Saturday, March 26, 2011


As most of you can testify, I usually don't write in caps. This time, I did. Why? Because it's important to me that you get my message this week. After a decade and a half of writing and struggling to become a published author, I've come to the conclusion that there are a few things a writer can do that will make her/him successful. Looking back, this is chief among them.
To write a character into the imaginary world you create, you must be 'in the skin' of your person. That means you have to know how they think, how they feel, how they will respond to things that go wrong in their lives. What will they do when their plan goes awry, when they fail at whatever they've tried to succeed at, when their best friend betrays them?
Remember, it's when things go wrong that a drama takes flight. All's well is so ho hum, though a bunch of it is necessary to keep the drama from becoing frenetic. But when things go bad, your hero goes into action. Knowing what that action will be is key to the success of your most ardent plotting. How does it feel to love a man and walk into a room to find him making love to your worst enemy? To count on a woman to bail you out of a serious situation, only to learn that she's the one who put you there?
My advice; write the 'book' on each main character. Go to school on them and take copious notes. Then, DO NOT (note the caps again) under any circumstances turn what you've learned into an info dump in the middle of your novel! Use what you need, as you need it, and save the rest for your memoirs. Know more than your reader needs to know about your character and you have the makingss of a great hero.
That's my take on it. What's yours?

Today, I want to share another of my character chats with you. Then I hope you will stick around for the fourth excerpt from my upcoming book: SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY.

It’s the guys turn so we have Dan Morrison (Sleeping with her Enemy), Laz (A Girl’s Best Friend) also known as Rick Diamond, and Matt Riley (Don’t Bet On It). All three had to overcome negative reputations to win out in their stories. Fortunately, all are strong men with plenty of guts and determination. Dan, Rick, and Matt visit with Pat Dale, and give him a bit of a hard time.

Pat: Welcome, gentlemen. Thanks for dropping by to chat with me today.
Dan: Glad to be here, though I should be upset. You darn near got me sent to prison. Why did you do that?
Pat: Sorry, Dan. I didn’t originally plan to, but when I realized Ana had to find your car in that old shed, I was stuck. I could have let you off easy, I suppose. What then might have been because Ana was cheated out of the truth of what happened to her little boy? Would that have been more fair?
Dan: I guess not. Oh well, all’s well that ends well. And I am thankful for the end you came up with.
Pat: (puts finger to lips) Shhh. Don’t give it away. SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY is not due to be released by Muse Publishing for two more weeks.
Dan: Oh, sorry.
Matt: What about my storybook ending? I don’t mind admitting it came out a lot better for me than I’d envisioned when I dived into the flaming water to save that crazy Bud. Even while I was pulling him out of that fire and into Howie’s boat, part of me wanted to knock him in the head and let him burn.
Pat: Wow! He must have got to you more than I realized when I created that scene where he went bonkers.
Matt: Are you nuts? I know my character profile called for me to be cool and calm, but I was anything but that. Especially when he abducted Casssie and I thought he might kill her before I caught him.
Laz: Hey! You sound like you should have been in my line of work.
Matt: What line was that, Laz?
Laz: Deep cover spook service, courtesy of a C.I.A. brainstorm, or C.Y.A. as I called them. I played the part of a diplomat traveling all over the globe, collecting intelligence data for my country. And occasionally mixing it up with various enemy agents.
Pat: (laughs, but hesitates when the others just stare at him) What? You guys jealous that Laz got all the glory for solving the mystery I set up for him?
Dan: Jealous! He just about got himself fried on that damn boat. And then blown to bits in that old Mustang. Why would a sane man be jealous of that?
Matt: I agree. Compared to what you made him go through, I guess I can’t complain about the tough duty you gave me.
Laz: Hold on, mate. You call romancing a sexy doll like Cassie tough duty?
Matt: Well…
Pat: Whoa, you guys. I gave all three of you gorgeous ladies to protect. That’s the 'real' tough duty my heroes have to live up to if they’re to make it into one of my stories. Fighting for your life is one thing, but to stand up to a strong woman? That's hazardous duty in any man's language.
(all three laugh and pass fist butts around)
Matt: Granted, Pat. Cassie is the Alpha and Omega of my days left on Earth.
Pat: Earth?
Matt: Your version of Earth, I concede. And the kids, Candy and Bobby, are awesome! We're going to be a fantastic family.
Dan: Matt, you just made me think. For Sherry and myself, Ana's the dawning of a whole new existence. Thanks, Pat. My story could have turned out a whole lot worse!
Laz: Okay, guys. At the risk of turning this into a campfire session, I have to admit something. With an angel like Laura blessing my life, how can I ever complain? Answer, I can’t. So thanks, Pat. I'll quit my bitching now. (gives Pat a high five, followed by fist-butts all around)
Pat: (looking embarrassed) Hey, you three! You all did just fine, following what had to be the hard way to find your way into the ladies’ hearts the way you all did. I appreciate your willingness to take action as I worked it out. And you all faced possible death to do what had to be done. That’s why I call each of you true heroes that your lady readers will fantasize over. Just don’t tell your girls you've got your women readers panting, will you?
(all laugh again and shake Pat's hand.)
Pat: Well, folks, I guess that’s a wrap for today's chat. Thanks for coming by and listening to these three hunks mix it up. If you’d like to know more about what they went through in saving their damsels in distress, I hoope you'll read their books.

Now for that excert. Remember this is three from the end, so I'm initiating a count-down today. This one is THREE!

Why did I think moving to Colorado would help? The disturbing question reverberated in Ana’s mind as she trudged down the hall, staring at the glimmering nightscape across Fort Collins. From the window of the children’s ward in Front Range Hospital she could see dozens of tiny flickering lights mimicking the stars in the night sky. A wonderful sight for those into wonder, but a curse for Ana who no longer wondered about much of anything.
It was past time to worry about why she’d come here so she wrenched free of her depressing thoughts. Get on with it, Ana. Finish your rounds and get out of here. She walked into Kim Jones’ room and “got on with it” as she had for more than two months since…
“Hi, Kim. How are we doing tonight?”
The girl tried to smile but was in obvious pain. “Okay. I shouldn’t complain.”
“Why not? Sweetheart, this is the perfect place to complain. I have your meds.”
The girl took the capsule and water with a grimace. “This stuff always makes my stomach hurt.”
“I know. But it helps your muscle cramps, and we don’t want those, do we?”
Wrinkling her nose, Kim swallowed and lay back with a hint of a smile. “Thanks, Ana. I know you’re just doing what I need. If I’d been smart enough to stay off that dumb skateboard, I wouldn’t be here with a broken ankle, making problems for you.”
“Honey, if the sky were filled with all the what-ifs, there wouldn’t be room for the stars. You’re not a problem.” She patted the twelve-year-old’s shoulder. “You go back to sleep. We’ll check in on you later.”
Back in the hall, her mind exploded. She was a good one to talk about what-ifs. They circumscribed her entire world, and the blue funk was back. To make it worse, her next stop was the one she dreaded.
The boy was eight. Joey had been eight. This boy’s dark brown curly hair and blue eyes reminded her so much of her late son. She sucked in a deep breath and went through the door.

Don't forget my contest. I've released excerpts that give a heads-up into the book. When all six are available, you can enter a chance to receive a free book by giving the correct book-order of the six excerpts. They're being released in jumbled order. The first answer, sent to my email, indicating the correct order will win the book. And all of you who enter will receive a free read; the first chapter of my new romantic comedy, THE LAST COWBOY IN TEXAS.
SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY, to be released April 8, 2011 as an eBook by MuseItUp Publishing, features Dan and Ana, along with his daughter Sherry and Ana’s dog Molly. It will be available at MuseItUp Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and several other outlets.
DON'T BET ON IT is available as an eBook from Red Rose Publishing and can be found at Amazon, Smashwords, and other outlets.
A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND is available as a trade paperback from Whimsical Publications and can be found in paperback or eBook at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Smashwords, and other outlets.

So, get out your Nooks, Kindles, Sony Readers, or other eReaders and load up these three fun reads. Thanks again and happy reading, everybody! Pat Dale

Friday, March 18, 2011

Media; social or anti-social / Warning: may be caustic

I've been trying to sort my thoughts on the subject of social media and what it can mean for the aspiring authors among us. After following trend after trend for a time, I'm not sure but what it's a conspiracy to trap all us wannabees while leaving the true path clear for cany writers who know better.
Let me explain my position. Several years ago I joined an up and coming online group. Early on, they had a couple hundred members and were growing as so-called chick lit gained popularity. Within a year they'd grown to over eight hundred and still going up.
It seemed to be the place for those of us who dared challenge Bridget Jones' Diary or one of the few successful stories of that season. And there were many challengers! A few of whom could actually write. The 'genre' was deluged with wannabees and the whole thing began to show signs of cracking. Hence, "Is chick-lit dead?" became the question of the day.
I noted during the 'rise and fall of chick-lit' that many writers more or less disappeared from the scene. Later, after the online group changed its name and its membership shrank to a workable number, many of those who'd gone awol began to show up again. On the cover of books they'd written while the rest were still scrambling over one another for attention. I'm pleased to say the group is still going strong, though now mostly a posting site for accomplishments and serious writerly questions.
On to facebook, twitter, pitter-patter, and so on as nauseum. Nowadays, we have a crowd of wannabees who swarm whatever media presents a modicum of success in attracting 'readers'.
I remember well what happened in my high school, enough years ago it would shock you, when we all wanted to stand out but we wanted to do it together. Talk about tempest in a teapot! Ah, but there is yet beauty in the beast. Just ask those 'chick-litters' who spent their time writing rather than 'connecting' and are now reaping the reward of their quiet industry.
Wonder why most/all true writers tend to be somewhat anti-social? Loners? Willing to wall themselves away from everybody for days or weeks at a time? To go without declared 'success' for years? To put aside worries about being popular as they craft their reader-grabbing tales?
Remember, the media we most need is in the promotion of our efforts to: wait for it! READERS!
That's my take. What's yours?
Now for the weekly excerpt from SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY:

After a night of fitful sleep, Ana awoke to one certainty. She had to know for sure whether Dan was innocent or guilty. He meant too much to her to cut their relationship off like this. And as for Sherry, there was no way she could leave the girl wondering if her father had done something so terrible.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s office would be the place to start. It had happened in the city but since she’d found the car in the county, she dialed that number. Before the call was answered, she considered putting the phone down, but didn’t. What if he were innocent? What if he were guilty? Surely they would find a good explanation.
The dispatcher listened patiently while she explained what she’d found and why it might be relevant. After a long wait on hold, the sheriff came online. “This is Sheriff Clayton, Mrs. Henry. You think you found the car that ran over your son?”
“I don’t know. I hope I’m wrong, but the damage is right where it would have been and the car is identical to the one I saw that day.”
“Well, there are a lot of cars on the front range that probably match the car in question. Any thing in particular that makes this one stand out?”
“You mean, like flecks of dried blood on the car beside the destroyed headlight?”
“How can you be sure it’s blood?”
“Sheriff, I’m an experienced RN. I know blood when I see it, even months old dried blood.”
“Okay, lady. Sorry, but I had to ask. Guess it won’t hurt to check it out.”
“I’m not at all sure it won’t hurt. The owner of the car is a good friend of mine, a very good friend.” Her words made her want to cry. “Well, he has been until now.”
“Let me run this by the Fort Collins people that worked the case and I’ll get back to you. What is your number at home?”
She repeated it for him. “You’ll call today? I have to work second shift at the hospital tonight.”
“I’ll call back within the hour. If you’re right, we may be able to put one of our cold cases to rest.”
The man’s brusque manner didn’t set well with Ana. “I’ll expect your call.” She hung up just before her sobs of anguish echoed off the walls of her home.
Thirty minutes later, she was still sitting at the desk when the phone rang. The sheriff said, “Okay, Mrs. Henry. I’ve got the file in front of me now. We’re going up there to check out this car. Will there be anyone up there, do you know?”
“I don’t think so. Dan—Mr. Morrison works in Wellington and his daughter spends the day with her babysitter.”
“Would you like to be there when we check it out?”
It was an unusual request, she knew. Cops notoriously did not want civilians getting in the way. “Are you sure you want me there?”
He chuckled. “Actually, it’s the Fort Collins detective that worked the case who wants you there. You must have made quite an impression on him.”
She remembered the big bulldog who’d shepherded her through the torture of her son’s death. He was gruff but also a decent man. “You mean Detective Albers? Will he be there?”
“Yes. The city and county work together as much as possible on cases like this. What do you think?”
“I think wild horses couldn’t keep me away. Should I drive myself?”
“That—or we could pick you up and take you.”
“I think I’d like that. Don’t think me flighty or emotional, but if it is the car that killed my son, I’m not sure I could drive back down those curves safely.”
The trip up the canyon had been fast. Too fast, but Ana realized these guys were accustomed to the territory. The familiar detective, who’d been standing beside his car waiting for them, recognized her and waved when they pulled up.
“Hi, Mrs. Henry. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Bill. I guess. This business has me pretty rattled.” She preferred not to say how rattled.
“How in the world did you come upon the car?”
“It’s a long story. Wild coincidence, really. The man who lives here brought his daughter into the hospital for treatment one night recently. I got acquainted with them and he invited me to visit. While I was up here, his daughter showed it to me.”
Sheriff Clayton cleared his throat. “Where’s the car, ma’am?”
She led them around to the shed and pulled the door open, and reached in for the light switch. The car was there, just as it had been the day before, but when the men worked their way to the front, the metal was clean and shiny. Clayton spoke. “I see the broken headlight and the dent in the hood. Where’s the blood, ma’am?”
“I—I don’t know. Isn’t it there? It was definitely there yesterday.”
She scooted up and pointed to the area where the flecks had been. Obviously, Dan had cleaned it up before heading for work. “I’m sorry. I guess he washed it off.”
Albers laughed. “I’ll bet he did, especially if this is the perp’s car that did the deed. Washing it won’t do him any good.”
“Yep. Forensics will find it if it was there.”
She gawked at his smiling face. “But it’s gone.”
Clayton interrupted. “Not really. Let’s get out of the way while our people work.”
Fifteen minutes later, the forensics team emerged from the shed, smiling. “We got it,” the blonde woman said, holding up a swab that glistened red.
“What did I tell you?” Bill Albers patted her on the shoulder. “Now, we’ll have to take the evidence in to compare it with our files. If it’s a match to your boy, this guy’s in serious trouble.”

There you have it, folks. Three in the can and three to go. I hope reading these will whet your appetite for the book, which is to be released in three weeks time. Til next week, happy reading!
Pat Dale

Friday, March 11, 2011

Shaking it up

I'd planned to write about another aspect of fiction writing but this is not a day for that. The major earthquake in Japanl, with its accompanying tsunami, is the talk of the day. For good reason.
Again, we are reminded just how puny we humans are as we cling to the globe we were fated to populate. My prayers go out to those who found themselves in the path of nataure's fury this day. Nobody planned for this to happen, nobody wanted this to happen, and nobody is to blame for it. We sometimes forget that we are survivors here; that, no matter what we'd like to believe, we survive or succumb at the whim of natural forces so great we can do nothing about them.
Perhaps that is over-reaching the point. We have done something that helps a bit. Our devices that warn us of impending disaster are able now to help some avoid the worst of a natural disaster, and I'm thankful for that. But my point is that we can do nothing to avoid the event itself and can only stand prepared to take shelter or evasive action.
Let me attempt to focus this on our writing. We can and should learn everything about our craft. We can and should strive for excellence in each and every page we allow others to see. We can and should edit, rewrite, remove, revisit, and edit some more before we call our effort complete. Even then, we must be ready to accept a good editor's criticism in order for our 'baby' to be born with any chance of survival.
Then, when it's out there, we have to stand by with prayer in our heart for it to find traction and live on its own. That is the hardesst part, especially when the new book is only one of many 'babies' born at a given moment. There are things we can do to help it along, but for the most part, it has to take root in the hearts of readers before it has any chance for longevity. Some will die, stillborn. Others will expire of whatever dread disease we could not have forseen or, even if we could, we could not avoid.
So, today, I'm offering up a prayer that your best literary efforts are successful. And we would be remiss if we did not offer any help we can give to those on our planet who just suffered once again from natural disaster (I refuse to call this 'mother' nature.)
The second in the series of excerpts from my upcoming novel SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY is below. Be sure to read my previous blog for details of my contest. Cheers from sunny mid-Missouri.
Pat Dale


“Mr. Morrison, you got a visitor, a Sue Stansworth. Says she’s your sister, down from Chadron.”
“Sue’s here?” Dan stared at the deputy and grimaced. His family must have learned of his problem. Well, sure they did since he’d asked for them to be contacted to take care of Sherry. “Can I see her?”
“Yep. We have a visitor’s room and I’ll put her in there. The guard’ll bring you in and you two can make whatever plans you need to.” The guard added with a grin, “Other than breaking out of here.”
When he was led into the room, he found his sister nursing a cup of coffee. “Hi, Sue. Sorry to cause you to come all the way out here.”
“Dan? What in hell has happened to you?”
“It’s all a big mix-up. Peg’s car somehow got used in a hit and run accident that killed a little boy and they think I was the driver.”
“Good grief! That’s awful. Were you?”
“What do you mean, was I? Of course not! Sue, you know I could never do anything like that. If I had hit someone, don’t you think I’d at least stop to do what I could for them?”
She smiled sadly. “The brother I knew would have. Unless you’ve become a different person, I don’t see how you could possibly have done this.”
He scowled. “Well, thank you for small favors, sister of mine. I haven’t changed. But they have blood evidence that Peg’s convertible was the one that did it.”
She took his hand and squeezed it. “Sounds like you need a good lawyer.”
“Now that’s something I have. His name is Patrick and he’s the best around these parts. It’ll take some time, though, and that’s why I need to talk to you. Sherry needs a home until I can get out of here.”
“How is she taking it?”
“Not well, if I know my daughter. Can you believe she actually wanted to stay with the woman who blew the whistle on me?”
“You’re kidding. Who is the woman?”
He hesitated. It would be trickier explaining his romantic entanglement to his sister than he’d thought in advance. Maybe if he skirted the issue it would work. “The nurse who attended Sherry when she was in the hospital.”
Sue said, “Whoa! Sherry was in the hospital? What happened to her?”
“She got an infection and was running a fever. I panicked and took her in, but they got her back on her feet in a couple of days. In the process, I met Ana Henry, her nurse, and we spent some time together.” His flaming face was a dead giveaway.
“Ana, huh? Sounds pretty uppity to me.” Sue smirked. “Quality time, Dan, or sack time? Sounds like the nurse did a little more than just be a professional caregiver.”
Blushing, he admitted, “A little more.” He didn’t want to confess how much more, at least not yet. Sue was his closest ally right now, but even she might balk at his taking a new lover. “Uh, she came up to the house to help Sherry learn how to clean her feminine area. That’s what caused the infection that made her sick.”
“Oh. I see.” It was clear to him that she didn’t see.
“There’s a little more to it than that, but for now that’s enough. Anyway, while Ana and Sherry were walking around up there, Ana found the car in the old shed. When she looked at it, she realized it had been in an accident.”
“So how does that make a friendly nurse suspect that your car hurt someone?”
“Not hurt. Killed. The little boy died.”
“Oh my God! They’re accusing you of killing an innocent child?”
He dropped his head. “In a nutshell, you could say that.”
“Dan, this may be a real mess before it’s over.”
“Tell me about it. Now you know why I need a place for Sherry to stay. It may go into the school year and I don’t want her living with strangers.”
“I can understand that. And yes, she can stay with me while you unravel this thing.”
Sue was married, but she and her husband had never had children. In her forties, his sister had given up on motherhood. Maybe this could at least give her a chance to develop mothering skills. Dan hoped so.
Sue frowned at him. “You still didn’t answer my question. How did this Ana figure into the scheme of things? Enough to call in the law?”
He groaned. This was the tough part. “It was her son that got killed.”
She stared at him, unbelieving. “The nurse your daughter was assigned at the hospital, had a son killed by a hit and run driver. Turned out, it was your car that hit him. And you took her to your home to help your daughter. Lord, have mercy!”

Be sure to log in next week for the third excerpt. Please let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My, now things have changed!

I remember it well. I'd had a satisfying career in music performance and a frustrating one in teaching. I'd spent a few years in the world of business (lucrative but dull). Now I would set the world of literature on fire by becoming the latest "famous" fiction author. Yeah, right. Uh-huh.
Writing was no problem for me. I'd held my college profs spellbound with my imaginitave short stories. This would be a piece of cake. All I had to do was sit down and whip off a novel or two and send them off to various publishers, breathless to grab my manuscript and turn it into gold.
Oh yes, how I remember that. If you can stop giggling, I'll go on with this. I'm not about to turn this into a gripe column so you needn't worry about that. I'm thankful the world of publishing has made such sweeping changes while I've continued to hone my craft. But, back to my story...
I wrote a 130,000 word masterpiece in a short three months and it was good. Very good. Only thing was, I could not get my muse to shut up so I could whisk the gem off to an editor. Little did I understand that a book is only done when it says its done; after countless hours of editing and rewriting, cutting and pasting, sleep time when my brain could reload and come back with fresh eyes.
After turning to a professional writing course with a real live mentor, I realized that the idea of "whipping" anything off and getting it published was a myth. At my mentor's suggestion, I wrote a new book while she looked over my shoulder and gave me countless tips on how to do the many things a real author does. It was better in many respects, but my original effort contained so many things I wanted to say, I could not scrap it. So I wrote another, and another.
Fifteen years ago, I had several choices when I felt my MS was finally ready to consider becoming a published novel. I could solicit an agent, who would take my precious baby and sell it to the best publisher. Or, I could try to get it in the hands of a competent editor myself. In the late nineties, I had a choice of at least half a dozen major publishers and a spectrum of minor ones. All print media; paperback, hardback, but all inscribed on the side of a lot of trees.
I'd just finished my fifth novel when my late brother tried to talk me into e-publishing. It was a brand new way to get published and virtually all of my professional writing group contacts poo-pooed the idea, saying it was only another way to self publish and would get no respect even if it found an audience. I made a furtive effort and got a response from one of the first e-publishers. The editor loved it and after I met her at a writing conference I was assured it would be one of her high priority projects. Two months later, she got a better offer elsewhere and the new editor hated my book. End of story. Well, not quite. But that's how it went.
Meanwhile, I kept writing. And submitting. And piling up rejection letters, enough to build a huge stack in the corner of my office. And then something else happened. Something I'm still not quite able to unravel. The publishing world went through a series of seismic events and when the earth finally stilled, there were far fewer print publishers, large or small. And the ones who'd survived had developed an even nastier attitude against novice authors. "Be famous and write a tell-all and we'll shower millions on you," seemed to be the watchword of the day.
All the while, I was filling my quiver with sharper and truer arrows. And the e-publishers had largely avoided the pitfalls of print media. The advent of efficient and relatively inexpensive reading devices have put the final block into place and now we have a new problem as authors. Which e-publisher do we offer our books to? Many of us have made wrong choices and felt the sting of having one or more of our novels caught in limbo when a publisher went belly up. Including me. Well, friend, its no different than any other life event. Pick yourself up, dust your book off, find a better publisher and do it all over again.
One thing I can assure you of; each time you have to go over your manuscript to resubmit it, you'll be able to improve it. And that's why I'm thankful things have made such a change over the last decade and a half, and especially why I'm happy to have been caught up in it. The future never looked brighter in my estimation. And, among other things, why I'm looking forward to the release of my new "last chance romance", SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY next month by MuseItUp Publishing.
Now, as I promised last week, here is one of six excerpts from the book. Remember, the six will not be released in their chronological order from the book. After you've been able to read all six, you'll have a chance to enter my CONTEST by picking the correct order of the excerpts as they appear in the book. The first entry with the correct order will win a copy of SWHE, or if youve already bought it, any of my other published books. All entries will receive a free read from me; namely a chapter of a new romantic comedy I'm finishing as we speak. THE LAST COWBOY IN TEXAS is one of the funniest books I've written to date. The entire book will be released in chapter by chapter free reads as future contests evolve. Now, without further ado, here's that excerpt:

Ana was standing over Sherry, checking her temperature, when a harried-looking man came in. “Hello.” Pointing to the girl, he asked, “How is she?”
“Asleep.” She shushed him with a finger to her lips and motioned him into the hall. “You must be Sherry’s father. I’m Ana Henry and I’ll be her nurse tonight.”
“My name is Dan. Dan Morrison.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Morrison. Her temperature has dropped a bit but it’s still high. She’s a sick little girl.”
“I know.” He clearly didn’t want to emote, but couldn’t hide the gleam of tears she saw in his eyes. “I shouldn’t be so emotional about this. Sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for. You love your daughter.”
That was the moment she let her guard down. She rarely looked into anyone’s eyes anymore but this time she did. Sea mist green and so full of pain.
“You’re very kind, Miss...I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your name already.”
“Actually it’s Mrs. Henry. I’m a widow.” Why did I tell him that?
He stared into her eyes. “I’m sorry. You’re so young and—”
“My husband,” she cut in, “was a pilot in the Air Force. He died while fighting in Afghanistan.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry.”
She winced at the man’s reaction. Every time people learned what happened, they began walking on egg shells. She’d been down this road so many times she wanted to scream. “It’s okay. It’s been a few years and I’m over it now.” That’s a lie. I’m not close to over it.
“I didn’t mean to pry, Mrs. Henry. Actually, it’s curious that we share such an experience. My wife died of cancer two years ago, right here in this hospital. I think I’ve finally got it behind me, and then something like this happens and I realize I haven’t. Sherry’s all I have of Peggy now and I can’t stand the thought of losing my child.”
Tell me about it. She forced herself to focus on him. “I was about to take a break when they called me to get Sherry settled in, Mr. Morrison. Care to join me? We can go to the cafeteria for coffee if you want.”
“I’d like that, if you don’t mind spending time with a blubbering fool. Talking to you is helping me get my nerves back under control. This has been a jolt.”
“I don’t mind at all. In fact, I’d enjoy your company.”
In the nearly deserted cafeteria, they got coffee and rolls and headed for a clean table. She noticed his clothing for the first time, faded jeans and a dark blue short sleeve jersey with a Denver Broncos logo emblazoned on it. “I see you’re a Broncos fan.”
“Yes. I have season tickets.”
“Wow. You must be one of the lucky ones. I’ve heard their waiting list is long.”
“It is. We waited seven years for ours. And then after we got them, we’d only been to five games wh...” He disintegrated into a shaking husk of a man.
She reached out to touch his arm. “I’m sorry, Mr. Morrison. I didn’t mean to bring back old memories.”
“I wish I could stop it, but with Peggy gone and now Sherry sick...”
“It’s okay. You won’t lose Sherry. She’ll be fine in a few days.”
“I hope you’re right. If anything happened to her, I don’t think I could make it.”
Don’t I know about that? Joey was my security blanket and when his life was snuffed out, I lost it big-time. “Dan—do you mind if I call you by your first name?”
“Not at all.”
“Do you have any close friends you can talk to?”
“I have friends, yes. Peg and I had a group of friends from church. Why?”
“I won’t pretend to be a professional counselor, but a few years ago I faced a similar situation. One thing I learned was to talk to friends about my late husband. Sounds maudlin, but it helped. After a while, I could talk about JP without losing it. Once I passed that threshold, my life got better. Still not great, but better.”
“I haven’t been able to talk to anyone. At first I would have, but our friends were so afraid of saying anything wrong they avoided me. I’m sorry to say I took comfort in my isolation. But I did talk to Sherry. A lot.”
“I can well imagine. Your daughter became your confidant. That’s good in a way, but it can lead to other problems. I had the same experience with Joey, but I found I needed more. There are some things you just can’t tell your kids.”
“Yeah.” From his expression, he was waiting for her to explain who Joey was. Keep your mouth shut, Ana. You’ve already said too much.

Be sure to check my blog out next week for the next excerpt. And, please, leave a comment on here or at my email address to let me know what you think. Happy writing and reading, everybody!
Pat Dale