Author Archives: laekanzeakemp

Plan D

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Plan A was to sell millions of books and become rich and famous, which did not happen. Plan B was to sell a moderate but steady amount of books, which would allow me to be a full-time author. This is no longer happening. Plan C was to go back to school, become a teacher, and write on the side until I struck gold and could stash all that cash away for an early retirement. Now, early “retirement” is slowly slipping from my grasp, which brings me to plan D: Enjoy my life while making art I love.

I can’t think about the money anymore. It’s agonizing and exhausting, and in the grand scheme of things, means far less than my health and happiness. Could the money I was making last year aid me in my quest to achieve health and happiness? Sure, but only because it would bring me peace of mind. But there’s something else that has been giving me peace of mind lately, something that just last week was the source of much of my terror–the fact that, once again, I am making art that matters to no one but me.

How do I know this? Well, because we’re almost five months from the pub date of Pen & Xander and this little, invisible, book of my heart has still only sold 27 copies. And that’s okay. It’s okay because I needed to write this book and because I learned so much in the process.

I learned what it is I want to say and how I want to say it. I learned that I have a responsibility to write these kinds of characters, characters I craved as a kid but could never find. I learned that the creative process is its own reward and that just because this book hasn’t found its audience today doesn’t mean that in a year or five or ten it won’t resonate with someone as powerfully as it has with me. I learned that it’s okay to create something no one else cares or even knows about. Nothing is in vain. This book is not a failure and neither am I.

So, what does Plan D really look like? Well, it actually looks a lot like my old life when I was working 60 hours a week and writing every spare second in between. Only this time I’m not breaking myself in the process. I’m writing because I want to, not because I need to generate more income. I still want to make money and be able to write full time someday. But setbacks in my creative life have shown me that I have a lot of other gifts that are worth pouring into. I’m a good teacher. I’m not ready to give that up.

And maybe that’s why Pen & Xander hasn’t been a runaway success. Because, for the time being, I’m supposed to be in the classroom. I’m needed there, which means I’m fulfilling my purpose there. A person can have more than one. Destiny is not a narrow straight but a winding, bumpy trunk that erupts in a dazzling display of branches. Destiny is messy and full of back and forth, push and pull. Tension. Surprise.

I’m not used to allowing myself to feel surprised. Surprises scare me because they are out of my control. But I don’t need to be in control of every little detail. The minutiae may be messy, but if I stand back and examine it in the light, it is still just as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe even more so.

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My BIG BookBub Giveaway

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About 8 months ago I got my very first BookBub and the results were FANTASTIC! In a few days my second BookBub will go live and to celebrate I’m throwing a GIANT giveaway! If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you know that today is the day I’ll be sending out promo materials to blog hosts.

I’m also posting them here for two reasons: 1) To announce the giveaway, of course, so if you’re interested in a FREE Kindle Fire or any of the other awesome prizes listed below, feel free to follow the link and enter 2) So that anyone out there who’s interested in helping me spread the word can swipe these images to share on social media.GiveawayDetails

Pen&XanderExcerpt1

Pen&XanderExcerpt2P&XAuthorBio

 

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Stop and Look

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I have started a million blog posts this month and swiftly deleted them all for being manic nonsense that would no doubt terrify anyone who stumbled upon them. That’s what happens when the vision you had for your life–a vision that you were slowly bringing to life–suddenly crumbles, leaving you with absolutely no idea what comes next. (I’m being dramatic–sort of).

And I have to know what comes next. I have to know so that I can meditate on it and obsess over it and live it out in my own head until the day the future actually arrives. It was working so far, this whole living in the future thing. Or so I thought. Now, the things that are causing me stress and anxiety and fear are forcing me to do something else too. Actually live in the moment for once.

Living. In the now. With my students. With my dog. With my boyfriend. With my books. I’m writing in short bursts, as if writing is just this quirky hobby that I do on my lunch break. As if I’m starting over. And for the past month this thought has absolutely terrified me. Starting over? I can’t start over. Not creatively. Not financially. But suddenly I have no choice. And I can choose to be scared or I can choose, for the first time, to give up some control–okay, complete control–and stare into the unknown with excitement and an open mind.

Choosing excitement, choosing to have an open mind does not erase my anxiety but it does make it feel less life threatening. It does make it easier for me to acknowledge that it’s there and then go about my day. It doesn’t stop me in my tracks quite as often. But when it does I try not to get lost in it. Instead, I try to breathe, to look around, and see all of the beautiful things in my life. Relics of all the hard work and long days. Relics I can actually enjoy now that I’m finally being forced to stop and look.

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Teaser Tuesday

P&X Teaser #1-7

I hold my breath and then I venture inside. A latex bubble floats in the center of the bowl. I lean against the wall, watching it twist. My survival rule about always doing the scary thing was not created with condom-clogged toilets in mind. Maybe it’s a metaphor. Maybe it’s a sign. I stare closer but then I start gagging the same way Josie was. And I realize that it isn’t the universe trying to test me or send me a message. It’s a condom in a fucking toilet and this is my life now.

Suddenly, I’m sliding down the wall. I land on the floor with a thud, my back pressed to the hard surface as I try to keep everything inside me from collapsing too. My lungs are the first to go, the smell of the stagnant toilet water making them clench. The dam in my tear ducts and the back of my throat goes next. The rush forces my lips apart and I cover my mouth, not letting myself make a sound. I barely sniff, shaking as I try to cry as silently as possible.

Because it hurts to feel it all over again—losing the restaurant, losing my father, losing the only purpose I had for anything.

And because this is where David said I’d end up. And then I challenged him to a duel. A duel I’m in very serious danger of losing if I can’t stop the storm inside me.

But maybe I don’t want to stop it.

Maybe this time I want to be swept up, torn apart.

Maybe that’s what I need.

Don’t listen. It’s lying.

I close my eyes, imagining the sounds of the restaurant, the smell of my food coming out on steaming plates, the tastes resting on people’s lips. On my own.

That’s the truth. That’s who I am.

Not this. This pathetic puddle.

You are fearless. You are strong.

You are fearless. You are strong.

I steal my breath back, chanting the words over and over in my head. Until it’s not such a fight to remember, to believe it’s true.

It is true. I am fearless. I am strong.

I am fearless. I am strong.

I rise to my feet, catching my reflection in the bathroom mirror as I scrape the tears from my cheeks. Then I stand over the toilet, staring down into the bowl. At a fucking condom.

I take a deep breath, reaching for the plunger.

Because this is my life. And. I. Can. Do. This.

 

Pen&Xander.v9

Available here!

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Teaser Tuesday

P&X Teaser #1-6

Beneath the light whistle of the wind, crickets chirping, I say, “You’re a good friend.”

She ignores the comment, sitting on the lid of an old paint can. “It’s your turn.”

I sit down next to her. “I’m ready.”

She narrows her eyes. “Okay, for all the marbles this one’s a two-parter. One truth and one dare.” She stares at the street, cheeks burning.

When she faces me again mine are too.

“Truth,” she breathes. “Do you want to kiss me?”

I don’t look away or even blink. “Yes.”

She doesn’t look away either. “Dare.” She swallows, leans in. “Do it.”

My hands move first, trusting that the only way to make them stop shaking is to press them to her skin. My thumbs graze her cheeks, fingers in her hair. It’s soft and she’s warm and for a long time I just look at her, closing the space centimeters at a time while I take in the lashes that are stuck together by mascara, the birthmark buried under her left eyebrow, the small dimple on her chin. I stare, sorting every piece into things that feel good and things that hurt like hell, into things I never want to forget and things I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I never have to.

But before I have a chance to savor those first few breaths slipping between her lips, they’re pressed against mine, falling and climbing their way back up. I taste her lipstick, her tongue, and it makes me dizzy. Her hands are on my knees, pinning me there, and then they’re on my waist, on my shoulders, both of us gripping each other like we’re clinging to the edge of a cliff. Afraid of falling off. Or hoping that if we do, we’ll fall together.

Suddenly, Pen stops moving.

She stops breathing, my wild heartbeat the only sound.

I open my eyes and she’s not staring back. She’s staring at the street. At the car parked in front of Angel’s house, cigarette smoke slithering up from the open window, flesh and ink viper flexed against Jago’s forearm as he hangs it over the side of the door.

I’m on my feet and so is Pen. She shudders, angry, and unafraid. But I’m terrified. And not just of Jago seeing me here but of Jago seeing her. I don’t know how long he’s been watching us but I can tell by the way his mouth twitches that he knows who she is. To Ignacio Prado. To me.

The engine purrs as the car pulls forward. Just in time for Angel to step outside. For Jago to say hello to him too.

“Get inside, Pen.”

She straightens, shoulders heaving.

“Pen…”

“No.” Her stare sharpens. She charges down the steps. “He’s not gonna fucking do this.”

Angel wrenches her back. “Are you out of your mind?”

My heart races.

“Stay away from us!” Pen shouts, trying to tear herself from Angel’s grasp. “Stay away from the restaurant. Fucking stay away!”

She seethes but the faster her breaths, the more transparent she becomes. Beneath the anger, beneath the shock, her eyes glisten with something like fear. And it’s all my fault.

Jago hangs his head back, a whistle cutting between his smile. He leans on the gas, letting the engine growl, and then he speeds off.

Pen glares until he rounds the corner and then she finally lets Chloe pull her inside. I stay put, afraid of facing Angel. I know Jago’s been following me and because I wasn’t being careful I led him right to Angel Prado’s house. To Pen. Her rage wasn’t directed at me but what she doesn’t know is that it should have been.

“I’m sorry, Angel. I didn’t mean for—”

“It’s not you,” Angel stops me. “It’s…” he shakes his head, “it’s not you.”

Pen&Xander.v9

Available here!

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