Saturday, October 25 2014
West Lebanon, Maine is close to the New Hampshire border and deep in the woods. US Highway 202 runs through it with a gas station, general country store, post office and not much else strung along its length. That’s all there was when I lived there back when my children were small. It’s possible I wouldn’t recognize the place if I were to return today, but according to Google maps not much has changed. Most of the town is populated by tall spruce trees, dense forest and the occasional open fields of farmland. Houses are set far apart, for the most part out of sight of neighbors. Street lights were rare and on my street non-existant.
My nearest neighbor and only friend in the area owned three horses and she taught me to ride. My son loved the sandpile left behind by the pouring of my foundation and my daughters were happy to have each other for company. Our four-footed, furry family member was a Newfoundland named Bosun. Otherwise we were quite alone, but very much enjoyed our little haven in the woods.
But that's where the scariest adventure of my life happened on a moonless night in the late fall. I was already in bed, but as usual, had a great book to read. Bosun, who was curled up on the rug beside my bed, suddenly began to bark. The next thing I heard was the patter of stones hitting the side of my house. I should probably mention here that I had yet to landscape the yard and most of it was nothing but dirt and rocks. I dashed to the window and threw up the shade, but even with my flashlight I could see nothing in the shadowed yard beyond its feeble beam.
With my heart racing, I put on my coat, snapped Bosun’s leash on him and we ventured out to see what had made disturbance that woke Bosun from his sleep and scared the bejeezes out of me. We circled the house together and while I prodded the darkness with my flashlight hunting for anything out of place, Bosun put his nose to the ground and sniffed carefully. When we came round to our starting point, we came inside, none the wiser. I climbed back into bed and tried to get immersed in my book again, while Bosun promptly fell back to sleep.
My ears were on high alert and I confess I did not remember a single word of the book I was trying to read. About forty-five minutes into my vigil, I heard gunshots. A hunter I tried to assure myself. But hunters don’t usually empty a clip. Nor do they hunt at midnight. Not legally anyway. Bosun lifted his head, but seemed sublimely uninterested. He went back to sleep, or at least his eyes were shut. Another fifteen minutes crept by while I tried to find sensible reasons why anyone would be in the woods somewhere within hearing range, shooting in the dead dark of night.
Suddenly Bosun growled low in his throat, but before he could start barking and scare off what or whoever it was, I clamped my hand around his muzzle. This was in the days long before 911 and besides we lived a long way from any reasonable police presence. Then I heard it. Something was walking around in my back yard. Hard to tell given the stony surface. Could have been a man. Could have been an animal. But do deer make that much noise? I slipped from my bed and lifted the shade once again.
And there, big as life, was a horse’s back end mere inches from my bedroom window.
The rest was rather anticlimactic. After my heart stopped pounding I called my neighbor to report that her horse was AWOL, then got dressed and went out to secure the rascal. By now the batteries in my flashlight were totally dead, but I found her by the light from my bedroom window munching on a few hardy bits of grass that had managed to thrive in my barren yard. The harder part was leading her back around the house to the street. It was as dark as the inside of a black velvet bag outside and once beyond the light from my garage, I had to walk down the middle of the street to keep from falling off the pavement. My neighbor met me about half way to take her escapee into custody and I went back to bed. I never did find out who was shooting a gun in the middle of the night. One other neighbor also heard it so the sound was not the product of my overwrought imagination. But whoever it was never confessed being out there. Possibly someone who’d had too much to drink or thought jacking a deer would be good sport. That part of my scary night will forever remain a mystery. One thing I am sure of, having a dog with a major sized bark is more reassuring than any burgler alarm.
Join the Round Robin for other scary life stories....
Heidi M. http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Ginger Simpson http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
Tuesday, October 21 2014
Peace Corps Tonga, my group of volunteers off on our new adventure
My parents brought me up confident in my ability to do anything I wanted and equally confident that I was smart enough to make things happen. Ask anyone who knows me, I don’t lack for confidence . . . most of the time, anyway. In the second half of my life I chose to leave everything I knew behind and join the Peace Corps. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, others though I was brave. I didn’t think I was either. I was looking for an adventure, and I was confident I’d find it if I put my heart and soul into making it happen.
So, off I went. My dad took me to the airport and he so wanted to help me carry my luggage inside, but I reminded him I’d have to start hauling it myself soon and I might as well start now. I flew from the East Coast to Seattle where my group had their staging. It wasn’t really training so much as a chance to get to know the rest of the group. There were thirty of us, ages 21 through the early 70s. So, turns out I wasn’t the oldest one after all. The next leg of our trip took us to Hawaii, but the plane we were to be on from there to Tonga was grounded. We had a layover of twenty-seven hours and were given a hotel room and meal vouchers by the airline.
Arizona Memorial At the top of Diamond Head Sky Tower, Auckland Looking straight down
An unexpected adventure. We filled those hours with as much as we could, starting with a trip to the Arizona Memorial. Then half of us hiked up Diamond Head for a spectacular view of Honolulu and finally just five of us ended our busy day with a swim at Waikiki Beach. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner before catching a late night flight to Auckland, New Zealand. By the time we got to Auckland it was the day before again – we’d crossed the International Date Line and it was morning. We had only an eight-hour layover this time, but once again, there was an opportunity not to be missed. Setting off for downtown Auckland, we headed straight for the Sky Tower and took the elevator to the observation deck. The view was magnificent in all directions. All of Auckland harbor and the islands that dot it as well as the city itself. There were even glass panels to stand on and look straight down. Just my kind of fun. After returning to ground level, we headed to the harbor and found dozens of neat places to eat along the waterfront. Then it was time to head back to the airport.
It was dusk as we landed at Fua’amotu International Airport on the main island of Tonga. Out the tiny of windows of the airplane we could see the graceful palm trees silhouetted by the setting sun. It was a beautiful sight. What was not so welcome was the heat that attacked us as soon as we stepped from the air-conditioned cabin of our Air New Zealand jet. I’d been playing in the snow with my grandson just a week earlier. Seattle had been chilly and damp. Even Hawaii was in its winter mode with seasonably comfortable temperatures. Tonga was south of the equator and in the middle of summer.
Landing at Foua'amotu Airport Finding our luggage and clearing customs
Tonga does not boast an air-conditioned airport, nor jetways to get into and out of the plane. I climbed down the stairs toward that steaming tarmac, closer and closer to the heat that had been stored up there all day. The terminal was no better. Several big ceiling fans lazily stirred the air as Tongans hauled suitcases off the conveyor as fast as they appeared, piling them into a mountain in the middle of the room. One had to be half billygoat to find and claim your luggage. Then there was a very slow line to clear customs. Finally, after what felt like hours in a sauna, we emerged into the now completely dark night. The air was soft and welcoming, and that’s where my Peace Corps adventure began. Greeting us just beyond the barriers were dozens of smiling faces and we were adorned with kahoas (leis) fragrant with dozens of blossoms and lovingly made for us personally.
Piling into a bus like nothing I’d ever seen with seats that folded into the aisles once the permanent seats were full, we were soon on our way to the guest house where we would be staying for the next week. That night, as I lay spread eagle on my bed beneath a fan that was as lazy as those at the airport, I pondered how very far I was from home and how very different my life was going to be for the next two years. I was on the other side of the world, on the other side of the equator, in a culture very different than the one I was familiar with. It was hotter than anything I’d experienced before, but one thing was already clear – the Tongans were the most welcoming, happy people I’d ever met. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” played in my head as I fell asleep that night. The adventure I’d been seeking was already unfolding.
My home Stay family Sapa'ata, my first home Vava'u - my home for 2 years
For more about my adventures in Tonga, see the Peace Corps Tab at the top of the page or click here: Peace Corps
Monday, October 13 2014
Few romances would find an appreciative audience without a bigger-than-life hero. In all my years as a fan of romances, I can think of only two books, perhaps three, where the hero was not a bigger-than-life personality in one way or another. The first was Georgette Heyer’s The Foundling and the second was Pamela Morsi’s Simple Jess. I fell in love with both Gilly and Jessie Best in spite of their lack of stature and importance, or perhaps because they exhibited all the characteristics that I admire. (Both books well worth the reading so perhaps you should look them up. Both are still available in one form or another.)
But many authors choose bigger-than-life heroes who are wealthy way beyond anything the average reader can even begin to imagine. Some are wealthy and powerful, CEOs of big international companies, or high up on the political totem poles. Then there are the physically elite. Romances featuring Navy SEALS are popular these days, and close behind them are elite soldiers and Marines, and special ops agents both in and out of government. While I’m not knocking these guys – who wouldn’t want to be filthy rich, or powerful, or elite in any field? – but what about the other heroes in our midst?
Firemen have recently joined the elite mentioned above. In my book, they have been bigger-than-life all along, but perhaps 9/11 has suddenly made us more aware of the dangers these ordinary men (and women) among us face when they pull on their turnout gear and jump aboard a fire truck. Once upon a time doctors were standards on that list of well-off, smart, better than the ordinary heroes, but now we’ve begun to see men who are EMTs in civilian life. The medics who ignore their own safety to run through a hail of incoming fire to the aid of a fellow soldier has his own elite reputation already, but now we are beginning to see men who ride the ambulance in Everytown USA.
We can all see heroes in these kind of men. But what about the incredibly supportive, loving and understanding guy who’s there for the woman he loves no matter what, but is otherwise not remarkable at all? Or the father who’s patient, loving and involved with his kids or the guy who’s great with kids that aren’t even his? Maybe they don’t don an expensively tailored suit and work in a spacious office earning obscene salaries, but instead, wear jeans and steel-toed boots and lead a blue-collar lifestyle. Hard-hatted daredevils who work high above the ground might seem bigger-than-life, but what about the guy who wrestles heavy machinery for a living, or digs graves? What about the guy who drives a snowplow on treacherous roads for hours in icy darkness so you can get to work in the morning, or the fellow who crawls out of bed in the middle of the night to climb a telephone pole in wind and rain to restore your power and your heat? And as for the military – beyond those elite heroes we all love to read about, there are thousands of men who never make the heroic list except in their own homes, but without them the SEALS and Special Forces guys and fighter jocks could not do what they do. Men who pull kerchiefs over their faces and drive convoys over roads infested with IEDs, men who keep the engines running in our warships or wear the many designated colored shirts that keep an aircraft carrier’s flight deck running smoothly and safely. All these and so many more are all men we can admire and look to as heroes. But they seem to rarely make it into romance novels.
Years ago, The Jackie Gleason show featured a sewer worker and a bus driver. They were the heroes of the series, but it was a comedy and their ordinariness made them the butt of jokes. The big television heroes back in those days were Matt Dillon and Lucas McCain, two very different men, but both carried guns and were very much bigger-than-life. We’re still in love with cowboys, be they rodeo riders or ranchers and I have to admit there’s something endearing about a man who can ride any horse however mean one minute, then tip his hat and address a woman as ma’am the next, but there’s more to what makes a cowboy a hero, just as it takes more than money, prestige and power. And it is those other things that create the heroes I want to read about and write into my stories.
To me, a hero is a man who is strong and capable, yet kind and gentle. A man who loves with all his heart, even if he’s not so good with words. He may be hurt inside, but he does not take that hurt out on others either verbally or physically. He may be broken and afraid to reach out, but that very brokenness is often what makes him appealing. He’s kind, thoughtful, generous, caring, honest, and steadfast. Two of my favorite heroes from recent literature are Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and T.J. Callahan from On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves. Jamie, I’ll admit, is bigger-than-life right from page one, but T.J. starts out as a 16 year old kid recovering from cancer and over the course of 4 very difficult years, becomes the kind of man any woman could fall in love with. They both have all of the virtues I just listed.
Jamie Fraser T.J. Callahan
So, who are your favorite heroes? And what characteristics most appeal to you? Who is the most unusual hero you’ve ever fallen in love with and why? I’d love to know and for the best answer I receive, I’ll send you a copy of my latest book, Loving Meg. You just need to leave an email address so I can find out where to send it.
Monday, October 06 2014
Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Win Prizes!
Do you like scavenger hunts? How about books? How about desserts? How about prizes?
Here’s how it works: Participants visit the website or blog listed for each featured author to find a Halloween graphic hidden on one of the website or blog pages. The more sites you visit, the more chances you have to win. There are over 60 prizes with multiple winners. The list of prizes and the dates they will be given away is here.
Authors participating include: Lois Winston, Brenda Novak, Caridad Pineiro, Jessa Slade, Kathryn Jane, M.L. Guida, Skye Taylor, Cathryn Cade, Victoria Adams, Sharleen Scott, Kathleen Kaska, Erin Farwell, Daryl Devore, Cynthia Luhrs, E. Ayers, Chantilly White, Helena Fairfax, Molly MacRae, L.C. Giroux, Stacy Juba, B.V. Lawson, Ruby Merritt, Kay Manis, Ashlyn Chase, Kitsy Clare, Elizabeth Rose, Liese-Sherwood-Fabre, Sloan McBride, Elaine Joyce, Debra Goldstein, Barbara Phinney, Alicia Dean, Haley Whitehall, Terry Shames, Melinda Curtis, Lynn Cahoon, and Renee Field.
Here’s what you need to do: On October 6th, visit Sloan McBride’s blog where she’ll have all the information posted, including links to the authors' websites/blogs and a link to a page to type all the answers. If you want to have a handy reminder, you can also download the page of authors, websites/blogs, and for typing your answers here. The page will give you the authors’ names and links to their websites/blogs where you’ll search for the Halloween graphics. Rafflecopter will be used to determine prizewinners.
* Tip - you can find one of the Halloween Graphics right here on Barefoot on the Beach.
Here's the IMPORTANT part -- once you've filled in your answers, you must email the document to Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll review the answers and will enter your name the number of times that corresponds to the number of sites you visited and provided the correct answers.