It’s been more than a year since my last post… and what a year+ it’s been.
What’s the deal? I don’t feel like writing. Not journal entries. Not blog posts. Not short stories. Not novels. Not even the one I’m almost finished with.
2020 was a giant cloud of stress–personally and professionally. I’ve been very busy with my full-time job (which I actually enjoy). In my free time, I’ve been practicing self-care. My sanity and happiness is currently more important that how many words I can write in a day or how many books I can publish in a year.
I think 2021 will be much of the same. I’m shifting gears right now and considering writing my new hobby… and not a business that I’ll be actively marketing or promoting.
Am I quitting writing? No.
Am I scrapping my books in progress? No, but they may change when my brain is focused on that again.
Am I abandoning my characters? Hell no.
Do I have any ETAs on the next book? Positively no.
When the world opens up, will I be attending signings? Not this year.
Will I ever write Steven’s series? Also, probably no. (Sorry. I’m so far removed from that story that it’s morphed into 20 different things by now.)
This year will be even more personally stressful, but also very exciting because I AM LEAVING TEXAS! I’m taking my cat (oh, yeah! I got a cat!) and we’re moving to Virginia in August. I’ve thought long and hard about this decision, and it’s time. My family is there and I feel like I’m missing out on some of the best years of our lives. I’ll get to keep my job, too, which makes it nice to still have some familiarity combined with a whole lot of new things.
Anyway, I thank everyone for coming along on this journey. I know some of you may not have the patience to stick around, but know that I’ve always appreciated your interactions with me, your reviews, your book purchases and the time we have spent together.
I will be back. I just don’t know when. In the meantime, if you want your friends to start reading my books, I’ve lowered the prices on all of them to 99¢ each from now until… some date (or maybe always).*
Until then, eyes to the sky. Love ya.
*You may have to give Amazon until February 2 for all the prices to officially change. I can’t control that part. 🙂
I am currently re-reading all of my books. It’s not a selfish pursuit; I’m digging for “the past” to include in some future stuff. Whatever the reason, though, I stumble upon some parts of my books that I’m – well – super proud of. This chapter is one of those. If you haven’t read the entire Choisie series, this has a minor spoiler, but it’s nothing that should discourage you from checking out this excerpt.
I adore the brotherly love in this one from Dear Jon. Jon is the narrator, having a conversation with his younger brother, Will. Jon’s 19… I think Will’s 15 at this point. Spoiler: Jon and Livvy are apart for the summer…
“Does God exist?” Will asks me after my shower Wednesday night. I’m a little taken aback by his question. Isn’t he too young to ask questions like that?
I was thirteen. I think that’s right. I’d discussed it with my father before he passed away. I guess it’s time to ask existential questions, since he hasn’t before. Not of me, anyway. I hate to think what the answers would be if he’d asked Mom, or his father.
“Why do you ask?”
“I read the part about the Babel fish, and it says God doesn’t exist.”
“First of all, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Will, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is fiction.”
“I know,” he says. “I’m not stupid… but it got me wondering. I’ve wondered before, but I wasn’t sure it was okay to wonder that.”
“Of course it’s okay to wonder things; to question things. Even things about God.”
“Well? Is he real?”
I smile at him, trying to remember the things my dad told me. He was a smart man with good advice, even if I ultimately didn’t share in his beliefs.
“It’s not really cut and dry like that,” I start. “It’s kind of like if I asked you the meaning of life.” He looks at his hands pensively. “I’m not asking you that, by the way. But, let’s say I did ask you that, and I asked Mom that and I asked Max that. I’d probably get three different answers, wouldn’t I?”
“But that’s an open-ended question,” he tells me brightly. I smile, proud that he sees a difference, even if it takes me off-topic. “I asked you a yes or no question.”
“I can only give you an open-ended response, though. Ask me if I believe in a god.”
He nods his head, contemplating my response. “Why?”
I first tell him about the conversation I had with my father. He’d met my dad before, but really had very little to do with him. Will has told me before that he thought my dad was cold, detached and hard to read. He was. But when we really got to talking about things he was passionate about, I felt closer to him.
My dad was very scholarly and well-educated. He believed in hard facts, and couldn’t muster any faith in anything, really, but especially not in God. “Evolution doesn’t lie,” he’d told me, and when I was younger, I immediately saw where he was coming from.
“But the fact that you can see evolutionary details in our solar system and planet and species doesn’t mean that there isn’t a god,” I explain to my brother. “In my mind, they can co-exist, and they do.”
“So your dad didn’t believe in God?”
“Nope,” I tell him plainly. “From what I can tell, he never did.”
“Is your dad in Hell?” Will asks, careful with his words.
“He certainly doesn’t think so,” I respond, “since he didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell.”
“But then he is in Hell, because he didn’t believe, right?”
“If you believe that, then you must believe in God…”
“I just…” he begins, looking conflicted. “It’s what we’re taught.”
“I know.” I say I know, but I wonder where he was ‘taught’ this. Not in school. Not in our home. “Who’s teaching you this?”
“My dad.” I look away so he doesn’t see the look of disgust on my face. His dad, the convicted felon, the man who knocked up my mother not once, but twice, and left her to raise their children on her own while he philandered and stole things and set a horrible example… his dad is the person teaching him about faith and God and Heaven and Hell.
I should have been talking to my brothers about this a long time ago. No wonder Will’s confused. I finally look up at him and force a pleasant expression.
“So your dad,” he starts again, “do you think he’s in Hell?”
“No. I don’t think so. I’m not sure I believe in Hell.”
“But the Bible says that if you don’t believe in God, you go to Hell.”
“I understand that’s what the Bible says. I understand that my response contradicts traditional Christian beliefs, or the beliefs of many religions. But faith in a god goes beyond religions, right?”
“You keep saying ‘a’ god. Do you believe in more than one?”
Another interesting question. “I… I don’t know. I believe in a higher power, Will. I call it a god because I don’t really know any other word for it. When it comes to faith, there aren’t a whole lot of options in the minds of most people. You believe in God, or you don’t. So I believe in a god, who may or may not be someone else’s God.”
My brother looks very confused.
“You’re a Polytheist?”
“Whoa, little brother,” I laugh. “Did your dad teach you that word?”
“No, I learned about it in a mythology book I found. So, you believe there are other gods?” Maybe I haven’t given Will enough credit. Maybe he’s applying himself more than I realize.
“I don’t believe that my way of thinking is the only way of thinking, so I’m tolerant of others who do worship other gods, be it one or many. For me, though, if I had to give myself a name, I’d say I was a Deist. I believe in one higher power that created the world. I hope that there’s some sort of happy afterlife, but I don’t really know. No one in this life really knows.”
“Unless you believe the Bible.”
“Right,” I say. “And it’s perfectly fine if you do. I think the most important thing to take away from this conversation is that it’s all about your own personal relationship with God. Or gods. Or not,” I suggest, trying to let him understand that he has choices, but that he has to form his own beliefs. “I’ll still love you, no matter what, as long as you live your life honorably and do your best to not hurt others.”
He smiles, looking unburdened. “Do you pray?”
“Yes, I pray.”
“Do you think your dad prayed, at the end?”
“No. I don’t think he had a change of heart at all in those final moments. But I prayed. I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to live solitary lives, and I firmly believe the actions of others play a part in peoples’ destinies, on this planet and beyond. I believe other people are put here to help us, and to guide us in our paths. Honestly, Will, I didn’t always believe in God. When I first had this conversation with my dad, I walked away thinking he was right. But then I really got to know another person in my life who showed me there was something more.”
“It was Livvy, right?”
“It was you, Will. It was the friendship you showed me when my dad was sick. I had some really bad days. I’m sure you remember them. But I’d come home from the hospital, and you’d be here with a mitt, a ball, and a smile. After five minutes of playing catch, my spirits were lifted. I don’t think I ever would have gotten through those months, or the months after he died, without your friendship. Someone put you on this planet to intervene in my life. It wasn’t random. You reminded me that I had something to live for. And I always wanted to make sure you felt the same way.”
“I’m glad you’re my brother,” he says.
“Me, too. Do you feel better about things?”
“I feel better about questioning things,” Will answers.
“I never believed in blind faith,” I admit. “I don’t think that’s in our DNA. But be your own man. You don’t have to believe what I do, or what your father does. But it’s important to believe in something. It’s important to feel convictions about something. Don’t spend your life in a fog. I don’t think you’ll be satisfied.”
“I know what I believe right now,” he says.
“What?” I ask, anxious for his personal philosophy.
“I believe I need to know what happens next with Zaphod and Arthur.”
“Maybe you’ll end up worshipping the Almighty Bob,” I suggest in jest.
“Book five,” I tell him. “Keep reading.”
After he leaves, I finally settle in with Livvy’s eleventh letter. Ungrateful, it says at the bottom. Once again, when I think I could just set the note aside without reading it, I’m intrigued enough by the footnote to keep going.
I love you, Jon.
I have never been made to feel so ungrateful as I did the day that you scolded me for the things I said to my father.
I’ve told her before, I can’t make her feel things. It’s in her power to feel however she wants, and if she felt ungrateful, that was her conscience stepping in and trying to talk some sense into her. Lord knows I couldn’t.
The reality check was worse than a slap in the face would have been. Physical abuse would have been preferable than listening to you reprimand me for the horrible things I said to him. But I know you’re above that, and I know, for me, getting over a face slap would have been much easier than facing what I’d done.
Getting over that day shouldn’t have been easy for me, and it wasn’t.
Because my father is a gracious and loving man, he easily forgave me. I was thankful for that, but it took weeks for me to forgive myself. There are still days that I look back and remember the look on his face. On those days, when I wish I could just forget those moments, I address them head on. I make myself suffer a bit, and then work on forgiveness once more. It’s a never-ending process. I’m not allowed to forget, but I can forgive.
The process gives me perspective, though, and it makes me appreciate everything my family has done every time it happens.
In kind, it makes me appreciate you, too. Thanks for being honest enough with me to tell me how you felt; to tell me the truth as you saw it, because I know you saw it more clearly than anyone did. You changed me that day, and every day since, I’ve strived to be someone my parents would be proud of. Maybe in the details of my actions, they would scrutinize me and even be disappointed, but in the larger picture, I think they’d be proud of the person I’m changing into every day.
If her parents are proud of her betrayal to me, then I’ve underestimated them all.
Every day we’re apart, every day you don’t speak to me, you lose a little bit of me. I’m afraid by the time you decide to let me back into your life, you won’t know me at all. It’s a silly fear, isn’t it?
Silly because you don’t think it’s true, or silly because you don’t think I’ll ever let you into my life again? If it’s the latter, it’s not silly at all, Liv.
I’ve never taken you for granted, Jon. I never will.
We aren’t finished.
Not wanting to dwell on her letter, I go back into my brother’s room.
“Hey, about our conversation?”
“Yeah?” he asks, putting the book down.
“It’s about your dad. I was thinking…”
“I know your dad hasn’t done a whole lot for you to make you proud to have him as a father.” Will shakes his head. “I don’t have high opinions of him, and I know I’ve voiced that to you more often than I should have.”
“It’s true, though.”
“Regardless. Harboring the negative energy toward him doesn’t help,” I explain. “It hinders you from believing he could change, and although we haven’t seen it yet, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.”
“Well, when did he start talking to you about God?”
“He’s talked about God for as long as I can remember. I think he only uses Him for forgiveness, you know? Like, he thinks he can get away with these things because he prays to God and confesses his sins. I know it says that in the Bible, but that’s one reason I don’t really believe in that. It seems false.”
My brother keeps surprising me with his insight. I’m so happy I get to spend this time with him and learn more about him.
“Yeah,” I admit softly. “But look at Mom. She’s been sober for a few months now. That’s change. That’s change that I never thought would come, either, but it has. And I have to support her and keep trying to encourage her to work for her sobriety. It’ll always be a struggle, but I think it’s important to accept that people can change, and to forgive them for what they’ve done in the past. It could still happen for your dad. It may not be something you can realistically hope for, but you know what? If you believe in prayer, it’s definitely something you can pray for. I always do.”
“Thanks, Jon,” he says.
“No problem,” I respond, giving him an encouraging grin as I start to leave the room.
“Can you forgive Livvy? Can she change?” he asks me, surprising me once again. I stop with my back to him, trying to formulate an answer for him.
“I don’t know, Will. I don’t know that I believe in her anymore.” When he doesn’t respond, I turn around to see if he heard me.
“I believe in her, Jon. I can pray for her.”
“Don’t waste your prayers on her,” I murmur quickly, spitefully.
“I think she made a mistake, that’s all,” he says.
“Have you been talking to her?” I ask, starting to get angry.
“No!” he says defensively. “But she loves you, Jon. I don’t know what I believe about a whole lot of things, but I do believe that.”
“Blind faith,” I mumble, dismissing his declaration.
“You don’t believe in blind faith,” he reminds me. “I’ve seen factual evidence. So have you. If you love her, you’ll forgive her.”
“Then by the process of deduction, I guess I don’t love her, because I won’t forgive a girl who won’t even apologize for what she did wrong.”
“If she’s not apologizing in all those letters, what’s she doing?”
“Manipulating me,” I tell him. “Which is probably all she’s ever done.”
“That’s not true,” Will says.
“You don’t know her,” I argue.
He frowns at me, and I think I’ve won the argument. I turn to leave once more.
“If you think she doesn’t love you, Jon, then you don’t know her. And if you say you don’t love her, then I’m not sure I really know you.”
I glare at him hard, but he stares right back at me. “Go read your book.”
“Go read your letters,” he calls after me as I return to my room. “Harboring negative energy toward her doesn’t help!” he says loudly, provoking me to slam my door.
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my post last night about how much I love Chapter 7 of Lost and Found. It’s a very full chapter with plenty of content to love (11,311 words?!)… why I didn’t break it up, I’ll never know. It was my first book, and it admittedly has its quirks.
Anyway, I’m not here to apologize for lengthy chapters. I am here to give you a big, juicy excerpt from this particular chapter.
To set the stage, Nate and Emi have been best friends for, like, 13 or 14 years at this point. There’s a little something between them, but they made a pact long ago – friends only.
Chris is Emi’s older brother and one of Nate’s closest friends. After meeting the woman he thinks he’s going to marry, Chris invites Nate, Emi and their dates (Sam and Colin, respectively) to dinner in order to meet the lovely Anna.
As the image below suggests, things don’t go very well.
For those of you who’ve read the story, maybe it’s been awhile and you’d like to reconnect. If you’re new here, though… welcome to Hollandtown. This is where it begins… Nate’s narrating.
“I’m nervous,” Sam whispers in my ear as we wait for the hostess to seat us in the Spanish restaurant I’d chosen.
“Why?” I ask her with a chuckle, wrapping my arm around her bare shoulder. “You look perfect. Everyone’s going to love you.”
“I hope.” I could tell that Sam was putting a lot of pressure on herself tonight. I think she feared that if my friends disapproved, it would be over between us. Even if their opinions weren’t favorable, I wasn’t ready to end what we had going yet.
“Just be yourself. And I bet everyone’s a little nervous anyway, so you’ll fit right in,” I assure her.
“Right this way, sir,” a host signals for us and leads us to the table already occupied by Emi, Chris, Colin and a very pretty Asian woman that I assume is Anna. I smile at Chris and nod my approval. He stands up to greet us, shaking my hand and pulling the chair next to his out for Samantha. As he talks to my girlfriend, I make my way over to his date.
“Anna, I presume?”
“Hi, you must be Nate,” she says with a smile that would ease anyone’s fears. “It’s so good to finally meet you.”
“You, as well.”
Emi’s seated next to her, and she stands up to hug me. It’s not our normal hug, as her hands barely touch my arms. Colin’s too busy eating a chip to even shake my hand. I finally find my way back to the empty chair and take a seat next to Sam. She’s introducing herself to Anna and complimenting her on the shirt she’s wearing.
“You remember Emi,” I mention at the end of their conversation.
“Of course,” she says with a small wave across the table at my friend.
“And that’s her date, Colin.” I refuse to call him her boyfriend.
“Pleasure,” he says, stretching his hand over my plate to shake hers.
“I’m Samantha,” she says to him. He nods once, returning to his appetizer. Pleasant guy. Real winner, Em.
I try to make eye contact with her to see what she thinks about his greeting, but she and Anna are laughing quietly together. Colin taps Emi on the shoulder once and holds a chip in front of her face.
“Taste this, babe,” he says to her. I catch myself cringing a second too late. He feeds her the chip, and she looks a little uncomfortable, her eyes meeting mine, then Chris’s. I fake a smile at her, then turn my attention to her brother.
“So, Colin,” he says, distracting him from feeding her any more food, at least for a few seconds. “Tell me what you do. Emi says you’re a writer?”
“Yeah, I write the sports column for the Journey News– LoHud– and I do some freelance now and then for Sports Illustrated.” One time he wrote an article for his hometown paper, and it was picked up by the well-known magazine. One time. I stave off my laughter and keep that fact to myself, not wanting anyone to know that I had done a little research on the guy.
“Any sport in particular?” I ask, joining the conversation.
“Football and baseball, mainly. I played both in college.”
“SUNY,” he says.
“And what was your major?” I continue.
“Communications,” he says.
“Great, when did you graduate?” I already know the answer.
“I didn’t,” he begins, not an ounce of regret in his voice. “I was drafted to a minor league football team, so I took that gig and ran.” He laughs, proud.
“Excellent,” I say. “So, what happened with that career?” My tone is admittedly condescending, and he sits up straight in his chair, puffing his chest out.
“He had a leg injury,” Emi speaks up as she puts her hand on Colin’s. She slants her eyes at me. “His experience at his college newspaper got him the job at LoHud.”
“Sounds like an awesome job. What city is that paper in?”
“Rockland… Putnam…” He knows I’m mocking him.
“Right, right. Lots of high school reporting, I guess.”
“I hear there’s a baseball team in Putnam with a female pitcher,” Sam joins in, sensing the tension and trying to diffuse it. “My cousin goes to that school.”
“Really?” Colin says, genuinely interested. “I’ll have to look into that. That’d make a pretty good story.”
Sam smiles brightly, proud.
“I guess you know all about high school sports,” Emi pipes in, her attention directed at Sam. “Didn’t you just graduate last year?” Emi knows exactly when she graduated.
“No,” Sam says, then swallows, picking up on Emi’s tone. “I’m a junior at NYU.”
“What sorority are you in?”
“I’m not in any sorority,” Sam cocks her head slightly when she answers.
“Surprising,” Emi mutters under her breath. “I thought all prom queens were automatically drafted into some greek underworld or something.”
“You were the prom queen?” Chris’s date asks, hanging on to a fact that I wish I had never mentioned to Emi. Anna sounds genuinely interested, though. I like this woman already.
“Yeah, but that was a long time ago.” I can tell Sam’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.
“Three years,” Emi sighs. “So long ago…”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper to my date.
“No, it’s fine,” she says.
“Do you really want to talk about prom night, Em? Because, boy, do we have a story to tell.” She glares at me from across the table. When I look at Chris, he’s looking at me with contempt. Emi didn’t go to her senior prom out of principle and she had regretted it ever since. That night, she had locked herself in her room and wouldn’t come out. Her mother and I sat at the door and tried to talk some sense into her, but it didn’t work. It took a phone call from Chris later that night to calm her down. She told me to never bring it up, and I never had until now.
“Why? What happened on your prom night?” Colin asks her.
“Nothing,” she mumbles. “And that’s the truth.”
Colin shifts his focus to me, waiting for me to add to her story.
“You heard the lady.” I smile at him mischievously, which is sure to create more questions in his mind. “Wild,” I mutter aside, but loud enough for him to hear.
“Anna,” Chris jumps in. “Why don’t you tell everyone what you do.”
“I’m an interior designer,” she says with a blush.
“Nate has a great loft that could use a woman’s touch,” Sam says. “I’ve been trying to get him to redecorate. I have a lot of ideas. I’d love to talk to you about them!”
“Great!” Anna says. Emi’s attention is piqued, her eyes curious.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Sam,” I tell her. “Plus, everything there has a purpose. It’s all there to highlight the art.”
“Oh, right,” she says. “I didn’t mean–”
“It’s okay,” I cut her off, not wanting to hurt her feelings. Emi smugly smiles from across the table. “You know, maybe we can work on the guest bedroom together.”
“Really?” Sam asks as Emi chokes on her wine.
“Sure.” I lean down to kiss her gently. When we part, I glance to see Emi, looking away with purpose, revealing a mark just above her collarbone when her loose shirt slips off her shoulder. My first inclination is to point it out. “Did you scratch yourself or something? There’s a large red mark on your neck.” Asshole, marking his territory.
Instinctively, she immediately draws her hand over the hickey he had left on her delicate pale skin. She knew exactly where it is, and by the blush on her cheeks, I’m certain she knows exactly what it is, as well.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lies. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go take a look.”
Colin smiles smugly, glaring at me as he downs his third beer.
“Nate,” Chris scolds me as Colin stands up, presumably to follow Emi. “Colin, have a seat, I’ll handle this,” he says. Emi’s boyfriend doesn’t argue, sitting back down and having another chip. As Chris leaves the table, he whispers over my shoulder, requesting me to follow him.
“I’ll be right back, sweetie,” I tell Sam as I squeeze her hand.
As we walk toward the bathrooms, he has a hard time keeping his cool. “What are you, four? You two are acting like children. You’re embarrassing yourselves— and me— in front of a woman I really like. Not to mention the unfortunate dates you both brought along.”
“Fix this, Nate.” He goes into the men’s restroom, leaving me in the hallway alone. I wait for Emi to come out of the ladies room. As soon as she sees me, she attempts to push me, trying to move around me, but I block her from getting away. She glares at me angrily.
“This is turning out to be a great night, huh?” I ask her, trying to break the ice. It doesn’t work. She steps past me, but stays in the hallway, out of sight of the restaurant diners.
“What is your problem!?”
“Me? What is your problem?”
“You’re my problem,” she answers, crossing her arms across her chest.
“Yeah? Well why are you being such a bitch to Sam?”
“Excuse me?” she asks. “Why am I being a what?”
“You heard me,” I say, lacking the guts to repeat what I had called her.
“Why, Nate,” she says innocently, “I’m just trying to get to know her better. I assume you’re doing the same by belittling Colin?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“He has a good job, Nate. A steady job. He earns his own money… he wasn’t born with a silver spoon up his ass like some people I know.”
“Wow, my money never bothers you when you get to take advantage of its perks. Are you a little jealous?”
“Shut up, Nate. No way in hell am I jealous.” I laugh at her answer.
“So I’m supposed to like him because he has good work ethic? Tell, me, Em, does he have good grammar, too? I know that’s a requirement for you. Does he pass your test of they’re, their and there?”
“I’m sure he does.”
“And I’m sure you’re overlooking the obvious. You’ve lowered your standards to the gutter for this winner. I’ve read his articles, Emi. They suck.”
“Right,” she answers.
“I have. Have you? Because if you have, you’d realize they have no sports editor at LoHud, and you would have discovered that he does not, in fact, know the difference between they’re, their and there.”
“I don’t care,” she argues. “He knows a lot of other things.” I can tell by the tone of her voice what she’s insinuating.
“Yes, he’s left his proof on you,” I remind her. “Classy guy. Who needs money when he can give you your very own, personalized, front-facing tramp stamp? Look, it’s Emi’s red badge of fucking!” I say, pulling her shirt sleeve down to prove my point. When I look closer, I notice it’s not a hickey after all. It’s a fresh bruise. Upon further inspection, I discover another one closer to the nape of her neck.
“Stop,” she says, adjusting her shirt.
“What is that, Emi?” I ask, suddenly concerned.
“It’s a hickey, just like you thought.
“No, it’s not. What the fuck are those?” I pull the sleeve away once more and lightly press my fingers into both.
“Ow,” she hisses.
“Are you guys finished over here?” Chris says from behind me. Emi quickly averts her eyes and pulls the sleeve back up again.
“We’re fine,” she answers him.
“No, Chris, come–” She grips my forearm tightly.
“We’re handling things,” she smiles at her brother. “We just need another minute or two.”
“Please do not make me regret bringing her to meet you. I really want this to work with her.” Before I have a chance to speak again, he turns on his heels and returns to the table.
I look back down at Emi, the shock still apparent on my face.
“Did Colin do this?” I brush her shoulder again to remind her of the marks.
“Shut up, Nate, you’re completely out of line. You don’t know him at all.”
“I’m trying to understand him,” I pause, realizing my lie. “No, I’m not. I couldn’t care less about him, and my god, Emi, if he is hurting you–”
“He’s not,” she says with a look of disgust on her face. “What just because he’s got more muscles than you, you think he beats me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I dropped some books from that shelf in my room,” she spits at me. “He had nothing to do with this.”
“Then why did you lie and say it was a hickey?”
“It makes for a much better story, doesn’t it?”
“Right, of course. Then why didn’t you let me have Chris take a look?”
“Because I know his temper, and I know he would jump to conclusions. And I know Colin’s strength… my brother wouldn’t stand a chance against him.”
“Well, what if I decide to take matters into my own hands, then?”
“I’d say go for it. You’d be completely in the wrong, and I don’t give a shit about what he does to you.” I know she’s just angry with me… I know she doesn’t mean it; even her eyes tell me so.
“Well, you’ve been a complete dick all night.”
“And you’ve been the model of civility yourself, Emi.”
“You’ve deserved it.”
“Why? What have I done, aside from trying to make you see the guy you’re dating for the asshole he really is?”
“What do you see in him?”
“You’re one to talk. The only thing your Barbie-doll mute has contributed to the conversation is some tidbit about high school.”
“You haven’t given her a chance to speak!”
“I can see she’ll just be one of those women who will sit pleasantly by your side, agreeing with everything you say, going along with everything you do, until she has her hooks in you. Then you’ll get to know the real Sam, and it’ll be too late to get out.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I can just see her manipulative little mind at work, that’s all.”
“Whatever. If you just tried to get to know her, you’d see you’re completely misjudging her.”
“Well, we won’t need to worry about that. I don’t want to know her.”
“That’s very mature.”
“Doesn’t seem like you’re into maturity. If you were, you’d date a grown up.” She slants her eyes and smiles smugly.
“Alright, I’m done,” I tell her, trying to end the argument. “Your brother brought us here to get to know Anna. Let’s just try to put this aside for now–”
“Fine,” she says.
“Just after I ask Colin about those bruises.” I turn to walk toward the table. Either she truly doesn’t care about my safety, or she doesn’t believe that I will follow through on my threat. I don’t think he’ll attack me in the restaurant.
I sit down next to Sam as she immediately takes my hand in hers and squeezes it tightly. “So, Colin–”
“Anna, I’m sorry,” Emi cuts me off. “I must be having an allergic reaction to some of the food,” she explains to her brother’s date as she scratches her neck close to the spot I had pointed out to the entire table.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Anna says. “I hope you’re okay.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. Probably some herb or something,” she mumbles. “But listen, I’ll get your number from Chris. Maybe we can meet for drinks one night this week?”
“That’d be great,” Anna says.
“Colin,” Emi taps her boyfriend on the shoulder as he chews on an appetizer. “Nate was nice enough to offer to drop me off on his way home,” she lies to him, “but I was hoping you could take me. I know it’s out of your way.”
“No, it’s fine, babe. Sure. We just ordered, though. Can we wait and have them box it up?”
“Colin, I think we need to go now,” she says, her voice urgent. She watches me out of the corner of her eye to make sure I don’t say any more.
“I could bring your food by,” I offer her, glaring.
“No thank you. We’ll find something at home.”
“I was looking forward to the lobster,” Colin explains, still seated and completely unconcerned with Emi’s fake illness.
Emi bites her bottom lip to keep from saying more.
“You should take her now,” I tell him, just wanting him out of my eyesight for good. “Plus, maybe it’s not a food allergy. Maybe those splotches on her neck are contagious.”
“Nate,” she warns.
“Wouldn’t want them to spread, that’s all I’m saying.” I stare at Colin as I say this, hoping he understands that I know that they’re bruises.
He stands up abruptly and throws his napkin on his plate.
“Goodnight, Emi,” Sam calls after my friend. Emi turns around to acknowledge her. “I hope you get better soon. Let us know if you need anything.”
“Thanks,” Emi says, her smile forced.
Chris finally speaks up after they leave. “I’m sure she’ll be fine,” he says, addressing his girlfriend. “I’ve never known her to have any food allergies, though. I’ll check on her later.”
“So, Nate, tell me about your artwork,” Anna says, continuing our dinner as if nothing has happened. She takes a sip of her wine and smiles at me and Sam across the table. I can tell she’s going to be good for Chris.
This is a super short post, but I want to let all the wonderful bloggy people know that I finished A Holland and a Fighter much sooner than I expected and decided to release it nearly a month early on Sunday, June 16.
As I’ve said in other social posts, this one is a love letter to the most devoted of readers. This isn’t a stand-alone by any means. To get the most out of it, read all the other books. The get quite a lot out of it, you at least need to read the Emi Lost and Found and Choisie series.
Now… the thing I must ask of all the readers is to NOT spoil this book for the ones who come behind you. Not in social posts, conversations on my page or ESPECIALLY in reviews. I’m begging you. And don’t read ahead, either. You’ll want to work your way into this organically and experience all the love and warmth and comfort that these characters will deliver.
So, if you haven’t preordered yet, make sure you do to be one of the first to read it when it goes live late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
If you want to talk about it, buddy read or send me a private message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or shoot me an email. I’ll be away from work next week doing family things but will likely have time to chat.
Lastly, brace yourself… and remember I love you all! This is one hell of a ride. ❤️
When other characters have stories to tell in my head, I go with those. I’ve written eleven other books, plus a book of extras, since I released Number Seven in 2013. So I’m not as prolific as some other authors. (As a side note, eight of those books I’ve written since 2013 have over 100,000 words.) I have a full-time job, am completely self-reliant and have had some hardships in the past few years.
The characters who have inspired me since 2013 are Livvy, Jon, Max, Callen, Trey, Will, Shea and Coley. Steven has not. Renee has not. Kaydra has not. I’m not going to write an uninspired book or series.
Believe me, I see my sales. I know people aren’t as interested in the characters who interest me; it’s a hard pill to swallow. That being said, I’m doing something my soul needs to do for me to stay healthy and happy as a person.
Someday, maybe readers’ tastes and the voices in my head will align. Until then, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing… and I’m going to stop calling Number Seven a prequel. I understand it’s misleading when I have no ETA for a follow-up.
A part of me feels the need to apologize, but… I feel like I’ve still given so much of myself over the years that an apology isn’t really needed. Instead, I’ll thank you for reading and for your patience between any releases I do have.
Honestly? There’s nothing quite like Jon and Livvy being in love. It’s been AWESOME “being in love” with them, too. I think you’ll love every moment of this book, but this night is particularly special for our lovebirds… so here’s the first excerpt. I don’t want to give too much away of A Holland and a Fighter–in a way, it’s a love letter to my most devoted readers: the Holland bubble.
Jon’s wearing his ten-year-old Columbia baseball cap when I get downstairs. He looks so cute and boyish when he wears that; it reminds me of when we were much younger. He looks like high school Jon, like the one that asked me out for the first time when I was fifteen and he was seventeen. On my tiptoes, I deliver to him another kiss. I feel like I’ve fallen in love with him all over again tonight.
“Did I already tell you how lucky I am to be with you?” he asks.
“Will you still be saying that at two in the morning when I’m nudging you to get me some Tums?” I ask him.
“It will be tinged with sarcasm, but yeah.” He tosses his keys in the air once and catches them, setting the alarm and opening the door to the apartment for me.
I notice he slipped on his jeans. “Should I put on actual pants or something?” I ask him, suddenly having second–rational–thoughts about my lounge pants.
“Nope. Normal people do this every day. We’re just ordering burgers, running in, picking them up and leaving. Why can’t we be normal for a night?” he poses the question to me.
“The Scotts go normal… I like that,” I tell him.
“The car should be ready when we get downstairs,” he tells me, holding his hand out for me. Butterflies blossom in my belly. “Did you just blush, Liv?”
I shrug my shoulders. “This is… fun. I just feel so… happy.”
In the elevator, he envelops me in a hug. “This is fun.”
Once we’re in Jon’s SUV and hidden by his tinted windows, I pull out his phone and find the menu for the place with the best burgers in the city–he’s the keeper of all the bookmarks to our favorite places. “Wow, they have a bunch of new things since we last did this.”
“It’s been years, Liv,” he laughs. “I hope they’ll still serve us.”
“We tip very well,” I remind him. Their food caters toward an adult crowd, so it’s not someplace we take the girls. When we normally get nights alone, we go out to nicer, sit-down restaurants–places where we can carry on a conversation with one another.
“Think they’ll make them to go?”
“We’ll tip even better. I’ll call them.”
“I’m thinking you should have worn jeans…”
“The high’s wearing off from earlier, huh?” I ask him, pinching his forearm and laughing.
“See if they’ll bring it to the hostess stand,” he whispers as I wait for someone to answer.
“Thank you for calling Raoul’s. How may I serve you?”
“Hi. This is Livvy Holland,” I say, earning a poke in my side from my husband for using my maiden name. It’s the one that gets the impossible done in this town, though. Scott can open many doors. Holland gets us the red-carpet treatment.
“Yes, Ms. Holland, what can I do for you this evening?”
“My husband and I have had a crazy night, and we were just wondering if there was any way we could get a couple of your burgers. It’s, like, the only thing I’m craving…” I say.
“Oh. Ummm. Let me ask the chef,” she says.
“We’ll pay whatever,” I tell her before she slips away.
I link my fingers with Jon’s while I wait for an answer. He holds on to me tightly.
“Ms. Holland? The chef says we can prepare burgers and fries for you and your husband. How would you like them cooked?”
“Oh, thank you so much!” I gush. “Both medium rare with everything on them. And could you have them ready at the hostess stand? We’ve been working in the nursery tonight, and we’re not really dressed to make an entrance, if you know what I mean.”
“Of course, Ms. Holland. We’ll have them ready in fifteen minutes.”
“We’ll be there. Thank you!”
“Working in the nursery, huh?” he asks.
“Sounded better than screwing, right?” I make a production out of sliding his phone into the pocket of his tight-fitting jeans.
“A little more to the left,” he suggests.
“Yeah, yeah…” On my phone, I shoot a quick text to Shea.
– Guess who got some…
I wait for a response, but by the time we get to the restaurant, I still haven’t heard anything back from her. If I know her and Will, she’s probably getting some, too. Still… she should be celebrating this with me! It’s been months! Auggie the cockblocker took a night off!
“Ready?” Jon asks.
“Do I have to?” He nods his head, but I already knew the answer. It’s not safe for me to idly sit in a car late at night in SoHo, just like it’s not safe for Coley to take taxis by herself. They’re easy opportunities for bad things to happen. The words originally came from my father but have since been echoed by all the men in our family.
There are times when I miss the freedom, but I would never give up my life with my family, and especially my life with Jon. Not for anything in the world.
People are excited to see us out in public. Many of them are yelling my name, but I keep my head bowed down, not wanting to be in any pictures tonight, and I know that’s the only reason they’re calling me. Fortunately for us, they’re just average New Yorkers. No paparazzi tonight. That’s one good thing about going somewhere we don’t normally visit–none of the vultures are waiting on the off-chance they may catch a glimpse of us.
Jon makes quick work of the transaction. I don’t even watch him pay because I know he’ll tip them very well. When we met, he was very frugal with his money. After growing up without any, I couldn’t blame him. But since realizing what we make and what we stand to inherit someday, and knowing that both of his brothers are taken care of, too, he’s good about taking care of people who take care of us.
And trust me, getting us these burgers is truly taking care of me tonight.
“I cannot wait to eat this,” I tell him when we settle back into the car.
“Mrs. Scott?” he says abruptly.
“I will, though! Don’t worry. I wasn’t going to start now!”
He shoves his phone in my face before we pull away. “Can you tell me why Will is sending me sexually suggestive emojis right now? With confetti and champagne?”
“I mean,” I say, grinning, “what’s sexually suggestive about an eggplant? And a peach?” I ask innocently.
“There’s a rocket and a tunnel, too, ma’am,” he says, mockingly annoyed. I scroll though no less than twenty texts from his brother–half dirty, half congratulatory–all very Will.
“I just have no idea.”
“You told Shea.”
“I haven’t seen Shea!” I argue.
“Does your phone have an eggplant and peach on it?”
“Absolutely not! When Shea and I talk food, we spell it out. She’s a chef. She’s wordy like that.”
“Stop playing coy. What’d you tell her?”
“I just told her to guess… who… gotsome,” I say quickly.
“Got some?” he asks. “That’s how you talk about it? What are you, 13?”
“It’s been awhile, okay?” I laugh.
“I got some,” he says, mimicking my voice.
“Oh, my god. But wait! Don’t get onto me about telling Shea. It’s obvious you’ve told your brother you haven’t been getting any by his response to you.”
“Brothers talk! Whatever! It’s a guy thing!” he counters.
It wasn’t the name I was born with, but it was a gift that was given to me at the age of four. On that birthday, I didn’t know what it meant to be a Holland, but over the next thirty-something years, there would be many lessons taught by a generous and adoring family. To be a Holland means to accept differences. To compromise. To listen, but to also speak your mind. To appreciate the world around you. To give back.
To be a Holland means to love.
I was never the fighter in my family. If there was a pacifist among the brothers, it would be me. I was the peacekeeper. The unifier. The one who was charged with keeping the family together; but in that very challenge, was it not a fight? The struggle may not often be a brawl, but there’s always hardship. This I know too well. To be a fighter means to face adversity. To do the unexpected. To stand alone. To have courage and strength of character. To prove everyone wrong.
To be a fighter means to live.
This is a story of love, life and the unexpected events that force us to fight for both.
Now… I’ve had quite a few readers ask me, “who’s this book about?” What?! Really? I didn’t mean to be coy; I had no intention to tease anyone with this. I felt like both sections gave plenty of clues to anyone who really knows my characters.
And I guess that’s the point with this book: you need to know the characters. You can’t pick up and start with this one. Just like with Make Waves, A Holland and a Fighter is not a standalone* or an entry-point** into my books.
To answer the question, this book is mainly Livvy and Jon’s, but… you get special cameos from no less than nine other characters from various other books in my library. This is the reason that I recommend readers read all of my other books before reading A Holland and a Fighter to get the full impact of the story.
Now, if you haven’t done that, and let’s say you’ve only read the Emi Lost & Found series and the Choisie series, I think you’ll follow along just fine… you’ll just be farther in the future than you may have expected, and the relationships between characters will be more developed and, likely, more complicated than you may remember. There may also be some children you haven’t met yet. 😉 You’ll figure that out.
At the bare minimum, though, you need to have read the Emi and Choisie series.
If you liked the Emi Lost & Found series and the way it made you feel, I think you will want to check this one out. Once again, here are the preorder links for the Kindle ebook and the signed paperback.
*Books that can be read as a standalone:Not Today, But Someday; Number Seven; Contessa; Crossroads; Love Like We Do (side a); Love Will; In the Wake of Wanting
**Books that are entry-points into different series:Not Today, But Someday; Lost and Found; Contessa; Crossroads; Love Like We Do (side a)
Today is the day! My 17th book is now on sale on Amazon.com in both ebook and paperback formats! If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can also read it free with your subscription, just like you can most of my other books!
Who is Max Scott? I have grown to love him as… yes… probably my favorite character. My most devout readers first met him in Contessa as a six-year-old, but they’ve seen him grow up, too. He came out in the Love Like We Do series, got his heart broken later and stood by his best friend, Trey Holland, on one of the worst nights of his life. He’s sarcastic and witty and the life of any party.
In this book, we see one of my most grounded characters rise to meet the impossible challenge–and then we’re with him as he loses his footing.
First off? If you came here from LinkedIn, this is my PERSONAL blog… and this character, Max Scott? He has no filter and no boundaries. Read at your own risk. I’m not remotely joking. Also? He might be my favorite character. Judge me if if you will. And with that…
I try to maintain a neutral expression as I look over the menu. I never pay the check when Callen and I go out. Ever. And when I go out with Trey and Coley, it’s a casual thing. Nothing fancy. But with Callen, normally with the pricier places, they don’t put the prices on the menu. He just knows the prices going in, like it’s given to rich people with their birth certificates at the hospital. I guess he researches online, but whatever. I’ve seen the totals from time-to-time, and never have I thought any piece of food, no matter how tasty, was worth the money he’s spent on it.
Unlike other places, Per Se is proud of their products and what they charge for them. My eyes can’t seem to leave the numbers beside the Prix Fixe at the bottom of the page. It’s absolutely insane.
“Do you know what you want?” he asks, sitting in the seat next to me. “Or have any questions?”
Are you fucking out of your mind?
“Uhhh.” I scan the menu, seeing multiple items with the word supplemental beneath them–and what appear to be prices. “Does the word supplemental mean what I think it means?”
He laughs lightly. “Yes, Max. Get over it.”
“Oh, this is sooo shit’s not happening. Pinch me. Get me out of this… weird purgatorial dining hall, where the food is amazing but every entree is served with a side of immense remorse and the memories of your poor and unfortunate childhood and all the friends you left behind in Queens.”
“Funny, I’m having carrots with mine.”
I glare over at him and scan everything, doing some quick math. Leaning over and whispering to him, I ask, “So, you’re telling me that one of us–one of us–could end up spending 725 dollars on one meal?”
“That will probably be me, yes. You’re welcome to, but I know you don’t like foie gras.”
“I don’t even know what that is, so I’ll save you another 175,” I tell him, nodding my head in disbelief. I hold up my menu to shield my mouth from the rest of the dining room. “Wasteful,” I mouth silently.
“Worth it,” he says, taking my menu and holding my hand. He looks up at the waiter, who I didn’t even know had approached our table. “Max, did you want to start with the oysters or scallops?”
Knowing the scallops were supplemental, I feel immense guilt when I respond. “Scallops.” Oysters have never really been my thing.
“Two scallops. We’ll figure the rest out in the meantime.”
“Yes, Mr. McNare.”
“Babe,” he says, leaning in. “You know I don’t feel an ounce of guilt spending money like this. Just let it go, okay? Forget the prices. Forget the chef’s ego, because it’s obviously huge, right?”
“Tell me you won’t remember this night.”
I run my fingers through my hair. “The shock has left a mark, yes. The way you look,” I tell him, giving him a once-over. I swallow, shake my head and sigh. “Very memorable, too. You look… like someone I shouldn’t be dating, that’s for sure. I mean, I finally get the Adonis thing. He’s definitely here. In the flesh. Let’s get you codpiece and call it a day.”
“Why the codpiece? In the statue, he’s completely nude.”
“Then…” I reach for his tie, but he stops me, laughing, before I get my hands on it.
“Behave.” He takes my hand again and holds his menu up in front of me. “Figure it out.”
“Already know.” He points out his guesses, nailing them all. “I’m too predictable.” I dip my head in shame.
“Just because I know what you eat doesn’t make you any less spontaneous. You keep me guessing all the time. Believe me. I wish I could do more of that.”
“I think you have lately.” I nod. “My birthday present? Come on. No clue.”
“Gifts don’t count. They’re supposed to be surprises.”
Our waiter delivers our first course and refills my water. “Thanks,” I tell him, smiling. Curiously, I compare my dish with Callen’s.
“Did you order a supplemental oyster?” I point to the offending shellfish on my plate that’s somehow arranged beautifully among the rest of the food.
He shakes his head.
“You want it?” I pick it up with my spoon and fork and start to pass it over to his plate. He stops me with his hand.
“No!” he says. “Don’t. Put it back.”
“Okay.” I shrug.
“Eat your scallops.” He points at my food with his fork just before he takes a bite. “Man. They’re amazing. Taste.”
“Maybe worth 50 supplemental bucks, but I don’t know about 60,” I tease him after eating one. He rolls his eyes. “Fifty-five, tops.”
“We can take it off his tip,” Callen says, looking at me with a straight face.
“Fuck that, he’s been super nice.” I take a drink and choke on my water, realizing the tip situation. “Do you tip 20 percent on top of the total bill?”
“At least, yes, Max.”
“Why am I doing social work when I could wait tables at a swanky place like this?”
“Well, you needed the waiter’s help putting the cloth napkin in your lap to eat; how many other etiquette rules do you think you’d have to catch up on?”
“Ahhh, fuck that.” Etiquette-wise, I know to speak softly and close to my boyfriend when I feel the need to curse. I can control it; but in context here, it’s definitely needed. “I didn’t need to do that with my napkin. I can feed myself with a 98 percent success rate of getting food into my mouth. Plus, my customers could behave how they wanted.”
“Then you’d lose all the other customers who come here expecting a certain level of decorum.”
“And fuck them.”
When I’m finished with my scallops, I put my knife and fork on my plate properly to signal that the waiter can take my plate–both at 4:20. Like that was hard to remember.
When Gerald comes, though, he only takes Callen’s plate. “Didn’t I do it right?” I ask.
“I guess you didn’t finish,” he says. “That supplemental oyster is still there. I know you hate for things to go to waste. Maybe Gerald knows that about you, too. You’re pretty outspoken with your environmentalism.”
“Seriously? You eat it. I don’t want it. I’ll gag.”
“How can you gag over an oyster when you can take me so easily?” he asks. I glare at him. “Open it and I’ll take it. It’s already cracked. You just have to pry it up.”
I pick up my utensils again and stick the fork into it, expecting a little bit of a struggle. There’s really no prying; it easily lifts.