Monday, September 26, 2011


Or, things I wish I wasn’t stupid enough to do in the first place, but now that I’m older and have a little perspective, I’m sort of glad I did.

This week’s Teen Rite of Passage isn’t warm and fuzzy. Nope, it’s about doing stupid things, facing the consequences, and hopefully learning a thing or two. But before we jump into all that, I’d like to illustrate my horribly humiliating point and the only way to do that is to climb into my time machine. It’s already set for 1986. Cue the wavy lines and trippy time machine music….

Silver stars twinkle in a clear, navy blue sky. Low waves slap against the rocky shoreline. Firewood crackles and pop as tiny, smoky embers float in the crisp autumn air. Bartles and Jaymes Premium Wine coolers flow, and so does the Meisterbrau, a decidedly un-premium beer.

It’s a beach party bonfire in my Long Island hometown. A place so small and boring it’s not big enough to actually be classified as a town. Officially, it’s a hamlet, which has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s play or a mini-pig. No, our sad little enclave doesn’t even have a 7-Eleven yet. So, since there’s nowhere else to hang out, we do the only logical thing—set driftwood on fire and get drunk.

I’m here with one goal in mind: to spend some extracurricular time with Preppy Plaidpants, [not his real name] one of my biology lab partners who, despite being an arrogant asshole, also makes my stomach flutter and heart skip. Yup, I’m that 10th grader—a seemingly smart girl who’s so desperate for a guy’s attention, my standards are, well, low. But you see, he and his friends invited me—me!—to the bonfire tonight so I’m reasonably sure I’ve got some chance at success.

My friends and I cluster together, guzzling our beverages. A figure approaches. Tipsy from too much fruity Premium Red, I peer into the smoky haze billowing off the flaming stack of downed trees. It’s a guy, but he’s rounder and shorter than Preppy. Oh, it’s Honcho, [not his real nick-name] Preppy’s sidekick. And he’s smoking a cigar, its glowing tip a bright red beacon in the night. What does he want? I scratch my buzzed head. Maybe Preppy sent him over to ask me to sit with them. As Honcho nears, I stand and brush the sand from my jeans. My heart stutters, wondering what kind of missive he’s been dispatched to deliver.

Puffing his stogie, Honcho gives me the once over. “Hey, you wanna go for a walk?” Since he looks an awful lot like this, I know he doesn't want my help assessing beach erosion:
What's a happenin' hot stuff?
Note: Honcho was not hanging upside down on the beach.
“Um…” I mumble, wondering how things changed so dramatically from my aspiration to reality, but I’m too blitzed to figure it out. Before I know it, Honcho’s nudging my arm. “Come on, let’s take a walk.”

Perched on my shoulder, Bartles whispers into my right ear, “Go on. It’s not happening with Preppy. You might as well hook up with someone tonight.”

But then Jaymes stomps his tiny wing-tipped foot on my left shoulder and yells, “No, you don’t even like Honcho! You came here to be with Preppy!”

“Aw, don’t be such a prude,” Bartles sneers.

“I’m not and I’m sick of that accusation.” Jaymes huffs, exasperated because really, Bartles does throw that one around a little too frequently. But then Jaymes regains his composure. “Listen, Honcho is Preppy’s friend. If you hang out with him tonight, Preppy will lose all interest.”

Bartles snorts. “He already has. Why do you think he let Honcho come down here in the first place?”

Well, put that way, I can’t argue with Bartles’ logic. Ignoring Jaymes’ pleas to the contrary—and those of my bewildered friends—I take that walk and roll around with Honcho in the sand for a few fumbling, beer-cooler-cigar-laced minutes. It’s not terribly satisfying. For either of us. Because we’re both neophytes in the ways of amour, and the liquid infusion hasn’t exactly improved our fledging technique. When we’re done, I wipe my lips and dust myself off, knowing he’ll probably blab to his friends—like I will to mine—but at least this episode is behind me.

Until Monday morning. When it seems I can’t take a step without someone taunting, “Honcho!” Through the halls. At my locker. In class. It’s all I hear. My stomach clenches and I’m fairly sure I might puke. Oh God, oh God, oh God, how does everyone know???? And why do they care? One guy, another member of Preppy’s crew, sums it up perfectly when he nods condescendingly and mocks, “Doin’ the Monday Morning Walk of Shame.” He sounds just like the Makin’ Copies guy on Saturday Night Live. I want to thrust my balled fist into his snide face.

For the record, my panties stayed on. But that didn’t ease the pain of that awful Monday morning. Honestly, I expected one or two comments, but it seems Honcho told more than a couple friends. Judging by the sheer number of jeers, I couldn't help wonder if went something more like this:

Guess, what guys? I made out with Lea at the bonfire!!!!    

So, why revisit this particularly horrifying chapter from my adolescence? Because the abject humiliation was good for me then, and frankly, very good for me now.  Then, because it taught me a valuable lesson: don’t get drunk at a beach party and mess around with a guy you don’t even like. Eventually I even learned not to fall for arrogant assholes. But this particular memory is golden now because it makes me a better writer. Although my characters deal with paranormal foes, they still make mistakes—sometimes innocently, sometimes stupidly—and have to face the consequences. Occasionally they get humiliated, feel small or embarrassed. Remembering something this devastating helps me channel that angst to create compelling characters and realistic circumstances and reactions.

In my book, The Hoodoo Apprentice, the heroine, Emma Guthrie makes a few whoppers of her own while trying to save her brother from a wicked flesh-eating curse. But she’s plucky and smart and works her way out of *most* of her mistakes. Along the way, she finds herself on a moonlit beach with the love of her life. Luckily for her, aside from not being an arrogant asshole, Cooper Beaumont is a southern gentleman, who’d never kiss and tell!


Lea Nolan can be found at her website, on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.  She is represented by the astonishingly fantastic Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Kisses: Magic or Mayhem?

It’s every young girl’s dream.  And it goes something like this:  Their eyes meet across a crowded room (or junior high dance floor) and for a moment, time stands still.  Somehow they’re standing in front of each other (magnetic pull of young love) and the lights dim on the dance floor (cafeteria) and he slowly, every so slowly lowers his lips to hers.  And WOW!  The earth quakes.  The sparks fly.  Lips are a-tingle with happiness.
It’s every girl’s dream, and, yes, it was once mine too.  Was that how my first kiss happened?  Not even close.  Not even in the right ballpark.  
Mine went a little something like this:  There was a loud basketball game.  There was a boy I kind of liked.  He asked me to go for a walk.  My friends nudged each other and giggled while my anticipation skyrocketed.  Finally.  My first kiss was about to happen.  I walked with him down a long hallway towards the back of the school where the nursery (yep, I said nursery) was located.  I know.  It’s weird that a school would have a nursery when I was in ninth grade, but I went to a Christian school that doubled as the church, and THAT’S a subject for a whole different blog.
So, there we were.  We knew what was expected, and we didn’t wait long.  Whoever wrote about first kisses and said it’s impossible for braces to get stuck together clearly wasn’t in that nursery at that moment in time.  When our braces weren’t trying to permanently fuse our teeth together, he was cramming his tongue down my throat like my esophagus was the Promised Land.  I tried not to gag. 
I think he moaned, and I wasn’t certain if it was due to passion or pain.  I had to wonder if his gums felt like they were being ripped to ribbons.  I remember looking over his shoulder at the clock on the wall and wondering how much longer I had to endure his exploration.  How much longer my gums could.  Finally it was over.     
When we walked back down the hallway hand in hand, I saw my friends slide into the bathroom, and I told Sir Tongues A Lot that I’d see him later.  As soon as I pushed my way through the door, they practically tackled me for the exciting information.  And I…cried.  Yes indeedy.  I cried.  They thought he’d backed out at the last minute, and I assured them that he hadn’t.  They probably would have understood my words better if I weren’t flushing my bleeding gums with water from the school sink. 
I read recently a quote from Leonardo di Caprio about his first kiss, and it made me feel much better.  He said, “The first kiss I had was the most disgusting thing in my life.  The girl injected about a pound of saliva into my mouth, and when I walked away I had to spit it out.”  I guess that puts a whole new spin on swapping spit.
So, my first kiss?  Not all it was supposed to be.  But then again, I lay the blame for my disappointment on Harlequin’s doorstep.  How could a junior high school boy ever measure up to the heroes in romance books?  And should they? 
Should we ask girls to lower their expectations?  I say, “Hell to the no!”  Keep your expectations high.  No matter when the kiss happens that curls your toes and has you yelling, “Eureka!” girls deserve THAT experience.  I’ve told my daughters my first kiss story, and we all laugh, but I have ulterior motives.  I admit it.    I don’t want my daughters to settle.  I want them to expect the fireworks and the tingly feelings and the excitement of first love.  I also want them to know that there are many chances at happiness, and they’re expected to find them many times over.
I also like to tell my daughters the story of when their dad kissed me for the first time.  It was many, many years after my braces had been removed, and it didn’t take place in a nursery.  We had been friends for a while, and I had just about given up on the idea of moving along from the friendship zone.  We were walking out of a bar at the end of the night, and he just grabbed my arm, spun me around and kissed me.  And, yes, it lived up to all my expectations.  My mouth hurt the next day, but for a far better reason.  We kissed for hours on the side of the street in the pouring down rain.   And I never wanted to stop.   
My kids love to hear that story.  Yesterday was our twelfth anniversary, and I still don’t get tired of kissing my husband. 
I love to write about first kisses, and I especially love to write about teens falling in love because I remember it so clearly.  Every feeling, every emotion was so close to the surface.  Even now, it doesn’t take much to reach inside and pull them out.  I’m afraid I’ve plagiarized my own experiences in my books far too many times to count, but I smile every time.  I’ve relived my first kiss in my mind repeatedly and I have to smile at the girl I was then.  I wish I could go back to that hallway that night.  Not to stop a disastrous kiss.  No.  I’d pull her aside afterwards and give her a hug and tell her to never stop believing in love and happy endings.  I’d tell her to keep her expectations high and that one day, years in her future, someone would live up to them.  
I’d like to end with a more inspiring quote than our dear Leonardo’s.  This one is by Emil Ludwig:  “The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story.  It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender.”   
What do you recall of your first kiss?  Was it during spin the bottle?  At a football game? In your gameroom while your parents played cards upstairs with his parents?  Tell me, tell me! Was it magic or mayhem? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting Over Jake Ryan

I think all of us have had at least one horrifically embarrassing, unrequited crush.

But, unlike in the movie Sixteen Candles, the geeky girl rarely ends up with the Golden Boy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an eternal optimist, so I’m sure it could happen…but not for this gawky, bookish, scared-of-her-own-shadow kind of girl.

I can still feel my heart racing as I remember leaning against my locker, books clutched to my chest, waiting for my ‘Jake’ to pass on his way to class. I prayed he would look at me, but had no idea what I would do if he did.

Then one day, it happened. Our eyes locked across the crowded corridor, and he smiled—just a little smile—but it was enough to send my out-of-control imagination into hyper-drive. The boy with the luscious brown eyes, sexy ponytail, and ripped jeans noticed me! Not one to wait around for fate to shine upon our now inevitable love affair, I abandoned my non-involvement policy and joined the ‘football buddies’ club. Showing up at the first meeting, I took out several cheerleaders and a very large female track star in my haste to get to the signup sheet first and earn the right to decorate Jake’s locker before every football game.   

As any of my good friends will tell you, I’m a wee bit obsessive when I get an idea in my head. And I *knew*, as I poured every ounce of creativity I had into the most elaborate locker decorations anyone at BHS had ever seen, that Jake would not be able to help falling in love with me. Never mind that Jake was a star athlete with the soul of a tortured poet, or that he was so beautiful he could’ve had his pick of any girl in our ginormous high school—somehow the stars would align and when he saw me in the halls, he would know we were meant to be together.

Well folks, as you can imagine, it didn’t quite happen that way. But what did happen was even more surprising.

At the end of football season, every football buddy, whose identity was to remain secret, wore their player’s jersey to school. I could barely sleep the night before the big reveal. But after floating through my first two classes with the huge #54 on my back, I was accosted by a gaggle of cheerleaders, lead by Jake’s girlfriend, and ‘asked’ to remove said jersey…or else. I’m ashamed to say that I handed it over, went into the bathroom, and cried.

Heartbroken, I vowed I’d never love again. Until one afternoon, right before Christmas, my good friend Ann called. “Lorie, put on something cute. I’m bringing you a surprise.” Click.

Ten minutes later, I opened the door to an enormous box and jumped out of my skin when a boy in a Santa suit popped out—you guessed it, Jake! And he was rapping…a Christmas rap…that he’d written…for me! After he finished the song, I stood there grinning like a moron as, he turned and ran back to Ann’s car.

Jake and his cheerbot girlfriend broke up after that, and we went out on one date, but nothing ever came of it. Just a hug at the end of the night, leaving me wishing there could’ve been more between us. We’ve connected online since then and looking back, I can see how wrong we were for each other. 
Still, I think there’s a little of ‘Jake’ in every hero I write. Come to think of it, in both of my finished manuscripts, Doon and A Time to Hope, my heroes have soulful brown eyes.
Do you have an unrequited love story? Are you glad you didn’t get what you wished for at the time?

Monday, September 5, 2011


Face it, no one really agrees with Diane Court's decision to break it off with Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything" (1989). This could be because no one wanted Diane to follow her father's advice ever again, or because no one could picture Lloyd going on without Diane -- especially Lloyd.
For Lloyd, Diane Court was his first broken heart. His reaction to their split covered the range from tearful misery to acts of pure romantic desperation. The image of John Cusack (who played Lloyd) holding a boom box over his head has become an iconic symbol -- the image of a guy declaring his devotion to a girl for God and everyone to see.
Now, here's the thing. Here's what makes the world root for Lloyd: We've all been there. Male or female, by the time we reach prom or graduation or senior summer, we've had our hearts trounced on, been blind-sided by the whole lets-just-be-friends speech (or voice mail, or text), and felt like the world couldn't possibly continuing turning without that guy or girl holding our hands, holding our hearts.
My first broken heart... mercy, but I can still see his face, still hear his laugh, still remember the day he filled my arms with kittens, and still remember the day he said good-bye. He'd enlisted in the Marine Corps before we met, opted for military service rather than college, so I knew all along he'd be leaving. But wow, I never expected him to break up with me the day before he had to report to the local base and head off to boot camp. He didn't think he had a right to ask me to wait for him or some similarly noble and idiotic sentiment. Really, it was all very Diane Court of him.
I went home that night...I don't remember when or where the tears started. I do know I could barely see through them by the time I reached my door. My parents had friends over; I sobbed my way past them and ran for my room where I sobbed some more. I went to school the next day dehydrated from crying, eyes swollen -- I'm not even sure I brushed my hair -- and none of it
mattered. He was gone.
Of course, in time I recovered. I stopped crying myself to sleep, stopped dreaming of what could have been, stopped thinking of things I should (or shouldn't) have done. It took serious effort, but I got through those dark days. Later, there would be other other and other loves and other heartache. But this guy -- he's the one I never got over, the one to this day I'd stand on a lawn and hold a radio over my head for. He wears the heartbreaker crown in my life.
Funny, but if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know how strong I can be, just me on my own. And how much happily-ever-after magic can be wrought with a pen.
YOUR TURN! Have you survived your first heartbreak? What made him or her special?