DATING BY THE BOOK Excerpt

The cry of You’ve got mail! broke the silence, and I made the mistake of checking my phone. The preview showed me an incoming email from Silver Fox. I steeled my nerves for the inevitable sting and clicked the link with one eye closed, bracing for a deadly attack. Here he was a total stranger, and the prospect alone of what he might say had my heart racing worse than a Stephen King novel.

I bounced my foot on the spindle of the stool and dove headfirst into what I was sure would be a flogging.

Ms. Kincaid,

I don’t know why I’m responding to you, but I confess that I keep arguing with you in my head, so I’ve finally decided to tell you a thing or two.

First, you’re wrong if you think reviewers don’t hear from authors. We hear plenty, and trust me when I tell you that responses can be pretty vicious. I sometimes ignore them, but believe it or not, I do realize that authors are people, too, which is why I find myself wanting to mentor you to a better mental place. My main argument is that you shouldn’t respond to reviewers because your opinion is no longer valid. Or let me rephrase it—your opinion is no more valid than mine.

Second, I find myself once again in the position of defending my own personal situation. While I do enjoy video games as much as anyone of my generation, it’s not my primary occupation. In fact, writing reviews is my hobby. I may do this in my underwear, but not simultaneously at my mother’s house.

Third, I do have a healthy imagination, and I can read between the lines. You may have romantic experience, but I suspect you’ve forgotten what it feels like to truly be in love. Unfortunately for me, love is a feeling I’m all too familiar with, and I recognize when someone is faking it. If I could offer you some free advice, I’d urge you to get out and get more experience—romance, sex, heartache. Live a little. If you haven’t felt your stomach flip when your hand brushes someone else’s, if your spine doesn’t tingle when you think back on your first kiss, you can’t bring those feelings to your readers.

Or ignore me. I’m sure there will be plenty of readers who don’t care about the romance anyway. You can write for them.

SF

Heartache? He wanted me to intentionally fly into that turbulence again? It had taken me six months to nurse myself from the depths of the abyss before I could sink my fingernails into the ledge and heave myself up and out. Silver Fox expected me to just do it again? Sure.

But what if he was right? What if the cocoon I’d wrapped myself in was preventing me from writing a genuine relationship? Worse, what if it was preventing me from moving on with my life?

I poked at my bruised heart and didn’t recoil in agony. Had it dried up and died?

“Live a little.” Like that was so easy.

I made a fresh latte and walked over to sit with fellow romance-phobe Charlie.

“What are you working on, Charlie?”

“Reading.” He closed his laptop and stretched. “Why do you think so much of literature is about waiting? Why can’t it all just be the good parts? Why do I have to wade through hundreds of pages lost in the mines of Moria before getting to some real action?”

“Are we talking about Tolkien?”

“It’s just a metaphor. So much wandering around. My patience grows short.”

“Sounds like my life. I strayed from the path in Mirkwood forest and can’t find my way back.”

“Have you considered flipping pages?”

“Of my life?” I laughed, trying to imagine how that would work.

“Why not? Choose your own adventure.” He pointed his index finger toward an invisible lightbulb. “Stuck in the mines? Go over the mountain.”

“Madness.”

“Maybe, but it’s still a choice. Or just go to the next chapter. It can’t be that hard.”

I considered his premise. “But what if you skipped over all the boring or hard parts of life? You’d go straight to your death bed!”

“Hmm. I think you can always choose to stray from the path.” He stirred his coffee. “And with that in mind, I’m going to make a monumental decision to start a new book.” His eyes sharpened with sincerity. “You could, too.”

Charlie the Chronicler had struck again.

“Choose your own adventure . . .”

Peter wasn’t even in this chapter of my life. How long was I expected to wait for the return of the king? Did I have to return to the original path? Did I have to wait for Peter to come back around?

Or could I consider other avenues?

What if, instead of sitting in my own self-pity, I took a chance on a perilous quest fraught with messy complications, whose successful completion seemed impossible? It wasn’t like there was safety hiding in the mines anyway. I’d already spent six months in the dark, chased by a cave troll of emotional destruction. I might not die of heartbreak, but loneliness rose up like a flaming Balrog from the depths of hell, and only I could choose to fly to higher ground.

I wanted to emerge as the heroine of my own adventure. A badass heroine controlling her own destiny.