Be vulgar at your own risk!

Last year's class arranging word magnets
Last year’s class arranging word magnets

A new crop of 7th graders now inhabits my classroom. They’re coltish, talkative, and desperate to master the art of sarcasm. Uh-huh. They’re not very good at it. I give them props for trying.

Needless to say, they are no match for me. But if they’d like to take me on, hey, I’m game. “Bring it,” I say, with a wink and a smile.

One of my classroom standards involves not using  “vulgar” words. Curse words are obviously forbidden, but I do not wish to be subjected to vulgar (potty) expressions either. Like the word c-r-a-p.

I tell the students very nicely at the beginning of the year not to use this word. And then I wait, because it’s only a matter of time until it slips out. Sometimes the violation is of epic proportions. Today I’ll tell you about one of those times.

So last year during work time, one of my jolliest, most talkative students was rummaging for something in his messy desk. “I can’t find anything,” he complained, “because of all of the crap in here.”

Some of last year's girls
Some of last year’s girls

“What?” I said, in my best shocked-teacher voice. He turned around. My eyes were twinkling, but I did not crack a smile. The other students’ heads came up in true “prairie dog” fashion. They knew to stay silent–or risk missing the show.

“Look,” I deadpanned, “it’s bad enough that we have ants in here. Are you telling me that we have feces too?” Feces is one of their science vocabulary words. Nevertheless, amid the stifled giggles, there were whispers of “What’s that?”

“No, I didn’t mean … there’s not really …” the student managed to say, between gusts of laughter. And then he said, “Oh, crap.” By now his classmates were close to losing it. Ah, but I am the master of the poker face.

I reached for the container of Lysol Wipes. “See this?” I said. “It says that it kills 99.9% of germs.” I put it on his desk. “Clean the number two up.” He doubled over with laughter.

But I wasn’t finished. “Next time,” I said somberly, “kindly excuse yourself and visit the men’s room. Instead of using your desk.”

As if on cue, the break bell rang. Mirth exploded. Into the hall my students fled, to wail with laughter and share the joke with the 6th graders.

I could have read those twelve-year-olds a lecture about vulgar speech and potty words. Instead I choose to be memorable. So much more effective, don’t you think?

Laura Hile (1)

Cat-sneak and the Door of Opportunity

Photo: Bruno Cordioli (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Bruno Cordioli (Creative Commons Flickr)

Oral surgeons have two doors at their offices. One is for incoming patients–a nicely-appointed waiting room with magazines and such. And then there is the exit to the parking lot, for those who have had extractions under general anesthesia.

A week ago, my husband had a cracked wisdom tooth removed. A laughable situation really, because our positions were reversed. I, the weak and recovering-strength one, was helping him stagger to the car and then up the driveway.

Anyway, from past experience (sons with wisdom teeth) we knew about the two-door thing. When we drove up to the office, we noticed that the back surgery door was ajar. And there was this big gray cat.

Of course you know what was happening. That cat, being, well…a cat, was trying to get inside. “Oh, you,” I said. And then I noticed the string. Ha, someone inside was playing with the cat. Sure enough, one of the scrub-clad techs came out, and we got to talking.

It seems this friendly fellow is the office mascot. The staff had taken to feeding him, and Dr. TenHulzen liked him so much that he took him home as a pet. Then the cat disappeared. Four months later he showed up at the office–and that’s where he’s lived ever since. “To get back here he had to cross the 205 Freeway,” the tech marveled. And yet here he was, in one piece and happy. Cross a freeway? No problem.

Cats are like that. If a door is open, in they go. If the opening isn’t large enough, they help it along with a paw. After all, there’s food inside, and hands to scratch behind their ears or smooth their fur. A cat has every reason to give the door a try. And if he’s not welcome, he is put out. Away he goes, no big deal, to look for other open doors.

But when I come to a door that’s ajar, I stop. Should I go in? Is it okay? Usually I stay outside because unlike the cat, I am hyper-responsible and am afraid to do the wrong thing. Also, I don’t like being put out. It stings the pride, being told to leave.

What about the door of opportunity? I am afraid to go through that one too. Likewise I’m reluctant to widen the opening with a gentle push. I can learn a thing or two from Dr. TenHulzen’s office cat.

“Be a cat, Laura.” I need to squeeze my author body through narrow openings. How else will I see what opportunities are inside? Usually, it’s food, and food equals money. Who cares if I get put out? Frees me up to find other open doors. Cross a freeway? Sure, why not? It’s easy to do in the middle of the night.

So like a cat I need to try stuff. Who knows what snug opportunity I will find? Like the fellow pictured below, who discovered the perfect cat-shaped sink. Must have been made just for him. His owners must have thought so too, else why would they take a photo? Meow!

Photo: Melinda Seckington (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Melinda Seckington (Creative Commons Flickr)

Laura Hile (1)

Originally posted at Jane Started It!

Two chances to win an e-book this week!


 Rainy days and books go together, right?  That’s what we’ve got going on here in the Pacific Northwest today. At long last, reading weather!

This week we have two reviews and e-book giveaways to put on your radar. Oh boy!

From Pemberley to Milton: Stop by and enjoy Rita Dodato’s review and a special GUEST POST by Darcy himself. (He is not too thrilled with me, as you will see.) Post a comment by September 10th to enter. Link to Rita’s review

Reading, Writing, Working, Playing: Longtime Austen fiction fans will remember JaneGS. These days Jane Greensmith’s focus is on the classics, but she was eager to review Darcy By Any Other name. Come by and post a comment by September 9th to enter her giveaway. Link to Jane’s review

Because you know you want this book. What are you waiting for?

Laura Hile (1)

“I will put you in charge of more…”


Fear hides the talent...
In Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25), only one man responds with suspicion, distrust, and fear. He buries his talent…

Do you remember Jesus’ Parable of the Talents? One guy is given two talents to invest, another guy five, and a third guy, one. The first two get right to the business of trading, and each doubles his investment.

Needless to say, their master is pleased. He says the same thing to each of the first two guys: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Wait, what? The master gives them more responsibility? Isn’t the reward for a job well done a vacation? On some tropical beach for, like, a month or something? Not in God’s economy.

If I am faithful in small tasks, I can be trusted with larger, more important projects. And don’t miss this: there is joy in the growth of responsibility. Joy for a job well done; who would have thought?  The guy who buries his talent faces big trouble. Even what he has–the one talent–the master takes away.

When I don’t see immediate results, I am quick to identify with the buried-talent guy. I invest time; I grind away at a writing project. The words don’t spill onto the page perfectly polished and publication-ready. Then I sigh and tell myself I’ve done nothing.  My discouragement leads me to assume that I’ve been lazy. Um, no.

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean I’ve buried the talent. Many projects take time, especially writing projects. My reward won’t be an extended vacation, either. But is kicking back truly what I want? If I am planning to grow as an author, isn’t greater opportunity the better thing?

This week I acquired my publication rights for the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. Talk about a change in summer plans! I am both scared and elated. I have the opportunity to release these books–with new covers and a new, more romantic ending–under my own auspices. It’s the Parable of the Talents, but for real in my life.

Here’s the thing: I know how to do this. I know exactly how to release a book: Format it. Get a great cover made. Promote it as an indie author. Only now I will do the same with three more.

There’s a lot of joy around here, let me tell you. There is also a lot of typing. My original files, sent seven years ago to the publisher, crashed with an ancient laptop of mine. The cover art and manuscript files customarily remain with the original publisher; I won’t be asking for them. So I am typing my own books.

First I tried to pirate them off Kindle For PC–for real, I did–but that didn’t work out. Amazon is wise to such attempts, and a scary notice popped up on my screen. Ah well. Two chapters’ worth of copy-and-paste (per book) is better than nothing.

Typing has turned out to be the best thing ever because, dang, the Mercy’s books are well written. They’re really good. How could I have forgotten that? Plus, because these will be second editions, changes can be made. I can tighten up a few things. Add the kind of ending readers are longing for. Make these good books even better.

“Enter into the joy of your master,” Jesus says in the parable. Isn’t this the truth! More responsibility? Bring it.

DBAON-thumbnailHey, there’s a giveaway going on this week and a sale.  To celebrate my birthday, the Kindle edition of Darcy By Any Other Name is reduced to $3.99 through August 10th. Come read Meredith’s wonderful review and enter by posting a comment.

And now, back to typing…

Laura Hile (1)

Let Freedom Ring

 "Bridgetown" Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)
Downtown “Bridgetown” Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)

Tonight we will be heading downtown for fireworks. That’s what you get when your kids are in their adventuresome 20s. Scorning inconvenience, they want to go out and do stuff.

Freedom gives us this right. As citizens, we can peaceably assemble in public places. Although this is Portland, so weirdness will be present too. I’ll keep on the watch for the Unipiper. (That’s him below, yeah, in the Darth Vader mask playing flaming bagpipes.)

I also have the right to own property, to protect my family, and to freely share my thoughts. I can publish books, too, and send them out into the wide world. It’s an amazing freedom, one I hadn’t thought much about until this spring when I did exactly that.

Photo: Southwest Bible Church
Photo: SW Bible Church

And today I walked to church for morning prayer and coffee.  We sat down together like we do every weekday and prayed openly–in a lighted room in front of enormous plate glass windows. Freely, without fear of interference. (Except the sleepy kind. Coffee helps with that.)

Portland's own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)
Here he is, Portland’s own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)

In these troubled times, we dare not take our freedoms for granted. I can take no credit for them; I stand on the shoulders of my forefathers and fellow citizens, who scorned Liberty’s cost and dared to make a stand.

Freedom from tyranny is worth celebrating. Happy 4th of July!

Laura Hile (1)

This was also posted at Jane Started It!, a blog I share with my writing pals.

Maybe it’s not a “beach read”?

So I’ve been promoting Darcy By Any Other Name as a “beach read.” You know, the perfect book for a vacation. But maybe I’m wrong.

Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes (Creative Commons Flickr)
Ahhh! Summertime perfection. Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Rita
Photo: Rita Deodato

Last week a reader shared a “book selfie” on Facebook. Oh, the places my books go. How I love seeing them! Darcy, can’t I squeeze through the Kindle and come along with you?

The thing is, Rita’s beach is perfectly lovely. No way would I want to be reading a book there, not while the sun and surf are calling!

I saw Rita’s photo on my phone, right in the middle of a road trip. (A coffee break at a noisy McDonald’s, to be precise.) I tell you what, during my travels I saw a few places where I’d prefer to be reading. “Beauty spots” where fictional escape is more than a preference, it’s a necessity.

So should I call my new book an “escape-the-skeezy-motel” read? Would that that prompt you to buy?

Pallet-and-tarp decor
Don’t you just love the pallet-and-tarp “garden” decor?  Longbourn and Netherfield, here I come!
A parking-lot palace
A genuine “parking-lot palace,” convenient to the freeway(s). Open the book, block out the noise.
So do we, Darcy.
So do we, Darcy. So do we.

Laura Hile (1)

Documented “Teacher Burn”!

Apparently I am quite the source for ‘shoe-leather’ wisdom. You know, the practical, real-life kind.

On this, our final day of school, Laurie, one of my 7th grade students, presented me with a framed commemoration of our year together. Alas, each of these gems has come rolling out of my mouth. Repeatedly.

I never meant to sound so snarkily erudite, but Laurie nailed it.


  • I’ll put you out like the cat.
  • Save it for the talent show.
  • Don’t wake up the sleeping dog.
  • Pleasure doing business with you.
  • Grow a filter.
  • Suffer in silence.
  • Clear as mud?
  • Keep your mouth closed and squeeze it out through your eyeballs [a belch].
  • Life is hard, and then you die.
  • Get that lip back in your face.
  • ‘Stoopid’ is a choice.
  • I hope you enjoyed your childhood… because it’s over.
This year's 7th grade class at our formal dinner
Yesterday’s 7th grade formal dinner
They survived the year! Well... almost.
They survived the year with me! Well… kind of.

Laura Hile (1)

Class photos: Rose Stubblefield

A book’s success is like surfing

Photo: Miguel Navaza (Creative Commons Flickr)
Years of practice (and failure) built this surfer’s graceful skill. Photo: Miguel Navaza (Creative Commons Flickr)

I’ve released a new book, and the process kind of reminds me of surfing. Okay, body surfing. I was never brave enough–or coordinated enough!–to try it with a board. Tanning on the beach? Forget that. Why lie in the sun when you can spend the afternoon catching waves? Many summer days at Santa Monica and Malibu taught me a thing or two.

Surfing is about position, skill, and timing. This means hours in the water, being ready, watching wave after wave. Learning how to know a promising wave from a dud. Being willing to swim like crazy to catch the awesome one. You can’t be lazy as a surfer.

Position would be the intriguing story premise and the cover. These are what put me in the water, and each one represents a risk. I wasn’t sure how the ‘magical reality’ element of the body swap would fly. And that sweet cover was spendy–but worth every cent.

Skill? I’ve been writing for 17 years. If Darcy By Any Other Name is an instant success, know that I’ve been rolled under by plenty of waves. (Yeah, the wipeout thing.) I’ve learned to escape the worst by diving under, but multiple thousands of clunky words lie at my back. Then too, I teach fiction writing to high school students. What I’ve learned in helping them improve is a lot.

And timing is about being in the right place at the right moment. There are more Austen readers now than ever before. No readers, no wave!

Photo: Swell Surf Camp (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Swell Surf Camp (Creative Commons Flickr)

Surfing, like writing, only appears solitary. The photo at the top of this page shows a lone surfer, but I’m betting he wasn’t the only one in the water that day. Bobbing heads beyond the line of surf are not attractive, so they’re cropped out. Deal is, no one surfs alone. No one writes a book alone–or should.

The fellowship of like minds is crucial. As with surfing, skills are developed alone but there is safety in companionship. In the water and out, surfers hang together and talk. If writing greats C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien needed a support group, so do I.

Darcy By Any Other Name
Darcy By Any Other Name

Sales numbers continue to roll in, and not because of me. News about Darcy is being spread by people like you, my social media friends. A hectic school schedule has allowed me little time to compose ads or tweet or anything. I’ve put up a few posts on Facebook, and you have been sharing them.  I am beyond grateful.

You know you want this book, right? So enter to win it! There’s a giveaway going on right now at Just Jane 1813. It’s easy, simply post a reply by May 29, 2016.

Laura Hile (1)

This article was originally posted at Jane Started It!

“When what to my wondering eyes did appear…”

My son Ben, age 11
M-o-m, what? My Ben, age 11

This is my Ben, and when he sees this photo he’ll be rolling his eyes. And saying, “M-o-m,” as only a grown son can. This selfie was taken with his first digital camera. At age eleven, boys don’t care what they look like. That stupefied pose is deliberate.

Thing is, his expression mirrors how I’ve felt all week. When Darcy By Any Other Name was released on Kindle last Saturday, I could not wrap my brain around it. I’d been peering at the screen since 4:00 a.m, hunting for any last lingering typos in the manuscript, the kind spellcheckers cannot find. And reading instructions and filling in detailed information. Tax stuff and bank account numbers and prices–the kind of work that requires thinking.

You know when your eyes are strained to the dried-cement stage? Yeah, that. After twelve hours of fearful work–click the wrong thing and die! –I pushed the “Save and Publish” button, and my quiet world exploded.

Darcy By Any Other Name - Ebook SmallThere was my ebook–my own indie-published ebook–on Amazon. I’ve had three books traditionally published, but this was different. Everything is up to me! So I put up an almost laughable post at Facebook with the cover and a text link. Nothing swank or professional or even polished. Almost immediately people began buying.

People began BUYING my book!  Paying money for it, and then reading it. I know because reviews began to appear. Amazing reviews, thoughtful and well-written, from intelligent women. Tackling this book is no small feat (662 paper pages), even for a lightning reader like me.

How are people hearing about it? My social media friends. I have been too busy with a frantic school schedule to compose ads or tweets or anything. Facebook friends and Beyond Austen followers and lovers of Austen fiction have come to my rescue. Chautona’s blog review appeared Sunday night. Just Jane 1813’s review came up this morning. People I don’t even know are expressing excitement and are sharing my announcement post.

Ebooks continue to fly off the shelf. Here, I’ll show you.

The downward trend represents today's numbers--so far. The line continues to rise.
The downward trend represents today’s numbers–so far. That line continues to rise.

It’s crazy. Money is coming IN instead of going out–a glorious change in this household. People say that Facebook is impersonal, but I have not found it so. One day the sales wave will crest and flatten out. But thanks to my social media friends, today is not that day.

Hey, there’s an ebook giveaway running at Just Jane 1813. To enter, post a reply before midnight, May 29, 2016.

And if you’d rather not wait? Here’s the link to Amazon. Because the experts say I’m supposed to ask for the sale.

Laura Hile (1)

Hat tip to A visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore