Thursday, July 24, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday Geek Love edition.

I met my husband online in an AOL chatroom in 1999. Say what you will about online dating, but I'm reasonably sure we wouldn't have met otherwise. I lived in South Bay, he lived in Orange County... our paths likely never would have crossed had it not been for a little space on the Internet called "Hopelessly Romantic."

I had been a constant participant in the room for months. It helped me flex some creative muscle by coming up with saucy or sentimental phrases to define romance. "Romance is..." fill in the blank accordingly. It was a flirty kind of a place where Internet couples found each other, had hot, flash-in-the-pan romances, then resumed their "real" lives away from the computer.

Some took it further, of course. Some left their families (and spouses) to move across the country to live with someone they hadn't yet met, often to disastrous consequences.

Steven and I weren't looking for anything so serious. We just wanted to hang out and have fun with a like-minded person. From the first interaction in the chatroom to the private messages and phone call that followed, we chatted that first night for probably three hours straight. We met in person by the end of the week, at a noisy, busy Cantina where he bought me a rose and kissed me in front of a crowded restaurant.

I knew then that Steven was one of a kind.

He's taught me a lot in fifteen years. I can't really think of anyone more suited to be my partner in love and in life. Where I'm crazy, emotional, passionate and intense, he's even-tempered, logical, good-humored and easy-going. I can drive anyone nuts, but he's always been able (and willing) to ride the storm, make me laugh and not take things so seriously. He accepts me as I am, even when I'm hard as hell to love.

I really never thought I'd find anyone like him. Ever. Last night we joked that he's my "trophy husband," and he said, "As long as I'm first place."

It hasn't ever been a contest.

I wouldn't be where I am today without his love and support and his constant encouragement. And I certainly wouldn't have the body of work that I have without him.

He's been my loudest cheerleader for fifteen years. He pushes me to write, and was largely responsible for my tackling my own fears by attempting screenplays way back in 2001. He is my sounding board and we brainstorm all the time. Some of my most memorable characters and scenes were born of his inspiration.

Most notably, he was the biggest reason there were three books in the Groupie saga instead of just the one. Not only did he inspire Graham, he let me know point-blank that I couldn't end the first book the way I had planned to because it didn't make any sense. He raises the bar for my entire life and never lets me get away with anything.

Most importantly, he's one of the few people in my life ballsy enough to tell me when I'm being a complete cuckoo. And I'll believe him because he's smart as hell with a genius IQ and more trivial knowledge than I can shake a stick at. When I'm writing, he cracks the whip to keep me focused and to raise the bar on my own stories. As a voracious reader himself (probably THE most voracious reader I know personally,) I trust his insight and his judgment.

As a Geek Extraordinaire, he opened me up to a host of stories I probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. Some of the biggest obsessions I have (The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory,) are directly due to his initial interest.

As such, when we reproduced we did so with a book. And not just any book, a book about geeks.

Those who have read Enticed know about Comic Squad. But what you don't know is that is the offspring I proudly share with my incredible hubby. He helped me write it by providing all the "Geek Speak," and he is solely responsible for the creation of one of my favorite characters of ALL time. If you haven't met Twitch yet, I'll save the surprise. It's much better to see him come to life than hear him described.

Comic Squad is the story about the true, pure love of geek culture, as seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old girl. It's a story about friendship, family and honor... and learning what it means to be your own hero. This is what it represents to me, because those are the things that Steven has enhanced in my own life. If we had a daughter, I'd like to think it would be someone like Alice, who was a lot braver at 11 than I am at 44.

Honestly, it's one of my favorites of the books I've written.

So in honor of Comic Con, I'm posting this book as my very first $0.99 Sale. The price will go up as of Sunday/Monday, so get your copy soon.

Join Rachel, Jonathan, Steven and I for a fun little sojourn into the world of comic books, villains and superheroes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: How it All Began (Plus your #FridayFreebie Preview!)

In October of 1981, Christopher Cross ruled the airwaves thanks to Arthur, Joey Scarbury had a hit single courtesy of the Greatest American Hero, and I had moved - YET again - across town from the best friend I'd ever known, facing another school year as a weird outcast who would rather stay at home and watch Luke and Laura prepare for their nuptials on General Hospital than scurry through school hallways.

I guess you could say I could have used a special suit with super powers to navigate the weird and wacky terrain of prepubescence.

By the time I was eleven, I had decided on and similarly discarded several career paths. Santa never did bring me that plastic medical bag I always wanted, and being a princess pretty much flew out the window when Prince Charles wed in July of that year.

Since I loved to argue, my family figured I'd end up being a lawyer. This sounded just as good as anything else at the time. I didn't know where I would live or who I would marry, but I knew I could get good grades and go to college. It was one big life decision wrapped up in a very safe, unpredictable package.

But that idea pretty much came to a screeching halt in October of 1981.

I was a typical sixth grade student at Alice Landergin Elementary in Amarillo, Texas. I was a good girl who did what I was told and colored inside the lines. That made what happened when Mrs. Adams handed out our Halloween writing assignment even weirder.

The assignment itself was pretty straightforward. It was a Halloween story we had to create based on a plain black and white illustration of a house. It was the first time I had ever been asked to write a story that I can remember, but since I was such a good student (and voracious reader) I didn't anticipate any real problem fulfilling Mrs. Adams' expectations.

How hard could it be to write a story?

My mind churned as I stared at the picture. I knew I was expected to write something scary, but there was nothing inherently spooky about the house the way it was drawn. As you already know from previous #TBT blogs, the empty slate I had to work with ignited my overactive imagination to craft a story from scratch, one of my own making where I made all the rules.

The only thing that was different was this time I was writing it down.

My pencil took on a life of its own as it scrawled across the wide-ruled notebook paper. The story unfolded about a man who loved his bride so much he wanted to build her a classic two-story home big enough for loads of children. As the many years passed the loving couple found that they were unable to have the family they had so wanted, and their house became a ghost of their unfulfilled dreams. When they died the house was turned into an orphanage, to fill that once empty home with a love so strong it could be shared from beyond the grave.

Many years later, I saw some of that story sorta come to life on the big screen, no thanks to me.

I colored the picture with bright, cheerful colors, attached it to the story and turned it in without a second thought. In fact I was rather excited to see how well I did on this new challenge. It never occurred to me that I would fail... until the day the graded assignments were handed back to us.

My excitement soon gave way to anxiety when I realized my teacher had given the assignments back to everyone else but me. The more I thought about it the more I just knew that I had screwed up. I hadn't fulfilled my teacher's expectations for a spooky Halloween story, which is what I knew she wanted.

I had colored outside the lines.

My knees shook as I scooted out from behind the desk and made my way up to her desk. I'm sure my voice trembled when I asked Mrs. Adams where my assignment was, though I wasn't sure by then if I really wanted to know.

Mrs. Adams gestured over her shoulder to the bulletin board behind her desk. Pinned to the cork board was that bright, happy picture with one noticeable change – an “A+” circled in bold red ink.

It was as though the sun parted through the heavens and a chorus of angels began to sing. In that one moment I knew what I was born to do. I had a talent – a gift – that made me special, that made me stand out. I couldn't know then what that pivotal moment would mean for my future, but suddenly going to school for years to become an ordinary ol' lawyer didn't hold the same appeal it once did. I had captured what I used to do for fun, just to pass the time, and someone else thought it was exceptional. I wrote something that made all my weird outcastiness okay.


Being a writer had never crossed my mind before, so I had no idea that one day I'd ultimately make my living as a writer; that I would be published in books and optioned to write a screenplay that was far scarier than that first story could have ever hoped to be.

But I did know I would never look at a piece of paper the same way again. Life became a blank page just waiting for the stroke of my pencil. The whole direction of my life changed in one moment in 1981, when I found my own discarded super suit in a box, with absolutely no instructions how to get me from point A to point B. I was flying on a wing and a prayer from that moment on.

After 33 years, I think I've finally got a handle on things. I don't know how high I can fly yet, but I know for sure I can get my feet off the ground.

That being said, there are a LOT of huge changes afoot. I'll be able to say more by next week, when I'll also introduce a whole new promotion called #99centWednesday. I'll be hosting weekly sales on my books, where you can get popular titles for $0.99 for one-day-only sales.

In the meantime, here's your preview for tomorrow's #FridayFreebie. Remember to wait until the price changes to purchase, sometime after midnight PST.

Friday, July 11, 2014

July Newsletter: Book Updates, Public Appearances and @HalSparks - Oh My!

Hello, my lovelies. I hope your summer is going along well. I have just completed Book #22 (Chasing Thunder,) and am about 30K words away from finishing book #23 (The Leftover Club.) I learned a lot of things writing two books at the same time, and that was that I should probably never do that again. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to the creation process. Splitting my mania between two projects made both books take a whole lot longer to get from outline to completed project, which I found more frustrating than productive. Lesson learned!

The good news for all of you is that in August, you'll get not one but TWO new books from me, one of which starts a brand new series that I hope to complete by the end of the year.

Because who needs sleep?

The reason I am writing so much the rest of this year is because for the first six months of 2015, I'll be doing an unofficial tour across the country (and internationally.) Each month until June 2015, I'll be traveling to various book signings. I hope to add three more dates to the roster, including London. I'll update those finalized plans in the August newsletter.

Until then, here are my confirmed dates.

August 16, 2014 - Indie Author Event Houston Mashup, Houston, Texas.
January 16, 2015 - Indie Author Event Phoenix Mashup, Phoenix, Arizona.
February 7, 2015 - Deep in the Heart Author Event, Austin, Texas.
March 20, 2015 - Indie Author Event Detroit Mashup, Detroit, Michigan.
April 18, 2015 - UK date, finalizing details
May 1, 2015 - Hard Rock Author Event, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
June 13, 2015 - Indie Author Event Toronto Mashup, Toronto, Canada.

A little trailer to whet the appetite.

I've decided to make a commemorative copy of the Fullerton Family Saga available for people who make it to these events. It's a complete volume that includes three books in one, honoring our favorite Fullerton, Jonathan, on the cover.

If I released it, it would be a $29.99 value. I'm selling it at the book signings for $20. But even if you can't make it to one of the many places I'll be appearing, I'll be doing fun little giveaways here on the blog, starting in September. The Labor Day giveaway will be HUGE, so you definitely want to keep an eye out for it.

I'll give you a hint, it's another scavenger hunt... and the books I've been giving away like mad will play a VERY big part in earning the grand prize, which I can already tell you values over $100. So all the TBT blogs and those stories are going to be where I mine my questions.

The reason I'm telling you now is because today, July 11, I'm giving away FIVE books completely free. If you haven't secured your copies yet, be sure to do so now. But do it quick because the sale ends at midnight(ish) Pacific Standard Time.

If you're in Los Angeles, my pal Hal Sparks and his band Zero 1 are hosting a regular Monday gig at The Dragonfly in Hollywood. I've been to several of their shows and they really know how to rock, and they'll be hosting regular guests to turn your Mondays up to 11. Befriend them on Facebook to get on the $5 list.

And who knows? You may even see me there! Like say... this coming Monday. ;)

I see you shiver... with antci.........................................pation.

Finally, if you have any questions for me, head on over to Goodreads. Ask me anything!

That's it for this month, kids. See you in August!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday First Loves (or why we call them crushes)

I fell in love for the first time when I was six years old.

Picture it: Valley View Elementary school, Abilene, Texas, 1976. It was the first day of first grade. We were all seated in a circle and asked to spell different words in order to know which class we would advance to. This was back in the good ol' days when I could do no wrong. I was too busy chasing after "good girl" accolades so I overcompensated on everything. I wouldn't just read A book, I'd read five. I loved words and spelling and language arts from the very first moment I impressed someone for having the early skills to embrace them, and I chased straight As and gold stars like my life depended on it.

I never imagined how I'd feel at such a tender age when someone ELSE managed to impress ME. And that is what this young fellow did. For my purposes here, I'll call him Brad... mostly because this poor kid had his fill of me by the time we were twelve.

Brad was easily the smartest kid in the room. He could spell words I couldn't, which made him smarter than me, which made me take immediate notice. That, and he was a-freakin-dorable. He had dark hair, which may have sparked my preference for such, and he was as cute as a button. I'm sure my memory has tinkered a bit with the visual, but the way I remember it he had a floppy haircut and dark eyes, and I remember being a little starstruck when he took center stage.

Imagine my disappointment when the teacher decided he was SO smart that he was going to another class altogether, starting the very next day.

It was the first time I remember noticing someone of the opposite sex, and I was truly starry-eyed. I didn't get to really know him until the next year, when we finally became friends. And we were the best of friends. When he had his 8th birthday party, I was the only female in attendance. We lived close enough to walk to school together, and I remember distinctively singing the theme song to Spider-man as we made our way to school.

His dad was a lawyer, so he lived in a really nice house and got all the cool toys. In my mind, he was a rock star. By the time we reached third grade, I was completely smitten. This, of course, led to him being mercilessly teased by other classmates for having a "girlfriend," which, as you know, is schoolyard death when you're eight.

The tide turned one day at recess, when we were playing on the colorfully painted playground equipment. I had no interest in doing anything remotely athletic. Games like Duck, Duck, Goose and Dodgeball brought upon acute anxiety for the biggest kid in the class. (Not just weight-wise, but height as well.)

While other kids were swinging happily on the monkey bars, I parked my tuckus on an oversized tire, hyperventilating as I prayed we wouldn't play any games that required being picked for teams. This has never worked in my favor.

But somehow Brad still liked me enough to hang around me. And, one magical day on the playground, he gave me my very first kiss. Granted it was on the cheek and I'm fairly certain he was dared to do it, but for someone as completely infatuated as I was, it totally counted.

And of course, me being me, I couldn't leave it a sweet little childlike innocent memory.

When I went to school with Brad, I didn't really notice people making fun of me for my size. They laughed if I couldn't beat them to their seat in Duck, Duck, Goose, or run without being taken out at kickball, but I don't recall my size ever being a deal-breaker making friends or being included in any social circle. That came later, after my dad died in 1980, when the most positive, uplifting, encouraging voice in my ear was silenced forever. After that, all I heard was the bad stuff.

And that was where my own personal story broke down.

By fifth grade we had moved again to another town and I was in another school (my third by the grand ol' age of 11) and the kids at this new school found plenty to mock. I stepped into the role of outcast and I never made it out again. Thirty-some-odd years later, I see this as a good thing. Back then it sucked donkey balls. Brad ceased being a sweet memory and became a life raft tethering me to a happier time, and I navigated the choppy waters in my way to hold onto it... including his discomfort and disinterest.

I kept in touch with him throughout the next year or so, eventually funneling all my affection his direction, much to his chagrin. But I've always gone after what I want, completely convinced I was entitled to get it, even if it was the worst thing in the world for me. My big ol dreams and big ol mouth led to my downfall, and I lost one of the best friends I had as a kid. Letter after letter, phone call after phone call. I was determined to cast him in my Happily Ever After, since no one I met or liked after him wanted to fill the position.

Eventually he had to say "enough's enough" and I learned why they call first loves crushes.

In my book, The Leftover Club, I revisit this childlike crush in several key scenes lifted right from this star-crossed love affair. They are embellished for effect, of course, because fiction, unlike life, demands a HEA... or at least a HFN.

Unlike me, Roni knew when to say when.

Excerpt: The Leftover Club

May 12, 1979

There was a forgotten little playground about two blocks from where we lived in Fullerton. It didn’t belong to the city. Instead it was a sad little remnant behind an abandoned church with boarded windows and an overgrown field. None of the equipment really worked. The swing seats hung by one chain and the teeter totter was missing the plank, no doubt stolen by rebellious teens who used the abandoned lot to drink or smoke pot when playing hooky from the nearby high school. The tether ball pole stuck out of an old tire, but the ball was long gone. The only piece of equipment that hadn’t been destroyed by neglect and vandalism was the simple merry-go-round. It was painted in sections of red, yellow, blue and white, though all the colors were faded by the sun and the paint had begun to chip.

As sad as it looked, it was one of the happiest places on earth when I was nine years old.

Back in 1979, there was no cable TV for most kids, no home video games, smart phones or personal computers to entertain us. Instead we prowled our neighborhoods on our bikes, perused comic books and ate handfuls of candy we could buy for a dollar. All we really needed was some small patch of the Earth where we wouldn’t be disturbed. The haven that my best friend Dylan and I had found was in this quiet neighborhood with a dilapidated church that didn’t invite visitors.

It was perfect.

The older we got, the more unkind school was. As we aged out of the “ew” stage regarding the other gender, suddenly things like boyfriends and going steady and kissing and even s-e-x became a titillating topic of conversation for kids a stone’s throw from junior high. And once our classmates found out we were an unrelated boy and girl living under the same roof, all sorts of rumors started to spread, despite how passionately I denied it.

“Why do you care?” he asked one day in our special, private spot. “If it’s not true, it doesn’t matter.”

Because it wasn’t true was precisely why it mattered. As we got older, I started to have feelings for Dylan that were in no way sisterly. I knew if he ever found out about it, I would just die. The only way to hide it was deny such proclivities instantly and vehemently.

This, of course, made me a fun target.

So every day of fourth grade, we’d take the detour from the crowded schoolyard and stop at that church on our way home. There was a corner store just a block away from the playground, where we’d raid the candy aisle and buy a forbidden soda to share between the two of us. Our mothers would have had strokes if they had seen our bounty of sugary goodness, especially since I had never been able to drop my childhood pudge.

Dylan, however, had always been my partner in crime. He had nothing to say about my size, even though kids at school were starting to. To him, I was just Roni, the buddy he camped out with in the back yard and told scary stories to under a shared blanket with a flashlight. Others treated us like siblings. If he was invited anywhere, so was I, and vice versa. It was like we were connected at the hip. We went to matinees every Saturday, after we overdosed on morning TV that included Looney Tunes, Schoolhouse Rock, and Sid and Marty Krofft.

Saturdays were the worst for Dylan. His dad had weekend visitations, but usually flaked out at the last minute. I hated that sad look on his face, and insisted that we get on our bikes and go somewhere, anywhere, just to get out of the house. It was on one of these Saturdays that we ended up at that neglected playground with a bag full of candies and a bottle of orange soda to share. Within minutes we lay on our backs on that dusty merry-go-round amidst empty candy wrappers, staring up at the sky and using our feet to propel it in an endless circle.

We discussed our favorite show (The Incredible Hulk) and the music we had recently discovered (ELO.) We discovered a lot of music courtesy of his AM/FM handheld transistor radio that followed him everywhere he went, hanging by its strap from his handlebar. It now sat next to our heads on the merry-go-round, blasting America’s Top 40, and we sang along with all the songs we knew, with lyrics so far beyond our maturity level we didn’t even understand what we sang.

After I belted out a Donna Summer song with gusto, he handed me the soda to wet my whistle as a reward.

“You sing good,” he praised.

“Well,” I corrected.

“Whatever,” he dismissed.

I giggled as I sucked on sweet candy stick coated with colored sugar that was supposed to taste like fruit. I wanted to tell him I was sorry that his dad flaked out again, but I learned a long time ago that he didn’t like to talk about that kind of thing. Instead it was time for Operation: Distraction. “So what movie do you want to see?”

“I don’t know. I’m not really in the mood to see a movie.”

“Oh,” I said. “What do you want to do?”

“I want to see my dad,” he said.

I turned my head to look at him. That softly worded confession was unexpected. I saw a tear at the corner of his eye.

“Why doesn’t he want me, Roni?”

I turned over on my side and propped up on my elbow. I didn’t know what to say, or do.

He turned on his side to face me, mirroring my posture by propping up on his elbow. “Sometimes I think you’re the lucky one. Your dad didn’t leave you on purpose.”

“Still hurts,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

“And your dad can change his mind someday. He can come back.”

His dark eyes were big and sad. “He won’t.”

I didn’t know what to do so I reached for his hand, just to let him know I’d always be there for him, no matter what. He smiled.

So did I.

He pulled himself up into a sitting position, hooking one leg around one of the poles. “It’s your turn. From last time,” he said. I laughed. Since we had been coming to this playground all year, we had to get creative with our games. We played truth or dare like most kids, but with this old merry-go-round, we came up with another game, “Truth, Dare or Puke.”

The object of the game was for the askee to sit in the middle of the creaky old merry-go-round while the asker spun it as fast as they could. While the askee was disoriented, the asker would level their challenge… to tell an embarrassing truth, to agree to an even more embarrassing dare, or to stumble off into the corner and toss his or her cookies.

Naturally the longer it took you to answer the question or respond to the dare, the more likely you were to puke. It ensured absolutely honesty and immediate compliance. I learned one of his most embarrassing moments in school involved laughing so hard milk came out of his nose. He learned that one of my most embarrassing moments including farting in church. He took on a dare act out Greased Lightning, and I got the dare to do a knock and run at the crabbiest neighbor’s house.

As we got older, our dares got a little naughtier. We tested out curse words and shoplifted candy and vandalized a newly laid section of sidewalk. During our last game, he dared me to show ‘mine’ if he showed me ‘his.’ The idea of being in any way naked in front of a boy was unthinkable. I tried to change for truth, but he was empowered by the one thing I refused to do and kept spinning me around the merry-go-round, laughing so hard I thought he might wet himself. Thankfully I finally puked and it was over, and even more thankfully we had already put a rule in place that we could never repeat a dare.

So I felt more confident as I climbed off the merry-go-round and started to spin him where he sat. After a few turns, I asked, “Truth, Dare or Puke?”

“Truth!” he said as he held onto the bar.

I thought for a moment, but then decided to go with an oldie but a goody. “Who’s your latest crush?”

I couldn’t wait to hear how he answered this oft repeated challenge between the two of us, as his answers had ranged anywhere from Judy Jetson to Miss Maloney, our fourth grade English teacher. He always answered honestly because he knew I never judged.

How could I, with my moony-eyed crushes over teen idols named Davy, Leif and Chachi?

I spun him even faster. “You’re gonna puke!” I warned with a big grin. “Better tell me who!”

“You!” he finally admitted.

I lost my footing and fell right on my face. I spit dirt from my mouth as I lifted up from the ground. He scooted to the edge and stalled the ride with his feet. “Are you okay?”

I nodded as I rose to my feet. I wore red shorts and a multi-colored stripped tank top, all of which had dirt all over it. He jumped off the merry-go-round to help me brush it off, but I backed up immediately. “I’ve got it,” I mumbled. I hopped up on the merry-go-round before he could say anything else. “My turn!” I declared as I took my place in the sacred circle.

He hooked his shoulder under one of the bars and started to spin me around. Once we were going pretty good, he said, “Truth, Dare or Puke?”

Fearing he might want to know who my crush was, or worse… if I had a crush on him, too, I had no choice but to opt for dare. I had to hold on tight as he spun me even more out of control. Then, surprisingly, he hopped up onto the merry-go-round and scooted to where I hunched in the middle. His eyes glittered as he said, “Kiss me.”

My mouth fell open. Was he serious? We had lived in the same house together for going on three years, living and interacting much like brother and sister. Now in one afternoon he told me he had a crush on me and he wanted to kiss me?

For a girl who barely got Valentine’s cards, this was all very confusing. I was growing dizzier by the second, and I suspected it had little to do with the child’s ride we were on.

As the merry-go-round still spun and Dylan still waited, I realized that I had two options. I could scramble off the merry-go-round and hopefully puke out of Dylan’s line of vision, or I could just kiss him.

So I leaned over and kissed his cheek, just like I did my mom or his mom, my aunt Daphne or my cousin Charles.

Dylan’s eyes were dark as I pulled away. As I lost myself in them, I knew he was none of those people. He wasn’t my cousin, or my brother, or even just my friend. He was now a boy. And not just any boy, he was the first boy in my life to admit he had a crush on me.

And I felt exactly the same.

It was a very significant moment.

Even though we were spinning, it felt as though time had slowed down to a crawl. When he leaned forward, I did too, until our lips met tentatively as the world spun around us. His lips felt warm and firm on mine. It felt so good that our passionate peck lingered, just like we had seen on movies and TV. We didn’t pull apart until the spinning wheel finally slowed to a stop.

“Ew, gross!” we heard a boy say, and we scooted apart instantly. A group of fifth grade boys who regularly made life miserable for us happened to be riding by the church at exactly the wrong moment. “You’re making out with your sister!” he said, as if that was the grossest thought ever.

There was only one thought worse: “Your fat sister!” the other boy said.

When I turned back to Dylan, I saw that he had flushed deep red. He scurried off the merry-go-round. “She’s not my sister!” he screamed back at our tormentors. He looked back at me, as if seeing me through brand new eyes. “And I didn’t kiss her!” He turned away and ran home.


I had a lot of fun writing The Leftover Club, trying to rearrange some of my memories into something a little less mortifying than writing no less than 522 love letters to a boy who made the sad miscalculation to kiss me on a dare.

We reconnected thanks to MySpace many years ago, and there didn't seem to be any hard feelings. He grew up to be successful and happy, with no residual scars or lingering PTSD. I found him again on Facebook, but I don't have the ovarian fortitude to "friend" him.

Sometimes a memory is better left a memory. If I need to rearrange it, that's what the books are for. ;)

So enjoy my timey-whimy trip through the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s in THE LEFTOVER CLUB; a tale of often painfully awkward first crushes, first loves, first kisses and finding the one you were supposed to be with at last (even if it takes 30 years.)

Here's what readers are saying...

"What a trip down memory lane...and that was just the first few pages."

"The premise of The Leftover Club had me sold. I'm grew up and graduated high school in the 80's and I couldn't wait to be transported back in time. Ginger Voight hits it spot on. I almost had to pull out my Jordache jeans and drape myself in neon and lace fingerless gloves. If only hubby would wear those parachute pants once again!"

"The nostalgia of the story was transportive! I think no matter who you are or who you were back then, you'll see yourself in this book somewhere. Would highly recommend!"

"I have loved everything I've ever read by Ginger Voight. She writes from the heart. She gives the reader real feelings, real thoughts and real people. The Leftover Club gave me all of that and an extraordinary trip back in time to the 1980's, a place I will always want to visit."

Amazon has THE LEFTOVER CLUB listed at $0.99, but that price will be going up so get your copies now.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

#ThrowBackThursday Groupie Confessions and MAJOR 4th of July Sale/Promotion.

For anyone who knows me even remotely, especially my work within some celebrity fan circles, you really don't have to wonder what prompted me to write the romantic, sexy, fantasy-filled backstage romp I affectionately and appropriately named "GROUPIE."
Photo evidence from the 1980s would suggest that I've been a Groupie for decades, as evidenced by the mandatory rock T-shirt to the bedroom walls covered in posters.

Truthfully, GROUPIE is a book that has been in the making since roughly 1979, when I first had my first celebrity crush. I was about nine years old when Cupid’s arrow hit from a console television set. That was when one of the local stations in Abilene, Texas fortuitously began playing reruns of The Monkees.

Of course, I didn’t understand the concept of a rerun back then. I wasn’t even convinced that singers weren’t actually showing up in the radio station to sing songs throughout the day. All I knew was that the guys in the band were cute and made me laugh.

One in particular looked especially young, with a baby face and deep brown eyes and an accent completely foreign to my West Texas ears.

I had fallen like a brick for Davy Jones.

Imagine my devastation when I learned that he was actually about twenty years older than I originally thought, and married on top of that. Needless to say, I was crushed.

Eventually I would move on thanks to a timely Christmas gift from my parents. My Bert & Ernie AM/FM radio allowed me the freedom to discover my own music. Because my nearest sibling was a decade older than I was, I spent most of my childhood as an “only child” – one that would have to come up with creative ways to pass the time, which we already covered with our first #TBT blogs.

So you all know now that by 1979, I had sold my soul to rock and roll.

One of my favorite songs that year was a tune called “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” by Journey. I loved the more primal beat, even though I was much too young to understand the overtones of the lyrics. It took me a good decade to understand the barrage of “nah nah nah nah nahs” at the end of the track were virtually the singer saying, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” to a cheating ex.

At the time I just loved the beat of the song and the pure vocal of the lead singer. I would belt it out with vigor every time it played on the radio.

A couple of years later I was staying up late waiting for my mom to come home from work, and much to my surprise (and delight) I found out Journey would perform said hit on a rerun of “The Midnight Special.” I perched in front of the TV in my jammies and waited with bated breath.

When I first laid eyes on the lead singer, I didn’t know quite what to think. He had long dark hair, something I wasn’t used to seeing around my military town. He had a prominent profile and a face full of character, an ethnicity I found exotic and strange. From the way he dressed to how he sang, I really didn’t know what to make of him. Then he went down into the first row of the crowd and sang directly to one of the girls, which tattooed itself immediately onto my 11-year-old brain and even eventually made its way into “Groupie.”

I still loved the song and couldn’t really get the lead singer out of my head, even though my initial response wasn’t the starry eyed infatuation I felt for Davy Jones.

I continued as a fan of the music mostly, but nothing could prepare me for that one summer night in 1983 when I would fall completely and hopelessly in love with a man I’d never met.

Back in the early 80s my mom was raising me as a single parent, and as such didn’t see much need for things like cable. I may have wanted my MTV like any other self-respecting teen of the decade, but I settled for Friday Night Videos.

When I saw that a Journey video for “Faithfully” was coming on, I remembered with a bit of a rush about the last time I had seen the band perform. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the lead singer’s hair was shorter and he now sported a mustache.

I never cared for mustaches for traumatic personal reasons, so I found the new look a bit jarring. Eventually he ditched the 'stache during the course of the video, and I found myself heave a sigh of relief that he looked more like the guy I remembered.

I listened as he sang about an undying, faithful love and after the second verse he turned to face the camera as he sang. A breeze lifted a tendril of his dark hair away from his face and his potent eyes stared deep into my soul as he sang, “I’m forever yours, faithfully.”

I was a goner. My heart fell down somewhere near my feet and I think for a brief second there I forgot to breathe. Forget getting struck by Cupid’s arrow – I had been leveled by a bolt of lightning. Within a week I had the Frontiers album in my hand and I showed my mom the man I knew I was going to marry.

These were big words for a thirteen year old. But I've always been a big dreamer.

Over the course of my teen years Steve Perry would come to define my ideal. I was kissing a lot of frogs in those days, so it was just easier to put all my hopelessly romantic fantasies onto a person safely at arm’s length.

He was a safe outlet to love until I met my first husband and fell in love “for real” when I was about 18.

But I can still feel my heart soar whenever I hear Steve sing, and I know down deep that this celebrity crush actually helped get me through some very painful and difficult years as an outcast, with nowhere to belong and no one to choose me.

I’m still a fan, although I’ve given up on the marrying part. (Those who know me did tease me about my second husband being a “Steve” though.)

Many years later I would meet another celebrity who would have the same sort of impact in a more significant way. It started rather innocently while watching VH1 in 2002, when I caught a series that featured various celebrities waxing nostalgic about the 1980s. Some of the celebrities I knew, but one in particular, the one that stood out the most, I had never seen before.

To my surprise, I found his comments were the funniest. It seemed like my best friend of 20-something years and my second husband were all rolled up into one cute, comedic package.

I found myself looking forward to comments from actor/comedian Hal Sparks the most, and over the course of the next few years (and several “I Love the” series) I became sort of what you would call a semi-fan.

I was pleasantly surprised when he showed up in Spider-man 2, and I never purposely sought out "Dude, Where's My Car" or "Queer as Folk." But it was undeniable... each time I saw him I liked him a little bit more. It took me a year or so to get on the computer and find information about him. At this time I was still fairly content to keep celebrities behind the velvet rope. In 1998 I had attempted to meet a couple of my teen idols and was treated very poorly by one of the members of a band I had loved throughout my adolescent years. This rejection was directly due to my larger size, and this individual made sure I knew that he wanted nothing to do with me because of it.

When my friend tried to get a picture of me and this person, he made sure he grabbed a random stranger passing by to put right in the middle of us so he wouldn’t have stand next to me.

Needless to say I was ready to keep all the celebrities I *really* liked under glass so I wouldn’t risk this type of painful rejection in the future. I never went to see Davy Jones in concert, I didn't stalk Steve Perry (much) and I was content just to catch Hal's appearances on random VH1 specials.

The more I read about Hal, however, the more I thought about going to one of his comedy shows. Everyone who had gone to see him had nothing but glowing comments about how wonderfully he treated his fans. Still, I was unsure and stayed mainly on the fringe of the fandom.

So I missed out on things like Hal’s Sparksvision, where about 80 of his fans convened on Los Angeles to enjoy a movie premiere, a comedy show and a chance to see his band play live.

I was way too gun-shy to even think about participating in such an event in September of 2004.

But a mere few months later I would get another big surprise. In November, just days before my birthday, I opened up my email inbox to find an email from Hal himself. Initially I thought it was an auto-reply to let me know I had successfully joined the mailing list for his website. But when I opened it, it read, “A little birdy, and by little birdy I mean that big birdy you’re married to, said that it was your birthday!” He wished me a happy birthday and a great year and I sat thunderstruck at my computer desk that this person I hadn’t even tried to meet could reach out to contact me, this (figuratively speaking) little nobody from small town Texas.

I would come later to learn that was just the kind of guy Hal was. Even at his Sparksvision event he would go seek out those fans too shy to meet him so he could connect with them in some way.

I met Hal for the first time eight months later, when I made sort of a pilgrimage to see one of his comedy shows in San Francisco. I was still nervous that I would be rejected, especially since Hal is a good looking guy who makes no bones about appreciating good looking women. This is an equation that has NEVER really worked out in my favor. So I even shied away from going up to meet him in between the two comedy shows because I thought just seeing him perform in person was enough to make me happy.

Eventually, thanks mostly to the two-drink minimum (times 2,) I was able to go up and meet him for the first time. When he looked at me I didn’t feel rejected, if anything I felt completely “seen” for the first time ever. He has these dark, soulful eyes that reach right down into your core and immediately put you at ease. I nervously teased that I had driven through a tornado to meet him (true story) and therefore I deserved a hug. He gave me one freely, and not one of those wimpy side hugs but a full body head-to-toe hug.

Then he pulled me close for a picture, where he smiled big as though he were happy to do it, and made sure to give me another hug before I left.

I was hooked from that moment on. He didn't just treat me well as a fan, he made me feel valued as a person. There is NO ONE I've ever seen that has this much consideration for his fans, who will stand in line for two hours straight and still be as genuine with the last of the group as he was with the first.

I've always been a PR machine for those people/things I like, so needless to say I've done my fair share of time in certain fandoms. I’ve seen quite a cast of characters come through, which has both been extremely gratifying and tremendously heartbreaking. I've learned that Like truly does attract Like, but not everyone who calls you friend has your best interests at heart.

Sometimes you're nothing more than a stepping stone to what they really want... and I figured out (quickly) who those people were as I've broken apart from the group and made a name for myself. The easy litmus test is if you're still my friend now, you were my true friend then, and I'm extraordinarily lucky to call several people my friend to this day, even when I'm a lot older and wiser about the other kind.

It was during the most painful and confusing times that I wrote the GROUPIE trilogy, working out a lot of my own disappointments and frustrations along the way. When I decided to write a story from the fan point of view of that fantasy relationship with her favorite rock star, there was a lot of fertile ground to toil.

I think this is a common fantasy that many of the women I’ve known have had a time or two. It was fascinating to write it from the perspective as the groupie who gets the star because I myself have never experienced this phenomenon, nor do I think I ever would even if I were single. The fantasy is a fantasy because real life can never creep in with all its disappointments and heartbreak, and I got sideswiped by a lot of that shrapnel just as an onlooker and - a time or two, an unwitting accomplice.

The groupie experience from what I’ve seen is quite similar to the experiences I’ve had as the “fat girl,” who had the good looking guy give her attention behind closed doors but never had the opportunity to be the gal on his arm, and it is that emotional integrity I brought to the book.

Essentially I took everything I’ve seen and learned and turned it up to “11,” both good and bad.

THE GROUPIE TRILOGY is not for everyone. I pull no punches when I explore the darker side of fame and obsession, excess and entitlement. I wanted to dig under the idea, "Be careful what you wish for." This isn't about bedding some hot rock star. This is about loving the inaccessible. You WILL want to throttle her. You WILL want to knee him in the groin. You WILL want to slap me with your Kindle. BUT... if you're up for it, the entire trilogy will be available on sale for the 4th of July at almost 50% off, dropping the price from $4.99 to $2.99 for one day only. (That's three books in one volume for about a buck a book. You're welcome.)

Not only that, but ALL THREE books in the spinoff series are my #FridayFreebies on July 4th as well. That means you could get caught up on 6 books in the Groupie universe for only $2.99, just in time for your three day weekend.

Who loves ya, baby?