Monday, December 31, 2012

Turning the Page on a New Year

It's that time of the year when we look back on what has been and then look forward with hope and promise to what might be.

2012 was a good year in so many ways. Two of my books were published and three more placed under contract for 2013.

Champagne Books         Wings ePress    
One of my novels, Love, Sam, won the 2012 EPIC eBook Award for Mainstream Fiction. After finaling four times, this was a huge event. I admit it made me smile and cry and dance and then dust the corner of the mantle to make a space for the award.

I learned I was nominated for the 2012 Author of the Year at Champagne Books.

My sister came to spend a week and we had a great time catching up and taking a few short walks down memory lane.

I got an idea for a new book set in a New England college town. This led me to Henniker, New Hampshire, the home of New England College, to vacation and do some research. Beautiful place to visit.

I made the brave decision to end my relationship with Lady Clairol and to go au naturale. I have to admit the new color is growing on me (no pun intended.)

It's been a year of continued world conflicts and wars. A year of political controversies and drama driven by partisanship. The upside is that people have certainly gotten more involved--or at least more vocal--about their concerns.

We saw tragedy strike across our country because of weather events and human madness.

My hopes for the New Year are that, first, Congress will stop digging in their heels and do their job working for what is in the best interest of our country and our people. I hope that we see an upturn in the economy. I hope that our men and women serving in the armed forces will soon be able to return to their families. I hope my books coming out in 2013 will be well-received and that readers will be entertained. I hope to make better choices when it comes to taking care of myself. (I don't make resolutions about dieting because I never keep them and then I just feel bad. So, I can only hope...)

I hope we can find some sensibility about gun control and do whatever we can to prevent the carnage we saw this year that claimed so many innocent lives.

I hope my family and friends enjoy good health and the prosperity they each need. I hope to attend at least one writer's conference in 2013 and to meet some other authors I've only gotten to know in cyberspace.

I hope Binky remains healthy and continues to take over my bed, my chair, my apartment and my heart, all the while making me smile.

Here's to 2013!

Let's welcome the New Year with a new attitude, and let's determine to do at least one thing every day that will make the world a better place for someone.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Christmas is often a time for remembering Christmases past.
Here are a few of my favorite memories captured on film.

My First Christmas (clearly someone couldn't spell with blocks).

The year I discovered my interest in music.
(I think the drum disappeared by day three.)

Dolls, dolls, dolls...then I finally got what I really wanted!

Uh-oh. Not everyone likes Santa.

Christmas at Grandma H's House

I don't recall if these dresses came with yodeling lessons.

Oh, yes. The years of big hair rollers (for Peggy) and The Beatles (for me).

Merry Christmas

from me and Binky.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A New Dawn

Well, we're still here and, so, assuming the Mayans were wrong. But were they? I've heard interpretations today about the end of the Mayan calendar simply meaning that we start over with a new calendar. If that's the case, then today is New Year's Day--a new dawning--a chance to start fresh.

I like this interpretation. I like the idea that we can face our own mortality, in a sense, and decide to change for the future. I'm not talking New Year's resolutions here. You know--those promises we make ourselves to lose weight, save money, etc. and then don't keep.

I want to see this new dawning as an opportunity to do better in the world. We've been so focused on "the end" that we've failed to consider this might be "the beginning" of something new. A sunrise rather than the end of our world. Though it could well be the end of civilization as we know it. And that, my friends, could be a good thing. Let's make this a time to give birth to new civilization, stressing the 'civil' part.

I know what I can do, what I need to do, to make myself a better person and, thus, be a better presence in this world. How about you? Are you willing to change and make this a new dawning in your life? What might the world be like if we all do just one thing differently to be kinder, more accepting, more understanding, less violent, less self-centered, and to focus on the ways we humans are more alike than on our differences. What could happen? Well, we know the world won't end.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I've Been Nominated

I've been nominated for the 2012 Author of the Year at Champagne Books...
and I'm in some very good company on this list:

Nominees for Author Of The Year:
Ute Carbone
Linda Rettstatt
Misa Buckley
Rita Bay
Ron Hore

Nominations for Novel Of The Year:

Blood on the Moon by Cassiel Knight
The P-Town Queen by Ute Carbone
Eleanor's Heart by Misa Buckley
A Taste Of Evil by Christina Carlisle
The Face On Miss Fanny's Wall by Gwyneth Greer
The Mutatio Project by J.A. Garland

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Crushing Sadness

Where have all the children gone...?

I have spent this day trying to find some sense in the senselessness of the murderous rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. There is none. And I am heartsick.

Children are supposed to be safe in school. They're supposed to laugh and learn, to play and misbehave, to share secrets with friends and pass notes and get caught. They're supposed to complain about the amount of homework they're given. They're supposed to be excited about the upcoming Christmas break. But they are not supposed to die in their classrooms at the hands of a too well-armed deranged young man.

Parents are supposed to be rushed and hurry their kids off to school. They're supposed to argue with them about their clothes, their refusal to eat breakfast, and their homework when they come home at the end of the school day. They are not supposed to get a call telling them the school is in lockdown because a gunman has fired on their children. They are not supposed to be overcome with fear that their child is one of the twenty killed and to then feel both relief and guilt at learning their child survived--but someone else's did not. Parents are supposed to be planning the many ways they will surprise their children at Christmas. They are not supposed to be planning funerals.

Our world has gone crazy. Events like this were rare when I was a child, even when I was a young adult. We had guns. We had drugs. We had mentally ill people. And, yet, events like this were rare. It makes me wonder. I wonder what has changed that has propelled those fragile minded among us to commit such a heinous act as this. As a society, we can search for a reason or somewhere to assign blame. If we had gun control, this wouldn't happen. I happen to be in favor of gun control, but I don't believe it's the entire solution. If people walked closer with God, this wouldn't happen. Ah, but God gave us all free will and even in a Christian society, mentally unstable people walk along side us. If kids weren't exposed to so much violence in movies and video games, they wouldn't grown up to be violent adults. Well, I grew up watching the Three Stooges, and I don't go around physically assaulting people. But I agree that kids today are exposed to more violence through media than we were in my generation as children.

If...If...If... We look for political, cultural, and religious rationales. Meanwhile, the insanity continues.

We are seeing more horrendous, more frequent acts of violence perpetrated randomly, often with no clear connection between the perpetrator and the victims. Violence is escalating day by day in our society. It seems to me we need to retrace our steps. We need to work backwards to see where it all began to change. What are we doing now? What is going on in daily lives now that pushes people over the line of sanity and reason to act with such anger and disregard for human life?

I won't pretend to know the answers. I believe this: that the answer is behind us. The answer is in our past, in a time that was kinder, gentler, more patient and understanding.

I can't begin to imagine the anger, sorrow and grief of the families in Connecticut. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. God help them.

And if we don't soon find the answer and stop killing one another and murdering our children--God help us all.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Free Read Friday - Reinventing Christmas

TV news reporter M.J. Rich sees the end in sight of her relationship with WCL meteorologist Dan Sevier. She decides a nice, traditional family Christmas is in order, and heads home to Pittsburgh from Charleston, SC. Brady Cameron, Triton Communications CEO, will be spending Christmas alone at a Pennsylvania ski resort and nursing a broken heart. The two meet when a winter storm strands them both in the Philadelphia airport. They agree to share the last rental vehicle available. But worsening road conditions force them to take shelter in an abandoned cabin in the Pennsylvania mountains.


Snow pelted the windshield and crusted on the wiper blades. "We should go back. At least there are people and parking lots in Breezewood," M.J. said.

"Do you see any place where we can safely turn around? There's no room, and pulling off a u-turn next this cliff on ice is not my idea of a good time. We're doing okay. This thing has amazing traction."

A billboard loomed ahead of them and read: Mountain Bliss Cabins,
Turn right, one mile.

M.J. pointed to the sign. "Maybe we should try there."

"Good idea. This stuff is turning to pure ice. We have the snack food and drinks I picked up before we left Breezewood. That'll at least get us through the night." Brady tapped the brakes and slowed the van to a crawl before making the right turn.

Ahead, a blanket of pure white buried the road. He stopped. "I don't know about this."

"Just drive straight down the middle and go slow. We can't possibly hit anybody. We're the only fools out in this."

He pressed the gas pedal, the wheels spun, and the van lurched forward. Tree branches, weighted down with heavy snow, smacked against the sides of vehicle.

"Stop!" M.J. shrieked.

Reflexively, Brady stomped on the brake. The van spun around, slid sideways, then nose-dived off the road and into a ditch.

For a moment, the two of them sat in stunned silence. Brady broke the silence. "What the hell is wrong with you, screaming for me to stop?"

"You missed the turn into the cabins. It was back there."

"You couldn't have just said, 'Excuse me, Brady, but we need to turn here.' You had to yell? I thought you saw a deer or something."

"Well, back up out of this ditch and turn around."

Brady opened his door and walked around the van. He returned and stood staring at her. "This van isn't going anywhere. One rear wheel is completely off the ground. You'll need to climb across the seat and come out my side."

"Can't you rock it?"

"Rock it? This thing weighs a ton. Are you crazy? Come on. We'll walk back to the cabins." He was already behind the van, removing their bags and the supplies.

M.J. worked her way over the console and to the driver's door. Given the angle of the vehicle, the drop to the ground was nearly five feet. "Brady, can you give me a hand here?"

"Sure." He stood and opened his arms, waiting for her to leap into them.

"I just need a hand down."

"Fine." He stepped back and offered his hand.

M.J. clutched his hand and stepped out of the van. And she sank into freezing snow up to the middle of her calves. "Holy…" She shivered. "I can't walk in this."

"Get back into the van and wait for me. I'll go and see if they have a truck or a snowmobile or something. Don't keep the engine running, though. I don't know how much damage we've done."

"We? You were driving." He glared at her, and she considered silence might be her best option. "Fine. Boost me back up. God, I can't feel my feet."

He gave her a lift up and then reached into his duffle and produced a towel. "Here, you can dry off with this. Don't worry. It's clean."

"You packed your own towels?"

"I don't like hotel towels. You should be grateful. Don't go anywhere, and don't let the bears in."

"Bears?" But he was gone before she could protest any further.

"Don't let the bears in," she muttered. Her frozen fingers fumbled in her purse to locate her cell phone. She flipped it open and stared at the little phone circling the screen: Searching for service. "This is just great. How can I be on the top of a mountain and not get a cell signal?" She shoved the useless device back into her purse.

Ten minutes later, a growling sound made her whirl around in her seat. A snowmobile sputtered its way toward the van. Brady spun it around so it faced the direction from which he had come. He pulled open the door.

"We're all set. Nice, cozy cabin. A little rustic, maybe, but…"

"I don't care. I want out of this van and inside where it's warm." She clambered down, and he caught her and carried her to the snowmobile. "Your chariot awaits, m'lady. Hold on."

She wrapped her arms around his middle and pressed her cheek to his back. Ice pelted her exposed cheek and wind bit through her flimsy blazer. The vehicle jerked forward and skimmed over the tracks it had made getting to her. No cars or trucks were parked at any of the cabins or at the one marked Office. "There's no one here."

"Just you and me." He pulled up to the steps of a ramshackle log cabin. "Home, sweet home."

But she remained seated. "Did you break in?"

"Define break in. I got the door open. I didn't break anything to do it. Now get inside before you freeze to death, and I have to explain your body to the police. I'm going to check around back and see if there's more firewood. Maybe I can get some from one of the other cabins."


Again, he was gone. 'But' seemed to be a magical word that propelled him from her hearing distance. At her touch, the door creaked open and M.J. peered inside. The room was dark and smelled like old, wet fireplace. She wrinkled her nose. Stepping inside, she glanced around at the sparse and shabby furnishings. How long had it been since anyone stayed here? She heard a scratching sound and something skittered across the floor. In two strides, M.J. crossed to the center of the room and leaped up onto the wooden coffee table.

Brady appeared at the open door with an armload of cut wood.

"What now?"

"A m-mouse or something. It went that way." She pointed toward the kitchen area.

"Just one mouse?" He dumped the wood beside the fireplace.

"You think there are more?"

He regarded her for a moment, then said, "Of course not. They don't travel in groups. You want to wad up some newspaper so we can get a fire started? I'll get another load of wood and bring it inside to dry out."

"But the mouse…"

"I'm sure he's well hidden by now. You probably scared the daylights out of him."

"I scared him?"

"No doubt. You're starting to scare me. I'll be right back."


He closed the door, leaving her alone in the dimly-lit room.

She stared at the stack of old newspaper filling a box in the corner. Getting to it required getting down from the table. She scanned the room, but saw no movement. Slowly, she set one foot on the floor, followed by the other. She picked up one newspaper and rolled it for use as a weapon, should the rodent decide to reappear. Rolling and scrunching sheets of paper, she arranged the material in the metal grate.

Brady returned and, while he finished building the fire, she removed her laptop from its case and turned it on. The battery was low. She connected the AC cord. "Did you see a plug anywhere?"

"There aren't any."

"What do you meant there aren't any plugs? There have to be plugs."

"No electricity."

She started to say, "But…" then hesitated, fearful the utterance would send him out of the room. "How are we supposed to have light and hot water? There is a bathroom, isn't there?"


The way he stretched the word made her nervous. "And it's indoors?"


"Why do you keep saying that?"

"There is an indoor toilet. It's out the back door, inside the outhouse."

"You have got to be kidding."

He struck a match and the newspapers burst into flame, the damp wood crackling. "I'm not amusing. You've already made that clear." He stood and brushed his hands off on his jeans. "Look, let's get a few things straight. We could be stuck here for a couple of days, so…"

"Couple of days? But it's Christmas. My family's expecting me."

"Oh, well in that case, I'll just have to make all this nasty snow go away, and I'll use my super powers to lift the van out of the ditch so you can have cocoa and gingerbread cookies all ready for Santa."

"There's no need for sarcasm."

"That wasn't sarcasm. It was realism. I'm no happier than you are to be stuck here. I'm supposed to be in a world-class, five-star resort hotel with a hot tub and a very expensive bottle of scotch. Alone. But I'm stuck here in the middle of nowhere in a bare-bones hunting cabin with you. So I suggest we find a way to make the best of it."

M.J. couldn't help it. The tears threatening throughout the day spilled their banks.

Brady frowned. "Oh, please. Don't cry. I can take anything but crying."

"I can't help it. I don't like to be yelled at."

He huffed out a breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I'm tired, and I'm just as frustrated as you are. Look, let's agree not to complain any more. There's nothing we can do about the situation, at least not tonight. I gathered up oil lamps. Let's get them lit and, if we need more, I'll scavenge one of the other cabins. Why don't you check the bedroom for blankets? We'll have to sleep out here by the fire if we're going to keep warm."

"We? You take the sofa. I'll sleep in the bedroom."

"There's no heat in there, and I doubt the fireplace with give off that much warmth. You'll freeze."

"No, I won't. Surely, as you said, there are blankets on the bed."

"Yes, and what am I supposed to use?"

She considered his efforts to be helpful to her. Without him, she would still be sitting in the Philadelphia airport. At least now, she was halfway home. And the warm glow of the fire was much more inviting than the shadowed darkness of the bedroom. He was right. They were stuck together in a bad situation and both of them needed to make the best of it.

M.J. drew herself up to her full height, trying to look formidable. "Okay. But you should know I've studied karate and, if you try any funny stuff, I'll flip you six ways to Sunday." Some day she would look back on this and laugh. Probably not for forty years. But someday.

"Understood. I'll move the sofa over closer to the fireplace, and I'll sleep in the chair." He lit an oil lamp and handed it to her. "The bedroom is behind the half wall over there. See what kind of bedding you can find."

As Brady lit more lamps, the small cabin took on a cozy glow, and warmth emanated from the blazing fire. In other circumstances, the setting would be considered cozy, romantic. M.J. shook her head to dislodge the thought. She opened drawers and removed musty-smelling wool blankets and a set of graying, scratchy sheets. A faded comforter covered the bed and two lumps she hoped were pillows. She withdrew the comforter and a cloud of dust spewed into the air. M.J. waved a hand in front of her face and coughed.

"I'm going to trek over to the office and see if there's a way in," Brady called. "Maybe they have some staples stored there."

M.J. stuck her head around the wall. "You're leaving me here? Alone?"

He grinned. "You won't be alone. Mickey's here—somewhere." And with that happy thought, he strode out the door.

She shuddered and scanned the floor. No movement. Mickey probably had the good sense to move to another cabin. One without a century of dust. She carried the blankets to the sofa and dropped them, then returned for the dust-laden comforter. Opening the front door, she stepped out into the frigid cold. She held out the comforter and whipped it in the air the way she had seen her grandmother do with bedding. A gust of wind forced the acrid dust back into her face, and she sputtered and spat out dirt. "Crap."

She dropped the comforter on a chair and carried a lamp to the kitchen area in the back of cabin. She surveyed the few cabinets and found a mismatched set of dishes and foggy-looking drinking glasses. "Oh, yuck. Mountain Bliss my ass."

"What about your ass?"

She startled. "Never mind my ass. This place is…"

He lifted an eyebrow to her, and she halted, mid-complaint. "This cabin will at least keep us out of the cold," she continued.

"Yes, it will. And if the cabin doesn't do it, this will help." He reached into the brown bag he carried and removed two bottles. "Say hello to Scotch and Brandy."

"Is that all you…? I mean, great. Was there anything else that might be useful?"

He produced a box of instant oatmeal packets, two cans of baked beans with little wieners cut up in them, a can of potatoes, and a bag of marshmallows appearing to be just a little petrified. "Breakfast, dinner, and

M.J. bit her tongue.

"We can heat our food over the fire. I saw a cast iron skillet on the stove."

"But if there's a stove, why can't we use it?"

"Because it runs on propane, and I already checked. The tank's empty. Come on, this'll be fun. Just like Girl Scout camp."

"I was not a Girl Scout."

"Well, it's never too late to start."

He seemed to be enjoying this way too much. She had two choices: lighten up and join him, or seem like the Grinch. Why make a bad situation worse? M.J. plastered on her TV smile and followed him back to the living room where he was already moving the furniture.

She took the opposite end of the sofa and pushed. "Damn, this thing's

He stepped back. "You're right. Too heavy to be only a sofa." He lifted the cushions and smiled. "Jackpot! It's a sleeper sofa. Stand back." He jerked on the bed and it groaned and scraped as it unfolded. "We're in luck."

"What do you mean 'we'? I get the sofa. You said so."

"You're going to make me sleep in a chair when there's a perfectly good queen-sized sleeper right here?"

She considered his point. "Fine. But keep your clothes on. And wrap up in your own blankets."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," he growled as he positioned the bed in front of the fireplace.

M.J. looked at him then. Really looked at him. The firelight softened his features and smoothed the sharp angle of his jaw. His blue eyes sparkled like ice, and his lips pressed together with concentration as he gave the heavy sleeper sofa a final shove into place. And then she remembered she knew nothing about this man but his name and the New York address on his driver's license. She pulled her flimsy jacket closer as a chill swept through her.

* * *

Get your copy of Reinventing Christmas in ebook or trade paperback from Champagne Books.
Also available at and B&

Happy Reading, Linda