Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Paper Gems with Sherry Ellis

When I do book reviews for picture books, it is often a fun and wonderful excursion into a new world with one of my kids or one of the neighbor kids. This was no more true than it was with Ten Zany Birds, by Sherry Ellis. Simplistic in its telling it is, as it says, about Ten colorful, interesting and crazy birds who all have something they're interested in, but its never the same thing. As they all get distracted chasing their own brand of fun, these vibrant, colorful birds with their distinct patterns and personalities help young children to have fun with basic math as well as learning sorting and grouping. Tons of fun, this whimsical and entertaining book,by  Sherry Ellis, is a wonderful  tale of ten silly, distractible little birds. I recommend this book for teachers and parents looking   for an excellent choice for both prereader storybook time and early
Ten Zany Birds is available through:   

Amazon (worldwide), Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and author's website:
Formats:  hard copy and ebook (PDF

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sneak Peek: Burning Bridger

Thanks for hanging out on the blog today. Here are the links where you can purchase copies of Burning Bridger and how you can find me as well. Don't forget to keep leaving your e-mail in the comments section for the drawing. The winner will be contacted tomorrow.  Enjoy this peak at Burning Bridger. contact me at, BARNES & NOBLE
.My publisher, Muse It Up Publishing, decides what portion of the book we can release for public consumption, so I'm limited to what I can show you. For today's final post for the blog party I'd like to share a deleted scene that didn't make it into the book. You may also ask; how many scenes have this fate when a writer writes a book?
Here with the answer is my friend and co-author Jamie Hoang.
Jamie is the author of Blue Sun, Yellow Sky. She won two prizes from writing competitions and Kirkus reviews book of the month. Her story of a woman traveling the world to discover who she really is takes you to exotic locales, through wonderful character development and into a story of triumph. You can find her

What I Learned from Writing Scenes I Never Used 

Three years, almost to the day, from the moment I sat down to write Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, I received my first shipment of paperbacks in the mail. I couldn’t
believe that the story I’d lived with in my head was actually, finally and truly, a book. What was even more unbelievable though, was the word count in
my “deleted scenes” folder: 95,643 words.  

It should be noted that my final manuscript is 80,000 words. I had deleted more words than I had in my entire book.  

Instantly, I had “writer’s regret.” Why had I taken out all these incredible moments? Maybe I was too hasty with my cutting because I knew my story too
well, and readers would want these deleted scenes. 

As I combed through them, I laughed, some scenes were so bad that I couldn’t help feeling ridiculous for thinking there was anything more than junk in this
file, but as I kept reading I found that the moments and scenes got better and better. I could actually see an improvement in my progression as a writer
over the years.  

Then I re-read whole chapters, which had been deleted for one reason or another and I started to fall in love all over again with the places my characters
traversed in their journey and the history I had left out of the final story.  

Greedily, I wanted to put these gems that I had found in the digital trash bin of my manuscript, back in. I began pulling passages to reinsert into the
book and spent 2 days attempting to figure out how to adjust my story so as to include them. I had post-it notes scattered throughout my storyboard and
was getting so frustrated at the process because I couldn’t make it work. That’s when it dawned on me that perhaps they were cut for a reason and I was
forcing scenes that no longer belonged.  

My gut instinct to remove them was correct and though I will look back through the 95,643 words occasionally, my readers certainly needn’t be subject to
reading superfluous dialogue and description. And re-reading my book for the 4000th time (maybe a slight over exaggeration), I can say with confidence
that they weren’t a waste of time either.  

These moments I had created were written so that I, the author, could understand my characters better. They were written to give me critical insight into
who my characters were as artists, friends, and traveling companions. Perhaps most importantly, they were written for me.Thanks Jamie, I learned a lot about  Lily and Bridger from this scene as well. Enjoy!

Bridger pocketed the keys to the Range Rover slipping out into the rainy darkness.
“What about Jake’s favorite felon, Carter Langdon?  Should he be our top suspect?” Lilly nodded, a brief gesture, before shaking her head. “Carter is in Federal Custody, he’s out.”
“Is he the kind of guy who could send someone else for revenge?”
Lilly stiffened her back, rivulets of water dripping from her long dark hair. “I’m not a threat to Carter. He wanted to take something he believed was Jake’s. The night he attacked me, he was drunk and bent on hurting someone. He wanted it to be Jake, but it didn’t matter to him. I didn’t matter to him then, he wouldn’t care now.”
Bridger heard a break in her voice, muffled as she cleared her throat and met his eyes in a stubborn glare. “Carter got his, and like I said…it wasn’t personal.”
Bridger held her eyes until she closed them. Taking a deep breath, she turned back to let the rain wash over her face. “So who would make it personal?”
“There was only one other man who has ever stalked me. He could want me dead.” her jaw tightened.  He heard her teeth grind together as she released the words.
      Lilly flipped her dark hair away from her face to bore furious eyes into his expression
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Bridger glowered, wishing he could get past her walls. She was a beautiful woman. She must have some decent men in her life. She trusted Jake. How could he get her to trust him? With a sigh that growled out of his chest, he stalked into the leafy tree lined gulch. He remembered a gurgling stream running down the mountain. In the darkness he saw torrents of water boiling beyond the river banks until it disappeared down the mountain. He looked up from his study of the boulder strewn river bed searching for the outline of the wooden bridge across the gulch. Jagged tufts of broken timber gleamed wet in the early morning moonlight where the bridge had been. Splinters of sodden pieces of wood lay in foaming puddles between the rivers banks.
“The temporary bridge Robby used is gone. We need to look for another way across.”
The deafening pound of the waterfall mixed with the thunder and rain crashed in on Bridger’s senses. “Lilly? Where are you?”
 He stiffened as he peered through the darkness to locate her form or shadow. Colliding rocks, like tumbling bowling balls brought a curse from Bridger’s lips. The sounds were almost absent in the roar of rock and water shifting in the river bed, but he could hear her shout something from the opposite side of the bank. 
“Lilly, you shouldn’t go into the river. It’s dark. The rocks are slippery.”
Her response was lost in a burst of thunder as the drops of rain sprinkling on him turned to a down pour. Bridger looked around again, focusing on the sound of the unsettled rocks before he climbed over the crumbling bank, dropping into the river. “Lilly! These streams flood in the rainy season.”
Between the rain and the rushing water, Bridger couldn’t hear her anymore. If the river flooded, and she was in its path, they could be in trouble. He shot a glance back at the grill of the car. If the river was this bad already, the meadow on the other side might be underwater.
The soles of his shoes squeaked against the jumble of stone as he maneuvered toward the sounds of breaking branches. “I’m not coming to rescue you, but you should know this storm makes forging a river dangerous.”
     The waterfall exploded in a torrential rush as if in agreement. Bridger braced his feet against   the pull of the surging river around his ankles and then his knees as he picked his way through the smooth river rock toward the far bank where he could hear her ahead of him. A thrashing of wood and leaves was followed by the sound of roots ripping from the ground. Bridger dove to the side as a bulky tree trunk hurtled toward him, scratching his calves when it tumbled past. “Lilly! Are you okay?”
     The river encompassed him now.  Breaking over his back while forcing his weight into the crevices between rocks. Stretching his arms out until his fingers caught hold of a sapling; he pulled his weight free of the water. 
Bridger collapsed onto the bank, littered with soggy debris and ferns.   He looked around the rocky chasm.  The river was pushing out of its banks. Trees and dislodged debris rushed past him.
“I think we’re stuck on this side of the river.” Lilly’s voice drifted down the rocky slope behind him.
“For a while anyway,” he said not watching as she settled beside him. “Are you okay?”
Bridger nodded while catching his breath.” “Now that we’re across, do you know where we should go from here?”
Glancing back toward the palm trees lining the bank above him, he began scrambling up the rock ridden slope. The trees were crowded together only inches apart. Bridger locked his hands around the smooth trunks while swinging his legs up onto the muddy edge. Lightening sizzled in the air before it flashed into a sonic boom. Bridger covered his head as a bolt of raw electricity sliced through an eight foot banyan tree less than a hundred yards away. The jagged bolt of power carved through the trunk as if it were made of jello. The brilliant white light exposed the slump of the plywood and thatching crouched in a smoking heap beneath another charred tree trunk. It might be salvageable once the rainy season ended, but tonight it would be worse than staying beside the flooded river. The air seemed to hiss with raw power left from the lightening, and Bridger crawled back from the line of trees.
As he lowered his body back into the gulch, Lilly turned her face toward the waterfall, a barrage of whitewater erupting from an onyx cliff.
 The other side is worse,” Bridger gasped.  “We need to get back to the Rover.”
“I’m not sure we can.”
She pointed at the lava cliff where an explosion of white water poured from the waterfall. The electrical storm in the meadow behind illuminated the swollen river. The smoking embers of trees and scorched earth drifted toward their position on the edge of the flood.
“Will the river slow down? “Her voice was barely audible above the tumbling water. “Will this gorge fill up?”
“It will. It could trap us in the river too. Let me think for a minute.” Squatting on the balls of his feet Bridger inspected the shadowy boulders surrounding them. “There’s no way across right now. The water’s too high. We’ll have to wait for some of the debris to create a temporary crossing.” Scanning the muddy water, Bridger stood, taking Lilly’s hand and pointing to a position further up the gorge.  He held tight to her palm, jerking her back to her feet whenever she slipped on a rock. He focused on a section of water spilling over a jumble of rocks and branches. Wiping spatters of rain from his face, he picked a path away from the rising surge of the river.
 “If we have to wait out the storm, maybe you could tell me about the other guy you don’t need rescuing from?”
     “What other guy,” she asked, her voice getting lost in the river.
“The one you said stalked you before?”
The other guy was my professor and UC-Berkley. He propositioned me after class one day and offered me ‘private tutoring’.” She let go of his hand to make quotation marks in the air. When she slipped again Bridger grabbed her by the waist, pulling her back to her feet. “This professor flirted with you by telling you to get a tutor? You were too dumb to do it alone?” He growled in his throat. “I’ll have to try that line someday.”
“He told me all about my potential.
How I had captivated him from the first day of class. He was tall, dark, and gorgeous so I didn’t question his motives. I don’t think I even cared until…”
Bridger shifted his weight off of his right leg. It was beginning to throb where he’d landed in the river, but he didn’t want to stop her from talking. “Until what?”
     “Until I snuck into his office to surprise him. Instead, I   heard him make the same offer to another girl from another class.”
     Bridger grimaced and shook his head. “Who came to your rescue that time?”
     “I did.” She shot the words in icy daggers. “I reported him to the University and he lost his job, his tenure, and his wife. I started getting threatening phone calls and black roses after I turned him in.  I left school before he disappeared into Tijuana.”
“He left his life to hide in Mexico?”
“It was the only way he could avoid being assaulted on the street by angry dads and boyfriends. 
Bridger chuckled.  “I’ve always wondered, why women think they are so special when a man like that hits on them.”
“What? Why wouldn’t I have thought that?”
     “For obvious reasons,” he said, letting go of her to scale a slab of Lava jutting from the side of the gorge. “This guy is making inappropriate advances toward a student, you, but he hasn’t or isn’t doing it to anyone else? The guy was a loser.”
When he reached out to lift her over the protruding rock, Lilly’s fist connected with Bridger’s bicep.  He groaned. “It’s not men that you don’t like, Lilly. It’s men who see weaknesses that you don’t want to face.”
“How was I weak in either of those situations?” she hissed. She shoved away from his hold on her, picking her way through the rocks alone.
     “They saw your lack of confidence. It attracted you to them in the first place.”
     Lilly scowled at him before scrambling closer to the raging river.
     Bridger sighed as he sprang up to follow her. The bruise on his hip making him stiff and sore. A cracking of branches echoed through the gulch. He took two long strides closing the gap between them. She was picking her way to a rock strewn portion of the river bed, testing the debris to find a place to cross. He wrapped one arm around her waist, yanking her back from the thrashing water.  She struggled against him, her protests muffled by the thundering water and wood plummeting toward their position on the bank.
     A log, craggy exposed branches and hanging bark, caught and lodged between a giant boulder across the river.   A tangle of roots and rocks jutted out from the bank. Bridger jerked her back as the water surged against the barrier. “
Let go.””
He locked his arm around her, but did not lift her feet off the ground. The water soaked log moaned.
“We’ve lost time on this little river trip, we can’t afford to lose anymore.” His lips were pressed against her wet hair. The smell of coconut oil distracted his thoughts for a moment. Wriggling free of his loosened hold Lilly stepped back, brushing her wet hair out of her eyes.
“I can get across on that log jam.”
Bridger shook his head, pointing at the fast forming damn. “I’ll cross first, to make sure it will hold. Wait for me until I get across, and then follow.”
He had to shout the instructions, but Lilly just narrowed her eyes at him.  Stepping out on to the creaking log, she shuffled out of his reach.
 “You’re too heavy. I have a better shot. One of us might have to call search and rescue to save the other.”
     Bridger took one long step, shackling her wrist with his hand before she could leave. She teetered on unsteady feet with the motion. Releasing the grip on her wrist Bridger reluctantly let go. “I have an idea. Give me your belt.”
     Bridger moved closer to the log and looked down at the beige nylon belt laced through the loops of his Khaki shorts. “I’m a big guy but not big enough for my belt to stretch all the way across the river.”
     Lilly rolled her eyes, stepping down from the log. She moved in front of him. Pressing her body against him she grabbed the belt, fumbling for the buckle. Slivers of starlight sparkled in her eyes as she stared into his, concentration furrowing her brow.   As she pulled the woven length out in one swift motion, he sucked in a quick breath. Stepping back from him, the belt dangling from one hand, Lilly moved back to balance on the log.  Before he could protest or argue, her long bronze legs were walking into the raging river.


Lilly grinned into the drizzling rain, as she wrapped the length of nylon around her hand. It looped in a thick coil over her palm, the end hanging a few inches from her fist.
“That belt won’t help you if you fall. What are you doing?”
She ignored his shouts, testing her feet against the wet wood. “Take this end. Stretch your arms out so you can hold onto that tree sticking out of the bank. It will give us six extra feet. I’ll unwind it while I’ll walk across. If the log jam gives way you pull me out.” She stumbled as the water battered the soft wood beneath her shoes. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she hoped he hadn’t seen her gulping back her fears. A part of her was lighter, free somehow. A tight rope walk across a raging river couldn’t make her nervous after she’d just exposed all of her dark secrets.
Move slow. Small steps. Move slow.
She sucked in droplets of water as she took steady breaths. She didn’t expect Talking to Bridger would give her a kind of reckless confidence. When she laid out some of her past to him. She’d been afraid of his response. He only listened. If he would see her as cold, even cruel when it came to men. Maybe he would keep his distance. She was grateful, even relieved for his last two timely rescues, but she wanted, almost needed him to react with horror at the revelations. She was starting to trust him. His unvarnished observations were the strength she missed with other men.
     Lilly broke away from her tumbling thoughts. She focused on the movement of her feet, unwinding the belt from her hand as she scooted sideways along the length of the log. Icy water splashed against her legs. She moved cautiously toward a banyan tree leaning over the river five or six feet away. With every step the water swirled over the log and around her ankles. Its frigid fingers seemed to claw through her bare skin. The log groaned, shifting in the river’s thrust.  Holding her right arm out for balance, Lilly moved increments’ at a time. Bridger was shouting from the other side, but she couldn’t take her concentration off the precarious path she was taking. The wood gave  way beneath her feet as Lilly hurtled her body at a thigh high boulder embedded in the bank. When her fingers brushed the wet leaves of a banyan tree, she twisted the willowy branch around her wrist .Lilly  glanced over and saw the belt stretched to its limit between she and Bridger.
With a gasped, Lilly strangled her fingers around the branch.
Bridger climbed onto the precarious log, startling her when the tenuous balance of the log shifted beneath her.  She shouted for him to stop and let go of the belt.
      He hesitated, his lips thinning into a narrow line. Shouting back,  Bridger let his end drop as Lilly released the tree branch from her right hand . Working with both hands now,  she tightened the belt around her left wrist.  She hadn’t heard what he tried to tell her. She didn’t want to. His over-protective instincts, infuriating her with his doubt. She tie her other wrist into the banyan tree branches Sinking her feet between the log and boulder where she stood. Taking a breath, Lilly closed her eyes. You can do it. You can do it.
She whipped the belt back toward Bridger. The length flipping through the air. Lilly heard the wet slapping sound of the material striking against his palm. She sighed, grateful she hadn’t seen him leaning out to catch it. As the belt grew taut between them, Lilly opened her eyes and breathed a broken breath. She braced her legs and feet into the rocky bank, waiting. 
Bridger began to shuffle toward her, winding the belt around his hand exactly opposite of what she had done. His movements were slight, methodical as he balanced his weight over the bulging wooden barrier. Spatters of rain ticked against the leaves beside her, like a torturous clock. Her arms shook with the strain of holding on. The cool rain chilled her fingers and tightened her grip uselessly.
     He was almost half way across the raging water when Lilly heard a crack as the belt’s buckle bit into her wrist. The log shattered , a thundering exclamation of wood and water as it gave way beneath Bridger’s feet. Lilly braced her hips against the boulder beside her. She leaned backward in preparation for Bridger’s full weight to hang from the belt.
The impact was more than she was expecting. Bridger’s body was dragged between the jagged edges of the shattered log. The pressure of the water clawed against Lilly’s shoulder sockets. Her fingers were starting to slide on the wet, slick leaves and branches of the tree. Her arms screamed in electric pain. It was a  searing heat surpassing any previous experience. When she had seen his head disappear beneath the torrent of water and wood,  a cold numbing fist ripped through her chest. Her throat ached with the remnants of the scream torn from her.
     A distant instinct tangled in her nerves and muscles as she fought to hang on and not plunge into the water after him. She closed her eyes against the image of his blond hair being buried beneath the rapids.
Hang on. Hang on.
If holding on was all he needed, she could do it. Lilly twisted her wrist and hand around the branch , digging her nails into the wood. She shifted her feet deeper into the rocks pounding against her ankles. The rough stone cut into her bones, she screamed again. The nylon fibers of the belt burned hot and then numb across her palm. Her body pulsed with adrenaline spiked pain threatening to cover her thoughts with unconsciousness. She let her grip slacken before she opened her eyes to stare at the throbbing muscles of Bridger’s forearm clinging to the line between them.  He was holding on, she was forced to wrestle against the thrashing of his body on the end of the belt.
Lilly focused on her shaking hands, blood trickling from her fingers. Images from the night of the accident all those months before flooded her mind. Her hands holding onto Moises’ arm. His blood streaming through her fingers. If she could have saved Moises by hanging on how much different would her life have been? The thought took her breath from her lungs, the dying scream choking her. Bracing one hip against the boulder Lilly tried throwing her weight backward to fight the overpowering leverage of the water. The nylon strap cut deeper into her wrist.
Lilly watched the swirl of muddy water engulf Bridger’s end of the belt. Tears streamed down her cheeks as her heart thudded against her ribs. A gasp caught in her raw throat as she saw one of Bridger’s hands break through the water line. He clung to the belt, his hand shaking, while pulling his body from beneath the tumultuous water. One hand over the other, he  began to pull his head and shoulders from the river. . Relief swallowed her aching arms and shoulders, it threatened to weaken her hold, but exploded as a  hot power that blocked out all other sensations. She locked icy fingers around the belt and branch, refusing to loosen her grip.
Coughing river water Bridger began scrambling toward the bank. Lilly kept her eyes focused on his moving form until he had climbed over several large rocks into shallower water. She tried to ignore the prickling sensations beneath her skin as the frayed belt slackened. He crouched on his hands and knees on the rock strewn bank. Coughs and choked breaths spewed the river as it drained in rivulets from his head.
     Lilly shuddered at  a warm trickle stinging  her raw palms. She looked down to see both her hands bleeding. Leaves and bark imbedded in one. A slash splitting the other where she’d held to the belt. When did she let go? She couldn’t remember loosening her hold with either hand. Her knees were bruised, chunks of rock scattered over them.  Cold rose through her thighs as she plucked her unfeeling feet from between the rocks to stumble toward him.  Still hacking up water, Bridger wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. She sank to her knees beside him ignoring more prickling fingers of intruding rock. Pushing wet tendrils of hair off of his face, she turned his chin toward her.  “Are you Okay? Can you breathe? I know CPR.”
     As he sat back on his knees ,she put both hands on his shoulders, trying to get him to focus on her face. “Bridger? Breathe!”
 Bridger’s long arms reached out and crushed her against him. Taking  her face in one hand, He  stared into her eyes.
“Thank you,” he whispered. His lips brushed gently over hers, before he crushed her mouth against his.
     Lilly was shaken, sore and completely unprepared for his reaction. She sank against his body and tasted the gritty water in his mouth before her mind caught up. His lips were soft on her skin, his breaths gasping over her lips. She shoved him back. “What the…”
     A burst of laughter erupted from him before he let go.  Staggering onto trembling legs. “You said something about CPR. I prefer the mouth-to-mouth.”
     “I didn’t offer mouth-to-mouth.”
“Gratitude, then? For checking my breathing. Bridger ran his fingers through his soaking hair, water spilling down his nose and chin.
Is this how you thank the other bouncer’s at the bar?”
 Lilly tried to hold back a smile as she swiped her hand across her mouth, flicking water at him.
     “I’m not usually this grateful. He said, looking back at the raging river. Offering  her his hand, he sucked in a long breath.  When she reached for it,  His eyes widened at the sight of blood trickling through her fingers.
Jerking back from him, she pressed her palms against the sodden edge of her t-shirt. Wincing as the gritty fabric dug into the open wounds on her palms, she twisted her expression.  Bridger loosened her grip on the bloody material and pulled her hands away from her body. Glaring at the torn surface, he reached for the hem of his shirt and began pulling it over his head. His golden skin flashed rock hard abdominal muscles carved across his stomach, before he twisted his hips to  pull the fabric over his shoulders.
 Lilly’s mouth dropped open as the dark jagged edges of torn flesh sculpted the muscles on his back into a jagged landscape of scar tissue. “Bridger.” His name slipped out with her breath. “What happened?”
 Bridger thrust his wet shirt against her palms. His eyebrows casting his eyes into shadow. “Tear this into strips. I’ll get another from the car.”
Lilly reached one hand toward him as he stepped back, crossing his arms over his chiseled chest. His face was blank, his eyes boring straight through her. “Take the shirt. We need to go.”
Lilly dropped her gaze at the dark gray fabric before she pushed it back to him. “Keep your shirt on. I’m not bleeding that much.”
“It’s a steep climb out of here. You need to wrap your hands so they don’t get any more dirt in them.”
Lilly inspected her oozing hands, seeing the skin on his back in her mind’s eye. She pressed her hands against her shirt, while he twisted his into a knot. She could still feel the touch of his lips against  her mouth. Her heart still pounded with the remnants of his near drowning. Lilly closed her eyes, breathing shallow bursts of air. He wasn’t supposed to have an effect on her: His body, his scars, or his kisses .the cold hollow she lived with flickered sparks of heat at his touch.  She couldn’t even meet his eyes.  She pulled her dripping shirt off, and began  tearing it into strips.
Don’t look at him. Don’t look at him
 Lilly wrapped the wet material through her fingers and around her palms, before gritting her teeth. Looking back up into his softened features, she watched him wring water from his shirt before replacing it over his sculpted body.
“I’m ready,” Lilly said her voice trembling.
Bridger coughed to clear his throat. , the sound choked, deep in his chest. “Do you have another shirt in your bag?”
     Two or Three, plus some tank tops.”
     “Good,” he said, checking  the dirty cloths wrapped around the surface abrasions. He took her elbow in his hand, guiding her back to the slope below   the graveled parking area. Gesturing with his chin upward, Bridger laced his fingers together to form a step. Lilly scowled for a minute before shoving her foot in his grasp. “Where are we going now?”
“This place isn’t going to work. We have to keep going toward Hana, but  you need something clean over those wounds.”
“I can tear up another shirt to use as a bandage. Is that why you look so-stressed out?”
“That’s not it.” His eyes sparkled in the dim light, a crooked smile turning his lips. Lilly tilted her head, narrowing her gaze. “Mostly, I need you to get dressed. . I can’t travel down The Hana Highway for the next few hours with you in that bikini..”
Lilly’s heart jumped as the words caressed her cheek.,  inspecting the yellow strings of fabric barely covering her body, she stole a peek at him from the corner of her eye. 
What’s the matter, ” She teased, bracing her palm against his shoulder. ” you don’t like yellow?”