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Sid started to correct the long-outdated question, but stopped himself.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:

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—”


“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.”


“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.

End of the Tour

The two week long Virtual Book Tour comes to a close today. A quick review of the final week:

Monday, I stopped by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words where I spoke about the value of writing, and the parts of it that I enjoyed the most with Beneath the Stars.

Tuesday took me to From Top to Bottom Reviews where you got to learn Ten Things About Me. Granted, if you’ve known me more than ten or fifteen years, little of this will be a surprise. They also selected Beneath the Stars as one of their top books of February.

And today, I visited Bayou Book Junkie to talk about the hero of Beneath the Stars, Sid Marneaux and a few of the things I learned while writing the story. Also, no matter what the doctor says, I love carbs.

Please take a moment to stop by these blogs, enter the giveaway and thank them for promoting LGBT books!

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. See links on my side bar.

Cast of Characters: The Marneaux Family

The (potentially) final mood board I have for you contains the people that surprised me the most in this book–the story that hadn’t originally factored heavily in my planning of this book. Oh, Lou was a huge portion of the story, and of course Sid is our main protagonist, but the family as a character hadn’t occured to me. They came alive to me on the page, especially Sid’s older sister Anna.

Rimi is, of course, a character in memory, but she is still the matriarch, the guiding force of these passionate, loving people who stumble their way into taking care of one another.

“Okay, what’s the emergency?” [Sid asked.]

“It’s Dad,” she said, as if she had been holding her breath her entire wait.

“Fuck, Anna. Why didn’t you say that?”

“You didn’t answer the phone, asshole. And he’s fine. I mean, he won’t ever be—” She sighed into the phone. Sid heard her screen door close. He arrived at his apartment and sat on the stoop to close the miles between them and stare at the same sky. “It’s me,” she said. “I can’t do this alone anymore. You need to come home.”

“Home” meant Connelly—a lovely college town in central Pennsylvania surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, its forests, and large expanses of farmland. … Sid hadn’t lived in Connelly since his first day in college, over ten years ago. Connelly was no longer “home.”

“That’s impossible, and you know it,” Sid said. “Where’s Andrew?”

Anna’s silence said plenty about their brother. Andrew was being Andrew: self-involved, self-important, self-immersed, all under the guise of being a family man. His wife and mostly grown kids survived happily without him while he spent his time at the lab researching… well, Sid was convinced he researched ways to shirk his responsibilities. His résumé said something about solar energy.

“He’s immovable.” Anna finally said, “You aren’t; you understand Dad.” At Sid’s continued silence, she added, “And I know you want the best for him.”

… “I signed the lease on my studio this morning.”

… “I need a break.”

“I can come down for a few days in a couple weeks,” Sid said, unsure if it was true. “Can’t you hire a nurse?”

“No. You know he treats them horribly,” she said. “You have to pull some weight, Sid.”

He closed his eyes and tried to explain again. “Anna, when I say I signed the lease, I don’t mean I have a new play space. I mean, I have obligations to people who have invested in this company. I have staff to hire, product to produce, clientele to serve.”

“I don’t see—”

“Orders don’t stop because Dad’s sick and you’re tired.”

“I don’t see how any of this is more important than Dad.”

“Nothing is more important than Dad. That’s not the point.” Sid shed his coat; anxiety warmed him faster than the unseasonable evening. “Look, you’re the one who insisted on moving him into your home against his wishes. Let’s not talk about my and Andrew’s—”

“No, let’s not talk about your and Andrew’s opinions, because you
two have done nothing but voice them.”

This wasn’t altogether false. His sister’s problems were her own, but his dad’s weren’t the kinds of problems anyone asks for. More importantly, Sid’s ability to say no to her request was possible because their dad said yes when Sid wanted to leave home, follow his dreams, and “make Ma proud.”

“I can’t untangle immediately,” Sid finally said. “Give me to the end of the week.”

“Wednesday, Sid. I want an answer by Wednesday.”

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and other book retailers.  You can find purchase links on the right sidebar.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

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

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Still Waiting on that RV

The book tour continues and no one’s brought me the RV for a more leisurely ride. Even still, I’ve stopped at some lovely blogs and shared a variety of thoughts. Some have also been kind enough to leave me a wonderful review as well!

Before I start, my Thursday began with great news! Foreward Reviews, renown for highlighting the best titles from the independent publishing community, posted a raving 5-star review of Beneath the Stars.

Beneath the Stars, Lynn Charles’s wonderful contemporary romance novel, connects the dots between unlikely lovers Sid and Eddie as they try to mesh their lives’ eccentric orbits. Taking on serious subjects such as grief, progressive fashion, and co-parenting, this gay romance is ambitious and satisfying.

I’m simply thrilled.

Moving on, Wednesday, I stopped by Prism Book Alliance. They asked about a television show I’d love to bring back. Without question, I talked about M*A*S*H. In the midst of my reminiscing I said this:

It also taught me to love character, dialogue., and a well-timed comedic note in the midst of drama. And that Charles Emerson Winchester III was not just a stodgy, snobby Boston blue blood, but he was a man of great surgical skill and a deep, compassionate heart. Layers—it taught me layers of character.

Why should it come back? Because honestly, I think the world needs to spend some time with such characters again. With the realities of what our history did in this specific conflict and with the real, diverse, heartfelt and hilarious moments that can happen in the midst of it. We need to laugh and cry and hate and love. M*A*S*H brought it all.

Yesterday, I visited Sinfully MM Reviews where I waxed about Eddie, our fearless, often impulsive firefighter. What was it like the day, as a ten year old child, that his house burned down? Here’s a preview:

He still smelled like smoke. His clothes, his hair, his skin reeked so strongly of the sweet stench of house fire, Eddie wondered if the haze of it was visible.

While the only house he had ever known burned, his temporary home had been decided. He and his mom would stay with Maggie and her mom, Sharon. Mom promised to “be out of their hair” as soon as possible, but secretly Eddie hoped this is where they would live forever.

He was given the choice: stay in the art studio cum guest bedroom with his mom or stay in Maggie’s room. The adults didn’t hide that they preferred he stay with his mother, but he and Maggie decided differently. If given a choice, Eddie would always choose Maggie.

Her room wasn’t bad, really, for a girl’s room. It was a buttery yellow and her bed was covered with a soft green comforter and multi-colored pillows. Her lamps looked like they came from a grandmother’s living room, and the curtains were a dismal brown—they didn’t match anything about Maggie.

“I only have three days of clothes,” he finally said [to Maggie.]

“Mom said maybe we could go to a thrift store. They have all kinds of cool things.”

Eddie nodded. He balanced the bowl [of butterscotch pudding] on his thighs and took Maggie’s warm hand in his. The chain on the swing creaked against the hooks with each sway.

“Are you scared, Eddie?”

“No. I’m mad. I lost my Gameboy. I did dishes for two months to earn that thing.”

“Yeah, that sucks,” Maggie said. “But you’re still here. And we can get you a new Gameboy.”

“No, we can’t. Mom can’t—I’m not stupid. We won’t be able to get another one.”

“We can have a bake sale?”

Today, I’ve had two stops: Making It Happen Book Blog where she left a 5-star review and said, among other things:

I LOVED this book.  This is one of those stories that I can’t wait to tell you I’ve given a 5-star, top recommendation rating to because it just needs to be said right up front.  Sid and Eddie’s story is beautiful-emotional, heartwarming, sad, sweet and was just a joy to read.  The characters are easy to relate to, and in the middle of it all is the incredibly precocious and intelligent Adrian who pretty much steals the show in every scene in which he appears.
And The Novel Approach, where I talked about some of my favorite blogs to visit:

Chookooloonks: Karen Walrond is a former engineer and attorney who now dedicates her life to the creative side. She focuses on thriving, on finding the light, and on shining light on every good thing. She uplifts me, as a reader, and lifts up those in her world. I’d love to have coffee with her, or to sit and watch her create her daily journal entries, or follow her as she walks through her neighborhood—or Africa where she is an active member of the One Campaign—and takes photographs. She is a true beacon of positivity and peace.

Girls Gone Child: Rebecca Woolf is a mother of four (including a set of twins), wife and writer who lives in LA. She started her blog after her son was born because she didn’t know another other women with children. She took to her strengths in writing and began what is probably the most beautiful love letter to her children, to my children, to everyone’s children, and to motherhood in general. She is politically active and teaching her children that the future is female and they are capable leaders of it.

I hope you’ll go visit these sites to see, not only what else I said, but to catch an excerpt of Beneath the Stars and to enter to win an e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to Interlude Press.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. See links on my side bar.

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

Virtual Book Tour Continues

This long weekend brought a couple of nice reviews and fun tour stops:

Just Love Reviews gave Beneath the Stars a lovely 4-star review:

I guess what I’m trying to get at is, despite the burdens that each man bears, despite the losses in their lives, this book still feels hopeful. The subject matter may be heavy at times, but the author treads lightly and never loses sight of the fact that this is a love story. This is Eddie and Sid against the world, and as far as I’m concerned, their relationship made this book a delight to read.

Publisher’s Weekly had this to say:

Both men find an instant and sweetly rendered connection, and their early courtship is a delight to read.

And today, I was a visiting author at Parker Williams’ site where I answered some fun questions about Sid and Eddie, like:

Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for him to throw out? What is difficult for him to part with? Why?

Eddie has no problem throwing out broken things: crayons, toys, ripped books, tools, furniture. Following Maggie’s lead, he saves about 1/3 of Adrian’s drawings in a box in the garage. He needs to buy a new box soon. In the guest room closet, he has saved boxes of paraphernalia from Maggie: incense and burners, a few favorite pieces of clothing, a couple head scarves and some of the pottery pieces she’d made. He can’t bring himself to display them yet, afraid with the craziness of a five-year-old, they might get broken.

Sid files receipts and invoices relating to Bastra and gets them out of his house and back to Bastra. He tosses carry-out menus he’s not used since his last cleaning, and after a few years, he finally tosses his father’s medical bills and informational pamphlets that his sister shoved into his “you take it” box. What he can’t and won’t part with are the broken field glasses his father used, the chest of fabric that still has swatches from his mother, and of course, her mandir that still fills the corner of his sitting room.

Visit Parker’s site for more of the Q&A and get to know a little more about the protagonists of Beneath the Stars.

Beneath the Stars is available now at Interlude Press and most book retailers. See links on my side bar.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

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

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Today’s the Day!!

What a way to begin release day! My virtual book tour begins at Molly Lolly. In addition to a fantastic 5-star review, Eddie popped in to visit and talk about his favorite day of all–days off from the fire station.

An excerpt from my post there:

Being chief of the fire department means that anything labeled “day off,” can become anything but in the blink of an eye. I’ve learned over the years to take days off by the horns and go at them full throttle—even if “full throttle” means staying in pjs and marathoning Spongebob Squarepants with my kid all day. And typically, that happens for at least a little while on almost every day off. No kid is raised right without a regular dose of Spongebob.

But when I’m not sprawled out on the couch with my kid climbing all over me sharing a bowl of Frosted Flakes and quoting a sea sponge, I can be found in any number of places. Late summer and early fall it’s next to Sid at the soccer field while Adrian and his 20 closest friends beat hell out of each other’s shins—otherwise known as little league soccer. We end up at the unnamed ice cream shop at the edge of the neighborhood fields where you eat milkshakes like a normal person—with a straw.

Read the rest of Eddie’s thoughts, her fabulous review and enter to win a free copy of Beneath the Stars here.

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.

Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 Interlude press gift certificate.

You can also 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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