(This is a first-draft, unedited sneak peek at a work-in-progress)
Ingrid had put up red, white, and blue celebration streamers in the little kitchen in the back of the gymnastics academy. Lena smirked. A little over the top, she thought. But not surprising since it was for Clint. Certainly, Ingrid wouldn’t have gone through so much trouble for the rest of them. It has been in no way a secret that Ingrid had a thing for him. And if they were being honest, they all had tiny crushes on him.
Clint was the only dad at the weekly Monday morning Moms and Tots playgroup. He had one of those smiles that made everyone swoon. It was going to be the last Monday they’d get to see his smile and enjoy his laid-back and funny self. Lena’s stomach flopped when she thought about the ways in which the group’s dynamic would change without his presence. She crossed her fingers that it wouldn’t get too catty. But there was no reason for him attend anymore since his daughter, Marigold, was starting pre-k the following week.
Ingrid hopped up and stood just a smidgen too close to Clint. Were he to glance in her direction, her large—and very fake—breasts would be right in his face. Her nipples stood erect from her very thin tank top. Her pale pink velour hoodie unzipped at just the perfect inappropriate spot to display them fully. Lena wouldn’t have been shocked to find out she gave them a few pinches to get them firm before starting her little good-bye speech. There was always some element of strategy when it came to Ingrid’s actions.
“And to give you a proper send off—” Ingrid circled around to the fridge, bent over entirely at the waist so her ass was sticking out for all to see, and quickly snatched out of bottle of Moscato. “Ta-da.” She raised it up and shook it over her head.
“It’s ten o’clock in the morning.” Clint smiled. It was dazzling. His eyebrows raised.
“Oh come on. It’s not like we’re gonna get drunk. We all got kids to drive home. It’s just a sip for a toast. Our only dad needs to be sent off in style,” Ingrid said.
She poured a glass for Clint and herself.
“Mind pouring the rest of those, Lena-hun?” Ingrid motioned to the remaining glasses. “I’ve only got two hands.”
“Sure,” Lena never could get over how bold Ingrid was as she watched her deliberately lowering her cleavage into Clint’s face as she handed him a glass.
“Thanks.” He held it up to the rest of the group as Lena handed out the remaining glasses.
“To Clint. May he never forget about us and I hope he knows that he can stop by anytime to hang out.” Ingrid put the glass her lips and drank. Some spilled down her chin and between her breasts. “Oops!” Ingrid’s glance shot to Lena. “Where’s your glass? Don’t you wanna toast Clint?”
“I’m nursing,” Lena said.
“It’s one drink. That’s not going to make a difference. If you’re so worried, just pump and dump. Get over there and get yourself a drink.”
Lena slowly rose and trudged over to the glasses and bottles.
“Oh, and get me a refill, would you? Clint, more?” Ingrid held her empty glass out.
“No, no thanks,” he said.
Lena filled the glasses and handed Ingrid hers.
“Thanks, hun.” She sipped some more of her drink. “I guess I better be careful or I’ll need a ride home.” She grinned at Clint.
He smiled but his eyes darted away from hers.
Lena had to fight hard not to roll her eyes. Ingrid was piling it on especially thick. Even more than usual. I guess it’s her last chance, Lena thought as she glanced over at Sarah Beth who slyly pumped her fist toward her mouth as though giving a blowjob.
Lena pursed her lips and closed her eyes to try and stop herself from laughing. She diverted her eyes from Sara Beth and took a slug of her wine. She swallowed it down hard to try to contain the laugher and also because she never really did like wine. She wished it wasn’t somehow this thing that moms were supposed to love. Ingrid pulled out a bottle whenever she got an opportunity.
“Speech, speech, speech!” Ingrid clapped her hands and bounced up and down.
Clint stood and raised his glass. “Uh, I don’t really know what to say.” He smiled and smoothed his russet brown hair. Wavy. Messy. Perfect at the same time. His blue eyes scanned the adoring faces of the ladies surrounding him. “Well, I’m gonna miss you all, that’s for sure. But with Mari in school and Alecia off to work, I’m gonna enjoy having some time to brew. I’ll invite y’all over when the first batch is ready. So. Yeah. It’s been great. Thanks for having me as part of the group.”
Ingrid threw her arms around him. “We’re gonna miss you, too. So much.”
Everyone took turns giving him hugs. Ingrid put her arm around him tightly. Her eyes welled up. “It’s not gonna be the same without you.”
“Ah, you’ll be fine,” he said as he side-stepped her embrace. He walked over to the foam pit where Mari was jumping off the springboard with the other kids. “Well, Mari. Say good-bye to everyone.”
Mari hugged cried as she hugged all her friends. “But why do I have ta go ta school?”
He smiled and took her hand, leading her toward the door. “We talked about this, remember? You’re a big girl now and pre-k is gonna be a lot of fun, you’ll see.” Tears streamed down Mari’s face. Clint scooped her up in his arms, rubbing her back as he left. He turned back once more and waved before walking out the door.
“Well, shit.” Ingrid threw back the last of the wine in her glass. This time not dribbling a drop. She pushed her empty glass at Lena, who wasn’t sure if it meant she wanted more or if she wanted her to put the glass away.
Either way, Lena had take a deep breath to put out the small flame that ignited in her. “I’m not your maid,” she muttered.
Lena had been friends with Ingrid since High School. Always the side-kick. And Ingrid was the main character. She’d never really minded, though. Ingrid adored being the center of attention and Lena liked to stand in the shadows. Unnoticed. But that doesn’t mean she liked to be treated like a personal assistant. And as close as they’d always been—and two girls could have been any closer—Lena had never really spoken up when Ingrid got on her nerves. She knew Ingrid’s heart was good, even if she could be a little bit of an insensitive bitch sometimes.
Lena gulped down the sour twang of the wine she had remaining. A little dose of medicine for dealing with her overly high maintenance friend. She looked at Ingrid and out of the side of her mouth muttered to the door “Clint, come back.”
Lena didn’t even want to imagine what kinds of things they might have do now that Ingrid didn’t have him to focus on. Hopefully, she wouldn’t get back on the exercise kick she got on from time to time. It wasn’t enough that Ingrid’s body was perfect. She wanted them all to have perfect bodies. She was somehow convinced that she’d be even hotter if she was surrounded by other milf”s. Never threatened. Always certain that she was—and would forever be—the hottest.
David fell off the side of the springboard, missing the foam and started to wail.
“Oh, you’re alright,” Ingrid said as she went over and scooped him up by one arm. She kissed his forehead. “Oh, you’re alright. Don’t be cryin’ over a little bump like that.”
He accepted his mother’s assessment. His wails hushing into whimpers. He soon went back to playing with the others.
Silence, other than the occasional gulping of wine, swept over the room. Lena looked around at the new Moms group—now consisting of all moms. The five of them had known each other since high school—been in the same grade. Clint was in the year ahead. His wife Alecia was in their class. She was class president. Pretty, popular, smart, and determined. She was now the Blaine County Sheriff. Lena was never close with Alecia. A friendship with her would have been impossible. Ingrid and Alecia had always been bitter rivals. Even though Lena had been sworn to hate Alecia, she always secretly thought she was very nice.
Lena was surprised when Clint joined the Moms’ group. Sometimes she wondered if Ingrid flirted with him just because he was Alecia’s husband. It could have also been because of the fact that Ingrid adored—and was used to—the attention that her looks brought her.
Klara sat near the edge of the foam pit. Her head was facing in the kids, but she didn’t seem to be looking at anything in particular. Her normally smiling face was drooping. She just kept blankly playing with her necklace.
When Lena noticed her, she went over and sat next to her, letting out a grunt and she plopped to the floor. Sitting criss-cross had never been the most comfortable position for her. She’d swear she was the least flexible person on earth. And carrying extra pregnancy pudge on her thighs and belly made it extra uncomfortable.
Klara’s eye barely drifted to her. She forced a smile. “Oh, hey.”
“Hey, Klara. Are you alright?”
Klara sighed and kept twirling her necklace. She appeared on the edge of saying something. Lena waited. In the slightest of ways, Klara shook her head from side to side.
“What’s wrong?” Lena put her hand on Klara’s shoulder.
Klara rolled her neck, dropping the necklace.
“You know how we were going to be getting a new neighbor? On that side the Petersons used to rent?”
“Well, the landlord is letting her son move in.”
“Have you met him? Is he an asshole or something?”
“He’s a sex offender. A paedophile.”
Klara didn’t look at Lena. She just returned to twirling her necklace and looking into a void.
“Oh, Klara. I’m so sorry.” Lena’s stomach dropped. She didn’t know what else to say.
“You know how I found out?”
“An alert. A fucking email alert. I opened it up and it was the address next door.”
“But I thought the Sheriff had to notify neighbors.”
“Yeah, I did too. Nope.” Klara’s face turned red and her lips curled. “I called Alecia, furious that she didn’t tell me. She said it was her duty to notify school superintendents, preschools, and daycares. I called her a Bitch and hung up on her. I almost didn’t come today because I’m sure she told Clint what happened. How could she have not called me? I mean, we’re friends. Or we were. What kind of friend finds out a child pervert moving in next door and doesn’t tell them? Laws or not. Legally required to tell me or not. Don’t they care about Piper? I mean, if it was Mari, you can sure as shit bet that she’d go above and beyond to keep her safe. Well fuck them!”
Klara had gotten loud. Everyone—even the kids—were staring at her. She stood up quickly and walked over to her daughter. “C’mon, Piper. Let’s go home. Or somewhere.”
She took Piper’s hand and led her out the door. She didn’t even stop to put Piper’s shoes on. She just swung her up on her hip and flung the glass door open, marching straight to her car. Her tires squealed as she took off out of the parking lot.
“God, the only man in our group leaves and there’s already drama in taco town,” Ingrid said as she stepped up next to Lena. Her arms crossed. Her blonde hair covered one side of her face so Lena couldn’t tell if she was joking. She smoothed the hair back behind her ear and smiled.
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Lottie Stephens was running late. She despised running late. Always chronically early, her armpits were drenched and her hands shook as she searched for her keys. Why didn’t she hang them on the hook when she came in last night?
But she knew why she hadn’t. She was drunk. And angry. And, hmm, had she tossed them against the wall? Suddenly ducking under the hallway table, she searched. Ugh, they’re not there. Her flickering memory was hinting that that’s where they’d be. Twisting her head under the table she turned to see them dangling, stuck between the back of the table and the wall. Also, wedged between the back of the drawer and table back a bent photograph hung out. She grabbed the corner and tugged it free. The breath pulled from her body as she glanced at it.
As she shoved the picture into her pocket, Lottie hit her head on the table as she stood. She clutched it and pulled the table away from the wall enough to let the keys drop. She scooped them off the floor, scuttled through the kitchen and into the garage, swiping her purse off the arm of the couch, and flew into the garage.
Lottie hopped in her car, momentarily fantasizing about the cup of coffee she never got the chance to make, and hit the door button, cursing it for raising so slowly. While she waited she slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out the picture of David, sighing before curling it into the cupholder. She backed down the driveway and headed off to her dental appointment, seemingly hitting every single red light along the way.
A blue pickup joined her about a quarter of her way along and followed her, riding her ass. Fire grew inside her. “It’s not like I can go any faster!” She screamed to the silhouette in the rearview mirror. “What do you expect me to do? There’s cars in front of me.” Lottie wished she had the guts to jump out of her car at the next light, open the truck’s door, pull the man-shaped silhouette out, and beat the living shit out of him. But, as it was a him, it was not very likely that she would be the one giving the beating and what if it was some sort of psycho who would have no trouble fighting a woman. And the way he drove, it seemed more likely than not that he’d be just that kind of man. Instead, she opted to throw her middle finger up as she took off from the last light before turning into the dental office parking lot.
Panic swept through her as the blue pickup followed her into the parking lot. Uh-oh, what if this was the kind of psycho who would follow a woman to her destination and pummel her for throwing the bird. She whipped into the closest space she could find and threw the car in park. She grabbed her purse and scurried to the office door. She kept a spying eye on the truck. It pulled into a space. She saw the drivers-side door open as she ducked into the safety of the dental office.
Side-eying the entrance, she removed her coat, and flung it on the hanger. It slid off immediately and fell in a crinkled heap on the closet floor. She wasn’t going to take the time to try to rehang it. The psycho could come in at any moment. She scuttled over to the front window to check in. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she heard the jingle of the doorbell, the hanging of a coat, and the patter of footsteps walking across the carpet behind her. He was standing behind her. Oh why wouldn’t the lady at the front desk look at her already.
Quit looking at that computer screen and check me in, god dammit.
As though reading her thoughts, the women with blue rimmed glasses looked up. “Hello there.”
She leaned in and whispered, “Charlotte Stephens. I have a nine-thirty appointment.”
“You’re all set.” The woman smiled.
“Thank you.” Lottie twisted and rolled around the man standing behind her.
She tucked herself back in the security of a corner seat near the front of the office by a large ficus plant.
Wait, is this a real ficus?
She rubbed a leaf between her thumb and forefinger.
Lottie allowed her eyes to drift up to the man standing at the window. That was definitely the one she’d given the finger to. She could tell from the shape of his silhouette—the way his hair was lightly spiking upwards in the front and his shoulders were very broad.
Grant Ryan. She heard him say. She quickly scooped a magazine off the counter and shoved her nose inside. There was no way she was going to make eye contact. Her stomach swirled.
Why did I have to throw him the bird? This is just my kind of luck. I’m going to have to get a new dentist now. Ugh, but I really like coming here. No! He’s the one that was wrong. He can get a new dentist.
Once again perturbed at the thought that he was the asshole driver and now he was going to push her out of the best dentist office she’d ever been to. He took a seat catty-corner to her. She chanced an angry glance at his direction but her eyes quickly shot away from his as they met. He’d been looking directly at her. His eyes darting away as quickly as hers had. Her heart pounded in her chest.
He knows I know he was staring at me. He didn’t look angry, though. God, and he’s cute, too. Just my luck, he’d also be really cute.
“Hey, Lottie. I’m ready for you now.” Kay, her regular hygienist for the last three years, smiled and motioned her back.
Lottie hopped up and scampered toward her.
“Oh, don’t forget your purse.” Kay pointed toward Lottie’s bag sitting by the side of the chair.
“Oops.” Lottie’s face flushed red as she spun to grab it, careful not to look in his direction.
The morning is complete, now you look like an idiot in all regards.”
“We’re going in room four.” Kay motioned Lottie to the room and followed quickly behind her. “You can set your things on that chair.”
Lottie plopped her purse where she was directed and climbed into the dental chair as Kay donned her mask. “How’ve you been?”
“I’m not having the best morning but up until now, I’ve been okay.”
“Yes,” Kay pulled down her mask and put a hand on Lottie’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, honey. We got the request for David’s records to be sent on to Hickam Air Force Base.”
Lottie’s stomach dropped. Yes, the last time she came, David and her were still trying to work things out. “Thanks, Kay. It’s for the best this way. I’m really alright with things now. I’m happy teaching at the school still. You know I love my students and this town.”
“And we love having you here. You know, my granddaughter still goes on about how you are her favorite teacher. And she had you, what? Two years ago?”
“That’s right. Sarah was in my first class. She’s such a sweet girl.”
“Thanks. She really is sweet. I’m worried you might not think the same when you get my grandson, Todd, next year.” Kay laughed and picked up a scaler.
Lottie opened her mouth as Kay began her work.
“Todd’s a sweet boy but he can’t sit still for a second. I swear, my daughter had no idea what she was in for with Todd. Sarah was such an easy child and Todd is still giving her a run for her money. It’s like she was a first time mom with her second. Ah, I’m sure you’ll be able to handle him in class. He’s got a good heart. Just can’t sit still, is all.”
Lottie smiled around the dental tool scraping her teeth. Kay worked away. Scraping and polishing. Silently and quickly. That’s what Lottie loved about Kay. Cleanings with her were always quick, painless, and never filled with questions expected to be answered around a mouth full of metal scalers, mirrors, and curettes.
After finishing, Kay raised the chair. “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?”
“Sure. I’ll be here.”
“How’s October 14? Same time?”
“That’ll work for me.”
“Okay, see you in six months. I put your appointment card in with your new toothbrush and sample paste.”
Kay handed Lottie her dental prize bag as the dentist swooped in.
“And how does everything look today?” The dentists washed her hands, tipped the chair back, and looked into Lottie’s waiting mouth.
“She was squeaky clean as always.” Kay winked at Lottie.
Just as fast as she swept into the room, the dentist sat back, pulled her gloves off, and smiled at Lottie. “Everything looks great. No cavities today. Keep up the good work.”
“Thank you.” Lottie wiped some spit that had swept across her chin.
Kay removed the bib from Lottie as the doctor waved and scuttled out of the room, ducking into the room next door. “Hey Grant, and how are you doing today?” Her words cutting off as she disappeared inside.
Lottie waved to Kay as she scooped her purse of the chair and left the room. With the dentists hands in his mouth, there he was, the cute guy she’d given the finger to in the next room. She froze for a moment while pulling her purse over her shoulder. His eyes connected with hers before she quickly averted them and hurried to the front desk.
“Am I all set?”
“You’re good to go, Charlotte. See you next time.” The receptionist waved and quickly went back to her computer.
Lottie grabbed her coat from the hanger—someone had hung it for her—before bursting through the door and half-running to her car. His mouth was full of dentist fingers but for some reason she was worried he’d soon be behind her if she didn’t hurry. As she bustled out to her car, she glanced over at his blue pickup. A bone-shaped magnet was stuck on the tail-gate that read “I ❤︎ my rescue.” Her mind drifted momentarily—as she pressed the unlock button on her bobble—wondering what type of dog he might have. A lab? Or maybe he looked like a German Shepherd man. Although, she knew pit bulls were the dogs that filled most shelters. Yeah, she could picture him with a gray pitty riding next to him in that old blue pickup. She shook her head and climbed into her car. No, he’s a tailgating jerk, not some sweet guy who rescues pitties.
Why are you always trying to give jerks good qualities and imagine them to be anything other than they are?
Lottie buckled, took a quick glance in the rearview to make sure he wasn’t coming out yet, backed out of the space, and headed off towards the school, wishing she’d taken the whole day off.
After a morning like this, school was the last place she wanted to go. Her energy levels already felt completely zapped. She turned onto Falcon and headed straight for the White Buffalo Coffee Bar, fumbling in her purse for her wallet as she neared. Grabbing it, she sighed as she looked inside, only spying repeats of Alexander Hamilton’s handsome face. She hated to part with her tens. Why couldn’t there be an Abe or Andrew instead?
Great timing, there was only one car in front of her. Unlike whenever she’d try to swing by before school and hit the morning rush. Once it was her turn, she pulled up and ordered a large white buffalo mocha and a small espresso. She took the hot drinks, carefully placing them in her cupholder, and handed the barista the ten.
“Keep the change.” Lottie smiled, pulled off, and headed for the school. Before pulling out of the parking lot of the White Buffalo, she peeled off the lid of the espresso and sipped out the hottest little bit before turning the AC on full blast and pointing it at the open cup. She carefully pulled out onto the road, praying she’d sipped enough coffee out to avoid a spill, and headed towards the base.
She slowed and rolled down her window at the gate, handing the guard her ID, “Good morning.”
“Morning, ma’am.” The guard handed her ID back. She shoved it in her purse, rolled up her window, and drove by the “Welcome to Altus AFB” sign like she did every weekday morning, headed to Rivers Elementary School. Pulling into the parking lot, she was relieved to see an empty spot waiting for her. Until she realized there was a motorcycle hiding in the spot.
“Dammit! You really gotta take up a whole space with that thing, buddy?” Lottie picked up her espresso as she rolled through the lot looking for another space and took a big gulp. Ah-ha, another spot. A small spot, but her little, silver honda fit could squeeze into a space half that size. She pulled in and unbuckled before downing the rest of her only slightly too-hot espresso. Purse in one hand, her white buffalo mocha in the other, she headed in to the office.
“Lottie, you’re back. I wasn’t expecting you for another half hour.” Maura pressed her glasses to her face and smiled before picking up the phone the moment it rang. “Good morning, Rivers Elementary. How can I help you?”
“I’ll be in the teachers’ lounge.” Lottie mouthed as she waltzed by taking a small sip of her mocha. She walked down the hall and stopped short when she saw streamers, balloons, and a sign hanging up in the teachers’ lounge which read, “Sayonara, Melissa! We’ll miss you.”
“Fuck.” Lottie closed her eyes. She’d forgotten Melissa’s goodbye party was today. She sunk down into a chair and sipped her coffee staring at the line-up of good-bye presents covering one of the lounge tables. So much for not writing things down. She kicked herself. She knew she forgot any and everything if she didn’t write it down and set a reminder in her phone.
The bell rang just a few moments after she finished the last sip of her coffee and missed the trashcan when she tossed her cup at it. “Of course.” Bending over as soon as she rose from the chair, she waddled over to pick it up. Lottie squealed and jumped when she got a firm smack to her butt.
“Hey hot stuff, make me work for it.” Beth waggled her eyebrows at Lottie.
“Shut up and keep your hands to yourself, ya old pervert.”
“Never, you know I can’t resist that sweet ass. Especially when you’re presenting for me.” Beth peered into the trash. “What Mr. Cooley’s trash lounge coffee not good enough for you this morning?”
“I needed something stronger. I’ve had the shittiest morning and to top it all off, I forgot about Melissa’s going away.”
“I knew you would. I put your name on the card of my gift.” Beth winked.
“Oh, you’re the best, Ms. Grimes.” Lottie threw her ams around her.
“Ah, you’re welcome, sweetie. I knew you’d forget when I told you to write it down and you didn’t. You really need to start listening to me.” Beth rubbed Lotties back before pulling away. “So did you hear? They finally hired a long-term-sub to finish out Melissa’s class for the school year. He’s supposed to stop by the going away party. Melissa invited him.”
“Nothing like waiting until the last minute to hire someone.”
“I know right, but that’s the way they roll around here. Better get to class or we’ll get sent to the principal’s office.” Beth stuck out her tongue and headed off down the hallway.
Lottie stuck hers out and headed to her class, curious about who the new teacher would be.
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I’ve been thinking lately about all the blogging/branding advice I’ve been reading lately. There’s so much of it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Following the usual advice has sometimes done me some good but I found the one thing that has worked best for me is…
The dork. The nerd. The clown. The sometimes potty-mouthed and dirty-minded weirdo that I am. Sometimes vulnerable. Sometimes sad. Determined. The failure. Struggling writer. True.
The true me–is the me that people connect with.
The you that you truly are–no matter what that looks like–is bound to be better than anything artificial you try to portray.
Did you know that I had another blog and also a different Twitter account that I up and deleted one day? It’s true. I wiped everything clean and started new.
I wasn’t having any fun at all portraying myself as a serious person. And although I am serious about working hard to improve my writing and creating quality books, I am–at heart–a big, goofball weirdo freak. I think my freakery shows up in my writing. So why should I pretend to be someone else and shock people when they read my writing where a woman discusses her friend’s sascrotch? They are likely to get confused, or worse, put off. Best to be honest about who I am from the start, don’t you think? (I promise there is nothing dirty, or inappropriate in my children’s books–unless farting disgusts you.)
Yes, I’m a writer. But does that mean I have to put my (computer, not prescription) glasses in the corner of my mouth and say, “mmm, yes,” as I ponder the symbolism built into my serious literary work?
Pllllllttttttt! I take my work seriously but not myself.
On Friday, I felt the need for a break from my work-in-progess and tweeted this out…
As you can see, it got quite a good response. 😂 😂 I’ve been drawing like crazy, especially that first day. I didn’t write. I didn’t do much tweeting of anything else.
But you know why I kept drawing and drawing? Because it was fun. And it’s still creative. Which I believe has a positive impact on my writing. Some of my drawings gave me the giggles so hard I thought my ribs might crack. Unbelievably, (especially for Twitter–you users know this) there has been no trolling on the entire thread and only one person tried to bring politics into it (insert eye roll) and isn’t that fantastic?!?! The best part has been that more than one person has said that reading the thread brightened their whole day.
True, it didn’t bring in book sales (not completely true, one person who discovered me did buy one) but I made people laugh and smile. And this thread kinda is me telling a story, isn’t it? And that’s what I love to do anyway. I’m showing my personality. –telling a little mini picture story about who I am.
Making money is nice but the saying is true, the best things in life are free. I love that I’ve connected with people. And with the nasty, hate-flinging tweets I see day after day, I’m happy that I may have been a ray of sunshine cracking through the muck for someone.
Here are a just a few of the doodles I did…
If you’d like to look through the whole thread, you can find it here.
I did get my editing in this morning and I’m hoping to do some writing but I’m also going to be drawing more because, believe it or not, more people are waiting and I don’t want to let them down. I want to keep sending smiles (and maybe some giggles) out into this cranky world.
I am going to take a moment to request that if you enjoy my blog that you give me a follow. Also, if you’d like to buy one of my books, the link to my amazon page is here.
If you have read either of my books. I’d also like to kindly ask you to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews go a long way in helping indie authors like me find new readers.
I’m also posting my adult works on Chapterbuzz. You can find the link to that here. I’d be thrilled to get more “buzzes” and feedback there. (Those works are in progress and haven’t been fully edited.) You can find some of them on this blog under the tab, “Sneak Peeks.”
Please and thank you! I appreciate all the love you’ve shown me and my work more than you can imagine.
Until next Sunday, keep smiling!
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Owen Taft flicked on the light switch as he stepped into the bedroom he shared with his twin brother, Hugh. He stopped short when he saw a big mess in front of him. His eyelids flung wide open and his jaw dropped.
“What the—?” His head whipped back when his brother walked right into him. “Hey, watch it.”
“Sorry.” Hugh peered around Owen into the multi-colored building block minefield that carpeted their room. “Immy,” he muttered.
“What’s going on? I told you to get ready for bed,” Mom said as she walked up the hallway. She shouldered her way between the boys.
“We were, but—” Owen said.
Mom’s mouth pinched in a hard line as she absorbed the scene and crumpled to one side. “Ouch, ouch.” She plucked a yellow block out of the arch of her foot, straightened, and looked at them. Her eyebrows initially pressed into a V shape but smoothed when she took a deep breath. “You boys need to get this cleaned up before you go to bed.”
“We didn’t do it. We’ve hardly been in our room. We’ve been playing Eagle Talon Empire all day.” Owen’s head jutted back and palms flung upward to secure his innocence.
“We actually defeated the Raven Province boss already.” Hugh’s big brown eyes were gleaming.
“I know Imogen did it. She always wants to play with my blocks. I should just get rid of them already.” Owen kicked a few across the carpet.
“Immy!” Mom called into the hallway.
Imogen waddled up to the doorway in her high heel princess shoes. A pink, glittery tiara rested atop her honey blonde hair.
“Yes, Mamma.” A smile pushed her rosy cheeks high up on her face.
“Did you make this mess?” Mom asked.
Immy’s blue eyes drifted from one side of the room to the other, her jaw hanging open as she surveyed the mess.
“No!” Her voice cut like a dagger, revealing the insult the question brought onto her tiny person.
“Yes, you did.” Owen bent over at the waist. His hands on his hips and his face nearly pressed against hers. His emerald eyes glared at her from in between the wisps of shaggy brown hair draping his forehead. He resembled a pecking chicken as his head hurled the accusation.
Hugh stood with his arms crossed, nodding in agreement, one eyebrow raised.
Imogen stared back at Owen. She didn’t appear to be intimidated by her brother towering over her. She stuck her face right up into his. The tip of her tongue rested between her lips for only him to see. She tucked it back in before she glanced over to her mom, casting her most sincere expression.
“I didn’t do it. I promise,” Immy said.
“Liar.” Owen pulled his lip back in disgust and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Owen, she said she didn’t do it. I’m too tired for this. Why don’t the three of you just work together and get these blocks picked up.”
“Just get it done. It’s almost bedtime, and the longer you wait to get to work, the longer it’ll take. Got it?”
“You always believe her lies.”
“Geez Owen, are you twelve or two? Now, if you want to keep acting like a toddler I can treat you like one — take away your video games and give you some tinker toys instead. Sound good to you?” She cocked her head to the side and tapped her foot as she waited for his response.
The three of them plopped down onto the carpet and began to clean.
“Tomorrow we should set up a trap that will alert us if someone sneaks into our room while we are playing games,” Hugh said.
The plastic blocks clinked together as they swept them into a pile and shoveled them into the bin.
“Or someone could just learn not to mess with other people’s things.” Owen shot a sharp look at Imogen.
“I wasn’t even in here at all today,” Imogen said.
“Right,” Owen said. “I don’t know if I want to play tomorrow, Hugh. I played with you most of the day today, and I didn’t have any time to draw.”
“Oh, come on. Just for a little while?” Hugh begged.
“Can I, too?” Imogen asked.
“No!” Hugh and Owen both shouted and went back to scraping the blocks into a pile.
They were nearly finished with a third of the room when Owen spied Imogen sitting and playing with a car made out of the blocks.
“Immy, you have to help.”
“I am.” She picked up a handful of blocks and chucked them into the bin. One missed the mark and fell over the other side.
“Just keep cleaning, liar,” Owen said.
“I’m not a liar. I really didn’t do it.”
“Sure, whatever.” Owen turned back to his task. His cheeks grew red and warm with frustration.
Every time one of the boys glanced up at Imogen, she hurriedly scooped up some blocks and tossed them into the bin. Owen suspected she wasn’t doing much cleaning because she wasn’t making any progress on her side. He was unsure if she was lazy or if her four-year-old hands were simply unable to pick up many blocks.
When they finished on their side, the boys helped her clean up the last bit of remaining mess. When they finished, they called for their mom.
“I told you it’d get done quickly if you worked together. Goodnight, boys.” Mom took Imogen’s hand and led her out of the room.
“Night, Mom,” the boys said in unison. They kept their eyes down on the floor until they were sure she was gone and then pulled on their pajamas.
After crawling into his bed, Owen lie awake and listened to the old clock in the hallway announce the time with its hourly chimes, first ten of them and then eleven. Sleep does not come quickly when one’s mind is brimming with the bitterness of injustice.
He rolled onto his side and stared at the moonlight streaming through the window. It seemed to float and swirl the way dust does when it’s stirred up in sunlight. It was as though there was some substance to it as it cast a stretched rectangle on the floor. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink until he released some of the anger pressing on his chest. Above him, the mattress shifted and groaned. He wondered if Hugh was still awake, too.
“You up?” he whispered.
“Yeah,” his big brother—by sixteen minutes—said.
“Aren’t you sick of Imogen? She never gets in trouble for anything.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“If we make messes, we have to clean it. If she makes messes, we have to clean it up, too. It’s such bull crap. And all she does is lie. I’m surprised she didn’t try to blame Laslow.”
The dog lifted his head from the floor when he heard his name.
“Mom always believes her and thinks we’re big fat liars. She’s been lying since she first learned to talk,” Owen said.
They both laughed, and Owen relaxed down into his pillow. After releasing some of the anger that had built inside of him, he hoped sleep would finally take over and transport him to a brand new day. He rolled on his side again and sighed. His blinking eyes slowed until they didn’t open any longer.
Laslow, who had been fast asleep on the floor, twisted his body upwards, ears alert, and growled. Owen startled out of his brief journey into dreamland. His heart pounded in rhythm with Laslow’s constant pulsing noises. The boys had never heard Laslow growl before. He only ever barked when a stranger approached the house. His aggressive behavior sent alarm bells ringing throughout Owen’s body. Hugh leaned over the rail of the top bunk, his eyes darting between Laslow and the doorway. Owen felt frozen, and his voice released with a squeak when he finally managed to form the words.
“What is it, boy?”
Laslow’s concentration didn’t break. His eyes remained locked on the hallway outside the door. Ignoring Owen’s voice, his ears turned farther forward like a radar dish tracking a target. A thumping sound echoed from the hall. Laslow lifted himself up onto all fours and crept toward the door, little grumbles spilling out of his bared teeth.
Both boys jumped
“What was that?” Hugh hurried down from the top bunk. Owen had already scrambled out of bed and followed Laslow as he inched his way to the doorframe. Hugh came up behind Owen and the three of them craned their necks around the wall, peering out into the dark hallway. The long black and white fur on Laslow’s back stood tall like a ridge.
“Mom? Dad?” Owen called.
They stood there a few more moments, listening to complete silence, before Laslow lunged forward like a racehorse bursting through the gate, and flew down the hallway. The boys chased after him.
“Maybe Immy fell out of bed,” Owen said.
They entered the doorway to their sister’s room, knowing there was no way a fall could have made such a noise.
“Uh, I don’t think so.” Hugh pulled back the covers of Immy’s bed, only to find the empty indentation of her little body.
Owen froze and stared as Hugh lifted up the covers from the floor around the bed—no Imogen.
His skin prickled, and the hair on his neck stood at attention. Owen’s emerald eyes frantically scanned the room for any sign of her. His heart jumped into his throat.
Something was very wrong.
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Yesterday was THE PITS for me. One of the worst parts of it is that this whole scenario has happened to me before…like the most sinking, miserable case of deja vu.
A long, absent muse returned to me, banging on the back of my head until I gave in and decided to return to an abandoned manuscript.
I opened my computer and searched for the file.
I plugged in my backup hard drive.
Searching. Searching. Searching.
Desperation and dread battled for the biggest space in my gut.
Thoughts of “well, maybe I…” dashed and darted in and out of my head.
Searching. Searching. Searching.
My words are gone.
The muse was disappointed in me but refused to leave. The story must be written, and I have to start over. All I can do is tell myself that I’ve grown as a writer and it’s going to be even better this time.
The words are lost, but the story is not.
I know this is true because the first time this happened to me I replaced every word and finished the entire novel–a novel I love.
I hate thinking of titles. It’s miserable. I rarely know what to call a novel once it’s finished, let alone when it’s only just begun.
This time, I had two books dealing with Aliens (both happened to be the ones I lost at different points,) but I think I called them both some variation of “Alien _____.”
Draft after draft after beta read and critique partnered drafts exist on my computer. I save them and end up with too many to keep straight. “Alien novel,” “Alien novel final draft,” Alien novel final final,” “Alien novel final–this is the one.”
Eventually, various drafts get deleted. And given that their titles are so similar, I believe I completely trashed the first draft of one novel along with a million drafts of the other.
I’m going to give my novels a complete and unique working title even if I know it’s not going to stick around. No more “untitled romance” or “Alien novel.” Now, my current works are “Burnished Path,” “Cleansed with Blood,” “Distant Spring,” “Homer,” and “Haunted Heart.”
I’m going to go in and find everything I started, even if it’s only one paragraph or one line and name it.
I know these may not be good titles and probably aren’t the ones that will remain but at least they aren’t confusing. When I’m cleaning out revisions of “Burnished Path,” “Distant Spring” isn’t likely to be thrown out with the bathwater.
I’m also going to make sure a copy of each gets added to my backup hard drive and emailed to myself.
My heart is still veiled in black and mourning the lost words, but this time I’m going to ensure that I learn from my loss.
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Babette Watson’s back was rigid. Tears balanced on the rims of her eyes. She clenched her fists to try to calm the tumbling in her ams. Her legs were weak but she tried her best to stay strong.
“Did you do it?” Aaron glared at her through the small slits his eyes had become. His arms were folded in front of his chest and he stood so close to her that she could feel his breath heating the sides of her wavy brown hair.
“No,” she mumbled. It was the only thing she thought she might be able to croak out without releasing a flood of tears.
“Tell us the truth! We all need to know because we’ll all get kicked out if you’re found guilty!” Spit flew off of Aaron’s teeth, almost hitting her.
“I didn’t!” Babette could no long hold back the tears. They streamed down her cheeks, one after another in an endless parade.
“Aaron, think about it a sec.” Dacey wedged herself in between her teammates. “With ‘the eye’ everywhere we go. Do ya think she’d risk it?
The four of them glanced up to the round silver camera hanging in the corner of the classroom.
“Not if she tried when she thought it was inactive!” Aaron stepped around Dacey and glowered again at Babette.
“Man, lay off.” Cabe wrapped an arm around Babette’s shoulder and shielded her from Aaron’s burning stare. “No fret, Babs. I know you wouldn’t do it.”
Babette rested her head on his shoulder and nodded. Her breath hitched as she settled into the comfort that Cabe always brought her.
The door opened and Professor Milch marched in. His heals stomped across the floor as though he were mad at it. He tugged at the bottom of his crisp white lab coat as he stood to face the class. “To your stations.”
Cabe gave Babette a pat on the back before taking his place. Aaron stared at Babette on his way around to his station before snapping to attention with sharp precision. Dacey drifted away, smiling and floating concerned eyes to Babette before standing at attention.
“And sit,” Professor Milch said.
Everyone sat at attention. Eyes forward. Palms flat on the desk top. Feet flat on the floor—shoulder width apart. Backs straight. Butts perched on the edge of the seat.
Though only a few short moments passed by, time seemed to drift on a cloud of eternity. Sweat beaded on Babette’s forehead. Her stomach churned and her eyes refilled with tears.
Professor Milch stood still as a wax figure. His white lab coat was buttoned all the way up up. A thin slice of the white button down shirt and the black and white swirled tie peeked over the top. His black slacks had crisp iron marks down the center. His black hair was salt and peppered at the temples, closely shaved around the sides, and tad longer on the top.
His arms were crossed. The lab coat stretched taught over his muscles. His head remained still though his laser-beam blue eyes scanned back and forth over the four teammates.
The pressure sat heavy on Babette as though an anvil balanced on her head. She couldn’t help but squirm minutely in her seat —just enough to release the unease that raked up her spine. Her watery topaz-brown eyes glued to the top button of his lab coat. She couldn’t bare to look in his eyes.
“At ease,” Professor Milch said.
With those words, Babette’s back curled like a parchment finally released after being rolled out against is will. A tear landed on the edge of her lab coat, leaving an oval circle drip. Another tear caught on the apple of her high round cheek. Quickly, she wiped it away and sniffed the moisture that was threatening to escape her nose.
Babette slowly tucked her curly brown hair behind her left ear to try and get a better look at Aaron. He was sitting with his back still straight in the chair and his hands resting the desk. She couldn’t tell if he looked worried or angry. She knew better than to turn her head to look at him. Sliding her eyes back to the front, she dropped them quickly to the desktop when she realized Professor Milch’s laser gaze was locked on her. He paused another excruciating moment before speaking.
“Professor Calloway and I stood in front of the teaching team tribunal early this morning. As you well know, Babette was accused of practicing powers outside the classroom.”
Babette’s breaths halted and her heart began to pound so hard she could barely hear what he said. He head swirled. She felt weightless as though floating underwater.
Dacey raised her hand.
“Yes, Dacey,” Professor Milch said with pressed words. One raised eyebrow at her.
“Sir, what exactly is she accused of. I mean, I think we have a right to know since it affects all of us.”
“You think you have the right to know,” he said. Babette couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement. He drummed his fingers on his forearm and pursed his lips. “Fair enough. Babette’s been accused of attempting binding in her barracks.”
“Wha—,” Babette mumbled. One sharp glance from Aaron quieted her.
Dacey raised her hand so hard it nearly lifted her off the seat.
“Dacey, yes,” Professor Milch sighed.
“If she did anything like that, I would’ve seen. I would’ve told.” She glanced at Babette. “Sorry, Babs.”
Professor Milch uncrossed his arms and tugged at the sleeves of his lab coat. “She did it in the bathroom behind closed doors. You wouldn’t have seen.”
“Seriously!” Cabe said. “How could they tell that? And I thought the eye was supposed to turn off when we’re in the bathroom.”
“Only when using the toilet or entering the changing stall,” the professor said. “And I don’t recall you raising your hand. I also don’t recall ever saying this was a discussion. You will sit and you will listen—quietly. Do I need to put you at attention?”
“No, Sir,” Cabe said. “Sorry, Sir.”
“Class, rise and stand at ease,” Professor Milch said.
Everyone stood. Babette rubbery legs didn’t feel capable of lifting her, but she drifted to her feet. The fate of her team pressed on her shoulders.
***THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT OF A WORK-IN-PROGRESS***
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A few things about me before I begin this blog post:
1 & 3 are the only way I can fight 2. 2 is always telling me to quit. 1 is the biggest reason I’ll keep pushing, keep failing, keep picking myself up and trying again.
I remind myself of a few things:
There are a lot of people out there who want to write a book, haven’t, and probably never will. I have, over and again.
There are also a lot of writers out there who don’t share their work. I understand that. I’ve been sharing for a few years now. I’ve been trying to put myself out there more and more no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel.
I’ve done things in my past that scared me and made me push myself to succeed. I try to put myself back in the place I was in during those times when the thought of failure gripped me tightest. This helps me remember how helpless and hopeless I felt then, yet, I succeeded in the end.
Marketing myself and finding new readers. This seems like mission impossible. I wish I had the budget to do a massive marketing campaign, but I don’t. The writers I see succeeding are those that have lots of dollars behind them (I’m not saying their books are good, but I bet there are a lot of great books that go unnoticed because they can’t pay for the buzz that comes from a great marketing campaign–both indie and traditionally published authors.) I just read an article yesterday about an indie author whose debut novel sold over 10,000 copies. He said the key to his success was spending the money on a intensive marketing campaign.
I’m putting all my extra money into opening another business at the moment and chose to spend my writing budget on editing and cover art. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll have more money to sink into marketing, but I just don’t have those funds available right now.
While I work on the other project and wait to have these funds available, I feel like I’m stuck. There’s only so much I can do on my own with a shoestring budget to try to get the word out about my book. But I don’t think there are a lot of people out there who are willing to take a chance on an unknown author. Maybe this is bad of me to say, but I feel like a lot of people just buy into the buzz that comes from reading something on the NYT bestseller list.
I’m going to use all my platforms to try to find more readers. Finding even one more reader is better than giving in to my fears and giving up. Someday I may be someone’s favorite author, but that won’t happen if I stop trying to find them.
I’m going to keep sharing my journey on this blog. I’ll keep tweeting. And I’ll keep searching for new avenues to find readers I can connect with.
The newest way I’m doing this is…
I’m hoping to find more readers via Chapterbuzz. I’d love (and also feel terrified and nauseous) to share my work-in-progress and hear constructive feedback about how I can improve each chapter.
If you’d like to read my 1st draft as I go and help me improve my book, I’d love if you’d come on over and join me. When you become a fan and “buzz” my chapters, it gives me points that will help me to become more discoverable by other readers. Click here to join. (It’s free, btw)
I’ll also be adding my chapters on Wattpad. You can follow along and read my chapters by clicking here.
Maybe these will be flops, some of many failures on my road to finding readers, but perhaps it won’t. I’m always willing to try.
I’m going to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly, or how many times I stumble and fall flat on my face.
Thanks for reading. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate it.
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⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Shiver me timbers! This, my hearties, was an exciting adventure.
I highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Cecily as she tried to figure out what was going on and plan her escapes. I’ve also developed an enormous character crush on Finn. This book had all the things I love in a book, excitement, adventure, some sexual tension, and a bit of romance. This is one I’ll be reading again and telling my friends about.
Available as an ebook from Amazon. Click here to get your copy!
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