The original ending went like this...

Back when I first typed out SERVING UP INNOCENCE, and long before it had a title or was even thought to become part of a series, I finished the ending in a less than ideal way. Shayne didn't get the guy she really wanted. She ended up not growing and made decisions that ended up being better for everyone else.

It wasn't right and it didn't work.

Rereading the original ending on a second and third pass, I knew it didn't fit her character as there was no character growth. I gave my own book a 2 star rating at that point. LOL. There wasn't even a real Happy Ever After, which if you write Romance, is expected (just like finding the killer is important to murder mysteries but more on that later). Reading the original ending, I knew what was going to happen... it was clear as day to me. So, why not then change the ending to reflect that? And in three short clicks, the ending was cut out and re-filed into a folder where I store my cut material (it makes for some interesting reading. HAHA) and the new, much improved ending was perfect. Cute and endearing, just like the heroine.

Interested in reading what was the original ending?
Here you go.

Please note, this is an edited version, and there will likely be several grammatical and punctuation mistakes. This is also copyrighted material.





Epilogue



I grabbed a red pepper and was reaching for an unblemished green pepper right at the back when I spotted his reflection in the mirror.

“Here, let me help you.” The voice was as familiar to me as my own, even if it had been years. “Shayne, is that you?”

His face had changed, the years as hard on him as they had been on me. Still, he was recognizable, as the eyes were the same and held the same sparkle as before, even with a fanning of creases at the edges. Long gone were the dreads and scruffy beard, replaced with a more mature hairstyle and clean jawline befitting a man of his age, and yet, there was an air of youthfulness about him. A GQ cover model stood before me, like the past ten years happened in the blink of an eye.

“Wow, Korey. It’s been a while.” I dropped the red pepper into my basket and reached for the green one he held out for me in his long, lean fingers.

“You look great.” His eyes fell the swell of my tummy. “Positively radiant.”

Instinctively, I touched it, although great wouldn’t have been a word I’d use to describe myself. I was sure I’d packed on fifty pounds since the last time I saw him, and in a fit of pregnancy induced rage where my hair wouldn’t do what I wanted it to, I’d chopped off ten inches. “Thanks. You look great too.” Eloquent words escaped me, replaced only with small talk kind of words. There was so much I wanted to ask and inquire about. It had been so long. Too long. And our last words to each other had been said in haste, in anger mostly, and definitely unresolved.

“How’ve you been?” he asked, shifting his own basket into the crook of his arm.

“Mommy.” My five year-old daughter nearly bowled me over as she ran at full throttle. I set my basket down and picked her up, shifting her onto the most comfortable part of my hip. “This is an old friend of mommy’s. Can you say hi?”

“Hi,” she said, tucking her forehead into my neck.

“What’s your name?”

“Jade.”

Korey looked straight at me, his jaw slacking. “What a lovely name.”

Jade wiggled out of my arms. “Daddy said we get chocolate milk.”

“Did he now?” I smiled, knowing my husband was a huge pushover as far as Jade was concerned. Anything she wanted, she pretty much got.

Jade skipped away, proclaiming her undying affection for chocolate milk to her father, who pushed a cart in my direction.

Korey’s expression darkened like a shadow on an otherwise bright and sunny day. He was unable to take his eyes off my approaching husband.

He stopped beside me and extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Jason.”

“Korey. We’ve met.” He pumped Jason’s hand but his focus on me was mesmerizing. Questions swirled in his eyes and murmurs of years gone by danced on the edges of his lips. “Many years ago.”

Jason nodded. “My apologies. I don’t remember.”

“That’s okay.” Korey finally looked at Jason. “It really was a long time ago.”

“We used to work together, at Westside, before Lily left.” My heart jumped up into my throat. Korey had never been a topic of conversation between Jason and I. Back then, Lily abandoned her three children and Jason, and I unexpectedly was charged with their care. Korey and I had broken up not long after, not because of that but because neither of us had believed enough in our relationship to think we could stick it out. Well... I guess I’d been the one to not believe.

“Here’s the list and what I’ve got so far.” I put my basket of produce into the shopping cart. “Can you and Jade grab what’s left and I’ll catch up with you shortly?”

“Sure thing.” He studied Korey, and plopped a kiss on my cheek before driving off with Jade hugging the end of the cart.

“You married him?”

“Clearly.” I wasn’t sure if I was annoyed or not, but old habits died hard, and sarcasm rolled off my tongue too easily.

Korey watched Jason and my biological daughter walk away. “Never saw that coming.”

Beneath my hand on the swell of my belly, my baby stretched out a leg. Only a few more weeks left. I gave the foot a rub and asked, “What about you? Married, kids?”

“Nope. Never found one since you.” He shifted uneasily on his leather shoe covered feet, the hem of his dress pants hanging at the perfect height. “Regardless of what happened, or failed to happen, you were my other half.” That voice that beckoned me and made me melt all those years ago came rushing back like waves upon the beach. This time, the waves crashed over my pounding heart and I suddenly felt like I was nineteen again.

The side effect of the rushing pulse caused my unborn son to move with a little more effect, this time kicking at one of my ribs and head-butting my swollen bladder.

The longer Korey stared at me, the more pull I felt towards him. In so many different directions. I wanted to take him by the hand, sit down with him and have a discussion with him about what he’d been up to the past ten years, but I didn’t think I had it in me. I was afraid to ask for fear I'd never be able to walk away again. And that was a dangerous feeling. Very dangerous. Maybe I hadn’t let the past go? Maybe I hadn't really dealt with not having Korey in my life. Afterall, he'd changed it so much.

“How long?”

Had I been daydreaming and missed out on part of the conversation? “How long what?”

“How long after me until you hooked up with your best friend’s husband?”

With Lily gone, and Jordan’s mom on early mat leave, it seemed only logical to help with Jason and the girls. The timing of it all was too perfect—for everyone involved. Korey had left me with no place to live, as he set on drifting through another part of his life in another city. Jason needed help. Desperately. And he paid well enough that I didn’t need to work two jobs. It was a perk beyond perfect that he offered me a place to live. It wasn’t much, that tiny in-law suite in the backyard, but it was free and warm, and allowed me to still feel as if I were living alone.

It took some time, but I realised there had been more truth to Lily’s words than I’d truly believed. It surprised me to learn how unorganized Jason was as a parent, and yet, he was the kindest father, always doting on his girls and giving them his undivided attention as soon as he was home from work. I found myself envying that and wanting to be someone’s focus in life, I just didn’t think it would happen between Jason and me. However, the lines between me being the girls’ nanny and being a full-time parent started blurring. Things just sort of happened. And quickly too.

Five short months had passed after Lily’s abandonment, and I moved into the house. Into Jason’s bedroom. Less than a year after that, we became a family. The girls were thrilled, which made the whole thing easier. When we announced three years later we were expecting, they were over the moon to have a baby to swoon over.

“It was the timing…” I fell over my words because it was the truth in so many ways.

“If I hadn’t gone…”

Or if I had followed…

I shrugged and twisted the modest wedding ring on my finger. It was a guessing game, a flip of the coin. To say things would’ve been – could’ve been – different was something neither of us will ever know. There was no magic ball to gaze into and see what the future could've been like. All I knew was how my life was now. Step mom to three wonderful teenage girls, mom to one, and expecting one next month. I was married. I was settled down. My family was all within an easy ten-minute drive. How could I not be happy with the way things turned out?

I cleared away the cobwebs in the corner of my brain. “Did you ever go to university?” I asked, afraid to know the answer. Did he really move on with his life? Did he do all that he’d set out to do, even though I wasn’t there? Or had he given up on more than just me?

“I’m a high school drama teacher.”

Somehow that didn’t surprise me. I could picture him with the students, dazzling them with his acting skills. He’d always managed to keep his customers happy and enjoying themselves, no doubt he passed on that energy to his students.

“You?”

“I’m a midwife. I own Inception Midwifery, along with a couple of partners.” It had been a long uphill climb to get that degree, and a couple of years longer than necessary, but I’d found my calling. It was a job I loved.

“Cool. I’m glad you found your happiness.”

“I’m glad you found yours.” It was the dumbest thing I could’ve said, and my cheeks heated in response.

“I never said I found happiness.” He shook his head in such a way it was clear to see heartbreak and anguish settle over his body. His shoulders rolled inward, and his stance slackened. “Happy doesn’t come easy for me.” His hand covered his heart, and I wondered how long he’d hurt. Even though there’d been two people involved in that decision, he took the brunt of it and I choose the cowards way of dealing with it. “You’ve always been here.” He patted his chest, and the warmth and love in his voice caressed my soul.

Time did nothing to the bonds of attraction, and I could feel it as easy as I could my son’s kicking. The flicker in his eyes that told me this meeting was fate and every bit as real as it had been in my dreams. Was Korey feeling what I was, or were my pregnancy hormones to blame?

“Hey, Shayne?” Jason called me from the potato display. “Red or Yukon gold?” He held up a bag in both hands. “I need your help.”

And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t turn away from Korey. I couldn’t make my feet move toward the man I married, and I was instantly disgusted by that. I loved Jason, don’t get me wrong. But that fire, that zest, the monkey sex, it was never there. Never had been.

Korey finally broke the silence developing between us. “Well, it was good seeing you.”

“And you.” Cold feet froze me to the spot, cemented in wonder. I watched, in a slo-mo style, as he first extended his hand and deciding that would be weird, reached for a hug, stopping before he got started. Just going for it, I threw my arms around him, the huge belly a battering ram between us. The embrace felt good, it felt right and the worst feeling ever, it felt natural.

“Take care,” he said, stepping back, the distance between us growing.

All I could do was wave. I couldn’t say goodbye. That had been too hard the first time.

He turned and walked away.

I stared after him and looked back toward my husband, holding up the bags of potatoes.

Another glance back at Korey, his body a silhouette in the sun-filled entrance way.


For the first time in my adult life, I knew exactly what I needed to do.


What did you think? What does Shayne end up doing? 
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The difference between a Critique Partner and a Beta Reader.



What’s a Critique Partner?
Simply, a Critique Partner (CP) is someone, usually an author, who will go over your manuscript in fine detail, searching for plot holes, weak character development, possibly grammar and punctuation errors and so on. A CP will go in depth to your manuscript and bring out the very best of your story the way you’ve written it – something that’s very important. A critique partner worth their weight in gold, will strengthen your words, not twist them into what they would’ve done. They will mix the constructive criticism with the good. This is exceptionally important. It’s equally as important to work with a CP who writes in the same genre and therefore understands the mechanics within.
Of course, everyone wants to have a perfect manuscript coming out of the gate, but even the best of the best, have someone else who will review their manuscripts before turning them over to their editors. And swapping chapters with another author gives you a chance to work on your development skills, which can only strengthen your own writing. Win-win for everyone. Plus, it’s usually free – you swap chapter(s) with another author, although there are many paid services out there.

What is a Beta Reader?
A beta reader is a reader first. He or she will read your manuscript at any time during the creative process, maybe after each chapter is written, or when the entire thing is finished, or any point in between. Your mother or best friend usually falls into this category as they are not looking for plot holes or grammatical errors, they are reading for the story itself. Beta readers give you the big picture feedback – yes it was good, I liked the main character, I glossed over this section, etc. A beta does not delve into too many specifics.
Most authors will have a few different betas review their manuscripts. This is a great time to ask friends and family if they’d like to help out or ask on whatever social media platform works best for you. Again, this is usually a free service but there are many paid beta services on the web, and these betas will give you a 2-3 page feedback on your manuscript.   

Just be sure to make clear what your expectations are, and then you’ll know who you need to seek out.

Personally, I have a half-dozen beta readers, who will each get the manuscript at a different point. One gets it right after it’s written, another after the first draft is completed, and so on, and all are romance readers. They know what to expect and believe me, if I don’t deliver, I’ll hear about it.
Also in my pocket of must haves, I have two trusted critique partners I’ve worked with over the past four years – they are fellow romance authors whose opinions mean the world to me and who I trust to help me bring out the very best. Without them, I would have to pay way, way more to my development editor.

I also reward my Critique Partners – they put in countless hours for nothing, often sacrificing their free time, so I make sure to thank them with Starbucks gift cards, signed copies of the book they helped with and always a mention in the back of the book in the acknowledgements. Let me tell you, a little author love goes a long way in terms of karma and them wanting to help you out again and again.

Currently my village of betas and CPs are hard at work on a new project I'm crafting, which with any luck, the two-book set will be out in late 2019. Would you like to be the first to know the titles, blurbs, release dates and you love sneak peeks, be sure to join my group - Shander’s Stargazing Romantics - otherwise you can follow me on my social media pages.

In conclusion… how many beta readers and critique partners would you like? What do you think would be a great gift to receive if you are the beta or the critique partner?