Joel: Just Friends? Character Introduction #4

Character introduction #4 is dedicated to Joel. Fourth to appear in the story,  Joel could be mistaken for Emily’s love interest. And to speak to that, I’d have to say, you’ll see. Joel is a character that appears throughout the first three books. He’s Ethan, Emily’s brother’s best friend. He and Emily cross paths regularly in Call Me Emily and even more frequently in Emily Calls It. And don’t forget his regular appearances in Emily’s Calling. Joel is the quintessential nice guy from the south. He’s tall and muscular but also smart as a whip, and he passed on an athletic scholarship to accept an academic one. While Ethan is fully submerged in Southern California life, Joel still maintains his southern character and charm.

As the story progresses and Emily gets involved with Graham, you wonder if she’ll ever see the potential relationship that lurks in Joel. And if and when she does, was she right to make that leap? The presence of Joel and the introduction of new male characters makes you question who will be the guy for her, and if she will make the right choice.  Here’s an excerpt from Joel and Emily’s first meeting. After the first day of school, Emily starts decorating her apartment to make it hers. She begins by painting the kitchen. Just when she’s finishing up there’s a knock at the door.

Chapter 4

Joel

Cleaning up, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the microwave. What was that on my forehead? I leaned in closer to see a big streak of green paint. And the spatters across my shirt and down my right arm. How did I do that? As I pulled down the last of the tape, there was a knock at the door. Great! Who could that be? And furthermore, I was not dressed for visitors. I set down the big mess of tape and went to the door. Through the peephole I saw a couple of guys faced away from the door. Oh, no, neighbors. I opened the door and decided to get it over with.

“Hey Em. What’s up? You renovating or something?” My brother moved past me, not waiting for a response.

“No, just painting the kitchen,” I said looking up at the second guy.

“Hey. I’m Joel,” he said with a slow, deep drawl. I immediately paid attention.

“Oh, this is my sister Emily,” said Ethan, turning back to us.

“Come in. Oh, and forgive the mess.”

“We were just heading out for a run and decided to stop by. Want to come?” Ethan asked.

“I need to finish cleaning up,” I said, looking down as I tried to smooth out my shirt. It was a hopeless attempt.

“Wow, Em, this looks great,” Ethan said.

“Thanks.” He walked toward the wall. “Oh, be careful, it’s still wet.” I warned him.

“Yeah, you’ve got yur-self a nice place. My apartment’s plain,” Joel added. With every word I wondered about his possible hometown. It definitely wasn’t Texas, but where? I didn’t ask.

“You’d have to know my sister. In no time she’ll completely change this place.”

“I could use some tips,” Joel said.

I smiled not really knowing if he was posing a question or stating a fact.

“Well,” Ethan said looking from me to Joel then back to me, “we better go.”

“It was a pleasure Em’ly,” Joel said leaning up against the front door.

“Nice to meet you too,” I translated to California style.  Then I glanced at my brother, whose sober frown indicated he didn’t approve of our little flirtation.

“Bye Ethan. Maybe I’ll see you on campus tomorrow.”

“Actually, did you want to see that new Tom Cruise movie Saturday night?” he asked. I wanted to reply with something smart like, Saturday night? With your little sister? But I figured he was going for nice, and so far this alone thing wasn’t that great.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Cool, I’ll call you with the times.”

“OK, I’ll see ya,” I smiled a smile only he would understand and shut the door. OK, I knew three things for sure:

First, my brother didn’t like it when his friends flirted with me – despite the fact he’d been doing it for years with my friends. And, I liked it a little that he was so annoyed with me. Second, it was nice to have someone flirt with me when I was covered in paint splatters. And third, I knew Mom must be on his case to not leave me alone too much. But alone I was and I had plenty to do. Back to my reading assignments I went.

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That One and Only New Love – Character Introduction #3: Graham

If friends are like cupcakes then what scrumptious dessert would that new, intense and special love be? Humm. I’ll leave that up to you.

Ah Graham. Week three of my character introductions continues with Graham. Emily meets Graham almost immediately when she starts University. He charismatic, chivalrous, persistent and above all, hot. It’s obvious upon meeting him that his experience outweighs hers by leaps and bounds; which let’s face it, is extremely sexy at her age. The way he looks out of the corners of his eyes at her with a sly and flirtatious smile drives her crazy.  And his ever so often rescues from her ridiculous clumsy streak only endear him more to her.

After numerous advances, Emily agrees to go out with Graham, sending her down a fast and turbulent path that leads her to question a great many things that she has come to know in her life.

So to address the endless question about who I based Graham on. It’s funny actually. Graham has always stood completely on his own two feet for me. I see no ex boyfriend or past crush. I only see him. I picture his face, his now typical smirk and the fast black car he drives, and he seems like a real person to me. And I can honestly say, I fabricated him completely out of thin air. That said, he absolutely lived in my life when I wrote Call Me Emily Emily Calls It and Emily’s Calling. There were days when I knew I was about to write a twist and turn with Graham and I dreaded it. I didn’t want to taint the connection I felt to him. I know, crazy talk right? Well who knows, but that set of feelings I felt for him helped me to create an amazing character that I think all women will fall in love with and all men would want to hang out with. I could go on and on about Graham – and I have. But I think this example from Call Me Emily will give you a nice little picture of THE GUY. The one that turns Emily’s world upside down. Sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not.

To pick one excerpt that sums up Graham is like picking one pair of shoes. And if you know me, that’s almost impossible. So after reviewing about twenty Graham scenes, I decided to include the scene that shows the intensity that is Graham. The moment when Emily’s life stands on end.  It’s a pivotal scene for a few reasons. See if you can pick them out.

It’s Emily and Graham first date. While they’ve spent time flirting in Spanish class, this is the first time he’s taken her out. Over dinner they discuss her love of art history. And the evening takes off from there. Oh, and yes, there is the kiss. THE KISS that says much more than “I like you.”

The First Kiss

“My parents have a Toulouse-Lautrec. Maybe you’d like to see it sometime?” He moved his thumb across my fingertips. It wasn’t surprising that his mother would own exquisite paintings, but to get your hands on an original Toulouse-Lautrec was no small feat.

“I’d like that.” The thought of meeting his parents was kind of nerve-wracking and seemed an early topic, but I really wanted to see the painting.

“Actually,” he paused and looked for a second like he might not say anything else, “they are out of town previewing colleges with my brother, and the house is just a few blocks away. What do you think?”

My instinct was to say no, but I couldn’t help myself. I was having such a nice time with him and I was curious about seeing a real work of art. “I’d love to see it.” That also meant I didn’t have to meet his parents right now, and that was a relief.

When we drove up, the place was black. Not one light was on, so I knew they must be out of town. Again he placed his hand in the middle of my upper back to lead me to the front door. The way he did this made me wonder if it was a typical posturing for him and his dates. But I didn’t dwell on that thought.

He reached inside the door and turned on the porch light and the entry light, or rather the chandelier. There were several lights across the front  that illuminated the long house. I would describe it as a beach house, but there was nothing quaint and beachy about it. It was big and illustrious with heavy white shutters and a sweeping roof that came down and ended in thick eves. It was monumental, like the rich grandfather of all beach houses. I was impressed.

“Come on.” He passed me in the entry and took my hand to lead me to another room. I followed along, but looked up at the chandelier as I passed under it, mesmerized by the light as it danced across each of the cut glass pieces. He paused in front of the open door to the next room and flipped on a series of light switches. Against the far wall was the painting. I knew it immediately. It was smaller than I thought it would be, and framed in a heavy gold-tipped frame. It was placed with nothing around it, and three lights above that were probably installed specifically for viewing it. I walked straight over, not waiting for Graham.

“See the way he used the brush? The strokes are so unique.” I reached up and hovered my fingers above the painting, not wanting to get too close. I traced the brushstrokes in the air above the painting following every loop. I heard him come up behind me.

I looked out of the right corners of my eyes without turning around, trying to see how close he was to me.  Then I felt the buttons of his shirt graze my back. I stopped talking; his closeness had stopped my train of thought. I felt his breath caress my back. Looking over my shoulder, I met his eyes. Without breaking our eye contact, he turned me around taking a step to the side of the painting and me with him.

I stood with my back against the wall questioning him without saying a word. He never took his eyes from mine as he wrapped our hands together.  He leaned into me touching his lips to mine. It was a gentle and quick kiss. When he pulled away, I was surprised at my reaction; I followed his kiss wanting more. I kept my eyes with his, trying to figure out what he would do next.  As he pulled back from me just one corner of his mouth turned up into a smile; I think he knew I wanted him to kiss me again. He lifted his hands to my face and pulled me closer. This time his lips parted mine softly. He moved his hands from my face along my neck as his kiss became deeper. His body pressed against mine pushing me further into the wall behind me. I pressed my hands against the wall to brace myself.  His kisses slowed, soft again but rich with pleasure. As he pulled away, he swept a few strands of hair from my face and tucked them behind my ear.

“I guess I can’t call you Spanish Girl anymore,” he said as another smile snuck out of the corner of his mouth.

“I guess you’ll have to call me Emily.”

“I guess.” He leaned into me again and swept his lips across mine. I moved my hands from the wall along his chest, up to his face and kissed him back. It was divine.

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Emily’s Calling is Finally Finished

It’s done! It’s done! It’s done! I want to shout it through the house and run around like a crazy person. I want to twirl, hop and thrash about and…do the dance. Yes, there’s a dance. The fourth book, Emily’s Calling, (third in the series) is finished, ka-put, put to bed – done. Well, phase one anyway.

As usual it’s late at night and I sit in my big bed with my laptop (much to my chiropractor’s dismay)  while my son sleeps and my husband watches a “thriller” of some kind – I don’t like realistically terrifying movies. So as I strike the last keys on my computer typing something close to “The End,” I smile. I reflect like a bad movie’s slow motion flashback at all the different emotions I’ve gone through with each scene. I laugh at the time I slammed my computer shut – frustrated with Emily and her behavior.  I feel my shoulders droop when I think about the times I had to have a box of tissue close to wipe away the tears. I sigh when I think back to how, when, and where I was when I had a plot breakthrough – the jogging trail – the shower – an important meeting (shh.) But above all I feel proud that I finished another novel. One that, like the other three, I’ve read numerous times during the writing process and thought, “who wrote this?” Sometimes in awe of a great chapter and sometimes in awe of the lack of one.

But above all I’m happy, no elated, that I finished another book. Then there’s this tiny twinge of sadness that comes with elation. I wonder if other authors have this mixture of bitter sweet when they finish a novel. Simply put, I know I’ll miss my characters. Hence the series. I get wrapped up in their daily lives as if I’m sitting right next to Emily, listening to her friends, feeling her happiness and sadness. I imagine that’s why authors write series and spin-offs; for that very reason. So while I can’t promise you a fifth book in the Emily series, I can’t promise you there won’t be one. You’ll all have to keep reading and see.

Once I’ve edited Emily’s Calling I’ll leave you with more excerpts, but for now here’s one to satisfy those of you who have been asking me to share.

Running with Joel:

In each of the books there is something that grounds the story. Something that brings you back into Emily’s psyche while the plot takes off with all of the characters. In Call Me Emily it was her constant struggle to find the right southern California outfit.  While in her closet thumbing through her clothes, she starts to learn about herself as an independent college-aged woman. That theme runs throughout Call Me Emily. In the same spirit, Emily’s Calling has something similar. While the plot takes on it’s own life for Emily, her friends and her family, the one constant is her friendship with Joel. They have a standing running schedule that they keep to. During those runs Emily talks to Joel about what’s going on in her life; events that change daily for Emily. Events that frame her transformation from college student to independent – career Emily. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

Emily and Joel

I opened the door and the fresh beach air rushed over and past me. “Joel. Hey.” I moved aside for him to enter. He was dressed in his running gear.

“Hey Em’ly. You forgot again, didn’t you?” Joel’s thick Louisiana accent still held true even though he’d lived in southern California now for years. I could always hear it best when he said my name. He pronounced it like no one else. And yes, I had forgotten.

“I’ll be right back.” I ran to my room to change, and when I turned to close the door I saw him pick up one of Trish’s Cosmopolitan magazines only briefly then toss it back on the table as if simply holding it would make him a little more feminine. Boys! Whatever.

In no time I was in my running clothes and on the familiar path Joel and I had found a couple years earlier. It followed the side of the mountain that rose abruptly from the sandy beach just down a bit from the house Trish and I rented. The weeds were tall on the hill for this early in the summer, but the path remained clear; a sign that we weren’t the only ones that used it regularly.

I let Joel lead and fell into his pace fairly easily considering he had a much longer stride than me. We talked, keeping our voices above the sound of the crashing waves below and our feet as they trampled the earth. As if he didn’t know I would have trouble talking through my breathing on our climb up the hill, he asked me a question anyway. “Sue and Hunter will be gettin’ in soon huh? And your Dad, right?”

Two things were funny about those questions. One, my mom, Susan, only let Joel call her Sue. Otherwise, she hated the nickname. Two, he knew when they were getting in. He and Ethan had been best friends for years now. And, as my friend too, he knew I knew. I responded briefly anyway. “Yeah.”

“So, you excited about tonight?”

Seriously Joel? Can’t we wait until we reach the top? I thought to myself then responded briefly again. “Yeah.”

We reached the top and I stopped, bent at the waist and rested my hands on my thighs searching for my breath. “Is that fun for you?” I tried my angry face but behind it was a joking one, so it didn’t work.

“What?”

“You know that hill kills me.” I stood up and stretched my arm across my chest. “Yet you always force me to talk on our way up.”

He leaned toward me. “I know.”

“Brat!” He’d definitely earned that title after the last three years running together. He was a good friend. The best, really. But, still a pain in the you-know-what. “Did you talk to Ethan today? Is Allison excited about graduation?”

“No, I didn’t call. You know how those two are. I’m sure they were still staring into each others eyes over breakfast or something.”

“Probably.”

I sighed after I took a drink from my water bottle then we started along the path again. That was one thing we both agreed on. Allison, once only my friend, started dating my brother at the end of our freshman year and they’d been inseparable ever since. As much as it made me happy that they had each other, it was still a little sickening to me, a single girl. Joel, on the other hand, was in a long-standing and long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart. I imagined his annoyance with their cooing love glances had to do with how much he missed her.

We turned and headed back toward my house. It was heating up and promised to be a warm day. I felt the perspiration on my neck and forehead and wiped my brow with the back of my hand. I looked at Joel and saw his sandy-brown hair growing darker on the sides, a true indication of sweating. Thank goodness it wasn’t just me. I knew he was a stronger runner than I, but I didn’t always like to admit it. We looped around and were back on the path that hugged the side of the mountain overlooking the beach. Cars were already lined up parallel parked with their trunks popped up full of beach chairs and towels. I heard the surfers talk to each other loudly over the crashing waves. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but their low voices promised some sort of conversation containing the words “bro” and “dude.” I felt a little smile sneak out of the corner of my mouth as I relished how content I felt while I ran the last stretch of trail before it came to an end and opened up to the beach. Physical exertion combined with the salty and crisp scent of the ocean air spelled perfect for me.

Joel smacked my back somewhat gently as he came to a walk beside me as if we were racing all along. We weren’t. “Sorry I’ll miss tonight. You better tell me all ‘bout it.”

I nodded. It was a bummer he couldn’t come to my graduation. We’d had such a blast at he and Ethan’s a couple of years earlier. But I understood. He was leaving for Louisiana in a few hours: visiting his girlfriend for the week and probably trying to talk her into moving out her next year when she graduated. I wondered how that discussion would go.

“So, next Tuesday. A night run? Em’ly?”

“Sure,” I replied, out of breath and pissed off in a funny kind of way that he was having no trouble reinstating his jog all the way to his car. He was pulling out of his parking spot and waving to me before I even crossed the street to get to my house.

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The Query Response

Dear Author,
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your
submission.  We appreciate you considering us for representation of
your project.

Unfortunately…

And they go something like that.

What I’ve learned:

So far the response has been huge. NOT! Well, I shouldn’t say that. Every agent I’ve queried, with the exception of one, has responded with a similar letter. I just started the query process in January so I haven’t sent that many submissions, but it feels like it sometimes. Every time I see a query response pop up on my Blackberry my heart quickens and hopefulness bubbles over. Then I have a few minutes of disappointment, which is better than the tears that flowed the first day, and I move on. It’s a humbling experience dealing with rejection. It makes you stronger for sure.

What I know:

The world will soon be ready for my gifts. (And not only because I opened a fortune cookie the other day that said just that.) But because Call Me Emily and the sequels are wonderful books that WILL touch the lives of many. Someone will love the story and the writing and ask me for the full manuscript. It only takes one yes and I know it’s not far off. So while the next query responses pour in, regardless of what they say, I will take it in stride knowing these things take time and I’m exactly where I need to be right now. Exactly.

What I ask:

So what I ask from you, my loyal readers, is to repeat after me:

YES!

Say it in the shower, when you’re driving, whenever. Just say it. And be happy I’m not asking you to do the dance. Everyone around here is.

Until next time,

Laura

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This one’s for you, Mountain View

I’m not really trying to rhyme. That’s just a bonus. But I wonder as I probe my blog statistics in search possible visits from agents, who are you Mountain View? Are you a long – lost friend of mine from years ago? Are you a friend of a friend? Or are you simply a loyal reader? Whatever the case, I’m grateful for your visits.

So this one’s for you, Mountain View.

As I submit each round of queries for Call Me Emily, I fixate on when I will hear from an agent and when, oh when, will they ask for a partial or a full read. So to keep my mind off that craziness, I’m ever so happy that I’m in the middle of writing

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What’s Up?

I know. I know. I’ve been distant. It’s not you. It’s me. I swear…

The end of 2010 came like a rolling wave. I worked hard to finish the final edits of my first two books. Barely giving myself a seconds break, I dove into the first round of query letters. I wrote each agent specifically and poured over the letters time and time again before sending them out on the fifth of this month. And now I’m waiting patiently. Well, not really, but I’m waiting.

To distract myself I’m writing another book that will take its place behind Emily Calls It. What was once a three book series has grown to four. Emily’s Calling doesn’t quite pick up where the former book left off, but close. It’s Emily’s graduation day and changes are in store for her. Changes she doesn’t see coming at all.

Emily’s Calling

When Emily graduates from college she soon finds out there is more to life than simply less homework. She is tried again when professional challenges come her way with new responsibilities. Can she juggle the corporate world, a new love and all that comes with it?

Chapter 1

“Good morning graduating class of 1994.” Trish lifted her cup in my direction. Her long auburn hair was pulled into a ponytail and in even the most casual shorts she still could have easily passed for a model; tall-thin-beautiful. A combination you would hate about her if she wasn’t so completely likeable.

“It is a good morning isn’t it?”  I said as I approached the kitchen. She handed me a cup and slid against the counter top moving out of the way of the coffee pot. I poured quickly then lifted it to my lips. It was a ritual that started my first day of college which now seemed long ago. I let the dusky coffee aroma fill my lungs before I took my first sip. Trish rolled her eyes as she usually did at my morning ritual but did so with a little smirk on her face.

“So when is the family getting in?” she asked holding onto her cup with both hands as she pulled it up to her lips.

“Mom, Grandma and Hunter should get to Ethan’s house…” I looked at the microwave clock for a clue. “In a couple of hours. What about your family?”

“You remember. I have to pick them up at the airport.” She looked at her watch. “Now! Crap!” I heard the slam of the coffee cup and the sliding of the keys across the counter then the door shut before I had a chance to say anything.

“Bye,” I called after the door closed. Then I heard a knock about two seconds later. At her fierce pace I was sure she was gone. Who could it be?

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