Some of you are familiar with my longtime blog, The Three Rs: Rants, Raves and (Occasional) Reflections. I also have a new one, an ongoing serial featuring the characters from most of my past novels. Ever read (or write) a book and wonder what happened to the characters in the years that followed “The End?” I did. And I decided to do something about it. I hope you’ll check out An Army of Angels while I decide what direction–if any–this blog will take. Word Press isn’t as easy to use as it used to be!
Creativia just launched the new landing page on their site for Chasing the Wind. I hope you’ll check it out!
As I posted previously, I’ve been learning dictation…and giving a lot of thought to where I go from here professionally. I want to write screenplays. That may succeed, but it may not. I’ve never been one to ever have a Plan B, because that means I’d have something to fall back on if Plan A fails. But I’m no spring chicken anymore and my collaborator is currently busy with other things, so maybe Plan B isn’t such a bad idea anymore. Besides, there are characters I need to catch up with, stories I need to tell. Stories I need to finish. I’ve changed a great deal since most of my novels were written, and so have those characters. I could write about them on my blog, or….
I don’t see myself writing 400-500 page novels anymore, but there is an alternative. For example, James Patterson started something called Bookshots–novels that can usually be read in one sitting. 150 pages or less. That’s a length I could probably handle. Readers these days (like me) tend to have shorter and shorter attention spans. Several authors have turned to shorter formats. Me? I already have plots for three, possibly four.
Anything is possible….
Writing used to come easily for me. I wrote one of my best novels, The Unicorn’s Daughter, in four months. Final Hours took six weeks. It was almost too easy, which is why I was surprised that The Unicorn’s Daughter required almost no editing from Berkley and became, along with Chasing the Wind, one of my best-reviewed novels.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve found it more and more difficult to finish a project. I asked my neurologist if I might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. “No. You’re way too sharp for that,” she assured me. Okay. If not that, what about epilepsy? I was first diagnosed as a teenager, and due to my own stupidity, was off the anti-seizure meds for a long time (I don’t have convulsive seizures, so I assumed–incorrectly–that I wasn’t having seizures at all). Again, the answer was no. My previous neurologist told me I was just distracted. ADHD, maybe?
My eyesight is not what it used to be–not that it was ever all that good. Arthritis has been an issue, so writing first drafts in longhand, as I’ve done throughout most of my career, was no longer possible. It was also a problem in using a computer, tablet or smartphone–especially the latter two, since I had to hold the devices at an angle close enough to be able to see the screens. I’ve joked here about my “Kindle elbow.”
I’d tried dictation, but that was also a struggle–until I found this book.
Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Better, Faster and Smarter by Monica Leonelle is a gem. Really. She points out that, like learning to type and use a computer are skills that require training and practice, dictation isn’t something you just do. Her book is short, concise and gives you all you need to learn to dictate your books, screenplays, short stories, etc. Collin is even considering it for doing his classwork, time being a big factor for him.
Last week, Collin and I went to see a special sneak preview of Doctor Strange. We’re both big fans of the Marvel superheroes. Why? Because they don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s a lot of action in their movies, but also a healthy dose of humor. And their characters are people first, superheroes second. Their movies have some of the best characterization I’ve ever seen. Their heroes are flawed, men and women with questionable pasts, dark sides and emotional issues.
Dr. Stephen Strange is a brilliant, arrogant neurosurgeon who believes only in himself and his skills as a surgeon–until a career-ending accident puts him on a path to a world he could never have imagined, and a life in which he could save millions rather than one life at a time.
In Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers are divided when a tragic mistake made during a mission causes the deaths of many civilians. It pits genius Tony Stark (Iron Man) against Captain Steve Rogers (Captain America). Tony has daddy issues–he never felt loved by his father, Howard. “My father never told me he loved me, he never even told me he liked me,” he says. By contrast, Steve had a close friendship with Howard back in the ’40s, when Howard assisted Dr. Abraham Erskine in creating Captain America using his super soldier serum for the US military. Tony remembers hearing Howard talk about Steve over the years, and there’s clear resentment there. For Tony, it’s akin to sibling rivalry. Steve had a relationship with Tony’s father that Tony never had. When Tony discovers that Steve’s best friend, Bucky Barnes–the brainwashed assassin Winter Soldier–killed his father and mother twenty years ago, he realizes their deaths weren’t an accident, as Tony had been led to believe–and that Steve knew the truth.
Tony is a complex character. He’s always been terrible at relationships, even when he really wanted them to work. He was deeply loved by his mother but felt rejected by his father–a fact that shaped all of his interpersonal connections.
Actor Chris Pratt, who portrays Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Peter Quill, describes the character as “emotionally stunted.” Peter’s mother died when he was just a boy, and he never knew his father. Add to that being abducted by aliens the night his mother died, and it makes sense that Peter would miss the maturity train, so to speak. He grew up a thief, part of a group of intergalactic pirates called Ravagers, but something deep within him yearns to be the hero, the Star-Lord his mother nicknamed him. It takes him twenty-six years to open the package she gave him on her deathbed. She told him not to open it until she was gone. Perhaps somewhere in his subconscious, he doesn’t open it because as long as he doesn’t, she’s not really gone?
Marvel’s got some well-developed villains as well–Loki, for example. The second son of Odin, King of Asgard, he grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Thor, heir to the throne. When he discovers he’s not Odin and Frigga’s biological child, that Odin found him during a battle with the Frost Giants, having been abandoned, left to die, Loki concludes this is why Odin always favored Thor. Even when Loki does his worst, fans relate to him. They get him. When an angry Odin tells him his birthright was to die, the fans feel for Loki.
Zemo is another interesting bad guy. Having lost his entire family during the Avengers’ battle with Ultron, he seeks revenge. He knows he can’t destroy the Avengers, but with the right push, they can destroy each other. “An empire destroyed from outside can be rebuilt,” he says, “but one that is destroyed from within is dead forever.”
Throughout his quest for revenge, Zemo is seen listening to a voicemail message. It turns out to be the last message he received from his wife before her death.
When I started writing, I was focused on plot. I was young and lacked the life experience to understand the importance of well-developed characters. One editor I knew used to call me “The Master Plotter.”
Now, I prefer more character-driven stories.
The trouble with that advice is that a lot of thrillers, supernatural suspense novels and tales of horror would never be written if we followed it. I’ve written about killers, genetic experiments, financial empires, supernatural powers, espionage, the Middle East and other topics of which I have no personal experience. If I only wrote about what I know, the list would include idiots, self-absorbed and spineless jerks, nutcases, liars, and false friends.
Okay, so I could write political novels. As we all know, Washington is full of all of those type of characters.
My friend and fellow author, Shelly Arkon, has lately been writing a great deal about matters of faith on her blog. Shelly has spent the past few years studying both the Bible and the Torah and has learned a great deal. While bloggers are often warned about writing about matters of faith in a cheesy manner, Shelly’s posts are honest, from the heart and thought-provoking. I’ve done a lot of thinking myself. I’m a Christian, and I’ve experienced a great deal in my life that has confirmed my faith–but I still have more questions than answers. I’m by no means an expert, but still I want to write things that make people think and hopefully find a door opened to them that they haven’t seen before. So how to do it?
Fiction, mostly. In Chasing the Wind, I write about characters who also have more questions than answers: cynical FBI agents, an agnostic photojournalist, a Biblical archaeologist who has faith but challenges it, and an atheist who is called to be a prophet but still can’t believe what’s happening to him. I put them in situations where they get pushed to their limits and their faith (or lack of it) is tested. They witness miracles. They deal with loss and rise above it. And they face many of the same questions I’ve faced.
I always believed in God–but as the Bible says, even demons believe in God. They know He exists. Believing is not the same as putting one’s faith in God. I wasn’t able to do that completely for a long time. That door opened for me twenty-two years ago, on a dark night in which I felt more hopeless than I ever had. I went to bed that night, facing a situation for which there seemed to be no resolution. I prayed, more than I ever had before, and was still praying when I finally fell asleep. I was awakened the next morning by what first seemed to be just a ringing telephone, but in fact was God’s answer to my urgent prayers–the miracle I needed.
That miracle has led me to write my first work of nonfiction–a memoir that’s (finally) almost finished, Riding Out the Storm. It’s not easy to lay bare one’s soul for all to see, as my close friend William Kendall discovered with his most recent blog post. But sometimes, we need to write about the things that make us most vulnerable. Sometimes, as in William’s case, it’s a way to exorcise our personal demons in order to be free of them. It took tremendous courage for William to share the things he’d kept so private for so many years. For some, like Shelly, it’s a way to share our discoveries of faith…and to provide a warning of what’s ahead. For me, it’s hopefully a means to testify, to show others that anyone can–and will–change. And that it really is darkest just before dawn.
A few years ago,I did a series of character blogs–getting into the thoughts of my characters. From time to time, I’ll be reposting these entries for those who weren’t around to read them back then….
I was attracted to her right off, but I wasn’t seeing her as more than a bedmate–a temporary one at that–at the time.
I didn’t even want to go to the bloody lecture. Sarah wouldn’t let it go. I realised she wasn’t going to give up. It was really quite odd, because Sarah and I have never been close. Why she wanted me with her that night remained a mystery for months to follow.
When Lynne told me of her difficulty in obtaining funding for her dig in Egypt, I saw an opportunity. I had made plans to fly to Cape Town the next day, to lie low the until the furor subsided. This, however, was a much better option. No one would be looking for me on an archaeological excavation. I would be living in the middle of nowhere with a woman I found quite appealing.
It had definite possibilities.
Edward wasn’t going to be an easy sell, but he understood the urgency of the situation. I couldn’t stay in London. If I did, I could well end up in prison. What we had done was illegal. If the Foundation provided Lynne’s funding, it would all be perfectly legal and no one would be the wiser. It would not be connected to me. And if I got it on with the lady while in exile, all the better.
I had no idea then how it was all going to turn out….
There’s no such thing as coincidence. Nothing happens by accident.
I wasn’t even supposed to be in London. I’m an archaeologist specializing in Biblical archaeology. I’d been working on a dig in Egypt, searching for proof of the Exodus. Yes, that Exodus. My partners and I had been there for a while, almost three years. The money was running out, and we hadn’t been able to secure further funding.
Then came the call.
A colleague who had been slated to give a series of lectures in London was injured at his dig site and was unable to fulfill his obligations in Britain, so he asked me to take his place. That might not seem odd to you, but this guy was someone I’d always been at odds with professionally. Why me? I wondered. Why had he asked me, rather than someone with whom he actually got along?
I didn’t question it too closely, though. I figured a couple of weeks in London would give me a chance to take one last shot at finding the funding we needed to keep going. It was my last chance.
Then I met Connor Mackenzie, and everything changed.
I’ll never forget that night. I walked into the lecture hall, and he stood out like Chris Rock at a Klan rally. He was wearing worn jeans and a leather biker jacket. He was of average height, with light brown hair that was almost blond, and blue eyes that, well…. He looked a lot like Ewan McGregor.
We talked briefly. When I told him of my funding dilemma, he suggested he might be able to help. I didn’t take him seriously, but he was so compelling–all right, I confess. When he asked me to have dinner with him, I didn’t want to refuse….
Fellow author Mark R. Hunter did a blog post about setting up a booksigning in advance of the Christmas shopping season. I haven’t done a signing in years. It’s so much easier to just do all of the selling online. Besides, I never really enjoyed doing them–unless it was a group signing. Solo signings can be productive, sure–but unless you’re Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, or one of those really big names, it can be pretty quiet, too. (Cue the crickets.)
I’ve done a number of group signings. And not only do readers show up, sometimes your fellow authors come to cheer you on–like this one, some years ago, at a Waldenbooks store in south St. Louis County, where I live. That’s fellow author Anna Eberhardt, aka Tiffany White, with me–and peeking around from the safety of the bookshelves is Collin, who refused to pose with us but didn’t object to photobombing us!
My favorite group signing was one I did with twenty other authors at a B. Dalton in a large mall. We had a blast! We made snarky remarks at each other and hammed it up for the shoppers, getting us lots of attention. We also sold a lot of books. I didn’t even mind that our car broke down en route and I had to hitch a ride with the aforementioned Anna and her husband, Leo.
I once told a fellow author I was going to take flying lessons as research for a book (that was never written, as it happens, because my agent didn’t find the idea glamorous enough). The fellow author’s response: “Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the air.”
I should probably point out that this comment was made in the early ’90s, when air travel was still fun.
Anyway, I’m not flying now. Not even as a passenger. By “landing,” I was referring to Creativia’s landing pages for my books. So far, only two are up and running. I’m guessing they’re doing this in alphabetical order, as the first one up was Alexander’s Empire and now we have Angels at Midnight. To check them out, just click on the links. And while you’re at it, check out my author page at their site. (They haven’t yet added my latest release, Ms. Maxwell and Son, to my bibliography.)
When I decided to reissue my backlist books, I had a choice to make. These books, with the exception of Chasing the Wind and Final Hours, had all been written and published in the late 1980s-early 1990s. That was a time when the most popular fiction was either historical romance (not my cup of tea) or glamorous, suspenseful contemporary romance. Today, the market is decidedly different. On one hand, I really wanted the old books to be available on a permanent basis, even if they didn’t gain many new readers. Om the other, I felt an urge to rewrite all of the old stuff, not just to make it more relevant to today’s readers, but in the case of Alexander’s Empire to satisfy my need to finally publish the story I’d wanted to write from the start.
If I were writing them today? Alexander’s Empire would still involve wealth and power–to a degree. But it would be, at its heart, the story of a man who discovers he’s not who he’s always believed himself to be, that his present life was created out of a tragedy that destroyed several lives. It would focus on his inability to trust, to love, and his search for answers.
As for Angels at Midnight, again, there would be less glamour and more of a modern “MacGuyver meets Robin Hood” story. Ashley might still be a celebrated artist, but Collin wouldn’t be an oilman’s heir. He’d be someone who was one of many cheated by a ruthless employer. He’d be more high tech than he was back in the ’80s. And there would be more fencing. Those were my favorite parts of the original.
That’s what might have been….
Since my first series romance novel, Ms. Maxwell and Son (originally published by Silhouette in 1988, reissued by Creativia in August 2016) is currently on sale at Amazon through Monday, here’s an excerpt….
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 mid- night. 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. Itwas 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.”
“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. She tried her cellphone. Again, nothing. No signal.
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 inthis 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.
I never thought I would ever want to stop writing. It’s been a part of me for almost as long as I’ve been able to write my name. Yet here I am…and it seems I’m not alone.
Several authors I knew early in my career gave it up, some much sooner than I have. They were tired of the competition, the many frustrations of traditional publishing. Their reasons were the same reasons I had for making the jump to self-publishing and then to indie publishing.
Now, I’m seeing a whole new set of frustrations in indie authors. They no longer feel the excitement they once felt. They hate having to market and promote their own work. For most, sales aren’t as good as they’d hoped. One author says these days she finds more pleasure in knitting that she does in writing. Nobody asks her if her knitting project has made the bestseller list. (But she points out that she gives up on an average of once a year.) Another author still loves the writing but hates the grunt work that goes with it–marketing, promotion, trying to get reviews. She would rather just write for her own pleasure. Reading about the decline in readership doesn’t help. Hearing that the number of books being published is much higher than it was before self-publishing became so popular, meaning more competition for sales doesn’t help, either. More books, fewer readers–not good.
I had planned an entire series of Chasing the Wind sequels, also including characters from five of my other novels–Alexander’s Empire, Angels at Midnight, The Unicorn’s Daughter, Solitaire and Luck of the Draw. In Final Hours, the planet was taken out by an asteroid, so there’s really no way to go forward with those characters. Or maybe the asteroid missed its target?
I’ve considered doing these stories as short novels, in the format of James Patterson’s Book Shots. I’ve thought about maybe serializing them on this blog. I was ready to scrap everything. Then I re-read these reviews for Chasing the Wind on Amazon….
Lynne, meet Connor. Connor, meet Lynne.
By Berk Rourke on September 25, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a most intriguing story which takes hold and forces the reader to continue. I started it on one day and finished on the next because i was entranced by the story and could not put it down. It is fairly rapid reading though sometimes the switch in character involvement as the story progressed became difficult. About fifty percent of the way through the book there was a moment of presaging which gave much of the rest of the story away. But I am not sure anyone who has not constructed a story would recognize the moment or see the rest of the story unfold as foretold.
Lynne is an archaeologist. She has to go to London to make a talk. But while there she must find funding for her project or lose the opportunity to search for artifacts from the time of Moses. She meets Connor/Andrew there. He funds her project and immediately begins to “hit” on her. Long story short they marry in Jerusalem, she gets preggers right away. Then the story really begins. I will not tell you more except to say this is a well constructed tale. It is written well, there are not a lot of distractions in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I will look for other books by this couple.
Would you believe if God’s messenger returned today and he was your true love? Or would you believe it was madness? Read this thrilling love story and find out.
Published 2 months ago by Linda
Refreshing Christian fiction–which should be enjoyable for those not necessarily looking for that
By Diane E. Sidener on September 25, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
I don’t often write reviews, but this book’s Christianity didn’t demand abandoning science. It was also refreshingly free from swearing and sexual titillation–things that are real spoilers for me, which is why I’m mentioning them before saying that it was imaginatively plotted and well written, with few of the typos and minor editing mistakes that are all-too-frequently found these days. A very enjoyable story: I’m going shopping now for my next book by this talented pair.
A romantic thriller
By Karla Telega on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
I’m not normally an avid reader, but I loved this book. It has romance, danger: two damaged people clinging together, fighting for their lives and for the safety of their unborn child. It also has an interesting meld of science and religion that I haven’t found in other stories. The book definitely steps outside genre formulas, making it fresh, original, and compelling.
Love the premise of genetic tinkering and what the possibilities …
By Marilyn J. Collier on October 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Love the premise of genetic tinkering and what the possibilities that may result. The question of how will it progress through the generations isn’t completely answered. This is a novel of intense characters. At first the way it is structured was a bit odd, but it allows you to “know” even the minor characters. That is quite a feat that many authors do not master. If you want a well-written book with believable characters fighting against evil, you cannot do any better than this one. It does take some surprising twists, but that is what keeps one reading.
Riding a Hurricane
By Lena Winfrey Hayat on November 28, 2011
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
In “Chasing the Wind,” Norma Beishir and Collin Beishir chase the reader with a hurricane of adventure. They introduce us to two main characters: Lynne (an archaeologist with a modern Christian view) and Connor (aka Andrew a geneticist who is low in faith), and they appear on the surface to be as different as night and day. We get to follow their exciting adventure across the world as we are introduced to some interesting minor characters. We watch as Lynne and Connor grow together as if they had known each other all of their lives. We drop into their destiny and travel with them.
Beishir is a master storyteller who controls suspense and employs all the great ingredients that cook up this political, religious suspense thriller. Beishir leads us through a maze of plots and subplots that lead us to surprising discoveries. Beishir has an amazing ability to elaborately describe psychological motivations of the characters while painting their passion and drawing out their ambitions. Heroes are true heroes (like Connor who transforms before our eyes) that have human flaws while villains are super-villains (like the assassin Caine and Dante with his cult-like global cartel); we are allowed a peek at their abusive childhoods that is a key to their motivations and what makes them tick. We get to taste their evil and insanity.
Beishir entranced me from the beginning and hypnotized me until the end. The quick pace and intense mood of the novel with colorful and humorous dialogue made the story hard to put down. We find ourselves cheering for Lynne and Connor as they face some formidable obstacles. We are left pondering so many engaging issues as well as realizing this novel could really reflect so much of reality, especially in today’s modern world of genetics and technology. Beishir raises ethical issues that we are still struggling with in the real world.
The reader is in for a riveting, enlightening, fascinating and amazing journey through the pages of “Chasing the Wind.”
Back and Better than Ever
By Mike (VINE VOICE) on February 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I reviewed the original version of this book which was written in the third person. In this version, it has been re-written in the 1st person. I will re-post my original review then add to it after:
Get ready for an intense ride with Chasing the Wind. This book grabbed me from the beginning and never let go.
Dr. Lynne Raven is an archeologist on a dig in Egypt, looking for biblical artifacts from the time of the Exodus. The problem is, money is drying up and it looks like the dig is over until a saving grace comes along in the form of a man named Connor Mackenzie. He is a man shrouded in mystery and has an obvious interest in Lynne, but he also has access to what appears to be near limitless wealth. He offers to fund the dig for 5 years and provides resources they could never have dreamed of.
Lynne is approaching middle age. She is divorced and has no children, but always wanted them. Connor’s interest in her transformed when he did something that he never thought would happen: he fell in love with her. That’s when the flood gates opened.
Connor’s mysterious past comes alive. He and Lynne both discover that there is far more to his past, and their future, than either of them could have ever imagined. Pursued by a mysterious cult that seems to believe Connor is the way to jumpstart the Apocalypse, they must fight for their very survival.
Aspects of this book are actually brought about by real research. The portions of the Exodus mentioned in this book (the timing of it, the parting of the Reed Sea instead of the Red Sea, etc) are actual debates taking place with biblical scholars.
The characters also come alive with some great dialogue. Some examples:
“This whole thing is so fishy you could serve it with fries and hushpuppies.”
“You know Darcy, there’s a saying that only the good die young. If that’s true, you’re going to live forever. God doesn’t want you and the devil won’t have you for fear of a power struggle.”
I highly recommend this book. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Army of Angels.
Okay, so comparing the two, for those of you who read the first version, here’s my take. Think of the original version as having a job you love. You get paid well. You actually don’t dread going to work on Monday morning. You feel good every day when you get up. Now, with the new version, picture having that same job and getting a random raise. It’s just more of a good thing. If you haven’t read Chasing the Wind yet, get in on it now. If you read the original version, it’s worthwhile to jump back in. You get a better peek into the minds of the characters. Actually, Connor’s thought processes to me were the most revealing. And this is just going to ramp you up for the sequel, which I can’t wait for.
Outstanding epic story, and terrific personal, intimate tale in one novel
By William Kendallon February 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I’ve recently read the revised edition of the book, now released, which has been changed from third person point of view to first person, and the end result is an astonishing, powerful, and intimate story. The book follows a couple, Connor Mackenzie and Lynne Raven, as well as a number of other characters, telling an epic, sprawling tale of good versus evil through their eyes. The novel touches on archaeology, faith, destiny, and love throughout, intriguing the reader while taking them on a journey that touches down in places like Britain, Italy, Jerusalem, the Sinai, and New Zealand.
Lynne Raven is an archaeologist seeking physical proof of the Biblical Exodus in the Sinai. She’s often far from her home and family in America, occasionally feeling the notion that time is catching up to her. Her work begins to be funded by Connor, who meets her by chance, finds her intriguing, and accompanies her to the dig site. He’s a man of many secrets and difficult family relations with a sister, Sarah, and step-father, Edward. We find ourselves wondering at first if he’s mentally stable. It’s a question Connor himself wonders. He’s a man who keeps himself at a distance, closed off from the world, the pain of his mother’s death an overwhelming factor in his life. He also has, as we gradually see, an innate ability to heal with his own touch.
Gradually Connor and Lynne fall in love as they get to know each other, as Lynne gradually gets him to open up to her. Their courtship, such as it is, is filled with lightness and humour, Connor going out of his way to openly flirt with Lynne and win her over, and they marry. It doesn’t take long before they’re expecting a child, but circumstances quickly send them on the run. Violence follows them as the secrets of Connor’s past and his family’s connection to a man of pure evil catch up. They go into hiding in New Zealand, and Connor finds himself at a point where he must make a fateful decision about his future, and that of his wife and their baby son. It requires him to come to terms with the true nature of who he is and what he’s meant to do.
The love between Lynne and Connor is the emotional core of the book, and it works wonderfully. There’s such a sense of believability about the couple, a feeling of genuine connection and love. They’re suited to each other, and as they deal with the chaos, heartache, and losses that the story throws at them, we find ourselves very sympathetic to them. And by extension, the way each character reacts to the events surrounding them feels true to their personalities. Lynne is a woman of faith with good family ties who accepts; Connor must go through the purging by fire, figuratively speaking, to accept what fate has in store for him.
The strong characterization extends to the various other characters that populate the book. If Connor and Lynne represent the good of the book, then their counterparts representing evil are more then a match. Nicholas Dante is a sinister presence in the book, a man of cruelty and evil who has a facade of respect, and yet is a man of no redeeming qualities. He orchestrates and pulls strings, seeking to control Connor for his own ends and his own beliefs. His hired enforcer is a memorable villain named Judas Caine, a brutal psychopath who has none of his employer’s refinement. Caine is the sort of man who enjoys causing the most amount of pain he can, a sadistic hitman whose actions are, to say the least, profoundly disturbing. While I have, in the past, enjoyed villains with at least something sympathetic in their nature, I find these two-utterly unsympathetic and the very definition of pure evil- to be very compelling.
There are a number of other characters that I rather liked throughout the book. Phillip Darcy is a photojournalist who happens to count Lynne among his various ex-wives (his pet name for her is Duchess, a touch I rather like). He’s a likeable rogue with a chaotic personal life, and he’s rough around the edges. I liked his personality, his way of sparring with pretty much everyone. He comes into contact with Lynne and Connor in the Sinai, where events occur and strange discoveries are made that cause him to start asking some very serious questions. Caitlin Hammond and Jack Farlow are a pair of FBI agents looking into several missing children cases that tie into the larger story, and their investigation brings them into Connor’s orbit. Their rapport and dialogue is well written, and has the same genuine feel to it that the rest of the book has. And Connor’s sister Sarah is a revelation as a character. She starts the book off as cold, hostile, and perhaps coming across as emotionally unstable, and her journey through the novel brings her to a very different place.
The novel deals with weighty themes throughout. History plays out in its pages, as do the themes of good versus evil, the acceptance of destiny, and the struggle with coming to terms with faith. There are harrowing, horrific moments in the book that will have you shuddering (a speciality of Mr. Caine, you see). And there are moments that will make you laugh. Chasing The Wind tells an epic world spanning tale that manages to be a very intimate, personal story of the love between a man and a woman. It’s a terrific, compelling book that you’re going to love reading.
Okay. I’m thinking….