Thursday, December 20, 2012

Year in Review

Holy crap you guys, the world might end tomorrow and I haven't blogged since the end of November!  Zoiks!

This time of the year is always crazy, and I have four days in a row of holiday fun coming up after tomorrow.  So, these past few weeks have been spent shopping, wrapping, baking, and shopping and wrapping some more.  As of last night I am officially DONE though.  With 5 days to spare til Christmas.  Not bad, not bad.

Since I'm all caught up on everything else, I thought I'd take a minute to sit back and reflect on the past year.  2012 was a whirlwind that completely flew by, so here are a few of my favorite things:

1) Concerts:  As usual, I went to a lot of shows.  The biggest show I saw was probably The Black Keys- I don't go to too many arena shows, and they totally rocked the house.  I also got to see my favorite, the Airborne Toxic Event, in Columbus again. I will go see them every time they are within a tri-state radius, that's how amazing they are.  For a "small" show, Unwritten Law at the Grog Shop was my other favorite of the year. 

2) Books: You guys do know I'm a huge book nerd, right?  My Goodreads goal for the year was 75 books, and by the end of next week I'll have topped out around 65. A few books shy of my goal, yes, but I also do have a full time job and a bit of a social life, so I think 65 is pretty respectable. Anyway, so picking a favorite book of 2012 is not so easy, but if I HAD to choose, the Fault in our Stars by John Green is probably number one (duh. I've probably raved about it on this blog at least ten times over the year).  However, I read a TON of good books- but not all of them were published in 2012, so do they count?  I'm gonna say yes.  So, my other favorites from this year are:
  • The Graceling series by Kristin Cashore
  • The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  • Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
  • Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Yea, I could probably name about five more, but I'll just stop there...

3) Movies: Favorite movie of 2012 had to be The Hunger Games- no big surprise that my favorite movie of the year is based on a book, right?  It was the best book-to-movie adaptation I've ever seen.  Even though I'd read the books and knew what was going to happen I was still on the edge of my seat the entire movie. 

4) Travel: Good god, I traveled a lot this year.  Almost all of it was for work, but it still sort of counts, right?  Let's see, starting from the beginning of the year I went to Chicago, Toronto, Charlotte, and Spokane- those were all work-related.  And I've learned I'm still not a very good traveler.  I'm too nervous, too afraid of being late, too scared of getting trapped by security and I hate the takeoffs and landings.

Dan and I also got to head back down to the Outer Banks with my family this year after skipping it last year due to Dan's new job.  The ride down overnight was one of the worst drives I think we've ever experienced.  It just took for-ev-er due to a lot of crappy rain.  But the vacation itself was wonderful.  I came home happy, tan and relaxed.  And about five pounds heavier.

5) Memorable moments: Probably one of the saddest moments of the year came when I had to make the decision to put my sweet little ginger cat, Ollie, to sleep.  Even though he'd been sick on and off for several months, nothing really prepares you for a loss of that nature.  And I personally never had been through anything like that before.  He was my first "real" pet.  I still miss that little stinker- I probably always will.

But out of that sadness came the new love of my life, my crazy kitten Gus.  He hasn't replaced Ollie, just filled the hole he left behind.  And I thank my lucky stars every day that I found him.  He's the funniest, silliest, sweetest, and SMARTEST cat I have ever known.  He's also strong and healthy, with none of the issues Ollie suffered from.  I look forward to him being around for a long, long time, playing fetch and giving me paw and busting in on me in the bathroom for many days to come.

I think I'll end this here, on a good note. All that said, I'm looking forward to 2013 and all that it will bring.  More music, books, movies, trips, and memorable moments loom ahead.  Such is life.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tally

I realize November still has two more days til it's over, but as far as my little NaNo deadline of hitting 40,000 words by the end of the month goes, it was pretty much over last night.  Too much running around to do tonight (it IS Thursday afer all, and we all know that means TVD night) and tomorrow I'll be Christmas shopping all day long with my mom and then heading to dinner with my eastside girls in the evening, which means I won't get home til late and I will be physically and mentally exhausted.  Which means the next time I'll get to write will be Saturday or Sunday, and then it's already December.  Agh.

Anyway, yes, I know my original goal was 41,000 words, which meant I had to write 25,000 words, but somewhere along the way I changed it to an even 40k.  Just had a better ring to it.  Nevermind that I was cutting 1000 words.  Nevermind that at all.  Ahem.

Did I hit that goal?  Welllllll...ok, no.  No I did not. 

But I'm okay with that.  The reason being is my total is now just under 37,000 words, so in just a little over three weeks I wrote a good 20,000 words!  I mean, that's actually pretty amazing when you take into consideration that I was only writing about 3-4 days a week, for about an hour or two each time I sat down with my laptop.  And at 37,000 words, my story is now officially at least half over.  I'll be very happy if I end up with 70,000 words with this one.

Clearly, I work better under deadlines.  Even self-imposed ones.

So let's see, if I managed 20,000 words in about 3 weeks, I should be about to write 25,000 in 4 weeks.  That means if I stick with this pace, I should be done with the first draft by mid-January.  Since things are going to get a little crazy with the holidays coming up, my goal to finish the book for real will be February. 

For now, off to my readers it goes.  I'm dying for some feedback!!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Oh hey, how are you?  I know, it's been a couple weeks since I've been here.  Sorry.  I've been busy, you know, kicking some major ass on the WIP instead.

No, really! After I realized I'd need to write at least 1000 words every day in order to reach 40k by the end of November, it sort of kicked me in the head and got me going.  While I'm still not certain I'll be able to truly reach my goal, I can proudly say I'm giving it pretty much everything I've got.   I'm happy to report that I'm already close to 27,000 words, which means I've only got about 13,000 more to go in 12 days.  I'm pretty sure that means I've cranked out at least 10,000 words since I set this goal for myself. Yay, me.

Writing 1000 words takes me about an hour, give or take.  Now, some days I don't have an hour to crack open the laptop and write, and therein lies the dilemma.  So, I'm trying to write even more than 1000 words when I do have time to sit down and write.  It's actually been somewhat easy to do that.  I'm not sure if the way I'm writing this one is making it easier; I mentioned before that I'm not following a strict timeline, just writing snippets of certain times in the characters' lives and then going back to the present.  I think I might end up putting the snippets all together so it's a consecutive story, instead of all the back and forth stuff, but I'll first throw it out to my readers as is and see what they think.

So that's helping, but what's also helping is the fact that I just sort of love this story.  It's spooky, it's sappy, it's fun, and it's also sorta heartwarming.  What would you do to bring the love of your life back to you? 

I've also been considering looking into some freelance writing jobs.  I could use the extra cash, and I might as well get it by doing something I love.  I just have no idea where to begin looking or how to get started, so research will be involved.  Sigh.

Anyway, Black Friday for me will be spent not getting trampled in stores, but holed up in my house with my laptop on my couch.  I declare it Writing Day and I hope to bust out like 5000 words that day.  We shall see!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Up All Night

Cuz we're all right
We're up all night
To see the sun come up again now...

Dan and I went to see one of our favorite bands at the Grog Shop last night- Unwritten Law, and my ears are still ringing, eight hours later.  We actually danced our first dance at our wedding to one of their songs- a pretty, slowed-down piano version of "The Rest of My Life".  They did not play that song last night, but then, I wasn't really expecting them to.

The show reminded me of my old days of going to see bands play, sometimes a couple times a month.  I used to LOVE going to the old Grog Shop back in the days before it moved- even though the bathrooms there were thoroughly disgusting and the doll heads hanging from the ceiling always freaked me out.  There's just nothing like seeing a band you admire up close and personal in a small club.  And UL totally rocked it last night, regardless of the fact that I'm pretty certain they were all wa-hay-sted by the time they took the stage (which was around 9:30). 

Is it totally sad that I was almost weeping with joy when we found out they were playing 3rd and not 4th out of 4 bands?  The fact that I was SO HAPPY that I'd be home before one am on a school night might be just a little depressing.  But hey, I'm not 21 anymore.  I cannot stay up all night when I have to be at work at 7:30.  Just the way it is.  Meh.

I'll leave you with a few pretty lyrics from our wedding song, even though they did not play it last night.  It was still a great show.

I know, I'm so slow
But I'm tryin'
And I'm still dyin' to know
Say you won't leave for the rest of my life

(photo by Dan)

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo...uh oh

Ok, wait a's November already?  I blinked and October was over!  I think I say this every year, but 2012 seriously has been the fastest year EVER.  Geez.

Anyway, so it's November, and November means it's NaNoWriMo time!  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, kids.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th, and you can't cheat by using any of your previous work- it has to be a fresh, new novel.  Which means I can't enter using my current WIP, which is over 16,000 words now.  And it'd really be cheating, considering I've been working on it for several months now. 

Several months, and I'm only at 16k.  Ugh.  The progress I feel I've been making lately suddenly seems much, much less impressive.  Sad face.

Part of me wants to try NaNo one of these days.  50,000 words in 30 days?  Pssshh.  No big deal.


The main problem is every time November rolls around (ok, well, these past three years when I've been really trying to write something worthwhile) I'm engrossed in something I already started.  I don't think it would make much sense for me to stop working on the WIP, just to try to create some super crappy first draft of another book. 

That said, I WILL use November as a month to be super motivated about writing.  Maybe I can get 50,000 words down in the WIP- which would make it almost finished.  My goal is usually around 70k for a completed story. 

Ok though, let's be honest here.  50k ain't happening.  I just don't have it in me to write so quickly.  I will be a bit more realistic and set my goal at 25k.  That sounds much more reasonable.  So, by November 30th, I need to have a total of around 41,000 words written in the WIP.

I can totally do it.

To anyone out there participating in NaNoWriMo this month, good luck, and happy writing!! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

read it yourself

As everyone knows, I love to read.  I tend to read at least one book a week, and I wish I had time to fit in more than that.  But you know, I have to eat.  And drink wine with friends.

And as everyone also knows, I love to write.  Whether I'm actually any good at it or not, well, that's neither here nor there, really.  All I know is I have words in my head that have to get out, so I let them out. 

But you know what I don't love?  Trying to tell someone WHY I loved a particular book.  Like, writing a book review.  I've often thought that maybe I should start reviewing some of my favorite books on this here blog, but then I start trying to form words to describe why I loved Jellicoe Road or The Fault in our Stars or The Scorpio Races, and I come up with nada.  I stutter like a fool and end up babbling something like, "OMG it's just soooo good, you have to read it."

For instance, right now I'm reading an awesome book called Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  Last night, I was trying to explain to my husband what it was about as I downloaded the second book in the series from the library. I'm like 250 pages in (out of 300, so almost done) and here's what I came up with:

"It's about this girl, who has two different colored eyes and has a special talent or 'grace' of killing people, cuz all people with two different colored eyes have different talents like that, and there are seven kingdoms, and it's sorta Lords of the Rings-ish, and there's a bad king who controls people just by speaking, he can like, change their thoughts, and the girl and this boy, who is also graced with fighting and the king's power doesn't work on him, rescue the little princess and have to take her away from the bad king guy..."

And it just sort of pilfered out after that. 

See what I mean?  Now, I'm sure if I actually sat down and gathered my thoughts I could write something that made a bit more sense than that.  I just don't have the desire to.  Is it because I've taken in so much of the story that I hate letting it back out?  Hmm.  Possible.

Seriously, though, go read all those books I mentioned here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Feeling lucky

I know, I've been completely slacking on this whole blogging thing...and writing in general.  Still.  It's gotta turn around soon.  I gotta get my groove back at some point, right?  And now with the chill creeping into the air and the days getting shorter and shorter, I think there's no time like the present.  Last year at this time I was writing like a fiend, setting aside time at least two or three days a week to write.  I need to get back to that.  I will.

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment here to discuss how lovely the weekend was.  Me and about 15 of my closest friends- Ok, so really that's like ALL my friends- got together at the wineries out on the east side.  It was technically an early birthday celebration for me, but if any of you really know me, you know I basically use my birthday every year as an excuse to get all my peeps together in one place.  I could care less about celebrating the actual day of my birth.  I just want all my friends together.

And so, I'm feeling really happy, even three days later, that everyone made the effort to come out even if it was only for a couple hours.  Some of us moved on to another winery and stayed the night at a hotel, but not everyone was able to do that.  Which I completely understand.  But still, some of my peeps drove at least an hour to get there just to hang out.  That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and loved and stuff.

Of course, a lot of my friends also really, really enjoy wine.  ;o)

So a big shoutout to Karyn, who planned the whole event, which required a lot of phone calls and making of reservations and putting money on her credit card.  And then a shoutout to everyone who came: Kerri, Gail, Patti, Debbie, Barra, Kelly, Holly, Michele, Michelle, Nikki, Kristen, Colleen, Shea, Seester and Jenny.  I love you guys!!! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

another snippet

I'm not sure what my deal has been these past few weeks, but I've just completely lost my writing mojo.  Like, I haven't felt any urge to pick up my laptop and continue on with the WIP.  And that's weird in itself, because I'm really liking this WIP.  Meh. 

In any case, sometimes after I post snippets here my inspiration suddenly returns.  So let's hope that happens again, cuz I'd really like to get back into my writing routine.  I'd like to get back on track like last year, writing at least 2-3000 words per week until the first draft is done.  I have a long way to go, considering I'm only at around 11k right now.  Sigh.

Please enjoy this snippet and share your thoughts if you so desire.  Feedback helps!!  :o)

*   *   *   *   *

“Janie!  Oh my god, what are you doing?”

I stand up abruptly, dazed.  I’d been peering down into the well, trying to glimpse Connor’s note in its depths.  No matter how hard I squint and stare, I cannot see it; it has completely disappeared into the darkness.

Rina grabs me and yanks me away from the well.  She engulfs me in her arms, which feels strange.  Rina isn’t the touchy-feely type, and I am about six inches taller than her.  My chin rests on the top of her head, her silky black hair smelling of strawberries.

“You officially are scaring the crap out of me,” she says, choking a little.

“What?  Why?” I hear the words come out of my mouth, but it doesn’t feel like I’m the one saying them.  I sound distant, my voice not attached to me.

She pulls back and stares into my eyes.  “Janie, it seriously looked like you were about to throw yourself into the well.  You know.  Like Gabby did?”

I blink rapidly.  That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  I glimpse back at the well and wriggle out of her arms.  “I wasn’t going to do that,” I tell her.

Rina’s almond-shaped eyes narrow a little.  “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

I hesitate, feeling foolish.  Rina didn’t really believe the legends about Gabby’s ghost, either, and would undoubtedly make fun of me for throwing Connor’s note into the well.  “I just had to get out of the house.”

She cocks her head at me.  “And you came here.  Of all places.”

I look at the ground, slipping my foot into and out of my flip flop.  “Why not?”

“Because I know what this place means to you and Connor.”

I don’t answer.

Rina reaches over and takes my hand.  “Janie, you’ve gotta be strong for him right now.  What happened was-“

“What happened was my fault,” I interrupt, wrenching away.  I stride back over to the well and plop down on the edge of it, not caring if my shorts are being stained by the mushy green moss coating the rim.

“I was going to say an accident.  Like I’ve told you a hundred times, you didn’t make him get in that car that night.”

I snort.  “Yes, I did.”

“Oh, right.  You physically shoved him in and locked the door from the outside, right?  Is that what happened?  My mistake.”

“You know what I mean, Ree.”  I run my hand along the edge of my shorts.  “I-I didn’t believe him.  And it devastated him.”

Rina walks over and sits down next to me.  “You have to stop blaming yourself at some point.”

“I can’t.  Not until he’s okay.”

Rina lets out a breath.  She won’t look at me, because she knows as well as I do that he might not ever be okay again. “Have you seen him again?’

“Yesterday.  Only for a minute.  It was…terrible.”

She nods.  “I went today.  No change, by the way.”

I close my eyes.  The sun is shining right into my face and I’m beginning to get a headache from the glare. 

“They say we should talk to him.  That if he hears familiar voices it might help pull him back to us.”

“I can’t,” I whisper, picturing my strong, handsome Connor weak and pale, hooked up to all those machines.

“He needs you, Janie.”

“I’m the last thing he needs.”

“He loves you,” Rina says simply.

I shake my head, my hair falling around my face like a curtain.

Rina sighs. “I hope you change your mind.  Because I, for one, truly think that if he hears your voice, knows that you’re back and that you believe him, that’ll be the key he needs to wake up.  Call me crazy.”  She stands, wiping off the back of her shorts and grimacing when she feels the dampness the moss left.  “You guys have something special, you know?  It’s not a normal kind of love.”  With that, she heads back into the woods and leaves me to my thoughts.

Not a normal kind of love.  For so long, I’d believed that about us.  What we’d had together wasn’t just silly teenage lust.  Connor and I had almost a sort of telepathy between us.  I could feel what he was thinking most of the time, and vice versa.  We could speak to each other with just a glance.  When we were apart I could still feel his presence somewhere, like a magnet pulling me in his direction.  He was the air I breathed, and without him, I am slowly drowning.

I gaze back down into the blackness of the well to find it is no longer completely darkened.  A mist is swirling up, reminding me of a fog rolling in over the hills.  I blink, certain I am seeing things, but it keeps rising and rising until I stumble backwards, watching it churn into the air.

And then, suddenly, the mist is sucked back down, like the well itself opened up its mouth and took a deep breath in, inhaling it completely.

I shake my head, squeezing my eyes shut.  Clearly, I’m hallucinating.  I try to think when the last time I ate something was and I find I can’t remember.  Yesterday?  Two days ago?  Time is passing by so quickly that all my days blur together into one big mass of colors, looking like a photo taken from a moving car.  I open my eyes and decide to go home.  There is nothing else I can do here, and my stomach feels queasy now.  Whether that’s because it’s empty or I because I feel ridiculous for throwing Connor’s note into the well, losing it forever, I cannot say.

I am about to cross into the woods when I hear it.  It could be the breeze, which has picked up again, or it may just be my imagination.  But I swear I hear a voice calling to me from across the Patterson fields.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

striking similarities

When we first decided we were going to get a kitten, all I knew is that I wanted another male ginger cat.  I just love the temperament of the gingers, and we had to get another boy for Stew.  Less conflict, I figured.  I wasn't looking for another Ollie, I really wasn't.  Ollie was one of a kind and I knew I'd never find another cat like him.  Nor did I want to.  I wanted a fresh start, something new to share my heart with.

When we found Gus, I knew it was meant to be.  I'd almost given up on finding a male ginger- at that point I just wanted a kitten.  But there he was, just waiting at the shelter for me. 

Gus is almost six months old now and probably weighs about five pounds, which was how much Ollie weighed before he passed away.  But Gus is still very kitten-ish.  He's gotten a lot bigger, but he still has the little kitten head and hasn't fully grown into his ridiculously long tail yet. 

As he's gotten older, I'm not gonna lie- there are moments I feel like I'm looking at Ollie.  I never wanted to compare the two, but I guess it can't really be helped.  He's a snuggler just like Ollie was, always curled up next to me in bed at night.  He likes his wet food warmed up like Ollie did.  He's starting to beg for people food like crazy- just like Ollie always did (although I have NOT given in to him- no more of that!).

And then there are the physical aspects.  Rather than try to describe them, let me share some pics:

  Ollie, snuggling on his favorite blanket

Gus, snuggling on Ollie's favorite blanket
Ollie loaf of bread-style, his favorite way to sit

  Gus loaf of bread style...just started doing this

 Ollie cashed out
 Gus cashed out

I mean...I's almost creepy, isn't it??
Whether Gus actually has part of Ollie's "soul" or whatever...well, it doesn't really matter.  He definitely has a piece of my heart.  I love that little stinker, death breath and all.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

bangs, day 181

I've officially been growing out my bangs for almost 6 full months now.  The yuck ends have been trimmed off a couple times, but basically, they've just been growing.  Slowly.

I decided I might as well post this now, because the growing phase is going to come to an end within the next few weeks.  That's right, now that summer is on its way out, I'm going to be cutting them again.  I liked having bangs.  Real bangs, that is.  I'll also be saying goodbye to the blonde.  Time to darken it up and then go red once my tan fades into oblivion.  Sigh.

Fall, I'm ready for you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

current music obsession

So, these past few years I've found myself getting totally wrapped up in one specific band for a certain length of time.  Like, once I discover them I can listen to nothing else for weeks on end.  These are bands that usually have been around for a while, but I'm only just getting into them for whatever reason.  A few years ago it was Muse (who I still love, but their song for the Olympics was pffffft.  Their new album comes out next month and I'm a little nervous, not gonna lie. Give me Absolution anyday).  More recently, The Airborne Toxic Event's three albums didn't leave my CD player in my car for several months.  If you ever get a chance to see that band live, DO IT.  They are amazeballs.

This past month I've been completely obsessed with The Gaslight Anthem.  I've always liked them- whenever their songs came on XM I'd bop away to them- but after hearing nothing but good things about their new album I finally decided to pick it up.  And now I can't. stop. listening.

I love the way they sound like a punk band, but with some old school, straight up rock-n-roll influences, like Tom Petty mixed with Social Distortion.  They're also compared to Springsteen a LOT, who I never really got into (being a youngster when he was popular, I was more into Wham and Cyndi Lauper back then), probably because lead singer Brian Fallon has a gruff, scratchy voice a la Springsteen.  And they're from Jersey.  But I love the way they paint pictures in my mind with their lyrics- pictures of "simpler" times, full of Cadillacs and white t-shirts and drive-in movies. 

But their songs are also full of heartache, too- lyrics from the chorus of the song "Great Expectations" on their second album hit me right in the sweet spot:

I saw tail lights last night
And I dreamed about my old life
Everybody leaves
So why wouldn't you?

This is their new single and I can't get enough of it.  I dare you not to tap your toes to this song.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Today's blog post is not going to have any one central theme.  Mainly because the ol' noggin is swirling around with thoughts right now and I can't focus on any one of them long enough to come up with a coherent, continuous thought.  So here are some of the things I need to just get out of my system. 

1) I'm on a roll with my current WIP.  I officially surpassed 10,000 words last week, and I haven't even really focused on writing it consistently for any length of time so that's sort of crazy.  This one is a lot different from the other two in that I'm basically writing snippets of it as I think of them - it's not following any specific timeline at the moment.  I mean, it is and it isn't.  And I know that doesn't make sense, really, but it is what it is.  And the story is either going to work out the way it's going, or I'll have to go back and put everything in order.  I'm not worried about that right now though.  It just feels good to get words down as they come.

2) Speaking of WIPs, I've been feeling very mehhhh about my last one.  I'm not sure if that's because the new one is going so well, or because I just have been away from it for SO long now, or if I'm just having doubts about it overall.  Third time's a charm, right?  Maybe?  Regardless, I do know with each story my writing has improved.  And that's something I'm proud of.

3) I hate being an adult.  I really, really do.  Right now I'm looking into refinancing our current mortgage, and researching all these banks and rates is mind-numbingly dull to me.  It really needs to get done (see previous post about how broke I am- saving any money monthly would help my situation out greatly), but this is one of those times I wish someone else would just take over and do it all FOR me.  Just tell me what to do.  Better yet, go ahead and set it all up for me and let me know what the outcome is.  Kthx.

4) My sweet gramma has been in the hospital going on a week now, and I'm really worried about her.  It's nothing life-threatening- just some really horrible back pain she's been dealing with a few months- but seeing her usual very active self lying in a bed, all pale and in pain is horrible. I used to meet her for lunch every single Wednesday, and we haven't done that since May because she's been lying low, scared to even get in her car and drive somewhere because of the pain.  I'm making an effort to go visit with her at least once a week.  If nothing else, just to break up her day for awhile and try to make her smile, to feel some sort of normalcy again.

5) My third anniversary with Dan is coming up in about a month already.  Three freaking years.  It feels like just yesterday that I was going for my final dress fitting and tying tiny bow after endless tiny bow on favor boxes.  And then this Halloween will be our ninth year together, which is also crazy.  But I can't imagine my life without him- it's hard for me to even remember my life before him at this point. 

6) My little baby kitten, Gus, is getting so big already!  He's just about six months old now, if I believe the date the shelter said he was born (March 23).  He's the best thing that has happened to us this year, even though at times he does remind us eerily of Ollie.  He's got some of Ollie's mannerisms and the same rattely ol' purr.  But instead of sleeping on my legs at night, Gus LOVES to be right by my head.  Sometimes he even sleeps ON my head- well, on my pillow, curled up near the top of my head.  He has helped my heart heal when I was positive it would be broken for a long, long time.

7) Speaking of cats, I was also hollered at by my ENT about having them because of my severe allergies.  Doooops.  It's just ridiculous how bad my allergies have gotten over the past few years- I swear I never had them this bad in my twenties or teens.  They're so bad that I'll be starting weekly allergy shots - that's right, WEEKLY - for six months to a year to try to control them.  I suppose if I can actually feel healthy and normal again it'll be worth it.  I'm pretty sure I don't know what it's like to be able to breathe well on a regular basis at this point.

All right, I think I've babbled on long enough. 

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

shopaholic gets a reality check

You ever have one of those days where you just can't stop worrying about things?  One thought leads to another thought to another thought until a mild panic sets in and your chest begins to constrict and you can't breath and you need to lie down and you wonder how you're ever going to pick yourself up? 

Or is that just me?

Yesterday was one of those days when the reality of my financial situation slapped me across the face, hard.  Leaving a full handprint.

I love to shop.  Love, love, love it.  I'm not one to go out and spend $1,000 on a pair of shoes or a purse, don't get me wrong.  But I love a good deal, and I'm a huge impulse shopper.  If I go to the store to pick up one thing- say, a gift for someone- I will inevitably come home with at least five other things I had no intention of buying.

This has become a problem.  A problem I can no longer deny.  I am beginning to feel like I will never, ever get ahead. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I pay all my bills on time, and I pay more than just the minimum payments too.  My credit is still very good.  But lately it feels like everything is adding up and up and UP and by the time I'm done paying everything I have nothing left to you know, have a social life with. 

I know this is all my fault, I completely own it.  And I've come to the realization that I have to start changing my ways.  No more spending $300 at Kohl's just because I have a 30% off coupon and oh-my-god-look-how-much-stuff-I-was-able-to-get-for-just-$300!!!  I have a closet full of nice clothes, and I have friends who I'm pretty sure will not judge me if they see me wearing the same thing out twice.  There is nothing I NEED right now, besides my sanity back.

Granted, I have come to this very realization at least 3-5 times before.  And well, clearly I haven't been able to change.  As soon as that damn 30% off coupon arrives in the mail, I'm off to Kohl's to buy, well, SOMETHING.  Cuz you can't let 30% off go to waste!!  AMIRITE??

But this time, I'm really hoping to stay strong.  I'm hoping to just flat out avoid going to stores as much as possible until things get a bit more under control- or well, at least until the holidays...

Ugh.  Give me strength.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back at it- new snippet!

So it's already August...which means summer is officially starting to come to a close.  I have to say, I'm ready for the cooler air and pretty colors that come along with September and October.  What comes after those months- not so much. 

I'm also looking forward to summer winding down because all the crazy activities that have been keeping me so busy and away from writing also begin to wind down!  I can't remember the last time I've been able to sit down on a weekday night, or even a Sunday and write for a few hours.  I know, I know, it's all about MAKING time for it...maybe I've felt a bit like I need a break or something since finishing the revisions on the last one.  I haven't even looked at or thought about that story since I sent it off to my readers.  And that's been somewhat freeing, actually.

However, I actually did start a new story about a month or so ago, which I think I've mentioned before.  I have just over 6500 words written- about 15 pages. I'm hoping perhaps a little feedback will spark my creativity and get me motivated to continue on with this one.  So, without further ado- here's a snippet from the first three pages of my current WIP.  Please remember this is a first draft, so any typos and icky sounding stuff will get cleared up later. 

Thoughts, comments, questions welcome!

* * * * *

The breeze whispers secrets to me as I emerge from the woods and into the fields of the old Patterson farm.  The wishing well looms about a hundred feet away, camouflaged in the tall, yellow grass scratching at my bare legs.  I pause, clutching the paper in my hand so hard it crinkles and almost tears beneath my well-bitten fingernails.  A sharp wind dances across the field, lifting my dark hair off my neck and momentarily cooling me from the hot summer sun.   I stand motionless, listening, and hear nothing but the sound of my own blood ringing in my ears.

No one knows how long the wishing well has been here.  Weeds grow as tall as its crumbly walls that are slick with soft, green mold.  Darkness swallows the inside halfway down, making it impossible to see what lay in its depths.  As children, we imagined countless coins, a veritable treasure, all coated with grime and algae, each one representing a well-thought out wish.  And supposedly, along with the coins, the spirit of Gabrielle King rests, forever drifting amidst the cool stone walls.

Gabby plunged to her death by falling headfirst into the well fifty years earlier, although it is said she actually died of a broken heart.  When her romance with her first love ended abruptly, Gabby was so distraught she visited the well with the intent to cast her in her coin and beg for him to return to her.  No one really knows if she fell in on purpose or not, but her body was finally dredged up out of the well about a month after her disappearance.  A rumor spread in the years following her death:  Gabby became the keeper of all wishes; it was up to her whether or not they were granted.  Gifts other than coins began getting thrown into the well; flowers, letters, jewelry- all tossed in with the hope that Gabby would be persuaded to grant the gift-givers’ desires.

People claim to see Gabby pacing in the fields near the well, sobbing quietly into her hands.  Even when you can’t see her, it’s said if you listen close enough  you can hear her desperate cries floating up from the bottomless well.  It’s a sound of pure, aching sadness, the pain of a heart shattering like a crystal vase thrown violently to the ground.
And I’d never believed any of it.

A memory overcomes me as I stare at the well, and pain slices through my heart with icy talons so quickly I almost drop to my knees.  I take a few deep breaths as it all comes flooding back to me.
It was my junior year, the autumn before last, the air cool and crisp and ripe with the smell of burning leaves.  Parties in the Patterson fields were common that year, starting up as soon as the school year did. I leaned against the well beside Connor, urging him to go talk to Amanda Kappler, the girl he claimed to have a crush on the entire summer and who didn’t know he existed.  She was several yards away with a group of girls, standing as close to the bonfire as they could without getting burned, holding their hands out to it to warm them from the chilly night.

“I can’t, Janie.  She’ll just laugh at me,” he insisted.
“Come on, don’t say that.  You’re a total catch,” I told him, smiling into his chocolate brown eyes.

He threw his head back and looked up at the sky.  “I’m not like you.  I can’t just go up to people and pledge my undying love to them.”
"When have I ever done that?”

“Well, let’s see.  There was Jack Rubinsky.  Adam Francis.  Colin Peck-”
"All right, all right.  God, you’re making me sound like a whore.”

Connor looked at me then and grinned, and I remember thinking at that moment his smile was the most beautiful thing in the world.  It light up the dark night like a meteor shower, sparkling stars falling all around me.  “You’re not a whore.  Just someone who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.  Or him, as the case may be.”
"Ok, whatever.  You want Amanda?”

He bit his lip and nodded, but looked uncertain for some reason.
“Then this is what you do.” I scooted closer to him and nuzzled my nose into his neck, inhaling his fresh, soapy scent.  I felt him stiffen beside me.  “You go up to her like this,” I murmured, placing one hand on his cheek and turning his face to mine.  “And give her a kiss she’ll never forget.”  I touched my lips gently to his, pulling back to look him in his shock-filled eyes.  I’d only ever kissed him on the cheek, and felt a small jolt run down my spine as his lips lingered briefly on mine.  At first, I thought it was from just the chill in the air.  “You do that, and she’ll melt in your arms,” I breathed, our noses almost touching.

I hadn’t been expecting him to grab me, to twine his fingers in my hair and tug me back to him, his mouth moving over mine with a passion I didn’t know he possessed.  We sat there against the well, the stone wall cold on our backs, kissing, touching; practically consuming each other, while the party behind us raged on.
Connor and I had been friends, best friends, for over a year at that point and in that time not once had either of us made a move towards the other.  I was always dating someone and breaking up with them, and Connor was always my shoulder to cry on when it ended.  As it turned out, it was me he’d wanted all along, not Amanda, not anyone else.  All it had taken was that simple kiss to give him the courage to express how he really felt about me.  And it was as simple as breathing from that kiss on to just be with him.  I’d fallen in love with him at that precise moment, encircled by his arms, leaning against the wishing well.  But I think I’d already loved him since the day we met.

And now it looms before me, dusty and lonely in the vast field of the long-forgotten Patterson apple farm.  I can see offerings to Gabby scattered around the well’s base, sunlight glinting off the trinkets and papers.  This is where it all began for us.  It only seems appropriate that this should be where another new beginning can take place, too. 
Because right now, in a hospital bed several miles away, Connor is fighting for his life.  And it is all my fault.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Memory Lane

You know how getting into a super hot bath or shower almost hurts at first, and you have sort of eeeeease your way in, one toe at a time?  But then once you're in, it's soothing and relaxing and just generally feels GOOD?  That's how I feel the way my life has turned out.

The other night while frantically searching for my new camera's charger (we're leaving for vacation in two days and you can't possibly go on vacation without a camera, amirite??) I stumbled across an old journal from junior high and high school.  If I have one word to describe my teen years, it is CONFUSED.  Oy.  I got completely sucked in to reading this thing, and hooo, let me tell ya.  That was some good reading.  I was alternating between laughing and cringing at myself for a good half hour.  The junior high entries were less, shall I say, melodramatic, than the high school entries, but the common theme of confusion was woven throughout every page.  I was confused about who I was, who I wanted to be, my relationships with my friends (not to mention any boy who might've crossed my path and shown any sort of interest in me whatsoever), my future and what I wanted from it...the list goes on and on.

I realize now that it really took me well into my twenties to just relax and be comfortable with who I am.  I think I let the hot water sting me for way too long, but as I get old I no longer felt the need to impress people and change myself to conform and fit in.  I am who I am, take it or leave it.  And judging by the amazing friendships I have these days, there are several people out there who choose to take it.  Including my sweet husband, who doesn't judge my sometimes dorky behavior but actually seems to love me for it.

This is not to say that I don't still display cringeworthy behavior from time to time.  But now I'm much more able to laugh at myself and move on, rather than dwell for days, weeks, or even months on something.  I just sink into that soothing hot water until only my face is left peering out, take a deep breath, and remember to be thankful for all I have.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Healing Process

The last post I wrote about Ollie started with something like "It's hard to believe we've gone a full week Ollie-free".  Well, now almost a full month has gone by.  Sometimes I still think I hear his collar jangling as he's coming down the stairs, or I think I catch a glimpse of him sprawled out in front of the sliding glass door as he basks in the sunbeams.  But for the most part, I have accepted that he's gone and that I'm always going to miss him.  Always.

That being said, I've been somewhat antsy to get over my sadness.  There's just been this weird void hanging over me, like something is missing.  And so the obsessive searching for an orange kitten began.  On Monday, I checked out a few more websites for area shelters, since we still haven't heard back from the one where we put our names on a waiting list for a kitten a couple weeks ago.  Fate clearly stepped in when I stumbled across this little guy's pic on the Parma Animal Shelter's website:

His name was Nemo.

And. I. Had. To. Have. Him!!!!

As soon I got home from work, I called the shelter to see if he was still available.  After a few moments of someone shuffling around papers as my heart thumped frantically in my chest, the lady came back and said yes, he was available but they'd have to contact his foster mom first.  She told me the foster mom would call me back and let me know when I could meet him.

Oh well, so a little more waiting wouldn't kill me.  At least he hadn't been adopted yet.  Then the doubts started setting in...what if he HAD been adopted and their files hadn't been updated?  Five minutes and many worried thoughts later, my phone rang. 

It was the shelter again, calling to tell me that Nemo was actually at the shelter, and I could come see him anytime.


I called Dan and told him the good news.  He had some running around to do and wouldn't be home in time to get to the shelter with me, so I said we could just go on Tuesday.  But then he said, but what if someone else snatches him up tonight? 


So I ran out the door, jumped into my car, and was at the shelter about 5 seconds later.  Or at least that's what it felt like.

I spotted Nemo immediately, dozing in a little kitty hammock in his cage.  He didn't even budge when I poked my finger in and stroked his fuzzy cheek- dude was OUT.

(My computer is not allowing me to flip that pic around...sorry)

Anyway, so one of the shelter workers came up to me and asked if I was interested in Nemo, and I said yes, absolutely.  So she lifted him out of his comfy spot and took us back to a caged in area so we could get acquainted.  He was very groggy at first and just lay there in my lap, letting me pet him. 

Then a ping pong ball caught his eye.

And then the tube on the floor for him to run through did.

And then the ribbons dangling from the wall did.

And then the ping pong ball did again.

He zipped back and forth through the tiny room, chasing evvvverything.  But when I held my hand out, he'd come right to me for head bumpies, sometimes even flopping on the ground for belly rubs.

Needless to say, I was in L-O-V-E.  Big time.

I signed the paperwork and paid the adoption fee, but unfortunately he is still due for one more shot on Friday.  So I couldn't take him home with me that night.  It was so hard to leave him there!  But he'll be coming home tomorrow, and really, that works out for the best.  I'll have time to go home and get his "room" all ready for him, and then we'll have the whole weekend to get him acquainted with Stew and the house and us. 

Oh yea, and his name has been changed to Gus.  Augustus Oliver Nativio, named for my favorite character in one of my favorite books by John Green, and of course, my Ollie.

Welcome to the family, Gus!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Miss Independent

Now you all have that Kelly Clarkson song in your head.  Sssssssorry.

Anyway, this weekend the husband is out of town on his annual road trip to Indiana to visit a college friend.  It's one of the rare occasions when we're away from each other for more than a night, so I have a few days to myself at home.  Of course I have plans made- happy hour tonight with Barra, and cousin/pedis/shopping/couch/wine/snacks time tomorrow with Cleen- but for the most part I'm on my own.

And I'm actually like, really, really looking forward to it.

This is nothing against my husband, not at all.  I love spending time with him and having him around, of course.  I miss him when he's not there, making me laugh at night before we go to sleep and stuff.  I'll be very happy when he gets home safely on Sunday afternoon.

But it's weird to me how much I've changed over the past several years.  God, I used to completely panic at the thought of being alone.  It was strange, because I have always considered myself fairly independent.  Except about calling to order pizza, I hate doing that.  There was a strange period of time in my mid-to-late twenties though when I couldn't bear the thought of just sitting around the house by myself, especially on a Friday or Saturday night.  I always had to have some sort of plans or schedule.  Always.  It's almost painful and embarrassing to think back about those times.

But the thought of an evening in, just enjoying the quiet and my dumb TV shows and perhaps writing or reading a bit is like the best thing ever.  Does this mean I'm old?  Probably.  But regardless, no longer do I panic over the thought of chilling out by myself with no one to talk to but the cat.  I love it.  I totally look forward to my "Joanna" time and cherish those rare moments when I can just sit and be me, all by myself.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bangs, Day 104

Lookee who's bangs are now officially long enough to clip back without having to hairspray them to death!


Of course, now I'm getting the itch to cut them again...

Monday, June 11, 2012

A week later

It's hard to believe that we've already gone a full week Ollie-free.  I'm doing better, truly I am- most of the time.  I think I'm almost surprised about how well I'm doing, to be honest.  I remember telling Dan a few years ago that when Ollie goes he's going to have to commit me- I'm going to be that big of a mess.  And for the first couple days, I was.  I couldn't even think about him without tearing up.  Now I just feel...sort of empty, I guess.

But time really does heal.  I can now talk about him without getting misty; now it just feels like part of my heart is getting tugged on.  Our other cat, Stewie, seems to be clingier than he ever was before though.  I'm afraid he's lonely without Ollie around for him to bully.  It's not like they were ever the best of friends, but Stew had Ollie around his whole life.  So I just wonder if he misses him, too.

Saturday, Dan and I were out running around, just keeping busy like we have been.  On a whim, we decided to go to the local animal shelter just to take a little look-see at what they had.  Well, the shelter closest to us was closed.  So we went to one the next town over.  It was closed, too.  It almost seemed like someone was trying to tell us something, like hey guys, isn't it a little soon to get another cat?  Regardless, we went to one more shelter about 20 minutes away.  They were open. 

It was a very nice facility, with some cats roaming freely, some sitting outside on a screened-in porch, soaking up the sun.  Others were in cages as per usual.  Right off the bat I asked if they had any ginger cats and they led us to a cage with this ginormous, beautiful 3 year-old orange tabby.  He was such a sweetie, already declawed and ready to go. 

And I felt like the hugest jerk when I said, um, do you have any kittens?

It's not that I wouldn't have wanted that orange guy under different circumstances.  It's just that Stew can be on the territorial side, and he's also a huge sissy, and I'm just scared if we bring in a cat bigger than him (a feat difficult to achieve, I assure you) there's not a chance in hell they'd get along. 

Luckily for us, there are currently about 30 kittens in foster care.  They are almost of age to be adopted.  We put our names on the list for one- I was even allowed to request an orange one.

I don't think a new cat will replace Ollie, certainly not.  But there's so much love in my heart that I'm dying to share.  I think a part of me always knew I would get another cat, even though I'm still a little bit torn over the idea.  Ollie was MY cat, through and through.  I can't think of one instance when I was home and he wasn't somewhere near me or ON me, or at least greeting me at the door when I walked in.  At first I was afraid that no other cat could possibly compare to him, but now I'm realizing that's ok.  It'll be different, but a good different.  A new beginning.

Hopefully Stew will agree.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My hurts...

The summer of 2002 was a time of change.  I'd finally moved out on my own into a townhouse with two roommates.  Before then, my life had been a pretty big mess.  I'd gone through a heartwrenching breakup and was so, so ready for a change in scenery.  So that's exactly what I got when I moved a good 50 miles south and west from my hometown.

I'd wanted a cat my entire life.  I was the kid who used to bring home strays and try to convince my allergy-ridden father that we HAD to keep them.  We never did, obviously.  So when I moved into my own place, I was happy that my roommates were agreeable about getting a pet.  Fate stepped in one day when visiting a friend- to his surprise, his cat had just had a kitten.  That's right, A kitten.  Just one.  When I laid eyes on this tiny, light orange kitten who more resembled a baby squirrel, it was love at first sight.  About a month later, he was mine, and we named him Oliver, but mostly called him Ollie unless he was being bad (which was often).  Over the years he acquired so many other names - Ols, Senor Pantalones, Ollers, Mr. Pants, Tiny Pants, and so on.

He was a holy effing terror for a good year and a half.  He got into evvvverything.  He would climb the screen doors and was constantly jumping on the kitchen counter looking for crumbs.  He would attack at any given moment- forget jiggling your leg or dangling your hand over an armrest.  Everything was a toy worth gnawing on to him.

He didn't really mellow out until my now-husband moved in and we brought home Stewie, a tiny, bright orange and white furball.  Suddenly he had a friend to terrorize.  None of his other bad habits stopped, like the jumping on the counter thing, but he at least calmed down quite a bit and stopped attacking us.  He actually turned into a gentle, sweet, snuggly little lap cat.

At his largest, Ollie weighed around 8 pounds.  As he grew older, so did his medical conditions.  He was diagnosed with IBD and was constantly having accidents around the house.  I knew he couldn't help it but that didn't make it any easier when I had to clean up the stinky messes.  He lost weight, gained it back, lost it again, until he finally seemed to settle in at around 5-6 pounds.  We tried everything to control his problems- he was on a special diet, a probiotic, an antibiotic, a steriod, and monthly B-12 shots.  I know that we prolonged his life by keeping him on this routine for so long.

Last week, about a month away from his tenth birthday, I could tell Ollie was starting to give up his fight.  He couldn't keep any food down, finally losing his appetite completely over the weekend.  He did nothing but sleep or lay in his little loaf-of-bread pose.  I had to physically carry him to the bathroom faucet to drink and tried giving him all his favorite foods- chicken, tuna, turkey- and he'd take a bite or two and walk away. All he really wanted to do was snuggle, so I kept him by my side as much as I possibly could.

Yesterday afternoon the vet called with the bad news.  There was a mass of some sort causing his organs to shift and stretch out.  He wasn't sure if it was a tumor or enlarged liver, but either way it wasn't good.  We could do an ultrasound to find out what it was for sure, but the end result was not going to change.  Ollie was too frail and sickly to go through any sort of treatments.  It was time to let him go.

We got to visit with him for a while before the procedure, and when the vet tech brought him in the room it was the first time I'd heard him purr in days.  It broke my heart into a million pieces, but at the same time he knew he was loved.  I stayed with him until he went to sleep forever, letting him snuggle in my lap just like he always did.

The house seems so, so strange without him there.  I'll miss him following me around, seeing him basking in the sunbeams on the kitchen counter in the morning and the sliding glass door in the evening.  I'll miss the light weight of him curled up on my legs at night.  I'll miss the sound of his rattley purr when he'd nuzzle his blanket, still so much like a kitten.  I'll miss him trying to snuggle in on my lap, even though it's blocked by my lap top.  I'll even miss yelling at him to get down from the counter and to get out of the garbage.

You were one in a million, Ollie.  You'll be in my heart forever.

Friday, June 1, 2012

small dreams

Geez, I've been meaning to write a blog post all week!  Somehow it just hasn't happened...whoops.

Well, since I've last posted I have officially finished my first round of revisions on Restless.  It will be in the hands of all my readers after this weekend....eeeeek!  It's always a little scary to get those notes back and hear what they think.  Not that anyone has ever been negative, but still.  When you spend so much of your life working on something, put so much of yourself into it, it can make the anticipation of getting feedback almost take your breath away. 

So, while they read I plan to keep busy, and the good thing is that the WIP is out of control.  Meaning, I'm writing like a fiend.  It's already over 5,100 words!  I have a good idea how this one is going to turn out, too.  I'm not a plotter by any stretch of the imagination, but I already know that if the way I'm writing it right now doesn't work out, I'll be able to somewhat easily manipulate it so it does make sense.  And none of this is probably making any sense at all because only a couple people have laid eyes on it so far...

Anyway, so I've been thinking a lot lately about how my life has really turned out so much differently from how I ever thought it would when I was a child.  Once upon a time, I was POSITIVE I would end up living in New York, dancing or acting.  Unfortunately, bad feet ultimately kept me from dancing- by my senior year of high school I knew it wasn't in the cards.  I always loved acting, too, but I also sort of fell out of that early on, except for a brief stint in summer community theater when I was 26, playing Bebe in A Chorus Line. 

So now, I'm keeping my dreams on the smaller side.  Writing is something I can easily do in my free time, it's something I feel like I'm getting better and better at the more I do it.  The key is being inspired by good books, I think, and that feeling I get when someone reads a passage I've written and tells me how much they've enjoyed it.  There's no better feeling than that.  Who knows if I'll ever end up published, but one thing is for sure- I'll never stop writing and sharing.  Never.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

teaser part deux

I worked on revisions for a few hours on Sunday, and I'm happy to say that I am finally ALMOST DONE.  Yes, I am declaring that in SHOUTY CAPS.  LESS THAN FIFTY PAGES TO GO, HOOOOOORAY!

Of course, this is just the first round...I'll be interested to see what my readers think needs changed/added/removed, too.  I feel like I'm forgetting to add some stuff or something.  So feedback will be very, very necessary.

Anyway, to celebrate the fact that the first round of revisions is finally ALMOST DONE, I thought I would post another lil' tease for your reading enjoyment.  At least, I hope you enjoy it... 

A little set up: This scene happens right after Ella gets somewhat attacked by bad guy Max.  She and Riley are back at his house, trying to relax after a crazy night.  Riley slips into a flashback, which he often does around Ella, and then Anna's ghost shows up for a moment.  So yea, so much for relaxing. Oh, and it's from Riley's perspective this time- the story flip flops from Ella's to his throughout the story (I think I've mentioned that before). This is rated PG-13, kids, by the way.

Ella smiled at me.  “That’s such a pretty song.  The Beatles, right?”

“Yes.  My mother used to sing it to me.  Of course, it’s been said that it’s actually about an affair John Lennon was having, so probably not really too appropriate to sing to a child.  But my mother never really cared about being appropriate.”

“Tell me about your mom.  Is she beautiful?”

I pictured my mother, with her flowing, wavy, auburn hair and dark blue eyes, just like mine.  “Yes.  She’s very beautiful.  But she’s more than that.  To hear her sing...” I hesitated, trying to decide how to best describe my mother’s singing. “She sings like…like the world is about to end and her voice can save it.”

Ella cocked her head slightly to the side.  “I would love to hear her sometime.  I bet the two of you sound absolutely amazing together.”

I shrugged, setting down my guitar.  “Well, I wouldn’t know.  The last time I sang with her I was twelve, and my voice hadn’t changed yet.  It was pretty terrible, actually.”

Ella reached out for me, beckoning me to her.  “Someday we’ll go find her on the road.  Together.  And then you can join her band and I can be the groupie and we never have to come back to stupid Valley Springs.”

I eased down across from her on the bed, sliding my arms around her inside the comforter.  As though we were in a cocoon, she immediately snuggled in to me, sitting on my lap facing me, her legs wrapped around my waist.  That shimmering feeling began to work its way through my body as it always did when she was so near.  She hugged me close, so close, and we fit together as though we were making a mold, her heart pounding fiercely against my own.  “That sounds like a nice plan,” I said, nuzzling my lips against her ear. 

“Riley,” she whispered, shivering, her mouth on my neck.  “I-“

I didn’t hear her finish.

Her skin is warm against mine, her hair tickling my cheek as she lay quietly next to me, her head on my shoulder. I stroke the inside of her wrist with my thumb, marveling at how smooth her flesh is there, her pulse beating erratically.  She is trembling and I pull her even closer, pressing my lips against her temple.

“What is the matter, Anna?”

She is silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts.  “I just wish we could stay like this forever.  I wish this were our reality.”

We are in the storage room under the barn, lying amongst the sacks of flour, a rough blanket over us.  There is a chill in the air but I do not take notice of it; we have each other for warmth.  A lantern is dimly lit on a shelf, making shadows dance on the walls.  I am mesmerized by them until Anna speaks again, reminding me we cannot stay here much longer.

I pull her on top of me, my hands running down her back.  Her dark hair cascades around us like a waterfall.  “I am not ready to let you go yet,” I murmur, kissing her on each cheek.

“I do not want to go, my sweet Charlie.  But my absence will be noticed soon.”

“Soon, but not quite yet,” I say, my kisses trailing slowly to her neck, up behind her ear and back again.  “I love you so, Anna.”

“I love you so much I cannot bear it,” she replies, taking my face in her hands.  Her eyes search mine desperately, as if I hold the answers, as if there were something I could do to allow us more than just a few stolen moments like this.  My heart hurts and I cling to her, wrapping my arms tightly around her, even though we are already as close as we can possibly be.

Suddenly, there are footsteps above; heavy, thudding, angry steps. 

“Anna!  Where are you, girl?”

We both freeze, afraid to breathe, even though the trap door is sealed tightly above us.  No one could possibly know we are here.

The voice above curses and Anna lets out a tiny cry, clamping her hand over her mouth.  It is him.  We know that voice anywhere.

“I swear I saw her come this way, sir.”

“Was she with Watson?”

“No, sir.  She was alone. Perhaps she only stopped in to check on her horse.”

The voice cursed again.  “Well, she is not here now, is she?  Find her!  And do not return until you do so.”

Anna and I remain frozen until the footsteps disappear and we are certain he is gone.  Silently, she begins to untangle herself from me and reaches for her blue dress, crumpled in a heap next to her and-

“Riley!  Let go of me!  Riley!”

 My eyes focused slowly on Ella’s face, struggling to come back to the present tense.  Her features swam in and out of focus as I blinked hard, swirling from her face to Anna’s and back.

“Ease up, Riley.  You’re crushing all the air from my lungs,” she gasps, wriggling to get out of my grasp.

Realizing my arms were locked around her waist, gripping her tightly, I quickly let go and scooted backwards on the bed to allow some space in between us.  I still felt confused, my thoughts muddled and grainy.

She took a deep breath in through her mouth and let it out through her nose as she stared at me curiously.  She almost looked…annoyed.  No, she looked extremely annoyed.  Her expression was also that of disappointment and a bit of sadness, with a dash of anger thrown in for good measure.

“I am so sorry,” I said, raking my hand through my hair.

“What did you see?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back against my pillows. 

“I-I-was with Anna.”  My cheeks burned furiously as I recalled what Anna and I- I mean, Anna and Charlie- had been doing.  “Someone interrupted us.  Ernest.”

Ella picked at her fingernail.  “Yeah, it was pretty obvious whatever was going on went from good to bad.”

“Did I-what did I say to you? Did I-touch you?”  I looked down at my hands, ashamed.

“I’m okay, Riley.  I know this comes with the territory.  It’s just-” she paused, biting her bottom lip.  She almost looked like she might cry.  “I just needed you tonight.  Just you.”

I moved across the bed and gathered her gently back into my arms.  She did not embrace me back.  “I am so sorry, Ella.  I did not mean for it to happen.”  I felt horrible, absolutely wretched.  She’d already had an awful night with what happened with Max, and I couldn’t even provide her comfort for a full twenty minutes.

“I know you didn’t,” she said softly, her forehead against my chest.  She laughed then, although the laugh had a tinge of bitterness to it.  “Is it sad that I’m jealous of a freaking ghost?”

At that precise moment, that familiar heaviness filled the air, sucking my breath from my lungs.  I looked up sharply, hoping Ella didn’t feel it as well.  Where was she?

“Tell me what I can do,” I said to her, my hand smoothing her hair as I tried to inconspicuously glance around the room.  There.  A dim, flickering light filled the corner behind my dresser, Ella’s back to it.  Anna slowly came in and out of focus, a sad look on her face.  She shook her head and placed her finger on her lips, then disappeared.  I still felt her presence lingering; she was not completely gone yet.