Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WHEN WORDS WON’T COME


I planned to write a holiday blog.  That was my intention on December 14th, when I arrived at Panera’s for my usual Friday afternoon writing session.  I’d been running around all morning, delivering cookies to a friend recuperating from surgery, going to my yoga class, to the post office to mail goody tins to family.  An ordinary Friday in December.

 

But when I opened my lap top, I immediately saw this was no ordinary Friday.  The headlines on Yahoo glared out at me.  “26 Killed in Elementary School Shooting.”  At first, I thought it was a hoax.  I mean, how could this be possible???  But I knew in my gut that I was hoping for a miracle.  It had happened, and the world had become a darker place.

 

That’s all I can say.  There are no words to express my horror and grief…so I won’t even try.

 

On Saturday morning, my daughter, Leah Speer, had an op ed published in the New York Post, and with her permission, I’m going to share it with you. 

 

After the Massacre: What We Can Know

 

After tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre or the Clackamas shooting, you try to make sense of the world you live in. You find yourself trying to find answers. You are needing an answer to the why.

Through it, you come abruptly face-to-face with what you do have, what you’re so thankful for.

But you fear that you can never be sure.

You can’t be sure when you tuck them into bed tonight that they’ll be running down the stairs to climb on your lap tomorrow, way earlier than you had wished.

You can’t be sure when they roll their eyes at you in the school drop-off line after you shout “I love you” embarrassingly loud that you’ll hug their warm, soft bodies again.

These days, you can’t even be sure you’ll be returning to their soft kisses after a quick run to the mall.

So what can you be sure of?

You can be sure that tonight, when the entire house is quiet and his little lips are allowing such sweetness of small breaths to exit his dreaming body, that you are so very thankful for all of your blessings. With his blue satin blanket laced between his little fingers, grab his face and kiss it — don’t be afraid that kiss might wake him!

You can be sure to let go of the three meltdowns from earlier and the spilled Crystal Light on your newly steamed carpet. When you look down at her body snuggled comfortably in her bed after she’s exerted all of the day’s energy, really see the depth and the magic of her being.

Exhausted from that 2:00 a.m. wake-up call? Be sure to snuggle with your beautiful baby, hold her tighter than ever. Be sure to let go of the stress that you feel being behind on holiday shopping.

Let go of the guilt you feel when you lay in bed with your child until they fall asleep because some book told you not to. Be sure to grab your children in a tight embrace.

In the madness of an ordinary day, it’s so hard to take the time to visit those questions . . . to really take it in. The magnitude of what you truly have. Every lesson taught; every kiss sealed onto their forehead. Every “I love you” realized.

In every waking moment, be sure they know they are loved.

While your heart is aching for those affected by such horrible tragedy, pray for them. And in every single moment you wish you could have just a little space to breathe, a little extra sleep, or have it be just a bit quieter — be so grateful for all that you have. And breathe . . . you can be sure of that.

Leah Speer, a Sandestin, Fla.-based writer, is co-author of “Must. Have. Wine. A Toast to Motherhood.”

 

 

To all of you, I wish a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with Peace and Love.

 

Carole Bellacera

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thankful for the Kids I Raised

 
 
Today, hours before Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for so many wonderful things in my life.  To name a few—my wonderful husband, Frank, of 38 years, my beautiful daughter, Leah, fantastic son, Stephen, two gorgeous grandsons, Luke and Zealand, my loving sisters, Kathy and Sharon.  Family, of course, is foremost, even though I have many other things to be thankful for.  But if you don’t have a family you can depend upon, especially in times of need, not the greatest of career success, the best of all the material riches in the world, can ever make up for it. 
 
I am so lucky to have the kids I do—Leah and Stephen not only appreciate me, they would move mountains to help me in my time of need.  That, I am 100% certain of.  Not every mother is that lucky.
 
That point was driven home this week when I took a friend in for her doctor’s appointment after she had hip replacement surgery.  Last year I’d done the same thing for her after her first surgery.  At that time, I hadn’t realized she has a daughter who lives in the area. But that fact came to my attention a few months later, and I remember wondering then why the daughter wasn’t taking her in for her appointments.  It just seemed weird to me. 
 
So, when I received a phone call from my friend last week, asking if I’d take her in for her appointment this week—the week of Thanksgiving when I have a million things to do, I couldn’t help but wonder again.  Why was the daughter MIA? 
 
But it wasn’t my place to ask. 
 
But me being me, I asked.  My friend told me, rather of matter-of-factly, that her daughter couldn’t take time off from work to take her to the doctor.  But then she added dryly that she seems to have no trouble taking off for things she wants to do, though.  Well, I was just appalled.  But it got worse.  Apparently, this daughter hadn’t even come to the hospital when her mother was in surgery.  I just can’t fathom that.  I lost my mother when she was only 63.  I can’t imagine ever living close to her and not being there for her when she needed me! At the very least, it’s called obligation, on the other side of the scale, it’s called generosity and love.  What I wouldn’t give to have my mother with me right now, even if I had to run her to the doctor twice a day.  Maybe I’m sounding sanctimonious here, but I think unless your mother was a monster—someone who abused you or, worse, allowed someone else to abuse you, a daughter or son should be there for their aging mother. 
 
I feel so bad for my friend—and so lucky to have children like Leah and Stephen.  As far as I’m concerned, I won the lottery when it comes to family.  Frank, Leah, Stephen, Luke, Zealand, Kathy and Sharon, God bless you.  He has already blessed me with you. 
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NEW SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY


Take the Trip of a Lifetime!

And you can win a free travel mug! Announcing the release of Trip of a Lifetime: An Anthology.

What is your idea of the trip of a lifetime? Is it relaxing on a sandy Caribbean beach? Traveling through parts of Europe? Or do you prefer to stay closer to home and travel through your imagination? Sometimes the trip of a lifetime can be the one you never expected to take. And sometimes a trip becomes quite memorable for the wrong reasons.

In this collection of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, you will find our contributors' ideas of the "trip of a lifetime." Perhaps you'll find your own ideas in these pages, or perhaps we'll spark the desire for you to go out and make your own memories!

To celebrate the release of this anthology in both paperback and ebook formats, Sleeping Cat Books will send a Trip of a Lifetime travel mug to one reader chosen at random (see website for image). The rules for entering this drawing are below.


Rules for Entry

·         One entry per paperback copy ordered.

·         Only orders placed through Sleeping Cat Books (http://sleepingcatbooks.com/trip-store.html) are eligible for entry.

·         Orders placed and paid in full prior to 12:01 am Saturday, 1 December 2012 are eligible.

·         Contributors to this anthology and their family members are eligible provided they place orders through the website at full retail cost.

·         The winner will be chosen at random on 3 December 2012 from all of the eligible entries. The winner's first name will be announced on the Sleeping Cat Books blog (http://www.sarah-holroyd.com/blog/) that day.

·         In the event that we are unable to contact the winner by 10 December, a second name will be chosen at random and announced on that day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Never, EVER, Apologize for Your Age!


Never, EVER, Apologize for Your Age!

 

 

On my way to Kentucky last week to visit my sister, Kathy, I pulled into the drive-through at McDonalds for a Caramel Frappe.  (Did you know a small has 450 calories?  I didn’t.  So, what did I do?  I ordered a medium. *g*)  As always, the wait was long.  As I inched toward the ordering station, I saw an elderly couple crossing the parking lot, each using walkers.  Even though the car in front of me had pulled up, I waited to let the couple pass in front of me.  As the woman walked past my open window, I smiled at her and said, “Good morning.”  She smiled back and said…

 

            “I’m so sorry I’m so slow.”

 

I ignored her apology and said something like what a beautiful autumn day it was.  By that time, the husband had reached my window. And what did he do?  He also apologized for being slow. 

 

            “No problem!” I said, giving him a smile.  But inside, my heart was aching.  Such a sweet elderly couple!  It just killed me they felt they had to apologize because their age had made them slow.  It’s so wrong!

 

Hey, we’re all going to be there someday.  (Some of us quicker than others.)  And I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel like I have to apologize to anybody because I’ve lived 70…80…90 years, and I’m just not as quick on my feet as I used to be.   (Yes, I know…my Velma is coming out.  Those of you who’ve read CHOCOLATE ON A STICK know what I’m talking about.  Can you imagine Velma ever apologizing for her age?)  You know, when I wrote CHOCOLATE ON A STICK, 73 (which is the age of Velma) seemed pretty old to me.  Guess what?  I’ll be turning 60 in March.  Seventy-three doesn’t sound all that old anymore.  Now, I wish I’d made Velma 83. 

 

So…let’s all take a vow.  I’ve lived <<fill in the blank>> decades, and those years have made me the person I am today—I refuse to apologize for the aging process that each and every one of us will experience if we live long enough.  Age may slow us down, but it’s nothing to apologize for. 

 

And remember…if you’re the impatient person waiting in the drive-through, frustrated because an elderly person is slow getting out of your path…you’ll be there one day yourself.  So, give them a break and say hello with a smile. 

 

Okay, on with the news!  Exciting news!  LILY OF THE SPRINGS and BORDER CROSSINGS are coming out in audio!  I don’t have release dates yet, but both books are in production.  The narrator of LILY, Angie Hickman, has a wonderful southern accent that reminds me of my mother, and I’m just thrilled to be working with her.  And the narrator of BORDER CROSSINGS, Maxine Lennon, is from Northern Ireland, so I know she’s going to do a great job!  I’ll let you know as soon as I know the release dates—and I’m hoping to get my other books produced as audio books as well.  Can you imagine CHOCOLATE ON A STICK as an audio book?  What fun for whoever narrates that! 

 

Speaking of CHOCOLATE, I’m so thrilled that it’s been reissued after being out of print for a couple of years.  The re-packaged book has photos of some of the characters.  I think when you see the difference between the identical twins, Geneva and Genovadine, you’re going to crack up!  If you haven’t seen the book trailer, check it out:

 


 

Bad news!  The two winners I contacted for my website contest for September never responded, so prizes are still available.  Go to www.CaroleBellacera.com and enter. 

 

By the way, I met many new fans at my book signings this month.  Thank you so much for your support, and I hope you’ll all enjoy the books you bought. 

 

Have a wonderful November…and Happy Early Thanksgiving!

 

 

Blessings,

 

Carole

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 

I am an Indie author.  Some, if not most of you know what that means.  My books are published independently…or to put it bluntly—I self-publish my books.  Self-published.  That’s a term that the old me would’ve turned her nose up at—and did.  Back when I was pre-published (such a quaint word…makes it sound like everybody is waiting to be published) and even more so when I was traditionally-published by a New York house, I was a snob, believing that if I couldn’t sell my books to a New York publisher, I didn’t deserve to be published.  My subsequent experience with the “sink or swim” mentality of traditional publishing (throw a new author out into the world with a hardcover book that retails at  $25.99 with little promotion and hope she’ll become the next Danielle Steel while knowing there’s only a snowball’s chance in hell of it actually happening) taught me to never say never. 

 

When my sales tanked and my publisher reneged on the contract to put my fourth book, UNDERSTUDY, out in mass-market, and then turned down my fifth novel, I saw the writing on the wall—and it was pretty clear to me.  Especially when my agent couldn’t find me another publishing deal.  Most of you know my story—I finally decided to take matters into my own hands, and continue to follow my dream of being a novelist.  And I published TANGO’S EDGE and LILY OF THE SPRINGS on my own.  A decision I’ve never regretted for a moment.  I may not be going on book tours or being wined and dined by editors in fancy New York restaurants, but at least my books are available for those that want to read them.   And I’m grateful for that.

 

But since my foray into self-publishing, I have made some disappointing discoveries.  Things like how difficult it is to get reviews from places that reviewed my first four novels…websites like All About Romance and magazines like Romantic Times where my second novel, SPOTLIGHT, earned a Top Pick 4 ½ stars.  When I approached them about reviewing LILY OF THE SPRINGS, they refused because it was self-published.  Luckily, I was able to find some reviewers who graciously agreed to review LILY (and I’m pleased to say that it has earned 4 and 5 stars from all of them.)  Harriet Klausner, one of the most visible romance reviewers out there, was one of those reviewers.  She remembered my past books, and in fact, told me they were “keepers” for her.  Thank God for people like Harriet.

 

Recently on a trip to South Carolina, I discovered, first-hand, just how little respect self-published authors get.  Because LILY OF THE SPRINGS is set in the South, and fits the genre of “southern fiction,” I’ve contacted some independent book stores who are members of SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) to see if they’d read LILY, and if they liked it, would perhaps nominate it for next year’s SIBA Awards.  (Books can only be nominated for this award by a book store.)  Several of the stores asked me to send them a copy, and I did.  Since we were going on vacation to Myrtle Beach, I decided to stop in at a couple of book stores in Pawleys Island, and drop off a book in person.  As luck would have it, I found out one of my best friends from high school, Cindy, would be in Myrtle Beach the same week, so we decided to go out for breakfast and then she’d come with me to the book stores.

 

We arrived at the first one, and the bookseller was friendly until she realized I wasn’t a customer, but instead, an author.  Then a distinct coolness came over her face.  When I explained why I was giving her a book, she glanced at it and muttered something like, “Well, the last time I nominated a book, nothing happened with it.”  But then she thanked me and said she’d see what she could do.  I left the store, feeling like my book would probably end up in the Goodwill…if not the trash can.

 

Once outside, Cindy turned to me and said, “Wow!  How rude.”  I agreed.  We went on the next store just a few miles away.  As we got ready to enter, Cindy said, “Well…they can’t be any ruder than at the last place.”

 

We would laugh about that later.

 

We walked into Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, and a woman at the cash register greeted me.  As soon as I opened my mouth to say I was an author, she cut in, “You need to speak to him.”

 

She was referring to an elderly man standing nearby.  He greeted me coldly.  When I explained that I’d like to give him a copy of my latest novel and mentioned the possibility he could nominate it for a SIBA Award, he said, “Well, that’s quite a stretch, isn’t it?”

 

I was dumbfounded, literally speechless by his rudeness.  Then, his eyes full of disdain, he asked me where he could order the book.  Flustered, I stammered that he could get it through Amazon.

 

Well, that did it.  He went off on me about the evils of Amazon, and how it’s the enemy of all independent bookstores, and how dare I come in there and mention that horrible word!  My friend, Cindy, stood there watching, her mouth agape.  (Later, she would tell me that the two saleswomen at the register looked at us with embarrassment and sympathy.)  I didn’t notice; I was too busy being flayed by this bookseller and his anger.  When I was finally able to get a word in edgewise, I told him I didn’t necessarily want him to stock my book (because it seemed to me that was what he thought I was expecting) I just wanted him to nominate it for a SIBA Award.  And then he said something like, “Why would I read a book that I didn’t want to sell in my store? What would be the purpose of that?”

 

At this point, I realized that any more discussion with this man would be futile.  I thanked him for his time, took my book and left the store.  (And by the way, as far as I could tell, there were no customers in the store, so maybe he has reason to hate Amazon so maniacally.) 

 

Stupid me…I thought an independent book store just might be a little supportive of an independent author.  Cindy was horrified at my treatment.  “Do you have to deal with stuff like this a lot?” she asked, with pity in her eyes.

 

I was happy to say that this was the first time I’d been treated with such disrespect.  But now I know that as an indie author, this is something that I just might have to deal with from time to time.  But it makes me wonder…is it the same for other indies?  Indie film producers, indie songwriters and singers, indie artists?  We can’t all be stars, can we?  But isn’t it just possible that our work rivals—and sometimes, surpasses, work of “legitimate” big-label-blessed artists?  That’s the case with many indie films and musical artists. 

 

And that’s the case with me and my work.

 

I stand by the professionalism of my work.  You, as my fans, know that my books rival those of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel and any number of best-selling authors out there.  They may not be blessed by a ranking on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and they may not be front and center in your local Barnes & Noble (or anywhere in your local Barnes & Noble) but if you read a Carole Bellacera book, you can be assured that you’ll be reading a story that draws you in and envelopes you in the life of my characters and leaves you sad to say goodbye when you’ve read the last page. 

 

And I’m content with that.  But a little respect wouldn’t hurt. 

 

Best,

 

Carole Bellacera

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP


o                                                        The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

o                                                        INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS
Where did the idea come from for the book?

o                                                        Looking through an old photo album, I came across a photo of a boy I wrote to in Vietnam when I was a teenager.  We’d lost touch, so I decided to try to find out what happened to him.  I learned he died in Vietnam just three months after arriving there, and was awarded the Medal of Honor.  That’s when I decided I wanted to write a book about the men who sacrificed their lives there, and the women who tried to save them.  
What genre does your book fall under?

o                                                        Women’s Fiction
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

o                                                        Rachel McAdams and Bradley Cooper.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

o                                                        A young, na├»ve nurse loses her idealism during a year of combat nursing in Vietnam.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

o                                                        I’ll try to sell it traditionally, but if not, will self-publish.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

o                                                        I’m still working on it, and it’s been going on three years now. 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

o                                                        Not any fictional books that I can think of, but perhaps to some non-fiction books such as HOME BEFORE MORNING and AMERICAN DAUGHTER GOES TO WAR. 
Who or What inspired you to write this book?

o                                                        I think I answered this question with # 1.  His name was Danny Bruce, and he was a marine.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s my hope, and my goal, to always capture my reader’s interest by writing a page-turner, and judging by the reviews for my previous books, that’s exactly what I do. 

Check out these author's blogs:


Chynna Laird

 
http://www.chynna-laird-author.com/

Kat Crouch

www.katherinedeacon.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

To Groupon or Not to Groupon…That is the Question




Okay, so I’m 99.9% sure I’m not going to “Groupon” again.  Or “Living Social.”  Or any of the myriad of other special internet offers out there these days that clutter up your in-boxes. Why, you ask?  Well, I haven’t had the best of luck with them.  And it’s not because I’m not reading the fine print, thank you very much. 

You’ll recall my blog last month where I described the excruciating three hours we spent on a “party boat” on the Potomac.  And the time before that when we paid for a special deal for two at a local winery that was supposed to include a tasting, two souvenir wine glasses, a cheese and chocolate tray and a $12 gift certificate we could use for a bottle of wine.  Turns out the tasting we got was with a bunch of other “tasters,” and the cheese and chocolate tray turned out to also be shared with all the other “tasters” who’d dropped in that day.  Not exactly what I envisioned for our $21. 

So, why did I think our latest “Living Social” adventure would be different?  Hope springs eternal, I guess.  The deal was a tubing trip out of Harpers Ferry, and it sounded delightful—white water tubing in the morning followed by lunch, two free T-shirts, and flat water tubing in the afternoon—and after all that, two cold beers.  Not a bad deal for $25 each, huh?  So…what could possibly go wrong?

Well, here’s something that never occurred to me.  You can pick the wrong inner tube.  You can pick one that’s way too big for you.  You can pick one in which your hands and can barely reach over and propel yourself through the water.  I learned this too late.

You see, we were instructed to head over to the opposite side of the riverbank to catch the current that would take us into the white water further downstream.  Problem was, I couldn’t get there.  I just floated in circles, making no progress whatsoever.  Did it occur to me what the problem was?  That I needed to go back to the riverbank to try and find a smaller inner tube?  No, it did not.  (Okay, so I’m not all that bright; I admit it.)  So, instead, I just floated around, going nowhere—and my dear sweet husband stayed with me, even though I’m sure he could’ve made his way to the current if he’d wanted to. 

Pretty soon Frank and I were the only ones in that part of the river; all the other tubers were long gone.  We had drifted downstream a bit, far enough that we were out of sight of the rafting company who’d dropped us off. Almost an hour had passed since we’d first stepped into the river, and slowly, but surely, our embarkation point was about to disappear.  That’s when Frank and I looked at each other and said, almost at the same time, “Let’s go back.” 

It would be humiliating, but that would be better than having to give up somewhere down the river where no one would pick us up.  So, somehow, we made our way back to the bank.  Honestly, I have no clue how I managed to do it.  All I knew was that I had to

I reached the bank downstream of our embarkation point, and decided to go for it instead of working my way back up.  I planted my feet down and…gross!  My swim-shoes sunk up past my ankles in oozing, slimy mud.  Even worse, I felt tentacle-like fingers of some river plant brushing against my legs.  Holy crap!  I couldn’t get out of that river fast enough.  Minutes later, Frank trudged up the riverbank and we got on the bus which had just discharged a whole load of excited, happy tubers, eager to get into the river.  I’d venture to say that each and every one of them made it down the river, too.  

Thus ended our exciting day on the Potomac River.   (After we got our lunch and our beers and our T-shirts.  Anyone want a T-shirt that says I Played in the Potomac?) Wait a minute! Could it be that it’s the Potomac River that’s the problem?   

So…now you understand why I’m not all that eager to take advantage of another  Groupon or Living Social deal.  But then…I remember that gorgeous red laptop tote I bought through Groupon a few weeks ago.  I love it! And I’ve had a couple of nice Mani Pedi deals which introduced me to a new nail salon in town where the manicurists are (shocker!!!) friendly and talkative.  So, I doubt if I’ve learned any lessons.  But next time I sign Frank up for one of our “adventures,” don’t be surprised if he divorces me.

Congratulations to Tina Harrison from Alberta, Canada, my July website winner.  Be sure and stop by my website, www.CaroleBellacera.com and enter this month’s contest for a copy of SPOTLIGHT, BORDER CROSSINGS, TANGO’S EDGE or LILY OF THE SPRINGS and a necklace set from Beautiful Evening Beads. 

Hope you’re enjoying this wonderful summer.  It’s going by way too fast for me!

Best,

Carole

Friday, July 6, 2012

Missing the Boat (Or…Wishing You Had.)


Missing the Boat (Or…Wishing You Had.)



It was supposed to have been a romantic moonlight cruise on the Potomac—at least that’s what I envisioned when I read the details of the Living Social deal that popped up in my e-mail.  An evening cruise on a yacht past the Kennedy Center, the National Monument and the Jefferson Memorial on a hot summer night sounded like just the ticket to break up a hum-drum week.  So I bought the deal, and Frank and I headed down to the Georgetown Waterfront on Tuesday night.

            Arriving about an hour and a half before embarkation, we had dinner at a pizzeria on 31st Street, spending the kind of money we’d normally spend for appetizers, entrees and dessert at Olive Garden—but the pizza (real Italian pizza) and Peroni beer was scrumptious.  Afterwards, we headed down to the waterfront for our cruise.  I guess I should’ve been warned by the predominately twenty-somethings in glittery thigh-high dresses and stilettos…but I just remember thinking how the instructions had said to wear “sensible shoes,” and how these young women must’ve missed that. 

            As we waited to board, lightning flickered in the west, and I was more concerned about getting wet and having to spend two hours onboard in soaked clothing than anything else—not to mention, getting stuck by lightning.  But as soon as I stepped onboard the yacht, I got my first clue that I just might’ve picked the wrong boat for our “romantic cruise.” 

            You ready to PAAARRTTTYYYY?” screamed a DJ in a booth to my left. 

            Cheers and whoops rang out from the glitter-stiletto crowd.  And techno music began to pound, drilling into my ears at the decibel of a 747 taking off.  A crowd had already gathered at the small bar where passengers turned in their free drink tickets; I quickly joined them.  If I didn’t get a margarita right now, I’d never survive this two-hour cruise. 

            By the time I got said margarita and joined Frank at one of the white sofas that lined both sides of the yacht, the dance floor was packed with gyrating, bouncing bodies whose attached mouths issued competing noise with the music—none of which I recognized.  Frank and I looked at each other, and although I’m not a mind-reader, I pretty much guessed what he was thinking.  It’s going to be a long two hours.

            I downed my margarita.  Outside, the storm had broken; lightning flashed and thunder boomed.  Rain slashed down, making it impossible to leave the tiny club floor without getting soaked.  Yes…it had finally dawned on me. We were on a floating nightclub. 

            On and on it went.  Music bled from one “song” to another—the only thing remotely recognizable to me was Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger.”  And maybe one Michael Jackson song.  The bodies on the dance floor continued to gyrate.  One girl in a skin-tight red dress with strategically cut-out slashes (revealing a lot of skin) caught my eye.  She seemed a bit subdued for such a sexy dress. Well…that didn’t last.  After a half-hour, she’d lost her inhibitions, and was really getting into the dancing…if you know what I mean.

            It was still pouring rain outside, so Frank and I kept our seats on the sofa, sipping our drinks and half-heartedly bopping our heads to the “music.”  (We didn’t want to look like complete morons!)  Suddenly this dread-locked young man came over to us and asked if we’d “pose with the birthday girl.”  Turns out the girl in the gold-sequined dress was celebrating her 21st birthday.  Of course, we agreed, and he took our picture on each side of her.  All the time, I’m imagining her showing the photo to everyone and talking about the “old geezers” on a party boat. 

            Finally—thank the Lord God Almighy—the rain stopped and Frank and I were able to escape the dance hall and get out on deck.  A crewmember thoughtfully dried off seats for us, and for the next hour and a half, we sat out there and watched the planes fly over us (closely over us) to land at National Airport.  The night had turned out to be quite nice—still hot and humid, but pleasant.  A full moon glimmered through the cloud remnants, and even with the sound of the pounding music coming from the open doorways, it almost seemed like the kind of cruise I’d thought I’d booked.  We were even lucky enough to see fireworks set off from National Harbor. 

            Frank looked at his watch.  Ten to 11:00.  The two-hour cruise was almost over.  I’d survived.  And boy, wouldn’t this be a story to tell? 

Little did I know the story wasn’t over.

            After a few minutes, I looked around the dark river, and said, “Why aren’t we moving? Shouldn’t we be docking soon?”

            Frank took out his phone, checked the GPS and said, “Well, we’re about a mile and a half from where our car is parked.”

            And still, we weren’t moving. 

            A crewman stepped outside, and Frank hailed him.  “Isn’t this supposed to be a two-hour cruise?”

            The crewman beamed us a big smile.  “Oh, yes, but tonight we decided to make it a three-hour cruise just for you!”

            “Yay,” I said weakly.

            Of course, he was kidding—not about the three-hour cruise, but about it being in our honor.  He never did give us an explanation as to why our paperwork said two hours, but it was, in fact, a three-hour cruise.

            Nevertheless, it was what it was, and we had another fifty-five minutes to get through.  Honestly, it wasn’t horrible–we just sat outside—thank you, God, that the dry weather held out—and enjoyed the night. 

            Finally, we started heading back down the river toward the Kennedy Center (down, up…whatever) and a crewman asked everyone to step back inside until we docked.  So, back we went, among the bouncing bodies—music still going strong—and it was obvious there had been considerably more liquor consumed since we’d left.  I was standing near the bar, watching the dancers when this young woman approached me with a big smile.

            “Are you okay?” she asked.

            I looked at her blankly, then said.  “Yes.”

             “You sure?”

            By this time, I was starting to get just a bit irritated.  “Yes, I’m fine,” I snapped.  “Why?  Don’t I look fine?”
            She gave me a sympathetic look.  “Well, it just looks like you and your husband got on the wrong boat.  I hope you at least had a not too bad time.” 

            “Well, you’re right,” I said.  “It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.”

            “I guessed that,” she said.  “So, where y’all from?” 

            “Here,” I answered, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.  Her meaning was clear.  Clueless tourists. 

She looked horrified.  “Oh!  That makes it even worse!”

I just gave her a cool smile and turned away.  Okay, maybe she was just trying to be nice, but seriously, I know condescension when I hear it.  I may be old(er) but I’m not stupid. 

After docking a few minutes later, Frank and I stepped off the yacht, eager to get back to our suburban life where the music we listen to actually makes sense. 

Made it home by 1:30, and I fell into bed and slept like a rock.

Maybe next time, I’ll read the fine print of the Living Social deals a little bit more carefully.  Because we sure missed the boat on this one.

Or wish we had. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Losses and Gains

May was a tough month for me. Last month I told you what happened when I went to visit my sister in Kentucky and how we had to abruptly move our father into a place closer to her. Let’s just say that it wasn’t a typical visit with my sister and best friend, Kathy. You know what I mean—the kind of visit where we played tennis and went shopping and gallivanting around Russell County. But things got even worse when I got home. On the night before I left, I got a phone call from my husband, Frank. He’d taken our beloved 13-year-old cat, Ruby, to the vet because she wasn’t eating. The news was grim—she had cancer. The vet advised that we put her down because she was really suffering, so Frank scheduled the appointment for Monday, May 14th. Heartbroken, I arrived home on Sunday afternoon, but I was determined to make the most of my last evening with my Ruby—the sweetest orange tabby that ever lived. Ruby had such a personality. She was the cat that greeted you with a soft mew whenever you entered the room. The cat that would drink only out of the water faucet in the bathroom. The cat that, back in the good old days of her youth, when “outside” was her exploration grounds, would come from the woods when I went to the backyard fence to call her. Have you ever heard of a cat who’d come when you called her name? I could hear her mewing as she grew closer. Ruby was a petite little kitty. Even in old age, she looked like a kitten. I’ll never forget the day she came to live with us. My son, Stephen, 21 then, found her on a cold December night near a dumpster in a parking lot, and brought her home. We already had a cat and a dog, and I didn’t want more pets, but I took one look at her sweet little face and my heart melted. From that day on, she became my cat. When I got home that afternoon, I found her under the bed in the spare bedroom. The poor thing was skin and bones, but she mewed when she saw me and came out to be picked up. I took her to my bedroom and lay down. She settled happily onto her favorite spot—my chest. I just lay there, stroking her soft fur, and crying. I couldn’t believe that in 24 hours, she’d no longer be part of my life. But I pushed that thought away, determined to enjoy the hours I had left with her. That night, she slept on my lap for a solid two hours while I watched TV. She’d never done that before; it was like she knew this was our last night together. When I went to bed, as usual, she curled up on my chest as I read for a while. Normally, when I turned out the light, this was Ruby’s cue to jump off the bed and go under it to sleep. That last night was different—even after I turned out the light, Ruby refused to leave the bed, instead, curled up on the pillow next to my head. She was still there when I fell asleep. With heavy hearts the next morning, Frank and I took her to the vet. It was all I could do to hold back sobs as we sat in the waiting room. Ruby sat in her carrier, quiet and peaceful. I swear, it was like she knew—and was ready to go. They put us into a small room and allowed us to have 15 minutes with her to say goodbye. We’d taken her out of the carrier, and she sat calmly on the examining table, just waiting. After a few minutes, I picked her up and cradled her in my arms like she was a baby, and she was so compliant, just staring up at me with her beautiful golden eyes. It’s almost as if I could read her mind. It’s okay, Mom. I had a good life with you. But now it’s time to go. All too soon, the vet stepped in with a syringe of pink liquid in her hands. It seemed such an incongruous color for a lethal drug. With Ruby back on the examination table, they shaved one skinny little leg, and she sat through the procedure calmly. It wasn’t until the vet inserted the needle that she began to struggle just a bit. I stroked her fur, trying to calm her, and she did. But I think it was the drug, not me, that made her stop resisting. Through tears, I watched Ruby’s eyes glaze over, as if a light had gone out. And she was gone. She’d been a part of our lives for so many years; it was hard to come home and see her dish, her bed and her toys around the house. Even the sight of a full bag of cat food made me lose it. I knew, though, it wouldn’t be long before all those things would be in use again. See, I know Ruby would’ve wanted us to rescue another cat and give it a good life like she’d had. I wish every stray cat out there could be as lucky as she was. So, that’s why Frank and I drove down to Cooper Vineyards on Memorial Day weekend and went to the annual Lucy’s Weekend, a pet adoption weekend in memory of the winery owner’s dog, Lucy and sponsored each year by the Richmond SPCA. That’s where we’d adopted our black lab/husky mix, Cooper, four years ago. I took the cat carrier with us because I just knew we’d come home with kittens. Yes, I’d decided to adopt two. As soon as we arrived, I stepped into the SPCA RV. The first litter of kittens I saw was orange and white tabbies, similar to Ruby. All males. But the thought of taking two of these kitties, and leaving one behind just broke my heart. How could I do that? But no way could I take three kittens. Then Megan, the SPCA volunteer, showed me one single kitten in the next cage, a female black and orange calico named Lucretia. One look at her sweet little face, and I was in love. I knew she had to come home with me. But I still wanted another kitten. I asked Megan if it would be okay to choose one of the orange tabbies and put him in the cage with Lucretia to see if they’d get along okay. She agreed, and one by one, I picked each male up, and I finally chose Mario because he seemed to be most cuddly. We put him in with Lucretia and waited to see what would happen. They looked at each other for a minute or two, and then Lucretia made the first swipe at him, (an air swipe.) He swiped back. This went on for a few minutes—not actual fighting, but just kind of half-hearted playful swiping. Megan suggested Frank and I go out and do a wine tasting, and we’d leave them alone a while and then check back on them. We were gone for about a half hour, and when we came back into the RV, Mario and Lucretia were curled up together, sleeping. And I knew we’d found our new kittens. I immediately changed Lucretia’s name to Lily (after my mother and my new novel, LILY OF THE SPRINGS.) They’ve been part of our family now for almost a month, and have been a constant source of joy. I swear, I feel like a kitty matchmaker. It’s so obvious they adore each other, giving each other baths—and their play gets pretty passionate, too. Thank God they’ve already been fixed, or might have a lot more kitties around this time next year. Even Cooper is enjoying them, and they allow him to lick their faces. Lily makes a game out of playing with Cooper’s tail. Lily is the more affectionate of the two. She’ll let me hold her like a baby, and makes eye contact with me and touches her paws to my face. It’s the sweetest thing in the world. And during a moment like that, I can almost feel Ruby’s approving presence. She knows I’ll never forget her, and there is room enough in my heart for her memory and my new precious kittens. /*'09 $%55555555555555555oihg (That was Lily; she just walked on my keyboard; guess she wanted to say hi.) Hey, have you seen all the great reviews LILY OF THE SPRINGS is getting on GoodReads.com? Most of them are five-star reviews, and I’m just thrilled. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13735686-lily-of-the-springs I’m also going to be featured in the July/August issue of Fairfax Woman Magazine, so if you live in Northern Virginia, pick up a free copy at Metro Stations and other places around town. If not, you can read a digital copy: http://www.fairfaxwoman.com/ Don’t forget to stop by my website and enter my monthly contest to win a copy of one of my books and some jewelry from Beautiful Evening Beads. My second novel, SPOTLIGHT, has been reissued, and will be available in print in July. www.carolebellacera.com I’m leaving on July 5th for a two-week stay with my daughter’s family in Destin, Florida. Hope all those pesky tropical storms and hurricanes stay away. I can’t wait to spend some quality time with my sweet grandsons, Luke and Zealand. I promise to bring back lots of pictures! I hope all of you have a great 4th of July! Best, Carole Bellacera