A Memoir of Regrets and Epiphanies

Excerpt from Chapter 2:

The “facts of life” seemed an inadequately euphemistic term for the purpose of sex. “How people make babies” would have been a more honest label for the breeding act with a thousand names. But even at age fifteen, I remained abysmally ignorant of these truths.

That summer of 1962, as my quest for knowledge led me forward, dust motes danced in beams of sunlight streaming in the windows of my great aunt’s abandoned chicken house. Here and there, cracks broke the long concrete floor but at the upper end where I sat, a place had been set aside for a trunk, random chairs, a broken ottoman, an iron bedstead and various other household outcasts. The trunk contained back issues of Reader’s Digest, mostly 1940s and 1950s editions which I’d mined for days as our summer vacation passed at a glacial pace.

Our family—dad, mom, me, younger sister, and two infant brothers—were camped in my great aunt’s cabin, a relic perched a hundred feet from the main house, a stone’s throw from the chicken house and another twenty feet from the outhouse. The toilet hosted nests of angry red wasps and yellow jackets, so as our days there crept past, bodily processes became fraught with terror.

The purpose of our stay was to save my father from cigarettes. After reading the latest fad for cleansing the body from nicotine addiction, my mother had hit upon the perfect plan in her continuing effort to expand our health food diet: stay in her Aunt Golvia’s cabin, pick bushels of grapes from the nearby vineyards, and eat nothing but grapes. That would cure him.

As it turned out, it didn’t cure him but it did exacerbate my problem with the outhouse.

But that wasn’t the focus of my attention that sweltering July afternoon. As I thumbed through various articles, sweat dripping down my sides, my hands stopped on a page with fascinating drawings. These looked like – no, they were!—line drawings of male and female bodies with genitalia in anatomically correct detail. Even more fascinating was a third drawing showing the male organ inside the female’s body. An even smaller detail showed the release of sperm penetrating the cervix to fertilize the egg.

I read it and re-read it, trying to understand what it meant. My face became hot. My hands trembled.

Could this be true? It was in Readers Digest, so didn’t it have to be true?

So much suddenly made sense. All the years of my life until that point, I’d been told that when a woman loved a man ‘enough,’ a baby grew in her stomach. It was a miracle of God. I accepted that idea like I accepted that it rained.

My fevered mind raced back to my previous efforts to understand procreation. Just months prior, I stood in the cafeteria line as a group of friends whispered about a freshman classmate getting pregnant.

“She shouldn’t have done that,” JoEllen said. “She knew better.”

“They expelled her,” Marti added.

“That’s not fair. She can’t help it if she loves him that much,” I said piously.

Six sets of eyes settled on me. I squirmed uncomfortably. What?

None of them took mercy and told me the truth. Maybe they didn’t grasp that I truly didn’t know how babies were made. But a few months later as I crouched in that dusty barn staring at the page, here it was in black and white. Humiliation flooded through me.

How could I have been so stupid?!

It was now obvious my mother had lied to me and more than once. In seventh grade when my friend Joanie told a joke with the word ‘fuck’ in it, I didn’t get it. The whole point of the joke hinged on that word. I rushed home from school to ask what ‘fuck’ meant.

I ran down the alley as fast as my long lanky legs could carry me, crossed the yard, and burst in through the back door. Mom was in the kitchen, surrounded as usual by my two little brothers and a multitude of unfinished tasks. I posed my question.

“What does ‘fuck’ mean?”

Red splotches sprang onto her cheeks and her dark eyes flashed in anger.

“Jessica Hardy! Don’t you ever say that filthy word,” she said sharply. “Only filthy people say that.”

I refused to back down. “But what does it mean?”

“You don’t need to know what it means,” she said, dismissing me with a turn of her back.

Wow. Well, if she was that upset about a word, I absolutely had to find out what it meant.

Next day, my friend Joanie was only too happy to explain that ‘fuck’ was when a man put his “necessary item” inside a girl “down there” and went to the bathroom.

Oh god, the horror! Now, as I studied the detailed drawings and re-read the Reader’s Digest article, I finally got it.

MY PARENTS HAD FUCKED!

I staggered back to the cabin where my mother was in the tiny kitchen washing grapes. I shoved the open Reader’s Digest in front of her. “Is this true?”

She took the book, scanned the drawings, and angrily dropped the little publication into the trash can without saying a single word. I could tell by the red spots on her cheeks that it was true.

“Tell me!”

“Yes,” she said furiously. “Where did you get that? You’ve got no business reading such filth.”

My jaw dropped. Filth? This was how she got pregnant. Why was it filth? I couldn’t believe it. How could it be?

I wanted to scream at her. Make her admit her deliberate lies, confess her intentional failure to educate me about the most important aspect of human existence. Explain why making babies was filth. I couldn’t find words.

Instead, I raced through the cabin, climbed into the sleeping loft, and threw myself into my pillow where I sobbed my eyes out. My parents! Fucking? Each of us kids had come from fuck?

Oh, the horror. The shame. I thought I would throw up. I would never do that. Now I knew with absolutely certainty that I would never have a husband or a family because I would never let that filthy ‘fuck’ thing happen to me. The missionary thing in Africa solidified in my mind.

Months later when Bob walked up beside me in the high school band room and my knees sagged, I quickly amended my outlook. If I loved someone enough, I might let him fuck me.

from Once in a Lifetime Opportunity by Jessica Hardy. New Release at Amazon, paperback or ebook.

New Release!

In the mid-20th century, an entire generation of women found themselves caught up in a revolution. Young women tossed aside society’s rules that had governed women with an iron hand for hundreds of years. Suddenly women had agency, the right to their own identity. And their own sexual adventures. The story of Jessica Hardy and her seven-year marriage to Parker Grant brings that enormous cultural shift down to the personal level. As she enters college in 1966, Jessica is desperate to break out of her strict upbringing. Parker is her salvation, a graduating senior who becomes the love of her life. Newly married, they immerse in Parker’s duties as an air force officer and a world of their own making—nights in Las Vegas, windy Pacific beaches, and long summer days in the Philippine Islands. Slowly, with Parker’s encouragement, Jessica gains self-confidence and a sense of herself. But Jessica has a problem. She wants more. More knowledge, more experience, autonomy. Leaving no stone unturned, Jess breaks one rule after another—illegal abortion, drugs, one man then another, even time in jail. It’s an unexpected spiritual awakening that opens the door to the rest of her life. Once in a Lifetime Opportunity reveals this tumultuous time in a gut-wrenching portrayal of a woman determined to find her own way and the man who loved her.

New Release! Her Pirate Adventure

Thoroughly disappointed with her expensive cruise ship vacation, Burgess Carter has one night left to find the adventure she craves. She looks up from her dinner at a seaside restaurant to see someone who might make her dreams come true. A man stands at the prow of his sailing sloop as it glides up to a nearby pier. A man like she’s never seen before, tall, dark, gorgeous and maybe a pirate. A man she absolutely has to meet.

Morgan Rand has a lot on his mind. Tomorrow will be the last day of a massive project that he and his crew have been working on for months. With any luck, he’s about to become incredibly rich. He’s nervous, exhilarated and exhausted, but not too absorbed to catch the stare of an enchanting female watching him from the deck railing of his favorite restaurant. Good thing he plans to eat there. He’ll make his move on this intriguing lady and discover if she’s up for his dare.

What happens when Burgess decides to stow away and see if this pirate is real? When he decides to blow up her entire concept of adventure?

~~~

Grab this fun sexy novella, perfect for your vacation book list!

Now available at Amazon, FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Those Sexy Pirates!

NOW! A entirely new collection of bad boy pirate stories. New release! Only 99¢

My story, “An Adventure for Burgess,” is one of the stories chosen for this anthology!

As a sleek sloop noses into Seraphine Bay, a female tourist resolves to discover if the man at the helm is the pirate of her dreams.

Excerpt:

The two women stood up and moved away from the table. Christ, the dark-haired one had curves—a full bosom tucked away in a modest blouse and a pair of shorts that outlined the rounded curve of her buttocks. His body tensed.

“Damn,” he muttered under his breath.

He slammed the rest of the scotch down his throat and stood up, angling his path to intercept the two women at the restaurant entry. This wasn’t like him, going out of his way to tangle with a female. Especially now with the dive project nearly finished. But something about her moved him, inexorable as the tide.

Morgan managed to arrive at the entry at the same time as the women. Despite her friend’s annoyed glance, his attention focused on maneuvering against the object of his interest. She turned just as he powered up against her, and he had to grab her arms to keep them both from falling.

“Oh!” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

He inhaled at the touch of her soft body. Her luminous eyes lifted to his face, and her pink lips formed a perfect O. Her shocked expression radiated naiveté but also eagerness. Despite the chaste lines of the blouse, the buttons obviously strained under their duty to hold it all together.  Long dark hair, blushing cheeks, she smelled like tropical fruit and rum—and something he couldn’t describe that made his cock throb against his zipper. Damn if he didn’t lose track of his surroundings. All he could think of was how those lips would taste.

“My fault entirely,” he murmured, releasing her and stepping back.

“I can’t believe this,” she said, slurring her words slightly. “I saw on you that boat out there, didn’t I?”

“You did,” he said, smiling.

“Beautiful boat,” she said. Her gaze flickered down his body before she gave him another wide-eyed stare. “Very sexy,” she said in a husky voice.

“Uh, Burgess.” Her friend tugged on her arm. “My flight, remember?”

“Burgess? Nice name.” He motioned toward the doorway. “I’ll walk you ladies out.”

Burgess giggled. They stopped on the sidewalk outside the entrance. “My friend Kendra,” Burgess said, motioning. “She’s flying back. Not me.” She chewed her lip and cast a sideways glance toward Morgan. “I’m going to have an adventure.”

The tip of her tongue touched her lips and sent a hot jolt to his groin.

“Come on,” Kendra said. “You’re tipsy, and you don’t know this man. Sorry, sir,” she said with a glare directed at Morgan. “You’ll have to excuse us.”

He flinched at the “sir” and bowed slightly. Christ, he wasn’t that much older.

“Yes, I do know him,” Burgess insisted. “I know he’s got a boat, and he’s tall. I think he’s a pirate.”

Morgan guffawed. “And he’s very lonely. Shall I call for a cab to take your friend to the airport, so you and I can get better acquainted?”

“Absolutely not,” Kendra said, tugging Burgess’s arm. “Come on, we have things to do.”

He backed up a step and held his hands in a surrender gesture. “No harm intended. Have a nice flight.”

~~~

Read the rest of this smart sexy story and more in the new anthology, Pirates (A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology Book 3).  Only 99¢ here.

~~~

David’s Dilemma

 

He’d never been much of a planning type. For one thing, plans pretty much had a habit of blowing up in his face. He’d planned plenty of fabulous mansions he’d build with his music wealth. A ranch in Montana. A Lear jet he’d have painted red to advertise the band’s name. Plenty of parties with the best of the best chumming up to him, J.J., and the rest. Plenty of bullshit ideas that just got farther away the more he planned them.

Like the songs he’d planned. Somewhere back in L.A., probably burned to an ash by now, was the dog-eared list he kept on a yellow legal pad. Song ideas he’d get to as soon as he had time. As soon as the mood struck him. Phrases, chord progressions. The paean to his sister he never could write. Memories of his grandparents.

His love of good whiskey—well, that had made it into a few songs. But never quite enough, or clearly stated enough, to encapsulate the intense pleasure that came with the warm creep of intoxication while more of the fragrant amber fluid gently swirled in his glass. He had a clear memory of the grip of his hand around that small sturdy glass. The sweet aromatic smell filled his nose. His mouth watered.

If he was going to fucking spend the last of his days in this desert, why the fuck couldn’t he at least enjoy drinking?

~~~

This is an excerpt from my latest novel, Refuge in His Arms. The story follows Mackenzie Kilpatrick and David Evans, two strangers caught up in two simultaneous natural disasters. As they escape from Los Angeles in the midst of a massive earthquake, they quickly discover another more devastating event will impact their future for days or even years to come. Making things worse, each of them struggles with personal issues as well as the developing love-hate relationship between them.

In this story, David has to face down his alcoholism. Writing about addiction isn’t something I’ve done before, although I’ve seen addiction in real life more times than I’d like to admit. It’s a horrible illness, and I admit that I still have a hard time seeing it as such. My tendency is to believe that addictive behavior is a choice someone makes, even if it’s a choice not to be responsible for what he/she does.

Whatever my personal take on addiction, the character of David has traveled far down the road in his struggle with alcohol. In the story, he’s faced with a terrible choice, whether to fight for the woman he thought he’d never love or to give in to his deep thirst for a drink.

All of us, at one time or another or even multiple times, want nothing more than to escape from the pain and difficulty we face. Intoxication is one way to make that escape. Inevitably, the intoxication wears off and whatever pain or difficulty we hoped to escape from is still there, sometimes even worse than before. It’s a human dilemma that will never be erased from our common experience, either as an addict ourselves, or as an enabler, or as a grieving bystander.

I don’t delve too deeply into the topic of addiction. That’s not the purpose of the story. But I do hope that I’ve created a character in David who portrays the struggle so many sensitive and creative people experience in facing the acute pain of life.

December Specials!

Heads up, dearies — my monthly FREE newsletter, Liz’s Hot News, will feature coupon deals on novels and short stories plus special treats. Sign up before the December issue release date, Dec 1 to get in on the fun.

Psst! You can unsubscribe at any time! 

Now, for a taste of the holidays, a recipe for my favorite cake and to-die-for icing:

Applesauce Cake

2 ½ cups flour

1 ¾ cups sugar, or 1 cup sugar and ¾ cup honey

1 ½ teaspoon soda

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce

½ cup hot water (⅓ c if using honey)

½ cup shortening

2 eggs at room temperature

Optional: 1 cup raisins and ½ cup chopped English walnuts

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour baking pan, either 13x9x2 or 2 round layers 8 or 9×1½ inches.

Measure wet ingredients into bowl and mix thoroughly. If eggs or water are cold, the shortening won’t blend well.  Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until well blended, then increase mixer speed and beat three minutes. Pour into pans.

Bake oblong 60-65 minutes, layers 50-55 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

When cake has cooled, frost with Penuche Icing.

 

Penuche Icing (Yumm!)

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup milk

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir over low heat 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, then remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.

Stir in confectioners’ sugar then beat with mixer until fully smooth and of spreading consistency. If frosting becomes too stiff, heat slightly while stirring.

The Escape

escape-cover-smallSometimes when I write a story, it keeps on living after I quit. I consider that a success as far as writing goes, but it can become quite the nag. After nearly two years, the nagging that surfaced after I finished writing “The Captive” became deafening. So I’ve written a second installment, “The Escape,” in what seems destined to become an even lengthier tale.

“The Captive” is a short story set in the late 9th century England when the Saxons and Danes were fighting over control of the land. Seeking a brief time of secret pleasure with a captured Danish warrior, Elspeth Lady of Hystead hides away in a remote cabin on her estate and has the man delivered to her. Her aging invalid husband will be none the wiser. Yet an unexpected problem arises and it has nothing to do with her husband. It has to do with this stunning man standing before her, tied and injured, his long blond hair partially hiding the disdain in his intense stare. This was not what she expected.captive-new-cover-small

Not at all.

Book 2, “The Escape,” is a novelette, available at your favorite bookseller.

Buy links for “The Captive” — Amazon, Smashwords

Buy links for “The Escape” — Amazon, Smashwords