romantic suspense

Crimes of Grindelwald

The Crimes of GrindelwaldLord Voldemort is no Gellert Grindelwald.

Why? Because as a villain, a dark lord, Lord Voldemort was so extreme, so vile and hateful and cruel, that he was easier to see as fictional than the insidious Gellert Grindelwald who easily wins people over to the dark side with soft words, a gentle touch and a deceptively calm demeanor.

Anyone who has stopped by here knows my love for the Harry Potter stories, and how much I admire the way they shaped the reading habits of an entire generation. My own daughter grew up with the books – reading them numerous times in English and in Russian.

Naturally when Fantastic Beasts came out, we were eager to dig into that adventure as well. Though not as spellbinding as Harry’s story had been – with the newness of it all: Hogwarts, Hedwig’s Theme, wands, cloaks, magical spells and good against evil – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as The Crimes of Grindelwald, do have their own magic. Their own newness. Their own sense of foreboding.

Attractive Villains are Easier to Love

As a charismatic and cunning villain, Gellert Grindelwald, confidently stood in the center of a crowded arena and told the people who had come to hear him speak of the evil that we, the ‘others’ – the muggles/no-majes – would inflict upon the world. He did not lie to them. He had no need to. Instead, in a blinding and vivid vision, he showed them coming horrors and destruction. Horrors and destruction described in our own history books. Horrors and destruction we cannot ignore, forget or deny.

Yet Grindelwald’s plan to prevent it all – a plan willfully applauded by many in attendance – was darker, more horrific and destructive than what already seemed fated to come. Sadly, he offered only one of two nightmare scenarios. And each was tainted by the lust for total dominion of one people over another ‘lesser’ kind.

Never Again?

The pitting of one people against another, the vilifying of whole groups, of blaming them for all the world’s ails…is as old as time. That’s why I find Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Gellert Grindelwald so terrifying. He’s refined. Beautiful. Charming. Yet beneath that compelling mystique there seems to be a bubbling cauldron’s worth of power and emotion.

Warnings signs are all around us, in plain sight. They have always been. Yet while generation after generation adopts the slogan: “Never Again”, that same frightening and divisive call to arms is too often repeated. In film as in real life.

 

 

Back to School

It’s the first day of school here in NYC. I can’t help feel sad for all the kids returning to the constant grind of early rising and carrying bookbags as big as themselves as they’re sent away from home and forced to work on command by strangers all day, only to then hurry home and have to work some more.

Perhaps it’s a true dislike of school or perhaps it’s PTSD, I’m not sure, but something about this time of year, the end of summer and beginning of an annual ten-month sentence, deeply saddens me.

At Summer’s End…

I feel a sense of loss and grief as if the sunny days of playtime and dreaming – of childhood innocence and wonder – are cruelly snuffed out then forgotten as the rigorous months ahead take form and distract.

Summer memories fade no matter how we wish they would linger. And every year at this time, I feel the same sense of despair.

I’m always surprised when I speak to other people about their childhood experiences with school. Many loved going, enjoyed the social aspect of it, the newness of it all, the discovery. That forces me to dig deeper to understand what it is that bothered me so – then as now. It wasn’t studying or learning as my wonder and thirst for knowledge was as keen as everyone else’s – then as now. Rather, for me, it was the feeling of being ripped away from home, of being sent somewhere that I didn’t want to be without having any say in the matter.

I’m a free spirit at heart and school felt like prison to me – so much that I doubled up on classes in my senior year so I could graduate early and never look back. I didn’t even attend graduation. Once I was out, I was out and glad to be rid of it.

And now, as I look out my window and see a small army of children trudging along with their weighty bookbags on their backs, I feel sad for them, too. I don’t share the ‘joy’ we see on TV commercials where parents are celebrating their children’s back-to-school days.

My Own Child Starts School

When my own child turned school age, I dreaded sending her. I feared she might feel as I did – that she was being shipped off, sent away from home, forced to be someplace she didn’t want to be. I made sure to prepare her, to let her know it would be as happy a place as she made it and that I’d be waiting for her when she came home. We, my husband and I, became actively involved in her school, letting her know she was not alone while still giving her room to roam, and grow, and learn.

But as elementary school ended for her, so did the excitement of it all, the newness, the discovery. The friendships formed remained; however, the drudgery became burdensome and overwhelming.

Middle school teachers in our district treated the kids in their care like tyrants, insisting that the pre-teen years were the worst, that kids needed to know who was boss. That they needed to be kept busy lest they find themselves with free time and get into trouble.

It was then that we decided enough was enough.

Our Homeschooling Adventure Began

As a child, I felt like school was a punishment for some unknown slight. As a parent, I refused to allow anyone to treat my child that way.

My daughter was one month into middle school when we began our homeschool adventure. With thousands of NYC children being homeschooled, finding programs, activities and social outings was easier than I could have hoped or imagined.

We formed additional friendships with other homeschooling families while discovering a new and exciting way of learning.

We discovered learning through play, adventure and exploration, which incorporated the wonder of a child’s imagination and the freedom to just ‘be’.

I do miss the homeschooling days. They were a magical time that not only fed my child’s hunger for knowledge but also soothed the confused and angry child that lingered within me.

Time Marches On

Now, as always, the summer has come to another close and children head back to school. And I feel the old familiar twinges of sadness for them as I did for myself all those years ago.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own school days or those of your children. Were they happy and exciting or burdensome and frustrating?

 

 

Here There be Hornets

Beneficial…or Deadly?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of creepy critters. Of course, I realize if they’re not in my home but rather somewhere outside, then they’re where they’re supposed to be, and I will, mostly, leave them alone.

However, about a week ago, I happened to look out my dining room window and noticed a nest of some sort in the city tree at the curb in front of my house. It was quite large – and quite active, with what I thought were bees or yellow jackets busily flying in and out of it non-stop.

Turns out, they weren’t bees or yellow jackets. They were hornets.

Yes. Hornets.

I would assume this would frighten most people. However, for someone like me, with allergic reactions to simple mosquito bites, this was an absolutely terrifying discovery.

I calmed myself, though, after realizing, again, that this nest was in a city tree. Naturally, I ASSumed, the city would be responsible for it. I figured they’d want to know about it right away so they could take care of the situation before someone got hurt.

Alas.

“Beneficial Pests”

NYC – and other cities, I’m sure – has a policy that hornets fall into the category of “beneficial pests”, which I find both oxymoronic and ridiculous. Yes, I get it. Hornets, as predators, rid us of other pesky flying insects. In fact, hornets are so adept at reducing the number of destructive garden pests that the agricultural industry voluntarily uses them as a natural weapon to protect crops.

Yes. You read that right; they voluntarily deploy hornets into their gardens/fields as a natural pesticide.

That’s all well and fine, I suppose, and I do feel a certain respect for them now that I’ve learned that they are, indeed, ‘beneficial pests’. But they can also kill someone like me –yes,  KILL – if provoked, agitated or otherwise disturbed. And hornets attack as a group, each releasing a chemical to alert the others of a rumble, and the others will swarm with a ‘one-for-all-all-for-one’ focus. They will die for the hive. As if that isn’t enough to fuel nightmares for weeks to come, each one of those things can sting repeatedly so…

Yeah.

Not my idea of beneficial…not when they’re as close as this colony is to my front door, and not when their nest is sitting above a very busy street/walkway where kids ride their bikes and neighbors walk their dogs.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

So back to my efforts to make some headway with City Hall…

Permits

I spent this past week on the phone hoping to find a way to get rid of this nest. While I now realize killing the colony isn’t the way to go, my first thought was just that. Destroy the damn thing. I truly believed the city would feel the same way and send someone to spray the nest with something that would completely destroy it and everything inside.

How adorable.

Upon calling the city, I was informed that to do anything with this nest, I would first need to apply for a “tree-work permit”. That permit would come from the city, and it would be free. However, I would then have to find someone, on my own, who would not destroy the nest but *relocate* it. And…all costs related to that would fall on me. Once I found someone who would indeed relocate the nest, I’d have to provide their name to the city…and hope for their approval. If they did approve, then I would have to wait for the permit to arrive before any work could be started.

Knowing how speedy the city can be, I figured all that might happen somewhere around the winter holidays. If I were lucky.

Well, after three days and several more phone calls to 311, I finally received the application for the permit that was supposed to have arrived in my inbox within 24 hours of my first call.

Step one – done.

Insect Relocators

Step two – ha. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find someone to relocate a hornet’s nest?

For me, it was impossible.

I called various city offices with no luck, and then I called the state. The state was surprisingly easy and pleasant to deal with, and they showed concern and interest regarding my plight. A lovely gentleman I managed to reach by phone even provided me with an email for a beekeepers association. Additionally, through the state’s website, I found emails for a local arborist and for the city’s Parks Department.

Unfortunately, after contacting each of these groups, showing pictures and explaining to them how large and active this (to-me) terrifying nest was, and how close it was to my house, they all said that it was too high for them to reach. It seems 25-30 feet – which is about the height of this nest – is the natural height for a hornet’s nest and, as such, is unlikely to be dangerous to passersby. Or so I was told. My personal jury is not buying that fact. I was also told, repeatedly, that I should realize – and be comforted by – how beneficial these insects are.

I do realize. I’m not comforted.

Used then Abandoned

And yet, it seems, I will need to wait until November, by which time the colony should die out, leaving only the queen to hibernate through the winter. Come spring, she’ll go to a new nest somewhere far from my tree.

And that is the only plus I see in this whole frightening scenario – that a hornet’s nest is built for single use. Once the colony abandons this one, no hornet will ever come back to it.

Until they leave, however, everyone will know where to find me – cowering behind the curtains in my dining room, counting off the days until those killer stinging machines have gone.

By the way – while the sight of this nest has me breaking into a fear-filled sweat, it seems these nests are often seen as works of art. It’s true, I suppose, they are magnificent structures – the one in front of my home is the size of a football and the external layers are indeed compelling to gaze upon.

But, apparently, once abandoned, there are some people who have actually taken hornets’ nests down from their trees – or eaves or wherever they happen to be hanging – slice them in half and display them as wall art.

FYI – I will not be doing that.

 

 

Starvation in Somalia…

One hundred and ten people in Somalia died of starvation within the last 48 hours. Starvation due to drought. Starvation. In 2017.

But it’s happening “over there”, so we don’t see it, we don’t feel it. It seems we don’t even know about it or… dare I say… care about it.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned. – Associated Press  

Is it because we’re overwhelmed? Is it because we feel we’re incapable of preventing such horror? Is it because we’ve grown immune to the suffering of our fellow human beings? Of the aged, the infants, the mothers watching their children die?

Have we grown that cold or have we always been that way?

I’m editing this here to add an update regarding the cold reality of our times as the Trump Administration just, heartlessly, announced cuts in aid to starving nations. A question was asked during the budget director’s conference: “Are you worried that some of the most vulnerable people on earth will suffer?” To which Director Mulvaney callously responded: “We’re absolutely reducing funding to the UN and to the various foreign aid programs. That should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign.”

You can watch the video here (please do look past the liberties the poster of this video has taken with graphics and other special effect and listen to what’s actually being said):

We have to demand our tax dollars leave a detailed trail from our hands to their destinations. I want to know my money – money I don’t really have but spend because I am obligated to do so as a citizen of the US, and because I want to be part of the betterment of my community, both local and global – is going to places where it can do good. Where it can provide shelter, food and clean water to those in need. Where it can provide roads and education. Where it can provide proper, unrestricted healthcare. Where it will help to see that everyone has at least a chance to thrive.

If we can’t muster some concern for our extended human family then maybe we need to look closer. What would you do if your family were suffering as these people are? I wonder what would I do if I had to leave whatever I had – everything I had – carry my famished children as I struggle to take my family where help might be. What would I do if I arrived there, after watching others take that trek with me – some making it the whole way, others dying en route – only to realize there are too many of us seeking aid – medicine, food, water. What if I were told there was no help in sight. The drought that devastated my community had spread. There simply is no water.

The death toll, which was announced Saturday, was the first Somalia’s government has made public since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine. – Associated Press

We can’t pretend it won’t happen here. Our climate is changing. Temperatures are rising – as are sea levels. Crops are failing. Droughts alternate with flooding, each wreaking havoc. Scientists warn us it will get worse… that means there will be more climate refugees as times goes on.

When we find ourselves in need because of this, who will help us? Who will feed our crying children? Who will provide a sip, a life-saving sip, of clean water?

And why should they? Especially if we turn our back on them, on the cause of their plight and on what we could have done to mitigate at least some of these destructive changes to our climate.

We are one world. One people. Oceans may separate us. Walls may hinder us. Ideology might spark contention…or, perhaps, conversation. But we are supposed to be our brother’s keeper, are we not? And we are taught that we should treat our brothers and sisters as we wish to be treated.

Well, I wish to be cared for in my time of need. I wish to be celebrated in my time of joy. I wish to be someone who cares for and celebrates others the same.

These people wish only for food and water so they might survive.

What is your wish?

 

World Food Programme - Stamp Out Starvation - Zero Hunger - DonateTo read about what the UN is doing to help stamp out hunger, and to donate to the UN World Food Programme click the image above and it will take you to the UN’s World Food Program page.

 

 

Freddie Mercury – The Show Must Go On

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury - The Show Must Go On

“I don’t have any aspirations to live to 70. I don’t want to sound morbid. I’ve lived a full life and if I’m dead tomorrow, I don’t give a damn. I’ve done it all I really have.”
– Freddie Mercury

Today would have been Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday. As a life-long fan of the man, I know he wouldn’t have been on stage “prancing” about at this age, but I have no doubt he’d still be creating beautiful music. He might have even recorded a few songs himself – with that voice. That amazing, soaring voice.

No one knew it for sure, but he had less than a year of life left in him when he recorded this song. He was exhausted and in pain, yet he stuck with it, “downed some vodka” and, according to Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, he “lacerated the song” with his voice.

And that he did.

This one has always given me chills.

If you’re a Fred-aholic like I am, then you might also want to listen to this version of the same song – with Freddie’s vocals isolated:

My sincere thanks to QUEEN and to bart1997rinaz for posting these videos on Youtube.

Blue Satin Sashes – a writing prompt

My muse has been known to take wrong turns now and then, wandering as it does in a never-ending search for something dark and mysterious or sparkley and fun to play with. Because of that never-ending quest, it’s not uncommon for my wandering muse to wind up caught in some murky, quick-sandy bit of gray matter. How do I lure it out? Exercise, coffee, daydreaming… and writing prompts. Bits of story fodder lie everywhere but when the muse is otherwise occupied, they can be hard to find, or, once found, impossible to develop.

A story prompt sits right in front of your eyes, luring the muse from that darkened corner, tempting it with just what it’s been seeking. A dark and mysterious idea or a fun playful place in which to frolic.

Today, my muse has been lured by Jon Nathanial Corres and Willow Raven and my thanks go to them for providing a beautiful and magical writing prompt. You should see it full size – and can find it here – Willow Raven – BLUE SATIN SASHES.

Along with the prompt came a challenge which was, actually, posted in June even though I’ve just found it now. The challenge is to write a short piece inspired by the Blue Satin Sashes image… and, of course, a short piece has the potential to grow into a larger piece… unless the muse steps into quicksand again.

I’ve accepted the much-needed challenge, and I have titled my short piece: His Again. This was fun to write and I hope you find it fun to read.

Here’s a small version of Willow’s stunning visual prompt:

Willow Raven - Blue Satin Sashes Visual Writing Prompt

His Again

Debora Dale

Snow filled the air like down from a pillow, softly floating in waves playful and billowy. White and innocent, it shimmered in the moonlight, unfazed by the cold and dark.

He held out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. It faded, wounded by his heat, writhing until only a single droplet remained. Cold, small. Gone.

A low rumble of hooves broke through the silence, and a golden light bobbed in the distance. Snow stirred from the ground as the carriage neared and falling flakes scattered as to clear a path far and wide.

With a small nod and a touch to the brim of his hat, he welcomed the bundled coachman. And then on he strode to the carriage door.

Through the small window, he saw her. Her white winter cloak, as innocent as snow. Her bonnet tied beneath her chin with a blue satin sash.

He met her gaze, and saw moisture there. It was from cold, he would believe, for despite the past, she had chosen to see him again.

She rose and he hesitated, not wishing to mar such exquisite beauty. She waited. Her eyes, blue as the satin, challenged.

He dared hold out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. And she laid her hand upon it. Cold. Small. It did not fade but remained. Solid and warming. His to hold once again.

 


 

What do you think? Did the image stir your muse? I loved writing this short and would love to read yours, too. If you write one, please let me know in the comments.

 

Character Interview Blog Hop – Heroines – Eden Widow

Character Interview Blog Hop - Heroes

I have so enjoyed the interviews from this blog hop, and the ease with which it seemed each participating author managed to get their heroes and heroines talking. Patty Blount’s interview from last week, with the brainy and secretive Julie Murphy from her amazing Young Adult novel, SEND, was no different. In case you missed it, you can find that interview on Patty’s blog – HERE.

When I thought about interviewing a heroine from one of my own stories, I hoped the process would be smooth for me as well. As smooth as a slice of creamy New York cheesecake. I would interview Eden Widow, the haunted yet graceful heroine from my second novel, SAFE IN HIS ARMS. Her story was originally a subplot in my first book but it grew into its own.

Eden is most comfortable in her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side overlooking Central Park, so we meet there. I hear her buzzing me into the building seconds after I’ve already walked in behind a woman with two little white dogs wearing pink bows in their hair. We all ride the elevator together and as I watch the numbers climb, I’d swear the little dogs watch as well.

My inspiration for Eden Widow - atherine Zeta-Jones

My inspiration for Eden Widow –
Catherine Zeta-Jones

The moment I step into Eden’s apartment, I’m struck by a panoramic view she has of Central Park from her picture window. A desk sits before it, centered, with plenty of space to either side for a clear unobstructed view. A luxurious cream-colored sofa and club chair sit conversation style with enough room to walk around them to be spacious yet cozy. Besides the view, what strikes me most is the array of cheerful flowers in vases placed on every flat surface I see. The flowers are all the same – white daisies and yellow forsythia sprays. They’re in bud vases, bowls, urns, fluted vases… not overdone, just simply lovely. They’re everywhere I look and make me smile, like this space is a happy one because they make it so.

I follow Eden through the living room to a small breakfast nook where she has tea prepared for us. She moves across the rooms with a confident grace, as though her every movement is part of an intimate choreographed dance. She pours my tea and smiles as I thank her for having me. I take a seat across from her at the delicate round table.

“Please feel free to begin any time.”

Her voice is smoky, though not gruff. Her expressive eyes nearly as dark as her black hair.

I take out my pen and notepad and ask the first, rather blunt, question.

 

What is your greatest fear and have you told anyone? Why or why not?

She continues to pour the tea, into her cup now. Then she gently sets the teapot down, not looking at me or answering and I wonder if she heard my question. And then she lifts her teacup and speaks again – with that intriguing voice of hers.

Firefighters battling blaze“My greatest fear is one which haunts me night and day. It’s the recurring nightmares and whatever truth they’re keeping from me. I want to know what it is as much as I fear knowing.

“I’ve told Luke about them, my brother. It would be impossible not to. We’re not twins, he and I, but we could be, it’s been only us for so long and we couldn’t be closer. Besides, he knows all about my dreams since I’ve had them from youth… from when I… from when our parents died… in a tragic fire…

“That fire started it all… I still smell it. I still feel the heat of it on my face. I still hear my own hoarse screams and pleas from when I fought to go back inside to save them and the fireman held me back. I had nightmares for the longest time after that. They were uncontrollable.”

She sips her tea and I can’t help but look around her apartment. There are candles placed here and there – floating candles, pillars, scented jars. All have blackened wicks. I’m no expert, but I’m a little surprised someone so traumatized by fire would have flame-lit, not battery-powered, candles around.

The light clink of her teacup on the saucer draws my attention back to her.

“Luke was there for me. He understood because he had gone through it, too. He held it together for my sake but when I finally realized how tormented he was by my pain, I found an outlet for it. I took all of the images from my dreams, all of the unanswered questions and disturbed emotions, and turned them into fiction. I adopted the pen name Gerard Blackwood, whose tales of murder and mayhem are depraved and gruesome… and… beloved by an insatiable and loyal audience. The more I wrote, the more time there was between nightmares, until they finally subsided.

But something happened recently…”

She looks at me without speaking, a small uncomfortable smile playing upon her full lips. I sense her apprehension and fear, and realize she’s struggling for composure. I cover her hand with mine and she closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens them she seems stronger.

“I… was assaulted. Here in this very apartment. I… know this because I woke in the hospital with worried faces all around me. Everyone wanted to know what had happened, who I had let into my apartment, did I know the man… but I couldn’t remember. When I tried, panic blurred the memory, blended what happened before, with the fire, with what happened now and… it was all too much… and then the nightmares started again. They’re more violent now, more cryptic, and my writing has become darker because of it… I’m not sure my mind will ever unmuddle the memory of what really happened to me. I wish I could say I am in a state of blissful ignorance but I am not. The memory teases. My greatest fear is that the teasing will stop and the truth will become clear.”

 

I can imagine either would be terrifying. Can you tell me about one person who made a positive difference in your life?

She smiles and though it’s not a grand smile, I am taken in by the beauty of her eyes as it reaches them.

“That is an easy one. Scott Parker. He has been Flowers and tea cupso patient with me. I have dated men before, not  many, but enough. At one time I was even engaged to a man I adored and who adored me. Too much, perhaps. Dylan James. He is a beautiful man, strong. Solid. Sooty eyes and hair. He’s part of the family now because his sister married my brother. But he had a tendency to smother me. It wasn’t meant to be cruel, just attentive and… protective, I suppose. Especially when it came to my nightmares. The questions he would ask me about them… sometimes they frightened me more than the dreams.

“Scott is different. He doesn’t push or plead. He’s confident in his own skin. Confident enough for both of us, in fact. He loves me, I know it without question, and I love him, but he does not need to hear that from me at every meeting, during every conversation. He just knows. We can just be, and it’s enough. He trusts me to make my own choices, unlike Dylan, who tried to orchestrate my every move, as though he feared I might shatter…like spun glass.”

She offers more tea and I accept though she does not pour more for herself.

 

Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

“As an author with deadlines, I have a lot of time to myself. Too much sometimes. I must say, I so look forward to time with Scott. His home upstate is lovely. His property ends where stunning and serene parkland begins, so it looks and feels like it goes on and on. A stroll in the gardens on his property is all it takes to unwind. Especially when he’s with me. I find my most peaceful and fulfilling moments are with him. There in his space…and even here. With him. In mine.

 

Do you have a secret? If so, why do you feel the need to keep it secret?

Meet Eden Widow“I do have a secret. It’s one I wish to learn… the meaning behind my dreams. I know something happened to me. Something besides the fire. Something that frightened me so much I have been unable to see it. And so it haunts me. I do not feel the need to keep it secret… yet, there are times, moments, when the answer seems too close, and I turn away. When I awake… I am still unsure what my secret might be.”

Her phone rings and I wait, certain she’ll answer it, but she doesn’t.

“That would be Luke. He and his wife have invited me to dinner this evening. Along with Dylan. Please accept my apologies but I must get ready.”

I understand and say so I as I pack up my pen and notepad. And then a deep male voice comes over her answering machine.


“Hey E, it’s me. Kristen’s craving Mexican now, so no Italian tonight.
Unless she changes her mind again. She still wants the ice cream so
don’t forget to bring that. If you didn’t get it already, you might have
to head into Queens for it ’cause I’m sure I bought out all of Manhattan.
Don’t be late.”

Eden smiles as she walks me to the door. I tell her I hope she won’t have to drive to Queens for the ice cream and she laughs softly.

“Thank you but I won’t need to. I’ve been stocking ice cream for Kristen for months now.”

I step into the hall saying I have just one more question. She waits and I ask.

 

If you could ask for one thing, what would it be?

I see that same effort for composure as before and I wish I could withdraw the question, not wanting to leave her feeling low but rather with that sweet, content smile. She breathes softly.

“If I could ask for one thing, it would be to go back in time and unplug the potpourri pot that overheated, started a fire that destroyed our house… and killed our parents.”

She eases the door closed between us.

I have missed Eden and Scott, and all the other characters from this book. I cannot wait to revisit them and again watch Eden reach her much-deserved Happily Ever After.

Next week’s Character Interview will feature Elizabeth D. Spencer’s heroine, Rebecca Simmons from her Historical Romance, WHEN CUPID CAME TO TOWN. You’ll find that interview on Elizabeth’s blog – HERE

Elizabeth D. Spencer lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, three children, and two energetic Sheltie puppies, Brinkley and Carson. (Named for the dog from You’ve Got Mail and Downton Abbey’s very own Carson, the butler.) She shares a love of history with her family and a love of books. Her days and nights are spent writing. When she is not writing Appellate briefs for the day job, she is busy writing historical romance novels. The greatest challenge has been learning to balance it all. Coffee has been a tremendous help!

 

 

Would you Buy or Pass? #FridayFiveChallenge

This is my first time participating in the #FridayFiveChallenge and I was surprised how much I could do in five minutes when I tried.

Here are the rules from the #FridayFiveChallenge creator Rosie Amber:

Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions from small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….
1) Go to any online book supplier,
2) Randomly choose a category,
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,
4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book,
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,
6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?


And so, here is my contribution –
I chose Romantic Suspense:

Teacher Beward - romantic suspense by Charlotte Raine

Find a copy here from Amazon.com

This caught my eye because of the moody color and ‘frayed’ emotional feeling. It screams suspense and intrigue. Especially since the other romantic suspense covers look more like romance than suspense.

Book Price is listed at $3.99 for Kindle but it’s free right now.

Book Description: Thirty-one year old Grace Ellery survived being stabbed multiple times in Ohio. Two years later, she moves to Murray, Virginia to get a new lease on life.

On her first day of substitute teaching, her new life is nearly cut short when she finds herself in the middle of a shooting that leaves a married couple dead. Luckily, she is saved by Sam Meadows, a cardiologist, but the shooter has disappeared by the time the police come around.

When the shooter tries to kill Grace again, Sam and Grace realize that the killer won’t stop until she is dead. With a killer who has nothing to lose, the question isn’t if the killer will attack again, but when and who will be in the crosshairs. A romantic suspense wrapped in the aspects of life: love, family, forgiveness, danger, and death.

Number of pages 288/46,000 words.

Reviews: Mixed – There are a total of 250 reviews on Amazon.com and 99 of them are 5*.

I skimmed a few and noted several mentioning how ‘different’ the format was – with each chapter being in a different character’s point of view (hero, heroine and villain) AND in a different time-line. I’m not sure how a 46,000-word story would flow with that type of formula. I would think it would feel a bit disjointed but it was mentioned that once you get used to it, the writing is engaging, and the story was tense and exciting. I did read a 1-star review because I always do that and wasn’t sure what to make of it. The reviewer implied a political message on the part of the author and then complained the h/h slept together after the second meeting (not something that reviewer appreciated) and that book ended with a cliffhanger. The same reviewer, in responses to challenging comments on that review, clarified that all sex was behind closed doors and that the story didn’t end on a cliffhanger after all. It was the excerpt of the next book that ended with “to be continued”. I’d say that’s to be expected. Basically, for me, at least, the entire 1-star review was discredited because of those misleading parts of the it (which you had to dig into the comments to see).

Would I BUY or PASS?…… BUY

Analysis
I went back and forth with the decision whether to buy or pass on this book. It’s free, though, so ‘buy’ isn’t the right word. I love the cover, and the book’s description intrigued me. Someone who thinks she’s escaped from a murderer only to find she’s still a target? It’s the stuff of nightmares. Since it’s ‘romance’ I know there will be a happily ever, so after all that tension, there’s the promise of a satisfied sigh. Who can resist that? And for free, no less. The reason I wasn’t sure about it was the POV and time-line switches mentioned in the reviews. But… that just might add to the intrigue. If not, I won’t buy the second book. If so, I’ll buy it eagerly. And, in all honesty, one of the main factors in my decision to buy this is that rather rude and misleading 1-star review.

 

Character Interview Blog Hop – Heroes – Jake Marlon

Character Interview Blog Hop - HeroesEvery author needs to get characters talking… not just on the page, but to the author herself. And not just in every day niceties but in detail, with secret yearnings, quirks and private musings. I’m sharing a bit of that here today, Week 10 of the Character Interview Blog Hop – HEROES. My thanks to Patty Blount for passing the baton to me. Last week, Patty introduced you to Dan Ellison, the high school student and former bully from her Young Adult novel SEND. You can find her interview with Dan HERE on her blog.

Today you’ll meet my hero, small-town restaurant owner and handsome loner Jake Marlon. I met Jake ages ago and am now spit-shining his story so others can watch him reach his well-deserved and hard-fought happily-ever-after… and maybe even fall in love with him as I have.

My inpiration for Jake Marlon, hero from Tears before Love - Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan

My inspiration for Jake Marlon     Jeffrey Dean Morgan

I had asked to meet Jake before he started work for the day but he said he starts too early. Then I asked to meet after work, but he said he finishes much too late. And so, I’ve met him at The Grill, where he’s preparing for the lunch crowd, though he’s said “crowd” is not what he’d call it. I sit on the dining room side of the pass-through window, watching him in the kitchen. He’s an impressive man, over 6′, with messy black hair and dark bedroom eyes. He works methodically, moving about the space with ease, and I have an odd sense of watching an animal born in captivity, believing there’s little if anything beyond his small enclosure.

I can tell he’s not thrilled that I’m here. His broad back is to me as he dunks a second basket of onion rings into the deep fryer. It sizzles violently. He sets a timer.

I click my pen, ready to begin, but he doesn’t look at me. I wonder if he’s forgotten I’m here… but he’s already given me the go-ahead, so I begin.

Jake…

He starts to turn when the timer buzzes for the first basket, drawing his attention. Going back, he hangs it to drain.

Character Interview Grill

What is your greatest fear… and why?

He picks up a huge knife and a glorious eggplant, and just looks at me, his dark gaze holding mine. Several emotions pass in his eyes and I find myself drawn in. I feel I should look away, allow him a private moment, but I can’t… In truth, I’m not sure I want to.

My greatest fear?

He looks around the place and it’s as if he’s looking at land from far off shore.

Losing this place.

Raw emotion thickens his voice and I realize this fear of his is real and deep.

It almost happened a few times.

He sets the eggplant on the counter, starts slicing it lengthwise. I’m amazed. Each piece appears to be of perfect ¼” thickness.

I managed to get it going again but… I might not always be so lucky.

 

Have you told this to anyone?

His slow smile captivates me. It’s a bit condescending but strangely I don’t care. I smile in response.

The hours I put in here aren’t exactly secret. Do people know what your work means to you? Or do you have to tell them?

I almost answer his question, but then remember this is not about me. I want to know more about him. He’s not just a workaholic. He has secrets. I can see them in his gaze. As I study it, he lifts a dark brow and I can’t tell whether it’s in challenge or amusement.

 

Why are you so afraid of losing this place?

His smile fades. That play of emotions is in his eyes again.

My life is here. My past. My… future. I’ve worked this place since I was a kid. Back then, my dad did everything I’m doing now. Almost. When he could. Out there…

He points through the pass-through, toward the dining room.

That belonged to my mom. She worked the room like a pro and people liked her. They tipped her good and she’d skim a bunch off the top so the old man wouldn’t get it. He’d’ve wasted it on booze, and she wanted new things for herself. And for me. She bought me a football once. With her tips.

Pissed off the old man. He wanted to know how she was able to afford it. I didn’t tell him, of course. That would’ve been ugly… He took it, you know. The football my mom bought for me. Said I’d get it back when I’d shown my worth, but I never saw it again. Not until after he died. Interesting bastard, my old man.

I want to comfort him but he’s guarded now. Clearly finished with that question, so I ask another.

 

Tell me about one person who made a positive difference in your life.

Christopher Olivieri. He’s my… godson. Tony and Maria’s boy. He notices things and asks a lot of simple questions that are hard to answer. He’s a challenge but he’s a great kid. Happy. Innocent. I have issues with his parents sometimes, mostly Medusa… sorry, I mean… Maria… but they treat him good. Like a kid should be treated. And he comes here sometimes – his parents’ place is at the other corner. The fancy Italian restaurant… they do well down there…

He brushes the eggplant and other vegetables with olive oil and herbs, lays them on the grill, smiling as they sizzle.Football

Chris brings the ball and glove I got him for his birthday and we’ll play a game of catch in the lot. He says his father’s too busy to play with him, like mine was… for different reasons, though. I’m busy, too, but the kid has a way of getting me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.

Like… take a break from this place now and then. It’s just a few tosses, not a big commitment. And off the kid goes, happy as a kid should be.

He chuckles and it’s a soft warm sound I want to hear again.

Yeah, Christopher. He’s made a difference in my life… It’s hard to explain how an eight-year-old can do that, but he did.

He turns the vegetables. Brushes them lightly.

 

Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

Used to be, I’d spend time alone here, cleaning up after closing. Then… well… I’ve had company lately. Not that I mind. Not much anyway. It’s Willy. Wilma Davis. She just started showing up here regularly around midnight. I’d be mopping the place, you know, closing up for the night. It annoyed me. Having her crashing my space like that, but… Have you met Willy? Nah, probably not, because if you did, you’d smile just from hearing her name. Or you’d go running from here, screaming.

Short skirt, pretty legs - Wilma Davis - Tears Before Love - Romantic Suspense - Debora DaleShe has that effect on people, Willy does. I follow her, you know. At night. After she leaves. She doesn’t know it. She thinks nothing of walking alone through the park in the dead of night in those heels and little skirts of hers. I watch her… I mean… I watch that she gets home okay since she lives right on the other side of the park. With her roommate. Cora.

He leans closer to me as though eager to share a secret, and I ready myself for a juicy bit of gossip.

Talk about wanting to run screaming from someone. If a bawdy redhead swings her hips your way, that’ll be Cora. Run. That’s it. Run.

There’s no down time with her around…

He transfers the fragrant, grill-seared vegetables to a chafing dish. Sits on a stool at the counter.

Sometimes, I’ll stay there, by the lake, after Willy gets home. Wait for the light to go on in her apartment… I’ll be thinking, not thinking… I’ve always done that. You know when you live above the store, you need a place to go and the lake is it…has been since I was a kid. Of course, the old man never knew about it. He’d just say I didn’t know about the cost of time.

 

Do you have a secret? If so, why do you feel the need to keep it secret?

Well, I don’t know if it’s a secret, really, but… I wonder how things would be if they’d turned out like I planned. I wanted to own a sweet little 5-star hotel somewhere, and be the head chef in its 5-star restaurant. Not too many people know about that dream. Really, only my mom and Maria knew about it – Maria, as in Christopher’s mother. Tony’s wife.

He gives his head a shake as if to bring himself back to the present.

That’s what I’d be doing if things had worked out differently.

 

Have you ever been in love? Had a broken heart?

Well, yeah. Who hasn’t?Meet Jake Marlon

He’s staring me down, or trying to, but I’m on to him now. Those dark eyes of his are rich with secrets I wish I could pry from him, so I won’t let him off the hook.

Women love to ask about other women…

When I was a kid, most of my youth, in fact, until my early twenties… I thought Maria was the one. She took my heart, filled it up…too much. Then, BAM! She popped it like a balloon.

Poor Tony.

He chuckles. Tries to wipe the smile away.

He has her now.

We were very different back then. I was 17, she was 16. We were together for a year. She’d hang out here a lot. She’d even help out. I liked watching her work. She was one sweet sight.

We were going to go to school together. Business school – hotel/restaurant management. We talked about it like it’d really happen. Then I had more and more responsibilities here and… she… didn’t understand. One night… I was supposed to meet her, out there, by the lake. I asked… I actually begged…for an hour off so I could talk to her, but my dad kept giving me stuff to do. He must have made me tally the receipts four times that night. I got to her more than an hour late, and she was with Tony. They have three kids now. Christopher’s the oldest. You know… that night the old man wouldn’t let me meet her? That night I found her with Tony? That’s the night he died. Wrapped his truck around a tree. I kept thinking I should have taken the keys… but I didn’t.

He pushes off the counter, heads into the dining room with the grilled vegetables, and lights the final sterno.

Then there’s Jessie. Not long after the old man died, my cousin’s girlfriend – Jessie – experienced the same thing. Her father was a drunk, too. Died basically the same way. She didn’t handle it too well, and Steven, my cousin, asked me to talk to her. I did. And… things just went on from there.

He unlocks the front door, flips the closed sign to open.

She’s a great woman. She’s getting married soon. We just…ended things. It wasn’t a healthy relationship. We had a lot in common. Too much, I think. Same pain, same confusion. We didn’t really help each other, just complained mostly. But she’s funny, and she’s sensitive. We both knew nothing more would come of what we had, but…well…it went on for a long time. She did the right thing in saying yes to Carl’s proposal. She knew we’d never get married but she asked me anyway, just to be sure before she gave him her answer. And now she wants me to give her away.

His smile is small. It looks less than happy. He gives me a shrug, waves a hand toward the buffet.

Hungry? It’s all-you-can-eat. Just $9.95.

The bells on the front door ring. He gives it only a passing glance then turns away, heading for the kitchen. I gather my pen and notepad and duck my head under the pass-through to thank him for his time. And that’s when I see it. There, on a shelf next to the door leading into the parking lot, propped against a vintage Diner sign is an aged though unscuffed football.

 

Be sure to look for next week’s Character Interview when Elizabeth D. Spencer will introduce you to her hero, widow farmer, Jake Callen, from her Historical Romance, WHEN CUPID CAME TO TOWN. You can find that HERE on her blog.

Elizabeth D. Spencer lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, three children, and two energetic Sheltie puppies, Brinkley and Carson. (Named for the dog from You’ve Got Mail and Downton Abbey’s very own Carson, the butler.) She shares a love of history with her family and a love of books.  Her days and nights are spent writing. When she is not writing Appellate briefs for the day job, she is busy writing historical romance novels. The greatest challenge has been learning to balance it all.  Coffee has been a tremendous help!

 


 

 

Don’t Just Sit There

I had a scary few hours before the “storm for the history books” was supposed to hit New York. I thought I should share it because, if you’re like me and sit a lot for work, you know this but tend to ignore it.

As a writer, sitting for long periods of time is part of the process. I probably sit more than many writers, though, because I have three jobs and each keeps me in front of the computer for hours (and hours) at a time.

I fidget, I get up for coffee, I let the cat/s lounge across my lap and shift them around when my legs go numb… but I don’t MOVE.

Last Wednesday, I wound up with pain in my leg and thought I’d somehow pulled a muscle (hamstring). I did all the things you should do for sore muscles without thinking further about it. Until Saturday night when I saw how red the back of my thigh was, and by Sunday morning when it was still red but also solid, aching, swollen and hot to the touch.

As I said, I have cats – one of them is 18 years old. I rarely notice pokes and scratches from them anymore. I figured, one of them must have scratched my leg at some point, and I now had a reaction to it, like cat scratch fever.

By Sunday night into Monday, the pain was unbearable and all sorts of thoughts for what it could be tortured my mind.

Depositphotos_22663233_l copyMonday morning, I made an urgent appointment with my doctor, who questioned me thoroughly about my daily habits. After hearing how I work at the computer all day, she wrote a script for a doppler ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot. Two very long hours later, I found out I wasn’t going to die from a clot that could have been in my leg and suddenly broke off to lodge in my lung.

I have cellulitis (so I might have been right about the cat-scratch), and the antibiotics I’m on should clear it up soon enough. They’re already helping.

BUT… once my doctor heard about my routine – of sitting for hours at a time, day after day, she knew my risk of clots was pretty high up there.

So is yours if you sit a lot, too.

Her advice to reduce the risk is to sit for shorter periods at a time and really move around. If you want to write for an hour straight without getting up, she said, then do it, but don’t sit in one position. Sit up straight if you tend to lean forward toward your keyboard, put your feet up on a rest under your desk. Lower them. Put your computer on the kitchen counter, and stand while you type. Don’t do your entire day’s workout in the morning and think you’re done. Break up your sitting/writing time with additional five minute workouts throughout the day – even if the time is spent simply going up and down the stairs.

Move.

And… don’t sit on the sofa or other soft cushion with your laptop on your lap. We tend to sit ‘folded’ that way, she said, and that causes other problems (I know, I have those too).

Naturally, this was advice given to me by my own doctor. You should look further into this yourself to see what’s best for you.Be safe, be smart, be active

The pain I felt Sunday night and the fear I felt about possibly having to deal with a dangerous blood clot – with a blizzard on the way, no less – reminded me how quickly hours can go by when we’re writing, and how easily we can get caught up in the work while forgetting about taking care of ourselves.

Be safe, be smart, be active.

Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in one position? For fun, or not, time yourself. A change of habit is probably in order for you, too.

I was using my treadmill during the day and “between jobs”, but then I stopped, having gotten caught up in the work. I’m bringing it back in and looking at other ways to make sure I don’t put myself at such high risk again.

What are your habits like? Do you have a way to break up hours of sitting?

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