Hey, romance addicts. I am excited that author J. Arlene Culiner is sharing how she finds inspiration and a teaser of her book Felicity’s Power.
By J. Arlene Culiner
What inspires me as a writer? Absurdity. I love it. Silliness and bad behavior are equally delightful. Why? Because those are the things I need when creating pesky secondary characters or when I want to inject a little comic relief. The obnoxious woman in the supermarket this morning — the one who was picking up vegetables and ripping off bits she didn’t want as though she were in her own kitchen (I did tell her that her behavior was unacceptable and she went off in a huff) — or the neighbor who washes down the road in front of his house with cleansing fluid and a mop are grist for my writer’s mill. They’ll find their way into one of my stories, and won’t I be pleased.
What else inspires me? Catching secret moments. I’ll never forget the day I saw a man and woman separate on a busy street. There was nothing special about either, just pleasant, average-looking folk. But as they went their separate ways, they kept turning, looking back at each other with complicity, love, and pure delight. How could I not feel envious? Anyone would. They’ve found their way into my stories, too.
Here’s something else that inspires me: the memory of a place. Perhaps it’s a mediocre sort of landscape, one I didn’t like much while there, but in memory, it takes on a sheen of its own. It has an odor, a particular color, and a certain resonance. And it becomes, in a story, a setting with a life of its own, perhaps mysterious, or threatening, even perfectly lovely.
Thank you, Jill. all right, addicts. Enjoy an excerpt from Felicity’s Power.
It’s not the way I remember it, thought Felicity. Not at all. Or perhaps it was only the way the beautiful night light was touching it up, lending the shoreline delicacy. The sand was probably still dirty beige, the houses still modest and unimpressive. But in a different way, these days. No clapboard. No flapping doors. No loose shingles. New windows had been fitted and highly unsuitable facing been slapped on the grim facades. Little gardens were surrounded by neat picket fences. Stringy flowers battled with the sea breeze. The residents of Island Park had changed. A new, slightly more affluent, crowd had moved in.
Scree, pebbles, cracked shells, dried bubbles of blackened seaweed crackled under their feet as they followed the line of the shore toward a low, jagged promontory. The rocks were slippery from the spray, and it was easy to lose their footing. Marek remembered Felicity was only wearing thin ballerina shoes, and he reached down to take her hand, guide her onto the somber mass.
“Just a little further,” he encouraged her.
“I’m not worried,” she laughed back.
He could see the loose tendrils of hair flying in the wind and had to use his utmost control to stop himself from reaching out, smoothing them back, feeling their softness beneath his fingers.
They had reached the end of the promontory now. The night wind buffeted them, caught them in the rich scent of the sea.
“We can sit here. Look, there’s a sort of natural bench carved out.”
The bench was narrow, just wide enough to seat the two of them, just narrow enough so they had to sit touching. She could feel the length of his tight thigh against hers, the hardness of a hip. His warmth wafted over her. He smelt wonderful. His neck was so near. What if she leant over and bit it. Or licked it. What would he do?
“Not at all.” Even if she were, she wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
“Liar. You’re shivering.”
“No, I… ” She could hardly tell him it was his nearness that was making her tremble.
He slid his arm around her and what was left of her composure shot out into the sky, floated away on the puffing wind. She leaned back against him, blissfully.
“I used to sneak out here a lot,” he said, his voice low. “This was where I did my dreaming and planning. When you sit out here, you feel like you’re at the edge of the world. That there’s nothing else but water out there, no land, no other country, no people. Just water until the earth comes to an end.”
“A believer in the flat earth theory, I see.” Felicity had to make an effort to keep her teasing tone. She was finding it increasingly hard to keep her thoughts straight.
“I’ll admit when you’re out here nothing seems urgent.” She willed herself to relax. If she didn’t, then she’d ruin everything. Marek would feel her intensity. Then he’d pull away, remove his arm once again and the magic would be gone, shattered into a billion particles, snatched up by night. “You don’t care if the world is round, square, or triangular.”
“Until the strange creatures come into view.” Marek’s tone hinted at unfathomable mysteries. “It looks peaceful enough now, but you’d be surprised at what’s out there.”
“Peaceful? I wouldn’t call a deep, dark, cold ocean peaceful. Tell me about the creatures.”
“Crabs. Snails, sea slugs, starfish. Anemones, sea worms, sea cucumbers. There’s a whole world palpitating around our feet.”
She was aware of his arm tightening around her. Not in a friendly way. But like a lover’s.
“Then there are the things that might suddenly appear over the horizon.”
“Pirates, you said?” Hold me tighter, Marek. Really tight.
“Definitely. In huge ships all flying the Jolly Roger flag. And those pirates are armed to the teeth and as mean as you can get. Naturally, it was up to me to save everyone in the cove from the danger.”
“I’ll bet the other residents didn’t even know they were threatened.”
“They certainly didn’t. They didn’t see a soul.”
“Camouflage pirates. Bigger than flies.” Nonsense was a pretty good tool when you came down to it, thought Felicity gratefully.
“I even got the occasional visit from Nessie, believe it or not.”
“She swam all the way here from Loch Ness just to see you?”
“We had a privileged relationship.”
“How about mermaids?”
“No mermaids. Those belong to the dream world of adult males. Lonely sailors on endless voyages.” Marek stopped. “Mermaids…”
She could feel his eyes on her, but she didn’t dare look up.
“And,” he continued softly, “perhaps to middle-aged men who suddenly find themselves dropped into a dream.”
“A nice dream?” Felicity’s voice was soft and hesitant. She was certain that if he’d been having regrets about bringing her down here again, those regrets were vanishing fast.
What could he answer? He wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore. No, that wasn’t true either. He knew what he wanted. He knew what he was feeling right now! He had Felicity here, within his grasp. And she was willing, wanting him.
Still, the negative part of his mind insisted on throwing up barriers. What do you and Felicity have in common, it asked him for the thousandth time? Nothing. Then keep your distance. You pride yourself on being a man who can only be fooled once. Besides, there’s no point in getting Felicity’s hopes up. Nor his own, for that matter.
So why did he have to fight so hard to keep up this idle chatter? He could hardly think straight watching the way the pale light of impending dawn played across her fine cheekbones. Softened her mouth with subtle shadows. Heaven help him. He was falling under her spell again. Softening. Wanting nothing more than to crush her in his arms, make love to her, right here.
“Listen, Felicity… ” He rose abruptly to his feet. We have to get away from here. That was what he intended to say. Let’s get back to San Francisco. I’ll take you to the airport and we’ll go our separate ways.
Her eyes questioned his as she stood, a slight, graceful woman. And vulnerable, and fragile, hunched against the wind in those thin cotton clothes. He’d only been thinking of himself. She must be freezing and not complaining because she wanted to please him, because she hated to break the mood.
“Come. Let’s go back to the car. I can give you my coat, at least.” His voice had the note of tenderness he could no longer hide. He held out his hand.
She smiled tremulously, put her hand in his.
published by The Wild Rose Press
San Francisco, 1971: hippies in the streets, music and revolution in the air. The evening Marek Sumner opened his door to the wild-looking Felicity Powers, he knew nothing would ever be the same. But even love and passion couldn’t keep them together.
Forty-three years later, having lived in the world’s most dangerous places as an aid worker, Felicity is back, still offering love, passion, and adventure. Now a well-known author, Marek loves his calm life in an isolated farmhouse, and he knows their relationship would never work : he and Felicity are just too different. Besides, why risk having his heart broken a second time?
But Felicity is as fascinating and joyful as ever, and the wonderful sexy magic is still there too. Can love be more delightful the second time around?
About J. Arlene Culiner
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe alone on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.