Sunday, April 12, 2020

Living Alone During Corona Virus

Dear Friends and Readers:

I am, like many of you, living isolated.  When I retired and moved to my beautiful little place in the mountains of Puerto Rico, it was the achievement of a long-cherished dream.  I saw myself rising to a breath-taking view every morning, drinking my morning cup of coffee in bliss, and writing for hours without distractions or time-consuming responsibilities. It was exactly like that for several years.

My grown children, grandchildren, and brothers stayed in Florida, living their lives, managing their careers, and enjoying their retirements. I did not see living away from them as an obstacle to closeness. After all, I flew to Florida several times a year, and if there was a family emergency, I stayed there to help as long as they needed me. We always keep in touch with calls and text messaging, etc. Sometimes, I talk to my children more in one day than I ever did in one month when I lived fifteen minutes away from them.

The last month, however, has been one I never thought I’d live through. In Puerto Rico, we’ve managed to keep the Corona virus under control with very strict measures. You must understand that we’re one of the highest populated areas in the world. We have over three million inhabitants squeezed into an island measuring thirty-five miles wide by ninety miles long. We had, at one point, over four million people, but many moved to the mainland in the last ten years.

Since a large part of the island is mountainous, most of the three million people live in the highly populated metro areas where work is more likely to be found. A virus can rip through these areas like a bullet through paper, as we’ve seen in New York City. Our governor, fresh from the earthquakes of last January, took immediate action. We’ve been on lockdown for a month now, and we take it seriously.

There are close to fifty houses on the street where I live. If you sit at my veranda, with a wide view of the entire countryside and network of roads, you might see a car moving in the distance once every fifteen minutes. My neighbors stay home. They put out their trash and wave at me from afar. Only essential businesses can open: hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations and banks. Hardware stores can open two days a week, as well as auto repair shops.

For the last week, only cars with license plates ending in even numbers could be out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: odd numbers were allowed on the road on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. All vehicles are grounded on Sundays, and all businesses closed. A driver caught breaking the rule, will have his or her car impounded and must pay a pretty steep fine to recover it.

I have not been out of my house for a month. I have not had a visitor for a month. I stocked food and supplies before the lockdown began. I made an online-shopping order at the local supermarket to be delivered in the next few days. I have a mask and gloves and plenty of disinfectant.

How do I spend my days? I am physically alone every day and night. I rise, as usual, by eight o’clock. I make it a point to put on makeup and make myself presentable as I always did before the pandemic. I go through the daily rite of “opening” the house. I open all curtains, turn on the computer, the coffeemaker, the local tv news. I drink a cup or two of coffee while watching the latest on the virus around the world. Then, I put on some gloves and go outside to water my plants and do some pottering outside. I wave or talk across the distance to my neighbors.

My phone rings often because I have a large family about half of which lives here also, mostly first and second cousins. My Florida family calls as well. My granddaughter, eight-year-old Jasmine, calls me daily. She loves to Facetime. I sometimes spend twenty minutes watching her do her school work! I guess she feels she has company if I’m watching.

I spend hours at my writing and a few more hours also reading. I try not to read drama or anything depressing. I stay with authors and series I love. For example, I am now reading Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series- again.

I have also made a commitment to spending forty-five minutes on my elliptical exercise machine on a daily basis. I go to the Accuradio website and play the K-Pop station. I find that K-Pop music is excellent for working out. As a result, I’ve fallen in love with 2PM and EXO and lost ten pounds.

I downloaded an app on my iPad to teach me German. I lived in Germany for three years back in the eighties, but I forgot all the German I learned back then. I spend thirty minutes each day listening and repeating. I find the language app is very relaxing. I play Solitaire and Temple Run on my iPad. Today, I mopped my entire house after Gigi, my Roomba sweeper, finished sweeping. Gigi is my make-believe pet. 

As you can see, I have no problem being alone or keeping busy. At first, I fought the idea that social isolation was needed. I doubted the extreme measures the island was facing were necessary. I did not want my personal rights curtailed. I worried about the economy. I thought it was all a media ploy. After watching images from Italy, Spain, and New York, I am now grateful and willing to make the sacrifice. I feel healthy, safe, and luckier than most. I have absolutely no worries about myself or my neighbors.

I am, however, terrified about my family in Florida. I don’t get a sense of urgency from them. I get the impression they don’t see the incredible seriousness of the situation. Is it because they’re young and do not feel vulnerable? Yesterday, my son was cooking on his new, state-of-the-art grill. It was his anniversary present from his wife. She got it at Walmart the day before!

Four days earlier, my grandchildren and an older cousin were also at Walmart, and then they went to pick up food at McDonald’s. My son works for the government, and he says several of the workers in his building have tested positive for Corona virus. My daughter works at a prison. She says no visitors are allowed, but the workers coming in daily are a hazard. Neither she nor he has been tested.

I hear these stories, and my stomach turns into a knot. I live in terror of losing one of my children or their spouses or my grandchildren. The worst part is that when I try to get them to understand my worries, they get annoyed at me and brush me off. They don’t seem to realize that if they died, I’d want to go with them too. 

You must be wondering about the point of my rambling. My point is that if you have someone you love, do the right thing for them, to save them heartache and worry. Stay home for them. Take precautions for them. Social distancing is one step, but it’s not enough. Stay away from crowds and groups. Go out only when absolutely necessary. That’s the best way to say I love you.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Are you a lover of classic literature? If you are, you can read to your heart's content for FREE!  No, you don't have to borrow from a library. You can own books by authors such as Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, etc. totally for free.  

You will need a wifi connection and the time to peruse Amazon's list of free classics. Of course, you'll also need a reading app for your phone or tablet, but those are also free and widely available. I use the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone. 

No, I am not talking about Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, for which you have to pay. I am referring to the immense list of totally free books available which are out of copyright protection and part of the public domain. Of course, you can traipse over to Project Gutenberg and spend hours sifting through their complex listings. You can also head over to Amazon and check out the Free Classics.

The Amazon listing is a lot easier to search and most importantly, to download.  Plus, many of the books have nice covers. Of course, a few will have the generic Gutenberg cover.

There are also works which are not free, but which are sold for as little as $0.99 for an entire collection. I happen to be a lover of P.G. Wodehouse's work. I've collected most of his works at very little cost.

The same for John Carter! I love those books.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Blood and Magic, the 4th exciting volume of Vampires in the Mist, has been released! Don't miss this next installment, as Rose once again is swept away in a brand-new, terrifying adventure.

Vampires in the Mist is a novella serial. It  features heroine Rose from Miami, young but not too young, spunky, and clueless at first. Lured, seduced, and stolen at a plush South Beach party, Rose finds herself trapped in a world she imagined only existed in books.

Surrounded by powerful, seductive vampires vying for her rare blood, she is forced to accept her destiny as a companion of the blood. These are rare, gifted  females whose special  blood is precious to the covens. But Rose's road in her new world is one of danger and adventure as different factions  scheme and fight for the right to acquire the most powerful and only companion to appear in seventy years.

Does this plot seem common? Surely, amongst the dozens of urban fantasy stories, many similarly themed series can be found. But Vampires in the Mist is different in profound ways. First, it is not a YA read! Vampires in the Mist is for adult readers.

There is no teenage angst here or "he's so hot" lines. While the heroine is young, she is not in her teens. Rose is a woman, and  she grows and evolves with each new story. There are scenes of strong sexual content as well. Rose will find her way and grow into a powerful, wise character in time.

Next,  the author always strives for strong characterization. Of course, the story is what grabs the reader, but characters move the story. They must be more than just black and white. They must delight and surprise, and in this series, they do all that and more. They are not stock characters.

There are also important themes running through the series which will appeal to the better reader. The nature of love in its different aspects, the changing face of sexual roles in our times, the influence of mythology and legends in our fiction, and the politics of power as it pertains to women, are all themes woven into this series.

Of course, you will also find all the elements which make urban fantasy so popular today. There are steamy sex scenes, gorgeous vampires and beautiful witches, lots of action, evil characters, and no shortage of perils for our heroine to face and conquer!

The fourth volume, Blood and Magic, is now available. If you want a fresh, fast-paced, addictive reading experience, give this series a try. Remember: No calories, fat, or glutten here. 100% Fiction. You can have all you want!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

It's Finally Here!

Don't miss the third book in the Angel's Guardian series. Maxim's nemesis, Toma, returns meaner than ever. His diabolic plans threaten not only the vampire nation but all of humanity as well. Join Max and Angel as they battle for love, life, and all they hold dear. All the action, suspense, humor, and romance of the Angel's Guardian series make this book a must-read for lovers of romantic paranormal suspense.

ROMANCE, SUSPENSE, ACTION, HUMOR, EROTICISM! All served in a fast-paced read that will keep you coming back for more.

This is paranormal romantic suspense set in the present. Not suitable for younger readers, it has explicit sexual content. Approx 84,000 words. Heart of Stone picks up where Thicker Than Blood ends, but will also make a great stand-alone read.

Maxim and Angel's idyllic existence is once again threatened by an enemy who will never give up. As gruesome vampire attacks begin to sweep over the world's biggest cities, it becomes obvious that Toma, twisted by his hatred, envy, and hunger for revenge, has returned. He is determined to destroy his hated cousin Maxim and wrest the vampire crown from him. But as the number of butchered humans rises, and the existence of vampires is revealed to the world, it becomes apparent that something much more sinister is on the works. Toma wants not only the vampire crown; he wants the world and is willing to destroy most of humanity to rule the rest!

Once again, the supporting characters readers have loved, little Nina, baby Marco, Jonathan Travers, Devian Harris, the beautiful vampire siblings Luca and Bianca, and the dark vixen Ivanna, come together in a thrilling, suspenseful, intensely sensual read that will keep you up all night. Don't miss it! 

This book may be read as a stand-alone story too. It is not necessary to have read the first two books to enjoy it!

Friday, June 7, 2019

How to Write a Book Review

It’s a mystery to me why readers are so resistant to writing reviews. I am referring to reviews in Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. Sharing our opinions on things we either love or hate is intrinsic to us. We love to tell our friends about a great movie we just saw or a brand-new song we just heard or a fantastic restaurant we discovered.

We love to “tell.” Everything changes when we have to “write.” There seems to be an innate fear of that five-letter word, even when the writing involves only a paragraph. This creates a problem for authors because reviews are so intrinsic to our success.

I have friends who will not read a book which has less than fifty reviews on Amazon. At the rate of one review per month, (the average number for a non-bestseller) it will take a book several years to reach fifty reviews. This is especially frustrating to those of us trying to climb the ladder of reviews.

In asking individual readers, I found that most of them don’t like writing book reviews but have no problem writing reviews for other products. Ask them to review the thumb drive or the Ninja blender they just bought, and they go to it with gusto, pictures included.

Why then the reticence to review a book? The answer possibly lies in the preconception that a reader is expected to write a literary review. You know, those your English teacher made you write.

Authors themselves, when they write reviews for other authors, write such reviews. It’s sad because by example, they discourage regular readers from reviewing. Often, readers tell me they don’t write reviews because they don’t know how. I really must stress that there is no set “how” in reviewing.

First, I’m grateful for any review that seems heartfelt and honest, no matter the length. You don’t have to write a literary criticism because my books are not literary wonders written for college professors. No one is grading you.

Next, there is no magic formula to follow. Write as if you were speaking to a friend or to someone sitting next to you at the hair salon. The important thing is to zoom-in on what you found most noticeable about the book.

A review should be appropriate to the work. I would never give a Christian book a bad review because it sells religion. To give a book a negative review because it has sex scenes, and you happen to be totally against sex in books, is in rather bad form too.

Any book with explicit content is required to have a warning. If you don’t like sex in your content, then don’t choose such books. In a fair review, you may mention that the book has sex scenes; however, many readers like sex scenes and would rather know if they were well written. The point: you should review fairly.

Finally, a review need not be a composition-length work. A simple, heart-felt paragraph is often worth a thousand words.  The following is a copy of a review written for my book Angel’s Guardian by an Amazon customer. Notice the casual, informal tone, the missing caps, etc. The reader wrote a few lines only, but she leaves no doubt as to how she feels about the book. I loved this review!

Review at Amazon from Aliciaann

Definitely not your twilight vampire. More like Brick in the Black series, by ms. Andrujiski. This series seems to be comparable to it. I'm hooked already. I expect to be up most of the night reading. Oh darn. I'm suffering from sleep deprivation again. Glad I'm retired and can sleep till 10am

If you are nervous about putting your thoughts in writing, try the following formula. Take the last book you read, and write your review following my simple guidelines.
If you address these simple points in your review, you can’t go wrong.

1.       This book is (really great, really bad, ok, not my cup of tea, not for everyone).
2.      I really liked or disliked (describe something you really liked or disliked about the book.
3.      I would highly recommend this book (or not) and will definitely read (or not) this author’s books in the future.

The following are things some reviewers mention, but most don’t. Your review is yours and you decide what to include.
***The book has explicit scenes of sex and violence
***There are many grammatic and spelling errors or the writing is flawless.
***The English used is British English
***There was humor in the book.
***There was too much dialogue and not enough description (or the opposite).
***The characters were believable and likeable (or not.)

Remember: I’d rather have a short, honest review with misspellings and bad punctuation, that speaks from the heart, than no review at all.