Saturday, May 31, 2014

Follow Friday!

It's time for the weekly hop!! If you want to meet new friends, visit Alison Can Read  or Parajunkee's View and join the blog hop. 

Question of the Week: How important is good writing to you? In an ideal world, a book would be beautifully written AND have great character development, plot, etc. But in the real world, which do you prefer: (1) Great characters and plot with lousy writing or (2) Middling character development and plot but gorgeous writing

Honestly I don't really mind lousy writing. Plot and characters are far more important for me. How about you? 

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Spotlght: Naked in Havana by Colin Falconer

The Story Behind Naked in Havana

NAKED IN HAVANA started with a letter from one of my readers:

‘… I would also truly love to learn what REALLY happened in the 50's with Cuba.  Something tells me that it wasn't truly like what the teachers told us in school in Canada.  I read a fictional book a long time ago about Marilyn, John, Bobby & Frank, that touched on the Che Guevara/ Fidel Castro story, but just not enough to satisfy me …’

‘Can you write a book about that?’ she wrote.

And because it intrigued me, I said I would.

The story of pre-revolution Havana appealed to the romantic in me; I had always been a fan of those big romantic movies like Casablanca and Gone with the Wind and my mind’s eye fixed on a sweeping love saga that would follow the winds of change of an entire decade, from Havana and Castro’s takeover of Cuba to Jack Kennedy’s Malibu hideaway, the Hollywood of Monroe and Sinatra, to the final days of war-torn Saigon, an epic with larger than life fictional characters, as well as real life legends.

That was the vision.

And as I researched more, the background did not disappoint; NAKED IN HAVANA is about Cuba before Castro took over, about the Mafia and the casinos, about Kennedy and Monroe and Che Guevara and that whole darkly glamorous story that ended with JFK’s assassination. It’s about glitzy mob-run nightclubs, gun runners, revolutionaries and torchy voiced bolero singers.

But I wanted a love story at its heart; two people who had only ever wanted love on their own terms, but now would have to give up everything to be with each other.

Passion changes us, and love is dangerous. It makes us reject our own sacred beliefs, turn our back on our own kind, do the unthinkable. It can ask more of us than we might ever think to give; it can also heal us more than we ever imagined. And you never quite know which it will be until it is too late to turn back.

That’s how NAKED IN HAVANA was born.

And that’s why when Reyes sees Magdalena in Havana in 1958 he knew that running guns in the middle of a revolution was the least of his troubles.

About the Book:

18 year old Magdalena Fuentes is lying naked next to her perfect lover when he tells her he is marrying someone else. It is soon clear her destiny lies with another man, even though she says she doesn’t believe in fate. 

But fate doesn’t care whether we believe in it or not...

Havana, 1958. Magdalena Fuentes knows that Angel Macheda is the only man for her, even after he takes her virginity and then tells her he is engaged to someone else. She knows they are meant to be. 

So why can she not stop thinking about Reyes Garcia? From the moment I saw you, he says, I knew there would be no one else.

From the moment I saw you, she tells him, I knew you were arrogant, conceited and rude

Magdalena is a girl who will not let sentiment stand between her and love. But as Fidel Castro’s rebels tighten their grip around the city and she watches her family and her whole life come apart, she learns hard lessons about love abd about life.

Against the backdrop of the boleristas and the gangsters, the music and the guns, Magdalena discovers just how dangerous love can be. 

Naked in Havana is the first in a three part series, a sprawling epic of passion and destiny, stretching across three decades and two continents. 

Purchase your copy:
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

About the Author

Colin Falconer was born in North London, and spent most of his formative years at school playing football or looking out of the window wishing he was somewhere else.

After failing to make the grade as a professional football player, he spent much of his early years traveling, hitch-hiking around Europe and North Africa and then heading to Asia.

His experiences in Bangkok and India later inspired his thriller VENOM, which became a debut bestseller in the UK and his adventures in the jungles of the Golden Triangle of Burma and Laos were also filed away for later, the basis of his OPIUM series about the underworld drug trade.

He later moved to Australia and worked in advertising, before moving to Sydney where he freelanced for most of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines, as well as working in radio and television.

He has over 40 books in print. HAREM was an enormous bestseller in Germany and THE NAKED HUSBAND was only kept out of the number one spot in Australia by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. AZTEC stayed on the bestseller lists in Mexico for four months. He is a bestseller in Europe and his work has sold into translation in 23 countries around the world.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. He also completed a nine hundred kilometre walk of the camino in Spain.

He did not write for over five years following personal tragedy but returned to publishing in 2010 with the release of SILK ROAD and then STIGMATA. His historical novel ISABELLA was an Amazon bestseller last year. 

His likens his fiction most closely to Wilbur Smith and Ken Follett – books with romance and high adventure, drawn from many periods of history.

His latest book is the romantic suspense, Naked in Havana.

Visit his website at
Connect & Socialize!

Monday, May 26, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What are you reading?" is a fun meme hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey. This is where we share the books we have read the last week and our reading plans for this week.

Book Reviewed

Currently Reading

Just finished watching the TV series, seasons 1 - 3... forgive me my lady and my lord  for not reading and blogging as much as before, this has kept me occupied for the last 3 weeks... and now I am about to read the first book. . . .

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Let's go to Myrtle Beach together, Mel . . . It has been over four years since Devin Gage spoke those words to Melanie Bates-four years with barely a word passing between them. Of course it was just a high school student's fantasy. So why was he at her house now-telling her it was time for them to go? Friends since birth, Devin and Melanie set off on their dream vacation. 

Their first stop is to visit quirky Aunt Bert near the lovely town of Mount Airy, North Carolina, where they spend days visiting Andy Griffith's Mayberry. When they reach Myrtle Beach, they get some long-awaited sightseeing in and meet new people. From the boy-crazy teenager with her heart set on Devin to the identical twins who could be Melanie's Malibu Ken doll come to life, Dev and Mel see it all. Along the way, the two of them reminisce about their past and catch up on the past four years. Nothing is off limits-except Devin's rich and beautiful fiancĂ©e, Roxie Newcomb, and those pesky phone calls he keeps receiving. That's all right though, because Melanie is determined to make as many special new memories as she can during their vacation, even at the risk of her own heartbreak. It seems somewhere along the way, her feelings for Devin have grown into something stronger than friendship. Regardless, Mel knows that once Devin is married, Roxie will put a stop to his and Melanie's relationship. This vacation is her last hope for making memories. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Book Spotlight: Smile At Your Challenges by Danielle Pashko

Smile At Your Challenges: 
It takes more than just going gluten-free, drinking green juice, and practicing yoga to solve your problems
by Danielle Pashko

Genre: Inspirational/Self Help/Wellness
ISBN: 978-1-4949-4904-4
Publisher: Create Space
Release Date: February 27, 2014
Pages: 120
Amazon Link 

Danielle Pashko began her Wellness career over fifteen years ago in New York City. After losing her mother to breast cancer as a little girl, optimizing her own health became an obsession. Ironically, after years of living as a “Picture of Health” and becoming the go-to practitioner for everyone else’s physical problems, Danielle was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Her strongly ingrained philosophy of restrictive eating and physical discipline had to be questioned. “Was drinking green juice, going gluten free, veganism and a daily yoga practice a cure all?” While still continuing healthy dietary and lifestyle habits, her personal experience with illness opened a window of exploration to the relationship between emotions and the body’s wellbeing. Her conclusion was that the past chapters of our life are often a reflection of our present health.

Danielle believes that we can take all the external measures in the world to achieve health and happiness, but there are never any guarantees. Smile At Your Challenges is her personal story of overcoming unexpected obstacles (in all areas of life) and even having humor about it. We plan and God laughs, but there's always a reason behind our circumstance. Replete with anecdotes and observations about the human condition, this is a book that invites thoughtful consideration of our relationships with others, our relationship with a higher power and, most importantly, the ongoing relationship we nurture – or should be nurturing - with our own selves.



            Why do some people have all the luck and you have it so hard? I guess it all depends on what you consider to be “lucky.”

            No one has everything and we’re all constantly tested with challenges - some much more difficult than others. It’s hard to perceive coping with things that are extremely difficult until we are actually faced with them. Just because the pain of a situation may bring on fear, anxiety, depression or uncertainty, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. What’s important is to acknowledge those uncomfortable feelings rather than dismissing them and denying their existence. Nor should you have to feel ashamed that your situation seems insignificant compared to people who are starving in Africa or your grandparents who are Holocaust survivors. Everything is relative to what is familiar to you. Once you sit for a while with that pain from your disappointment, you then need to learn to tap into your own unique strengths that can pull you out. While some of these strengths are more obvious, others must be uncovered.

            As I have shared throughout this book, my childhood and teenage years were full of pain. Losing my mother, having an abusive stepfather, an absent biological father, not fitting in after going to four different high schools, exposure to drugs all around, and having to support myself at 16 when I was basically poor – no, this was not a charmed life by any stretch of the imagination! If I was another child and you told me that all of these things were going to happen, I’d say, “There’s no way I can possibly handle it.”

            It’s amazing, though, how we’re wired to tap into survival mode when we need to. It’s like the story of the mother who lifted up a car to rescue her baby. The fight or flight response kicks in and we do what we need to do if our life or the life of someone we love is at stake. Throughout my adolescence and into young adulthood I had to think fast on my feet and say, “Okay, how can I get out of this situation and have some stability going forward? How can I make a living with no one helping me?” I wasn’t a great student. I was a terrible test-taker and scored horribly on my S.A.T.’s. I also knew the schools that would accept me weren’t the top-tier universities. I remember thinking, “I’m never going to be a doctor, lawyer, or high powered businesswoman. I need to find a way to hustle.”

            What I did have going for me was that even though I wasn’t “book smart” per se, I had more emotional intelligence than anyone else my age - and years beyond - because of all my hardships. I was a good communicator, very presentable, and always articulate. I absorbed much more in the school of life than in a classroom. Given the opportunity to meet them in person, people always liked me. It, therefore, became clear that doing something related to building relationships would become my greatest strength. Instead of dwelling on all of the things I felt I was lacking, I embraced my ability to read people and to be sensitive to their personal and/or health related struggles. Little did I know at the time that the groundwork was being laid for my becoming a wellness consultant.

            It’s interesting to witness how the scales are always balanced. You could be fabulously rich and yet somehow feel lonely and unfulfilled. You may have so much love and a wonderful family but money may not come easy to you. You might have everything going for you but get sick or lose a loved one. You could even be drop-dead gorgeous but find that you’re the last single one out of all your friends who are now happily married. It’s a lesson to not be jealous - because no one has everything.

            Even when I felt like I was doing a good job of coping with my past- experiencing divorce, followed by a string of crappy relationships, getting cancer and going broke made me feel like the ground under me was so unstable that I could sink at any minute. After hitting rock bottom, the revelation I had was that I had to change my thinking.

            I literally began to look at every challenge as a pass/fail test. Each time something really bad happened, it became a game to me. Now let me make clear that I definitely slipped - that’s part of being human - but quickly I had to work on removing myself from the situation as if I were observing as an outsider. I wouldn’t allow myself to fall into a depression. Sometimes I’d try to become a problem-solver but other times I had to give up my fears and have some faith. We all know the expression, “We plan and God laughs.” It’s easy to think an aspect of strength is to always be in control, but strength actually comes from allowing the right outcome to occur. I began to realize that when things didn’t go my way - when the relationship didn’t work out, when the job that seemed like a dream was lost - it was all part of a bigger picture leading me to where I needed to be. There were so many times that these so called catastrophes even saved my life.

            None of that was apparent, of course, while I was actually enduring the experience. Only when the reasons for the hardship were revealed to me much later did I finally learn I could take each situation and understand why it had to go down exactly the way it did. Although things seemed bad, the pain was only temporary and I was always okay in the end. I just had a choice whether to suffer or ride the situation and expect to move through it. When you stop to think about it, it’s not much different than rough air or turbulence on a plane.
            For many people, it’s a lot easier to assume a victim mentality. That approach, however, typically leads them down a road of unhappiness, potential substance abuse, and always placing blame on others. When I was told I had thyroid cancer, for instance, I thought, “More shit? Really?” As much as I had been terrified of this moment ever manifesting, I strangely felt a sense of calm when it actually hit. I had two choices: I could feel defeated or I could use all the tools that I had been armed with from all my studying. After all, I was a yoga teacher, I counseled clients nutritionally, and I had tremendous faith in God. Was I going to suddenly be a little mouse and forget everything I based my existence on?!

            I decided I was going to handle this like a champion. Not that I’m at all in the same category, but how would Buddha, Jesus or Moses face this situation? When I was at the hospital the day of my surgery, I remember joking around with my anesthesiologist and the surgeon before I went under. I also forced myself to smile and visualize coming out healthy when the procedure was over. Although I was wobbly and not feeling so hot when I woke up, I kept my mind strong. From then on after, that’s what I did.

            Whether you feel weak physically or emotionally, a strong mind is what will give you the drive to get through your challenge. When I had crappy days, I refused to give energy to my weakness. It didn’t stop me from gently exercising, doing restorative yoga, or anything physical that gave my body confidence. I had to work my way back up to where I used to be but it all started with small steps. At this moment I’m totally better and my body is stronger than ever. In many ways, I feel like it was a blessing. I don’t take things for granted, and it was a great lesson on how to look fear in the face and work through it.

            Some of our greatest accomplishments are during the scariest times. In many ways it’s like training to prepare you for the next challenge. Whether you’re a parent, spouse, business owner, or in a position that you are relied upon by others, having experienced tough challenges will help you to stay composed and reinforce a sense of calm and stability to everyone around you. There’s always one person that is the glue holding the whole family or the business together. Is that person you?

            Train yourself not to fall apart. Instead of watching too much Reality TV, rent a martial arts movie (or one of my favorites such as Rocky on Netflix) and tap into your inner warrior. Life has great moments but it’s definitely a series of ups and downs. If everything is easy and you don’t have challenges, there’s not much incentive to grow and become a better person. Without pain, we are blind to blessings.

            The next time you think you can’t get through your dilemma, remove yourself from your situation for a minute. Try to be objective as an observer and give yourself the advice you’d dispense if you were mentoring a good friend. Have trust that your circumstance is only temporary and you will move through this. It’s your choice to handle it with pain or be at peace with the outcome, even if it’s not the one you want.

            When you handle things in a high light - meaning from a place of faith and conviction - you will see later why everything had to unfold the way it did. Remember we all have the ability to cope within us. We are never faced with challenges we cannot handle.

Buy Link

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: Jagged (Colorado Mountain Series Book #5) by Kristen Ashley

Colorado Mountain Series #5

Author: Kristen Ashley
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Amazon Paperback link
Goodreads link

Ratings: ★ ★  

My thoughts:

This was a DNF. The book started out likeable, or even sweet, but it went down just before I got into half of the book. I loved Zara and Ham's story, problem is, only their story. Author threw some 'family problems', (Zara's) that I found totally dull. Also, the fact that even though Ham loves Zara, he is still inlove with Feb, from the other book in another series. So why would I LOVE that man? I skipped the book often and even with the skipping, I decided to DNF the book. It felt like this is not from KA. ;( 

Read other positive reviews here

About the book:

An old flame rekindled . . .

Zara Cinders always knew Ham Reece was the one, but he wasn't interested in settling down. When she found someone who was, Ham walked out of her life. Three years later, Zara's lost her business, her marriage, and she's barely getting by in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. As soon as Ham hears about Zara's plight, he's on her doorstep offering her a lifeline. Now, it will take every ounce of will power she possesses to resist all that he offers.

Ham was always a traveling man, never one to settle down in one town, with one woman, for more time than absolutely necessary. But Ham's faced his own demons, and he's learned a lot. About himself, and about the life he knows he's meant to live. So when he hears that Zara's having a rough time, he wants to be the one to help. In fact, he wants to do more than that for Zara. A lot more. But first, he must prove to Zara that he's a changed man.

About the Author

Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake.

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. 

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

You can learn more at:
Twitter @KristenAshley68

Guest Author: Joanne Clancy

Everyone has something to hide...but what secrets are so dark that a man disappears without a trace?

Adam Stoltz vanishes in the middle of the night. His girlfriend, Darcey Ackerman, is the last person to see him alive. Battered, bruised, and petrified, she somehow manages to escape their attacker.

An international police manhunt and investigation ensues, but Adam and the mystery man are traceless.

Intrepid crime reporter, Gina Jones, has made her career out of discovering the hidden truth. She knows that everyone has something to hide, and that someone knows what really happened to Adam.

Slowly, she begins to unravel the threads of the story, but the hidden secrets go far beyond her worst fears or imaginings, especially when nothing is as it seems...

Traceless ~ some people should never be found...

Book Details:
Author: Joanne Clancy
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services (Feb.23, 2014)
Page Count: 196 (ebook)

Author bio:

Joanne Clancy is a writer from County Cork, Ireland. She is an avid reader, a self-confessed Kindle addict, and a tea fiend! 

Before embarking on her writing career, Joanne studied physics and mathematics at University College Cork. She started writing full-time in 2010, and has written sixteen books. She is currently working on her seventeenth book, which will be available in June 2014. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Trailer: Nakoma – A spirit’s destiny

Nakoma – A spirit’s destiny

Author – Gala.J
Amazon Link
•  Paperback: 378 pages 
•  Publisher: Gala (March 12, 2014) 
•  Language: English 
•  ISBN-13: 978-0615985206

About the book :

Nakoma – A Spirit’s Destiny is a haunting tale of mystery and intrigue that grabs you from the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the last word. This suspenseful, page-turning journey of one woman’s search of true love is an inspiring reminder that one can draw on inner strength to fight any force and overcome any obstacle. But every choice has its price. Born into a dynasty of healers, Lena Jones is destined to fulfill the family legend of the one whose powers will exceed boundaries and set new limits. Groomed by her Grandma, ‘The Witch from Ojai’, Lena is initiated into a world of spells, potions, and incantations. As a healer, Lena devotes herself to past life regression therapy, which not only brings insight to her clients, but also unlocks important clues for her own journey. Living in parallel realities, where magic and sorcery co-exists with the pastoral and normal, Lena is searching for The One, whose face she saw when she was six years old. She knows he is her soul mate, the man that invades her dreams and haunts her thoughts, yet has been dead for centuries. In her spellbinding rite of passage, Lena surmounts a major betrayal that culminates in an epic battle as she fights against the powers of dark magic that threaten her destiny, her sanity, and her soul. “The forces that we deal with have two sides: one is good and helpful and the other is dark and dangerous. Part of your training is to learn to distinguish between them, and know when to use which.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Guest Author: RL Keller

Writing is a labor of love for me.  Being a Christian author, I find that writing to encourage and bless others is very rewarding.  The whole process of writing comes fairly easily for me; I consider it a gift from God.  I’ve always had a desire to jot down thoughts.  My thoughts became a journal file on my laptop.  Over the years my journal file developed into a daily devotional blog that I still write today (  

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to put together my first book, There Are No McDonald’s in Heaven: Waiting on God.  Catchy title isn’t it?  I liked it, so I went with it.  My dream of writing a book was born.  The thoughts and ideas flowed out of me like water.  I had WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, publish it for me. They did a superb job.  Since then I have published a compilation of bible devotionals under the title Thoughts From a Random Mind and my latest effort, titled Man’s Rejection of God: Who’s Responsible?  was just recently made available to the public.  Both are representative of my flowing, easy to read, inspirational and instructional style of writing.

Writing can be a rather cathartic experience and for me, that’s exactly what it was.  It helps me sort out my feelings and thoughts about myself, my life, and life in general.  When I look at God I see what can be and attempt to go there in my writing.  Hope tends to be in short supply at times, so if I can write anything that could conceivably bring a sliver of hope to someone else, then I feel I’ve been a success; not by the world’s standards perhaps, but by God’s, and that makes it worth it. I don’t seek fame and fortune.  What I seek is to bless others.  

Did I happen to mention that I love to write?  Well, I do.  And so far others are glad I love to write, because what I write seems to be making a difference in people’s lives.  For me, that’s what it’s all about.  – Christian Author RL Keller

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Spotlight: Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

Pressed Pennies
by Steven Manchester

Paperback: 355 pages
Publisher: Story Plant, The (May 13, 2014)
Amazon Paperback Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 716 KB
Print Length: 355 pages
Publisher: Story Plant, The (May 13, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle Edition

About the book:

Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige's father nearly destroyed Abby's spirit.

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they're hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She's very protective of the life she's made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn't know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you've dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

PRESSED PENNIES is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love it its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart.


A mix of playful conversation and alcohol set the night’s happy mood. Rick was tipping his third beer at the season’s final bash when he looked up and saw her. He nearly choked on his drink. She was his age, pretty with an athletic build. She had gorgeous wavy chestnut hair with beautiful dark eyes that matched. She had a mysterious confidence about her and a smile that men would die for. Rick swore she had an aura from her head to her feet. At that moment, he thought, I have to meet her. His mind filled with questions that needed answers: Who does she know at the party? Who can I get her background from? Who can introduce us? As his mind raced, Carol walked over with the beauty. And as they got closer, it hit him. “Oh, my God!” he said.

“Rick, this is…” the friendly hostess began to introduce with a smile.

“Abby!” Rick interrupted. “I can’t believe it.” It was her. It was Abby Gerwitz, his childhood sweetheart. He searched her eyes and a thousand memories—happy childhood pictures—flooded his mind. And then he recalled the pain he’d felt on the day they were forced to say goodbye.

After an unforgettable summer, Abby and the neighborhood gang received the terrible tidings. Rick—then known as Richard—gathered the gang in his backyard. He felt ready to cry. “I’ve got some bad news, guys,” he said.

“Oh, God,” Tracy blurted.

“Yeah?” asked Vinny.

“What’s is it?” Grant asked.

Richard looked at Abby. She was frozen.

“My dad was promoted to lieutenant, and he has to transfer to another prison across the state.” There was a long, painful pause. “We’re going to have to move away…next week.”

It was a lie. They were moving, sure enough, but Richard’s dad hadn’t been promoted. The hospital bills from his mom’s car accident—where a drunk driver had stolen away her life—had finally broken them. It was a matter of money or more precisely the lack of it. Richard silently vowed that he’d never be put in the same position—ever. No matter what I have to do, he swore to himself.

While the rest of his friends hung their heads and complained, Abby burst out crying and ran for her house.

As Rick recalled, it was well past midnight when he finally surrendered to the tossing and turning. Rolling out of bed, he maneuvered past several moving boxes, stepped up to the window and pulled back the curtain. Wilbur Avenue was deserted and silent. From left to right—as if he was branding the picture into his mind forever—he carefully scanned every detail of the place he could no longer call home. Although one good memory after another played out before him, a sharp pain pricked his heart. No one was watching, so he allowed the tears to flow. Once he’d arrived at the farthest reaches of his vantage point, he forced his swollen eyes to work their way back and absorb more of his past. “Why do we have to leave?” he muttered. “Why?” Before long, his shoulders rocked back and forth to the rhythm of his quiet sobs.

The very next morning, gray clouds hovered over Wilbur Avenue. Richard’s dad and grandma made their goodbyes quick and waited in the overstuffed station wagon for Richard.

Richard had never said goodbye before. The pain was alien. It hurt something awful to face Abby. Overwhelmed with emotion, it took him a while to speak. It was the hardest thing he had ever had to do.
“Well, I guess…” Richard muttered, and choked on the words. Not knowing what else to do, he pulled the curled brim of his ball cap down further over his eyes.

Through sniffles, Abby finally said, “You can come back and visit, right?”

“Sure.” Richard was fighting to be strong and dared not speak more than a word.

Abby lifted the brim of his hat. “Goodbye, Richard,” she whimpered.

Richard placed his hand on her shoulder and shook his head. “No Abby…I’ll be seein’ ya,” he whispered, and with one surge of courage kissed her on the lips.

While Abby’s eyes went wide, he pulled his baseball cap back over his eyes, jumped into the family station wagon and never looked back. One cruel moment later, the Giles family drove away.

Though Richard and Abby promised to keep in touch, frequent phones calls and detailed letters gradually became an occasional event until adolescence rearranged priorities and their communication ceased altogether.

Back in the present, Abby gasped. “Richard? Is it really you?”

Rick grinned. “It’s Rick now,” he said.

Her smile turned mischievous. “Okay, Richard.”

He stood to meet her embrace and squeezed her tight. “My God, it’s been so long. How have you been?”

She pulled away to peer into his eyes and, without a word, returned to their embrace.

While they hugged over the unexpected reunion, Carol was clearly pleased with herself—as if she’d known there was history between them. “Abby just moved into the neighborhood, Rick…three houses down from us. It appears that you two have a lot in common, so I’ll leave you to it.” Carol smiled widely before strutting away.

“So you’re living on Freedom Avenue now…near these crazy people?” Rick asked. He couldn’t believe it, but his palms were actually sweaty. He looked into her sparkling eyes and experienced arrhythmia for the first time in his life.

“I am,” Abby said before looking down at his left hand and then back into his eyes. “You’re not married?” she asked, blushing slightly over the impulsive question.

“Happily divorced,” he answered.

“Then you must have a creep for an ex-husband too?” she teased. Her tone was gentle and there was a soft light playing around her eyes.

“I do,” Rick said. “His name’s Rose.”

Abby chuckled and took the seat beside her old friend. Her laugh was absolutely contagious.

For a few moments, neither spoke a word. And then Abby’s face blushed again when Rick caught her staring. She looked away. Rick was thrilled over the obvious chemistry between them.

Rick cracked open a fresh beer and offered it to her. His hands were almost trembling. No one has ever had this effect on me, he thought. No one. He was legitimately nervous.

She shook her head. “Thanks, but I don’t like beer,” she said, and then stared straight into his soul. “So you did the divorce thing too, huh?”

He shrugged. “I did. Seems like the ‘in thing’ these days.”

“Any kids?” she asked, shifting from one hip to the other.

Rick’s eyes lit up. “Zachary…the love of my life. He just turned two.” He took a swig of beer. “I’m thinking about getting him a bigger bowl.”

Abby’s eyebrow rose in confusion.

“Zachary’s my gold fish,” Rick explained, chuckling.

Even through the laughter, Abby kept staring. At one point, she slid closer to him.

Her presence felt so comfortable and familiar to Rick. “And you… any kids?” he asked.

“Paige,” Abby answered, with the same twinkle in her eyes. “She’ll be nine next week…just old enough to be brokenhearted.”

Rick nodded. “Boy problems?”

“No. Daddy problems.” She shook her head, the twinkle gone. “Her father hasn’t made a whole lot of time for her lately,” she explained.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” As a light drizzle began to fall, Rick leaned into Abby’s face. She smelled as good as she looked.

Abby nodded, but quickly changed the subject. “So how long have you known Carol?” she asked.
“Too long,” Rick answered with a smirk. “Actually, I met Danny in college and met Carol after their first date. He was my business colleague for a while. He and Carol have been together for almost three years now. She’s great. She loves Danny’s two boys like they’re her own.”

“Business colleagues?”

“Investments. Stocks, bonds… really, really important stuff like that,” he added, sarcastically.
“You two still together?” she asked.

“Nope. Danny and I have broken up. I recently discovered that I liked sunshine a little more than fluorescent light.” He thought for a moment. “I just started doing some consulting work, and I write a little now.”

“You do? That’s great!” Abby said. She smiled like an angel. “I’d love to see some of your writing.”
Rick’s skin tingled over the suggestion.

Beneath a wet sky, the rest of the night was spent getting caught up. For Rick, it felt like old times—even though he had no idea who Abby was as an adult.

They reminisced first about Rick’s grandma and father. “So how are they?” Abby asked. “I always loved them, you know.”

He smiled. “Dad lives in New Hampshire now, working with delinquent kids.”

She smiled, her head cocked. “Did he ever remarry?”

“No. He’s never stopped loving my mom enough to pursue another woman. I guess in his own way he still grieves her death.”

Abby’s mouth twisted slightly, forming itself into a frown; she was clearly touched by the undying love the man had for his wife.

“I think Grandma’s right,” Rick added. “When my dad passes, I’m betting that he and my ma will spend eternity making up for lost time.”

Abby nearly cooed at the sweet sentiment. “I’ll never forget his dog, Roy,” she said.

Rick took a sip of beer and chuckled. “Believe it or not, he actually has Roy’s grandson now—Ray.”

She shook her head and laughed. “Roy and now Ray. What was the dog’s name in between?”

“Screw Up.”

Abby was sent into a state of hysterics.

Rick shrugged and laughed along with her.

“And Grandma?” she asked, regaining her composure.

Rick nodded. “Still spry and spunky…just a really cool person. You know her motto: ‘The body doesn’t wear out, it rusts.’ She’s still listening to her music and raising holy hell.”

Abby smiled at the familiar phrase.

“And she got married,” Rick said.


“Yep. His name is Bill Stryker and they’re perfect for each other.” He took another swig of beer. “She still makes me sit for dinner every Sunday.” Rick then asked about Abby’s parents.

There was a sad pause. “My mom passed away,” Abby said, “from a lack of purpose, I’d say. And I haven’t spoken to my father for a few years now.” She tried to shake off the pain. “We no longer share a relationship… just some really bad memories. I imagine he’s still committing suicide the long way.”

“Yup, still doing laps in his bottle.”

Rick put his beer on the table and quickly changed the subject.

“Have you heard from any of the old Wilbur Avenue gang?”

Abby’s smile returned. “From what I hear, Vinny became an attorney and is living with his wife in Vermont.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t know how anyone could stand to live with him.”

Rick laughed.

“Tracy became a psychologist and moved to Utah.”

“Married?” Rick asked.

“A-sexual, I think.”

They both laughed. Rick couldn’t stop staring at her great smile and adorable dimples.

“Actually, I heard she lives with her lesbian lover and goes by the new name Cheyenne.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

Abby shook her head.

“Good for her,” Rick said.

“But I haven’t heard anything about Grant,” Abby added.

Rick leaned forward. “You’re not going to believe this, but the first day I walked into college…there was Grant talking to some pretty, unsuspecting freshman.”

Abby shook her head.

“I still see him every Tuesday night,” Rick said. “We shoot a little pool and a whole lot of bull.”

She was shocked. “How is he?”

“The same…emotionally amputated; socially challenged.”

As the laughter continued, she asked, “Do you remember the last time your dad brought us all to Lincoln Park? Believe it or not, I still think about that sometimes.”

“Are you kidding?” Rick said. “I could live a hundred lifetimes and never forget that day!” And without his permission, his mind immediately raced back to the smack of screen doors and the echoes of foolish, barefooted children running toward the future.

As a going away gift to Richard and his friends, Jim Giles announced, “I’m treating you all to Lincoln Park.” It was a local amusement park that was famous for its epic Easter egg hunts and The Comet—the largest and most feared roller coaster on the East Coast. The park also had the reputation of hosting some lifelong memories from early spring until late fall.

Jim Giles pulled the station wagon into the front of the park and shut off the ignition. From sheer excitement, the back doors flew open and Richard, Abby, Grant, Tracy and Vinny piled out like a trained circus act. They waited. Jim Giles never opened his door.

Richard ran around to his father’s window. “Aren’t you comin’, Dad?” he asked, still resentful over their upcoming move.

Jim handed his son some money and winked. “This is your day,” he said, and then looked at Abby beside Richard. “Stay together, all right?”

They both nodded. “Absolutely,” said Richard. “I’ll be seein’ ya.”

“We will,” Abby promised.

Richard’s father smiled. “Meet me back here at six,” he said, and drove away from the curb.
The gang watched as the wood-paneled wagon disappeared into traffic. They looked at each other and smiled. They’d been set loose for one last hoorah. This entire day was going to be their last great adventure together. Past the roller-skating rink and bowling alley out front, they sprinted toward the ticket gate.
Murals of smiling clowns holding balloons and lollipops beckoned them inside. A hand stamp cost five dollars and fifty cents and allowed them to ride all the rides for the day. Once paid, the land of thrill seekers, big crowds and long lines opened up to them. “That’s expensive,” Richard blurted, while Grant discreetly talked Tracy into paying his fare.

Three steps in and a slew of stimuli nudged them into a frenzy of squeals and high-fives. Flashing lights, carnival sounds and joyous screams filled the park. From popcorn to vomit, the smells were overwhelming. A world of vivid colors—dark reds and yellows and blues—covered everything. One look around, and it was clear that romance could blossom here, as well. Richard glanced over at Abby to find her staring at him. Smiling to himself, he turned, waved his friends toward him and ran for the rides. “Come on!”

Everyone took chase.

The gang worked its way through the park. Hidden speakers spouting the moans and wails of ghouls and mutants soon had them standing before The Monster Ride. “Looks like Old Lady MacDonald’s place,” Richard said and everyone agreed. Those who dared to ride were greeted by gaudy, lurking statues of hideous creatures with horns, sharp teeth and insane eyes. Of course, to the older, more discerning eye, the giant plaster of Paris knick-knacks were no less than absurd.

Richard led his friends toward the unknown. Tracy wouldn’t hear of it. “Come on, Scaredy-Cat,” Grant taunted. It didn’t matter. No matter how much teasing they heaped on, Grant and Vinny were forced to share a car. Abby had already jumped in with Richard.

From the moment the car hit the double doors and entered pitch darkness, Abby shut her eyes and never opened them. While hideous mannequins waited in the shadows, the car took jerky turns on a squeaky track. “Eeeek,” Abby squealed, while Richard did his best not to laugh. Through all the screaming, the smells of the midway wafted in, while several rays of sunlight streamed through the cracks in the old, wooden boards. Though these reminded everyone that his or her plight was surreal and only temporary, it still didn’t matter in the belly of the beast. At one point, Abby placed her trembling body against Richard’s.

He’d never felt such warmth. His whole body tingled and he instinctively tightened his grip. It was almost a hug. A swarm of butterflies fluttered in his guts, but even in the blackness he couldn’t bring himself to kiss her. He just couldn’t do it.

As the car came crashing through another set of double doors and back into reality, Richard and Abby released each other. Through squinted eyes, they exchanged a grin. The crush was their little secret.

Once Rick returned to their conversation, he looked hard into Abby’s eyes and his Adam’s apple took forever to travel south. “Those were definitely the days,” he said.

She nodded. “Find a penny, pick it up and all that day you’ll have good luck.”

“As long as it’s heads up,” he added, with a grin.

Between the conversation and shared laughter, the entire night seemed to last all of three seconds.

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