Fun Facts about A Light in the Dark

Writing a story is a lot of fun because you get to throw in your own personal little tidbits. You spend so much time in the story you are crafting that it is bound to happen. As an example, my character, Dez, and I have a lot in common and that is certainly not by accident. Here are a few items from real life that found their way into the story line.

I visited Oklahoma City and was never the same. I was overwhelmingly inspired and thus it became the rightful setting for A Light in the Dark.

The main male character is named after Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant. My husband is a diehard Cowboy fan so I hear Dez’s name all the time AND he’s not bad to look at it.

Olivia loves her sushi just as I do.

The two dogs referenced in the book are named after two dogs in my family. Rest in peace, Sophie and Murphy.

Dez’s buddies have a morning radio show featured in the novel. That is likely because my husband has been a weekly guest on a local morning radio show, The Todd N Tyler Radio Empire, for eighteen years.

Sabrina is originally from Iowa because that is my home state.

In the novel, Dez reflects on a trip to Chicago he took with Sabrina and Olivia – a good experience and memory for my family, too.

Dez’s brother Damien was murdered in the streets at a young age. Family friend Barry Averritt suffered a similar fate four years ago.

Dez is a single father of one when he meets Sabrina, kinda like my husband when he met me.

Dez owns a gym and teaches classes and that aligns perfectly with my love for fitness.

Dez’s best friend, Alex, is a former MMA fighter. I went to an MMA fight once with my husband as he knew one of the fighters. I saw a dude’s shoulder pop out of socket. It was oddly mesmerizing.

A trait of mine that rubbed off on Dez – he can’t hold his alcohol so well.

Sabrina’s closet is a hot mess as is yours truly’s.

A Light in the Dark is a fair representation of my life in terms of culture and overall experiences. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by diversity, encouragement and talent, all of which influenced the backdrop for this, my first novel.

 

 

The Engagement Scene

Another scene I enjoyed writing was when Dez proposed to Sabrina. It didn’t make it in the book either but it’s another good memory Dez recalls while Sabrina is missing that gives readers a glimpse into their relationship:

His neck still hurt from lying on the floor the night before. He looked up at the TV and considered turning it on. He half reached for the remote and then changed his mind. He looked over at the night stand on Sabrina’s side of the bed. He saw her pair of cheaters and a glass with about one fourth of water in it on top of a coaster Dan had made for her forty-second birthday two months ago. Another memory floated to the surface.

Dez had wanted to do something special for her birthday but party planning wasn’t really his thing. All he had to do was ask Dan for help and everything fell in to place.

They decided the party would be at Dan and Mark’s house. They had the perfect house for it as the floor plan was open and they had outdoor seating as well. When Dez told Dan what he had in mind, Dan went to town. He took care of the invites, the cake, the food, the drinks-it turned out to be a great birthday party. They decided against a surprise party because Sabrina really didn’t like surprises. For once ignoring that, Dez had a surprise of his own in store and he hoped it would make her happy.

The night went off without a hitch. There were plenty of guests in attendance from Sabrina’s office, her professional group, her old job at Devon and some of the people she had gotten to know through Dez at Champion’s. Even her brother and sister-in-law were there. After they had done the food and the cake and everyone had a chance to take in more than a couple of drinks, Dez decided it was time for him to make his move. He stood up in front of the fireplace in the living room and began.

“Okay, Okay. If I can have everyone’s attention for a moment. I thought I would take this time to give Sabrina her birthday present.” Everyone gathered in the living room filtering in from the kitchen and the adjoining deck.

“Now, we’re here to celebrate Sabrina’s birthday. And everybody knows what she wants more than anything is to travel. She did a lot of that before she met me. She’s always tryin’ to get to me to go somewhere. San Francisco or Miami or she even once suggested India,” Dez rolled his eyes at the crowd drawing laughter. “I just don’t travel much but . . . for her birthday, I thought I would plan a little trip.” Dez got down on one knee in front of Sabrina and the crowd erupted.

“I know this isn’t the question everyone wants but – Sabrina, will you go to New York with me?” Sabrina nodded, gave him a kiss and a hug and stood up. She turned around to the crowd. “I said yes.” Everyone laughed. She turned around and Dez was still on one knee. He looked up at her and motioned for her to sit back down.

“Okay. Next question . . .” Dez looked around the room and everyone started to cheer and clap. Sabrina sat back down with her jaw open knowing what was coming next. Her eyes never left his. “Will you marry me?”

The whole room erupted with applause and shouts of excitement so no one could hear her answer but anyone could see by the way she was hugging him and smiling that the answer was yes.

Deleted Scene #1

In the editing process, something always gets left out and it’s really all for the best. In A Light in the Dark, I had a ton of memories where Dez reflects on getting to know Sabrina. I love them all but ALL of them weren’t necessary. Here’s one of my favorites-when Dez recalls the first time he ever went to Sabrina’s house. It was technically their third date:

The whole drive over to her house he was nervous. Why? He didn’t know. He liked her immensely and she was easy to be with so things should have been easy. But he still had wobbly knees as he walked to her door.

She lived in a nice townhome on the outskirts of Edmond nearest the city. The neighborhood was quiet and very well kept. He had a more upscale home in Nichols Hills where Olivia went to school. He and Tracy had agreed to live closer for transporting her back and forth but he always was eyeing the Edmond area for real estate. That was his thought as he rang the door bell, anxiously waiting to see her.

When she came to the door and let him inside, his first instinct was to kiss her but he didn’t give in to it for fear of not being able to stop himself. He handed her a bottle of wine and stood in the entryway. She pecked him on the lips, grabbed him by the hand and led him in to the kitchen.

“Thanks for the wine. You didn’t really need to do that but I’m glad you did. Do you want some now? I’m going to have some after the week I’ve had.” She opened a drawer, grabbed her opener and started lining it up with the cork.

“Sure.” He leaned against the counter and watched her. She wore a white over-sized shirt that hung off of one shoulder with black leggings and her slippers. She opened the bottle with ease, grabbed two glasses and filled them each halfway. Her hair was draped around her right shoulder and fell just above her breast. He couldn’t stop looking and she noticed. “What?”

He swallowed hard and stood up straight. “Nothing,” he smiled. “You’re just . . . cute.”

She giggled. “Thanks. You know what? I did my research on you, Parker. I googled your name and your images . . . YOU are HOT.”

He shook his head. “You sure it was me?”

“Yes. Oh please, like you don’t know. It was a photo for your gym. Nice abs, by the way. Very, very . . .taut. You have quite a few tattoos I noticed.”

“Yeah, I went on tear there for a little while. Nothing too extreme although my mother about had a fit, “he shook his head and smiled. “I’m a grown man but she’s still gotta give it to me.”

“Of course. That’s what moms do.”

“What about your mom? Where does she live?”

Sabrina made a face revealing this wasn’t her favorite subject.

“She lives in Minnesota with her husband. We’re just not very close. Her choice I think but I am extremely close to my brother. He lives in Dallas. I love him to death.”

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Oh no, don’t be sorry. Mom questions are very common territory. I just don’t have a common relationship with mine,” she let out a big sigh and looked around the room. “Maybe we should eat. I’ll set the table. You like roast, carrots and potatoes?”

They ate and talked like they did at the steakhouse. Dez talked about good times as a kid with his brother and a few escapades from his NFL days. Sabrina talked about growing up in Iowa, her first love and the last time she had a date. Dez was smitten. They sat at the table and talked until the wine bottle was empty and then he helped her clean up.

“So,” Dez stopped in his tracks, “I’m curious. Am I the first black guy you’ve dated?”

Sabrina put a plate in the sink and pondered the question. “Hmmm? You know what? Yes. But I haven’t dated a whole lot of people in my lifetime. I’m more of a serial monogamist. When I went to school in Iowa City, I got really serious with this guy from Brazil, Jorge. He played tennis. GOD, he was sexy.”

“Anyway . . . ,” Dez said with raised eyebrows directing attention back to him.

Sabrina laughed. “Anyway, he moved back to Brazil and that was that. Then I went to law school, dated a few guys here and there, met my husband and you know the rest.”

“Did you ever notice me at the Coffehouse ?”

“Uh, of course. Have you seen you? You never noticed me checking you out?”

“No. You’re always with Dan. Besides, I was probably too busy checking you out.”

“Yeah, I knew you were. But I figured I wasn’t really your type.”

“What? You’re so cute. You’re everybody’s type.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Strapping handsome guy like you . . .probably prefer them young.”

“Ouch. Believe me. Been there, done that and done WITH that. I’m too old for games.”

“Amen to that. How old are you by the way?”

“Thirty-seven.”

“Oh, a younger man. I have two years on you.”

Dez smiled, surprised to find out she was older than him. He had ballparked her to be a couple years younger than him. “You make thirty-nine look damn good.”

Sabrina shrugged off the compliment and picked up the empty wine bottle from the table. “Wow. We went through that wine, huh? Good stuff. Luckily, I have another bottle so we won’t go thirsty,” she said turning around to him and smiling.

“Are you a little alchy? You’re already talking about a second bottle?” He teased her as he wiped down the countertop while she loaded the dishwasher. When she was done, she leaned back against the counter.

“I actually don’t drink that much. Just once in awhile.”

“When you have strange men over for dinner.” He put the washrag down, rinsed his hands in the sink and dried them off.

“You’re not THAT strange,” she said as he moved closer to her.

She looked up at him and he kissed her. He put his arms around her and kept kissing. His hands trailed the back of her neck, down her back and as they went further she leaned in to him. He could feel her hands around his back then move around to his stomach and his chest and then up around his shoulders.

He lifted her up on the counter and she wrapped her legs around him. They stayed there kissing for at least a minute. They were still kissing when she slid down from the counter pressing up against him feeling his erection. She stood there and kissed his neck. Then she grabbed his hand and took him to her bedroom.

The Follow-up

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I will write next. I know I want to give it the old sophomore try, but what’s next?

I certainly could pick up where A Light in the Dark left off. I miss the characters enough that I could selfishly do that. Spending all that time with Dez and Sabrina was cathartic and comforting and I pick the book up often just to go back there and be with them. I am not sure hearing more from them though is necessary for readers.

I do have a few ideas and one that definitely won’t go away. It involves a character who is deeply struggling with a spouse’s sibling-a sibling who has always been the black sheep, the mess-up, the addict, tugging and manipulating everyone for years. I already have a beginning in my head and it’s a doosy.

It will be tough though. It might hit close to home and it already does for me although the dynamic is different. But there is something about the pain and anguish you feel from watching someone you love be mistreated, lied to and disrespected over and over again-it launches powerful feelings of anger and hate all because you want to protect that person from the manipulator and themselves, too.

I have little tolerance for it and I guarantee you that my main character will not either. It’s a lonely place, the world of little tolerance and it creates such conflict I can’t resist the story. Much like the story of Dez and Sabrina, I think it needs to be told. It’s a point of view that is often neglected but so rich with tenacity, fueled by loyalty, desperation and the desire to achieve what should be rather than what is allowed to exist.

I believe it was Holly Hunter’s character in the movie “Always” that said it best. “I love you, Pete . . . but I’m not enjoying it.” It’s the catch 22 of loving and caring about someone. It’s not blue skies and butterflies all the time. There are a million ways to complicate it. This will be my next story.

Readers I Admire

Goodreads is a great site. I love it to see what’s hot, new and on the horizon in the book world. Do I read? Not really so much lately but if I did I would want to read like many of you out there.

I look at my updates and think, is so-and-so really reading four books at once? Did I ever do that? I think I may have at one time but it was a LONG time ago. When I see readers tackling multiple books at one time over and over, I get a little jelly. There are so many wonderful books to be read and many of you are checking them off your list in Earnhardt-esque style. Good for you.

So maybe my new goal is to read more of your reviews of these books I likely won’t get to. If I’m not going to read the books of the authors I admire, I will become a reader of reviews of readers I admire. It’s still reading and who knows? It might prompt me to set aside more time to read books again.

As for writing, I need to do more of that, too. I need more time in my day. We all need more time.

What Book Clubs Want (or at least mine)

As a member of a book club since 2008, I know the importance of the coveted discussion questions that go with any book selected. While my book club is pretty stealthy with reviewing and analyzing a book, we can miss a lot and go straight to the food. The questions keep us on track.

When I wrote A Light in the Dark, I promised I would have questions available, and my book club taught me well. They don’t appreciate questions impregnated with a bunch of other questions. Twenty questions are good. Twenty questions within a question? Not so much. We’re a book club but we don’t have all evening.

So, I crafted my questions carefully, keeping their comments in mind. The one thing I failed to do was conveniently include them in the back of the book as my book club so enjoys. That would have been nice but now I know why that sometimes doesn’t happen. As a writer, and a rookie novelist, I was focused on the editing process so much so that I ran out of time to do much else. I forgive myself for that as editing is kind of a big deal. The discussion questions had to come later for the sake of the project and so they did.

I know a lot of authors make discussion questions available on their author websites so that is the route I took to make them easily accessible.

I know the Book Club Gangstas will be all over them, which makes me happy. I hope many others will, too. Here’s to happy book clubbing.

A Good Day and a Three-Minute Panic

I had a book launch party last week, and it went better than I could have anticipated. I had nothing to base it on, so I didn’t know what to expect exactly. I just planned it, promoted it and crossed my fingers. You know what? I didn’t do too bad for a rookie.

Attendance was great, lots of friends and family were there and my book supply even sold out. My friend, Clay, described it as a “Sex in the City” moment. I’m a far cry from Carrie Bradshaw, but if I can impress Clay, trust me, it’s a good day.

As with any shindig, there is the dreaded “tear down” after it’s over. We were packing things up and slowly winding down with smiles on our faces when we received a call from home – the back gate had been left open and our beloved dog, Sammi, had escaped.

At that moment, nothing mattered. I bolted out with a friend ready to drive me feeling numb and not quite in the present. I ended up selling and signing a book on the fly to a late-comer in the elevator. A pet-lover herself, she understood. The collective beating heart of our household was loose out in the world and in danger.

Then, suddenly, she wasn’t. We got the call that she had been found a few blocks down the street and, just like that, we were back in book mode, loading things up and hugging friends goodbye. All was well. Hello, zero to sixty and back to zero again.

It was okay though. It seems my heart was able to take it. A good day had just gotten even better by thankfully avoiding what would have been an extremely painful moment that I hadn’t even considered a possibility.

Now, we are fence-checking fanatics. You can’t predict the future though, and you can’t plan for everything that might happen. It’s kind of like my party. If you write it, they will come. But how it turns out? Just hope for the best, do you best, wait and see.

That’s a Wrap . . .For Now

Well, it’s about that time-the release date for A Light in the Dark. I can remember last year when I got the contract in the mail. May, 24, 2016, seemed ridiculously far away. “All I have to do is live that long,” I kept telling myself. Hey, I’m a realist. I know nothing is guaranteed.

But here I am, less than a week away, feeling like I am still at the beginning. It’s not over when the book is done. THAT’s when things really started to get busy in ways I never considered. Decisions needed to be made about the cover (that was fun), the interior, bookmarks, on and on and on. I had no inkling but now that that part is behind me, I have some time to be thankful. On this my maiden book voyage, I have had and continue to have what seems to me an unending supply of support.

As a writer chasing your dream, it’s just you in the ring at first, battling out the story line, trying to find the end. But when the round is over and the bell sounds, I’ll tell you what-I’ll take the people in my corner of the ring any day.

Take my parents for example. They have wanted me to pursue writing ever since I was the co-editor of my high school paper so this is a very big deal for them, too. Thanks to my “Momager,” my folks are even walking around with T-shirts that have the cover of my book on them. My whole life they have always done whatever I needed. Not always what I wanted but always what I needed. It’s a sweet ride to be their kid, even at my age.

My husband was the one who kept telling me to start writing. “You like to write. You should write something.” Something. What he didn’t know by saying that was that my writing would require a certain level of quiet in our rather small and modest home during the 2013, 2014 & 2015 football seasons. A compromise he hadn’t considered, for sure. But in the end, he didn’t die from surround sound withdrawals and he’s been quite supportive on the PR side of things, too.

I needed faithful readers along the way and no one was more so than my sister. In the beginning, when I thought I was “on to something” I would send her snippets to read as a litmus test for if I should keep going. She always read promptly and replied with a request for more. Of course, she did. She is my big sister.

I realized I needed some honest non-blood relatives and even people that didn’t know me or my family very well to read my early drafts. I had a lot of help there and encouragement, too.

My friends, new and old, have shared in my insecurities, cluelessness and excitement over this long process. None of us have ever written a book before. It was a baptism by fire for the group of us really. They truly have had my back.

You don’t get there alone, wherever “there” is and I do feel as though I have reached a destination, even if it’s only a temporary pit stop. I can’t wait to see what’s next but for now, I think I will just enjoy and be thankful.

Something Happened August 2013

Ever been at the wrong place at the right time? Sure. We all have. Time is a real b-word that way. If only you had been a few minutes earlier or later . . .

Life is fragile. That’s true, and the seconds, and minutes that we live it by seem small and insignificant, but they really aren’t. In fact, one or two minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

Something terrible happened in Omaha in August of 2013. Supposedly, there was a serial killer loose. I say supposedly because no one knew at the time what was going on. The statement turned out to be correct though. There was a serial killer loose, let loose into the public by a system that is intended to protect it. I’m not going to get in to all of that nor mention the perpetrators name here. It all can easily be looked up online.

The bottom line is this: four people were needlessly killed, including a young mother. Randomness is cruel. So is timing.

What about their survivors – their families? It must hurt immensely, the crime within the crime. And then there are the continued headlines that keep the crime alive, not that it can ever really be over for them. Nor can it be over for too many others who are the survivors of the millions of similar true stories that exist.

When something like this happens, it makes you think more, appreciate more and fear more. Unfortunately, something like this happens somewhere every day.

To My Grandma, With Love

The dedication page of A Light in the Dark is as special to me as any of the other three hundred and thirty plus pages. In a few words, it explains the reason- why I was inspired to start writing this story and the reason why I finished. The process took three years from creation to publication but I wish I would have done it sooner.

One of the people the book is dedicated to is my grandmother, Wilma McKissack Ferguson. A real trail blazer and a passionate writer herself. Born in 1917, she’s knocking on the door of 100 years of life. Imagine the things she has seen. Her life should be my next book.

A child of divorce in the 1920’s, she felt like an outsider growing up. That would ignite a lifelong desire to champion those less fortunate and discriminated against.

A child bride who became a mother of three before she was roughly 24 also became a widow in her early forties. From there, the focus was on first earning a high school diploma, then a college degree and then canvassing the countryside in her little red truck.

Not only do I not have the typical grandma, I also don’t have the typical human being for a grandma. I think most people who know her would agree her name should really be “Ahead-of-her-time Willie.”

That is why it’s all about time for me. I finally wrote my book and it finally got published but maybe just a little late. My grandmother won’t be able to read it, her eyesight being what it is, and she can’t enjoy having it read to her with her hearing as it is. But she knows it exists and there is one thing she has chosen to do – share it. So now it is sitting on a shelf in the library of my grandmother’s nursing facility.

There’s my reason.