Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#Hyannis Harbor, #Books, Bingo, + Bulls ~ Busy #amwriting Month!

Connecting with Mrs. Cape Cod
and signing books for her at
Shopping & Bingo Night
My life is always a bit crazy, but things have been so unusually hectic since mid-April that I haven't had much time to post here.  But I did want to share some of the pictures from the events I've participated in, now that I have a little more time.  In May and June, I signed books at a monthly Shopping & Bingo Night which helps raise money for different charities.  I met a lot of people, including Mrs. Cape Cod (now Mrs. Massachusetts!), and I was thrilled when she purchased all 4 of my books.  I was even more excited to hear how much she loved GULL HARBOR, the first one she decided to read, the next day on social media--that's the type of thing that makes an author's day!

Woo hoo!  This is why I write, to pull people into exciting stories that keep
the pages turning and provide entertainment ...hearing things like this makes my day!

Saw this big boy as I walked across
campus at orientation - the campus at
UNH is absolutely beautiful
In June, my oldest son graduated from high school, which was a joyous occasion but also bittersweet--how can he be leaving home in the fall?  But we're proud to be sending him to the University of New Hampshire, home of the Wildcats and apparently this snapping turtle, which I came across as I was walking through campus during the 2-day orientation.

Katie, Kate, and myself at our Shanty at Hyannis Harbor

Before our trip to NH for orientation, I joined two other author friends for a 3-day book signing at the Artist Shanties at Hyannis Harbor.  We did this last year, and had such fun we decided to do it again.  We camped out at our Shanty from 11 am to 8 or 9 pm all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, chatting with locals and visitors enjoying the Harbor or returning from ferry trips to Martha's Vineyard and Hyannis. It was three long days, but we had a lot of laughs, and also connected with other local artists and crafters.

The view of Hyannis Harbor from the Shanties

While doing all this, I was also teaching my fitness classes every morning, as well as my current writing class which meets once a week.  I kept telling myself my vacation was on the horizon, if I could just make it!  Finally, it was here...my annual trip to Bethany Beach, Delaware, for a long weekend with my best friends from high school. We've been doing Girls Weekend there each summer since 2011, and it's become a wonderful tradition.  In the past, I've also signed books at the local book store while there, but this year, I decided I needed to just relax.  I'm so glad, too, because the Saturday I usually do the book signing turned out to be the new date for the 21st Dewey Beach Running of the Bulls.  A friend of one of the girls in our group actually started this event, twenty-one years ago, after a trip to Spain.  This Running of the Bulls does not involve any real animals, but rather two guys in a bull costume, escorted by a matador and lifeguards, chasing people down the beach.  Almost everyone wears a red bandanna and either a red or white shirt, although some people dress in more elaborate costumes.  A popular bar, the Starboard, sponsors the event, and it's become so popular crowds now rival any Spring Break beach bash.  The entire parking lot is shut down to make room for a stage, the bands, and of course all the partiers.  It was a crazy, fun-filled day, complete with even a fly-over by the National Guard.

Gearing up at The Starboard before chasing the bull

Now I'm home again, struggling to settle back into my routine, but glad the next few weeks are going to be much slower-paced.  I'm hoping to dive back into my unfinished manuscript for Novel #5, catch up on my reading, get some work done in the garden...and make time in between for a few naps!  

I miss my BFFs already...it was especially poignant to get together after
a few of our firstborn kids just graduated high school, and know that our
friendship is still going strong after our own high school years, 30 years ago!

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Haunting. Forbidden. Dangerously Sexy." 5* #Review! #FridayReads

With so many books out there, reviews can be tough to get, so I'm absolutely thrilled to have been reviewed at Nom de Plume, and positively over the moon to read such a fabulous review of Haunted Souls!  "Haunted Souls emanates everything a 5* read should be!"

A little teaser from one of my favorite scenes!

Haunted Souls is a steamy romance with a ghost mystery, "the perfect balance between saucy and spooky, and contemporary and thrilling.  Oooooo the deliciousness!"

Read the full review here!  Nom de Plume's Review of Haunted Souls

Haunted Souls was voted one of the Top 3 Reads of 2016 at Read Free.ly!

You can find Haunted Souls on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes, and in print as well, so grab a steamy romance mixed with haunting suspense for your weekend read!  

"Layer upon layer of delicious tension...OOOOOO gawd this is one heck of a steamy romance!"

Monday, June 12, 2017

Signing #Books in #Falmouth! #CapeCod Events

Signing books with my author friends at our
Shanty along Hyannis Harbor...a 3 day event!
I have one more event coming up to finish off a crazy haze of busy days! For 9 hours a day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I signed books and chatted with visitors to Hyannis, as one of the local authors, artists, & crafters showcasing their work in the Hyannis Harbor Artist Shanties.  It was a lot of fun, but very tiring after three long days in the sun.  Then, instead of settling back into my usual routine on Monday morning, I was off to New Hampshire, for a two-day orientation for my son's college.  So many information sessions have my mind reeling.  But as I sit in a dorm room writing this, I feel like I have a good handle on all the things we have to do to get ready for freshman year.  When I return home tomorrow night, it will be a quick turnaround to get back to Hyannis for Week 2 of my Fiction Writing and Publication Class.  

Then, this Wednesday, June 14th, I'll be participating in a Bingo Night Fundraiser in Falmouth.  This is a monthly event, and I participated last month for the first time and had a blast!  The suggested donation is $20 (proceeds to the March of Dimes ~ March for Babies [Team Noah and Chase] and Boston Children's Hospital Give a Smile campaign this month), and that gets you 20 games (wear purple for a bonus card!). Complimentary light appetizers, dinner and desserts available for order, and a cash bar too!

Where do I fit in?  There are a whole bunch of local artists and vendors setting up for shopping before and in between the games, and we've all donated to the cause as well as offered prizes for raffles.  The complete list of vendors is below, so if you're in the area, please consider stopping by!  

Wednesday, June 14th

5:30 to 9:30 at the Holiday Inn Cape Cod
291 Jones Road Falmouth

Shop with local artists and vendors:

PartyLite, LuLaRoe by Brooke, Thirty One, The Pampered Chef, Arbonne, Athena’s, Younique, Paparazzi Jewelry, Ruby Ribbon, Reine’s Creations, Nanny’s Knits, Pruvit, Tupperware, Dragonfly Dreams, Tastefully Simple, Cape and Island Candle Co., Kathryn Knight Books, Scentsy, It Works, Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski, Limelight by Alcone, Sophia’s Crafts, Washashore Whimsy, Cape Cod Kettle Corn, LuLaRoe by Stacy, Chloe’s Coastal Creations, Carole’s Jewelry Design & MORE!

Each Bingo Game winner scores a prize donated from one
of the vendors...what will my basket be this month?


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Multi-Author #Book Signing! #Hyannis Harbor #CapeCod

Me, Katie, & Kate (K.R.) ~ 3 Ks get confusing!
We're gearing up for another weekend-long book signing! I’ll be signing books all weekend at the Hyannis Artist Shanties at Hyannis Harbor with two other Cape Cod authors, Katie O’Sullivan and K.R. Conway.  Between the three of us, we have a dozen titles for adults and teens, in genres including romance, paranormal suspense, urban fantasy, and young adult.  So if you’re in the Cape Cod area, stop by to grab some new summer reads!  We’ll be there in our shanty on Ocean Street (across from The Black Cat Restaurant) from 11 am – 8 pm on Friday, June 9, Saturday June 10, and Sunday, June 11.

The Artist Shanties are a group of cute little stand-alone “studios” right along the water.  Offerings vary by weekend, and all items available are handmade or handcrafted by the artist.  The site has a link to all the artists and their work, along with the dates they’ll be there.

We had a blast last year and we're looking forward to another fun weekend! Many of our books are set on Cape Cod, including my latest release, Haunted Souls, a steamy romance mixed with a ghost mystery, set in historic Barnstable Village.  In fact, the Old Jail House on Rt. 6A, considered actively haunted, served as the initial inspiration for the story.

My other romance/ghost story set on Cape Cod is Gull Harbor, which has been a #1 Kindle Bestseller on several occasions.  While Gull Harbor is a fictional town, I based it on Wellfleet, a beautiful area with kettle ponds and a coast line that's part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  

If you're in the area, come by and visit us, and check out all the literary and artistic creations offered by Cape Cod locals!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SILVER LAKE on the #Amazon "99 Romances for #99c Each" #KindleDeals

A #1 Kindle Bestseller!
My debut novel, a reunion romance/ghost mystery, has a special place in my heart, since it was my first book and I lived with the story--and the characters--in my head for years before I even wrote a single word.  Silver Lake was first published in 2012 by The Wild Rose Press, and then the electronic rights were acquired by Amazon's traditional publishing house for their Encore imprint several years later.  

This has been wonderful for Silver Lake's visibility, as Amazon occasionally drops the price for a temporary sale and features the title as one of their Kindle deals.  I noticed a big bump in sales this weekend, and upon investigation, I discovered Silver Lake is only 99 cents right now (a big savings from the usual $3.99 price) AND it's being featured as one of "99 Romances for 99 cents Each" on the Kindle Book Deals Homepage!

As I mentioned, Silver Lake is probably best described as "Paranormal Romantic Suspense"--it's a second chance romance between two friends who never acted on their feelings in high school...but it's also a mystery revolving around the disappearance of another of their friends, Brandy, who may be haunting the lake house where the group reunites in a last ditch effort to discover what happened to her during their senior year.

Brandy's ghost has a message to share...

And with 99 books on the list, there are many other sub-genres within Romance to choose from...and at that price point, why not grab a couple for your summer beach read collection?  The link to the whole list is Here: 99 Romances for 99c Each.  A link directly to Silver Lake at the current sale price is here:  Silver Lake on Kindle.  Hurry, I have no idea how long the deals will last!  Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Adding Tension + #Suspense to Fiction #amwriting

I infuse a lot of suspense into my novels, since in addition to romance, each of my books also involves some type of paranormal mystery: either spooky hauntings that need to be unraveled, or supernatural secrets that pose a dangerous threat.  Recently, I was invited to meet with a local writing group as a consultant, and one of the topics they asked to cover was methods of injecting suspense and tension into a story.  Here are some of the tips we discussed:

*Conflict is key.  There should be conflict in every genre of commercial fiction.  To increase tension, load on the conflict, both internal and external, to keep characters from their goals.

*Escalation of story problems, which add new questions beyond the hook (ex: the mystery of Brandy’s disappearance in Silver Lake—questions move from “Could be ghosts be real?” to “Is Brandy’s ghost really trying to communicate?” to “How can we help her communicate?” to “What really happened to her five years ago?” etc.).

*Stack the odds against the protagonist.  People love to root for the underdog (ex: In The Hunger Games, Katniss is from a very poor district and goes into the games with inadequate training from her mentor and little support from sponsors).

*Make the stakes high.  This does not necessarily mean the entire world will end if the character does not meet his or her goal, but the consequences of not meeting a goal should be extremely negative or even disastrous for the character.

*Give characters impossible choices (ex: Katniss in The Hunger Games—she either must kill other kids (both morally reprehensible and potentially difficult) OR be killed herself.  Neither is a good choice, but she could decide morals take precedence over her own life.  However, her family’s existence depends on her survival, as she provides the source of food.  Plus, she’s promised her sister she’ll survive.  So now we have a truly impossible choice: Kill other kids, who are trying to survive themselves and kill her, including the friendly boy from her district, OR be killed herself, break her promise to her sister, and possibly condemn her family to death.)

*Have some plans fail (ex: In The Martian, the abandoned astronaut’s first attempt at creating a water source fails spectacularly, decreasing his odds at survival).

*Create urgency.  A time constraint is useful for this (ex: The Finest Hours—the Coast Guard rescuers will have to reach the foundering tanker before it sinks into the stormy ocean, or everyone on board will die.)

*Use foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing is used to both build suspense and prepare reader for an event or scenario that otherwise might come out of nowhere.  There are many methods of foreshadowing, from blatant to extremely subtle.

*Make readers care about the protagonist.  Again, there are many ways to do this, including using deep POV to connect reader to character, creating engaging characters with realistic flaws, and avoiding “Mary Sues”.

*Use dramatic irony to create apprehension.  This can be employed when writing from multiple POVs.  (ex: In Gull Harbor, the reader sees what the bad guy has planned for Claire from his Point-of-View chapters.  However, neither Claire nor Max know—this knowledge is only between the reader and the villain.)  

Happy Writing!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fiction Writing Course in #Hyannis! #CapeCod #amwriting

I'm thrilled to be teaching a new "Fiction Writing and Publication" course this June, back at Hyannis Center on Main Street in Hyannis.  For the last few years, I've taught this popular class for both Cape Cod Community College's Center for Corporate and Professional Education and for the Town of Falmouth's Community School in a number of locations, and I've met so many aspiring authors and hopefully helped them on their writing journey.  I've even read some of their finished manuscripts and visited their writing groups, which has been so rewarding.  If you're interested in writing a novel, or exploring publishing options, and you're in the Cape Cod area, consider joining us!  The press release is below:

Ready to Write That Novel?

A course offered this summer in Hyannis provides instruction on writing fiction and guidance on publishing options.

For many writers, a quote by Nobel Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison summarizes the beginning of the journey: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  Many people dream of writing a novel, but aren’t sure how to begin.  Even once a manuscript is finished, the choices within the publishing industry seem to grow every day.  Literary agents continue to seek clients for the big publishing houses, smaller electronic presses have become a force in the new digital world, and more options than ever exist for those looking to publish independently.  Unfortunately, this type of growth has also resulted in many sites looking to take advantage of authors eager to publish and promote their work.  The entire process can become overwhelming quickly.

A four-week evening class offered by Cape Cod Community College’s Center for Corporate and Professional Education aims to offer guidance to aspiring authors.  “Fiction Writing and Publication” will be held at the Hyannis Center on Tuesday evenings, June 6—June 27, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.  Bestselling author and Mashpee resident Kathryn Knight will teach the elements of successful fiction writing and outline the various options in the rapidly changing publishing industry.  Key concepts such as voice, POV, the hook, Goal-motivation-conflict, and character development will be discussed. Idea inspiration, common pitfalls, and query letters will also be covered.  Finally, avenues to publication - from self-publishing to small and digital presses to seeking agent representation - will be explored.

Hyannis Center is located at 540 Main Street.  Pre-registration is required; please visit Cape Cod Community College online or call 508.375.5010 to register.  Cost is $99, no materials or experience needed.

One of the reviews left by a class member!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tips From Our #PuntaCana Trip #travel #vacation #majesticelegance

With our oldest son graduating this June, we realized this year might be the year both our kids would have the same week off for spring break. As hard as it was to wrap our minds around that, we did manage to set aside the disbelief long enough to try to pick a destination that would have something for everyone in our family--both the parents and two teenage boys, ages 15 and 18.

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana

Based on some friend recommendations, we decided on the Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana.  Clearly we weren't the only ones who had heard good things, because a friend who takes my fitness classes was there with her boyfriend, and we also met another couple there who were "friends of friends" (the power of social media!)

So I thought I'd dedicate this post to what we liked and what we'd do differently for anyone considering a trip to Punta Cana's Majestic Elegance!  If you're looking at this resort for your own vacation, you know it's all-inclusive in terms of both food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, and it offers plenty of activities for all ages.

First thing I wished I'd known earlier was a piece of info I gleaned from my friend at the gym--there's a Facebook page dedicated to the Majestic Elegance, filled with tips and suggestions relating to this specific resort.  You can find it here, and you have to click Join to get approved.  Although I found out about this only right before our trip, I did find plenty of valuable information in the posts.  And, on the one cloudy day, I asked for thoughts on what to do and was immediately provided with tons of ideas (I chose Spa Day followed by drinks in the pool just like any other day!).

I also took a picture of the daily schedule while I was there and posted it for others when someone asked, which people appreciated.  So if you're on FB, definitely join the group and peruse the lists of things you should bring, tips on restaurants, the best activities, etc.  I won't list everything here, since it's already over there, but I'll say the things I saw suggested that I *didn't* bother bringing, that I wish I'd had brought, include a power strip (if you have a lot of people charging things, there just aren't enough in the rooms) and a Yeti mug (to keep the beverages cold or hot).  

My scuba diving lesson
In terms of activities during the day, we tried a couple of things, with mixed results.  There was a free scuba diving lesson in the pool one day, so we signed up for that.  It was really cool to try, as I'd never done it before (although my characters in Silver Lake do), but of course one 15 minute trial in the pool is not enough to be allowed on an actual open water dive.  They do offer a way to get certified while you're there, but we were not interested in devoting more of our time or money to it on this vacation.  So I'd say this is just something to try for the novelty if you have time, but not a "don't miss".

A Sergeant Major looking for more
bread ~ bring an underwater camera
if you want to take snorkeling pics!
We did pay for a snorkeling expedition, since we've all done it before and enjoyed it.  I can't say I'd recommend it unless, like us, you have some kids who really want to go.  The area the boat took us to was extremely crowded with boats and groups of people snorkeling, so getting a flipper in the face was a common occurrence.  You could see some beautiful fish, and we were given bread to feed them, which they ate of our hands, and that was cool.  But it was not the serene, peaceful experience I was hoping for.

On our way to the snorkel site, though, we spied a row of shanties on the beach, right up near the water, about a mile from our resort.  It's a bunch of rustic shops and bars, owned by locals, and so we decided to make that an excursion for another day.  We walked along the beautiful beach for exercise and did a little shopping.  The caveat is that this is not an area run by the resorts, so while it's cheaper in terms of prices, the vendors are a bit aggressive to get the business and earn a living. But we were glad to pick up a few souvenirs, and if you like jewelry (who doesn't?), make sure you bring home some larimar - a rare blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic.  I purchased a pair of larimar earrings and a ring with a larimar stone that also reverses to an amber stone (really cool), and the grateful shopkeeper also threw in a free beaded bracelet and two carved wooden pendants for my sons as a thank you.

The shanty shops along the beach

Our resort had a lot of crazy activities on the beach, which was fun for laughs, but if you're looking for peace and quiet, you'll want to find chairs further away from the beach bar and buffet area.  We enjoyed watching the various contests, and my husband and son participated in one competition on the beach which was billed as "soccer" but really just involved a soccer ball, two teams, and a bunch of relay races.  So, it wasn't what they expected, but it was hilarious to watch and everyone was having fun.  The entertainment staff does a really great job.

The staff also gets everyone riled up during the famous "foam party" in the pool.  Now, I'd never heard of a foam party when I first saw it on the schedule.  But I guess it's the thing to do now when you're on a tropical island drinking "free" drinks and forgetting the stresses of regular life.  I figured it would be a younger crowd and really had no intention of making a point to be there.  But my husband and I were walking back from the beach when it began, and we wandered over to take a look. People of all ages were dancing and drinking in the foam-filled pool as music blasted and foam continued to spray.  Very soon our plans to hit the gym before dinner were replaced by "When will we ever again have a chance to party in a pool full of foam?"  Just as we set our things aside and waded into the foam, I saw my friend from the gym and her boyfriend in there as well, and soon the four of us were dancing through foam and doing shots at the pool bar.  So, yeah, it turned out to be the right call in terms of a memorable afternoon!

The foam party!  I'm on the right, waving by the bar.  Fun!

The shows were another thing I underestimated.  But I thought they were excellent.  We watched both a cirque-du-soleil type performance and a tribute to the music of Micheal Jackson, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.  I was too tired to make the music of the 80s show, but I heard from our friends it was fantastic, and I'm disappointed I missed it.  

So, those are some of the things we fit into our whirlwind 5-day vacation in beautiful Punta Cana.  I wish we'd had more time to explore outside the resort, but we still did a lot and managed to leave time to do absolutely nothing but relax in the sun!  And don't forget some good books to have for the beach and pool ~ if you enjoy some steamy romance and/or spooky suspense, try one of my romance/ghost mysteries!  Safe and fun travels!

This was my favorite activity of all~
lying in the sun by the crystal clear
water, with my Kindle in my hand!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Signing #Books in #Falmouth! #CapeCod Cape Cod

I have lots of events coming up, both book-related and personal (how could my son be old enough to graduate high school????), so it's going to be an exciting spring, despite the dismal weather on Cape Cod so far this year.

First up, this Wednesday, May 17th, I'll be participating in a Bingo Night Fundraiser in Falmouth.  This sounds like a blast - I wish I could play!  The suggested donation is $20 (proceeds to our local AARP), and that gets you 20 games (wear red for a bonus card!).  Complimentary light appetizers and a cash bar too!

Where do I fit in?  There are a whole bunch of local artists and vendors setting up for shopping before and in between the games, and we've all donated to the cause as well as offered prizes for raffles.  The complete list of vendors is below, so if you're in the area, please consider stopping by!  

Wednesday, May 17th

5:30 to 9:30 at the Holiday Inn Cape Cod
291 Jones Road Falmouth

Shop with local artists and vendors:

PartyLite, Beachbody, LuLaRoe, Thirty One, The Pampered Chef, Paparazzi Jewelry, Athena’s,
Arbonne, Younique, Ruby Ribbon, Usborne Books, Reine’s Creations, Nanny’s Knits, Pruvit, Scentsy,
Chloe’s Coastal Creations, Fanny Anne’s Boutique, Limelight by Alcone, Dragonfly Dreams, Tastefully Simple,
Cape Cod Kettle Corn, Tinia Herman Photography, Cape and Island Candle Co., Jewelry…Just Because, Tigers Eye Jewelry, Sophia’s Crafts, Washashore Whimsy, Shoreline Designs, Betty Doiron Designs,
Kathryn Knight Books, Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski , & Royal Health Group!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Send a #Book for #MothersDay2017 ~ #Romance + #Haunting #Mystery

Mother's Day is fast approaching!  My kids know that reading is my favorite past time, and they have a list of books I can't wait to load on my Kindle.  Many ebooks cost less than the price of a card, and provide hours of enjoyment...not to mention relaxation, as reading is a proven stress-reliever!  So why not email a suspenseful romance to all the moms in your life?  

This is such an easy and thoughtful gift--all you need is an email address.  Don't forget friends, sisters, aunts, wives, grandmas...and yourself!  Then pour your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and experience the emotional roller coaster of falling in love, along with the spine-tingling suspense of a haunting mystery.  Both SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR combine the elements of a second-chance romance between first loves, a spooky ghost story, and a sultry summertime setting...a page-turning combination sure to please.  Both these books have been #1 Kindle Bestsellers on multiple occasions and have been reader-rated finalists at the prestigious RomCon convention.

Like GULL HARBOR, my latest release, HAUNTED SOULS, is set on beautiful Cape Cod, and the haunting mystery in this steamy romance was inspired by the oldest wooden jailhouse in the country, which still stands along Rt. 6A in Barnstable Village.  Built in 1690, it's reputedly haunted.

Sending an ebook as a gift is easy on Amazon--you just click the books link (see the bolded titles above), go over to the silver "give as a gift" box on the right side of the page, and fill in your recipient's email address.  Then you can include a personal "Happy Mother's Day" note if you wish, and you're done!

Barnes and Nobel also has a similar "Buy as a Gift" option (to the right of the orange "Buy Now" button) if you need a Nook format!  Each book tab at the top of my blog has links for the different retailers under the book title.

So treat yourself--and your favorite moms--to a love story this Mother's Day, and lose yourself in the passion, mystery, and suspense--Happy Reading!  And I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful, relaxing day :)


Monday, May 8, 2017

My #Cat Had Non-Recognition Aggression #cats #pets

My beautiful mom with 3 of
our pets, circa 1970
I've had pets my entire life, as far back into my childhood as I can remember. Usually at least three in the house, but never less than one.  I thought I knew quite a bit about pet behavior after all these years, and I did know enough to guess one of our cats, Max, had a possible bladder infection two weeks ago, and that something like that was serious enough to warrant an immediate trip to the Emergency Vet (of course, it happened on a Sunday).  I recognized some of the same symptoms displayed by a cat we had when I was a teen, and remembered male cats are more susceptible to bladder issues.  I was in the right ballpark, but it was much more serious than an infection--Max had a complete blockage of the urinary tract.  A life-threatening condition.  He was whisked into the back room, shaved and sedated, and then catheterized.  

This was, of course, terribly upsetting for the humans who love him.  And then I also worried about the effects of his absence on his biological brother, Jinx. These two kitties were born in a shelter together, fostered together until the reached the required age for adoption, and then adopted together by our family.  They had never even spent a night apart.  And Max required hospitalization for three days.

Jinx and Max on their favorite perch

I couldn't wait to reunite the brothers once I excitedly hauled the cat carrier back into our house.  I gently pulled Max out and set him on his favorite perch on the cat tree.  Jinx came padding down the stairs to greet me, and I scooped him up and set him beside Max, exclaiming, "Look who's back!  You're brother's home!"  

Jinx took one sniff of Max, then let out a nasty hiss as his fur lifted from his back.  With a low growl, he leapt away, tail swishing.  For the rest of the day, he stalked poor, tired Max wherever he went, swatting at him when Max was in range.  I was beside myself.  I've had cats all my life, and I've never, ever seen anything like this.  I even checked Max over to make sure I had brought the correct cat home from the Emergency Vet.

Once I had verified Max's identity, I called up Google, trying to figure out exactly what to type in.  Finally, I think I wrote something like "My cat came home from vet and other cat" at which point "hissing" filled in as a suggestion. Good enough.  I clicked and quickly discovered that this had happened to other people who had cats who were best buds before one headed off to the vet.  In fact, it had a name: Feline Non-Recognition Aggression.

On the one hand, I was relieved this was an actual thing, and not terribly uncommon either.  On the other hand, I was devastated.  My cats were so close, inseperable brothers, and now Jinx LITERALLY did not recognize his litter mate.  Max smelled different, like the other animals in the hospital and the IV meds that had been pumped into him for days.  His legs were shaved to allow access to his skin and veins.  And he'd been absent for three days.  Jinx behaved like I'd brought some unknown enemy cat into his house, and he was not happy.  And poor Max had no idea why Jinx was behaving that way. Could a serious illness and three days at the vet erase the two years they'd spent together, since birth?

Max's new haircut

There are a number of posts and articles that discuss how to handle Feline Non-Recognition Aggression, so if you're experiencing it yourself, there are suggestions out there.  Basically, you have to take things slow, and go through the motions of re-introduction as though the two have never met before.  I wish I'd known about the possibility of this occurring before I tossed them together, but at least I was able to find help quickly and start trying to fix things.  And thankfully, with all the pets we've had over the years, I've had lots of experience successfully introducing animals to each other.  The one thing I didn't know about was a type of diffuser that emits an odorless (to us) substance that calms cats.  I purchased one quickly here and plugged it in where they spend the majority of their time.  I kept everyone apart at night until things got better.  And, things DID get better, much to my relief.  So take heart if you've found this blog because you are experiencing something similar.  Max began to smell like himself again, Jinx figured out who he was, and their cozy relationship was back to normal after about four days.  Best buddies again!

I caught them grooming each other last night - yay!

Now, to figure out how to make them both like Max's new "special food"...

Friday, May 5, 2017

Saying Goodbye to My #Dad #grief

The tumor appeared right after Thanksgiving, a hard marble on the side of his neck.  By March, it had grown to the size of a softball, and chemo and radiation had begun.  But my father lost his battle with throat cancer last week, at the end of April, and I'm still reeling with grief, shock, and the finality of saying goodbye.  Of never hearing his voice again, never laughing with him again, never hugging him again.

Reading The Night Before Christmas, 1970

So I thought I'd dedicate my blog post today to a few of the stories about my dad that relate to my love of reading, and by extension, my desire to become an author myself.

I absolutely credit my dad with my passion for reading.  He loved to read.  So beyond just reading picture books to me as a child, my father made sure I had stacks of novels, chosen to match my interests, once I could read myself.  He would visit the library each week, and head straight to the Children's Librarian, who would help him pick out the weekly haul.  Usually, the subject matter revolved around horses and young riders (Winter Pony, Summer Pony, Misty of Chincoteague, The Blind Connemara), animals in general (Benji, The Incredible Journey, Charlotte's Web, A Cricket in Times Square), mysteries and adventures (Encyclopedia Brown, all the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Baby Island)...but sometimes other genres and subject matter made it into the pile, just by virtue of the sheer amount I could read in a week.  It was difficult to keep up with.

So when I was in second grade, a book titled Jane-Emily, by Patricia Clapp, came home from the library.  The tag line read "A ghost story...and a love story".  I.  Was.  Hooked.  I'd found my ideal mix of elements: a spooky haunting, mixed with romance (in this case, a very sweet romance, set in the early 1900s).  I read it over and over again.  I made my best friend read it.  Since then, we're both still scared of those silvery reflecting balls that sit on pedestals in yards.

Jane-Emily introduced me to paranormal romantic suspense, and this childhood favorite has made a lifetime mark, impacting what I write as an author--yep, combinations of ghost stories and love stories, although the romantic element in my novels is decidedly steamier, as my books are meant for more mature readers.  But I still go back to revisit Jane-Emily from time to time--my copy from eBay sits on the bookshelf--and I even read it to my two boys when they were little.  And I may never have discovered this book without my Dad's dedicated trips to the library to keep me reading for pleasure.

The second story is from a family vacation to Bethany Beach (where I now get to sign books on occasion) when I was around 12 years old.  We made sure I had my usual stack of books to tide me over for the week, but since it was summer and we spent the days relaxing, I read even faster than usual.  I was done in the first three days, and four more days with no new reading material just wasn't acceptable.  At that time, the main strip of Bethany consisted of just a few stores, certainly no independent book stores.  But the Five and Dime had a display of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  Some I'd read, but a few I hadn't.  My father purchased the ones I had not yet read.

Those lasted another 24 hours, and then we were back to square one.  At this point, he started inquiring about libraries, and we were directed to a little mobile library, literally a trailer, serving the summer residents of Bethany Beach.  They made it very clear that they didn't allow vacationers without permanent summer addresses to borrow books.  The risk of loss, keeping track, etc.  I don't remember if my father wore them down with an argument, or just left some cash as collateral, but I do remember I walked out of there with a bunch of books.

Bethany Beach, 1970...well before my
Nancy Drew Mystery days

Good memories.  Even as adults, we traded titles we enjoyed, and he would pass along all the new releases he'd picked up at the bookstore.  I know every time I find a book that pulls me in, and takes me on a fabulous journey, away from the stress of everyday life, I'll think of him, and thank him silently for fostering my love for stories.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Favorite #Books #AtoZChallenge #amreading

Welcome to my own version of April’s “A to Z Blog Challenge” – a list of 26 of my favorite books, connected as well as possible to the letters of the alphabet.  This is not really the way the blogging challenge is supposed to work, but I simply don’t have the time or stamina to post every day for 26 days.  So I’ve done similar posts in the past instead, focusing the past two years on A to Z Game of Thrones characters and places in anticipation of the spring premiers of the television show, but this year, much to my dismay, it won’t return until summer (plus, I’ve done it twice already—if you’re a fan of the shows or books, the links are here and here).  So here are some books that truly pulled me in and gave me hours of enjoyment—which is why I read, for pleasure.  Most genres are represented, since I read a fairly wide variety, but my preferences will probably be apparent to anyone perusing the list.  Hope you find a new book to try!

A is for:  A Song Of Ice And Fire series by George R. R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons). The epic fantasy saga that inspired the television show, these novels are full of plot twists and turns, shocking developments, rich characters, medieval fantasy, and exotic places. The world-building alone is a staggering feat, and I anxiously await the next in the series.

B is for:  Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies.  I can't believe more people don't know about this book - I thought it was fantastic.  I'd never heard of it, either, so I found it by chance--I happened to walk by it propped up on a shelf as a recommendation at the library.  The cover grabbed my attention and the blurb did the rest.  This is the story of Arabella Godwin, a/k/a Belle Cora, a good girl who, through a series of misfortunes, falls from grace.  Set in the 1800s and loosely based on the life of a real madam, this book has everything: history, romance, secrets, suspense, betrayal, triumph, and tragedy.  It is long, which only makes it more epic in scope...I felt like I knew Belle intimately by the end.  And the research and attention to historical detail is evident throughout.  I learned quite a bit in the best way possible--immersed in an unputdownable book.  

C is for:  Chase, Eve – Black Rabbit Hall. This book, like The Lost Girls (also on the list) melds two stories: the lives, and tragedies, of the four Alton children as they spend a summer in the late 1960s at their Cornwall estate, nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall, and the implications of these past events on an engaged couple 30 years later.  Black Rabbit Hall is itself a compelling character, Gothic and atmospheric, a place where time seems suspended.  The prose is beautiful, the writer's voice unique, and the comparisons to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and several of Kate Morton's books are well-deserved in my opinion.

D is for:  The Drowning People by Richard Mason.  I read this years and years ago, and never forgot it. It was one of the few books that I could absolutely not put down. The spooky, atmospheric narrative mixed with psychological suspense and the history of an angst-ridden love affair keep me turning pages and ignoring my responsibilities until I was finished.

E is for:  Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp.  One of my all-time favorites, this YA book is both a sweet romance and a spooky ghost story.  In fact, I would call this book a huge inspiration for my writing, as it's that combination of ghost story/love story that I find addictive.  My father brought Jane-Emily home from the library when I was around 8 years old, and I read it over and over, then requested it regularly when I needed my Jane-Emily fix.  A few years back, I purchased my own copy (finally!) from ebay and read it to my kids.  The ghost of 12-year-old Emily still delivers chills even after all these years as she unleashes her wrath on 9-year-old Jane--but of course the romance piece was there as well between the hunky Doctor and Jane's young aunt Louisa.

F is for:  Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor.  As a fan of historical fiction and historical romance, I’m always on the lookout for new titles, and this one popped up as a Goodreads recommendation for me.  It was published in the 1940s, and actually banned in Boston due to some of the risqué subjects and scenes!  Set in 17th century Restoration England, this is the story of a penniless and pregnant young girl who uses anything and everything she has at her disposal to climb the rungs of society and to pursue the man she wants.  Fascinating history and a flawed character add to the intrigue of the plot.  Often compared to Gone with the Wind, which is right below.

G is for:  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  A classic.  Scarlett and Rhett are one of my favorite fictional couples.  I love Scarlett for being the anti-"Mary Sue": she's not very sympathetic, and she's certainly no saint (much like Amber, above).  She's feisty, selfish, and ruthless, but also strong, driven, and fearless.  Rhett can't help but love her.  Rhett can easily admit that he's no gentleman according to Southern society standards, but it soon becomes clear that he is a hero when it counts.  Their powerful story is set amongst the unraveling of a way of life in the south and the Civil War, as well as the aftermath.

H is for:  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.  It's difficult to put into words how much I loved this historical romance novel, as well as the second in the trilogy, Tatiana and Alexander.  I admit I had a few doubts when I began the first book--WWII-era Leningrad does not seem like the most romantic setting, and in fact, the things that happened once the Soviet Union entered the war were downright horrific.  But throughout the years, the struggle, and the horror, Tatiana and Alexander hold on to their love, even when separated.  My heart ached for what these characters went through, and Simons captures the brutal history with amazing accuracy while still delivering a poignant--and often steamy--love story. 

I is for:  Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati.  Historical romance recommended for fans of Outlander and The Tea Rose, two of my favorites.  The many and sometimes omniscient points-of-view keep the reader a little separated from the characters, but the descriptive language made me feel as though I could see every part of Paradise, Hidden Wolf, the brush, and Lake in the Clouds. A forbidden romance between an Englishwoman and a frontiersman raised by Native Americans, and great adventure in a New York settlement located in the rural wilderness of New York in the 1700s.

J is for:  JoAnn Ross -- Blue Bayou.  Bad boy Jack returns to his hometown to find his teenage love, Danielle, has also decided to make a life for herself back in Blue Bayou after the death of her husband.  The young lovers were torn apart once by tragedy, and past and present collide as secrets are revealed and connections are discovered, and this romantic suspense/contemporary romance is an entertaining beach read with a hot alpha hero who whispers Cajun terms of endearment.  I’m a big fan of reunion romances, a common element in many of my own novels, and this is one of my favorites.

K is for:  Katherine by Anya Seton.  Originally published in 1954, this is the historical account of the unlikely and forbidden love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, in 14th century England.  Their romance persisted through wars and uprisings, arranged marriages, and deadly plagues, despite not only these obstacles but also their vastly different stations in society.  An excellent account of a true story that impacted the royal lines of England forever.

L is for:  Landry, William – Defending Jacob.  Legal thrillers aren't always a go-to genre for me, but this one was an out-and-out page-turner that I literally could not put down.  I brought my Kindle to my son's baseball games so I could read a few pages between innings.  The story revolves around a lawyer defending his son against murder while not entirely convinced of his innocence.  The level of tension and uncertainty reminded me of Gone Girl.

M is for:  Madeleine’s Ghost by Robert Girardi.  One of my all-time favorites. The ultimate combination (for me) of ghost story, love story, mystery, and history, this novel moves between the gritty streets of a run-down neighborhood in Brooklyn and the steamy bayous of New Orleans.  A captivating mix of romance, history, and the paranormal, this book has it all: intrigue, mystery, secrets, star-crossed lovers, and a haunting.  Another title that served as inspiration for my own writing.

N is for:  Nora Roberts – Midnight Bayou.  Another mix of romance and ghosts, set in Louisiana.  I could not put this book down...literally.  I loved the New Orleans bayou setting and intertwining of past and present.  A sassy Cajun heroine and a hunky ex-lawyer-turned-carpenter embark on a passionate journey to uncover the dark secrets of Manet Hall. 

O is for:  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  The first book in the series that inspired the television show, this is one of my absolute favorites, with a mix of romance, history, and paranormal elements.  Time travel sweeps the heroine Claire Randall from 1945 to the Scottish Highlands of 1743, where she encounters Jamie Fraser, a young, fierce warrior with a sweet and innocent side.  When fate throws the Highlander into a more permanent relationships with Claire, a strong and competent combat nurse from the future, he nicknames her "Sassenach" - Outlander in his Celtic tongue.  I love everything about Jamie - his speech, his insight, his courage, and his protectiveness.  Claire is already married...but in another time and place.  The couple must face this conflict and many more in the dangerous and uncertain times of warring clans, political upheaval, and the Jacobite rebellions.

P is for:  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  An epic historical fiction set in 12th century feudal England.  The building of a cathedral is central to the plot, but there is drama, intrigue, betrayal, romance, war, religion, and royal affairs woven throughout, resulting in a suspenseful tale with characters that come to life.  Descendants of those characters populate the sequel, World Without End, which is set in the same town two centuries later and was also one of my favorites…and in doing this post, I discovered a third book in the series, titled A Column of Fire, will be coming out in the fall of 2017!

Q is for: the Quarantine series by Lex Thomas—The Loners, The Saints, The Burnouts, and The Giant—a YA dystopian thriller series described as "Lord of the Flies in a 21st century high school setting".  When a high school devolves into chaos following a military quarantine, survival becomes a desperate challenge.  With no adults left inside to fill the vacuum of authority, violent gangs form as social cliques band together to maintain strength in numbers.  But protagonist David Thorpe and his younger brother, Will, have been always been loners...and now, it's just the two of them against the rest of the students.  These young adult books had the added bonus of grabbing the attention of my two teenage boys and not letting go, and that’s saying something.  Both my kids could NOT put these books down, even my older reluctant reader.  In fact, when I packed the second in the series for him for our trip to London, he finished it in a few days and I had to download the next one and share my Kindle!  

R is for:  The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, the second book in The Tea Rose trilogy.  All three books are fantastic works of historical romance, and they can be read as stand-alones, although there are character connections that join them together.  The Winter Rose is my favorite, as I adored the main characters, India Selwyn-Jones and Sid Malone.  India, a naive but fearless young female doctor in 1900 England, encounters East London's crime lord Sid Malone as she tries to improve the lives of her poorest patients.  The obvious clash in their social stations is just one of many conflicts that work against these two damaged souls.  This amazing story takes the reader on an incredible journey as the characters fight to find their way back to each other.

S is for:  Smith, Wilbur – River God.  This is an older book, published in 1995, set in an even older time--Ancient Egypt, circa 2,000 BC.  This is the first book in Wilbur Smith's Ancient Egypt series, and I'm so glad a friend told me about it.  While I had my misgivings when I realized the entire story would be told in the first person Point of View by a eunuch slave, it worked really well, and the engaging narrator Taita was even able to bring the forbidden romance between Tanus and Lostris alive for me.  And while Taita is a literary "Mary Sue", the author knew what he was creating and he had fun with it.  Fair warning to animal lovers like myself—I almost put the book down because it begins with a graphic hippo hunt.  But I'm very glad I didn't. This novel really brought Ancient Egypt alive, and while I wouldn't call it "romance", there are several wonderful love stories woven into all the history, intrigue, and adventure.

T is for: the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer.  Yes, I admit it, I enjoyed these books.  Paranormal romance is one of my favorite genres, and I think Meyer is a gifted storyteller.  She created perfect conflict between the two main characters and wove in mystery, angst, and danger.  Edward is mysterious, witty, intelligent, but also a dangerous predator.  Already striving to be a "good" vampire, his love for Bella allows him to overcome his primal instincts.  Protective, polite, and ridiculously handsome, it's obvious why Bella falls for Edward.  It’s less obvious why Edward would fall for Bella, since her character is definitely a Mary Sue.  But Midnight Sun, the unpublished version of Twilight written from Edward's viewpoint, helps reveal the qualities in Bella that Edward treasures: selflessness, kindness, and loyalty. 

U is for:  Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell.  I love everything O’Dell writes, and this was the follow-up second novel to her breakout debut Back Roads.  Her stories usually offer a dark and gritty setting that becomes a character itself: a rural Pennsylvania coal mining town with little left to offer the families who gave their lives to the mines that sustained them for generations.  Against this backdrop, her stories weave past secrets, family drama, compelling characters, suspenseful mysteries, and the reverberations of local tragedies into beautifully written page-turners set against the struggling, and often dying, mining towns of Pennsylvania.  

V is for:  Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber, the second in the Jimmy Paz trilogy.  These books are so much more than typical police procedurals, and I was absolutely blown away by the first novel, Tropic of Night.  Valley of Bones didn’t disappoint, in fact, I think I tore through it even faster.  This thriller follows the Voodoo Murders case of Tropic of Night, and as Paz investigated a new death, the backstory of the main suspect—her “confession”—takes the reader on a compelling, exciting, and gut-wrenching journey.  There are touches of the paranormal in these books, but obviously, I embrace that, and it’s done very well.  Night of the Jaguar is the third in the series, and I enjoyed that one a great deal as well. 

W is for:  Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught.  A very well-known historical romance that became the second in the Westmoreland series, although this one was published first.  The arrogant and dashing Duke of Claymore wants Whitney for himself...yet she wants Paul, her childhood love.  For me, this story paralleled some of the relationship conflicts in Gone with the Wind, but this novel is set in 1800s England.  Certain scenes in the story are controversial, but that is part of what made these characters feel so real - they are flawed.  They make terrible mistakes.  And the emotions I felt throughout the story - my heart actually hurt at some points.  The sexual tension had me turning pages well into the night, desperately hoping Whitney and Clayton would get their happy ending.

X is for:  Lexicon by Max Barry.  This novel was recommended by several people I trust--otherwise, I'm not sure I would have tried it, based on the blurb describing a school that teaches the 'art of persuasion'.  But, these readers share my passion for certain other books, and their excitement had me interested.  And then the first page of Lexicon had me hooked.  This book is so much more than the description can even attempt to cover.  It's a page-turning thriller with dark humor, crisp dialog, powerful romance, ancient mystery, and a frightening look at the possibilities that arise from a dependence on technology and the ease of data collection.

Y is for:  Young, Heather – The Lost Girls.  Parallel stories unfold in this beautiful blend of historical fiction, literary fiction, and suspense.  A little girl's disappearance from the family's summer lake house in 1935 is never solved.  But in her final year of life, one of the girl's older sisters records the story in a journal, which she leaves, along with the house, to her grandniece, Justine.  As Justine fights her own demons by seeking refuge in the remote house on a Minnesota lake, we slowly learn the details of that fateful summer.  This haunting novel captured my attention immediately and kept me turning the pages.  A poignant and captivating debut.

Z is for:  Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (Book #4 in The Dark Tower series).  First off, I should say many SK books rank as my favorites, and this one is representing the group because it’s my favorite one in King’s The Dark Tower series, which begins with The Gunslinger.  This epic high fantasy series portrays a memorable cast of characters on a quest to find The Dark Tower, complete with touches of the spine-tingling horror King is known for.  The journey through this world, which has "moved on", takes readers through bleak landscapes, deserted cities, desolate beaches, and magical spots that connect to our own world.  Wizard and Glass carries us back to Roland’s past and offers key insight into his motivation, but it also tells the story of his lost love, Susan Delgado.  There were so many exciting scenes and shocking twists in Wizard and Glass, and although the first book in the series can be a little challenging to get into, it’s worth taking the time to go on this journey.