Monday, February 19, 2018

Easter Eggs on President's Day

It’s President’s Day and I’m thinking about Easter Eggs.

Isn’t it a little early? I don’t mean the kind we hard boil and dip dye for the big bunny to hide, I’ll get to those next month. I’m referring to another type – literary Easter Eggs.

Yes, literary Easter Eggs. If you’re a writer, do you use them? Apparently, I do. I’ve been weaving subtle ‘gifts’ for my friends and family in my writing since I began. However, it wasn’t until years into my venture I learned this practice is an intentional method.

Much like the physical Easter Eggs, they can be decorated and hidden in many ways. Without knowing the term, I was leaving them for my friends and family via personal references. Naming characters after friends and family members seemed too obvious (and cause for possible contention), but I wanted to include shout-outs to my people who I hoped would be reading a someday-published novel after hearing me complain about it for months and years. I began to sporadically drop Easter Eggs and it made me smile to imagine my friend or cousin coming across their name as the title of a business or street or their childhood house phone numbers (‘disguised’ of course with the universal 555 pre-fix). I’ve used birthdays, addresses, pets’ names and most recently a combination of names to form a fictional law firm.

Why? Who doesn’t like seeing their name in print? Or better yet, a personal inside joke hidden in dialog? It’s fun. After my most recent novel released, I received a middle-of-the-night text from my cousin when she discovered her egg and another call from an old friends’ mother to say how tickled she was to see I used her last name as a neighbor in the story. I haven’t seen her in years, but it came right to me and I knew she’d appreciate it.

While I’ve never been able to use trademarked song titles in my writing (something to aspire to) I dance around the issue by referencing lyrics that I know will evoke a certain emotion or define a timeframe. But, secretly I think about that friend or ex (okay, definitely the ex) who might wonder if I was thinking of them. Devious? Hey, writing can be frustrating and lonely. If motivation arrives dressed as devious, I let her in.

Another way to use Easter Eggs is to hide them amongst your various stories. This is easily achieved by having a past character pop up in a new work, or better yet an obscure, minor character appear in the background. Inanimate objects work well too. That necklace a character wanted in book one, might show up on someone else’s neck in book three. Movies are notorious for using this kind of egg dropping.  My current work-in-progress is set in the 1990s, and some of my friends may recognize their before-becoming-a-mom cool cars.

A hook for friends, family and loyal readers? Sure. Fun for the writer and reader? Definitely.

Who doesn’t like an Easter Egg hunt?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2-Nite: A Companion story to Secret Admirer



                                                                         

                                                           
            Yes, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the bracelet and purse are gorgeous and I’m grateful to have a boyfriend with such great taste. Still, when you’re expecting the ring for Christmas, how can anything else measure up?
            We’d been talking about getting engaged for almost a year and Alec led me to believe he was ready to propose last summer with little teasers and hints of our future. I kept a standing appointment at Super Nails every Thursday after work so I’d be prepared to show off the emerald cut, platinum set diamond I’d pointed out to him in the window of Hartford Jewelers.
            Summer came and went. My nails looked great, but my left ring finger remained empty. Everything was wonderful between us though and Alec and I began the habit of staying at each other’s apartments on weekends. We usually went out as a group with friends on Friday nights and saved Saturdays for date night. On Sundays we either went out for brunch or stayed in to cook our own version. Weekends were bliss. Weekdays were hard. We spoke on the phone every day but rarely saw each other. He worked late most nights as a young lawyer must and I kept a routine of yoga and pilates to fill my time. My job as junior accountant at Pearse and Associates was fulfilling, but not so demanding that it followed me home. I liked it that way and knew if I ever wanted to take it to the next level I could, but I was content. Except for that damn elusive ring!
           
            New Year’s was fun. We started off with a romantic dinner at an upscale restaurant so of course I got my hopes up. Nervous all through dinner, I tried to eat neat bites of my sea bass so he couldn’t catch me with a mouthful.  We discussed his cases, our plans for our upcoming ski trip, but nothing that spoke of nuptials. After dessert, Alec announced we were meeting up with our friends at a bar and I knew the chance of a proposal were over. At least, I hoped it was. I wanted it to be romantic, memorable, not a spectacle at a bar. I didn’t have to worry though as Alec is not a showy kind of guy and wasn’t likely to propose in public. Once at the bar, I was able to let go and have fun. I reminded myself I was lucky to have Alec to kiss at midnight. I felt bad for Clare, whose so-called boyfriend never showed up.  Abbie kissed some random guy. Maggie and Ethan had each other of course, they’ve been engaged for over a year. Poor Josh waited all night for Sam, who later made some lame excuse about being stuck at another party.
            Basically, it’s been hard to complain, but challenging not to. Our friends were getting sick of me talking about it, but it’s all I could think about. So when I heard a new girl was starting at our office after the New Year, yes I was excited. I was eager to make a new friend.
           
                                                                        ****

            Bob Fitzgerald sent a memo on Friday via email with the announcement: Andressa (call her Andi, please) Maroun will step in as the new Special Accounts Manager beginning Monday. She’s been with Pearse and Associates for three years in the Providence office. I hope you will all welcome her here to Hartford.
            I took it upon myself to greet Andi and was instantly glad I did. She seemed to be around my age and had a stylish, if a bit hipster, look.  At lunch her first day I learned a little about her and decided she was normal, so I included her in the plans to get together with the gang on Friday.
            My hope was to have a fun, stress-free weekend in Hartford because the following would be another proposal opportunity when Alec and I took a skiing trip.  I had Monday off for MLK, but Alec took a vacation day which was rare for him, so I was taking it as a good sign that it would be the big weekend.
            I did have fun at the bar that night and I think Andi did too. It was too bad Garrett couldn’t make it. He was our only single, straight friend at the moment. It was okay though because she had her eye on a guy she saw at the coffee shop each morning. Once I knew all this I was relieved and figured it would be okay to talk to her about the Alec/ring situation with her. I waited until Monday to get her up to speed on the current state of proposal-gate.

                                                                        ****                                                   

            The next Friday I was even more hopeful when Alec called at five-fifty in the morning to suggest we both call in sick. He told me to look out the window.
            I pulled back the curtain to take in the beautiful scene that was fresh January snow.
            “We can head right to the slopes and check into the Inn after a day on the mountain.”
            It didn’t take any arm twisting on my part. I texted Clare and Andi so they’d could support my fib by not slipping up at the office. I raced through my morning prep routine and threw a few more things in my already overstuffed designer duffle and waited by the door for my prince charming to arrive.
            Not only was I in full ski gear when Alex’s luxury 4x4 pulled up to my condo, but in full make up too. No doubt I would be snapping selfies as soon as he popped the question.
            Maybe on the chairlift
            On the top of the mountain, or halfway down a trail?
            By the fire at apre-ski?
            After a romantic dinner at the Inn?
            I let my mind wander as we made our way onto the highway, I must have been unconsciously smiling.
            “Wow, you’re perky for it still being dark outside.”
            “I’m just excited to get our weekend started early.”
            “Well, hang tight, it looks like traffic might be bad with the storm just ending.”
            And it was. At noon we found the furthest parking spot available at the mountain and had to wait another thirty minutes for a shuttle to arrive to take us to the lodge as they were running on off-peak times. By the time we purchased half day tickets, strapped, zipped, and clipped everything on, it was one in the afternoon. I was still holding my smile though and was determined not to let anything ruin the day.
            At the top of the mountain, just before setting off on our first run, Alec turned to me with a sad puppy dog look on his face and my heart skipped a beat.
            “I know this isn’t great timing, but I’m starving. Are you?”
            Of course I was, I only had a granola bar in the car because I didn’t anticipate the delay. I thought we would’ve made six runs my now and be heading back out for more after a monster lunch. My heart sank with his disappointing question, but my stomach growled.
            “Let’s stop at the mini-lodge halfway down,” I conceded.
            Lunch was great, the snow was great and dinner later was wonderful – just uneventful. Not that our night time activities were normally boring, but I made sure to kick things up a notch that night and Alec seemed to notice. I figured it couldn’t hurt my chances at that point.
            Saturday started off looking promising.  After giant waffles we hit the slopes on the now well-groomed snow and had a fun and flirty day. We dared each other on hard trails, raced and tackled the moguls. I was certain it would be that night.
            “Someday we’ll be peeking in on the kids at ski-school,” Alec said casually as we took off our skis to head into the lodge for lunch.
            “I love to hear you talk like that,” I admitted.
            Alec, now free of his skis, hobbled over to me in his unbuckled boots and pulled me in close, “I love you, Bree,” and kissed me in front of everyone stowing their gear outside.
            “I love you too.” I took his hand in mine and we walked, or rather stomped, into the crowded cafeteria-style restaurant at the base lodge.
            We made an amazing eight more runs before calling it quits and deciding on a drink by the fire in the lively lodge before going back to the quaint Inn.
            “Just one,” I assured him. I didn’t want to be rushed getting ready for our dinner that night and hopefully the proposal.
            “I promise, just one.”
            Famous last words.
            Halfway through his dark beer and my Moscow-Mule we heard a familiar, blast from the past voice.
            “Alec! Bree!”
            A massive figure appeared from behind us and before I knew it I was locked with Alec in a double bear hug by one of his roommates from college.
            “How the hell have you been?
            “Great, Greg. What’s new?”
            Greg was a big guy, but in a baby Huey kind of way. He blushed deeply as he answered our question. “Well, let me introduce you to my fiancĂ©, Courtney.” He pulled a skinny blond to his side and she held up her hand, ring side out.
            “A Christmas surprise. Thanks, Santa.” She kissed his cheek quickly and shook our hands and sweetly told us it was nice to meet us.
            I was instantly jealous, though I knew it was petty, and was prepared to not like this girl. We stood by the fire for a bit and asked all the usual questions: where and how long they were staying, if they skied that day and where they live now. After fifteen minutes I nudged Alec, hoping he would get the hint to announce we had to leave to make our dinner reservation. I still had to shower and get ready back at the Inn. Instead, he and Greg ordered another round of drinks and swooped in on four seats as two couples left.
            I made the best of it by asking Courtney all about the proposal and her plans. Without even knowing, I drank two more mules and at eight when they announced Karaoke would be starting soon, well, I was a goner. Alec must have called the restaurant and cancelled our reservation as soon as the microphone was in my hands. I remember singing a solo of Dancing Queen, a group version of Sweet Caroline and I think possibly a duet with Courtney that might have been Islands in the Stream.
            Needless to say I woke up sans ring and in no shape to ski. Sunday wasn’t originally planned as a for sure ski day anyway so I didn’t feel like I blew our plans. I slept in, Alec did work and we met Greg and Courtney for dinner. It was nice, period.
            Monday’s drive home was quiet. I blamed it on exhaustion from all the fun, but I felt like he knew. Frankly, I wanted him to know and hoped my silence spoke volumes.



                                                                   ****

            Andi was very understanding whenever I spoke about Alec, so I felt like I could confide in her that Tuesday back at the office.  She was supportive all week as I dealt with the disappointment.
            Knowing that I was dumping on her, I tried to help her in her own guy situation. The week before, she learned Cute Coffee Shop Guy’s name was Conner and I dared her to ask him to Alec’s upcoming Superbowl party. I thought about setting her up with our friend, Garrett, but she seemed smitten with Connor so I just tried to be as supportive as she had been to me. It was too bad actually; Garrett was pretty cute and really nice and intelligent, too. At least he could be back up if things didn’t work out with Connor.
            When Friday arrived, I went straight to Alec’s after work to prepare for Sunday’s party.  We ordered dinner in and created our shopping list for the next day.  Everyone said they were coming, but then I got a crazy text on Saturday from Garrett. Apparently it was his thirtieth birthday and his college buddies talked him into going to New Orleans for the actual game. I was kind of disappointed, I like a full house at our parties, but I guess we’d blown his birthday and had no grounds for grumbling.
            I made a seven layer dip and my famous killer brownies for the party. Everyone usually brought something, either an appetizer or drinks and we always ended up with a ton of great stuff. Everyone arrived around four in a fun mood. I got almost all to participate in my betting pool. I created a poster board chart and Josh taught us a new drinking game to play during the commercials. It sounded pretty easy and a sure way to get everyone drunk.
            “The guys will be animals,” Josh started to explain.
            “Obviously,” Maggie interrupted.
            “Right. And the girls will be babies. Each time a baby appears, you ladies drink. Whenever there’s an animal, it’s the guys’ turn.”
            Josh was in advertising and knew animals and babies were a sure thing in Superbowl ads. As expected, we were loud and feeling no pain by halftime.
            The party was a success. Everyone had fun, even Andi, even though she seemed a little disappointed at the beginning. I think she was hoping to have made more progress with Connor by that point and comfortable with inviting him to join us. Or maybe it was just nerves. She wasn’t used to all of us yet, but she relaxed and seemed to lighten up eventually.
            When everyone left and Alec and I were cleaning up, there was a moment.
            “Babe, can you grab that box over there for me?”
            A box, possibly the box? A box with a blue velvet cushion cradling a two carat stone?
            “Sure,” I skipped over to the counter where he had pointed and searched for a little box, which I didn’t see. “What does it look like?”
            “Oh, never mind. I left it in the bedroom.”
            He disappeared. My blood pressure soared. He returned holding a flat, rectangle box.
            “What do you think of this tie? Too loud?”
            My face fell. Something wasn’t loud enough for him I thought to myself.


                                                                        ****
            I knew I was overreacting, I really did, but couldn’t seem help it. Clearly I wasn’t good at hiding my feelings in front of my friends.
            “You’re sucking all the fun out of it. Don’t you want to be surprised?”
            “I don’t know, Abbie. Maybe I don’t. I just want it to happen, now.”
            “That’s obvious. I think you need to just let it happen though.”
            I shut up after that, for a little while at least. I could tell my friends were getting annoyed with me. How could they not be? I was getting annoyed with me.
            Still, Valentine’s Day was coming and a girl could hope. Couldn’t she?  The holiday became my new focus.
            Andi and Clare told me in no uncertain terms not to get my hopes up for a Valentine’s Day proposal. I thought they were just being sour grapes and basically told them to stick it and make their own plans.
            Then a strange thing happened. They listened to me. They both made their own plans for the Friday night holiday. After some soul searching, I got an idea to follow suit.
            Why did it have to Alec who had to do the proposing? It’s not like I’d be pulling a fast one on him if I were to do it. If I asked him, then I’d seal the deal and get to pick out my own ring. I was a genius. I just had to make my plan.
            That weekend while we sat on his comfy sectional, Alec reading through documents for work, me flipping the pages of a fashion magazine -I would’ve opted for a Bridal one but didn’t want to be too obvious – I set my plan in motion. At least I tried to.
            I tried to sound and look casual as I asked, “Honey, want me to make reservations for dinner on Valentine’s Day?”
            “Already taken care of,” Alec answered, surprising me.
            “Great, where?”
            “Not telling,” he smirked without looking up from his stack of papers on his lap.
            This wouldn’t work with my plan, I had to know the place.
            “Oh come on, I hate surprises.”
            He chuckled, “I know.”
            “Well, how fancy? What do I wear? You have to give me something to go on.”
            He looked up finally, “Um, I don’t know. Not jeans but not a formal gown. Does that help?”
            “Hardly. Is it quiet, loud, private or bar style?”
            “Enough questions. The witness may step down now.”
            “Lawyers!”
                                                                  ****
            Friday arrived with all the usual fanfare. There was excitement all day in the office to further fuel my anxiety. Flowers, balloons and tacky teddy bears were delivered throughout the day and chocolate kisses seemed to be everywhere. I wasn’t sad Alec had not sent anything to the office, I felt like we were beyond this point and on to bigger and better – or rather, smaller and shinier.
            I indulged in a few chocolates and skipped going out for lunch, opting for a yogurt at my desk so I could leave early. Andi, as a Director, didn’t have this leave-early option and was out to lunch when I stopped by her office to ask about her date that night with Connor.  Though I was disappointed she wasn’t there to chat with, I was glad she wasn’t there to witness my candy heart thievery.  She was always offering them, so I assumed it would be okay to take a few from the large bag on her desk. The first was a pink Cutie Pie, the next an orange Miss You and the rest I brought back to my cubicle. Once at my desk I discovered a green Purr-fect, a purple Hey Baby and finally the one I wouldn’t melt on my tongue but save in my blazer pocket – a blue 2-nite. It was exactly what I needed.
            That’s where the productivity for a Valentine’s Day Friday ended at the office. I had a lot more work to do at home to get everything Purr-fect for 2-nite.
                                                            ****
            Even though I couldn’t picture the restaurant, and believe me I tried desperately to find out the name, I still knew how I was going to propose.  I was all ready to go except for the finishing touches on my hair and make-up when Andi called, freaking out.
            She was rethinking her date and I couldn’t let her do that or cause me to have any doubt at that point either. I tried to remain calm myself as I told her to do the same. I told her she could text me to rescue her if she really needed me, then prayed she wouldn’t need me as I undid my hot rollers.
            The restaurant was perfect, Alec did good. Trendy, but not tacky. Dark, but not depressing, and just loud enough.
            A bottle of Champagne was already cooling in a table-side stand when we were shown to our table. A waiter magically appeared, but Alec asked if he could do the honors. Suddenly I was nervous, and warm, wishing I hadn’t worn the burgundy velvet dress I had been saving for a special occasion.
            Alec handed me a glass of the cool bubbly and clinked his glass to mine across the table.
            “To our future,” He said with a little crack in his voice.
            “Forever,” I added.
            We both drained our glasses at once and said, “I have something to ask you,” at the same time. We laughed and Alec said, “Ladies, first.”
            “No, you go.”
            A smile spread across his face. “Same time?”  That’s when it hit me we were about to ask the same question.
            “On three,” I said and began the countdown.
            “One, two, three – will you marry me?” We burst out laughing, sprang from our chairs and hugged and kissed while clapping from the diners around us filled the air. We pulled apart and thanked those congratulating us and sat back down.
            The waiter appeared again and held the napkin wrapped champagne bottle at the ready to refill our glasses asking, “Well, did you both say yes?”
            “I forgot!”
            “So did I!”
            “Yes!”
            The waiter nodded at the affirmation and filled our glasses to the top and disappeared again.
            “I thought you wouldn’t expect it today, too clichĂ©,” Alec explained.
            “And I thought you’d never expect me to ask you.”
            “You got me there.”
            “You got me too,” I said.

            Alec reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out a box. A little box this time, not tie-sized. “I also got you this.”  He opened it to present me the perfect ring. It was perfect not because it was a princess cut set in platinum, but because the timing was right, for both of us.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Excerpt from White Lies and Promises

Another peek...

Shooting hoops later that night with Joey helped keep his thoughts under control. Joe was working for a landscaper that summer and trying to save up for a car he fantasized and talked about constantly. Matt listened for the millionth time about how great it would be when they turned sixteen and could drive and go to parties, pick up chicks.
“What do you think?” Joe asked, catching Matt off guard.
“Huh, oh sorry, dude. I missed that last bit.”
“Or all of it. What gives?”
“Nothing, tired I guess. Work is hard, but you know…good.”
“Sure.”
Matt couldn’t talk to Joey about Jackie; he just didn’t understand. Since she wasn’t covered in lipstick and mascara and her clothes weren’t painted on, she failed to register on Joey’s radar. Even Matt didn’t fully comprehend his attraction to her, but he could deny it no longer.
Feeling like he might explode and say something he might regret, Matt decided it best to call it a night with Joey. He told him he was going to see if there was any pizza left from dinner and catch some sports on television.
“Okay, you’re on for the pool tomorrow, right?”
“Oh yeah, don’t leave without me. Wake me if you have to,” Matt called back as he walked toward his back door.
“Dude, we’re not going until like two in the afternoon. You’ll be up.”
Matt spun the basketball on his forefinger. “Ya never know.”
They rode their bikes and met up with Dave and Brian at the entrance to the town pool. Hot from the ride, they threw their towels, shirts, sneakers, and balled-up socks in a heap by a chair and noisily jumped in. Jackie and her friends couldn’t help but notice the raucous foursome.
“God, those guys are obnoxious!”
“They must be from the town high school,” Tiffany snorted from behind her gossip magazine.
“Oh, for sure. In fact, I think a couple of them are supposed to be ‘stars’ on the football team or something.” Morgan had pulled up her sunglasses to get a better look.
“Basketball,” Jackie added meekly, glad that Brianna was at Sydney’s Cape Cod house for the weekend.
“Oh, that’s right. Jackie knows them. Family friends or something, right?”
“Something like that,” she answered. “Hey, who wants a coke?” Jackie stood up, trying to cause a diversion before the conversation about Matt went any further.
Matt still had no idea the girls were there and continued to horse around. He tried to pull down Brian’s trunks while also avoiding getting drowned by Joey. Dave performed cannonballs until one got too close to some little kids.
A whistle blew.
“Okay, tough guys, out for rough-housing,” the tan, preppy-looking lifeguard yelled while giving the “ejected” sign with his thumb to Matt and his friends.
“We were just leaving anyway. This pool is lame,” Joey announced, clearly humiliated but trying to act tough. They heaved themselves out of the water and toward their belongings piled near the entrance.
Jackie was still over at the snack stand finishing her drink. She was unavoidable, but she tried to make herself invisible behind an umbrella. She tried to divert her friends’ attention by pointing out someone’s cute shirt, but it was hopeless. It always was.
Without any forethought or inner censor, Matt blurted out what his hormones were screaming when he spotted her.
“Jackie!”
They both stared at each other in surprise at his yelling, neither knowing what to say in front of everyone. Matt wanted to reach out and embrace her; she wanted to turn invisible.“Um, hi, Matthew. Nice to see you,” she managed. What else could she do?  Her friends’ stares were boring holes through her terrycloth cover-up. The lifeguard was watching, too, waiting for the boys to leave. He was a senior at her high school; Jackie knew him vaguely.
“Hey, what a coincidence. Do you girls want to come with us? We were just on our way out,” Matt asked innocently. He immediately became excited at the thought of all of them going back to Joey’s house to hang out. He was picturing it perfectly. However, the girls from Crestwood Prep could not.
“I think you mean you were just asked to leave,” Tiffany corrected.
“Whatever,” Joey interjected quickly.
“Well, anyway, how about it, Jac. Wanna come with us?” Matt asked as if not recently burned by her friends.
“Uh, I can’t, Matt. I uh, um…”
“What Jackie is trying to say is that she doesn’t have to leave. She is still welcome here, unlike you and your hoodlums. I mean friends, of course,” Morgan announced smugly.
“No, Matt, it’s just that, well…” Jackie kept her eyes on the concrete ground.

“No, Jackie, I got it. See ya around.” Matt threw his damp towel around his neck and headed out through the gate.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Two Month Teaser - An excerpt from White Lies and Promises



Patty felt nervous, anxious, and thrilled as she knocked on the Foster’s front door.
Ann looked relieved but keyed up as she led Patty to the kitchen. “Okay, first I’ll get you caffeinated then you can pick where to start.”
“How about the handle?” Patty suggested then tried not to gasp at the site before her. The handle was the least of the problems. She talked Ann into removing not only the hardware but the cabinet doors; they would refinish the exteriors then add all new pulls and knobs to instantly update the lackluster design. The task would be time-consuming, but they were both up for it. It would be a good start.
And it was, but then school let out and summer proved challenging.
“Just bring Jackie along. Matt and the girls are usually around; they can keep her company,” Ann offered, not wanting to lose Patty yet again.
Jackie reluctantly came along the next day. She brought a book—she was never comfortable without one—and she really didn’t want to go with her mother to this stranger’s house. She was going into the sixth grade, and she felt old enough to stay home alone—sort of. Her pleas were not convincing, though, so she got into the car with her mother.
“Oh my gosh, Jackie, look at you all grown up! I’ve been hearing all about how great you’re doing in school, and dance, piano, art. Go ahead into the den. I hear the TV, so someone must be awake.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Foster.” Jackie gave her mother a pleading look, but even Jackie could see the backsplash was going to be difficult.
Jackie tentatively stepped into the closed-blinds darkened room to find Matt—she assumed it was Matt as he was the only son—sprawled on the couch staring blankly at the screen.
Matt sensed her presence and sat up straighter. “Hi! Come on in. Jackie, right?”
“Yes. Hi and thank you, Matthew. What are you watching?”
Smurfs.” He grinned apologetically, realizing she would think the show a bit babyish, but he loved the program, and it was too late to lie—she had seen the little blue creatures.
“Cool,” Jackie said. She sat down on the smaller couch adjacent to the one Matt was occupying.
“Whatcha reading?” Matt pointed to the book Jackie clutched to her chest.
“Oh.” She didn’t realize she had a death grip on it and removed her sweaty palms to turn it around to show him. “Great Expectations.”
“A school book in the summer? You need Smurfs.” Matt chuckled so she would know he was just joking around. After a little laugh, they both turned their attention to the chase ensuing on screen from the bad wizard.
She asked about his sisters, and he listed all their summer jobs: babysitter, lifeguard, and candy striper. “It’s great, they’re gone all day and have money to send me out for ice cream when they have boys over.”
Jackie nodded, though she couldn’t relate. He asked her about being an only child. She shrugged. “I don’t know any other way, but I get bored.” She asked about his school, and she told him about hers. The time flew by.
“Okay, honey, we’re done for today,” Patty called from just outside the den.
Jackie hopped to her feet. “Well, I guess I have to leave now. Thanks for letting me hang out.”
“Sure, come by anytime. I’m usually right here.” He waved from the couch.
Jackie smiled as she walked out to find Patty and finally exhaled. She knew plenty of boys, even liked a few, but this Matt…he was different. He was cool and relaxed and seemed to have no problems talking to her, even though they had only met once. Or was it twice? Anyway, she wished she could be so self-assured, but she always felt tense around boys, like she might say the wrong thing. When she and Matt talked, it seemed easy. They chatted until they simply ran out of things to say.
She’d tried to keep her eyes on the screen, but it was difficult not to glance over at the sandy-haired, lanky boy. She couldn’t tell today, but she remembered his eyes were green when she met him in the supermarket years ago. She remembered well because she didn’t see that type of clear but colorful feature very often. His nose was peeling back then. It had been August. That’s what had caught her attention; the loose, dead skin was just taunting her to give it a quick yank or brush it away. She remembered wondering how he could stand it. Now she knew, he was aloof, carefree enough to ignore a little sunburn.
“What did you and Matthew talk about?” Patty asked Jackie on the drive home.
“Nothing,” she replied from the safety of the backseat, avoiding her mother’s glare in the review mirror.
“Oh come on, you were together for almost two hours.”

“Really, we talked about nothing.” It was true, and her mother just wouldn’t understand that talking about nothing was really something.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Replacing Sliced Bread

My friend was visiting from back home and we were leaving my house for lunch. As I put my SUV in reverse the back-up camera appeared on the display screen, replacing the radio and temperature settings. I stared at the screen as I navigated my narrow and steep driveway, never looking over my shoulder as I was taught in the 80s on a school owned Ford Tempo, complete with passenger side breaks.
“Oh, your new car has a back-up camera too. I can’t live without mine.” Liz exclaimed.
“I know, right? I’m kind of ashamed how much I rely on it, but seriously – what a great invention.”
“Yeah, it’s like the greatest thing since…” She paused and squinted. I knew what she was thinking.
“Sliced bread?” I offered.
“That’s what I was initially going to say, because I always do, but that seems an outdated analogy now.”
“Especially when comparing to a microscopic camera that automatically kicks on and off simply by switching gears.”

Like most people, I grew up with “sliced bread” as the standard to compare all inventions. Though I’m too young to appreciate the novelty of purchasing bread that has been pre-sliced for the first time, my parents used the saying enough that I got the gist.
“These new microwave ovens are the greatest thing since sliced bread.” My mom exclaimed to her friends regarding the Amana monstrosity recently delivered to our countertop, circa 1982.
"Velcro! The greatest thing since sliced bread.” My dad. Yeah, he bought the wallets, shoes and pretty much anything that featured the “space-age technology.” The ripping sound irritates me to this day.

“Yeah, there must be a current standard. Something else we could never live without now and would fit the ‘greatest thing since,’ comparison.” Liz looked up and a perfect example caught her eye on my windshield. “Like EZ Pass. Easily one of the greatest inventions of our lifetime.”
“Agree,” I nodded. “I could never go back to not having one. That’s a good one. But, how about caller ID? I mean, would you even think about answering a phone now without knowing who’s calling?”
“No way. No name, no answer. Move that one to the top of the list.”
“Well, that leads us to cell phones. Smart phones to be exact.”

“Except, sometimes I want to throw mine out the window. EZ Pass and Caller ID have never frustrated me, or broken, cracked, become obsolete…”

“Good point. I think we all have love/hate relationships with our phones.”

I navigated a parallel parking spot and thought soon this will be a thing of the past too. Liz then pointed out I’m lucky my next car will most likely have that feature standard. I stuck my tongue out at her.
We entered the restaurant and ordered drinks and salads. The waitress used an ipad. When she left we both said,“Ipad.”
“Are we making a list?”
“Sure,” I said. “We haven’t found the gold standard yet and I think I feel a blog coming on.”
Liz rolled her eyes, but offered, “satellite radio.”
“How about medical advances? I got my sight back seventeen years ago and am grateful for Lasik everyday. But, I guess that’s not universal.”
“True, maybe that’s your personal sliced bread.”
“I think yours is the DVR since you work and travel so much.”
“Ooh, that’s true. It’s awesome to fast forward through the commercials too. Though I still watch funny ones on Youtube on my laptop when travelling.”
“Laptops. Computers in general.”
“True,” She said, but took a sip of her beer and added, “but really, where we would be without the internet now?”
“I guess that’s the absolute thing I couldn’t live without.”
“Me too,” she said. “That has to be at the top.”
Our salads arrived and we dug in.
“Mine is great.”
“Mine too, As great as…” I looked around, “Well, I guess it’s time to get rid of the sliced bread analogy since no one serves it anymore."
Liz laughed. “True. My salad is a as awesome as the internet. Though I’d kill for a slice of bread.”

How about you – what’s your sliced bread?


Monday, June 26, 2017

Matt and Jackie Find a Home



Over the past five or so years, Matt and Jackie have been searching for the perfect home. I am their realtor. I set out on their search right prematurely only to find the market wasn’t right for them at the time and it caused me to question whether they were truly ready to settle down, so I backed off.  It happens.
Matt and Jackie are the main characters in my novel, White Lies and Promises.
They patiently waited in a digital file as my other stories found their homes and got published. I would periodically revisit them, change a few details – including the title, and send a query or two to agents, but they never found perfect fit. I kept the faith it would happen someday. Someday arrived on their birthday.
May 1st was my self-imposed deadline for a New Adult novel I’ve been writing since last summer. In April, I hit a snag and began finding excuses to extend the looming deadline. May 1st came and went. I had a very clean and organized house, but a very rough manuscript in no condition to submit for anyone’s consideration. Frustrated with myself (but still open to distractions) I sat down at my computer on May 18th to finish and polish the NA novel. When I noticed the date, however, I found the day’s distraction. It was Matt and Jackie’s shared birthday. I promised myself one quick tweet and wrote: You know you’re a writer when you remember your characters’ birthdays #amwriting. I watched as the few likes and retweets popped up in my notifications and thought I’d move on. But, that’s not how Twitter works, especially when you’re supposed to be doing something else. I trolled a few profiles and hashtags before landing on #MSWL – Manuscript Wish List. I periodically check there to see what types of submissions agents and publishers are currently ‘wishing for’.
While browsing, I noticed a new indie publisher seeking submissions, including romance. My mind began to race with thoughts - Matt and Jackie’s story is a romance, it’s their birthday, I believe in Fate. I immediately clicked the link taking me to the website for Bon Chance Press. On the shiny new site was a dragonfly representing new beginnings. With the urging of Bon Chance – good luck, I knew I had to submit.
I spent the next two hours assembling a query letter, reviewing my previously written synopsis and re-re-reading the first three chapters of the manuscript. After another cup of coffee, I began the email to Bon Chance Press. I was happy with my query letter, satisfied with my synopsis (no one loves their synopsis, impossible) and was about to paste in the first three chapters when I hit the tab button to adjust the heading on the synopsis. That’s when it disappeared. It sent. It sent before I could paste in the chapters. Rule number one in submitting is to follow directions and now my submission was on its way appearing as if I didn’t follow directions. First, I panicked. Next, I thought it was hopeless. Then I remembered the date and the motto and got the courage to draft a new email explaining the snafu. I included all the required info and added ‘corrected submission’ in the subject line and hit send. I sat back and wished Matt and Jackie good luck.

Twenty-four hours later, I heard back. It was a request for full – the holy grail of querying requests. I dropped everything that day and furiously reviewed the entire manuscript before submitting. Only ten days later I got the call. Yes, a call! On Memorial Day I received an offer from Bon Chance Press.

The past few weeks have been a blur. I am in awe of my publisher, cover designer, and editor. White Lies and Promises will be available 12/12/17 – move in day for Matt and Jackie.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Resurrecting Characters

While writing my current work-in-progress, I’m discovering I’ve been unconsciously borrowing traits from previous characters in my first manuscript. I say ‘manuscript’ and not ‘book’ because the manuscript phase is where it remains stuck for the past eight years. Although it never made it into reader’s hands, it has been in my head for over a decade. The characters are as familiar to me as the real people in my life. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find them slipping into my current writing. In fact, they are resurfacing with ease.

So why the dilemma? To allow them to resurrect, I have to admit they are dead.
I’ll back up.

Years ago, when I finally admitted I was writing a book, everyone told me my first story would probably not get published. Not because they had read it, but because – that’s what happens. I didn’t want to believe the warning. Of course I thought my fabulous story would be the exception to the statistic. I would be the exception. And of course, I was not. Totally-new-idea/manuscript number three actually became my first published work. By the time my fourth book had been published, I had moved on from the original. I no longer looked at it and more importantly I stopped shopping it. Had I given up? I wasn’t sure. I told myself I would know when it was time to truly ‘shelve’ it. I know the story isn’t a seller, the writing weak, but the characters are strong and they are what has held the hope alive until, I guess, now.
The time has come to say goodbye to the story, but I will take with me the knowledge it has taught me – some tough lessons about the world of publication and the power of resilience. I’ll take some characters along for another ride, reintroducing them under disguise, if only for my benefit. I laugh alone realizing only I would ever now that Vicki is morphing into Mel, and Mike into Chris. The work-in-progress features brand new main characters, but their friends are beginning to look familiar to me and it feels right.

No one is going to call asking for my first messy story, so I’ll get to work cleaning up the old cast. No time to dwell on what didn’t happen, it’s makeover time.