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.”
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.
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.

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year - Take Two

No, I didn’t screw up last week and need a do-over. Today is the first day all three of my kids are back at school since the holidays, so for me this is the real start to the new year. Actually, that’s not quite right. I consider my year to start when their school year does and since today is the first day of their second semester, I guess it’s mine as well.

First semester was good, not great. I’d give myself a B+. Not bad, but room for improvement. I could write more, have more patience and be more organized in all aspects of my life. I scoured Pinterest the last few weeks looking for inspiration and motivation. I saved, liked and pinned all the interesting and challenging posts about ways to purge, organize, and focus in the new year. I boiled it down to changing my daily ‘to-do’ list. As of today it is now broken down into three categories – Must Do/Should Do/Want to Do.

So far I’ve accomplished the Musts since they were the suckiest. It felt good to get them over with early in the day. I’m three for five in the Should department. Not bad for noon. The only thing on my Wants today is to read. I’ll consider that done since I plan to leave early to pick up the youngest from school. I rationalize that I need a good parking spot, but everyone knows I’m reading for fifteen minutes before the bell rings.

The downside – tomorrow’s Musts are already taunting me. I’ll give it a week and if it needs tweaking, I’ll tweak. Since I’m both the student and the teacher with this assignment, I'll reassess in a month and scrap it for the old laundry list if it's not working. I'm shooting for an A, but this may turn out to be a pass/fail semester.

I wish everyone reading this has the year they strive for and hope you get to your Wants list every day.