Cruise with Mona…And Babies

My name is Julia. I was seven months old when my grandparents took us on a cruise. My cousin Olivia and I were the only two babies on the ship.

Cruise muster drills are mandatory safety briefings that all passengers must attend before the ship is allowed to sail. Before sailing, Daddy outfitted me with a life jacket to make sure I would be safe in case of emergency.

On the very first night, Olivia ruined her parents’ dinner by whining, crying, and displaying a high fever—a possible risk when traveling with small children. She paid a visit to the local clinic and was treated with antibiotics.

Here is Olivia crawling through the connecting balconies to come and visit me.

Thankfully, she recovered in no time, enjoyed the rest of the cruise and even managed to celebrate her first birthday on the ship.

Nothing beats a day spent at the beach, on a gorgeous Caribbean Island.

This was our parents’ first cruise too and they were determined to enjoy it. They took several tours, discovering the water fall, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Luckily we had adoring grandparents. While our parents went ashore, Nonno and Nonna spent the day with us, ambled around the ship, each pushing a stroller, or sat at a table around the pool each feeding a baby, or lounged on a deck with a sweetheart in their arms, sucking on a bottle. The passengers would stop by, cooing over us.

We explored the ship with Nonno and Nonna and admired the masterpieces sculpted by the cooks and their helpers.

Around four o’clock, the parents collected their little bundles and got ready for dinner. Before the cruise, Nonna had sent us appropriate sailing outfits and adorable dresses.

Our Mommies took us to the casino where we tried our hands at blackjack and crab, and won big time– I mean won big applause.

On formal night, we put on the pretty dresses Nonna had offered us. We were as pretty as can be.

In the dining room the family was assigned a table for eight in a corner at the end of the huge dining room, as far as possible from the other tables. Two high chairs waited for us with colorful balloons flying above. Several waiters hovered around our table, ready to pick up the forks or spoons, napkins or plastic glasses falling down. Forget about the crumbles carpeting the floor around our high chairs.

Do you know many kids who have the chance to celebrate their first birthday on a cruise? The night we celebrated Olivia’s birthday, the whole crew of waiters and all the passengers sang Happy Birthday, dear Olivia.

Unfortunately everything must come to an end. Our first cruise was so much fun and way too short. Of course, we don’t remember anything but our grandparents swear it was the best cruise of their lives.

WE’RE ALL TOGETHER, (Love Plans Series, book 15)

#Preorder Release Day November 7 —– A generous computer expert, Greg Haynes navigates life without worries or responsibilities. After experiencing pain and betrayal, Heidi Benton focuses on her law studies with one purpose in life, to graduate and get her revenge. The threat of a hurricane hitting the island forces everyone to evacuate and turns Greg and Heidi’s lives upside down, displacing their priorities for the sake of two orphaned children.

Changing Direction

During difficult times, we remain frozen in one place and moving seems almost impossible. We focus on what we can’t do rather than do something different, and yet changing directions may bring up new opportunities and open new doors.

A needed change, a ‘turning point’ in a novel, a ‘momentum shift’ in tennis games, a career shift or life change in real life. No one can predict if they will be good or bad, but rather than being stuck in a hole that can get deeper over time, why not try something else that can make us move forward?

I made several career shifts in my life. After graduating with a pharmacy degree, I trained in a local pharmacy and was bored out of my mind, filling prescriptions all day long. My first shift came as I enrolled in a master degree program in analytical chemistry, graduated and worked, and enjoyed life in the lab until the task took its toll on my back.

One day, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my back and left leg. Unable to walk, I crawled into my car and rushed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The x-rays and CT-scan showed a slipped disc in my vertebral column. Painkillers did not help. After a three-month bed rest, I had to wear a special brace around my lower back. The company granted me a six-month sick leave. “No more standing on your feet in a lab. Change career,” my doctor ordered.

As soon as I could walk without pain, I applied for the PhD program in Analytical Chemistry and threw myself wholeheartedly in the student life again. Dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt, I multitasked, driving the children to after-school activities and waiting for them with a book in my hand. Four arduous years, numerous exams, and several published papers finally led to graduation.

While still on campus, I received a phone call from a recruiter who wanted to interview graduating PhD students for a managerial position in the analytical laboratory of an environmental company. I was hired by the CEO to start a lab, buy the needed instruments, and hire the right staff.

From day one, I decided to never let anyone derail me from my goal: to make this laboratory productive and successful. While supervising the lab operations, I wrote many proposals and won several contracts. I convinced the CEO to build six new labs and interviewed many chemists and technicians, and carefully explained the pressure of laboratory life. To their credit, my chemists rarely complained about the long hours spent to analyze samples of hazardous water and soil waste materials. They did an excellent job, and the good reputation of our lab soon spread around. We received contracts from different government agencies, and applied for several state certifications.

International contracts took me to Minsk, Belarus; Kiev and Uman in Ukraine; to Almati and Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan; to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sergei Possad in Russia. Each new project presented more challenges due to clash of cultures, different languages, and work habits.

Soon I realized that I was at the end of my rope. Working an average of ten hours a day for so many years, I reached as high as I could go in my career in analytical chemistry. It was time to take an early retirement and fulfill another dream: I wanted to write and publish romance novels.

I gathered the staff for a last meeting and informed them of my decision. During the farewell speech, I could not hold my tears and many of my chemists cried too. They had become my second family.

Turning the page, I concentrated on my new goal. To write novels and compete in the publishing industry, I bought grammar and writing books, and once again I started at the bottom of the ladder. I sent an email to Debbie Macomber, my favorite romance author, who advised me to join the Romance Writers of America (RWA). At the monthly meetings of the RWA local chapter, I met published authors and beginners. We formed critique groups and helped each other, until I gathered the courage to submit excerpts of my writing to various publishers. After receiving my share of rejection letters for five years, one finally offered me a contract.

Through my first novel To Love a Hero released in 2008, I practically relived my fantastic trips to Belarus. Many of the adventures I experienced in Minsk are related in my book. Several more books followed, set in the fascinating places I visited during my business or vacation travels. In 2011, I tried my hand at self-publishing and was stunned by the amazing number of ebooks I sold on Amazon, and the enthusiastic reviews of my fans. But my biggest reward came from bedridden readers who said my novels brought joy to their lives and took them on an armchair trip around the world.

After publishing numerous books and contributing to several anthologies, I earned the top honor for a published author: the enviable status of “USA Today Bestselling Author,” and “New York Times Bestselling Author.”

My legacy to my children and grandchildren is the following: Set your goals high and work hard to follow your dream. Don’t be afraid to change direction. You can make a difference.

We’re All HeroesReleased Today

They’re all heroes who pay a big price for freedom—The Ukrainian mom who spies for her country; her three small kids who struggle to survive; the wounded major who gets them out of a war-zone; Lauren, the flight attendant who brings them to the U.S.A. ; her parents who receive them in their home; and her ex-fiancé, Dr. Jake, who operates on the injured. And let’s not forget the two German shepherd puppies that dive in a pool to save a two-year old. Will the many crises they face head-on strengthen or destroy Lauren and Jake’s relationship?

We’re All Heroes is book 12 of the Love Plans Series.

Messy PlansNew Release

Dr. Matt Lopez is perfectly happy with his medical career until the new nurse practitioner turns his life upside down with her lovely smile and crazy ideas. When Cathy takes Tommy, a young patient under her wing, gets involved in his home situation, and discovers the truth, trouble follows. Life will never be the same for Cathy, her boss, or Tommy as they try to repair the mistakes of their pasts. Can Matt and Cathy reconcile their personal feelings and work obligations?

Messy Plans is book 11 of the Love Plans Series.

The story behind White Christmas


***Appeared in a Newsletter by Caleb Pirtle III on Dec 9, 2022. I found it so fascinating that I wanted to share it with you all. https://calebandlindapirtle.com    

The Story Behind White Christmas

He had no business writing the song. He had no business writing about Christmas. He was a Russian. He was a Jew. During the dark days of December, he was a melancholy man. But from the heart of Irving Berlin came the one song that struck a nostalgic chord in America during 1942, grabbed the soul of a nation, and has never let go.

The Berlin home always had a Christmas tree, stockings, a turkey, and plum pudding. It was time for celebration. It was a time for family. And no one loved his family more than Irving Berlin. In the dark days of December, he was a melancholy man.

Irving Berlin could not read a note of music, yet he composed more than a thousand songs, and four hundred of them became American standards, songs like Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Easter Parade, Cheek to Cheek, No Business Like Show Business, and God Bless America.

He was the master. As composer Jerome Kern would say, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music. Irving Berlin is American music.” He was working in Beverly Hills. He was alone and lonely. He missed his family. And he sat down one night and worked on a new song. But it didn’t quite capture the way he was feeling. So, Berlin threw the lyrics in a trunk and could have forgotten them. He didn’t.

A couple of years later, Berlin found them and worked throughout the night, writing, re-writing, revising, and rearranging the words. The melody was already locked in his head. The next morning, he walked into his office and told his secretary, “Grab a pen,” he said. “You need to take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written.”

She typed the words for White Christmas. It was slow. It was nostalgic. It was melancholy. But then, during the dark days of December, Irving Berlin was a melancholy man.

Bing Crosby sang White Christmas for the first time on his NBC radio show. He sang it, and a heartbroken nation listened. He sang White Christmas for the first time on Christmas day. He sang White Christmas for the first time eighteen days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and left America weeping for its missing and its dead.

Armed Forces Radio was swamped with requests for the song. For the fighting men, it was their first winter, their first Christmas in trenches of Germany, on the islands surrounding Japan. They were homesick, and White Christmas gave them a vision of home, if only for eight lines, fifty-four words, and sixty-seven notes. It was enough.

White Christmas was a song of hope with a melancholy melody, but, during the dark days of December, Irving Berlin was a melancholy man.

He had lost his son on Christmas Day in 1928. The boy was only three days old. And Berlin spent every Christmas for the rest of his life beside the grave of his son in New York. Berlin sat in the December chill dreaming of a White Christmas that would never be.

***9 STORIES FOR ONLY 99 CENTS!

Writing the Cozy Mystery by @_NancyRadke

I had written what I thought was a cozy mystery in my Sisters of Spirit series, entitled Stolen Secrets. So before writing Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, a cozy mystery for the Diehard Dames series, I reviewed what constituted a cozy mystery to see how close I came.

Cozy Mystery

Pssst… you can get STOLEN SECRETS free, Oct 8th through the 11th. Did you hear that? FREE! Now, back to the blog…

Cozy mysteries have a theme, showing a level of expertise.

In Stolen Secrets, the hero has a computer security company that the heroine, Angie, learns about. In my Lucky Dog series, the heroine, Jenna, is an expert on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, traveling around the county with Lucky, her dog, to check out artifacts, while the hero is a big city detective, transplanted to a rural county. He needs her knowledge of the people and the county to solve the mysteries.

Cozy mysteries are often set in a small community or rural setting.  

Stolen Secrets is set in a houseboat community on Lake Union in Seattle. The houseboat people include a wise old grandmother that the hero, Ryan, helps. Angie stays at the elderly woman’s home. In my Lucky Dog series, the setting is a small town in a rural county. The people in the town and county can all be suspects.

Cozy mysteries involve a middle-aged heroine.

Oops, missed this one on Stolen Secrets. Angie is twenty-two, a former Olympic gymnast left homeless by a series of happenings. Ryan gives her both a job and a place to stay, giving her back her self-respect. In Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, both Jenna and Craig are in their thirties. Craig really likes his best friend’s wife. And he doesn’t think he find anyone for himself. Jenna has male friends, but none she wants to get serious with.

Cozy mysteries are G-rated.

That’s the only type of book I write, so both fit this criteria.

Cozy mysteries are usually part of a series.  

Stolen Secrets is linked to several other books through the characters, including Courage Dares, Tennessee Touch, and A Tennessee Christmas. Of these, Tennessee Touch is the one with the most mystery in it, as the group try to figure out who is killing pro-football players. Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood is the first of the Lucky Dog series, which is part of the brand new Authors’ Billboard Diehard Dames cozy mystery series.

Diehard Dames

The Diehard Dames first set, now available, is Murder Is to Die For. Here’s a sample of Any Lucky Dog Can Follow a Trail of Blood, which is in that set. Jenna has found a dead body at the top of Lone Willow’s Trail and called for the sheriff.

Excerpt:

“Are you all right?” Sheriff Craig asked, bending over to check on her. “It’s hard for anyone to sit with a dead body.”

Jenna was glad that he realized it. She was still sitting on the ground where her weak legs had dumped her. “Sort of.”

He touched his hand to her shoulder. “Do you need help getting up?”

“Not really.” But it would be nice. Maybe she did need help. She hadn’t tried to stand up yet.

He must have heard her thoughts, or else from experience knew that a woman sitting on the ground near a body was there because her legs wouldn’t support her. He put his hands under her arms and lifted her up, holding her long enough that she could gain her balance and stand on her own. He left one hand on her shoulder, maintaining contact.

“Thank you,” she said, and meant it. She took hold of his arm while she kept her face averted from where the forensic team was working. He must think her pretty weak, to react in such a way. She was somewhat ashamed of herself. Farm folks were supposed to be tougher than this.

She liked holding onto his arm. He had rolled up his sleeves almost to the elbows, leaving his forearms bare. They reminded her of her father’s, who had been a strong, healthy man before he’d been killed by a falling tree. Sheriff Craig was a solid figure of a man, and his arm offered the support she needed right now.

But she had to let go so he could do his job, and she did so reluctantly, silently chiding herself for needing his support. She wasn’t a child.

But he didn’t step away, just stood there next to her, his hand still on her shoulder, and his very presence gave her strength. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Nodded as she began to feel stronger.

“Okay, now?” he asked, still not moving.

“Yes. I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

“They work fine without me.” He motioned toward the forensic team and stayed where he was, his concern clearly readable on his face. “I’ll talk to you more, get your statement, once you’re really ready.”

Wasn’t that now? But no, she was still very upset. He had gaged her feelings better than she had. She closed her eyes, struggling to gain control of her emotions.

One of the forensic men straightened up and shook his head. “Shouldn’t there be some shotgun pellets in the fence post?” he asked the team leader. “I mean, given the angle?”

The leader, Lance Newman, nodded. “This isn’t adding up, Craig,” he called out. “There should be a lot more blood here.” He turned to the other three members of his team. “That means we need to be even more careful collecting the data. Step back, re-asses the situation and assume this wasn’t an accident.” He put a lot of emphasis on the word, “wasn’t.”