Thursday, March 23, 2017

Have you read book 3 in the This & That Series yet?

Try an excerpt on for size....

“Will you please tone down on the language?” My mom squeaked. “This isn’t a prison yard, you know.”
“I’ve got to go.” I pulled into the coffee shop parking lot and turned off my engine. The cop car stopped behind my back bumper, though the lights stayed flashing.
Why did cops do that? As if it weren’t humiliating enough to be pulled over right in front of the very place I was heading. Now we had to advertise it for the whole world to see.
“What? We’re in the middle of a conversation.”
“I’m sorry. I have to go.”
I heard her suck in a sharp breath. “Don’t hang up on me. I—”
I pressed end and dropped the phone in the seat next to me. “Sorry, Mom,” I whispered as the officer appeared in the window next to my face. When his knuckle tapped on the glass quietly, I pressed the button and looked up as my window rattled its way down. “Um, good morning officer, what—”
The breath in my lungs eked out slowly. It was Mason.
“Good morning yourself,” he said with a smile. Though he was wearing sunglasses, I could see crinkles at the corners of his eyes peeking out from either side of the lenses. “In a hurry today, Candace?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.” A few people stared at me through the coffee shop window, and I glanced away. I wouldn’t be joining the writing class today. As soon as I got my ticket, I was heading back home to hide—and wallow—for a while. “I was trying to get to a class here.”
Mason glanced up. “They have classes here?”
“A writing group.” I shifted in my seat, trying to make myself disappear. “They meet once a week. I was late for my first meeting.”
“You’re a writer?” He put a hand against my door and leaned down casually. The smell of cinnamon and aftershave wafted in, and my heart skittered in response. I couldn’t be sure if it was because I was on the verge of getting my first speeding ticket in six years, or because Mason looked so freaking good in his uniform.
“Uh huh,” I said quickly. “Don’t you work nights?”
Wincing, I looked down at my hands. I’d just given it away that I watched his car coming and going from his house. Awesome.
He chuckled. “Usually I do, but we’re short-staffed and I like to pick up some extra cash. Sometimes I like to fight crime in the daylight.”
I glanced up at him. “Fight crime?”
“Okay. Pull people over. So, what do you write?”
I blinked at him, the morning sunlight shining in my eyes. “Aren’t you supposed to ask me for my license and registration?”
“No small talk. Got it.” He stood back upright. “I’m gonna need to see your license and registration, please.”
I should have just chatted it up about writing. Maybe flashed some cleavage. Marisol had shocked us with stories of the obscene things she used to do to get out of tickets. She was the only person I knew who’d gotten out of trouble after going fifty in a fifteen zone just because she discussed felatio with the policeman. There was no way in hell I was stooping to that. And besides, I thought, I was wearing a full coverage tee shirt.
I was going to get a ticket for sure. Groaning, I reached for my wallet and dug out my information. “Here,” I muttered, shoving it at him. This was humiliating. This kid was young enough for me to have baby-sat him when I was in high school, and he was writing me a ticket. “Friggin’ whippersnapper.”
He stopped walking and looked at me over his shoulder. “Did you just call me a whippersnapper?”
I forced a fake grin. “Of course not. That would be disrespectful.”
Watching him as he sauntered to his car—and trying not to notice how lovely his tush looked in his uniform pants—I released a long sigh. This just figured. Now he was not only privy to my birthdate, but my weight as well. What else would he know by the end of this little debacle? My bra size?
A PG13-rated scene in the back of his cop car cropped up in my head.
Ok, R rated.
Wait. Scratch that.
Clearly, I was a bit lonely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

International Day of Happiness

Today is Tuesday, March 21st, but in America--where I am from (I'll live in South Korea as an expat for 15 more months) it is Monday, March 20th, and that means....

It's International Day of Happiness!

Hooray! (*throws confetti*)

I love laughter. I love smiling. I love seeing the positive--even when there's not much positivity around me. I consider it a challenge, one I accept willingly. My life is better when I'm happy. How about yours?

Over the last few years, I've discovered something super cool: I am in charge of my own happiness. Huh! Who knew?? For decades, I've been declaring that when I had more money, I would be happy. When I moved to a bigger house, I would be happy. When ____ said ____ to me, I would be happy. When ___ did ____, I would be happy. When ____ was given to me, I would be happy. When I had __ around of children, I would be happy. When I sold __ amount of books, I would be happy.......and so on, and so forth, etc etc etc....the list goes on and on.

But I had it all wrong. Like, totally wrong. It isn't up to other people to make me happy. It isn't anyone else's responsibility to create joy for me. It's my responsibility to create joy for myself.  Oh, and not only that, but it's not my responsibility to create joy for others. I'm not burdened with the job of making sure everyone around me is happy. That's not my job, just as it isn't so-and-so's job to make me happy. You see?? It's all so basic, but sort of complex, too.

And you know...once I realized all of that, everything else just sort of fell into place.

Now I find joy wherever I need to.

For are the things that bring ME joy:

1.) Good books. (Literally nothing better in the world than a well written book that takes me away from real life for a while--too many folks get stuck on reading trendy, hipster, thought provoking literary fiction, so they can stroke their beards and feel enlightened. Not me. I prefer good, old fashioned romance. I don't care if it makes me smarter, does it make me laugh? Does it make me sigh and hug the book after I'm done reading it? Yes?? Then I'll read it twice.)

2.) When my kids succeed. (My kids are growing up. They don't need me as much, which is every bit as scary as it is liberating. But this week my son made his college choice, and sent his mission papers off. He leaves for Africa for a service trip in less than a week, and will go kayaking and hiking in Australia in May. The kid is just successful, and it gives me joy. He turned out okay, despite a rough start, (they all did!) and it makes me happy.)

3.) My tribe. (When we moved from Washington State to South Korea, I felt like I'd lost all of my friends. <though, thanks to social media, I've managed to keep some of them--woo hoo!> Finding a new tribe here has been difficult, to say the least. The expat community here is tight, but diverse. Finding people to mesh with is about more than going to the same church, or having kids who are friends. It's about accepting and tolerating differing lifestyles, religious beliefs, or political stances. It's about listening beyond accents, and trying to hear the words people are saying. It's about finding folks to lean on, and depend on, despite having only known them for 2 years, instead of 10. When I had my cancer scare in Dec/Jan, I discovered that I had a pretty amazing tribe. Not only back at home in the USA, but here in South Korea, and I'm infinitely grateful for that. They make me feel safe...and feeling safe makes me happy!)

4.) Laughing with my husband. (Every wife will say her husband is her best friend, but when I say it, I literally mean it. This guy...he listens to everything I say, even when it's ugly. He knows everything about me, good and bad, and he still digs me. If something happened to him, it wouldn't just crush me because he is my husband, but also because he's my bestest, closest confidant. The coolest part about our relationship is how much we laugh together. To other people, my husband comes across as stiff, cold, and serious. But to know him well, is to know how dry and witty he is. He is probably the funniest guy I've ever known. Nothing beats laughing with him.)

5.) I'm writing again. (After months--well years-- of unproductive writing, I am finally back in the saddle, and working on some great new books. There's nothing that feels better than creating more stories of humor and romance to share with my awesome readership. Plus...when I'm not writing, it's like having constipation of the brain. It backs up and makes me nutty. But when the words flow onto a page, it is like my brain health increases by 80%! Increased brain health makes me happy.

6.) Warm beaches. (This Saturday I am going to Guam with a friend. She said to me when I was having my tumor removed, "Get a clean bill of health, and I'll take you somewhere sunny!" And sure enough--by the grace of God--I got a clean bill of health. Now we're going to Guam. In my forties, my travel aspirations changed. I used to want to see cities and buildings and skyscrapers and bridges. <likely because I was raised in the country> but I've evolved. Now I want to see sand, feel warm air on my skin, and sit under palm trees while waves lap nearby. Being at the beach fills me with joy!)

7.) Scorched rice soup. (Ok, so this is a new development. When we first moved to Korea, I was utterly repulsed by the food. I thought that most of it stemmed from a dare, otherwise nobody would be eating the stuff these fine folks consider delicacies. I mean, I still don't understand why everything is covered in freaking red pepper flakes!!!! I've learned that if it's red, I don't even try it. I'm a wuss with spice. Blech. However, there are a few foods I've started to enjoy here in Korea. For instance: white kimchee. Still smells like feet, still fermented and gross, but not spicy--and so good for my gut! Second, Korean BBQ. It's just grilled beef. And it's tasty wrapped in lettuce. I dig it. Shabu-Shabu..which is actually Japanese, but Koreans eat it all the time <Korea was occupied by Japan a few times> and it's freaking delightful. Most recently I've become obsessed with scorched rice soup. It's a broth made with the scorched, browned rice from the bottom of the pot. I eat it with spicy soup, adding spoonfuls of the spicy broth to the rice to flavor it. It makes my toes curl, and that makes me happy.)

White kimchee....all the sour, none of the spice. Thank you, LAWD.

Scorched rice soup is my favorite. 

I could eat shabu shabu every single day.

Korean BBQ. Utterly simple. Completely tasty.

8.) Open spaces and wild land. (Basically rural America. I'm enjoying my expat adventure, but I've managed to grow a real appreciation about where I came from. Clear air, the smell of grass, unfiltered sunshine, rolling plains....utter bliss. Home makes me happy.)

What brings you joy? What makes you happy? Why aren't you doing it?? Find what makes you happy and pursue it. Don't pressure someone else to bring you joy, find joy yourself. It tastes sweeter that way.

Happy International Day of Happiness!


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Weekend in Seoul

The hubs and I went into Seoul last weekend (about a 1.5 hr subway ride away--short by Korean terms) and saw a musical!

It was a great weekend. We met a giant group of my girlfriends there and had dinner and stayed in a really fun boutique hotel that had a nightclub downstairs (people were just leaving at 8am when we had breakfast! Gah!) It was so much fun and very relaxing.

The show was phenomenal. I wasn't a fan of the subject matter--it's a little heavy--but the actor who played Jekyll/Hyde was extremely talented. 

Back at home, the kids made a giant fort, cooked unsuccessful chocolate pancakes, and didn't answer the phone often enough for mom & dad's liking. I am actually finding myself enjoying life with older, more self-sufficient children. It's fun to get away with my cute nerdy husband once in a while.

This is our whole group. Such awesome ladies. A good tribe, if I do say so myself.

It's been a long, tough winter. I'm looking forward to spring. Our weekend away was the first glimpse into the change of the season.......*big, contented sigh of relief*

Took a bathroom selfie when I found myself in this weird restroom with all mirrored walls. I couldn't even pee. I got stage fright because I could see myself from every angle.

What did YOU do last weekend?


Still haven't read...

The book that started it all?

Check out an excerpt from my first published book HERE:

And if you like it, you can click the link below to get a copy! Happy reading, friends!

Seattle, Washington

“Why are you doing this?”
The desperate, sad look in Henry’s eyes made my heart ache. His brown hair fell across his forehead in rain-soaked waves, and his eyelashes gathered in dampened clumps. Henry’s eyes, the same shade of gray as the weeping clouds above us, searched my face for answers I was too ashamed to give.
“What we have is real, Autumn.” He pulled me against his chest. I felt his heart pounding through the wet fabric of his soft, flannel shirt, and we trembled in unison, standing on the front steps of Henry’s apartment building. “Why do you want to break up? Don't you love me?”
“Don’t do this,” I said weakly. My eyes filled with hot tears that threatened to undermine my brave fa├žade. When he grazed his fingers across my cheekbone, swiping away a tear, I instinctively turned my face into his hand, breathing in the warm, outdoorsy aroma of Henry.
My Henry.
He kissed my cheeks, my temples, my shivering lips. My resolve started to crumble. Strength. I needed to show strength. I needed to walk away before I ruined his life, before I hurt him any more than I already had.
“Tell me that you don’t love me,” he whispered into my drenched hair, tangling his fingers in my curls. “Tell me, and I’ll let you go.”
I choked on a sob. I did love Henry. The past two months had been the best months of my life. Not once had I dreamt of meeting someone who made me feel safe, peaceful, beautiful, and deliriously happy, the way Henry Tobler made me feel. I wanted to be with him—and no one else—forever.
“Of course I love you,” I said.
“Then why are you doing this?” His voice cracked.
I shivered in Henry’s arms, not only from the cold, but also from the burden I bore. Pulling back, I raised my eyes to meet his. “I….I’m pregnant.” My words were barely audible over the sound of the pounding rain and passing traffic.
 His face morphed from shock to anger, then settled on absolute sadness. We hadn’t slept together yet.
“It was from before,” I explained lamely, feeling dirty as the words came out my mouth.      Henry’s shoulders drooped. He released me and a shadow fell across his eyes. That said it all. His girlfriend was pregnant with someone else’s child.
Henry deserved better than me.
I had to get out of here. I backed away, down the cement steps and onto the sidewalk. I rubbed my chest, my heart breaking just beneath the surface.
“I’m sorry,” I said, words quavering. “I’m so sorry.”
I turned and ran. Away from love.

Chapter One

Thirteen years later

“Well, if it isn’t Little Miss Big City herself. You got yourself a flat tire, dontcha?”
I cringed. I hated when people pointed out the obvious. Unfortunately, on this particular road, in this particular county, blatant observations tended to be even more antagonizing.
At least they were to me.
My bitter thoughts matched my mood as I stood on the side of the road. Looking up from my cell phone, which didn’t have coverage clear out here in rural eastern Washington, I almost smiled. Despite my predicament, I appreciated the striking contrast between the sharp, azure sky and the rolling, golden wheat fields.  
“Well, do ya?” Ray Fisk leaned his head out the window of his dented Chevy truck to get a better look at my flat. Never one to miss a spectacle, his wife, Ramona, slid across the seat toward Ray and craned her neck.
I nodded and forced myself to smile, sweat drizzling down my back. My slacks and sweater had been appropriate for the cool, blustery, October morning in Seattle. Not so appropriate for standing in the unseasonably warm breeze on the side of the two-lane highway that led into Fairfield, Washington.
“It’s flat, alright,” I said.
Ray squinted at me in the late afternoon sun. “Seems you blew a tire.”
Again, with the obvious.
“I thought I could limp all the way to town, but apparently not.” I frowned at my deflated tire. “I tried calling my dad, but…”
 I stared at Ray meaningfully. No doubt, the Fisks were still the town’s gossips and knew why I couldn’t reach my dad.
Ray nodded and smiled, his teeth tobacco-stain yellow. “It’s five o’clock. Cheese fries and dollar beers at Smartie’s.”
I grimaced. “Right.”
Why would the return of his daughter after fourteen years keep Billy Cole home when there were flat beer and frozen Ore Ida fries covered in Velveeta waiting? Forget the fact that he’d just been released from the hospital this morning. He should have been at home, resting. But my father wasn’t known for his good judgment.
I looked in my open car window and asked my son, “You all right in there?”
Elliott’s horn-rimmed glasses had slid down his nose, and his expertly tousled hair drooped in the heat. “How long are we going to sit here?”
Twelve-year-olds had no patience. Elliott was no exception. Especially when the batteries in his Nintendo DS had long since died, and he could no longer text his friends because we were out in the hinterlands.
“Working on it.” I faced the Fisks. “Do you mind helping me change the tire? I can’t even lift my spare.”
Ray raised his baseball cap and smoothed his salt-and-pepper hair. “Well, I hurt my back at the grain elevators a few years ago, remember?”
“She doesn’t remember, dear.” Ramona touched his arm. “She left town, and not many folks have heard from her since.”
Ramona was right. I’d left my hometown of Fairfield, Washington, two months after graduating from high school, where my class had consisted of a whopping forty-six students. I’d gone off to art school in Seattle—three-hundred-and-thirty-three-point-six miles away from Fairfield, not that I’d ever counted.
And no, I hadn’t kept in touch. Not until recently, when I’d answered my phone and heard Smartie Guire’s raspy voice on the line. Smartie had found my cell number in my dad’s wallet. He said that my father had taken a spill in the garage behind the house where I’d grown up. Apparently, he’d lain on the floor for twenty-two hours before his neighbor had come over to see why her cats wouldn’t stop scratching at the garage door. My father had spent a couple of days in the hospital and been discharged today.
Smartie had figured it was finally time I knew about my dad’s declining health. And since I was the only child of my parents’ dysfunctional union, taking care of him was my responsibility.
I admit that I’d put off my reunion with my father for far too long. During the fourteen years since I’d left Fairfield, Elliott and I had come back once, for Christmas. After that, I’d sent the occasional holiday card, and made a brief phone call each year around Father’s Day. It had been a long time, yet here I was, almost back in Fairfield, Washington. Population: five hundred. Yes, I said five hundred.
            “People always wondered where you’d gotten off to—why you didn’t stick around,” Ramona said.

My initial instinct was to remind her that living under the small-town microscope as the daughter of the town drunk hadn’t enticed me to stay, but that was a moot point. I gave her a tight-lipped, fake smile. “I’m back, now.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Have you STILL not read The Carny?

Get a little glimpse into Charlotte and Vincent's reunion here:

Oh, how I adore this book! <3

He’d changed for the better.
Vin was taller, and bulkier. He looked like a man who didn’t necessarily put in time at the gym, but rather, a man who kept his physique with good, hard manual labor. He was wearing the same t-shirt he’d been wearing on the evening of the magical kiss, but this time it was cleaner, and worn with a pair of dark jeans. Vin appeared collected, tidy, and even professional, if a carny could look that way.
His hair was longer. So much longer than the half grown out haircut he sported before. It fell to the bottoms of his shoulder blades in a neat, shiny black braid. Never in my life had I been attracted to a man with hair almost as long as mine, but boy oh boy. There’s a first for everything. I’d read once that Native Americans consider their hair a source of strength, and if that was the case, Vin was as strong as an ox. Because his hair was long, clean, and strikingly beautiful.
I covered my open mouth with one of my hands. He looked casually amused by my utter shock, whereas I was ready to fall over onto the grass like a cow that’d been tipped. Figures.
“Hi.” It was all I could think of to say, and it barely came out above a whisper. My vocal cords had apparently shriveled up inside my throat, leaving me speechless.
“It’s been a long time.” He gave me an honest smile, and it made my insides twist. “How long has it been?”
“Ten years,” I blurted, my voice only returning enough to sound strangled.
He raised a dark eyebrow. “That long?”
“I was eighteen.” I bit my lip and shuffled my feet nervously. “I’m twenty eight now.”
His lips pulled back and revealed a white sliver of teeth. “That so? I hit thirty three months ago.”
“My condolences.” Where had I come up with such wit under the current circumstance? I could barely stand upright, yet I was making jokes?
He laughed, and my heart tugged. It sounded excitingly new and familiar all at once. “Naw. I’m okay with it. Thirty didn’t scare me.”
My cheeks cooled back to their normal shade of ivory. There was a familiarity about Vin I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He was one of those people who put everyone around them at ease. I wasn’t like that. I tend to make everyone around me as keyed up as I am.
My hair blew all around in a gust of wind, and I scrambled to keep it under control. It was swarming around my head like Medusa’s snakes. “Dammit.”
Vin reached out and touched my hand as I scrambled to tie it into a makeshift bun. “No, leave it down. It’s beautiful. You look as pretty as you did when you were eighteen.”
Flattery? Oh, this was amazing. Vin had not only materialized out of thin air, but he came bearing compliments. “I…um…thank you.” I looked up at his eyes, and was instantly sucked into those pools of shining black. “So…uh…how are you?”
“Great. Glad to be back.” He looked around joyfully and took a deep breath of the salt-and-pine-tree scented air. “I’ve missed this place.”
Okay, be cool. Don’t let him know that you’ve been stalking him for over a decade. Stalking is not sexy. I repeat, stalking is not sexy.
“Do you come to town often?” I wanted to appear casual, and had to remind myself not to fiddle with my hair, despite the fact it was still dancing on the breeze like I was underwater. All I needed was a shell bra and a fin.
“This is my first time back in years. My dad lives near Tillamook, but I…” He grappled with himself for a split second before continuing. “I’ve been very busy with school and work.”
So being a carny wasn’t Vin’s primary vocation? Interesting. I watched as he gestured for a few young employees to get back to work. They skulked off at the mere jerk of Vin’s chin, and I felt inexplicably proud of my fantasy boyfriend. I needed a life.
“Are you…” Pausing, I searched for the words. “Still running the tilt-a-whirl?”
Vin looked at me quizzically before his face split into another grin. “Well, yes. Amongst other things.”