Call Me Emily – Character Introduction #1: Ethan

My brother, Tom

After spending a week in Tahoe with my eldest brother Tom, I’ve decided to re-post the first character introduction I wrote last year about Ethan, Emily’s brother. Tom’s reading Call Me Emily right now and had many comments about Ethan and Emily’s interactions. Those I’ll keep to myself, but his comments did inspire me to re-post the Ethan character introduction. Oh. I added a new scene from Call Me Emily at the end.

Week one of my introduction of characters starts with Ethan. Emily is one of three children. She has two brothers, Hunter who is twelve and Ethan, twenty. While Hunter makes brief appearances in all four books, Ethan is an integral part of her journey.

Emily and Ethan attend the same University, which isn’t without its challenges. While she cringes at the thought of bumping into him at a party, she’s often comforted by his loving gestures and protective nature. Ethan is warm, caring and above all present for her in a world full of new, harsh realities. But, those qualities are all melded together and wrapped up with chiding and teasing as well as typical sibling rivalry.

Now, I have drawn on pieces of my personal experience to concoct certain characters, but not all of them. Emily herself is a complete piece of fiction, formed strictly from my imagination. Other characters I give a small, fractional nod of truth. Ethan is the latter.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am surrounded by men. I live in a house with my husband and son, as well as my dog William. I have three brothers, and just as God started to feel sorry for me, he gifted me with a sister and another little brother. So while I don’t discount the girl power between my sister Bree and I, my eldest brothers are the ones that helped guide me into the woman I am today. Ethan is a blend of Tom, Josh and Robby. In Ethan, there exists Tom’s way of turning every compliment, sentiment and practical observation into an opportunity to tease Emily and keep her safely tucked under his older, wiser arm. Together with the influence of Tom, is Josh’s ability to turn any situation into a possible rescue attempt. While Emily may be perfectly able to take care of herself, Ethan isn’t about to risk it. Package that all up with Robby’s ability to live in a world created just for him. Where common practices of caring what other people think about him, simple escape him.

So I raise a glass, as well as an eyebrow, to my brothers who helped bring to life Ethan Parker.

Below is one of many scenes with Ethan in Call Me Emily.


“You’re an Econ major?” I asked Allison, fairly confident of the answer.

“Yeah, how did you know?”

I pointed at her book bag.

“Oh,” she said, blushing slightly. Although I never liked to see anyone embarrassed, I found the way her cheeks grew pink endearing.

“My brother is an Econ major, too. He’s a junior.”

“So what about you? What’s your major?” she asked.

“Design. Interior Design, actually. They have a great program here. It’s taught by architects and designers working in the community. There are only about four full time instructors.” I may have over-explained but it was interesting to me.

“And your brother goes here too?”

“Yeah. Funny I know. It just worked out that way. At first I don’t think he was thrilled about me choosing his school.  Actually, I think he accused me of following him, but it’s a big school.”  Just then I felt my knees buckle.

“What the…?” I whirled around. Ethan had pressed the front of his knees into the back of mine, causing me to lose my balance. He did it all the time, and it always annoyed me. But he continued to think it was funny.

“Hey Em. Getting your books I take it,” he said unnecessarily.

“You scared me!” I shot him a look he knew well. I took a breath and slowly turned back to Allison keeping my eyes on my brother for as long as the turn would allow. “This is my brother Ethan.”

She gave Ethan a gleaming smile as he tilted his head confidently and extended his hand to shake hers. Oh boy, I thought. No hitting on my new friend.

“Nice to meet you Allison. You getting settled…?”

“Yes we are, Ethan.” I interrupted regretting my rudeness immediately. Especially when I looked over and noticed Allison opening her mouth to answer.  Flirting with my friends had been a problem in the past. And, frankly, Allison had only been my friend for about twenty minutes and I wasn’t about to let Ethan get in the way.

“Well, I guess I’ll catch you later, Sis.” He looked back and forth between Allison and me.  His shoulders slumped a little and I could see my abruptness hurt his feelings. I’d have to apologize for that later.

“See ya later,” I said as he looked sideways at me.

“It was nice meeting you,” Allison called after him.

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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 First Glimpse

My last blog posts have been about submitting queries. And that’s frankly, kind of a heavy topic. So while I am still in the thick of query-land, I thought I’d lighten it up. It’s been a while since I left you with an excerpt.

Do you remember the day you first saw the person that would one day turn your life upside down? This is the first time Emily and Graham lay eyes on one another. Leave a comment and tell me about the first time this happened to you.

The First Glimpse

“Hey, I think I’ll drop these books off before we go eat. You want to?”

“That’s a good idea,” I said, picking up my full book bag and an extra plastic store bag.  There were so many books, and although I had purchased mostly used copies, they were also expensive. “I’m parked in the south parking garage.”

“I’m in the opposite direction,” she said pointing. “Meet me back here in fifteen?”

“Perfect.”

We headed out with our bags. The campus had gotten busier while we were inside. Groups took tours with upperclassmen, students passed out flyers and, of course, individuals like me used campus maps to find their way around. The newbies could be spotted at fifty paces, and I was one of them.

I paused while a group passed on either side of me. The crowd kicked up a breeze and I felt something irritating my eye. Bogged down by bags of books, I rubbed my eye with my forearm. No luck. I dropped the bags and rubbed with my fingers until I cleared the dust. I blinked to regain some sense of clear vision and watched a fuzzy pair of guys approach. I blinked again and realized one was staring straight at me. I didn’t know him. I hardly knew anyone. And certainly not someone that good looking. As they got closer he didn’t look away. I felt an embarrassed smile creep across my lips. He stopped in front of me.

“Do you need help?”

“Help?”

“I mean finding the student union…or?” He nodded toward the library.

“Oh, no. I’m fine.”

“OK.” He turned toward his friend who didn’t appear to be at all interested in helping a stranger, and fell in stride next to him.

I leaned down and grasped the straps of my bags. I took two steps in the direction of the parking garage before I looked back. Caught! He turned to look at me at the same time. One last quick smile and I went on my way. There was something about him other than simply being nice. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But I was intrigued for sure.

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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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The Third Wheel

Often I receive comments from readers requesting excerpts from the books. Many people have asked for excerpts from the sequels in particular. I hesitate to release any information about the sequels because with each story new drama is born. And, as a result of that drama and conflict, comes change. And change brings spoilers. Something I don’t want my readers to experience.

However, I recently did a very in-depth edit of the second book, Emily Calls It. There is one scene that is especially dear to me that I thought I’d share. It’s at a time when Emily feels vulnerable, and I think we’ve all been there.

In the scene that follows she goes to a beach party with another couple; hence the third wheel issue. Walking toward the party, she makes a few observations.

Enjoy!

The Third Wheel

I slipped off my sandals and trudged along, sinking into the still mildly warm sand with every step.  I heard a low rumble of voices blend with rolling waves before I could actually see the bonfire.  When it came into view, I sighed again. But this time, at the scene. There was a car pulled onto the sand with all the windows down giving a gift of music. I say “gift” generously. The music was loud, and with every boom the tiny car vibrated. The bonfire blazed in a concrete pit, and groups of guys in tee-shirts and shorts and girls in ‘way too revealing’ sundresses surrounded it. It crackled and shot tiny sparks into the darkening sky above. I looked at each of the faces glowing orange from the light of the fire. I didn’t recognize anyone and felt my shoulders slump with disappointment. I rubbed my eyes, irritated from the smoke as it drifted my way. It passed by me as quickly as it came and I could see again. A girl let out a high pitched squeak when a random guy dropped an ice cube down her back. She hopped and reached to fish it out, laughing and cursing at him the whole time. Back to her group of girls she went. Then I noticed something notable. In each person’s hand was a signature red cup, indicating there must be a keg somewhere, and that little observation perked me right up.

Just as I was resigned to be a third wheel, I saw him. He looked over his shoulder and in mid-conversation lifted his head in my direction with a broad smile. I smiled back, a confident smile. He looked back toward the guy he was talking to, ended his conversation and walked over.

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Emily’s Ski Trip…Mammoth

With the turn in weather and impending ski trips ahead of me this season, I find myself reflecting on a lovely little chapter in Call Me Emily. My weekends will most likely entail snowball fights with my seven year old with an added bonus of harder, stinging snowballs to my back and shoulders from my husband. Then there is the cheering I know I won’t be able to contain as I watch my son ski down the hill toward me.

Emily’s trip to the snow is a little different. In chapter 16, titled- A Weekend Away, Graham takes Emily to his parent’s cottage for a ski weekend. She’s never snow-skied before, but braves the trip anyway with high hopes of romance with Graham. But after they finish eating dinner in the cozy cottage kitchen, the conversation takes a hard left turn.

Chapter 16

A Weekend Away

It was fun cooking together. Since it wasn’t his or my apartment it felt like an “our” situation. We stood side by side, stirring pots and preparing the bread. We sipped wine, ate and talked casually about nothing in particular. It was simple but one of those times you know you’ll remember.

We ate, and as I popped the last bite of bread into my mouth, I had to admit I was full. “Should we go enjoy that fire of yours now?”

“Yes.” He looked down at the dishes.

“There’s not much … here.” I took our plates and washed them quickly, along with the empty pasta pots. Graham brought our glasses to the living room. I joined him in front of the fireplace. It was cozy and well, let’s face it, romantic. I walked to the fireplace to take a look at the family photographs.

“So these are your parents?” I picked up one of the frames. “This must be your sister.” I pointed to a beautiful blond girl in the photograph. The color drained out of Graham’s face. He looked down at his feet, almost shrinking. A posture I had never seen from him before.

“That’s …” He took the frame from my hands, looked at it briefly and turned it face down on the mantel. “That’s Nicole.” He said her name quietly.  I didn’t know what to think.

“Nicole?” To say I was confused would have been an understatement.

“Remember I told you about the girl I dated last year?”

Who Nicole might be became clearer. “Yes, so that’s her? With your parents?” Suddenly I wore the same look on my face. I was sad and, well, more than slighted. His parents didn’t even know I existed, and here I was in another one of their houses with a photo of his previous girlfriend staring at me.

“But you said.” I was crushed. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

“Look, I don’t tell them about my personal life anymore for a reason.”

“ ’Anymore?’ ”

“Nicole was in my life for a long time and… she’s friends with my family. Believe me.” He reached for my shoulders. I still couldn’t look at him. “She’s not in my life anymore. I learned the hard way.” I couldn’t look up and didn’t know what to think.

“Emily?” He touched my chin with his index finger, tipping my face to his. “I’m with you now, only you.” He paused for a few seconds, not waiting for me to speak but trying to find his next words. The skin between his eyebrows crinkled. The look on his face was pain. Now I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He brushed my jaw with his thumb gently. I barely felt it.  Time hung in the air between us.

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Thanksgiving in Two Rivers

When all of you lovely people read Call Me Emily, you will learn about the connection Emily has with her family and her home of Two Rivers.  Her home town calls to her in a spiritual way. Not quite like you would read in a C.S. Lewis novel, but it does call. And, for Emily, when she hears that call she seeks out the balance to her life that she so desperately wants to find.

I, personally, am lucky enough to have many members of my family nearby my town of Auburn California, where I have lived for the past nineteen years. While some of my family live too far away, others I am able to see and visit with more often. These family members graciously joined me, my son and my husband for Thanksgiving. And it was truly a day to give thanks. All of us are healthy, happy and moderately sober. (I joke.)

So while I don’t retreat to my home town and the arms of my mother for comfort like Emily, I do relish in the small things my family does that light up my day. Especially on a day when we can all be together, share a meal, many stories and give thanks.

Enough about me! I know you really want to know about Emily. In the scene that follows from Call Me Emily, Emily returns to her home town for Thanksgiving seeking a little clarity. But, does she find it?

***

We crossed the river and made the last hairpin turn before our house.  Mom’s car was in the driveway.  I was happy to be home. No I was elated to be home. I pulled the car behind hers and jumped out. She came to the front porch and like the Tasmanian Devil, my little brother ran under her arm and down the steps toward us. I stopped and put my arms out to give him a big hug. He ran right past me and tackled Ethan. Well how do you like that?

Mom made up for Hunter overlooking me. She wrapped her arm around me while Ethan followed us into the house carrying our bags.

“Having both of you gone has been…just…” She started to cry.

“Mom, don’t. We’re here now.” I pulled her closer and opened the door. It was much colder than I remembered. I wanted to stand by the fire immediately.

“I know, I know. He’s looking out for you, isn’t he?”

“Yes, of course he is.”

Hunter held Ethan captive in his room, showing him all his new video games I presumed. I got the impression Mom and I had plenty to talk about. She had that look. You know, the one that said I wasn’t aloud to run off any time soon.  As we unpacked, we covered the first few weeks of school. Had I met any friends? What were my classes like? How was my job? And so on. I gave her overall kind of explanations.

“Have you met him yet?” she handed me the last of my things out of my bag.

“Who?” I asked knowing exactly what she meant but not wanting to encourage her.

“The guy,” she responded with a very curious smile. “The new guy.”

“Mom, there’s no guy.” I lied just a little. Although I was interested in Graham I couldn’t deny it was Christian I thought of as soon as we passed the welcome sign. I knew I’d probably think of him when I got home and those thoughts seemed to boil over the second I arrived. It didn’t help that everything here reminded me of him. Simply driving the roads brought back all kinds of memories I’d been trying to bury.  Add the quiet that hung in the air with only the occasional whip of a breeze through the trees and brief animal noises and the rich meadow that accompanied every breath I took, and I was officially thinking about everything that happened between us the summer before.

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Ethan and Emily…and Joel

I’ve introduced all the characters in Call Me Emily. Stay with me because there are more, really fun characters to read about in Emily Calls It. But that’s a later blog post.

For now, I thought I’d leave you with an excerpt. In the first book, Call Me Emily, Ethan, Emily’s brother feels a little guilty he hasn’t helped his sister get acquainted with southern California. Out of obligation, he invites her to the movies. The following passage gives you insight into Emily and Ethan’s relationship. It also gives you a glimpse of what’s to come between Emily and Joel.

***

I only knocked once before he opened the door.

“Hey,” he said backing away so I could pass.

“Wow, you’ve really done wonders with this place,” I said sarcastically, easing the door shut. His apartment was a mess. Clothes everywhere, empty macaroni and cheese boxes on the counter, and don’t even get me started on the piles of papers on every surface. I always found his furniture taste, or lack thereof, interesting. I guess.  If you could assemble it with an Allen wrench, it was in his apartment. Down to his kitchen table, a glass-topped patio table with a hole in the middle for an umbrella.

I stayed in the entry, afraid to make my way into this obvious black hole of disarray.

Ethan returned from the other room, tennis shoes in hand. He slipped one on and looked at me. “What’s with the look?” he asked.

“Look?”

“Yeah, your nose is all scrunched up. Does it smell in here or something?” He looked around.

“No, but the fact that you have to ask that speaks volumes,” I said further wrinkling.

He grabbed his keys and nodded toward the front door. “Let’s jam. We’re meeting Joel.”

Huh. I was surprised. I don’t know why, but I thought it was just a brother and sister night.

“Wait a second. You have something in your hair,” he pulled out an almost-dry, pencil-eraser-sized drip of yellow paint. “Oh, great,” I said.

“Yeah, you missed a spot,” he laughed and messed up my hair with his hand.

Sure enough, when we parked Joel waiting out in front of the movie theater.

“Hey Joel,” Ethan said as we approached. “I have these passes.” He tapped his front pocket. “Grab a spot in line with Emily and I’ll be right back.”

The line was forming fast as we joined it. I knew the movie was supposed to be good, but this seemed ridiculous. The line just kept going.

“What do you know about this movie,” I asked Joel.

“Nothin’ much. But it’s got that short guy from Top Gun in it.”

“Hey! Don’t be mean to Tom,” I said jabbing my elbow into his arm.

“Ouch! Fine,” he laughed.

I noticed an older couple in line behind us. Probably the age of my parents, but maybe older. Their smiles indicated they were listening to our conversation. She met my gaze.

“You two are so cute. You remind me of us when we were younger. How long have you been dating?” She swept her arm across her husband’s back.

Joel’s posture went rigid. “Oh, we’re, um friends.” I spit out.

“Well, isn’t that interesting,” she said with the same mischievous smile. Before I had a chance to continue our conversation, Ethan came back and picked up mid sentence.

“Wow that’s a long line.” He looked at the trail of people behind us. “I’m glad we got here when we did.”

Joel moved beside me to give Ethan room, and we stepped forward in line.

“So what did I miss?” Ethan asked.

Joel and I looked around, both not looking at each other. “Nothing,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders.

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Character Introduction #8: Mom

Emily’s mother is quite a woman. She juggles a full time job, three children and the singles scene. Granted, in the small town 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 friends mothers and learned to appreciate them individually. I watched as they influenced their daughters and I learned so much from them. 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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