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Greta BondieumaitreGreta Bondieumaitre is from St. Lucia, a small but lively island in the Caribbean. She started writing love stories between classes in high school to amuse her friends at lunch time. Ten years later, she published her first novel, “Her Heart’s Desire”. She later published, “Play Me A Love Song” and recently, “‘Til I Find You“. She describes writing during her post-high school years as, “self therapy”.

Visit her blog at www.gretabondieumaitre.blogspot.com.

About the Book:

Til I Find YouNo one knows how bumpy the road to love is more than Tisha Cole. After years of excruciatingly embarrassing dates, the 25-year-old receptionist is ready to hand in her dating license, but her cynical cousin, Drew, will not let her. She knows that finding Mr. Right has always been Tisha’s ultimate goal in life and short of joining the search herself, Drew plans on doing whatever it is in her power to help Tisha find him. When they cross paths with two best friends and a very sexy entrepreneur, there’s a slight change in plans.

Drew who has always been adamant about keeping her single status begins to doubt her immunity to Tisha’s lovesickness.

Tisha has hit the jackpot with not one but two perfect dates! Where next will her quest for love take her when she decides to upgrade her relationship—with both men!

Two not-so-sweet cousins, three not-so-honest men. With the many potholes and crossroads along the way, will Tisha ever reach her destination?

Would you call yourself a born writer?

If you mean, did I like to tell tall tales from childhood, then, maybe. From as far back as I can remember, I was always the one to lead the other children into imaginary expeditions. My essays always exceeded the word limits and my teachers thought I liked to include way too much detail. But then, I’d like to think that my love for details is what caused me to start writing novels.

What was your inspiration for “’Til I Find You”?

The search for love has always intrigued me and after having seen the possibility for romance between two fellow passengers on a bus, I decided to write their story as I imagined it could have been.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I wouldn’t be able to read a book with no romance and much less write one where the theme of romantic love is not dominant. I also like exploring self‐betrayal in my novels.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

The first draft took a little over a month but I only started working seriously on it some three years later for about a year.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I get up in the morning, take a bath, make breakfast, lunch and probably dinner because I won’t have time to make it later. At about 12 p.m. I settle down with a bottle of water and start writing until about 1 a.m. I alternate between following a strict schedule and going with the flow.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I knew where I was going with this book from the very beginning so there weren’t many bothersome challenges like I’ve had with other books.

What do you love most about being an author?

The readers! I only realized how many people lived similar lives after I’d published my first novel and they’re very open about it. I love my readers!

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I self-published, although I’ve always wanted to be published by a traditional publisher. Self-publishing has its advantages but it’s also very time‐consuming.

Where can we find you on the web?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter:

https://twitter.com/greta_bondy

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Her-Hearts-Desire-Greta-Bondieumaitre/190649524282672

Email: gretabondy@yahoo.com

To browse or buy the novel, please click on the direct links below:

http://www.amazon.com/Til-I-Find-You-Xlibris-ebook/dp/B00FNSOTCY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1383857248&sr=8-2&keywords=til+i+find+you

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/til-i-find-you-greta-bondieumaitre/1117025012?ean=9781483698434

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Join Pamela Fagan Hutchins, author of the mystery/women’s fiction, Saving Grace, as she tours the blogosphere January 2 – March 29 2013 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!  This tour is part of a huge Kindle Fire HD Giveaway. You can enter HERE.

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ImagePamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning mysterious women’s fiction and relationship humor books, and holds nothing back.  She is known for “having it all” which really means she has a little too much of everything, but loves it: writer, mediocre endurance athlete (triathlon, marathons), wife, mom of an ADHD & Asperger’s son, five kids/step-kids, business owner, recovering employment attorney and human resources executive, investigator, consultant, and musician.  Pamela lives with her husband Eric and two high school-aged kids, plus 200 pounds of pets in Houston. Their hearts are still in St. Croix, USVI, along with those of their three oldest offspring.

Her latest book is the mystery/women’s fiction, Saving Grace.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+ |GOODREADS | LINKEDIN | SKIPJACK PUBLISHING

  

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About the Book:

If you’re at all inclined to be swept away to the islands to fall in love with a rainforest jumbie house and a Texas attorney who is as much a danger to herself as the island bad guys, then dive headfirst with Katie Connell into Saving Grace

Katie escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and her Bloody Mary-habit when she runs to the island of St. Marcos to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Interview:

Welcome to The Dark Phantom Review, Pamela. It’s great to have you here. Tell us, would you call yourself a born writer?

Definitely. Writing is my go-to form of expression. When my husband and I were dating, he wooed me with his spoken words. I would stare back at him, big-eyed and speechless. He worried that I didn’t feel the same way he did. It wasn’t that I lacked his feelings. It was that I needed to write it down to “say” it to him. He received some lovely letters for me before I found my physical voice.

What was your inspiration for Saving Grace?

I lived in the Caribbean for nearly ten years, part of that time in a big jumbie (ghost) house in the rainforest. My experiences in that amazing house inspired me to write Saving Grace and the rest of the upcoming Katie & Annalise series.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I am intrigued by the struggle to master oneself, to achieve growth and self-control while remaining serene enough serenity to release the things that are outside of one’s control.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I started the Katie & Annalise series five years before I published Saving Grace, the first novel in the series. The actual book took me six months to write.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.  

I am driven more than I am disciplined. I may go weeks without working on a book, although I write every day for other, smaller projects. But when it is time to meet a book deadline, I write around the clock, stopping for nothing but food, ibuprofen, and ice.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Saving Grace was my debut novel, but, by the time it was published, I had finished writing the entire series. In writing the series, I found that I had to go back and completely (and I do mean completely) rewrite the story of Saving Grace. I salvaged 15,000 of the original 85,000 words and ended up with a fresh 85,000-word book. So, for me, the hardest part was letting go of the original version, pulling out that proverbial blank sheet of paper, and having the oomph left to do it one more time when I was really ready for a break. When I did the rewrite, though, it was magic and flowed like nothing I’d ever written before.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love feeling the rightness of words flowing one into another, of perfect images that bring a secret smile to a reader’s face, of crying and laughing out loud as I write a story. I love living it. I become my protagonist. My entire family prays for me to finish the book so we can all quit living out the drama of the scenes, one by one, over and over.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I am an author-preneur who indie published with SkipJack Publishing (http://SkipJackPublishing.com). Since I have been told I am a control freak (perish the thought), I know that indie publishing was the right path for me. I have been elated with the results, although the process was long and hard. I had to learn the business of publishing from soup to nuts, and I still have a lot to learn. But it went so well that we will be open for submissions at SkipJack later this year, for women’s fiction and mysteries for women.

Where can we find you on the web?

http://pamelahutchins.com

Thanks, Pamela, and best of luck with Saving Grace! 

 

 

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There are people I know who really enjoy exploring the dark side of life. They are interested in really understanding the psyche and figuring out what makes people tick…particularly bad people.

I’m not one of those people.

Serial killers, depravity, warped sensibilities, scary people… If I’m being honest, I don’t like seeing the dark and twisted side of things. The dichotomy between the extremes of dark suspense and happily ever after, while highlighting the importance of love and the renewing spirit of humanity, still illustrates the evil that permeates our everyday lives, even on the periphery. It can be so disturbing that it sucks the happiness right out of me. I begin to fear who lives next door, wonder if there’s a lunatic watching my kids’ schools, worry that something dark and awful will befall someone I love.

I don’t like those feelings. At all.

Enter Lola Cruz. She’s a black belt in kung fun, a detective who sees bad things happen in her job. But she believes in love, is sassy, sexy, and smart. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Writing Lola inspires me, and helps me see that darkness doesn’t have to be overwhelming. She gives me a unique lens to view life through and I love it! From the looks of it (4 1/2 stars from RT Book Reviews, and sparkling reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist) http://misaramirez.com/the-countdown-is-on/, I’m not alone.

I know evil exists. I know misfortune exists. I’ve been touched by it. What I’ve found, as I grow older, is that I don’t particularly like being reminded of it in the books I read. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t live with my head buried in the sand. I’m socially conscious, believe in serving, and put myself out there to help and be part of the world around me. I work hard to emphasize social awareness and servitude to my kids so that they understand the lottery they won by being born in the United States, the privilege they live with, and the fact that they are blessed in a world where not everyone is so fortunate.

One thing that every human wants is love. That’s why the Lola Cruz Mystery Series has love as a key ingredient. It’s equal parts mystery and romance, and love and romance, after all, make the world go round.

Biography:

Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (February 2, 2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, has developed a middle grade series, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published.

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When I say ‘chick lit’, what do you think about? Fluffy novels? Air-head protagonists? Bags, shoes and designer clothes? Don’t be ashamed to admit it. That’s what I used to think when I read my first one a few years ago. Sure, there will always be poorly written chick lit novels with mediocre characterization and non-existent plot or storylines, but this happens in all genres. The truth is, chick lit has come a long way and now more than ever, publishers are looking for authors who can deliver not only a fun and sassy story but also a smart one as well. Just like in all genres, publishers of chick lit fiction want intelligent writing, a powerful premise, a likable protagonist with a strong, distinct voice readers can sympathize with, a villainess readers will love to hate, and a compelling plot.

Chick lit novels are extremely popular at the moment, mainly because of big hits like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopoholic and Alisa Valdes Rodriguez’s The Dirty Girls Social Club. Many aspiring authors think that writing chick lit may be the surest road to fame and six figure advances. Because chick lit novels are often fun, light reads, new writers may have the wrong assumption that they’re easy to write, but this isn’t the case. Just like any work of fiction, a good chick lit story takes talent and skill to write.

I recently had the chance to read two books on how to write chick lit: See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit, by bestselling authors Sarah Mlynowski, and Will Write For Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel, by Cathy Yardley. Both are great resources, not only on how to write in this genre, but on learning everything there is to know about this type of fiction: its history, new trends, and tips and tools for breaking into the market.

But let’s take a closer look at each book.

In See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit, the authors begin by explaining what chick lit is all about and exploring the reasons why you may want to write the chick lit novel. Then they go into the craft itself: creating the protagonists and secondary characters, the elements of style, the basics of plotting, deciding on a point of view, structure and pacing, and finally, the importance of revising. They also give submission, agent and publishing advice, including a short list of editors who handle chick lit. In the appendix, as a reading list, the authors give examples of popular chick lit authors and their books.

The font is pink and sometimes green, against sometimes pink or green background. The pages are thicker than the regular paperback, which made the pages stiffer and a bit less comfortable to turn. In spite of this, I found the book entertaining and informative, with the same humorous flavor of a chick lit novel, and the authors give helpful advice.

Will Write For Shoes is another great resource for the aspiring chick lit author.

This book goes into more detail explaining the genre and its history, and offers a ‘blue print’ for writing the novel. It also discusses in detail the various trends and subcategories within the genre. Like the title above, it tries to teach the craft with examples. Topics include: plot, structure, point of view, characters, setting, voice. It also stresses the importance of revision. Unlike the book above, it not only includes a good list of editors but also a list of agents who specialize in chick lit. There’s a sample query and synopsis in the appendix, something writers will find extremely useful.

This is a fun and comprehensive manual that should be in the permanent shelf of every new chick lit writer.

If you can get both, great. If you have to choose between the two, I’d recommend the second one, Will Write For Shoes. It’s more complete and the resources are better. I also liked that it’s presented in a more simple, uncluttered manner.

You too can share your story with the world because publishing your own book just got easier.

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nyI read this book while vacationing on the Turkish Riviera this past summer. It was an entertaining, delightful read — the perfect companion for those relaxing days under the sun. That said, this is a novel that will be enjoyed by chick lit fans anytime of the year and at any place.

The story begins in London, with twenty-something Angela Clark discovering at her best friend’s wedding that her fiancee has been cheating on her for some time. What’s worse, everyone somehow already knew about it — everyone except Angela.

Filled with rage, unhappiness and disappointment, Angela flies to New York City and rents a hotel room for a few days. There, a lot of unexpected things happen. She befriends one of the hotel clerks, who introduces her to her group of interesting friends. She meets two very different men who each in his own way sweep her off her feet. Of course, she also does some serious shopping (It’s New York City, right? Plus, she has a credit card). But most excitingly, she’s suddenly offered an opportunity to do what she likes best: write.

Through a series of adventurous escapades, Angela does some growing up and takes a closer look at herself and her life. Will she go back to London, as her family and friends are urging her to, or will she stay in New York and fulfill her dreams?

The writing is light and fun, making this a quick read. The author brings the city to life, with its exciting coffee shops, night clubs and stores. But the best part is Angela. With all her defects, she comes out as a very real and endearing protagonist.

Warning: I Heart New York will make you want to take the next plane to New York.

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lindseyI’m thrilled to have Lindsey Kelk as my guest on The Dark Phantom today. Lindsey is a children’s book editor at a top publishing house and the author of I Heart New York, a delightful chick-lit novel featuring the incorrigible Angela Clark. I Heart New York is the first book in a series of five. The second book, I Heart Hollywood, is due out January 2010. Visit her website and her blogs, BeautyMecca and BeautyAddict.

Thanks for being my guest, Lindsey. Tell us, how did you come up with the idea for I Heart New York and the series?

I’d just come back from a holiday in New York and was incredibly broke and depressed. New York has been amazing, and I just couldn’t seem to shake myself out of the post-holiday blues, so I decided, if I couldn’t go back (and my credit limit said no, I could not) that I would write about it instead.

I always conceived the books as a series, taking in different cities around the world — I love fiction series, I blame my teen obsession with Sweet Valley High. I never want books I love to end.

nyTell us a little about your protagonist. What about her will women readers identify with the most?

I hope people will like Angela because she and I are a lot alike! Except she gets the boys and, sob, I don’t do quite so well (send any and all viable applicants to my Facebook page please). People have said they like her because she’s funny and down to earth. Of course the book is a fantasy, so it’s not like stuff like that happens every single day, but I like to think that Angela deals with the situations she finds herself in like an actual person would.

That and she really likes shoes. And boys. And karaoke. And cocktails.

Like I said, we’re a lot alike.

Are you a disciplined writer? How long did it take you to finish the first draft? What about the editing process?

I really wish I could say yes, but since I finished I Heart New York, I’ve been terrible. In my defense, I work as a senior editor in children’s publishing so writing, editing and rewriting is my entire life! I Heart New York was really quick to write, the first draft took just six weeks, but I dedicated my life to it. I would come home from work, cook dinner, eat, open the laptop and write until I fell asleep. By the time I had a book deal and was writing I Heart Hollywood, SO much more was going on in my life and I didn’t have as much time. That one took maybe four months? Now I’ve just finished the first draft of I Heart Paris and just to make my life that little bit more difficult, I upped and moved to New York halfway through, BUT it still only took six months. I guess I’m a lot faster than a lot of other writers but, really, I should be more disciplined.

Editing is easier, my editor is AMAZING and always gives the most insightful and inspiring advice, so once I get her comments in, I can turn them around in a few weeks.

Is your second book already finished? I understand it’s scheduled for publication in early 2010.

Yup! I’ve just had the proofs, the cover is gorgeous. My cover designer, Lee Motley, is a goddess. And, yes, I Heart Hollywood is out January 2010. Scary.

Did you move to Paris for a while in order to write it?

I wish! I visited LA and Paris for research, but I wasn’t able to move. I just moved to New York with my job; it’s really a coincidence that I’m following in Angela’s footsteps, alebit a very big coincidence!

How many books are you planning to write for the series?

There are five books planned in my head, three written, two sort of plotted out but who knows? Maybe I’ll finish these five and then come back to it in ten years…

You also keep a popular blog called BeautyMecca. Tell us all about it!

I LOVE make-up! Basically, before I moved into publishing, I used to work in beauty PR, and, while I loved the products, PR wasn’t for me. BeautyMecca was my way of staying involved with the side of the industry I loved and steering clear of calling up journalists and asking if they wanted to try my new wonder foundation.

It wasn’t wonderful, but I will spare the innocent.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

Aside from BeautyMecca and www.iheartnewyork.co.uk (I write a blog as Angela for the site) I’m all over Twitter and Facebook if you really feel the need to know what I’m up to ALL THE TIME.

Thanks so much Mayra, that was fun!

Thanks, Lindsey, and good luck with your book. I look forward to reading your second one!

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Welcome to the fourth day of the Women, Words and Wisdom Blog Tour!

The winner of Lara’s $10 Starbucks gift card is SHELL!!!!!!!

Initially I was planning on posting a short story titled, “Killing the Writer’s Block: A Story,” but then I changed my mind. While it has to do with writing and women’s wisdom, I think it’s propably too ‘kinky’ for this blog tour (sorry about that!) So instead I’m going to post an excerpt from my chick-lit novel, Sunstruck, coming next spring from Zumaya Publications. The novel takes place in hot and steamy San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At the bottom of the excerpt I’ve put a question. Send me the answer to mgcalvani@hotmail.com for a chance to win an ebook copy of one of my books, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, Dark Lullaby, or Embraced by the Shadows (your choice!)

Good luck and I hope you enjoy the excerpt!

Excerpt:

When Daniella steps out of the shower she finds Tony throwing a big spoon of Quick into a glass of milk. He begins to stir the milk desperately, as if he can’t wait to drink it.

“How’s the painting going?” Daniella says. She’s wrapped in a bright green towel and her long damp hair smells of apples-and-cinnamon shampoo.

Tony glances at Daniella. “You smell like apple pie,” he says. He tilts his head back and noisily gulps the chocolate milk like a barbarian.

It’s Wednesday night and even though both windows are open, the air feels hot and muggy inside the apartment.

Commando is sitting on the windowsill, staring down at the passersby on the street with a disdainful expression on his face. He seems to be thinking, “I used to be sacred, you simple ordinary mortals. Three thousand years ago people used to pay me tribute at the Temple of Bubastes. Those were the days of glory! I used to be revered and adored and adorned with precious stones and mummified and buried with kings.”

Commando throws Daniella a quick, resentful look. Ever since Daniella gave him that rubber mouse, two weeks ago, Commando has been acting funny. Daniella believes she hurt his feelings when she gave him that rubber mouse. Commando had looked at it with an incredulous, insulted look on his face. Daniella had clearly read the indignation in his eyes: “What do you think I am? Stupid? You think I can’t tell the difference between a real and a synthetic mouse?” But Daniella hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings. She had just wanted him to have a rubber mouse.

“I don’t know,” Tony says, putting the empty glass in the sink and going back to his surrealist painting, propped up on a worn wooden easel in the middle of his incredibly messy work area. From where Daniella stands his work area is so messy it’s almost frightening—a sharp contrast to the rest of the studio, which she keeps spotless and reeking of Lysol. Daniella suspects this dual, surreal state of her apartment symbolizes her life.

Tony squints into the canvas. He grabs the palette and brush from the table and once again submerges himself in his work.

“What do you think?” he whispers, not caring in the least for an answer. He’s wearing nothing but white jockey shorts and white socks. Dear God, he’s so hairy. An alien humanoid or a werewolf making art.

Fifi Santos is going to exhibit Tony’s paintings this weekend. That’s why Tony has been working frantically during the nights for the past few weeks. He’s also been edgy and annoying. Okay, so an art exhibit can bring a lot of stress and pressure into your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like a Neanderthal.

Daniella herself has been working on an important project for her design class. She’s designing a huge modern shopping center, nine stories high, with inner gardens and water fountains and a big roller-skating rink There’s even a skyscraping tower built in the center of it, with a gambling casino, a bar, and restaurant at the top. The walls of the tower are made of glass so that people can see the view as they go up inside the elevator, but outside, the entire structure is painted in a Day-Glo pink-and-black checkerboard pattern.

“An ambitious task, no doubt,” her professor had said.

Daniella had scowled at him. It’s a disadvantage to be in a class were there are only four females and more than thirty males If you’re of normal intelligence, they condescend and patronize you like you’re some sort of pet who dared to dream too high. But if you prove you have above-average brains, it’s even worse. You become a sociological curiosity. She’s still trying to figure out in what category she’s in.

Daniella’s stomach is making strange persistent noises. She opens the refrigerator and studies the possibilities. A half-eaten bag of nacho chips, a jar of mustard, a small bowl with some kind of unrecognizable, stale moldy food in it, two cans of Budweiser, a box of Cocoa Crispies, a plate of hummous Tony made yesterday. She would like to eat the hummous but there’s no pita bread and she can’t eat hummous without pita bread.

“There’s nothing here,” she says, not surprised.

She reaches for the box of Cocoa Crispies, but when she pops a handful into her mouth she notices they’re not crispy anymore. She’s supposed to meet Mari Carmen and some friends from the university at El Patio de Sam at eight-thirty. She’ll have to stop at the supermarket on her way back. There’s one in El Condado that’s open till midnight.

Trying to forget about her hunger, she takes her underwear out of the freezer and starts getting dressed (she got the idea from a Marilyn Monroe film—an ingenious way to fight the heat!) She’ll eat something out.

She glances at Tony and frowns. She can’t help feeling a twinge of envy. She wishes she could concentrate on her studies as much as he concentrates on his paintings. When he paints, the world stops rotating. Right now he isn’t even aware she’s in the room. Yes, she has to give him credit for that. He’s hardworking. All day long struggling with Los Chinitos, all night long struggling with surrealist nightmares. He even runs an hour every morning before going to work. If it weren’t for the drugs, he’d be a saint.

“I’ll stop at the supermarket on my way back. Do you want anything special?” she says when she’s ready to leave, her hand clasped around the doorknob.

After what seems like an eternity, Tony grunts, “Huh?”

“I asked you if you want anything special. I’m going to buy some stuff on the way back.”
He looks up at her. Suddenly he seems surprised, as if she’s an apparition from the lower world. “Where are you going?”

“I can’t believe this. I told you three times. You were not listening to me.”

Tony tries to run a hand through his hair, but his hair is so tangled the attempt is unsuccessful. “I was listening to you.”

Daniella folds her arms across her chest. “All right. Where am I going?”

Tony grins. He doesn’t have an idea where she’s going. He puts the palette and brush back on the table—he’s back on planet earth. He says, “Okay, okay. You win. I wasn’t listening to you. I know I’m an ass. Now can you tell me where you’re going dressed like that?”

“What do you mean?” She’s wearing a jade-green mini dress and high-heeled black pumps, her brandy-carrot hair falling like a long satin cape down her back.

“I mean where are you going dressed like that? Don’t you know that wearing clothes like that at night can be damn dangerous? We’re not in Disneyland. Don’t you read the papers? Are you trying to get yourself raped and killed or what?”

He looks like he’s getting angry, which in a way pleases Daniella because it shows that he cares for her, but in another way mortifies her because it shows that he’s deeply influenced by the chauvinist pigs of Latin America.

“There’s nothing wrong with what I’m wearing,” Daniella protests. “How come all of the sudden you’re so interested in what I’m wearing or where I’m going? Five minutes ago you were hardly aware of my existence.”

Tony sighs. “Are you going to tell me where you’re going or not?”

Commando seems to realize there’s more action going on inside the room than out on the street. He jumps down from the window sill and leaps up on the bed, settling himself on one of the pillows. Apparently elated with this new turn of events, his odd-colored eyes shift from Tony to Daniella, from Tony to Daniella. He yawns.

“I’m going to El Patio de Sam,” Daniella snaps. “Mari Carmen is waiting for me.”

“Mari Carmen can go to hell. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you read the papers? There’s some nut loose slashing women’s asses.” He rummages around the room for the newspaper, but his efforts prove futile. “Damn it! You can’t find anything in this damn place.”

Daniella wants to tell him that if he can’t find anything it’s because of his continuous messiness, but instead she keeps her mouth shut.

“This damn place is filled with cat hairs. No wonder I feel so worn down all the time. I’m inhaling and eating cat hairs. And that cat is Turkish. Do you know what caused the bubonic plague in Europe?” He puts his hands on his hips and stares at Daniella, demanding an answer.

Daniella stares back at him, perplexed. What does the bubonic plague have to do with what they’re talking?

He answers his own question triumphantly. “Turkish rats! That’s what caused the bubonic plague. Turkish rats!” He finally collapses on the bed and starts rubbing his forehead.

Daniella shakes her head. “You look ridiculous, talking about Turkish rats in your underwear. And when was the last time you shaved, anyway? You look like a terrorist. I’m going. I’ll see you later.”

“Wait!” Tony says, suddenly seeing the newspaper tucked under the pillow where Commando is sitting. “It’s here, I found it.” He tries to reach for it, but Commando gives him an icy, threatening hiss, forcing Tony to pull back his hand.

“I can’t believe this is happening. And he’s sitting on my pillow. How did I end up sharing my pillow with a psychotic cat? I’m going to have that paper, you son of a bitch,” Tony says. He snatches the newspaper from under the pillow just in time to see one furious paw with five sharp claws coming at him. “Shit! I’m going to kill you, you son of a bitch!”

Commando swiftly jumps down from the bed and Tony starts swatting him about the room.

“Stop it! Are you crazy?” Daniella says, blocking Tony’s way in order to protect Commando.

“Look at my hand! It’s the hundredth time that cat scratches me! I’m going to kill him!”

“If you do something to that cat, I’m the one who’s going to kill you. Look at yourself. You’re acting hysterical.” She examines his hand. “It’s nothing, Tony. Just a little scratch. Do you want some orange juice? I’ll bring you some juice. And I hate it when you talk like that. You know I can’t stand foul language.”

“I don’t want any orange juice. Bring me a beer.”

“Juice would be a lot better.”

“I said I want a beer, Mother Theresa.”

Daniella scowls.

Tony snickers. He can feel the small wound on his hand stinging, throbbing. He can see it clearly, the ferocious battle going on inside his body. Thousands of microbes and other single-cell organisms rushing into his bloodstream and shouting “divide and conquer!” and some of his cells, the brave ones, attacking the nasty intruders, the others running away like cowards. Human beings are so defenceless. No fangs. No claws. No fur. Only a squashy, flabby, slimy, disgusting-to-look-at mass of grey cells floating inside their heads. Good for what? Thinking about sex and nuclear weapons.
Daniella hands him the beer and in less than fifteen seconds Tony drains the whole can.

“This is the reward I get for trying to protect you—being attack by a deranged cat that probably has rabies.”

“You know he doesn’t have rabies.”

“You should see the way he acts when you’re not here. I’m telling you, he only pretends to be good in your presence. When I’m alone he takes pleasure in hiding and darting out to attack my leg when I walk by. The animal is diabolically possessed, I tell you! Or at least brain-damaged.”

“Will you listen to yourself?” She raises her eyebrows. “You were really trying to protect me?”

“Look at this.” He shows her the newspaper.

Daniella reads the headlines: ZORRO STRIKES AGAIN!

“This is the third time in three weeks and the victims were all wearing mini skirts at the time of the attack. The stitches they put on the third victim—a rich lady who was out from a health club on her way to her car—got infected and she’s suing the whole damn hospital. They say she won’t be able to sit for months and she’ll be permanently scarred for life. I don’t want any lunatic slashing your—”

“Stop whining!”

“On top of that, young girls seem to be disappearing everywhere and no one knows why. This island is degenerating into hell itself.”

“Since when are you so concerned about other people? No one’s going to do anything to me.” She tosses the newspaper back on the bed. “Really, Tony. I can’t let an article in the newspaper tell me how to dress. I like mini skirts. In most parts of the world women wear mini skirts and live to see their grandchildren.” She starts toward the door. “I’m going to El Patio de Sam and I’ll have a nice time with my friend and then I’ll stop at the market. If you’re always so worn down is because of malnutrition, not because of any cat hairs.”

“Mari Carmen is radical. I can’t imagine what you two talk about. You have nothing in common.”

“Just like you and I, Tony darling?” she asks sweetly.

Tony sighs. “Don’t go.”

I turn around. There he is, standing in his underwear in the middle of the room with his arms extended toward me, a pleading, puppy-like look in his eyes. I should ignore him, teach him a lesson and walk out the door. But I just linger here. And then he takes advantage of my momentary confusion and slowly begins to approach me, like a cat stalking a bird. With one hand he pulls me toward him and with the other he curls a lock of my hair around his finger. He rubs his cheek against mine and I feel the scratchy stiffness of his beard and smell the musky scent of his flesh. I must be in a trance because I feel as though I’m not here. I mean, I’m here but I’m not here.

“Don’t go,” Tony whispers.

“Why should I stay here? So that you can go back to your painting and ignore me?”

“I won’t ignore you, I promise. And the painting is almost finished. After I’m done with it we’ll cuddle up in bed and watch TV. There’s a horror movie tonight.”

“Even if I don’t meet Mari Carmen, I still have to get some food. We don’t have anything to eat.”
“Okay, go and get some wine and beer and when you get back we’ll have a little party. What do you say?”

“We need some food, Tony.” Daniella peers into his eyes, uneasy. Lately Tony never wants to eat solid food and has manipulated her again with his luring, animal charms.

“Whatever you say, little fox. Bring some Ben & Jerry’s, cookie dough.”

When Daniella comes back from the supermarket she finds Tony sprawled on the bed and Commando stretched out on top of his stomach, placidly licking his paws.

Tony props himself up on his elbows. His pupils are fixed and dilated and strangely glittery. He looks comatose.

Daniella stands by the door, paralyzed, each arm holding a bag of groceries. The stereo is playing Metallica and on the TV an old woman is stabbing a man in the chest with a pair of knitting needles.
Tony smiles and raises an arm towards her. He’s offering her something. She can’t see what it is but she knows what it is.

“Would you like a one-way ticket to hell?” he says.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t Tony want Daniella to wear mini skirts?

Send the answer to mgcalvani@hotmail.com. The winner will be announced on Caridad Pineiro’s blog tomorrow!

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