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien needed a support group, so do I. Darcy By Any Other Name Sales numbers continue to roll in, and not because of me. News about Darcy is being spread by people like you, my social media friends. A hectic school schedule has allowed me little time to compose ads or tweet or anything. I've put up a few posts on Facebook, and you have been sharing them. I am beyond grateful. You know you want this book, right? So enter to win it! There's a giveaway going on right now at Just Jane 1813. It's easy, simply post a reply by May 29, 2016. This article was originally posted at Jane Started It!
  9. M-o-m, what? My Ben, age 11 This is my Ben, and when he sees this photo he'll be rolling his eyes. And saying, "M-o-m," as only a grown son can. This selfie was taken with his first digital camera. At age eleven, boys don't care what they look like. That stupefied pose is deliberate. Thing is, his expression mirrors how I've felt all week. When Darcy By Any Other Name was released on Kindle last Saturday, I could not wrap my brain around it. I'd been peering at the screen since 4:00 a.m, hunting for any last lingering typos in the manuscript, the kind spellcheckers cannot find. And reading instructions and filling in detailed information. Tax stuff and bank account numbers and prices--the kind of work that requires thinking. You know when your eyes are strained to the dried-cement stage? Yeah, that. After twelve hours of fearful work--click the wrong thing and die! --I pushed the "Save and Publish" button, and my quiet world exploded. There was my ebook--my own indie-published ebook--on Amazon. I've had three books traditionally published, but this was different. Everything is up to me! So I put up an almost laughable post at Facebook with the cover and a text link. Nothing swank or professional or even polished. Almost immediately people began buying. People began BUYING my book! Paying money for it, and then reading it. I know because reviews began to appear. Amazing reviews, thoughtful and well-written, from intelligent women. Tackling this book is no small feat (662 paper pages), even for a lightning reader like me. How are people hearing about it? My social media friends. I have been too busy with a frantic school schedule to compose ads or tweets or anything. Facebook friends and Beyond Austen followers and lovers of Austen fiction have come to my rescue. Chautona's blog review appeared Sunday night. Just Jane 1813's review came up this morning. People I don't even know are expressing excitement and are sharing my announcement post. Ebooks continue to fly off the shelf. Here, I'll show you. The downward trend represents today's numbers--so far. That line continues to rise. It's crazy. Money is coming IN instead of going out--a glorious change in this household. People say that Facebook is impersonal, but I have not found it so. One day the sales wave will crest and flatten out. But thanks to my social media friends, today is not that day. Hey, there's an ebook giveaway running at Just Jane 1813. To enter, post a reply before midnight, May 29, 2016. And if you'd rather not wait? Here's the link to Amazon. Because the experts say I'm supposed to ask for the sale. Hat tip to A visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
  10. Ten hours to Hawaii. Here on the west coast, we are spoiled at "only" five. I hope you have a lovely vacation. You'll notice that the Epilogue is completely new. I now know better than to write the ending when I'm feeling wiped out and pressured by a (self-imposed) deadline. Not a hula girl, but almost.
  11. Mr. Darcy, stuck in Collins' body? And living as a guest in Elizabeth's Bennet's house? What a hoot! Darcy By Any Other Name, my first indie publication, was released today. I ought to be celebrating--and I am--if staring at the screen in shock and wonder qualifies. Amazon slapped the Kindle edition up for sale in something like twenty minutes, instead of the promised 12 hours. There is no ranking, but the "Look Inside" feature works. The book is LIVE, and you can see it here. The publication date is the real stunner: May 13, 2016. Yesterday's date, although I don't know what caused that. Yesterday just happened to be Friday the 13th. Otherwise known as "Freaky Friday." So my Pride and Prejudice 'body swap' romance--itself a Freaky Friday tale--has that particular date. Will anyone notice or even care? Nope. But I know, and I'm smiling. And now you can smile too. Darcy By Any Other Name is pretty much the perfect beach read, just in time for summer. Like my other novels, it's an ensemble piece, featuring all your friends (and foes) from Pride and Prejudice. It's a book I thought I'd never write because, you know, every variation of Pride and Prejudice has been told. Ah, but that was before I came up with the swap idea. Such a hoot. The print edition will be available presently. The price for that is dictated by length--all 662 pages. If I were you, I'd buy the ebook. It's way cheaper.
  12. A continuing series by Persuasion's Mary Musgrove Recently my mother-in-law has been talking about short-term memory loss. I think she read about it in one of those London periodicals. I say it's nonsense. True, she does forget things, like where she put her spectacles, or the names of our newest neighbors--who are upstarts and ought to be forgotten, I say! Or she cannot recall why she came into the drawing room. Or the fact that she promised to serve a second helping of cake to her guests. (Visitors cannot help being hungry! It takes strength to be scrupulously polite in the presence of vulgarians! And it is very delicious cake. But then, no one attends to my wants.) Her so-called memory loss changes with the situation. Let one of her daughters--or my husband--forget to do something for her, and she is all smiles. "I've forgotten all about it, my love," she says. "It's short-term memory loss, I suppose." People remember what they wish to, especially gossip But anything wrong that I have done is remembered forever! Even innocent mistakes--like the time I forgot about the luncheon she hosted for all the neighbors. Or when I inquired after the measurement of her waist, in order to make her a present. Could I help it if Mrs. Poole overheard? And then spread it about that in all the house there was not a measuring tape found long enough? Mama Musgrove holds tightly to this particular memory, like grim death. I shall never live it down. My own father will tell the same stories, especially at dinner parties. And yet when I quiz him about his forgetfulness, he laughs. "The same stories to different groups of people, my dear," he says. "It is a charming art among the well-born, otherwise known as making small talk. You ought to cultivate that." Like my in-laws, he forgets none of my shortcomings. Memory loss due to drink? Another handy excuse, particularly among gentlemen. My father-in-law remembers everything except our need for money. His grandsons are a delight, naturally, but he has no idea what it costs to raise children nowadays. After all, the allowance he made upon our marriage was for two, not four. He smiles and pats the boys on their heads and tells them that they are fine little men. Fine little men without proper hats and shoes--and living in a house in desperate need of redecoration! So I say that memory loss is merely a convenient excuse trotted out by the middle-aged. In my experience, genuine forgetfulness is the province of the young: my husband, my sons, and my servants. But that is because they do not listen to a word I say. I trust that you will fare better with your parents and in-laws. No one knows what I suffer at the hands of mine. Most cordially, Mary Elliot Musgrove Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart. Future Mistress of Uppercross Have you discovered Mercy's Embrace? Romance, adventure, and Jane Austen's 'Other Elizabeth' are waiting ... Mary's "portrait" is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini
  13. Readers love watching schemes unwind, especially when it comes to the manipulator. Payback lends appeal to the fictional world. This is why after a hard day at work, we cozy up with a favorite novel. "The Decisive Move" Photo: Sam (Creative Commons Flickr) Jane Austen's novels are filled with manipulators. Sometimes they succeed, but more often not. In Pride and Prejudice, Miss Caroline Bingley's goal is obvious: a marriage alliance with Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. Darcy By Any Other Name sets the stage perfectly for her. Mr. Darcy's mind has been affected by his injury, so he is putty in her hands. Or so it would seem. In Chapter 20 we have Caroline nudging Collins-as-Darcy toward a plan of social improvement. Because every lady wants to marry a titled gentleman, right? How's that working for you, Caroline? Not so well, ha! Tomorrow we'll have N for Nighttime. Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
  14. Use little moments to enrich your hero (or heroine)--the classic "man with a baby" thing. When done right, it's powerful. This photo, for example, says a lot. Photo: Claudio Sabia (Creative Commons Flickr) Not the child's trusting expression, but the man's. His affection leaps off the page. Those fond eyes, that tiny smile. Writing friend, you need this in your novel. In Darcy By Any Other Name we see that Mr. Collins was called to the pastorate not by God, but by his desire for a secure career. He's the kind of rector who will sink a congregation. How will Darcy-as-Collins fare? Rather better, as it turns out. But I don't tell the reader, I show her through a Little Moment. And today's Little Moment is rather long! (Sorry!) I'm including more than usual so that you can see what I mean. Tomorrow we'll have M for Manipulation. Thanks much for stopping by! Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Writing blogs are flagged WR. Books/Reviews are BO. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
  15. Every story needs a Know-It-All--who entertainingly gets taken down a few pegs. Just, you know, because. Then too, the genre in which I write begs for secondary characters. Readers enjoy seeing old friends in new adventures, so I oblige. Included in this group are characters people love to hate. Proud and prouder and proudest Photo: Quinn Dombrowski (Creative Commons Flickr) A venerable element from the early Austen forum is the Death Match. Two of Jane's hoity-toity people are pitted against one anther in a war of words, with hilarious results. I do a bit of that in Darcy By Any Other Name. Readers dislike the manipulative Caroline Bingley, who has a matrimonial eye on Mr. Darcy. They also dislike Lady Catherine, who is an unabashed elitist. What if? I wondered. What if I bring them together in the same house? So here they are in Chapter 9. Because her nephew is injured, Lady Catherine has come to stay at Netherfield. It's a feather in Miss Bingley's cap, as Lady C is well-placed socially, but also a major irritant. Two women, one young and one old, who pride themselves on speaking their mind--and they do, with Darcy-as-Collins as witness. If Caroline Bingley were not so awful, we would almost feel sorry for her. Next up is L for Little Moments. Thanks for dropping by! Find out what the other A to Z bloggers are doing by clicking on this link. Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016