An Excerpt

Tess Morgan expected the call, had been expecting it for the last ten years. For some reason, she thought it would be nighttime, the ringing of her phone ripping her from sleep. Instead, her phone buzzed on the corner of her desk in the middle of an ordinary Wednesday work day. She barely noticed it, wrapped up in prepping a laptop for the new hire. When it buzzed again—angry and insistent—she glanced at it.

Her mother, Marie’s, number lit the screen.

She wondered if other people got that stomach clenching burst of panic whenever their mother called. Or if it was only people who had heroin addicted brothers.

She answered, “Hey, Mom.”

As her mother’s words tumbled over her—Josh, hospital, overdose—she sat numbly at her desk.

“Is everything OK?” Rish, one of the IT staff who worked for her, asked softly. “Tess?”

“My brother’s dead.” Did she say the words or were they still in her head? Judging from the look on Rish’s face, she said them aloud. He stood suddenly and rushed toward her desk. They had been co-workers for four years. In all the time she knew him, he never panicked. Not when the department was inundated with calls. Not when the CEO sent a virus to everyone in his contacts list. Not even when his wife called him in the middle of his lunch to tell him she had gone into labor. But, now, he panicked.

Rish said something, his words distant and foggy. He grabbed at her desk phone, punched in numbers. “Laura, it’s Rish. Something happened to Tess’s brother.” He hung up the phone. Said to Tess, “Laura’s on her way.”

Laura DeWitt, her best friend and an accountant at the marketing firm where they both worked. Yes, calling Laura was a good idea. She would know what to do. Because in that moment Tess couldn’t do anything more than sit in her chair and blink.

She stared at Rish while he asked her questions, but the words couldn’t penetrate her numb brain. He wanted something from her. Think, she tried to order herself. You’re scaring him.

The part of her that worried about everyone else leapt to life. He needed an affirmation she was OK. She nodded. Rish handed her a bottle of water. Oh. He just wanted to know if she was thirsty. Opening the bottle, taking a long sip, it gave her something to do instead of stare.

Laura burst into the room. Her office was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Her chest heaved as she took in sharp inhalations. She ran here, Tess realized.

Laura never ran. She liked swimming. Was captain of the swim team in high school two years in a row. She was the one who made Tess join when they were freshman so they could get out of taking PE.

“Tess? It’s fine, Rish, can you give us a minute?” Rish took the opportunity for escape and barreled out of the room. Laura dropped down next to Tess’s chair. Her corkscrew curls surrounded her face in a springy deep brown halo. Her rich ochre face, usually bright and dewy, was tense and lined.

She had on a new lip color. A matte purple that only Laura would be adventurous enough to try. Tess couldn’t remember the last time she wore make-up. Was it a date with Dale? Oh no. She had to tell Dale. They hadn’t even been together for six months. It was worse than figuring out what to get someone for Christmas when you were newly dating. To tell him her brother died or not tell him.

Said something about her relationship if her first instinct was to not call him.

Back to Laura’s purple lips. They moved while she talked to Tess, but she couldn’t understand the words. It was a pretty color. Maybe she should wear more lipstick.

You’re distracting yourself so you don’t have to think, her brain told her right before it went fuzzy. It’s a survival instinct.

Laura took the phone Tess hadn’t realized she clenched in her hand and set it on the desk. No more distractions. She asked, gently, “What happened?”

Josh and Tess, the Morgan twins. Did you keep your twin status after your other half died? Was she still a Morgan twin?

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Running

A cool summer evening. Boys asleep. Husband watching a true crime documentary on Netflix. Perfect time for a run.

I got my running gear on, tucked my hair in a bun on top of my head, and went to the door.

“You got everything you need?” Husband asked.

I looked down at the pepper spray in one hand, cell phone in the other. “Yes. I’ll only be a half hour. Love you.”

And off I ran.

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This is the world and the reality we live in. No ponytails because it gives a potential attacker something to grab onto as you run away. Run with pepper spray. Give someone your exact route even though you are running in your small suburban community because YOU NEVER KNOW.

 

Thoughts on Motherhood

What is what you were to expect isn’t at all what happened when you were expecting?

My twins were born via c-section. I was a little drugged up, a whole lot nauseated, and after they were born, I spent a good twenty minutes getting my insides put back IN my inside. Then, we were whisked off to our recovery room and still, I didn’t feel quite right. Finally, after hours of being with family in and out of the room and everyone meeting the boys, I turned to my sister and said, “I think I might be bleeding more than I should be.”

Turns out, I was. She took one look at the blood pooling under me and called for a nurse, who came in, blanched, and called the on-call obstetrician. Because of a snowstorm, my doctor didn’t show up for another hour, but when they did an ultrasound, they saw I had a clot that was preventing my uterus from contracting, therefore causing me to continue to bleed. As they wheeled me off to the same OR where I delivered my babies six hours earlier, my doctors said, “We’re going to do a D&C. If that doesn’t work, we may have to do a hysterectomy.” Then we were in the room, the nurses weren’t sure if I would get another spinal block or if the anesthesiologist would just put me under general anesthesia. The last thing I remember is saying, “Hey, this rooms looks familiar.” Then I woke up in recovery, my throat on fire, pain in bad places, and a nurse saying, “It’s OK. You were intubated. You’re OK.”

When I was pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on about what being pregnant was like. The internet was my friend. If I had a question, I guarantee you some other pregnant woman asked it and a bunch of other people answered it. But, never once in all my reading did anyone talk about the potential for bleeding. As a twin pregnancy, my odds of getting a clot were much, much higher. I knew all about stuff coming out after you delivered. People told me the mesh hospital underpants would be my best friend. But, stuff and blood are two different things!

Read this article from NPR. The statistics are mind-boggling. We live in the United States and women still die in childbirth at an alarming rate! I think about what happened to me and how I didn’t even know to expect it, let alone be concerned about it. I’m not saying every pregnant woman need be convinced she is going to die in labor but KNOWING certain things make all the difference in the world. I was a first time mother. I had no idea what would happen after I gave birth. I know at least three other women in my circle of friends who had complications with blood loss after childbirth. This is appalling!

We can do better. For the future mothers of the world, we must do better. Thankfully, there are places that ARE doing better. Like this hospital in California with it’s crash carts designed for emergencies post-labor.

I’m lucky. I didn’t need a hysterectomy. I lived.  Four pints of blood and I was good to go. But, there are others who aren’t so lucky. And that needs to change.

The Words Came Tumbling Down

How do you write?

It’s a question people ask successful authors all the time. How do you write? Do you create an outline first? What do you do?

What do you do? I’m genuinely curious.

For me, I see stories like movies in my head. I can see the characters talking and interacting with each other and somehow I have to make what they are doing in my head turn into words on a page. It’s tough. Some days the words fly out. Some days they stick in that space between my brain and my fingers.

If I’m in a good writing place I start to react to what’s happening as I write it. I smile and laugh and glower along with the characters. I didn’t even realize it until my husband pointed it out to me. “Why are you flirting with your computer?”

That’s how I write.

So, how do you do it?

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

Do you know what a query is? If you aren’t trying to get a book published, odds are you don’t. Which is awesome. Because if you are trying to get a book published then you have felt the bitter sting of rejection.

Over and over and over.

And over.

And over again.

When you query an agent you’re sending an email (you can query by snail mail but it’s easier to do it via email) with a quick synopsis of your story. Your hook. You want to get their attention, want them to read what you’ve written and love it as much as you do.

So you send out queries to an agent or agents and you wait.

You get rejected.

You wait.

Perhaps you get rejected again.

You go through your first query and change things. You query again. You change again.

You have friends read and re-read it and help you change things. You count on your beta readers to give you good advice.

You do it over and over and hope this time, this query is it. This is the one that’s gonna get their attention.

When she was nine years old, Melissa Wright met Noah Floyd, rock star and lead singer of the hottest alternative band of the 1990’s. 

 

Unfortunately for both, Noah was dead.

 

Yes, Melissa talks to ghosts, a gift she has avoided most of her life.  Most of them just want to pass on a message to a loved one. She helps them, they leave.  But not Noah. Twenty years after his death, he’s still around, ratting out cheating boyfriends, hitting on her attractive sister, and adamant he didn’t kill himself.

 

As the twentieth anniversary of Noah’s death approaches, Melissa is contacted by a writer who holds the key to solve the mystery of Noah’s death. But he’s handsome and charming and scarier than any ghost she has ever met. Unlike things that go bump in the night, he has the potential to change her life forever.

 

Melissa is faced with the choice of her life:  if she opens up about Noah, he could finally get the closure he desperately needs. Yet Melissa knows from experience the world doesn’t take kindly to people who are different. By opening herself up to new friendships, new experiences and new love, Melissa may just end up finding not only an answer to Noah’s death, but herself along the way.  

 

And if it isn’t it. You do it all over again.

It’s not about fame and money, at least not for me. It’s about wanting people to enter the world I’ve created and find joy and a connection there. The way I did when I was a young, bookish nerd desperate to be transported from my everyday life.

Take Off Your Coat I’ll Make You Feel at Home

I once read a book where–in the first three pages–the lead guy who I was supposed to love was diagnosed with Chlamydia.

Now, I am all about realistic romance novels. But, when the lead starts off having sex with so many people (plus he sent his current date who is never named home with money for a cab after they did it) that he’s got an STD, I’m just not into it.

Surprise, surprise, right?

I love romance novels. I remembered my first adult romance so clearly that when I went through a list of published novels in that year I was able to find it and get it electronically. I re-read that book and still loved it.

It also explains where my love of a hairy chest comes from. The 90’s were a different time, kids.

I love romance. I love steamy sex scenes. How come it is so hard to find a contemporary author who does both without it turning into an S&M wannabe show? Or why does the male lead have to be an a-hole? I get redemption arcs, but I need to at least sorta like the guy, right?

Any recommendations for a good read?

Tell Me What You’re Working With

Here it is, the most recent thing I’ve written. I’ll post some sample pages tomorrow to get some thoughts.

Thanks!

When she was nine years old, Melissa Wright met Noah Floyd, rock star and lead singer of the hottest alternative band of the 1990’s.

Unfortunately for both of them, Noah was dead at the time.

Since she was young, Melissa has talked to ghosts. Most of them just want her to pass on a message to a loved one. She helps them, they leave. Except for Noah. Twenty years after his death, he’s still around, ratting out cheating boyfriends, hitting on her attractive sister, and adamant he didn’t kill himself.

As the anniversary of Noah’s death approaches, a writer contacts her. It is possible he can finally help Melissa solve the mystery of Noah. But, he’s handsome and charming and scarier than any ghost she has ever met. Because, unlike things that go bump in the night, he has the potential to change her life forever.

If Melissa opens up about Noah, the ghost who has come to mean so much to her could finally get the closure he desperately needs.  But, Melissa knows from experience the world doesn’t take kindly to people who are different. By revealing who she truly is, she could lose her hard-earned anonymity. She must decide if Noah, new friendships, and—possibly—love, are worth the risk.

The Road is Long

2017 was crap year. Am I right?

I feel like my creativity stumbled, sputtered, then ultimately burnt out against the onslaught of negativity in the world. Writing took a backseat to simply surviving.

And survive we did.

2017 is done. Toward the end of the year I started writing again. This one started out one way, went a completely different way, and ultimately I am happy with the final result. Or final-ish result. I have learned to set my writing aside for a couple of weeks and then come back to it. I’ve done that with this one a few different times. I’ve heard back from beta readers.

I feel good about this one.

I’m surviving.

And if you’re reading this, then so are you.

Bring it on, 2018!

Hit Me Baby One More Time

Have you heard of a query letter? It’s the way an author submits their manuscript to an agent. If you did a Google search right now, you would get a hundred results on “How to Write a Query Letter”. And you would get a hundred different ways to do it.

How do you whittle down all your hand work and labor into a couple of paragraphs, maintain your tone, and your sense of writing, and snag an agent’s attention?

It takes a miracle.

First, you spend hours, months, YEARS even working on your baby.  You edit it. You edit it again. You edit it one more time. Then you set it out into the world and let your friends and a couple of unbiased sources read it. Then you take their advice and edit it again. You fix it. You add more. You take stuff out. Then, when you think, ‘holy crap, I have a book’ you send it out into the world one more time, like a brand new college freshman, and hope someone likes it a fraction as much as you do.