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Book excerpt – Much Ado About a Boy

Book excerpt – Much Ado About a Boy

I have always loved YA romance and I absolutely loved writing Bailey and Bentley’s story! Their personalities seemed to jump off the page at me and after a few false starts, their chemistry began to flow. Here is one of my favorite scenes.

Excerpt:

I clicked on Bentley’s number and opened my chat app. It was one of those apps that makes you send a picture, so I took a quick snap of the purple sequin Converse I wore and typed a text over the top. Hey. I know you probably don’t want to do this Shakespeare scene with me either, so it’s okay if you tell Meadows you won’t.

Was there a worse way to start a text message than hey? No one ever started good news with hey and a period. Maybe hey and an exclamation point, but even then, it’s suspect.

I expected him to reply right away, and when he didn’t, I put my phone on the carpet at my side and closed my eyes. Typical Bentley. Maybe he wouldn’t reply at all, and I’d have the double humiliation of having to confront him on Monday in the hall. Or maybe he’d deleted my number and thought I was a spammer.

A fresh wave of anger surged through me, and I grabbed the phone again and took an identical picture of my sneakers, then typed: This is Bailey, BTW.

I set the phone back down and stared at the shadow boxes that hung on the wall above my bookshelf. My mom made a new one for every show I did and included the program, a couple of pictures, and other memorabilia like dried flowers from the bouquets my grandparents sent me on opening night, or the heel of my shoe that had broken in the middle of the show when I’d played Gertrude McFuzz in the eighth grade’s production of Seussical Jr.

I could look at that wall and watch myself grow up, from a skinny six-year-old playing a generic orphan in the elementary production of Annie, all the way to last year when I was Marguerite in Pimpernel, decked out in a tall wig and a huge red ball gown with panniers so wide I had to turn sideways to get through the doors.

My phone beeped with the alert for the picture app and I yanked my attention away from the wall. My heart flew to my throat as I swiped to open the screen. There was a picture of an adorable white cat with bright blue eyes staring straight into my soul. The text beneath the picture read: Why would you think I don’t want to do the scene with you? And I know it’s Bailey, you goofball.

My breath caught in my throat, and before I could stop it, a smile broke across my face. Bentley had called me a goofball.

No, I didn’t care. This wasn’t about anything but the drama competition.

I aimed my phone at my feet and took another picture of my shoes, then applied a filter to make them black and white and sent it back. Did Meadows talk to you?

A moment later, Bentley’s reply popped up. This time the cat was curled on its side, waving its fluffy tail. What’s with the shoes?

I took another picture of the carpet. What’s with the cat?

A close-up of a blue eye. Meet Coconut.

Another zoom-in on the purple sequins. Meet my shoes. And coconuts are brown, not white.

White fur. Tell her that.

Shoelaces. What about Meadows?

A tiny pink paw. What about him?

The white stripe of rubber around the sole of my shoe. He wants us to do a scene from Much Ado for regionals.

Whiskers. I know.

I put the phone down and sighed. Why was he doing this to me?

Get Much Ado About a Boy on Amazon. Free for KU users!

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Book Review: The Outsider

Book Review: The Outsider

This book … eh.

I have tried and tried and tried to read Stephen King. The Outsider is my latest attempt to get into the thrills and chills promised by his name.

But I can’t do it. I abandon every single one at about the 30 percent mark and go to Wikipedia to read the plot summary. So I guess that means I’m interested enough to find out what happens, but not interested enough to invest the time reading the other 70 percent of the book.

The plot was compelling – how can DNA evidence put a man in two places at the same time – and becomes especially relevant when one of the timelines includes a horrendous crime. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.) But I couldn’t get into it. I know Stephen King is a master at building suspense, but honestly, I just got bored. The climax wasn’t even very scary, but I was reading it on Wikipedia at nine in the morning, not breathlessly turning pages to learn the resolution after I’d spent all night reading.

This isn’t the first scary book I’ve tried to read this year, only to get bored and either start skimming or give up entirely. The horror genre just isn’t for me, even during spooky season.

My rating: 2.5 stars

On original ideas … Sondheim says it best

On original ideas … Sondheim says it best

I’ve been obsessing this week over the 90th Birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim last year and especially this song from “Sunday in the Park with George.” It’s not one of my favorite musicals, but this song is definitely a highlight and Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford absolutely nail it.

One of the best lines comes around 2:30:

I get some variation of this worry a lot, especially from new authors. I don’t know how many times someone has told me they have a cool idea, but they’re worried it will seem tired, the idea has been done, the story has been told already.

Well, true. There are not a whole lot of stories that haven’t already been told. But … they haven’t been told by YOU. Don’t steal other people’s work, but tell your story. You have a unique voice and the world will be richer hearing it.

The sharp edge of the blade

The sharp edge of the blade

Oh you guys! Life has been giving me the sharp edge of the blade for a while and today it cut deep. My dad’s last remaining sibling was killed this morning in a car accident, along with his wife. Dad’s two other brothers passed within the last year or so, though not as tragically.

Aside from sorrow over losing these wonderful people, I grieve for my dad. He’s the youngest of six and we always knew there would be this day eventually, but it feels like it came way too soon.

This has not been the only hit we’ve had lately. Last week there was the surprise death of an uncle on the other side of the family, and we are all still feeling the sting from my cousin losing his five-year-old son in another tragic accident just last month.

I feel like this has been an entire year of loss. Important, wonderful people are gone and I miss them. I still  miss Koda desperately. I miss being younger and feeling invincible. I miss feeling hope. And I miss the people who are still here on earth, but who have chosen different paths and are no longer in my life. The hurt never goes away.

Today is my birthday and I have never been a big fan of celebrations, but I’d definitely take that over the tears.

New Freebie when you join my VIP Reader’s Club

New Freebie when you join my VIP Reader’s Club

Hello Bookworms! Have you joined my reader’s club yet? I typically send one email per week where we can chat about all kinds of things including writing, families, pets, funny stories, and more. I also give my club members an early heads up on free books, contests, giveaways, and anything else exciting that is happening in the bookworm community.

Plus, you get a free book! Feels Like Love is free when you join my VIP Reader’s Club.

A sweet romance about second chances and finding the love of your life right where you left him.

Christmas in Snow Valley is the perfect way for April Winston to introduce her city slicker fiance, Scott Mecham, to life on a farm. If only Wade Hadley, hometown boy and high school sweetheart, will cooperate! But Wade has no intention of letting April go without a fight. This Christmas, he is determined to overcome their painful past and show April that she already has what she’s been seeking all along.

Q&A – 5 Things (Part 3)

Q&A – 5 Things (Part 3)

This will be an ongoing series where I answer the most common questions I get from readers:

Q1:  Where do you get your ideas?

A:  I have so many ideas for books! Once you’ve done this long enough, your brain starts automatically evaluating most situations to see if it would make a good book. Many of the ideas I’ve been developing lately are not purely sweet romance and it’s been exciting to branch out a little.

Q2:  What is your writing process?

A:  Once I’ve settled on an idea for a book, I start outlining. I write down the major moments and how I want them to go, then work backwards from there. Some of my author friends can start on page one and write consecutively to the end, but I do better when I can skip around and write the big scenes first, then go back and add the little ones to tie them together.

After I’ve finished the story, I send it to my beta readers and I usually end up making quite a few changes based on their feedback. I rewrote almost the entire second half of Sweet Illusions after I got it back from beta. I recently hired an alpha reader to read the manuscript chapter-by-chapter and give feedback, so that should cut down on the rewrites since I can make adjustments as I go based on her feedback.

Q3:  Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

A:  I outline and brainstorm on blue copy paper. It has to be loose papers (not a notebook) and it has to be blue. I have no idea why that’s become my thing, but it is.

Q4:  What do you love about writing? What do you hate?

A:  I love creating stories! I’ve always been a storyteller and I love coming up with new ideas, developing characters to fit the situation, and piecing it all together into something that is exciting and new.

The only thing I hate are the pirates and plagiarizers who steal your work. Most of my books are distributed exclusively through Amazon and they do a great job trying to crack down on the thieves, but it’s extremely difficult and there are, unfortunately, a lot of people trying to profit from someone else’s hard work.

Q5:  Do you ever get writer’s block and if so, what do you do about it?

A:  Absolutely. Everyone gets writer’s block, it’s part of the process. When I have it, I usually take a break and try to get some exercise to restart my brain. Then I’ll sit down and try to come up with 5-10 things that could happen next in the story and pick the best one. Writing is just like any other job – you’re not inspired all the time and there will be moments when you feel inadequate or you’re sick of it, etc. But you have to keep going and push through it.

Have questions? You can submit them here as a comment or email me: AuthorJeanetteLewis@gmail.com

To Our Boy

To Our Boy

This is probably going to be long, mostly a way for me to process what’s happened and even try to justify it to myself (and to you) a little bit.

Here’s the short part of this long story … we had to say goodbye to Koda two weeks ago. My heart is breaking all over again writing this post, but I know it’s the right choice, for him and for us.

Now for the long part of this long story:

If you’re a long-time reader, you know we had Koda almost four years. We got him as a 2yo from a private seller and at the time, everything seemed fine. He was outgoing, friendly, and energetic. We fell in love with him almost immediately and adopted him hoping he’d be a good companion for our autistic son, who struggles to maintain human relationships and was very lonely.

Here they are on the ride home. Koda jumped into the truck the moment we opened the door and he snuggled with Aiden the whole way home. It seemed like a match made in heaven.

The first few weeks went well. Aside from the cat, everyone loved Koda, and he seemed to fit right in, barreling around the house and covering us in sloppy kisses. We’d intended for him to live mostly in the basement, but he broke that rule in literally the first hour by jumping over the gate at the foot of the stairs.

Go here for the video.

Then, problems started cropping up. Despite being intended for Aiden, Koda much preferred me or my other son, Evan. He would actively try to avoid Aiden and started growling at him.

I took Koda to pick Aiden up at school one day and he barked at all the other kids, when he’d never barked at anyone before. He started picking fights with other dogs when we took him on walks, even going so far as to crawl under a fence to attack a much smaller dog. He walked perfectly around a park and then lunged at and nipped a guy in the parking lot as we were leaving.

I started a dog training course of Youtube and we tried a bunch of techniques they suggested. We started the training program at Petsmart and quit the same night when he tried to bite the other dogs.

I hired a private trainer who suggested a harness, then a choke collar to try and control him. It didn’t help. He’s so strong that he dragged me around and once he got locked on to something, nothing could get his attention away from it.

We tried treat training mixed with the collar mixed with desensitization. Nothing worked. He started getting territorial and would try to bite people who came over so we started locking him in his crate when we had company.

We sent him away for a 3-week boot camp that cost a small fortune and when he came back, he acted like a zombie. The light was gone from his eyes. It has gradually returned, but so has the bad behavior and I don’t have it in me to make him wear the shock collar the trainer gave us and use it to shock him into submission.

A few months ago on the way home from school, Aiden asked me to stop the car on the train tracks because he “wanted to see what it felt like to get hit by a train.” And my heart dropped. It was that moment that crystalized for me a hard truth – my son doesn’t understand danger, he doesn’t process it or anticipate it or think about it. And that included being able to follow the rules to keep everyone safe around Koda.

Then, our elderly neighbors across the street passed away and a new family moved in – with four small children, one cat, and two dogs that they let roam the neighborhood freely. There are at least six other dogs on our block that are not leashed and can come and go as they please. And every one of them sent Koda into a tizzy. My biggest fear is that Aiden will see the dogs outside, hear Koda barking, and decide to open the door on a whim, just to see what would happen. Koda is 75 lbs and very strong. He could easily kill another dog or even a child – and we couldn’t say we hadn’t been warned.

The vet told me to put him down, in no uncertain terms. They called him a ticking time bomb. Every trainer told me he was in the wrong situation and would likely have to be put down because no one will take an aggressive animal.

In April, we had to go out of town for our daughter’s college graduation. The kennel we’d been using for Koda had closed and I spent an entire day on the phone before finally finding another one that would take him because of his history. He barked at the other dogs going in, trembled when I put him in the cage, and whined when I left. Two days later when I picked him up, he was like a different dog. He walked calmly and confidently next to the kennel worker, without a muzzle, and he seemed unbothered by the presence of other dogs. The light was back in his eyes and his tail was wagging.

So, it’s us … at least to a degree, we are not the right house for Koda. We don’t know what he went through those first two years as a puppy, but we do know he lived in a house with a lot of people and a lot of dogs and he was no one’s favorite. I don’t think they intentionally abused him, but he flinches if you raise your hand at him. He is fearful of any other dog, no matter the size.

Our theory is that he was mostly ignored those two years and definitely not properly socialized toward humans or dogs. Then he came to our house where everyone doted on him and he had the run of the place. He bonded with me and decided he had to protect me, which ultimately, stressed him out.

We came to the very painful decision that he was not living his best life with us. We couldn’t give him the security he obviously needs and we had to keep him drugged on anti-anxiety pills for the better part of the last year. We resisted putting him down because he is young and strong and has so much life left in him, it didn’t seem fair. I have prayed and prayed and prayed about him.

Then, my daughter’s girlfriend told us about a vet in the small town where she grew up. It’s several hours away from here, but they take any animal, no matter the circumstances. They run a no-kill shelter and believe that any dog can be rehabilitated when matched with the right home.

I called them and explained everything and … they wanted him. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but also the right thing to do. We called two days after we surrendered him and were told he was doing great, learning to play with other dogs, and had already had a couple of people interested in adopting him. I called again last week and he’s been adopted by an empty nester couple with a lot of acreage for him to run free on.

I hate that his forever home wasn’t with us. I miss him so much that sometimes I can’t breathe. The kids sometimes still cry themselves to sleep. But we know we had to do it and I’m so relieved he has found somewhere he can be happy.

I’ll love you forever, buddy.