Thursday, 3 October 2013

Betsy J. Bennett: The Frog Kiss

Today we're talking with Betsy J. Bennett, debut author with Tirgearr Publishing.

Betsy comes to us today from the state of Michigan where she lives in a lively household with three cats, a dog, and two daughters who've just returned home. She has an active life filled with friends, books, writing, books, collecting dragons, books, all things Christmas . . . and did I mention books?A picture tells a thousand words, as does this one here with Betsy in her office, surrounded by her book collection. And you can bet she's read every single one of them.

An avid reader and writer, it was only a matter of time before Betsy saw her work published. In fact, her debut title, The Frog Kiss, is just one of dozens of books this remarkable woman has penned -- watch for Santa Takes a Wife in November, The Puzzle in March 2014, Dragon Tea in late spring, and . . .

The Frog Kiss is Shauna's story. Her life has been full of frustrations and let downs, but on a fluke, because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, she actually kisses a frog and finds her life is about to change dramatically. A completely different world from the one she believed only exited in fairy tales becomes her very own reality--where genies grant wishes, people shape shift, and where dreams often come at a price.

Mica had been turned into a frog when he was fifteen. He never thought he'd ever stand upright again! But when Shauna releases him from his amphibian prison, he finds a new life ahead of him, and love. But his frog curse comes with a price. To prove his love for Shauna, he must give her up.

The Frog Kiss is not your average princess kisses a frog who turns into a prince of the realm and they ride away merrily into the sunset on the back of a glorious steed. This is the story of a wholly believable woman in our contemporary times who's suffering from the same types of daily challenges we all face . . . her job, hopes and dreams, unfortunate circumstance holding her back, failed relationships, etc. She could be any of us. She probably is one of us. On this particular day the story opens, Shauna is simply fed up with her circumstances. She wants things in her life to improve and feels the only way that's going to happen is if she kisses a frog and meets Prince Charming and they ride off into the sunset. And when she sees a charming little frog in the park, one with unusual eyes, she can't help but give in and kiss it. Foolish as the thought is. I mean, really. But suddenly, poof, there's a man in her lap. A very cute man with those same unusual eyes.

This is as charming a story as any fairy tale, but with the realism of contemporary life. Both Shauna and Mica are well fleshed characters, ones who are easy to like and cheer on during the toughest of times. The plot is remarkably believable, even with a hero who becomes a shape shifter and is pursued by a genie who wants Mica to return to frog form. The author's voice is very readable, making this story hard to put down. This is a fun read, something wonderful for those long nights ahead of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For those south of the Equator, The Frog Kiss is fun summer reading. If this book is any indication of what's to come, I can tell Betsy has a great future as a career novelist in front of her.

Betsy had a quick chat with us --

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule, Betsy, to have a chat with us. And many congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Frog Kiss. Let's get to it, shall we?

With such a busy lifestyle, how do you have time to write so many great stories? Tell us, what your writing routine is like, or do you have one with so much going on around you?

Within the past year, my two daughters have moved back home, one bringing two children under two years old, so I don’t have nearly the free time to write that I used to. Whereas I am frequently frustrated when I am writing (those obnoxious characters don’t always do what I tell them to). Writing is my passion, my escape, my pleasure, so I write as often as I can.

I prefer to write early in the morning when it is quiet. Even when I am not writing, I constantly keep my characters in my head, plotting or just enjoying the contemplation of getting back and messing up their lives. I like playing 'what if' with my work in progress--while driving, cooking, babysitting--to maximize my writing time when I get back to my computer.

I always have more than one novel I’m working on at any one time. I have no trouble keeping them separate, and it’s nice when I have plot problems on one to slide into another.

Wow! That's admirable. So many writers I've talked with over the years indicate they're a one-at-a-time writer, that more than one going at a time can be confusing. Perhaps this is why your backlist of currently unpublished works are so extensive, and why you have to much to offer in terms of future publications.

Will you please describe your writing space?

I have a smallish, but book-shelf packed office of my own that I love. When the house is too noisy, I pack up the laptop and go to the public library where I can work for hours. I like being surrounded with books. I tend to be a messy writer, with notes and books all over. I seem to thrive in chaos.

Hey, don't discount chaos. Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted having said "You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing? We know about the dragons, books and your love of Christmas, and about your daughters moving home, one with her two young children. Really, I don't know why I'm asking this because I can see your days are already packed with activities. But out of remarkable people come remarkable things, so I have to know if you have time or take time for other things.

For years I considered it my goal in life to find the perfect brownie recipie, so I’ve devoted a lot of time to that, before deciding there is no such thing as a (singular) perfect brownie recipie. I like experimenting with new brownie recipies, cookie recipies, pie recipies and the occassional dinner recipe.

I have cats and an English bulldog that I adore.

My favorite thing to do when not writing is reading. I love paranormal romance, fantasy romance, Regencies, science fiction, fantasy and the occassional mystery. I love the brilliance of other writers.

Mostly now that my daughter has gone back to work I babysit weekdays, and while I always enjoy my grandsons, I need the quiet and the pleasure of writing.

Oh, I love brownies! I heard a quote just last night that went something like, "What kind of brownie doesn't have nuts?" It wasn't a question but more of a statement of fact I found amusing.

I can now see why your own writing is so eclectic. Your reading tastes are as well. Whatever you're doing to produce so many wonderful tales, please keep it up!

Thank you for taking time from your obviously very busy schedule to chat with us.

Readers -- Betsy would love to get to know her readers, AND she's giving away a free digital copy of The Frog Kiss to one lucky winner today, so just leave her a comment or question with your contact email address for your entry to be put in the hat.

• • •

She kissed a frog . . . 

Shauna was having a bad day when on a fit of whimsy she bent down and kissed a frog. A second later a handsome man filled her arms and her dreams. 

Her kiss transformed him . . . 

With her kiss, Mica Blank found himself losing control, transforming back into a man. As a fifteen year old boy, Mica got three wishes from a genie and since then he felt his life was out of his control. He was a rock star, a famous artist, and a bestselling writer, but nothing made him happy. He felt he could not take credit for anything he did or said. Then her kiss made everything clear for him. He realized although he could transform into any plant or animal, living or extinct, his greatest passion was being a man, for as a man, he could love Shauna. 

Then he had to give her up to prove his love . . . 

The genie told Mica that magic could not exist in the face of true love, but to save Shauna’s life on their honeymoon, he has to transform. Shauna and Mica fear that if he could transform, then she is not his one true love causing the marriage to be over before it even begins.

"I'm really sorry, but I'm afraid that at this time we must turn down your loan request."

Shauna sat perfectly still, not letting the sharp, knife-in-the-gut pain show on her face. The words echoed in her mind, taking on a life of their own. They grew teeth, claws, tearing her heart out. Stunned, Shauna sat for a full ten seconds before pulling herself back together long enough to rise to her feet. She hoped the artificial smile pasted on her face would pass for real. She stared down at the hand Larry Mallert, the loan officer, held out.

I’d rather kiss a frog.

Then she grinned, hoped the banker would think her reaction nothing but professional, but the truth was, it wasn’t a frog she was interested in. Get a grip, Shauna, she told herself. What you really need is a man.

No, she didn’t need a man, her more pragmatic self groused. She needed a loan. Still, it would be nice to have someone to come home to, someone to talk her day over with, to share her woes, to celebrate her successes. Mercy, more and more she craved intimacy. The nights were getting too long, and science, which was all she ever needed before, was no longer the do-all and end-all that it had been during her university years.

You really have to get out more.

She blinked, shattering the comfort she had stolen from those few seconds and found herself standing tall, if a bit wobbly in the heels she was not used to wearing. Then because this was nothing more than business and they were both professionals, she accepted the banker’s handshake with firm, confident control, confidence she no longer felt. This loan application had been a long shot. They both knew that. It had also been one of her last options.

It might have been easier if she could have cried, just given into the impulse and wept her heart out for lost dreams. Already, acids were busily chewing up the lining of her stomach—and she had expected the refusal. That was what hurt so badly. She had expected it, and still it broke something primal deep within, something few professional women ever acknowledged.

If there were heightened color on her cheeks, and she had no idea if there were, there was nothing she could do about that. At least her eyes were dry and her smile betrayed no tremor. She offered her thanks for his time, as a standard response before pulling the strap of her purse onto her shoulder with what dignity she had left. It wasn't so much a question of collateral: the patents were worth at least that much by themselves; but of managerial experience. She was a biochemist, not a businesswoman. Shauna knew what to do behind a Bunsen burner or with a gas chromatograph. She cherished facts, but had not the slightest idea how to handle a financial review board. CPA's kept her books balanced, but couldn't help her fly in a hostile business world. She needed a CEO more than a loan, but she refused to hand over her corporation to someone who only cared about the bottom line.

If she frequently glowed with excitement, more than her chemical concoction provided the spark. The act of discovery, the very nature of raw, untamed science put the bounce in her step, made waking every morning worthwhile. Unfortunately, discovery, by itself, didn't pay the mortgage, and dreams, while they tasted sweet, never paid the bills.

She saw no taxis as she exited the bank. The noon rush hour had gobbled them up like pastrami sandwiches, but the air simmered with unexpected warmth and her laboratory wasn't far. She'd walk her nervous energy off in hopes that she'd had a new battle-plan drawn up before she reached her desk.
Five minutes from her destination, the full force of after-shock hit, leaving her trembling, her knees week and unfamiliar black dots attempting a coup over her retinas. Shoppers and office workers followed the prevailing current past her and for a small second she thought she might drown there in the middle of downtown State Street. It was impossible to breathe. Shauna, an intellectual, had never known panic before.

A small park beckoned, one she had passed a thousand times to and from work, but which she had always been too preoccupied to notice. Grateful, she darted toward it, as anxious as any Titanic survivor holding onto a life raft.

The last of her energy spent, Shauna slumped onto a bench, her shoulders and chin low. Oxygen poured into her lungs, without effect. She still felt suffocating. Her heart pounded and her fingertips tingled. If she had a brown paper bag, she would have to decide which to do first, breathe slowly into it, or use it as a receptacle for her half-digested breakfast.

Without the strength to sit up straight, she ran her fingers through shoulder length wheat-blond hair, and considered her options, finding only two: throwing her briefcase into the trash bin beside her and slitting her wrists, or selling the company and joining a massive industrial beehive as a lowly staff chemist. Given the choice, she'd much rather the first. In the long run, it would be less painful.

Her vision returned and her knees grew sturdier as the panic attack slowly receded. Suspecting she'd been on the park bench for hours, Shauna checked her watch, and noted only a few minutes had passed since she left the bank. She tried to dredge up enthusiasm to move. She needed to go back to Linda, fill her in on the bad news. She had to tell her assistant that now might be a good time for the rats to abandon the sinking ship. Not that she suspected Linda would. For all her technical brilliance, Linda was unfailingly loyal.

The sun, peeking through pockets of lumpy gravy-colored thunderclouds, felt revitalizing, and far warmer than an October afternoon had a right to be. The road-show haze which usually blanketed Albany had vanished, and the day suddenly felt magical, stolen from a half-forgotten fairytale. An entire chorus of unseen birds serenaded their revised rendition of Ode to Joy, getting the last of their summer-songs out of their system. Most birds, at least those with any sense, had already left for greener pastures. It was perhaps an example she should follow.

The park overflowed with humanity. Hundreds mobbed through crunchy maple leaves for a last lingering trace of autumn, stealing time on their lunch breaks to watch gray squirrels cavort, or pigeons make gluttons of themselves on popcorn or hot dog rolls. Her panic seemed foolish. Her dream seemed foolish. Who was she to think she could actually run a business?

It was the movement which startled her, almost had her screaming, for in the midst of all these people, she had thought herself alone. But it was not a mugger after her purse, not a pigeon thinking her one official pair of high heels looked like a worthy lunch. At her feet jumping in what was either joyful abandon or desperate escape, hopped a rather round green frog.

As she looked down at him, he met her gaze, glared right back at her with startling blue eyes as if somewhere in his genealogy there was a heavy infusion of Siamese cat.

Enchanted, Shauna reached down and brought the small green interloper to her lap. He was heavier than he looked, and while she could not adsorb his warmth, he was a cold blooded amphibian after all, she could for a few seconds attempt to share his joie de vivre.

“I’m usually very good at ignoring pick-up lines, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one quite so irresistible.”

The frog sat peacefully in her palms, as if content to share his love of life. Shauna grinned, decided he was exactly what she needed. “I’m glad you played hooky today from wherever you belong, because I was having a horrid day.” It felt the most natural thing in the world to speak to the frog as a companion.
She wasn’t much for confession, at least not to men she only met the second before, but this particular male seemed relatively harmless. “Thank you. I needed to be touched. I um…was just thinking…” but she would not tell him what she was thinking. Why ruin his day too?

But with her statement, her jumbled thoughts darted back to the bank, facing the slaughter of dreams she had lived on for years.

I'd rather kiss a frog.

 Well, frogs were scarce and if she bypassed this opportunity, who knew when she’d have another chance to kiss a frog. Without thinking further, she raised her hands and kissed it, smack against the lips.

Then, stunned, Shauna found the frog vanished and a fully dressed man lying in her lap.

• • •

Betsy J. Bennett lives in Michigan with her husband, two adult daughters, three obnoxious cats and an English bulldog. She has five grandchildren. She collects dragons, creche's and Santas. She has always believed in Christmas and in Santa, and although she has yet to meet the real Santa, she has hope that with the publication of this book he'll seek her out. She is currently at work on her next novel.

Find Betsy online --


  1. Hi Betsy, and welcome to Heart of Fiction. Congratulations on your debut novel, The Frog Kiss. This certainly isn't your average kissing a frog story. It's very unique and I'm sure readers will love it.

    Why did you decide to tell a frog kiss story? Where did the idea come from?

  2. I'm so pleased to be here at Heart of Fiction. The article above looks great and the book is available today.
    My ideas all come from what-if's. What if you were having a bad day and you kissed a frog and found a man on your lap? Of course, then he would have been having a bad day himself and together you could feel alive.
    To anyone who reads this and likes it, please know that my second Tirgearr book is coming out in November, when Santa himself goes looking for a wife.

  3. I love 'what if' stories. I've had one in the works for a couple years now and unfortunately, it's comes back to 'what if she never finishes it?' o.O

    You mentioned Santa as your next story. We know it's called Santa Takes a Wife. Is this another 'what if' story? We're raised to believe that Santa is immortal, but it sounds like your Santa is just one in a long line of Santas going back centuries. Tell us more about this story.

  4. Congratulations on publishing your first of hopefully many novels! You mentioned you often are writing several novels at once. Has a character from one novel ever put a 'cameo appearance' in a different story?

  5. I originally wrote the Santa novel with Santa being immortal, with him taking a series of wives. I didn't like it. I didn't like the fact that my heroine had to eventually die while he lived on. So I rewrote it so that being Santa was passed down father to son. This worked far better as a romance novel. I have always believed in Santa. So I needed to give him a face and a life beyond Christmas Eve, so he really needed a wife!

    1. Yes, I can see how an immortal Santa living on while he losts his wives wouldn't be very romantic. I love this premise much better. And very interesting that they make a cameo appearance in another story. Would you say that's unusual for a non-series volume?

  6. Amy, yes, my characters certainly do put in cameo appearances in other books. I've a series of books I'm writing now The Dragon's Roost Bed and Breakfast series that takes place in upstate New York. There's several linked books in that series, and in the third book, my heroine goes into the library, and who's there but Santa and his new wife. They had been taking in the sites and stopped to rest (and eat chocolate).

  7. Fun! Hello to another fairy tale-loving Michigander (although this one now spends most of her time in Scotland. Sounds like some entertaining reading :-)

  8. K.A. Thanks for your comment. I'd love spending more of my time in Scotland. I have visited the country and it is beautiful with beautiful people.
    This is a great BlogSpot, isn't it?

  9. With what we've seen above, you've got a great story going. Congratulations on your vast list of books-to-be. This will surprise no one who really knows you. It's fantastic to see you combine your love of fantasy with your scientific background, as well as to see how much you have grown as a writer. HUGS from here to there! Keep it up!

  10. Hey, Betz, congrats on the publication. Love the cover.