Special Excerpt from Memphis, My Upcoming Release!

I’m excited to share this one with you guys today. I don’t post a lot of excerpts on my website…but this one screams out at me, and it’s dying to be read. Look for a bookish blog post as release day nears about my love affair with the boxing culture and why it’s there and why this story unfolds the way it does.

In the meantime, a taste of Memphis.

“Come here,” he says, calling me with a finger.

I wait a second before giving in, letting my arms fall to my sides as I take the few steps from where I am to where he is. His hands wrap around my biceps as soon as I’m near enough and I breathe in fast, just once. His eyes widen a little.

“You’re stronger than you look,” he smirks.

My gaze is held by his when he speaks. He holds it hostage and when I start to look away, his hands slide down to my wrists and he shakes them lightly until I look at him again. His head tilts, and he waits until I get it.

I’m stronger than I look.

“Thank you,” I say, pulling my lip in tight, so afraid I’m not. I’m stubborn for certain. I’m hardened and jaded. I’m not sure if any of that makes me strong.

My muscles bend to Memphis’s will as he threads his fingers through my right ones and lifts my arm, his other hand holding my elbow into my side. He lets go of my fingers and wraps his palm over my knuckles forming a fist and then moves my entire arm forward slowly, stopping when my body lunges with it.

“Here. You lose everything…right here,” he says, stopping my fist where it is then placing the tips of his fingers on my hips.

Memphis’s eyes are intent on where his hand rests at my waist, and he pauses to take a breath, his tongue pinched by his teeth, his lips twitching up at the corners, his eyes blinking fast—all in a second.

I think about kissing him again right now.

“Your weight is already spent, and you haven’t even made impact with something yet. Think about it,” he says, eyes flitting up to mine.

I shake my head a little from the brief stare and silence we share.

“Okay,” I say, following his lead as he brings my arm back and steps behind me.

“You hit me hard, but that was without everything you have behind it. Imagine,” he begins, adjusting his hold on me, his right hand sliding down my arm and covering my hand, feet straddling one of mine from behind, his chest against my back, his breath at my neck and a thousand beads of nerves dotting my skin.

“You’re here,” he says, his voice low and right at my ear.

My eyes flutter when his left hand runs down the side of my body to my hip, and my breath hitches when he grips it more forcefully.

“Your opponent is standing right there. Do you see him?”

I nod.

“Yes,” I say, my voice barely audible.

“He’s cocking,” he says, and I giggle at the word while his nose moves closer to my skin, tickling against my ear. “You’re such a child.”

I clear my throat and wriggle my hips and roll my shoulders, all under his touch.

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” I say, still smiling.

A short breath escapes him in laughter.

“He’s about to swing, okay?” he says, coaxing me to focus.

“Trust me.” His voice falls to a whisper, and my eyes fall closed.

Memphis drives my body, the space between us gone so much that I am lying against him while standing. His hand brings mine up, tucking it close to our bodies. His fingers splay on my thigh, and my leg feels strong. He leans with me, our bodies in sync as we twist to the left, our right shoulders stretching backward, necks rolling until we’re nearly back where we started.

“His balance is off,” he says at my neck. There are no areas of my body that aren’t affected by the vibration of his voice. “You have him. He’s yours. You have balance. His is gone. This is where you win.”

His hand holds my left side still, and his right hand brings me back to swing with a tighter form than I had before. He takes me through the motion once slowly, almost like we’re just part of some intimate ballet performance, then he brings my fist back in and tucks his chin into the side of my neck.

“Again,” he says, this time leading me through the motion faster as his hand slides from its hold on my hip to my diaphragm.

“Breathe out,” he says, and I do slowly at first, but with each swing we repeat, the motion is faster.

My air escapes with my thrust, my body something mechanical now, parts working in unison until I’m able to do it all on my own.

“Keep going,” Memphis says as he steps away. My eyes flit open, and I imagine everything that has ever hurt me. I see their faces—my parents, Enoch, the angry crowds at trials, reporters.

Memphis picks up one of the pads and steps closer as I swing, bending down to hand lift one of my abandoned gloves, eventually holding his palm out for me to pause.

“Put it on, and I want you to hit me now…not like before. Hit me with what you know. Hit me with what you feel, but always there is balance. You can’t give that away. It’s not theirs to have.”

My eyes lock on his as he slides the glove over my knuckles and I form a raw fist with my other hand. He takes two small steps back and readies himself before nodding.

I clear my lungs and consider his words and everything he just led my body through. I was so strong. I’m stronger than I think I am.

My feet shift to find the perfect fit against the mat, and I bring my hands in, fists raised and ready.

“He’s going to swing now,” Memphis says, and I react just as he taught me.

I dodge. The motion so swift and natural I barely remember doing it before my legs steady themselves, my middle twists and my arm swings forward, fist landing in the same spot as it did before only this time my body doesn’t stumble. Memphis does. Inches, but there is reaction to my action.

“Ha,” I breathe out in disbelief. My eyes lift from the fist-shaped dent in the pad to Memphis, and my lips part in awe.

“Yeah,” he says, glancing around to the front of the pad. “You did that by yourself.”

Giddiness takes over my face, my mouth stretching wide with parted lips. Memphis lets the pad fall again, and the physical proof from my force disappears as the padding evens out. It was there, though. I fought back, and left a mark. More than seeing it, I felt it. I still feel it.

“I want to do that again,” I say, blinking as my vision slides from the pad to Memphis’s proud smile.

“Baby steps, Champ. Let me show you a few drills, and then maybe you can punch me one more time before we’re done,” he says, chuckling.

“I wasn’t hitting you,” I say, handing him the glove.

He holds it in both of his hands before bending down to pick up the other glove, pairing them together. His gaze hits mine.

“I know who you were hitting.” Silence settles in for a long second. I don’t have to respond; Memphis doesn’t expect it.

 

My New Year’s-ish Post

For the most part, in general, I’m a mess. Oh, I make it look easy on the outside. But truly, underneath the cool, calm, collected exterior is a scramble of Flintstone car proportions. Let me explain.

In accordance with one of my goals this year, I am keeping up with updating my website, social media, posts and all of that jazz a little better. In accordance with my bad habits, I am a day late for the new year’s post.

You can’t go to A+ student overnight.

So goals, yeah…

Like I said, I make them. I’m a big goal setter. I don’t reach them all right away. This goal in particular has been on the list a few times. I’m sure it will be on the list again. I’m sure I will always fall short. I’m okay with that, though.

And that…falling short, and being okay with it…is another goal this year. In fact, I think this is its first appearance, at least formally, on my goals list. And I’m sure I’ll fall short with it as well, but just putting it there, and acknowledging the fact that some things are just going to have to wait, some other things might not be in the cards, and yet others might come in different ways…this is huge for me. It’s a mental relief – letting go of a burden that screws with my emotions. And I know it will take the full year just to make a dent.

I’m pretty open about talking about my anxieties. I’ve come to learn that anxiety is almost a requirement in the writing world. Maybe you have to have a certain mental tilt to be able to imagine the worlds us writer types create. Whatever it is, my anxieties have had a direct link to my disappointments for years. I think the first time I had a pretty major, full-on panic attack, I was 17 and studying for an AP history exam in high school. A lot of things in school came easy to me, but for whatever reason, history and government didn’t stick. I had to work hard at it, boiling things down, my brain’s inclination to soak up the minutia and miss the big picture. I didn’t score enough to earn the early college credit, and the whole process made me sick with self-disappointment. Looking back through a wiser (aka older) perspective, that class and those credits didn’t matter a lick to the person I was working to become, and certainly not to the person I became. This wisdom didn’t make me any better at failing at things gracefully though, and coping with the impending disappointment.

So, in the spirit of the season, I’m making my first blog post of the year a top-5 list. This is going to be brutal and honest about myself. It’s gonna show some of my ugly parts. It’s a list of my biggest personal disappointments or flaws or frustrations that I’m either going to do something about, or let go, because in the grand scheme of things – this stuff doesn’t matter a lick. It’s all just one big AP history exam.

  1. I cannot put USA Today or NY Times bestseller on a book. It makes my stomach hurt I want it so bad even though it doesn’t really matter. It’s pretty much proven. Readers don’t really care. I still want it, though. If it ever happens, I will cry. A lot. Happy cry. It’s one of those things I’ve dreamt about since I saw the superlative on a King book when I was 12 or 13. I make a living doing something I love, and 99.9 percent of the time that is bliss–it’s enough. But damn that .1 percent. It’s a sense of legitimacy perhaps. It’s an Oscar. It’s the writer equivalent to “bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, Ginger steps up to the plate.” I’m not going to be able to let this one go. Believe me, I’ve tried. The fantasy creeps right back in. I am, however, going to do something about it. I’m going to write my ass off. Because that’s the only thing I can control. And while it might not happen this year, some year, in the future history of those two media empires, one of them will put a book of mine on a list. And even if I’m 80, you’re all invited to the party.
  2. Trucker hats. Not for my head. I know this seems frivolous and like it doesn’t belong here, but you haven’t seen the collection I’ve accumulated and never worn in public because…it’s not a good look on me. I’m letting this one go.
  3. Here’s a biggie for me–my local indie bookstore doesn’t really make indie authors feel super welcome. It’s ironic, I think. And hypocritical for certain. I won’t say the name because I don’t want to be mean, but I’ve made a few attempts over the last five years to do an event there, put books there, be a part of annual teen events, etc. I usually don’t even get a response. Once I tried to set up an event for charity, and that got strung along for months and eventually I had to go a different route. This store very much still sees a line between books published traditionally and those published independently. Yes, I can consign books there, buy my shelf space, and rent a room for something, but I really would have loved to have been included in the teen day the year I put The Hard Count out. I think a book about racism in high schools is the kind of thing our youth needs, regardless of the method the words appeared on paper. I could go on and on about this because of everything, the subtle “shun” here hurts the most. It’s because this store is sooooo me. I look like I belong in the space. I am their vibe, and I have personally run my fingertips along book spines on their shelves. The love affair started in college. This is one of those things I’m going to have to change expectations on though. I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to chip away and change THEIR perspective. I’m going to work my ass off to educate them, with the help of some fellow local indie authors. And I’m going to be vocal, but kind, when I think they’re missing the point and perhaps missing out on some really hard working authors. This one, I will kill with kindness…and an overload of information and persistence.
  4. I don’t know how to say no. This has been a lifelong problem. I can’t say no to myself. I can’t say no to friends. I can’t say no to acquaintances who I just want to help with a favor. I don’t think it’s all bad. I actually like trying to do what I can whenever and wherever, but…sometimes, I can’t. Or rather…I shouldn’t. I overextend myself, and that has led to a year teetering on exhaustion. This one, I’m easing into letting go of. Sometimes, I am just going to have to say “maybe” instead.
  5. The traditional deal. I don’t have much to say here. It’s a lingering want, a past disappointment, a fear, a future ambition, an ultimate, and so many other things that intertwine with the first four items on this list. (Ok, maybe not with trucker hats.) Right up there with a signing at X book store and a book on a list is getting a deal with a big publisher. This one for me is less about that stamp of approval. It’s about seeing my book on a shelf in a major retailer where teenagers can discover it. Above all, my YA books are the kind I craved more of when I was a teen. I write the kind of stories that I wished were there, and I just know in my heart of hearts there are girls out there like me who want to find them but can’t because they aren’t on shelves. Teens love print. I love that they love print. This one…I’m never giving up on.

There it is. My list. The things in my head I don’t talk about much because I don’t want to seem self-absorbed or whiney or ungrateful. I’m not, I swear. I look at what I’ve had happen over five years and I cannot believe I have been allowed a seat on this ride. But just like Disneyland, I’m expanding the park of my self-expectations. I’m going to phase out the rides that aren’t working and add in a dash of Marvel and Pixar. I don’t really know where I’m going with this analogy, but it seemed too good to abandon. I hope you get it. Beyond any of this, my readers will always come first. Fact is, I need you. Without you, there is no list.

All there is are fucking trucker hats.

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Because Straight Edge Is Bad-Ass

So here it is…my first blog post for this new blog page that I have been itching to start. I mentioned this on my social media, ummm….a while ago…but just in case you find this little gem here without warning, I’m gonna post blogs periodically, as the urge strikes. It will be both regular and irregular. I don’t want to make this page about deadlines, so the posts will come organically…when I just feel like I have some shiz to say.

I guess it goes without saying that right now…I’ve got some thoughts to share. This topic is actually the thing that prompted me to finally start this blog. Let me start with some short context: I’m a mom of a newly minted teenager. This does a lot of things when you’re a girl like me who perpetually remains a teen at her core despite the aging happening on the outside. Mostly, it makes me think about the age my son is and the things that I dealt with when I was his age (aaaannnnndddd the things I write about that are very real). So here it goes – if you’re a teen reader, I so very much want you to read this. If you’re a parent of a teen, maybe this post is for sharesies? And if you think one day you may have a teen…well…you get it.

When I was in 8th grade, for whatever reason, I made up my mind that I was never going to drink or smoke or do drugs or do any of those things that posed a threat to my body beyond caffeine. (I love Diet Coke and iced tea.) It was not something that was forced on me through strict parenting. My family was not particularly religious, so it wasn’t part of my faith. There wasn’t a long line of alcoholism or a moment in my past that made a mark that nudged me in this direction. I just sorta thought about all of the things I saw people doing, trying, getting busted for and I thought: “Meh.”

Now, this is very important to understand: I know that what I decided is not what a lot of teens decide, and I know that everyone has different circumstances that draw their paths through life in certain ways. This post is not a preachy post dressed as an anti-drinking campaign. Many of my close friends said yes back in the day. And many of my friends as an adult party hard and love their Ubers. I love my friends for being responsible, and I loved my friends growing up – even when they were reckless. I hung out at the keggers, and can hang now – and no one gives a rip that I’m drinking water instead of beer or moscato (though, I get it wine drinkers – I have tasted this delicious beverage and yeah, it’s lovely). The point of this post is, I say no and it’s totally fine. I said no, and it was totally fine. It’s a little empowering, saying no. It even has a name nowadays – straight edge. It sounds sharp, and bad-ass. I might make a shirt. I would have worn that shirt then. Point being – saying no, and giving peer pressure the middle finger, is actually a thing. And I came out just fine. For real. I even got to wear a sash at homecoming.

When I write the goody-two-shoes girl…she’s not far from home. When I write the reckless ones, they’re not far from home either – I was just always in the position to observe. So embrace the you that YOU want to be. You’ll fit in right where you’re supposed to.

Next post will be wayyyyyy less after-school special. Promise 😉