Birthdays Keep Coming Even When They’re No Longer Here

Exploring the Aftermath of Love and Loss. This is the fourth in this series.

A birthday is just a date on the calendar, but every date is someone’s birthday somewhere. When that someone is no longer with us their absence can turn the day into one of sadness. Remembering our loved one, the life they lived, the happiness they brought, and the love they shared, can make all the difference.

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 90 years old. Celebrating his birthday is bittersweet because any thought of him evokes sadness and grief, but on the other side there’s joy in remembering the life and love we shared.

I unexpectedly lost him at the tender age of 15 when he succumbed to a heart attack one lazy Sunday morning at home, and life was never the same. As a teen, I was aware of heart attacks and knew they were bad, but I had no idea of the extensive damage they caused, not only to the one who’s heart was attacked but to the devastated family left behind. It’s been a lifelong lesson in loss that started too early.

Our Shared Birthdays

Dad and I celebrated our birthdays together because mine is on the 17th. He called me his “birthday present.” We were born 30 years apart and are the only members of my nuclear family born in winter. Everyone else has a summer birthday, three of them just two weeks apart. Lots of parties in July! But in the dead of winter only he and I shared the joys of birthday cake and presents together and it was very special. I think of him today and reminisce on what a gift he was not only to me but to everyone who had the privilege to know him.

Ted “Bunky” Kasica was a good man. It’s been 44 years since he passed and I don’t think anyone who loved him ever got over it. In honor of his birthday I’d like to tell you about him.

A Military Man

Dad was the 11th of twelve children born to Polish immigrants in South Boston. His own father unexpectedly died when he was just three years old. He never finished high school but enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. In spite of his humble roots, his early life was one grand adventure. The Army took him out of South Boston and stationed him in Germany and Austria. His love for that life is clearly documented in the few photographs I have of him as a young soldier: Parachuting out of airplanes, skiing in Austria, and competing as an amateur lightweight boxer. We have more photos of my father from this stage of his life than what came after. Back in the ’60’s and ‘70’s people didn’t always have a camera at hand and we were too busy experiencing life to document it. I still haven’t figured out if that’s good or bad, but I wish we had more photos of him.

Once home from the Army he soon met my mother and fell in love, married, and settled down at the age of 28 to a quiet life as a cabinetmaker, with four children, a mortgage, and heart trouble. I never knew exactly what the problem was but he was on Digoxin and saw a cardiologist so it most likely wasn’t good. His family suffered rheumatic fever when he was a child and most were left with heart damage, so maybe that was it. When I developed Wolf Parkinson White syndrome in my 40’s my electrophysiologist surmised that’s probably what killed my dad. We will never know, and there’s no use wasting time wondering about it.

A Family Man

Daddy
Some of the few pictures we have of my Dad: in the Army, as a young man out on the town, with his brood of four, and holding the biggest catch of his life.

My father was a man who loved his family, his children, and spent all of his time with us. He was an avid fisherman and loved boats. His skill as a cabinetmaker allowed him to refurbish a couple of old wrecks and we spent many evenings and weekends skimming a pond, bass fishing. Other nights we swam in his favorite fishing holes while he fished from shore, casting for catfish. Winter presented no obstacles, because he loved to ice fish, and I recall many afternoons out on the ice practicing my skating in the bitter cold while he dangled for a catch.

My mother worked nights and Dad watched over us. We played games, swam in the city pool, worked in his wood shop, tended to his garden, and listened to Red Sox and Bruins games, or the classical music he loved: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart. I grew up in a musical house. The last gift he gave me was an acoustic guitar, and he took me for lessons every Thursday night. It was precious time alone with him, sharing something we both loved. Foolishly, I gave up on the guitar shortly after he passed. I’ve regretted it ever since.

A Working Man

My dad went to work every day, six days a week, to a job he didn’t always want to go to, but he shouldered his responsibilities like a man and made sure a paycheck came home with him every Friday night. He was a daily presence in his children’s lives, doling out love and fun generously, and discipline reluctantly. He shared what he loved with us, and taught us an appreciation for many precious things: Nature, music, family. He gave of himself, his time, and his talents. Toys and trinkets would never make up for his loss.

A Great Man

We thought we’d have him forever. His death was a shock. But he left us with something not everyone gets, no matter how long they have their father: The blueprint for how to be a a good person, a great man.

On this day I carry him in my thoughts and heart, sharing my memories with the world because you didn’t have to know him to know he was special, and although he is no longer with us I celebrate his birthday.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Dad!

About This Series

This is a new series for this blog. The last few months – no, the last few years – have been difficult for me. There’s been a lot of loss and change, most of it unexpected, some of it for good reasons. I’m generally an optimistic person but even I have my breaking point. I’ve run into it a few times lately. This has left my mind churning and I find myself with so much to say, so much to work out. Writing has always been a means to my seeking clarity, so I decided to use my blog to figure things out. Welcome to The Grief Diary. Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.

New Release Spotlight! Georgia Bride, Historical Romance from Danielle Thorne

He wants to desert.

She intends to win no matter the cost.

Georgia 1864

Ruth Ann Talley works at the Sweetwater mill that’s now a Confederate factory. Her pa and brother are dead, food is scarce, and the Yankees are closing in on Atlanta. She’ll probably never live to have a family of her own, but she won’t give up on the Cause.

Lieutenant Jonah Baker is tempted to abscond from his new assignment until he crosses paths with Ruth Ann. His departed best friend’s sister has grown into a fearless, beautiful woman, but she’s as patriotic and independent as he is disillusioned. No matter how often Jonah warns her the factory is not worth fighting for, Ruth Ann can’t be convinced to take her mother and siblings and run away.

When Ruth Ann finds herself face to face with the Yankee Army, she realizes she should have never fought for a cause she didn’t understand, while Jonah must decide between what is honorable and true, and what to do about the woman who stole his heart.

Can love be found in a country torn by war?

Start reading Georgia Bride now!

About the Author

Danielle Thorne is the author of classic romance and adventure in several genres. She loves Jane Austen, pirates, beaches, cookies, cats, dogs, and long naps. She doesn’t like phone calls or sushi. A graduate of BYU-Idaho, Danielle saw early work published by Arts and Prose Magazine, Mississippi Crow, The Nantahala Review, StorySouth, and… you get the idea. Besides writing, she’s edited for both Solstice and Desert Breeze Publishing. Her growing blog, The Balanced Writer, focuses on writing, life, and the pursuit of peace and happiness. Currently, Danielle freelances as a non-fiction author while waiting to hear from readers like you through her website. During free time, which means when Netflix is down, she combs through feedback and offers virtual hugs for reviews. Her next historical romance is coming soon.

Connect with Danielle Thorne

Website

Twitter

The Balanced Writer

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may earn a small commission from book sales.

New Release Spotlight! Lilly Mirren’s Bungalow on Pelican Way

New Release Spotlight Lilly Mirren Bungalow

The dramatic continuation of the Emerald Cove saga from USA Today Bestselling Author Lilly Mirren.

Moving to the Cove gave Rebecca De Vries a place to hide from her abusive ex. Now that he’s in jail, she can get back to living her life as a police officer in her adopted hometown working alongside her intractable but very attractive boss, Franklin.

When Franklin’s ex-fiancee comes back to town it will disrupt everything developing between the two of them.

Cindy’s ex-husband has returned to the Cove as well, along with the woman he left her for. And it isn’t long before his presence disrupts Cindy’s burgeoning relationship with the town doctor, his former best friend. A face-off with the girlfriend throws Cindy into a tailspin, but in the end she’ll have to make a decision about what, or who, is more important to her.

Meg and Brad get some good news, but with his paraplegia they’ll learn once again that nothing is as easy now as they’d hoped it would be.

Please note: This book is the third installment in the ongoing Emerald Cove saga.

Bungalow

Start reading now!

About Lilly Mirren

Lilly Mirren is a USA Today Bestselling author. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and three children.

She always dreamed of being a writer​ and is now living that dream. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her children, doing housework or spending time with friends.

Her books combine heartwarming storylines with achingly realistic characters readers can’t get enough of. Her debut series, The Waratah Inn, set in the delightful Cabarita Beach, hit the USA Today Bestseller list and since then, has touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers across the globe.

Connect with Lilly Mirren

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

The Grief Diary: Busyness Beats Sadness

Exploring the Aftermath of Love and Loss. This is the third in this series.

In the immediate days following a death there are a myriad of details to attend to, especially when you’re the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. First, you must make arrangements for the funeral or memorial service. You go through the motions numb, on autopilot, pushing your grief aside to choose a funeral director, set the date and location, book the church or religious leader, purchase a casket or urn, arrange for music, speakers, readings, and flowers, pick out the last outfit your loved one will ever wear, decide who to invite to the service, write an obituary, write a eulogy, and do whatever else is needed to memorialize your lost one in a dignified, respectable, loving way.

I’ve arranged three funerals since January, 2018. In each case, I wanted to ensure my loved ones were honored. This took a lot of time and energy in and amongst the grieving. The upside to all this activity is that it distracts you from acknowledging your loss.

Busyness Beats Sadness

Busyness is a strategy you can employ in the weeks and months following your loss to beat your sadness, at least for awhile. For example, taking on the role of administrator for my brother Vic’s estate required me to manage the details of his funeral, along with the help of my brothers. After the funeral, I spent hours each week unraveling his life, attending to his business: cancelling credit cards and bank accounts, selling his house and other property. An administrator works alone. No one can help you because you are the only one with the authority to speak for the dead. Everything falls on your shoulders.

While all of this was going on, I, of course, grieved, and many times my grief was amplified as I had to confront the reality of his death time and again while explaining it to strangers on the phone, or sending out official documents – like his death certificate – to complete my tasks. But I also had to keep it together to conduct this business, so I dried my tears and carried on.

What I learned, though, is that this busyness doesn’t ease the pain or stem the tide of grief. It just pushes it off until the day all the tasks are done, every little thing is sold, given away, donated, or trashed. The funeral is over. A new family lives in his house. The grave marker is installed. Once the tasks run out there’s no hiding, and the loss hits anew: He is really, truly gone, and I must come to grips with it.

My dad died in 1976. To this day a random memory or thought of him can trigger an overwhelming sadness, tears, and grief. Most of the time when I think of him I see him as still living, as he was at 45 years of age, being my dad. I can handle those memories much better than when I acknowledge the fact that he has died and I have not seen him in more than 40 years. Nor heard his voice. Nor felt his touch. That life goes on for decades without a loved one is astounding. Where is he? I wonder. What would he think of me now, as a grown woman, a mother, a writer? What would we be doing if he was still here? How would my life be different if I hadn’t lost him at 15? Because my life would be different in profound ways, I’m sure.

When Dad died I was young, a sophomore in high school. I soon took on the role of co-parent with my mom, helping to care for my younger brothers while she worked. In the 70’s, not many moms worked outside the home, not in my social circle. I had to skip after school activities, sports, clubs, etc, to beat my brothers home so someone would be waiting for them, to supervise them until Mom came home. I did laundry. I started dinner. Busyness beats sadness. I guess I learned that at a young age.

Vic has been gone six months now and there are but a few pieces of his life that still need to be unraveled. I will soon run out of busyness. Hopefully the shock of his inexplicable death and my initial grief will have also been settled in the process, when I wasn’t looking. I know I will always feel sadness, be pissed at him for getting on that motorcycle, and mourn him afresh when the last task concludes and my busyness is finally over. But at least the work of concluding his business on earth provided me with safe cover, space, and time to reconcile myself to his loss.

About This Series

This is a new series for this blog. The last few months – no, the last few years – have been difficult for me. There’s been a lot of loss and change, most of it unexpected, some of it for good reasons. I’m generally an optimistic person but even I have my breaking point. I’ve run into it a few times lately. This has left my mind churning and I find myself with so much to say, so much to work out. Writing has always been a means to my seeking clarity, so I decided to use my blog to figure things out. Welcome to The Grief Diary. Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.

New Release Spotlight! Sci-Fi Meets Espionage in Beneath the Dragon’s Triangle

If you could pound a stake through the heart of the Bermuda Triangle until it appeared on the opposite side of the Earth, you would be in the dreaded Dragon’s Triangle. What better place to hide a weapon of mass destruction?

A simple phone call from a friend at sea throws Andrea, a graduate of Yale University with a PhD in biomedical engineering, into a world of espionage and intrigue. Did her friend, a deep-sea diver working for a company repairing communication cables, really find a mysterious object buried one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface, and could it be of any importance? Why did this phone call from the billions made each day trigger a covert group, a remnant of Nazi Germany, to come out of the shadows to claim this object, and, like a virus, systematically destroy anyone who stands in its way of recovering what it lost so many years ago? The reputation of the Dragon’s Triangle for unexplained events is just beginning a new chapter.

An obvious neophyte in this deadly game where people are starting to disappear, Andrea has nowhere to turn. A chance encounter with a NYPD officer might strengthen her chance of survival. Sean is a retired Navy SEAL officer who teams up with Andrea only to find that they are both in over their heads. The enemy seems to have limitless power, and there is only one person Sean knows who can help them stay alive. He turns to Paul O, a man of great wealth who owns a company that builds ships and satellites for the U.S. government. A private war breaks out with Paul, Andrea, and Sean, pitted against an unknown, fanatical group that takes place in the air, on and beneath the sea, and on land.

Will they survive, and if they do, how will it change them?

Three people from different walks of life meld into a tenacious team, never giving up when the chips are down and all seems lost. Who will be the first to sacrifice their life for the others, and does Andrea stay a victim, or does she become a force to reckon with that takes the strongest of men by surprise?

Start reading Beneath the Dragon’s Triangle now!

About the Author

Tony Dellamarco is an engineer turned teacher turned author. His lifelong passion for writing led to the publication of professional articles throughout his engineering career. He has also written several stories for children, including The Great Race, on understanding the doubling of numbers, two others for a Great Pyrenees periodical, ODE to A Great PYR and Great Bear the Great PYR, and The Little Star and Tubby the Tugboat, that have been read in elementary school classrooms. He completed two additional yet to be published novels, The Raptors and The Cranberry Chalice, designed to capture the imaginations of teenagers and adults alike. A graduate of Arizona State University (ASU) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, New York with a master’s degree in education, he has years of technological and educational training.

His first job was with IBM where he started working in the Quality Control and Engineering departments. After 27 years he finished his IBM career as a senior engineer. He then taught 10th and 11th grade history and science at the Minisink Valley Central School District in upstate New York. Throughout his life he’s been an avid sportsman and has trained in power lifting and a variety of martial arts. At 19 he earned a scuba diving certification and piggybacked a pilot’s license at the same time. When he’s not writing or conjuring science fiction novels, he enjoys teaching his grandchildren how to drive his tractor while working the fields around his home in the Hudson Valley.

Q&A with Tony Dellamarco

MS: Hey Tony, Congratulations on publishing your first book. Tell us about it.

TD: Beneath the Dragon’s Triangle covers many genres. It is a techno-thriller which includes military covert operations, espionage, science fiction and a dab of romance.  The main character is a female, Andrea, who is thrown into a deadly game of espionage after she receives a call from a male acquaintance repairing a communication cable deep in the dreaded Dragon’s Triangle.  What did this man find buried that immediately put people’s lives in danger?

When Andrea’s best friend, a librarian, dies a questionable death while researching the approximate coordinates where this object was found, her life turns into a living hell. Soon others will follow the ranks of the missing. Like the unraveling of a ball of yarn, Andrea’s mundane life becomes entangled in a web of deceit and danger. She meets Sean, a NYC police officer at her friend’s apartment. He is there to inform the next of kin of the librarian’s tragic death.This chance encounter puts both their lives in danger, and they soon find themselves fighting a fanatical group that will stop at nothing to get the information that only Andrea knows – the actual coordinates of where the object lies. Sean, a retired Navy SEAL, enlists the help of Paul O., a modern-day Howard Hughes stereotype and close friend. 

Together the three fight to survive the attacks of a relentless well financed covert group. This story is high on action and adventure taking place on the land, in and below the deep waters of the ocean, and in the air. The race is on to see who will be the first to find the mysterious weapon that is capable of changing the course of history.

Here’s a (very) short excerpt:

Oh, the arrogance of man. Even the best plans can be delayed by unforeseen circumstances. 

MS: So, were you born a writer, or did it evolve?

TD: As a youngster in elementary school, I always wrote stories that were out of the ordinary. A rocket that landed on the sun, as an example, and a story about a magical sled that could go through buildings.  In high school I took a high-speed reading and writing class at a local college. The Sister who oversaw the writing piece told me I had quite an active imagination. The essay I wrote for her in the early 60’s was about flying cars and how they traveled from one place to another. I guess in retrospect, I was born with an imagination, but never took people and their impressions seriously about the articles I had written.

MS: When, why, and how did you start writing?

TD: Writing has always been a passion of mine. However, it was unleashed when I hung my engineering spikes up and starting teaching at Minisink Valley School District (NY) as a 9th grade history and 11th grade science teacher. Unfortunately, the general public has no idea of the diversity and intelligence of the teaching environment. My experience as a high school teacher was invaluable to my writing career – sort of like a mini-Library of Alexandria. One wing of the high school contained the biology, chemistry, and physics teachers. Another wing housed the math teachers. Then there were the English teachers who had a compilation of hundreds of stories from Ancient Greece to modern literature. The entire school was like a huge book just waiting to impart its knowledge freely to anyone who wished for it. Walk the halls of a high school with disciplined students and you will be overwhelmed with ideas and stories one could write about.

MS: What inspires you?

TD: Nature, biblical stories, and prophecies, watching and trying to understand why people act the way they do; studying the big picture…earth, the universe; studying the ever-faster evolution of technology and where it might lead….

MS: Who was/is your biggest influence?

TD: I would say my freshmen college English teacher and my humanities literature professor.  My freshmen English teacher liked my style of writing, and my humanities literature sparked a thousand stories by his inspiring lectures and antics. 

MS: Who was/is your biggest supporter?

TD: My wonderful wife, my editor, and an established author who took me under her wing. 

MS: Who was/is your biggest detractor?

TD: Life…  Accidents, sickness… Life can throw you curves when you least expect them. 

MS: Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?

TD: My wife, who never faltered when I needed to write a chapter or essay that sometimes took away from our vacation time. My wife is a true blessing that has always stood by my side and constantly encourages me to write.

MS: If you could study under any author, who would you choose and why?

TD: There are many, but, Isaac Asimov would be my choice. He wrote over 500 plus books and is one of the best Sci-fi writers of the last century.

MS:  Name something you wish you had written and explain why.

TD: The Time Machine. It’s timeless. 

MS: What advice do you have for beginning authors?

TD: Perseverance… never give up… It took me over 15 years of research and being delayed due to life throwing curves that took time for me to regroup … Pick up the pieces and continue.

MS: Describe your writing process.

TD: I tend to think on a topic and then do a mental layout. 

MS: How do ideas come to you?

TD: I’m constantly thinking of story lines. If you listen and watch life as it evolves around you, ideas will come to you.

MS: Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

TD: Both…  I have a habit of going outside the story line and go with the flow… 

MS: Explain your research process.

TD: Journals, engineering, science, geography. History… read, read, and read a variety of materials.

MS: What do you love most about writing?

TD: It’s one of the few things you can do in life where you are in total control of the outcome…

MS: What do you hate about writing?

TD: Nothing really to hate. I do get frustrated when I write myself into a box − where the outcome I anticipated cannot happen because of what was written in previous chapters…

MS: What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself through writing?

TD: Everyone has a story within themselves. Write about what you have personally experience and what you know best.

MS: Do you have a special place to write?

TD: Yes. I enjoy looking at the landscape from the vantage point of my computer.

MS: Where did you get the idea for your book?

TD: Multiple sources that converged into a plot.

MS: Do you have a favorite character from your book or series? Why that one?

TD:  Andrea, because she is every man’s dream, and a champion for women who never give up even when the odds are stacked against them.    

MS: What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?

TD: Months to a few years. 

MS: How much research went into it?

TD: I put in years of research because of technology catching up to what I had already put down on paper. Meaning, I had to re-research and recreate something different and futuristic from what I had committed to the storyline. 

MS: How have the changes in present day publishing impacted writing career?

TD: Unfortunately, times have changed.  Years ago, you could send a manuscript or chapter outline to a publisher and get a response, but that option no longer exists, except for the few very well established authors.  Today, getting a response from an agent is difficult.  Where a publisher would read your manuscript in the past to see if the story was well written and interesting, today’s agents make their decisions without diving into the story line.

MS: What would you do if you couldn’t write anymore?

TD: Dedicate more time to charities.

MS: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

TD: The sequel to my first book, Beneath the Dragon’s Triangle.

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

The Grief Diary: A New Year’s Resolution for the Brokenhearted

Exploring the Aftermath of Love and Loss. This is the second in this series.

Happy New Year!

Here we are, once more, at the start of a new year. After the disaster of 2020 it couldn’t come soon enough. Putting last year in the rearview mirror is both exhilarating and liberating. We can’t help but be optimistic as we change the calendar, opening up 365 new days brimming with promise, weeks, months, and days yet to be written with the ink of life. Anything can happen, especially good anythings. It’s like being swept up in a gust of fresh air when you’ve been trapped for months in a room with no ventilation.

Many of us start off the new year with a set of resolutions – commitments or ideals to help us get – and keep – on whatever we believe is “the right track.” Some of the more popular are to lose weight, exercise more, save money, get organized, learn a new skill, start a new hobby, and/or spend more time with family and friends. Whew! I’m exhausted already.

These are all admirable goals, but for those of us on the grief journey any one of them can be too much. When you’re just trying to get through the next hour, the next minute, without falling apart, trying to lose weight or go to the gym on a regular schedule is near to impossible. So I’m replacing these popular resolutions with one simple objective that will enable the brokenhearted to nurture, rather than torture, themselves in the new year.

To Thine Own Self Be Kind

“Kindness” tends to be a buzzword these days, usually relating to the concept of being kind to others. What about being kind to ourselves?

I recently discussed this with my pain management specialist. We’d both just read The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, which is a profound yet simple book about kindness, self-love, friendship, and hope (read it). She and I agreed on the book’s message to not only be kind to others but to ourselves. Quite often, she said, we hold ourselves up to impossible standards, then when we fail to measure up we heap criticism and disapproval upon ourselves until we collapse. Seems we can beat ourselves up much meaner and harder than anyone else could or would. We’d never do this to a friend or acquaintance, she said. Instead, we extend to them tenderness, compassion, and generosity we routinely withhold from ourselves. This is both physically and mentally unhealthy.

Tread easy

We must remember when grieving that we are not at our best, life is not normal, and we may mistakes, neglect our duties, lose our temper, or break down in tears for no good reason at all. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up when these things happen, causing us to fall short of our unrealistic expectations. We need to step back and look at ourselves as we would look at anyone else living in our circumstances, and say, “It’s okay to be sad, or mad, or lazy, or forgetful.” Forgive yourself as you would forgive anyone else. Know in your heart that you are doing your best, that you need time to process and accept the changes that have come upon your life. It is not easy for anyone, and that includes you.

Now that’s good medicine. I’ll take it. How about you?

About This Series

This is a new series for this blog. The last few months – no, the last few years – have been difficult for me. There’s been a lot of loss and change, most of it unexpected, some of it for good reasons. I’m generally an optimistic person but even I have my breaking point. I’ve run into it a few times lately. This has left my mind churning and I find myself with so much to say, so much to work out. Writing has always been a means to my seeking clarity, so I decided to use my blog to figure things out. Welcome to The Grief Diary. Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.

New Release Spotlight! Eleanor Kuhns Strikes Again With Her Latest Historical Mystery

New Release Spotlight Eleanor Kuhns

A tension-filled mystery set within the Great Dismal Swamp in 1800s Virginia.

Finding themselves in a slave community hidden within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will Rees and his wife Lydia get caught up in a dangerous murder case where no one trusts them.

September 1800, Maine. Will Rees is beseeched by Tobias, an old friend abducted by slave catchers years before, to travel south to Virginia to help transport his pregnant wife, Ruth, back north. Though he’s reluctant, Will’s wife Lydia convinces him to go . . . on the condition she accompanies them.

Upon arriving in a small community of absconded slaves hiding within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will and Lydia are met with distrust. Tensions are high and a fight breaks out between Tobias and Scipio, a philanderer with a bounty on his head known for conning men out of money. The following day Scipio is found dead – shot in the back.

Stuck within the hostile Great Dismal and with slave catchers on the prowl, Will and Lydia find themselves caught up in their most dangerous case yet.

Death in the Great Dismal

Start reading now!

About the Author

Eleanor KuhnsELEANOR KUHNS is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York.

Connect with Eleanor Kuhns

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

The Grief Diary: Exploring the Aftermath of Love and Loss

This is the first in a new series for this blog. The last few months – no, the last few years – have been difficult for me. There’s been a lot of loss and change, most of it unexpected, some of it for good reasons. I’m generally an optimistic person but even I have my breaking point. I’ve run into it a few times lately. This has left my mind churning and I find myself with so much to say, so much to work out. Writing has always been a means to my seeking clarity, so I decided to use my blog to figure things out. Welcome to The Grief Diary.

The Virus

Let’s start with the coronavirus, COVID-19, which impacts everyone everywhere so it’s not necessarily a personal problem in my miniscule part of the world. I have not been sick. No one in my direct orbit has been seriously ill or hospitalized. The biggest impact the virus has had on my life, thus far, is that I’ve been working from home since March 23rd, 2020. It’s doable, but not ideal. I’m a nurse in a college health center, so much of what I’m doing at home is paperwork and administrative stuff. I miss seeing the students, and I miss the daily contact with my colleagues, our conversations, brainstorming, and troubleshooting. I miss the adrenaline rush when there’s a call for a nurse to race to an emergency, accident, sick student, or staff member. I miss walking through the beautiful buildings on our campus. I miss being in a learning environment (which I wrote about here.)

Yeah, there’s a lot to miss, but one thing I’m not missing is a paycheck. I know I’m lucky to have a job where I can work from home. So many others do not. Too many others have lost so much more to this virus: jobs, homes, loved ones. I understand I’m one of the blessed.

I also miss what most people are missing: hanging out with friends and family; going out to dinner, shopping, a concert or a movie; not having to wear a mask everytime I go out. This too shall pass, I tell myself, and each day passes. Hopefully the newly released vaccines will become more widely available and distributed, or people will just get their heads on straight on how to mitigate this virus so life can return to some semblance of “normal.” There’s something optimistic about that, no? So it’s not the virus that has me tied in knots, although it’s not helping.

The Fridge Gallery

Not my fridge but you get the picture. Right after I made this observation I added pictures of the living to my Gallery.

Let’s talk about the fridge gallery. Do you hang pictures on your refrigerator? I do. I have all kinds of pictures – photographs, clippings from magazines and newspapers, cartoons, and inspirational and motivational magnets and mementos – covering the freezer door. The other day I was looking at my fridge gallery and realized that all of the people in the photos were gone. They’d died. This included my parents, my brother, his partner, an aunt, and a cousin. And they are not the only members of my family who have passed away recently. We’ve endured a cycle of death. Last I counted our extended family lost nine members in the last three years.

Grief is a heavy thing. You need to get out from under it sometimes. But it’s hard to climb out when it keeps being heaped upon you. Many of these deaths were preceded by illness, sometimes savage illness, like a vicious cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Two were the result of a single tragic motorcycle accident on a beautiful summer day. All of them bring additional grief, whether it’s anticipatory as you watch someone you love suffer and slip away, or raw as someone is inexplicably ripped away from you with no warning. I’ve endured both and, trust me, there’s no way to determine which is the easier loss to bear.

The Grief Diary

As I pondered the photos on the fridge I thought of each individual life and my thoughts swirled. I felt an urge to tell their stories, to write about their lives, what made them special, why their memory endures. So I’m starting this Grief Diary to tell their stories, and my own, in an exploration of grief, love, and loss. These posts will endeavor to not only heal my broken heart but to help heal others on the grief journey. I can’t promise regular entries but I will post when inspiration moves me.

An Invitation

Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.

Fall in Love this Holiday with Shanna Hatfield’s Latest Cowboy Romance, Roping Christmas

A focused cowboy, a distracted executive, and a hilarious quest make for an unforgettable holiday . . .
 
Wyatt Nash is a professional tie-down roper, a good ranch hand, and not too shabby when it comes to attracting women. But according to his five-year-old niece, he needs to work on both his roping skills and his dating game. His sister thinks he needs to settle down. And don’t get him started on the advice he gets from well-meaning friends. When his rodeo sponsor, billionaire Jon Sinclair, asks for his assistance in tutoring a clueless city girl about Sinclair Industries, Wyatt doesn’t feel like he can say no. Then he discovers he’ll be teaching none other than the one woman on the planet who wants nothing to do with him.
 
Ashley Jarrett would do almost anything to turn her small publicity firm into a huge success. When Jon Sinclair expresses interest in working with her, she readily agrees to his crazy idea to have her learn about his company through hands-on projects. Not only is she forced far outside her comfort zone, but the man documenting every bumbling misstep she takes is an infuriating cowboy she’s determined to ignore.
 
Packed with small-town charm and the wonder of falling in love, Roping Christmas is a sweet holiday romance sure to bring laughter and infuse hearts Christmas cheer.

If you’ve loved the Rodeo Romance series, get ready for this sweet holiday release. Full of laughs and fun, Roping Christmas is the story of tie-down roper Wyatt Nash (if you’ve read the Pendleton Petticoats series, Wyatt is a descendant of the Nash family) and Ashley Jarrett (the cousin we met in Chasing Christmas). Start reading now!

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

About the Author

Shanna Hatfield, author

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Connect with Shanna Hatfield

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Find Swoon-Worthy Holiday Romance in Christina Lauren’s Latest, In a Holidaze

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

Start Reading Now!

About the Authors

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 30+ languages. You can find them online at ChristinaLaurenBooks.com or at @seeCwrite (Christina), @LolaShoes (Lauren), or @ChristinaLauren on Twitter.

Note: I am an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.