Happy Monday. I hope everyone had a fab weekend.
Jean was kind enough to write a heartfelt guest post. Take it away, Jean!
You Can Pick Your Friends…
The title of my new novel, Summer Fling, suggests an adventure in passion and romance. And it is a romance in that it explores the three different relationships of long-time friends, Kate, Didi, and Viv, with the focus on Kate and her fear of trusting love after a painful divorce. It’s also very much a story about how vital friendship is to women facing the pitfalls of life and love in middle-age, a theme plucked directly from my personal life.
As a teenager, I had some solid friendships with a wonderful group of girls, but it’s no secret that I was closeted during my adolescence and for many years after. Although, it’s not uncommon for high school friends to go their separate ways in their twenties, fear of coming out was a major catalyst in me losing contact with many of them in the years after graduation. Once I’d met my partner at twenty-three, I’d drifted away because avoiding them was preferable to lying to their faces. Most of us had paired off in our twenties to marry and start families anyway.
So fifteen years later, when I’d landed in that 50 percentile of married couples that divorce and got tossed back into the dating tempest at forty, I began reconnecting with my high school girls through Facebook and one particularly magnificent case of serendipity. You know you’re friend soulmates when someone you haven’t hung out with in nearly fifteen years strolls up to you in Walmart, says “What the fuck are you doing here?” and after eight years, you’re closer than ever, dishing on everything from sex to politics to Bugs Bunny leading ladies over a variety of cocktails, craft beer, and spritzers.
It’s an amazing thing to rekindle a tightknit social klatch with women you were tight with as kids and realize you could once again be as close as the hairs you’d sprayed together with Aqua Net in the 80s. Forty is an interesting time in a woman’s life. To paraphrase some profound wisdom from Cagney & Lacey: We’re not over the hill yet, but we’re up high enough to get a pretty good view.
Lucky for us, despite the saying, some good things don’t have to come to an end. Our reunion and what we’ve experienced together since were the inspiration in creating the chemistry among my characters, Kate, Didi, and Viv in Summer Fling. One Goodreads review said of the 47 year-old friends, “For the first few chapters I felt like I was reading about teenagers.” This seems like a slam, but it’s actually the precise characterization I’d intended because when I’m in their company, I don’t feel like I’m running the gauntlet of adulthood. Our girls’ nights are marked by consistent and copious amounts of alcohol, teasing, laughter, and most importantly, precious moments of escape from the real world with the people who knew us before we were wives, mothers, and in charge of freakin’ everything.
But over the last eight years, it hasn’t always been a raucous regression into adolescence. Together, we’ve dealt with the some heavy adult issues: two divorces, a stage-four cancer battle, and a sudden, tragic death.
Alicia and I were the ones going through divorces—mine was almost finalized and hers was about to begin. We’d spent many a night getting plastered on cheap bottles of Barefoot wine or whatever libation anyone showed up with. We’re not proud of cackling like the witches in Macbeth in public or around her “Carmela Soprano” dining room table or outside on her faux cabana-club deck. Nor am I of doing the walk of shame out of her house at three a.m. after passing out on her couch at an age when some women are becoming grandmothers. But our early forties was a transitional period for us, a time of unnerving uncertainty shaken and stirred with a sense of failure, relief, and liberation. I don’t think it was any coincidence that we’d reconnected at that point in our lives, and it reinforced my spiritual belief in a universal plan.
Then Christy stunned us all back to sobriety when she shared she was battling stage-four colon cancer, reminding us that not only weren’t we kids anymore, we weren’t even young. To me, Christy became the quintessential woman of strength and resilience. When she came to our get-togethers, I’d marvel at how she could be her same bubbly self as the chemo port on her chest peeked out from behind her plunging neckline. Thankfully, she’s been in remission for over five years now, due in large part, I’m convinced, to her unwavering positivity and her downright stubbornness in refusing to leave her three kids without maternal supervision.
Unfortunately, “Sondy’s” struggles hadn’t an outcome we could celebrate. I gave the eulogy at her funeral. It wasn’t something I’d ever imagined doing—certainly not at the age of 45. To say we were shocked that she was no longer with us would be the ultimate understatement. But throughout her wake and funeral, the remaining seven of us were each other’s rock solid support, crying for her and laughing from the memories she’d left us with, together. And true to form, our klatch klutz, Denise, provided moments of much-needed levity when she’d stumbled into the casket at the wake and tripped up the hill toward the gravesite. Had Sondy been with us in earthly form, she would’ve been the first to skewer her with a wickedly funny burn.
Now that our divorces are in the past, Christy’s cancer is beat, and we’re continuing to heal and deal with Sondy’s passing, we’re thankful that our biggest problems are sending kids off to college and middle-age spread. (I feel like I need to move to a bigger place just to warehouse all my pairs of I’ll-wear-these-after-I-lose-twenty-pounds pants.) Through it all, I’ve learned what it means to be grateful and not to sweat the small stuff, even when the small stuff is night sweats and hot flashes. Most of all, I understand how important it is to laugh like a teenager whenever the opportunity arises, like when one of us ended up going home from a winery with our underwear in our purse.
When I created the characters of Kate, Didi, and Viv in Summer Fling, it came naturally to flesh them out with some of the characteristics of my life-long friends. Together, we’ve endured sadness, loss, and the departure of Jessica Lange from American Horror Story. We also know that no matter what lies ahead in the coming chapters of our lives, we’re going to grow old as an ensemble cast with laughter, love, and cocktails. Plenty of cocktails.
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Contemporary / Romance
Kate Randall is a successful, sophisticated attorney terminally jaded since the demise of her long-term relationship. Now with best friends Didi and Viv by her side, she’s savoring single life and the sweet taste of hard-won independence. As her friends navigate the poignant and amusing pitfalls of finding lasting love in their forties, she’s quite content to watch from behind a cosmo.
But when the girls drag Kate to a Pride event, sexy young singer Jordan Squire rocks the stable foundation Kate had struggled for years to build. Despite Kate’s protests, Jordan’s charms prove too powerful to resist, and they fall into a passionate summer love affair. But even if Kate can conquer her fear of repeating the past, can their relationship withstand the pressures of a significant age difference and the demands of Jordan’s burgeoning music career?
Thanks so much Jean for stopping by.
Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway.