Social Media Friends Are Really Real!

About three years ago I met a lady on social media who has become one of my best friends. Coral McCallum is a fellow writer (among other things like fellow cat lady and fellow rock chick), and today she publishes her second book, Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2). (Find out more about Coral’s books at the end of this post). I am a proud friend, and plan to spend a great part of today reading said book! Just for fun, here’s the blog post I wrote after our first meeting in person. We have met many more times since then, for gigs, for shopping, and for lots of coffee. 😀

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I took a jaunt down the west coast of Scotland this weekend, to meet a friend. Namely, one Coral McCallum, who I’ve been chatting to on Facebook and Twitter for months. Coral is a writer, and decided at the beginning of the year to join in the blogging world. Do visit her blog for short stories, poetry, and mad anecdotes involving rock music and cats (do you see why we get on? 😉 )

Coral and I met online through our shared love of rock music, and in particular, Mr Myles Kennedy, lead singer extraordinaire with Alter Bridge and Slash. Once we got chatting properly, we discovered we also both liked cats, coffee, and carrot cake. As we are only about an hour’s drive from each other, we started talking about meeting up in person. I hadn’t visited Coral’s neck of the woods for many years and thought a wee road trip might be in order. Coral had also been bigging up her local coffee shop, so with the promise of caffeine and cake, I pointed my little car west on Saturday afternoon.

The morning had been very wet and windy, but by the time I set off it was just windy. The sun was even making an attempt to come out. It was a pleasant drive down the edge of the river Clyde, even if the view was still a bit obscured by cloud. I followed Coral’s very clear instructions to the coffee shop, and was rewarded by the sight of her waving at me as I approached (I have a very distinctive car, covered as it is with bright yellow AA stickers). After parking on the sea front and nearly being blown away, we dived inside and began chatting. It’s slightly weird meeting someone face to face after you’ve only spoken to them online. We’d had some pretty in depth chats but it’s different doing it in person. Fortunately neither of us decided we couldn’t stand the other, so over a delicious Latte for me and Americano for Coral, we talked cats, music, family, and more cats. We both had carrot cake and I have to say, the coffee shop lived up to expectations. Yum!

Coral had very kindly invited me for dinner, and had obviously decided during our coffee shop meeting that I wasn’t a nutter (well, not too much), and I was safe to invite to the house. After a quick tour of the town shops (during which I bought the first of this year’s Christmas presents – go me!) we made a small convoy to her home. I got to meet the human family and three out of four of the cat family. The missing one was off on an adventure and hadn’t been home for a few days, the scamp. (He has since returned safe and sound). Cue more coffee drinking, listening to said rock music, and general chit chat about everything under the sun. I admired Coral’s book collection. Unsurprisingly, very similar to mine, with classics, time slip/historical stuff, and fantasy – including Mr Tolkien, of course. After being fed lasagne and two helps of cheesecake for dinner (not in the same bowl), I set off home after a very enjoyable, cake-filled day.

I like to think of this as one of the good examples of using social media. It’s unlikely Coral and I would have met otherwise, and we’ve each discovered a new friend. We’ve both made friends overseas due to our shared interests, and it may be that more of us will meet up one day. Several of the friends want to visit Scotland, so no doubt there will be more coffee and dare I say, wine drinking, if that happens!

Strangely enough, the one thing we didn’t chat about as much as you might think was our rock star crush, the lovely Myles Kennedy. So we’ll have to rectify that on our next meeting. I also completely forgot to take any selfies of our day together, so people will just have to take our word for it that we did actually meet. We’re going to a rock gig in Glasgow together next month, to see the fantastic Halestorm. Must take some pics then. Roll on many more coffee shop visits together!

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Happy Book Birthday, Coral! xx

Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2):

After a successful tour, Jake, Lori and the rest of Silver Lake are busy making plans for the future – new arrivals, new business ventures, new music and a new tour.
An unexpected turn of events throws these plans into turmoil.
Life for Silver Lake will never be the same again.
Can Jake and Lori maintain their relationship, gruelling schedules and overcome tragic losses?
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find how strong you truly are.
Friendship, love, family and music dominate this contemporary romance as the Silver Lake family rise from seemingly Impossible Depths.

To purchase Impossible Depths (Silver Lake series Book 2), click here (UK), or here (US).

Some stock pics above from the west of Scotland, since I neglected to take any photos. 🙂

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RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

A great writer left us for the next chapter today. His writing makes me laugh – and cry, often at the same time. He will always be one of my biggest influences. A man who loved cats, and witches, and theatre, and music, and werewolves, and dragons, and who wrote powerful women. I will miss having new works to read, but what an amazing legacy he has left the world.
Goodbye, Sir Terry. I’m sure you and Death are having a curry, surrounded by cats, in a dodgy Discworld cafe. Give Binky a sugar lump from me.

Jumping on the 50 Shades Bandwagon, Or, Me Ranting About Sex In Writing

As a writer of erotica, I’ve followed the whole 50 Shades debate with interest. I’ve read all three books; yes, I enjoyed them. I haven’t seen the film yet. I don’t have any fantastic insights or conclusions to add, I’m sure, but here’s my two penn’orth anyway. 😉

Number one pet peeve: the people who are criticising the book when they haven’t read it. Or if they have, they’ve read a different book to me. I know everyone takes different stuff away from a book: that’s the beauty of one. But some of the things people have said are so inaccurate that I began to question if my memory was going wonky. So I’ve just re-read all three books. Nope, turns out they just hadn’t read it.

Yes, it’s not the most brilliantly written thing I’ve ever read. Neither is it by far the worst. So what? I thought it was a page-turner, but not everyone will. That’s fine.

Several people have said Christian ‘stalks’ Ana at the beginning of the book, until she agrees to have a relationship with him. Ahem…I should probably be locked up then, because I did the same to most of the guys I fancied when I was younger. I didn’t have access to a helicopter, a private jet, or even a fast car, but as far as my meagre finances would allow, I turned up at their workplace, their watering hole, and made sure I got noticed. Did it work? Sometimes. Did I ever get a lasting relationship out of it? Ask hubby.

Oh, and I’ve been stalked. House watched, harassing phone calls, and physically attacked. That’s a story for another time, but for me, what Christian does is not stalking.

It’s a STORY. This is the big one, isn’t it?

Should we not have these stories, because some people might take them as gospel truth, or some kind of handbook on how to have a relationship?

Some of you will say, ah, but, these stories aren’t necessary. Why do we need stories about kinky sex, fucked-up people (ooh, I swore), and odd relationships? Well, by the same standard, why do we need stories about dragons, spaceships, and Superman? Let’s get rid of all those too. Ah, but those stories don’t harm anyone. Tell that to the young me who jumped out of her bedroom window to see if she could fly. (I can’t, but I have great balance and I can land really well. Otherwise that story would have ended very differently). And yes, I knew even back then that I was being stupid. I did it anyway. There lies the story of human nature.

I got most of my sex education in my early teens from Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel. My mum had told me the mechanics of sex when I asked, aged 10. She explained very well, too, but what she couldn’t explain was passion, desire, or even love. My parents didn’t have a loving relationship. I learned about those from books. I also learned about wanting the wrong person, making the wrong decisions, why drugs and sex can be a dodgy mix, and all kinds of other stuff. Did I think that what I read was ‘reality’? No! Was it the definitive way to conduct a relationship or a sex life? No. Did I think ‘Hmm, I might like to try that?’ Yes.

What did I learn from reading trashy sexy novels? That men and women can both be monsters. That women can be empowered and take charge in and out of the bedroom. That playing around with different sex scenarios can be fun. IF YOU WANT TO.

There can be true love, great sex, and all points around and in between. There can also be crap relationships and crap sex. There can be abuse from both men and women. These things I didn’t learn only from books.

Aren’t we just catering to the lowest common denominator if we don’t write, film, paint, sculpt, whatever, this kind of stuff? Isn’t it just another example of ‘dumbing down’? Surely the answer is BETTER EDUCATION. About fiction, about fantasy, and that crossing it over to reality should only happen WHEN YOU WANT IT TO.

Ana chooses to try Christian’s way. She enjoys it, and when she asks him to go further to see what it’s like, and hates it, she dumps him and leaves. They get back together, but then he has to make changes if he wants to be with her, because she doesn’t like all the stuff he likes. So.

I like a straightforward romance as much as the next person. I also like to have my buttons pushed every so often. Damaged people are much more fascinating to read about than sweet, simpering heroes and heroines. The rogue cop who gets results is way more interesting than the policeman who does it by the book. Don’t we just love the maverick doctor who takes risks and saves the patient’s life with an unorthodox treatment? In real life, the lines will never be so neatly drawn.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

Winter Warmers

This post was originally written for a blog hop last year, but I thought I’d revisit it for Julie Valerie’s Hump Day Blog Hop. Bloggers – join Julie on the last Wednesday of every month, share a link and read others. Readers – get lots of varied content in one place. Result!

This is a very sad snowman. I shall post a proper one shortly.

This is a very sad snowman. I shall post a proper one shortly.

So for this blog hop, I had to name the following things:

Favourite song with winter in the title or lyrics:

In the Bleak Midwinter sung by any lovely cathedral choir, at a midnight service on Christmas Eve/Day. I’m not a religious person, but I love this.

Favourite book about winter:

I’m going to name three. They’re about Christmas as well, and I always re-read them at this time of year:

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper – second in a series of five amazing books, filled with adventure and Celtic mythology. Will wakes on his eleventh birthday on Midwinter Day, to discover he is the last of the Old Ones of the Light, tasked with protecting the world from the rising Dark. He must seek out six ancient ‘signs’ to help turn back the Dark. This is the book that started my love of legends and magic.

Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher – a good old-fashioned love saga, perfect for curling up with next to a roaring fire. A group of ill-assorted people of all ages are brought together in an old house for Christmas. Will it be a disaster – or the best Christmas ever? And it’s set in the Scottish Highlands.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett – the Discworld’s version of Christmas is even better than ours. Featuring Death, and his granddaughter Susan, two of my favourite Pratchett characters. What happens when Death has to stand in for the Hogfather? Can Susan save the Discworld from the machinations of the evil Mr Teatime? If you don’t read Pratchett (why not??) this will sound like gobbledygook, but it’s brilliant.

You can see how battered my copy of Winter Solstice is...

You can see how battered my copy of Winter Solstice is…

Favourite ‘hot’ winter film:

‘Hot’ as in featuring a sexy man? Hmm…

The Holiday as it stars Jude Law. Understated British sexiness. Or Chalet Girl – Bill Nighy can be my sugar daddy any day. 😉

Favourite winter memory:

I’m going to be soppy and say the first Christmas hubby and I spent together. We put so much thought into our presents (even though we had very little money), we got a real tree, and we had a Christmas dinner that could have fed six people (the cat got a lot of it). It was magical, and we’ve tried to make it that way ever since. Aaww!

Favourite winter holiday destination:

You know, I like the crisp coldness of winter in Scotland. Okay, sometimes that’s rainy slushiness instead, but I think winter should be cold and summer should be hot. Don’t mix them up. So if I went somewhere, it would have to be cold and snowy. Vermont? Austria? Anyone want to pay for a holiday for me??

Snowman on Calton Hill, Edinburgh. Pic courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Snowman on Calton Hill, Edinburgh. Pic courtesy of bbc.co.uk

What books will be in your suitcase this winter?

All of the ones listed above. Also: The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan, A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett, and many others! 🙂

Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Release Day Blitz for ‘Rescued’, by Felice Stevens

Today, I’m pleased to let you all know about a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting. It may surprise some of you to find out that this cynical, smarty-pants, vampire-and-werewolf-lovin’ girl enjoys reading a good romance. What?! So when my friend Felice Stevens told me she was writing her first male/male romance, I could hardly wait. Read all about ‘Rescued‘ here. Love is love. xx

 

Release Day Banner.jpgBook Blurb: Ryder Daniels has spent the last year recovering from rejection: his parents couldn’t accept his sexuality and his lover chose drugs over his love. The only bright lights in his life are his younger brother and his rescued pit bull. But now his mother’s punishment for his lifestyle has cut him off from his brother he loves so deeply. Devastated, he throws himself into the work of the Pit Bull Foundation he and his friends started.
FS_Rescued_coverinJason Mallory can no longer hide the dissatisfaction of his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. When her marriage ultimatum pushes him to break things off, he’s determined not to jump into the dating scene. But when a group of injured pit bulls are found on his construction site, he can’t forget the guy who shows up to help.

After Jason adopts one of the dogs, he and Ryder become fast friends—until one night, Ryder lets down his guard and Jason recognizes his desire. Soon, they can’t deny the passion between them but will family differences and ugly prejudices keep them apart, or can they fight to prove that love is precious, no matter the flavor?

Author Bio: Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. She believes that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. She started reading traditional historical romances when she was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels became renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her tastes shifted. While she still enjoys a juicy Historical RescuedPromo5.1romance, she began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. And once she picked up her first, she became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, she knew she wanted to write her own.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of her own. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. She practices law but daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

Connect with Felice Stevens
Website | Facebook | Twitter |

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A Taste of Freedom? (Flash Fiction)

I mentioned in my last post that many of the exercises I did for my Creative Writing course turned into stories in their own right. A lot of them are short pieces – spot on for flash fiction.

The following piece was written for this exercise:
Write a 500 word scene in which a character feels trapped in his or her surroundings with no immediate prospect of escape.
Of course, that prompt lends itself to my slightly dark style. 😉 Hope you enjoy it.

 

A Taste of Freedom?

She felt the accusation of the books all around her. We’ve never been read, they seemed to shout. We’re trapped here behind these glass doors. Surely you can understand that? We want somebody to free us, dust us off, see what’s inside. There are wonders in here, if only someone would look.

She didn’t know why she kept coming back to the library. Maybe because it was the only part of the house where she could still feel her mother. In this room, she still raged silently at her, just as she had when mum was alive. Mum, who had shackled her here, even more so now that she was gone. Mum, who had wanted everyone to see that she owned this house, this library, and these books. Reading them wasn’t the point. Appearance was what mattered, not what was on the inside.

The fuchsia tapped on the window, stirred by the rising wind. She should do something about that. But she daren’t tackle it herself, and there was no money to hire a gardener. The overgrown garden meant that the room was dark even on the sunniest of days. She should clean the windows, as well – that would help. She snorted. Help with what? Having a clear view of the world outside that she was never going to be a part of? Even the journey to the gate to collect the post was an ordeal.

The bookshelves dominated the room. Their mahogany did nothing to lighten the atmosphere, being a serious, oppressive kind of wood. Of course, it had been chosen because it was expensive. It was too dark for the room, even when the windows had been clean and unobstructed by branches. Now, the unpolished cabinets just added to the gloom.

She sat down in the old chair by the fire (unlit, of course), and stared at the shelves. The ones nearest to her held travel books. She was staring at faraway places, journeys by land and sea, unusual foods and exotic drinks. Dare she slide back the glass doors; take out a volume and read of these things? Would she sense her prison even more keenly? Or would she be transported to another world in the only way she could, feeling sand between her toes, smelling spices, hearing snatches of conversation in a foreign tongue and trying to work out what was being said? She imagined her mother, checking that the staff had dusted and polished, that the glass doors were clean so everyone who visited was able to read the titles. She had never seen her mum read a book in her life. What a waste of time, when there were neighbours to impress, social gatherings to attend, and her less-than-perfect daughter to worry about.

She threw back the door, freed the first book she put her hand on, and sat back in the chair, trembling. On an impulse, she jumped back up, opened every case, and took a title from each one. She left the doors open. Curling up in the chair, she piled the books on the table beside her, and set the first one on her knee. ‘Travels in Egypt’, the cover said, above a symbol of an eye surrounded by curly lines and strange markings.

She opened the book and began to read.

Dusk and Summer Blog Tour – please welcome my friend Joseph Pinto

DuskAndSummer_JosephAPinto_PostCard

Joseph Pinto has been touring the internet, supporting his novella Dusk and Summer. Dusk and Summer was written as a tribute to his father, who he lost to cancer in 2007. Joseph was one of the first fellow writers I met online, and he has been wonderfully helpful and supportive of my writing. So please help me in welcoming Joseph as he shares his post…

A Rare Tribute

Joseph A. Pinto

Dusk and Summer is unlike anything I’ve ever written before. Once I read my draft over for the first time, I realized it was also unlike anything I’d ever read before. I’d managed to share something very rare and special…

Dusk and Summer is based on my father’s life; a tribute written for him over six years ago after he passed away from a fifteen month battle with pancreatic cancer. I’d never experienced a loss of such magnitude before, and it tore a huge hole in my very being. I’d stayed strong for my father as he waged his war, but watching him struggle, his suffering… it eroded me. Little choice existed but to keep it all inside; I could not let him see me suffering as well. He was fighting the monster known as pancreatic cancer, and I was fighting it with him – all the while fully aware of the eventual outcome. Once he passed, a dam broke loose inside me and the pain nearly swept me away.

Eventually, after six months of being grief stricken and not knowing how to process my loss, I came to the realization that I had to do something to make sense of it all, if such a thing even existed. I sat down to write what I’d initially believed to be a vessel of sorts for my emotions, but it unexpectedly transformed into a fantasy story. Inspired by my father’s passion for the sea, Dusk and Summer was born.

When I was a boy, my father was an avid diver. He belonged to a New Jersey diving association and took to the water as often as he could. For a man who worked so hard to provide a good life for his family, this was his release; his place of freedom and transformation. After a day out at sea, he would return home with trinkets and baubles he’d found while diving; they kept me mesmerized. The thought that my father, who was already a hero in my eyes, could conquer the bottom of the ocean and bring back its treasures made him larger than life – greater than Poseidon; a Zeus in his own right. The diving association had presented him with a sweatshirt covered in patches from the wrecks he’d dived; it became a magical and mystical thing to me, the stuff legends were made of. Little did I know that as a man, while chasing my own transformation and dream, I’d be immortalizing him in the legend he himself inspired within me.

Dusk and Summer is a book of love and loss; it’s a tribute to a man that lived his life larger than any man has a right to.I It’s the raw inspiration that grants me that same right, one that I hope to pass on to my daughter. It is also a book of hope, of dreams made real, and a fantasy world beneath the waves that is my gift to the man who did one simple thing – inspire me to fight for my own dream and never quit – no matter how bad the odds may look.

If you decide to read Dusk and Summer, you’ll experience a blend of fantasy and reality that allows a son to realize the man he knew as his father was indeed larger than life. A realization that not only did his father belong to this world, but another as well; one found in the soft, fading light between Dusk and Summer.

Thank you Joseph. Now let’s take a closer look at Dusk and Summer… And there will be an excerpt too!

DuskAndSummer_JosephAPinto_FrontCoverOnlyDoes Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.”

–Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon:

US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil

CreateSpace

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes (Apple)

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JosephAPinto_HeadShot_3x4_9702_SeaLightAqua_5contrast_borderABOUT THE AUTHOR – Joseph A. Pinto is the horror author of two published books and numerous short stories; he is a member of the Horror Writers Association as well the founder of Pen of the Damned, a collective of angst and horror driven writers. Indulge in his unique voice on his personal blog josephpinto.com and PenofTheDamned.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephAPinto. Joseph hails from New Jersey where he lives with his wife and young daughter.

Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads

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There’s a Giveaway too!!

Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Dusk and Summer by Joseph A. Pinto to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!

Win 1 of 5(five) copies of Dusk and Summer by Joseph A. Pinto!

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And now an excerpt from Joseph Pinto’s Dusk and Summer…

The Good Fight

I lost my father between dusk and summer.

Perhaps he left me long before I care to admit, long before he refused his last meals, long before his spent eyes flickered like candles behind cracked panes of some forlorn, abandoned house. Before his neglected muscles jellied into the folds of his stark white hospital sheet, and the rise of his chest grew shallow and weak. Maybe it was plain selfishness on my behalf; sitting at his bedside all those times, soothing his ears with encouragement as I squeezed his hand, desperate to impart the very courage and determination he had infused into me over my years. Even as he relied on me to raise a flimsy plastic cup of ice water to his parched lips. Had I become too scared to realize or just too blinded to ask: whose fight did this now become?

“…find me… from Tolten…”

I could have dismissed the words from his cracked lips as merely disoriented chatter, but his mouth pursed them too purposely, his tone too firm. Still, my father’s words jolted me from my bedside vigil. I bent over his thinning form, promptly taking his hand into mine.

“…go… now,” he croaked, his strength fading.

I held my breath, dared not speak. Gently, I massaged his fingers, marveling how thick and calloused they remained; my own always a child’s within their clasp. Typical blue collar hands, fearless of toil and grime. My father squeezed back, eyes widening. His candlelight flared, sparked brilliantly a moment before blinking away. I knew then I had been wrong. Someone remained home inside that deteriorating body after all. My father hung on, refusing to surrender. But what little had spilled from his lips now hung heavy between us. The message became clear. My father would not leave me.

Not until I finished his business.

My throat constricted as a terrible heat swelled within my chest. I gritted my teeth, blinked furiously and choked back the tears best as I could. Eventually, I eased him into continuing. A corner of his mouth curled. It gained momentum, spreading across his lips, his smile warming me. From within his cocoon of pillows, my father nodded his approval.

I leaned close, carefully straightening the air tube dangling from his nose. Caressed his cheek, returning his smile as his short, white stubble tickled my palm. Swallowed another blistering lump deeper into my throat. “Tell me what you want me to do, Pops,” I whispered.

***

I listened very intently to the scarce words my father pushed from his lips. Go. 141 Sea Cargo Drive. Manasquan. You’ll know. Go now. He did not tell me what I would find or even what I needed to do. He held the obvious trust that I would just as soon figure it out, and I was not about to question or let him down. I kissed his forehead, told him I would leave, that I would see him later. From the moment my father became sick, goodbyes no longer existed. Only see you laters. As I forced myself from his sallow room, he cleared his throat. Must find me… she… come back from Tolten. I froze, deluged with fear and for the very first time a sense of hopelessness as I questioned, but for a moment, the sanity of his words, the tenuous grip he maintained upon his own reality. No; I would have none of that. I squared my jaw, turned and measured my father. I did not see a sick and dying man. The matted wisps of white hair that returned after his last bout of chemotherapy were gone, transformed into thick, luxurious curls of chestnut locks brushed back in heaps. The sagging skin of his arms now tight, bulging with muscle, the tattoos acquired while stationed in the Air Force as crisp and fresh as the day they were etched. Shoulders squared, again capable of carrying the world as he had done so many times before. Chest, wide and broad—within, the power of a Titan, the pride of a lion. Skin so vibrant and pure. His sickness did not diminish his stature. My father grew before my eyes, every day becoming more the man I had known. I nodded, determined to accomplish what he needed of me.

I nearly collided with the nurse as I left his room. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed.

“No, it was me. I should’ve watched where I was going.”

Her thoughtful eyes washed over me. “How are you holding up?”

My father’s nurse was one of the better ones and tended to him with sincere compassion. Painfully, I had encountered too many who believed my father was just another room number. I regarded her nameplate, my gaze lingering. Dawn. Normally I would have little difficulty remembering. I had seen enough of her—every day for the past week, too many, many times over the past months. All that while, I found it easier to address her with simple hellos, with downcast, fleeting glances. I disassociated myself from the moment she entered his room. For my own self-preservation, I could not bear to voice her name. I had no choice. To do so would have thrown me under the remorseless incandescent glare of reality and I liked it where I was, alone, lost within ignorant shadows. There I could disguise life; the curtained obscurity made things not so real. It took all I could do from dropping my head upon her shoulder and weep. The shrug I managed in response drained all that remained of me.

Hesitantly, Dawn lifted her hand, carefully rested it along my arm. Gave me a soft but reassuring stroke, then slowly pulled away. “The morphine drip you requested is working as well as it could right now. Your dad has been unbelievable, you know. Joking nonstop, up until…”

My features shifted. She read it well. No luxury of morphine existed to mask my own pain. Dawn stole a look down the hall. No one approached. “Has the doctor seen you recently?”

“No more than he needs to, I guess.”

She offered a sad smile. “You should know your father’s kidneys are failing. His… the truth is his entire body will eventually shut down. That’s why his arms… they flop when he tries to raise them. His speech—”

“Incoherent,” I interrupted. Tolten. Tolten. Come back from Tolten. “That is, when he can speak.”

An uncomfortable moment passed. An eternity gutted my soul. “We’ve done all we can. But this is… you need to know this is the last stage. We’re keeping him as comfortable as we can right now.”

She must have believed I was strong enough to handle it. Wise enough to see the writing upon the wall. She knew little of my father’s resolve however, nor of the spirit I lent him all these months, and I was not about to quit.

Eventually, even a fool must realize when one’s own hand cannot bend fate. No matter how hard you try. “I appreciate all you’ve done. I really do.” I gritted my teeth. “That’s a tough sonofabitch in there.”

She nodded. “And a good son out here.”

Tolten. Come back from Tolten. My father’s words haunted me. It was time for me to go. “Can I ask a favor of you?” I said.

“Yes, anything.”

“You have my cell phone number in your contact list. Call me first should… should you need to. But not my mother. Please, spare my mother.”

“Of course,” she answered slowly.

Shuffling away, I whispered, “Thank you, Dawn.” It was at that moment I was dragged from the shadows. Things suddenly became all too real.