The Ex Files
As an editor at a hip woman’s magazine, Diana Hudson’s job is to spot mistakes and erase them. But when her boss discovers she’s been applying the same critical eye to her love life, she decides it’s time for Diana to re-edit her style manual for love. She offers Diana the chance to write her first story for the magazine–the EX files–a series of articles about whether spending time with old flames can kindle new fires. For the aspiring writer it’s an irresistible, though admittedly awkward, opportunity — especially when her photographer and BFF Nick is sent along to document whether “Mr. Wrong Then” might be “Mr. Right Now…” But as Nick focuses his lens on Diana’s love life, she’s not the only one who begins to see things from a different angle…
I’m delighted to introduce my first blog novel, all polished and edited for sale. This novel had a rocky beginning — I asked myself “What if a woman had to go back and examine all her exes to see if she overlooked Mr. Right?” Would she find out there were some Mr. Could Have Beens in the group? Relationships are tough enough without having to worry that you’ve missed a diamond in the rough. And — because I’m a fiction writer and the chicklit craze was as hot as the hot water heroines like Bridget Jones had to swim in — what if she had to explore that question and write about it to please her very demanding boss and the readers of the hippest woman’s magazine in Manhattan? If you want to read it in beta blog form,
And then the chicklit genre dried up and became The Genre Which Must Not Be Named for a decade.
And then the ebook revolution occurred, my daughter got engaged, and I finished the book for her as a wedding present (I sent her the initial chapters in her Peace Corps care packages when she was in Madagascar).
I hope you love Diana as much as I do. I even love her exes. Kissing frogs is necessary business for a woman who wants to find Mr. Right. One woman’s frog is another woman’s Mr. Perfect, after all.
Oh, and if you want to read it in beta blog form, you can read it here: The Ex Files beta blog novel.
In the Beginning
Dear Female Eye Reader,
My editor tells me there has been much interest in my story, even before I officially begin to tell it. There has also been a bit of ridicule that I would be so naive as to imagine I could ever find a man who lived up to all of my Ten Commandments of Love and Marriage.
Before I begin the journey to revisit my exes to see if my Ten Commandments blinded me to a man who was perfect for me, I should at least let you know what they are:
- He shalt love me as he loves himself.
- He shalt not kill my dreams.
- He shalt not steal my confidence.
- He shalt not covet my attention.
- He shalt not skip date night.
- He shalt not complain about me to others.
- He shalt not lie to me.
- He shalt not covet porn.
- He shalt not cheat on me.
- He shalt honor family above all.
You may think these were written by a sixteen year old girl. You would be right. But even at thirty, I believe in them deep in my gut. I?m not even going to correct shalt to shall here, because that sixteen year old girl thought shalt was strong enough to convey just how unbreakable these commandments should be.
Are they too harsh? Revisit my exes with me and let your gut be the judge.
aka Queen of the Lists
List Not, Lest You Fall
I turned thirty at 4:06 a.m. Awake. Alone.
When I was twenty-one, I thought thirty would come in with a clap of thunder. Or at least with a surprise party thrown by my handsome and successful husband and attended by a hundred of my closest friends.
That had been my goal, my dream, my vision–number one on my to do list.
I sat up in the dark and double checked the date on my cell phone. Yep. Awake and alone at thirty. Sounded like the title of one of those self help books that tell women they have more of a chance of contracting ebola than finding a husband. Happy birthday to me.
My phone vibrated to let me know I had a text message. Happy Birthday! You’re worth every stretch mark! See you when I get home. Mom.
Not exactly a clap of thunder, but close. 4:06 a.m. I considered calling to thank her. This hour of the morning was not made for hard labor. But she’s in Africa on safari and chances are good that she asked my Dad to send the text right at 4:06 a.m. on the dot. She’s like that.
The sound of a new text being delivered hit the silent darkness like an angry mosquito. Happy Birthday, Princess! Have a piece of cake for me when you wake up. Call you later. Dad.
He wouldn’t call. He never called. He probably wouldn’t have remembered to text me if Mom hadn’t threatened him with dire consequences if he didn’t send her text on time.
The third buzz was the charm. Y’up, B-girl? Emily.
I called her back.
She skipped hello. “It doesn’t matter. You’re better off waiting until you’re thirty-five to get married anyway.”
“That’s not why I’m awake. There was an accident.” The floor was cool on my bare feet when I slid out of bed. From the window, I could see the cars. One had a creatively trailing fender. No doubt the source of the horrendous scream of metal that had penetrated the soothing sounds of my white noise machine.
“Another one? Taxi or civilian?”
I squinted, looking down 14 floors to the street below. “A Beamer and an Audi. But everyone seems well enough to wave their hands in each others’ faces.”
“Civilians shouldn’t be allowed to drive in the city.”
“You know it. Phone shots?”
The thought was tempting. Too tempting. But if I admitted that, Emily would know that I had been obsessing over the fact my life plan would be majorly off track if I didn’t get married in the next twenty-one hours. I decided to distract her. “Mom managed to send a text at exactly 4:06 a.m.” The Beamer driver was now waving his arms at the cop on the scene. The Audi driver stood in the strobe of red and white looking like the bad guy in a mafia movie.
“Considering Dad texted me immediately afterward, I think she asked him to do it.”
“I hope I’m that good a mother when my daughter turns thirty.” Emily’s voice held a wistful note. “You’re so lucky.”
Lucky. Sure. “You will be a great mother. When you have kids. I bet you’ll be the kind of mother who doesn’t even once contemplate celebrating your daughter’s sixteenth birthday with an announcement that you’re divorcing her father and reclaiming your life from the doldrums of family servitude.”
“She loves you.”
“In her way.” The way that made her book a trip to Africa on 24 hours notice without considering she’d miss her daughter’s thirtieth birthday. I put a note to call my mother when she got home on the running to do list I keep on my cell. The power of positive thinking got me through college with my eye on the goal, not on my tendency to run through roommates or wear out computers, keyboards, and printers. Surely it could help me overlook my mother’s idiosyncrasy. She thought life plans were dangerous. Including mine.
As the tow truck moved away with the Beamer listing behind, I wondered if tow truck drivers and policeman thought like my mother. After all, they got to see a lot of life where planned and unplanned collided. Advantage unplanned. Me? I hated crossing things off the plan because the deadline had passed instead of because I’d accomplished the goal.
Emily offered, in a sleepy voice, “Don’t cross anything off The Plan. Let me do it when we have dinner.”
“Thanks. It’s my plan. I’ll do the crossing out, thank you very much.”
“I’m your best friend. And it’s your birthday.”
“I can handle it. It isn’t the first time my plans have hit a snag.” I hadn’t planned for my parents to get divorced, but I tried not to let it interfere with The Plan that was going to take me through college and into adult life with maximum success. At twenty-one, I’d graduated with a degree and a job offer thanks to The Plan. I hadn’t seen any reason why my thirtieth birthday wouldn’t offer the same satisfaction. I had made an inspiration board of my future: me in a close fitting wine colored suit (wine is a good color for my fair skin and red hair, contrary to those old wives’ tales), raising a glass with a sheepish smile as my husband toasted me.
I hadn’t been able to quite picture the husband–he was a tall blur in dark gray, tailored Armani whose voice rang out deep and sincere as he thanked me for the joy and organization I’d brought into his life, even while working hard to earn the Pulitzer for my articles on the lifestyles of modern women.
Crap. Happy birthday to me again. Two major goals missed.
“Are you sure? My life is all about arts and crafts. It could be my birthday gift to you, since you won’t let me throw you a surprise party. One crossed out marriage deadline. No big deal.”
“Two, actually. No article yet.” Three if you counted the surprise party that Emily is planning that is definitely not a surprise. Not that she knew I knew.
Emily was silent for a moment, and then offered, “Would you like a smiley sticker? Or maybe a glitter star? We could cover those suckers up like they never existed.”
“No glitter. No smiles. Save those for your students.” It’s not that my boss doesn’t approve of the ideas I submit on a weekly basis—it’s just that she thinks a staff writer can handle it better than I can, since I’m just an editor. Editing and writing have to be mixed carefully, she says, or the end result will resemble a Molotov cocktail.
Like the sleepy street cleared of mangled cars and irate drivers, my life seemed no different. I missed two major life goals on The Plan and I’m still standing. I forced a cheery tone. “At least I have the wine suit, even if I don’t have the husband and career to match.”
“That’s the girl. Think positive. That suit makes you look serious, sexy and smart. No way will Dragon Lady refuse you the next article. I can feel it in my bones.”
“That’s called exhaustion. What are you doing awake anyway? Your kids will eat you alive if you don’t get your eight hours.” Emily taught kindergarten.
Another hesitation. “I will if you will.”
“Deal.” I’d find out what was keeping Emily the perpetually perky awake tomorrow, after I’d dealt with The Plan.
“Sure you don’t want to do phone shots?”
“My head’s already on the pillow,” I lied. At thirty years and fifteen minutes old, I accepted that I wasn’t going back to sleep.
“You never know, maybe something in The Plan will survive this birthday. You still have the rest of the day to go.”
I resisted the urge to out her about the no-surprise surprise party she was planning for me. “You’re not channeling a bad romcom are you? One where I meet and marry Mr. Right in one day?”
“No.” She paused. “But Dragon Lady could always assign you the article on romantic camping vacations. You’re pitching that one, today, right?”
“Fingers crossed. Now get some sleep so I don’t have to hear all about a glitter catastrophe in the classroom at dinner tonight.”
“Right. Simple. Just the four of us. Unless you want me to plan a surprise party?”
“Simple is good. See you tonight.” I hung up. Emily is incapable of keeping a secret long enough to plan a surprise. She has not so subtly asked my restaurant, wine and food preferences over the last few weeks—several times, because she doesn’t even keep a to do list. I don’t hold that against her, though, because Emily takes after her kindergartners in many ways, and it is best to be as prepared for chaos as possible when she’s around.