I am giving away four signed copies of my novel Blood Adversaries through Goodreads.com. To get more information and enter, click the links above.
Everyone needs a get-a-way to relax and regroup. My husband and I took a quick trip to the South Carolina Lowcountry.
I love the beach any time of the year but there is something special about going during the off season. The beach during winter offers peace and solitude.A walk on the beach led to some amazing finds.
There is a sense of awe being in the presence of the Angel Oak on John’s Island. This tree is thought to be about 500 years old, although some people believe it is older. The Angel Oak is registered with the Live Oak Society.The highlight our our trip? Visiting Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island which pays homage to Poe’s brief stay in the area while enlisted in the Army. The tavern is full of Poe memorabilia. Can’t wait to go back!
Sand and surf, ancient oaks and Edgar Allan Poe — does it get any better?!!
“It’s Not as Easy as You Think”
Twenty years ago, snippets of a story started swirling in my head. I jotted them down and kept asking myself what happens next. On and off, I worked on my little story until I knew the characters intimately. I thought about these characters all the time. About five years after I had started, I had a complete story. My first novel was done. I set it aside to rest. I needed a break from my story.
A few months later I read my novel. My excitement melted away as I realized that it was horrible. There were holes in the plot, cliche scenes and bad transitions. It didn’t work. But I loved my characters. I knew they had a story worthy of telling and was not willing to give up on them. A couple of months later, I decided to started all over. I tore my novel apart and re-wrote everything. This too took a number of years to complete. But finally, I finished.
I began the query process, convinced that it would only be a short time before I landed an agent and soon after that my book would be in bookstores all over the country. Except, it didn’t happen. I started getting rejection letters. In fact, all the queries I sent were rejected. There is an old adage that if you continue to have the same issue with people over and over, maybe you are the problem. Once again, I re-read my novel with a critic’s eye … and I found it lacking. Back to the drawing board.
I took some time and re-wrote my entire novel. I studied writing magazines and updated my query letter. Then I started the query process again. This time I actually got some interest. Several agents asked for partials (the opening chapters of the book) to read. Alas, those too ended up being rejected. But I felt really good about my novel. Several people who liked the paranormal genre test read my novel and the feedback was very positive.
I decided that if I truly believed in my book, I needed to self publish. So I released Blood Adversaries as an e-book through Amazon Kindle. E-books are great. They are easy to obtain and convenient. Storage is not a problem. But book signings are a little difficult with e-books. When I went to my writer’s guild meetings, I couldn’t help being a little envious of my fellow authors who had print versions of their books they could actually hold in their hands. At a book festival I attended, I learned about Create Space. It wasn’t long before I had a print version of Blood Adversaries available.
My takeaways from this process?
I have always struggled with clutter. As a girl, I remember going to friends’ houses and their rooms were neat and orderly. I never seemed to be able to accomplish that. I just didn’t know what to do with my stuff. I also hung on to every little item that reminded me of someone or someplace.
As an adult, I’ve had “junk rooms” in the places I’ve lived. As my children got older, the “junk room” became “junk areas”in main rooms of the house. At some point, things got out of control. When there was going to be company coming over, items got swept into boxes that were hidden in closets. At some point, there just wasn’t a place to put stuff and it got left wherever.
Last year, I got to the point where I decided that enough was enough. The things I was holding onto were stressing me out, not making me happy. I decided it really was time for a change.
I’ve subscribed to different blogs and Facebook pages for tips on becoming organized and decluttering. Then I realized that my life didn’t always fit into someone else’s schedule or plan of how to get organized. Often I would become overwhelmed and avoid doing anything at all.
The thing is, nothing changes without effort. And with some effort, I found a method that is working for me.
Everyday I commit at least 30 minutes to an hour for cleaning my house. First, I maintain the areas that are already straightened. I very quickly go through the house picking up stray items and putting them away. I sweep or vacuum the rooms that need it. I make sure dirty clothes go into the utility room. Then I go through 10 items in each room and decide if the item is trash, recycle or keep. If it is keep, I put it away in it’s permanent home. Ten items don’t take long to deal with. Because I know it is a limited amount, I can tackle it and move onto the next room. I am not doing anything in my sons’ bedrooms at this point. Eventually, I will but my attention is on areas that other people may see.
I’ve been using this system for a couple of months. There are days I get off track, especially if there are school, sports or Boy Scout events going on. But I have seen great progress. I have thrown away a lot of items that where clearly trash, but just kept getting moved from one place to another. I have recycled a huge amount of paper, especially junk mail that never got sorted. I have gone through clothing and donated bags of things that I realized I didn’t want or need anymore. Some days, I have extra time and I am so happy with my progress that I do multiple rounds of sorting 10 items the rooms.
I don’t think I will ever be a minimalist. There are things with sentimental value like cards signed from loved ones now deceased that I choose to keep. But I’m being more selective in what I keep and with what I choose to bring into my home. I’m constantly asking myself “Do I really need this ?” Quite often, the answer is no.
As I’m working to get my second novel, Family Vows, into print, I thought I would share an excerpt from my debut novel, Blood Adversaries. Enjoy!
Friday, September 1
Jonathan thudded through the trees, struggling to keep his balance in the dark. As he hurried along, Jonathan kept the ancient book tucked tightly under his arm. His heartbeat roared in his ears drowning out any other sounds. His side ached.
Jonathan pushed past the pain even though all he really wanted was to stop and drop to the ground. If that wasn’t enough, his chest burned as his heart and lungs strained to keep up with the pace he set. He longed to turn around and head home. To shut himself away in the safety of his own apartment. To lose himself in research for his dissertation. Or maybe have a sci-fi movie marathon from his massive collection of DVDs.
As his mind wandered, Jonathan stumbled over his own feet. He fell hard on his stomach and the old book flew from his grip.
“No, no, no,” he mumbled. He frantically patted the ground around him. He’d come too far to lose the book because of something stupid like tripping. Everything he had wanted was on the line – completing his Ph.D., becoming a professor, publishing his work, earning the respect of the academic world. His fingertips brushed against the cracked leather cover. Relief washed over him. He lifted the book and hugged it tightly against his chest.
Damn the book! It simultaneously inspired and cursed him. It didn’t look different from any of the countless old volumes he had studied over the past seven years. It smelled musty and old. A rough cover housed pages brown with age and silky from use but without the frailties usually associated with an ancient book. The pages were strong and pliable and the ink remained dark. Jonathan loved old manuscripts but from the first moment he touched this one, he knew it was different. Instantly he felt a sense of devotion, of protectiveness toward it. Long ago someone had given it the title Munimentum Codex, Latin for Fortification Book. Somehow Jonathan knew it was more than that. It was his destiny.
He crawled to the closest tree and sat. His eyes stung from the sweat dripping down his forehead. He swiped at his face. No time to stop now. He focused on his next movements.
There were only a few more yards of wooded land. Then Jonathan would have to cross an open field. No cover. No place to hide. Just a clearing where he would be vulnerable. He listened for any sounds of pursuit like leaves crackling under a foot or branches scraping over a body. He only heard his own labored breathing.
He laughed silently. Of course there was nothing. He had slipped away from Dameon unobserved. No one had a reason to be after him. Only his imagination, his own fear, chased him.
Coward, he chided himself. He fought to catch his breath. His gut spilled over the top of his jeans onto his thighs where it seemed to shake on its own. Revulsion washed over Jonathan. He regretted the years of self abuse, of comforting himself with junk food when he was lonely and when he hurt. Locking himself away to his studies. Letting his body go to pot as he expanded his mind. Never realizing that one day he would actually need a strong, healthy body. And now it was too late.
If his luck held out, it wouldn’t matter. He’d simply cross the field, zigzag through the town and return to the university. He’d meet his contact and turn over this book that had caused so much trouble. Once it was gone he would get back to his own life. Finish his dissertation. Earn his Ph.D. Leave the country if needed. Above all, he vowed that he would lead a very boring life.
The idea of giving the book to someone else filled him with grief. For a moment he considered simply hiding the book among his other tomes. Even as the idea crossed his mind, he knew it wouldn’t work. The book needed to be in a safe place, away from those who hunted it. More importantly if Jonathan was truly honest with himself, he had to admit his own reaction to the book scared him. He needed to be away from its influence.
Jonathan shook his head, dispersing the thoughts that clouded his reason. He had wasted enough time on himself. He knew he couldn’t stay here forever. Even if no one realized he was gone from the house, it was better to put distance between him and them. Lots of distance. He gently stroked the book in his hands. Perhaps it would be better not to have it in plain sight.
He unbuttoned his coat and ran his hand across the bottom until he found the zipper for the quilted lining. Jonathan’s fingers trembled as he fumbled with it.
Relax. This is the easy part, he told himself.
Jonathan breathed in deeply and tried again. This time the zipper slid smoothly across the track. He pushed the book into the space between the coat shell and the lining, then zipped it shut. He adjusted the book until it rested along the front bottom of his coat. When he was satisfied that the book was well hidden, he buttoned his coat. Jonathan strained his ears listening for anything out of the ordinary. After a few minutes, he decided it was time to continue. Slowly, he rose to his feet. The book banged against his thigh. His legs quivered beneath the weight of his body.
He filled his lungs with cool, crisp air before forcing himself to move forward, away from the protective screen of trees. He took small steps to allow the blood to flow through his numb legs again. A nearly full moon illuminated the night. Eerie shadows crossed the ground before him. As Jonathan broke through the woods and into the clearing, he quickened his pace. Sweat trickled down his neck. The silence of the night burned his ears. His eyes flicked from side to side, trying to pierce through the edges of darkness the moonlight did not reach.
“Stay in control. Stay in control,” he whispered to himself. However, the monsters in the pit of his stomach gnawed at him causing a wave of panic to erupt. A cry escaped his lips as Jonathan began to run.
The woods were just ahead of him. A few more minutes and he would be protected from sight again. Jonathan picked a focal point and concentrated on reaching that spot. As he got closer, he relaxed. He was going to make this work. All of it. Even if it meant relinquishing his former dreams. For so long, he wanted nothing else than to teach history. Now he was striving to preserve the present despite the sacrifices. He wasn’t sure when he had made the decision to move from passive observer to participant but he did know that he had just changed the course of his life. He smiled. It seemed life was full of surprises.
Abruptly, all light disappeared. He stopped in his tracks.
It’s only a cloud passing over the moon, Jonathan rationalized. In spite of his efforts, fear tore through him. Jonathan cautiously stepped forward. The night enveloped him, robbing him of his sight and allowing noises to assault him. The sound of the wind blowing through the treetops. The crackling of dead leaves. Footsteps. His mind urged him to remain still, to be calm, even as his legs desired to run again.
The darkness lifted and the strong moonlight returned. The sudden shift to light momentarily blinded him. Jonathan blinked hard until his eyes adjusted. He scanned the area. Something wasn’t right. He studied the scene before him trying to figure out what was different. Then it hit him. A dark form stood several yards in front of him cutting him off from the woods. A form that wasn’t there before the unexpected darkness fell. He strained his eyes trying to identify the figure. As he stared, the form moved. Jonathan was rooted to the spot as the person came closer. When it was only feet away from him, he saw a face peer at him from under a hood.
“Oh shit!” Jonathan muttered as he recognized the feminine voice. Hope drained from him. He had to keep his wits about him. He had to get away.
“Darling! Imagine running into you. Out here in the middle of nowhere.” She walked toward him. “Of course, that does raise a whole other question. Whatever are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”
“L … Lil … Lillith!”
Jonathan swallowed nervously. Lillith lowered the hood. Her golden hair reflected the white moonlight. Her smile lit her entire face. Jonathan’s breath caught in his throat. Lillith’s eyes bore into him. So often, he had admired her from afar, longing to be near her. To breathe in the scent of her. To feel the heat from her body next to him.
She stopped a mere step from him.
“I needed some fresh air. It’s a … good night … for a walk,” he stammered.
He couldn’t tear his gaze from her eyes. They seemed unnaturally large and dark. The eyes themselves disappeared into the shadow of her face leaving gaping, empty sockets.
“You don’t strike me as one to go for long, moonlit walks,” she countered. “Especially not by yourself. Besides, I thought you were enjoying Dameon’s hospitality at the house.”
“It got a little crowded.”
“I see. I guess I should be thankful for this opportunity. I haven’t had a chance to have you all to myself in a while. It seems someone is always around you. Asking questions about your work. Wanting your opinion. I feel like I’ve neglected you since introducing you to the rest of my group.”
A shift of her body eliminated the space between them. She pressed into his chest. Her breath warmed his cheek. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Jonathan closed his eyes, the irony of the situation not escaping him. For so long he had daydreamed of this. Being alone with her while she whispered endearments to him. While she caressed him. Just as she was doing now. But instead of the sweet tension of desire, he felt stone cold. More than anything, he wished she was a million miles away.
Lillith smiled widely. Shadows obstructed parts of her face creating the image of a sneering skull. Jonathan shivered.
“You’re so tense, love. And sweating on such a chilly night. Whatever could be wrong?”
“It’s nothing. I’m not feeling well tonight.”
Lillith stroked his hair. “Jonathan, I have a problem. I was at home not long ago and I noticed something awry. You see, I had a special collection of rare books delivered to your workroom a few weeks ago. Extremely valuable books. Now one is missing. I borrowed it from a dear friend who is a collector.”
“I’m sorry, Lillith, but what does this have to do with me?”
Lillith scowled. Her grip tightened. “Jonathan, I brought you into my ring of associates. I introduced you to people–rich, powerful people. I asked for nothing in return. I know that you were cataloguing those rare books. Do you have the missing book?”
Jonathan gazed at Lillith, careful to keep his face relaxed in spite of his fear.
Lillith grabbed a handful of Jonathan’s hair and snapped his head back. With her other hand she pushed down on his shoulder. He gasped. Despite her slight form, she forced him to his knees.
“Wrong answer!” she hissed. Her fingers dug into his flesh piercing through the skin.
“Ahhh!” Jonathan cried out.
“Go ahead and scream. No one will hear. And even if they did, would they care? Is anyone going to miss you?” Lillith taunted him. She lowered her face to his. Red points of light shone out of the dark eye sockets. “To think of the time I wasted on you. Building you up to think you were on the same level as the rest of us. That you were special. That I enjoyed listening to all your tiresome, self-serving ramblings. You only had to do what you were told and I would have rewarded you greatly. Translate a few texts and you would have had anything you wanted at your disposal. But you wouldn’t play along. Had to bring along a moral compass. Couldn’t just look the other way. So now it ends for you.”
Lillith pulled Jonathan forward and buried her face in his neck. She bit deeply into his exposed flesh. Pain exploded through his head. He was excruciatingly aware of Lillith sucking and lapping his blood. Then as suddenly as she attacked, Lillith shoved him away from her. He landed hard on his back.
“Disgusting!” she spat as she wiped his blood off her lips. “Even your blood is foul! It tastes like mold and mildew. Just like the books you surround yourself with.”
As Jonathan struggled to rise onto his elbows, Lillith turned and walked toward the trees. The night wind whipped through her hair flinging it about wildly. She whirled and smiled cruelly at him. When she spoke, venom dripped from her words.
“I didn’t come here alone. I brought two friends with me. They are very anxious to meet you.”
Lillith clapped her hands. Jonathan glanced around nervously, expecting Dameon and one of the other houseguests to appear. Moments passed without anything happening. Confused, he stared at Lillith. Then a faint growl reached his ears. His eyes searched wildly for the source. Two silver wolves appeared on either side of Lillith.
“Oh Jonathan, there is so much you still don’t know about us. Alexa is very talented. She surpasses you in languages and history. Guess that is to be expected when you’ve lived as long as she has. Along the way she found her gift in the mystic arts. These two beauties have been our pets for years. Alexa doesn’t like to take them way from their home. There’s not enough space to roam and hunt in cities. So she created a charm to bring them to us whenever we call.” Lillith petted the two wolves affectionately. “I’ve found that particular spell quite useful. Rena and Rhana have helped me deal with certain problems from time to time. Like tonight.”
“No! Lillith! Please!” Jonathan’s heels dug into the earth as he tried to push himself away. The wolves attacked. Instinctively, Jonathan tucked his face into his chest and wrapped his arms around his head. He tried to curl into a ball but the wolves pounced on him, tearing into Jonathan’s flesh with their claws and teeth. A muzzle pushed its way into the space between Jonathan’s arms and closed around his throat. The great animal shook Jonathan as its teeth sank into the soft tissue of his throat. Its front paws slashed Jonathan’s chest, tearing through his clothing and ripping away skin. A terrified whimper escaped Jonathan. The second wolf clamped its mouth around one of Jonathan’s arms and pulled back, exposing the side of his face. The two animals ferociously shook and clawed Jonathan’s body. He waited for death to arrive, praying it happened quickly before the wolves literally tore him apart.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I am honored that one of my poems was used today to celebrate the work of the on-call volunteers at Beyond Abuse who respond to sexual assault victims.
I don’t know your name
you told me, I’m sure
but I can’t recall most
of what was said that night
I wouldn’t recognize you
if I passed you on the street
your face is a blur
a distorted memory
Except for your eyes
kind, brown eyes looking at me
in my despair
seeing me and not flinching
I hear your voice
gentle and caring
a contrast to the mechanical hum
of fluorescent lights and medical devices
I feel the warmth of your hand
grasping mine, never letting go
despite how hard I squeeze
You stayed when I needed you to stay
left when I needed to be alone
checked on me to let me know
someone was still there for me
not because you had to be
not to take a report
not to perform a test
but because I might need
Kind eyes to comfort
a gentle voice to console
a warm hand to hold
an advocate in a cold exam room
So now, years later
those are the things I remember
not the evil someone did to me
but the compassion you gave to me –
a stranger in need
This guest post is by fiction author Charlotte Ehney.
Book Review: Hissy Fit: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews
Keeley Murdock is about to have it all. She is one day away from marrying the handsome and rich A.J. Jernigan. Everyone who is anyone is at her rehearsal party at the country club. But a fateful trip down the hallway on her way to the rest room makes Keeley suspicious about what is happening on the other side of a closed door. Keeley opens the door to discover A.J. and her maid of honor Paige in a most compromising position. What’s a girl to do? Throw a huge hissy fit! And that’s just what Keeley does. Needless to say, the wedding is off.
Keeley tries to pick up the pieces after her dream life falls apart at her fiancé’s infidelity by losing herself in her interior design business. Trouble is, work…
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The normally temperate Upstate South Carolina was hit with freezing rain yesterday. Icicles grew outside of our windows. With the dark came the icing of trees. Roads were salted earlier in the day and remained quite drivable. Our issue is the exposed power lines that run throughout the county. Ice weighs down tree limbs and power lines causing breaks and outages. We’ve been lucky. So far our power has remained on. That’s so important for those of us who use well water — no power means no water.
Only a week ago, the daffodils has begun to pop through the earth and bloom. Pretty yellow flowers announcing the approach of spring. Now they lay frozen on the ground.
Sometime during the night, a huge Oak tree fell beside our driveway.
The trees were encased in ice.
As I walked outside, I heard the drip of the ice melting followed by the trickle of ice hitting ice as it fell to the ground. Ice is heavy, weighing down the tree limbs. Limbs bend and give at least to a certain point. I heard the popping of wood as the weight reached the tipping point and the wood began to give. Then there was the splitting of limb from tree as it came crashing down to to the earth with a resounding boom.
Ice is beautiful but destructive. This little bit of frozen water can tear away limbs and even uproot the mighty Oak. That is the balance of nature.
January — the month of new beginnings.
For years now, my family has gone to Sullivan’s Island (SC) on January 1st to celebrate the new year with the Dunleavy’s Polar Bear Plunge.
A couple thousand people attend the event, some as plungers and some as observers. I have been the latter, holding towels and dry clothes as my husband and sons have taken the plunge. When asked about running in with them, the answer was “One day.”
Well, January 1, 2015 was the day. For some reason, everything just clicked and in the ocean I went. It was a wonderful day and a great beginning to 2015.
I belong to a knitting group (even though I am a beginner-level crocheter, they let me join) that meets about once a month. These women have taught me so much about living life fully. We are at different stages with a variety of life experiences, which has helped us form a close, supportive group.
During our January get-together, the knitting circle created vision boards. We picked out images and words for what we wanted in 2015. Here’s my board.
Then on January 11th, I achieved a much anticipated goal.
When I was in college, I saw the band Concrete Blonde in concert. From that moment on, Concrete Blonde was my favorite band. I’ve listened to their albums hundreds of time. The band has gone their separate ways, but lead singer Johnette Napolitano is touring. Her set list includes songs from Concrete Blonde as well as from her solo career. Johnette has been my muse for years. As I write, her music often plays in the background.
On January 11th, Johnette played at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia – a venue a few hours away. I got tickets to the show for my Christmas present. Finally, I was going to hear Johnette Napolitano sing in person again.
My husband and I arrived in Decatur early enough to walk around. We found an interesting store …..
…. full of eclectic art work featuring lots of goats and other farm animals as well as unique gift items. We stopped for coffee, where I got a “new” name.
Then it was on to Eddie’s Attic. I posed under the “Playing Tonight” sign.
I thought this was as close as I’d ever be to my ideal. On entering the venue, I found a seat about nine feet away from the stage. Opening act Laurie Sargent was great! Then Johnette Napolitano walked directly in front of me as she made her way to the stage. It ended up that I had the best seat in the house for the performance. The show was AMAZING!
After the show, I got to meet Laurie Sargent in person.
It was an incredible evening.
It has been a wonderful start to 2015 full of family, friends, fun and fulfilling goals. I having a feeling that this is going to be a fabulous year.
The pressure is off. Our families have gathered and feasted. The presents have been given and unwrapped.
Today is quiet. An opportunity to sit and breathe.
I leave my Christmas tree up a couple of weeks after Christmas. I find it’s this time that I can relax in the glow of the Christmas lights and feel at peace. It’s a time to reflect and to plan for the new year. It’s a time to just be.
Wishing you peace, joy and a new year full of the things you love!