Don’t get me wrong, I love Back To School time more than anyone–and I have the student loans to prove it. I get excited when that school supply list comes out and I get to strategize where to get the best deals on spiral notebooks and Ticonderoga #2 pencils. My master organizational skills reach peak performance during the month of August when I ruthlessly go through my children’s clothes, sorting out what still fits and how many new superhero t-shirts I’ll have to buy to replace those beloved Batman pajamas that haven’t covered my son’s belly button for the past six months. I check the school websites regularly (read: obsessively) to find out which teacher my kids will be assigned to, and then I stayed glued to my phone as my mom friends blow up the group texts discussing who is going to be in Room 18 (the prime classroom with reliable A/C and a direct path to the bathrooms) and who got stuck in the modular trailers out behind the handball court.
I’m even pumped up on that first day, taking the obligatory pictures of my kids in their brand new backpacks, waving at Jackson H.’s dad (who is going to hit me up to count Box Tops at the next PTO meeting if I actually engage in conversation with him) and commiserating with Ava’s mom (who is upset that her daughter got assigned to the mean teacher that requires parents to fill out homework logs every night).
And oh my gosh, all that free time to do errands and get my nails done and sneak those too-tight Batman pajamas into the Goodwill bin… It was invigorating and blissful at the same time. Then, after pick-up, I pour over the syllabus and every single flyer that comes home in that first weekly envelope and stock up on my son’s favorite Lunchables (ham and American cheese-bleh!) and fill out those “Getting To Know You” forms as if they’re Ivy League college applications.
To all the parents who were singing hallelujah as they peeled rubber out of that school parking lot, I was right there with you. Until I wasn’t. Because now, the routine sets in and I’m starting to panic that the summer was too short. That my kids are growing up too fast. That I’ll spend my weekdays alone, eating the hated snack-sized bags of white cheddar Cheez-Its abandoned in the back of my pantry, with nothing but old episodes of Teen Titans Go on the DVR to keep me company. (Disclaimer: I know limited time flavor Cheez-Its and cartoons sound pathetic but it’s either that or drink wine while I watch Real Housewives. And, let’s face it, Vicki Gunvalson isn’t going to come bail me out of jail if I get popped for a DUI while on carpool duty.)
So instead of working on my next book, I’m sitting here missing my kiddos and wishing we still had one more week to go to the beach, to hang out at the pool with friends, to eat dripping ice cream cones in the hot sun while wearing our damp bathing suits. And I’m circling June 8 on my calendar, writing in the brightest red pen I can find, “BACK TO SUMMER!”
Writing The Matchmaking Twins was so much fun for me, especially because I got to channel so much energy into my eight-year-old characters, Aiden and Caden Gregson. I have two boys (not twins) who’ve caused plenty of mischief and have taught me to cringe every time their school phone number pops up on my caller ID.
But even more compelling for me was to write about Nana Gregson and Abuela. Luke, the hero, had a favorite relative he’d connected to early on during his childhood and Carmen, the police officer heroine in this story, is not about to be outdone by Luke’s bond with his Nana. She invokes quite a few of her own recollections and favorite expressions of her insightful grandmother.
These scenes made me realize that many of us have specific expressions, smells or songs that trigger memories of certain loved ones. Like Luke, I sought solace away from my gaggle of brothers by spending quality time with my Aunt Mary Jane. She taught me how to roll hair curlers, how to scour a kitchen sink, and how to light her cigarettes for her so she could keep both her nervous hands on the steering wheel of her ’74 Lincoln Continental. To this day, the smell of Ponds Cold Cream, Soft Scrub Bleach and Kent 100s always make me think of her.
When my little brother, Jeremy, was seven-years-old, he decided to open a donut shop in the back yard. He found scraps of wood and assembled something that looked like a two-foot wide woodworking fail on Pinterest. For several years, he insisted that he was going to finish his donut shop project. To this day, he will still maintain that he built it, but just hasn’t produced or sold any donuts. Yet.
When he was eighteen, Jeremy decided that he was going to join the military and I went with him to recruiters office to get more information. Unfortunately, he (like many of us in our family) probably enjoyed donuts a little too much and the recruiter told him he would need to lose about 40 pounds to “make weight” and qualify for enlistment.
Now, fast-forward sixteen years. Jeremy is 33, happily married with one son and another child planned for the future. He owns his own home, has a steady job at FedEx, and a wonderful family who supports him…including a know-it-all older sister. In 2014, my brother again brings up the fact that he’s always wanted to join the military. Moreover, when my grandfather was under hospice care the previous year, Jeremy had bonded with one of the male RNs and slowly began kicking around the idea of pursuing a career in the medical field.
We didn’t make much of his talk because we all remembered the donut shop dream. Plus, the guy was now 33 (the cutoff age for enlisting is 35) and almost 100 pounds overweight. But then he started working out and watching what he ate. He began hiking with friends on the weekends and took up running after work. His wife also adopted his healthier lifestyle and became pregnant with their second child. Surely, with two young children now at home, he wasn’t STILL considering this crazy military idea. Yet, apparently, we’d all underestimated his determination because on my 40th birthday trip, he announced to my entire family that he’d enlisted in the Army as a combat medic and was leaving for basic training the following month.
Last week, I attended his graduation at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Just three months shy of his 35th birthday, Jeremy was older than any other soldier in his class and most of his drill sergeants. They’d nicknamed him “Grandpa,” but he was outperforming many of these eighteen and nineteen-year-old kids like a champ. He’d lost even more weight at boot camp and ranked 6th place overall in his platoon for ALL the PT requirements. I was amazed and impressed and, quite frankly, honored to call him my brother.
And after all he went through, I had a special treat waiting for him in the car after graduation ….
Writing books isn’t for wimps. Two weeks ago, I had to do a line edit on my book coming out in July (The Matchmaking Twins) and today was my due date for turning in my most recent manuscript to my editor. I’ve decided that my self-esteem goes through several phases while writing a book. Here’s an example of my thought process:
- *driving in car* I know exactly where this new book is going to go!
- *types furiously* Go! Go! Go! Get it all out on the page. You can go back and fix it later.
- *turns off computer* I just wrote a bunch of crap. That was a complete waste of a day.
- *edits previous day’s work* Where did I come up with this? I don’t remember most of it, but it isn’t too bad.
- *repeats steps 3 and 4 for several weeks* *sings Just Keep Swimming song from Finding Nemo*
- *does a final read-thru* I think this may work after all.
- *emails completed manuscript to editor* She’s going to hate it. Everyone’s going to hate it. Why did I ever let my mom talk me into this stupid career?
- *waits for line-edit notes from editor* Maybe I should go to culinary school. Or blackjack dealer school. But then I’d have to have perfectly polished fingernails all the time. I hate my nails.
- *book gets released* Don’t look at online reviews. Don’t look at online reviews.
- *looks at online reviews* Oh my gosh. Someone actually liked my book. Or at least they didn’t think that it totally sucked. I should go get my nails done to celebrate!
So I wrote a book, but now what? I can’t just sit back and cross my fingers, hoping someone will buy it. That’s where my readers (and friends and relatives) come in. I need people who are willing to read my books and post an honest review on Amazon: Christy Jeffries, Barnes & Noble: Christy Jeffries, and Goodreads: Christy Jeffries.
And when I say honest, I kinda only mean post a review if you love the story. If it wasn’t your cup o’ tea, that’s fine. Please feel free to skip the review and pass the book along to a friend or the Goodwill donation box.
The better my reviews, the better my sales. Which means Shameless Incentive Offer coming in 3…2…1…
I also get a few free copies to give away to people who will help me get the word out about my book. Hit me up if you think you can be one of these people.
I just got the official artwork of the North American cover for my new book, A Marine For His Mom, and I am SO SO SO excited! Seeing it this morning was similar to the first time I saw my kiddos on the ultrasound screen at the OB/GYN office…except less blurry. Okay, so maybe I was a little more excited to see my wee babies, but this is still an awesome feeling.