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Monday, September 3, 2018

Twelve Months of Awkward Moments by Lisa Acerbo 💕 Book Blitz & Gift Card Giveaway 💕 (Romantic Suspense)



Dani can’t wait for senior year at college. A straight-A scholar whose anxiety is a daily struggle, being awkward, introverted, and studious has become a way of life. She vows this year will be different. It’s time to move beyond her comfort zone, but that’s not easy.

Dani’s wild roommate and handsome best friend hate each other; her crazy family won’t leave her alone; and a new job forces her to be social. Unfortunately, when college romance finally calls, Dani is unable to answer thanks to a stalker who has her all tied up.


What inspired Twelve Months of Awkward Moments?

Stories from friends and family inspired me to address the subject of anxiety in students. Twelve Months of Awkward Moments, and the main character Dani took shape after learning about different people’s daily struggles with anxiety. The more I spoke about the topic, the more anecdotes I heard. Anxiety at the high school and college levels also seems to be on the rise, and schools need to deal with it effectively. The National Education Association (NEA) article, The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Students, does a great job discussing the severity of the matter (http://neatoday.org/2018/03/28/the-epidemic-of-student-anxiety/).

I hope Twelve Months of Awkward Moments starts a conversation on the topic. While years of teaching gave me a unique perspective, Dani is a fictional character even if some of her adventures are based on my personal experience with anxiety and stories my daughter told me about her time at college.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

To stay sane, a writer must try to find some sort of satisfaction in every part of the writing process, even the parts that are less enjoyable. For me, revision has always been that challenge.

I’m fine the first three, four, five times I revise, but then I stop seeing mistakes and create new errors throughout the book. I am a person who cannot self edit. Ever. At all. After Twelve Months of Awkward Moments was accepted for publication, the revision process really began. The editors at Torrid are amazing, and they made revision much less of a chore. I also take breaks from writing to read. The only way to improve the craft is to read, write, and then repeat the process. Read. Write. Repeat. If all else fails, reach for a large glass of wine, grab a chocolate bar, ride a horse or a bike, or find a furry friend to cuddle with. My foster dogs have saved me from certain insanity many times.

Is there a time of day or night when you're most creative?

Coffee fuels my writing mornings. Coffee is the only thing that keeps me going during the day. All day, every day. By evening, I’m a zombie. After a few too many morning cups of coffee, some articulate thoughts enter my mind and I attempt to jot those down. Unfortunately, they don’t always travel from brain to computer keyboard in a coherent manner. Once my dogs get up, they whine until I pay attention to them.

What audience are you targeting this book at? The book is classified as “New Adult” because the protagonist is a senior in college. I wrote it with older high school students and college students as my target audience. College is a time when students take on additional responsibility and independence, and that can exasperate stress and anxiety. The main character Dani makes mistakes throughout the novel, and the reader can see the connections to her anxiety, but she grows from those mistakes, learns from them, and ends up stronger.


Shaded under the dim porch light, Shami sits outside in a black jacket at a picnic bench near his apartment. He’s surrounded by a few friends but stands out as he is a good head taller than those around him. I’m confident as I saunter toward him in leather pants and strappy wedge sandals that highlight my long legs. My jacket is unzipped, exposing my lace-trimmed tank top. A bathroom run before leaving the bar showed my long hair remained under control, no frizz.
“How was the bar?” he asks.
“Good, you should have joined me there.” I run a hand through my hair for show.
“No car.” He smiles sweetly.
“So sad.” I grin. The two cans of hard cider leave me less than drunk but give me a bit of an edge. I feel good, which usually leads to trouble, and consider switching to beer. I hate the taste, so I’ll drink less and remain more in control. Small talk swims like a school of minnows as we catch up.
I pose the question I really want the answer to, and I realize why I need the hard cider. “What happened after our date?” I really mean, “Why didn’t you text me?” He squirms over, and his movement reminds me of a caterpillar. I work hard to stifle my giggle.
His hand finds my leg. “I had to go to Israel and was traveling.”
“Really? You couldn’t text from there? Or once you got back?”
“I guess I should have. Sorry.”
Silence invades for long seconds. I’m out of conversation topics and sobering up. I close my eyes as the brisk night air pushes against my cheeks. I hear the bench squeak as we adjust ourselves on the uncomfortable wood seats. I taste the awkwardness of the moment in my mouth. Finally, we throw out questions to each other to cover the disconnect.
Shami stands and stretches. “You have a car, right?”
“Yes.” I’m reluctant to say more, realizing where this is heading.
“Let’s go for a ride.” His white teeth shine in the darkness.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I’ve had a couple drinks.”
“I haven’t. I’ll drive. Plus, it’s super close.” He holds out his hand. I hesitate, but then dig through my purse and hand him the keys, already understanding I’ll hate myself in the morning for doing this. We take off. I’m relieved Shami is a capable driver, but I smell his excessive cologne. To my overstimulated senses, it reeks. The fact he is in control of my car makes me feel like a cornered animal, yet I did this.
I’m confused when we enter the dark parking lot at McDonalds. Shami cruises into a spot in the far corner away from the entrance. An awkward silence ensues as he remains in his seat. With the heat blasting, the interior of my tiny Toyota Matrix warms quickly, and my leather pants stick to my skin. Shami takes his jacket off, revealing a gray T-shirt underneath. His hand slithers to my thigh, and I ask myself where the polite, sweet college student who held the door for me at the Hookah lounge has gone and who has replaced him.
“What are you doing?” I ask as I remove his hand from my leg, placing it none-too-gently on his side of the car.
“That’s why we’re on this date, right? You want to hook up, right?” He touches various parts of his own body.
“I see the way you’ve been appraising the Shami. You want this.” The muscles under his T-shirt flex.
Now I’m repulsed. His third-person reference to himself sounds stupid, conceited, and immature. “What I want is to get to know you.” I eye the McDonald’s sign and wonder if “The Shami” takes all his super-fun dates here.
“You got me. I’m the best thing at the Connecticut Central State College.” He leans over and tries to kiss me. I give him my cheek and then jerk back.
“I’m beginning to doubt that.”
“You’re not giving away any sugar?”
I feel my eyes bug out, wide open. “Here in the parking lot? Are you kidding me? Who does that?”
His cocky expression sours. Clearly, he knows I’ve called him a male slut because he seems to like lurking in dark corners of fast food joints. “You’re turning out to be a drag. Man, I’m hungry.” He focuses on the building. Shami opens his car door, and the scent of fries wafts through the air. Without a word, he leaves me in the passenger seat. I wait, unsure of what to do. I want to leave. Unfortunately, he took my keys with him. The jerk. The hopeful part of me perks up. Maybe this date will be salvageable. He probably darted inside to get us milkshakes.
I’m almost correct. Shami arrives with a milkshake, fries, and quarter pounder for himself. I watch as he devours them. My stomach growls.
“That put me in a good mood,” he says as he finishes his food. His snake-like hand embraces my arm, but I am certain he was aiming for another part of my anatomy. He squirms closer. I scoot away, my butt colliding with the door. He doesn’t notice. I attempt to avoid him as he angles in for a beef and onion-flavored kiss. It’s sloppy at best. I shove him away.
My stomach growls again. “We could go out for drinks and dinner?”
“I just ate.”
I smell the pickles and special sauce as he talks, his lips transforming into a dour frown. “Listen, if this isn’t happening tonight, I think I’m going to hang with the boys.”
“I think that’s an excellent idea.”
We drive home in silence. In the parking lot, he hands me my keys and heads off without a backward glance. I sit in the car, stunned, and realize I get to look forward to an entire year of running into him in the complex and on campus. My life is just one happy merry-go-round of fun. As I make my way back to my apartment, I felt a cool breeze on my thigh. I gaze down to witness the long split in my leather pants. All I want now is to inhale some left-over veggie Pad Thai, curl up under my comforter, and cry. The crazy part? This isn’t the worst date I’ve been on.


Dani’s Top 5 Playlist


Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge
Sometimes having anxiety and feeling different from other people isolates Dani. This song helps her understand that everyone feels lonely and alone at some point. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings but also move beyond them and find a bright spot to focus on. This is the song Dani plays on repeat.
Praying – Kesha
The backstory to this song, Kesha overcoming years of challenges, reminds Dani that she is in control of her own life and can bring change. No matter how tough things seems, there is a way to continue forward. Praying shows her that everyone, even the most successful people, face daily challenges.
Give Me Love – Ed Sheeran
We all look for the person who understands and accepts us, faults and all. Dani is searching for someone willing to love her for who she is.
Unwell – Matchbox 20
Similar to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song, Unwell helps Dani recognize that other people struggle to cope with illnesses and anxieties. The song helps her accept herself and appreciate the fact she is not alone.
Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
Ending on a positive note, Dani plays this song when she needs to step back, take a deep breath, recite her manta, and relax. It sometimes takes a song to remind her to appreciate the little things in life like her mother’s French toast or banana pancakes.

   



Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct faculty at the University of Phoenix. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, two dogs, and horse. When not writing, she mountain bikes, hikes, and tries to pursue some type of further education.


   



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