Quaking in my tights and ballet slippers, I considered making a run for the door and forgetting about my dream of making it into New York City’s High School of Performing Art. But my sweaty hand was already in a death grip on the dance barre with other hopeful applicants, and the audition was underway. I was trapped.
An instructor clapped a rhythm and barked out orders, “First position…second position…demi plié…relevé.” She walked up and down the line of students, stopping now and then to reposition a girl’s hips, or tell someone to keep their chin up or ribcage lifted.
My knee made a rather loud cracking sound like that of a walnut fracturing in the grips of Thanksgiving pliers at my first grand plié, or deep knee bend, then did it again on the second…and third dips. The girl behind me let out a muffled giggle, but if anyone else noticed, which I’m sure they did, they had the good graces to remain silent.
Two girls with contortionist-like flexibility at the far end of the barre garnered the lion’s share of the instructor’s attention. They were able to lift their legs sideways and press their calves to their ears, a feat that seemed almost magical to me. I was sure they had exquisite stage-worthy names like Katarina, or Angelique, and without a doubt, the pair would find acceptance letters in their mailboxes as soon as they arrived home.
Tearing herself from the shoo-in sisters, the dour-faced instructor took a final walk down the line. My heart froze as she stopped next to me and demanded more than asked, “What is your name?”
I took a huge gulp—one that, had I been a man, would have sent my Adam’s apple yo-yoing up and down my neck. A mousey “Irene” squeaked from my vocal cords.
“Irene,” she said, then tapped my backside with a narrow baton of sorts, “Tuck in your derrière.”
I squeezed my cheeks as hard as I could and pushed my hips forward, but it was no use. My rather bulbous derrière was as tucked as it was going to get. The mistress of dance turned, walked away, and never so much as glanced at me again.
My ego couldn’t have been more deflated as I rode the subway home. What had I been thinking? Me, a girl who’d started late and studied ballet for a mere year and a half while in junior high school? I’d ventured into territory more fitting for those who’d worn leotards and ballet slippers since they were toddlers. It came as no surprise when I received a rejection letter from the prestigious school.
I’d stepped out, tried my best at something new, and ran headlong into failure.
After striking out at Performing Arts and, later, The Bronx High School of Science, I was accepted into Dodge Vocational High School. For many months, I felt like a loser who got stuck with a consolation prize.
The tide started to turn, though, when I met Mr. May, an English teacher with an infectious enthusiasm for his chosen subject. He spawned in me a desire to once again try something new—creative writing. I remember his excitement as he helped me put together an article for the school newspaper titled, “Smash, Crash, Window Bash,” about a recent spate of window breakages at the school. Who knew a simple story could be so invigorating?
Now, with three novels under my belt, a fourth in the pipeline, and another sixty-percent complete, I can honestly say that taking a chance on a writing career has enriched my life in more ways than I can express.
My body may have never fit the mold of that of a prima ballerina, but it’s a perfect fit for my office chair where I pen the stories for my next novels. Who knows, my next heroine may be a ballerina, and I’ll dance vicariously through her.
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When my husband, Jim, was in the army, one of his duties was driving the mess truck—a 2½-ton vehicle, commonly called a deuce and a half. I’ve heard it said that the guy who brings the food to feed the troops’ empty stomachs is one of the most appreciated people in the army. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that.
Jim described what it was like to drive in a convoy through thick woods in the dead of night without the use of headlights. Small red taillights of the vehicle in front of him guided his way, and were the only thing he could see in the pitch-darkness. Often, hitting potholes, washouts, and rocks was unavoidable and elicited complaints from the men riding with him. But, no matter how rough the road, he couldn’t risk slowing down and losing sight of the red taillights.
The deuce and a half seemed to fascinate the men, and many of them begged Jim to let them drive. Who knows, maybe the novelty of driving a large army vehicle fulfilled a boyhood dream. Whatever the reason, they got a kick out of slipping behind the wheel and bumping down the road in the old beast.
Hank Fleming, the hero of my latest novel More Than a Soldier, is a former Spec Ops demolitions man who had begged to drive his buddy’s deuce and a half while in Afghanistan. Later, while driving in a convoy, the truck was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, leaving Hank the sole survivor in the attack. Now, several years later, latent PTSD sets in and manifests in nightmares that make him relive the explosion that took the lives of several men.
When Hank meets Cindy Giordano, his foster brother’s biological sister, he falls hard and fast for her and sets out to win her heart.
Cindy finds herself drawn to Hank, but she’s instantly wary. With her ex-fiancé’s betrayal still fresh in her mind, friendship is about all she can muster.
When shadows from Cindy’s past threaten, Hank’s protective instincts go into high gear, and he realizes everyone has their own battles to fight. But the road to healing would be much sweeter with the right person by his side.
“It’s nice to be a passenger for a change and be able to kick back and enjoy the ride.” Cindy’s lazy half-smile oozed with serenity.
“Good, I’m glad. You— Whoa, did you see that?” Hank slowed the Jeep and pulled onto the shoulder.
Cindy dropped her feet to the floorboards and twisted around in her seat. “See what?”
He backed up, stopped, and pointed to a smallish sign that barely stuck up over the roadside shrubbery. “That.”
“All-you-can-eat pancakes, all day long, six ninety-nine,” Cindy read aloud before looking back at Hank. “So?”
“What do you mean, so? I thought I saw a halo floating over that sign as we passed.”
Cindy laughed. “I take it you’re a flapjack fan?”
“Fan? You have no idea.” Hank put the Jeep in gear and merged back onto the road. “I love pancakes. Can’t get enough of ’em. Let’s go shut that place down for the day.”
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***Hank’s “Can’t Get Enough of ’em” Pancakes***
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ scant teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Combine dry ingredients, except pecans, in large mixing bowl.
- Mix buttermilk, egg, and melted butter together in medium bowl.
- Pour buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until lumps are gone.
- Add nuts, if desired, and mix into batter.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.
- Pour batter, using a ¼ cup measure, onto the skillet
- When bubbles appear on the surface, flip pancakes over and cook until browned on second side.
More Than a Soldier
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I’ll be honest. I’ve told some whoppers in my time. In fact, one particularly distasteful lie from my past proves that I am not immune to the temptation of the lie.
I was nine, maybe ten, a latchkey kid that sometimes came home to an empty apartment on the fourth floor of a South Bronx, New York tenement building. Dad worked night shift at a cab company, and Mom worked days at a thrift shop and didn’t come home until six-thirty.
My school, PS27, was a block and a half from our apartment. Often I arrived home long before my two brothers did from their respective high schools. They rode buses, and I walked. Sometimes, for whatever reason, my Dad wasn’t home, and I was alone. And scared.
Noises frightened me: the refrigerator compressor coming on, Cindy our dog barking at nothing…or something? the cat staring into space and being frightened by… what?
I was terrified of being alone. But, how could I tell my parents my fears when I knew they both worked to keep us afloat financially?
One day, Cindy barked wildly at the door, hackles up. I looked out the peephole and saw nothing. With a clear view to the apartment across the landing, and a partial view of the stairs to the door that led to the roof, I figured Cindy was mistaken. Still, I was shaken. When my parents and brothers came home, I fabricated the lie of all lies.
I told them that while I was alone, a man appeared at the kitchen fire escape. Describing him with the minutest detail, I explained that he had tried to get in through the window.
Needless to say, my parents were distraught. My father called his friend who worked at the Bronx’s 50th police precinct department. Soon, the policeman friend was at the apartment gleaning information from me. The lie became elaborate. I then described the fictitious man’s clothes: red plaid shirt, jeans, dark hair, etcetera.
The cop made phone calls. My parents paced, and I saw the turmoil in their faces.
In a whirlwind of emotions, I couldn’t take it anymore, went and lay down in my bed, and cried.
Soon, my great Aunt Irene (my mother’s aunt), whom I was named after, came and sat on the side of the bed. “What’s wrong, Renie?” she asked. The love in her voice made me cry all the more.
“I lied. There was no man on the fire escape. I’m just scared to be alone, that’s all.”
With tenderness and understanding, my great Aunt Irene took me in her arms, kissed me, and told me everything would be all right. I doubted it. I’d lied, and caused a great deal of concern and commotion as a result. But, Aunt Irene loved me. She smoothed everything over.
Soon, my father’s policeman friend left. Aunt Irene went home.
Later, my mother came and asked why I didn’t tell her how afraid I was to come home to an empty apartment. I began to cry once more and told her I understood how hard she and Dad worked to take care of the family, and I knew I was safe as long as Cindy was there to protect me, and the door was securely locked. I had no real reason for the lie. Except that I was afraid.
It took a long time to forgive myself for that lie. Afterward, my parents were more in-tuned with my need to feel secure, and made sure I was never left alone.
Lies. We all have reasons for them, don’t we? Almost everyone could forgive a not-so-honest, “You look nice in that dress.” But, there are lies we have a hard time forgiving, such the tangled web of deception used to cover well-kept secrets.
In my novel, Singapore Secrets, Julia Windsor, a Louisiana Senator’s young-adult daughter, runs off to Singapore to dodge the constant barrage of bodyguards and paparazzi caused by her father’s engagement to Hollywood sweetheart’s Kara Bordeaux.
Her father, who loves her dearly, hires Gabriel (Gabe) Davenport, a former Special Forces soldier to trail her, and make sure she’s safe.
Sparks fly when Julia meets fellow-American “tourist.” But will sparks be enough when Julia discovers Gabe’s true mission for being in Singapore? Find out in…
Absolution, the first installment of Dana K. Ray’s Luciano series, is a riveting story full of intricate plots, interesting characters, and page-turning danger. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.
AN EXCERPT YOU’LL ENJOY…
She [Zoë] turned to him [Antony] and tried to act cool, but she did need something from him. That fact gave her a strong desire to slap the grin off his face. “Okay, I need a date for the reception.”
“And I came to mind? Don’t we love to hate each other?”
Zoë placed both hands on her hips. “You got a date or not?”
Antony sat on the overstuffed black chair and placed the tumbler on the round, cherry coffee table. “Why would you ask me?”
“I hate going stag to these big social events.” Zoë sat on the gray Bancroft sofa. The taffeta pillows crinkled as she leaned against them. “Besides, I know you’re not seeing Lauren anymore.”
“Have you been spying on me?”
“No.” She crossed her long legs, then tugged at the hem of the dress as it crept up her thighs. “We’ve got a secretary down at the station who is infatuated with one of the richest and most eligible bachelor’s in the world. Isn’t that what People called you? She clips everything out about you then proceeds to fill me in.” Zoë flirtatiously flipped her hair over her shoulder. “In fact, she’d die if she knew I was here.”
“Maybe I should take her to the reception.” The grin never left his face.
“You’re going to make me beg?”
“The best of them do.”
Coming soon in the Luciano Series:
I’ll admit, when I first joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) in 2012, and met Susan Karsten through their critique group, I wasn’t sure about linking up with a critique partner who wrote historical romance. After all, I wrote contemporary stuff with Special Forces military men as my heroes, and had a grittier sense of story-telling. But once she and I started trading chapters, I was enthralled with her style and grace in writing.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled to announce the debut of the first book in Susan Karsten’s Honor’s Point Series, A Match for Melissa. Just look at that awesome cover! It’s gorgeous.
From the back-cover blurb:
*Melissa Southwood goes along with her ambitious father’s matchmaking schemes until one event throws all into question.
Amidst balls, carriage rides, dinner parties, and danger, Melissa must navigate an arranged courtship as well as the attentions of another nobleman.
Which aristocratic suitor will win her heart?*
Here, I’ll let some of the reviews on Amazon speak for themselves:
It’s with great pleasure that I fully endorse A Match for Melissa. If you’re a fan of historical fiction (and even if you aren’t), I trust that you’ll enjoy this book as much as I have. Highly recommended.
Check it out on Amazon.com now.
Bethel Manor Reborn, a sequel to Bethel Manor
If you enjoyed Bethel Manor, you’re sure to like the Bethel Manor Reborn. Follow the continuing story of James Blackwell and Clair Shaw Blackwell as they travel the road of life together with a new baby to care for.
When trials come their way, will they be able to overcome them and remain strong in their faith and commitment to one another? Read Bethel Manor Reborn. You might be surprised at the outcome.
Set for release on May 29, 2017, Bethel Manor Reborn has already garnered 31 positive reviews on Amazon. Check it out and pre-order NOW:
How I met this awesome author:
I met Beatrice Fishback through ACFW’s (American Christian Fiction Writers) online critique group and was immediately drawn to her chapters of Dying to Eat at the Pub, a cozy mystery she’d just finished writing, and is now available on all major online bookstores. I’d chuckled out loud at her prose and even shared it with my husband. In short, I fell in love with her style of writing.
With eagerness, I asked if we could be critique partners, and we began sharing chapters of each other’s work. Our relationship was cemented by an in-person meeting in upstate New York at Pomodoro’s Italian Eatery in Catskill, New York where we ordered a 24” pepperoni pizza and did our best, unsuccessfully, to finish it off. Yes, twenty-four inches. Biggest pizza I’ve ever seen, and I’m from Bronx, New York.
Since our meeting, Bea has written several books, with Bethel Manor Reborn being the latest in her repertoire.
Check out Bethel Manor Reborn. If you haven’t already read Bethel Manor, I suggest you buy it as well and read it first.
Beatrice Fishback has also authored several other books you may be interested in. Click on the book covers below and go to the Amazon page to read more about each book.
In short, I LOVE Bea Fishback’s writing. I think you will too.
Several years ago I took a trip from Boston to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a connecting flight in London. The first plane landed in London around seven in the morning, right on schedule. I had put a lot of effort into making sure I wouldn’t have a lengthy layover at the airport and was happy that my next flight would leave in about two hours.
However, as I dragged my bag to another terminal for the connection, I was notified that the flight from London to Malaysia would be delayed. The counter clerk couldn’t tell me how long the delay would be and didn’t have a reason for it. She gave me two meal tickets, redeemable at any restaurant in the airport, and told me to keep a close watch on the departure board for further flight information.
My anticipated two-hour wait turned into eleven. Weary passengers started to board the plane at six in the evening. Like automatons, we filed into our seats and settled in for the flight.
I enjoyed my few weeks in Malaysia and flew back home without incident or delay. But as days went by, I started to stew over that delay in London. No apologies, no explanation. To the airline, we were human cargo. At least, that’s how it felt to me. The obligatory meal tickets we were given had done little to relieve the stress and aggravation of the lengthy delay.
I wrote to the airline to voice my complaint and used a formula that had worked for me in the past:
- Tell the company what I like about their service. If I’d used them many times, tell them I’ve been a loyal customer.
- Politely voice my complaint.
- Suggest a remedy. Tell the company what they can do to satisfy my grievance and restore my faith in their service.
In a nutshell, I told the airline that I’d flown with them many times without incident and had been pleased with their service. Next, I voiced my complaint about the delay and that we were never given a reason for it. For the grand finale, I suggested that since the delay had cost me nine additional hours of what precious little vacation time my employer had given me, that it would be nice if they gave me a free round-trip voucher good for any flight in the United States to help with my next vacation.
Guess what? It didn’t take long before I received the voucher I’d asked for. Even I was surprised. It had been a long shot to ask for that much compensation, but I was downright pleased about the outcome.
Sometimes it’s true that you have not because you ask not.
It was a dark and stormy night…
Generators hummed all around us as my husband and I stood in the dark watching the storm from under the carport of the house we’d recently moved into. We’d lost power along with 140+ other houses in a long, narrow swatch of our neighborhood, while two blocks on either side of us streetlights burned bright and light shone from people’s windows. Later, we would learn from our neighbors that power outages were a common occurrence, and that multiple complaints had been lodged with the power company to no avail.
After living in the house for several years, we’d experienced many power outages and had joined the ranks of generator owners. Some outages lasted hours, some days. All the while, the streets circling our strip of darkness stayed bright and cheerful.
I was sitting at my computer one day when I decided something had to be done. But what? Then, a bright idea hit me. If the power company didn’t care, surely there had to be a regulating governmental agency that could help motivate them to do something about our situation.
With a little research, I found the government office that regulated utilities and exchanged several letters with them via email. Not long after that, the power company replaced several major lines that serviced our neighborhood. We haven’t had a power outage since.
I’ve had several other successes wielding the power of the pen—once when an insurance company sent me in circles for a year, refusing to pay for a surgical procedure, and another time when they wouldn’t pay for a prescription. In both instances, a letter to the commissioner of insurance did the trick. The insurance company suddenly realized their “mistake,” honored their obligations and paid the bills immediately.
A written appeal to a higher authority can help remedy situations like those I’ve mentioned above. Or, on a softer note, a card tucked in a bouquet of flowers that expresses love or appreciation can brighten someone’s day. And who doesn’t love getting a hand-written letter from a friend or loved one?
The pen is mighty, and with it you have the power to move mountains.
It was a dark well lit and air conditioned stormy night…
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My youngest son, Jesse, then eleven or so, was elated when we bought him an inexpensive paint set and an eight-by-ten mounted canvas. He couldn’t wait to get started on a project that would hold a place of preeminence on our living room wall.
We had often watched Bob Ross, an artist on PBS, who painted land and seascapes from start to finish, all within half-hour weekly segments, and made the endeavor look like a piece of cake. Everything looked simple. I’m sure that other viewers, like us, said to themselves, “I could do that!”
I asked Jesse, “So, what would you like to paint for your first project?”
His reply? “I think I’ll start with something simple, like painting the Mona Lisa.”
What could I say? If Bob Ross could paint a beautiful vista in less than thirty minutes, who was I to say that Jesse couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa, a rather blah looking woman, if you ask me, over the course of a few days, a week, a month, or however long it took?
I said, “Have at it,” and left the artist to himself.
A few days later, Jesse was ready for the unveiling of his masterpiece.
Instead of the Mona Lisa, which he deemed just a tad too complicated, he had decided he’d use a box of Ritz Crackers as his model, and painted it instead.
Yeah, Ritz Crackers. Sorry, Mona.
It was rudimentary at best, but totally recognizable as a Ritz Cracker box. Sorta.
We can all laugh at the story. It is kind of funny how the vision devolved from the lofty, Louvre-worthy Mona Lisa to a lowly box of Ritz Crackers. But in reality, how many of us are guilty of rushing things? Things for which we might have a pound of talent, but not an ounce of training or preparation. Things that, if we’d just waited, studied, and truly gotten a grasp on, would have blossomed into something beautiful and extraordinary.
Whether your art is painting, drawing, sculpting, singing, dancing, or writing, you need to educate yourself in the craft. Study from the greats. See what made them successful. Model yourselves after them. See what the current trends are for bringing your masterpiece into the public eye.
Is the Mona Lisa beyond your abilities? Draw the Ritz Cracker box instead. Paint the Coca-Cola logo, or sketch Captain Crunch. Write a short story or a poem about the place you lived as a child. Paint the living room walls, then one bedroom at a time. After that, paint the eaves, fascia boards, and shutters of your house.
Start anywhere. But START. Think big, but start small. Bite off small, manageable tasks. Master those, then go on to bigger, better, badder things.
Make your world come alive with your art. Even if you never make a red cent with it.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy my inspirational romance novels. Check me out at AMAZON.COM.
The art of the kiss
Every romance novel you’ve ever read, with few exceptions, starts out with several things in common. The couple meets. There is an undeniable attraction. Eventually, there’s a first kiss; an important kiss that sets the tone for the rest of the hero and heroine’s relationship.
It is the author’s job to get this initial smooch just right. And, with the help of a popular Internet star, I hope to show you what goes through the author’s mind before their fictional hero and heroine lock lips for the very first time.
The Internet star I’m speaking of is April, a fifteen-year-old giraffe who is expecting a calf any day at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY. This will be the fifth calf for April, and the first for Oliver, her five-year-old mate. (Uh-oh. Does this make April a cougar?) A live-feed camera lets visitors view the April’s every move, and several of my Facebook friends seem enthralled with monitoring the long-necked expectant mother.
So, without further ado, here are some things an inspirational romance author like me considers when formulating that first kiss…
Here, whether initiated by the hero or heroine, the invitation for the kiss is waaay too forward. Eyes closed, neck extended, the tongue… Whoa, Nellie. Nix that idea.
Next we have the lips-only kiss. If anyone is going to “practice” this one, it’s going be the heroine. We’ll call her April. April figures tonight’s the night the hero will finally kiss her. So, a little rehearsal is in order.
But what if the hero is a bit more passionate. Or, maybe he’s the aggressive type. What kind of kiss then? April steps up her game and gets a little feistier with her “practice” kiss.
Any way you look at it, the author has to describe that first kiss in a way that will make the reader feel that she is there, feeling the winter wind, the summer breeze, or the grass underneath her toes as the hero delivers what can henceforth never be a “first” again.
Therein lies the daunting task of a romance writer.