Working With a Writer’s Group

I won’t be writing today, per se, but I will tidy up the ten pages I’ll be reading tonight at my writers’ group. Here’s what I’ll read.

Zoe grabbed her purse off the shelf and slid her feet into her ugly but comfortable Sketchers. “Let’s go, Lori!”

Laurel snatched up her backpack, checked her reflection in the hall mirror and tidied up her pristine ponytail. Her posing reminded Zoe so much of her mother—Laurel’s grandmother—that her heart twisted just a little.

But since she didn’t have time for sentimentality, Zoe bustled her niece down the stairs. Together, they propelled out of the house, passing the door that led to Ethan and Hannah’s apartment.

Zoe wrinkled her nose at the bacony odor and the sound of the Beatles floating through the window.

“Meat-eaters,” Laurel said in the same tone she’d use to say dog poop.

Zoe didn’t comment, but placed her hand on Laurel’s small bony shoulder and guided her to the Bonny Baker Van standing in the driveway beside Ethan’s old Thunderbird convertible.

The van still carried the scents of yesterday’s deliveries—yeasty loaves of breads, cinnamony cookies, tart pies. Zoe placed her purse in the center console where she always kept it, slid on her sunglasses, and snapped into her seat belt. Once she was sure Hannah’s seatbelt was also secure, Zoe checked the rearview mirror and spotted Ethan and Hannah climbing into the T-bird.

Their open car doors blocked the driveway. Zoe blew a breath out her nose and tightened her grip on the wheel.

Laurel rolled down the window and waved to Hannah. “Hi Hannah! Hi Ethan!”

Secretly, Zoe hated that Laurel called Ethan by his first name. She didn’t think adults and children should be on first-name basis, but since Ethan insisted, there was little she could do. She tried not to flinch every time Laurel addressed her as Zoe.

Hannah returned Laurel’s wave and smile.

Zoe tamped down her impatience and rolled down her own window. “Good morning! Would Hannah like to ride to school with us today?”

“You’re going to school?” A wrinkle appeared between Ethan’s brows.

“Ancestor day,” Zoe told him.

Ethan barked out a laugh and climbed into his car. “You don’t look old enough to be a grandparent,” he said through the open window.

Zoe bristled. “I’m not, but I can talk about our ancestors.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you there.”

She was trying to be nice—and punctual. “There’s no need for us both to go.”

Ethan’s back straightened. “I work there, you know.”

“Oh! I didn’t know. When did that happen?” Not that she had time for this conversation. If he worked there, neither of them did.

“At the beginning of the school year.” With his thick dark hair and large brown eyes, he was dangerously handsome. He was probably driving all of the Canterbury girls—and a few of the teachers—mad and man-hungry. That could happen at an all-girls’ school.

“What are you teaching?”

“Art.”

“Oh, of course.”

Ethan’s convertible roared to life and he gave her a dismissive smile. “I’ll see you there,” he repeated.

Zoe mentally ticked off her daily agenda as she followed Ethan down the drive. She’d been up since four a.m. making bread, cookies, and pies. Her assistant, Claire, was now manning the bakery, but Zoe needed to be back in time for the lunch rush.

At the stop sign leading to Main Street, Ethan surprised her by turning right while she and Laurel took a left.

This seemed symbolic of their relationship.

*

Ethan took note of his daughter’s mismatched socks. One was a crisp white and matched the school’s navy and red tartan uniform. The other had a pink tinge to it—like it gone through the wash with a red sweater. Which it probably had. Ethan thought about saying something, knowing the stringent adherence some of the girls liked to pay to the school’s uniform policy. When it came to the rules, the students were often bigger sticklers than the faculty.

He glanced at his daughter with her sweet rosebud lips, pinky-cheeks, and clear blue eyes—a surprise gift from his wife. She clutched the family Bible in her hands and stared straight ahead.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m sorry Gram or Gramps couldn’t be here today.”

“It’s okay,” she said in a tight voice without looking at him, letting him know that it was definitely not okay. “I understand.”

Ethan blew out a breath. “It’s so far for them to come.”

Hannah nodded. “I know. And they have so many grandkids that live in Rose Arbor, they probably have to go to ancestor day once a week.”

A ripple of guilt traveled down Ethan’s spine. If he lived closer to his family, Hannah would be surrounded by cousins, aunts, and uncles, and not to mention his parents. He could have just as easily gotten a teaching job in Washington.

His phone buzzed and he clicked the button.

“Ethan!” Desmond’s voice floated into the car.

The fussy gallery owner always sounded on the verge of a breakdown, but today the panic sounded real.

“Good morning, Desmond what can I do for you?”

“Hi, Dezi!” Hannah called out.

“Ah. Pumpkin. What are you doing in the car with your father?”

“We’re going to school, Dezi,” Laurel told him.

“Oh! Are you still doing that?” His voice carried an equal helping of scorn and surprise.

Laurel giggled. “Of course.”

“I think he was talking to me, Button.” Ethan cleared his throat. “I like teaching.” And he needed the money if he was ever going to get his own gallery, but he couldn’t tell that to Desmond.

“We had a break-in,” Desmond told him.

Ethan braked too hard at the stop-light, sending Laurel forward in a lurch. Instinctively, he shot out his hand to protect his daughter. “Was anything taken?”

“Small stuff, cash from the till.”

Ethan glanced at Laurel, bit back a curse, and pulled into the intersection. “Do you need me to come by?”

“Your paintings are all insured, of course,” Desmond said, trying to sound calm.

“I thought you said small stuff…” No one would consider his paintings small. It took at least two buff and burly men to carry most of his paintings. But then his heart sank. “Harold?”

“I’m sorry,” Desmond said in a strangled voice.

“Daddy?” Laurel asked.

“I’ll be there in a second,” Ethan said, thinking up the next place to make a U-turn.

 “But Daddy…” Hannah whined.

“I’m sorry, Button. This should only take a minute,” he lied.

Hannah tightened her lips and glanced out the window at the town flashing past. A thick marine layer had settled during the night and had yet to burn away under the southern California sun, leaving the town in a shadowy gray mist. Ethan pulled the car along the curb beside the Oak Hollow Gallery.

Desmond, one of his first fans, had started showcasing Ethan’s work even before his graduation from Pasadena’s Art Institute. Ethan’s early career began at Warner Brother Studios where he worked in set design. That’s where he’d met Allison. At first, their friendship was about sharing paints and brushes—Ethan had a tendency to lose pencils and Allie had always carried extra. He’d soon learned to depend on her for not only his drawing instruments, but for everything. She’d been his world.

He shut down the painful memories and slammed out of the car. Hannah trotted after him.

Inside the gallery, Desmond fluttered like a small trapped bird not knowing where to land. A tiny man, he spoke with a slight French accent, despite the fact he was originally from Oxnard. He wore a meticulously trimmed goatee and a matching set of plucked, highly arched eyebrows.

A buff and burly police man stood between a bust of a gleaming bald head and a glass sculpture. He looked as out of place as a Michael Angelo painting in the Musee d’Orsay.

While Desmond talked with the officer, Ethan patrolled the gallery, looking for missing objects. Hannah stared up at the policeman, entranced and awed by the man’s size. She clearly found him more interesting than the Darling the Detective shows she liked to watch.

“Who are you?” The policeman pointed his pencil in Ethan’s direction.

Ethan stepped forward. “Ethan Lawrence.”

“He’s my dad,” Hannah piped in. “He’s an artist. A very famous one.”

Ethan rubbed the back of his neck.

“I’m Officer Mack.” The policeman took note of Hannah’s uniform and Ethan’s matching tie and shook Ethan’s hand.

Ethan wondered if Mack was the officer’s first or last name, but didn’t have time to question it. Mack, though, had questions enough for both of them.

“Looks like you two belong at that fancy school up the hill,” Officer Mack said.

“I go to school at Canterbury Academy,” Hannah said. “My mom used to teach domestic arts there and now my dad teaches just plain old art.” She froze and her hand flew to her mouth as if she could capture her words. “Sorry, Daddy! Your art isn’t plain or old…although, you haven’t made anything new in a really long time.”

Ethan stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He loved his daughter, but sometimes he found her eleven-year-old honesty brutal.

Officer Mack glanced at his watch. “You’re not supposed to be at school now?”

“Are you a truant officer?” Desmond asked with a sneer.

Ethan shot the gallery owner a quick glance, hoping to convince him to play nice with the police. They would need their help if they wanted to recover Harold as well as the other missing work.

“One of my statues was stolen. It’s—” His voice cracked.

“Priceless!” Desmond interjected.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Ethan said, “but it was an original.”

Officer Mack scribbled something on his notepad. “We’ll need to get an appraiser out here as well as an insurance adjuster. Any idea how the perps might have gotten in?”

While Desmond led Officer Mack to the back office, Ethan motioned for Hannah to follow him to the car. Rage and frustration thrummed through him. If he owned the gallery, something he desperately wanted to do, beefing up the security system would be high on his to-do list. This never would have happened if Desmond had taken the needed precautions.

Outside, the marine layer hung in the air and the cold and damp air nothing to lighten his mood.

“So, when is Desmond going to sell you the gallery?” Hannah asked him, echoing his thoughts.

“I don’t know, sweetie.” Ethan hoped Desmond hadn’t heard her and pulled open the convertible’s door so she could climb in.

After slamming inside, he ruminated over her question.

“He should let you buy it, since everything he sells in there is yours,” Hannah said after he’d settled behind the wheel.

A sad smile lifted his lips. “Not everything, sweetie.” He turned the key and the convertible roared to life.

Hannah huffed and folded her arms across her chest. “Most everything. I mean, who else is going to buy it? That Misty lady?”

“Maybe. She’s a good artist.” Ethan steered the car onto Oak Hollow’s main drag.

“Her name sounds like fog.”

Ethan shot his daughter a quick glance.

“How much is Harold worth?” Hannah asked.

“A lot.”

Hannah considered this and Ethan could practically see the thoughts churning in her head. Had she guessed the real reason Ethan had taken the teaching position at the school? He could, of course, go back to Warner Brothers, but the thought made him ill. They’d have to leave Oak Hollow. He’d have to hire a new nanny—one who could cover the long hours the studio would demand.

Or he could go back to Rose Arbor. Live in his parents’ basement. Find a job teaching at a public school. Churn out hotel room art in the evenings and on the weekends. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the wheel.

But he didn’t want to leave Hannah with a babysitter for sixty hours a week, nor did he relish the thought of living in his parents’ basement in dreary Washington. “You want to stay here, right?” Ethan asked. “With Mrs. Hancock and all your friends?”

“Hmmhmm,” Hannah murmured. “That’s why I’m going to say a prayer that you’ll get enough money to the gallery!” Last week, she’d heard a sermon about answered prayers and since then she’d started praying over nearly everything.

“That’s sweet, Button, and noble, but not very useful.”

“What do you mean? Pastor Lynn said we should pray over everything, including our flocks and pastures. Your paintings are like flocks, but they smell better, and a gallery is like a pasture without ticks.”

Despite his worry and concern, a small chuckled escaped.

“It’s not funny. It’s true. Pastor Lynn would want you to pray.” She jutted out her chin. “I bet God wants to find the bad guys who stole Harold. And if He wants to punish them, we should let Him.”

“Sweetie, let’s not bug God. I bet he has a lot of really important things to do.”

“What could be more important than bringing Harold home.” She gasped and her eyes went wide. “I bet he’s scared!”

Ethan thought about pointing out that Harold was a one-foot-high sculpture incapable of having feelings.

Hannah folded her hands in her lap and refused to look at him. After closing her eyes, she began a simple and yet sincere prayer that Desmond would sell the gallery to Ethan and that the police would find Harold and bring him safely home.

CHAPTER 2

Zoe stood in front of the classroom. Dozens of little girls dressed in their tartan uniforms stared back at her, expectantly. They looked sweet, but Zoe knew better. At this age, she had attended Canterbury herself, so she knew sweetness might only on be the surface like ganache on an eclair. Something ugly could lurk behind the pig-tails and shiny lip-gloss. But still, because she loved Laurel, she held out one of her prize possessions for the girls to see.

“This small wooden box holds something very precious to me,” Zoe told the girls. She unlatched the leather strap to open the lid and extract the small gold coins. “These were collected by my ancestors. When John Lewis first came to this country from Wales in 1849, he was a poor man. He’d been a miner in Great Britain, but somehow, he’d managed to put together enough funds to travel to the United States and take the train as far west as it would take him, and in those days, that was to Iowa City. From there, he hitched up with a wagon train that would take him to California where he hoped to strike it rich in the Gold Rush.”

“Are those coins from the Gold Rush?” a little girl in the front row asked.

“Sadly, no.” Zoe closed her hands around the coins for just a second. “He didn’t find gold, but I think he found something better.”

Another girl wrinkled her nose. “What was that?”

“He found my great-great grandmother! And together they started a farm in Twain.”

“Where they found gold?” a red-head quipped.

“No. They never found gold,” Zoe told them.

“Then where did the coins come from?” another girl asked.

“When John was still a young man, he placed a gold coin in this box and he wrote a note.” She pulled out a piece of paper. Of course, the ink on John’s original note had long ago faded and the paper crumbled, but one of John’s descendants had transcribed the note. She didn’t think she needed to tell the girls this. “John wrote, to my children and my children’s children, I leave you this coin as a remembrance of me. May it bless your lives.” Zoe picked out the oldest coin and handed it to Laurel who held it in the palm of her hand and paraded it past all the girls seated at their desks.

“The real cool thing is,” Zoe continued, “Ever since John, all of my ancestors have purchased a gold coin and left it in this box for their children and their children’s children.” She poured the other gold coins into her hand for the girls to see. She wrinkled her nose. “These probably aren’t worth a whole lot of money, but it’s definitely worth something, and when I think of my ancestors—many of them poor and facing economic hardships, especially during the great depression and the world wars—they didn’t spend the coins. Instead, they followed John’s example and kept them safe. They held them sacred.”

Maybe sacred was too strong of a word, but it came to her lips and she went with it.

“Who will you give the coins to?” a girl asked.

Zoe opened her mouth, but a for a moment, no words came. Finally, “My child, of course.”

“Does that mean you’ll have to have a boy?”

“No,” Zoe said. But it did mean she’d have to have a child, and that was looking as unlikely as John himself personally handing her a coin from the grave. “I’m not a boy and the coins came to me.”

“Maybe they’ll be mine someday,” Laurel said.

“Probably,” Zoe said. “Here, do you want to show the girls the rest of the coins?”

Laurel skipped to the front to gather the other nine coins.

Mrs. Lacombe, a retired history professor, bought her clothes from a local consignment shop. Today, she wore a sailor suit–minus the hat–and she strode around the classroom like she had a deck to swab. “Let’s all give Ms. Hart a big Canterbury thank you.” She clapped her hands and all the girls joined in.

Zoe dipped her head and took her place at the back of the classroom with the other visiting ancestors while Doctor Edwards, an elderly man wearing physicians’ scrubs and carrying a stethoscope took center stage beside Mrs. Lacombe.

During Dr. Edward’s talk on his family’s role in medical research, Zoe collected the coins and placed them back into the box. Someday, they’d need a bigger box. Who would make that decision and what would the world be like then?

She only lived a few hundreds of miles away from where John and Emily had settled in Twain all those years ago, but her life was radically different from John and Emily’s. She didn’t depend on a garden or livestock for food. But the one thing she’d be sure to do, like John and the others, she planned on purchasing a gold coin and adding it to this collection.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the feed back I got from the group. You might also enjoy these posts.

https://kristystories.blogspot.com/2014/09/finding-right-writers-group.html

https://kristystories.blogspot.com/2013/10/fail-proof-your-plans.html

TUESDAY TEASER

AN EXCERPT FROM THE BILLIONAIRE’S BEAGLE, AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON. FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED AND ONLY .99

During the reception, Letty kept an eye on her mom and wondered if anyone else could read the tension running just below her mom’s courteous and lovely façade. From the guests, Letty thought she caught pitying stares, curious fascination, and whispered undertones. When a few people came right out and asked about her father, Letty tried not to bristle. She wanted to mimic her mom’s breezy grace, but she felt wooden or mechanical, as if she were a mannequin or a wind-up toy programmed to act a certain way and repeat a memorized script.

Then she spotted Leo with a beautiful blonde clinging to his arm. Had Harper or Chet invited him? She hadn’t noticed him at the wedding. Could he have accidentally stumbled into the party? Unlikely.

She watched him, wondering what she had ever seen in him. Sure, he was handsome in a Ryan Gosling sort of way and could be charming. It embarrassed her that it had taken her so long to see beneath his swanky façade.

And who was the Barbie on his arm? With her too-perky boobs and centipede eyelashes, she looked as manufactured as artificial turf.

Letty rubbed her forehead, willing her brewing headache to go away, and turned away before Leo could catch her spying on him.

“Letty!” Leo called out.

“Leo!” Letty feigned surprise and shot Harper a nasty glance.

Harper, who was mingling with the guests, responded with an apologetic smile and slight shrug.

Leo navigated through the crowd and weaved between the tables and chairs so he could wrap his arms around Letty. She inhaled his familiar scent and broke free as soon as she could.

“Letty, this is Jerry.” He put his hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “She’s Chet’s cousin.” He lifted his eyebrow. “Small world, huh?”

Jerry captured Letty’s hand. “Wasn’t this just the most beautiful ceremony? And the setting! Of course, an outdoor wedding is always risky! I’m a wedding planner, you know.” She waved her hand. “But I wasn’t offended in the least when Harper went with Donald. I was relieved, actually. Working with family can be so tricky. And then I heard about your family’s financial hiccups. And well,” she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand as if wiping a sweaty brow, “Whew! I knew I had dodged a bullet.”

Leo had the grace to look embarrassed. “How is your dad?”

Letty planted her shoes into the lawn to keep herself from kicking both of them in the shins. “He’s doing well,” she said in a falsely bright voice. “And how’s your mom?”

He shifted from foot to foot and ran a finger around his collar. “She’s doing better,” he said. “She’s hoping to come home soon.”

Jerry shot him a questioning glance, but Leo refused to meet her gaze.

Letty thought about mentioning the rehab center, Leo’s mom’s second home, but decided not to stoop to his level. “It was nice to see you, again Leo, and to meet you, Jerry.”

Jerry brightened. “If you’re in need of an event planner, call me.” She slapped her forehead. “But—won’t you be planning a broker’s open house soon?”

“You would need to talk to my mom about that,” Letty said. “Excuse me.” Knowing she couldn’t take one more minute of feigning sweetness and light, she slipped away.

The reception had been held on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Now that the sun was fading into a pink puddle on the horizon and strings of outdoor lights were flickering on, Letty hoped to find a place where she could slip out of her awful shoes and enjoy the gathering dark.

She wandered down the path until she spotted a bench overlooking the ocean. The sky and sea had turned to the same steely gray, making it impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

Gloaming, her grandmother’s word for twilight—that brief between time after the sun had set but the moon had yet to rise. Her grandmother had a song about it. Something about two lovers “lovely roamin’ in the gloaming.’”

“You okay?” Claris’s voice startled Letty.

She jumped to her feet and turned to her best friend for a hug. “Did you see Leo?”

“And his latest flavor of the month.” Claris pulled away and swept a searching glance over Letty.

“What did I ever see in him?” Letty sank back onto the bench and pulled Claris down beside her. They were similar in size but different in almost every other way. Letty had her dad’s dark hair and eyes while Claris was a classic beach Barbie. In high school, they used to call themselves the Oreo team.

“He’s not so bad,” Claris said.

“Yes, he is. All men are bad,” Letty pronounced.

Claris elbowed her. “You don’t mean that.”

“I hate men almost as much as I hate these shoes.” Letty lifted her feet to show Claris the pink satin strappy heels Harper had made her wear.

“They’re not as bad as my dress.” Claris plucked at her skirt.

“No one made you wear it.”

“I know, but what with UCS’s tuition hike, I couldn’t ask my parents for one more penny, and this dress was free.”

“Free?”

“Anything left in Courtney’s closet is fair game. Her rules, not mine.”

“Do we need to get back? I don’t want to miss the sendoff.”

“I think we still have a minute.”

“Good.” Letty wiggled her toes and followed Claris’s glance over her shoulder at the Montlake monstrosity. The hotel’s lights shimmered in the fading dusk. Music from the reception floated over the rise. Out on the water, a few boats bobbed along the horizon.

“For most people, this is the stuff of fairytales,” Claris said.

“I feel like my mom and I are being booted out of paradise and the only home I’ve ever known.”

“Because of your dad?”

Letty nodded. “Mom’s talking of going to Arizona to live with Marmmy. Harper and Chet are moving to New York. Leaving just me in my tiny Irvine apartment.”

“I love your place. It’s cozy.”

“Cozy is just another word for small.” But Letty also loved her place. It was a two-story, twenty-unit complex with gray and white siding and bright red doors. “I love nursing, but the pay barely covers my rent. Now that Harper’s moving out, I’ll have to pick up another shift if I want to buy food.” She clenched her jaws to keep the tears at bay and struggled to regain control of her anger to keep from dissolving into tears. But the sound of clattering roused her from her funk.

“Wh-What’s that about?” Claris stammered.

Standing, Letty tried to ignore her aching feet. When she realized the shouting and cursing seemed to be coming from the wedding reception, she took off running as best she could in her high-heeled satin shoes. Claris jogged beside her down the path and over the bluff.

A beagle stood on the table, wolfing down the wedding cake while the guests tried to fight their giggles and Donald and his team flapped their arms and screamed expletives.

A man in dripping wet swimming trunks and not much else dashed through the party, knocking over chairs and bumping off guests as he scrambled toward the dog. “Sorry! Sorry! Excuse me!” He lunged for the table and pulled the beagle to the ground. A floral garland caught around the dog’s paws and soon the man and beagle were tangled in the string of flowers. With his naked chest and garland, the man looked like he could pose as a statue of a Greek god.

“Who is that?” Claris breathed.

Letty bit back a curse. “I don’t know, but he and that mutt just ruined my sister’s wedding.”

“You’re right,” Claris whispered. “We should be outraged, but holy crow, he’s beautiful.”

“And I bet he knows it.” Letty marched over to the man, planted herself in front of him, and released the anger she’d been storing up for the past two months. “Get that creature out of here!”

“I’m trying.” He juggled the dog, who made another leap for the table. “That must be some amazing cake.”

“Yeah. My mom stayed up all night making it and now look at it! It’s dog chow.”

“No, it’s gorgeous. At least that part is.” He waved at the untouched-by-dog-lips side of the cake.

Tears gathered in Letty’s eyes as she remembered all her mom’s hard work. But then she heard laughter. Stunned, she turned to watch her mom melt into tears and giggles and fall onto a nearby chair. Mom hiccoughed, spread her legs, grabbed her belly, and laughed some more.

Was she drunk? Oh please, don’t let her be drunk. Letty didn’t think she could handle one more ounce of humiliation.

Many of the guests followed Mom’s example. Sniggers, guffaws, and laughter floated around Letty. Jerry didn’t even try to control her giggling. Leo, at least, looked embarrassed for her.

The man with the dog grinned, but his smile only fueled Letty’s rising anger. She stepped in so the tips of her satin shoes were perfectly aligned with his bare toes, peered into his eyes, and pushed his chest.

Obviously stunned, he dropped the dog, stumbled back as if Letty had zapped him, and stared at her. Their brief physical contact had sent an electrical current sizzling between them. Did he feel it, too?

“Oh no you don’t!” Claris sprang for the cake-lusting dog and caught it by the collar.

“Claris! Your dress!” Letty called out.

Claris sank to the grass, her legs splayed out in front of her, the dog with its frosting-smeared fur wriggling in her lap. “It’s okay. It’s an off-the-rack.”

The man unwrapped himself from the garland and grinned at Claris. “Here, give her to me.” He glanced around. “I wonder what happened to her leash.”

A college friend of Harper’s came running up, holding the leash in her extended hand like a banner. “I found it!”

A distinguished-looking older gentleman carrying a briefcase and wearing a bowtie appeared. “She must have slipped out of it.” The man took the proffered leash and clipped it onto the dog’s collar. “Hey, it’s a chocolate cake. Do you think it will make her sick?”

As if to answer the question, the dog hunched over and vomited all over Letty’s feet. A warm dampness seeped through the thin satin shoes. Frozen in horror, Letty could only stare at the mess.

“Oh look, here come Harper and Chet!” Mom pointed a wavering finger at the couple emerging from the side of the hotel. “Nobody say anything to them about the cake! Grab the sparklers!”

Claris jumped to her feet to help Mom distribute the sparklers and matches while Letty shook herself from her stupor, stepped out of the vomit, and slipped off her shoes. She wrinkled her nose as she picked up the dripping shoes and carried them to a trashcan. After dropping them in, she tried to collect her thoughts and wrap her anger around her like a protective cloak. It had momentarily slipped when she’d laid her hands on that man’s naked chest, but she could and would muster it back.

The man and dog trailed after her. “Again, I’m really sorry.”

“Yeah, well, so am I.” She glanced over her shoulder at the line forming for her sister’s sendoff. “This was supposed to be the happiest day of my sister’s life and your dog just made it disgusting.”

“How can I make it up to you, and your sister, of course?”

“Good question.” She waved her arm at the destroyed table where half the cake had been turned into a mountain of mush. The bulk of the flowers had been cast to the ground, but shredded petals and leaves scattered the once-pristine white tablecloth like dying corpses on a battlefield.

“Can I pay for a new cake?”

“Oh yeah, good idea.” She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Because we’ll need a new wedding cake tomorrow.” Sarcasm in her voice dripped like vomit from silky shoes.

“You don’t need to be bitchy.”

She planted her fists on her hips, even though she longed to touch him again. As an experiment. Just to see if that sizzle would return. “And you don’t need to be here.”

He bit his lip. “Right. I don’t.” And he stalked away while the dog limped after him.

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#Monday Motivation/ Taking a Book-Business Breather

I’m taking a book-business breather for the month of August and focusing some much-needed attention on my house. This is counter to the whole rapid-release strategy and my basic nature as I would much rather write a story than clean my garage.

But clean my garage I did. My daughter, who made me this sign a few years ago when I said I wanted a clean garage, helped me. She must have had a change of heart, because she helped me get to corner and crannies that probably hadn’t seen daylight in 24+ years. Today, I’m tackling my bookshelves. A friend once told me she liked my bookshelves because you could tell they’re used. Which was just a kind way of saying they’re in a constant state of messy flux. (I should also say that my bookshelves aren’t a good reflection of my reading habits since I’m like that guy in the parables who builds bigger barns to keep his stuff. I have not only my house, but two vacation rentals where I keep the books I love.) I’ll post pictures.

Why am I taking a book-business breather when it’s in direct opposition to the marketing guru’s advice? This quote might explain it best.

“The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.” Ezra Taft Benson

You can read the entire address here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1989/04/beware-of-pride?lang=eng

I’ve never liked numbers, but recently I’ve felt like the numbers and I were at war, and yes, I took Chris Fox’s course for Authors Who Hate Math. I still hate math. Maybe someday I’ll win the marketing war, but for a moment–or a month–I’m taking a breather. I want to enjoy writing again. I’m not sure attacking the cobwebs in the corners of my house will help, but it can’t hurt…unless you’re a spider.