Pre-Sales Begin–If the Fates Allow

Over-the-top decorating bugs, rekindled romances, grief and healing, rescued love, and my story: romance inspired by books and a very persistent librarian. The stories are all waiting for you in Interlude Press‘ upcoming holiday anthology available now for pre-sale.

Enjoy stories from not only me, but also Lilah SuzanneErin FinneganPene Henson and Killian Brewer. I’m honored to be side-by-side with these talented and award winning authors.

Order links are on the sidebar. Keep an eye out for giveaways and blog posts from all five authors.

Where have you been?

Right here, I promise. I’ve been right here. I hope you’ve been to exotic wonderful places this summer, exploring the sea and the land, reading fantastic stories and refreshing your soul. I’ll be doing that next month, but for the summer, I’ve been here working on another story for you.

It’s been a bit of a battle and I’ll discuss and dissect that in another blog post. I’ve found it to be somewhat fascinating how creatives create. And don’t. Or stop themselves. And restart.

But for now, I want to tell you about a short story that will be out this holiday season. Shelved will be one of five stories in Interlude Press’s upcoming holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow, joining the likes of Lilah Suzanne, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson and our favorite southern gentleman, Killian Brewer.

Shelved is told by Karina Neff, a young librarian-to-be, who spends her college holiday working at her local library and daydreaming about the perfect Christmas. When a new patron asks for her assistance in building his resumé, a sweet, fun friendship is formed, and she is set in motion to make this perfect Christmas happen. Wes would be the perfect match for her newly single and oft curmudgeonly Uncle Tony, the local barber.

Karina quickly learns that “perfect” has a broad definition, and that love at Christmas isn’t just for others–it can be her dream too.

I whipped up this little graphic for a monthly instagram meme while I was writing Shelved. Meet Wes, Tony and Karina.

I’m proud of this little story; it was fun to write and a real joy to tell the story through Karina’s eyes. But before it comes out, we need a cover. And that’s where you all come in!

Take a look at our two cover options, and head on over to our Survey Monkey poll and vote. Retweets, facebook shares, reblogs of Interlude’s cover choice posts will earn you a chance at one of three copies of the anthology.

 

And while you’re thinking about holidays, how about some early Christmas shopping? A number of Interlude Press’s print backlist, including Chef’s Table, a sweet and savory romance between two searching cooks, is at a whopping 50% off! Head on over and grab a few early gifts.

Beyond the Romance: Kids

Why in the world would someone of basic wisdom include children in a romance novel?

Let me take a second to look at my life, which has had a romantic element with the same person for the last 34 years. Huh. Children have been a part of it for over 27 of those 34+ years. (Also, stop with the math. I’m old. I know.)

The point: kids can factor in. And it can still be romantic.

Why? Because romance isn’t life, it’s a part of it. And for some of those who fall in love, children are a part of it. And because I write real-life romance. Children can be a part of real life.

Which, interestingly enough, is also why a good number of people don’t want the little rugrats in their romance novels. “I deal with the trials of parenthood all stinking day; I don’t want it where I go to escape my day-to-day life.” Fair enough. I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t typically read romance novels with kids in them either.

But, writing kids? That I love to do. I love to explore kids’ behavior and adults’ responses to those behaviors. I love to pick the brains of smart kids and kids, like Adrian in Beneath the Stars, who have experienced a life-altering event. They see the world differently, many of them. There is a depth to their insight, an honesty to their emotions, and sometimes, a chaos in balancing it all to society’s tough standards.

And that’s what Adrian brings to the table. He’s wise. He’s silly. He’s temperamental and creative. Because the foundation his mother provided him before her death, he trusts quickly and shares generously. I’ve had a few comments before and since Beneath the Stars’ release–a five-year-old wouldn’t ever say…

Yeah. They would. They do. I had a four year old son, who upon breaking his big toe, greeted the doctor with, “I broke my metatarsal!” I had never used that word in my life. I have no idea where he learned it or how he knew that was, indeed, the bone he’d broken. I can’t tell you how many doctor appointments ended with our family physician saying, “Good luck,” in reference to my childrens’ ridiculous vocabulary. Certainly they’d say…

And so, I wrote Adrian. In addition to drawing and soccer and missing his mom, he knows his dinosaurs. We visited the Field Museum in Chicago last month. The entire time we viewed the dinosaurs, I imagined Adrian’s running commentary. Then, while standing at the stegosaurus display, a little boy, at the most five years of age, approached with his father. Dad got a lesson on the stegosaurus: his full name, the era he existed, his diet, on and on. He wasn’t reading the placard; he knew this information like he knew his own name. He pronounced the multi-syllabic words properly, coherently. He took dad to the next and to the next and taught his dad some serious Mesozoic lessons.

I’d imagine Adrian isn’t great at math, and I have a hunch he’d struggle with friends along the way. He’s been the center of adults’ worlds for most of his life. But, he’s a kid whose story deserved to be told. I always side-eye the statement, especially when beginning to note a book with kids in it, “I hate kids.” Hopefully anyone reading here knows it’s not appropriate to say (or think), “I hate ____ [insert any ethnicity, race, body-type, age, gender, religion].”

Why is it okay to hate kids? Why is it okay to determine for them what they are capable of (within reason)? They’re human. They’re people. From time to time, they belong in our stories.


I’ll be in Atlanta next week for the Romantic Times Convention. If you’re in the area, come see me at the book fair on Saturday, May 6 at Hyatt Regency Atlanta from 11 – 2. I’ll be at the end of row 3.

Also, take a pit stop in the RT Bazaar where you can enter to win a Beneath the Stars gift basket full of goodies–including a BTS sketch pad to connect with your inner child and create some of your own visual therapy like Adrian. I’ve included more fun things for grown-ups too. If you can’t make it to Atlanta, I’ll be holding a giveaway of a similar basket upon my return. Keep your eyes peeled here, on facebook and twitter.

Uptown (Funk)

This past weekend, my husband, son and I drove up to Chicago to see Hamilton and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Between the shows, we took a chilly afternoon train up to Uptown, where Sid lives in Beneath the Stars. I had hoped to explore the neighborhood a bit more with a walk out to Montrose Beach, and a bit of meandering for restaurants, etc. but the day was bitter, bitter cold and Sid’s walk from the Red Line to his apartment was about all we could take.

Speaking of the Red Line, the bottom right picture is the view from his station. His apartment is the first shot, and the paintings are from a building across the way that seemed to sum up the atmosphere of the neighborhood–warm and friendly, even in the bitter cold.

Sid stood in front of his apartment building, a brick block that looked like the one next door and the one across the street and the one two buildings down. When he’d first moved in, he accepted its blandness. The neighborhood’s diversity brought it to life with beautiful people, beautiful food, and great nightlife—a life he had to admit he hadn’t taken the time to enjoy in entirely too long.

In amazing news, my second novel, Black Dust, received a nomination in romance with Foreward Reviews for their Foreward Indies awards. In celebration of this and ELEVEN other nominations, all nominees’ books are on sale for 25% off through 3.19 at Interlude Press.

Beyond the Romance: Dementia, Part II

Today, we complete the interview with Dr. Julia Durrant about dementia and how it affects the lives of the patients and their caretakers, as it did in Beneath the Stars. Part I can be found here.

In researching, I found varying pieces of advice about responding to the holes in a patient’s memory. Some suggest it’s best to correct the patient—to keep them as centered in reality as possible. In other resources, the advice is to let the patient lead the truth so they will continue to trust the caretakers. In your experience, what have you found to be the best approach, or is a case-by-case situation?

That’s a really great question and I don’t know if there’s a correct response. I lean towards being as honest as possible because I think all relationships benefit from having trust as the bedrock, but it often takes a gentle and skilled hand to present that truth in a way that patients will accept. It’s hard.

“How’s soccer practice going this season? Are the new kids any good?”

“Baba, I don’t play anymore,” Sid said. “I haven’t played since college.”

“Mmm. Right.” Lou fell silent and reached for his binoculars. “Have you thought more about coaching the kids over the summer?”

Sid started to correct the long-outdated question, but stopped himself. Lou’s doctor had suggested that gentle correction was best, but the futility and constancy of that wore thin. Sometimes Sid simply wanted to be with his dad. The details didn’t need to be right.

What are some of the ways medicine and medical teams help families, especially in these earlier stages where the patient is still fully communicative and somewhat self-sufficient.

There are medications that can be used that have been shown to prolong the progression of dementia and other medications that can treat the other symptoms, such as depression or anxiety that often accompany dementia. These medications can have side effects or interact with other medications, so it’s important to talk with your primary care provider about the risks and benefits.

And there are multiple resources available to families. Primary care providers may know local groups that provide respite care or outings. They can provide names of counselors or social workers who specialize in people with dementia or for their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association has a great website with resources for patients and families, including links to support groups: https://www.alz.org

I receive daily news alerts on dementia, and, outside of constant Silver Alerts that report missing dementia patients, the most frequent story type is one that announces a new cause of dementia, or a new way to avoid it (see graphic for list of serious to ridiculous causes). My conclusion is that it is still a medical enigma. Is that your experience, and what are some ways you recommend filtering out all of the noise surrounding the disease?

For the most part, the diseases that cause dementia can’t be cured or reversed, although all people who are suspected of having dementia should be screened and evaluated by their health care provider.

The best research suggests that dementia is caused by a variety of things. Some, like genetics, probably can’t be stopped. Daily physical exercise, mental exercises like word puzzles, and eating healthy likely provide some protection. Omega-3 fats from fish likely have a health benefit, although whether pill supplementation also works is unknown at this point.

Tell me something rewarding about your work with dementia patients and their families.

In my field , my interactions with patients with dementia tend to be a little different–they have been acutely injured, and I’m attempting to prevent them from having complications such as delirium.

Personally, I’ve been closely affected by dementia. My maternal grandmother had a form that took away her ability to communicate. Until her death, she would still recognize me as her granddaughter and was overjoyed to see me. Some of my fondest memories were getting to hold her hand and tell her of my day, even though she couldn’t talk.

My paternal grandmother is currently living with dementia. My aunt was her caregiver for several years, and even though she’d never admitted it, my grandmother appreciated having someone around to talk to. Unfortunately, because of both memory loss and severe paranoia, she now lives in a nursing home where she loves reminiscing about her childhood and about her parents. Because of her dementia, I’ve learned several details about my great-grandparents.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think there’s an assumption that people who live with dementia are completely different people than they were before. This is a long illness, but for the majority of its duration, our loved ones are much the same as they were before. People tend to be social creatures. That remains true even when memory loss has occurred.

“Let’s turn this party around. Saturn and Mars should be crystal clear to the
south.” [Lou] stood on his own, slow and wobbly, but independent and proud. “Yes! Sid! Look!” He handed Sid the binoculars. “Look. You can’t see the rings, but they make Saturn look oval-shaped.”

“What am I looking for?” Sid had forgotten. He hated it: relying on a man who no longer remembered to brush his teeth every morning to remind him of the details of the night sky.

“See that reddish star straight out? That’s—”

“Antares!”

“Atta boy. Saturn is the next brightest to the west there.”

Sid scanned west and gasped. “Oh, Baba, we do need a telescope. I remember seeing the rings years ago.”

“Mars is over to the east there. Brighter still.”


Again, my deepest gratitude for Dr. Durrant for taking the time to not only help with the medical details in Beneath the Stars, but also for adding so much to the story of Lou and his family with this interview.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. Purchasing links are in the right sidebar.

Beyond the Romance–Dementia: a Q&A, Part I

I have enjoyed reading your thoughts and reviews on Beneath the Stars in the 2+ weeks since its release. Now that I’m hearing back from readers, I’d like to dive into the themes of the story a bit more. While Beneath the Stars is most definitely a romance–of sweeping, epic proportions–underneath the romance lies a painful, difficult story of a father living with dementia and his family’s often fumbling attempts at properly caring for him.

I called on the knowledge of Dr. Julia Durrant to help me get these details right. She is a physician in Portland, Oregon with training in internal medicine and neurology. She works in the neuroscience critical care unit and takes care of brain injured patients.

Because dementia is such a widespread disease, I asked her to join me on the blog to discuss the disease, the weight it puts on both patients and caretakers, and how that all integrates into the story of our leading men and their families. My utmost gratitude to Dr. J for taking time out of her insane schedule to do this. I hope if you know someone caring for a loved one with dementia, or you yourself carry that burden, that you might find comfort, information and hope in this two part series.

Can you explain, in layman’s terms, what exactly dementia is and what it does to a person’s brain and body? How is dementia not always Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dementia is a broad term for progressive loss in mental ability that interferes with daily life: memory loss, disorientation, behavioral changes, personality changes, and mood swings.  Dementia can change the way a person thinks, feels, functions and communicates. There are several different diseases that cause dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a slowly progressive brain disease that occurs because of deposits of abnormal proteins in the brain cell. But there are other types, such as dementia that occurs because of Parkinson’s disease or because of ischemic strokes.

In Beneath the Stars, Lou Marneaux is in a less-advanced stage of vascular dementia. What are some early signifiers of the disease? What are some things Lou’s family might have seen to alert them of his issues?

A lot of patients with dementia start with a milder form called Mild Cognitive   where changes in memory recall become noticeable. They’re not as sharp; they forget appointments or get lost in familiar places. They might say things they normally wouldn’t; they are more impulsive or judgmental. It usually doesn’t interfere with their daily lives—they can still eat, dress themselves, and work—but there will be a slow, progressive loss of function.

“Zico! Come over here!” Lou’s voice rang remarkably strong. And, with Tyler at his wheelchair’s helm, he was suddenly close by.

Sid handed Anna the tongs. “More sauce and they should be ready.” He pulled up a lawn chair to sit with his dad. “Sorry, Baba.”

“You know I don’t like you speaking to your mother that way.” As Anna walked by with the platter of chicken, Lou smacked her ass.

“Dad. Look at me.”

“What?”

“Who is that?” He pointed at Anna who had stopped and, with a silent plea, implored Sid to let it go.

“Well, that’s your mother—” Lou looked at his daughter and grandson. “Where’s Rimi?”

“She’s not here, Baba.”

Most families aren’t aware of the early stages because they’re passed off as normal signs of aging: losing keys, forgetting titles of movies or their actors. But when the changes start to impact the patient’s life—an inability to write checks and pay bills, confusion following simple directions, repeating stories and phrases in the same conversation—it becomes more concerning.

Anna is Lou’s daughter and full-time, in-home caretaker. What are some of the unseen burdens caring for a parent in your own home?

Caregiving is sacrificing and consuming. It’s a chronic, long-term situation, and the benefits from it aren’t often visible or appreciated. Depending on your loved one, burdens of meal preparation, medication administration, assistance with basic needs (such as dressing and toileting), and transportation often fall on the shoulders of the caregiver. Relationships with other family members—a spouse, siblings, the other parent, and children—can suffer as they often take a back seat to the caregiving responsibilities.

“You don’t know what the constant care of him is like: the doctor appointments, the ups and downs of his moods. He grabs my breasts!”

“He thinks you’re Ma.”

“Sid, he never did that to Ma… in front of people?”

“It’s the disease,” Sid said. “The doctor’s—”

She charged on as if Sid hadn’t said a word. “He’s clumsy, and at least once a day I’m on all fours cleaning up a mess. It’s day in, day out, and at the end of a day I think has gone well, he’s yelling because the dishes aren’t done.”

Sid had cleaned up his share of their dad’s messes. He’d been yelled
at for how cluttered the living room was. He’d taken him to plenty of
doctor appointments in the last months.

That being said, it can also be rewarding. Caregivers often report a great sense of satisfaction for being to provide these services to their loved one. They enjoy the companionship and connection that they can create with their parent in their final years.

With those huge burdens, what are some self-care suggestions you might offer in-home caretakers?

  1. Sleep. I always tell my patients and their families that a rested brain is a brain that can calmly make decisions.
  2. Take time for yourself. Eat healthy meals and get regular exercise. Allot time for yourself. Seek out respite care. There are care providers who can come in and relieve the caregiver for a few hours. This can be done by other family members or by paid professionals.
  3. Therapy. Caregiving is very demanding emotionally, as well as physically, and it often translates to stress and fatigue. Meeting with a therapist who can validate your experiences can be helpful. Also be sure to see your own doctor regularly for checkups.
  4. Find local support groups. They can be helpful to the caregiver to know others going through something similar, but can also provide opportunities for socialization for the patient.
  5. Allow yourself to say no. There may come a time when providing primary care is too much of a burden. Saying that this is enough, that you have done what you can, can be liberating.

Sid, the protagonist of Beneath the Stars, has the precarious role of part-time caretaker. He relieves Anna as often as he can but also maintains the responsibilities of his life out of town. His concern focuses on how difficult dementia is for their father. With that in mind, what are some things that might concern the patient? How does fear, anxiety and physical exhaustion play a role in their health?

Each person is going to react a little differently. Some patients are aware of their decline and the loss of their mental abilities. Some are not. People with dementia often have feelings of depression, anxiety, aggression and mood changes, often because there is fear and uncertainty with the memory loss and the loss of independence. Add in the loss of inhibition or the self-filter, it can make people with dementia act in unpredictable ways.

“I know. But, I’m in Chicago, Baba. Please get your calendar.”

“I have it right in front of me.” Sid heard Lou’s finger drum against a counter, and imagined him poking a date. “Today is… Saturday, not Sunday. You’re in Chicago?”

Sid took a deep breath and tried to focus on Eddie’s steady hand rubbing his back. “Yes. I’m in Chicago. Go back one day. What does it say in blue?”

“Your color is blue. It says, ‘Sid in Chicago.’ Oh.” Sid looked to the sky. His eyes filled with tears as his dad processed his mistake. “Did you have a soccer tournament? Did you win? You’d have called me if you won, right?”

“We, um. We play tomorrow, Baba.”

“Oh. Well. Good luck then.” Lou breathed heavily, erratically, into the phone. “Sid, I’m confused. I don’t feel like myself.”

“That’s okay. It happens sometimes.”

Dementia is often a symptom that comes along with other medical conditions, such as diabetes or strokes. Getting proper medical help for those conditions can help in the overall well-being. Mental disease–such as depression and anxiety–can be treated in dementia patients and can often relieve stress on the patients and their families.


I’ll be back Thursday with the remainder of this q&a. My thanks again to Dr. Durrant for taking time for us.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. Purchasing links are in the right sidebar.