Now available for your reading pleasure!! Print version will follow shortly, but for now, Ruby’s Song is available on Amazon Kindle!
Now available for your reading pleasure!! Print version will follow shortly, but for now, Ruby’s Song is available on Amazon Kindle!
This story has been written for a month now, and I’ve spent many long, sleepless nights revising, working through the text with a very thorough, honest critique partner. Sometimes, I hated this story. Actually, I hated this story for about two weeks straight as I continually pushed to make it better. Tonight, I made the last changes, read through areas I’d worked over repeatedly, and then added a bit more meat to the ending, and I literally teared up when I hit “Save and Close.”
I’ve never done that before. I mean, I’ve felt the excitement and giddiness, the relief and even fear to let it fly, but to actually cry when I was done? Never happened before. I’m trying to figure out exactly why that is. This story is so entrenched in my heart. I absolutely love it, and I love the characters. And I’m beyond excited to release it to the world on November 2nd. So, for those fans anxiously awaiting, I offer you this excerpt as a teaser. Enjoy!
After two days of a dark heart, this man had brought in light. She knew his effects should not be ignored. Like any warm creature lunges for the light, she scribbled out a quote for him in return.
Let’s go hand in hand. Not one before another. – I invite you.
She gave the note to Monkey and returned to the vanity, resting her elbows on the wooden top, hands folded beneath her chin. And that’s the position she was in when her eyes met his in the mirror. The heavy beats of her heart drummed in her ears before slowing to a quiet crawl. Her body went still, paralyzed and cold. If her hands hadn’t been holding her chin up, it would have fallen with her jaw in pure shock. Her eyes grew wide enough to hurt.
His face bore the same incredulity. “What in the hell…”
“What are you doing in here?” She spun in her chair. The part of her robe fell open, revealing her knees clad in white stockings. His eyes dropped to the sight and she quickly stood and held the scant covering closed over her body. His face had gone pale, his mouth agape and his eyes roved in a slow, stunned circuit of the room.
“Well?” she demanded.
He blinked in rapid succession and licked his lips before shaking his head clear of the confusion controlling him.
“Um…” he stepped forward, coughed a laugh, and held up her note. “You invited me.”
She gasped and covered her mouth with her palm. “You?”
He scratched his brow and laughed again. “My thoughts exactly.”
Nausea spiraled in her stomach and crawled up her throat. She spun away from him and buried her face in her hands. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this.”
He took a deep breath behind her. “Again, my thoughts exactly.”
Her head shook back and forth at the enormity of it all. Dalton! Sending her quotes from Shakespeare, making her feel like the most important and talented human in Boston, yet also responsible for the sadness gripping her the past two days. Dalton. There at The Museum, backstage, with her in nothing but a robe and undergarments. She ducked behind the mirror and peaked around it so only her eyes could be seen. He chuckled and anger boiled inside of her.
“What are you doing back here?” she asked, her voice tight. He held out a palm and peered sideways at her, as if he didn’t understand why she was asking such a question and she huffed. “I didn’t mean for you to come back here.”
“Of course not! You don’t think I invite strangers to see me half-dressed, do you?”
“I hope not.”
“Well, obviously I should have been more specific in my note.”
He placed a hand on his hip and used the other to rub his forehead. “Yes, you might have been. What, exactly, did you mean when you wrote ‘I invite you’?”
Heat flooded her cheeks and she was glad the mirror hid her crimson-colored skin. “I was inviting you to…to…well, what were you suggesting in your note to me?”
Dalton stopped pacing and laughed, his blue eyes boring into hers with a new level of intensity. “Honey, I doubt you and I had the same thing in mind. If you tell me I’m wrong, I’ll wear the dress in your next play.”
His meaning seeped into her, creating an inferno deep in her belly that turned to anger as it reddened her cheeks. Her spine stiffened. “I am insulted you would think to earn that from me with only a handful of Shakespearean quotes.”
“I wouldn’t have if I had known it was you,” he said, gesturing toward her. “I expected a more…worldly woman.”
“So sorry to disappoint you,” she drawled.
“I’m not disappointed,” he said, and his lips began to curl slightly at the corners as his eyes roved slowly around her face, igniting shivering tingles over her skin.
She tightened her fist around the fabric of her robe. “You’re…you’re not disappointed it’s me?”
He chuckled. “The young girl I met at the restaurant? That was disappointing. But the woman I’ve watched on the stage these past weeks…definitely not disappointing.” He shook his head with an incredulous huff. “Damn sure shocking, though. I’ll tell you that.”
She found herself relaxing and giggling along with him. “I imagine so.”
His Adam’s apple twitched over his swallow before he asked with trepidation in his voice, “Are you disappointed it’s me?”
Her eyes met his and she shook her head twice.
He smiled and took a deep breath. “So, this is where you perform three nights a week, then? Not at the Boston Opera House?”
She grimaced at the revelation of her deceit. “Not at the Boston Opera House. Although I wasn’t lying about the show three weeks hence. I am set to debut then.”
“And I take it your darling Winthrop family has no idea you’re here?”
Her head shook slowly back and forth and he burst into laughter. She sighed and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t sound so amused.”
“But I am amused. I am thoroughly pleased to know this side of you still exists.”
“What do you mean still exists? What side of me are you talking about?”
“The bold side,” he answered. “I always admired that part of you, the fearlessness, the lack of intimidation, the part of you that ran away out into a desert thunderstorm at thirteen.” She chuckled and scrunched her face skeptically. He shrugged with a smirk. “I said it was brave, not smart. After our lunch, I thought it’d been conditioned away by the strictures of high society.”
Marlena’s gaze fell to the floor. He had no idea how close he was to the truth, for that part of her had almost been stripped away. If she hadn’t found her way into performing at The Museum, that part of her would have melted into oblivion under the Winthrop household.
“I’m sure it bolsters confidence in the movement knowing Elijah Winthrop’s very own ward is here campaigning against him,” he continued.
She folded her bottom lip between her teeth and peered sideways at him. “Uh…actually…”
His eyes scrunched as he squinted at her in study. “The people here don’t know who you are either?”
Her insides twisted. These were the people she felt guilty deceiving. They’d become good friends, but they still believed her to be the daughter of an innkeeper. While she agreed with Dalton that her identity would strengthen the morale of the cause, it would also risk her future as an opera singer, and she wouldn’t jeopardize the objective she’d worked so hard to attain. She looked at Dalton and shook her head yet again.
“And on that note, please keep your voice down,” she said. “I don’t want to cause any upset around here, especially when I only have two weeks of performances left.”
His brow fell into worried grooves. “What do you mean?”
“My debut is set for the first of the month. I won’t do anything to risk it, so the performance in six days will be my last.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, that’s a shame.”
Guilt and defensiveness warred within her. “Dalton, my life here is much more complicated than you realize.”
“I can see that,” he said with a laugh. “But there is something I don’t understand, Marlena,” he said as he took a step forward. “You’re amazing out there. Why on Earth haven’t you been performing at the Boston Opera House?”
She smiled at his compliments, at the sound of her name rolling off his lips, but when the reply to his question was admitted out loud, it brought reminders of her frustrations.
“Sarah wouldn’t allow it before. Even now, she claims I am not ready to grace the stage, though she’ll let me do it.”
His face scrunched in disgust. “She’s jealous, simple as that. And she has every reason to be. She’s a canary to your nightingale.”
Marlena laughed softly as heat rushed to her cheeks. “Thank you, but you’re wrong. Sarah Jeanne has the most beautiful voice in the country.”
“No. No, she doesn’t,” he returned with a shake of his head. “When you sing…Marlena, there’s nothing more beautiful in the wide world than your voice.”
They locked eyes and Marlena forgot to breathe. The room was hot and humid, and so were her insides. Neither spoke and she could only hope his thoughts and body were as frantic and frenzied as her own.
Finally, he grinned. “But I can hardly hear your voice when you speak. It’s hard to believe you can belt notes when you sing.” She laughed quietly. “And still so shy. You can come on out, you know. You don’t have to hide back there.”
“I’m not decent, Dalton. Would you mind waiting for me in the alley?” She had to gain control of herself. Thoughts were whirling and racing as quickly as the blood in her veins and her heartbeat pumping it along.
“Of course,” he said before striding halfway across the space. He stopped and turned a smirk onto her. She studied his eyes, the slight crinkle of skin at their corners and the translucent blue that seemed to see right through her, as if he knew she stood trembling behind the mirror. “I’ll be damned, Marlena,” he said. “Of all the things I expected walking through that door…” He shook his head, chuckled, and left her alone, trembling at the wonderful sound of her name upon his lips.
My 2015 has sucked…like seriously sucked. Yes, it could have been worse, but it has been one of the worst years of my life. That is one reason why I haven’t posted much on here. I don’t want to always come across as unhappy or ungrateful…or as a complainer. But something happened last night that I just have to post, because it’s something you’ll never see on the news – at least not in Las Vegas.
Let me preface this by saying that Las Vegas is a dangerous place. People who believe in the inerrant nature of statistics (cough, cough, I’m not one of them), like to tell me Vegas is the safest its ever been. Most of these people are transplants, not natives like me who have been around for 34 years and have seen the decline. I would never let my kids roam the city the way I did. I was never home until the street lights came on, and there were no parameters as to how far and wide I could go. As a thirteen-year-old, I rode the bus eight miles away to the mall and back several times a month, even more around Christmas time, and all by myself during the day and night. At fifteen, I walked four miles a day to and from the restaurant where I worked and sometimes got off late at night. I never had a cell phone during any of these years for my parents to reach me. But I made it home every night, and we were all secure that I would.
Now, however, deadly or violent home invasions are an every day occurrence; pedestrians are being mowed over on an almost daily basis; shootings; stabbings; homicides; car fatalities – every day I hear and see this shit. And all of this is off the STRIP, where there is an unwritten gag order on all violent activity that isn’t witnessed by more than a hundred eyes. Imagine how the statistics would be skewed if the “action” down on the STRIP was reported. I have family and friends who work in those lavish casinos who have told me about suicides, rapes, murders, shootouts in the STRIP that employees are not allowed to mention upon threat of losing their jobs. Those acts of violence simply don’t exist, for what would it do to the Las Vegas image? My own sister was held down by a police officer during a shootout. She cowered in fear while bullets whizzed overhead, only to be told by upper management an hour later, “It was just fireworks. Someone set off some firecrackers. There was NO shootout, comprende?”
Anyway, I digress.
On Facebook, there is a yard sale page for my particular area of town. I’ve bought and sold things on this page over the past year, and met probably four people in personal exchanges. Last night, one of the members of the group posted a picture of her son along with a desperate plea for help. He’d gone missing, last seen riding his scooter around the neighborhood an hour previously. He was ten. She described what he was wearing and asked if anybody in the neighborhood saw him to contact her because she couldn’t find him. Police had been called.
Well, within minutes, the streets were swarmed with hundreds of nameless neighbors, all from this group, looking for this boy. People went on foot, on bike and in their cars, combing the parks, the stores, a construction site nearby. Even the construction workers stopped their building and began looking for this boy. He’d been traced to a gas station and nobody knew where he went beyond that. The trail simply vanished. I watched my newsfeed explode as I sat on my bed, playing board games with my nine-year-old son. People were all over the area, telling where they were and if they’d found anything. A massive online coordinating effort was underway. I could hear police helicopters whirring over my house and see their spotlights moving in and out of my backyard, all the while praying they’d find this little boy.
Well, they did. It took two hours of flooding the area with good Samaritans, good neighbors, but the boy was found sleeping under a bush, and he was found by one of the members of my FB group. When the boy was finally roused, he couldn’t remember where he was or how he’d gotten there. I haven’t received any more information other than he made it home safe and sound, and that is perhaps why this story never made the news.
But I have to wonder: did this massive show of community thwart a deadly crime? Was this boy in the clutches of some evildoer who panicked at the sheer volume of people out and about searching, and so ditched a drugged little boy beneath a bush and took off? Or did the boy just fall asleep beneath a bush for no reason and lie about it after he was found to avoid trouble? One can only imagine. What I don’t have to imagine, however, is what that boy’s family would have been going through had he not come home last night.
I’ll admit my faith in humanity has dwindled hugely as of late. Even people I’m close to have disappointed me greatly. But last night, seeing everyone come together like that, man it really filled my heart with hope. I just wanted to share that story, because you’ll never see a story like that on the news.
Today, at my step-grandmother’s funeral, the pastor spoke about western culture, and how we insist on repressing emotions, holding in our tears because we somehow equate that stalwart stoicism with strength. By contrast, that would mean that tears and emotion are a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Well, I’m here to tell you that they both suck.
I, too, fall into that mentality (western or not) that crying is a weakness – not because emotions make a person weak. The weakness has nothing to do with the existence of the actual emotion. The weakness exists in the failure to control those emotions, to keep them restrained until you have privacy and all ceremonial tasks, like receiving lines and receptions have come and gone. The strength lies in maintaining one’s composure in the public eye.
Perhaps this mentality comes from being a woman, a gender that is debased, and yet represented, by emotional compasses and downpours. If we women want to play in the field of men, we must act like men, and therefore appear less affected by our feelings.
Perhaps this mentality comes from being a female manager in a male-dominated industry. Being in a position of hiring, firing, disciplining and any other task belonging to management requires a person to put their feelings beneath the cloak of professionalism. You must be able to look an employee in the eye who you’ve known for ten years, whose family you’ve seen at bbqs and Christmas parties, and fire them because they aren’t producing enough to justify their pay. You must be able to hide your stress and always present a calm, solid visage to the people looking to you to set the tone of the day.
Perhaps this mentality comes from knowing about history and figures I admire and respect who buried their emotions and did what it took to…well…make history.
Hell, perhaps it’s just my genetic makeup. But whatever the reason, I am a person who has always buried or internalized my emotions. I carry it all inside. I have not been known to sob openly, nor jump up and down in excitement. Though I have felt bone deep grief and life altering bliss, on the outside no one would know it.
People have told me how unhealthy this is, and physically, I completely agree. I often get back spasms in my left rhomboid that can be so painful and debilitating that I cannot turn my neck. My entire back will go out to the point where I live on heat-ice-heat regiments for a week. My stomach burns, full of acid; I get panic attacks; nausea consumes me and I become an insomniac.
That’s what “keeping it all inside” does to me.
But what does “letting it all out” do to me?
The last ten days have been very tiring for me. Leaving my family and spending 40+ hours in the car, two full days and nights in the kitchen to set my Papa up for winter food, watching people I love dearly ache with sorrow and grief, and still keep it together has taken a toll on me, physically. I’ve gone to three memorial services in a week. The first was up at the island, and I kept it together pretty well. The second was the burial and I did fine there, too. The third was the Las Vegas service, and I actually expected it to be the easiest of the three – because I’d managed the other two so well.
And as the family was ushered out to our designated rows, the music played, and a lovely singer on stage began to sing “It Is Well.” My husband reached over and rubbed my leg, then grabbed my hand, and the dam broke. I did everything I could. I avoided Betty’s picture staring at me from the stage. I dared not look at my Papa, whose quivering lip and galloping Adam’s Apple I’d come to memorize during the other two services. I bit my lip, the inside of my cheek, took deep breaths, pinched my eyelids shut, stared at the lily arrangement directly in front of me, deep red centers fading out into light pink, like a southwestern sunset. It didn’t matter what I did, the words of It is Well pulled those tears from me like petals kissing nourishment from a dewdrop. I couldn’t help but cry, because to me – it wasn’t well. Nothing was well.
Despite the personal loss I felt for Betty, there was the deep empathy and sympathy I felt for Papa and also for Betty’s biological family. There was some pretty heavy news I was carrying from work and also a major decision looming on the homefront. Despite the beautiful flowers, the beautiful singers, the promise of hope of the resurrection for Betty and healing and comforting for the mourners, all was most certainly not well in the world, or within my own heart.
I cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. And it was subdued enough that it wasn’t a scene (we are still talking about me, here). A sniffle every 30 seconds and half a box of kleenex for an hour long service is all we’re talking about, but I wept without ceasing the entire time. And you know how I feel tonight?
I feel no great relief. I don’t feel unburdened. I don’t feel lighter. I don’t feel anything positive. I feel fatigued beyond measure, weary and weak. I feel like the damnedest little thing would set me off into a fit of tears again. I took my son to soccer practice tonight and my mom called to see how I was doing. “It seemed like you had a hard time during the service,” she said. And just her calling to see how I was doing brought tears to my eyes. I hate it because I can’t say any one thing that it is making me so emotional. I grieve, yes. I have suffered a personal loss, yes. I worry for my Papa’s future, yes. I have stress in my life, yes.
But I’m strong, right?
Surely, I can feel all of these things without cracking, without crumbling, right? Life goes on. No matter how terrifying or great, how sunny or fog-worn. The earth still spins. People are born and people die. Nothing changes, yet nothing is the same.
I cried the good cry. I let it all out. And I don’t feel better at all. My head actually hurts; my ears thrum with swollen sinuses; my stomach still burns. Nothing good has come from my “release.”
So, I couldn’t advise a person whether to hold it all in or let it all out. Because in my experience, neither one helps.
There is nothing, really, that can prepare you for the death of a loved one. Even when you wish it, say, in the sense of ending their suffering. Turning off machines, letting someone go…we can all justify it logically in our minds. But when you are there watching a living, breathing creature suddenly go still, it is always a shock. And it’s in that moment that you realize – you never really believed they would die. A tiny speck of hope lived on in your heart. It took over all of you, and then it betrayed you.
As a relatively young person, I’ve fallen into that trap of thinking, somehow, old people are prepared to die. I mean, surely they must know their time is limited. As my great aunt once said: “None of will escape this world alive.” And I always thought that as a person nears ninety or hundred years that they come to peace with it, accept it, and somehow become unafraid. But I was wrong.
My step-grandmother, Betty, passed away this week. She is, in fact, my step-grandmother, but I always called her Betty. I did so because when she married my Papa, I was still grieving my biological grandmother, Papa’s first wife, my mother’s mother. Dorothy. But, in truth, Betty was my grandmother far longer than Dorothy, by God’s will. I was eight when my grandmother died. And 34 when Betty died. I knew her as my grandma for almost 26 years. She never made me (or asked me to) call her Grandma, but my children called her “Little Grandma,” chiefly because she was a petite little thing and my Papa (whom the kids call “Big Papa”) is a towering six foot five.
The start of this blog might be a bit misleading. I was not there when Betty died, but I have witnessed other loved ones pass into the great beyond, so I know the feeling well, and those memories sprang to my mind when I learned of Betty’s death.
Two years ago, I had a bad dream about my papa, which then led to a “feeling” that time was of the essence to spend time with my grandparents. You see, they live in Washington and I in Las Vegas. Carting a family of four up to Washington is expensive. Papa and Betty used to come to Vegas a couple times a year and I’d see them then. Of course, throughout the year I’d call and write them (emails and letters) often, so we were always in touch. But about three years ago, they announced that they’d no longer be taking the trip south to Vegas because it was too hard on them.
So, after I had this dream and this instinct that we needed to get up to see them, I spoke with my husband about it and we decided we would deplete our entire savings, make some other large sacrifices, and spend a week up in Washington with my grandparents. As fate would have it, the day before we were to fly up to Washington, Betty’s sister who lived in Texas – died. Papa and Betty had to leave and fly out to Texas. Well, all of my travel arrangements were non-refundable (aka – the cheapest options). So, we went on vacation in Washington. It was a great time, but not what we’d hoped for. Then, I started to question my “gut feelings.”
I remember speaking to Betty about her sister’s death, telling her how sorry I was, even though her sister was in her 90s. And Betty said something to me I’ll never forget. She said, “Everyone thinks that just because a person is in their later years that they’re not afraid of death, and that is the farthest thing from the truth. It’s a frightening, horrible, awful thing that must be done. And you’re never, ever ready for it.”
Betty was afraid of death, like almost everyone is, and it’s been really bugging me the past week at the services to hear the pastors say that she met her death with peace, because she didn’t. She was terrified, to the very end.
Over the last two years, I’ve worried about Papa, but never – ever- about Betty. My sense of urgency and anxiety was always about him. So, when Betty went in for her routine heart doc’s appt. last Monday, it never occurred to me that she would be dead on Thursday, and it certainly never occurred to her either.
But the thing that really, truly strikes my heart is that she was aware of all that was happening around her -at least in the beginning, and that she was afraid. How the hell do you live with a thing like that?
Death is a very surreal, sad thing. And I wish I had a better attitude about it. I believe in God. Let me rephrase, I believe in Jesus. I believe, but am also a doubter. And I think that’s okay, because I don’t think we are all meant to be sheep who do not question. Doubting keeps me searching. But never is my doubt stronger than when a loved one dies. But there is one thing that always persists in these dark moments of life.
We grieve with hope. That is the Christian distinction. We grieve with hope of a forever. But I’m not going to pretend that the hope portion is dominant. It is a small, sometimes seemingly infinitesimal fraction of all that we feel.
But it is there. And to it, I cling.
Okay, so obviously, I’ve been on hiatus from my blog for a while, and not just the blog – pretty much any social media where my author profile is concerned.
Many times, on this blog and elsewhere, I’ve mentioned my struggles with the balancing act: trying to keep the home happy and thriving as well as my own personal endeavors where writing is concerned. Well, without going into too much detail, I had some medical issues/scares from spring until mid-summer that yanked things sharply back into focus in my life. Thanks to God, those things have settled themselves for the most part, but I will say that for all of the angst and anxiety of this year, I feel like I’ve found my “happy place” again.
When you’re an indie author, it’s all about marketing and networking if you actually want to sale some books. Back when I first started publishing, my mindset was more of “I’ll just write what I write, when I write it, and put it out there.” Period. The work ends there.
But let me tell you – rising sales/royalties and good reviews are addicting.
Soon, I went from being part of one GR group to being very active in several. I opened a Twitter Account, a Facebook account and began regular postings. I solicited reviews from bloggers the world over as well as other romance-associated publications. I offered to do reviews in return. I wrote guest blogs for other romance authors and asked for “featured author” spotlights. I ran sales and promotions on my books and advertised the crap out of them. I became a judge in several writing contests. I became a reviewer for The Romance Reviews. I dove fiercely into the third book in my western series – determined to meet readers’ cries of “Hurry! I can’t wait for the next book!”
Did I sell more books? Did I make a bunch of money? Did I see more great reviews of my books? Absolutely.
But I also gained fifteen pounds since March, lost copious amounts of sleep, gained a wealth of stress to meet my own demands, and ended up having to drink a glass or two of wine each night just to relax enough to enjoy my kids. That’s why I feel my medical issues were a Godsend – a forced timeout.
When I thought I was dying (yes, a bit dramatic, I know, but when you’re a mother of young children, any time something goes wrong with your body you automatically torture yourself into saying goodbye to your kids…), I examined my regrets. I regretted not finishing Ruby’s Song. I regretted not being fitter and healthier, but most of all I regretted the idea of leaving my kids without the best memories they could have of me. Would they remember that I was always too tired to play with them? Would their lasting images of their mother be me at the computer, fingers whizzing over the keys with a glass of wine at my elbow? The thought tore at my heart.
So, I made a decision. I took a GIANT step back from promoting myself as an author and decided to work on the three biggest regrets I had. First, I made a summer bucket list of sixty activities for me and the kids to do together before the end of summer, and we’ve been busy doing just that: ticking things off the list and making wonderful memories in the process.
I’ve promised myself that I’d do my writing on Ruby’s Song only at night after both kids are in bed. I wish I could say I’ve cut out alcohol altogether, but I haven’t. But I have seriously cut back. I got a gym membership and work out after work. The kids can go play in the playroom with other children (a great thing for homeschooled kids).
Just these small changes in lifestyle have produced wondrous results. I feel closer to my kids than ever, and see much more consistent good behavior from them. I feel like my writing has improved and I am excited when I start working on it again instead of feeling like I am forcing it because it HAS to get done before summer’s end. I have much more energy, feel more alert and get better sleep (notice I said “better” sleep, not “more” sleep. Can’t change everything all at once).
As far as my fitness goes, I’m doing things now that I haven’t been able to do in four years – since I had my daughter. I used to be a runner, and I’ve tried to get back into it since Abby was born, but it hasn’t worked out – either because lack of motivation and persistence, back pain from trying to run with an extra 20-25 pounds on my body, etc. But I told myself – no excuses. I am doing this!! Three weeks ago, I pushed myself to complete a twenty-minute run, even if I passed out trying! I completed the run with sweat pouring off of me everywhere, even dripping from my elbows, and then I did it two more times that week. Last week, I pushed my running time to 25 minutes on Monday. Did it again Tuesday and Thursday. Then ran 30 minutes on Friday. Last night, I ran 3.2 miles in 35 minutes.
Such progress in three main areas of my life has filled me with optimism (rare for me) and motivation. I feel hopeful. I feel happy. I feel blessed. My sales have dropped dramatically, but my life stock has skyrocketed.
The incomparable Regan Walker has invited me to guest blog on her wonderful site, Historical Romance Review with Regan Walker. Today, I’ll be sharing some of my research into the mining perils of the Nevada silver strike. Come by and read the post and feel free to comment. One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of Silver Nights With You.
The Site is here:
I found this old article that I wrote about 11 years ago for a paper in Reno around Halloween. It features Virginia City, Nevada, which is the setting for my Love in the Sierras Series. I thought it would be fun to post it here. Enjoy, and as the title says, every word of it is true….
Thursday night came and the snow followed it in thick sheets. I pulled into the parking lot of the Sugarloaf Mountain Motel and realized that silence had settled over the town along with the snow. The stores were closed, the streets abandoned, and the parking lot empty. Virginia City, Nev. may have more than 1,500 residents, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a ghost town. In fact, some would argue exactly the opposite.
The Sugarloaf’s owner, Joyce Hinzpeter, said she bought the motel seven years ago with her husband Don when they moved from Winnemucca, Nev. to Virginia City and that they were unaware of the motel’s ghostly residents at the time they bought it. However, it has been an added bonus for the couple who has spent many vacations traveling the south and eastern parts of the U.S. perusing centuries-old cemeteries and other places said to be haunted.
The motel, which rests 3,000 feet above abandoned mine shafts, has a history of more than 130 years. It was built in 1870.
“This area was kind of the rough end of town, even though they had a school,” Hinzpeter said.
Amidst brothels and boarding houses, Hinzpeter said that the original four rooms, numbers 1, 2, 3 and 14 whose original metal shudders still hang, were once a market and a butcher shop, and that the other four units of the motel were brought over from South
Lake Tahoe in the 1940s, shortly after the place became a motel and was named after the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain.
A stable and garage once stood where the motel’s convenience store now stands, and the foundation of a 5-story boarding house peaks up through the ground when the gravel gets low in the parking lot.
Hinzpeter and her husband entertained me with stories of the motel’s hauntings. She said that a woman who stayed in Room 1 had complained the next morning of the bed covers constantly being pulled off throughout the night. A truck driver who lodged in the same room on a different night had woken them in the middle of the night, asking for another room.
“My husband had asked him what was wrong with the room, you know, in case there was a problem,” Hinzpeter said. “The truck driver said: ‘I just don’t feel alone in there.’”
Mr. Hinzpeter told another story of a group of lodgers who had taken a brick from the foundation of the boarding house before leaving. Weeks after they had gone, they returned with the brick along with stories of the bad luck they were experiencing since taking the brick, including nearly two car wrecks, sicknesses and shortcomings at work. After the brick was replaced in its original position, a follow-up phone call was received from the lodgers, explaining that everything had returned to normal.
Hinzpeter said that every year in October, a group of people from throughout the U.S. come to Virginia City and stay the night in a few of the haunted motels and hotels, the Sugarloaf being one of them.
“They bring with them cameras and all sorts of equipment and check out the activity,” Hinzpeter said, and added with a laugh, “They’re sort of like Ghostbusters.”
She said they have detected up to 15 ghosts that roam back and forth between Rooms 1 and 3, and that the ghosts do not appear in human-like forms, but instead come in the presence of light orbs.
Avon Leonard said she has been searching for ghosts consistently for the past eight to 10 years.
“I pretty much make this my life,” Leonard said. “I don’t believe anyone can be an authority on ghosts, but I know just about as much about it as anyone can know.”
Leonard, who has been featured on the History Channel’s “Haunted Nevada” segment on Virginia City, as well as having been on Radio-Free Europe and featured in newspaper articles, said she has been roaming the streets of Virginia City during both day and night, camera in hand, since 1999 to investigate the spirits.
“Every year I get photos that will knock your socks off,” Leonard said. “I’m very well-versed in what’s going on up there.”
Leonard, who is currently investigating the Silver Queen, said that she and a friend stayed in the Sugarloaf’s haunted Rooms 1 and 3 several times. She said that when she stayed in Room 1, she heard voices speaking and that although the voices were loud enough, she could not discern the words because they were somewhat garbled. However, she said that she did hear her name being spoken very clearly in that room.
While she and her friend were in Room 3, sitting on the bed talking and looking at photographs, Leonard said they could see light orbs darting through the air and through the walls.
“They zip with the speed of a jet airplane,” Leonard said. “We know the difference between them and insects. If you say that you can see them, then they dart through the walls because they can hear you.”
I, along with two of my friends, decided to see for myself.
The snowstorm began in the early evening and lasted through the night, yet the space between the brick walls of Room 3 offered little comfort and little sleep. The room was stifling. Atop the blankets and restless, I watched the clock on the bedside stand tick on to midnight then 1 a.m. and finally to 2 a.m.
I felt a slight pressure on the small of my back. Slowly, it strengthened and finally pushed, ramming my 160-pound body over the side of the bed and crashing onto the floor. I peered through the darkness for the source of the push. It was only me in the room, but I was not alone.
I crept back onto the bed and waited without taking a breath. The scent of flowers filled the air. I reached out toward the place where I had been lying seconds earlier. My hand swept through the air and then struck something solid. I applied pressure to it, and it pressed back.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness, revealing my solitary hand suspended in mid-air. I saw it retreating back to my body while feeling the push that made it do so. I panicked and thrust both arms toward the invisible culprit, propelling it away from me.
I sat in the middle of the bed, stunned and panting. I calmed and waited. Seconds seemed like hours, and I finally reconsidered sleeping again. I let out a sigh and the next
breath caught in my throat as what felt like two arms gripped me around the neck from behind, constricting and preventing me from breathing.
My hands went to my throat to pry the arms away. My body began to feel weightless as I realized I was being hoisted off the bed. My toes slid across the blanket, then felt it no more. Opposite the bed, I met my reflection in the mirror above a desk. My levitated body thrashed and writhed against a force I could not see even in the mirror.
“Stop,” I choked. “Stop.”
Gasping against the collapsing walls of my throat, fear seized me. The pressure grew and I pleaded once more.
My eyes flew open. Beads of sweat trickled down my face. My chest heaved with every intake of breath as I lay on my back. I rolled onto my side to confirm that my companions had not left the room. A sigh of relief escaped me at the sight of two sleeping bodies. My breathing eased into a calm rhythm.
“It was a nightmare,” I thought as I smiled in the dark.
I turned, facing the wall and closed my eyes to sleep. A sweet and floral fragrance wafted up to my nostrils. I opened my eyes, shuddered and decided that sleep was not an option.
A camcorder sat facing the wall adjacent to the front door and the inside of the bathroom recording film throughout the night. Upon investigating the tape the next day, our eyes greeted a multitude of spherical objects zooming in and out of the camera shot. Some shone, some were dull, but all raced with smooth and distinct movements.
I took one of those silly online quizzes to determine the age of my soul. Those tests are always fun and comical, and sometimes they even ring true. I was given the age of more than 500 years for my soul, and was told that it birthed during the Renaissance. The analysis went on to say that I am often deeply touched by art, music, poetry, etc to the point of tears, and that is the result of my soul aching for the days of its birth.
Well, I know one thing for certain. The first part of that sentence is absolutely true. I have often been moved to tears by the beauty of art. I can’t listen to an orchestra without goosebumps pimpling my skin and water tugging at the backs of my eyes. Certain passages of writing, paintings, sculptures, photographs will have the same effect, but the strongest artistic area to incite an emotional response from me is, by far, music. Such a beautiful language!
It should come as no surprise, then, that I often plot and write to music. I use music all the time for inspiration on pacing, scenes, and just overall vibe of a story. While I’m immersed in writing a story, I tend to find a small sampling of music that encapsulate the text for me and I’ll listen to them repeatedly. The cool thing about that is when the book is published and I’m moved onto another project, I can still go back to my other stories with a simple press on my iPod.
Everyone imagines things differently. So, I’ve no idea if my readers see my characters and stories the way I do, but in case any of you are wondering what kind of music or songs I think have encapsulated the “feel” of my stories, I’ve provided the answer for you! If our imaginations have synced up, cool. If not, at least you get to enjoy some cool music in the process!
Silver Nights With You – For this one, I went to the soundtrack of my favorite western (in fact, favorite “movie”) of all time. Lonesome Dove. I listened to that entire soundtrack a ton, imagining all of the tender moments between Lila and Morgan, envisioning the danger and the comedy, imagining the awe of the first view of the Washoe Valley. Here is a small sampling of the greatness that is the Lonesome Dove soundtrack, and if you haven’t seen the mini-series, you are seriously missing out.
Desert Sunrise – For the sequel to Silver Nights, I went with the father of American folk music. Due to the musical themes and influence of the characters in the story, I mentioned several songs by name. If you happen to be a geek like me, you will have noticed that all of the songs and lyrics in the story are all from Stephen Foster songs (with the exception of Ave Maria at the end). So, here are a few that I listened to quite frequently while writing Desert Sunrise, imagining how the powerful lyrics would have affected Jess as she thought about her cares and worries.
And, appropriately, for the scene of the hide races, I listened to this gem (not Stephen Foster):
Love of a Lioness – A few different styles of music went into thinking about/writing this medieval romance “adventure.” I had slower, more celtic sounding songs for the intense dramatic moments, but I listened to some up tempo and modern music to inspire the battle scenes. The first song I’m going to offer you is one that I must have spent a month’s worth of hours listening to. I envisioned the finale mapped out to this music, beginning with Isabeau standing on the railing of a ship, eyeing the coast of France just before diving off to swim ashore and rescue her knight. I know it doesn’t sound medieval, but you gotta admit – it still sounds pretty bad ass. 🙂
This was another one I went to for inspiration on other battle scenes:
This was another I listened to in order to imagine more sedate scenes, those during training, on calmer seas, more intimate moments.
Big Sky Eyes – for this contemporary cowboy tale, I went with Blake Shelton all the way. I love that guy, and I think his song, Mine Would Be You, captures the entire tale of Brent and Mackenna. I listened to it repeatedly, picturing scenes from their years together.
For quieter, more internal thoughts and moments, I liked these:
NOW, for a treat! I am in the middle of working on two manuscripts. One, many of you may know as Ruby’s Song, which is the third installment of the Love in the Sierras Series. The other is a contemporary that takes place in the Caribbean. I haven’t named that one yet, though it is 70% written. For Ruby’s Song, I am really heavily into Catrin Finch and the soft lyrical sound of her harp playing. So, the current inspiration for Ruby’s Song scenes are these:
When I’m working on my contemporary, I hit up A&B Acoustic, Above and Beyond:
Whew!! That’s a lot of music…and I love it all!! 🙂
So, I just learned yesterday that (much to my surprise and delight) Silver Nights With You is up for an award with InD’Tale Magazine!! It’s the RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Award for American Historical Romance. The first round of judging opens today, which consists of public voting for the first week. Five finalists will move on to the next round, which will then be read by a group of industry professionals consisting of editors, writers, professors etc. and be judged on a one to five scale from a specific list of requirements such as characterization, overall arc, editing etc. Those scores will then be tallied by a professional company unrelated to InD’tale or its employees to determine the winner of the coveted RONE award, along with the honorable mentions. SO, I really need your support this week to go here and vote for my book:
Voting requires an account to be set up on the magazine’s website for free. I’d appreciate any and all support I can get!