WHEN I WAS YOU by Amber Garza

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YOU meets FATAL ATTRACTION in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester’s growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.

 

It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son’s pediatrician to confirm her upcoming “well-baby” appointment. It’s a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there’s another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.

 

But Kelly can’t stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can’t help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician’s office, it’s simple curiosity getting the better of her.

 

Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.

Chapter One

 

It was a Monday morning in early October when I first heard about you. I was getting out of the shower when my phone rang. After throwing on a robe and cinching it, I ran into my bedroom, snatching my cell off the nightstand. 

Unknown number.

Normally, I let those go. But I’d already run all the way in here, and I thought maybe it was a call from Dr. Hillerman’s office. 

“Hello?” I answered, breathless. Goosebumps rose on my pale flesh, so I pulled the robe tighter around me. My sopping wet hair dripped down my back. 

“Is this Kelly Medina?” 

Great. A salesperson. “Yes,” I answered, wishing I hadn’t picked up.

“Hi, Kelly, this is Nancy from Dr. Cramer’s office. I’m calling to remind you of your well-baby appointment this Friday at ten am.” 

“Well-baby?” I let out a surprised laugh. “You’re about nineteen years too late.” 

“Excuse me?” Nancy asked, clearly confused.

 “My son isn’t a baby,” I explained. “He’s nineteen.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Nancy immediately replied. I could hear the clicking of a keyboard.  “I apologize. I called the wrong Kelly Medina.” 

“There’s another Kelly Medina in Folsom?” My maiden name had been Smith. There are a million other Kelly Smiths in the world. In California, even. But since I’d married Rafael, I’d never met another Kelly Medina. Until now.

Until you.

“Yes. Her child is a new patient.”

It felt like yesterday when my child was a new patient. I remembered sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Cramer’s office, holding my tiny newborn, waiting for the nurse to call my name. 

 “I have no idea how this happened. It’s like your numbers got switched in the system or something,” Nancy muttered, and I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or herself. “Again, I’m so sorry.”

I assured her it was fine, and hung up. My hair was still wet from the shower, but instead of blow-drying it I headed downstairs to make some tea first. On my way, I passed Aaron’s room. The door was closed, so I pressed it open with my palm. The wood was cold against my skin. Shivering, I took in his neatly made bed, the movie posters tacked to the wall, the darkened desktop computer in the corner.

Leaning against the doorframe of Aaron’s room, my mind flew back to the day he left for college. I remembered his broad smile, his sparkling eyes. He’d been so anxious to leave here. To leave me. I should’ve been happy for him. He was doing what I’d raised him to do. 

Boys were supposed to grow up and leave. 

In my head I knew that. But in my heart it was hard to let him go. 

After closing Aaron’s door, I headed down to the kitchen. 

The house was silent. It used to be filled with noise – Aaron’s little feet stomping down the hallway, his sound effects as he played with toys, his chattering as he got older. Now it was always quiet. Especially during the week when Rafael stayed in the Bay Area for work. Aaron had been gone over a year. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But, actually, it seemed to get worse over time. The constant silence. 

The phone call had thrown me. For a second it felt like I’d gone back in time, something I longed for most days. When Aaron was born everyone told me to savor all the moments because it went by too quickly. It was hard for me to imagine. I hadn’t had the easiest life growing up, and it certainly hadn’t flown by. And the nine months I was pregnant with Aaron had gone on forever, every day longer than the one before. 

But they were right.

Aaron’s childhood was fleeting. The moments were elusive like a butterfly, practically impossible to catch. And now it was gone. He was a man. And I was alone.

Rafael kept encouraging me to find a job to fill my time, but I’d already tried that. When Aaron first left, I applied for a bunch of jobs. Since I’d been out of work for so long, no one wanted to hire me. That’s when Christine suggested I volunteer somewhere. So I started helping out at a local food bank, handing out food once a week and occasionally doing a little administrative stuff. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t enough. It barely filled any of my time. Besides, I was one of many volunteers. I wasn’t needed. Not the way Aaron had needed me when he was a child. 

When he left, the Kelly I’d always known ceased to exist. Vanished into thin air. I was merely a ghost now, haunting my house, the streets, the town.  

As the water boiled, I thought about you. Thought about how lucky you were to have a baby and your whole life ahead of you. I wondered what you were doing right now. Not sitting alone in your big, silent house, I bet. No, you were probably chasing your cute little baby around your sunny living room, the floor littered with toys, as he crawled on all fours and laughed.

Was your child a boy? The lady on the phone didn’t say, but that’s what I pictured. A chubby, smiling little boy like my Aaron. 

The kettle squealed, and I flinched. I poured the boiling water in a mug and steam rose from it, circling the air in front of my face. Tossing in the tea bag, I breathed it in, leaning my back against the cool tile counter. The picture window in front of me revealed our perfectly manicured front yard – bright green grass lined with rose bushes. I’d always been particular about the roses. When Aaron was a kid he always wanted to help with the pruning, but I never let him. Afraid he’d mess them up, I guess. Seemed silly now. 

Heart pinching, I blew out a breath.

I wondered about your yard. What did it look like? Did you have roses? I wondered if you’d let your son help you prune them. I wondered if you’d make the same mistakes I had.

Bringing the mug to my lips, I took a tiny sip of the hot tea. It was mint, my favorite. I allowed the flavors to sit on my tongue a minute before swallowing it down. The refrigerator hummed. The ice shifted in the ice maker. My shoulders tensed slightly. I rolled them out, taking another sip. 

Shoving off the counter, I was headed toward the stairs when my cell buzzed inside my pocket. My pulse spiked. It couldn’t be Rafael. He was a professor and his first class had already started.

Aaron? 

Nope. It was a text from Christine. 

Going to yoga this morning? 

I’d already showered. I was about to tackle my latest organization project. Today was the kitchen pantry. Last week I’d bought a bunch of new containers and bins. Friday I’d spent the day labeling all of them. After taking the weekend off since Rafael was home, I was anxious to continue with it. I’d already organized several closets downstairs, but my plan was to work my way through all the closets and cabinets in the house. 

Usually I loved yoga, but I had way too much to do today.  

No, I typed. Then bit my lip. Backspaced. Stared at the phone. My own reflection emerged on the slick screen – disheveled hair, pale face, dark circles under the eyes. 

You need to get out more. Exercise. It’s not healthy to sit in the house all day. Rafael’s voice echoed in my head.  

The organizing would still be here tomorrow. Besides, who was I kidding? I’d probably only spend a couple of hours organizing before abandoning my project to read online blogs and articles, or dive into the latest murder mystery I was reading.

I typed, yes, then sent it and hurried to my room to get ready. 

Thirty minutes later, I was parking in front of the gym. When I stepped out, a cool breeze whisked over my arms. After three scorching hot summer months, I welcomed it. Fall had always been my favorite season. I relished the festiveness of it. Pumpkins, apples, rustic colors. But mostly it was the leaves falling and being raked away. The bareness of the trees. The shedding of the old to make room for the new. An end, but also a beginning.

Although, we weren’t quite there yet. The leaves were still green, and by afternoon the air would be warm. But in the mornings and evenings we got a tiny sip of a fall, enough to make me thirsty for more. 

Securing the gym bag on my shoulder, I walked briskly through the lot. Once inside, it was even colder. The AC blasted as if it was a hundred-degree day. That’s okay. It gave me more of an incentive to break a sweat. Smiling at the receptionist, I pulled out my keys for her to scan my card. Only my card wasn’t hanging from my key ring. 

I fished around in my bag, but it wasn’t there either. Flushing, I offered the bored receptionist an apologetic smile. “I seem to have misplaced my tag. Can you look me up? Kelly Medina?’

Her eyes widened. “Funny. There was another lady in here earlier today with the same name.”

My heart pounded. I’d been attending this gym for years and never had anyone mentioned you before. I wondered how long you’d worked out here. “Is she still here?” My gaze scoured the lobby as if I might recognize you. 

“No. She was here super early.”

Of course you were. I used to be, too, when Aaron was an infant. 

“Okay. You’re all checked in, Kelly,” the receptionist said, buzzing me in. 

Clutching my gym bag, I made my way up the stairs toward the yoga room, thoughts of you flooding my mind. A few young women walked next to me, wearing tight tank tops and pants, gym bags hanging off their shoulders. They were laughing and chatting loudly, their long ponytails bouncing behind their heads. I tried to say excuse me, to move past them, but they couldn’t hear me. Impatient, I bit my lip and walked slowly behind them. Finally, I made it to the top. They headed toward the cardio machines, and I pressed open the door to the yoga room.

I spotted Christine already sitting on her mat. Her blond hair was pulled back into a perfectly coifed ponytail. Her eyes were bright and her lips were shiny. I smoothed down my unruly brown hair and licked my dry lips. 

She waved me over with a large smile. “You made it.”

“Yep.” I dropped my mat and bag next to hers. 

“I wasn’t sure. It’s been awhile.”

Shrugging, I sat down on my mat. “Been busy.”

“Oh, I totally get that.” She waved away my words with a flick of her slender wrist. “Maddie and Mason have had a bazillion activities lately. I’ve been running around town like a crazy person. I honestly feel like I’m going insane.”

“Sounds rough,” I muttered, slipping off my flip-flops. This was the problem with getting married and having a kid so young. Most of my friends were still raising families. 

“I know, right? I can’t wait until they’re adults and I can do whatever I want.”

“Yeah, it’s the best,” I said sarcastically. 

Her mouth dropped. “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t talking about you…” Her pale cheeks turned pink. “I know how much you miss Aaron. It’s just…” 

I shook my head and offered her a smile “Relax. I get it.”

Christine and I met years ago in a yoga class. She’s one of those women with almost no self-awareness. It’s what first drew to me to her. I loved how raw and real she was. Other people shied away from her, unable to handle her filter-less statements. But I found her refreshing and, honestly, pretty entertaining. 

 “I remember how insane it was when Aaron was younger,” I said. “One year he signed up for baseball and basketball. They overlapped for a bit, and I swear I was taking him to a game or practice like every day.”

“Yes!” Christine said excitedly, relief evident in her expression. “Sometimes it’s all just too much.”

“Yeah, sometimes it is,” I agreed. 

The class was about to start and the room was filling up. It was mainly women, but there were some men. Most of them were with their wives or girlfriends. I’d tried getting Rafael to come with me before, but he laughed as if the idea was preposterous. 

“Remember when there were only a few of us in this class?” Christine asked, her gaze sweeping the room.

I nodded, glancing around. There were so many new people I didn’t know. Not that I was surprised. Folsom had grown a lot in the ten years I’d lived here. New people moved here every day.

Staring at all the strangers crowding around us, I shivered, my thoughts drifting back to you. We hadn’t even met, and yet I felt like I knew you. We had the same name, the same gym, the same pediatrician for our child. 

It felt like kismet. Fate had brought you here to me. I was certain of it. 

But why? 

 

Excerpted from The Secret of You and Me by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2020 by Amber Garza. Published by MIRA Books.

Author Bio

Amber Garza
Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

 

Author Website: http://www.ambergarza.com/

TWITTER: @ambermg1

FB: @ambergarzaauthor

Insta: @ambergarzaauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5582891.Amber_Garza

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RULES OF THE ROAD by Ciara Geraghty

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In this emotional, life-affirming novel, two women embark on an extraordinary road trip and discover the transformative power of female friendship–perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Gail Honeyman.

 

The simple fact of the matter is that Iris loves life. Maybe she’s forgotten that. Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it? To the best of us? All I have to do is remind her of that one simple fact.

 

When Iris Armstrong goes missing, her best friend Terry—wife, mother and all-around worrier—is convinced something bad has happened. And when she finds her glamorous, feisty friend, she’s right: Iris is setting out on a bucket-list journey that she plans to make her last. She tells Terry there’s no changing her mind, but Terry is determined to show her that life is still worth living.

 

The only way for Terry to stop Iris is to join her—on a road trip that will take them on a life-changing adventure. Along the way, somehow what should be the worst six days of Terry’s life turn into the best. Told in an irresistible voice and bursting with heart, Rules of the Road is a powerful testament to the importance of human connection and a moving celebration of life in all its unexpected twists and turns.

Chapter One

Iris Armstrong is missing.

That is to say, she is not where she is supposed to be. I am trying not to worry. After all, Iris is a grown woman and can take care of herself better than most.

It’s true to say that I am a worrier. Ask my girls. Ask my husband. They’ll tell you that I’d worry if I had nothing to worry about. Which is, of course, an exaggeration, although I suppose it’s true to say that, if I had nothing to worry about, I might feel that I had overlooked something.

Iris is the type of woman who tells you what she intends to do and then goes ahead and does it. Today is her birthday. Her fifty-eighth.

“People see birthdays as an opportunity to tell women they look great for their age,” Iris says when I suggested that we celebrate it.

It’s true that Iris looks great for her age. I don’t say that.

Instead, I say, “We should celebrate nonetheless.”

“I’ll celebrate by doing the swan. Or the downwardfacing dog. Something animalistic,” said Iris after she told me about the yoga retreat she had booked herself into.

“But you hate yoga,” I said.

“I thought you’d be delighted. You’re always telling me how good yoga is for people with MS.”

My plan today was to visit Dad, then ring the yoga retreat in Wicklow to let them know I’m driving down with a birthday cake for Iris. So they’ll know it’s her birthday. Iris won’t want a fuss of course, but everyone should have cake on their birthday.

But when I arrive at Sunnyside Nursing Home, my father is sitting in the reception area with one of the managers. On the floor beside his chair is his old suitcase, perhaps a little shabby around the edges now but functional all the same. A week, the manager says. That’s how long it will take for the exterminators to do what they need to do, apparently. Vermin, he calls them, by which I presume he means rats, because if it was just mice, he’d say mice, wouldn’t he?

My father lives in a rat-infested old folks’ home where he colors in between the lines and loses at bingo and sings songs and waits for my mother to come back from the shops soon.

“I can transfer your father to one of our other facilities, if you’d prefer,” the manager offers.

“No, I’ll take him,” I say. It’s the least I can do. I thought I could look after him myself, at home, like my mother did for years. I thought I could cope. Six months I lasted. Before I had to put him into Sunnyside.

I put Dad’s suitcase into the boot beside the birthday cake. I’ve used blue icing for the sea, gray for the rocks where I’ve perched an icing stick figure which is supposed to be Iris, who swims at High Rock every day of the year. Even in November. Even in February. She swims like it’s July. Every day. I think she’ll get a kick out of the cake. It took me ages to finish it. Much longer than the recipe book suggested. Brendan says it’s because I’m too careful. The cake does not look like it’s been made by someone who is too careful. There is a precarious slant to it, as if it’s been subjected to adverse weather conditions.

I belt Dad into the passenger seat. “Where is your mother?” he asks.

“She’ll be back from the shops soon,” I say. I’ve stopped telling him that she’s dead. He gets too upset, every time. The grief on his face is so fresh, so vivid, it feels like my grief, all over again, and I have to look away, close my eyes, dig my nails into the fleshy part of my hands.

I get into the car, turn over the engine.

“Signal your intent,” Dad says, in that automatic way he does when he recites the rules of the road. He remembers all of them. There must be some cordoned-off areas in your brain where dementia cannot reach.

I indicate as instructed, then ring the yoga retreat before driving off.

But Iris is not there. She never arrived.

In fact, according to the receptionist who speaks in the calm tones of someone who practices yoga every day, there is no record of a booking for an Iris Armstrong.

Iris told me not to ring her mobile this week. It would be turned off.

I ring her mobile. It’s turned off.

I drive to Iris’s cottage in Feltrim. The curtains are drawn across every window. It looks just the way it should: like the house of a woman who has gone away. I pull into the driveway that used to accommodate her ancient Jaguar. Her sight came back almost immediately after the accident, and the only damage was to the lamppost that Iris crashed into, but her consultant couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Iris says she doesn’t miss the car, but she asked me if I would hand over the keys to the man who bought it off her. She said she had a meeting she couldn’t get out of.

“It’s just a car,” she said, “and the local taxi driver looks like Daniel Craig. And he doesn’t talk during sex, and knows every rat run in the city.”

“I’ll just be a minute, Dad,” I tell him, opening my car door.

“Take your time, love,” he says. He never used to call me love.

The grass in the front garden has benefited from a recent mow. I stand at the front door, ring the bell. Nobody answers. I cast about the garden. It’s May. The cherry blossom tree, whose branches last week were swollen with buds, is now a riot of pale pink flowers. The delicacy of their beauty is disarming, but also sad, how soon the petals will be discarded, strewn across the grass in a week or so, like wet and muddy confetti in a church courtyard long after the bride and groom have left.

I rap on the door even though I’m almost positive Iris isn’t inside.

Where is she?

I ring the Alzheimer’s Society, ask to be put through to Iris’s office, but the receptionist tells me what I already know. That Iris is away on a week’s holiday.

“Is that you, Terry?” she asks and there is confusion in her voice; she is wondering why I don’t already know this.

“Eh, yes, Rita, sorry, don’t mind me, I forgot.”

Suddenly I am flooded with the notion that Iris is inside the house. She has fallen. That must be it. She has fallen and is unconscious at the foot of the stairs. She might have been there for ages. Days maybe. This worry is a galvanizing one. Not all worries fall into this category. Some render me speechless. Or stationary. The wooden door at the entrance to the side passage is locked, so I haul the wheelie bin over, grip the sides of it, and hoist myself onto the lid. People think height is an advantage, but I have never found mine—five feet ten inches, or 1.778 meters, I should say— to be so. Imperial or metric, the fact is I am too tall to be kneeling on the lid of a wheelie bin. I am a myriad of arms and elbows and knees. It’s difficult to know where to put everything.

I grip the top of the door, sort of haul myself over the top, graze my knee against the wall, and hesitate, but only for a moment, before lowering myself down as far as I can before letting go, landing in a heap in the side passage. I should be fitter than this. The girls are always on at me to take up this or that. Swimming or running or Pilates. Get you out of the house. Get you doing something.

The shed in Iris’s back garden has been treated to a clearout; inside, garden tools hang on hooks along one wall, the hose coiled neatly in a corner and the half-empty paint tins—sealed shut with rust years ago—are gone. It’s true that I advised her to dispose of them—carefully—given the fire hazard they presented. Still, I can’t believe that she actually went ahead and did it.

Even the small window on the gable wall of the shed is no longer a mesh of web. Through it, I see a square of pale blue sky.

The spare key is in an upside-down plant pot in the shed, in spite of my concerns about the danger of lax security about the homestead.

I return to the driveway and check on Dad. He is still there, still in the front passenger seat, singing along to the Frank Sinatra CD I put on for him. Strangers in the Night.

I unlock the front door. The house feels empty. There is a stillness.

“Iris?” My voice is loud in the quiet, my breath catching the dust motes, so that they lift and swirl in the dead air.

I walk through the hallway, towards the kitchen. The walls are cluttered with black-and-white photographs in wooden frames. A face in each, mostly elderly. All of them have passed through the Alzheimer’s Society and when they do, Iris asks if she can take their photograph.

My father’s photograph hangs at the end of the hallway. There is a light in his eyes that might be the sunlight glancing through the front door. A trace of his handsomeness still there across the fine bones of his face framed by the neat helmet of his white hair, thicker then.

He looks happy. No, it’s more than that. He looks present. “Iris?”

The kitchen door moans when I open it. A squirt of WD-40 on the hinges would remedy that.

A chemical, lemon smell. If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect a cleaning product. The surfaces are clear. Bare. So too is the kitchen table, which is where Iris spreads her books, her piles of paperwork, sometimes the contents of her handbag when she is hunting for something. The table is solid oak. I have eaten here many times, and have rarely seen its surface. It would benefit from a sand and varnish.

In the sitting room, the curtains are drawn and the cushions on the couch look as though they’ve been plumped, a look which would be unremarkable in my house, but is immediately noticeable in Iris’s. Iris loves that couch. She sometimes sleeps on it. I know that because I called in once, early in the morning. She wasn’t expecting me. Iris is the only person in the world I would call into without ringing first. She put on the kettle when I arrived. Made a pot of strong coffee. It was the end of Dad’s first week in the home.

She said she’d fallen asleep on the couch, when she saw me looking at the blankets and pillows strewn across it. She said she’d fallen asleep watching The Exorcist.

But I don’t think that’s why she slept on the couch. I think it’s to do with the stairs. Sometimes I see her, at the Alzheimer’s offices, negotiating the stairs with her crutches. The sticks, she calls them. She hates waiting for the lift. And she makes it look easy, climbing the stairs. But it can’t be easy, can it?

Besides, who falls asleep watching The Exorcist?

“Iris?” I hear an edge of panic in my voice. It’s not that anything is wrong exactly. Or out of place.

Except that’s it. There’s nothing out of place. Everything has been put away.

I walk up the stairs. More photographs on the landing, the bedroom doors all closed. I knock on the door of Iris’s bedroom. “Iris?” There is no answer. I open the door. The room is dark. I make out the silhouette of Iris’s bed and, as my eyes adapt to the compromised light, I see that the bed has been stripped, the pillows arranged in two neat stacks by the headboard. There are no books on the nightstand. Maybe she took them with her. To the yoga retreat.

But she is not at the yoga retreat.

Panic is like a taste at the back of my throat. The wardrobe door, which usually hangs open in protest at the melee of clothing inside, is shut. The floorboards creak beneath my weight. I stretch my hand out, reach for the handle, and then sort of yank it open as if I am not frightened of what might be inside.

There is nothing inside. In the draft, empty hangers sway against each other, making a melancholy sound. I close the door and open the drawers of the tallboy on the other side of the room.

Empty. All of them.

In the bathroom there is no toothbrush lying on its side on the edge of the sink, spooling a puddle of toothpaste. There are no damp towels draped across the rim of the bath. The potted plants—which flourish here in the steam—are gone.

I hear a car horn blaring, and rush into the spare room, which Iris uses as her home office. Jerk open the blinds, peer at the driveway below. My car is still there. And so is Dad. I see his mouth moving as he sings along. I rap at the window, but he doesn’t look up. When I turn around, I notice a row of black bin bags, neatly tied at the top with twine, leaning against the far wall. They are tagged, with the name of Iris’s local charity shop.

Now panic travels from my mouth down my throat into my chest, expands there until it’s difficult to breathe. I try to visualize my breath, as Dr. Martin suggests. Try to see the shape it takes in a brown paper bag when I breathe into one.

I pull Iris’s chair out from under her desk, lower myself onto it. Even the paper clips have been tidied into an old earring box. I pick up two paper clips and attach them together. Good to have something to do with my hands. I reach for a third when I hear a high plink that nearly lifts me out of the chair. I think it came from Iris’s laptop, closed on the desk. An incoming mail or a Tweet or something. I should turn it off. It’s a fire hazard. A plugged-in computer. I lift the lid of the laptop. On the screen, what looks like a booking form. An Irish Ferries booking form. On top of the keyboard are two white envelopes, warm to the touch. Iris’s large, flamboyant handwriting is unmistakable on both.

One reads Vera Armstrong. Her mother’s name. The second envelope is addressed to me.

 

Excerpted from Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty, Copyright © 2019 by Ciara Geraghty. Published by Park Row Books.

Author Bio

CG, photo credit Doreen Kilfeather79025_2019-04-09_1632

 

Ciara Geraghty was born and raised in Dublin. She started writing in her thirties and hasn’t looked back. She has three children and one husband and they have recently adopted a dog who, alongside their youngest daughter, is in charge of pretty much everything.

Connect with Ciara on her website or here:

Twitter: @ciarageraghty

Facebook: @CiaraGeraghtyBooks

Instagram: @ciara.geraghty.books

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Rediscovering My Love for Writing

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Hiya friends,

I wanted to share a little update. In January, I decided to learn more about the craft of writing instead of focusing on querying.

It has been so freeing.

I started a middle grade fantasy project based on my entry for the Fog Lit Books For Young People Prize. I hit 40,000 words this week, and I love the story so much! The characters and their struggles feel real to me.

That’s not to say that the story is polished and well-crafted 😀 I have a lot of work ahead of me, but this first draft is stronger than previous novels I’ve written.

I’ve taken my time outlining and brainstorming. I don’t rush writing a scene. I go back to reread sections and delete chapters when the story veers off in the wrong direction. Sometimes, I even revise previous chapters.

In the past, I would write a messy first draft and feel overwhelmed. With this project, I feel less daunted by draft two. I can focus on deepening the characterization and subplots, instead of reworking the entire plot.

Taking time to focus on reading and writing has been exactly what I needed. The worry and stress over finding an agent and publisher began to steal the joy of writing away from me.

What about you? How are you doing?

Until next time,

Loie

12 Days of Writing

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Last year, I created a blog series called 24 Days of Writing 🙂 This year, I thought it might be more manageable to have 12 days instead. I’m excited to kick this series off starting tomorrow. I hope some of you will join me.

Throughout this series, I will find fantasy submission opportunities. I’ll share the opportunity here and challenge myself and others to submit a finished story. Last year I was accepted to a few spots. One of my shorts turned into a much longer piece. You never know what you’ll come up with 🙂

If this sounds interesting, check back tomorrow ❤

Talk soon,

Loie

MEANT TO BE YOURS by Susan Mallery Blog Tour

Meant to Be Yours cover

In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?

Q&A with Susan Mallery

 

What was your favorite part about writing Meant to be Yours

Ohhh, that’s a hard question! I love everything about writing romance. The first kiss is still magical to me. The passion, the emotional intensity. It’s a moment that changes the course of a person’s life. When you fall in love, your life is bisected into before and after. Love is transformative, and the greatest pleasure of my life is to write about it.

 

Jasper and Renee in particular were a lot of fun to write because Renee is just such a mama bear when it comes to protecting her brides. She’s a wedding planner at Weddings Out of the Box, a theme wedding venue in the town of Happily Inc. Jasper is a bestselling thriller writer who wants to set his next book at a wedding. Renee’s response made me laugh so loud that I’m pretty sure I scared my pets.

 

Jasper continued. “I thought I could follow you around for a few weeks, learn about the business and—”

 

“No,” she said firmly, as all thoughts of them having another close encounter faded from her mind. “You’re not getting your serial killer cooties on my weddings. I’m a big believer in keeping the energy positive and flowing forward. Do you know what a serial killer would do at a wedding?”

 

He stared at her, his gaze intense. “That’s what I was thinking. I want the serial killer to be a wedding crasher.”

 

“No,” she said firmly. “Just no.”

 

When Jasper goes behind her back to get intimately involved with one of her weddings, Renee vows to keep him from bringing darkness to her bride’s special day.

 

I also adored the animals in this book. In the beginning, Jasper doesn’t trust himself to let a woman into his heart. His simple but profound act of kindness to a dog who needs a home leads to him finally being ready to fall in love. The dog, Koda, is based on a reader’s real-life dog. I gave Koda the same adorable quirks and characteristics that make him special—and I gave Renee the reader’s last name in her honor.

 

Did you find out any funny or interesting facts about wedding planning when writing this book?

 

I have learned that brides and wedding planners are some of the most creative people in the universe. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on Pinterest, looking at pictures from theme weddings. There are some really beautiful themes, and some that are charming and humorous. Every theme uniquely reflects the bride and the groom in the most beautiful way. In Meant to Be Yours, Renee designs several lovely theme weddings with beautiful touches I think readers will enjoy. Here’s a snippet from one:

 

Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.

 

Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.

 

Pay attention to that last sentence because I also discovered that a lot can go wrong when you invite a few hundred people to a party. Imagine a room filled with people who aren’t used to dressing up, plus a fountain made with fire hoses, and a wedding planner who will do anything to protect her bride.

 

Did Renee or Jasper surprise you while you drafted this novel? 

They did! When I started this book, I thought Jasper was the more wounded of the two. But as I wrote, I discovered that Renee’s scars went deeper than I thought. She’s been keeping a secret from her friends in Happily Inc, a secret about her mother that has cost her jobs, friendships and romantic relationships. Just when she starts to feel safe and accepted in her new home, her mother comes for a visit. . .

 

Can you share about what you’re working on right now? 

I’m working on revisions on the next Happily Inc book, a Christmas book that will be out next year. No title yet. It has all of the humor and heartfelt emotion readers love in my books—plus Christmas! I invited members of the Susan Mallery All Access group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/susanmalleryallaccess) to suggest random items for me to incorporate into the story. When the book comes out next year, I’ll share a scavenger hunt list with my readers so they can find the objects as they read. It’s just a fun way for me to stay connected to my readers as I write. 

063-Susan Mallery Head Shots 2015-Annie Brady-mass market

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Author Website

Twitter: @susanmallery

Facebook: @SusanMallery

Instagram: @susanmallery

Goodreads

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You can pick up a copy here:

Harlequin 

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iBooks

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Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon – Blog Tour and Q&A

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The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

Author Q&A

I would like to welcome amazing YA fantasy debut, Kelly Coon to my blog. I’m on her street team, the Skeleton Crew ❤ She answered some of my questions about her inspiration behind Gravemaidens, her writing process, and more. Let’s get started 🙂

Loie: Did Gravemaidens change a lot from the first to final draft? 

 

Kelly: What a good question! As a matter of fact, it DID. I’d say the finished hardcover is close to the 35th draft of this story. I dropped a POV character—the Boatman—and rewrote nearly every single scene from the book. It was a massive undertaking! 

 

Loie: When you’re brainstorming a new project, what do you start working on first? Do you like to research, think about the plot, or work on your characters? 

 

Kelly: I tend to start with my characters, because until I know who they are, I can’t know the plot. The decisions they make in their character arc will change the course of the plot, so I have to nail down what they want, what they need, the ghosts in their past, and the truth that they need to hear. I also need to know things like how they solve problems, how they view the world (because that impacts their voice), who they have conflicts with, and their values.   

 

Loie: Can you give us a hint at what you’re working on right now 🙂 ? 

 

Kelly: Yes! I just finished the last round of developmental edits on the GRAVEMAIDENS sequel (I cannot wait until I get to introduce you to some of the new characters) and am working on a contemporary stand-alone with speculative elements. It’s a daunting book, because one POV is written in verse and another POV is written in prose. =)

 

Loie: When were you first inspired to write Kammani’s story? 

Kelly: I wrote two completely different novels set in versions of Kammani’s world from 2013-2015, but the characters and plots did not work at all. I hadn’t yet gotten to the heart of the story she should be in. So, I scrapped those two novels completely and started over from scratch in 2016 with new characters, a new premise, and a whole new world. I queried it in early 2017 and got my agent, Kari Sutherland, who is amazing, in April of 2017, just a couple of weeks after she read it. =)

 

Loie: When you’re writing, do you need complete silence or do you listen to music?

 

Kelly: I actually listen to white noise for the most part. I’ve written six novels (and much of a seventh) with white noise, but the poetry I’m writing for my WIP has been written to loud, screaming, pulsing music. Haha

 

Loie: What was your favorite part about writing Gravemaidens? 

 

Kelly: There’s one scene near the end of the story where I felt myself let loose. Like I untied all my strings and allowed my imagination to take me wherever it wanted to go, plot outline be damned. This scene is still one of my favorite scenes in the whole book because it’s imaginative and weird and exactly the right fit for that part of the story. 

 

Sometimes writing this book was an absolute struggle, but other times—like that night—it was magic. 

 

Thank you a million times, Loie! These questions were amazing! =)

Loie: Thank you so much for answering all of my questions 🙂 If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of Gravemaidens, you can find it here. It releases next Tuesday, October 29th. I’m anxiously awaiting for my own copy to arrive in the mail! 

Until next time,

Loie xo

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October Poetry Challenge: Day 13, 14, 15, & 16

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A Calling

 

Every month

the mournful wind calls

and I must endure it-

for the town that ignores my presence,

for the ones who aren’t yet born.

*

Want

 

If you asked me what I wanted,

I would sit back, stumped.

Other than escaping this tower,

I have no idea of what I should want-

could want.

*

Let’s Go to the Sea

 

If the wind wails a horrible tune,

then the sea promises to heal.

Or this is what I believe.

 

I can only see the pale stretch of sapphire

lined with white foam,

of what I imagine must be waves.

*

Alone

 

The dance of the leaves

reminds me of swaying trees

and forgotten friends.

*

Hope you’re all having a great week!

Loie

October Poetry Challenge Day 2 & 3

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The Stillness Becomes Too Much

 

I press flowers and leaves in between my only book.

For what can I do until the dusky night

and the symbols of another voice

speckle the sky?

 

I flip through the yellowed pages,

pausing at the bud my dear sparrow brought me

years ago when I first arrived at this wretched tower.

 

I’m not alone, I’m not alone,

I whisper to the silence.

*

The Song of the Wind

 

On storming days, when the sway of the wind shakes my prison,

I lay flat on my back and try to breathe.

Counting the flecks of white on the stonewall,

I wait until the swell of the gale hurls away to the next town.

 

Has the Autumn King had his fun?

Slowly, I’ll sit up and gaze outside my window,

taking in the naked trees and the gilded leaves

littering the ground like thin pieces of gold.

 

I want to shout at the wind to come back,

to take me away,

but it has already left.

*

Happy poetry writing, friends 🙂 !

Loie

 

 

October Poetry Challenge: Day One

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Hi everyone!

My dear writer friend, Shelby Kisgen, started a poetry challenge 🙂 You can check out her original post here. She’s inviting everyone to pen a poem every day this month. You can read her first poem!

I’m joining the challenge 🙂 I hope you will too! I’ve decided to write from the perspective of my characters from my NaNoWriMo project. Hopefully, this will help me understand their motivations, desires, and struggles a bit more.

Today’s poem is from my main heroine. I still don’t know her name yet 😀

*

Starlight

With reverence, I study the night sky.

I read the stars dappled across the ebony expanse

analyzing, translating, listening

 

I scrutinize until my eyes are dry, my fingertips worn

from transcribing the message over and over again

onto parchment paper she will burn.

 

All of this is for her.

Will she let me leave this tower, this prison without doors?

*

There you have it 🙂 A short piece for now. Happy writing, friends! I can’t wait to read your poems.

Loie xo