Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Upcoming New York Trip

The strangest thing happened today. I was thinking of my upcoming trip to NewYork, which led to thoughts of my friends in Connecticut where we used to live more than 25 years ago. Recently, my friend Marilou, who lived in Greenwich, died of breast cancer. As I was sitting in church, for some inexplicable reason, her address popped into my mind, 21 Bishop street, Greenwich, Ct.
This was so strange, that I took out my phone and googled the address and sure enough, a picture of her house showed up. I thought of my other friends from that time and place, and I couldn't even name the streets they lived on. I wasn't %100 sure of our old address.

And yes, I know, my thoughts should have been elsewhere, but I was sitting in the nursery with the three and under crowd and everyone was playing very nicely without my interference.

I shared the experience with a friend and she said, you'll have to tell me the rest of the story. But I don't think there is a rest of the story. I don't plan on going to Connecticut on my short visit to New York and even if I did, I wouldn't go to Marilou's house. It's not as if she's there. I'm not sure why I'm sharing this, except that I'm trying to make sense of it.
Has anyone else had moments of clarity that needed clarification?
I once a wrote a blog post on Marilou's house. Interestingly, it's one of my most popular blog posts, but I can't say why since I've never done a thing to promote it. Here it is:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Current Work in Progress-Canterbury Heights

Nora had known this day would be hard, but she didn’t think it would be this hard. She stepped out onto the patio, away from the noisy party, to watch the gulls wheel and cry over the harbor. Boats bobbed against the moorings. Her parents’ newly purchased yacht, The @ floated nearby.
This was supposed to be a happy occasion for them—her dad’s retirement. She couldn’t ruin it for them, could she? But she had to know. She couldn’t just let them sail away for six months while curiosity burned in her belly like cheap whiskey. Could she?
“What are you doing out here, sweetie?” Crystal Clare, her mom’s best friend stepped through the French doors that separated Nora from the party’s laughter and music. “Hiding?”
Yes, but probably not for the reason Crystal suspected. Nora gave Crystal a bleak smile.
Crystal wrapped her arm around Nora’s waist and pulled her into a sideways hug. The older woman felt smell and brittle like a collection of dry bones. Her lacquered hair smelled of chemicals and a hint of alcohol clung to her breath.
“It was hard for me to attend social gatherings after Clyde and I split up, but—” she sighed and brushed a loose curl off Nora’s forehead, “you’ll get used to it, I promise.”
Nora smiled. “I knew it would be hard.”
“Do you miss the dirty little rat fink?” Crystal asked, her smile softening her words.
Nora nodded. “I do. I’m trying to be understanding, but…”
“Where is he now?”
“San Francisco, with Teddy…that’s his lover’s name.”
“Sounds like a bear.”
“And he totally fits his name, too.” Nora still couldn’t believe it. It was impossible to believe that Blake had left her…and for a man who looked like he’d just lumbered out of the woods in search of a picnic basket. Nora sniffed, wiped her hand under her nose, and looked back out at the boats. “Crystal, you’ve been friends with my mom for a really long time.”
“Nearly thirty years.”
Ah, then she would know…
“And your father for even longer. We worked at the same firm back when I thought I was a hot shot in a power suit.”
Nora grinned. “You’re still a hot shot.”
“Yeah, but I’m no longer putting the bad guys behind bars.”
It still surprised her that loud, forceful Crystal and her quiet, reserved mom were acquaintances, let alone best friends. She wondered how that had happened. But at the moment, she was wondering how a lot of things had ever happened.
“It’s not Blake, is it?” Crystal studied Nora, giving Nora the uncomfortable feeling of being read like a laundry list.
“It’s Blake,” Nora lied.
“But there’s something else, isn’t there?”
Nora glanced at her parents through the window. The dying sun reflected off the glass making the party look shimmery but blurry. It seemed apt. Her parents had often seemed glittery but insubstantial. Not quite real.
Everyone’s been lying to me, Nora thought. Anger stiffened her spine. “Tell me about 1991.”
Crystal looked surprised. “What do you want to know? You were there, weren’t you? Big hair? Shoulder pads? A bunch of Madonna wanna-bes?”
“I was born in 1991.” The hardness in Nora’s voice surprised even herself.
She watched the comprehension dawn on Crystal’s face. The older woman took Nora’s arm in a gentle but firm grasp. “Maybe we should go for a walk.”
Neither of them wore walking shoes and Crystal was a good six inches shorter than Nora, but Crystal led the way down the steps of the Shore Cliff Country Club’s patio to the marina’s floating dock.
“What do you want to know about 1991?” Crystal asked when they were safely away from the party and any of its revelers.
“I want to know why there’re photographs of my mother looking—as always—rail thin, days before my birth.”
Crystal sniffed and rubbed her nose. “And where did you see those?”
“Tom Thacker brought an album.”
“And do your parents know?”
“Know what?” Nora practically exploded. The curiosity in her had turned into a raging animal that demanded satisfaction.
“For the record, I never agreed with your mother’s decision,” Crystal said.
“To do what?”
Crystal slid her glance. “To keep your birth mother a secret.”
“Birth mother?” Nora leaned against the rail as her knees gave. “My whole life is a lie,” she breathed. First her husband and now her parents? Unbelievable.
“Not everything, no,” Crystal said, worry etching the lines around her eyes. “Your parents adore you.”
“I’m adopted…”
“Well, sort of,” Crystal said.
“What does that mean? Either I’m adopted or I’m not.” Nora’s thoughts spun. Everyone told her she looked just like her dad, because she did. They were both tall, blond, with fair skin and pale blue eyes while her mother was small, dark, and impish. Her family consisted of just the three of them. No grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. The three musketeers, her mom called them…and now Crystal didn’t even have them. Or did she?
“What happened?” Nora demanded.
“Sweetie, you know this is a conversation you should have with your parents.”
Nora pointed a trembling finger at the @BOAT. “You know as well as I do that in any moment the people I thought were my mom and dad are about to sail away! For six months!”
“Darling, don’t,” Crystal said in her courtroom voice. “You’re upsetting yourself, and you’d undoubtedly cause your parents an enormous amount of embarrassment and pain if anyone overheard you.”
“And my failed marriage has already embarrassed them,” Nora said bitterly.
“No one’s blaming you for Blake’s…change of heart.”
Nora swallowed and tried to tamp down her anger. “What happened?” she repeated.
Crystal pinched her lips together and met Nora’s glare.
Nora pointed her finger at Crystal’s bony chest. “If you don’t tell me right now, I’m going to go in there and confront my—”
“Just stop,” Crystal said, taking Nora’s hand and interlacing their fingers. “I’ll try to tell you everything I know. But keep in mind, I don’t know everything.”
And for Crystal to admit that she didn’t know everything so surprised Nora and that she fell silent. For a moment, the sound of the waves lapping the moorings and the cry of seagulls filled the air. Then Crystal told her a story she didn’t want to believe.
“So, do you know who my birth mother is?”
“No, but I have an idea,” Crystal said with a speculative glint in her eye. “Let me do some subtle investigating, and I’ll get back to you.” Her eyes narrowed. “You know, if I were you, I would be dying to confront your parents, but I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
On a distant pier, the cheer of a small crowd rose as the @ boat pulled into the harbor.
Ignoring Crystal’s warning, Nora ran after her parents. After a few faltering steps in her high heels, she pulled off her shoes. “Mom! Dad! Don’t go!”
Her parents, too far away to hear, waved.
Nora cupped her hands and shouted, “Stop! Wait!”
Her dad lifted his hand to his forehead and gave her a solute.
Nora fumbled for her purse, but then remembered she had left it in the club. With tears streaming down her face she pounded down the boardwalk, skittering around the others on the dock. Inside the club, she scanned the tables looking for her purse. Where had she left it? How could she have been so careless? She’d been so shaken and confused when she’d seen the photographs…She spotted the offending albums on the table next to the partially eaten sheet cake, half-empty wine bottles, and goblets smudged with lipstick. Beside the album lay her purse.

Her relief whooshed out of her. She scooped up her bag and knew immediately something was wrong. It was too light. Even before opening it, she knew it would be empty. Her money, her credit cards, her phone…like her parents and Blake, they were all gone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Anyone Want to Take Potshots at my Blurb?

After the sudden death of baby Jamison’s parents, custody is awarded to both his aunt Sophie Rossi and his uncle Luke Mason. With Luke nowhere to be found, Sophie quits her prestigious job in San Francisco and moves into her sister’s farmhouse in Shell Beach to care for Jamison. After six months, she still struggles to fit into her sister’s capable shoes.

Then Luke Mason resurfaces without explanation and wants to be a part of Jamison's life.

Sophie resents his long absence, secrets, and interference. Plus, she hasn’t really forgiven him for calling her a Sofa when they were in high school.

As Christmas nears, Sophie and Luke’s love for Jamison draws them together, causing them to rethink their plans for the future and redefine their ideas family.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Apple Fritters and a Free Book

Oh, how I love this time of year! These pictures are from my dad's house in Washington state, where I grew up. This is also the setting of my Rose Arbor novels. For the next few days, my novel A Ghost of a Second Chance is free. This will be the first time I've ever run a promotion on Ghost. I think I've never had the heart to make it free before because I was afraid of poor reviews.

Books are a lot like children--we're supposed to love them all equally--but if I'm honest, I love this book more than most. And I get that most people won't love it the way I do. It's not genre specfic, meaning that when someone wants to put it on a shelf in the bookstore, it's hard to decide where it goes. There's ghost, but I wouldn't call it horror. There's romance, but the couple are already married.

But one thing it does have is apple fritters. So here's a recipe and an excerpt from A Ghost of a Second Chance, which is free for the next three days.

Apple Fritters
35 m 24 servings 118 cals
1 quart vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
 2 eggs, beaten
 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups apples - peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup cinnamon sugar

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or electric skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the milk, eggs and oil and stir until well blended. Mix in apples until they are evenly distributed.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes depending on the size. Fry in smaller batches so they are not crowded. Remove from the hot oil using a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon sugar while still warm.

 A Ghost of a Second Chance
From Chapter 10

Laine walked down Olympic Hill to the town green. She hugged her books against chest, her arm covering the Ghost Guru’s intense face. All around her the townspeople bustled in and out of shops. Most of the store fronts had preserved a turn of the century feel and according to the marker in front of the large white gazebo in the middle of the green, Rose Arbor had been incorporated in 1903. A number of the people on the street looked nearly as old as the town, but not Bette. She emerged from Bernadette’s Bakery holding a small white bag. Even from here, despite the blowing mower and the swirl of cut grass, Laine thought she could smell apple fritters. The scent took her back to her days at the university. She loved Bette and she loved apple fritters. At that moment, she couldn’t say which she loved more.
Bette adjusted her sunglasses, looked across the green, spotted Laine and waved. Laine sat down on a park bench and waited for her friend. Other than the silver streaks in her fly away hair, Bette looked remarkably like the college co-ed in constant search of a pencil. Laine had at first found Bette annoying and then had grown to love her. Personality wise, they were as different as a pair of comfy well-worn jeans and a pair of Prada shoes. Laine’s prim and tidy dorm room had curtains that matched pillows on the bed that coordinated with the rug on the floor that were the same color as her bath towels that matched the bedspread. Bette’s pillow often had chocolate on it because there were candy wrappers on her bed. Laine had a calendar on the wall with all of her upcoming school assignments marked in red, tests marked in yellow and social events marked in blue. Bette had a calendar, but she often didn’t know where it was, and her meager budget couldn’t keep up with her frequent loss of pens and pencils. Back then their relationship had been symbiotic—Bette needed pencils and Laine needed friends. Bette had a plethora of friends and Laine learned how to share her writing utensils. Now, Laine hoped that Bette had brought apple fritters to share.
Bette dropped onto the bench and opened the bag. The pastries warm smell wafted out. Laine looked in the bag. Two fritters. Bette smiled as she lifted one out.
“This,” she said, “is a bribe.”
Laine waited.
“I’ll give it to you, if you’ll answer all my questions.” Bette bit into her fritter, and Laine scowled. “Oh, there’s one for you. No worries.”
“How did you know I was here?”
Bette laughed. “This is a small town, remember? Lots of people know you’re here.”
“But no one knows me.”
“They know you’re the new owner of the Leon mansion.” Bette nodded at the grocery bags at Laine’s feet holding bottles of cleansers, lemon oil, rubber gloves and a bundle of cleaning clothes. “And that you’ve offered to build Missy Clements a butterfly garden if she’ll help you clean it up. But it was the broken finger that cinched it.” Bette took another bite and smiled like she’d tasted manna. “How many rich, clean freaky, broken fingered tall, dark curly haired women can there be in Rose Arbor?” Bette licked her fingers. “I’ve answered two of your questions and you’ve answered none of mine.”
“But other people must have answered some of them,” Laine said. “You know about the cottage.”
Bette lifted her eyebrow.
“Although, it’s more mansion than cottage.” Laine corrected herself.
“What are you doing here, Laine?”
“Remember—I told you about my grandmother’s photos and journals. I’m going to try to write her personal history.” Laine paused. “Can I have my fritter now?”
Bette shifted the bag to the other side of the bench. “Have you left Ian?”
“How can I leave him when he left me six weeks ago?”
“Does he know you’re here?”
“I don’t know—does it matter?” Laine held out her hand for the fritter.
Bette narrowed her eyes.
“He left me! Six weeks ago!”
Bette scowled. “There’s something you’re not telling me. Is there someone else?”
“Not for me, no.”
“And Ian?” Bette’s voice turned soft.
Laine’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know.”
Bette’s gaze held Laine’s for a moment, and then she relinquished the fritter.
“Thank you,” Laine said.
“You’re welcome.” Bette took a breath. “You know, I left Greg once.”
Laine choked on her fritter and fumbled for a napkin. Bette pressed one into her hands. Laine used it to wipe up the crumbs that had escaped her mouth.
“You never told me that.”
Bette shrugged. “It was only for five days. Now that he’s gone, I’d do anything to recapture that lost time.” She folded the now empty bag into a square. “It was this time of year, early autumn. Central Park was gorgeous—the changing leaves, the cold, crisp air.”
“You went to New York?” That must have been expensive. Bette and Greg had always lived very modestly on Greg’s school salary. Laine found it hard to believe Bette would pay for a trip to New York as a lark.
Bette nodded. “To Julliard. I just hung around campus, snuck into the practice rooms. I found a harpsichord in one….” Her voice drifted off. “I think of that week whenever I hear Bach.”
“What made you go?”
“What made you kick Ian out?”
“I didn’t—”
“Oh, please Laine. Don’t lie.”
“Why did you go to New York?” Laine pressed.
Bette sighed. “Because I was young and stupid and I thought I was old and world-wise. Greg and I grew up together.” She looked around. “We grew up, here together, and it became clear to me that we were going to grow old, here, together. Same guy. Same town. If I didn’t do something, anything, this was going to be all I’d ever know.” She took a deep breath. “I thought I wanted something else.”
Laine put her arm around Bette’s shoulder and squeezed her tight. They shared this commonality, the love of boys they’d known most of their lives. Laine knew that Bette still loved Greg, and yet, here she was, in the middle of her life with a new man. The knowledge fluttered in Laine’s stomach.
Bette leaned her head on Laine’s shoulder. “I miss him. I miss him every morning and every night. It’s football season, you know?”
“Do you go to the games?”
Bette shook her head no. “Errol likes plays. He takes me to restaurants and tiny community theaters on Friday nights.” She paused. “I love it, but it’s different.” She looked sharply at Laine. “Are you sure you want something different?”
“I don’t want someone different, if that’s what you mean.” Laine answered quickly, thinking of Sean Marks and his lingering touch on her skin.
“Does Ian?”
Laine shrugged. “Carly,” she burst out, “this woman Ian works with. She’s always at his elbow. Everyone at the office talks about them—treats them like they’re a couple. They work together—eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and probably snacks in between. Carly maneuvers herself into ready and willing position whenever Ian entered the room. She laughs the longest and loudest at his jokes and he acts differently around her—more confident, wittier, smarter.” And that was what hurt the most.
“Do you think he’s—”
Laine shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe not, but he certainly hasn’t been sleeping with me.”
“That’s hard to do when you’re not speaking to him.” Bette laughed. “Although you could try some cave woman pantomime.”
Laine tried to smile. “The infertility—”
Bette nodded and squeezed her hand. Bette knew. She understood the horrors of hormones and infertility treatments. She also understood and sympathized with Ian’s reluctance to adopt, much better than Laine did. It was something Bette and Laine had discussed relentlessly. Laine turned her thoughts away from babies. Those thoughts only led to dark, unhappy places.
“Don’t you think an emotional affair can be just as painful as a physical one?” Laine asked. “Isn’t it just as much of a betrayal? Back to the cave man—that whole pounding on-chest- me-man-and-must-have-woman thing—isn’t that more forgivable and understandable than an affair of the heart and mind?”
“No.” Bette snorted.
“Sex is more elemental—it’s easier to control than your mind.”
“Says you,” Bette said, licking her fingers. “I really don’t think you would make this argument if you thought for even one tiny moment that Ian had slept with Carly.”
“Maybe he has. You don’t know.”
“Do you?” Bette asked.
“Have you asked him?”
Laine gave her head a small shake. “I can’t. We’re not—”
“You’re avoiding him.” Bette made it sound like she was bludgeoning dogs and skinning cats.
“I can’t talk to him. Every time I see him I clam up. I literally start to shake. My heart beats fast and then it’s like the real me disappears and a phantom witchy me takes over.” She took a long breath. “I wish I could disappear. Just fade away like I don’t exist…right now the cottage seems like the perfect way to make that happen.” She took another deep breath, desperate to change the subject. “Your trip to New York—it was just five days.”
“I knew in three I wanted to go to home. Home, for me, was Greg.”
And now he’s gone, Laine thought.
“Yes, now he’s gone,” Bette said, as if she’d read Laine’s thoughts. “And I’m still here. But unfortunately, the fritters are gone too.” She glanced at her watch, a pretty silver and sea shell thing that sparkled in the sun. It looked expensive and fragile, the sort of thing that practical Bette would love but would never buy. Laine wondered if it had been a gift from Mr. Prompt.
Laine used the napkin to wipe her sticky fingers. “Do you want to come see the cottage?”
“I’d love to, Lainey, but Errol is picking me up.” She looked at her watch again. “Oh, I’ve got to go. I’ll come out tomorrow.” She cocked her head at Laine. “Do you think you’ll still be there?”
Laine nodded. She wasn’t very sure of most things, but she was quite sure she’d be at the cottage tomorrow. I’ll stay as long as I have Madeleine with me, she told herself. Together, they’d look for Sid, work on her grandparent’s life stories, and try to restore the cottage to its former glory.
With those decisions made, Laine pulled out her phone. She needed someone to take care of her cat.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: Liane Moriarity's Big Little Lies

I really wanted to like this book, because I loved What Alice Forgot. But instead, I put this book down about halfway through. Why? I didn't like any of these people, except for the woman that I'm guessing was murdered. And her husband. He was occassionally witty. But everyone else? Celeste? Jane? I couldn't relate to them at all. And being a mom, I hate it when other women make snide comments about other women and that's what--I feel--this book was doing. It was slamming the moms of elementary school kids. And sure, we all take ourselves too seriously, but that's because we take our jobs of raising kids seriously, because it's seriously important. We're all trying so incredibly hard to make the world a better place for our children.
I couldn't finish this book. I'm mildly curious to know who killed who and why (I didn't like the back and forth story structure, either) but not enough to spend my hours with people I would never want to know.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers

I just finished reading Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers. I couldn't help wondering if it was as painful for Hoffman to write as it was for me to read. I knew and dreaded the ending. I've been to Masada. I visited Israel in 1981. I think it would be hard for anyone to imagine the size and scope of that place without actually seeing it. Even having been there, it's hard to fathom an army of 6 thousand Roman soldiers camped in the desert below it's massive walls.

Hoffman's language is lovely-lyrical. I underlined sentence after sentence, sometimes wondering what does that even mean? But because phrase after phrase was so gorgeous, I still did it. Each character was sympathetic, mostly because they were brave while facing horrors I can't even imagine.

I wondered how much of her religion and sorcery was imagination and how much was based on research. How true was she to the mores of the societies she wrote of? Like many of the other Hoffman novels I've read, The Dovekeepers is at it's heart a story of mothers, daughters, and sisters, the women being much more powerful than the men.

Here are a few of the lines I underlined:

I saw the age in his step, the heaviness of his burden, for he carried all the cruelty he'd been party to on his shoulders.

They came to us as they swarmed upon so many lands with their immense legions, wanting not just to conquer but to humiliate, claiming not just our land and our gold but our humanity.

It was the future they had to face, as all men must death eventually. They could do so as cowards or as men of God, that was their choice.

He began to fold in on himself, a tangle of envy.

It was as though he no longer had children. We were only shadows on the wall, there to mock him and betray him.

guided by a map of rich fragrance sent into the air expressly for those driven by hunger.

Our silence thick in our throats.

Once you possess something others do not, you are a target for the wicked.

She'd brought the shawl with her on our journey, the single treasure she'd taken from home, whereas I had reached for poison. The choice you make about such matters reveals who you are deep inside.

He was with us, yet he had been summoned to another place entirely, the kingdom of vengeance.

Words had done that to me, twisted my heart as they poured out, clattered like stones onto the cobbled ground.

When you change your name, you change your fate as well.

Here we were surrounded by what some called the other side, the dark realm, for on this night we had wandered onto the evil side of the world that was also born from creation, that terrible region which could be found at the left hand of God and fed on human sin.

I will be leading a discussion on The Dove Keepers at the Foothill Ranch Library on October 5th.

From Wikipedia:
"Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice ... We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom."
— Elazar ben Yair