Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Update on our moving

We sold our home in Southern California. The escrow closed on December 7th. We drove one car with a small trailer carrying our important belongings and some essential items and left Orange County, California at 6:30 am on that day to beat the Downtown Lost Angeles traffic. People seem to get on the road earlier and earlier to get to work. At 6:30 am, traffic was bumper to bumper for at least 30 miles. I remember getting on the road around 6:00 am to be at work by 8:00 am. It seems people these days must start at 5:00 am or earlier if they work in the Los Angeles area. We took two days to reach my daughter Mercy’s home in Portland, Oregon.

We left California at 63°F and arrived in Portland, Oregon at 42°F. I bundled up the first few days. Eventually, my body got used to the cold. The weather got freezing the last few days. It was 21°F on Thursday, December 22nd and we woke up with snow on the ground on Friday. The grandkids had fun playing sleds. Lynton joined the kids sliding down the hills. The snow is melting this Saturday morning. We may not have a white Christmas tomorrow.

My daughter’s backyard

After we arrived in Portland, we started going to the home showings. We visited four homes and fell in love with one. By December 13th, we made an offer on one house. The escrow will be closed on January 10th. The home was built in the early 1990s and it was a custom home. The kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities are original. We got a break from the sales price to do the upgrades. It will be lovely when the improvements are done.

Our new home is about 18 to 20 minutes from Mercy’s home. The gym, nature parks, shopping, and our basic needs are within a 10 to 15 minutes drive.

We’ll move into our new home upon closing escrow. Lynton’s niece is getting married in February. So we’ll wait until February to return to California, attend Lynton’s niece’s wedding, then rent a moving truck to bring the rest of our belongings.

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas

and a Happy New Year!

From our family to you and yours!

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Smorgasbord Christmas Book Fair 2022 – #Memoir #Cancer Miriam Hurdle, #Romance Ritu Bhathal, #Crimethriller Carol Balawyder

This is the wonderful time of the year! Sally at the Smorgasbord Magazine features my book, The Winding Road, at her Christmas Book Fair. Please head over to her blog to check out the book recommendations throughout the Book Fair.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the Smorgasbord Christmas Book Fair with a selection of books from personally recommended authors on my bookshelf I believe will make wonderful gifts for friends, family and for you.

The first book today is the poignant memoir by Miriam Hurdle…it is an inspiring read and I can recommend The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival.

About the book

In the summer of 2008, Miriam Hurdle was diagnosed with melanoma-an aggressive and invasive cancer in her internal organs. The survival rate before 2008 was low. Besides risking harsh treatments for a slim chance of survival, Miriam had hoops to jump through. By the time she received treatment at the beginning of 2009, her cancer had progressed from stage II to stage IV. It was a rough and uphill winding road. But alongside her was support and encouragement. Accompanied by the love of her family and community, this…

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Update on Our Moving

I seemed to disappear on the face of the earth. Well, in fact, my world is like a whirlwind currently. I flew to Portland Oregon two days before Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with my daughter Mercy and her family. The day after Thanksgiving, we drove from Portland to Victoria, BC, to attend my sister’s wedding on Saturday. My other sister, Yolanda, and her husband from Hong Kong came to the wedding. It was exciting to see them. We saw each other in 2019 when my husband and I, and Mercy’s family, went to their son’s wedding in Hong Kong. Yolanda and her husband were happy to see their daughter and son-in-law in Vancouver after the wedding. I was happy to spend a few days with Yolanda’s family before returning to California on Wednesday, November 30.

We soon will say goodbye to our home of 33 years. I’ve lived in this home longer than any homes I had ever lived in the previous years of my life. Will I miss it?

I always wanted to move close to my daughter in Portland after my retirement from the public-school education. I’ve stayed in Southern California for many reasons.

For business reasons, prior to the pandemic, I was still running a private business, an after-school program as my second job since 1989. I considered it to be a service to the students and to the working parents. It was hard for me to discontinue the program. When the California schools closed for in-person attendance, the after-school programs ceased to operate. Even when schools re-open, the public schools didn’t have clear state guidelines for the after-school programs as far as wearing masks or no masks and other safety requirements. During the two years of non-operation, my after-school staff found other jobs. It would be hard for me to hire new staff and train them. I officially closed the program in January 2021.

For personal reasons, most of my friends are in Southern California since I live in this part of the country the longest. I came to Los Angeles in 1980, right after I finished school in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. I lived in Los Angeles for 6 years, in San Bernardino County for 3 years, and have lived in Orange County since 1989. Yet my friends are diminishing for many reasons. Some friends moved to other states to be closer to their grown children’s families. Some friends have declining health and are no longer active in their social life. Sadly, some had reached the end of their earthly life because of prolonged illness and cancer.

The biggest reason was that my husband wanted to be close to his mom. Most of my husband’s siblings live in Riverside. His mom also lived in Riverside by herself after her husband passed away. My husband called her on the phone regularly to check on her. He and I visited her until she moved to a Memory-Care home. When her dementia got worse, it was hard for her to talk on the phone. We drove an hour each way to visit her, but she couldn’t carry on a conversation with us. Eventually, she died of other complications in June 2022. At the end of August, my husband expressed an interest in moving to Portland to be close to Mercy and the grandkids. He said his mom’s passing made him feel free of the obligation to stay in California.

Our home search in Portland, Oregon, began toward the end of August. We made offers on three homes but withdrew them for different reasons. We withdrew the first offer because the inspector found some structural damage and we didn’t want to negotiate with the seller. On the second offer, there was another offer prior to ours. For the third offer, the interest rate started skyrocketing. We decided to sell our current home before buying another one.

We worked with an agent to list our home in mid-October. Fortunately, we got two offers after 12 days of being on the market. One offer was secured, and the closing of the escrow will be on December 7, 2022. In the meantime, we moved all our belongings to storage. On the day of closing the escrow, my husband and I will drive one car to Portland and ship one other car there. We’ll stay with my daughter while searching for a new home.

The search process is challenging. I hope we’ll have a smoother process in finding a home that was meant for us.

Distant Flickers, Anthology by Liz Gauffreau and 7 Authors – Blog Tour

What a delight to have my friend, an author, poet, Latin and writing teacher, preacher’s kid, and Navy wife, Liz Gauffreau, to be on my blog today. She is a contributing author of Distant Flickers, an anthology by 8 accomplished authors.

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Description:

~ 8 Accomplished Authors
~ 10 Memorable Stories
~ Compelling Characters at a Crossroads
~ What Choices Will They Make?

The emotive stories in this anthology take readers to the streets of New York and San Francisco, to warm east coast beaches, rural Idaho, and Italy, from the early 1900s, through the 1970s, and into present day.

A sinister woman accustomed to getting everything she wants. A down-on-his luck cook who stumbles on goodness. A young mother who hides $10 she received from a stranger. The boy who collects secrets. A young woman stuck between youth and adulthood. Children who can’t understand why their mother disappears.

The distinct and varied characters in Distant Flickers stand at a juncture. The loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, oneself. Whether they arrived at this place through self-reflection, unexpected change, or new revelations—each one has a choice to make.

Book information:

Title: Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss

Genre: Short Story Anthology

Universal Purchase Link:

https://books2read.com/-distantflickers?format=all

Book Trailer:

Contributors’ Bios:

Excerpt:

Opening Paragraph

“The Woman in Question”

by Jim Metzner  

It smells like what it is, a hospital room cleaned with some serious chemistry.

A window with a bit of a view, a rolling cabinet with a box of tissues, pitcher of water, paper cups and a vase holding some daffodils. A gaze pans to the main attraction, Sophia Marquez, lying on a bed center stage. The woman I married twenty years ago, inspiring poems about bringing candles of love into the cavern of a lonely life.

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My Review

“A distant flicker reaches us like a star, a distant flicker of light. A sharp, quick spark.” I enjoyed reading this anthology and finished it in one sitting. I love every one of the stories.

Where Secrets Go to Hide by Keith Madsen tells the story of a six-year-old boy. He collects secrets like others collect dolls, coins, stuffed animals, or seashells. He refers to it as some secrets are chosen for him when people start telling him things or he starts observing things he later finds out he is not supposed to observe. He refers to keeping the secrets as storing them from head to toe inside of his pajama with feet that have no way to escape. It must have been a burden for a little boy to carry the secrets into his adulthood.

Norfolk, Virginia, 1975 by Elizabeth Gauffreau is a time capsule of East Ocean View before urban renewal in the1980s. It’s about a young girl who is married, living in a dirty town with her husband and the baby. They rent an apartment with a shower stall but no shower curtain. Her husband falls on the slippery floor and wants her to get a shower curtain. The next day, she walks a long distance trying to buy a cheap shower curtain. She meets a stranger on the way. This encounter opens her eyes to her life and her situation.

A Spoonful of Soul by Rita Baker is a story about a homeless person, Otto. He sits next to a restaurant, waiting for the chef to give him a cup of coffee and a roll. A customer’s comment brings back his memories. This story reminds me of a homeless person who used to be a radio broadcaster with a golden voice. Every homeless person has a unique story.

The stories are based on real situations in the past or the authors’ personal experiences. Each story focuses on a person’s event or situation and infuses it with a spark. It sheds the light on what people “are capable of doing to cope, to recover, to heal, and what we can become as a result-good or evil.” I find the stories insightful, reflective, and sensational. I highly recommend this beautiful book to any reader to enjoy.

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Contributing Author Elizabeth Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

Website/Blog: https://lizgauffreau.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Gauffreau/e/B07NTZFVSF?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau

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Natural Selection (Dawn of Humanity Book 3) by Jacqui Murray – Virtual Book Blast

It’s my great pleasure to host this virtual book blast for Natural Selection (Dawn of Humanity Book 3) by Jacqui Murray. Jacqui and I followed each other on an exercise app Strava, and give kudo to each other. When her son was in Japan, he signed up for the app also. It was wonderful to watch her son’s walking trails!

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Blurb

In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribemembers captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Book information:

Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available in print or digital at: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B0B9KPM5BW

Book trailer:

I asked Jacqui to share some insight about the early man with us. This is the topic I asked her to share.

Was Early Man Spiritual?

The answer to this question—was early man spiritual–is complicated. There is no obvious evidence that our earliest ancestors—like the character Lucy in my novel—was spiritual. They didn’t bury their dead. They didn’t draw on cave walls or carve statuettes of creatures that looked nothing like those who inhabited their environs. They didn’t write on rocks or tablets, sing songs or tell stories that were passed on to children and tribe members. If Lucy prayed, she left nothing behind to prove that to scientists and researchers. The limited artifacts available from earliest man indicates nothing about activities pursued other than those of their prime instinctive directive–to procreate and survive. It would be over a million years before scientists got the first hint of religious behavior from evolving man–he began to bury his dead, sometimes with flowers to ease his passage. 

So, if we can’t find proof in artifacts and cultural remains, how about in their growing brain. Scientists tirelessly study what skulls they have available to see if they provide proof of a belief in something spiritual. Lucy’s brain and those of her kind is larger in different places than other mammals, portions that in modern man we believe is engaged in problem solving and critical thinking. These skills arguably differentiate our genus Homo from the prior genus Australopithecus. As man’s brain continued to evolve, those portions continued to grow as did man’s skill with symbolic and critical thinking, and maybe—or maybe not—spiritual belief. 

None of this says the early man was or wasn’t spiritual. All it says is, whichever it was, we can’t prove it.

My Review

In Natural Selection, Book 3 of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Garv found Lucy and started their own tribe, separate from Raza. Raza’s tribe members were captured by Xha’s former tribe. Lucy traveled a great distance to track down the captors in order to rescue the captives. The temporary new leader, Advak, and the leaders in Xha’s tribe captured Raza and his tribe members to be their slaves. Some slaves did as demanded, feared of being killed. Xha joined Lucy and her tribe to search for his former tribe and claimed he was a more capable leader of his tribe. Lucy confirmed Xha was not among the captors.

During the journey, Lucy showed her communication skills through facial expressions, hand gestures, and vocal sounds. Lucy had the skill of healing using honey and leaves. There was plenty of action in the wild along their way such as a large pack of hyaena killing a gazelle, nipping at their legs, faces, and chests.

Lucy’s group finally caught up with the captives and realized they had settled into the camp’s routine, complied with demands, and accepted this life as their new reality. Raza survived, but many of his tribe members didn’t. Xha suspected that this home base was where Advak settled and proclaimed to be their new leader. Lucy wanted Xha to take her to the camp as a new captive. When they got there, Xha discovered the warrior Vex was ill. Lucy healed him and established herself as a healer. Lucy wanted Vex to help the captives to escape. In the epilogue, Ms. Murray shared some research and interesting findings about Xha.

This is the first prehistoric thriller I’ve read. Jacqui Murray’s glossary, names of the tribes and their members, questions & answers prior to the first chapter, was very helpful for me to follow the who, where, how, and why. I appreciated her extensive research to create this wonderful fiction.

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Author Bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to the United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. 

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Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/ 

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/ 

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams 

Website: https://jacquimurray.net 

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

One Pack Ends, Another Begins

Africa   

The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack. 

He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed. 

To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.

And fell.

He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river. 

Or a cliff. 

When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor. 

Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.

He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.

I live. 

But no one else in his pack did.

Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.

Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws. 

All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal. 

Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland. 

Why did she go here? 

He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than comfort, or rest. 

Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there. 

But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.

Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.

Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention. 

His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled. 

While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good. 

Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast. 

He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting. 

He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.

Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety. 

Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright world. 

Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle. 

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