I’m about to launch the prequel to my first born, The Alex Chronicles…Girlfriends & Secrets. I talked about this little novelette last month in my post, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My First Book. You can sort of say this is part two to that post.
As I mentioned last month, this is the first book I wrote. When I wrote the book, I had aspirations of book tours, radio interviews and a fantasy of being on The View. Hey, if you don’t dream big, you’ll never get any where.
However, after I wrote the first three books in the series, it seemed the entire dynamic of the romance genre shifted. I credit or blame Fifty Shades of Grey. The protagonists or heroes were no longer just good looking men. They were now these incredible, super sexy males. Really, have you ever really seen a man with thighs that could bust a watermelon…that’s a line from one of my upcoming books. Or what about a man with hair like flaxen gold and a behind so tight a quarter could bounce off of it. I’ve been to the gym okay, I’ve been to a gym and around construction sites and I’ve yet to see a behind that tight. Take that back, I did see the season finale of “Ballers” and got a good look at The Rock’s behind. Not to mention John Cena in “Trainwreck”, I think that tight-quarter-bouncing behind title could legitimately be applied to both of them.
As I was saying, the dynamic had changed. When I wrote the first draft of The Alex Chronicles, my protagonist was my version of very handsome. Did you catch that phrase, my version. See one of the things that tripped me up about the new descriptions in romance fiction, was taste. Every one has their version of what’s hot, sexy, handsome, unattractive [I didn’t want to say ugly], cute, and the list goes on. This was a dilemma for me. What I liked physically, didn’t always match up with what some of my readers liked.
I’ve read a lot of books the past couple of years. compared to the past, I’m breaking my own reading records. Apart from being very tall, most of the protagonists had large…body parts and mesmerizing eyes, but it was their character that stood out. No matter how roguish, devious, freaking, sadistic, crazy or stupid, they are, deep down, they all have big hearts. And very, very, very, big wallets.
I had dinner with a friend and told her, I had to re-write The Alex Chronicles, because the protagonist wasn’t rich enough. Let me clarify. When I wrote him, it was with the intention that he was rich. Well in the new romance world, it wasn’t good enough for him to just be rich or a millionaire, he needed to be a billionaire. And he has to have a private plane, luxury yacht, mansion and penthouse apartment on top of his own building…is the new normal. When did this happen? And to make it worse, I saw a book that was touting the word Trillionaire. Come on people, let me catch up.
Which brings me to my series. When it was first written, the heroine’s ex-husband was a decent level millionaire, but her new love interest was richer than the ex. When I did the rewrite, I made it a point not to mention how much he’s worth. Instead, I elude to it by the gifts and things he does for her. Welcome to the new contemporary romance protagonist. Is it even possible that such a man exists? I choose to believe that somewhere there’s a woman living out one of my books. I’m open to living out my own romance novel. If anyone knows a tall dark chocolate billionaire in search of a petite curvy mocha wife, send him my way. Really, who better to live out one of my books then me.
So what’s The Alex Chronicles about? It’s the story of five best friends and a pact they made in college. It seems kind of childish that five grown women would still be beholden to something so silly. That’s what one of their boyfriends said later in the series. But it’s something that worked for them…when they were in college. Now that they’re adults and dealing with the day to day things of life, it’s not so easy.
The Alex Chronicles: Girlfriends & Secrets will be out in October. It’s also my first perma free book. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, “I’m glad have a free book.” I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. Offering this book free, is my major marketing step for this series. I’ll keep you posted on how my first born does. In the meantime, here’s the first chapter in the prequel:
who are we…
MY NAME IS ALEXANDRA SIMONE Miller and I am a fashion addict. Isn’t that how they make you introduce yourself at those addiction anonymous support group meetings? At least that’s what I’ve heard. I tried kicking the fashion habit, but it’s a little difficult when there are so many talented dealers, I mean designers tempting me. I know somewhere there has to be a support group for people like me. I think it meets at Neiman's or Barneys. I heard a rumor that if you’re really bad they sentence you to aversion therapy at Bergdorf’s…I wish.
So the last thing a person like me should do is own a boutique. Fashion is a drug and not only am I a junkie, I’m also a dealer and the base of my operation is my boutique, “Alex Simone".
Alex Simone is my baby. It’s a place where women come to escape and fantasize. We encourage women to try things on, because that usually leads to buying. Shopping at one of my boutiques is like playing "dress up" in the ultimate fantasy closet, complete with designer ready-to-wear and vintage couture.
Not only am I a fashion addict, I’m also a borderline workaholic. I say borderline, because I do manage to eek out time to spend with my friends.
My girlfriends are like family. People always ask how we met. I think that’s the one thing we haven’t been able to agree on.
Let’s see. Taylor is my cousin on my dad’s side. She and I have always been close. She’s really more like an older sister. I think we have shared secrets none of the other girls know about. But there’s that one thing that happened in Paris. I think I didn’t tell her because I knew she would have been disappointed in me.
Anyway…she was going to school in Atlanta and she said I’d like it. Not only because it was crawling with good looking guys, but because it had a great liberal arts program. To be honest, I needed to get out of the city. A dose of Southern living was a welcome change. So I applied and got in. That’s where I met Chloe.
Chloe was a typical rich girl on the verge of being cut off. School in the south was the last straw. She and Taylor were roommates. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put them together. Then again, it was probably for the best.
When I went for my college tour, the two of them had me running around town. I don’t think I got more than twenty hours of sleep the entire week, but I had a good time. These two had the hook up for everything.
When I got there in the fall, a new dorm was open courtesy of Chloe’s parents. The rooms were all suites. A few strings were pulled and I was assigned to Taylor and Chloe’s suite. I was immediately accepted into their social circle. Heck, they practically ran the social scene on campus. To this day, I never knew how they managed to get hooked up with every club in town, without getting busted.
The year after I got there, I met this girl named Dionne in Humanities class. We started talking and it turned out, she was from California. She kept saying I reminded her of her roommate, Kendell. When I finally met Kendell, I was shocked at how much we looked alike. We played a little game of Twenty Questions and discovered the reason we looked so much alike was because we were related.
Kendell is my cousin on my mother’s side. Her father and my mother are half siblings. We share our grandfather’s eyes, smile, skin color and height. When I first saw her, I thought I was looking at myself minus the upstairs endowment from my grandmother. My mother and Kendell’s father have the same father. My Grandfather Cyrus had a roaming eye along with some other things. He was married to my Grandmother while he played house with Kendell’s grandmother. He fathered a total of nine children, my mother and her three sisters, and Uncle Chester and his four brothers.
I think we’ve managed to stay friends as long as we have because we’re so different. It’s like we balance each other out.
Oh, yeah, I was talking about secrets and being impulsive. Of my group, I’m considered the rational one. I don’t see how I got that label. My friends say it’s because I’m a planner and would never do anything impulsive. That’s just not true. I do a lot of impulsive things, they just don’t know about them.
There was one impulsive thing I was going to do, but circumstances prevented it from happening. I’m not using my planning habit as an excuse, but as a legitimate reason why that impulsive event didn't take place. The impulsive incident involved my fiancé, Jonathan.
Jonathan and I had been together off and on for ten years. If you ask my friends, they’d say more off than on. And as much as I don’t want to agree with them, they’re right.
I met Jonathan in college when I returned from my Paris internship to complete the second half of my senior year. I was hesitant to get involved with him, because his best friend and I had history. However, he won me over with his charm and we started dating.
By the time we graduated, he had proposed…the first time. Much too soon. We barely knew each other. I moved back to Los Angeles. He followed me to California and took a job in Los Angeles so we could work on our relationship. We agreed to table the marriage question until later.
The magazine I interned for in Paris offered me a Junior Fashion Editor position in their Los Angeles office, but I turned it down. I know it sounds foolish, but there were things going on in my personal life that made me re-think what I wanted to do with my life.
I had come into a large sum of money, and decided to open a boutique. I love what I do. It’s taken me a while to gain the respect of the local fashion community, but it was well worth the hard work, and a huge step of faith.
Alex Simone is a place for women with curves, or real women. We stock most sizes, but we are known as the go to store for curvy women who love designer clothes. We’re not a plus size store per se, but in Southern California, a store that stocks anything over a size twelve is considered plus size. We just make it a point to offer designer clothing for women in a larger range of sizes. Curves, sensuality, and confidence are our business, and we know how to handle all three.
Back to me and Jonathan. Things were going great with us. We had just gotten back together again. I say again, because, we broke up a lot. I know I sound like a fool, but I’m not. I had put a lot of time into that relationship and I wasn’t about to just walk away just because he had a little slip while we were apart. If only it had been a slip.
Turns out, all those times he was proposing to me, he had a side piece in Long Beach. He’d tapped that piece so much he slipped up one night and forgot to suit up. So when he wanted to get back together he confessed. Like the idiot head I was, I took him back. He even introduced me to his side piece and their son.
Here I was saving myself, and he was out tapping anything with a pulse. I didn’t tell my girlfriends that Jonathan and I were engaged. I just told them we were back together. They all said they were shocked that I took him back. They didn’t understand that I saw something in him they didn’t.
This time was different. We went engagement ring shopping and were making wedding plans. Jonathan agreed to counseling, and I was even warming up to the idea of marriage and being a step mother. I still wasn’t happy about having his side piece, I mean ex-side piece, in our lives, but she came with the kid.
The last time he proposed, we didn’t tell anyone. Instead, he gave me an ultimatum, “Marry me when I return from my conference in two weeks. If you back out, it’s over for good.” I still hear those words replaying in my head, followed by a sharp chill in my bones.
I knew my friends didn’t approve of my marrying Jonathan, so I decided to do something impulsive. I packed a bag and bought a first class ticket to Milan to surprise my fiancé. Oh man, it’s been over ten years, and it’s still difficult to tell this story. I knew he’d be in Milan another week for the conference. My plan was to surprise him and elope after his conference, and then do something small with our family and friends when we returned.
The day before I was to leave to surprise Jonathan, I got a phone call from one of his friends who was attending the conference. Jonathan had had a massive heart attack and died. I was devastated. My girlfriends rallied and helped me, despite their feelings about Jonathan.
Instead of planning a wedding, I planned his funeral.
I never told anyone, not even my mother, that I was planning to surprise him and elope. I still have the plane ticket. I don’t know why, but I keep it in my bag. If I had married him when he first asked, he wouldn’t have been alone. It hurts me to know he died alone. I should have been there.
I have been trying to heal, and my girlfriends keep telling me it’s time to move on. I have in a way. It’s been over ten years and there have been a few men, but nothing serious.
Bless my friend, Dionne. She’s made it her mission to find someone for me. I really wish she’d stop trying, because she’s not good at it. I was dating this very handsome media consultant named Quentin Burke. On paper we were perfect for each other, but I think it was poor timing and no chemistry. Those two things and that meddling mother of his, were the reason we broke up. I think we lasted about six months. We’re still friends. In fact, he’s my publicist.
I introduced him to Dionne. The sparks flew and a few months later, they were married. Ever since I planted a good man into her life, she feels the need to do the same for me. I really wish she’d stop, but she won’t. After her last little matchmaking effort, I threatened to cancel our friendship.
She invited me to dinner with her and Quentin and left out one very important detail. When I arrived, Quentin met me at the door with a glass of wine.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
I didn’t understand what he meant. I took the glass, stepped inside and sitting on the sofa talking to Dionne was a shiny yellow brother with a pony tail hanging down his back. Dionne looked up and noticed I was heading out the door. She jumped up, walked over and pulled me over to the sofa and introduced me to my "date".
When he stood up, it was even worse. He was wearing a powder blue suit, navy blue shirt with the buttons undone to reveal his Mr. T gold chain collection sitting on a bed of tight black curls. I don’t like hairy men. I turned the glass up finishing the fine red wine in one gulp. This definitely would have been a good time to start drinking hard liquor. Saying I was a little pissed with Dionne would have been like calling a broken leg a sprain.
I looked at Dionne wondering what she could have been thinking. I looked down at my "date’s” feet, and staring back at me were light blue patent leather brogues and matching socks. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew what to say. I just didn’t want to say it out loud.
“Excuse me.” I put my empty glass on the table and hurried down to the powder room. “Okay God, I know Dionne meant well, but…really…what was she thinking?” I let out a sigh, touched up my lipstick and took that long walk out to the worst blind date of my life.
“Are you all right Alex?” Dionne asked.
I couldn’t believe she stood there with a smile on her face asking me if I was all right? Of course I wasn’t all right! I stood staring at one of my best friends, wondering at what point did she think setting me up with a black Smurf was a good idea.
“I’m...” Quentin handed me another glass of wine. “Thank you.”
“Sorry, it’s not something stronger,” Quentin whispered.
“So am I.” I turned up the glass and gulped half in one swallow. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
During dinner, Eddie the black Smurf sat sneering at me like I was a piece of cornbread he wanted to slop up with some greens. I looked across the table at this person my friend set me up with, and wondered how much longer I would have to endure this fiasco. Watching him eat was almost as disturbing as looking at him in that light blue suit. I closed my eyes and pretended I was someplace else.
In my mind, I was on a remote island with a hot, sexy, dark chocolate man. He was feeding me strawberries, the juice running down the side of my mouth He gently caught the sweet juice with his soft, full lips. If Dionne was going to fix me up, why couldn’t it have been with the man in my fantasy, instead of Eddie the black Smurf? When I opened my eyes, Eddie the Smurf, was still talking incessantly about his ex-wife and his massive alimony payments.
My phone rang, breaking the spell of my fantasy. I jumped up and ran into the kitchen to answer the call. Once in the kitchen, I turned the ringer off. It wasn’t a real call, but my “911 dating emergency call".
When I was in the powder room earlier, I had set a "911 dating alert.” That’s when you set the alarm on your phone to ring at a certain time. Once you pick up “the call" you become an Academy Award winning actress, and recite your escape monologue. My cousin Taylor hipped me to that little trick, and over the years I got very good at using it. So tonight, when I saw the black Smurf, I knew what I had to do.
“Okay…no, I understand…uh huh…I’ll be right there.” I went back into the dining room, made my apologies and left.
Before Dionne got with Quentin, she dated... let’s just say... she always managed to…she’s a sweet heart, but…it seemed she was always dating someone else’s Boaz. Like the guy who only wore Los Angeles Lakers attire. He didn’t care if it was basketball season or not. And when the occasion called for something a little “more dressy”, he broke out his favorite purple suit and accessorized it with a white and yellow striped shirt and Lakers tie. I caught a glimpse of the jacket lining once. Inside he had the entire Lakers starting line-up hand painted on the lining. I had one word for him and it wasn’t “Fantastic”. It was “Fanatical". Dionne thought he was the one...her Boaz. That’s if Boaz was a basketball fanatic and a tacky dresser. His idea of a romantic night out was to take her to his favorite sports bar, “Nothin’ But Net” for happy hour. They got along great until she disagreed with him over the Lakers draft choice. He dropped her like a long distance three pointer... “swish".
She’s my girl, but I couldn’t take another day listening to her blame herself for her relationship falling apart. So, I arranged a little impromptu meeting between her and Quentin at the store. They hit it off ,and now three years later she’s trying to do the same thing for me.
If my girlfriends knew about my plans to elope with Jonathan they wouldn’t be too surprised.
However, if they knew my other secret, they’d be pissed and would stop speaking to me. It’s my secret, and I’d be pissed if one of my best friends had kept something like that hidden from me for over twenty years.
What’s my secret? All I’ll say is, I have the power to destroy one of the wealthiest families on the West Coast. That power could also cost me my life. But if pushed, that’s a risk I might be willing to take.
The Alex Chronicles Series will be starting in October
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