State Of Bliss

I really hate to tempt fate here yet for the last week or so I have experienced what can only be described as a pure state of bliss. I can’t explain the smiles at nothing, the occasional break into song (Banana Pancake song by Jack Johnson in case you were wondering), or dancing in my kitchen more than normal.

This sensational feeling started right after Uncle Neddy’s released. I am almost ashamed to admit this is my first creative work since. I’ve tried, mind you, yet my state of being isn’t cooperating.

It had to be those damn mountains. For anyone out there who hasn’t experienced the beauty of The Continental Divide, put it on your bucket list NOW! Go in at Estes Park, Colorado and follow the road up. If you are lucky, though I haven’t been during all five of my trips, the road will connect around and take you to Grand Lake. I have never seen Grand Lake outside of photographs, the view stunning! As is the ride up. Beyond description (so I included a photo) … simply amazing!

A truly humbling experience. I can’t imagine anyone looking up and not getting a feeling of awe.

When I returned to sea level, the salt filled air greeted me with a smack to my senses like Frank’s Red Hot on egg whites; very familiar yet unique each experience. Maybe when the Rocky Mountain high wears off, my creative self will return, hopefully leaving the bad clichés behind…

Stay tuned for upcoming Blog Tour dates, fabulous prizes (Amazon gift certificates & books), along with the occasional Facebook Live blog. Summer 2017 Tour starts soon!

 

Read The First Chapter (or so)

UncleNeddys 3As promised, here is the first chapter, or two, of my new book Uncle Neddy’s Funeral, available now by clicking here. I hope you enjoy!

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral

Neddy took in a deep breath of air. A violent cough followed. Surrounded by darkness, he had zero perception, which, for him, was fortunate. His arms touched the silky sides, as did his legs. He tried stretching his feet to the end. It figured, where he didn’t need it or couldn’t use it, he had the space. His breath bounced back from the top. He could smell mama’s tomato sauce from breakfast. Leftover gnocchi and eggs made the perfect meal to get him through the day. With each exhale his heart skipped.

About an hour ago, the air became lighter, best he could tell. The stench had to be from his exhales. He tried not to smell, breathe. Leave it to Joe and Victor to come up with a plan that involved a disgusting odor. Those two could fill a room after one of mama’s meals. Not that mama’s meals were gassy, it’s just those two needed no incentives to let one loose. Neddy’s laughter broke into a coughing fit.

 “Ah, minor inconvenience,” he said. In the distance, he could hear hushed voices yet couldn’t make out the conversation. The voices grew louder as Neddy assumed, people came closer.

“Be careful with this one,” Victor’s brogue came through clearly.

“Why boss,” another voice spoke. “Ya think he can feel anything?” Laughter filled the room. Neddy strained to hear the paused conversation. A couple of awkward coughs filled the space.

“Just be careful,” Ah, Victor used his I am in charge voice. Neddy knew the tone. His crew isn’t following directions. Neddy smirked. “Think of this as precious cargo.” Footsteps followed, growing weaker by the clank.

“I think the boss is getting weird”

“In what way?”

“Well he’s worried about a corpse.” Neddy smiled. He curved his temptation to knock. As funny as he thought it would be to make whoever jump at the sound, he knew better. Victor Cuzzuto would kill him.

“Victor got his job. Our job is to move the sucker.”

“Well, if Victor had finished the last job we wouldn’t be here, now would we?”

“Not our problem.”

“When will the old guy retire…” Neddy banged into the side of the casket. His head bounced off the top.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed as he bit into his hand. The casket stopped moving.

“You hear something boss?”

“I ain’t heard nothing,” came a quick reply along with a jolt. “Let’s just finish this up. Place like this gives me the creeps.” 

Part One: The Funeral

“Brothers and sisters, we have come to say good bye to our brother, Giuseppe Vittorio Vaffanculo.”

“For crying aloud did this guy even know Neddy?” Gia hissed in her sister’s ear. The middle child of the Vaffanculo relations, Gia sat with arms folded across her satin black dress, in her opinion, a beautiful garment wasted on a funeral. Her eyes volleyed between the crowded sanctuary and the man standing at the podium. Her younger sister by a year, Amelia, stared at the priest with intent. Her eyes tearing at the mention of her favorite uncle’s name.

“Giuseppe was an exceptional man: father, brother, son…” as the priest paused a moment Amelia glanced over at her ninety-year-old grandmother who sat playing with her false teeth. She nudged her sister in grandma’s direction. Grandma, dressed in traditional funeral black, included the customary laced veil, now thrown haphazardly over her head. Grandma Lena swished her teeth around her mouth, popped them through her lips, then caught the full set in her hand. Not a bit of spit followed. Without missing a beat she’d place the choppers back in to start again.

“Oh, this is going to be entertaining,” Gia smirked.

“Giuseppe was a fine man who loved his wife…”

“Which is he referring to?” Amelia giggled.

“…Adored his children…”

“Only those he knew about…” without missing a beat Gia responded.

“…And was a wonderful son…” a “humpf” came from the direction of their grandmother. The girls watched their mother squat walk towards grandma. She knelt in front of her, rubs the old lady’s arm, as she whispered something in her ear. Grandma turned around and flicked her wrist in her daughter-in-law’s direction. The girls’ eyes grew wide.

“We would get slapped,” Gia pointed out to a nodding Amelia. Their mother just shrugged stood fully erect, walked back to her seat. Her face expressionless.

As the priest continued to extoll virtues her uncle never possessed, Gia looked around the crowded funeral home. Bright purple flower arrangements lined the wall then veered around the back of the casket. Family and friends sat, stood, and waited in the adjacent rooms, spilling outdoors under the canvass walkways to pay respects. She knew most of the folks around here all her life, some by reputation, most by some sort of relation.

“Giuseppe was a pillar in the community. He had a big heart…”

“Are you sure he’s talking about Uncle Neddy?” Amelia said.

“I don’t think this one had met him. He’s new. Remember, straight off the boat from the mothership,” The priest appeared to be moving around the alter to avoid stepping in something.

“Don’t you mean Mother Land?”

“Ship…Land…Tomato…Tomato… What is the difference? The guy knows nothing about our family or the person he is talking about.” Gia moved her right hand as she spoke, the same mannerism her mother and grandma used.

“Well he knows some stuff…”

“Yeah, what is on the script. Aunt Neddy the fourth wrote it up or do you think she’d let the fifth to be do the eulogy?”

“I think she’d rather be reading the fifth to be’s eulogy.” As both girls began to snicker Gia glanced up in to their mother’s warning glare. In silence Angela Victorio Cuzzuto Vaffanculo held up one finger. Gia nudged her sister. She gave a head nod towards their mother. Elegantly she raised a second finger. Her dark blue eyes never wavered.

Both Gia and Amelia gave a slight nod, leaned back in their chairs. Legs crossed at the knees they mirrored each other’s worried glances, unconsciously tapping their bottom foot. Angela relaxed a little in her chair. To her left, her husband Joe, snored quietly. Angela poked his arm. He would jump a little, smile at her, only to close his eyes again.

He held her left hand in his. Every so often she would feel a gentle squeeze. Ah, my Joseph, he works so hard at the restaurant. Still cleaning up his brother’s messes. She thought, so he’s napping. He is not disrespectful. It’s his brother’s funeral not mine. He’s better not nap at my funeral. A laugh escapes from her lips. Who am I kidding. I will bury him first. Here, a little nap hurts no one. Uhg – look at the line – I’m sure half are here because they love Neddy, the others want to make sure he’s dead. Her lips turned up into a discreet smile. Iksch – This is all good. All these people here. This will help us with our situation. I wonder how many know? She glances at her mother-in-law who now moved from playing with her teeth to eating what looks like a pignoli cookie. Now where did those cookies come from?

Crumbs float down the old lady’s face. Angela nudged a tissue into Enzo’s hand. She pointed towards the older lady. “Oh, for crying aloud,” he proceeded to float down the row to the matriarch’s side, causing as little commotion as possible.

“Mrs. V, you need to stop with the cookies,” he reprimanded in a hushed voice the people in the back of the room could hear.

“I’m ninety years old…”

“You are not ninety, you are only eighty-five.”

“The stunad caused me so much stress I aged five years.” Enzo bit the inside of his cheek yet the grin across his face gave him away.

“I understand, but still, it is disrespectful to be chowing down at Neddy’s…”

“What’s disrespectful is having this idiota talk about someone her never met!” As the word idiota came out of the old lady’s lips, all those in close vicinity did the sign of the cross. The gesture continued down the rows like the wave at a football game.

I Love VT

Hello and greetings from the wild winter wonderland known as the great state of Vermont. I am up here as a guest of When Words Count Writer’s Retreat and I am so delighted to share the new book, Uncle Neddy’s Funeral, will be ready for summer reading!

I finally wrote an ending you all will love. I am over the moon excited.

Currently the wind is gusting out my window. Two feet on snow has fallen so far with more to come tonight. I did get outside earlier, before the wind stirred up, to enjoy the quiet crunching of new snow under my feet.

It is gorgeous here. I am in the middle of nowhere Green Mountains with Killington Peak off in distance. Usually my trips to Vermont destinations involve ski lifts and slope-side pools.

This is different.

The retreat sits on a quiet country road. Gourmet meals and snacks are served throughout the day, usually signaled by the chime of a bell. Writers huddle on couches sitting in front of a roaring fire. Others sit at the dining room table or in the formal living room upfront. Rooms are named after famous authors.

(I am in the Bradbury room. The first night I removed a photograph of Ray from the opposite wall because it was “creeping me out” yet my accommodations are comfortable and homey).

This was a first but not a last. In the past I have limited myself to one-day workshops to hone my skills. This time I had three. For my artist friends, the opportunities are out there to practice your craft – take advantage.

I am going back outside to “play” in the fresh snow. Thank you When Words Count and the beautiful Vermont countryside. I am inspired…

Oh – and stay tuned. I will be releasing the first chapter or two and maybe a cover preview, to you my faithful readers. I hope you enjoy!

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction.

Part of me wants to write about the fabulous local/regional music scene we have here in Connecticut, yet I am going to save that one for another day and write a bit about process today.

I’m back at the coffee shop, the one with the fabulous egg sandwiches, and there are two forty-something women sitting across from me going through their children’s attributes and concerns.

“Something is up at that school. I heard from Jane’s mother that she scored in the top 15 on that placement test and her daughter got into Algebra while my sweet Angel scored top ten and is being ostracized by her friends because they are in the higher math and she isn’t.”

“You should do something,” her friend encourages.

“I’m considering meeting with the principal to rectify this situation,” adding that, “I have already emailed twice with no response”

These two are potential characters, stereotypes, yet characters just the same.

Of course as a writer, I would need to take their complications and escalate to make it interesting.

A great example of doing this is my book Maximum Mayhem. Maximum Mayhem started because my friend was late to meet me for a quick drink at a local dive in my town. As I waited at the bar, I listened to the conversation happening next to me. Two woman talked about another, go figure. The conversation revolved around a third friend whose husband happened to be having an affair.

This is where it gets good – they didn’t know if they should tell their friend. (Isn’t that the MaximumMayhemdefinition of a friend; to be honest?) Being part of this small town, between me and my drinking partner, we knew all the involved parties. Okay – affairs happen. So I brought in a hot F.B.I. agent and turned the scandalous affair into a scam to embezzle funds from the much successful wife.

The plot line worked. Apparently the affair works too because the couple is still married and the affair is still, according to town gossip, active.

Sometimes it doesn’t, at least by my curiosities.

In the case of the forty-somethings, they mentioned the town and the school. The story takes place in every town and because of this, I find it boring. I do however, have an all new respect for the fella in charge of the school. Whatever they pay him is not enough to put up with these two!

So for my writer friends out there, if you are stuck try this; take your laptop on a date. Go to a place with people. Sit and listen. Then type and see what you come up with – hopefully a good start!

 

Honing Ones Craft While Totally Geeking Out

Every human needs to recharge. Sometimes we use a different phrase for this process. I need to align my chi, restore my batteries, or simply take a nap. This is all the same process. For the last month I have been fortunate to be at live music events more nights than not. This helps recharge my soul. And this week I nurtured in a different way: ThrillerFest!

ThrillerFest is a five-day writer’s paradise where I had the pleasure of attending workshops with the great Walter Mosley, Bob Mayer, and David Morell. Yes – the women were present too! Heather Graham and L.S. Hawker were roaming the halls.
Here in the city (New York for those who are not East Coast -centric) I had the privilege of learning from the best thriller novelists in the business. They were generous with their advice and accessible to answer questions. (Confession time – I geeked out a little bit. (See Walter Mosley selfie)

My geeking didn’t stop there. I spent a day at The Federal Bureau Of Investigation, the F.B.I. for short. The agency provided an overview for writers in order to obtain an accurate depiction of their agents. Here we had the opportunity to ask questions about procedure as long as it didn’t interfere with any current cases. For me, it was good to discover some of my characters were accurate and my Maximum Mayhem sequel will follow procedure.

Writers are a strange bunch. Most of our creating is done solo, perhaps in coffee shops or bars. ThrillerFest featured many established writers yet they welcomed novices with open arms and encourage all to pursue their dreams. Seminars were relate-able to those who wrote their first sentence or are in the process of finishing their fifth novel.

We congregated. We told stories. We celebrated. The atmosphere rocked! All in the name of stories!

The Three R’s

 

I am fortunate that I am surrounded by amazing people. Last two days were spent taking a break from writing to rejuvenate my soul on Cape Cod (Thanks Em!). Although the ocean is within walking distance, I rarely take a break to lay on a beach and just listen to the waves. The “bay side” also gave us a bit of exercise hiking out on a mile plus sand bar in order to reach the surf during low tide. It is during breaks like this that I get the opportunity to rest, read, and revitalize, all very important elements to maintain one’s creativity.

I also had the pleasure to peruse Nikolia my love by my good friend Maryl Damian. I love reading works that incorporate some sort of literary element and in Maryl’s book she uses the poetry of Pushkin to illustrate a budding romance. The story is beautiful and engaging because of the realistic, timely elements. (For more information about Nikolia my love Click Here).

20160607_144734_003 (1)

Author Maryl Damian, Adventure Blogger Deborah, and yours truly after a recent event.

In addition, we recently found out that one of our students will be traveling back to her native country and blogging about her summer journey. I will include links back to her blog so all can share in her adventure.

Tomorrow I am back to the grind, working on my new book tentatively titled Uncle Neddy’s Funeral. This is the story about a corpse who is not quite ready to be buried. When readers meet his family and friends they will understand why. More updates to come along with a short.

I hope you all find your happy place and get the opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, and revive!