Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tis the Season

At this time of year, I always tend to get a little introspective. And really, who doesn't? The end of the year signifies a rebirth, a new beginning, a time to reflect, heal, and grow. I've experienced a lot of personal growth this year, and I'm excited to continue that process in 2011.

It occurred to me today as I was driving home just how lucky I am. My car pumps out the heat, keeping me warm, my job provides food for my family and personal interaction with the outside world, my family provides everything else I need to survive. I'm a lucky woman.

In fact, I realized today just how much I take for granted. Many people out there are lonely, cold, and hungry. They don't have the benefit of a fulfilling career, caring family and friends, and food on the table. I have my health. I'm able to walk, talk, breathe, and take care of myself. A lot of people can't say the same. Truly, my friends, I'm blessed.

I'm not saying all of this stuff to rub my good fortune in the faces of those who have naught. Quite the contrary. I'm saying this because I just realized it. Really realized it. Life is good, and it's high time I appreciated it. It's amazing how we let life's little irritations get in the way of our joy. We complain about our daily commute, our jobs, our coworkers, everything that we have. We don't stop to take stock of what we have and really be thankful.

So, this is one of the goals I've set for myself for the upcoming year. I'm going to take a moment each day to be thankful. I'm going to get down on my knees and thank the powers that be that I have what I do. I'm not going to complain about life's little difficulties becuase I'm lucky enough to have my life. I'm going to cherish every day that I've been given and consider myself honored that I have all that I do.

In addition to being thankful, I'm pledging now to be positive. I'm going to try again to see the good in every person, be nonjudgemental and kind to everyone I meet and try to help in any way that I can. I think that this is one thing that we as a society lack. We focus on the negative and overlook the positive. So, I quit. I'm done behaving in a negative way. I'm going to be positive and spread that positivity like seeds. Who knows what will grow?

So there's my little promise to you, and to myself. I am committed to doing these things, among others. What's your promise?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finally!

It's official! How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket is now available on amazon.com!

Here's the link...

http://www.amazon.com/How-Meet-Guy-At-Supermarket/dp/145631100X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289137207&sr=1-1

Thanks to each and every person who has supported me and shared in my joy. I'm truly grateful and very amazed that my little book, started as a way to help my family while we were experiencing financial troubles, is actually out there for all to see and (hopefully) enjoy. This is too much.

Hugs, and happy reading!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coming Soon to Amazon.com!

Yep... you read that right. How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket will be released soon by Night Publishing! I'll make a formal announcement when the time comes, but I wanted to give you a heads-up. And in a few weeks, I'll be touring down in the Outer Bank for a few days. I hope the weather is nice. Right now in Northwestern Pennsylvania, it's 30 degrees and cold, cold, cold. I'm not ready for snow, or ice, or 4-wheel drive. Sigh. That's what I get for living here.

My creative juices seem to have been flowing lately, too. Decisions recently underwent a huge overhaul, and I'm happier now with how it's going. I'm about 26,000 words in, and I'm debating on whether or not to incorporate some point-of-view shifts. I think that'll help with length, and it'll make the plot a little more rounded. This book is a first for me. It's written in third person, whereas Supermarket and Hooking Up are both written in first. Third person has presented some challenges. I find myself a little distanced from my character. When I write in first, I tend to get very involved in how she feels and thinks,and unfortunately, I think my writing tends to be a little repetitive. Third has been fun, and a refreshing change of pace.

I started another book tentatively called Worth, and I love my main character so far! Her name is Adelaide Dawson, and she's great. And she's big. And she's a great big mess. Addie is living far beneath her potential. She's a big girl in a dead end job with a loser for a boyfriend who eventually becomes verbally abusive. Her nasty boyfriend Dennis has finally walked out,and Addie's forced to make some choices. Will she drown her sorrows in food? Will she decide she's had enough? Or will she pick herself up and show Dennis a thing or two about the woman he thought was worthless? Wait and see! There might be a preview soon...

So, that's all my news for now. Stay tuned for the release of How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket!

Hugs,

Jess

Sunday, October 24, 2010

By Jove, I think we've got it!



Here's the complete new cover for Supermarket. We've been busy. Final edits are done, the cover is done and the back cover text has been sorted out. Now, I just wait for the book to hit the stores!

I'm extremely satisfied, happy, and excited!!! I knew that 2010 was going to be a good year. I said so since January. And now, my prediction is coming true!

Also, the date of the book tour has been changed. We're now touring from November 22-25. So much fun!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chapter 1 preview, Decisions



So, here's chapter one from Decisions. This one is brand-new, so go easy on me! Still writing it, but I'm two days and 10,000 words in. This one may actually be fairly quick to write. Of course, after writing comes editing. Sigh.

Decisions-Chapter 1

Emma Tremaine kicked at the sand beneath her manicured toes furiously and scowled. Damn her parents, anyway, for making this necessary. So bunking at a beach house in an absolutely beautiful ocean-side community for the summer wasn’t exactly a hardship, but the reason for this vacation grated on her nerves.

She didn’t want to marry Gray Taylor. And they couldn’t make her.

Yes, he was gorgeous, young, athletic, and wealthy, but those weren’t the only qualities Emma looked for in a man. The man of her choosing also had to be nice. And Gray wasn’t.

In fact, he was ruthless and cold. Emma still remembered the last run-in she’d had with him. And her ego still smarted.

Emma was nineteen the first time she’d met him, young, idealistic, and impressionable. Gray had been twenty-four, fresh out of Harvard Business School. He was being groomed to take over his father’s natural gas company. They met at a party that Emma’s dad, Senator Schooner Tremaine, had thrown for the wealthy businessmen of Harrisburg. Emma had never met Gray before, but she’d heard stories about his business acumen and killer looks. He instantly appealed to her with his blond carelessly-styled hair and stormy gray eyes. The cut of his suit fit his form impeccably, and there was an air of artless sophistication about him that gave her youthful heart stutters. She smiled when her father introduced them and accepted his invitation to dance.

He gathered her up and held her against his warm, firm frame. Her virgin body responded to him naturally. He was an excellent dancer, and she felt herself relaxing into his arms. She smiled up at him beguilingly and he squeezed her once.
The hours seemed to fly by as they glided around the dance floor.

Later, they stood on the balcony of Schooner Tremaine’s stately house, taking in the cool evening air, when Gray spoke to her about the real reason behind the party.

“Our parents wanted us to meet, Emma.”

“Oh. Well, it’s nice to meet you,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes up at him.

“Indeed. Do you know why they wanted us to meet?”

“No, but Daddy always introduces me to his friends’ children. I assume that’s why.”

“Well, partly, but there are other reasons.” He smiled down at her mockingly.

“Other reasons? Like what?” Emma was confused.

“Your father is a senator, right? And he owns quite a bit of land and a real estate business besides?”

“Well, yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”

“We moved here from Texas a few years back. My dad’s company has been buying up land all over Pennsylvania. There’s a wealth of natural gas under the ground. If he can’t buy the land, he’s offering leases to all of the landowners, paying them to gain access to their land for drilling. It’s big business, you know. Our company started with oil in Texas, and we’re hoping to branch out to natural gas. This area is a treasure trove of gas just waiting to be drilled.”

“I still don’t understand what that has to do with us.” Emma frowned.

“My father has faced some opposition with the state. He’s not from around here, and the locals don’t like the idea of a non-resident flatlander coming here and scooping up all the land. Then there’s the tree huggers who like to confuse facts and accuse natural gas drillers of polluting water supplies and causing explosions.”

“So? I still don’t see your point.”

“The point is that my father has convinced your father that we mean business. And one way of blocking the opposition from the state is to put down some permanent roots. In that, I mean that they have arranged for us to marry. If we intertwine ourselves with a local family, the lines blur between yours and ours. Your family is accepted. And so will we be.”

“But that’s ridiculous! I don’t even know you! Besides, arranged marriages don’t even exist anymore.”

“They happen more than you think, and for reasons exactly such as this.”

“But I don’t want to get married. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Not really. And it’s not like you have a choice.” He glanced down at her and stepped toward her, taking her chin in his hand. She grabbed his wrist and removed his hand from her face.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she sputtered indignantly.

“Checking out the merchandise, so to speak.”

“Excuse me? I’m not for sale.”

“Well, in a way, you are. My father gave your father a nice financial incentive to arrange this deal.”

“I don’t care who you think you are, I’m not a deal, and I’m not going to be bartered for like one of your damn Texas Longhorns. This is absolutely insane. I’m going to find my father right now and demand that he break up this—deal—right now.”
She spun to leave, but Gray grabbed her arm and yanked her to him. She slammed against his broad chest, the wind knocked out of her. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her recklessly, deeply, violently. She tried to push against him, but he only held her more firmly.

When he released her, she slapped him in the face. “How dare you!”

“You’ll be my wife, Emma. Our fathers have agreed.”

“Well, I’m un-agreeing, you arrogant bastard. I don’t want you.”

“Do you think I want you any more than you want me? Look at you--nineteen, a spoiled brat, and completely unwise to the ways of the world. I have a girlfriend, you know. And she’s not happy about this either. But, I’ve made arrangements to ensure that she’s taken care of, even after our wedding.”

“Oh, really? So, I’m just supposed to marry you and allow you to visit your mistress any time you like while your father plots to take over the state of Pennsylvania and drill for natural gas?”

“Yes.”

“That’s absurd.”

“That’s business.”

“But what about love?”

“It’s irrelevant. You’re nothing more to me than a way to help my dad get what he wants.”

She ran from him, tears streaming down her cheeks. She entered the house and found her father in his study with Robert Taylor. Both men had brandy snifters in hand, cigars lit and casting fragrant smoke around the room.

“Daddy, what is the meaning of this? Gray just told me that you and Mr. Taylor have agreed on an arranged marriage?” She tripped over the words, furious beyond belief.

“Princess, calm down. It’s a done deal. We’ll discuss this in the morning, after you’ve had a chance to settle down and think this through.”

“Like hell! You can’t do this. I won’t let you.”

“Emma, your dad has already signed a contract. The merging of our businesses, and our lives, will take place. I’m sure you’ll find Gray to be an excellent husband and provider.”

She screamed in fury and fled the room.

The next morning, Schooner sat her down and explained that there was no rush. She and Gray would be free to do as they wished for now, but they would have to marry after Emma turned twenty-one.

Emma cried and protested, but Schooner held firm. Even Natalie, Emma’s mother, was supportive of the idea and did nothing to help her daughter. The incentive that the Taylor family had provided for this occasion must have been huge. Emma didn’t want to think about it. She holed herself up in her room for a solid week, moping, protesting, and thinking. Eventually, her parents forced her to come out and start living her life again.

Gray didn’t come back after the party. Instead, he sent a terse note letting her know he wouldn’t bother her until their wedding. After all, he had other things to see to. Emma read between the lines and wondered if the other thing was a blonde or a brunette.

Eventually, things settled down. Gray stayed away and Emma pretended that he didn’t exist. After a year, Gray left Pennsylvania, and Emma heard rumors that he was engaged to a woman back in Texas. She breathed a sigh of relief and considered the deal broken. Before long, she had forgotten all about the arrangement and concentrated on life instead.

On the night of Emma’s twenty-first birthday, however, she realized she had been wrong to think that the deal was broken. Dead wrong. Schooner arranged for a black-tie dinner at her favorite restaurant in downtown Harrisburg, and Emma was delighted to see many of her friends and family there. But when she saw one of her guests, her heart flew up to her throat.

What was he doing here?

Gray looked just as delicious as he did two years before. But he had the same cold, ruthless look in his eyes. And he was headed straight for her.

“Emma,” he acknowledged. He took her slender hand in his and slid an enormous engagement ring on her finger.

“What are you doing here? And what is this? That deal is over. You’re engaged to someone else, aren’t you?”

“Who said the deal was over?”

“I—I just assumed. I heard you were engaged. And no one said anything about anything recently. I thought that it was just another one of my dad’s stupid deals that fell through. This isn’t happening. It can’t be happening,” she protested weakly. The room started to spin and her eyes began to blur.

Gray grabbed her by the elbow and ushered her into a chair. “Can’t have my future wife fainting on me, can I?” he mocked her.

“I’m not your future wife.”

“The bargain still stands, Emma. Face it. You’ll soon be Emma Taylor. Mrs. Gray Taylor.”

“Oh, god.”

“Sorry. He can’t help you.”

“I see that. Not when my dad struck a deal with the devil.”

“Quick-witted, are we?”

“Better than nit-witted, like some people I know. And what about that woman you’re engaged to in Texas?”

“She’ll keep.”

“Oh, you arrogant bastard.”

“You’ve called me that before.”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Sorry, Cinderella, the ball’s over.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.” She stomped off and found her father, holed up once again with Robert Taylor.

“Dad? Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Oh, Princess! Happy birthday. Having fun?” He slung an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. He had a little more scotch in him than was prudent, Emma thought.

“Dad, why did you invite Gray here? And why did you let him think the deal was still on?”

“Because it is, Pumpkin. What made you think it wasn’t?”

Oh, lord. She was in trouble now.

“Well, I refuse.”

“You can’t,” Robert Taylor said quietly. “Emma, Gray will see that you’re very well taken care of. I know that perhaps this is not the way you envisioned marriage, but it will work out.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do to talk you out of this? Please?”

“I’m afraid not. This merger is going to mean wonderful things for our families, my company, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Gray approached her and said, “Do you want to dance?”

“No, I don’t. But I suppose I have to until I figure out how to get out of this mess. No sense making a scene.”

She followed him to the dance floor and allowed herself to be led by him. His arms were warm and strong around her, and she thought it was quite a shame that he was such a jerk, and quite a shame that she’d have to let down both her parents and Pennsylvania. She was not going to marry this man.

“I hate you, you know.”

“Yes, I know. Get used to me now, Emma. I’ll make sure you never want for anything, and we’ll play the loving couple in public. No one has to know about Diane.”

“That’s the name of your mistress?”

“She’s more than my mistress. I love her.”

“So why are you agreeing to marry me? And why is she ok with this?”

“Because she knows I’m worth waiting for. After five years, you and I will file for divorce and I’ll marry her.”

“Excuse me?”

“Five years will give us enough time to sire an heir to my father’s business. You’ll be provided for generously, of course.”

“This is surreal. There’s no way that I’d sleep with you, you louse. And why go through the charade in the first place when we’re just going to get divorced? Why drag us into this deal?”

“Believe me; I don’t want to sleep with you either. You aren’t my type, and you’re flattering yourself if you think I actually want to have anything to do with you. But, business is business, and I’m doing this for my dad. Diane can’t have children. We need an heir. And you know the other reasons. We need an in with this place if we want to grow the business. You’re the in.”

Emma shrieked. Natalie came running and put her arm around her daughter’s waist. She led her from the banquet hall into a private anteroom.

“Listen, honey. I know how awful this seems now, but really, it’s a great deal. You’ll end up quite wealthy, I promise. The contract provides for a million dollar allowance per year for twenty years. That’s a great deal of money for someone your age. You can do whatever you want.”

“No, I can’t. You and Dad have made that quite clear. Mom, why would you let him do this to me?”

“Oh, sweetie, I just wanted to make sure you were provided for. I just want what’s best for you.”

“And how is this best for me? Marrying me off to a man I don’t love, who doesn’t love me?”

“He’ll come to in time, I’m sure of it. Listen, I know how strange this must be for you, so we’ve arranged for you to take a little trip, anywhere you want to go. Spend the summer by yourself, sow your oats if you’re so inclined, and then you’ll come back in the fall to get married.”

“This is insane. I cannot believe you’d sell your own daughter. I’ll take the trip, but I will not marry that man. You’ll be lucky if I come back.”

That was a week ago. She had packed her luggage, boarded a plane, and landed in the magnificent Outer Banks of North Carolina, a jewel of geography nestled between the Atlantic and Currituck Sound.

She rented a house in Duck, North Carolina and settled in, trying to forget that she was engaged to be married to a man she didn’t love, a man who didn’t love her, who drove her nuts every time he got within a hundred yards of her.

It was June 21, and she was expected back in Harrisburg on September 21. Until then, she was to play in the sand, lie in the sun, shop, and convince herself that she had to do her duty. Emma had other ideas. She had some decisions to make.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

No news is good news?

So, nothing back yet from the publisher who requested the full MS for Hooking Up. The last correspndence I got was a thank you email from the managing editor. She said she'd get back to me when they made their decision.

In the meantime, I got a rejection from another publisher, but I'm ok with that. I still have the full MS out, and if that one doesn't work, I'll keep trying.

On the Supermarket front, I got an email recently from my publisher at Night who said that after the release of six great books within the next few weeks, my book was next. Yay! I'm very excited. It feels like this process has taken so long, but really it hasn't. I just started writing my Supermarket book in January 2010, and I queried Night Publishing in July. I was accepted right after, and the book will be released before the end of the year. That's really fast as far as these things go. I've heard of authors waiting a year, or even two, before they see their work in print. Still, I'm impatient! I'm hoping the book will be out prior to December 1, because my book tour is still on for the first weekend in December. I'll be heading down to the Outer Banks to do some meeting and greeting and book promotion.

I have started, and scrapped a few books recently. I didn't seem to have any ideas that would actually flow into a full MS. But, I started something last night at about 2:30 in the morning that seems to be turning into a manuscript. I seem to keep wandering back to the Outer Banks, and this new book is set in Duck, a charming little town south of Corolla that houses year-long residents as well as tourists.

Meet Emma. She's a twenty-one year-old senator's daughter who gets caught up in a scheme between the senator and a natural gas baron. The two men pledge their children into an arranged marriage for business purposes. Gray Taylor is rude, ruthless, and devastatingly handsome. Emma detests him and refuses to accept him as her husband.
Her parents refuse to allow her to back out and send her to the Outer Banks for a three month vacation before the wedding. On her first day at the seashore, she meets Reese McConnell, and she has an idea. Her parents can't force her to marry Gray if she's married to someone else, can they?

Emma has only three months to win Reese's love. Will she succeed, or will she be forced to marry a man she detests? Unexpected complications arise and threaten the happiness of everyone involved.

I'm about six thousand words into this MS and it is showing some promise. Emma isn't a likeable character at first, so I don't expect a lot of sympathy for her from the readers. But, people can change, and I hope to portray Emma's evolution from a spoiled little girl to a woman with real needs and desires. Can she stand up to her parents and be free from her obligation? Will she fall in love with Reese? Will she marry Gray? Only time will tell!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

full MS request!

I got an email yesterday from one of the publishers I submitted to. They want my full MS!!! I sat up for about five hours last night working on it, just to give it a last once-over before I hit the send button. It's a good thing I did because I found one or two misspellings, and I changed some stuff around. I think I'm actually happy with the book, finally. So, I sent the email with the full MS attached, and now it's back to waiting. Have I mentioned that I hate waiting? But, maybe it'll pay off and they'll like my stuff. Who knows? At least I passed the first round, right?

Still hoping for some news on Supermarket. I can't wait to see it in print!!! Soon, I'm told. So, I'll just have to continue to be patient.

I bought two books from my fellow Night Publishing authors and I was most impressd with the quality of both books. They were great! I'd recommend Descending by Catherine Chisnall and Spoilt by Joanne Ellis any day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

out on submission

I have Hooking Up out to six or so publishers right now. No word except for one quick rejection. This is so nerve-wracking! The submission process is a bear. Really, it's harder than writing the book. I think it's the pressure that really makes it tough. The query/synopsis/blurb is much harder to write because it's usually the only piece of work you are allowed to show the potential agent/publisher, and in some cases, the only work that you will be judged on. What a small percentage of writing, but what weight it carries!
At this point, I'd be happy with a full MS request. I'd be happy to hear something, anything. External validation for a full eight months of work is a good thing.

As far as Supermarket goes, I was told back in July that editing would begin sometime in September. So, I'm very excited because guess what--it's September! Still no word from my editor or my publisher, but I assume I'll hear something soon. The anticipated release is sometime in October. I am so excited! I have been trying very hard to be patient and not bother anyone over at Night Publishing. Anyone who knows me knows that patience is not one of my strong suits. I just really want to get the ball rolling.

I have been tossing around some ideas for another book, including a fun story about a fifty year-old woman who wants to find love, much to the chagrin of her sister and her pastor. I have a solid start to the first chapter, but I hate the later parts of what I've written so I'm shelving it a while to let the ideas brew. I think I'm forcing things, and I am not feeling at my most creative right now. As a matter of fact, I'm feeling slightly burned out. After all, I'm married with three kids, I have a full-time job, a part-time DJ job, my college studies (9 credit hours this semester), my band, and my writing. It's really no wonder my laundry isn't getting done. So, my dust bunnies have dust bunny babies who are multiplying like, well--bunnies. I swear, everything will work out. I'm just tired.

In any event, things are busy and crazy, but I'm not sure I know how to go any other speed. I should be proud. I wrote two books this year. Two. Holy crap. And if I get my mojo back with my new story and get the feel I want, it might be three. We'll see. I'd better not push it. And if you've seen my mojo lying around anywhere, could you please direct it back home?

Jess

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

book covers



Well, it was suggested that I post both book covers so you can get a good idea of what they'll look like with borders so they aren't lost in the blog background. Here they are!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Keep your fingers crossed!

Well, I submitted Hooking Up to three different publishers. Two of the houses are big ones, and one is an e-publisher who looked quite promising. I am excited! Now for the fun part...the wait. Yes, this is the part that kills me. Will they like my query? The partial MS I submitted? Will they enjoy my writing, or will they tell me it's crap? Oh, lordy, this is rough. I hate waiting.

I also hate rejection, but I am realistic about things. Will I be a famous best-seller one day? No. Will I make millions with my writing? No. But, I am having fun fulfilling a dream. We'll see what happens! Keep fingers, toes, arms, legs, and anything else you can think of crossed. Even an MS request would be welcome at this stage in the game!

I'm also thinking about looking for an agent. That process is just as nerve-wracking. I will see what happens with the publishers first, and go from there. If I can get an offer unagented, I'll take it!!!

Jess

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!




This is the new book cover I designed for Hooking Up. What do you think? I am working dilligently on edits, and I have made some great progress. Without further ado, here is Chapter 3. Warning-content is NOT suitable for kids under 18!


Chapter 3
After another rough night of missing Michael, I decided to call my grandmother. Not for support, really, but because I thought I should. She raised me after my parents died, but she didn’t like it, and she normally never liked the choices I made. Actually, there wasn’t much about me that she liked. Period. Surprisingly, however, Gran had always liked Michael. I had been dreading telling her that he dumped me ever since it happened. I knew she would blame me somehow. I settled myself on my bed and took a deep breath. I sighed and dialed.

Her cultured voice sounded slightly irritated when she answered the phone. I glanced at the clock and groaned to myself. 6:30? Great—right in the middle of her nightly news program. Gran hated to be interrupted during her TV shows. Strike one.

“Hi, Gran. It’s me. How are you?”

“Fine, Caitlin. Just watching the news. What are you doing?”

“Nothing, really. Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“You are, aren’t you?”

Yes, she was irritated. And she was already making me feel like a wayward child instead of a twenty-eight year old woman.

“Yes, sorry. Listen, I just wanted to tell you that Michael and I aren’t together anymore. He moved out a few days ago.”

“What? Whatever for? What did you do?”

Unfortunately, that was a typical question from my Gran. No matter what, she had something negative to say, and she tended to blame me for whatever she could contrive. I always had suspicions that she even blamed me for my parents’ death, although I was ten at the time. I guess I shouldn’t have expected any less. Still, it hurt.

“Gran, it wasn’t like that. We just grew apart. He decided he needed his space, so I let him go. End of story. Nothing happened, and I didn’t do anything.”

“Well, you must have done something. Nice boys just don’t walk away and leave their girlfriends of ten years. Did you ask him what you did to make him want to leave?”

“Yes, Gran. I did. He said that he didn’t like the way I made toast in the morning. So, he left. There—happy now?” Strike two. Catie, don’t lose your cool, I admonished myself. But some things just don’t change, and I could feel the age-old fight brewing.

“Well, you don’t have to be rude. I’m just saying that you should really look inside yourself to figure out why he would want to leave you. Then fix it so you can get him back.”

“Ok, Gran. I’ll do that. And while I’m at it, I’ll look into that whole global warming thing. Maybe, since I’m directly responsible for the core temperature of the earth rising, I’ll find a way to fix that, too. What do you think?”

“You know, with that attitude, you sound just like your father. I swear you act more and more like him every day. I don’t appreciate your sarcasm when I’m simply trying to help. I don’t see why you have to fling my advice back into my face when I’m just being supportive. It’s not nice, you know, and I raised you better than that.” Strike three. The guilt trip. I had to hang up or I’d end up screaming at her.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your show. Sorry to bother you.”

“Ok, dear. I’ll talk to you soon.” She hung up the phone and I flopped back onto my bed. I sighed in exasperation. As frenetic as my life was at this moment, some things never changed.

Things had always been this way between me and my grandmother. When I was younger, she’d try everything she could to control me and mold me into what she thought I should be. I was admonished constantly to suck my stomach in, wear more mascara, and dress more like a girl. She wanted me to be a ballerina and refused to attend my karate tournaments because she thought it was too unladylike. She constantly criticized what I did and blamed my dad for making me into a boy. According to her, no matter what I did, I could never do things right. It always had seemed to me that she merely tolerated me, not loved me, and her heavy-handed gruffness always left me feeling cold, lonely, and unwanted.

The very week we graduated from high school, Michael and I signed a lease on an apartment across town, just to get away from her. I could only handle her and her sharp tongue with its pointed barbs in small doses. I compared our relationship to the lab rat experiments that scientists used to perform. After a while, the rat won’t grab the cheese if they get electrocuted enough. I was the rat, and Gran was the Muenster. I was sick of getting stung. As a result of her constant criticism, I rarely went to see my Gran anymore. I wasn’t sure why I had even called her for support; she had never given any. I blamed myself for expecting something different. Sighing, I boosted myself of the bed and headed for the kitchen. There was a pint of Chunky Monkey with my name all over it.

Over the next two months, I concentrated on being happy single. I, Caitlin Paige Edison, was unattached and proud. I was independent and strong. I didn’t need a man to complete me. I was intelligent, beautiful, and competent. I went through the motions of being a confident single woman every day, never acknowledging that I was missing something. I didn’t call my grandmother, and when she finally remembered that she had a granddaughter and tried to call me, I contrived countless excuses to avoid lengthy conversations with her. I couldn’t handle any more blows to my already fragile self-esteem. So, for all she knew, I was out and about constantly, filling my day with so many activities that I barely had a moment. In truth, I went to work, came home, cooked for one or ordered a small takeout meal, and burrowed in my apartment like a mole. I stopped going out with my girls because they gave me pitying looks and tried to set me up with guys they knew. I wasn’t interested. I was far too busy finding myself. They eventually quit trying to set me up, and I was glad. I just wanted to be alone.

But something was missing, and the shit hit the fan one day in February—February fourteenth, to be exact.

I woke up grumpy, but I didn’t know why. I honestly didn’t even realize what day it was until I glanced at the calendar hanging innocuously on the fridge. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was alone. My Lucky Charms weren’t sweet enough to take the bitter taste of being alone on a lover’s holiday off the tip of my tongue. I was alone. Michael had always done something for me on Valentine’s Day, and he never even needed prompting. He usually brought me flowers and chocolates and took me to dinner, and I realized with a start that there was nothing awaiting me today. No surprise deliveries, no sweet treats, no paid-for romantic repasts. There was just an empty apartment, an empty datebook, and me, empty inside.

Did Michael really mean that much, or was it just the relationship that mattered? I wondered what he was doing, and briefly thought about calling him. My hand hovered over the phone, but after a second, I dropped it to my side in a fit of temper. Sometimes I disgusted myself. I had to let him go.

But I missed all the courting rituals, the sweet foreplay that preceded romantic sex. I missed having a man.

Throughout the day, my mind was not on my work. My job as a pediatric physical therapist was usually rewarding, but today all I could think of was my own form of therapy. I felt the need for contact as sharply as I would feel a needle in my side. It poked at me all day, bruising and piercing my tender flesh. I needed a connection badly. I recalled what Heidi suggested, and suddenly, it didn’t sound so ludicrous.
After work, I drove by the fancy restaurants that Michael used to take me to. They were all crowded with couples. I stopped my car outside my favorite, Les Deux, and gazed into the windows. The happy couples seated inside looked blissful. Though I couldn’t hear the conversations, I knew how they went: ”I love you. I love you more.”

I hurried back to my car in shame. What was wrong with me? Had I really pressed my face against the glass of a restaurant and imagined myself among the happy couples?

When I got back to my apartment, I was struck again by Heidi’s words. Why not find someone to ease the pain with? Who said that I had to be in love with the guy I was sleeping with? Maybe a good roll was all I needed to make me less lonely. After all, I was an adult. I had needs, and I was prepared to deal with the consequences of my actions. I was willing to try anything that would take away the ache that had become a burning pyre inside my body. Something was seriously missing, and I aimed to find it.

Having decided to launch a full-scale manhunt, I dressed with care. I wanted to accentuate my long legs and my slim waist. A black tank-dress suited my mood well. Underneath, I wore a lacy black thong and a push-up bra.

I fussed with my dark hair, finally letting it sweep over my shoulders naturally. I could never do anything with it anyway. I applied my makeup carefully, accenting my deep violet eyes. Finally, I spritzed on Red Door, my favorite perfume. It always made me feel very powerful and sexy. I slid my feet into ankle-breaking stilettos and perused myself in my full-length mirror. I was ready. For what, I didn’t know.

I drove around town aimlessly. I didn’t know who or what I was looking for. All I knew is that there was someone out there who would fall for my charms, and I would take advantage of him. I didn’t exactly feel good about that, but I didn’t feel good about staying home and crying my lonely self to sleep either. Which was the lesser of two evils? I had no idea.

I pulled up alongside a decent-looking bar called The Wave. It was well-lit and meticulously maintained. There were no creepy-looking drunks hanging around outside. Instead, the storefront featured flashing neon signs advertising Bud and Miller and curtains hung in the front windows. How bad could a guy be in such a place, I wondered, and parked my car.

I ventured inside slowly, glancing left then right casually, but with the full-alertness of a veteran karate brown-belt. I would know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t see any amazing guys straight-off. Rather, they seemed to all blend in to one big pool of potential. A few glanced in my direction and quickly looked away, almost as though they were afraid of offending me. On the one night I wanted to be noticed, guys were being respectful? What—no catcalls, wolf-whistles, or rude gestures? It was almost laughable, but I didn’t feel like laughing.

I found a small table adjacent to the bar and sat with my back to the wall. I debated leaving after about five minutes, but I have never been one to run away from anything. I had always faced my problems and my attackers with equal zest. I would win this night, no matter what it took.

I placed an order with the roving waitress for a vodka martini. I wanted to appear confident, in-control, and sexy, and I knew of no other drink that would allow me to look that way. The vodka martini was a symbol. It said, “Come get me boys—I’m all yours.”

When I received my drink, I sipped it slowly and gazed over the rim at the individual tables where patrons of all shapes and sizes sat, engaged in earnest drinking or earnest conversation. There were a few really hot guys at some of the tables, but the numbers intimidated me. I didn’t feel like separating a guy from his bunch of buddies. I allowed my gaze to wander further, and I was rewarded with the sight of a lone man sitting in the corner of the room, nursing a beer with a thoughtful look on his face. He was tall, judging by the way he filled out the stool, his knees bent and his feet resting on the lowermost rung of the barstool, and his short dark hair was carelessly styled. He had dark eyes, too, and an olive complexion. He was alone.

I always liked tall, dark, and handsome. Michael had been an odd choice for me, having both blond hair and blue eyes, but I never really minded. Now, my mouth watered in anticipation. I couldn’t believe my own reaction to a stranger, but the pull was gravitational.

I eased myself off my barstool and carried my drink over to his table. I lowered my eyelids, peered at him with a smoky gaze, and said, “Do you mind if I join you?”
He looked up at me, startled, then said in a mellow voice, “Sure. Help yourself.”
I slid into the seat across from him, toyed with the stem of my glass and asked, “Do you come here often?” I couldn’t believe such drivel had escaped my lips, but he didn’t seem to notice the tired come-on.

“No, first time. You?” His voice was pleasant, deep, and seductive. I felt myself getting antsy. I wanted to grab his hand and lead him out the door. The want was excruciating.

“First time for me, too. Do you believe in fate?” I asked him in a husky voice, my violet eyes probing his black ones.

He colored, and said, “Yeah, I guess I do.”

Someone loaded the jukebox and music started playing. It was slow and sweet. He cleared his throat and asked, “Would you like to dance?”

I nodded and he took my hand, leading me gently to the center of the room to the makeshift dance floor. He wrapped his arms around my waist; the contact was so sweet that I wanted to moan. It had been too long. It felt so good to be held. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine that we were a couple, and this wasn’t just a chance meeting in a bar. Maybe imagining things that way would make this blatant seduction easier. I wound my arms around his neck and moved closer to him, resting my head on his shoulder. He smelled edible. I melted into him and tried to make my intentions clear.

He murmured something unintelligible and pulled me even closer. He must have understood. The music wrapped us in a sensual melody. The drums and the bass throbbed, and as they did, so did I.

“What’s your name?” he asked softly.

“Caitlin. What’s yours?” I asked him.

“Ryan,” he answered, squeezing me once. I groaned and nuzzled his neck. The way he smelled should be illegal. It was like a drug, drawing me closer, addicting me, and making me crave things that I probably shouldn’t. Out-of-character things.

When the dance ended, he made as if to release me. I wouldn’t allow it. I kept my arms wrapped around his neck, and tilted my head up to his. I brushed my lips against his check and asked him, “Do you want to get out of here?”

I was amazed at how easy it was to be wanton. The way that I felt right now was anything but innocent, and I couldn’t believe it was actually me, there with him, doing things no good girl ever does. But tonight, all thoughts of good and bad flew out of my head. I was going with my instincts. I needed this like a parched traveler needed water, like an addict needed her drug of choice.

He nodded to me and grabbed my hand. We raced outside but paused on the sidewalk outside the bar. The dilemma became obvious: What did we do now? Rent a hotel room? I only had twenty bucks on me. Did I dare go to his place? After all, I didn’t know him, although I would shortly. The need was unbearable; I made my decision.

“My place is nearby,” I told him, grinding against him sensuously. He nodded again and I led him to my car.

I drove home quickly, very aware of the stranger’s hand rubbing my thigh gently. There was no way I should be doing this right now, but I didn’t care. I had to fill the emptiness somehow, and there was no turning back.

I parked and he came around to my side of the car to open my door for me. He lifted me out of the car and wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me toward him. He backed me up against the side of my car and flattened his hips against me, arms winding around my midsection, his hands sliding up and down my back in a titillating rhythm. His lips found mine, and there was nothing innocent or shy about them. The pressure of his lips on mine was seductive, maddening. Simultaneously, we moaned and his fingers threaded through my hair, pulling a little as he directed my head to put my mouth where he wanted it. He deepened this kiss quickly, his tongue tangling with mine in a full-out erotic caress that was mind-blowing. I was lost immediately. The kiss continued for about a minute until I realized where we were and what we were doing.

I made a little desperate sound in my throat and broke the kiss urgently. I shoved at him so I could move, grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs toward my apartment door. I fumbled with the lock as his hand fumbled with my dress and I practically yanked him inside.

Even after so many years with Michael, I had never felt this level of passion with him, but this dark stranger incited fires in my bloodstream. He stroked my shoulders, my sides, my waist, finally moving his hands up to caress my breasts through my dress. I moaned again and pushed the straps of my dress off my shoulders. He shoved the dress down to my waist and bent to press warm, wet kisses onto my neck and the curve of my bosom. My hands tangled in his hair and I guided his mouth where I wanted it to go. His arms encircled me and I felt his hands struggle with my bra as he tried to unbuckle it. He succeeded, and when my breasts were free, he groaned and feasted on them. I undid the buttons on his shirt and ran my hands down the smooth, solid warmth of his chest. He was firmly muscled and lean, and taller than me, which was a bonus. As he nuzzled me senseless, I attached my lips first to his neck and then to his ear and drew forth little groans of delight from my lover. Our clothes seemed to fall off like magic.

I led him to my bedroom and pushed him down onto the bed. I stretched out on top of him and marveled at the solid warmth beneath me. He rolled us over and shifted so that he was nestled between my thighs. He ravished my neck, my ear, my shoulder, then lower, lower. I gasped recklessly, completely lost in passion. When he entered me, I arched and moaned like I was being electrocuted. The feeling was stunningly electric. As he moved, he murmured soft words in my ear, his breath warming my neck and sending shivers up and down my spine. His voice was just as erotic as the motion of our entangled bodies. Within minutes, he had me screaming.

For the next two hours, we enjoyed each other. We gorged ourselves on the other’s skin, drowning in the smell, the feel, the taste of each other. Finally, we lay exhausted and satisfied in each other’s arms. I snuggled against his side and sighed, feeling very sated and sleepy, but with a jolt, I realized that I had a problem. How did I get rid of him?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Let the games begin!

It's off to the races! The revision races, that is. Editing is going well thus far. I have gotten to chapter 11, and although this is just the first pass through, it's working. I expanded some scenes and refined some others. Now my word count is at 50,500. This is actually good for me. My work tends to be spare in the word-count department. I guess I write in a short-and-sweet fashion. I really admire those lit-fic types who can bang out 90,000 without breaking a sweat. More power to you!

I'm also proud. When I take a moment to reflect on what I have accomplished over the past eight months, I am amazed. I wrote two books! And started a third. That is huge, especially considering everything else I have going on in my life.

I wonder if I would have been able to do this without the amazing motivation I had. You see, my husband was laid off from his job a year and four months ago, and my paycheck was really the only one that paid the bills. It was rough, to say the least. We tried everything we could think of to supplement our income, but times were still quite tough. I had always dabbled in writing, but I had never had the time, patience, or energy to complete anything. All of the other stuff I tried was terrible. I gave up on it soon after I started. But I had a burning desire to write, to tell a story that other people would like to hear. I also had a lot of encouragement from my wonderful college english teacher and my amazing husband. One day, I had an idea, and my husband gave me a deadline. We really thought that writing a book would be a great way to make money. And how cool would it be to be a published author?

So, I bought a netbook and started writing. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I drove my family nuts when they'd try to talk to me and I'd be lost in my story. And they drove me nuts when I was lost in the story and they'd try to interact with me. I can't tell you how many times I lost my train of thought! But it worked, and I actually wrote a book.

What surprised me after I wrote my book and started to look for an outlet for my writing was the competition out there. I always knew that there were many, many poor souls like me out there who thought for sure that they'd written the next big novel. But it wasn't until I joined Authonomy that I really came into contact with any of them. And the competition was fierce! There are so many talented authors out there, all with dreams of their own. Turns out, I'm not so different after all.

I met some terrific people and read some great writing. I learned to lean on my friends in the writing community and trust their advice. I got some praise and some criticism. And I wouldn't trade one minute of any of it.

I have learned so much. I have made some wonderful online friends. I am thankful for each and every person who took the time to look at my work and tell me their honest opinion. I am truly amazed by the generosity of practical strangers.

I have been deeply affected by my family's hardships. I have learned not to take anything for granted. I know now the depth of my love for my family and how much they all mean to me. We survived a long-term layoff together and we have rallied back, stronger than ever.

My husband now has his job back, and things will start to get better. But I'll continue to write. I have found something within myself that needs to keep writing. And after the first book, the first hurdle, it is getting easier. If I can keep going, who knows what I'll accomplish? My first-ever completed novel is scheduled to be published by Night Publishing in October. I'll be querying my second book as soon as my edits are done. My cup truly runneth over.

I am content, and I know now why my family has been tested. I have discovered within myself a propensity for the written word, and I don't think I would have been nearly as motivated without strife. They say that things happen for a reason. I believe it. And I am living proof that dreams,no matter how common or seemingly unreachable, actually can come true.

Jess

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I did it!

I am pleased to announce that I have finished the first draft of Hooking Up! I have been working on this book since March, and I finally got the whole first draft, from start to finish, on paper. Oh, I feel so good! The first draft of this manuscript weighs in at 49,650 words. With editing, it may end up being more or less. Only time will tell....
This one has been a real bear for me. I changed the backstory four times, finally getting it right tonight, when I wrote about 6,000 words. I was, as they say, on a roll.
It is now 3:23 am. I am going to go to bed and relish my success for the night. Come morning, I'll have editing to do. Ugh. Editing.

Jess

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New, Improved Book Cover


Here it is!

My saint of a sister-in-law updated the cover and I love it!!! She is absolutely amazing. Thanks, Teresa!

And, without further ado, here is a teaser of this book! This is the first chapter. I hope you like it!

Chapter 1

For a single woman, there is no lonelier household chore than grocery shopping. Packages don’t come in “for one” sizes. They come in larger-than-life sizes designed to keep a family of four stocked up for a solid week. What does the frugal single do with family-sized portions of food that will spoil before she gets to them?

As I trudged down aisle after aisle of economy-sized products in my local Grocery King Supermarket by myself, pushed my too-empty cart and struggled to look as though I wanted to buy the reduced-fat versions of my favorite foods, in bulk, no less, I had an epiphany. I bet lonely men shopped at grocery stores, too. Maybe across the store, there was a tall, dark, handsome hunk filling up his cart with reduced-fat cookies and low-cal Italian dressing, sighing to himself as he loaded up on the family pack of toilet paper. How hard would it be to find him, three aisles away?

I never thought that I would be reduced to picking up a man at the Grocery King. I mean, I’m not that unattractive. I am thirty-two years old and I have medium-length blonde hair and hazel-green eyes. I am about five pounds overweight, but I’ve been told that’s part of my charm. I have a quick smile, a contagious laugh, and a very dry sense of humor. I have all of my teeth, most of my brain, and some common sense. I don’t have a crazy ex-boyfriend named Roy who still breaks things when he thinks of me, and I don’t have a collection of cats that lounge around my apartment. I have a job, a car, no kids, and a 401K. So, what was the problem?

I think the dry sense of humor coupled with the absolute lack of fear of doing odd things in public can get me in trouble. But today, when I had my epiphany in aisle four, it didn’t feel like such a bad idea. I had heard of people meeting at the laundromat, for example, falling in love, and getting married next to the vending machines. At least their reception smelled like fabric softener.

So, on that day, I was struck with a brilliant idea. I would find a nice guy at the Grocery King where I live in Corolla, North Carolina, fall in love discussing brie, and get married in the produce section, which happens to be quite nice at the Grocery King. Simple, right?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Outer Banks Cool!

My upcoming book, How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket, has been mentioned in a great Outer Banks Blog/Website! I am very excited and flattered. Check it out!

Outer Banks Revealed, Jess's blurb

Just scroll down and you'll see my blurb and the nice comment the blog author made. I love this! The Outer Banks is such an inspiring, amazing place, and I have had nothing but good experiences with the people attached to it. I would highly recommend a visit to one of my favorite vacation destinations!

Updates:

Teresa, my amazing sister-in-law, is hard at work designing my back cover and possibly the inside cover of my book (if we can do it that way), and I can't wait to see it! She designed the front cover for me, and I think she did a terrific job.

To be able to hold my book in my hands, in paperback form, will be the thrill of a lifetime. I liken this experience to giving birth, although with the drugs, having my two children was actually not as difficult! Writing a book and breathing life into fictional characters is amazing--like raising children. You know what you want for their future, and it is your job as mother or writer to mold your creations. It is a humbling experience.

Hooking Up is moving along. I have 102 pages of manuscript, with an anticipated 30 to go before the first draft is finished. Then comes editing. Oh great. I love editing. Insert sarcasm here.

Hope to have some more updates or at the very least some cover art soon. In the meantime, I'll work on Hooking Up and maybe even post another chapter. We'll see. Keep 'em guessing, I always say.

Jess

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What do you think?


My fabulous sister-in-law designed this book cover for my soon-to-be-published novel, How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket. What do you think?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First two chapters of Hooking Up

I thought I'd let you guys get a sneak preview of Hooking Up. I have been working on this one for a few months now, but just recently got back into it with a vengeance. Part of my problem was that I knew how I wanted to start, and I knew how I wanted to finish, but the elusive middle was killing me! I think I have a much better grasp on things now, and just recently made a decision to change things further. Here are the first two chapters. I hope you enjoy them!

Hooking Up
By Jessica L. Degarmo
Chapter 1

It all started the night my two best friends, Kelly, Heidi, and I went to our favorite hole-in the-wall bar downtown. We had all dressed for the occasion: Kelly wore a slinky mini-dress in blazing blue that accentuated her big blue eyes and summer-blonde hair, Heidi wore black in the form of a skin-tight leather bodysuit, showing off her siren red hair, lush curves and her humongous breasts, and I strutted my stuff in a red tube dress and hooker-height heels. My dark, wavy hair hung loose down my shoulders and as I moved, it swung with the same rhythm as my hips. We walked into the bar filled with cigarette-smoke ribboned air and pranced over to our regular table, past the leering old men and the scarred jukebox. The neon “Beer” sign that hung over the bar blinked at one end; the other had burned out long ago.
We sat and played Rock, Paper, Scissors, to see who would buy the first round. Heidi lost, and she grumbled under her breath as she headed to the bar to order us all screwdrivers.
Kelly and I surveyed the regular crowd and found nothing of interest whatsoever. The same tired old men huddled at their tables or at the bar, hunched over their mugs of ale and squinting in the dim light. We sighed in unison. Nothing fresh to look at tonight.
It was Kelly’s idea to come to the bar anyway. She had just lost her job and she wanted a pick-me-up. I supposed that losing a topless dancing job would be heartbreaking to someone with her epic proportions and propensity for wiggling and jiggling. She seemed sultry even sitting still, elbows propped on the table, her face in her hands. She was good at her job, but she had just been replaced with a younger model. She griped now as we waited for our vodka-laced orange juice.
“But I was so much better than that young little upstart. Her boobs aren’t even real!” she groaned, shaking her head in misery. “I had a much better routine that she did. All she did was twirl around a pole. I even had props, a real experience.”
Her routine consisted of a rubber chicken, a farm-girl look complete with a straw hat, Daisy Dukes, a red-and-white checked button down shirt that was tied around her midriff (while it was on), and a painfully affected Southern drawl. I’m not going to mention what she did with the chicken. It was nice to have ambition, however, and I sympathized with my friend.
“She’ll probably waste away after the first month, and then they’ll call you and beg you to come back. Besides, you’re too good for them. What about the place over town? Boobz N’ Booze?” I asked, rubbing her back through the tight leather. She sighed heavily.
“I already tried. They said they were full, but they’d call if something came up. What am I going to do? How am I going to pay for school if I don’t have a job?” she wailed. It just goes to show you that looks aren’t everything. Besides having a bodacious bod, Kelly was a whiz. She was smarter than anyone else I knew, and she had wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I’d known her. She had been putting herself through law school, and she was only a year away from graduating. I knew she’d find a way to make things work for her, but until then, she was entitled to a little bit of self-pity. By tomorrow, she’d be up and scheming again.
Heidi came back with our drinks, and she plunked them down on the table with enthusiasm. She beamed at us and said, “Drink up! I got these ones for free!”
“How did you manage that?” I asked sarcastically. The way she looked tonight, I was surprised that we didn’t have men lined up to buy us liquor. But, the night was still young.
“Silly Caitlin, I just asked nicely,” she purred, using her come-hither voice. She was twenty-three, the youngest of our trio, and still a virgin. She came from good, wholesome stock who sheltered her, and when she came to the city from her tiny hometown in Illinois, she did everything she could to be a rebel. Unfortunately, feeding the homeless and volunteering at church didn’t necessarily help her bad-girl image. How she became friends with Kelly and me remained a mystery, but we wouldn’t trade her tender heart and sweet sensibilities for the world.
“Cheers!” we all chimed in unison, raising our drinks and knocking our glasses together.
“To having options!” I toasted, trying to make Kelly feel better. I did feel bad for her, but I was having issues of my own, and I was a little distracted.
I had just broken up with Michael, my boyfriend of ten years. It wasn’t a fight or a sudden explosive episode that had prompted the break-up; rather it was a gradual parting of ways that had started probably two years ago. Michael and I just drifted apart as slowly as the continents, until at last we were oceans apart. Michael was a great guy, but apparently, I didn’t really do it for him anymore. He compared the relationship we had to an old sweatshirt: It fit and it was comfortable, but full of holes and stains. Eventually, as much as you liked the sweatshirt, it was time to get rid of it and buy a new spring wardrobe. So, he had shucked me off like he shucked off his winter clothes, and he was ready to start over. He had told me just last week, and by then, he had already signed a lease on a new apartment. He was moving out at that very minute, leaving me behind, stunned and broken.
So, here I was, single for the first time, well, ever. I had been in a relationship for so long that I had no idea what was supposed to happen now. I had forgotten how to date. Michael had known all there was to know about me, and the thought of having to go through that awkward first-date, that weird getting-to-know-you phase had me thoroughly disgruntled.
And why did I need another relationship anyway? I had just gotten out of one that had become stale and boring. Why do the same thing over again? Wasn’t the definition of insanity something about doing the same thing over again and expecting different results? Was I truly insane? I may have been, because I felt abandoned. It was a feeling that I hadn’t had since my parents died eighteen years ago. And why would I have? I had Michael, my rock, my port in the storm. Now there was no one, and I was alone again. I felt like there was a crater inside my chest, and Michael’s absence was excruciating. I needed this night with my girls as much as Kelly did.
“Catie, where were you just a minute ago? You seemed miles away,” Heidi said, gently shaking my arm. I pulled myself back into their conversation, and realized that neither of them knew that Michael and I ended things.
“I forgot to tell you something,” I said, looking at both of them sheepishly.
“What?” Kelly asked, her smooth brow rumpling a little as she looked at me.
“So, tell us now, “ Heidi urged.
I took a deep breath. “It’s over between Michael and me. He signed a lease on an apartment on the East side, and he’s moving out as we speak.”
They both gasped and shrieked at the same time.
“What?” Heidi yelled. “Why didn’t you say something earlier, you moron!”
“Well, that trumps me losing my job! What the hell?” Kelly hollered.
I shushed them both quickly. The old men at the bar were starting to stare. “I just forgot, that's all. Sorry.”
They both looked at me like I was crazy. “How could you forget that you just broke up with your boyfriend?” Heidi accused skeptically. “This is big. How do you feel?”
‘I’m fine. It’s not a big deal, really. This has been coming for a long time, guys,” I told them, shrugging my shoulders, hiding the pain under a guise of nonchalance. “No problems. Just done and over with.”
“But how?” said Kelly, concerned now. This was the first she had heard of any problems between Michael and me. I was good at keeping my private life private. Even though Kelly and Heidi were my best friends, I didn’t tell them everything. A girl needed to keep some things to herself. I had never been one for girl-talk, and I certainly didn’t want them to know that I was such a loser that I couldn’t keep a man.
“It just happened. These things do. It was time for both of us to move on. So now, I’m a free agent.” A free agent? What does that even mean? I was resorting to pulling out sports analogies? Great.
“You know what you need?” Heidi, our innocent friend said. “You need a hook-up.”
Kelly choked on her drink and I gaped, my jaw falling almost to the floor. I pounded Kelly on the back to help her stop choking and silently repeated Heidi’s completely unexpected idea. A hook-up?


Chapter 2

Kelly recovered first. “Ok, explain yourself,” she demanded, wiping her mouth with her napkin and giggling.
“It’s simple. You just got out of a serious relationship, so now you need to have a hook-up to get over Michael and move on.” Heidi looked proud of herself. “I read it in Cosmo.”
I burst into laughter. “How do you propose that I hook up?” Something like this coming from Heidi was like hearing Santa Claus swearing—it was so completely out of character.
"Well, you find a cute guy, go up to him and ask him to sleep with you, and then you do it.” She was actually serious. Heidi, pure as the driven snow and destined to remain that way until she tied the knot with some good, corn-fed boy, was serious about me finding a random guy to have sex with.
Kelly must have had the same thought I did because she started laughing so hard she snorted. Eventually, she caught her breath, rolled her eyes and said to Heidi, “Where is she supposed to meet this cute guy? And what about disease and creepy stalkers and pregnancy?"
“Well, use a condom, hook up in a neutral place, and make sure to take the morning-after-pill. That’s what Cosmo says,” Heidi said indignantly.
I didn’t know what to say. A hook-up? With some random guy? How does one even begin to prepare for that, much less do it? What would I do—just walk up to some random guy, say, “Hey, Baby, are you looking for a good time?” and run off to the parking lot and do it in a car? How yucky. I shrugged off the thought and concentrated instead on my screwdriver.
“Heidi, you wild woman, I think I’ll pass. But thanks,” I said, giving her a one-armed hug.
Kelly and Heidi laughed in unison, and we all pounded our drinks. It was really just what I needed, and I felt myself relaxing from more than just the alcohol. I had my two best friends in the world, our familiar home pub, and the men were starting to line up to liquor us up. What more did a girl need?
I watched my two best friends get silly on screwdrivers and flirt with the old men at the bar, and I helped them to the restroom when they needed to go. Neither of my girls could hold their liquor, and as always, I ended up taking care of them, not that I minded. I had always been more level-headed than Kelly and earthier than Heidi. We danced to the corny ‘80s music wafting from the jukebox and giggled when the old men tried to keep up. Life was actually good. I felt good. As long as I didn’t dwell on my empty apartment, my empty bed, my empty heart.
By midnight, both girls were sloppy, and I peeled them off of their barstools and called them a cab. I walked home, relishing the crisp evening air on my overheated skin. I wasn’t worried about anyone bothering me. Although I was a willowy, trim 5’7” and 120 lbs., I had always been able to take care of myself. I had earned a brown belt in Karate and felt confident that I could handle an attacker. Besides, I had lived in this town my whole life, and the only exciting thing that had happened in my twenty-eight years was when the old pavilion in the outskirts of town had been burned to the ground by some local hoodlums.
Letting myself into a dark apartment was new. Michael’s things had been moved out already, and the place looked bare and sterile. The furnishings that were left seemed forlorn and miniscule in the large space. I threw my purse on the kitchen counter, flicked on the light to the living room in passing, and kicked my shoes off. I left them on the rug, shiny mementos of a happy time, and headed to my bedroom. At least I still had my bed. Michael had taken our couch and left me with only an armchair and a single end table. The rest of the furniture, including the TV and the entertainment stand, had been moved to the apartment on the East side.
As I slid out of my dress and hung it up in the now half-empty closet, I thought of Michael. How was he doing? Did he miss me? Did I miss him?
I did. There was something unsettling about coming home to a quiet place. Michael was heavily into sports and music, and he always had the volume on the TV or the stereo cranked when he was home. I had come home from work and gotten a headache simply by walking inside the apartment more than once over the past ten years. But at least someone was there. The place was silent now, and for once I had room to think, to rest, to just be. It was a somber change, and an unwelcome one.
I crawled into bed and buried my head in his pillow, inhaling deeply. He always wore the nicest cologne. I wondered why he hadn’t taken his pillow. Maybe he had bought new ones. Maybe he didn’t want to chance smelling my perfume in his dreams. Maybe he was trying to erase any evidence that I had ever been present in his bed. I wouldn’t blame him. Ten years was a long time to spend with someone, and since we had ended it, the time seemed somehow wasted.
I got up and stripped the sheets from the bed. I rummaged through the closet until I found a new, scent-free set, and remade the bed. Crawling in again, I sniffed. Satisfied that there was no longer a trace of Michael in the bed, I sighed and fell asleep.
The next morning was equally quiet. I didn’t hear Michael humming in the bathroom when I woke up, and I didn’t have to make eggs for two. I could read the newspaper as slowly as I wanted without worrying that I was taking too long with the Sports section. I didn’t have to share the bathroom, the toaster, or the coffeepot. This was ok. Really. Maybe If I kept thinking this way, I’d eventually convince myself.
I refused to acknowledge the emptiness that was nestled deep inside me like a malignant growth. I refused to let myself wallow in self-recrimination or pity, and I refused to miss Michael.
After breakfast, I decided to rearrange my pitiful collection of furniture throughout the house. I pushed the bed to the opposite wall, moved my dresser closer to the bathroom door, and hefted the bookshelf in our room until it was next to the side of the bed that Michael had always occupied. I grabbed a spare comforter and remade the bed with it, just to change the look. I stepped back, perused the now completely different room, and nodded. I moved to the living room, and since I only had an armchair and an end table, did nothing. I guessed that I would have to go shopping soon for something to fill the space.
Satisfied with my efforts, I hopped in the shower and scrubbed the scent of used tobacco from the night before from my skin. I pulled on some sweats and an old holey t-shirt and sat down to think.
It’s funny how some ideas, although they are completely crazy and not worth even an iota of thought, can stick with you. Though Kelly and I laughed at Heidi’s “Cosmo” idea, it was stuck in my craw, and stuck good. A hook-up sounded dangerous, and actually kind of slutty, but maybe it was the right thing to do. People have rebound relationships all the time, and they are no worse for wear afterwards. But could I do it? I had never had a one-night stand. As a matter of fact, Michael had been my first, and only, serious relationship. He was actually the only guy that I had ever slept with, pathetic as that seemed in such sexually-enlightened times.
Michael and I had known each other since grade school. He was actually the first person besides my immediate family who knew that my parents had died in a plane crash. He was there for me, and held my hand and acted as my rock more times than I could count. We attended high school together, and we had drifted together romantically in much the same way we had eventually drifted apart: slowly. We had always been in the same group of friends, and one night, when we were the last two of our group to be walking home from the movies together, we kissed. It had been sweet, chaste, and just the sort of thing that shy teenagers would do. The funny part was that neither of us had any idea of what to do about the budding attraction we had felt for each other. We groped like the gawky teenagers we were in the back of his car, we walked to classes together, and we went to senior prom together. And that night, after prom, we consummated our romance in a hotel room he had reserved for the occasion. We never imagined that we’d be anything other than together. It was a comfortable relationship from the start, aided by the fact that we had grown up together. When had we grown apart?
I was old-fashioned by nature. I was never promiscuous, and I had never thought of having sex just for the sake of having sex. It had to mean something. With Michael, it had meant something. But here I was, seriously contemplating having a one-night stand with some random stranger who meant absolutely nothing to me, and to whom I meant absolutely nothing. That was wrong, right?
I wasn’t so sure. Everything else had changed so drastically in such a short time. Why couldn’t I?
The only person I could call to help me with such a drastic change of self besides Michael was Kelly. Kelly was my co-conspirator in everything. We had gotten in a lot of trouble throughout the years. She was the only person I would trust talking about such a drastic measure with. She would tell it to me straight.
“Catie, you can’t be serious!” she exclaimed, and I was sure that on the other end of the phone line, she was throwing her hands up in the air in a gesture of futility. “You? The Queen of the Prudes?”
I took offense to that remark. I wasn’t a prude. I was just … controlled. Sorry if I didn’t undress in front of thirty guys every night for tips. I preferred a more subtle approach.
“I just think that maybe I need something different. I’ve never just gone out and done it before. Maybe it’s time to experience what every other girl in the United States experienced when she was a teenager. ” I frowned. Seriously, what did my friends think of me?
“I just think that Heidi was way off-base with the whole hook-up thing. You never know what you’ll run into out there. I think you can do better.”
“But it hurts. This loneliness thing hurts. I don’t like it.”
“You won’t be happy with yourself afterward, you know. That type of behavior is not in your makeup. I’m surprised you’re even considering it. You don’t want to do this. Really you don’t. You just want something. Take my advice, and let it be for now. You’ll feel differently in a month or two, I swear.”
“You’re probably right,” I conceded. After all, I had just gotten out of a relationship. I didn’t need any complications right now. I had to find myself, that’s all. I couldn’t rely on a guy to find me for me. And why, for Pete’s sake, was I contemplating dating advice from a twenty-three year old virgin who swore up and down the first time she did the good old up and down would be on her wedding night? I would be much better off listening to the stripper.
I pushed the thought away. I would concentrate on finding me and leave the rest to fate. How hard could that be?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An award from my buddy Melanie!

Wow! I won something, and I didn't have to do a thing! Miss Melanie Ray contacted me a bit ago and said that I had to go to her awesome website, www.readitin7days.com to collect. So, I did!

I am not up on all of this tech stuff, but I think I can get the gist of what she wants me to do:

A)thank the person who awarded me. Thanks, Melanie!!!!

B) Link back to her site...see above.

C)Pass the award off to fifteen great bloggers. Hmmm--Do I know fifteen bloggers? Give me a few on this one.

D) contact those fifteen to tell them about their award. See letter C.

E) tell seven things about me. Well, ok--you asked for it!

1) I love gemstones. I have a collection of them.
2) I am the lead singer in a classic rock band.
3) I fluctuate between being extremely self-conscious and self-confident.
4) I love fried food, and my waistline proves it.
5) I saw my first book, How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket, playing in my head like a movie the whole time I was writing it.
6) I am afraid of drowning.
7) Anything with less than two legs and more than 4 is no friend of mine!

So, here are some of the bloggers that I'll admire:

1)of course, I have to list my Melanie. It may be against the rules, but I'm doing it anyway. Read it in Seven Days

2)Cyndi Tefft is a sweetie-pie, and I love her book Between.
Cyndi's Blog

3)Sessha Batto, one cool individual: Sessha's World

4)Steven Jensen, whose great book, The Poison of a Smile, will be published by Night Publishing soon, just like mine! Steve Jensen

5)Leah Petersen-what a great gal! Leah Petersen

6)Lori Carrington, a fellow Pennsylvanian, and someone who was sweet enough to feature my book one week on her great website. Lori Carrington

7))T.L. Tyson-another great Author and Authonomite. T.L. Tyson

8) Ashlynn Monroe-a Silver Publishing author. How is that working for you? I'm curious. Ashlynn Monroe

9) Karl Kronlage-just a great guy with a new baby. Wondeful Author on SPR. Karl Kronlage

10)Diane Nelson-what a woman! Talented, talented, talented...Diane Nelson

11) the amazing Noelle Pierce, Noelle Pierce

I'll continue this list in a little bit!!!!

Jess

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

updates, so to speak

Ok, so no updates to speak of. Things are at a standstill right now while I await my turn for How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket to be published. This is so exciting to me, and a monumental test of my patience and self-control. I must be growing up if I can stand to wait for a couple of MONTHS before my book gets published. I am proud of myself.

I think that I will have to change Hooking Up again. I was very happy about the direction the book is going, but I am afraid that I may have gone too far. I think that some of the parts of the book are too authobiographical, and I think that if certain people were to read it, I'd ruin my relationship with them forever. No matter how I feel, I'm not willing to risk that. So, I guess that this experience has actually forced me to see some truths. You can be hurt by and angry with a member of your family, but they will always be family, and some relationships, no matter how strained and dysfunctional, are worth salvaging.

I think that I'll spend some more time this weekend refining my work on that book to change things up. I won't lose the raw emotion of my MC, but I'll redirect its source. I still have lots of research to do on certain aspects of our legal system, so I'll work on that as well. It was wonderful last Saturday to get up before everyone else in my house, throw on a pot of coffee, and sit at the kitchen table with my netbook, just sipping, thinking, and writing. I could really get used to this writing thing.

That's all for tonight. I told myself that I'd go to bed early, but obviously that didn't happen. Oh, well. Live life while you can. Stay up late, get up early, have fun, and enjoy what you're doing. You just never know.

Yes, I am!


Visit Night Reading

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Good stuff

I did a lot of writing today, and I am very pleased. I was at an impasse with Hooking Up, and I knew what I wanted to say, just not how to say it. But after some brainstorming, I got into one of those moods where I just had to write. My whole morning was spent on my netbook, but I am pleased. I just uploaded the changes to Authonomy.com under the name Jasmine Fields. Check it out!

My sister-in-law is still working on my book cover for How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket. I am so excited to see how it looks! The suspense is killing me. Still, I've been told that patience is a virtue.

Things seem to be moving along with my "Supermarket" book. I got an email from my publisher and he said that he'd move me up the list. I wonder what that means? At least there is progress...how much how soon remains to be seen.

Well, I'm going night fishing with my family tonight, so I won't be around. I hope you have a great night!

Jess

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

some more stuff I forgot to mention

See, I'm bad at this blog stuff!!! I guess I'll just have to learn, and you'll all have to bear with me.

My wonderful sister-in-law Teresa is working on designing my book cover for me, and I have to give props to my husband who took the picture that is currently on my profile (and will also be on the back of my book)with his cell phone, no less!

I am quite excited about things to come. I have an offer for a book-signing from the Salty Paws Biscuits in Nags Head, NC. Hopefully I'll be able to coordinate it and do it when I go down south for my book tour from December 3-5. I plan to talk to the local media, the businesses in town, and anyone else I can about my upcoming book.

I also have two other books in progress right now. Hooking Up is about a woman with a damaged psyche who just loses her long-term boyfriend (to another woman) and who decides to fill the gap, so to speak, with a random man. How did Caitlin manage to find the one guy in town who wants more than a one-night stand?

The Accident (title is tentative) is about a man whose mistake behind the wheel costs a child his life. Now someone is after him and his own son. Will he save his family from disaster?

Hopefully I am blogging the kind of stuff you're interested in. If not, tell me, and I'll try to do better. What can I say? It's my first day...

Hello!

I'm glad to be here with you!

I'm really not sure where to begin. Will anyone actually read this blog? I suppose I should introduce myself and explain why I'm here.

My name is Jessica L. Degarmo. I am a wife, mother, full-time insurance broker and branch manager for a great place called NII Brokerage, and a part-time college student studying to get a degree in business management. I also DJ part-time at KC101, a local country music radio station, and I am the lead singer for the band Department 24.

So, because I wasn't busy enough, and because my husband gave me a deadline, I began to write a book.

Really, I should back up further and explain why, out of all of the other forms of creative self-expression I could have used, I chose to write a novel.

I have always been an avid reader and writer. I have written papers, stories, poems, lyrics, and letters for as long as I can remember. I think my enthusiasm really grew in the fifth-grade. My teacher gave us creative writing exercises to do, and I loved them. Over the years, I have started many books, many stories that I never finished. With some, I just ran out of steam, and with others, I ran out of things to say. None of my recent ideas seemed to really sprout wings and fly the way they needed to in order to become full-length books.

That all changed when my whole family went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our first trip was in 2008, and the beauty of the area and the rugged power of the ocean took my breath away. I was hooked. I loved it all; the salt-water smell that hung like heavy perfume in the air, the golden sun that warmed my body and mind, and the soft sand between my toes. I loved the area with all of its historic charm and picturesque lighthouses, the people who were so friendly and kind, and the wonderful array of restaurants and other attractions that begged to be visited. I was charmed.

The ideas started flowing like the water at high-tide. My first attempt was a gut-wrenching story about a woman whose child is dying of cancer. In this book, my main character would be separated from her husband and child, but when they learn the boy's cancer is fatal, the woman is allowed to rent a house on the beach for the summer with her son. I pictured a scene where they rail at God on the beach during a thunderstorm, and another poignant vignette where the boy and his mom come to terms with death, and each other.

Needless to say, I got so depressed during my research and writing that I gave it up. I am not meant to write sad stories. They get under my skin and stay there, where they fester and bleed.

The second idea that I had turned out to be much better. And the book "How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket" was born.

Meet Quinn, a thirty-two year old journalist who has been jet-setting around the world for a few years writing stories and running from committment. When the stakes get too high, she jumps ship and runs to a new place, a new story. However, a new permanent assignment for a nationally-syndicated travel magazine lands Quinn back in her hometown, Corolla, North Carolina.
Quinn is happy to put down roots in her old hometown by the sea. But one day, while grocery-shopping for one in her local Grocery King supermarket, she realizes that she's lonely. The committment she ran away from is now calling, but where will she find true love?

Join Quinn on her hilarious journey to find the man of her dreams in the most unlikely of places: the supermarket! Will she find rotton apples or romance?

I am pleased to announce that "How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket" will be released by Night Publishing in October 2010. Stay tuned for more information about the anticipated release date, where to buy, and for details on my book-tour, scheduled for December 3-5, 2010 in Nags Head, North Carolina!

I hope you come back to visit my blog, and I thank you for stopping by!

Jessica