Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Mental Pause - Chapter 5 (excerpt)

Sorry for the delay in sharing an excerpt from Chapter 5... it's been a crazy week! Having some fun putting the last plans into place for the launch on March 8. I can't believe it's almost February.  As soon as we've uploaded to Amazon I'm sure there will be the opportunity for pre-orders but if you want a reminder, just send me a note from my website and I'll let you know when it's up.

Mental Pause - Chapter 5 (excerpt):
She turned around and closed the door quietly behind her as she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. You give your heart and soul for 17 years for what… for them to leave you. Abbie knew she should be happy for them. They had both gotten into good schools on scholarships. Winston was going to Penn State and Trevor would be a little closer to home at the University of Massachusetts. It was still two hours away so he would have to live on campus. She was so proud of them but it wasn’t fair, was it? What was she going to do? No one needed her anymore. They hadn’t even noticed her new haircut. Of course they hadn’t noticed five years ago when she started dying her hair blonde either. Conrad had made a passing comment about being married to a ‘new woman’ but hadn’t really made a big deal of it. Men!
She shuffled into the kitchen, opened the freezer, grabbed a hot pocket and tossed it in the microwave then grabbed a beer from the fridge. Real healthy Abbie. She scolded herself. The hell with it. She threw in a second one and took a couple of swigs of beer while she waited for her supper to heat. She put her feast on a plate and padded into the living room, curled up on the couch and switched on the TV while tears coursed down her cheeks.
I’m definitely losing it. I’ve had a great day with two amazing friends, helped raise boatloads of money for a charity I feel very passionate about, had an afternoon of pampering, yet I’m blubbering like an idiot. She couldn’t find anything worth watching and couldn’t seem to shake her malaise. So, she downed the rest of her beer, stretched out on the couch, pulled up the patchwork quilt her mom had made her from all her favorite t-shirts she had collected over the years, and fell into a deep sleep.

It was shortly after one o’clock in the morning when Conrad came in from work. He gently shook Abbie’s shoulder to wake her and she slowly opened her eyes and sat up.
            He sat down beside her on the couch. “Who’s drinking the beer?”
            “I am… it’s no big deal,” Abbie said defensively, her hackles immediately raising.
            “I didn’t say it was a big deal. It’s just you never drink beer. How was your day?”
            “It was fine,” Abbie said glumly.
            “Doesn’t sound fine. What’s up?”
            “I don’t know. I just feel so on edge all the time and I can’t stop crying at every little thing. The boys had taken care of themselves for dinner tonight and I couldn’t help thinking they don’t need me any more.”
            “Don’t be so silly. Of course they need you. We need you. Maybe your hormones are just a little out of whack. Didn’t your doctor suggest you try some type of hormone replacement thingy?”
            Abbie felt her adrenalin spike, shocking her still sleepy head.  She pushed him away and jumped up from the couch. “See, that’s part of the trouble,” she shrieked. “Just because you’ve arrived at the solution doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for me!” She heard her voice becoming hysterical but couldn’t stop. “I don’t want to take pills. I just want this to go away,” she felt the anxiety rising in her throat and sent Conrad a scathing look.
Stunned, Conrad said nothing as she spun around and stomped up the stairs to their bedroom, slamming the door. She threw herself on the bed and sobbed uncontrollably.
He followed her into the bedroom and tried to take her in his arms. “GO AWAY!” She was inconsolable.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Mental Pause - Cover Reveal and Chapter 4 (excerpt)

Drumroll please!! After a lot of soul searching, re-reading many passages, input from amazing friends, colleagues and family and six sets of designs painstakingly created by my amazing designer Graham Booth, I have finally chosen the cover for Mental Pause!

I feel that the design I finally chose is a nice representation of the split personality that Abbie is dealing with... her contemplative, sweet self is somewhere in the shadows trying to figure it all out, while the outward persona becomes crazier and more unhinged as the story unfolds. Even her lipstick matches the background color and her red shirt matches the title!  Abbie is even sporting the dark roots like she complains about on a couple of different occasions. I hope it captures the essence of the novel and, more importantly, entices people to buy it! I've written a little more about cover design when self-publishing on my other blog so feel free to give it a read.

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from Chapter 4!

Mental Pause - Chapter 4 (excerpt) 
The chairs were like the biggest, most comfortable lazy boys you’ve ever seen in your life.  Abbie sat in the middle one, with Rachel and Joan on either side, eyes closed, feet soaking luxuriously in a warm, bubbly footbath attached to each chair. The chairs had built-in roller massagers that could be adjusted to whatever pressure and speed your heart desired. Abbie had hers set on slow and steady. It rolled from the base of her spine, over her butt cheeks, and made its delicious way, pulsating along the muscles that flanked her spine up to her neck and shoulders, pausing on the base of her skull, where it vibrated gently, and then started its happy journey back down.

            Abbie squeezed the hands of her two best friends… one she had known forever and one who had just entered her life, just at the right time. She hadn’t had a second of irritation, or one irrational thought for at least a couple of hours. She wished she could bottle this feeling and take it out whenever she needed it.

            Joan squeezed back. “You know, if the rest of your family is anything like Winston, you’re a very lucky lady.”

            “They are,” Rachel replied for her. “Both boys are charmers and Conrad is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.”

            “Yes, I guess I am…” Abbie didn’t want to talk about her family. She wanted to pretend the only person she was responsible for was herself… just for a few hours. She felt the irritation rising and swallowed it back.

            “This feels heavenly,” she changed the subject. “I can’t remember the last time I had a pedicure.”

            “Hmmm… I started having them regularly after my husband and I split up,” said Joan. “I figured if I was going to be out on the singles scene again I’d better get fit. And, have pretty toes. You know, the important stuff… like smooth legs because you never know when you’re going to be rubbing them up and down someone else’s!” Joan ran her tongue along her upper lip. Rachel laughed.

            “Right! I started doing a little regular pampering after I met Joan in our singles group,” she added, smoothing down her newly highlighted hair. “She made me realize that if I was going to survive as a single mother I had to find a way to relax once in a while. It’s actually easier now that Todd has the kids every other weekend and next week they’ll be with him for the summer.  I’ll be a free woman!”

            “You make it sound almost appealing,” said Abbie wistfully.

            “Actually, I miss them like crazy but I’ve gotta make the best of it.”

            “Do you mind me asking, how long have you been separated, Joan?” Abbie swished her feet in the footbath as the three technicians took their places on the stools at their feet.

            “No I don’t mind at all… as you heard from my phone call yesterday from my ‘husband’, he’s dragging his feet on the divorce but we’ve been separated almost six months now,” Joan shook her head and let out an exasperated sigh. “His lack of cooperation has made it really difficult for both of us. I guess I can understand. It was shocking for him when I finally came out of the closet, and it’s really sent him for a loop.” Joan picked out a deep red nail color from the tray of polish the nail tech held out towards her.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mental Pause - Chapter 3 (excerpt)

Author's Note: I'm only sharing a short snippet today. Next week I'll make up for it with a special treat!  I have chosen the cover design and will reveal it here so, until then, here's this week's chapter excerpt:

The alarm jolted her out of a very erotic dream. Joan had been in it and so had Rachel. There were limbs everywhere. She couldn’t tell whose were whose but it didn’t matter. Skin glistened, laughter peeled and hearts raced. Even awake, Abbie’s heart was racing. She hoped she hadn’t been talking (or moaning) in her sleep. What an insane dream. It was amazing how a little bit of information and a slight nudge can make the subconscious go wild.
Then she saw the shopping bag sitting on her dresser. She pictured the slinky little deep purple number inside that she had bought to wear ‘out on the town’ after Joan and Rachel assured her that it didn’t show her muffin top. It had a swooping panel with pleats from hip to hip to camouflage the bulges that had formed almost overnight after she hit her mid-forties. It had a scooped neckline with a built in push up bra that the girls insisted made her boobs look perky. It had been a while since Abbie would have described them that way so she let her friends talk her into buying it, along with matching stilettos. She wasn’t sure how she was going to walk in those but they did make her legs look great. Her legs were the one feature that Abbie still liked on her body.
            After they had dropped Joan off when they were finished their shopping excursion, Rachel confirmed that yes, Joan was gay and had shared it with their singles group on day one.  It was the reason her marriage had broken down. She had told the group that she had been suppressing it all her life. When she finally recognized why she always felt so out of place everywhere she went; why she felt stifled in her relationship; and finally left her husband, she blossomed. 
            Abbie was dying to know more and hoped there would be more stories shared in the day ahead... 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mental Pause - Chapter 2 (excerpts)

Abbie walked slowly across the back yard not really grasping what had just happened and walked in the back door.
“Conrad? Trev?”  She called as she came in the back door.
“Hey Mom… Trev’s upstairs and Dad’s gone to work,” said Winston.
“What’s wrong?” 
“Uh…nothing.  Well, I guess something.”  She wasn’t sure what to say.  Your mother just creamed a dog on the side of the head with a frying pan and I think it’s dead?   “Sweetie, can you call Animal Control for me?  The number’s in the book.
“Well, you know that awful, vicious white dog from down the street?”
“You mean the pit bull?”
“Uh huh.  I think it’s in our alleyway and I don’t think it’s alive.
“Oh wow…that sucks.  Why can’t you call?”
“I’m going to Rachel’s to get ready for the marathon tomorrow. You know…. it’s the fundraiser for breast cancer research…I’m already late.  Thanks for doing that.” Abbie quickly walked out of the kitchen hoping he wouldn’t ask any more questions.
“But Mom,” he called after her.  “You don’t run.”
“I know that honey but I’m helping with registration…and so are you, remember?”  She paused halfway up the stairs waiting for his reply.
“Oh right…shit, do I have to?  Why isn’t Trevor going?”
“Winston, that language isn’t necessary and yes, you have to. You’ve made a promise to Rachel and it’ll look great on your resume.  And, Trevor’s working.  If you had gotten a job for the summer you’d have an excuse too.”
“I’m still writing exams and I have to study!”                      
“Winston, you told me you didn’t have an exam until Tuesday and you’d have Sunday and Monday to study. It’ll only be for a couple of hours and it’ll be great experience for you. Besides, Rachel’s counting on you.”  Abbie turned and continued up the stairs hoping that was the end of the discussion. She could hear Winston mumbling and a couple of cupboard doors slamming but no further arguments followed. He had always liked Rachel and he more than likely wouldn’t want to let her down.
Abbie quickly showered and changed into jeans and a t-shirt and grabbed her purse and keys.
“Trevor, I’m going to Rachel’s but I’ll have my cell phone on me if you need anything.” She popped her head into his room and saw he was studying. Even though both boys had been accepted into university, it was conditional on their final marks. “When you come home from school, there’s a pizza in the freezer for lunch if you want…or just make yourself a sandwich. And, you better hurry or you’re going to be late. You know it's always the last day that the teachers give the best clues on what's on the exam.
“Okay Mom.  Say hi to Rachel for me.”
Abbie walked down the stairs and straight for the front door, not wanting to make things worse with Winston, and called over her shoulder, “Winston, don’t forget animal control. See you later!”  She closed the door sharply behind her to make sure he knew she meant business. The boys knew she was a softy. It was Conrad who was the disciplinarian. Now that they were about to leave the nest, the relationship between them all was starting to shift. They were becoming adults and they finally realized that even though their father was tough, he was fair. Having a cop for a father wasn’t easy but they had turned out pretty good. Abbie was very proud of her family…and loved them with all her heart. So, why was she so irritated by them now and why did she get angry so easily? She felt as if she was having out of body experiences and didn’t recognize the person she looked down on half the time. It was as if she was having miniature nervous breakdowns and they were becoming more frequent.   
She got into the car, mounted her cell phone on her hands-free, pressed ‘2’ and ‘send’ and hit the speaker button. Conrad had the coveted number one spot on the speed dial but her best friend, Rachel, was next. She backed out of the driveway as Rachel answered.
“Hey chicka! Where are you?”
“Hey Rach… I’m sorry. I got a little behind but I’m on my way. I should be about 20 minutes as long as the traffic isn’t too bad.” 
“No worries. Take your time. I’m just putting on a pot of coffee so it’ll be ready when you get here. The kids are going to Todd’s after school today for the weekend so we won’t have any interruptions. Love those girls but they need to be entertained constantly! They can’t seem to occupy themselves like your boys did at that age.”
“Hmm…” Abbie offered absent mindedly, not really hearing what Rachel was saying. “I might need something a little stronger than coffee though. You’re not going to believe what just happened. I had a bit of a run in with a neighborhood dog.”
“I think I might have killed it…” Abbie felt a lump rising in her throat. She tried choking it back but the sob escaped from her lips like an uncontrollable sneeze only with a mournful sound. She sniffed and gripped the steering wheel with one hand while she reached in her purse for a Kleenex...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Mental Pause - Chapter 1 (excerpts)

Okay… so it’s not the 1st but it is the first ‘working’ day of the new year so I figured you’d cut me some slack.  Anyhoo… as promised, here are a couple of excerpts from the first chapter of Mental Pause where Abbie describes the horrors of the night sweat and then has a run in with a pitbull… and wins!

Mental Pause, Chapter 1  (excerpts)

“Yes, last night was rough…A real sauna,” she agreed as she shuffled into her flip-flops sitting by the back door and felt another flush of heat starting in her bone marrow. She unbelted her robe and opened the back door, welcoming the cool morning breeze that wafted in around her and up through her night gown… the third one she had put on after changing twice through the night.
The breeze felt good but didn’t eliminate the memory. There she was, lying flat on her back in bed with the bedclothes tossed to the side, trying not to let anything touch… her skin so hot that it felt as if it was going to melt off the bones.  The sweat hadn’t started just yet but she knew it wasn’t too far behind.  Oh, there it was… the prickly feeling, followed by a pool of sweat forming in that little pocket at the base of the throat, just above the collarbone. The sun was coming up and Abbie could see the light through the crack in the black out curtains. Conrad slept at odd times of the day so they were special curtains that made the room dark enough to trick his body clock into thinking it might still be night and time to sleep. The cat was crying to go out and Conrad subconsciously reached over to stroke her arm… ow!  It seared.

The night sweats. Abbie had been experiencing them every night for months… It’s a slow boil that builds up to spontaneous combustion.  It starts simmering in the bone marrow and then seeps into the blood stream.  It then comes to a boil and spreads through the whole circulatory system.  It continues on to emanate into the muscles and eventually breaks the barrier through to the skin’s surface where it hovers for a moment as you’re seared from the inside.  The skin is momentarily dry and hot to the touch then bursts into droplets of salty, stingy, evil bands of sweat beads that roll en masse and group into pools.  They sit in troughs under the eyes, camp out in crevices between and under the breasts, at the base of the throat and on the upper lip.  The skin becomes slimy and slippery – the sweat demons then retreat, evaporating and leaving a tacky stickiness behind. Then the shivering starts.

She opened the back gate onto the alleyway where they kept the garbage bins.  Oh shit!  What a bloody mess.  Abbie looked in dismay at the remnants of the barbequed T-bones from the night before that were now strewn all over the back walkway. The bin lay on its side wobbling slightly to and fro in the breeze. 
“Damn cats! This is all I need. How about a little break, hey?”  She glanced up at the sky her free hand on her hips. A whimper caught in her throat, distracted for just a second, as she pinched the roll on her waist and thought about its ever-widening girth. She exhaled with an ‘oh woe is me’ moan and bent over to start collecting the debris as she wiped the sweat from her forehead with her forearm before it could drip into her eyes. She caught some movement out of the corner of her eye… and then heard a low, guttural, growl.
Abbie slowly turned toward the sound and there about five feet away, snarling and growling was the mangy pit pull from down the street that had been terrorizing the neighbourhood for years. His owner had been court-ordered to keep the thing muzzled and chained in the back yard after it had attacked and seriously injured a young child but it kept getting out. Abbie had called the police several times, to no avail. She had just commented to Conrad the day before that it was going to kill someone before anything would be done about it. He had shrugged it off saying that there were more pressing cases they were dealing with.
The guttural growls intensified. Abbie stood frozen to the spot.  New sweat rivulets had sprung out and were pouring into her eyes and stinging.  She couldn’t see very well, not only because of the sweat dripping in her eyes, but she had also forgotten to put on her glasses.  She could see he was getting closer though and the snarling was getting more menacing. She felt her arm starting to rise above her head in slow motion.  It was as if it was under someone else’s control. The frying pan in her hand was forgotten as she was distracted by the sensation of every single pore in her body pulsing with heat and the shear panic rising in her throat.
He meant business.  Abbie sure didn’t want to be the next person he mauled. Suddenly, her panic turned to anger. How dare he come into my back yard and threaten me? Abbie’s jaw clenched. She closed her eyes against the stinging sweat, tightened her grip… and followed through with an arcing swing like all her years of tennis lessons taught her.