The garden path

garden pathshe tippy toes down garden path
mid fragrant hedge of self-deceit
his idle words writ on the net
form stepping stones beneath her feet

she stops to browse a wall not hers
photos of his other life
a stunning bit of azure silk
the glint of diamonds on a ring
shout wedding day
in deafened ears

a look content upon his face
at family table fed with smiles
slows her merry made-up pace
turns hopeful moments into miles
of unfulfilled and foolish chase

she grabs the dagger by the hilt
and draws it from her broken heart
her wound will heal if given time
and a willingness to part
with journeys down that garden path
that leads to nowhere from the start





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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.

Keeping my fingers crossed…

Paperback cover finalTHE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS is pleased to confirm your nomination of MOTHER TONGUE for the 2015 Book Award.

We are in receipt of all requirements – nomination form, nomination fee, and 5 copies of your book. These have now been passed to the screening committee.

The longlist will be announced in mid-June 2015 and the shortlist in mid-July. The winner will be announced October 2015.The Book Award jury for 2015, drawn from the Writers Council of the American Library in Paris, is: Laura Furman (chair), novelist, professor at the University of Texas, and editor of the O. Henry Prize Stories series since 2002; Lily Tuck, novelist and biographer; and Fredrik Logevall, professor of international relations at Cornell University and the first winner of THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS BOOK AWARD for “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam”

Thank you for your submission,
The American Library in Paris
10, rue du Général Camou
75007 Paris | France
t:   +33

MOTHER TONGUE back story ~ The author and the Foreign Legion

unknowncrewFor a look at the REAL La Légion Etrangère’s 2ème Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes fighting today in Afghanistan, watch this Youtube video. This elite international intervention force is still based in Calvi, Corsica.

The back story for MOTHER TONGUE involved a wild adventure I had at nineteen involving, a British yacht, The Wigeon of Fearn, a “crew” of thirteen dissolute young people, a drunken skipper (seen in the rear of this photo taken at Portofino)–all of whom sailed the Northern Mediterranean, and, among other things, tried to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off of the island of Corsica! We failed in our mission but I never forgot the many stories of intrigues and foolishness that would evolve eventually into the story of MOTHER TONGUE. I even wrote a poem about our adventure shortly after the voyage ended.

EXCERPT from MOTHER TONGUE: Liz Fallon has just met they mysterious French police officer, Philippe LeClerc, who presents himself as much less than he really is. Their early morning chat takes place on a granite outcropping amid the maquis on the Cap Corse peninsula just after sunrise. They surprisingly find a connection between her mother, his father and the Foreign Legion.

“I have my own story about conscription by the French military,” I said. “My mother’s story actually.”

Vraiment? Tell me.”

two legionnairesI sketched out a few details about my mother and the crew of the Wigeon of Fearn trying to liberate two Foreign Legionnaires from the island, careful to leave the impression that my mother was just another American college kid.

Not until I uttered the words Bonifacio and summer of ’63 did LeClerc respond. “Incroyable! My father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2me Étranger du Parachutists, the second airborne of the Legion. He was sent to Bonifacio after the exodus from Algeria in ‘62.”

“Do you think he could have been the officer over the men my mother and her friends tried to sneak off the island?”

He looked off into the distance. “Je ne sais pas.

“So you lived in Corsica then?”

LeClerc paused as though he wasn’t prepared to answer questions about his personal life. I quickly apologized to keep the buttering-up process on track. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t pry.” Or at least do it more carefully.

“Not at all. The fact is that we never lived where my father was stationed. Although, we visited him that summer. I was nine.” Philippe hesitated again and then changed the subject. “Were your mother’s friends successful?”

“No, someone snitched. It all fell apart. They felt badly because the Legionnaires told them that they woke up with a bad hangover in Marseille and found themselves signed up for six years in the Legion.”

Impossible. The paras were the elite of the Legion, a special intervention force, even back then. No one would have been shanghaied from a bar.”

“And if they’d gotten caught trying to escape?”

“They would have been stripped, placed in solitary confinement, probably suffered a beating. Attempted desertion is still treated very harshly in the Legion.”

I shifted my position on the rock and broke off a nearby stalk of rosemary, twiddling it between my fingers, pleased that I had gotten LeClerc talking about his family. Find out about the father and you’ll find out about the man. “And your father would have allowed that sort of thing?”

“He would have ordered it.”

I wasn’t shocked. I’d known other men, like Briana’s stepfather, with that same sociopathic streak of cruelty.

LeClerc ran his hands over his knees and stared at the rising sun. “My father was something of a legend. He survived Dien Bien Phu and then fought in Algeria against the FLN. He treated his regiment like personal property. He would not have taken it lightly if two of his men deserted. He might even have ordered a corvée de bois.”

“A what?”

“You tell a prisoner he is free to go and then shoot him in the back.”

Now I was shocked. “You’re kidding?”

He looked at me and broke into a sliver of a smile. “Of course. But it makes for a good story, n’est ce pas?”

They make up…Excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

french colonial villaLeaving a tense encounter at the house with the oblique staircase in the wilds of Niolo, Antoine pulls up to an seemingly out-of-place and dilapidated French colonial villa, its crumbling walls stitched together with ivy. At the end of a bizarre dinner prepared by their enigmatic host and having had a few whiskeys, Liz turns flirtatious.

whiskey fire

I wanted to stay away from the sensitive areas, at least for now. With the whiskey diminishing my resolve, I tossed out a flirtatious remark. “So, confess, Antoine, is that when you developed your passion for American women?”

Scafani shifted in his chair and faced me head on. He reached and tucked an errant strand of hair behind my ear. “Passion?”

The clatter of broken pottery and muffled shrieks from the kitchen interrupted the moment. “Those poor girls,” I said, downing the last of my third glass of whiskey.

incenseWith the meal was finished, I suggested we head back to Corte. As we walked back down the darkened hallway, Scafani reached again for my arm and tucked it under his. The front room was now filled with the pungent odor of sandalwood. He put his hand on my shoulder and turned me toward him. I paused a fraction of a second and then slid one hand around the back of his neck and pressed the other against his chest. Whether it was the whiskey or his obvious charm, I returned his eagerness as our kisses moved from tender to hot.

“Would you like to go upstairs?” he asked.

I jerked back to reality. “What!”

“If you really want to go back, we will. Just so you know, this is the only hotel in twenty kilometers.”

A laugh came from deep within my belly. “Do you bring all your women here?”

“Only the American ones.”

I allowed Scafani to take my hand and lead me through a door concealed in the room’s paneling. He guided me playfully up the steep staircase hidden behind, flicking his tongue over the nape of my neck on each riser.

“One bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling and I’m out of here,” I said, envisioning a shabby room with dingy sheets. pulled me through the first open door at the top of the landing. I let out a soft whistle when I saw a mosquito-netted four-poster bed and three squat candles aglow on the dresser. “Spontaneous combustion?”

Scafani shushed me with a single finger to my lips.

They meet…excerpt from MOTHER TONGUE

Liz Fallon has inveigled her way to Corsica by taking a fluff assignment to cover Professor Nicoli’s announcement at the Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli about the mysterious mazzeri and quite unexpectedly meets Antoine Scafani for the first time.

NPG Ax39646; (Frederica) Dorothy Violet (nÈe Carrington), Lady Rose by Francis GoodmanThe Professor’s voice turned tremulous. “I am currently seeking funding for an investigation to be—”

The same voice, louder and more agitated, drowned her out. “You expect the Corsican people to provide funds for this hogwash. We have more important issues to deal with. We are waging a war for independence. Several hundred voices are being raised outside these doors at this very moment. While we sit listening to fairy tales, they are out marching in solidarity for self-determination for all of us.”

flag and hillsAn even deeper male voice boomed out from the aisle. “You underestimate the importance of the Professor’s work. She is a true heroine, as much as any bearer of the Moor’s head. For decades, she has been dedicated to the preservation of our history and culture.”

mazzeri8I watched as the owner of the voice, whose words had silenced the interloper, strode toward the podium. I couldn’t see his face but the mass of dark curls dangling above a set of self-assured shoulders captured my attention. As he addressed the audience, I studied his chestnut-colored eyes and the pulsating muscles of his jaw. “Every invader from the Romans to the Visigoths to the French has tried to eradicate our spiritual beliefs—whether it is the signadoras who bring healing, or the mazzeri, who announce impending deaths. Suppressing local customs and beliefs is an invader’s way of keeping a people subjugated. Our comrades outside understand this well.”

I felt my throat go dry as the man paused and looked directly at me, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly.

As another derogatory comment flew at the Professor, the man on the stage curled a protective arm around her frail shoulders and spit out a long string of expletives in lingua corsa. I twisted in my seat just in time to see the gatecrasher’s face twist in anger as he hurled back an insulting rejoinder.

linguaSuddenly, the noise of slamming of doors and rankled voices erupted from the back of the auditorium. I spun around to see a flood of protestors storming down the side aisles, their Moor’s head banners cutting through the air like scythes through ripe wheat. As I looked back to the podium, a second contingent thudded in from behind the curtains and took up a military stance across the front of the stage causing the professor’s champion to whisk her away. I muttered a few choice words of my own as the opportunity to meet the Professor and finish up my phony baloney research assignment got blown to hell.

I hadn’t given a thought to my own safety until that very moment. But as the chants of the protestors became more frenzied, I started scanning the room for camouflage clothing, masks, or gun muzzles, anything that could presage a hostage situation. I saw only Levis and passionate faces, more fervent than threatening.

flnc10Just as I let my shoulders relax, a loud bang echoed from the wings. A shot? I couldn’t tell. The audience wasn’t waiting to find out and broke for the exits. I jumped out of my own seat, threw my backpack over my shoulder, and shoved my way through the line of demonstrators filling the aisle. I was about to reach for my duffle bag when one of our placards smacked me across the cheek. The next thing I knew, a strong hand was gripping my upper arm and jerking me back against the wall. I wrenched myself free only to discover that I was being manhandled by the Professor’s defender. He scolded the man with the placard, who instantly offered up a sheepish nod of apology.

“Forgive my friend, Mademoiselle. We should be more welcoming to our English friends.”

“I’m not British.”

“Ah, American. My apologies again. Permit me to introduce myself. Antoine Scafani. Can I help you get out of here?”

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAIThe name Scafani set off alarm bells in my head. Hadn’t I just read about a man named Scafani in one of Benatar’s reports? Something about an unsolved assassination. This could turn into my first lead about Benatar and his son’s disappearance. I started to introduce myself as Lisabetta Falcucci but thought better of it. “Liz Fallon,” I finally said. “I’m here to cover the Professor’s announcement about the mazzeri.”


FWT Homepage Translator

MOTHER TONGUE by Karen Stephen
New cover 10.20 Finalin the Kindle (English) version
can be PRE-ORDERED NOW at for $2.99.
Or at
The RELEASE DATE is December 6, 2014
Enjoy the TRAILER and pass it on to anyone you know
who enjoys a great suspense novel
loaded with romantic and thriller elements!



Desperately seeking…beta readers!

I have just finished a complete revision of MOTHER TONGUE, changing the protagonist to a child advocate attorney and using the first-person voice to add punch. I’d love feedback, especially from readers who have commented on prior versions.I have posted a portion of the First Chapter on my website.

If this story of a child advocate attorney who gets blown out of the water when one of her young clients is kidnapped and murdered and ends up seeking refuge in Paris as a translator, only to find herself caught up in the Corsican separatist movement and yet another child kidnapping, then contact me and offer to be a beta reader.

MOTHER TONGUE is finished and almost ready for publication. I’d love your input. It will appeal to readers of suspense novels that have romance and thriller elements, such as Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder.

You’re Never Too Old to Tweet, Blog, and Pray

In the past two months, I learned to Tweet and Retweet, use Pinterest, and Blog. In the process, I created an entirely new Author Website using, learning all the ins and outs of a new web builder.

Then I published a Kindle version of my first novel, DEGREES OF OBSESSION, which is still available in paperback as well, and began a social networking marketing campaign using tons of good advice I garnered at a local meeting of the Romance Writers of America back in January.

I even figured out how to make a Book Trailer for DEGREES OF OBSESSION mastering the basics of Movie Maker 6.0 after discovering that Microsoft’s Window Live Movie Maker isn’t worth a farthing! I will be releasing the trailer this weekend March 22nd. Be sure to stay tuned!

Although my computer chair has become my best friend during this rush of activity, I still keep up with babysitting my toddler and pre-school granddaughters a couple of days a week, keep up with the activities of two older grandsons in Oregon, stay involved in church activities, see friends, feed my face (never forget THAT unfortunately!), walk, and do my daily mediation writing. Whew!

Who says turning 70 has to slow you down, mentally or physically. In fact, I find it terribly exciting to learn and use new skills. It is also great fun in this second career of mine as an author of romantic suspense novels to hold the actual products of my handiwork in my hands and have them appreciated by others. One of the downsides of being a therapist for forty years was seldom seeing the outcomes of my efforts as people drifted back into their lives after getting what they needed from therapy.

Yes, there have been a few senior moments here and there. But they usually involve forgetting to mail the bills or pick up bananas for those grandkids.

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~Robert Browning.