Okay, darlings...life gets in the way and time flies but while I have not been great about keeping up on here, I have been busy writing and living and working on another book, the third in the now Sapphire Songbird Series. Any writer today can tell you that adapting to and constantly learning what to do in the continually changing publishing landscape is challenging (to say the least), but key for most of us is sitting down to get more books out and sometimes it becomes a choice, less marketing, more writing. At least that is the case for me, so yes, I made the choice to pull back, market less and write more. So---all I can say is I am on it and there are great things on the horizon for 2018---another book release, more interaction with readers, starting with a newsletter geared to fun history, chats, giveaways and much more. In the meantime, please consider subscribing and join me on social media. The links are below. No spam or bothers. What you will get is a quarterly newsletter, updates and a chance to win books and prizes.
I am so thrilled to announce the release of Mermaid's Treasure, a novella prequel to 'The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes.' In this book, truth is expertly woven with fiction in a riveting story about a sunken Russian battleship, a failed mission, a mysterious treasure, family legacies, the holiday season and learning to believe in the magic of love. It came about when I was challenged to contribute a short story to the Windtree Press, holiday anthology, 'The Gift of Christmas. The story ties into one of the first things of value gangster Johnny Gallo gave to his gal—Hannah. The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes brooch. As it turns out, the brooch isn’t only pricey, it may contain the power to connect the living to the dead.
I have developed an unequivocally, irrevocable passion for the era of the 1920’s because it is one of the most fascinating times in American history—-ever. And, I am pretty sure I lived back then too. That is, (if like I believe), there is such a thing as past lives. If not, then I was stalked and haunted by a persistent girl Hannah and my book is the result of many years of talking to ghosts. That said, the twenties were contrast at its most extreme. From the high life to the low life, people lived hard, worked harder, smoked incessantly, drank continuously and got steady doses of heroin, morphine, cocaine and opium in their soft drinks, candy or medicines. People could get away with murder, and often did. This was the time when people were smart enough to distrust big government and made folk heroes of criminals like Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Al Capone. A time when fortunes were lost or made in a single night and crime got itself organized. And, bee’s knees or gnat’s spats, this rough, bawdy time changed American society forever!
These were the days when a man’s word was gold, a handshake, a contract. A woman couldn't vote but she could own a fella with a flash of leg or a whispered innuendo. And, I mean OWN.
The average American life expectancy was age 53 for a man and 54 for a woman. Forty was almost elderly and definitely not the new thirty! In fact, thirty was middle aged.
The average joe earned $1,236 a year. Respectable jobs for women were few and far between and prostitution could be for some, the only choice between living or dying.
The twenties was a clashing, kaleidoscope of cultures and beliefs. Thousands of immigrants were arriving on American shores daily, anxious to come to the land of opportunity where the streets were reputedly paved with gold. The only true constant for everyone was change, but there really was such a thing as the “American” dream.
People were inundated with new inventions daily; telephones, phonographs, automobiles, electric lights and indoor plumbing, to name just a few.
Fashion was innovative, shocking and often scandalous. Women got rid of their corsets and hiked up their hemlines. They bobbed their hair and painted their faces. Many even smoked and had the nerve to demand equality.
You could buy a home for $1,198 and order it from a Sears catalog.
There was no real middle class; people were either rich or poor. Doctors still made house-calls and often took their pay in goods or services. Most truly cared more about helping people than growing rich and they knew every family in their town.
Women sought a man who would be a good provider. Love was an ideal, something one could grow into over time and marriage was forever, whether you were happy or not. Security was key and divorce, a disgrace. It wasn’t at all uncommon for a man to beat or slap his woman around if she “misbehaved”.
Think rigid societal and moral restrictions and raging social inequities. No human, civil or equal rights. Separate rules, facilities and clubs for the rich, the poor and anyone dark or different. Child and infant mortality rates were high and childbirth could be a dangerous and risky business. No such thing as reliable or safe birth control. If a girl had the misfortune of becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, her family either arranged for the evidence to be removed or destroyed, married her off or threw her out.
In 1916, a young nurse named Margaret Higgins Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. This led to her arrest for distributing information on contraception. Sanger was considered a feminist, which at the time was akin to being diseased.
Date rape, any rape was a disgrace, and rarely, if ever talked about. It always reflected worse on the victim than the perpetrator.
NO #METOO MOVEMENTS THEN.
To that end, incest and abuse were rarely acknowledged. There was no such thing as disclosure- a man didn’t tell his wife or other partners what or who he was doing because he was a man and he had a man’s “prerogatives”. Diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea ran rampant. Hardship breeds adversity but also great creativity.
The twenties birthed the advent and popularity of music, radio and film. It inspired great inventions, fashion, art and the implementation of infrastructure, expressions, laws and institutions…many still used and revered today.
People often ask me why I chose to set my book, ‘The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes’, in this time period. The answer is because this story chose me through a sequence of unusual dreams (See more about that below). And, I became enamored (even obsessed) with this rich, discordant era. A world similar yet so different from the world we all live in today, but a world where despite the hardships, people still had a good time.
The 1920’s like all eras was certainly a time full of contradictions…and yet there was such possibilities. And, as my main character, Hannah in ‘The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes,’ shares -- life
and living, and dying is all about the possibilities.
I am not particularly gullible or someone who accepts the impossible easily but my first introduction to the heroine of "The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes'--Hannah happened way back in 1985. I was 30, living in Southern California, happily married two years and working my 'dream' job as Director of Publications at Chapman University. I had a series of dreams that began right after I attended a lecture on 'Dream Interpretation and Recalling Past Lives.'
I consider myself more spiritual than religious and have always had a curiosity about different viewpoints and an interest in the paranormal. At the time, I was particularly intrigued by the idea of reincarnation and the possibility of recalling past lives. After all, if given a choice between believing that we are here only once or believing in having many lives, I certainly prefer believing the latter. Even today, I keep my mind open to the possibilities because no matter what you believe, no one living (to my knowledge) knows 100% for sure what truly happens when we die so whether you believe in a heaven with harp playing angels, an audience with God, a ride on a UFO or the scary possibility of roasting in Hell for your sins, I think it is important to discern what beliefs feel right and comforting to you. At that time, I was just beginning to define this for myself so this topic intrigued me.
The instructor (who became a friend and later a popular author and spiritual advisor to many), suggested not discounting any odd feelings, images or thoughts we have or may have had. To not discount anything strange as "imagination" and to allow our minds to roam should we experience any unusual ideas, thoughts or images. We were also advised to keep a dream journal by our beds; a notebook to jot down anything we might remember immediately upon awakening.
Of course, I didn't remember any dreams the first few weeks, so I had nothing to write down. Then one night I not only remembered, I had an experience I could not forget.
It happened in the middle of the night and the nightmare was so vivid and scary, it woke me right up.
Startled, heart pounding, I got out of bed and was inundated with images of what I'd been dreaming—both disturbed and excited by how vivid and real it had been. I'd been walking inside a very small, crowded apartment that in the dream I'd recognized as mine, but if the end was any indication, wasn't.
In my present life, I am a neat freak. In the dream, the bedroom was a mess with upturned silk sheets, an overstuffed mattress covered with blankets and pillows; closets and drawers open and spilling over with clothes; everything in the room seeming to bulge from the seams with all manner of fashionable lace, silks and satins; hats, dresses, coats, furs, feathers, shoes and jewels thrown around carelessly. Everything looked expensive and felt familiar yet it wasn't. It looked very old-fashioned, like a twenties movie set.
I seemed to be feeling a gamut of emotions as I made my way through the obstacle course of objects in the small, but well furnished apartment. A sense of pride, connection, sadness and urgency had me torn; reluctant to leave because I wanted to look at everything in the place and touch the things that meant something special to me. But while I was wanting to stay, I was feeling a growing sense of urgency to leave, to run away, escape because if I didn't, I was in great danger and might be hurt or killed.
So back to the place. It was furnished well with rich Persian carpets on real wood floors, walls covered in butternut textured silk fabric and clusters of oil paintings of fruit, flowers and birds in elaborate golden frames.
There was a bedroom, a living room, bathroom and small kitchenette barely worth mentioning. The living room was cozy, rich and dominated by wood furnishings of a quality seen in European castles; there was a green brocade and velvet tufted couch, a caned chair and a dark wood but gilt-edged table.
On that table were some magazines, a newspaper, some framed photos and a letter in a white envelope addressed to a Miss Hannah Glidden at 363 NW Diamond Street, Brooklyn, New York.
It was from her mother. How I knew that, I don't know but I knew she called her 'Mama" and thinking of her made her sad, as did thinking of a man named Ray. I could picture him in her minds's eye; a rangy, weathered but good looking man in worn work clothes, with shiny auburn hair and green eyes that could sparkle when he smiled and knew I/she cared for him.
I also remember feeling very attached to all the things in the apartment but also very burdened by them.
Moving over to a narrow, glass étagère littered with fancy, expensive objects I could see a collection of porcelains, mostly songbirds and one in particular stood out and seemed to mean the most. It was a small gold, sapphire and diamond encrusted songbird brooch, the detail exquisite and I picked it up. It had significance because it was very beautiful and brought back good memories being the first expensive gift I'd received from my lover. The moment I thought of him though, a tumult of emotions hit and the fear I'd felt earlier returned full bore.
Not sure why or who he was...husband...lover...confused and disoriented I knew I needed to flee and hurried towards the front door.
There was a coat rack and a small gilded mirror on the wall by the door and I happened to glance into it and got jolted wide awake.
Freaked out. It wasn't me at all, but someone else. A blue-eyed, blonde girl with bobbed hair about my age at the time (25) with a Jean Harlow hairdo and realizing how weird this was, I reached for my journal.
Scared and excited by how vivid and real this dream had been, it was still the middle of the night but I wrote down what I remembered.
Even thought it was chill-worthy, I just had to know why it had been so vivid. Was it a past-life memory, imagination or something else? And, I wanted to know what and who she was so scared of. Who those people were to her. And, what had happened to her. Going back to bed, I forced myself to relax. We had been encouraged to breathe through any fears that may arise and to keep our minds open and ourselves calm. It wasn't long before I fell asleep again.
Amazingly, I found myself back in that same room and in that dream again. Believe it or not, I woke and returned to that dream two more times that night.
The second time I saw a brownstone like the ones in New York City and a dark-haired man in a hat shadowed by two other men on each side of him entering it. I saw them get into a small elevator, the kind that had a glass and black iron gate.
Dressed in overcoats and baggy pants and hats, they looked like a scene from The Untouchables.
Back in the body of the woman in the dream, I felt her name was Hannah and felt her fear and thoughts as if they were my own. Because she was so scared and confused I could not tell if the man was coming to get her or already had.
I couldn't tell if he was her husband or lover but knew he was someone close to her, someone she'd loved and someone she feared. I knew the one in the middle was her/my lover. Dangerous. Not a man to cross.
I could picture him quite clearly. He was extremely handsome with black hair and soulless dark eyes. He looked Italian or Latin and the name Johnny seemed to whisper at me.
I seemed to share Hannah's memories and feel her emotions as if they were mine. She'd been very much in love with this man and for a time, they'd been happy but things had changed. Tired. Burdened. She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. He'd been good to her, generous but he was controlling. He had deceived her and was not the man she thought he was and she'd grown unhappy. She felt there weren't a lot of options open to her; she didn't feel she could give up the lifestyle she'd gotten used to or desert her career as a singer. And, she knew Johnny would never let her go. He’d kill her rather than let her leave him. In her view, there was no way out, no escape and she was trapped.
I first dreamt about Hannah in 1986. After that, I spent time at the library trying to see if I could find data to substantiate her actual existence. In the meantime. my life and career continued to flourish. I became the mother of two with very little time for indulging what seemed like a strange whim. Still, the dreams opened a floodgate that in time would not be ignored. Hannah and a variety of the characters in her life began to haunt me. There were many nights I couldn't sleep for their voices in my head, each with a unique accent or tone, each wanting to tell their version of this story.
I didn't get a chance to write Hannah's story until many years later but by then, I was convinced I had to do it.
'The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes' is not only about my search for knowledge or the chance to understand dreams, muses or the paranormal, and it did become an exciting and enlightening journey, a chance to follow a desire that became a dream and in the doing, profoundly affected me.
It not only forced me to follow the long path to learn all I could to become a writer, but it forever changed the way I view life - and death.
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