Get ‘Em While They’re Hot (On Sale)!

Around the globe, extraordinarily gifted children are abducted.

In the Sinai, archaeologist Lynne Raven searches for proof of the Exodus and finds a papyrus that proclaims the emergence of a prophet sent to defeat the darkness that threatens to consume the world.

Meanwhile in London, a powerful cartel manipulates politicians and controls a think tank with an unthinkable agenda.

One thing connects them all: the truth about Connor Mackenzie.

 

 

Special delivery!

Jack Spangler was a night owl and, snowstorm or no snowstorm, he did not appreciate interruption in the middle of his work to take his pregnant-and-alone neighbor Katie Maxwell to the hospital. But off he went, since the alternative was to deliver her baby right in his living room.

Things only got worse from there. Somehow, he found himself mistaken for the non-existent Mr. Maxwell and whisked into the delivery room to help young Jeremy into the world. He even found himself caring about the baby – not to mention Katie herself.

Living next door to a crying new-born was enough to make Jack crazy, but craziest of all, it looked as if making marriage – and instant parenthood – a priority was the only way to stay sane.

The Ghost and…Mrs. Butz?

It’s Wednesday, so once again, I’m plugging the works of a fellow author. This week, it’s my longtime friend Shelly Arkon, who is currently recovering from an arm broken in three places because her new dog wanted an armadillo (don’t ask). Shelly’s done one novel–the first in a series she’s been working on. Secondhand Shoes is available on Amazon.

shellysecondhandshoescover

What’s it all about? Check out this Amazon review from William Kendall:

Secondhand Shoes opens in an uneasy place, with the main character, Lila, an eighteen year old woman on her wedding day. Her bridal nerves are more than what might be expected; she’s marrying a man she barely knows and doesn’t particularly like, thanks to the pressure of her overbearing mother Babs. Lila has little say in the direction of her life, no respect at all from a mother who thinks that she’s crazy, a father living far away in exile, and a step-father who bows to his wife’s every demand and seems to have lost his spine. The only living person who seems to be on her side is her best friend Cynthia, and we can see this in her advice to run while she can.

Then there are the ghosts. Just like a long out of work former child actor who shall remain unnamed, Lila sees dead people. One of the ghosts in her life happens to be her paternal grandmother, who has little patience for her former daughter-in-law’s overbearing ways, and is at Lila’s side through much of the story. Gram is a force to be reckoned with, a mixture of common sense and great wariness about the threats that exist in the world, particularly where her granddaughter is concerned.

Lila’s ability isn’t appreciated by most people around her, let alone her mother, who won’t abide such nonsense. Instead Babs, who we learn has coerced her daughter into breaking off with a young man she did like, simply because of her own prejudice, has orchestrated a relationship with Max Butz (yes, that’s his name), a dirtbag of the first order who thinks that turning up in a orange polyester suit for his own wedding is perfectly acceptable. Max runs with a similar pack of criminal degenerates, has a father with anger management issues, and a religious zealot for a mother (with a few hidden secrets of her own). It doesn’t take long before the reader confirms that first impression: Max is a vicious bully with no respect at all for Lila, and nothing at all resembling scruples.

The story hinges on a decision Lila makes to take her life into her own hands, and it leads her into danger, both physical and supernatural. She has to confront her own fears and anxieties (fear of germs, insects, and other creepy crawlies plays big for this protagonist). She gets help along the way, from the living, the dead, and those who are, well, in between.

Shelly Arkon has done well with her first novel. She has a strong style, giving characters a voice that are distinctly their own, even minor characters who might only appear for a scene or two. And she pays attention to detail: scenes in a Southern swamp make the reader feel like they’re right there; the same applies to sequences in a truck, a roadside dive, or even in an afterlife of sorts. The style draws the reader right in, and gives the narrative a touch of authenticity. The same applies for when the story is set. This is firmly set in the Eighties, and cultural references of the time abound, small touches that firmly ground the story.

As mentioned, there’s a liberal dose of humour spread throughout the book. Some of it comes from the living characters, such as Lila herself (especially her paranoid germ phobias), Cynthia, or B.J., a trucker who turns up along the way. Much of it comes from the ghosts, particularly Gram, who is a wise sage capable of interacting with the world in a number of different ways; she can wreck havoc with electricity or make use of nature, and does so with regularity.

Characterization itself is the bedrock of the book, and this is the strength of the novel. I felt a particular dislike- and this shows the strength of the writing- for Babs, who comes across as a bully (including at times even physically) and a terrible mother. She’s overbearing, difficult, temperamental, and bigoted. She might be Lila’s mother, but at the same time, there’s a toxic quality to her that was close to home for me. I’ve known a couple of Babs, and these are the unpleasant sort of people you wish you’d never known

Max and his cronies and relatives are memorable, if unlikeable. In different ways, their personalities come across as real, and sleazy. At least in some ways, I expect real people have inspired them.

Cynthia is a strongly written character. She’s absolutely supportive of her friend, fierce and courageous when she needs to be, and willing to prod Lila along when she needs it.

Gram is the scene stealer of the book, a wise woman with heart. For a ghost, she’s more than lively, won’t take nonsense from people she doesn’t care for, and is protective of her granddaughter. She’s aware of the world in a way that those who are living can’t be aware of, including a lingering threat that might well be left for another novel.

The book is really about Lila’s journey. It takes her from being meek and submissive to making choices for herself, to finding her own strength and resolve. It’s understandable, given the way her mother is, that the character starts out as not wanting to rock the boat and refuse her mother’s wishes. Over time she’s gotten used to surviving what basically amounts to emotional abuse by just going along with everything her mother says. During the events of the book, Lila comes to terms with what it means to be an adult, to have to be responsible for her own decisions. It’s character growth, and it helps that we’re sympathetic towards her from the start.

Secondhand Shoes tells a story that is at times tense, at other times wry and mischevious. It wraps up the natural arc of the characters while leaving room for more, and provides its own good spin on the world of the paranormal. The pacing of the story keeps things moving along, and the characterization and attention to detail combine to make the book succeed.

It All Began with a Labor of Love….

As of August 31st, I’ve published my first new book in…how many years? I’ve lost track. That’s how long it’s been. Even I can’t remember!

maxwell

Special delivery!

Jack Spangler was a night owl and, snowstorm or no snowstorm, he didn’t appreciate being interrupted in the middle of his work to take his pregnant-and-alone neighbor Katie Maxwell to the hospital. But off he went, since the alternative was to deliver her baby right in his living room.

Things only got worse from there. Somehow he found himself mistaken for the nonexistent Mr. Maxwell and whisked into the delivery room to help young Jeremy into the world. He even found himself caring about the baby – not to mention Katie herself.

Living next door to a crying newborn was enough to make Jack crazy, but craziest of all, it looked as if making marriage – and instant fatherhood – a priority was the only way to stay sane.

 

MS MAXWELL AND SON cover

Actually, it’s not new. Creativia has now reissued my 1988 Silhouette Romance, Ms. Maxwell and Son, in ebook format, with an updated paperback to follow soon. It has a new cover, which I love. I wrote this novel on a bet. Seriously. The covers–the new one and the original–have an odd backstory. Both covers feature a couple holding a baby, but neither quite fit the descriptions I gave of the characters. The female protagonist, Katie, is a redhead. The male protagonist, Jack, is a rather scruffy-looking fellow inspired by Michael Douglas’ character in Romancing the Stone.

RomancingtheStone

When the book was originally published over twenty-five years ago, Silhouette’s art department sent me a form to complete, giving them all sorts of details about the character and the story. I was asked to describe the baby. Smartass that I am, I wrote, “a Cabbage Patch Kid.” My editor was quick to request (demand?) a correction. “Don’t tell them that,” she warned. “That’s what they’ll give you!”

CBK

Yeah, I guess I can see how that might not have turned out very well….

 

PS The book could use some reviews, so if anybody’s interested, give me a holler and I’ll send along the digital file. Good reviews–four or five stars–are preferred, but I’ve been in this crazy business too long to expect them all to be good, so guys, it’s open season on the author!

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Today’s excerpt is from my newly-reissued “sweet” romance, Ms. Maxwell and Son. It’s the story of an unexpected love between a pregnant and divorced cartoonist and her night owl musician neighbor, who ends up assisting in the delivery of her baby. Originally published by Harlequin Silhouette back in 1988, it’s been out of print for almost twenty years. Now, with a new cover, it has a second chance at publishing life….

maxwell

Chapter One

This is it. This is really it. The baby’s corning. The contractions were thirty minutes apart now, and still nothing more than a vague cramping sensation in the lower abdomen. I have plenty of time, Katie Maxwell thought, brushing a strand of her short, dark auburn hair off her forehead. She willed herself to remain calm. Plenty of time to get to the hospital. Plenty of time. She drew in a deep breath and tried to focus her attention on the comic strip she’d been working on, but without much success. Deadline or no deadline, she couldn’t think of anything but what was happening inside her own body.

It was about time. Her due date had come and gone almost two weeks ago with no indication that her baby had even considered making his debut in the outside world. Just like your father, Katie thought. She immediately pushed the thought from her mind. Mustn’t think of Michael now. Not now. Michael’s not your father…not in any way that really matters. He was just my husband. Was. The man who made me pregnant. That’s all.

She looked at her watch. She had to keep timing the pains. This couldn’t be false labor. It just couldn’t be. It had to be the real thing. She couldn’t wait another day. Not after having waited so long already.

Her obstetrician had told her to be patient, that first babies often arrived late. But everyone’s patience had its limits, and Katie’s was no exception. She’d waited eight months already…eight long months since she took the home pregnancy test that had changed her life so drastically.

She got up from her drawing board and walked across the room to the windows, her left hand gently massaging her aching back as she moved at a slow waddle. In the past few months she’d begun to feel like an unflattering cross between a duck and an elephant. It was snowing.

She had no idea how long it had been snowing…she hadn’t looked outside in hours. She’d been struggling to meet her deadline when the first contractions came at just past midnight. She hadn’t had the TV on, so she’d had no idea there was any inclement weather in the forecast. God, why did it have to snow tonight, of all nights? Normally Katie loved the Connecticut winters. The countryside that was verdant green in summer and rich with reds and golds in autumn was especially beautiful after a freshly fallen snow—before that special beauty was marred by the snowplows and salt and cinder trucks. Normally Katie looked forward to that first snowfall, but tonight it only meant trouble. It meant she wouldn’t be able to drive herself to the hospital as she’d planned. It meant she’d have to call for a taxi…or an ambulance.

She settled down on the overstuffed couch and waited for the next contraction. When they were fifteen minutes apart, she would call Dr. Rowen and leave for the hospital. She decided it would be safer to call an ambulance than take a chance on a taxi that might not arrive in time. Katie frowned. No wonder her mother kept insisting a baby needed two parents. One to do the heavy labor, and one to drive to the hospital in case of nasty weather, she thought wryly. At least I haven’t lost my sense of humor—yet.

Another pain came, this time more intense than the last. Katie caught her breath and checked her watch again. Twenty-five minutes apart. They were coming closer together. She lay back against the couch and sucked in her breath. Had she made the right decision? she wondered for the hundredth time in the course of her pregnancy. Not that she’d really had any other options. Michael had made the decision for her the same day she told him about the baby. Michael had never had any desire to be a father—he’d made that clear from the day they were married. Still, Katie had always hoped he’d change his mind. He hadn’t. If anything, he’d become more adamant in his refusal to even consider starting a family. She’d never had to worry about forgetting to take the pill—Michael always reminded her. She recalled now how he’d reacted to the news of her pregnancy….

“You’re supposed to be using birth control,” he said evenly as he went to the bar to pour himself a drink. As he’d put it, he was sure he was going to need one.

She watched him for a moment as he poured automatically. Just the right amounts of vodka and tonic, two ice cubes, never any more, never any less, and just a small twist of lime. He could almost make it in his sleep. It never varied. It was almost as though all the glasses were marked and the lime cut in precisely the same size pieces. Katie realized for the first time how annoying that was. She searched his handsome face for some sign of emotion, any emotion. There was none.

“I was—that is, I am,” she said finally. “Something must have gone wrong.” She gave a helpless shrug.

“Obviously.” He lifted the glass to his lips, his expression now as cold as the ice in his drink. He took a long swallow, slowly, as if taking time to consider the options. “How far along are you?”

“About six weeks.” He was taking an interest, anyway, Katie thought, however slight. It was a good sign. A beginning. But her hope had been short-lived.

“Well, thank God for that,” Michael said with relief in his voice.

“I don’t understand—” Katie began.

“At least it’s not too late.”

“For what?”

“An abortion, of course,” he said as he put down his glass, as if the decision had already been made.

“I have no intention of having an abortion, Michael,” she told him. “This pregnancy may not have been planned, but there’s no way I’ll terminate it.”

His smile was cold. “Don’t tell me it’s against that Irish Catholic heritage you’re so damn proud of,” he concluded.

“Heritage or not, I don’t believe in abortion,” she said tightly, her fists clenched in the folds of her full skirt. She was fighting to control her anger. “This is my child, and I have every intention of keeping him.”

“Then you’ll keep it alone,” he said with barely controlled anger in his voice. “I told you before we were married that having children was one subject that would not be open for discussion. I didn’t want children then, and I still don’t.”

“And that’s all that’s ever mattered to you, isn’t it—what you want!” Katie exploded. “What I might want doesn’t matter to you at all, does it?”

“If you were so set on a life of home and hearth and sticky fingers and runny noses, you should have married a family man, Kathleen,” he said acidly. “You knew my position on this before we were married.”

“Your position? My God, Michael, you make this sound like a legal debate!” she responded incredulously.

He looked at her calmly. “We had an agreement.”

“No, Michael, you had an agreement. I had a marriage—or I thought I did, anyway.” She was fighting to control the temper that was very much a part of her Irish heritage. “What I wanted never mattered to you. How I felt never mattered to you. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that.”

“Then you’re determined to go through with this pregnancy?” he wanted to know.

“Yes. I am.”

He nodded slowly. “Fine,” he said finally. “Do you want to get the divorce, or shall I?”

“I think I’d better do it,” she said dispassionately. “As far as I know, pregnancy isn’t grounds for divorce in this state…but discovering I married a selfish jackass just might be.”

Katie’s thoughts returned to the present. Looking back on it now, she realized she shouldn’t have been surprised. Michael had never really liked children. She’d seen it when he was forced to be around her nieces and nephews for any length of time. He’d never showed any interest in even trying to learn to like them. He didn’t like children, didn’t want any of his own, and that was that.

At least he was honest about that much, she thought dismally. After the divorce she’d often wondered if he had ever really wanted to be a husband, either, or if marrying her had just been more convenient than having to go looking for someone to take care of his sexual needs when he felt the urge.

By three in the morning the snow had reached blizzard proportions and Katie’s contractions were fifteen minutes apart. Time to call the doctor. She picked up the phone on the table next to the couch and started to dial, realizing halfway through the number that the line was dead. “Oh, no,” she breathed, depressing the button on the cradle repeatedly, frantically. Nothing. The snow must have downed the lines.

Terrific, she thought. Now what? She searched her mind frantically for a possible alternative. She could have the baby right here, alone. She shook her head, dismissing that idea. She could just as easily fly to the moon on gossamer wings. Only as a last resort, she promised herself. Stay calm. She willed herself not to panic. It wouldn’t do any good. It might even make matters worse. Or would it? She remembered reading somewhere that anxiety could actually prolong labor. It might give her time to figure out how she was going to get to the hospital.

Good grief, what was she thinking of? Who in her right mind would actually want to prolong labor? The thoughts of a desperate woman, she decided. A very desperate woman. Who else in the building was home right now? she asked herself. Who might be able to help her? There were only six apartments in the converted Victorian manor. Two were vacant at the moment. Julie, her only real friend among the tenants, was away for the weekend.

“Don’t have that baby till I get back,” she’d told Katie jokingly as she was leaving yesterday.

“Don’t worry,” Katie had laughed. “I think he’s waiting for the spring thaw.”

I’d be happy if he’d just wait until morning—or at least until the phone’s working again, she thought now, ready to push the panic button. The Kellers, the elderly couple who lived upstairs, were off on one of those “Love Boat” type cruises. Even if they had been home, Mr. Keller was hardly physically up to a mad race to the hospital in this weather—and Mrs. Keller didn’t drive at all. The man who lived next door had just moved in two weeks ago. Katie had seen him on the stairs a couple of times, but knew nothing more about him than his name and the fact that he liked to play his piano in the middle of the night. She’d heard he was a real grouch, too. She considered her options, then got up off the couch.

It looked like the man in 2B was her only chance.

*****

Jack Spangler tapped out a tune on the keyboard, then paused long enough to scribble some illegible notes on a music sheet on top of the old, scarred piano. Had he taken the time to look in a mirror, he would have seen a face that looked as if it had been without sleep in at least a week, one that probably had not known a razor in almost as many days. He would have seen bloodshot eyes shadowed by the effects of too little sleep, and thick, dark brown hair in desperate need of a barber’s scissors. He would have seen a body that was just a little too thin from skipping too many meals. But he would not have cared, even if he had taken the time to make those observations. There was only one thing on his mind, and that was his music. He was not a dedicated composer; he was an obsessed one. When he was in the middle of a composition, it occupied his every waking thought and haunted his dreams. He lived and breathed music. It was his mistress, his tempestuous, demanding mistress, possessing his soul as no mortal woman ever could. And unlike a woman, his music would never leave him; it would always be with him, always be a part of him. When he was composing, the rest of the world ceased to exist. And that was the way he wanted it.

He raked a hand through his thick, dark hair and took a long swallow of the cold coffee in the mug that had left a ring on his completed sheet music, making a face at the unexpected bitter taste. Time to make fresh coffee. He got up from the piano and walked barefoot into the too small kitchenette, mug in hand. After dumping its contents into the sink, he rinsed the mug, then filled it with hot water from the tap. No point in wasting time boiling water, he thought. He opened a jar of instant coffee he kept on the counter and spooned three heaping tablespoons into the water, stirring it as he scanned the shelf overhead for the individually wrapped crackers he always pocketed in restaurants. Finding the packets in an old cracked mug, he took two. “Hungry, Sam?” he called out.

“Sam’s hungry,” a large white cockatoo responded from his perch in the living room. He spread his wings wide and ruffled his feathers as if to emphasize the point.

“You’ve been on your best behavior,” Jack decided aloud as he returned with the coffee and crackers. “I guess you’ve earned these.” Putting the mug down on the top of the piano, he unwrapped the crackers and offered one to the bird. Sam took the cracker in one claw and started to eat it.

“Where’re your manners, Sam?” Jack asked as if he were speaking to a child to whom he’d just given candy.

“Thank you, Jack,” Sam answered on cue, immediately returning his attention to the cracker.

“You’re welcome, Sam.” Jack sat down at the piano and started to play again, but was interrupted by the unexpected sound of someone knocking at the door. At first he thought he was hearing things. Nobody in this quiet, very normal neighborhood could possibly be out and about at this hour. He’d begun to think they all went to bed at sundown.

Then he heard it again. He glanced at the clock on the mantle. Who the hell could be knocking at this ungodly hour? He’d thought he was the only living soul in this part of Connecticut who kept graverobbers’ hours. He dragged himself off the bench again and crossed the room.

“Listen, whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying—” he stopped short as he pulled the door open.

The woman standing in the hall looked familiar, but he couldn’t place the face. She was short, with thick hair cut to frame her face like a glossy red cap, a delicate, heart-shaped face and dark green eyes. She was, he decided in the seconds he’d had to appraise her, quite attractive. She was also either very pregnant or a Weight Watchers dropout. Even under her bulky winter coat, he could tell that her stomach was quite large.

“I’m Katie Maxwell,” she told him, clearly upset about something. “I live next door.”

So that’s where I’ve seen her before. On the stairs, Jack thought.

“I need your help,” Katie was saying.

He gave her a puzzled look. “Lady, it’s three in the morning—” he started.

“I’m in labor. I need someone—I need you, that is, to drive me to the hospital,” she went on.

“Where’s your husband?” Tact had never been Jack Spangler’s strong suit.

“I don’t know, and I don’t really care,” Katie said crossly, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I don’t have a husband—and right now, I don’t have any other way to get to the hospital. I can’t drive myself. Nobody else in the building is around, and I can’t call an ambulance because the phone lines are down.” She’d gotten it all out in one breath. Jack was still staring at her, bewildered.

“Will you help me?” she asked, almost pleading by now.

He hesitated for a moment, considering the alternatives. She could end up having her baby right there in his living room. He would have to deliver it. The thought of that made him feel a little anxious himself. “Yeah, okay,” he said finally, nodding in surrender. “Give me a minute to pull myself together, okay?” He dropped onto the couch and started pulling on his socks and boots. “You got a suitcase or anything?”

She nodded. “I’ll get it.”

He shook his head. “I’ll get it. Just tell me where it is.” In every TV sitcom he’d ever seen, they always rushed off without the suitcase and had to come back for it. He had no intention of coming back for anything.

Katie nodded. “It’s just inside my door, on the big chair.”

“Hey, good lookin’!” Sam squawked as Jack started looking for his coat.

“Shut up, bird!” he ordered as he walked out, closing the door behind him.

From Paradise to Redemption….

I did say I was going to devote Wednesdays to promoting my fellow authors, didn’t I?

First up is one of my favorites–Eve Gaal. Eve’s the author of a romance novel I really love and a thought-provoking short story in one of my favorite genres: Christian paranormal. I highly recommend both. Penniless Hearts is a comedy, an adventure and, at its heart, a love story.

PennilessHearts
It’s almost Christmas, but Penny Himmell is not at her desk. Feeling of late as though she is taken for granted by everyone in her life, Penny itches for adventure and the unknown. Enter Captain Dan Losegg.

On a whim, Penny abandons all responsibilities — including a devoted boyfriend and a father who relies on her — and dashes off to Hawaii with the charming pilot. But before she can say Aloha, trouble brews and Penny finds herself caught up in misadventures and misunderstandings. Suddenly, her so-called dull existence seems rather enticing.

Full of surprises and unexpected twists, Penniless Hearts is a delightful and romantic comedy of errors.

FifthCommandment

Next is The Fifth Commandment (I admit to have broken this one more than once myself). It’s a short read–as one reviewer noted, something you can read while lounging by the pool.

After Christina breaks the Fifth Commandment, strange things begin to happen – and take her away from home in Normal, Illinois.

Now, she’s back and has to tell them the story within a story, but how can she make them believe? So she had made a mistake – but didn’t all teenagers do the same thing?

The Fifth Commandment is a paranormal memoir entwined with a plot drenching with old-fashioned religious guilt, and short enough to finish in a single sitting – perhaps lounging by the pool or sitting in the garden. The novella follows Christina into a confessional and starts at what we would consider our weakest point.

The point when we first admit our sin.

Check out all of Eve’s works at her Amazon author page and get the 411 on her at Creativia, her publisher’s website….

What Would You Do If You Knew The World Would End Tomorrow?

It’s ebook promotion time again! Only $.99 at Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Final-Hours-Second-Chance-Romance-ebook/dp/B002EAZIS8?ie=UTF8&qid=1468159600&ref_=la_B002BMF4CO_1_5_twi_kin_1&s=books&sr=1-5)….

 

Final Hours cover - new

Jamie Randall is the envy of his peers. He has a powerful job, a beautiful wife, and two doting sons. Yet Jamie can’t stop thinking about Kate, a free-spirited photographer who saved his life fifteen years earlier. Although drawn to each other, Jamie’s ambition and desire for the finer things in life kept them apart.

Now, trapped in an advantageous but loveless marriage, Jamie’s second brush with death brings him face-to-face with reality. Heading toward sure safety with his family, Jamie suddenly decides he must own up to his mistakes. But this choice comes with a hefty price: Will he chose survival with his family, or spend his final hours with his one true love?

From bestselling author Norma Beishir, Final Hours is a powerful story about love, regret, and the fragility of life.

 

 

Holding Out For a Hero? How About an Angel or Two?

My 1989 novel Angels at Midnight, is now on sale, today through July 11th. The ebook is just $.99 at Amazon ….

 

Angels at Midnight Completehttps://www.amazon.com/Angels-at-Midnight-Norma-Beishir-ebook/dp/B008JLF2SC?ie=UTF8&qid=1467725389&ref_=la_B002BMF4CO_1_4_twi_kin_1&s=books&sr=1-4

 

To Prequel or Not to Prequel…That is the Question….

Years ago, when I was just starting to write Chasing the Wind, I got some interesting responses from people in publishing, some of whom I’d known for years. One agent to whom I showed the synopsis told me it was a movie, not a novel. I considered writing it as a screenplay, but as I’ve said before, selling your book to Hollywood is a lot like putting a baby up for adoption. If you ever do see it again, you probably won’t recognize it. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Suzanne Collins or a few other top authors, you sign away all control of your work when you sell it to Hollywood. And if you’re a screenwriter, if you want to maintain control of your work, you’d better also be the director.

258a1-ctw2b2014

But I’m getting off track here. It was also suggested that Chasing the Wind should be the second book in the trilogy. One agent told me she thought I should start much earlier in the storyline–go back to the beginning, to the birth of Andrew Stewart; to his troubled young mother, who made a deal with the devil to provide for her child; to the wealthy Brit she married, who had also made a devil’s bargain to save his failing business; to the egomaniacal scientist who carried out illegal experiments in human cloning, whose interest in young Andrew began long before the boy became his protege. And then there was Andrew himself, who, after his mother’s death, was deeply troubled and shut down his emotions in a bid to avoid ever being hurt again. Andrew’s mother dies early on, and Andrew himself is a bit of a jerk as he grows up. So how was I going to make any of these people sympathetic? How could I get readers to care enough to read the story to the end and actually like it?

I’d had this problem with Final Hours. I understood Jamie, the protagonist in that novel, and so did some of the readers, according to the reviews–but they either loved him or hated him.

So the untitled Chasing the Wind prequel has remained on the back burner for years. I’ve revisited it several times, trying to figure out how to make it work–most recently this week, when I discovered there was now a TV version of the Damien Thorn character from The Omen movies. Damien, as anyone who’s seen the movies knows, is most definitely not a sympathetic character.

The Unicorns Daughter eCover

Again, I asked myself if my prequel could work. I mentioned it to my partner in crime, William Kendall, who suggested a prequel to The Unicorn’s Daughter might be a better idea. I gave it some thought. He’s right. There is a story there to tell, and though James Lynde came off as having ice water for blood in the early chapters of that novel, his backstory would make him a sympathetic character. And World War II Europe would definitely make for an interesting backdrop (Judith Krantz’s Mistral’s Daughter, one of my all-time favorite novels, was partially set in that time period in France),

Will I write either prequel? I still have five unfinished projects waiting to be written, so who knows?

Maybe I Took a Wrong Turn On the Way to…Where?

I had planned to post condensed versions of my upcoming books here, three times a week. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But now…I’ve discovered what could be an even better place to post them. Higher visibility, more readers…what more could any writer want?

So I’m off to check it out. Stay tuned! If all goes well, I’ll post links for anyone who wants to read more….

Write On by Kindle

Write On by Kindle
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Superhero in Training: There’s a Funeral…But Nobody Died!

I had something else planned for this week–Collin and I went to the Cans Film Festival last Saturday and saw Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and I was going to post my review, but I still haven’t written it!

I’m a huge fan of superhero movies and TV shows–The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Arrow, The Flash and Agents of SHIELD. I love them all. I grew up with them in the comic books–my mother collected them. I’ll never forget the day we were packing to move and Dad threw out what he thought was “just a bunch of old comic books.” What he had discarded was actually some very valuable first editions. I don’t know who was more likely to kill him for that–Mom or Dad himself!

Around that same time, they owned a small grocery store in a neighborhood full of quirky characters–including a dog who liked beer just a little too much. One day, when I was telling a friend about the “old neighborhood,” I came up with an idea that became the plot for Superhero in Training. There would be three protagonists: Charlie (Charlotte), a girl from an abusive home who escaped through the superhero comic books sold in her grandfather’s store; Will, a graduate student with a secret identity of sorts; and Tuffy, a boozing pitbull who sees his human killed by a mugger and is out for blood. Strange trio, aren’t they?

Now to see if it works….

 SHIT

Chapter One: There’s a Funeral…But Nobody Died!
 
Charlie

I’m surrounded by superheroes. I like it that way. They make me feel safe. The Avengers…the Fantastic Four…the Justice League…the X-Men…they’re all old friends to me. Does that sound odd, coming from a girl? I guess that’s about as odd as a girl named Charlotte wanting to be called Charlie, right? For as long as I can remember, they’ve all been there for me. They’ve made me feel safe. When my stepfather was beating my mom to a bloody pulp, I’d be here, protected by my friends…and by my number one hero, my grandpa. He’d tell me about my dad, who died in Desert Storm when I was a baby. I was too young to remember him, but my dad was a hero like Captain America. I wish he’d been a supersoldier, too…then he’d still be alive and Mom would never have married Jerry the Jackass.

But she did marry him, and when he started beating her, I’d run. I tried to fight him, once—he backhanded me across the room and broke my arm. I was seven at the time. I never stood up to him again. I was always ashamed of that, of my inability to fight back. I was ashamed of him for being a bully and of her for being too weak to leave him. The Black Widow would have stood up to him. She would have beat the crap out of him, maybe even killed him. When I was twelve, I got a black catsuit and a red wig and tried to learn to fight. The Stepmonster made fun of me.

I discouraged friendships when I was growing up, because when you had friends, you had sleepovers. Sleepovers were reciprocal. If I stayed at a friend’s house, much as I would have liked to, it meant I would have had to invite them to my house, too. They might have seen the Stepmonster on a bad night, which was just about every night. Then everyone would know my secret. I didn’t want that, so I spent my nights with the only friends with whom I could dare share my shameful secrets…my heroes.

Then one night when I was fourteen, the Stepmonster went too far and Mom didn’t survive the beating. Jerry went off to prison and I went to live with Grandpa. I missed my mom, but eventually life changed for the better. By that time, the comic book store Grandpa owned had already become my second home, and those superheroes who’d protected me from my psycho Stepmonster were my family in a sense I could never explain to anyone…so I kept on keeping to myself.

I never dated. Sure, I would have loved to meet a man like Steve Rogers, but men like him only existed in comic books. I was afraid I’d only end up meeting guys like Jerry the Jackass. Better to be alone than be a punching bag, and so I was. Alone, I mean. Just me and Grandpa, and my secret friends. I spent hours reading the comics or drawing my favorite superheroes. Sometimes I drew them doing battle with—and defeating—the evil Stepmonster. I was actually pretty good at it, but I never showed those sketches to anybody. I did other stuff for my art classes in school, and it was there that I was encouraged, that I was told how good I was—how good I could be.

Grandpa insisted I go to college in spite of my protests. I graduated two weeks before he died with a degree in graphic arts that I’ll probably never use, but I’ll never forget the look on Grandpa’s face at my graduation. He looked so proud, it made everything worthwhile for me. Now the comic book store is mine. He didn’t want me to keep it, but it means too much to me to ever sell it. This place was my lifeline, my sanctuary, for most of my life. It was my safehouse through the darkest times of my childhood. The comic book superheroes were my heroes, my best friends. I could never abandon them.

“I expect better of you, Charlie,” Grandpa told me after graduation.

It doesn’t get any better than this, Grandpa. The true measure of success is making a living doing what you love. I’m doing it.

***

The funeral procession had begun.The funny part was that nobody had died.

Brenda Walker, who lived down the street, had just found out she was pregnant. Okay, in 2013 that’s not exactly the big deal it was in 1953, but Brenda’s ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Republican parents would have disowned her seven ways to Sunday if she’d publicly embarrassed them with an out-of-wedlock baby—so Brenda’s hero of a hubby, who married her in a quickie ceremony the day before he got shipped off to Afghanistan, was conveniently killed in action. Now, she was mourning the death of her hero, who had given his life to save his fellow soldiers.  She looked good in black. She’d probably wear it until the baby was born. She’d play the grieving widow to the hilt.

“Who died?”

“Nobody,” I said without thinking. Then I turned around. The guy standing behind me wasn’t too bad looking. Not the geeky sort I was used to seeing in the store. Too good-looking. No thick-glasses, no pocket-protector, none of the usual awkwardness. He was tall, smiling, wearing a leather jacket and a baseball cap. He had a backpack that looked to be filled to capacity. Nobody filled their backpacks anymore, I observed. Everybody used tablets or e-readers. I silently hoped he wasn’t a mad bomber or something. I didn’t know what to do if he was. Tony Stark would know what to do. Bruce Wayne would know what to do. Me? I’d just panic and open the cash register. And then he’d probably kill me for not having much in the way of cash.

“Are you lost?” I asked without thinking.

He looked puzzled by the question. “I don’t think so,” he said slowly. “But maybe they are…if nobody actually died….”

“It’s a long story. A long, boring story.” I decided to spare him.

“I see.”

I could tell by the expression on his face that he really didn’t,  but he changed the subject then. “I’m looking for the new Marvel editions—Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, whatever you’ve got.” He was still looking past me, through the window toward the faux funeral procession in the street.

“The widow there—she’s the one in black—her parents are very strict, very religious,” I attempted to explain. “She, on the other hand, is, well, a tramp.”

He looked at me and tried not to grin. Tried. But failed.

“She got sort of…knocked up.”

He gave me an odd glance. “How does one get ‘sort of’ knocked up?” he wanted to know.

He could tell I was embarrassed. I could tell he was enjoying it. I wanted to kick his ass, but I had a feeling he could become a regular customer. I was hoping, anyway. I could use all the business I could get. Bite your tongue, Charlie, I told myself.  “She was playing Vatican Roulette with the local boys.”

“Boys? Plural?”

“Oh, great. An English major?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “Psychology.”

I rolled my eyes. “It figures.”

“So…Trudy the Tramp is pregnant,” he said, guiding the conversation back to the mock funeral. “Her parents think she was married?”

“No. They just want everyone else to think she was,” I said, searching for the comic books he’d requested. “They’d be content at this point if she could just tell them who the father is.”

He shook his head and chuckled softly. “This looks to be an interesting neighborhood, at the very least,” he decided.

“The girls are all in mourning,” I attempted to explain. “Her dead husband gave his life for our country, you know. He was a hero.”

“Was he rich?”

I looked at him. “I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “If she’s going to fabricate a husband, she might as well go all the way,” he suggested.

“Nah,” I disagreed. “Easy to fake a dead husband, but if he’s a rich dead husband and her car gets repossessed, that’s going to be hard to explain.”

He laughed. “You have a point.”

I handed him the comic books. He looked them over and nodded with satisfaction, then reached into his pocket for his wallet. He gave me his credit card. I looked at it. William T. Harwood. “New to the neighborhood, Mr. Harwood?” I asked, trying to keep my tone casual. I ran the card through the reader and received a quick approval.

He smiled and nodded. “Call me Will.”

“I’m Charlie.”

He grinned. “You don’t look like a Charlie.”

“Charlotte.”

“You don’t look like a Charlotte, either.”

I hesitated. “What do I look like, then?” I wanted to know.

He studied me for a moment. “An Annie, maybe. A Dorothy, possibly.”

“A Toto?” I asked.

He shook his head, grinning. “Your ears aren’t long enough.”

“Thank Heaven for that,” I said. “Let me guess. You just blew in from Kansas.”

“I had that coming, didn’t I?” he asked. “No, actually, I’m from Vermont.”

“Ah, I should have realized—the New England accent.”

“I just moved here last week. I’m postgrad at the university. I’m just getting acclimated before classes start,” he said. “One of the first things on my list was to find a good comic book store.”

“You’re a fan,” I guessed. Lame, Charlie, I thought.

“For most of my life.” He took the credit card I returned to him and put it back in his wallet.

“Me too,” I said. “I inherited this place from my grandfather. I grew up here—literally.”

He looked back toward the window again as the funeral procession returned. “Does this sort of thing happen around here often?” he wanted to know.

I laughed. “Better get used to it,” I advised. “It’s a community of oddballs.”

He grinned. “The perfect place for a writer.”

“You’re a writer?”

“Aspiring,” he said.

“Have you published anything?”

“I haven’t finished anything yet.” He was looking toward the bar across the street. “What the—” he started.

I looked, too. One of the regulars was attempting to enter. Tuffy, a pit bull belonging to one of the neighbors, was, as usual, blocking his path. “Tuffy won’t let Fred in until Fred buys him a beer,” I explained.

“The dog drinks beer?” Will asked, surprised.

“He’s got a bit of a drinking problem,” I confided. “He hits all the guys up for a beer.”

“And they buy them for him?”

“If they want to get into the bar, they do.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Depends on how much beer he’s already had,” I said. “Tuffy’s a mean drunk.”

Will looked at me. “Does he…bite?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Tuffy knows where to bite to inflict the most pain.”

He winced. “Ouch.”

“I’ve been thinking of hiring him as my night watchdog,” I said then.

“Good call. He’d work cheap. Get him a six pack and he’s happy.”

I gave him my business card. “Hope your introduction to our more–interesting–residents hasn’t scared you off coming back here,” I told him.

He grinned. “Quite the contrary, Charlotte. I think I’m going to like it here.”

Charlotte? He was going to call me Charlotte?

“Come back soon, Sir Will,” I told him.