Monday, September 2, 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The first chapter of STUCK WITH YOU is here!

Hello, Friends, and welcome to the countdown to my latest book, STUCK WITH YOU, coming out on September 2nd! Thanks for checking in and get ready for some exciting giveaway news, coming soon!

I'm so excited about this story, which originates in the world of THE FIRST KISS HYPOTHESIS and LOVE AND OTHER SECRETS, but takes a little road trip from Central Florida all the way to the Gulf Coast of Texas (which also happens to be where I live).

For those of you familiar with the character of Caleb Gray, who appears as a rather unlucky-in-love character from the first two books, you'll recognize him as he comes back to his family's beach house to confront the doubts he's having about his future. What he thinks is going to be a week of unwinding ALONE (though with his lovable mutt, Mo), takes a turn when he finds the girl he grew up with is crashing at the beach house with her friends. 

Caleb and Catie Dixon haven't been on friendly terms for many years, but a week at the beach, in the surf and sand, watching those beautiful sunrises, has a way of turning things around. 

To celebrate the soon-to-be-released story of Caleb and Catie -- or CayCay as their very own parents shipped them when they were kids--here's the first chapter of STUCK WITH YOU. Enjoy!

Chapter One

     After twelve hours on the road, I’m almost where I need to be. 
     I roll down the windows, and the damp air of the Texas coast washes over my face. The salt from the Gulf of Mexico invades my nose, and out there in the dark, I can hear it—waves crashing, welcoming me home.
     I left Florida this morning with a cooler of sandwiches Mom packed for me, a full tank of gas, and Mo, my trusty mutt-slash-wingman, by my side. In just under two weeks, I have to be back to report for practice at Florida Central University, where I got a full scholarship and a spot on the
lacrosse team. It’s a pretty big honor.
     My parents are so excited to have four more years of cheering me on from the stands, even though it means I’m not going to their alma mater in Texas, UT Austin.
     The free money was a big part of that, too. This year they started a new branch of our family’s flooring store, which has been tough and expensive, and this will help. Everyone has to do their part. I’m on board with that.
     FCU has decent academics, too. I’m going to major in business. Dad says I can use the degree to take on more responsibility in the family company when my lacrosse
career is done.
     Everything is falling into place.
     Things couldn’t be better.
     I shift in the driver’s seat. Thinking of the future makes me tense, and Mo seems to know it. He barks then looks from me to the open window, like he’s telling me to chill, son. We’re at the beach.
     “Okay, okay,” I say to him. “I know. Happy place.”
     I dig my free hand into Mo’s fur, scratching him behind the ear where he likes it best. My life has gotten so twisted up in the last six months that sometimes I don’t even know how I got here. It’s been like an out-of-body experience that I’ve just stood back and watched happen.

     Back in December, I was near the top of my class at Lockhart High School in central Texas. I was playing club hockey. I had friends I’d known since preschool. I’d gotten automatic acceptance into UT Austin based on my class ranking. I was gonna keep playing hockey there and had even gotten offered some scholarship money. Everything was set.
     That’s when my parents made the announcement.
     After last fall’s crazy hurricane season, my parents and the Dixons—the family who co-owns our business—had an opportunity to open a branch in Florida. The timing was right, and they were going to go for it. My parents would move and open the store. I would stay and finish out the hockey season and the school year. I could live with the Dixons. But I guess even then I was feeling unsure about the future, because I told Mom and Dad that I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to go to Florida, too.
     My parents argued with me. My friends thought I was nuts. My hockey coach was pissed. It was senior year—who leaves halfway through senior year?
     I played it off as Mr. Easygoing, always game for whatever, but there was no way I was going to let my family do this without me. My father already has high blood pressure from all the time and worry he puts into the store, and my mom is pretty tightly wound, too. They needed me.
     Me quitting hockey was the big stumbling block for my father, but I promised I’d walk on to another team at my new school. Football? Baseball? I’d played them all. He was shocked when I chose lacrosse. Turns out, I am freakishly good at the sport, and my play caught the eye of a bunch of
     That made it better for everyone. So, when I wasn’t killing it on the field, I helped my parents in the store, kept my grades up, partied a decent amount, and made some good friends.
     But by the time I walked across that stage in cap and gown a few weeks ago, nothing felt right. This plan for my life began to feel like wearing a too-small T-shirt, uncomfortable and tight and choking me. Even Mom and Dad noticed. Apparently, I was so distracted that they suggested I spend a week at the beach house before I had to be at Central. They said I could invite friends and party
it up (their words, not mine), but in the end I decided to go alone.
     Dad hugged me as I was leaving. “Go get your head clear. I know this is a tough time of life. Lots of changes, but it’s gonna be just fine.”
     Clear my head. Convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with this plan. Besides, it’s not like I have any better ideas.
     As I drive down Bolivar Peninsula toward Crystal Beach listening to some Chance the Rapper (not country, contrary to the Texas-boy stereotype), I already feel better. By the end of this trip, I’ll be back to normal. Mr. Easygoing. That’s me.
     As we enter town, I slow to a crawl. The main drag is hopping tonight—it’s the middle of July, high season in this part of the world. I pass by the Big Store, the one real place to shop here, where you can buy anything, from paint to pizza. I need groceries, but even at this time of night the
parking lot is jam packed, so I’ll come by tomorrow.
     I take the turn into Sandpiper Landing, the community where our house is located, and think back to a September over a decade ago. I was seven when most of Bolivar Peninsula was destroyed by Hurricane Ike, including our beach house. It was an old house—just a fishing shack, basically, but we came all the time. We loved that place. When the storm surge came through, all that was left was a
pile of sticks and one toilet.
     Lots of people decided to leave after that, but we (“we” being my parents and the Dixons, who co-own not only our business, but the beach house) rebuilt, stronger and better, and way nicer than it had been. So that’s where I’m headed, to CayCay’s Cove (don’t ask), our house at the end of Pelican
Lane, right on the beach.
     I drive down the narrow road slowly to avoid the summer renters who are running around in the dark—kids with sparklers left over from the Fourth of July; dogs; adults who, I’m gonna guess, are over their beverage limit. There are probably lots of cute girls here.
     Girls. I snort to myself. Those have been a whole other story this year. One girl really caught my eye in Florida, and she put me in the friend zone faster than a sheep at a mutton busting. In the end it was okay. She’s with my buddy Eli, and I can live without a girlfriend.
     “Who needs the female of the species, anyway, amiright, Mo?”
     He lets out an uncertain yawp as if to say “speak for yourself.”
     I glare at him in all his multicolored-coat glory—brown, red, black, white. Dog’s a mess. “Traitor.”
     Eventually I make it to the concrete slab under the house and park next to a car I don’t recognize. Probably one of the neighbors borrowing the space. When I get out, Mo follows, and I grab my duffel from the bed of the truck. I hear a loud, throbbing bass line that sounds like it’s close. I hope whoever is having the dance party shuts it down soon. I’m tired.
     I climb the stairs—the house is now a good twenty feet above sea level on concrete-reinforced wooden stilts to make sure we’ll beat the next storm surge—and I notice the front porch light is on. Last renters must have forgotten to switch it off.
     The top of the stairs opens onto the wide wooden deck that surrounds three sides of the house and gives a clear view of the water. There’s a half moon shining on the whitecaps at high tide, breaking again and again like they always have, like they always will. I bend down to the big potted palm in
the corner that Mom and Mrs. Dixon put there years ago. Stuck into the soil is the flusher from the original house’s surviving toilet. It’s a family tradition to “flush” it whenever we come back, for good luck, to ward off any future storms. In with the good, flush out the bad.
     Yeah, I know it’s a dumb superstition. Maybe because I play sports I still do it. I’d do anything to save this town from getting trashed again. And anyway, it can’t hurt, right?
     Just as I flush, the music gets louder, and I know it’s coming from the inside of the house. My jaw tightens. Dammit. So much for good luck. There are renters here, and I guess I’m sleeping in the truck with Mo as a pillow.
     Before I get lost, though, my dog needs some water. I can knock, find out when they’re leaving, and ask if they wouldn’t mind giving Mo something to drink. Maybe it’s one of our longtime renters who got their dates mixed up.
     I ring the doorbell, but the music is so loud now that I know they can’t hear it. I lift my fist to knock, but before I can, the door flies open. Three faces stare at me, and they all scream at the same time in a pitch so high I think they might have busted my eardrums.
     Mo barks, and instinctively I grab his collar.
     “Holy shit,” one of them says. “Caleb?”
     My ears still work, so that’s something, and even though I need another second to focus in the dark, I recognize the voice—an accent thick with attitude.
    Then my eyes adjust.
     I stagger back a little and huff out a breath. No way. “Catie?
     I haven’t seen Catie Dixon since the Dixon/Gray family Christmas party right before my parents and I left for Florida. My memories are not super clear of that night—my friends spiked Mrs. Dixon’s cranberry 7 Up punch with vodka—but I do remember what Catie was wearing. Shorter than it needed to be and too low cut, and I remember wishing I didn’t think she was so damn pretty. Now she’s wearing a bikini top and cutoff shorts.
     “Caleb Gray, what the hell are you doing here?” she demands in that know-it-all tone that I’ve heard my whole life, and then I realize even if she looks good—and wow, she looks good—she’s still the same Catie I grew up with. Some people never change, and Catie is one of those people.
     Bossy. Nosy. Forever in my business. I was happy to leave her behind when I moved to Florida. Couldn’t get away from her fast enough.
     I have no idea why she’s here, but I know this—the whole taking-a-week-to-relax-and-clear-my-head situation? I can kiss that goodbye.
     There’s no relaxing with her around—never has been, never will be.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Labor (Day) of LOVE and OTHER SECRETS!

It's here! LOVE and OTHER SECRETS is out today!

I'm so excited to share the love story of Alex and Bailey with you all, and to celebrate, I'm doing a massive one day FOUR book giveaway today!!

Here's how you can win a signed copy:


1. Sign Up for my newsletter, in the widget thingy over there. >>>>>
2. Retweet one of the Tweets that I Tweet today at fiction_chris (wow, that was a tongue twister!).
3. Like one of my posts at fiction_chris on Instagram.
4. Share one of my Christina Mandelski Author Facebook posts.

Feel free to enter all four giveaways! (Open internationally, winners announced Friday, 9/7).

I'd like to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who was even a tiny bit involved in the writing of this book -- my editor, Heather, my agent, Danielle (Happy Birthday), my sweet family (big shout out to my sister, Jeanne, who is ALSO celebrating her birthday today!) and dear friends. I am so blessed to have such so many smart and amazing people in my life. I couldn't do it without you!

And of course a big thank you to my readers -- you're why I do this! I know that no one book can please everyone, but I hope that if you like romance, and humor, and silly promposals, and glitter, you'll enjoy Love and Other Secrets. Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart!

Monday, August 27, 2018

One Week to Book Release! Let's do a GIVEAWAY!

Hi friends! 

The countdown is on for the September 3rd release of my new book LOVE AND OTHER SECRETS. I'll get right down to brass tacks -- I'm giving away some stuff! All you have to do to enter is subscribe to my newsletter in the little box thingy over there >>>>>>> and you might win!

The next newsletter comes out Wednesday morning, and it'll include a link to enter to win an e-copy of the fantastic Brenda Drake's SEEKING FATE, also coming out on 9/3. 

Also, if you subscribe you will be automatically entered to win a FIRST KISS HYPOTHESIS swag pack with ALL SORTS OF FUN GOODIES including a signed book and a bunch of science/lacrosse and pie-themed stuff. Again, all you have to do is subscribe!

Good luck to you, and thanks for helping me celebrate the release of LOVE AND OTHER SECRETS!

Monday, August 13, 2018

It's Love and Other Secrets Pre-Order Madness!

Today's the day that my new book, Love and Other Secrets, is available for pre-order at most e-book retailers. Buy it today for $2.99 and you'll find it on your device, ready to read on September 3rd (you might even have the day off--what a perfect time to start a good book ;) 

I'm so absolutely excited about this story -- I think it's funny and sweet and romantic, and the main characters completely stole my heart! 

In celebration of Pre-Order day, I'm going to share with you the first chapter of Love and Other Secrets, which features hero Alex coming to a realization about his secret friend, Bailey (and you might recognize a few friends from The First Kiss Hypothesis too!)

Without further ado, the first chapter of Love and Other Secrets! Enjoy! 

Chapter One


We’re at lunch when the questions begin.
“You get asked to prom yet?” my best friend Eli asks right as I take a huge bite of pastrami sandwich. Nora, his girlfriend, is at his side digging into a slice of pie, and not in any gentle, girly way. More like a linebacker at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I like that about her.
I swallow and lift a shoulder. “Nope.”
With how much everyone talks about it, you’d think prom is a huge deal at our school, but it’s really the promposals that get everyone worked up. As in, they usually go viral.
I’ve never had to plan one because, in three and three quarter years of high school, I haven’t asked anyone to prom, or homecoming, or the eighties dance. Not a single dance. It’s not that I’m against taking the initiative; the girls just always beat me to it, asking me (in some really bizarre ways) to go with them.
It’s only a matter of time before I’m ambushed again, and Eli knows it.
Last year, it was two girls at once in the school cafeteria. One got a bunch of her fellow cheerleaders to bend their bodies into the letters P-R-O-M-?. The other brought in her grandma’s parrot that she’d trained to say “Prom, Koviak?”
It was like the battle to the death of promposals. I felt so bad I said yes to both of them and took two dates, because what else could I do? Have you ever seen someone bend themselves into the shape of a question mark?
Eli snorts. “You know, it wouldn’t kill you to do the asking for once.”
I grunt. I’ve known Eli forever. He’s been my best friend since preschool and thinks he knows everything about me, but he doesn’t know that I’ve been thinking of asking someone.
It’s just…complicated.
Nora stares at me with serious eyes, almost like she knows about my mystery woman, like I knew about her and Eli before they were even a thing.
She can’t, though. No one knows about Bailey.
I shake it off. A big reason Nora and Eli are together is because I convinced him to get off his ass and do something. I gave him the “game clock’s ticking” speech. Life is short. Take a chance. Ask her out. I knew they should be together. I can’t explain it; it’s just a feeling I get. A sixth sense or something. It’s earned me a reputation at EHS as a kind of matchmaker.
For the last few months, I’ve been having that feeling about Bailey and me. But do my matchmaking skills work on my own love life? Up to now, I’ve seen zero evidence of it.
I slump in my seat and stare at the last half of my pastrami sandwich.
Damn it.
I pick up the pickle spear and snap it in half with my teeth. This isn’t like me, moping around like a chickenshit, like I don’t even know what I want.
I do know what I want.
I just don’t know if I can have it.
Nora steals a fry off Eli’s plate. He slaps at her thieving fingers and laughs, both of them so damn happy. She leans against him and closes her eyes.
You want that.
No, I tell that stupid voice in my head. I want to go to the prom with Bailey. That’s it. We could go as friends if that’s all she wants. The problem is lately when I’m around her, I find myself staring at her mouth, wondering what she tastes like, or looking at her profile when she doesn’t know it.
I sigh and nudge my sandwich with the other half of my pickle. No matter how hard I deny it, I think I might want more, and I’m totally screwed on that front because I’ve made it crystal clear to this entire school that I don’t want anything serious with anyone. I am Alex Koviak, Player. Both on and off the lacrosse field. It’s my reputation, and it is solid at Edinburgh High. I know it. Bailey knows it.
“Kov?” Nora pushes aside her cleaned-off pie plate. “You all right?”
I flash her a grin and push my hair out of my face. Nora’s nice like that, caring about others—and everything else, for that matter—while her dick boyfriend, my best friend, cluelessly stuffs his mouth with French fries.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I say. “Totally fine.”
She doesn’t look convinced. She doesn’t even know that Bailey and I are friends. No one does. It’s not normal, I know, but it’s the way things developed these last few months, and I kind of like it with no one up in our business, spreading rumors or wondering when or if we’ll ever be a couple. I like that we’re a secret—but I’d be willing to go public at prom if she wanted to.
Does she want to? I perk up at the thought but almost immediately slump back down in the booth.
Not likely.
“No worries,” Eli grins, oblivious to what’s going on in my head. “Still a month to prom. Someone will ask you. In fact, there’s probably someone with a unicorn in the parking lot right now waiting to write ‘Prom?’ in rainbow farts.”
Nora groans and swipes another fry.
God, I hope not. “Now that would be something.”
The thing is, he’s probably right. Someone will ask me. Shit, someone might ask Bailey. The thought of that happening makes the hair on my arms stand on end and my jaw clench.
Oh, hell no.
I suck down the rest of my Sprite. That’s it. Screw it. Seeing her at prom with some other dude is not going to happen. I’m asking her. As soon as possible. Tonight, before I have time to think too much. I’m at my best when I don’t think.
I move the crutches leaning against the table out of the way and slide out of the booth. Eli blew out his knee last month during a lacrosse scrimmage. Ruined his season, but at least he got the girl. Maybe it’s my turn.
“Where you goin’, asshat?” Eli asks.
I pull a twenty out of my back pocket and throw it on the table. “Just remembered I’ve got something to do.”
Eli scowls and pushes the money back toward me. “I got this.”
I shake my head and leave the money where it is. “It’s on me today, loser.”
I walk away before they can argue. At the door, I peek through the glass to make sure there really isn’t a girl outside waiting for me with a gassy mythological creature.
It looks safe, but I hurry to my Jeep anyway, just in case. The smell of brand new leather hits me, until it’s overtaken by the stink of my lacrosse equipment in the back. I love that smell. It’s proof that I’ve been working my ass off on that field.
I start the engine, my adrenaline pumping. My heart is beating fast, but I force myself to chill. This is no big deal. What’s the worst that could happen? She says no? I…shit, what if she says no? That’s never happened to me before. I’ve never really cared either way.
My hands grip the steering wheel. Come on, Kov. She won’t say no.
Before I take off, I quickly send her a text inviting her over after work. It’s Saturday, so she could be working at the coffee shop or the grocery store. I’m not sure, and it’s hard to keep track.
This is part of what makes our friendship so strange— most of it takes place at my house late at night after she gets off of work. It’s kind of perfect.
So she’ll come over after her shift and we’ll have dinner. Miriam, my family’s housekeeper-slash-warden, made her famous gumbo. Bailey loves that stuff. I’ll buy her some flowers, and I’ll ask her to prom. No big deal. Nothing promposal-ly. I know her well enough to know she’d hate that.
As usual, we’ll have the house to ourselves. My parents are in Africa somewhere, building wells for people who have no water. When they aren’t building the wells, they’re traveling all over the world trying to raise awareness and money so they can build more. They’re never around, and it’s not as cool as you’d think. It’s not like I can bitch about it, though. It’s water. For people who have none. I’d be a real asshole to complain about that.
Whatever. All I’m saying is it would be nice to have someone around to bounce ideas off of. Like, what do you do when you might like a girl and want to ask her to prom? I could use a little help, to be honest.
This is all new to me, and I don’t want to blow it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meet my new book, Love and Other Secrets, COMING SOON!

Hello friends, lots of fun stuff happening around chez Mandelski these days. First of all, I have a book coming out on September 3rd! This book's birthday is being shared with FIRST AND FOREMOST -- my lovely sister, who is about to turn *cough cough*! So happy birthday to her, and happy birthday to Bailey and Alex and their love story! Here's the cover:

For those who have read The First Kiss Hypothesis, you'll recognize Alex "Kov" Koviak and meet his new "secret" friend Bailey. Here's a little snippet about these two:

Star lacrosse player Alex “Kov” Koviak has it all. Or so everyone thinks. He’s real good at pretending his life is perfect...until he meets Bailey. The girl challenges him and pushes him and makes him laugh like he’s never laughed before. Their friendship is their little secret, and he’s happy to keep her to himself. Between school, two jobs, and trying to get into NYU film school, Bailey Banfield has zero time for a social life. But then she meets Alex in her express lane at the grocery store, and their secret friendship becomes the only place she can breathe. She refuses to complicate that with more. No matter how charming Alex can be. When Bailey decides to film outrageous promposals for her NYU application, she enlists Alex’s help to plan an over-the-top, epic promposal to someone else. Too bad the only prom date Alex wants anywhere near Bailey is him. For a guy who seems to have it all, he’s about to lose the only thing he's ever wanted.

I'm totally in love with their story and hope that you fall in love with it too!

Another new development -- I've started a newsletter that will be a great way to receive news, reviews, recommendations, contest info and etc., delivered right to your inbox. (Only every now and then, so don't panic!)  Sign up in the box to the right, and I'll get you on the mailing list.

In other news -- yikes, I'm about to be an empty-ish nester! Youngest is off to college in a few weeks and the oldest is having an epic Alaskan adventure, leaving my hubby and I to our own devices. We're excited for this next chapter in our lives, and I'm jazzed for all the writing I can get done in an otherwise quiet house. In the coming weeks I'll keep you posted on Love and Other Secrets, I promise! 

See you later!

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Here! The First Kiss Hypothesis! It's a Party -- and a GIVEAWAY!

Hey there everyone -- it's a good day, no, a GREAT day at chez Mandelski!

My second book -- or as the fancy folks say -- my sophomore effort -- is out in the world!

The First Kiss Hypothesis is about a girl who trusts science to find love, and the boy next door who is determined to prove her wrong. Eli and Nora are best friends, who love pie, and maybe each other, if only she can let go of her hypothesizing, and give him a second chance at an epic kiss.

I hope that you read it and enjoy!

Some thank you's are definitely in order today -- first to the amazing staff at Entangled: editorial, design, publicity, you name it, you've all been wonderful. Thank you, Heather Howland for your sage writing advice and editorial wrangling. Thanks to my agent Danielle Chiotti, who is nothing but supportive and awesome. Thanks to my critique buds who read this story at its various stages and who always have my back.

Oh goodness, to my husband, who is absolutely my One True Love. He's amazing! Thanks to my sweet daughters, who have grown into young women since my last book, and who are my muses and make me smile every day.

So now my gift to YOU, my readers! I'm hosting a giveaway, with a fun book-themed swag pack including: a Marie Curie mug (who doesn't want one of those?), a pie-scented candle, stickers, and more! Enter by telling me all about the best pie you've ever had in the comments below! It's as simple as that. Raffle runs until 11/13. Good luck!

Thanks to all of you readers for celebrating with me! And be on the lookout for a companion book to this one, coming Spring 2018!