Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A different holiday

I know it's Thanksgiving week, but let's pretend it's Memorial Day weekend. K?

My five words for today:

polka dots


I brush my palm on my skirt for the twentieth time, my body taut with nerves. It's just meeting his parents, Kacey. And it's not like Dean's waiting for their approval before deciding whether or not we're going to date. Geez, we're not the Duggars or anything.

I turn and stare at him as he drives. Polo shirt, jeans, grey Chuck Taylors. I glance down at my navy skirt swirled with polka dots and wonder if I've overdressed. Or underdressed.

Oh gosh, who cares.

Dean pulls into an older neighborhood, dotted with ranch houses and actual yards. "Here we are," he says as he pulls into the driveway of a cute little brick house. I smooth my skirt as I stand, and Dean leads us up the walkway.

The door opens, and Dean-thirty-years-down-the-road opens the door. Dean's dad smiles at us: same nose, same smile, same build as Dean. He throws his arms around his son and I wonder if I'm looking at my future - if Dean and I will still be together thirty years from now, and this is the receding hairline and smile wrinkles I'll wake up to each morning.

Dean's dad smiles at me. "Well, hello Kacey. We've heard so much about you."

I smile and extend my hand, which Dean's dad promptly ignores and wraps me in a hug instead. "Come in, come in. Sue has lunch all ready out back."

Dean holds the door open while I walk through the front door and follow his dad out back to the patio, where his mom has set up lunch. No china plates, or crystal goblets, thank goodness. Instead, the table is set with brightly colored Fiestaware. My kind of woman. Though the food itself looks like something out of a Pioneer Woman cookbook, and that is definitely something I and Dean's mom do not have in common.

"Hi, Kacey. I'm Sue." She shakes my hand, her cream blouse so neatly pressed and nice that I nearly forget to smile.

"It's so nice to meet you," I tell her.

Soon we're all seated, including Dean's little sister Ali. Twenty one. Heavy eyeliner and a glittered top, but sarcasm as deeply rooted as Dean's. Must be a family trait. Spring breezes blow past as we eat.

Dean's family is normal. Of course. Unlike my family. My dad grilled Dean for half an hour on his job and it's potential for growth, as well as his background when Dean met my parents last month. This is much more casual. I get asked about my time at college, and my English major - with no mention of how I don't use that degree I'm still in debt for. (So unlike my family). I watch Dean talk to his dad, and carry plates into the kitchen for his mom. Simple things. He teases Ali, who feigns being annoyed, when I know all too well, she adores him.

The day passes so fast, and soon we're on our way back to Dean's apartment. "I told you not to be nervous," he tells me with a smug grin.

"You were right. I think they like me."

"They love you, Kace."

I laugh. "You know this already?"

"I knew it before today."


"They love you because I do."

And it's as simple as that. How did I once think life was so complicated? With Dean it's so simple. I swear, women need more testosterone to even us out.

I change into a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt as soon as we're back at his apartment. Yesterday was an exhausting drive, but at least it's a long weekend and I don't drive back until Monday. I come out of the bathroom and find Dean sitting on the couch with a box in his lap.

He smiles up at me. "I have something for you."

"Oh yeah?" I sink into the couch beside him. "Is it a baby koala bear?"

"Nope." He hands the box to me. It's a cardboard shoebox. No gift wrap. The edges aren't even taped. I take it from him and open it.

It's shoes.

"I thought you could use your own pair," Dean says.

I push the tissue back and stare at a pair of yellow Chuck Taylors. Not jewelry or flowers, or some adorable thing off Etsy. Instead it's shoes. To match his, in yellow because he knows it's my favorite color.

A million times better than jewelry.

"You like them?" he asks, and his face is so vulnerable and hopeful I think I fall a little more in love with him. I climb into his lap and kiss him. "I love them."

"Really? I didn't know if Chucks were your thing."

I laugh and kiss his cheek. "I love them because you do."

And it's as simple as that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A little take out and something I've never said before -


So, today's words:

love fern

*I mean really, how could I not use a list of words that has "love fern" in it??  So, here we go.


The scowl I send to Dean is only half fake.

"You gotta get better at your turns," he says.

"You need to get better at not antagonizing me," I tell him. Darn boy. He loves to intentionally try and run me off the road whenever we play this infernally-addictive game. Blast him and his Mario Kart.

Dean sits cross legged in front of the TV, jeans stained with ketchup from lunch and his shirt wrinkled. I both want to beat him with a leftover breadstick and make out with him. This is how men win us over. They are too cute to stay mad at.

I set my controller down. "I need a breather."I collapse onto the couch, and peer over our take-out boxes from dinner to Dean. He showed up at midnight last night, and we stayed up hours talking. Today we've hit his favorite restaurants in Atlanta, and the Mario Kart marathon has been going on for - I glance at my phone to check the time - 3 hours now.

"What would be be doing if you hadn't brought your Wii down with you?"

Dean laughs. "Been very bored." He leans slightly to the right as Mario does onscreen. I bite my lip and suppress a laugh.

"Is it a mandate in the Geeky Boyfriend Book of Conduct that you bring it when visiting your girlfriend?"

"Kace, you're not supposed to know about the book of conduct. Now you won't think I'm romantic."

I consider throwing an empty soda can at him - think of my carpet - and lob a pillow at him instead. He yelps as Mario skids out of control on screen. I lie back and curl my toes under a cushion. Me and my shamrock socks and sweatpants, and I've never felt so adorable in my life. All because of the cute video game-crazed man in front of me. He drove all day after work to come see me, just so we could eat take out and play Mario Kart.

But it wasn't a big deal to him. Dean's solid and so decisive - a good balance to my erractiness, I guess. But at the same time, I've learned over the past six months that he's so gentle with me. We've hurt each other, and I know we'll do it again a million times over. But he's the best balm for that pain. If he hurts me it's like he can bind the wound up himself with special Dean duct tape and the broken places would heal right up.

Dean hoots and I watch Mario flash across the finish line. "Another win for the master," I say.

Dean looks over his shoulder at me and smiles. "You know what?"

"You think I should make you a shirt that says 'Mario Kart Master' for your birthday?"

"No." His eyes bore into mine. "I haven't told you yet that I love you. And I do."

Time freezes and it's like my living room just got zapped with magic. It's not one of those weird fake feelings, like in movies when people sing christmas carols and everything is rosy and perfect, but in real life you're freezing and people sing off key and it's nowhere near as breathtaking. This moment is so simple, but so stunning in it's realness I can hardly breathe.

I stare at Dean. "I love you, too."

Dean sets his remote down and climbs onto the couch. He grabs my arms and pulls me up, my legs entwined around his middle.

I press my fingers to his face, because I can't not be touching him. He leans and kisses the palm of my hand. "I love you," he says again.

"I love you." I rest my forehead against his, thinking this is not at all like in the books, but so much better I may never read again.

Dean runs a hand up my back and then tickles my side. I yelp and jump, but he holds me in place, tickling me until I cry uncle. He pulls me back up again in front of him. "So, there's something I wanted to see if you would do for me?"

"Ah, you tell me you love me and now the favors start. What do you want? For me to buy a love fern and keep it for us?"

He laughs, and I love that he's getting a reference from a girl movie I made him watch. His hand slides down my body again and I grab my side to block his tickles. Gah, at this point I would do anything for him. Bungee jump. Eat Indian food. Go dancing at a club.

Dean looks at me, serious eyes and stinging truth ringing from his features. "I want you to meet my parents."

Oh. Heavens.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

So, lately

I started writing three years ago this January. Since then, I've written six books. That's such a crazy sentence to write. I remember being younger and thinking, "Some day, I'd love to write a book." And 'someday' has come and gone, and I have six books under my belt.

The first three were horrible. I'll admit it. From a writing standpoint, they're just not good. But that's ok. They were building blocks. And they were about Rie and Marus, who both will forever live in my heart.


*Confession: I have created so many storylines past the book for them, including those of their children and grandchildren. It's wildly fun to come up with, and those stories are just for me.

Then I wrote Elsi's story, and sigh....I adore Elsi. So far, her story is my favorite. (Don't tell Gretta, she would give me a tongue lashing for sure).


Elsi got requested by 4 agents. All of whom liked it, but not enough, and eventually passed. Sigh....I long for someone to believe in Elsi. Writing wise, she was the second story I finished (I wrote her while writing books 2 and 3 of Rie's story). So, there are dumps of exposition and the voice gets distant. I realize that now, but didn't when I was querying. So sadly, Elsi is being passed over. For now. (I still have hopes of landing an agent who will let me rewrite Elsi and make her stronger. Because for the love, Elsi and Thias need to be unleashed on the world!)

Then, there was Gretta. Oh, Gretta. From a writing standpoint, this is the best thing I have written.


I started querying Gretta in August. And so far, five agents have her. Five! *Fist pump*

I'm cautiously optimistic. Five seems like good odds, but then again, Elsi had four, and ended up with nothing. So we'll cross our fingers and see how Gretta fares. She is a fantastic story, and even if all the agents pass, I'm proud that Gretta crawled into my head and told me her story. I think I did my brave girl justice.

Then, there's Lyra.


Lyra is in draft two phase, which means she's decent but not polished yet. I have her out with seven wonderful first-readers, and hopefully will get to polish her up and make her shine.

Lyra is my oddball story. She's different from everything else I've written. She's magical realism, not fantasy. And there's no love story for her. I almost abandoned writing her but God said "Write this story." So I said, "Ok." Lyra got put on hold while I dealt with horrible morning sickness, but finally accomplished what she set out to do. Once I have her back in hand I'll begin the agonizing and thrilling process of rewriting her and making her shine. She's such an odd story, which makes me think she'll be the one that finally lands at agent. Because isn't that just how it would be? I think she's too odd to query, and she'll probably be what everyone salivates over. Go figure ;)

I have a sequel planned for Elsi. And a glorious new story starting to take hold in my brain - an idea I've had for a while, but it's not solidified yet. And I know I just need to start writing it, because that's how all my stories come to life. I have to get a character on a page and let her tell me who she is.

Who knows when this new one will actually come to life on the page. But six books later, I'm totally in love with writing. Let's see how many more stories I can dream up. And let's see what God does with this dream of mine to get published.

Fingers crossed for Gretta. It's all riding on her right now!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sing me a song...

So today for Five Word Wednesday, I asked for songs to inspire the story. So, I borrowed a little from this:

a little from this:

and a little of this:

and came up with this:


My phone buzzes in my purse as I fumble for the door lock. I shove the door with my foot, then yelp as pain sears through my toe. The buzzing continues and I dump my bag and fish for my phone. "Hey."

"Oh. Hey. It took you a while to answer. I thought I'd missed you."

I brush back a piece of hair from my damp forehead. Sweat drips down my brow and I kick off my shoes. "I just got done with class."

"Are you a black belt yet?" I can almost feel Dean smile through the phone. 

"Ha. Not likely."

"Did you assault your instructor again today?"

"Ugh, stop reminding me." I open the fridge as the memory from my first karate class flashes to mind. Because of course I would be the girl to bravely sign up for a karate class, and then accidentally knee her instructor in the groin the first day. 

Dean laughs.

"I'm serious. It's embarrassing enough having to go back. You're making it worse."

"Sorry. How was your day?"

I pour a glass of milk and chug half of it before answering. "Horrible. Sharon is driving me crazy."

"What now?"

Geez, what isn't there? Sharon became the new Dean at work five weeks ago. She makes type A's look relaxed. "She's changing everyone's responsibilities. And now she wants handouts of numbers every Friday and Mondays."

"Doesn't sound too unreasonable."

I huff out a sigh. "She's changing things just because she has the power to, and not because they need to be done. It's taking me an extra hour each day to pull together reports that have the same information on them as the ones I run on Friday. Then, she comes into my office and dares to tell me that they're not formatted how she wanted, even though she hadn't said how she wanted them done and told me to 'just put them together'." 

I stand and pace around the living room as I rant. Work has gone from comfortable and tolerable to doing tedious things at a break neck speed. All because Sharon has to have 42 copies of the same dad gum thing and can't pull up reports herself. 

"She's just one person, Kace."

"Yeah, one that I'm around and whose in charge of me 8 hours of every day."

"It's just a job."

I fling off my sweatshirt, my body radiating heat from class and now from anger. He always says this when I bring up Sharon. Which I do a lot of lately, but still. "Easy for you to say. You love your job."

"It's just a job."

"One you moved states away for."

Dean doesn't answer. I peel off my sweaty socks and wait. When he does speak, his voice has a hard bite to it. "Are you mad at me or something?" 

"No." I throw my socks onto the couch. "It just seems like my bad work life doesn't matter."

"It does. Of course it does. It's just..." His voice goes quiet.

Oh gosh. I'm a whiner. One of those girls who thrives on drama. I clench my fists, waiting for that accusation to come. "It's just what?"

"It's just, I guess I like it a little that you aren't head over heels in love with your job."

What the hell? I grip the phone tighter. "Why would you like that?"

"Because a job you don't absolutely love is one you would leave."

I lean against the wall, my anger so palpable I can almost feel it pulsing through my veins. "You think I should quit my job?" 

"No. What I mean is maybe one day, you know, down the road, you might leave your job there and be ok with it."

"To do what? You think I'm wasting my degree or something?" Geez, now he sounds like my dad.

"No. I mean, if someday you left Atlanta."

"To go where?"

"Ohio, maybe."

I come to a halt and lean against the wall. 

"I'm not saying now," Dean rushes his words. "It's just, long distance sucks, and I hate not seeing you all the time. And well, don't think I'm an ass, Kace, but my job is going great and I love it. So I've been thinking that maybe, eventually, one day, you would move up here."

I slide down the wall until I'm sitting. "You think about that?"

"Yeah. Again, that's down the road, not something I'm thinking for the immediate." I hear him breathe into the phone. "Does that make you nervous?"

Yes. I didn't know we were there. Or that he was there.  But it does make sense. Eventually.


If things go well.

Geez, how'd we go from my bad work today to a possible future move? I curl my legs up to my chest, eager to cling to something.

"What are you thinking?" Dean asks.

"I don't know. It sounds like you have everything figured out." And I don't. Not with Dean. Not with life. Do I want to quit my job, even now? 

"Look, I shouldn't have brought it up. I just..." He sighs heavy into the phone. "It's not a bad thing, right, to think about?"

I think of all the times I've fantasized about me trying on white dresses. "No," I whisper.

"I didn't mean to make you mad or freak you out. It's just, I want you know I'm not just wasting time with you. That if this wasn't going anywhere, I wouldn't do it. Ok?


"I think maybe I'll drive down next weekend."

"I thought you were going to visit your sister?"

"I can change that," he says.

"It's an eight and a half hour drive."

"I'd drive eight and a half hours to see you. No problem."

"You already had plans with your sister. Don't change that just because I'm having a hard time."

"Don't be a martyr, Kace."

My voice raises. "That's not what I'm trying to do."

"Ok. I just don't want you think that you're not worth my time. You're my girlfriend, I haven't seen you since Valentine's and that was what - 4 weeks ago? - and I want to see you."

Even though we just fought? But that's the thing I'm learning about Dean. It's not a math equation of he gives, then I give, and everything has to even out at the end. This is grown up and big, and lots of the time, it's uneven.

"Ok?" Dean asks.

I smile. "Ok."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Oopsy Daisy

So, today for 5WW, I thought we'd mix it up, and instead of words, I asked for photos. And man, did I get some good ones to choose from! In the end, though, one stood out. And because I am a huge fan of this scene:

I ended up going with this picture as my inspiration:

When we left off, Dean had just texted Kacey that he wanted her to come to Ohio over Valentine's weekend. So let's see what happens when she's up there....


I will never tire of how Dean's fingers feel laced through mine. Which means I'm really a fifteen year old girl at heart whose childhood consisted of too many Hallmark movies. But whatever. I squeeze his hand a little now and he squeezes back, like our own little flirty Morse code.

"Thanks for dinner," I tell him.

He cuts me a wry glance. Poor guy. Because of course his plans for a fancy dinner fell through when the overpriced steakhouse lost his reservation. I've never seen anyone look so flustered. After being told it'd be a two hour wait, I spotted a pizza place across the street. So we dined at Frankie's Pies with teenagers too cheap to take their dates somewhere nice.

"I mean it," I tell him, bumping his shoulder as we walk back to his apartment. "That was good pizza. And the company was pretty stellar."

He smiles and drops my hand, wrapping his arm around my waist. It feels good there, and not just because February in Ohio is freezing and we made the dumb choice to walk to dinner and back. I wasn't sure what to expect when Dean flew me up here this weekend. I've visited him once already. But this time he paid to fly me up, and it's Valentines, which in the eyes of a woman means "Huge Expectations." Or at least, it's supposed to. But pizza and Dr. Pepper with Dean is wonderful. And enough. I'm not expecting a declaration of love or anything. 

We amble up to the front of Dean's building. He drops his hand from my waist and reaches for his pocket. "Oh gosh."


Dean sags his shoulders. "I can't believe I did this." He leans his head against the door, defeat washing over him.


"I forgot my key card that gets me in the front door." Dean pulls on the door. Nothing. He sighs. "I bet it's still in the pocket of my other coat." He pounds on the door, but the loud raps are met with nothing but silence. 

Icy wind blows up my denim skirt. 

"Come on." Dean grabs my hand and leads me around the back of the building. There's a courtyard in the back, surrounded by a tall brick wall, a wrought iron gate wedged in between. Quaint, but also insurmountable. I glance at the fancy card swipe box thing beside the gate, then at Dean. "What are you going to do, break a window?"

Dean tugs on the gate then glances at the six foot high brick wall. "I have my apartment key, just not the card that gets me inside the building. But I know for a fact, the door from the courtyard is never locked." He stands back, and a prickle of unease shoots through me. Surely he's not....

But, yeah, he is. I watch, half in amazement, half in horror as Dean plants a sneaker on one of the old bricks and hoists himself up, using the iron bars of the gate to hold on to. The bricks are old and uneven, a blessing for those trying to scale them in the dead of night. Dean straddles over the top and grins at me. "That was easier than I thought." Then he swings a leg over and drops to the other side, one foot giving out as he lands. He winces and hops forward a few steps.

I press my face to the gate. "You all right?"

Dean stands. "Yep. You coming?"

Is he nuts? I shake my head. "I'm not going over that."


"Dean, I'm in a skirt."

He brushes the dirt off his hands. "Oh yeah. Can't put my girl in a compromising situation." He heads toward the side door, as if I am a damsel in distress or one of those whiny girls I always make fun of. "Wait." I put a boot on the first brick and heave myself up. Thank goodness for all those extra evenings I've been putting in at the gym. And the fact that my denim pencil skirt has a bit of stretch to it.

Ok, so it's not terribly hard. I throw my leg over the top, and now the brick wall seems higher than it did at first. Much, much higher. "Oh, gosh."

Dean reaches his arms out. "You can do it. It's not that far."

"Says the man who nearly broke his ankle jumping down."

"I was going to come around and get you. Why'd you climb up?"

"To prove to my boyfriend that I'm actually Super Woman."

Dean smiles. "I already think that."

My insides melt while my backside continues to freeze sitting on this cold brick. Gosh, you wuss. Just do it. I fling myself off the wall and collide with Dean, sending him and me both flying to the ground.

Laughter bubbles out of me, as if joy is something corked inside me that Dean unleashes.

"You all right?" he asks.

"My pride is wounded."

Dean laughs and brushes a piece of hair out of my face.  I stare down at him. "Did I hurt you?"

"You will when you leave tomorrow."

His words are a fist, squeezing my heart. 

He brushes his fingers against my cheek. "I miss you so much, Kace." He leans up and presses his lips to mine. 

I sink into him and kiss him back, not minding the grass sticking to my tights or the way his elbow is jamming into my rib cage. Here we are two adults making out in the grass courtyard of his apartment. No fancy dinner and adult conversation for us. Instead we eat pizza and scale brick walls. And I think that's what makes me think I could be with Dean forever. Because whatever happens, we'll just roll with it. And I'd rather have disaster with him than perfection with anyone else.

A feeling that terrifies me.

I pull back and stare down at him lying in the grass. Then I trace my finger across his forehead and down his cheek to his chin, trying to memorize every detail of his face to take with me back to Georgia. "Happy Valentine's Day," I tell him. 

He pulls me down beside him and points to the sky, chock full of blinking stars. "Make a wish," he tells me.

He doesn't know I already have, a million times over. And my wish came true, and is laying right beside me. 

Pain sears through my heart. Tomorrow I'll be on a plane, bound for home and my life in Georgia. I have a life with Dean and a life apart from him. And it'd be so easy to doubt the future and wonder and worry. 

But tonight I have Dean, and a sky full of stars. 

And that's enough.