Monday, February 12, 2018

Dreaming of You and Me & The Tick-Tock Between You and Me

My intertwined novels coming some time soon...


“I’m so into him,” Nora whispered into the phone.
“Why are you whispering?” Darby tapped her pencil on the desk.
Nora explained she had to make all of her calls on what the other teachers called Signal Hill—the one high spot on campus that got cell service. “I didn’t wake you again, did I?”
Darby glanced at the clock. It was after midnight. She should be asleep, but instead she was knee-deep into her work. “No, I’m just finishing up some files.”
“You need some balance.”
Darby rolled her eyes, even though no one was around to see. “Did you seriously call me to deliver a lecture?”
“No, I called to talk about Cole.” Nora paused. “Oh geez, even his name sends shivers down my back.”
“Does he know how you feel?” Darby saved her files and shut down her computer, plunging the room into darkness. She’d started working in the daylight, but now without the computer’s glare, only the moon and stars shining through the window provided light. It took a moment for Darby’s eyes to adjust to the gloom and her mind to transition from her work to her friend.
“Are you crazy?” Nora squeaked. “No one can know…it’s so twisted.”
“He’s not your brother,” Darby insisted. She switched the phone to speaker so she could slip out of her clothes.
“If he’s my brother, then Irena isn’t my mom…and that’s heartbreaking.”
“Heartbreaking? Really?” Darby pressed as she stepped into her favorite pajamas.
“And this horrible thing happened with Chad, the P.E. teacher?”
Darby didn’t respond for a moment.
“Darby? Are you still there?”
“I’m here, and what happened to Chad,” Darby said, hating how strained her voice sounded.
“Okay, well, I went to his office to borrow some clothes to wear to play in the teachers versus students’ soccer game tomorrow and Cole walked in on me while I was changing.”
“What clothes?”
“You know, school issue P.E. uniforms.”
Relief whistled through Darby. “And that was horrible because he saw your panties?” Darby fought back laughter and collapsed onto her bed.
“He probably thinks there’s something going on between me and Chad!” Nora forgot to whisper.
“But there’s not, right?” Darby fluffed up her pillow.
“Of course, there’s not!”
“And there’s nothing going on between you and Cole either, right?”
“But I want there to be…even though I don’t.”
“You need to find out if Irena is actually your birth mom.”
“I know. You are so right. I’m thinking about hiring a private investigator.”
“Or you could just talk to your dad. That would be a lot less expensive.” Darby paused as memories of Nora in their high school P.E. class made her smile. Back then, Nora had seemed like she was made of long wiggly strings of spaghetti. Her parents hadn’t encouraged her in sports, or anything, really, and therefore, Nora had about as much coordination as a baby giraffe. “Do you even know how to play soccer?”
“I’ve spent the last few hours reading the rules and watching soccer games online.” Nora provided a typical Nora-response. “I’ll be okay if I can stay in the back corner. I think that’s called the left back person.”
Darby laughed and pointed her toes at the distant wall, wishing she had someone to play soccer with. When was the last time she’d played anything? It had to be before she’d started studying for the CPA exam. “Yep. You’ll be great. But I gotta warn you, I don’t think a students’ versus teachers’ game is going to be textbook.” She wanted to see this game. She also wanted an excuse to see Chad. “Is Cole playing?”
“I think so. Maybe we could trip over each other, you know--collide or something.” Nora sighed. “Forget I said that. What am I thinking? I’m out of control. I’m so out of my league! I always had Blake! I never had another boyfriend…and as far as I know, neither did he.”
“But now he does.” Darby’s thoughts wandered to Teddy, Blake’s new boyfriend. Darby had known and been friends with Blake even longer than she’d known Nora. The three of them had been inseparable in middle school and high school. Unlike most teen couples, Nora and Blake didn’t mind being a threesome and they’d never been into PDA. Mr. Klint, their high school sociology teacher, had a theory about public displays of affection. “When a guy kisses a girl in public, it’s exactly like a dog peeing on a plant to mark his territory,” he’d said. It became a joke the three of them shared. If they spotted any couples making out, Blake would heckle them and say, “Hey, get a toilet!” But looking back, maybe Blake’s lack of sexual interest should have been a red flag. Neither she nor Nora had ever suspected Blake’s homosexuality, and that hurt. Darby often wondered how she could have been friends with someone for so long without knowing what they were thinking or going through. She knew her mixed feelings were nothing compared to Nora’s. And Blake’s, because he’d not only fooled them, for a long time he’d probably also tried to fool himself.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Darby said. “Why don’t I come up and pretend to have a fling with Chad?”
“What? You would do that?”
“Sure, it’ll be fun. And it will prove to Cole that you aren’t into Chad.”
“Do you want to do that?”
“Absolutely. Chad’s gorgeous.”
“But what’s he going to think?”
“I think he’ll be okay with it. Remember, he has a girlfriend, so he’s completely safe.”
Nora dropped her voice back to a whisper. “You don’t want to lead him on just for a gag. That would be mean.”
“It won’t be a gag, and I promise I won’t be mean.” Darby paused.But Jessica won’t like it if the staff at the school think he’s fooling around, and he might not like them thinking he’s a cheater, either. I don’t know, is this a bad idea?”
“Just come.”
“Okay. Maybe I could bring up Chelsea with me.”
“I would love that!”
“Great. I’ll check with her.”
“You’re the best,” Nora breathed.
“I know,” Darby said.


She felt his gaze upon her. Slowly, she turned, quickly her heart accelerated. Tall, blue-eyed, sun-kissed blond, he looked like he should be carrying surfboard instead of a stethoscope. He strode toward her, and she backed away—
Cole Rowling tore himself away from his tablet when his phone buzzed with an incoming call. He smiled as he answered. “Hey, mom, where are you today?”
“Mexico—so much adventure! I can’t wait to tell you about it, but that’s not why I called.”
Only his mom would spend her much deserved vacations rebuilding houses in earthquake riddled countries.
“We have a new applicant for the English position,” his mom began.
“I’m reading her self-published novel now,” Cole said, stealing another glance at his tablet.
“What do you think?”
“Why? I thought we ‘d settled on Turner Lawson.”
“I’ve had a change of heart.”
“What? Why? This other applicant…she has an impressive academic and career background but absolutely no teaching experience.”
“Are there other applicants?”
“Well, yes. But none of them can match Lawson.”
“I can’t work with Lawson. Tell me about Nora Tomas.”
Cole shuffled through the pile of resumes and pulled out Nora’s. Just this morning, he had thought he should could cancel the interview, but then he’d ended up buying her book instead. He didn’t have any regrets. “Maybe you should come home,” Cole said. “I thought it was decided…”
“Lawson is no longer a consideration.” She sounded surprisingly firm.
“Okay. You want to tell me about what’s going on?”
His mom cleared her throat and launched into a description of her work with Habitat Rescue. Cole listened, but after a while, his thoughts drifted back to the novel on his tablet. He had only an hour until his interview with Nora Tomas. He hoped she was as adorable as her book.

Cole Rowling gazed the pale blond sitting across from him. She looked nothing like any president of a multi-million dollar company he’d ever met. “Tell me, Miss Tomas, why would you leave your position at Apex to teach at Canterbury?”
Nora blinked. She had amazing light blue eyes, so translucent they reminded him of opals.
“I studied English literature in college.”
Cole tore his gaze from hers to glance back at her resume. “I see that. But then you went to Horn for your MBA.”
“Yes, but that was my parent’s idea. Literature is my first love.”
She twisted her hands in her lap. A pink flush stained her cheeks. She looked nervous, but excited.
“We’re a small, private school. You must understand we can’t even come close to matching your previous salary.”
Nora nodded. “I didn’t expect you to.”
He frowned at her and tapped his fingers on his desk. “You self-published romance novels a few years ago.”
She looked pleased and for just a moment, she stopped twisting her hands. “Yes. It was…fun.”
“I was bored.”
“You find running a multi-million dollar company boring?”
She rolled her eyes. “You have no idea. All those suits and ties worrying about falling profit margins.”
He laughed. “A lot of powerful suits and ties send their daughters to Canterbury.”
“I know. But I also know you take a handful of scholarship children as well…girls who are deserving of a second chance, a new start.” Her voice warmed with passion. “I admire that.” She rehearsed the school’s mission statement. “Compassion coupled with edification. Canterbury cares.”
Cole flushed with warmth at her words. He stared at her as if seeing her for the first time. She wasn’t just an applicant for a job. She was something more. Something integral…but to what?
“I want to be a part of that,” she added.
Flustered more by his reaction than by her, Cole stood and held out his hand. “I have more candidates…” he stuttered.
“I understand,” she said, taking his hand.
“I’ll get back to you.” Her hand felt small and soft in his own. Heat radiated up his arm.
“I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
Cole dropped her hand. “You aren’t…” he cleared his throat. “You would need to work on getting your teaching credentials.”
“I understand.”
But he didn’t think she did, because he certainly didn’t.
This is my brother, Nora thought, holding his hand a little longer than necessary and liking the way his flesh made hers tingle as if her body recognized their similar DNA. If she made it to the second interview, she would probably get to meet her mother. Her real mother. A guilty sense of betrayal flashed through her which she tried to quell but couldn’t ignore.
Mr. Rowling yammered about credentials, the school’s reputation, class size, but all Nora could think about was meeting her mom. It had been all she could think about for the last two weeks—ever since Crystal had dropped her bombshell.
“Tell me, does Apex know of your decision to leave?”
“I actually left the company about a year ago,” she told him.
He raised his eyebrow, waiting.
“Apex was my husband’s—” she reddened and corrected herself, “my ex-husband’s baby. It still is. Well, actually, he also has another baby now.” A large, hairy one. “I still collect a salary, but I’m no longer involved. It was a mutual decision.”
“So you don’t need this position.”
“Oh, but I do. Maybe not financially, but not all needs are financial. Wouldn’t you agree?” He had the warmest eyes. Nothing like her own, but green with flecks of brown that matched his thick wavy hair. She had never had a sibling before, so she didn’t know if they were supposed to look that much alike. She flashed him a smile and decided that even if she didn’t get the job—and she really hoped that she would—just meeting her brother had made the hour drive to Oak Hallow worthwhile.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Upside of Falling Down--a book review

In the end, I really loved this book, BUT mid-way I almost put it down. I thought it was so ridiculous that she was about to leave, about to return to her dad (which she should have done, it was incredibly selfish of her to keep her dad waiting and worrying) Kieron shows up and she decides to go surfing! Now remember, it had been raining, and one of the reasons that she got in his car was because it was rainy and cold. But then they go to the beach, surf, and afterwards there are people there looking sunburned after their day in the sun. (REMEMBER, it had been raining!) Nit-picks aside, the ending threw me--in a good way--it made sense of Kieron's behavior. But I still think they both should have told the dad. It would have made sense if she hated the dad, or blamed him in some way, even if she didn't remember it--she would have had a visceral reaction when she saw him.
And now I want to go to Ireland....

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

Waiting for my dad is like waiting for the future and the past all at the same time.

What's the point of cheating death if a life doesn't exist when you wake up?

My mind rolls and turns and doesn't seem to lead me anywhere. I'll the wind do the moving and spinning for now, instead of me.

He examines his half-eaten container. "You can't be afraid of what's inside. And it tastes good. That's a life lesson."
"If something tastes good, don't ask what it's made of. You might be disappointed."

"If there's one thing I've learned from Jane Austen," Clive says, "it's that if we tell the truth all the time, there would be no stories worth telling."

The feeling like no matter what I do, I'm going to fall. Something will toss me over the edge. Instead of letting that happen, I make the decision myself. I get to decide when to jump.

Because that's how memories work. They come back to you, knock you down, and beg you to surrender.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Letting the Numbers Go

They say the way you do anything is the way you do everything, and I believe this to be true. Recently, I've combined to seemingly unrelated areas of my life and applied one mantra to both let the numbers go.

The truth is, I've never been a numbers girl. I love stories, and because I love stories a school subject that involved stories came easily for me: English, History, Social Studies, even, sometimes, Science. But if I had to regurgitate numbers and formulas--especially if they had no context--I was lost. So, finally, at the mid-point of my life, I'm letting the numbers go.

What does this mean? Well, with food, for example, I'm done with counting calories, points, or grams or numbers on my scale. The truth is, I know what food is nutritionally sound and good for my body and what is not. I also have a pretty good idea of how much my body needs and when. (I'm going to edit this to add that if you don't understand nutrition and what your body needs, then this is something you need to learn. Read up on it, visit a nutritionist, etc.) By letting go of these numbers and focusing on my health, I can enjoy my food and my life. I don't eat food that isn't going to provide strength and nourishment, not because I shouldn't, but because I don't want it. When I feel more in control of my food, I'm in more control of my life.

Exercise is a partner to this. I exercise not because I want to eat unhealthy food, but because I enjoy the way it makes me feel. Also, I usually do it with friends and I love my time with my friends, so exercise isn't just physical, it's also social.

Another area of my life where I'm letting the numbers go is my writing. (Not completely, as I'll explain in a minute.) I don't want my writing life to be about sales--although sales are important. I want it to be about the feeling of writing a really great scene. (You can read more about that here.) Yesterday, I finished the second, yet to be named book in my Canterbury series. I cried. Not because it was over or because I loved it so much, but because how it all fit together when I wasn't sure it would. It was like magic. A magic that I can't explain even though it came from my head and fingers. The story took me to a place I wasn't expecting and hadn't even planned (even though it must have been there, hiding.) But even though sometimes I feel like my writing is just about me, it's not. It's also about my readers and the letters the send, love those, and reviews like this:

What beautiful, strange tale. It was so easy to read, to wish for more at the end. A wonderful 
world and full bodied characters, both human and not, make for a story that will make your 
heart ache. And the emotions portrayed, love, hate, compassion and greed, all are real to read. 
Do yourself a favour and read this book. It won’t let you down!
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting!
ByKindle Customeron February 1, 2018
What a fabulous paranormal story! It is even a clean romance. Lizbet can talk to
animals, but who would believe her? Her boyfriend Declan certainly wouldn't, he 
doesn't believe in anything he can't see and touch, anything nonscientific. But now 
Declan's wealthy grandfather has been horribly murdered, and Declan may be next!

By the way, this is Melange's latest review and Melange is free today, but not 
Sadly, I can't completely ignore the numbers because I need them. The more books I 
sell, the more advertising I can play with, and the more advertising I can play with, the 
more books I sell.

But just like I can't compulsively step on the scale and let the numbers dictate my 
happiness, I can't continually watch my sales reports or author ranking and let those 
numbers determine my worth as a writer. It's just like the grade on the report card 
doesn't truly measure the knowledge we gained, but it does have a correlate to our 
getting into a good grad school which will enable us to learn even more.

So, my advice to myself (and to those who have read this far) let the numbers go. 
Use them as a tool as needed, but not as a happiness measuring stick.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Five Rules for Productive and Happy Writers

1. Don't fight. 
This is pretty basic, but it’s important to remember. If you’re like me, the perfect retort to a rude comment isn’t always at my tongue’s tip at the encounter. If you’re fuming and rummaging through your head trying to formulate the perfect stinging comeback, you won’t be in tune with your story It’s impossible, for me at least, to feel in sync with my characters if I’m too busy mentally constructing closing arguments. I’m not advocating being a pansy, I’m just saying learn to be a peacemaker. It’ll help you be not only a better writer but also a nicer person.

2. Have a leisurely morning routine. Sleep experts suggest that no one should make important decisions until they've been awake for 90 minutes. By allowing yourself time to exercise, shower and dress, and have a satisfying breakfast, you not only refuel and recharge for the day, you may also prevent yourself from writing your characters up a tree.

3. Take care of your body and listen to it as intently as you would a lover. Eat healthy food. Exercise. Bathe. Get proper rest. If you're writing for hours on end, make sure you periodically get up, move around, and drink water. You can read more about that here:  How to clear brain fuzz.

4. Don't let anyone or anything knock your blocks down. What do I mean by that? Organize your day into blocks of time and dedicate yourself to the hours you've committed to your writing. Be passionate and fiercely protective. Because writers typically work from home in their pajamas, it's easy for others to feel that you are there to be interrupted. But remember, you (and your writing) will only get the respect you expect.

5. Listen to your gut instinct. When I’m writing and I come to a plot point—occasionally I stop and ask myself how does this make me feel? If my plot twist sits well, I carry on. But sometimes it just doesn’t “feel” right. I can’t explain it any better than that. There is a literal physical ‘tingling’ when I recognize a good idea and, conversely, there is a physical ‘argh’ when I know something is just ….whatever it is….cliche…predictable…stereotypical…stupid.

There are many names for that feeling—gut reaction, muse, inner critic, spirit—but whatever name you choose to give to your inner voice, I really believe that its quiet tutoring is the difference between an argh and a tingle. The trick is to recognize, listen, and then try to capture it on paper (or the computer screen.)

And learning to listen your gut is a trick that will not only serve you well in your writing career, but in your life in general. (You can read more about that here and here.)

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Promo for the Library

USA Today bestselling author Kristy Tate will guide the class through an interactive plot-building workshop. By focusing on characterization, world-building, and the classic three-act story structure, Kristy demonstrates how to turn ideas into riveting stories. The 90 minute workshop is a hands-on learning experience where every class member is encouraged to participate. There will also be a question and answer period where Kristy, a hybrid author—meaning that she is both indie and traditionally published—can answer questions about the rapidly changing nature of today’s exciting publishing world. 

Kristy Tate is also the former president of Orange County Fictionaires, Orange County's premiere writing organization whose members and alumni include National Book Award winner, Neal Shusterman and notables such as Elizabeth George, and T. Jefferson Parker. Kristy is both indie and traditionally published and has sold more than 100,000 books and given away many, many more. 
She studied English literature at Brigham Young University and at BYU's international center in London. She's the mother of six children and one scruffy Schnauzer, a popular public speaker, a former president of a women's charitable organization, and is an international Amazon bestselling author with a passion for reading.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Some Thoughts on the First Grandfather Clock and my book, Canterbury Clock

In the mid-1800s, a large clock stood in the lobby of the George hotel in Piercebridge, England. The Jenkins brothers, both bachelors, managed the hotel and took great pride in their clock’s unusual accuracy. But sadly, when one of the brothers died, the clock began to fail.
At first, it was only a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but by the time the last clocksmith tried to repair it, the clock was losing more than an hour each day. The news of the clock’s incurable time lapse became as noteworthy as its unusual precision had been. But when the surviving brother died at the age of ninety, the clock was silenced forever and couldn't be revived.
The new manager of the hotel never attempted to have it repaired. He just left it standing in a sunlit corner of the lobby, its hands resting in the position they assumed the moment the last Jenkins brother died.
About 1875, an American songwriter named Henry Work happened to be staying at the George Hotel. When he learned the story of the old clock he composed a song about the fascinating coincidence that the clock stopped the moment its elderly owner passed away. Henry came back to America and published the lyrics that sold over a million copies.
Some believe that all objects, alive or inanimate, have a spirit. This is most easily detected in a home or a place. Some are filled with energy, some carry a sense of peace, some are dark, others sleepy. Learning how to read the spirit in a room or a person is the first step in learning what makes someone or something tick.
In my book, Canterbury Clock, there's a clock that only ticks when Chad and Darby are together. And it's great for them to have this confirmation that they're meant to be. But life isn't like that.

At times, when faced with a big scary decision, I wish that there was someone to tell me the right or wrong, but really--where's the adventure in that? Because I write romances, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing there's a Mr. Right, or a Mrs. Wrong...but there's not. There are just people. And sometimes a person is right forever and sometimes a person is just right for right now. 
There's a lesson to be learned, a step to be taken, a path that's either easier, harder, steeper, impassable, whatever with or without someone by your side. Those lessons are the adventure. And if you're able to share them with someone you love, you're blessed.
Canterbury Clock is finished, but I'm still trying to decide what to do with it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

When You're in Pain

I hope everyone is enjoying their Martin Luther King birthday more than me. I've had a hard few days. But I've learned a few things that I thought I'd share.

First, this is what happened. On Thursday at 11:30, I was feeling fine, eating an orange and a piece of cheese, and working on my book. Around noon, I started feeling unwell. Because I thought it was gas, I took some Tums and decided that I'd feel better if I moved around so I headed for the store to buy Gigi's birthday present. (It was her birthday) I drove about two miles, by this time the pain was so intense, I had to pull over and vomit. I drove home. Vomited three more times and concluded I must have appendicitis. Larry came home and took me to the emergency room where they learned through a cat scan that I had an ovarian cyst. 

They scheduled surgery for the next day. Despite heavy sedation, the pain was incredible. At one point, I thought I was having a heart attack. They later concluded it was a panic attack--but it felt very real and I feared for my life. This is when things got interesting. At this point where I literally felt like I was dying from pain, I heard my own voice--completely disembodied--speaking to me and trying to calm me down. It's hard to explain, but it was my own voice but disengaged from my poor body. Shortly after this, I was taken into surgery.

They discovered a nine centimeter ovarian cyst wrapped around my fallopian tube. The cyst and ovary were both removed, leaving me with three small incisions. The intense pain is gone, but I still feel as if my belly was sliced open--because it was. This is something of a conundrum, since I have to eat to take the pain meds, but I'm way more interested in the meds than I am in food.

I'm glad to be home. This was my first hospital stay where I wasn't in a maternity ward and despite the lovely nurses and my nice room, I pretty much hated it. The first night I was very drugged and I had my room to myself, but the second night I had a snoring roommate who also pooped on the floor. Somewhere down the hall a man screamed in pain for hours. I have a new compassion for people who are regular hospital goers, for those who work in them, and for those who live with daily pain. As I later walked the hospital halls, (a prerequisite of going home) all I could think was I don't belong here. Larry brought me home on my birthday after attending his cousin's funeral.

Yesterday, Sunday, we celebrated my birthday. And it was oh so nice to be at home surrounded by people I love. I probably have another week, or two, before I can move without pain. I have a lot of books to read. 

I have a book coming out tomorrow. It's been on preorder, meaning I can't change its release date, which is concerning since this means several people have already purchased it and I meant to read it one final time before it's release. Shirley is doing this for me, but still its not as if I'm doing the read through myself. And at this drug-hazy time of my life, I trust Shirley (and really anyone) more than I trust myself....You can purchase Rewriting Rita on Amazon. If you find mistakes, please let me know.

Other than my incisions, my desire for meds, and repugnance for food, life is good, although I have a lot of faith that it will get much better soon.