Friday, March 17, 2017

Just My Luck. . .I'm NOT Irish

by Shirley Hailstock

Everyone is Irish today. I'm in the Northeast and I hear New York City carted the snow off Fifth Avenue for the parade today. Don't ask me where they put it.

I'm not Irish, but I'm decked out in green and celebrating with all those who are.

I do not have a book out this month, but since this is a blog designed for readers, I have a gift for you. Lots of blogs and social media post will center on the creation of St. Patrick's Day or the way the holiday came into being. (Yep, I know that. I researched it.)

But I'm not doing that.

I have a story for you. Surprise, it's a St. Patrick's Day story. So enjoy.

The Magic Touch
A Tale From Blythe Cove Manor

Another St. Patrick's Day, Donahue thought donning his green tie covered in shamrocks and tying it around his neck. Shamrocks were a sign of luck and he needed all the luck he could get today. His shirt was green and his jacket a darker version of the same color. He had to wear this color or people would clap him on the back or grab his arm, demanding to know why he wasn't saluting the Irish holiday.

It began at midnight. And would be with him until another midnight released March 17th into the next day. He would like to spend the day relaxing in his room, staying away from the revelers and binge drinkers. But past years had taught him that didn't work. People would knock incessantly on his door. Most didn't even know why they were doing it. They'd apologize as soon as he opened it and they got a good look at him. So he decided to handle the day by making his own choices.

The first was breakfast.

Blythe, owner of Blythe Cove Manor, had a full array of breakfast foods available to celebrate St. Patrick's Day; green muffins, green tea, green milk shakes, even green eggs and ham for the kids. Donahue refused to even think about how Blythe turned the ham green. But from what he'd heard the manor's owner was a food-wizard.

Donahue needed to be careful. He didn't want to touch anyone, bump into anyone and he didn't want anyone offering him a hand to shake. He wore gloves, but he couldn't eat with them covering his hands. He poured hot coffee into a paper cup and set it in a protective corrugated heat-sleeve. Lifting a muffin with a napkin, and balancing the cup with the tips of his fingers, he left Blythe Cove Manor by the back door.

The garden was empty, its flowers straining for the coming spring. Going to one of the tables set in the sun, Donahue took a seat, even though the Massachusetts breeze off the Atlantic had yet to release it hold on the season.

Setting his breakfast on the table, Donahue turned his face toward the sunlight. He drank in the feel of it despite the air temperature. He was alone for several minutes, thinking is solitude a blessing. Then someone asked, "Aren't you cold out here in this wind?"

Turning, Donahue watched as a woman approached him. Her hair was sunshine yellow and almost disappeared in the eastern light. She, too, was dressed totally in green and she carried a cup and a plate of matching green food. For a moment he thought she was a female version of himself. Her cup was ceramic with a shamrock along the side. The liquid inside steamed in the cool air.

"Not necessarily," he finally answered her question as the ocean wind ruffled his dark brown hair. Unconsciously, Donahue patted it down.

"I'm Sloane Gallagher," she said.

"Donahue O'Dwyer," he introduced, taking a drink from his cup and replacing it on the table.

"Pardon me if I don't shake hands," she said. "Both of mine are full at the moment." She looked down at the coffee and muffin filling both spaces.

Sliding onto a seat opposite him, she said, "I hope you don't mind me joining you."

"You like the cold, too?" he asked by way of consent.

"I grew up in County Mayo. This reminds me of home."

She looked out on the Atlantic. Ireland was well in the distance, County Mayo or Mayo Abbey stood on the northwestern side of the Emerald Isle.

Donahue stared at her. He'd grown up in the same county, yet he was sure he'd never met her. Mayo Abbey was the third largest country, so it was perfectly plausible that they had never seen each other. Donahue had been a hell-raiser in his youth and his reputation covered a large part of the county. Sloane Gallagher didn't appear to have known him, but how coincidental was it that she joined him for breakfast and that they were both on Martha's Vineyard during St. Patrick's Day and staying at the same B&B? Although she looked to be in her late twenties, the same age as he was, he decided to tread carefully until he could determine if all this was due to the universe laughing at him – again, the way she had laughed at him when she gave him his. . .gift.

"Are you new to the Vineyard?" Donahue asked.

"I come every few years, but not often at this time. More in the summer or early fall."
"Are you here for St. Patrick's Day?"

"There isn't much of a parade here, not like in New York City, Chicago or Savannah, Georgia, but it is the end of the rainbow."

Now why would she say that? Why use that particular phrase? He laughed, hiding his concern.

"Is there really a rainbow end?" Donahue asked.

She nodded. "And a pot of gold."

"You're not going to tell me you're a leprechaun, are you?"

She shook her head. "Like you, I'm a Transferer."

"A what?" he asked. He'd never heard it called that before.

"A Transferer. My touch transfers powers – temporarily, but they happen." She announced this as if she was asking him to pass her a napkin.

"What kind of powers?" He leaned forward feigning interest.

"That's the rub. I don't know, but you understand all this. We're the same kind."
"Kind?" he repeated.

"Our touch on this day passes our magic on. It's temporary, but whomever we touch shares in our magic until the stroke of midnight."

Donahue hadn't acknowledged that he had any magic, but he asked the question. "What happens if and I said if, we both have this gift," he paused. "And we touch each other?"
She took a moment to think about that. Her brow furrowed and her face changed into a frown. "I don't know."

"How many other people have you met with this magical ability?"

"You're my first," she said.

"And how do you know I have it?"

She opened her hand. He only saw the green gloves she wore. Removing them, she turned her hands palms up. At the end of her longest life line was a small dark blemish in the shape of cauldron. It was light green, but clearly visible.

"At first I thought it was a birthmark as I'm sure you did too. Remove your gloves." She didn't exactly ask it or command him. Her comment was somewhere in between.

Donahue hesitated. After a second, he pulled the gloved fingers free of his own, and showed her his hands.

She gasped.

There was nothing there, no mark, no blemish. She glanced toward his other hand. He repeated the procedure with slow, deliberate movements. When he presented his hand, again, there was no blemish, only the definition of lines intersecting other lines in his palm.

"I. . .I," she stammered. "I don't understand." She pulled her own hands back, gathering her gloves and slipping them back on. "I apologize," she said standing up. "You're not the one."

She made no attempt to touch him, to impart her magic as she walked away. Donahue watched her hurried steps as she crossed the grass, went up the few steps and into the back door of the B&B.

She'd left her breakfast behind. Donahue reach over, using his bare hands to hug her steaming coffee cup, pressing his palms against the warmth of the liquid that penetrated the cup. The coffee warmed his hands.

As he released his hold  and opened his palms, images appeared, identical twins of a pot filled with a leprechaun's gold.

Donahue watched as the cool air touched his skin and the images disappeared.

The End

Good luck today. I hope you enjoyed the story.  Remember the luck of the Irish is passed from person to person. So offer your own magic touch and enjoy a wonderful day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Unknown Author

By Shirley Hailstock

I want to be an unknown author.  I went to Barnes and Noble last night, admittedly to buy a new book by one of my favorite authors.  And of course, I came home with more than the one book.  As any reader knows, books are like potato chips – you can’t buy just one.  So I was walking around the superstore, scoping out the books and looking at the guys to see who was just there to hang out.

There were a lot of tables and free standing book carousels and I found myself looking at the titles and authors.  I’m a sucker for a good title, so I look at those first.  These are the tables that publishers pay money to have the titled featured.

I consider myself fairly well read and well informed about books – all books not just romance or women’s fiction.  But what I noticed on these tables were books by people unknown to me.  Of course, I can’t know everyone, no matter now hard I try, yet on many of those tables, I didn’t recognize a single name.

I did recognize the publishers.  And I decided that is who I want to be.  I want to be one of those names that people come in the store find.  My book and my name prominently displayed.  I want to be the books they go home with, spend the night in bed with, and read from page one to The End.

Friday, November 18, 2016

100 Books to Read Before You Die - The Official List

by Shirley Hailstock

It started with a movie, The Equalizer. I like action movies and I like Denzel Washington. In this movie, his wife has died and she was a lover of books. She was reading the top 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before You Die.  He truly loved her and as homage, he's reading the top 100 books.  He's currently on number 91.

I looked for the list since I wanted to know how many of them I had read.  What I discovered is there are countless lists of top 100 books by different groups, organizations or individuals.  I had to choose one, so when I found a list that said it was The Official List, I went with that one.  Click this link (The Official List) if you want to see all 100 titles. I am glad to say that the majority of the books appear on many of the lists. You'd expect to see The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice on any reading list that claims to be the Top 100.

When I counted the titles I'd read, my number was 37. There were some collections like the Harry Potter series and the complete works of Shakespeare.  While I've read all the Harry Potter books, I only get to add one to my total. I didn't count Shakespeare at all since I've only read a few of his books/plays.  I've seen more of his works produced as a play or movie than actually reading the text. However, Hamlet was listed singularly and I included that one. In high school, I had to memorize parts of that play.

Some titles I tried to read and couldn't. The Hobbit is one of them. Even after The Lord of the Rings walked away with multiple Academy Awards, I tried to read The Hobbit and couldn't. Then I got it on CD and tried to listen to it.  Still I couldn't get into it.  There are some books, we're just not ready to spend the time trying to read.

There were also titles on the list I couldn't remember if I'd read the book or only seen a movie of the story. Little Women, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, and Anna Karenina have been movies, all with several remakes to their credit, and I can't remember if I ever read the book.

Of course, every list is going to come with surprises.  This one had a few books that I wouldn't choose for people to read before dying. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams are two.  This is my opinion. There are probably thousands of people who will disagree with me, but they will have their own list that differs from mine.

Another surprise came when I saw titles and didn't know a book existed. I thought these stories were made into movies from original screenplays. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy,  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane are a few.

The list was limited to 100 titles, so it stands to reason that some expected titles will be missing.  For example, Middlemarch by George Eliot is listed, but Silas Marner is not.  Neither The Scarlet Letter nor any other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne are included in the list. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is present, but not Lord Jim.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel and The Invisible Man by National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison, and Native Son by Richard Wright were not listed. There were no books by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison or Ernest Hemingway.

So, of the books on this list that I've read, what is my favorite – The Great Gatsby.  A few years ago I read this book for the first time. I wanted to see if it stood the test of time. Would the book be just as interesting and relevant today as it was when it was written? My answer is yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I'd seen Robert Redford and Mia Farrow play Gatsby and Daisy countless times. And I even visited the house in Newport, Rhode Island where they filmed the movie, I was still in the can't put-it-down-mode.

Reading 37 titles is good, but not great. It's only a little over a third of the 100.  Just in case you want to know the 37 titles I have read, they're listed below.

So, like Ricky would say to Lucy, I got some readin' to do.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

SPOOKED: A Halloween Dinner

With Halloween just around the corner I went a little overboard this year. While I don't have anyone to take out on the 31st and most of the kids in my neighborhood have grown up and are either in or out of college, the need to decorate should be low on the To Do List.

But it isn't.  I dug out the black plates and the holiday took on a life of it's own.

I started with a napkin. While seeing some of Halloween commercials, I thought about the witches hat and during a long commercial break, I went and got the black napkins and folded one, then another and another until I had enough for the entire table.

Now it was time to go to the store and I found all these wonderful decorations on sale.  The witches hat, needed a pumpkin spray.  This is what I found.

I already had the black plates and the white china.  The placements were hard to find in the number I needed, but eventually I prevailed.

 And how could have set a Halloween table without skulls.  These guys jumped out and I was forced to take them home.

Just a couple more, I said.  At night the candles in the house turn the room to an eerie orange glow.

And finally we were ready for the food.

We're planning to have dinner here on Halloween.  The menu is still under discussion.  Hope you enjoy your time to dress up and collect candy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Your Face on the Cover of a Romance Novel

Have you ever wondered about the models on the cover of romance novels?  Are they professionals or regular people? You could be one.  I'm running a contest to choose a person to appear on the cover of one of my novels.  You can find all the details here where you can read the official rules and find the entry form.

If you want to be on the cover, know someone who does, have a daughter, son, child, grandchild, niece, nephew, son, or other friend or relative interested in the contest, keep reading...

Before you go to the link, here are some of the perks.  The contest is open to anyone (male/female) 18 years or older, regarding of size, age, color or ethnicity, from the forty-eight contiguous states of the United States of America.  We'll fly you to the Princeton, NJ area.

Add ground transportation to get you around the cities, towns, and municipalities of our state. Then we'll install you in a beautiful hotel.

Where you'll relax and eat at the best restaurants.  (There may be a couple of surprises related to the meals, but I can't say what they are now.) 

At this point, the real fun begins.  First the makeover.  A professional makeup artist will apply your makeup to perfection.

Next is the photo shoot.  (smile.)  We've hired a professional photographer to spend time taking your picture from every angle.  He/She will get the best shot(s).

And a little while later, you'll find yourself on the cover of a romance novel  Tentatively, the romance is titled Having the Genius's Baby.  (Of course, that is subject to change.)

Go to the website  and sign up.  Be sure to read the official rules.


Thank you.

And as always, keep reading...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The MUST-HAVE Christmas Present

Happy Holidays!

We've come to my favorite holiday, Christmas. I love everything about it, even the jostling in stores for the perfect gift. I like the snow (not the shelving). I like all the lights and the music. I like the happy smiles on people's faces as they make eye contact instead of just passing by. I like all the Christmas cards spilling out of my mailbox as I open it each day.

As Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years celebrations begin, remember when you were a kid and wanted the must-have toy of the season? [Note: I realize Hanukkah is over, but for the past several years it's occurred in December close to Christmas, so I wanted to include it here.)

For me the toy I had to have was called Mini-Brix. They were the precursor to Legos. I was about seven and I longed for them. You could build things with them just like you can with today's Legos. However, my father said it was a boy's toy and I was a girl. This was prior to the sexual revolution. On Christmas morning the mini-brik were not there. I got a doll and a tea set as all good little girls should want. I didn't grow up to be a great homemaker. I drink coffee more than tea. I also didn't become an architect or work at building anything. I've worked in many types of jobs, that we won't go into as this blog is about the must-have gift.

A few years ago the e-reader, specifically the Kindle was the gift of the season. Then the i's took over: iPod, iPhone, iPad, and now the Apple Watch of the Samsung phone.

What is the toy you want today? If you could get your must-have gift,
what would it be? You're never too old for the perfect holiday present. If I got to sit on Santa's lap and whisper in his ear what I want for Christmas, it wouldn't be anything tangible, no coat or that one (or more) of my books make the New York Times bestseller list (although I wouldn't refuse that). I want peace.


I used to think it was silly during the Miss American Pageant when the contestants said they wanted peace. But I understand now. And I agree with them.

This is probably why I choose to write romance. There is always a happily-ever-after, and the characters remind me of Superman. They stand for truth and justice. So as the year comes to a close, let us all
pray for our soldiers to come home safely, that the sons and daughters of our enemies lay down their weapons and return to their families, and for the world to work for peace.

When you begin to wine down from the aftermath of the holidays, when the family has begun to return to their homes, take a moment to relax with Summer Magic, a three-story anthology from authors, Lorraine Bartlett, Shirley Hailstock and Kelly McClymer. You'll learn the stories of three special guests who arrive at this beautiful inn overlooking the sea on Martha's Vineyard. AMAZON.COM NOOK APPLE KOBO

Sweet Dreams by Lorraine Bartlett: Serious life changes have pushed Paige and Alex Campbell to the brink of divorce. Still, they win a weekend at lovely Blythe Cove Manor and experience vivid dreams. Is there a chance this magical place inspires the nighttime fantasies that could help them fall in love again?
Forever Bound by Shirley Hailstock: What Ellie Sloan finds in the wall of her home sends her to Martha's Vineyard and irrevocably changes her life.

Honeymoon with a Ghost by Kelly McClymer: Wedding planners know that no wedding goes off without a hitch, but most don't expect the groom to vanish hours after the wedding. Emily Stevens heads for her honeymoon suite in Blythe Cover Manor alone, determined to find out who her husband really was.

Until next time, keep reading...

Move Over Julie Andrews - These are My Favorite Things

by Shirley Hailstock

I'm having a Christmas party.  Of course that means cleaning the house, at least the part that the guests will see.  So I'm vacuuming the dining room, when I start thinking about how I love seeing the lines the vacuum cleaner makes on the carpet.  And the idea for this blog comes to me.  This is proof of that common question writers get: where do ideas come from -- from the great and powerful and the mundane and necessary.
So, my first favorite thing is a clean carpet.  Mind you, I don't like being the cleaner.  I avoided the cleaning gene while I was still in the womb.  However, in order to get what I want, something I have to suck it up.  Writing and reading reference:  submitting a clean manuscript to your editor; providing a reader with wonderful experience devoid of typos and distractions that throw them out of the story.

The smell of fresh cut grass is another favorite. I like the smell all summer long, but that first cut of the year is like all the fragrance buds opened up and offered their scent to the wind.  I don't cut my own grass.  I have a service that whips through the process in record time.  Yet, that first cut welcomes the change from winter to spring. Writing and reading reference:  The writer has finally
birthed the baby and she's holding it in your arms, ready to allow someone, a stranger who plucks it off the shelf (real or virtual) to read her story.  It's going to be a new world as soon as she
lets it go.  Her feeling of fear increases ten-fold, until that first review comes in, until she can exhale and allow all the pent-up emotion out.  For readers, a new voice just entered the world and you're there to receive it.  With hope and admiration, you settle in your chair riveted to the pages, waiting for the end, for your ahhh moment as you reach the last page.  That's the first
smell of cut grass.
The heat on my face when opening an oven.  It's a flash of heat, but it's dripping with anticipation.  There's something good in there.  I can feel the heat of it.  At the first snow, I love to make
cinnamon rolls.  They remind me of home when I was a little girl.  We'd make them from scratch, eagerly waiting for them to finish cooking so we could open that oven door.  This brings me to a complementary favorite -- sticky hands.  We couldn't wait for the cinnamon rolls to cool down, so we'd ice and eat them, still hot from the oven, as the icing dripped down the corners of her mouths and onto our hands -- ala sticky hands.  Writing and reading reference:  It's a favorite book.  All writers have one.  Most won't tell you which one.  We don't want you to think there is a best
because the writer's  favorite may not be the reader's favorite.  What sticks to your hands may not stick to mine. But something will stick.  And you won't be able to put the book down.

SMILE-1_MORGUEFILE_3691233875457I love people who smile.  I find that smiling makes the day better.  It begins that way and continues.  This is not to say that life doesn't happen, that disappointments don't come, sometimes in droves, but putting on that happy face can make it feel a lot less irritating.  Long ago, I read something (probably in science class) about it taking more facial muscles to frown than to smile.  I was skinny then and thought smiling would be better.  I still think that and I also know that frowning uses more energy, but not enough to make you lose weight -- so smile.  You'll feel better.  Writing and reading reference:  Books make you laugh and cry.  They touch your emotions and introduce you to fictional family and friends.  They are people you can laugh with and most often, they make you smile. You may not know it, but they do the authors and readers have the same reaction.  Sometimes we're reluctant to let them go.  Readers want another story with their new-found friends.  Writers have new ideas, new directions to travel with the people they've brought to life.  Come on people, let's all get together for a group photo.  Say SMILE.
 I also include chocolate among my favorites (only about a dozen people in the world don't).  However, I'm a chocolate snob, a cheap snob if that's a consolation. I'm a Hershey girl.  I like milk chocolate.  I don't favor expensive chocolates.  When I was in San Francisco, a friend walked me around for an hour trying to find a very famous chocolate store, Ghirardelli.  I'd never heard of them.  (I can hear you gasping.)  I tried several different samples they had in the store, didn't like any of them. I've tried Cadbury Chocolate, Dove Chocolate, Whitman Samplers, Russell Stovers, even Godiva Chocolate (which always reminds me of a naked lady on a horse), and none of them appealed to me as much as a Hershey bar.  There are other favorites in the chocolate category that I adore; chocolate cake with chocolate icing, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, the list goes on.  Writing and reading reference: different books appeal to different people. Some like historical, some small town contemporaries, some Navy Seals, others FBI thrillers, there's something out there for everyone's taste.

could go on listing my favorite things, but Julie has come in and wagged her finger with the enough is enough gesture.  So, let's leave it with a favorite wine, a fireplace with a roaring fire, and good friends.
What are some of your favorite things?

As always, keep reading...