Monday, March 19, 2018

But What if Nobody Comes?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Michael Robert Dyet to my blog. Michael is a marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in marketing and communications including trade show salesmanship, and he's kindly offered to share some information for authors on how to be successfully visible. These are lessons I certainly need to learn... especially the "But what if nobody comes?" one. So, if you've ever considered the need for a public appearance, read on!

Making the Most of Your Public Appearances:
The Performance Factor
By Michael Robert Dyet
Marketing Professional and
Author of Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage –
Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

Getting the word out about your book and generating sales requires that you are visible. Book reviews, social media posts and media coverage are all part of the equation. But nothing can substitute for readings at libraries or appearances at bookstores and art salons.

Some authors have the good fortune to be performers by nature and are comfortable with appearing in public. Others are introverts who get the jitters when faced with the prospect of doing a reading. Knowing how to prepare and how to take control in these environments can help in overcoming stage fright. Even authors experienced in this area can improve with the right tips.

But What If Nobody Comes?

One of the biggest fears authors face is: What happens if nobody comes? Normally, the host organization or venue will promote your appearance via their communication channels. But unless you are a recognizable name, their efforts alone will not assure you of bums in seats.

You will need to announce the event on your social media sites, including a Facebook event invitation, a week or two ahead. It is also advisable to develop an e-mail contact list and announce your appearances to these contacts. Note: If you are in Canada, be sure you have express consent to communicate with all the contacts on your e-mail list to ensure you comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).

MailChimp is a good option for a relatively simply program to execute your e-mail announcements. Trust me – if a technology-challenged Baby Boomer like me can figure it out, you certainly can!

And, of course, talk up the appearance among your friends and coworkers. Nothing beats word of mouth advertising.

Craft Your Elevator Speech

When you are interacting with potential buyers in public, you have a very small window within which to capture his or her attention. You need to be able to quickly convey what your book is about and why it is worth purchasing. The secret to success here is to craft an elevator speech.

An elevator speech is a clear, brief statement of what your book is about. It should be 30 seconds or less in duration or roughly the time it takes to ride in an elevator from the ground to the top floor of a building. Here is my elevator speech for my latest work Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet.

The stories in Hunting Muskie are about the search to find our way back home after the unexpected storms of life knock us off course. Each story reflects that deep need to return to where we feel at peace. The journey back becomes a rite of passage.

The title story, Hunting Muskie, sets the tone – the hunt to find and subdue an unseen foe. The opening novella-length piece, Slipstream, ties together the connecting threads: the powerful forces that derail us, how we are driven to search for answers, and the harsh truth that redemption often comes at a price. The stories that follow elaborate on that that theme.

Arming myself with this elevator speech, which I know by heart, gives me confidence when I appear in public.

The Big Day: Prepare for Success

If you remember only one thing from this article, let it be this fact: Every appearance you make in connection with your book is in fact a performance. How your audience perceives you and rates your performance will form preconceptions of your book that are hard to undo if things go wrong.

The day before your appearance is critical to preparing yourself mentally. If possible, schedule it to be a quiet day. Audiences will know if you are stressed or running on empty at your appearance. Rehearse your elevator speech and/or the piece you will be reading so you are intimate with both.

Insider Tip:  Never change your mind at the last minute on what you are going to read or talk about. I did that once – a lesson learned the hard way.

Leave extra travel time on the big day in case you are delayed along the way. Arriving late leaves a bad impression with the host, and any guests who showed up on time, and puts you in a stressed state of mind which impacts your ability to perform.

On Stage: Let the Performance Begin

Whatever the nature of your public appearance, consider yourself to be on stage from the moment the event begins. You want to create a positive impression and that begins the moment you are first seen.

Let us assume for a moment that it is a bookstore appearance or a book fair in which you are participating. The rules of trade show salesmanship apply. You have likely been at trade shows and observed booth staff sitting on a chair looking disinterested, talking on their mobile phone or with their faced buried in their digital device. The first and lasting impression:

Why would I be interested in engaging with you if you are not interested in engaging with me?

Let people know you want to engage with them. Stand in front of your booth or table and be active in greeting approaching guests.

You will need to arm yourself with an icebreaker question to attract people’s attention. It can be quite simple. For example, at my recent Chapters-Indigo appearance, I simply asked: Are you a fiction reader? It served the purpose of breaking the ice and qualifying the person at the same time.

The Four Personality Types

You will need to read body language as people approach your table or booth. I have identified four personality types each of which requires a specific tactic.

Leave Me Alon-ers: Body language: a scowling expression, shoulders hunched and moving fast. Their message is: I am here for a specific purpose and it does not include you. Let these people be on their way. Save your energy for better prospects.

Please Not Me-ers: Body language: fearful expression, eyes averted and often angling away from you. Their message is: Please do not try to sell my anything. If you can make eye contact with them, simply smile and wish them good morning or good afternoon. If they seem to respond, drop your icebreaker question. If they wince and turn away, let them go.

I Could Be Convinced: Body language: pleasant expression, unhurried demeanour, they are where they want to be. Their message: I could be convinced to be interested in you if you make the overture. Establish eye contact, smile, greet them warmly and drop your icebreaker question.

Many in this category will engage with you and be genuinely interested. A few may politely beg off because they have other priorities for the day – keeping an eye on their wandering children or meeting someone. Offer them your author business card to plant a seed

Insider Tip: Be aware that some of these people may come back later. In my recent Chapters-Indigo appearance, one young couple walked out the door and came back in a few moments later. They had decided they wanted to support me and buy my book!

Its’ So Cool That You’re Here!: Body language: similar to the “I could be convinced” group, but will often initiate eye contact. These are your best prospects. They are intrigued by the fact that you are there. Greet them warmly, use your icebreaker question and be prepared to give your elevator speech. Very often you will make a sale with this group. If not, thank them and offer your author business card.

Author Readings: The Holy Grail

Your best opportunity to sell copies of your book is often at prearranged author readings. The people that show up are predisposed to buy. But you need to make a good impression to close the deal.

Select excerpts for your readings that have drama (or humour where applicable) and read well in a spoken voice. Dialogue works well, particularly if you are able to give each character a distinct voice.

Insider Tip: Your favourite excerpt or story may be engaging to read but does not always translate well to the spoken voice. Be objective in making your selection.

Rehearse your reading a few days in advance so you can plan how you will act out the piece and to get the timing down. If you are told you have twenty minutes, stick to it. You will not get invited back to read again if you spill over into someone else’s designated time.

Prepare a short introduction for each piece you will be reading to set the context. Two or three minutes should suffice. Avoid the trap of expounding too much on how you came to write the story. It may be interesting to you but less so to the audience.

Debrief After the Fact

When you arrive home from the event, take a half hour to do a debrief on how things went and identify areas for improvement.

Did your icebreaker question work? Did your elevator speech work? If not, rework them based on the experience.

Did the excerpt you selected to read go over well? Was it the right piece for the audience?

Did your performance go well? How can you improve it? What can you learn from other authors who were at the event?

Was the host pleased? You always want to keep the door open to be invited back.

And finally, how many books were you able to sell? If the group applauded your reading but no one stepped up to buy, they are only tire-kickers. You probably will not want to go back to that venue.

You Never Have a Second Chance

In summary, remember that your appearance is in fact a performance. Do the upfront work – develop your icebreaker question and your elevator speech – to prepare yourself. Learn to read body language and what it conveys. Think hard about the excerpts you choose to read. Kick into performance mode when you step on stage. And finally, de-brief yourself after each appearance.

Public appearances can be nerve wracking. But presenting ourselves well is a necessary component of success as an author. The old adage is true: You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Preparing properly and following a few best practices go a long ways toward make the process easier.

Michael Robert Dyet is the author of Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet. Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble. His debut work Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009.

Michael is also a marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in marketing and communications including trade show salesmanship.

Visit Michael’s website at and his blog Metaphors of Life Journal at

Author: Michael Robert Dyet
Publisher: Blue Denim Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Literary Fiction/Short Story Collection
Life becomes a search to find our way back home after unexpected storms knock us off course. This collection of 16 stories reflects that deep urge to return to where we feel at peace. The journey back becomes a rite of passage.

The title story, “Hunting Muskie”, sets the tone – the hunt to find and subdue an unseen foe. Each of the other stories elaborates on this theme.

Hunter is haunted by the mistake that defined his life. A chance encounter sets Edward on a search for answers. An act of bullying committed decades ago brings a day of reckoning for Quentin. Will must pay the ransom of conscience. A shocking event causes Laurel to fall victim to a temptation she cannot rationalize. Huck shuts out the loss he cannot face until he can deny it no longer. Malcolm seeks atonement for a desperate act committed in the name of love.

The longer piece, Slipstream, ties together the connecting threads: the powerful forces that derail us, how we are driven to search for answers and the harsh truth that redemption often comes at a price.

Order Your Copy!

Excerpt from the title story “Hunting Muskie”

“Go big or go home,” Norman declared, as he rigged his eight inch Lil Ernie Deep Diver.
“You think it’s still out there?”
“We’ll see.”
Norman had hooked into a huge muskie in exactly this spot a few summers earlier. He had battled it for ten minutes before it spat the lure and escaped.
Tom watched as Norman cast his Lil Ernie far out along the rock ridge that ran below the surface. He cast his own line on the other side of the boat as the look in Arianna’s eyes flashed in his mind again.
“I’ve got cancer.”
Norman made the announcement as he cast his line a second time.
“Kidney cancer. Renal Cell Carcinoma, if you want to know the official name for it.”
“My God, Dad.” Tom let his line go limp in the water. “When did you find out?”
“Does that really matter?”
“Well ... they can operate, right? You can live with one kidney. Lots of people do.”
“It’s already metastasized. It’s in both kidneys.”
“Damn. When do you start treatments? You’re going to need help. I could take a leave of absence.”
“Chemotherapy? I’ll tell you the same thing I told the Oncologist. I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend what time I have left feeling like hell warmed over.”
“But you can’t just give up. You’ve gotta fight it.”
Norman cast again.
“The sixth island from the head of the lake. An oval island, remarkable for its evergreens.”
“Yeah, I know. Catherine Par Traill describing Black Island in one of her stories. I remember everything you taught us. Are we going to talk about this or not?”
“Then why even tell me?”
“Muskie take their prey head first. One gulp and that’s all she wrote.”
“So we’re talking about muskie behaviour now?”
“At my age, Thomas, cancer is like a muskie. Once it has got its teeth into you, you’re not getting away. Why would I even want to? Your mother is gone. Benjamin is gone. You live 2,000 thousand miles away. And I’m too old to keep coming up here. I may be stubborn. But I know when it’s time to bow out gracefully.”
A wave of guilt assaulted Tom. He had become too absorbed in his own life, and its fraying edges, to see that his father’s life was unraveling to the end of its spool.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t know it was so hard for you.”
“I’m not complaining. If one of us had to go early, I’m glad it was your mother who went on ahead. I would not have wanted her to be the one left behind. But Benjamin... A father should not outlive his son. It just isn’t right.”
“Even still, I think you should reconsider. There are–”
Norman reefed back hard on his pole. It bent like a bow as line went screaming off the reel.
“Bet my life on it. Nothing else runs that fast. There’s the head shake. Get your line in. We’re in for a battle.”
“Do you think?” Tom asked, reeling in as fast as he could.
“We’ll know soon enough.”
Norman cranked hard on his reel to make up ground. The muskie started another run, dead straight for thirty feet. It broke the surface, erasing all doubt, in a majestic, gravity-defying leap.
“My God, it’s huge! A four footer, maybe.”
“Oh, you beautiful thing! I’ll have you in this boat if it’s the last thing I do in this life.”
Norman glanced at Tom with a grin on his face even as he winced at the effort.
“I’m glad you’re here to see this, Thomas. This is how I want you to remember me. Not lying in a bed waiting to die. Out here hunting muskie.”
Tom saw his father’s life, and his own, in a new light. Muskie were the stuff of legend—the fish of ten thousand casts. You could go your whole life without hooking one. But when you did, and the hook was set deep, a muskie would always claim the dignity of fighting to the end.
“Give her hell, Dad. She won the first battle but this one is all yours.”
Folle Avoine. Steeped in history, witness to the fall of one culture and the rise of another, too wild to be bridged, too maternal to give up her dead. As good a place as any to bow out gracefully, Tom decided, and, for that matter, to start anew.

Watch the Trailer!

Michael Robert Dyet is the Metaphor Guy. Novelist, short story writer, closet philosopher, chronicler of life’s mysteries – all through the lens of metaphor. He is the author of Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet, Blue Denim Press, October 2017.

Michael is also the author of Until The Deep Water Stills: An Internet-Enhanced Novel – traditional print novel (self-published) with a unique and ground-breaking online companion featuring text, imagery and audio recordings. This novel was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Michael posts weekly in his blog: Metaphors of Life Journal aka Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Metaphors of Life Journal Blog:
Novel Online Companion:




Saturday, March 17, 2018

Does fiction tell lies?

My older brother told me that writing stories was the same as telling lies. I was a pretty useless liar at the time, but convinced I was good at telling stories - after all, even said older brother liked my stories some of the time. Having been taught that telling lies is wrong, I struggled for a while to convince myself that telling stories was different. Eventually I concluded it's only a lie if it's intended to deceive. Otherwise it's fictional entertainment (books) or kindness (those gentle untruths that avoid causing pain or giving offense). Meanwhile I continued to read voraciously, never even beginning to imagine that those other writers were "telling lies." After all, they were adults and adults never sin. (Such was my youthful innocence!)

The worlds and/or characters of fantasy and science fiction are far enough from our own there can't be any intent to deceive - though sometimes, in urban fantasy perhaps, they're close enough to our own that the reader might dream... I wonder if I could have a superpower... if I could fly... Not that I'll try. Anyway, find some coffee and see what you think of the worlds these enjoyable reads portray. I shall remain, forever, a book addict, and that's no lie.

The world of The Alchemical Detective by Kirsten Weiss revolves around some very real locations, specifically Lake Tahoe in this second book of the series. The characters have real lives besides occasional powers. The ghosts want to be seen. The psychic doesn't want to be killed. And there's more to it all than meets the eye. Enjoy with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Part one of April Lynn Newell's The Overcome Trilogy, The Reconciling, starts off in a very real world too, where a young women wears gloves for a very surprising reason. Secrets in the Book lead her to a rather different place, and the story's short, intriguing, and enjoyably spiritual. Read with some well-balanced full-flavoried three-star coffee.

Thunder Horizon by Stephen Zimmer, is set in a far different place, but one intriguingly informed by real-world mythology. Complex well-wrought cultures (not all of them human), well-imagined heroes and monsters, and a cool sense of Rome vs. the Barbarian hordes make this an intense exciting read, and a good standalone novel, even though it's book two in a series. Enjoy with some dark, intense five-star coffee.

I'm not sure A Day In The Life by Theodore Ficklestein quite fits in this list. Male protagonist instead of female, read world instead of imaginary, comedy instead of fantastical terror and war... but it's a coming of age novel, it's oddly dystopian in perspective, and it's filled with story piled on story on story and more as in wannabe comedian protagonist offers a sarcastic monologue on everything he sees. Enjoy this one with some seriously intense five-star coffee.

And that, of course, is where A Day In the Life does fit in. Does fiction tell lies? Does sarcasm tell lies? Does exaggeration...? I learned to be brave and disagree with my brother. And I'm still writing stories (and reading them!). Hope you are too.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What comes first, ashes or fire?


I'm delighted to welcome author Bob Freeman to my blog today. I enjoyed and reviewed his novel Shadows over Somerset some time ago (click on the name for my review). And now he's touring the internet with First Born, which, it seems, is first of several books to come. As Bob Freeman will now explain,First Born arises from the ashes... So, over to you Bob, and welcome to my blog.


by Bob Freeman

A wise doctor does not mutter incantations
over a sore that needs the knife.

Lets cut to the chase: the Liber Monstrorum Chronicles are occult detective tales. What does that mean? The simple definition is that these types of stories adopt the tropes of the traditional detective story and combine them with those found in supernatural horror fiction. This is true of the collection I've called First Born, to be sure. Are some of the stories heavier handed than others? Certainly. Some of the stories you'll find stray into other territories. In fact, the lead tale reads more like a gothic romance, while the second story is all noir.

These Chronicles concern themselves with magic, with unseen forces, and with the men and women who find themselves entangled within a web of supernatural intrigue. There is a vast cast of characters, but at the center is one Landon Connors.

Dr. Landon Ashton Connors is an occult detective, ghost hunter, monster slayer, and ceremonial magician. He was born into a family of magicians who have dedicated their lives to combating the dark and sinister forces that have sought to shape the world in their image.

Connors is the caretaker of Caliburn House (a Second Empire manor in rural Indiana), a keeper of the Liber Monstrorum (a chronicle of his family’s warfare against all manner of dark wizards, ancient cults, ghosts, demons, and monstrosities), and a consultant to various organizations and private individuals who come seeking his expertise in the field of the occult.

I anticipate the Liber Monstrorum Chronicles to be at least four volumes: First Born, Descendant, Born Again, and Afterbirth. I may get to a fifth volume, Afterlife, and even a sixth, Transcendent, at some point, but that’s a ways down the proverbial Lost Highway.

First Born is made up of twelve short stories, two illustrated tales, and one novella. All have been published in one fashion or another in various forms, though many have been reworked here and there. This is the first time they’ve all been gathered under one roof, so to speak.

Here is a list of the stories you’ll find inside:

The genesis of several of the tales in this collection stem from the novel Descendant, a book that Seventh Star Press will be publishing later this year as the second volume in the Liber Monstrorum Chronicles.

I had originally sold the novel to a UK publisher that went bankrupt before publication. I was, however, pitched an interesting marketing strategy — I was to write five short stories, each released as chapbooks and doled out over the five months preceding Descendant's issuance.

The only chapbook that saw the light of day was Ashes to Ashes. The publisher went up in flames and became naught but ash themselves. But these stories were born from that  misadventure, and now, thanks to Seventh Star Press, they are released back into the wild and surrounded by complimentary tales of the strange and the unusual.

It all starts here with First Born...

authorpicrbobAbout the author: Bob Freeman is an author, artist, and paranormal adventurer whose previous novels include Shadows Over Somerset and Keepers of the Dead.

A lifelong student of mythology, folklore, magic, and religion, Freeman has written numerous short stories, articles, and reviews for various online and print publications and is a respected lecturer on the occult and paranormal phenomena.

He lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.

Mr. Freeman can be found online at

Author Links: Website:
Twitter: @OccultDetective 


FirstBornCover_1200X800About First Born: From the arcane sorceries of “The Wickedest Man in the World” to the supernatural exploits of Occult Detective Landon Connors and the harrowing investigations of Agents Wolfe and Crowe, this collection of macabre tales of the black arts treads the dangerous landscape between this world and that populated by angels and demons, gods and devils, ghosts and spirits, and the legendary creatures of our darkest imaginings.

First Born is the beginning of the journey into the Liber Monstrorum, the Chronicles of those Occult Detectives who are the last line of defense against those preternatural forces that threaten to destroy a world that refuses to believe that such things exist…

Kindle Version
Amazon Print Version
Barnes and Noble:

Find out more: Follow the tour:
3/12 The Coming Evil Author Interview
3/13 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Author Interview
3/14 Hunting Monsters Guest Post
3/14 Book in the Bag Interview
3/15 Morgan Sylvia Top Ten List
3/16 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post 
3/17 I Smell Sheep Top Ten List
3/18 Jacob Floyd's Ghosts and Monsters Review and Interview

Monday, March 12, 2018

When Sheila meets Sheila, how's life at the beach?

Today I'm visiting Moonlight Harbor with author Sheila Roberts as she tours the internet with Pump up your Book. It looks like an enticing place - as you'd expect, since the author lives on the water in the Pacific Northwest. So, as we sit down to share a cup of tea, coffee, or beverage of choice, I do have to ask:

Is life good at the beach?

You bet. No matter what the weather!

And now to books. Having read a little about Welcome to Moonlight Harbor, it's interesting to see a novel where the wife is paying spousal support. What inspired the idea?

Real life. This is happening more and more as women become increasingly successful. Several years back,we had the house husband trend where men were starting to stay home with the kids while the wife (who often made more and was on a better career path) went to work. So this new trend in spousal support is hardly surprising. Whoever has stayed home with the kids is the one who gets the financial help. Sometimes this is a good idea, sometimes not. There are cases like Jenna's where the man is simply being a leech.

Ouch. Though of course that makes for interesting reading. Where does the philosophy Every Storm Brings a Rainbow come from? Do you live by it?

Actually, it comes from me, and I do try to live by it. I've certainly had some storms in my life, but God has always gotten me through them and while I've never liked the storms I've sure appreciated the rainbows.

Me too, and with one of my publisher's imminent closure, I'm certainly looking for rainbow. A trip to coast would be nice though, so... is Driftwood Inn based on a real place?

The Driftwood Inn is completely made up. But Moonlight Harbor was inspired by a real place: Ocean Shores, Washington, a fun little coastal town with cute shops, lovely beaches, and great people.

Ah, maybe I should try going there. Thank you, and thank you for visiting my blog, from one Sheila to another! And readers, don't forget to read on for a very enticing excerpt!

Sheila Roberts lives on the water in the Pacific Northwest. Her books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS was made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.

When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.



Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 400
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Welcome to Moonlight Harbor
Once-happily married Jenna Jones is about to turn forty, and this year for her birthday – lucky her – she’s getting a divorce. She’s barely able to support herself and her teenage daughter, but now her deadbeat artist ex is hitting her up for spousal support…and then spending it on his “other” woman.

Still, Jenna is determined follow her mother’s philosophy – every storm brings a rainbow. And when she gets a very unexpected gift from her great Aunt Edie, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Aging aunt Edie is finding it difficult to keep up her business running The Driftwood Inn, so she invites Jenna to come live with her and run the place. It looks like Jenna’s financial problems are solved!

Or not. The town is a little more run-down than Jenna remembered, but that’s nothing compared to the ramshackle state of The Driftwood Inn. Aunt Edie is confident they can return it to its former glory, though Jenna feels like she’s jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the beach fire.

But who knows? With the help of her new friends and a couple of handsome citizens, perhaps that rainbow is on the horizon after all. Because, no matter what, life is always good at the beach.

Order Your Copy!

 Chapter 1
To Do:
Clean office
Dentist at noon
Drop Sabrina off at Mom’s
Meet everyone at Casa Roja at 6
Or just tell them I’ve got bubonic plague and cancel

            The four women seated at a corner booth in the Mexican restaurant were getting increasingly noisier with each new round of drinks. Cinco de Mayo had come and gone, but these ladies still had something to celebrate, as they were all dressed in slinky tops over skinny jeans and body-con dresses, killer shoes, and wearing boas. There were four of them, all pretty, all still in their thirties. Except the guest of honor, who was wearing a black dress, a sombrero and a frown. She was turning forty.
            It was going to take a while for her to get as jovial as the others (like about a million years) considering what she’d just gotten for her birthday. A divorce.
            “Here’s to being free of rotten scum-sucking, cheating husbands,” toasted Celeste, sister of the guest of honor. She was thirty-five, single, and always in a party mood.
            The birthday girl, Jenna Jones, formerly Jenna Petit, took another sip of her mojito. She could get completely sloshed if she wanted. She wasn’t driving and she didn’t have to worry about setting a good example for her daughter, Sabrina, who was spending the night with Grandma. Later, if they could still work their cell phones, the gang would be calling Uber and getting driven home and poured into their houses or, in the case of sister Celeste, apartments, so there was no need to worry about driving drunk. But Jenna wasn’t a big drinker, even when she was in a party mood, and tonight she was as far from that as a woman could get.
            What was there to party about when you were getting divorced and turning (ick!) forty? Still, that mojito was going down pretty easily. And she was inhaling the chips and salsa. At the rate she was going she’d be getting five extra pounds for her birthday as well as a divorce.
            “Just think, you can make a whole new start,” said her best friend Brittany. Brittany was happily married with three kids. What did she know about new starts? Still, she was trying to put a positive spin on things.
            “And who knows? Maybe the second time around you’ll meet a business tycoon” said Jenna’s other bestie, Vanita.
            “Or someone who works at Amazon and owns lots of stock,” put in Celeste.
            “I’d take the stock in a heartbeat,” Jenna said, “but I’m so over men.” She’d given up on love. Maybe, judging from the chewed fingernails and grown-out highlights in her hair, she’d given up on herself, too. She felt shipwrecked. What was the point of building a rescue fire? The next ship to come along would probably also flounder.
            “No, you’re over man,” Brittany corrected. “You can’t give up on the whole species because of one loser. You don’t want to go through the rest of your life celibate.” She shuddered as if celibacy was akin to leprosy.
            “Anyway, there’s some good ones out there somewhere,” said Vanita, who, at thirty-six, was still single and looking. “They’re just hiding,” she added with a guffaw, and took another drink of her Margarita.
            “That’s for sure,” Celeste agreed, who was also looking now that This-is-it Relationship Number Three had died. With her green eyes, platinum hair, pouty lips and perfect body, it probably wouldn’t take her long to find a replacement. “Men. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t ...” Her brows furrowed. “Live with ‘em.”
            Jenna hadn’t been able to live with hers, that was for sure, not once she learned Mr. Sensitive Artist had another muse on the side - a redhead who painted murals and was equally sensitive. And had big boobs. That had nothing to do with why they were together, Damien had insisted. They were soul mates.
            Funny, he’d said the same thing to Jenna once. It looked like some souls could have as many mates as they wanted.
            Damien Petit, handsome, charming... rat. When they first got together Jenna had thought he was brilliant. They’d met at a club in the U District. He’d been the darling of the University of Washington Art Department. He’d looked like a work of art, himself, with brooding eyes and the perfectly chiseled features of a marble statue. She’d been going to school to become a massage therapist. She, who had never gotten beyond painting tiles and decorating cakes, had been in awe. A real artist. His medium was un-recyclable detritus. Junk.
            Too bad she hadn’t seen the symbolism in that back when they first got together. All she’d seen was his creativity.
            She was seeing that in full bloom now. Damien had certainly found a creative way to support himself and his new woman - on spousal support from Jenna.
            Seriously? She’d barely be able to support herself and Sabrina once the dust settled.
            Nonetheless, the court had deemed that she had been the main support of the family and poor, struggling artist Damien needed transitional help while he readied himself to get out there in the big, bad world and earn money on his own. Her reward for being the responsible one in the marriage was to support the irresponsible one. So now, he was living in the basement of his parent’s house, cozy as a cockroach with the new woman, and Jenna was footing the bill for their art supplies. Was this fair? Was this right? Was this any way to start off her fortieth year?
            Her sister nudged her. “Hey, smile. We’re having fun here.”
            Jenna forced a smile. “Fun.”
            “You can’t keep brooding about the junk jerk.”
            “I’m not,” Jenna lied.
            “Yeah, you are. I can see it in your eyes.”
            “I know it’s not fair you have to pay him money,” put in Brittany, “but that’s how things work today. You know, women’s rights and all. If men can pay us spousal support we can pay them, too.”
            “Since when does women’s rights give your ex the right to skip off like a fifteen-year old with his new bimbo and you pay for the fun?” Jenna demanded.
            It was sick and wrong. She’d carried him for years, working as a massage therapist while he dabbled away, selling a piece of art here and there. They’d lived on her salary supplemented by an annual check at Christmas from his folks, who wanted to encourage him to pursue his dream of artistic success, and grocery care packages from her mom, who worked as a checker at the local Safeway. And the grandparents, God bless them, had always given her a nice, fat check for her birthday. Shocking how quickly those fat checks always shrank. Damien drank up money like a thirsty plant, investing it in his art ... and certain substances to help him with his creative process.
            Maybe everyone shouldn’t have helped them so much. Maybe they should have let Damien become a starving artist, literally. Then he might have grown up and manned up and gotten a job.
            They’d had more than one discussion about that. “And when,” he’d demanded, “am I supposed to do my art?” 
            “Evenings? Weekends?”
            He’d looked heavenward and shaken his head. “As if you can just turn on creativity like a faucet.”
            One of Jenna’s clients was an aspiring writer with a family, who worked thirty hours a week. She managed to turn on the faucet every Saturday morning.
There was obviously something wrong with Damien’s pipes. “I need time to think, time for things to come together.”
            Something had come together all right. With Aurora Ansel, whose mother had obviously watched one too many Disney movies.
            Jenna probably should have packed it in long before Aurora came slinking along, admitted what she’d known after only a couple of years into the marriage that it had been a mistake. But after she’d gotten pregnant she’d wanted desperately to make things work, so she’d kept her head down and kept ploughing forward through rough waters.
Now she and Damien were through and it still didn’t look like clear sailing ahead. Sigh.
            “Game time,” Celeste announced. We are going to see who can wish the worst fate on the scum-sucking cheater. I have a prize for the winner.” She dug in her capacious Michael Kors purse and pulled out a Seattle Chocolates chocolate bar and everyone, including the birthday girl let out an “ooh.”
            “Okay, I’ll go first,” Brittany said. “May he fall in a dumpster looking for junk and not be able to climb out.”
            “I’ll drink to that,” Jenna said, and did.
            “Oh, that’s lame,” scoffed Vanita.
            “So, you think you can do better?” Brittany challenged.
            “Absolutely,” she said, flipping her long, black hair. “May he wind up in the Museum of Bad Art.”
            “There is such a thing?” Jenna asked.
            “Oh, yeah.” Vanita grinned.
            “Ha!” Celeste crowed. “That would serve him right.”
            Jenna shook her head. “That will never be happen. To be fair, he is good.”
            “Good at being a cheating scum sucker,” Celeste said and took a drink.
            Vanita tried again. “Okay, then, how about this one? May a thousand camels spit on his work.”
            “Or a thousand first-graders,” added Celeste, who taught first grade.
            “How about this one? May the ghost of Van Gogh haunt him and cut off his ear,” Brittany offered.
            Vanita made a face and set down the chip she was about to bite into. “Eeew.”
“Eew is right,” Jenna agreed. “But I’m feeling bloodthirsty tonight so I’ll drink to that. I think that one’s your winner,” she said to her sister.
Celeste shook her head. “Oh, no. I can do better than that.”
            “Go for it,” urged Brittany.
            Celeste’s smile turned wicked. “May his ‘paint brush’ shrivel and fall off.”
            “And to think you teach children,” Jenna said, rolling her eyes.
            Nonetheless, the double entendre had them all laughing uproariously.
            “Okay, I win the chocolate,” Celeste said.
            “You haven’t given Jenna a chance,” pointed out Brittany.
            “Go ahead, try and beat that,” Celeste said, waving the chocolate bar in front of Jenna.
            “I can’t. It’s yours.”
            Their waiter, a cute twenty-something Latino, came over. “Are you ladies ready for another drink?”
            “We’d better eat,” Jenna said. Her mojito was going to her head.
            Celeste overrode her. “We’ve got plenty of night left. Bring us more drinks,” she told the waiter. “And more chips.” She held up the empty bowl.
            “Anything you ladies want,” he said, and smiled at Jenna.
            Celeste nudged her as he walked away. “Did you hear that? Anything you want.”
            “Not in the market,” Jenna said firmly, shaking her head and making the sombrero wobble. Tonight she hated men.
            But, she decided, she did like mojitos, and her second one went down just fine.
            So did the third. Olé.

            Saturday morning, she woke up with gremlins sandblasting her brain and her mouth tasting like she’d feasted on cat litter instead of enchiladas. She rolled out of bed and staggered to the bathroom where she tried to silence the gremlins with aspirin and a huge glass of water. Then she made the mistake of looking in the mirror.
            Ugh. Who was that woman with the ratty, long, blond-gone hair? Her bloodshot eyes were more red than blue and the circles under them made her look a decade older than what she’d just turned. Well, she felt a decade older than what she’d just turned.
            A shower would help. Maybe.
            Or maybe not. She still didn’t look so hot, even after she’d blown out her hair and put on some make-up. But oh, well. At least the gremlins had taken a lunch break.
            She got in her ten-year-old Toyota (thank God they made those cars to run forever - this one would have to) and drove to her mother’s house to pick up her daughter. 
            She found her mother stretched out on the couch with a romance novel. Unlike her daughter, she looked rested, refreshed, and ready for a new day. In her early sixties, she was still an attractive woman, slender with a youthful face and the gray hairs well hidden under a sandy brown that was only slightly lighter than her original color.
“Hello, birthday girl,” Mom greeted her. “Did you have fun last night?”
            As the night wore on she’d been distracted from her misery. That probably counted as fun, so she said, “Yes.”
            “Looks like you could use some coffee,” Mom said, and led her into the kitchen.
“How’s my baby?” Jenna asked.
            “She’s good. She just got in the shower. We stayed up late last night.”
            Jenna settled at the kitchen table. “What did she think of your taste in movies?”
            “She was impressed, naturally. Every girl should have to watch Pretty in Pink and Jane Eyre.”
            “And?” Jenna prompted.
            “Okay, so I showed her Grease. It’s a classic.”
            “About hoods and ho’s.”
            “I don’t know how you can say that about an iconic movie,” Mom said. “Anyway, I explained a few things to her, so it came with a moral.”
            “What? You, too, can look like Olivia Newton John?”
            Mom shrugged. “Something like that. Now, tell me. What all did you girls do?”
            “Not much. We just went out for dinner.”
            “Dinner is nice,” Mom said, and set a cup of coffee in front of Jenna. She pulled a bottle of Jenna’s favorite caramel flavored creamer from the fridge and set it on the table and watched while Jenna poured in a generous slosh. “I know this is going to be the beginning of a wonderful new year for you.”
            “I have no way to go but up.”
            “That’s right. And you know...”
            “Every storm brings a rainbow,” Jenna finished with her.
            “I firmly believe that.”
            And Mom should know. She’d had her share of storms. “I don’t know how you did it,” Jenna said. “Surviving losing dad when we were so young, raising us single-handedly.”
            “Hardly single-handedly. I had Gram and Gramps and Grandma and Grandpa Jones, as well. Yes, we each have to fight our own fight, but God always puts someone in our corner to help us.”
            “I’m glad you’re in my corner,” Jenna said. “You’re my hero.”
            Jenna had been almost five and Celeste a baby when their father had been killed in a car accident. Sudden, no chance for her mom to say good-bye. There was little that Jenna remembered about her father beyond sitting on his shoulders when they milled with the crowd at the Puyallup Fair or stood watching the Seafair parade in downtown Seattle, that and the scrape of his five o’clock shadow when he kissed her goodnight.
            What stuck in her mind most was her mom, holding her on her lap, sitting at this very kitchen table and saying to Gram, “He was my everything.”
            That read well in books, but maybe in real life it wasn’t good to make a man your everything. Even the good ones left you.
            At least her dad hadn’t left voluntarily. Her mom had chosen a good man. So had Gram, whose husband was also gone now. Both women had picked wisely and knew what good looked like.
            Too bad Jenna hadn’t listened to them when they tried to warn her about Damien. “Honey, there’s no hurry,” Mom had said.
            Yes, there was. She’d wanted to be with him NOW.
            “Are you sure he’s what you really want?” Gram had asked. “He seems a little...”
            “What?” Jenna had prompted.
            “Egotistical,” Gram had ventured.
            “He’s confident,” Jenna had replied. “There’s a difference.”
            “Yes, there is,” Gram had said. “Are you sure you know what it is?” she’d added, making Jenna scowl.
            “I’m just not sure he’s the right man for you,” Mom had worried.
            “Of course, he is,” Jenna had insisted, because at twenty-three she knew it all. And Damien had been so glamorous, so exciting. Look how well their names went together - Damien and Jenna, Jenna and Damien. Oh, yes, perfect.
            And so it was for a time... until she began to see the flaws. Gram had been right, he was egotistical. Narcissistic. Irresponsible. Those flaws she could live with. Those she did live with. But then came the one flaw she couldn’t accept. Unfaithful.
            Not that he’d asked her to accept it. Not that he’d asked her to keep him. Or even to forgive him. “I can’t help how I feel,” he’d said.
            That was it. Harsh reality came in like a strong wind and blew away the last of the fantasy.
But, here was Mom, living proof that a woman could survive the loss of her love, could climb out of the rubble after all her dreams collapsed and rebuild. She’d worked hard at a job that kept her on her feet all day and had still managed to make PTA meetings. She’d hosted tea parties when her girls were little and sleepovers when they became teenagers. And, in between all that, she’d managed to make time for herself, starting a book club with some of the neighbors. That book club still met every month. And Mom still found time for sleepovers, now with her granddaughter.
Surely, if her mom could overcome the loss of her man, Jenna could overcome the loss of what she’d thought her man was.
            Mom smiled at her and slid a card-sized envelope across the table. “Happy birthday.”
            “You already gave me my birthday present,” Jenna said. Mom had given her a motivational book about new beginnings by Muriel Sterling with a fifty-dollar bill tucked inside. Jenna would read the book (once she was ready to face the fact that she did, indeed, have to make a new beginning) and she planned to hoard the fifty like a miser. You could buy a lot of lentils and beans with fifty bucks.
            “This isn’t from me. It’s from your Aunt Edie.”
            “Aunt Edie?”
            She hadn’t seen her great aunt in years, but she had fond memories of those childhood summer visits with her at Moonlight Harbor – beach combing for agates, baking cookies with Aunt Edie while her parrot Jolly Roger squawked all the silly things Uncle Ralph had taught him, listening to the waves crash as she lay in the old antique bed in the guest room at night with her sister. She remembered digging clams with Uncle Ralph, sitting next to her mother in front of a roaring beach fire, using her arm to shield her face from the heat of the flame as she roasted a hot dog. Those visits had been as golden as the sunsets.
            But after getting together with Damien, life had filled with drama and responsibilities, and, after one quick visit, the beach town on the Washington Coast had faded into a memory. Maybe she’d spend that birthday money Mom had given her and go see Aunt Edie.
            She pulled the card out of the envelope. All pastel flowers and birds, the outside read For a Lovely Niece. The inside had a sappy poem telling her she was special and wishing her joy in everything she did, and was signed, Love, Aunt Edie. No Uncle Ralph. He’d been gone for several years.
            Aunt Edie had stuffed a letter inside the card. The writing was small, like her aunt. But firm, in spite of her age.
            Dear Jenna,
            I know you’ve gone through some very hard times, but I also know that like all the women in our family, you are strong and you’ll come through just fine.
            Your grandmother told me you could use a new start and I would like to give it to you. I want you to come to Moonlight Harbor and help me revamp and run The Driftwood Inn. Like me, it’s getting old and it needs some help. I plan to bequeath it to you on my death. The will is already drawn up, signed and witnessed, so I hope you won’t refuse my offer.
            Of course, I know your cousin Winston would love to get his grubby mitts on it, but he won’t. The boy is useless. And besides, you know I’ve always had a soft spot for you in my heart. You’re a good girl who’s always been kind enough to send Christmas cards and homemade fudge for my birthday. Uncle Ralph loved you like a daughter. So do I, and since we never had children of our own you’re the closest thing I have to one. I know your mother and grandmother won’t mind sharing.
            Please say you’ll come.
            Love, Aunt Edie
            Jenna hardly knew what to say. “She wants to leave me the motel.” She had to be misreading.
            She checked again. No, there it was, in Aunt Edie’s tight little scrawl.
            Mom smiled. “I think this could be your rainbow.”
            Not just the rainbow, the pot of gold as well!