Thursday, February 27, 2014

#TBT: "The Leftover Club", my new book, takes us back in time.

As we're wrapping up the first three months of 2014 and, as such, putting to bed my newest angst-ridden trilogy about the Fullerton family, I've turned my attention to my next book, "The Leftover Club."

I was actually trying to enjoy a two-week vacation because writing three books in four months is a helluva lot of work. I was worn out, burned out and thought I'd take two weeks solid to get caught up on my own neglected reading list. I made it to book 3 before my plans were effectively circumvented. Apparently my Muse kind of likes a breakneck schedule now, and wouldn't stop pestering me until I finally relented and typed an outline. After that came the prologue, then the first chapter... and so on and so on.

And the reason I keep going is because I'm having a blast. "The Leftover Club" was meant to be a little more fun than most of my angst-fests. There's angst, there's always angst, and nothing is quite as angsty as unrequited love as an awkward teenager. But in the midst of all of that is a fond remembrance of what it was like to come of age in the iconic 1980s.

"The Leftover Club" is about a group of friends who meet in high school in 1985. They have one thing in common: they all lust after the cutest boy in school (you know the one.) The reason they have to start their exclusive club is they know they have absolutely no chance of ever landing him because they are weird outcasts who do not fit into any high school norms.

It was the book I was born to write.

I didn't acclimate well in high school because I didn't fit in, and several uncomfortable situations make their way into the book. As do many of my crushes from my past, from the boy I fell in love with the first day of first grade, to the older guys I began to chase with gusto once I knew how to properly wield the weapons I was naturally given. That's where the biggest problem of the book, not landing the boy of my dreams, required a little creative license.

Truthfully there was no boy in high school for me because I really didn't like boys my age. This was mostly because they didn't like me. I stood out like a sore thumb because I had the misfortune of developing as early as the 4th grade. I was taller, broader, and weird sort of things started popping out and drawing attention to themselves before any of my classmates were prepared for it.

This made me the butt of their jokes from grade 5 on, when a notable group of idiots swore that I had been held back a year.

In seventh grade, probably the most awkward of all my school years, a popular (and cute) ninth-grader decided to flirt with me as part of an ongoing joke. He'd call out his little comments in the middle of the lunch area in front of a crowd full of his peers. They found it HIL-arious how flummoxed this rendered me.

Fun times. :/

By the time we were in high school, I was over trying to impress any of them. My 42-36-44 figure remained a liability for most guys. They had their own image to protect, and their own cliques to maintain.

Essentially Claire was right. Come Monday morning, the popular kids would go back to being popular, and the geeky, awkward outcasts would slink right back into the shadows.

It truly was survival of the fittest and has remained so through every era that followed. Sure, dorks and weirdos and outcasts find their footing as they grow into brilliant and creative adults. But you actually had to get through those torturous four years first.

Universally, this hasn't changed much, so I felt confident that I could write a story that would resonate with readers of all ages, with enough pop culture references to give a little somethin' somethin' extra for ladies my age. With the NA market exploding, there are plenty of new stories every week about girls in their late teens and early twenties, in high school and in college, in various stages of emerging womanhood and the sexual and romantic exploration that goes with that. There's nothing quite like the intensity of first love or young love. But I thought it'd be a hoot to write about women who find love, sex and romance a little later in life, with the jaded romanticism that followed us from the 1990s into the 21st Century.

Like my generation needs any excuse at all to go retro. We've been waxing nostalgic since the early 2000s, courtesy of VH1.

"The Leftover Club" covers it all by skipping back in forth through three distinct eras... the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s. This allows me to explore love as a virginal teenager, a 20-something hellbent on taking over the world and a 30-something divorced, single mom who has finally made her peace with the fact that life is messy and doesn't always end up the way we want.

I'm a linear thinker, so I was intimidated by the idea of telling a story in various stages of flashback. I like things straight and true, which makes my passionate love affair with Doctor Who an anomaly. I constantly have to ask my husband what the heck is going on just to keep my frame of reference.

But having lived through these eras, and these significant periods in my own life, writing the book is a bit like going through a box of old photos. Needless to say, the vacation ended after four days and I should have a new book for you all by late August.

Here's a lil taste to hold you over.


June 20, 2008

I guess you could say the Leftover Club was officially founded in 1985, though some of us were informal members much earlier than that. I, myself, earned my rightful place as President of our club in May of 1979, many years before I met other key members of our exclusive little group. It started with a shy kiss on a dusty, neglected playground with rusty, broken equipment. The only thing that worked was a chipped and faded merry-go-round.

A fitting metaphor, looking back.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My name is Roni Lawless, and I’m proud to say that I belonged to one of the greatest generations of the 20th Century. I was there at the birth of MTV, the advent of home video games, VCRs and microwaves, and I learned some valuable mechanical skills by taking apart and putting back together an otherwise uncooperative Rubik’s Cube.

(It was a puzzle and I found a way to solve it. In my book, that counted.)

We weren’t afraid of no ghosts because we knew exactly who to call at the first hint of slime. We knew where to find the beef, and delighted in dancing raisins. We were oft-thanked connoisseurs of watered down wine coolers way before we were legally old enough to consume them, even though we were the generation courted to “Just Say No.” We were the footloose, sweater-sporting Cosby kids and almost every single one of us, at one point or another, wore a Mullet without the good sense to be embarrassed about it. We also wore parachute pants without a hint of irony, and proclaimed “RELAX” boldly across stark white T-shirts accented with obnoxious, neon-colored accessories.

We lived in an era where space exploration became routine, even mundane. Computers had shrunk from entire rooms to a desktop, putting cutting edge technology right at our fingertips courtesy of three-to-five-inch floppy disks. We watched the Berlin wall come down, and were witness to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the wake of the Cold War. We read Stephen King and VC Andrews by the stack and inhaled anything the great John Hughes created, like he crafted each and every story just for us. (And I like to believe that he did.)

We were too young to be adults, but smart enough to be self-aware, which made us older than our years. Our era was one of great change, and we were witness to it in our music and in our entertainment.

I, in particular, nursed a pretty healthy addiction to Bloom County cartoons that many of my classmates really didn’t even get. It was the one of many such obsessions that set me apart from the crowd at an early age.

As we raced after the ever-changing technology and social paradigm shifts that proclaimed greed was good even for working girls, we kids of the 1980s were taught that we could have anything and everything we wanted.

Too bad it was a big fat lie.

When I was sixteen I had only one real dream… and it was shared with hundreds of other girls (and a notable subsection of guys) at Hermosa Vista High. I wanted Dylan Fenn, the most popular boy in school. He was cool. He was hot. And if he liked you, you became the most important person on campus. Well, next to him anyway.

Actually, if we’re going to get technical, I wanted Dylan to want me. Maybe then I wouldn’t be the overweight, awkward, pimply-faced teenager who didn’t fit in with any of the major cliques. I related most to The Breakfast Club’s Allison, who showed up at detention just because she didn’t have anything else better to do.

Dylan was my Andrew.

Twenty years later and I’m still waiting to wear his varsity jacket.

Tonight is my high school’s twenty year reunion, a fitting celebration for the Class of ’88, the Fighting Jaguars of Hermosa Vista. This California school had produced celebrities of varying degrees. Among our prestigious alumni were actors, musicians, business titans, tech wizzes, aspiring politicians and even a few porn stars.

Of them all, Dylan Fenn was still a notable figure in our school’s history. He never feared being noticed, and was teetering on the precipice of his own personal fame and fortune as an emerging actor, something he was voted “most likely to” way back in 1987, after he starred in his first play.

And then there was me, plain ol’ Roni Lawless, a divorced, single mom, still struggling to fit in, in my chosen profession, with my testy, teenaged daughter… and even in the club I had unwittingly founded all those years ago with a kiss on a dare.

There, dear friends, is the root of my problem.

The reason I don’t fit in is because I’m a fraud. I’m not now, nor ever was, what I always pretended to be. I have a secret, a really, really big one. And it was a secret involving the object of our many desires, which meant I was a liar to the people I had always called my friends.

And tonight… for the first time in a long time, I knew it was time to set the record straight.

"The Leftover Club" coming August, 2014! Click below to add to your TBR now. :)

The Leftover Club

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Days till ENRAPTURED!! Exclusive Excerpt (Beware Spoilers)

Exclusive excerpt below, but SPOILER WARNING if you have not read the first two books.

"You are an amazing little boy, Jonathan. I think I may be the luckiest stepmom in the whole wide world.”

He squeezed my fingers. “You deserve to be happy, Rachel,” he said softly. “Mom,” he amended even softer.

I pulled him into a hug and he cuddled beside me on the bed. “You make me happy,” I told him as I kissed the top of his head. “Every day, in every way.”

“Good,” he said. “Because I have a favor.”


“I actually have one more surprise. But I need your help pulling it off.”

This piqued my interest. Before I could ask, he hopped off the bed and darted from the room. When he returned, he was carrying an acoustic guitar. He grinned as he perched back on the bed.

“Where’d you get that?”

“Uncle Alex gave it to me,” he said. “So I could play for the baby.”

Tears sprang into my eyes. It was such an Alex thing for him to do. “How can I help, Jonathan? I don’t know how to play.”

“Alex does,” he said softly. “He was teaching me.” He plucked at the strings. “After Mom broke up with Derek, she and I went to stay with Alex. You know how he plays for Max?” I nodded. “I told him I wished he could play for the new baby and he suggested I should. We started lessons that night. I don’t think Mom was very happy about it,” he added. “She and Uncle Alex fought a lot before she finally left for New York with some of her friends.”

“They fought?” I repeated, and he nodded. “What about?” He shrugged. I knew he knew, but he didn’t want to tell me. “Jonathan.”

He looked away. “You.”

I gulped. “I see.”

“Mom thinks that she’ll lose custody now that you married my dad. She blamed Alex for bringing you back out to California. She said he ruined everything. That he always ruins everything. He tried to defend you, but that only made her madder. She said awful things,” he added with a slight shudder. “He bunked with me and Max until she finally made other arrangements.”

“I see,” I said again.

“Things were better after she left. That’s when we did another campout. He started teaching me guitar. It was great,” he drifted off sadly. “Like last summer.”

I nodded. Last summer had been pretty great despite it all. “I still don’t know what you need me to do, Jonathan.”

“You brought Dad and Alex together last year,” he said hopefully. “You can do it again.”

I closed my eyes and rested my head back on the pillows. If only he knew. “Jonathan…”

“It can be good, you know it can,” he urged. “You can fix it. Like you fixed me. Like you fixed Dad.”

I chuckled mirthlessly. “It’s not that simple, sweetie. No one can just change anyone else. They have to want to change.”

His bright blue eyes bore into mine. “Make them want to.” Before I could say anything, he went on. “You’re a Fullerton now. This is your family, too. We can make it right. I know we can. Please.”

I sighed. “I’m not going to make this promise, Jonathan. I can’t. But,” I added when his chin fell, “I’ll do what I can.”

He smiled. “That’s all any of us can do. Right?”

“Right,” I agreed. I cuddled under the blanket as I listened to him play the simple tune, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I drifted to sleep thinking of cozy campfires, harmonicas and two little boys torn apart by decades of pain.

And just like Sisyphus, the boulder once again landed at my feet at the bottom of the hill.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fullerton Family Saga Poll + Giveaway

Less than eight days to go until ENRAPTURED releases. You can even pre-order for your Nook!

In honor of the upcoming release, I'm going to offer another giveaway of the complete series, ebook format! That's all three books, Enticed, Entangled AND Enraptured. All you have to do is to tell me in the comments which Team you're on, #TeamDrew, #TeamAlex, #TeamJonathan or #TeamRachel. Whose HEA matters most to you?

I'll run the giveaway until 2/22/14 at midnight.

Good luck!


A winner has been chosen and contacted for this giveaway. But keep trying! There will be two major giveaways the rest of this week!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ENRAPTURED sneak peek!

Only 9 days to go!! Here's a sneak peek at the third and final book in the Fullerton Family Saga, as well as a few songs from my writing playlist to get you in the mood. ;)


The following excerpt contains possible story spoilers if you have not yet Entangled, book 2 of the Fullerton Family Saga.

I was still awake, and still livid, when Drew came to bed closer to midnight. He shrugged out of his shirt. “Such disapproval,” he murmured. “What exactly did I do now?”

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around your using Jonathan to lure Alex into some kind of trap.”

“I told you. It’s only a trap if he’s doing something wrong.”

“Whatever. In the future, leave Jonathan out of it.”

He cocked an eyebrow as he stood next to the bed, his hands on his hips. “Excuse me?”

“Whatever is between you and Alex has nothing to do with Jonathan. He’s a little boy torn in two with loyalty and affection for the both of you. I refuse to stand by and allow you to squander his good faith and his trust to make some kind of point.”

Anger sharpened his features as he stared down at me. “Allow me?” he repeated. “And who, exactly, gave you authority to question me on how I parent my son?”

“You did,” I told him. “You wanted Jonathan to have a mother, and now he has one. If you think you’re going to use him like some wadded up piece of tissue paper, you’re going to have to get through me first. I’m not just your paid flunky anymore. I’m your wife, and the mother of your children. This family will not run like your business. We work together – honestly and openly – or not at all. Got it?”

His eyes never left my face as he slipped out of his pants and crawled into bed. He wrapped his hand around the back of my neck and pulled me close, his mouth hovering just an inch over my own. “There’s that fire I missed,” he murmured. His mouth descended toward my own, but I resisted, pushing back against his hand while I met his gaze dead on.

“Got it?” I repeated.

A smile broke apart on his face. “Absolutely,” he answered.

“Good,” I said. “Goodnight, Drew.”

I slipped from his hand and turned my back to him, turned off the light and disappeared under the covers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Favorite Romantic Scenes + Valentine's Day Giveaway!

It is the most romantic day of the year, or so advertisers with flowers, chocolate, cards and lingerie would like us to believe. Since I am a proud purveyor of all things romance, I thought we'd have a little fun to honor this auspicious day.

It probably goes without saying that I put the "chick" in chick flick. I love movies that make me feel something, whether it steals my heart or kicks me right in the gut. This means a plethora of romantic titles litter my list of favorite movies. In today's blog I'll share my Top 5 Romantic Scenes OF ALL TIME (or at least this week.) If you share yours in the comments, I'll pick a winner by Sunday night (2/16/14) to get ALL THREE BOOKS of my new Fullerton Family Saga series. (That's right, even the not-yet-released ENRAPTURED.)

How's that for a Valentine's Day Gift? All the romance, none of the sugar rush!

Here we go:

5.) "Enchanted"

Disney knocked it out of the park with its live-action/animated fairy tale romance, "Enchanted." This movie poked fun at Disney's long history of pretty princesses and insta-love, using New York City and its modern cynicism as a surprising backdrop.

The juxtaposition worked very well.

It stars the charming Amy Adams, who took the saccharin sweet Giselle and made her palatable. I, myself, developed a girlcrush on her over the course of the movie, so naturally I felt her pain when she was faced with a very unique conundrum for a Disney princess. Does she stick with her dreamy, sing-y, one-dimensional Prince Edward and her equally one-dimensional concept of true love? Or does she follow her heart where it leads, to a cynical divorce lawyer/single dad who long ago gave up the idea of "Happily Ever After"?

In this scene, she arrives at a ball to make her choice at last. It is a scene that is deeply layered, with everyone else dressed in their fairy tale garb while Giselle embraces her new world in "reality." The pain of this reality drives the emotion in this scene. We can see just how close - and how far - she is from the man of her dreams. Makes me cry *every* single time, and also inspired a pivotal scene in Entangled.

4.) "Hairspray"

There's a lot to like about the 2007 musical based on a John Waters cult classic. It stars an atypical heroine who dares to be plus-sized and simply not give a damn. She's not about to let her size, or more specifically what others think about her size, stop her from chasing, and catching, her dreams. It also tackles a serious topic like segregation and racism in 1960s Baltimore, but with biting wit and a killer, cheerful, empowering soundtrack for every single person who has ever felt like an outcast. Queen Latifah is regal. James Marsden and Zac Efron are dreamy. Nikki Blonsky is resplendent and John Travolta nails it as Edna Turnblad, the larger-than-life character who has no idea just how awesome she is.

There's so much awesome in this movie, it is hard to narrow it down to any one scene. Edging ahead of the rest is the scene where Christopher Walken in his weird brilliance romances his wife, Edna, with the kind of painfully funny honesty you can only master after years of marriage. "You're fat and old, but honey - boring, you ain't!"

The scene is an homage to grand musicals set amidst the mundane of married life. It is a love song for all of us who have lasted beyond the flush of new love and are in it for the long haul.

Best of all, two men managed to steal away with one of the sweetest scenes - ever - on screen.

3.) "Sixteen Candles"

When it comes to epic, romantic endings, three movies tie for my personal #1: "Sleepless in Seattle," "Where the Heart Is" and the John Hughes teen classic, "Sixteen Candles." Each ended on the perfect romantic high note, but the nod for this list goes to the incomparable John Hughes for his awkward 1980s fairy tale where the shy girl finally gets the boy of her dreams.

If you were that kind of shy girl mostly ignored by the boys you mooned over day after day in class, then it was the perfect dream come true, which John nailed with just the right amount of subtlety.

Sigh. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

2.) "Dirty Dancing"

One that lands on both the "sexiest" and "most romantic" lists is the pivotal scene in "Dirty Dancing," where young ingenue Baby dares to act on her growing attraction for the epic hotness that was Johnny Castle/Patrick Swayze. One of the things that makes this scene so hot is that there is the underlying romance growing between them, which turns up the sexual tension even more. It was sweet, wonderful, delicious payoff.

I'm not sure they make love stories like this anymore either.

1.) "Up"

I'm a grown-ass woman and I'm not ashamed to say that I love Pixar. Like, passionately. I will opt to watch one of their movies rather than anything created for my particular age group, and I don't need a child to accompany me to do it. Of any production company, they consistently knock it out of the park with movies that appeal to all four quadrants, young and old, male and female. This has almost everything to do with the strength of their storytelling. They have genuine heart, and I have found myself reaching for tissue on more than one occasion over stories about lost fish, outgrown toys and the tender relationship between a child and her monster.

That being said, I didn't really know what to make of "Up" before we went to see it at the local drive-in in 2009. The trailer didn't necessarily turn me on. I was resigned to see it because that's what you do as a fan, you give every single thing your favorite creators create a shot, even if you're not completely sold on the concept. If your faith has been rewarded enough by your idols, it's a calculated risk at best... even if it is a fantastical story about an old man and a floating house.

Little did I know it was about much, much more than that. "Up" is possibly the most perfect love story of all time, and we all knew it less than 10 minutes into it. As the story unfolded about Carl and Ellie, I found myself *weeping* over a montage that had no dialogue at all. This is the epitome of "show, don't tell," a concept I often struggle with personally. Because of this, it is quite possibly the most beautiful montage ever created, and reminds me once again that I have so far to go to reach this level of excellence.

(Special nod also to the score, which uses the same tune at different tempos to match the mood.)

This collection of scenes encapsulates "till death do us part," with the ups and downs, humor, joy and sadness, that entails. I ask you, what could possibly be more romantic than a lifetime of love?

When I grow up, I want to write something as poignant and as lovely as this.

So I've shown you mine, now you show me yours. What are some of your favorite romance scenes/movies? Comment below and be entered to win ALL THREE BOOKS of the Fullerton Family Saga.