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Closed Doors, a novel.

Doors are made to be opened.

At thirty-four, single mom Larissa Malone still feels guilty over her teenage pregnancy. Raising her twins alone, she’s strived for an orderly and stable family life. As a result, men have been few and far between.

But Michael Healy knows exactly what Lari needs and how far she’ll go to get it. Easily persuaded, she agrees to a series of sexual encounters with this near stranger who lives life in the fast lane, and whose passion in and out of the bedroom keeps her coming back for more.

Everything seems perfect in this erotic liaison where fantasy becomes reality, until Larissa finds herself thrust into the middle of a grisly police investigation Read More

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On motherhood

“Being a Mom is hard work. Someone should write about that,” a friend said to me several years ago. At the time she was the mother of a toddler and a newborn. My writing was finally coming together with, ironically, a single-mom, whose twins come before everyone and everything else, as protagonist. And since we’re talking of Larissa, let me share with you her views on adoption.

“Nelly, I love my children more than anything and it has nothing to do with them coming out of my body. Once they put that baby in your arms and you see how perfect and trusting he or she is, how much they need you, it’s love at first sight. It makes no difference where they came from, it’s what happens afterwards.” (Closed Doors, ©2017)

And on calling out a Mother who, in her view,  failed.

“Your boys aren’t someone’s mother. I am. You know with your children, Elsie. You just know.” The kettle hisses ominously.

She faces me. “I thought that’s how it was, boys needed discipline and Aidan was their father. I never imagined—” 

“You never questioned.” 

“He wasn’t a bad person. He thought he was doing the right thing.”

“He beat his children with a belt, he terrorized them.” I can feel the tightening around my heart that accompanies the release of adrenaline and tears well up but I retrain my anger. “How can you still try to explain it away?” 

“You judge me harshly, dear.” 

“I judge you as one mother to another. But you’re right it’s not my place. Especially here, on your birthday, in your house. Or maybe I should say Michael’s house.” As I fill the pot, the whistle dies out with a few final warning gasps that I ignore.  (Closed Doors, ©2017)

And on her unplanned teenage pregnancy.

“Pax, Joy, you know how much I love you both. But an unplanned pregnancy at such a young age is not a romantic adventure. It’s a pretty disastrous situation, but you guys aren’t part of that disaster. I don’t know if you can understand the difference, but it’s the truth. You were the reason I never gave up trying to find a way to make it work for us. I didn’t want to ruin your lives. I didn’t want you to look at me one day and wish you had someone else for a mother. You made it all better because no matter how bleak things looked everything was perfect the minute I saw your faces.” (Closed Doors, ©2017)

A Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms and an especially Happy Mothers Day to all the stand-in Moms. All those wonderful women who care for someone else’s children. You know who you are: the step-moms, the ‘like my second Mom’ moms, the ‘spiritual moms’. Long-term or on short notice, those amazing ladies who know that mothering is a heart-bond and not a blood-tie.

I’m meeting book clubs, or just groups friends who read. Either live or Skype. You can email me here on my site or FB or Instagram.

Want to read more? Go here.

Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash

 

 

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The Confusion Chronicles #1

I take a commuter train to work. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post. On the homebound trip, some people immediately get up when the train pulls out of the station preceding theirs, exit the car and stand on the platform at the end of the car, at the top of the steps leading out. It’s noisy and unsteady. You can see the ground rushing by through the spaces where the cars are joined. Of course, when the doors open, they’re first out. They run, and I mean literally sprint, to their car, start the engine, slam it into drive and speed out of the parking lot. First.

Here’s the thing: it’s not that big a station. We are not hundreds getting off the train. Traffic does not back up for miles. Yes, it’s a little slow. If you leave last (yours truly here, because the wait is an opportunity to read) it’s ten minutes, tops, to the main road and from there a minute the highway. Side-note: when a foot of snow has fallen or, better, freezing rain, it’s a snafu of remarkable proportions for them. But fun to watch.

So why the rush? Is your schedule that tight? Is this temporary or is every single day of your life like this? For how long? Have you thought about making a change? Is that possible? How can you stand it? Isn’t this stressful? Is it me?

Are there more questions than answers here? Yes, that’s why it’s called the confusion chronicles.

Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash

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Doors are made to be opened

You could argue that Closed Doors is not the most original book title. But it stuck for a reason. And it wasn’t because it’s a story about secrecy or hidden truths. It’s not those kinds of doors. It’s the ones that exist in our head and our heart. The ones we’ve closed on a dream. That get slammed shut, barricaded and nailed. Or was it nailed, then barricaded? Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoons? Other times they’re closed silently: a gentle ending, filled with regret.

We’ve all closed a door at least once. We do it out of fear, lack of confidence, confusion, failure. You know the rationalizations: “I can’t do that”, “I tried once but it didn’t work” (once!), “Those things never work out for me”, “It’s too complicated/ expensive/ long/ hard…”,  “What will people say?”

“Why didn’t you ever settle down? You’re beautiful, smart, you have a career, your own house.”
“Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?” I look out and shrug. “There weren’t very many men. Two young children are a definite turnoff, and I never had time between the twins and work. I remember being tired a lot. I went to bed at the same time they did most nights.”
Michael pushes his plate away and pours more wine for both of us, then sits back with his glass, ever patient.
“I don’t think I was ready to make the concessions a relationship required. Most wanted children of their own and I was done. I was wary of introducing them to mine. I never did. I didn’t want them getting attached then hurt when it ended. I guess I made it impossible.” I look at him, so unlike any of those men, so sure of himself. Michael would never ask for anything. He’d demand it, as his right. “Maybe I was selfish. Perhaps it would have been better for the children, I don’t know. I made my choices, good or bad.”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

And what about things we’ve done and closed the door on because we didn’t like what happened: it was painful, embarrassing, too much to handle all at once? I’m the first person to say it is pointless in rehashing the past, Never look back was just that. But you have to be at peace with your past. If what’s behind your door is going bump in the night, I suspect you need to take a look-see.

We like to think we’ve done the right thing. It makes sense, right? Keeping what’s on the other side away. It’s just that what’s on the other side is a part of you, wether it’s something you’ve done or something you want to do.

I had planned on being very angry, furious, in fact. I fed it, fanning the flames all the way across the country, all the way back through the years. Like choosing my clothes that morning I was sure of what emotions I was going to wear. But here I am, finally getting my moment and I’m having a wardrobe malfunction. I’m wrapped in a cloak of regret instead of my battle armor. So many years, all gone now, and I’m not sure anymore. What if I did the wrong thing?
“Adam.” His name catches and dies in my throat. “Adam.” He’s unchanged, just an older version of the same person, like an actor aged for a role. Same square face with a wide mouth, opaque pale blue eyes and a prominent nose that Joy complains about, even if it’s straight. He is so much my children’s father, no DNA required. My children’s father. It reverberates in my head, looking for a place to settle. “Do you remember me?”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

Open the door. You don’t have to do anything else. Really. Just stand there and take a look. Start with that. Maybe, eventually, you can bring coffee or make tea and sit quietly with yourself. People actually make a lot of effort to avoid this. But do try. Just open the door. Let me know how it goes.

Image: by the author. This picture was taken through old coach doors on Bonsecours Street in Old Montreal. On the right is the south wall of Louis Joseph Papineau’s house. LJP (1786 – 1871) was a lawyer and politician. He led the Patriot Rebellion of 1837. A rebellion is defined as a failed revolt and Papineau escaped into exile. Many rebels were not so fortunate. About a mile from Papineau’s house sat Pied du courant prison, aptly named as it sits at the foot of the St.Lawrence River. It was there the rebels were hanged for treason. And that’s your Montreal history capsule for today.

 

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

This year marks the 195th anniversary of Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. One of the biggest and oldest in North America, organized by the Unites Irish Societies of Montreal. I love Saint Pat’s. I love the atmosphere. I love the parade. I love the coffee, of which Jameson is the secret ingredient. Not bourbon, not scotch (God forbid, Michael would tell you), not even Canadian rye. Irish whisky, nothing else. And on that I leave you with my two favorite Saint Patrick’s day revelers. Erin go Bragh.

She made a feast of a dinner to celebrate St-Pat’s, just for us. The day began with the United Irish Societies’ brunch and then the parade. When it’s a centuries old tradition you have to show up and with a surname like Malone they loved her right off. Soon she was out of sight, being introduced left and right by Jackie, showing up again only when we sat down to eat. We begged off late afternoon and went back to the loft where she had a pot roast already going. Apparently ovens have timers.
“I’m convinced that seducing a man has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with red meat,” she remarked, eyeing me as I ate.
“You’re right. It makes us content.” I couldn’t argue, it was cooked just right and delicious. The smell when we walked through the door had me salivating until it was served.
“I’ve noticed you’re indulgent when you’re content.”
“Have you?” I drank some more wine, wondering where she was going with this. “What did you have in mind?”
“Nothing. I like…this…” She trailed off, gesturing at the table and at us, searching for words.
“Pot roast?”
“Don’t be facetious, I mean dinner, just the two of us. I do enjoy going out, I don’t want you to think I don’t. You take me to the best restaurants or those formal affairs you have to attend. But I like this too.” She dropped her eyes and started tracing the pattern in the tablecloth. “I like you all to myself.” It was added quickly, as if it had to be said, before she hurried into the kitchen and busied herself with the coffee maker.
I took my time finishing, letting her alone. There was clanging in the cupboards, the fridge opening and closing and the electric beater whirring. Clearing my place, I brought my dishes to the sink, admiring my own domesticity. The kitchen looked like a science experiment. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Making Irish coffee.”
“We could have had some there. You’re going through a lot of trouble, love.”
“Yes, but mine is better.”
“You’re very confident.” I stood back and watched her create, amazed again at how she can transform anything into a work of art. Tall mugs were thickly rimmed with sugar, filled with coffee and Jameson, and a generous spoonful of whipped cream was floated on top.
“And rightly so.” She set the cup in front of me, crossed her arms and waited.
The coffee was strong, the Jameson subtle and the whipped cream and sugar coated your throat as it went down. “Larissa, I apologize for having doubted you.”
“Michael, I forgive you.”
Not only did I discover her rare talent for making the best Irish coffee in the history of the world, I also discovered her marked taste for the drink. After a couple each, she was giggling uncontrollably at my own creative use of whipped cream. “What do you think of my culinary talents?”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

Photo Pixabay

 

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Thank you!

The Goodreads Giveaway has gone away, ending February 28th. Winners have already been chosen. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who requested and everyone following, liking, commenting and sharing here and on FB and Instagram. It means more to me than you know. Congratulations to the 50 lucky winners! More blogs and excerpts coming. For now, let me leave you with an excerpt explaining who Michael defines as lucky.

“This isn’t going to work.” I stare at the sky, hands clenched. It had been in the first few days he had spoken of Rachel. It sounded enticing, two lovers freely expressing themselves without reticence. Who was I kidding? Tears spill out under my Ray-bans and I brush them away quickly, furious with myself when they just keep coming. It’s Michael who takes off my glasses and pulls me into his arms. “You’re right, I have hang ups. I can’t do it all.”
“Baby girl, don’t cry, not about that. I was just teasing you. We don’t have to if you don’t want. We can go walk on the beach.”
“I don’t want a stupid walk on the beach! I want to, but I can’t! What if someone does see us?”
“What if they did? You’re a beautiful woman lounging by the pool at a private villa, alone with, lucky you, God’s gift to your sex. If someone got lost and wandered by they’re the one who should apologize, while they still have their teeth.”
And just like that I’m laughing through my tears. “What if it’s a woman?” (Closed Doors, ©2017)

Image: Pixabay

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Get real.

If you’ve ever created anything: a painting, a birdhouse, a soapstone sculpture, you eventually get asked “Where are you going with this? Is there money in that?” This is where creativity hits conventional logic. The fit is tricky.

A lot of time and energy and money are poured into creative endeavors. There’s a payoff, but a monetary one isn’t first on the list. It can’t be. There are too many hits and misses, practices runs and false starts before whatever it is you’re doing becomes something. And I have two half-finished manuscripts, that will never see the light of day, sitting in my laptop to attest to that. And besides, foremost in creating is indulging that happy little five-year old inside of you. You know, the one with the finger paint up to the elbows, driving the whole shebang.

“I’m fine,” I keep repeating. I love it. I’ll never tell, but I adore the small bodies pressed against me, the unchecked affection and the way play and reality meld together so easily for them. Jeremy looks on, pleased to be at the hub of activity, drooling onto his purple crayon as Elsie peers closely at the finished drawings the children show her. (Closed Doors, ©2017)

Yet I still get those moments of doubt. The Is it all worth it? Why do I bother? moments when practical reality says creating is a waste of time. Where logic lays claim as the only reality and defines creative reality as a created reality in which you are fooling yourself with a pipe dream and you need to “get real”. Which real is that?

“That was inevitable because unlike you, Larissa dear, I have a real job that makes real money in the real world. I don’t spend my days doodling.”
On tips of toes and fingers, I try to get up but it’s pointless. “You truly are arrogant. It was the first thing I noticed about you.”
“Was it? I don’t think so. I remember how flustered you were, blushing and giddy at getting attention from a real man, not the socks and sandals crowd you run with. It was so cute.”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

In practical reality we like to measure everything. It’s the only way to compare and see what’s working. Measuring means numbers. Money is numbers. Creativity has its own measure that has nothing to do with numbers. It doesn’t mean it’s a dream world. You don’t have to “wake up” and leave. You don’t have to choose. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve tried and I can’t. But beware, fear loves this angle. It wants you to close as many doors as possible. The more closed doors the safer life is. No more wasting time, it says, parading as your wise self. No more goofing. Stop investing, stop hurting yourself.

The five-year old is miserable. Fear has me fooled, so I tell her to grow up. “This isn’t the real world. We have to stop pretending we’re doing something. This isn’t going anywhere.”  She pouts and drags her feet. She wins. And I’m back.

Update: This post is set for the 27th as I don’t always post immediately. I had to add in the following (February 25th) as the timing is so appropriate. The full moon of March 1st is in Virgo, a sign that rules systems, methods and the pragmatic. It’ll be opposite Pisces, the sign of intuition, illusion and dreams. Doable meets desirable. This will be an opportune time to clearly see a practical plan to reach our dreams along with being open to some out of the blue creative inspiration that may show us a new path to implement it. Happy travels.

Take note: The Goodreads Giveaway for Closed Doors is in its last days. Can’t wait? Not a gambler? Want to read more? Wondering what the fuss is about? Go here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

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Too much or not enough?

When I’d completed a final review of my book, the first dozen go-overs not being as perfect as I’d expected, I knew I could probably correct some of it again, and then again. And again in six months. So when do you stop? When is it too much? When is it not enough?

“Nothing compared to the last hour.” Suddenly reality hits me. “Adam is going to come back into our lives, Gracie, into mine. I’ve pushed him so far back in my mind that he barely exists, like some trivial half-forgotten relationship that has nothing to do with my children. They so very rarely asked and they always seemed pleased with the answers I gave them. Maybe I didn’t say enough. Or was it too much? I keep thinking I could have avoided this.(Closed Doors, ©2017)

Recurring questions, not just for a manuscript. Relationships, work, commitments. When could you do/give more? When have you done/given enough? Are you not getting enough? Or has it become too much? When is it time to pull the plug? Or strive for better? Once again it’s all in the balance.

He does it over and over, increasing the torment until I protest. “That hurts.”
“Too much? Or just enough?”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

I could have subtitled this “How not to regret”. Because that’s what it’s about, really. How do you make sure you don’t regret walking away, or making the extra effort when you can’t predict the outcome? What if it’s all for nothing?

We’re an interesting tableau: me, my lover and my children’s father. You’d think we’d have so much to talk about, so much in common. But there’s nothing to say, or rather too much. The past is a minefield and the present is treacherous at best. The minutes drag on, not even one customer. I long for coffee; the tea tastes like dirt and tiny twigs float on the surface. (Closed Doors, ©2017)

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. The trick is finding that point of no-regret. That moment when, no matter what happens after, you can live with it. You do more, go for more, put in the time and effort or you put a stop, put an end, put your foot down. Let the chips fall where they may. Whatever.

The only way to avoid any of this is to do nothing. No starting, no ending, no trying, no changing. But then, no change, no progress, nothing better, no life. It’s a choice. I’d rather take my chances.

Take note: The Goodreads Giveaway for Closed Doors is still on, until February 28th. Can’t wait? Want to read more? Wondering what the fuss is about? Go here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

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Closed Doors Giveaway

The Goodreads Giveaway went live at midnight! 50 free e-book editions will be given out, chosen randomly by Goodreads, after it closes on February 28th.  Closed Doors already has 66 requests in less than 24 hours in!
Just click here then hit the Enter Giveaway box.
No e-reader required. Fret not, you can upload it to your Apple or Android or Cloud reader. The giveaway is only open to US residents.
Feel free to comment on my site and follow my blogs. I read everything. 

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Eggslut service.

I was in Vegas three weeks ago, at the Cosmopolitan. We had breakfast at Eggslut, located inside the hotel. Side note: if you are in Las Vegas, eat breakfast there. I’m not kidding. I had the Fairfax, with avocado, should you be curious.

Now, I’m not a customer service specialist but while waiting for my order I watched the crew at work. I counted nine employees behind a counter approximately thirty five feet long. One person on cash, one calling out names for pick up. The rest on preparation and cooking. And I couldn’t help thinking that if this were back home, there would be two maybe three employees; not keeping up and exasperating customers (through no fault of their own). They’d rush, leading to order errors and more customer dissatisfaction. The owner would lose patronage and eventually close. Here the clincher: it would be someone/something else’s fault. Suppliers’ costs, customer fickleness, no tax breaks. Whatever, whatever.

It’s not. It’s cutting service at one end and the overpriced attempt to gouge customers at the other. It’s not giving the product and service your price demands. It’s acting like you have the monopoly on something when you don’t and even if you did I’d forgo it, if only to spite you. I’d find someone else, somewhere. And believe me there is always someone, somewhere who has better understood the balance between price and quality.

Eggslut cost $46.68 for 3 people. It took fifteen minutes at most from getting in queue to starting to eat. The food was excellent, the service amazing and lady on pickup apologized for the wait. As if! They were serving people non stop. If you were to ask me if I’d fork out this kind of cash back home my answer would be: Can you give me what Eggslut did?

I’m not a marketer, but I am a customer. We know what we like.

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All of it.

The day before yesterday, the train I take to work struck a man. I’ll be brief with the details: early morning darkness, deserted part of the track, he did not survive his injuries, it was ruled a suicide.

As we waited to transfer to buses, people were on their phones, reading, or talking and laughing amongst themselves. Meanwhile, first responders worked to get the victim out from under the train.

And for a brief moment, perspective shifted and I was afforded that glimpse of life as a whole; when you see everyone as making up one single entity. Humans going about their lives. Some happy, some sad, most in between. People coming into this world, people going out, wanting to stay, wanting to leave. Each of us on different paths, all headed to  that same inevitable destination. It makes existence terribly insignificant and terribly important at the same time.  Life is short, live well.