A Gutsy Business Plan

Last year I started a business. The crazy thing is I didn’t really realize that I was starting a business when I did it. When I clicked on the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing I was not only sending my first novel (my baby) out into the world, I was also launching my own company, Karen Gordon – Author. 

I was aware that self publishing would mean that I was self promoting but I had a tip-of-the-iceberg view of what I had just jumped into. I would image it’s the same with starting almost any business. There are always hidden aspects, things that weren’t on your radar when you got your initial spark of genius. The good news is that the same internet that allows so many of us to start a business is also replete with guru’s to help you keep going after that first plunge. 

I found my first business mentor when I was writing Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story. Danielle LaPorte was (and still is) the perfect combination of business-savy entrepreneur, spiritual mystic and blunt friend who will tell it like it is (with a few choice cuss words thrown in for emphasis). Her Firestarter Sessions book was exactly what I needed to light a fire under me and push my novel out of my head and into kindles around the world. I recommend her to anyone, but especially women, who have a dream they want to turn into a business. 

I also found a lot of great advice about ways to use social media to grow my fledgling business. I found apps and sites that I never knew existed or had never ventured into, but each promised to be a great way to connect with my audience. So I LinkedIn to Wattpad. I Google+(ed) a Pintrest pin. I Instagramed my FB posts. I tweeted my Reddit quotes and reposted my blogs on Goodreads.

 I scattered myself; my time, my message, my energy so far and wide forgot the reason I was doing it in the first place–my writing. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t good at or entirely comfortable being that social. It’s really not my nature.

Then I found Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. The author was featured on a self-publishing podcast where he spoke eloquently to the introvert in me that was finding it harder than I thought it would be to put myself (and not just my work) out there in social media. The book not only had great ideas for those who might be a little social media adverse, it helped me bring my focus back onto who I am, what I do and what I offer. David Gaughran helped me get back to where Danielle LaPorte started me–following my gut.

I slowed down and backed off. I stopped chasing every possible social media stream and took the time to figure out those few that worked best for me. (Turns out it’s the ones I was already drawn to before I was a business.) I focused on and studied the four forms of social media I enjoyed: FaceBook, Pintrest, Goodreads and Twitter. I learned amazing things about each that I never knew as a casual user and it never felt like a chore. Following your business gut guarantees more fun and less drudge. 

 I’m writing slower too, which really seems to go against prevailing wisdom. I’m not sure how so many authors are producing four or more novels a year, but my quota is closer to two (some years, one). While I can write like the wind once I get going, I need to do a lot of research and pre-planning and outlining before I can begin to think about daily word quotas. I could feel each character and knew each deeply as I wrote my first two novels. Until I get to that point I can’t officially start writing on the next. 

I don’t think my new business plan is so much brave as it is perfect for me. It comes from my gut. What about your business plan? Or life plan? Have you found your guru’s? Have you found the mix of producing and marketing that’s working for you? If you have, please comment and share.

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Beguiling

Sometimes the strongest person in the room isn’t the one at the head of the table, the one shouting, the one at the center of everyone’s attention.

Sometimes the strongest person is the quiet one, listening, learning, studying everyone else.

Sometimes the strongest person is the one who doesn’t join in the drama that never solves a problem but looks good to others.

Sometimes the strongest person is the one who seems to do everything for others, forsaking their own needs.

Strength comes from knowing who you are, where you want to go, what you want to accomplish then getting there. It comes from knowing who you should include in your journey and who you should leave out.

I’m in the process right now of creating the main character of my next series of books and the above quote is a great clue to the enigma that is Vivienne. Like Carrie in Burnouts and Steve in Popstars she is somewhat of an antihero. Her natural place is not at the center of attention. But Vivienne is a little older than the other two characters and much more secure in her introversion. She may not have a clear vision of exactly what she wants from life (in the first book), but she is confident in her skills and abilities.

I love that her strengths are the opposite of the classic (and obvious) definition of strong. Vivienne is the quiet girl who is easily overlooked. She’s the willing ear for office gossip, the team supporter who bakes brownies for the Monday staff meeting, the girlie-girl in the pink sweater and lace. She’s the dark horse in the race to the top who surprises everyone, except herself, when she’s presented first prize then walks away from the cheering crowd to find her next challenge.

But it’s also Vivienne’s introverted nature that I hope isn’t overlooked by readers. There is a temptation to create an over-the-top character that stands out in the crowd. There is a definite risk in pinning an eight-book series on the power of quiet. But, like Vivienne, I can’t walk away from the challenge. All I can do is let you, my readers, get to know her as well as I have and hopefully fall in love the beguiling nature of a powerful introvert. 

Fear Less

In case you missed the incessant posts and announcements, my second novel “Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale” went live yesterday. It was an exciting and very emotional day for me. The best way I can describe the feeling is that it’s kind of like sending your sweet baby off to kindergarten. You are launching part of your heart into the world and once done, there is no going back.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog, this book was harder to write than the first. Because like a lot of authors, I didn’t know if anyone would ever read the first book. I didn’t write it with the intention of publishing. Then I finished it, wanted to share it, wanted to try something new and exciting, and I put it on Amazon. 

I was laughing last night remembering how I was sure there would be a mad rush to buy my first book. But what I got, after I hit publish, was a lot of silence, for quite a while. It turns out that I’m not the only one who wrote a book and put it on Amazon (go figure). 

Then the really hard part started. I had to promote my work–my work, my words. I had to tell people, “Hey, this is really good and you should read it.” I could do that all day for someone else, but for me? Skin-crawlingly uncomfortable. I love “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” but that didn’t make it any easier to put myself (a dyed-in-the-wool introvert) out there into a world of critics. I was inviting them to say, “Your book is crap and you are too.” Scary shit of epic proportions. 

But I did it. I relentlessly sent requests for reviews and put the book on read-to-review lists and begged people to tell me what they thought. 

And, because I have a very active imagination (writer’s curse/blessing), nothing that happened was nearly as bad as I feared. I got one 1-star review, and I survived. I cried, swept the porch, then blogged about it. What actually happened was the opposite of my fears. The book got great reviews. So many people wrote to say how much they connected with my characters and the story. Back to the kindergarten analogy, that was like the teacher calling to say, “You have one of the most wonderful children I have ever met.” It’s a high that is hard to describe. I can float on that connection for days. 

I self-published Burnouts nine months ago. It feels like years ago. Because I have grown and changed so much in these past nine months. I have learned a lot about being an authorpreneur (self-published author). And in the process, I have met some amazing, helpful, supportive people. 

So yesterday was such a different experience than my last book launch. I was surrounded by people who had read my first book and loved it and other authors and reviewers and bloggers who I’ve connected with. It was scary, but so much better than the first book.

My official Author pic.(Also better)


I got a review for Popstars this morning. (See Pretty Little Pages.blogspot.com) And the reviewer talked about how I have grown as a writer. That made me so happy because I have grown as a writer and a person and it was heart-warming to have someone acknowledge it. 

I’m in the process, again, of promoting my work. Only this time I am out there waving my author flag loud and proud. I’m a much stronger person now. To celebrate this novel I bought myself a ring. It say “without fear” in Latin. I might not be completely without fear now (or ever), but I do fear less. 

Not In a New York State of Mind–Chapter 1

We are half way thorough October and counting down to the November 2nd release of Popstars. Today we catch-up with MG, post-high school. She’s moved to the big city with her mom where things are not going as she planned. 

Some of this chapter comes from my year of living in New York, when I coined the phrase,”It’s like living in a pen of nervous poodles on speed.” Most of this chapter, however, is from MG’s perspective, a Middle-American, suburban girl who’s ideas were painted by too many episodes of Sex and the City and Friends.

Enjoy the chapter and don’t forget you can pre-order an ecopy of Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale on Amazon now. One click now and it will arrive on your Kindle or Kindle app on November 2nd.

Chapter One

“Talk for me.”
“What?” MG thought she was ready for this interview, but this? What the hell did he want her to say?  
Last night she had done her nails three times until she got it perfect, not that she would be doing nails, but how the hell do you prepare for an interview to be a receptionist at Manhattan’s hottest nail salon. She desperately wanted and needed this job. 
Four months ago, when she first moved here, she would have laughed at the idea of prepping for this interview. Hell, four months ago she would have laughed at the position and the salary and never even put in an application. Not now. The Big Apple was kicking her ass and beating her down ‘til she was almost begging to be considered to answer phones.
She blamed it all on Friends, not her friends, the TV show. Sure, move to New York, get a cool job, live in a big-ass apartment, date hot, rich guys … uh, no. The thing was, even if she had known what it was like here, she would have come, because moving to Manhattan was her mom’s dream and where else was she really gonna go. 
When her mom had brought up the idea it sounded so cool. MG pictured herself, her mom and her best friend Carrie sharing one of those big, beautiful, old apartments with hardwood floors and huge windows that looked over the skyline. They would get exciting jobs at Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren where they would meet people who would invite them to parties with the rich and famous. She and Carrie would make sure everyone (especially the bitches) back in St. Louis knew that they were livin’ large. She even had a plan (that she didn’t tell Carrie about) to meet and get a date with Edward Burns. She knew he lived in New York and being seen in a gossip mag on his arm would be the ultimate fuck-you to everyone who treated her like trailer trash in high school.
Now she was here, without Carrie, in a small, ugly apartment where she slept on a pull-out couch and had no room of her own. No one welcomed her with open arms and a job at Calvin Klein. She never made it past going in their flagship store. She had worn her CK jeans and tee shirt (that she totally overpaid for at the outlet mall) and was soaking in the rich-smelling air when a giraffe of a sales girl looked her over like she was Daisy Duke come to call. Her wheat-blonde messy curls suddenly felt more like a rat’s nest, her size-ten body a balloon and her favorite Chuck Taylors felt more trashy than funky. There it was again, that sting; that unsaid ‘what are you doing here, white trash?’ She had skulked out of the store. 
It also turned out that Edwards Burns didn’t exactly live right around the corner from her. New York City was much bigger than she’d imagined.
Right now she had no idea what to say to this mafia-looking dude she was interviewing with. Talk for him?  She started with, “Uh, hi, I’m MG.” And she smiled at him and batted her eyelashes, giving him her signature flirt-stare with her soft brown eyes.
He didn’t seem to notice. In fact he was busy typing onto a tiny keyboard on his Blackberry. It seemed like everyone here with any money had one. If she got this job her first paycheck (or first five) were going toward getting one of those.
“Where you from, MG?” He stressed her name like he thought it was odd, and it did sound odd in his heavy New York accent.
“St. Louis.”
He kept typing, seeming to ignore her, so she added, “My mom and I moved here in June.”
He breathed out a sigh of frustration and MG thought he might not like her already. Fuck, she couldn’t win for losing. How could she have screwed up this interview that fast?  
He dropped his phone on the manicure table in front of him. “Alright, you got the job.”
She needed to close her mouth and not look so shocked, but she had almost given up hope of hearing those words. 
“If I find out you’re not from St. Louis, and you covered up a Jersey accent with some acting classes, you’re out on your ass, you understand?”
So much became clear to her in that one sentence. It was her accent, or lack of one, that was getting her this job. Time to talk some more. “Umm, yeah, I understand. Not a problem. I really am from St. Louis. I was born and raised there and I just graduated high school.”
He looked at her like she needed to stop talking. She shut up. 
“MG, what the hell kind of name is that? What’s it stand for?”
“Mary Grace.”
He looked like he might laugh (might). “Seriously?  That’s a Catholic-school-girl name. You got one of them Catholic-school-girl skirts too?”
The way he said it made her think he might have another business making films featuring young girls in Catholic-school-girl skirts. 
“That’s not gonna work. Grace, you’ll be Grace.” He started typing again on his Blackberry. “In two weeks, I’ll order you a shirt with Grace on it. We’ll see if you last that long.” He stopped typing and looked at her. “’Til then you wear a white polo, black skirt, and heels. You come to work with your nails and toes painted, and don’t do it yourself. It’ll look like crap. We’re not doing it for you here, so get it done somewhere. Understand?”
MG nodded. Damn, he talked fast. Everyone here talked fast. 
“Show up on Monday at eight. Krystyna will show you around.”
She nodded again and thought about answering him but he was already up and out of his chair. He was out the door before she could get out of her seat. Everyone moved fast here too. She felt like she was trapped in a pen of nervous poodles on speed.  
     
A job! She finally had a job! Her excitement lasted all of ten or fifteen minutes before the reality of her current situation set in. She just landed a job that paid minimum wage (woo hoo) where she would schedule appointments for, not hang out with, the richest women around. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She had always had better luck with men. Except for Carrie, Gina, and Casey, she had never gotten along with other girls. Her best friend was a guy, or he had been before the whole love thing, and her leaving without saying goodbye thing …
It was telling that her best day in New York City so far had her wanting to cry, and she never cried. She felt so stuck. Her life here sucked in a way she never imagined it could, but it’s not like she could go back to her friends in St. Louis. Her mom and only home (couch) were here. And she had acted like a totally stupid bitch before she left anyway, bragging to everyone about how cool her life was going to be while they died a slow death in boring, old St. Louis. 
And then there was Steve … she had just left him hanging. He had been her best friend in so many ways and she loved him. But she never told him, because if she did she might not have left, and then she would be stuck back there, in some minimum-wage job, kinda like she was here. She blew out her frustration and pain and started walking the fifteen blocks back to her apartment. 
Lunch was another bag of the candied nuts from a street vendor and a coffee with lots of cream and sugar. It was cheap and the combo of caffeine and sugar would keep her going for a few hours. At least her checks from the nail salon would buy more groceries. With their savings running low and no commission checks for her mom yet, they had been living on the cheap. Just the smell of ramen noodles was starting to make her gag. Her visions of a Blackberry faded into grocery sacks of food. 
She sat on a bench on the edge of a little square park near their apartment, watching the office workers pour out of the high rises to catch a little sun and fresh air on their lunch hour. There was a mild breeze and the drone of conversations was making her drowsy. Her head flopped back and she jerked it up with a start. No one seemed to notice her falling asleep, but she feared someone would if she nodded off. That would be the highlight of her NY life; mugged on a park bench because she was wiped out from too little sleep and food.    
Then it started… again. At about one-thirty, when the lunch crowd thinned out it started behind her right eye, this horrible sharp pain. It felt like someone stabbed her in her temple with a pencil. Aspirin didn’t do much for it. When she had one of these god-awful headaches last week she took four aspirin and still had to lay with her head on their cool bathroom floor tile for hours. At least the apartment would be quiet. Her mom was putting in long hours learning the ins and outs of New York real estate.
     
Amber looked at the proof sheet of headshots. Wow, it’s amazing what a really good photographer can do. She looked sexy and expensive. The photos could probably work for an escort service or selling apartments. She filed that idea away as a back-up plan should she fail here. 
The New York realty firm she worked for, The Brighton Group, definitely had better resources than the one she had left in St. Louis, but they also had higher expectations. Right out of the gate her sales quota for her first quarter was four times higher. Then again, the apartment she was hoping to list this afternoon could cover half that quota. She was swimming with the big fish in a much bigger pond now, and she loved it.
She felt as energized as she did when she started selling houses after her second divorce. Adversity fueled her. Being single, again, with a child to feed fueled her. She had no regrets about letting go of her life lines in St. Louis (namely her married boyfriend, Vin) and letting her fears push her to succeed again.  
Speaking of her child … poor MG. She hated to see her struggling so hard. She kept telling herself that MG would be fine once she got a job and made some friends. Her daughter was an irresistible, beautiful ball of fun; there was no way the Big Apple was going to beat that out of her. Once they got some money coming in they could go out and have some fun, get to know their new home; shopping, Broadway shows, museums. Right now it was nose to the grindstone to get those checks. 
Amber marked the three photos she liked best and popped the proofs into an inter-office envelope to send to her boss, Art. She pulled a mirror from the center drawer on her desk and went to work fixing her makeup so she would look as much like her sexy head shots as possible. Her new realtor campaign wouldn’t do much good if no one recognized her from the pictures. 
She made a quick stop in the bathroom to adjust her dress before she headed out to look at the possible new listing. Technically the dress was too small, but it was the only size on clearance and hence the only one she could afford. Her hips were straining at the zipper now, but another month or two on a “we have almost no money” diet and the designer dress would fit perfectly. 
It was four-twenty when she left her office. The downtown streets were already filling up with afternoon commuters that would bring everything to a crowded crawl in the next hour. She checked the time on her cell phone and debated how long it would take her to reach the apartment by subway versus how much it would cost her by cab, if she could get a cab. The subway won. Visions of her and MG running out of food before her first commission check put power in her walk to the station.

Popstars Prologue & Burnout Books

So many things are happening at once in my little corner of the indie publishing world. Let me start with two big announcements.

And:

Finally, as promised, I will start posting chapters from Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale today. I’ll be posting one each week until the big day, November 2nd.

Today, the prologue–a little step backward into Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks:a love story. This is the scene where MG, Steve and all girls go to junior prom together. Only this time it is told from Steve’s perspective. 

As always, I want to note that my work is intended for readers age 17 and older because there is sexual content and cursing. 

That said, enjoy the prologue.

Prologue

Junior Prom, 1998
They all piled into the limo, ready for food and a reprieve from the stares and drama that had been prom. Steve scooted across the bench seat to make room for his dates: Carrie, Casey, Gina, and MG. Casey wanted the window seat so she crawled over his lap, almost kneeing him in the balls on her way.
 “Case, jezus!” He doubled over, protecting himself.
Her look of surprise said she hadn’t really noticed who she had just climbed over.
Gina and Carrie arranged themselves on either side of him, popped off their high-heeled shoes and draped their legs across his to rest their feet. He unconsciously grabbed their toes and started rubbing, causing both of them to moan in ecstasy. But his mind was on MG, kneeling on the rear facing seat with her butt squarely in his field of vision while she gave the driver directions to the all-night pancake restaurant.
At least fifteen different guys must have come up to him tonight and high-fived or fist bumped him for having four dates to prom. Fifteen guys who normally never talked to him but probably talked about him as a burnout, drug addict, loser. He’d never considered himself the smartest guy, but he was sure as shit smarter than them when it came to girls.
It started when he was fourteen. Girls started coming on to him, usually older ones. That was the summer he grew five inches and towered over all his friends at a gangly six feet tall. That was also the summer that his dad stopped making him get his hair cut. Women of all ages couldn’t seem to keep their hands out of the dark brown waves.
Desiree was sixteen and lived in his apartment complex. She gave him his first joint and first kiss and he was hooked. He loved everything about both, especially the way they made him feel. Having grown up with only his dad and brother, girls were exotic to him and he couldn’t get enough time hanging out with them. He wanted to hear what they had to say, study their bodies, taste them, smell them, make them smile. Desiree and her friends taught him how to do just that in a way that guaranteed they couldn’t get pregnant. He had hours and hours of oral lessons from his first girlfriends. When he met MG he volunteered to teach her, then Casey, then Gina (though they never got that far). He’d be happy to go over the finer points with Carrie too if she ever asked.
“Don’t stop!” Carrie moaned and he went back to rubbing her feet. Casey took off her shoes and stuck her feet on his lap too. He rotated rubbing Carrie’s, then Gina’s, then Casey’s. MG’s were notably missing.
 
     
The tough-looking night shift waitress at Paul’s Pancakes flirted with him. She teased him about what he had to keep four dates happy then passed him her number on the back of the check.
Gina saw it first when she grabbed the check to divide the total by five. “So, who do you think this is for?” She joked as she held it up to show the others. They all smirked at Steve.
He shrugged off his innocence. “What?” There was no jealousy in the group. If he wanted to call the waitress he could. But that was the problem too, there was no jealousy, especially not from the one he wanted it from.
MG wiped the last of the syrup from her plate with her finger and licked it off. Steve watched her with rapt attention. Try as he might he couldn’t give up the hope that she might really care, that he hadn’t majorly fucked up when he told her that he loved her. He breathed out his frustration and looked away. Carrie caught him and gave him a small smile of understanding. She had it just as bad for her neighbor Ben as he did for MG.
He thought back to the two weeks when he had lived at MG’s house. His older brother Tony (better known as Stony) had come home wasted and beat the crap out of him. When he got to a pay phone the only person he wanted to call was MG and she didn’t hesitate to drive in a snow-storm and come get him. Then she took care of him, well, her and her mom. She put Hello Kitty band-aids all over him and made him laugh through his pain. She made stupid airplane noises and fed him soup because he could hardly move his shoulder and his lip was too swollen to eat solids his first day there. She fell asleep, spooned against him, watching movies on the couch in her upstairs TV room. He even stayed through Christmas. She bought him fingerless gloves and a hat, and her mom spent way too much on a new leather jacket for him. Best damn Christmas he could ever remember. Best two weeks he could ever remember. He wanted more of it.
But he fuckin blew it. Somewhere in the middle of telling her about his memories of his step-mom, he told MG that he loved her. He meant it, but he should have kept his mouth shut. Ever since then, they were still friends, but … it just wasn’t the same. She barely touched him anymore.
     
After pancakes they were all back at MG’s house where Steve was sprawled on the couch in the upstairs TV room. He had changed out of his tuxedo and was waiting for the girls to finish changing. It was past two a.m. and he had really had enough for the night, but MG insisted they needed to stay out all night. He slumped over the plump arm of the soft chenille sofa. Gina came in and flopped across the giant bean bag chair, looking like she had had enough too. Carrie and Casey both stretched out on the carpeted floor, sharing one of the big floor pillows for their heads.
“Don’t go to sleep,” he warned. “She’ll drag your ass down the stairs and out the door.” When it came to fun, MG was determined. If she wanted to stay out all night, they would all stay out all night, even if she had to drag them kicking and screaming.
But MG took too long to get ready (nothing new there) and they were all breathing deeply, sound asleep, when she came in the room.
“Come on you guys,” she pleaded to the silent room, then gave up when no one stirred and pulled a pile of blankets from the hall linen closet. Through half-open eyes Steve watched her drape a blanket over Carrie and Casey, then Gina. He closed his eyes when she sat on the coffee table in front of him, wondering what she would say or do if she thought he was asleep. She reached forward and twirled some of his wavy hair around her finger. She had been doing that ever since they met sophomore year. It made his hair stand up and her laugh.
He was half on the couch, one leg still on the floor. She laid the blanket over him and leaned in and sniffed his shirt when she tucked it around his neck. Hopefully smelling his cologne (not that he owned any). He had stopped by Walgreens to use a sample on his way to her house.
His heart lurched when he felt her climb over him and under the blanket and snuggle into his back. Her arm wrapped around him and burrowed into a warm spot against his chest. He opened his eyes and swallowed, willing his traitor heart to slow down before she could feel his reaction to her, that stupid hope he worked hard to keep buried. In his mind “Love Sucks” by the Addicts played in a loop ‘til he fell asleep.

Cover and Blurb Reveal

I have been bouncing-off-the-walls excited about today. So much came together this past weekend to get me ready for Burnouts Book 2 to go live on Amazon on November 2nd.  First the design goddesses, namely Kitten and Kim, at Deranged Doctor Designs sent me the final work on my cover.  I love it!  Not only does it tie in perfectly with the first Burnout cover, but it also perfectly captures MG and Steve and the color is what I call a “night sky dreamer’s blue.” 

So without further ado, here is the awesome cover you should be looking for on Amazon starting November 2nd. 

And I finished the book blurb so I could tell you a little about the story I want to share with you of this really unique couple:

“The poorest man is not the one with no penny in his pocket, but the one who has no dream.”

– The Burnouts, Class of ‘99

For two weeks Steve Shrader lived a dream. A dream that he didn’t even know existed until he felt it. For two weeks the kid with no mom had good food, clean clothes and sheets and Christmas. For two weeks he had love – in the form of Hello Kitty bandaids and hot soup and his best friend, MG. Then he screwed up, like he always did, and the dream he was living went away.

Now school is over, MG is gone and he’s headed down the same path as all the adults in his life; drifting along, dodging or dealing with one sh*t-storm after another, numbing themselves with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. But he’s seen a better life. He’s seen what he wants. He wants MG. The question is how to get to her from where he is now.

MG dreams of living large in New York City. (OK, to tell the truth, it’s her mom’s dream, and she is just along for the ride.) But she’s gonna make it work–in a kick-ass, cool apartment, with a glam fashion job and photo shoots with rich friends in magazines–or not. She left everything she was sure of back home in St. Louis and almost everything she thought she knew about Manhattan and life isn’t turning out to be true.

When her false dreams crumble and fall though her hands she’s left with what’s real. A real life with a real job and real love; and it can all be hers if she’s brave enough to believe in herself and go after what she truly wants.

Their love story started in Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story, now it continues in Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. MG, the best friend with a talent for trouble, and Steve, the most laid back hero in romance novel history, are back. With old friends from high school and a crazed array of new ones they go for a win in the game called life. 
Just like Burnouts 1, this is not your typical romance novel. It’s a laughing, crying, coming of age romance between two out of the ordinary people. 
Check back each week, because starting next Monday I will share the first few chapters with you then let you know when you can get your copy at the introductory sale price.  Are you ready for a dreamer’s tale?

Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story – Ch. 2

The countdown to the release of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers; a dreamer’s tale, continues. This past week I had some great feedback from a few more beta readers and I’m in the final stage of creating the cover with Kim and Kitten at Deranged Doctor Designs.  

Award-winning book 1 cover



As I said last week, the best way to prepare for book two is to read book one. So today I’m posting the second chapter from book one. Again, I remind you that the book is recommended for readers age 17 and older due to language and sexual content.  

In today’s installment you get to see Carrie and Ben and all the other characters at school, the place where their divisive cliques are most obvious. I have had so many people tell me that this chapter really reminded them of their lives in high school, no matter what group they were in. You also get to meet MG and Steve, the main characters in Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamers tale. (Available on Amazon Nov. 2nd).

Enjoy the chapter and have a great week.


“You don’t look older.” MG was in her usual spot the next morning, under the helicopter tree, waiting for Carrie to get off the bus. Carrie rolled her eyes at the cliché joke. “But you look awesome in that jacket. That from M&D?”
MG was all about fashion and changed her look constantly. Today she had tossled her shoulder length blonde hair, and if Carrie had to guess, she would say MG was aiming for a Britney Spears, good-girl-gone-bad kind of look. She nailed it. 
Carrie adjusted her brown leather jacket. It was the exact one she had been wanting, and it was cool, but considering the way it was given to her, it had already lost some of its sheen. She found it hanging on the back of her closet door when she woke up this morning. It was still in the dress bag from the department store, with the receipt pinned to the bag. At the bottom of the receipt her mom had written, I’m sure it’s the wrong one.  I can’t get anything right for you. Just return it. Gifts always came wrapped in guilt. “It was M. I doubt D knows anything about it.”
Noticing the way Carrie looked at her jacket, MG cautiously asked, “How’d it go yesterday?” After two years as her best friend MG knew how crazy things could get at Carrie’s house. Not that her own was anywhere near normal, but that was one of the reasons they understood each other so well. 
Carrie exhaled a sigh, “Fucking weird as usual. She threw a cake mix at me.”
“She hit you?”
Carrie had to smile at the way MG wasn’t thrown off for a minute by her story. “No, she’s a shitty shot.”
“Good thing.”
Carrie nodded her head in agreement. Then she couldn’t resist throwing something at MG that would shock her, “Ben Gorman hugged me.”
MG stopped short and spun Carrie around by her arm.  “Shut the fuck up.  Dennis the Menace from next door?”
Carrie nodded, enjoying MG’s reaction.
“What the hell was he doing gettin’ all up on you?”
MG’s attempt at ghetto had Carrie laughing. “It wasn’t like that. He came over to eat some cake, and he was just being sweet ‘cause I was in a shitty mood. Besides, Menace don’t do dat shit, and we both know it.” Carrie threw in her own ghetto accent.
“True dat.” Carrie and MG stopped near the smoker’s picnic table. “Speaking of the Menace.” MG pointed across the parking lot to the front steps of the school where the religious weirdos and geeks gathered every morning. Ben was standing behind Joelle, leaning his head on top of hers. Carrie noticed how much he was enjoying his new-found height. It made her smile. 
MG caught her staring.  “Oooo, I see, you want some of that tall, blond and brainy, don’t you?”
Carrie smacked MG’s shoulder and rolled her eyes, “Shut up.”  They both laughed. 
Steve Shrader grabbed Carrie’s math book from the stack in her arms. “You do your homework?” She watched him pull a folded piece of loose leaf paper out of the book, scan it, and try to commit her answers to memory. “Got any paper?”
Carrie pulled a clean sheet of loose leaf from her binder and handed it to him. 
“Pencil?”
She dug in her purse till she found a pencil.  Steve held her answers and his lit cigarette in his left hand while he scribbled the answers onto the paper using his jean-clad leg as a table.  The result was almost illegible, but Mrs. Dobson wouldn’t care. She cut Steve slack because he was funny, and he tried.
“Thanks, Carrie-go-braless,” his nickname for her since she wore her Erin Go Bragh t-shirt to school. 
“No problem, Stevie-go-pantless.”
He smiled at her lame joke, “You just name the time and place, babe, I’m there for you.”
He was flirting with her, but he flirted with all the girls in their group and had slept with most of them too. Word was that he was pretty fun. He had perpetually messy brown hair and dimple in one cheek that he flashed often because he was almost always laughing and joking around. He was actually pretty hot looking, and girls outside their group would probably be more interested in him if he didn’t wear the same dirty, black clothes all the time. Carrie had never actually been in his apartment, but she had seen it from the car when she went with Chuck to give him a ride one time. He lived with his dad in one of the old government apartments by the park. They were built in like 1940, and she was pretty sure there was no place for a washer or dryer in one. 
He handed back her math homework and flashed a killer crooked smile at her.  Yeah, she’d be interested if it weren’t for Chuck. 
The first bell rang, and everyone around the picnic table except Carrie and MG, who didn’t smoke, dropped their cigarettes and ground them into the dirt. Steve folded his now-complete math homework till it would fit in the back pocket of his jeans. Jim Ripton offered Carrie and MG a drink out of his Big Gulp. Carrie declined.  She knew it was half vodka mixed in with his soda because he got one almost every morning before school. Carrie just couldn’t face the thought of her mom coming up to school if she got caught. MG took a big gulp and crunched the vodka soaked ice on her way to homeroom.  Carrie wasn’t sure what MG’s mom would do if MG was caught drinking at school. Probably put on a big show about being mad so the school would think she was responsible, then never mention it again. Amber Stuart, MG’s mom, was divorced and worked full time, plus more, selling houses. She was always busy and hardly noticed anything MG did or didn’t do. Not that she was up for parent of the year before the divorce. 
Carrie was about to turn into her homeroom when a group of the preppy girls crossed her path. Michelle Wagner turned and gave her a perky, “Hi, Carrie!”  then kept walking with her friends. That stopped Carrie in her tracks. She shook her head quickly to reset reality. Why was Michelle Wagner suddenly talking to her? They had gone to school together since 2nd grade and never been friends. Why, all the sudden, did she keep waving and saying hi? It was like she was on some personal “greet Carrie” campaign, and it was creeping her out. She made a mental note to try to avoid her in Composition today. 
The first half of the day was never Carrie’s favorite. Her grades were pretty middle of the road, but her state tests put her in advanced classes. Burnout kids don’t take advanced classes as a rule, so Carrie had no one from her group to sit with. In first period History of China and Japan she sat by Sylvie, the exchange student from Germany. Second period was Composition, where Michelle Wagner kept sitting near her. Carrie didn’t avoid the preppy girls, but she didn’t exactly talk with them either. Generally, they sat near her and gossiped about their weekends while she kept her nose in her American Lit novel ‘til class started. Everyone from Comp was in third period American Lit, so the room would move, en masse, three doors down and sit in the same pattern. Avoiding Michelle wasn’t going to be easy. There were no assigned seats, but everyone had a favorite spot and there were no open seats. Unable to concoct an escape, Carrie sat in her usual spot in Comp that day and decided to let things play out to see if she could figure out Michelle’s motives. 
“The Homecoming Dance is two weeks away.” Carrie was startled out of reading A Tale of Two Cities when Michelle dropped her books on her desk and slid into her seat.
Carrie raised her eyebrows, “And . . . ?” This was getting stranger by the minute. Is she asking me out?
“We could really use your help on the posters and decorating.” Her tone implied Carrie was obligated to help. 
“Um, did I sign up for this?” Carrie tried not to sound too combative, but she didn’t like the direction this was going in. 
Sensing Carrie’s mood, Michelle switched to pleading, “No, but we could really use your help.” Carrie still wore a mask of confusion. “OK, I know you are a really good artist. I saw your 2nd place painting in the hall yesterday and I thought, you know, that you would be great for our decorating committee, and I think you’d have a lot of fun, and …”  she trailed off, noticing that Carrie was looking less than enthused. 
Carrie did love decorating and painting, but the idea of spending hours with Michelle and her crew. “I don’t go to homecoming.”
“You don’t have to go to be on the decorating committee.”  Michelle hesitated before throwing another idea bomb at her, “You couldgo. We could double.” 
Carrie tried to stifle the laugh that bubbled up. Obviously Michelle didn’t know who Carrie dated. Chuck at a homecoming dance. The picture made Carrie laugh more. Her boyfriend, the epitome of a bad-boy lead singer, 21-year old Chuck Parnell, in a suit, Did he even own a suit?, at a high school homecoming dance. And even better, double dating with Michelle and … somebody. Carrie had no idea who she was dating. “Um … yeah … I don’t think so.” 
“Oh.” Michelle looked dejected, and Carrie felt guilty for laughing at the idea.
“I can help some, with decorations, if you really need me.”
Michelle perked up. “And think about doubling. You still have two weeks to get a dress.”
Another crazy image, Carrie in a homecoming dress.  She smirked. 
“We have a decorating committee meeting tomorrow after school.”
The reality of what she just signed up for hit her. If she stayed for the meeting she would have to tell MG, who always gave her a ride home.  MG would give her shit, not that that really mattered. She did all the time. But she would have to get her mother to pick her up, and her mother would want to know why she stayed late. And if Carrie mentioned homecoming, oh hell, her mother might get the idea about Carrie going, which would bring up the whole boyfriend idea. Carrie had managed to keep Chuck a secret from her parents for a year and a half, she didn’t want to blow that over some homecoming decorations. 
Composition class started, and Mrs. Hemming droned on about tense agreement or something. Carrie was focused on keeping her two worlds from colliding. Except for MG, her home life and school/friends never touched. Her parents lived in their own self-absorbed bubble. As long as Carrie kept a low profile, they didn’t question where she and MG went every weekend. As far as they knew, MG was Carrie’s only friend. 

###

Lunch was the start of the fun half of Carrie’s day. It was almost impossible to eat with MG, Gina, and Casey. And if Steve and some of the guys joined them, there was no way to stop laughing long enough to finish a sandwich. MG started it all today. She stole a pack of Twinkies from Steve’s tray. He practically crawled on top of her trying to get them back. She threw them to Carrie, who tossed them to Gina, who opened the package and tossed one to MG. Steve was just about to grab it back when MG slid it into her mouth, then back out again, suggestively. He stopped and stared. Using her most suggestive stare, MG slid it in again, and slowly back out, licking around the end. 
“Fuck me.” Steve exhaled and smiled as he watched. 
“Been there.” MG smirked at Steve.
“Done that.” Added Casey, bringing on a burst of laughter from the group. 
Behind Steve, Brian something, one of the few sophomores in the group, turned beat red. MG noticed and burst out laughing, which only made poor Brian turn redder. Gina leaned toward him, licking her Twinkie suggestively. Carrie and Casey tried not to laugh at him, but his innocent shock was hysterical. Sophomore Brian’s entire Irish head and neck were red now, which had Casey doubled over laughing. Carrie started to choke on her soda. A little dribbled out of her mouth and down the front of her shirt before she could spit it back into the cup.
“Trouble swallowing?” Steve shot Carrie a suggestive look, which only made all the girls laugh harder and louder. 
“Is there a problem here, Steve?” Mrs. Dobson was monitoring lunch and stopped at their table. 
“No, ma’am.” Gina answered, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Uh, yeah.” Steve turned around to face the teacher. “MG and Gina stole my Twinkies.” 
Mrs. Dobson thought she was being played, but went along, “Is this true MG?”
MG looked up from under her lashes, guilt written all over her face. She handed the wet Twinkie back to Steve.
“Ewww, she licked all over it.” He complained. 
“MG, did you lick his Twinkie?” Mrs. Dobson realized how that sounded as soon as she said it. Everyone burst out laughing. Carrie had to hang on to the table to keep from falling off her chair.  Mrs. Dobson’s cheeks flamed, then she started laughing too. She walked away, shaking her head, trying to suppress it. 
Art followed lunch. Carrie would have an A in the class, but Mrs. Winter said her behavior pulled her grade down. She sat between MG and Casey, who were both failing, because MG turned everything Mrs. Winter said into innuendo: brush strokes, baroque period, flying buttresses (her favorite). Most of it wasn’t even that funny, but the combination of MG’s lewd expressions and post-lunch sillies had all three falling off their chairs and laughing ‘til they cried. 

###

It was a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon, so MG put the top down on her car for the drive home from school. She had a convertible Mustang that her mom’s current boyfriend bought for her. She had no idea what the man did for a living, something about house loans, but he was the richest guy she had ever known. He rented a mini mansion with a pool for them to live in and the Jag that MG’s mom drove. He had been around for almost two and a half years, which was a record for her mom. Carrie and MG both thought he was kinda ugly, but he and his money made Amber happy, and happy parents are always a good thing. 
“I won’t need a ride home tomorrow.” Carrie figured now was as good a time as any to open this can of worms.
“Why?” 
She took a breath, readying herself for the questions. “I’m staying late to help with homecoming decorating.”
MG turned the radio down. “I thought you said homecoming decorations, but I know that’s wrong.”
Carrie brushed off the joke and held her ground. “I did.”
“What? Why?”
“Cause I like painting stuff, and … I don’t know … they asked me to.”
“Who asked you to?”
“Michelle Wagner”
“Weird, perky, preppy girl, Michelle Wagner?”
“Yeah, OK.  I know, but it’s just a couple of meetings to make decorations. You know I like this shit. Look how many times I’ve redone my room and yours. This way you can keep your room the way it is for a while.”
“My room is pretty amazing right now.” MG hesitated, “You are good at that shit. Just don’t, you know, turn into one of them.”
“Yeah, right,” Carrie rolled her eyes. It was funny that MG even thought she would want to hang out with the preppy girls. They were boring, and what the hell would she have in common with them?
From the outside, it probably looked like she had a lot in common with them. Her parents weren’t divorced or in jail, she was in class with them part of the day, she had a closet full of preppy clothes that she rarely wore. It was the stuff they couldn’t see, the stuff that no one saw, that separated her from them.