The Firstborn is here! … now I have to tidy up.

.It’s release day! The Firstborn is born, a bouncing new book, ready to be read and enjoyed!

(To help matters along, I’ll just get all the links and such out of the way.)

Want to buy the ebook? (Ignore the fact that I sound like I’m selling knock-off watches from the trunk of my car): http://amzn.to/2puCT2i

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Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest whiff of disgrace from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.

Yes, you want to buy this book. Why? So that I can afford to hire someone to come in and clean my house while I’m busy writing, editing, marketing, cooking, homeschooling my kids, changing diapers, and occasionally bathing. (I am an occasional bather. It’s an occupational hazard of being a parent.)

This is my livingroom: 001

The youngest is down for a nap. The older three are watching Wild Kratts (that’s educational, right?) I stood on a chair despite my horrible fear of small heights (Long story short: I can stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and not be scared. Stick me on a stool to change a lightbulb? I’m going to die) to bring this picture to you. And then I turned around and snapped a picture of my kitchen sink.

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Equally gorgeous. (At least this is proof that I feed my children.)

Sometimes, people refer to me as some kind of supermom. I make costumes for my kids to wear to the movies (Ola wants to be Wonder Woman for the movie’s release next month), I bake all the time, I crochet things, I sew stuff, I take the family to the park and we learn about nature and commune with unicorns.

But this is the reality. While snatching minutes here and there for writing and teaching my kids about Charles I (yes, they love the stories about the rulers who end up meeting a ghastly end) and eating all the cookies I baked, this is what happens to the house. (And before someone chimes in to tell me that I need to create a chore wheel for my kids: My kids do chores. They clean bathroom sinks and bathroom floors and put away dishes and pick up toys and make their beds. But last week, they were sniffly, and we were all just too almost-sick and exhausted to care.)

So I’ve written a book. My fourth full-length book! I’m happy and proud and ecstatic and many other words from a thesaurus. And I’m also hungry, my hair needs brushed, and I really do need to load the dishwasher.

Happy Tuesday. 🙂

The Firstborn – The First Chapter

We’re down to… *looks at calendar*… three days until The Firstborn is released. I’ve teased you with excerpts. I’ve given you a cover. Today? I’m just going to give you the entire first chapter. Now excuse me, I have a quiche in the oven and I don’t want it to burn.

The Firstborn base_illustration_day_final_big

Chapter One

There were too many letters. An inordinate amount of them, spilling out of crevices and sliding out of their well-organized stacks. Most were invitations, a fact that irritated Finnian to no end. Invitations to balls, to routs, to garden parties and afternoon teas, where he would be expected to deal with the attentions of no small number of simpering females. And all of them with their eyelashes fluttering while a mere turn and snap of their fans spoke a language he would never care to decipher.

This morning’s stack of cards sat on his desk, the light shining through the window and sending a solitary beam across the topmost letter. A glance at the direction told him more than he needed to know. The lettering was too fine and flowery—a woman’s hand—and a noticeable aroma emanated from the paper, as if glazed with rose water before being sent round to his townhouse.

He understood their interest in him, and his position in polite society. He was a man. A gentleman. A titled gentleman with a rather large fortune. And, most bothersome of all, a titled gentleman, possessed of a large fortune, who—according to that polite society which insisted on tossing flowery cards and invitations at him as if they were tossing bread crumbs to a duck in a pond—had decided to remain stubbornly ensconced in his current life as a bachelor.

He gave the corner of his newspaper a shake and reached out for his cup of tea. From another part of the house, he heard a knock on the front door, followed by the measured step of Gleeson showing no haste in his effort to answer it. Finnian waited, his eyes gazing at a vague point beyond the edge of the newspaper as the butler’s steps made their way towards his study. Another knock, this one on his own door, and a grey, tonsured head bowed itself into the room.

“Lord Haughton? It’s Mr. Winston. Shall I…?”

He nodded in reply. Gleeson disappeared, the steps receded, and Finnian folded his newspaper into a stiff rectangle that landed with an audible smack on top of the pile of invitations.

“Finn?”

He glanced up at the door as another man, this one dressed in a coat and trousers of a dull, forgettable colour, entered the sunlit room.

“Winston.” Finnian sat up in his own chair and indicated the one opposite him with a wave of his hand. “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”

Winston strolled forward, his hands clasped around both hat and gloves, neither of which had managed to be relinquished to the butler upon his arrival. He let out a sigh as he lowered himself into his seat, scratched his chin, and ran a bare hand over his neatly-trimmed brown hair.

“Have you breakfasted?” Finnian asked, his eyes taking in the obvious wear on the man’s suit and the scuffs on his boots.

“Yes, early.” Those two words revealed an accent that held no connection to any town or borough within fifty miles of London. Finnian had never inquired after Winston’s origins, and Winston had never made any move to volunteer the information.

“So.” Finnian cleared his throat. “Since you’re not here to dine with me, I take it you’ve…”

“I’ve found her.”

Continue reading “The Firstborn – The First Chapter”

The Firstborn Cover Reveal

Goodness gracious. Today is my youngest child’s first birthday. The kids are all recovering from a sniffly cold and clamoring to go outside, except that it’s a deluge and I’m waiting for an ark to show up at our doorstep any minute. This weekend we’re moving furniture and buying drywall and having a birthday party (and maaaaaaybeeeee sneaking in a viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy 2?) and then Tuesday will flutter along before I know it and then The Firstborn will be live.

Which means it’s incredibly timely that I now have a cover for it.

*ahem*

*fanfare*

*squee*

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It captures Sophia and Finn brilliantly. It’s soft, it’s dreamy, it’s like a confection. Which fits the story, I have to say. A wonderful job by amazing cover artist (since I can’t draw stick figures that look like they should.)

Getting to Know You, or an Excerpt from The Firstborn

Today marks six days until my next book is released. That means I’m out of my mind with Stuff To Do, grabbing reviews, marketing, sharing the pre-order link, wearing a giant placard and pacing street corners while begging people to buy my book PLEASE buy my book because people expect money as payment for bills and not, say, baked goods or my eternal gratitude. Glaspalast_München_1889_098

So here’s today’s street corner placard dance. I bring you a snippet of The Firstborn, one of my favorites actually, when my heroine Sophia Brixton faces off against Lord Haughton, uncle to her nephew (and pompous meddler).

***

Finnian shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Up to this point, nothing had transpired in the way he’d imagined it would. And as for Sophia, she was too blunt, and too intelligent. And that was what worried him most.

He gestured towards the recently vacated table. “Will you be seated?”

Her shoulders pressed back. “I’ll stand, thank you.”

He cleared his throat. She was not going to make this easy for him. A point for her, since he doubted she had any idea what had brought him all this way. “The child—”

“George,” she said, interrupting him. “His name is George, after our father.”

“Of course.”

“No,” she spoke again, while his next words still danced on the tip of his tongue. “Not ‘of course’. Such a phrase denotes your being aware that our father’s name was George, or knowing what type of man he was and why we would choose to honor him in such a way. But here you are, darkening my doorstep nine months after his birth. A fact which proves to me that either you didn’t know about him before now, or you simply didn’t care.”

He inclined his head, yet dared not take his eyes off of her, not for a second. “My apologies. I assure you it was the former, and as soon as I discovered that my brother had a son—”

“And where is your brother? And why are you here in his stead?”

Finnian could feel his temper beginning to rise. Never before had he allowed himself to show anger in front of a woman, and yet she was the most infuriating creature he’d ever encountered. “He is in London. I assume.”

“You assume?” To his surprise, her mouth broke into a smile and a soft laugh emanated from the back of her throat. “In other words, you have about as much sway over the life of your brother as I have over my sister.”

“I’m not here to discuss my family,” he said, his voice taking on a note of warning he hadn’t even intended to be there.

“Oh, but I’m sure you’re here with the sole purpose of discussing mine. Or am I wrong?” A flash in her eyes countered the steel in his voice. “The mere fact that you’ve arrived today with a prior knowledge of not only both our names, our location, George’s existence, and no doubt a myriad other trivial items concerning our past and present life tells me that you’ve gone to great lengths to find out all you could before traveling here from…” She waved her right hand in a vague circle. “… wherever you call home. Which means, no doubt, that you wanted the upper hand in this discussion. Which also means that I will most likely not care for whatever it is you’ve come to tell me.”

Finnian fumed in silence. If the baby’s mother was even half as maddening as the woman standing before him, he wondered how David had survived with his manhood and his sanity intact. “I had come here with the intention of speaking to the mother of my brother’s child,” he ground out between clenched teeth.

“But she is not here,” she said, delivering the confession with the precision of a wielded weapon. “And she is not like to be anytime soon. And since your appearance here is most likely connected with George, then you will have to make do with speaking to me.”

“Very well.” He sighed. His confidence drained away from him, and the surety he’d experienced upon arriving here that the matter of the child’s welfare would be swiftly dealt with—and in his favor—had been skillfully chipped away by every word to come out of Sophia’s mouth. “Shall we?” He inclined his head towards the chairs that flanked the table.

“Of course,” she said, and slipped gracefully into the seat that he pulled out for her.

***

Just a Quickie…

It has been hectic around here of late. But April is sliding away and a new month is dawning tomorrow. So there are things! Of which I will mention! In an excited-like manner!

First up, a phenomenal author and close friend of mine was recently interviewed on Wattpad and it is just a terrific interview all around. (And if you think what she writes is your jam, PLEASE check out her work. Or wait until June 13th when her next book(s) comes out!

Secondly, my next novel, The Firstborn, is now available for pre-order! AND! If I hit my pre-order goal before it goes life, I will be setting up a giveaway for five signed copies of the paperback version. Love Speaks #1

So thanks to all in advance, and also apologies in advance for all of the blathering I’ll be doing about The Firstborn in anticipation of its release.

 

Characters of The Firstborn: Sophia (Penrose) Brixton

In my next book, The Firstborn, I stumble into the lives of two sisters. The older of the two, Sophia, has had to pick up the slack of caring for her younger sibling, Lucy, after the death of their parents. They’ve now lost everything of their former life. Their home, income, and all while dealing with the grief of losing two family members.

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And then Lucy finds herself with child, without a husband, and with the eyes of their entire hometown glaring down at them through shades of scandal.

Sophia does what she thinks she must. She finds a new home for them, a home where they won’t be known. She takes on the guise of a widow, and raises her sister’s son as her own.

Simple enough, right?

Of course not. There wouldn’t be a story to tell if everything had tied itself up so neatly.

Lucy finds herself too young, still reeling from her parents’ deaths to care for her child, and so is too quick to leave her son to Sophia’s care. So when a certain Lord Haughton comes calling, claiming to be the child’s uncle and making demands left and right about the boy’s care, Sophia balks at the threatened loss of control over her own life… and the life of her nephew.

Even worse for her is the fear that her nephew will be taken away from her entirely. A woman in nineteenth century England had a frightening lack of rights, and a member of the peerage, and one with the funds to see things done, would’ve had no difficulty swooping in to take a little boy from a woman deemed unfit (i.e. poor) to raise him.

But Sophia is not the type to back down without a fight. And at the end of the day, more than anything, it is her love for her nephew that fuels her resolve to remain a part of his life.

“It does not make a whit of sense,” Sophia said, as she began to crumple the edge of the letter between her fingers. “Six weeks ago, he came here ready to settle a large sum of money on us in exchange for our silence, ensuring that no one would ever discover George’s connection to his great and illustrious family. And now he’s inviting us to his home, to mingle with his sister and make banal conversation about the weather over tea and light refreshments?” She shook her head. “I simply cannot fathom what has worked this supposed alteration in his behavior.”

Lady Rutledge slipped a bracelet from her wrist and held it out to George, who crawled quickly over to her side and babbled excitedly as she dropped the bauble into his grasp. “You suspect all is not as it seems?”

“Well, I certainly don’t believe he was visited by angels on the road to Damascus. I simply…” She exhaled heavily as her shoulders slumped forward in a most unladylike manner. “George has been in my care for his entire life. Even when Lucy was still here, she never… She always treated him as a burden. And I do understand how she could think such a thing. Children are not easy creatures to care for. They are maddening and exhausting and consume your entire life in a frightening amount of time. But even so…” She closed eyes that had suddenly become watery. “I don’t want to lose him.”

For a moment, there was nothing but the jangle of Lady Rutledge’s bracelet and the satisfied sounds of George as he attempted to shove the sapphire concoction—along with a great deal of his fist—into his mouth.

“And you believe Lord Haughton will take him from you?”

Sophia blinked several times and looked across at Lady Rutledge. “I don’t know. A part of me wants to think he’ll spirit George away forever as soon as I enter his home. But another part of me—a much smaller part, I must admit—hopes that he is truly penitent and wishes to…I don’t know, create some sort of compromise that will benefit George.”

“One in which you don’t lose access to him,” Lady Rutledge pointed out.

As George crawled his way towards her part of the drawing room, Sophia reached down and removed the bracelet from between his teeth. When he began to fuss, she merely tickled him under his arm until his cries turned to damp-cheeked giggles. “Or that involves him lording his control over me with a few coins,” she said, her fingers lightly teasing George’s plump chin.

“More than a few coins, if your description of his offer was accurate.”

“Quite accurate,” Sophia said, her eyebrows raised at the memory. “Perhaps it was foolish of me to turn him down, but I could not like the idea that I was somehow being purchased, like a horse or a bolt of silk.”

A moment of silence passed between them, apart from the steady thump of George’s knees and hands as he crawled across the floor.

And so Sophia finds herself dealing with someone very much like herself, someone who has been trying to keep tabs on the behavior of a younger sibling, trying to clean up the mess of their mistakes – and all while making a few mistakes of their own.

Sophia was thrill to write, a character I would very much love to meet in real life (and preferably have on my side during a fight).

The Firstborn will be available for purchase in paperback and ebook from several major retailers on May 9th, 2017. 

 

Rooting for the Bad Guy

Generally, my heroes are good guys, in the sense that they’ve always been good. They may be a bit stuck up when I pick up their story, or have made a few poor choices here and there (because no one in the real world ever does that… *shifty eyes*…) but for the most part, they’re good. You know they’re the hero within the first few scenes they have on the page. And so you dig out your pom-poms and you cheer for them. Edmund_Blair_Leighton_-_Courtship

But sometimes… Well, sometimes I like to give the bad guy a chance. I know that’s not always something that sits well with prospective readers. We (and I do include myself in this group, sometimes) want to see things in black and white. Frodo, good. Sauron, bad. Ring must be thrown into the fire. (Isildur! NOOOOO!!!) And yet, doesn’t the “bad guy” get to have his shot at redemption?

It’s a thread I’ve noticed running through some of my stories more and more. Someone screws up. Someone screws up badly. And yet, they get their second chance (or maybe it’s their third or fourth or seventeenth chance by the time we run into them.) One of my future releases, The Bride Price, features an antagonist who early readers dislike. Vehemently. Give him a moustache and he’d be twirling it. But down the road, I still plan on giving him his own story, his own shot at fixing his life and trying to make up for past mistakes.

Some people who know I plan on giving him his own redemption story are NOT PLEASED about this. Well, okay. That’s your thing. But it’s interesting how people see villains, how they want to keep them tucked into their little box of evil and not let them out to make something better of themselves.

Is it because we like to keep things clearly delineated? Good is good and bad is bad and never the twain shall meet?

Does the young woman who gives up her child for her sister to raise and takes a large sum of money in return always have to be portrayed as bad, or do we get to revisit her some years down the line, when age and acquired wisdom have perhaps changed her views and made her regret some of her previous choices? (Yes, that character will have her own story down the line, too. Believe me, I have a lot of stories in the planning stage. Probably more than I should.)

Maybe because I’ve grown older (well, slightly older… middle-age older) I like to write characters who are not perfect, who might fit the role of antagonist in one story but work their way to hero or heroine in the next. Maybe because I’ve seen people change over the course of years (and years) that I’m more inclined to reflect those alterations in personality in the fiction I produce. Or maybe I just like messing with people. That could be it, too.

 

 

The Firstborn’s Hero: Lord Haughton

Writing heroes is always fun. I never set out with a perfectly formed character in mind. I usually have a scene, or even a scene-let, with a few lines of dialog, maybe a bit of action, and that’s it. But it gives me enough of a springboard that I can start building a story around this guy.

And a lot of the time, he’s definitely not the most likable character. Alexander_Jakesch_-_Old_History

Take Lord Haughton, or Finnian, as he’s more familiarly known. He’s the hero of my next book, The Firstborn, and at first introduction, he’s not exactly someone you’d immediately warm up to. He’s stuffy, he’s stubborn, he’s worried about keeping up appearances.

His younger brother, David, has gone and sired a son out of wedlock. It’s a scandal, or it could be if it’s not kept under wraps. And Finnian, being the oldest son and the one with the weight of the title on his shoulders, has to take on the chore of cleaning up everyone else’s messes.

Finnian moved towards his desk, the neat stacks of invitations, of previous days’ newspapers, of filed and folded documents pertaining to the care of his family’s estates proving only a minor impediment as he shifted a few things aside and produced a sheet of vellum. “A simple thing, really. I merely offer her the money she would certainly come to claim at a time when it would be more inconvenient for me. A fixed sum, enough to ensure the child will receive the proper care and guidance he deserves as my brother’s offspring.”

“And in return?”

“In return,” Finnian brandished the document. “She does not interfere. She does not leave her tiny cottage. She does not set foot in London. Nor does she attempt to contact myself, my brother, or any other member of our family, except within the terms laid out for her.”

Winston let out a long, low whistle. “And do you think she’ll agree to that?”

“I’ve found that most people will agree to anything, if the proper incentive is offered.” Finnian glanced down at the document in his hand. He felt a mercenary twinge in his bones that did not agree with him, but the fact of the matter remained: he could not allow this woman to gallivant about the country with his brother’s illegitimate offspring in tow, no matter her attempts to keep up appearances to the contrary. Their father, the previous marquess, was barely cold in his grave, and now such a scandal threatened to destroy the family’s name.

Man, he’s just so warm and charming!

But surely, you think, he’ll show his softer side once he’s faced with a bouncing bundle of joy, his own nephew, and the woman who’s been caring for him!

“Very well.” He shifted forward in his chair, until both of his elbows rested on the tabletop and the position of his hands matched her own. “I would prefer that you agree to several conditions before this matter goes forward to my solicitor. First, that the boy never takes his father’s surname.”

“I see.” Sophia licked her lips, her mouth having gone uncommonly dry at the sudden change in the tone of the conversation. “Pray, continue.”

He drew in another deep breath. “You are to make no claim, public or otherwise, on the boy’s parentage. No one is to know the identity of his father, and should word arrive to me that you have done so, then any and all payments towards you will immediately cease.”

“Hmm.” Her gaze drifted down towards the table, her focus concentrated on a knot in the wood. She suspected that if she dared to look into the man’s face while he continued to speak, she might be tempted to do him physical harm. “Anything else?”

“You are never to come to London, or to any of my family’s estates throughout the country, unless first issued an invitation to do so. Failure to comply with these conditions will mean—”

“—an end to the promised annuity,” she finished for him. “Yes, yes, I understand.”

She continued to breathe, measured breaths that required her to count three seconds for each inhalation and three seconds for each exhalation, or else she thought she might be ill.

“So…” His voice sounded from the other side of the table. “Mrs. Brixton, are there any comments or questions you may have for me before we move forward with this?”

One.. two… three… “Only one thing,” she said, her voice tight as she attempted to speak between clenched teeth. “My own condition, actually.” Her eyes met his. One… two… three… “And that is that you must leave this house. Now.”

Goodness. His people skills are outstanding. Truly.

But it was with these first few scenes that set the stage for the character I wanted to create. Yes, I wanted him to be a bit of a jerk. But then, this is a man who’s had the shadow of responsibility looming over him since birth, a father who instilled in him the idea that no scandal should ever besmirch the family name, and a younger brother who has given him doubts that there are still a fair number of people in the world who aren’t simply looking out for their own interests.

Yet he also wants to be proven wrong. And that’s where the fun begins. He wants to find those other people who will stand up for themselves, who won’t back down when something easier comes along. Sure, there are the folks who are swiftly dispatched with some money or other material goods. But without him even realizing it, he wants to be surprised. He wants the human race to show him something – someone – better.

And when he happens to find it, it might just turn his world upside down.

***

The Firstborn will be available in ebook and paperback May 9th, 2017!

Don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads book list!

 

It Was a Week (And Another Short Story) (And a Release Date) (Woo-Hoo!)

Yesterday was Tuesday. Somewhere in my brain, I knew it was Tuesday, and yet another – much more optimistic – part of my mind kept trying to tell me it was already Friday. That I had already survived a week that had begun quite inauspiciously with a severe stomach bug (nothing like spending your Sunday night/Monday morning curled up in the fetal position on the living room floor), with my oldest daughter and then my husband catching the same bug (to lesser degrees than me, but of course I was hit the hardest because I’m awesome like that), and with the weather changing its mind every five minutes.

So because of that, this is going to feel a bit more like a weekly round-up type of post, when in reality… It’s Wednesday morning.

Now, to sum up. First, my next book, The Firstborn, has a release date! On May 5, it will be available in both ebook and paperback! I’m excited about seeing this story that began as a failed attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) find its way out into the world.

So it will have its own shiny new cover (the only cover I currently have for it is a placeholder that was used for its time on Wattpad) and you’ll get to hear me expound on all things about it here over the coming weeks. (Yes, please. Contain your excitement.) And to start things off, I’ll give you the description of the story (like what you would read on the back or on the jacket of the book):

Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Finnian Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest hint of scandal from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.

Also, I wrote another short story since I last posted in here. This one also follows the adventures of Lady Drummond, when she encounters someone on the streets of London who may not be quite what she seems…

Sleet andShadow

 

Sleet and Shadow

There is nothing for it. I am alone. In a city teeming with life, the mingled breath of thousands rising upwards as their waste drains away beneath my feet, there’s no one to protect me. I have only myself, a pitiful blade tucked within my sleeve, and a rapid prayer remembered from my childhood, the words falling from my lips with a greater speed than the strike of the sleet on the cobbles around me.

Water runs into my eyes, ice stinging my forehead and cheeks as I press my back against the wall behind me. There is no shelter from the weather, and so I can do little more than lower my chin to my chest, my breath coming out in brief, steaming gasps as I close my eyes and listen.

There are no carriages. I will wonder at that later, but for the moment, I cannot decide whether to praise or lament the lack of traffic. From a distance, the sound of a horn reaches my ears. From the river, I think. But it’s far to my left, if the weather and the cold and the abnormal absence of pedestrians haven’t disturbed my sense of direction. I breathe again, reveling in my renewed orientation, and on the exhale, there is a step. Continue reading “It Was a Week (And Another Short Story) (And a Release Date) (Woo-Hoo!)”