Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Writer's Christmas Prayer


DEAR GOD, Jehovah, Allah, Goddess - sorry, I know You have many names and it’s my journalistic soul that wants to cover all of them. Forgive me if I get it wrong – I’m rushing the research a bit here.  I do appreciate Your taking the time to listen, as You have done so many times in the past. You must be extra busy with deadlines at this time of the year, because fires, floods, famines, storms, droughts, wars and general stupidity do not stop even in this holy season. With all that going on, I hope You can also find the time to celebrate with us the joy and peace that belong to this season.

There have been so many times when You have pulled this tattered manuscript of my life out of the heavenly slush pile, and even when Your reply has been a gentle rejection note, there is always been encouragement to go on using the talents You have loaned to me. You have forgiven the times I have been grouchy on life’s deadlines, when I failed to appreciate the wonder of the opportunities in new contracts  You have offered, and the many times I have ignored Your submission requirements in hopes that You would see past my mistakes into the willing prose of my heart.

Having said all of that, I feel selfish even asking for more, but here goes:

1)     It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would join with so many, many others to ask You to give Mankind – and I say MANkind because the male of the species seems to be more inclined to conflict than we females, but maybe I’m biased – if You would just give them all a bit of a shake and tell them it’s time to make peace not war.

2)     Please ignore the mean things I said about the intellectual abilities of publishers or agents who rejected my work – I didn’t really want You to strike them. Honest.

3)      There are so many of Your people in need, hungry, homeless, afraid, in pain. Maybe You could inspire those of us who have so much to heed Your teachings and work towards a more equitable society. Perhaps You could even slip a little extra blessings into the Christmas stockings of those who have been courageous enough to stand up for what is right.

4)     Please forgive the times I’ve cursed at my computer; the technology You have given us is truly a blessing and it was just the heat of the moment;  I didn’t mean a word of it. Really.

5)     Of course, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t invest this prayer with a little personal self-interest. First, I want to thank You for all the people who have bought my books – the nice reviews always feel like a warm GodBreeze to my soul.

6)     Then maybe You could run to a dollop of forgiveness for all the times I left undone the things I ought to have done, and done those things I ought not to have done? Let’s not get into specifics now, eh? That would be a bit embarrassing and take up too much of Your time. We both know what they were. However, if you could see your way to making me a better person, and a better writer, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of help in getting through the edits for the next book, I would be very grateful.

 I can’t promise that I won’t screw up some more, but Dear Lord, I’m trying to be better.

Thank You. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Larry the Lump - More Famous Than Me? (Cancer Diaries)

It appears that Larry the Lump, that little knot of confused and disaffected cells that has nested in my left breast, is more famous than me. That is something I do hate him for.
Oh, I can accept that his appearance in my left breast is purely random. Sure, he doesn't actually mean any of the harm he has caused me. Nothing I or anyone else has done likely caused his existence.
I can live with the prospect of surgery soon; I can cope with the sometimes very debilitating side effects of the drug I am taking.
I can definitely enjoy the idea that Larry's estrogen receptoring little presence is being quietly starved of estrogen because of the treatment. Shrink and die, you little beast!
But what I hate him for is that he seems to have caught the imaginations of so many people.
Really? You ask.
Yes, indeedy.
My regular blogs, where I meander on about writing and life, usually enjoy the attentions of a few hundred readers.
But blogs where Larry is the star, we're looking into the four figure numbers of readers who log in to read his adventures. Yes, Larry is more famous than I!
Although there has been a kind of secondary benefit to me for blabber mouthing about this cancer, a lobular tumor that doesn't show up on mammograms.
I know that this concept, that there are breast cancers that the mammogram may not pick up, has been food for thought for quite a number of readers and friends. Indeed, some have sought further medical checkups. Sadly, at least one woman has been diagnosed with cancer after she insisted on a breast ultrasound after hearing about the symptoms that finally led to my diagnosis.
Strangely, many people have commented about my willingness to give Larry the Lump centre stage as I talk about this experience. The words courageous and brave have been used, and yet that's not how I feel.
For one thing, as a writer and journalist, I think that knowledge is power. If you know the possibilities, you can perhaps prepare or protect yourself from them. I know I was shocked to learn that all the mammograms I had had faithfully over the years had failed to pick up on what the oncologist says is a tumor that has been around for five or six years without detection.
I belong to a generation in which the word 'cancer' was never spoken. In my family home, if totally pushed, you might refer to the 'Big C', but never THAT word. It was as though mentioning it would bring the curse down on someone's head. Even the close relatives of people who had actually been diagnosed were advised by doctors not to tell that person he or she had cancer. It was such a scourge that people feared a victim - and that was the word used then - would commit suicide rather than face the odds of dying from the disease.
So I talk about cancer. Everyone I know knows, and hundreds more people who have never met me know. And there is a benefit for me, too - all the love and support, prayers and good thoughts I have received must surely be causing some kind of ripple in the ether, because so far my test results are looking good.
I can only repeat: if you have pain or discomfort in your breast don't assume that if the mammogram is clear there is no problem. Ask for further investigation.
And educate your doctor - mine told me there was nothing wrong because the mammogram was
clear. When I finally got a biopsy and MRI, the little beast was more than eight centimetres long and growing lustily on a diet of estrogen.
Even so, I still resent Larry's popularity. That he should be more famous than me!
Sometimes, even on his starvation diet, I think he's laughing....

NOTE: I was shocked to discover that there is actually another Larry the Lump mentioned in a blog by someone with throat cancer! And I thought I was so original! Here's a link to that other Larry: https://selfy0105.wordpress.com/

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Saturday Snippets: The Bride's Curse, Paranormal Romance


Here's a snippet from The Bride's Curse, my paranormal romance from Crimson Romance. This is the first time wedding planner and owner of Wedding Bliss Kelly Andrews meets her match in the sexy Brett Atwell:

EXCERPT: 

Kelly blinked to adjust her eyes to the store’s interior after being
out in the bright sunlight. She pushed the old man on the bench out of her mind as she stepped forward to introduce herself to the young man who stood in the middle of the store as if he were
befuddled by all the lovely frilly, lacy, silky things.
     “Good morning. I’m Kelly Andrews. Can I help you find what you’re looking for?”

He turned and gave her a friendly smile. Kelly was momentarily dazzled. This guy was hot. Older than she first thought, probably thirty or so, with blond hair and the kind of tan you only get from working outdoors. Briefly she wondered if he’d been in the military like herself, but nothing else about him suggested military work.
      His eyes widened as looked her up and down and he gave a low appreciative whistle through his teeth. “Well, hello, there, Red!”
      The dazzle swiftly turned to irritation. No one had mocked her red Scottish coloring since she was old enough to make them wish they had never tangled with her. Tucking an unruly curl behind her ear, she sidled forward until they were almost nose to nose. Then she rose up on tiptoe, her mouth close enough to his ear that her breath tickled his skin and murmured: “The last guy who called me that is still in the hospital.”
     His deep brown eyes widened. Then he laughed a low, deep sexy sound. “Sweetheart, I love a woman with red hair and the temperament that goes with it.”
      She stepped back a pace and gave him a feral smile. Obviously he wasn’t intimidated by her threat. The fool.
    “So, all flirting aside, can I help you with something?”
     The slow, lips to feet and back again appraisal he gave her made her palms itch to thump him. She reminded herself of Rule #1 of business: Do not slap customers.
     “I’m looking for a wedding dress.”
      “Oh!” Laughter licked through her like a sudden rain. She returned the long, slow, head to toe and back again stare. “I’m not sure we have anything in your size. Maybe your partner … ?”
       He actually blushed. “No, it’s not for me—” He stopped when he saw her laughing. In fact, Kelly was laughing so hard she had to drop onto one of the chairs.
     “Oh, lord—you should have seen your face! Gotcha!” Revenge is so sweet.
       He grinned. “I suppose I deserved that, Red.”
      “Keep on with the Red, and you’ll see the nasty side of me.”
*
         Brett Atwell was tempted to say he’d like to see any side of her at all, this drop dead gorgeous woman who’d followed him into the store. His busy imagination conjured up images of all that lush red hair spread across his pillow like wildfire …
        “You’re staring.”

        Oops. He needed to shake himself out of the lust that had swamped him and to focus on the job at hand. It wasn’t like him to let his mind wander, but then it wasn’t every day he met a woman who appealed to him like this one did.

The Bride's Curse is available in ebook and print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other good booksellers!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wednesday's Writing: A Word About Dialogue....

Dialogue is the stuff your characters say (exterior dialogue) or think (interior dialogue), usually found in speech marks or italics. Dialogue is immediate, it is what your characters are thinking or feeling as the story unfolds. It helps strengthen the reader’s sense of participating in the story and helps the reader become attached to the characters and care about them. It is also a vehicle for putting across information and backstory.
Dialogue is an especially wonderful tool for introducing information without long and wordy passages of exposition that would lose your reader. Dialogue can be used to move the action along, inform the reader of backstory, explain the character’s actions, show their feelings, and show their character traits.
Never, ever use dialogue in the same way you might chitchat to the person next to you in the supermarket queue – like every word in your story, dialogue should have meaning, should take your story ahead. It should be woven into your story.Here's an example of how NOT to do dialogue.

        She:  Would you like a cup of tea?
        He:    Yes, please.
         She:  Would you like sugar?
         He:    Yes, please.
         She:   Would you like milk?
          He:    Yes, please
          She: Did you murder my sister?

See what an unlikely bit of dialogue that would be? But when we combine it with description: 

           Steve poured two mugs of coffee, holding one out to her. Kelsey struck the mug from his hand, snarling: “Did you kill my sister?”

That's better!

Dialogue is ingenious for giving backstory:  

Ted handed her a wad of tissues. “Kelsey, everyone’s worried about you. I know you’ve been upset since your sister died, but isn’t it time you pulled yourself together? You can’t go around accusing people of murder.”

 What do backstory do we learn from the above piece of dialogue?

* Kelsey’s sister has died.
*Kelsey is still very upset.
*She believes someone murdered her sister
*She’s investigating
*Her friends are worried about her
*Ted is very concerned about her
* Ted is close enough to her to be able to speak to her like this, possibly her boss, a close friend, relative, or lover.

 See how much information we’re able to get in using dialogue? To put this backstory, etc., in as narrative would have taken several paragraphs, whereas it’s very immediate as dialogue, and moves the story along without interrupting the action.

Dialogue properly and imaginatively used can deepen your characters, give backstory in tiny bites without boring your reader, move the plot along, add color...so very versatile!

This blog is an excerpt from my writing book, Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Inspiration: Are You Shrinking Yet, Larry The Lump? (Cancer Diaries)

Cancer Diaries: Are You Shrinking Yet, Larry the Lump?


I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, mostly because the anti-hormone treatment I’m taking for breast cancer makes me feel, frankly, lousy. And you know what? If it works as the oncologists says it should, it will be so worth the exhaustion, brain fog, muscle pain, etc. Let’s have a chat with Larry the Lump to see what he thinks….
As many of you who’ve read these blogs will know, I called my lobular cancer Larry the Lump. This is part of a pain therapy where you name your pain in order to find out what your body needs to be cured or at least pain-free. Larry is a type of cancer which doesn’t show up on the mammograms I had faithfully endured, but he has estrogen receptors, which means that the state--of-the-art treatment is to cut down on estrogen in my body so that the cancer is starved. For me, that could mean the difference between a simple lumpectomy and a full mastectomy. You see, Larry is a Very Large Lump, and surgery right now would be pretty complicated and radical….
The problem is, I hate waiting for anything at all. I’m the kind of person who refuses to stand in line for more than a few minutes. I’ll walk out and miss whatever I was waiting for rather than waste time in a queue.
So, let’s talk to that lump of confused and disaffected cells that is Larry:
“So, Larry old boy, how’s the diet going? Are you skinny yet?”
“Ha! Wouldn’t you like to know the answer to that? Maybe if you gave me my dinner, I’d tell.”
“That would be defeating the purpose of all we’ve been through together with this treatment.”
“Speaking of diets, did you know you seem to have gained a pound or two yourself?”
“I don’t think so.” Rushing to the bathroom mirror to check it out. Larry may be right.
“It’s a side effect of the medication,” I tell the little beast defensively.
I know by the wheedling tone of his answer what he has in mind. “We’d both be better off if you quit that lousy medication. There’s no proof that it really works and think how much better you’d feel. No more hot flashes, cold spells, sleeplessness, nausea, exhaustion, memory problems, foggy brain  – oh, and don’t forget that odd bit of bleeding you-know- where. Did you know the extra pounds make your butt look bigger?””
“Yeah, and all the rest. But no, Larry.”
“Well then, I know how it annoys you not to know what’s happening in my little nest in your left breast. Well, I’m not telling!”
“Why are you being so mean?”
“Because I know how much you hate having to wait for anything. Drives you crazy, doesn’t it?”
“Not as much crazy as you do, Larry. Not as much as you.”
“If I don’t get some of that lovely estrogen soon, I don’t know what will happen!”
“I know, Larry. Sorry and all that, but it’s either you or me. And I think I deserve it more than you.”
And hopefully, when we see Dr. V. on November the 4th, we’ll both know what’s happening and if this treatment is starting to work.
Until then, time for another anti-estrogen pill. J


Friday, October 2, 2015

Saturday Snippets: Another Man’s Son




I was thrilled to have the chance to take part in the Lobster Cove series published by The Wild Rose Press. The series in unusual - at least to me – in that it features a group of writers with different genres, meaning that there is a wide range of styles and types of stories, from gentle romance to hot and spicy, and paranormal, shape-shifter, and lots more – something for everyone!

 My romantic suspense, Another Man’s Son, is part of this series and is available in both print and ebook. The idea for the book grew from these questions: In small towns there is still a need for people to keep secrets. So would a pregnant single woman marry to give her baby a respectable family? And what secret would make a man offer her a marriage of convenience when he could never love her? And how would a wounded soldier cope with discovering that the woman he loved had married someone else?

Here’s the BLURB:

Kathryn Morgan broke Ben Asher's heart when he returned from military service in Afghanistan to

Ben vowed he’d never return to Lobster Cove but now, seven years later, he is back as an undercover FBI agent sworn to expose the Morgan family’s criminal activities. Will his vow to bring down the notorious Morgans extend to the woman he still loves?

When Kathryn’s son is kidnapped, she is forced to swallow her pride and reveal the secret of another man's son. Can Ben protect Kathryn and her son from Ket and his sinister friends, or will old hurts and secrets destroy them all?
find she'd married her boss, wealthy banker Ket Morgan Jr.

EXCERPT:
Mesmerized, Kathryn moved into his arms as naturally as if she'd never been out of them, and he hugged her to him in a reflex action that spoke volumes about his feelings. They swayed to the slow and sentimental tune the band now played, neither of them speaking, neither of them surprised that their dancing steps carried them through the big French doors and out onto the shadowed terrace. No surprise, either, as their lips met and melded in remembered passion.
            She clung to him, her mouth drinking him in as all her other senses sang with the feel and scent of the man she'd loved so long ago – and came alive again with loving now. He groaned softly as her fingers smoothed the thick dark hair at the nape of his neck and then touched warm flesh beneath his shirt collar.
            Her own flesh burned with desire at his touch as long ago dreams began to stir and awaken. Dreams that were even more impossible now than they'd been when she was young and deliriously in love.
            The dream was broken when an icy voice spoke from the doorway: “Well, Asher, I see you've met my wife."
            They jumped apart like guilty things surprised. A feeling akin to physical pain flooded Kathryn as Ben pushed her roughly from him. And the pain intensified, squeezing her heart as she registered the sudden fury and contempt in his eyes.
            So when her husband moved to her side, taking her arm, she submitted dismally. Her head low, she heard the raw edge of anger concealed like a knife blade in Ketler Morgan Junior’s smooth voice as he said: "I must apologize for Kathryn's behavior, Acting Chief Asher. It would appear she's had a little too much to drink."
            "I apologize too, Mr. Morgan. I'd forgotten she was a married woman."

Another Man’s Son is available from The Wild Rose Press, from Amazon sites including Amazon.com, Amazon.ca. Amazon.co,uk , Barnes and Noble, and other good online stores.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Writing Contests: For Winners, Or a Waste of Time?

*This is a repeat of a post I've run before, which always seems to strike a chord with other writers...

As writers our main aim is to get our work accepted by a publisher, right? And it’s hard enough sending out all those query letters and neat little packages of partials and synopses, without being bothered sending stuff off to some group with an odd-sounding name who’ll take a look at your work and — gulp! — maybe tell you it’s no good. Heavens, after all, we can get letters from publishers telling us the same thing, and less publicly!

If we get a nice letter praising our work from these contest judges, or better yet, our names appear as finalists or winners, so what? I mean, it’s not like being published, is it?

And contests cost you money, too. So why bother?

Now, gather round, all you ambitious writers, and listen up.

Contests can provide you with a showcase for your work, a chance to bring your work before judges who are also editors, agents, or published writers in their other incarnations. And you don’t have to win the contests to be a winner, either. Many writers will tell about their experiences of being contacted by editors or agents who read their contest submissions and were impressed enough to ask to see the whole manuscript.

So, is it really worth going to the trouble of seeking out contests, packaging up your precious work
Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book
and sending it off? Many writers think so. Here are some positive viewpoints:

“I entered the Iowa Romance Novelists’ Query and Synopsis contest last year and was a finalist. It was advantageous in many aspects and I’m going to enter a few more this year as a result of my experience with the contest,” says writer Dawn Tomasko, “Contests can open doors for writers. It’s a tight, competitive market and if an editor or agent notices your work through a contest so much the better. It’s one way to get a foot in the door. I very much liked reading the different judges’ responses to my work (I had included the first 30 pages as requested) and not only was the feedback helpful to point out good and bad things in my work, but the differences in their opinions underlined the fact that fiction is SO subjective.”

Dawn is now on her third novel, and adds the contest final as a credit in her query letters alongside her publication credits. “I advocate contests wholeheartedly,” .

Author Laurie Alice Eakes is a first-rate example of how a contest can boost a writer into committing to her craft — and the successes that follow. “In 1993, I won my first writing contest,” Laurie Alice said. “After that, with the encouragement of writer friends and business associates, I got serious and finished my first true attempt at a readable novel. My first sale was actually a nonfiction book entitled Virginia Wine, A Tasteful Guide, published in 1997. In 1999, while I was in grad school at Virginia Tech, I contracted my first novel with Awe-Struck E-Books.”

That first novel, The Widow’s Secret, was nominated for best e-book of 1999 and the Frankfurt E-Book awards, and remained high on the Barnes and Noble best selling e-books list for several months. “When some unfortunate circumstances compelled me to take a leave of absence from graduate school, I began writing again. December 2001 marks the release of the paperback version of The Widow’s Secret. In February 2002, my Regency historical, Married by Mistake, will be published by Novel Books Inc., in both trade paperback and electronic format. Awe-Struck E-Books will publish my Regency suspense novel, Unmarriageable, in April 2002, and Novel Books Inc., will publish my first contemporary romance, Lessons in Love, in August 2002. “Under the Mistletoe,” my Regency Mystery short story, is still available as part of A Winter Holiday Sampler, in trade paperback and electronic formats from Regency Press.”

To emphasize the value of contests further, she adds: ” I have out three books now, two in print, which is nice. I just won a scholarship for my writing, a nicely large one. So that contest paid off, too.”

So, contests are well worth your consideration. Not only can you get valuable credits to add to your writers’ resume, but the judges often offer the sort of constructive criticism that some professionals charge a fortune for — giving you a chance to review their advice and revamp your MS, and all for the entry fee. If you’re not sure whether a certain contest fits with your career plan as a writer, ask. Ask the organizers — most have email contact addresses now. Ask other writers — often contest news is announced on Internet writers’ lists and so other list members may be able to give fast answers to your queries. And if there’s no email contact, then write for more details. After all, you are a writer, aren’t you?

Don't forget - I'm offering a free print copy of The Bride's Curse to one lucky commentator - draw closes this weekend! Leave me a comment on this blog or http://www.romancecanbemurder.blogspot.ca/2015_08_01_archive.html for a chance to win!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Monday's Inspiration: Larry the Lump Gets Rude About My Treatment Decision


"Incoming Storm"
Since my post "Good News for Me, Bad News for Larry the Lump", when I was trying to make an important decision on the treatment of my breast cancer, I have had a lot of people asking just what decision I made.

Basically, I had to decide whether to have a mastectomy now and then go on to an anti-hormone treatment to starve out any roving cells, or to take the hormone treatment first, which might shrink Larry the Rather Large Lump, and hope that he would be slim enough for a lumpectomy, thus saving my breast.

After a long weekend of agonizing I decided to go ahead and postpone surgery while I take the drug Letrozole (Femara) for the next four to six months, when we will review the situation and see whether Larry's estrogen free diet has worked. Larry is a lobular carcinoma, the kind that don't show up on mammograms, with receptors for estrogen, which he sucks out of me to form his daily diet.

So far I have met wonderful doctors, including Dr. Angel (yes, that's her real first name) and Dr. V., both of whom I have grown to trust. Dr. V. held my hands, looked into my eyes, and told me that I would be looked after and the treatment carefully monitored for the very best results. If at any time I was worried, or the side effects of the drug proved too much for me, I could call him and get the help I needed.

Can't ask for much more than that, can you? Plus, the support staff are kind, friendly, smart, and committed.

So, then I had to break the news to Larry the Lump. There's a pain therapy that advises naming your pain, getting on first name terms with it and using that connection to discover the source of the pain and what your body needs to heal. It might sound a bit weird, but I've found it very helpful.

We've had lots of chats, Larry and I - I've spent a lot of time visualizing him shrinking, and much more time explaining that we really weren't mean to be soul mates.

So I opened up another of our little chats with the phrase: "Larry, I know you are just a bunch of
confused and disaffected cells from my own breast and I do feel for you, really I do."

This gambit, as always, was met with a snort from Larry.

I went on: "While I have nothing against you personally, old buddy," (the doctors said he'd been around for five or six years, comfortably nesting in my left breast."We're down to the wire and it's really you or me. So, we're cutting off your food supply. From today onwards, no more tasty estrogen for you."

I received an angry screech of "F**k you! I want my dinner!"

So rude, Larry.Tsk, tsk.

And I swallowed the first of my Letrozole pills.

"Sionara, old buddy."






Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Snippets–Judgement By Fire


recipe blogAh, Saturday! How do you spend yours? In our house it used to be a crazy day of playing catch up with laundry, housework, and cooking and freezing meals for the following week – as well as checking in with the kids, hearing all about their schoolwork, projects, and friends.
And we had a small hobby farm, so there was always plenty to do with cleaning out pens (oh, joy!), checking livestock health, fences, and a thousand other things.
So Saturday evening was movie night. Glass of wine, pizza (delivered – I didn’t have to cook it!) and some quality time with the Better Half. 
And always, always, there were a few snatched minutes to read.
Now that I work from home and I’m my own boss, Saturdays are no longer such a mad rush. All four kids – two boys, two girls – are grown and have homes of their own. I never really experienced that Empty Nest Syndrome I’ve heard so much about. I was really proud that they’d reached a stage in life where they could fly the coup – and blissed out with the peace and quiet and so much time to read – and write. Sure I miss them sometimes, but they’re all close enough to visit and anyway, if it gets really bad, I’ll put them in a book Smile
Judgement By Fire was my very first published book, – if you don’t count a fair number of children’s school subject books – first by a publisher and later Indie published because I wanted the experience of independently publishing a book. It was written in stolen moments during those crazy years. So I thought it was only fitting that this be the first book for Saturday Snippets.
Blurb:
Canadian wildlife artist Lauren Stephens swore off men after her marriage collapsed and burned. Instead, she’s focussed on her increasingly successful art career and made her home in an artists’ colony based around an old mansion estate in Ontario.
When a multi-national corporation wants to buy the estate and turn it into a health spa for the very rich, turning the artists and writers out of their rented cottages, Lauren volunteers to lead the protest against the sale. The move brings her into direct conflict with Jon Rush, the powerful CEO of Rush Co. International.
An instant attraction springs up between them, although Lauren is reluctant to trust the handsome industrialist. When Lauren’s studio is trashed and her life is threatened, Jon fears she’s being targeted by the mysterious person trying to destroy his company – a villain not afraid to use violence in his determination to see Jon suffer.
But is there a darker shadow over Lauren? And can Jon save her from a Judgement By Fire?

  Snippet:
Judgement-by-Fire-B&Ncover“I’m warning you; put her down!” Paul’s stentorian voice commanded and Lauren decided he was right. Struggling in the iron clasp of Jon’s arms, she, too, demanded to be put down.
“Right away,” he conceded, swinging open the passenger door and depositing her on gently on the leather seat in the warm cab of his Jeep.
“I’ve already alerted the police. There’s no way you can get away with this,” Paul stated, holding Jon’s eyes with his own. “Just let Lauren go and we’ll talk, maybe sort out something.”
“There’s nothing to sort. She can’t stay here.”
“She can’t go with you.”
“She’s in no condition to deal with this…”
“And she’s the cat’s mother,” Lauren interjected, knowing she probably sounded ridiculous, but tired of hearing the two men fighting about her as if she was a bone.
“Lauren, I’ve called the police. We’ll see how he can explain this to Chief Ohmer,” Paul told her, his eyes never leaving Jon’s face. At that moment, as though they had conjured him up, they heard a blast of the police siren as Ohmer himself turned into the Haverford Castle driveway.
Moments later, he’d surveyed the wreckage of Lauren’s home, checked that she herself was uninjured, called for scene-of-crime backup, and fixed a cold eye on Jon Rush.
“So, Mr. Rush, how do you explain yourself?”
“I don’t have anything to explain.” Rush’s voice was flat, authoritative.
“Then who trashed Lauren’s place?” Ohmer asked.
“Who else would want to, except some corporate scum?” Paul interjected, drawing a daggers-glance from the police chief.
“Easy now…” Ohmer warned, but Lauren interjected.
“No, Paul, finish what you were going to say. I liked the sound of it.” Lauren knew shock was making her giddy, but an attack of the giggles seemed preferable to howling at the moon and tearing her hair, which was her only other apparent option. All three men swiveled to look at her.
“Hysterical,” Paul judged.
“Overwrought,” Jon agreed.
“Getting madder by the minute,” Lauren chimed in.
“So who could hate her enough to do this?” Jon asked Paul.
“I wouldn’t think she’s got that many enemies,” Paul replied.
“No, but she does have an attitude,” Jon commented sagely.
Paul burst out laughing.
“Now, just you wait a minute. One moment you’re calling him out for ravaging my home and kidnapping me, the next you’re making jokes at my expense? What is this, the Men’s Club routine?” Lauren demanded, and both men shamefacedly lost their amusement. Chief Ohmer turned away to greet another police car with the backup personnel he’d requested.
“Lauren, I don’t know what you believe, but I certainly did not, would not, do something like this.” Jon’s eyes held hers, but Lauren looked away.
“Go and look at the painting on my easel—what there is left of it,” she told the two men.
As they left, she leaned her head forwards against the chilled glass of the windscreen, fighting back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. It had been okay to keep up the slapstick while Jon and Paul were there, somehow it had defused the situation, and besides, she couldn’t really take seriously the concept of Jon Rush trashing her home.
But if not him, who?    





























Sunday, September 13, 2015

Monday’s Inspiration – Good News For Me; Bad News for Larry the Lump



Have you ever noticed how sometimes the most important decisions you must make in life come at a time when you are least able to make them?  

Today is decision day on my breast cancer treatment. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I was pretty depressed last week after my consultation with Dr. Angel (that really is her name!). Not all the tests were in, but it wasn’t looking good.

Larry the Lump was designated a Third Stage cancer, weighing in at the very first ultrasound/physical exam at 10 cm. That’s pretty big. The second visit with the oncology surgeon she thought Larry was more like 8.5 cm, the rest was bruising from a core biopsy. Still a big boy, and a type of cancer - breast lobular carcinoma – that usually affects the other breast as well. Then it appeared a shadow on the MRI suggested that there was a small tumor in my lymph glands. Which meant that Larry was inviting friends to the party, too.

Which all added up to bad news for me. And very likely a double mastectomy.
Had much better news from my 'Angel' doc on Thursday. All the test results were in, including some new ones. No other cancers were visible, not in my other breast, in my lungs, liver, abdomen, bones – all the places were Larry’s friends were most likely to be lurking. A needle biopsy of the shadowy lymph gland came back negative. Good news for me there was no established tumor in the lymph system, those all-important little glands that form a pathway throughout the body for all kinds of vital stuff.

Even better, Larry the Lump was now weighing in at 7.8 cm – not exactly a lightweight, but significantly smaller than first thought. Was it just that all the bruising from the core biopsy had finally subsided, or had all those prayers and good thoughts that had been circling around me from so many people, family, friends, and friends I hadn’t actually met, had actually shrunk the little guy a wee bit? That’s a nice thought.

Good news for me now there is a treatment that might save my breast. The bad news for Larry is that being a bit smaller, he’s now a candidate for this treatment and his days are definitely numbered.
So to my decision. I can go ahead and have a mastectomy, followed possibly by radiation and by anti-hormone treatments. The cancer I have, like many other breast cancers, feeds on estrogen, so one tiny pill a day will starve poor Larry – and any of his pals and offspring that may be lurking around.
The alternative is to postpone the surgery and have the ant-hormonal treatment first. Between four and six months of pill popping and frequent checkups, and Larry might just be small enough for a lumpectomy, which would save my breast. Which is a very attractive prospect.

Sounds wonderful, but there are no guarantees. As the doctor said, can you patiently take pills for four to six months while knowing that cancer is still sitting on your chest? Well, can I? When first diagnosed my reaction was that I wanted surgery like, yesterday, if not sooner. Get this thing off me!
Now I have a chance to keep my breast with the hormone treatment. It doesn’t work for everyone, second it doesn’t shrink the tumor away to nothing – although Dr. Angel says she has seen some ‘miracles’ like that. If I’m lucky, though, it would reduce Larry to a much smaller version of himself and a candidate for the less drastic surgery of lumpectomy.

I feel like a pinball, flying back and forth between the two options. I have to decide by tomorrow, because I’m on a surgical list and if I decide not to go ahead with surgery, someone else can move into my spot and be prepped for surgery while I take the other option.


So by the time you are reading this it will all be done and dusted. Please keep those good thoughts and prayers coming.

PS - the photograph above is one I took a couple of years ago and titled "The Long Road Home'. Which is what I feel like I'm on right now, a long road to better health....

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wednesday's Writing: A Weird Thing Happened When I was Painting the New House.....




Read this and comment - You could win a print copy of my latest book...

I've noticed before that Real Life happenings can seep into my writing - I'm sure other writers find the same thing. But my latest book is considered a paranormal, with a Restless Spirit as one of the main characters.

Surely that wouldn't ...would it?

Something very weird happened when I started to paint a room in our new place. Maybe it's because I have ghosts on my mind after completing The Bride's Curse - the first in a proposed trilogy - and I'm more attuned to cosmic weirdness, but - well, here's the tale:

We recently went through the House Move From Hell, but that's all behind us now as we are settled into a sweet little house with 22 acres of private paradise and the huge added bonus of wonderful neighbours!

The house is old - parts apparently around the century mark - and is in need of some gentle restoration. Did I say gentle? New kitchen, new bathrooms, suspect plumbing...yikes!

Still, I've always believed that there are few things that perk a house up like a new coat of paint, so that's been keeping me occupied for a while.One room in particular was very small, dark and dingy with a depressing atmosphere. As it is the first room visitors coming through the sun porch use to enter the house, it was my first paint project.

The first oddity was that I chose a deep bright yellow paint. I don't think I have ever in my life painted a room yellow - it's just not one of my favourite colours. Anyhow, there I was, painting away and I had to admit, the yellow was brightening the room up. Giving it a zing, as one of my neighbours said.

I came to a wall that had a lot of old stuff still piled against it, so I moved everything and gasped in surprise. There had been an old electric heater on this wall, which had been removed long before we bought the house. And in the square on the wall that heater had covered was - yellow paint.

Not just any yellow paint, but an exact match for the paint I had been slathering on the other walls.

Cue: Twilight Zone music....

Strangely, despite being anything up to fifty years old or more, that paint still looked fresh, and when I ran my paint roller up against it, you couldn't see where the new paint started and the old ended.

Further Twilight Zone, please....

Then I was at a yard sale in the nearby village. For some reason, even though this room was to be a library housing our many books, I'd decided it had to have a chest of drawers as well as bookcases.

And there at the yard sale was the perfect chest, a beautiful elderly set in cherry and oak, very graceful if a bit battered. And my eyes popped when I saw the miniscule price - well within budget.
Home it came, and it looked absolutely perfect in the spot I'd wanted it for. So perfect, in fact, it might have belonged there.

As maybe it did. According to another neighbour, the folks having the yard sale once had relatives who'd owned our new home....

Definitely Twilight Zone stuff, yes? I'm wondering if I should peek under the wallpaper of other rooms before I paint them, just to see what colours lie there. Maybe it would give me a clue to what the house - or some long ago resident - would like that room's colour to be....

Now in The Bride's Curse there is a cantankerous, mischievous restless spirit. He's a joker with issues
to settle before he can move on - including patching up an old love affair. He enlists the help of Kelly Andrews, who runs a bridal planning service and store named Wedding Bliss, to help him.

Maybe my mind was too much on the hidden world of spirits when I was painting that room.

Or maybe...just maybe...the house was telling me what colors it wanted to be clothed in.

I'm pretty sure this is going to show up in one of the Wedding Bliss trilogy stories. I'd love to hear what you readers think - does my new house have a specific taste in decorating and is it brainwashing me? Or am I just overly imaginative?

Leave me a comment for a chance to win a draw of The Bride's Curse when it comes out in print next month from Crimson Romance! In the meantime, scroll down to an earlier blog to read the book's first chapter, or visit Amazon for more details and to read the books brand new first five star review!



Sunday, September 6, 2015

Monday's Inspiration: Larry the Lump Sneaked Past the Mammogram....


 Perhaps 'inspiration' is the wrong title for this blog, but I wanted to get word out about how a clear mammogram doesn't necessarily mean there is no cancer - or early 'in situ' cancer cells. That's not to frighten anyone - but sometimes, a little knowledge can be a lifesaver.

I posted a while ago about Larry the Lump, the nasty little cancer located in my left breast. I was shocked to discover that this had already progressed to Stage Three before I even knew it was there.

"How can this be?" I asked. "I have done mammograms religiously and they've all come back clear, I've done self-exams and it's only been recently that I thought there was a slight thickening. Even my doctor said that if the mammogram didn't show anything, then there was nothing there..."

There's no breast cancer in my family, either. Foolishly I thought there was little chance I would ever develop it. Another myth busted. .

I have a type of cancer called invasive lobular. Seems this is a sneaky beast, a long, thin cancer that doesn't show up on a mammogram.

I had a routine mammogram last September, complained to the tech that I had some 'crinkly' skin on my breast and shooting pains. She said that if the mammogram came back clear and I was still worried, talk to my doctor.

A few weeks later the letter came - the mammogram had shown nothing. All clear.

Gradually I became aware that the wrinkling skin was getting worse, and the pain and aching were still there. So I mentioned this to my doctor when I went for a pap smear (yep, I did all those regular exams!) and she said nothing showed on the mammogram.

Fast forward a few more weeks. The bathroom mirror announced that my nipple was inverted and the wrinkling was worse. Then I felt a slight thickening in my breast. Back this time to see the nurse practitioner, who thought she could maybe feel a slight lump 'and we should get another mammogram'.

Another mammogram, two ultrasounds and a biopsy later, a cancer diagnosis.

Larry the Lump was by this time eight centimeters long. Stage Three.

Pass lumpectomy and go straight to mastectomy.

Invasive lobular breast cancer makes up about 10-15 percent of breast cancers.

It doesn't show up on a mammogram in the earlier stages, if at all.

And it often affects both breasts.

Now, after a whole panoply of tests and biopsies, I'm meeting with the oncology surgeon this week to hear just how drastic the surgery must be.

I'm fortunate to have a lot of support from family and friends, and an oncology doctor who specializes in this kind of cancer,

Plus her first name is 'Angel'. Here's hoping she's my angel :-)

So again, I don't want to frighten anyone, but be pro-active. If you feel something is wrong, do insist on further investigation. My type of cancer needs an MRI to properly diagnose it..

And many, many thanks to all the folks out there who have contacted me with good healing thoughts, prayers for a fast recovery, and comforting and encouraging stories of others who have been through this. Please continue to keep me in your thoughts.

Will keep you posted as to when Larry the Lump is to be evicted the sooner the better!




Monday, August 17, 2015

Saturday Snippets: The Bride's Curse Chapter One Free Read!


Saturday Snippets on a Monday, you ask? Well, when life throws you a curved ball you just have to keep running until you catch up - and I certainly wanted to tell everyone about my latest book, a paranormal romance, The Bride's Curse.

Of all the weird things in my life recently, this book - and the wonderful staff at publisher Crimson Romance (a subsidiary of Adams Media and
F+W Media) - have been like a shining beacon in the fog.
Yes, folks, writing keeps me sane :-)

Here's a five-star reader review from a reader   on Amazon:

 A Great Read!

This book reminds me of a lot of the books I have read from the 40's and 50's. No gore, explicitness or over the top plots. It was what a book should be...a well-written story that compels you to engage with the characters and read on.‎ I am looking forward to the next two in the trilogy! 

And Here's the Blurb:

Kelly Andrews's store, Wedding Bliss, is the one-stop shop for all your matrimonial needs in Bar Harbor, Maine. But when three brides in a row return a gorgeous vintage wedding dress, claiming it is cursed, it's definitely bad for business.

Then Brett Atwell, the handsome nephew of the dress's original owner, gets involved, and things go from bad to worse. Luckily, Kelly has a supernatural talent for communing with ghosts, and a mischievous spirit sends the two of them on a goose chase for a groom who went missing decades ago.

Working together to get to the bottom of the mystery makes passions flare between Kelly and Brett. Will love get its due at long last?

Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors

And now, the first chapter of The Bride's Curse:


Chapter One

The silver bells above the door of Wedding Bliss jangled furiously, and Kelly Andrews looked up as a red-eyed and tearful young woman strode into the store. “I want you to take this dress back! The wedding’s off!” Susie Lamont declared, thrusting a bulging cardboard dress box at the store owner.
Kelly managed to catch the box before its contents spilled out. Her heart thumped. Good heavens, this can’t be happening again! Susie would be the third bride in as many months to return this dress, and Wedding Bliss had become a hot topic of conversation in the very worst way. A quiet life as a wedding planner in a small town should have been just what she needed to recover from her stint in the military. Now it looked like the drama was following her even here.
She pointed to the group of elegant Victorian dining chairs that stood near the center of the store. “Goodness, Susie, please sit down and tell us what’s got you so upset.” Kelly darted a pleading look at her assistant, Noelia Russo, as Susie perched on the edge of a chair. Matronly and calm, Noelia was much better at dealing with customer histrionics than Kelly, who tended to give out impatient “get over it” vibes that didn’t play well with distressed customers.
Noelia suppressed a smile and stepped into the breach. “Yes, dear,” she said. “I’m sure that whatever the problem, we can help fix it. Your big day is only weeks away now! Kelly will go and get us some coffee or a nice herbal tea, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Kelly took the hint and dutifully escaped into the small office-cum-kitchen space at the rear of the store to put the kettle on for chamomile tea. She had heard that was the most soothing brew, and Susie looked like she needed something to calm her down. Kelly knew firsthand what it was like to be abandoned almost at the altar; her heart went out to the young woman as she listened to Susie’s complaints from behind the door. She gathered three dainty china cups together and added tea bags. Then she almost dropped the old-fashioned tea kettle when she heard Susie proclaim, “It’s that dress; it’s bad luck! Mark’s having second thoughts about getting married. Everything was just fine until he saw me—he came in when I was trying on the wedding dress.”
“Everyone knows it’s bad luck for the groom to see—” Noelia started.
“Oh, pish. It wasn’t our wedding day and anyway, it was an accident. I wasn’t expecting him to come over that evening at all. The dress is so lovely, I just had to try it on with Grandmother’s pearls …” Susie hiccupped back a sob. “Besides, that’s an old wives’ tale; no one really believes it. So anyway, he was quiet the rest of the evening, and I thought it was just nerves with the wedding being in a couple of weeks. The next day, he phoned—can you believe that? The rat phoned to tell me he wanted to postpone the ceremony.” Susie’s voice went shrill with hurt. “He didn’t even have the guts to tell me to my face.”
Kelly felt sick. She knew better than most people that inexplicable things happened, that sometimes dark forces shadowed the world as we knew it. But surely it was insane to believe that an inanimate object, a lovely silk and lace gown, could have an evil curse attached to it? This whole issue was getting out of hand.
Listening as Susie broke out in a fresh bout of sobbing, Kelly sighed. She had never figured Susie’s fiancé, Mark Turner, for a jerk—yet who but a jerk would break off a wedding just two weeks in advance? At least Mark had telephoned and told Susie the bad news himself; her own fiancé, Wayne, had called off their wedding with a brief note …  Kelly heard Noelia muttering sympathetic words and uttered a little prayer of thanks that her assistant was so good at consoling brides in crisis.
“Well, honey, I think you were right the first time—it’s probably just pre-wedding nerves. Men do get a bit like that before their weddings. You know … all the pomp and everything, the fancy dresses and having to wear a suit and tie.” Noelia’s soft voice oozed reassurance. “I’ll bet you anything he’ll be coming around any day now to beg you to forgive him and go ahead with the wedding as planned.”
“No, no, he won’t. He’s gone and signed up for a three-month contract as an engineer on a Mediterranean cruise ship. He’s on a plane to Spain right now. Apparently he wants to see the world rather than be tied down to marrying me.”
Kelly’s heart ached for the sad young woman. What a terrible way for a romantic dream to end. The kettle was whistling loudly, so she couldn’t hide in the small back room any longer. She made the tea and took a steaming cup through for Susie. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what made Mark behave like that. I’ve always thought he was one of the good guys.” It must have been the wrong thing to say because Susie started sobbing again. Noelia rolled her eyes at her boss while patting the young woman’s shoulder.
Susie finally calmed down. Still sniffling, she pulled her pink fleece hoodie around her and took a few sips of tea. “That’s the point, really. Mark is a good guy. None of this is his fault.”
Kelly’s tension went up a notch as she watched her client take a few more sips of tea.
“It’s that darn dress. There’s something wrong with it! Everyone in town is talking about it. Everyone knows that two other brides had planned to wear that dress, and that both couples’ wedding plans have fallen through. People said that dress was unlucky. You know what they’re saying now? That wedding dress is cursed!” Susie, red-faced, began to weep again.
“Now wait just a minute … ” Kelly burst out, but she was silenced by a signal from Noelia. She knew the older woman was right. Where was the point in chewing the tail off some dumb blonde who’d rather blame an inanimate dress for her failed wedding than take some responsibility herself?  No doubt that would be all over town, too, and Wedding Bliss, the most popular one-stop store for wedding paraphernalia in the area, would soon lose enough customers to make the business go broke. Already this crazy sequence of coincidences was hurting her bottom line.
Kelly took a deep, calming breath, trying to ignore the little demon on her shoulder who muttered, “Three failed weddings where the bride wanted to wear that dress? Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire.” Another meaningful glance from Noelia and Kelly clenched her teeth shut. She walked over to the elegant antique cupboard where the cash register stood and took out the store’s checkbook from a small drawer.
“Susie, we are so sorry you are unhappy with your dress, even though we don’t believe this lovely silk and lace garment is cursed. It’s just a dress after all. Anyway, I am so sorry things aren’t working out for you and Mark, and of course you can return it,” she said in as gentle a voice as she could muster. “I have here a list of receipts from your account. You didn’t have us as planners, did you?”
“No, my mom and Gran were doing all the arrangements,” Susie said. “My gran is heartbroken because she wanted to see me get married and she says she’s not getting any younger. I did bring everything back—you’ll find it all in the box.”
“So, let me just take a quick look to make sure everything is okay, and then I’ll make out a check for a full refund of everything you spent here. And please, feel free to come back and see us if things change and you and Mark decide to go ahead once he’s done his traveling.”
Noelia had already opened the box and pulled out the luxurious, oyster-silk dress, elbow-length white organza gloves, a bridal garter, and a pretty little purse dotted with hand-sewn seed pearls. She handed the dress over to Kelly, who smoothed the gorgeous soft fabric over her arm and checked for any stains or tears. Satisfied, she hung up the gown and finished filling out the check.
“Why don’t you choose a pretty cami, just a little something to make you feel good? Relationship troubles can make a woman feel so bad about herself.” Noelia held out a wispy silken camisole in palest pink. “Just a little gift from us in appreciation of you using Wedding Bliss.” She aimed a not-so-gentle warning kick at Kelly’s ankle before she could explode with protest.
“That’s so nice of you, Mrs. Russo, thank you,” Susie said, slanting a sly, knowing smile at Kelly. “I’d advise you to get rid of that dress, though. Send it to a thrift store in some other town if you don’t want to destroy it. No one around here would wear it now.”
And she was gone, leaving Kelly grinding her teeth. “You rewarded that bimbo with a consolation prize for blaming Wedding Bliss for her screwed-up relationships while ruining our bottom line and reputation by returning that dress? We really needed that sale.” She pushed her long, red hair out of her eyes as she glared at her assistant.
“Sweetie, this is a small town and a business has to be known to be good for its customers or it won’t survive. We treated that bimbo, as you call her, with kindness, and that’ll get around town, too,” Noelia replied serenely, sorting out the items Susie had returned and putting them on shelves.
“Yeah, it’ll probably bring in every scam artist from miles around, looking for free silk underwear.”
*
Kelly was still fuming silently when she glanced at her watch and gasped. She’d been so busy smoothing the frills and lace highlights of the lovely vintage gown, using a steam iron to gently set everything back in place, that she had almost made herself late for a meeting with one of their wedding planning clients.
“Noelia, can you hold down the fort while I dash over to St. Christopher’s church? I have an appointment to talk to the church secretary and get some ideas for decorating for the Montoya wedding. Then I’m meeting Jane Parker, you know, last-minute stuff for her wedding next month. We still haven’t fixed on flowers or guest favors yet. I’ll stop in at the Marina Grove Telegraph office afterward and sort out advertising for our new services, see if we can get them to do an affordable ‘wedding bells’ trade feature.”
Noelia raised her eyebrows. “You’ve got a lot on your plate there, dear. And good luck with the Telegraph. Ken Bertram is a lazy old goat, and he’ll probably have you running around doing his job for him, trying to get other businesses to take part in a trade supplement.” Noelia grinned.
“Well, it might be worth it. We need to be pretty aggressive with our advertising—and slender with our budget—if this nonsense about the cursed dress keeps going.”
Noelia turned to greet a young woman who was just coming in the door. She offered a lovely warm, motherly smile that usually wowed their customers and asked, “Can I help you, dear?”
“I’m off,” Kelly said. “Just lock up if I’m not back. See you tomorrow.” With a pleasant smile to the newcomer, she dashed out the door.
*
The early autumn day was unusually warm and the air carried with it a tang of salt spray from the Atlantic Ocean as it waved softly toward Marina Grove Bay. The small town on the Maine coastline was slowly settling toward winter as the tourist season ended, and Kelly was able to slip into a parking spot right in front of the Telegraph offices. They were situated right on the main street and faced the ocean across from the wharf where fishing boats were unloading the catch of the day.
She massaged the long scar above her hairline, a parting gift from a Taliban bomb. It ached when she was tired or stressed, and heaven knows, she was both right now. She took a few moments to try and gather her thoughts. This business with the so-called Cursed Bridal Gown was going to drive her crazy and possibly put her out of business. The worst thing was, she couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps the gown really was cursed. It certainly wasn’t improving her manner, which Noelia frequently told her tended to be a bit abrasive.
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” her assistant often said. Seemed vinegar was the only thing Kelly traded in at the moment.
Already she had offended the church secretary at St. Christopher’s. The slight, gray-haired woman, Debra Moran, had jokingly said that she’d heard Kelly might need an exorcism for a wedding gown that was the talk of the town. Piqued, Kelly had quite nastily wondered aloud if it was blasphemous to joke about such matters in church, and the secretary had gone about giving her the information she needed regarding the church’s rules on wedding decorations in a tight-lipped, wounded manner.
Her day continued its downhill slide. It seemed everyone she met had an opinion or a smart comment about the cursed dress. Some were serious, most were witty, but none made Kelly feel any better about the weirdness of it all. News travels fast in a small town. Especially weird news.
Then she had stopped in at the home of Jane Parker and her mother for a consultation on flowers and table favors. The bride-to-be licked her lips nervously as the mother suggested they should get a discount for using Kelly’s services, given all the gossip going around.
“But you don’t really believe in such stupid nonsense, do you?” Kelly had blurted incredulously, causing the bride’s mother to spend the rest of their visit sulkily objecting to every suggestion Kelly made.
Finally, Jane put her foot down and insisted they choose from the flowers Kelly had suggested.
Her mother, a keen gardener, then went on to cast a malicious eye over the list of flowers and deliberately picked the most difficult blooms to find at that that time of the year.
The meeting took so long that Jane, noting Kelly casting sly glances at the clock, apologized and asked her to leave the catalogs. “We’ll get everything we want firmed up and I’ll be in touch by the end of the week,” she promised.
Kelly waited until she was back in her car and out on the road again before she let loose a curse of her own on the heads of everyone who thought the Cursed Bridal Gown was theirs to comment upon.
The Telegraph was her last stop of the day and she reluctantly left the calm of her parked car and sought out the advertising manager, Ken Bertram. Her chat with him turned out to be the best thirty minutes of her day so far. He agreed to give Wedding Bliss prominence in a Winter/Spring Weddings trade feature he was planning; the price he named was reasonable and within budget. He even offered a two column ad in that week’s paper at a bargain price.
“Once you get the copy in here for the feature next month, I can get the graphics and layout guys to put the page together,” Ken promised.
“I have some great photographs of brides and bridesmaids, as well as of wedding cakes and other stuff that you could probably use, too.” Kelly pulled out a file stuffed with photographs from various wedding paraphernalia companies from her shoulder bag. “I have permission to use these for advertising purposes.”
“That’s great—less work for us.” Ken rubbed his hands together gleefully. Kelly, remembering Noelia’s comments about the guy being lazy, suppressed a grin.
Then he asked if she’d mind waiting a moment.
Kelly held her breath, expecting some smart-ass jokes about the dress, but he merely walked into the outer office and spoke to the newspaper’s secretary and general gofer, Allie McInnis. Moments later, he came back with a smile, shook her hand, and asked if she would call in to the editorial department before she left the building.
Kelly assumed he wanted to have a journalist do a story piece to go with her advertising, which was a welcome surprise. She walked up the steep stairs into the dark, crowded office space where the editorial staff lurked. A small newspaper, the Telegraph had a skeleton staff and used a lot of freelance correspondents to fill its pages.
The last straw in her day came when a junior reporter dressed in baggy jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt bounced over to Kelly with an earnest puppy expression on his face, notebook clutched in his hand.
“Ms. Andrews? Mr. Bertram said you wanted us to do a story about that cursed wedding dress,” the young man, Ronnie Catelli, said as he introduced himself.
Is that what everyone’s calling it now? The Cursed Wedding Dress? Kelly was so angry she was sure steam would start hissing from her ears. “What do you mean?”
Ronnie reached for the pen that was lodged behind his ear, seeming irritatingly unaware of the death glare Kelly aimed at him. “I hear that the gown has ruined the dreams of several young couples.”
She dragged in a deep breath, counting to ten for patience. Not wanting to sully the innocence of one so young, she limited herself to a snarled “No” and left the building as quickly as she could before she really lost her temper and aimed some well-seasoned military phrases at him.
*
Kelly parked her car and opened the newly painted blue front door of her home, breathing in the soothing atmosphere. Even before renovations, the little fisherman’s cottage had held a welcoming feel that called to her. The cottage was only within her price range because it had needed lots of work, but to Kelly it was well worth the hours she had spent scraping and sanding and painting.
She bent to rub the soft gray fur of Sullivan, the house feline, then paused to enjoy the graceful lines of the shallow staircase and breathe deeply of the salt-tanged breeze that filtered in through the slightly open windows. She loved to sit out on the large back verandah and watch the ever-changing moods of the sea. On hot nights, she would sleep with the windows open and a cool sea breeze playing over her as the sea’s song lulled her to sleep.
Kelly had come to Marina Grove lured by happy memories of a long ago childhood family holiday in the small seaside town, still a busy fishing port and tourist destination. Here, where no one knew her or her history, she sought healing from two terrible blows. She still had nightmares about the IED bomb blast that had ended her military career and taken the lives of several of her friends in her unit. The ambush had left her physically and mentally scarred, fighting for her life in a military hospital. Her fiancé’s desertion had hardly caused a ripple in her emotions after that experience, but it still hurt.
Marina Grove hadn’t let her down. As she had regained her physical and emotional health, she followed her dream to open Wedding Bliss, a one-stop wedding planning store to channel all the romantic yearnings of her heart into planning beautiful weddings. For other brides, that is. She doubted she would ever trust her heart to a man again.
 Sullivan—a rescued tom cat with a checkered history written large in the scars he carried over his face and body—twined around her legs, alternately purring and reminding her with a soft meow that it was dinner time. She rubbed him behind his ears, producing a long, drawn-out purr of pleasure, then loaded his dish with cat chow and refilled his water bowl.
“It’s nice to meet someone who doesn’t want to lecture me or make jokes at my expense about a silly bridal gown,” she murmured to the cat. Sullivan flicked his tail, dismissing her while he wolfed the food.
Kelly made her favorite late supper—a glass of wine, a cup of milky coffee, and a peanut butter and banana sandwich—and settled down on the verandah to watch the twilight glowing over the ocean and ponder exactly what she was going to do about that dress. The lovely vintage gown that had become the Cursed Bridal Gown.
It was too beautiful to be destroyed or given away. Besides, she’d paid far too much for it at an estate auction in Derry. The jokes and comments were becoming irritating and she just wished people would forget the whole thing. What really irked her was the negative effect it was having on her business’s reputation.
Still, she could understand people having some reservations about a gown that had been returned by three separate brides. With her degree in psychology, she knew people tried to explain things going wrong by finding scapegoats to blame, especially when those failures were very hurtful and seemingly without cause. The idea was that if you could blame something on someone’s behavior or possessions, then if you didn’t behave that way yourself or have the same possessions, you were safe from whatever bad thing had happened to the other person.
But three different couples splitting up after they’d gotten as far as buying a wedding dress? Surely, that must be unusual, especially in a small town like Marina Grove. Given the fact all three brides had purchased that one gown, she could see where the gossip arose.
Kelly had never been superstitious herself and found it hard to believe a gown, especially a truly expensive and beautiful one, could possibly be cursed.
But then, she hadn’t believed restless spirits existed, either, until she saw them for herself. Waking up in a hospital bed, disorientated and confused, she’d been reassured to see several men of her unit standing around her bed. She had heard snatches of questions the men were asking and been overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness before drug-induced sleep had once more claimed her.
It was only later, as she healed, that she realized these men had died in the same ambush that had left her wounded. The doctors were quick to tell her a brain injury had left her with hallucinations that would pass.
Kelly wasn’t at all sure she believed them. But she hoped with all her heart that they were right.
And if she could see the dead, why couldn’t a wedding gown be cursed?

The Bride's Curse is the first of a planned series of three romantic  stories set around the Wedding Bliss store. It's available now as an ebook and will be out in print in early November! You can see more at Crimson Romance.