So after a long summer SMP Author Blogathon we’re into fall and the weather finally feels like it. The leaves are fluttering down and crunching under my feet. Pumpkins are appearing everywhere, and spooky urban fantasies (some of them mine) are popping up on Twitter and Facebook. As I get ready to post this, Hurricane Joaquin is threatening the tri-state area. This will help with authenticity, as well as removing the distractions of the Internet. The third installment of the Unfinished Business Series takes place in the midst of preparations for a hurricane so I might be typing by flashlight and candles. I wrote Mike’s hospital scene in The Widow’s Walk during eight days without electricity thanks to Hurricane Irene.
But here at Soulmate, it’s all about romance. In my case, that ranges from “gentle’ paranormal ghost stories with a touch of history (Breakwater Beach, coming to Soulmate in 2016) or a smatter of suspense (The Widow’s Walk, now out in e-book and print). The third book, Storm Watch, is the closest to a contemporary I think I’ll ever get, but don’t worry, the ghosts will be wreaking havoc before too much longer.
I find it hard to let go of the lazy days of summer with all the glorious sunlight and gorgeous beaches where I go to escape and recharge. My seasonal affective disorder kicks in when daylight savings time ends, and though I love the cooler weather and look forward to winter sports, I find it hard to stay motivated and awake late enough at night to write. My days being early—as do those of most doctors and nurses. I’m up at 5:30 and on the road to somewhere by 6:30. I often start in one place and move to another to cover for someone or for special projects, and sometimes don’t arrive home until 10 pm. I struggle to find parking, curse the merciless, bloodsucking ticket agents, and schlep my call bag onto buses and trains. I walk if at all possible, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells and rhythm of the streets. In between comes the drama of birth and death, with a lot of life in between.
I’m a family nurse practitioner, which means I see kids from infancy to young adults in school health with runny noses and strep throats and stomach aches and lots of locker and lunchroom pathos. Then there are the scary asthma attacks, sports injuries, and lots of broken and bloodied body parts from fights. I’m also a midwife, doing prenatal care and dealing with the challenges of bringing new families to life and keeping them healthy, which is not an easy task in the rough and tough neighborhoods of The Bronx, New York City.
How does this relate to writing? Just like the immersion in storm preparation helps with my current work in progress, my daily “grind” provides me with an endless supply of ideas, vivid settings, and material that goes from the depths of tragedy to the height of comedic entertainment. After a hectic day of patient care, meetings, and nonstop documentation (getting more complex by the day), I also have to squeeze in data entry and analysis for my research projects. It’s hard to switch gears into a fictional world when I get home, but I love to whip out a magic wand or have a ghost walk through the walls, which is a lot easier than running into them.
In The Widow’s Walk, Mike has a life threatening illness and Liz sustains a serious injury. In Breakwater Beach, there are deaths, and a birth. Opening the pages of one of my stories, no matter what the genre, is like pulling aside the cubicle curtains or peering through a window into my real life world.
Mary stared at Mike, her lips pursed, the way she always looked when she was going to yell at him for something. Her head shook, almost imperceptibly, but he was her husband and knew all the subtleties.
“No, what? What’s wrong?” Mike’s eyes opened and fell on a young woman with dark hair bending over his bed, touching his arm. The beeps reminded him. He was in the hospital, and Mary didn’t want him to die either.
“Everything is fine, Mr. Keeny. Just taking vital signs and giving you antibiotics.” Cynthia plugged one tube into another and fiddled with a clamp.
“Okay.” He could plead delirium and not look like a fool. Mary had never manifested herself to him as a ghost, only in vivid dreams or thoughts too clear to have just been memories.
Liz didn’t stir, well practiced in the sick bed routine, having watched her husband die of a lung, not breast cancer, but cancer nonetheless. She knew exactly how to find comfort sleeping in a chair, ignoring bleeps, hisses, hospital odors and the nurses, who always seemed to be there, in the dark, small flashlights of reassurance that you weren’t alone, that someone cared, that someone was watching.
Mary and Gerry weren’t trapped in warped time. They’d lived full, if shortened, lives. They finished all their business, and then died after grieving spouses had a chance to say goodbye. Not so for Elisabeth and Jared and Edward, the third and elusive arm of the triangle–bound together by a chain of death to a world they could no longer live in.
The blood pressure cuff crackled open. The thermometer beeped. Cynthia whispered. “No fever. You’ve turned the corner. I’m going to take you off the oxygen to see how you do. We can put it back if you need it.” She threaded the tubing off his face.
Mike clamped his eyes closed, but it was too late to recapture the dream, to hear more of what Mary wanted to tell him. Tears welled in his eyes remembering the anguish of watching her die. They’d both known it was time when Mary finally let go. Jared, with nothing to live for, gave up. How much longer could he fight?
Next week, fellow Soulmate author Dr. L.D. Rose, a radiologist, will pick up this theme where I left off and share her stories—both factual and fictional.