Monday, August 31, 2015

One Slight Change

After announcing the winning title of volume 2 of my Christmas stories, I did a Google search for that title and found far too many Christmas in My Hearts to be comfortable with using that title due to all the research that would need to be done to avoid copyright infringement. The title will now be Always Christmas in My Heart because I did not find anything with that title on the internet- close but not exact, so with one word added, this will be the title of volume 2. Again, thank you Katie Jo, hope you don't mind the slight change!

Sunday, August 30, 2015


I have chosen the winners of the first Name My Christmas Stories Contest since the original deadline was August 29th at 6PM and these submitters followed the rules.  I have extended the contest another six days because I still need a title for Volume 3- so if you missed the first deadline, you still have a chance at winning next Friday, if you submit a title and it's chosen.  I have also upgraded the prizes- all winners will received all three volumes, signed. The winner of each title chosen will be acknowledged inside the book also.

I just wanted to clarify that. It's fair to the people who submitted their suggestions by the original deadline, and gives those who might have missed the deadline another chance to win free books and have their title chosen for the third volume.

Volume One title winner is Joyce Gavioli with Yuletide Stories, the title that best fit the stories in this volume of 9 stories ranging from inspirational to traditional to contemporary.  Congratulations!!

Volume Two title winner is Katie Jo Weeks with Christmas in My Heart, the title that best fit the stories in the volume of 6 holiday tales that touch upon what's in our hearts at Christmas time. Congratulations!!

Volume Three will have 7 stories- read brief descriptions of the stories in a previous post please.


In Volume Three of my Christmas Stories- still in desperate need of a suitable title- these are the stories you will find between the pages, in a nutshell:

-the rollicking Riley family is revisited as Chili prepares for her roll as an elf in the school Christmas pageant and now fifteen-year old Ruby experiences her first kiss

-A young woman poses as a psychic medium to scam a grieving man who has lost his daughter and whose wife is dying of ovarian cancer in this Christmas ghost story

-an unexpected delivery startles and complicates the life of a family whose teenaged daughter is preparing for their church's first Living Nativity event

-a young woman helping make wreaths during the holiday season witnesses brutal violence between a father and his middle son on a farm, a sad death, and is the victim of an assault, yet she finds love and the pathway to her future on Christmas Eve in this same place

-a struggling musician longs to be part of an Irish band but doesn't feel he has enough talent. His life is transformed when one of the band members stands up for him and wins him the coveted place in the band he longs to be a member of and he finds the love his heart longs for, as well

-a young boy, his ailing brother and his worried mother find respite from a cold Christmas in the cozy, home of a warm and generous elderly woman whose Christmas cakes are legendary in town

-Santa's son, who will be taking over as the one-and-only Santa from his father, pays a visit to Jack Frost's tailor shop to order his own custom red velvet suit, as all Santa Clauses have done throughout time, only to discover that Jack has gone missing and Jack's daughter is frantic with worry. Will he be able to solve the mystery of Jack's disappearance, win the heart of Jack's daughter and make her his Mrs. Claus, and have his red velvet suit finished, in time for his first Christmas Eve ride as Santa Claus as his father retires?

GOOD LUCK naming Volume Three! I can't wait to see what you come up with! DEADLINE for title submission is September 6, 2015 at 6PM EST! Winners will receive a copy of all three volumes (retail value of $14.99 each) which will be signed with acknowledgement inside the book as the title contest winner!

On Creating Environments

In every story, every novel, an entire environment has to be created to give the story an anchor, a place in which to unfold.

When I write, I envision a house, a home, a base of operations. It can be a studio apartment, a rural farmhouse, a lakeside mansion-whatever. It springs to life in my mind and that is where my characters come to occupy the site.  From there, their world expands outward. It's like sections of a map being spotlighted and zoomed in on until places of employment, restaurants, and ordinary places like pharmacies and doctor's offices, hospitals and parks spring into existence.

Sometimes, I base an environment on a real place where I have been. Most often though, I invent the who enchilada while only occasionally setting it in a place where I have been, or would like to visit. Mainly, it's a fictional town or area developed in my imagination, where my characters have free reign to enact their individual stories.

I like creating places almost as much as I like creating characters. I especially like creating houses- I have a passion for certain styles of architecture. In the as yet unpublished Ghost Chasers series, I have a haunted Second Empire-style mansion (think Psycho house on steroids), a rambling Queen Ann Victorian house, and a colonial era saltbox farmhouse featured.  There is also an old brick warehouse on the banks of Lake Champlain dating to the 1700's, a turn-of-the-century theatre and a college campus with Federal and Georgian brick architecture.  In the second book in the series, a Federal Colonial period sea captain's home that is now an inn is featured. In The Subtlety of Light and Shadow the Perspectives Art Gallery is housed within a gothic-style mansion on the shore of Whisper Lake. Royce's family home is a stucco,timber and fieldstone mansion in the English Tudor style, on Bolt Lake. In the as yet unpublished (much to Kelly's annoyance) Talon: An Intimate Familiarity Bryce Briscoe lives in a third floor, tiny studio apartment above a bridal shop. In the same novel, Dr. James Elliott lives in an large, elegant penthouse apartment in a more modern high rise in the city, while Dr. Giles Talon lives in a restored brownstone row house on a tree-lined street beside a park in the same city. In Making the Right Choice, a novelette included in Love Me Knots, Jesse Cooper lives in a 6-room, clapboard, classic farmhouse with additions, barns and outbuildings in New Hampshire.

These are the stages on which my characters perform. I've always felt that the stage is as important as the characters and their stories. The most unusual stage that I've created was in a sci-fi story called White Girl which primarily takes place in a sort of Starbucks-type, designer coffee bar outside of which a major battle is being fought in an alternate realm while the ordinary human beings passing by its windows are living their lives completely unaware of what is going on in the parallel universe so close to their own.

I have been influenced in my writing by Charles Dickens and many others. In a few words, Dickens could paint a portrait of a place. You could see it in your mind, and feel it as well. I strive for that sort of thing because environment gives rise to atmosphere- the very air and feeling in which the actions take place within the story.

I pay close attention to environments- whether it be an elegant restaurant, a roadside stand, a Co-Op food market, a house with secret passages within its walls, a cold barn in winter, a lakeside bungalow under renovation, a small apartment, a sprawling mansion, a museum full of bladed ancient and medieval weapons...whatever the location, the place where characters meet and interact, it is as important to the story as everything else.

Even though it's fiction- I want to build a realistic world in which my characters live and their stories unfold. I want to create a world that the reader can feel a sense of familiarity with, a place that might be someplace they once visited or would like to visit. It's a connection to the reader, for the reader, that will draw them into the story, into the lives of the characters and make them want to know what happens to these people.

Environment is as important as anything else when crafting a story. It is the stage- and a poorly designed stage will cause your characters to stumble and lose their places.

Writers are not just people who create other people and make them do things in order to tell a story- they are also architects, interior designers. landscapers, city planners and developers. They have to create a realistic world that helps the reader connect with the characters through a sense of the familiar.

I enjoy creating places and setting the stage on which my characters live their lives as much as I enjoy creating these people who have stories to tell.

Sometimes, though, it is the house that comes first and everything else just follows!

Characters Who Refuse to be Forgotten- Benjamin "Beans" Carter Rex

When we first meet 'Beans' he is with his best friend Amanda Pennington at her father's funeral. He is a geeky, awkward young man who has been virtually female-repellent his entire life, although he is a gorgeous guy, in reality with raven black hair and dark, dark eyes.  His skin is chalky white, however, and in his early adolescence he was plagued by skin lesions that he describes as "small Mayan temples jutting" from his flesh.

With the death of brilliant physician/geneticist/scientist/bioengineer Leonard Pennington, Amanda is left with all his unfinished business. She has inherited his mountainside laboratory where he conducted many of his experiments. She's familiar with the lab because he used to take her there when she was younger, but when she hit adolescence he stopped taking her. Benny, or 'Beans' as she has always called him, has been a part of her life since she was young. His parents allegedly perished in a flaming car wreck when he was only a few months old. He has been fostered by a couple who were connected to Amanda's father's laboratory. When he turned thirteen, these foster parents gave guardianship of Benny to Pennington, and Pennington installed the teenager in the carriage house apartment on his own estate, with house privileges. 'Beans' and Amanda are close in age, have gone to school together and both have attended Hawthorn University, where Pennington taught and had connections with both the University and it's associated hospital. Beans is now employed there in the computer department- setting up faculty computers, maintaining the system, helping students with computer issues. Amanda is going for her PhD in biomedical engineering. She works in the prosthetics lab where she is developing an artificial limb that is permanent in nature; that will have the capability of allowing the amputee to have feeling in the artificial limb.

Amanda has always adored Benjamin Carter, as she knows him (the Rex, his real surname, having been dropped when he was an infant and taken in by the foster family). Beans has always loved her. But neither one has ever really acted on those feelings until now.  With the death of her father, Amanda is suddenly aware that she can have a fling with Benny if she wants to, and she suddenly wants to. Beans is sort of startled and caught off guard by the idea of intimacy like that with her, but he also wants that-rather desperately.

They are awkward with one another at first and there is some misunderstanding initially, but once they become lovers they discover a surprising, blazing passion for one another.

They also discover, in her father's secret files, some startling, and unnerving truths about themselves. They are genetically altered, bioengineered products of her father's lab tinkering and design. They both have certain unusual abilities built into them- Amanda can literally fly, and she can shoot lightning bolts from her palms and fingertips. She sparks when in a highly emotional state or aroused. she has the ability to sense what other people are feeling. Beans can run inhumanly fast, he can hurl flaming fireballs from the palms of his hands, he has enhanced hearing, and he gets a red glow about him when agitated or aroused. They find the artifact that re-activates these traits in the wall safe in her father's office in the lab building. This artifact is connected to medallions that they have. Amanda has always worn hers and it reactivates when Beans removes the artifact from the safe for the first time. Beans was told to remove his medallion when he was younger, but he still has it. When he puts his back on, his unusual abilities are re-activated- and they discover they have the ability to communicate psychically with one another as well- which was probably why Beans was told to remove his medallion in the past.

There is also a chinchilla lab animal in her father's private lab that they bring home. They soon discover that the chinchilla is also an "archetype" created by Pennington- it turns into a larger, spikey-furred, red-eyed attack animal!

Among all the cartons of lab journals, notebooks and files, they make additional unnerving discoveries- they are not Pennington's first archetypes- there have been others, before them and after.

Layers of deceit and manipulation are peeled back and the young couple has to cope with their abilities, their new relationship, the shocking secrets from the past, the sudden reappearance of Beans' 'dead' parents, Beans' Rex heritage, the shattering discovery that Amanda has a half sister that she never knew about who is also an archetype and who was chosen by Pennington to be impregnated by Beans' donated specimen. Ariana is wildly attracted to Benny because Pennington never removed the genetic programming that was originally designed to bind Amanda and Beans as lovers and creators of the next generation of archetypes, but Amanda has a faulty reproductive system and a pregnancy could kill her. So Pennington uses Ariana who is a breeder archetype, designed to reproduce. Her attraction to Beans is a source of irritation to Ami.

Meanwhile, Beans is trying to cope with the reality that he has parents who are still alive, who left him behind to save their own necks from Pennington who planned to have them murdered so that he could gain control of his male archetype- their son Benjamin. The Rexes have been hiding out in Europe under the name Zinn, and they have a second son, Simon. At first Ami and Beans think Simon is just a normal human being, but there is a connection between their longtime house physician and Pennington's lab assistant- and Simon is not all that he appears to be either.

Beans, meanwhile, experiences the reawakening of memories he has locked down deep inside himself when he and Ami visit the basement of the lab building. He has a total meltdown in a secret rocky cavern that terrifies Ami. Beans remembers that Pennington forced him to destroy all his imperfect archetypes- Beans is a murderer!

Beans is a character who evolves as the novel progresses. In the beginning he is a geeky, awkward young man in his early twenties who has been orphaned, fostered, then taken in by Pennington but who has never had a real family of his own- which he desperately longs for. He experiences a sexual awakening and a passionate love, a sense of belonging someplace and that is with Ami. He is very protective of her when they discover secret passages inside her home. He is jolted when she has a minor meltdown and leaps off the deck of the carriage house apartment- and flies for him for the first time. He's coping with a lot of things, and then he has to deal with the reawakened memories, the return of his 'dead' parents, the fact that he has a handsome, younger brother who has lived the life he has always dreamed about having, the fact that Amanda's sister was impregnated with his sample without his knowledge and that Ariana lusts after him, and then the fact that someone is out to kill both him and Amanda. He suddenly has more than any one young man can handle and cope with on his plate.  He is struggling with it, working through it, and trying to find his true self through all of this turmoil that has suddenly erupted and made his life chaotic after twenty-something years of being somewhat of a loner with only Ami for a friend.

Beans has to decide for himself whether or not he wants to be a Rex. Thaddeus and Scarlett are his natural parents. Pennington altered his genetic make-up and tinkered with him in the lab, but essentially, he is still a Rex, and the Rexes have certain traits that he also possesses- great passion, and cold-blooded ruthlessness,  It's finding the balance between the two that is his challenge- and by the end of the novel, he has found that balance and is comfortable, at last, with who he is.

Beans just sprang to life on the pages and came into his own basically on his own. The Archetypes-First Generation is essentially about Amanda Pennington's discovery of what her father has done in creating archetypes like herself and Beans. She also is struggling to come to grips with all the lies, deceit and manipulation that has crumbled her carefully crafted life. Beans is her sidekick, who suddenly becomes her equal partner- and together they make a strong couple.

And in their great passion for one another, they create a son of their own- Tiger.  Tiger and his 'cousin' Pierce (Ariana's son from Beans' donation, and now Simon's son since he marries Ariana) are second generation archetypes since they are both the product of two archetypes without lab tinkering.

There is a sequel to The Archetypes-First Generation that will be published next year in which Beans and Amanda are still dealing with the results of her father's mad science, threats to their and their families' lives, and a terrifying discovery that all the original archetypes Pennington had created in his lab have been preprogrammed to destroy one another at some unknown point in time. Amanda must rush to find an antidote that will save her family from self destruction.

Beans remains one of my favorite characters because he has an epic struggle to rise above a rather sad and lonely past as he seeks to find his own true self through an ever expanding web of lies.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Characters Who Refuse to be Forgotten- Rex Royce, an introduction

Rex Royce is the darkest, most damaged character I have ever written. He is a man of around 31-years of age who grew up among the wealthy and privileged class in the Adirondack Lakes Region.  He was the only son of multi-millionaire Quentin Durant who was not a nice man. Rex's real name was Alexander Durant. Alexander was different from his father. He was born with his aunt's sensitive, artistic nature. He loved to paint, but was forbidden to do so; told that artists are mentally unstable. His mother was distant and did nothing to intervene between father and son. Alexander had a younger sister with a rare genetic blood disorder, an often fatal type of anemia. Alex spent his life having to hide his passion for art. He would sneak out of the house to paint in a stone cottage a mile and a half away from the main house when everyone else was asleep. He painted 437 works of art that he had to keep hidden from the world there.

Alexander and Alexis got along well, but it shattered his heart when she died as a teenager. He was sent to Harvard to study business with the expectation that he would take over the family business. He had trouble forming relationships, but he was handsome and girl's were attracted to him, so he had numerous, brief affairs in college with no emotional involvement. He had already learned to be remote, distant as an act of self preservation, to protect the sensitive artistic real Alexander.

Quentin and Magdalena Durant died in a plane crash in South America around the time that Alexander graduated from Harvard.  He was the sole heir of the Durant estate. As he plotted to make Alexander Durant disappear, he created Rex Royce and shifted ownership of the Durant businesses, properties and finances to Royce's various corporations and holdings. And then Alex simply disappeared, an alleged suicide, jumping off a sailboat that he was sailing alone- never being seen again.

Alex recreated himself as the brilliant, talented yet intensely private and difficult Rex Royce. He bought his great-uncle's estate at Whisper Lake and renovated it into a prestigious art gallery, with living quarters for himself on the third floor. He found three other artists with similar talent and they were assigned private studios on the second floor where he has his own studio (in the west wing). No one is allowed into Royce's studio, nor the room where his finished canvases are stored-ever. The other three artists, however, welcome visitors.
Royce acquires a reputation for brief affairs- basically one night stands. Women are still very attracted to him because he is devilishly handsome and extremely wealthy, but he lets no one get close to him. He immerses himself in his art. His canvases reveal a sensitive man with an eye for the natural beauty in the world. His art is acclaimed and highly sought after. He is a prolific artist. Yet, he is basically a lonely, unhappy man- one who aches to be loved and understood, accepted for who he is, but who has built walls around himself, and constructed a persona that is unapproachable and resistant to love.

And then, along comes young Lucie Palmer, a pretty, young redhead from Saratoga Springs who applies for the job at Royce's gallery of Public Relations and Promotions Manager. She has a college degree, but very little practical experience. She has talent and enthusiasm, and a pure radiance of character that immediately draws Royce's attention. She went to private all girls schools so is not experienced with men. At twenty-three, she is still a virgin. The gallery manager, who is currently having a fling with Royce and thinks that she's going to land a big fish, does not think much of the girl, but Royce intervenes and Lucie is hired.

Lucie is warned never to speak to Royce unless he speaks first. She's a little intimidated by him, but from the very first day he comes up with assignments for her, giving her all his personal business letters to type. He's cold and rude, and seemingly angry all the time with her, even though she is desperately trying her best to do exactly as he wishes. Yet, with each encounter, there is a small sign that there is something more than meets the eye going on. Royce is attracted to her. He finds her fascinating. He begins drawing her. Lucie becomes his muse.

Although he continues to frighten, exasperate, frustrate and anger her- he always does something for her that is unexpected, and is, in retrospect, thoughtful and generous. Rex Royce is a man in conflict with his true self at this point. He desperately wants young Lucie because she inspires him, incites him, inflames him- yet he continues to repel her. He is two men struggling to find a way to hold onto her, to make her understand how much she means to him-and seemingly failing.

Yet, Lucie is drawn to him. He fascinates her, and gradually she comes to realize that although he is distant and difficult, he is always doing incredible, unexpected things for her. He promotes her to gallery manager, he gives her money to help her out when she is nearly broke- and this allows her to find a better living situation than the squalid little apartment above a café that was all she could afford when she first moved to Whisper Lake. He basically shows her that he has trust and faith in her by allowing her to run his gallery. He has a financial and business manager, Johnson Powell (a powerful, intelligent man who is ex-Special Ops who oversees everything related to Royce's personal and professional business matters and knows his secrets).

Lucie likes a young man named Miller at the gallery but there is no romantic spark there. They're just friends. But, she does discover her own desire for Royce after he gifts her with a very sweet painting of a fox vixen. They continue to argue and have misunderstandings though. He is rather passive-aggressive, which is how he has managed to cope with his life- but his budding relationship, his overwhelming desire for her begins to change him, to chisel away at the hard, icy edges of Rex Royce.

Lucie has also inadvertently discovered the Durant family while researching the Maurice Durant mansion in which the gallery is housed. She's followed links and found Quentin and Magdalena in nearby Dana at Bolt Lake, and read about their son Alexander who has mysteriously vanished and is presumed dead, and Alexis who died at seventeen years of age. While visiting another artist to get contracts signed, she idly browses through some Dana yearbooks while the artists takes a phone call, and is jolted to recognize Rex Royce in one of the group pictures. Only Rex is identified as Alexander Durant in the photo caption. Lucie has inadvertently discovered Royce's deepest secret- and Royce is aware that she may know because he had found all the research she had printed out and seen the pages about his own family and gotten furious and panicked about how close she was to the truth about him.

Although he has difficulty reconciling the two sides of his nature- the real sensitive, artistic side of him and the cold, remote, impersonal side he's constructed to protect that true nature against what he perceives as a cruel world trying to destroy it- he is able to relax and loosen up somewhat while with Lucie, the only woman who knows the truth about him, accepts it, and actually loves him for who he really is.  He is still afraid to love as deeply as she does- afraid of rejection. He does not trust himself to be able to give Lucie that kind of whole-hearted love in return- yet, in reality, he loves her with his entire heart and soul; he just cannot express that to her.

When she is threatened by an artist with a habit of seducing young females, for sadistic and cruel satisfaction, Royce maneuvers behind the scenes with the aid of Powell to capture Sebastian Rose, although they need to use Lucie as the bait to do so, knowing Rose wants to hurt her, and possibly kill her, to hurt Royce for kicking him out of the gallery and ruining his life. They manage to rescue Lucie, who is relatively unharmed physically, but their relationship suffers a tremendous blow when during this emotionally volatile time she reveals that she's pregnant. Royce had a vasectomy and believes he cannot possibly be the father. His trust in her is shaken to the core. He believes that she's cheated on him because he cannot believe that he could be the father.

Yet-he still loves her. His world revolves around her- and when he learns that she really is leaving the gallery, his world rapidly begins to crumble faster, as if there has been an earthquake in his heart and soul. He has himself tested and is shocked, yet relieved to find that he is capable of fathering a child. He's stressed and worried that the baby will inherit the genetic blood disorder, but he wants Lucie to know that he cared enough about her to have the test even though they aren't speaking to one another at the moment. That night- communicating via text messages- Lucie looks at the report he gave her, realizes what it is and what it means. He has acknowledged that he's the father, that he was wrong. He is curious about the sex of the baby and she has to tell him that it is a girl, knowing how wrenching it will be for him to learn this. And, ultimately- he is right there on her doorstep wanting to be with her, wanting to go forward, wanting to be with her and the baby. He is less like Rex Royce and more like Alexander Durant- yet he will always be two men- the real Alexander and the remote Royce but with Lucie he is the one and only man that she loves- and he is finally able to tell her in words that he loves her too.

When Alexander was a teenager he painted a work depicting a leering demon dragging an innocent red-haired angel down a rough, sulfurous stairway to Hell. The demon had captured the radiant being and was going to destroy her. That is how he envisioned himself with Lucie- she is the radiant being and he is the demon who will destroy her- yet, the angel turns out to be his redemption and salvation. That is the theme of the book- love is Alexander's salvation.

Rex was a difficult character to write because he is so damaged by his past. As he points out, the rich and privileged are no less capable of being violent and abusive than any other class of people despite their wealth. He's been deeply hurt growing up, yet, he and his sister had a close relationship and made life better for one another. He was devastated by her death. He has issues, but from the very first meeting with Lucie in Aea Porter's office at her interview, we already see little signs that something is different. Lucie realizes this also, after the fact. No one talks to him, no one touches him or interacts with him unless he initiates the encounter- yet she unknowingly thanks him and puts her hand out to shake his hand after her interview- and though he hesitates, surprised and caught off guard by this innocent action on her part, he does briefly grasp her hand, and he does speak to her, one brief sentence, before walking out the door. It is out of character for him to have done such a thing. And then, when she is not even settled yet in her tiny office in a former dressing room, he appears with a letter for her to type. He has this desire to see her again, to interact with her. He cannot stay away from her- he is drawn to her. She is his angel personified, and she is his muse...and she is his heart's desire. The book is all about his struggle to reconcile these things, and Lucie's struggle to help him see and accept that he can love and be loved in return.

Readers may not like him- but if you go back to day one and trace his actions throughout the entire book- everything he does, he does for Lucie because he loves her, but doesn't know how to express his feelings otherwise to her. He is generous with her, he takes her for medical treatment after he causes her to get a large sliver, he arranges top medical care for her when she is sick, he provides her the money she needs for gowns for the exhibitions, he gifts her jewelry to wear with the gowns, he promotes her so that she has a better income and the ability to upgrade her living situation, he paints romantic and beautiful pictures for her, he rescues her from the clutches of Rose, not once, but twice, he allows her free reign to run the gallery even when he doesn't always agree with her choices of exhibiting artists or activities...everything he does shows her how he feels about her even though he remains difficult to interact with...but gradually he changes as more of Alexander emerges from behind the cold façade of Rex.

The Subtlety of Light and Shadow was my 2015 Golden Heart contest entry for Romance Writers of America. I am not a true romance writer, but I gave it another shot. I recently received my "report card" back from the contest. Five judges read the novel. Judge #1 rated it 8.90 of 10, Judge #2 rated it 7.20 of 10, Judge #3 rated it 10 of 10 (I LOVE Judge #3, whoever she was!), Judge #4 rated it 5 of 10 (evidently lacking heart for a romance writer!), and Judge #5 rated it 6.30 of 10.  Overall, I received a rating of 7.466666667.  Generally, I was happy with that score.

In conclusion- although Rex Royce was the hardest character to create, he is the most dear to my heart because every woman secretly wants to rescue a dark, damaged man and 'fix' (love and nurture) him. In this novel, Lucie manages to do just that.

Friday, August 28, 2015


It occurred to me that one week is not a very long time to give people to think of a title for a book. Therefore, I am extending the CONTEST DEADLINE by 6 additional days. The Name My Christmas Story Collection will end at 6PM on Friday, September 4, 2015.

If your suggested title for the collection is chosen then you will win a free copy of the book ( a $14.99 retail value) bearing your title, plus you will be acknowledged as the winner of the Name the Book Contest inside the book on the dedication page.  I'll also sign the book to you.

Put on your thinking caps and come up with a creative title for this volume (if you don't win this contest, don't worry. I have two more Christmas story collections coming!)

Stories subjects in this first collection include:

the rollicking Riley family celebrates the holiday with their five children getting up to some Christmas Mischief

a young woman's prayer is answered on Christmas Eve

a little girl finds a silver sleigh bell in the street that she is certain was lost by one of Santa's reindeer

the congregation of a church who have lost their leader gather to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass in the village church

a widow and her young daughter are surprised by a stranger's kindness at Christmas

A man and a woman who have both suffered personal tragedies are untied by the placement of a window that has been salvaged from a burnt out cathedral in a newly constructed battered women's shelter

a young woman loses everything but still has the best Christmas ever

A department store CEO with no holiday spirit encounters one of his Customer Service reps who has an over abundance of holiday spirit- and he fires her!

A fish-out-of-water NYC director arrives in a coastal Maine town to direct their playhouse version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol when their longtime director is unable to participate due to health issues.


Characters Who Refuse to be Forgotten- Dr. Giles Talon, an Introduction

I have certain characters who refuse to remain neatly tucked away in the pages of their novels or stories collection.

One of those characters is Dr. Giles Talon who appears in three novels (the original and two sequels) and is a favorite of mine and Kelly's.  He is a supernatural being living on earth as a medical professional. He is a handsome man, but his personality leaves a lot to be desired. He is abrupt, cold, rude, and hardly anyone can tolerate him. Yet, there is one person on earth who inflames his passion- and that is misfit, socially awkward, young Bryce Briscoe who has been labeled a freak all her life by her peers, and even by members of her own family. She is accident prone, has "died" several times- but Dr.Talon has always been there, her entire life, to save her life, to bring her back. His deepest, darkest secret is that he is a grim reaper. Bryce is not who or what she thinks she is. She is also a supernatural being born into the human world, chosen by Talon shortly after she was given her 'glow' by her guardian angel. He adored the little copper-haired being when she still resided in the Heavenly realms, and has followed her since her birth- yet he completely lacks social skills and interpersonal skills which complicates their working relationship as well as any developing personal relationship at work- he becomes the Medical Examiner working out of the Revere City Morgue after the passing of the elderly doctor who held the position previously, a man who had more or less adopted Bryce when she was floundering on her own in the city.

Talon is a complex character because he is evolving throughout the novel. He is a reaper, therefore he does not have personal feelings, emotions. He does his job. He is also a defender of Heaven and earth against demons and beasts seeking to gain entry. One of his main issues is that Bryce Briscoe is his chosen portal, therefore, she is a direct passageway between Heaven and earth through which the souls he reaps pass. Bryce is vulnerable and needs his protection. Talon, as he is known in Heaven and the realms outside of earth, commands a large army of Guardians and Warriors who are much like him- emotionless warriors who fight to the death. Talon has a few trusted Guardians and Warriors living as humans on earth. They reside in his brownstone home, for the most part, although one lives rogue in the city, but works under him in the Morgue.

Talon is also a highly sexual being- it is his major outlet, I guess you'd call it. Because he is a handsome 'human'- women are attracted to him, so he has had many brief incendiary affairs. This complicates his relationship with Bryce, who is both repelled by his cold nature and attracted to the smoking hot side of him. While he is still alive, Dr. Elliott acts as a buffer between the two. He is also more than he appears to be- he is a member of the Heavenly Council of the Throne of One, and so is his late wife.

Then there is Edward Wrisley, a good-natured human who adores Bryce and wants to be her boyfriend.  And Dr, Liliya Romanenko who is a colleague of Dr. Talon's at Central Hospital. She is Dr. Talon's lover when Bryce first starts working at the Morgue. Romanenko despises Bryce and is not shy about venting her feelings of disdain on the younger girl.

During the course of the novel, Talon gradually discovers human emotions and feelings hidden deep within his complex make-up. These feelings have actually been developing since Bryce was first born on earth, with every brief encounter he has had with her- the toboggan accident when she is four, the gypsy and ice cream shop meeting when she is nine, the bike accident when she is twelve, the near date-rape incident when she is sixteen...he has always been there for her in times of crisis. But when the time arrives for him to begin training her as his portal- he balks, procrastinates and creates emotional turmoil for Bryce, which leads to dangerous situations for her as her highly emotional states allow beasts to break through into the world. And the dead begin trying to communicate with her because they know what she is. And Talon is jealous of Ed who so easily gets along with Bryce.

The turning point comes when she is nearly killed by an out of control vehicle that pins her to the wall of a Chinese restaurant. Basically, she should be dead, but Talon happens to be there, as he has always been there when she's had an accident and while Romanenko shouts at him that he is wasting his time trying to save her life he refuses to let Bryce go. Bryce's spirit ascends to Heaven where she meets Dr. Elliott in the Meadow of Meditation, a place where souls can go to decide whether or not they will return to their bodies in times like these. He sends her back by pushing her backwards off a cliff.

From then on- Talon is a little more human and develops more personality because now he realizes that he does not want to lose his chosen portal- and he is realizing what the human sentiment called love is all about. He loves her, yet he is struggling to understand that feeling. He has always been aware of this sexual attraction to her, and he has initiated a relationship with her in his incorporeal form as Dr. Talon- which she believes are just very realistic sexual dreams about the icy cold doctor and how she wants him to behave when he's with her- her desires awakening and her fantasies evolving of a more human Dr. Talon- which confuses her because he remains icy in reality at the time.

Even after he finally tells her that she is his chosen portal, and how she came to be in the world their relationship remains rocky, but it is also developing and growing stronger. He is trying to be what she wants him to be in the world while battling demons and beasts that are trying to get to her from the other realms. There are increased attacks as she become stronger and grows into her role as the reaper's portal.

Talon struggles to merge the human with the supernatural inhuman. He is not really human so for him it is a more difficult feat- to be everything that Bryce wants him to be. The turning point is when they are thrown out of Heaven, banished, sent back to earth. He sees her lying crumpled on the shore of the lake and is certain that he has lost her for all eternity, that she is dead. He cradles her cold, limp body, in his reaper form, and he weeps for the first time ever at the bitter sting of loss, at the wrenching pain of lost love. His tears revive her.

Writing Talon's character was not easy. He hurts Bryce often and they have a volatile relationship throughout the novel- but there is this grand passion that exists between them, that develops and evolves and blazes forth. He evolves...and, I can't forget him.  I want to explore his character some more and see where he is now. day....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's 8PM and I'm Home

I absolutely hate days where I have to work all day, rush home, wolf down dinner, then immediately fly out the door to run errands. It's 8PM already and I feel like, though I've been on the go all day, I have accomplished nothing constructive.

I actually have been busy though, squeezing in editing and proofing time on volume 2 of the Christmas Stories. I am nearly finished with the last story for that volume, a novella titled The Winter Solstice Ball. I have maybe ten pages to go. The ex-fiancé has just shown up at the resort hotel to try to throw a monkey wrench into Seth and Lydia's newly blossoming romance. The local police help them out.

Then it'll be on to doing the clean-up of the seven stories that will be included in volume three. In all, each book will have approximately 80,000 or just over 300 pages.

Gave my last advance copy of Love Me Knots away today to a retired friend. I think it's found a good home. I have re-ordered stock to have on hand...due to arrive 09/09 as it's a mix of all 8 books that I've self-published so far. With the three Christmas volumes I'll have done 11 books since June 4. I think I can do a twelfth and then I need to get busy writing again (not that I have any shortage of stories for future volumes next year- but I need to take a breath and start getting these properly copyrighted. Have the forms I need and the mailers to send the two best copies that are required. It tales 13 or so months to get the official copyright from the Library of Congress.

Revere is lounging on the throw rug in front of the sink. There's a nice cool summer breeze wafting in through the kitchen screen door. It was a beautiful day.  I miss working nights even though I never got enough sleep working 11PM-7AM because by the time I got home and ate something then relaxed and unwound (from campus police work as the night shift supervisor which could be stressful, especially at bar closing time), got to bed and finally fell asleep then my first shift, I go in early so I can get out early, husband would come banging into the apartment making all sorts of noise, waking me up, wanting to eat dinner at five o'clock so he could sit down and relax and watch sports before going to bed! I was constantly exhausted, but I loved working at night. John just never got it into his head that he was waking me up in the middle of my sleep time- so, after Kelly was born, I became a stay at home Mom for awhile, readjusted to the normal Circadian rhythm- but, if truth be told, I am still a night owl and seldom fall into bed until midnight despite having to get up at 6AM. And my best sleep is between 7AM and 9AM (I know this from being able to sleep in on weekends and Wednesday mornings.  I miss walking up in the athletic fields under the stars and planets and the moon in all its phases, the screeching of the pheasants (very similar to peacocks), the occasional glimpse of a fox.

Time to move on and finish up that last story before my self-imposed midnight bedtime. Another work day tomorrow...

Buck- you still can make me smile!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Day Off

I need to vent.

I now have Wednesdays off from work. I like having this day off mid-week. It allows me to sleep in and get the rest my body needs, to catch up on housework in peace, and to do things that I want to do but can't accomplish while working, or during the evening when the house is noisy (because if I do anything that makes noise, like run the vacuum cleaner, or hold a conversation then the volume on the TV is raised in response) and everyone is needing something, felines included. So- what does my husband do today? He decides to work from home. 

I am beyond annoyed.

I do not have access to the main computer where I wanted to  move some files to my flash drive and put them on the notebook so I could work on them. Can't do that because he's made a project out of updating my little Dell notebook- my tried and true trouper, and he's using the main computer to work from home. He's basically in my way on the one solitary day a week that I might have 8 blessedly peaceful hours all to myself.


I feel better now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Personal Assistant

When I first started self publishing my books, nearly three whole months ago, my good friend Gail at work volunteered to be my personal assistant should I ever become famous and have to go to New York City for whatever reason- book signing deal, publicity appearance, etc. She said, "I'm your girl!" and I agreed that she was and Id be happy to have her with me. We laugh a lot. She loves my stories. I love her stories! I'm a writer, she's a verbal story teller. She gives me lots of ideas.

I'd also take my best friend, Darlene. She likes to travel. Mary has volunteered to be my driver. She's been to New York City before. I have never been there.

I've sold one copy of all eight books to one buyer. I am so used to just giving things to people that it was a totally foreign concept to me to accept payment for the books. Yes, I have to pay for them, but I sort of cringe about having people pay me for reading my stuff. I have a very mutant generosity gene. My mother had it too. I need treatment for that-some kind of gene alteration- before I'll ever feel comfortable about taking money from people in exchange for books. I must learn to wrap my head around this whole business and get comfortable with it.

Today, I posted the Christmas Story book naming contest on the kitchen bulletin board at work. I don't think the one week deadline was too popular, but I have three of these volumes to get prepped and printed before the holiday season is upon us (four months to Christmas today, as it was pointed out to me by Mary S. at work today) In the book world- Christmas books are supposed to be available as early as September. I have one about to go, two lengthy stories to edit and proofread for volume two then all of volume three to turn my attention to...I am behind schedule!

My personal assistant is on vacation next week- I will sorely miss her. We keep one another sane at work. Our jobs sometimes merge and we have to figure out which one of us has to do what...and we work at opposite sides of the huge main office. I have a path worn to her desk and she has worn a path to mine. Sometimes we use the phone, but that ties up the line. We need to see one another, face-to-face, because so much is accomplish with subtle facial expressions and certain gestures. We communicate in that silent language so well! That's why she's going to be my personal assistant- we read one another s easily as we read books!

So, Gail- if New York ever calls- be prepared to drop everything because you're going with me! I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind!

My Cat is Hopeless

On November 19, 2011 John took me to the Homeless Cat Project shelter to adopt a kitten after the sudden death at age five of my tuxedo cat, Diego.  Kelly was away at college but would be home soon for Thanksgiving break. We went into the shelter, and I had a tabby or tiger kitten in mind, but there was nary a striped kitten to be had. We wandered around through the garage looking into every cage, then were allowed into the family room of the house where additional kittens and young cats frolicked about- homely little things, all of them. I was sorely disappointed. I wanted a companion for Kelly's young cat, Revere. We'd adopted him in June on the day before her 20th birthday after the mysterious disappearance of the adorable polydactyl gray tiger kitten Isador. I didn't want little Revere being home alone without a companion when John and I were at work, and Kelly away at Worcester Polytech. Discouraged, we went back out into the entry area. One of the volunteers said, "Well, we have one more you can look at." She opened the door into another area and led us to a cage where a solitary short-haired gray kitten with a white mark on the left side of his muzzle was. She lifted him out and told us that he'd been in foster care with a woman whose sister is a veterinarian. The kitten's name was Beans.

Well, she put Beans into my arms and he looked up into my eyes through perfect green eyes, then burrowed his face into the crook of my arm. He won me over with his sweet nature, so we made the adoption donation and took him home. He immediately took over Kelly's room. Revere, who was maybe 7 months old to Beans' 4 months, did not like this strange cat in his Kelly's room. We spent the weekend trying to acclimatize the two young cats- but Revere was still spitting and hissing at Beans on Monday morning when I had to go to work. With trepidation, I advised them to get along and behave themselves, then left the house, to Revere hissing and spitting at Beans who was cowering under our bed.

We came home to two young cats who were playing together. They've been buddies ever since. But here's what's odd...Revere is very family oriented. I labeled him "involved" and the vet liked that term. Revere thinks he's one of us. He hangs with us, watches TV, wants to see what we're doing and be involved in every day life.

Beans on the other hand, I swear to God, has an attention deficit disorder. We actually call him Two Second Beanie because that is about the length of his attention span. He is the sweetest little guy, very affectionate...for two seconds, anyway.

Beans had juvenile gingival hyperplasia when we adopted him. He had, garbage breath. It was lethal. The simple act of his breathing could stink up a room. His vet told us the only cure would be to send him to a veterinary dentist in central MA where all his teeth would be extracted. Beans was 4 months old! I couldn't fathom yanking the teeth out of a cat that young. I balked. The vet agreed to see what he could do himself with a laser and a good cleaning. Four teeth were extracted, his gums were lasered back and the remainder of his teeth were cleaned and polished. His breath improved immensely. He has had regular dental cleanings and he's outgrown his hyperplasia- thank God. He's a much happier little fella and no longer considered "chronic."

He likes his ears rubbed- will practically turn himself inside out to get an ear rub. He likes his ears rubbed on a stack of file boxes in the basement, or in the linen closet where he likes to sleep on a striped towel. You can hold him in your arms, where he still burrows his face into the crook of your arm- for two seconds, before he literally leaps out of your arms onto his cat platform, or whatever piece of furniture is closest. He has an amazing ability to leap- only he leaps upward first and then forward. I don't know how he does it- but he makes some amazing jumps. He'd be a great circus cat- if he wasn't so easily distracted.

He likes what I call quiet play- one on one play time, usually on our bed and it involves hiding a mouse with a rattle in it under the flannel blanket so he can reach under and manipulate it with both front paws, and then maybe burrow his head under there as well. Every evening after dinner he starts racing up and down the hall, and he'll bellow at us and give us his wild-eyed stare- meaning he's ready to play, only when you go to play with him he flops down in the hallway against the wall and looks at you like you're insane. If I throw a toy mouse he'll peel out, paws flying a la Scooby Doo and take off after it, but he always misses his target-blows right by it, then abruptly stops and starts looking around as if he can't remember why he's in the den, or Kelly's room, or the living room. He's totally forgotten what he's doing! Why? Because it's taken longer than two seconds for him to get from point A to point B.

Everything is on his terms- and everything is really not much when you come right down to it. He loves his Taste of the Wild food pellets. He loves his lysine treats prescribed by the vet to boost his auto immune system. He loves beef flavored Temptations treats. That's all he eats...although he might sneak a few bites of wet food here and there.

Somewhere around age one my homely little short-haired little gray cat also transformed into a very fluffy, long-haired, absolutely gorgeous cat. Kelly has a baby picture of him hanging on her wall. You really wouldn't know that kitten and this cat are one and the same although they have identical markings. Beans "poofed" out sometime between age 1 and age 2. He also acquired a new name- Kelly dubbed him Riley when she first met him over Thanksgiving 2011. Now, he is so soft and fluffy, we nicknamed him Bunny. Incredibly enough, he responds to all three names- so there is some memory retention in his head.

My best memory of Beans is the day I let him go outside with me when he was maybe a year and a half old. I keep both cats inside now because we lost cats to the wildlife, but I figured he'd be fine with me on a sunny afternoon for a few minutes- just to experience the feel of grass beneath his paws.
Well, we were in the backyard and all of a sudden he goes tearing off toward the woods then veers right into the neighbors backyard beyond the tall arbor vitae hedge. I am like, Oh, my God!...he's fast! I can't run anymore because of the rheumatoid arthritis, and I don't do well trying to walk on lawns and other uneven surfaces- so I sort of limped across the backyard and around the hedge...and I don't see him at first. I'm beginning to panic...but finally I spot the little gray fluff ball all the way across their half acre back yard near the arbor vitae hedge on that side of their property. He's standing there looking totally baffled- like, well, here's the hedge, but that's not what my house looks like...I just cracked up. He was lost one yard away from home. Finally, I called him. At the sound of my voice he came bolting toward me- bounding across their grass, nearly flying he was going so fast! I crouched down to catch him and he blew right past me back into our yard! The little devil!

I had to chase him around the yard before I finally managed to scoop him up and haul him back indoors. He has had very, very few closely supervised excursions outdoors since then. I have no doubt that if he was an outdoor cat he'd get lost and we'd never see him again.

Riley Beans is hopeless- he's sweet as pie, but he doesn't understand the concept of play. We try...but mainly I am the one tossing the toy mouse then running to get it so I can throw it again-all the while he lays there on the floor and watches me through those wide, innocent green eyes- as if he's never seen me before in his life. But- truth is, he loves us and we love him, two second attention span or not. he's our little guy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Fictional Riley Family

I created the fictional Riley family- father Charles, a dentist, mother Charlotte, the owner of a used bookstore in the village in which they live, teenager Ruby who has a million girlfriends and a busy social life, bookish, quiet Carmine who is at the awkward cusp of adolescence, nine and seven year old Rusty and Pepper, the mischief makers, and four year-old Chili, a clever little mimic. They live in the old Butterfield farmhouse on Shady Hill Road in rural Vermont.

I've mentioned Rusty and Pepper before- they are based on real brothers who were rather mischievous back in the late 50's or early 60's- the sons of one of my Mom's nursing school friends.

I edited the second holiday story I wrote about the Riley's on Sunday while John and Kelly were out looking at cars for her. Christmas at the Riley's: Carmine Goes to the Dogs is set on Christmas Day. It's chaos in the kitchen as Mrs. Riley tries to prepare Christmas dinner for her family and all the relatives who will be arriving soon. Rusty and Pepper have pulled off a few bits of mischief. Chili is holding court in her holiday finery. But, it is Carmine, the quiet, serious, bookish one, who is the focus of the story. While setting the table, Ruby notices, thanks to her budding feminine intuition, that her almost thirteen-year old brother is unusual subdued and upset. She manages to get him to reveal that he did not get what he wanted most for Christmas, something that had been on his wish list.

Ruby alerts Mrs. Riley whose dinner preparations screech to a halt as she grabs her husband and hauls him upstairs to discuss the problem that they have with Carmine. Mr. Riley, who had Carmine's list, points out that they had agreed not to spoil their children by gifting them everything on their lists. Mrs. Riley wants to see the list, because there is something on it that Carmine had had his heart set on. He finds the list and they see that Carmine had asked for a dog. A brief discussion is held, and a decision made. Mrs. Riley sets wheels in motion to remedy the oversight.

After dinner, Carmine is sent to Mrs. Monroe's with a plate of cookies and other goodies. His father happens to be standing at the gate when he comes out, having just seen some relatives off. He accompanies his son down the hill to Mrs. Monroe's. Carmine thinks his mother is nuts because Mrs. Monroe has plenty of cookies in her kitchen. He thinks it was a wasted trip to bring her more. But then she tells him that Santa has left a present for him under her tree, of all things. He's sent into the parlor to find the gift with the blue bow- and returns hesitantly with the runt of the little, little Trouble, cradled in his arms. He can't quite believe the puppy is his. Mr. Riley regrets not bringing his camera to record the moment when Carmine realizes that Trouble is his, that his Christmas wish has come true.

Yes- I sat here at the kitchen table and literally sobbed. I don't know what it is about this little story, but every time I read it, I cry. Carmine is awkward and vulnerable as he's about to enter the even more difficult adolescent years- a boy struggling to be more grown up, but still a boy whose heart aches for a puppy for companionship. His quiet joy at receiving the puppy just touches me- and reminds me of certain special Christmas gifts I received growing up. I can still feel that elation, that glowing joy. I think it comes across well in this story and, here, Carmine outshines his mischievous younger brothers and his vibrant older sister and his adorable baby sister. This story let's Carmine, the quiet one, hold center stage.

A few years later, I wrote a third Riley family Christmas story. This one about Carmine will be in volume 2. The one about the Christmas pageant in which Chili portrays an elf and Ruby receives her first kiss will be in volume 3.

Maybe this year it's time for another visit with this now familiar family- I'm curious to know what they've been up to since last we looked in on them.

Love Me Knots

Today I distributed a couple free copies of the newly published/printed Love Me Knots at work- two books going to each of my best buds in the workplace (one I've known since before this current job, the other since I started working in this office), and one to a woman who was my late father's friend after my mother passed. She was thrilled to receive a signed copy.

I feel good that these people are happy to receive my work. I work hard putting these books together. The writing part comes naturally and easily. The self publishing part is time consuming, grueling, and frustrating at times, especially when you think you have everything perfect, have some books on demand printed up, open them and immediately start finding little typos and grammar goof-ups. Then it's back to the file to make the corrections, yank the book off Amazon to retool it, check it over again, get another proof copy...accept it, put it back up in the marketplace...and you find another error. Somehow glitches occur in the transfer of the file, I swear. I can't always be me! It just can't (am I in denial here or what?).

I try my best- and I am fairly happy with Love Me Knots because these five stories are my absolute favorite little romances. The cover- purple with a daisy in the middle, was well-received. My brother's favorite color is purple. My best friend Darlene's grandmother was named Daisy and she collects daisy buttons. We'll do a shadowbox one of these days! I promise!

I've edited and proofread four of the six stories heading toward volume II of my Christmas Stories collection. I have had a few responses to the name the book contest- and was kind of caught off guard by someone at work knowing about the contest when they aren't a facebook friend of mine, or know about my least I don't think they are! Well, word is leaking out, I have a small amount of suggestions...Saturday at 6PM I will choose the winning title and let the winner know. The book is ready, cover is designed and everything, just need that elusive title!

John harvested the first two tiny blueberries from his Jelly Bean blueberry bushes this afternoon, and planted the remaining three plants (the butterfly bush and the fireworks fountain grasses). everything looks nice!

I wrote yesterday...Remy and Lissa again, making another attempt to tell their story. They have more to say tonight, so I'm off to take their dictation from where they reside in my head.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Am All Alone

The back door has just shut, receding footsteps have clattered down the deck stairs, car doors have slammed- and they are gone. I am all alone.

This is a rarity- my having the house to myself, some peace and quiet.

John and Kelly have gone off to start exploring her options as far as new cars- she has some specifics in mind as to what she wants and what she doesn't want. With the prospect of a more severe winter (according to the Old Farmer's Almanac) and a 2007 Corolla in need of new tires before the snow's time to find a new car.

Meanwhile-I have blessed peace in which to think without constant interruption or noise pollution interfering with my thought processes. No TELEVISION incessantly droning in the background for the next two hours. I do not watch television because it is just noise to me and does not provide me with a sense of having accomplished something construction. I mean, where would this country be if our forefathers had sat on their asses in front of the TV- "Yo, John, you want to maybe work on that declaration?" "Are you shittin' me Ben? Man Men is on! We can work on that later!" Really- is there any value in wasting your life watching TV? (Let me think- my husband, the Lord of Projects Never Finished, lies on the couch every day glued to the same shows, over and over again. It has gotten to the point where I can practically recite verbatim the words of every Mystery At The Museum episode, and that is just from the show being background noise in my life, not because I've sat in the living room watching it.

John has promised me a grandfather clock since we got married- 31 years ago. I do not have a grandfather clock, and do not expect to have one, unless by some miracle we inherit the one he made for his mother decades ago, before I had even begun dating him. I want bookcases for all my books that are in stacks around the house, in file boxes in the basement. Nope. TV is more important than being productive. I don't understand that mentality. He says it's how he destresses from his day. He tunes the world out, including us by turning up the volume if Kelly and I try to have a conversation. That is insulting and rude. When he is gone, there will be nothing he leaves behind to show he ever lived. He doesn't live. He just exists. Kelly and I live and we have produced huge bodies of written works in our lifetimes so far. We've managed to entertain some people along the way.

I can hear the birds outside, the wind in the trees. I love the sounds of nature. I wish I lived near the ocean...I like the sounds of waves shushing on the beach, cresting and crashing on the shore during storms. I guess you can say I like the simple things in life, not the loud and obnoxious ones.

Today- at this moment- I can relax for once, my ears not assaulted by too loud commercials and voice over actors using persuasive tones to try to convince me the drivel they're presenting is meaningful. I would rather read a book and hear the characters voices in my head, at a volume I can control, at a pace I can relax with.

Oh, thank Heaven for these rare moments of peace and quiet because this is how I distress from the chaotic, demanding world...and it doesn't happen often enough around here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shrubs, and a Contest!

Today's adventure was driving to Enfield, guided by the onboard GPS, to visit The Gardener's Dream- a huge nursery. John wanted t find some Jelly Bean blueberry bushes.

This is how we use the GPS- we plug in the address and start following the directions the voice dictates, but we, having lived here all our lives, know certain shortcuts, so we took shortcuts until we got to 190 in CT. If the GPS was a real woman she'd have been totally pissed off with us for not following her directions! We had fun putting words in her mouth, like, "I told you to stay on route 20! You're not listening to me! You're going to have to stop and ask for directions! Hello! Are you even listening to me?" Not until near the final quarter mile, we didn't listen to her very much at all!

Anyway, we found the Jelly Bean blueberry bushes and got two (they were $30 apiece.)  Then John wanted a butterfly bush. Huge, fat bumblebees and honey bees were sipping nectar on many of the flowers. he had to shake a ginormous bumblebee off the one we selected (another $30 for this bush). Then, I really couldn't leave without two fireworks fountain grass plants. I just loved the vivid pinky-red and stripes! Awesome, and they were on sale, two for $25. I could have easily filled the Rav-4 with this big bushes, but we'd picked up 4 forty pound bags of cat litter and two cases of cat food already. Three bushes rode in the back, the blueberries on the floor behind the driver's seat.

John planted the blueberries when we got home. I would have liked to have some blackberry and raspberry bushes, but they would really attract the black bears and probably wouldn't last long. I want to go back there though, they have some amazing plants and bushes! I also liked the Japanese holly!

We need to pull out al the bushes in front of the house and replace them. Huge project that will have to wait until John's neuralgia subsides. He's still got a lot of post-herpetic pain, poor guy.

After all the errands were done I put together volume I of the Christmas stories and got it all set up and into review. Then Kelly came home and I showed her the cover design and she grumbled that
Christmas Stories, Volume I is a pretty lame title, that I need to come up with something better. I have to come up with story brain is fried.

So, this evening I created my first contest on facebook- suggest a title for this volume of nine holiday stories. I will choose the title I like best. If it's your title, you'll win a signed copy of the book, and I will credit you inside the book as being the contest winner. The book will retail for $14.99 on next month. The contest will run for one week. If you don't have facebook you can still enter the contest by emailing me your title suggestion to

Here's what's in the book- nine inspirational, traditional and contemporary holiday stories all set at Christmas time. The stories are about:
-a young woman whose prayer is answered on Christmas Eve
-a young widow and her daughter who receive a holiday surprise from a kind stranger
-The rollicking Riley family whose five children get up to a little Christmas mischief
-a young woman who loses everything who has the best Christmas ever
-a church congregation who has recently lost their leader who gather together to celebrate Christmas anyway
-a department store CEO with no Christmas spirit who encounters a Customer Service rep possessed of an abundance of holiday spirit
-a fish-out-of-water NYC director who arrives in Maine to direct A Christmas Carol and quickly alienates everyone associated with the production
-a little girl who finds a silver sleigh bell in the street and believes it was lost by one of Santa's reindeer, and
-a man and a woman who have both suffered tragedies who find one another when a salvaged window from a burnt out cathedral is installed in a new battered women's shelter.

May the best title win!! Put your thinking caps on and send me your title suggestion by 6PM EST next Saturday, August 29th.

Did I Tell You About the Mouse?

Wednesday night I needed to put gas in my SUV. I collected up the trash because Thursday is trash pick-up day and John had already run out to put he trash receptacle at the end of the driveway, but he hadn't emptied the wastebaskets in the house. So, Kelly takes the trash bag and heads down the driveway. I get into my car, get out the money for the gas, put on my sunglasses, adjust the air conditioning, adjust the mirror, pick music to listen to...then start the car and begin to back out of the yard. I can see Kelly standing beside the mailbox at the end of the driveway waiting for me to pick her up. I back out into the street and begin to pull forward to where she is standing and suddenly she is looking at the grill of the car. I'm thinking, with horror, that I hit a bird that's flown in front of the car, as birds are prone to do, and it's jammed into the grill. Then she motions for me to stop, so I do, and she's standing there, chin in her hand, just looking at the front of the car. Okay...Next, she motions for me to get out, so I do, and I start to come around the front of the car. I am more or less in the middle of the street, but luckily the neighborhood is quiet, so there are no other cars at the time. I get to the front driver' side corner and I'm looking at the grill and I don;t see anything, but I do see movement undert the car. It is the butt end of a mouse hauling ass toward the front lawn. Okay. "A mouse," I say.  "Two," she replies. Then, "Look at the license plate." I look at the license plate and there is Mouse #2 clinging for dear life to the frame around the license plate, the bottom of it. It's trembling and terrified. Poor thing- wehat a heck of a ride that would have been clinging to that narrow frame all the way to the Hess station! She goes, "I'm not touching it, but he needs to be prodded to jump down." I reply, "I have the squeeqee behind my seat, it has a long enough handle. I'll just poke him in the butt with that." She I go to get it, and as I open the door and reach for it she calls, "He jumped! He's down and running to the front lawn!" Yeah! Mouse 2 has joined Mouse 1 in the lawn, safe and sound. I crouched down and peer into the grill to make sure there are no other stowaways. I didn;t see any, so we jump into the car and drive off.

Needless to say, I now slap the hood with the flat of my hand, tell them to move along if they've taken up occupancy in the grill before I get into the car every morning, then once I am in the car, I toot the horn twice, just to let them know the ship is sailing and they'd better bail if they want to stay in the neighborhood, or else they're going for a ride!

John did open the hood before we ran errands this morning and we both checked over the engine compartment and saw no sign of a nest in there anywhere. The front grill of the 2012 Rav-4 has a cozy place for mice to call home, if they can get in there- maybe by climbing the tires? I don't know...

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Write Time

After dinner is writing time for Kelly and me. We set our laptops up back to back, sit facing one another across the table and then it is the battle of the keyboards and flying fingers. We occasionally pause to read something we've written aloud. And we laugh! We share ideas, brainstorm, come up with character names and devise aspects of their personalities. Sometimes she writes while I'm editing and proofreading. Sometimes she's moved one of my stories over to her laptop and she's hacking away at it, making it better.

It is just amazing to me that my daughter grew up to share my love of writing- and she has her own unique voice in print.

I had a text from my brother just after dinner tonight. He'd just finished reading The Archetypes-First Generation.  The good news is that he liked the book! The even better news is that he found himself in the story, or at least his childhood nickname- Tiger!  I try to insert one or two real elements from my actual life in each story or book that I write. When Jeffrey was a kid Dad often called him Tiger, so when Beans and Amanda have a son, they name him Tiger! He was touched that I'd named a character for him. The even more better news is that now he's going to go on and read My Magical Life! I don't suppose anyone would continue on reading anyone's books if they didn't like them. he's not the sort who would just read a book to suck u to me- he's my kid brother after all, and he's never had any qualms about bluntly telling me exactly how he feels.

The first copies of Love Me Knots arrived via UPS during the rainstorm today, safety wrapped in a big plastic bag and left on the front doorstep. Luckily, John worked from home today and brought the box right in. This book has five of my all time favorite little romance stories- something my friends unanimously tell me that I write really well. I really fit between genres and not in any true genre- I blur the lines, write outside the lines- whatever you want to call it.

Anyway- this book is a hefty 324 pages.  I think Volume I of Christmas Stories is going to come in around 318 pages.

On Monday, I will gift family friend Dottie with Love Me Knots- a surprise for her. She's been a follower of my holiday stories for a few years now. Gail and Darlene will get copies, and maybe Brenda, too.  I did a quick inventory and need to restock my box of books.

I'm trying to work with Kelly to develop a page to attach here, maybe, so I can sell my books myself at a discount with payment through PayPal by bank transfer or credit card for people who don't shop  It's in the works. Meanwhile, Kelly added Love Me Knots to the books page on the blog.

This is not getting stuff done...time to move on and accomplish something a bit more constructive.

Thanks, Jeff, for being a good little brother and taking the time to read what your sister has been laboring away at for years...and years...and, well, you get the idea.

Rain and Dancing

The tropical heat has given way to rain this morning.

I live in western Massachusetts, in New England, but sometimes I feel like I live in Florida. I hate humidity. Pretty soon I'll walk down to look at the brook in the ravine behind the house and find an alligator basking in the hazy sunshine instead of a rattlesnake basking in the sun!

This has all brought to mind some more memories of my childhood. My mother was always big on sending us out to play in the rain. We had rain dances and snow dances. As long as there was no lightning, we could run out and dance in the rain, splash in the puddles, whoop and holler like wild beasts and generally have fun. Here's the amazing thing- sometimes she'd join us!

We were always sent out to dance and catch snowflakes in the first snowfall of the season.

I have carried on those traditions with Kelly. One of the most powerful things I ever wrote was titled Snow Dance. It was a personal memoir about my sending Kelly out to dance on the back deck in the first snowfall of the season- how she had been standing a the window waiting for that first flake to fall. It was a rite of passage, the carrying on of a family tradition, a vivid memory for me of my mother doing the same thing- and it was also about aging, growing up, growing older- the cycles of life- and remaining young in spirit, thinking about going out and dancing in the first snow when I'm old- reconnecting with my daughter, my mother, my grandmother- all of us snow dancers.

Unfortunately, I have to go to work today, and so does Kelly. She's already gone out, umbrella in hand. I'll be leaving soon. John is working from home today. His mother didn't let them play out in the rain. She doesn't sound like she was much fun, as far as mother's go, and I feel bad for him that he missed these kind of moments growing up. He really doesn't know how to have simple, joyous fun.

When Kelly was younger, if it was pouring out, we might also have grabbed umbrellas and gone out barefoot to take a walk around the block, puddle jumping and splashing one another. There has to be fun and frivolity in life, spontaneous moments when you cast aside reservations and just do it because it makes you laugh and feel good inside.

At work, I do the Friday dance and so, now, do some of my co-workers. It's just a brief couple of moves while chanting, "It's Friday!" Those who don't dance watch and smile. It sets the mood of the day, it makes us happy.

So= Happy Friday! Wherever you are, whatever you're going to be doing today, begin your day with the Friday Dance and smile!

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Recently (less than two weeks ago) my good friend Jane R, lost her mother. I probably put something in one of my blog posts about this. This evening, Betty called about sending me a check for my books, but she'd also called to tell me that we had lost our friend Carole B. from Crescent Club (the local button collector's club I am a member of). I was born in Northampton, MA and grew up in Easthampton. I was a classmate of Carole's daughter Carolyn. Therefore, not only was Carole a fellow button collector, but she was the mother of a friend from elementary school to grade 9. Another mother has passed.  I just do not handle deaths of mother's well. I am sitting here all teary-eyed again just writing this.

My mother was a vibrant character in my life. She was the alpha Mom. My father was sort of always in the background. He worked second shift meaning that when we came home from school, he was on his way out the door to go to work. He would get home from work around midnight and might or might not get up to have breakfast with us and drive us to school. If he'd worked overtime and gotten home a four in the morning, then Mom drove us to school and Dad was asleep. We primarily saw him on weekends- and he was usually mowing the lawn, painting the house, trimming the trees and shrubs, fixing the car or doing whatever else was on his Honey Do List that Mom had prepared. I really didn't know my father all that well. I was sixteen or seventeen years old before I learned he liked country music!

My life was dominated by my mother. She was outgoing, opinionated, fun loving, generous, warm, caring, friendly, bossy, strong and brave. She had a huge heart and was always helping people out. Dad was more reserved. he had a few friends, guys from work, but he didn't hang out with them. Mom occasionally had her nursing school friends over for visits. Dad had a brother who was twelve years older than him. His mother died when I was four years old. Mom had a big Italian family. Our house was always filled with relatives- boisterous! Everybody laughed! My grandfather, Ernest Bruno, was a great storyteller! He was the best, but his brothers, all my great uncles- Alfred, Angelo, Nino, George...they all had stories to tell as well. I think that's where I inherited my ability to tell a story- from them. Insert beer and out would come hilarious stories!

My mom had health issues all her life. She went through hell with multiple miscarriages. She had gallbladder surgery. She developed diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, double vision and lost most of her vision to diabetic retinopathy toward the end of her life. Yet, right up to nine months before her passing she was having everyone over for big family dinners, sitting in her chair laughing and enjoying all the noise her family could produce (my brother happens to be loud- megaphone mouth!).

When she died, my life grew very quiet and still. Dad tried having the family over, but my brother and his wife moved to Nevada. John and I had Dad over to our house on Sunday and for holidays. He had a few stories to tell about his life in Hatfield, growing up in a farming community where they all helped each other plant and harvest. My father was actually a bit of a devil, the baby of the family because his little brother Felix died at age two, and Uncle Pete was so much older. we tried recording some of his better stories on his last Thanksgiving with us. We didn't know it would be his last. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2010- when we look at the pictures taken on both holidays, I can see how frail he became in a month's time. I really didn't notice it in person at the time and that upsets me. He passed away February 7, 2011. Ad since then, my life has become even more quiet. Basically, John, Kelly and I celebrate the holidays by ourselves. There are no boisterous family get togethers- because so many family members are gone. I miss the 60's-80's when all the big parties took place, the backyard and house overflowing with family and friends and just miscellaneous people we adopted as extended family, like our friend's families, the kids we babysat for, classmates, neighbors...

It makes me sad that so many people have left the stage on which I live my life. Curtain calls made, they have passed into the wings. I'm grateful for the family members I do still have, and for all the friends who keep me company on a daily basis. I cherish them all.

But I never stop missing those who are gone because they each carried a little piece of my heart with them when they left.

Goodbye, Carole...

My Daughter, My Savior

I have worked since Tuesday night editing and proofing the nine stories that will go into the first volume of Christmas stories that I am putting together. I spent all day, all afternoon and all evening working on these stories on Wednesday. I did a half hour of editing and proofing this morning before work, and an hour tonight when I got home from having my hair cut. Got it all done in basically three days or less.

So, I had started a single file in preparation for self publishing this volume- putting in the title page, the copyright stuff and disclaimer, the dedication and about author page. When I was ready to begin uploading the individual stories into the file Kelly said, "I'll do that!" Several of these stories are my earliest Christmas stories, dating back to the late 90's when I first started writing them, and I had really just begun using a computer after stubbornly refusing to give up the electric typewriter for years and years. (I can't believe I'd been so resistant to using the computer when it is so far advanced over a typewriter! I guess I was a traditionalist back then.)  I didn't know anything about margins, spacing, tabs, etc.  I hand spaced everything- and she had to fix that mess in five of the nine stories (fortunately they were five shorter ones, not the big ones!!)- tedious labor, especially when she kept saying she wanted to go to bed, and I kept saying, "Well, it's not going anywhere, you can work on this some more tomorrow," and she'd reply "I'll just finish this one." And the next thing I know, she's working on the next one...a little OCD? Um, I'm not saying, but I believe it does run in families.

Long story short- all nine stories have been uploaded into the single file and she has completed the table of content with correct page numbers and everything. My last chore was to plug in the About the Author page at the end. Tomorrow night after work I can review the file, fix any spacing issues to tidy it up, then look it all over to see if I spot any errors- and then this one will be ready for CreateSpace magic. I want to download some pictures from my cellphone that I shot at a Christmas shop of various decorated trees (close-ups) that I might be able to use as cover art. I haven't done a book yet using a picture that I've taken myself, so it'll be trial and error. I'm hoping it won't be too difficult. I'd really like to use my own photographs on my book covers since photography is another hobby of mine, and I have tons of great pictures to choose from.

I honestly don't know what I would do without my computer whiz kid in the house! (Big high five to Kelly who paid off her last student loan tonight and is now college debt free! She graduated in May 2013- thank God she didn't have so much loan debt that she'd be paying it off until retirement! Now she can save her earnings to use toward replacing her 2007 Corolla, and maybe a down payment on a condo? But for now, she can continue to live at home and keep saving her money. When she's sick of Mom and Dad and ready for complete independence she can go wherever she wants to go...she'll only be a phone call, a text message or a Skype chat away wherever she decides to live- even if it's Portugal!)

Love you, Kelly! You are positively, absolutely, undeniably and without a doubt the very best daughter this side of Jupiter!

My Little Fan Club

I had a phone call from my friend Betty this evening. She told me to expect a check in the mail, she was buying some of my books. Wow. When I asked her which ones she was buying, she replied, "All of them!" Double Wow!

Then, I went to get my hair cut. I had given my stylist a copy of Medea six weeks ago. She told me she'd started to read it, but needs to restart it, however, her fifteen-year old daughter, Mackenzie, had read it and she'd liked it. As she was blow-drying my hair, Mackenzie herself showed up with her grandmother. She was happy to meet me (I have actually known her since she was a very little girl, but she didn't really know me well enough to match my name to my face, and it's been a few years since I last saw her.). So, tonight, sweet Mackenzie was gifted with Halloween Story and Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I since I happened to have a copy of each of my books in the car.  I'm having lunch tomorrow with my good friend, Gail, who doesn't yet have the complete library. I need to have them all with me so I can fill in what she's missing. (No, I don't drive around all the time with my car full of my books! I would feel like an encyclopedia salesman!) She's also a fan of mine.

I gifted my office manager five volumes today because she is going on a much needed vacation. She's read some of my stories and has liked them in the past.

Tonight- I have realized that slowly, I am developing a fan base. My youngest fan (excluding Kelly, for whom I have made-up stories and written stories for all her life since she was two or three years old) is age 9 (Grace!) and my oldest was the woman who became like a mother to me after the death of my own mother, the late Pauline who was almost 92 years old when she passed away last September. My fan base ranges from age 9 to 91. Evelyn (age 12) is also a fan (she's read Medea.)

I can honestly say it was a strange feeling tonight signing the two books for Mackenzie. She was absolutely glowing with excitement. I like that I have touched her life in this way. She has done some dabbling on wattpad. I am all for encouraging young writers, no matter how they express themselves with the written language- be it prose, poetry, blogging or whatever. The written word needs to survive or else we will disappear from history. 

Technology, I just don't see it as a reliable historian. (For a person who is generally the most optimistic person on earth, that is a rare pessimistic statement.)

Thank you, my little fan club!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Power Of The Written Word

I have transferred all the Christmas stories I've written to the new notebook. Last evening I began doing the editing and proofing needed to prepare the stories for inclusion in the volumes I'm planning to self-publish soon. I completed work on five stories last night by twelve-thirty. Among those stories were the very first ones I wrote back in the late 1990's when my mother was still alive.

It still stings, because I let her read some of my stories and the impression I'd gotten was that she had not been very impressed by them. Maybe it was because she was so very sick with the nearness of her own passing approaching. I don't know, but reading these stories reminds me that I had felt disappointed and unhappy because she had never acknowledged me as a writer which had always been the deepest dream in my heart and soul. I felt she had dismissed my dream with a reckless, careless flick of her wrist and that hurt still resonates inside of me to this day.

I am currently doing the editing and proofing of The Window. This inspirational story contains some of the most powerful writing I have ever done.  I am not a traditionally religious person. I was baptized in the Catholic church and attended until I was about five years old. My mother then broke with the Church after she suffered her tenth miscarriage, and it nearly killed her. The priest had come to her room and forbidden her to have a hysterectomy. He'd told her that she was on earth to produce children, that was her job. By then she had three living children- my sister, myself and my brother. My mother, a registered nurse, told the priest she had three children at home who needed their mother. That was her job, raising her surviving children. He disagreed. She told him to leave and not come back, and we stopped going to the Immaculate Conception church.  In the mid-60's, Mom's grandmother moved in with us. She went to the French church, Notre Dame. A few years after Meme's death, Mom decided to try the Episcopal Church, so we all went there. It was nice, we went to church school and joined the Young People's Fellowship group. But then, Mom grew annoyed with the minister's habit of just dropping by the house for visits. She was working full time days. Dad worked full time second shift at Hamilton Standard. The house was clean, but lived in by two adults and three children. There was the additional strain on my parents of my sister's cerebral vascular accident at age eleven. It had changed her personality, and her recovery and rehabilitation had been lengthy and grueling, stressful for all of us. Luckily she had survived and she relearned everything she had forgotten from being able to feed and care for herself, to all her schooling. She only had to repeat one grade after being tutored over the summer. It took its toil on us. Anyway, Mom didn't like drop-in unannounced visitors, so, we left the church. Shortly afterwards, we moved to Westfield, and never joined another church.

In the course of my life, I married a Catholic man after taking lessons with friars in Springfield. When Kelly was born, she was baptized in the Catholic Church. I would not have minded if John had raised her Catholic, but he didn't. He still gets up early on Sunday morning to go to church and visit his parents. I don't mind, except he has missed Easter mornings with his daughter and that always made me angry, that he couldn't spend holiday time with his daughter, that his family didn't come first. He could have taken her to church then come home for her traditional Easter basket hunt, but he never did. he missed out and she missed out on having a father who cared enough to be with her on Easter morning.

Anyway- that's all water underneath the bridge. I, meanwhile, explored various other religions. I let the Jehovah's Witnesses in and listened to them and went to a few local meetings but found them inflexible and narrow-minded. I visited the Baptist Church, a Pentecostal Church and went with my neighbor to her Born Again Christian Church. For about a year or two I went to her Church, and Kelly attended with me. She was baptized a Born Again Christian there, and so was I. But we stopped going to church because in every church I explored I was hearing the same disturbing message- that they were God's chosen people and I should disassociate myself with my family and friends because they did not share the same faith and were therefore going to be left behind in the final days. That is not my idea of religion. I feel we are all God's creations and He loves us all. We are all flawed but our responsibility is to live peacefully with one another in his Kingdom on Earth so that we can live with Him in Heaven at the end of our days here. I don't think any Church should tell its congregation that they are God's chosen people- that is arrogant and discriminatory and rather self-righteous! None of us are better than any other living soul on this earth, yet that was what I was hearing in every different church I attended. My religion is now private and personal, my home and outdoors beneath the beautiful blue dome of the sky that encompasses us all. I treat everyone the same way- I do not shun them because they do not share my faith, my beliefs.

Jumping off my religious soap box here, I will get back to the point of this post- the story The Window has a pretty powerful effect on me. I have been sitting here crying as I've been editing and proofing this story with the shattered man sitting in the burnt out and blackened ruins of a great cathedral after the loss of his wife and infant son and the haunting religious experience he has while there that alters the course of his life while renewing his faith. The power of the written word is awesome, and I wish my mother had lived long enough to read this story, and every other story I have written since as I have practiced and strived toward perfection in my craft as a writer. I can see how I have progressed from these early stories to the most recent ones. I have grown, but even back then, the pen I wielded had the power to evoke strong emotions from the reader. This story is my friend Maryann's favorite one. She s devoutly Catholic. I love her as much as I love my friend who never goes to church. That I can get the same response to this story from both of them means I have done my job.

The spoken word can slash a heart and wound a soul, but the written word is indelible and can inflict more lasting damage. I try never to hurt anyone with written words-  I try to inspire and bring happiness, to provoke thought.

So, let me dry my eyes- and then I'll get back to my work doing just that. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Holiday Round-Up

I want to put years about 18 years worth of annual Christmas stories for friends and family together in volumes, so this evening, while the main computer is actually up and running, I have rounded up Kevin, my trusty minion flash drive, and herded 23 holiday stories into his USBrain for transfer onto my new laptop where the magic of transforming them into three volumes of around 80,000 words apiece will take place.

Kelly's favorite remains A Major Production, about a brash New Yorker who lands at a playhouse in coastal Maine during the holiday season to produce their version of A Christmas Carol. He rubs all the locals the wrong way by making changes, treating the players and actors like cattle, disparaging the playhouse and everything associated with it. But when a blizzard strands him with the stage manager he begins to realize that the way of life in Maine isn't so bad after all. The fish out of water story ends happily for all, with Mr. New York City deciding he'd like to stay in Maine after all.

My personal favorite is still Rusty & Pepper: Christmas Mischief about the five rambunctious Riley children.  This story is based on a real event- brothers Rusty & Pepper moving the family Christmas tree to the porch roof while their mother was at work. Their mother was a nursing school friend of my mother's. Rusty grew up to be my 9th grade algebra teacher in the town where I grew up. The Riley family is pure fiction spun around that central memory of my mother telling us the story of the Christmas Tree on the Porch Roof when we were kids.

There are three Riley family Christmas stories. Many readers have loved Christmas 1951, about a young girl and her widowed mother who are helped by a kind man after a Christmas shopping excursion in the city after they miss their bus. Mother and daughter are both somewhat dispirited as Christmas approaches, but Mr. Granger changes all that with his kindness and generosity-and love.

There is a story called Bruce in which a man orders a fiberglass camel for a church living nativity and ends up with a real live camel he has to cope with.  In The Red Velvet Suit Santa's son, who will be taking over the 'family business' from his father who is ready to retire, travels to the magical tailor shop to have his own red velvet suit designed and sewn by tailor Jack Frost, only Frost has gone missing! The upcoming Santa falls for Frost's daughter and wants to make her his Mrs. Claus. She is the daughter of Mother Nature and Jack Frost.

I also have always liked The Winter Solstice Ball in which the events and marketing manager fights the board of directors and the ailing hotel owner's headstrong, snobbish son to try to revitalize the old resort hotel. In the end she wins him over and makes him see the value in preserving his family's history by keeping the resort vital into the future.

A man still heartsick at the tragic loss of his wife seeks solace in the remains of a burnt out church and has an experience that changes his life in The Window. He salvages the round window from the church. A woman involved in the constructing and opening of a battered women's shelter wants a unique inspirational window for the community hall in the new shelter. The man who plays their Santa Claus locates the salvage firm that has the window. She's suffered her own tragedies. The Window unites them when Christmas is celebrated in the new hall with it's salvaged white dove ascending window.

Christmas Eve in Hickory Falls finds a small community somewhat at a loss with the unexpected passing of their pastor at Christmas time. The diocese has not replaced him. The church caretaker opens the church as usual on Christmas Eve, not knowing what else to do as the townsfolk have always celebrated Christmas Eve Mass together there. Gradually, various townspeople drift in and by joining forces they open the church and create a Christmas service of their own in memory of their late pastor and all the Christmases they celebrated with him.

Paper Chains is set during the Depression. With the father gone in search of work, the mother having fallen ill, the children and Grandmother must keep the farm running and make a Christmas out of nothing much. With help from various community members and their own gritty determination to have a Christmas they find a way to celebrate the holiday together as a family.

There are a lot more...that's just a sampling...sketchy as it is!

Kelly was just down here to remind me that I haven't written my annual Christmas story yet, nor my annual Halloween story (-ies)- uh, I've been busy. My Christmas story is usually written in panic mode about a week before Christmas when many people are penning their annual Christmas Letters to their family and friends. I prefer to send a story because, really, who cares what my family and I have done all year. Especially when it all boils down to work, work, work and one week of vacation! Doesn't make for interesting reading (even when there are two writers in the family!!)

Off to transfer the holiday stories to the new notebook- it's an HP Stream Notebook. It's BLUE!