Blogmas, Day 25: Ghost of Christmas Past (#blogmas)

Standing in the toy aisle of ABC, a discount warehouse store in Southern California where we did our bi-monthly grocery shopping way before there was Walmart or Costco or Target, I inhaled the scent of plastic dolls brightly packaged and stacked on ceiling-high shelves. There was something magical about Christmas, even the small piece I got to celebrate.

Presents would definitely be stacked on a wall in the living room once they were revealed from their hiding places such as the hall closet. Creative shapes such as giraffes and other creatures would entertain the kids. Perhaps they wouldn’t notice there was no tree, decorations, or that the presents would be opened on the day or two before Christmas.

Visiting the neighbors across the street, I was mesmerized by the silver tree decorated just inside the front door with strings of Christmas cards hung across the top, and presents underneath. And the romance of the beautiful Christmas carols I sang with the school choir with my mother and brother in the audience was a night to remember. My step dad was usually missing, but, then, he often worked at night.

Somewhere around New Year’s neighborhood parties would hold sway. Roy Orbison on the stereo, mixed nuts, ruffled potato chips and French onion dip served in gold-leaf dishes set the stage. After too many Screwdrivers and other cocktails, the parents would sleep in and we’d get out of bed hoping to share in some of the spoils from the night before.

“Hello ‘der” told the story of somebody’s mom and somebody’s dad when the day finally greeted them after crawling out of bed. A Polaroid photo of another dad with one leg out of his pants revealing his boxers revealed more to the kids than they’d planned on.

I was thankful I had gifts and no matter what day we opened them, at least when we returned to school in the new year and when kids asked what I got for Christmas, I had answers to give. My mother said one year they were tempted to put up a tree, but what would happen if my Jehovah’s Witness grandmother should show up and see it? I remember what happened when she caught us with an American Flag for Flag Day.

Today, all of that is behind me. Today, I embrace Christmas trees, cards, carols, and all the bright lights to somehow give myself what I had missed. It’s never quite enough. What is enough is living the promise I sang in those songs about Bethlehem and mangers, wise men, drummer boys, silver bells, and bright stars. But most of all, Little Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Merry Christmas!

 

Blogmas, Day 24: War of Art (#blogmas)

War of Art by Steven Pressfield was one of the books circling the Writing Community back when I first started writing. For some reason, I recently dug it out (on Kindle) and reread it. And then I downloaded the follow-up book Do the Work. I highly recommend it if you have any desire at all about pursuing art as a profession instead of a hobby or anything in-between.

I’ve been juggling writing and music, unsure about how to pursue which one. Is one my profession and the other hobby or both professions or both hobbies? What do I really want to accomplish with either?

One reason I did the December book tour for Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon and #Blogmas featuring all of my books, was to see if I could get my writing career back moving in the forward direction it had been moving before social media and the new algorithm, before the saturation of other books and writers, before fantasy and vampires and erotica took over the world (or whatever it was that halted that forward momentum), to see how serious readers and the Universe are about me as a writer. But, perhaps, the real reason for the turn was to turn me toward my real calling, which just might be music.

I’ve tried to pursue both, but I really think you need to choose one or the other if you’re going to pursue any as a profession. Besides the tours, as a good-bye salute, I’ve also made sure all of my books are available in paperback as well as Kindle. Some had only been available in digital form. I guess I’m wrapping things up to prepare the way to move on.

Of course, if the world clamors for my books on Amazon, breathing new life into my writing career, okay, then I’ll get that message to keep providing new books. Otherwise, I’m going to assume music is my future calling and 2020 is the time to go all in.

 

Blogmas, Day 23: The Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon Book Tour Wraps Up (#blogmas)

Since the book tour extends beyond Blogmas, I thought I’d list the last 4 stops on this post. And then I can talk about other things to wrap up Blogmas for this year.

Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon Book Tour Final Stops:

Monday, December 23 – All the Ups and Downs

Thursday, December 26- Jazzy Book Reviews

Friday, December 27: Gimme the Scoop

Friday, December 27: All About Books

And that’s a wrap for December’s book tour.

That leaves two more days of Blogmas. Hopefully we can find something fun to talk about. See ya real soon!

Blogmas, Day 21: 2020 Hopes and Dreams (#blogmas)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would write about my hopes and dreams for 2020 and what’s changing and what’s not. But all I can think about now is that my dream for 2020 is about a house. And getting through this in-between place.

The place in-between is almost always a tough place to be. Long nights, fitful sleep, trying not to dream too much about the future. Writing middle-of-the-night poetry.

Just when I think I cannot endure yet another countdown, another new build (oh, woe is me, right?), okay, maybe in my defense I will say that we just went through this two years ago. Two years ago we’d just moved into our new house in Florida. Yep, after selling our house in Vegas, we moved clear across the country, squeezing our stuff and our little family of four (two are cats) into a small apartment in Florida.

For seven months there we were, bedroom dresser in the kitchen (bedroom was too small), boxes packed in storage, hauling our groceries to the third floor dodging lightning and thunder. And then halfway through the build, watching, watching, watching, evacuating to Nashville (Hurricane Irma), watching, watching, watching. It seemed like the process took forever. And now here we are back in Las Vegas waiting for a another new house to begin again. Yes, woe is me. What a problem to have, right? But we all have our daily struggles.

The real problem is what you have to live in during that in-between place. This place is rather funky. That’s one way to put it. The one saving grace was the casita I was using for my studio. Not just my own space inside the house where I could set up my own writing and music studio, but it was outside the house in a separate building. I loved that space. My space. But now it’s got problems making it practically unusable. We’ve put in a work request. But will they fix it? And when? Ah, yes, that is the question.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember leaving our first brand new home when I was six and moving to a new city near the beach in Southern California. We were living in a small apartment waiting for another new house to be built. I celebrated my seventh birthday in that apartment, that apartment where I got my first electric organ. I had that thing for years. I don’t remember now what happened to it.

Anyway, as a kid, I didn’t notice how hard it was to live in a temporary place while waiting for the new house to build. As a kid, I remember the excitement of touring the new house in framing and choosing my bedroom. As I kid, I remember the apartment swimming pool where I learned to swim (where I cracked my chin on the side of the pool and had to get stitches.) But I also remember my mother struggling with the in-between situation, especially when the landlord complained about my brother and me being too nosy or throwing paper out the slider or something that kids do, right? Ha!

I remember other people’s new builds. Like when my step dad’s sisters were building new houses on their ranch properties in the Central Valley. Talk about scary places to live. They seemed like rundown shacks to me. I didn’t even want to visit them there. But I also remember the brand new beautiful homes they built and the fun times we had visiting them over the years throughout their lives. I even wrote a song about one of them, and called it “Road 24.”

I see looking back that even the in-between times are good. The Florida apartment I thought I’d never endure? Well now I look back and hold onto those memories because Skipper was still with us back then. He celebrated his 18th birthday in the new house and loved it so but now he’s gone and so my memories of him blessed that Florida apartment. In that Florida apartment he was still with us.

I wonder now why we moved to Florida if we were just going to move back to Vegas. If we hadn’t left, we’d still be living in our comfortable house and not going through all of this. But we’d have also missed out on that amazing two-year Florida adventure. And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that.

So I try to be patient, enjoy the moments and the memories we’re making in this “in-between” place, and look expectantly toward the future, the new house in 2020, setting up my new studio where I will be, hopefully, making music, making memories, and writing stories. I can’t really choose between writing and music after all.

 

 

 

Blogmas, Day 20: Missing Dad at Christmas (#blogmas)

As it turns out, Blogmas seems to be one big promo of my Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon book tour, not to mention my other novels. But the one novel I haven’t mentioned yet is Letters on Balboa Island, the most meaningful book I’ve written. And the one my dad absolutely adored. This may be the second Christmas without him on earth, but truth be told, I’ve never spent Christmas with my dad.

The story of my search for my father and what I discovered it all meant to me has been documented in Myths of the Fatherless. It was written early in the search and I’ve been thinking of updating it at some point, perhaps it might be helpful to me or to someone to include the introspective time I’ve had since then. The difficult part for me now is that it’s over. There’s no more hope that things might turn out differently. But I can appreciate the time we did have together.

LETTERS ON BALBOA ISLAND

bi_cover_final_150“When I was seventeen, I knew two things that were true: (1) You couldn’t help but meet a man in a military uniform in southern California in the 1950s, and (2) Sooner or later, men would leave. ” – Rosalie

When Rosalie Martin chooses to spend her life with a military man in the post Korean War era of the 1950s, she can’t forget another she met during the war. And when letters surface on Balboa Island years later, she realizes she may have chosen the wrong man. So when fate offers her the chance to make a different choice, will she? Or has she lived a life of lies for too long?

AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon.com for Kindle and in Paperback.

Blogmas, Day 19: Carnival’s Latest Fun Ship: The Panorama (#blogmas #cruising #carnival #panorama)

In the midst of all this holiday busyness and blog tour is the launch of Carnival’s latest Fun Ship, the Panorama, a long-awaited Vista-class ship to sail out of Long Beach. Finally, Carnival has given us West Coasters a brand new ship.

As some of you may know, my first novel to acquire an agent and publishing deal was Real Women Wear Red, set on a Caribbean cruise. Those were exciting times. RWWR got a lot of attention and still, to-date, is my best-selling novel. I wrote a sequel, Real Women Sing the Blues, also set on a cruise ship (this time Hawaii). My current wip (She’s Not That Good) is set on a cruise ship (Mexican Riviera), and even Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon has a cruise scene or two in it.

The holidays are one of my favorite times to cruise. It’s a really nice way to get together with family or even as a couple or solo – easier to take the holidays if you’re out to sea surrounded by other friendly cruisers.

So if you can’t get away on a cruise this year (I know I can’t), why not sail vicariously through one of my novels? Check out my Books page or the list of books in the sidebar.

 

Blogmas, Day 18: Two Stops for Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon (#blogmas)

Today I’ve got two stops:

Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon is the book feature at:

  1. T’s Stuff
  2. The Bookworm Lodge

The tour is heating up before the year winds down. At the end of the tour, I’ll talk about some changes I’m considering and why, and my goals for 2020. See ya later!

Blogmas, Day 17: Interview at A Blue Million Books (#blogmas)

As it gets closer to Christmas and the deeper I get into this blog tour, the less I seem to have to say about, well, anything. lol! So I’ll let my interview featuring Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon on “A Blue Million Books” speak for me.

This site is fun and very friendly to Indie Authors. Who knows what you may find over there?

Blogmas, Day 16: Guest on “As The Page Turns” (#blogmas) for Deja Vu Book Tour

We’re back on track with the book tour for Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon and today finds me as a guest on “As the Page Turns.” How fun is that?

I must confess, as this is my first Blogmas, I started to worry that I wasn’t focusing on Christmas exactly the way Blogmas may be intentioned. But I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the anticipation of Christmas than hanging out with other bloggers and book lovers, sharing my love for writing and reading. Of course, I hope that you’ll find one of my books that interests you, maybe for yourself or as a gift for somebody else. I’d love to hear from you to see what you thought.

See you on the next stop!

Blogmas, Day 15: The Tom Jones Club Peek (#blogmas #lasvegas)

The Tom Jones Club Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Italian wine drinkers:
Sexy (40 percent) and stylish (37 percent)

 “Viva Las Vegas” reverberated through Lucky Stryker’s head as she buckled her First Class seat belt on the Paris to Las Vegas flight with a brief stop in Orlando.

An attractive, but boring-looking, off-the-rack, three-piece-suited businessman approached the aisle she was sitting in.

His path was blocked by the nerdy looking man one row behind her on the opposite side, taking all day stashing an over-flowing carry-on, a computer, and a backpack. The businessman was forced to lean into her.

“Excuse me,” he apologized, “I’ll be out of your way in just a moment… I hope.”

Lucky laughed. “No problem.” She couldn’t help but notice the way his ordinary suit pants outlined his perfect butt perfectly—even if butts weren’t her thing. As he turned toward her, he flashed that Cheshire-cat smile without saying a word. She was intrigued, noticing his sky-blue eyes crinkle as he did so. She was a sucker for a great smile on a man. There was a lot of talk these days about the butt, but for her, it was all about the smile and the eyes. She looked up to study his eyes, but when she turned her head to get a closer look, he swung into the seat behind her.

Small talk, small, talk, quick, think of some small talk. But then she was relieved of the pressure to initiate something witty when she felt his mouth brush against her ear. And then he said, “Going for business or pleasure?”

“Oh, a little bit of both.” She felt weak in the knees, even though she was sitting down.

“You gamble?” He asked it as if he was talking about something other than slot machines, craps or roulette.

The flight attendant took that moment to offer Lucky a glass of champagne. She accepted, but overheard him decline and ask for a glass of Sangiovese instead.

“Now where were we?” He was not to be deterred. She liked that in a man.

But before she had a chance to answer, a sultry brunette wearing a short, sparkly white dress approached his aisle, and muttered something about needing to squeeze in next to him. After all, his attention shifted to her—no wonder—he was drinking a glass of Sangiovese. Italian wine drinkers tended to be sexy and stylish. In this case, it seemed to say more about the kind of woman he was interested in than about any style he might  possess.

In comparison, she felt dowdy in her black leather skirt. Somehow it couldn’t compete with sparkly in Las Vegas. She’d have to keep this in mind when dressing for tomorrow’s business meeting.

Lucky settled back into her seat, relieved to have his attention elsewhere. She reached into her bag, and pulled out a novel she had picked up in the gift shop in Paris.

“My dear, excuse me, but can I ask you a question?”

She looked up to see an older, well-preserved woman dressed in all black—expensive capris with a sleeveless sweater revealing a substantial amount of cleavage. Lucky couldn’t help but notice her tanned legs leading to well-manicured toes surrounded by a pair of black rhinestone slides.

Now she didn’t usually notice these details on another woman unless she was her competition, so she was surprised by her reaction. But there this woman was, standing right next to her in the aisle, and she felt compelled to invite her to sit down.

“Is this your seat?” Without hesitation, she scooted right past Lucky and settled into the seat.

The flight attendant was mixing a drink in the row in front of them, so she turned to the woman and said, “How about a drink?” After so many years playing the hostess in the wine industry, she automatically put people at ease by offering them food or drink.

“Sure. I’ll have a pink gin fizz,” she said.

Lucky made eye contact with the attendant, indicating I’ll have another glass of champagne. The first leg of the flight—Paris to New York—had been long, but that was only the beginning. The next leg stopped in Orlando, where it seemed everybody who got on the plane had been at Disney World and had Mickey Mouse balloons, stuffed toys, and bags.

This woman was welcome company compared to who could have sat next to her.

Their drinks arrived, and the woman took a slow sip, put down her glass, and turned toward Lucky, which was a bit uncomfortable in the closeness of two airline seats, even if they were in First Class.

“What’s your question?” Directness was her specialty, a trait that wasn’t always received well. But while she was waiting for the woman to answer in the few seconds that passed, her mind raced back to the families she saw board the plane. There was something sweet and comforting about the way they were connected, the toys, the fun written all over their faces. It was something so basic and real, and she felt disturbed that she was responding this way.

“I heard you mention the Desert Sands. Are you by any means attending the Tom Jones Convention?”

“The what?”

“For the Tom Jones Club. You know who Tom Jones is, don’t you?” Oh, sure, she’d heard of Tom Jones, but a club and a convention?

“I’m assuming you mean the performer and not a fictional character, although when it comes to sexual escapades, it might be a toss-up between the two.”

“Yes, I see, you do know the man. Well,” she said in that throaty way last seen in Hollywood B movies of older women who smoke and drink and sleep around too much, “this is the Tom Jones Convention.” She gestured toward the pin on her sweater that somehow managed to escape Lucky’s perusal earlier. Maybe because it was black on black and blended in with her sweater. As she took a closer look, she noticed the pin was intertwined with a pendant with a picture of a young child. And Lucky recalled a similar picture from her childhood.

Lucky thought again to the families on the plane, the look of pride on the mother’s face as she held her little one’s small hand, and imagined what it would be like to have a child of her own. This was new to her, this thinking past the moment, of longing for children.

“Oh, there’s a convention? No, I’m here for a business meeting. Here to close a deal.” Lucky crossed her legs as she did whenever she was feeling rather proud of her business acumen.

It was an old habit, born out of necessity competing in a man’s world. What would she do without her identity as successful business woman once this deal was over and done? Was she over and done? Or was it just a chapter in her life closing? She took another sip of champagne.

“Oh, I see, you’re one of those women.” Her “BS” meter went off—clang clang—this was exactly why she didn’t warm up to most women.

“What does that mean, ‘one of those’?”

“Oh, you know, career women who don’t have time for men. I’m not implying you don’t sleep with them, but you don’t have time for a long-term commitment. You don’t see the value of having a man around. You’re self-sufficient.”

“So, tell me,” Lucky began, noticing this woman’s ring finger was empty, although every other finger seemed to sport a ring. “Are you married? Because I don’t see a ring on your finger either.”

“I was once.” Her gray eyes glazed off to a distant place as if she were recalling a tragic time in her life, and she fingered the pendant with the picture of the little girl. Lucky wondered if something tragic had happened to her. What did that feel like, to unconditionally love another human being so greatly that the loss of one would break your heart?

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No need to be.” She snapped out of it. “I now have the time to freely pursue whatever I want to. Like organizing trips for other women to go to Vegas on a whim, see Tom Jones, hang out with their girlfriends and other fans of Tom Jones.”

“So tell me something else, is there really a whole convention?”

“Well, it’s rather small now compared to years before. Actually, it gets smaller and smaller with each passing year. Because, you see, most members are my age or older. Although, you’d be surprised at all the young people who are going to his concerts, buying his albums. He’s really had a comeback.”

“But they’re not just convention-goers, is that it?” Lucky was drawn into this woman’s story, maybe because, as a woman, she was feeling restless.

“That’s it, you’ve got it.” She told entertaining stories about how the club began, including some of the highlights over the past thirty years or so. Lucky started to fade, and needed to be quiet with her thoughts. People often thought she was outgoing, and she could be, but too much interaction drained her. She was more introverted than people knew.

“Well, I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to prepare for an important meeting tomorrow.”

“I understand, dear. Here’s my business card. I’ll be staying at the Desert Sands. Give me a call if you’d like to discuss a business deal of my own.”

She took her card, looked at it briefly, and dropped it in her bag. “Mona Lisa,” it said. Like that’s really her name. Funny she should accuse her of being that kind of woman, although she’d been known to give out fake names, too. Maybe this woman, Mona, saw something of her younger self in her. She ran into this all the time—she knew the type. Women who approached her as if they had the greatest opportunity, but, instead, she had learned, these were opportunists, not opportunities.

She put on the headphones to her iPod and played an Elvis collection. That seemed appropriate, didn’t it? Elvis, Las Vegas, and Lucky. Wasn’t that what Vegas was all about anyway? They said that if you threw a rock, you couldn’t help but hit an Elvis impersonator. But the impersonators didn’t do him justice. He was so much more than an icon of a man wearing a gaudy white jumpsuit and Elton John-sized sunglasses. He was so much more than Tom Jones ever could be.

Available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats.