Posted in Brave, cancer, Daughters, family, health, Strong, writers

Brave, Strong, Smart, Believe

This quote really touched me. I have been feeling anything but brave, strong or smart. In fact, I was wallowing in my fears. Regardless of all the platitudes and words of encouragement everyone has given me, I was being consumed by fear.

Well, I made it through my first chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday. And yes, I was a blubbering mess through the labs, the consult with the nurse practitioner, the insertion of the needle into the port, and even up until the first med was pumped through. But eventually, things calmed down (most likely in part by the Benadryl), but I realized I was not in pain. Nothing terrible was happening to me. I just sat there and let the meds do their thing for five hours. Bottom line is, I made it.

I went in and out of some pretty weird dreams, but they were not scary, just odd. And when I got home I was super tired. And so glad to have my oldest daughter Candy, here from Ohio to look after me so Tai could work this week.

Today is now Thursday. My symptoms have been extremely mind. A tiny bit of nausea that is quickly remedied with a pill on my tongue. I’ve had some slight stomach cramping and a little tingling feelings in parts of my body, but very mild. Nothing I can’t live with. Much better than I expected. Today we went out shopping, and although I was tired when I got home, it was good to get out. So far, no hair loss (one of the things I am dreading most). Supposedly that could start as soon as next week.

What I really want to convey here is I made it through the first treatment. I AM now braver and stronger and smarter than I was on Monday. Now I know what to expect when I walk through that door to the treatment room. I doubt there will be any more tears, at least not over that.

I am still fearful of the side effects that will happen with more treatments. But I don’t think I am terrified anymore, and that is a huge step forward. In fact, I don’t think I have cried since yesterday. And that was very brief and private. I am making it through.

If you are going through something like this, whether it is cancer or something completely different and not feeling brave, strong, or smart, hold on. It will come. I can’t promise you when, but together, we will make it through to the other side.

Feel free to share your thoughts and what you are going through too. Let’s do this together.

Posted in cancer, family, writers

Wonder Woman – my ass

Am I handing this well? God no. What happened to “I am Woman, I am strong?”

I am weak, a basket case, crying every single day. Now when someone says to me, “You are strong, you’ll get through this,” I want to throw something at their head.

I do not FEEL strong. I am crumbling inside. I remember once when I said those words to one of my daughters. “You are strong, honey, you’ll get through this.” And her answer was just like mine, “I don’t feel strong.” What she was really saying was, I NEED YOU to be strong for me. Now I get it. Sorry, honey.

Thank God for husbands like mine. He is gold. As calming as Dr. Sam is, Tai is my rock. His arms don’t stop the tears, in fact, they seem to open the floodgates even more. But they are the only place I want to be. Last night I woke him up at 3 a.m. because I was having a panic attack. My mind was all over the place. I didn’t want to do this. (the chemo) . What was I thinking agreeing to put 5 hours worth of poison in my body? It reminded me of old-time doctoring with leaches or bleeding. He held me and comforted me until I was calmer. I can’t promise him I won’t put him through it again.

I am also blessed with a loving, supportive family. My children are amazing. My brothers and sister-in-laws are fabulous. We are a big family. And I love every one of them.

So, now we are almost at the beginning of the end of my journey. The Chemo. First treatment in 3 days. I hope I have the strength to walk through the door. I had this “thing” inserted under my skin called a port. It is supposed to be where all my blood draws and chemo treatment will happen.

I’ll admit. I am afraid. I am afraid of all it. The chemo, the radiation, losing my hair (I know that is frivolous, but I still feel it), of being sick, of not being able to do the things I love. To die. Yes, it could happen. There are no guarantees.

For the first time in my life, I find myself saying “I just can’t” to just about everything. No, I can’t go to the office. No, I can’t meet my friends for lunch. No, I can’t work on your book. No, I can’t write a single legible sentence in my own novel. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I needed to stop that.

I have learned one thing. It is okay to lean on others. It is okay NOT to be strong. It is okay to cry. My yogi-daughter told me I needed a positive mantra, to repeat over and over, especially when I am in my quiet zone first thing in the morning. She helped me to recall I already HAVE a mantra. I just did not know it was called that. It is a Bible verse I have used when things got tough before (and they have) since 1972.

It is Romans 8:28 Everything works together for good for those that love and serve the Lord.” EVERYTHING – even cancer.

So every morning, I repeat that, do a deep inhale, hold it for 5 seconds an do a slow exhale. And I repeat that a minimum of five times. I am calmer.

I think I am ready to face the future. Do you have a mantra? What gets you through the hard times. Share them with us if you can.

Posted in health, writers

Dr. Sam …. he brought the calm

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness…… Unknown

Dr. Sam. There are no words. Have you ever met someone that his or her very presence eased your fears? That is Dr. Sam. He is my oncologist. He walked into the exam room and said, “Hi, I’m Sam.” We asked if he wasn’t the doctor and wanted to be addressed as so. His answer, “I’ve been Sam a lot longer that I have been Doctor….
Then he took my hand. He did not shake it. He held it. Firm, but soft, I felt all anxiety begin to drift away. I had no logical reason to feel this way, even though I had read all about his impressive credentials. That wasn’t it. There is a aura about Dr. Sam I cannot explain. He made me believe I could beat this. And as my daughter, said, he wasn’t hard on the eyes either.

We got down to business and he explained the game plan. He told us why he would do the surgery this way instead of that. He spoke to all of us, me, Tai and daughter Terri on a FaceTime call. He answered all our questions and explained things we didn’t know enough to ask. And he made me smile. He wanted to do laproscopic, but not robotic. I asked why. I thought I was so smart for reading up on the latest surgical technology. “Because,” he said, “You’re little. Robotic surgery would make bigger incisions and you don’t need those on your tiny body.” Me, little or tiny? Nobody had called me that in fifty years. Two points for Dr. Sam.

“You’re going to be okay,” said Dr. Sam. And I believed him. He concluded the meeting and stood to leave. Then he reached over and hugged me, warm, sincere, like a life raft. Hubby and I left, hand-in-hand. In the car, Tai looked over at me and asked why I was crying. They were tears of relief. The weight was lifted off my shoulder.

And no more

Surgery was set for August 20. Sam would do the operation. And I was sure I would be fine.

I was going to put the surgery on a separete post, but time is catching up to me. I’d like to have you caught up before my first chemo treatment.

As they say, “The surgery was a success …. but (don’t you hate those buts?)

I thought I was relatively calm going into the surgery. From what my daughter and hubby said, I was far from it. Apparently, the medication to make me drowsy before the actual anethesia loosened my tongue. I am told I cried and cried, hung on to them, and gave them instructions on what to do after I died. I remember none of that. (Just as well)

Dr. Sam made his rounds the next day and explained that things were slightly more complicated that he anticipated. He found some parts that were “mushy” (his words, not mine) and we would have to wait for the pathology report, but now he expected that I would need some chemo and radiation. What? I thought it was going to be easy-peasy – take out the stage 1 cancer and I’d be cured.

As Lee Corso from College Game day would say, “Not so fast.”

If you are enjoying this blog, make sure you are signed up to receive them all, and share with your family and friends. Tell next time…….

Posted in writers

The Road to Me by Laura Drake

Jacqueline Oliver is an indie perfumer, trying to bury her ravaged childhood by shoveling ground under her own feet. Then she gets a call she dreads—the hippie grandmother she bitterly resents was apprehended when police busted a charlatan shaman’s sweat lodge. Others scattered, but Nellie was slowed by her walker, and the fact that she was wearing nothing but a few Mardi-Gras beads. Jacqueline is her only kin, so like it or not, she’s responsible.

Despite being late developing next year’s scent, she drops everything to travel to Arizona and pick up her free-range grandma. But the Universe conspires to set them on a Route 66 road trip together. What Jacqueline discovers out there could not only heal the scars of her childhood but open her to a brighter future.

Welcome, Laura Drake to Writing Under Fire. Laura is a close friend of mine and I cannot be more excited about this interview or Laura’s new book. So let’s get right to it with you telling the readers a little bit about you.

Laura: I am a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. I gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. I realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and am currently working on my accent. I’m a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

I am honored to be a New York and self-published published author of Women’s Fiction and Romance. My debut, The Sweet Spot, was a double-finalist, then won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. I am a founding member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the Writers in the Storm blog.

JT: What was the inspiration for this book?

Laura: My motorcycle travels. I’ve ridden the west over 200,000 miles on a motorcycle. I even rode part of the abandoned part of Route 66 on my bicycle! The history of that famous road always intrigued me, so when I thought of doing a ‘road trip’ story, I knew where it would be set!

JT: You are one exciting chick. Tell the readers about your brand and the other books you have written.

Laura: My brand is “Ordinary women at the edge of extraordinary change.” This is my second Contemporary Women’s Fiction, the first being Days Made of Glass. My other eleven novels are small town or cowboy romances. I love writing women’s fiction because they I dig deep into women’s stories, they always stem from deep in their past. I love digging into that.

JT: I loved Days Made of Glass. You are so good at getting into the soul of your characters. How long have you been writing?

Laura: (chuckle) Since about 1998, but it took me fifteen years to sell my first book.

JT: That may be, but I remember well when you won the Rita Award, the most prestigious award for new writers from the Romance Writers of America. We were all cheering.

Let’s talk a little about publishing. How are you published and have you always gone that route.

Laura: Currently I am with a small press. I love the flexibility of it and the amount of input I have. I have mostly been traditionally published with NY presses where you get little to no say on anything like cover design. I’ve also Indie published, so I guess you can say I’ve tried them all.

JT: What do you like best about being an author, and what do you like least?

Laura: When a reader writes me and tells me that my book touched them. That’s why I started writing to begin with! I really dislike the middle (aka: The Pit of Despair). I don’t plot. I know the beginning and the end, when I get to the middle, I get hopelessly lost! Luckily I have friends I can call, and they talk me off the ledge.

JT: I remember I time when you stayed with me and we brainstormed my plot out while walking around the island. Nothing like writers friends to get us through.

How do you market your books?

Laura: Every way I can think of! I’ve been down every publishing road there is, and trust me, no matter if it’s NY, Small Press or Indie, YOU are responsible for marketing! I love Facebook, and have a group where I am my dorky, snarky, genuine self, and I think that helps move the needle. It is: Laura Drake’s Peace, Love & Books.

JT: I love it and am a faithful follower. What kind of advise would you give to a new author?

Laura: It’s easy to get discouraged on this road, no matter what path you take. When that happens, remember why you started. Rediscover the joy of the writing itself. That always helps me!

Where can people find your books?

Thank you Laura. I just finished The Road to Me. I wanted to immediately, turn back to page one and read it again. Five Stars *****

Posted in cowboys, family, fiction, love, novels, readers, romance, small towns, the west, westerns, WFWA, womens fiction, writers, writing

High Cotton Country by Leta McCurry

Leta McCurry           High Cotton Country

It is a pleasure to have Leta McCurry with us today for an Author Interview.  Leta and I have become friends through WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers Association.  I am still amazed at how technology can bring people together from opposites sides of the country, or even the world.

Leta,  when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but I actually started writing at about twelve – from a twelve year old’s perspective obviously. The adventure, companionship, comfort and inspiration I received from being an avid reader is what first inspired me to put on paper the stories that were bouncing around in my head.

Do you have a background in writing or have you taken  any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

No. The biggest help to me has been honest and forthright critique readers. Feedback from readers always gives me clarity about y writing and is a big help in my on-going endeavor to become a better writer.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

Sales. I think sales taught me to take risks and put myself out there. And not to take rejection personally. And, while not work in the strictest sense, I think raising five children.

How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

About a year and a half from writing the first chapter through to publication. 

Do you always write in the same genre?

My interest is in general/women’s fiction. I never intended to write non-fiction but at one point Prentice-Hall, New York offered me a contract to write a college textbook which I did and they published. That was just an unexpected side trip. I refer to my genre as women’s fiction but I have been told it is more general fiction. High Cotton Country has actually been read by several men and I’ve had really good geed back from them so I guess it is a cross-over between general and women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Women’s fiction.

Do you have any special time or place you like to write?

I have a little cubby hole office hardly big enough to “cuss a cat” as my grandpa would say, but it works for me.  Nice big windows with a view out at the green Oregon trees and foliage and blue sky (when it isn’t raining).

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Yes. Non Fiction. College Text Book. Publisher Prentice Hall sought me out based on a recommendation from a college professor.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication on this project? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

I went the self-publishing route almost entirely because of the time factor involved in getting a book on the market via traditional sources. It just seemed that two years was a long time.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I like to switch it up because everybody has their own perspective on events and situations. The same incident can and does have a different impact on different people. I have read books written from a one person perspective and they worked for me as a reader. I don’t know that I could make it work that successfully.  To me, the difference is one perspective is like mashed potatoes and multiple perspective is like a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives and chopped bacon.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up writing a one point of view narrative someday.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think an author’s voice is that life and world point of view that is particular to each of us. That voice is the culmination of our circumstances of birth, the “imprinting” we received as we grew to adulthood, and the experiences that are unique to each one. And, the voice is always changing, growing, expanding, because as long as we are alive we are continually influenced by the world and people around us and our responses to those circumstances.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s

I don’t follow an exact chronological order but I do follow a loose time framework. I do write in order though, each chapter in sequence. I have writer friends who may write chapter 20 then come back to 5 then write chapter 18 then 35 and come back to 6.  That would drive me crazy.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Query and synopsis. Lot harder that writing a novel. Now that I am in the midst of the process, writing is the easy part.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Right now, personal networking. Exploring possibilities. Marketing has turned out to be a sharp learning curve for me and I’m still finding my way through the jungle. As I said, writing Cazzie’s story was the easy part.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

About 50/50 I think.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Sit down and write. Edit later.

Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?

Elin Hildebrand – she entertains me.  Susan Crandall and Robert Morgan because I love their “voice”. They are from my neighborhood. And Ayn Rand – she makes me think. James Clavell and Lincoln and Childs– they transport me to other worlds.

Complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was….. “A poem.”

Please share a brief synopsis of High Cotton Country.

Secrets. Hidden they can destroy her from within. Revealed they can explode her world.

 Come hell or high water, Cazzie Randle is determined to leave the past behind along with the hardscrabble life of a small hill country town but finds she can’t elude the secret trauma that haunts her – an act of unspeakable horror by her mother and abandonment by her father.

A message that her father is dying sends a reluctant Cazzie to his bedside but not to reconcile a lifelong estrangement. She must make him finally reveal the secrets of the memories that haunt her. He must answer questions of “Why?”

An explosion of truth in a dusty Texas hill country town reveals old secrets and demands choices. But will she be able to choose or will she be paralyzed by all the old hurts, cruelty and betrayals that have driven her all her life? To find the answer, Cazzie must confront the very essence of who she has become and question whether the price was too high.

 

  High Cotton Country is the story of one woman’s journey to self-discovery. It is about the inherent dignity of the human being, of the burning desire to be in command of one’s own destiny, of the will, not only to survive, but to achieve, and to face adversity with courage and honor. This is not only the story of one woman’s fighting spirit, but also of the people who influence her self-esteem, shape her self-image and participate in her destiny.

Where can readers buy High Cotton Country?

Readers can read the first chapter of High Cotton Country at http://www.letamccurry.com/free-read/ and check out my blog at http://www.letamccurry.com/blog

Copies are available https://www.createspace.com/5060373 or

Thanks for having me, Joanne. It’s been fun. Leta

 

Posted in angels, family, Florida, grandmothers, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, love, Merry Christmas, mythology

A Holiday Story- The Marco Angel

island of angels - Copy (2)

Happy Holidays to everyone. Instead of an author interview, for my holiday gift to you, here is a short story I wrote a few years ago about the Marco Angels, hundreds of them, all over our island. They are a wonderful sight.

The Tradewinds

 

Island of Angels, a short story  December 2012

by  Joanne Simon Tailele

The young girl hunched down in the backseat of the car. Her nose almost touched the screen of the I-pad she balanced on her lap. Bright pink ear buds blocked out the other sounds in the car. As the car approached the crest of the Judge Jolley Bridge, her mother hollered to her above the music pounding in her ears. “Liza, look, an osprey.”

Liza lifted her head just as the bird spread its wings and took flight above the sparkling blue water. She watched as it flapped twice, and then glided on the wind. It headed across the island into the setting amber sun where the high-rises in the distance appeared to dance on the water’s edge. “Nice,” she said somewhat sarcastically and buried her red-capped head back in her lap.

This was not Liza’s idea for a Christmas vacation. Who ever heard of Christmas without snow, or friends or blazing fireplaces? If they had to go to Florida, couldn’t it be Disney World? No, Mom and Dad said it had to be Marco Island. Liza knew what this was really about. It was about saying good-bye. They thought she didn’t know, but she wasn’t a baby. She had looked it up on Google. Lymphoma. The chemo had only made it worse. She threw up all the time and her long blonde hair fell out in clumps until she just shaved it all off and stuck a cap on her head.

Gram’s house was cool and it had a big pool right off the back door inside a cage. Liza could push back the huge sliding doors and walk straight into the water, if she only had the strength. But even with a big artificial tree, and lots of lights on the house, things still did not feel like Christmas.

On the second night, Gram announced that she was taking Liza out to see the town. Big deal, Liza thought. This town sucks. She’d rather be back in New York with her friends.

As they rode down Collier Blvd, Liza noticed the angels. Beautiful silhouettes of praying angels lined the street in front of building after building of condominiums. They turned down Barfield, and then San Marco, then Bald Eagle. More angels graced the lawns of pretty homes and businesses. “What is this Gram? What’s with the angels?” Liza heart began to soften and a lump formed in her throat.

Her grandmother smiled at her. “This is the Island of Angels, don’t you know that?” She pulled the car up the steep drive to the Marriott Hotel and handed the keys to the valet. “Come, my dear. I want to show you something.”

Liza and her grandmother entered the lobby of the hotel. The most beautiful tree Liza had ever seen filled the room, surrounded by dozens of red poinsettias.  They descended the stairs and exited the double doors into the courtyard. A wedding reception was taking place and Liza smiled at the bride and groom surrounded by their friends and families seated at white linen tables in the soft moonlight. Passed the party, passed the pool, passed the restaurant on the beach, Liza walked arm-in-arm with her grandmother toward the shoreline. Those who observed them would not have known who was supporting whom. They kicked their shoes off as they reached the soft sand. The salt air tickled Liza’s nose. When the only sound they heard was the surf lapping on the beach in its own rhythmic beat, Gram spread a blanket and they sat down, shoulder to shoulder. The breeze from the Gulf was cool and Gram lifted the edge of the blanket to wrap them together in a cocoon.

Thousands of stars lit the sky and the moon’s reflection pirouetted over the water. Liza leaned her head on to her grandmother’s shoulder. “This is beautiful. Thank you for bringing me here. Tell me, Gram, why do they call this the Island of Angels?”

“Because it is.” Her grandmother stated rather matter-of-factly.  “Hundreds of years ago, the Calusa Indians knew this, and that is why they settled here. Angels look over this island and keep it safe. When big hurricanes like Wilma and Charlie, or Katrina blow toward this island, the angels all get together and flap their wings at the same time and blow the worst of the storms away.”

Liza snuggled a little closer. “Do you think angels are people that have died?”

Her grandmother thought for a moment. “No, I believe they were created to always be angels, that they are immortal, with no beginning and no end. They just are. But there is something else they do, Liza. They also blow away fear.”

Liza lifted her head from her grandmother’s shoulder and looked into her eyes in the moonlight. “How do they do that, Gram?”

“If you are afraid, just sit very still and quiet. Listen for them and they will come. When you hear the flapping of their wings, you will know that they are lifting your fear and taking it away.”

Christmas morning, Liza was too weak to open her gifts, but a special gift hung by a silver chain on the tree; a Marco Angel bowing with a candle in hand. Her grandmother hooked the clasp of the chain around her granddaughter’s neck. Liza looked up at her and pressed the angel to her chest. “I can hear them, Gram. I hear their wings. I am not afraid.”

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year to all of you.

2011-12-28 18.24.39

Tai and Joanne

Posted in children, Christian, country, family, fiction, Merry Christmas, readers, thanks, womens fiction, writing

A Christmas Gift by Kerryn Reid

My friend,Kerryn Reed,  wrote this beautiful Christmas story and she is allowing me to share it with you. I know you will love it.

Kerryn Reed - A Christmas Story  Kerryn Reid Auriti in color

A CHRISTMAS GIFT

by Kerryn Reid

©2014

 

“Is it tonight, Mama? Please say it is!” Sadie jumped up and down, flapping her arms like a robin fledging in mid-winter.

Marian Barnett smiled for her daughter’s sake. Since she had married John and moved to Yorkshire, wassail nights had been gay occasions. They would collect in shifting little knots of friends and family on Christmas Eve and sometimes again for New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night, laughing at the cold and each other’s antics. They ran to keep warm and sang very badly, yet the rich folk in their snug houses smiled, and provided hot punch for them all, and maybe some cakes, and often pressed pennies or ha’pennies into the children’s hands to be spent on toys or candy. Then the wassailers would run along to the next house to try their luck. And somewhere along the way she would fall into the snow with John, pressed close through all the layers of wool, kissing each other’s numbed lips before hurrying home to strip those layers off and fulfill the craving they’d begun outside, drunk on wassail and Christmas and the long life they would share.

John was gone close to a year now, saving their daughter from the icy swirling river. Sadie was no substitute for him, but she was all Marian had, and her little heart was set on her first time wassailing. It would be Marian’s only gift to her – any coins they received must be hoarded for bread and milk.

“When do we go, Mama? Why can’t we go now?” All morning long the questions came. Where Marian found the patience to answer calmly, she didn’t know. Finally, in the afternoon, she set aside the shirts she was sewing for Mrs. Wallace and lay down with the child. Once Sadie was asleep, she would get back to the work that brought in those few all-important shillings.

She woke up when Sadie clambered over her, humming a tune with some words thrown in. “And all the little children hmm hmmm go, love and joy hmm…” It had been a bright day, but a glance out the window showed the dusk already lowering its veil over the town. Marian sighed. She’d wasted the afternoon. Already it was time to get them both fed and dressed; John’s brother would be stopping for them soon enough.

Sadie jumped from the bench for the dozenth time and ran to the door. “It must be Uncle Peter, Mama!” But it wasn’t, it was no one at all, and the cold rushed in again to mock their little wood fire. Not that Marian could blame the child. Hungry though she must be, hard brown bread soaked in lukewarm broth could not be expected to keep her at table when there was such excitement in the offing.

Marian gave up the battle. Small meals meant small work to clean them up – in a few minutes it was done. As soon as she stepped from the kitchen corner, Sadie flew to her side. “Oh, Mama, can we go now? Is it time?”

“Not yet, my robin.” Marian scooped her up, nibbling at her neck until she wriggled with giggles. “But it’s time to put on all our warmest clothing so we’ll be ready when Uncle comes.” She sat the child on top of the shelves John had built so they were almost eye-to-eye.

Sadie stuck her feet out straight while Marian pushed on an extra pair of socks, and then another. “Will we go to the big house?”

“Lord Ryndale’s? I’m sure we will.” Who more likely to give away money, after all? And oh, how disgusting to think that way.

A miniature pair of trousers, borrowed from Peter’s little boy, went under Sadie’s skirts, the hems rolled up so she wouldn’t trip on them.

“How about the pastor?”

“Definitely.”

A second gown went on over the first, and Sadie crowed with laughter at the idea of wearing twodresses. “An’ the new fam’ly down the lane, with the baby?”

That was easy enough to guess. Aubrey was their name. Marian had seen them at church. She remembered one Sunday in particular when the pastor had prayed for John’s soul. “And for his widow, Marian. She came to us a stranger, yet she was his, and now she is ours.” And all those eyes turned her way and she tried not to cry, because most of them didn’t look very friendly at all. But Mrs. Aubrey stopped her after the service, took her hand and said how sorry she was. A nice lady, gentle and soft-spoken.

“Yes, I expect so. Now it’s time for your boots.” These were also borrowed. Marian squeezed them on over all the socks.

“Mama, they’re too tight!”

Afraid they would split apart, Marian took them off again and removed one sock from each little foot. “Better?”

“Mm hmm.” A borrowed jacket and a knitted cap, and Sadie was ready for the finishing touches when Peter arrived.

Marian lifted her down and started on her own layers. An extra pair of socks, and then her own boots; a skirt underneath her old gown; and then Peter was at the door with Jane and Tommy and some of the neighbors, stomping snow on her clean floor.

Peter swung his niece into the air. “Well, Sadie, are you ready for your grand adventure?”

Her shrieks filled the room with happiness. Marian ran over to them with Sadie’s cloak and mittens, and once they were donned, the group headed out into the near-darkness. She tore her own cloak down from its peg and followed, leaving behind her own hat and the tattered old pelisse she’d intended to wear under the cloak. Peter did not like to wait.

Seven-year-old Tommy swung a lantern, and one of the men had a torch. They were hardly necessary along the main street, with all the light shining from the windows. But the richest homes in town lay farther apart on the side roads, darker and less-traveled.

“Put me down, Uncle,” Sadie squealed again after the third house they visited, and this time he did. Tommy called her a plum pudding and everyone laughed, the description was so apt as she waddled down the street in all her layers. Sadie just grinned. Peter and Jane took one hand apiece and swung her between them until they reached the next house. After that she tottered along between Marian and Jane, then Marian carried her for a while.

By the time they arrived in the square they were sixpence richer. A bonfire had been laid for the evening festivities. The bells would ring and the children would parade around the square with drums or makeshift instruments, making “music” to welcome the Christ child. But that was not ‘til eight o’clock.

The group headed out toward Lord Ryndale’s estate beyond the edge of town, paying their luck-visits at the houses along the way. Marian’s arms and shoulders ached. Who would think a half-starved four-year-old could weigh so much? The effort helped keep her warm, though already she couldn’t feel her feet.

She made Sadie walk and the two of them fell behind, reaching “the big house” as the rest of the group left it. Peter looked surprised when they passed on the big gravel drive. “You just getting here, then? They have good cakes inside. Best hurry, Sadie, before they’re gone.”

“You go on ahead,” Marian said. “We’ll catch up.”

“No, no. We’ll wait.” He did not sound happy about it. The others had not noticed her at all, and he watched after them as they passed on through the grand gate to the lane, talking and laughing. His feet remained rooted to the gravel, but the rest of him seemed to stretch out to follow.

Marian pressed her lips tight. “Go on. We’re fine.” Peter seemed to blame her, somehow, for John’s death. But even before that, he had never liked her much.

He didn’t even look at her. “If you’re sure,” he said, and was gone, may he rot. John had been worth a dozen Peters.

Sadie got a penny and a little Yule cake. “Mmm. It’s good, Mama.” But most of it crumbled into the snow as she ate it. Marian rejected the wassail bowl so they could catch up with the rest, but took her own cake for Sadie to eat later, carefully wrapped in a cloth.

They did not catch up. Marian carried Sadie, but it wasn’t long before she felt her arms would fall off. Thank God, the lights of the town shone clearer now, individual windows pricking out of the darkness ahead. Focused on those, she tripped in a rut and fell to her knees in the frozen lane.

If only she could warm herself, she could manage the walk home. But Sadie, plopping down on her mama’s thighs like a sack of potatoes, made it impossible even to stand up. Hard to believe this night had ever been fun.

“Sadie, love, you must get off.”

“I want to go home, Mama.” She did not cry, but her voice wavered with the threat of tears.

Oh God, so did she! “We will, sweetling, we will. But first I must get up.” She had never felt less graceful, her bottom in the air as she shoved off the ground with her hands. But she managed. “And next, we must visit this house.” It stood just steps away, all lit up, the gate standing open in welcome. Light meant warmth, and some hot liquor in her belly would work wonders.

They were halfway up the walk before she realized it was the Aubreys’ house. Not that it mattered; she would ask only a few extra minutes by the fire beyond the usual wassail offerings, and she would expect that much compassion from anyone.

A footman opened the door, tall and lean – no, he wore no livery. It was Mr. Aubrey himself. At least, she thought it was. “Merry Christmas,” he said, looking out beyond her shoulder to see how many followed her. Not many went wassailing alone.

“And to you, sir.” Curtsies were difficult, Marian found, on legs frozen stiff. “I fear I’m out of breath, or we would sing for you.” Thank goodness she had some excuse! Singing was beyond her capabilities at that moment.

“I’ll sing, Mama,” Sadie said from knee level. “Wish you a merry Kissmas, wish you a merry Kissmas, an’ a happy new year!” It was not very tuneful, but she ended with a shout and a flourish of her hand, and Mr. Aubrey applauded and laughed.

“Do come in, both of you. We leave shortly to watch the celebration in the square, but you are here in time for some punch.” He led the way into the parlor. It was not as grand as Lord Ryndale’s, yet her whole cottage might fit three times into this room. But she hardly even noticed, because of the fire. She could not afford enough wood to keep such a fire alive for three days!

The contrast in temperature made Marian shudder. Oh, it felt wonderful! Regardless of how it must look, she crossed directly to the fireplace, pulled off her mittens and held her hands out toward the flames.

While Mr. Aubrey gave Sadie a cup and a biscuit, his wife came to her with a glass of punch. Their fingers touched as Marian took her glass, and Mrs. Aubrey exclaimed, “Why, your hands are like ice! Please, sit down here and take as long as you need to warm yourself. And your daughter, too. Come here, little one.” She nestled Sadie beside Marian in the big chair.

“Oh, ma’am, bless you for this. We fell behind the others, and Sadie’s so swaddled she can hardly walk.”

“An’ Mama too,” Sadie said. “She falled down.”

“Oh dear. Yes, I see your skirts are wet.”

Marian looked down, appalled to think she might soil Mrs. Aubrey’s floor. “I’m so sorry, ma’am.” She started to her feet, but her hostess put a hand on her shoulder and pressed her firmly back down before seating herself in an adjacent chair.

“Don’t worry about that, please.” Smoky-blue eyes peered into Marian’s own. “I know you, don’t I? Was it not your husband who…” With a glance at Sadie, Mrs. Aubrey changed what she’d been about to say. “…Who saved your little girl? Such a hero. And a soldier too, was he not? I don’t recall the name, I’m afraid.”

“John Barnett, ma’am. And mine is Marian.” It was a struggle to get her own name out of her mouth. Dear God, she hadn’t cried in months. But with the cold, and the wishing, and the sympathy in Mrs. Aubrey’s pretty face… She choked on her tears, and a fancy embroidered handkerchief appeared in her hand. She hated to use the thing, but it would be worse not to.

“I am Anna Aubrey. I think the pastor said you’re not from these parts? I’m a “foreigner”, too, all the way from Bristol. Isn’t it funny, how Yorkshire folk think of us that way, as if we weren’t all English?”

Marian didn’t find it funny at all, but she supposed a beautiful woman with a wealthy husband and a fine home would always receive a warmer welcome than she had found. “I’m from Exeter, ma’am. My John was stationed there with his regiment.”

Sadie had been leaning heavy against Marian’s side, sleepy with the warmth as Marian was herself. But she pushed away and slipped down to the floor. “Don’t you have a baby, ma’am? Where is it?”

“My husband will bring her downstairs any minute. We’re taking her to the town square for the parade, unless we’re too late.”

Marian scooted forward and stood, still stiff and clumsy. She discovered that her knee hurt. “I’m afraid we’re keeping you, ma’am. I thank you, ever so much…”

Mr. Aubrey returned to the room carrying the prettiest babe Marian had ever seen, plump and healthy-looking, perhaps a year in age. A maid accompanied them carrying outdoor garments for the child. Sadie waddled over for a closer look, cooing and chattering to the wide-eyed infant.

Mrs. Aubrey smiled across the room at them, then turned back to Marian. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Barnett. And if you don’t mind being a little bit crowded, we will be pleased to take you in the carriage back to the square, or to your home if you prefer.”

Did the woman not realize how far beneath her Marian was? “I could not ask you to…”

“But you didn’t, did you,” Mrs. Aubrey said. “So that’s settled.”

Though the drive took less than ten minutes, Sadie was asleep when they reached town. Kind as they were, Marian had no desire to show these gentry-folk where she lived. But still less did she want to walk there carrying Sadie. In fact, she didn’t think she could. Depending on darkness to hide the worst, she let them drive her home. They would never see the interior, at least.

Yet somehow, when they arrived, it happened. Mr. Aubrey took the child from her as they descended from the carriage. That was natural enough.

But when she reached out to take Sadie, he said, “No, let me carry her for you.” And then, in response to her protest, “It’s no trouble at all, ma’am.”

She had no choice but to open the door to the dark room, only a bit warmer than the outdoors. He said something over his shoulder to the footman on the box beside the coachman, and he took a lantern from its hook on the carriage and lit the way in.

Marian closed her eyes against the light and the embarrassment. Then she led the way to the bed and lit the candle beside it.

His manners were excellent. He said nothing about the place. She could not even tell that he inspected it. But for all that, she felt tension coming off him as he lay Sadie gently down and stood to his full height. His head bumped against the naked beam.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

He ignored the apology, yet his voice was rough. He sounded angry. “Have you enough wood, ma’am? Where is your extra supply?”

Dazed and shivering, she answered him. He jerked his head toward the footman, who went out the door and turned to go where she had indicated.

“And food; what about food? Tomorrow is Christmas.”

“We sup tomorrow with my husband’s brother. We have enough.” Her voice cracked with the jumble of emotions roiling inside her. Anger of her own, humiliation, grief for John, fear of the long future without him, all played their part.

“I shall be back in a moment,” he said. The footman passed him in the doorway with an armload of wood. He added several small logs to the fire, working it until it blazed with warmth.

“Thank you,” she said, but he was not finished. He went back out for another load, and then another.

It was not Mr. Aubrey who returned, but his wife. She cast a brief glance around the room, then came to stand a foot in front of Marian. They were much the same height.

“I have a proposition, Mrs. Barnett.”

Marian fidgeted with the ties on her cloak.

“Have you ever been in service?”

Marian shook her head. “No, ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter. We need a maid, and I like you. Will you come to us?”

Marian blinked, shook her head again. “I can’t leave my daughter.”

Mrs. Aubrey’s eyes widened in shock. “Of course not! The two of you will share a room.”

Oh, this was foreign territory. “I don’t know how to be a maid, ma’am.”

“You can learn as you go along. We’ll sit down and discuss your duties with the housekeeper. We can begin with small things, and you will grow into the job. Can you come now?”

Marian jumped at that. She had to try twice to get any sound out. “Now, ma’am?” Her voice rose to a squeak.

“I suppose that is rather abrupt. My husband tells me you dine with family tomorrow?”

Marian nodded.

“The day after, then. We’ll send the carriage for you at one o’clock? And perhaps a waggon, in case you have trunks or other large items. Will that suit?”

Marian nodded again. She stared like a stupid oaf, unsure if she should trust her eyes and ears. Could this be happening? Perhaps she had died out there in the cold, and the woman before her was Heaven’s angel come for her? She looked angelic enough. But the sweet, gentle creature she’d talked with earlier had developed a will of iron, and Marian could no more refuse her than she could fly. And why should she?

Fear, that’s why. Not knowing what to do, what to expect. What would be expected of her.

But it was a chance, better than any other she was likely to receive. A Christmas gift, for herself and for Sadie. Food, fire, and clothes that fit. Shoes, too. A place to belong.

Mrs. Aubrey pulled off her glove and put out her hand. “Do we have a deal, Mrs. Barnett?”

Marian gazed at that soft white hand for a moment, then she slipped hers into it, rough and brown. She felt a grin form on her face, though her eyes were wet with tears.

“A deal, Mrs. Aubrey.”

Posted in authors, books, characters, conflict, family, favorite books, fiction, friend, love, mystery, novels, pain, publishing, purpose, readers, romance, series, small towns, support, WFWA, womens fiction, writers

Multi-published Women’s Fiction Author Kathleen Paterka says “don’t give up.”

Kathleen Irene Paterka Author

A very special welcome to Kathleen Paterka. We met through the wonderful group, WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers of America.  Kathleen, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I fell in love with the written word in the 2nd grade reading my first Trixie Belden® book. In case you’re not familiar with the series, Trixie was a girl detective who teamed up with her brothers and best friend Honey Wheeler to solve mysteries occurring around their little town in the Hudson Valley area of New York. Trixie Belden changed my life. It was the first time I’d read a book with a plot and no pictures. I devoured the existing series (12 books), and anxiously waited for the next one to be published. It was around that time I made the decision that someday, I would be an author and write more Trixie Belden novels. While I never did tackle the world of Trixie Belden (the last book was published in 1986), I did start my own series. The James Bay novels (Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned) are set in the fictional resort community of James Bay, Michigan. After finishing those four stories, I wrote another two books set in different locations. Royal Secrets is about a family-owned Las Vegas wedding chapel, while my upcoming release, The Other Wife, is set in Chicago. For my next book (which I’m currently researching), I’ll be taking readers back to James Bay.

I too well in love with writing over Trixie Beldon, as you can see from my own tattered copy. It is one of my treasured possessions.

Trixie Belden

Do you have a background in writing? What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

In school, my teachers tried steering me toward Creative Writing classes, but I dug in my heels, screaming “No, no, no!” I didn’t like being forced to write poetry or short stories. I knew I wanted to be a novelist, and I couldn’t see any point in wasting my time by writing Haiku (sincere apologies to any Haiku-enthusiasts who may be reading this). While I concede that there are basics to the craft that must be mastered (sentence structure, proper grammar, plot elements, etc.), there’s simply no way another person can ‘teach you’ how to write a book. Want to know the secret? Sit down and start. It’s as simple as that. Caveat: notice I did not say it was ‘easy’. It may be simple, but it’s definitely not easy. After graduating college with a degree in Sociology, plus a few years spent working for a local newspaper, the Catholic church, and the law, I finally settled down where I belonged: in a beautiful castle located in Northern Michigan. My job as staff writer at Castle Farms (a century old French Renaissance castle listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is like a fairy-tale come true.

Kathleen, what advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

The best advice I can pass along was given to me by an author friend when I was just starting out. This highly successful NY Times bestselling author told me: “Perseverance and persistence, along with discipline, determination and confidence, are EVERY bit as important as talent. Your belief in yourself… is THE ONLY THING that separates you from the hundreds who will fall by the wayside without their dreams and goals realized. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Work hard, work smart, work tirelessly. Be tough, be brave and be persistent. All clichés, yes. But when they apply to you and how much you want to realize your dream, they are very apt.” I’ve kept my friend’s message tucked close in my heart through all the ups and downs of my publishing career, and it’s served me well. Today, I’m sharing her message with you. Don’t give up!

FattyPatty ForIHaveSinned HomeFires LottoLucy RoyalSecretsCream

Tell us about one of your book in 3 sentences. Fatty Patty (my first novel) is semi-autobiographical. Though I’m now at a normal weight (and have been for over 35+ years), I weighed three hundred pounds while in high school. Fatty Patty tackles the issues of dieting, dating, self-esteem, and exposes the gritty honest truth of what it’s like to be overweight in a society that worships thin.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today? My upcoming release, The Other Wife, will hit the shelves (and the cyber-world of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, plus Kobo) in February 2015. What happens in a woman’s life when her husband dies? What kind of secrets might be revealed? I came up with the idea when my own husband, Steve, actually died in front of me early one morning. I was sitting at the end of his bed in the semi-darkness when he made a strange sound. At the time, I thought it was the oddest snore I’d ever heard. Turns out, it was the infamous ‘death rattle’. Believe me, if you’ve never heard it, it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up! Luckily, Steve was in the cardiac unit of our local hospital. They called a Code Blue, and the medical team managed to resuscitate him. He’s since had a triple by-pass and doing well, thank you! But that hospital experience in 2011 got me to thinking: What if Steve had been at home, asleep in our bed? What if he’d let out that horrible sound, and I’d assumed it was only a loud snore? I probably would have poked him, rolled over in bed, and gone back to sleep… what a horrible thing to wake up to in the morning. And what would my life have been like after that? Thus, a new storyline was born.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

Here’s the Prologue from The Other Wife… I hope you enjoy it!

It wasn’t much of a sound. Later, she would remember it as an odd sort of grunt. Still, it had been loud enough to wake her. Eleanor rolled over in their king-size bed, stretched out an arm, and nudged him. Richard’s snoring had worsened in the past months. She lay there in the darkness, waiting to see if another nudge was necessary. Just the other day, she’d read how snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea, leading to other, more serious, health problems. Perhaps tomorrow, depending on what kind of mood he was in, she’d mention the subject over breakfast. Maybe she should insist that he see a doctor. Not that it would do much good. Richard rarely listened to her. For most of the thirty-eight years they’d been married, he hadn’t listened to much of what she had to say. He’d probably give her his usual shrug, tell her to quit worrying.

Quit worrying. It wasn’t until five hours later that she realized she’d had good cause to be worried. She should have known that sound was different. She should have stayed awake. She should have tried to rouse him. Instead, she waited another minute, surrounded by silence. Then, turning over, she laid her head back on the pillow and curled up in her spot, still warm from sleep, snuggling into the clean, fragrant smell of freshly laundered sheets changed by Martha the day before. Closing her eyes, Eleanor drifted off into the most pleasant dream… only to wake the next morning to every woman’s nightmare.

Richard, in bed beside her, was dead.

Readers, go to Kathleen’s website. There is a place where you can enter to win a FREE copy of her new book, The Other Wife. I have read Fatty Patty and Royals Secrets.  They are both fantastic.  I can’t wait for The Other Wife to come out.

Thank you, Kathleen, for being on Author Interview Friday on Writing Under Fire.

Author website:          http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/

Facebook:                    https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/KPaterka

Amazon:                      http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Irene-Paterka

Barnes & Noble:         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/kathleen-irene-paterka

 

 

Posted in children, ethnic tolerance, family, humor, Thanksgving, traditions

What is your most unique Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgving 2

I know everyone has their horror stories of Thanksgivings where family members come to blows with each other. Not my family. We were raised to be civil at all times, to never raise your voice, to “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” However, just because we did not have any screaming matches, does not mean we were immune to the “unusual.”

So, here is mine. I’d love to hear yours.

First – a little background. To understand this story, you need to understand we are lily-white pilgrims. Well, almost anyway. My family first arrived in America in 1786 (I think that is right, but who is going to dispute it?) We settled on our family land where 5 generations of children were born in 1803, in Ohio, the same year it became a state.  You didn’t come to dinner in bare feet or T-shirts.  You wouldn’t dream of saying “I don’t like that.” You waited to be excused from the table by the hostess.  Cardinal rule: always be polite. Still, they (my grand-parents and parents) considered themselves liberal and “tolerant” – their word, not mine, of those people that were different than us.  Keep in mind, I never even met a black person until I was in high school, and my first Asian person was probably not until after I was married.  So, I was brought up slightly (okay- maybe a little more than slightly) naive.

But shortly after I was married, our family included a Mormon sister-in-law, a Italian Catholic sister-in-law, (I was told “if you don’t don’t date them, you won’t marry them) – I guess that didn’t stop by brother. Note: my sister-in-law, Pat is one of my favorite people in the whole world,  an Asian sister-in-law and my cousin married a black man.  So the family was pretty happy when I married a white Protestant boy from our home town.  (Well, almost happy – but that is another story.)

Okay, I am digressing. Back to Thanksgiving and my most unique one.

I believe it was 1995. We had recently moved to back Ohio from Virginia. For a change, most of my children (if not all) were in the same town. I have always been proud that Thanksgiving at my house  meant, “Bring anyone that is alone to share the day.” So I never knew who my children (or I) might bring to Thanksgiving dinner.

My son, Dru (in his 20’s) said he was bringing some guests. Great. The table was all set. Everything was beautiful, good china, lace tablecloth from the early 1900’s, candles lit, my family all around me, turkey on the table.  Dru was late (wasn’t he always?)  With him was a Lesbian Asian couple that did not speak English.  They had never seen a Thanksgiving turkey. They had no idea what to do with mashed potatoes and gravy. Dru had to do a pantomime Charades type demonstration to show them how to put gravy on top of the mashed potatoes. That in itself was hysterical.

After dinner, everyone settled in the living room to watch football.  What else would anyone do on Thanksgiving?  Our guests snuggled together on the couch, much to the chagrin of my 80 year old father, who tried not to stare, but whose eyes were glued like flies on a fly-strip.  They managed to indicate to Dru somehow that they wanted us to change to channel. When he reached for the remote (the only family member NOT a football freak), his sister, Amy said, “What are you doing?”

Dru said, “Changing the channel. The girls don’t want to watch football.”

Jumping to her feet, hand on her hip, Amy glared, voice raised (yes-raised), said, “In THIS house, we watch FOOTBALL on Thanksgiving!”

So much for “tolerance.”

What is your story?