TOMORROW is the DAY! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

glasses Jacqueline Tramoni

Photo Credit – Fabulous Corsican photographer Jacqueline Tramoni http://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.tramoni

NEW YEAR’S EVE TOAST ~ TO MY READERS

PHOTOS OF REAL-LIFE LOCATIONS THAT INSPIRED MY NOVELS

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For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

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A photo of the Skipper and crew of the Wigeon of Fearn in Portofino in 1963. This wild adventure I took at nineteen provided the back story to MOTHER TONGUE. We were stranded by a mistral storm in Bonifacio, Corsica for 5 days and tried to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off the island!

Harbor Bonifacio hotel on quay

My return trip to Bonifacio in 2006 as part of my visit to many of the locations in MOTHER TONGUE, some of which I had only seen in books. We had docked in this exact spot in 1963–but less people and fewer boats.

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAI

Photo found as part of my research on the Nationalist movement in Corsica, this a photo of members of the FLNC.

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The home I discovered in Point Richmond that became the inspiration for the home of Danny Shapiro, the man whom Charlie Pederson pursues to her detriment in DEGREES OF OBSESSION

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A corner of San Francisco Bay that became the site where Charlie is held hostage and fights for her life.

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The old deserted winery at Point Molate and the ladder to the top of the parapet that became the focus of the final battle scene of DEGREES OF OBSESSION

2 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksWEDNESDAY APPETIZER-

FIRST CHAPTER OF MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

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For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE: Lingua Corsa
Chapter One 

FRESNES

I peered down at the beacon of light flickering off the bald spot dividing Pierre Benatar’s hair into two frizzy black clumps and half-heartedly hustled to keep stride with his churning legs. The sun scorched the back of my neck as he forged ahead, as oblivious to me as to the threats against his life by collaborators of the Corsican terrorist we were about to interview. Correction. That he was about to interview. I would only translate. Lagging behind, I felt like a leashed dog refusing to be brought to heel. Recent events had reduced the aggressive legal Beagle side of me to the petulance of a disobedient spaniel.

The last of the nondescript homes in the leafy Val-de-Marne suburb south of Paris gave way to the menacing sprawl of Fresnes prison as we rounded the last corner. The sight of its ancient stone walls turned my knees to jelly and congealed my stomach contents into a nauseous lump. My legs started to buckle, but I regained my balance with an awkward stutter step, saved by the Birkenstocks that completed my prison couture outfit of loose-fitting slacks and a long-sleeved blouse buttoned up Puritan style. To add to the demure look, I had corralled my wiry brunette hair into a bun instead of letting it snake down my back in its usual thick braid. And nary a hint of make-up. Not that I wore much anyway.

Two months earlier I’d had to fight off the same queasy feeling on my way to Marin for lunch with a friend. As I rounded the last curve on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the sight of the pale stucco walls of San Quentin caused me to slam on the brakes, veer off the road, stick my head out the window, and puke. What in hell could have prompted the Governor’s parole Commissioner to release a repeat offender from this hell-hole? A monster who had gone on to murder his ex-wife and kidnap their own daughter?

But blaming Pete Wilson’s hack did little to assuage my own guilt. Assigned by Alameda County as Kassandra Jackson’s attorney in a routine dependency hearing, I had offered a vehement and unfortunately convincing argument for returning her spunky eight-year-old daughter, Briana, to her custody. I had done my due diligence. I had ticked off each and every required duty on the list—home visit, social services for the mother, even an action plan to protect the child in case her paternal grandparents tried to bodily interfere and take Briana to visit their incarcerated son. A trusted colleague assured me that the brutal ex-husband would be denied parole. In my opinion, there was no substantial risk, per the requirements of the Welfare and Institutions Code of California, that the child would suffer serious physical harm as a result of the parent’s inability to supervise or protect her. The spanking on the buttocks reported by Briana’s teacher to Child Protective Services fell within the legal definition of age-appropriate and reasonable, although I personally opposed any form of corporal punishment. The code too closely resembled the idiotic cautions in liquor ads to drink responsibly. Spank responsibly. Right!

And then there was the clincher. The mother, unlike most of my clients at dependency hearings, had brought a snack of gummy bears for Briana and cuddled her as we sat in the hall awaiting her hearing. Most of these derelict parents could care less about whether their child is either fed or comforted, even under these stressful circumstances.

I should have double-checked on the outcome of the father’s parole board hearing but had been swallowed up by my caseload of over three hundred other parents fighting to keep or regain custody of their children in Alameda County. Within two days of the ex-husband’s release, Kassandra lay dead in a pool of blood and Briana was nowhere to be seen. A week later her tiny body, bloated beyond recognition, washed up on the muddy banks of the Oakland estuary. I’d only seen the crime photos, thank God, but even those had quite literally brought me to my knees and eventually to this self-imposed exile in France.

Weeks of knocking back more Jack Daniels than usual had done jack shit to eradicate the memory of Briana’s sweet black face, framed in bead-dressed pigtails and cushioned, not against her favorite Disney princess pillow that she clutched during our visits, but against the cruel white satin of a coffin. I’d made a valiant effort to return to my duties but found myself stammering in front of the judges as I second guessed myself on every word, court documents spilling from my tremulous hands onto the floor. Given the level of understaffing in the Public Defender’s office, I must have appeared a bloody mess to warrant being put off on an indeterminate personal leave of absence instead of fired.

I tried to push the memories away as I trundled after Benatar in silence. Friends and foes both in and out of court had always found it hard to shut me up. But it was almost as if a mute button had been pushed in my brain as I sat that dreary Saturday afternoon in the last pew of Allen Temple Baptist Church eyeing the throng of mourners celebrating two lives taken too way too soon.

Feeling ill-prepared only reinforced my reluctance to speak. Benatar had dropped the assignment on my desk less than 24 hours before, along with a foot-thick stack of reports he had filed on the Corsican situation. I had stayed up after midnight skimming through the materials. But time enough to confirm that his no-holds-barred reporting style jibed with the newsroom gossip I’d heard about this diminutive Moroccan Jew who had been targeted by just about every faction of Corsica’s Nationalist movement.

As we passed through the metal detectors at the prison’s entrance, I wondered how much Benatar knew about me beyond the fact that I was the rare American who spoke fluent French and certainly the only one who spoke lingua corsa. When his regular translator’s heart healed, would I be shuttled off to Charles De Gaulle airport with a one-way ticket back to San Francisco? I felt a nagging urge to explain that back in the States, before I’d gone bonkers and got sent off to a shrink’s office and eventually urged by my mother to take this hiatus to France, my investigatory skills as a child advocate attorney may well have outshone his as a journalist.

My ruminations came to an abrupt halt when a paunchy guard, sweat staining the underarms of his starched blue shirt, snatched the Liberation staff credentials out of my hand with the insolence bred into French functionaries. “Lisabetta Falcucci. Ce n’est pas un nom américain. Corse, n’est-ce pas?

A denial was pointless. My decision to officially revert to my Corsican birth name was there in black and white, although I’d almost forgotten the shrewd tactic I’d used to nab a translator position on France’s most radical newspaper. It hadn’t taken long after my arrival for me to insist that everyone use my Americanized name, Liz Fallon. But now my ploy felt like a curse. Benatar glowered up at me above his rimless glasses. I felt thirty-two going on a doddering ninety-three with my life swirling down a French toilette. Benatar’s probably wondering how the fuck I can translate for him if I can barely remember my own name.

fresnes interiorI had little patience for lapses, particularly my own. Annoyed that I even cared about Benatar’s opinion, I rattled off a few rapid-fire phrases in French, adding a healthy dose of the vernacular, which worked as well on Benatar and the smug guard as it did on sneering Parisian waiters. But as we passed through the first set of iron gates, my bravado ebbed, smothered by the odor of corroded iron bars and the sickly fumes of disinfectant rising from the green-speckled linoleum underfoot.

* * *

The subject of Benatar’s interview, with the exception of his skin color and accent, looked no different than the dozens of other criminals I had had the misfortune to meet in the line of duty. I found myself running through my usual assessment, looking for tells, those small unconscious movements that exposed the vulnerabilities of men who don’t think they have any. Signs that would give me ammunition to bar them from their children’s lives forever.

My appraisal started with the rash of gray stubble on his chin and moved up to the matching shorn growth on his head which was split asunder by a quarter inch swath of bare scalp at the hairline, the telltale signature of a grazing bullet. His slouch and up-yours stare had as much swag as any member of the Imperial Gangsta Thuggz back in Oakland. The only surprise came when he started to speak.

Lingua corsa, with its elisions and muted consonants had always seemed soft and seductive to me, regardless of my complaints about always having to be my mother’s translator, but out of Yves Gordi’s mouth, it came across smart-ass and strident, with that cocky defensiveness of the guilty pleading innocent. With no time to fret about whether my facility with the language was up to snuff, I fell into the rhythmic cadence of my mother’s tongue as Benatar started firing questions.

“If you were simply buying groceries,” Benatar asked, “why did you have a mini Uzi submachine gun with bullets in the barrel as well as several ammo magazines in the trunk of your car?”

Gordi was quick to retort. “So you think we should be killed like rabbits? Yes, we hide. Yes, we wear bulletproof vests. Yes, we are armed. We are under surveillance for weeks. We are not arrested for robbing the place, only getting food to eat. Who knows where the gendarmes found those weapons? They say what they please.”

The louder and more aggressive Gordi became, the more Benatar leaned into him. At first I found myself intimidated. I desperately wanted to become the proverbial fly on the wall, existing unnoticed among the splatters of jailhouse graffiti. But as I relaxed and eased into the tempo of the exchange, questions began clicking into place in my own brain, ones I would have asked had this man been the incarcerated father of one of my charges. When Benatar paused to jot down a note, a rush of adrenaline loosened my tongue. “What do you make of the fact that the police didn’t believe you?” I asked.

The prisoner and Benatar snapped their heads in my direction. Benatar nodded to Gordi to answer but not before shooting a scathing look of disapproval my way. A hot flush rose up the back of my neck and sweat dampened the armpits of my blouse. I felt like I had been whacked by a giant flyswatter. I gave Benatar a sidewise glance that was as close to saying sorry as I could manage. Admission of guilt was never my strong suit.

“You are like all the rest,” Gordi said, aiming his accusation at Benatar. “Your stories are filled with lies. You forget the past murders by the FLNC. You report mainly what harm their opponents do. In the meantime, the Cuncolta, their supposed legal arm, sucks up to the government, puts on some phony act about peace agreements, and you fall over backward making them into some kind of heroes. The price of your mistake will be more blood, more bombings like the three in Haute Corse today and the one in Corse Sud two days ago.”

His words struck home. I knew how important it was to assess a situation correctly, regardless of appearances. A child’s life could be at stake. I pushed away the sickening image of a quilted lid being lowered on a child-size coffin.

* * *

An hour later, I twitched under Benatar’s harsh silence as he drove the fifteen kilometers back to Libé, as the newspaper Liberation was affectionately called. I had overstepped my bounds and derailed his interview, spurring the prisoner to spout more rhetoric than revelation. I felt damn sure Libé’s founder, Jean Paul Sartre, would have offered up a few choice words about my freedom to be an idiot. But embarrassment aside, the thoroughbred attorney in me stomped with impatience as we arrived at our rue Beranger headquarters. Accepting this temporary assignment as a translator, safe as it might be, felt like being relegated to the barn. The nightmares might never end. My hands might keep trembling for the rest of my life. What guarantee was there that a couple of months in Paris would settle my nerves and give me the courage to get back in the game? Wait too long and I might be in worse straits.

3 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksTUESDAY TEASER –

FIRST CHAPTER OF DEGREES OF OBSESSION

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For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleChapter One

DEVILISH DELIGHT

Peering into the rear view mirror, I scrubbed a fleck of lipstick off my front tooth, then ran my little finger over my lower lip to even out the color.  I wiped the residue on a Jack-in-the-Box napkin stuffed between the bucket seats.

I hadn’t thought of it at the time of purchase, but this Devilish Delight lipstick complemented my devil-may-care mood.

As luck would have it, the color was an exact match for the scarlet streaks in the très cher Hermes scarf I’d tucked under the lapels of my equally out-of-budget black Jones New York suit.

My justification for overspending?  The no-brand lipstick was under two bucks, and even sitting down I could appreciate the elegant cut of the Jones New York jacket.  More importantly, the tailored pleats in the silk-lined slacks disguised the few extra pounds I’d added over the years.

The result?  Dressed to kill.  How could Danny resist?

I checked the mirror one last time, rearranging a stray hair and dabbing with the napkin at the beads of moisture collecting on my upper lip.

Sucking in a lungful of air and determination, I swung open the door of my new baby, a gleaming white Lexus sport coupe with gold alloy wheels.  I adored my jazzy, totally impractical present to myself for my fiftieth birthday the month before.  It fit the Charlie side of me.  I had vetoed my husband’s more conservative choice of the Honda sedan.  But then again, Harold, along with my mother and my boss, were the only people in the world who insisted on calling me Charlene.

Head erect, I headed across the parking lot to the entrance of Danny’s office building, placing each foot a measured distance in front of the other, that smooth glide I’d mastered at modeling school back in my teens.

I had reached my five-foot-nine height in the eighth grade, towering over my peers and awkward as hell.  So Mom popped for a self-improvement course at John Robert Powers after the requisite begging on my part.  But she drew the line at my going on to professional modeling.  Her official explanation had to do with saving money for college, although I suspected that Mom didn’t think I had the body for it.  At the time, I didn’t think I had the body for much of anything.

I detoured around tufts of grass sprouting up through the asphalt in the parking lot, almost tripping over a discarded Budweiser can.  Given the condition of        the lot, perhaps Danny Shapiro’s life hadn’t turned out as upscale as I had imagined. But the sleek glass exterior of the fifteen-story building looming up in front of me belied that, even with its current shell of scaffolding–added, no doubt, to repair damage from the recent Northridge earthquake.

It had all seemed so natural, so innocent on the drive over from our hotel, near the Los Angeles convention center. Tooling along the Ventura freeway as it sliced through the San Fernando Valley, I had found myself laughing out loud. Ahead of me, a grime-encrusted Pontiac, spotted with gray primer, had been jockeying for position with a chauffeur-driven Rolls.  Only in Los Angeles.

My eyes had been on the traffic, but my mind had been filled with visions of Daniel Hirschborn Shapiro, my first love and, I’d begun to think lately, my only love.  I kept seeing myself as the shy, naive college freshman seduced, with her full and utter cooperation, by the mature, or so I had thought at the time, and handsome Jewish junior.

Even after the passage of more years than I cared to remember, body memories of our lovemaking steamed to the surface.  The touch of his fingers threading through my hair…the smooth feel of the hollow above his collarbone…the small pleasure of toying with the gold Star of David nestled in the soft curls of his black chest hair.

As I approached his building, the silk lining of my slacks swished against my inner thighs, heightening the tension in my belly. Ducking under the iron scaffolding crisscrossed over the building entrance, I found myself in a dimly lit lobby.  My eyes flitted from wall to wall, searching for the building directory.  Huge cracks zigzagged through the green travertine marble covering the walls.  Missing chunks of the emerald-hued stone gave the lobby the pockmarked look of a war zone. Gaping holes at the four corners of a faded rectangular spot near the elevator revealed the directory’s last resting place.

The bile gurgling in my gut confirmed that I was up to no good.  Worse yet, my plot had been foiled.  Without the directory, I wouldn’t be able to engineer an accidental encounter with Danny.  I had counted on using it, not only to locate his office, but also to select a random name to employ as an alibi for being there. The bile ran back down my esophagus into a pool of disappointment, tinged with relief. What was I thinking? Marching into his office uninvited had been out of the question from the get-go.  At fifty, I had sufficient brainpower to avoid total humiliation.  It was a lark, I told myself, forgetting what an utter mess life had become when I had last pursued Danny.  But I had reasoned, and I use that term loosely, that an accidental meeting might fly.  I had the oh-my-God-it-can’t-be-you speech at the ready.  It could go either way.  My heart hoped he would be bowled over and swoop me up in an impetuous embrace.  My brain knew he’d dial 9-1-1.

I felt a flush creep up over my cheeks when I realized that a rent-a-cop, hunched up in the far corner, was scrutinizing my every move. His cadaverous hands hung like dead chicken feet from the billowing sleeves of his navy sateen jacket. It was highly unlikely that he was admiring my costly Jones New York suit with his beady stare. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he headed my way at a funereal pace.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked, touching a bony finger to the brim of his hat.

“No…nothing…I mean, I left something in the car.”

I affected a nonchalant air and sauntered out the way I’d come in, chiding myself for pulling such a sophomoric prank.  A woman nearing midlife, and a therapist to boot, should have better sense. I imagined Marietta, my best friend, wagging her finger in my face and, in the background, my entire caseload of patients doing the same.

The botched encounter squelched my sexy mood.  I beat a path back to my car, the model swing to my hips transformed to a jerky retreat. As I fumbled for my keys in my pricey, but deeply discounted, Gucci bag, I knocked the pencil-thin strap from my shoulder. The bag bounced on the asphalt. Bending to retrieve it, I popped the front button off my slacks.

“Shit!” I said, to no one in particular.

Clambering back into the car, I stabbed at the ignition, ramming the key home on the third try. I squirmed in the creamy-colored leather seat as my expensive panties—the last of my extravagant purchases—now clammy, stuck where they shouldn’t.

“Shit!  Shit!”

My hand dropped from the ignition and I sank back into the seat, shoulders drooping, staring at Danny’s building, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey in its framework of iron.  Last month’s massive earthquake had certainly taken its toll, not only on his building but on thousands of other structures in the San Fernando Valley. God must have foreseen my foolish plan to track down an old flame and arranged an appropriate natural disaster to subvert it. Seemed a shame, though, to sacrifice all that property just to get rid of one directory and keep me on the straight and narrow.

I snapped back to reality when I saw the creepy old guard crossing the tarmac toward my car.  God forbid that I had parked in Danny’s private space. I glanced at my watch. Damn, how did it get to be eleven?  Harold was going to be pissed. Turning the ignition key, I slammed down the gas pedal, nearly bowling over the ancient guard as I squealed out of the parking lot.

4 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksFor an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleDEGREES OF OBSESSION

Charlie Pederson, fierce but flawed like all women who have loved deeply and lost, takes a dangerous thrill ride from risky infatuation to the edge of disaster when she stalks her still suck-the-breath-out-of-you handsome college flame.

As a therapist, Charlie knows she should abandon her crazed obsession over Danny Shapiro. But as a woman turning fifty and stifled in her marriage to deadly dull Harold, she finds herself driven to take a dicey last chance to find all that her heart needs.

Little does she suspect that an impulsive visit to Danny’s law office will make her the target of a homicidal erotomaniac. As she chases Danny down, she jeopardizes her professional reputation, infuriates her best friend, alienates her husband, and risks exposing the most painful secret of her life.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE:LINGUA CORSA

Child advocate attorney, Liz Fallon, desperately needs a break after legal blunders and her own negligence lead to the kidnapping and death of a mother and daughter she represents. Fluent in her mother’s native Corsican tongue, she nabs a job at a Paris newspaper as a lingua corsa translator for Pierre Benatar, whose coverage of the explosive Corsican Nationalist movement has enraged every separatist faction.

When Benatar and his seven-year-old son disappear, she resolves to prevent another tragedy and cons her way to Corsica under the ruse of researching a tabloid story about the mazzeri, the isle’s ancient harbingers of death. She cozies up to the prime suspects using her secret knowledge of lingua corsa and the aid of an elderly Brit and a courageous teen Corsican cousin. The hunters suddenly become the hunted when Liz’s inquiries arouse the suspicions and passions of both the separatist leader and the French police chief. When the mazzeri story also takes a chilling personal turn, she has to wonder whether Corsica intends to reclaim her as its prodigal daughter or destroy her.

My life as a novel

An entry from my daily meditation writing from four years ago and still something to consider each day:

pulitzer prizeI feel better when I think about my life being like a great Pulitzer Prize winning novel—each chapter a new adventure or misadventure, each turn in plot clever and unexpected, and no cliched happy forever after endings. A novel that is an epic journey, chock full of interesting characters, whose lives unfold in mysterious ways. Plot lines that are wild and crazy, dramatic and suspenseful.

This is exactly how I should view my life. A future that will surprise me. A journey that will not turn out as I assumed, expected, or perhaps even wanted. I need to live and pray my way through this epic journey of mine. I hate novels that have predictable endings. So why would I want to live a life that turns out that way? I don’t even want to write a novel like that! And I haven’t. Watching my homemade trailers for Degrees of Obsession and Mother Tongue reminds me of how much effort I put into having story lines that both surprise and satisfy.

In my own fiction writing, I seek to create stories with a gritty realism and surprising plot twists. Ones with real meaning at the end, not just pat “happy endings”. I want my characters to learn something from the difficult experiences they go through, especially those of their own making. As an author, I know that what they learn is more important than what they originally wanted.

Every time I start boo-hooing over the fact that I don’t have that formula romance in my life, I need to remind myself that my life is indeed a great novel, one worth reading. As a reader of that life story, I don’t want the ending to be predictable, and I especially don’t want to read ahead and see what the final outcome will be. I just want to read each page each day and be filled with neither anticipation nor dread about what the next page will bring.

If I consider each day another page and not get ahead of myself or keep re-reading the past pages, I think that I will find that my life is interesting, unpredictable, and worthwhile. If there was a particularly sad or disappointing page in the past, re-reading it a thousand times won’t make it less so and, in the meantime, I won’t be focused on the new page for the day which might very well bring happiness beyond my wildest imagination. And if I miss the new page by dwelling on the past, hoping those past chapters will change their shape or character, I will never catch up—by then the new page will have become history and I will have missed experiencing what it offered.

Nor do I want to read ahead and skip pages because my story won’t make sense and again I will have missed the page for today. My life has been a great novel—pathos, excitement, romance in small doses, challenges, overcoming abuse, helping others, changing lives. The author of my life, whom I chose to call God, has drawn me as a main character with intelligence, humor, creativity, wisdom, the ability to figure things out and to adjust. He has provided juicy subplots and fascinating minor characters who have swept in and provided plot tension and then disappeared—but the protagonist (me!) has always survived and lived on.

As a reader I need to be interested in HER! She’s still here waging the war, having new adventures, being herself. Sometimes she’s sad and I can cry with her. I can hope that in the next few pages she’ll put it all into perspective, that she’ll realize that the author of her story has something much better in mind for her. She has been up against worthy antagonists—ones that added particular tension and suspense to her story. Will Dad come ever care? Will Mom be able to protect her? Will brother turn out to be sorry? Will so-and-so ever come back?

one pate at a timeThe author of my life story hands me just one page at a time. There is no other better version available at the next bookstore. After all, He wrote the Greatest Story Ever Told. Hey…I’m living in a best seller. And, to boot, He’s given me the talent to write myself. Do I want some sappy ending with a minor character that was written out of my story pages and pages ago? No, I want to see who comes into my life in the future. And I have to keep doing the footwork in the meantime. I can’t sink into inertia. I can’t stop looking for the opportunities for growth and happiness that are at hand. So, keep reading, Karen, and live out this day God has written especially for you.

Do not cling…

worth itdo not cling
shrink wrap yourself
around something
not yours to have
not love
nor money
nor any object
of your desire

save endless
hours of emotional
wear and tear
avoid exercise in futility
you cannot stick
to Teflon dreams
that resist
the irresistible you

believe life gives
what is yours to have
let feelings linger
until dissolved
seek poetic companions
who inspire
pick author’s brains
who encourage

decide to be cheerful
just for today

Beware BAD THINKING AHEAD…

♥ ♥ ♥ BEFORE YOU LOOK UP THAT OLD COLLEGE FLAME ♥ ♥ ♥

bad thinkingPAY HEED TO THIS TRAILER for DEGREES OF OBSESSION 

BUY DEGREES OF OBSESSION by KAREN STEPHEN

KINDLE for $0.99 cents

PAPERBACK used from $1.36 at Amazon.com

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Longtime therapist Dr. Charlene “Charlie” Pederson admits that her fixation with college sweetheart Danny Shapiro has reached the unsettling stage of obsession.  Jolted by turning fifty and struggling with a condescending husband, Charlie crafts a harebrained scheme to find Danny and recapture his heart.  Her delight at reuniting  with her old flame soon turns to indignation when he accuses her of stalking him. Danny’s fears about being stalked are well-founded.

Degrees New Front CoverCharlie plays on her professional expertise about stalking to worm her way back into Danny’s life…all the while jeopardizing her marriage, tarnishing her reputation, and alienating her best friend.  After her darkest secret is revealed, Charlie plunges into unfamiliar depths of pain and mortal danger and must rely on every psychological trick in her book to survive. DEGREES OF OBSESSION will take you on a riveting journey from risky infatuation to personal fulfillment and forgiveness.

Six hours to publication

DegreesofObsession240Old dogs hate new tricks…especially the 71 year old female know-it-all variety! Little matter that it might make one’s life simpler and more profitable. The last time I published a paperback, at least the first edition thereof, was in 2005 when CreateSpace was known as BookSurge. I recently revised the interior of DEGREES OF OBSESSION but that doesn’t count.

It took my therapist, who is generally dead on when it comes to my bad habits and peccadilloes, several tries before I believed what he knew to be true, that publishing even paperbacks is absolutely free on CreateSpace (and I’m sure on other sites). He knows because he has published several of his own excellent books on EMDR and related topics. To those whose hearts are beating faster at this moment, YES, I can divulge that he’s my therapist but don’t worry, he can’t divulge that I nor anyone else is his patient, except, now, of course you all know that my 40 years as a practicing psychologist did little to disentangle my own demented brain.

Paperback cover finalI digress. So good patient that I am, I rushed home, went on the computer and within six, count them SIX hours, had a paperback version of MOTHER TONGUE ready for submission. I admit that I cheated a teensy bit. I had prepared the interior in advance, knowing that some day I might go for the hard copy version in addition to the Kindle version ready for pre-order and release on December 6th. And I used their Cover Creator instead of trying one more time to figure out how the layers function on Photoshop works. Having run the new cover design past my faithful cover critique group, after a few more tweaks, I’ll be ready to hit APPROVE. Stay tuned. Please feel free to add your comments. Unfortunately the Cover Creator for Kindle is different so I’ll have to make a choice at some point.

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Book signing LA Festival of Books 2006 for DEGREES OF OBSESSION

Now my good friend won’t have to wonder how she can throw that book signing party for me when all I have is a Kindle edition. Sign their Amazon receipt? Be arrested when I take a sharpie to their computer or Kindle screen?

So stay tuned. A bit more tweaking and the paperback version of MOTHER TONGUE will be good to go. And that one I can autograph for you without doing jail time!

Life Interrupted

P1010462I retired FOR GOOD four and a half years ago (the 100 flamingos in my yard were proof of that) after a forty-year career as a Clinical Psychologist. That’s eight thousand patients and tens of thousands of hours of listening to the basic seven stories of humankind: bad spouse or partner, bad job, bad kids, lousy childhood, maltreatment, bottom of society’s totem poles, or spiritual vacuum. But each retelling had its own flavor or its own horrors (just when you think you’ve heard the worst!) and the resilience of the human soul is a marvel to observe. Give it a place to flourish and flourish it will.

I turned my attention and my time toward being a loving grandparent and to fiction writing. I enjoyed putting the final touches on my second novel, MOTHER TONGUE, and developing a social media campaign to sell the first, DEGREES OF OBSESSION. How different the market has become for self-published authors. I even created a book trailer, which brought out the “director” in me.

And then my stellar work history caught up with me. A former colleague gave my name to a large heath care plan that services the Medi-Cal (Medicaid) population in 14 northern California counties. They were seeking someone with clinical experience and organizational skills (which I had obtained through leadership in my union) to serve as their Mental Health Director. Two days a week seemed doable and the lure of having a paycheck again, and a handsome one at that, led me to applying and then accepting the position.

So the plan is to sort out the new position, see what I can contribute to serving the Medi-Cal population in terms of mental health services, and run the Grammie and fiction writing “businesses” on the side. Who knew that entering the eighth decade of my life would be so invigorating and challenging. And I can always quit after I earn enough money to buy that Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce I’ve been hankering after!

DIY Book Trailer for $19 vs. $2199

I thought I would pass along how I made my very own book trailer. I made the decision to try DIY when I saw that CreateSpace, the Amazon self-publisher for the paperback version of my novel, DEGREES OF OBSESSION was offering to produce a 60-second book trailer for $2199.00. Good grief! I won’t live long enough to make that worthwhile.

I first discovered that Windows Live Movie Maker was useless in this venture because you cannot make the mini-adjustments necessary to match video and sound in each segment of your storyline. But I came across Blaine’s Movie Maker Blog and in the third paragraph down, in a highlighted box, he has links for downloading the much more effective and usable prior Vista version, Windows Movie Maker 6.0, in either 32-bit or 64-bit versions.

The next step was to write the “script” for my trailer. I followed a simple format similar to the plot structure of the novel itself. Start with the status quo, build the tension, throw in the inciting incident, add a couple of significant complications, then build to the “battle scene” or climax, and move on to a final denouement with purchasing information.

Then I began to collect still photos for the various scenes. I chose non-royalty photos off the internet along with some of my own photos.The search process for photos was a long process, several hours over a few days. One must weed through all the ridiculous stock photos that are made primarily for home-made office PowerPoint shows in order to find photos that express the proper emotions found in a work of fiction. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 to alter some of the photos but the EFFECTS menu available on Movie Maker 6.0 was quite sufficient in and of itself, especially with the myriad of TRANSITIONS that could be added between scenes, to alter the photos for my needs. I could, of course, have purchased rights to other photos but did not find any that suited my needs.

Live video is essential to an eye-catching book trailer and, through much searching again, I found and bought ONE video clip for $19.00 from Shutterstock.

My biggest find online was SoundsCrate which offers an interesting and varied menu of royalty free music and royalty free sound effects divided into categories that match most genres of writing. I downloaded several pieces of music and several sound effects.

With all the materials gathered, I opened the STORYBOARD option on Movie Maker 6.0 and began to drag and drop my photos and video clips into place. Then switching to the TIMELINE option, I dragged and dropped sound clips into the video and added superimposed titles and credits at the end. Again there were many options for each of these features. This is where an artistic sense and the patience to make dozens of minute adjustments is necessary to coordinate sight and sound.

Total time? About 25 hours of work for 1 minute 30 seconds of trailer. Of course, some time is attributable to learning the new software. So next time it should go faster. I enjoyed it so much that I’m thinking of offering my services to other authors who would like to have a book trailer for their novel. Please go to my contact page if you have an interest.