MY SO-CALLED MYSTICAL MIDLIFE SERIES
The Write Hook
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Release Date March 22, 2021
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Midlife is full of surprises. Not all of them are working for me.
At forty-two I’ve had my share of ups and downs. Relatively normal, except when the definition of normal changes… drastically.
NYT Bestselling Romance Author: Check
Amazing besties: Check
Lovely home: Check
Pet cat named Thick Stella who wants to kill me: Check
Wacky Tabacky Dealing Aunt: Check
Cheating husband banging the weather girl on our kitchen table: Check
Nasty Divorce: Oh yes
Characters from my novels coming to life: Umm… yes
Four months of wallowing in embarrassed depression should be enough. I’m beginning to realize that no one is who they seem to be, and my life story might be spinning out of my control. It’s time to take a shower, put on a bra, and wear something other than sweatpants. Difficult, but doable.
With my friends—real and imaginary—by my side, I need to edit my life before the elusive darkness comes for all of us.
The plot is no longer fiction. It’s my reality, and I’m writing a happy ever after no matter what. I just have to find the write hook.
READ AN EXCERPT
“I didn’t leave that bowl in the sink,” I muttered to no one as I stared in confusion at the blue piece of pottery with milk residue in the bottom. “Wait. Did I?”
Slowly backing away, I ran my hands through my hair that hadn’t seen a brush in days—possibly longer and decided that I wasn’t going to think too hard about it. Thinking led to introspective thought, which led to dealing with reality, and that was a no-no.
Reality wasn’t my thing right now.
Maybe I’d walked in my sleep, eaten a bowl of cereal, then politely put the bowl in the sink. It was possible.
“That has to be it,” I announced, walking out of the kitchen and avoiding all mirrors and any glass where I could catch a glimpse of myself.
It was time to get to work. Sadly, books didn’t write themselves.
“I can do this. I have to do this.” I sat down at my desk and made sure my posture didn’t suck. I was fully aware it would suck in approximately five minutes, but I wanted to start out right. It would be a bad week to throw my back out. “Today, I will write ten thousand words. They will be coherent. I will not mistakenly or on purpose make a list of the plethora of ways I would like to kill Darren. He is my past. Beheading him is illegal. I’m far better than that. On a more positive note, my imaginary muse will show his pony-tailed, obnoxious ass up today, and I will not play Candy Jelly Crush until the words are on the page.”
Two hours later…
Zero words. However, I’d done three loads of laundry—sweatpants, t-shirts and underwear—and played Candy Jelly Crush until I didn’t have any more lives. As pathetic as I’d become, I hadn’t sunk so low as to purchase new lives. That would mean I’d hit rock bottom. Of course, I was precariously close, evidenced by my cussing out of the Jelly Queen for ten minutes, but I didn’t pay for lives. I considered it a win.
I’d planned on folding the laundry but decided to vacuum instead. I’d fold the loads by Friday. It was Tuesday. That was reasonable. If they were too wrinkled, I’d simply wash them again. No biggie. After the vacuuming was done, I’d rearranged my office for thirty minutes. I wasn’t sure how to Feng Shui, but after looking it up on my phone, I gave it a half-assed effort.
Glancing around at my handy work, I nodded. “Much better. If the surroundings are aligned correctly, the words will flow magically. I hope.”
Two hours later…
“Mother humper,” I grunted as I pushed my monstrosity of a bed from one side of the bedroom to the other. “This weighs a damn ton.”
I’d burned all the bedding seven weeks ago. The bonfire had been cathartic. I’d taken pictures as the five hundred thread count sheets had gone up in flame. I’d kept the comforter. I’d paid a fortune for it. It had been thoroughly saged and washed five times. Even though there was no trace of Darren left in the bedroom, I’d been sleeping in my office.
The house was huge, beautiful… and mine—a gorgeously restored Victorian where I’d spent tons of time as a child. It had an enchanted feel to it that I adored. I didn’t need such an enormous abode, but I loved the location—the middle of nowhere. The internet was iffy, but I solved that by going into town to the local coffee shop if I had something important to download or send.
Darren, with the wandering pecker, thought he would get a piece of the house. He was wrong. I’d inherited it from my whackadoo grandmother and Great Aunt Flip. My parents hadn’t always been too keen on me spending so much time with Granny and Aunt Flip growing up, but I adored the two old gals so much they relented. Since I spent a lot of time in an imaginary dream world, my mom and dad were delighted I related to actual people—even if they were left of center.
Granny and Flip made sure the house was in my name only—non-transferable and non-sellable. It was stipulated that I had to pass it to a family member or the Historical Society when I died. Basically, I had life rites. It was as if Granny and Aunt Flip had known I would waste two decades of my life married to a jackhole who couldn’t keep his salami in his pants and would need someplace to live. God rest Granny’s insane soul. Aunt Flip was still kicking, although I hadn’t seen her in a few years.
Aunt Flip put the K in kooky. She’d bought a cottage in the hills about an hour away and grew medicinal marijuana—before it was legal. The old gal was the black sheep of the family and preferred her solitude and her pot to company. She hadn’t liked Darren a bit. She and Granny both had worn black to my wedding. Everyone had been appalled—even me, but in the end, it made perfect sense. I had to hand it to the old broads. They had been smarter than me by a long shot. And the house? It had always been my charmed haven in the storm.
Even though there were four spare bedrooms plus the master suite, I chose my office. It felt safe to me.
Thick Stella preferred my office, and I needed to be around something that had a heartbeat. It didn’t matter that Thick Stella was bitchy and swiped at me with her deadly kitty claws every time I passed her. I loved her. The feeling didn’t seem mutual, but she hadn’t left me for a twenty-three-year-old with silicone breast implants and huge, bright white teeth.
“Thick Stella, do you think Sasha should wear red to her stepmother’s funeral?” I asked as I plopped down on my newly Feng Shuied couch and narrowly missed getting gouged by my cat. “Yes or no? Hiss at me if it’s a yes. Growl at me if it’s a no.”
Thick Stella had a go at her privates. She was useless.
“That wasn’t an answer.” I grabbed my laptop off my desk. Deciding it was too dangerous to sit near my cat, I settled for the loveseat. The irony of the piece of furniture I’d chosen didn’t escape me.
“I think she should wear red,” I told Thick Stella, who didn’t give a crap what Sasha wore. “Her stepmother was an asshat, and it would show fabu disrespect.”
Typing felt good. Getting lost in a story felt great. I dressed Sasha in a red Prada sheath then had her behead her ex-husband with a dull butter knife when he and his bimbo showed up unexpectedly to pay their respects at the funeral home. It was a bloodbath. Putting Sasha in red was an excellent move. The blood matched her frock to a T. Quickly rethinking the necessary murder, I moved the scene of the decapitation to the empty lobby of the funeral home. It would suck if I had to send Sasha to prison. She hadn’t banged Damien yet, and everyone was eagerly awaiting the sexy buildup—including me. It was the fourth book in the series, and it was about time they got together. The sexual tension was palpable.
“What in the freaking hell?” I snapped my laptop shut and groaned. “Sasha doesn’t have an ex-husband. I can’t do this. I’ve got nothing.” Where was my muse hiding? I needed the elusive imaginary idiot if I was going to get any writing done. “Chauncey, dammit, where are you?”
“My God, you’re loud, Clementine,” a busty, beautiful woman dressed in a deep purple Regency gown said with an eye roll.
She was seated on the couch next to Thick Stella, who barely acknowledged her. My cat attacked strangers and friends. Not today. My fat feline simply glanced over at the intruder and yawned. The cat was a traitor.
Forget the furry betrayer. How in the heck did the woman get into my house? Not to mention my office, without me seeing her enter. For a brief moment, I wondered if she’d banged my husband too but pushed the sordid thought out of my head. She looked to be close to thirty—too old for the asshole.
“Who are you?” I demanded, holding my laptop over my head as a weapon.
If I threw it and it shattered, I would be screwed. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d backed it up. If I lost the measly, somewhat disjointed fifty thousand words I’d written so far, I’d have to start over. That wouldn’t fly with my agent or my publisher.
“Don’t be daft,” the woman replied. “It’s rather unbecoming. May I ask a question?”
“No, you may not,” I shot back, trying to place her.
She was clearly a nutjob. The woman was rolling up on thirty but had the vernacular of seventy-year-old British society matron. She was dressed like she’d walked off the set of a film starring Emma Thompson. Her blonde hair shone to the point of absurdity and was twisted into an elaborate up-do. Wispy tendrils framed her perfectly heart-shaped face. Her sparkling eyes were lavender, enhanced by the over-the-top gown she wore.
Strangely, she was vaguely familiar. I just couldn’t remember how I knew her.
“How long has it been since you attended to your hygiene?” she inquired.
Putting my laptop down and picking up a lamp, I eyed her. I didn’t care much for the lamp or her question. I had been thinking about Marie Condo-ing my life, and the lamp didn’t bring me all that much joy. If it met its demise by use of self-defense, so be it. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business, lady. What I’d suggest is that you leave. Now. Or else I’ll call the police. Breaking and entering is a crime.”
She laughed. It sounded like freaking bells. Even though she was either a criminal or certifiable, she was incredibly charming.
“Oh dear,” she said, placing her hand delicately on her still heaving, milky-white bosom. “You are so silly. The constable knows quite well that I’m here. He advised me to come.”
“The constable?” I asked, wondering how far off her rocker she was.
She nodded coyly. “Most certainly. We’re all terribly concerned.”
I squinted at her. “About my hygiene?”
“That, amongst other things,” she confirmed. “Darling girl, you are not an ace of spades or, heaven forbid, an adventuress. Unless you want to be an ape leader, I’d recommend bathing.”
“Are you right in the head?” I asked, wondering where I’d left my damn cell phone. It was probably in the laundry room. I was going to be murdered by a nut job, and I’d lost my chance to save myself because I’d been playing Candy Jelly Crush. The headline would be horrifying—Homeless-looking, Hygiene-free Paranormal Romance Author Beheaded by Victorian Psycho.
If I lived through the next hour, I was deleting the game for good.
“I think it would do wonders for your spirit if you donned a nice, tight corset and a clean chemise,” she suggested, skillfully ignoring my question. “You must pull yourself together. Your behavior is dicked in the nob.”
I sat down and studied her. My about-to-be-murdered radar relaxed a tiny bit, but I kept the lamp clutched tightly in my hand. My gut told me she wasn’t going to strangle me. Of course, I could be mistaken, but Purple Gal didn’t seem violent—just bizarre. Plus, the lamp was heavy. I could knock her lady-like ass out with one good swing.
How in the heck did I know her? College? Grad School? The grocery store? At forty-two, I’d met a lot of people in my life. Was she with the local community theatre troop? I was eighty-six percent sure she wasn’t here to off me. However, I’d been wrong about life-altering events before—like not knowing my husband was boffing someone young enough to have been our daughter.
“What language are you speaking?” I spotted a pair of scissors on my desk. If I needed them, it was a quick move to grab them. I’d never actually killed anyone except in fictitious situations, but there was a first time for everything.
Pulling an embroidered lavender hankey from her cleavage, she clutched it and twisted it in her slim fingers. “Clementine, you should know.”
“I’m at a little disadvantage here,” I said, fascinated by the batshit crazy woman who’d broken into my home. “You seem to know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
And that was when the tears started. Hers. Not mine.
“Such claptrap. How very unkind of you, Clementine,” she burst out through her stupidly attractive sobs.
It was ridiculous how good the woman looked while crying. I got all blotchy and red, but not the mystery gal in purple. She grew even more lovely. It wasn’t fair. I still had no clue what the hell she was talking about, but on the off chance she might throw a tantrum if I asked more questions, I kept my mouth shut.
And yes, she had a point, but my hygiene was none of her damn business. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the last time I’d showered. If I had to guess, it was probably in the last five to twelve days. I was on a deadline for a book. To be more precise, I was late for my deadline on a book. I didn’t exactly have time for personal sanitation right now.
And speaking of deadlines…
“How about this?” My tone was excessively polite. I almost laughed. The woman had illegally entered my house, and I was behaving like she was a guest. “I’ll take a shower later today after I get through a few pivotal chapters. Right now, you should leave so I can work.”
“Yes, of course,” she replied, absently stroking Fat Stella, who purred. If I’d done that, I would be minus a finger. “It would be dreadfully sad if you were under the hatches.”
I nodded. “Right. That would, umm… suck.”
The woman in purple smiled. It was radiant, and I would have sworn I heard birds happily chirping. I was losing it.
“Excellent,” she said, pulling a small periwinkle velvet bag from her cleavage. I wondered what else she had stored in there and hoped there wasn’t a weapon. “I shall leave you with two gold coins. While the Grape Nuts were tasty, I would prefer that you purchase some Lucky Charms. I understand they are magically delicious.”
“It was you?” I asked, wildly relieved that I hadn’t been sleep eating. I had enough problems at the moment. Gaining weight from midnight dates with cereal wasn’t on the to-do list.
“It was,” she confirmed, getting to her feet and dropping the coins into my hand. “The consistency was quite different from porridge, but I found it tasty—very crunchy.”
“Right… well, umm… thank you for putting the bowl in the sink.” Wait. Why the hell was I thanking her? She’d wandered in and eaten my Grape Nuts.
“You are most welcome, Clementine,” she said with a disarming smile that lit up her unusual eyes. “It was lovely finally meeting you even if your disheveled mien is entirely astonishing.”
I was reasonably sure I had just been insulted by the cereal lover, but it was presented with excellent manners. However, she did answer a question. We hadn’t met. I wasn’t sure why she seemed familiar. The fact that she knew my name was alarming.
“Are you a stalker?” I asked before I could stop myself.
I’d had a few over the years. Being a New York Times Bestselling Author was something I was proud of, but it had come with a little baggage here and there. Some people seemed to have difficulty discerning fiction from reality. If I had to guess, I’d say Purple Gal might be one of those people.
I’d only written one Regency novel, and that had been at the beginning of my career—before I’d found my groove in paranormal romance. I was way more comfortable writing about demons and vampires than people dressed in top hats and hoopskirts. Maybe the crazy woman had read my first book. It hadn’t done well, and for good reason. It was over-the-top bad. I had blocked the entire novel out of my mind. Live and learn. It had been my homage to Elizabeth Hoyt well over a decade ago. It had been clear to all that I should leave Regency romance to the masters.
“Don’t be a Merry Andrew,” the woman chided me. “Your bone box is addled. We must see to it at once. I shall pay a visit again soon.”
The only part of her gibberish I understood was that she thought she was coming back. Note to self—change all the locks on the doors. Since it wasn’t clear if she was packing heat in her cleavage, I just smiled and nodded.
“Alrighty then…” I was unsure if I should walk her to the door or if she would let herself out. Deciding it would be better to make sure she actually left instead of letting her hide in my pantry to finish off my cereal, I gestured to the door. “Follow me.”
Thick Stella growled at me. I was so tempted to flip her off but thought it might earn another lecture from the Purple Gal. It was more than enough to be lambasted for my appearance. I didn’t need my manners picked apart by someone with a tenuous grip on reality.
My own grip was dubious as it was.
“You might want to reconsider breaking into homes,” I said, holding the front door open. “It could end badly—for you.”
Part of me couldn’t believe that I was trying to help the nutty woman out, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I kind of liked her.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied as she sauntered out of my house into the warm spring afternoon. “Remember Clementine, there is always sunshine after the rain.”
As she made her way down the long sun-lit tree-lined drive, she didn’t look back. It was disturbingly like watching the end of a period movie where the heroine left her old life behind and walked proudly toward her new and promising future.
Glancing around for a car, I didn’t spot one. Had she left it parked on the road so she could make a clean getaway after she’d bludgeoned me? Had I just politely escorted a murderer out of my house?
Had I lost it for real?
As she disappeared from sight, I felt the weight of the gold coins still clutched in my hand. Today couldn’t get any stranger.
At least, I hoped not.
Opening my fist to examine the coins, I gasped. “What in the heck?” There was nothing in my hand. Had I dropped them? Getting down on all fours, I searched. Thick Stella joined me, kind of—more like watched me as I crawled around and wondered if anything that had just happened had actually happened.
“Purple Gal gave me coins to buy Lucky Charms,” I told my cat, my search now growing frantic. “You saw her do it. Right? She sat next to you. And you didn’t attack her. Right?”
Thick Stella simply stared at me. What did I expect? If my cat answered me, I’d have to commit myself. That option might still be on the table. Had I just imagined the entire exchange with the strange woman? Should I call the cops?
“And tell them what?” I asked, standing back up and locking the front door securely. “That a woman in a purple gown broke in and ate my cereal while politely insulting my hygiene? Oh, and she left me two gold coins that disappeared in my hand as soon as she was out of sight? That’s not going to work.”
I’d call the police if she came back since I wasn’t sure she’d been here at all. She hadn’t threatened to harm me. Purple Gal had been charming and well-mannered the entire time she’d badmouthed my cleanliness habits. And to be quite honest—real or not, she’d made a solid point. I could use a shower.
Maybe four months of wallowing in self-pity and only living inside the fictional worlds I created on paper had taken more of a toll than I was aware of. Getting lost in my stories was one of my favorite things to do. It had saved me more than once over the years. It was possible that I’d let it go too far. Hence, the Purple Gal hallucination.
First things first. Delete Candy Jelly Crush. Getting rid of the white noise in my life was the first step to… well, the first step into something.
I’d figure it out later.
Series: My So-Called Mystical Midlife, Book 1
Publisher: Robyn Peterman
Publication Date: March 22, 2021
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Romantic Comedy