Late Night Poetry, excerpt

I’ve actually written since my last writing update, so I thought that you’d like to read an excerpt from my story Late Night Poetry. It’s still unedited, so forgive any mistakes.

The tagline for the story is A love story told in answering machine messages. Enjoy.


Monday October 22, 1990

“Hi Sully. It’s me. Um…Lou. But yeah, you can hear that of course. I…uh…know I shouldn’t call you, but…I just had to hear your voice, even if it’s just your answering machine message. I’m…”—deep sigh—“I’m so fucking sorry, you have no idea. I wish I was brave like you but I’m not. I’m so sorry for letting you down. So, so sorry.”—Sob. Long silence—“I…guess I should hang up. I just… I love you, you know? I guess I’m like that Donne fellow you told me about. Two kinds of fool? But instead of being in love and talking about it in a poem, I’m letting the one I love go. That’s gotta be worse, huh? Take care, Sully. I…uh…

My legs turn to jelly as I listen to the message, and I sink down on the chair and lean my forehead on the kitchen table with a loud groan. When the machine beeps, I rewind the tape and listen to the message again. And again.

I just love you, you know.

I bang my head against the table repeatedly as I listen to it a fourth time, my heart aching more and more for every repeat.

“Ouch,” I yelp after a too hard thump, and rub my sore forehead with fingertips still stiff after the outdoor chill. “And you just had to quote John Donne to me, you dickhead,” I mutter and shove my hands under my thighs so I won’t replay the message a fifth time.

I didn’t even know he paid that much attention to me when I read poetry around him. He’s the kind of person who prefers beer over books and paintball over poetry. He’s constantly in movement even when he’s sitting; legs jiggling or fingers drumming a tattoo on his leg, or he’s tossing and catching with his ever-present baseball.

So to hear that he actually listened to me when I read out loud around him—and poetry no less—prickles my heart. I always thought he was in his own world, not paying much attention to me. He never mentioned it after he caught me doing it the first time.

“You’re reading out loud.” He’d found me with my coffee, a lit candle, and whatever poetry book I’d checked out of the library, the first time he spent the night in my tiny apartment.

He startled me, but I nodded. “Yes. I like to hear the words out loud. Does it bother you?”

“Nah,” he said and kissed me on the mouth, morning breath and all since the sleepover was unplanned and he hadn’t brought a toothbrush.

After that, I continued reading the poems out loud around him, thinking he tuned me out and didn’t pay attention.

Seems I was wrong.

But it wasn’t the only time I was wrong. I also thought that when someone said “I love you,” it meant that they wanted to be with the other person, but that was obviously wrong, too. At least if the person saying the words were named Lou Hillman.

Abruptly, I stand and slam my hand on the delete button, strip out of my running clothes, and jump into the shower.


Mood board:

late night poetry picspiration v2

WIP teaser

Today, I’m sharing the beginning of my WIP, Four Christmases, that I told you about here. It’s unedited and it’s short, but I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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2015

The silence that follows after I close the door is wonderful, and I slump against a porch post and let out a long sigh. Shaking my head, I chuckle. I love my granny to pieces, but I’m in desperate need of a break from listening to her repeatedly singing “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” at the top of her voice and out of tune. It comes with a routine and everything; she lifts her cup of eggnog, roar out the word “eggnog” in the lyrics, and cackle like a madwoman, especially after having imbibed quite a few cups of the vile drink in question. Then she looks expectantly at the rest of the family, waiting for us to laugh. I admit it was funny at first, but after the hundredth time my chuckle is polite more than anything.

But it’s been a Whipple family Christmas tradition for years and years, so it wouldn’t be the same without it. I just need a moment of peace and quiet before going back inside for round two.

A shiver racks my body and I wind the thick charcoal scarf I grabbed before fleeing the chaos that is my family Christmas around my neck, shove my gloved hands into the pockets of my light gray peacoat, and then jump off the back porch.

The air is full of huge, light snowflakes twirling leisurely from the sky and landing softly on the frost coated trees and shrubbery in my parents’ garden. It’s not enough to actually be considered a snowfall; it’s more like a reminder that today is December twenty-fifth after all, and we shouldn’t think we’re spared the snow even though it barely covers the ground. It’s as though the weather is keeping us on our toes, teaching us not to take anything for granted.


And if you’ve never heard Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, the song Auden grumbles about, lucky you, because it’s terrible. But here it is, if you want to torture yourself 😀

Writing update

Hi everyone! Time for another writing update; it was a while since my last one (May 27). Usually I try to update you guys once a month, but last month I was in Sweden and was too busy hanging out with my daughter and her partner, the rest of my family, and my friends to update the blog regularly. Heck, I was even too busy to write, which I’ve had to work hard to catch up for since I got back home.

Enough moaning about that, now, on with the update.

I’m in the final stages of writing a story for a JMS Books submission call, about a Pegasus shifter. It’s tentatively named In My Arms Again, but don’t be surprised if I change my  mind (I’ve already done it once). The deadline for this story is August 1, and it will be published some time in October.

The story is a M/M historical fantasy about a hunter named Oxen and a Pegasus shifter, who can’t shift, named Vinge. Vinge shows up at Oxen’s cabin one cold and rainy night, collapses on Oxen’s doorstep, and Oxen nurses him back to health. The connection between them is instant, but is it more to it than it seems? 🙂


nanowinner

Since I got home from Sweden, my ass has more or less been glued to my office chair, and I’ve been writing until my fingers were bleeding and my keyboard was on fire because of two reasons. First, because of my deadline (August 1), and second because I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month and wanted to win it. And I did. On Saturday, I wrote “The End,” and it took me about 12 days to write 20K words. That’s hella fast for me, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back.

Above, I’m presenting you with this proof, cut and paste from the stats page on their website. Unfortunately, there’s something wrong with the winner’s goodies page, so I can’t access the official winner stuff yet (I’m not the only one with the problem according to the forum), so this pic will have to do.

Official pics or not, I’m very proud of this accomplishment!


team luker blurb releaseday

I’ve already told you about my upcoming short story Team Luker, but here’s a reminder if you’ve missed it. It’s available for pre-order at these stores:

PRE-ORDER NOW: JMS BOOKS (20% OFF UNTIL AUGUST 9) | AMAZON | Amazon UK | Kobo | itunes | B&N


Oh, and on my last writing update back in May, I told you about the project I was working on at that time, for the JMS Books Autumn Love submission call, meaning the characters had to be 40+. Since then I’ve named it (which was a huge problem when I last wrote about it) and submitted it, and it will be published some time in September. But until I have more information, I thought you might want the blurb?

OF AUTUMN LEAVES AND NEW BEGINNINGS

Sometimes love finds you even when you’re not looking for it.

At 47, Oren Walker isn’t looking for love. When he knocks on Pete Higgins’ door, all he wants is to thank him for helping his mom after she broke her femur. He never expected that one look at the man would make his knees weak and heart flutter.

Pete is happy—albeit a bit lonely—after divorcing his wife of 20 years and isn’t looking to replace her. But when Oren shows up, all grateful and handsome and in that fancy suit, the longing for the deep connection of a relationship flares up inside him.

As the leaves turn yellow, Oren and Pete spend a lot of time in honest conversations. Their attraction grows. Will the two men recognize the promise of new beginnings, and take the chance to find the happiness they both deserve?

Writing update

Hi everyone! Time for another writing update.

In my last update, I told you about my current WIP, the story I’m writing for the JMS Books submission call, Autumn Love. I’m almost done, and by that I mean that yesterday I got the manuscript back from betas, and now I’ve got to do a final edit and then it’s done.

Can we just take a second and consider how freaking awesome my betas are?! I was in a time crunch, trying to finish the story on time for them to be able to read and comment on it before my deadline. I didn’t finish as early as I wanted, but my betas said they’d do it on time anyway, no problem. And they did. And this is the second time recently I’ve come to them in the 11th hour and asked for help. Methinks I’ll have to send them gifts to show my eternal gratitude 🙂

Anyway, it’s currently about 17500 words, and when I say I’m almost done, I mean that I have to come up with a name for the darned thing before I can submit it. The story is reluctant to be named, so don’t be surprised if a book named A Fabulous Short Story That Refused To Be Named by yours truly is released sometime this fall. Just take my word for it that it’s great and you’ll want to buy it, okay? 😀


skriva

Another piece of news: regarding the Family Found series I co-write with Kris T. Bethke. After the release of our second book, Diving In, Kris and I had a conversation about things. Writing it was very difficult for me, because I’m a full-blown pantser, and if you’re two people writing a book, you need some kind of outline.

That’s why we agreed that Kris will write the remaining books in the series without me. So if you’re a fan of the boys at V Wilderness Adventures, don’t fear because their stories will be told, just not by me.

And it’s not because me and Kris had a falling out or anything (she’s one of the betas I’m lauding above), it’s just that plotting stories doesn’t work well with my creative process. I’ve also come to realize that I’m not a fan of writing series. When I finish a book, I mentally leave the characters and the place behind, with no intention of returning, so trying to get back into the spirit doesn’t work very well for me.

 

WIP teaser

I told you in my last writing update that I’m currently working on a story for the JMS Books’ Autumn Love submission call. When I write this, the story is still unnamed, but the main characters are Oren and Pete, two lovely men in their late forties.

This is the opening to the story, and it’s unedited. I hope you’ll like it. Have a great week! 🙂

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“Peter Higgins?” I raise my voice to make myself heard over the rock’n’roll music booming in the garage, but the man crouched by the motorcycle resembling something you’d buy at Ikea before it’s assembled, hears me and snaps his head up.

He shadows his eyes against the bright light with his hand, and then he holds up his index finger in the universal sign for “hang on a minute.” He jumps to his feet and jogs to the bench in the back of the garage, where I’m assuming the stereo is located considering Robert Plant gets cut off in the middle of a magnificent moan.

As the man approaches me, his long legs quickly eating up the distance, I take in his appearance. Dark, tousled hair as though he just ran his fingers through it when he stepped out of the shower this morning. A full beard with strands of silver, albeit still more pepper than salt. Laugh lines brackets his mouth and sprawl out in the corners of his friendly hazel eyes. He’s fit; his thigh muscles play under the faded denim and an oil-stained T-shirt clings to defined abs.

My mouth waters and I have to fight to keep my face neutral. I don’t want to get caught ogling the man before I’ve had the opportunity to thank him.

“I’m Pete Higgins,” he says. “Can I help you?” His tone is as friendly as his face; he shows no sign of irritation over being interrupted in the middle of assembling—or disassembling—the five-thousand piece bike puzzle.

“I’m Oren Walker.” I smile and extend my hand. “Daphne Walker’s son.”

“Oh! Mrs. Walker! How is she?” He moves to take my hand but stops himself with a grimace. “Sorry,” he says and hold out his oil-stained palms for me to see. “I’d better not shake your hand. I don’t want to get your suit all dirty.”

I chuckle and lower my hand, ignoring the pang of disappointment in my stomach that I won’t be allowed to touch him and see for myself if has palms are as callused as I hope they are. “Yeah sorry, I came right from work.” I finger my blue-striped tie and feel out of place in my two-thousand-dollar suit in his garage.

“I figured. The day is too hot for a suit.” He flashes me a smile. “Let’s go inside. I have aircon.” He waggles his eyebrows. “I’m thirsty, and you can tell me all about your mom.”

“All right.” I follow him into the garage, through a utility room, and into a big, cozy kitchen, with pale green cabinets, gleaming appliances, and a round kitchen table standing in a bright bay window.

He nods at the fridge. “Help yourself to whatever’s in there. Grab a longneck for me, will ya? I’ll wash my hands and be right back.” He disappears out into the hallway before I have time to answer.

Feeling rude and nosy for opening a stranger’s fridge, I do my best not to look and take out the first two bottles of beer I find. There’s a bottle opener magnet on the fridge door, and I pop off the caps and return it to where I found it.

The only other thing on the fridge is a photo that must be a family picture: Peter Higgins with his arm around a dark-haired teenaged girl who’s the spitting image of him, minus the beard and the crow’s feet. Next to the girl stands a tall, blond boy, probably a little older than his sister, and last but not least, a beautiful blonde woman, wearing a wide smile and a smart business suit, screaming power-woman.

Mr. Higgins strolls back into the kitchen wearing a fresh shirt. I glance at his hands, now looking reasonably clean. “Great, you found the beer!”

I nod and hand him one. “You have a beautiful family.” I tilt my head to the photo.

He looks at it with a fond smile. “Yeah, they’re a great bunch. It’s a few years old now, though. Both rascals are in college, can you believe it?”

“I don’t have kids, but I can imagine it must be…tough?”

He chuckles and plops down on ta chair around the kitchen table. “Someone should have told me that men suffer from empty-nest syndrome, too. Please sit.”


And if you’re wondering what Robert Plant is moaning in the beginning of the teaser, it’s this song, of course, around 2:10 into the song 🙂

Writing update

Hi everyone! Time for another update on what I’m doing with my life.

First of all, I finished and submitted my bunny shifter story, 9 Willow Street. I signed a contract, and it will be released sometime in July. I’ll give you more details as soon as I have them. But we can start with the blurb:

Heartbroken after the death of his beloved Nana, Hannes, the family outsider, finally allows himself to grieve. The legal battle over Nana’s quirky old house— the only place he’s ever felt accepted and loved—is over, and he moves in and finds a sense of peace.

…and a rabbit.

An adorable bunny with a huge personality moves in, too, and refuses to leave. Hannes instantly falls in love with the sweet animal who helps heal his heart. But one morning, Hannes’ view of the world changes when the rabbit transforms into a man. A man named Mattis.

After the initial shock, Hannes and Mattis discover a connection between them that runs deeper than it seems. Will their newfound feelings survive unraveling secrets and meddling families, and grow into something real? Something deep and everlasting?


My current WIP is an unnamed story for a JMS Books submission call, Autumn Love, where the main characters have to be 40 or older. My MCs are Oren Walker, a 47-year old workaholic without a family (except for his elderly mother) and Pete Higgins, a 48-year-old divorced bisexual guy with two college-aged kids. Pete is Oren’s mother’s neighbor and the story starts with Oren coming to say thank you to Pete after Oren’s mother fell and broke her femur, and Pete helped her.

I’m currently at about 6000 words and the deadline is May 31.


And then I have a treat for you:

I have the cover for my May 25 release, His Steady Heart. Wanna see? No pre-order yet, but I’ll post links as soon as I have them.

Isn’t it gorgeous?? 😍😍

hissteadyheart

Ashley Buchanan—Buck—moved back home to take care of his sick mother when he was 22. That was the first time he met Pippin, the neglected 6-year-old boy next door. Fifteen years later, Buck—a caretaker by nature—offers up his couch for Pippin, who needs a break from his mom and a quiet place to sleep.

Pippin Olander is a ray of sunshine despite his emotionally lacking upbringing and works hard to make a better life for himself. Even though he’s fiercely self-sufficient, he learns to accept help from Buck, his rock and only steady presence in his life.

Their friendship deepens and grows into something more as they spend more time together. But when other people try to throw a wrench in the works, when Pippin’s independence is triggered, can Buck and Pippin trust in the love they’ve found?

WIP teaser

Here’s a second (unedited) teaser from my current WIP, 9 Willow Street. (The first teaser is here.) It’s inspired by my naughty bunny shifter story (I told you about it here) and this is from the first chapter, when Hannes meets the bunny for the first time.

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When my suitcase is put away in the guest room, I return to the kitchen to take care of the food before it perishes.

…and is met by a surprise, a rabbit, in the middle of the kitchen.

I do a double take and come to a halt. “Hello there,” I say.

It stiffens at the sound of my voice and after a moment’s hesitation it hops away. But instead of heading for the back door, it ends up in the corner of the U-shape created by the counters and the breakfast bar, and the bunny is trapped.

With its side turned to me, it flattens itself on the floor, ears flat against the head, down the back.

Carefully, I lower myself to the floor and sit cross-legged at a safe distance.

“Where did you come from?” I keep my voice low so I won’t scare it. “Did you sneak in through the back door? Didn’t you want to stay in the garden and eat all my carrots instead, huh?”

Its nose wiggles furiously and it flattens itself even more to the floor. The rabbit is mainly white, with black ears, black around the eyes, and has black spots and larger areas down its back to the tail. The coat is shiny, and the bunny looks healthy and well fed.

“You’re a beautiful one, aren’t you?”

As carefully as I sat, I get back up on my feet and without taking my eyes off my new friend, I grab a small bowl, fill it with tap water and set it down on the floor. Then I retake my cross-legged position, making sure not to sit too close to the water bowl.

“Don’t be afraid. I know I probably look big and scary to someone as small as you, but I promise I’m nice. I won’t hurt you. And look!” I point at the bowl and then roll my eyes at myself for talking to it as though it can understand what I’m saying. But I don’t let that stop me.

“There’s water if you’re thirsty. And when you’re not as scared of me anymore, I can go back out into the garden and dig up a carrot for you. Would you like that?”

One of its long ear twitches.

“Aha, you liked that idea, didn’t you?”

 

WIP teaser

Today, I’m sharing an unedited teaser from my current WIP, 9 Willow Street. It’s a longer version of my naughty bunny shifter story (I told you about it here) and this is the first chapter, pretty much the beginning, except for a page or so before this that sets the scene.

Hannes (the narrator in this teaser) has inherited a house from his beloved great grandmother, Nana Ellen, who died unexpectedly at age 109. Because of family drama he didn’t get access to it until now, ten months later.

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Ten months ago, when my father called me and told me Nana was dead, I thought he lied to me at first. I spoke to her on her birthday, sad and heartbroken that I couldn’t come and see her, bake her a cake and give her a present. All the flights were canceled because of a terrible storm and I had no way of getting to her, but she wasn’t upset.

“Pish-posh my dearest Hannes. You’ll be here when you can, I know it. Just text me a picture of your lovely face and I’ll be happy,” she said.

So I did. I took a selfie with my hands shaped as a heart, and before I texted it to her, I wrote Nana and Hannes forever, on it. That’s what she always used to say every time I was upset over being misunderstood by my family.

She sent me back a picture of herself with her head tilted back and the back of her hand against her forehead in a dramatic fake swoon and the ever-present twinkle in her eyes clearly visible. I promptly set the picture as a background on my phone.

So is it really so weird I didn’t believe Father when he called me and told me she had passed?

“Are you sure?” I asked, thinking that it couldn’t be true, considering the last time she’d even had a common cold was fifteen years ago when she was ninety-four.

“I am a real doctor…unlike some people,” Father replied. “Obviously I know what I’m talking about.”

Great. Even when he called me with terrible news, he still found the time to mock my career choice and remind me of my status as the family outsider. The herbalist quack in a family of real doctors. My father is a surgeon and my mother an oncologist, and my three older sisters and brothers are all doctors, too. Then there’s me. The black sheep of the family. The heathen in a family of scientists.

When we hung up, I called Nana’s phone, only to be met by Father’s disdain.

“I knew you wouldn’t take my word for it, Hannes.” He sighed, that put-upon sound everyone in my family excel at. “I wish you would grow up sometime. Are you happy now?”

I hung up without saying goodbye.

Are you happy now?

What kind of thing is that to say to someone who’s just gotten the most dreadful news of his life?

Nana and Hannes forever.

Not anymore.

 

WIP teaser

Now that the second book in the collab project I write with Kris T. Bethke is submitted to our publisher, I’ve gone back to writing Buck and Pippin again. If you’re new to my blog and wonder who the heck are Buck and Pippin? click here to get some backstory.

Since I wrote about them four weeks ago, their story now has a title (His Steady Heart), I have a deadline (March 31), and the book has a tentative publishing date (sometime in May).

This snippet is still from chapter 1 of the WIP, but not directly following the first teaser.

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“You should get some sleep. I’ll go.”

“No.” I straighten and rub my eyes again. Then I make a quick decision, pull out a drawer where I keep the extra key for the house, grab it, and put it on the bar in front of him. “Stay until you need to go work.”

I’ve meant to give it to him for a long time but getting him to accept stuff is a struggle, even little things. His pride’s got pride, so just getting to a point where he accepts a hot drink without me having to twist his arm has been an uphill battle.

His fingers twitch as though he wants to reach out and take it, but he just keeps looking at it. I put my index finger on the key and nudge it closer to him.

“I…” He lays a fingertip on the metal and frown.

“Pippin.” I soften my voice. “I worry when you’re sittin’ out there freezin’ your butt off, strainin’ your eyes tryin’ to read in the dark.”

“I’m all right,” he whispers.

“I know you are.” He’s more than all right. I don’t understand how he grew up to be such a great person considering his childhood. “Do it for me?”

“Why?” He looks up at me with wrinkled eyebrows.

Because someone needs to look out for you when your ma is too busy screwing her latest sugar daddy to be able to afford to warm up the house this winter. Because you’re so darned strong, working two crappy jobs and saving up what little you can spare for college. Because you’re too good for this shitty situation life dealt you.

 

WIP teaser and guest post

One of the new things here on the blog now that I’m trying to produce regular content, is a teaser from current WIP. I’ve mentioned it earlier here, and it’s the May/December project I’m teasing from. It’s still untitled and I haven’t written a lot more since I told you about it (I’m traveling and I’ve had to prioritize writing my chapters in the collab project I’m working on with Kris T. Bethke.)

If you need a reminder, the story is about two neighbors called Buck and Pippin. They’ve known each other since Pippin was six, but now that he’s all grown up, things are starting to happen. This is the (unedited) beginning of the story.

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I see him immediately as I turn my truck onto our street. Huddled up under a threadbare blanket, he’s curled into a ball at the top of the stairs leading up to the tiny, rundown house he shares with his mom. He has a paperback book open on his lap and he uses the flashlight on his cell phone so he can see to read since it’s still dark outside.

I frown and grip the steering wheel until my knuckles whiten. It’s too cold for him to sit there. It’s the second week of January, and even though we still haven’t gotten any snow—it was our first green Christmas in years—the temperature hovers in the low thirties. Even in the dim light, I can see him shiver.

With a huff, I park on my driveway, throw open the door, and step out. “Hey Pippin,” I holler, and his head shoots up. How he missed the rumble of my truck is a mystery, but he tends to shut out everything around him when he’s got his nose in a book.

His generous mouth stretches in a wide smile and he raises his hand in a wave.

“Get your butt over here,” I call.

He pulls the blanket tighter around his narrow shoulders. “I’m okay. You must be tired after your shift.”

I roll my eyes, not caring that he can’t see me. That guy! He doesn’t wanna be a bother but doesn’t realize that he never is. Not when I first moved back in with my ma to take care of her when she was sick—I was twenty-two and he was six the first time I found him on the stairs because his mother had a “gentleman caller” as Ma used to call them—and not now.

“Don’t make me come get ya, Pippin Olander. That’ll make me grumpy for sure.” I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him, but that only makes him laugh.

Imp.


Just one thing before I go: today, I’m a guest over at Joyfully Jay where I talk about Awakenings & French Songs. I’m giving you an insight into a writer’s life and share an excerpt from the story exclusive for Joyfully Jay. There’s also a giveaway.

If this sounds like fun, clickety-click here to read the post.