Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Queen Vivienne - A Special Post for A Special Birthday!

It's the Winter Solstice, which means it's also Vivienne's birth night. Tonight, Minnlin will travel through a snow storm to make sure the Guardian's birth happens exactly as prophesied.

For a special treat, here is the story of Vivienne's birth straight from the horse's mouth:

Born from Death

In my nightmare, Devon gathers his cloak and sword, smiles at Hana warmly and says, ―Be patient. I should be able to find them at the field tent.‖ He smiles at the queen, and leaves to search for the king. 

Hana stares at the door, now closed behind his departing figure. Her brow furrows just for a moment as she debates whether or not to fasten the bolt. Deciding the men downstairs are protection enough, she turns back to my mother. Worried, she tries not to let the queen know how serious the situation has become. My mother writhes in the transitional pains of labor on the bed, drenched in sweat, her hair soaked. Her breathing has become ragged and uneven. Every contraction brings waves of agony crashing down upon her slight frame. She screams as unexpected and powerful contractions threaten to rip her into pieces.

Katarina is panting as Hana washes her face with cool water—cool water that, by some strange illusion, I feel on my own face. ―I don‘t think I am going to be able to do this, she moans to Hana. ―I am too tired. I don‘t have the energy to do this.

Hana croons to her as one would a small, frightened child: ―Of course you will have the strength, my lady. All mothers are afraid when they give birth to their first child. It is an experience not comprehended except by those who have already been blessed. Everything will be fine.

My mother smiles faintly at Hana. Even though they have only been together a short time, my mother understands she and Hana are very much alike in temperament and spirit. Both are empathetic Healers, although Katarina is struggling right now to bring her own training into focus. My mother‘s senses tell her she is bleeding too much. Tired, she cannot find the correct pressure point as she searches within her memories to recall how to constrict the blood vessels with elemental energy. The pain of each contraction is evident in every fiber of her body. Her gaze keeps darting to the door, waiting for my father to walk in.

The sound of men and horses clattering to a stop drifts up from the front courtyard even through the closed windows. The wind suddenly switches direction, coming no longer from the West, but instead from the North, and the cold deepens. The clouds close in, heavy with thick, wet mountain snow. The full winter moon hanging bright in the night sky becomes overshadowed as the heavy snow begins to fall and stick. Hana tosses more logs on the fireplace to keep the chill from the room. Hearing voices and thinking Devon has found the king, Hana throws open the door of the bedroom. And that‘s when my nightmare really starts.

Three darkly cloaked soldiers race up the stairs and through the open door, throwing Hana against the far wall near Katarina‘s laboring body. She slides down to the floor and stares up in horror at the nightmare walking through the door. Into the room behind these soldiers strides a tall man, dressed in the robes of a Druid Master, with three more soldiers bringing up the rear.

Hana recognizes the druid immediately, but Katarina is too weak at first to notice who the intruder is—but it doesn‘t take her long to finally see him. Both women are deeply frightened; fear the only thing keeping them from crying for help. Though they do not say his name out loud, I know only one person would be brave enough to risk the wrath of Philippe or Der and his brothers to appear at this house at this time. It is Minnlin, the renegade druid, with his personal cadre of guards. Somehow they have slipped past all the sentries and guard posts to come here. This means they are here for only one thing—the baby … me. 

But why?

The guards signal for Hana to drop her weapons, if she is holding any, and to step back from the bed where my mother lies.

―No. Hana lifts her chin stubbornly. ―The queen is in dire need. She has lost too much blood. I am a Healer. I must help her deliver the child now or both may well perish.

The guard looks at Minnlin for direction. He nods his head. They search Hana for weapons. Once she is pronounced unarmed, Hana breaks through his grasp and races to the side of the bed. Checking my mother‘s pulse, she turns her head to address the men.

―She is failing. The baby must come. Now! Do you have any Healers with you?‖ She makes her appeal to the dark man standing over her.

Minnlin judges Hana with his eyes. No feeling of malice hangs around the man, no raw lust and hunger for power is displayed across his face. Only the certainty of a man who knows what he is doing and working hard to achieve his ends. No matter how much those ends will cost. Finally, in a quiet voice, he replies, ―I will deliver the child.‖

Hana stares at Katarina and then at Minnlin and then back to Katarina. Before she can protest, a soul-rending scream comes from my mother. There is no more time for discussion. 

Minnlin crosses the room, discarding his robe to one of his guards. Kneeling beside the bed, he places his hands first on her heart then on the bulge of her belly that is me. Concentrating while humming spells to himself, he seems to be listening to the energies of the queen‘s body. Hana stands beside the bed, anxious to know what is happening, even more anxious that Devon and the king will not arrive in time to save everyone.

In one fluid motion Minnlin stands up and turns to face Hana. ―I need lots of warm blankets, hot water, gauze, scissors, and some auguere.

―Auguere?‖ Hana raises one finely pointed eyebrow. ―That herb does not ease childbirth pains. It is for headaches.

―Auguere also constricts blood vessels, and once the child is delivered, I must attempt to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible.‖ He states this calmly, as some people might discuss the weather. ―If we cannot stop the blood flow in time, Katarina will bleed out and nothing either of us can do will save her.

―Save my daughter … at any cost, Katarina whispers. ―She is the one who must live. My life means nothing; only hers is important. Her eyes bore into Minnlin, as though reminding the druid of a secret promise known to only them.

―Peace, my lady. Everything will be all right, Hana croons into my mother‘s ear. ―I will keep watch for new arrivals, she says pointedly, sure Katarina understands what she means. Then she turns to the guards in the room. ―I don‘t think anyone‘s mother would be proud to know they raised their son to spy on a woman giving birth, especially when that woman is the queen. Get out of here unless you are specifically trained as a Healer.

The six men look at Minnlin for direction. He waves five of them from the room. The last goes to the fireplace and brings over the warmed towels. His dark gray eyes glance at Hana, mocking her.

―I was trained as a Healer before leaving the Fortress to follow Lord Minnlin, he informs Hana. She glares but moves over enough to allow a small space for him beside the bed.

Now is the point at which my nightmare becomes blended with the horrible reality that is the night of my birth. For many years of my childhood, the nightmares never progressed past this point, the memories blocked by some wall erected within my mind in self-defense. As I grew older, I began to wonder why I couldn‘t move past this blockage. Eventually, when I did figure out how to remove the wall, I would come to wish things had stayed as they were. I was blissful in my ignorance. 

Minnlin looks into my mother‘s eyes, his dark purple eyes fixated on her gray eyes, as another version of that same secret look I had noticed previously again passes between them. (All true Mystics have some shade of purple eyes. The color is related to the elemental energies that run in our veins, allowing us to tap into the powers and mysteries contained in the world. The darker the shading of the purple, the stronger the Mysticism gift in that person. Similarly, all Healers have gray shaded eyes, while those who are born to War Craft have the ability to make the whites of their eyes darken to prevent reflected light betraying them to any enemy that might be around.) Minnlin bends over the bed, murmuring spells over my mother while running his hands over her belly. At last he straightens up and speaks to the guard and Hana.

―The child is backwards. We must turn her or they will both perish.

Hana blanches at the words. Being trained originally as a Warrior, she has only mastered the most basic of Healing knowledge. However, being raised in the countryside, she has seen horses and cows with breech babies. Most times the mother died. She thanks the heavens my mother is delirious, thus unable to process the danger she and I are in. Nodding more to herself than to the druid, she takes the few short steps to the bed, holding down Katarina‘s shoulders. Minnlin has removed his sword, and washed his hands and forearms. He sits next to my mother‘s right leg. He motions for his man to grab her left knee.

―No matter what, do not let go, he cautions both Hana and the guard. 

Both nod their understanding. They know what he is attempting will cause immense pain to the frail woman lying, already past her endurance, on what can be described as her deathbed.

Taking a deep breath, Minnlin pulls back the covers. Carefully, he seeks to turn me into the correct birth position. With his left hand he presses on the top of her womb while pulling me gently by my arm. Katarina begins shrieking in pain, worse than any sound previous. Even the guard averts his gaze. Tears well in Hana‘s eyes, blinding for a moment the vision of what she was already afraid to see. Blood begins to gush forth, more than it seems one small body can bear to lose. The screaming echoes off the walls, reverberating until there is no other sound. Finally, after what was a very short time but which seemed to have lasted forever, Minnlin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

―I am ready to begin guiding the baby down the birth canal. Hana, let go of her shoulders and be ready to wrap the child. My hands will be busy trying to save the queen‘s life.

Hana rushes to the fireplace, grabs several towels and returns to the bedside. Shuddering from her distaste at being so close to the one who has caused so much death and pain in the Five Kingdoms, she kneels beside him. She looks up at the druid, nodding in response to his raised eyebrow.

Minnlin looks into my mother‘s eyes. The look she gives him probably constitutes why I have nightmares about this night. It is the look of someone who knows she is nearing death, one who has lost all hope of saving herself. She is allowing her husband‘s mortal enemy to deliver her only child. She has given all her hope to me. All that remains is to hold on long enough to see the birth through. With a curt nod in Katarina‘s direction, Minnlin begins guiding my head down the birth canal. Slowly at first, then with more confidence, I begin to appear. Head first, then shoulders. After the shoulders the rest of my body slides out easily. 

Minnlin cuts the umbilical cord, ties it off, and hands me to Hana. She wraps me tightly in the clean, warm towels, and brings me around to the top of the table, where my mother can see me. One look and one smile is the sum total of my interaction with my mother prior to death. When she tries to raise her hand to stroke my head, she is simply too far gone. As Hana grips me closer I can see the light extinguish in my mother‘s eyes. After struggling with every portion of her earthly body to bring me into this world, there was nothing left for her. My mother is dead. And I appear to be alone in a room with my father‘s mortal enemy. 

Minnlin reaches over and closes my mother‘s eyes. Head bowed, he doesn‘t look like the most dangerous enemy of the Kingdoms; he looks like a broken, grieving man. But how did he know my mother? How did he know I would come this day? How did he get this far behind the front lines? But the most important question to me was never asked out loud: why did he come to deliver me? What is so special about me? "

Excerpted from "CATALYST - Guardian Rising", published by Keith Publishing, all rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2015



After so much stress and the lengthy ride, Theirran helped me into the tent for the evening. I could not have made it on my own. My breathing was ragged and my eyes were deep purple, spinning in crazy circles from excess power and deep internal shock. Leaning against Theirran I muttered under my breath as we walked, but he could barely make out what I was saying.

“What did you say, Viv?” Theirran leaned down to get in better listening position.

“I don’t think I can do this, Theirran. What can I possibly do to stop Sionn? I’m no warrior. And I don’t even know what the true danger from Sauk is going to be. Will he want to fight with weapons or with elemental energy? To top everything off, my own uncle is the worst traitor of them all, active in working with my enemies against his own blood. I think my grandfather made a big mistake in trusting me. I don’t feel ready to handle all this.”

Theirran grabbed my shoulders, sweeping me up into his arms as my legs suddenly gave out. Inside, he pulled down the covers on the cot and laid my carcass upon the bed. After removing my riding boots, he then unbuckled the leather cuirass, sliding the pieces off and onto the floor. Left in only a silk undershirt, woolen linens and corset I began to shiver from the ever-present cold, which seeped into the tent like a vine worming its way inside to find the scant warmth body heat provided. He found a warm wool shirt of his own that would reach well down my legs. Once it was over my head, he sat down on the floor beside the cot, his face closed off to me. I curled into a small ball, waiting for the pain to dull, but it didn’t.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked, stress ringing loud as a klaxon through every nerve.

Seeing the confusion in my eyes he hurried on before nerve would fail or I shut him down. “Ever since I began training you there has been something growing inside me, feelings unlike any I’ve ever had for a woman. Now, an accident crueler than fate has thrown us together. My feelings for you grow deeper, more intense and more irresponsible with every day that passes.” He twisted his mouth into a bitter smile but there was no smile inside his eyes. Those were full of repressed pain. “I would never be so bold, under normal circumstances, to say anything about those feelings to you. I love my baby brother too much, but I cannot just take and lock them away. I need you to know this—I would rather cut off my own arm than to see you hurt or in danger. So I’ve made the only decision I can live with under the circumstances. Since I cannot be the one you love, I will be your Protector until Devon returns. Then I will tell him of my shame and let him decide my punishment.”

My brain was working on five different dimensions so I was having a hard time focusing on what he was saying. Why would Devon punish Theirran for having feelings? That wasn’t like Devon. The bond between these brothers was strong, not easily broken. But I was aware of being flattered. If my heart had not been sealed tight with pain, I would have been in Theirran’s arms in the blink of an eye. He appealed to me in a different way than Devon, a little taller, a little older and a little more dangerous. What wasn’t to love? Knowing that weakness was also within me kept my emotions from controlling my body. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Home for the Holidays (Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Boats)

Altogether too soon December has arrived again, try hard as I might to ignore that fact. In my mind's eye, since I was a child, I see the year as moving from top to bottom. Strange I know, but hey, to each their own. The problem with this is I've always seen December as the bottom of the barrel, the last month to endure before a brand new year with its own shiny promises arrives. Therefore, we enter into the beginning of the end of 2015, and the endless round of political correctness that is known as the Holiday Season.

When I was young, my grandparents would drive up from their home in Florida to spend the week with us. Since my cousin lived with them, she would come too. I remember one Christmas Eve being awakened to the sight of snow falling. Later that night we sat around the silver aluminum Christmas tree, complete with rotating color wheel, and listen to holiday music until the grown-ups were tired and made us children all disappear with vague hints of Santa.

As a teen, Christmas meant my brother and sister returning home with their families. (They're a lot older than I.) My brother bought a plane so they could fly in for the day and leave before dark. Since he was a doctor, time off for the holidays was non-existent. Soon the peace and love and family we had spent weeks basking in became a 4 to 6 hour free-for-all as we attempted presents, food, bridge (our family pastime), and family time.

My own children always spent Christmas Eve with my husband's family and Christmas Day at home. For almost 30 years Christmas dinner has been my contribution and gift of love to family and friends. It's the only time of the year when I spare no detail on the meal and dessert. One year we left right after Christmas to spend the remaining holiday vacation on a cruise. All I will say is: Interesting.

Now I am a grandmother, and home for the holidays has a completely different meaning. Though my baby is still at home/college, my eldest has a step-son and his wife is pregnant with their first. All I want to see now is the smile on my grandson's face as he shares the wonder of Christmas from the heart of a five year old. Time will once more slow down, as we remember those days of our own childhoods and the magical mornings of discovery around the Christmas tree. (No longer silver aluminum thank goodness!)

No matter how our holidays change throughout the years, we must never lose sight of the true magic this month brings: love for one another.

Speaking of the holidays, Christina Hollis has a new release coming this December from the Wild Rose Press: Heart of A Hostage. Check it out:

Mihail strides out of Maia's past to take her hostage. Who will end up in more danger—her, or him?

Princess Maia has it all—including a horrible fiancĂ© chosen for her by the king, and a family bullying her into doing the right thing—but all she wants is her independence. When she falls into the hands of rebel leader, Mihail, she tastes real freedom for the first time. Mihail is a lone wolf, Public Enemy Number One, and heir to a fierce tradition. A dangerous reputation, a castle full of guilty secrets and now rescuing Maia are all woven into his master plan. He can’t lose.
Until his unexpected hostage turns out to be the house guest from hell...

The buy link for the ebook is http://bit.ly/1iNf2Gw, /paperback is http://bit.ly/1HBEbQk 

You can check out Christina on her website at www.christinahollis.com, or on her Blog: http://christinahollis.blogspot.co.uk

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Remember Paris in the Springtime

When I was young, my father worked for United Airlines. He was friends with a man who started a travel agency for those employed in the airline business, taking advantage of the discounts and perks given to those 'in the industry'. It was an amazing opportunity and allowed me, my sister and our parents to travel in the 1970s, a time of relative peace in the world. One of those journeys was to France, in early 1973 (I think. My memory is a little shady these days.)

I need to back up a little here and explain that during World War II, Daddy was in the Army Air Corp, precursor of the Air Force. While I never got the same story twice when I asked what he did during that time, one consistent story was he learned French and spoke it like a native. Why. How. When. Those stories changed, but the bit about French, and being hit in the head with a propeller never wavered.

From the moment we landed at the airport, my father seemed taller, more relaxed than I had seen him previous. He gathered our little tour group together, found all our luggage, and made the connection with the person who would be our guide for the week. But they conversed in English, which I thought strange. We loaded onto our little bus and set off through the crowded streets of Paris toward the road to take us out into the Loire valley.

Even back then, the streets of Paris were crowded. And the cars were small. I sat by the window with my eyes wide with a combination of fright and amazement at the cacophony of little Tonka cars racing though the streets on their way to wherever. In no time at all, there was an incident involving the bus. Our driver's window was open and he and another driver were yelling at each other for all they were worth. Hand gestures, arms waving, full on screaming at each other such as one can see in any large city such as New York, London, or Paris.

Suddenly, my father began laughing, full on tears running down his face, laughing. After a moment, it dawned on the tour guide, as well as the driver, that my dad could understand every word that had transpired. The driver turned the deepest, brightest shade of red I'd ever seen. He abruptly shut his mouth, slid back around in his seat, faced forward and began to drive. I swear on my life, he never said another word in public the entire ten days we were together.

We toured wineries, and castles, and Mont St. Michel, which to this day is one of my favorite spots in the world. Every place we stopped my father would give me the tour brochures in Spanish, the language I was learning in school; he in turn would grab one in French while my mother took the English versions. He always told me it would help my comprehension to immerse myself into the language.

After four or five days we returned to Paris. The first days were spent doing the prerequisite French locations, the Eiffel Tower, Montmarte, the Bastille, Versailles, etc. However, the day the ladies of the tour went shopping, I stayed at the hotel with my dad. Once the others were gone, he looked at me with that familiar twinkle in his grey eyes and asked, "You want to go for a walk?"

We were out the door, down the ancient elevator, through the lobby and on our way before I could change my mind. He turned left and took my hand and we ambled down the sidewall to a small tourist shop. He asked for directions while I glanced at post cards, a favorite past time of mine at that age. Once he was sure of the way, we took off again.

I didn't ask where we were going, it was enough to just walk through the city watching the people, trying to read signs, looking at buildings older than anything I'd seen before, except in Israel, which we'd already visited. Before long we turned a corner and the river Seine lay before us. We were right in front of the Louvre. Turning left we headed up river, watching the boats passing by and looking at art strung along the river's sidewalk.

We ended up at Notre Dame. It was amazing, and we took our time wandering around the central nave of the cathedral, looking at the light through the rose stained glass, talking about the hunchback and other parts of French history.

He seemed so at ease, so sure of himself. Confident, eager to see more by exploring on his own through a town where he could move as easily as any American town. He showed me the other side of Paris, the people and their talents, the heart and the history of a place much older than Atlanta. After wandering the river bank around the cathedral, we sat down in a small cafe where he ordered us lunch and two cafe au laites. I felt so grown up and at peace, sitting by the river, watching the people, blending into the heartbeat of the city.

Though it has been 40 or so years since that magical day, I still feel that closeness with the city. My father has been dead since the early 90s, but I had more fun with him that day than I ever had before. It cemented a closeness with him that would last until his death. I still keenly miss the late night conversations we would have when we each returned home from work at midnight. But most of all, the miss the confident, quiet, quirky, musician/actor/engineer who was my father. The man who took a day to show his version of Paris and in doing so, awakened another dreamer's soul.

My heart goes out to the people of both Paris and those other countries who lost people in the senseless attacks of 11-13-15. My the vitality and love of country that carried you through two World Wars remind you that these attacks cannot divide us, they can only unite us in our resolve to crush terrorism, no matter what it calls itself.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My First NaNoWriMo; or (How I Lost Control of My Fictional Characters in Only 11 Days)

This is the first year I have participated in the annual novel writing event, the NaNoWriMo as it is commonly called. The goal of this endeavor is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Hundreds of thousands take part in this lofty assignment, and though I have known about this for several years I have declined to challenge myself. I write slowly, methodically, and the idea of pumping out that large of a story in only 30 days, frankly scared me crap less.

But this year I decided, what the heck, take the plunge, you can do this! First I took the characters from a book I just sold and sketched out where I wanted this book to take place, who the villains were going to be, and roughed out the first three chapters. By Halloween night I was ready.

Sunday morning, November 1st, dawned sad and gloomy just as the weather had been for days. I sat down in my favorite writing space, turned the television to mindless drivel and began clubbing my outline into real words. The first three days were amazing. The words flowed, the outline fleshed out into a story and for those three days I thought, "What was I so afraid of? This is no problem."

Then came day 4, where my progress slowed as I worked to grow the outline into a full length novel. Suddenly I was beset with insecurities. Did I like what I was writing? I wasn't sure. The action began to diverge from the direction I intended when I started this endeavor. Should I continue this vein or wrestle everyone into the niches I wanted them? The feel of my writing became soggy, as if I were forcing myself to run through red Georgia mud on a cold day in winter.

At last I found myself at over 15,000 words. I earned a badge. I was as proud of that day as any time I earned a merit badge as a Girl Scout. That one little circle on my NaNo dashboard re-inspired me. I took to the keyboard with a madness borne of word count. By the end of the first week I was flirting with 20,000 words and I had the beginnings of a real story. Success would be mine.

Entering this second week, I planned out my goals. I was shooting for 25,000, the next goal badge on the NaNo dashboard. I felt like Pavlov's dog motivated by the rise of the line on a graph. Unfortunately, my characters noticed the change in my work ethic and began to make decisions by themselves. Without my permission, the story began to veer from its pre-almost-determined plot line, into a quagmire of new decisions, strange action, and the completed abandonment of the project for an island in the South Pacific. Preferably one with all the amenities of home.

So here I am, at 31,000 words, with a villain who has decided to abscond with the money, two heroes who've decided to hide out until the whole thing blows over, and a hot mess to work them out of, in 20,000 words or less. Maybe I'll let the bad guys leave, maybe I'll make them stuck in Atlanta airport for flight delays (happens all the time in real life). That'll teach them to jump ship in the middle of a story.

My heroes however, are quite adamant about hiding out and drinking beer until the whole thing is over. I've yelled, I've pleaded, I've threatened to give them all impotency, but nothing. Damn Irish, always doing whatever takes them to the nearest pub.

As an exercise, I can see the appeal of an event like NaNoWriMo. It builds a community of writers who support each other as we struggle through our daily word counts, and moan through the endless hours where the page is blank and the clock is ticking. That alone is a mighty gift. Writers are by their very natures, introverted. We don't want to talk about what we're working on, as if by the very mention of it will bring on a jinx such as writer's block.

And I will soldier on, obediently updating my word count, chatting with others in my area as they type on with feverish abandon, content in the knowledge that, I have no idea where this novel will end up. But that's okay, because in the end it may build me into a better writer, who plans more before I sit down and let the lunatics out to roam. However, in the meanwhile, if you have any ideas on how to rope in drunk Irishmen, I would be most appreciative.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Autumn Reminiscences

Let's talk about Autumn shall we?

While driving down the expressway leaving for the weekend, my mind wanders as through the window each passing tree reminds me of the season. Leaves, swirling down to gravity's command, wearing the fading glory of their vibrant show. It is that time again. Fall, the season when all things beautiful come to an end in preparation for the depth of winter. My favorite season.

Some people love Spring, the time of awaken and new life; others prefer the hot, sticky steam of a Deep South Summer. Others thrill for the freeze and promise of overlying pure blankets of perfect white brilliance, and the smell of the hearth fire flavoring the painful breath of Winter. While each of the other seasons have their charms and I do enjoy them each in its turn, my heart ever longs for Autumn.

As a child I enjoyed the swish of the fallen leaves as we ran through the neatly raked piles, laughter bubbling up from a wellspring deep inside. The special perfume of Saturday afternoons, a concoction of camp fires, s'mores, popcorn, and crisp cool air sliding across the countryside always brings me back to simpler days: Friday night football games and Saturday night bonfires followed by Sunday afternoon rides leaf peeping from the back of my favorite horse.

I love mornings, when the fog hangs low over the creeks and valleys of the mountains which surround us. The sting of early chill in the air brings a tear to my eyes when walking the horses out for the day. Mid morning the first of the long sleeves are coming off, and by after lunch you can wander in the sunshine in short sleeves; laughing to yourself over the capricious nature of Fall weather.

Autumn also brings the memories of first love. The rush of attraction soon followed by the thrill of those early dates. My first love left in the fall, more than once actually. He was in the Air Force. It seemed we were always saying goodbye. Then came college and the rush of fraternity boys. Homecoming and formals, dances where the music always seemed to fit the mood and alcohol flowed. 

Change happens constantly, but in Fall the changes are spread across the spectrum of God's creatures. Not only are the trees wearing and shedding their brilliance, but the animals are in their element, preparing for the depths of hibernation. Squirrels scurry hither and yon, memory failing them in the endless search for their summer hiding places. The skies are filled with vast formations of birds, seeking the earth's compass to guide them to the safety and warmth of winter homes. By Autumn's end, the forests will be poised with an air of patience; waiting for the earth to tilt again and the lengthening of days.

So as the calendar winds down toward harvest's end and before we bar the doors and windows against the long night of winter, enjoy the fleeing beauty of Fall's glorious daylight. Partake of the fruits of the vines and the bounty of the fields. Autumn's Harvest is here. Enjoy the repast!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's a beautiful fall day here in Georgia. The sky has that amazing blue that almost hurts your eyes to stare at, and the brisk chill in the air reminds us that fall is winding up in all its amazing colors and smells. 

I have two pieces of news to share: First, Book Two of 'The Guardian Stories' will be released soon on Amazon.com, so be sure to check this space for an exact release date. The Title is "The Price for Redemption" and continues Vivienne's race to defeat her dark enemies.

Second, and I cannot express how excited I am about this, I have signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press, to publish the first of a series set in and around Atlanta, 'The Family Devlyn'. Book One is 'Welcome to the Family'.

Here is a little blurb/teaser for this contemporary tale of family and greed:

Everyone has something about their family that drives them crazy. Some families are neurotic, others are chaotic. Some are so in your business it feels like you still live at home. And others feel like the death of you. In Cassandra Devlyn Ferguson’s case, that death might literally be her own. The Devlyns aren’t your normal all American family. Their company ships freight world-wide. Most of the freight is legitimate but somewhere along the way, as the money spoke louder, the lines between good and bad became blurred, until soon a monster was born, and now the dirty deals are coming back to haunt them. Just one problem – they’re after the one Devlyn who has no idea what people are upset about.
Cassie Ferguson’s been kidnapped, and her husband and brother intend to move heaven and earth to get her back, preferably before she discovers what her father’s job really is. When working with the FBI and the Atlanta Police don’t bring satisfaction, Kevin Devlyn calls in his long-time friend, and Cassie’s husband, Irishman and former Black Ops specialist Sean Ferguson and asks him to return to Atlanta, conduct his own investigation and find Cassie before any harm befalls her. It sounds great in theory; too bad all the men involved, other than Sean and Kevin, loathe the very mention of each other.

I'm so excited to be working with The Wild Rose Press! I will have more updates soon!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The New South

I was born in Pennsylvania in the early 60s. My siblings were all born in West Virginia and my father from New Jersey.

My Mamma was born in Alabama.

I state this to say, I've spent more than two-third's of my life in the South. First Florida and then Georgia; two states with very different atmospheres. Most of my family at that time lived in the South. We ate what my very Southern mother cooked, which was an interesting combination of both regions. I was never forced to eat turnip greens, or any other green, or even grits. I like oatmeal.

In school, and from grandparents, we learned about 'the war of Northern Aggression' or, if you will, 'the war of Southern Defiance'. I soon learned the point of view was important. Either you where with the South, or against them. There was no neutral ground; a point which I never understood. In a war where affiliation split and lost an entire generation, it truly was 'Us against Them',

I heard stories from my material grandmother about her grandmother, a small girl who took the livestock into the woods by the river in Alabama where they are from; their home place. Home Place is important in the South. It describes not only where but how they were raised. Down to the street it made a distinction.

That brought me to mind of the neighborhood in Pennsylvania where we lived when I was born. A Polish neighborhood. And when we lived in Florida, in a Jewish neighborhood. Or the Italian section of New York. The Irish when they moved into the tenements of New York and the fighting which occurred in those events.

Yes, there are Black neighborhoods and White neighborhoods in Atlanta, where I have lived long enough to remember the 'Blacks Only' signs in the department stores, and the separation that we are always accused of by those who lived anywhere but here. I was in elementary school when the government built a housing project down the street from our school and the dynamics of the county began to change.

But I also know the tremendous strides that have been made here and in other places around the South. Place like Charleston, which handled their tragedy with grace and decorum. Please let their example be held up as a picture of what can happen when everyone works together. And let the media find some new target for their 15 minutes of fame.

There will always be Korean neighborhoods and Mexican neighborhoods, just as there has been since the Hebrews settled in Egypt (in their own neighborhood). When we move, especially from one land to another, the comfort of hearing one's own language and customs helps ease the pain of leaving an entire life behind to start a new one. Neighborhood merge closest to cities where people mesh through work and common life experience. True diversity is achieved only through a lot of work by all peoples, regardless of skin tone.

So as you settle down in your Indian neighborhood or Cambodian neighborhood, remember when we point a finger at someone else, there are three which point backwards toward ourselves. Instead of pointing fingers, why don't you take a look around and see what needs to fixed in your own sphere of influence? True charity and mission work begins in our backyard.

The Independence Day holiday is closing in fast, and I should have some news on Book Two of the Guardian Saga. The title is "The Price for Redemption." That's all today, from my middle class, mixed ethnicity neighborhood where no one flies the Rebel Battle Flag, or any other offensive flag regardless of the season. (Although some of the Halloween decorations make me question their sanity!)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When to Cut and When to Recast

I have a bit of a conundrum and so I am writing about it, which is what I do when my thoughts begin circling the same drain for too long.

When I submitted my latest book, it was with the full knowledge I had written a scene and side story that impacted the main character in quite negative ways. It was a gamble and unfortunately it didn't pay off. Now I must rework the story to change a major arc and no matter what I do, nothing is as powerful as that original line.

But in watching the major meltdown Game of Thrones readers and watchers are going through right now with the Sansa Stark story changes, I see the side of the reader for the first time.

We set expectations with our characters, and people begin to identify with them, so they acquire a life of their own, outside of our pages. But what about stories where none of the characters are relatable? Can we write our own characters into corners that are too extreme to be endearing?

Of course we can, and that was the problem with this story. So now I am grasping (and gasping) to recast the main character's reason for existing and falling far short of where I want to be. I've finally decided to meet the challenge and that instead of one major point causing her identity crisis, there will be several, each building upon the other until finally she reaches the person she needs to be.

As you might surmise, this is still an idea in progress. While I see the end point, the journey is still muddy. But that's what writing is about, at least to me. Chipping away at the marble until I find the beauty inside; a story lives and breathes depending upon which pieces you take away. Take the wrong path and everything is tainted.

This is the sixth story I've written and the first where I've been told, I love it but... . To say it took me for a loop would be an understatement. But now I feel ready to accept the challenge. I know where I want to be, now I have to find the path.

And the road goes on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Aftermath

We had my mother's funeral last weekend. There was a beautiful private service for just family at the cemetery, and a public memorial at the church.

The church no longer occupies the large imposing building on Main Street where I grew up from earliest memory, attending Sunday school every week, singing in the children's choir and watching the wheel of community turn until one day it found itself dying. The dynamics of the community changed during the late 80's and early 90's, and the costs in keeping the big church running were no longer met by weekly tithes.

My mother was an elder during the change over, on her way out of service and grieving for the loss of the building that had seen births and weddings, and my father's funeral. It is never easy to move a house of worship. I know ghosts walk the halls of the old church; I've heard them before. I wonder do they bother the new congregation walking those corridors; do they understand why things have changed?

Upon arriving at the new location, I was immediately struck with the similarity in building layout to the old church. Once inside I was surrounded by familiar faces and comforting reminders of the years and history of the congregation itself. Included was the wall of pictures showing the different faces of building they had occupied in their 126+ year existence.

The minister had us, the family, crowd together around the large session table to tell stories of my mother. As I looked around, the positive and healing energy of family wrapped itself around me and I felt, for the first time since Mother's death, at peace. I know my mother is at peace in heaven and totally happy to be reunited with my dad and her other relatives. There is no reason to weep, for at last she is free.

Watching the faces of those around me, family, friends, relatives, casual acquaintances, I saw a microcosm of the people whose lives my mother touched as a librarian. People seemed shorted, wider, older than I remembered, another slap of the wheel of time across my face. But the love and warmth they radiated took me in their arms and assured me I am not alone in this time of grief.

A building is not a church. A church is a collection of like minded people sharing and growing in God's love and word. No where was that more exquisitely made clear than at my home church this past weekend.

Some where up in heaven, Mother is smiling.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Where Have I Been and When Can I Go Back?

It's been a while since I wrote on this blog. I always meant to but somehow never seemed to find the time. I've had a busy couple of years between work and home, along with trying to get my writing career up  and going. It gets very disheartening when some people publish three or four books a year and my minimum from idea to submission for one book runs about two years.

Part of my dark thoughts have been due to turning 50 a few years ago, but also the diminishing mental capacities of my mother. It was hard to call and wish her happy birthday back in October (she was 94) when she no longer remembered who I was. She has had a full life and as her end was growing near I have found myself reflective.

My mother was a unique woman. She worked at a time when most women were expected to be housewives; hell, she had a Masters degree when women rarely went to college much less graduate school. Her position as high school librarian fueled my love of books and stories from an early age. Some of my favorite memories are filled with the smell of books and the quiet of reading.

She met my father during the war, World War II that is. Three months is all it took, if I remember the story correctly, before my mother walked in the July heat from the front gate of the army base in Lubbock Texas to the chapel to be Mrs. Walter V. They had a lot in common, my parents. Both were eldest children, both had strained relationships with their mothers, and they understood the meaning of a wounded soul.

My father and I worked the same shift while I was in high school, both returning home in the wee hours of the morning. We talked of many things, including my parents and their stories. I treasure that time with him. But my mother and I had that day to day ignoring each other teenager/parent relationship and many years I spent curled against the car window silently counting the moments we were trapped in the vehicle together.

Daddy died in the early 90's. It was too soon. But out of that sadness and grief came a renewed relationship with my mother. When my daughter was born, she drove up every week from below the Atlanta airport to our house northwest of the city to take care of her so I could work. My children spent days at her house, filling up on Mr. P's pizzas and watching television. I rediscovered my mother, and we spoke often, sometimes about nothing at all.

When she turned 90, it was obvious things were beginning to age. We all dread her driving anywhere that involved the highways around Atlanta. If you've ever driven here, you can probably attest to the insanity which afflicts us whenever we put our vehicles in drive and head out. In response to a falling incident which resulted in her being out of communication for several hours at a time when she should have been home, Momma moved into my brother's home about 4 years ago.

None of us remember exactly when her mind began to stumble, it started with repeated stories and forgotten names. Then came the hours where she would stare at my father's pictures, not speaking a word not moving from her room for hours on end. Her legs began to give out on her and falling became a grave concern, especially after she gave herself a black eye.

She missed my father, she missed her friends and her community. Most of all, she missed being useful. That was the part she found hardest to bear. Her big heart never stopped wanting to help wherever she could. A bright mind with a failing body is frustration as both my parents discovered. All Mother wanted was to be useful and independent again. Now she is.

My mother had a serious stroke the middle of February, with a significant brain bleed in the right parietal lobe. After my father's lengthy illness, my mother had a strict Living Will -- no resuscitation, no feeding tubes, nothing to extend life. She lingered about five days before gently passing from this life to another.

Even though I had mentally been preparing myself for mother's death, it has still hit me hard. A large hole has opened in my chest and nothing feels real. Rationally I know she is in a much better place and that one day we will be together again. But the little girl deep inside me still wants her Momma and I don't know that will ever change.

Love your parents, especially if you have been estranged from them for reasons so silly as to not make a difference. One day, perhaps far in the distant future if you are as lucky as we were, they won't be here, and you will never be able to count the times you pick up the phone to tell them something and remember no one will answer. The words you never say will back up and hang in your throat until you think you will suffocate.

My goal for this year is to recommit myself to my everyday job, my writing, and myself. I will attempt to post something every other week this year. Momma would have wanted me to.