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Thursday, September 16, 2021
Thursday, September 09, 2021
Thursday, September 02, 2021
Many years ago before she died, my mother found another letter tucked away somewhere and gave it to me. I had written to Mom and my sister when they were visiting my grandmother in western Pennyslvania. I had written it only a few weeks before my hubby and I were married. Using a fountain pen and my best handwriting, I rambled on about the bargains I had found such as my white, wedding shoes for $9.
I told them about the bedroom furniture arriving in the house hubby and I would soon share. I had spent the whole day waiting for the furniture to arrive and had met one of the neighbors.
Then I told them about the wedding shower hubby's family gave me in Brooklyn. I listed all the wonderful gifts I received, but I knew very few people in his family at that time and told my mother I felt like an orphan since none of my own family was there. (A few weeks later, my family threw another shower for me.)
Reading the letter, I realize now how young and naive I was. I have changed--a bit. 😁
Too bad very few people write letters anymore. E-mail is not quite the same.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
When I received a contract for Irons in the Fire from New Concepts Publishing, the editor told me to cut the prologue. Deleting my precious beginning hurt, but I did it and dropped the information throughout the rest of the story. Nevertheless, the Advanced Reading Copy contained the prologue and with it the book received a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award nomination.
I made the Advanced Reading Copy which I sent to Romantic Times for review. That copy was later put up for sale on Amazon.😀 I made it with my own two hands and decorated the cover with a sprig of yarrow from my garden. It was beautiful!
So for those who still think prologues can be a nice addition to a book, I give you the original beginning of Irons in the Fire.
Catherine Mullaney knew she couldn't expect a party on her sixteenth birthday. Still, she walked home from school in a bleak drizzle dreaming of a frothy, white-iced cake with pink roses and blazing candles. And butter pecan ice cream, too.
Before she reached home, the drizzle changed to rain and soaked her jacket. Shivering in the hall outside the apartment, she stood with her hand on the knob and took in a ragged breath. Why couldn't somebody else's father have Alzheimer's disease? Why did it have to be her father who acted like a stranger? She never knew what to expect when she walked in the door.
Fighting back a wave of despair, she squared her shoulders, deciding that if Dad could simply remember who she was, that alone would make the day special. However, what she saw as she stepped into the room made her gasp. Their once neat and orderly home looked as if a burglar had ransacked it. Her backpack slid out of her grasp as her gaze swept over the destruction. A pain squeezed at her heart. Where was Dad?
Magazines, cushions and newspapers lay scattered in every direction. Even lamps and chairs had been overturned. Heart thundering, she picked her way through the chaos. When she heard a furious muttering coming from the corner behind the upended sofa, fear knotted in her stomach.
Barely breathing and moving with feline stealth, she inched closer to the sofa. When she peered around the edge and saw her father on the floor methodically ripping apart a wicker basket, a sense of relief flowed through her, though the little comfort she found in his presence was tinged with sorrow. Once he had been Ed Mullaney, the famous syndicated columnist, loved by the American people, a sensible voice in every crisis whether political or mundane. Now, weakened and sick, there seemed little left of him except the shell.
"Daddy?" She patted his shoulder, but he didn't look at her. He continued to tear the basket to shreds. Her throat tightened, and tears pricked at the back of her eyes.
"Witches," he muttered. "Witches and hands. Terrible bloody hands."
A shiver went up Catherine's spine. "Daddy, what happened?"
His hands stilled above the shredded ruin of the basket. He frowned and turned his gaze on her, his eyes wide and staring. "Fiona!" he roared.
"I'm not Mama!" Catherine backed away, tears spilling from her eyes.
Her father struggled to his feet and snatched at her hands, squeezing them until they hurt.
"Fiona!" He howled like a wounded animal.
"Stop it!" Catherine fought to get her hands free of his strong grip. "Let me go! I'm going to call Uncle Mike." She broke away and dashed for the telephone. Her father came after her. When she picked up the receiver, he lunged at her.
Dodging him, she ran out of the apartment. Despite the driving rain, she kept on running, not caring anymore, trying only to rid herself of the anger and hurt.
By nightfall, soaked to the skin and numb, she huddled in the shadows of an old pier. Across the Hudson River, the lights blinked and went out on the Jersey side. The rain stopped. She glanced up at the clouds racing along toward the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. With the moon behind them, the clouds looked like blue ghosts.
She stared into the black gloom around her. Nobody. Even New York's homeless people had vanished with the rain. She felt tired, cold, and hungry; but she couldn't go back--ever. It hurt too much to know that Daddy would never be the same again. A fresh torrent of tears rolled down her cheeks. Uncle Mike would have to find someone to look after her father.
She rubbed her arms and decided to search for a better shelter. A few blocks away, she discovered a dumpy restaurant that still had all the lights burning. She reached into her pocket and drew out four dollars, enough for a bagel and a hot cup of tea.
As the only customer, she sat on a stool by the counter.
"You run away?" the owner asked in heavily accented English. The gaze from his almond-shaped eyes fastened on her.
"No." She smiled, hoping he couldn't heart her heart pounding. "I'm in a Broadway show."
"Broadway...hmmm." He wiped the counter top and grinned.
Her stomach tightened. The man didn't believe her. She moved over to the next stool, closer to the window that looked out onto the street. In the dim light she watched as another man slid a steel cover over the front of the pharmacy next door, closing up for the night.
With the hot tea warming her, she recalled her last visit to the clinic with her father. She had questioned the doctor about a new experimental drug for Alzheimer's patients. She'd read about the treatment in the New York Times. The doctor had informed her that her father had progressed too far in the disease and had refused to prescribe it.
To Catherine, even a little improvement in her father's condition would be a miracle. She couldn't understand why the doctor didn't agree with her. A risky plan of action began to form in her mind. It seemed her only hope.
When the restaurant owner lugged out his garbage for tomorrow's pickup, Catherine pocketed a knife from the counter and hopped off the stool. She dashed to the back of the restaurant. Pushing open the heavy steel exit, she stepped out into a small yard littered with debris. Sharp slivers of glass sparkled in the light streaming through the restaurant's back window.
She heard an ominous click as the door behind her automatically locked shut. Her knees went weak as a wave of doubt swept over her, and she leaned back against the door for support. She intended to commit a crime to get the new medication that the doctor would not prescribe. If she wanted her father to be well, she had to go against the law to help him get better.
She looked up into the midnight sky and fought back tears. "I'm doing this for you, Dad."
A chain link fence separated the restaurant's backyard from that of the pharmacy. Drawing in a deep breath and thankful that she'd worn her jeans, she climbed over the fence. She tugged at the back door to the drug store. Naturally, it didn't budge an inch. She stepped back to study the situation. There had to be a way in, and she had all night to find it.
The squeaky hinges on the restaurant door sent her pulse thundering. She scurried for cover behind a wall of cardboard boxes.
"Hey! Little lady!" The restaurant's proprietor called out. "Is not allowed to go back here!" The man muttered to himself in his native tongue. She heard the crunch of the broken glass and the rattle of the chain link fence. Curling up as small as she could behind the boxes, she held onto the Celtic cross around her neck and said a prayer.
When the restaurant door slammed shut again, Catherine peeked over the edge of her hideout. He was gone. Weak with relief, she heaved a sigh.
She began a thorough inspection of the pharmacy. The fire escape loomed way too high. She tapped the steel doors that covered the entrance to the cellar and smiled when they shook slightly. Kneeling down, she used the knife to try and wedge the lock open. However, the knife kept slipping in her cold hands.
Icy water from a small hollow in the doors trickled onto her fingers. Unexpectedly, the metal of the lock gleamed with an eerie brightness as the last of the clouds fled from the face of the moon.
Catherine turned to look at the glowing orb and felt a strange dizziness take hold of her. She turned back to the puddle, touched it with her hand, and saw the moon's reflection ripple in the water. An odd shiver ran through her with lightning speed, numbing first her hands, then her arms, until finally, her entire body froze in a rigid grip of terror. The world about her was replaced by a dark, empty void. A roaring filled her ears as she felt herself sucked backward through space.
Then the spinning stopped. Although Catherine couldn't see anything, she sniffed the aura of musty wool around her. Her pulse beat frantically. Where was she? She put her hand out and felt a stucco wall and the shapes of hanging clothes. She was in a closet. The closet in the cottage--in Ireland--and she was two years old.
She hated the closet. She hated the dark. And she hated Mama's screams. Frightened, Catherine wanted to cry, but Mama had told her to be quiet. A small stream of light came from a crack in the door and she knelt down to look out into the room.
There was a man in the room with Mama, but it wasn't Daddy. The man hit Mama and made her cry. He hit her again and again. Mama screamed and Catherine wanted to scream, too, but when she opened her mouth no sound came out. Then Mama's screams stopped.
The air in the closet grew stale. Catherine pushed her hand against the closet door. It opened a little and she saw the man with blood on his hands. He cursed and put his hand up against the side of his head. Part of his ear had been cut off.
The man cursed again, louder. Catherine sank deep into the closet. Through the crack, she could still see the man. He picked up Mama and carried her out of the house.
Everything became very quiet. Catherine wanted Mama. She cried but Mama didn't come. She crawled out of the closet. The floor was covered with red. And in a basket by the door, she found Mama's hands.
Wailing, like the high-pitched keening of the banshees surrounded her. Fear spiraled in her. She wanted to escape, to leave the horrible nightmare.
Then the vision faded. Blackness swallowed her up and hurled her back through the terrible void. She collapsed, weak and trembling on the cold, steel doors behind the pharmacy.
Confused about what had happened, Catherine thought she must be going crazy, too, just like Dad. Her stomach churned as a sob lodged in her throat. She bit down on her lower lip to stifle any sound. She had to get that medicine. If the drug couldn't help her father, maybe it could prevent her from coming down with the same horrible illness.
With a wildness born of desperation, she grabbed the steel bars that covered the window and shook them. They didn't budge. She yanked at the bars, and slammed her body up against them. Finally, she took the knife and hacked at the wooden sill.
The tinkling of glass warned her. She whirled around and froze. Her heart stopped as she stared down the muzzle of a gun in the hands of a very big cop.
"Put your hands up. Slowly," he said.
Check out the latest edition of Irons in the Fire at http://amzn.com/B0112J0KIE
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Thursday, August 12, 2021
By that point, the temperature was climbing. I took lots of photos of the area. The views from the top of the cliff are impressive. Lots of solid rock and the wide Hudson River.
As I was wandering around with my camera, another couple waved me to where they were standing. They were taking photos of a peregrine falcon sitting on a branch. They even moved aside so I could get a better view.
Seeing the cliffs from the water would be great, too. There are docking and boat launch facilities in the park. We saw several boats and jet skis cruising along the river from where we stood at the top of the cliff.
It would be nice to go back and check out the docks at the park, or even go to a fishing area and watch folks fishing. Or to do a little hiking when the weather cools down. I really wanted to see the Women's Federation Monument, but it was simply too hot to tramp through the woods.
Of course, as I expected, we were tied up in traffic on the way home, but we had Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions CD playing so we sang along.
NJ has some beautiful scenery and the Palisades Interstate Park is a great place to see. It was a good, though short adventure.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
If you're suffering from the heat, take a break to read OUTSIDE BLESSINGS!
Raven Hill Reviews said, "I gave this book 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes Historical Paranormal Romance, especially stories of Halflings and Selkies. Outside Blessings is a must read for those long winter days!"
Blessings, New Jersey
Selkies snubbed her. Though humans did not know her origins, they often stared at her and whispered behind her back. She never fit in anywhere.
Her sister, Lila, did not care what others thought of her. She had made the decision to embrace everything human. Now she was dead. The authorities in the town of Blessings claimed she committed suicide. The officials glared at Neema with eyes as cold as the frost on the windowpanes while offering their meaningless condolences. They reminded her that such unfortunate events happened regularly at the seaside.
Neema told them Lila was murdered. Though she had been jilted at the altar, she had promised to travel with Neema to visit her aunts and give herself time to sort things out. Lila always kept her promises.
The town’s officials refused to listen to Neema. According to the town’s doctor, the official cause of Lila’s death was drowning. He decided she had been suffering from melancholia since she was supposed to be married on Christmas Eve, but the groom never showed up for the ceremony.
Neema vowed to find Lila’s murderer herself.
The moment the edge of morning appeared as a gray line on the horizon, she dressed as fast as possible. While she dreaded going out into the bitter winter weather, she intended to clear her sister’s name no matter what it took. In what seemed like the ultimate injustice, her sister had been buried outside the graveyard—in fact, outside of Blessings—because suicide was considered murder. In the opinion of most of the people in the town, her sister went straight to hell.
Neema’s eyes grew misty, but she had no time to wallow in grief. When she yawned, her breath made a cloud in her cold, third floor room. Still, she considered herself fortunate to have
shelter—even a third-floor icebox in the Courts’ resplendent, fifteen room cottage on a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Her sister’s rented garret had already been leased to new owners.
Neema tread the stairs as lightly as possible, praying no one would hear her as she hurried outside. This was the only time she had to herself during the course of the day and she used it to search the crevices in the rocks along the jetty. Despite the freezing temperature, she left the cottage and braved the wind-swept dunes.
As she struggled against the strong gusts, she recalled her sister’s tear-ravaged face while they waited at the altar for hours for the groom to arrive.
“You are beautiful and talented and he is a fool.” Neema reassured her. Still, Gustave’s sudden reluctance to marry seemed unbelievable given the circumstances.
As the eldest son of a railroad magnate, he had inherited a fortune as well as his family’s summer home in Blessings. Injured in a private boating accident, he stayed in the New Jersey seaside town to recuperate long after the summer season ended. He did not know Lila was the one who had saved him from drowning. She had fallen in love with him from that moment and he was besotted with her as well.
Gustave made Lila laugh with his foolishness. He painted their initials in red hearts all along the boardwalk—for which he was fined a large amount of money, but he merely shrugged and hired laborers to remove the paint.
He was not under any suspicion, but the officials were supposedly looking for him. Rumors circulated about town claiming he was now engaged to a wealthy man’s daughter. Some said he had traveled to England and married a princess. Some said he was in a home for the insane.
Neema faced the howling wind as waves lashed against the rock jetty, sending icy spray high into the air. Because the surfmen from the lifesaving station had found her sister’s ice-covered body wedged between the huge granite boulders, she had decided to search for clues there.
Over the past two weeks, she had painstakingly hunted in all the crevices in the massive stones, bit by bit, day by day. She refused to give up. If she did not find anything in the jetty to bolster her case, she would sift through every grain of sand around it.
Taking great care, she walked along the slippery, ice-covered rocks. The tide had gone out so there was less chance she would be drenched with a cascade of salt water. If she returned soaked to the skin, Mrs. Kelleher, the housekeeper at the Courts’ cottage, would have a conniption. Worse, Mr. Court might fire her—despite her skill with a needle.
As soon as she came to the point where she had stopped the day before, she knelt down. She had placed a sturdy piece of driftwood into a crevice to mark the spot. She pulled out the wood and slid her thinly gloved hand into the space. Searching all around the huge gray stone, she found nothing of importance other than bits of shells, splinters of wood, and seaweed. She crept to the next stone and repeated the process.
From out in the water, she heard a sharp bark.
“Go away, Seamus!” she called back. Seamus annoyed her. He had wanted to mate with her the past two seasons, but she refused him—as had all the Selkie females. He was obnoxious to every one of them. Since he failed to attract a mate, he had been banished to the bachelors’ island. She avoided him much as she would a shark.
He barked again in a more strident manner. This time he sounded much closer.
She pulled her hand out of the crevice and glared at him. His nearness unsettled her. He sat on a low, flat rock not ten feet from her, bobbing his head up and down. She turned away, refusing to communicate with him. His unwelcome distraction hampered her progress.
She glanced toward the east where the sun rose above the horizon. Soon the whole household would be up and she would be missed. Clamping her teeth together, she plunged her hand into another frigid crevice. She had only a quarter of an hour at best and she must not waste it even though her fingers were numb with the cold and she shivered uncontrollably.
Seamus continued barking, but she kept at her task. As she finished sliding her fingers around one boulder, she went on to the next. This would have to be the last one for today, and she would be forced to run all the way back to the cottage to make it in time.
The bell in the church tower tolled the hour. She wanted to cry, for she must leave and she had gained nothing toward finding an answer for Lila’s death. Gathering up her courage, she set her chin defiantly. She would not be defeated. She stood, turned, and cautiously stepped along the boulders to make her way back to the beach.
In the golden beams of the morning, she caught the glint of something inside a crevice only three feet from Seamus. Had he seen it, too? Is that why he had been so insistent? Or was it a trick?
She grabbed her sturdy piece of driftwood, intending to shove him away if he came close to her. Keeping one eye on Seamus, she bent down. He barked, growled, and lowered his head.
“If you bite me, I will clobber you with this stick,” she threatened. Then in one swift
movement, she scooped up the bright bauble.
Her heart thundered as she opened her hand and stared at it. It was Lila’s silver heart
locket—the one Gustave had given to her on her birthday. Lila’s initials were engraved on the surface, so there could be no doubt.
She trembled as emotion swamped her like a giant wave. With knees too weak to hold her, she sank upon the hard, cold granite. Her chest tightened as she realized she sat in perhaps the very spot where her sister had met her doom.
She tried to open the tiny clasp with her frozen fingers, but she could not. A small sob escaped her lips.
Seamus inched closer, but she was too distraught to care.
“What are you doing there? Can’t you see the sign? Don’t climb on the rocks.” A deep voice shouted at her. “Seals bite! Move away so I can get rid of that creature!”
Neema’s heart quailed when she saw the man holding a pistol not twenty feet from her. Beside him stood a giant, hairy dog, the lifesaving station’s St. Bernard.
Panic gripped her. “Don’t shoot!”
“Move away from the seal.” The man aimed the gun at Seamus. “Those beasts can crush shells with their teeth.”
“Put that gun away!” she shouted.
Seamus wriggled away and slid into the water.
The man and the dog clambered up onto the rock wall.
“Are you crazy?” he shouted at her.
“What if you missed him and shot me?” Neema fired back.
“You should have listened to me.” The insignia on his uniform marked him as one of the
surfmen of the lifesaving station.
“That seal didn’t hurt me.” She gave him her fiercest glare and managed to get to her feet
though her knees still quaked. The surfman’s rugged face would have been pleasing but for the livid scar across his cheek which went all the way to his chin. She stared at it and wondered if it went further down along his neck, but she could not tell for a thick scarf lay wrapped around his throat.
“Seals attack without warning.”
“Only when they feel threatened,” she retorted. Her hands clenched into tight fists.
“What if he dragged you into the water? You weigh less than half as much as that creature.
You’d make a good breakfast.” The young man stood a head taller than her. She looked up into eyes the same color as the aqua sea—unusual and fascinating. A tingle crept up her spine.
He’s human, she reminded herself. Humans were unreliable at best and often dangerous. They had no regard for animals of any kind. She ground her teeth together. Yes, she was half human but she couldn’t help that. Look what happened to Lila. She trusted humans too much.
“Seals are interested in fish, clams, octopus, and other ocean fare,” she stated. She was well aware Seamus had another agenda in mind, which had nothing to do with food. She hoped he returned to the seal’s bachelor island and stayed there.
She slid the small, silver heart into the deepest recesses of her pocket.
“Those creatures appear harmless with their big eyes, but they are sly, wicked, and never to be trusted.” The deep rumble of his voice seemed to vibrate right through her.
“I know that seal.” That much was true, though Seamus wasn’t a friend. In fact, she had no friends in the pod. Although, she did have her two caring aunts.
“Seals are wild animals.” The young man growled as fiercely as Seamus and she bristled with indignation. “For your own safely, stay away from them and do not climb on these rocks. The sign is there for a reason. If you ignore the warning, you will be fined.”
“It says nothing about a fine on the sign.”
“Article 587 clearly states...”
She rolled her eyes. He was the most annoying kind of human, all wrapped up in rules and
regulations. Arguing with him would be pointless. Whirling about she intended to leave but the huge dog blocked her path. The animal sat on his haunches and studied her. She feared most dogs, especially large ones who easily detected her anxiety, but this one had often visited Lila, who always gave him a treat of some sort. He displayed a measure of patience she rarely saw in canines. With his sad, dark eyes, she sensed his condolences for her sister’s death. However, she couldn’t be sure for she had never learned to communicate with dogs. Most of them wanted to bite her.
“Come,” the man ordered.
The dog heaved a sigh and, despite his massive size, he deftly moved around Neema to stand at the man’s side.
Relieved, she picked her way carefully over the ice-encrusted boulders until the church bell rang again and her heart quailed. She was very late now and could expect a reprimand the moment she stepped in the door. If Mr. or Mrs. Court saw her, she might be dismissed on the spot.
She hoisted her skirts and ran. Jumping down to a wide, flat slab of granite, her foot slid. She screamed as she fell, but then...all went black and she knew nothing.
Read more of OUTSIDE BLESSINGS at http://a.co/cb7mziM (Use the Look Inside feature!)
Thursday, July 22, 2021
There are a few miracles in my family’s history. There have been tragedies, too, as in most families, but the miracle stories I was told from the time I was young are the stuff that formed my faith and continue to sustain it even through the difficult times. Of course, miracles are problematic when it comes to proving them. However, this particular miracle has a visible, solid object that came along with it, a small home altar of St. Anthony, complete with praying angels, a votive candle, and a bas relief depiction of the Last Supper.
I realize that there are several religions that frown upon praying to saints. For the record, Catholics don’t pray to the saints, we ask for their intercession. Personally, I think of it as asking someone to put in a good word for me. If you want a full explanation you can go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercession_of_saints
My mother’s miracle came about due to the housing shortage after World War II. My parents, my brother and I were living in a roach infested apartment above a bar. My mother, who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania never met a roach until she came to NJ. Not only did the apartment have roaches, she said you could see daylight between the wainscoting.
But searching for another apartment was discouraging. Every time she saw an ad for an apartment, she would call up to find it was already taken. One day, a woman came to the apartment selling subscriptions for St. Anthony’s Messenger. My parents didn’t have much money and my mother could not afford a subscription to the magazine. Nevertheless, the saleswoman was very kind and prayed with my mother to ask St. Anthony for his help in getting a decent apartment for our little family.
Not long after that, my mother saw another ad in the newspaper for an apartment in a nice section of Jersey City. She told my father about the ad, but he sighed and suggested that she forget about checking the apartment because it would most likely be gone by the time she arrived at the place.
My mother was desperate enough to ignore his suggestion. She bundled me and my brother into coats and made the trek to Jewett Avenue in Jersey City. The apartment was on the first floor of a two-family house. The woman who owned it lived upstairs. The apartment was still available.
My mother toured the apartment as the owner explained that her mother had lived in the apartment but her mother had passed away. There was a good-sized living room facing the street, a dining room, two bedrooms, one large bathroom, and a kitchen. When my mother stepped into the kitchen, she saw the small altar of St. Anthony above the stove. She asked the owner about it. As it turns out, the owner’s mother had a life-long devotion to St, Anthony.
My mother got the apartment.The owner told my mother she was welcome to keep the little altar, too. My mother’s prayer was answered!
While we were living there, I started kindergarten and my brother went to first grade. We both got the measles and chicken pox, but we had lots of other children to play with, which was far better than living with roaches above a bar.
My mother gave birth to another daughter and my parents decided it would be nice to have more room for their growing family. My father found a home in Cliffwood Beach. It was actually the shell of a home. He had to put in walls, but the price was right.
We left Jersey City, but the little altar moved with us to Cliffwood Beach. Another sister came along. My mother often lit the votive candle and prayed through all the tough times. After my mother died and my father moved to be closer to me, my youngest sister became the owner of the little altar. She still uses it today
The statue is worn and cracked. The figures have been touched up with paint, but to my mother this little altar was a sign that someone was really listening. And so, I never doubt. Prayers are always heard. We may not get the answers we want, but it doesn’t hurt to ask someone to put in a good word for you.
Thursday, July 15, 2021
I was thrilled to discover PATRIOT'S COURAGE won first place in the inspirational category of the National Excellence in Story Telling contest (NEST). The NEST is sponsored by the Central Region Oklahoma Writers and is open to all works of fiction in digital format.
PATRIOT'S COURAGE is the third book in the PATRIOT Series and is currently available for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
You can view a video with all the first place winners on YouTube!
Thursday, July 08, 2021
But that's what authors are called to do knowing that sometimes the water is just right and sometimes it is freezing cold. Putting a book out into the world doesn't give you much time to test the water to see if it is to your liking. I have been at book signings where I didn't sell a single book. I have given many talks about writing or about my books. I have gone to countless writers' conferences. I have not felt comfortable doing most of those things.
However, I really enjoy writing books and I would like other people to read those books. So, I step out and get my feet wet even though I would rather stay home and write books. Of course, nowadays, there is the Internet and all the many social networks, which may or may not facilitate the sale of books. Most authors do have an Internet presence. Some are fearful about posting online, but they do it--at least a little bit.
Writing a book is only part of the process. Making sure the world is aware you've written a book is the other part of the process--and it can be difficult. Especially for an introvert.
Writing a book is a brave activity. Marketing the book will test the faith you have in your story. But do it anyhow. Dive in and get your feet wet.
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
There’s a young buck peering out of his hiding place. I feel like that as I slowly and cautiously return to what used to be normal. The pandemic is not over, but for those of us who have received the vaccine, we are venturing out more. I continue to wear a mask in stores and at church. Some people don’t, but since I haven’t had a cold since I started wearing a mask, I think there’s considerable value in the practice. However, outside I feel safe—though still shy. I’m not hugging many folks anymore.
Over the past month, I have come across people I used to see on a regular basis. Just last week, when I went to the local park and took this photo of the young buck, I stopped by the lake as well. Sitting on a folding chair and holding onto a fishing rod was a man I used to see just about every week. He served subs to hubby and I. He was always cheerful and chatty. But there he was by the lake waiting for a fish to bite his hook. I was so delighted to see him and so happy to know he lived through the past fifteen months. He’s not working at the sub shop anymore. He’s working at a bagel shop. I’ll have to go there and see him again.
Hubby and I went to buy a pair of slippers for his mother in Boscov’s. As we passed through the men’s department, we got a wave from the salesman who has helped hubby in the past to choose new suits. Just seeing a familiar face is a joy. Not only because it’s been fifteen months, but because there are those who caught the virus and now have permanent health problems. And there are those who died.
So now I cherish seeing old acquaintances with joy in my heart and pray that this terrible scourge will be defeated. Journey carefully, my friends.
Thursday, June 24, 2021
My siblings and I slept in the attic at my grandparents' house. It was stuffy and hot. No air conditioning there either. It did not exist.
We had fun as I recall. We jumped into the hay in the barn. We picked wildflowers and berries. (Even if we handed Grandma a dandelion, she put it in a vase.) My mother made pies and jam from the berries.
The photo above was taken in 1966. It shows my mother's father and my father discussing world events--a coal miner and a journalist. My grandpa came to this country when he was sixteen and became a coal miner. He always spoke English with a heavy accent. While he had little formal schooling, he was smart, talented, and artistic. He maintained a small farm and built three houses on his property over the years.
Nothing was ever wasted in his household. He built a loom and in the wintertime he made rag rugs from scraps of fabric because nothing was ever wasted. I studied the rag rugs when we visited in the summer and could recognize former clothing woven into the rugs.
The pace of life slowed as we listened to everyone talk. In the evenings, we all moved to the front of the house because it was shady there. The house sat on a hill. A two-lane highway stretched below it and we simply listened to the conversation and watched the cars go by. No television, no radio. Sometimes heat lightning on the other hills gave us a little show.
Nobody complained or said they were bored.
Simple was nice.
Friday, June 18, 2021
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Sunday, May 30, 2021
There's a memorial in Clovis, New Mexico for all those who died in the F-111.
On Memorial Day, please remember those who have served our country. There are no greater heroes.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
I learned how to crochet at a young age. I've been making shawls and blankets from different patterns for years. However, when I wanted to make a sweater for a baby, I had a problem with the particular pattern I had chosen. Sometimes, the patterns are difficult to interpret--that is not unusual. I wound up ripping out all the work I had done TWICE, which is called frogging. The photo on the left shows what I did wrong. The armholes were too big. I took a look at a finished sweater online and realized I was way off. I didn't give up. I redid all my work and now I'm adding arms to the sweater. I have plans make a matching cap as well.
Whenever I write a book, I have to edit it. I go over and over and over my words. I delete many of them. I add many as well. Basically, that book is written and rewritten. But it sure is easier to delete words and even entire paragraphs on a computer than it is to rip out a complete crochet project--or a knitted project. Pulling it apart is painful. Plus all that yarn must be rolled up, too.
Quitting is always an option. I could go out and buy a sweater. But I am stubborn. Anyone can give up when the going gets tough, but if I want to finish a project--I will.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's not talent. It's PERSISTENCE.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
The ride that day on the river was pleasant. The boat chugged along slowly. What I didn't know was that it wasn't working as it should. It could go very fast, but it didn't that day, which was fine with me. After our ride, we went out for pizza. It was a pleasant date. So, next time he asked, I went out with him again.
The rest of that summer, we went out on that little motorboat a lot. I took the wheel sometimes. We got stuck on sandbars. We endured a horrible thunderstorm on the water. Occasionally, we ate at restaurants with docks on the river. We stopped at Starvation Island, too. The beginning of our romance was spent riding up and down the river in that boat, which was a nice adventure. But we soon gave up boating and embarked on marriage and children. That was the best adventure of all.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
A romance book must have a happy ending. That's the guarantee. Romances without an uplifting ending are not not romances. In real life, the good guys do not always win and there are plenty of tragedies. When I pick up a romance, I want to forget about the real world.
However, to assume that there is a formula or recipe in writing a romance is to dismiss the nature of the art. Yes, romances are genre literature and so they are looked down upon by those who write and read literary novels. Literary novels are considered serious works. To me, they are most often seriously depressing. Romances do have sad scenes. My novel, HEAVEN'S BLUE, has choked up a number of readers--but it ends well.
There is a lot of variety to be found in getting to the end of a romance. While there are only so many plots in the world, romances are character driven novels--and when it comes to people, the choices are endless. I've read my share of cowboy romances, but they are not all the same. Every writer comes to the task with a completely unique set of characters roaming around in his or her mind. Jane Eyre is as real in most readers' minds as Nicole Kidman--maybe more real. The characters I put into my novels are very real to me.
One of my other Christian romances, HOPING FOR JOY, is based on part of I Corinthians 13--so there's some serious spiritual pondering in the story. Still, despite their differences, the hero and heroine will succeed in falling in love by the end. Why bother reading a romance when you know that the two protagonists will end up happy every after? For me, it's the sunshine I feel in my heart when I get to the end. How about you?
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
After years of applying to BookBub for a featured deal with several of my books, Heaven's Blue was accepted. Featured deals do not come free, so I considered it a gamble to pay that much money. However, BookBub has a large subscriber base and most authors are satisfied with the results. I paid the fee and dropped the price of my book to $0.99.
The ad ran on a Friday, which is a very sweet time to be a featured author since it gives the readers an entire weekend to look through the books. So far, I've sold 1,361 ebooks on Amazon, which means I just about broke even for the cost of the deal. However, I also sell Heaven's Blue at Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo through Smashwords.
The chart below shows how many sales I made through Smashwords to Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Those sales are pure profit and while I am not going to be a millionaire, it's always nice to make a little extra. But it will take a while for that money to come in. Barnes & Noble and Apple usually take at least a month to pay.
In addition, I received more ratings and several new reviews, which always helps when it comes to convincing a reader that the book is worth their time.
All in all, I was very satisfied with Heaven's Blue being a featured deal at BookBub. 😀
Monday, April 26, 2021
Here's the blurb:
A new life coming into the world disrupts Susan's quiet life ...
Susan Montgomery is used to a quiet, peaceful life managing her apartment building, where the hardest problem is her grouchy neighbor's leaky faucet. She soon finds herself dealing with a pregnant teenage niece, a mysterious briefcase left behind by a tenant, and two very different men vying for her heart.
A near-death experience gives Mac a new outlook on life ...
Christopher "Mac" MacAllister is trying to figure out how to "do the Christian thing." As a new convert, he's drawn to Susan's love for life and for God. She's nothing like the women he used to date; but can Mac compete with the guy who's come out of nowhere and knows all the right things to say?
Now for the excerpt!
“My point is, a month ago, I wouldn’t have wanted to sit here drinking coffee with you. I mean…” Susan’s blush came on full force now. “Wait. That didn’t come out right.”
“I get it. Why would a sophisticated church lady like you want to have coffee with a heathen construction worker like me?” Mac said.
“No!” Susan said. “That’s not it at all. You think I’m sophisticated? Ha! I spent most days in dirty jeans with either my head under a toilet or a paintbrush in my hand.”
Surprise crossed Mac’s face. “Tell me more.”
“I manage an apartment building, like my dad did before me. Growing up, I followed him around, with my own little tool belt. I became the son he never had. My sister Emily is the girly one. She got out of the apartment life as soon as she could. Went off to college, got herself married to a rich guy, and lives on the fancy side of town. Me, I’m an apartment gal. I love it there. I love solving problems for people, making their apartments into a home for them.” Susan stopped, afraid she was talking too much.
Mac grinned. “Working with your hands, doing something lasting, something you can be proud of. That’s the kind of job I do, too.”
“What I was trying to say earlier had nothing to do with your job. It wouldn’t be smart for me to go for coffee with a guy who wasn’t a Christian I was attracted…” Susan broke off her sentence, mortified she was about to tell Mac she was attracted to him. She tried to hide behind her coffee cup.
A grin spread across Mac’s face. Fortunately for Susan, Adam chose that moment to reappear. He took one look from Mac’s cat-who-ate-the-canary grin to the brilliant red color covering Susan’s cheeks and burst out laughing. “You too seem to be getting along OK without me.”
Susan glared at him. Mac scooted a chair out for Adam to sit. “Susan here was telling me she’s glad you talked some sense into my head at the accident, or else she wouldn’t be able to drink coffee with me.”
Susan’s cheeks flamed even hotter. “That’s not exactly what I meant.”
Where to purchase:
Karen Malley links:
Website (with short-story blog posts)
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Don't miss out on this award-winning story! One reviewer said, "...author Marzec continues to introduce readers to well-rounded characters, deftly crafting their emotions and dialogue into a story of faith and forgiveness - not only of others, but of oneself." (Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/390022)
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Selling books is not easy. Whenever another author in the writing community claims to have found a foolproof way to make sure their books get noticed and sell, I listen. Way back, in the early days of the internet, published authors advised unpublished authors to set up a website before getting published. So, I fearlessly learned HTML and set up a site on Geocities--because it was free.
Fortunately, a publisher was willing to send my books out into the world and soon I had lots of news to put on my website--things like contest wins and glowing reviews. But every other author did the same thing. Getting noticed, even with award-winning books is difficult. Along came Blogger. I signed up and started posting regularly. I "met" other bloggers. They commented on my blog and I commented on theirs. It was quite nice, but I didn't sell any books due to my blogging. Next came Facebook. A friend of mine encouraged me to join the new social media site, so I did. I found lots of other authors on Facebook. I found friends from the past who I hadn't seen in ages. I enjoyed seeing what everyone was doing. But I didn't sell many books through Facebook. Some authors started making book videos. This was a good way to showcase your books, they said. So I made book videos and uploaded them to YouTube. I did not sell any more books than usual.
LinkedIn showed promise, so I set up a page there. Twitter came along and I signed up for that as well. I could post my book videos there. I could post my glowing reviews and contest wins. I could help my author friends by posting about their books. Triberr was introduced. What a marvel! I could post on my blog and my tribemates would repost my post on Twitter. Spreading the news became easier.
Pinterest became a terrific place to wander in and get lost. Then came Instagram. Beautiful photos, tons of hashtags. But I signed up for that, too. I was getting a bit weary of all this social media stuff. Tons of new social media sites blossomed on the Internet and I ignored them. Until TikTok came along. One of my daughters showed me some of the funny videos on TikTok, but I didn't think much more about it. Then, out of the blue, the New York Times posted an article about TikTok (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/20/books/booktok-tiktok-video.html)
Suddenly, authors began touting their success on TikTok.
So I joined TikTok. I am watching what the other authors do. I have not bought a crown--yet, but I might. Have I become an overnight best selling author? No. But TikTok is entertaining. So far, the best way I've found to sell books is to buy an ad on any of a number of book promotion sites. You can read about that here: https://penelopemarzec.blogspot.com/2018/06/my-experience-with-book-promotion-sites.html
I enjoy writing, but marketing is not easy. If TikTok works, I'll let you know.
Wednesday, April 07, 2021
Today my guest is author Kim McMahill. She grew up in Wyoming which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. While she started out writing non-fiction, her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense and adventure fiction. Along with writing novels Kim has published over eighty travel and geographic articles, and contributed to a travel story anthology. She has had the opportunity to live in Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, and Colorado, but has finally returned home to Wyoming. When not writing she enjoys gardening, traveling, hiking, puzzles, playing games, and spending time with family.
Nearly every woman I know, myself included, educates herself about nutrition, exercise, fitness, diets, etc. in order to live a healthier life, manage a medical issue, or to lose weight. I’ve found there is so much information out there that it is difficult to sort out fact from fiction. The diet and nutrition industries are worth billions, which makes it even more challenging to ascertain who or what to trust. With so much on the line for something that impacts nearly everyone, there is no doubt corruption and crime infiltrate the industry making it perfect fodder for a crime series.
So, about six years ago I came up with an idea that I thought would make an awesome romantic suspense series. I’ve named it the Risky Research Series. The series starts with, A Dose of Danger, which deals with a potential miracle diet pill. Book 2, A Taste of Tragedy, revolves around a deadly sweetener, and book 3, A Foundation of Fear, explores the role of lobbyists and politics in the industry. The latest novel in the series, A Measure of Madness, releases on April 9, 2021. There are also two short-story prequels available for free download, A Formidable Foe and Midnight in Montana. Here’s a bit more on the latest novel, A Measure of Madness.
FBI agent Devyn Nash's pursuit of a deadly organization heats up in this fourth installment of the Risky Research series.
An Excerpt from A MEASURE OF MADNESS
“Where are you?”
“You probably don’t want to know.”
“Devyn, where are you?”
Devyn took a deep breath. She hoped he wouldn’t be too angry. When she left Puerto Rico, she didn’t see any other option. Now, she was so tired she wasn’t sure what to think.
“Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”
“What? Alone? Does your boss know?”
“You heard correctly. Yes, alone and yes, Conroy knows. He wants me on the next plane out of here, and I’m considering it.”
“What do you hope to accomplish?”
“I don’t know. I just couldn’t let Coterie get away with everything they’ve done. Conroy has a friend in the CIA who has a contact here. The best they can do is keep an eye on the group and arrest them up if they screw up or if they overstay their visa. That’s not good enough.”
“You have no jurisdiction.”
“I’m aware of that. I’m pretty certain I know where the head of Coterie is at this moment along with his right-hand man, but there’s not a lot I can do about it. The other little development is that Sofia decided to run, and J.R. is not happy. I may be delusional from lack of sleep, but I kind of had this thought that maybe if I could get to her first, I could convince her to come back to the states and cooperate. If J.R. never followed her back he’d still be free, but he seems pretty obsessed with her, so I’m betting he’d take the bait, and we could lure him to return to the states.”
“You need sleep. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“I know, but without a gun or any authority to arrest anyone, I haven’t come up with a better plan.”
“Get some sleep and call me in the morning when you’re thinking clearer. Don’t risk your life or career for this demented group. I don’t want to lose you.”
Devyn felt like crying. She wasn’t generally emotional. Maybe she was just too tired to have this conversation.
“I’m sorry, Gage. Please stick with me a little longer. This has to end one way or another, and soon. Coterie seems to be imploding. I may not get another opportunity to get to as many as I can while they are in disarray. If we do nothing they may regroup and the killing will continue.”
“I do understand, but sometimes we just have to concede defeat and move on. I’m with Conroy all the way on this, but I’ll not turn my back on you whatever you decide. I love you too much.”
“I love you too,” Devyn whispered as she disconnected the call.
You can find Kim at any of the following:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KimMcMahillAuthor/
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/849945.Kim_McMahill
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kim-McMahill/e/B007IK0EJW/