I am SUCH a spazz. First, let me back up. Hi. 🙂
Okay, now confession time: I am more scatterbrained than I would like to admit. Yes, I’m extremely ambitious. Yes, I like getting stuff done. Yes, I have the best of intentions. But. Sometimes, oops, things slip my mind or I think I’ve checked something off my list when I really haven’t.
It happens, though. Right? In any case, I’m posting today to share an excerpt from my upcoming book anthology collaboration with Book Beasties authors (Kelly Cain, Jamie McLachlan, C.H. Armstrong, and Bianca M. Schwarz) which comes out in ELEVEN DAYS!
Anyway, you know I’ve been stressing between the books I’ve been launching, between the other anthology I’m working on, between work projects, and home life, yikes. It’s all really good, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed.
However, I’m home today, making soup, snuggling my loved ones, and doing some low-stress work on the side, so I have some time to take a breath, count my blessings, and share with you the excerpt to a story that came straight outta my heart. And when I say that I mean these characters are so real to me, the whole world is. I love this story I wrote, and I hope you will too!
Please read on my for my excerpt of Joy and Sorrow, and the buy link below, because we will only have the DY e-book on sale for .99 for a few more days. After that, the price will go up to 3.99. But don’t worry if you’re holding out for a paperback, those will be available, too. And they are gawgeous. Also, please take a look at our new Pinterest board. It’s a work in progress, but I’m already loving it.
Joy and Sorrow Excerpt
Iris apparently needed to register as a spinster now. It might as well be official. Her co-worker, Judy, made it clear not dating for a decade, with no prospects to indicate her “situation” would change, was the ultimate qualifier for spinsterhood.
It was a shock for Iris to discover she now held that title, at least unofficially. She flashed a wry smile at the older woman who continued her unsolicited advice as they worked side by side in the stacks at the tiny, public library.
“You’re getting too old for that long hair, too, Iris. And you should really stop wearing jeans.”
“There’s an age cut-off for jeans?” Iris raised her eyebrows, not even faking her incredulousness. That was news to her. She looked down at her library-issued polo shirt—black, which, admittedly, did nothing for her fair coloring—and her jeans, slightly faded, bootcut then stole a glance at her co-worker’s pleated khaki pants with the waistband of forgiving elastic.
Judy sniffed. “It just doesn’t suit women our age.”
Iris almost told her she was fifteen years her junior but kept her mouth shut. Judy was a meddling, old cow but, despite her abrasive words, Iris knew she was only trying to help and really wasn’t unkind in general. The woman just couldn’t help it. She had a bushel of children and grandchildren who lived somewhere on the west coast whom she rarely saw, and she’d once said Iris was almost like a daughter to her. Since Iris’s own mother provided little in the way of motherly advice—particularly after she and her latest husband had decided to move to London on a whim, and she got busy with her new, posh life—Iris appreciated the concern, even if it walked a fine line between stinging and ridiculous.
“Should I just call the funeral home now? Tell them I have nothing left to live for?” Iris let out a harsh bark of laughter, and a nearby patron looked up from his book with a frown. She smiled in apology and pushed the cart to the next shelving unit. Judy shook her head as they shelved the romance books, sliding the new releases in alphabetically by the author’s last name, carefully lined up the spines along the edges as they went, and removed any books out of order.
“Romance is all around us,” Judy said in a low voice, waving her hand at the paperback covers featuring half-clad Scottish lairds holding bosomy damsels with heavy-lidded eyes, which always appeared to Iris as though the couples were mid-orgasm.
“That’s not real life.” Iris scoffed. She liked romances in general, but she took them for what they were—fantasies. Nothing that would ever happen to her. Romance was as far off a dream as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
“Everything can be real if you believe hard enough. And you shouldn’t laugh. You should find someone before it’s too late.”
Iris didn’t tell Judy she had already found someone, only he had gone ahead and died on her. He was gone, and there was nothing left but the memory of him on her skin, his lips on her face, the smell of him, the timbre of his voice in her ear, the way he filled a room, the way he filled her heart. Every day with him had been good, even the bad days. Every day was beautiful, easy.
Living without him all these years was unbeareable. Sometimes, it was still damn near impossible.
The way he had left had been so stupid, really. Iris was still angry at him for it. Of all the reasons to die, in a car accident he’d caused himself…what a shame. What a goddamn, horrible shame.
Grady hadn’t been texting. In those days, nobody really did. He hadn’t been drinking. And he hadn’t hurt anyone else, thankfully. But he’d been driving too fast around the curve set deep in the hills. He’d run off the road into a cluster of trees. His tires had left long, terrible black lines on the pavement from when he’d tried to break. Sometimes, she thought he had swerved for an animal. That would have been like Grady. He had cared. At times, Iris thought maybe he had taken all of her caring along with him when he’d died.
When Iris got home from work, she kicked off her shoes and padded around the house, barefoot as usual. Her toenails were painted turquoise blue—imagine if Judy had known about that—the horror! She fixed herself an early dinner and half-heartedly ate a grilled cheese sandwich at the kitchen island, while she sorted through the stack of paperbacks she’d brought home. She gave up on the books and the sandwich after only a short while. She felt like neither reading nor eating.
Iris cleaned up the kitchen—it took all of three minutes—and moved on to some other chores around the house. She threw in a load of laundry, folded the clothes, and put them away in their proper places. When she looked at the clock again, it had barely moved. Evenings were lonely and long.
Sighing heavily, Iris reached for the only thing that filled her arms nowadays—Grady’s guitar—and moved out to the porch, settling onto the swing with one foot tucked under her, and began plucking at the strings without any concrete tune in mind. She played as people smoked cigarettes, to give her fingers something to do, and out of habit and need of comfort. To stop her mind from thinking. Without considering it, Iris strummed the opening to “Kocaine Karolina.”
Besides new musicians that were so honest and raw in ways that reminded her of the best parts of poetry, Iris loved the twangy, sweetness of the old country, blues, and folk-singers. She loved Johnny Cash, Dolly, Billie Holiday, and more. She had taught herself their songs on her lover’s old guitar. She felt closer to Grady when she played. She didn’t have much that had only been his. She had no rights, legally. They never married. Iris suspected most of his family believed they hadn’t been serious enough to commit to each other. At least, that’s how she suspected they felt.
Sometimes, Iris felt the naked weight on her finger, as though the ring he never placed there was only temporarily missing. The loss was magnified, times a million, the day she’d found the velvet box hidden in the top shelf of Grady’s closet under a pile of his old t-shirts. For a long time, she’d avoided opening the case. It might have been half a year before she’d finally worked up the courage. And then, with trembling fingers that felt as though they didn’t belong to her, she’d opened the box. Nestled between the velvet cushions sat a small, gold ring, with diamonds on each side of a large, glittering opal. Antique, pretty, unpretentious. Exactly the ring she would have picked for herself.
Iris wore it on occasion, though nobody ever mistook it for an engagement ring. It was too old, not in a fashionable, vintage way. Mostly, Iris kept it in her jewelry box, not because she didn’t love it, because she had never loved a piece of jewelry more. But an overwhelming sense of longing overcame her whenever she looked down at the delicate band and the pretty jewels.
She wondered when Grady had planned to propose. How long had he had it? If he’d been nervous, working out how to ask her to be his wife. If only he had asked me, Iris lamented. She had wanted to be his wife and, somewhere in the back of her mind, Iris thought if she were a widow or at least had lost a fiancé, people wouldn’t keep pushing her to move on even a decade later. Maybe the title might have protected her grief. She hated worrying about what others thought of her coping or how she chose to live her life; however, she couldn’t help it.
Iris sang her song as the sun set, and the breeze landed on her face, and the hummingbirds swooped to their feeder. She played even when the cool air chilled her, and she tried to muster up some passion from within to get her heart to match the energy in her voice. It was no use. Her heart had been half-broken for ten years. Half-broke hearts just didn’t have much pep.
Like what you read so far? Buy it now! Don’t forget there are four other stories included in the book, too. All with the theme of second chances, all with a hint of romance (or more)!
Add to Goodreads
Like Book Besties Facebook Page
Follow us on Twitter @BookBesties9
Thanks guys, have a great weekend!