Monday, September 22, 2014

Divorce After Death. A Widow's Memoir by Concha Alborg

Before I start the series of blogs about my trip to Pennsylvania, I'd like to share a new book, Divorce After Death. A Widow’s Memoir by Concha Alborg. Concha was born in Spain and emigrated with her parents to the United States when she was in high school. She currently lives and writes in Philadelphia, where I was traveling. She has written several books and has recently left her position as a professor at Saint Joseph's University to write full time. You can visit her Amazon author page here. Below is the blurb and an excerpt from Divorce After Death.


Concha Alborg didn't think that anything could hurt her more than the death of her husband from cancer, but hours after his death she learned how wrong she was. Within days of being made a widow, she discovered that her marriage and her husband were not what she had envisioned. In Divorce After Death. A Widow’s Memoir, with a unique point of view, due to her bi-cultural background, and a self-deprecating humor, she takes us on a personal journey. Her strength and determination to build a new life led her down a path that allowed her to reject the veil of widowhood and instead embrace a life of happiness, love and acceptance.

Old Men Look At Me


It isn’t funny, of course, when men stop looking at women. After a lifetime of whistles, looks and a few fresh comments, which used to bother me since I consider myself a feminist, now the men I like don’t look at me. It’s more than that; they don’t see me. I’m off their radar screen; I’ve become an invisible person. If that isn’t depressing enough, I’ve noticed that old men not only look, but also stare me down.

I know; old men are men too. I should be writing this in Spanish, since political correctness is less strict in my native language. We can still say la gorda, la rubia, la negra, and nothing happens. While in the United States, there is hell to pay if one says “the fat one” (unless she is the one who sings last), or “the blonde,” and heaven only knows what would happen if we were to say “the black one” and with good reason. I have an aunt who says that one of her granddaughters is feíta, which would be inconceivable to an American. Imagine a Gringa grandma saying: “One of my granddaughters is a bit ugly.” Never!

So, let’s agree that old men are men, but not the ones women want noticing them the most, never mind if we are feminist or not. Besides, since I’m closing up in age to the gawking geezers, I’m allowed to speak about them, and old women too, if I want to. I don’t have to say “senior citizens.” In other words, I’ve become an older woman myself; a woman of a certain age, even though I would be offended if I were to be called an “old lady.”

If I go to New York City, I can tell immediately how men look at women intensely there. Maybe that’s because it’s full of foreigners who tend to be more aggressive. Men in the big city don’t only look at women; they stare straight into their eyes, like a good bullfighter in Spain would look at the bull. In Philadelphia, founded by Quakers after all, men are not so forward. If they look, it’s on the sly, unless you are in one of the blue-collar neighborhoods, and then it’s every woman for herself.  Even in The Big Apple, I’ve noticed that older men are the ones looking at me the most. But heaven help me, nowhere else is this more obvious than at the Jersey Shore.

Ocean City, New Jersey, for example, is fast becoming a retirement community, attracting all kinds of old people who come for the sun and the sea. Even though it’s close to Philadelphia, a cosmopolitan city, as some would say, and Atlantic City, a bigger attraction, Ocean City has a personality all of its own. It’s a long and narrow island, which serves as a barrier for the ocean, joined to the mainland by two bridges. The open side, facing the Atlantic, is full of wide beaches, with white sand that forms large dunes, giving the houses facing the sea some privacy as well as beautiful ocean views. The waves, though never like the ones in the Pacific, can be big enough for surfing during high tide or when a storm is brewing. On the bay side, there are no waves or beaches. Only the tides going in and out let on that it’s also the sea. The bay is formed by canals shaped like fingers that hold the island in their grasp. These canals are full of summer homes with private docks, each at a different angle. There are only two or three public marinas for intrepid sailors coming from other shores or for locals of lesser means, like myself, who don’t own boats.

For several years, my family had a place in the middle of the island, at its widest point. It didn’t face the ocean nor had access to one of the bay channels, but we were in front of a wildlife refuge, where migratory birds stop on their way north or south, depending on the season. With a pair of good binoculars, we could see the ducks’ nests and the tiny cranes after they had broken their shells and were wobbling around in the marshes.

I tried to go to Ocean City often, not only during the summers to enjoy the beach, but during the entire year, when there are fewer people around, to recharge my batteries. There I could write in peace or read to my heart’s content, lying on one of the decks, even if I had to cover myself with a light quilt when the sea breezes were blowing. When I had academic work to finish, or if I had to grade or research a paper, it was easier if I could do it close to the ocean. I wasn’t born on the Mediterranean for nothing (as Joan Manuel Serrat says in one of his songs).

Ocean City is not always as idyllic as it seems. Each year, there are more poor Hispanic immigrants working for a song on the island, doing all kinds of dirty tasks on the expensive homes: painting windows and shutters since the sun and the sea air are so hard on the wood, patching up the roofs that rot easily with the humidity, planting flowers, mowing the lawns, taking awnings up and down and moving furniture on and off the decks. I remember talking to a Mexican man from Oaxaca who was making an outside shower for the downstairs neighbors. At first he didn’t even want to speak to me. Then he told me that he left his family behind in his country. He was sending them money until they had enough to join him in the States. I didn’t ask, but I guessed that he was in the States illegally and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t want to speak to strangers. Also, it was probably the reason people were taking advantage of him and paying him low wages.

On another occasion, I noticed that in the big Super Fresh there was a Chinese food section (and I’ve never seen an Asian on the beach), a Jewish food section (the phonebook is full of names like Cohen, Segal, Ruben) and aisle after aisle of Italian foods (they must be the ones with the biggest appetites). But despite all the immigrant workers beautifying the rich folks’ homes, there wasn’t a decent Hispanic section. Not one to mince words, I asked for the manager and told him outright that there was some discrimination going on there. It wasn’t that same summer, but now there is an entire area with Goya products, which happens to be a Hispanic company based in New Jersey itself.
***
Every morning during the summer months, before I started to write, I went down to the beach for some exercise. If it wasn’t too windy, I would ride my bike on the boardwalk, all the way down to the lifeguard station. My problems could start right there. We all know that older people suffer from insomnia, and they wake before the sun comes up. So, even in the early hours, most of the benches that line the boardwalk are occupied by gaping old men. They would realize right away, despite failing eyesight, that I was no spring chicken, but that I didn’t look bad for my age, either. At least I could still ride my bike, which most—if not all of them—stopped doing a while back. If one of them was almost completely bald, with those big dark glasses specially made for cataracts, I was vulnerable. And if I saw some other poor guy with a limp and a metal cane shining under the sun, I needed to watch out. The big fat ones, with Buddha-like figures, also would stare my way. The most dangerous were the well-preserved ones, who thought they were still debonair. I’m pretty sure that I saw one winking at me.

Did they think that I was their age? Did I look like I belonged to the same senior club? Was I not wearing riding shorts with a cute matching visor? I knew that I have some spider veins in my legs, but I was certain they could not see those from where they were sitting, between my speed and their eyesight. Yes, I dye my hair, but what did they know about that?

At night, Ocean City changes. The old folk must be at home watching TV or maybe they are in bed already. But the young crowd that was quietly sunbathing during the day, families with children of all ages, newlyweds who can’t afford to go anywhere else on their honeymoons, all would converge on the boardwalk. Given my thirst for knowledge, I had to look up the word boardwalk in the dictionary. It’s defined as “a promenade, especially of planks, along a beach or waterfront.” Truly, a boardwalk is something unexplainable. It’s part carnival, part arcade, part food court, part shopping mall. It’s full of movie theaters, dollar stores and shop after shop of the most ridiculous souvenirs, T-shirts and general junk. And all this without a single bar or a club, because Ocean City was founded by Methodists, who were even stricter than the Philadelphia Quakers and forbade alcoholic drinks, and the laws have remained unchanged to this day.

My husband and I almost never went to the boardwalk, especially if Spanish relatives were visiting. It would be unimaginable. How could we explain that it’s against the law to sell beer or to have a glass of wine with dinner? How to rationalize a beach without pubs or discos? I have to confess that on the few occasions I’ve been to the boardwalk with my daughters or American friends, I’ve enjoyed myself. Once Peter and I went, and we ended up in an arcade full of instant-photo machines, where, in a booth, we could fabricate a child to one’s likeness. Since I already had two daughters from an earlier marriage, we decided to have a son. That’s right, for ten bucks! First we had to answer a questionnaire as if we really were to adopt a baby. We had to decide his ethnicity:

“Should he be Hispanic or plain Gringo?” I asked only half jokingly.

“Well, he should be a mix, don’t you think?” answered Peter without missing a beat, as usual.

“Fine. What about his hair color?” That being one of my pet issues.

One by one, we answered all the questions about eye color, size of the nose; even his age was specified.

“He should be at least twelve,” said Peter. “That way we can leave him home alone.” And we immediately agreed.

Then the “daddy” got in front of the camera, followed by the “mommy;” obviously a sexist machine. I have no idea what would happen if two people of the same gender wanted to have a child at the Jersey Shore. You waited five minutes and out came four passport-size pictures–just in case you want to travel with the kid, I guess. I was half-way emotional, as it well should have been with my first-born son.  No sooner did we see our son, than we loved him already, although he was “feíto,” a tad ugly like his dad. He turned out with a nose identical to his father’s, too large, particularly for his age, with dreamy hazel eyes, from that side of the family, too. The bangs and his hair color were definitely mine; somewhat unruly and of an artificial mahogany shade. We named him Benjamin, given his last place in the family, and because it’s a name that can be pronounced almost the same in English and Spanish.

The strangest part was that both of his “half-sisters” hated him from the start. The two of them said that he was very ugly, that his hair was like a girl’s and that his skin looked green. I have to admit that he did have an olive complexion as do I. Our daughters made us promise, since they were familiar with our sense of humor, that we wouldn’t frame Benjamin’s picture and place it on the mantle, and that we wouldn’t show him to anyone:
“Please, please, please, he’s such a nerd!”
***
When Peter was first diagnosed with cancer, he loved coming to Ocean City. Here he could rest in peace (no pun intended) and, since it’s so flat, he could still ride his bike without turning blue. But eventually, he wasn’t strong enough even to climb the stairs to our second floor unit. Before he died, I decided to sell the place. I would have enough responsibilities keeping up the townhouse in Philadelphia. It turned out that the downstairs neighbor, who had our key, had already shown our place to an acquaintance of his—a young widow with three small sons. I could only imagine what her situation was like in anticipation of my own widowhood. Never mind that I was pissed at my neighbor. I didn’t know whether to call him a vulture or to thank him for his foresight. I felt better once I found out who the new owner would be.

As it is customary at the Jersey Shore, we sold the condo completely furnished, linens and all. I only brought home some personal knick-knacks and a set of Mikasa dishes with the shells for my name and the seagulls for Peter’s (Concha means “shell” in Spanish and Peter’s last name sounding like the bird). I had to give them away later because it just made me too sad to be reminded of our cozy summer place.

Before the closing, I went back alone to our home in Ocean City a few more times; those were emotional days. I was aware of how much I would miss that place, but it didn’t compare with the bigger loss I would be suffering in a short time. I remember bargaining internally with myself. Perhaps if I sold the beach house, Peter would miraculously heal, and I could keep him for a while longer.
***
One of the things I loved best about Ocean City was going down to the beach an hour or so before sunset and strolling by myself at the water’s edge. Often, at that time, the beach was virtually deserted. The children and their moms would have already left; the young crowd would probably be getting ready to descend on the boardwalk to hang out, and the old folk would probably be at home watching reruns on TV.  There was enough light to enjoy the view. The pinkish clouds would join the deep blue ocean at the horizon. They had a unique color at that time of the evening: hues of purple, orange and pink with a touch of grey. Instead of old men, the birds would take over the beach. The seagulls were quieter and more pensive than during the day, and they stayed closer to the water. The sandpipers also would come down in the evenings, and the sparrows would fly low over the dunes. Sometimes, the moon had already made an appearance sitting low and coming out of the waves. If it was late enough, the first stars would be showing up, too.

On the very last day I was there, I was so distracted observing all this that I didn’t notice a man approaching me. He was against the light, so I couldn’t see him well, but he was tall and barefoot, like me, dressed in light colors with a sweater over his shoulder, in case the weather cooled. He didn’t have a lot of hair, but it was carefully combed, rather stylishly.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said gallantly.

“No, no. You didn’t. I was just distracted,” I answered.

“Do you come here often? I think I’ve seen you before.”

And now he was closer to me, and I could see that his eyebrows and mustache were of a silvery shade.

“Yes and no,” I tried to explain.

I told him that I lived a few blocks from the beach, next to the wildlife area, but that I didn’t think we had ever met. He said that his house was on the bay side, on one of the channels, but he liked the open sea better at this time of night. He told me about his neighborhood. 

“It’s like an American Venice, don’t you think?”       

And I smiled because I knew that there is a summer festival called “Night in Venice,” another unique spectacle of Ocean City.

We said goodnight right away; it was getting dark and I didn’t like to get back home late. I didn’t tell him that I was really saying goodnight and goodbye, that I would soon be all alone, ready to talk to tall strangers on a beach, no matter how obvious their pick-up lines.

Since that evening, I realized that old men not only look at me, but are now prone to start a conversation, if I give them a chance.
            
About the Author

Concha Alborg was born in Spain during the difficult years after the Spanish Civil War and went to school in Madrid until she emigrated with her parents to the United States, where she finished high school. More than any other event in her life, this move defines who she is, an immigrant living between two cultures. She may seem Americanized to her Spanish relatives, but she is from another country as far as her daughters are concerned. Although Concha fits well enough in both cultures, a tell-tale Spanish accent marks her speech as well as her writing.

Concha Alborg earned an MA from Emory University and a PhD in Spanish Literature from Temple University. In addition to numerous academic publications on contemporary women writers, she has been actively writing fiction and creative non-fiction. Recently, she left Saint Joseph’s University, where she was a professor for over twenty years, to write full time. She has published two collections of short stories: Una noche en casa (Madrid, 1995) and Beyond Jet-Lag (New Jersey, 2000) and a novel, American in Translation: A Novel in Three Novellas (Indiana, 2011).

Concha Alborg lives and writes in Philadelphia. See more information about the author at www.conchaalborg.com
                                             


Friday, August 8, 2014

Milton Hershey: More Than A Candy Maker

My mother-in-law invited me to accompany her to her high school reunion in Hershey, Pennsylvania this September. Yes, the birthplace of Hershey's chocolate. How could I say no to that?

I like mine with almonds :D


She sat down with me and started talking about her childhood, and what it was like growing up in Hershey at that time. I had no idea that Milton Hershey, the chocolate empire's founder, was such a wonderful human being.

When Milton Hershey was a boy, he had to help out on the family farm, as many children did then. His father moved the family around a lot, and, as a result, Milton did not attend school after the fourth grade.

In 1887, he moved back to Lancaster and started the Lancaster Caramel Company. He used a caramel recipe he had picked up during his travels. It was an instant success, and he sold that company and used the proceeds to start making chocolate. He moved about 30 miles north to a place near Derry Church, where fresh milk was plentiful.



He built his plant in the center of dairy farmland, and, with his support, transportation and an infrastructure of houses, businesses, and churches sprouted up in the area. The plant was incredibly successful, and everyone in Hershey profited from his success.



He married in 1898, but they could not have children, so they decided to help others. They started the Hershey Industrial School to help orphaned boys in the area. My mother-in-law said that it was easy to pick out a "Hershey boy" because they were always dressed in the best clothes, and it was a big deal to date a boy from the Hershey school. She said that Milton Hershey believed in supporting local businesses and always ordered clothes for the boys from the local department stores every year.



The school still exists today. It's now called the Milton Hershey School and serves male and female students from various backgrounds.



The school wasn't the only philanthropic work that Hershey was involved in. He started the M.S. Hershey Foundation that provides educational and cultural opportunities to Hershey residents. He also provided chocolate bars to soldiers during World War II.



My mother-in-law said that he was incredibly well loved in Hershey and the surrounding areas for his generosity and personal involvement in the community.



An interesting side note: The Hershey's were booked on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but they had to cancel at the last minute because Milton had some business that required his attention. The check he wrote to the White Star Line is in the archives of The Hershey Story Museum.


And here I thought I was just going to see a chocolate factory. Can't wait to share my trip with all of you! 


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cover Reveal: Tyler's Story by Mireille Chester

I am thrilled to have Mireille Chester back on my blog with a cover reveal for her book, Tyler's Story: Tales from Quelondain. I love Mireille's writing style and the world of Quelondain. Check out her other books here on her Amazon author page.


Synopsis:

It’s been five years since his twin brother Trent was killed and Tyler has been on his own ever since. When he stumbles across Heidi, a human from the other world who’s just crossed over, he vows to get her home against his better judgment. What he doesn’t realize is that to keep his promise, he’ll have to risk his life and the one thing he’s managed to keep to himself since the war… his heart. Still, a promise is a promise and Tyler doesn’t break his. After facing human rogues, packs of Majs, and Zerpanays, he’ll have to decide… can he bear to let go of the one thing that’s managed to bring him back to life?

Excerpt:

“Hello, camp!”
John and Tyler stood, Tyler’s arm pushing Heidi behind them.  He felt her hand on the small of his back.
Five men walked towards them.
“Good day,” stated Tyler.
The blond man in the lead nodded.  “Indeed it is.”
“Is there something we can help you with?”  John frowned as the man nodded again.
“We heard a woman.  Where is she?”
Tyler stiffened.  “Why do you want to know?”
“We’re rogue hunters.  Our job is to find the humans and bring them to our captain.”
Heidi’s hand tightened around a handful of his tunic.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about her.  She’s with us.”
“But she’s human?”
There was no point in lying, really.  All they had to do was look.  “She is.”
“Then she comes with us.”
Tyler growled.  “No.  She doesn’t.”
“She won’t be harmed.”
“Like hell she won’t.”  Tyler’s hand moved to the hilt of his dagger.  “She just crossed over.  She had nothing to do with Braw or his idiotic plan.”
“But if she gets caught up with a pack of rogues…”
“She’s with us.”
The blond man opened his mouth and Tyler growled.
“You’re not listening to me.  She’s with me.  I found her; she’s mine.”
Heidi caught a glimpse of the blond man from between her protectors’ shoulders.  She was shocked at how pale he looked.  His eyes never left Tyler’s.  Even the few of his comrades she could see looked uneasy.
“You’re not taking her.”  Though Tyler’s voice didn’t sound any louder than it had previously, the tone of it made it very obvious that he meant every word he had just uttered.
“You’d fight a pack of your own kind to keep a human girl?”  One of the men at the back shook his head incredulously.  
“I don’t care what she is.  She hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Tyler’s hand was still over his dagger.  John’s pose was almost identical to his.
The blond man’s hand moved his blade as well.  “Orders are orders.”
“Try not to kill any of them.”  Tyler’s voice was only loud enough for John and Heidi to hear.  “We don’t need the whole pack after us after this.”  John nodded.
Tyler’s free hand moved back so that it touched Heidi’s arm.  “Heidi, I’m going to boost you up a tree.  Get up high.  If anyone tries to reach you, cut them.”  He felt her shaking behind him.
John glanced at Heidi then gestured to her with his head before returning his gaze toward the small pack in front of them.  Tyler turned, trusting John to warn him if any of the men came forward while he wasn’t looking.  His eyes met Heidi’s and he smiled reassuringly.  Her grey green eyes were saucers in her head, her skin a strange pale shade of green as she shook with fear.  He cupped her face in his hands.
“Heidi.”  He bent and kissed her forehead softly.  “Just get up in the tree.  I won’t let them take you.”
She took a long shuddering breath and gazed into his deep brown eyes.  The hard look in them softened slightly and Tyler ran his thumb over her cheek.  Could she trust this man?  She’d only known him a day.  Of course, he’d never shown any indication that he might be a danger to her.
“Heidi, trust me.”
She inhaled once more and nodded.  Her heart jumped into her chest at the growl that exploded from John’s throat.  Tyler grabbed her by the waist, threw her toward the lowest branch on the tree and ducked under her so she was standing on his shoulders.  She lost her balance as he moved sideways.  His left hand caught her ankle to steady her.  She looked down and caught a glimpse of one of the other men stabbing his dagger toward Tyler’s chest.  He managed to deflect the blow with his own dagger but hissed as the other’s blade slid across his side.  Without letting go of her leg, he kicked forward and she heard the dark haired man’s breath leave his body in a huff.  Tyler turned and placed his hands under her feet, pushing her into the branches.
“Climb!”
The tone of his voice left no room for argument.  Heidi scrambled as high as she could and glanced down.  She fought the urge to scream as the dark haired man lunged at Tyler.  Her self-appointed guardian knocked the man’s dagger to the side.  Tyler’s elbow connected with the man’s nose, quickly followed by his knee as Tyler brought his opponent’s face down to meet it.  The Maj dropped to the ground and Tyler turned his attention to the blond man who had been leading the pack.  Heidi looked around for John and found him backing away from two well-built men who had obviously seen more meals in the past little while than he had.  She caught her breath as he pulled his dagger and threw it with such speed she wasn’t sure he had until one of the men advancing screamed in pain.  He fell to his knee, his hands grabbing at the hilt of the dagger that had impaled itself in his foot and pinned him to the ground.  John pulled a knife from the side up his boot and aimed it at the second man’s chest.  The latter paused, looked up at the tree, and shook his head in disgust as he held up his hands in surrender.  
Heidi let out the breath she’d been holding.  Obviously, one lone human girl wasn’t worth dying over.  She turned her attention back to Tyler.
“Tyler! Behind you!”
The last man in the pack had been sneaking around while Tyler had been focused on blocking punches and kicks from the blond man.  Tyler turned so he could keep an eye on both of them.
“Come on, now.  She can’t be worth this,” mumbled the blond man.
“If that’s your take on it, you’re more than welcome to walk away.”  Both of them had a black eye.  Tyler’s cheek was starting to turn blue and the blonde’s lip was bleeding.  Tyler glanced to the second man, a shorter, stockier red head who was staring at him with confusion.  “What are you looking at, then?”
The red head shook his head.  “I’m sure I know you.”
Tyler frowned.  “No, I don’t think so.”
“By the moons, Jim, could we cut the small talk?”
Jim put his dagger back in its scabbard at his side.  “Luke.”
Tyler blinked.  “That’s my father’s name.”
Jim smiled.  “You look just like him.  You’re one of the twins, yeah?”
Tyler nodded but refused to drop his guard.  “Tyler.”
Jim turned to his pack mate.  “You’re on your own, Chris.  I owe his father my life.”
“Chris?”
Everyone’s attention turned to the man John was keeping in the sights of his knife.  He shrugged, obviously flustered.  Chris’ eyes widened at the sight of John’s second opponent sitting a still as possible, his foot still skewered to the ground.  His groans of pain were loud in the sudden quiet of the campsite.  All eyes were on Chris.  He ran a hand through his hair and swore under his breath.
“Why don’t we just put the blades away and get that dagger out of your man’s foot?”  Tyler relaxed, though Heidi was sure his guard was still up.
“You won’t try anything?”  Chris looked at Tyler.
“The last I checked, you had us outnumbered.”
Chris raised an eyebrow at him and looked around.  Tyler grinned, though the smile didn’t seem to reach his eyes.  The first man he’d managed to knock out moaned and clutched his head.
“Did we get her?”
Chris growled.  “No, we didn’t get her.”  He put his dagger away.  “Get up, Brad.”
Brad sat up and squinted open one eye to look around.  His gaze fell on the man with the dagger in his foot.  “Bloody hell, did more of them show up?”
“No.”  Jim smiled.  “Brad, do you recall Luke of Howel?”
Brad frowned.  “Was that the one with the pretty mate named Mel?  She nursed you back to health, yeah?”
Jim nodded and Brad turned his attention back to Tyler.  “I should have recognized you.  You look the mirror image of your father at your age.  You move like him, too.”  He grunted.  “It explains a lot, then.”
“What did I miss?”  Chris was obviously getting impatient.
“If you’d seen his father fight, you’d have thought twice about trying to take the girl.”  Brad stuck dagger in his belt.  “I’m out, Chris.  I was there the day Luke risked his life to save Jim’s and if it hadn’t been for Mel, he wouldn’t be standing here now.”
Tyler looked up and gestured to Heidi to come down.  Jim and Brad went to tend to their friend.  His scream of pain as they pulled the dagger from his foot startled her and she slipped from the last branch on the tree.  Tyler steadied her as she landed.
“You’re bleeding!”
Tyler glanced down at Heidi’s hand, which was red with blood.  He lifted the hem of his tunic to reveal the cut along his side.
“It’s fine.  It’s barely bleeding.”  He smiled reassuringly at her.  John looked over to them from where he was apologizing to the man he’d stabbed in the foot.  Tyler went to his packs and found the herbs he knew would dull the pain and quicken the healing for the man’s foot.  He walked over and handed them to Jim.
“This should help.”
Jim nodded and went to work bandaging the foot.  “You’ve even got the same character as your father,” he said without looking up.
“How’s that?”
“The day he saved my life, my pack had come upon three cats in the Blue Woods.  I managed to end up under a lion.  Luke had been in the area and heard the fighting.  He got the lion off of me, but kept the others from killing it afterwards.  Its pack had run off and when it shifted back, we all noticed the man had a cut along his side.  You dad tossed him a sack of herbs and told him to leave.  That’s when your mother came out of the woods and they proceeded to take care of me.”
Tyler smiled.  “Your pack just let the man leave?”
Brad grinned.  “We were all too shocked by your father’s gesture to do much of anything.”
Tyler excused himself as he looked around for Heidi and found her leaning back against the tree she’d been in, her arms wrapped around herself.
“Are you alright?”
Heidi shook her head and let him pull her in a hug.  He rested his chin on her head and rubbed her back.
“It’s all fine, now.  They won’t try to take you.  You didn’t get hurt, did you?”
She shook her head again.
“This is just a lot to take in?”
She nodded.  Tyler took her hand and led her back to the fire.  He wrinkled his nose at the sight of the burnt eggs.
“I guess we’ll be eating bread after all,” he mumbled and she couldn’t help but smile.
Tyler wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and sat beside her.  He looked up as John joined them.
“It looks like your bloodlines are paying off.  They’ve decided to leave Heidi with us.”
Tyler grunted.  “She would have stayed with us regardless.”  He grinned at his friend.  “Great throw, by the way.”
John shrugged and took a piece of bread.
“Tyler, can we have a word?”  Chris motioned for him to come see him.
Tyler stopped at the feel of Heidi’s hand on his leg.  He smiled down at her.  “No worries.”
Chris waited until they were standing side by side, looking back toward the fire and Heidi.
“I’m leaving her in your charge.”
Tyler nodded.
“If she goes rogue, it won’t matter who your parents are and how well liked they might be; I’ll hold you responsible and make sure you’re held accountable.”
Tyler looked the elder Maj in the eyes.  Whatever Chris saw, he frowned.
“Alright, Chris, he’s all set.”  Jim and Brad shook Tyler’s hand.  “If you remember, try to tell your father we say hello.”
Tyler nodded.  He stood and watched until the small pack had made its way out of sight before letting himself relax and heading back to the fire.  He caught the piece of cheese John lobbed in his direction.
“We need to get out of this area.”  He frowned and looked at Heidi.  “We also need to find you some clothes.  There’s no denying what you are when you’re dressed like that.”
John nodded.  “I know a couple of sisters that live not too far from here.  Mina is about the same size as you.”  He glanced at Tyler.  “They’re cats, mind you.”
Tyler raised an eyebrow.  “They live here?”
John nodded.  “They were travelling after the war and decided they liked it down here.”
“And why did you think you should bring up the fact that they were Namael?”
John shrugged.  “I’m not sure what your take is on them.  It’s never come up.”
“Do you want to know why my father let that lion go all those years ago?”
His friend nodded.
“It’s because he was raised by tigers.”  He grinned as John’s eyes widened into hazel saucers.  “My aunt and uncle are tigers.  I have no issues whatsoever with cats in general.  Now, would these sisters live anywhere near Growlen?”
John nodded.  “About five days out.”
Tyler smiled.  “Well, then, I think the plan is to find these sisters and head to Growlen so we can top up our supplies.  While we’re there, we’ll try to find someone who might be able to point us in the direction of a cross stone.”  He dug into his pack and found a clean dark green tunic.
Heidi took it as he handed it to her.
“Put it on and tuck it in.  It might help you blend in a bit until we can get you some clothes that fit.”  He watched as she pulled it over her head.  “The closer we get to Growlen, the more packs we have a chance of running into.  Try to stay calm and act as though you belong here.”  He smiled.
John kicked dirt over the fire to put it out before they headed off in search of the Namael sisters.


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About Mireille Chester:
Wife, mother, author. That pretty much sums it up. :) I am a fantasy author who loves to spend time in made up worlds filled with magic. I am a firm believer that no hero is perfect and that all villains are burdened with a tiny shred of humanity. While I write my Adult and YA novels under the name Mireille Chester, I am now writing a middle grade series under the name M.G. Chester.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

New Release! Always, Montana by Deb Martin-Webster

Always happy to share a new release! Today's book is Always, Montana by Deb Martin-Webster. It's the follow up to her book Love, Montana. Check out her books here at Shorehouse Books. Here's a little information about the books, and the first chapter of Always, Montana.




Love, Montana is a story of romance, commitment and eternal love. Set against the backdrop of the majestic scenery of Montana, this novel tells the story of western fiction novelist, Montana Joe and the love of his life, Rose. From their first tempestuous meeting, you will be drawn into this smart and funny story and will find yourself rooting for these two lovers as they realize that they are each other’s destiny.



Always, Montana is the sequel to the popular western romance Love, Montana. In this installment, author Deb Martin-Webster reacquaints the reader with the characters who weaved the story of Rose and Joe, an epic love that could not be diminished even by death. She also introduces us to new characters who come into Rose's world and turn it upside down. Twists and turns abound in this tale about the famous Joe Montana and his high-spirited family.

Chapter 1

"Excuse me Ma'am, I don't mean to interrupt your bitch session; however, you do realize your hair is on fire?"

Joe’s been dead for two years, and he still makes me laugh.  He was so relaxed in front of an audience.  Unlike me, who would panic at the thought of giving a five-minute PowerPoint presentation, Joe loved entertaining his fans for not only was he a renowned author and accomplished writer but a prolific storyteller as well.  The video was from a charity event he attended in Princeton, New Jersey.  Some affluent donors weren’t very happy about the lack of seating.  Joe was famous for drawing large crowds. He noticed a well-dressed, older woman sitting by the exit door complaining about the seating arrangement.  Joe, being the gentleman that he was, excused himself and headed toward the back of the room.  She was so engrossed in her own bitching that she failed to notice that he was standing directly behind her.  Inadvertently, she leaned into the table’s candle centerpiece and set the front of her hair on fire.  Without blinking an eye, Joe gallantly grabbed a glass of water from a nearby table and doused the flames.  Needless to say she was humiliated, but ever so thankful for his quick action.  

Joe flashed his infamous shit-eating grin and said, “You’re welcome, Darlin’. Now, how about you come up front and sit with me. And by the way, that’ll cost you another thousand dollar donation for my heroic firefighting service.”

The audience gave him a roaring round of applause.  He informed the guests that his tip jar was in the back and that it was pathetically empty – nothing her thousand dollar donation couldn’t fix.  Joe knew how to work a crowd and please his fans.  He was good at what he did, and he knew it.

I turned my computer off and continued to tidy his office.  Funny, I still called it his office.  Has it really been two years since his death – seems like yesterday.  I thought if I left the room the way it was, it would in some way comfort me.  Regrettably, it did just the opposite. It irritated me beyond belief.  I’m a neat-freak, and he was an incurable pack rat.  Receipts from gas stations, fast food restaurants, numerous coffee shops and illegible crib notes on discarded manuscripts littered his desk.

There was still the matter of scattering his ashes.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but I knew it was time to honor my husband’s last wish which was to scatter his remains at the place where he proposed.  In my mind, I knew I needed to let go and move on, but in my heart his untimely death still hurt like hell.  I’ve heard people use the term heartbroken or heartache.  I’d never experienced either – until Joe died.  It was an endless, helpless, hopeless pain.   I needed to let go.  I needed to move on.  No matter how painful the task, Joe’s ashes had to be spread. 

When the time was right, Raymond said he would accompany me to the spot Joe designated. He was very patient and understanding when it came to my grieving.  

“Joe was a procrastinator in life so why would he change in death—always needing to be in control,” Raymond would joke. “He still annoys me from the grave—arrogant son of a mangy coyote!”

I knew it was Raymond’s way of expressing his grief and how he too missed Joe.  To be honest, in some strange way, it made me feel better.   I missed being referee to their incessant bickering.  They had a lot in common.  Their inimitable friendship was cherished more than they were willing to admit.

Charlotte was now in her terrible-twos and quite skilled at navigating herself around the house. She was becoming quite a beautiful little girl.  I know all parents think that their children are beautiful and talented, but Charlotte was truly a beautiful child. I called her our little golden girl because of her glowing olive complexion and curly, sandy brown locks.   She had my focus and temper and Lash’s (Joe as his fans knew him) curiosity and smile. 

She toddled into the office and climbed onto his rawhide leather chair.  I remembered him gloating when he finished assembling it.  He wasn’t patient when it came to following directions or handling tools.  He called it his one-and-only successful IKEA achievement.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if I’d given Charlotte an Allen wrench she could have put it together. 

Lord, I miss him. I miss those final edit nights when I’d come in with coffee and sit in his lap.  It saddened me to think I’d never see him sitting at that desk again.  I picked up Charlotte and gave her a big hug.

I turned away to keep her from seeing my tears.  She placed her small hands on my cheeks.

“Happy . . . h-a-p-p-y Mama,” she whispered.

Her attempt to console me brought a smile to my face.  I kissed her tiny palms. 

“This one’s from me and this one’s from Daddy.”

Charlotte instinctively knew when I needed her happy reminder.  She was wise beyond her years.  Raymond called her “Nadie”. Blackfoot and loosely translated, it meant the wisdom of an old soul. 

Keough cracked the office door and peeked inside. 

“You gals okay?  Both of ya’ need to get some rest.  It’s long past your bedtimes.” 

Charlotte climbed off my lap and ran over to Keough and latched onto his leg.  He picked her up and swung her onto his shoulders. 

“It’s time for this little cowgirl to hit the hay. Come on let’s get you into your bunk.  Lou and I will tell you a story about the time I tried to lasso and ride an ornery wild mustang. Would you like that?” 

She bounced up and down on his shoulders squealing, “Pap-Pap, horsey!”

“Don’t worry, Rose.  It’s a very short story.  It took me three seconds to lose that man-versus-beast battle.” 

I chuckled at Keough’s honesty and said goodnight.

“Okay, Baby Girl –a quick story then bedtime.  That goes for you too Mama.”  He paused for a moment and whispered, “And don’t think I haven't notice you sneaking into this office in the middle of the night.  It ain’t healthy for you to deprive yourself of sleep.  And it ain’t good for this baby to see you so dang sad all the time.  Now, don’t make me tie you up and drag your ass to bed.”  

“I promise I’ll go to bed.  Just a few more minutes, okay?  Thank you Keough.”

 “You’re welcome, Darlin’ and goodnight.”    

I was leaving the office when I noticed something on the side of the door jam.  Funny, I’d never noticed it before.  There were two perfectly shaped hearts carved into the trim with the initials MJ loves R.  I rubbed my finger over them.  When did he do this?   What other little treasures has he left behind for me to discover.  I went back to his desk, picked up some paper and a pencil and rubbed it over the carving and then tucked it into my shirt pocket. We miss you too, Joe.

About the Author
 Originally from Pennsylvania, Deb and her husband Pete moved to Western North Carolina and live on a small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

She enjoys the simplicity of their country lifestyle and takes pleasure in the daily antics of their horse Colonel, half dozen rowdy barn cats and a large but friendly black snake they’ve affectionately named, Licorice. 

After retiring from a successful career in Art Administration, Deb has taken on a new career as a novelist and humor writer.  In October of 2012, her novel Love, Montana was selected and published by HumorOutcasts Press.  The sequel, Always, Montana is published by Shorehouse books.  Her other books include, A Hot Dog Stand in the Himalayas  a daily diary for their granddaughter Sammie that  develops into a collection of heartwarming fictionalized short stories and The Adventures of Annie Banana Bread and Larry Cranberry a  tale that teaches the acceptance of children with disabilities and diverse health conditions.  


Deb is one of the original writers forming the successful online humor magazine, Humoroutcasts.com.

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