Meet Illustrator Hanna Sandvig


The Ex-Files book cover

 Illustrator Hanna Sandvig Talks Drawing and Cover Design

I’m so excited to feature the talented Hanna Sandvig, of Book Cover Bakery, on the blog today. A few months ago, when I wanted to re-do the cover of The Ex Files to match my new Secret Shopper series, I had to find an illustrator. Luckily, I came across a reference to Hanna, who has now designed two covers and two trailers for me, with two more covers yet to do. I debuted the trailer for The Ex Files yesterday, and if you want to be the first to see the trailer for Shop and Let Die, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get a sneak peek on Friday.

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New The Ex-Files Has a Trailer

Every new cover needs a trailer

I’ve already revealed the new The Ex Files cover, but now it is time to reveal the trailer that talented artist Hanna Sandvig did for me.

Isn’t it cute?

I’ve never been able to draw anything other than princesses (circle faces, bell-shaped skirts), so I’m always envious when I see someone else’s artistic talent. But this time, I got to help create it.

Later this week, I’ll share an interview with Hanna, and maybe give you a sneak peek into our working process.


The Ex Files is Available at Last!

The Ex Files by Kelly McClymerA book walked into a bar and said…


I’m heading off for a two week drive across the country this morning. It’s going to be epic (or not, judging by how some of these grand plans have gone in the past). We have a brand new digital camera that can even take 3-D images (don’t know why, you’d have to ask the dh). We have incredibly dedicated cat sitters  installed in the house to take care of the 23 year old cat, who needs a lot of affection and reassurance. We’ve stocked the refrigerator and pantry for our cat sitters, fixed the leak under the sink, and put off tearing out the kitchen cabinets.

Before I go, I want to welcome The Ex Files into the world. Today is a day I thought would never come for a book I thought I would never finish after the chicklit genre became The Genre Which Must Not be Named.

Diana’s story was one I wanted to know the end to — but I had other books to write. Books that publishers paid me to write. So I wrote them. In a twist of irony, Simon and Schuster did — kind of — want The Ex Files. They just wanted me to make the character younger (to fit my new YA audience). So Getting To Third Date was written. That wasn’t really Diana’s story. It was Katelyn’s story. The story of a college freshman who doesn’t give guys much of a shot of a second date because she’s so critical.

The Ex Files is Diana’s story — the story of a woman who realized more than once that she was with the wrong guy after he proposed. Awk. Ward.

I hope you enjoy Diana’s story as much as I did!

And, by the way, if you have a favorite destination in the middle of the U.S.A., please leave a comment to give us an idea of where to go next on our Road Trip of a lifetime. It’s Mount Washington today, but who knows where the day after. We’re heading toward our daughter’s wedding spot in California, with a  vague plan to veer by Mount Rushmore — and what we don’t catch on the way out, we may just swing by on the way back. No rules, baby. Except one: have fun.


Wish us luck and/or tell us where to go (nicely please…)

The Ex Files Arrives July 15

So, my web guru (aka firstborn son) was supposed to put my gorgeous new cover up in the featured section yesterday. But his father spirited him away to buy a suit for his sister’s wedding instead. This is the first time he’s had a suit, ever. He’s always borrowed one of his father’s jackets to wear if he needed to be a little dressed up.

They got a great deal on a really nice gray pinstripe suit. And dinner at Pizza Hut. I love it when my guys go out and have a father-son bonding session.

Okay, back to me. The Ex Files (my blog novel-in-progress — see sidebar)  is revised, edited, formatted, and in the pipeline at Book View Cafe. It will be released on July 15th. Wooty Hooty Hoo. But, even better, I can show you the cover. If you want to be notified when it is live and ready to be purchased, sign up for my newsletter, I’ll be sending out a welcome to the e-world newsletter on the 15th.

And now: the cover:

Isn’t it pretty?

Oh, by the way, The Fairy Tale Bride just went free (everywhere, including B&N, I think).

#SampleSunday: Blood Angel — YA

Time for another installment of The Ex-Files...except, I'm debuting my newest YA novel, BLOOD ANGEL, this week. You'll have to wait for the next chapter of The Ex-Files until next week. But you can catch up with the chapters if you need to: OBLIGATORY STATEMENT: This is part of  the wedding promotion. I promised my daughter I would finish this chicklit novel (begun while she was in Madagascar in the Peace Corps, and mailed to her chapter by chapter...until chicklit died and I turned to writing my YA novel The Salem Witch Tryouts). She is now home, has earned a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan, and is engaged. So, really, I owe her.

Brief recap of the premise of The Ex-Files: Emily is a young woman with a life plan, who hits thirty without making her milestone of getting married. Her friends say she’s too picky and that she probably overlooked Mr. Right because he folds his socks wrong. Her boss says, “That would make a great story — write it.” So Emily is required to revisit her 7 longest relationships to see if she overlooked Mr. Right. And write about it for a national magazine. With the moral support of her two best friends, Emily is about to reexamine everything she ever thought was a must-have quality in her Mr. Right.

The Ex-Files, Chapter One The Ex-Files, Chapter Two The Ex-Files, Chapter Three The Ex-Files, Chapter Four The Ex-Files, Chapter Five The Ex-Files, Chapter Six The Ex-Files, Chapter Seven The Ex-Files, Chapter Eight The Ex-Files, Chapter Nine The Ex-Files, Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen

Now — please welcome BLOOD ANGEL to the book world. This is a book of my heart. A story about a school shooter who was a good kid until circumstances made him snap and do the unforgivable. Now he’s haunted by his ex-best-friend and victim as he moves through a justice system determined to grind him into oblivion for his heinous crime. A tough book to write. When I got the idea, I said, “No way. I can’t write that!” But Amy was insistent that I tell her story. So I took up the challenge for a NaNoWriMo a few years ago. My agent loved the book, and we almost sold it several times. But, as it is my 13th published book, it seemed to be under a curse.

I hope to break that curse, starting today. As you can see, I have a fabulous cover that is a collaborative effort between my cousin Bridget Hunke, who took the photograph, and Kelly Pernell, who designed the cover using Bridget’s picture. I feel honored to have such a beautiful cover for my book.

You can find the book at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. It is in ebook only form, although I will debut a paperback in three months, for those of you who haven’t embraced the digital model just yet.

So, here’s the first chapter as a sample. I hope you see why Amy finally persuaded me to tell her story.


Infinity Begins Anywhere and Ends Nowhere

That anyone survives high school, when I think about it, is a tribute to the power of mind over murder. I know it’s tempting to ask why so many, but maybe the better question is why so few? So many minds seeking escape. So, relatively, little murder.

If I were going to paint high school, I’d need a canvas the size of the Atlantic ocean. Angular cement block buildings shaded some faded mix of puke and dinge best called Dismal Days. Fake wood desks with metal legs so shiny and hard-edged you can practically hear the echo when they scrape against the tiled floors. Metal lockers that special shad of grime gray that instantly recalls the frantic between-class open and shut clang. Oh, and high out of reach bells and big faced clocks that count off the seconds between eruptions that go off in some design only God and the principal understand, but which everyone – even the janitor – responds to like poor Pavlov’s dog.

The round black bombs with fuses springing from the top that cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote use? That’s how I’d paint the students. Bombs with backpacks. And maybe some teachers, too, although they’d be bigger, slightly more sophisticated and capable of triggering all the little bombs wedged into rows of desks.

I’m not usually a cynical person. I try to see the good in people, and even in necessary evils like school. I believe in God and I go to church every Sunday. Divine Redemption on Fourth Street. After my weekly confession, I do the penance that Father Kelly sets for me, even though he’d never know if I didn’t until he got to Heaven and God told him. If there is a God. Not that I’m not sure there is. Just…I think we can’t know what he looks like, or says, but if he exists, he has way better things to do with his infinite time than to rat out a kid.

So, really, I’m a good person, a positive person. Maybe I was a bit of a time bomb, but getting my braces off and growing a decent set of boobs my junior year kept my fuse way too damp to blow. So how fair is it that I got to be there when one of the ticking time bombs went off?

It’s funny. You go along, planning and waiting and counting down until you’re an adult and free, and then some kid you’ve known since kindergarten steps in front of your first period World History class with a gun and everything melts away like fresh spun cotton candy on your tongue.

I don’t know what sparked the fuse on the bomb that was Jamie that day, but when I looked into his eyes, I could see the fuse burning down in them as clear as I could see the peach fuzz on his chin. There wasn’t time to ask him why. Or maybe there was and no one thought of it because we were all busy wondering if we were going to die.

I still needed to know, even though knowing wouldn’t change anything. So I sat down across the table from him in the jail. It wasn’t anything like what I thought a jail would be. A little like what they show on TV, but the smells–disinfectant and despair. Kind of like I’d imagined detention would be, if I’d ever had one. Which I hadn’t, because my mom would have killed me. Irony much?

Jamie was wearing one of those loose orange jumpsuits with short sleeves and his arms stuck out skinny and pale. Orange wasn’t his color, but he was still beautiful. For some reason, that made me madder than I already was. Why after the geek had started to turn gorgeous had his fuse blown? If you’re beautiful, you don’t have to go around ruining everything by blasting at it with a shotgun.

A million things went through my mind before I said, “Orange isn’t really your color. If I were in charge of the universe, I’d make you wear shiny black tights with Captain Destructo across your chest in lipstick red.” It sounded stupid when I said it, like the naked truth sometimes does.

“Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?” He sat there staring at me like he wished he still had a gun. I hadn’t expected that. I’d expected him to turn pale. Swallow hard enough for his Adam’s apple to bob, like it always did when he was nervous. Maybe even pretend he didn’t see me.

I focused on the fact that he was there, sitting in front of me. Looking at me. I leaned closer. “Why?”

The jaw muscles just under his ears bunched tight. His Adam’s apple bobbed. He looked away from me, toward some other orange suited guy crying to the tired looking woman across the table from him that he was sorry. It would never happen again.

Just when I thought that Jamie would refuse to look at me, to hear me, forever, he said, “Aren’t you the popular girl with all the friends? All the answers?”

I concentrated on a chip at the edge of the stained and scarred table between us. There was nothing he could do to me now. Not here. So I took off my polite church girl face, glad that Father Kelly couldn’t see me. “You’re pathetic. No wonder I stopped being friends with you.” Letting go the full blast force of my anger made me wonderfully hot and light and sharp, all at the same time. “If I knew why, do you think I’d be here asking a murderer?” I let him see all the rage and confusion I had learned to keep tucked under a smile since I graduated from the Terrible Twos. He wasn’t the only one who could do a personality backflip.

I waited for the satisfying moment when his unjust anger gave way to the massive force of my righteous fury. As long as I’d known him, Jamie had hated to have anyone mad at him. The bullies and whiners at school had always been able to shake him loose from his extra cookie at lunch. Today, my anger crouched between us, like a fiery ball of steel wool on the verge of going molten. But he didn’t melt down into apologies, or excuses, or…anything. He just sat there, as if I’d asked him what flavor ice cream he liked and he had to think about it.

My anger grew, hard and sharp, the coils painfully tangled in a tumble of good memories that now seemed impossibly false. Strangely, I could see it glowing red and smoking in the air between us. “Why?”

He put his hands up. They looked fake and plastic in the flickering fluorescent light. “The cops think I did it because I’m a punk. My mother thinks I’m just a loser. My lawyer says maybe the diet pills made me do it. Stupid. Lazy. Crazy. It’s choose-your-own-answer time.”

A guard looked his way and Jamie put his hands back down on the table. “Right now, talking to you, I’d say crazy is looking pretty good.” His fingers trembled, until he knotted them together. I wished I could cry. Not that I thought tears would dissolve his anger – or mine.

My magnificently molten anger turned cold and black in an instant.A lump of coal in a bad child’s Christmas stocking. But Jamie deserved coal, not me. I appealed to the boy I’d seen rescue a kitten caught in a tree. “I have to know.” That sounded pathetic. “You owe me.”

“Do I?”

“You’re the one who messed everything up.” Why wasn’t he sorry? Where was the boy who had sat and cried his eyes out with me when Sandy took his last doggie breath on Earth? That boy I could have crushed into oblivion with the harsh truth of what he’d done. And I wanted him crushed. Dust. Gone.

But he just sat there. Going nowhere. Just like me. “Because I got Old Skinnybutt’s rat blasting shotgun and blew a few holes in the ‘Best Little Town by a Dam Site’ image of Drisdale, South Carolina?” His voice got high and mean. “How did that mess up anything that wasn’t already messed up?”

“Oh my God. You don’t even care, do you? Not about the people you hurt. Not about your mother. What about Daniel?”

He winced when I said his little brother’s name. Good.

“Are you proud that he’ll probably have to move away just to escape being the little brother of a murderer?” Funny, I hadn’t thought about Daniel until then. He was just a kid. How would I have survived if my big brother Drew had gone off the deep end of the gene pool? Not by staying in Drisdale, South Carolina, that’s for sure.

“Shut up about Daniel.” The molten knot of steel wool hung between us again. I could see one small sign of the old Jamie, who had cared about people. About doing the right thing. His chin lifted, a sure sign he was about to make some lame excuse.

I still had a chance to get him to tell me why. To tell me he was sorry. Whatever. “Are you going to give him the thumbs up when he watches you get fried in the electric chair?”

“They don’t use the electric chair anymore, they do lethal injection, moron.” He looked away, toward the man and woman, who were both crying now, very soft and bubbly, like the white noise Ms. Anderson played for us during our French tests.


How many times had he and I called each other that over the years and it had never hurt? Never made me angry. Until now.

“Who’s the moron? You could have just hung on for another stupid year of stupid school and you’d be free of all the stupid rules and regulations. And now you’re going to be stuck with a life sentence of bells and whistles and guys with uniforms and guns forever.”

“There’s no such thing as forever.” He kept looking at the crying couple, their hands stretched toward each other, even though they weren’t allowed to touch. “Besides, people are tired of sending their kids to school to play the shotgun lottery. My lawyer says they’re going for the big DP.”

DP. Death penalty. “They can’t. You’re not even eighteen yet. That’s not fair.” Not fair to die so young…yeah, the irony did strike me. Not fair was what you said when you got grounded for nothing worse than rolling your eyes. Jamie and I had agreed, over instant message the summer we were thirteen and simultaneously grounded, that everyone should be free to roll their eyes, even minors.

He almost shrugged, but stopped himself before his shoulders did more than twitch. “Everybody dies, Amy.”

A chill passed through me. My grandmother would have said someone walked over my grave. “Some of us don’t want to die.”

“Since when does that matter? I’m a test case. They’re tired of punks decimating the Honor Society.” He couldn’t suppress his shrug this time. His shoulders barely moved the stiff orange fabric. He turned away from the couple to stare down at his fingertip as he traced a faint reddish stain that marked his side of the table like a faded birthmark. “Besides, everybody dies.”

How could he be so casual? Dying was a big deal. You weren’t supposed to do it until you were old and creaky and so tired of living your heart just stopped. Like my Great-Grandma Kate, or even my dog Sandy. Getting hit by a bus, or having cancer, those were accidents that stole away life before the will could be written and the goodbyes said. Bad things. Unfair things.

Like being so angry that you not only pointed a sawed off shotgun at someone, but you pulled the trigger. “Not everybody kills, for gosh sakes, Jamie. Most people get in a brawl, or drink, or run away. Aren’t you even a little sorry? You killed people. Mr. Applegate, Sam–“

He slammed his hand on the table. BAM. Right over the birthmark stain. “So? This isn’t kindergarten, Amy. Saying sorry doesn’t make it all better. It doesn’t change anything.”

The crying couple stopped crying and stared at Jamie. The closest guard started to come toward us.

The guard hesitated as Jamie settled back down, his head in his hands. I needed…what? An apology? To understand? Was it even possible? I leaned in, knowing I had to make this question count. Too soon he’d be gone. “Did it make you feel better?”

He closed his eyes. “When I had my finger on the trigger, and everyone looked scared, it felt like I owned the world.” He opened his eyes. “When I pulled on the trigger, I wanted that feeling to last forever. I–“

A buzzer sounded and the scrape of chair legs against cement floor drowned out his last words. If there were any last words. I think he might have stopped talking, even if the buzzer hadn’t gone off.

He looked over my shoulder for a moment. “Guess Mom had something better to do.” He stood up and I wanted to cry. He was going away and I didn’t have what I needed. It wasn’t fair, and it was all his fault. “I hope you’re happy. You, the guy who wanted to change the world to be a peaceful place. You’re going to be an entry in the “What not to do” section of the history books.”

He laughed, an angry bitter laugh that sounded like his mom when she was fed up from a hard day. “And you? You’re dead? So why aren’t you, the good little Catholic girl who goes to confession every week, in Heaven instead of here hassling me?”

That was harsh. “I don’t know why I’m here. Believe me, it’s the last place I’d choose to be.”

I guess he knew how that felt. Because the molten coiled ball of steel wool flamed, charred up, and the ash fell away. It wasn’t my emotions I’d been seeing. It was Jamie’s. The coil formed a Jamie outline for just a moment, before balling back up. And it was beautiful, just like him. Beating purple and red, with a thick black webbing of veins.

I noticed, then, that everyone in the room had one of those coiled balls of color hovering over them. The prisoners leaving, the visitors lingering to wave goodbye. They reminded me of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Atkinson, and her description of auras. Except auras were supposed to be like body halos, not separate, pulsing spheres – not that I’d ever seen one when I was alive.

I tried to go with him, but I couldn’t. I could feel myself weakening, fading. My voice was a whisper, “I don’t know why I’m here.” I guess I still had the old Jamie superimposed over the new, angry Jamie, because I hoped he’d help. “I don’t want to be here.”

“That sucks,” he said, and then turned and joined the sea of orange filing out of the room.


#SampleSunday – The Ex-Files: Chapter 13

Time for another installment of The Ex-Files.

OBLIGATORY STATEMENT: This is part of  the wedding promotion. I promised my daughter I would finish this chicklit novel (begun while she was in Madagascar in the Peace Corps, and mailed to her chapter by chapter…until chicklit died and I turned to writing my YA novel The Salem Witch Tryouts). She is now home, has earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan, and is engaged. So, really, I owe her.

Brief recap of the premise of The Ex-Files: Emily is a young woman with a life plan, who hits thirty without making her milestone of getting married. Her friends say she’s too picky and that she probably overlooked Mr. Right because he folds his socks wrong. Her boss says, “That would make a great story — write it.” So Emily is required to revisit her 7 longest relationships to see if she overlooked Mr. Right. And write about it for a national magazine. With the moral support of her two best friends, Emily is about to reexamine everything she ever thought was a must-have quality in her Mr. Right.

If you missed a chapter, you can catch up here:

The Ex-Files, Chapter One The Ex-Files, Chapter Two The Ex-Files, Chapter Three The Ex-Files, Chapter Four The Ex-Files, Chapter Five The Ex-Files, Chapter Six The Ex-Files, Chapter Seven The Ex-Files, Chapter Eight The Ex-Files, Chapter Nine The Ex-Files, Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven

Without further delay, here is the next chapter of The Ex-Files.



Ryan Parker

Chef, 33

Top Score: Good with kids – 10

Bottom Score: job – 4

Anti-wingman. Good one, Nick. But be careful. After all, Diana is awfully picky and you shouldn’t interfere if she does realize she made a mistake kicking some guy to the curb.” She smiled at me, all innocence. “Ryan’s next, right? Are you going to give him the same VIP treatment you gave Henry.”

Nick laughed. “Emily’s favorite is up next? That’s right. I hope that means I get a sample of his delicious pate. What do you have planned for good old Ryan? And how are you going to pry him away from his restaurant for an entire weekend?”

I consulted my notes, as if I needed to. “His restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday is a slow day, so that will be our weekend.”

Emily bounced up and down on the couch a little. “All yours for two whole days. Did that even happen when you dated?”

Of course not. The man had been married to his job, which did not fit in with my plans for a husband who shared my life, not dropped in from time to time when the restaurant business was slow.

I decided to pretend I didn’t know Emily was on Team Ryan. But how to distract her? “Any progress on the Phil front? Have you got him down to agreeing that you can work part-time with children?”

She stopped bouncing immediately, and I felt awful. But mission accomplished.

She frowned. “Down to 30 hours a week. The man is impossible. He seems to think I’m a magician, able to take care of a child in ten minutes a day.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to raise a latch-key brat who doesn’t know me.” Her voice lowered. “Or who I don’t know at all.”

I thought of her mom, who didn’t have a clue who Emily was. And mine. Who had used to be much too much into my business, until the divorce. “You’re not going to let that happen, Em. You’re going to know your children just the right amount – not over involved like my mom, or distant like yours.” I moved over to the couch and gave her a quick hug. “Phil wants that too. He just doesn’t want you to lose yourself in child rearing like his mom did.”

Emily grimaced. “You give the man too much credit. He just wants the security of my paycheck so he doesn’t have to give up any of his toys and fun for the sake of fatherhood.”

Nick watched me carefully, as if he knew I’d wanted to divert the conversation away from Ryan and wasn’t sure how to take it. “Hey. Give the man some credit. The toys and fun will change, but Phil will embrace them. My dad was king of hockey coaches when I was in middle school.”

Okay. Fine.” Emily sat up straight. “I’ll keep working on him. When I get him down to ten hours, then maybe I’ll believe you two. Now, back to Ryan. What have you got planned?”

Olivia said I can’t tell anyone. You have to read all about it,” I lied. Although Olivia would likely have told me that if she’d thought about it. “Have you considered waiting until the baby has arrived to have this conversation with Phil? Like Megan and Dan? They had all those fancy plans, and then along came Jacob and buh-bye when the fancy plans. They don’t seem to mind.”

Mission accomplished. Again. “Sounds great. Unless Phil does mind. And then I’m raising a kid on my own. No. I want it all settled between us before we start trying.”

Nick laughed. “Between the one who wants the Perfect 10 husband and the one who wants to be in perfect agreement about parenthood before she tries for a family, I’m wondering which of you will get what you want first.”

Or not get it, you mean?” I challenged him. His grin was wicked and mocking, like Emily and I were trying to build sandcastles that wouldn’t dissolve in the high tide. “What do you know. You don’t plan anything.”

He laughed. “And I like it that way. You two do enough planning for all three of us.”

Emily threw a pillow at him. “Cut it out, or we’ll start planning things for you.”

No thank you.”

Well, Diana’s got the job planned, at least until this series is done. So I’m in charge of your love life.” She grinned. “Want to come to dinner with Phil and me Tuesday night? I have someone I want you to meet?”

He faked a sad look. “Can’t. I’m already working the camera, and the anti-wingman gig.”

# # #

Tina came by my cubicle as soon as I got in. I could tell she was worried about something. I hoped it wasn’t Olivia complaining about my expense account. “Hey. That Nick is cute. Did you ever date him? Is going to be on the list?”

No way. He not only can’t keep a job, he only wants to work enough to keep his apartment and eat pizza. He says a real photographer stalks life and doesn’t let life stalk him.”

She grinned. “Okay then. I don’t think that’s bothering Tandy.”


I saw her downstairs, chatting him up while he was getting paid for last week.”

Knowing Tandy, she was trying to find out what I was planning. She really wants to find a way to wrestle this article out of my hands and into hers.”

Tina raised her eyebrows. “I think she wants more than the byline of your article, I think she’s interested in co-opting your photographer as well. She asked him to work on that nail salon piece she’s doing” She gave me a look that let me know her smile was not meant to soften her warning.

The thought of Nick working for my current nemesis was unsettling for a moment. But then I remembered Nick’s dislike for paying work. “He does a good job, but I don’t think he’s hungry enough for money. Don’t worry about it.”

I wasn’t talking about his photography skills catching her interest. I think she’s got her eye on Nick as potential new meat.”

My Nick?” I couldn’t believe the words came out of my mouth. I wished them back as soon as I said them.

She grinned. “Since when is he your Nick? I thought he was best friend material and nothing more.”

You don’t let your best friend swim in piranha infested waters.” My cover up sounded weak. “My Nick?” was a declarative sentence of the most emphatic kind, question or no. One I had no intention of making and yet didn’t know how to take back.

She laughed. “Maybe you should put him on that famous list of yours, Diana.”

Not a chance—besides not wanting to visit that little ghost of boyfriends that could have been, I don’t want to lose my best friend. He’d never forgive me for spilling his life across the printed page. He’s a very private person, when it comes right down to it.”

Well, I hope he’s a good enough friend to listen to you when you tell him the water’s teaming with piranha if he dates that one.”

She hasn’t got a chance.” I hoped I was right. I didn’t relish the thought of bringing the enemy into our nice Sunday morning routine. Worse, I didn’t relish the thought of Nick being torn from my life because “she” had better things for him to do. Maybe I should do him the favor of playing anti-wingman for him, like he was doing for me. Only I might just play secret anti-wingman. Because I wouldn’t want to know if he objected to me saving him from Tandy.

#SampleSunday – The Ex-Files, Chapter Nine

Okay. Here’s Chapter Nine of The Ex-Files, as promised to my daughter as part of the wedding promotion. I’m posting late because I had to do this one from my notes.

As I wrote this chapter, I tried to think about what it would feel like to revisit an old romance? Would you wonder why you broke up with the jerk? Or would you wonder why you ever dated him in the first place? I think it would probably be a little of both if the relationship was at all serious. But maybe you have a different opinion. If so, please share.


Henry ignored Nick. I remembered, then, how often he had ignored Nick when we dated. The two of them just never got along. Tough. This was my job, and they’d both have to suck it up.

When Nick raised the camera to capture Henry’s unhappy frown, I moved just enough to ruin the shot. “Carriage ride is out. I have a job to do, and Nick’s part of that. We’re going to the comedy club.” I left Henry and his now puzzled frown behind as I headed for the curb to hail a cab. I’m pretty sure I heard the snap and whirr as Nick took multiple shots.

I thought he might call it a night. Henry had trouble wrapping his mind around the thought that anyone wouldn’t think his chosen plan brilliant. I was good with having an early night. There was always tomorrow. My job was to see if I’d missed anything, not to slip back into my meek mild role as the woman who said “Yes, Henry.”

I didn’t give in to the urge to look back, but instead locked eyes with a cabbie and gave him my best “pick me up or feel the wrath of Karma” look. He shot over to the curb. A little pulse of power shot through me. I am woman, see me hail a cab.

I reached for the door handle, but Henry got there first. I stepped back to let him open the door. “Thank you.” Was I thanking him just for opening the door, or for following my plan for once? Probably both. I didn’t need him to open the door, but I didn’t mind. Why some women thought it was a man’s job to open car doors always puzzled me. It’s a car door, not an iron castle grate. I slid over to let him get in, too.

I didn’t know you hated carriage rides.” He climbed into the cab, closed the door, and gave a crisp command to the cabbie with the address of the club. “You should have told me.”

His voice was so apologetically un-Henry like that it wasn’t until we pulled away from the curb that I registered we’d ditched Nick. I turned around to see him hailing another cab. He raised the camera to take a picture. I waved. Thank goodness for expense accounts.

The line to get into the club wrapped around the block. Henry scowled. “Are you sure you want to do this? Since you don’t like carriage rides – see, I’ve made note of that now that you told me –“ he grinned. “We could take a walk through Central Park. I know you like that. You used to drag me there every Sunday morning.”

I did like to walk in Central Park. But not at night. Still feeling the pulse of diva power, I shook my head and waved the tickets at him. “VIP.”

He leaned forward to read the ticket. “Whoa. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” He took the tickets out of my hand and slipped them in his shirt pocket. “You really did go all out for this reunion.” He stared at me as if he’d never seen me before. “I like the star treatment.”

He got out of the cab, and leaned in to help me out. I remembered what had attracted me to Henry – his confidence was like an energy cloud around him. It could make anyone in his vicinity follow his lead without question. He was exuding mega confidence with those tickets in his pocket as he strode past the people in line. Naturally, the people in line were not happy to see us go straight up to the bouncer. They’d probably been waiting in line for hours just to get the chance to grab a table up close to the stage.

I held back a little as the bouncer gave us an unfriendly stare and crossed his arms. Henry smiled widely and flourished the tickets.

I heard a few people in line groan as the bouncer’s attitude instantly turned friendly. He moved the red velvet rope to let us pass. “I feel a little guilty,” I whispered to Henry.

That was always your problem, Diana. Guilt-induced hesitancy. Seize the day, I say.”

He frowned at something behind us and I turned to see Nick getting out of his cab. His eyebrows raised when he saw us and then he grinned as he loped over to catch up.

Do we really need him?”

This is an assignment. Who do you think paid for the tickets?” Technically, they had been a gift to my boss, so it hadn’t really been paid for at all. But, whatever. I could never afford this kind of treatment without an expense account. “If he doesn’t come with, all I can afford is hot dogs and a walk in the park.”

But you planned it. And I must say you’ve done a good job so far. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for tomorrow. I’m very impressed. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

Tomorrow. Fortunately, I didn’t have to answer him. The bouncer cut Nick off, and Henry stopped speaking. I could see he hoped that Nick would be denied entry when the bouncer said curtly, “No cameras.”

I started toward them, wondering if I was going to be stuck in the club alone with Henry – and 300 comedy fans, of course.

He’s with me, we’re on assignment for The Female Eye.” I explained to the bouncer.

He checked his list, and Nick’s temporary magazine badge. “Okay. You’re good. No pictures of the show.”

Not a one,” Nick promised. “I’m focused on these two lovebird VIPs.”

Lovebird? He must be really mad at me for leaving him to catch his own cab.

Henry, however, was so pleased, he even smiled at Nick. It wasn’t a pleasant smile.

By the time we’d found our table, Henry’d gone back to ignoring Nick. Just before he pulled out my chair for me, he took my elbow, and leaned in for a quick kiss. “Never mind about what you have planned for tomorrow. You had me at VIP.”

I sat heavily in the chair, making it awkward when he tried to push me closer to the table. I realized what the VIP tickets meant to him. He thought I wanted him back. Crap.

Nick took that moment to snap a photo of my face. I narrowed my eyes at him in warning. He grinned a grin that told me my face was just a little too transparent for my own good.

Henry, as usual, ignored the presence of a pesky photographer. Or maybe it made him feel extra VIP, because there was a gleam in his eye that told me I’d better keep that Wonder Woman power pulse going. I’d need it to say no when it came time to say goodnight…or not.