A new website/blog

Hey all!

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! Just wanted to let you know that I have created a new and improved website/blog : https://beccajfox5.wixsite.com/author

I will no longer be updating this website/blog on WordPress but I’d love to keep my subscribers so, if you have a minute, please click on the link above and subscribe to the new blog for further updates, short stories, poems, musings, and random thoughts. 🙂

Thanks for reading! See you on the other site.

A Companion Series for Asta and the Barbarians

Back in 2017, while my epic fantasy novel Asta and the Barbarians was in the process of being published by Tirgearr Publishing, I was also taking some creative writing classes at my community college. In my Intermediate Fiction writing class, I was challenged to write a short story every two weeks. It was difficult but also tons of fun to brainstorm and create so many stories in such a short amount of time. Some were always destined to be short stories; others I felt deserved to be expanded upon but it wasn’t the right time.

After Asta and the Barbarians was published, I began working on a romance novel titled I Dare You to Stay With Me which I ended up self-publishing, and then I quickly began preparing my science fiction/fantasy novel The Andromeda’s Ghost to be published through BHC Press. This year, I self-published a book with my sister, a urban fantasy novel titled Death’s Curses. While finishing up with Death’s Curses, I was also communicating with BHC Press because they are in the process of getting The Andromeda’s Captain (book two in The Andromeda Chronicles) ready for publication. And after Death’s Curses was published, I raced through the end of The Andromeda’s Crew (book three in The Andromeda Chronicles) after which I decided to dive headlong into the complex world of book marketing. I’ve been snatching free ebooks, and signing up for free webinars as well as relatively inexpensive marketing classes as I come across them. I’ve been emailing reviewers and organizing advertisements and other promotions for my books. I’ve scheduled cross promotion with other authors through my newsletter and social media accounts. It has been exhausting, but necessary to grow my audience and get my name out there.

With The Andromeda’s Crew in the hands of my beta readers, I can’t do any more work on it. At least, not until I get their feedback. In the meantime (because I don’t know how to be idle) I’ve moved on to the next project on my list, the short stories I created back in 2017! Whenever I had writer’s block while working on projects from 2017 up until now, I would go back to one of those short stories specifically. I shared it here on the blog at one point; back then it was titled A Match Made in the Hollow. Slowly but surely, I’ve built upon it until, just last week, I finished it. It’s not a short story anymore but a 130 page novella titled Jessa and the Lost Goddess.

This is the first installment in a series of novellas which are companions to Asta and the Barbarians. These novellas are set in the same world as Asta and the Barbarians but focus on different characters. All of these characters are chosen for a specific task by one of the Heavenly Masters (gods and goddesses) that were introduced in Asta and the Barbarians. In the last novella of this series, these new characters will meet up with Asta and her friends in order to help them achieve a very specific task. While Asta’s story was set on the Island of Holger, these novellas will be set on the “mainland” which was mentioned often in Asta and the Barbarians but never expanded upon. I’ve had numerous fans ask for a sequel to Asta’s story over the years and I’m so excited to finally be able to do so. I sincerely hope I can live up to your expectations or at least entertain you for a little while. 😉

Tirgearr Publishing produced Asta and the Barbarians so they get first dibs, but they can choose not to publish this series. If that happens, I’m going to self-publish these so no matter what, you will get to read these very soon! I’ve submitted a synopsis and an overview to Tirgearr Publishing and am waiting for their response now.

More news to come!

A Promotional Opportunity for The Andromeda’s Ghost

This month I was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion hosted by Fellowship of Fools, a well-respected website that features all things science fiction. Along with other BHC Press science fiction authors, I answered several interview questions centered around the current divisive political situation and how it could potentially affect speculative fiction. I also submitted a two minute video of myself reading an excerpt from The Andromeda’s Ghost.

It was nerve-wracking, recording myself as I read, realizing that the end result would be posted online for the whole world to see. I was equally anxious as I answered each question, fearing that I would offend someone. But the whole experience was extremely cool. It left me feeling like a pro. Plus, it was an opportunity to promote The Andromeda’s Ghost, for which I was very grateful. If any of you are interested in reading the interviews or watching the excerpt readings, click here to be redirected to the Fellowship of Fools website.

Aside from our interviews and excerpt readings, there are a lot of other cool things on the Fellowship of Fools website that anyone would be interested in. You’ll find interviews with producers and actors, articles concerning popular TV shows, movies, and books, as well as teaser trailers. Check it out!

On a completely different note: am I the only one who really hates the changes that have been done to WordPress recently? It took me three tries to get this post looking the way I wanted it to. There was nothing wrong with the other format! All right, I’m getting off the soapbox now…

Writing Highlights for the Month

The major revisions for Death’s Curses are finished! It was just as challenging as I thought it would be, turning this young adult story into an adult one. My publisher said that simply changing the ages of the main characters wouldn’t be enough. The themes of the story are definitely in the adult category but the situations the main characters are in are still, technically, juvenile. Changing some of the situations while also making sure they worked with the overall plot was the main issue. But I think I managed.

After talking with my sister about some of the changes I made, we brainstormed some finer details that could be altered to make the characters sound more grown up. I’m confident that this book will meet the Adult Fiction parameters once we’re done applying these new changes. My sister is looking over my edits, then I’ll give it one more read through, and we’ll be re-submitting to BHC Press. Fingers crossed that it’ll be accepted this time. If not, my sister and I are considering self-publication. More news on that later.

BHC Press has started this new thing called Staff Picks. Staff members take turns choosing their favorite titles from the books the company has already published. They write short blurbs about them and post them on the company’s blog page. I’m proud to announce that The Andromeda’s Ghost has been highlighted twice!

Chelsea (acquisitions and lead editor) said: “Taren Platinum is the perfect protagonist without being too perfect. He has a good heart, but there’s a layer of grit just beneath the surface that’s activated by those who stand in the way of his happily-ever-after and evil-doers who prey on the innocent. Becca Fox has crafted an endearing, incredibly real-feeling cast of characters, all of which are misfits in their own way. I was taken by the relationships formed throughout The Andromeda’s Ghost, from the natural progression of those relationships to the tenderness shared among the loveable and unlikely band of characters as they work together to escape a dire situation on planet Cartiss. In short, it’s impossible not to root for Taren and company while reading The Andromeda’s Ghost–a truly entertaining start to what’s sure to be a great series. Be prepared for an expert cliffhanger, and then join me in impatiently waiting for the next book in Fox’s series!”

Lana (publishing and editing assistant) said: “This is one of my new favorites! The classic forbidden romance meets outer space and aliens in all the right ways. Even with the twist beginning (yes, it’s at the beginning for a change), I loved the story and how it unfolds. I was reminded of the TV show Firefly by Taren’s growing ragtag family. Becca Fox did an amazing job unfurling the worlds of this unique solar system–the alien species, foods, customs, environments, etc. I’m super excited to find out what happens to Taren and the gang!”

If you’d like to read their blog posts and discover new titles to read, just click on each of their names.

In other news, production on the audio book is wrapping up! According to my latest communication with my publisher, they estimate it’ll be done sometime in November or December. Stay tuned because I’ll be letting you all know the precise release date as soon as I know it!

A Much-Needed Update

I kind of disappeared from the internet and real life during the quarantine. For that I apologize. Here’s pretty much everything noteworthy that happened during the month of April:

I was given an office phone and asked to work from home. It was an interesting time. I got a taste of the stay-at-home mom life and it was pretty great, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I’d get frustrated or depressed about the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s officially summer in Phoenix which discouraged me from taking very many walks with Bennett. But, for the most part, I really enjoyed spending all that time with my son. I witnessed several firsts that I otherwise might’ve missed if I’d had to keep going into the office everyday.

He colored for the first time. It was a bunch of squiggles with an orange colored pencil but it was beautiful to me. He started pointing at things, as if inquiring after them. Then he’d sit there and listen to me explain what they were. He started handing me books and toys on a regular basis and waiting expectantly for me to do something with them. He started standing on his own. He’s still not confident enough to take any steps, but we’ll get there. He’s growing so fast and learning so much. It’s a treat to witness.


 
 

Staying home also allowed me to rest. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m pregnant again. It’s a little ahead of schedule but we’re still excited and more than ready to meet our little girl!) My baby bump turned into a mountain seemingly overnight, sapping my strength and slowing me down considerably. Our baby girl is healthy and strong, though. There’s much to be thankful for.

Over the weekend, I celebrated a birthday and my very first Mother’s Day, which was an emotional time for me. Businesses are slowly starting to open up here but we didn’t want to brave the crowds of people so my husband and I had quiet celebrations at home. May is a big month for us as far as celebrations go. Bennett’s first birthday is on the 18th and our five year wedding anniversary is on the 29th! Hopefully by then it’ll be safer to venture out into the world.

Permission has been granted for some businesses to start opening again. Churches will be allowed to open later in the summer so the office is preparing. I’ll be returning to work part-time. It’s going to be an adjustment for both me and Bennett, but we’ll endure. Besides, all too soon it’ll be time to go on maternity leave!

The Andromeda’s Ghost is on NetGalley and, according to my publisher, it’s getting a good reception from librarians, retailers, journalists, trade reviewers, and book bloggers. I was told the book would be available for pre-order early in June and is all set to be published on July 16!

BHC Press is already preparing the publication schedule for 2021. I submitted the second book in The Andromeda Chronicles, The Andromeda’s Captain, so they could add it to the line up. It’s crazy to think that another one of my books could be coming out this time next year, but that’s totally a possibility!

In other news, deals have been made and the plan has been set in motion so that the books I publish through BHC Press will be translated into different languages! More news on that later.


My big project during the quarantine was finishing my edits for Death’s Curses and getting all the necessary documents ready to submit to BHC Press. It took a lot longer than I care to admit (escaping from distractions at home proved to be more difficult than I thought!) but at last it’s done. The query letter, book description, synopsis, and first six chapters have been submitted for their consideration. It can take 6-8 weeks for them to get to the documents, review everything, and make a decision what with the enormous amount of submissions they get every day. I’ll be moving onto other projects to keep busy while I wait to hear back from them but, for right now, I’m celebrating.


There’s still the possibility of another wave of the Coronavirus hitting us. Stay safe and brave, you guys.

A Good Mom

It’s a late night and an early morning.

It’s a sleepy smile, a drool-covered chin, a runny nose.

Time for play?

How about a walk?

Anything for you, baby.

It’s dinner time, bath time, and off to bed with you, mister.

Yes, you are tired. Don’t give me that look.

It’s having to sit perfectly still while baby screams on a monitor screen.

Quietly fuming. Or privately aching.

Sometimes both.

I’ve done everything I can think of.

Why is he still crying?

Does this mean I’m not a good mom?

It’s a house that’s always half dirty.

Laundry mostly done. Clean. Folded. Sitting in baskets all over the living room.

It’s meal planning. All day. Every day.

It’s checking the heater several times before bed, obsessing about baby’s comfort.

It’s cheers and tears after every milestone reached.

I’m so glad he’s growing up at a normal pace…

But why can’t he stay little forever?

“Thank God he can’t stay little forever!” I think moments later.

It’s worrying about his future.

It’s beating myself up after every little failure.

It’s praying, “Oh, God, please help me be a good mom.”

Over and over and over again.

It’s keep to the schedule at all costs. Until baby changes it.

He never sleeps in this late. Is he still alive?

Oh, sorry, baby. Didn’t mean to scare you. Shh. Go back to sleep.

No? Okay. I guess it’s breakfast time now…

It’s panicking when he gets sick.

It’s wiping food off my face. Food that’s not mine.

It’s rocking and crying softly. Overwhelmed by the depth of my love for this baby.

It’s coming this close to cursing at baby. Then actually cursing at baby.

Then feeling extremely guilty for cursing at baby.

It’s falling asleep on the couch with baby, waking every time he moves.

It’s melting whenever I make him giggle.

It’s raging war against the mosquito that dared to bite my baby.

I come home after a long day at work and there he is, crawling toward me at full speed.

Does this mean I’m a good mom?

“You are,” says his grandma.

“You are,” says his aunt.

“You are,” says his father.

On this long, winding road we call motherhood, I struggle to believe sometimes.

It’s looking at a positive pregnancy test.

Happy. Exhausted. Terrified.

Can I do this?

My heart is big enough for both of you, but is my spirit strong enough?

Can I still be a good mom if there’s two?

Only time will tell.

2019 Recap

A lot of people send a Christmas letter to their family members with a summary of their year or a quick update on what they’re currently doing. While I did send out an adorable Christmas picture card of my husband, my baby, and myself, there was no summary attached. So, without further ado, here is my 2019 summary:

  • In February, my mother-in-law flew my husband and I, along with two of her other sons, to Seattle to visit their grandmother. It was my first time flying while pregnant and it went surprisingly well.
  • In April, I signed a contract with a new publisher (BHC Press) for my first science fiction/fantasy novel, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I also self-published my first book, the sequel to my young adult romance novel, titled I Dare You to Stay With Me.
  • In May, I gave birth prematurely to my son, Bennett Mordecai Fox.
  • In September, we said goodbye to my husband’s cat of fifteen years, Cowboy. May he rest in peace.
  • In October, my husband and I flew to Hawaii for his brother’s wedding. It was our first time traveling with a baby. Tears were shed. Lessons were learned. It was a beautiful wedding and I’m glad we were there.
  • In November, I wrote and “produced” my first novelette, A Favor for a Princess, a prequel of sorts for The Andromeda’s Ghost. This book is still available for free, by the way!
  • In December, a good friend of mine who moved to Oregon and now works as the librarian for a high school over there, added I Dare you to Love Me and I Dare You to Stay With Me to her shelves.
  • (I have to include January in this recap because two super exciting things happened this month as well.) BHC Press submitted The Andromeda’s Ghost into Publishers Weekly, along with several other upcoming titles of theirs, in the hopes that they would be featured in PW’s Spring 2020 Announcements page. And The Andromeda’s Ghost was featured under the SF, Fantasy & Horror Listings! Woot woot! Also, the manuscript my sister and I had been working on together for a little over a year, a young adult urban fantasy titled Death’s Curses, was completed this week. It will be sent off to beta readers within the next few days. Once we get their feedback, we’ll be applying necessary changes and then submitting it to BHC Press to be considered for publication. 

It’s been a fun, exhausting, and productive year. And this year promises to be similar. Things I’m looking forward to so far in 2020:

  • In February, I Dare You to Love Me will be participating in a library marketing campaign by New Shelves Books, a book sales and marketing company. My book, along with several others, will be featured in a catalog that will be sent to libraries across the country who are looking to add new books to their inventory.
  • In May, my husband and I will be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary by going on an Alaskan cruise. We’ll be leaving our son for a whole week! Of course, he’ll be a year old by then and he’ll be well taken care of by his grandmas but…I still have mixed feelings.
  • In July, The Andromeda’s Ghost will be published!

In the meantime, there’s lots of work to be done! On my writing schedule, I have the last book in The Andromeda Chronicles to finish, the last book in The Dare Trilogy to start, and a whole mess of plot issues to fix in the first book of my faerie series, tentatively titled The Sentinel’s Test. Not to mention there’s a novelette series that has been on the back burner since Asta and the Barbarians was published. So, yes, lots to do! I can’t wait to get started!

A Nostalgic Post

Remember when I took a poetry class to challenge myself since I’m not so great at writing poems? Well, I was cleaning out my USB stick the other day and happened upon a folder with some old assignments. I felt both pride and embarrassment upon reading through them. Here are two of my favorites:

 


 

A Cat and His Dog 

(Inspired by my pets)

The dog thinks she’s the alpha of the house.

The dog is wrong.

She watches cars and people pass through the window,

Barking at anyone and anything.

Unless they come through the door.

Then they’re friends.

The dog thinks I enjoy playing with her.

The dog is wrong.

When Mom and Dad can’t toss the ball for her

She charges and snaps and barks at me.

The dog is often very sorry for this.

I make her cry and retreat every time.

The dog thinks she’s Mom and Dad’s favorite.

The dog is wrong.

She gets treats and belly rubs and sleeps at Dad’s feet.

I get to sleep on the couch.

Mom doesn’t let the dog sleep on the couch.

Enough said.

The dog thinks we’re friends.

The dog is wrong.

Sure, we share the water bowl sometimes.

When I sneak out through the dog door,

We eat grass together and watch the birds.

And when I’m full and the dog asks very nicely,

I let her finish my milk…

I suppose the dog isn’t always wrong.

 


 

My Salted Pine

(Inspired by my grandfather’s ranch)

Freshly tilled earth squishes between my toes

Releasing memories of water, fertilizer, vegetation

My grandfather works hard to nurture his fields

They reward him with good produce every season

Sunshine weaves through the leaves to meet the top of my head

Bringing memories of summer, play, blackberries

My cousins and I once ran through these fields

Raced up the chicken coop to pick the berries that grew there

The wind whispers across the land

Churning up memories of rain, clouds, thunder

I often sat before the front window of my grandparent’s house

Watching the weather wreak havoc across their land

My tree sways and gestures with its branches

Recounting memories of adventures, epiphanies, dreams

This was my place of solitude, the place I could escape to

The place I came to think

I reach up to press my hand against the creases in the bark

Close my eyes, take a deep breath

And remember being a child

 


 

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting my day job yet. It’s just fun to look back and reminisce. At least, it is for me. Hope you enjoyed them! 😉

Death’s Curses Excerpt

Hey everyone!

I’m hurting for some good feedback.

As you know, my sister and I have been working on a young adult urban fantasy type story about Charlie and Jasmine (a pair of twins that were cursed by Death), and a tough-as-nails rebel from Boston named Esmeralda. The story is told from all three perspectives, with diary entries from a third mysterious party thrown in (it all comes together in the end, trust me). This is the first time my sister and I have tried writing something together as opposed to just brainstorming story ideas or giving each other suggestions for our current works in progress. The genre is also something neither of us has tried writing.

Naturally, we’re a bit self-conscious and uncertain about the quality of the story. I think we’re doing pretty good considering our inexperience, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you guys think! Your feedback is invaluable to our process. Won’t you let us know how we’re doing?

Some things we want to know: Does the story make sense? Are the characters likeable, relateable, semi-believeable? Are there any cliche parts? Can you hear four different and distinct “voices” while reading or does one character’s “voice” sound too similar to another? Is the plot engaging? Is there anything you want to see more of (dialogue, setting description, etc)?

Keep in mind that this is a first draft. We’re more than willing to change things that don’t work but we need to know what those things are first. Here is the first diary entry and the first chapter to get you started. Enjoy!

**A note to my more conservative readers: Esmeralda is a complicated kid. She smokes, swears, and behaves disrespectfully. She might come off as offensive or abrasive at first but she does mature and find healing by the end of the story. If you’ll bear with her, I’m sure you’ll come to love her, jagged edges and all.**


April 11th, 1718

What is time? Is it merely an instrument to dictate the passing of years? Is it the friend that reminds us of who we once were? Is it the soothing doctor who erases deep hurts and covers them with protective scabs? Or is it something far more sinister?

I have been dwelling on the question of late. I thought I knew the answer once. Now, there is no way to tell for certain.

I’ve lived longer than I look. I was born when time was recorded differently. It has been too long since we visited our roots. Our home no longer exists, for our people died out centuries ago. Even the land itself has changed. We are all that survived that race, my Jerebald and myself. Adelina and Zebded still live as well, but they have forgotten where we came from. They have new aliases to hide their heritage. They are always amalgamating with the passing time. Meriabey and Frases only laugh whenever we mention home. They don’t realize how truly wondrous it was and how foolishly we discarded it.

The only reason I am recording my thoughts at all is because I no longer feel safe confiding in my comrades. Jerebald understands, for he has always understood me. The others used to, but in this last decade or so, I have noticed the change. My friends are not who they once were. Sometimes I look at them, listening to the words they utter, but find no trace of my beloved friends anywhere. Our views differ where once they were akin. It frightens me to think that we may not last together another decade.

We all chose this life. We all made the pact. We all swore an oath to be together forever. But forever has taken a toll on us. I fear it will be our doom. Us; the immortals. Our greatest desire, our greatest triumph, could be our undoing.

Again, I return to the question. What is time? It is the handler of change, a force of destruction, like a river beating relentlessly against an immovable stone. Our friendship, once immovable, once strong, once indestructible, has met its match.

….

Esmeralda

I threw the door open to the boys’ restroom, skidded to a halt just inside, and fell back against the door. Straining my ears to hear over the pounding of my heart, I bit back a smile.

“What kind of sicko hides in the boys’ bathroom?” Randi said, her voice warped with disgust.

“She can’t stay in there forever,” Karen said. “Let’s wait around. A boy’s bound to go in and kick her out.”

“We’ll see about that.” I glanced at the guy standing at the urinal, giving me an incredulous look over his shoulder. “Hey. How’s it going?”

Despite his surprise, his voice was calm. “I was trying to take a piss before some girl decided to come barreling in.”

“I’m not some girl. I’m Esmer.”

The boy scoffed. “What kind of name is that?”

“The name a couple of gypsies thought would be cool,” I said with barely suppressed annoyance. “What did you get saddled with?”

The boy sighed heavily and zipped up his pants, apparently giving up. “Charlie.”

I rolled my eyes. “Congratulations. You’re one of the lucky few with an average name these days.”

Charlie flushed the urinal and turned. He was shorter than I was but not by much. He was pale, with brown eyes, thick lashes, and dark skater hair that curled out from under his backwards ball cap. There was a skateboard strapped onto his plain black backpack.

Not bad, I couldn’t help but think.

Charlie gave me the once over with a quizzical look on his face. “The fact that I’ve never seen you before suggests you’re new but your clothes tell me you’re a native.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said, pushing away from the door. The black cotton skirt I wore ruffled lightly around my ankles as I moved.

“Does your shirt really need a vest?”

My eyes narrowed. “Who died and made you the fashion police?”

Charlie shrugged and went over to the sink to wash his hands. “I’m just trying to figure out how the ensemble works in your mind. The combat boots are a little out of place, if you ask me.”

“Nobody did ask you, but if you must know my dad was a marine. He gave me these.”

Charlie paused for a moment, eying my boots through the mirror. “Okay, that’s pretty dope. Any particular reason you’re here or do you just enjoy making strangers uncomfortable?”

“Who doesn’t enjoy making strangers uncomfortable? Watching them struggle for words is hilarious.”

Charlie shook off the excess water from his hands and then reached for a paper towel. “Who’d you piss off?”

I snorted. “Some chick named Randi. I didn’t know I needed to be initiated into her gang before I could smoke with them. I thought it was a pretty stupid rule and told her that her haircut made her look like a dude. I guess she didn’t appreciate my constructive criticism.”

Charlie chuckled. “Yeah, the boys’ bathroom is probably the safest place for you right now.”

“I figured.” Opening the door a crack, I dared to peek out.

One of the security guards was talking to Randi and her posse. Randi pointed at the boys’ bathroom.

“Shit.” I hurried away from the door, messenger bag slapping the backs of my thighs.

Charlie watched me with mild curiosity. “What’re you doing?”

“I’m not here!” I walked into a stall, locked the door, and stood on the toilet seat.

The security guard came into the restroom several moments later. “Curnble.”

“Sir?” Charlie said.

“Have you seen a girl come in here? She’s about 5’10, has short orange-red hair and a nose piercing?”

“No, sir. It’s just me in here.”

The security guard must’ve believed him because he soon left.

I unlocked the stall and came out. “Thanks.”

Charlie backed out of the room with a smirk. “Welcome to Green Bay Prep.” Then he was gone.

I glanced at my reflection and ran a hand through my fiery red hair. Heavy eyeliner and eye shadow made my green eyes pop.

Yeah, he thought I was hot.

Another guy walked in and froze when he saw me. “Um…This is the boys’ restroom.”

I frowned. “I am a boy.”

The stranger blinked several times before slowly backing out. I chuckled to myself and followed.

 

I ate lunch outside the library. The fact that I was eating my cheeseburger like a Neanderthal discouraged anyone from joining me on the bench. War and Peace sat in my lap. People gave me strange looks in passing, but those were easy to ignore. As the new kid in a small private school, I knew I was going to attract attention. At my old public school it had been easier to blend in. There were more freaks, Goths, and wanna-be gangsters to hide behind. There was just Randi and her gang, and a group of skaters who got together behind the cafeteria at this place.

How’s a girl to survive in this preppy purgatory? I thought with a sigh.

The sound of skateboard wheels along the sidewalk made me perk up. What were the chances that was Charlie? So far, my pit stop to the boys’ bathroom had been the most interesting part of my day. Maybe he could rescue me from this boring book I was pretending to read. Unfortunately, it was just one of the guys from the skateboard clique, trying to impress a group of giggling girls huddled together in the courtyard. I slumped back against the bench and frowned down at the book.

I might not be so desperate for good conversation if I had my phone. Man, I miss that thing!

The school was small enough. I was bound to have at least one class with the only guy worth talking to at this place…

 

And I did. Seventh period art class. Charlie rushed in five minutes late and had a brief conversation with the teacher. He looked irritated and a little worried. The teacher’s brow furrowed, but she nodded and assured him that he wouldn’t lose his place in the class. Charlie thanked her before rushing out of the room.

I watched the exchange with rapt attention. Getting permission to skip out of class on the first day of school? This guy just got more interesting.

Now that he was gone, the teacher proceeded to introduce the class to the projects we’d be doing this year. What a snore fest.

The only reason I signed up for this class was because I needed one more elective to graduate and my options had been limited. My move to Seattle had been very last minute; most of the classes had already been filled by the time I got here. It had been this or choir. I thought I had chosen the lesser of two evils. (I loved listening to music but I couldn’t sing to save my life.) Now, I was starting to think I was wrong. Fifty minutes later, the bell rang and I was free.

Well, not really…

Great Aunt Dinah’s graying Cadillac was waiting for me just outside the school’s main entrance.

If I cared about what my rich, spoiled peers thought of me, I might’ve been embarrassed.

“Not that I give a damn, but how was your first day of school?” she barked once I’d opened the door.

Aunt Dinah was the crotchety cat lady that darkened her neighborhood. She didn’t just frown; she scowled. She was too proud to wear glasses. Her squinting made her look like she disapproved of everything and everyone, which wasn’t far from the truth. She always wore her white hair in a bun. I doubted she even let her hair down to sleep. Oh, and she never left the house without her fluffy pink slippers.

I slammed the door closed, dropped my book bag by my feet, and said nothing.

“Sorry to hear that,” Aunt Dinah said as we pulled away from the school. She didn’t sound very sorry. “There are plenty of chores waiting for you at the house to take your mind off of things.”

I glared out at the window at the cars and buildings we passed. “I have a lot of homework to do.”

“Which you can do after your chores. You’re a smart girl. I’m sure you’ll manage your time wisely.”

I slouched in my seat because I knew it would bother her. “You give me too much credit. I was banished to live with you for the year after all.”

“Sit up straight. You might have made poor decisions in your personal life, but that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of balancing two projects.” She struggled with her turn signal. “Oh, I almost forgot. Your mother called this morning just after I dropped you off.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, yeah? What did she want?”

“To wish you a good first day and to send her love.”

I chewed on my lips, picturing the look on my mom’s face the night she had decided she’d had enough.

With exhausted tears in her eyes, she’d turned to her husband and said, “All right, Hunter. I give up. Deal with it your way.”

My stepdad had been more than happy to send me to his aunt in Seattle. He’d been itching to get rid of me since he moved in. He told my mom that Aunt Dinah would be able to teach me “a thing or two about discipline.” He assured my mom that I wouldn’t come back home the same “rebellious, stubborn child” I had been since my dad died. And that was all she’d needed to hear.

Despite the ache building around my throat, I forced a snort. “The guilt has probably settled in by now.”

“Your mother made the right choice,” Aunt Dinah said with confidence. “There is nothing for her to be guilty about.”

“Uprooting me from the only place I’ve ever lived just before my senior year of high school and forcing me to come to the other side of the country to live with a relative she’s never met doesn’t sound the least bit wrong to you? For all she knew, you could’ve been crazy, or an unstable old lady with Alzheimer’s, or a super neglectful person who would’ve let me starve to death!”

“Have some faith in your father, Esmeralda,” Aunt Dinah said, exasperated. “He wouldn’t have sent you to live with anyone who couldn’t handle taking care of you.”

I shook my head. “Hunter is not my father.”

Aunt Dinah pursed her lips. “He’s married to your mother, isn’t he? He deserves your respect.”

“The last time I checked, respect was earned.”

Dinah sighed as she pulled into the driveway of her ridiculous mansion. “I have my work cut out for me it would seem.”

I looked up at the house, dread making my stomach knot.

This monstrosity of brick and mortar had two stories with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sitting room, a library, a kitchen separate from the dining room, a foyer large enough to comfortably fit a Hummer, and the biggest wooden staircase I had ever seen. Not to mention the attic and the wine cellar could have passed for third and fourth stories. The exterior sported ridiculous Corinthian columns and a second story porch with a wrought iron balustrade. The clapboard cladding had been painted blue years ago but was now so pale it was almost gray. The grounds were lush and green, having been trimmed and watered by Dinah that very morning. It was more space than anyone would ever need and it annoyed the hell out of me.

“Why can’t you live in an apartment in some retired folks’ center like a normal old person?”

“Not that it’s any of your business but this is my family’s estate. I’d rather it stay in the family.” She climbed out of the Cadillac and shut the door none too gently.

I followed my aunt up the walkway. “You didn’t think to hire a maid?”

“Maids are expensive. Aside from being mentally taxing, you’re free.” Aunt Dinah opened the front door and scowled over her shoulder at me. “Well, come on! It’s not going to clean itself.”

I gritted her teeth and suppressed a groan. I hate my effing life.


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Surprise!

I know I’m late in posting something new on here but I have a really good excuse, I promise.

May 18. 4:00AM. I was suddenly wide awake. Then I felt and heard a distinct pop, kind of like the sound you hear when you pop a bubble in your chewing gum. My coworker had described this to me when she told me about the time her water broke so I carefully got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. No sooner had my feet touched the tile than water began to rush down my legs.

“Hey, babe?” I squeaked, slapping on the lights.

My husband sat bolt upright in bed. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I think my water just broke.” (Which was, in hindsight, a ridiculous thing to say. Water was literally pouring out of me. There was no way this could be anything but my water breaking. But I was groggy and a little scared so I think I can let it go.)

My husband leapt into action, yanking on some clothes and gathering my overnight bag. I called the hospital to verify that we were supposed to go there right away and then proceeded to change out of my wet clothes. (A fruitless effort since the more I moved, the more water came but I’ll spare you the gory details.) We rushed to the hospital, giddy as school girls, and managed to get to labor and delivery without incident. I was so thankful we’d taken those birthing classes earlier because we knew exactly where to go and what to do. My husband filled out the paper work. I was wheeled into a room and given a gown. It was confirmed in a matter of minutes; my water had broken. Baby Bennett was coming three weeks ahead of schedule.

There were no contractions yet. The nurses wheeled me into a private birthing suite and then gave me something to kick start the contractions. It only took two to three hours before my body got the hint and continued the process on its own. I lasted five hours without the epidural. Silly me; I thought I might try toughing this thing out while watching HGTV. But when they told me I was only three centimeters dilated and the pain was already more intense than anything I’d ever felt before, I said screw it! “Give me drugs!” Having a giant needle shoved between two vertebrae in my back was nothing short of terrifying, especially because I couldn’t see when the needle went in. (That’s how I cope with needles; I have to watch them go in so that I can brace myself and breathe through the process.) My husband helped steady me. I was numb from the waist down within the hour.

For the next nine hours, I was able to rest and simply watch the contractions come and go on the monitor. Friends and family visited, talked, helped me forget I was in labor. Too many nurses to count came and went, updating me on my progress, moving me from one position to another. Finally, they declared me ready to push. It was…peaceful. My husband stood on one side of me, my nurse on the other. She coached me through it until it was time to call the doctor. It was just the four of us then, me pushing and breathing while they encouraged me. It only took twenty-three minutes. Then I heard that iconic wailing. A child was placed on my chest.

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I’d seen this moment before in movies and TV shows. Mothers had tried to describe it to me in the past. None of that did it justice. I’m having trouble describing it now. I remember feeling tired and relieved but also a bit overwhelmed. So much had happened in the last fourteen hours–in the last eight months actually! It was hard to believe it was all over. The thought hit me, “This is my son.” And that’s when the tears came.

My son.

MY SON.

Bennett Mordecai Fox. Five pounds fifteen ounces. Eighteen and three quarter inches long. He was a picture on a screen, a heartbeat on a monitor, a flutter or a kick in my stomach. And now he was a little person in my arms.

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My nurses and doctor marveled at how perfect he was. If he’d come any earlier, he would’ve had problems with his lungs or his immune system. But aside from having slightly lower blood sugar than normal, he was healthy. Still, they asked us to stay for forty-eight hours so they could run tests, be sure he was going to be all right. His blood sugar increased the more he ate. He passed all the other tests with flying colors. They gave us the OK and we brought him home Monday afternoon.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since. Between figuring out this surprisingly complicated thing called breastfeeding (it DOESN’T come naturally? Whaaaaaat?), diapering, burping, and feeding this little human being at all hours of the day and night, my husband and I have hardly had a moment to ourselves. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We’ve gone out twice to celebrate our anniversary (he surprised me the day of, I surprised him over the weekend) and left Bennett with trusted loved ones. Plus both my parents and my husband’s mother have come to visit. They helped a ton.

Now we’re on our own. My husband went back to work almost two weeks ago. I’ve been surviving ever since, sleeping when I can, doing a little house work here and there, trying to build a new routine. I always knew being a mom would be difficult. Never imagined it would be this time-consuming. And I only have one child! But before I can get too overwhelmed, Bennett will do something adorable or just smile and suddenly things don’t seem so hard.

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This is my life right now. It’s busy. It’s exhausting. It’s difficult. It’s full of joy. It’s temporary. I know someday Bennett won’t need me as much. Someday I’ll have downtime again and get back into my writing. In the meantime, I’ll just try to enjoy the here and now.

 

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