It’s Day 6 – congrats to Jennifer L from Kearns UT!

Can you believe we’re almost at the end of the year?

Have you done your planning for 2019 yet?

Every year I take a few days out of my calendar and make them “me time.” I walk away from my computer, sit down with a pencil and paper, and map out how I want my new year to go. As the saying goes: You can’t get what you don’t plan for. So it’s important to map things out if you want them to come true.

I remember several years ago when I added “publish a novel” to my list. I’d added it multiple years in a row. I’d written over a dozen nonfiction books, but something inside of my was itching to get a novel out too. But something held me back. I kept adding it to my New Year’s lists, but I never checked it off. Until one year I did something different.

I made it a priority. Something inside said “enough!” I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it now. That’s the year I published my first novel.

The Artist has a lot of meaning for me because of Renee’s strong desire for her business. She’s always put aside her true love – her art – until she finally makes it a priority. And that’s when things start to happen. And it’s not just her career that takes a turn for the better.

If you haven’t read The Artist yet, you’re going to love it. I’ve included the first chapter – the Prologue – where you’ll find out what starts Renee down the path to starting up the business of her dreams. And changing her life for the better once and for all.

What about you? Do you have a plan?

—–

The Artist

Prologue

“So we burned rubber in our fifty-five Chevy and were out of there,” Ben Lane sat on the edge of his seat, pretending to have his hand on the wheel. “That was our fifteenth stolen garden gnome that night, all lined up in our backseat. And of course, we had a beer in each hand,” he cackled.
Renee Moore couldn’t help but smile at the picture he’d created. She pulled her legs up underneath her in her big chair, wrapped her hands around her mug of tea. “And?”
“And? Did you hear that, Frank? Your girl here thinks there’s more to the story.” Ben looked over at the bed where his best friend Frank Moore lingered, painfully thin, wispy white hair fluttered over his forehead. Frank’s eyes were closed, but a slight hint of a smile graced his lips.
A pained expression crossed Ben’s face before he shook his head and started in again.
“When the heat pulled us over at the edge of town, we dropped the beers under the seat and threw a blanket over the gnomes. Big Jack walked up, shined a light in the car, shook his head and said evening boys. You remember how big Big Jack was, Frank?” Ben looked at Renee. “This cop was huge. Must have been six-seven or eight.”
Ben glanced back at Frank to see if there was any change. There wasn’t. So he continued, “Big Jack says to us which of your parents should I call? We chose Frank’s cause we knew they’d be easier on us. We were all of sixteen. I couldn’t sit for a week after that one.” Ben winced at the memory.
Renee chuckled. She’d heard dozens of stories like this the past three days. And she enjoyed every one of them. Just two boys having the times of their lives back in the good ol’ days. “What happened to the gnomes?”
“We had to deliver them back to the owners. Had to do lawn work for each of the owners too. Part of our punishment.”
Renee nodded.
Frank shuffled in his bed, reached a hand to his mouth and coughed.
Renee jumped up, placed a hand on her father’s leg, wishing she could help.
The moment subsided, and Frank collapsed back to his pillow once more. His strength was diminishing every day. Every hour, she sometimes thought. And though she tried, she couldn’t stop the tears from slowly trailing down her check.
She breathed deeply. “Ben, I’m going to make some more tea. Would you like some?”
“Sure, sounds good.”
Renee walked down the hall and into her kitchen. She filled the teapot with water and set it on the stove, then leaned back against the counter, staring absentmindedly out the window. How did it all go so fast?
Two years earlier, she’d been a happy woman. Or so she thought. Her only son had just started his first year of college and had settled into dorm life nicely. She was settling into an empty nest lifestyle, making plans for the future.
In the blink of an eye, her husband moved out saying he needed to find himself, her mother passed away from a massive heart attack, and the pink slip came at the end of a very shitty three month period of time.
Renee had picked up another job at a competing law firm. But she didn’t like the clients or her colleagues half as well. She did it for the money with the hopes of getting something better later on. Twenty months later, she was still looking.
Then disaster struck again when her father Frank announced he had stage four pancreatic cancer and the prognosis was any-thing but good. In four weeks, his health had gone from bad to worse.
That’s when she’d called Ben.
“Tea ready yet?” Ben called as he came around the corner.
“Almost.” She glanced his way. “What do you prefer? I have Earl Grey, chai, spice; I think I have lemon too,” she said as she rummaged through the cupboard.
“Earl Gray is fine.”
Renee poured the water over the tea bags and placed a mug in front of Ben, who was now seated at the end of the kitchen island. She took a seat next to him, and for a moment, they stayed silent, lost in thought.
“He’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember.” Ben’s voice was rough.
“I know.”
“I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what I do next.”
“I know.”
It had always been Frank and Ben.
Ben and Frank had grown up two blocks from one another. They spent their childhood getting into trouble together. Roomed together at University of Nebraska. Celebrated their marriages as each other’s best man. Ben and his wife Sharon had two boys, while Frank and his wife Nan had Renee.
When Frank and Nan lived out their dreams of heading to the west coast for warmth and no snow, Ben stayed behind just outside of Omaha to help with the family business.
Still, every year Frank and Nan returned home to visit with Renee in tow.
Renee remembered bits and pieces. She was usually too busy with cousins to remember the grownups. Still, Ben and Sharon were a part of her life, as were their sons, Bradley and Bo. She couldn’t remember a time without them. They were family.
With Ben sitting next to her, she took a deep breath, envisioning life without her father. She knew she had to, but the thought tore her apart. “I’m going to miss him so,” she squeaked.
Ben clasped her hand between his. “Frank has always been so proud of you; you know that, right?”
Renee nodded. Of course, she knew it. She was a daddy’s girl. They spoke all the time. Of all the doubts she’d ever had in her life, her dad’s love wasn’t one of them.
Her dad was her biggest supporter, her largest fan. After Nan had died and Renee’s divorce had been finalized, they’d found themselves together more often than not for dinner or a walk along the beach.
“He would always tell me about your walks. He treasured those most of all.”
She nodded. She’d loved the beach since she was a child. Nothing could calm her frazzled nerves more than the gentle ocean breezes and the sound of the waves crashing nearby. She knew her father had felt the same way. They’d shared that in common.
Renee turned slightly, taking in the man sitting next to her. Ben. Her father’s best friend. She’d known him forever. But they’d never talked on a deep level, not as they had done over the past three days. In three days’ time, she’d discovered how much alike the two men were. She could easily see why her father had loved Ben like a brother.
Ben returned the look, nothing but love in his eyes. “In many ways, you’re like my daughter. I never had one; just my two boys. I’ve always known so much about you, enjoyed watching you grow into the lovely woman you’ve become. All of that thanks to Frank …” His voice trailed off, his eyes going wet.
As much as Renee would have preferred to be anywhere but where she was, dealing with the imminent loss of her father, she was grateful for Ben being by her side. He’d been her rock for three days. And it felt good to have someone to rely on.
Ben caught her gaze once again. “Did you know he always wished you’d followed your heart? He wanted desperately to see you make it in the art world. To have the success with your sculpting he’d never found with his woodworking. He knew you were good, said you could be phenomenal if you’d just go for your dreams.”
Renee carefully looked into Ben’s eyes, judging if what he said were true.
He nodded. “Yep, he said that. He wanted you to be happy, that’s all he cared about. So he kept quiet when you found love, had Calum, and stuck with your career as a lawyer. God, Frank loves that boy of yours.”
Renee bobbed her head up and down, trying to keep the sob from her voice. “Calum loves him just as much. It’s going to be rough on him too.”
They paused for a moment, each catching their breath, waiting for their waves of grief to subside.
“Why haven’t you gone back to your sculpture? You always loved it so.”
There was a question. She really didn’t know. “I’ve played around a bit with it in my studio. I was turning out some pretty good stuff again. Then the diagnosis.”
Yep, it always came back to that. That changed everything.
Ben reached for her hands once again. “Maybe now is the time. Calum’s all grown up. What’s-his-name is out of the picture.”
That brought a smile to her lips. What’s-his-name. Her dad had used that term for Matthew, her ex, since he walked out on her two years before. Leave it to Ben to pick it up and continue the trend.
Renee had double majored in college, and planned on pursuing art as a part of her life. That is, until Matthew had appeared and turned her world upside down. She’d fallen head over heels.
When Matthew went to law school, she’d followed. She’d never thought about being a lawyer. But she quickly learned it came easy for her. She saw it as a way to spend more time with Matthew.
And it worked for a while. Two lawyers. Two careers. One large house. One child.
Yep, their life moved along just like the American Dream promised.
Until it all went to hell.
She loved her son more than anything. He was the best thing in her life. But he had his own life to live. And a twenty-something single man would only dedicate so much time to his mom.
Her house; she’d loved it in the past. But she’d admitted to her father just a few months before how large it was now that it was just her.
Her career? What career. After climbing the corporate ladder to a place she’d thought she wanted to go, she’d been nothing but disappointed when it all came tumbling down.
But her art, could that be a ticket to a new life? Could she go back to her dreams of making a living through her sculptures? Would people really buy what she created?
She lifted her mug up to her lips, sipping the warm liquid in-side. A careful glance to the gardens outside brought a wash of melancholy across her shoulders. But the more she leaned into it, the more she recognized there was something more.
Yes, she’d never felt so sad in her life.
But a part of her held onto the fact that life happened. Her life was about to go on. She’d have no choice.
And maybe, just maybe, her father would be there with her, pushing to take a step she should have taken years ago.
What if …

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