11.14.2014

Some of you might have seen this before, because I haven't exactly kept it secret... However, today is the big scale cover reveal of The Five Stages of Falling in Love!!! Thank you Inkslinger PR!!!!

This is my first adult contemporary romance!!!!

And I've been writing it slowly for over a year and a half. So now that it finally has a release date and the cover is finished and I'm showing it off, I really cannot wait!!!!

It will be out January 27th, 2015.

But it's already up for pre-order everywhere!!!

The Five Stages of Falling in Love for Amazon

The Five Stages of Falling in Love for iBooks

The Five Stages of Falling in Love for Barnes and Noble

The Five Stages of Falling in Love for Kobo

Here it is. For your viewing pleasure! Plus I've attached a little excerpt so you can get a glimpse at what it's all about!!!




Synopsis:

Elizabeth Carlson is living in the pits of hell- also known as grief.

Her husband of eight years, the father of her four children and the love of her life, died from cancer. Grady’s prognosis was grim, even from the start, but Liz never gave up hope he would survive. How could she, when he was everything to her?

Six months later, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and get the kids to school on time. Both seem impossible. Everything seems impossible these days.

When Ben Tyler moves in next door, she is drowning in sorrow and pain, her children are acting out, and the house is falling apart. She has no time for curious new friends or unwanted help, but Ben gives her both. And he doesn’t just want to help her with yard work or cleaning the gutters. Ben wants more from Liz. More than she’s capable of ever giving again.

As Liz mourns her dead husband and works her way through the five stages of grief, she finds there’s more of her heart to give than she thought possible. And as new love takes hold, she peels away the guilt and heartache, and discovers there’s more to life than death.


Excerpt: 

Prologue

          “Hey, there she is,” Grady looked up at me from his bed, his eyes smiling even while his mouth barely mimicked the emotion.
          “Hey, you,” I called back. The lights had been dimmed after the last nurse checked his vitals and the TV was on, but muted. “Where are the kiddos? I was only in the cafeteria for ten minutes.”
          Grady winked at me playfully, “My mother took them.” I melted a little at his roguish expression. It was the same look that made me agree to a date with him our junior year of college, it was the same look that made me fall in love with him- the same one that made me agree to have our second baby boy when I would have been just fine to stop after Blake, Abby and Lucy.
          “Oh, yeah?” I walked over to the hospital bed and sat down next to him. He immediately reached for me, pulling me against him with weak arms. I snuggled back into him, so that my head rested on his thin shoulder and our bodies fit side by side on the narrow bed. One of my legs didn’t make it and hung off awkwardly. But I didn’t mind. It was just perfect to lie next to the love of my life, my husband.
          “Oh, yeah,” he growled suggestively. “You know what that means?” He walked his free hand up my arm and gave my breast a wicked squeeze. “When the kids are away, the grownups get to play…”
          “You are so bad,” I swatted him- or at least made the motion of swatting at him, since I was too afraid to hurt him.
          “God, I don’t remember the last time I got laid,” he groaned next to me and I felt the rumble of his words against my side.
          “Tell me about it, sport,” I sighed. “I could use a nice, hard-“
          “Elizabeth Carlson,” he cut in on a surprised laugh. “When did you get such a dirty mouth?”
          “I think you’ve known about my dirty mouth for quite some time, Grady,” I flirted back. We’d been serious for so long it was nice to flirt with him, to remember that we didn’t just love each other, but we liked each other too.
          He grunted in satisfaction. “That I have. I think your dirty mouth had something to do with Lucy’s conception.”
          I blushed. Even after all these years, he knew exactly what to say to me. “Maybe,” I conceded.
          “Probably,” he chuckled, his breath hot on my ear.
          We laid there in silence for a while, enjoying the feel of each other, watching the silent TV screen flicker in front of our eyes. It was perfect- or as close to perfect as we had felt in a long time.
          “Dance with me, Lizzy,” Grady whispered after a while. I’d thought maybe he fell asleep; the drugs were so hard on his system that he was usually in and out of consciousness. This was actually the most coherent he’d been in a month.
          “Okay,” I agreed. “It’s the first thing we’ll do when you get out. We’ll have your mom come over and babysit, you can take me to dinner at Pazio’s and we’ll go dancing after.”
          “Mmm, that sounds nice,” he agreed. “You love Pazio’s. That’s a guaranteed get-lucky night for me.”
          “Baby,” I crooned. “As soon as I get you back home, you’re going to have guaranteed get-lucky nights for at least a month, maybe two.”
          “I don’t want to wait. I’m tired of waiting. Dance with me now, Lizzy,” Grady pressed, this time sounding serious.
          “Babe, after your treatment this morning, you can barely stand up right now. Honestly, how are you going to put all those sweet moves on me?” I teased, wondering where this sudden urge to dance- of all things- was coming from.
          “Lizzy, I am a sick man. I haven’t slept in my own bed in four months, I haven’t seen my wife naked in just as long, and I am tired of lying in this bed. I want to dance with you. Will you please, pretty please, dance with me?”
          I nodded at first because I was incapable of speech. He was right. I hated that he was right, but I hated that he was sick even more.
          “Alright, Grady, I’ll dance with you,” I finally whispered.
          “I knew I’d get my way,” he croaked smugly.
          I slipped off the bed and turned around to face my husband and help him to his feet. His once full head of auburn hair was now bald, reflecting the pallid color of his skin. His face was haggard, dark black circles under his eyes, chapped lips and pale cheeks. He was still as tall as he’d ever been, but instead of the toned muscles and thick frame he once boasted, he was depressingly skinny and weak, his shoulders perpetually slumped.
The only thing that remained the same was his eyes; they were the same dark green eyes I’d fallen in love with ten years ago. They were still full of life, even when his body wasn’t, still full of mischief while the rest of him was tired and exhausted from fighting this stupid sickness.
          “You always get your way,” I grumbled while I helped him up from the bed.       
          “Only with you,” he shot back on a pant after successfully standing. “And only because you love me.”
          “That I do,” I agreed. Grady’s hands slipped around my waist and he clutched my sides in an effort to stay standing.
          I slipped my arms around his neck, but didn’t allow any weight to press down on him. We maneuvered our bodies around his IV and monitors. It was awkward, but we managed.
          “What should we listen to?” I asked, while I pulled out my cell phone and turned it to my iTunes app.
          “You know what song. There is no other song when we’re dancing,” he reminded me on a faint smile.
          “You must be horny,” I laughed. “You’re getting awfully romantic.”
          “Just trying to keep this fire alive, Babe,” he pulled me closer and I held back the flood of tears that threatened to spill over.
          I turned on The Way You Look Tonight- the Frank Sinatra version- and we swayed slowly back and forth. Frank sang the soft, beautiful lyrics with the help of a full band, the music drifting around us over the constant beeping and whirring of medical machines. This was the song we thought of as ours, the first song we’d danced to at our wedding, the song he still made the band at Pazio’s play on our anniversary each year.
          “This fire is very much alive,” I informed him sternly. I lay my forehead against his shoulder and inhaled him. He didn’t smell like himself anymore, he was full of chemo drugs and smelled like hospital soap and detergent, but he was still Grady. And even though he barely resembled himself anymore, he still felt like Grady.
          He was still my Grady.
          “It is, isn’t it?” He whispered. I could feel how weak he was growing, how tired this was making him, but still he clung to me, held me close. When my favorite verse came on, he leaned his head down and whispered in a broken voice along with Frank, “There is nothing for me, but to love you. And the way you look tonight.”
          Silent tears streamed down my face with truths I wasn’t ready to admit to myself and fears that were too horrifying to even think. This was the man I loved with every fiber of my being- the only man I’d ever loved. The only man I’d ever love.
          He’d made me fall in love with him before I was old enough to drink legally, then he’d convinced me to marry him before I even graduated college. He knocked me up a year later, and didn’t stop until we had four wild rug rats that all had his red hair and his emerald green eyes. He’d encouraged me to finish my undergrad degree, and then to continue on to grad school while I was pregnant, nursing and then pregnant again. He went to bed every night with socks on and then took them off sometime in the middle of the night, leaving them obnoxiously tucked in between our sheets. He could never find his wallet, or his keys, and when there was hair to grow he always forgot to shave.
          And he drove me crazy most of the time.
          But he was mine.
          He was my husband.
          And now he was sick.
          “I do love you, Lizzy,” he murmured against my hair. “I’ll always love you, even when I’m dead and gone.”
          “Which won’t be for a very long time,” I reminded him on a sob.
          He ignored me, “You love me back, don’t you?”
          “Yes, I love you back,” I whispered with so much emotion the words felt stuck in my throat. “But you already knew that.”
          “Maybe,” he conceded gently. “But I will never, ever get tired of hearing it.”
          I sniffled against him, staining his hospital gown with my mascara and eye liner. “That’s a good thing, because you’re going to be hearing it for a very long time.”
          He didn’t respond, just kept swaying with me back and forth until the song ended. He asked me to play it again and I did, three more times. By the end of the fourth time, he was too tired to stand. I laid him back in bed and helped him adjust the IV and monitor again so that it didn’t bother him, then pulled the sheet over his cold toes.
          His eyes were closed and I thought he’d fallen asleep, so I bent down to kiss his forehead. He stirred at my touch and reached out to cup my face with his un-needled arm. I looked down into his depthless green eyes and fell in love with him all over again.
          It was as simple as that.
          It had always been that simple for him to get me to fall in love with him.
          “You are the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me, Lizzy.” His voice was broken and scratchy and a tear slid out from the corner of each of his eyes.
          My chin trembled at his words because I knew what he was doing and I hated it, I hated every part of it. I shook my head, trying to get him to stop but he held my gaze and just kept going.
          “You are. And you have made my life good, and worth living. You have made me love more than any man has ever known how to love. I didn’t know this kind of happiness existed in real life, Liz, and you’re the one that gave it to me. I couldn’t be more thankful for the life we’ve shared together. I couldn’t be more thankful for you.”
          “Oh, Grady, please-”
          “Lizzy,” he said in his most stern voice that he only ever used when I’d maxed out a credit card. “Whatever happens, whatever happens to me, I want you to keep giving this gift to other people.” I opened my mouth to vehemently object to everything he was saying but he silenced me with a cold finger on my lips. “I didn’t say go marry the first man you find. Hell, I’m not even talking about another man. But I don’t want this light to die with me. I don’t want you to forget how happy you make other people just because you might not feel happy. Even if I don’t, Lizzy, I want you to go on living. Promise me that.”
          But I shook my head, “no.” I wasn’t going to promise him that. I couldn’t make myself. And it was unfair of him to ask me that.
          “Please, Sweetheart, for me?” His deep, green eyes glossed over with emotion and I could physically feel how painful this was for him to ask me. He didn’t want this anymore than I did.
          I found myself nodding, while I sniffled back a stream of tears. “Okay,” I whispered. “I promise.”
          He broke out into a genuine smile then, his thumb rubbing back and forth along my jaw. “Now tell me you love me, one more time.”
          “I love you, Grady,” I murmured, leaning into his touch and savoring this moment with him.
          “And I will always, always love you, Lizzy,” he promised.
His eyes finally fluttered shut and his hand dropped from my face. His vitals remained the same, so I knew he was just sleeping. I crawled into bed with him, gently shifting him so that I could lie on my side, in the nook of his arm and lay my hand on his chest. I did this often; I liked to feel the beat of his heart underneath my hand. It had stopped too many times before, for me to trust its reliability. My husband was a very sick man, and had been for a while now.
Tonight was different though. Tonight, Grady was lucid and coherent, he’d found enough energy to stand up and dance with me, to tell me he loved me. Tonight could have been a turn for the better.
But it wasn’t- because only a few hours later, Grady’s heart stopped for the fourth time during his adult life, and this time it never restarted.


Stage One: Denial

Not every story has a happy ending. Some only hold a happy beginning.
This is my story. I’d already met my soul mate, fallen in love with him and lived our happily ever after.
This story is not about me falling in love.
This story is about me learning to live again after love left my life.
Research shows there are five stages of grief. I don’t know what this means for me, as I was stuck, nice and hard, in step one.
Denial.
I knew, acutely, that I was still in stage one.
I knew this because every time I walked in the house, I wandered around aimlessly looking for Grady. Because I still picked up my phone to check if he texted or called throughout the day. Because I looked for him in a crowded room, got the urge to call him from the grocery store just to make sure I had everything he needed, and reached for him in the middle of the night.
Acceptance- the last stage of grief- was firmly and forever out of my reach, and I often looked forward to it with longing. Why? Because Denial was a son of a bitch and it hurt more than anything when I realized he wasn’t in the house, wouldn’t be calling me, wasn’t where I wanted him to be, didn’t need anything from the store and would never lie next to me in bed again. The grief would cascade over me, fresh and suffocating and I was forced to suffer through the unbearable pain of losing my husband all over again.
Denial sucked.
But it was where I was right now. I was living in Denial.


Chapter One
Six Months after Grady died.

          I snuggled back into the cradle of his body while his arms wrapped around me tightly. He buried his scruffy face against the nape of my neck and I sighed contentedly. We fit perfectly together, but then again we always had- his big spoon nestled up against my little spoon.
          “It’s your turn,” he rumbled against my skin with that deep morning voice I would always drink in.
          “No,” I argued half-heartedly. “It’s always my turn.”
          “But you’re so good at it,” he teased.
          I giggled, “It’s one of my many talents, pouring cereal into bowls, making juice cups. I might just take this show on the road.”
          He laughed behind me and his chest shook with the movement. I pushed back into him, loving the feel of his hard, firm chest against my back. He was so hot first thing in the morning, his whole body radiating warmth.
          His hand splayed out across my belly possessively and he pressed a kiss just below my ear. I could feel his lips through my tangle of hair and the tickle of his breath which wasn’t all that pleasant first thing in the morning, but it was Grady and it was familiar.
          “It’s probably time we had another one, don’t you think?” His hand rubbed a circle around my stomach and I could feel him vibrating happily with the thought.
          “Grady, we already have three,” I reminded him on a laugh. “If we have another one, people are going to start thinking we’re weird.”
          “No, they won’t,” he soothed. “They might get an idea of how fertile you are, but they won’t think we’re weird.”
          I snorted a laugh. “They already think we’re weird.” 
          “Then we don’t want to disappoint them,” he murmured. His hand slid up my chest and cupped my breast, giving it a gentle squeeze.
          “You are obsessed with those things,” I grinned.
          “Definitely,” he agreed quickly, while continuing to fondle me. “What do you think, Lizzy? Will you give me another baby?”
          I was getting wrapped up in the way he was touching me, the way he was caressing me with so much love I thought I would burst. “I’ll think about it,” I finally conceded, knowing he would get his way- knowing I always let him have his way.
          “While you’re mulling it over, we should probably practice. I mean, we want to get this right when the time comes.” Grady trailed kisses down the column of my throat and I moaned my consent.
          I rolled over to kiss him on the mouth.
          But he wasn’t there.
          My arm swung wide and hit cold, empty mattress.
          I opened my eyes and stared at the slow moving ceiling fan over my head. The early morning light streamed in through cracks in my closed blinds and I let the silent tears fall.
          I hated waking up like this; thinking he was there, next to me, still able to support me, love me- hold me. And unfortunately it happened more often than it didn’t.
          The fresh pain clawed and cut at my heart and I thought I would die just from sheer heartbreak. My chin quivered and I sniffled, trying desperately to wrestle my emotions under control. But the pain was too much, too consuming.
          “Mom!” Blake called from the kitchen, ripping me away from my peaceful grief. “Moooooom!”
          That was a distressed cry, and I was up out of my bed and racing downstairs immediately. I grabbed my silk robe on the way and threw it over my black cami and plaid pajama bottoms. When the kids were younger I wouldn’t have bothered, but Blake was eight now and he’d been traumatized enough in life- I wasn’t going to add to that by walking around bra-less first thing in the morning.
          He continued to yell at me, while I barreled into the kitchen still wiping at the fresh tears. I found him at the bay windows, staring out in horror.
          “Mom, Abby went swimming,” he explained in a rush of words.
          A sick feeling knotted my stomach and I looked around wild-eyed at what his words could possibly mean. “What do you mean, Abby went swimming?” I gasped, a little out of breath.
          “There,” he pointed to the neighbor’s backyard with a shaky finger.
          I followed the direction of his outstretched hand and from the elevated vantage point of our kitchen I could see that the neighbor’s pool was filled with water, and my six-year-old daughter was swimming morning laps like she was on a regulated workout routine.
          “What the f-“ I started and then stopped, shooting a glance down at Blake who was looking up at me with more exaggerated shock than he’d given his sister.
          I watched her for point one more second and sprinted for the front door. “Keep an eye on the other ones,” I shouted at Blake as I pushed open our heavy red door.
          It was just early fall in rural Connecticut; the grass was still green, the mornings foggy but mostly still warm. The house next to us had been empty for almost a year. The owner had been asking too much for it in this economy, but I understood why- it was a beautiful, stately colonial with cream stucco siding and black decorative shutters. Big oak trees offered shade and character in the sprawling front yard and in the back, an in-ground pool was the drool-worthy envy of my children.
          I raced down my yard and into my new neighbors. I hadn’t noticed the house had sold, but that didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t the most observant person these days. Vaguely I noted a moving truck parked in the long drive.
          The backyard gate must have been left open, because even though Abby had taught herself how to swim at the age of four- all by herself, the end result giving me several gray hairs- there was no way she could reach the flip lock at the top of the tall, iron fence.
          I rounded the corner and hopped/ran to the edge of the pool, the gravel of the patio cutting into my bare feet. I took a steadying breath and focused my panic-flooded mind, long enough to assess whether Abby was still breathing or not.
          She was, and happily swimming in circles in the deep end.
          Fear and dread quickly turned to blinding anger and I took a step closer to the edge of the pool while I threw my silk robe on the ground.
          “Abigail Elizabeth, you get out of there right this minute!” I shouted loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood.
          She popped her head up out of the water, acknowledged me by sticking out her tongue, and promptly went back to swimming. That little brat.   
          “Abigail, I am not joking. Get out of the pool. Now!” I hollered again. And was ignored- again. “Abby, if I have to come in there and get you, you will rue the day you were born!”
          She poked her head back up out of the water, shooting me a confused look. Her light green eyebrows drew together, just like her father’s used to, and her little freckled nose wrinkled at something I said. I was smart enough or experienced enough to know that she was not on the verge of obeying, just because I’d threatened her.
          “Mommy?” she asked, somehow making her little body tread water in a red polka dot bikini my sister picked up from Gap last summer- it was too small which for some reason made me more angry. “What does rue mean?”
          “It means you’re grounded from the iPad, your Leapster and the Wii for the next two years of your life,” I threatened. “Now get out of that pool right now before I come in there and get you myself.”
          She giggled in reply, not believing me for one second and resumed her play.
          “Damn it, Abigail,” I growled under my breath- not that I was surprised by her behavior. She was naturally an adventurous child. Since she could walk, she’d been climbing to the highest point of anything she could, swinging precariously from branches, light fixtures and aisles at the grocery store. She was a daredevil and there were moments when I absolutely adored her “the world is my playground” attitude about life. But then there were moments like this, when every mom instinct in me screamed she was in danger and her little, rotten life flashed before my eyes.
          Those moments happened more and more often. She tested me, pushing every limit and boundary I’d set. She had been reckless before Grady died, now she was just wild. And I didn’t know what to do about it.
          I didn’t know how to tame my uncontrollable child- how to be both parents to a little girl who desperately missed her daddy.
          I focused on my outrage, pushing those tragic thoughts down, into the abyss of my soul. I was pissed, I didn’t have time for this first thing in the morning and no doubt we were going to be late for school- again.
          I slipped off my pajama pants, hoping whomever had moved into the house, if they were watching, would be more concerned with the little girl on the verge of drowning than me flashing my black, bikini briefs at them over morning coffee. I said a few more choice curses and dove into the barely warm water after my second born.
          I surfaced, sputtering water and shivering from the cool morning air pebbling my skin. “Abigail, when I get you out of this pool, you are going to be in so much trouble.”
          “Okay,” she agreed happily. “But first you have to catch me.”
          She proceeded to swim around me in circles while I reached out helplessly for her. First thing I was doing when I got out of this pool was throwing away every electronic device in our house just to teach her a lesson. Then I was going to sign her up for a swim team- because the little hellion was very, very fast.
          We struggled like this for a few more minutes. Well, I struggled. She splashed at me and laughed at my efforts to wrangle her.
          I was aware of a presence hovering by the edge of the pool but I was equally too embarrassed as I was too preoccupied to look. Images of walking my children into school late again, kept looping through my head and I cringed at the dirty looks I was bound to get from teachers and other parents alike.
          “You look hungry,” a deep masculine voice announced from above me.
          I whipped my head around to find an incredibly tall man standing by my discarded pajama pants holding two beach towels and a box of Pop-Tarts in one arm, while he munched casually on said Pop-Tarts with the other.
          “I look hungry?” I screeched in hysterical anger.
          His eyes flickered down at me for just a second, “No, you look mad.” He pointed at Abby, who had come to a stop next to me, treading water again with her short child-sized limbs waving wildly in the water. “She looks hungry.” He grinned at me, his mouth full of food, and looked back at Abby. “Want a Pop-Tart? They’re brown sugar.”
          Abby nodded excitedly and swam to the edge of the pool. Not even using the ladder, she heaved herself out of the water and ran over to the stranger holding out his breakfast to her. He handed her a towel and she hastily draped it around her shoulders and took the offered Pop-Tart.
          A million warnings about taking food from strangers ran through my head, but in the end I decided getting us out of his pool was probably more important to him than offing his brand new neighbors with poisoned Pop-Tarts.
          With a defeated sigh, I swam over to the ladder closest to my pants and robe, and pulled myself from the water. I was a dripping, limp mess and I was frozen to the bone after my body adjusted to the temperature of the water.
          Abby took her Pop-Tart and plopped down on one of the loungers that were still stacked on top of two others and wrapped in plastic. She began munching on it happily, grinning at me like she’d just won the lottery.
          She was in so much trouble.
          I walked over to the stranger, eying him skeptically. He held out his remaining beach towel to me and after realizing I stood before him in just a soaking wet tank top and bikini briefs, I took it quickly and wrapped it around my body. I shivered violently, and my dark blonde hair dripped down my face and back. But I didn’t dare adjust the towel, afraid I’d give him more of a show than he’d paid for.
          “Good morning,” he laughed at me.
          “Good morning,” I replied slowly, carefully.
Up close, he wasn’t the giant I’d originally thought. Now that we were both ground level, I could see that while he was tall, at least six inches taller than me, he wasn’t freakishly tall- which relieved some of my concerns. He still wore his pajamas: blue cotton pants and a white t-shirt that had been stretched out from sleep. He had almost black hair that appeared still mussed and disheveled, but swept over to the side in what could be a trendy style if he brushed it. He seemed to be a few years older than me- if I had to guess thirty-five or thirty-six- and he had dark, intelligent eyes that crinkled in the corners with amusement. He was tanned, and muscular, and imposing. And I hated that he was laughing at me.
          “Sorry about the gate,” he shrugged. “I didn’t realize there were kids around.”
          “You moved into a neighborhood,” I pointed out dryly. “There’s bound to be kids around.”
          His eyes narrowed at the insult but he swallowed his Pop-Tart and agreed, “Fair enough. I’ll keep the gate locked from now on.”
          I wasn’t finished with berating him though. His pool caused all kinds of problems for me this morning and since I could only take out so much anger on my six-year-old, I had to vent the rest somewhere. “Who fills their pool the first week of September anyway? You’ve been to New England in the winter, haven’t you?”
          He cleared his throat and the last laugh lines around his eyes disappeared. “My real estate agent,” he explained. “It was kind of like a ‘thank you’ present for buying the house. He thought he was doing something nice for me.”
          I snorted at that, thinking how my little girl could have… No, I couldn’t go there; physically, I was not emotionally capable of thinking that thought through.
          “I really am sorry,” he offered genuinely, his dark eyes flashing with true emotion. “I got in late last night, and passed out on the couch. I didn’t even know the pool was full or the gate was open until I heard you screaming out here.”
          Guilt settled in my stomach like acid, and I regretted my harsh tone with him. This wasn’t his fault. I just wanted to blame someone else.
          “Look, I’m sorry I was snappish about the pool. I just, I was just worried about Abby. I took it out on you,” I relented, but wouldn’t look him in the eye. I’d always been terrible at apologies. When Grady and I would fight, I could never bring myself to tell him I felt sorry. Eventually, he’d just look at me and say, “I forgive you, Lizzy. Now come here and make it up to me.” With anyone else my pride would have refused to let me give in; but with Grady, the way he smoothed over my stubbornness and let me get away with keeping my dignity, worked every single time.
          “It’s alright, I can understand that,” my new neighbor agreed.
          We stood there awkwardly for a few more moments, before I swooped down to pick up my plaid pants and discarded robe. “Alright, well I need to go get the kids ready for school. Thanks for convincing her to get out. Who knows how long we would have been stuck there playing Finding Nemo.”
          He chuckled but his eyes were confused. “Is that like Marco Polo?”
          I shot him a questioning glance, wondering if he was serious or not. “No kids?” I asked.
          He laughed again. “Nope, life-long bachelor.” He waved the box of Pop-Tarts and realization dawned on me. He hadn’t really seemed like a father before now, but in my world- my four kids, soccer mom, neighborhood watch secretary, active member of the PTO world- it was almost unfathomable to me that someone his age could not have kids.
          I cleared my throat, “It’s uh, a little kid movie. Disney,” I explained and understanding lit his expression. “Um, thanks again.” I turned to Abby who was finishing up her breakfast, “Let’s go, Abs, you’re making us late for school.”
          “I’m Ben by the way,” he called out to my back. “Ben Tyler.”
          I snorted to myself at the two first names- it somehow seemed appropriate for the handsome life-long bachelor, but ridiculous all the same.
          “Liz Carson,” I called over my shoulder. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
          “Uh, the towels?” he shouted after me when we’d reached the gate.
          I turned around with a dropped mouth, thinking a hundred different vile things about my new neighbor. “Can’t we… I…” I glanced down helplessly at my bare legs poking out of the bottom of the towel he’d just lent me.
          “Liz,” he laughed familiarly, and I tried not to resent him. “I’m just teasing. Bring them back whenever.”
          I growled something unintelligible that I hope sounded like “thank you” and spun on my heel, shooing Abby onto the lawn between our houses.
          “Nice to meet you, neighbor,” he called out over the fence.
          “You too,” I mumbled, not even turning my head to look back at him.
          Obviously he was single and unattached. He was way too smug for his own good. I just hoped he would keep his gate locked and loud parties few and far between. He seemed like the type to throw frat party-like keggers and hire strippers for the weekend. I had a family to raise, a family that was quickly falling apart while I floundered to hold us together with tired arms and a broken spirit. I didn’t need a nosy neighbor handing out Pop-Tarts and sarcasm interfering with my life. 


11.12.2014

Writer Wednesday!!! 

I haven't done one of these for a while, but I've wanted to. I have trouble shutting my brain down. (This coming from the girl who's writing like five different series and a stand alone. Ugh...) But that usually means I write one of these at least once a week. They usually just stay in my head and never get onto paper. Or remotely near paper. 

Well, not today!!!

That's right. I'm going to word vomit all over you share with you those things which I have been pondering lately. 

Ambition. 

So often I think this word gets a bad rap. Or we associate negative pursuits with the action. 

Ambitious people are thought of as greedy or power-hungry or maybe setting themselves up to fail. 

I think these thoughts about myself daily. Or at least the last one. Setting myself up to fail. 

I write very ambitious To-Do Lists, I plan to be very ambitious with my writing, and I really hope to be ambitious with the housework. But at the end of the day, I've failed to meet most of my ambitious goals. 

I've failed.

And that is a hard word to swallow. Failing at something so often turns into feeling like a failure at something. And then that word... that ugly, horrible, degrading, poisonous word turns into something life-defining. 

I've failed. I am a failure. I am a failure at everything.  

Or am I?

I think we give too much power to those ugly words. Fail. Failing. Failure. I think they fight to rule when they truly have no power. I think they leak through our blood, our souls, our spirits with their toxic, debilitating venom and kill us slowly. 

But we let them. We give them authority when they have none. They are a placebo and nothing more, but we tell them they have the power to injure us, to debilitate us... to kill us.

And they don't.  

Failure is an opportunity to learn. To grow. To do better the next time. 

Failure is a gift. 

If you've never failed, have you ever really tried? 

The answer is no. 

Because to step out, to reach out, to try something different or dangerous or ambitious, you have to set yourself up to fail. 

But in the best way possible. 

Because maybe you won't fail. Or maybe you'll only kind of fail. Or maybe you'll succeed beyond anything you could have dreamed of. 

And I want to look at this in a wide spectrum of tasks. 

Something as great as the ambitious book you've always wanted to write but have been afraid to.

Right down to the smallest of things.

A daily task list. 

Like I said, I write very ambitious To Do Lists. They go 20-30 items deep. And sometimes they are as simple as Lunch. Or every morning I give myself the forgiveness to Surf the Internet. 

I'm not kidding. That's always task number one. :) 

But then I do it. And then I cross it off my list and so I free up the rest of my day. Also, it helps me feel ambitious first thing in the morning when I know my brain isn't awake to do much of anything else. 

I make my To Do Lists impossible to finish because then I know I'll be working hard the entire day. Sometimes well into the night. And I'll know where to start the next day.

And the same thing with my writing goals. 

Fine. I can admit that my yearly projections are insane. I know they are. I'm finally coming to terms with projects I won't be finishing this year. 

And that's really, truly frustrating. It hurts my heart. I actually feel the pain of those decisions digging in against ventricles and cartilage and my aorta. My decisions are scarring the soft tissue of my soul. Wounding me on a metaphysical level. 

Okay. I'm being dramatic. But you get the point.

In some ways it absolutely SUCKS to be ambitious. It means I will never get the completely satisfying, spirit-soaring feeling of ticking my last task off the list. 

But it will also mean that I am constantly pushing myself to do better. be better. reach for better. 

And that is more important to me than feeling accomplished. 

Sure, there are some days that I ignore the To Do list completely. And not just the daily list, but the life one as well. I push all thoughts of tasks and goals and necessity away so I can relax. 

And breathe easily. 

But I'm going to tell you something about this job. And this is important. You need to listen to this. I'm not kidding. 

This job is hard. 

So hard that it is never easy to breathe through. So hard that you can never feel like you've finally made it. Or that you've reached the pinnacle.

So hard that there is a part of you that will always feel like you're one wrong step away from plummeting off the cliffs of obscurity, to be buried beneath the bones of all the writer's that have come before you and faded into the dust of the No Longer Relevant.

And that is a hard truth to swallow. But it is the truth. 

So if you're going to tackle this job. If you're going to strap on your boots and pull up your big-writer undies, then you have to be ready. You have to be ambitious. 

And you have to stay ambitious

So sure. There are days you will fail. There are projects that will fail you. There are months that will go by and you will think that everything you touch is destined to turn to ash. 

But salvation is in your ambition. 

Will you keep pushing on? Will you keep challenging yourself to write a better book? Or create better plots and characters and twists? Will you keep reaching for the top lists and the greatest reviews and whatever else you dream of? 

You can't do that if you're satisfied with mediocrity. You can't dream big and settle for small. 

And you certainly can't shrink back from failure. 

It's part of the gig, so start embracing it. It's not your enemy, it's your friend. It tells you what went wrong so you don't do that again. It tells you where the market's at, where your readers are at, where you NEED to be at. 

And where you need to go.

(Don't take this as I mean writing to trends. I in NO WAY mean write to trend. Do NOT write to trend.) 

(A small note of something else that is helpful when dealing with failure and ambition. Please be honest with yourself. And I don't mean that in a campfire-song-MTV-PSA kind of way. I mean it in the very realistic, raw way. Be honest with yourself. If you've had a book fail, or not do as well as you want, is it that you've only had all wrong readers?? Or is it that you didn't write a good enough book? This is the worst feeling in the world by the way. And I can truly speak to you from experience. The first print of Starbright, anyone??? Which might seem strange because it has a lot of 5 star reviews. But I know better. And a lot of 5 stars don't mean anything when the sales are not there. Because good books sell. Books that readers want to read sell. So BE HONEST with yourself. Don't hide behind ego or sensitivity. Get it out in the open and choose to maturely deal with it. It also doesn't mean your career is over. It just means you need to be ambitious enough to push forward.) 

(See how I did that? See how I came full circle???)

And when you're setting big goals and dreaming as ambitiously as you can, prioritize your time. (Maybe give up Netflix marathons and social media addictions?? Just some helpful suggestions.) 

Make your time worth it. Make how you're spending your time reflect the goals you want to accomplish. Make yourself actively chase down those dreams and goals. Pursue them because they will never pursue you.  

I'm one of those people that set HUGE goals. Really. And I really like to map them out. In very specific ways. Basically, I could publish them as full-length novels. 

I set one year goals and five year goals and ten year goals. And I detail them to the letter. I know exactly where I want to go and how I want to get there. 

Will life go perfectly to plan and everything work out exactly how I want it to?? 

Ha!!!! Not a chance in hell.

Will I have to work tooth and nail and to the very bone just to stay middle class??? 

Possibly.  

But that's not the point. The point is that I'm working hard, every single day, every single hour of the day that I'm capable, to get there. 

Because even though I have these huge, far-reaching goals, I can't accomplish them until I've worked through my daily To Do list. I have to start with the small tasks first. And eventually those small things, those seemingly insignificant things, will turn into great big things. 

Ambition starts at the smallest level. I can want to be a best-selling author every second of every day, but unless I'm actively working to become one, it will never happen. 

So dream big, but plan in the small. Be ambitious with great things and be ambitious with all the little things that are in your way first. 

You're in this career and you have no idea where you're going from here?? Start with defining your ambition. Write out your one year goals. (And this is a perfect time to start thinking about it because we're nearing the year's end.) Then write out your three year goals. Then your five. Then your ten. See how outrageous your ambition can get. (Come on! You're a writer for goodness sakes! Use all that fabulous creativity for good.)

Then once you've set your sights on all those out-of-reach goals, get to work on the small stuff first. What are your daily steps that will bring those goals to fruition? What can you do each day to get closer to each of those goals? 

Write more. Write better. Think clearer. Think differently. Market. Keep marketing. Keep marketing in unique ways that will bring attention to your writing. Don't stop. 

To put it simply, Get. Shit. Done. 

Be ambitious every single day. And don't stop being ambitious. 

But the final thought. The one that you cannot leave without hearing and hearing clearly.. is to FORGIVE yourself. Because you're not always going to check off every single item on your list. You're not always going to meet all those ambitious goals. But so what? Isn't it better to be trying than doing nothing??? 

At least then you have a chance of reaching them. At least then it's a very real possibility. 

Because all we have in this career is showing up. Show up daily and keep showing up. You can't fade into the dust of the No Longer Relevant if you never give up trying. You can always write a better book. You can always make better sentences and put together better plots and birth characters that people don't just want to read but want to relate to. You can always keep trying. No matter what. 

You just have to be ambitious about it. 

  
 

    

 

11.11.2014

Dear Veteran,

I want to write a letter and say thank you.

Thank you. Those two inadequate words that do not give your service or your sacrifice justice. Those two words that cannot convey the depth of my gratitude or the greatness of your commitment to this country.

And truly it is great.

You that defends this country. Our freedom. Our rights. You keep our quality of life and give us the opportunity to make our future better. You fight to protect us, our melting-pot culture, our diversity, our differences, our similarities. Our standards, our morals, our opinions, our dreams. The American Dream.

This great nation. You sacrifice your time, your physical and emotional health and too many times your lives. You give up everything so that we can keep everything.

Or at least the promise of it.

And so often we undervalue your service. We ignore your heroic deeds and protest the very wars that you are committed to fight. We look down on your sacrifice because we're too selfish and too short-sighted to understand how far-reaching your deeds go.

You not only protect us today but the days ahead. You not only protect our lives but the lives that we cannot possibly understand are in danger. You preserve our present and guard our future.

And you do this selflessly.

There is no greater service than that.

While we sit in the comfort of our homes and catch headlines and the nightly news, you live out your service to this country and offer all of you. You ignore the current political climate and the popular politics of the day. You put your own future on hold and give up family, friends and your familiar way of life.

You courageously follow orders and stay committed to a cause you might not always understand. You push your body to its physical limitations and your mind beyond what any man or woman should endure. You fight valiantly. You protect fiercely. And you live courageously.

Even if fear is your constant companion. Even when the darkness of night presses in and the task seems impossible. Even when there is no hope or promise of tomorrow.

You fight still. And you never stop. And you will never stop.

For that I say thank you. I say it knowing it is not enough, but it is all that I have.

So to my father, and my brother, to my uncles and my cousins, to my friends and neighbors, to those of you I have never met and will never meet, to those that have come before us and fallen, to those that have fallen in this day, to those that have yet to come and yet to sacrifice, to all of you that choose to offer your life to keep this a nation united, a nation of the brave and the free and the strong. To keep us a nation under God, indivisible, with justice and liberty for all.

Thank you.

11.10.2014

It's Monday!!!

And I'm blogging an update!!

What is this? What is happening to the world???

I've actually started to worry that Monday is my only productive day. It's the day that I don't feel obligated to get out of my pajamas or take a shower. It's also the day that I let the housework slide and order my husband to bring home take-out.

Basically, it's the day I allow myself to be lazy.

And by being lazy, I then free up the rest of my time to write and end up being super productive.

It shouldn't work like that. But it does.

I'm just going to roll with it.

So, good news! The Lice is GONE!!!!!!

Thank the Lord!

And okay... technically we have a couple more days to wait out this whole Ten-Day-Egg-Hatching-Crisis.. but so far there haven't been any signs or nits or grossness.

I'm so hoping we got it all!

Especially because I don't have the time to deal with it again. I have got to finish TRP. Like yesterday. Also, 30 loads of laundry in three days is too much laundry. For anybody.

But especially me.

I HATE laundry.

Loathe it.

Despise it.

In fact, I hate it so much, I've put myself on a very strict schedule about it. Otherwise I just never do it and it piles up forever and then by the time I actually get to it, my entire house is filled with dirty laundry from top to bottom.

And then it takes forever.

So to avoid this horrific fate, I do laundry on Tuesdays and Fridays. Specifically those days. It's been working great for me! Until lice... now my laundry schedule is all messed up!

Grrr...

Ahem. Anyway.

There is actually something I want to talk to you about today.

Something very important.

Something that I think will change your life.

Macaroons.

I'm not kidding!! Have you had these things yet? These little bundles of pure deliciousness and perfection???

I hadn't until this weekend. I was putting together a Christmas present that I'm giving early and wanted something yummy to go inside. So on a whim, I picked up some Chocolate Dipped Macaroons from the Target bakery.

I thought they would go well with the hot chocolate I was also gifting. But I didn't know anything about them. I actually thought they were hard and flaky. Kind of like biscotti? I didn't know!

But I got home and Zach found them and asked what they were for. I told him for this gift. He said, well, you're not giving that gift for another week. We should just eat them tonight and you can buy more later.

I looked at the box and noticed that some of them had gotten shuffled and broken apart. I also noticed that they were not hard and biscotti-like, but in fact soft and coconutty.

So, obviously, I agreed. Zach has all the good ideas.

After all, I have some time to get back to Target. :) Or I will make time. Target is my favorite place on earth.

And. Let. Me. Tell. You.

They were soooo yummy!!!!! They are my new favorite thing. You all need to try them. And I mean that. Go out today and buy them!!!! Go. Right. Now!!!

You can send me a thank you card afterwards. Or just a box of macaroons. :) (I'm so not totally kidding!)

Alright. Enough of all that. FINALLY let's get to the point!!!!

Actual news .

I don't have much. I'm still working on TRP. And I have something special coming on Friday for The Five Stages of Falling in Love. And you're going to start getting teasers of L&D Season Three soon.

Most importantly though... Bet on Us is .99 through Wednesday!!!!!!! Better snatch it up while it's cheap!!!!

Bet on Us for Amazon

Bet on Us for iBooks

Bet on Us for Barnes and Noble

Bet on Us for Kobo

11.05.2014

Without a dope beat to step to.

Step to.

Sorry. That song is from the 90's. But my husband sings it ALL the time. So it's constantly in my head.

Now it's in yours.

Don't hate me. :)

Anyway. Let's get to the heart of the matter. I've been gone a while... And I really didn't mean to just disappear, but sometimes life get's in the way and I have to fight my way back here.

A week ago, my mom and I took my kiddos up to Wisconsin to celebrate my great aunt's 102nd birthday! We had an amazing time. And I loved spending time with my family.

But I also took a vacation from the internet.

A nice vacation.

Magic and Decay kind of took it out of me. And I really enjoyed the time up there to recuperate. And then when I got back, there was more recuperating.

You know how you just need a day to do nothing once you've been in the car with four kids for nine hours and nothing but kid songs and a 2-year-old screaming nonstop??

Yeah, that day was Sunday for me.

Then I meant to blog Monday, but it was so very productive that I never made it over here. And then I meant to blog yesterday, but I got a call from the school instead.

That my kids HAD LICE.

Yep. Lice. It was our first go at it. And I really, really, really hope I got it all! Like... you cannot believe how grossed out I was.

Or how long it took me to take care of everyone in this house who could have possibly had it.

And I'm still in the middle of laundry. I've never done so much laundry in my life.

Gah!

It's really amazing to me how productive one day can be and then how the next just crumbles to ashes.

There were certain things I had to get done yesterday in the middle of all this lice mayhem. And.. yeah... yesterday was a bad day.

The good news is that now all of the bedding in the house is spotless, the mattresses have been cleaned thoroughly, the laundry is moving along and the stuffed animals have been disinfected.

You know, it's all those deep-cleaning projects that I think I'll get to "some day" which really means NEVER.

I've been meaning to wash all the big, bulky bedding for a while. And by that, I mean, I keep thinking about it whilst putting it off.

Now I had a reason and it got done.

Unfortunately that meant writing did not get done.

Still, there's today! And today writing is going to happen.

It has to happen.

Trust me.

Because I am so very close to having TRP done. Soooo. Close. So close that I can say for sure you will get it this month. That it will be in your hands. And that this lengthy saga will finally conclude!!!

Hooray!!

Right?

Right.

I'll post like crazy as soon as it is. I think I'll throw a party too. And drink champagne. And sleep for days. :)

I'm also working on Love and Decay this month!! I cannot wait to share Season Three with you! We're only just over a month out from Episode One!!! Woot!!!

I have some big announcements coming this month too. But I'll have to save those for later.

The biggest thing that happened today, was that I released a box set of The Star-Crossed Series! What?? I know!

I decided a week ago to do it. And then it came out today. I'm super awesome at marketing, so that's why you've never heard about it until now. :) There's nothing new in the series! It's just all bundled together for your easy-reading pleasure. Or if you want to share it with your friends!!

And... the cover is sooo gorgeous. Because Caedus Design Co. is a genius.

Here is the buy link if you're looking for it!!! And check out the gorgeous cover!!!!!

The Star-Crossed Series Box Set for Amazon