Cast of Characters: Sid and Eddie

It’s hard to believe we’re only two days away from the release of Beneath the Stars. I hope you’ve enjoyed the sneak peek into the characters and their stories through these mood boards. I’ll have one or two more to share with you later, but today, I thought it’d be a good idea to focus on the two men that make this story a love story. (Come to think of it, all the characters make it a love story–familial love, love of friends, parental love, etc. But, you know what I mean.)

So, Happy Valentine’s Day my lovely readers. I hope your life is filled with silly love, romantic love, passionate love… unending love.

“Are you the director here?”

“No, I just help out. You want Dottie Mulligan.” Sid pulled a business card from his desk. “Here’s her contact info. She’s a hard one to pin down.”

“Thank you.” Eddie pocketed the card and grabbed a chocolate. “And you?”

Sid cocked his head, and a curtain of bangs fell over his eyes. “And me what?” He flicked his head to flip the hair out of his face.

Eddie cleared his throat. “Are you hard to pin—” Jesus. “Hard to find?”

The pleasant look on Sid’s face broke into a huge grin as laughter bubbled out of him. Eddie couldn’t stop staring and squeezing the chocolate in his hand. “Are you asking me for my number, Chief?”

“Eddie, please,” he said, shoving the chocolate into his pocket. “I—yes. I am. I want to thank you. You were discreet and made an embarrassing situation somewhat enjoyable.”

“Only somewhat?”

Eddie chuckled. “No offense, but I don’t plan on doing that again.”

“You mentioned that, yes.”

Eddie rubbed his sweaty palms together; his body was a traitor. “Seriously, let me pay you back. I can cook lunch at the station. Dinner. Something.”

“You don’t need to—”

“I want to.” He popped the knuckles on his middle and ring fingers. “You… intrigued me. We’re going to be working together more. It might be nice to get to know you when I’m fully alert.”

Sid grinned more smugly than made Eddie comfortable. “You any


Sid scrunched his nose and smiled.

“Of course, cooking. Yeah, I won a bunch of community cook-off challenges in Wylie,” he said. “Is that a prerequisite for accepting my invitation?”

“I don’t want to embarrass you again.”

[later when that meeting ended without a date… ]

Back in the C-DRT office, Eddie found Sid cleaning manikins. He stood with a plastic lung in his hand and an open-chested infant manikin on the table. His phone was pinned between his ear and his shoulder.

“Yes. Tomorrow. You said the fabric would be in Chicago by—” Sid nodded to Eddie. “Yes, this is why we pay for expedited—I understand. Tomorrow. Thank you.” The phone fell from his shoulder onto the pile of manikins. “Chief?”

“I broke a promise,” Eddie said. Sid smiled, the asshole.“I said I wouldn’t wimp out. I wimped out.” Sid attached the lung to the manikin’s “esophagus” and grinned again. Ravishing asshole. “Tonight,” Eddie said. “It’s my turn to cook tonight. I’d like for you to come.”

“So soon? Afraid you’ll wimp out again?”

“No.” Unrelenting asshole. “Yes.” Eddie popped a knuckle of his
ring finger. “I’m afraid if I blink you’ll be gone.” Eddie closed his eyes
as soon as the words left his lips. He balanced somewhere between
“seize the moment,” and “stick your foot in it.” No doubt, if he kept
talking he’d end up with his entire boot in his mouth.

“Mmm. That sounds loaded,” Sid said. “We should discuss it over

Observant asshole. It was loaded, of course it was. Loaded with the
fact that his life was currently spread between two cities and his heart
was splayed across the sky. Nothing that could be discussed over dinner.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Today only (2/14) save 30% not only on this pre-order, but on the entire Interlude Press catalog.

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Take Care

A couple weeks ago, on a phone call with my editor, I expressed my struggle with feeling creative, with wanting to talk about superfluous, creative things (IOW, promote this book) while it felt like the world was burning outside my very own window. Okay, so I leaned on the side of melodrama, but in my defense, it was the first week or so of Trump’s “leadership.” A burning world certainly seemed like a strong possibility.

And, for those of us who are inclined to keep up with current events, who feel like, as a human being, we have a stake in this new war rising against other fellow human beings, the world we’d come to think was actually heading in the right direction has crashed into something we have never seen before.

It’s discouraging. It’s disenfranchising. It’s eye-opening, especially for those of us who have lived in a bubble of privilege and were blind to how bad, how greedy and racist and hateful our neighbors actually are. It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and move elsewhere, except… maybe we should stay and fight.

So we do, and it’s a lot. It’s constant and downright exhausting. In the midst of my whine, my lovely editor and friend said, “Use that. Talk about escapism. Self-care. How do we refuel?” And anyone here reading this knows, a great way to refuel is art. Books, for example. I have one of those coming out a week from today! How convenient!

So, I’ll start with a question: What do you do when it gets to be too much? How do you escape? How do you stop the circus and put yourself first for a hot second?

In the evenings, I’ve been trying to walk away from my computer and not stare at my phone to watch my twitter feed blow up at the latest cabinet appointment or congress misstep. I’m not succeeding all the time, but I’m trying. I started taking yoga a couple weeks ago and am already so enjoying it that I’m finding videos on amazon and doing yoga here at home a few more times a week. I’m sitting with my daughter–who will most likely lose her job and definitely her short-term disability from a long-term/impossible-to-diagnose arm injury, and thus lose her insurance–and watching ridiculously fun and sweet and weird anime. (It’s weird, right? Anime? Their extreme reactions to things? The jilted animation? Still, I’m addicted–gay ice skaters, man. Who knew it could be so engaging?) I’m shopping. Which… probably should be curtailed a bit. Probably. Maybe.

And then there are the characters I created in Beneath the Stars. While their world is separate from the political climate we’re in now–because for the love of god, I could have never imagined anything like this when I started this thing over five years ago–the characters are mired in stress, both of outside and inside causes.

Sid is my calm in the storm–until his calm snaps and he cries into a bottle of rum and kicks hell out of soccer balls once he’s back home and sober. But normally, he’s a mill pond in a life that is chaotic on good days. How does he keep himself level? He disappears into his studio and creates for himself–not for his business. He beats hell out of soccer balls instead of the person who has upset him. He drinks chai like it’s going out of style, and he sits with someone he loves, looks to the night sky and grabs perspective by the balls and faces a new day. Sid is the king of self-care, of taking a moment, of lighting a stick of incense and finding strength in the scent, the quiet, the memories that buoy him forward.

Even Adrian, at five years old, has methods to find calm, to sort out all of the things that confuse him, that frighten him, that make him question if the adults in his life really know what the hell they’re doing. Spoiler alert: they don’t, but they sure try hard. Adrian pulls out blank paper and crayons and gets to work. He builds on paper, he destroys on paper, and he rearranges good and bad, right and wrong on paper.

Anna, Sid’s sister, goes out with her friends; Lou, even in his dementia-riddled state, sits with Sid out under the stars, and his mind becomes clear; Eddie struggles with quiet, with caring for himself because his whole identity revolves around caring for others, but even he learns to take time, to enjoy movies with his son, to appreciate the succulence of a perfectly ripened peach.

Take time for you. We need to be strong for what’s ahead of us. Read a good book (too heavy-handed?), take a walk, color a page or two of that coloring book you got for the holidays, soak up a story in the music of a new-to-you Broadway musical.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Tweet at me, comment here, talk to me on facebook–let’s strengthen each other.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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Cast of Families: James-Garner Family

I wouldn’t typically include peeks into families as part of my introduction to a book, but Beneath the Stars is a little different in that the families themselves are cast members–as a unit.

The James-Garner family, comprised of Maggie James and her mother Sharon, and of course, Eddie and Adrian, was built in Maggie and Eddie’s childhood in the small railroad town of Wylie, Pennsylvania. Eddie didn’t know much about family, and Sharon and Maggie taught him, through their caring nature, how to support, how to uplift, and how to allow each person to become exactly who they were meant to be.

And even once Maggie is gone, Eddie finds it hard to believe he can carry those lessons on without her at his side. But he can. He does. Sharon continues to guide from the sidelines, and he and Adrian are able to build a good life on their own–one that’s even more fulfilling with the addition of one Sid Marneaux.

In Eddie’s thirty-three years, he could not recall a moment he didn’t love Maggie James.

They didn’t share the romantic kind of love that leads to a white dress and an uncomfortable tuxedo, to family gathering to hear promises of ‘til-death-do-us-part. With Maggie and Eddie, promises were understood, unconditional. The sun rose; the sun set. Eddie loved Maggie; Maggie loved Eddie.

In the midst of that love, he agreed to free her from the nonstop heartbreak of finding a man in the dregs of Wylie’s dating pool. She hadn’t been seeking a life partner, but someone to help her become a mother. After Eddie’s donation, Adrian was born. Love led the way, and cancer came—twice—to rearrange the story.

Death would part them soon enough. Eddie would continue to love her. Sunrise; sunset.

Tonight, death was but an onlooker. Maggie took Eddie’s hand in hers. Her fingers were no longer recognizable: they were cold, skeletal, long separated from the art she used to create. “I want to give you something,” she said, turning his palm upright. She reached into the pocket strapped to the side of her wheelchair where she kept treasured items: small pictures drawn by Adrian, petals from gifted flowers, a queen of hearts card her mother had nicked from a casino in Pittsburgh.

“Maggie, no. Don’t start giving things away.”

“Get Nana—hi.” Sharon’s exhausted face filled the screen. The lift to her eyebrow seemed impatient as she waited for more information. “Yes, it’s a date.”

“I can tell. ‘Kissed by the sun?’ Really, Eddie?”

“Leave me alone; I normally date—”


“Did Maggie keep any of my secrets from you?”

“Mmm, no. Probably not.”

Eddie was grateful to have her looking out for him. For Adrian. “I’m not sure what to do with a guy who does more than grunt.”

“It’s good for you—your dating life has always given me stress.”

“You’re welcome. Is Ade sleeping okay?”

“No, he’s waking a few times a night. Screaming.” She pushed her long gray hair behind her ear. And when she looked at the screen with a tilt to her head, he saw Maggie’s face—just as he did with Adrian—only gently aged and radiant. “He doesn’t talk; he cries out, takes some hugs, and goes to sleep.”

“Shit. I haven’t slept this well since… it’s been a while. I feel guilty as hell.”

“Don’t. Get him home with you, and you’ll both settle in. If you’re lucky, this good guy will be a kid whisperer or something.”

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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On Looking Back, Pt. III

For the final installment of this mini-series, I’d like to hold up the mirror, not only to myself, but to you as the reader. Where do you go when you need to pause, look back at a moment, a feeling, a sensation, a decision from your past to help to manage what’s ahead of you?

Beneath the Stars deals with the concept of looking back quite a bit. I covered some of it last week with Eddie and his need to harken back to the lessons Maggie taught him about raising their son. Sid also uses his past to help communicate with his dementia-riddled father by taking him stargazing, he connects with his mother in quiet moments at a sewing machine, or in contemplating the religion that guided her. He also goes to his own personal past and beats internal demons in the form of soccer balls around at his high school field.

And for this author, I have a few tried and true places to revisit. The most common is probably a journey back into my musical life. Black Dust didn’t come simply from a desire to write a book about musicians, but from a desire to revisit that world. If life is wearing me down, I will even go back to the music of my church days, not for religious reasons anymore, but for the connection to my past, to the sounds that used to comfort and still can, even though my faith is in an entirely new place.

Beneath the Stars is a harkening back for me. I wanted to explore the emotions around unexpected death. Around the struggle to pick yourself up and live again when really, you just wanted to have disappeared with the loved one that also left.

I lost my best friend to diabetes complications almost nine years ago. And those first few years after her death were some of the most difficult for me. I’d experienced a death on a professional level a few years prior that I hadn’t completely healed from. She, along with my family, was my constant during that time. We’d been friends for 32 years, and suddenly…

Just like Adrian and Eddie dream about Maggie, I dreamt about Lisa regularly, perplexing dreams that woke me in the middle of the night, that kicked the grief right back into gear after having a few good weeks. Managing those dreams for Adrian helped me manage them for myself. She still appears from time to time, but it’s so much less distressing now.

Photos anchor, like Sid and his father who liked to sit with albums from time to time to remember for their own comfort, and to help Lou’s disappearing memory kick in. When looking for a picture for this post–the one at the end–I found a folder of over 1000 random photos on an old external hard drive. My daughter and I sat and looked through them, finding images of animals that have since passed, loved ones who have passed, old relationships, photos of me making pasticiotti, a favorite of Lisa’s that I prepared and took to her father the first Christmas after her passing. It grounded us to our world in a way we haven’t felt grounded recently.

Not to argue with Puumba from The Lion King–“You’ve got to put your behind… in your past,” but sometimes, you simply do. Our past informs, it educates, it warns and it comforts.

I’ll close with a fun moment in the midst of my grieving process with Lisa. She was Ohio’s own Imelda Marcos when it came to shoes. Oh, she didn’t buy Jimmy Choos or Louboutin, but she had hundreds of pairs, all kept in their original boxes. We shopped for shoes–a lot. It took me a long damned time before I could go shoe shopping after she died, but the day I did, I walked into a DSW and this greeted me.

I bought the shoes. And you should too.

So, I’ll ask again: Where do you go when you need to pause, look back at a moment, a feeling, a sensation, a decision from your past to help to manage what’s ahead of you?

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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Bastra: A Marneaux Design Company

You don’t need me to tell you that politics is the hot topic. THE current affair. The subject in everyone’s heart and on everyone’s tongue and on everyone’s social media. It’s so prevalent that to continue to call it ‘politics’ is probably a misnomer. We’re all just trying to figure out how to manage this new world. How to be kind and supportive and welcoming in a world where The Big Bad is closing doors at every turn.

I’ve never considered myself much of an activist, although I have very strong opinions. Oh, I’ll share an article and add a comment to them. I’ll stand up from time to time, although that’s happening less and less as I see that arguing via social media rarely changes people’s viewpoints. I’ve been sending money to various organizations like it’s growing on trees. (While they had their biggest donations as of late, it’s never overkill to give to the ACLU. Go on. Every little bit helps.)

And… I write. I have to admit that I never saw writing as a political act. I saw it as an escapism from the politics. Which, it can be, but it’s also political. Fellow author, KJ Charles posted about just this a couple days before the inauguration.

Let’s start with stating the obvious: If you are a novelist you already talk about politics, all the time.

The personal is political. When we write any sort of fiction—medieval historicals, contemporary fluff, dystopian sci-fi, fantasy with cute animals—we write about power, interaction, systems, groups, how people live, who’s in charge. We create worlds and talk about how they might be, could be, should be; what’s fair, what’s wrong. That’s what writing does, and it’s what politics is.

I write queer love stories, and by doing so, I’m making a political statement. To quote KJ again, I’m saying, “that queer people’s stories deserve to be told, and that they deserve to be loved and happy. If those aren’t political statements, I don’t know what is.”

As I’ve been going through my book again to help lure you into the story I’ve told, I realize I’m also writing political characters. They’re political through their art, through their life, by living the fullest of lives even when some in society would tell them that they shouldn’t.

We met Sid Marneaux a couple weeks ago. Bastra, his design company, is an extension of him, and it is one hell of a political statement. I’d imagine him to argue that point with me for a bit until, yes. The truth of it becomes clear.

It’s the business founded by Sid, a queer man, inspired by Dottie, his queer friend and the teachings of Sid’s immigrant mother. (Wouldn’t it piss Trump off!!??) His clients are all over the queer spectrum, all over the racial spectrum and are his clients so they can be quietly (or not so quietly as in Shi’s case) political by simply living their lives in a way that they choose–not in a way that’s chosen by society or by the demands of other people.

As of this morning, it was all his. The lease agreement had Sid’s company name on it: Bastra.

In time, that word—his brand—would be etched into the glass door of his brand new atelier just as it had been etched into his heart since high school when, the night before the spring sports award ceremony, his best friend Dottie had come to him in a state close to tears—the closest to tears he would ever see her.

Everyone was to “dress appropriately” for the ceremony. “Appropriately” translated to dresses or skirts for the girls and anything from khakis and polo shirts to suits and ties for the guys.

“I will not wear a dress,” she had said, locked in a state between anger and fear. “Slacks and blouses don’t fit right.” She picked at the shoulders of her shirt and tugged at the waistband of her jeans. Her upset had no words, but that day had sparked a flame in him. Nothing was wrong with Dottie, her less-than-feminine taste, or her thick, athletic body. The problem rested in the clothes. Clothes he would, over time, design for people like Dottie who slipped into the cracks
of fashion’s persistent binary system.

And now, after a decade—college first, then running the online business out of a spare bedroom and tailoring suits for wealthy businessmen to make ends meet—his loyal clientele contributed to a successful Kickstarter campaign and allowed his vision to blossom on the fifth floor of a historic building north of Lincoln Park.

If you want to understand the cheese ball, you’re going to have to read the book. 🙂

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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On Looking Back, Pt. II

Last week, I looked back at a favorite childhood staple, Winnie the Pooh, and how the lessons that book series teach can help guide us forward as we face… whatever it is we’re facing after last week’s inauguration of a new president.

Today, I’d like to talk about what started this whole thread of thought, about how the idea of ‘looking back’ is a steady theme in Beneath the Stars. What struck me first was that in each of my novels, at least one of my protagonists had to look bac  so he could make forward progression. Evan, in Chef’s Table, was specifically told by his loving sous to, “Go home. Find yourself again.” He took her advice, cooked in the kitchen where he had learned to love food and its creation. When he returned to New York, he was ready to take on his life and career with a renewed sense of purpose.

In Black Dust, Toby carried around the weight of a tragedy fifteen years’ past. It burdened him, slowed him down and kept him from realizing the creative life he so desperately wanted. But a courageous plea to revisit the site where the tragedy had occurred freed his mind and heart to unleash the music that had been trapped under the weight of the accident in his young life.

“What do you remember?” Toby’s eyes were huge and his breath came in quick puffs, as if a deep inhalation might stab him with the pain of that day all over again.
Emmett desperately wanted to tell him to let it go, to scream, cry, throw something, hit him, anything, but the fact that they were here talking—it was the first time they had spoken of those frightful moments in any detail—was an amazing feat of its own.

In Beneath the Stars, Eddie is left with a son, Adrian, to raise alone. He’s overwhelmed, under-prepared and often feels like he’s failing Adrian and Adrian’s mother. But it’s when he focuses on Maggie’s wisdom, on her quiet strength and her undying love for their son, he’s able to garner the strength (Oh god, his last name is Garner… I’m a comedienne) to handle whatever is in front of him.

Adrian lay prone on his bed. His cries had dwindled to soft sobs and his raised rump, covered in Spongebob Squarepants briefs, shook with every whimper. Eddie bit back the urge to shush him, to tell him not to cry. Maggie had been clear: Shushing children when they were sad and angry implied that their feelings weren’t okay.
He knelt by Adrian’s bed and rubbed his back. “Daddy’s here.”

And our second hero, Sid Marneaux has lived on a forward trajectory since he graduated from high school. He left his Pennsylvania home for school in Chicago where he learned tools of the fashion trade and began his business while making ends meet tailoring suits for rich men in the city. He loved his family back home, visited often enough, but his life, his home became Chicago. Until his sister calls and needs him to come home and help care for their ailing father. He tries straddling current and past, traveling home as he can to help out.

He falls in love in Pennsylvania, but the pull of his business, of his passions in Chicago continue to tug. It’s not until he stops, looks back, and takes in the wisdom he learned as a child that he can handle the tug and pull and find the happiness she had always dreamt for him.

Our past can inform our future, whether it’s an idyllic scene of home and happiness or a tragedy that changed our entire outlook on life. And sometimes, the answers to our past are “in the stars,” where we’ve relinquished those we’ve loved and where they continue to illuminate our way.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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Cast of Characters: Adrian Garner

Putting a young child into a romance is a risky move, I understand that. But, I’m all about writing romances that reflect real life. That tell stories with ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstances. And for a large portion of ordinary people, children are a constant.

So, we have Adrian Garner. It’s no secret that Adrian has just recently lost his mother and is now living with his dad in a new town with a new bedroom that is not particularly to his liking, and with new people helping guide him through life. He likes people at the onset. Before his mother’s passing, she’s raised him well. Lovingly. She respected his feelings, his dreams, and she taught him to do the same. He’s a good boy.

He’s also a human boy and misses his mother in ways that words don’t always help expressing. So, he draws and he categorizes. He flexes his will and sometimes overshoots. But at the heart of Adrian Garner is a little boy so full of love that he teaches two stubborn men to stop being so bullheaded and love each other already.

Adrian relinquished his grip and sat back. His eyelashes clumped with tears, and his big loopy chestnut curls were matted damply on his head. When their eyes locked, Eddie had to catch his breath—Maggie stared at him from Adrian’s blue-eyed, freckle-faced gaze, waiting to hear what he had to say.

“Can you listen now?” Eddie asked, scratching over Adrian’s ears to loosen the curls.

Adrian nodded, sniffed, and licked at the snot glistening on his top lip. “You’re coming back.”

“I’m coming back. Our new house is less than an hour away. I’m going to get it all cleaned up and nice. Get your room set up—”

“But not too set up because I get to choose.”

Eddie laughed more from relief than good humor; his boy was bent, not broken. “Yes. You get to choose. And I’m going to meet the new firefighters and find the best ice cream shop in town.”

“You’re coming back.”

“I’m coming back,” Eddie said.

“Nana has the calendar to count my sleeps,” Adrian said, as his body relaxed with each spoken word.

“And our video dates.”

“Can we find the Big Dipper on our video dates?”

“If you want to,” Eddie said. “And I can show you the new house so you can start thinking about your room.”

Adrian reached behind him to run his fingers along Eddie’s shirt, a leftover habit from twisting his fingers in his mother’s hair and later curling her scarf tails. “Nana’s bed is soft.”

“I bet it is. And she reads stories better than I do.”

“She does great voices.”

“Maybe I should take a couple books with me to practice.”

Adrian giggled and spun around in Eddie’s arms; his eyes shone brightly for the first time all evening. “I can draw another book to read.”

“I can’t wait to see it.”

“Because you’ll be back.”

Beneath the Stars is now available for pre-order at the IP web store.

Enter to win a free e-book package, and a $25 gift certificate to Interlude Press, or a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

On Looking Back to See the Future, Pt. I

They say some of our best inspiration comes to us at times we can’t do anything about it: in the shower, driving, in the middle of a dull meeting. Our minds are left free to wander–and wonder–and “genius” is unleashed. Or, you know, just a half-decent idea that’s suddenly clear.

This morning’s shower “genius” came under the guise of looking back at our history in order to see our future more clearly. I realized it is a key theme in Beneath the Stars, and began formulating a blog post about just that. As I mulled, I scrolled through twitter and saw that today is the birthday of a.a. milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh series. What does one have to do with the other? Well, a little bit of everything. And so, today begins a three-part series–maybe four if readers will participate too–on the topic.

Whenever I am asked about favorite childhood books, I immediately go to the Winnie the Pooh series. I loved Pooh before Disney grabbed hold of it and made him round and a merchandising tool. I can’t tell you about specific stories or quote great lines, but I remember what those stories brought to me as a child. I remember sprawling across my bed every night before bed with my dad and listening to him read the tales to me. I remember the warmth of his body next to mine, the baritone of his voice soothing me so sleep would come easier. I remember the cushion of my own Winnie the Pooh under my chest. (Yep, that’s him. Three or four newly made shirts later, a limp nose and missing eyes. I loved the hell out of that doll. Also, thanks to my son for taking the photo.)

And beyond the memories of a father and daughter, I remember the lessons Winnie the Pooh taught me: loyalty, friendship, patience with people who might generally annoy you. I mean, come on, Tigger is amazing, but after about an hour, all that bouncing would do me in. Eeyore is depressed, Owl is a bit of an elitist. Rabbit is impatient and judgmental. Piglet has anxiety like whoa and Pooh, god love him, he’s not the brightest fluffy-headed creature in the forest. But Christopher Robin, he loved them all. And they loved each other. And that, I remember vividly.

I felt moved by the stories all over again as I visited the New York Public Library this fall and saw the display of the newly refurbished dolls that the real Christopher Robin loved and played with as his dad made up the stories we’ve all come to love.

This idea of friendship and loyalty hit even harder today as I watched video snippets and read reports of Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing. A confirmation for the position of our nation’s Education Secretary. This woman has no concept of children and their educational needs. She appears to hold no value to books, to the power of storytelling and imagination in helping our children feel secure, loved and empowered. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frightening. I don’t know if her confirmation will go through or not, but I do know this:

Those of us that hold these things dear and close can keep it alive regardless of what this new administration throws at us. Take a look back at the books and the stories that you not only enjoyed, but helped form who you are, and carry those lessons as we face the future.

What books have formed you? What can you look back on with fondness and certainty that that is where you came from?

The second in the series we’ll talk about the theme looking back in Beneath the Stars, and the third I’ll talk about some of the ways I still look back–or reach back–so I can see my own future more clearly.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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Cast of Characters: Eddie Garner

So, yes indeed, there is a hot fireman in Beneath the Stars. However, I think it’s important to note, this is not your typical hot fireman romance. Eddie Garner, while the excerpt at the end of this post might make you question, is a man who has spent his life thinking about other people before himself. His foundation was shaky as a child, and through circumstance after circumstance, he learned that when he saved people, the ground wasn’t so shaky.

And as we look to the end of this week when the United States turns its control over to someone who doesn’t seem to have a selfless bone in his body (among other heinous issues), it’s good to remember the selflessness of others, and to check our own capacity for it. Like this fireman says, “Get in the game; save the shoes.”

Please enjoy this short video. I have no problem seeing Eddie giving us the same message.

For a little more “real” Eddie visual, please enjoy:

eddie collage

Sid squatted and shoved an open bottle of water into Chief’s line of vision. “Drink.”

… Chief poured the water over his face and head.

“You need to ingest—”

Chief opened one eye, took the second bottle, and drank with long intentional pulls. He emptied the bottle. A lazy smile crinkled the corners of his eyes as his head tilted in question. “Are you some sort of angel?”

Sid laughed and sat down. Cold dampness seeped through his track pants. “Hardly.” Chief ’s color remained peaked; his movements were lethargic, as if he was dragging his limbs through molasses. Sid took his pulse: slow, as expected. “Let’s get you to the truck for some air conditioning, huh?”

“Nah, I’m fine.”

“You’re not. Where are your medics?”

“I’m going to need more than air conditioning to have this conversation.” Sid helped Chief to stand and braced him more tightly when he wobbled. “Fuck. They are never going to let me live this down, are they?”

“Nearly passing out on your second day on the job? No. No, they are not.”

Sid rearranged the cold cloth on Eddie’s neck. When he sat, Eddie stared at him, chin in hand and a dopey grin on his face.

Regardless of the circumstances, Eddie was classically handsome: sandy blond wavy hair, blue eyes. He had a ruggedness about him that softened whenever he smiled. He would easily fulfill anyone’s latent fireman fantasies, Sid’s included—provided Sid had such fantasies, which he didn’t. He hadn’t the time.

“I didn’t get your name,” Eddie said with more clarity.

“That’s because I didn’t give it. Phone number?”


“For fu—” Sid grabbed his phone, found the phone number of the fire station and put it on the form. “And it’s Sid, Sid Marneaux.”

“Sid Marneaux, county disaster rescue worker and a hottie to boot. It’s my lucky day.”

The fireman fantasy faded into a pile of machismo idiocy. “Are you
still out of it, or are you naturally a jackass?”

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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