Pages of Paige

“Write the best story that you can, and write it as straight as you can.” Ernest Hemingway

I kind of like Ernest Hemingway, so I take his advice as often as possible. That’s what I tried to do when I created Paige and the rest of her story in Dear Stephanie. I tried to write it as straight as I could. And I think I did.

If you’re in the mood for a read that will take you on a shockwave ride of emotions, get your copy today. It’s live, and I’m very proud, but don’t take my word for it.

Here’s what people are saying about my newly released debut novel:

LizziDear Stephanie is a tale of a woman’s battle against mental illness and her own efforts to self-sabotage her entire existence. In spite of her privileges and mind-games, Paige’s story is one of connection and relationship and self. It’s a tale of maybe true love and definitely true love, and loss, and hope, and wonder, and deep, indescribable pain.

It made me laugh.

It made me cry.

It made me angry.

BethDear Stephanie breaks molds.

The realities of the main character – Paige Preston- and her struggles with mental illness and drug abuse are not prettied up, and no bush is beat around. You start out not really liking her, until you do, mostly because she starts to resemble you, with vulnerabilities and fragility. She is human. She is broken.

Castle handles this subject matter with realism and care, never glorifying or exaggerating, which I find admirable. I was genuinely swept away in the story. I laughed out loud, I teared up, I worried, and I felt. You really can’t ask for more than that.

HelenaI was moved to both laughter and tears by this book, which I read all at one sitting, never tiring of the wonderful prose — Castle’s character, Paige Preston, was a delightful narrator, speaking to her audience in a voice that was real and believable.
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes character driven stories and appreciates good writing.

DanaFrom the first chapter, I was hit by the hot mess that is Paige. I often decide immediately whether I like a character, but Paige reveals herself over the course of the novel, and my investment in her grew as I read. She is real, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, and her story stayed with me for days after finishing the book. Even now, over a week after I read it, I am still thinking about it. For me, that is the sign of a good book. It seeps into your pores and settles in.

Chrissy: In my head, I was Stephanie. Paige was writing to me.

She’s confident. Demanding. Beautiful. Flawless. But NOT without flaw. Because no one is. Depression is real, and this character exudes everything and nothing all at once. 

So much happens in so few pages, that I can’t even begin to spoil this for you. I didn’t devour this novel, so much as I was consumed by this novel. I couldn’t put it down (even at work, I kept sneaking a page here and there – sorry boss!).

ReneePaige Preston is ALL THAT – just ask her.

She is every man’s wet dream.

She is also completely hollow and bitterly cold inside, or so it seems.

But sometimes you have to give people a chance to show you who they are.

LisaCastle creates a character who is so substantive, so engaging, that you can’t help but be drawn to her, despite her many flaws and violent demons. You will find yourself breathless several times throughout the tale, right up to the very last unbelievable word.

AndraDear Stephanie is a departure from my usual reading routine, an example of trying something new to shake up a reading rut. At first, I disliked Paige Preston so much I wanted to stop reading. I’m weary of books constructed around unlikeable, unreliable narrators. But Paige wove her spell. She is a well-crafted, deep and disturbed character, manipulative enough to charm even me. 🙂 You won’t be sorry you gave Paige a try.

Dear Stephanie Final eBook cover Laura

Paige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise?

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

So, what are you waiting for? Read the book (click here for kindle or paper back), and then let’s have a book club discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Oh, and if you want to win a signed paperback, comment here. If you want a double chance, share something on Social Media with the hashtag #DearStephanie. Thanks for playing!

Thank you to all of the people who have read my book and left reviews. I am forever in your debt, and I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all of you.

Lovepocalypse Take 1

It started with a glance from across the lobby, a slight upturn of his lips, a sexy wink.  He introduced himself with a handshake that lingered a little too long.  His pheromones danced through the air mixing with mine, releasing a thousand tiny butterflies into my stomach.  Instant chemistry.  I walked away, giddy.  I reached up with my fingers to touch the perma-grin on my lips and said to my co-worker, “I want to marry him one day,” as little prickles of excitement scattered across my skin.

I purposely passed through the hospital lobby where we worked at every opportunity, stealing as many fleeting moments with my potential future husband that I could.  He often had patients at his desk, but when I walked through Admitting, he always stopped, said, “hello,” and offered me that naughty wink.

Just like that, I was hooked.

Every single time I saw him, he pulled me in even more, always remembering unnecessary details about short conversations we had in passing, laughing with his entire body about something that I said, flirting with me to no end.

Then one night, a car collided with mine, which left me with a broken pelvis and forced me to take a long leave of absence from my job at the hospital in order to recover.  I never went back.

Once I could walk again, I took a job at a piano bar.  The opportunity to work as a waitress at a bar seemed much more glamorous than pushing sick people around a hospital.  When the owner discovered I too could play the piano, he gave me a standing gig:  Every Monday and Wednesday during happy hour, I tickled the ivories of a beautiful grand piano for strangers.  Best.  Job.  Ever.

One day, many months later, I happened to be at my mother’s house, taking advantage of a free meal, when the phone rang.  “It’s for you,” my mom said.  I figured it was a bill collector and told her to tell them I wasn’t available.  She looked at me like I had a frog growing from my head, rolled her eyes, and handed me the phone. “Pay your bills,” she whispered.  I frowned at her and raised the phone to my ear.

“Hello.” I said annoyed that I was going to have to give some schmuck at least $25 that I didn’t have.

“Hi.  It’s Brendon.”

“Brendon?”

“From the hospital.”

“Oh, hey, Brendon,” I said visioning Brendon, a nurse in the emergency room who always bought me beers at the bar next door that we frequented after our shift even though I was under age. “What’s up?”

“I heard you had an accident.”  I looked at the phone confused.  ER Brendon was there in the emergency room the night of my accident.  Too there, in fact, because when I came back to consciousness on the ice cold table in the ER, the first thing I noticed was my lack of clothes.  I was completely naked, as in no clothes at all, and ER Brendon, my beer buddy, was standing over me.  SEEING MY GOODS!!!

“Um, Brendon.  Are you high?  You were there the night of my accident.”  I couldn’t decide if I was happy or horrified that he didn’t remember.

There was a long pause.

“I think you’re confused.  This is Brendon from Admitting.”

I dropped the phone and jumped up and down whisper screaming to my mom, “ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod.”

I picked the phone back up, with my heart jump-roping in my chest.  “Oh, okay.  Hi, Brendon from Admitting.”

“Are you better?”  He cleared his throat.   “I’ve missed you.”  My entire body tensed, shoulders raised to my chin, eyes wide with excitement.  I happy danced in my mom’s kitchen, as she watched me bewildered.  Brendon from Admitting was on the other end of the phone, and he just said he missed me.

Heart beat

That night we had our first date.

hearts notes

Originally posted 2/6/14. 

Aside

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

She paces back and forth in her bathroom in nothing but a sexy bra and panty set, heart pounding in her chest.  Just do it. She tells herself, taking a quick peek at her reflection in the mirror.  Not bad.  She adjusts her bra for the 27th time.  Just do it. She silently says again, taking a deep breath.  She walks into her bedroom, picks it up off her nightstand and holds it out in front of her at arms length.

Click.  She looks at the photo.  Ick no.  She shakes her head and ruffles her hair, pulling it over her near naked shoulder.  Blonde hair splays across her chest.   She stretches her arm out again, holding it a little bit higher than the last time.

Click.  She tilts her head.  Click.  She looks up.  Click.  She looks down.  Click.  She looks to the side.  Click.  This time straight at the camera, pouty lips.

She holds her phone close to her face  and goes through the camera roll.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.

She growls and throws her phone on her bed.  Why is this so hard?  He’s your husband.  He’s seen it ALL before. 

Deep breaths, back to the phone.  Click Click Click Click Click.

Camera roll. Sigh.  Okay, that one’s not so bad.  She bites her lip and stares at the photo for few more minutes finding every single possible flaw, anxiety billowing deep in her belly.

Ding dong…ding dong…ding dong.  She drops the phone when she hears her best friend, Kimberly’s, signature ring.  Then she laughs and picks it up answering with a chuckle.

“Hello.”

“Hey.  What are you doing?”

“Taking sexy selfies of myself, ” she says holding the phone with her shoulder as she pulls on her jeans.

Kimberly lets out a breathy laugh.  “Why?”

“To send to Huz.” She puts her arms through her shirt and pulls it over her head.

“Send it to me.”

“Dude, no way.  I can’t even look at them.  I’ve taken at least 30 pictures.  One is just okay. ”

They talk for 30 minutes about 247 different subjects, their typical daily chat that takes place every day during Kimberly’s commute home from work.

“Okay, I’m here at the daycare.  Talk to you tomorrow.  Oh, and send me that picture.  I’ll tell you if you should send it.”

“Okay, whatever.  Bye.”

She waits the 20 minutes it should take Kimberly to get home before she hits “Send” along with the message, “You better fuggin delete this.”

Nothing.

Another text.

No response.

Then she paces back and forth, stomach twisted in knots, and waits for her alleged “best friend” to respond with…anything.

She convinces herself it’s terrible and decides not to send it.

Then she hears the ding on her phone.

Kimberly text

 

She responds with a sigh of relief.  Huz leaves for the store, so she decides it’s the perfect time to send it to him.

Send. Sigh.  Done.  Wait.

Tic toc.  Tic toc.  Tic toc.

Huz comes home, says nothing.   She waits until the kids are in bed and says, “Did you get my text?”  He smiles a half smile  “Yeah.  Why did you send that?”

“Really?”

She looks at him, rolls her eyes, and walks into her room.  If he only knew.  Later he says, “I like it.”  Too little.  Too late.  Not good enough.  She grabs his phone and deletes it after already deleting it from her phone and vows to never ever take a sexy selfie again.

Remember children, “Naked selfies almost always work.”

But almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Naked Selfies: The New Little Black Dress

I met my husband back in 1998 before Social Media ruled the world…even before Bob Dole invented the internet, or was that Dan Quail?  Or maybe Obama?  Okay, okay.   Maybe the internet existed, but nobody used it…really.   Back before Twitter and Match.com, how did we snag our mates when we couldn’t text them and get an immediate response, when we couldn’t stalk their Facebook page for pictures of their exes, before they could “check in” and we could just “pop in” where we knew they were?  Well, I for one did it the old fashioned way.  I put on make-up and donned that short little black dress that showed off my legs for days (shut up I’m not short) and my 19 year old perfect ass.  And it worked.  Every.  Single. Time.  But things have changed.  Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the new little black dress:  Naked Selfies.

Her mom is very supportive.

Her mom is very supportive.

I recently learned that it’s fairly common practice for girls to send guys naked, (or half naked) selfies.  Wait, what?  Isn’t this along those lines of milk and cows and giving things up for free?  Not leaving anything to the imagination?  Right, mom would not approve.

Don’t even get me started on the demise of society through selfies.  I can go on and on about my antipathy for them.  In fact, I’m president of the club:  MAS.

But curiosity always kills the cat right?  My follow up question was, “Does this actually work?”

His response, “Naked selfies almost always work.”

He said almost:  Click here…do it!  Do it!  Do it!

Hmmmm…. So I started to ponder how this could affect my own life.  Being that I’m extremely self-centered, I asked myself:  How often do I pull out my “little black dress?”  Truth…almost never.  My daily uniform consists of yoga pants, a tank top, and sneakers…always sneakers.  I wear my hair in a pony-tail bun about 85% of the time.  Make-up gets used on weekends and when I have to volunteer at my son’s school, but most of the time, I’m simple, plain, and boring…a dun dun dun…housewife.

Back when I worked, I wore tailored business suits, pretty silk blouses, and even high heels.  My hair was always down, lipstick on, and I never left the house without accessories.  The only jewelry I ever wear now is my Ironman watch…sexy, right?  Back off, boys.

The truth is: there are girls out there sending naked selfies to guys in order to get laid.  Maybe I need to try harder.

Don’t get me wrong.  I take really good care of myself.  I work out a minimum of 3 times a week.  I eat healthy and avoid all of the junk foods, etc.  But the buck stops there.  I don’t spend a lot of time on my appearance or getting “pretty” even though behind my workout clothes and my pony tail, I’m quite sure a pretty girl still exists.

Yesterday I thought it might be fun to try an experiment.  The same dude who said naked selfies always work also said that hair is a big deal to guys, so after I dropped my daughter off at school, I decided to actually spend some time on my hair.  I got on Pinterest and found a tutorial on blow drying my hair. I know…those are out there.  I could have also gone on to learn how to apply false eyelashes, but let’s get real.  So after I showered, I spent (and I’m not exaggerating) 30 minutes blow drying my hair.  Then I “put on my face” as my mom used to say, careful to apply blush and bronzer.  I even wore lip gloss.  I chose a cute, fitted shirt and my skinny jeans, and I pranced around the house all day, wondering if my husband would notice.

This just in, he didn’t.

Finally, after the kids were comfortably tucked into bed, I said, “Hey, man, I spent 30 minutes fixing my hair for you today.”

He said, “Why?”  Then he smirked at me with his “I’m about to be an asshole” grin and said, “I fixed my hair for you, too, dude.”

I rolled my eyes and went to my bedroom where I changed from my skinny jeans to my much more comfortable pajamas and fell asleep on the couch.

I guess what I was hoping for was a spark….a little strike to a flame that often gets extinguished with the stress of everything on our plates:  sick parents, kids, work, life, etc.   I’m always looking for something, something that catches him off guard, something that makes him look twice, something so that I can, you know…get some.  Up next I guess is naked selfies.  Didn’t someone say that they “almost always work?”

Stay tuned….this could be good. Or really really bad.

Now, I’m off to find a Pinterest tutorial on the art of taking naked  sexy selfies.   Right after I blow dry my hair.

What do you do to keep the spark afire?  Are you guilty of letting it get burned out?  Do you try new things to keep the magic alive?  Anyone else want to join me in a naked selfie challenge?

Lovepocalypse Take 2

That phone call set my heart to flight.  Brendon, who I had a huge high school girl crush on, just called me at my mom’s house and asked me on a date.   It was Friday.  He suggested that we go to dinner on Saturday night, but I had to waitress at the piano bar, so I begrudgingly said “no.”  He thought for a second and then told me that he already had plans that night with some friends to meet at Blues, the bar next to the hospital.  He invited me to join them.  He didn’t know my age.  18.  He offered to pick me up, but I told him I would meet him there.  I was nervous and socially awkward, and I wanted my own car in case I needed to bolt if my anxiety got out of hand.

I drove to my apartment giddy with excitement about our impending date.  I appealed to my best friend/roommate to find me the perfect outfit since I had/have zero fashion sense, and Brendon had never seen me in anything but my hospital uniform:  Green polo shirt and khaki Dickies.  She found something she said was perfect “first date at a bar” attire that most definitely would make him swoon.  I looked at the outfit, bit my lip, and shrugged my shoulders.  I had only been on a few dates and had very little experience with men, and Brendon was a man.  A beautiful Latin man.  So I took her advice and donned something other than my usual t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.

I walked into the bar feeling out of place without my normal gang of hospital friends, tugging at my shorts that I was certain were at least 2 inches too short and pulling at the shirt that hugged me a little too tightly.  Then I saw him.   He was sitting at the bar, drinking a Bud Light wearing a white Nike baseball cap, a perfect contrast to his tawny skin.  He turned around and noticed me standing in the doorway.  His smile reached all the way to his dark eyes as he walked over to greet me.  He pulled me into his chest in a surprisingly comfortable hug.  “Wow.  You’re here,” he said offering me that killer smile.  “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”  What?  He wasn’t sure I would come.

He guided me to the bar, his hand barely grazing my lower back.  He ordered me a Bud Light and another for himself, and we sat side by side sharing familiar and easy conversation.   We talked about college and classes.  He told me he was 23 and almost finished.  I hesitated but told him I was only 18, that I had just completed my second semester.  He looked at me and said, “You’re just a puppy, Kiddo.”   “Kiddo” would become his pet name for me, a name that I would grow to love being called.

He introduced me to his friends and his brother who met up with us later, and we all talked and laughed, and I found myself floating in his attention.  He was smart and funny and unbelievably sexy.  We closed down the bar.  He insisted that I let him drive me home…in his jeep…with the top off, which took his hotness D&B to a whole new level.  On the drive home, we learned that we shared a passion for music of all kinds.  When we got to my apartment, we sat in his jeep in the parking lot, listening to Fleetwood Mac.  When the last song ended, I reluctantly said, “I better go in.”  He walked me to my door where he planted a soft, sweet kiss on my lips and said, “Goodnight, Kiddo.” He pulled me into him in a warm embrace and let out a quiet sigh that went straight to my…ahem.   I wanted to invite him in, but I didn’t know how.  I was young and dumb, and incredibly naïve.   I opened the door and walked into my apartment, trying to summon the words to tell him that I didn’t want the night to end, but the words never came.  Instead, I just said, “Goodnight.”  He winked and turned to walk to his jeep.   I went to bed smiling, with his scent still lingering on my skin.

The next morning, my roommate drove me to my car.  I started to pull out of the parking spot when I noticed something on my windshield.  A note.  From him.

Can’t wait to see you again. –B        

Just like that, he hooked me even more, and I was in my first “grown up” relationship.  We took advantage of every free opportunity we had to spend together. It was challenging since I worked most nights, but we made it work.  We didn’t see each other often, but when we did, we cherished the time.  We shared a twisted sense of humor and spent most of our time together laughing.  He had the best laugh, and anytime I said something funny, he would grab me either by my arm or my hand, and hold me while he shook with laughter at something witty that I said.

His touch ignited my skin.

He told me I was way too funny to be a girl, which was even better than all of the times he told me I was pretty and smart and perfect.

He took me to his childhood home, introduced me to his mom, and called me his “girlfriend.”   She made us jalapeno muffins and told Brendon to be nice to me when he made fun of something that I said.   After she went to bed, we cuddled on the couch and watched some old movies on her big screen TV.

Another night, he took me to an abandoned mansion rumored to be haunted.  We crawled through the window and crept through the dark empty rooms, waiting for a ghost to jump out at us, my heart pounding in my chest.  But nothing made my heart stutter more than when he pushed me up against the grimy wall, wrapped his arms around my waist, and kissed me.

We spent countless hours at our favorite music store, standing side by side at the listening stations, ears covered with huge plastic headphones, smiles plastered on our lips discovering new music together…all before iTunes and immediate internet downloads.   Our love of music became our bond, another pull to my heart.

He often surprised me and showed up at the piano bar to listen to me play, which was a huge adjustment for me since I preferred to play for strangers.  That first night, he sat at a table by himself.  He didn’t order anything to eat or drink,  just sat there.  Listening to me.  I forced myself not to look in his direction.   I didn’t even notice that he left before I finished.  I was hugely disappointed when I discovered his empty chair until realized later as I counted my tips that he snuck  a comment card in my tip jar that said:

I didn’t think it was possible for you to be more beautiful, until I heard you play. ~B

That night, when I left the bar, he was waiting by my car.

“I got you this,” he said and handed me a CD.  George Winston:  December.  “It’s really a Christmas album, but I think you’ll like it.”

I suggested that we hop in his jeep and go for a drive to listen to it.  As we drove through our West Texas town, the sound of George Winston’s piano mingled with the warm summer breeze.  Then I heard a familiar song, Variations of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon.  He said that he loved this version and that it was his favorite song to hear on the piano.  We drove for hours that night until he took me back to my car.  He gave me a simple kiss, and said, “Goodnight, Kiddo,” handing me the CD.

I drove home listening to my new album and made it my mission to learn his song.   I listened to it incessantly, always playing it in my head.  I spent hours at my parents’ house practicing it over and over.  When they went to bed, I went to the one place that I knew never closed, the hospital chapel, and I banged my way through it until it was…perfect.

The next time he came to listen to me play, I surprised him and played it for him.

That night, I didn’t have to invite him into my apartment.  He practically pushed me through the door.

heart-music