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Monday, December 1, 2014

Homeless For The Holidays - Flash Fiction Holiday Blog Hop

The moment I spotted the photo below it captivated me.  The peaceful sadness on the bearded boy's face reached right out and grabbed my soul and my inner angst-whore immediately knew his story.  Turns out this photo was to be used as inspiration for a Flash Fiction Holiday Blog Hop being hosted by Thorny Sterling, Kris Bethke and LC Chase.  I signed up.  I had to.  Because while Shane and Tommy may live only in my imagination, there are real, live kids out there, just like them.  If you're kind enough to read to the end of my story, I'll share a way to help them.


Jaycee Edward

Shane fingered the crystal ornament and resisted the urge to slip it in his pocket.  The camera behind him was fake.  Tiny gift shops like this didn't spend money on security.  They posted lots of signs instead, warning you that you were being watched, but you really weren't.  Unless you looked like him: dirty and out of place amongst all the pretty, shiny things. 
He traced the intertwining necks of the two giraffes with a dirty fingernail.  He liked how their bodies were pressed together, but their necks arched out to form a heart before joining again at the top where their heads met.  Tommy would like this.  Tommy loved giraffes.  He told Shane once that giraffes exhibited natural homosexual tendencies.  Shane had never felt like any part of being gay was natural, so he kind of liked giraffes now too.  Tommy was smart like that.  He said the young males like to tongue-kiss and nuzzle.  Shane smiled.  He liked that stuff too - especially when Tommy did it to him.
As if the ornament in his hand was some sort of talisman, Tommy came up behind Shane and wrapped one arm around him while pressing his cold nose into Shane's neck, making him jump.  "Are you warm enough now?  We've been in this store too long.  We can't stay here."
Shane liked this store because the old lady who owned it kept it warmer than all the others and everything in here sparkled like it was cleaner than clean.  It smelled good too.  Like cinnamon.  His stomach growled and Tommy must've heard it.
"Hey! You know what, Shane?  I think it's Christmas Eve!  I have a couple of bucks left from the plasma place.  Let's go to Mickey-D's and have a real, hot, meal.  Just this once.  Wanna?"
Shane nodded and took one last look at the shimmering giraffes before hanging the ornament back on the wall.  It swung on the little wooden peg, catching the light just right, sending multi-colored prisms dancing against the walls and shelves.
"Are you ready?" Tommy asked.
Shane nodded again and followed him to the front of the store.
"If I'm right, and it is Christmas Eve, the library will close early tonight.  Every public place will.  We may not have anywhere to go to get out of the cold.  We'd better go to the library first, while we still can, and hang out for awhile.  Then we'll eat, okay?"
Shane didn't answer.  He didn't have to.  Tommy understood him without words.  Tommy was family.  Or the closest thing to family Shane ever had, anyway.  Shuffled from one foster-home to another since he was a toddler, Shane became emancipated on his eighteenth birthday, but unlike most kids his age, he'd dreaded the 'freedom' that day brought.  No longer "in the system", he was suddenly on his own to find food, clothing and shelter.  Scared and alone, he'd wandered the streets that night, wondering where he was going to sleep.  Then he'd met Tommy.
Tommy didn't grow up in foster care like Shane.  He had a real family - one with a warm house and food in the cupboards and clean clothes.  (That's what Shane missed the most.  The smell of a clean shirt when you pull it over your head.)  It surprised Shane to find out real families threw their kids away sometimes.  Even smart ones like Tommy.  He said he told his parents he was gay and his dad made him leave right then and there and that's how he came to be living deep in the woods, behind the shopping center, in a tent and some furniture boxes covered with a plastic tarp.
   Shane figured if a real family, like Tommy's, didn't want him just because he was gay, then Shane had never stood a chance.  He was gay and dumb.  Not just stupid-dumb, although he was that too.  He was mute-dumb... well, kind of...  Shane stuttered so much it made everyone, not just him, feel awkward and embarrassed, so it was easier to just let people think he was non-verbal.  None of his faults mattered to Tommy, though. He'd taken Shane in that first night and shared his dinner with him, if you could call it that - it was really someone's half-eaten sandwich from the sub shop.  That was the beauty of the trashcans and dumpsters at the shopping center.  They provided a multitude of treasures.  You never knew what you might find or what "dinner" might be on any given day.
They'd talked long into the night, or, rather, Tommy had talked to Shane, telling him about his past and asking Shane questions he could answer with a nod or shake of his head.  Tommy had held him close that night, and every night since, keeping him warm, keeping him safe.
 The elderly store owner hovered near her cash register and gave them a weak smile, obviously relieved they were leaving and no doubt hoping they hadn't stolen anything.  Tommy held the door and Shane stepped outside.  The cold, December wind bit his cheeks and, little by little, stole the warmth from under his clothes.  He wore several layers but December, January and February were greedy bastards; they knew all the ways to steal your heat.
Winter was hard.  Everything had to be planned.  They couldn't just go into any, old store and hang out to get warm, and they didn't dare frequent the same places again and again.  They had to rotate.  The key was to become invisible, which was easy when they were outside.  People went out of their way to not look at them on the street.  But, inside, everyone eyeballed them suspiciously.  It's amazing what a difference four walls made.
The library was their favorite place.  Not only were there several levels and lots of nooks and crannies in which to disappear, but there were big, clean, restrooms where they could clean up and those toasty, warm electric hand dryers on the wall.  Shane tried to get as much of himself as possible under the curved, silver chute as it blew hotter and hotter air.
What Shane loved most about the library was that they actually got to sit - not just on some hard, old bench either - but in big, soft, comfy chairs that threatened to swallow you whole.  His favorite thing in the whole world was to sink into one of those chairs in the audio section and listen to music through headphones.  He'd close his eyes and let the music take him wherever he wanted to go.
Tommy had a library card from before, so he borrowed books every time they went; that way no one got suspicious.  The library was the only place they could legitimately stay for hours, so they saved it for the coldest nights and special occasions.
"You gonna' listen to music awhile?"
Shane smiled and nodded.
"I'm gonna' go find some books.  Anything in particular you want?"  Shane shook his head.  He didn't enjoy reading much.  He wasn't good at it.  He loved when Tommy read to him, though.  "I'll find a good mystery to read to you.  I know you like those.  Meet me at circulation at five o'clock."
Shane looked at the clock on the wall.  That gave him just under two hours.  He settled further into the overstuffed chair and closed his eyes, letting the music transport his mind while his body relaxed into the cushions.
At 4:45, he removed his headphones and returned the CDs to their proper locations before making his way downstairs to meet Tommy.  They left the library and hurried down the street to the nearest McDonalds.  The aroma of coffee and hot grease made his stomach growl again, much louder this time.  "I'll order, okay?  You go grab us a table," Tommy instructed.
Shane liked this McDonalds.  It had a big, gas fireplace in the center with tables all around it.  Well versed on how to pick the warmest seat, he chose the table farthest from the entrance.  It was also the one table that, because of the fireplace, couldn't be seen by the employees at the counter, so, hopefully, they could stay awhile without being noticed.  Shane took off his heavy, outer coat and his hooded sweatshirt.  The coat was a heavy Carhartt Tommy had given him right after they met.  It had a year of hard wear but was still in decent shape.  He'd asked Tommy with his eyes, but Tommy wouldn't say where he'd gotten it.  With only his flannel shirt on now, he was a bit chilly, but the fireplace would warm him soon.  He didn't want to get too warm inside because it only made the outside seem colder.
Tommy rounded the fireplace carrying a red tray and waggling his eyebrows.  "I got you hot chocolate!"  Shane grinned at him.  He loved Tommy.  No matter what, Tommy made everything better.  People might look at Shane and feel sorry for him, but Shane had never been happier and had never felt more loved.  Tommy set the tray on the table and Shane looked at the single serving.  He scrunched his face in confusion at Tommy, who shrugged.  "I'm not that hungry."  He plopped down in the chair across from Shane and shoved the tray toward him.  "Eat.  While it's hot."
Shane unwrapped the cheeseburger and tore it in half, holding the larger piece out to Tommy, who shook his head.  "No, Shane.  You eat it."  He pried the lid off the foam cup and steam escaped.  "You need to let this cool or you'll burn your tongue."
Shane didn't want to eat if Tommy wasn't eating.  He had to be just as hungry as he was.  He picked up the big half again and shoved it forcefully at Tommy with a frown.  Tommy chuckled and leaned forward, taking a bite. "Mmmm.  Thanks.  That's all I want, though."  Tommy sat back and rested his chin in his hands and smiled softly at Shane.  Shane knew better than to waste hot food.  They hardly ever got hot food unless they walked all the way to the other side of town where there was a church that served free dinners once a month. They didn't usually know what day it was, though, and often missed it.  He hung his head and ate.  It was good.  His stomach rejoiced at the treat.  When the hot chocolate cooled enough to drink, he took a sip and moaned.  Tommy laughed.  "Good?"  Shane nodded with exaggerated, wide eyes and held the cup out.  Tommy took it and sipped.  "Mmmmm.  Oh, my god, yeah."
He gave it back to Shane.  "Drink it.  Get your core temp up.  There's not a cloud in the sky out there.  It's gonna' be a long, cold night."
Shane took another drink of the creamy, sweet, chocolate and shivered as the heat travelled the entire length of his insides.  Foam from the melted whipped cream stuck to his upper lip and before he could lick it away, Tommy looked back and forth quickly and leaned over the table, grabbing Shane's head in his warm hands.  He grinned wickedly at Shane and licked the foam from his lip before planting a kiss on Shane's surprised mouth.
"Damn good!"  Tommy winked at him and Shane laughed.
They shared the rest, carefully trying to make it last.  When the last drop was gone and the girl cleaning the dining room started side-eyeing them, they knew it was time to leave.  With nothing else open, they headed for home.
To anyone passing through the woods, if they even managed to spot their "house", it would look like a bunch of junk someone had dumped there.  No one frequented the dense patch of woods surrounded by retail on all four sides, though.  No one but them.
Once inside the tent, they sealed up all the openings and fired up a small camp stove that ran on propane.  It gave off enough heat to chase away the chill.  That's all they used it for and they used it sparingly.  They spooned together in bed, which consisted of two sleeping bags zipped together.  Again, Tommy wouldn't tell Shane where, or how, he'd gotten them.  He was pretty sure Tommy stole things sometimes and he was terrified he'd get arrested.  Shane didn't know what would happen to him if Tommy wasn't there.
Tommy's warm breath against Shane's ear made him shiver.
"Merry Christmas, Shane."
He felt Tommy's arm lift away from him and saw something in front of his eyes in the dark.  He put his hand on Tommy's arm and followed it to his hand, then to his fingers.  Something cool hit his skin.  It felt like glass.  He traced the shape with his fingers, following the two gentle curves and recognition dawned.
"Th-th-th-th-th..." Shane huffed in frustration. "Gi-gi-gi..."
"Yeah. The giraffes." Tommy pressed his lips to Shane's neck.  "I saw you looking at it.  You like it?"
Shane nodded vigorously so Tommy would feel it.  Tears pricked at the back of his eyes and rolled earthward to plop on Tommy's arm beneath his head.
"Aw, Shane, don't cry."
"I went back for it while you were at the library."
Shane flipped over and put a hand against Tommy's face.  He shook his head vehemently.
"Do-do-do-do-do-don't st-st-st-st-st-st..."
"I didn't steal it.  I bought it.  I told you I had some money left from donating plasma."
Shane relaxed, but only momentarily. That's why Tommy didn't buy himself anything to eat.  Guilt washed over Shane and he put his hand against Tommy's flat, empty, belly and another tear fell to the sleeping bag below.
"I wanted to do it, Shane.  It's Christmas and I want you to have one gift - one nice thing that's from me, okay?"
"B-b-b-b-b-b-but... I-I-I-I-I..."
Tommy put his finger over Shane's lips.  "You... are my gift, Shane."
For the first time in his life, Shane wished he had the ability to speak like a normal person - to tell Tommy what was in his heart right now.  He pulled Tommy's hand away from his lips and kissed him, long and deep.  Tommy broke the kiss and leaned back to look into Shane's eyes and nodded.
"I love you too, Shane."


*If you would like to help teens who have been emancipated from the foster care system in the Akron, OH area, please contact Chair-ity (Chairity.Summit at gmail-dot-com) a local 501c3 non-profit organization founded and run by an amazing teenage friend of mine.  She collects furniture and household goods to distribute to recently emancipated teens as they start over on their own.  She just received her 501c3 status and had her kick-off fundraiser a few weeks ago.  Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated by Maria and the kids she helps.


My story is just one of many on the blog hop.  Stories will be posted between 12/1 - 12/7.  Click the link above to check out the other entries.  I'm sure there will not be a single disappointing one in the mix and it will be fun to see how different people interpret a single photo.
Thank you to all who made this possible and thank you for reading!
I'd love to hear your comments below!  :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's Ohio - not Siberia.

It's a gorgeous day here today.  The local weather girl says it's the last one for awhile - gonna' rain - so hubby and I decided to take a drive down to Amish Country and grab some cider.  It's the only place you can get unpasteurized cider.  Anyway, we stop to eat at one of those Amish Kitchen Cooking places and the lady in line in front of us is decked out in fur-lined boots, pink corduroys, a pink/white striped heavy sweater with a fur hood.

The boots are what first caught my eye.  Most of us that live here in NE Ohio are still wearing sandals.  Especially on a beautiful fall day like today.  (I'd even thought about wearing shorts) So as we inch forward in line, I glean that she is here visiting the other girl she's with.  Turns out she's from Florida.  This made the boots and the rest of her outfit even funnier.  I guess she thought she'd be visiting the arctic when she came to Ohio in early October.  It's so funny to me to see how the rest of the world views our weather.  I guess if everyone knew how many gorgeous days we have, they'd all want to live here, so maybe it's best to let everyone think it snows all year.  O..H..

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

As A Writer...

"As a writer...."

That's a quote from my favorite You Tube video: "Sh*t First Time Authors Say" by Edmond Manning.  If you haven't seen it, it's hysterical.  Go watch it now.  I'll wait...

*files nails, checks email...*

Are you back?  Funny, isn't it?  I've laughed at that - I can't tell you how many times.  My BOF (Best Online Friend) Helena Stone and I have chuckled over it as we discussed whether or not we can even consider ourselves writers.  She told me whenever she tells someone she's a writer, she adds, "kinda" afterwards.  She and I have a lot in common.  So much that it's scary sometimes.

One of our favorite authors is Tiffany Reisz.  She wrote The Original Sinners series that Helena and I both adore.  Someone on Twitter asked Tiffany what the difference was between a writer and an author.  She said, in her opinion, a writer is anyone who writes and an author is someone who's had their work published.  Helena and I have both kept that in mind as we try to convince ourselves that we're writers...kinda'.

Helena and I met on Twitter while following the Original Sinners role players.  She's the one that told me about NaNoWriMo and we decided to do it together - each working on our own novel.  We struggled and learned together daily - you know - misery loves company.  After spending the entire month of November "together", we desperately wanted to meet, but since I live in the U.S. and she lives in Ireland, Skype was the only affordable option.

We were both nervous as could be that first time.  We're both introverts.  We set a day to do it.  The night before, we both confessed we probably wouldn't know what to say to each other.  We agreed if it was too uncomfortable, we'd just end the session and go back to conversing through chat.  (Good Lord...I even fixed my hair and put on make-up that first time, which cracks me up now, because she and her husband, Dermot, have seen me at my worst pretty much every time since then.)

Our Skype session connected and the moment we saw each other - that was it.  It was huge grins and love at first sight and we never stopped talking!  She and Dermot "met" my hubby and I "met" Dermot's mom and dad when they came to visit.  It was just a blast!  We discussed how cool it would be to try and write together sometime - then we decided to just try it right then.

I opened a Google doc and wrote the first line.  Helena wrote the second.  No plan or story idea or anything.  By that evening, we were both totally psyched about what we had written.  She said, "Jaycee, I think we have the beginnings of a book here!"  We Skyped everyday - my husband waking me up early  - well, early for me - to tell me what time it was in Ireland so I'd get my butt out of bed.  We overcame time differences and temperamental internet connections and, seven days later, we had a novella entitled, "Strangers In The Night".  A few weeks ago, we got up the nerve to submit it.  We Skyped and virtually held hands as we clicked, "SEND".

Fast forward to today.

I slept in.  Don't judge.  I'm retired.  I can do that.  After grabbing my coffee, I logged onto Facebook to see a string of PMs from Helena:

Where are you?
Why aren't you up yet?
Why aren't you screaming in SHOUTY CAPS?
Have you checked your email?
I can't stand this!  
I'm taking the dog for a walk and I'll be back in 40 minutes.  I hope you're up by then.
Where are you???? 
Did you see the email from Dreamspinner? 

Now, since the moment we submitted our manuscript, I have faithfully checked both of my email accounts daily, holding my breath as I scrolled through them, but finding out this way was the best way ever.  I grinned from ear to ear.  Hearing it from my BOF made it even more special.

So, now I can say this with a little more confidence:  *clears throat*  "As a writer..."

No, wait...

As an author...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Three weeks!

I just passed the 3-week mark!!

I still miss it.  I still wanna' smoke really, really bad, but I haven't.  Not even one puff.  I actually called my neighbor yesterday and begged her to come outside and smoke around me so I could see if I could handle it.  And I did!  I'm obviously not to the point of other ex-smokers.  It certainly didn't smell disgusting to me.  Quite the opposite.  But it didn't make me act like Edward Cullen and run for the house like it did a few weeks ago.  I don't wanna' say I got this, but, looking back at how I felt on Day 1, I definitely think I CAN.  Whether or not, I DO is entirely up to me at this point.

In those first few was YOU guys that kept me from caving in.  My first post asked for a pat on the back and almost instantly, I got this graphic from Kathy Kyle Mcfarland.  It made me laugh when I didn't feel like laughing.

Not long after, Edmond Manning sent me this pic of Huggstibles.

I know I showed you those before, but sometimes it's the little things.  Those two pics live in the very bottom right corner of my desktop now.  I make sure they are never covered by another window.  They may not seem like much to you, but to me, they are what I draw strength from when I feel that I'm on the edge.

Someday I might delete them.  More likely, I'll move them to some virtual folder, created for things that I no longer want to see cluttering my desktop but that I'm just not ready to delete forever because the very first time I saw them they moved me in some profound way.  For now, though, they are still there in case I need them.

There are so many of you that offered me support in the first few days and continue to do so.  Round about Day 3 or 4, I quit posting about it every hour on the hour.  It was no longer consuming EVERY thought.  Several of you PM'd me.  A dozen little chat-windows asking if I was still doing 'okay'.  Those have tapered off too.  I know you haven't quit caring.  I think you just have faith in me now and that makes me proud.

I felt bad for my neighbor yesterday.  She's my former smoking buddy and she really wants to quit too.  She told me she's really proud of me but my quitting makes her feel bad about herself.  I get that.  I remember seeing posts from high-school friends that I used to smoke with - touting their non-smoking milestones: 12 hours / 1 day / 2 days / 1 week / 1 month / 1 year, etc.  I would always comment with a smiley face or "That's great!"  But inside I was pissed at them.  Their proud little post was making me feel like even more of a loser than I already felt for having smoked my whole life.  Part of me hoped they'd fail so they'd 'come back to the dark side'.  I give my neighbor credit for admitting to me that she's embarrassed to smoke in front of me now.  Her first grand baby is due soon and she vowed she will never smoke around the baby or wear clothes that she has smoked in when she holds him/her.

I did that too.  My grandkids never knew I smoked until 3 years ago when we all went to Disney World together for a family wedding.  They were teenagers and they'd be hanging out with us; there'd be no way to hide it.  That's saying a lot, considering they lived right across the street from us for the first half of their lives.  It's also why I never had them spend the night with us or take trips with us.  In hindsight, I regret that more than anything.

My neighbor told me that she is going to quit and the baby is her motivation.  She also said when she does, NO ONE will know for the first year - except me - she'll tell me.  She said she will still come outside and make her family think she's taking smoke-breaks because she doesn't want them monitoring her.  I totally get that too.  I told her that at first I didn't tell any "real people" - not even my husband.  I told her about you guys.  I told her about how I never could have done this without all of you.  She's not online in any capacity, so she won't have that virtual lifeline.

Hopefully she'll do it sooner, rather than later, because I miss her.  I don't know where she's going to smoke now - probably in the garage or something, which no doubt makes her hate herself even worse.  I know she's avoiding me.  Partly because she doesn't want me to smell the smoke, but mostly because I'm making her feel bad about herself.  :(

I do hope when the time does come, I can be for her what you all have been for me.  If I can, she's so got this.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I'm A Quitter

I'm a quitter.  At least I'm trying to be.

As many of you who are my friends on Facebook know (I can hear you groaning right now - you're no doubt sick of hearing about this) I quit smoking this past Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.  I guess I shouldn't say 'I've quit' until I have more than three days under my belt, though, so I'll say instead: I haven't smoked for three days.

If you've never smoked, you have no idea how huge that is.  I started smoking at a very early age and I've been smoking for almost 40 years.  I didn't make a conscious decision to quit.  If I'd have done that, I'd for sure have failed within a few hours.  It was very non-dramtic, actually.  No last cigarette to savor in some lovely surroundings.  No announcement to real-life family and friends that I was doing this.  I smoked before going for my yearly physical.  The doctor gave me the same speech she always gives me.  I don't really know what was different this time.  To be honest, I had every intention of lighting up the moment I left her office.  But then it hit me...I already had quit - with time under my belt - as long as I didn't light another one.  Hmm.  Then I wouldn't have all that anxiety of dreading "the moment" as it approached, or the profound sadness of the "last one".  Maybe I could just not smoke on the way home - it's only a ten minute drive anyway.

I accomplished that and it felt good.  Okay, it's only ten minutes, but still, getting in the car is a huge trigger for me and I overcame it and it really wasn't that hard.  Maybe I could go hour...?

I managed that too, and after a few other little self-imposed trials, I decided I could maybe do this.  I'd used Nicorette when I went to Disney World for my step-daughter's wedding a few years ago.  It did actually work pretty good for me, but I'd forget I was chewing it and still smoke at every DSA I ran across.  (That's Designated Smoking Area, for those of you who don't smoke.  It's where the really nice, cool, social outcasts hang out - I've met some awesome people at DSA's through the years.  Smokers actually talk to total strangers at DSAs because we already have nicotine addiction in common - misery loves company.)

By the time I hit 4 1/2 hours, I was pretty damn proud of myself and wanting to tell someone.  But I didn't want to tell my real-life family/friends because they would be all over me.  And, if I fail, I'll feel even worse about myself.  So, I decided to tell "Jaycee's" friends instead.  It was a relatively low-risk move.  I don't actually know these people, so if I cave in and smoke, they'll never know and I needed to tell someone, so I posted this:

"I've been smoke-free for five hours. That may not sound like much, but for someone who has smoked since they were 13, it's kind of a big deal. I'm not posting this on my RL page b/c those people will be up my ass and that's NOT what I need. I just need a pat on the back if I tell you I'm still smoke-free. Don't know if I can do this or not, but I'm gonna' try. Ok...feel free to pat..."

What happened next makes me tear up just thinking about it.  The very first post was this little meme:

How freaking perfect is that?  It made me laugh and grin ear-to-ear.  I saved it to my desktop so I could draw on it when I needed.  Suddenly my little status update was flooded with words and meme's of support.  Even Kallypso Masters stopped by!  (I had a total fangirl moment)  Edmond Manning sent me this from Huggstibles (In case you don't know - I'm addicted to Huggstibles too):

That right there?  I can't even tell you.  I mean, it's Huggstibles and that YAYZ is just for me!  Edmond wouldn't know me if I walked up and slapped him - yet he went and got Huggstibles, made that little sign, snapped a pic and posted it.  Okay, it's not like he did CPR and saved my life or anything, but the whole idea of him doing that for me...

For hours, I sat here, interacting with all these wonderful people who were taking precious moments out of their day to help me.  The wonderful side-effect of all this was, it kept my mind and hands busy.  At 6 1/2 hrs, it started getting rough.  I took my cigarettes out of my purse and put them out in my car.  I wanted them out of easy reach but still available...just in case.  And I posted:

"6 1/2 hrs.  *whimper*"

Jaycee's friends came running.  I just went and looked.  That little post has 50 comments.  Probably most of them are mine, but the point is, these amazing, "virtual" people kept me from smoking right then.  Huggstibles showed up again and told me to go to my happy place.  I did.

Smoking is more than just an addiction to nicotine.  If you've ever smoked, you understand.  There are just certain times that you have 'programmed' yourself to smoke:  With your morning cup of coffee, getting in the car, getting out of the car, AFTER EATING, after sex, before bed.  Those are typical of all smokers - then we each have our own:  When I need to go outside and stretch my legs, when I need to think, when I need to not think, when I need writing inspiration, when I take the dog out...  Day 1 and Day 2 consisted of huge hurdles and tiny victories overcoming those triggers.

I posted about my fear of having to go through the "evil portal" (my back door) to the deck - my DSA.  That was going to be a HUGE trigger for me.  I basically stayed inside all day - terrified of going out there.  (I did run out briefly just to pitch the decorative thing I use as an ashtray.)

I realized I did have to overcome this fear of the "portal", so I needed to find some other habit to associate with being on the deck.  Reading would work - at least in this nice weather.  I chose Edmond's blog because it makes me laugh and I can get lost in it easily.  It worked.  I was able to be outside!!  Yeah, I still think about lighting up the moment I step out there, but I had a way to redirect my brain.  That first night I was online, thanking Edmond for Huggstibles support and telling him I was using his blog as a support tool and he graciously sent me his ebook, "I Probably Shouldn't Have Done That".  The subject line on his email was, "Be The Quitter You Always Knew You Could Be."  Ha.

When I didn't post, several people PM'd me asking how I was doing.  I got to know some of Jaycee's friends better through these chats.  I heard stories of their own attempts to quit, and success stories galore.  People posted tips, like cinnamon toothpicks and Jolly Ranchers.  (I'm trying not to use food though.  I'm fat enough.  I'm using water.  It satisfies that hand-to-mouth thing that I think is half the battle.)  Everyone who had successfully quit told me - don't give up - it gets better.  The general consensus is, the first three days are the hardest.  (As I type this, it's 10:46 a.m., so the third day is officially behind me.  Yay, me!)

Yesterday my next-door neighbor (aka: smoking buddy) came outside to smoke and I could smell it and ohhhh, my god... I literally RAN into the house.  My husband said eventually it will start smelling awful to me.  God, I hope so, because I felt like Edward, trying to escape Bella and her scent.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I already feel better.  I think my skin looks better - probably all that water.  On the downside, I've noticed that it's hard as hell for me to focus.  You can probably tell by reading this.  It's all over the place.  Jesus, I feel like I have ADD - but it's not shiny things that are distracting me.  It's like every 10 minutes, I think about smoking.  I wonder if this is what it's like to be a guy?  They say men think about sex every 10 minutes.  That must suck.  Seriously.  If this is what it's like, I feel bad for all you guys out there.  How do you get anything accomplished?  But I digress...

The point of all this is, I realized that Jaycee, this virtual side of me, has her very own little virtual family and I'm now more worried about letting them down than I would have been my "real" friends and family.  Not that any of you would ever know if I smoked.  I'm home alone right now.  My husband just went to pick up some fenders for a car we're having restored.  He'll be gone for several hours.  I could smoke and no one would know.  I want to.  Trust me.  But, more than that, I don't want your efforts to have been in vain.

If I do become the quitter I want to be, it will be because of you - you funny, kind, compassionate, colorful people that gave of yourselves for someone you don't even know.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wolf Bound

I'm not a book reviewer and this is not a book blog, but I just have to do a little raving about Theo Fenraven's newest release.

First of all, I was beyond thrilled when Theo asked if I would be willing to beta the book for him.  Uh...hells yeah!!!  I mean, that's a no-brainer, right?  More than thrilled though, I was totally honored.  Then I had to admit to him, I really had no clue how to beta "professionally".  He was patient with me and I actually had a lot of fun interacting with him as he went through my notes.  I guess I did okay because I even got a mention in the dedication, which is the first time that's ever happened to me.  There was a lot of squee-ing going on last night when I saw my name in print - ha!

I hate to say I don’t read paranormal/shifter stories - especially since my most recent addiction to reading was sparked by a somewhat unhealthy obsession over the Twilight series.  Let’s just say, I’ve moved on and they no longer hold the same allure for me they once did.  And, besides, I was never Team Jacob.  So, when Theo said he was writing a shifter story, I’ll admit – I was a tad disappointed.

Then he posted the cover reveal and I was instantly intrigued.  Theo Fenraven is not only a talented author, but he creates some of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen.  I was now drooling and slavering for this book.

Any disappointment I might have felt before, vanished the moment the wolf howled.  I was hooked with no possibility to escape.  I was reading this sucker until the end and not putting it down.  From the early reviews I’ve seen, others of you are devouring it just as quickly.  It’s only been released for a few hours and already I’m seeing rave reviews.

I’ve said this before, but unless you read Theo’s words for yourself, you won’t understand, but his fans will know exactly what I’m trying to say here.  Theo writes such clean, smooth, beautiful prose that it’s not even like reading.  You are there – in the moment with his characters.  You feel with them, you see what they are seeing.  No long, boring descriptions from Theo… ever.  The scenes are painted for you stroke-by-stroke, word-by-word and it’s effortless.

While most paranormal stories require a certain amount of ‘world building’ and imagination on the reader’s part, Wolf Bound requires none.  I was immediately in Jon’s world because it’s the exact same world I live in.  I never had to suspend my grasp on reality to put myself in the story. I was on the edge of my seat until the end and I fully believed, while reading, it was entirely possible that one of my neighbors could be a werewolf.

There are lines that made me laugh out loud.  I won’t share them because I don’t want to spoil anything about this book for you.  Suffice it to say, I still remember them and that’s saying a lot.  Several times I got goose-bumps and at one point, I literally gasped so loud my husband came to see what happened.

The romance between Jon and Harrison is natural, believable and tastefully done.  No Tab A / Slot B.  This is another thing that makes Theo’s works stand out from the crowd.  His stories are never about the sex, although sex always plays a major part.  With every book of his I’ve read so far, the fact that the main character(s) are gay is never the root of the story.  It’s almost an afterthought.  They could be straight (or crooked, or whatever…) and it wouldn’t change the story in the slightest.  This is probably why I love reading his work - because it’s how I want the world to be.

Part of me wants every one of you to discover Theo’s wonderful words and part of me wants to keep him to ourselves – those few of us who “know”.  Other Fenraven fans will get this too.  But in the end, I guess the only way to change the world is to let other people read his words and see that being gay shouldn’t be any different than having blond hair and green eyes – it doesn’t change the story.

Theo, if you’re listening, I would love to see a sequel to Wolf Bound.  I’m not quite ready to let go of Jon and Harrison and I’m rabid to know what the future holds in store for them!