Monday Mayhem – A Veteran’s Day short story

Veteran’s Day

Today, many offices are closed in observance of Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d provide those lucky folks who get the day off a little reading material. Here’s a short story called SNAPSHOT that was published in the first episode of Fictionvale magazine.

Snapshot

I never told anyone I was the girl in the picture. There wasn’t any point. The kiss didn’t mean anything at all. He was just a fella cast adrift in the big city at a time when everyone wanted to hold their loved ones close. I was just the girl who was close at hand.

And I happened to be married at the time.

At least, I believed I was.

Sixteen months had passed since Joe ejected from his plane somewhere over France, and I had no idea if I’d ever get to kiss the man I loved again. The end of the war meant there was still a chance he’d come home to me. I hadn’t given up hope, but I had given up kissing for the duration.

Until that day.

I never forgot that stranger’s kiss. How could I? It was near perfection. The only thing that could have made it better was if the guy had turned out to be Joe. Either way, the man had some chops. I can still feel the scrape of five o’clock shadow against my chin and cheek and taste the whiskey on his lips. But it wasn’t sexual or even romantic. That brief, hard press of his mouth to mine was nothing more than a punctuation mark on a war that had seemed like it might turn into a life sentence. A potent cocktail of relief, jubilation, and frustration served up by a pair of warm, soft lips.

It was just what I needed to remind me that I was still alive.

That brave, crazy, possibly drunk man gave me a taste of light in the days when the darkness felt so thick and heavy I thought it might smother me. I was grateful for it at the time. I didn’t know that kiss had the power to change my life forever if I let it.

To be truthful, I didn’t appreciate the notoriety. Unlike these kids today with their computer videos and their need to expose themselves and their dirty laundry on television shows, I had no desire to have fifteen minutes of fame. I only wanted my husband back. The photograph caused a hubbub when it was first published, but most of us didn’t give it another thought. We had bigger worries. I saw it and knew right away it was me, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I remember one of my fellow nurses going on and on about how romantic it was, and how she wanted to be kissed like that. I also remember feeling a little smug that I could say I’d been kissed like that, but I didn’t say it out loud. It seemed silly to gloat over a kiss. And there were more important things to do than moon over a foolish picture.

It wasn’t until years later that people started calling it “iconic.” I’ve always thought it was embarrassing. After all, I was a married woman, and there I was kissing some strange man in the middle of the street. As good as that smooch was, my mother would have said it was unseemly, and she’d have been right. I’d only kissed one other man before that day, and God willing, I’d kiss the same one again.

Like most people at that time, I lived in fear of the Western Union delivery boy. Thank goodness my neighbor, Jackie, was nearby the day the telegram telling me Joe was missing arrived. I’ll never forget her hugging me tight and telling me the only thing missingand killedhad in common was a single I. I clung to that shoestring of hope long after the Western Union boy pedaled away.

Later, I told Joe that semantics kept me sane. Semantics and pure, blind pigheadedness. I was not about to accept anything less than the life I’d planned to have, and I’d vowed to spend my life with him. Until someone told me that wasn’t possible, I was sticking by my word. Joe used to tease me about my stubborn streak, but I liked to tell him it was my stubborn streak that brought him home.

And it did.

Sort of.

I sent a six-foot-two-inch Colgate football player off to war, but the man who returned to me was barely more than a shadow turned sideways. I told myself it didn’t matter. Joe was home. He was safe. He’d gain the weight back. The toes he’d lost to frostbite were a small price to pay. He would heal. Eventually. But being on American soil wasn’t anything like coming home.

The world had changed. I was very different from the naive young bride he’d left shivering on the railway platform. I’d swapped apartments with another nurse because her husband came home and she needed more room, while I, on the other hand, had far too much space for my own good. I’d lost weight while he was gone, though it wasn’t nearly as extreme as Joe’s loss of bulk. Still, by the time he made it home, the letterman’s sweater he’d left behind had patches where my elbows wore holes through the wool. But those things were easy to fix. The hard part was healing the wounds no amount of home cooking could soothe. Joe had seen and done things that left scars that ran far deeper than the marks on his skin, and I hadn’t the faintest idea how to piece our lives back together.

I fed him and coddled him, using every bit of my famous stubbornness to hold on tight until he began to rebound in both body and mind. Like many women of my generation, I set aside my own ambitions and willingly handed the reins of our life back over to him. Day in and day out, I plumped his battered ego and massaged away his fears and worries. And I can honestly tell you I never gave that picture or the man in it a second thought.

Little by little, bit by bit, my Joe came back to me, complete with the slow, shy smile that made my heart turn somersaults. There’s no way to describe the pride and joy I felt when I watched him emerge from the shadow of death and stride right back into life like the conquering hero he was. There was also no way I’d risk shattering his fragile confidence. Not when we’d both worked so hard to rebuild it.

How could I tell my proud, quiet man that the woman he loved had made a fool of him on a national stage?

We were at a cocktail party the first time someone said I looked like the woman in the magazine. I remember feeling blindsided. My life was so different from the way things had been that day in Times Square it was hard for me to put two and two together. I remember I wore my hair up for the party even though Joe liked it down. I was nervous and anxious about making a good impression on his colleagues. My dress happened to be white. The man who’d made the observation let his eyes linger a too long on my hemline. I felt my husband stiffen beside me.

I laughed it off, telling the small knot of Joe’s curious coworkers that the guy I liked to kiss was a soldier and not a sailor. To my relief, Joe laughed too. Pride and admiration shone bright in his dark eyes as he slipped his arm around my waist and gave me a gentle squeeze.

He could never know. I’d make sure of it.

If you haven’t figured me out yet, I’ll clue you in on a secret—I’m a woman who always gets what she wants. I never said a word about the picture. In all honesty, I rarely ever thought about it. I didn’t have time. A year after his return, I was pregnant with our first child and feeling miserable twenty-three hours out of the day. Joe had landed a job with a life insurance company and was working his way up the ladder. We’d moved out to the suburbs.

Despite the rocky start, we had a very good life. Our three boys ran wild on a street where it was safe for them to ride their bicycles and play catch. I’m happy to say they grew into men as honorable and true as their father, even if my youngest did turn out to be a bit of a hippie. Joe mowed the lawn on Saturday mornings and took the trash to the curb on Tuesday evenings. I finally learned to cook something other than pot roast, and I volunteered two days a week at the Veterans’ Administration hospital. It was a perfectly ordinary, terribly predictable existence, which was just fine by us.

Every few years, some yahoos with a little grant money and too much time on their hands start waving that silly picture around and spouting cockamamy theories as to the identities of the kisser and the kissee. They make the talk show circuit, and a  passel of old guys and gals crawl out of the woodwork claiming they might be the ones the photographer captured in that clinch. I have no idea if one of the fellas might actually be the one who kissed me. I never wasted much time thinking about it. In truth, I couldn’t care less.

Joe and I shared thirty-seven more years before cancer took him from me far too soon. Day after day, I held his hand in mine as that horrid disease waged war on his body, but each time he opened his eyes, he somehow found the strength to give me a smile.

The night he died, I sat in that darkened hospital room with his gnarled fingers snug between mine. The whir and beep of machines measured our last moments together. His breaths grew impossibly shallow while my heart beat strong and relentless. His foot moved beneath the thin sheet. He turned his head and spoke his last request of me, tender and sweet.

“Kiss me.”

So I did. Desperate to mingle his last breaths with mine, I kissed the man I loved. Fat, hot tears streaked down my cheeks. They wet our lips and blessed his departure. The second I drew back, he slipped away from me, taking my heart with him.

That was the kiss that told the story of how the war was won. A simple brush of his lips against mine. A caress packed with the kind of innate goodness that can be never be thwarted by power-hungry madmen or even cancer.

If you ask me, that was the kiss that counted.

I just wish there’d been a photographer around to capture it.

Share

Monday Mayhem – Back in the Saddle

I’m back in the saddle again!

Okay, maybe not actually IN the saddle. I’ve never ridden a horse. In truth, I’m a little afraid to get up close and personal with them, though I love them from afar. We have a number of miniature horses in the area and I check on them constantly…from my car. I love them and worry about them on days I don’t catch a glimpse.

Anyhoo, I digress. But that’s okay, because it’s November and in November digression is not only allowed, but encouraged. That’s right folks, it’s time for NaNoWriMo.

  • This is my 10th go at the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge.
  • I’ve managed to win bragging rights 9 times.
  • 8 of those manuscripts started during NaNoWriMo have been published.
  • 1 was shelved* even though I made it 67k words in. I couldn’t go on with that one because I just couldn’t get it to be what I wanted it to be. Maybe one day….

My NaNo projects have been:

  • Contentment – 2009
  • Commitment – 2010
  • Inamorata – 2011
  • Hot Nights in St. Blaise – 2012
  • Containment – 2013*
  • A Will and a Way – 2014
  • Love and Rockets – 2015
  • Easy Bake Lovin’ – 2016
  • Double Play – 2017

So you see why I need to round it out, right? 10 years, 10 wins.

Plus, I need the challenge. It’s been an okay writing year in terms of production, but not a great one. I’d like to finish strong.

I’m on track so far and will keep plugging away at it. Wish me luck!

Thank you to all who helped make the launch of DOUBLE PLAY such a success.

I appreciate your support and hope you are enjoying Avery and Dom’s story!

If you haven’t grabbed your copy, here are some handy-dandy links!

Amazon ~ Apple ~ Google PlayB&N ~ Kobo~ Audible

 

Share

Monday Mayhem – Last but not least…

At last!

Double Play is live at last! That’s right, it’s my turn to brag on myself. I know authors (like mothers) aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I really fell in love with Avery and Dom’s story.

It’s different.

It won’t be for everyone, and I am okay with that.

But I think it’s unique and sincere.

These are two people who were convinced they had everything just the way they liked it…until they discovered what they were missing. The problem is, as we get older, we’re all a little more resistant to change. These two are no exception.

I listened to the audio this weekend, and I have to say, Samantha Cook did a great job with the narration.

Here’s the scoop:

She knows what she wants, and how to get it
Avery Preston knows her mind. The Women’s Studies and Literature professor is the latest in a long line of feminist firebrands determined to break the mold at Wolcott University. When her biological clock tells her it’s time to bust a move, Avery does what she does best—she takes care of business all by herself. Or, so she thinks….

Dominic Mann is happy with his life just as it is
The widowed baseball coach is content and sees no point in changing his lineup this late in the game. Still, a man would have to be dead not to notice a live wire like Avery Preston. But a one night stand was all either of them wanted.

There’s only one complication

The clinic where Avery was inseminated has been hacked. Now, she not only knows who the father is, but she knowsthe father. In the biblical sense. Avery shows up on Dom’s doorstep with a bun in the oven, a bellyful of ethical righteousness, and the absolute conviction that she doesn’t need him, and soon, the two of them are caught in a rundown between their hearts and their heads.

DOUBLE PLAY is available now! Here are some handy-dandy links:

Amazon ~ Apple ~ Google PlayB&N ~ Kobo~ Audible

Thanks to all my pals who let me pimp them during this release month. Be sure to look for these fabulous October reads when you’re grabbing your copy of DOUBLE PLAY!

  

 

Share

Monday Mayhem – Giveaway!

Today we have a very special giveaway!

Stay tuned, we have a giveaway coming up! Maybe even…a double bonus giveaway!

As many of you know, a couple years ago Karen Booth and I started a group on Facebook for people who read and write romance featuring heroes and heroines who might have aged out of traditional romance publishing. We call the group Seasoned Romance, and we are over 1,600 member strong.

Natasha Moore was one of our earliest members and is now our co-moderator.  Her upcoming novel,  THE JULY GUY, has been selected as one of the debut titles for Entangled Publishing’ s new August line, featuring more mature characters! Yay!

Check this out:

The July Guy – The Men of Lakeside book 1 – Natasha Moore

They have an agreement, but he wants to renegotiate…

Art professor Anita Delgado spends eleven months of the year working. July is her month to cut loose, paint, and pick a guy to make the summer memorable. But this year she isn’t in a tropical location with an exotic man like she’d planned. She’s stuck in small-town USA dealing with a lake house she doesn’t want, inherited from a grandmother she never knew. A summer fling might be the only thing to get her through the next few weeks.

Salvage specialist Noah Colburn is running for mayor. If he doesn’t, an absolute idiot is going to ruin his beloved town. So he’s stepping up. It’s what he does—with his teenage daughters, with the family business, and now with Lakeside. But when the newest resident of the town asks him to renovate her grandmother’s house—and have a four-week fling —he’s tempted. Tempted to step out of the mold and take just one thing for himself. But the gossip mill in the town is notorious.

Anita’s learning it’s hard to have a fling when the town follows your every move, and it’s even harder when the July guy makes it clear one month is never going to be enough…

Whew! I can’t wait!

The July Guy releases on November 12th, and is part of the launch for Entangled’s new August imprint – romances with characters 35-50!) You can add it to your Goodreads shelf right now!  https://bit.ly/2R1viWa

WE HAVE ADVANCED READ COPIES!

Would you like a  early copy of THE JULY GUY? Comment below with your email address and we will pick two winners on Wednesday, October 24th!

And, as a special added bonus – I’ll throw in an ARC of DOUBLE PLAY!

And don’t forget that our other fabulous October releases are NOW AVAILABLE:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready? Set? Go!

 

Share

Monday Mayhem – Sunny day!

Regardless of the slightly soggy weather around here, it’s going to be Sunny days for me this week because Karen Booth’s SECRETS OF A (SOMEWHAT) SUNNY GIRL is out tomorrow!

Check this out:

As sisters, they tell each other all their secrets…except one.

With divorce and infidelity hanging from nearly every branch of her family tree, Katherine Fuller sees no point in marriage. Boyfriends? Sure. Sex? Of course. Wedding vows? No, thanks. Still, when her younger sister Amy gets engaged, Katherine gathers all the enthusiasm she can. She won’t let Amy down. She’s done enough of that for a lifetime.

As the sisters embark on wedding plans, Katherine’s college love resurfaces. It nearly killed Katherine to part from sexy Irish musician Eamon more than a decade ago, but falling under his spell a second time forces her to confront everything she hid from him. The secrets surrounding her mother’s death are still fresh and raw in her mind, but one has haunted her more than the others. She can’t bear to tell anyone, especially not Amy. It could ruin far more than a wedding. It could destroy a sister’s love forever.

Amazon ~ Apple ~ B&N ~ Kobo

Now, it’s no secret that I love Karen Booth and all she does, but I’m super happy to be able to share this book with you. I got a sneak peek, and there’s so much to love about Katherine and Eamon’s story.

So many good books in October!

I hope you’ve all got your copy of STEEPED IN LOVE by Julie Evelyn Joyce.

LONG DISTANCE LOVE is FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow. Grab a copy today!

Next week, we’ll be talking with Natasha Moore, whose upcoming release will launch of the August line from Entangled Press featuring seasoned characters.

And we are only 10 days away from the release of DOUBLE PLAY – can you believe it?

Amazon ~ Apple ~ Google PlayB&N ~ Kobo ~ Audible

Oh! And I’m signing LOVE GAME at the Barnes & Noble in North Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 12-3PM!

Share

Monday Mayhem – Immortally yours

Yesterday morning, one of my best friends in the world sent me a text telling me that she was cleaning out her pen drawer and came across a piece of immortality:

 

Yes, that’s a pen with my parents’ names and home phone number on it.

Don’t fret, I’m not exposing them. They have both passed away, and that number is no longer in service. But it’s a nice piece of nostalgia on many levels. My mom’s birthday was on Saturday, so she was already on my mind. It’s a relic from a time when the telephone was our best means of instant connection with one another. And having these made was just soooooo quintessentially my father.

Bob Kidwell was here.

My dad loved having his name on things. Pens, pencils, notepads, calendars – wall and pocket versions. He loved putting our names on things. I still have a few #2 pencils emblazoned  with MARGARET MARY KIDWELL around here somewhere. He ordered them for me when I was in college. He knew I hated filling in those little circles, and I suppose he was afraid I’d forget my own name amidst the test anxiety.

When I showed the picture of the pen to Fodder, he commented that it was my dad’s bid at immorality. And I don’t think he’s far off the mark.

Twenty+ years later, they are still turning up in pen drawers.

He left behind seven children – five of them boys destined to carry on the family name – and enough custom-printed stationary items to last decades beyond his passing.

Way to go, Daddy!

Many authors have pens, notepads, and other swag imprinted with their name and brand. Other than the bookmarks I had printed once, but haven’t gone much beyond that. My books are my bid at immortality. I wrote them and put them out into the world. After I am gone, they will be like the pens my dad left behind.

Margaret Kidwell Ethridge (aka Maggie Wells) was here.

They may end up out of print, but there will likely be the random paper copy floating around a used book store or flea markets. Friends and total strangers will have a part of me embedded in Kindle libraries, on their hard drives, and tucked away in cloud storage systems. The pirated copies people upload and download illegally?  I may not get paid for them in my lifetime, but the internet is forever. I’m not inclined to thank those who steal my work and post it for their own gain, but they are helping to make me immortal as well.

Immortally yours, Margaret.

Share

Monday Mayhem – To Blog or Not to Blog

To blog, or not to blog, that is the question…

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. Or to continue spewing random words onto the interwebz every Monday, braving the slings and arrows of SEO optimized posts…

I go through this debate every fall as I start goal setting for the next year. The fact is, there are about 4-6 of you who comment on these post regularly, and 20-30 who actually click the link to read. Occasionally, I have a Monday where I hit 50+ views, but those are rare.

And the numbers haven’t been growing. Actually, they are slipping. So I have to wonder…

Is there a better use of my time(and yours)?

And the answer is, probably not. In truth, this blog is the only way I have of communicating with a wide, unrestricted audience.  We all know that social media site throttle posts so they don’t reach a broader audience – even those who have opted in. Since I’ve removed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone, I find myself looking at them less and less. I also think this is a growing trend, so ditching my blog for social media doesn’t makes sense.

Newsletter mailings rely on opting in, which is great, because we can assume that the audience wishes to receive them. The problem is, we all suffer inbox overload. I myself can be rather capricious when it comes to  randomly unsubscribing depending on how my day is going. And if someone sent me newsletters weekly, they would be a goner. Which means the blog is the best way to stay out in front of potential audience.

So here I am. I’m optimized baby. My readability scores are high. I use eye-catching images like this one to pique the interest:

But if the audience isn’t clicking the link, does potential reach matter?

These are the questions that plague me every week when I sit down to write my post. But in writing this post, I’ve managed to answer the big question for myself. So, let me ask you, lucky person who clicked because of the cute but slightly confused hamster, the more important question:

What kind of posts do you want to see going forward?

 

 

Share

Monday Mayhem – Pantser life

Yo-ho! Yo-ho! The pantser life for me!

Hey, gang! I’m back again this week, with a new/old trick. I’m reverting to my old pantser ways.

Reader say, “Wha?”

You see, the writing world is generally comprised of two types – plotters and pantsers. Plotters work out every detail of the book before they even open page one. Pantsers have an idea and run with it.

In other words, a pantser writes a story by the seat of their pants.

Most writers naturally gravitate to one style or the other. I started out as a pantser and continued that way for a number of books. But as my career progressed, I started selling books to publishers on proposal. Therefore, I needed to submit a detailed synopsis of each book I intended to write.

This is how I evolved into sort of a plantser – someone with a pretty sketched out outline of the book, but still winging it on a chapter by chapter basis.

But I am not currently under contract. I have no series to complete. I am, at the moment, free as a bird.

So what did I do?

I started writing a book I hadn’t even thought about until I opened my mouth Tuesday morning and a story started coming out.

One that hadn’t been hopping around in the plot bunny file. One I haven’t plotted, or even barely thought about. An idea popped into my head Monday night, and Tuesday, I started writing it.

This should be fun, huh?

In other news

Double Play is coming in October! Digital pre-order is available at all e-book retailers. The audio production is in progress, and should be ready for October 25, 2018 release.

Paperbacks will be available, They look fabulous, but I have to tell you, they are a little pricier than the usual mass market paperback. I wanted to produce them in the 4×7″ size to match the other two books, but there’s limited production availability for that trim size in print on demand.

ANNNND – I have declared 2019 the year of the backlist. As part of the celebration, I’ll be resurrecting some out of print friends – like Tracy & Sean from Contentment, Maggie & Tom from Commitment, and Lynne & Bram from Spring Chickens!

Whew! That’s what I have going on. What’s new with you?

 

 

Share

Monday Mayhem – Back to Reality

Summer fun vintage car

Back to life, back to reality

As of last week, I am back to reality-working full time.

Some writers would shudder as they read this sentence, but I am more than a little relieved. Turns out, I’m one of those people who needs stability and structure in her life in order to be creative.

It seems counterintuitive, I’m sure. Most writers dream of being unfettered. I know I did. But having unlimited time to write does not mean you’ll have unlimited creativity to back it up.

The truth about writers

Being a writer is not at ALL like you see on TV. Sorry to bust that myth, but that’s the truth of it.

Authors do not sell a book and become automatically rich. Some never make much money at all.

The reality is, few authors can survive solely on the income from advances and royalties. Most have other streams of income-teaching, content creation, graphic art creation, or another side hustles.

We also don’t hear about the people who may be underpinning this marker of perceived career success. Behind many a good author is a partner with a steady income and employer-based health insurance. But their names are not on the cover so…

The misconception that being able to ditch the 9 to 5 grind is a sign of authorial success endures.

This wasn’t my situation. My unemployment was never meant to be long-term. I didn’t toss a match as I walked away from the corporate world and expect to become the next Nora Roberts. I was downsized, and because I carried our employer-based health insurance, I needed another job as soon as possible.

Still, I thought I might be able to take better advantage of the situation. I was wrong. These months of uncertainty have been hard. I’ve written 40 books whilst employed full-time. I wrote exactly 3 chapters while unemployed.

Lessons learned:

  • I need structure and time constraints. I work well under pressure. Left to my own devices, I spend too much time communing with Netflix.
  • It’s difficult to write happy ever afters when worried about bills and health insurance.
  • I can make enough money to pay the bills, but not to pay my bills and maintain our coverage long-term. Having two self-employed persons in the household can get pretty spendy. Welcome to America 2018, where too much entrepreneurship is highly discouraged.

Summer fun vintage car

I don’t regret my summer of fun.

I relaxed as much as I could. Sally and I suntanned and napped.

Fodder got used to having lunch, because I am accustomed to eating on schedule.

But the reality is, I was ready to get back to work. Happy for life to settle into a pattern again. I like a good rut.

Soon, I’ll be ramping up for my 10th NaNoWriMo, and psyching myself up for crunch time.

How about you? Are you a creature of habit, or a go with the flow kind of person?

Share

Monday Mayhem – Slowing My Scroll

We have rolled into September. How did that happen? With the change of the calendar page, I decided to make a change of my own. I am slowing my scroll.

What does that mean? It means I have removed all my social media apps from my phone.

Gasp!

social media icons

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about breaking the social media habit for a while now. Facebook is great for keeping up with family and old friends, but the recent political climate has tainted the fun as far as I am concerned.

And Twitter… Oh, I have such a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I used to love it. There are some things I love still.

Every Sunday night, a bunch of romance writers have a weekly chat on a variety of topics. It’s been an excellent place to get to know other authors, and for us to share a little of the angst that comes with being a writer. And trust me, there’s a lot of angst.

But along with all that good stuff comes a sort of gang mentality. Twitter is very us against them. And the pile-on… It can get ugly.

True, social media has given each of us a platform. We can share our every thought, opinion, or memorable meal. But should we?

I agree, some of it is good and fun. However, I find much of it draining.  For that reason, I’ve been finding ways to limit my time using it.

Ironically, I learned about Scroll Free September from an article my niece shared. Still, I X’ing out of all those apps.

I’m mostly over my fear of missing out. Probably because I’m pretty sure I won’t be missing much that would do me any good. At least, nothing I need to know about while standing in line at Walgreen’s.

I can always take a look when I’m on the computer.

It’s a holiday!

So, happy Labor Day, my friends.

I hope this day of rest is the perfect reward for all of your hard work.

Put your phone down.

Go out and play.

If you need me, you can reach me the old fashioned way…maggiewells1@gmail.com

Share