Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Interview with Alexandra Ramsey from RESCUED


L:         I’m here at Harley’s Haven today with director Alex Ramsey. Hi, Alex. Thanks for letting me stop by today.

A:        Oh, you’re welcome. I hope you don’t mind a few wet kisses and a little animal hair on your pants.

L:         (Laughs) For our readers,  just to clarify, the wet kisses are coming from Lambchop, Walter and a few of the adorable puppies here in the shelter lobby. And, no, I don’t mind at all. This is cheaper and more effective than therapy.

A:        I agree. This is my therapy.

L:         So, many of us have read your story in the novel, RESCUED, and I have to say it’s quite a story. You built this beautiful no-kill shelter from scratch.

A:        Pretty much. My sister, Kellie, is a real estate agent and found this fabulous location. We were able to take my plans and build what you see today. Of course, none of this would be possible without the generosity of Miss Amy Whiting.

L:         Yes, I understand Miss Amy was a dear friend and that she also brought you and your husband, Evan, together—in a way.

A:        Evan is Amy’s grand-nephew. Circumstances brought us together, but I’m sure Amy played some role in it. She always did know what was best for me. (Tears up) I still miss her.

L:         (Pauses) A number of people who have read your story think of you as a hero in the animal rescue community. What do you say to that?

A:        (Blushes) I’m not a hero. Lots of people do what I do. I just love animals and live out of that passion. I’m blessed to be able to do so.

L:         Family is very important to you, too. Your mother abandoned you and your sister when you were very young. How do you think that impacted your passion for rescue?

A:        I’m not sure I’d use the term abandoned. She didn’t leave us in a convenience store, but deposited us in the care of our grandfather. I’m not defending her, but I’ve come to understand some things about her. I don’t know. I’m sure that had an impact on my life. I was angry for a very long time. I could never bear to see an injured animal or any animal wandering alone and not do something to help them.

L:         You bring up anger. A few who have read your story were put off by your…uh…rough edge.

A:        (Laughs) You’re so polite. You mean they think I’m something of a bitch. I was and I still can be at times. I feel very strongly about a few things—animals, family and my southern heritage. When I think any of those things are being discounted, I react. It’s a miracle Evan and I are together considering the way I behaved when we first met. I wasn’t very nice. Yeah, I was pretty nasty.

L:         Tell us about that first meeting.

A:        I was working part-time in my uncle’s grill. It was a family business opened by my grandfather. I’d say I was having a bad day. But that bad day lasted for months. Evan was a chef in New York. He was raised in the north and didn’t really know his Aunt Amy. It’s not unusual for folks to come to the south and expect us all to be walking clich├ęs of dumb rednecks. I see that a lot and had come to expect it. Let’s just say Evan rubbed me the wrong way from the start. And it was a rocky start. I assumed Evan was just like those other ‘Yankees’ and, well, that chip on my shoulder was more like a boulder. I know now I couldn’t give him a chance because, honestly, from the moment I walked over to his table to take his order, I felt something, a connection like I’d never felt. Scared the wits out of me.

L:         You don’t seem so nasty now. What made the difference?

A:        Oh, I can still slip into my ‘bitch’ mode now and then. (frowns thoughtfully) I’ve been in the rescue business for a long time. I’ve seen just about everything in terms of animal behavior. The ones I have the softest spot in my heart for are the ones that have been so neglected or abused that they just can’t trust. Now, I was far from neglected and abused. My grandfather and my uncle took very good care of me. Uncle Jack was the father I didn’t have growing up. But I know what that kind of mistrust can breed into an animal. And I think, until I confronted my mother and was able to come to terms with her leaving, I couldn’t fully trust that anyone could love me and not leave me. For as much as my uncle could assure me he was in my life forever, I had to find a way to believe it.

L:         How do you gain that trust from an animal that has plenty of reason not to trust?

A:        Patience, time and consistency. You hang in there. You wait. You have to prove yourself worthy of that trust. I guess we humans aren’t all that different. When one of those mistrusting animals walks over and shoves its muzzle into my hand for the first time, I melt like an ice cube in August. Their trust is such a precious gift.

L:         So what do you want people to know and understand about Alex Ramsey?

A:        That I’m a woman of passion. My passions for rescue, family and as a southern woman drive me, make me who I am. Some will perceive me as a strong, no-nonsense woman. They are probably being generous, as is my husband when he describes me this way (and always with a grin). Some might be put off by my rough edges, but those edges are as much a part of me as the compassion and care I hold. I learned a long time ago that everyone won’t like me. It took me years to realize that was okay. If I’m lucky, a few will love me. And that makes all the difference. My husband has the patience of a saint. I see, now, how he rescued me. He'd tell you I did the same for him.

L:         Thanks so much, Alex, for your time. If the sounds from the kennels are any indication, you have work to do.


A:        I do. It’s feeding time. Thanks for letting me tell my story. Come back any time you need puppy therapy. You asked to visit our cat room, so I'll show you in before I get back to work. But I have to warn you, most people don't walk out of there without a new companion in their arms.


Read Alex's story in RESCUED and decide for yourself how you feel. Available in eBook, trade paperback and, now, in audio book at: Amazon.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

PROTECTION Gets Some Recognition

PROTECTION finaled for the 2015 EPIC eBook Award in Romantic Suspense and has also finaled for the 2015 Carolyn Readers Choice Award in Romantic Suspense with the North Texas Romance Writers of America.





Saturday, March 28, 2015

The True Heroines in My Life - National Women's History Month

The month of March is designated at National Women's History Month. The theme this year is Women Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives. I've introduced you to the women of my novels over this month. Now, let me introduce you to some of the remarkable women from my family.

Top left is my maternal grandmother, Anna Kenney Hennessey--Grandma. She bore ten children, raised nine of those children into adulthood. She was the essence of the term 'homemaker.' She always had homemade soup on the stove and homemade bread on the table. She walked miles to church because the church was important to her. Family was her vocation and she lived it well until she passed at the age of 60.

Top right is a photo of my paternal grandfather, me, my sister--Peggy, and my paternal grandmother Georgie Margaret Hurst Rettstatt--Nana. My father was her only child and we were the only grandchildren. She doted on us. I remember shopping with her in Brownsville. It was never just about the shopping, but about going 'downtown' and visiting with women she knew who worked in various shops there. Shopping was a highly social event. She worked at different times, in a dairy store and, later, selling women's clothing in a store in Cleveland, Ohio where she and my grandfather relocated. She was short and round and soft and truly a Nana. She live to the age of 94.

And my sister, Peggy, three years my junior. I grew up with stories in my head about how I'd like to live, the things I'd like to do, the risks I'd like to take. She had the courage to do them. She's still braver than I when it comes to living life instead of imagining it.

Bottom left is my mother, Anna Katherine Hennessey "Kay" Rettstatt. When I look through family documents, I find my mother listed as Catherine, Kathryn A., and Anna Katherine. She used to love to tell stories about herself when she was growing up and then caution my sister and myself to NEVER do the same things she did. She was a risk-taker in her earlier years. From my childhood, I have fond memories of her joining us for a game of baseball in the back yard, playing with a hula hoop (which I still have on 8 mm film somewhere), and the way she sang country songs while she worked around the house. She had a great sense of humor. I always felt a bit of sadness for my mother, believing she wasn't completely happy and that, perhaps, had a dream she'd never pursued. Maybe that's why she had three different configurations to her name. And maybe that's her gift to me--to pursue my dreams.

The next two photos on the bottom are me--expressing my individuality and interest in music at age three and a more recent photo taken during a casual photo shoot for my website. I look at myself now and I reflect that self off those other women. I am who I am largely because of who they were. Nurturing, caring, faithful, hard working, loving and fun-loving. Perhaps with a shadow of mystery, a wee bit of sadness. Not the kind of sadness that makes us want to curl up in a ball. The kind of sadness that reflects a longing for something more, that drives us deeper into the search for our own truths.

There are so many women throughout history who have cleared a path and lighted the way for us. Some of them may still be with us, walking at our sides, covering our backs--bringing a smile from our memories. Take the time to thank them today.

Who are or have been the strong women in your life who have made you who you are today?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lily and Chelsea Champion - Renting To Own


I bring my celebration of National Women's History Month to a close by introducing Lily Champion and daughter, Chelsea. Lily was going to come alone, but being a single parent, couldn't get a sitter.


I apologize.It's just been Chelsea and me for so long, I'm used to having her with me everywhere. My neighbor, Mrs. Glenn, had a bingo tournament this evening. So it Women's History Month. I'm only twenty-four now, so not much history here. Though some days I feel four times that age.

I don't like to complain because it sounds like I regret my life, and I don't. I especially don't regret having Chelsea. It might have been better to wait a few years, sure. But having her forced me to grow up fast--something I'd already begun after my mom died when I was seven years old. I also have Helen Shaw who was my high school English teacher, my port in the storm and, for all intents and purposes, a mother to me.

I'm finally getting our life together. I have a great job and a house I'm renting to own. At times I feel our life is like that--Renting To Own--paying dues to toward security. Some people look at my life and see struggles and mistakes. Well, hell, who doesn't have those? I look at my life and see love, forgiveness, and strengths I never dreamed I could possess. When I look at my daughter, I see determination and self-confidence in her eyes. If I give her nothing else, I'm proud that I've given her this.

My name is Chelsea Champion and I'm five years old. My teacher told Mommy I'm very sociable. I'm not sure what that means, but I think it's a good thing. Mommy and I moved out of Auntie Helen's house because Mommy got a better job. And then she got a different job again with Rick. I like Rick a lot. I hope Mommy likes him a lot, too. Don't tell them I said this, but sometime I ask God to make Rick my daddy 'cause I don't have one of those. 

Read Lily and Chelsea's full story in RENTING TO OWN (published by Turquoise Morning Press), available in ebook at Amazon.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cee Cee - Ladies In Waiting


Winding down on National Women's History Month with the story of Cee Cee from Ladies In Waiting.



Most people crash wedding receptions or birthday parties. Me? I crashed a retreat for women over the age of fifty. I'm only thirty-two. But I'm so tired and so uninspired with my life. Don't get me wrong. I love my kids more than anything and I think I still love Ben. So much is going on in my life right now and I need him to be supportive. But we just seem to get farther and farther apart. I feel lost. So when my mother was unable to attend the retreat with other women her age, I arranged for my mother-in-law to babysit, packed a bag--which turned out to be filled with all sorts of surprises thanks to my kids--and drove my soccer mom van to a retreat house whose name I couldn't even pronounce.

The other women--Julia, Liv, Markie and Andi--were all there to reinvent themselves. I felt like I was there to invent myself in the first place. I thought about all the things no one told me--that married love changes, that we start to take each other for granted, that sometimes we make sacrifices we regret. That being a grownup is so darned hard.

That these women let me stay with them for the week was miracle enough for me. That they were gracious enough to share their stories with me--the kid of the group--was just amazing. That week was like a crash course in aging well despite making mistakes. They each came to the retreat running from something, the same way I was running. But these women were warriors. They ARE warriors, and I want to finish growing up just like them. I'm glad I started when I did. I'm also glad I found a way to follow my dream and still hold onto the dreams I'd begun to build with Ben and our kids. I know you can't have it all, but I sure do have more than I'd ever imagined.

Get to know Cee Cee better in LADIES IN WAITING, (from Turquoise Morning Press) available in ebook and trade paperback at Amazon.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Markie and Julia - Ladies In Waiting


Continuing my month long celebration of heroines from my books, meet Markie and Julia from LADIES IN WAITING. (Talk about two very different women.)



My name is Markie Lyons and I'm an artist. I'm also a left-over hippie, having experienced the great Summer of Love in San Francisco, right after running away from home. I've had an interesting life. It's usually more interesting to others than to myself. I embraced my father's grandmother's Gypsy heritage and I took on her name--Markova. All I ever wanted to do was to create art in several forms, including painting and sculpture. Both require a steady hand and a clear mind. What will I do when I'm no longer assured of having either? I don't see a way I can live without my art. I came to this retreat to sort out thoughts and feelings and fears and to come to some peace with what I need to do next. The small group of women who gathered her are so wonderfully passionate and compassionate. I could easily see myself becoming friends with any and all of them. Even Julia. The poor woman has herself buttoned up so tight and locked in such a small box. I hope she can relax and let go of the tragedy that drove her here. Yes, I know who Julia is and what happened to her. Of course, it's not my place to say anything. I hope she can find the inner forgiveness she needs to get free.

My name is Julia Lane and I'm an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But don't spread that around too much. I'm not exactly popular there right now. With good reason. I did my job thoroughly and efficiently on a recent case. The job was all that mattered and the results were tragic. And while I've never been one to admit failure, I failed everyone involved in this case. I'm not here for some New Age crap about reinvention. I'm here because it was affordable, available, and in driving distance, and I needed a place to hide. None of these women know who I am or why I'm here. I intend to keep it that way. I'll have at least seven days of peace and quiet, time to figure things out. I love my work. Or I did until this last case. Hell, I don't blame the people in Philadelphia who are demanding my head on a platter--yes, some of them actually carried signs depicting this. I want my head on a platter, too. Nothing changes by my coming to this place, except that I'm not in that place where people hate me. A week or so and I'll get myself together and be ready to face what awaits me back in Philadelphia. I'll keep to myself and no one will get hurt.

Learn more about Markie and Julia in LADIES IN WAITING (published by Turquoise Morning Press), available in ebook and trade paperback at Amazon.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Liv and Andi from Ladies In Waiting


Continuing my celebration of National Women's History Month and the theme of Women Weaving Stories of Women's Lives, I want to introduce the women of LADIES IN WAITING. First up are Liv and Andi.



Hi, this is Liv. When I found the women's retreat in Cape May, New Jersey, I confess I didn't much care about the topic. I saw it as a refuge. I needed an escape, space to just breath, to find out who Liv Zacharias was now. She wasn't the woman hiding under the disguise of hair color and a semi-fictional story. She wasn't the woman the papers made her out to be, either. Of course I fit the profile for the retreat: Embracing the New You: Reinventing Yourself After Fifty. I needed a new you and a reinvention more than anyone I knew. So here I was, sitting in the driveway at Siochain (which I'd learned was a Gaelic word that translated to Peace) and staring at the other women seated on the expansive wrap-around porch of the old Victorian house. I wanted to turn tail and run back to Long Island. What if they recognized me? What if they believed the newspapers? What if my antianxiety meds stopped working? Well, there was only one way to find out.

Andi Ryan here. You know, if you're having a group of menopausal women meet for a retreat on the shore in summer, you should warn them that there's no central air conditioning? When Liv, the newest retreatant to arrive, informed me of that little tidbit, I wanted to get into the car, turn the AC on high, and head straight back to Tom's River. But, damn, I needed this time away. I needed to sort out my feelings about being a young widow (shut up--young is a relative term), being at odds with my almost adult daughter, and finding myself in a very hot relationship with a much younger man. Now this was heat I could tolerate. The Andi I always knew was still in there under all that mess--somewhere. I was sure of that. I just needed to find her again. Sometimes you have to step away from the familiar to see what's right under your nose in the first place. It can be like taking a step back from the mirror and the vision becomes clearer. This was my step back. If the damned hot flashes didn't kill me first. I liked the other women here, at least until I met Julia. You'll see what I mean when you meet her. Now Liv looks so familiar to me, but I just can't place her. Menopause brain, I suppose.

Meet the ladies of LADIES IN WAITING (published by Turquoise Morning Press), available in ebook and trade paperback at Amazon.com.