Back to School

Call Me Emily It’s that time again. The ceremonial day of mixed feelings. For some, back to school is joyful and exciting. For others, it’s a grind that seems to have no end. For Emily, it’s a little of both. Call Me Emily begins her freshman year at Cal West University and the beginning of the tumultuous ride of her life. It’s a balancing act for sure for Emily. With classes, friends, a nosy brother and a budding romance – what’s a girl to do?

Here’s a little glimpse – the budding romance:

Design 101 started filling up as the teacher walked in carrying a pile of papers. She leapt right into plans for the semester, and handed out the syllabus. This was my first experience with a syllabus, and its organization intrigued me, but I had no idea how we would accomplish all this work. I was overwhelmed. This was going to be a long day.

Oceanography went well. It was nice to be in a class that was so far from my major. The class was much larger, which probably meant people were taking it to fulfill a general science requirement, just like me. The room was typical lecture style, with tiered seating and a big projector screen at the front of the class. My high school had one classroom like this, but on a much smaller scale. Here, the instructor was a quirky man who loved baseball and, of course, the ocean. He explained to us that he was, in fact, a professor with a PhD but not to call him Dr. Vance because he didn’t like that, and not to call him Mr. Vance because he would look around for his father. That left his first name which was Marlon. I kind of chuckled to myself thinking of the irony of his name and his profession; marlin the sport fish. Marlon was cuing up the first slide. Wow, classes started hard and fast here.

Spanish was somewhat of a relief. I had taken four years of high school Spanish, so at least something was familiar. It was a second year college level course but it didn’t intimidate me. I found a spot, again somewhere in the middle of the room: this class was smaller than Oceanography but still bigger than Design 101. As people settled into their seats, the teacher came through the door surrounded by a cloud of disarray and incense, pulling a rolling cart full of books and papers. In a bright orange, pink and black poncho, she was a sight. Her voice was full and rich and it seemed to match the long, curly mane of black hair flowing down her back. She spoke only Spanish: this class was beginning with the same jolt of my previous classes. She handed a stack of what had to be the class syllabus to the first person in each row to hand back. (Of course I didn’t know the Spanish word for “syllabus.”) As the guy in front of me turned to hand me the stack, I reached up. The stack slipped through my fingers to the floor. Oh, I was such a dope! I silently turned in my seat to pick up the papers when he bent over to help.

“I’m sorry, I let go too soon,” he said kneeling to help me.

“No, it was totally me,” I said shaking my head. Yep, I’m a klutz. I stretched for the three syllabi on the floor to my right before I looked up at him.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but if you say so.” One corner of his mouth curved up into an impish smile. He handed me the sheets that fell in the opposite direction. Then I realized he looked familiar. Had I met him? No. I didn’t think so. I smiled back wondering why his face seemed so…then I remembered, he was the guy that offered to help me when I must have looked completely lost on my first day.

“You know.” He stacked the rest of the papers on my desk. “I might need some help.” What? I thought. Did he remember too?

“Help?”

“Yeah.” He pointed to the stack of syllabi in my hand. “Figuring out what that says.” OK. Probably not.

I took my first look at the syllabus and saw it was entirely in Spanish. Great! I hoped I could read it. When I looked up again, his smile widened and for a flash. I felt my cheeks heat up.

“I’m Graham,” he said extending his hand. I reached over and opened my mouth to respond as I heard the girl behind me clear her throat.

 I passed the papers back and quickly sat down. I had disrupted class long enough. 

The rest of Spanish flew by; what a relief that classes were over for the day. It was hard to believe I had so much reading to do.

“So, how about it?” He stood and slung his backpack over one shoulder.

I looked around making sure he was talking to me. His tone was relaxed. He sounded like he was talking to someone he knew, and knew well. But, it appeared he was only talking to me. I shrugged.

“You’re assuming I can read it.”  I slung my book bag on my shoulder, and with a tilt of my head walked in the opposite direction. Barely out the door, I turned around just enough to see him standing in the same spot watching me walk away. And I felt the slightest bit smug.

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Meet Emily: Get Your Copy April 30th

Book Four • The Emily Series

Meet Emily

To be released April 30, 2013

The fourth and final teen fiction book in the Emily Series Meet Emily will be available in paperback and e-book versions.

Meet Emily, Book Four – The Emily Series, starts with Emily’s return to her hometown of Two Rivers. She’s settled now, past the drama of college and that first year entrenched in her career.

An unexpected invitation comes in the mail bringing her back to her hometown and the memories she’s long forgotten.

She finds herself slipping back into those last summer months and remembering her town, her friends, her family, and one long lost love. A man she’s thought of through the years and compared everyone to.

Will she see him again? Is that even a possibility?
Read Meet Emily and find out.

Meet Emily is the forth book to be published in a four book series. Call Me Emily, Emily Calls It, and Emily’s Calling.

Released in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Meet-Emily-The-Series-ebook/dp/B00CGPVJSE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1366739234&sr=8-3&keywords=Laura+Albright
Barnes & Noble for Nook:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/meet-emily-laura-albright/1115161453?ean=2940016667027
Smashwords for all other digital downloads including HTML, .pdf and iPad:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305843

Kobo Books:

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Meet-Emily/book-lml2sx_W3k6vqcaxLfcijg/page1.html?s=Ad4KiT-bDUW5yedsNMms9Q&r=1

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Meet Emily: Available April 30th

That’s right, Meet Emily, the fourth and final book in the Emily Series will be published in both print and electronic versions April 30th.

Just visit Amazon, Barnes&Noble Smashwords or Kobo.

And don’t forget to pick up the first three to complete the set: Call Me Emily, Emily Calls It and Emily’s Calling.

 Meet Emily

When Emily Parker returns to her hometown after several years, she’s reminded of the rolling hills and captivating quiet, the fond memories of growing up and one lost love. Years of relationships falling short behind her, she’s finally happy on her own. So why when she makes the turn into her hometown does she think of that one boy, that one relationship that only lasted the span of a summer but stayed on her mind over the years? Why have all other relationships paled in comparison?

 

 

 

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Call Me Emily Giveaway

If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of Call Me Emily, enter to win the giveaway at Goodreads.com. Starting now, the giveaway ends February 15th.

Enjoy this excerpt. Emily and her friend Allison take in their first club scene. And guess who’s there…

The Club

“There it is,” I said pointing at the club.
“Wow, it’s busy.” Allison rolled up her window and smoothed her hair back into
place.
“I know, look at all those people outside,” I said. As I parked the car, I noticed they
were lined up to get in. This should be interesting. We walked over to the line, which
seemed not to be moving at all. I glanced up watching the line, as if that alone would
make it go faster. Then I saw him and looked down quickly.
“What?” she asked.
“Oh,” I paused for a second, wondering if I should say anything. “I just saw this guy
from my Spanish class. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Read on for this…“Thank you for the dance.” Without hesitation but with a sense of entitlement he lifted my hand to his lips.
“Well, then you definitely need to spill it.” We moved up as the line moved, and I
followed Allison, trying to stay behind her.
“The first day of class he was sitting in front of me, and when he passed me the stack
of, um, syllabus things – I dropped them all over the floor. I’m such a klutz.”
“You dropped some papers. What’s so embarrassing about that?”
“I’m clumsy. I’d like to forget it.” All I could think: could I be more of a dork?
“Hey. Maybe he’ll let us move up,” Allison said jokingly, smacking my arm and
craning her neck to see him. “Which one is he?”
“Knock it off, he’ll see you,” I muttered, shrinking even further behind her.
During this little fiasco, the line moved until we were almost in front. When we got
inside, I relaxed. It was pretty dark. There was no way I was going to run into him. But
despite the challenge I squinted and looked around. The scene was quite a sight. The
cliques had their varying styles. The Billy Idol wanna-bes were grouped together
bouncing on the dance floor. And I could have sworn the Miami Vice look was out, but I
wasn’t going to tell the group to my left. The boom of the speakers shook the half-full
glasses on the bar causing the ice to settle. I thought I smelled a hint of cloves, but I
didn’t see anyone smoking where I was standing. Allison touched my arm and walked
ahead of me toward the bar. I followed, licking my lips and thinking of a cold soda.
Allison immediately spotted Heather and Melinda from the Beta T house, waving at them
to join us.
“So, Allison, see anyone here you want to dance with?” Heather asked, with a teasing
jab to Allison’s ribs. Allison laughed and flipped her hair a little. Oh, nice move.
Normally I detested such transparent flirting gestures, but a couple of guys turned her
way, so it must work. I turned to Melinda. I thought maybe I could strike up a
conversation with her, but stopped cold when I saw her chewing her straw and smiling in
typical blank-faced glamazon fashion. Wow, they were good.
While we talked and sipped our drinks, I noticed several guys watching our group but
no one approached. Taking the last sip of my soda, I set it on the table beside us. As I
pulled my arm back I felt it graze someone. I jerked away. It was crowded, dark and loud,
a combination that made it difficult to see, hear, or even feel what was going on.
“Excuse me.” I said to whomever could hear me.
“No problem.” A deep voice.
The crowd parted just a little and I saw a tall, dark-haired guy walk two steps toward
me between tables. He had a wide smile, perfectly straight teeth, and warm brown eyes. I
knew him.
He lifted his drink, and pointed his glass at me. “You are in my Spanish class, aren’t
you?”
“Yes. I think so,” I said as if I wasn’t really sure. Lie. Lie. Lie.
“Yeah, you were supposed to translate my syllabus.” He waited for me to reply. “It’s
Graham, remember?” He looked at me expectantly. “So do you have a name or should I
just call you Spanish Girl?”
“Sorry, it’s Emily.” I extended my hand to shake his; he switched his drink to the
other hand and reached for mine. His handshake was strong at first, then he relaxed it a
little, continuing to hold my hand in his. I looked him over. He was dressed, I guess I
would have to say, preppy. His jeans were dark and clearly new. His crisp white shirt had
the collar folded outside his black jacket. His dark hair was combed just so, with the front
pushed up.
“Who’s your friend, Emily?” Heather asked, interjecting herself into our
conversation. I was slightly annoyed; not because she interrupted us, but because she
slipped her arm around my shoulder as if we had been best friends for years. I wanted to
shrug off her arm, but that would’ve been rude.
With the interruption, we let go of each other’s hands. “This is Graham…” I gave him
a blank stare.
“Graham Mitchell,” He finished for me. “I’m in Emily’s Spanish class.”
“I’m Heather Michaels.” She extended her hand, in princess style, fingers pointed
slightly toward the floor, soft and gentle. I looked down to hide the smile creeping across
my face. Graham reached for her hand with a firm shake then let it drop. Heather looked
positively put out by this. I couldn’t have been more pleased.
“So Emily, would you like to dance?” he asked before Heather could continue.
“Yes, I would.” I guess a friendly dance couldn’t hurt. I turned to meet Allison’s gaze
so she would know where I was going.
Graham set down his glass and reached for my hand. He cupped his hand around
mine but held only one of my fingers and pulled me through the crowd. We snaked
around groups of people talking, couples dancing, and people making their way to the bar
before we found a spot on the dance floor. He turned to me and put one of his hands
along my waist. He leaned in and started to move to the music. I took a step back as if it
was part of a dance move, and he dropped his hand. I was always surprised that dancing
was a way to get close to someone you hardly knew. It was intimate…and I wasn’t ready.
As we danced he leaned in a couple of times with his hand on my waist again in an
attempt to talk. It was too loud. I only caught about every other word. My replies
consisted of “What?” – “Pardon?” and “I didn’t get that.”
When the song ended he took my hand again, this time wrapping his whole hand
around mine and led me to the bar.
“I’m thirsty, aren’t you?” he asked as he pulled me around to face him.
“Sure.” I shrugged, indicating I was fine either way.
He ordered drinks and leaned an elbow on the bar, waiting for the bartender.
“So what’s your story, Emily?” he asked, with just a hint of a smirk. He was
confident, bordering on arrogant, and warm and inviting all at the same time. Handsome
with an edge. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something there.
“My story?” Our drinks arrived and I took a sip of 7 Up, keeping my eyes on his.
“There’s not much to tell.” I planned to keep up the flirty behavior, but he interrupted
me.
“I doubt that.”
I took another sip of my drink, and let the silence between us hang for a second or
two. Fine, I guess, I could tell him my “story.”
“Well, I recently moved here from northern California. What about you?
“I’m a local. I grew up in Santa Monica mainly. It’s my second year. I take it you and
your friends are freshmen?”
“Yeah,” I said as if I was ashamed.
“Is the girl with the blond short hair your roommate? I noticed the look you gave
her.”
“Not my roommate. She’s a friend. We came together.”
“So, you know. I really could use a Spanish study partner. What do you think?”
I let the question rattle around in my head for a few seconds, “Sure.” I had expected
the subject to come up again at some point.
Just then someone touched my shoulder.
“There you are. Heather and Melinda want us to go to this frat party. You’re not
ready to go are you?” I wasn’t sure exactly what Allison meant. Did that mean she was or
wasn’t ready to go?
I saw a guy I hadn’t seen before in tow behind Allison. Evidently she had met
someone. There were several guys and a few girls behind him so I presumed it was a
group associated with the Beta T house.
“Oh, if you’re ready to go then I am.” I said. Allison nodded that she was ready. I
was having a good time with Graham but I was there with Allison, so I needed to stick
with her. I hadn’t been to a fraternity party, and I was interested in seeing what all the
fuss was about.
I turned to Graham. “Thanks for the dance and the soda. I think we’re taking off.”
He leaned in so that only I could hear him. “Thank you for the dance.” Without
hesitation but with a sense of entitlement he lifted my hand to his lips. I was a little
surprised by the gesture, and couldn’t help but like it. When I turned back to Allison her
mouth had dropped open. I cleared my throat, and she turned to lead the way from the
club.
“See you in class… Spanish Girl.” I turned back with what I hoped was a confident
smile.

 

 

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Character Introduction #6: Shayla and Jessica

This character introduction might be the most fun I’ve had telling all of you about my characters.  Shayla and Jessica are ever present in the whole Emily series as it spans the four books.

Jessica is Emily’s best friend from way back. They’ve known each other since grammar school, so to them it feels like sisterhood. Jessica is a soft and sweet soul. She’s the friend that is always there even when she’s not. Much time can pass and Emily and Jessica hardly skip a beat; jumping right back into conversation as if the phone was never hung up. Jessica goes to college in Washington State, miles away from Emily, but during the summer break they meet back in their home town and mischievous events occur.

Speaking of mischievous. Shayla fits into that word like a hand does to a glove. For as far back as anyone can remember, Emily, Jessica and Shayla were inseparable. Jessica the calm and Shayla the instigator. If you ever need a laugh, a lift or a smile, Shayla is your girl. She’s fun to the core, and you can’t help but unconditionally love her – although you wish for conditions every moment you are around her. Emily considers herself the buffer between Jessica and Shayla, but no buffer is every really needed. The dynamic between the three of them is priceless and beautiful.

And now comes the part of the post when I tell you what these characters mean to me.  As I have mentioned in past character introductions, many of my characters have no basis in my reality. They are fiction through and through. I’d be lying if I told you Jessica and Shayla fell into that category.

Jessica is based upon my friend Larise. A truly wonderful person who spends her days enlightening the minds of second graders and her nights tending to her beautiful family. She lives far away and we rarely are able to talk, but when I hear her voice or see her handwriting I can’t help but be pulled from whatever I’m doing and placed smack back into the last time we communicated; as if no time had passed at all.

Shayla is based upon my friend Shannon. Shannon is another truly amazing person who has the power and energy of a small child yet she’s perfectly evolved.  She’s funny. – I mean really funny, but soulful at the same time. She’s almost hard to describe, but to really nail it I’d have to quote the reaction everyone has to her. It goes something like this: “I just love that girl.” and “You can’t help but love Shannon.”

What’s been amazing about the writing process is that even though I have been apart from these two amazing women for far too long, I felt like I saw them every day while I brought my stories to life. We recently reunited, and when I finally pulled them into my arms and gave them a well deserved hug, I felt like I missed them less than I would have had they not lived in the pages I spent the last few years writing.

So, thank you Larise and Shannon for being at my side while I rounded out this story of love and friendship. Because you both are truly my love and my friendship.

In this scene, Emily goes back to the Valley for Thanksgiving break. She’s home only minutes when Jessica and Shayla arrive.

Call Me Emily

Chapter 9

Home for Thanksgiving

“So, I’m sure you kids want to catch up to your friends, but be sure to be home for dinner.”

“Sure Mom.” I knew she missed us and I wouldn’t miss dinner with her for anything. At the same time, I knew Jessica would be in town and probably Shayla too. I couldn’t wait to see them. I looked around and ran my tongue across my teeth. I needed to clean up before I saw anyone. “You know what Mom? I feel scummy from such a long drive. I think I’ll take a bath. Do you mind?”

“Go ahead honey,” she hugged me and added a little kiss on my cheek. “It’s good to have you home,” she smiled, holding my shoulders. She switched gears quickly yelling for my brothers. I took that as a good indicator that I could slip into a hot tub without being bothered. I grabbed some jeans and a tee-shirt and retreated to the bathroom. Passing the linen closet, I grabbed a washcloth and towel and locked the bathroom door behind me. As I inched my way into the piping hot tub, I thought about my week ahead. I was looking forward to seeing my friends and family. It was good to be home. I yawned and closed my eyes letting the hot water seep in and surround me. Just as I thought I could easily drift off to sleep, I was startled with a knock at the door.

“Guys, I’m in the tub,” I shouted without opening my eyes.

“It’s not your brothers!” a voice shouted back at me.

“So let us in,” said a second voice.

“Jess? Shayla? Grab the key above the door.” We kept the key there in case my little brother locked himself in; as he used to do. I quickly got out of the tub and wrapped myself in a towel.

“Hey Em! You didn’t have to get out,” Shayla said with a smirk. Jessica just smiled at me.

“No big deal. I just needed a quick soak.” We gave them each a quick hug. “How did you know I was here?” I asked perplexed by their quick arrival.

“Please, Brad saw you guys drive by and called me.” Shayla’s cousin could always be counted on to keep the town up on its gossip.

“So what are your plans while you’re home?” Jessica asked putting one of her fingers to her chin.

“No real plans. My mom wants me home for dinner tonight. But other than that, I’m free. What’s up?”

“So, she won’t mind if we steal you?” Shayla asked.

“No, we don’t have anything going. What do you want to do?” I couldn’t wait to fall back into hanging with Jessica and Shayla. I really missed them. I wanted to find out how they were doing in school, how it was going with Jessica’s new guy, and how all the gang was.

The three of us took off shortly after that. A bunch of people we knew were getting together in town at the coffee shop. There were a few people I would love to see and a few I wouldn’t mind avoiding, but that was another story.

As we drove out of the valley I watched the blur of the pasture fences, the occasional farmhouse and the mountains in the distance. Everything passed my vision like a slideshow. It was fall now, and the valley looked different than when I left it, but still every bump and turn mixed with the scent of fresh, damp hay smelled like home. I felt myself sigh and my chest tighten. I don’t think I bargained for how much I would think of Christian.

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Love to Mom: Character Introduction #8: Mom

This week I’ve skipped ahead a little because I’d like to give a little nod to my mom.  She’s an amazing woman who this  year has shown tremendous courage and love,  and continues to think about the health and well-being of others while she’s struggles with her own health.

While I have thanked her repeatedly for all that she has done for me over the years, I never feel it’s enough.  So here, in this blog post read by all of you, I thank and honor my mom and send love and healing thoughts her way.

If you haven’t already figured it out,  Emily and I are not so different. True, our stories aren’t the same, but our message is:  Love completely.

Emily’s mother, even from far away, loves and supports her daughter. She speaks up when asked, and sometimes when she’s not asked, she listens always and can give advice without saying a word. She tough as nails but soft as silk. She’s the voice Emily hears when she’s down and the praise Emily hears when she’s up.

So here’s the character introduction I wrote about Emily’s mom not long after I wrote Call Me Emily last year. I decided to keep it just as I wrote it then because…what the heck.

Susan Parker

Emily’s mother is quite a woman. She juggles a full time job, three children and the singles scene. Granted, in the small town where she lives the singles scene isn’t so much a scene as it is the occasional set-up by one of her married friends.  “You know Susan, my brother is recently divorced,” is something Susan would hear from time to time and cringe at the thought. “Great! The newly divorced are always so much fun,” she would say.

Emily’s mom is fun loving but strict; sweet but stern all at the same time. She trusts Emily to make the right decisions, but eases her in the direction she thinks is best.

Now to address how I created Susan Parker. Let me first say that arriving at a name for this very influential character was difficult. I’ve gone through about four iterations finally settling on Susan. Like all of my character names, this one just felt right. Did I base her on anyone I know? What do you think? Not only does she embody some of the characteristics of my mother but I also drew from my friends mothers. When I was in middle and high school the sleep-overs were many. Almost every weekend one of my friends was at my house or I was at hers. I grew close to all of my friend’s mothers and learned to appreciate them individually. I watched as they influenced their daughters as they influenced me. It’s this combination that makes up Susan.

Below is an excerpt from the beginning of Call Me Emily. Emily arrives home after her first day at school to find a message from her mom. She’s determined to unwind in a bath but calls her mom back first.

The bathroom was tiny but had a nice tub, which was one of the features that made me decide on this particular apartment. I started the water and added some lavender bubble bath – a gift from my mom. Oh, Mom! I needed to call her back, too. I could call Jessica from the tub, but I had better call my mom first or I’d never hear the end of it. I let the water run, sat on the closed toilet seat and dialed Mom’s work number.

“This is Susan,” She answered on the second ring.

“Hey Mom, it’s me.”

“Hi honey.” She sounded happy.  “How was your first day?”

“Good, I picked up all my textbooks and got my student ID. Oh and I met a girl, a freshman like me, from out of state.”

“Really, that’s great. You made a friend sweetie.”

“Mom, knock it off! I’m not four years old.”

“I was just kidding,” she said. “So tell me about your day.”

“I met Allison while we were in line to get our photo IDs taken. She’s just as nervous as I am about starting school. Then we had lunch together after. It was fun.” I shifted to get more comfortable.

“Yeah? That’s great! Did you see Ethan?”

“We ran into him at the bookstore. He was picking up a few books himself.” I paused remembering running into him. “I called him to see if he wanted to get together this afternoon, but he wasn’t home.”

“Well, I’ll tell him …”

“No! Mom, don’t call him. We’re fine; he doesn’t have to spend every waking hour with me.”

“But you don’t know anyone there, Emily.”

“Yeah I do.  Remember my new friend Allison.” I laughed. And it really was OK. I knew my brother wouldn’t want to spend all his time with his little sister. It was true; I knew this, but still, I was a little lonely.

“Hey Mom, I’m going to get in the tub now. Thanks for checking on me; I’ll call you soon.”

“OK dear, be good.”

“I will. Love you.”

“Love you too. And don’t forget…phone home.”

She always said that to my brother. It must apply to me now, too. I hung up and turned off the tub water. It was just like I liked it: super deep and full of bubbles. The scent of lavender filled the room and seemed to float down the hall in clouds. I walked into the bedroom and kicked off my flip fops, pulled my tee-shirt over my head, and wiggled out of my jeans. Tossing my clothes on the bed, I turned on the little clock radio next to it and walked back to the bathroom. Yes I could hear it fine from here. Like I said, it was a pretty small place.

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A Friend Indeed – Character Introduction #5: Trish

Trish moves into the story just as Emily is starting to really get into her design classes. She is introduced in Call Me Emily but her character becomes even more integrated in Emily Calls It and Emily’s Calling. Trish is one of those deeply evolved friends you meet when you yourself have far to go. She’s cool, calm and collected and always seems to make good decisions. (Something Emily longs to do.) Trish is older than Emily, but only by about four years. She’s from the East Coast and is attending California West University to get her second Bachelors degree. Trish is quite beautiful; model-like in fact.  But it’s not her beauty that invites you in, it’s something else. She’s warm and caring, but sarcastic and funny at the same time. Trish is supportive of Emily and wants her to date and have fun. But she also has a little bit of big sister in her, and keeps a close eye on Emily and her relationship with Graham.

When I created Trish I didn’t base her on any one particular girl, but instead I thought back to several of my college friends that helped guide me during those fairly tumultuous years.

Below is an excerpt Call Me Emily and one from Emily’s Calling. The first is an early exchange that Emily and Trish have that lends itself to a deeper friendship than the kind that simply passes once a shared class has ended.

The second excerpt…fast forward a few years and it’s graduation day. Trish and Emily have become great friends and are now about to enter the “real world.”

Call Me Emily

Chapter 13

The Balancing Act

Thursday was a busy day in Design 101.  Midterms meant projects for design students, so although it was a relief not to study in the traditional sense for this class, the project was intense. Trish and I were partners on an office building. Everyone was paired up that day painting and gluing. I wondered if the white paint would ever come out from under my nails.

“So this Graham, he’s good to you?” she asked in a way only someone with a few years on me could ask.

“Yeah, of course.”

“You’ve never felt like this before?” She held a balsa wood column in place.

“I don’t know, it’s early.” But the truth was I hadn’t felt this way. The intensity was unparalleled. Trish smiled. One that came from experience. Then she moved our conversation back to the project.

Emily’s Calling

Chapter 1

A New Day

“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 easily have passed for a model: tall-thin-beautiful. A combination you would hate about her if she weren’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 rested against the countertop. I poured quickly and lifted it to my lips. It was a ritual that started my first day of college which now seemed long ago. Trish rolled her eyes as she usually did at my morning ritual but did so with a smirk.

“So when is the family getting in?” she asked holding onto her cup with both hands.

“Mom, Grandma and Hunter should get to Ethan’s house…” I looked at the microwave clock. “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 as she grabbed the keys from 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 it wasn’t Trish.

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

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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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Friends and Cupcakes…Character Introduction #2: Allison

Today’s Groupon said something about cupcakes. I don’t know why, but as soon as I saw it pop up in my inbox I wanted to call my best friend. Because really, how great would it be to work out all of life’s challenges with your best friend over cupcakes? And that got me thinking about Allison and Emily. So without going on about cupcakes and making you hungry, take a gander at the next character introduction: Allison.

Allison is a sweet girl. Coy and almost meek.  On the surface she seems like the kind of girl that doesn’t really get it. She’s shy, impressionable and a little behind the times. But realizing that first impressions are not always correct, Emily’s opinion of Allison changes over time.

Allison comes from a tight knit family in the Midwest. She lives on campus, but takes an interest in the Greek system almost immediately. She’s petite, with small doll-like features and chin length blond curly hair. She befriends Emily the first day of school without judgment or agenda. And, as time passes, her warmth and caring nature shine through any preconceived notions Emily may have had.

To say that I based Allison on any one individual would be like saying I only like one brand of chocolate. How is that even possible? When I started writing Allison’s character I pictured her as an average college student. Then as time passed, she grew into an amazing woman and friend to Emily. And I must admit, I’ve met girls like Allison who later evolved into incredible women. And I’m fortunate to call those women my friends today.

Allison is Emily’s support system. It’s no secret that I’m aiming the book’s theme at young women. And I often think we devalue the importance of friendship and support, especially at that age.  Emily goes through a great deal during her journey through young adulthood, and the support of her friends is a large part of why she is able to carry on. Allison is the backbone of that support. Allison is friendship.

Below is an excerpt from Call Me Emily.

Allison and I met for coffee bright and early Monday morning. Our Bistro was bustling with college students. I got there before her and grabbed a table in the back. Although I had met a few people, I didn’t see anyone I knew. I tapped my fingernails on the table and sipped my coffee as I watched people walk by and waited for Allison. She arrived without Melinda and Heather, which was what I was hoping for. They were nice girls, but seemed very self-involve.

“So what have you been up to?” she asked, or shall I say accused. I called you a couple of times this weekend; what’s up?”

“Oh it’s been crazy with this new job,” I said and she nodded. “Oh, and I went out on a couple of dates.” I looked down at my feet and smiled.  “Other than that, I was around. I didn’t have a message from you.”

“What? Who?” Allison prodded. “Don’t tell me, that guy from the club?” she asked and I nodded.

“So, What’s going on there?” she continued,  taking a sip of her coffee.

“Just a couple of dates, Allison. He’s fun.”

“Huh. And hot!” She made an attempt to wink at me. I thought it was cute. I shrugged my shoulders in agreement.  “So Spanish Girl, do you want to go shopping with me this afternoon?”

“Totally, but you can stop calling me Spanish Girl; Graham has.”

“Really, how did that come about? My guess is …well, never mind … you tell,” she said taking another sip of her coffee.

“You know, just spending time together.” Allison didn’t buy it, but I thought I’d try to sell it.

“So have you?”

“Allison!” I was surprised she was so forward. I guessed her association with Melinda and Heather was changing her a bit. Not quite the awkward and quiet Michigan girl anymore. “No, we haven’t. So far just a couple of amazing kisses.” I looked at the ceiling when I said “amazing” hoping she would get the point.

“That’s what I was thinking actually. That good huh?”

I sighed. “That good.” We both sipped our coffee at the same time. I had a hard time creating a seal with my lips due to the large smile I had plastered across them.

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