The peace was interrupted by my cell phone ring, and I answered automatically without looking at the caller ID. “Hello, Hartland Interior Designs.”
“Sophia, luv, is that you?” The sexy Irish accent played across the phone lines, sending shivers down my spine. My chair slammed back down onto four legs, and I promptly dropped the phone.
Crap! “Ian! Just a minute!” I fumbled, shoving the chair back, and scrambled to get the cell, which had skidded along the hardwood floor underneath my desk. Sirius, my black Lab, sensing a game, jumped up to get in on the action. Tail wagging and barking, he thrust under the desk next to me in search of the toy. “Ian, I’m coming! Minor technical difficulties. Don’t hang up!” I shoved Sirius back, taking a few excited licks along the way, and finally found the red mobile in the far corner behind the wastebasket. “Hello, are you still there?” I held it to my ear. Fortunately, it hadn’t landed upside down and hung up on him.
“Still here, luv.”
As I clambered out from underneath the desk, I came up too early and cracked my skull on the underside. “Oof!”
“Is everything okay? Maybe I should ring back later.”
“No, no. It’s fine.” When did my life turn into a Lucy skit? Rubbing my head, I gave up trying to play it cool and decided to level with him. “Sorry about that. The phone slipped out of my hand and slid into the deepest dark corner under my desk, and I’m such a klutz I whacked my head crawling out from underneath it.” I sucked in a breath and worked to get my act together. “Enough about me, what can I do for you, Mr. O’Connor?”
“Why so formal, Sophia? I prefer you call me Ian.”
I swore I heard laughter in his voice. Great, he probably thinks I’m a total dork. “Okay, Ian, then please call me Sophie. Only my mom calls me Sophia, and when she does, it usually means I’m in trouble.”
“Are you trouble, Sophie?”
The opening was the size of a Mack truck, and I drove on through. “I can be trouble.
Are you looking for some?” I said in a sultry voice.
“Are you flirting with me?”
I sat up straighter. What was I thinking? This is a potential client, not a date!
“His name is…”
At that, Jackie came out of her speechlessness with a vengeance. “His name! The tenant is male?”
“Well, yes, but he’s harmless. As a matter of fact, he’s a recluse. You probably wouldn’t even notice him. You see, he’s some sort of computer programmer and rarely leaves the house. His groceries are delivered once a week.” Anne gave a reassuring smile.
“Great. Some creepy computer nerd that plays games all day lives on the third floor,” Jackie said derisively.
I looked at Anne. “Is he agoraphobic?”
Jackie looked confused. “Agora-what?
“Agoraphobic. Does he have a phobia of going outside his home?”
Anne took a moment to respond. “I don’t really know. I do know that twice a week his psychiatrist comes to the house to see him.”
“Who’s his shrink?” Jackie asked.
“Dr. Nolan from downtown on Bradford Street.”
Silence descended as we chewed on this information. I looked at the small wrought iron balcony jutting out from the third floor.
“What’s his name?”
“Dr. Jeffrey Nolan,” responded Anne.
“No, the tenant’s.”
“Oh, let me see. It’s right here in my file.” Anne searched through her files. “Yes, this is it. Daniel Johnson.”
“I can’t see the apartment at all?”
“I have photos that were taken by Mr. Stein before the tenant moved in. You can at least see what the finished space looks like. It has a small kitchen, two bedrooms, a den, a bath and a half and a large living room. All the utilities for the attic are billed directly to the tenant, except for sewer and water.”
“How much does he pay in rent?”
Referring back to her notes, Anne named a price that temporarily stunned me. The rent he paid would completely cover my monthly mortgage.
“There’s also an automatic three percent increase in rent every three years.”
“Is he ever late?” Jackie jumped back into the conversation.
“No. Never. From what I understand from Max, he pays punctually on the first of the month.”
I mulled over this new piece of information. “When can I meet Mr. Johnson?”
“Well, that’s the rub. He doesn’t see anyone besides his psychiatrist. I understand Mr. Stein met him when he moved in, but Max seems to think he keeps to himself and he’s not sure his father ever saw much of him.”
“Can I speak to Mr. Johnson on the phone?”
Anne brightened for a moment. “I have his e-mail address. I’m sure I could give you that.”
Jackie snorted but I pressed on, “Can I talk to his psychiatrist?”
“Cara!” exclaimed Jackie. “You can’t actually be thinking about buyin’ this house with this ridiculous condition.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am thinking very seriously about buying this house. Obviously, Mr. Stein, a well-known local lawyer, thought enough of Mr. Johnson to give him a ten-year lease. Clearly, the third floor is a full working apartment, quite separate from the rest of the house. Most importantly, the rent from the apartment would provide me a second income.”
Seeing a live one on the line, Anne began thrusting documents at me. “Here’s the floor plan Mr. Stein used when he had it finished. Here are some color copies of the finished product. I have the full color photos back at the office if you’d like to see them.”
“But…but,” Jackie stammered, “he could turn out to be some sort of lunatic that will murder you in the middle of the night. Or maybe…maybe he has that pack rat illness and the attic is full of newspapers and garbage…and RATS! The house could turn into a foul-smelling pigsty. Or maybe he’s runnin’ a meth lab up there!” Jackie pointed one of her pink manicured fingers at Anne. Turning back to me, she continued on her rant. “That’s it! Drugs! The police will descend upon you at three in the mornin’, guns a-blazin’, and the entire house will be blown to bits durin’ the raid.”
“This isn’t a war, Jackie. I’m sure Mr. Stein wouldn’t have allowed a drug dealer to live on his third floor. Right, Anne?” I calmly eyed Anne who shrank back into her chair during Jackie’s rant.
Today is blog tour day and I’m talking about my writing process. I’d like to thank Sharon Struth, at http://sharonstruth.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/my-writing-process-blog-tour/ for inviting me to become a stop on the tour.
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently writing the second book in a romance trilogy titled Planning for Love. In addition, I’m preparing for the release of my first Women’s fiction novel, Poplar Place; due out March 27. That also means I’m in the process of editing, promotion, and street team prep. I’m also researching and writing a WWII spy novel tentatively titled, Nazis, Spies & American GIs. I’m having a blast researching and conducting interviews with vets and even a German who survived the Berlin bombings.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
For my romances I tend to cross genres by adding a bit of mystery and suspense. My readers feel it makes my stories more enjoyable however it can be a tough sell to publishers. Additionally, I always like to add humor to my stories. I love a book that can make me laugh, so I always try to provide some levity for my readers.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I would love to provide some deep illuminating thoughts about how I started writing in this genre–but the reality is; I write what I do because I can. I don’t write non-fiction because it doesn’t interest me. I don’t have the stomach or inclination to write bloody thrillers and murder mysteries. I wish I could come up with a fabulous Young Adult novel, because the genre is a hot comodity, but inspiration has yet to strike. I’m a sucker for happy endings. Therefore, I write about women and romance.
4) How does your writing process work?
Ha! My process is all over the place. Ideas for books come at me from all directions…books I read, movies and television shows I watch, general world observations, the newspapers, but most of all…dreams. Many times climaxes of a story have come to me in dreams. If the dream is vivid enough it’ll stick with me and throughout the day and I’ll ruminate on it, maybe jotting down some ideas. Then I’ll toss story lines around in my head. I work a lot in my head, once in a while I’ll produce a written outline, but mostly the outline sits on the back burner of my brain.
Once I figure out a beginning and ending, I’ll start writing. Sometimes I’ll research along the way, or if it’s out of my realm of knowledge I’ll research it first before putting finger to keyboard. Like what I’m doing for my WWII spy novel.
Sometimes I suffer from writer’s block. I know where I want the story to go, but don’t know how to get there. I’ll lie on the couch, and run scenarios through my head until the right scene gels. Then I type like mad before it leaves. I’ve also been known to have full scenes come to me even though it’s ten chapters away. So, I’ll write down that chunk of scene and pull it out after I’ve written to it. I don’t recommend this way of working. I always have to deal with fixing inconsistencies. On the other hand, I’ve written some really moving scenes that I’m proud of.
Up next for the tour on February 10
Angel Nicholas writes dark romantic suspense. When she’s not whipping up writerly concoctions, she can be found in the nearest shoe store, Starbucks, tormenting her darling children, or traveling to wild and exotic destination—otherwise known as daydreaming. Here in cyber-land, you may find her playing on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter or randomly blogging. To follow any important news, be sure to check out her website. http://authorangelnicholas.blogspot.com
Beth Rhodes writes about her favorite things: family and love. When she isn’t writing about it, she’s living it with her Army husband and their five kids. She lives in the beautiful state of Colorado, where she gets her fill of cool weather, running, camping, and coffee drinking. http://bethwritesromance.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html
Tracey Livesay is the author of contemporary interracial romance. Her debut novel, The Tycoon’s Socialite Bride, Book #1 in the “In Love With A Tycoon” Series will be released on February 10, 2014 from Entangled Publishing. http://traceylivesay.com/mimosas-at-midnight/
Looking for something to read during the holidays? Like a quick, fun read with a little spice? Look no further – Second Chance Christmas is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore.
Second Chance Christmas
“Nice ride.” He spoke in a neutral tone.
“Thanks.” I shifted into gear and pulled away. The heated seats quickly warmed the chilly car. I wove my way through the city streets, heading toward I-395. With the hour so late, the highway would be free of heavy traffic and the fastest way to get to Colton’s condo in Shirlington, Virginia.
He broke the silence. “I’m not staying at my apartment.”
“It’s been rented.”
I pulled into a street parking space and came to a stop, my hands rested on the steering wheel. “Where have you been staying?” If he gave me an address in Maryland, I would reach across the console and strangle him. It was now a quarter past one in the morning. I had zero interest in schlepping him to some friend’s house in Rockville or Bethesda.
“Up until this morning? Walter Reed.”
I exhaled with a rush. Clearly, my assumption that his limp had something to do with the bar fight that caused his head injury was way off base. Walter Reed Medical Center, a prominent hospital located in Bethesda, Maryland, served the DC area’s population of wounded soldiers and veterans. I shifted my back against the door and faced his profile. “How long were you at Walter Reed?”
His jaw muscles contracted as he continued to gaze out the front window. “They flew me in from Ramstein Air Base about two weeks ago.”
I waited, but he didn’t elaborate. “What happened?”
“Caught some shrapnel from an IED.”
Wind whistled through my teeth. “Did you…that is, your leg…is it…?”
For the first time since we’d gotten in the car, he turned, and his sepia brown eyes met my gaze. “Did I lose it?”
I bit my lip and nodded.
“No, it’s still there.” He tapped his thigh. “They dug most of the shrapnel out in Germany before flying me to the States, but they missed a piece and had to cut me open again at Walter Reed. Some specialist worked on it. Caused muscle damage. I may never be able to walk right.”
“I see…I’m sorry to hear that.” I was sorry he’d been injured. “I’m glad you’re still alive.”
“Yes, of course!” His sarcasm cut me to the quick. Our relationship might have ended on an acrimonious note, but I certainly didn’t wish him pain. The tension in the car was so thick you could slice it with an X-Acto. Hurt, anger, and guilt that I thought I’d come to terms with two years ago welled up to form a choking lump in my throat.
Colton clamped his teeth and his jaw muscles flexed, whether from pain or hostility, I didn’t know. His ability to hide his emotions had been one of the strike points in our relationship. That’s what came from dating an Army intelligence officer. They were trained to suppress their true feelings. This wasn’t the first time I had no idea what he was thinking. However, considering our last parting shots at each other, I could surmise his thoughts weren’t pleasant.
I ceded the staring contest. My eyes shifted to gaze blankly out of the windshield at the white Camry in front of us. My chestnut curls fell forward to shield my face and emotions from him.
“So,” I croaked, and then cleared my throat to try again. “If you hate me so much, do you mind explaining why I’m still listed as in your phone as an emergency contact?”
“Why? Did I drag you away from a hot date?” he bit out.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” I shot back. “I was at the French Embassy enjoying a holiday concert. Thus, the fancy dress and accoutrements.”
“Please tell me you’re not dating a Frog.”
“He’s not a Frog. He’s French. He’s a security specialist at the Embassy,” I squawked defensively.
“Cripes! You’re dating a French spook.” He snorted with disdain. “A Frog in spook clothing.”
“Philippe is not a spook. And stop calling him a Frog.”
He mumbled something that sounded like, “worthless, cheese-eating Frenchies.”
I flipped off the engine. The heat vents went silent and the dashboard turned dark. “What?”
“How old is he?”
“I don’t know. Mid to late thirties, I suppose. What does it matter?”
“He’s a spook.”
His attack on my dating life churned in my gut and sparked off long, suppressed anger. My temper flared and I fired back. “What does it matter who I date? You no longer have a say in my life. You made that clear two years ago when you called me a selfish bitch, along with some other choice words, and accused me of putting my career ahead of yours.”
“Eight hundred and eighty-four days.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s been eight hundred and eighty-four days, since we split. Two years, one hundred fifty-four days.”
Fall is quite possibly my favorite time of year. I live on the East Coast and am privy to some of the most beautiful foliage variations our country provides. Right now my back yard is delivering a show of yellow, burnt orange, crimson and green leaves. The weather is breezy and cool, and except when it rains, the summer humidity has left, which means good hair days. Best of all, autumn is host to the most wonderful holiday ever. Nope, not that one with the Turkey – the one with the witches, ghosts, and goblins – Halloween!
This weekend I spent about four hours decorating my home with Halloween décor. I have skulls, pumpkins, eyeballs, and decorative candle holders littering table tops and mantles. A motion sensing, insult comic, skeleton greets my guests by the front door with comments such as, “Nice Halloween mask. Oh! That’s your face.” Upon entering the kitchen a sound sensing spider drops down onto unsuspecting visitors – the children have named him Boris. A bubbling cauldron on the piano sits next to various potions and ingredients, such as Eye of Newt, and Elixir of Life. A hairy spider with a leg span as large as my kitchen table is crawling up the dining room ceiling. These are just a few of the decorations scattered through my house. Come Halloween, the yard will be turned into a spooky grave yard complete with creeping fog and eerie sound effects.
My children love October as much as I do, and as soon as school begins they start asking when the Halloween décor will make its appearance, and making plans for their costumes, which invariably changes three or four times before the actual day.
Unfortunately, where I live, political correctness, has allowed the schools to suck the fun out of Halloween. Children, even elementary school age kids, are not allowed to wear costumes to school. Yup. That’s right, no costumes. Remember when we were kids and you excitedly woke up the morning of Halloween. You’d climb into your Princess Leia, or Tweedle Dee costume, race down stairs to scarf your breakfast, and after impatiently posing for photos, you’d hot foot it to the bus stop so you could compare what everyone was wearing. I remember it was a tradition to have the younger grades parade through the classrooms, showing off their plastic Strawberry Shortcake outfits.
This is just one of the many creatively “fun things” the schools have discarded over the years. I’ve heard a number of excuses as to why this is. Distraction, inappropriate costume choices, religious offensiveness, blah, blah, blah the litany of excuses goes on and on. Sadly, administrators have taken the joy right out of a day that used to be filled with excitement and fun. I mean, really, if you have to go to school on a holiday, such as Halloween, the least they could do is allow you to dress up as your favorite super hero. Right? After the first three years of banging my head against the brick wall of the school system administration, I gave up and have simply found as many outlets as I could for my kids to wear their costumes outside of school.
What happens where you live? Do schools still allow this little bit of childhood fun to continue?
Hooray, it’s September and all the kiddies are back in school. Whew! What a long summer it seemed to be. Trips to the pool, a family beach vacation, visits to and with friends, movies, skating, bounce housing, so many activities to be organized while the kids were at home. I felt like a cruise director. Then Labor Day weekend arrived. The end was in sight. New backpacks hung on hooks by the door, overloaded grocery bags stuffed full of school supplies slumped in the front hall ready for the first day of school. My youngest was excited to ride the bus, my oldest – more jaded – walked around the house in a funk complaining that summer wasn’t long enough. Friends moaned about missing the lackadaisical summer days and whined about the busy school year full of extracurricular activities and homework ahead.
Not me. I counted down the days, hours…minutes until Tuesday morning. Up early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed I welcomed school day. I packed lunches for both the kids, fed them a delicious and nutritious breakfast, double checked the back packs and drilled the youngest on his bus number. I walked around house singing the Andy William’s Christmas song; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I was excited to have a whole day to myself. The first day I’d have to get my work done without juggling whiny, hungry, bored kids. I had all sorts of plans (only half of which were accomplished). Then the bus came, I waved my kids goodbye, got in my car and followed the bus to school so I could get photos of the kids getting off the bus and walk them to class. I said my final goodbyes and wandered to the cafeteria where the school’s PTO hosted a “Boohoo-Woohoo Tea.” A place where parents could meet other parents, grab a cup of coffee, and commiserate or celebrate over the start of school. I chatted with friends, had a bite to eat, then it was over and I returned to my silent home.
Shockingly, I actually missed my kids. Yes, I started working on edits for an upcoming publication, and began writing my next manuscript in blessed silence. I didn’t have to stop to feed them in the middle of the day, or organize an outing, or break up a fight. But, still I found myself a little teary-eyed over the loss of my rowdy, bickering kids. I’d been one of those moms dancing around, anxious for the new school year to start, yet when it actually came to pass, my feelings could only be described as…bereft.
Luckily, that only lasted for a few days. Now we’re starting week two and we’ve gotten into our routine. So far, the kids are cooperative in the morning. I’m getting to the gym on a regular basis, and work is moving along at a good clip, although not as quickly as I’d originally expected. (Isn’t that always the way?)
So what about you? Do you have kids heading back to school? What were your feelings about the return to a routine? Did you start something new in your life? Perhaps you’re heading back to school yourself? Are you a Boohoo or Woohoo parent when it comes to the new school year?
The next few days will be sad, teary-eyed ones for me. Why? Because it’s summer time and I live in a transient area filled with military and state department families who are constantly on the move. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. suburbs since seventh grade. You would have thought by now I’d be used to the moving, and in a way I am. I’ve gotten used to every year a friend here or there will move away. However, this year is hitting me hard, due to the fact I’m experiencing the biggest loss of friends, as are my children. Four families we are close to are moving away. Two are heading to the “left coast” i.e. California, one is going as far flung as Japan, and the fourth is heading south about three hours away. My oldest and youngest are each losing two friends. In addition to losing good friends that I call upon for last minute favors, to pick up my kid, or grab a coffee with, my husband and I are also losing two favored baby sitters. For those of you with kids, you know how difficult it can be to find a new sitter. All the families are in different services, and two own homes here and feel they may return in three to four years. So, there is hope we will see them again and pick up where we left off.
Due to the location I live, this cycle will continue. My child’s elementary school announced last year that it had the most military families of any school in the county. Making it difficult for the administration to plan from year to year since it usually isn’t until September, when school begins, that they know how many children will be in each classroom; sometimes leading to overcrowded or too few students in classrooms. On my street of about a dozen houses three are rental units owned by military and generally rented to military. One family a few doors down is retiring from the military this year and, to my relief, plan to stay in their home.
As stressful and difficult as it is to move, (trust me I understand, I’d rather gnaw off my left arm than move) sometimes I think it’s worse being left behind. Military and State Department folks get the adventure of learning a new place, making new friends, and experiencing new cultures. Military wives living on base tend to form support networks, so it can be easier to fit in to a new situation. Whereas, those of us left behind have no new adventures, we just search to fill the void. Those voids are often never fully filled if the friends that have left were close ones. My sadness is compounded as I watch my children realize their good buddies will not be here over the summer to play at the pool, or join at the local bounce house, or have a simple play date. They too search to fill the void, although I know, come fall, there will be new classmates and friendships will blossom. As I’m not in school, new chums will not be as easy to come by.
A girlfriend of mine, let’s call her Kay, lived a few doors up the street. She once told me about an abrupt conversation she had at a cocktail party. Kay was introduced to the woman who lived directly – I mean DIRECTLY – across the street. Once the across the street neighbor found out her husband was military she told Kay they couldn’t be friends because she’d be moving away soon. Kay and I laughed over the slight a number of times. Indeed the neighbor simply ignored Kay, no courteous waves from the car or acknowledgments from the yard. The short-sighted neighbor missed out on five years of good times with Kay, who has moved away but still returns to the area almost quarterly. On the other hand, I understand where the abrupt neighbor was coming from. My heart sinks a little every time I fall into a friendship with a military wife, knowing, down the road, I will be feeling as I do today – sad and a bit weepy having to say good-bye to another good family as they load up the minivan and trundle on to their next adventure.
Today I am in hog heaven because it is National Doughnut Day. Where else but America would we create a day for the exalted Doughnut? According to Wikipedia – “National Doughnut Day is on the first Friday of June each year, succeeding the Doughnut Day event created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I.” According to doughnut history, in 1920 Adoph Levitt, a refugee from czarist Russia, invented the first doughnut machine. And by 1934, at the World’s Fair in Chicago, doughnuts were billed as “the hit food of the Century of Progress.” Legend says that dunking doughnuts first became a trend when actress Mae Murray accidentally dropped a doughnut in her coffee one day at Lindy’s Deli on Broadway. In the 1934 film It Happened One Night newspaperman Clark Gable teaches young runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk. In 1937 a popular song proclaimed that you can live on coffee and doughnuts if “you’re in love.”
What’s even better than celebrating the lard-fried, finger-licking, mouth-melting, doughy goodness? The fact that major franchises began giving out their calorie-laden, morning breakfast confections to the general public back in 2009. Today they are doing it again! Yes, you heard right. Stop by Krispy Kreme to receive a free doughnut, no purchase necessary. (I’ve provided the link so you can locate the store closest to you and drive there now!) No Krispy Kreme? No worries, you can swing into your local Dunkin’ Donuts and get a free doughnut with purchase of a drink. If you don’t have either one of these two shops in your area, check your neighborhood doughnut peddlers to see if they are participating in the madness. Aren’t you excited? I am.
My love affair with the doughnut goes back to the time of childhood, when every so often my father would make a doughnut run on Sunday morning to the local Winchell’s, and come home with a dozen assorted kinds – crème filled, jelly filled, bear claws, chocolate sprinkled with coconut, pink frosted sprinkled, powder-sugar, the list goes on and on. (Pardon me, while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.) It didn’t matter what kind, I wasn’t picky. I’d stand in my pajamas, at the front door, hopping from foot to foot as I waited impatiently for the yumminess to arrive. Attacking my father as he came through the front door, I’d snatch the bag and race into the kitchen to place the marvelous O’s on the table. My adoration for doughnuts could be comparable to the level of Homer Simpson’s.
The affair continues today and my love of doughnuts has been passed along to my children. Our donut of choice comes from Shopper’s Food. A local grocery store? That’s right. Not the doughnut shop. Our local grocery store supplies us with a treat they label the COLOSSAL DONUT. It is a drool-worthy lump of fat of epic proportions, and they are my family’s favorite brand. Homer Simpson would be in ecstasy and bypass his precious Lard Lad Donuts for the Colossal Donut. If you have a Shopper’s Food in your area I recommend you try one. (Not today. They aren’t free today. Go next weekend.)
Well, I could write more but….it’s getting late… I must dash to my own Dunkin’ Donuts to get my free one before they run out! Happy Doughnut hunting.