Sneak Peak: In Search of Mr. Anonymous

MrAnonymous_Amazon

I’m thrilled to announce I have a third book on the horizon: In Search of Mr. Anonymous. It’s been a labor of love for me and my favorite among the books I’ve written so far. Like the others, you can expect it to be fun and flirty with a healthy dose of romance. OK, so this one probably has more than a healthy dose. Let’s just say it’s a lot steamier than the others. But it also goes deeper and tackles some bigger issues about love and loyalty. Here’s a summary of the plot:

 

Two Strangers. One Passionate Weekend. Endless Heartbreak.

Cynical event planner Lucy agrees to a one-night stand as a result of losing a bet. It’s so out of character she insists on keeping their names anonymous. Lucy falls hard only to never hear from him again. She struggles with moving on until she meets James, her perfect match. Lucy realizes she must stop chasing the ghosts of her past if she wants a future with James. But the problem with ghosts is you never know when they’ll come back to haunt you.

 

I’ll be running an eBook preorder special soon. Details to come in the next few days. But in the meantime enjoy a sneak peek. Check back often because I will post a new chapter in the days leading up to my launch, which is slated for 4/27.

 

First up: the prologue. Yes, I have one of those 😉 Enjoy!

 

Prologue

 

I stare at the heavy wooden doors before me, willing them to open. Their windows are covered with wrought iron bars, reminiscent of the prison I’m in. Fine, these bars have more of an ornamental look and the windows are some kind of fancy stained glass. So the jail analogy might be a bit extreme. If I wasn’t so claustrophobic I might even find them pretty. But it’s hard to see their beauty while I’m crammed among a throng of my classmates. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying my best to ignore the pack that surrounds me. I could kill my mom for dropping me off early. “If you’re on time, you’re as good as late,” she always tells me. What does that even mean? It makes no sense. I feel jostling behind me and as the doors open I’m pushed forward into a large, brightly lit tent. I can breathe again.

“Lucy, let’s go!” Amanda cries as she tugs my arm toward a woman carrying a tray filled with fizzy, pink drinks. We each grab one, and I give it a good stir with my straw before taking a tentative sip. It’s fruity, and the bubbles tickle my throat as it goes down. I decide it’s too sweet, but I’m grateful to have something to hold―a prop of sorts.

I follow Amanda across the white, polished floor, being careful not to trip over my own feet. We head toward the center of the tent, near the makeshift stage, and I’m surrounded by a bustle of activity. A man teeters on stilts while juggling. To my left is a child-sized merry-go-round adorned with three small ponies, their fiery manes a match to the red satin tablecloths. I’m not sure if it’s to ride on or for show. To my right are carnival-style games. My mouth waters as someone walks by holding a red and white striped box overflowing with buttered popcorn. The logo on the carton matches the large sign behind the stage, which spells out “Happy Sweet 16 Taylor” in lights. It’s all a bit over-the-top if you ask me. But Taylor is an only child and from what I hear her dad’s loaded, at least according to the rumor mill. In my experience it always carries an ounce of truth.

The DJ is setting up his equipment and, to my dismay, he chooses the moment I’m standing next to a speaker to do a sound check. I jump as he belts out, “Testing. Testing 1-2-3.”

“Let’s go play some games,” I suggest. Amanda agrees. We survey the options and decide to start with “Taylor’s Gone Fishin’.” Yeah, right. Like I can really see her doing anything that involves worms. I grab a fishing pole and drop its magnetic hook into a small pool of water. Unfortunately I come up empty-handed because the bottom of my fish is blank. Only fish that have a star on the bottom earn you a prize. I guess Taylor doesn’t share the philosophy that everyone’s a winner. Next we head over to the can toss, where I successfully knock down all three with my first pitch. I do a little victory dance and Amanda stares and me and giggles. “Lucy, who knew you had it in you!” I laugh too as I watch Amanda imitate my victory dance. The man running the game appears impatient with our antics and hands me a large, stuffed teddy bear before shouting, “Next!” I wonder what I’m supposed to do with it during the party. Maybe it can be my dancing partner. A wave of anxiety hits at the thought of having no one to dance with during the slow songs. At least I’ll have my bear for company.

We move on and I’m engrossed in trying to toss a ring around the neck of a bottle when Amanda claps her hands in delight. “Look over there! Let’s get in line.” I follow her gaze and my heart sinks. It’s a fortune teller station. Reluctantly I stand with her in line. I try to distract her by suggesting we go to the photo booth before it gets crowded. She’s intent on staying put. When it’s our turn I say, “You go ahead. I don’t want to have my fortune read.”

“Why not?” she demands.

“You know I’m superstitious.”

She protests, citing off reasons why I should do it. I look around for a distraction and see a way out. “Isn’t that Jared over there?”

“Where?” she asks, following my gaze. “It’s him,” she squeals. “Do you think he noticed me? I think he looked over here. Yeah, he did. Should I go say hi? Or let him come to me?”

“Let him come to you. You need to play hard to get.” This is coming from someone who is anything but an expert when it comes to dating strategy, or dating for that matter.

“Yo, you’re up!” someone calls out behind us.

Jared makes eye contact with Amanda and walks over. “Lucy, take my turn,” Amanda says as she smooths out her perfect blond strands. The next thing I know Jared puts his arm around Amanda and whisks her away, leaving me standing in front of the fortune teller. I take in her lined face, the gray curls protruding from her colorful head scarf, and the large hoops dangling from her ears. She just looks the part. She’s not a real fortune teller. She even has a name tag that says, “Marci.” What kind of name is that for someone who’s supposed to know the future? And she spells it with an “I,” like it was an attempt to make her name trendier. Doesn’t instill much confidence. Still, I’d love to make a fast getaway, but I don’t want to cause a scene. I’m the kind of girl who likes to blend in.

Marci looks at me with narrowed, brown eyes. “I need something of value.”

She has an accent. Of course she has an accent. It’s probably fake. “I don’t have anything,” I say as I unzip my purse.

“No, no. Not money. Something meaningful to you,” she says as she eyes my necklace.

“Oh,” I say as my fingers fumble with the silver chain around my neck. How did she know? I wear two, actually. One is a butterfly pendant and the other a best friends charm. Fortunately the pendant is tucked beneath my dress, hiding it from view. So she must be talking about the charm necklace.

“Let me see it.”

I hesitate. I never take off the necklace―either of them. Seconds pass and I feel beads of perspiration breaking out on my upper lip. Embarrassed, I put my finger to my lips as though deep in thought, and attempt to nonchalantly swipe the sweat away. “Come on!” a boy groans behind me.

“She’ll be the last one,” Marci says as she passes out a stack of business cards to those remaining in line.

The boy behind me groans again.

With shaking fingers, I sweep aside my jet black hair and undo the silver chain around my neck. Silently I hand it to her. She studies the “St Ends” broken heart locket and places it in her palm. She covers it with her other hand and closes her eyes. I close my eyes as well and try to drown out the scene before me. Instead, I focus on the locket, and Melanie.

Melanie Baxter is my best friend. I met her at overnight camp when I was just ten years old. Looking back I have no clue why my mom sent me because I never asked or expressed any interest. I think it was her attempt at getting me out of my shell. To this day I don’t know why Melanie befriended me. We are complete opposites in every way. She’s outgoing, boisterous, and loves being in the spotlight. Some might call me a wall flower. I prefer to think of myself as an observer. Let’s just say I didn’t expect us to be friends.

We were assigned to the same cabin, but she already knew some of the other girls. I kept to myself at first, until there was an act of what I like to think of as divine intervention on the fourth night. As an evening activity, our counselor, Joanna, asked us to write something nice about each of our cabin mates. She had a cup labeled with each camper’s name, and after we wrote our message we had to drop it in each one. I wondered what people would write about me, the shy girl who didn’t give much away. It wasn’t intentional. I wanted them to see the real me, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I told myself it was just a silly activity, but their opinions mattered to me. I watched as most of the girls scribbled a quick message and then went on to gossip with one another. I took my time. I wanted to think of the perfect thing to say. We then went off to our evening program and I wondered what would become of the messages. I worried they would be forgotten, but before bed Joanna read each one aloud. Many of the notes were superficial and said things like, “so and so is really nice” or “she’s great at braiding” or “I love her clothes.” Except mine. For Victoria I wrote, “Her bursts of laughter are like catching glowing fireflies on a hot, summer night.” And on Paige’s I wrote, “Her smile is inviting, and when it’s directed at you it feels like you’re being wrapped up in a warm blanket.” And on Tina’s I said, “I wish I had an ounce of her bravery.” Then Joanna read the one I wrote for Melanie. “Melanie is like the sun. She shines her radiance on those around her. Always growing, you feel happy in her presence.”

“Glowing,” I corrected Joanna before I could stop myself. “It’s glowing, not growing.” Melanie’s eyes met mine as I said it. She smiled at me and I smiled back. I noticed her listening intently to the rest of the messages, her eyes darting my way each time one of mine was read. “Are you a poet?” she asked me when we went to brush our teeth.

“Me? No. I don’t write poetry, but I love reading it.”

“Oh. I liked what you had to say about everyone.”

I gave her an embarrassed smile as I squeezed out a dab of toothpaste. She kept talking while she was brushing and I had a hard time understanding what she was saying. Toothpaste dribbled down her chin and I attempted to stifle a laugh. Instead of being embarrassed, she made funny faces and put a dab of toothpaste on her nose. I followed suit and pretty soon our faces were covered with dots of toothpaste.

Joanna walked in and said, “What on earth?”

But neither of us could answer. We were both crying tears of laughter.

“You’ll be my bunk mate when we switch next week,” Melanie informed me. I didn’t mind that it wasn’t a question.

The next morning she took a few extra minutes getting dressed before breakfast.

“Mel, you coming?” Paige called.

“Go ahead. I’ll head over with Lucy.”

I tried not to look surprised. She fell in step next to me and I noticed how her strides were in sync with mine. From that day forward it was like that between us. As close as sisters, we had an inseparable bond. At the end of camp I worked up the courage to ask why she chose me. “Because you see people for who they are,” she said. She thought a moment and added, “And you see the good in everyone.”

I didn’t know that to be true, but I was glad she thought so. Back home I’d never had a friend like her, and I was thrilled for our newfound friendship.

The only hitch is that she lives in Illinois and I’m from Virginia. But we make it work and try to see each other at least once or twice a year outside of camp. She surprised me on my thirteenth birthday with the locket. “For the other part of me,” she wrote on the card. She wears the other half: Be Fri. So when you put them together the message reads “Best Friends.” My locket has a picture of her, and hers a picture of me. I’m an only child, but once I met Melanie I not only gained a best friend, but a sister as well.

Marci puts one hand on mine, bringing me back to the present. In her other is the locket. I watch as she strokes her thumb over the engraved letters, her eyes closed in concentration. “You are a perceptive girl,” she says. “Quiet but very loyal. You have many acquaintances but few true friends. You don’t like to let people in.” I relax a little. What she’s saying is true, but it’s nothing about my future. Her observations are only about my present. “You will change your mind about where to go for college.” Uh, oh. I spoke too soon. “You will have much success,” she continues. “A good career. But you must make decisions for yourself. You must stop basing them on what others want.” She opens her eyes for a moment and a look of concern crosses her face. My heart begins to pound in my chest.

“What?” I say.

“N-nothing. That’s it.”

“What else did you see?” I demand.

The DJ announces it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and I know our time is done. She hands me back my locket then packs her things away. “It’s not important.”

“Please, just tell me,” I plead. She shakes her head and quickly finishes packing. She walks away, wheeling a small suitcase behind her. My classmates head toward the dance floor. Instead I follow Marci, all the way to the parking lot. She studies me as she closes her trunk. My pale blue-green eyes fill with tears, which I hastily wipe away with my sleeve. She takes both my hands and lets out a sigh.

“You will lose something precious,” she says. I snatch my hands away as though I’ve been burned.

No, no, no. This is why I didn’t want to have my fortune read. Some things are better off not knowing. But then it occurs to me she might be talking about my birth mom. “I’m adopted. Is that what you mean?”

“I’m afraid I’m not talking about the past. But don’t worry,” she tries to reassure me. “It will come back to you in the most unexpected way.”

“What? What will come back to me?”

All of a sudden Amanda reappears at my side. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Greg said he saw you head out this way.” I try to interrupt but she keeps talking. “So Jared officially asked me out. Can you believe it? And he won me this stuffed bear. Hey, it looks just like yours! The merry-go-round was just a display, by the way. We tried to go on it and got yelled at. Can you believe it? Why have it then?”

“Uh, huh. Just give me a sec. I need to find out more about something.”

Panicked, I turn back to where Marci was standing, but she’s gone. Her car is gone too. I want to scream at the unfairness of it all.

Amanda sees my expression. “What did she say?” she prods.

“Nothing important,” I lie. I secure the locket around my neck and check three times to make sure the clasp is tightened.

Amanda peers at me and says, “Don’t worry about what Marci said. She’s just someone they hired for the party. She’s probably like a math teacher, or something.”

“Yeah, like algebra or geometry,” I agree. She links her arm through mine and we head back toward the party.

As I’m lying in bed that night I replay Marci’s premonition. I convince myself she can’t be a real fortune teller and likely teaches math or science, as Amanda suggested. Something logical. I need to forget about what she said. But try as I might, her words are etched into my brain. I already know what it feels like to lose something you never had. Yet I’m still terrified. Of what, I don’t know. But I have a strong feeling that someday I’ll find out. As the poet Jean de La Fontaine once said, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” It would appear that my destiny is to lose.

 

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Press for Progress

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While we were driving home this evening the DJ gave a shout out to “all the women out there” for International Women’s Day. My 7-year old son was in the car and wanted to know if there was a Men’s Day. I told him no and he wanted to know why. I tried to keep it simple and explain that sometimes women are treated differently than men, so it’s a day of celebration in our honor. When we got home I looked up the background, curious to know more. I learned that the first observance, called “National Women’s Day,” took place in the year 1909, though there are some claims that date its origin to 1857. The following year German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual Women’s Day, and delegates agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. Hence began the tradition of coming together on one day to honor women at large.

I found it surprising the holiday dated back that far. I guess I shouldn’t considering the inequities that have plagued women since the early 1900s (and before). It makes me proud they took a stand to fight issues like suffrage and equal rights. But still, I have mixed emotions about this day. On the one hand, I love the idea of celebrating how far we’ve come and the notion of female empowerment. On the other, we still have so much further to go. The whole #metoo movement shines a light on the issues that are prevalent in the workplace and in our society. It’s 2018 and there’s still a gender pay gap, sexual harassment, and violence against women. And I just read findings from the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report claiming that gender parity is over 200 years away. 200 years! How is it possible the gender gap is widening?

It’s very disheartening and my first thought was I hope to see the day when we no longer have IWD. The fact that we need a holiday to celebrate women speaks to the injustice we still face. So by doing away with it means we will have finally achieved equality. But when I really thought about it I decided that isn’t the answer. Not only is it important to celebrate women, but it’s important to remember all those who came before us and all those who continue to fight the battle. From everyday women to the rainmakers, each of us is important and each of us makes a difference.

When I was in junior high we had an off-site workshop that I would equate to today’s social emotional learning curriculum. I remember they kicked it off by having one person clap their hands together. Then the instructor asked someone else to join in, and another person, until the entire room broke out in thunderous applause. The point: the impact was quiet with only individual, but together, the noise was deafening. If we stand together, we can make change.

I recognize it’s an uphill battle, but that doesn’t diminish the progress we’ve made. I always tell my daughter she can be anything she wants to be as long as she works hard. And I believe that to be true. I’d love to see a female president in this lifetime, and I hope we’re not too far off. Oprah 2020? Speaking of strong women, I chose the image of Rosie the Riveter for this post because she is the iconic figure of a strong working woman. She rallied female workers during World War II, and even today she’s still relevant. Did you know the “We Can Do It” poster is one of the ten most-requested images at the National Archives and Records Administration? Perhaps because it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

I wanted to end with a quote. The author is unknown but I found the message inspirational.

strong women

Here’s to all the strong women out there!

Oops! Learning from our Mistakes

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As a parent, I’ll admit that I’m scared of my children making mistakes. Of course there are different levels of mistakes, ranging from minor inconveniences to the catastrophic. So I guess it’s more the catastrophic kinds that I’m referring to. The kinds of events that could jeopardize their future. I have friends in the neighborhood with kids of varying ages. And when I hear about some of the challenges they face as their kids get older, it does nothing to calm my anxiety. I used to think that the older my kids got the easier they’d be. And in some regards that’s true because they are more independent. But on the other hand, bigger kids come with a bigger set of problems.

 

On Friday I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter was playing flag football at recess and wasn’t wearing her gloves. Her hands were swollen with white patches, so she was concerned. I happened to be meeting with the pediatrician that afternoon (a story for another time), so I said I’d pick her up so I could have her hands checked. I was livid that my daughter was playing outside in less than twenty degree weather without wearing her gloves. A nice pair of super warm gloves that I bought at a specialty outdoor retailer for just such weather. I had talked to my daughter before about wearing her gloves. Sometimes when we’re out and about she’ll shove her hands in her pockets. I guess that’s OK for a brief trip into Target, but I’ve told her it’s important to protect her skin in the extreme cold.

 

I picked her up and her hands looked better. They were pink and the blood looked to be flowing. But there was still a purple, swollen patch near her palm that worried me. So I figured as long as I was meeting with the pediatrician, we may as well have it checked. When we got into the car she burst into tears.  She was terrified that she had frostbite. I told her I didn’t think that was the case, but reiterated that’s why she needs to wear her gloves. As it turns out she was fine, but that incident scared her so much that I know I’ll never have to worry about her making the same mistake again.

 

There’s something to be said for allowing our kids to make mistakes. I think often times as parents we try to avoid them experiencing pitfalls or worry about them making errors. At least I do. And I don’t think I’m alone.

I feel like we live in a society where there’s a fear of failure.

But learning from our mistakes is critical to growth. I know I’ve made countless mistakes and each time I think, “I’ll never do that again.” Someone can tell you something countless times, but the lesson carries that much more meaning when you’ve experienced it for yourself.

 

Of course there are situations where it makes sense to avoid these pitfalls. Things that involve physical harm, safety hazards, long-term implications, etc. But I think mistakes can be a powerful learning tool. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time I want to swoop in and “save” the situation. Like with homework. I’m constantly on my daughter about doing it and then putting it in her backpack. But I bet if she forgot to do it once that would be the last time. I’m working on trying to be more hands off. I will embrace the mistakes I make as a parent and do the same for my children. I think it’s critically important for their growth and learning how to manage disappointments and failures. Often times we want to shield them from those things, which is really a disservice.

 

We all make mistakes. The key to growing is how we learn from them.

 

Double Digits & Holding onto Childhood

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My daughter turned 10 last week. I tried to make it special―after all, it is a milestone.  For starters, it’s double digits. Never again in her lifetime will her age be a single number. It’s also closer to the teenage years. It may seem like she’s far from that because we’ve still got three years to go. But over the past year, she’s been slowly outgrowing her childhood things. Licensed characters are out. When friends come over they make videos or talk behind closed doors. Clothes with sparkles, graphics, or bling of any kind are now in the giveaway pile. Plain is in. The emoji pillows we so painstakingly collected are now dust collectors. We’ve transitioned from Justice to Old Navy leisure wear. To be honest I wasn’t expecting all of this to happen so soon. When I was growing up I played with Barbies until Jr. High. And only then I got rid of them because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to. So I’ve been trying to figure out what’s driving this earlier transition. I think a lot of it has to do with technology. And to that point, all she wants is a phone. But I’m still holding off because I don’t see a need for her to have one of her own just yet.

 

So what to get my tween for her birthday? I decided to let her redo her room, which I had designed when she was just a toddler. I like the idea of allowing her to make it her own and use it as a form of self-expression. Give her some control over something that should be hers. I definitely felt a tinge of sadness as I was packing away her old sheets and comforter. She’s outgrown the cute floral pattern and canvas prints I had searched long and hard for to add the perfect touch of whimsy to a little girl’s room.  Now it’s mint green and simple – I guess you could call it sophisticated. To me it’s a sign of the times: things are changing.

 

My mother-in-law was over for a family party this weekend. She gave me an article from the Chicago Tribune called “Turning 10 and Dreading Growing Up.” She wanted to know if I’d seen it. I said that I hadn’t – I don’t read the paper. But she saved it for me because she thought I could relate. The article is about the angst the writer’s daughter feels about turning 10. The stress that comes with wanting to stay little. The article went on to talk about the pressure tweens face and all the expectations that are piled on them. The pressure to be a great person, look great, and be great at everything. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel was called in to comment. She said her patients tell her there are only 2 positions in life: ahead and behind. She went on to quote that “10 is the new 18.”

 

Say what?

I wasn’t super stressed about my daughter turning 10. But now I am after reading the tales of woe about childhood ending and the pressure to be perfect.

So here’s what I’ve decided. A lot of it comes down to parenting. Yes, there are a lot of things that we can’t control. But there are lots of things we can. I’m still embracing my daughter’s childhood. These are fun and innocent years and I want to protect that. She has a lifetime to worry about the world’s problems. But for now, I love that she still believes in the tooth fairy. Hasn’t questioned her existence. Ever. I love that she still wants to hang out with me or hold my hand. We went to Disney this past winter and she still wanted to get the characters’ autographs. She said she didn’t, but once we were there she changed her tune. I’m cognizant of the increasing demands and expectations at school. And while I expect her to rise to the occasion, I’m trying not to put so much pressure on her and let her find her own way. I don’t expect perfection. As long as she tries her best that’s good enough for me. And I’ve shared this message with her, hoping it will sink in.

 

She has her days where she’s moody and wants to be alone. Or doesn’t feel like talking or sharing anything about her day. Except when it’s time for bed, which she keeps pushing later. Is she a tween? More and more each day. But she’s not a teen yet. I disagree that 10 is the new 18. I think 10 is 10. And that’s how it should be.

A Clean Slate

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My kids went back to school a few weeks ago. I love this time of year. It feels like a second New Year’s celebration. A fresh start, a renewed sense of optimism, and a chance to do things better. By the end of the summer things got chaotic in my house. The routine was somewhat out the window, the kids were going to bed late, and I was going a bit insane. I feel like that’s what summer’s for (not the insane part!), but it got tough in the end having no down time. In the last few weeks between the end of camp and the start of school, I was trying to plan fun activities to keep everyone entertained. My house become a revolving door of play dates. The kids were bickering constantly. Slime was a go-to activity. The mess! I had to put the kibosh on that. And we often ran for blocks in search of the ice cream truck. My kids have never had better speed or hearing. We could be downstairs in the basement with the door closed and they’d scream for ice cream. Before I could process what happened they were upstairs with their shoes on. You’d think they would be tired with all the running around and fresh air. But as my son said it gave him energy. The ice cream probably helped. He was going to bed late and my daughter was staying up past ten. So the only time I could get things done was after she went to bed. And let me tell you, at that point I was tired. I found myself forgetting to put a wet load of laundry in the dryer, drafting emails that were never sent, and doing work well past eleven. As much as I loved spending quality time with the kids, I felt like the quality I was putting into other things was somewhat lacking.

Slowly we’re adjusting to getting back to the rigor a new school year brings. My daughter is entering fourth grade and my son is in first. So far so good. Granted we’ve yet to have a full week of school. I’ve been getting all of us (myself included) up and out the door earlier. By the end of last year we were cutting it close with morning drop off. Everyone was less motivated to get out of bed. And even on those days it seemed like we were doing OK on time, inevitably we used those “free” minutes doing something else. I was a stress case each morning and vowed no more. So I’m glad for the fresh start. We’re all motivated to adopt good habits, but we’ll see what happens come October.

Just like with New Year’s, I’m trying to hold onto my resolutions.

So now I’ve gone from having no “me” time to lots of it. A good deal of that time will be spent doing work. Did I mention I’ve been freelancing for my former boss? I primarily work from home and a lot of what I’m doing is writing-based, which I obviously love. And it’s a nice work-life balance, which isn’t easy to come by. So I feel lucky and inspired. Which brings me to my next piece of news. I started writing my third novel! I’m hoping to focus on it more in the coming weeks and months as I only have a few chapters started. The story is something I mapped out a long time ago that I’ve been aching to write. It’s all in my head, but the challenge will be getting it down on paper in a way that does it justice. But I’m excited and it feels like the right time. Like with the flip of the calendar, I’m wiping the slate clean and I’m ready to begin. 🙂

Postcards From Camp

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Wow! I can’t believe that I haven’t posted since January. Eek. There isn’t a particular reason for my silence. I’ve just been focused on other things and my writing has fallen to the wayside. I miss it. It felt good to sit back down with my thoughts for company. Like an old friend who you haven’t spoken with in a while, it’s easy to pick right back up where we left off. And I see a lot more writing in my future – of the letter variety. My oldest daughter left for overnight camp last week. She’ll be gone for four long weeks. I know, some of you might be wondering why I’d want her to stay for so long. The answer is I didn’t. But she asked me, actually begged me, to go. I’m not against the idea of overnight camp. I went when I was growing up. My first year didn’t go so well, but after that I switched camps and loved it. I think it’s a great opportunity to instill kids with a sense of confidence and independence. But in my head I thought she’d go when she was ten. So I figured we had another year and another summer together. But when she continued to pursue the subject, I decided that while I might not be ready, she was.

 

So we met with the “camp lady” and she showed us videos of different options. I hadn’t intended to have her decide that way. I envisioned us going on a road trip, driving to the different camps so she could see them live and get a feel for what she liked best. But we missed our window of opportunity, so videos it was. She decided on Agawak in Minocqua, WI. I realize that things don’t always go according to plan, but I was nervous. How could she possibly make a decision from watching a video? I have to trust that she chose something that is the right fit. So I took a leap of faith and now she’s almost five hours away.

 

The goodbye was hard. I didn’t cry, outwardly at least. I put on my brave face and told her how proud I was and wished her an amazing time. Because I am proud. She not only had the courage to leave home for a month, but she went on her own. When she signed up she didn’t know another soul that was going. None of her friends go to overnight camp. That didn’t deter her. She said she’d make new friends. When I went to camp it was with a group of girls from school – I don’t think I’d ever have gone on my own. I think I often take the safe route. And I do have some regrets about it. I don’t know where she gets her courage. She’s this tiny thing with a big heart and a daredevil spirit. But I’m glad that it’s a part of who she is and that she was ready to take on this adventure.

 

She’s been gone a week and I have yet to receive a letter. The camp posts pictures and blog updates, so I have some exposure to what’s been happening. But I have so many questions and not being able to get answers is unnerving. When I was driving earlier I heard the song “I Hope You’ll Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. It hasn’t been on in ages, but I took it as a good sign because I love its message.

 

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance

 

Maddie, I’m so glad you decided to dance.

 

As for me, I promise not to wait so long between posts next time. Until we meet again.

Life is for Living

For Sam & Michael

make-the-days-count

I’m gonna put it out there: I’m not optimistic about 2017. I’m usually not a pessimist, but things haven’t gotten off to a great start. And we’re only three days in. I woke up on New Year’s Day terribly sick and couldn’t get out of bed all day. I know what you’re thinking. And no, it wasn’t the wine. I had some sort of weird 24-hour flu bug. That was no way to ring in the new year and I hoped it wasn’t representative of what lies ahead. But I shook it off because I love starting fresh with the flip of the calendar. Everything feels optimistic and new. Then I got a call yesterday that changed everything.

 

My uncle was doing some shopping and suddenly collapsed. He had a massive heart attack and they couldn’t revive him. He was simply opening a door, which turned out to be a gateway to the other side. I’m still reeling from the news. I just can’t shake the overwhelming feeling of sadness at the tragedy of it. My uncle was a good man. I haven’t seen him in a long time—he got divorced from my aunt a number of years ago and remarried. But when I was younger our families were together all the time. My first cousin (his daughter) is the same age as me. We were as thick as thieves growing up and spent countless holidays and everything in-between together. Our kids are now the exact same ages—we both had girls first followed by boys—and our daughters even have the same name. It was by pure coincidence. Maybe some of that togetherness rubbed off. Anyway, I keep thinking about how my cousin lost her dad and her kids lost their grandfather. Out of the blue, with no chance to say goodbye. It makes me so angry, especially when I think about all of the evil people in this world who get to live another day. It’s not fair.

 

I know this is life but sometimes it really sucks. I don’t know what to say to her because words can never fill the void in her heart. I’m sorry isn’t enough. Because from this day forward her life is forever changed and she will always feel his absence in moments big and small. I know with time the pain will dull, but it will always be there. Even now that I have my own family I still rely on my parents. I don’t know if there ever comes an age where you don’t need them. My husband lost his mom when he was in college. And even all these years later we still feel the loss in moments she can’t share. I have close friends and neighbors who lost their parents. All taken far too early. It scares the hell out of me that things can change in an instant.

 

I usually have a point when writing these posts, but I didn’t start out with a goal in mind. I’m heart-broken about it and I guess writing is my catharsis. If I had to make one it’s that I’ve become complacent about the preciousness of life. And I know all too well from experience that it should never be taken for granted. But I get caught up in the daily grind and sometimes forget. Then the unexpected happens and it reminds me that life is short. It’s also exhilarating and mysterious with endless possibilities. Sometimes I get stuck counting down the days until this, that and the other that they pass me by. But life is for living and it’s so important to make each day count. That is how we can honor their memories. So I guess my outlook for 2017 is to enjoy it to the fullest.

What Inspired Me to Write My Novel

inspiration

It’s hard to believe my blog tour has come to an end. Thanks to those of you who joined me on my journey. I had a lot of fun writing the various guest posts. Character interviews were my favorite because they allowed me to once again channel the voice of Tara. And she’s fun and tells it like it is, unlike me. So enjoy this last post of my tour with It’s Raining Books. Until we meet again…


Topic: What inspired you to write this book?

 

The inspiration for I Should Have Said Yes came from my desire to write about dating during a time that’s heavily influenced by social media. I loved the idea of capturing one woman’s journey to finding Mr. Right on Facebook. I could visualize her updates at the end of each chapter, funny anecdotes about her disastrous dates. It was then that I realized I needed to look no further. I already had my perfect protagonist: Tara Winters. Readers got to know Tara briefly in my first novel, Out in the Open. Tara is the youngest of the Winters girls, the irresponsible sister who was always dating someone new. She often lamented about these men at family gatherings. I figured, hey, I can work with that.

 

But one of the things I didn’t share was the reason why Tara goes on so many dates. Tara has always regretted that fateful day back in high school, when she told love interest D. J. Parker that their kiss didn’t mean anything. When in fact it meant everything. But he was a popular senior and she a mere freshman—a nobody. Judging by his reaction it was the wrong thing to say and the decision has haunted her ever since. So she made a pact to say yes to any dating opportunity that came her way. Hence, Tara goes on a lot of dates. The book is a candid and entertaining look at this journey, all documented on her Adventures in Dating blog. As you know, my initial idea was to document her dates on Facebook. But after the first draft was done I decided that a blog was a better outlet. Simple posts lacked the richness that I craved and didn’t feel authentic to the generation. As my beta reader and coworker told me, Millennials aren’t on Facebook. I knew this to be true and always struggled with it. A blog turned out to be a better fit with Tara’s personality, and it was a fun experience writing posts in her voice.

 

You may be wondering how I came up with enough men to fill a book. It was a challenge, but like Tara, I was a serial dater before I met my husband. Many of Tara’s Mr. Wrongs were based on my ghosts of dating past and those of my friends too. I didn’t necessarily tell them, so I’m just waiting for that phone call! I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical, but it was interesting to come up with characters that were based on people I knew. Some intimately!

 

I also gathered inspiration from unsuspecting sources. People reveal the most interesting things in public. I was riding the elevator and overhead a girl lamenting about a date where the guy got so drunk he forgot about her and left—the bar and the bill. That guy is now the star of “The Alcoholic” chapter. So as you see, inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes you just need to look for it. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with T’s Stuff

snoopy-interview

Next stop on my blog tour: T’s Stuff. Check out my interview to find out where I get my inspiration from and where I’d go if I could time travel, among other “stuff.” 🙂


Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

I think I’ve always had an overactive imagination. At times when I’m supposed to be relaxing, like before bed or when I’m in the shower, my mind conjures up elaborate stories. While they are usually one-off scenarios, I can picture things happening with vivid detail. Perhaps it’s my way of unwinding. Some people do yoga, I think up happy endings. Anyway, I never did anything with these ideas—just tucked them away with the rest of the useless information that rests somewhere in my consciousness. Until one day when I decided it was time to write that novel, I had the realization that parts of it were already written.

So I channeled some of these ideas into a book. It was important to me that the book felt authentic, so that meant writing about what I know best. And I’m an agency gal. So my first book, Out in the Open, was a romance between two advertising executives, Lexi and Jake. One of my grand visions involved a particular celebrity crush of mine serenading a girl, who may have borne a close resemblance to yours truly. I started there, or technically ended with it, because I thought it would make for a great last chapter.

The inspiration for book two, I Should Have Said Yes, came from my desire to write about dating during a time that’s heavily influenced by social media. I already had my perfect protagonist: Lexi’s sister, Tara. Tara is the youngest of the Winters girls, the irresponsible sister who was always dating someone new. The book is a candid and entertaining look at a singleton’s dating journey when she must say yes to any guy who asks her out because of a pact, all documented on her Adventures in Dating blog. At first I planned to document her dates on Facebook, always posting about her disastrous adventures. But then I decided a blog was a better outlet. It turned out to be a fun experience coming up with new posts to summarize her thoughts on each guy she meets—and lessons learned along the way. The book is essentially one woman’s journey from consummate singleton to finding “The One,” documented for all to see.

 

How did you do research for your book?

Research in this case primarily required me to take a trip down memory lane. Many of Tara’s Mr. Wrongs were based on men I dated before I met my husband. And it’s funny because that was the hardest part of writing the book: coming up with unique and interesting suitors for Tara. I wanted her dates to be realistic but also entertaining. So I drew inspiration from my ghosts of dating past and those of my friends too. I didn’t necessarily tell them, so I’m just waiting for that phone call! I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical, but it was interesting to come up with characters that were based on people I knew. Some intimately, LOL.

 

Do you have another profession besides writing?

By day I’m a marketer. I’ve worked in the industry for 17 years, all primarily with the same agency! I love being surrounded by dynamic and creative people. My favorite part is watching how the seed of an idea transforms into something tangible. There’s nothing like shopping at Target with your kids and showing them the display that your agency designed. What started as a sketch in someone’s mind was now a display in the store—and I played a key role in making that happen. It’s not as enriching as say, saving lives, but fun nonetheless. I don’t think there’s a better job than working in an industry that sells ideas. With each new project, anything is possible.

 

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I would go back to 1993. I’m not sure if that’s what you had in mind. You were probably looking for the Renaissance or such a period in history. But 1993 holds significance for me because it’s the time when I was choosing where to go to college. And I feel like that decision set in motion a chain of events that’s shaped who I am today. To be clear, I’m perfectly happy with that person, but I feel like I missed an opportunity. I was debating between two schools: one local and one that was out-of-state. In my heart I wanted to spread my wings, but I chose the safe choice. I went to the University of Illinois, following in my older sister’s footsteps. It’s a wonderful school and I received an excellent education. But I’ve lived in Illinois all my life and wish I had ventured out and tried somewhere new. That’s not to say I haven’t traveled and had interesting experiences, but I feel like I’ve always taken the expected path. Perhaps that’s why I like writing. It gives me a chance to push my boundaries and explore those places I’ve never been.

 

What is your next project?

I’ve got an outline for book #3 mapped out in my head, I just need to put pen to paper. It’s a romance about an event planner, Lucy, who shares a passionate weekend with a mysterious stranger. It’s so out of character for her that she wants to keep their names anonymous. She falls hard only to never hear from him again. Lucy struggles with moving on and finally meets an incredible new guy who is perfect for her. But can she let go of her “Mr. Anonymous?” And is she in love with a ghost because it’s easier than facing the real thing? Along Lucy’s journey her love and loyalty will be put to the ultimate test. Look for it to hit shelves in summer 2017. I figure if I put that out there in writing, I’ll need to hold myself accountable. 🙂

 

Q&A with BooksChatter

convo-bubbles

Today’s stop is a Q&A with BooksChatter. I enjoyed answering these questions, particularly my dream team if the book were to become a movie. And I even got to put together a YouTube playlist based on songs that inspired my book. How fun is that? So read on to find out something quirky about the story and where unibrows fit in. Strike that, I assume it should be singular – unibrow 😉


What was the inspiration for your latest book (i.e. the one you are currently promoting)?

I knew I wanted to write a book about dating in a time that’s heavily influenced by social media. A seed was planted while I was writing my first novel, Out in the Open. Tara is the youngest of the Winters girls, the irresponsible sister who was always dating someone new. I figured, hey, I can work with that. At first I planned to document her dates on Facebook, always posting about her disastrous adventures. But then I decided a blog was a better outlet. It turned out to be a fun experience coming up with new posts to summarize her thoughts on each guy she meets—and lessons learned along the way. The book is essentially one woman’s journey from consummate singleton to finding “The One,” documented for all to see.

 

How much of yourself is reflected in this book (for example, professional expertise, personality, or other), and how?

It’s funny because if you had asked me that question about my first book I would have said A LOT. But that’s not the case with I Should Have Said Yes. Tara, my protagonist, is very different from me. But that made her really fun to explore because I had to push my comfort zone. She’s artsy and extremely talented, with a blossoming jewelry business and an interior design career. I wish I had her vision—sadly my talent is seeking out what other talented people are posting on Pinterest. But I’m not totally without my merits. I worked at an advertising agency for seventeen years and managed a team of creatives. I was involved in a handful of space design projects for retail stores. So I felt like I knew enough to realistically paint a picture of her day job. At least enough to be dangerous. As for the men, some are loosely based on guys I dated, with lots of embellishment for dramatic (or comic) effect.

 

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover – why you chose that concept and who the artist is.

I didn’t have a vision for the cover going into the process, which I actually found quite stressful. But in the end it was probably better because it gave my designer more creative liberties. I wanted the tone to be fun as my book is light-hearted and humorous, but also speak to the title. It’s a fine line as regret is a big theme that inspired Tara to form her “yes” dating pact. I also wanted there to be a connection with my first book, Out in the Open, because there is some overlap with the characters and story lines. I worked with Sarah Hansen from Okay Creations and think she did a fantastic job creating an intriguing cover that captures the tone of the book. Hopefully readers will agree!

 

Why should we read this book (or series) and what sets you apart from the rest? / What makes your book/series unique?

I like to think of my book as a modern day Bridget Jones’s Diary but with multiple love interests. And instead of keeping a diary for her eyes only, Tara shares her inner most thoughts with well, thousands. It’s unique because I’ve chronicled one woman’s dating journey from “The One That Got Away” leading to “The One.” I haven’t read any books that dedicate each chapter to a new love interest—plots are usually focused on the relationship between two people, or perhaps three if there’s a love triangle. Readers get to know Tara and what she is (and isn’t) looking for in a partner. They are along for the often hilarious ride as she meets many Mr. Wrongs, and I hope they’ll become invested in her finding happiness.

 

Can you tell us something quirky about this book , its story and characters? (for example, were the characters named after something or someone in particular)

Many of the characters were based on men I dated before I met my husband. And it’s funny because that was the hardest part of writing the book: coming up with unique and interesting suitors for Tara. I wanted her dates to be realistic but also entertaining. So I drew inspiration from my ghosts of dating past and those of my friends too. I didn’t necessarily tell them so I’m just waiting for that phone call! I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical, but it was interesting to come up with characters that were based on people I knew. Some intimately, LOL.

For example, the night I met my husband I was supposed to be fixed up with someone else. That someone else had a very thick, dark and distinctive looking unibrow. I had a hard time concentrating on our conversation because it was distracting. Not only that he had it, but why not tweeze, even a bit? I don’t think looks are everything, but it wasn’t something I could get past. Not to mention he didn’t have a personality to make up for it. So when Tara meets Joey, you’ll know who inspired his looks. Or shall I say, look? 🙂

 

Who would you recommend this book to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?

My target audience is women in the 18-50 range with a sweet spot on Millennials. That’s not to say that older women wouldn’t enjoy it. But they might not understand Tara’s motivations or relate to her because she is very representative of the Millennial generation. The only warning I’d give is that some people may view Tara as promiscuous. But I think that’s to be expected when you are young, single, and looking for someone who you are compatible with—on all levels. Although this book has way less intense romance scenes than my first. I wouldn’t let my parents read that one. This one I’m OK with. I mentioned it’s not autobiographical, right?

 

If you could / wished to turn this book/series into a movie, who would be your dream team? (e.g. director, actors, locations, etc. – dead, alive or mythical!)

I would love to see my book turned into a movie – wouldn’t most authors?! My dream director would be Richard Curtis. He directed one of my favorite movies: Love Actually. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, the movie follows the lives of different characters that end up intersecting. But it felt seamless. I can see it working because each chapter in my book is like the different pieces in the film that come together to tell a cohesive story. As an added bonus, he directed Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The film would be set in Chicago because that’s the backdrop of the book. As for actors, I’m going to limit my list to Tara and her two primary love interests: D. J. Parker and best friend, Andy. Otherwise we’d be here all day.

Tara Winters: Protagonist Extraordinaire

emmaThe actress that comes to mind is Emma Stone. She doesn’t necessarily fit the bill physically, but I think she embodies Tara’s fiery spirit. Like Tara, Emma doesn’t take herself too seriously and is naturally funny. She’s down to earth, approachable, and downright likeable.

 

ianD. J. Parker: The One That Got Away

With his dark hair and bright blue eyes, Ian Somerhalder is a perfect match. If I turned him down I’d regret it too. For the rest of my life. Just look at him. Need I say more?

 


ryan-2Andy Sutton: Supportive Best Friend

With his boyish charm, Ryan Guzman could easily be Tara’s sounding board and possible love interest. He’s someone you could hang with and watch sports, as Tara and Andy often do. He’s warm and charismatic, the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind marrying if you were still single at 30. Another pact that happened by accident—or should I say, alcohol?

 

What do you like to write about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones? Is this / Are these the genre(s) that you also like to read about?

I like to write the kind of books that I read. While I enjoy a variety of genres, Chick Lit and Contemporary Romance are my favorites. As an eternal optimist, I love writing uplifting books. We are all too often inundated with news of tragedies. I’m a big believer in Happily Ever After. Real life is hard enough, so I like books that offer an escape from reality and give women hope that happiness is attainable. I guess I figure, why not live the fairy tale once in a while?

 

What is your writing process?

My life is filled with chaos, so when it comes to writing I like the quiet of my office. I can shut the door and with it all the distractions from my day. I don’t listen to music or have the TV on as background. I prefer to be alone with my thoughts. But music still inspires me, and there are certain songs that trigger powerful emotions that feed into my writing. In most cases I have a general idea thought out before I begin typing and let the story take over from there. I typically write small sections at a time and title them in a way that will be easy for me to sort through later. In this case it was dates such as “The Professor” or “The Mama’s Boy.” These begin as separate, random snippets, and the magic happens when I’m able to weave them all together.

 

What is in store next? (please tell us about your future plans; if book is part of a series, can you give us any hints on future developments)

I’ve got an outline for book #3 mapped out in my head, I just need to put pen to paper. It’s a romance about an event planner, Lucy, who shares a passionate weekend with a mysterious stranger. It’s so out of character for her that she wants to keep their names anonymous. She falls hard only to never hear from him again. Lucy struggles with moving on and finally meets an incredible new guy who is perfect for her. But can she let go of her “Mr. Anonymous?” And is she in love with a ghost because it’s easier than facing the real thing? Along Lucy’s journey her love and loyalty will be put to the ultimate test.

 

And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better… do you have a pet or something that is special to you (this could be absolutely anything!)?  Could you please provide us with a picture of you with them / it?

jbglazer_bookschatter-2

This is my little, green notebook that goes with me everywhere. That way when I’m out and inspiration strikes, I can capture it. These days it seems I have a terrible memory, so I find if I don’t write things down they escape me!