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When I began writing Free, a Novella in early spring of 2016, it was supposed to be a 3-4 installment short story with Lenore Porter remembering the breakdown of her marriage as she finalizes the sale of her home.
Honestly, it was writing practice.
I was working on my debut novel, In the Best Interest of the Child and kept stalling out and hitting walls. So, Free was supposed to be a little pseudo-flash fiction to keep me writing.
I posted the second installment and had already began the ending of Lenore’s story, when on April 8, 2016, my mister went into renal failure. His kidneys could not be saved and everything changed from that day forward… the addition of hemodialysis, his employment status, his diet, his daily medication regimen… and my stress level.
As I sat in hospital rooms, dialysis units, and doctor’s offices over the next few weeks, Lenore Porter’s story changed too. Best Interest was still my focus, but Lenore would not be ignored.
I continued to post installments of varying lengths on my author page, but the once-a-week postings died a quick death. I moved the release date of Best Interest twice and attempted to push Lenore’s story to the back burner.
The mister’s fistula implant was a problem from the beginning, making dialysis difficult. By the time we’d made all the rounds for MRIs, ultrasounds and vascular procedures and found some semblance of normalcy, it was Halloween. Best Interest was published and I was exhausted. And… Lennie Porter was standing in the corner giving me the duckface.
I didn’t have much of a current word count for Free, but what I did have was sixty-one pages of notes!
As I organized and typed up the notes, the story continued to change.
It was clear by the time I had a working MS, oldest son Duncan Porter would need counseling to get past his issues with his absent father to avoid lasting emotional trauma.
As a character-driven writer, I generally sketch out characters before adding them to any story.
That wasn’t necessary this time.
While Free, a Novella is a work of fiction, the characters of psychologist James Richie and his wife/receptionist, Alice, are not fictional characters.
James ‘Pas’ Richie was my mentor, father-confessor, co-conspirator in epic pranks, and at one time, my boss. He and Alice were like family and can be seen as often in my family photo albums as my mother.
In Free, Pas, is a retired minister with a successful practice in clinical psychology specializing in treating men and boys.
In real life, Pas was a minister for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. However, he didn’t receive the call to the ministry until well after his fiftieth birthday and put aside his career and degree in chemistry to enter the seminary.
It wasn’t long after Pas received his appointment to a Battle Creek church the community considered him “the city’s pastor.” (This was about the same time I gave him the nickname ‘Pas.’)
You didn’t have to attend his church… or any church… for Pas to lend a helping hand. Many who regularly attended other churches would find their way to his office when needing to talk.
And he would listen.
I don’t know if Pas solved any of their problems.
But I do know they left with a smile and a, “Thank you, pastor.”
He’d always respond with a hug and his trademark, “Peace & Blessings!”
Like Lenore Porter’s parents, Burt and Linda Kelimore, Pas and Alice were together over fifty years.
And the banter was epic!
In addition to his pastoral duties, Pas was the executive director of a local community outreach ministry, and Alice was a regular volunteer.
The days when Alice came in were the best days!
Staff would all suddenly find reasons to be near Pas’ office for another episode of what I dubbed “The Pas and Alice Show!”
Their banter was amazing, rocket fast… and hilarious.
Of course, Alice always won, but Pas wasn’t about let her have the last word and would always end with something like, “You’re adorable! I’m taking you to lunch!”
Over the years, through trials and tribulations in both our families, the Richie banter was an anchor for us all—as long as we could still laugh, everything would be okay–and their marriage was the model for couples newly married or married for decades.
After almost ten years, life broke up our small family circle, taking us in different directions, but the Richies and I stayed in regular—my children would say constant—contact.
Plans were put in motion for them to visit Arizona after Pas retired, which he did in January 2015. After a short search, Pas and Alice relocated to a small town in central Georgia which put them close to their three children and grandchildren.
Pas became ill while he and Alice were getting settled with what was first believed to be an upper respiratory infection.
The next year would see Pas hospitalized… and in a coma for several months.
But being the incredible man he was, James Richie came out of the coma, moved to a rehab center and learned to walk and talk again. He was discharged and went home to regain his driving privileges. He even went back to swimming three times a week.
Pas and Alice took a vacation to visit their children, and attended several social events, including one held by my family in Georgia.
I was encouraged. Alice said he still had a long road ahead of him to regain his strength, but they would get to Arizona.
Things in Arizona weren’t going as well.
Dialysis was still difficult for the mister and his blood pressure stayed at stroke levels despite several daily medications.
Alice called one evening and knew by my tone of voice something was wrong. We talked quite a while. I ended the call with a promise to call her in a couple of days after the mister saw a vascular surgeon.
Of course, she told Pas.
He called early the next morning.
Though the mass found at the base of his throat was benign, he still wasn’t strong enough for surgery to remove it. And it caused other problems. His voice was raw raspy and it hurt me to hear him speak. I tried to rush him off the phone. But Pas wasn’t having it.
He called to pray with me and the mister… and he did.
It was the last time I talked to him. Ten days later, he was gone… June 14, 2016.
Loss is a part of life and we all experience it. I’d already lost my father and a brother, but when Alice called me with the news, something inside me broke.
Suffice it to say, I managed to keep it together enough to take care of the mister, but I lost the fight with depression and spiraled for over three months.
This is why the release date for Best Interest was delayed… twice.
This is also why (and how) Pas and Alice became part of Free.
It took another four months to complete Free. Not because it’s long, in-depth or complicated. It was simply very emotional.
And it was cathartic.
I didn’t tell my family I’d added a bit of real life to Free until it was completed, and I still didn’t allow them to read it. I published it on May 30th and immediately began the formatting for print.
I received the proofs a week later. I signed a copy, stuck a note inside and sent it to Alice Richie.
I hadn’t told her what I’d done either. I was a little nervous with it being the first anniversary of Pas’ passing, but pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to concentrate on writing.
I was caught off guard a couple of weeks later when I answered my phone without looking at the caller ID… something I never do.
It was Alice…laughing… and crying, and screaming, “Girl, you nailed us!”
I laughed with her, and did some crying of my own when she said, “Richie would love it. And he would be so proud of you.”
It wasn’t an instant cure-all, but for the first time in a year, thinking of my dear friend didn’t cause me pain. Alice’s words were the best review I’ll ever receive for Free… and that’s enough for me.
So, if by chance you read Free, just remember James and Alice Richie aren’t fictional characters and their dialogue isn’t scripted or contrived. Their words were real, spoken in another time when life was a little easier and less burdensome.
Peace & Blessings.
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Put on your dancing shoes—Pete is ready to boogie!
Join Pete the Cat in a brand-new story from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team James and Kimberly Dean! Pete is learning a new dance—the Cool Cat Boogie! When he hears a groovy beat, he’s full of happy in his feet. But when Grumpy Toad tells him, “Pete, you dance all wrong!” Pete is determined to become a better dancer. With the help of his friends and some wise words from Owl, Pete learns that he’s his grooviest when he’s being himself. Includes step-by-step dance moves so readers can dance along with Pete!
Don’t miss Pete’s other adventures, including Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues and Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes.
“Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie”
Author: James Dean
Genre: Children’s Books
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Dynamic and vivacious Margot Schultz never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome…or knock down. Executive assistant to Olivia Chandler, Margot always seems to know the right amount of charm, wit, and panache to use when dealing with anyone from grumpy judges to cagey Department of Children’s Service employees to Olivia’s peers – some of whom are less-than-ethical.
Early in her career, Margot worked for some of the less than-ethical-crowd. While they could be gods and magicians in the courtroom, pulling out wins from seemingly unwinnable cases, outside the courtroom was another matter. Margot could remember each and every personal errand she’d had to do, each gift she’d had to buy for multiple girlfriends and mistresses, and every lie she’d told to one of her bosses’ wives.
When Margot heard through the courthouse grapevine that the executive secretary of a successful young, female child advocate attorney was retiring for health reasons and had no replacement, she grabbed her resume, took an extended lunch and went in search of Olivia Chandler. Despite her unusual approach, Margot and Olivia clicked immediately.
The two women have worked side by side for ten years. Olivia admired Margot’s work ethic. She encouraged Margot to continue her education when time allowed, and even paid for it, calling it a ‘sound investment.’ Margot would eventually advance from executive legal secretary to executive assistant and office manager.
Margot knows Olivia has no family and was a foster care kid. She doesn’t know the intimate details, but she does know Olivia’s adolescence was bad enough for Olivia to keep herself closed off to most people. Her boss seems to ‘live’ when focused and working on a case for their minor clients. The rest of the time, Olivia just seems to exist.
The divorced office manager is not one of those people who believe a woman needs a man in her life to be complete, but Bruce Bellamy has suddenly appeared in Olivia’s life, and Margot will do her part to keep him there.
Things are going to get interesting.
Margot Rose (Parker) Schultz
Age: She’s not telling – but probably mid to late 40s
Born: New York, New York
Marital Status: Divorced – has adult twin sons who are both Marines
Is two classes away from a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management
Loves to dance and can be found on a dance floor most Saturday nights
Collects souvenirs from the Roaring 20s – always says she would have made a great Flapper
Plays acoustic guitar, but rarely does as it reminds her of her musician ex-husband
Is somewhat estranged from her parents and siblings since she dropped out of college nearly 30 years ago to elope with her now ex-husband
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