Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Good, The Bad, & the Meh.

It's Quiz Time, friends! Please Choose the Correct Response:

a) You should never read your reviews! (Did I stutter? N-O)
b) You should read all of your reviews! (Even the horrible reviews because crying builds character!)
c) Pay someone else to read your reviews! (There's got to be some schmuck that needs the money, right?)
d) Pretend they don't exist. (While you're at it, pretend you're a UNICORN! Ooh, so sparkly!)

Let's be honest, I have no idea which is the correct answer. However, I'm not coming to writing from I-live-in-my-mother's-basement-and-I-sleep-on-Star-Wars-sheets. I've been out in the big, bad world and plenty of strangers have walked into my classroom and expressed their opinions about what I do well, badly, very badly, or not at all. I'm used to it. I can deal.

That's not the case with every writer. Below are a few examples of actual reviews. How you deal with them will define how you interact with your public:
  • It's not enough like the original.
  • It's too much like the original.
  • I didn't connect with the characters.
  • I didn't like the characters.
  • I HATE love triangles!

How should you respond? Generally, it's best to be as gracious as you can, suck it up when you have to, and leave it alone if it's truly negative or hateful. If the issue is really important, use your blog/website to address it and open a positive dialogue. (Like that last one. It totally needs a rebuttal!) But NO RANTING. We are professionals. Ranting makes you look like a no-good crazy person.  Does anybody want to be that guy? Above all, remember that even if they're bad reviews, they're from people who READ your book! That's a compliment in itself.

That being said, people have primarily been complimentary about my little book. Even those who said some uncomplimentary things wound up saying they couldn't wait to see what I come up with next. I can live with that.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite reviews/excerpts from the Becoming Beauty Blog Tour:
Let it Be and Celebrate! Seriously, the picture KILLS me! And this blogger has a first hand view of life with a writer.
Enchanted by YA The review at the top is lovely! A perfect snippet for readers looking for something new, fun, and different. I adore that!
Lydia Thomas, Author Lydia is a gem!  Not only did her review lift my spirits, but she wasn't even part of my blog tour, she just heard about Becoming Beauty, picked up a copy, and posted her own review. How awesome is that? And Austenesque? I can handle that.
Getting Your Read On I love how she views the theme of transformation! As a writer, I meld my personal philosophies into the story without shoving them down anyone's throat. Happily, no one has responded negatively to that! Phew!
I Love to Read & Review Books One of the first reviews I received! I love the exuberance of the reviewer. That's what I want to elicit in readers.

Here's the takeaway from this kindergarten teacher turned writer: 
Listen to your reviewers, but don't freak out. (Just please don't listen to the crazy ranting ranters. They don't need any more encouragement.) If you notice any trends, that's either something you're awesome at or something you should work on. Acting on it will make you more skilled in your field. That's what happens when you genuinely let people in and allow yourself to grow as a writer. 

And hey, who knows when the AMAZING reviews will turn a crap day into sunshine. It's happened to me, and from complete strangers, no less. There is nothing more fantastic that opening up Amazon or Goodreads to find out you have another fantastic review. It's what we thrive on and good or not, it will keep readers coming our way.

* * *

Thanks for reading! Follow the embedded links above to learn how to deal with the dramas of being a writer or to read the full reviews on the writers' websites. Happy reading!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Miracle--Part III

Ta-da! The finale! Will they or won't they? Has Lydia's holiday luck run out? Seriously, those two monstrous boys are capable of anything...
The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins
Part 3

The boys were glued to The Grinch, giving Lydia exactly 104 minutes of semi-uninterrupted Me-Time. Typically those precious moments were spent cleaning, cooking, and caring for their home. Today Lydia was determined to spend them all on girlie primping. Locking the bathroom door to deter intruders, she proceeded to scrub every bit of her skin with perfumed soap and let the warm water rinse away the mommy stink. Today she would be a real girl, not the mommy-being with food stains on her clothes and her pockets full of Legos, miniature cars, and snot rags. 
She stepped into her closet, passing the piles of pajama pants and cozy T-shirts she preferred to the items in the back. She located a red sequined top with cap sleeves and a swooping neckline. She slipped it on, pleased to note that the fabric didn’t cling uncomfortably, but still accentuated her curves. Now for the pants. Happily, she had never succumbed to the universally unflattering mother jeans (those light-colored, high-waisted jeans that made everyone’s behind look enormous). Please let them fit! she mentally pleaded as she pulled on some wide-leg, dark-wash jeans with embellished back pockets.They were a bit snug, but still fit. Reaching past the endless line of Sketchers and fluffy slippers, she found a pair of sassy black boots with slim heels and slid them on. Glancing in the mirror, she was gratified to see the leggy woman she remembered staring back at her. Perhaps she'd hadn't had all the accompanying jiggly bits, but a girl couldn’t have everything.
Stepping back into the bathroom, she blow-dried her hair and popped in hot rollers. Carefully, she applied make-up, reaching for the seldom used eye-shadow, blush, and lip gloss in addition to the customary mascara she wore. She removed the rollers and tousled the auburn curls before pinning up the front and pulling a few out to spill around her face. Dangly cut-glass earrings completed the look. Finally finished, she gazed at her reflection. A real woman stared back at her, someone unconcerned with the worries of paying the bills, living on a budget, or foregoing fun in favor of providing for two unruly boys. She smiled at her gray-eyed reflection, glad to see that woman after so many years.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Apparently her 104 minutes were at an end. Sighing, she opened the door to ensure her offspring hadn’t maimed one another.

Mason arrived promptly at six. Lydia had rushed the boys through dinner and bundled them into warm coats and hats just in time. Though it had been unseasonably warm lately, the wind had picked up, resulting in a nasty chill in the air. Lydia reached for her long black coat and topped it with a bright red scarf, as she greeted him with a smile.
The boys were jumping around as usual, vying for Mason’s attention. He smiled down at them, asking about what they’d done that day.
“We got to watch The Grinch!”
“And we got you a present!”
They attempted to run one another over racing to the tree to retrieve the package.
“Thank you,” Mason said, inspecting the oddly wrapped gift, held together with too much tape.
“We wrapped it ourselves!” they exclaimed in unison. His eyes twinkled as he met Lydia’s gaze. Lydia just shrugged and smiled.
“Should I open it?” Mason asked. 
He was answered with a chorus of yeses and Jimmy blurting out, “You need it for tonight!  It’s a…” before Tommy smacked a hand over his mouth to muffle the last word. 
Mason ignored the ensuing scuffle and worked past the first layer of Scotch tape. The boys finally paused in the middle of their melee to watch Mason pull out a khaki green and blue checked scarf.  “Thank you, boys,” he said as he wrapped it around his neck. “It’s perfect for tonight.” The boys pelted him with hugs as he patted them on the back. 
When he disentangled himself, he turned to Lydia, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek and whisper, “Thank you,” in her ear, and, “By the way, you look gorgeous.” Lydia, slightly flustered by the nearness of him, had her wits about her enough to notice that the scarf brought out the green in his eyes. She had thought they were hazel before, but no, they were that bold green she’d only seen a couple of times in her life.
“Ready?” Mason asked them all. The boys shrieked in delight, running to the kitchen for the wrapped goody plates, Lydia hollering after them to be careful. 
“We can take my truck,” Mason offered as they made their way out the door. “It’s all warmed up.”
Lydia glanced at the sleek silver truck parked by the curb, “Are you sure?” she asked. “They’re likely to get something on the seats. You can never tell what exactly, but it’s sure to be sticky.”
Mason grinned as he lifted the boys into the back seat. “It’ll be fine,” he assured her. 
After the boys were safely buckled in, he opened the door for Lydia. She’d just been wondering how she’d could get into a truck in high-heeled boots when she felt his hand settle reassuringly on the small of her back. Gratefully, she stepped up and with a boost from Mason was soon tucked safely into the cab. 

The evening passed in a series of stops at neighbors’ homes, each consisting of the delivery of goodies (the boys arguing over whose turn it was to carry them), an exuberant rendition of Rudolph or Jingle Bells (more arguing about which to sing), the swapping of holiday well-wishes with the neighbors, and belted out versions of We Wish You a Merry Christmas as they made their way back to the warm truck. Lydia tried to ignore the interested looks with which her neighbors greeted Mason. She should have expected it, she supposed. They all knew her situation, and to show up unannounced with an attractive man in tow was asking for the gossip mill to begin grinding. She knew there would be countless inquiries about him later, but for now she tried to enjoy the novelty of spending Christmas Eve with someone pleasant. Having someone beside her as she carted the boys around the neighborhood, cheerfully joining in on the singing, and taking every opportunity to put his arm around her shoulders or waist when they weren’t separated by small wiggly bodies, was extremely pleasant. It almost felt like a date. Albeit a mommy date with two rambunctious boys as chaperons.
They delivered the last of the treats, sang a final Jingle Bells (Lydia thought she could go a whole year without hearing it again), and piled back into the truck.  
When they reached the house, Mason helped her out of the truck as he had done all night, insisting on opening her door and offering her his hand. She took it and kept her fingers wrapped around his even after she was safely on the ground. She smiled up into his green eyes and said, “Thank you for coming. It’s been a lovely evening.”
“My pleasure,” he said, smiling back at her as they walked to the porch hand-in-hand.
“Would you like to come in?” she asked when they reached the door.
“I’d love to, but I should probably go. I’ve got a bit of last minute shopping to do.”
She was about to say it was all right, that he’s already spent the better part of Christmas Eve with them, when a tussle from inside drew her attention. The boys had raced past them into the house, and as usual, were already fighting over something. She slipped past Mason to intervene before someone got hurt. She placed a hand on each boy’s shoulder, quickly separating them. They were still glaring at one another, when Jimmy--with his customary inability to focus on anything long enough to remain upset--looked up and said, “Look, Mommy, mistletoe!”
It had been Tommy who had insisted on the mistletoe. Lydia hadn’t hung it up for years, wondering what use they’d get out of it. But Tommy had heard about it in school, and when he’d found the sprig nestled in the bottom of one of the Christmas bins, had pleaded for her to pin it up.  Since then, the boys had been fascinated by it, stopping underneath it periodically and refusing to move until they were soundly smooched.  It was really kind of adorable.
“What’s going on?” Mason said, as he stepped up behind them.
“Oh,” Lydia said, pointing toward the greenery hanging above them, “Mistletoe.” With that, she grabbed one boy with each arm, loudly kissing them on the cheeks while Mason chuckled. The giggling boys returned her kisses tenfold, covering her face with smacky smooches.
“Can we open a present?” Tommy asked, shining-eyed, as Jimmy jumped up and down in anticipation.
“Just one,” she said, as they scampered off to the tree. “A little one!” she called after them. Mason remained by her side, watching the boys rattle the packages in search of the perfect one. 
It was Jimmy who looked up, smiled his disarming missing-teeth smile and called out once again, “Mommy! Mistletoe!”
She and Mason both looked up to see the mistletoe hanging above them. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” the boys chanted while Lydia's cheeks burned.
Mason’s eyes crinkled at the corners as a cockeyed grin lit his face. “Let’s show them how this is done,” he said. Something snagged at the edge of Lydia’s memory, but she was unable to catch it as he deftly dipped her and covered her mouth with his. Her dream blossomed in her mind, and just as she had done then, she deepened the kiss. Sweet and passionate all at once, and just as had happened in her dream, she felt reality fall away until only the two of them remained, locked in one another’s  arms.
“J.M…” she murmured against his lips, amazed that she’d even remembered the name of the boy she’d shared the stage with so long ago, and then instantly mortified that she should utter it while kissing another man. Her eyes fluttered open to see two wide green eyes staring down at her. He lifted her to her feet. Flustered, she said quickly, “Oh, I’m so sorry…I didn’t mean…”
She expected him to be angry. She didn’t expect him to say, “No one’s called me that for a long time.”
“I said no one’s called me that in a long time. Since high school at least.”
Lydia braced herself against the wall, trying to keep her knees from buckling as everything clicked into place. The green eyes, the hair, darkened to a deep blonde, and that smile. She knew she’d recognized it. “You?” she asked, incredulous.
“I thought you remembered,” he said. “I certainly did, the first time you came to your door. I wondered why I’d been such an idiot to let you slip through my fingers all those years ago. Life just gives you another chance sometimes, I guess.” He smiled at her, reaching to brush an errant curl out of her eyes.
Still shocked, Lydia could only stare back at him.
At this point the boys rushed over, oblivious of what they were interrupting, and begged Mason to come look at their gifts. They grabbed his hands and pulled him toward the couch. Mason tossed an amused grin over his shoulder as he allowed himself to be dragged off.
Lydia leaned against the wall, taking in the scene. Her boys were scrambling excitedly onto Mason’s lap to show him their newly opened toys, and Mason was looking on with just as much youthful excitement in his eyes. The lines between past and present blurred for a moment. The tangy aroma of pine heavy in the air, mingled with the ever-present holiday spices, bringing to mind Christmases from long ago layered with recent holidays with the boys. From outside she heard the faint tinkling of far off bells, reminding her of yesteryear's sleigh rides and today's exuberant Jingle Bells renditions. Above her hung the sprig of mistletoe, as it always had in her childhood home, a bright spot of color in the middle of winter. 
The joy and hope of Christmas, something she thought she would never feel again, entered her heart. It was the reason she labored so hard this time of year, to try to recapture the peace and joy of the season. And as Mason glanced over his shoulder at her, his face alight with a happiness so familiar and yet so new, she knew that something precious had been restored to her.
It was her own little Christmas miracle.
* * *
Thanks so much for reading! I really enjoyed crafting this story and I'd love to hear with you think. Leave me a comment!

Here are the earlier posts of The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins: Part I, Part II. Happy holidays, my dears. May all you wishes come true...or at least you get to sleep in and watch Netflix once.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Miracle--Part II

Thanks for coming back! The holidays are approaching! And here I am, counting down the moments until I can truly celebrate (a.k.a. stay in bed until everyone forgets what I look like or I have to emerge for chocolate). Anyway, my dears, the story goes on!
Last time we left Lydia Perkins smack in the middle of holiday preparations with the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As Lydia struggles to keep the magic of Christmas alive, she may have a helper during the holidays.
The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins
Part 2

The next day, Lydia found herself elbow-deep in caramel corn. Tommy and Jimmy were happily patting their cooled corn into bulbous mounds, licking their palms periodically to remove excess caramel.  Ick, she thought, glad she only let the boys make their own holiday treats.  Goody plates were meant to spread holiday cheer, not runny noses or whatever boy cooties they were carrying. 
Lydia added the last carefully molded popcorn ball to the tray, automatically smacking a pudgy hand as it reached for one. “You’ve got your own,” she said, unaffected by the wounded look on Jimmy’s face as he rubbed his dimpled paw. “These are for the neighbors.”
She rinsed her hands at the sink before pulling out the colored plastic wrap and ribbon. “Would you like to help me wrap them up, boys?” she asked. They bounced about eagerly, grabbing sticky-fingered for the ribbon. “Hands clean first, please,” she reminded them, deftly scooting the ribbon out of reach just in time. The boys tumbled off the bench, squabbling about who got to wash first. Lydia had just started cutting lengths of ribbon when the doorbell rang.
“Tommy can you get the door?” she called, snipping the last ribbon while the boys raced off.
“Mommy, come quick!” Jimmy hollered excitedly. Lydia carefully set down the scissors and went to investigate.
Jimmy was bouncing up and down, and Tommy was holding the door open proudly, a Christmas tree filling the doorway. “What in the world?” she asked, bewilderedly.
A cheery, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” issued from the tree. The man from the day before peeked around it, greeting Lydia with a wide grin. “I hope it’s not too much,” he said quietly, “but I noticed you didn’t have one yet.”
She floundered for a moment, glancing down at the boys. They peered up at her with wide expectant eyes. How could she refuse?
“Thank you, it’s beautiful,” she said, helping him to ease it through the doorway.  “You really didn’t have to do this, though.”
“I wanted to say thank you for helping me out last night,” he said as he set it up in the spot she indicated. “It’s not Christmas without a real tree.” The boys were still dancing around, sniffing the piney aroma, and whispering to one another excitedly.
“Thank you. We’ve never had a real tree,” Lydia said, brushing the needled branches gently.  “It’s lovely.”
“My pleasure,” he said, his customary smile in place. There was something familiar in that smile, a long lost memory struggled to resurface, but couldn’t.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” the boys called, dragging her back to reality with their pleading. “Can we decorate it? Please! Please! Please! Please!
“All right, you may bring out the ornaments, but be careful with the boxes.”
The two boys grabbed the man’s hands, yanking him along with them.  “You can help us,” Tommy said. 
“I get to put the star on top!” Jimmy proclaimed as they hurried to the bedroom closet. The man glanced back at Lydia, amusement painting his features. Typically, it might make her nervous to let her children run off with a perfect stranger, but something about him put her at ease.  And really, those two rapscallions were more of danger to him.
“I find it easier not to argue,” she whispered loudly.
A few minutes later they emerged from the bedroom, each carrying a large plastic bin. The boys had theirs open in a moment, oohing and awwwing over the contents. The man came to stand beside her and watch them trim the tree. 
“They really are nice boys,” he said approvingly.
“Yes, they are. They have just enough sweetness to keep me sane and just enough naughtiness to keep life interesting.” She reached to tousled Jimmy’s hair lovingly as she said it.  “Which reminds me, I haven’t even introduced them to you. This is Jimmy,” she patted him on the shoulder, “and that’s Tommy.”
“And that’s Mommy,” Jimmy chimed in, flashing his gap-toothed smile.
“Lydia, actually,” she amended, “Lydia Perkins.”
“Pleased to meet you,” he said, shaking her hand.  “I’m Mason Peters.”
“You gonna help?” Jimmy interrupted, yanking on Mason’s jacket.
“Sure, what do you want me to do?” he said, crouching down to talk to the boys.
Jimmy thrust a misshapen reindeer into his hands. “Put this on, I made it in preschool.”
Lydia chuckled quietly as Mason helped the boys. “I’m going to make some hot chocolate while you boys work on the tree.”
“Need any help?” Mason inquired politely.
“What you’re doing is more than enough,” she replied. 
As she turned to leave, Tommy handed Mason a packet of lights. “You can do the lights. Daddies are supposed to do the lights.”
Lydia froze in her tracks when she heard Mason reply, “Then won’t your daddy want to do them?”
Her stomach twisted with apprehension and she glanced over her shoulder. Tommy just shrugged and said matter-of-factly, “We don’t have a daddy.”
Mason met her gaze, a mixture of pity and understanding in his eyes as he said, “Then I’d be glad to do the lights.” 
Quickly, she turned away and hurried off to the kitchen to hide her flushed cheeks.
What will he think? She busied herself with assembling a tray of treats and gourmet hot chocolate so she wouldn’t have to think about it too much and hoped her flaming cheeks would return to normal by the time she finished. She was just grating chocolate over the frothy cream-topped mugs when Mason stepped into the kitchen.
“Anything I can do?”
“I’m just finishing up,” she replied, throwing the used utensils in the sink and stowing away the ingredients.
“So…” he said, leaning against the counter as she cleaned up. “There’s no Mr. Perkins?”
Lydia placed the milk in the fridge before responding simply, “Nope. It’s just us.”
“I don’t mean to pry,” he said, handing her the hot chocolate mix to put away, “But what happened? You seem like such a close family.”
Here it comes, Lydia thought warily, the what’s-wrong-with-you interrogation. Everyone wanted to know what she’d done to deserve this, raising two boys with no husband in sight. Directness was the only way to head off a full inquiry. “He just left. Tommy was two and I was pregnant with Jimmy. He never came back.”
“That must have been hard,” he said, his tone sympathetic.
“We manage,” she said. “Like any other family we have our good days and our bad days.”
“You’re obviously doing something right,” he said, glancing toward the living room. “Those are two great boys out there.”
“Ooh!” Lydia said, remembering the hot chocolate, “and they’re probably waiting for their treats!”  She handed Mason two mugs and carried the remaining two and the tray of treats out to the boys.
“Anybody for hot chocolate?” she asked, infusing her voice with as much cheer as she could. A chorus of “Me! Me! Me!” rang back to her. After settling the boys on the floor, she handed them each a mug and a cookie.
They were all munching away happily, admiring the newly decorated tree and sipping their cocoa, when Tommy asked, “Mommy, when are we taking the treats to the neighbors?”
“Tomorrow night, honey,” she replied.
Jimmy, snuggling up to Mason said, “We get to sing! Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells! Jingle all the way!”  He wiggled about as he sang, nearly splashing hot chocolate all over Mason’s slacks.  A quelling look from Lydia calmed him, but didn’t stop him from asking Mason, “You wanna come?”
“It’s Christmas Eve, sweety, I’m sure he’s got other plans,” Lydia said.
“Actually, I’m free,” Mason said, “But I don’t want to intrude on your family tradition.” 
“You’re welcome to come if you’d like,” Lydia assured him, secretly pleased with the idea.  “I’ll warn you that it’ll be chilly and the boys only know Jingle Bells and the first part of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  This immediately sent the boys into an off-key rendition of Rudolph.
Mason chuckled, “Sounds great.”
* * *
As always, thanks for dropping in! And here's Part 1, where Lydia and Mason meet for the first time. Relive the magic! Happy holidays, my dears! Here's the conclusion! Part 3

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins

So, I'm working on Book Two (a.k.a Twelve) but in the meantime, here's a little something fun I wrote for the holidays.  Meet Lydia, a single mom who's doing her best to keep the Christmas magic alive for her two boys. Don't worry, there will be romance!
The Christmas Miracle of Lydia Perkins
Part 1

Lydia wiped a blob of goo off her cheek. Every girl knew cookie dough was delicious, but cookie dough stuck to your face?  Not so much. 
Time to get a new mixer, she mentally noted, one that won’t flip food all over the place. A second thought trailed after the first one, But how can we ever afford that? She’d barely paid the mortgage this month, and had already maxed out the credit card on gifts for the boys. Whatever. She could pay it off.  Probably. By next Christmas.
“Mommmyyyyy!!!!” Her youngest son screeched to a halt behind her, yanking on her apron strings to get her attention. As if the yelling wasn’t enough. 
She turned to him, squatting down to look him in the eyes, “What is it, Jimmy?” 
“He said he’s going to kill me!” If this line had been uttered by someone else, someone without a cowlick and two front teeth missing, it might have caused more of a dramatic reaction. Jimmy never captured the right amount of tragedy, no matter how he tried. And he did try. “He said he’ll push me out the window!”
Lydia gave him a look, that special look that convinced children their mothers really did have eyes in the backs of their heads. “And what did you do?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I was just playing with my toys…” His little boy mouth pulled down at the corners.
Her eyes narrowed, intensifying the Mother Look. 
After squirming for a second, he cracked. “Well…he took my G.I. Joe, so I threw a Lego at him.  I didn’t mean to hit him in the head…”  His round hazel eyes showed genuine regret.
“What’s the rule about throwing toys?” she grilled him.
“Don’t throw toys,” he replied flatly.
“Correct. Now, you have a choice, you may play quietly with your toys and be respectful to your brother or you may go to timeout and miss dessert.”
“But mommmyyyyy…” he stretched the word out until it was practically unrecognizable, little more than a whine.  She’d thought it was so adorable the first time he’d lisped it in his baby voice.  Now she wasn’t so sure.
“Make your choice, Jimmy,” she said, holding up one finger.
“I’ll be nice,” he said, sighing and turning away.
“Tell your brother he can be nice too, or no cookies!” she called after his retreating form as she stood back up. She heard the resulting tussle as she turned back to her cookie dough. Mom said be nice or you don’t get any cookies,” Jimmy said smugly. Sighing again, she flipped the mixer up to full speed to drown them out. They wouldn’t really kill one another.
After a minute, she scraped down the sides of the bowl and folded in the chocolate chips. The day had started out so nicely too. These days, dreams were a single mom’s only escape. And last night’s had been a doozy. She’d found herself back in high school—in her size 8 high school body, no less—and on the same stage where she’d performed in numerous musicals. Her co-star, a tasty blonde with bright green eyes, decided they needed to practice the kissing scene.  Dipping her tentatively, he pecked her quickly before pulling her upright again. 
“Unconvincing!” the Nazi-of-a-director called from the audience.  “Pretend like you like each other, for Pete’s sake!”  At this her partner had dipped her full Old Hollywood style, planting a firm kiss on her lips. Lydia, taken completely by surprise, was a bit shaky when he set her back on her feet. “That’s more like it!” the director yelled encouragingly, “Except not so wooden, Lyddie! Again!”  
Her green-eyed partner looked straight into her eyes, smiling mischievously. “Let’s show them how this is done.” 
Lydia was prepared when the spin and dip came, this time pulling their bodies together to lean into his kiss.  It was meant to be a regular stage kiss, all glitz and no heart. Instead, the whole world blurred at the edges and dropped away as they melted into one another. Then, somewhere in the middle of that never-ending kiss she sensed a strange dampness on her cheek…was he actually licking her?  Or worse, was she drooling?  Oh please, let it be anything but drool! 
It was at this point that her boys had burst into her room screaming bloody murder, and she woke to find the dog lapping affectionately at her face. Perfect.
A day that began like that warranted chocolate at the end, she rationalized, and dipped a finger into the dough to make sure she hadn’t forgotten any ingredients. Everything was accounted for, so she grabbed a spoon and began scooping balls onto trays and sliding them into the oven. She had just dusted off her hands when the doorbell rang. She made her way to the door, automatically admonishing the boys to play nice as she passed their room. Easing the door open, so as to not decapitate any stray action figures, she looked out onto the porch to see an unknown man.  She left the locked screen door in between them, just in case.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t mean to be a bother, but my truck stalled and my cell phone’s dead.  Could I borrow your phone?” Near-death scenarios flooded Lydia’s mind as she looked up at him, the most prominent of which was the classic single woman attacked by a wild man who carried her off and ravaged her in the woods. 
Probably an improvement on my love life
“Just a minute,” she said, leaving him standing on the porch, the screen door separating them as she searched the house for her purse.  “Are you boys okay?” she called down the hall. 
“Yes, mommy,” they chorused in their little boy voices, their tones beautifully innocent.
“Just keep playing in your room, please,” she instructed.  “The cookies will be out in a bit.”  She located her purse and after digging for a moment, pulled out her cell phone.  Unlocking and pushing open the screen door, she handed it to the man.
“Thanks,” he said, his lips curving up into a crooked half-grin. “I really am sorry about this, I feel like such an idiot.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” she replied. “Anything else you need?” 
“No, I’ll just call Triple A and get out of your hair.” He turned away, tapping numbers into the phone. He didn’t seem like the type to drag a girl into the forest to have his way with her.  More’s the pity, she thought, he’s rather cute, like a tall Bradley Cooper. She relocked the screen door, but with a sudden attack of conscience that she’d treated him like some sort of mass murderer/rapist, she ran to pull a batch of cookies from the oven and slide a few onto a plate. Hushed little boy voices drew her attention as she headed back to the porch. Their faces were smooshed against the screen door and they were whispering to one another as they peered out at the stranger on the porch.
“Jimmy, Tommy, didn’t I ask you to play in your room?” Her free hand perched on a hip.
“But who is he, mommy?” Tommy asked, his brown eyes wide.
“Someone in trouble,” she replied, moving him gently aside so she could slip out.  She flashed her boys the “stay put” look before turning to the man.  He clicked the phone shut and handed it back to her. She took it, offering him the plate of cookies with the other hand.
“You don’t have to do that,” he said, eying the cookies. “You’ve helped me out already.”
“It’s nothing,” she responded, holding the plate out again. “I know what it’s like to be stranded.” She waggled the cookies under his nose and added, “And they’re fresh from the oven.” 
“Well…all right,” he said, picking one up and taking a large bite, his eyes grew as wide as Tommy’s had been a moment ago. “Oh my gosh! These are amazing!” he said around a mouthful of cookie, crumbs falling as he spoke.
“Thanks,” she smiled, while the boys giggled behind her. How many times had she admonished them not to talk with their mouth full? And now, here was a full-grown male doing exactly that. No wonder they were amused.
“Boys,” she turned to them, pulling the serious look back onto her face, “You may go to the kitchen and get one cookie each.” The giggles faded as they raced off.
The man was reaching for the last cookie when she turned back.  “Cute boys,” he said, stuffing it into his mouth.
“They’re a handful,” she said shaking her head. “But usually they’re very sweet.” Just then they came scampering back, a cookie in each hand and one poking out of their mouths.  Lydia rolled her eyes, “See what I mean?” she said.
He snickered. “They have good taste.”
“So, did you get hold of Triple A?” she asked, recalling why he’d come in the first place.
“Yes, they’ll be here in a bit,” he said. “Thanks again, for everything.  I should probably go wait at the truck so I don’t miss them.”
“Wait a minute,” Lydia said, ducking back into the house, shooing the boys before her as she went.  She grabbed a plastic bag, scooped several more cookies into it, and zipped the top shut before hurrying back outside.  Holding it out, she said, “Take these. You’ll save me from dealing with too much sugar detox later,” she said jerking a thumb toward the miscreants still gaping at them behind the screen door.
“Thank you,” he said, smiling as he made his way down the steps. “Help and free cookies, it almost makes me want to break down more often.” She watched him for a moment, and then turned to enter the house, careful to bolt both doors behind her.
The boys looked owlishly up at her.  “Who was he, Mommy? Was that Daddy?” Tommy asked.
She shook her head sadly. “No baby, his car just broke down and he needed some help.” She patted him on the head consolingly. “Daddy’s gone, sweetie, and he’s not coming back.” Both boys hugged her around the legs, helping to ease the tight knot that had settled in her stomach when she thought about the past. 
* * *
Thanks for reading! You can read the rest of Christmas Miracle here: Part II, Part III. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Meet Your Adoring Public

On Blog tours, book clubs, author events, & holding down a day job!
Being an author and an educator isn't the easiest combination. I'll go out on a limb and say authoring and ANYTHING isn't an easy combination. If I thought I could pay my mortgage on writing alone, I'd jump on that train so fast the school would wonder what had happened. But, I'm a realist. Half of selling books--selling anything, really--is making a name for yourself. And that takes time. One of the stats I've heard was that a writer needs to publish at least 5 books before they start making money. Sound about right. And on the consumer side of things, people need to hear about something 7 times before purchasing. That's tricky. Hitting the sweet spot between keeping the public informed about your product (a book for instance) and annoying the hell out of everyone is really difficult.

That's why I want to take today to thank everyone who's been instrumental in doing just that. Since my book came out on November 11, life has been upside down. Not only did I have a three-week Blog Tour going on, but I also had Release Day (online promos), Launch Day (meet the public, sign and sell, feel like a Rock Star), another Author Event (making connections, sign and sell), two on-site giveaways, an online giveaway, and the first of what I hope will be many Book Clubs.

And guess what? They all went amazingly well! I am overwhelmed by the love and support I've been shown this month. Friends, family, and acquaintances rallied around me to ensure success for Becoming Beauty. How does make you feel like a Rock Star? 
So, my dears, from this little author and her little book, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU. You are amazing! And any goodness that has come my way is due to you. Thanks, and please, keep spreading the word!

Thanks for dropping in, my lovelies! And if you haven't had a chance to check out Becoming Beauty, it's a sweet, clean, slightly snarky fairytale retelling that would make a wonderful holiday gift! It's available on:
And as a special holiday promotion, the Kindle version of Becoming Beauty will be on sale for 99 cents for a limited time (December 5-12). So, go nab your copy and keep making me look awesome!

Merry Christmas!

Do you have someone one in your life you loves romance?

Okay, be honest. It's you, right?

I won't judge. I'm pretty picky about books. If there isn't any smooching, I'm out. Because of that, my fairytale twist Becoming Beauty delivers on the smooching while staying clean enough for teens and mature preteens. And hey, who doesn't love that? (Okay, maybe the erotica crowd. But hey, hopefully the humor, sarcasm, and clean romance will be enough to keep them entertained too. Why knows?)

Here's my point, if you have someone in your life who adores romance, humor, and clever fairytale retellings, jump on the Becoming Beauty train! And let me tell you, it's the perfect time to do so, because Becoming Beauty is going on sale for a limited time. From December 5th-12th, Becoming Beauty on Kindle will be 99¢!
So, happy holidays, my dears! Now you can give the gift of love to someone you adore! And what do you have to lose? Well, a dollar, I guess.  But seriously, why are you still here?