Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reprint: Breath of Life Guest Post

Here's another "reissued" guest blog post while I'm tied up with editing for the month of December. This particular entry was originally posted on September 18, 2012, on the Breath of Life blog in support of my then-upcoming release of "My Apple Tree." I was very appreciative of the opportunity and am grateful to Rev. Kim Justice over at Breath of Life for hosting me. I'm providing the link to the original posting below; I encourage you to check out her blog!

Behind the Scenes of My Apple Tree by Elizabeth M. Lawrence

When I was a little girl, my parents had season tickets to the opera, and I went with them. I had become fascinated with opera when I was only about four years old and I saw Verdi’s La Traviata on television. Beverly Sills sang the part of Violetta, and I was completely captivated. I was even permitted to stay up past my bedtime to watch the end. My parents were delighted at my interest and encouraged it, which is how I wound up with my own regular seat for the season.

When I was older, I began to complain about how every opera ends in a death (usually the female lead). I never figured out why, other than that as human beings our response to death is much more multi-faceted than any other emotional experience. We weep, we rage, we laugh, we go numb. Every person in the world understands the depths of grief and loss, whether it is a person, a relationship, or a phase of one’s life. Death is always with us; that is why you can see every tragic play, listen to every opera, watch every heartbreaking film, and read every gut-wrenching book, and your reaction will not fade in intensity. I have seen horrible things in my life, but I will always cry over Violetta. 

Autumn is harvest time, which is obviously the inspiration for the title of Renaissance Romance Publishing’s seasonal collection. It is a complex time of year because we experience both the bounty of the harvest and also the death of the world around us as it prepares for winter. Halloween or Samhain is a perfect example of this. We celebrate, we dress up, we come together as a community, whether to be scared, entertained, or for religious observance. It is a fun night, but behind the decorations and laughter is the specter of Death. The holiday typifies the autumn season.

My Apple Tree is the story of David Cleary and Emily “Mel” Wallace. Both are attempting to cope with lives that have been ripped apart by violence. David is struggling with the loss of his childhood sweetheart Katie when he first encounters Mel. He has been haunted by the belief that he failed Katie, and he wants to make up for his past shortcomings by saving Mel. What first motivates him is guilt, but he comes to find that in order to protect Mel, he must learn to let Katie go. Ultimately, David’s emotional journey is meant to give the reader the understanding that as long as we remember, nothing we love is ever really gone.

Here is an excerpt:
His first thought, when the haze of desire had lifted and they lay out of breath and exhausted, was to wonder what the hell was going on between them. They both were trying to recover from their past experiences with love, and neither wanted a new relationship. So why the hell were they unable to keep their hands off each other?
When David managed to drag himself away from her and they had both gotten dressed, Mel followed him out to his car. He paused before opening the door to brush his fingertips along the curve of her cheek with a smile. She took a deep breath as if she was summoning her courage and spoke. “David, we can’t see each other again.”
His brow furrowed, and he began to protest. “But . . .”
She shook her head. “It’s no use. I don’t know what it is between us, but we can’t seem to be able to be in the same room together without this happening. I just can’t do this. I’m too afraid that I’ll wind up falling for you.”
He winced. “Don’t fall for me, Emily. I’m not worth it.”
She just gave a helpless shrug, the wounded expression in her eyes sending a stab of guilt through him. They stood awkwardly facing each other, both uncomfortable and thinking things that they lacked the courage to say. At last, taking a deep breath, Mel spoke.
“Good-bye, David.”
When Renaissance Romance Publishing first discussed the inclusion of one of my stories in this collection with me, I decided that My Apple Tree would be the most appropriate for the season. Like Halloween and harvest and all the rest, this story revolves around the theme of growth and change and death. It is not meant to be a sad story. Instead, it shows a young man learning to honor the memory of the woman he has lost by loving the woman he has found. There is always loss and grief in our lives; David’s story walks us through the heartbreak and into a new understanding that the blessings we are given are no less wonderful for being temporary. I hope readers enjoy going on the journey with him!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reprint: Girl Who Reads Guest Post

I am super-busy for the entire month of December with various editing jobs, so I thought I'd "reissue" a guest blog post or two to pass the time. This particular entry was originally posted on September 12, 2012, on the Girl Who Reads blog in support of my then-upcoming release of "My Apple Tree." I was very appreciative of the opportunity and am grateful to Donna over at Girl Who Reads for hosting me. I'm providing the link to the original posting below; I encourage you to check out her blog and reviews!

 My Apple Tree [was] published on September 25, 2012, as part of Renaissance Romance Publishing’s Harvest Treats collection, as well as individually as an e-book. I’m very excited about this release, since this will be my first work in print.

This story began years ago as a daydream I had while listening to an old Celtic song about the grief of losing the person you have sworn to love and protect for the rest of your life. It isn’t a particularly happy song, but the lyrics’ raw and unapologetic emotion paints a very vivid picture. As time wore on, the original tale of pain and hopelessness grew and changed into something more, but the story was not really complete until this year.

My great-aunt Helen has lived in Joplin, Missouri, for as long as I can remember. Over the years, I have become very familiar with the city, its people, and its landmarks. When it was struck by a massive tornado on May 22, 2011, Joplin was changed forever. So many people lost so much, and I was heartbroken over the death and devastation that was left in the storm’s wake.

One year later, in May 2012, I traveled to Joplin with my mother to visit Helen and got to see the remaining damage first hand. It’s difficult to wrap your mind around it. You drive along the rolling hills under the shade of the trees, and then suddenly – wasteland. The change is so dramatic that you can almost believe you’ve been transported to another planet. By the time you begin to adjust to the new landscape, boom! The trees and houses and shops reappear as if by magic.

The good news is that people are rebuilding. Life in Joplin keeps moving forward, in spite of the horrible destruction and grief. When you’re there with the people who lived through it, you hear stories so heartbreaking that even the news reports didn’t broadcast them. It’s hard to imagine moving forward and continuing on when you contemplate the enormity of what these people faced. But there are signs of hope and new life and perseverance everywhere, and this is what struck me as I tried to come to terms with what I was seeing as I drove through this forever-altered landscape.

Not far away from the city is a large, out-of-the-way cemetery where a large number of my family are buried. While we were there, I took a photo that is now the cover of the ebook version of My Apple Tree. I decided to use this particular picture because, even though the story itself is about living with the aftermath of death and loss, it is also about learning to embrace life again. That is precisely what the Joplin community showed me this past spring, and it brought an entirely new dimension to my story. I hope that I managed to capture that sense of hope and renewed life well enough to share with readers who pick up the Harvest Treats collection.

Girl Who Reads Guest Post 9/12/12