A day in the life

You may or may not know (or care) that I’ve spent the last two years self-publishing a series as Marci Boudreaux–my sweeter self. I chose to self-publish because in the span of just a few months, three–THREE–indie houses I was with closed and left me with rights to almost all my books.

I didn’t want to deal with that again, so I ventured into self-publishing. And I loved it, but it is a lot of work and there isn’t that feeling of acceptance that comes with having a publisher (even a small one) believe in your writing. Recently, I decided to try my hand at the submissions game again.

And I immediately remembered why I hate this effing game.

Rejection is the real name of this game. Constant, unwavering, soul-crushing rejection. If you are lucky, you get a kind word to go with the form letter…if you get a form letter at all. Many editors and agents just don’t respond if they aren’t interested, leaving you hanging on to a thread of hope that they just haven’t read your manuscript yet and will be reaching out at any moment to tell you that you are brilliant!

After a recent string of rejections from agents and publishers, I confided in a friend that I feel like maybe this isn’t “my path.” Like maybe, I’m not cut out for this after all. I have thick skin, I know rejection is the norm and acceptance is the high we authors are addicted to and always seeking. I know all this.

But I guess I’d forgotten out hard it is to hear “no” ten times in a row and keep believing in yourself.

That sounds pouty, doesn’t it? Maybe it is. Maybe I am pouting just a little (maybe even a lot), but bear with me. That’s also part of this process we authors go through. Rejection stings. Even when you are prepared, even when it is part of the game, even when you know you should wear it as a badge of honor to prove that you’ve tried.

burnout [Converted]

Rejection. Hurts.

But we have to keep believing that we are talented. That if we keep working hard maybe more people will buy our books. That someday a big publisher or agent will see that we do have something to offer.

I’ve asked myself more than once during this particular rejection cycle why I keep going. Why do I keep banging my head against this wall?

Because I believe in myself. Because I know I’m talented. I know I have something to offer my readers–even if I haven’t found the right agent or publisher–I have wonderful readers who always say nice things when I meet them at book events or chat with them online.

Maybe I won’t ever be rich or famous or even more than moderately successful, but I have to keep trying. Because this is my path. I didn’t choose it. It chose me. And I’ll keep walking it until I get to the end.

I just hope that end isn’t another brick wall to bang my head against.

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The perfect shade of red.

There are hypochondriacs, then there’s me. I live on a whole other plane of existence.

“Are you sure it’s a pulled muscle?” a slithery voice asks me, when I’m sure that the reason my shoulder is sore is because my wild boar of a dog yanked on his leash. “Are you sure it’s your gall bladder?” it asks, when I have a stomach ache, but I’ve already had a scan that shows significant gallstones, a surgical consult, and a scheduled date for surgery.

“But are you sure?”

Because it’s not enough to constantly worry about the aches and pains that come with being 50 and menopausal, I also have a big side order of anxiety deluxe.

Other people: My leg hurts. If it keeps up, I’ll go to the doctor and have it looked at.

Me: I have a blood clot, and I’m going to die.

Other people: Geez, what did I eat today? I have terrible indigestion and gas.

Me: I’m having a heart attack, and I’m going to die.

Other people: Boy, this is a terrible headache. I’ll take a couple of Tylenol and it should subside.

Me: I have a brain tumor, and I’m going to die.

You may be noticing a pattern. My counselor calls this catastrophizing. I call it “Monday.”

I joke about my health anxiety. I have to, in order to stay sane. There are several tricks I have in my arsenal now to get through the day. Sometimes the fact that I get through the day without calling my doctor in a panic or speeding to the ER is a major feat.

Sound generators (ocean waves, white noise, tubular bells, etc.) help as well. Recognizing ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) tends to defeat intrusive thoughts. Watching funny videos is always good too, especially the little clips I have of my little grandchildren. Watching American Housewife. (looking at you, Katy Mixon.)

Occasionally, though, I get an A plus in imagination and creativity when it comes to my anxiety. For instance, the other night I was battling for space on our bed with our pig of a dog, and when he finally laid down, my covers were pulled down. Since the light was still on, I was able to see a giant reddish bruise right between my boobs.

Cold fear shot through me. I couldn’t remember injuring myself, so obviously, the only reasonable thing to conclude was that I was bleeding internally. Lips numb with fear, I wet a piece of the top sheet and rubbed at it, and it disappeared. My tired but still slithery brain said that I was just dissipating the blood, and I was quite confident I’d be dead by morning. I decided against calling the ambulance just then.

Morning came and the alarm went off as usual. After I took a shower I noticed the bruise wasn’t there anymore. I had been given a reprieve and was going to live, temporarily at least.

After lunch I brushed my teeth in the bathroom at work, and just for shits and giggles, decided to look and ensure the bruise was still gone, just in case I should forget entering sales and begin writing my obituary. I pulled up my shirt and to my absolute horror; the bruise was back, only bigger. And redder.

I hyperventilated for only a minute or two while I was wetting a paper towel, just in case a wet paper towel was good for curing internal bleeding.

Funny thing, though, once again it disappeared. Not only that, there was a red stain on the paper towel.

Wait just a gosh darn minute.

It was then that I remembered that while I was getting ready the day before, putting on makeup, a small chunk of red lipstick had crumbled off the tube and dropped. I hadn’t found it on the bathroom floor.

However, my bra caught that small crumb of lipstick right between my boobs, where the warmth melted it onto the inside of my bra, where it caused a big, red “bruise”.

lipstick

I let out a high pitched giggle. I wasn’t about to die, after all. I could put off writing my obituary and instead write this article.

Thanks for the welcome to Love, Lust, and Laptops!!

Welcome the latest addition to LLL!

Guys!! We at LLL are so very excited to announce author and margarita drinker extraordinaire Christine Cacciatore is going to be joining us as a regular blogger! Stay tuned! Her first post will debut on Monday!

chris

If you aren’t familiar with Chris’s work, you have homework this weekend!!!  Check out her exciting list of books and learn more about her now!

Go, go, go!

But not before giving her a big welcome and waving hello! And maybe having a drink to celebrate.

Welcome, Chris! We are so happy you are here!

Trying to Figure Out the Hardest Job in the Universe

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the universe. Some would argue it’s the hardest. And when something goes wrong–say one of your kids commits suicide–well, it makes you question everything you thought you learned. Everything about yourself, your abilities–as a parent, as a human being.

All those years of trying to get it right, of working toward a positive outcome, of reading, studying, planning, hoping, praying; all of it was washed away over the course of one tragic evening during which the child I raised made the ultimate bad decision. In my case, it was thirteen years’ worth of on-the-job training.

To make it worse, while I’m grieving the loss of one kid–and doubting everything about myself–there’s still another to take care of. My son left behind his sister, who happened to have idolized him like any self-respecting younger sibling would. For the last nineteen months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance my own grief with ensuring she’s happy, well-adjusted, managing her way through this new life we’ve been forced to forge.

My daughter is now twelve. She’s in seventh grade. A year younger than he was when he made that horrible decision, but now in the same grade. I have no idea if it was the age or the grade or if both had a factor in his choice, but that hardly matters. I’m left to pick up the pieces—we’re left to try to make our way down a new path that has been twisted beyond recognition, and the suspension bridge leading to the way back has been cut, collapsed in on itself and plummeted to the ground a thousand feet below.

We’re all changed since that day; that’s inevitable. And none of us have changed in the same way. My husband golfs more—a lot more. I blog—a lot more. And cry. A lot more. My daughter, well, she’s quieter, more reserved, but bits of harsh, teenage personality flair up every now and then. I suspect these startling flair ups are as shocking to her as they are to me. I also believe they are a bit of stress relief, which I know she needs, because like her father, she keeps everything bottled up inside, tucked away near her heart, in a tiny box reserved specifically for emotions she doesn’t like to deal with. Unfortunately for her, those emotions aren’t very good at listening and following directions—much like the teenage mind she’s trying to lock them into.

I, of course, don’t think it’s a bad thing to let those emotions out. I believe they need to escape every now and then, they need to breathe, they need to cry, shout, scream, whatever it takes to help her find her equilibrium again. As much as I hate crying, I admit I always feel a bit cathartic afterward. I find I’m better able to handle tough situations such as when my daughter tells me she doesn’t like having anything to do with me because I’m so different since “it” happened nineteen months ago.

Thank God for that random, out-of-nowhere crying jag while I was driving in my car earlier in the day, because otherwise there was no way in hell I would have been able to hear something like that without losing my shit.

But I didn’t break down or go ape shit, much to my own surprise as well as my daughter’s. She fully expected me to have a meltdown or scream at her; I’m still not sure which. All I know is I took her completely by surprise by talking about the subject entirely rationally and calmly, and hopefully with a bit of intelligence to boot. Maybe I’m finally managing to become the parent I thought I was before my son died.

I told her everybody grieves differently. It’s okay if I cry at the slightest provocation or if her dad golfs all the damn time or if her grandma visits her grandson’s grave on a weekly basis or if her grandpa talks to him every night before he goes to bed—even if it’s a one-sided conversation. It’s okay because we aren’t curled up into balls in the bedroom, hiding from the world. We’re living, even if it’s differently from the way we were nineteen months ago. We’re making our way in this world, we’re figuring it out, and the process isn’t really something to be concerned about so long as we’re doing it. I let her know that if she wants me to do something differently, I’ll give it my best shot, because that’s what parents do. We try our damnest to make our kids’ lives easier/better/safer/happier. That’s part of why our jobs are so freaking hard, because we don’t have all the control; all we can do is our best and hope it’s good enough to overcome some of those external factors.

And sometimes good enough isn’t enough.

She left the table after my little spiel, and I didn’t call out to her or yell at her and demand she stay or even ask for a response. I finished my dinner and then began to clean up. And a little while later she came back, hovering in the hallway outside the kitchen, and said, “You know how you said everyone grieves differently? Well, I grieve differently than you, and I need you to respect that.”

And you know what? She’s right. And I told her so. And I promised to try.

This grieving process has turned into a learning process. Learning how to live again. Learning how to be a parent and a daughter with the dark cloud of a lost son/sibling hovering over our lives. Learning how to communicate with my remaining child, the one who is suffering as much as I am—just differently.

Because we all grieve differently. And that’s okay.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an award winner, wine drinker, and writer of happy endings. Because life sometimes sucks, and we all need an escape. Check out her website here: http://tamilund.com

Halloween Short Story

October is my favoritest time of year! I love the change of season, hot cocoa by a fire, falling leaves, pumpkins…and of course, Halloween!

Even though I usually write romance, I can’t help but get into a crreeeepy spirit this time of year.

Here is a short free Halloween read for you. This is definitely NOT romance. If you don’t like creepy things, maybe don’t read this one.

**Even though this is a free short story, please don’t use/copy without my permission. If you know someone who would like to read this story, direct them to this blog or to my website. Thank you!!**

 

The Lemon Drop

by Marci Boudreaux

 

My mother’s voice echoed through my head. “Never take candy from strangers.”

Her face, sweet and kind, filled my mind. I remember how she used to crease her brow as she gave me stern warnings borne from maternal worry. When I left for college, she told me not to walk alone at night. Not to leave my drink unattended at a party.

But she forgot to remind me to never take candy from strangers.

I wish she were here now.

But, I’m alone. Stumbling toward my car. Fumbling for my keys. Feeling like I was leaving a frat party instead of a gas station. The parking lot reminded me of a dystopian sunset—the area was encased in the orange glow of the low-pressure sodium lights high in the posts. Any moment zombies could come dragging themselves from the darkness at the edges of the lot. Rabid dogs could come charging. Giant spiders could descend from above and wrap me in a web.

Any of these things could happen and they’d make so much more sense to me than the reality of what was happening.

“Here,” the old man behind the counter had said as he handed me my change, “have a candy.” He had held his wrinkled hand out. His fingers had trembled as I looked over the various colored treats wrapped in clear cellophane.

After a moment, I chose a yellow piece.

He had smiled and winked. “Lemon. That’s my favorite.”

I had unwrapped the little lemon drop and popped it in my mouth before gathering my cold bottle of water and bag of salty chips. I still had an hour before I made it home for a long weekend and needed a snack to hold me over. Mom would have food waiting, she always did, but I needed sustenance now.

The citrus flavor burst over my taste buds and saliva instantly began to flow. It was much more sour than I expected. So tart that my tongue felt a little numb. I swallowed as my mouth filled with spit.

Holy cow! What kind of candy is this? I thought as I stepped off the sidewalk and stumbled. My water fell from my hand and rolled way. I watched as it seemed to go in slow motion. My body was starting to feel disjointed—like medicine head, only ten times worse.

Then I heard Mom say in the echoes of my mind, “Never take candy from strangers.”

I opened my mouth and spit along with what was left of the candy slid down my chin. My keys. Where were my keys? Oh god. Where? Where did I put them?

I patted along my pockets, but my hands felt like water balloons. Every time I touched myself, tingling waves rolled through my fingers, through my palms, and up my wrists.

I reached my car door but couldn’t open it. My keys. Where are my damn keys?

Like my hands, my legs began to feel too heavy, too thick. I tried to keep walking. If I couldn’t drive away, I could run. I could run to the road. Flag someone down. But who? This road was the shortcut. The country road. The out of the way, no traffic road.

Falling, I blinked when my cheek hit the pavement. That should have hurt, but other than that crazy wave of pins and needles, I felt nothing.

The old man kneeled in front of me. I could see it now. The menace behind the crooked smile. The filth of his teeth. The crazy in his dark eyes.

I hadn’t seen it before. How had I missed that?

“Yeah. Those little lemon ones are my favorites,” he said.

I tried to scream but my throat was too tight. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t make a sound. But I did feel the burning hot sensation of a tear leaving the corner of my eye and trailing down the side of my nose.

He scooped me up off the ground. A bitter scent filled my nostrils reminding me of when I was a kid and my dad would come in from working on his truck. Oil or some other fluid. I couldn’t place it. I’d always hated it, but now I inhaled deeply.

My dad was kind. He was gentle. He’d sit next to me at the kitchen table and coach me through my algebra. Even now, in college, I’d call him when I was stuck on a problem. I wanted to call him now.

Dad. Help. I think I’m in trouble. Daddy?

He didn’t come. He didn’t help. As the old man eased me down, the dampness of more tears trailed down the sides of my face and landed in my ears. They tickled as they pooled there but I couldn’t reach up and wipe them away. I couldn’t move any more now than I could when I hit the ground.

I stared up at a high ceiling. There wasn’t much light, but it seemed like a garage—the kind a mechanic works out of. There was a different smell now. I couldn’t place this one. Metallic. But not oil or transmission fluid. Not anything I recalled smelling on Dad.

It was almost…almost like…blood.

No!

I gagged. The taco from the drive through I gone through before leaving the city lurched up.

“Oh, careful now,” the old man said and turned me on my side. “Don’t want to drown in your own vomit.”

My body jerked involuntarily as he tilted my head over the side of the table. The floor was dirt so the bile and bits of undigested food landed in a puddle but didn’t splatter much. The dirt was darker in some places. Stained.

Flipping me back over, he smiled as he wiped my mouth. “All better?”

I couldn’t answer, but I wanted to beg. Beg for mercy. Beg for help. Beg to be let go.

He stroked my hair like my mother would when I got sick as a child. “Now don’t you worry. I can clean that mess up in no time.”

I wasn’t worried about the mess. I was worried about what was going to happen to me. Nothing good, that much I knew. But then he stepped away. I couldn’t turn my head, but my eyes tried to follow him. I couldn’t see him. Where had he gone?

Had he left? If I could roll over, maybe I could get off the table and crawl away. Maybe there is someone close. Someone who could help me.

Something snapped. Like a surgeon’s glove. Then again.

My hearing seemed to have increased, but I had to hold my breath because the rush of air in and out of my lungs started to drown out everything else. I stopped breathing.

Listened.

Material moved.

Soft footfalls on the dirt floor.

Then he started whistling.

An old song that my grandfather had on vinyl. He used to put the old records on as he painted landscapes. He wasn’t a good painter. I knew that even as a child. But the song took me back to his house. A tiny clean space with bad paintings on every wall and songs from the ’40s playing from scratchy records that spun and spun, the needle moving closer to the center with every quick pass.

Grandpa died four years ago. I didn’t keep a single one of his paintings. Why? Why hadn’t I taken just one? If I had, I’d hang it in my dorm room. Above my bed so I could see it every night and think of that time with him—back when my world was small and safe.

The whistling grew louder and the old man reappeared.

Don’t hurt me. Please.

I gasped as my body finally made me breathe again. As I did, more tears fell.

He smiled.

“Do you know why lemon is my favorite?” His breath was rancid as it hit my face. My stomach turned again. “Because the little girls who choose lemon take the longest to die.”

I wanted to scream. I did inside my mind but my voice still didn’t work. My muscles were frozen. The only thing I seemed to be able to control were my eyes and my breathing. And I looked everywhere my eyes could see when he left my side again.

When he reappeared, I noticed he had on long gloves. The snapping sound I’d heard.

He lifted jumper cables and smiled. “Do you like fireworks?” He touched the cables to a car battery and laughed when sparks flew. “Whew! Got a live one here!”

He tossed the cables aside and went to work on unscrewing the caps along the top of the battery. “Know what makes lemon taste so sour? The high level of acid. Yep. Lemon is my favorite.” He started whistling that damn song cheery again. This time, hard as I tried, I couldn’t conjure up images of my grandfather. Or of his paintings.

This time, I couldn’t stop staring as the old man tipped the battery and poured the clear liquid into a glass jar.

“That should do it.” He lifted the bottle up and smiled at me. “Have to use glass. Acid doesn’t eat the glass.” His smile widened. “Will eat you from the inside out, though.”

I tried to move. Tried to roll away. Tried to beg and scream.

I was frozen as he pulled the plunger of a large syringe, sucking the battery acid into the syringe. Showed me the full needle. Flicked the side like a television nurse, then focused on my arm. I couldn’t see what he was doing, couldn’t feel the prick of the needle, but he chuckled.

“You’re a bleeder, aren’t you? No worries. No worries. I’ve got bandages.”

He tore one open. It wasn’t flesh-colored. It had colorful little horses on the surface, as if that would magically make the injury better. My breathing increased—I no longer had control. My eyes darted back and forth—seeking, searching, but finding nothing.

My body started to warm. I couldn’t feel pain, but I could feel heat. Pulsing through me with every erratic heartbeat. Warming me, burning me. From the inside out.

There was no pain. There was only heat and fear.

And my mother’s voice.

“Never take candy from strangers.”

Silly Author Interview with Tami Lund

As I searched my laptop looking for blog post inspiration at midnight the night before I was scheduled to post something here on Love, Lust, and Laptops, I stumbled across an author interview. I don’t even remember where it’s from or for whom I wrote it, but I thought it was quirky enough to repost here, for your reading pleasure. Hopefully it makes you chuckle…

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Tami Lund, and once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer. Then life and insecurities got in the way. Then that same life threw me a curve ball in the form of the recession, which introduced me to the world of unemployment for fifteen long months.  Job searching become tedious and incredibly boring, since, you know, there weren’t any jobs, while the desire to write became all-consuming.

I finally gave in, wrote a few dozen manuscripts, decided a couple were reasonably good enough to be published, and I haven’t looked back since. Oh yeah, and I have a husband, a kid, and a dog who is convinced the world revolves around me (it isn’t nearly as flattering as it sounds). When I peel myself away from writing that next book (or procrastinating via surfing Facebook), I’m usually cleaning up after everyone else in my family, occasionally gardening, rarely cooking (although you’d question that statement if you follow me on Instagram), often walking my dog, and sometimes paying attention to the kid and husband.

  1. What genre do you write and why?

I write both contemporary and paranormal romance. Mostly it’s because that’s what I love to read.

  1. What books have you published?

I’ve published quite the selection of books, so it might be easiest to give you the Amazon link to my author page. Hang out, peruse, enjoy, have a read or ten:

https://www.amazon.com/Tami-Lund/e/B00AXJH5MY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1422919572&sr=8-1

6. What are you working on next?

There’s always something! First, there’s a Christmas anthology releasing on Christmas Eve – I have a brand new short story in there. Then there’s a vampire boxed set coming in February. If you’re a fan of my book, Resist, be on the lookout for Anya’s sister’s story in this one. Oh, and Misti Murphy and I are hard at work on the next Sexy Bad book – this one’s called Sexy Bad Boss and it’s James’s story. There’s also another paranormal that at the moment involves shifters and faeries and demons. And lastly, I’m working on my first dragon shifter book! Wow, that was a lot, wasn’t it?

7. Do you use experiences from your own life in your writing or does it all come from your imagination?

I use real life experiences all the time. Usually, my best story ideas – even the paranormal ones – come from real life. Lucky for me, my friends all laugh whenever I say, “This is going into one of my books!”

8. What is your favorite curse word?

I’m not gonna lie. I love the f-bomb. There is no mistaking your passion when you insert the word fuck into a sentence.

9. Are you a cat or dog person?

I love both and I wish I had one of each. But we just have a dog. Not ‘just’ because I adore her and she’s my baby girl, but I’d still love to have a cat too. Unfortunately, the hubs isn’t nearly as fond of cats as I am. By not nearly I mean he’s literally on the other end of the spectrum. So yeah, no cats.

10. If you had your choice of writing retreat would you choose:

a.) Villa in Italy

b.) Cabin in the woods

c.) English estate in Derbyshire (think Pemberly)

d.) Beach house in the Virgin Islands

Beach house. Doesn’t even have to be in the Virgin Islands. Sandy beach and blue water and I’m there. Forever. I’ll send postcards. And new books.

Bonus Question: Tell us a funny story about you that we can’t find on your bio.

In the early years, when I was still treading the murky waters of publishing, I was embarrassed over the sex scenes I’d written in my books (crazy, I know). I had recently self-published the first in a now unpublished series called The Resort, and had finally started admitting to my inner circle of friends that I had books available to read, if they were so inclined. At a party comprised of mostly friends I had met through my kid’s school, one of the dads came up to me, ipad in hand, and told me he downloaded my book and it was surprisingly good. A small crowd gathered, and he read a passage that wasn’t exactly PG … Resulting in at least thirty minutes of teasing due to the redness of my face.

Yeah, that happened.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund writes romance, drinks wine, wins awards, and occasionally does author interviews on her own blog. If you want more, check out her website: http://tamilund.com