Saturday, February 26, 2022

Charity Sunday: Rare Diseases #CharitySunday #SMA @CureSMA

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Welcome to the Charity Sunday blog hop!

I’d been wondering what cause to support this month. The world faces so many problems... honestly, it’s hard to know where we can do the most good.

Then I got an email from Cure SMA, informing me that Monday the 28th of February is Rare Disease Day:


We hear a lot about the diseases that afflict large numbers of people: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and so on. And obviously it’s important to support research and treatment for these diseases. But there are other diseases of which very few people are aware – until someone you know turns out to be a sufferer.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is one of these rare diseases. I’d never heard about SMA until six years ago, when my cousin Danny was born with SMA, a genetic disorder that affects roughly 1 in 11,000 births. SMA robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants.

The majority of babies born with SMA die before they reach their first birthday. Danny was lucky enough to be in trial of the experimental drug Spinraza. He’s now six years old. Although he is still severely disabled, physically, he’s alive and active, going to school, supported by a loving family and an informed medical establishment.

CureSMA is an organization dedicated to fostering research on SMA, providing authoritative information for individuals and families dealing with SMA, and advocating for government policies that assist rather than disadvantage SMA sufferers.

Anyway, for today’s Charity Sunday, I will donate $2 to CureSMA for every comment I receive. And to give you something to comment on, here’s a quick excerpt from my MM paranormal erotic romance At the Margins of Madness, released during my paranormal January promotion. It’s back to its regular price of $4.99, but to be honest, I still think it’s a great read if you like intense paranormal tales and gay romance.


Nineteen year old Kyle has devastating visions of horrific disasters. Everyone assumes Kyle is schizophrenic, but Rob, the cop who picks him up off the street, knows better. Since his telepathic sister's brutal murder, Rob wants nothing to do with "gifted" individuals like Kyle. Yet he can't deny his attraction to the beautiful, tortured young man -- an attraction that appears to be mutual.

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Rob wandered into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee, a headache pounding in his skull. He couldn’t pretend it was coincidence. He couldn’t lie to himself. It might seem incredible, but he knew that psychic powers were real. Real, dangerous and destructive.

Mary’s “gift? had appeared around puberty, just like Kyle’s. One day in high school study hall, she had started to hear people’s thoughts. She had run screaming from the classroom, her hands pressed to her ears, trying to shut out the cacophony babbling in her head. She had never gone back—their mother had tutored her at home, and then she had earned her degree in accounting on-line. As soon as she was old enough, she moved into an apartment by herself. She rarely went out, trying to shield herself from the mental voices that assaulted her whenever she did.

Rob used to visit her, though probably not as often as he should have. He hated to think of her so alone. She was his kid sister, after all. She was nine years younger. She should have been married, or at least had a boyfriend. She told him that being around one or two people wasn’t too bad, especially if she knew and cared about them. The last time he’d been to her place, she had been excited. She’d found someone, someone who was helping her learn to control her power. To turn down the voices when she needed to, and to focus on one stream of thought out of many. For the first time, she had some hope of living a normal life.

Two weeks later, she had disappeared. Three weeks later, they found her body in Elm Park, with her throat slashed and her chest torn open. Her heart had been cut out.

The grisly murder had dominated the headlines at first, but as time went on and no clues were discovered, the public moved on to the next sensation. Rob didn’t forget, though. He couldn’t erase the image of her mutilated body lying on the bank near the lake. He had been on duty, one of the first members of the force on the scene. Two years later, he still saw her in his nightmares.

If only he’d spent more time with her. If only he had seen the danger. If only she had been an ordinary woman, without power. Rob was certain that her special abilities were related to her death.

Rob’s eyes blurred with tears. His fists clenched. He’d find the murderer, someday, somehow. He had spent weeks, combing through the thin stash of evidence, poring over the coroner’s report, looking for some hint that would point him toward the killer. He had kept Mary’s personal things, after they cleaned out her apartment, but hadn’t found any clues in the few boxes that represented the sum of her young life.

His mother couldn’t bear to talk about her lost daughter. Not long after the murder, she began showing signs of Alzheimer’s and was now in a nursing home. His dad, a cop like him, had been killed in a drug bust in 1995. Now he was the only person who really remembered Mary—her life, her struggles and her terrible death.

Rob?” Kyle stood in the doorway of the kitchen, naked and beautiful. “Is everything okay? I heard the phone.”

A lump of stone settled in Rob’s chest. His head felt like it was about to split open. He must not allow himself to get closer to Kyle, regardless of how needy the boy was, or how seductive. He couldn’t handle another brush with the kind of power Kyle exhibited. He had used all his tears grieving for Mary.

It was the department. They want me to come in early today.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. “Want coffee?” Rob gestured at the percolator.

Love some.”

Rob turned to get mugs from the cabinet. Kyle came up from behind, circling Rob’s torso with his arms and rubbing his erection in the crack between Rob’s buttocks. Sparks sizzled over Rob’s skin. Kyle nuzzled Rob’s shoulder while massaging the cop’s nipples. Rob’s cock began to rise, despite his determination to keep Kyle at a distance.

Cut it out, Kyle.” Rob’s voice sounded forced even to his own ears. “I’ve got to get into the shower and then to work.”

I was hoping I might convince you to come back to bed.” Kyle dropped both hands to Rob’s groin, gripping the cop’s swelling dick in one hand while cupping his balls in the other.

Sorry, I can’t.” Rob pulled out of Kyle’s grasp, a bit more roughly than he intended. Kyle looked surprised and hurt. Rob busied himself pouring coffee, handing Kyle a full mug. “I’m kind of sorry I gave in to you last night. It really wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Kyle seated himself on a stool near the breakfast bar. Rob tried to ignore the arc of the boy’s cock, pointing towards the ceiling. “It felt right to me,” Kyle said softly, his eyes dark and intense under those hypnotic brows. “I thought you felt the same.”

You’re vulnerable right now. You’ve been through some terrible experiences. You need to focus your energy on recovery.”

Recovery. Right,” Kyle repeated, irony thick as syrup in his voice. “So why can’t fucking you be part of my recovery?”

I’m old enough to be your father, Kyle. And I’m a cop. I can’t allow myself to get mixed up with a psychotic street kid who thinks he can see the future.” Rob winced at his own words. But he had to drive a wedge between himself and Kyle, for his own good, and for Kyle’s too.

I thought you wanted to help me.” Kyle actually looked close to tears.

I do. I will. But do you really think that sucking my cock is the kind of help you need?”

Couldn’t hurt,” Kyle replied, with the ghost of a grin.

I don’t agree. I’ve got to maintain some authority here. You’re going to need discipline to get through this. That’s how I can help you. I can help you to be strong. To fight against your visions. But not if I’m jumping into the bed with you at every opportunity.”

Don’t you want me?” Kyle’s face darkened. Rob could see how many times the kid had been kicked, beaten, rejected. He ached to put his arms around the young outcast, to clutch the sleek body to his own and swear to protect Kyle from the world. But Rob had to protect himself first. He took a sip of his coffee, trying to find the right words.

Look, Kyle. You’re the sexiest guy I’ve met in ages. But you’re sick. You need to concentrate on getting better.”

Kyle’s brow furrowed. “I’m not sick. My visions, terrible as they are, are true. They’re not some symptom that will go away with the right drugs or therapy.” His face brightened. “What about the train, the tracks? The place the vision revealed to me?”

Rob stared at the bottom of his empty mug. The leaden weight in his chest made it hard to breathe. “Nothing. Dawson Street is nowhere near the Holden railroad line.”

The light drained from Kyle’s eyes. He slumped on the stool, hanging his head. His face was a white mask. “Another death,” he muttered, as if to himself.

Nonsense.” Rob placed an avuncular hand on Kyle’s shoulder, resolutely ignoring the electric charge that casual touch sent to his groin. “You mustn’t believe in your hallucinations. No one died.” That, at least, was true, Rob thought, hating himself for his deceit but knowing that he had no choice.

Kyle said nothing. He didn’t move. The young man’s stillness was frightening.

I’ve got to get going, Kyle, but I’ll be back by three this afternoon. Then we can start working on some of your real world issues. Getting you an ID, first thing, then taking you down to the division of employment to see if they’ve got any relevant jobs. Or maybe enrolling you in some skills training. How does that sound?”

There was no answer.

And there’s someone I’d like you to talk to. Dr. Hardy. She’s a psychiatrist. She helped me after—when I was going through some tough times myself.” Rob couldn’t bring himself to even mention Mary’s death in Kyle’s company. “She’s sharp as a tack, and a very warm person too. I think you’ll like her. How does that sound?”

Kyle stared at the linoleum floor tiles. Rob willed the young man to look up, to meet Rob’s eyes. It worked, in a way, though what he saw in those eyes scared the hell out of him.

Sure, Rob. Whatever you say.” Kyle stood up slowly, as though it hurt to move. “I think I’ll go back to bed.”

Please don’t forget to leave a comment. Every one is a bit of hope for someone like Danny.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Pushing it a step farther – #Werewolf #Cajun #Spanking @Bethany85799163

Power of the Tears cover

By Bethany Drake (Guest Author)

For those of you that know me you know I always write in the paranormal genre. I’ve written time travel and futuristic romance (under another name) and urban fantasy. I can’t seem to help it. I always have to push it a step farther. Instead of thinking about what would happen if they’re running from the law I think about what would happen if they were in the future running from a monster. It’s no surprise I came up with a werewolf world.

This werewolf series started a single title. I sat down one day, played my what if game and wondered how it would be if one of them was a werewolf. Hmm, what kind of werewolf? Definitely an alpha, they’re a lot more fun. I didn’t want to use the canon that is out there. No full moon, or silver bullets. They’re just like us but with the ability to shift. I knew I needed a strong heroine to stand up to him. Someone bright, funny and keeps him on his toes. I thought about it and decided that she’d be a 3rd degree blackbelt. She can protect herself, at least she thinks so. She also is human.

What’s next?

I love writing quest stories. I’m going to make them look for something. Something magical, something werewolfie (is that even a word or did I just create one?), something that will make my heroine balk. Put that wedge between the heroine and hero right off the bat.

When I created the idea of the Tears of the Queen I still believed this was a single title book. I was busy on another series, but the idea of the Tears stayed in the back of my mind. The Tears are a legend were tears from an alpha’s mate when he was killed fell to the ground and turned into red diamonds. If someone held all the diamonds they could turn someone from human to werewolf or werewolf to human.

I realized that the Tears could be a great catalyst for other books. As I had characters that I didn’t really want to let go of. I started to wonder if I could create more books. My brain mulled it around and a series was born.

In Power of the Tears I created Jacques. Good Lord, I love this character. I’ve now wondering if I can create another book with him and Catherine, my heroine. I’m sure it will come to me I just have to wait for my mind to figure it out.


Catherine is second in command in her pack and Max, her alpha, has made arrangements for her to visit a pack who has had three women murdered in a ritualistic manner. She isn’t looking forward to visiting a pack whose alpha believes women should only be mates and mothers. As the pack historian she has the knowledge needed to help the local sheriff solve the murders.

Jacques is the oldest son of the pack alpha, but an injury when he was young keeps him from shifting. He had to step back as the heir-apparent and let his brother rule. He’s now their sheriff. The moment he meets Catherine he wants something he feels he’s not worthy of. How could such a beautiful, successful werewolf want him?

The passion between them is powerful. Catherine starts to wonder if it’s interfering with her solving the murders. Jacques is determined to keep Catherine safe when it appears she may be the next victim. Can they solve the murders together? Can they have a happily ever after?

This book three in the Tears of the Wolf series and can be enjoyed independently.

Publisher’s Note: This paranormal romance contains elements of danger, suspense, mystery, sensual scenes, mild power exchange and a happily ever after.

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He wanted to spank her? What had she done wrong? It had her thinking.

Jacques held the door for her when she reached the truck. She climbed in avoiding eye contact. No one had ever threatened to spank her before. Silence stretched between them.

I’m sorry.” She kept her voice soft. “I wasn’t trying to insult your father. I was only going to say I could have thanked him myself.”

If your brother told you not to talk to Max would you disobey him? Even if Max said something you wanted to thank him for?”

No.” He was right. She should have deferred to him like she said she would.

I know your brother and your alpha discipline you when you do something they’re not happy about. Perhaps I should do the same thing.”

She blinked. No one ever tried to discipline her. Max and Patrick kept her protected. “No one has raised a hand toward me since I was a child.”

That explains a lot.” He stopped the truck in front of his office. Once again he opened the door for her and waited for her to climb out. He headed to the door, unlocked and held it open for her once again. The moment he closed the door, he turned toward her. “It’s time for a lesson.”

A lesson?” She took a step back. He wasn’t serious, was he?

Yes.” He took several steps toward her. “Take your pants off.”

Wh-what?” She took another step back and found herself backed up against his desk. “Why?”

Because I’m going to spank you.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “And the longer you take to follow my orders the more I will spank you.”

She swallowed hard but did as he asked.

Turn around and grip the desk.” He set his hat down on a nearby chair.

She had never felt so vulnerable. No one had ever done this to her. The sting of the first slap brought her back to what was happening. Why didn’t she fight him? If anyone else tried this they would have seen the bottom of her shoe. The second strike had her wondering what Jacques was thinking. It was obvious he wasn’t afraid of what might happen if she said something to someone. The third strike made her realize she was kind of enjoying this.

Now stand up and turn around.” She did as he asked and found him inches away. “Next time, when I ask you to let me be in control you will do what I ask.”

She had no words but found she didn’t need any. One instant he was staring her down and the next his lips were claiming hers. He pushed her shirt up high enough that he could palm her breasts. His fingers brushed against the tips until they hardened for him.

Her hands fought with his shirt once again, but he didn’t seem to care what happened to the buttons this time because he didn’t stop her as buttons popped off. Once she bared his chest she fumbled with his belt. She sighed into his mouth when her fingers closed around his erection.

Jacques controlled their movements and had her up against the wall. This seemed to be a thing for them. He broke the kiss, looking into her eyes as he lifted one of her legs, centered himself and drove into her. He set the pace, quick and deep.

Catherine lifted her other leg and wrapped both legs around his waist. She moved with him, reaching for that moment when her release just started to wash over her. There was no finesse but she could feel her stomach quicken. That moment when she felt a thrill run through her.

His mouth was at her throat. Slight nips that put her into a sensory overload. A brush of his fingers against the side of her breast, the grip of his hand on her ass as he pounded into her, she felt each with such an intensity it took her breath away.

It started so quickly and was so intense she gasped as it washed over her. All she could feel was the intense euphoria. She floated. A soft howl escaped her. One escaped Jacques as well.

About the Author

Bethany Drake is a graduate of UNCC and a big fan of the 49er’s – the UNCC 49er’s. Owner of several cats, she tells people it’s her crazy cat lady starter kit. She lives in her own little world, creating new worlds for her characters.









Thursday, February 24, 2022

Balancing life and writing – #LiteraryFiction #LifeLessons #WritersLife

Secrets of a River Swimmer cover

By S.S. Turner (Guest Blogger)

Balancing life and writing means walking a fine line, particularly early on in your career as a published author. In my experience, it comes down to managing your time and income. Writing a novel takes a significant amount of time, and crafting that writing into a great novel takes even more time. However, the reality is you won’t get paid for those hundreds of hours of work for a long time, possibly years. So the balance comes when you have enough time to achieve your writing goals whilst also generating enough income to put food on the table and pay the bills. Most authors can relate to the stereotypical image of the struggling artist a lot more than they ever imagined!

Sometimes I’ve done well at achieving that balance. Generally, those moments have some when I’ve been doing contract work to support my writing endeavors. Freelancing is a wonderfully flexible way to generate cash flow while you build your writing career, so I’ve taken on a number of freelance writing and research projects in recent years with that goal in mind. And the great news is the freelancing market is booming thanks to the covid-inspired work-from-home revolution, so there are many opportunities for writers to find flexible work which they can fit around their writing. Websites like Upwork and Freelancer are ripe hunting grounds for that type of work.

At other times, I’ve found the balance between life and writing hard to achieve. For example, I took on a particularly demanding contract role a few months ago which ended up taking most of my time for a while. The client always wanted more than we’d agreed to, so it was a constant boundary defining exercise. More importantly, that experience sapped my creativity like an energy vampire at my throat, so I wasn’t able to focus on my writing as much as I’d have liked for a few months. Balance went out the window at that time, but the good news is a novel idea emerged from amidst the chaos as it often does. There’s always a silver lining when you’re wearing your writing hat.


As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he's ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy's story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?

In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.


My thoughts drift to picture what life as a gillie must be like. I imagine you start the day by carrying all the fishing equipment your fat and wealthy clients will need for a day of luxurious and fully-catered fishing. You carry everything while they take it easy, and you locate the best spot to fish for the largest possible salmon. Your local knowledge about fishing spots has to be extraordinary. You then set up the fishing rod, position your client in the right spot, and talk them through what they need to do to catch that magic fish they’re all searching for. Of course, your clients are always searching for the largest catch of the season, so they can go home and brag to their friends and family about what skilled fishermen they are. It’s obvious to you, if not to them, that the subtext is being able to sing to the world that they have massive willies, bigger than everyone else’s.

Beyond fishing, you’re forced to listen to whatever the hell it is your clients want to talk about for the eight long hours you’re on the river. Your clients are all obscenely wealthy, so it’s more than likely you’ll hear a lot of moaning about all the small things in life they’d like changed. Many of them will complain about local wind farm developments, council plans to develop their neighborhood, and, of course, the big one: immigration. They all believe immigrants are responsible for all the problems in the world. These people are your quintessential NIMBYs, and will always complain about progress if it affects them in any way, no matter how minor. You do whatever you can to bring the conversation back to fishing because it’s an easier conversation for you, and less productive grounds for their complaining. They’re slowly sucking the life out of you with their negativity, so you carefully select your words to bring the conversation onto a more positive pathway. And, of course, your ultimate back-up plan, as it is for many British people, is to pull out the ultimate conversation filler when you’re at rock bottom: the weather. Yes, it’s a desperate move and the equivalent of holding up a white flag, but needs must.

About the Author

S.S. Turner has been an avid reader, writer, and explorer of the natural world throughout his life which has been spent in England, Scotland and Australia. Just like Freddy in his first novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, he worked in the global fund management sector for many years but realized it didn't align with his values. In recent years, he's been focused on inspiring positive change through his writing as well as trying not to laugh in unfortunate situations. He now lives in Australia with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and ten chickens.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My Journey to Fulfilling My Mom’s Last Wish – #MotherDaughter #Legacy #ForeverLove @elhughes01

Bird of Paradise cover

By Emily Hughes Johnson (Guest Blogger)

I remember everything about that day in 1995. It was not long after my family had moved from Aspen, CO to Pinehurst, NC. We’d just returned home from shopping when my parents asked if I’d sit down - they needed to talk to me. I’d known for a while something was going on. I even accused my mom of being pregnant, to which she replied “no, but thanks for thinking I could be.” Down the road this would become a running joke between the two of us.

By the look on their faces though, I knew that whatever they wanted to talk to me about was serious. The big “C” word briefly passed through my mind, but I rejected it just as quickly. My parents were invincible. So, I took my seat on the couch in the TV den and waited for them to lay it on me.

Honey, I have breast cancer.”

Wait! What did she just say? That’s not possible! But it was, and at the tender age of 13 my entire world changed. “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask?” she continued.

When you’re young (or maybe any age) there is a singular question that comes to mind at times like this - “are you going to die?” I saw my mom quickly glance at my dad, who for the first time in my memory looked a bit lost. Only now, years later as a mother myself, have I been able to fully grasp what it must have been like for them to have this conversation with me.

Not if I can help it. I’m not going anywhere until I’m damn well ready to.” That was my mom. Feisty and stubborn to the core.

My mom caught her breast cancer early thanks to a monthly self-exam. As an aside, if I may say, this is why it is SO IMPORTANT to do your monthly checks! After having the tumor removed and going through a course of radiation, life seemed to go back to normal. There were many days…weeks even…when the “C” word didn’t even enter my mind. But it was all the calm before the storm.

At 15 years old, I found myself sitting on the same couch. Not only was I older with a better understanding of the fact that “no, your parents aren’t invincible,” but this time it was worse. After several tests, my mom was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer and while she would never admit it to me, I could tell by the look on her face that this was much more serious.

If you look at the numbers back then, the prognosis for advanced stage ovarian cancer wasn’t good. A few years at best. And suddenly I wondered: would she be there to help me get ready for the prom, see me graduate from high school or college or walk down the aisle? Would she ever have the chance to be a grandmother? All questions that had no answers.

But once again my mother, stubborn as a mule, refused to accept the statistics. She immediately began researching and found a group of doctors willing to turn away from the statistics as well. Her goal? To watch me walk down the aisle. Mind you, I was only 15 – she was asking a lot but wouldn’t settle for less.

She endured countless surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy and setbacks, many of which seemed to align oddly enough with my final exams in high school and college. As a former educator, it wasn’t unusual to see my mom sitting in her hospital bed shortly after surgery with my notes and textbooks lying next to her as I paced back and forth while she quizzed me. My mom’s cancer was no excuse not to excel academically.

Let me pause and rewind a bit. Not long after her initial ovarian cancer diagnosis, my mom began writing a book. A way to escape from her own mortality, she delved into the world of her characters for hours at a time, writing…researching…re-writing and researching some more. I’d often ask what she was writing about, but she’d just give me a sly smile and tell me I’d know eventually. It would be many years before this would happen.

And so, the time passed. Never once did she let cancer become central to our lives. She focused on it when she needed to and shoved it to the back when she didn’t. My mom’s illness was always hanging around, but my parents did a wonderful job of ensuring I lived as normal of a childhood as possible and in 2011 (a statistical impossibility mind you) my mom watched me walk down the aisle. And those doctors? Well, they were there too.

For us it was a celebration of epic proportion. She’d outlived the doctor’s initial prognosis over a decade! And a lot of that was because she refused to give up.

Unfortunately, we lost mom in December of 2012. It all happened rather quickly at the end and the memory of those last few days will haunt me forever. But I was lucky in the sense that I had a chance to say goodbye. We had a long conversation the night before she went on life support. It wasn’t a conversation about anything in particular. We reminisced. We apologized for little moments in the past that meant very little, but somehow meant so much. We talked about hopes and dreams and wishes. It was one of those surreal conversations during which you just know everything you want to say needs to be said and you leave one another with a sense of comfort that yes, everything will be alright.

I love you,” was the last thing we ever said to one another – a big gift that very few people have a chance to get. But the biggest gift was yet to come.

Not long after my mom passed, I found a copy of her unfinished manuscript and a letter addressed to me.

"...I know now that this is where my story ends, so I hope you will begin where I left off. I will watch over you through the good times and the bad. I will be there with you to share the joys of becoming a mom, and I will be there watching as you and Matt grow old together. And each night I will be there to whisper sweet dreams. I love you."                                                                                               

- Forever and Beyond, Mom

She was entrusting me with the story of her characters. The story that she’d spent hours…days…years creating. This wasn’t just a gift. It was the ultimate gift.

When I first sat down to read Bird of Paradise, I had no idea if I would be able to finish it or not. At first reading her words was therapeutic. Through them, I was able to continue having a conversation with her. It was clear to me that while Bird of Paradise was a work of fiction, it was also meant to put into words through the lives and story of her characters, the lessons and guidance she wanted to leave me in the event she couldn’t do it herself.

Picking up in the middle of someone else’s story is a task in and of itself when there is no emotion involved. But this…well this was like climbing Everest without oxygen. Not that I’ve tried that – it was just a herculean task for me to even read the story without falling to pieces. She left no notes or outline for me to follow and looking back, I think she always intended me to be the one to finish the story and therefore wanted to give me the freedom to take it wherever I wanted. Fortunately, she’d firmly created all but one character – I had a name and that character’s part in the story but nothing else. After reading and re-reading repeatedly, I began to form a story in my mind and suddenly I knew exactly where to take her characters. I even ended up writing the end before anything else. I had the story line! I could do this!

Like my mom, a lot of what I wrote was based on reality. On places I’ve been, things that I’ve seen and emotions that I’ve felt. My mom had given me a way to immortalize my legacy as well for my son and I wanted to pass that on like she did for me.

But then came the technical part. I’m not a fictional writer. Well, I guess I am now, but not back then. A marketing and advertising professional by day, my writing style is by nature more succinct and to the point. My mom’s writing style is flowing, descriptive and rich. This was her story, and I was determined to carry her style of writing throughout. After I wrote the first draft, I had to go back repeatedly adding layer upon layer of description almost as if I was painting with oils. It was important to me that no one ever be able to tell where that black and white line was – where she stopped, and I started. And to this day, I’m thrilled to say no one (not even my publisher) knows. I changed very little of the part she wrote. I simply added to it to ensure that there was an unbroken flow of prose and storyline.

As I mentioned, my mom did an immense amount of research to ensure the accuracy of the settings in which Bird of Paradise takes place and the events that were happening at the time. I needed to do the same. But what made this a difficult task to accomplish was the fact that Bird of Paradise tells the story of 17-year-old Arianna Heywood, who when we first meet her is living in San Francisco in 1967, as had my mom been. Arianna’s story spans a decade long journey of self-discovery – a decade I never lived through, making it impossible to write from memories of places, faces and events.

Eight years on and I finally typed “The End.” It was a very emotional moment for me as I felt like I was finishing the last chapter (no pun intended) of my life with my mom. I never intended to publish Bird of Paradise. I just happened to be in the right place and that right time and suddenly I found myself with a published novel. Bird of Paradise was released on March 29th, 2021 – on what would have been my mom’s 71st birthday.

I don’t know if or when I’ll write another story. There’s one floating around in my head, but whether it gets from there to the pages of a book is anyone’s guess. What I do know is that collaborating with my mom and melding our stories together has been the gift of a lifetime and I’m beyond honored that she entrusted me with Arianna’s story. And now, I am even more honored to share her story with the world.

This one’s for you mom. Sweet Dreams. I love You

-Forever and Beyond, Emily


Twitter: @ehughes01

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That was the day she began imagining the man with whom she would share her own sunsets. And as young women often do, she began molding the image of him in her mind, and it acquired detail and depth until one day, she imagined him into reality. The sunsets they shared were everything she knew they would be – wet, warm bodies and cool Island breezes, lusty red wine, and Van Gogh skies. But even her wildest imaginings couldn’t prepare her for the sunrises and how she would feel each time she awoke beside him, listening for the changes in the pattern of his breathing, watching for that moment just before waking when he would stretch and roll and reach out for her. “Arianna,” he would whisper and nothing more.

The sun was in its descending arc over the western headland now It was an artist’s sun, all big and orange, spreading its sepia light over the Island, transforming it from brilliant contrasts to silhouetted images against a vibrant sky. There was a light trail that extended across the lagoon and out to the open seas, a golden touch she had called it when she was very young. But first she needed to cry the tears she had been suppressing all that day. It wasn’t a moment of weakness. She just needed to leave the tears behind. And when the last one had descended her cheek and dissolved into the fabric of her linen shirt, she knew she was ready. So, she resettled herself on the sleek wooden bench that grandfather had so lovingly crafted out of a single koa log all those years ago and into which he and Mem had carved their names, and then Mama and Papa had done the same after them. She followed the light trail as far as she could see and searched the horizon until she found what she was looking for – the ferry that was sailing away with everything she loved most in this world. She stared at it for a very long time, watching it grow smaller and smaller. Then she closed her eyes and tried to remember what her life had been like before Michael.”

About the Authors


Marilyn Anne Hughes

Marilyn was born in Southern California but spent her formative years the San Francisco Bay Area with her parents and older sister.  She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Sociology and received an advanced degree in Elementary Education.  After moving with her husband to Aspen, Colorado Marilyn spent the next 20 years as a public-school teacher and elementary education consultant and lecturer.  She and her family moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina in 1996 and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with breast and advanced ovarian cancer. She began writing Bird of Paradise as a life gift for her daughter, Emily.  She passed away in 2012 leaving the novel unfinished – for Emily to complete. 

Emily Hughes Johnson

Emily was born in Aspen, Colorado where she enjoyed skiing, dancing ballet and playing golf.  At the age of 13, she and her family moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina.  She played competitive golf and was a member of the Nike All-American Junior Team. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. From a young age, Emily was fascinated by Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius leading her to an intensive study of Mediterranean Archeology while at UNC. 

After graduation, Emily began her professional career in the Marketing Department at the PGA TOUR before moving on to agency work. She eventually moved back to North Carolina where she began writing grants for a professional ballet company before starting a freelance marketing and consulting business. 

Emily currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and son and enjoys playing golf, running, kickboxing, reading, hiking, travelling, and spending time with her family. 



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