Sign Up

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Conquered Shores by Brooklynn Rivers

Conquered ShoresConquered Shores by Brooklynn Rivers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical romance is not my preferred reading material, but this book was fun, sexy, and well written. The Norse mythology was interesting, and the action was pretty exciting. Rivers is an excellent writer, and I found it to be a slick read.

The best part of this book were the love scenes, partly due to the author's rich description of the settings of these scenes. I enjoyed the bath scene quite a bit, and the scene at the banquet with the candles (and what followed) was my favorite of the book.

Fans of Viking romance will love this story.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Review: Rannigan's Redemption by Pandora Spocks

Pandora Spocks writes in this delightful way that sucks me right in and forces me to fall in love with the characters. (If you haven't read Luke and Bella: Two Streets Over, do it now.) This book is about irresistible attraction. Maggie plans to work for the district attorney's office upon graduation from law school, but she finds Michael Rannigan at a job fair and wins a job offer from his prestigious firm. They work together, fighting sexual tension while he dates a parade of Barbie Dolls, and leading up to a finish that left me pining for the next episode. The book feels good when you read it. The author creates characters who live in the reader's heart. And the sexy parts are hot too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Merry Christmas, Eve by Suzie Jay

Merry Christmas, EveMerry Christmas, Eve by Suzie Jay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book would be at home on the Hallmark Channel. It's sweet and happy and Christmassy. Read it next to the Christmas tree. It will make you feel as good as a cup of hot cocoa.

View all my reviews

Review: Desecrated Beauty by Kyleigh Castronaro

Desecrated Beauty (Twisted Fairy Tales, #1)Desecrated Beauty by Kyleigh Castronaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing in this book is spectacular, which is what kept me reading even though the story wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't realize it was a dystopian vampire story at first, and while I knew it was a retelling of a fairy tale, I didn't realize which one it was right away. When I figured it out, I was delighted by the subtle, yet sophisticated references to the original story. For me, those touches were what made the book special. I kept reading because I wanted to see how the author incorporated the rest of the story.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: She Dies at the End, by A.M. Manay

She Dies at the End (November Snow Book 1)She Dies at the End by A.M. Manay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to preface my review with this: I don't usually choose read vampire stories. I was reluctant to read this one, but agreed based on a friend's recommendation. Now for my review.

On page one, I thought, "Wow. This is slick writing." Very tight. No extra words. No unnecessary adverbs or weasel words. Just good, clean writing. By the end of the first chapter, I was in love with November, the main character. By the middle of the second chapter, I couldn't put the book down. I finished the book two days ago, and I still think of the characters as if they will show up in front of me, just to give me an update. To me, that is the mark of an excellent book. I crave book two.

This book gave me a rare "aha" moment. I thought I didn't care for fantasy/sci fi. As I read this book, I thought of the way I connected with Stephen King's Salem's Lot, and I finally understood. I LOVE a good fantasy novel, as long as it is well written. This one is superb.

The characters in this novel are magnetic. From the first pages, I felt as though they were people I knew and wanted to spend time with. To me, characters make the book. I LOVED these characters. I miss them already. I need that sequel. A.M. Manay is talented, and I can't wait to read another of her works.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Blogging Because I'm Stuck

In two days I am going to a writing workshop at the local public library with my daughter. We started writing together in June, but after two chapters, we got busy. She's been with her grandmother a lot of the time, and I had two erotic stories with deadlines to work on. The problem is that I'd like to have a few more chapters ready before we attend the workshop. I can't fall back on the erotica I've written because my daughter is twelve.

So, you may ask. Why are you writing this instead of your story, Lee? Excellent question. I'm stuck. In the weeks since we've worked on it last, the story has lost its spark. I can't get back into the groove. I've tried reading. I've tried jigsaw puzzles. All my usual tricks for jump starting my brain. Still nothing.

It doesn't help that I didn't write down what I think was an important piece of the plot, so I'm not even sure where I was going with that. (I don't know how I managed that. I write EVERYTHING down. When I make a phone call, I write my own name down, just in case.) Sigh...

Here's my plan. I'm going to put myself into the head of a ten-year-old girl and take a shower. All the best ideas happen in the shower.

Thanks for listening.


Review: Walk on the Wild Side by Suzie Jay

Walk on the Wild Side: The Reinvention of Violet MonteWalk on the Wild Side: The Reinvention of Violet Monte by Suzie Jay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Walk on the Wild Side is a quirky, fun read.

Violet devoted her life to loving one man, and he betrayed her. In her search for her life's purpose, she takes a trip, tries her hand at being a detective, starts a business, meets an interesting friend, finds a fabulous apartment, and meets a new man.

Suzie Jay tells the story from Violet's point of view, allowing the reader to connect with her quirky personality and her sometimes crazy plans. This book was a pleasure to read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review: Donut Slut by Bryce Calderwood

Donut Slut!: Ariana's Cream-Filled Magical Sex Adventure (Lesbian Splosh Magical Fantasies)Donut Slut!: Ariana's Cream-Filled Magical Sex Adventure by Bryce Calderwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before you read this book, be sure to watch the video of Ariana Grande licking the doughnuts in the bakery. This ridiculous behavior was screaming out for somebody to write a silly story, and Bryce Calderwood did.

The story is funny and whimsical, especially in light of Ms. Grande's stunt. If it weren't based on this touch of reality, I would not have thought the story so clever. Calderwood gripped the real-world drama by the sprinkles, and crafted something funny and delicious.

The story features Ariana Venti, who tempts fate by ringing a bell in a bakery in spite of written instructions not to. The result is a hilarious limo ride with talking, fucking doughnuts. Calderwood walks the fine line between parody and the ridiculous, and does it with finesse. With the exception of pastry fetishists, readers will not find the story particularly arousing, but it is certainly entertaining.

View all my reviews

Review: Patti Kake- Something Different

Something NewSomething New by Patti Kake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very hot. I love college roommate stories, especially lesbian stories. In this story, Janie wants a guy who is out of her league. Delilah convinces Janie that she can give her the experience she needs to get the guy.

Except they both get hung up on each other and the pleasure to be found between two women. This college roommate story is particularly steamy with tons of hot, lesbian sex. I love that.

What keeps me from awarding the extra star is 1) Mechanics. There are some wonky comma issues- Run on sentences, commas where they don't belong, commas needed where they don't exist. 2) Repetition. Sometimes there's a little too much. 3) Names vs. descriptions. It would make for a smoother read if you say things like "the blond did such and such" or "the skinny girl did..." It would keep you from repeating their names over and over. It's tough when the characters are the same gender. It's easy to confuse pronouns. Giving some descriptive phrases helps.

I enjoyed this a lot. I look forward to watching your writing grow. (You'll be surprised how quickly that happens!) Excellent work, Patti Kake!

View all my reviews

Review: Gathering Clouds by Sandra S. Kerns

Gathering Clouds by Sandra S. Kerns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Compelling story and slick writing.

A sweet romance with layers of suspenseful action. Even without the heat between Gabrielle and Theo, the action would have kept me reading to the end. I know a guy just like Theo. You nailed his self-doubt and his clouded view of his own worth. An excellent read. I'll be checking out other novels by Sandra Kerns.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

People Believe What You Tell Them to Believe

Don't use the word "aspiring" when you're describing yourself on Twitter or anywhere else.

Author Dakota Skye ( posted this on Twitter this morning: Be careful who you share your weakness with. Some people can’t wait for the opportunity to use it against you.

This reminded me of something that I learned in my 30s. People believe what you tell them to believe about you. I'm usually a pretty humble person. I am the first one to see (and point out!) my flaws. This tendency has plagued me throughout my life, going back as far as I remember.

My stomach churns as I write this, but I'll give you the most blatant example. Twenty-plus years later, I'm still ashamed that these words left my mouth. *deep breath* 

When I was a senior in college, I filled out the paperwork to student teach at a local high school. I double-majored in French and Spanish, which I believed was an excellent choice because it doubled the job opportunities for me. I didn't anticipate the effect it would have on how much of each language I would learn in school. The student teaching application asked that dreaded question.  

What is your greatest weakness?

I answered honestly. Anybody with any life experience would have coached me to say something different, but I didn't even think to ask. Stupid, naive, twenty-year-old me wrote, "My greatest weakness is knowing less of each language than I could because I split my studies between the two." (Keep in mind, I learned from coursework. I didn't have the money to travel, and honestly, I didn't have the confidence. That's a whole nother blog post though.)

The result of this foolish statement was rejection from the school I was assigned to, two days before winter break, leaving me to scramble to find another placement. (The upside is that not only did I find another placement, I filled in for a teacher that needed immediate leave, and I got paid a first year teacher's salary for student teaching. Everything happens for a reason, right?) Had I said nothing, and named my weakness as something less damning, no one would have suspected that I was insecure, and I wouldn't have faced that rejection.

I didn't learn from this experience right away though. The year my first child was born, a new principal came to our school. His regime was brutal, with "letters in teachers' files" coming without warning. We called him Hitler, for many reasons, but mostly for the fear he instilled in experienced professionals. 

After my baby was born, I suffered brutal postpartum depression which exacerbated the undiagnosed anxiety disorder I'd lived with all my life. When Hitler got in my face, he reduced me to nothing. Since I was out for two months on maternity leave and had a schedule change when I got back (to remedy a staffing situation with another member of my department), I was not doing the best work of my career. I said things like, "I don't think I'm cut out to be a teacher. I just don't know what else to do. I don't know how to fix this." It wasn't true, but Hitler believed me.

His regime was short-lived. He's a gypsy. He doesn't stay in one place for long. He can't, and here's why. Hitler can rock a job interview. He can sell a school board promises of academic success that he cannot deliver. He gets hired because he tells people what he wants them to believe, and they believe it.

I finally sought treatment for anxiety and depression under his regime. For that, I am grateful to him. He pushed me off the deep end, and I came out okay on the other side. He taught me something important though. He taught to keep my mouth shut most of the time, and when I speak, to say only what will make people believe about me what I want them to believe. 

Do I lie? Nope. I tell the truth, but I don't advertise my flaws. 

We've had a couple different principals since Hitler left. They don't know that I ever struggled with my confidence. Our current principal thinks I've got all my shit together (I do, by the way). He asks if I'll meet a deadline, I smile and say, "Of course." The old me would have made the deadline, but would have expressed the doubt that always nags at me. He asks if I need help, I say, "I got this," and then work with my colleagues to make it happen.

I hear this man talking about other teachers. His opinion about some very good teachers is not high. I know that it's because they tell him to believe that they are not good through their words and actions. He asks, "How are you?" They say, "I was up all night grading papers, and I spilled coffee on my shirt." I say, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" I was up all night grading papers too. My coffee stain is hiding under my sweater. I couldn't find my keys, and I had to turn around halfway to school because I forgot my glasses, but he doesn't know that. He thinks I'm fine because that's what I told him to think.

My Tagxedo illustration at the top is taken from the "About" page on my website. The humble, not-so-self-assured woman inside me is screaming about the size of the word "awards." It kills me to put that out there, front and center. I can't stand bragging. I usually hide my accomplishments, reveling only on the inside. 

But I want people to read my books. What good is writing if no one reads? Therefore, I have to make people believe that I have won awards (I have. It's not a lie.) in order to convince them that they should choose MY BOOKS when they're searching for something to read.

If your Twitter description says "aspiring author," or anything like it, change it. If you want people to read your books, tell them that you are an author. Don't go overboard. If you've never finished writing anything, don't add "award-winning," but you're selling yourself short by telling people that you're "aspiring" to be a writer. If you write, you're a writer. Tell people that, and they'll believe it.

Pretty soon, you'll believe it too. 

 P.S. The bat shape is there to inspire me to finish my story for our Halloween anthology. I swear. I'm going to WRITE today!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Writing with My Daughter

For the first time ever, my daughter and I sat down together and wrote fiction. She's twelve, and she's 100% certain that she can't write a paragraph. That's not true, of course, but I tried to stay on topic and keep her from repeating that too many times.

I've wanted to write something other than erotica for a while, but I can't imagine anyone buying some little story I write without the added bonus of the smut. Young Adult is what I'd like to do, but young adults today like the Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter. I can't even enjoy reading them, much less writing them.

I was brooding on this one morning in the shower, trying to come up with an idea that some kid would actually read. Just as I was ready to resign myself to writing smut forever, my brain switched over to a little story I wrote last summer for Literotica, The Side Effect. This is the closest to Sci-Fi I've ever stepped. In this story, the (foolish) man can't bring himself to go down on the woman he wants to marry, so his sister hooks him up with a woman with questionable ethics from a pharmaceutical lab who gives him a drug with strange side effects--senses and sense organs get mixed up.

As soon as I thought of that little tale, I had my premise. I'm not going to tell you what it is ('cause I don't want anybody stealing my story!), but within minutes of making the connection, I had my main character, her abilities, her family, her backstory. My brain was on fire!

But I was afraid to tell my kids what I was planning. All I needed was a judgmental twelve year old rolling her eyes and saying, "That's stupid, mom. Nobody would read that."

After a couple of weeks, I had to spill it, just because we really needed a good mother-daughter bonding moment. I told her what I was going to do, and braced for the smack-down. Instead, she giggled. "I would SO read that," she said.

Wait. What? It's not dumb? Am I dreaming? Did she just say she'd read that?

So I said, "Well, then you can help me write it."

Today we sat down at the table, each with our graph paper composition books and we started to brainstorm. Then we started to write. We had two good paragraphs written by the time we had to go out for the day, and the minute we got home, SHE ASKED TO WORK ON IT AGAIN.

We finished chapter one before we decided we'd done enough for one day. It needs some polishing, but we are ready to go on chapter two tomorrow.

Writing with my daughter is awesome.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Sell the Cow?

Why sell the cow when you can give away the milk for free?

I wrote my first story in the summer of 2011 and shared it with the world on Literotica.  What a rush it was, getting the first feedback on my stories. My first attempts were journal entries with splashes of outrageous fiction. I wish I could remember how my brain made the jump to writing fiction. Unlike other authors I know, writing fiction was out of my reach. Something other, more creative people did. And then all of a sudden, I was writing Hurricane Season. I have no idea where the idea came from, but it did pretty well on Lit, hovering right around the magic 4.5 point. I thought that was my one story. My one hit wonder.

And then I got another idea. And another. And another. And another. It was awesome! I was a fiction writer. In the winter of 2012, life got hectic, and I pushed the smut aside for a year and a half.

I kept thinking about it though. I kept having other ideas, and I would start stories in my notebook when I had a minute. The stories didn't go away, like I thought they would.

In the summer of 2013, I quit my part time job that consumed more of my life than my full time job, and suddenly, I felt this creative void that ate at me. I picked up my notebook and looked through my story pieces, and then I wrote Skater's Waltz for the Literotica Nude Day Contest. Ice skating in the nude. The idea tickled me to no end. I intended it to be a dirty, little romp for a figure skater and a hockey player, but it morphed into a love story before my eyes. I never thought I'd write a romance, but dammit, I did. (Don't get me wrong. It's dirty.)

My brain took off after Skater's Waltz, and I started posting in the Author's Hangout forum at Lit. A lot of authors were talking about going commercial and selling their ebooks, but I just plugged along, participating in contests and posting my stories.

Why sell the cow when you can give away the milk for free?

That was my philosophy of sharing smut until very recently. I didn't think my stories were good enough for people to spend money on, and I was worried that it wouldn't be worth losing the satisfaction of getting comments on Lit.

What changed my mind was an Amazon author by the name of Ron Mexico. This author copied and pasted one of my stories from Lit, threw a cover on it, and put it up for sale for $2.99. I was furious! Part of me thought I should feel flattered that someone thought that people would pay for it, but I was so pissed. I wasn't ready to take the commercial plunge, so why should somebody else make that decision for me. (Amazon removed the story, but Sr. Mexico has a ton of other stories copied from Lit.)

The incredible Freya Lange gave me the push to sell my stories when she proposed an anthology, Hot Summer Reads, to the members of our writing group. All of a sudden there was a flurry of talk and action about going commercial. Not all of the members jumped on the "sell your books" bandwagon right away, but it was the opportunity I'd been waiting for. I decided to sell the damn cow. I don't even like milk, after all. 

We worked together to make a plan. Freya Lange and TT Tales did a ton of research. JC Winchester already had some books for sale, and his input was valuable to all of us. Freya, TTT, JCW, shea mara, and I are the first wave from our group to sell the cow. MS Tarot and J Kendall Dane won't be far behind.

Our group will be successful. I'm sure of that. In a couple of days, summer will be here, and I'll have time to devote myself to writing smut and selling those cows. How much free milk can the world handle anyway?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Miss Making Shit Up

I miss making shit up.

I've been so busy with the anthology and the end of the year at school, I haven't written a word. The little notes scrawled in the margins of my notebook are becoming unmanageable. I hardly remember the thoughts that prompted them.

My desk calendar at work is much the same. This morning I looked down to see a note in tomorrow's block that says, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that? I don't have a clue.

I miss writing. I miss thinking of people that don't exist and giving them life. I miss the fictional places I've made up in my head. But to start something new, or even to work on something unfinished is NOT a good idea in the days before finals start. I have real work to do. The kind that pays the bills, you know?

Tomorrow is Friday. I might make it. If I do, there's a chair overlooking the creek with my name on it. I think I can. I think I can.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What a Weekend!

Our anthology, Hot Summer Reads, came out this weekend. What a freaking rush. The chatter amongst my fellow authors was invigorating. The updates on how many downloads we got was inspiring. The tweeting was overwhelming. By the end, I was exhausted. And I can't wait to do it again.

By the end of the weekend, I reached my goal of having six ebooks on Amazon, one for each of the six categories on my website. I think it's a good start, and it will hold me for the next two weeks while my life is crazy.

Once things settle down, I'll figure out the right way to tweet and see how giving away a book for a couple of days works out.

One thing I've learned already is that my covers, for the most part, aren't working. I knew that naked bodies were the way to go, but for some of them, I couldn't do it. Eventually I'll get off my high horse and change them, but not right now. I'll do better in the future instead.

The other thing I've learned is that it isn't my best written stories that will sell. Again, I knew that would be true, but I'm pretty surprised to see that the story that is selling the best is the first one I ever wrote, Hurricane Season. I knew nothing about writing fiction, but I put a couple of perfect asses on the cover, and it's outselling all the others put together.

I'm pretty hopeful about this whole Amazon thing though. As long as I can nail down tweeting and make enough money to advertise on Facebook a bit, I may just make this work.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making a change

In the summer of 2011, I started writing erotica. I started with true, but grossly exaggerated, and moved on to my first piece of fiction within weeks. I wrote a few stories, thinking they were the only ones I had in me, and then my real life took over, and I set the smut aside for a year and a half.

In the summer of 2013, I returned to writing. Skater's Waltz was churning in my brain for about two years. The idea of a woman skating naked was powerful, and I thought about it from a bunch of angles.  I thought of a bachelor party, hiring figure skating strippers. I thought of a skater at an early morning practice, all alone except for the Zamboni driver. Somehow I came up with the idea of a former competitive skater working out on a private, frozen pond, stripping while listening to a Jackyl song, Screwdriver.

That was my Literotica Nude Day 2013 contest entry. I felt good about it. It didn't win, but that was okay. What was important was that I was writing again. And I haven't stopped since.

Now I see stories everywhere I look. Every song gives me an idea. I overhear a sentence, and I see a plot forming as clearly as I saw the chick in Frozen building an ice castle. There's a lot going on in my brain.

My conflict comes from the fact that I'm weaning myself away from Literotica. I've enjoyed the feedback, the discussions, the friendships I've made. But the conflict I've found there has spoiled it for me. Too much posturing, grandstanding, fighting and backstabbing.

I'm just about to publish my first stories to Amazon. If I am giving up the feedback and friendship from Literotica, I need something in its place. I'm making the leap to trying to attain some monetary success from Amazon.

My biggest struggle is that my 20k word stories will never sell on Amazon. Erotica readers like shorties. I'm trying to embrace chopping my "babies" into shorter pieces of a series, but it hurts dammit. Sigh.

I have a plan, and hubby says I have to shut down my computer. I guess that's enough to get me through tonight, huh?

It ain't easy being a smut writer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do you know what it feels like to live with anxiety?

Do you know what it's like to live with anxiety? This is an explanation, not a plea for pity.

The month of May is a rough time for me. The rest of the year, I manage my anxiety with 150 mg of Zoloft, and it keeps me from going crazy. The middle of May sneaks up on me every year, and I don't realize it until the third day in a row that I have to take a Xanax. That's when I remember. It's time to up the dosage.

200 mg. I'm two days in, and it happens. The external stressors collaborate. Conspire to hit me from all angles.

My mother just texted me. Hubby's mad because I forgot to go to the Post Office. Kids are tired. Daughter is screaming that I just don't understand. Computer is retarded. Forgot to wash the black pants and white shirt for the band concert in two hours. I wish I hadn't left that comment on facebook. Can't get it to delete. Don't feel like fighting over my opinion on the girl that is suing the university I went to because she didn't pass. Have to ask permission to leave early on Friday. Food allergies on the field trip. Why won't you let me take honors classes, Mom. I know I can do it. Computer is retarded again. Didn't teach 3rd person to Spanish 1 yet. Science fair tomorrow. Field trip tomorrow. Field trip Friday. Field trip Monday. He doesn't know a lick of French, but his IEP accommodations are allowing him to pass. Where is that permission slip? CAN'T FUCKING SLEEP. Get those stories ready, PL. The deadline is looming. Band concert tonight. Late to bed. Kids are still exhausted. May 23. Computer still won't fucking work. Four finals to write. Only 17 days left. Don't miss the Memorial Day boat! Still didn't correct the speaking tests. Or the French 2 projects. So tired. Can't keep my eyes open. Parents call. The bell rings. Third period at the end of the day. Food allergies on the field trip. Email daughter's teacher. And the band teacher. Mom just texted. Never mind the last text. Why did I post that? Am I THAT parent?

It started as a butterfly, fluttering inside while I drove to work, obsessing over yesterday's stresses. And the facebook message. It's that "job interview" feeling, even though I've been working there for 20 years. My heart beats faster than necessary. My breathing is fast and shallow. My hands are cold. I chew the inside of my mouth, but slyly, so no one sees. I put on my mask of calm confidence. I know it fools people. I write in my notebook. It makes me look busy, efficient, in control, bitchy, mean.

I should take a Xanax. I know what this is and where it's going. But I don't. The anxiety is part of the punishment.

Here's where the anxiety takes over.

I scheduled my son's IEP meeting for 2:00 on Friday. It's usually my free period, but this week we have an inservice day. I see the vice principal in the cafeteria. I figured we'd have the afternoon to write final exams, but I ask permission anyway. Here's how that conversation went.

Me: Is there an agenda for Friday's inservice, or will we be working on finals?
VP: I don't know yet. (Insert tone of voice that he usually uses when he knows he has been "out of the loop.")
Me: I have this meeting at the elementary school. My son's IEP meeting? (I explain the situation.)
VP: I have no idea what's going on. (It's Wednesday afternoon. 48 hours in advance.)
Me: Can I arrange it so that if there's nothing scheduled, I'll just leave here at 1:50 on Friday?
VP: (Tone of voice changes to one I don't recognize.) No. I'll have to let you know later.
Me: O-K.

My RATIONAL mind knows all of the following:
1. The VP's "tone" has nothing to do with me. The principal doesn't respect him, and he's pissed off that no one has shared the agenda with him. He's tired of being left out of the loop until the principal dumps the shit jobs on him, and it makes him grouchy. I KNOW this.

2. The VP's mother is dying. He hasn't smiled in two weeks, and I've never seen him so miserable. His "tone" comes from inner turmoil, not my request to go to a meeting. I KNOW this.


My anxious brain, kicked into overdrive by the mere existence of the month of May, leads me down a different (but not straight) line of thinking.
Immediately, I am certain that the VP doesn't know if I can go because there is some sort of meeting on Friday afternoon, and it has to do with me. A parent called to complain, and I'll asked to justify my grades, or my policies, or my tests, or myself. My brain turns, trying to think of all the things I've done wrong. I come up with an impressive list.

·         A huge stack of papers to grade.
·         Couldn't check my junk mail yesterday because the Internet was down. Should have done it from home.
·         Forgot to log my conference day into the employee portal (although I did put my request through the learning plan site, and I requested a sub through the other site).
·         Bounced a check to the cafeteria last week because I wrote it from the wrong checking account.
·         Played Candy Crush during lunch duty.
·         Didn't remind the VP that I haven't scheduled my observation yet.
·         Wore jeans today, and it wasn't dress-down day.

And then the big one hits. THEY KNOW.

They know my super-secret alter ego. They know what kind of stories I write. In my excitement about our first eBook, somebody must have overheard me whispering about it, and now they know. They know, and they don't want me to know that they know because they don't want to give me time to cover my ass. THAT's why he can't give me permission to leave early. It's obvious.

My heart beats faster. My hands get colder. My mouth goes dry. The butterflies in my belly alight. Again, I think about taking a Xanax, but I deserve to feel this way. It's part of the punishment.

The Zoloft is working. I feel reason, like two hands, trying to push anxiety down where it belongs. Under the surface, like trying to dunk a volleyball under water.

The VP just left the cafeteria, so I go to the other teacher. The one that usually talks to the VP during lunch duty. "What's up with him?" I say.

"Illness. Not his. Somebody in his family."

"His mother," I say.

"Yeah. He's (eyebrows furrowed, searching for the right word) off."

I tell him about our conversation, leaving out the part about the anxiety. I look like I'm in control, so he thinks I have my shit together. People believe what I want them to believe. Control the facial expressions and they buy it.

"Yeah," he says, "he's off. Sometimes he won't even answer a direct question. He just walks away."

"Jeez." I feel sorry for him.

"And he says I'll let you know like a knee-jerk. Instead of saying yes or no, he automatically says, I'll let you know."

Which brings me back to the list of things my rational mind knows.

3. The VP does this to control a small part of his universe. The principal gives him little power, micromanages his every move until he dumps the shitty jobs on him. His wife probably does the same. His mother too. Saying I'll let you know lets him control a little part of my world, which fools him into thinking he's in control of his own. I understand this. I accept it. I feel bad for him for feeling that way.

But my hands are still cold. My heart still beats too fast. The butterflies have started a dance party in my stomach. What if there IS a meeting. What if they do know? What if…?

I should take a Xanax. Settle my symptoms—calm my heart, warm my hands, put the butterflies to sleep. My rational mind knows this too:

4. If I had taken a Xanax as soon as the butterflies were set free, as soon as that "job interview" feeling took hold, my thoughts would not have followed them into a swirling vortex of crazy thoughts. MY BRAIN WOULDN'T HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO FIND SOMETHING TO PIN THESE SYMPTOMS ON. Instead, I would have written this in my book:

Friday, May 15- Ask VP about leaving early (OR reschedule meeting).


And so, I wrote this instead. I feel better now. For now.

THAT is what is what it feels like to live with anxiety.