Just I started the book, Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah and am enjoying it very much. Birdie loves her home along the ocean and her children. Her husband was once the love of her life, but now something is missing. Birdie wonders if she’s the one whose missing out on life.
This month’s book club selection was The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The book is based on the memories of Lale Sokolov’s time as a prisoner in Auschwitz. It is a story filled with the atrocities witnessed first-hand by Lale, and it is also a love story. Lale met his soulmate in the camp and only knew her by the number he’d tattooed on her arm. He sought her out, and their relationship helped them fight for survival even when life seemed unbearable and death seemed to be a way to peace.
It was a fast read and the insider’s look into the concentration camp was fascinating and horrifying to read. The romance was an important thread throughout the book. I would recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs, historical fiction, WWII stories, and romance novels.
Hi all! I wanted to give you a glimpse at the first chapter of my current WIP. It’s a story of second chances, love lost and found, and dealing with a new chapter in life. The story’s protagonist is Libby Crenshaw — a 50-something widow whose life is empty when the story begins…
Here is a glimpse at Empty Chairs, Empty Promises
I suppose some of my neighbors would call me crazy or at least odd if they watched me standing in subzero temperatures along the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure how long I had been standing in the snow. I didn’t wear a watch today. Hell, I don’t even remember what day of the week it is. Don’t even ask me the date.
I think I’ve been frozen in this same spot for more than a few minutes. My fingers start to feel numb inside my thick gloves as I stand on the riverbank searching for the small splotches of white among the bare branches along the river. Slapping my hands together does nothing to relieve the effects of the winter temps. My breath surrounds me with crystalline clouds.
For the last twenty years, I’ve watched the bald eagles soaring over the river and roosting in the bare trees. Today they are absent. The other oddity is the frozen river. For the first time, it froze solid without a trace of open water. Would it hold me if I walked out on it? Could I make it across the wide expanse to the other side without falling through the ice and being swept away by the force of the mighty river that flows beneath it?
Something bumps my leg. I look down — for a moment perplexed — at the yellow lab smiling up at me with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Mia. That’s her name. She pulls on her leash encouraging me to move. It wasn’t a bad idea, I guess. We would be much warmer inside.
I pull up the collar of my wool coat and adjust the scarf around my neck. Definitely, time to get away from the river and the cold winds blustering through the valley. I wave at the passing vehicles and stop briefly to exchange a few words of greeting with some of my more adventuresome neighbors who brave the cold as I have to walk the dog or get some exercise.
Mia’s pace increases as we near the large white house I’ve called home for the past 25 years. The house I had shared with my husband, Joshua, for almost as many years. Our children are grown and live far away. They call, but it isn’t the same. I open my back door and stomp my boots to get the snow off. I unhook Mia’s harness hanging it, my coat, and scarf on the hooks next to the door. Toeing off my boots, I kick them into the corner and scurry across the icy cold cement floor in my socks eager for the heated interior of my home.
The warmth of the kitchen is comforting on such a cold morning. The radio is tuned to the morning news and fills the still house with the humming drone of the announcers. I find it soothing. Leaving the radio on during the day is a new habit. The house has been too quiet, too empty. The hypnotic tick, tick, tick of the hall clock just reminds me of time passing me by.
My birthday is just around the corner. I’m going to be fifty years old. I never envisioned my life would take this fateful turn. I pictured vacations to exotic locales with my husband at my side. In my dreams, I watched with pride and pleasure as my husband walked our daughter down the aisle. Our future would involve both of us playing with the grandkids. And on days like today, the two of us sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a hot cup of coffee as we planned our day.
Oh, I’ve heard all of the platitudes. Life isn’t fair. You’re young — you’ll meet someone else. You’re lucky you are financially stable. And my favorite, don’t you think it’s time to get past this and get on with your life. I’m sure most of the advice is well meaning. But I will handle my grief in my own way and in my own time.
I fill Mia’s bowl with kibble adding a tablespoon of coconut oil because I read somewhere it was good for her coat. Grabbing a mug from the dish drainer, I fill it with water and pour it into my coffee machine. The new coffee makers are quick and make a decent cup of coffee, but personally, I really miss the sound and smell of coffee percolating. Inserting a packet into the correct slot, I wait for the machine to produce my hot cup of caffeine. My chilly hands welcome the wonderful warmth radiating from the mug.
The kitchen did have a table and 4 chairs by the bay window overlooking the back yard. After Josh died, I was overwhelmed with the thought of sitting at that table alone with three empty chairs. I replaced it with two chaise lounges with a round table placed between them. The second chaise doesn’t cause any discomfort for me. It provides the promise of one of my children visiting. Nathan is in the Navy stationed in Washington state and Carrie moved to New York City to pursue a banking career. They returned home for the funeral, but their work commitments cut their time at home short. I understood. They are adults with their own lives.
Within the toasty security of my kitchen, I look through the help wanted ads in the local paper. Housekeeper. No thanks. I don’t like cleaning my own house much less anyone else’s. Bartender. Not in my skill set. Milker. I try to picture myself up at 4 am every day hooking suction cups to cow teats. The mental imagery makes me giggle. It could be a backup plan.
The radio news changes to easy listening music. I tune the radio to a station that plays classic rock. It’s the beginning of another long day.
After a morning of repetitive tasks, I’m ready for a break. The sound of the doorbell gives me an excuse to cease and desist from my chores. I wipe my hands off on my jeans and shoot a fast glance in the hall mirror as I pass. I look like crap. At least my hair is combed today.
I open the door and a gust of frosty air intrudes into my home. My body shivers at the sudden decrease in temp. Standing on the stoop is a dark-haired woman who looks to be in her early 20’s. I don’t recognize her and wonder if my mind is failing me again.
“Can I help you with something?” At my query, the young woman squares her shoulders and runs her tongue over her dry lips before answering.
“I am looking for Mr. Joshua Crenshaw.” She gazes past me into the house, her eyes searching.
“He doesn’t live here anymore.” It sounds like a half-truth, but I don’t know this woman and my husband’s death is too personal to share with strangers.
The brunette’s eyes widen. “This is the address I was given. Do you know where he lives now?” she asks. I sense a weariness in her voice as well as her appearance.
“Before I tell you anything else about my husband, could you tell me your name and your business with him?” I have an uneasy feeling. Nausea makes my insides churn as my hands grow clammy.
“My name is Amanda Norton. Joshua Crenshaw is my father.” I gasp. The room spins around me. I detect a distant voice asking if I’m okay. My tongue lies heavy in my mouth. The acrid taste of my coffee coming back up in my throat makes me gag. I lean my forehead against the frigid surface of the front door hoping this is a nightmare and I’m still in my bed.
I croak out the words, “My husband is dead.”
Every writer I’ve ever communicated with over the past few years will tell me that they want people to like what they’ve written. I do as well, but I also want them to feel something beyond “liking” my story.
I want the reader to feel a multitude of emotions when they read my books — fear, sorrow, anger, indignation, love and happiness. In essence, I want them to feel what the main character is feeling at that time. My goal is to have them step into the story become a part of what is happening by playing it out in their minds.
I read somewhere recently that when we listen to a story various areas in our brain are stimulated. If a passage talks about how something feels or sounds, the sensory cortex becomes active. If we are reading about some type of physical activity, our brain’s motor cortex responds. As storytellers, we can affect our readers deeply.
My characters aren’t perfect, and I don’t want them to be. Real people cannot be assigned labels like “good” or “bad”. People are too complex to be deemed one thing or another. I want my readers to react to the fictional characters inhabiting my story’s world. Whether it’s a negative or positive emotion, I want them to feel something.
Clare Thibodeaux is the main character in my suspense series. Clare can be distant, stubborn, and can make some very bad decisions. She can also be a loyal friend; and at times, she cares about people many readers dislike. Clare resists being told what to do, being overprotected or treated like she’s weak. Throughout the series, she struggles with letting someone else help her. Some of the other characters are overbearing and too protective to the point of being dismissive at times.
Because of these unflattering character traits, some of my readers won’t care for my books. That’s okay, I don’t like every book I read. No matter what, I have elicited an emotion, and that is what art is all about!
I want to take the time to thank all of the people who have downloaded my books over the past three months, read my books on Kindle Unlimited and left reviews. I hope you were entertained by my tales about Clare Thibodeaux and her friends.
I promise you there will be more action, drama, romance, and suspense to come. Mark your calendars for February 5th and 12th. I will be offering special deals on books in the Clare Thibodeaux Series on those dates. Watch for more info on my Facebook Author’s Page
I was invited by our village library to do a book reading and signing this past week. Despite the nasty weather earlier in the day, I was pleased to have some brave souls navigate the snowy roadways to attend. I am so blessed to have so much support from so many nice people.
Now, I need to start writing again… TTYL!
My local book club selected the novel Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford for January’s meeting. I had two days to read it and let me tell you, I couldn’t put it down.
The story is set in Seattle’s Chinatown area, and the story’s protagonist, Henry, is in his mid-fifties at the story’s beginning. Henry is passing by an old hotel in what was once the Japanese section of their community. It has been recently purchased for restoration, and the new owner has called a press conference after making an unbelievable discovery. After 40 plus years, she has found the stored belongings of Japanese residents of the area who were taken to internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The news has Henry thinking back to those days when he was eleven years old and struggling with his place in this wartime world where the slant of your eyes and the color of your skin could make you a target.
The author does an insightful job of weaving his WWII tale of growing up in a strict Chinese family. Henry faces conflicts with his father, children at the “white” school and his former classmates at the Chinese school. His life seems dismal, and then he meets Keiko, a fellow scholarship student at the school.
The only problem is that Keiko is Japanese, and his father hates all the Japanese people because of their invasion of China. Henry’s father makes him wear a button that states “I am Chinese” on it, Whether it was for his protection so he wouldn’t be labeled as Japanese or because of his father’s hatred for the Japanese people or not, Henry detested wearing it.
The story painted a raw, detailed portrait of life for immigrants in this country; and especially for Japanese-Americans as they were forced to leave everything behind and were taken hundreds of miles away from their homes until after the war ended. The conditions they lived under at the internment camps is a terrible stain on the history of the United States.
The story jumps back and forth between the 1980s and the 1940s as Henry tries to mend his relationship with his son as he searches for a treasure from his past.
This is a story of families, of different cultures, of generational conflict, of love, of loss and of prejudice. I would recommend it to readers who like historical fiction, romance, and stories set in the WWII era.
I once could waltz around the dance floor light as a feather for hours with a glowing smile on my face. My skin was smooth and my eyes sparkled with joy and enthusiasm. I was young and vital — once.
Years later, the morning sunshine awakens me but I don’t pop up out of bed full of energy. My joints are stiff and painful. It takes me a considerable amount of time to sit on the side of the bed. Please don’t be impatient with me, I’m moving as fast as I can. Simple things like washing my face and brushing my hair make me short of breath as I struggle to raise my arms. Even feeding myself takes too much out of me some days.
If my clothes don’t match or I put them on inside-out, please don’t laugh at me. I’d appreciate your help. My eyesight is poor despite the bifocal glasses perched on my nose. It isn’t because I don’t care, I still want to look nice. The days of throwing something on and looking great are over. Now, I struggle with buttons and zippers. I prefer velcro to shoelaces because my knuckles are swollen with arthritis.
If I don’t seem to be following the conversation, please remember to speak slowly and clearly. Don’t yell at me just because I’m elderly it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m deaf.
Thank you for treating me with respect — like the adult I am and not like a child. I have lived for decades, and I have seen this world during times of peace and war. I’ve struggled with finances, raised children, and cuddled grandchildren. I’ve sacrificed and celebrated. I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve sat at the side of my parents’ hospital beds and held their hands in their last moments on this earth.
Now that I am facing my twilight years I don’t want to be forgotten while I am still alive. Come to visit me. Take me out to lunch. Your presence means the world to me.
If you see me sitting alone, stop to chat a moment. And if I repeat myself, please understand and don’t remind me that my memory isn’t as good as it once was. Just a few minutes of feeling relevant in the eyes of another human will make my entire day.
I am tomorrow. I am lost youth. I will be you.
When your soul is troubled and your mind is a jumble of frenzied thoughts, the best remedy is to take a walk and experience the beauty around you. How many pairs of eyes are looking at the sky at this moment, joining you in this moment of zen-like serenity and awe? Just brush away your tears and square your shoulders, because today is coming to an end and tomorrow is another opportunity to reconcile with loved ones and friends. Another chance lies ahead to create a solution to the issues which cause you concern.
How I Avoid a Christmas Meltdown
It’s that time of year again when the holiday prep, decorating, shopping and events can take a toll on my psyche. I used to take part in the madness and over the years I’ve toned down the “I’ve got to get this done!” expectations to a more modest “How can I enjoy Christmas more?” vibe.
Gone are the fourteen — yes, I did correctly say 14! Christmas trees, and in their place is a more modest number. Now, I decorate five small tabletop trees, which I cluster in the dining room on a sideboard, as well as the main tree, but even that tree has shrunk from an eight-foot height to a more modest six-foot tree.
I make only one or two Christmas cookie selections and send them off to the hubby’s workplace and home with my sons to save me from having a sugar coma throughout the holidays. I do love sweet things!
If I have the time and feel creative, I will scrapbook and stamp my own cards, but if I’m time-crunched, I see nothing wrong with buying a nice holiday card and sending them off to close family and friends. I will use an app like JIbJab to create a funny Christmas greeting for all of my friends and family on social media.
Time has taught me that I’d rather spend my holiday enjoying hot cocoa and a Christmas movie with my loved ones than running from one chore to another during this season. So enjoy yourself, and if you love to shop and can afford to, do it! If you love to bake a dozen different kinds of cookies and holiday treats, knock yourself out!
But whatever you do, make sure you make time for the ones you love, because that is what Christmas is truly about — faith, family, and friends.
Dog Lover. I like to think I am.
Today I’m not so sure. My grandpuppy (a full-grown 100 lb. Lab) arrived yesterday for a long visit, and by long, I mean a two-month visit. My house was almost a dog hair-free zone prior to the visit. Once in a great while, I will find a little memento of his last visit. Please don’t judge my housekeeping skills, LOL! Remember, I’m a writer.
To give you a little background info, this beautiful pooch had lived with us for the first two years of his life. During those two years, my life revolved around my Labbie and my writing. My husband needed to understand, I had my priorities. The poor guy…
But the last two years have been pretty much pet-free except for periodic visits by my son and his dog. I’d gotten used to being on my own each day. My focus was on my agenda, so my To-Do List for today included advertising for my books and the continued promotion of my latest published book, Never Show Your Hand. Also, NaNoWriMo is happening and I need to write!
What my schedule has been thus far?????
- Wake up at 7 am
- Quickly dress, wash my face and brush my teeth
- Walk dog on slippery sidewalks and in circles around every interesting scent trail he can find
- Breakfast as the dog sits by my side hoping I drop something
- A five-minute phone call to my mom as the dog barks and whines nearby
- Snack time for “Fido”
- A few quick Facebook posts and Instagram posts (Yay!)
- Letting the dog out as I try to sweep the kitchen floor and clean up after breakfast
- Proceed to untangle the dog’s lead from a tree in the yard
- Return inside to finish sweeping the kitchen floor
- Have to return outside to untangle the dog’s lead from a different tree in the yard
Needless to say, we are still getting used to being around each other. It will settle down in a few days as he adjusts to his new environment. As I gaze at my furbaby sleeping peacefully in an armchair across from me, my smile is so big it almost makes my face hurt.
Time to get my writing done! TTYL, everyone!