Monday, June 24, 2013

Sneak Peek at Distance and Time

Sleepless nights. Writer's block. Rewrite after rewrite. It's been a long time coming, but I am so excited to announce Distance and Time is officially on the way!
            Carlene Cooper was your average teenager. Average, that is, except for her relationship with Josh McCarthy, member of teen mega-group, South Station Boyz. Young love blossomed at a chance meeting when Carly was a senior in high school and Josh was just discovering what stardom really meant. Despite their chemistry, it was no surprise to anyone when their very different lives took very different paths a few months down the road.
          Years later, their paths cross again, and they must decide if the spark they felt back then is strong enough to rekindle. Josh has built a name for himself in show business, but Carly, too, has planted roots as a journalist in New York City. Will they be able to successfully merge their lives and overcome the obstacles that drove them apart a decade earlier?

          Just as she comes to the decision that will change their lives one way or the other, Detective Trey Foster enters her life unexpectedly, and Carly is faced with another choice. Will she choose the man she's spent her whole life loving, or will she push it aside for a chance at happiness out of the spotlight?
July 16th, 2013, I will be releasing my debut novel Distance and Time, the first book in the Time After Time trilogy. It will be available through Kindle, Nook and other digital formats, and, for those who prefer a physical book, it will also be published in paperback. I'll post the links for purchase as soon as they're available, but it should be available through all the same means you purchase books now.

As an independent author, I need your help. Whereas most authors have an agent and publisher to help market their book, I am my marketing team. But, I have what those authors don't have: YOU! You are my most important asset when it comes to word-of-mouth advertising and online reviews. I'm sharing the first chapter of Distance and Time here and, if you like it, I'm hoping you'll share it with others. When the book is released on July 16th, I'm asking you to read it then go online and review it at sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

Without further ado, I give you Distance and Time:

Chapter 1
July 2003

            I gasped as my driver blasted his horn and slammed on the brakes sending me, my bag and my cell phone careening toward the Plexi-glass partition.  It was the third time we’d been cut off in less than two blocks. I adored living in Manhattan, but the traffic was murder. I despised city traffic. I used to despise cities, in general. How I ended up in the biggest city in the country still baffles me.

            I am from a small Minnesota town just outside Minneapolis, where I was headed in exactly two-and-a-half hours, provided I didn’t get smeared across 3rd Avenue first. Another cab nearly sideswiped us, and I held my breath again. My nerves were shot, and we weren’t even out of the city yet. I scrambled to gather my belongings from the floor and stuff them back into my purse.

            “Damn it! Watch where you’re going!” The cabby combined a verbal lashing with a blare of his horn again, though we both knew the offending driver wouldn’t hear him or the horn. Everybody honked his horn in this city. It was second only to breathing. In fact, if one listened closely, there was a melodious rhythm to horn-honking, each horn having its own tone of voice. A series of quick beeps could be perceived as friendly encouragement to merge ahead of someone while a long blast indicated impatience or frustration. This horn was definitely the latter.

            This trip to Minneapolis was not my idea, but since my broken engagement in May, my best friend Alejandro had been hounding me to snap out of my depression and visit him. He apparently believed that catching up with old classmates at our ten-year reunion would help me do that. He was mistaken –- I needed far more than that to fix what was wrong, but I humored him anyway. And by “humored him,” I mean that I let him buy my plane ticket and pay for my hotel room for the weekend. I suspected he would also be picking up my liquor tab, too.

            Traffic began to move again, and I settled back into my seat, my thoughts quickly drifting to my high school years. While school itself wasn’t bad, the relationship with my parents was shaky at best, so I was more than ready to leave town by the time my senior year came about. I researched colleges nationwide, even the University of Hawaii –- whatever it took to get as far away from home as possible. That was my goal: to escape. My guidance counselor reminded me daily that the only way to get into a decent school was to get good grades and be involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible.  I did as much as I could so my bases were covered, but I focused primarily on the activities that would look best on my college applications, like editing the school newspaper and participating in speech and debate. My stepfather made it blatantly clear he wasn’t paying a dime for my schooling. “If you want it bad enough, you figure out how to pay for it,” he said. So I did.

            Four years later with a degree from NYU in my hand and my whole life head of me, I rented my first grown-up apartment. While small, it was clean and in a safe neighborhood just a few blocks from Columbus Circle. I loved it, and it suited me perfectly. I was one of the few single women in New York who could afford to live in Manhattan without a roommate or a sugar daddy. That didn’t come without a price, though. I had run into my soon-to-be landlord at Starbucks –- literally –- just a few weeks before I had to give up my student housing. Ira Goldman was a sweet, small-framed Jewish man, and I hadn’t seen him when I turned around too quickly in the crowded coffee shop. He ended up wearing my latté. I begged forgiveness, and he gave it to me, but not before he introduced me to his son, Eli –- who was a not-so-sweet, not-so-small-framed Jewish boy –- and guilted me into a date with him. I barely made it through the date with Eli, whom I would liken to a whiney octopus, but I did manage to land a great one-bedroom apartment out of the deal. Six years later, Ira still charges me half the rent he does the other tenants because he’s convinced someday I’ll convert to Judaism and marry Eli.

            Another car horn jolted me back to the present. An impatient driver behind us motioned to move out of his way. My driver glanced in the rear-view mirror but dismissed his impatience with a shrug. His indifference was returned with some foreign hand gesture –- probably Italian –- of which I’m certain I didn’t want to know the meaning. I definitely hated big city traffic. This little vacation would do me some good. My stress levels were high. Deadlines were constant, and I had to frequently remind myself that writing was my passion and not the tedious job it often became. I blindly reached into my handbag and dug around for my container of Tums, shaking a couple out and popping them into my mouth. I was sure I was getting an ulcer.
            Going to the class reunion didn’t remotely interest me, and while I debated not going, I couldn’t avoid home forever. As a rule, I didn’t believe in regrets and had never wished I’d done anything differently, but I suppose I had to face my demons at some point. I’d faced my biggest demon –- my stepfather, at my mother’s funeral in 1995, but other than that, I’d avoided home for the most part, offering one excuse after another why I couldn’t join my siblings for the holidays or other special occasions.
            Alejandro was the only reason I was going to this reunion. He didn’t really give me an option. “We’re both fucking fabulous! You’re published. I work for the Chicago-fucking-Bulls. We’re going if for no other reason than bragging rights. Pack your shit!”
            I’d known Alejandro since junior high. His family moved to our little town when Alex and I were in seventh grade. In our town of 1,500 people, he and his family were the only Hispanics. Needless to say, in a world of pasty-white Minnesotans, he stuck out in the crowd. He’d been teased mercilessly by our classmates, first for his heritage and then, in high school, for his sexuality. Our friendship started out of pity; I won’t lie. But we soon forged a strong bond. He was my best friend in high school, and now, years later, he’s still my best friend. We had gone through everything together. He was there for me when my first boyfriend broke my heart. I was there when his did. He was there when I stood up to my parents about moving to New York my senior year. I was there for him when he came out to his family the same year. To say we’d been through Hell and back was a mild understatement. If best friends could be soul mates, this man was mine.
            Even now, with eight-hundred miles separating us, we stayed in touch. In college, we’d begun our traditional “Friends Night” every Thursday. We’d watch Friends, then one of us would call the other, depending on whose week it was to foot the long-distance bill, and catch up for the next two hours.
            Alejandro wasn’t far off the mark about us being fabulous, actually. If the alumni newsletters were to be believed, we were more successful than most of our classmates. I worked for one of the most circulated papers in the nation, and I lived in one of the greatest cities in the world. It would be fun to act a little haughty, I thought. And really? It wasn’t much of a stretch for me these days. I’d always felt like I was too good for the simplistic, slower lifestyle of the Heartland and wanted more. I considered myself an East Coaster within ten minutes of stepping onto New York concrete. I snipped many of my Midwestern roots as quickly as possible, wanting to distance myself from everything I’d grown up with. If truth be told, other than the occasional e-mail or phone call, I had cut ties with almost everyone back home. I moved on and outgrown so many people I’d once called friends. Alex and I were very much alike in that respect, which is what had cemented our friendship all those years ago.
            The cab finally pulled up in front of the terminal at LaGuardia, and I went inside. I checked my suitcase, waited my turn to be molested by Homeland Security, then headed to my gate and waited. I sucked back half a bottle of water and downed two Dramamine. I didn’t usually get sick when flying, but I hadn’t felt good for a few days and hoped it would help. Between my anxiety over the reunion and the deadlines at work that had me running on empty, I had been burning the candles at both ends for quite a while now.
            I pulled out the yearbook I’d put in my carry-on, flipping through it and smirked at Alejandro’s signature inside the back cover. He had filled it with random memories in the form of a top-ten list –- typical Alejandro: lists and summaries. He had always been OCD like that. God love him. I was looking forward to seeing him again.
            I thought back on our friendship and random memories filled my head: sophomore year and the argument over which one of us could have the tall, quiet one from our favorite boy band (He won, of course, because he’d read in some tabloid that they batted for the same team. “You’re not even his type!” he said. Who could argue with solid logic like that?); Junior year when he lent me his cardigan because I forgot it was picture day for the yearbook and hadn’t worn dress clothes; Senior year when I told him I’d been accepted to NYU, and we spent the entire weekend holed up in his room eating ice cream and lamenting how we’d never see each other again (even though we both knew we’d talk every day on the phone). Although we weren’t as close as we once were –- the distance between Chicago and New York caused much of that drift between us –- I still considered Alejandro my best friend.
            The loudspeaker boomed with the boarding announcement for my flight. I stuffed the yearbook back in my bag, handed the attendant my ticket and made my way down the jet bridge. I grabbed my iPod and the latest Cosmo from my bag before I tucked it in the overhead luggage compartment and settled into my first class seat, a luxury I refused to compromise on, at least for this particular trip. The complimentary (and much-needed) liquor was worth the price of the ticket. Within a half-hour, we were soaring down the runway and lifting into the sky. When we reached cruising altitude, I tucked the magazine away, stuck my headphones on my ears and turned on my mp3 player. I filled an entire playlist with songs from the 80’s and 90’s, and I couldn't hold back that nostalgic lump in my throat as their song came on. I forgot they were ever that young…that any of us were. I was immediately transported back to high school.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

It's not many authors who get the chance to take a month off from their lives to go on a writing sabbatical before their first book is published. In fact, there aren't many people in general who get to take a month off from life. Given the chaos in my life over the last year, I feel especially blessed to be able to do this.

I recently touched base with a couple of friends of mine -- one in the writing world and one who is a former PR person -- who gave me some priceless advice on launching my book later this summer. So while I'm technically supposed to be spending much of my vacation writing, I'm also using this time to reach out to those who have been valuable assets to me during this writing phase. 

As a reader, I never truly appreciated the work that goes into writing a book, much less getting one ready for publication. My job consisted of buying the book and inhaling it as quickly as possible, then waiting impatiently for the next book. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. Up until recently, most authors had an agent and a publisher to take care of all the details. But, in this world of self-publishing that so many authors are entering lately, the hard work is up to the authors themselves. Being a rookie in this field, it's even tougher because I don't have a lot of people who've gone before me to pave the way. I have numerous author friends, but as I mentioned, most went the traditional path. I'm sure I will screw up at some point -- at many points, probably -- but that's all part of learning the process I suppose. 

All I know is that I'm enjoying all of it, despite how overwhelmed I feel at times. I can't wait to get Distance and Time into the hands of my readers so you can fall in love the characters as much as I have. I think maybe I'm even more excited because every minute of the process is in my hands. I am a little nervous, of course, but knowing that I'm in control of each step of this book helps me appreciate the process that much more. 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Mel_Henry for the latest book updates. If you're less of a Twitter person and more of a Facebook person, you can find me there, too: Mel Henry. I look forward to getting to know my readers!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Saying no and setting limits

When I got on the plane last week that brought me to Colorado, I only half-listened to the safety demonstration given by the flight attendants. After as many trips as I've taken, I pretty much know them by heart anyway. But as I sat there waiting for take-off, I heard the attendant talk about the oxygen masks. She instructed us that in case of depressurization of the cabin, these masks would drop from the ceiling and we were to put on our own masks before helping anyone else with theirs. I've heard this speech a dozen times, but for some reason I was feeling philosophical and took it with deeper meaning this time.

It made me realize that I have to stop, breathe and gather my strength before I care for others.

As I limped my way through the depths of depression this last year, I learned many things: about myself, about my family, about my friends and about my faith. If I had to limit myself to just one lesson to remember, though, it would be that I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of anyone else. That means setting boundaries and recognizing my own limits. That's not an easy task.

This oxygen mask thing is exactly that same way. I'd be the moron trying to hold my breath while my mask swings in my face as I help somebody next to me. Hello, dumbass! Put on your mask! Save yourself first!

I've always felt selfish putting myself ahead of my loved ones. To put my own needs first meant I cared more about myself than I did about those around me. 

And that, my loves, is the point exactly.

I've spent my entire life putting everyone else first. My husband. My kids. My friends. My pets. My neighbor. My family. I give them what I have and if there's anything left, I'll take it for myself. Over the last few years, I've learned to take time for myself - vacations, nights out with the girls, dinner with hubby, eating the last package of popcorn without apologizing for it.  But I still hadn't learned how to care for myself emotionally before expending that energy on others. I'm the friend people call when they need a listening ear or advice. I've always been that person and up until now, I've never turned anyone away.

The other night I had dinner with a new friend who is also a therapist and the conversation we had was exactly what my broken spirit needed. I realized that chaos, noise and craziness is overrated and when I'm in the midst of those things, I can't find peace for myself. I'm a strong woman - one of the strongest I know, actually, but I'm only strong enough to carry my own burdens.

So while I hate that someone else is hurting, I can't pick up the pieces for them. Someday I might be able to, but right now my hands are full with my own pieces. It doesn't mean I don't love them. It doesn't mean I don't care about their problems. It doesn't mean I don't want them to get better. It just means that I can't hold my breath while I help them find theirs.