New Site and Bonus Story

Happy Sunday, and May the Fourth be with you!

After a blogging hiatus—too busy, too much writing (is there such a thing?)—I’m back!

You may have noticed things have changed around here, but no worries, I’ve managed to be tech savvy enough (insert laughter here) to figure out how to redirect thewhineandcheeselife.wordpress.com to my new website, so any blog followers should automatically wind up here. Check out the new digs and get comfy!

My big, belated thanks goes out to Jim Naprstek,  http://jimnaprstek.com/ for designing and setting up reedsandwrites.com.

To celebrate finally rolling out my new site and finally getting back to my blog, I’m sharing with you a free Life, A.D. bonus story. You can grab your copy of Life, A.D here and here. Canadian readers can get theirs here and here.

Be warned, spoilers will be found after the break below, so if you haven’t read Life, A.D. proceed at your own risk! Dez dies in the first pages, but the bonus story delves into the details of her death, which don’t come until later in the book.

 

You’ve been warned!

 

I’ve heard feedback from readers who’ve said they’d love to know what Dez’s mom was calling her about. I’ve always had the conversation in my mind, so here it is!

 

I’m in the car driving to my cello lesson, my window down despite the chilly, hazy morning. After a long winter, the smell of spring is enough to make the blast of cool air worthwhile. I smile as I take a deep breath of the sweet scent. The breeze blows against my face, bringing with it a promise of long summer days to come. Days like this are about as perfect as they come.

I drive past the last farm before a large tract of forest. Even the cows, gathered around a feed bin, seem happy today. Their tails flick as they munch serenely on hay.

My last summer before college is almost here. Dad’s already taunting me with talk of my mystery graduation gift, but I can’t even get Mom to give me a hint as to what he’s planning.

A trip?

Some big gift?

Something sentimental?

His poker face is world class, and no amount of begging, buttering up, or cajoling has ever cracked him.

I guess I’ll just have to wait.

My mom left a CD in the stereo, but for once I don’t mind, or even lament the lack of an iPod connection. I turn up the volume and sing along, but my ringtone interrupts my duet. Still singing, I turn down the music and reach into my purse. My hand searches past my wallet, lip gloss, gum, iPod—I have a lot of stuff in there—fumbling around for my elusive phone. True to form, my purse tips over and the phone falls out and slides across the seat, just out of reach.

“Crap.”

I lean over and stretch out my fingers, my eyes fixed on the road, the phone still inches beyond my grasp. I hear my mom’s voice in my mind, ordering me to not even think of what I’m about to do, but that’s her ringtone squawking at me.

It must be important, because she never calls when she knows I’m driving.

She was just answering a call from Grandma when I left.

Grandpa just got out of the hospital two days ago after a bunch of tests. Is something wrong? Is his cancer back?

It will only take a second, so I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean a bit farther.

Success! My fingers close around the phone. I straighten in my seat and balance my still-ringing phone on my knee while I click the seatbelt buckle back into place. The car drifts to the left as I finish my behind the wheel maneuvering. An oncoming semi crests the approaching hill and I give the wheel a jerk to the right, bringing the car back into my own lane. Despite my quick correction, the driver gives me a blast of his horn as he passes.

That was close.

I tap “answer” on my phone’s screen and let out a quick breath. “Hey, lady,” I say by way of greeting.

“Are you driving?”

“Mom, it’s fine.” I glance in my rearview mirror. The semi disappears over the next hill.

“Are you?” she presses.

I sigh—half annoyed, half amused—and it’s all the answer she’s getting.

“Desiree Ann Donnelly, you put the phone on the seat and pull over. I will wait.”

“I’ll take Helicopter Parenting for two-hundred, Alex.” I roll my eyes.

“Spare me the indignation and the eye roll you’re no doubt giving me,” she says. “Studies have shown talking on a phone while driving impairs you as much as driving drunk.” Her lecture continues; her voice gets smaller as I drop the phone from between my ear and shoulder and let it fall to the seat.

I flip on my indicator and pull off to the side of the road. The gravel pops beneath the tires as the car comes to a stop. I throw the shifter into park and grab the phone again. “Safe and sound on the shoulder, now. I even signaled.”

“That’s my girl. You could’ve let me go to voicemail, you know.”

“And miss all this fun? Maybe on the way home I’ll see if I can drive with my eyes closed, and steer by memory. That should really get you going.”

“Very funny,” she snaps. The stern tone she’s trying on fits her like a too-big parka in July.

“You’ve gotta work on your mean voice, Ma.”

“I’ll try.”

“Is Grandpa okay?”

“What?”

“You were talking to Grandma when I left.”

The car sways as a pickup truck speeds by.

“He’s fine,” she says. “Is that why you answered?”

“Well, yeah.”

“She called to check if we have a headcount for your graduation party.”

“Graduation’s almost two months away,” I say, puzzled, until the reason jumps into the forefront of my distracted mind. “Oh, the cake.” My grandmother owns a local bakery. She’s put herself in charge of making my graduation cake, which will no doubt be an over the top display only a grandma could manage. “Don’t let her go too crazy.”

Mom chuckles. “You go ahead and tell her that.”

“No thanks.” My grandmother sees the baking she does for family as directly connected to, and a reflection of, her love. One does not argue food with Grandma. “We’ll make all the guests take extra slices home with them.”

“We can hand them out at the door. Nobody leaves without cake.”

“Sounds like a plan.” I laugh and glance at the little clock on the dashboard. My lesson is in fifteen minutes. “So what’s up?”

“I need to ask you for a big favor,” Mom says, as though she can sense my need to get back on the road.

“Like, hiding a body, big?”

“Not quite.” I can hear the smile in her voice.

“Good, I’m wearing my favorite jeans, and don’t want to get them dirty traipsing around in the woods. Plus, the ground’s still frozen. That’d make for hard digging.”

“You’ll have to get your cardio some other way. No dragging corpses around for you, today. I need you to pick Dad up from the airport.”

“Ava’s coming over this afternoon. I have to help her study, remember?”

“Shoot.” Mom sighs.

Language, Mother,” I tease. “I thought you were picking Dad up.”

“I promised to go with Anne for her mom’s surgery, which is at two o’clock. Double shoot!”

“Is her mom okay?”

“She fell last night and broke her hip, but they’re hoping for a full recovery.”

“Why don’t you book Dad on the shuttle? Ava and I can pick him up at the drop-off when he gets in.”

“Tried that. First available reservation isn’t until ten tonight. He’s going to be dead tired as it is. If he has to wait until ten o’clock, I may as well just book him a room at the airport Hilton and pick him up tomorrow. I hate to waste our points on it, though. I’ve been saving them up for our Cabo trip.” Mom is beginning to ramp up to full-fret mode.

“I’ll message Ava and have her come with me to the airport. We can study when we get back.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’ll be fine. We’re more ready than she thinks. It’s always a confidence thing with her.”

“I could ask Grandma to go get him.”

“And then we’d have a week of him complaining about her driving 62 in the fast lane and taking over two hours to get home. No thanks.” I check the clock again. “It’s no biggie. Ava and I will go get him.”

“I owe you one.”

I flip the visor down and glance at my reflection. “And don’t you forget it.”

“Just don’t you go texting while you’re driving. Wait until you get to your lesson.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I smile and flip a few of my braids off my shoulder.

“You two go get Dad, and lunch is on me.”

I check the side mirror as another car blows by. “Cash up front and you’ve got yourself a deal.”

“You drive a hard bargain.”

“You know it.”

“Love you, my girl. See you soon.”

Dez Yourself

An exciting new trend is sweeping the nation!

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but we can change that! Forget planking, selfies, and photo bombs (and whatever else you crazy kids are doing these days), the cool new trend is Dezing yourself!

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Move over, duck face!

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So grab your copy of Life, A.D. (Don’t have one yet? Click these AMAZON and B&N links), CLICK HERE to head on over to my Facebook page and share your Dezing yourself pics!

Big thanks to Joy and Marsha for sharing your photos!

Release Day!

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It’s finally here! Life, A.D. is out in the world, and for once, I’m at an utter loss for words.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way, from family and friends, to my early draft readers, and my publisher. None of this would have been possible without them. 

And thank you to the readers who choose to share in Dez’s adventures. I hope you enjoy Life, A.D.! 

Be sure to check out today’s stops on the blog tour!

http://cuzinlogic.com/

https://jennifermcconnel.wordpress.com/

Here We Go!

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The Life, A.D. blog tour starts today! You can follow the tour schedule here:

http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-life-a-d-by-michelle-e-reed-presented-by-month9books/

Be sure to enter the drawing! You can do that at any one of the tour stops.

And if you haven’t yet, be sure to like my Facebook page to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a signed copy and bookmark of Life, A.D! I’m extending the deadline to 11:59PM Central time tomorrow!

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichelleEReed

Facebook “Likes” Contest

One week from today, my debut novel will hit the shelves, and I feel like celebrating!

On release day, I will be giving away a signed copy of Life, A.D. along with a signed Life, A.D. bookmark to one of my Facebook Author Page fans. If you already like my page, or if you click that snazzy like button by 12:00 AM Central Time on December 10th, you will automatically be entered.

I want you to help me spread the word, which is where the fun part of the contest comes in. For every friend you get to like my Facebook author page, your friend will get an entry in the drawing, and you will get one additional entry. Refer ten friends? You get eleven chances to win! Refer 10,000 friends (it could happen, right?) get 10,001 entries!

All you have to do is help me spread the news. Have your friends “like” my Facebook page and write a message on my page’s wall letting me know you sent them.

Example: Buddy the Elf likes my page, and gets Mr. Narwhal to like my page, too. Mr. Narwhal writes, “Buddy the Elf sent me!” on my wall. Boom. They’re both entered in the drawing, and Buddy gets an extra entry!

My page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichelleEReed

So head on over and start liking! Tell your friends!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In a move that is particularly lazy on my part, I’m going to celebrate the holiday by re-posting an old blog entry of mine in which I tell the woeful tale of the year my dog ruined Thanksgiving. I originally posted it the day after Thanksgiving on the year we lost our old girl.

Have a great holiday!

The Thanksgiving Feast

To me, one of the greatest parts of Thanksgiving is what starts today. No, not Black Friday shopping—I refuse to participate in such madness. I made the mistake of facing the crowds at dawn once, years ago, and found myself clutching a Game Cube in a football hold, rushing toward the registers in a frantic rush to escape the feeding frenzy as quickly as possible, preferably with all of my limbs still attached.

No, today is the day we begin to consume the beautiful and succulent delicacy known as leftovers. Turkey sandwiches, soup, pot pie…and speaking of pie, we have pumpkin and sweet potato. Alas, I should stop before Ralphie from A Christmas Story sues me for copyright infringement, which brings up a story fans of this holiday classic will appreciate: our very own Bumpus Hound.

For those not familiar with A Christmas Story, first of all, stop reading and go watch the movie—right now! I’ll wait…

All right, just in case you don’t know about the Bumpus Hounds, and didn’t follow my instructions, I will give you a brief recap, though it will ruin my life-imitating-art story.

Ralphie’s family lives next door to the Bumpus family and, as Ralphie put it:

“Our hillbilly neighbors, the Bumpuses had over 785 smelly hound dogs, and they ignored every other human being on earth except my old man!”

On Christmas morning, the Bumpus Hounds come barreling into Ralphie’s kitchen, and devour the unprotected turkey, fresh from the oven and resting on the kitchen table. His mother screams; his father declares the family will be going out to eat. Cut to the Chinese restaurant and roast duck.

Which brings us to Thanksgiving, 2000. My husband and I were the proud owners of an eight month old black lab puppy named Karma (insert irony joke here). She was, of course, extremely interested in all the smells of deliciousness emanating from the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. Every time I would take the turkey from the oven and baste it, she would be right by my side, sniffing joyfully.

This, dear reader, is called foreshadowing.

Dinner went off without a hitch, the turkey and all its trimmings enjoyed by all. As is typical, I made far more food than was needed, leaving us with a bounty of leftovers to enjoy.

On that fateful Friday, we went out for a while (for what purpose, I no longer recall. Perhaps the day has been blocked out as result of the ensuing trauma we endured). We came home in happy anticipation of tasty turkey sandwiches for lunch, but instead found ourselves in what we would later describe as KARMAGEDDON.

You can see where this is going.

Karma, our precious pooch, had made a discovery. She could open the refrigerator.

AND

SHE

ATE

EVERY

SCRAP

All of the turkey—the carcass was stripped bare.

All of the stuffing.

The mashed potatoes.

The cranberries.

The sweet potatoes.

The gravy.

And the pies. Oh, the pies.

We found her lying on her side, her belly protruding in an obscenely convex manner, her groans of pain (or ecstasy? We’ll never know) greeting us at the door. It was a scene of horror and destruction: foil and storage containers strewn about as though struck by a hurricane, the refrigerator door swung open wide, its bare shelves taunting us, the dog in a heap on the kitchen floor, having eaten herself into a stupor, unable to even escape to the next room. The smell of Thanksgiving was in the air, but the contents of Thanksgiving were in her belly.

I’m pretty sure the dog recovered before we did.

It was with great sadness that we had to have our dear old Karma Doggy put down this year, unexpectedly.

I thought of you every time I basted the turkey, old girl. Thanks for the memories.

Lots of Coming Soons

I will soon be launching my brand spanking new website, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Also, the lead up to my book launch is rapidly approaching, so stay tuned for the blog tour, all sorts of promotional goodies, and a giveaway from yours truly.

In the meantime, if you missed it the first time around, check out this excerpt from Life, A.D. which you can find here.

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

All Done Forever

“Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

-Oscar Wilde

On Sunday, I turned in the final corrections on Life, A.D. after spending three days scrutinizing the proofs in search of errors (and thanks to the amazing work of the Month9Books staff, there was hardly a thing I could find!). After clicking “send” on the email to my publisher, I was hit was a strange feeling, one that was a sense of accomplishment combined with relief, and a bit of sadness.

You’d think I’d be giddy, right? My book is finally off to print! Hooray!

And I am excited. Believe me. It’s hard to put into just how excited, which for an author, is a bit of a problem. I should be better at expressing myself, but in this regard, I am at a loss for words. It’s such a privilege to be where I am right now as a writer, and it’s hard for me to find a way to adequately describe my feelings.

Amid the excitement and the sense of relief that all this time and work is finally paying off, there’s a hint of sadness.

I’m done with Life, A.D.

Forever.

My work on a book that began in the usual way—a spark of an idea that floated into my mind—had reached its conclusion. This is the first book I’ve ever written, a project I worked on in fits and starts since shortly after the birth of my son (now almost six!), and now I’m done. Completely.

What I’ve written is going to printed page, and I will have no more chances to make it better.

I know that revision is a potentially never-ending trap, which is why I’m glad I have a publisher, and deadlines. Left to my own devices, I might never get done. My hats off to those who self-publish (seriously!), because I’m the kind of person who needs to be pushed off the ledge in order to fly. I’m not jumping.

It’s a bit daunting, this being done forever business. My book is going out into the big, bad world, but it is ready? Am I ready? This is the kind of thing that drags out all my worst, neurotic qualities. What if nobody likes it? What if my words aren’t good enough? Did I work hard enough? Is my story strong enough? Yuck, right? I mean, give me a break, crazy lady…

The thing is, the publishing process keeps you really busy. I am on the cusp of the following: promoting book one while editing book two, and writing book three. Kind of all at the same time, which means I don’t have nearly the time my crazy mind would like to spend being freaked out.

So back to it I go.

Fly, Life, A.D., fly. You’re getting kicked from the nest.

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http://www.amazon.com/Life-A-D-After-Dez-Atman/dp/0988340917/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383764902&sr=8-1&keywords=month9books

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/life-ad-michelle-e-reed/1117217871?ean=9780988340916

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, a topic close to my heart. Two years ago, I wrote a blog entry about a very important aspect of our adoption experience, and it remains one of the my most viewed posts. I am re-posting it today in the spirit of the month. If you are planning to expand your family, please consider adoption.

Originally posted November 5, 2011

On Joy and Sadness

I’ve gotten some really great feedback on my post about adoption, so in the spirit of National Adoption Month, I will continue with another entry about our experience. Translation—getting serious again. I have changed the names of those involved out of respect for their privacy.

We were uniquely blessed when our adoption came about. We were contacted by an old family friend who had just learned their teenage daughter was pregnant, after hearing just days before through another mutual friend that my husband and I were about to re-start (that’s a story for another time) the adoption process. We were lucky to start off not as strangers, but as old friends separated by time.

Having not seen them for years, we got in touch that night on the phone, and in my elated state of disbelief at our great fortune, I was brought back to earth by my first glimpse of the reality of adoption, one that you don’t hear much about. One that, in my opinion, is critically important we as adoptive families keep in mind: our joy comes at the expense of others. Where we gain, they lose in equal measure.

Speaking with Karen that night, I heard the pain of a worried mother, listened to the strained tone of her voice, aware of the struggle they were already facing. They had just been to the women’s clinic, and had learned that Jenny was five months pregnant. Imagine, if you can, the weight of that kind of information. Your daughter, not yet old enough to drive a car, was going to give birth in mere months. Their lives were in turmoil, turned upside down by the news. As I spoke to her, I tried to rein in my excitement and reassure her that we were already absolutely committed to this baby, and would do everything in our power to help ease their minds. I volunteered to fly down to meet Jenny, and told her I would call our adoption agency first thing in the morning to get the ball rolling and put our adoption study on a “rush.”

As the months rolled by, my first visit turned into a birth plan. I was invited by the family to come down before the birth and stay with them until the baby was born, and would even get to be in the delivery room. I knew this was a risk, but it was just as much a risk for them. What if I fall in love, and they change their minds? How will I do this, with my husband at home in Wisconsin, 600 miles away? Could my heart take it if they wound up changing their minds? Could their hearts take it if they didn’t? What would this mean for all of us?

Two weeks before Jenny’s due date, I got on a plane, my bags filled with baby clothes, the tags still on. I couldn’t bring myself to remove them, despite Jenny’s reassurances that she would not be changing her mind. Everyone was on board, birth father included, but I was still afraid to let myself truly believe this would be a reality. As we waited for the birth, I got to know both families so well, and I could really appreciate how much love and heartache is involved in their decision. Is there a love stronger than that? Choosing to give someone else the gift of a family? Loving a child so much that you choose a life you can’t give them?

I spent a full month with Jenny’s family, living in their home, sharing in their meals, welcomed into their family. My heart was both swelling with excitement and breaking for these birth families as the days passed. The more I got to know them, the more I could see the love and selflessness it takes to do what they’ve done. It was a risk for all of us. How would this work once the baby was born? How would they be able to let us go? How would we be able to leave them?

My husband was a few hours away when our son was born, having left our house when Jenny went into labor. We would drive home together; the three of us a brand new family, once the ICPC office and both states cleared us to leave. He couldn’t get to us fast enough, eager to meet the son we hoped would be ours. Jenny’s commitment to the adoption was now being fought by the hormones in her body, the maternal instinct flowing through her veins. She still wanted the adoption to go through, and with the strength of her mother at her side, we were pretty sure this was going to actually happen.

It’s hard to describe the simultaneous joy and sadness this time brought to us. Holding our son in our arms the first time was a happiness like no other, but it was a feeling of elation tempered by the grieving process Jenny and her family were experiencing. The hospital let me room-in with our newborn boy, for which I was extraordinarily grateful, but just a few doors down his birth mother was grieving for the son she would never get to raise. She ached for him. She wept for him. Those two nights in the hospital were a delicate and sad dance, his bassinette rolling back and forth between rooms, all of us doing our best to share this beautiful boy we’d all fallen in love with, balancing our need to bond with their need to spend as much time as they could with him, time that was fleeting, slipping through their fingers like sand.

We offered to leave the room when she signed the papers that morning, her family, the social worker and an attorney all crammed into too small a room. Jenny asked us to stay, so we did, holding our breath as she signed the papers, tears slipping down our cheeks each time the attorney asked her to be sure she understood her signature was irrevocable. We hugged her and promised to be the parents this sweet little boy deserved, we told her we loved her, that we could never really put in words our gratitude, and that we would always make sure he knows how much she loves him. Our words couldn’t possibly have been enough.

A week later the time had finally come. We were heading home, eager to start our lives together. I will never in my life forget that morning. The car was loaded up with a month of my things, and far more baby gear than anyone would ever need—a true sign of first time parents. We came back in the house and watched as Jenny said goodbye, a tiny miracle lying against her chest, silent tears rolling down her cheeks as she cradled him and whispered in his ear.

Thank you. All of you. For your love, your selflessness, the wisdom beyond your years and your amazing sacrifice. We are more grateful than we can ever say, and we think of you with love every day. I wish I could find the right words to tell you how much you mean to us.