In Real Life

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Amy Andrews, Me and Ros Baxter

I went to the launch of Numbered in Brisbane with my writing group pal Dakota Harrison. You might recall I mentioned I’d started reading Numbered last week. I was slow to get into it because I was frankly scared it would be a tough read because of the subject matter. I think most of us probably know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and not all of them have been happy outcomes.

Anyway, I got to meet the fabulous Amy Andrews and her sister Ros, who flew in from Canberra for the occasion. It was held at River City Labs, the space was donated for the occasion by Baxter sibling Steve from the Shark Tank television show.

There were a stack of other authors at the event so I had a lovely fangirl time.

ARC Review

Numbered by Amy Andrews and Ros Baxter.

I could tell you about this book like this…(sort of spoilers so you could skip it and go straight to the review if you likenumbered)

  1. Laugh
  2. Snigger
  3. Drool
  4. Belly Laugh
  5. Whimper
  6. Disbelief
  7. Laugh
  8. Giggle
  9. Sniffle
  10. Smirk
  11. Laugh
  12. Cry
  13. Denial
  14. Laugh
  15. Sigh
  16. Cry
  17. Snort Laugh
  18. Cry
  19. Smile
  20. Cry
  21. Bargain (this was where I killed the fairy)
  22. Snot Cry
  23. Guilty smile
  24. Cry
  25. Sob
  26. Anger
  27. Sob more
  28. Struggle to smile
  29. Depression
  30. Snot cry
  31. Sobbing snot crying
  32. Acceptance
  33. Making public spectacle crying
  34. Hopeful smile
  35. All Choked up.
  36. Still all choked up. *sniff*

I should have known better. Amy Andrews wrote a Medical romance called “How to Mend a Broken Heart” a few years ago and I still cry when I try and talk about it. She wrote Sister Pact with Ros and it was funny and sweet and romantic. I never thought they would combine to create a book that was funny and sweet and romantic and MAKE ME SNOT CRY THROUGH HALF THE DAMN BOOK. And this isn’t some measly little category book. This is a full size book so that is a lot of crying.

The story is about Poppy Devine who starts the book being tested for a lump in her breast. The same day she meets Quentin who works as a chef in the hospital by day and plays in a rock band by night. When he flirts with her, she invites him to do a sky jump with her. The first impulsive thing she probably did in her life.

The sky jump is number one on a bucket list Poppy drew up with her best friend Julia years ago. Number Ten is sex with a stranger. See where we are going with this?

I didn’t notice until we were well through the book that the story is pretty much told from Quentin and Julia’s point of view, not from Poppy’s, the heroine.

Quentin is an unlikely hero for Poppy, who is constantly being told to take risks by Julia. He’s quite a bit younger than Poppy and, in his mind as well as Julia’s, not someone for the long haul.

Julia has been Poppy’s other half for eighteen years, since they met at boarding school at eleven. She is strong, aggressive and totally devoted to Poppy.

This is not really a romance, but is a love story. *wipes tears*

The relationships between the three main characters, with Poppy’s mother and Quentin’s band mate Spike thrown in, are complex and real and imperfect, just as they are.

There is a lot of laughter and humour in the story, but there is also the spectre at the feast, the cancer that drives the momentum of the relationships. It is a very real look at the impact of cancer on not only the person involved, but those around them.

It is a hard book to read. *sniff* But it is also a beautiful story and so very worth it. It is real and magical and bloody brilliant. Anyone who can drag me willingly through that kind of emotional angst had some serious writing cred.

Review copy begged from the publisher because I knew it was going to be great.

Movies I’ve Seen

The same day I went to the Numbered launch, we went to see The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. I will admit that I Googled it pretty thoroughly to ensure it wasn’t one of those movies that ends with one or other of the hero and heroine dying. Overall, I really enjoyed it. There was some great dialogue between the good ol’ boy hero and the uptight doctor in training heroine.

It was one of those opposites attract stories that worked quite well in this case. The hero is a small town vet and the heroine has plans of joining her rich boy doctor boyfriend at a prestigious city clinic when they get married. There was the usual angst you would expect from Sparks but the ending was sweet.

I also watched Deadpool which was right on the other end of the spectrum. Loosely linked to the X-Men universe, Wade Wilson is a former special ops soldier who has been doing small time shakedowns of local bad guys. He meets a girl and is all set for his happy ending when he’s diagnosed with Cancer. He then undergoes a secret procedure a la Wolverine to cure the cancer and become a supersomething mutant.

Thinks don’t go as expected and he becomes Deadpool. This is an origins story in case you didn’t figure that out.

The thing about this movie is it was funny. Dead funny. Crude, sweary, violent, whatever. But funny. There was also that self deprecating humour that made fun of itself and lots of in jokes for the dedicated fans. Wade Wilson is The Merc with the Mouth and he proves it, all the way through. Oh and there is a love story. He says so. And the sound track is fabulous.

What I’m Writing

After reading Numbered I’m not sure if I want to even try to write anything. But hey, it took two of them to be so brilliant so maybe I can be half as good…or a quarter…a bit…whatever.

I’m still uploading my latest Wattpad story, Road Trip Baby. Up to chapter eight and still going. I’m only doing a couple of chapters a week with everything else that’s going on. Nearly finished my Sekrit Project so will be working on that this coming week.

I did start a new Medical story for the fast track but it’s not going to be finished in time so I’ll put it aside. After listening to Tessa Dares Spindle Cove series on recent trips, I’m tempted to go back to my historical partials. I’ve not had any success with my submissions for The Spy Who Saved Me, seven passes out of ten subs. If I get a full set I’ll put the Spy series aside and work on something else. I’m finding I’m not getting overly despairing after the initial couple of disappointments. At least I’m getting some feedback from Wattpad to stoke my ego.

What I’m Reading

Dived into a batch of Presents for research, and review, as you can see. I’m thinking I might do a Presents style book for SYTYCW16.

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Recent reviews

Apparently once our entry for the NYCMidnight Short Story Challenge is received, we can post our short story to get feedback.

Genre: Fairy Story

Subject: An Accusation

Character: A Bed and Breakfast Host

Title – The Littlest Fairy Godmother

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, Cinderella met her prince charming, but things didn’t work out the way she expected. Now Sherry has met Zander again and he knows about the child she had after they parted, so with help from a very small fairy godmother, they may finally get their Happy Ever After.

 

“Once upon a time.”

Sherry was sick of those words. The only ones she hated more were the ones that came at the end of the storybooks her daughter loved. “And they lived Happily, Ever, After.”

All the same, she smiled as she closed the book and kissed her baby goodnight. At nearly four years old, it wouldn’t be long before she was off to school. Not a baby any more. She brushed the dark curls back from the damp forehead. It would be easier to push the memory of Zander into the past if Alexa didn’t look so much like him. Every day she had to confront those melting brown eyes, the firm jaw only slightly softened by her little girl face.

Downstairs she set the bread to rise for the breakfast rolls and checked over what else was needed for the morning. Only one couple were in residence tonight, but tomorrow a wedding group would be arriving ready for the celebration on Saturday. Three couples, five singles. The rooms were mostly ready. All she needed to do was prepare the last room once the current guests finished breakfast and left.

 

It was early afternoon when the convoy of four black SUV’s pulled into the circular driveway at the front of the guest house.  Sherry went immediately to the front door, curious to see who had insisted in taking over the whole of the guesthouse for the weekend under the name of Destoni Corp. Three large men in black suits were busy unloading the luggage while the other guests milled around, admiring the gardens and chattering. They were probably the bodyguards mentioned in the booking, occupying three of the single rooms.

Finally the men started herding the others into the house. Sherry smiled and shook hands with the three older couples with the same dark Mediterranean looks as the bodyguards. The next guest was an elegant woman around her own age with Nordic colouring and a slender figure Sherry envied. Automatically she put her hand out to the final guest. He didn’t take it and she looked up.

The air thickened and she struggled to draw breath. Zander?

“Surprise, surprise.”

“How?”

“We’re here for the Taylor wedding.”

“Cecy Taylor, who was at college with me?” Sherry swallowed, tasting bile. The girl who single-handedly sent her running. “I heard she was getting married, but she’s lived away from here since she graduated. How come you’re invited?”

He ignored her question, moving into the entry hall, hands buried in the pockets of his grey suit. Hastily she instructed the bodyguards as to the luggage. George, her general factotum and husband of the cook took over that task, guiding them to the staff stairway at the end of the house and Sherry returned to her guests.

“I’ll show you to your rooms so you can settle in. When you’re ready there will be afternoon tea available in the dining room to the left. The lounge room is on the right and beyond it we have a library and a billiard room for the use of guests. The swimming pool is accessed down this hall past the main staircase and along the patio.”

They followed her upstairs, quite happy to make themselves comfortable in their rooms before coming down to relax in the public areas of the B&B. Sherry held her breath when the blonde paused at the door of her room, half expecting Zander to join her. They looked like a couple. Perhaps it wasn’t protocol to be seen by the older family members to be sharing a bed. They were in adjoining rooms, though it hadn’t been specified.

“I’ll meet you downstairs, Jacinta.” His deep voice still had the power to thrill Sherry, even after more than four years. Even when talking to another woman. Thrill with an aftertaste of bitterness. Once that caressing tone had been for her.

Avoiding his gaze, Sherry opened the door to his room. His luggage was already lying on the rack. “I hope you’ll be comfortable.”

He sauntered across to the window, looking down at the pool. “I’m sure I will be.” He turned to face her. “You’ve done well for yourself. This place is quite impressive.”

“It was my family home. A windfall you might say, when they died.”

Something stirred in the depths of his eyes. Pity? “I’m sorry for your loss. When did it happen?”

“Four years ago, a little more.”

His eyes narrowed. “Is that why you left?”

“No.” The bald declaration hung in the air. “I have to go finish preparations for afternoon tea.”

Inclining his head, he dismissed her. Still as autocratic as ever. But when you grew up in the kind of wealth Zander Demetrius revelled in, it probably came naturally.

 

She didn’t see him alone for the rest of the afternoon. The group sat around in the large lounge room being served drinks from the bar. Sherry tried not to notice how intimate Zander was with Jacinta. She couldn’t even dislike the woman, who displayed a casual friendliness to the staff.

It wasn’t until the older couples had departed for the wedding rehearsal dinner with the bodyguards and she was cleaning up that Sherry found herself with Zander in the hall.

“Your friend is waiting in the lounge area.”

“She will keep. I want to ask you a question.”

She stiffened and forced herself to relax. He couldn’t know. “What kind of question?”

“What is a journalism graduate doing running a bed and breakfast?”

“I didn’t finish my degree. I came home and my parents died shortly after.”

“They were unwell? Both of them?”

“They died in a plane crash while holidaying in South East Asia.”

His chin dipped as he processed the information. “I didn’t realise.”

“How could you?”

“True. You made sure you vanished off the grid.”

“You knew I came from here.”

“Yes. But you didn’t come here immediately.”

He’d looked for her? “No. I stayed with an aunt for a while.”

The sound she dreaded came from the upstairs hall. Alexa, singing one of her favourite Disney songs. She appeared at the top of the stairs in her princess print pyjamas, a pink tutu, a glittering pink plastic tiara and waving a pink plastic wand.

The wand pointed accusingly at Sherry. “It’s time for my story.”

Zander stood in the centre of the hall, looking up at her. “Who are you?”

“I’m the fairy god-mother. When I wave my magic wand, Mummy will go to the ball.”

Sherry stepped forward. “Go back to your room, darling. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

“I have to make the spell.” Alexa waved the wand and threw a handful of glitter into the air. “Abbacadabba, bibbety-boo.”

The glitter settled on the timber steps. Good job she had the hand vacuum with her. “Alexa. Bed.”

Her daughter giggled one last time and trotted away along the upstairs hall.

Zander put his hands on his hips, pushing back the coat of his dinner suit, showing off his tailored trousers. “Who is she, Sherry?”

“My daughter.”

His dark eyes had a steely glint in them. “Perhaps you mean, our daughter.”

“Why do you say that?” She was stalling and he knew it, his mouth twisting in derision.

“I’m not stupid. She looks enough like me without the guilty look on your face to confirm it.”

Sherry stood tall, stiffening her spine. “Yes, she is genetically yours. But that’s all.”

“How dare you keep my child from me? You did it deliberately didn’t you? Some kind of warped revenge.”

The accusation barely registered. “I did what I had to do.”

“If she is my child, I’ll be suing for full access.”

“I don’t think you’re a suitable role model for a vulnerable child.” She looked up at his glowering face. “What kind of father would a playboy with your reputation make anyway?”

“Playboy? I don’t think you’ve been keeping up. I’m very respectable these days. Not a whisper of scandal anywhere.”

A cold lump settled in her chest. “Are you married? Engaged?” Her giveaway glance went to the lounge room.

“You think Jacinta has reformed me? Wouldn’t you like to know?”  He turned away as the woman in question emerged.

“Darling, we should be going.” She took Zander’s arm with a perfunctory smile at Sherry. “The food is lovely.”

They drifted out and Sherry sat on the seat by the door. He knew about Alexa. There was bound to be trouble if he was serious about wanting access. Zander had money and lawyers to burn. She had a few hundred in the bank and possession. Somehow that didn’t seem very comforting.

 

Sherry was cleaning the lounge room, while the guests were at the wedding. It was late, because she’d had to shop for fresh fruit for tomorrow’s breakfast. By the time she’d done that and spent some time with Alexa, darkness had fallen. The click of the front door opening and closing and the sound of footsteps across the timber floor was the only intimation before Zander walked into the room.

“Is something wrong?”

“I thought this might be a good time to catch you alone.”

She couldn’t remember where Alexa had gone, but she was quite safe in the house. “I can spare a few minutes. I have to put my daughter to bed.”

“Yes. Your daughter. How old is she?”

The date was easy. She gave it to him and watched him calculate.

“You must have known before you left.”

“I did. But we weren’t talking at the time.”

He shifted on his feet, long black lashes shadowing his eyes. “Is that why you didn’t tell me?”

“In part. I maxed out my text message allowance that week.”

“I read them. There was nothing about being pregnant.”

“You expected me to text you the news that you’d knocked up your ex-girlfriend?”

“Were you my ex? I don’t remember us breaking up.”

“Only because you didn’t have the decency to tell me. You decided to show me by taking out every girl in my dorm room. It was pretty clear.”

His mouth shut, the lips thin, as a scuffle of sound came from near the windows. Alexa crawled out from behind the couch, wand in one hand and tiara crooked on her dark curls. “Are you the handsomest prince?”

Zander adjusted the headpiece with a gentle hand. “Sorry, sweetheart. No princes here.”

Her bottom lip drooped. “I thought you might be, because you knew Mummy a long time ago. Did you know her handsomest prince?”

“Your Mummy has a handsome prince?” He darted a cynical glance up at Sherry above the child’s head.

“Yes. It’s my favouritist story.” She sucked in a deep breath and waved her wand. “Once upon a time an orderinary girl met a handsome prince at a ball and they danced all night. But in the morning, the handsome prince had to go back to his own kingdom and Mummy, that’s the ordery girl, was sad for a long time. Then one day a fairy brought her a baby princess. That’s me. So she was very happy.”

His brows drew together in a thick line above his eyes. “I’m sure she was. What an interesting story.”

“She doesn’t have the ending yet.”

“It sounded like a perfectly good ending. For her.”

Sherry winced at the subtle barb, hidden in his affable tones.

Alexa shook her head. “But she didn’t get to live happily ever after with the handsomest prince.”

“No, I suppose she didn’t. But you can’t have everything. She did get a princess to keep all to herself.”

Anger flushed through Sherry’s chilled body. “If the handsome prince bothered to come back, or even answer his calls, he might have had his own princess too. He preferred to get lai…”

“Mummy? Are you cross with Mr. Dem…with the man?”

“No, darling. But it is past your bedtime. Say goodnight to Mr Demetrius.”

“Goodnight, Mr Demetrus. And may frights of angels take you to your bed.”

His eyes softened as he kissed the upturned cheek. “Thank you. I hope your dreams are happy ones.”

Sherry steered her daughter from the room, pausing at the door when Zander spoke her name.

“We need to talk. I’ll wait here for you.”

“Don’t you need to get back to the wedding? What about your…partner?”

“Jacinta? Her fiancé is the best man. My brother Antony. Now his official duties are more or less over, he can take care of her.”

She steadied herself on the door frame. The room spun hazily. They weren’t together. Not that it meant anything. He could have any number of woman in the background. That had been his playbook when she first met him at the university.

 

Reluctantly, she returned to the lounge room. The confrontation had to happen. She just wished she’d had time to dress up. He was standing in the middle of the room holding one of the shoes she’d taken off when she was cleaning up.

“These are pretty.” He held up the sparkly silver slip-on.

“Alexa’s choice.”

“She seems happy.”

“I like to think she is.” Maybe it wouldn’t be so easy once she started school and felt the dearth of a father.

“I know I behaved badly at college. My ego took a dent because you wouldn’t come with me when I finished my masters. The other girls meant nothing.”

“Except Cecy.”

He cocked his head. “Is Cecy the wicked witch of this fairy tale?”

“She slept with you. I met her coming out of your apartment. She confirmed it.” Her eyes were dazzled by the play of light as he fiddled with the shoe.

“She didn’t. It was Paul Varis, my cousin. She was drunk so I put her to bed in my spare room. Paul arrived in the early hours. She thought he was me, he wasn’t the kind to say no. The rest is history. They got married this afternoon.”

“Is this the truth?”

“I might avoid talking to you, but I’ve never lied. I’ve been wanting to find you ever since. When I saw your name on this B&B I took a chance.”

“I didn’t mean to keep her from you. It was never in my plan. It just happened.” A ball of pain pressed at the back of her throat. “I’m so sorry.” A hiccupping sob bubbled up and she sat on the couch, knees too weak to hold her.

“Don’t cry, my darling.” He knelt before her, one hand resting on her knee. “I’ve a lot to make up for, haven’t I?”

“I should have tried harder. Not let my hurt feelings stop me.” The sobs pushed up, choking her.

“Is this where I try the slipper on you?” His wry tone stopped her tears. She stared down at him as he slid the shoe onto her foot. He looked up and met her gaze, eyes warm and tender.

Maybe there really was such a thing as living happily ever after.