Jimmy Buffett once told me, "Keep writing, Lisa." So here I am.
You haven't read my novels yet?
What the heck? What are you waiting for?
Are you a Parrothead? Then my Buffettessque novels, with their hidden JB lyrics, are perfect for you!
Or maybe romance is your genre? Small town girl meets Mr. Rich and Famous--I mean, come on!
Or perhaps suspense is your thing? That works too; my novels are filled with enough testosterone to supply Lance Armstrong and the entire USPS team!
Pull up your beach chair, kick off your flip-flops, and join Nichole Bocelli as she shares with you her unexpected deliverance from suburban psychosis into sweet Buffettesque dream. (After all, it’s not every day a small town midwestern girl falls in love with a rock star.)
Private jets, yachts, partying with girlfriends in the tropics, lunching with Hollywood elite . . . yes, it’s as big as it seems. But maybe it seems too good to be true? (Let us not forget the adulterous affairs, unwanted pregnancies, police investigation, missing bodyguard, and fugitive fighter pilot.)
Journey with Nichole as she battles not only her “average girl” insecurities but also the wiles of one naval aviator that leave her, ultimately, battling for her life.
…And in the end it will be up to you to decide if maybe, just maybe, her boring life in the suburbs wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
My name is Lisa Mottola Hudon and I am the author of three Buffettesque romantic suspense novels. 1.) Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well 2.) Just Another Shitty Day in Paradise 3.) If It All Blows Up and Goes to Hell. They come highly recommended by thousands of Parrotheads as well as Nadirah Shakoor who, after reading my first book, arranged a private meeting between me and Jimmy. (See my previous BLOG to learn more about that! https://www.lisamottolahudon.com/post/2018/03/12/the-day-jimmy-buffett-came-knocking-at-my-door) Afterward, my Parrothead friends of BuffettNews were so enthusiastic about Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well that they voted it Reader’s Choice for Jimmy’s Margaritaville Book Club. I'm thrilled to have met several Coral Reefers because of my books and it pleases me to no end that all three of my novels are a part of JB’s personal library.
All three books can be purchased as paperbacks, eBooks, or Pdfs at www.parrotheadauthor.com
(or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or signed copies directly through me)
But for the moment, take a peek into the opening chapters of Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well.
Enjoy and Fins up!
Tired of That Same Old Same
Have you seen those parking lot partiers dressed in hula skirts, coconut-shell bras, and flowers around their necks, carrying portable blenders and sporting shark fin hats?
I have . . .
My first encounter took place four summers ago, driving home from college, the ink barely dry on my diploma. To say that I was cruising is to put it mildly. My Mazda MX6 couldn’t move fast enough to erase the stress and headaches this former student of architecture had endured.
Having grown up the daughter of a traveling salesman, I know the back roads of Illinois as well as any John Deere tractor-driving farmer. And it was on one of those country roads that I unknowingly came face to face with my future. Actually, I almost collided with it.
Like the corn that’s grown there, farm roads in Illinois typically stretch straight and true for tens of miles. (Let’s call that my excuse for exceeding the speed limit.) I just happened to be racing down the one and only road containing a set of blind hills. —Up and over the first one. Whoa! My heart was in my throat. Okay, that woke me up. (Cornfields are hypnotizing.) Before I had a chance to slow down, I flew over the second hill—four tires, mid-air. That’s when I saw it all: a new outdoor amphitheater off in the distance, a sea of cars in the parking lot, and directly in front of me, a mile long, bumper to bumper traffic jam! Four tires hit the ground. I slammed on the brakes, closed my eyes, and braced for the inevitable. Brakes screeched, rubber melted, my car fishtailed, and I came within inches (I kid you not, inches) of the pick-up truck in front of me.
Now, this was no ordinary pick-up I’d almost careened into . . . the hot tub in the bed of the truck was my first clue . . . the three overweight men in grass skirts at my window were the next.
Within moments, a colorful crowd of luau-laden fans had rescued my car from the ditch and set this wobbly-kneed graduate back on her way. Besides realizing how very lucky I was to be alive, I remember thinking, Who on earth are these people? Why in God’s name are they dressed this way? And who is capable of causing such a stir? Surely it wasn’t me. You see, I’m not much of a drinker and seldom, if ever, do I swear. Heck, a cigarette’s never even touched these lips. I’m a straight A student of life. A Catholic schoolgirl at heart. I am your average midwestern girl next door . . .
At least I used to be.
I know you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so let me start at the beginning:
Only a year ago I was your average 24 year old, living in a Chicago suburb, working as an architectural apprentice for a one-man show, and house-sitting for a friend. I was regretfully unattached with no plans for the future, career-wise and relationship-wise. I had no money to speak of and nary a guy knocking at my door. In other words, I was a typical 5’-5”, brown-eyed, brown hair, half Italian, half German, Generation Xer, eking out a boring and mind-numbing existence at the end of the commuter line. (At least that was my window on the world.)
Well, I should at least explain how I got myself into such a situation. Let me start by saying that I’m not a city girl; I’ll take rural over urban any day of the week. Not that I don’t enjoy a bit of city-life on occasion, but you’re more likely to find me ice-skating on Oakwood Shores Lake than lunching at The Pump Room. (I happen to find this particularly ironic, considering my formal education is in architecture; you know, building structures that keep people inside.)
Anyway . . . unlike many of my classmates, I never had visions of working for one of those big firms in Chicago. Yet, I had attended one of the top 3 Architecture schools in the nation, studied in France, chiseled my way into the highest 5% of my class, pulled all-nighters for years (blah, blah, blah . . . you get my point), so I figured I owed it to myself to become an architect. After all, it has a prestigious sound to it, doesn’t it? “Architect” To the average person it’s a mysterious profession, combining design and vision with a rare knowledge to create timeless structures where once stood nothing but dirt. How could I not get caught up in that? But if you really want to know the truth, being an architect was the way my parents perceived me; those were the plans that they had. I was just along for the ride. (Besides, who came up with the idea of making us choose a career at 18 anyway?)
Getting a job wasn’t the hard part. I was known throughout Oakwood Shores as a well-liked hometown girl and had excellent references to boot. I figured I’d work close to home until I could make some money of my own, then move out and . . . Well, I wasn’t quite sure what I would do beyond that.
So why did I despise my job so much, you ask? (After all, I was being mentored by a fabulous architect who became a steadfast friend.) It was the day to day tedium that drove me nearly insane . . . sitting behind a drawing board for 8 plus hours a day, often on my own, taking a break only to use the bathroom or eat a sack lunch in the conference room. I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s all there was to life. (I’d heard about this happening to people in their 40’s, not their 20’s!) What a let down. As an architect, hadn’t I been taught to think big? Heck, I had studied abroad, experienced the European back-packing rite-of-passage, dreamed of adventure on the high seas! But truly, my career disappointment wasn’t the only thing that had me in the doldrums. In fact, probably just as bothersome (okay, more so) was the fact that I was lonely. Really, truly lonely. I needed some action, and I’m not talking the sexual kind, (okay, maybe a little). But I knew I seriously needed a change. Latitude, attitude, I didn’t care—just a change.
Add to that the fact that I had been living at home with my oh so loving, but oft-times smothering parents (“Why don’t you join a church group, Nichole . . . that’s a great place to meet a boy.”) and I was on the fast track to the mental institution.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to house sit at my friend Mia Lundstrom’s parent’s house. Going through an unexpected divorce—unexpected to everyone but them—they wanted to sell their house and needed a neutral party (enter moi) to look after it while they got their issues in order. Yes, it was a change of pace for me, but 4 or 5 blocks down the road, I was still bored, lonely, and on the edge of insanity.
My First Look
… On the edge of insanity.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly how I was feeling one fall day last year—a beautiful fall day. You know the kind I’m talking about: a brilliant blue sky, a strong scent of burning leaves in the air, the ideal chill for wearing your favorite wool sweater. I had just gotten home from work and was anxious to put my Monday boredom behind me. A good therapeutic run usually does the trick, so I put on my tunes and really burned off some steam. I ran through my neighborhood, a charming old-oak area of Oakwood Shores called Lakeland. I love running along the lake. In fact, it’s the only place I’ve ever been able to run. Six miles, east to west and back . . . just long enough for those endorphins to wash away the monotony of my day. That evening, as the sun sank into the west end of the lake, I caught a glimpse of a good-looking guy getting out of a Jeep in front of one of my favorite houses. He seemed in no particular hurry as he smiled a wonderful dimpled smile at me and said, “Hey,” before going inside. My curiosity was peaked. I knew that house on the corner had been for sale (it ranked on my top 5 list of the most picturesque homes along the lake), but I didn’t know someone had bought it. I wondered who else was attached with “Mr. Dimples.” Surely such a big house couldn’t belong to a bachelor.
I had nothing else to think about as I walked up and down the length of Lundstrom’s street, waiting for my heart to catch up with my feet, so my little mind meandered . . . okay, it’s six o’clock and he wasn’t dressed in a suit and tie but in jeans and a flannel shirt . . . if he was married would he have smiled such a pleasant smile at me . . . not to mention, he had only one bag of groceries in his hand, not a family-sized grocery run. (So goes the analytical mind of an architect.)
As you can imagine, sleep, in the master bedroom of the former Mr. and Mrs. Lundstrom, seldom came easy for me, and that night was no exception. I tossed and turned more than usual under Granny Lundstrom’s hand-made quilt as all sorts of questions regarding my mystery man floated around in my brain. Finally, as if to appease my weary mind, I decided I’d go for a run every day that week in hopes of finding some answers.
The first three nights, I saw his lights on inside, so I knew he was home. Then, on Friday night, I spotted his silhouette on the back deck as I jogged around the corner, and I swear I saw his head turn. But still, I never saw anyone else at the house . . . and it was Friday night no less!
I decided to solicit the advice of one of my oldest, dearest friends, Sarah Lorenzo. Why Sarah? Well first of all, Sarah and I come from the exact same background: good Italian Catholic upbringing, same values, same insecurities, but more importantly, Sarah speaks to my rational mind. She’s much more sensible than I am (if that’s even possible) and at that point, I needed to know if my silly crush was simply that, silly.
Saturday, I convinced her to go for a walk with me through Lakeland.
“You say he’s older?” Sarah asked. “How much older . . . a few years, or has he already RSVP’d to his 30 year reunion?” (Keep in mind, Sarah has a healthy appetite for skepticism.) “Remember what happened the last time you dated an older guy?”
“Well, if I’d have known he had a wife, I wouldn’t have dated him, now would I?”
She went on, “And what kind of guy in his 30’s or 40’s lives alone in a big house on the lake anyway? I’ll tell you what kind of guy . . . a loser, or a guy with a lot of baggage, that’s who.”
Within moments, Sarah had slammed on the brakes of my inexistent love affair; although part of me knew she was right; maybe I had been acting a bit dreamy-eyed.
“I saw my cousin Anthony last weekend,” she continued, “at my Nanna Rose’s 75th birthday party.”
Oh no, I thought, not this again.
“I hope you don’t mind, I gave him your number.”
I stopped walking and let out a big sigh. Okay, now I don’t know about you, but I can’t understand why people insist on doing this sort of thing, fancying themselves as matchmakers. I personally believe that if you’re “set up” on a date, then all the excitement is taken out of that very first encounter. Let’s face it, by the time you actually go out on the date you have all these preconceived notions and background stories that go along with the person. And God knows how many half-truths and lies they’ve been told about you! And since we’re on the subject of taking all the excitement out of things (be patient, I’m on a roll), it reminds me of those people who are having a baby and before the baby is even born, they’ve told you the sex of the baby and the name of the baby and, thanks to malpractice suits and vacationing OB/GYNs, they’ve even told you the date and time the baby’s going to be born! What’s left to discuss? Heck, you can’t even talk about the traumatic labor and delivery. Where has all the excitement gone? I figure, few things left in this life are genuine surprises anymore and meeting the potential man of my dreams should be one of them. —Sorry. I just had to get that out. Back to the story. . .
“Nikki, Anthony’s been begging me for your number ever since you guys met at Angela’s First Communion.”
“Sarah,” I started, but before I could object, which she knew I would emphatically do, she added, “He’s really a funny guy, Nik.” (Warning: beware of the “funny guy.”)
“Funny is an understatement, Sarah. Believe me, I know what kind of a guy Anthony is. In fact, I have several cousin Anthonys in my family and there is definitely a reason none of them are married.”
“Are you saying you won’t even give Anthony a chance?”
The conversation volleyed back and forth like this as we rounded the corner of Gate 16, and quite frankly, we would have walked right past my mystery man if he hadn’t raised his rake up in the air, smiled, and said, “Afternoon ladies. How y’all doin’?” in a soft southern drawl. I somehow managed my best smile and said the nicest hello you’ve ever heard. It took all my composure to keep walking past his yard and not look back, but thank goodness Sarah did; she said he was watching us walk all the way around the corner!
Suddenly, Sarah was singing a different tune. “He is easy on the eyes, I’ll give him that. And I didn’t notice a wedding ring. And he doesn’t look that much older than us.”(Not quite a passionate approval but an approval, nonetheless.)
That night I poured over the questions that had been plaguing me and came to a few conclusions. 1.) He was definitely gorgeous . . . in a rustic, leading-man sort of way. Let’s say a cross between a young Kevin Costner and an unshaven Bradley Cooper. (I admit, I’m a face girl first, with body a close second. My college roommate can attest to that fact as I’d plastered the walls of our dorm room, floor to ceiling, with G.Q. ads. What can I say, we architects have an aesthetic eye.) 2.) He probably wasn’t attached because no one was helping him rake that big yard, and 3.) I needed to meet him before I drove myself crazy!
I decided long ago that the saying look before you leap was meant for relationship-challenged people like me, so I spent the entire month of September keeping a low profile yet watching his every move. One particular weekday evening as I was cooling down from my run, I saw my mystery man, or Mr. Dimples, as I’d come to refer to him, sitting out behind his house at the end of his pier. His feet dangled down above the water while off to the left the sun performed a spectacular grand finale. As was my habit, I turned off my music upon approach of his house. (Just in case I needed to hear him calling out to me. Ha Ha) Well, he wasn’t calling my name, but I did hear him strumming a guitar and softly singing. I couldn’t make out the words, but the melody was enchanting, and it made me literally stop in my tracks.
That’s when a couple walked by and noticed me listening to his tune. “Some people pay a lot of money to hear him sing, and can you believe we get to hear him for free on our evening walk?”
It took me a moment to sort out what the man had just said, and before they walked away I quickly asked, “Is he someone I should know? A singer or something?”
“Sweetie,” the woman said kindly, “that’s Garry LaForge; you know, ‘Tropicana Jam.'"
It’s as Big as It Seems
My mind had to race to catch up with myself. “Tropicana Jam!” My God, I didn’t know a single soul who hadn’t had that catchy tune stuck in their head at one time or another—me included.
Oh no, you’ll never understand
My Tropicana Jam
As I lounge my days away
You’re just a loner in LA . . . .
So that’s why he looked hauntingly familiar, I thought, and that explains the southern accent. But why Oakwood Shores? And why is there no visible woman in the picture? And finally, and most importantly, what the heck am I thinking? He’s waaaaay out of my league. I literally sprinted home and looked up “Garry LaForge” on the internet . . . humble beginnings in Alabama, gold records, sold-out summer concerts, magazine interviews, boats, planes, a life of parties at the beach. My God, I couldn’t imagine living like that!
Now don’t get me wrong. I was by no means a party girl, yet I wasn’t exactly a wallflower either. My high school and college years were laden with enough pre-parties, post-parties, tailgates, and blind dates to last a lifetime. In fact, in the advent of my dating years I was the kind of girl asked out often by all types of guys from geeks to jocks. I realize now that I was nice . . . too nice, come to think of it. I went on many a date when I should have said no. The trouble was, the guys caught me off-guard and I wasn’t quick enough on my feet to conjure up an excuse. But that all ended my senior year when I found who I thought was the perfect guy, my own personal Homecoming King. But, as is often the case, I was dethroned as Queen just days before going off to college. Following that important lesson in heartbreak (at least I was told it was an important lesson), I dated off and on throughout college, a well-intentioned guy here and there and a jerk thrown in for good measure. But as of late, I’d kept my heart guarded and my nose to the architectural grindstone . . . which led me to reaffirm, yet again, that Garry LaForge was waaaay out of my league.
As a result, I spent the rest of October trying to forget about my silly obsession with Mr. Rich and Famous. (Okay, so maybe I downloaded 1 or 2 or 30 of his songs.) But really, I did try to dive into other pursuits like helping my parents rake a payload of oak leaves in their yard, and getting together with girlfriends more often, and trying to figure out where I was going to live since Lundstrom’s house had recently sold.
Wondering How in the Hell
I Got Here
On Halloween night, another of my long-time friends, Jenny Ward, had asked me if I wanted to join her and her two toddlers as they trick-or-treated around Lakeland. I definitely didn’t feel like staying home handing out candy all by myself, so I said yes and . . . Well, I’ll let you decide for yourself if I made the right choice.
* * *
“We can’t go to that next house, Jen,” I said as we approached Garry LaForge’s place.
“What do you mean? The porch light’s on.”
“What I mean is that . . . well, uh . . . there’s a guy living there that I’ve kinda sorta got a crush on . . . And he’s also kinda sorta famous.”
Jen looked at me cross-eyed. “What do you mean, kinda sorta famous?”
“Do you know who Garry LaForge is?” I asked.
“The Garry LaForge—the singer?”
I nodded my head yes.
“Why would Garry LaForge be living in Oakwood Shores?” Jenny asked.
“That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering.”
“Did you meet him? Do you know him?” she asked.
I shook my head no.
“So, you’ve got a crush on him, huh?”
Uh oh, I knew I should have kept my mouth shut.
Now everyone who knows Jenny Coleman-Ward agrees she’s not known for her predictability; therefore, I held my breath as she marched her kids right up to the front door.
With a big smile on her face, Jenny said to her daughter, “Go ahead, sweetie, ring the bell. Let’s kinda sorta see if Mr. LaForge is at home.”
And this, my friends, is only the beginning.
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