Guest Author: Layla M. Wier!

Layla M. Weir is celebrating the release of her latest book today, Held for Ransom! She’s brought an excerpt, and an invitation to join her on Monday to keep the party going. I loved her novella Homespun and am really looking forward to reading her novel!

Thanks for visiting, Layla! 🙂

Hi Charley – thank you for having me! My novel Held For Ransom is out today, and I couldn’t be more excited! I will be having an all-day release party on Monday, Nov. 17 at both my Facebook and my blog, so everyone is invited to that –

http://laylawier.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/laylamwier

(It should be today, except I ran into a teensy work-scheduling problem which resulted in me being away from the computer all day today and tomorrow. Oops.)

Anyway, I’ve lived most of my life in small towns, so it’s probably not a surprise that I keep writing books set in them! Held For Ransom is set in the fictional small town of Osmar, in central Illinois. Osmar and the other places mentioned in the book (Heatherfield, Saganic, the Danby River, etc) are all fictional, but the area is not-so-subtly based on the area around Champaign-Urbana, where I lived for four years in the early 2000s while my husband went to grad school.

Illinois is … flat. Very flat. The story I always like to tell people about Illinois and its epic flatness is about the time that my husband and I did a driving tour of Champaign County which included a drive-by of Blue Mound, the only hill in the entire county. We were very curious to see this fabled “hill”, since we’d noticed a complete lack of topography in the time we’d been living there — the freeway overpasses were invariably the tallest things around.

Our first warning sign was the comment in the guidebook that at certain times of year we might not be able to see the hill, because it’s difficult to see when the corn is high.

We drove down the indicated county route. And drove, and drove. When we found the area indicated by the guidebook, the only thing to be seen in miles of cornfields was a farmhouse. Were we lost?

“No,” my husband said. “I think that’s it.”

After driving around it a few times, we determined that the farmhouse was indeed located on a sliiiiiiightly elevated patch of ground, nearly imperceptible to the naked eye. The amount of rise could not possibly have been more than 50 feet over a couple of acres.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Illinois.

So, as you’re reading Held For Ransom, picture the flattest place you’ve ever been. Then think flatter.

Held For Ransom is about a small town in central Illinois that’s thrown topsy-turvy when a mysterious, motorcycle-riding drifter comes to town just before the annual Christmas carnival and has a one-night stand (well, that’s what he meant it to be) with the carnival’s overwhelmed organizer. There’s a touch of romantic comedy, a little hurt/comfort, a blizzard, a bag of missing cash and a whole passel of well-intentioned friends and neighbors. If that sounds like it might be your holiday cup of cheer, here’s a small taste for you to enjoy!

 

Excerpt:

Ransom killed the motorcycle engine outside 324 Elm Street and sat on the seat for a minute or two, gazing along the street at the neat rows of porch lights glimmering through the chill winter darkness. Idyllic. That’s a good word for this place. It looked to him like a set from a family sitcom, the sort where father knows best and no problem is too big to be resolved in twenty-two minutes. A part of him thought it should be possible to peek behind those house fronts to see the scaffolding propping them up and the hands scurrying around the dark backdrop of a soundstage.

He wondered what it would have been like to grow up here.

The sky was flat black, the low clouds were lit with the dim glow of some bigger town off to the northwest—Heatherfield, probably. The air had a dry, sandy taste that bespoke ominously of snow.

            You should be on the road.

But he wasn’t.

After a time he dismounted from the motorcycle, hung the helmet on the handlebars, patted his jacket pocket to make sure the all-important bundle was still there, and then unlatched the low gate. DJ Lanning’s house had an honest-to-god picket fence. The yard was a patch of slightly overgrown lawn with little solar-powered lights picking out the walkway. Frost glistened in their cold blue glow. It was going to be a chilly night.

He rang the doorbell and waited. He was raising his hand to ring it again when DJ opened the door—breathless and tousle-haired and lit from behind. “Hello! Hi!” he said. Then he stopped and blinked helplessly, clearly having exhausted whatever short conversational script he was working from.

“Can I come in?” Ransom prompted after a moment. “It’s cold out here.”

“Oh! Oh. Yes. Please.”

DJ ushered him into a living room that was all Ransom had expected based on the outside of the house. A real estate agent would probably have called it “cozy.” It was a little too small for its burden of overstuffed furniture, but the effect was welcoming rather than off-putting.

DJ snatched up a crumb-laden paper plate on an end table and scurried off to the kitchen with it. Ransom watched him go, amused, and laid his leather jacket over the fat blue arm of a cheap, overstuffed couch. By the time DJ came back with two cups of coffee, a box of crackers, and a bottle of hazelnut creamer, Ransom had staked out a place on the end of the couch. It was a very comfortable couch. Then he got to watch DJ try to figure out where it was best, politically, to sit. DJ eventually compromised on a recliner next to Ransom’s end of the couch.

“The committee ate everything in the house that wasn’t nailed down,” DJ said. “I hope you like crackers. Uh, sugar and stuff in your coffee? Creamer?”

“Creamer’s good.” He’d eaten dinner at the diner in Osmar. Typical small-town diner food. He’d had plenty of it in the last year. He watched DJ arrange crackers on a paper plate and thought that this could easily be the weirdest date he’d ever been on. If it was a date.

Held For Ransom

by Layla M. Wier

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novel/200 pages

Two weeks before Christmas, the small town of Osmar is gearing up for its annual winter carnival, but the death of the event’s long-time organizer might mean the end of the festivities. Everyone is turning to her son DJ to save the carnival, but DJ can barely save himself. He’s spinning his wheels in Osmar—working part time at the gas station, living in his parents’ house, and trying to figure out what to do with his life. DJ is caught in a large, loving web of well-meaning family and friends, but they can’t fix his life for him.

Into this mess comes Ransom, a handsome mystery man on a motorcycle. Ransom is traveling around the country, making up for his past sins by doing “good deeds.” He and DJ have a one-night stand that neither can forget, but that’s just the start, because Ransom has a plan to save the carnival, and DJ has a plan to save Ransom… and possibly himself.

 

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5679

 

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is a writer and artist who grew up in rural Alaska and now lives on the highway north of Fairbanks, where winters dip to 50 below zero and summers yield 24 hours of daylight. She and her husband, between the two of them, possess a useful array of survival skills for the zombie apocalypse, including gardening, blacksmithing, collecting wild plant foods, and spinning wool into yarn (which led to her first Dreamspinner Press novella, “Homespun”). When not writing, she likes reading, hiking, and spending way too much time on the Internet.

 

Where to find Layla:

Blog: http://laylawier.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Layla_in_Alaska

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laylamwier

Tumblr: http://laylainalaska.tumblr.com


Stops on the Held for Ransom blog tour (Nov. 12-Dec. 1):

Wednesday, Nov. 12: Anne Barwell – http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Friday, Nov. 14: RELEASE DAY! Charley Descoteaux https://cdescoteauxwrites.com/2014/11/11/guest-author-layla-m-wier-2/

Monday, Nov. 17: Shae Connor – http://shaeconnorwrites.com/

… and **ALL-DAY RELEASE PARTY** on Facebook and WordPress:

http://laylawier.wordpress.comhttps://www.facebook.com/laylamwier

Wednesday, Nov. 19: Grace Duncan – http://www.grace-duncan.com

Friday, Nov. 21: Jana DeNardo – http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com

Monday, Nov. 24: Anna Butler – http://annabutlerfiction.com/blog/

Wednesday, Nov. 26: Aidee Ladnier – http://www.aideeladnier.com/

Friday, Nov. 28: Sherrie Henry – http://sherriehenry.blogspot.com/

Monday, Dec. 1: Because Two Men Are Better Than One – http://becausetwomenarebetterthanone.com/

Guest Author: Layla M Wier!

Today my guest is Layla M. Wier! I’m especially excited to host her, because her novella is set in one of my favorite places on earth—Upstate New York—and features sheep. I love sheep because without them i wouldn’t have nearly as much fun.

I knit. But you go ahead and think whatever you want. 😉

Thank you, Charley, for hosting me here! Today I’ll talk about my novella Homespun (available now from Dreamspinner Press!) and the ever-fun writer’s game of location scouting. Before I get into that, though, I wanted to mention that during my blog tour (which runs ’til Oct. 8) I’m giving away a handmade scarf, knit or crocheted by me specially for you, in a style and yarn color that you get to pick! (This would also be a great holiday gift for someone else!) More details here: http://laylawier.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/scarf-giveaway/ – you just need to comment on any of the posts in the Homespun blog tour to be entered.

Anyway – location scouting! When you write a story, one of the first things to figure out is where it’s going to be set: a small town or a big city, somewhere familiar that you’ve lived all your life or somewhere on the other side of the world that will require tons of research? The plot, to some extent, determines the location, and that’s just as true of Homespun as it is of any other story. Homespun is about a couple struggling with changes to their relationship that come about after same-sex marriage is legalized in their state. I also planned to set it on a farm, so this limited my locations to a handful of possible states. I ended up going with New York for a pretty simple reason: not only did it fit my plot, but my sister lives there, so I could sneakily combine a research tour with a visit to see her.

(“I am totally here to visit you, sister dear, and for no other purpose. Never mind those times when I sneak off for hours without explanation …”)

Actually, my sister has always been very supportive of my writing, and she also loves to explore and was delighted by an opportunity to jump in the car and drive around a bit. Once I settled on New York, I started researching sheep farms online, and it seemed that most of the real-life ones I’d been looking at were in the central and west part of the state. My sister lives near Ithaca, which made the Syracuse area a natural choice, since it was right in her backyard (more or less).

As we drove around, I found that the rolling farmland between Syracuse and Utica had the perfect feeling I wanted for Homespun. It also had a ton of seemingly interchangeable small towns, which was quite useful for my purposes! The area right around Syracuse, where I’d originally planned to set it, was really too built up, and the geography was too varied. It really mattered a lot if you were going to be, say, a bit north of Syracuse, or a bit south of it; one way there’s a lake, and the other way there’s not! I’d have to pin down the location in more detail than I really wanted to. If I located the farm over near Utica, though, I could be a lot more vague about geography and still be plausible.

And it’s a lovely area, full of farms and old barns and tiny towns on country highways. We happened to drive through around sunset on our way back from a trip to Vermont, and it was simply amazing.

(Unfortunately most of my pictures from that evening are blurry because I was trying to take them from a moving car under poor lighting conditions. This is one that turned out clear.)

So I’d found my location. I looked over a New York road atlas to get a feel for the general style of town names in the area, and gave Homespun’s fictional small town the equally fictional name of Clayton.

Fast forward eight months or so, to this summer when I got the first round of edits on Homespun. This included a note from my editor that they were confused about the geography. There’s a scene in which I describe Owen driving from Clayton to Ohio, and it doesn’t quite work out as described, my editor said.

“But,” I thought, “Clayton is fictional … oh crud.”

Yes, it turns out there is actually a Clayton, NY. Why I didn’t think to Google it, I can’t even imagine. I’m just glad beyond words that my editor caught it before the book went to press, because the real Clayton is located in ENTIRELY the wrong part of New York for my purposes. It’s way up in the northern part of the state, near Lake Ontario.

So I had to rename the town.

I would like to pause here for a moment and register my annoyance at the sheer number of small towns, villages, and hamlets with vaguely British-sounding names in New York state. Everything I could come up with that sounded like a plausible small New York town … already WAS a small New York town.

I eventually settled on Hazel, which had the benefit of being short and easy to spell (since I have some vague idea of writing other stories set here), but does not actually exist in reality. That I can find, anyway.

And just in case you were wondering how obsessive I can get about planning out my fictional locations, here is my description of Hazel (formerly Clayton) from the plot notes that I wrote while I was working on the novella last fall. I’d like to point out that Hazel doesn’t even appear in the story (which takes place entirely at the farm; Hazel is merely mentioned) and none of these other places are mentioned at all.

“Hazel:

Hazel is the nearby hamlet, about 2 miles from the farm. It’s located between Syracuse and Utica (probably closer to Utica).

Hazel is a tiny town, probably about 200 people. Its only businesses are a drive-up ice-cream place (called Snowball’s; also serves hot dogs, cold drinks) and the auto shop where Owen works (Brady Auto Repair, which is located in an old converted barn).

The nearest actual town (well, technically a village or maybe a hamlet) is Johnson Mills, pop. about 1200, 8 miles away. There is an elementary school, but high school students are bused over to Brookline High. There’s a 2-pump gas station/small convenience store, where most people go if they don’t want to drive over to Brookline, and the local post office.

Other amenities in Johnson Mills:

Feed store

Several churches

Bar/pub-style restaurant called The Ice House

Diner

Volunteer fire department

Mechanic garage

Brookline is the nearest town that’s big enough to have a grocery store, high school, library, etc. It has about 4000 people and is about 35 miles from Hazel (somewhat closer than Utica). It services all the little towns in the area: Hazel, Johnson Mills, Rosalie, Towhanie, etc.”

NONE of this made it into the final novella, except for a brief mention that one of my protagonists, Owen Fortescue, works part-time as an auto mechanic in Hazel. But who knows? Maybe if I do write something else set in the area, this will come in handy. And since I already have this worked out in advance, at least I know I won’t contradict myself!

Homespun

by Layla M. Wier

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novella/104 pages

Release Date: Sept. 18, 2013

Blurb:

For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4189

(Charley here—you can read the opening section by clicking the link above!)

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.

Where to find Layla:

Blog: http://laylawier.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Layla_in_Alaska

Tumblr: http://laylainalaska.tumblr.com

 

Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):

Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens (http://zahraowens.com/) – autumn

Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer (http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/) – sharing passions

Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!

Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux (https://cdescoteauxwrites.com/) – location scouting in central New York

Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat (http://christikat.blogspot.com/) – interview

Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House (http://purpleroseteahouse.charliecochet.com/) – doing research

Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/) – bisexuality in Homespun

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh (http://garrettleigh.com/) – interview

Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates (http://skylarmcates.wordpress.com/) – rural life

Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker (http://madisonparklove.com/blog/) – interview + review

Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies (http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com/) – learning to spin, part 1

Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell (http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/) – learning to spin, part 2

Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured (http://rupured.com/) – writing respectfully from outside a subculture

Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo (http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/) – invading characters’ privacy

Monday, Oct. 7: SL Huang (http://slhuang.com/) – interview

Tuesday, Oct. 8: PD Singer (http://pdsinger.com/) – central NY photo tour