Together again, and what a half decade it has been! I first released Sugar's Dance in 2011, and it was meant to be the one book I 'had inside me'. We've all heard that saying and it's fair to say, it's probably true. As for me, it turned out I had a lot more than one book in me. Once I finish and publish this post, I'll open the document that holds the first 30,000 words of my twenty-fourth book. That's right, two dozen books in five years. While that's awesome and all, at this time of year my mind always drifts back to the Sugar Series. Maybe it's because I miss writing about Sugar and the people in her life. Maybe it's because she's familiar in a way no other character has been for me. Maybe it's simply because a week doesn't go by that I don't hear from a reader about how the series has touched them. This year, however, I'm looking back at the series because I'm releasing A Sugar Series Holiday Exclusive, Trusting Trey.
For those of you who haven't read the Sugar Series, don't worry, Trusting Trey can be read as a stand alone novel. You'll meet Sugar in the very beginning of the book, and my bet is, you'll go back and get her story once you finish Trey's. For now, let me introduce you to Trey Helton. Trey is the guy who keeps Sugar walking, and dancing. He's her 'legman' but he's also a very close friend. In the Sugar Series, we meet Trey, and his wife, Allison, in present day. Trey was never meant to be more than a supporting character in the series, someone who came in and out of Sugar's life at the times when she most needed him. When I released Sugar's Faith in November of 2014, I thought the series was done. I believed that until spring of 2015 when several fans said, "We really want to know what Trey and Allison's story is. You alluded to it in Sugar's Faith, but it wasn't enough. Please, write their story!" Oh boy. I had no idea how to write a love story of two characters the readers had already met in present day. I started though, and got about 10,000 words in before I threw my hands up and stuck it in my 'maybe someday I'll finish this book" file. Every time I finished a book, I opened the document with the intent to get it written, but always closed it again, unsure why I was struggling with telling the story. Fast forward a full year to August 2016 and I finally found Trey and Allison's voice. In a matter of a week I finished their story, told in the past, the present, and the last chapter in the future. Now, as I look to the release on November 9, I see a few things about this series I never noticed before.
Every Sugar book has been released in the month of November (give or take a day or two), which was a turning point in Sugar's life. If you haven't read the series, I don't want to spoil it for you, so I put up the first 10% of the book for you to dig into here from Amazon. Suffice it to say in the blink of an eye, on November 10th, she lost everything she held dear; ten years later on November 10th, she got it all back. Sure it was different; there were different faces, different names, different arms holding her, but that feeling she had all those years ago finally came back to life for her. My original release date for Trusting Trey was supposed to be today, but with the election, I decided it was best to hold off until November 9. I didn't really put any thought into it other than it's the day after the election. Then, last night, as I was putting together blog posts for promotions, the date hit me. November 9th is the date that Sugar, with the help of one man with swirling green eyes, released the ghosts that held her down. While that sounds ominous to anyone who hasn't read the story, to those who have, they get it, 100%. For those of you who haven't, I'm sharing the very beginning of the night Sugar's life changed, in a good way, a pure way, in the arms of someone she never expected to be holding her.
Excerpt from Sugar's Dance:
Someone was screaming. I guess it was me. It was dark, and the wind was blowing hard. I was wrapped up in my blankets, soaked in sweat and disoriented. The storm was blowing outside my window and the room was cold. I sat up in bed, my chest heaving. My bedroom door slammed open and Van was outlined in the doorway, gun in hand, no shirt, Under Armour shorts hanging low on his waist.
“Tula?” His voice was low and controlled.
“I’m fine, sorry, I’m fine.” My voice trembled.
He lowered the gun and walked into the room, and over to my bed. “You don’t look fine.”
He laid the gun on the night stand and punched the button on the fireplace, the warm glow throwing shadows on the walls. I was still wrapped up in my sheets and busied myself with untangling my legs, telling myself I didn’t need his help.
“Cold in here, don’t you think?” He turned around and smiled at me. I nodded and felt my bravado slip a little. He disappeared into the bathroom and came back with a glass of water.
He handed it to me and I took a sip. “Thanks,” I said.
He sat on the edge of my bed, tentatively; one leg curled under him the other touching the floor. “Nightmare?”
I shrugged my shoulder.
“Want to talk about it?”
I shook my head forcefully enough my hair fell and curled down around my ears. He smiled and brushed it back.
“That seems to be your standard answer.” He was being too nice and I was feeling too close to the edge to talk. “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard you crying out, you know. It’s just the first time you didn’t stop.”
I shrugged my shoulder again, a sign of noncommittal, not confirming, not denying. I bit down hard on my lip, instinctively covering my mouth with my hand to cover the trembling. I tried to take a deep breath, but the tears broke free and slid down my cheeks while my breath caught in my chest. I knew I wasn’t going to keep it together this time. I knew this time I was going to sink.
“God, Tula, please let me help you.” He pulled me into him and I didn’t care. I needed a buoy, fast. He tucked me into his arms and leaned up against the headboard.
“I keep dreaming Van. I keep dreaming I’m back in the car and I’m screaming at them, but they aren’t answering me. Everything hurts so much, and I just want someone to talk to me, but then they open their eyes and stare at me, their eyes saying why didn’t you come with us?” My words turned into sobs and he rocked me back and forth as I cried. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t change it. It was ten years of guilt and anger pouring out. The dam I had used all these years had been destroyed. Time was standing still and I was there again, in the snow, pinned in the car. I was screaming at my parents and they weren’t responding. I was screaming at Brent begging him to talk to me. There was nothing, just the sound of the snow hitting the car, and it was then I realized I was alone. All alone.
“You’re not alone, Tula, I’m here.” He was rubbing my back and stroking my hair. At some point the sobs that wracked my body diminished and I lay against him completely spent. His chest was soaked from my tears. I brushed at the tears and felt his muscles ripple under my hand. He sucked in a deep breath.
“Your chest is all wet,” I said, my voice raspy.
“Don’t worry about my chest.” His voice was distant like he was trying to keep me calm.
I was quiet for a long time. “Thank you for being here.”
“I think this is where I’m supposed to be.”
It didn’t matter to me that he knew all my secrets anymore. It didn’t matter to me what he thought or if he judged me. I couldn’t do this by myself any longer. I couldn’t go on pretending I was all right. Maybe he felt safe because he wasn’t staying, or maybe he was really safe. Maybe he was where he was supposed to be, and that was here. I felt the warmth of his chest on my cheek and the rhythm of his heart under my hand. Listening to his heartbeat I started to relax a little. He felt good and he was real. We didn’t talk for a long time. We lay there, together, not talking, staring at the fire. Van had me tucked up into him tight, one arm wrapped around me rubbing my shoulder the other was resting at my waist.
What happens from there is the reason why November 9th has stuck with me for half a decade. Why on November 10th I'm always on the lookout for an epic snowstorm (Won't happen this year), and why I'm always looking back at the first book that changed my life, a book I never dreamed would bring me here, again, on November 9th, still telling the story of the people in Sugar's World. Last night, when I saw the cover for Trusting Trey up on Amazon, I got a little misty eyed thinking about how far I've come, how many steps backward I've taken before I could go forward again, and how many friends I've made in a community of authors and amputees I could never have predicted half a decade ago. I thought about the woman whose last name Trey holds, because she's an important part of my life now as a friend, but she started out as a blogger I asked to read Sugar's Dance. I won't spoil her story here, as she will tell it, along with her review, on November 9th. The Sugar Series has never reached 'bestseller' status. It's never been #1 in its category on Amazon. I've probably given away as many copies of it as I've sold in the last five years, but none of that matters. What matters, at least to me, is the awesomeness of what Sugar has done for so many people. She's given people hope, she's danced through the darkness, she found her light, and she found her faith again, but not in the way you might expect. We've met so many of her friends who also got to tell their story. Grant and Carla. Autumn and Kade. Finally, now, in His perfect timing, Trey and Allison.
I want to take a moment and say thank you to all the wonderful readers who read and share my work with others. If it weren't for you I would never have written Sugar's Song, Sugar's Night, Sugar's Faith or any of the other stories that came after them. Sugar's Dance was supposed to be 'that one book' and it was, it was that one book that captivated me and gave me the courage to keep writing. Is it technically perfect? Heck, no. I've learned so much about writing since I wrote Dance, but it doesn't matter, because I will never change the voice that is Sugar Dubois. The moment I put her to paper she took on a life of her own, something that makes me proud and in awe of the true spirit of the human mind and heart. I hope you all get a chance to read the Sugar Series. It's on Amazon and all 5 books are part of Kindle Unlimited. If you would like a copy of Sugar's Dance email me at email@example.com and I'll send you a Kindle copy, free of charge.
To close, I wish you all a very happy holiday season. I hope you get a chance to read Trusting Trey, because I believe it embodies the spirit of the season and the unbreakable spirit of the human soul. We all have a story to tell, so don't be afraid to sit down and write it. Sometimes, taking a chance can lead to something so wonderful you can't remember what your life was like before it. As I look to the next half a decade I know it will be filled with many new characters, but on November 10th I'll always be looking out the window for the first few flakes of snow, and wondering what Sugar is up to this year.