I know, I know! I know book one isn’t out yet, but I have a cover for book two. I’m fond of book two. In some ways it’s like my love letter to West Tennessee. Anyhoo, without further ado, I give you Bittersweet Creek. Oh, and should you be inclined, it is already up for preorder! (Say what?)
Okay, so this is the story of how Ryan and I almost got arrested for absolutely no reason. Those of you who know us are probably laughing at the idea. Yes, Ryan and I are so scary. Here’s our United Horror Story…
So the year is 2005, and Ryan and I were headed to Anaheim for the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland. We were ridiculously excited. We packed everything up and headed to the Atlanta airport in good spirits even though we were being dropped off really early. Hey, you do what you have to do if you don’t want to leave your car in long-term parking.
We go to the United counter to check in, and I have to tell you the Atlanta staff was really nice, very friendly. They told us they could bump us up to an earlier flight and then when we got to Chicago they would *probably* be able to do the same. Well, we fell for this. We got to Chicago and the United staff there looked at us as though we had lost our ever-loving minds SO we ended up having to spend forever in O’Hare.
I learned my lesson. I would rather layover in Atlanta than O’Hare any day of the week and twice on Sunday. You’re not going to get me to change flights for free ever again.
That said, we had books because we are nothing if not prepared so we indulged in a little geek love at O’Hare and read many, many pages. At this point we’d been in an airport or in the air since 9am EST. We weren’t due to land in Los Angeles until 10pm PST. I remember telling myself that we still had plenty of time to go and to be patient.
So we finally get on the plan from O’Hare to LAX. It’s an evening flight and everyone is cranky, particularly the flight attendants. To make matters more fun and exciting, the plane was tiny, so tiny that my 5’4” self had her knees up against the seat in front of me. The flight attendants kept ramming the cart into Ryan’s knees, and I am here to tell you he was trying to stay out of the aisle, but he’s over 6’—it just wasn’t happening. Still, he didn’t say anything. At one point the guy behind us ordered a beer. The flight attendant told him, and I quote, “If you had wanted a beer then you should’ve flown first class.” Now, I don’t know if he insulted her in some way before then, but that was what she said LOUDLY to him.
By the time we got to LAX we were tired. We’d been traveling for about fifteen hours. The plane had to circle longer than usual and then there was a problem with the gate so we ended up at a different one than planned. They had us walk forever through construction areas to get to baggage claim. It was weird. I mean, LAX is always under construction, but we were walking through areas that reminded me of places in New York with the scaffolding and plywood and trash bags. I kept wondering if we were in an unauthorized area.
When we finally got to baggage claim, I stared at our carousel with glassy eyes for at least fifteen minutes and never saw our luggage. Finally, I saw all of the luggage in a cordoned off area, and I thought, “Oh! They knew we were coming from far away so they put everything in that one spot for us. How nice!” Now, in a post-September 11th world, I should have known—and, indeed, now do know—that cordoned off luggage is a big no-no. At this point in my life I had never actually had my luggage beat me to baggage claim. Come to think of it, it hasn’t happened since, either.
This is the point where you should be screaming, “Sally, don’t touch that luggage! Don’t reach for it!” but you were too late. I reached for my luggage, and the lady at the counter LOST HER MIND. She yelled at me, like yelled at me to put my luggage back. So, being the good little girl, I did. Then I walked over the counter. I had to wait in line, of course. When I got to her she told me I couldn’t have my luggage without the receipt. I panicked because I thought she meant the receipt from the flight, which I knew I didn’t have. I must’ve said I didn’t have the receipt. She’s still snippy and tells me, “You have the receipt. They gave it to you in Atlanta.”
I remember taking a couple of deep breaths and saying, “What does it look like?”
“It’s the receipt.”
“I understand that, but what does it look like?”
“It’s the receipt.”
Honestly, this is the exchange. I notice the woman’s name is Flor and wonder if I should ask her in Spanish, apologizing that no doubt her English is better than my Spanish, but I don’t understand, that I’m very tired, and can she please just tell me what I’m supposed to looking for. I think I may have been close to tears.
That’s probably why Ryan decided to come over.
So the woman’s being rude. I’m not handling it well. He asks her what the receipt looks like and she again simply says, “It’s the receipt!” At this point, he did raise his voice and did lean slightly in her direction to say, “You are not answering the question. What is this receipt? What does it look like?”
She takes a step back and says, “That’s it. You are threatening me. I am calling the police.”
And we look at her as though she has twelve heads. I mean, I’ve heard Ryan Kilpatrick get loud. He had barely raised his voice on this occasion—maybe a 5 out of possible 10. I assure you he had not turned it up to 11. Yes, he did lean slightly toward her in that way people do when they talk to each other, but there was A LOT of counter between us and her. I’ve felt more threatened by some of my former high school students.
So she ushers us off—ironically to stand near our luggage which is still standing forlornly behind the cordoned off area. About this time—oh, it’s 2am EST—I have this crazy southern epiphany where I say in a very country voice, “The stickers! She’s talking about the stickers!” (Imagine very heavy emphasis on the rs)
So I go back to the counter. I stand in line again. I come up to Flor, and I say, “Look, I am very sorry that we got upset. We have been traveling for a long time today. Our last flight was awful. I know that doesn’t excuse our behavior, but we are sorry. I figured out that you are looking for the baggage claim stickers, and I have them here. May we please have our luggage?”
At this point, I was thinking I was kinda being the bigger person because I really can’t express to you how hateful this woman was. Her tone of voice was just…ugh. She says, “No. I have called the police, and you will have to speak with them because your husband threatened me.”
I’m pretty sure I did cry at this point. I’m not going to lie. I remember telling Ryan, “I’ve never even been pulled over for a speeding ticket!” (BTW I can’t say that anymore—still only 1 in my 39 years so pretty good, yes?)
Finally, finally, two policemen show up. They look us up and down, and I think one of the two decided there had to be some kind of actual crime going on somewhere else and left. We did have to answer a bunch of questions, and I’m pretty sure there is a police report on us somewhere out there. At the end, the officer says—maybe because he has to?—you shouldn’t have threatened her. Ryan starts to interject that he never did, and the officer holds out his hand as if to say I know, I know and then actually says almost apologetically, “I have to file this report.” SO we basically get a slap on the wrist. I show Flor my stickers, and we finally get our luggage. At this point it’s about 3am EST, and we are both shaking mad and upset.
We get to the rental car place and guess what idiotic thing I had done? I had made reservations for 2006 instead of 2005. Know what? The rental car people quite kindly said they could accommodate me anyway—even at the same price. I wish I could remember which company that was because they salvaged our night at that point. Now, we’re at LAX so we still have to drive all the way to Anaheim, and we stewed the whole way there.
Basically theUnited/LAX incident was a pall over the first two days of our vacation, and, as you can tell, I am still steamed. I’ve worked enough customer service jobs that I can tell you that woman should’ve had the night off if she couldn’t handle more than that. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I needed to write a letter to United because it was, and still is, some of the most horrible customer service I have had to this day.
I got home from Anaheim, and I wrote a letter outlining everything I have told you here., albeit in a less entertaining fashion. I got back a patronizing, condescending, not in the least apologetic letter that said at some point “obviously you were in the wrong.” I wish I’d kept it, but it’s one of the few times I’ve been so mad that I think I blacked out for a second and I ripped it in half and tossed it. Oh, I wish I’d kept it. It takes A LOT for me to get that mad. There was not one apology, not an “I’m sorry you had this experience.” Nothing.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I have not flown United in nine years and have no plans to do so any time soon.
In all fairness, when I mentioned this on Twitter earlier today, United did send me to a customer service portal. Here’s the problem: I obviously don’t still have the ticket from 9 years ago. When I asked if that was a problem, I didn’t get another reply. So, here you go. If you really wanna know, United, it’s all here.
As I was watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation the other night, I had a revelation: my family just lived out the old-fashioned Christmas that Clark Griswold was searching for.
I’m gonna stop for a minute because some of you are still struggling with how “Christmas Vacation” and “revelation” occurred in the same sentence. It’s okay. I understand.
Blessedly, Cousin Eddie did not show up in his RV. No cats were harmed in the making of our Christmas, and we managed to convince the squirrels to stay outside. But, since my husband and I are only children, we did have both sets of parents together. These kids of mine have no idea how lucky they are to have had four grandparents under the same roof doting on them for the past thirteen Christmases running.
I think about it every year. Every year that all of us are together is a year I give thanks because this world is full of uncertainty Also, I know I haven’t been that good of a girl. By rights, Santa should bring me several lumps of coal and a bar of soap for my foul language. Maybe a shoe horn to pry my foot out of my mouth since it spends a lot of quality time there.
But in honor of another Christmas spent with my favorite people, I give you the Christmas letter I would’ve written if I were one to write Christmas letters:
Dear XXX, (this is where I would’ve set up a mail merge and totally messed it up)
Greetings from the Kilpatrick family! 2014 has been busy, busy, busy. We started off the year at the Rose Bowl Parade and haven’t stopped moving since. Of course, there was Clusterflake back in January. We all watched The Sound of Music and managed not to kill each other. The Hobbit and Her Majesty built their first real snowmen, too—one of them was a Mickey.
In February it snowed some more. A bunch of my friends had books out for me to read, and I wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I learned that I write like Anton Checkov, that I would be Dorothy if I were a Golden Girl, and that my ideal Walt Disney World ride is It’s a Small World. (Not really) March continued with more of the same, but I was reunited with my fellow Parkinsmacks. Ah, fun times.
For some reason I still can’t quite fathom, I reread Heart of Darkness. Then I reread Their Eyes Were Watching God. That was so much better. The kids and I had a West Tennessee Spring Break which included tea at the Peabody for mom, Her Majesty, and me.
Yes, hair pets.
Then something worse happened, but we’re not going to talk about that.
Instead, we’re going to talk about how I went to New Orleans for my first RT Convention which, coincidentally, was also my first event as a published author. RT and NOLA—that’s a winning combination. Then in June I *almost* ran a sub-thirty 5k, my goal from, you know, 3 years ago. Oh, Ryan and I did the triathlon thing then the Peachtree thing. Then I went to San Antonio for RWA. The kids got to visit with Nana and Big Dada on that trip.
In August we sent the kids back to school. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but they kept it to a minimum. Then I managed to do my first set of revisions and work at the Decatur Book Festival. And somehow, someway I agreed to get cats.
We have house cats. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, but, if you follow me on social media, you know we love them. Much of the fall passed in a blur for me because I was working on another book, but I know Her Majesty played her first season of softball, and the mighty Oreos had a strong showing in the postseason. The Hobbit trained for his first 5k and continued with Youth, all the while being his goofy, awesome self. Ryan and I trained for back to back half marathons because, clearly, we are crazy people. (I would like to point out that I did a triathlon, two half marathons, a 10k, and at least one 5k in 2014. I also gained 10 pounds. Go figure.)
Oh, and we had that super-awesome cruise with both sets of parents!
And then we had to say goodbye to Papaw. We miss him.
We did have a great Thanksgiving, though, and that has taken us straight into Christmas. It’s been such a busy year that I know I’ve forgotten a ton of things we did and a ton of people we’ve met and spoken to. I will say that our life is richer for all the folks in our lives. And here’s to a calmer 2015.
Sally, the official letter writer
P.S. Did I mention I have my first novel coming out next spring?
Yeah, I think the 2014 letter would look something like that. It was kinda fun, so maybe I’ll take notes on 2015.
Okay, so I was encouraging you to read widely and read diversely. Here’s a sample (just a SAMPLE—check out my books on the Goodreads challenge for 2014) of what I read this year. It’s still not as diverse as I would like, but, hey, we all have to start somewhere! Also, I’ll happily take suggestions for new books I should try.
Traveling Mercies—Anne Lamott
Three Ingredient Cocktails—J. K. O’Hanlon
For historical fiction/nonfiction
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy—Karen Abbott
Leaving Atlanta—Tayari Jones (the first book I read after Christmas las year)
Don’t Talk to Strangers—Amanda Kyle Williams
The Other Woman—Hank Phillipi Ryan
The aforementioned Deanna Raybourn—all of them
Legal Seduction—Sharon Cooper
Summer is for Lovers—Jenni McQuiston (start with What Happens in Scotland)*
Her Cowboy Hero—Tanya Michaels*
Seeking Solace—Anna Steffl (and then buy the other 2 because…trilogy!)*
Remember Me—Romily Bernard (start with Find Me)*
The Theory of Attraction—Delphine Dryden
The Mistress—Tiffany Reisz (but start with The Siren or give a nonseries story like Misbehaving or The Headmaster a try)
Their Eyes Were Watching God—Zora Neale Hurston
Pretty Deadly—Kelly Sue DeConnick
Same, but different
Blood Vine—Amber Belldene (vampires who own a winery—yes, please)
Poison Princess—Kresley Cole (dystopia with a Cajun—yes, please)
Blackbirds–Chuck Wendig (I can’t describe this for you. Go read it.)
Fearless—Max Lucado (Okay I read this one last year, but I liked it better than this year’s)
Because you need to
Bird by Bird—Anne LaMott
All Beautiful Things—Nicki Salcedo
And looking to 2016, here are some of the ways I want to stretch myself
The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America—Christian Wolmar
The Lawyer’s Luck—Piper Huguley
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
Save the Cat Strikes Back—Blake Snyder
Shirley Jackson Novel and Stories
The Artist’s Way—Julia Cameron
My Sister’s Grave—Robert Dugoni
Blood, Ash, and Bone—Tina Whittle
Shades of Milk and Honey—Mary Robinette Kowal
The Dragon and the Pearl—Jeannie Lin
The Book of Unknown Americans—Christina Henreiquez
Heart of Obsidian—Nalini Singh
Crazy in Alabama—Mark Childress
Crash into You—Roni Loren
The Monsters of Templeton—Lauren Groff
When Sparrows Fall—Meg Moseley
The Power of Myth—Joseph Campbell
Wicked After Midnight—Delilah Dawson
That Old Cape Magic—Richard Russo
I need some good biblical stuff, y’all. Something scholarly. Last year I did the second book in the Disciple series, a Max Lucado, and a Henry Nouwen. I’m kinda at a loss as to where to find the kind of intellectual devotions, I prefer.
And what else? If you’re looking at my list, what do you think I’m missing? Did anything you read this year surprise you?
Okay, I’m putting in my request for a new Harry Connick, Jr Christmas album right here, right now. It’s a tall order because he’s already made three albums, but I think he can do it. Also, I want Harry Connick, Jr to overtake Johnny Mathis one day. Just because. Here are some songs I would love to hear the great HCJ tackle:
1. Still, Still, Still–Have you guys ever heard this charming song? It’s out of Austria or Germany or something like that. It’s gorgeous.
2. O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem–It’s one you don’t hear that often and would work well with jazz.
3. Jesus (What a Wonderful Child)–We need more versions of this song in the world.
4. What Christmas Means to Me–This is another song that is actually underutilized at Christmas. Not just anyone can sing a Stevie Wonder song, but I have faith in HCJ
5. Christmas in New Orleans–for reasons
6. Underneath the Tree–loved this song from Kelly Clarkson’s album last year
7. All I Want for Christmas (Is You)–Oh, it’s a standard now. Y’all know it.
8. Gender bent Baby, It’s Cold Outside–you know some lady would sing about getting HCJ to stay. Could be Kelly Clarkson since she had the awesome Underneath the Tree song.
9. Come and Tarry Not–it’s obscure and Scottish and awesome
10. The Misfit Toy song–my favorite part of Rudolph
11. Up on the Housetop–it might not beat Autry, but it would be a great excuse to have George Jones back…
12. Pour Some Sugar on Me
13. Bad Medicine
Okay, okay. I don’t really want Def Leppard or Bon Jovi on a HCJ Christmas album, but I had this great dream where he was playing hair metal in a honky tonk/rag/jazz kind of way, and those are the two I remember. It was an awesome set. See, Harry Connick, Jr always puts on such a good show that even his fictitious shows are awesome.
P.S. I’ve got mixed feelings on Cool Yule, a Lou Rawlsesque O Come All Ye Faithful, and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.
So I gotta tell you about the fun I had writing a Kindle Worlds story. I know you’re thinking, “Sally, you’ve got a novel coming out—why are you writing fan fiction?” Because it was fun, that’s why! Besides, when you’re given the opportunity to play around in the sand box of an author who’s been so instrumental in your own growth, you just gotta. I had already read all of the Body Mover books and who knows how many other books by Stephanie Bond, so I was all about giving this a shot. To top it all off, I’d been talking about trying my hand at a mystery for months, so it was kinda like the universe gave me a kick in the pants and said, “Get to it!”
There was one scene in 3 Men and a Body (book 3) that had stayed with me for a long time. I had to have read that book at least five years ago, and the almost love scene between Coop and Carlotta had me intrigued so I piggy-backed off that book. My story, A Day Late and a Body Short, is a What If Story that takes place after book 3. Obviously, I’d love for you to read my story and tell me what you think, but, if you haven’t tried the Body Movers series, you might want to go back to books 1-3 so I don’t spoil anything for you accidentally.
So I say yes to the story and then I come to an important realization: I know NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING about Buckhead socialites or fashion or Neiman Marcus. I had to start looking up just about every item anyone was wearing just to get inspiration. It’s all on my Pinterest Board. What else is on my Pinterest Board? Um, I may have started imagining Coop as the Tenth Doctor, aka David Tennant. So that happened. In related news, I don’t think I’m so Team Jack anymore. . .
The final coup de gras was my deciding on a lark to go to Neiman Marcus at Lenox Mall and get a feel for the place. Y’all. Mark my words: if I write another Body Movers story, it will have to involve Carlotta Wren’s country cousin. I do not belong in Lenox Mall. I sure as hell don’t belong in Neiman Marcus. So here’s what happened:
We’d gone to Disney for the Wine and Dine half marathon and totally forgot about how Ryan’s car was still at work. So I got the kids to school and drove him to work. On the way back, I thought, “Hey, there are a couple of scenes bothering you, and it might be helpful if you scoped the place out. It’s on the way home. . . Kinda.” So off I went to Lenox. Being an idiot, I went down West Paces Ferry—further proof I know the aforementioned NOTHING about Buckhead—got stuck in traffic, gawked at the governor’s mansion, the usual. Even with the traffic, I got there before anything opened.
A lady walked in front of my car, and I had a most harrowing realization: I was not in any way, shape, or form dressed for this. I was in yoga pants that had kitty litter dust on one knee, wearing a ratty sweatshirt, no makeup, and—here’s the kicker: a scrunchie! THE HORROR!
So I said, I can’t do this.
Then my self said, “You did NOT sit through all of that traffic just so you could turn around and go home. Your money is just as good as anyone else’s. You just don’t have as much of it.”
I stepped out of my dusty RAV-4 and walked to the Starbucks inside the Macy’s since that was the only thing open. I got my first peppermint mocha of the season when they informed me they didn’t brew coffee (O.o) and took a stroll around the mall to the main entrance.
By the time I got to Neiman Marcus, they had just opened. The lady at the makeup counter was very excited to see me. I’m guessing she saw a very blank canvas. Then I noticed some of the Christian Louboutin’s I’d been Googling and made the mistake of picking one up. Over one thousand dollars for a pair of shoes. I put them down very gently.
At this point I’m walking in the center of the aisles, hugging my mocha to my chest as I walk around to get a feel for where certain departments are, where the cafe was, where Carlotta might’ve gone to sneak a smoke. (That said I must add a disclaimer: Any similarities or differences are purely chance. If I were really writing about Neiman Marcus, it would’ve been a bit different. Especially the dressing rooms. I didn’t dare check out the dressing rooms because a) I was being closely watched, b) I had a coffee, and c) they were not in the center of the aisles where I stayed.) At several points, folks on the sales floor asked if they could help me. I give them kudos for being friendly even though it was obvious they could not, indeed, help me unless they wanted to answer hypothetical questions about shoplifting bras. I didn’t want them to think I was casing the joint, so I did not ask.
I told one lady I was just looking and that’s why I was hugging my coffee to my chest and she said, “That’s a good idea.”
Thanks for the vote of confidence, lady.
Anyhoo, I scouted out Neiman’s, took a look at the cafe, and almost bought Ryan a $20 turkey made of chocolate just because I could. It was infinitely more affordable than the aforementioned Louboutins, or the tank top that was $500 on clearance. (That rack was in the aisle. It could not be avoided.)
I think I still should’ve bought the $20 chocolate turkey. I mean, how many times can you say, “I bought a chocolate turkey at Neiman Marcus!”
My true inspiration for the story was an incident that happened at Upton’s when I picked up an extra shift in the lingerie department. A woman really did shoplift several bras by putting them on and wearing them out of the store. I called loss prevention, but she got away with a whole new lingerie wardrobe. Part two of the story was inspired by my trip to Oakland Cemetery and the Central State Asylum in Milledgeville I still want to visit. Um, as a tourist. Let me clarify that.
Also, I’m going to make a donation to the Historic Oakland Foundation from any proceeds I make from this novella. The story of the man and woman with multiple spouses in the same mausoleum is true, by the way. As to whether or not there are any empty caskets in Oakland? I wouldn’t presume to say.
Leave a comment below, and I’ll pick one person using random.org to receive a $5 Amazon gift card by email. I’ll be drawing that lucky winner tonight (Wednesday, December 3) at 10 pm EST. Be sure to check out all of the other stories, too, because there are some lovely folks who’ve contributed some really interesting stories. I am quite honored to be in such company! Oh, and here’s the link to my story!