Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Paisley Smith Takes On Dark Themes in Every Waking Hour *Giveaway*

I’m still not sure what inspired me to write Every Waking Hour. It was most certainly a character driven story from page one.

I began the story several years ago, before I’d ever been involved with anyone who suffered from an addiction.I’d grown up in a small town on the buckle of the Bible Belt, on the lap of my Southern Granny whose career as a nurse provided me with all manner of stories.

Intrigued by how life was different in her day, especially for lesbians, the plot line of Every Waking Hour took tenuous shape in my head.

Unfortunately, homosexuals rarely risked coming out, especially in the small town America. To do so exposed them to being branded as criminals and deviants, to be locked away in prisons or asylums for the insane. Treatment of the day was crude and barbaric, focusing mainly on aversion therapy.

Addicts fared little better. Often they were strapped to gurneys until they were dried out and then released back into society to continue abusing their substance of choice.

In Every Waking Hour, my heroine, Grayson Garland, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who comes back to her Southern hometown to bury her father. The old antebellum mansion she once called home is haunted with dark secrets she is reluctant to face. Sultry nights in the arms of a pretty, oh-so-feminine professor, Della Boyd, provide ample distraction, but unless Gray can summon the courage to confront her demons, even Della’s love won’t be able to save her from herself.


As she wheeled her car between the yawning wrought-iron gates of Cypress Bend, she slipped the empty bourbon bottle under the seat and then popped a mint into her mouth. Even that simple act annoyed her. 

Why did she have to pretend anything with these people? Hell, the old man drank. Everyone knew that. And nobody gave a damn. Just because he’d been a respected professor and scholar, people deemed it acceptable. Eccentric.

But the old man had always been a gentleman drinker. A man who politely mixed his drinks and even deigned to put ice in them. Gray had long since given up the ice. Shit. She’d all but given up the glass. 

Bourbon seemed to work faster if it came straight out of the bottle. And there was no sense in dirtying a glass when she intended to down the entire fifth anyway.

Her pulse skittered. Anxiety threatened to well. She didn’t want to face this. She definitely didn’t want to see all these people, all these damn mourners come to pay their respects to the grand old professor.

One more swig of whiskey would get her through it. Just one more and that exquisite numbness would warm her from the inside out so she could stand here and shut out all the old memories and all those godforsaken feelings.

Cars lined the long gravel drive and even spilled onto the lawn. Early arrivals had been rewarded with a shady respite by the twin rows of giant oaks that lorded over the driveway, stretching to the huge, white, two-story plantation house. Soaring columns loomed across the front and sides. Verandas graced both stories. Gray had to admit, the house was beautiful. Old and elegant, it was as if someone had plucked this scene out of the past. The setting looked like something she would have rendered in words, like a scene straight out of one of her novels. But as lovely as it was on the outside, Gray knew the secrets Cypress Bend harbored on the inside.

Nothing here ever changed. Nothing.

Beyond the big house, massive oaks and elms stood sentinel along the banks of the mighty Tennessee River. Gray breathed in the earthy fragrance of silt and water. Memories flooded her, like the swell of the river during a storm. The sticky-sweet crepe myrtles and honeysuckles lingered on the stifling heat, nauseating her in their intensity.

In the distance storm clouds darkened the sky, leaving an oppressive blanket of humidity lurking over the earth.

Cypress Bend.


Grayson could not help but think with contempt that this was hers now. She’d spent her whole adult life trying to forget this place, trying to ignore this place, and now it was hers.

She amused herself with thoughts of burning it to the ground but knew she’d do no such thing. As hard as she tried to drive away the past, sentimentality absorbed her to a fault. She couldn’t even throw away a cheap greeting card.

“It’s Gray.”

A din of voices rose above the humming of her car’s engine.

She parked and killed the motor.

Minnie appeared in the doorway. Gray’s throat constricted. Her heart ached like a stone in her chest, and all of a sudden she was a little girl with a scraped knee. Innocent.Unjaded.

Gray got out of the convertible and skirted the hood to meet Minnie, who waddled toward her, her giant ebony arms outstretched. Tears glistened on her dark face. “My baby.My lamb!”

As she neared, Gray stared in shock at the change in Minnie. Her hair had turned a dull shade of silver. Deep creases marked her benevolent, round face and deepened the corners of her eyes. How old must she be now?

Minnie had seemed ageless, a rock that would forever remain the same. She’d been a constant in the swirling abyss that was Gray’s life. Now even that constant seemed fragile and intangible, as if it might slip away without warning. Gray didn’t like the fear that whispered terrible things to her. Alone.No one to love you.

“Oh, Gray,” Minnie said, enveloping her in a powerful hug. “My baby.My Gray.” Minnie held her back just far enough to look into her eyes. She gave her a proud smile mingled with deep sadness. “I missed you so much, baby,” she said, her brown doe eyes filling with tears.

As Minnie embraced her once more, Gray closed her eyes and breathed in the familiar, slightly musky fragrance of her skin, the freshly laundered bouquet of her clothes that smelled of starch and the outdoors mixed with the hint of food she’d cooked earlier. Gray bit her bottom lip and forced herself to remain in the present, to not let the memories turn back the clock.

She could never be that child with scraped knees again.

Every Waking Hour is now available on Loose Id’s website and will be available wherever Loose Id ebooks are sold shortly thereafter.

Contest – One lucky commenter will win a free download of Every Waking Hour! (runs until Sunday, 1/20)

What do you think of darker topics in romance? And what are some of your favorite books or movies that deal with difficult subjects?

About Paisley Smith

Paisley Smith is a full time freelance writer and can usually be found in front of her computer either writing, chatting, promoting or plotting. A true southern belle, Paisley enjoys all things feminine such as the perfect shade of lipstick, a pair of killer heels and a sexy, confident woman.


Paisley Smith said...

Thanks so much for hosting me! I hope everyone enjoys the excerpt from Every Waking Hour.

She said...

Thanks for the excerpt. You certainly set the scene from the description of her home, addiction, returning to the past. Wow! Makes me want to read it. As for dark themes in a story, often that is what the story is about. I always hope for redemption of the character. At least I hope to be able to empathize and connect with that character. Sometimes I can, sometimes not.

Jolie du Pre said...

I wish you much success with your book!