Last weekend I was a cast member in the inaugural Kansas City production of Listen To Your Mother. Last weekend I did something I’ve never done. I walked up to a lectern, which is like a podium but without the body-hiding security of wood panels, and told a story about my daughter. How I knew something was terribly wrong with her after she was born but no one would listen to me. How I shouted and shrieked and pointed to her little face where veins were beginning to sprout like a road map and the darkness under her eyes was becoming so noticeable, someone actually accused me of child abuse. How she almost wasn’t diagnosed in time. How we found help and encouragement from angels among us. How we sought treatment in New York, and the best part, how Katie beat insurmountable odds to be here with us today.
To say the last two months have been crazy would be an understatement.
This post is not so much a new epiphany of thoughts and feelings or even a cute post about my children or my Dougie, though, come on, seriously, how adorable is this little Girl Scout?
Or these three precious faces snuggling on Saturday morning. You know what they say, “the family who plays WordFeud, Pokemon and Fruit Ninja together, stays together.”
Nope, this post is actually a recap of goodness, the introduction to a new blogging community and a chance to show you the new summer cover of my e-book, Next Left.
My son Jacob is eleven. He started middle school this year. Not long ago, friends with older boys warned me this would be the year of hormone fluctuation, anxiety resulting from big changes at school and boundary-pushing. I have wise friends. Over the past six months he has refused to get his hair cut, his grades have dropped to the basement a few times and boundary-pushing is in full-swing.
There have been times when his bursts of independence have resulted in grounding, like the time I found out he was getting a D in Science stemming from three missing assignments. When I asked why he hadn’t completed them he performed an exaggerated shoulder-shrug and said, “I guess I just wasn’t feelin’ it.” BUZZER! Wrong answer, mister man.
Since he’s my firstborn, I’m often left wondering, “Well, how the hell do I handle these shenanigans?” I usually call my mother. Then go with my gut. Then call my mother again. Not knowing how tight to pull the apron strings is a constant internal struggle for me.
Then there are times when his offbeat humor catches me completely off-guard and I’m left wondering whether I should laugh or say, “Jacob that’s inappropriate.” I have a fairly juvenile sense of humor so even though I feel it’s my duty. . . *snicker*. . . I said doody. . . sorry.
So even though I feel it’s my du–responsibility to react in the proper parental way, sometimes my child just cracks me up and I lose all resolve.
On Saturday I was on my way to the hospital to visit my 22 year old niece who was recently admitted to the cardiac intensive care unit. Doctors believe she contracted some strain of the flu that bypassed her sinuses, didn’t even bother with her stomach and rested smack dab in her heart. When the virus runs its course she’ll be left with heart damage and directives that are usually reserved for the senior set including eating a heart-healthy diet, salt limitation, caffeine intake and smoking cessation. Did I mention she’s only 22? Seriously, people, wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t lick door knobs. This flu is no joke.
Before my hospital visit I stopped to mail a birthday package and embarrassingly late Christmas gift to a friend. As I parked my car I noticed an able-bodied gentleman unload his cart and then abandon it in the space beside him even though the handy cart-corral-thingy was only two cars away. He looked at me and I gave him the patented Larry-Gordon-over-the-top-of-the-sunglasses glare. He slid in to the driver’s seat, unfazed. Evidently I’m not as intimidating as my father is when he does it. At the same time another car was attempting to enter the space next to him but of course they were cart-blocked. Before the parking lot offender had a chance to leave, I got out and quickly moved the cart to the cart-corral-thingy while muttering, “THAT wasn’t so difficult, was it?” I did not receive a thank-you wave from the car attempting to enter the space and the offender avoided my crazy-eyed stare.
Even when you know your kindness will be ignored, DO IT ANYWAY.
For weeks I’ve been telling Dougie that on my big day (January 3rd) I wanted to go see the Judd Apatow movie, This Is 40, “The sort’ve sequel to Knocked Up.” Thanks to a well-timed visit from my in-laws this past weekend, I got to see it early.
The movie struck a chord. In fact, I had a little hyperventilating snot-fest crying jag on the way home just trying to recap it. So you can imagine my surprise, nay, shock when I read a review that bashed the movie for Leslie Mann’s “irrational emotions” who, “gets angry over nothing and curses and screams for half an hour.” The reviewer then calls lead characters, Pete and Debbie, “mundane” and writes that he prefers, “a film that depicts regular people in not so regular situations.” Well, Sir, I respectfully disagree. In MY opinion, sometimes it’s nice to see a movie I can relate to.
Every now and then I want to see a clever film maker step forward and have the walnuts to say, “Sometimes life sucks, marriage is hard, I don’t always like you, our kids can be little bastards, our parents give us emotional baggage, oh great now we’re giving our kids emotional baggage, ALSO life can be awesome, we make a great team, I don’t want to live without you and if anyone messes with our amazing kids we’ll gang up and shiv them on the playground.” In This Is 40, Judd Apatow does that.
In a few short hours I’ll be ringing in 2013 by smooching my husband and clinking glasses filled with the finest
apple cider and butterscotch schnapps champagne. Then we’ll stand on the back deck so we can hear the celebration ring out through the city in the form of illegal fireworks, hoots/hollers and the occasional banging of pots and pans. ‘Cause that’s how we do on the prairie. I’ll quietly thank the baby Jesus for the health of my family and friends and then look ahead to the new year. And by “look ahead,” I mean I’ll make a mental list of all the things I want to accomplish in the next 365 days. When the clock strikes midnight, I like to think of my life as a giant Etch-A-Sketch and for each gong that sounds, the sand shifts and erases the previous year until it’s a blank screen again. It’s a fitting analogy because this year, I really need to shake some things up around here.
Tag! I’m it.
It’s my turn to serve up queso and margaritas on the Next Big Thing blog hop. The purpose of the hop is to get to know new-to-you authors and sneak a peek over their shoulder to see what they’re working on. Like a little neighborhood block party, only you get to peer through the windows and nobody thinks it’s weird.
Last week, author Malena Lott introduced us to her WIP (work in progress) titled Away. It’s her first mystery/thriller and I’m definitely excited to see her dark side. Could there be a hidden Stephen King or Anne Rice under those bouncing curls and knock-out smile? I hope so. You can read more about Malena’s new project, as well as her other books and stories HERE.
She tagged me, so now it’s my turn. My latest project is a novelette titled, Next Left, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
The ideas came from several different places and then they stood in a circle and started singing Kumbaya. It was a beautiful thing.
In the story, the lead character, Amanda, uses a GPS to get where she’s going. The idea came from the love/hate relationship I have with my own electronic navigational witch. I’m convinced she’s trying to kill me. One day she was supposed to lead me to a bridal shower but instead, she led me to a stranger’s house, which I WALKED IN TO because a little girl opened the door for me. I was carrying large gifts. Honest mistake on the little girl’s part. Still, what if she’d been a tiny serial killer, with jelly in her hair.
Jitters coffee shop becomes a pivotal meeting spot for two characters in the story. This came from a road trip my brother and I took last year to see my sister who was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Jitters is an actual coffee shop in the tiny town of Concordia, Kansas and it’s got this great warm vibe to it. It was begging for people to sing Karaoke in it. In my story, they do.
Amanda was raised in Kansas but moves to New York for a job. Although she’s trying to fit in, she’s having trouble finding a comfy place on the hard-edged east coast. This was purely cathartic for me. I flew to New York four times in two years and found it to be quite loathsome.
The New Years Eve wedding idea was sparked when I watched Gary Marshall’s movie, New Years Eve. It’s packed with stars and filled with all these wonderful vignettes of how the characters spend the last night of the year. Do they have regrets? Are they searching for love? Mourning lost love? It just seemed like an appropriate holiday for my characters to reflect on the past and plan for the future.
And then I threw in a true story about a sweet old woman who got a little handsy with me at my own bridal gown fitting. But you’ll have to read the story if you want to learn more about that.
Q: Which actors would play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve always thought this story had a Hope Floats flavor to it so my first choice would be Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr., but that might be a bit too obvious since Amanda thinks the coffee barista looks like Harry Connick. I’d like Cameron Diaz to play Beth, the bride-to-be and in a surprise twist, I want Brad Paisley (yes, the country crooner) to play “Coop,” the groom. Kathy Bates would be the bride’s mother. The other three bridesmaids would be played by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up), Kristen Bell (Saving Sarah Marshall) and Leslie Mann (Knocked Up/This Is 40). Our budget is gonna be HUGE.
Q: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
“In spite of an unreliable GPS, a bitter New Yorker finds her happy in the place she least expects it.”
That’s it. My time is up. Thanks for stopping by the Next Big Thing blog stop and learning more about my novelette, Next Left.
Looking for a good book to read? Wanna give one as a gift, as well? You generous thing, you. Check out the Sleigh Read tour where you can buy one book/story and get one free. Details HERE.
Next week I’m tagging two funny women, my fellow Chick-Wit chickadee, Heather Davis (Minivan Momma) author of TMI Mom Bites The Big Apple and the adorably insane Leslie Langtry author of killer fiction including, Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy.
It certainly isn’t the temperature. I detest it. When the first cold snap hits in mid-October I swear I won’t be warm again until May. Then I spend the rest of the season bundled up in layers of clothing and wear my electric blanket as a cape, moving from room to room with the little electrical cord dragging behind me.
Then there’s the cold and flu season. An entire season dedicated to coughing, sneezing and the dreaded snot-snuck. I’m woozy just thinking about it. Phlegm noises make me irritable and I tend to shout irrational things like, “Blow your nose or I will come use the baby snot-sucky-thingy on you, I don’t care if you are 46 years old.”
Yet here I am, ready to launch another romantic winter tale, Next Left.
Last week, Hostess Brands announced it would be closing its operations permanently, following an employee strike. Already in financial decline, CEO, Gregory Rayburn explained, “We do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike.” Thus, the company known for creating iconic cream-filled goodies including Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Zingers and Cupcakes started to (bad pun alert) crumble before our eyes.
Upon hearing the news of Hostess’ demise, Americans reacted in true blue opportunistic fashion. Outlet stores were immediately raided and store shelves were emptied. News crews interviewed tooth-challenged customers carting armfuls of Twinkie boxes to their cars and today on ebay I noticed box after box of delicious trans-fat cream- cakes listed for as much as 300 dollars. Ohhh, America, your greed is adorable.
Hostess products like Wonder Bread and Zingers were a big part of my childhood. They were my go-to snacks for sack lunches and in elementary school we even got to take a field trip to the local manufacturing plant. At the end of the tour we received a mini loaf of bread to take home. At the time I collected miniatures and was highly irritated my mother wouldn’t let me add the teeny bread loaf to my shadow box. I was ten, mold was beyond my comprehension.
My best ode to Hostess, however, is a story few people know about. My childhood bestie, Kim (Koerner) May and I simply refer to it as, “Twinkie Time.” It’s the story about two young girls, a dark crowded Oklahoma highway and how Twinkie the Kid saved us from a complete mental breakdown.
In 2008, I met author Malena Lott through mutual friends but only communicated with her via Twitter. I quickly became enamored by her charm, wit and talent. When I finally had the opportunity to meet her in person I prayed I wouldn’t do anything to embarrass myself. I also hoped she would live up to the Malena I had built up in my mind. Thankfully, I did not spill wine on her and she was just as gracious and funny in person. Since then, we’ve become friends, partners and collaborators. I’m proud to let her take the reigns today and talk about her fourth novel, Something New. I have to admit, this is my favorite story to date.
To celebrate, Something New, Malena is giving away an e-book to one lucky person (chosen at random) who comments on today’s post or shares it on their social media channels. If you win you’ll be able to choose from the following titles: Something New, The Stork Reality, Fixer Upper, Life’s A Beach, or The Last Resort. To learn more about these stories, visit the Buzz Books, book page, HERE.
Now, here’s Malena. . . . .