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Legends of the Darien, Voices of Resistance Book Three

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The third and final chapter in the Voices of Resistance Saga.

Washington DC

Megan watched as Bob cleared the basement of all the weapons, having put them into storage on the other side of campus. Her heart cried out to him, only he couldn’t hear her no matter how hard she tried. She knew Bob wanted the arsenal far enough away as to be inconvenient for him to access, he no longer trusted himself.

Since returning to DC Mike had withdrawn into a bottle and Bob felt that any day, Mike would walk out the front door and not return. Bob was exhausted, so tired of the long days and empty nights, he was lonely and afraid. It was a beautiful Sunday in August; the neighbors were prepping their barbecue grills, splashing in pools, enjoying each other’s company, while Bob sat on the floor of the study watching Mike sleep on the couch—again.

“You are in too much pain,” Megan said. Bob did not hear her.

Mike knew Bob would find him again on the couch. He wanted to go upstairs and crawl into bed with Bob each time he came home. Instead, he would go into the study and stare at the picture of his family and finish off whatever bottle of whiskey he had in his hand, falling asleep again on the couch. He needed Bob, and he knew Bob needed him, nevertheless, he couldn’t get past the picture in the study. He imagined he could smell Megan’s scent or hear her humming, and it was eating away at him. Mike came home every day to an empty house, his shift at work ending as Bob’s started, so he would leave the house, go to a local bar and drink. On the one night a week he saw Bob, they rarely spoke, and they never touched. He loved Bob, and he prayed that someday, things would change.

Megan spent most of her time watching Mike. She was drawn to him because of the unborn baby, and though she tried to touch him, she only managed to send Mike deeper into the bottle, as he imagined she was there when she shouldn’t be.

Jackie was the only one who heard her clearly, and it saddened her to where she turned to anti-depressants and alcohol to ease her pain. After finally allowing Skip to intervene, Jackie lay in a deep coma-like sleep. She had battled withdrawals for three days and had managed to make it through with Skip’s unwavering support.

Jackie had fought Skip, raging at him, ranting incoherently at times, sobbing, pleading, and finally, worn out from the battle, she succumbed to the exhaustion. She dreamt she heard Megan humming, putting it down again as hallucination since she was having those quite frequently, especially during the detoxification process. Skip told her she would eventually tire out and sleep like the dead. Jackie thought being dead might not be such a bad thing.

It was Skip though who caused Megan to cry out for Joe. Since the sniper’s second shot, the only pain she felt was when she saw the look on Joe’s face as he held her as she lay dying. Skip’s heart was broken, and his mind wasn’t making sense, and the pain he felt resonated throughout her.

Jackie was finally sleeping, and Skip got in his car and drove off, not caring where he went. He wound up in Annapolis. The Sunday morning traffic was light with few cars at the Bay Bridge toll plaza. Skip handed his toll to the attendant and did not wait for the change from the twenty-dollar bill. The attendant looked at Skip as he drove off noticing the holster and handgun on the passenger seat. The attendant picked up the phone connected directly to bridge security. “This is West Plaza three, I have a possible jumper in a dark green Honda Accord. He has a handgun on the passenger seat. Guy paid the toll with a twenty and didn’t wait for his change.”

Megan needed Joe, and in a moment of clarity, realizing he was also dead, she called his name.

“Megan,” Joe replied.

“I’m here, mi amante.”

“We’re dead,” Joe said.

“Yes, my love.”

“Where are we?” Joe asked.

“I’m not sure, but it looks like DC.”

“DC.” Joe laughed. “You’re here with me, though I can’t see you, we’re dead, and you think we’re in DC? I’d say we got off at the wrong exit. Why are we here?”

“Our family is in trouble,” Megan said. “I’ve been watching them, and they are at the breaking point.”

“You’ve been watching them, where have I been?” Joe asked.

“Resting,” Megan replied sweetly. “You were so tired.”

“I’m a little confused,” Joe said.

“It will all become clearer, for now, you and I are together somewhere, we can watch our family, and it appears we may be able to help them. At least that’s what I am sensing,” Megan said. “I slept too, then I awoke and found I could see them. I tried calling for you, only, you weren’t, weren’t, well the best way to describe it is you weren’t awake. Then somehow I knew you were awake and I spoke your name.”

“What about Nena?” Joe asked.

“She’s still asleep,” Megan replied. “She’s here somewhere. Think about her, and you’ll understand what I mean.”

Joe thought about his sweet daughter, and as Megan said, he knew she was okay and asleep. He thought about Megan and felt her warmth fill him and render him slightly breathless.

“Wow, almost as good as having you in my arms,” Joe said. “Now, tell me about the others.”

Jungle tactics–for four American agents, the jungle is second nature. Chasing down intelligence for the US is also second nature. They had been in Central America in 1981 tasked to keep tabs on the Sandinistas and the Contra Rebels. Six set out in September of 1981. Four returned to the US at the end of 1986, where they discover that the deaths of two of the agents had raised the status of those two to legends among the Resistance Guerrillas of Central America. Eleven months later, the team is once again tasked with a mission in Panama. The remains of the two dead agents–ash gathered from their burial pyre in Costa Rica–are in the hands of the Department of State and their deaths are still keenly felt by the remaining four. Asked to return to Panama to gather more intel on a misbehaving General Noriega, the four head back to Hialita, Panama, this time accompanied by the spirits of their dead friends; ghosts to some, family to others. The four: Mike, Bob, Skip, and Jackie, go deep undercover in the Darien Province between Panama and Colombia to get the intel on Noriega. Discovering along the way that they too are the stuff of legends.

Available now on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions.

A Cry in the Dark, Voices of Resistance Book Two

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It’s 1981 and Central America is at the boiling point with freedom fighters and military governments sparking a civil war in every country from Panama to Guatemala. Six US government agents find themselves in Panama, sent to infiltrate and become members of the Central American Resistance, La Resistencia. Joe Miller, the team leader, has been working with a small group of La Resistencia in Panama’s Darien Province. His contacts there aid the group in finding and joining the arm of La Resistencia in Costa Rica. The aim of the mission is to provide proof that Noriega is funneling drugs, guns, money, and humans from Colombia through Panama and Costa Rica on to Nicaragua and points further north eventually funneling drugs to the United States.

Following the trail of guns, money, drugs and human trafficking that moved throughout Central America from Colombia to Honduras. Surrounded by Contra rebels, Nicaraguan Sandinistas and La Resistencia of Central America, the six find a life among the trees and mountains that speaks to their inner hearts and minds. No longer just US agents planted to keep an eye on the goings-on of the different factions, they become the Voices of Resistance. Training a ragtag resistance army of peasants and farmers to become the most feared Resistance Army in all of Central America. They were La Discordia – The Discord. And they were deadly. Though they continue to provide intel to the US, they begin to relinquish their city ways for life in the rain forest. 

For five years, the team remains on the radar of the Sandinistas and the Cuban/Russian element of the Sandinista elite. Hunted now by the Sandinistas and the Colombian drug cartel, the Americans risk their lives to keep the intel flowing to the US.

Available now on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions.

Deception’s Hand, Voices of Resistance Book One

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September 2003

Hialita, Panama

The steady stream of people appeared content to stand and wait their turn to ascend the hill. Some of them had traveled hundreds of miles to see the monument. Others came from as far as the United States of America. They wore hip packs or backpacks; carried bottles of water, bouquets of flowers, some carried candles. They talked to each other, comparing pictures and other treasures. And all of them held little slips of paper, folded and unfolded to the point where the paper creases had worn thin. Slips of paper stained with lipstick kisses; more often than not they were stained with tears.

Jane Carlsen, a reporter for the Washington Post, watched the stream of people and wondered if she could tell the story while managing to keep these simple people from the strain of publicity. Would she be able to keep them from being exploited by the outpouring of well-wishers? Or keep them from being tracked down by those with long memories bent on erasing all who fought against them?

It was a story that might change lives for better—or for worse. As the car she rode in passed the long line of people, Jane looked up at the hill and the monument. All those people silently paying their respects at the monument to a small group of freedom fighters whom most had never met. Never met except in the stories their parents or grandparents told them, she thought. Jane doubted her ability to tell the story as it should be told. Second-guessing if her words would adequately portray a dedicated team and those who followed them from Honduras to Colombia; driving out the monsters who trafficked in drugs, guns, and humans. They were a source of myth and legend in the deep jungles and primal forest regions of Central America.

Nevertheless, someone needed to tell the story. A story of six people chosen to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom—an honor not lightly bestowed. To let the moment pass without a single sentence from her would be a loss. To tell the story of this team and how they became a legend in a country not their own. Worlds away from the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts where they first met; forming a bond strong enough to take them from one life to the next. Where to find the words, she thought, and where to begin?

This is the story of six Americans. Government agents sent on a mission that begins in the dusty offices of the Panama Canal Zone Closure committee in Panama City, Panama, in 1979. Knowing all along that their cover as administrators for the committee was a thinly veiled attempt to keep tabs on the birth pangs of the Colombian drug cartels. The agents find themselves neck-deep in intrigue and espionage. One woman and three men infiltrate a small group of Panamanians intent on saving the Darien Province, between Panama and Colombia, from being overrun by the drug labs. They rally with the Freedom Fighters, and a legend is born.

Available now on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions.

Voices of Resistance

Stepping into another book genre is scary. I’ve written for M/M readers. I have written for F/F readers. Now, I am testing the waters with pursed lips and curled toes, about to plunge into the world of historical fiction.

In 1996, I took a trip to Europe where I visited London, Edinburgh, Bath, Versailles, Calais and Paris. I absorbed as much as possible, listening to the guides and reading everything within reach. When I arrived back in California, I had an overwhelming desire to write a story. A story that started in Paris.  I began to write a story about a woman and a man who meet on a train.

Over the next twenty years I tweaked and torqued that story. I moved the characters from one country to another. Gave them one back story only to change that as well. I married them off to others and felt their pain when the marriages didn’t work. I kept at them. They remained with me every day, every year and every time I wrote something else. Finally, a story began to take shape that felt exactly right. I knew where the characters were going and what they were doing. You see, I knew them inside and out. I had spent over twenty years growing along side them. This story is all about them and where they decided to go; I only wrote down the words.

This is the story of six Americans. Government agents sent on a mission that began in the dusty offices of the Panama Canal Zone Closure committee in Panama City, Panama in 1979. Knowing all along that their cover as administrators for the committee was a thinly veiled attempt to keep tabs on the birth pangs of the Colombian drug cartels. The agents found themselves neck deep in intrigue and espionage. Treason at the highest levels of government leads them to go deep under cover in the rain forests of Costa Rica. Following the trail of guns, money, drugs and human trafficking that moved throughout Central America from Colombia to Honduras. Surrounded by Contra rebels, Nicaraguan Sandinistas and La Resistencia of Central America, the agents find a life among the trees and mountains that speaks to their inner hearts and minds. No longer US agents planted to keep an eye on the goings on, they become the Voices of Resistance. Training a rag tag resistance army of peasants and farmers to become the most feared Resistance Army in all of Central America. They were La Discordia – The Discord. And they were deadly.

Trying to find a publisher for such a major tome was too daunting a thought. The novel turned into three novels and I set out to independently publish them. Voices of Resistance takes us from the Eastern United States to Central America over the span of fourteen years–from 1979 to 1993.

Voices of Resistance Book One: Deception’s Hand

The story begins in the administrative offices of the Panama Canal Zone Closure committee in Panama City. The year is 1979. Jimmy Carter is the president of the United States of America. Colonel Manuel Noriega runs Panama from the cozy aspect of a man behind the scenes. Drug cartels begin to flourish in Colombia. The guise of administrative officials allows a small group, one woman, Megan McLarren, and three men, Joe Miller, Bob Elkins and Mike Wells, of the Closure Committee to infiltrate a small group of Panamanians intent on saving the Darien Province between Panama and Colombia from being overrun by the drug labs. The group finds themselves on the receiving end of a kidnap attempt. Megan McLarren’s spouse, Mitch McLarren—a senior official in the US Department of Justice—is responsible for the kidnapping. The intention of selling Megan and her knowledge of the treaty to the drug lords in exchange for a steady supply of drugs to the US to be handled and distributed by Mitch. The kidnapping is thwarted and Mitch McLarren is tried for treason to the US. The failed attempt to take Megan McLarren angers her captors and they vow to avenge the action. The tale of how Megan was rescued by Joe, Bob and Mike is spread throughout the villages in the Darien by the natives who knew first hand the bravery of this team. A legend is born.

Book Two: A Cry in the Dark

Eighteen months later and the four agents find themselves back in Panama for the next phase of their mission. Joe, the one agent who had remained in Panama to infiltrate the Panamanian Resistance, is joined by his partner—and now wife—Megan. Bob and Mike meet up with them in Panama and accept the next step: to infiltrate and become members of the Central American Resistance, La Resistencia. Joe has been working with a small group of La Resistencia in Panama’s Darien Province. His contacts there aid the group in finding and joining the arm of La Resistencia in Costa Rica. The darker side of the US intelligence community asks them to provide proof that Noriega is funneling drugs, guns, money and humans, from Colombia through Panama and Costa Rica on to Nicaragua and points further north–eventually funneling the drugs to the United States.

The group digs in and becomes a unit of La Resistencia. They are joined by two other agents, Skip Thompkins and Jackie Dupré. The six of them, deeply embedded with La Resistencia are not  only able to provide the intelligence requested by the government of the US, but become as feared and as formidable as any guerrilla group fighting against the Sandinistas. They find themselves drawn to the lifestyle and culture of the mountain peoples of Central America. Though they continue to provide intel to the US, they begin to relinquish their city ways for life in the rain forest.

For five years, the team remains on the radar of the Sandinistas and the Cuban/Russian element of the Sandinista elite. Hunted now by the Sandinistas and the Colombian drug cartel, the Americans risk their lives to keep the intel flowing to the US. In one critical attempt to pass information and obtain supplies, the camp where the Americans are living is found by one of the worst arms of the Sandinista movement. Megan, Joe and their daughter Nena are killed in camp. Facing possible repercussions from their relative agencies for going deep and off the grid, the four remaining members of the original six decide to return to the US with the remains of their family.

Book Three: The Legend of the Darien

It has been eleven months since Bob Elkins, Mike Wells, Skip Thompkins and Jackie Dupré returned from Costa Rica and deep cover for the US government. They are back in DC at desk jobs, separated by agency protocol. They are finding it hard to adapt to the life expected of them. All four are facing a crisis and in an effort to save himself and his family, Bob proposes that the four of them return to Panama and try to find a way back into the La Resistencia. To find a way to finish what Joe and Megan started in the Darien Province. Running guns and drugs out of the Darien and back to Colombia to keep the Province safe for the native Kuna peoples.

The CIA gets wind that Mike may be returning to Panama. The agency decides to make it another operation for the four operatives. Noriega has become a liability for the US. This time they are tasked with finding hard proof that Noriega is using US funds to traffic in drugs and guns. The four agree to go back down to gather intelligence for the CIA.

However, once they return to Panama, the four find a way to go back to the life of the mountains, living as the Kuna live, building an arm of La Resistencia in the Darien Province to keep it safe from the drug cartels and Noriega. The Darien is a magical place and the Kuna natives are a gracious and simple people. Their rituals and spiritual connection to the earth attracts the four, but it also attracts something else. The spirits of their dead family, Joe, Megan and Nena appear to them while they are in the Darien and they help the others confront their guilt and loss. The four agents become strong leaders of La Resistencia with a following up and down the Panama-Colombia border. The drug cartels of Colombia send their henchmen, the MAS, to find the so called Legend of the Darien, Joe Miller, not knowing Joe is dead. Mike and his team keep the legend alive and thriving by driving the cartel thugs back to Colombia.The intel that they pass on to the US leads to the invasion of Panama and Noriega’s subsequent arrest. The four remain in Panama for another two years and then they retire from government work. They make their home in Panama, quietly aiding their friends in La Resistencia without the sanction of the US.

Twenty-one years later the six Americans are finally recognized by the US for their efforts in Central America and are awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The four  allow a reporter and a photographer from the Washington Post to visit them at their homes in Hialita, Panama. It is then that they tell the full tale of the Millers, Joe and Megan, and their efforts to protect not only the interests of the United States, but the lives of the native peoples of Central America.

As the sun begins to set, the four excuse themselves from the patio of their home to take a walk in the pasture. The reporter and the photographer remain on the patio and watch as they are joined by a woman, a man, and a child. The sun goes behind a cloud and only the four are seen. A trick of the sun, the reporter speculates, until again the sun comes out and the four are again seen being accompanied by a woman, a man, and a child. On a small hill on the edge of the pasture, is a monument. The local peoples are often seen visiting the monument on the hill. On this day, an older man and his grown son have come to see the monument. The older man sees the small group walking in the pasture. He nods and gives a little wave when the woman turns and gives him a smile. The man turns to his son. “Por favor, read the rest to me,” he says.

Below the names engraved on the monument is a single date, 23 Abril, 1986. The sentiment below the date was written in Spanish first, followed by English. The son reads:

‘They were known as La Discordia—The Discord. They brought anguish and fear to the foreign intruders though they themselves were not native born. The natives called them The Voice of the Voiceless. The freedom fighters called them Voices of Resistance. They lived their lives loving and protecting the native peoples of Central America against the tyranny of small men. They fought one battle among the many that were waged against the drug lords, destroying the airfields that were used to smuggle guns, drugs, and humans through the rain and cloud forests of our beloved countries. They died in each other’s arms, holding on long enough to whisper ‘I love you,’ one last time. They gave and lived a life of unconditional love and mutual respect. Here now, the earthly virtues rest under a sapphire sky, where the grass smells sweet and the sun rises to touch their faces with warmth.’

Voices of Resistance Book One: Deception’s Hand is now available on Amazon.com. It is available in paperback and Kindle editions. Book Two: A Cry in the Dark will be available June 2019 and Book Three: Legend of the Darien will be available August 2019.

The two characters, Megan and Joe, have been through many transformations. After many years of struggling to find their own voice, they are content with their story. I hope you feel the same way.

Shieldmaiden Book Three

Heart of Alban

When truth is lost to legend and myth, what is left for those who knew first the truth?

~ The Book of Clanns

Book three in the Shieldmaiden series, Heart of Alban continues the struggle between the Druid Clanns and the Vík Ingr. Lady Athebryn and the Council of Alban, lead the newly formed Armies of Alban as they wait for the Vík Ingr to return.

Alban, the home to many clanns and kingdoms, is fighting to remain free of the marauding hordes from over the North Sea. Leading the cause is the former Druid handmaiden to the Princess Thalynder, Lady Athebryn of the Brae. Bryn—as those close to her call Athebryn—stands as a beacon to the newly formed Armies of Alban. She has gathered the scattered clanns and kingdoms under one banner to fight off the invaders. Those invaders, the Vík Ingr, want only one thing—to kill off the inhabitants of the Alban, especially the Druids. They greatly desire to claim the island as their own and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. Aiding Bryn and the Army of Alban are the dragons. Descendants of the first stars to fall to earth, the dragons have pledged their allegiance to the Heart of Alban—the Lady Athebryn.

 

Heart of Alban, the third and final book in the Shieldmaiden series is available now on Amazon in ebook format. A print version will be available by February 22, 2019.  This last book is being independently published. Shieldmaiden Book One: Quest for the Jewel and Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire will continue to be published by Bella Books. These two books are available via Bella Books.com or on Amazon.com. I had hoped the final book in this series would also be published by Bella Books. However, as this is not the case, I hope you will checkout Heart of Alban, Shieldmaiden Book Three on Amazon.

I urge you to continue to support Bella Books where so many good stories call home.

Drops of Rain

On the sidewalk they merge to form puddles.

On the sand they disappear.

On my face, the drops move in rivulets, and hide among my tears.

The wind whips at the bare trees.

It pushes the rain against the windows.

In the light of the incandescent bulb, the rain trails down the glass panes.

Mimicking the path on my cheeks.

 

Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire

From Bella Books – Coming Soon!  Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire

In the highlands of Alban near the waters of the Inbhir Nis, Lady Athebryn waits for her dragon to bring word of the enemy across the sea. At her side is her beloved Princess Thalynder. Once handmaiden to the Princess, Lady Athebryn now stands ready to lead the hastily gathered army of clanns and kingdoms to battle against the marauding Vík Ingr.

Danger and death come to Lady Athebryn and her council when the Vík Ingr venture beyond the eastern shore to the brochs and fortresses of the clanns. Will Athebryn be able to lead the fledgling army and not give in to the temptation to use the dragons against the enemy? Will the dragons remain hidden, keeping the secret of Alban safe? If she can defeat the enemy, Lady Athebryn will win the hearts and minds of all, uniting Alban under one banner. But if she fails, then all hope for a united Alban may be forever lost.

 

Coming soon: Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire.  Release date Feb. 15, 2018

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Jewel of Fire

shieldmaiden2 For your viewing pleasure here is the cover for Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire.  Thank you artist Sandy Knowles for the beautiful cover!  My editor Chris Paynter and I are working on the final touches for a release date in the Spring of 2018.  Thank you for all your encouragement Chris. You can read all about Chris here at ckpaynter.com.

Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire

In the highlands of Alban near the waters of the Inbhir Nis, Lady Athebryn waits for her dragon to bring word of the enemy across the sea. At her side is her beloved Princess Thalynder. Once hand maiden to the Princess, Lady Athebryn now stands ready to lead the hastily gathered army of clanns and kingdoms to battle against the marauding Vík Ingr.

If they are successful, Lady Athebryn will win the hearts and minds of all, uniting Alban under one banner. But if they fail, then all hope for a united Alban may be forever lost.

 

GL lives in the Pacific Northwest near the rugged and beautiful Oregon Coast. When not tapping away on a keyboard, GL can be found walking the beach in search of the next inspirational treasure.

GL’s first fantasy, Shieldmaiden Book One: Quest for the Jewel was a 2017 GCLS finalist.

2017 Golden Crown Literary Society Finalists

Bella Books authors Gerri Hill, Karin Kallmaker, KG MacGregor, Tracey Richardson, Jessie ChandlerD Jordan Redhawk, Dillon Watson, Rachel Gold, Blayne Cooper, Nat Burns, S.M. Harding, Caitlin DrakeGL Roberts, TL Hart and Joanne Passet, are among the many authors chosen for 2017 Goldie Finalists.

Thank you to all at Bella Books and Congratulations to my fellow finalists!

Shieldmaiden Book One: Quest for the Jewel is a finalist in the Young Adult genre/category.  You can find Quest for the Jewel at Bella Books.

Lost and Found

My vacation began Friday, August 26th.

I live by myself. I could say alone, but I don’t live alone.  I have neighbors. They influence some of my behavior. I open and close my windows to their voices. I travel the same road to work each day and see the same people walking in the early dawn.

Living by myself also means I vacation by myself most of the time.  I have taken a day or two to visit with out of town family and friends. But rarely do those friends and family have nine days to spend in one place with one person.  This vacation would be spent alone. I had originally planned to tent camp for four days beginning Sunday the 28th.  Plans change. Things happen. Life, gets in the way.

My original plans changed when my car decided she needed a new part. Actually, two parts. It happened three weeks before the start of my vacation. I received the diagnosis. Called around for the best deal and then put down a huge chunk of money for parts to be ordered. It would take a week for the parts to come in.  Okay so far.

Two weeks before my vacation and the parts came in. Great. First appointment available to replace the parts was Tuesday, August 30th. Right in the middle of my vacation and my tent camp reservation. Plan change. I agreed to the date. Cancelled my reservations for my camp site. And spent the next week wondering what I was going to do now on my long anticipated nine days off. Thursday the 25th arrived and though I still didn’t have an idea what I would do on my vacation, I was ready for the time off.

I slept in on Friday. Usually I’m up at 4:30 to get ready for work and spend a little time with a manuscript. I commute to work and my travel time is anywhere from 40 minutes to 60 minutes. Weather being the culprit and not traffic. I got out of bed at 8:30. Four extra hours!  I wanted this first day to be full of the mundane things. Things I would do on any given first day of two days off. So, I did have a plan for Friday.

The first thing I wanted to do was get a haircut. My hair was becoming unruly.  A cut was in order. While waiting for my turn at the chair I leafed through the magazine at my elbow.  It was a fashion magazine. Not something I even look at in line at the grocery. I didn’t bring my cell phone with me since I was two blocks from home and had no other plans but to get a haircut. The magazine had a line on the cover that caught my eye.

“Summer is the time for experimentation.”  Sure, it’s August and summer where I live will be over in a matter of days, not weeks. Something about the line hit me square in the face. I found the article and though clearly written for fashionistas, of which I’m not, I liked the idea of doing something different.  I set the magazine down, went to the receptionist and told her that I changed my mind.  I don’t want a haircut.  I want a perm.  She told me that I’d have to wait until one of the stylists had an opening since only one in the shop did perms.  Okay by me.  This is day one of my vacation and my plan was to come here.  I’ll wait.

Three hours later I had my perm.  Curls cascade down my head and I look like a wet poodle. Don’t worry said the stylist. This is a new perm, it will relax.  Oh, I’m not worried. It’s only hair.

I played with my curls and decided since I spent four times as much for the perm as I would have for the cut, I needed something to keep the curls from becoming a mass of frizz. Off to Walgreen’s for a cheaper lotion than the one hawked at the salon.  Found what I wanted and took it home.  I spent the afternoon playing with my hair.  Absently pulling at the curls while I started the other things on my list for the day. 

Yes, even on vacation I had a list.

Laundry was on that list.  Get the work clothes cleaned, dried and put away for the next eight days. And grocery shopping.  I wanted a couple of things that I don’t find time for during the work week.  Like something to grill.  Then there was a need to clean up the place. I didn’t want to think about cleaning after Friday so I did the usual household chores of vacuuming, dusting, and general tidying up.  Funny how things look different when you actually have to pick them up and move them to dust under them.  I spent a good hour looking over things I see everyday. Shells from the beach, rocks and driftwood. Tangible, touchable memories. 

Friday evening I ate half a steak.  The rest would go in a salad or paired with eggs. or maybe a fajita.  Day one came to a close.

August 27th:

I was up by 9:00.  The weather was cooler today. The morning fog lifted to overcast skies. The temperature was mild but we didn’t see the sun today.  And today, I finished my manuscript. Shieldmaiden Book Two: Jewel of Fire is now ready for clean up. I put it aside to work on a little each day, cleaning up all those things I forget to watch for when writing.  Like commas.  My editors can tell you, those little things have a way of multiplying something fierce in my work. See reddened face. Book 3 is already forming words and pictures in my head. 

I got the closet cleaned out.  Loaded a bunch of stuff in the car for Goodwill and I’ll take that over to the donation center on Monday.  Threw some stuff away too.  I still have too many boxes of things I don’t want but just can’t give to Goodwill.  I may try to eBay or otherwise sell the dishes.  They were once very popular in Europe.  I no longer want them.  Not even to give to my family.  They are a very particular pattern.  Hard to pass on something with a specific pattern.

I was going to wash Kelly today, but didn’t get to it. My girl will have to go to the dealer with a dirty dress.  Maybe they’ll wash her when they’re done.  Oh, Kelly is the name of my jeep.

It was a long day.  I didn’t get to bed until after 2 a.m. 

August 28th:

Today was the day I was going to drive up the coast to a small campground right on the sand. I was to have spent four days with my tent, the sea and no distractions. I didn’t get out of bed until nearly noon.  I was a little depressed about the loss of my ‘quiet time.’ I’m sure you’ll understand.  You’ve made plans before.  Plans that sounded like a little slice of heaven, only to have something happen to change those plans.  Inadvertently you alter your perception of what remains.  I started Sunday the 28th with a foul taste in my mouth and a headache.

I started on the manuscript. Looking for inconsistencies. Too many commas. Too few words of dialogue. I’d stop now and again to look out my window and sigh deeply.  I really wanted to be someplace else.  I was tempted to put on a movie as background noise. But resisted the temptation and put on music.  There was a growing dissension among the troops.  I was getting restless.

My previous publisher decided to call it a day and my stories, three with this publisher, reverted back to me.  I spent the evening of Day three uploading my stories to the self publishing side of Kindle.  I was in bed just after midnight.

August 29th:

Day four. 

It was colder today.  The sun was supposed to make an appearance later but until he does, the wind is chilly.  The landscape team for my apartment complex tried to keep up with the falling leaves. Mother Nature had something else in store.  I do believe our summer is making an exit.  Unless we get a late reprieve early next month, it will be time to pull out the long sleeve shirts and heavy socks. I’ve already moved my little heater to the bathroom.

I spent the day reading my manuscript out loud for errors.  It’s one way I go over the material. If I hear it and it doesn’t work, it gets changed.  I’ve done this for everything I’ve ever written.  Used to drive my parents nuts when I’d be reciting my homework over the tv. 

I was in bed early.  Kelly has her appointment tomorrow.  I have to drive her 45 minutes south to the dealership.  My plan is to hang around town, walk over to the beach and the beach front shops, lunch at a local cafe and then head back home.  There is still plenty of week left for me to take my jeep and get away, if only for a day at a time.

August 30:

Day five. Up early enough to get to the dealer by 10. I was there at 9:45. Dropped off my key and started to walk around. It was still early for the shops on a Tuesday.  Most don’t open until 11 on the weekdays. Made for a nice quiet walk around the small shops and cute beach front cottages.  I got down to the sand to walk the beach and my cellphone goes off in my pocket. Yep, took the phone this time because I was away from home and well, Kelly was in the hands of strangers.  I’m rather fond of my jeep.  She’s gotten me through some really rough times. She’s been dependable. And I’m not going to give up on her because she had a part run foul. 

I digress.  The call was from the dealer.

Seems the service desk scheduled two cars for the 10:00 slot. My car, which needed extensive work to replace the parts, was going to take longer than the two hours first quoted. I hadn’t expected to be in town for several hours or even the whole day.  I was offered a loaner car for free and would be called when my Kelly was ready to be picked up.  I figured that since they were offering a loaner the work was going to take all day.  I accepted the loaner and drove back home knowing I wouldn’t get my car back until the next day.  Instead of one day for car work, I was now looking at two.  Good thing I was on vacation.

I drove home slowly in a car I was unsure of.  I parked it in an open spot in the complex and not in my parking stall.  That stall is reserved for my Kelly.

I worked a little on the manuscript but my heart wasn’t in it.  I was depressed.  I felt cheated. By 2:00p.m. I was back into the manuscript.  I completed it as far as I could.  I submitted the manuscript to the publisher.  Gone. 

I went to bed thinking about the rest of the vacation and how I might salvage it.  I still wanted to go somewhere but now it would have to be close to home.  The car repair ate up all the money I saved and then some.  The rest of the vacation would have to be spent very close to home.

August 31:

Day six. Good timing.  The contract for the second book in the series was in the mailbox today.  I signed it and then read where my publisher was going to have to close for a couple of days because of Hurricane Hermine.  Here, we are having wet weather too because of a tropical storm. This one in the Pacific.

I headed south to pick up my jeep.  It was raining when I arrived at the dealer and after paying the remainder of the repair costs I headed back north and home.

I stopped at a public parking lot in the middle of my own town and decided I needed a walk. I spent the early afternoon walking in the rain looking into store fronts I usually drive by and pay only the littlest attention. I talked to some of the shop owners and when they learned I was a local their tunes changed and their smiles became more genuine.

Tourism, the bread and butter of my town, is sometimes embraced and sometimes not. It’s cyclic. Some years we have wonderful tourist trade. Good mannered visitors who appreciate the slower pace of the town. Then there are those off years when the tourists are loud and ill mannered. More police sirens to stop the speeding cars.  More petty theft. More vandalism on the beaches. And more trash. During the summer it’s usual to see locals carrying plastic bags on the beach to pick up after the tourists. Sad but true.

The sun came out around 4:00p.m. and it was warm and slightly humid.  I headed for the sand.

I walked for a long time. Picking up little things to examine and then put them back down for others to see.  Shells broken by the gulls, agates the color of sunset and driftwood carved by the storms and left high up on the beach. My apartment is adorned with some of these treasures. 

I was home by 7.  Hungry from the walk and pleasantly tired. Day six of nine and it was a good day.

Sept. 1:

Was going to wash Kelly today but it’s still drizzling.  I’m a little angry with myself for not just taking off and driving up the coast or someplace inland.  Today, I really feel the end of the vacation coming and I admit I am disappointed. I should have made a plan B.  Or a plan C.  I didn’t.  Feel like I wasted the whole week.  I’m sluggish today.  Something I haven’t done all week I’m about to do.  Sit on the couch and watch a movie.

Which turned into three movies.  I could have read.  I could have written.  I could have walked.  I didn’t.  The day moved to night and I felt a deep regret.

Sept. 2:

Day eight.  I didn’t get out of bed until mid morning. I’ve tried to keep upbeat about this vacation. After all, I couldn’t help what happened to the car.  The money was well spent and she’ll run well again.  Only, I don’t really feel upbeat.  Still, I did rest.  I did manage to put work behind me. Sure, it was replaced with other distractions, not all pleasant.  I did manage to meet some nice shop owners.  Carol, Tim, Linda, Bob, Bob, Hannah and Chris. I plan on stopping by their shops again in the off season when a friendly smile is needed to buoy a sluggish tourist trade. Perhaps karma intervened and I was supposed to have this side trip this year.  Discovering the people who work and live in my town.  If anything I was renewed with a sense of ownership of my little community.  It has also renewed my desire to stop my commute and work closer to home. This is a seed that will take a while to find fruition. Work in a tourist community is closely tied to the whims of the economy as well as the weather. I’ll keep my eyes open.

Supper was fresh halibut steak.  The sunset was muted today.  The remnants of the tropical storm still hover over the coast.

Sept. 3:

Last day.

I started the day at 8:00 a.m.  My family back in California are backpacking in the Sierra this weekend.  It’s the last real weekend to do this as the weather in the Sierra will change quickly to fall.  Summer leaves the Sierra as quickly as it arrives. 

I put together my lunches for the coming work week.  It’s something I do on my last day off every week before returning to work.  Today is no different.  Work clothes are washed and hanging ready.

Some will see this vacation as a waste of time. Some will see it as a respite from a frenetic work schedule. I did accomplish some things I meant to do. I got those stories back out in circulation for others to read. I did finish a manuscript and sent it off to the publisher. I did sign a contract for that manuscript. I met new people and saw things in town I didn’t know were there.  It wasn’t what I set out to do.  I’m still restless.  I still want to go somewhere.  Do something.  Tune out. Disconnect.

I’ll spend the afternoon updating a few things on social media. This will go to my blog. It will get emailed to a friend in Arizona. It will go into a digital journal. And hopefully, when I feel the need to read it again, I’ll remember not the broken plans for this vacation but the new friends I discovered.   

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