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

A Christmas Gift by Kerryn Reid

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

Kerryn Reed - A Christmas Story  Kerryn Reid Auriti in color

A CHRISTMAS GIFT

by Kerryn Reid

©2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How about the pastor?”

“Definitely.”

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

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

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

“Mama, they’re too tight!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sadie, love, you must get off.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have a proposition, Mrs. Barnett.”

Marian fidgeted with the ties on her cloak.

“Have you ever been in service?”

Marian shook her head. “No, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marian nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A deal, Mrs. Aubrey.”

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

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

Kathleen Irene Paterka Author

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

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

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

Trixie Belden

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

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

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

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

FattyPatty ForIHaveSinned HomeFires LottoLucy RoyalSecretsCream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard, in bed beside her, was dead.

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

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

Author website:          http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/

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

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/KPaterka

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

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

 

 

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

What is your most unique Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgving 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for “tolerance.”

What is your story?

 

Posted in family, fiction, fire, fire fighter, love, novels, purpose, romance, small towns, womens fiction, writers, writing

Learning to love among the ashes. A firefighter’s wife’s story.

Megan Kiffmeyer

 

I’d like to introduce you to one of our youngest writers. Megan (Truenow) Kiffmeyer is a 2004 graduate from St. Cloud Technical High School. She was a writer and editor for the high school paper. After graduating, she attended St. Cloud Technical College and received an AAS degree in Credit and Finance. Megan married her husband, Brian in 2007. They welcomed their first son in 2008, and a second son in 2009.

She currently resides in Kimball, Minnesota. Megan is a part of their local Fire Department Auxiliary, and is the wife of a fire fighter.

Her debut novel,  Moving On, is the first of a series that focuses on three couples who all have ties to the Hutchinson, Minnesota Fire Department.

Megan, what drove you to write your novel?

I had started reading more books after receiving a Kindle for my birthday. Out of habit, I was reading a lot of romance novels, and had a hard time finding books with the main male character as a fireman. I’m married to a fireman, and figured there had to be other wives that would want to read the same thing.

How long did it take to write your first draft?

I started writing the first part of June 2013, and had it done by the end of August. It took me a few weeks to outline the story in my head before any of it was written. I set my own deadline because we were moving, and wanted to have it done before the move.

Do you always use the same POV?

My first book is written as third person switching between the lead male and female, but I would like to try first person. It was hard using she/her all the time.

Tag Line:  After Beth’s husband dies responding to a fire department call, she fears finding new love. But sparks fly with a new member of the fire department, and Beth has to decide if she can handle a new relationship. Will she take the chance on another fireman?

Mving On

What was the hardest part in the writing process?

My husband is on our local fire department, and for me it was difficult to come up with names and situations that were not too closely related to people in our town and on the department. The characters are purely from my imagination.

Any advice for new writers?

Keep writing! If you enjoy writing, keep trying. The more patience you can have, the easier the process will feel.

Do you stick with the same genre when writing?

My first novel is considered a romance, and I will write more romance novels. I would like to write a children’s book with my boys as the characters, but I haven’t figured out what kind of story I want it to be yet.

Where can readers buy Moving On?

Blog:  http://mnfirefighterbooks.blogspot.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Megan-Kiffmeyers-Author-Page/564803140270543

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Megan-Kiffmeyer/e/B00HX89T8G/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Can you share a little from the  book?

Beth had known Josh since the first year of college. He was from Hutchinson, the town they later called home. She grew up in the cities, and wanted to get out of the busy, urbanized area. Beth had always felt trapped by the tall buildings and fast paced way of life. Both had attended many of the same general education classes, and the friendship grew into love. He proposed the week after graduation, and they got married the following April. Even at 23, she knew with him was where she was meant to be.

One thing that drew Beth to Josh was his willingness to help. It was no surprise to her that he desired to follow his dad’s footsteps and become a member of the Hutchinson Volunteer Fire Department.  He joined the spring before school was out, and commuted from Hutch to school every day. He didn’t want to miss any called and let his numbers slip. The fire department was a second family to him.  His best friend Petey, the brother he never had Josh always said, was the best man at their wedding.  It was a great source of friendship for both Josh and Beth.

They had been married 3 years when they started talking about having a baby. They were lying in bed tossing around ideas of what to name the future little one when Josh’s pager went off. He kissed her good-bye, and told Beth he loved her before grabbing his socks and getting his jeans on as he ran out the door. Beth caught part of the end of the page, hearing it was a car wreck on the main highway. Please keep the guys safe and get the people the help they need, she said in a quick little prayer. It became habit when she knew he was on a call.

A few minutes later, Beth heard the sirens. Their house was less than a mile from the fire hall, which usually resulted in Josh getting on the first rig to leave. About ten minutes later, there were more sirens. Car accidents meant at least one fire truck, the rescue rig, and an ambulance. She waited to hear the third set of sirens, and then got out of bed to get some things done. Josh wouldn’t be back for a while, longer if it was a really bad accident.

Beth worked on getting laundry done, cleaning the living room, and headed to their office in the half story of the house. The office was on the main level, and their room and a third room that was mainly used for storage in the top level. Beth went upstairs and stood at the doorway of the storage room, trying to picture what it would look like with a crib. They were ready to be parents. Josh would be a great father.

As the afternoon went on, Beth found herself cleaning the spare room. There were a lot of things kept in the room that could be moved to the basement already. She took a trip down memory lane as she flipped through photo albums of their wedding and honeymoon. Beth found a box in the garage and labeled it “Photos” before adding the albums and other pictures to it. She brought the box to the basement, along with a few other boxes.

As she came up the steps the last time, she took a look at the clock and decided to start making supper. Beth was filling a pot of water when she looked out the kitchen window and froze. The Hutchinson Fire Department car had just rolled up to the curb in front of their house. Petey got out, wearing a tired look. This couldn’t be good, Beth thought. He rubbed his face for a second, and then crossed the street and walked up to the door. The first knock on the door jarred Beth back to the present, and she turned off the water. Walking to the door, she knew Petey wouldn’t have shown up unless something had happened to Josh. She opened the door, and saw it was grim by the look in Petey’s eyes.

“Can I come in?” he asked her, leaning on the doorway.

“Sure.”

They walked into the living room, and Petey sat on the couch. Beth stood with her arms crossed.

“I think you should sit down, Beth.”

Beth let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, and sat on the couch with Petey.

“What happened?” she asked, fearing the reason he was there.

“Do you know what the call was for?” Beth nodded yes, and Petey continued. “ We were out on 7 for a roll-over. The car was smashed so bad, but being the first crew on the scene, we were doing as much as we could to assess the victims’ conditions. Josh was on the driver’s side when a truck came barreling through our scene. The driver didn’t see Josh.” He put his head down in his hands. “He hit Josh.”

Beth didn’t notice the tears falling until they started hitting her arm. “Where’s Josh? I need to go see him.”

Petey looked up, his eyes also wet.

“He’s gone.”

Posted in authors, editing, family, friends, Indie, journal, LGBT, love, memoir, old, personal growth, support, transgender, transition, writers, writing

My Husband is a Woman Now

Leslie Fabian pic

This is one of the most unusual  interviews I have ever done since starting Author Interview Friday.   As you can tell from the title, My Husband’s a Woman Now, it is quite an unusual story. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Leslie Hillburn Fabian, today’s Author. And because this is such an unusual topic, I’d like to change the order which I normally do my interviews. So hold on to your seats  readers, as I reverse the order. (just to keep you on your toes  LOL)

What shelf would we find your book if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

            With the ease of ordering on-line these days, I seldom go into book stores anymore, so I’ll have to create some shelf labels, to wit: LOVE STORIES; TRANSITION STORIES; RELATIONSHIP HELP; PERSONAL GROWTH & AWARENESS; MEMOIRS; TRANSGENDER…things along those lines.

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

From My Husband’s a Woman Now: A Shared Journey of Transition and Love by Leslie Hilburn Fabian, LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker)

            “When I met my husband, he was wearing a dress.” I had occasionally made this surprising declaration during the first twenty years of my marriage to David. I’d been selective, of course, trusting my instincts to determine when and to whom it was safe to reveal this.

            Making this bold pronouncement, I’d been “outing” my husband as a cross-dresser, exposing his life-long secret of sometimes wearing women’s clothes. The statement was invariably shocking and confusing to others, but I had found it the least complicated, most direct way, of opening a conversation about who he truly was—or rather, who we thought he was.

            Then, in 2009, after twenty-one years together, we both realized that David was more than “just a cross-dresser” and he began moving in a much more audacious direction. His sporadic feminine expression, the act of cross-dressing, had morphed into a plan to become a woman full-time. This revelation was alarming to the majority of people in David’s life. They’d known him only as a man and it was unlikely they’d ever thought to question his undeniable masculinity, a perception based on observable details.

            …All who know David saw a skilled orthopedic surgeon, beloved and respected by hospital and office staff, patients, family, friends, and particularly by me, his wife. But the physical form, the skills, integrity, and brilliance of this individual—all that one could witness of his life—masked the inner workings of David R. Fabian, M.D.

            This transition story begins in middle age, in our early sixties. It is about the deconstructing of our previous life and the creation of a new one. My husband, David Robert Fabian, M.D., began living as a woman in the fall of 2011. This woman, Deborah Rae Fabian, has existed internally for all of David’s remembered life.

Did you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time’s?

            I have no formal training in writing, other than occasional weekend workshops and a class I attended years ago. All of the reading I’d done throughout my life, prior to beginning my book, contributed to the structure I used. There was, in fact, little structure in the beginning. My daily writing was essentially a “free-form” recording of what was occurring, both internally and around me. As I promoted my husband’s transition, maintaining a desire to remain in our marriage, emotional fluctuations were rampant.

            In the second year of my three-year writing process, the composition emerged. Working with a book shepherd was enormously helpful, as she guided me in structuring my work into the finished product that manifested. The book gradually took a chronological shape in four parts: our past, the process during the two transition years, journal entries from the first year after transition, and, finally, what I learned from the entire process.

As someone who’d never before written a book, how did you know how to start, once you believed you had something to say?

     After I’d written for a year and had accumulated 150 pages of writing, I believed I had a book-in-the-works, yet had no idea how to proceed. Fate stepped in; a book on self-publishing practically fell into my lap at a Barnes & Noble! In the midst of looking there for clues to my next steps, I read about the concept of Book Shepherds, people whose work it is to advise, encourage, and support writers. This led to four phone interviews and the hiring of my incredible book shepherd, Judith M. Weigle, Book Shepherd, Judy@JudyWeigle.com.

     For two more years, to the completion and publishing of my book, Judy was a God-send who kept me afloat and assisted me in creating my first literary work. I doubt I’d have done it without her!

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

Both of my parents (now deceased) aspired to write; each wrote beautiful, inspiring letters. While providing incentive, however, neither ever got serious enough to create a book.

            In the nineties, I was in graduate school for social work at Boston College, and a professor noted on one of my papers, “You are a gifted writer!” I’ve always loved writing and was pretty sure I did it well, and that short statement stuck with me until I got serious about it in my sixties. Then, with a profound transition occurring in my life, I felt compelled to write the on-going story as it unfolded. Voila! A love story emerged, and my first book was published.

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

            I actually used a print-on-demand publisher called Virtual Bookworm. I consider this a “step above” self-publishing, as companies such as VBW provide myriad services, much as a traditional publisher does, for which the writer contracts. Their services are available both individually and packaged, and they are selective about what they publish.

            There are many reasons why I avoided the traditional route. Foremost was the warning of a friend who’s published several books and  found that the results of using a traditional publisher for one of them have been highly disappointing. The publisher made changes to her book with which she was not in agreement. She makes a pittance on the thousands of books sold, while the publisher makes much more. Further, the publisher now owns the book and she must buy it back if she wants to change publishers. She also warned me that it would likely take a couple of years to see my book in print, since I was a first-time, unknown author.

            I chose Virtual Bookworm after researching print-on-demand publishers and liking their services, packages, and responses to my inquiries regarding their work. They have been wonderful to work with; I highly recommend them.

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

            As I said, I felt compelled to write this book, under the circumstances occurring in my life. I found the writing to be therapeutic and instructive to my own process, as I have for thirty years of daily journaling. I also knew that what I had to say could be helpful to others—to those going through similar processes, to anyone going through a huge transition, and also to those who might be curious about our situation and how my spouse and I handled it. There was no stopping my “Voice,” once the writing began!

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

            I developed this technique in graduate school, with lengthy papers to write, and it’s continued to work for me whenever I have a project of any kind. First I decide on a total time I want to write for that day. Then I prepare my work space, read something inspiring, and set a timer for one hour. I work until the timer goes off, then take a break. If I’m highly engaged in my work when an hour is up, I might continue working for another half-hour or to the completion of that piece, and I’ll set the alarm again for thirty minutes (to keep track of my total time). Then I get up and do something fun, completely unrelated to my writing, for fifteen to thirty minutes—e.g., walk the dog, grab something to eat, read something unrelated. Then I begin writing again, resetting the timer until I reach my total time for the day. This system promotes meeting my daily goal, as well as providing rewards for satisfying work.

 MY Husband is a Woman

Thank you Leslie.  This is a strange and compelling story. It took a lot of courage to expose your personal life, knowing that some people would never understand and attack your views and decisions.  Yet, it is something you felt compelled to write.  Reader, to learn more, go to her website: www.lesliefab.com

Below is a intro into her story and links to buy her book.

Nothing is more certain in life than change, and this change is bigger than most. In 2009, Leslie Fabian’s husband, David-an orthopedic surgeon who’d been privately cross-dressing for most of his life-realized that brief forays into the world as Deborah would never be enough.
This came as no surprise to Leslie. For two decades, cross-dressing had been a part of their lives; but she had witnessed her spouse’s devastation each time he returned to his male persona. To purchase, go to any website below. These are for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and my publisher, Virtual Bookworm.

http://www.amazon.com/My-Husbands-Woman-Now-Transition/dp/1621374319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394127297&sr=8-1&keywords=9781621374312

(http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-husbands-a-woman-now-leslie-hilburn-fabian/1118828078?ean=9781621374312)

http://www.virtualbookworm.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=SRCH

Posted in authors, books, family, funny, humor, old, old fart, readers, writing

CHANGING TIMES: RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD FART

Marsha Gordon

 Marsha Gordon;  “Let me tell you at the outset: It is exceedingly difficult to be a female old fart. Men old farts are thought of as funny. They are respected for their skewed humor, although sarcastic and uncomplimentary. Women old farts have a similar message, but are considered un-ladylike. I love being an old fart, even though sometimes it embarrasses my children”.

 

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

It was a couple of years after World War II. Patriotism was at a high in the United States and there was great pride in being an American.

I was in junior high school when I discovered I wanted to write. The last question on an English exam was to write 250 words about how it felt to be an American. I wrote a paper about flag-waving, and marching bands in small town parades. Then I added baseball and Girl Scouts.

I wrote 300 words!

The teacher sent my work to the local newspaper. They printed it on the front page. I was asked to read it at a high school assembly, some churches and the synagogue. The attention was head spinning.

I knew then that I wanted to be a writer, forever.

I knew I didn’t want to write “stories”. Remember, this was just after the “War to end all Wars”. There were women in the military, the Civil Rights movement was stirring, and the airplane was replacing the train for just plain folk. I wanted to write about real life – and I still do.

Changing Times front Marsha Gordon

 

What is the theme of CHANGING TIMES: RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD FART?  Does it fit your criteria of writing about ‘real life’?

CHANGING TIMES: RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD FART is about change, yesterday and today. And how people react to change personal, local, national and international. There are many laughs in the book, some surprises, and maybe a tear or two. One reviewer said, “It is like eating bon bons. I never know where the next story will take me.”  Though I call them ‘stories’, they actually happened, in the past or now. CHANGING TIMES: RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD FART is definitely non-fiction. The book appeals to all ages. It makes a great gift.

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

As a non-fiction author, I usually attempt NOT to show my POV. My goal is to impart information, not to cajole the reader into agreeing with me. I have recently written two articles: one was about legalizing medical marijuana, the other about powdered alcohol. In these, I did not show my bias.

However, the essays in CHANGING TIMES: RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD FART are not informational. I put them together for entertainment. They are fun to write and fun to read. “The short essays and large print make this an easy take-along read,” says another reviewer.

What advice would you give to new writers?

I think the advice is the same for fiction and non-fiction writers.

1. Keep writing. If you are having a severe case of writer’s block, stay right in that chair and write gibberish, or nursery rhymes OR, the best, is to free-write. You will soon find you are back where you want to be, in your story.

2. Stop writing for lunch or for the day when you are at a GOOD spot, not BAD. When you come back to work, it will be so much easier for you to find your groove.

3. Having trouble getting started on a new novel?  Start your story with an action point from the middle of your story. The exposition will occur as you are writing. This will make your reader more interested and curious.

4. Believe in your talent, keep writing and Good Luck.

 

WRITING SAMPLE

BUILT-IN OBSOLESCENCE

Warning: Products manufactured today  may have a predetermined life span

My computer stopped working last week. Not a warning, not a gasp, not a sigh; it just died. I punched all the keys. Not even a flutter. I called my son-in-law, who knows about these things.  Rick tried everything he knew but could not bring it back.

“What about my files, Rick?”

“I don’t know, Mom. We’ll have to wait and see.”

My files may be gone?

Rick saw the horror on my face and tried to cheer me up. “You’ve had this computer at least five          years! That’s a long time.”

Five years? A long time? Rick is telling me, born smack in the middle of the Great Depression, how long things  should last? That five years is a good life for a computer?

Now I would need to purchase a “bigger, better, newer” one at a higher cost. And it would have a different program I’d have to learn. Would people buy new cars if they had to learn to drive all over again? The “old” computer was headed for the dump. Oops… I mean the politically correct “landfill.”

In the years after the Depression, people were cautious with what they threw in the trash.  Nothing was ever discarded. If something broke, there was always someone who could fix it. Remember Mr. Bob? His shop was just down the hill. He fixed irons and toasters and radios, usually for fifty cents.  He wouldn’t be able to stay in business today. We throw everything away.

There were no single-service items such as paper towels, paper napkins, paper cups, and on and on. Only when people had a little more discretionary income did disposable products hit the shelves. People began buying, rolled paper towels, tissues… Our landfills are full and our air and water are foul.

Now I have the use of a brand new laptop. The piece I was writing is gone! It disappeared. We looked everywhere and finally found a bit of it in the recycle bin. How did it get there? I didn’t put it there. Or did I? Did I hit the wrong key? Which one?

I don’t like all these new machines that are supposed to help us: the washer, the dryer, the microwave, the copier, the scanner. They are not loyal. Each time one of them breaks down I feel somewhat responsible and ungrateful. I also get unreasonably angry.

Just give me an old typewriter and a clothesline.

website:  msfart.com

 

Posted in books, cowboys, education, family, fiction, mystery, novels, romance

Marlene Chabot debuts her 4th Mystery/Romance

Welcome Marlene Chabot to Author Interview Friday.  Congratulations are in order on the release of your 4th book  Death At The Bar X Ranch, is being released by North Star Press of St. Cloud Inc. I  understand it will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Marlene Chabot

 When did I know I wanted to be a writer

I always enjoyed writing short story assignments in grade school, but didn’t think about being a writer when I got older. At the age of 13, I left home for Ohio to attend high school and two years of college to prepare to be a Franciscan Sister. Sunday afternoons were set aside for letter writing. So, believe me, I got a lot of practice writing informational stories. While I was an educator, I wrote a few plays for the children, and helped second and third graders  create their own newspapers, but again never gave writing for the pure enjoyment a thought. It wasn’t until I was 48 and riding back from visiting friends in Colorado the idea of writing mysteries struck me, and I quickly jotted down titles for books and plot ideas.  Particular inspiration:After reading tons of mysteries to and from Colorado, I decided I could come up with some darn good mysteries of my own.

Tell us about your background in writing.

I didn’t have a writing background. My four year degree was in education. But I did take a two year business management class and communication class was a must.  After I wrote my first book, and was getting rejection letters from major publishers I decided to take a 18 month correspondence course from the Institute for Children’s Literature which is affiliated with Writers Digest. I learned a lot. So much in fact, I decided my first book stunk, revamped it and then self-published. I have attended about six writing seminars none of which were specifically for my genre. And haven’t had the opportunity to attend any big writer conferences.

How long did it take you to have your first book published.

I started writing my first novel in 1995, began to revamp it in 2000 and finally had it self-published in 2003. A long process.

Do you always write in the same point of  view? 

My novels are written in the first person. I find it easier to write in first person. I like using a lot of conversation. Many short stories I’ve written, including two for anthologies, have been in the third person.

 What has been the hardest obstacle in your writing career? 

Having been required to write many essays and research papers in college the outline and synopsis were easy for me to pen  once I had the main idea. I felt writing the query was the hardest.  Now that I’ve done several I refer to the others when creating a new one.

 It is exciting that your 4th novel is coming out this month. What advice would you give to knew authors just  getting started in their career?

My advice to a new writer when getting started with a manuscript is to have someone you can bounce your ideas off of and to find a good writer’s group for support and suggestions.  I didn’t join a writer’s group until after my first book was published. I currently belong to 2 groups–one for my genre and the other is a mixed bag.

Tell us a little about the book we are promoting today.

My fourth novel deals with an unemployed teacher, Mary Malone, who is looking for a new place to live and any job she can get. Her private eye brother, Matt, is out of the country so she and her widowed aunt take over his apartment.  Listening to a message intended for her brother, Mary decides to get involved with a case pertaining to horses. The problem is she was scared by a horse around the age of 4 and swore she would never go near them again.

Marlene Chabot's book

 Can you share a little bit of your work? 

Prologue

Mary Colleen Malone’s my name. I’m not what most people would consider either a girly-girl or a tomboy. I’m more an in between type of gal, in between men, in between diets, in between jobs. It varies from week to week. This week, however, not I, but circumstances beyond my control, shoved employment to the top of the heap.

Teaching’s my game, or it was up until yesterday morning when I strolled into the teachers’ lounge and spotted a rare, unexpected gift tucked inside my cubbyhole. At first, I thought the hot-pink slip was someone’s idea of a joke, but then reality smacked me in the face. I hadn’t slid under the unemployment radar after all. With one swift hurricane after another chiseling away at the U.S. economy, teachers without tenure were the latest surfers to be caught up in the storm.

Hmm? Maybe I can sub in Blaine. That’s not too far north to drive. “Aim for the stars,” everyone said. Yeah, right. Fat lot of good it did me. The aligned planet and stars supposedly assigned to my personal universe imploded on contact. Goodbye lifetime job. Hello unemployment. To think I was once so elated being the first member of the Malone clan to receive a master’s degree. Now, I’m just depressed. While I sit idly by twiddling my thumbs, my siblings continue being smugly employed, including the one who flips flapjacks at the local pancake house just around the corner.

So, what’s a smart, single thirty-five-year-old unemployed dame to do? I haven’t a clue. Perhaps it’ll come to me while I snooze.

 

Thank you Marlene. She is the author of  Death at the Bar X Ranch, Mayhem with a Capital M, and two other Minnesota mysteries.

Her website is  www.marlenechabotbooks.com

Amazon link:   http://www.amazon.com/Death-at-Bar-X-Ranch/dp/0878397388/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403615298&sr=8-1&keywords=Death+at+the+Bar+X+ranch

Barnes and Noble link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-at-the-bar-x-ranch-marlene-chabot/1118015601?ean=9780878397389

 

 

Posted in authors, books, conflict, family, FBI, Terrorism, writers

Retired FBI Agent brings us Necessary Assets.

Necessary Assets

 

James Ring is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent who investigated the American La Cosa Nostra and the Sicilian Mafia in New England. Ring received the Department of Justice’s highest award as the architect of the first and only electronic interception of the La Cosa Nostra/Mafia induction ceremony of new members, including the Omerta oath.

Ring has testified in federal court as an expert witness on La Cosa Nostra and has served as a media commentator on organized crime. He participated in a series by National Public Radio analyzing the current Department of Justice Informant Guidelines. Ring served for one year on the Department of Defense advisory board, mandated by Congress, to review their civilian and military investigative capabilities. The board reviewed the growing military preference of favoring electronic intelligence gathering at the expense of human intelligence.

Ring founded a business information and investigative service within a prestigious Boston law firm where he remains today.

During the investigations into New England organized crime, Ring married a former FBI agent. They chose to live in Boston’s North End not far from the street headquarters of the La Cosa Nostra. The success of these investigations, and subsequent prosecutions, helped transform the North End into the vibrant community it is today. Both Ring and his wife continue to live in the North End. In their daily lives, they walk the neighborhood, visit friends, and frequent the diverse shops and interesting cafes within their community.

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

Both of my careers were adverse influences on my desire to write fiction or nonfiction. I worked in a world where secrets were kept or client confidences were an absolute necessity. I chose to write fiction for two reasons. I could keep my secrets while avoiding censors and I could allow my world of experience and imagination to go where they wished.

My first career as an FBI agent honed my writing skills to present facts only. Personal opinions had little place in a world centered on legally admissible evidence. My second career with a large Boston law firm was successful owing to my FBI experience. Facts gathered by research or inquiry had to be presented concisely, accurately, and without emotion. Writing fiction enables me for the first time to combine my unusual and varied life experiences with an imagination not constricted by obligation.

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

Like many who write while working at the same time, I use to steal writing time wherever and whenever I could. I find it difficult to write for short periods. Once I get rolling in a session, I do not want to stop. Early on I would write wherever I found myself when the time became available. My laptop was always with me. As soon as my circumstances changed, the first thing I did was to set up a desk in our city condo and another in our weekend home. These are now my two favorite places to write.

I am still making an effort to discipline myself into a writing schedule. I tend to start my writing session after my “to do” list is completed. I need to put my writing before that list!

Was there a mistake you made in the writing process you could share with us?

How much time do you have? Leaving mistakes behind is part of the adventure of writing. One example is now I start off each session editing what I wrote in the previous session. It starts my rhythm for the new session and puts me into the flow of my prior effort. I also end the current session with an edit of what I have just produced? Why?

Early on I believed I needed to get all my great ideas written down quickly before my faulty memory lost them forever. I intended of course go back later and “smooth” it all out. This process caused me to produce poor material. For me, it became critical to start and end the day editing. I never let bad writing (I hope) remain in my story for too long. I also discovered that I never really “lost” that great idea or turn of phrase. They always seem to come back when my fingers hit the keyboard the next time. Once I realized quality writing was essential at all times, and good ideas did not get lost, I became much more relaxed when writing.

Love your answer. LOL  What is your next big writing challenge?

In Necessary Assets, I wrote into the ending material I could use to set up the sequel should one be warranted. It soon became apparent a sequel was in order using the same characters. This became clear sooner than I anticipated. After getting Necessary Assets out, I immediately started writing a childhood memoir about my Italian great grandmother and her children, my great uncles and aunt, and their impact on my character formation growing up. It is something that is in my heart, something I want to share. I think many would find it a very warm and positive read. I field tested a version on two of my grand children. They both gave it their seal of approval.

The next thing I knew my publisher was muttering about a new writer immediately changing genres, creating chaos, for some childhood story no one would care about and would have no commercial value. I told him I am sure he is correct, but I am doing it anyway.

I now find myself working on two books at once. This is something to avoid! I started the sequel thinking I had the memoir finished. However, my editor is encouraging memoir changes. She is right as always. I am following her advice. Avoid working on two books at once. Your spouse or significant other will give you strange looks and mutter strange words sotto voce.

Please give us a taste for Necessary Assets          

                  Précis Necessary Assets

 Al-Qaeda, under new leadership in Yemen, targets two US cities for dirty bomb attacks to be executed by two cells of resident US citizens. These cells are led by a bomb expert known only as The Engineer. Al-Qaeda intends to shred a fragile US economy and destroy citizen confidence in the government’s ability to protect them.

Al-Qaeda asks the Sicilian Mafia to smuggle a container into New York City. Sicilian sources believe it contains arms, explosives, and nuclear material. The Mafia agrees to the shipment but only to learn enough about the attacks to prevent them.

Mark Patrick is a retired FBI agent and old nemesis of the Mafia. He agrees to a requested meeting where he learns the Mafia has modernized to survive. His contact is a ranking member who is a young, beautiful, and intelligent woman. She explains why the Mafia wants to furnish information to the FBI, through Patrick, in order to stop Al-Qaeda. He agrees to their request. Patrick needs assistance which is provided by Liz Brennick, his wife, a former FBI agent and now a successful Boston lawyer. They code name the Mafia source Vespa to protect her identity and her gender.

The government has no intelligence regarding this Al-Qaeda threat. Patrick’s efforts come under fire by government bureaucrats, with personal control agendas, as well as by those who wish to see the constitutionally limited FBI removed from all terrorist investigations. Patrick is forced to defend himself publicly, avoid physical surveillance, and operate Vespa without disclosing her identity.

The Engineer has weapons, money, an organization, and a plan. As the investigation progresses at home and abroad, the threat level only goes up. The matter gets personal when Patrick suspects the location of one potential target.

Thank you James.  Very informative and creative post.  Readers, here is the buy Link from Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Necessary-Assets-James-Ring

 

Posted in children, coming of age, family, humor, love, writers

In Honor of my Mom, Bernice Hammar Simon

Her Wedding Day Sept. 14, 1940
Her Wedding Day
Sept. 14, 1940

Because I can’t wrap my arms around her and tell her that I love her, I dedicate this day to my Mom, Bernice Hammar Simon.

August 28, 1918 – January 17. 1997.  Rest in peace Mom.

15  Things I remember about Mom  (I could do a hundred more)

1. Seeing my Dad’s face when he came home from work and found my brothers, me and MOM, all lined up in the hall doing a head stand.

2. Mom riding my brother’s mini-bike right up a pine tree – and being madder than a hornet that nobody told her the gas was on the grips of the handlebars.

3. Mom sticking her head, full or rollers  in the oven to dry her hair.

4. Me, sitting on the red stool,at the red Formica counter-top, in the red plaid kitchen, watching my mother cook, dressed in her favorite red sweatshirt, shorts and saddle shoes.

5. Hearing my Dad tell me stories about Mom riding in open cockpit planes when she was a teenager.

6. Her love  for her 1966 Mustang, red, of course.  And how she liked to drive fast.

7. Mom dressing up like a beatnik , all in black with me and my girlfriends when I was a teenager and  driving us around looking for boys. (because I was too young to drive)

8. Her laughing until she cried or peed her pants (or both.)

9. Going to Mother-Daughter luncheons at the Swedish church with Mom and Grandma Hammar the week of Mother’s Day.

10. Her meatloaf – the best ever… and her baked macaroni and cheese  OR  letting me have spaghetti and pumpkin pie for my birthday.

11. Hearing her tell the story of when she sewed my sister-in-law’s bridal nightgowns together and let Pat’s sister take the blame for many years.

12. Her face when she was with the grand-kids – she loved them so much.

13. Her sitting on the floor playing with the grand-kids – or doing board games on the card table.

14. Her love for family genealogy, and her bumper sticker that read “I collect dead relatives.”

15. Her holding me when I had a broken heart /  Me holding her when she struggled to breath.

Okay, so I squeezed a couple favorites together because I could not choose. So shoot me. Mom was a 5 ft. 2 ” fireball most of her life. But she was a smoker, and spent the last decade of her life gasping for air with only one quarter of one lung.  She coughed until she turned blue, and each time we wondered if it would be her last breath. But it wasn’t  until she fell and broke her hip, that she never recovered. Her last words , spoken before going into surgery, after the doctor asked her if she  had dentures out, panties off, etc.  “Yep, I’m as free as a bird.”  Fly free Mom, we miss you.

The earliest photo I have with Mom
The earliest photo I have with Mom
Our family, seated MOm & I standing Dick, Gene, Dad, Don
Our family, seated Mom & I
standing Dick, Gene, Dad, Don
Mom and Dad with their 1st grandchild, my Candy
Mom and Dad with their 1st grandchild, my Candy
Out little family kept growing with baby Dru.
Out little family kept growing with baby Andrew.
Mom in her favorite color
Mom in her favorite color
Mom and brother Don
Mom and brother Don
Mom's "Famous Cake" Every candle with a name "Worlds Best ...."
Mom’s “Famous Cake”

This was just a few of the candles. She had a candle for every member of the family.  The cake was blazing with candles.  Each candle had a different tag. “World’s Greatest ….. ” My son Dru’s , who was 15 said “Andy – World’s Great Break Dancer”.  She had something special for everyone. That is just the kind of person she was.

her happiest time with all her children and grandchildren
her happiest time with all her children and grandchildren
Mom and the grandkids
Mom and the grandkids
Mom. me Candy and first Great Grandchild Chelsea
Mom. me Candy and first Great Grandchild Chelsea
last professional photo
last professional photo
Last photo I have of Mom
Last photo I have of Mom.

Of course,  she was in a red bathrobe.