Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's here! It's here! "Love is Eternal" is Finally here!

Good afternoon!

I'm doing that happy dance of joy an author does when she/he publishes something.  And, after much delay and even more laziness on my part, the final piece of the Prequel Trilogy is complete!

Ladies and Gentlemen:  LOVE IS ETERNAL!

This is actually the second volume in my Rock Harbor Short Romance series.  Chronologically, at least.  I wrote it last because it was the hardest to write.  The three short romances are all the beginning of the three couples in "Lies in Chance"  :  Joanna and Drew, an established married couple in Lies; Robert and Molly, who are not together in Lies; and Bryan and Jennifer, who are also not together in Lies, but for a vastly different reason.  I'll admit it, Bryan and Jennifer were easiest to write.  I have always had a very clear vision, since I was very young, of how those two got together.  But Drew and Joanna took some doing because they were, when I began writing Lies, a married couple and have always been together in my head.  Thinking of them as separate, even for a short romance, was not easy.

And then we have Molly and Robert.  Those of you who have read Lies in Chance know why they aren't together.  Those of you who know me know therefore, how difficult writing this story was for me.  But I've always known, in my heart, what had to happened between these two, and now, today, it's here.

So, what are the links?  Well, look below!

Kindle:   (The book will be available in print on Amazon, but not for a couple more days.)

Nook (This was published on 5/28. If it's not there yet, just give it a day, it'll be there.)

Print via Createspace  (All of my books are available in print here, and all authors get a far bigger piece of the profit through Createspace than through Amazon.)

All other reading devices (This is for all you Apple and Sony folks and if you just want to print it on your computer or read it on your computer while you're at work, this is the way to go.)

I'm tremendously excited to have completed this project!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 Questions with Romance Author Ilona Fridl!

Good morning!

Yesterday I wrote a review of Ilona Fridl's new flashback romance, "Iris Rainbow."  Today, Ilona sits down with me (in a virtual world, I didn't really make the woman get up before 7 AM to answer my questions!) and answers my ten questions!

Ready?  Here we go!

1)  Tell us about the book! What would you like readers 

to take away from Iris Rainbow?

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Sarah.  I wrote this to give people an idea of what it was like in the 60's. Teri is the same age I was at the time it took place. I always dreamed, as a teen, of falling in love with a rock star and this is my "what if" moment. I also was inspired by stories of young lovers who broke up and went to live separate lives, meeting again decades later and find they were still in love.

2) What, if any, book, movie, song or character inspired you to write?

The song, Your Wildest Dreams, by the Moody Blues really touched me. I thought, "Wow, that would make a hell of a story" and it did.

3)  Best/worst movie based on a book :

BestLittle Women. The 90's version.

WorstGone with the Wind. I liked the book better. (Sarah's comment:  Ooooh that's harsh!  I mean, I liked the book better, too, of course.  But WORST movie?  LOL)

4) Do you write with a soundtrack for whatever you're working on, or do you write in complete silence?

Music does help to create the mood, but I've worked both ways. For my WWII book, Bronze Skies, I listened to a lot of big band music.

5) When do you find time to write? What's your schedule like?

I try to write a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon. The rest of the time, I'm working scenes out in my head.

6) What are you reading right now? 

Well, I'm back writing in the 20's again. I'm reading "Life in the Twenties" by Nathan Miller. Look for another Amos and Sarah Darcy mystery!

7) Starbucks or Caribou coffee?  

Starbucks hands down! I LOVE their white chocolate mocha! Although, I like Caribou coffee ice cream.

8) Who would play you in a movie about your life?

That's funny, because I took one of those tests on Facebook and it came up Emma Watson to play me in a movie. She would have to lose the British accent, though.

 9) What's next for you?

I have a western story in with my editor right now. My work in progress is another Alaskan mystery, re question #6.

10.) Anything more?

Many little demonic plots and characters dancing around in my head. Once you open the door to these people, they don't stop bugging you.

Thank you so much, Ilona, for sitting down with us all today!  And the rest of you...go and get Iris Rainbow and read it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A review you can use: Iris Rainbow by Ilona Fridl

Good afternoon!

Welcome to another two day author event!  (WOW, two in two weeks!)  Today I'm reviewing Romance Author Ilona Fridl's newest, Iris Rainbow, and tomorrow Illona answers my TEN QUESTIONS!

Rebellious teen Teri Darden comes of age in the Summer of Love, 1967, falling hard for Tim Olson, who plays bass guitar in a soon-to-be-famous rock band called Virgin Ram. When the band goes on a lengthy tour, Tim and Teri not only lose touch with each other but the lies of his spiteful ex-girlfriend push Teri into the dark side of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in the San Francisco of the 1960s. As his year-long tour comes to a close, Tim realizes how much he has missed Teri, but his efforts to find her again are futile. He goes from one bad marriage to another yet is always searching for Teri, until they meet again thirty years later. Neither could quite forget the other, but can they rekindle what was lost?

Okay, so that's the back page blurb.  Now, here's that I think:  Iris Rainbow is a non stop 30 year epic of heartbreak, hope, addiction, peace, despair, disappointment, and love. Author Ilona Fridl takes us on a breathtaking roller coaster of a book that moves forward, forward, forward, without ever losing touch with the past. I read this in one sitting. I'm not even kidding.  Fridl does in Iris Rainbow what few authors are able to do:  Make a can't-put-it-down-for-a second page turner that spans three decades.  I don't know how she did it, but she did it and I love it!  

I was not part of the 1960's counter culture.  I was a tiny bit too young for that sort of thing and my parents were firmly ensconced grown ups in Minnesota during the Summer of Love.  But Fridl's life experiences and exhaustive research give the book so much realism, I feel like I'm there, I'm in it. I can almost smell the incense and peppermint!  Teri Darden could be one of the most compelling, realistic, heartfelt characters I've read in quite some time.  Readers can and will identify with her struggles from start to finish.

What is really interesting about Iris Rainbow is the technology...or lack thereof. In today's world of iPhones and texts and emails and voicemails and free long distance, we have no idea what it really means to be separated from someone no matter how far away they are. One of the key points to the book is how that lack of today's technology came between Teri and Tim Olson, her rock star lover.  The themes of love and separation and heartache are universal, but Iris Rainbow kicks it up several notches by showing us just how big the world really was in 1967.

Set aside an afternoon, because that's all you're going to need.  This is a fast read and a roller coaster of a ride. So worth it!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

10 Questions with Author Kathie Giorgio!

Good morning!  

Yesterday I posted a review of Kathie Giorgio's masterful new novel, "Rise from the River."  

Today we get to know the author herself a bit better with my TEN QUESTIONS!  (Cue dramatic music!)

1)  Tell us about the book! What would you like readers to take away from Rise from the River?

That there is no issue on this earth that is black and white. No single thing is always right and no single thing is always wrong. All possibilities and cases have to be considered. I also want them to take away that there is a whole lot more going on in rape's aftermath than they ever imagined.    

2) What, if any, book, movie, song or character inspired you to write?
Write the book?  Or write in general?  I suppose either way, the answer is the same.  None.  I started to write because I was driven to.  And I write still because I'm driven to.  The inspiration comes from inside.  

 3)  Best/worst movie based on a book :

Best:  "Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter

Worst:  "Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving 

4) Do you write with a soundtrack for whatever you're working on, or do you write in complete silence?
A little of both.  When I'm writing a novel, I assign it a song.  Every day when I sit down to write, I play that song first.  It gets me back into the world of the book, just like the bell made Pavlov's dogs drool.  Once the song is done and I'm ready to write, I write in silence.  For "Rise From The River", the song was "The Scientist" by Cold Play.   

5) When do you find time to write? What's your schedule like?

Because of AllWriters', where I teach 85 hours a week, my time is limited and I guard it like a rabid lion.  I'm an afternoon writer.  I meet with clients in the morning.  Then I'm at my desk for writing around 1:00. I work until it's time to pick up my daughter from school at 2:30.  She is fourteen, so when I bring her home, she disappears into her room and I return to writing.  I work until 5:00, when I start meeting with clients again, and then I usually teach a class from 7 - 9. I sometimes have a late-night client, but otherwise, I work on critiquing manuscripts until around two in the morning. Then sleep.  

6) What are you reading right now? 
I am reading Anne Tyler's "A Spool Of Blue Thread".

7) Starbucks or Caribou coffee?  
Starbucks. Grande cinnamon dolce latte.  Iced when it's hot, extra hot when it's cold. The baristas at my store recognize the sound of my car engine over the drive thru speaker. 

8) Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Meryl Streep, of course.
 9) What's next for you?

Since finishing Rise From The River, I've been working primarily on short stories.  Because I've appeared in over 100 literary magazines, I'd like to put together a collection.  "The Collected Works of Kathie Giorgio" sort of thing.  But I have three other novels I'd like to write. One in particular is calling my name and I'm planning on starting it as soon as I finish the story I'm currently working on. 

10.) Anything more?
The best advice I can give to writers: Get out of your own way.  We all give excuses about why we can't find the time to write.  We have children.  We have spouses. We have jobs. We need to sleep.  The laundry needs to be done.  We must itemize our spice racks. 
Sit down and write.  Your children and spouse will not only survive, but they will be happier because you'll be happier.  You'll have more energy for your job.  You can sleep when you die.  There's nothing wrong with turning your underwear inside out.  In the end, who cares if you use chili powder or cinnamon. 

Thank you so much, Kathie, for joining us for the last two days!  As for the rest of you, go and get this book right now!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Review you can use: Kathie Giorgio's "Rise from the River"

Good morning!

Today and tomorrow I get to talk about a very talented lady and her amazing new book.  I've known Kathie Giorgio for many years. She was the leader of the local Park and Rec writer's group when "Lies in Chance" was simply known as "The Stupid Novel." Today I'm reviewing her new novel, "Rise from the River" and tomorrow, Kathie answers my ten questions.

Kathie grew her talent and her business from that modest Park and Rec group and she is now the director and founder of AllWriter's Workplace and Workshop, a wonderful haven of learning for authors and poets at all levels of experience, both in Southeastern Wisconsin and across the globe.  She is the author of four novels, and over one hundred of her short stories have appeared in literary magazines.  In short, when it comes to writing, the girl knows her stuff!

Kathie and I haven't always seen eye to eye, and certainly when it comes to some of life's big issues, we have differing opinions.  (That's been okay because if everyone agreed about everything all the time, what on earth would we talk about? )   That said, Kathie's never been one to shrink from the big issues or trying to make this a better world with her very powerful, and talented, pen.

Kathie's newest novel, Rise from the River takes several of today's biggest issues:  Rape, abortion, religion, adoption, parental rights.  Certainly one of these topics would be fodder for a compelling book, but Kathie puts all of them together with a masterful hand.

Rainey Milbright and her four-year-old daughter, Tish, are walking through a city park one night
when the unthinkable happens:  A man jumps out of the darkness and rapes Rainey in full view of Tish.  Already abandoned by her parents because of her choice to have Tish out of wedlock, Rainey's only support system is her Catholic neighbor and landlady, Doris. 

With Doris' help, Rainey traverses the tangled, troubling web of medical, legal, and personal issues that become a way of life for rape victims. She must answer all manner of unthinkable questions at the hospital, the police station, her office, her daughter's school, and in her own home.  All the layers of defense we put up for ourselves are stripped away from Rainey and she finds herself trapped and drowning in fear and isolation.

The fallout of the rape doesn't just affect Rainey.  Doris, while helping Rainey and Tish claw their way back to normal, reflects on her own losses and heartbreak at the hands of a God she worships without question.  Rainey's journey gives Doris reason to question her own faith, and her church.

At the heart of the novel is the pro-life/pro-choice question.  Those of you who know me know I'm pro-life.  Those who know Kathie would assume she would write a staunchly pro-choice novel.  But Kathie takes the question of the sanctity of life, all life, to a new level when she touches on the parental rights of rapists and their victims. (This is a law in thirty-nine states.  Rapists have parental rights if the person they rape becomes pregnant as a result of the rape. It becomes a bargaining chip for the rapist who does not want to stand trial against a victim who wants to give up the baby for adoption.)  

This is not a wandering manifesto about women's rights. From the start Giorgio turns on an alarm clock that ticks a far-too-rapid pace to the end of the novel. There are many taught, whirlwind moments.  Every chapter leaves the reader breathless.

In the end, this is an important book, and a rare one. "Rise from the River" doesn't just entertain.  It doesn't just make the reader think about important issues.  "Rise from the River" might be a book that has the power to change things for the better.

This is a book you must read.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sneak Peak Sunday: Dream in Color

Good afternoon!

Yesterday I was out at the Waukesha Farmer's Market signing and selling books.  Seeing everything I've put in print in the last five years was really something.  As authors, we write and then shelve what we write and move on to the next thing.  Sometimes just putting everything on a single table and saying, yes I wrote that.  In my case it's been four novels, two humor books and two novellas, in five years.  That doesn't include "Missing in Manitowoc" which is finished but not yet out, nor does it include "Love is Eternal" which is the final in my three novella series, which is also almost finished.

The last five years have been a crazy whirlwind and I found myself yesterday sort of paging through some of the books, thinking about how I wrote them, how I fell in love with the heroes, and fought battles with the heroines.  I was taken back to that very first novel, the one that got me published and gave me the confidence to go forward and make a name for myself and tell my stories to everyone out there:  Dream in Color.

Dream in Color is the book everyone should read if they've ever had a crush on a celebrity.  I know who my celebrity crush least the one I was thinking of when I wrote this.  I hear from other people at signings and they tell me about this crush or that.  It's a universal thing, falling in love with someone so completely out of reach, you carry that feeling in your heart forever.

Every author has a fondness for the first book they publish because it's the first.  I'm no different.  So today I'm going back five years and sharing a bit of this with you.  Enjoy!

“The first thing I have to do is lose some weight.” Ramona studied her reflection in the mirror the next morning.  Leo watched her, tipping his head to one side so the skin hanging over his furry eyes would shift and he could better see Ramona twist this way and that way while still clinging to the bath towel that covered her.
            “What are you looking at, Leo?”  Ramona dressed quickly and self-consciously in front of her dog.  Something about the way Leo looked at her made her wonder if dogs really did have a sense of humor.  “Yes, I’m going to lose some weight, and so are you.  No more late night pizzas for us.”
            Leo pawed in disapproval at the towel now on the floor.
            “Of course I have to lose weight.  Jesse Alexander would never, ever love a chubby chunk like me.  But I’ve got four months to be beautiful.  Or at least thinner.”  Ramona puffed her usual amount of powder foundation on her face and then looked at herself with a very critical eye.  “I’m going to start wearing more makeup, too.”  She picked up a tube of mascara and twisted off the top, crusty from years of disuse.  She eyed up the stiff bristles of the black brush.  Behind her, Jesse howled something about finding a lost love.
            “You sing it, Jesse. Pretty soon, you’ll be singing live for me!”  She tossed out the old bottle and checked the clock.  “I’ve got time to stop at the store for new mascara.”
            Ramona grabbed her keys and blew one kiss to Leo and one to Jesse’s picture on her desk.  “And neither one of you will recognize little old me when I’m done.”
            Ramona arrived at work, still with enough time to apply the dozen different cosmetic products that she had squirreled in her purse.  As she left the restroom feeling like a new woman, Virgil bumped into her.
            “Oh, excuse me, ma’am.  I’m sorry.”
            “Virgil.  You doofus.”
            Virgil looked up and squinted at her.  “Ramona?”
            “Who else?”
            Not taking his eyes from her, Virgil reached out a hand to her shoulder.  “Are you still sick?”
            “No.  Why?”
            “You’ve got some black lines around your eyes.  And your face is flushed.”
            “Virgil, I’m wearing makeup.”  Ramona frowned at him.  “I’ve decided to make myself more presentable.”
            “Oh.”  Virgil followed her to her cubicle, a confused look gracing his face.  “But, um, why?”
            Ramona turned excited eyes to him.  “Tell me if I’m crazy or not, okay?  Last night I was on the internet and I went to this Official Jesse Alexander website.”  Ramona fairly bounced in her ergonomically correct office chair.  “I’m looking at the site, and there’s a list of tour dates.  He’s doing a bunch of fairs and festivals and stuff, all over the place, in the Midwest.  So I’m thinking, hey, I didn’t take any vacation time last year, maybe it’s time I did. I’ll take my three weeks and go to as many shows as I can.”
            Virgil toyed with the Jesse Alexander paperweight that held down the morning’s latest shipping orders. “You didn’t take a vacation last year?”
            “Where would I go? Can you see me on vacation with Eileen and Russell?  Please.  Dinner with them is bad enough.  Can you see it?  Singing songs as we drive across country to-”
            “Ramona!”  Virgil looked as surprised by his sharp interruption as she was.  “What about your sick time?”
            “From last year?  Apparently, that’s gone.  I guess Celia’s been docking me a half day for the days I show up ten minutes late.  Wish I’d known that, I would’ve taken the whole half-day.  So anyway, I’m sitting there, thinking-”
            “Ramona, when is your anniversary date?  With the company?” 
            This time Ramona stopped her prattling and stared at her friend. “Next week.”  She flipped her calendar.  “January 29th.  I’ll have been here ten amazing years.  And I thought maybe I’d ask Celia if I could take last year’s vacation as well as this year’s all this summer because of the tour and all, but she’ll definitely say no to that, I barely have to even ask her, and I know that’s what her answer will-”
            “I’m sorry, Ramona, I don’t mean to keep interrupting you, but there’s something you should know.”
            “And that is?”
            Virgil cleared his throat and pushed up his glasses as he looked around the cubicle.  “When L.M.I. International was sold the last time, the new owners changed the benefits packages for the new employees, but not for the ones who have been here longer than five years.”
            “Okay, that’s fascinating, Virgil.  But what has that got do to with the tour schedule?”  Ramona fought the urge to wave her hands in front of his face to bring his focus back on her story.
            “You’ve been here ten years, which means you get to roll over any unused vacation time dating back five years.” Virgil cleared his throat.  “Plus, since you started prior to the sale, you get an extra two weeks’ time from the company once you hit ten years.  You see, under the old package employees got to roll time year after year for five years if they wanted to.  One of the reasons the company almost went under was because the entire shipping department decided to take off the last quarter of 1997.”
            Ramona’s vision blurred.  “How much time did you say I had?”
            “Well, three weeks of your time last year, plus the five weeks this year.  And tell me, did you use all your time from the last five years?”
            “I don’t think so...not in the last five years. I haven’t done more than take a day here or there.” Ramona slumped in her chair, rocking forward to lean her spinning head in her hands.  “That means...that you know what that means?”  She looked up at him, excitement feverish in her eyes. “What does this mean, Virgil?”
            “It means you have somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen weeks coming to you.” Virgil set the paperweight down again and stood up.  “It’s a simple figure of math, really.  You just add your weeks of vacation together over the period of five years. That’s three weeks a year, plus the bonus two weeks. ”
            Joy shot through her like a bolt of electricity and Ramona kissed Virgil impetuously on the lips. She wrapped her arms around him, joy steeling her joints against his surprised struggle.  Finally, after sucking the life out of him, Ramona let Virgil crumple against the desk.
            “Virgil, I love you for telling me this!”
            “Um, oh, I love you, too, Ramona.”  Virgil dabbed at his broad forehead with his handkerchief.  “I-I mean, you’re welcome, of course.”
            “I have to go talk to Celia about getting all this time off.”  Ramona smoothed her blouse and patted her hair before stepping out of her cubicle.  Her hands trembled as she began to choose her words carefully.
            “Ramona?”  He didn’t move from his spot on the desk. 
            “What was the crazy thing you were going to tell me?”
            Ramona gave him a smile the exuded more confidence than she’d ever felt before.  “I’m going to marry Jesse Alexander.” 
            “Oh…I…see.” The pained look on Virgil’s face did not even register in her ecstatic mind as Ramona hustled to Celia’s office.
            Ramona paused outside her supervisor’s office and ran over what she would say several times.  Finally, squaring her shoulders, she went in.
            Every time Ramona entered Celia Yasher’s office, she thought of her waitress job in college when she was required to get hamburger patties out of the walk-in freezer.  Celia’s office reflected her personality in a way Ramona never thought possible in a room.  Every corner was sharp, every pencil sharper.
            “Celia?” Ramona hardly recognized the anemic sound as her own voice.
            Celia did not look up.  Ramona cleared her throat and swallowed.  “Celia?”  This time, her voice held more weight to it.  “I’ve come to request vacation time.”
            “Good to see you’ve recovered from your headache, Ramona.” Celia still didn’t look up but she did reach for a three-ring binder labeled ‘Vacations’.
            “Celia, the thing is, I didn’t take any vacation time last year, and I’ll be getting five weeks of time this year, once I pass my anniversary date.  I was told I could put all that together. As well as the weeks from the past five years.”
            Now Celia raised her gaze to Ramona. “My, my.  Been busy checking have we?”
            Ramona felt uncomfortable under the cat’s eye stare, but plowed on.  “I want to take that all at once.”
            Celia didn’t blink at the request.  Her painted face remained still.  “I see.  And when do you think you’d like to take all this time off?”
            “I’d like to leave the week before Memorial Day weekend.  The way I figure it, with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July holiday weekends, I’d be able to take the entire summer off. I’d come back right after Labor Day.  That’s not even really the whole amount of time I have coming.”
            “Well, that’s quite a chunk of time, isn’t it?” Celia’s stare never wavered, although her voice held a note of contemptuous humor.  “May I ask what big plans you have for such an amount of time?”
            I really shouldn’t tell her. Ramona inhaled and held her breath, preparing herself for the next wave of mockery.  “Jesse Alexander is going on tour of most of the Midwest, and I want to see all the shows.  There are going to be forty shows, and I may even get to meet him in person.”  As she said the words aloud, she wondered if they sounded as hopeful and pathetic to Celia as they did to her own ears. 
            They did.
            “Well, isn’t that quite the fantasy for someone your age?  I suppose, being single, you have nothing else better to do.”  Celia glanced at her garish wedding ring for emphasis.  “Still, you should focus on someone a little more, shall we say, attainable.  You know that for a woman your age, it’s more likely that you’ll be hit by lightening than get married now. And to some rock star person, too.”
            “Then I guess I’ll steer clear of thunderstorms, won’t I?”  Ramona bit her lower lip, swallowing her sharper words.  “How about it, Celia?  Do I get the time off or not?”
            Celia gave her a dried up little smile.  “I’m going to have to deny your request.”
            “What, just like that?  All of it?”  Ramona swallowed back the disappointment that welled in her.
            “All of it. I’m sorry, Ramona, but summer is just not a good time for you to take any time off.  Shipping is going to be busy. You know that.  And there’s no room in the budget to hire a temp while you’re off on this wild goose chase of yours.”
            “So what’s the point of saving up all this vacation time if I never get to use it?”
            “You needn’t get snippy with me.  No one forced you to stay at your desk when you had vacation time coming.”
            “You can’t tell me no one forced me to stay at my desk, Celia Yasher.  You know full well you denied me the few times I did ask for time off.”
            “I understand you’re disappointed, Ramona, but as your supervisor, I have to tell you that I do not have to tolerate your disrespectful tone.”
            Ramona took a deep breath and unclenched her fists.  “Fine.  In another week I’ll have earned five weeks’ time. I’d like to take that.”
            “Certainly, provided it’s not during June, July, August, or September.” 
            Ramona clenched her fists again as she watched Celia wrestle with the smirk that threatened to emerge on her face.  “So I get no vacation time at all, no matter how much in advance I ask for it, and no matter how little an amount of time I ask for.  Is that pretty much how it is?”
            “No not at all, dear.  Of course you can use your vacation time.  As I look on the calendar, I can spare you for a week in October.  Will that work with your plans?”
            Ramona had no words to give the rage that pounded in her chest.  Her nails embedded themselves into her palms.
            Celia’s tone was syrupy thick.  “Are you not feeling well, Ramona?  You look flushed.”
            “Actually, Celia, I am feeling a bit ill.  I think I’m going to go home a little early if that’s okay.”
            “I suppose.  Of course, the time will be charged against your vacation time since you have no sick time left.”
            “Of course.”  Ramona pulled the office door shut and brushed past Minnie without focusing on anything.
            “Ramona?  Ramona, are you okay?”  Minnie huffed to keep up.  “You look funny.”  She reached Ramona’s cubicle as Ramona turned off her computer.  “Are you okay, girl?  What did that old bat say to you?”
            Ramona squared her shoulders and smiled at Minnie.  “I’m just fine, Minnie.  I’m perfect.  I’m feeling a tiny bit under the weather, that’s all.  I’m going home.  Of course, this will count against my vacation time, but since I have almost seven hundred hours of vacation, I can spare it, I suppose.  Have a good night, Minnie.”
            Ramona walked to the front and out the door without another word to anyone.  Once inside her car, Ramona rested her head on the steering wheel and let the sobs roll out of her in waves.
            “Ramona, are you okay?”
            Ramona raised her tear-stained face to see Virgil tapping her car window.  “Virgil,” she groaned.
            “Ramona, please roll down the window.” His watery gray eyes pleaded with her. “Minnie just told me.  What can I do to help?”
            Ramona sighed and lowered the window down an inch. “Nothing.  I’m fine.  My headache came back from yesterday, so I’m going to go home.”  She put her key in the ignition and fired up her car.  As she pulled out of her parking spot, she saw Virgil, looking very, very sad.  “Virgil.  I’m fine.  I’m going home to lie down or something.”
            The sun was still bright as Ramona drove down Waldo Boulevard.  Feeling a little better escaping L.M.I., Ramona decided to go for a walk along the breakwater on the lake.  She pulled into the marina parking lot, ignoring the storm clouds threatened on the horizon.  Ramona grabbed her digital music player from her glove compartment and started out to the lighthouse.
            The wind off the lake cut at her cheeks, stinging her face and tearing up her eyes.  She didn’t care.  The lighthouse was her goal, a point of safety from the angry cloud of noise surrounding her.
            Tugging at her collar and adjusting the headphones, Ramona never looked down as she made her way over the oft-walked uneven rocks to her favorite perch.  She turned up the volume of the music and shut out the last of the disapproving voices that tried to reach her. Her mind was free to dream.
            Ramona’s spot at the lighthouse was little more than a broken section of concrete piled up on the far side of the deck.  As a child, she dangled her feet over the dark, icy water, delighted when frigid fingers dampened her toes.  An adult now, she curled her legs under her, but still watched the water with dark fascination.
            She turned the volume up once more, leaned back on the concrete, and closed her eyes.  The throbbing from the headphones soothed her aching head, cleansed her angry thoughts, and transported her from her misery.
            Jesse sits down next to her.  His long hair whips in the wind, just hiding his eyes from her. He crosses his arms, holding his black coat closer to him.  Sitting at the very edge of the walkway, he dangles one foot over the black water of Lake Michigan.
            “Ramona, come with me.  I’ll take you away from everything.”
            “I want to, Jesse.  I do.”
            “Then do it. Whats here for you?  Leave with me.” Jesse taps his foot against hers and grins.
            “You have no idea how bad I want to go away with you.”
            “Well, I’m flattered lady, but first you’d better get off your ass before you get washed out into the lake!”
            Startled, Ramona opened her eyes and looked up into the face of one very unhappy marina employee.  The large, gruff looking man tapped her on the shoulder and pulled the earpiece away from her head again.
            “Lady, there’s a storm out there.  What the hell are you doing sleeping here?”
            Ramona stood up but hunched herself to the smallest form possible in front of him.  “I’m terribly sorry.  I-I had no idea the weather was rough.”
            “Don’t be sorry, lady.  Just don’t be out here when it’s starting to storm like that.”  He pointed to the brilliant flashes of lightening that broke the sky in half.  Icy sleet whipped around them. “Weird winter storm. I never like lightning in the winter.  It’s not safe out here.  Come on.”
            Ramona followed him like an obedient child for a few steps, and then stopped as a crack of thunder opened a plan up to her. “No!  I’m not taking this anymore.  I’m going to live my life my way!”
            “Listen, lady, if it was up to me, you could sit out here all night, and we’d just fish you out of the marina in the morning.  But the boss has a thing about bodies near the yachts, so you haveta get out of here.”
            “Not that.”  She pulled away from him.  “I gotta go.”  She ran down the pier, not listening as the man swore into the wind.

            Once back at her house, Ramona aimed straight for the stereo.  She cranked the volume level to the red zone and selected a song. Glasses rattled in the cupboard and she tore layers of clothing off and sang along.