If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!

Happy People

Happy People

If you’re over 50—or if you’re currently enrolled in kindergarten—you’ll know the title is from a song. Though whether we’re happy or not may not be  so simple to know. We all clap our hands anyway. Myren, my curmudgeonly chauffeur, says he never clapped his hands in kindergarten when his class sang that song. Big surprise. Myren aside, we all want to be happy.

But how do we know if we’re happy, technically speaking? Well that’s a matter for experts to examine, including Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and bestselling author on the subject of living long, healthy & happy. I’ve read Buettner’s articles and many others about happiness—took a whole college course in psychology focusing on what makes happiness tick. Myren is rolling his eyes and I’m ignoring him because I’m happy—and sane.

After all that reading and studying, I’ve come up with my personal list. Check it out (everyone except Myren) to see how happy you are.

Top 7 ways you know if you’re happy:

  1. You laugh a lot. Like every day. Multiple times a day. Sounds simple, right? But really think about this one before you answer it for yourself. How often do you laugh? (Also, how often do you cry?)
  2. You like going to work every day. Especially if you’re like me and you don’t have to go anywhere! It’s no surprise that a long commute can be a big negative in people’s lives according to Buettner. It’s also no surprise that liking your job can make you happy.

You don’t even have to like your job if you like the people you work with. In fact, according to Buettner and others, liking your fellow employees and having friends at work is more important than making more money.

I can personally attest to the truth of this! (Myren is suspiciously quiet on the subject of workplace happiness. His mouth is clamped shut. I think he may be asking me for a raise later. But I digress…)

3.  You have a great social network and get together with friends/family often. Everyone agrees about how important the people in your life are to your happiness, right?

4.  You are healthy.

5.  You make a decent living. No need for riches. But just in case, I did buy a Powerball ticket when the jackpot went to $625 million yesterday. It would be a kick to play Santa Claus with all that money. Which brings me to the next tellfor happiness.

6.  You focus on others with acts of kindness, helpfulness, care, donating and/or volunteering. Or maybe you’re there for someone with a shoulder to cry on in a tragedy.

7.  Life Balance. You have the right amount of work, social and sleep—and all those other healthy things like staying active. This is no news for anyone who spends too much time at work, or too much time sitting around. Or not enough time sleeping!

Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?LadySleeping

I’m going to work on getting more sleep!

(And I’m going to give Myren a big hug because he needs it.)

Tell me what you plan to do to improve your happiness.

 

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Posted in Stephanie's Posts, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Super Worm Moon” and the Vernal Equinox

isThis morning, I’m typing this while on Spring Break with my son. He wanted to go to Williamsburg, VA to do a very free form kind of Revolutionary War and Civil War tour. Odd for an almost 20 year old, I know, but he’s a remarkable young man—and yes, I’m incredibly biased. So is his father (both biased and remarkable). Our apple didn’t fall too far from that tree.

is (2)Today is the Vernal Equinox. That is a day of celebration for me, since balance in all things is something I try to achieve. Great for me, since I’m a light loving woman and tomorrow the days continue getting incrementally longer and my days become (hopefully) more productive.

 

I carry a small pocket calendar in my purse. That calendar has a quote—meant to be is (3)inspirational—in the right-hand top corner. The quote for this week reads: “To see what is right and not do it is a lack of courage.” (Confucious). Fits right in with the American Revolution theme as well as the Civil War theme. It also has something vital to say about today’s political landscape. We can argue about who is right, and who is fundamentally misguided—history/herstory will ultimately have insight none of us can see while immersed in it, but, what is not arguable is doing the right thing. Whatever that may be for each of us.

Seeing living history this week with my son has shown me the world has changed dramatically. Yet, the things that move us, that drive us to action, are the same things our forefathers and foremothers struggled with and tried to get right. I’d flip that quote on its head. It seems far simpler to me than Confucious made it. I’d rewrite it (and yes I get the hubris in daring to rewrite one of the world’s great thinkers—I get the abject irony as well, I simply don’t care) to read: “Have the courage to do what you know is the right thing.”  Stand up and be heard, or sit down, shut up, and let others speak for you.

is (4)Guess I’ve got a Revolutionary heart. Maybe it’s the venue. Maybe it’s the fact that Spring is here and it’s time for new growth. Here’s hoping we all stand up and do what we believe is right, each and every day.

COOL STUFF: In the Northern Hemisphere tonight if there are clear skies we should be able to see a, “cosmic triple play”. A full moon hasn’t landed so close to the first day of Spring since 2000. Tonight, according to EarthSky.org we’ll see a full moon dubbed the “super worm moon” on the equinox. What’s really cool is that the moon’s orbit is egg-is (5)shaped (here’s that smile inducing irony again) its perigee is especially close to us. It’s going to look huge. By 9:43 p.m. ET the moon will reach its “full phase”. As a result of all the cosmic greatness happening tonight, the moon will appear 14% larger and 12% brighter. A “super-moon”.

I know I’ve been all over the place with this blog. I’m okay with that. It all boils down to, enjoy the time you have with those you love. Be aware of your surroundings and your place in history, because you have an obligation to those who came before and those who will come after. Do the right thing, because there is no alternative. Enjoy the light. Howl at the moon. Love our planet and our fellow inhabitants.

is (1)

Happy Vernal Equinox!

 

Leigh

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad’s 79th birthday. He’s almost and octogenarian, but I certainly don’t think of him as elderly. He still has that sharp physicist’s mind and he hasn’t slowed down – he hikes, canoes and camps in the summer and skis in the winter, and he goes to the local climbing gym every week. He looks after my kids often and bounces on the backyard trampoline with them. He’s all kinds of amazing.img063

Dad’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, so when I was a kid, we would usually make him a green birthday cake. My sister and I would cut out leprechauns, tape them to metal skewers and use them as cake decorations. Here’s a photo from about 1975. I’m the cutie on the right.

All these years later, I’m so blessed to still have my wonderful dad around to talk to or see just about every day. Hope your birthday is awesome, Dad! You’re the best.

Posted in Susan's Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

What have you learned from this experience?

I’ve been on this fiction journey now for four and a bit years, and I’ve just typed THE END in my seventh novel, with novel number eight more than three quarters done. I have a heap of novellas under my belt, too, including three for Authors of Main Street.

So, in the immortal words of my own personal romantic hero, “What have you learned from this experience?” (Not, incidentally, what you want to hear when you’ve just bumped your toe or broken your heart. But I love you, darling.)

I’m still learning, but here are my top five lessons from my experience in the wild and wonderful world of Indie publishing.

Lesson 1: We do better together than apart

Since joining various Facebook groups for fiction, I’ve ‘met’ many wonderful authors. My to-read list has expanded at an alarming rate, but I’ve also been privileged to share their insights, tidbits from their research, and their encouragement as I’ve dipped my toes into the indie publishing water.  I’ve also joined three collaboratives of writers, the Bluestocking Belles, the Authors of Main Street, and Speakeasy Scribes.

These are people I can depend on to cheer my successes and commiserate when I feel defeated. I love you guys.

Without the retweeting and sharing of my friends, far fewer people would have heard of my books. And I am keen to return the service whenever I can. Readers are not a scarce resource to be hoarded; an enthusiastic reader will devour the books of many authors. When we share, when we support one another, we grow a larger market to benefit us all.

Lesson 2: 20 December is a terrible date to launch a new book

The 1st; maybe the 10th; maybe the 30th. But I launched my first book on the 20th.

The 20th was a really, really, bad idea, and very nearly did me in. So many competing demands. We have a habit of giving the grandchildren a craft day, and the year I published my first book we did two (one full Saturday for the older children, and one for the younger). At the time, I worked full-time in commercial publishing (I’m now down to three days a week), and 30 years of experience should have taught me that clients pile on the deadlines in the three weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Zealand summer holidays. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on Christmas shopping and baking.

I did all my own editing, cover design, proofreading, formatting, marketing, and so on. The week leading up to 20 December was insane, and the next week, as I publicised the book, even crazier. And that week included Christmas Day.

Let’s not do that again, okay?

Lesson 3: Don’t leave the cover till the last week

I’ve done a lot of research on covers, and looked at hundreds trying to work out what I like and what I don’t. I downloaded Pixelmator for the Mac, and my PRH transferred across a heap of fonts from the ancient version of InDesign on our old publishing company’s computer. We experimented with fonts till we found some we liked. But – with final tweaks on the image — the cover I actually used wasn’t completely ready until 12 December, just a couple of days before I uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon.

More pressure than I needed. Since then, my covers have been done before the book goes on preorder. In fact, I’ve just sent off for a quote on a cover photo for the four books that come next in the series I’ve just started.

Lesson 4: Distribution takes time – preorder is the way to go

I uploaded the first book on 16 December my time. The book began to be downloaded from Smashwords straight away. Somehow, I’d managed not to take that into my calculations, but hey — a download is a download, right? It took several days to filter through to the resellers from Smashwords. Apple finally started showing the book on 27 December, and didn’t really pick up speed for several days.

Amazon started selling immediately, too, but didn’t really begin to move until they made it free (see Ask for what you want, next).

Putting Farewell to Kindness up for preorder five weeks before release definitely lightened my stress load. And Baron for Becky went up nearly three months in advance. Since then, I’ve always tried for three months if I can.

Lesson 5: Ask for what you want; it’s less stressful than waiting

Ask for reviews. Ask for ratings. People can say ‘no’. But you lose nothing by asking. One thing I asked for was a free listing on Amazon. I was giving the novella away to give people a taste of my writing style, but Amazon insisted on a price of 99c.

I’d been told that Amazon would price match, and that I should ask people to request price matching. So I did. And nothing happened. I read discussions on forums where authors talked about how hard it was to get price matching. But then I thought ‘why not ask’?

So I emailed Amazon, told them that the novella was free at Apple and Barnes & Noble, that my strategy was to give it away free to publicise the next few books, and that — if they price matched — we’d both benefit in the long term. Within 24 hours, it was free on Amazon to US purchasers, and that slowly spread to their other stores.

So ask. People just might say ‘yes’.

Posted in Jude's Posts | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Author Visits and Book Clubs

rose arbors ghostAs an author, it’s always a thrill to have your book chosen by a book club. Today, I was to speak to the Goleta Book Club about my novel, A Ghost of a Second Chance. I also had an appointment to tour a private school in Santa Barbara County. (My Canterbury Romance Series revolve around a private school in Santa Barbara, you can read more about this coincidence here.) Sadly–hopefully, not tragically–my tour of the school had to be canceled because they had to be evacuated because of potential mudslides. And given the spotty weather conditions, we decided it would be best if I stayed at home and meet with the Goleta Book Club via Skype.

Which seemed like the perfect solution, until due to difficulties on their end, they were able to see and hear me but not vice-a-versa. So, I talked and they sent me questions via text. This seemed less than optimal until I realized it gave me the unique opportunity to capture our conversation and share it. If you’d like to read A Ghost of a Second Chance, you can GET YOUR COPY HERE

So, here are some snippets of my discussion with the Goleta Book Club. Of course, the questions will be different for every author and every book, but this might provide some insight on what to expect if you ever get the lucky opportunity to meet with a book club and discuss your book. (I took out the praise and boiled it down to just the questions.)

Do you have a set writing schedule?

Yes, I try to write/edit/market every day between ten a.m. and four p.m.

How long does it take you to write a book? This one in particular?

I published this book nearly five years ago, so I can’t remember, but I do remember that I loved writing this story. It was the first book I wrote knowing I would self-publish it so it was like a free-fall of my imagination. I wasn’t thinking of genre or publishing houses or agents. I just wrote the story I wanted to write. At about four hundred pages, it’s the longest book I ever wrote. (That’s not completely true, my first draft of The Rhyme’s Library was more than 105,000 words, but it needed to be pared WAY back.)

I’ve written a book, start to finish, in less than a month, but in general, it usually takes me about three months to write a book.

How many edits does your book go through? And do they look very different after you’re finished?

Typically, each book has about four to five revisions, but the basic plot of the story remains unchanged. I may add scenes to further illustrate a character’s motivation or address a plot hole, but in general my stories end up pretty much how I envision them from the beginning.

Why did you decide to make Laine’s father kind of creep? She seems so put together and kind–unlike her dad. And she doesn’t ever really get mad at him, but just brushes him off.

This wasn’t an intentional decision, but I do believe parents are human and they make mistakes. As adults, we make our choices that may or may not reflect our parents’ and their values.

Did you intentionally include your own beliefs in the afterlife?

Of course I didn’t set out to preach a sermon on the afterlife, but to tell an entertaining story. Still, I’m not sad, unhappy, or apologetic with my choice. I personally believe our deceased ancestors are watching over us. And do I think the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone recognized this? Absolutely. But still, I didn’t set out to write a story that reflected that belief. Also, I don’t consider myself a great scriptorian. Even though I do have a daily habit of studying my scriptures, I do so for purely selfish reasons. I would be horrified if anyone wanted to use my works for spiritual guidance.

I loved when Sid told Laine that had he known he would be reunited with Madeline after this life he would have made better choices. I thought it was a powerful teaching moment. Was that intentional?

No. It’s usually during a rewrite when those ah-ha moments occur to me. The first draft is like the basic construction of a house. I’m building walls, installing windows, making sure the plumbing works, but it’s in the rewrites where the epiphanies happen. That’s where the house becomes a home.

You refer to your characters as if they are soooo real to you. Are they? Do you talk to them and see how they look?

I do love my characters, especially my heroes. The longer I spend with them, the more attached I become. When I had to kill a character in my book Seadrift, I was sent into a black place for about a week and was unable to write. Maybe that’s why I stepped away from mysteries (that, and because they take a lot more mental acrobatics.)

Do you ever get writers’ block?

When I get writers’ block it’s usually because my story has somehow gone off the rails. Either my characters are misbehaving or I’ve written them into an impossible situation. When this happens, I usually work on something else like my blog or another book. If I really need to get my book in motion, sometimes I’ll brainstorm with a writer friend.

Do you aspire to have one of your books made into a movie?

I don’t really see myself on that path so I don’t give it a lot of thought. When I think about others reading and evaluating my books, it usually stymies me. I’m much better off to enjoy the writing process and forget about how the books will be received. If I had to think about the book being turned into a movie, I’d be terrified Hollywood would twist my book into something embarrassing. Mentally, I can’t even go there or I’d never write a thing.

Who are some of your favorite authors that have influenced you?

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Wallace Stegner, Anne Tyler, Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman, Lauren Willig, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Brene Brown, Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t pretend to be in their company.

You obviously spend a lot of time writing, do you also spend a lot of time of reading?

I’m not sure if I spend more time reading than writing, but if not, it’s probably close.

What book am I reading now?

Currently on my nightstand I have The Husband’s Secret by Laine Moriarty, Emma by Alexander Mccall Smith,and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Also, by Thursday, I intend to read Newsletter Ninja, by Tammi Labrecque because my writing partner is going to help me revamp my newsletter.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I won’t say that I like it, but I do exercise every day, mostly because if I don’t I’ll start to cry and have emotional break downs. Don’t ask me why, but when I run everyday, I’m happier. I should probably be medicated, but since medicine frightens me, I deal with my depression by spending time outside with friends nearly every day. I also enjoy painting and making crafts, but since they tend to make a mess, I try not to indulge very often because I dislike the clutter. I’m lucky that I have a friend who hosts a monthly craft night where I can make crafts at her house. And then I generally give them away. (Again, clutter.)

Speaking of F-bombs…I have book that I’ve loved but can’t recommend because of language. What can we do to let authors know we find bad language very distasteful? Is there anyway to make a difference?

Personally, I think profanity is stupid. Swearing is just a way to emphasize strong emotions, and there are a million ways to do that without being crass or sacrilegious. Also, how sad is that we’ve taken the sex act and turned it into curse word? But to answer the question, what can we as readers do? Support authors who reflect your values. Leave reviews. Tweet reviews. Writers and publishers will notice.

You said you like self-publishing. What specifically do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?

What I love best about self-publishing is also what I dislike the most. I love the freedom to write what I want when I want. Conversely, I would love to be able to work with a team of editors who could elevate my work. (Not that I don’t love my editor–she’s wonderful and I consider myself blessed to have her in my camp.)

How do you get into self-publishing?

I have several blog posts on my decision to self-publish. You can read them here:

Self Publishing Myth

When the Hooray Goes Away

More on My Decision to Self-publish

An Argument for Self-publishing

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Signs of Spring – Reno style

To say that learning the ways of a new place is an adventure is an enormous understatement. From the San Francisco Bay Area to Reno is a major adjustment. And at no time is that more clear than the beginning of spring.

 

 

Signs that Spring is coming…someday.

  1. The trees are getting buds and little red-breasted birds are appearing in the bare branches. The birds may think it is spring, but the weatherman forcasting snow this weekend is of a different mind.
  2. The weather is getting warmer. If I had ever, in a million years, thought 40° was going to be warmer I would have fallen over laughing. I was a teenaged summer girl, slathered in tanning lotion with Sun-In in my hair.
  3. I am happiest on my computer or reading a book or just about anything indoors. So when I start feeling that urge to go outside and feel the breeze and smell the great outdoors, spring must be coming after all.

Hope you can feel spring coming, or your next season on the other side of the world, wherever you are.


Jill James, romance writer

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Spring is Coming

Spring is already showing itself here in the SE corner of Virginia. While most of the U.S. has been inundated with snow, we’ve had rain. My yard is like a trying to walk on a soaking wet sponge. Squish, squish! Even my dog is complaining. She’d rather stay on the sidewalk, which means I find little “gifts” all around the edges of the walkway. That’s not a big problem until she leaves one in the walk area and I don’t see it. That’s a different squish and usually followed by a few expletives.

I’ll admit I’ve been envious of those with snow. How I would    love to have that pretty white stuff that so many have posted in pictures of their yard. But I don’t feel like shoveling it. I don’t mind driving in it, but I don’t want to clear the car and defrost the car door so it opens. And considering the way my roof is made, I’d have to shovel it. Sorry, I’m too lazy for any of that so rain is what I get. And I’ve got lots of pretty flowers smiling at me.

My teacup for my mini bucket list (see my January 2019 post) for February is actually almost funny for some of you, but I got prescription sunglasses. I’ve never had them. I had the ones that are supposed to darken. That was a long time ago and they never lived up to their claims. I was going to try them again and I was told I wasn’t going to be happy because… So I got these super glasses that are polarized with all the alphabet additions of protection added on to them. I love them! And they made them so that I can read outside, in case I want to sit on my daughter’s patio with my Kindle like I did last summer. I love them so much that I’ve wondered why have I never purchased them in the past? What new thing have you done?

I’d give you another little peek at my newest story. Now available in paperback in stores everywhere and on Kindle. Read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Thursday afternoon it decided to rain. Not a little drizzle, but a full downpour that showed no signs of stopping. Savannah pulled on her beige slacks and paired them with a soft sage-green cable-knit sweater. She studied herself in the mirror. I don’t care if it’s raining. I want to look good. Besides, I’m not a child who will play in the puddles. I’ll wear my boots and my raincoat, and I’ll stay dry. This time she tried wearing a little more makeup. That meant she used some eyeliner and a dash of green shadow on her lids. Please be there and notice me.

“Ready?” Ashley called.

“Yes, let me grab my slicker.” She slipped her feet into her orange rain boots and pulled on her yellow slicker with an orange-billed hood.

“You look like a goofy duck!”

“It keeps me dry.”

“Why can’t you wear an ordinary poncho?”

“Because I have this. And for your information, it was the rage a few years ago.”

“And how old were you?” Ashley groaned. “Two?”

“No! I had one when I was eight. I found this one before I started college and couldn’t resist.”

“You look so ridiculous.”

Savannah grinned at her friend. “Maybe the bright yellow will catch his eye.”

“Are you going to Aldo’s to practice signing or to wrangle a date?”

Savannah rolled her eyes as she pulled her door closed. “I’m going because I need that extra credit. If I get a date out of it, that’s even better.”

Ashley opened her umbrella and squealed as she stepped into the pouring rain. “It’s raining sideways!”

“Ahh! We’ll be soaked.”

Both of them took off in a run towards the large, decorative baldachin that protected the entrance of the art building. Then they made another mad dash to another covered area. By the time Savannah reached the restaurant, her wet slacks clung to her legs and the moisture was seeping down to her boot covered feet.

“Ugh!” Savannah pulled open the door to the restaurant, then gasped as her hand flew to her mouth. Wide-eyed, she prayed that they wouldn’t be tossed out for making noise. Ashley stifled her laughter.

“You are early,” the hostess said. “The silence doesn’t start for another few minutes.”

Savannah’s gaze caught the droplets of water that ran off her billed hood and dripped onto the floor in front of her. Oh, no. I’m a drooling duck. She flicked the orange bill so that the hood flopped onto the back of her slicker. “I’m so sorry.” Her words were forced as she caught her breath. “We just ran all the way from Brindlewood dorms.”

“Oh, you live in those? Didn’t anyone tell you that they are the pits?”

“They’re cheap!”

Someplace from within, someone started a countdown from ten.

“…three, two, one, silence begins now!” The hostess picked up two menus and showed them to a table on the far side of the almost empty dining room.

Savannah hung her slicker over the back of her chair and looked at the menu that hadn’t changed, knowing she’d order the same thing, except she wanted a cup of hot tea. She tried to sign to Ashley but kept messing up. Her frustration level was rising along with the growing chill that covered her legs and feet.

Several people entered the dining room and took seats, but then he came in with the same people he dined with the last time. It’s got to be his family. Savannah couldn’t prevent herself from staring. He was tall – not too tall, maybe the height of her dad. She figured that meant he was at least six feet, but probably not much more. The whole family seemed to sign with ease. I wonder if my parents would learn to sign? Wouldn’t that be fun? Dad wouldn’t have to hush us when he was watching something on the TV.

Ashley kicked Savannah under the table and she realized she’d been staring at the family for too long, but she couldn’t help the feeling that flowed through her. Never had she been that attracted to anyone in her life. It was as though some inner part of her leapt towards him and refused to return.

She managed to tell the waitress what she wanted to eat by pointing.

Ashley rolled her eyes and signed her menu choices.

Savannah scrunched her nose at her friend and mouthed show-off.

Ashley shrugged and made a face. Using the pad of paper, Savannah wrote the words.

Ashley grinned and stuck her nose in the air.

It was all Savannah could do to keep from laughing at her friend’s smug response.

When the waitress brought the hot tea, Savannah picked up the cup and wrapped both hands around the steaming warmth. She wasn’t certain if she wanted to drink it or pour it over herself in an attempt to get warm. Drinking it was the proper thing to do in public, so she politely lifted the cup to her lips and sipped.

When their salads came, Savannah ate hers, but constantly slid her gaze to the table where he sat. It wasn’t until she was halfway finished eating her spaghetti that she caught him staring at her. He quickly looked away, and her heart fell. Maybe he doesn’t like me and that’s why he turned away.

She swirled some pasta on her fork and attempted to keep her attention on her food, but she couldn’t help glancing in his direction.

He was looking at her.

She smiled. Did he? Was that a smile? Was it directed at me or at someone else? Her heart decided to do little flip-flops. She put her fork down and tried to steady the jitters that had taken hold of her guts but she couldn’t resist looking in his direction one more time.

He was signing to someone at the table. But the young teenage female member of that table was now looking at Savannah.

Ashley stuck a note in Savannah’s face.

STOP STARING!

Savannah grimaced and reached for the pad of paper, but Ashley was too quick, snatched it back, and wrote,

BEHAVE!

“No!” Savannah mouthed. But deep inside she knew she had probably made a fool of herself. How many times had her mother told her it wasn’t polite to stare? That’s what she had done almost through the entire meal. She tried to finish her spaghetti, but her appetite was gone. Part of her was elated and the other part was busy berating the euphoric portion. The waitress took their school meal tickets and scanned them. Savannah would forward that emailed receipt to Prof. Stockton for her much-needed credit.

She pulled on her slicker and caught the young man’s gaze. There was no question in her mind that he smiled at her. She winked at him as she snapped her slicker closed. A warm pulse shot through her as she turned away and left the restaurant with Ashley.

The restaurant door had barely closed behind them when Ashley let loose. “Have you lost your mind? You were worse than a love-sick preteen with a first crush.”

“I was not. And he smiled at me.”

The rain had slowed to a drizzle.

“He was probably laughing at you. I can’t believe you spent the whole meal with your eyes glued to him.” Ashley fumbled with her umbrella.

“I did not.”

“Yes, you did!” The umbrella opened as a gust of wind caught it, snapping a little metal piece. “I think my umbrella is hosed.”

“My slicker still works.”

“How did I manage to gain a best friend who impersonates a duck and acts like a fool in front of a guy? He’s probably going to be looking over his shoulder to make certain he doesn’t have an oversized yellow duck stalking him.”

Wind whipped down Kings Street and brought with it more rain. They both yelped and took off running at full speed towards their dorm.

Ashley swiped her electronic key, allowing them to enter the main lobby of the old building.

“What are you going to do now?” Savannah whispered. Every student in the building had signed a no excessive noise contract before moving in. It was extremely rare to hear more than muffled voices, even in the lobby.

“A hot shower and I’ve got to study. I’ve got that test tomorrow in chemistry. What about you?”

“I’ll take my shower before I go to bed. I’ve got a paper to do on propaganda techniques over the years.” A little chunk of frustration fell into Savannah’s overly filled stomach as she faced the evening’s workload.

“How boring.” Ashley rolled her eyes.

Savannah nodded and raised her hand in a wave as Ashley opened the door to her room. Savannah stepped into her own room and closed the door. She knew she needed to concentrate on her paper, but that little part of her wiggled and jiggled over his smile. No matter how much Savannah tried to concentrate, the memory of his handsome face seemed to constantly flash in front of her. I don’t even know his name.

Over the next week, she watched for him on campus, but she didn’t see him. It wasn’t a huge campus compared to those with enough students to create a small city, but the campus covered a lot of acres. Maybe he is someone who lives in the community and doesn’t attend the university. He does look older. She tried to conjure up every possible explanation for not running into him. Maybe I should ask Prof. Stockton. He’s probably in an advanced class, perhaps taking it at night. The best that she could do was content herself with the hope of seeing him at the next Silent Spaghetti Supper. That’s not what she wanted. She wanted to spend an afternoon talking over a cup of coffee or maybe laughing about the day’s events while eating pizza at Sal’s.

I could get lost in that man. Sharing days, plans, and dreams for their future… Oh, yeah! There was no question in her mind that she was hopelessly hooked on a total stranger.

All she needed was an actual chance to talk to him. Conversations that will last all night…oh, and kisses…yes, kisses…lots of those. Her mind wandered to places where it didn’t need to be. Where are you hiding? When she wasn’t in class, she checked all the normal places where students hung out, but she never saw him. She finally came to the conclusion that he was not on the campus.

She rushed to her textual mediums class and took a seat just in time to hear the professor say to take out a piece of paper and pen. What? A quiz? Paper? Really, paper? Oh, I hope I have a pen. She dug through her purse until she found one. A half hour later, she sighed with relief. Now, she was glad she had studied. But she was facing a test in ASL, and she probably had more than two hundred words to memorize. I can do it. It’ll be easy. I just need to concentrate.

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