Guest Post & Interview with author of The Still Life of Hannah Morgan by Lora Deeprose!

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Denise Alicea

This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

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Author Website: http://loradeeprose.com/

Blurb

“The longer you choose to play it safe, the more miserable your life will become.  The universe rewards risk my dear; you know what you need to do.”

 

Hannah Morgan’s life is at a standstill.  Her dreams of becoming an artist vanished with the sudden death of her grandmother and mentor.  To appease her distant and disapproving mother, Hannah gets a respectable job at a high-end day spa.

 

Instead of painting masterpieces, Hannah spends her days painting nails and giving facials to wealthy women.  Her dreams for the future have become a hideous nightmare.  And, it just keeps getting worse.  She catches her boyfriend cheating, loses her job and has to watch from the sidelines as her best friend Jasmine Blue goes after her own dreams of owning her own salon.

 

When she meets Aaron, a working artist, Hannah finds a kindred spirit.  And, to her surprise, she finds the courage to follow her dreams.

 

When circumstances beyond her control threaten to destroy both her relationship with Aaron and her dreams of a bright future, Hannah fears her mother was right; that some dreams aren’t meant to come true.

 

 

Excerpt from The Still Life of Hannah Morgan

Chapter One

Oh my God! What did I do? I stared down at the waxing strip in my hand.

Just take another look. Maybe it’s just a trick of the light. I tried not to panic.

I stole a quick glance at my client’s face, at her eyebrows in particular, and confirmed my worst fears. It was not an illusion caused by bad lighting. I had removed Mrs. Weatherbee’s entire left eyebrow.

I held the strip up to my face, squinting at it just to be sure. There, embedded in the wax, was her missing eyebrow.

“Why have you stopped?” Mrs. Weatherbee opened her eyes and looked up at me from the treatment table. “Is there a problem?”

Was there a problem? Well that depended on whether or not she thought walking around with one eyebrow was a bad thing. Maybe she could start a new fashion trend.

“Uhm.” I quickly threw the offending wax strip in the garbage. Maybe if I just drew the missing eyebrow back on she wouldn’t notice.

“Hand me a mirror.” Mrs. Weatherbee heaved her considerable bulk up from the treatment table.

I obeyed, passing her a small silver mirror. I looked down at my hands while she examined her face. Perspiration beaded my forehead and trickled down my neck.

Terence was going to kill me.

“You stupid girl, what have you done?” Mrs. Weatherbee shouted, fingering her forehead where her eyebrow used to be. “I have a charity event to host tomorrow. I can’t go out looking like this!”

“I’m really sorry, Mrs. Weatherbee, it was an accident.”

“An accident? Do you realize what you have done to me? I want to speak to Terence!”

I couldn’t move.

“Now!” she screamed, her voice reaching an even higher pitch of hysteria. She looked down at my nametag, “Hannah!”

Startled into action by the sound of my name, I nodded and hastily retreated from the room.

Maybe, if I just kept on walking and headed out the front doors, no one would notice. But, then what would I do? Where would I go? I could join the circus and work as a trapeze artist, or maybe I could be a spy for the Canadian Government. Do we even have spies in Canada?

Instead of running for freedom, I headed down the hall, through the Great Room, where several robe-clad guests were relaxing between services, and around the corner to Terence’s office. I stood there for a moment staring at the brass nameplate on his door. Taking a deep breath, I knocked softly. Maybe he wasn’t in today. Maybe he’d won the lottery and quit his job. Even better, maybe he contracted scarlet fever and wouldn’t be in for months.

“Enter,” Terence’s voice commanded.

I opened the door and stepped in. Terence was sitting behind his desk typing madly on his computer, his long spider-like fingers scuttling furiously across the keyboard. His thick black frames were perched at the end of his pinched nose while his eyes, so dark they looked like tiny chunks of coal, remained glued to the computer screen.

I looked over his shoulder at the large Carrico print, entitled The Unknowable, hanging on the wall behind him. I loved the precise lines and balance of the white geometric shapes floating against the slate blue background. I cringed inside because I knew that Terence chose the picture, not for its beauty or purity of form, but because it matched the cool blues and silvery grey tones of the minimalist decor in his office.

“Sorry to bother you but—” I said.

“Make it quick, I’m in the middle of something.”

“It’s about Mrs. Weatherbee.”

Terence’s fingers stopped in mid-air. He looked up and pinned me with his beady eyes, his normally baby smooth forehead furrowed with wrinkles. “What have you done now?”

“Nothing, really. I was doing an eyebrow wax on her, and I seem to have accidentally removed too much. And…she wants to see you.”

Terence stood up and moved towards the door with lightening speed.

“Mrs. Weatherbee is one of our Gold Card Members. If you did anything to jeopardize the reputation of this spa, I will have your head on a platter.”

“But I didn’t mean to do it!”

“Be quiet and follow me,” he barked, heading out the door. Terence sped down the corridor to the waxing area with me following behind.

“What room is she in?” he asked over his shoulder.

“One,” I replied, finally catching up to him.

Terence knocked on the appropriate door, called out Mrs. Weatherbee’s name, and walked in without waiting for her to reply. Mrs. Weatherbee sat on the edge of the treatment table where I’d left her, still holding the mirror in front of her face.

“Mrs. Weatherbee,” Terence’s voice softened and filled with concern. “What seems to be the problem?”

She slowly lowered the mirror onto her lap.

“Oh my!” Terence took an involuntary step backwards bumping into me. I stumbled into the wall but managed to stop myself from falling. He turned to me, his eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared like an angry bull. “Wait outside.”

I scrambled out of the room barely making it over the threshold before Terence shut the door. I stood out in the dimly lit hallway awaiting my fate. After a few moments, when Terence hadn’t come out, I closed my eyes and listened to the music that floated down from the speakers hidden in the ceiling. I tried to let the gentle surf sound and Celtic harp music calm me. I listened to the hushed voices of people talking in the Great Room and wished I could be anywhere but at work. I wished I could start this horrible day over and make the outcome different.

Earlier, I thought my day couldn’t get any worse. Now I was going to be canned. All because of one little eyebrow. It wasn’t like I scarred her for life or cut off a limb.

Maybe I’d get off with a slap on the wrist. I had worked at the Serenity Day Spa for almost three years, and this was the first time I had done anything really bad. I mean, calling in sick because of a hangover or forgetting a client in a mud wrap and going home didn’t really count. I clung to that thought.

Fifteen minutes later, the door opened and Terence stepped out. At five foot nine, Terence wasn’t much taller than I was, but as he walked towards me, his anger transformed him into a towering ogre.

“You,” he whispered, jabbing his finger in my face, “will report down to the laundry room for the rest of your shift. I’m moving your clients over to the other girls. I’ve done what I can to smooth things over with Mrs. Weatherbee. You can consider yourself lucky that I didn’t fire you on the spot.”

I relaxed a bit.

“Well, what are you standing around for? Go! Go! Go!” Terence waved his hands in my face, shooing me away.

I turned to leave, but Terence stopped me before I could even take a step.

“And Hannah, you will report to my office tomorrow at eight-thirty a.m. sharp. Understood?”

“Understood.”

I should have expected this. I had gotten off way too easily. I knew Terence wanted to prolong my punishment and state of panic as long as he could. He got off on seeing other people squirm.

I straightened my shoulders and headed through the spa, past the Great Room, and down the small corridor that led to the basement stairs. As I passed some of my coworkers in the hallway and struggled not to cry, the heat rose in my face. They looked at me curiously, but no one had the nerve to say anything. One of the strictly enforced rules at Serenity was no unnecessary talking or socializing amongst the staff while on the floor. Besides, the whole spa would know what happened by the end of the day.

The thing about working with a bunch of women was that gossip was more popular than the chocolate body scrub on Valentine’s Day and spread through the spa in less time than it took to remove an eyebrow. I admit that I enjoyed my fair share of whispering in the halls and passing on juicy tidbits about the love lives of my co-workers or which client had recently had plastic surgery. But now I was about to be the subject of conversation. I could already imagine the hushed giggles that would stop abruptly by that uncomfortable silence that lets you know you’ve just walked in on a conversation about you. Somehow, gossiping didn’t seem like such a harmless pastime when I was going to be the topic.

I heaved open the heavy, metal door that led down to the basement. As it swung closed behind me, hot, angry tears spilled down my cheeks.

Interview:

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the middle child of five sisters. I was born in the small town of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta and recently lived with my eldest sister on a hobby farm in the remote Kootenay mountains of British Columbia. Currently I live in BC’s Fraser Valley in a household of women spanning two generations of family with a collection of cats and a teacup Chihuahua affectionately known as Rat Baby.

 

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

The book I have out now, The Still Life of Hannah Morgan, is a contemporary romance about a young woman struggling to come to terms with her desire to live her life as an artist, the need to please her mother and her journey to find love. The story explores themes of love, loss, friendship and the quest to create an authentic life.

 

What inspires and what got you started in writing?

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized not everyone walked around daydreaming storylines or went to sleep each night going over dialogue from make-believe characters. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence creating stories in my head until, as an adult, I found the courage to put pen to paper.

In my late thirties, I was entertaining friends with a story when my eldest sister suggested I start writing them down. It was if I needed someone close to me to give me permission to explore that creative side of myself and since then I’ve never looked back. It is such a joy and relief to have an outlet for all the characters and storylines that pop into my head.

 

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

When I write, I need quiet and as few distractions as possible. I don’t have an office so I write using my laptop where ever I can. Right now I have an old pine table in my bedroom that serves as my writing space.

 

As far as the process itself, I usually do a general outline written on lined post-it notes plastered to the wall next to my writing table. As I finish a chapter I replace the general outline notes with the actual details of each chapter so that I have a quick visual of what took place, which characters appear in each chapter and the date and time each chapter takes place.

 

When I first begin a novel the inspiration comes from the excitement of capturing the idea on paper. As the processes moves forward and I’m in the middle of a project it is perseverance and a commitment to my writing that keeps me glued to my chair especially on days when the writing isn’t coming easily.

 

What do you like to read?

I don’t have a favorite genre, I read everything. What’s more important to me is a well-crafted story, intriguing and flawed characters and beautiful language.

 

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

Read as many different types of books but not just for pleasure. Read critically and ask yourself, why did a particular book hook you? What made this book difficult to put down? Were the characters believable? Did you feel invested in the story?

 

Other advice would be to write as often as you can, develop a thick skin and create a strong support system around you.

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The Handwritten Word

 

I wrote my first novel in long-hand in a plain coil scribbler and later transcribed it on my clunky PC that lived in the basement office. A decade later even though I have a skookum laptop, I still use notebooks as part of my writing process. Invariably I have three notebooks on the go at any given time each with its own purpose.

One is for my personal journal. My writing routine includes a morning date with my journal to get out all the random things pinging around my brain. For me it is the most effective way of gearing up to focus on my current WIP. Three pages of personal writing clears the mental decks to allow the story full reign in my thoughts.

The second notebook I use them for new story ideas that I don’t want to forget but don’t have time to explore, character sketches and blog post topics.

And the third scribbler I use for my current work when I come up against a plot problem or the characters’ motivation seems a little murky. I simply write down questions and answers with no attachment to whether the answers fit the problem. And more often than not, I come up with the solution, or find where I am pushing a character to do something they wouldn’t do.

Cursive writing; connecting my thoughts through my hand to the page creates a magick allowing possibilities to emerge that I wouldn’t have found stabbing away at my keyboard.

Recently there has been debate in both the US and Canada whether to scrap cursive writing instruction in schools. Proponents believe this mode of communication is no longer relevant in an age of texting and keyboarding. Arguments for the other side reveal that cursive writing is more than just a means of putting words on paper.

A recent article by William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph. D, professor of Neuroscience at Texas A & M University for Psychology today addresses the importance of cursive writing and its positive effects on brain function.

In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]

There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.[5] Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.

So what I felt intuitively about the power of hand writing to unlock ideas and engage the whole brain to a problem and its solutions seems to be backed by science.

Is cursive writing an archaic method of communication whose time is past or is it a necessary link to developing all our mental capacities?

Will the next generation of writers who haven’t been taught the most basic skill of hand-wrought words be able to generate ideas and feelings in the same degree as past generation of the pen enabled?

In the future, will novels be written in an abbreviated language of texting and twitter posts and if so will they be able to convey deep emotions and complex ideas? Is eliminating cursive writing just the next step in our evolution as a species? Or will something of our humanity be lost without it?

 

 

1 comment

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