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Thursday
Feb042016

Sneak Peek of LET'S BE FRIENDS

Wow. I am so out of it lately and working so close to my deadline that I almost forgot to post a sneak peek to Let's Be Friends. (I also almost titled this post "Sneak Peak..." like it's a cheeky mountain, or something, which is one of my pet peeves. Did I mention I'm out of it?)

We're still hard at work developing a cover, so I don't have that to share yet, but you'll be the first to know when I do. I'm super-excited about that!

One thing I do have is words. Soon, you'll have all 95,000+ of them. But for now, I give you a measly 1,300, or so. Yeah, I know. I suck. Also, I realize that makes for a long blog post, so I'm going to shut up now and get right to it. Happy reading! (Back to making those crazy edits!)

(First things first, a blurb for some background:)

Nate and Betty’s long-distance relocation has shrunk their pesky problems like specks in a rearview mirror… or so they think. But small-town life in sultry South Carolina includes its own challenges, and the Binghams soon discover their northern hometown doesn’t have the monopoly on frustrating co-workers and dysfunctional families. Add in a bit of culture shock, and the result is a thick, hilarious pot of outsider gumbo. Plus, some people—and decisions—can follow you anywhere you go, for the rest of your life.

Let's Be Friends

Chapter Three

   On the floor, I pull Georgia into my lap and focus on the animated performance of the librarian at the front of the room. I’ve never heard Where the Wild Things Are recited quite like this (“Lyeet the wahld rumpus stahrt!”), but it’s entertaining. And Georgia doesn’t care. She loves it. In fact, she’ll probably learn to talk with a drawl befitting of her name.
   Oh, geez.
   No, that’s okay. My brother will have a field day with that, but screw him. I’d much rather my daughter have a bit of a twang to her speech patterns than have her eat, sleep, and breathe football.  That is, if I had to choose.
   I look down at her, settled in the nest made by my crossed legs as we sit on the shaggy rug with a dozen other kids and their parents. She’s enthralled, her jaw slack as she listens to the hypnotic cadence of the storyteller. Taking her cues from the older kids around us, she occasionally claps her hands or kicks her feet when the other children react to a particularly exciting part of the story.
   At the end of the book, she joins the chant of “More, more!” and “Again, again!” but the librarian, whose name tag declares her to be Gwendolyn, simply laughs and says, “Now, y’all! It’s time to pick your own books to take home and read!”
   This launches the junior attendees into motion. They tug impatiently on the hands of parents who don’t have the agility to hop from the floor to their feet in one easy motion, and they implore, “Hurry up! We gotta find the good books before they’re all gone!” They spout the characters’ strange names like they’re best friends. “Let’s find Caillou!”
   Betty lifts Georgia from my lap, then kindly averts her eyes as I less-than-gracefully stand after sitting in the same position for too long. I tap the circulation into my sleeping right foot and say, “Well, George, what’s it gonna be?”
   “Cord’roy!” she immediately replies with a toothy grin up at me.
   “We have Corduroy at home, though. Let’s find something new.”
   “Cord’roy!”
   Betty tilts her head and smiles. “This oughta be fun.”
   Not ready to give up yet, I grab a display book from one of the low shelves nearby. “How about this one? It’s about a bear, too. But we’ve never read it.”
   “Cord’roy!”
   Her volume is decidedly louder than the typical “library” range, so I kneel down and say quietly, close to her face, “Okay, okay. Shhh. We’ll find Corduroy. And some new friends, too.”
   “Hi, there!” comes from above us.
   “Hello,” Betty replies with an embarrassed smile.
   I stand at my full height, coming face-to-face with the perky Gwendolyn. “Oh, hey.”
   “Did I hear that someone wants to take home a copy of Corduroy?”
   “Pretty sure they heard that a hundred miles away in Charleston,” I mumble, rubbing the back of my neck.
   Betty laughs. “Yeah. Sorry about the noise.”
   “What? Oh, heavens no!” the librarian says with a gentle swat to Betty’s arm. “We’re not bothered by happy voices, especially in this part of the building. We love ’em! Means someone’s excited about readin’!” She lowers herself to Georgia’s level. “Hi, I’m Gwen. What’s your name?”
   Georgia buries her face in my knees.
   “Georgia,” Betty and I supply at the same time, then chuckle nervously. To give myself something to do, I lift our daughter into my arms and hold her against my side. She transfers her face to my neck.
   Gwen rises. “Well, Georgia, that’s a pretty name. And I have some great news for you. I saw Corduroy this morning, when I was puttin’ him back on the shelf. Let’s go grab him for you.”
   This prompts Georgia to look up and kick her feet, almost tagging me in my bean bag. “Down, pwease!”
   I gladly set her on her feet and watch her run to keep up with her literary guide. Betty and I follow closely behind, linking hands and smiling proudly at our budding bibliophile.
   Could we be any cuter? We’re like the perfect family in a literacy ad.
   When we catch up to the two G’s, the librarian is peering at the spines on the shelf and rubbing her lower lip, her forehead crinkled. “Hmm… It was right here. I shelved it myself.”
   “Cord’roy!”
   Distracted, Gwen smiles. “That’s right, Sugar. Your buddy is…” She trails off and frowns. “Oh, dear. It looks like…” Turning to us, she winces and mouths, “It’s checked out again.”
   Dread spreads through my abdomen and climbs my ribcage to my breastbone. Foreseeing an ugly scene, I pick up Georgia, who wriggles in my arms and yells, “Cord’roy!”
   My tone remains light. “He’s playing hide and seek today, but I have an idea where he might be.” Close to her ear, I whisper, “He’s at home, waiting for you.”
   She pulls her head away from my lips and gives me the clearest, Bitch, please, look I’ve ever seen from a kid her age—but one that I’ve received from her mother more times than I care to count. And always before some major unpleasantness. This time is no different.
   “I. Yaunt. Cord’roy!”
   “Yep. I get it, baby girl, but—”
   “Not baby guhl! Cord’roy!”
   Gwen edges away from us. “I’ll, uh… leave you guys to…” Obviously at a loss for how to finish that, she points to the circulation desk. “I’ll be right over there if you need anything else.”
   I need flippin’ Corduroy, lady. What kind of library only has one copy of that classic? Huh? HUH?!
   Instead of yelling that, I smile tightly and blink against the baby blows falling on my shoulders. Betty takes charge, pulling Georgia away from me and saying, “Georgia Lou, that’s enough. Now, let’s pick some other books, or we’ll leave now, and you’ll go straight down for a nap when we get home.”
   “Cord’roy!” she wails.
   I blow a sigh through my lips and try to pretend I don’t care that everyone is staring at us. Like their kids have never had public meltdowns over a book about a teddy bear. I chance a peek at another dad openly gaping at us and shoot him a sheepish half-smile. He turns away from me to say something to his perfectly-behaved sundress-clad princess. Probably telling her, “If you evuh act like that, Little Miss, I’ll cut you out of the will. With God as my witness.” (Or something. For some reason, he talks like Scarlett O’Hara in my head. So much for abandoning those stereotypes.)
   “Okay, let’s go,” I say to Betty.
   “We can’t carry her through the whole library like this,” she hisses back at me. “She’s hysterical.”
   “Well, take her into the bathroom, then.”
   “They’re by the doors. We might as well leave, at that point.”
   “Let’s do it, then.”
   “This is humiliating.”
   “She’ll calm down in a second.”
   “I YAUNT CORD’ROY! I YAUNT CORD’ROY!”
   Desperate to end this whole thing, I snatch Georgia from her mother, toss her over my shoulder like a sack of fertilizer, and, red-faced and sweating, haul ass for the exit.
   Just as I think we’re home free, pushing through the doors to the parking lot, Georgia bellows a parting “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!” behind us.
   There goes the neighborhood.

 

Let's Be Friends releases this month (don't try to pin me down on a date; I'll crumble under the pressure). More news to follow.

Wednesday
Jan132016

My David Bowie Story

A few days have passed since the passing of the [insert your favorite superlative here] David Bowie, the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, etc.

I've watched with interest and a fair bit of jealousy as people have posted on social media about their connection with this extraordinary person. Some talk about how his music influenced them, inspired them. Others speak about how it got them through tough times, through high school, through a long wait at a doctor's office, through whatever. Still others who were lucky enough to meet him at some point in their lives describe a funny, warm, likable person. It seems like David Bowie is the new Kevin Bacon. Everyone has a David Bowie story. I've wracked my brain trying to relate, so I could add my own offering to the cacophany of praise, to no avail. I don't have a David Bowie story.

And here's why.

It's not that I've never acknowledged him as a brilliant person or artist. (Sort out that double-negative, why don't you?) It's not that I've denied his contribution to society. It's not that I'm indifferent to his music. To be perfectly honest, the reason I don't have a David Bowie story goes back to fear.

My first "encounters" with David Bowie occurred when I was quite a young person. THIS was David Bowie in 1986.

Courtesy: TriStar PicturesI was eight years old in 1986. The Goblin King from Labyrinth terrified me.

Jim Henson's other character creations didn't freak me out (although I wasn't 100% comfortable with that huge garbage pile thing on Fraggle Rock); I wasn't what most would consider an overly anxious child, in general. So I don't know what my deal was with David Bowie. He just wigged me out. Speaking of wigs, though, Tina Turner was scary to Little Brea, too, so... perhaps it was the hair? I outgrew my Tina Turner fear, however. I somehow separated her as a person from her performer's persona and got over it. Not so with David Bowie.

Looking at older pictures of him, from before I was born, didn't help, either. Ziggy Stardust in 1973 was just as scary as the Goblin King.

My white-bread, American, Protestant Christian, young brain didn't know what the heck to do with David Bowie. So I pretended like he didn't exist. Then, after several reinventions of the man's image, I came face-to-face with him again, this time in one of my favorite funny shows, Flight of the Conchords. Problem is... it was a seriously weird episode that pretty much paid homage to Ziggy Stardust and Labyrinth. This did not make me feel any more warmly toward someone I knew was a legend but almost couldn't bear to look at. I was okay listening to him sing duets with Freddie Mercury (who didn't scare me, strangely enough) or belt out Nature Boy on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. But I had seirous issues with visuals of David Bowie, even modern, so-called "normal" images of the man.

I've been thinking about that a lot since the news broke of Mr. Bowie's death on Monday morning (for me). Obviously, when I first heard it, the adult in me was saddened. I had the usual responses: "I had no idea he was sick!"; "Oh, his poor family!"; "Man, I feel old when people so well-known to me pass away, especially unexpectedly." But throughout that first day, that fearful eight-year-old from deep down started creeping into my thoughts. Because there's been no escaping the images this week. I've seen them over and over and over. Difference is, they've all been accompanied by such warm words, such glowing tributes, such human anecdotes, that I've realized something tragic: my fear of "otherness" robbed me of truly experiencing one of the inarguably greatest artists of our time... while he was still alive. Granted, I was a kid. But that irrational dislike took root, and I allowed it to persist into adulthood.

Is the world going to stop spinning because of this? No. Did it affect David Bowie that I had a strange aversion to him? Ha! Absolutely not. Has it truly affected my life until now? Hardly. I've barely given it a thought until this week. But from here on out... I hope this serves as a catalyst.

What else have I been missing out on as I've eschewed activities and, yes, people who don't fit neatly into my extremely narrow world view? How else has fear hampered my life without my even realizing it? How much has it limited you? Probably not in the same ways--I doubt there are many people who share my ridiculous David Bowie phobia--but what other "phobias," if you'll permit a somewhat loose interpretation of the word, are holding you back? You don't have to embarrass yourself like I have by admitting them here, but admitting them to ourselves is important, I think. After all, how can you let go of your fears if you don't even acknowledge you have them?

So, Godspeed, Mr. Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, your royal highness, the Goblin King. What an amazing--and sometimes unexpected--legacy you've left.

Tuesday
Nov032015

Good Housekeeping

   

Meh. Whatever floats your boat. I think homes can be happy and messy or happy and tidy. If mess and clutter stress you out, obviously your messy house isn't going to be a happy one. If walking behind your kids all the time, cleaning up after them is more trouble than it's worth to you, then you're going to be a seriously crabby patty pursuing that magazine-perfect living room. No matter which way you are, being a sanctimonious a-hole to someone with the opposite viewpoint is a no-no, in my opinion.

I'm not always tidy; I'm not always messy. I let my mood dictate which one I'm going to be (or somewhere in between) on any given day. When I'm in the middle of writing a first draft of a novel or in the final stages of the publication process, I'm more apt to ignore the mess around me.

When I emerge from my writing fogs and decide, "We're disgusting, and this house must be cleaned," then it better happen... in double-time. I also clean when I'm stressed out or worried or angry. That is, when I'm not hiding in bed eating chocolate because I'm stressed out, worried, or angry.

My attitudes about tidiness and housekeeping seem to drive the rest of my household. It usually takes me reaching my clutter limit for the finer details--like vacuuming and dusting--to be addressed. And that's fine. Whatever. See, the benefit of that is that when I want the house to be clean, we clean the house; when I don't care, nobody bothers me or guilts me into thinking we should clean the house. It's a beautiful arrangement. (Fortunately, I also have a husband who's a functional, responsible, useful human being and doesn't need to be treated like a child and told to do what needs to be done to keep us from being shut down by the Health Department.)

I'd like to make one thing clear, though: my possession of a vagina has nothing to do with my ability or desire to live in a clean home. Therefore, my housemates' (a.k.a., husband's and offsprings') genitalia are also irrelevant. So when I see things in my online travels that seem to place all of the responsibility for housework on the wife/mother of the family (with occasional "help" from the kids and husband, "if he's willing"), well........ stroking out is a real possibility.*

I know, I know... scroll on by. But... but... but... I can't! Because... equality!**

Now. Let me state specifically what kind of living situation I am addressing here. I'm talking about a two-adult household in which both adults work a job (whether at home or away from home) that requires them to focus on non-household matters in order to support their family. If you're a stay-at-home parent (male or female), and you make the person who brings home the bacon (male or female) scrub toilets on the weekend, you're a jerk. (Unless they really love scrubbing toilets, and then... well... you're living with a somewhat strange person, but to each his/her own.) And if you're a single parent, God bless you, and you deserve to be five times as outraged as I am by these privileged a-wipes who spout their "womanly housework wisdom."

Let's just take my own family as an example: I work forty hours a week outside the home; my husband works forty-plus hours a week outside the home. When we're home, we share in making and cleaning up the mess. And our spawn contribute three-fold to that mess, so they have to help clean it up, too. Do we divvy up the chores according to age, ability, and inclination? Absolutely. I hate grocery shopping, so my husband is nice enough to do that. You know, because he eats the food, too. I'd actually like our clothes to remain wearable, and our kids still have plenty of time to learn how to turn white underwear pink... on their own dime... so the kids get to do things like unloading and reloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and keeping their rooms tidy(ish). I get the odious task of paying bills. Everyone pitches in with bathrooms, because--this may shock you--we all use the bathrooms, some of us more neatly than others. It's not about score keeping and being all fairsy-waresy, necessarily; it's about getting the job done. Notice, though, that sexual organs don't play any part in the division of labor. Not one bit.

So when I do run across "helpful hints" for "working women" about how to keep a clean, tidy house, in addition to everything else we do, it brings out the snark in me. Big-time. I don't care who writes it. That lack of solidarity, that smug know-it-allness, that "See? You can do it all, if you just try harder" bullshit makes me want to scream.

But I don't like loud noises. So I wrote my own "tips" instead, in response to the latest piece I read. You know, for women who may not be as lucky as I am, with my thoroughly modern husband who knows how to run a vacuum and separate lights from darks. (Yes, I'm rolling my eyes.)***

How To Be the Perfect Woman (On Weeknights and Weekends, When You're Not Earning a Paycheck to Feed, Clothe, and Shelter Your Family):****

  1. Multi-task. Forget those naysayers who say multi-tasking isn't possible and results in multiple things being done insufficiently. If you're not breastfeeding while vacuuming while overseeing your kids' homework completion while planning the next week's completely organic dinner menu while signing field trip permission slips, you're just not doing enough.
  2. Technically, this is all your mess, if you think about it. You married that person and made those kids who made that mess. Now deal with it.
  3. We have the technology. Set up reminders on your phone to keep you on-task. Never leave a load of laundry to mildew in the washer ever again. There's an app for that!
  4. To save time during the folding process, make sure all of the socks have mates when they go into the washing machine. (Something tells me you're not spending enough time on your hands and knees, looking under beds. Tsk. Tsk.)
  5. If you really aren't awesome enough, then I suppose you can respectfully ask your spouse and children to help you out. But do so with the full knowledge that they're saving you, and any help they give--no matter how half-hearted it may be--is strictly voluntary and worthy of your gratitude. (In other words, add the ingredients for all of their favorite treats to your next grocery list, honey, and get baking!) Speaking of groceries, the pantry and fridge aren't going to stock themselves. Chop, chop!
  6. Forget "me" time. Hobbies are for selfish people who spout maxims like, "You can't feed someone from an empty bowl." You won't have any bowls at all if you don't unload and re-stack that dishwasher, pronto. Anyway, speaking of bowls, what's more rewarding than seeing those bags under your eyes reflected in that sparking toilet? Nothing.
  7. If you need more motivation, allow yourself five minutes to go on social media (for research, not for fun), so you can compare yourself to all of the women out there who have it figured out. Do you see clutter in the background of the photos of their precious darlings as they craft their homemade seasonal decor? No. Because your peers have their priorities in order... unlike some people (ahem).
  8. Do it all with a smile. Every job is more enjoyable when you're smiling.

Let's face it, folks: people with vaginas are simply better at scrubbing, folding, tidying, and organizing. It's science.***** So ladies, what are you waiting for? Those nearly-identical-but-not-quite white socks from this week's laundry aren't going to mate themselves. (See #4's handy tip for making this step easier.)

Now where are my pearls and heels? I need to clean the oven.

*I was going to link to the blog post that triggered my ire... this time... but I don't want to be responsible for any other exploding heads. Mine was bad enough. Just trust me. It's out there. In 2015. With more two-income households--by necessity--than ever. Also, a quicker, easier way to make your head explode is to Google quotes for "messy or clean house" and see how EVERYTHING is centered around women and features pictures of women. "A good MOM has sticky floors." (And good DADS have shaggy lawns and dirty cars... I'm not kidding!!!!) "Dull WOMEN have clean houses." REALLY???? REALLY??? What effing year is this??????? KA-BOOOOOOM! SPLAT!!!!!!!

**If it so happens that the division of labor falls along more "traditional" (I hate that word) gender roles in your household, and everyone's happy with that, GREAT! That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the assumption that women clean the house, no matter what else they do to support their household, simply because they're women. THAT is wrong. And I will be a sanctimonious a-hole on that issue every. single. time.

***Not that I take him for granted, especially now that I'm fully aware it's somehow acceptable, even nowadays, for penis-bearing people to simply opt out of basic household chores. I'm ever so grateful I didn't get stuck with one of those guys.

****Okay, the title's a little long, but I felt specificity was important.

*****Not a scientific finding AT ALL. Also, I don't know what same-sex partners do. Maybe some can chime in here and tell us how they manage to display blatant sexism in their households. I suppose women have to rock-paper-scissors each other for the privilege of cleaning out the litterbox, and men... Well... both are off the hook? Must be nice!

 

When I'm not writing sarcastic, disdainful rants, I'm cleaning my house. JUST KIDDING! I do write books, though. Lots of them. All the time. You can find my entire catalog right here on this site. My latest, Out of My League, released in October, and I'm currently working on three other novels, which I hope to release in 2016. If I'm not dead by then. Thanks for reading!

Friday
Oct162015

Holy Release Week, Batman

Seems like great minds think alike (hahaha), because about a thousand people I know released books this past week, many of them on the same day I did. It was all I could do to promote my own new book, so I was a total slacker on the support front. To rectify that, I've put together this little post, where you can see many of them in one place. With links! Yes! A bookworm's paradise.

via GIPHY

 

Kathleen Irene Paterka -
Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel 


Clodagh Murphy - Some Girls Do


Monique McDonell - Any Way You Fight It


Jennie Marts - Tangled Up in Tuesday


 

 

 

Sarah Knipping -
Flamingos, Dust,
and Occasional Leopards

Wendy Janes - What Jennifer Knows


 

 

 

 

Hilary Grossman - Plan Bea


Geralyn Corcillo - Queen of the Universe


 

 

 

Rich Amooi - Mr. Crotchety


 

 

PLUS a bonus anthology, Passionate Kisses 3: Under the Mistletoe, just in time (*cough, cough*) for Christmas, including:

HOLIDAY BARGAIN by Jessi Gage
THE THINGS YOU MEAN TO ME: KNIGHT SKIES PREQUEL by Sydney Holmes
SCROOGE YOU by Nikki Lynn Barrett
CHRISTMAS IN THE HARBOUR by Victoria Barbour
MIRACLE OF LOVE by Allie Boniface
CHRISTMAS IN STILETTOS by Rebecca J. Clark
ALMOST ROMANCE by Kylie Gilmore
KISSING COOPER by Liz Kelly
A RING FOR CHRISTMAS by Wendy Ely
A CHRISTMAS KISS TO REMEMBER by Magda Alexander

And if that doesn't keep you in chick lit for the rest of the year (or at least the weekend), you, my friend, are insatiable, and there's nothing for it. Congratulations to my fellow new book parents, and happy reading!!!

Tuesday
Oct132015

OUT OF MY LEAGUE Launch Day

Have you checked your e-reader today? If you were one of the lovely people (thank you!) who pre-ordered Out of My League, it should be waiting for you. Or will be soon. Or something. (I don't really know how all of this works; I'm just the writer of the words.) My point is, launch day has finally arrived for the first book in my Underdog Trilogy, and for that, I'm ecstatic.

Okay, maybe "ecstatic" is an exaggeration, but I am excited. I'm happy to share this story and these characters with you at long last. I'm also much happier about my fictional football team's season than I am about my favorite real life team's performance so far. Pretend losses are so much easier to take, for some reason.

But I'm not here to lament the 2015-2016 NFL season so far; I'm here to celebrate yet another publication day!

Yay!!!!

You and me, celebrating. We're very agile!So, what do I want you to know about this book before you dive in? First, I want you to know that you don't have to love or even know much about American football to read--and hopefully like--this book. The sport is a mere backdrop to a more universal story about self-worth and acceptance, told with my usual irreverence. Second, I do love football, so I had a great time writing this book, immersing myself in a life I can only imagine and getting to know these characters. I'm also looking forward to continuing Maura and Jet's story in the second installment of the trilogy, although I haven't done much more than brainstorm some plot ideas. I have two more books in the works right now, so Out of My League's sequel will have to wait a while. But not too long. Third, I have high hopes that you'll like Maura and Jet just as much as--or even more than--the characters in my other books, and when you're finished with this first installment, you'll be eager to know what happens next. I'm eager to know. But I might be biased.

The only other thing I'd like to say is, "Thanks!" Thank you for keeping up-to-date with my writing, for ordering my books, and for recommending them to your friends and family. Thanks for being patient between releases, giving me the time to focus on producing the best books I can produce while also not completely neglecting my busy family. And thanks for getting in touch to offer your support and encouragement. You make this so much more fun than it was when I wrote for the heck of it and merely daydreamed about what it would be like to have people outside of my family read my stories. And by the way, those fantasies didn't even come close to what the reality has been, thanks to you!

For those of you still wondering how you can get your hands on your very own copy of Out of My League, look no further. Click right.......... here.