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The Story Behind Better

Cancer and Harry Potter

You wouldn’t think cancer would be the first thing someone thinks about when thinking of Harry Potter, but for me, it always will be.

I had not read the book when the first movie came out. It was just before Christmas 2001. At the time, I lived in Phoenix, but I was back home in Alexandria for a visit.

My father was ill, having had a stroke earlier that year. Being home was hard, and seeing him like that was surreal. I had an escape though—my friend, Cameron. Cameron was one of those guys that it took me too long to figure out just how wonderful he was.

We met in seventh grade French class. My mother met his mother the night before, and she made a point of telling me that Cameron and I should be friends.

When I saw him, I disagreed. While he was always handsome, he had a quirky fashion sense that I did not get. It was middle school, and I was trying so hard to fit in. He didn’t seem to mind standing out though, and he was always wearing this ridiculous trench coat. We became friends.

To this day, I’m not certain that I have ever known someone as truly sweet and generous as Cameron was. I say was because Cameron died. That’s where the cancer comes in. I’ll get back to that.

At the end of and after high school, I was in an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. During one of our breakups, I went out on a couple of dates with Cameron. Looking back, I wish I had been ready for him, but I wasn’t. My head was not in the right place to deal with accepting my attraction to the guy with the mohawk when I was still all messed-up over a guy who was nothing but a thug. Cameron was too different.

I moved away, and when I came back for a visit, we went on another date. He took me to the little Chinese place next to where the Blockbuster was. Over dinner, he told me he had cancer.

He learned this during his freshman year of college. He kept having stomach pains and went twice to the student clinic, only to be sent away with painkillers.

The next time, his mom told him to go to the emergency room. They found a tumor.

I remember being shocked over dinner but not scared. Nobody I knew had died of cancer. He would be fine.

We kept in touch while I was in Arizona, talking on the phone maybe once every couple of months. Just as I suspected, the cancer went away. He beat it. He even went back to school and worked up the nerve to ask some girl out. I was jealous.

He never got a chance to go on that date. The cancer came back, and he moved back home to Virginia.

The next time I saw him was December 2001. He looked different but not bad. We went to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He had already seen it, but he took me anyway.

That was his way, always looking out for me. We swam together during high school. I remember my coach wanted me to join this other team. I was scared because I wouldn’t know anyone. Cameron decided to join too.

He looked at me, so serious. “We’ll carpool.”

And then, through that awful relationship, I remember him putting his hands on either side of my face, trying to convince me I deserved better, wanting to beat up my ex for hurting me.

That December in 2001, I was home one week, and I saw Cameron three times.

I was busy when I first got back to Arizona. I didn’t call him right away. When I did, it was just after New Year’s. He was in the hospital. I spoke to his younger brother. He told me Cameron overdid it when I was in town. I didn’t know.

Cameron called me when he got out of the hospital. It was the first time I actually considered that he might die. I remember saying that he couldn’t die, that I was putting my foot down, like I had any power. I made him promise me he wouldn’t die, and he did. He promised. When we hung up, I was certain he would beat it again. That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

When my caller ID flashed his name, I answered all happy and excited to talk to him. But it wasn’t him. It was his dad.

The second he said, “This is Cameron’s dad,” I knew.

We didn’t talk long, and I honestly don’t remember anything after he said, “Cameron is gone.”

At the time, I was a smoker. I went out on my front porch to cry and have a smoke. I lived in Phoenix. It never really got windy unless there was a monsoon, which between you and me, I never understood what the big deal was. It was just rain. It rained all the time in Virginia. Either way, it was windy, really windy, and there wasn’t a monsoon. It felt like Cameron was coming to say good-bye, using the wind to wipe the tears from my face.

After that night, I began to associate wind with feeling Cameron’s presence. I would lie in bed at night and turn the ceiling fan above my bed to the highest setting to imagine it was him. He was the wind.

Harry Potter helped me grieve. It gave me time to rest in my memories of Cameron. I bought each book as they came out and saw each movie.

When the second movie came out, I went by myself on opening weekend. It was packed, standing in line with little kids dressed up as wizards. I had people, strangers really, sitting on either side of me. They probably thought I was off when I sobbed through the opening credits. I just wished Cameron were there with me. That familiar opening melody broke my heart.

By the third movie’s release, I had a boyfriend. We were pretty serious, but he understood why I went to that movie alone. I told him about Cameron. When we became engaged, he started to come with me. He would hold my hand while I cried.

The last two movies were hard. The books were all out. The end was in sight. During Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I came close to inflicting bodily harm on the people sitting behind me who were laughing during that scene at the end with Harry and Dobby on the beach. Didn’t they know? Couldn’t they understand these movies, this experience, meant so much to me? The last movie was the hardest for me.

I am now married to a wonderful man, and we have beautiful children. I understand how blessed I am. I mourn the what-if with Cameron, and even if nothing had ever come of us, I feel sad every day because the world lost such a beautiful soul.

So, for me, Harry Potter will always make me think of Cameron and the cancer that took him away.

 

Heidi McLaughlin

Author Interview & Spotlight

What inspired you to start writing?

I needed an outlet to express how I was feeling about certain situations in my life.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you published your first book?

How hard it would be to maintain a readership.

What is your current favorite book? (since I know we all have more than one 🙂 )

This is hard because I love so many books, and for different reasons. I would have to say that my current favorite book is Wilder by Rebecca Yarros.

Do you have any book signings coming up? (if so, when & where?)

My next signing is April in Peabody, MA.

What is one of your secret (or not so secret) obsessions?

I love Red Vines, and where I live I’m unable to get them.

Book Spotlight!

Blow

Meet the complicated men behind the sexiest boy band in America! In Blow, the start of an emotionally charged series from bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin, an insatiable heartthrob gets blinded by the spotlight—and learns to fight for love.

– Synopsis – 

Bodhi McKnight has always had everything handed to him on a silver platter: fame, success, money, girls. The raven-haired, blue-eyed hottie is the son of Hollywood A-listers, and when he’s asked to join the boy band Virtuous Paradox, his star shoots even higher. But so do expectations, leading Bodhi down a destructive path of addiction—until a drop-dead gorgeous guardian angel shows him her sizzling brand of tough love.

When Bodhi ends up in rehab, he doesn’t expect to meet someone as cool and down-to-earth as Kimberly Gordon. Although he’s enjoyed the company of beautiful, charming women before, none of them have tried to get to know the “real” Bodhi. But Kimberly isn’t fazed by his stardom. She’d rather go horseback riding, teach Bodhi to play guitar, or ask him about his feelings. Soon Bodhi realizes he’s fallen head over heels for her. He just hopes that he’s strong enough to protect what they have from all the pressures and temptations of the outside world.

Better Cover Re-Reveal

– A new cover AND a sale –

Get your copy of Better today for only .99 cents!!

 

– An Excerpt –

 

When we get back to Abe’s place, he and Adam run out to pick up some takeaway for us. As soon as they leave, I pounce on Shelly and tell her my plans to meet Nigel. She’s a sweetheart and says she’ll cover for me, but only after she programs her number into my phone and mine into hers. She makes me promise to call if I feel uncomfortable at any point.

I grab my purse and hurry to wait at the pizza place a block over. When I get there, I call Nigel, and he tells me he’s on the way. Once I hang up, my phone starts ringing.

“Hello?”

“Where are you?” It’s Adam, and he sounds pissed.

“I’m fine. You don’t have to worry.”

“Aubrey, get your ass back here right now.”

I laugh. “You’re crazy, you know that? I’m an adult. Please learn to accept it,” I say before hanging up on him.

My phone starts ringing again. This time, it’s Shelly.

“Hi, Shelly,” I answer.

“Oh my God, Aubrey. Adam is pissed. Are you sure about this?”

I look up when I see Nigel walk in. “I’m positive. He’s here. I have to go.”

“Hey, Aubrey,” he says, walking over to me.

“Hey, you.” I grin.

“Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

When we talked earlier, I asked a big favor from him.

He puts his arm around me as we walk to his car. “I made you an appointment if you still want to do it.”

I nod. “Let’s go.”

My phone rings off and on the whole time we’re out. I finally answer it when we’re on the way back to Abe’s flat.

“Hello?”

“Where are you?” Adam thunders.

I sigh. “I’m on the way back right now. Can you please relax?”

“I called your parents. They want you to call them.”

Shit. “Way to overreact. Fine. I’ll call them as soon as Nigel drops me off. Bye.” I drop my phone into my purse and pinch the bridge of my nose.

“Everything okay?” Nigel asks sweetly.

I tilt my head, resting it against the headrest, and I smile at him. “I’m awesome. I can’t thank you enough for taking me.”

“It was a first for me too. Does it hurt?”

“I don’t plan on touching it anytime soon.”

He double-parks in front of Abe’s flat. I unhook my belt and turn to thank him once more. His face is right there, and his lips find mine. I feel a bit dazed when he pulls back.

“Don’t forget this.” He passes me a paper bag from the pharmacy. “I have to say, this was enlightening.”

He leans over to kiss me again. I jump at a sharp tap on my window. It’s a hulking, glaring Adam.

“I better go. I’ll email you,” I say to Nigel.

“You better,” he says. Only, his eyes are on Adam and not me.

I step out and am greeted with Adam losing it.

“You could have been killed.”

I raise a brow at him and wave in the direction of Nigel’s retreating car.

It’s then that Adam sees the bandage peeking out from the neck of my shirt. “What happened? You were hurt.”

His fingers are featherlight as they brush my hair to the side and ghost the edge of the bandage. I shrug away from his grasp and head up the stairs.

“Aubrey, wait. What happened to you?”

I turn and look down at him. “I got a tattoo. Happy? You acted like a lunatic and called my parents for nothing.”

I turn and keep walking, hearing his footsteps behind me.

“You can’t just take off like that. I’m responsible for you,” he says from behind me.

I turn quickly and lean back when I realize how close he is behind me. “That’s the whole issue. I’m calling my parents, so they can break it to you. I do not need a babysitter.”

I pull my phone out of my purse and call them. After a few moments of assuring them that I am fine and I only went out with a new friend, I tell them to set Adam straight.

I pass him the phone and cringe when he says, “Did she mention she got a tattoo?”

My mouth drops as he hands the phone back to me.

“Hi.”

It’s my dad. “A tattoo?”

“Mmhmm. Are you mad?”

He laughs. “People don’t get mad.”

I finish for him. “Animals do. But for real, are you?”

There’s a pause. “You are a grown woman, and we trust your judgment.”

“Thank you. Can you please tell that to Adam?”

He agrees, and I pass the phone back to Adam. They talk for a minute, and he passes the phone back to me, so I can tell him I love them both and say good-bye.

“Was there anything you wanted to say to my dad?” I ask, offering my phone.

Our fingers brush as he takes it. He turns his face from my heated gaze.

“I’m sorry for any misunderstanding Sir.” He offers quietly to my father.

It’s not lost on me that he didn’t offer me an apology. Adam follows me quietly the rest of the way up the stairs. Shelly and Abe must have heard us coming because they’re waiting in the doorway.

“Oi! Let me see it right now.” Shelly grins, pulling me into the flat.

I’m wearing a tank top under my T-shirt. It has a built-in bra, and I wore it on purpose. I slip my T-shirt off and ease my arm through the right strap of my tank. Shelly stands behind me, pulling the back of my top down to uncover the bandage. She gently peels it off to expose my tattoo. She pulls me to the bathroom, so I can look at it in the mirror at the same time. It’s not big—maybe four inches across and six inches down.

“Did you lose someone?”

I didn’t know Adam had followed us. He’s leaning on the doorway. His gray eyes lock on mine. I nod and look at the pair of angel wings reflected in the mirror.

He takes the bandage from Shelly and delicately smooths it back on my shoulder. “I could have taken you.”

I shake my head. “I was angry at you.” I press the front of my tank top to my chest as I slip my arm back through the strap.

Adam holds the strap away from my shoulder, so it doesn’t push against my bandage. Shelly looks back and forth between us before excusing herself. I turn around to face him. He picks up my hand and sets my phone in it.

“What did my dad say?”

He looks up at the ceiling. “It appears I have been a bit overly protective.”

I touch his arm, and he looks down at me.

“I just don’t want to feel smothered.”

When he nods, I drop my hand.

“I saw him kiss you.”

I gulp and take a step back, bumping into the sink.

“Do you like him?” He steps closer to me.

I lick my lips and watch his gray eyes flick to them. “I don’t even know him.”

“But you let him kiss you.”

I can feel Adam’s breath on my cheek. I blink. “I did.”

“Did you like it?” He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear.

I feel all the tiny hairs on my earlobe stand straight up as the pad of his fingertip grazes it. My whole body is buzzing.

“I don’t know.”

His mouth twitches. “Why don’t you know, Aubrey?”

I break our gaze. “I can’t remember it.”

He lifts his hand to my chin, tilting my face back to look at his. The pad of his thumb brushes across my lower lip. “Must not have been much of a kiss.”

I’m frozen. I have no response.

I watch the tip of his tongue grace the edge of his bottom lip. My lips part when he drops his hand.

“You should always be able to remember a kiss,” he says before walking out of the bathroom.

What do you think of the new cover for Better?

The amazing Hang Le designed it. Her attention to detail has taken this cover to the next level. For those of you who have read Better, check out Aubrey’s charm bracelet!

Heather C. Leigh

Author Interview & Spotlight

What inspired you to start writing?

I challenged myself to write a better book than one that I had just read.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you published your first book?

Organizing blog reviews before release.

What is your current favorite book? (since I know we all have more than one 🙂 )

Aced by Brooke Blaine and Ella Frank.

Do you have any book signings coming up? (if so, when & where?)

Nope. I’m taking a few months off from the travel. I don’t have one until March.

What is one of your secret (or not so secret) obsessions?

MMA, but only because I secretly hope that the two men start making out.

Book Spotlight!

Killer

Killer is now available on ALL platforms!

– Synopsis – 

UnthinKable. UnimagInable. UndeniabLe. UnforgivabLe. SalvageablE. Redeemable.

Ten years ago, their lives shattered to pieces…
And he’s the KILLER that has to live with it.

Two people. One incident. Interwoven between two damaged souls in ways they don’t understand.
***This books takes place ten years after a school shooting. Some material may be disturbing***

“The fact I feel anything should let me know I’m headed in the wrong direction, headed down a path of darkness, destruction, and failure. A path that will dig out memories so painful I’ve created an entire persona to avoid dealing with them. Yet I know—I’m going down that path headfirst no questions asked, no matter the outcome.
I might be a monster, but I’m a selfish one.”—Keller Keating

“When his strength envelops me, every wrong becomes right, every anxiety melts away, every doubt disappears. I feel calm, safe, whole. The spark of life that’s been missing inside burns bright, lighting me up like a solar flare, sizzling white-hot through my veins. Keller brings me out of the darkness and into the light.”—Britton Reeves

Laura Ward

Author Interview & Spotlight

What inspired you to start writing?

Writing a book has been a lifelong dream. I’ve always been a storyteller and when I was home with my young kids I decided to try and write one of the stories always floating in my head!

What is one thing you wish you knew before you published your first book?

I wish I had edited the way I do now. I only used a line editor and I wish I had thought through a developmental one as well to polish a few rough areas.

What is your current favorite book? (since I know we all have more than one 🙂 )

So tough!! I think it is still Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan.

Do you have any book signings coming up? (if so, when & where?)

Yes! Lovely Ladies and Naughty Books on May 20, 2017 in Pittsburgh and Lucky Sevens Weekend Affair on July 7, 2017 in Baltimore.

What is one of your secret (or not so secret) obsessions?

Wine!

Book Spotlight!

Until Now (the Not Yet series, book 2)

Until Now is a sports romance with a young single mom and a cocky jock who is in for the shock of his life when he falls for this special little family.

– Synopsis – 

Focus.

Dean Goldsmith is Indiana University’s star quarterback, and his dreams are about to come true. His undefeated season means he has a legitimate shot at the NFL. If he stays focused.

Football comes first.

College senior, Grace Yeates, is determined to defy the odds. She is months away from graduating with a business degree, something no one thought she would be able to pull off. All she has to do is focus on her number one priority. Family comes first.

Distraction.

Dean has no time for distractions, but when a gorgeous, snarky, redheaded waitress refuses to tell him her name, he can’t seem to focus on anything else.

Grace knows she can’t let herself get caught up in a guy, particularly a man-whore like Dean, no matter how charming or sexy. She has two hearts to look out for now and no room for a Dean-sized distraction.

Complications.

Everyone in Dean’s life agrees that Grace is the kind of complication his career doesn’t need.

Grace knows that Dean is the kind of risk her heart shouldn’t want.

But what if the last person you think you need, the one you shouldn’t want, becomes the one you can’t live without? Can their biggest distraction actually be the focus they were missing all along?

Why Lie? It’s finally live!!

14333026_1107228559359654_2376807283151845233_n

Four years ago, I published my first book. I had no expectations. All I wanted was a book written by me on my bookshelf. Today I published my fourteenth book. That is crazy, crazy awesome. I started writing this book almost 5 years ago. My life has changed in so many ways since then. But, in a lot of ways it’s still the same.

I still live in the same house and pester Seth with DIY projects. I still can’t cook but enjoy to bake. I still can’t follow a knitting pattern to save my life. But, the ways it has changed are all fantastic.

Now, I have friends around the globe. Now, I have books written by me in foreign languages. Now, I have stories in my head that I look forward to writing. Now, I’m part of a community that celebrates books and loves them as much as I do.

I want to thank you, if you’re seeing this post for being a part of my journey.


whylie

People here think they know me.

They assume things about me because of the way I dress and my tattoos.

I am so much more.

I thought you saw that.

So, I let you in.

You made it easy to fall for you.

Turns out I was the only one falling.

I hope you’re happy.

No, that’s a lie and you’re better than I am at telling those.