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.

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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!

  

 

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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!

 

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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!

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Monday Mayhem – Ready to click that mouse?

Click! Click! Click!

October is a busy month in the book world. Therefore, I have exciting new releases to talk about EACH WEEK – including one from me at the very end! Is your finger limbered up and ready click?

First up:

STEEPED IN LOVE by Julie Evelyn Joyce

Yes! Jewels’ first full-length novel is about to be unleashed upon the reading world. I had the pleasure of browbeating encouraging her every step of the way.

Trust me, you’re going to love Addie and Ethan’s story. It’s quirky, funny, and heartfelt – the perfect antidote for these turbulent times!

Read more here:

Addie Mitchell is a pie-on-the-fly entrepreneur who’s finally ready to settle down in the big, empty house her late great-aunt Edna left to her. Frustrated with her lack of success in romance, Addie turns to another gift her great-aunt passed on to her—the art of reading tea leaves—to aid her in her search for the ideal mate. 

Novelist Ethan Holtz is having a hard time sinking his teeth into his next project, but he finds Addie fascinating. Mainly for her ability to make her dates disappear in fifteen minutes or less. He can’t help but eavesdrop on her dates in the local coffee shop, his writing haven, and soon finds himself taking pointers on what not to do from her failed suitors.

Though her methods seem nothing short of mad, he falls fast and hard for the pixie-haired pie-pusher. She thinks they’re all wrong for each other, but Ethan teams up with the tea leaves to prove they’re so right.

Click a link to pre-order now and have it delivered to you first thing Wednesday morning!
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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?

 

 

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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?

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Monday Mayhem – Mumble mumble

I don’t have much to say this week, so I’m just gonna mumble.

A RING FOR ROSIE came out last week. Thanks to all who bought it, tweeted or shared posts, and generally helped shout (not mumble) it to the world. I’m not good at tooting my own horn, and I am eternally grateful to have you as my horn section.

Finger puppet couple

I’m over the pinkeye and mostly over the technicolor bruising from my slip and fall down the steps. Frankly, I’m over feeling puny in general. I’m hoping that this week I can return to what passed for normal prior to my trip to Denver.

I did watch the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie on Netflix and enjoyed it very much. No, it’s not as detailed as the book, but I think they did a nice  job with it. A couple of the scenes had me grinning at the screen like the hopeful romantic I am.

Revisions on SUPERSTAR are coming along slowly. I added a bunch of additions to my plate, then in doing so, realized it was overkill. Now I am free-writing those parts and will pare them down to round out the story.

DOUBLE PLAY is set for release on October 25, 2018 and it looks like we are a go for simultaneous digital and audio release. Yay! I’m working on making a mass market sized print-on-demand version available for anyone who wants to special order it, but I have to tell you, being my own publisher is proving to have a steep learning curve.

And so, here I am, mumbling through. How are things going with you?

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Pinkeye

I brought back a souvenir from Denver – pinkeye!

I thought I’d share a pinkeye pictorial to show how my week has gone:

By Monday afternoon, I realized it wasn’t just an itchy contact lens, so it began.  Artificial tears, cool compresses, and this nifty improvised pirate patch. Yep.

No.

I woke up on Tuesday looking like prize fighter…

Off to the Urgent Care we went! One prescription for antibiotic drops later, we were home and armed with every Lysol product on the market.

Alas , by Wednesday, Lefty was a goner.

Thursday was more of the same, but by Friday, we saw progress! Less red, but it took a toll on the skin around my eyes. I look like I have a shiner or two.

By Saturday, I could see the whites of my eyes again! Hallelujah! Don’t shoot!

 

They are still itchy and not quite ‘right’, so I have not attempted a fresh pair of contact lenses yet. Hopefully in the next day or two, all will be back to normal.

Needless to say, eyedrops and icepacks have consumed my week. I did make it through two fabulous audiobooks by Christina Lauren (Love and Other Words and Dating You, Hating You) whilst lolling about being sad and pathetic.

If you need audiobooks to listen to while you loll about, might I suggest LOVE GAME or PLAY FOR KEEPS? Now is a good time to catch up, as I have just sent a finalized version of DOUBLE PLAY to my audiobook publisher for production. Yay! Look for it in late October!

So, yeah, that kept me entertained this week. How has your week been?

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