We've been thrilled with all the buzz, and articles like this one calling these new choose-your-own-adventure stories, "the future of reading."
Not a bad thing to be part of as a writer, and kinda fun for readers, too.
You still have a few hours left to win the FREE KINDLE loaded with all four Coliloquy launch titles (Getting Dumped included, of course).
In case you missed last week's post that explained the contest details, here's the rundown:
There are several ways you can enter to win. Want more than one entry? Do more than one thing!
- Tweet your heart out! If you're a Twitter user, compose a tweet stating why you want Getting Dumped. Be sure to include @coliloquy and/or @tawnafenske so you get credit.
- About Face! Are you a Facebook fan? Put up a post explaining why you want a free Kindle, a copy of Getting Dumped, and maybe a pony.
- Blog it, baby. Got a blog of your own? Write about us! Share what you think is cool about Coliloquy, why you want to read Getting Dumped, or how you share my not-so-secret fantasy of ditching the day job to crush garbage with heavy equipment.
- Review me! Are you one of the folks who's already read Getting Dumped but want to win for a friend? Review the book on Amazon! Bonus points for positive reviews! (Kidding. Not really).
- Share the love! Visit my fabulous agent's blog and leave a comment letting her know I sent you and that you desperately, urgently want to win the Kindle.
- Capture the moment. Snap a funny photo with some Getting Dumped significance. Like maybe a picture of you beside a piece of heavy equipment. Or a picture of you with a great handbag. Or a picture of you holding the great handbag while driving a bulldozer over the top of a guy who just got busted for selling counterfeit handbags. Use your imagination and make us laugh! You can send pics to tawnafenske at yahoo dot com.
Whatever you do, leave a comment on this blog alerting us exactly which entry tasks you've performed. We'll love you forever if you include links, user names, Twitter handles, or any info that makes it easy for us to see what you're saying.
The contest will be open through 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, January 24. I'll choose a winner and post the pics the next day.
We've gotten lots of great entries, including some hilarious photos, but there's still plenty of time to enter. Be sure to visit the original post to leave your comment about which tasks you've performed. We'll announce the winner on tomorrow's blog.
And now, just to whet your appetite, here's a teaser of the first chapter from Getting Dumped...
When I was a little girl playing in my uncle’s sand and gravel lot, my life’s ambition was to drive a dump truck. Or maybe a front-end loader.
It began with the usual childhood fantasies about Tonka trucks, but morphed into a bit more when I spent my teenaged summers hauling dirt and digging trenches to earn money for college and designer handbags. While my peers nursed their teen angst with Seagram’s wine coolers, I relieved mine smashing boulders in a Magnum 30 Rock Crusher.
But none of the women in Cosmo wore hard hats with their designer suits, so I eventually decided I needed a real job. I was hazy on the specifics but knew a real job involved a framed college diploma on the wall, a comprehensive dental plan, and an excellent shoe collection.
It did not involve a hard hat.
I got myself a marketing degree and a great job in the public relations department for Albright County, thirty miles from Portland, Oregon. The position came with an excellent government benefits package and a chance to wear tailored skirts to important meetings. I wrote marketing plans and ad copy. I enjoyed a forbidden office romance with the director of accounting. I planned press conferences and sparred with county commissioners.
And after five years, I was so bored I wanted to set fire to my day planner.
“Do you have a pack of matches?” I asked the district attorney, handing her a copy of her retirement speech as I scanned the party crowd for any impending PR disasters.
She smiled and reached into her handbag – a fake Prada monstrosity that had me biting back my lecture about child sweatshops used in the production of counterfeit designer goods.
“Here you go,” she said, holding out a roach clip and a lighter.
I sighed, uncertain whether to be more concerned about the drug paraphernalia or the stolen silverware I’d spotted in her purse.
“Never mind,” I said, drawing back as I glanced around to make sure no media reps were near. “Thanks though. Looks like you’re all set to enjoy retirement.”
She smiled and ambled off to the other side of the ballroom.
“JJ! I’ve been looking all over for you.”
I spun on my Louboutin heels to see my handsome, forbidden boyfriend Daniel approaching, his tie slightly askew. His dark hair was adorably rumpled, and the dimples I’d grown fond of in the three months we’d secretly dated were nowhere to be seen.
“Here I am,” I said, giving him my best PR smile. “Just making sure the hors d'oeuvre trays stay filled and the HR director doesn’t grope the undersheriff.”
“Right. Can you get away for a minute? Or maybe we can talk privately as soon as this is over?”
I snatched six empty wine glasses off the table in front of the county clerk, who gave me a loopy smile as a camera flash went off. I handed the glasses to a passing busboy and went back to scanning the crowd. “I can’t do it after the event. I’m going out with my sister and Macy. And right now I’m kind of busy with work.”
I waited for Daniel to say something disapproving about Macy – my sister’s intern who was rumored to have family mob ties – but he just tugged his tie and frowned.
“Work,” he muttered. “That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Daniel grabbed my arm and pulled me into a corner beside a fake ficus plant. “JJ – look,” he said, his voice low and conspiratorial. “Remember when we started dating and I said I’d never, ever abuse my role as director of accounting and finance to share privileged information unless it was a dire emergency?”
“Well, it’s an emergency,” Daniel said, looking grim. “I just came out of a meeting, and we’re having some financial difficulties with a few of the county departments. I feel like it’s my duty to tell you that—”
“Aw, hell. Are they going to cut my job and make me write the press release announcing my own layoff?”
Daniel winced. “No.”
“There won’t be a press release.”
“It’s just that your position has always fallen under the DA’s office, and with her retiring—”
“I’m retiring, too.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
I saw the county health director making a beeline toward the food and caught the arm of a passing secretary. “Mary, can you ask Ted not to hand out chlamydia pamphlets in the buffet line?”
Mary dashed away and I turned my attention back to Daniel.
“It’s not a layoff, exactly,” he continued. “They’re calling it a repositioning.”
“Repositioning? Like they do with cruise ships?”
“Nothing that pleasant,” he muttered. “I’m sorry JJ, I’m so mad about this, but I just made a call to my friend Sloan, and she thinks—”
“What’s a repositioning?”
Daniel sighed. “Whenever Albright County has to cut jobs, they first try to find comparable employment in an open position within another county department — allowing the employee to maintain government benefits, PTO, retirement—”
“What sort of comparable employment?”
“That’s the problem,” Daniel said, his voice growing more aggravated. “There’s nothing in public relations right now, or any other office jobs in the whole county system, and what they’re planning to offer is so utterly ridiculous that–”
“So nothing like my current job?” I asked, craning my neck to watch the county assessor showing her tattoo to a befuddled-looking reporter. “Nothing even close?”
“I’m sorry. I know how much you love your job, and you’re damn good at it too. That’s the really shitty thing here. Look, my friend Sloan owns this great PR firm downtown. I told her all about you and she wants you to come in for an interview next—”
“What’s the county job? The one I’d be repositioned to?”
Daniel sighed again. “They found out you have experience operating heavy equipment. There’s a vacancy in the Department of Solid Waste at the Albright County Landfill. They’re going to try to give you this crap about how the benefits and salary are the same as what you make now, but obviously—”
Daniel closed his eyes. “I’m so sorry, JJ. Everyone knows you deserve a promotion, but you’ve got the least seniority right now and this is the only opening in the county system—”
I stared at him. “Would I drive a compactor?”
“The big thing with the spikes on the wheels to squash all the garbage.”
“Um, well— I have no idea. But that’s beside the point. You can’t possibly accept this. It’s an insult. It’s– it’s—”
“Who would I be working with?”
Daniel snorted. “The landfill’s best and brightest, I’m sure. Really, with your education and professional experience, Sloan said she could probably start you at—”
“Hey, Randy,” I said, catching the library manager by the elbow and lowering my voice. “Your fly is unzipped.”
Randy jerked unsteadily on his tie and winked at me. “Saves time for when I have to take a leak.”
I released his elbow and looked back up at Daniel. He was quivering with enough indignation for the two of us, which made me feel better about my own surprising lack of it.
“JJ, I’m telling you the county is eliminating your job. Why are you still doing it?”
I frowned, not sure I understood the question. “Because I like taking care of people. And because I take my work seriously, no matter what it happens to be. You know that about me, Daniel.”
“Right, sorry. I do admire your work ethic, which is one thing I told Sloan when I—”
“So would I wear a uniform?”
“At the dump. A uniform.”
“Oh,” he said, frowning. “Well, I doubt you’d be enjoying haute couture at the dump. No more matching shoes and bags. Just dirty boots and coveralls and safety vests and—”
“So let me get this straight,” I said, taking a slow survey of the tipsy well-heeled masses. “I don’t have to iron blouses, dry-clean skirts, or suffer the shame of showing up to work in the same pair of Cole Haan sling-backs as Marti in payroll. I don’t have to listen to Sarah tell me every week how her BA from Stanford is superior to my MA from the University of Oregon. I don’t have to see you in the hall every day and pretend we haven’t been secretly dating for three months. And I get to run over refrigerators with a 150,000-pound machine.”
“JJ, you can’t seriously be considering accepting—”
I forced a smile to take the edge off my voice. Then remembered the spanakopita I’d eaten five minutes earlier. Having spinach in my teeth probably won’t matter at the dump, I mused. The thought made me smile for real.
Daniel stared at me, perhaps wondering whether I’d gone completely off the deep end. I was kind of wondering the same thing. “JJ, this is an insult. It’s ridiculous. You can’t possibly—”
“Sure I can. I’ve been unhappy with my job for awhile. This could be a good thing.”
Daniel blinked. “You never said you were unhappy.”
I opened my mouth to insist I was perfectly happy with our relationship, that everything was just fine.
I shut my mouth when I realized my brain was the only one wandering down that path.
“You love your job,” he insisted.
“Not really. Having an office job isn’t really what I thought it would be. I kinda miss crushing things.”
“But I already told my friend Sloan that you’d—”
“Well I didn’t ask you to do that,” I snapped. “I mean thanks for trying to help, but I can handle my own career.”
“Career?” he snorted. “Like the dump is a career move.”
“Plenty of people do it,” I informed him. “Not all careers require a desk.”
“Come on, JJ. You’re the girliest girl I know. I’ve never seen you without high heels and lipstick.”
“Am I not allowed to wear lipstick at the dump?”
Daniel frowned. “What would people think?”
I folded my arms over my chest as my heart began to slam hard against my rib cage. “What people?”
“People,” he said, exasperated. “People here tonight. People who wouldn’t respect you anymore, or respect me for—”
“What are you talking about?” I sputtered. “Why would I care what shallow people think? Besides, no one knows we’re dating, remember? You’ve said a million times how strict HR is about that.”
Daniel’s face darkened. He glanced around, probably making sure no one had overheard me. “I just think you deserve better than this.”
“I do deserve the best,” I agreed, pretty sure we weren’t making the same point.
Daniel smiled. “Good. So you’ll talk to Sloan—”
“No,” I told him, plucking a glass of champagne off a passing tray. “I won’t talk to Sloan. And you know, I don’t think I want to talk to you right now, either. So when do I start my new job?”
The answer was, before you have to shell out fifty dollars for the pedicure required to wear those peep-toe Michael Kors sandals.
Which was fortunate, since designer footwear wasn’t required at the landfill.
Neither was showering.
“I’m Burt,” grunted a grizzled gentleman with a salt-and-pepper beard that evidently doubled as storage for breakfast leftovers. He stuck out a thick paw that appeared to have served without benefit of protective gloves for the better part of a century. I hesitated only a second before taking it.
“JJ Shultz, I’m the new heavy equipment operator.”
“Huh.” Burt dropped my hand and scratched his crotch.
“So I’m really eager to get started,” I told him brightly. “I already went through the safety training and got my uniform.”
Burt stopped scratching and looked down at my feet. “That’s a nice touch.”
“Thanks,” I said, tipping my toe up to admire the purple laces I’d threaded through my work boots. “My sister is a handbag designer, so she made these with her scrap leather. I’ve got pink ones and a pair with blue polka dots so I can switch with the seasons.”
“Good idea,” Burt said, nodding. “The pink hard hat looks good with red hair.”
“Thanks. My sister again. Her intern’s family owns an import/export company in Portland, and they got a whole boatload of them last week. I think the color was some sort of screw-up.”
Burt nodded. “Looks nice. I got an anniversary coming up. Maybe I could get the name of the company so I can see about buying one for my lady friend?”
“Sure, it’s Sophronia Shipping. Let me talk to Macy and see if she can—”
“Sophronia?” Burt asked, frowning slightly.
I sighed. “Yes, that family. But it’s her uncle and they aren’t close and Macy is very opposed to—”
“No matter,” Burt said, apparently content to postpone a discussion of mob families until some other time. “So the boss says you’ve operated heavy equipment before. Which company you been working for?”
Burt frowned. “What?”
“Albright County Public Relations. I worked mostly under the district attorney for five years.”
Burt couldn’t have looked more confused if I’d told him my last job involved juggling flaming olives. “An office job? But—”
“Hey, it involves shoveling crap one way or another, right? Only here I get to crush televisions.”
At that, Burt looked a little sad. “Not anymore. Environmental protection and all that. They send TVs to hazardous materials now.”
“But you get to crush a lot of other cool stuff, right?”
His expression brightened. “Yeah. Bookshelves. Dead houseplants. Old carpet. Bags of rotten meat. Last week there was this piano—”
“Well let’s get to it,” I said, feeling giddy in my stiff new Carhartt coveralls and neon orange safety vest.
Burt nodded. “So you’re okay with this, um, job switch?”
I grinned. “If I’d had to spend one more day in an office, I would have strangled my boss with his necktie and fed the corpse to the vultures I worked with.”
“Fair enough. Still, isn’t it tough to go from a cushy office job to this?”
“Nope. I spent a lot of years thinking the cushy office job was what I was supposed to have. Now I finally get the chance to do the job I wanted to do in the first place.”
Burt seemed to consider this for a moment as he dug a finger in his ear, then inspected it. Flicking something over his shoulder, he gave me a warm smile.
“I like you.”
I grinned back. “I like you too. Can we crush some garbage?
Burt nodded. “Let’s introduce you to your compactor.”
He said the word compactor with the same reverence many men would use to say The Bible or The Superbowl or Playboy. I looked over at the hulking machine with spikes on the wheels.
“I’ve always wanted to operate one,” I admitted. “Of course, you don’t really ever see them outside a landfill.”
Burt started walking and I followed, sidestepping a plastic bag that oozed something orange. He stopped beside the yellow machine hunkered at the edge of the pit.
“Here she is,” he said, caressing the metal with undisguised fondness. “The Caterpillar 836H Landfill Compactor and Wheel Dozer. She’s got a C-18 engine and a semi-universal blade arrangement with the optional secondary steering system and a GPS unit for grid navigation.”
“Wow,” I said, understandably impressed. We both stood there for a moment in respectful silence. I was the first to speak.
“Does it have a name?”
“Sure. Like a racehorse or a pirate ship or a sports car.”
“A name,” Burt repeated, sounding thoughtful.
“Shirley,” I decided.
Burt smiled. I smiled back. He reached up and picked something black from between his teeth.
In my first hour on the compactor, I crushed a doghouse, an old dishwasher, a half ton of rotten lettuce, a bag of doll parts, a table with a broken leg, and a box from Nordstrom that turned out to contain a thousand tubes of fuchsia lipstick.
I was in heaven.
Climbing out of the cab for my lunch break, I grinned down at Burt and pocketed the keys.
“Whaddya think?” he asked.
“I love it!”
“You did good,” he said. “Nice job with that mattress.”
“The box springs were a little tricky.”
“You handled it like a pro. Didn’t even get the wires wrapped up around the bar.”
“Thanks! Should we go wash up for lunch?”
Burt frowned. “Wash up?”
The two of us began walking back to the office. I had gotten a tour of the facilities when I’d arrived at six a.m., but most of the office employees hadn’t arrived then and I was looking forward to meeting the rest of the team.
Burt and I pushed through the doors and stood there for a moment, eyes closed, breathing in the clean, odorless air conditioning. A sexy rumble pulled me out of my trance.
“Welcome to the Department of Solid Waste. You must be the new heavy equipment operator.”
I opened my eyes and stared. Behind the front desk was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my twenty-seven years. Dark hair, bedroom eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and pecs you could pound nails with. I didn’t realize my jaw had actually dropped until Burt discreetly nudged it shut with one filthy knuckle. I swallowed hard and blinked a few times to clear my vision.
“JJ, meet Pete,” Burt said. “Pete, meet JJ. Pete is the secretary for the Department of Solid Waste.”
“Oh,” I said, offering my hand for the sex god to shake. I looked down, belatedly realizing I still wore my work gloves. And that the right one was streaked with something gooey.
“Mayonnaise,” I told him, peeling it off. “I crushed a whole crate of it. Got all over the door of the cab.”
“Excellent,” Pete said, flashing me a smile that would have caused a lesser woman to swoon.
Okay, I was a lesser woman. I gripped the edge of the counter and held on tightly, reminding myself I still had a boyfriend. Technically. Things had cooled considerably with Daniel since I’d decided to take the landfill job, and I wasn’t quite sure where we stood.
Pete regarded me through eyelashes that were thick and dark, fringing eyes the color of the Heineken bottle I’d just extracted from Shirley’s belly pan.
“Pete’s new here, too,” Burt offered. “Just started a few weeks ago.”
“Really?” I said, wondering at the reason a man who could easily make millions modeling boxer-briefs was sitting behind a plaque that said SECRETARY.
“Yup,” Pete said, smiling into my eyes. “Until you got here, I was the new kid in class. Maybe we can share a cubby and take turns on the monkey bars at recess.”
I felt my face grow warm and fought to swallow the butterflies crawling up my throat. “Did you get repositioned, too?”
“In your job. Not sexually, I mean. Or like a cruise ship. Repositioned—” I shut my mouth, realizing it was best to stop while he thought me tactless rather than insane. Pete just grinned at me.
“No, I applied for the job a couple months ago, and I had to go through a pretty rigorous interview process to get it. Typing tests, personality assessments... the county’s human resources department is very diligent.”
“Sure,” I agreed, eyeing him with interest. Gay? Had to be. Or was that a photo of his girlfriend framed on the desk behind him? I craned my neck for a better look.
“Anyway, welcome aboard,” Pete said. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“It’s a hot, brewed beverage made with beans. Very tasty.”
I felt my face flame again.
“She’d love coffee,” Burt said, clearly sensing a rescue was in order. “We’re just heading to the break room for lunch.”
Pete nodded. “Sugar?”
I swallowed. “What?”
“In your coffee. Do you want sugar?”
“Right. Yes. Please. Thank you. Amen.” I turned away and grabbed the nearest doorknob. Burt touched my shoulder.
“That’s a closet,” he murmured. “Break room’s over here.”
He propelled me through another door and deposited me beside a table. I stood there catching my breath while Burt opened a cupboard above the sink.
“Wow,” I said, dropping my voice to a hiss.
“I know,” Burt said, clearly delighted. “Pretty great, huh?”
I eyed Burt, impressed that he was secure enough in his masculinity to admire an attractive man.
“I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much,” I said, scrubbing my hands at the sink before opening the fridge and taking out my leftover spinach lasagna.
“Nah, you were fine,” Burt said, grabbing a grungy paper bag and a bottle of murky liquid. “He’s already been asked for his autograph three or four times, so staring is no big deal.”
“Sure. I thought about it myself, but decided I’d wait until the movie comes out on Blu-ray so he can sign that.”
I stared for a few beats, wondering what I was missing. Burt sat down and unwrapped a wedge of yellow cheese. He held it in one hand, his fingers smearing dirt on the greasy surface.
“Movie?” I prompted.
Burt looked up at me. “That’s Pete Wilco — he played Colt McTrigger in Bionic Cyber Cops in Monster Trucks. Haven’t you seen it?”
He frowned. “Then why were you staring?”
“Um, because he’s gorgeous.”
Burt laughed and finished his cheese before grabbing a hard-boiled egg. He cracked it on the edge of the table and extracted the squishy orb with his fingers, streaking it with grime.
“Damn fine movie,” he said, taking a bite of the egg. “There’s this cop who drives his monster truck with mind power, and these zombies with skin that glows when it rains and–”
“Geez. And people say I have an overactive imagination.” I dropped into the chair beside Burt and forked up a piece of lasagna, whining when I realized I’d forgotten to heat it. “I don’t understand. Why would a movie star work at the county landfill?”
Burt shrugged. “I guess not everyone liked the movie. They didn’t actually release it in any theaters.”
“Hard to imagine.”
“Anyway, Pete moved back here when his mom got sick. He said he wanted something with good benefits and a decent salary and no zombies chasing him with radioactive snow cones.”
“He’s still got a girlfriend back in L.A. I think she might be moving up here, too.”
“Huh,” I said again, trying for the second time to infuse the syllable with nonchalance instead of disappointment.
I stuck my lasagna in the microwave and punched some buttons, feeling more than a little perplexed. “So Pete is the secretary. Gordy’s the director I met at orientation. There’s that blonde girl who wears the miniskirts and goes around to all the county offices doing the recycling—”
“Green Barbie. She’s the recycling coordinator for Albright County, but is based here at the landfill.”
“My boss in the PR department dislocated a vertebra the day Green Barbie dropped a bottle under his desk and tried to crawl after it.”
Burt nodded and chewed some egg. “She doesn’t much like underwear.”
“Right. So who else haven’t I met?”
“You meet Collin yet?”
“Engineering technician. Came here from London seven or eight years ago. He’s the science guy. Manages all the methane gas wells and does the groundwater monitoring and writes the computer programs for all our GPS units. I think he’s a PhD or something.”
“Okay. Who else?”
Before Burt could even swallow the hunk of egg he’d shoved in his mouth, the door burst open and a tiny, forty-something blonde came bustling into the room. Her hair frizzed around her face like an electrified halo, and she wore strappy heels covered in big, floppy flowers. I felt the instant comfort that comes from meeting another woman with an appreciation for cute footwear.
“Oh my God, are you the new Harold?” the woman gasped as she grabbed my arm. “We’ve been waiting for you to get here! I told Burt there was no way they could find anyone to replace Harold on short notice, especially since he was such a good heavy equipment operator even if he was a chain smoker, but he made the best jalapeno jelly and always had clean fingernails and it was really such a shame he died so suddenly, though the doctor said he didn’t suffer at all, but still, his wife Mary was just so upset and their dog Muffin hasn’t had a proper bowel movement since the funeral and – oh where are my manners, I’m Ernie, like the man’s name, Ernie? It’s short for Ernestine, but everyone just calls me Ernie—”
She took a breath and I stood quickly, extending my hand. “JJ,” I said as she pumped my hand with a wild grin. “Nice to meet you, Ernie.”
“Aren’t you just the cutest little thing? All that long, red hair and that gorgeous complexion and such a lovely figure with those—”
“What is it you do here?” I interrupted as I felt my cheeks turn bright pink.
“Oh, well, I run Albright Alley, the little thrift store out front that sells all the odds and ends people bring to the dump that aren’t really trash but they don’t want them anymore, so sometimes people just drop things off at the store and other times we poke around through the pits and find things and clean them up and put them out on the shelves, so I just putter around the store and keep things running and—”
“Her shop made a quarter-million in revenue for the Department of Solid Waste last year,” Burt interjected, picking up a squishy-looking sandwich and leaving dirt dents in the bread. “She does a little more than putter.”
Ernie blushed prettily. “Well, I do what I can—”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ernie,” I said, really meaning it.
She beamed. “I’m just glad to have someone else to enjoy the male scenery, if you know what I mean – not that I’m doing anything inappropriate. I’m in a committed relationship, of course, and obviously he’s very secure and doesn’t mind if I admire attractive young men, and certainly I’ve been trained in sexual harassment protocol and I never grab anyone or send obscene email except that one time by accident with the picture of the naked cartoon bear, but I don’t think that counts because the bear was wearing a shirt and even if he didn’t have pants—”
“You’re talking about Pete?” I interrupted. “I mean, that’s the male scenery you’re admiring, right?”
She lowered her lashes and gave me a coy smile. “Have you met Collin?”
Just then the radio on Burt’s belt crackled to life.
“Bloody hell, Burt,” shouted a voice heavy with rage and a British accent. “Who is this sodding JJ Shultz and why is she trying to ruin my life?”