That Writer Friend

•December 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As I keep abreast of family and friends through their social media sites, I have observed a remarkable—and somewhat alarming—trend. In their blog posts and political/religious rants, I’ve noticed that many of the people with whom I associate, while not being writers themselves, seem to write far better than I. I am used to being called, the “writer friend.” At first, it was a daunting prospect, because, inevitably, the next question was always, “oh, what have you written?” Then, it would become a tad awkward as I launched into my spiel about being self-published, which in itself, became a death knell for the remainder of the conversation. I was summarily dismissed and denigrated to the annals of “self-published.” But I digress.

Being the “writer friend” means that by default, my social media should be filled with poetic waxings, social injustice diatribes, scientific posturing, and grammar corrections. Instead, there are memes about animals. And alcohol. And sex. And many other inappropriate things my more conservative family members would wish I would refrain from sharing. “But you’re the writer friend!” Shouldn’t you have tons of work on your pages? Shouldn’t you correct everyone else’s grammar? Spelling? Word choice? Shouldn’t you have a more active voice? But I don’t. I don’t get into YouTube or Facebook comment wars (although, a few times I have succumbed), I don’t use “big” words all the time, and no, sometimes, I really don’t care about grammar; in fact, I’m still trying to perfect my own. But I will help you with that essay or job letter, if I can, I will correct you if you write something to me the way you text, and I will always remain your “writer friend” if you want me to.

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The Bottle Psychologist

•March 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I never understood how some people could become to wrapped up in grief that they could leave the world behind and simply self-destruct.  Yet, after my grandmother’s death, I found myself doing the same thing.  I was partying like a madwoman and drinking like a fish (well, that was happening way before my grandmother’s passing), yet there was this feeling of emptiness inside me that was not fulfilled.  I was not truly grieving.  Holding it all in like I always did.  Its the practical, rational scientist in me.  All those years of studying to attend medical school and I threw it all away to become a writer, yet those tendencies stayed with me and from time to time, I find myself analyzing and rationalizing my behavior and those around me. 

I knew that the funeral was going to be an experience.  Mainly because my family is nuts and because…well…really only because my family is nuts.  True to form, my uncles ALL showed up drunk.  Actually, no they didn’t.  They were quite sober until they had to view my grandmother’s body.  Then it all went to hell.  They were outside the church at the bar, drinking and carousing…all in all, simply being obnoxious asses.  And I was livid.  How dare they defile the memory of my grandmother in that way?  The God-fearing woman who attended church like clockwork and who never had a drink in her life.  How could those fuck-tards not understand that this was the one time they should behave and act like adults.  Instead they were all shit-faced.  And if you know island folk, that means it took a lot of rum to get them that way.

I was never so troubled and pissed off in my life.  I was happy to return to the US; to get away from those low-class, backwards island people.  To get back to civilization.  I hopped on the first flight home, relieved to leave.  And as I partied…and drank…and partied some more, it hit me.  During one of my more lucid and sober moments, it hit me.  I was doing the exact same thing my uncles had done.  Instead of tackling my grief head on, I had waited, but I was dealing with it in the same way.  I am by no means an alcoholic, but I was using wine as a coping mechanism.  But at least I knew and understood.  Alcohol was the coping mechanism that my family used.  They weren’t disrespecting my grandmother; they were dealing with her death in the only manner they knew.  And I respected that.  Because even though I chose to grieve differently on that day, they were not afraid to put their emotions on display and talk about the life my grandmother gave them.  They were not afraid. 

Guest Blog by M.J. Pullen: Believable Dialogue

•January 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

MJ Pic

Dialogue is one of the most important aspects of any piece of quality fiction. Getting two people talking (or occasionally, carefully, more than two) is one of the quickest ways to get out of the head of the author or narrator and into the heart of the story. Dialogue commands attention, reveals character, moves the plot along, inspires emotion, and breaks up blocks of narrative to hold the reader’s attention. To keep the reader transfixed, dialogue must be believable. Here are some of my favorite ways to make sure my dialogue is a seamless bridge between the reader and the character.

  1. Avoid long speeches. In real life, most people don’t make speeches unless they are standing at a podium. To get the reader through more than two or three sentences of uninterrupted dialogue, the writer has to have a large buildup of emotional investment and the scene must earn every sentence uttered with emotional payoff for the reader. You had us at ‘hello,’ Mr. Maguire.
  2. Understand language and dialect. If you’re writing about a college student who lives in the American Northwest, for example, you may wish to avoid using the dialect of a British housewife in her forties. Often writers make these mistakes out of ignorance: they don’t understand the language of a particular area, or their ear for dialect is not well-honed as they think. If you’re writing a dialect, nationality or region with which you are not intimately familiar, do tons of research, and then have someone who is familiar help you edit.
  3. Use words your character knows. Even if you play it safe and write only in your native dialect, it’s critical that you think of a character’s background, personality and education when you select their words. A sassy hairdresser in a rural area will talk differently than someone with a college education in a big city. A new graduate of the police academy uses words differently than a veteran homicide detective. Very few of your characters will talk like someone with an English degree and a desire to impress others with their diction (ahem, that would be you and me). Of course there are exceptions, but they must fit with the character you’re creating.
  4. Keep it simple. Tips #2 and #3 notwithstanding, most people use language that is fairly simple and direct. The more odd, colorful or complex your characters’ dialogue is, the more the reader’s attention will be on the words, not the story. Use unusual words and phrases sparingly and intentionally in your dialogue.
  5. Read out loud. Reading your work out loud can have tremendous benefits of all kinds, but dialogue is a major one. What sounds awkward coming out of your mouth will read awkwardly on the page. Have someone you trust role-play your conversations with you, just like a screenplay, to see what kind of impact they will have on the reader.

MJ Pic 3      MJ Pic Book 2MJ Pic Book

Making a Damn Good Pot of Soup (in memory of my Grandmother)

•January 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I discovered that my grandmother passed away last night.  It was not a shock; she had been struggling with dementia, blindness, and a possible stroke/coma in the weeks before her death.  So, it was almost a welcomed relief that finally, her suffering was at an end.  But I did not come here to gain sympathy or to simply tell you about this all too painful point in my life—after all, this is an author blog—instead, as I sat in my bedroom remembering her, one thing in particular came to mind.  My grandmother was an amazing cook.  I don’t mean she was just good—I mean you licked the plate clean kind of cook.  Having her blood in my veins didn’t make me her protégé in the kitchen and neither did the countless summers I spent with her.  I will be honest; I am a passable cook, mainly because I lacked one trait she had.  My grandmother was meticulous.

It was a running family joke that she would start cooking dinner right after breakfast and wouldn’t be done until almost sunset.  As a child, her attention to detail while she cooked was frustrating; especially with an empty belly and a watering mouth.  But as an adult, I realize now, that is what made her dishes stand out.  My favorite meal that she made was Bahamian styled dumpling soup.  She did everything from scratch, which included walking to the coconut grove to gather coconuts, chopping them open, grating the coconuts, and straining the milk.  Then she would pick the peas, shell them, and set them boiling.  After that, she started on her dumplings; mixing the flour, kneading, and rolling them out.  Finally, the meat.  Chicken, pork, beef.  Whatever was there was chopped and seasoned and put in a marinade made from—you guessed it—scratch.

When all that was ready and my little heart was about to burst from the smells in the kitchen, she added all those ingredients to the biggest pot I had ever seen (and have yet to see) in my life.  I called it her cauldron.  Then came the waiting.  The walking over to see if it was ready yet.  The slaps on my hands, butt, pops with the dish towel and the inevitable “no” when I tried to taste it.  After what seemed like years, but in reality was hours, it was ready.  The best soup in the world.  Neighbors would drop by because they knew my grandmother would offer a plate as was her wont.  And we would eat.  And be happy.

I told you that story to tell you this—writing and self-publishing is like making that soup.  It takes work, and dedication, and commitment, and patience.  Yes, you want to finish that book or chapter or section to be able to move onto the next, but sometimes, you need to slow down.  When that brain is moving faster than those fingers, you can lose the story or the direction.  But that is because you are trying to move too fast.  Take your time.  Walk to that coconut grove and gather those coconuts, chop them open and scoop out every bit of that flesh.  Then grate it and wring out every single drop of that milk.  Delve into that story.  Make me feel each and every agonizing thought, feeling, wanting that your characters face.  Make me cry, laugh, scream in frustration, and get so hot and bothered, I have to take a shower.  Get all the ingredients that make your story going and put them together in such a way that the end result is the best book I have ever read in my damn life!  I want to finish and rush to buy a second and third and fourth—the whole damn series!  But make me want it.

Pay attention to detail and make sure everything you put in there adds to your story; don’t write it in because you think it’s cute.  The first book I ever wrote was not the first book I published and I regret that sometimes, because my first book makes me money.  However, the first book I published was used as a measure to better myself.  My first review was 3 stars and the reader HATED that it was a cliffhanger.  The second review, also 3 stars, lamented on the fact that I had words missing.  Words missing?  What the hell?  I reread the book and sure enough, there WERE words missing.  Simple words that in my writing my brain, forcing my hands to move faster to keep up, simply eliminated.  While I was editing the book, my brain (that bitch) inserted those words in my mind, so I never even realized they were not on the page.  I was rushing my soup, not giving it time to simmer and cook.  Start letting the good smells from your pot get out.  Write blogs, blurbs, excerpts, anything to get people to start moving to your house looking for a plate.  And when its done?  Eat.  And be happy.

Book Blast!! M.J. Pullen

•January 20, 2014 • 4 Comments

Hey everyone…I’m back with more book blasts.  This one is a series by MJ Pullen called the “Marriage Pact Series.”  Enjoy!

VTC

MJ PicAuthor Bio:

M.J. (Manda) Pullen studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking time off for writing and raising her two young boys. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.

She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.

She loves to hear from readers and other writers – so drop her a line!

Author Links –

Website:  mjpullen.com

Facebook:  facebook.com/mjpullenbooks

Twitter: @MJPullen

Blog: mjpullen.com/blog/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4993237.M_J_Pullen

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.J.-Pullen/e/B0055UFL68/

Giveaway – details for your giveaway, be specific. You may pick one prize of more than one.

Ebooks, paperbacks, Swag or gift cards

Hosting Incentive: If offering an incentive (giveaway) for those that host your tour such as a gift card.

I will be giving away one set of autographed paperback copies of the Marriage Pact trilogy (winner can choose a custom inscription for the first book).

Pit Crew: Will you be offering a donation to our Street Team that will be helping promote your tour?

One set of autographed paperback copies of the Marriage Pact trilogy (winner can choose a custom inscription for the first book).

Rafflecopter:

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Tags/Labels: The Marriage Pact Series, M.J. Pullen, contemporary romance, romance, romance novels, romance writers, romance authors, love, love and relationships,virtual book tour Café

 

MJ Pic BookThe Marriage Pact

Book Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Flourish Publications (Self)

Release Date: June 2011

Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her 30th birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as an established writer, complete with wall-to-wall mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.

Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she’s had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug. Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Then the reappearance of a cocktail napkin she hasn’t seen in a decade opens a long-forgotten door,  and Marci’s life gets complicated, fast. The lines between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.

 

Excerpt One (300-500 or so Words):

In her mind, she had ended it a thousand times. She would spend hours rehearsing three versions of the parting speech:

Rational:

“Doug, I can’t do this anymore. Neither of us intended this to happen, but it has to stop. I love you [should she say that?], but I can’t be responsible for breaking up a marriage, however unhappy it might be. I deserve better than this. I need someone free to make a life with me, and you are not. I know in my heart that part of you still loves Cathy, and I think you should return to her and really invest in your marriage.”

Magnanimous and melodramatic:

“Listen, Doug. This has been wonderful; it really has. But it’s wrong and it’s been wrong from the start. It’s tearing me apart. I am not an adulteress; I deserve to be more than ‘the other woman.’ I can’t live with myself for another day this way, and I can’t let you do it, either. Go back to your wife, your home, the life that you chose all those years ago. I will treasure our time together and you have my word that I will never tell anyone about us.”

Jealous and generally pissed off:

“Doug, your little weekend getaway with your wife gave me time to get clarity and realize that I am better than this situation, and better than you. If you loved me, you would no longer be married. If you loved your wife, you would not be with me. You act like this is torture for you, but really you’re just a typical cheating sleazebag who wants to have his cake and eat it, too. I want you out of my life forever. If you try to speak to me again, I will call Cathy and tell her everything. Get out.”

This last version was the most emotionally satisfying. She would march into work armed with these words, confident, resolute and ready to take back her life.

Until she saw him. She’d find a sticky note on her keyboard: “It was awful. I missed you.” Or he would pick her up at lunch, and instead of going back to her place, they would drive to the top of Mount Bonnell and look over the Texas hill country and talk. She would feebly threaten to end it, crying pathetically and remembering none of her kickass speeches.

So they limped along in a relationship netherworld—not together, not apart, each day full of the twin possibilities of limitless passion or goodbye forever. With stacks of invoices and mindless tasks in front of her each day, Marci had entirely too much time to contemplate both ends of the spectrum.

Today was no different, except for the fact that she was officially no longer wasting her late twenties in a hopeless relationship. Thirty had arrived, and a new decade was waiting. And there was an e-mail from Jake.

 

Excerpt Two (500-800 or so Words):

Her Hotmail account had thirty-two new messages. At least half were automated e-mails from online retailers wishing her a happy birthday with 10% off and free shipping. There were a few e-cards from friends, which she decided to open later. A couple of notifications from writing listservs of which she was a member, but somehow never made time to read. A forward chain e-mail from Suzanne’s grandmother, alerting her that her UPS delivery driver might be a member of Al Qaeda. A sale on her favorite jeans at the Plus-Size outlet store. A happy birthday from her chiropractor.

As she neared the bottom of the highlighted portion of her inbox, she saw the first new message had been sent at 12:01 a.m. from Jake Stillwell, one of her best friends from college. Nothing was in the subject line, but she saw there was an attachment, and curiosity beat out her hesitance about the scary meeting with the IT guy. She clicked to open it, read the two short sentences Jake had included, and sat back while the image loaded on the screen. No. It couldn’t be. Had he really kept it?

The consternation must still have been visible on her face a few moments later when Doug’s head appeared around the side of her cubicle, because he stopped his momentum to ask, “Everything okay?” despite his obvious hurry. Startled, she lunged forward and clicked the windows closed, even though Doug certainly would not care that she was checking her e-mail from the office.

“It’s fine. I’m…fine,” she said.

“Okay, good. Listen, babe,” he began, and Marci looked around wide-eyed to make sure no one was around to hear the familiar term. He laughed at her panic, as usual. “I already checked—we’re alone, kiddo. “

Kiddo.

“I just came by to say I can’t go to lunch today. There’s a meeting at Motorola this afternoon—a big project we might be doing for them. I have to be there. Frank’s been really riding my ass about bringing in new clients lately…hey, are you sure you’re okay?” He looked genuinely concerned.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said, pasting on a smile. “Just a weird e-mail from home.”

“Oh.” He seemed to be debating whether to go on, or wait for her to explain further. Not knowing what to say, Marci remained silent.

“Anyway, sweetheart, I’m sorry that I can’t go to lunch with you on your birthday. I promise I will make it up to you tonight. Cathy’s, um…”   He hesitated, flustered, and then finished in a rush. Usually he avoided saying his wife’s name to Marci. “Well, I’m free for a while tonight.”

Without warning, he leaned down and kissed her. He had never so much as touched her hand in the office before, and her body tingled with the danger and excitement in response. Afterward, he kept his face close to hers. She smelled his clean skin, and somehow resisted the temptation to put her palm flat against the crisp white undershirt beneath the blue.

His voice in her ear was husky. “I really did want to take you to lunch.” His tone suggested eating lunch had probably not been on the agenda. Her heart pounded and she looked around wildly, expecting to see someone come around the corner at any second and find them in this pose, for which there was no feasible professional explanation. “I’ll find you later.” She closed her eyes, inhaling his scent. When she opened them, he was gone.

 

MJ Pic Book 2Regrets Only

Book Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Flourish Publications (Self)

Release Date: July 2012

Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has it all.  A successful party-planning business with an elite client list.  A swank condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood and a close group of friends – especially her longtime best friend Marci. A list of men a mile long who have tried to win her heart and failed. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career and social status to the next level. What could she possibly have to regret?

Then a freak accident changes everything, and Suzanne discovers that her near-perfect life is just a few steps away from total disaster. She is humiliated and at risk of losing it all… except the surprising support of her newest celebrity client. With nothing else to go on, Suzanne follows him into an unexpected job and unfamiliar territory. Soon she will question everything – her career, her past, her friendships, and even her own dating rules.

But when her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of criminal suspects, she is faced with the horrifying possibility that she may not live to regret any of it…

 

Excerpt One (300-500 or so Words):

She smiled broadly at him, remembering to show her teeth the way she’d been instructed before beauty pageants as a child. She could almost taste the Vaseline her mother made her rub on her top teeth to ensure they didn’t get smudged with lipstick. Smile. Be open.

Rick returned the smile with warmth. He also seemed to notice he’d been talking about himself for too long. “So tell me how you got started in the party planning business.”

Suzanne recounted briefly how she had been an art history major at the University of Georgia, desperately wanted to work as a museum curator, and how she’d taken the job on the event staff at the High Museum right after college. “Originally, I hoped the foot in the door at the museum would land me a job in procurement or something, but it never happened.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Rick said sympathetically.

Suzanne shrugged. It turned out she had a knack for event planning. Something about the combination of creativity and crisis response. After a couple of years at the High, she had been hired away by a large event planning agency. She stayed there for a few years before creating her own boutique agency. Now she had one of the most successful, prestigious agencies in the city. People were often shocked to discover she and Chad were the only permanent staff. “We actually won an award last year,” she told Rick.

“Sounds like you are quite the little rock star in the event planning world,” he said. “Or do you just plan events for rock stars?”

Normally very discreet about her clients, Suzanne couldn’t resist the opportunity to brag a little. “Actually, I am doing a benefit in a couple of weeks for Dylan Burke. Of course, he’s more a country star…”

“Seriously? I was kidding about the whole rock star thing.”

A Southern lady is always modest, her mother’s voice chided her. “Well, it’s not that big of a deal,” Suzanne hedged. “It’s at my old stomping grounds at the High, which is probably why I got the job.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Rick countered enthusiastically. “That’s awesome. He’s totally famous.”

She waved away the words with a manicured hand, but Rick was undeterred. “Seriously, you should be really proud of yourself. That’s a huge deal. Obviously you’ve earned quite a reputation for someone like Dylan Burke to choose you.”

His eyes held hers sincerely. Okay, Rick, ease up. We’ve already slept together. You can dial it down a tad.

“Really, his manager chose me. I haven’t actually met him yet. We’ll see how it turns out,” she said, and pretended to be engrossed in the highlights of spring training on the TV over the bar. “How do you think the Braves will do this year?”

 

Excerpt Two (500-800 or so Words):

A few hours later, Suzanne awoke suddenly, unable to breathe. She gasped for air in the darkness, desperately trying to move, to figure out where she was. There was no light anywhere. Her chest tightened painfully, heart pounding, lips dry. As she struggled to move, she heard Rick groan softly nearby and roll over, releasing her from his grasp. She was in his hotel room, she remembered, and relaxed a little. When his breathing was soft and steady she moved again to slide out from between the crisp sheets.

I can’t do it.

She found the clock face down on the floor. Almost four a.m. She crept into the bathroom and shut the door before finding the unpleasantly bright light. She splashed water on her face and breathed deeply. After a few moments with her hands steadying her against the sink, she looked in the mirror. Jesus, I look like crap. Mascara was smeared beneath her eyes, her formerly perfect hair was a rat’s nest behind her head, and the evening of cocktails had weathered her face like a sailor’s. Suzanne looked and felt much older than thirty-three. She made a mental note to have Chad schedule a facial before the benefit.

Silently, she began gathering her things. The hotel room was pitch black, so she scrounged in her purse for the tiny keychain light, shaped like a pig, which Marci had given her years ago. The expensive pumps had been kicked off near the door. Skirt and blouse were in a heap nearby. After a few moments of searching, she located her bra hanging off the desk lampshade across from the bed. Her panties, however, had gone completely missing.

She covered the room with the tiny pig several times, freezing periodically when she heard Rick shift or grunt in his sleep. Opening the blackout curtains a fraction gave her enough light to shimmy into the rest of her clothes and make one more sweep of the room. She kicked herself for wearing her favorite pair of La Perla underwear, as they were about to become a casualty to an early-morning getaway.

Sorry, girls.

She decided to add “Leave favorite underwear at home,” to her list of dating rules. The rules were sort of Suzanne’s cross between Emily Post and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, mostly resulting from her own bad experiences: Never bring a man back your place. No emotional talk during sex. Never get naked with the lights on. Always undress yourself. No dating guys with kids or dogs. No sex in cars. And so on. She thought one day she could publish these rules and make a fortune.

She closed the curtain and crept toward the door. She was nearly out of the room when she lost her balance and bumped against the closet door. It rattled loudly. Rick stirred behind her. “Suzanne? You okay?”

Damn.

“Yes, I’m fine.” Her voice was sheepish despite her best efforts. “I just need to get an early start today.”

“But,” his voice in the darkness was slow and softened by sleep, “it’s Saturday.”

“Yeah, I just have so much going on with this benefit; I really need to get home. Thank you for dinner and…everything.”

She waited as she heard him fumble for the lamp and got it turned on. “Um, sure. You’re welcome?” he said, looking around, befuddled. In the sudden light, his bare chest looked a little pudgier, and furrier, than she remembered. He ran his hand through the thick brown hair standing up all over his head.

“Okay, well…bye, Rick,” she said, as sweetly as she could. She turned back toward the door.

“Wait,” he said softly.

Please don’t make an ass of yourself, she willed him. Please just hate me and let’s be done with it.

She didn’t have to worry. As much as he liked her, Rick the Salesman knew a simple, cardinal rule of all relationships: never beg. He simply asked the exact question to which he wanted the answer. “This is ending right now, isn’t it?”

Suzanne noticed that there was neither hope nor despair in his tone. Obviously, he genuinely liked her, and yet the question only sought to confirm, rather than to convince or retaliate. She hesitated only for a split second. “Yes.”

She hovered there momentarily, waiting for the usual barrage of questions or arguments to commence, but Rick just nodded slowly and said, “I’m sorry to hear that. It really was very nice to meet you, Suzanne.”

Her face flushed. The stark contrast between this courteous ending and last night’s very primitive activities embarrassed her, as did standing in her professional clothes and heels with no underwear. “You, too, Rick. Take care, okay?”

She hurried out, made her way down the stairs, and exited the side door. She had the phone number to the cab company on speed dial.

 

MJ Pic 3Baggage Check

Book Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance

Publisher: Flourish Publications (Self)

Release Date: November 2013

Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

At thirty-five, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings.  Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta, Georgia. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. Even though her job as a flight attendant fits perfectly with her orderly nature, and brings her into contact with lots of eligible men, she can’t seem to find a man who is Jake’s equal.

Then a frantic phone call from her mother in Oreville, Alabama turns Rebecca’s structured life on its ear. She will find herself back in the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind, and thrown together with Deputy Alex Chen, a face from the past who’s made it clear he thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister.

But Alex is nothing like what Rebecca had in mind; and in the meantime, she has other battles to fight, including her painful family history. Can she navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she’s always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?

 

Excerpt One (300-500 or so Words):

“What the hell was that?” Valerie asked, sliding into the booth across from Rebecca. “He was a nice-looking kid. You don’t like foreign guys?”

“That’s not it,” Rebecca said.

“Well, I had that one primed for you. Such a waste.”

“Thanks, Val, but I don’t need you to find guys for me. And I’m sure he won’t go to waste. Look, he’s talking to that girl at the bar already.”

“I didn’t mean him,” Val said. “I meant you. You’re such a beautiful girl: educated, nice nose, and that pretty brown hair is your real color as far as I can tell. We’ve flown together three years and I never hear about you dating anyone.”

“Well, maybe I—”

Valerie leaned across the table with a loud whisper. “Are you a lesbian?”

“What? No!”

“Because I’m okay with it, really. I’m very hip about this stuff. I even have a lesbian niece. Very attractive, if she would just let her hair grow out. Of course, she’s younger than you, but…”

“Valerie!” Rebecca said too loudly. Then softer, “I am not a lesbian. I used to date men all the time. I just haven’t lately.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. The hours?”

“Bullshit.”

“Come on, Val. Why the sudden interest in my love life? Can we talk about something else?”

“No.”

Rebecca knew from experience Valerie had no intention of letting up. She took a sip of her drink, not terribly helpful since it was mostly melted ice. A long sigh under Valerie’s unwavering stare. “I guess you could say I got my heart broken a few years ago, and I just haven’t gotten over it yet.”

“Really? Who was this? How come I haven’t heard about him?”

Rebecca sighed. In for a penny… “You have heard of him. It was my friend Jake.”

“Jake?” Valerie furrowed her brow. “You mean…your friend, the girl with the blog, what’s her name—Marci? That Jake?”

“Yes. That Jake.”

Valerie whistled. “So how long ago was this?”

“How long ago was what? They got married four years ago. And they have Bonnie now.”

“Yeah, but when did you stop…” Valerie trailed off.

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think I have stopped. I know that’s ridiculous, but I-I loved him for so long. It’s like I don’t know any other way to be.”

Val looked down at the table for a minute, and slid the rest of her neat Scotch across to Rebecca. “Here, kid. I think you need this a hell of a lot more than I do.”

 

Excerpt Two (500-800 or so Words):

Rebecca Williamson picked up a smooth, rust-colored clay bowl for the fifth time in as many minutes. She ran her hand along the sloping curve from the base to the rim, and then bounced it lightly in her arms for heft. It was two pounds, she decided. Maybe two and a half once they had wrapped it for the plane. She put it down again and stepped back to look at the rest of the artist’s display, dusting her hands together.

“Oh, just buy it already!” Valerie said from a few feet away. “I’ve gotten married after shorter courtships than you’re having with that bowl.”

“I don’t need it,” Rebecca said.

“It would look nice on your kitchen table. You never buy anything, Becky.” Valerie had been calling her “Becky” since she joined the airline three years before. For the first several months, Rebecca had corrected her. Now she just accepted it.

“What would I do with it?” Rebecca said. “I mean, you can’t serve food in it, not that I ever cook anyway. I don’t have anything to store in it. And I’m never home to look at how my apartment is decorated. How is a red clay bowl necessary?”

Valerie rolled her eyes and patted Rebecca’s shoulder with a veined hand. “Life needs beauty, doll. Every girl should have something beautiful and useless in her life. Like my first husband, for example. That man was pure eye candy, but the poor idiot couldn’t change a light bulb.”

Rebecca laughed. She had never asked outright how many husbands Valerie had been through, but her current guess was four, and at least two of them had been pilots. Valerie was in her late sixties, ancient by flight attendant standards, and a legend among all the younger women they worked with. Rebecca had been paired with her during the first week of training and they had flown together more often than not since then. At first, Rebecca had resisted becoming Valerie’s protégé, but through sheer force of will and nonstop chatter, Valerie had become Rebecca’s only real friend at work. Tonight, they were in an artists’ co-op in New Mexico, killing time during an overnight layover.

“Are you ready to go to the bar?” Rebecca asked her.

“What’s your hurry?” Valerie said. “You never take anything home from there, either.”

“Don’t start with that.”

“What? Come on, you know I’m right. And don’t use me for an excuse, either. I may be an old lady but I know how to make myself scarce when I see a brassiere on the doorknob.”

An aproned woman behind the counter looked up, smirking.

“Shh…” Rebecca hushed. But even she could not help but smile at the way Valerie said “brassiere on the doorknob” in her New York accent. Rebecca herself had never used this signal, but it had been a frequent sight in the sorority house at the University of Georgia. She tried to imagine finding one of Valerie’s big beige contraptions hanging on their hotel room door and shuddered.

“Ready to go?” she asked again.

“Oh, alright,” Valerie said. “Just let me add this to my collection.” She held up a blue-glazed mug that had been formed to look like the squished-down face of an old man.

Several of Rebecca’s coworkers kept little collections from places they visited—postcards, spoons, shot glasses, snow globes, you name it. There was a sort of unspoken code that it was only acceptable to collect items from cities you had truly visited, meaning you had to leave the airport for more than a couple of hours. Even so, Rebecca could not understand this tradition. Yes, it was cute in the moment, but they went so many places. What did you do with all that crap? Put it in a box so you could re-live your glory days of passing out peanuts? Have it gather dust on the shelves while other people pretended to be interested at parties?

Once or twice, something had caught Rebecca’s eye, particularly when they flew to exotic locations. A tiny but exquisite crystal vase from Waterford in Ireland. Hand-carved candlesticks painted black and inlaid with gold in Toledo, Spain. A set of Russian dolls in Moscow. Each time, she had stood paralyzed in the gift shop, debating why she needed this thing and where she would put it and how often she would really look at it. Then she would sigh, and to the dismay of each patient shop owner, return the item to the shelf and walk out. Except for an irresistible silk scarf from Milan and an emergency t-shirt she’d been forced to buy in New York, Rebecca had not bought souvenirs anywhere. Once in a while she regretted this, but never for long. She would deposit the amount of the foregone purchase into her savings account with satisfaction and move on. Always move on.

 

Get some!! Bringing your “A” game to your writing.

•January 10, 2014 • 1 Comment

Like many of you, this year a New Year’s resolution was…is, lol, to get in shape.  In trying to trick myself into working out more, I decided not to FORMALLY announce my plans to get in shape, but I decided that I am getting in shape because I am dating someone new and I want to get on his level.  That being said, I visited the local Wally World and after spending five minutes in that hell…I grabbed the first DVD which looked promising–Jillian MichaelsRipped in 30.”  With excitement and a bit of trepidation, I got dressed and pressed play on the DVD player.  After a few minutes of huffing and puffing and glaring enviously at Jillian’s super-tight abs and skinny ass legs, I walked over to press pause, only to have Jillian stop me.  Really?  How did she do that?  She literally looked at the screen and told me, “you can do this…I have 400 pound people doing this and they are still going, so can you.  Give it your best and get some!”  I paused, one finger away from the exit key of my computer; one finger away from ending this crazy idea of getting into shape, and I stopped.  Instead of being the quitter I longed to be, I kept going.  And as I dragged myself up from the floor after the final sit-up and crawled towards my computer, I thought of Jillian’s words, “Get some!” 

What did I want to get?  What did I want to put 100% into?  Like many of you, my life is a revolving door of everything.  Full-time high school science teacher, full-time graduate student, part-time college professor–and full-time author are just a few of the hats that I wear each day.  Many of you juggle more than me and yet we have to think about this idea of what it is we want to put 100% into.  What do we want to dig deep for?  Writing will never be a hobby for me; it is my life.  I breathe, eat, and sleep my characters and the words I bleed onto these pages.  And I know you do the same.  So, why not give it our all?  You got a rejection letter?  Okay.  Who cares? Use it as the fuel to power your dreams.  Horrible book review?  Use it as a means to do better.  Writing takes talent.  Writing well takes practice.  And rejection.  And tears, gallons of caffeinated beverages, tons of paper, and countless hours of lack of sleep.  And it also requires dedication.  Giving it your all.  100% Now get off the internet, open that document file and get some!!

A Year in Review

•December 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Wow.  Its December 31.  Another year is on the horizon and while this year has been one of joy and love and tears and anger; its also been one of learning.  As a writer, I have learned to listen to my inner voice.  Its something I think we can all relate to.  How many times has that inner voice told you to “say no, to not date that guy, to not make that purchase?”  But we ignore it and justify the reasons why.  “Oh its this and oh its that” are always our reasons why we ignore the inner voice.  This year, my inner voice told me to be serious about my writing.  It cautioned me to not treat my writing like a hobby, but to treat it like a real job.  It reminded me to not write what I wanted to write, but to let the story flow and follow its own path.  Too many times, I tried to force the ending of a story or a particular storyline, which backfired.  But allowing the personalities of the characters to dictate the story leads to authenticity and believable characters.  My inner voice encouraged me to not give up.  As a result, I started an online (e-book) publishing company with my mother called Androsia Publishing, we specialize in Fantasy and Paranormal, Erotica, Romance, Science Fiction, and African American Novels.  And we are excited as hell about it!

Tomorrow marks the first official day for Androsia Publishing and the launch of our first novel; Hell on Earth by Adrianna Morgan.  This book tells the story of Bri Montague, the antagonist in Hell in Heels.  Bri was not supposed to get her own book, but I listened to my inner voice and realized that her character was too strong to be relegated to the villain in a book. So the spinoff was born– and if I may toot my own horn, its pretty damn good.

So, I say my year in review was listening to the one person who knew me better than anyone else; myself.  Don’t make excuses this new year; make changes.  And listen to you.  Trust me, you know more than you think!

Hell On Earth New