Friday, September 13, 2013

My advice

Hi, everyone!

On Monday, I had the great honor of visiting Professor Christopher Altman at Onondaga Community College and speaking to three of his English classes. Chris has just launched his own book through Kona Publishing, a lovely texbook called Myths We Learned In Grade School English. It's fabulous and available here: https://www.konapublishing.com/refresh/templates/publication.php?publication_id=49

Talking to the students was fun. They were very gracious and enthusiastic and seemed to very much enjoy the first chapters I read to them. I felt like I was able to put a human face on my books, to show them that someone like me, or like them, can pick up pen and paper (or computer and coffee) and write.

I have always said that if I can start writing books, anyone can. Trust me, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. But Professor Mohammad, one of Chris's colleagues who sat in on one of the classes, said that some people might think it's an impossible feat, perhaps because they don't think their writing measures up, or can't think of something to write about. Professor Mohammed suggested that not everyone could do something like I've done, so how could we (Chris and I) help people achieve their writing goals?

I was glad he asked that question, because it wasn't that long ago that I was a non-traditional, part-time college student myself. When I wrote my first three books (or four, I can't remember), I was working full-time and going to school part-time in addition to raising my family and singing in a band. Those were crazy times, and looking back on them, I'm not quite sure how we did it. I can say that we were concerned for a while that the dust bunnies were going to spring to life and try to take over. I can say that at the time, those book ideas consumed me, and I had to write them. I had to. It was something I felt so deeply, I couldn't not write.

So my answer to the professor was this: write what you are passionate about.

I was passionate about what I was doing because I was doing it to help my family. And I loved my characters, so it was relatively easy to take the leap and finish that first book.  But I know not everyone loves to read books, especially not romances or paranormal literary fiction. But some people love music, feel it in their bones, get transported by it to a happy place. So, if music is your passion, write lyrics.

Some people love sports, and color commentary, a sports blog, or interviews with your favorite local teams and/or players is a great way to infuse writing into everyday life.

Some people love movies, and feel they could have done a better job with the last blockbuster. So, write movies, screenplays, plays, dramas, whatever. Just write.

Passionate about cooking? Write a cookbook, or a restaurant review, or a food blog. Do you love comic books? There's a creative way to infuse writing into art, or vise-versa.

I hope I've shown you that the possibilities are endless. You don't have to be chained to writing books if it isn't your thing. You can write short stories, poems, novellas, serials, etc. Just write.

That's what I did, long before I started writing books. When I was young, I wrote short stories or essays. I wrote poetry. I started multiple books that remained unfinished for many reasons, but I wrote. Later, I wrote love letters to my husband. I wrote letters to stand up for causes. Whatever form of expression it was, it was writing. And one day, I had a book idea I could actually finish. So I wrote it. And I will continue to do so. Writing for me is a need as well as a desire. I want to leave my mark, so to speak. I want to inspire people, to make them think. I want to tell stories and share my imagination with the world. So I write.

And I couldn't have done any of this without my husband and kids. My family was an amazing support system for me, and they really enabled me to start my writing journey. They continue to be supportive, giving me the space I need to let my creative juices flow.  Without them, well, I'd have no reason to write. They sustain me, and I'm hoping one day my writing sustains us.

Go forth and seize your day. Live your dreams, and if you can't immerse yourself within them, at least take a moment each day to acknowledge them and take one step forward. Eventually, every single step will end up as part of your journey. Some steps are bigger than others, and some steps might be backwards. But merely standing up and trying to reach them is more than some people will ever do, so if it takes a bit longer than you want it to, pat yourself on the back for trying. Things that are moving slowly are still moving.

Hugs and love to each of you. You also sustain me, and I am so grateful that you've chosen to share my journey. Thank you.

Hugs,
Jess

Monday, September 2, 2013

Enter to win!

There's a huge giveaway going on sponsored by a lovely book review organization called 2 Friends and Authors promote. There are tons and tons of books being given away via Rafflecopter. And guess what? Holding On is in there, too! This is a great way to explore some Indie authors and get some great new reading material.
Enter to win an amazing prize pack of books here:

Rafflecopter Giveaway


Good luck!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Launch Day is here!

I'm so pleased to announce the official launch of Holding On! So excited!!! I'm having a blast over at my launch party on Facebook, so join me there and enter to win some great prizes!

https://www.facebook.com/events/509676545775848/

As a special launch day present, Hooking Up is free on Amazon today, so get your copy while you can and read Caitlin's story from the beginning!

Here's the amazon.com link:
http://www.amazon.com/Hooking-Up-ebook/dp/B00DZZA0XE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378049151&sr=8-1&keywords=jessica+l.+degarmo

And here's the UK link:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hooking-Up-ebook/dp/B00DZZA0XE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1378049189&sr=8-3&keywords=jessica+l.+degarmo

Enjoy!!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Holding On -- Goodreads Giveaway!

Follow this link to enter to win one of two signed paperback copies of Holding On. Open to US residents. Good luck!



Goodreads Book Giveaway


Holding On by Jessica L. Degarmo

Holding On

by Jessica L. Degarmo


Giveaway ends September 29, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter to win

Monday, August 19, 2013

Holding On Launch Party fun...

Hello, everyone!

I'm so excited for the upcoming Holding On launch party on September 1! You can get the book now in either kindle or paperback, but we will officially celebrate the release in September.

To celebrate the release, Hooking Up, the book that started it all, will be free on certain days throughout August and also September 1. One of those days is tomorrow, August 20! Get your free copy of Hooking Up just in time for the official launch of Holding On. Hope you enjoy it! :)

I am planning some fun for the launch party on Facebook, and I thought I'd give the answers to 5 questions I'm going to ask that day at the launch party. Whoever gets all five questions correct when I ask them will receive a lovely Hooking Up/Holding On coffee mug!

Here are the questions and answers for the party:

Q: What is Ryan's occupation?
A: He's a cop

Q: What is Benjie's middle name?
A: Isaiah

Q: What is Gran's real name?
A: Amelia Danforth

Q: Where is Maria from?
A: Kissimmee, Florida

Q: What does Benjie call Maria when he first meets her?
A: Grammy

There you have it! All you have to do is be the first person to answer all five questions correctly and you'll win the coffee mug pictured on a prior post. We'll have a lot more fun the day of the launch, so stay tuned!

Hugs,

Jess



Friday, August 16, 2013

Holding On is now available!

I'm so pleased to announce that Holding On is now available in paperback and Kindle! We're still going to have one heck of a launch party on September 1, of course, and I'm having fun planning some giveaway swag!

Launch Party prizes:

1 "I love books by Jessica L. Degarmo" t-shirt, size large
3 kindle copies of Holding On
1 Hooking Up/Holding on coffee mug
1 $10 Amazon gift card
1 signed paperback

So, please RSVP to my Facebook Launch Party here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/509676545775848/

And tell all your friends! You are entered to win the giveaways simply by clicking "attend!"

I'm also looking for some reviewers, and I do have some ARCs to hand out in exchange for an honest review. So, if you are willing to read and review Holding On, please message me and we'll work something out.

I'm over the moon with happiness and I hope you love hearing more about Caitlin and Ryan. They're a great couple and I hope you enjoy the rest of their story. Take care of yourselves, and thanks again for all of your support. I couldn't do this if it wasn't for you!

Hugs,

Jess



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Holding On launch details!

I'm so very excited to announce that Holding On, the long-awaited sequel to Hooking Up, will be released September 1, 2013!

I'm working on some great prizes and lots of fun, and I'm inviting you all to join me at my online launch party! Follow this link to join in on the fun. Hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/events/509676545775848/



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Six Weeks: A note to my readers

Dear Readers,

Since this book was first released in 2011, I’ve had a lot of comments and feedback regarding the ending of this book. I’ve read many comments from readers who complained that there is no ending. I’m writing this note today to explain my reasons for leaving Immy’s choice up to each individual reader.

I know that abortion, adoption, and teenage pregnancy are very hot topics nowadays, and I also know everyone has his or her own opinion about what is right and what is wrong. Truth be told, I have my own beliefs on the subject, and what I very much wanted to avoid was infusing my own beliefs into this book. It wasn’t my intention to write a book that advocated for one side of the issue or the other. It also wasn’t my intention to force my beliefs on anyone, because I have no right to do that.

It was my intention to create a book that starts conversations, that causes people to really think about their own beliefs. Sometimes, what we think or feel is right may not be the right solution for someone else. Sometimes there is no right or wrong answer for such an issue. It’s a very personal decision, and sometimes all a person can do is to try to make the best decision they can based on their resources at the time.

I wrote this book to give people a safe environment to question their own beliefs. Based on how you feel about the issue of abortion or adoption, what do you think Immy should do? Did your feelings change at all based on the situation Immy was in? Has this book made you consider that maybe an issue you felt was solely black and white may contain a little grey? Or has this book reaffirmed what you feel?If so, I’ve done my job.

I also wanted to write this book to show young adults one possible outcome of having sex. It can lead to unwanted or unexpected pregnancies, and the decision to either abort a pregnancy or see it through will affect the rest of their lives. If we can educate them before they have sex, before they find themselves in such a predicament, we can help them make the right choices to ensure they have the best possible start to their future. My goal was not to whitewash anything. Life is not always hearts and rainbows. I wanted this book to be raw and real and leave the reader feeling strong emotions at the end. Strong emotions can effect strong change.

I hope you understand now why I ended the book the way I did. It may not be the closed ending you wanted, but it does have an ending. It ends with the beginning of Immy’s new life.

And to answer another frequent question: No, there won’t be a sequel, but perhaps now you can understand why.

Much Love,
Jessica L.Degarmo

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hold on to your hats ... Holding On is coming soon!

I'm so excited! The first draft of Holding On, the long-awaited sequel to Hooking Up, is finished! And I got some very intelligent, intuitive comments from my wonderful agent MacKenzie, and I'm even now making some changes and refining. Holding On is coming together quickly, and I'm super psyched that Catie's story is almost ready to be shared.

So, without further ado...

I'm pleased to announce that Holding On will be available in September, 2013!
Details to follow, and of course, we can't have a book launch without a book launch party, so I'll be posting that information soon as well.

In other news, things are generally going well. Most of my books have gotten face-lifts recently, and you'll be pleased to note that they will be available with brand-new covers and lower pricing! Supermarket is now available at: https://www.createspace.com/4390176

And check out the new cover!

Things are moving right along and I'll give you updates as they happen. More news soon! But for now, it's late and time to cuddle with the husband. Tomorrow is another day, and one I'll be spending part of on editing and other fun book stuff. Good night!

Hugs,
Jess

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Presenting the new and improved Hooking Up!

Hello!

I'm so pleased to reveal the new color cover for Hooking Up! It's also been freshly re-edited and reorganized. I hope you check it out and I hope you enjoy it!




Holding On, the sequel, is also shaping up quite well, and I'm so excited to be able to reveal it to you when we're ready. Fingers crossed I'm able to finish it soon...


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Technical difficulties

If you're reading this, you're lucky, actually. Normally, if you type in www.jessicadegarmo.com, you'll get my blog, but since it expired and Google never sent me a bill so I could renew it, the last two weeks have been one huge frustrating technical fiasco I still have no solution for. So, if you are lucky enough to get onto this page to see my desperate cry for help, pass along the word that the address to go to right at the moment is jessicadegarmo.blogspot.com.

Lots of love to you all. More updates to come when you can all see them again!

Hugs,

Jess

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A new arrival, and some updates

Hello, everyone!
I'm so pleased to announce that last night at 12:45 am, a brand-new novella was born! Weighing in at ten chapters and 25,627 words, it's a story about a strong, sexy woman with a man problem. Or maybe two man problems.

I've had a blast writing this short work. Soon, it will be transformed into a gawky ugly duckling to a lovely swan (I hope) and sent out to see the world, or at least a few in-boxes and slush piles!

In other, very exciting news, I'm proud to announce that I am now represented by the absolutely amazing MacKenzie Fraser-Bub of Trident Media Group out of New York, NY. She's truly fabulous and it's been awesome to work with her on the novella. I can't wait for you guys to read it! Unfortunately, however, I'm unable at this time to post a sample. But stay tuned. More updates to come! And who knows--maybe I'll be able to post a teaser soon.

I'm hard at work on Holding On, the long-overdue follow-up to Hooking Up, and I hope to release it this year. I know I initially said Spring, but I'm neck deep in projects, and its time will come, I swear.

Wanderlust is also taking shape. I'm about halfway through that one, and I'm pleased to report that Nexess is as badass as ever, which is a good thing, because she's up against a pretty tough opponent. Will she prevail and hold onto her freedom? You'll just have to wait and see!

In Johns Creek news, ideas for other books are gaining traction, and I'm excited to start the next books in the series. But they'll have to wait a bit, because again, projects up to my ears!

All in all, life has taken some unexpected twists and turns, but it's all good. I'm happy. I'm writing. I feel a sense of relief now, a weight off my shoulders, and I know I have an excellent support system. I know I've got people in my corner, backing me up and helping me to realize my full potential, and that's worth its weight in gold!

I hope you guys have a truly fabulous day today. Enjoy the Spring air if you can, or the snow, depending on where you are. Go forth and seize the day. Give it hell, and don't ever stop dreaming. Hugs!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Holding On, chapter 1 teaser!

By far, the most popular of my books is Hooking Up, a story about a one-night stand that turned into something much more. By popular demand, I've been working on a sequel. I'm pleased to announce that Holding On, the sequel to Hooking Up, will be out in Spring, 2013. Here's a preview of the continuation of Ryan's and Catie's story!


Chapter 1
Ryan pulled me closer and sighed, a warm sleepy sound that gave me wanton shivers. Probably the best part of marriage, besides the whole security/being with the one you love forever thing, was feeling his lean, sexy, naked body snuggled up against mine every night and waking up to that same lean, sexy, naked body in the morning.

It had been two months, and I still wasn’t done marveling over the fact he was mine forever. It was quite easy to be appreciative of him, all dark hair, brooding bedroom eyes, the smile that made me tingle, the easy way he had with Benjie, his son and my new step-son. In short, marriage was quite a wonderful thing, and I was glad I had gotten over my insecurities and abandonment issues long enough to say “I do.”

He nibbled my ear and I groaned a little, thrusting my bottom back into his lap, snuggling myself as close to him as I could. He murmured, “Good morning, beautiful,” and moved his mouth down to my neck. His fingers made delicious circles on my stomach and I sighed. Yes, life was good.

I was tempted to stay in bed with my new husband and take advantage of him, but I suddenly remembered that today was a special day. My eyes snapped open and I was instantly awake. The anticipation hurtling through my body was stronger than coffee, and unfortunately, more of a distraction than my husband’s lips on my skin. I pulled away from Ryan quickly, leaping up before we got too carried away.

“Hey, where are you going?” he protested in a husky, sleepy voice, frowning and reaching for me.

I skirted away and said, “It’s today, remember?”

“Catie, your mom said she’d call you at noon. It’s eight. We have four hours to kill.”

“I know, but I don’t want to sound like I just woke up. What if she thinks I’m a bum who stays in bed all day and decides that she doesn’t want a daughter who’s a lazy bum, and—“

He grabbed my hand, pulled me down on the bed and claimed my mouth in a smoldering kiss that almost made me forget to panic. “Catie, stop it. She’s going to love you. Quit freaking out, ok?”

Yes, I was freaking out. After all, it’s not every day you speak with your mother on the phone for the first time.

My first contact with my birth mother, Maria DiCarlo, was on my wedding day. My wonderful sensei and father-figure, Isamu Takeru, had located her and told her all about me. She wrote me a letter Isamu delivered to me right before we said our vows. I was thrilled and scared all at once, and had I not had other things to worry about, such as not tripping down the aisle and keeping my best friend Kelly from running off with any of the groomsmen before the reception, I think I would have really have had a meltdown. My mother!

It had been weird enough to hear from my now-estranged Gran that I was adopted, and I’d barely wrapped my head around that when Maria re-entered my life.

After the wedding, I wanted to call her, I really did, but the old insecurities I thought I had buried got the best of me. It was frightening to me to even consider contacting my birth mother. It turned out that I was not as forgiving a person as I thought I was.

Really, I was bothered by the fact that she had gotten rid of me in the first place. A lot of adoptees can rationalize that their birth parents only wanted what was best for them, wanted them to have a better life than what they could provide and gave us the best chance they could. But when it all comes down to it, we were abandoned. I honestly wondered if I had always known that my adoptive parents, Shelly and Keith, weren’t really mine.  Perhaps that’s where the abandonment issue started, even before they died in a plane crash. 

Whatever it was, it was deep-rooted and hard to come to grips with.

Ever since learning of her existence, I thought about Maria constantly. I carried her picture in my wallet and took it out to study it whenever I could. Her eyes were the same violet color as mine; her hair was the same dark brown with natural waves. The laugh lines on either side of her mouth bracketed her wide, even, happy smile. Fast-forward the clock twenty or so years, and that was how I’d look.

I guess I was a little hurt that she could be smiling in that picture. Those faint little laugh lines proved she’d spent a lot of time laughing when her little girl was miles away crying for the parents she’d lost, the parent she never even knew she had.

I knew nothing of my father, and the emails Maria and I had been exchanging over the past month carefully excluded any mention of him. I wondered about that, but didn’t dare to ask. Having a mother again was like a gift, and although I still harbored some resentment toward her, I didn’t dare do anything that might forfeit that gift.

Today was the day we’d picked to reach out and speak to each other. As soon as I thought about our upcoming phone call, my stomach clenched once and eased. I was terrified and elated at once. It was a weird sensation, like my insides were being drenched in hot and cold water in turns. If I had to face this myself, it was a sure bet that I’d be reduced to a quivering heap on the floor. But miracles do happen, and finally, I didn’t have to face this momentous occasion alone. Ryan would be here for me. He’d always be here for me, which was still something I was having trouble believing. It seemed too good to be true. Yet, here he was and as he constantly told me, here he’d stay.  

I had to remind myself of this several times as I disentangled myself from his warm embrace and hopped in the shower. I washed my hair, reminding myself that my mother had the same wavy locks and wondering what products she used. As I got dressed, I thought about my mother’s figure and if she was as long in the waist as I was and if she had trouble finding jeans that fit right.

No place was safe from my musings, countless questions bouncing around inside my head and rendering me practically useless for anything productive. Did she walk like me? Talk like me? Was she as tone-deaf as I was? Did that stop her from singing in the shower?

The questions continued as I made my way to the kitchen to make some breakfast I’d probably be too nervous to eat. Did my mother have any food allergies, or was the allergy I had to bananas from my father’s side? Did she like pasta? With a last name like DiCarlo, she had to have some sort of Italian blood in her, didn’t she?

As if these frantic musings weren’t enough to completely drive me nuts, my overwrought brain kept thinking about the father I still knew nothing about, and whether or not that would change after today.
Was it asking too much to want both of my parents back in my life? Was my father even alive? Did he know I existed? And why did Maria very carefully refrain from mentioning him in any of our correspondence? I had no idea, but if I got up the nerve, I was going to ask her. After all, I had a right to know, didn’t I?

My hands shook as I wielded the butter knife on my toast. As I finished, it clattered to the counter, practically jumping out of my hand. I’m a brown belt in karate, and normally my reflexes were lightning-quick and my hands steady, but not today. I smiled ruefully. Yes, I was a nervous mess.

Ryan entered the kitchen as I was finishing up my toast. He was fresh out of the shower and the clean, masculine smell of his cologne and his freshly-scrubbed skin reached my nostrils and made my mouth water.

I smiled at him with a wicked leer and said, “Hi, handsome. Come here often?” I winked at him and he returned my grin with a wolfish one of his own.

“Every day. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” He stepped to my side and wrapped his strong arms around my waist, nibbling my neck and sending sexy chills racing up my spine.

“I live here, remember?” I said, moaning a bit as his teeth lightly grazed my ear.

“Oh, yeah. That’s why my grocery bill’s so high.”

“Ha ha. You eat more than I do,” I reminded him as he turned from me and poured himself a mammoth bowl of cereal, topping it with about a pound of sugar and a gallon or so of milk. “Hungry this morning?”

“Yep. Making love to my wife every night burns up a lot of calories.”

“That just means we’re doing it right,” I told him with a smirk.

“Damn straight. Benjie still asleep?”

“Yep.”

“You wanna go burn some more calories?” he asked with a wolfish grin.

I smiled back at him, momentarily tempted, but shook my head. “No. Don’t distract me. I’ve got to be on top of my game today.”

“Sweetheart, she’s going to love you.”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “She got rid of me once. What’s to stop her from doing it again?”

Ryan sighed. “Honey, give her a chance. You have no idea what was going through her head when she put you up for adoption. For all we know, she could have been forced to do so under extreme pressure or some awful dramatic circumstance. Promise me you’ll give her a chance to explain before you pull out the inner crazy?”

“I will. I’m just not sure how to be with her. What if I get angry? What if I can’t control what comes out of my mouth and I insult her?"

“I’m sure she’s prepared to handle that. Think about it from her side for a minute. She’s going to talk to the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-eight years ago. Don’t you think she’s played this conversation over and over in her head about a million times? Don’t you think she’s spent the past month rehearsing what she was going to tell you and how she was going to say it?”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” I allowed. And he was. I hadn’t really stopped to consider her point of view before, being too wrapped up in my own thoughts and misgivings to realize she would probably be worried about blowing it with me.
“You always make me feel better,” I told him, walking over to him and wrapping my arms around his waist. I buried my face in his neck and inhaled deeply, cataloguing the smell of him, all musk and male and delectable cologne, for a later date. He smelled good enough to eat.

“That’s my job, Mrs. Ashford. Certified Mood-Elevator.” He kissed me deeply and backed up so his back was up against the counter. He leaned against it and pulled me with him, tipping me forward until I was reclining against the warm length of him. Being this way, all close and comfortable, was a balm to my ragged nerves.

“Ew!” A little voice piped up from behind me. Ryan released me reluctantly and I turned to face my step-son.

“Hey, Benjie, my man. How did you sleep?” I asked, ruffling his sandy curls and smiling down into his precious little face.

“Ok. Like a dog.”

I grinned. He was so funny sometimes. “Do you mean like a log?”

“Yeah, a log. What’s for breakfast?”

“You men,” I teased. “All you think about is food. How ‘bout some cereal?”

“Ok. Sugar Rings?”

I smiled. It was always Sugar Rings. “Coming right up.”  I poured him a bowl and watched as he practically inhaled his food. I had no idea where the kid put it, but he finished the serving in record time and angelically asked for seconds. After he hoovered another bowl, he sprang from the table and galloped to the living room to watch cartoons.

This was another part of marriage I absolutely adored. Benjie was a great kid, and it surprised me how easy it was to love him. He wasn’t mine, and we both knew that, but I loved him like he was. I often thought about his mother, the frigid bitch Nancy, who chose marriage to a snazzy stockbroker over her only child, and pitied her. It was her loss. But she chose her path, and Ryan and I couldn’t be happier that we had the exuberant little boy with us full-time. However, loving Benjie as I did made me feel even more confused about my birth-mother. I couldn’t imagine throwing away a child, something small and sweet and totally dependent upon me. But she did, and although she ensured there was someone there who took over for her, it still bothered me.

The phone rang and I jumped and glanced at the clock. Nine-twenty. Who could be calling? Was it my mother, calling early?

“Hello?” I yelped into the phone, nerves getting the best of me.

“Daughter, you sound as though you have goldfish swimming in your stomach,” Isamu informed me with a smile in his voice.

“Sorry, sensei. I can’t settle. I’m wound up. This is it, the big day.”

“Daughter, do you remember how you used to feel at karate tournaments?”

“Yeah, like there were goldfish swimming in my stomach,” I said wryly.

“Meditate. Think positive thoughts. Visualize what your heart desires, and make it happen.”

I agreed and hung up the phone. Meditating was a great idea.

I went to the living room and sat down on the floor on the plush rug in front of the sofa. I closed my eyes and pictured the way I wanted things to go. It was a little hard to concentrate with the television blaring and some creepy cartoon character giggling madly and shouting every six seconds or so, but I managed. Ryan came up behind me and started to rub my shoulders, which served to relax me. It would be fine, I just knew it. I hoped.

I finished meditating and, refreshed, decided to do some housework. I whirled around like a madwoman with my dust rag and vacuum, using the physical activity to burn off some of the nervous energy still flowing through me, even after an hour of meditation. By eleven forty-five, the house had never looked or smelled cleaner.

At noon, the phone rang promptly, but my hand froze as I reached for it. Ryan, sensing my inner struggle, grabbed the handset neatly off the receiver and answered it.

“Hello? Yes, she’s right here, and a bit nervous, I think.” He paused, listened and chuckled.

“Yes, she has been, too. Here she is.”

I shook my head wildly. I wasn’t ready. What if I sounded like an idiot? What if she hated me? Oh God, what if I started speaking in tongues or gibberish or—

And then the phone was in my hand, and the voice on the other end was one it felt like I’d heard it a thousand times.

“Caitlin, it’s Maria. How are you, my dear?”

I collapsed into happy tears and soaked in the voice of my mother across the phone lines. All tension, all trepidation melted away, and I said something I’d dreamed about since finding out about her.

“Hi, Mom. Where’ve you been?”