Another Sad Goodbye

I’m trying the “write through your grief” thing on for size today. Not sure it’ll work, and I know I’ll be far from eloquent, but here goes. Long post ahead…

Pets. They speak to you in their own ways and love you with their whole heart. And when you have to let them go, the pain of it almost defies description. A few weeks ago, on Halloween evening, our darling little 17-year-old cat, Possum, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour on her jaw bone. This past week, we had to face the heartbreaking reality—the tumour was growing quickly and aggressively. There were other problems, but I won’t go into them now. Her quality of life was diminishing and nothing could be done for her aside from giving doses of heavy painkillers three times a day. Yesterday, December 8, our local vet came to the house and put Possum to sleep on my lap under the shade of her favourite avocado tree.

There are so many great memories of Possum that I want to keep alive. Like the day we went to a breeder intending to get a British shorthair, but we were pounced on by this scrappy, marsupial-like kitten when we walked in. A failed ocicat, the breeder called her, because she failed to “spot.” The 14-week-old kitten successfully climbed up my husband’s jeans legs, then mine. It was written: we were the chosen ones. Despite wanting so desperately to come home with us, Possum cried for the entire first night.

Possum at just a few months old in 1999.
Possum at just a few months of age in 1999. This was taken pre-digital cameras.

But she soon became attached to us and her new big bro, Pinklepurr. I’d never known a cat to love so hard and so much. And she was a talker. I swear you’d say something and she’d reply quite thoughtfully. I think most owners of talkative Oriental cats will know what I mean! We also soon found out that she fetched things like a dog. Toy mice and pistachio nuts were her favourite play things. She understood the words “no” and “excuse me.” The latter was used if she was on my lap and I needed to get up. She had a congenital weepy eye. We’d sing the Kleenex tissue song to her and wipe her eye clean. Afterwards, she’d blink up at us gratefully. In cat language, slow blinking means “I’m happy. I’m smiling.”

Possum relaxing in the garden she loved so much.
Possum relaxing in the garden she loved so much. Even that weepy eye could not detract from her beauty!

She could always be counted on to make up her own games. Possum taught us some too, like what we called the stair game, which was kind of like tennis. She would sit halfway up a staircase and bat a toy mouse down at us. Our job was to throw the mouse at her and she’d skilfully lob it back. When she got tired of playing, she’d find unusual places to snooze. One day I arrived home to find her sleeping on a dish draining rack above the kitchen sink.

Possum was the kind of cat who had to be involved in everything going: house renovations (twice), folding bedsheets, sorting cupboards, wrapping gifts, helping me write, making phone calls, or opening boxes. (The box would become her new bed for the following three days, then she would discard it.) We bought a Possum-sized stepladder so she could watch us cook from the end of the kitchen bench.

Our cats were only allowed outside under supervision. But in the chaos of a renovation, one night she slipped out after curfew. I found her on the back porch very early the next morning, looking scruffy and carting around a T-bone that she’d scrounged from a neighbour’s yard. She acted like she’d been abandoned and wandering in the wilderness for weeks instead of hours.

One night a real possum (the marsupial kind) visited our yard. Possum and the possum locked gazes. They seemed to be quite confused but fascinated by one another.

Many people think cats are aloof. But not all of them are snooty. Personable Possum used to run to the front door to greet us when we came home. (That said, she disliked other cats, especially fluffy-tailed ones, and dogs.) As soon as I sat down, Possum would take her rightful place on my lap or my laptop. For a long time, she wanted to sleep in our bed. A photo my husband took of Poss and I asleep side by side even made it into the Awkward Family Pet Photos book. We often joked about getting a baby sling for her because she always wanted to stick close to her humans. I made a silly photo blog for our cats; it was short-lived, but today that blog gave me huge comfort.

This photo of P&P ended up in the I Can Has Cheezburger desk calendar one year.

Writing this post now, it’s incredibly tough to not have Possum here on my lap, with her white chin on resting my left arm. I already even miss getting clawed (never deliberately). It’s… Yeah, I need some tissues. BRB.

Okay. Do I feel better after writing this post? Marginally. I already miss the way she looked up at us with so much love in her eyes, the way she’d keep me warm when I was sick, keep me company on the couch. I even miss clearing out her litter tray. Weird, I know. We’ve gone from a two-cat household to a zero-cat household in less than a year, and it’s so, so hard to bear.

But as a close friend just said to me, and I hope she won’t mind me repeating it here, “You will never forget her and you will always love her, but day by day, it will get a little easier to bear.” For my own healing, I’ll probably revisit to this post as I remember all the fun things Possum did in her 17 years. And I still have literally hundreds of photos and videos of her. Hundreds. Maybe sorting through those day by day will ease the pain some more.

I’m grateful to the amazing vets and nurses at Sydney Animal Hospitals for taking such good care of Possum for the past 10 years and right to the very end. They kindly sent us a cute bunch of flowers today. Thank you to my friends and family who’ve shared our loss privately. Your words have really meant a lot and given us strength. I want to single out my boss, who isn’t a cat man, but understood the special relationship with Possum and gave me time off in the days leading up to our loss. *Thank you*

Vale, dear Possum, ultimate lapcat, substitute baby, and writing partner. I still can’t believe you’re gone. You brought us joy every single day. I hope you and Pinkie are together once more.

Possum and Pinkie.
Possum and her adoring big brother, Pinkie.

That’s Possum helping me wrap a present I’d bought for a friend from the British Museum.

Eating corn on the cob.

Happy Release Day to Abbie Roads!

releasebltizbannerhtd

Hunt the Dawn by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Dreams #2

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: December 6, 2016

BUY NOW

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google | Indigo | BAM! | Indie Bound

add-to-goodreads-button

Out of darkness and danger

You can’t hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery-he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he’s never offered another human being: himself.

Dawns a unique and powerful love

Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death-if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

Continue reading “Happy Release Day to Abbie Roads!”

Finally, a new blog post!

Thank you to everyone who entered my Goodreads November giveaway! Ten paperback copies of my novella, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, are now on their way to ten lucky winners across the U.S. Congrats, everyone!

Some lovely reviews of the novella have come in recently. It’s always amazing and humbling to hear that people are taking time out to read my work. Soren from Ripley’s Booklist said it had “A nice blend of humor and emotion, with a realistic teen voice.” And Sabina on Goodreads said she “cried a lot,” which, believe, me is a huge compliment! I cried when I wrote this story too because I adore my poor tortured characters. Check out more reviews on my website.

Soooo, December, huh? This year went by in a flash. One of the highlights of 2016 for me was going to the U.S. for the RWA conference in San Diego, where I saw my two critique partners win the highest honours in romance writing — Pintip Dunn nabbed the RITA for Best First Book and Kim MacCarron earned a Golden Heart Award for Best Inspirational Romance manuscript. Golden Heart winner and fellow Aussie Gabrielle Luthy and I trotted off to a cat cafe and got our feline fix. We giggled over buying American laundry “souvenirs” from a supermarket — a magical wrinkle eraser and a Tide spot-stain remover. #ohtheglamour.

Kim and Pintip - winnahs!
Kim and Pintip – winnahs!
Gabrielle Luthy, Golden Heart winner and fellow cat enthusiast
Gabrielle Luthy, Golden Heart winner and fellow cat enthusiast
img_2433
Ghost-hunting with Kim in San Diego

My agent and I were treated to an impromptu dolphin show while we had lunch by the water. Apparently, dolphins are enlisted by the navy for mine detection among other things.

In Nashville, I saw my favourite band of all time, Duran Duran. (Actually, I almost missed them because my plane was delayed first by a janitorial issue and then storm activity.) Nile Rodgers and Chic were the support act. OMG – gobsmackingly good. DD and Nile performed a tribute to David Bowie, blending ‘Planet Earth’ with ‘Space Oddity’.

Spare a thought (or ‘Save a Prayer’) for DD, who’ve just lost a high court battle for the rights to their early works. Read about it here. Heartbreaking stuff. In the meantime, I urge you to listen to and download their later works, like the albums ‘All You Need Is Now’ (I made a tiny reference to it in my novella) and ‘Paper Gods’.

Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon.
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon in Nashville.
John Taylor
John Taylor

In more heartbreaking news, my 17-year-old cat, Possum, has been diagnosed with an inoperable tumour. We don’t know how much time we’ve got together, but we’re making the most of it. She’s pretty much glued to my lap, “helping” me write as always!

Brave little Possum (who is actually a cat, I assure you!)
Brave little Possum (who is actually a cat, I assure you!)

How about you? Was 2016 a good, bad or meh year for you?

Goodreads Giveaway!

Get ready, get set for a Goodreads Giveaway! Ten paperback copies of my novella, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, are up for grabs! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents, and runs from November 1 to November, 30.

Click here to enter on Goodreads.com

About LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG…

Molly’s best friend Alex has done a U-turn from Yale-bound student to rebel without a cause. She’s determined to find out why. But is she truly ready to learn Alex’s devastating secret?

To find out more and read an excerpt, click here.

Halloween Book Blog Hop!

Tricks can be fun, but TREATS are way better. And this contest gives you a chance to win a ton of treats in the form of signed books, ebooks, candy, book swag and more from 13 authors!! We know…it’s kind of SPOOK-TACULAR!

So how do you snag the loot? It’s simple, and you don’t even have to dress up and walk in the cold door to door to get the goodies.

Visit each of the THIRTEEN participating author websites. You will find the name of the candy/treat they are giving away, as well as what BOOK they are offering as part of the PRIZE PACK!  Be sure to write down the name of the treat, you’ll need it later.

I’m giving away a Kindle e-copy of my ghost book, THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, plus Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

afterlife_fc_fnl

Each author will provide a link to another author website on the hunt. (We are making it nice and easy so you don’t get lost in the dark) =)

Have fun reading all about the books each author is giving away in the prize pack, plus any other tricks and treats the authors may have in store for you.

When you have collected the names of all 13 author “TREATS”, head on over to complete the Trick or Treat Hunt Page Google Forms doc HERE and enter the correct treat next to the corresponding author name.

Trick or Treat Hunt Google Form

You can enter for BONUS chances to win via the Rafflecopter found on each author’s website, by doing things like following them on Twitter or following their Goodreads page, or tweeting about the Hunt!

RAFFLECOPTER LINK
 

So WHAT WILL YOU WIN??
A creepy-awesome black canvas tote bag with a cool skull filled with each of the books noted below as well as bookmarks and other great book swag. You will also win all of the treats that the author’s list on their pages PLUS a bunch of other candy treats all in a black plastic cauldron. You’ll even get the cute little plastic skulls shown in the prize photo.
octbloghunt2016
PARTICIPATING AUTHORS and their AWESOME BOOKS!
Amy McNulty – NOBODY’S GODDESS (advanced paperback)
Kiran Oliver – DAYBREAK RISING (ebook)
Dorothy Dreyer – SCARE ME TO SLEEP (Kindle ebook)
Jodie Andrefski – THE SOCIETY (signed paperback)
Julia Ember – UNICORN TRACKS (paperback)
Julie Reece – THE ARTISANS (signed paperback)
Nina Rossing – FJORD BLUE (signed paperback)
Pat Edsen – BEYOND YOUR TOUCH (signed paperback)
Pintip Dunn – FORGET TOMORROW (signed paperback)
S.A.Larsen – MOTLEY EDUCATION (signed paperback)
Suzanne van Rooyen – OBSCURA BURNING (Releases 11/10 ebook)
Vanessa Barneveld – THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE (Kindle ebook)
Vicki Weavil – FACSIMILE (signed paperback)
The contest runs from Friday October 28th, 2016 through Midnight, October 31st, 2016 (EST)
Winner will be announced November 1st.

Contest is US only. Thank you for your understanding.

To continue the blog hop, click on lovely Jodie Andrefski‘s book cover below. Good luck!

society

Halloween Book Blog Hop

totbbh2Do you love books? Love treats? Live in the U.S.?

Jodie Andrefski has gathered a ton of fabulous authors (and me!) for a Halloween blog hop from October 28 to midnight, October 31. You could win a literal bucketful of our books and glorious treats. No tricks!

Stay tuned for details on how to enter in the next few days.

In the meantime, tell me, do you have a costume ready for Halloween? This adorable chocolate labrador I found on Pinterest has the right idea:

029aa2d89804de9083b3dbf70d0afeab

 

 

 

Happy Release Day to Abbie Roads!

releaseblitzbanner


rtdRace the Darkness by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Dreams #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: October 4, 2016


BUY NOW
Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | B&N | Indigo | BAM | Indie Bound

add-to-goodreads-button

Cursed with a terrible gift…
Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.
A gift that threatens to engulf them…
Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.

Continue reading “Happy Release Day to Abbie Roads!”

And the winner is…

Thank you so much to everyone to posted my LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG excerpt on their blogs and shared the release on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — everywhere, really! I’m grateful to you all.

Blog hosts went in the running to win a $20 Amazon e-card. I’m pleased to announce the winner is…

Margo Kelly!

Whoo-hoo! Congrats, Margo!


Many thanks also to everyone who has purchased and downloaded the novella so far! I’m donating 50% of profits to a teen cancer charity, so by buying this edition, you may just save a life. How cool is that?

2

If you missed the excerpt, click here. And you can pick up a copy of LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG for a tiny US$0.99. This link will take you to all the major e-tailers: https://books2read.com/u/3nev5o

 

 

Release Day Excerpt Blitz!

lfdyblitzbanner

Release day for my stand-alone YA novella, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG is here! This quick read is full of heartbreak and hope. I will donate half the profits from the sale of this edition to CanTeen, a charity that supports young people dealing with cancer. So make sure you pick up a copy for only 99 cents at these e-tailers:

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

Add LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG to your Goodreads shelf

Read on for an excerpt!


Summary

He has six months to live. She has six months to save him…

Molly Corbett can’t stand seeing her childhood pal Alex Gibson destroy himself. He’s gone from straight-A student to rebel without a cause. With so much at stake, some serious interference is called for—or at least Micromanaging Molly thinks so. Alex needs to get back on the path to the Ivy League. But the harder Molly pushes Alex, the harder he pushes back.

Alex has a secret.

Well, two secrets. Number one: He has terminal melanoma. With six months to live, Alex hasn’t got a second to waste. And hanging around hospitals when his friends think he’s cutting school definitely counts as wasted time. Instead, he’s going to drop out, surf, drive fast cars…and finally put secret number two out there. He’s in love with Molly and he’s going to tell her before it’s too late.

Edgy, and yet wonderfully tender, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG sent me to reader heaven!

~ Tina Ferraro, author of THE ABCs OF KISSING BOYS


livefastdieyoung-cover-1600x2400
LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG Excerpt

Around six the next morning, I find Mom sitting at the island bench in the kitchen. She looks pretty chill for someone who just laid on a breakfast of fruit salad, yogurt, sautèed mushrooms and kale, unbuttered whole-wheat sourdough and two eggs, sunny-side up. A thick, football-field-green smoothie sits in a tall glass by the blender. Great. More kale.

“Hey, Alex!” She smiles over her coffee mug and pats the stool next to her. “Sleep well?”

I shuffle onto the seat and stare at the food. “Have I died and gone to buffet heaven?”

My mother winces at my choice of words, then makes a big effort to put on a happy face like she always does. “I want you to keep your strength up. You don’t have to eat all of it. Just most of it.”

“And you don’t have to go out of your way to make this for me. I mean, thanks. A lot. But I don’t have much of an appetite.”

“Oh, I’m having some, too,” she says in an overly bright voice. With her fork, she scoops up a tiny portion of kale, hardly enough to fill a mouse’s belly.

Since my diagnosis a few months ago, Mom hasn’t been eating much either. This doesn’t stop her from testing all the “cancer-fighting” recipes she finds on Pinterest. Baking is therapy, she says. I call it a waste of food. Fortunately, the family next door is more than happy to take excess lentil loaf off our hands.

Every hour of every day, I wonder what will happen to Mom after I go. She’ll be all alone. Dad moved back to Australia after the divorce. He’s making custom surfboards, connecting with old friends, so I know he’ll be okay. Mom’s literally got no one. Except the perpetually hungry neighbors and her five employees. Yet another reason why I shouldn’t die so young.

It’s crazy. Why does it have to be like this? Maybe the doctors got it wrong. They’re not infallible. They’re not gods. They can’t predict the exact number of months, days, hours, and seconds a person has left on Earth.

Then again, I’ve peeked at my medical records. I know it doesn’t look good for me. With the help of a counselor I’ve gotten to the stage of mostly accepting that I’m headed for a dead end. I’ve even started giving some of my stuff away. The iPad Dad gave me is now Molly’s. Mom won’t have to go through boxes of my middle-school clothes after I’m gone because I’ve already dropped them off at Goodwill. The cobalt-blue board I learned to surf on? I’m giving that to a kid down the street whether he likes it or not.

Noticing I haven’t touched a single morsel, Mom says, “Will you at least have the kale, broccoli and goji berry smoothie? You don’t even have to chew. Close your eyes and drink it.”

Speaking of acceptance… Yeah, Mom’s adamant that five doctors on two continents are wrong and that I’ll make a miraculous recovery. All we need is faith and love and kale.

I would rather eat broken glass mixed with cyanide, but for Mom, I guess I can manage this. Forcing a smile, I sip chunks of raw broccoli that slipped by the blender’s blades. I’ll check over the blender later, make sure it’s working okay.

“After breakfast, I’m taking you to that appointment you missed yesterday,” she says quickly.

Feeling guilty, I look away. She didn’t hammer me for skipping out on seeing this “amazing herbalist-slash-psychic-healer.” Still, I know she was disappointed in me. “What about work? You’ve missed a lot of days because of me.”

“It’s fine. Things are slow anyway.” Her voice is two octaves higher than usual.

She’s lying. The real estate biz in this corner of SoCal is booming. Foreclosures have brought in the flippers—the people who swoop in on bank-owned properties and fix them up for a profit.

“But you need those commissions.” Silently I add, To pay my medical bills.

Another reason to feel guilty. I’m aware of how much my cancer is costing my parents. Flights to a melanoma specialist in Sydney and more hospital follow-ups here don’t come cheap. My folks tell me not to worry about that, but ironically I’m old enough to figure out that dying young is expensive.

And now Molly’s pushing me to apply to Yale.

I can’t blame her. She knows it’s been my dream since forever to go to Yale, get a medical degree, become a pediatrician. But it’d be a waste of time and money for me to even try to follow that dream.

I grimace at the olive oil oozing from the barely touched kale and mushroom thing.

Waste. Sure is the theme of the day. Of my life, even.


Want to read more?

Download the novella now from iBooks, Amazon, B&N and Kobo for just 99c.

 

LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG – out now! from Vanessa Barneveld on Vimeo.

Cover Reveal – Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

I am so excited to share with you the cover reveal for BEFORE TOMORROW by Pintip Dunn, a FORGET TOMORROW novella from Logan’s POV!

before-tomorrow

Title: Before Tomorrow

Publisher: Entangled TEEN

Release Date: Oct. 31, 2016

In a world where all seventeen-year-olds receive a memory from their future selves, Logan Russell’s vision is exactly as he expects—and exactly not. He sees himself achieving his greatest wish of becoming a gold-star swimmer, but strangely enough, the vision also shows him locking eyes with a girl from his past, Callie Stone, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of love and belonging.

Logan’s not sure what the memory means, but soon enough, he learns that his old friend Callie is in trouble. She’s received an atypical memory, one where she commits a crime in the future. According to the law, she must be imprisoned, even though she’s done nothing wrong. Now, Logan must decide if he’ll give up his future as a gold-star swimmer and rescue the literal girl of his dreams. All he’ll have to do is defy Fate.

Add BEFORE TOMORROW on Goodreads!

But what if you don’t want to wait until Oct. 31?

No problem. Pre-order REMEMBER YESTERDAY, book 2 in the FORGET TOMORROW series, and register your receipt here, and you’ll receive a copy of BEFORE TOMORROW to read before anyone else! Plus, U.S. residents will also get a bookplate and bookmark!

Want to learn more about FORGET TOMORROW and REMEMBER YESTERDAY? Click here.

REMEMBER YESTERDAY buy links:
 Pintip cropped
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.
Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE and the forthcoming REMEMBER YESTERDAY. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.