Build Summer Memories!

June 10th, 2017

Summer is fast approaching! Start building memories now as the sultry temperatures and warm, lazy days begin to transform us into vacation mode! And don’t stop the momentum once the summer solstice finally arrives on that magical day…June 21st… richly enhanced by the fact that both my late husband, Nick, and my nephew, Al, were born on that date as well!

You know, dear readers and, hopefully friends, after having shared so many blogs together, summertime memories never die. Maybe, some others fade and/or extricate themselves from our memories, but not the ones we forged as young ones during our summer vacations. For me, those memories are as vibrant and alive as they were then! And, whether you can admit it right now or not, your memories are imbedded in your heart, too!

So I am going to tell you another true story from my youth…perhaps enriched a little by time, but still very much based upon an actual memory, which will always remain with me…and now, perhaps, with you!

This memory is of the last day of school back in the 1950s when I was just a little girl. Help me capture a special memory and see if it rekindles one of yours!

As a child, I felt excited, joyful and even special on my last day of elementary school each year because I was able to leave school a week early since my dad helped out with the running of my grandparents’ summer roominghouse. Imagine beginning summer vacation a whole week early!

I remember bringing my teacher a huge bouquet of American beauty roses straight from our family’s garden in Brooklyn. With the roses I handed her a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a note from my parents so that my report card could be sent to our summer home at Rockaway Beach. In return my teacher would smile and wish me a great summer!

Then it was over, and again, that feeling of great joy engulfed me as I skipped most of the five blocks towards my home. When I arrived, Mom and Dad were usually on the porch waiting for my sister and me to come home. Now that I was there, it would probably just be no more than a few minutes before my sister would be walking down the block.

As soon as my sister arrived, a few tears in her eyes from several poignant goodbyes to friends and teachers, the car already having been packed with all our things, “Rockaway Beach, here we come!”

How can I describe that overwhelming joy I felt as a child? Some feelings are difficult to put into words, but I will certainly try!

I could feel my heart beating a little stronger and definitely faster! I was, of course, smiling ear to ear! Probably, my face was one big smile! My rather clammy hands might have trembled a little from the excitement of the moment and my happy thoughts!

What did I think about! I visualized great beach days, where I would swim, jump with the waves and float peacefully if the water was calm.

Then I thought about seeing the fireworks on the boardwalk on Wednesday nights and then enjoying snacks from the concession stands! Maybe a hotdog on a bun with just a little sauerkraut and mustard with French fries! Or the scrumptious taste of homemade doughnuts and/or custard and ice cream!

Thoughts of holiday parties would float in my mind! The Fourth of July and Labor Day! I could picture staying up late, dancing in my fanciest dresses, eating delicious catered food and being allowed to have as many soft drinks as I wanted and, of course, desserts of all kinds from pies, cakes to puddings of different types and ice cream!

My last thought of bliss would be Playland, where my dad would take my sister, my cousins and me every summer. The rides were fantastic, as well as the Fun House and Davy Jones’ Locker. Of course, the snacks, soft drinks and cotton candy from the concessions were delicious, too! Dad was definitely our hero!

Yes, these are wonderful indelible memories of many years ago! They are intertwined with the very idea of summertime! They bring me peace when I am upset and joy when I feel down and help me to believe in a happy God Who will one day make beautiful memories like these a constant reality!

So, please, go on and build your own private, special and very happy memories!

Following the Theme of Love and Family

June 8th, 2017

Today I will be writing one more blog on the theme of love and family…specifically children and grandchildren in my novel of historical fiction, “Escape From the Maelstrom.” I will be focusing on the need of my main female character, Karina, to have a child of her own, despite the odds against its ever happening! Will her need be fulfilled, or must Karina accept what seems to be the inevitable?

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that Karina’s husband, Dimitri, has just died, seemingly at the hands of the Romanov regime, but we don’t know the details. Karina was in danger of being killed herself if she didn’t run away from the authorities. But she needs protection from an underground group if she is to survive, much less immigrate to America. She is placed in a rooming house in Odessa, where she gets a job as a language teacher.

Karina’s growing affection for Katya and Elena, the daughters of the family who own the rooming house where she is living while waiting for passage to America, shows her maternal side early in the novel. She befriends the girls, who ask her many questions about her prior life in Moscow. A warm and friendly relationship ensues.

Meanwhile, Karina has been given a new identity, including a different name, a bright red hair color and simpler hair style, but the spirit within her remains the same, even though even her name has been changed. It is now supposed to be Aleksandra.

Throughout her time in Odessa, Karina, aka Aleksandra, cannot help showing her kindness, compassion and love for children. Although I cannot divulge any more of the plot, time and again, she does what is asked of her and more.

It is only when a relationship develops between Karina and the father of the owners of the rooming house that she brings some unintended discord to the home of the people who have become her friends and that one special person who was chosen by the underground group to protect her and bring her to freedom.

Will Karina find real love once again and be trusted to take care of several young women who must look to her as a second mother? Will she ever have a child of her own? When you read “Escape From the Maelstrom,” you will find all the answers to these questions.

The book is available at www.redleadbooks.com or by calling 1-800-834-1803.

A Memorable Theme in “Escape From the Maelstrom”

June 7th, 2017

Read the rest of this entry »

My First Book of Historical Fiction…

June 7th, 2017

I have written various novels that took place in the 1960s, but, since they were based upon my early life, in my heart, I didn’t consider any of them historical fiction. They just seem like modern novels to me.

But”Escape From the Maelstrom” is much different! It takes place between 1912 and 1919. No one can deny that it is really historical fiction. It required great planning, organization and research…moreso than all my other novels except my biography of the Brownings, which required a year of research and various drafts.

I wrote “Escape From the Maelstrom” because my paternal grandparents immigrated to America in the 1890s. They had lived in Odessa, Russia, where they were persecuted for their religion. In those days, when it was least expected, Cossacks would ride into small Jewish villages and plunder and kill with no compunction. My grandparents, who ironically didn’t know each other in Odessa, escaped to the United States, where they met each other in a millinery factory.

They dated for a while, I presume, because no one ever actually asked them about their courtship. I guess, as a granddaughter, I was too embarrassed and shy. Anyway, they got married and had three amazing children: my Uncle, who became a negligence lawyer; then my dad, a home delivery supervisor for a New York newspaper, and finally, my beautiful aunt, a wise and compassionate wife and mother, who also had love in her heart for her two nieces: my sister and me.

When Grandpa came here, he took an Americanized name, the original Russian name never known by any of my cousins or me. If we would have asked, of course, he would have told us. But we never did, as far as I know, so the only valid name we know is my grandmother’s maiden name.

I decided to write a fictionalized account of my grandparents’ journey since I knew only little pieces here and there of their actual journey. The story is exciting and fast-moving. The main character, Karina, is courageous, compassionate, loving and wise, just like my grandmother. Karina is my idea of what my grandmother might have been like as a young woman. She is on the run from the Romanovs, the family of Czar Nicholas, who have targeted Karina and her husband, Dimitri. When the novel begins, Dimitri has just been killed, and Karina is a young and distraught widow.

There are many themes to the story and twists and turns of plot. In the next post I will discuss some of these and thus give you a better idea of why the novel is so special to me. The book is available at www.redleadbooks.com or by calling 1-800-834-1803.

I hope you will follow my next few posts as well! Until then,

Cheryl

A Precious Memory

June 5th, 2017

Summertime brings me back to those carefree years when I was just a happy, unstressed kid, whose main concerns were having adventures with my friends and eating enough of my favorite comfort foods, including chocolate ice cream sundaes with lots of whipped cream and a few cherries on top.

And, of course, any thought of summer refreshes my memories of the breathtaking aroma of hot-from-the-oven bagels and bialys emanating from the bagel store right around the corner from my grandparents’ summer rooming house, where my parents, older sister and extended family members spent our summers in the mid-to-late 1950s in the southern part of Queens known as Rockaway Beach.

Most of my early summer memories were captured in my first published novel in 2006, entitled”The Wacky World of Winnie and Willie.” Although a few copies of this novel can still be purchased, I am thinking of reissuing a contract with the publishing company so that my book will become readily available once again. It has appealed to young people as well as mature adults who have treasured the nostalgia.

Today, since Memorial Day brought the unofficial beginning of summer, I want to rekindle the excitement of one special memory: buying those delicious bagels, not only on Sunday mornings, but every morning I was allowed to, because it was summer vacation!

Kids had more freedom during those days…maybe because life didn’t seem as dangerous and risky then as it does now. This was decades ago, and crime, although it always existed, just wasn’t as prevalent then… or didn’t seem to be !
That means my friends and I could go off on our little excursions and rarely run into any trouble. On another occasion I will tell you about an adventure that turned awry, but now, let’s get back to the bagels!

I may not have been given the privilege of buying the bagels every day, but enough times for the sensuous memories to remain an intrinsic part of me. (Warning: get your car keys ready in case you have the irresistible craving for a nice, fresh bagel or bialy and make a fast getaway!)

The moment I awoke on those gorgeous summer days, temperatures in the eighties with a sweet ocean breeze refreshing us, I could smell, not so much the roses, daisies and the geraniums, but the freshly baked bagels and bialys. As soon as my mom gave my cousin and me the money and the order, we followed the robust and delicious aroma right around the corner to the bagel store. Our appetites became almost impossible to control as we selected the types of bagels on the list: fragrant garlic, onion, sesame seed, whole wheat and “everything” bagels! It was heavenly to imagine breakfast coming soon with one of those incredible bagels doused with rich butter or cream cheese and, if my mom was in a really lenient mood, even a little coffee.

With the transaction completed, my cousin and I returned from the bagel store to the delightful, old rooming house, focusing on just breakfast and bagels! No problems of any kind on our minds! Just the warm weather, the delightful ocean breeze and the sweet thoughts of a beautiful breakfast and a day of only the kinds of adventures that children on vacation back in the ’50s could enjoy!

Themes Explored in “Just A Kiss”.

June 4th, 2017

There are various themes brought out in “Just A Kiss” in addition to the so-called “generation gap” discussed two days ago on another blog.

For instance, one other important theme is having the courage to stand up for yourself and the path you have chosen in life, according to your beliefs, God-given gifts and ambition. In my novel, both Bruce and Carolyn had trouble standing up for themselves as adults, especially Bruce, who was over thirty years old and certainly should have been old enough to know what he wanted out of life and what was best for him.

Bruce was never cut out to be an executive of any kind in an advertising firm, especially in that of his illustrious father, Kent Donovan. Yet, his emotional cowardice and inability to follow his own path kept him at this job, even though it frustrated and was even slowly destroying him, until his father actually fired him!

But Carolyn is just as confused as Bruce…in her own way. She comes close to letting her father talk her into suing Bruce and his father’s company after the stunt that Bruce pulls at the beginning of the novel. However, when she finds the courage to stand up for what she believes, Carolyn funally takes the first step in growing up! It is amazing how she becomes the stronger of the two as she, not only tackles her own insecurities and fears, as well as Bruce’s once their paths start crossing again and again.

So, as we have seen, another theme is the recurrent road to love. If relationships are meant to be, they won’t go away until they find the right time and place to flourish. Nothing can change what is meant to be!

Are there any other themes? You bet there are, and I’ll discuss two more in my next post! And I am sure you will find more themes on your own once you have read the book!

It’s available at www.xlibris.com.

June Is Finally Here!

June 2nd, 2017

What a beautiful spring day! Perfect temperature and low humidity! What else can we ask for!

“God’s in His heaven. All’s right with the world!” Robert Browning was so right!

Whatever our problems, we are so much better when the sun is out and the temperature is comfy! A breath of fresh air and a view of nature’s best brings everything into perspective and makes it impossible not to smile!

We look forward to this time of the year all winter! When it is frigid outside, and we need to stay inside most of the time, whether at home or at business or inside one of the many spacious malls, it still doesn’t seem quite right. We still look forward to the spring and summer when we can get out for long periods of time and enjoy just being in the fresh air and sojourning with nature at its best and God, Who created it!

So let’s get out there today in the natural world and find so much happiness in the loveliness around us that we forget our problems for a while!

Have a great day!

A Generation Gap Explored in “Just A Kiss”

May 30th, 2017

There are two obvious instances of a generation gap in my most recent novel,”Just A Kiss,”and they concern the two main characters, Carolyn and Bruce. The lack of communication is an impetus to the plot.

Which one is worse in terms of hindering communication and impairing relationships? It’s really a toss-up! Carolyn and her dad don’t see eye-to-eye on her choice of Bruce as well as her other choices in life: how to treat others, where to teach once she graduates and her own need for independence in making her own decisions as an adult over twenty.

Bruce and his father, Kent Donovan, are like emotional strangers who have no common ground through which to communicate. Kent is no less than an advertising mogul, and a genius at what he does. He loves his son on one level or more, but he does not understand him. Bruce has an executive position of sorts in his father’s company, but he is miserable there, feeling veritably trapped. He wants to do something else, but he doesn’t know exactly what. He is a thirty year-old man who is still trying to find himself. He should have been “found” years ago!

Throughout the novel, these problems in communication have played a powerful part in my shaping the plot, since, without this failure to communicate on the part of Carolyn and Mr. Kahn as well as Bruce and Mr. Donovan, this novel would hardly have been resolved in the way it was!

Will Carolyn stand up to her dad and mom in a respectful way so that she could live the life that will make her happy? And will Bruce discover his niche in life and find the happiness and self-respect he deserves? Finally, will the love between Carolyn and Bruce make all this happen?

To discover all the answers, you will have to read the novel! Available on www.Xlibris.com or www.amazon.com

Living With Tragedy

May 23rd, 2017

The Ariana Grande concert ended in tragedy last night with twenty-two young fans killed and over one hundred injured. Isis took credit for the atrocious act, and, so far, one man, from Libya, but living in England, was responsible for placing the bomb in an area where the most number of innocent concert-goers could be hurt when leaving the venue towards transportation. How horrifying!

We pray for all of these victims of terror! Examples of horror like this one, the atrocities in Paris, teenagers killing other teens in our own country, 9/11, the tragedy of which is always with us,… all of these sad and ungodly acts and many others fill most of us with fear and anxiety. How do we cope?

In the previous two posts I discussed phobias, especially agoraphobia. We see that it is even more than frightening world events that cause us anxiety and fear. It is genetic in some and environmental in others. In some it is a combination of both! But how do we deal with this serious problem?

In some severe cases…and even those that might not be considered so serious… we might still want to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in phobias, anxieties and panic attacks. Check online and with close family and friends for references. Ask your family doctor as well. Find a therapist who would be best for you!

There are phobic out-patient clinics that you can attend. Some meet once a week for two hours and provide strategies. Some pair you with a therapist who can walk you through your fears. A combination of a private psychiatrist ( or psychologist) and one of these phobic clinics might be a good idea for some.

Some phobic patients do well with anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a psychiatrist. This and psychotherapy are added alternatives!

My novella, “Counter-Attack”, might be helpful in getting young people to realize they have a problem and should get some professional help. What I include as strategies for my protagonist have worked for some, but, as I have said, we are all different and need to be treated as individuals.

I hope this discussion on anxiety and phobias has been helpful. Life is challenging and seems to get worse before it will get better! So let’s take good care of ourselves and those we love. As human beings, we owe each other kindness, consideration, respect and, yes, principled love!

Until my next post, stay well and have a positive outlook!

Continuing With “Counter-Attack”

May 23rd, 2017

Yesterday, I started a discussion of the first novel that I self-published. The theme is learning to understand and live with agoraphobia, (the fear of ‘open spaces’) and I called this novel, “Counter-Attack” since fears attack us as much as our mortal enemies, and just the way we have to find a strategy to fight them, we have to counter-attack our phobias, and our other related emotional problems as well.

When I wrote “Counter-Attack,” I thought about my own teenage years when I experienced the overwhelming effect of being an unwilling victim of a condition that undermines one’s sense of personal safety to the point that it makes one uneasy to leave the security of home.

But I was fortunate! The condition was not totally overwhelming. I was not a slave to my house, and I had parents who did everything they could to help me find strategies to be in control of the condition rather than have it control me. In fact, few people ever knew that I had the condition for years! For some friends, this admission may be letting the cat out of the bag.

So, as you read about the life of Caryn Burke, the protagonist in my novel, as well as her English teacher, who also has been grappling with the condition for years, you are reading about me in a sense…for I must admit again that I modeled both the student and her teacher, Christina Walsh, after me! The elements of the story are fictional…the plot and the characters…but the theme of agoraphobia is presented in a realistic, somewhat personal light.

As I learned strategies to help me grow and thrive in many ways, I wanted to share my experience with others, who might be experiencing some of the same problems. All phobias can be a great challenge to an individual, but some can be even more devastating. Since we are all so different, the effect that these conditions have upon us can be entirely different, too. In essence, we each embark upon our own journey when we become phobic in one way or another. “Counter-Attack” explores two journeys: that of the student, Caryn Burke, and that of the teacher, Christina Walsh.

More about both journeys in my next post!