Sunday, February 28, 2016

On death and dying

Someone else we know is dying from that dirty, rotten &^*&#*@ called cancer. I'm having flashbacks to all those I have known and lost to this damned disease. I dug this essay out and it fits my emotions and the brief, precious moments we all are granted in this life and the importance of making the most of each one.

                                                            Marcia’s clock
                                                           copyright 2016 Bonnie Vanak
                  I’m sitting at my desk at work, with a prime view of hectic rush hour traffic on Interstate 95. People driving at breakneck speed to get home, get somewhere, get anywhere because time these days is precious and even free cell phone minutes aren’t enough.  I’m not thinking about going home, even though it’s five o’clock.  I’m thinking of cutout pink valentines with a photo of Care Bears glued in the middle. Care Bears stuck to a long, chrome hospital pole with the cheery inscription, “To Mom. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Laud.”
            Laud is his nickname. Marcia told me she named him Hilario because she liked that name. “I didn’t know I was going to have a son who was autistic and couldn’t say his own name.”
            Marcia told me about Laud’s Care Bears today as I slowly reeled past the roundhouse slap shock of seeing her lying on the hospital bed, a lanky pile of bones and flesh, her Miss Clairol hair once swinging down to her shoulders, now cropped short and threaded liberally with gray.
            “I just took the razor,” she told me matter-of-factly. “It started to grow out and I took the razor to trim it and then realized I really did a number on it and needed to even it out.” It’s rather military style, her haircut, flat top, perfect Army requisition hair.
            But about the Care Bears, I fear I digress. You see, ever since Marcia told her adult son, who has depended upon her for his whole life, that she was sick, he has bought her stuffed animals. One after the other. A virtual parade of plush fur plopped in her ever-thinning lap. A zoo of Care Bears for mom. The giant Care Bear gift at Christmas.
            “You should see it,” Marcia says in her monotone, tired voice people have when they need to talk because they have a lot to say and know there is little time to say it in, but lack the energy, “It’s huge. Isn’t it Janet?”
            Janet, her sister, looks up from straightening up the rollaway patient cart with the little Jell-O cups, a mauve cup of untouched oatmeal and green cans of ginger ale. She stretches her arms out “like so” to indicate how big this bear is. “But you have to see it next to the others,” Marcia tells me. “It makes the others look so small.”
            There’s a Care Bear sitting on the bedside table, a clay potted plant nestled between its legs, the table Marcia hasn’t the strength to reach. It sits next to a Dean Koontz book she hasn’t the strength to read. Above her head is a trapeze to help her sit up. Marcia reaches up and her sister scurries over.
            “Do you need anything?” Janet asks.
            “No,” Marcia says with a glimmer of a smile. “Just playing.” She fingers the trapeze and it swings gently back and forth like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. Tick, tock, tick, tock, minutes slipping away.
            I hand her three cards I have brought. Two are valentines. She is too weak to open the second card. I do it for her. It’s a funny card. “My weird sense of humor,” I say, laughing because I must laugh, because if I don’t this crazy play of emotions I am struggling to contain
will gush out like water.
“Yes, Marcia says, with her oblique, dry sense of humor, “You did always have an odd sense of humor.”
            I give her a CD of Sister Jeanne singing. “The Sisters of Song.” I tell her that it’s a gift from Monica at work. Marcia toys with it and lets it fall into her lap. “Sister Jeanne, the fun, cheerful, rotund nun?”
            “Yes,” I reply, “that’s her, she’s sort of bouncy. There are 59 other nuns singing with her on the CD.”
            “You mean 59 other bouncy nuns, or maybe some of them aren’t as bouncy as Sister Jeanne?” Marcia asks.  I laugh, gratified to hear Marcia making a joke.
            Her sister gives her a cup of ice and coaxes her to take a spoonful of red Jell-O. The hospital has only yellow and green Jell-O, Marcia explains. Her mother had to go to the store and buy red. But the Jell-O doesn’t sit right with Marcia. She shakes her head, and plays with the Styrofoam cup of ice instead.
            “I have no appetite,” she says. “Do you think it’s because I’m on all these nutritional supplements?”
            I say, “Maybe.” I don’t want to wax enthusiasm and nod like one of those little animals you put next to a glass of water that bobs its head up and down stupidly. I know what’s going on. But I will not say it.
            She’s on antibiotics this morning. Her fever was 100. And there’s the steak in a bottle, as my sister-in-law called it when her mom was dying of colon cancer. Marcia’s sister says they call it blueberry pie. And opium. “It’s the last resort,” Marcia says in that flat, monotone, matter-of-fact voice. “For diarrhea.’
            She tells me in a calm, accepting tone that she was used to taking her IV pole with the chemo in it and wheeling it into the bathroom. But this visit, she couldn’t find the strength. So they gave her a port-a-potty. It sits, lid lowered, next to her bed like a polite, waiting visitor. But she had no strength for that, either.
            “I’m wearing diapers,” she tells me. I nod slowly. I know all about the diapers. I don’t tell Marcia it was the same with my mom’s colon cancer. First there is the walker to lean upon, to hop drag to the bathroom, and then the port-a-potty and finally, the diapers.
            What do you say to a friend who is dying and doesn’t want to give up? You talk about things like Abiquiu.  Abiquiu where the monks at Christ in the Desert monastery have a web site.
“Remember the monks online?” she asks me. I vaguely recall her telling me about them. Years ago, Marcia told me all about Abiquiu when I mentioned my husband and I were going to pass through there. “You must stop and stay a while,” she had insisted, her artist’s eyes dancing with memories of colors and light. “It’s beautiful. Georgia O’Keefe lived there. It’s got a tremendous spiritual power.” She had gone on and on about the beauty of the place. But we were in a hurry. The rose and toast and green cliffs were pretty, but so were the trains we were heading for in Durango, so we stopped for one minute, took photos like Japanese tourists. Snap, snap, snap and we were on our way.
            There’s so many medications and bags just hanging there next to Marcia as we talk of Abiquiu.  Red digital numbers flashing, pumps dripping. It all seems so out of place, as if Marcia’s hospital bed is sitting in a vast verdant field next to the cliffs and the beaming little monks, so serene and peaceful.
            And then she stops talking of Abiquiu and mentions chemo. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about any more government trials. I don’t know if my body can take this anymore.”
A tight smile stretches over her sister’s face. “We’ll deal with that later,” Janet says in a too bright tone. “Just concentrate on regaining your strength and getting through this now.”
            “Yes,” I say, chiming in, feeling this false brightness spreading to me now, although I know what is truth and what is reality and what is fact. “Just concentrate on getting better.”
            I didn’t ask if she was in pain. I didn’t need to. I see the signs, the same ones my mother had, the restless shifting of legs, heels flat against the bed, knees bent.
            I pretend. I ask, “When are they going to spring you?” She says she doesn’t know. Maybe Tuesday. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m wearing a diaper. I don’t think Hilario can help with that. Maybe I’ll be stronger by then.” 
            How do you look someone in the eye when you know they are dying and hold a normal conversation with them?
             What do you talk about with someone whose time is running out and they really don’t want to admit it because they still have so much to live for?
            You talk about Abiquiu  and men she says were her “mistakes.” I tell her, “Everyone makes mistakes, Marcia. Yours are just more colorful.” You talk about ordinary things like work. You talk about everything except the one thing hanging between you like a blanket, or the invisible veil between this world and the next.
            I drove away from the hospital thinking about years, months, days, hours, minutes and then seconds decreasing until the clock finally stops. Tick, tock, silence. I thought about time and how precious it is and how there’s so little of it. And then there’s Abiquiu. There are monks online and cliffs of gold, rose and green that lift the spirit if you pause long enough and listen to the music they make in your soul.  There is Abiquiu . I will return there and make time to hear their song. Because it takes a friend who is dying, who is too damn weak to sit up and open a Valentine’s Day card, for you to sit up and pay attention to what really counts.
            I will go back to Abiquiu. And when I do, I will think of Marcia, whose artist’s soul knew what I failed to understand. That we don’t have that kind of time and we need to soak up every second with that which is beautiful and precious and real to us.
            For her there were fuzzy, silly Care Bears.
            For me, there is Abiquiu.  I will return. I will. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Free short story on my website next month!

This is my new cover for the short story I will be offering next month for 99 cents on Amazon, iBooks and other vendors, and for free when you sign up for my newsletter! Click here to sign up for my newsletter. 

Weaving his spell of enchantment, he came to her in dreams, initiating her into the passionate world of the vampire. She cannot forget the slide of his muscular body thrusting into hers, the erotic sting of his fangs sinking into her tender skin. Now Adrian, leader of the vampire world, will seduce Lily to officially change her into a vampire. Only Adrian knows Lily's darkest secret, a secret that can turn his people against her. He is determined to protect her by claiming her as his mate. Once they make love, Lily becomes addicted to Adrian's sensual caresses, but fights his attempts to coax her into mating. Yet only Adrian's touch can bring her the ecstasy she craves. Even the legendary vampire orgies hold no appeal for her, for she burns for Adrian, and only in his arms will she at last surrender to him… and the night.
It was published by Ellora's Cave under my pseudonym, Blair Valentine. Next month I am getting the rights back and will self-publish it. 

In other book news, I'm busy slogging away on Tristan's story, The Mating Season, and hope to finish next week! The first half of the book is now with an editor. And Bad Boys of The Night, our boxed set of eight sexy stories, is still available!  Only 99 cents for eight sizzling paranormal romances by eight New York Times bestselling authors. Fulfill your darkest fantasies with alpha-male bad boys of the night in these stories about vampires, shifters, fallen angels, werewolves, demons, psychic warriors and ghosts.
Happy reading! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fantasyland, again

Bad Boys of the Night, eight sizzling paranormal stories, is now out. My contribution is The Mating Challenge. I need to read this book again because I'm trying to get back to writing Tristan's book, The Mating Season. For the past three months, I've been immersed in writing romantic suspense for Harlequin, and now that book is finally ready for publication (July 2016). Now it's time to return for a while to fantasyland and my Silver Wizard, who is all-powerful and yet hopelessly in love with his one true mate, who fears him. 

Life has presented a few big challenges along the way. I was happy I could actually complete the Harlequin book and turn it in on time, considering we had to move out of our house because of the flood and subsequent discovery of mold in our bathroom and kitchen. Living out of a suitcase, especially when you have two elderly dogs to care for, and one has Stage 3 kidney failure, is not fun.

Even though we are back home, things are still not resolved. The kitchen is not back to normal, as the granite was improperly installed and if it is not corrected, it could crack. We have only one bathroom, but hey, I grew up in a family of four with only one bathroom, so that's not a big deal to me. 

The kitchen is a bigger concern. We can't unpack all the kitchen items and put them away because of the issue with the granite. Hopefully the contractor will resolve that soon. 

I'm trying to get back to Tristan and Nikita. The Mating Season is close to being finished, but it's not done yet. I need writing mojo. I need fairy dust. Most of all, I need to focus, which is really tough when half your household items are still packed away in boxes and each time you go into the kitchen to cook, you realize the pots and pans are on the patio in crates!

I'll get there. This weekend, after I work on the revisions for the HRS proposal, I'll dedicate myself to Tristan's book. Next weekend I'm at Sleuthfest, one of the few writing conferences I'm attending this year. I'm looking forward to this conference as I've never attended. I figured since I am now writing RS, it's a good time to go. 

Until later! 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Like bad boys?

Bad Boys of the Night, our new paranormal boxed set, is out Feb. 16! Only 99 cents for eight stories of sexy, otherworldly males!

Bad Wolf (Shifters Unbound) by Jennifer Ashley

Wolf Shifter Broderick is stuck looking after his three younger brothers and a Collar-less Shifter who is driving him crazy, but he's putting up with them for Joanne, the human woman he wants to take as mate. When Broderick is captured, mistaken for a Guardian, it's Joanne who figures out that hackers are after the Guardian Network, the database that holds the deep secrets of Shifters past and present.

Shadow Fall (Shadow series) by Erin Kellison
A man with all Custo's sins isn't cut out to be an angel. One moment he's fleeing Heaven; the next, he's waking up stark naked, called by a woman who's afraid of the dark. Shadow gathers around Annabella as she performs, a magic that allows her to move between worlds. Her abilities attract a primeval wolf, and it stalks her relentlessly. Custo stops at nothing to keep her safe, and though danger proves seductive, they fight for redemption and love.

Warrior's Heart (Iron Portal) by Laurie London
Librarian by day, Zara Kane is a thief by night, stealing artifacts that belong to her homeland. When she learns a man she once loved has been wrongly imprisoned, she uses her para-abilities to orchestrate a daring escape.

Vince Crawford isn't afraid of anything, but when the woman he's never stopped loving and the son he never knew he had are threatened by a ruthless enemy, he will stop at nothing to keep them safe...even if it costs him his life.

The Vampire Voss by Colleen Gleason
In 19th Century London, vampires live alongside the uppercrust members of Society...

Even after centuries of lust, hedonism, and women, Voss, rarely finds himself bored. He is a rogue of the first order who loves nothing more than a warm woman, excellent vintage, and even a puzzling challenge to keep his mind active. But when one of his seemingly harmless manipulations sets him on the path to seduce the beautiful Miss Angelica Woodmore, things become a little less simple...a lot more passionate...and definitely more complicated.

Hunger (Vampires Realm Series) by Felicity Heaton
A vampire assassin hardened by centuries of service, Tor is a man of discipline and loyalty, never straying from his mission, and has purged all his weaknesses, including his emotions. But the moment he meets the broken, fiery female he is to escort to Oslo, something dangerous awakens in him, something possessive and powerful, and when he is pulled into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who betrayed her, Tor discovers he will do anything to protect the woman slowly claiming his heart and give her the vengeance she desires--even break all the rules.

The Mating Challenge (Werewolves of Montana) by Bonnie Vanak
Alpha werewolf and ranch owner Aiden Mitchell desires the curvy, vivacious Nikita Blakemore, alpha female of the Blakemore pack. He will have her as his mate and no other. To force her hand, Aiden maneuvers her into hosting a Mating Challenge, the ultimate warrior competition for werewolves, where males fight for the right to mate and breed with a female alpha. Fiercely protective of his future mate, Aiden will do anything to make her his own, even fight to the death...

Dark Flame (Flame Series) by Caris Roane
Committed to the rule of law, vampire Border Patrol Officer Robert Brannick falls hard for a beautiful fae woman who illegally seduces him in his dreams...

Diablo Springs by Erin Quinn
When she escaped Diablo Springs years ago, Gracie Beck swore she'd never return. But all that changes on the night of her grandmother's death when Diablo Springs lures Gracie's teenage daughter to its treacherous border. Gracie races to the rescue--only to find herself trapped in the undercurrent of a hundred year old curse and the menacing spirits that still terrorize the town. She isn't prepared to deal with Reilly Alexander--a man from her past who she's never forgotten--at the same time. Reilly is determined to help Gracie and prove his to love to her, but they've come to a dangerous place where every lurking shadow should be feared....