Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Bony Blithe Award Library Event

Crime is no laughing matter . . . OR IS IT?

Join Bony Blithe Award winners Gloria Ferris, Elizabeth J. Duncan, and Cathy Spencer as we discuss mysteries that make us smile. Panel moderated by Cheryl Freedman.

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2 p.m.
Concession Street Library,
565 Concession Street, Hamilton, ON

Admission free.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Have You Kissed Too Many Frogs?

Been having trouble with your romantic life? Had one preposterous boyfriend after another? Did the last one make your friends cringe every time he opened his uncouth mouth, or make your daddy's fingers itch for a shotgun?

Have you begun to doubt your own judgement? Maybe you're just no good at choosing a decent man for yourself, you're thinking. Maybe you'd have better luck if you relied on someone else - someone who knows you really well and has your best interests at heart - to choose a man for you. Think it could work?

That's the predicament my heroine, Viv Nowak, finds herself in when she allows her two best friends to give her a dating do-over. So take a break from your worries, have a few laughs, and find out what happens to Viv in The Dating Do-Over. 

On sale at a special introductory offer of only $1.99 at most e-book retailers.

E-book from Apple iBooksSmashwordsAmazon KindleBarnes & NobleGoogle PlayKobo, and others.

If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new Cathy Spencer novel is released, just leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Revising a Book Cover

I've just revised the book cover for my contemporary women's fiction/romance novel, The Dating Do-OverI had a designer create an illustration for the original cover, but a colleague of mine said that it just didn't grab her, so I thought I'd try something new. 

Covers can often be a matter of trial and error. I paid to have someone create a cover for my first Anna Nolan mystery, Framed for Murder, and never really liked it. Part of the problem was a lack of communication with the designer, and part was that the designer just wasn't very good, but I was new to the business and didn't know much about the elements going into a cover. Then I came up with the idea of using a cemetery photograph for the series, and I've been creating my own covers ever since.

When I saw this image, I knew I had found my heroine, Viv. That, her contemplative expression, and the hearts in the background, seemed just perfect for my story. I hope my readers agree.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Cemeteries are Great Sources for Mystery Book Covers

Sorry that it's been so long since I've posted to my blog, but I've been very busy since the start of 2015. I was fortunate to be able to devote about a year and a half to my writing, but it was time to look for work outside the home and return to the comforts of a full-time paycheque. I started to look for employment in Oakville, Ontario, where my husband and I were living at the time, but we began to question where we wanted to put down roots. In the end, we decided to return to K-W, as the locals call the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, and home for the first thirty years of my life. We moved back at the end of May, and I secured temporary employment with the University of Waterloo. Life is beginning to settle into a pattern, if you can say that after only one week on the job.

We were out for a bit of a drive today, and I said, "Let's go to Mount Hope Cemetery to look for inspiration for my next book cover." Mount Hope is the home of the statue that was used for my first mystery cover, Framed for Murder. It inspired me to use cemetery photographs as the theme for my Anna Nolan mystery covers. Mount Hope is great because it's an older cemetery with many graves from the 19th century when statuary was popular. 

Here's a picture of the statue that was used for Framed. I love her, and I've never seen her anywhere else. I call her "the mournful lady."

And here's a picture of the e-book cover, so that you can see the final version.

The next two covers were actually created from photographs from the old municipal cemetery in Hamilton, where we were living two years ago. Hah - in Hamilton, not in the cemetery! The second book, Town Haunts, takes place around Halloween. I came up with the idea of using jack-o-lanterns in front of a mausoleum. I'm very proud of the cover; I carved the pumpkins myself. This gives you an idea of the size of the mausoleum.

And here's the final cover. Not a lot of mausoleum left, but you get an impression of it.

The third book, Tidings of Murder and Woe, was a break from tradition in that I took the cover photos myself. My husband, who once had his own professional photography business - you have to have a lot of careers when you're a performer - took the photos for the other covers, but he must have been unavailable that day. I wanted to take a stab at it myself, so back I went to the Hamilton cemetery with my own Christmas wreath and a few decorations. Here's the finished cover.

The fourth Anna Nolan book will take place during the summer when Anna and her RCMP sergeant boyfriend, Charlie, return to the lakeside town where Anna grew up to visit her estranged father. One thing you have to keep in mind with book covers is that you have to think ahead. The photo must be taken in the appropriate season, even if you haven't set down a single word yet. I'm thinking of imposing a cemetery statue over the image of a beach this time. The title might be Vacation with Death, or possibly Murder at the Beach. If you have a preference, by the way, feel free to leave a comment. And visit your local cemetery to see if there are any beautiful monuments or statuary you're missing out on. It's all art, after all.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Last Preview Chapter in "The Dating Do-Over" Serialization

Links to:  
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13Chapter 14, Chapter 15

For the past 8 weeks, I've been posting a chapter from The Dating Do-Over twice a week, and now I'm at the last chapter of this preview, Chapter 16! You can still buy the e-book on sale for just $2.99 today and tomorrow, but as of Thursday evening at 7 PM Eastern time, the price goes back to $3.99. Check at the end of the chapter for purchase details.

I hope you've enjoyed this portion of Viv's story as she tries to figure out her romantic life. Thank you for joining me, and I hope you'll check back to this website from time to time to see what I'm up to next. All the best!


Chapter 16

Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. An hour later, Viv was sitting cross-legged on her futon with a peanut butter sandwich on a plate and her cell phone glued to her ear.
“I know, Daddy. It’s a very good business. Uh huh. Yes, I understand that Mother is very upset. What? How can you take her side? Well, it sounds like you think I should give up teaching and move to New York. You know I would never do that.”
As Viv paused to listen, Sabrina looked into the room. Viv motioned for her friend to enter.
“Everything you say is true, Daddy, but I’ve made up my mind. Let’s not fight about this anymore. I’m going back to the building supply store after work tomorrow to look at tiles for the showers. Don’t worry, I’ll drop by the house to get the measurements from Tom first. Is there anything thing else I should look at while I’m at the store? Lighting fixtures? Okay, I’ll take some pictures for you. All right, I’ll stay for dinner afterward. Love you, Daddy. Good night.”
Viv put down her cell as Sabrina sat down on the mattress and pointed at the sandwich.
“I thought you were having dinner with your mom?”
Viv nodded. “I did, but I didn’t eat much. I was hungry by the time I got home.” She took a bite of her sandwich.
“Dinner didn’t go well?”
Viv swallowed and grinned. “Depends on who you ask. I had a great time.” She explained about her mother’s offer to pass the business on to her. Sabrina whistled.
“I heard what you said to your dad about never giving up teaching, and I agree. You’re a born teacher. But what an opportunity! I’d give all my teeth to inherit Rouge. Do you think you could talk your mom into adopting me?”
Viv shook her head as she took a second bite. “You have an adorable mother who doesn’t have a block of ice for a heart. Mother’s not worth it, even for all her pretty shoes.”
Sabrina sighed. “They’re awfully lucrative pretty shoes. A girl can dream. Oh well, back to real life. Would you listen to the presentation I have to give tomorrow?”

At three fifteen the next day, Viv was finishing an art class with her students when there was a knock on the classroom door. Barbara, the school receptionist, stuck her head in.
“Guess what, boys and girls? Miss Nowak’s mom is here for a visit. Say hello to Madame Roux.”
Viv looked up in surprise. Barbara disappeared, and her mother sauntered into the room. She whipped large, white sunglasses from her face and said, “Bonjour, boys and girls.”
“Bonjour Madame Roux,” a handful of the students responded.
Véronique smiled. “What charming children! Don’t mind me. I’ve been longing to see where my daughter teaches. I’ll just have a look around while you finish up for the day.” She walked to the back of the room while Viv stared after her and the children giggled. Viv returned her attention to her students with difficulty.
“All right, everyone, the bell is going to ring in ten minutes. Leave your art work on top of your desk so that the glue can dry, and don’t forget to sign your name to it. Jasmine, will you take around the recycling bin, please? Put all your leftover scraps in the recycling bin for Friday’s art project. Jeremy, go back to your seat, please. Jasmine doesn’t need your help.”
Ten minutes later, the children were lined up in single file at the door. “See you tomorrow. Have a good night,” Viv called after the bell sounded. The children rushed from the room, leaving Viv alone with her mother. She stormed to the Wall of Fame where her mother was studying the portraits.
“What are you doing here? How dare you ignore my wishes. I told you last night that I never wanted to see you again!”
Véronique ignored her outburst to remark, “These photos are delightful.” She pointed at a boy with his face painted to resemble a lion. “Who is he supposed to be?”
“Simba from The Lion King.”
“Isn’t he a dear with those big, brown eyes. You’ve captured him roaring.”
“Yes. Never mind that. What do you want?”
“And this girl with the toy stethoscope who is listening to her puppy?”
“She wants to be a vet.”
“Adorable. Look how serious she is.”
“Mother, you can’t just show up while I’m teaching.”
“You took all of these yourself?”
“Yes. For Super Star Friday, when the children dress up as their heroes.”
“What a marvellous idea. And these photographs are remarkable. You’ve got a real talent for lighting and composition.”
Viv sighed. “What are you doing here, Mother?”
Véronique looked at Viv for the first time. “I had a long phone conversation with your father last night after you left the restaurant. It seems that I don’t know my daughter very well. He told me what a fine teacher you are, and how you’ve always loved children. I thought I would come and see for myself. These portraits ‒ I didn’t expect to find them here. You’re a gifted photographer, Viv.”
Viv noticed that her mother did not address her as “Viviane,” but was unmoved. “I’m an amateur, but photographing my students combines the two things I love.”
Véronique nodded. “I can see that. I have a friend in the city who’s a portrait photographer. May I take some of your pictures to her? I’d like to hear what she thinks of them.”
Viv was flattered by her mother’s praise, but decided to appear non-committal. She crossed her arms over her chest and did not meet Véronique’s eyes. “Who did you say she was?”
“Frances Harvey.”
Viv’s eyes widened. “Frances Harvey! She’s wonderful. She’s photographed Mother Teresa and the Queen of England. The portrait she took of Nelson Mandela the year before he died was extraordinary.”
“Yes, she’s very good. I’ve known her since we went to private school together. She took black and whites of us back then with a cheap little instant camera.” She leaned closer to Viv. “She asked us to pose in our underwear. Very risqué. Even then, I knew she was special.” She studied Viv. “I think you have something. May I ask her to have a look at your children?”
Viv hesitated, rotating her ring. She didn’t want to owe her mother for a favour, but Véronique had said that she was talented. She wouldn’t be willing to show her photographs to Frances Harvey if she were lying, would she? Not even Véronique would waste the time of an important artist.
“All right. Let me get something to put them in.” Viv hurried to her desk to get a legal-sized envelope.
“Wonderful,” Véronique said with a sly smile.

After her mother’s departure, Viv was sitting at her desk. She couldn’t get over the fact that Frances Harvey would be seeing some of her photographs. She must be dreaming. If Ms. Harvey liked them, Daddy and her friends would be so proud of her.
Daddy! She had forgotten all about him. She was supposed to get the measurements for the showers, check out the tiles and the lighting fixtures at the building supply store, and drop by his house in time for dinner tonight. She checked her watch; it was four thirty. She’d better get a move on, or Tom might be gone for the day.
Viv was relieved to see Tom’s truck still parked out front of the house. She knocked before entering.
“Tom?” she called.
There was no answer, but she heard a clatter upstairs.
“Tom,” she called again as she trotted up the stairs to the second floor.
“I’m in here.” She rushed down the hallway to the master bedroom and into the ensuite. Tom had ripped up the old linoleum and was tossing it into a box.
“Hey, Viv.” He paused, his face breaking into a smile that brought out the crinkly lines beside his eyes. “Good to see you. Have you come to work?”
“Sorry, not tonight. I know I promised I’d be by to help, but I’m working for Daddy tonight. He asked me to get the measurements for the showers from you, and then I’m going to look for tile at the building supply. But I can come back to help tomorrow after school.”
The smile faded. “You don’t really need to, you know.”
“But I want to. And I will. Tomorrow night. How about you show me how to tile, and I’ll do one of the showers?”
He nodded. “Sure. That would be a big help.” He pulled a tape measure from his back pocket. “You got a paper and pen?”
“Just a minute,” she said, rummaging through her purse. She found a pen and the notepad she had purchased for jotting down information about the reno. “Shoot!”
Tom stepped into the walk-in shower, the tape measure rattling in his hands. “Forty inches.”
“Forty inches,” she repeated.
“By six feet.”
“Six feet.”
“By eight feet, but Gabe knows the ceiling height.”
“Got it,” Viv said, noting the height anyway.
“Now, you have to tile the floor and the walls in here. Maybe with all the same tile, but maybe with different kinds. Your dad might want a decorative inset on the wall, too, so give him a selection of tiles to choose from.”
Viv nodded, her pen poised over the paper. “What kind of tile should I look for?”
Tom shrugged. “There’s a lot to choose from. Ceramic, stone, porcelain, mosaic. There’s pebble, too, but Gabe doesn’t usually go for that.”
“Okay,” Viv said, scribbling. “Anything else?”
“Well, you’re going to have to order some thinset mortar and grout. Your dad will tell you how much to get.” He stepped out of the shower and looked over Viv’s shoulder as she wrote. She was very aware of his nearness.
“Grout,” she said, writing down the last item. She looked up into his eyes and smiled. “Done.”
“Come on. Let’s go do the other bathroom.” Viv followed him out of the master and down the hallway to the four-piece.
“Now, here the tub and shower are combined. You’ll only be tiling the wall above the tub.”
“I know that,” Viv said, rolling her eyes.
“I know you do, darling. Just mentioning it.” He pulled out the tape. “The depth is seventeen inches. Take that from your eight feet and you get . . .”
“Seventy-nine inches,” Viv said automatically. “That’s six feet, seven inches.”
“You’re quick.”
“At simple math. I hang around first-graders all day.”
“Your dad was telling me that you might be giving it up.”
Viv paused to stare at Tom. “When did he tell you that?”
“Let’s see. I was talking to him on Sunday, after I got home. He wanted a progress report on the reno.”
“He’s wrong, you know. I’m not giving up teaching.”
Tom had been taking measurements while she spoke. “I didn’t think so, from the way you’ve talked. That’s five feet.”
“Five feet.”
“By thirty inches.”
Viv nodded as Tom climbed out of the tub.
“We don’t have to worry about the four-piece in the basement. We’re using a shower surround for that.”
“Good. So we’re all done here?”
“That’s it.” Tom clumped down the hallway in his work boots. Viv caught up to him in the ensuite, where he was wrestling with the box of broken linoleum.
“Say, Tom. I’m curious. What exactly did Daddy say to you about me quitting teaching?”
“As long as you’re here, pick up the other end, will you?”
“Sure.” She slung her purse over her shoulder and bent to pick up the end. The box was heavy and awkward with the loose linoleum. Tom backed out of the room first.
“He said your mom was about to offer you her shoe business in New York, which would make you a very rich young lady.”
“That’s true, but I don’t care about the money.” They trudged down the hallway with the box. “I’ve got everything I need, and the school board offers a good pension.”
Tom started backward down the stairs, the contents of the box shifting toward him. “Careful, now.” After a moment, he added, “He also said that it would give you a chance to get away from Toronto and start over again. Something about a busted romance?”
Viv grimaced. She wished her daddy hadn’t been so forthcoming with Tom; it was embarrassing. Tom was taciturn and tough. She assumed that he suffered through his broken romances without a whimper.
“It’s true I wouldn’t mind a fresh start somewhere. Toronto’s a great city, but who wouldn’t want a chance to live in New York?” The majority of the weight was on Tom, but Viv struggled to hold up her end. “Just between you and me, I’ve always loved fashion. It would be exciting to rub shoulders with some of the world’s great designers.”
Tom grunted as they navigated the bend in the staircase and continued down the steps to the front door. Now that the subject had been broached, Viv couldn’t seem to stop talking.
“The thing about teaching the early grades is that it’s so predictable. The curriculum never varies much, or the methodology. Plus, there’s so much politics in the school system. The idea of being the head of a prestigious company like Rouge is very tempting. Scary, too, but imagine being able to make all of the decisions yourself.”
They navigated the box through the door and out onto the porch.
“And I think I’d be okay at shoe design. I’ve got an artistic bent. That’s why I took up photography. Even my mother thinks my work is pretty good.” She kept silent about Frances Harvey seeing some of her portraits; that was still too incredible to share. And what if Ms. Harvey didn’t like her work? Best to keep quiet about it for now.
Out loud, she said, “No, the design aspect of the job doesn’t frighten me.”
They trundled over to the dumpster on the front lawn. Tom shifted the load up onto his shoulders and fired the box into the bin. He wiped his hands on his pants.
“But you’re not going to give up teaching and leave Toronto, are you?”
Viv shook her head. “No. I’d miss the kids too much. And my friends, and Daddy. And Toronto. Sure, I have sad memories leftover from Kyle and the break-up, but I’m moving on.”
“To the head-hunter. I remember.” Tom grinned, and there were glints of devilment in his eyes.
“Maybe,” Viv said with a grin of her own. “Drew seems like a nice man.”
Tom rested a hand on her shoulder. It felt comfortable there. “If not, there’re plenty more fish in the sea, darling. You’re young, pretty, and feisty, and you’ve got a heart of gold. You won’t have any trouble finding a good man to look after you.”
“Thanks, Tom,” Viv said, patting his hand. “Although a lot of women would take issue with being told they needed looking after.”
Tom removed his hand. “I’m kind of old-fashioned that way.”
Viv studied him in his worn, dirty clothes. Up close, she could see some white mixed in with the dark stubble on his cheeks and chin. He was a little battered by the years, perhaps, but confident and capable. Plus, there was humour and kindness in his eyes. She didn’t mind old-fashioned. Too bad he was old enough to be her father.
“You got any sons, Tom?”
“I do. One’s twenty-nine with a wife and two kids and another one on the way. The other is twenty-seven and single. Works as a fire fighter in B.C.”  He winked. “He’ll be back someday for the farm. Might take a few years, though.”
“Nah, if he’s as good-looking as you, another woman will have snatched him up by then.”
Tom pretended to tip a non-existent hat to her, and Viv bowed.
“Besides, I’m lousy at choosing men. That’s why my friends are helping me. Drew is contestant number two, by the way.”
“I’d be careful about that. Ain’t no way anybody else can know what makes your heart beat faster, Viv.”
Viv shrugged. “I’ve been wrong before, you know.”
“Growing pains. You were too young. You’ll know better now.
“Thanks, I sure hope so. But I’ve got to run. I’ll see you tomorrow after school to tile the shower, all right? I promise.”
“See you then. Tell Gabe that the kitchen appliances are going to be delivered by the end of the week. That ought to help him keep his pants on.”
“Will do. I’ll pick some pretty tiles for the showers.”
“Okay, darling. See you.”
Viv checked her watch as she left, and realized that she had only six minutes before the streetcar was due. As she trotted for the stop, she felt pretty good about her love life. Tom was right; she was more mature now. With Julie and Sabrina weeding out the bad choices, she was bound to find the right man this time.


To buy the book, click on the "Contact Cathy" app at the top right of this post and leave your name, e-mail address, and a message saying you'd like to purchase The Dating Do-Over. I will e-mail back information on how to purchase the book with a coupon from Smashwords, where you can easily download it in the format of your choice.

If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new Cathy Spencer novel is released, just leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization - Ch. 15

Links to:  
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13, Chapter 14

Chapter 15

When Viv got back to Sabrina’s condo that night, she noticed that the lights were on in her friend’s room and the door was ajar. Viv tapped on it with her fingernails.
“Sabrina, are you alone?” she called.
“Come in.”
Viv walked inside and found Sabrina sitting up in bed with her computer balanced on her knees. “Just trying to finish some work for tomorrow,” her friend said.
“How was your weekend with Rick?”
“Not great. We broke up.” Sabrina kept her eyes on the screen, but they were suspiciously pink.
“You’re kidding! I’m so sorry.” Viv perched on the edge of the bed as Sabrina shrugged. “What happened?”
“Rick said I was too engrossed in work to invest enough time in our relationship. That was what this weekend was about, finding more time to spend together. I guess it was too little, too late.”
“That’s sad.” Viv patted Sabrina’s leg beneath the covers. “Rick seemed like a good guy.”
“He is, but any man who gets involved with me has to appreciate how important my career is. I’m never going to be a mommy or a housewife. Rick’s in banking, too. He knows that you have to make an extra effort to get noticed. He must think that only men want to succeed.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“No. I’ll be fine.” Sabrina glanced up. “What’s been happening with you?”
“Big news. I found a house to rent, and I’m moving in on Saturday.”
Viv told Sabrina all about Fred Shiner and his urgent need to find a tenant. “The house is gorgeous, if a little fussy with all his antique furniture. But it’s big and cheap and close to work, and the neighbourhood is great. You’ve been really generous, letting me stay here all this time and helping me to get over Kyle, but it’s time I moved on. I just wish I wasn’t leaving right when you and Rick have broken up.”
“Don’t worry about me. I don’t have anywhere near the emotional investment that you had with Kyle. But how did your date with Drew go on Saturday night?”
“It started well. I told him about my mother and how I’m having dinner with her tomorrow night, and Drew seemed so understanding. We were getting pretty cozy on the couch after dinner when he got a business call. Someone rescheduled a meeting from Monday to Sunday without telling Drew first.  He had to run to the airport to pick up the client. Otherwise, we might have ‒ you know.”
Sabrina put down the computer and belly-flopped onto the mattress beside Viv. “So, you have chemistry with Drew that you didn’t have with Josh?”
“For sure! But I have to admit that I felt a little sluttish leaving his apartment. An elderly lady in the hallway looked at me as if I had been making a booty call.”
“What’s wrong with that? We’ve all done it. By the way, I made those phone calls to check up on Drew. His dating history looks fine. He’s away on business a lot, but he still managed to hook up with three women in the past four years. The last one he dated for six months before they broke up. Things seemed pretty amiable on both sides.” 
“That’s good to hear.”
Sabrina grinned. “So, are you going to sleep with him?”
Viv hesitated. She normally didn’t get intimate with men she didn’t love, but Drew had a charisma that was hard to resist.
“I think so, but didn’t you say I was moving too fast?”
“Yes, but now that I’ve checked him out thoroughly, we know that you’re not wasting your time with him. If you want a husband and a family, Drew seems like a safe bet.”
“He is big on family. He’s flying out to Chicago this weekend to see his parents for Father’s Day.”
“If you find him attractive, I say go for it.”
Viv grinned. “Well, thank you for your blessing.”
“You’re welcome. Are you going to see each other this week?”
“I’m not sure, but he did tell me to call him tomorrow after I see Mother. He wants to know how our meeting goes.”
“Good. Are your ready for that, by the way?”
“As ready as I’m ever going to be.”
Sabrina frowned. “Don’t be too quick to write Véronique off. Remember, a woman doesn’t have the same opportunities to get ahead in this world that a man has. Sometimes you have to make compromises.”
“But you mom runs a bar, and she still managed to keep you around when you were a kid.”
“Sure. I knew how to pull a beer by the time I was eight. But remember, my mom didn’t have a choice. There was no one else to look after me after my dad died.”
Viv shook her head. “No, I’m not falling for that. My mom could have taken me to New York if she had wanted to.”
“Your dad would never have let you go.”
“Of course not, but she didn’t even try. She could have worked out a visitation schedule with him. I could have stayed with her in the summer and with Daddy during the school year.”
Sabrina shrugged. “I don’t know. There are always two sides to a story. Make sure you hear her out before you cut her out.”
Viv sighed. “That’s what everyone keeps telling me. Look, I promise to listen. I just don’t believe she has anything to say that will validate ignoring me for all those years.” Viv kept her eyes lowered as she traced the floral pattern in Sabrina’s duvet with her finger. “I just don’t.”
“Poor Viv,” Sabrina said, rubbing her friend’s shoulder.

When Viv swept through the double doors of the Castle Crest Hotel the following night, she was ready for battle. She looked cool and regal in her cream and gold dress with a silk shawl draped over her shoulders and her hair in a braided updo. She paused to look around the lobby. It was two stories high with Corinthian columns, a glittering crystal chandelier over the armchairs, potted ferns, and a tinkling marble fountain. Véronique was not waiting for her in one of the chairs, however, so where was she? Viv strode to the reception desk to find out.
The concierge glanced up at her. “Good evening, madam.”
“Good evening. I’m looking for Véronique Roux.”
“Would you care to have a seat? I’ll ring her room.”
But the elevator bell dinged, and Viv turned to look. A woman emerged. Slim ‒ not as tall as her white-columned dress would have her seem, but taller than Viv ‒ with black hair capping a fine-boned face and grey, doe eyes. She wore her trademark red shoes:  four-inch stilettos with snakeskin on the heel, toe, and ankle strap. Her eyes found Viv and lit up with pleasure.
“Mother.” Viv waited for Véronique to come to her. Which Véronique did like a model strutting down a runway.
“You look beautiful,” her mother said. She took Viv’s hands and kissed both cheeks. Viv caught the scent of white jasmine as she felt her mother’s cool skin against hers.
“You look well, Mother.” In fact, Véronique looked extraordinarily well, without a misplaced hair or a wrinkle on her youthful face. Viv had seen photographs of her mother over the years in magazines. A wrinkle would never mar the face of the creator of Rouge Shoes. On the other hand, there was a hint of her mother’s sixty-plus years at her jawline and throat.
“I’ve made a reservation for us in the Wedgwood Room. I thought it would be nice to stay in tonight.”
“That’s fine.”
“Good. It’s this way.” Véronique slipped a manicured hand through her daughter’s arm. Feeling that it would be churlish to pull away, Viv allowed it to remain. Her mother guided her across the lobby to a pair of opaque glass doors so perfectly balanced that they opened at the mere touch of her hand.
“Good evening,” the maître d’ said with a bow.
“Reservation for Roux,” her mother murmured.
The maître d’ checked his list and nodded.
“Follow me.” He led them to a table for two with comfortably-upholstered armchairs. Viv slipped into her seat and glanced around the room. It was painted Wedgwood blue with delicate china plates mounted decoratively on the walls. Sunlight slanted through the mullioned windows, creating a diamond pattern on the blue-and-green tiled floor. The maître d’ fussed with napkins and menus before retreating to his station.
“Such a feminine room,” Véronique said. She turned to her daughter. “It’s wonderful to see you again. Thank you for agreeing to come.”
Viv nodded and picked up her menu, glancing through it distractedly. She had imagined this encounter so many times without considering that there would be a meal to eat first.
Their waitress appeared and introduced herself. “May I get you something to drink?”
“I’ll have a Vodka Gimlet. Viviane?”
“I’ll have the same.” Viv didn’t care what she drank. The waitress nodded and disappeared.
“Tell me, dear, how is your father?”
Viv glanced up and saw real concern on her mother’s face.
“He’s fine. The angioplasty was preventative. He needs to rest for a couple of weeks and watch his diet.”
“That’s what Gabe said in his e-mail, but you know how your father is at making light of situations. It’s good to hear you confirm it.”
“You e-mailed Daddy after the angioplasty?”
“Of course. As soon as you told me it had happened. I’ve been concerned about his health since he started renovating houses. He’s not a young man anymore.”
“I know. That’s what I tell him.”
The waitress returned with their cocktails and asked if they were ready to order.
“I’ll have the pear and walnut salad, and the mushroom ravioli,” Véronique said.
Viv glanced down at the menu and chose the first items she saw. “I’ll have the gazpacho, and an eight ounce sirloin, please. Medium rare.”
“Excellent choices.” The waitress left.
Viv fiddled with the bread basket, choosing a multi-grain roll before offering the rest to her mother.
“No thank you. I never eat bread.”
Viv refrained from rolling her eyes as she dropped the basket on the table. She sawed her roll in half and slathered it with butter. “I never have to worry about carbs.”
Her mother smiled. “You’re blessed with my mother’s constitution. It kept her slender all her life, despite those heavy sauces she liked to cook.”
“I never met my grandparents.” Viv tore off a mouthful of bread and popped it into her mouth.
“No. They returned to France after Papa retired. They’re both gone now.”
Viv nodded, chewing. Another missed opportunity.
“Your father told me you had a major disappointment recently. I’m sorry that Kyle turned out to be a thoroughly unreliable young man.”
Viv opened her mouth to protest, but her mother’s assessment of Kyle was spot on. Funny, he had seemed so trustworthy and responsible when they were together. Up until the end, that is.
The waitress served them their appetizers, and Viv swallowed a spoonful of the cold soup without tasting it. Her mother tried her salad.
“So, how are you, Viviane?”
As if you care, Viv thought, the spoon halted mid-way to her mouth. It slipped from her fingers and fell into her bowl. Viv grimaced when a few drops of soup splashed onto the serving plate. She wanted to appear cool and deadly that evening, not gauche.
Taking a deep breath, she replied, “I’m fine. I’m dating again ‒ a businessman.”
“What kind of business is he in?”
“Executive recruitment.”
Her mother paused, one sculpted eyebrow raised, but returned to her salad without comment. Viv felt as if Drew had been slighted.
“He’s in information technology and energy,” Viv added. “Two very important sectors, you know.”
“Of course.”
Viv was not satisfied that her mother was sufficiently impressed, however, and began to feel perturbed. “How is your business doing?” she asked.
“Very well. After concentrating on the North American market for more than a decade, we’re making significant inroads into Europe. We even have a shop on Avenue Montaigne in Paris.”
Viv was impressed in spite of herself. She knew that some of the greatest fashion designers had shops on that street. She forced herself to say, “Congratulations. You must be very proud.”
Véronique smiled and reclined back against her chair. “Thank you. It took years of hard work, but the business has never been more successful.”
The waitress returned with their entrées. A steak, still sizzling, with an assortment of tiny roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables, was set before her. Viv severed a piece of meat with her knife and fork and ate it. Her mother cut a square of ravioli in half and speared it with her fork.
“Which brings me to one of the reasons I asked to see you tonight.” Véronique popped the pasta into her mouth and chewed before continuing. “I plan to retire in five years, and I would like you to take over Rouge Shoes.”
Viv’s mouth dropped open as she stared at Véronique.
“I want you to move to New York this summer to begin learning the business. In two years’ time, you should be sufficiently trained to handle the day-to-day operations. I will remain in an advisory position for another three years to assist you with the design decisions. Then I would be prepared to hand the business to you. I’m looking forward to retirement, although I haven’t decided where I’m going to live yet. Perhaps half of the year in New York ‒ I have so many friends there ‒ and half in Italy.” She paused, waiting for her daughter’s response.
Viv found her voice at last. “But, Mother, I’m a school teacher, not a business woman or a shoe designer.”
Véronique waved a dismissive hand. “Teaching a group of six-year-olds is hardly a profession, dear. It’s glorified baby-sitting. And after this break-up of yours, I’m sure you see the importance of having a real career to provide financial security. As for not being a business woman, neither was I, when I began. I learned as I went, and I can teach you. Having the design talent is more difficult, of course. I hope that you’ve inherited my artistic flair, but even if you haven’t, I can teach you to recognize it in others. There’s a talented young woman working with me right now who could do the designing, if you’re incapable.  We’ll just have to see how you do.”
Viv was insulted by her mother’s assessment of her profession, and got more and more riled as the speech continued. With great restraint, she placed her utensils on her plate and leaned toward Véronique.
“Mother, you can’t be serious. I already have a career, one that I love. Someday I hope to be blessed with a family, and then I’ll stay home to raise my children. That’s what I plan to do with my life. I don’t want to peddle shoes.”
“Peddle shoes!” Véronique hissed. Two pink patches appeared on her cheeks. “Rouge is so much more than that. It’s about a lifestyle of elegance and grace. I sacrificed everything for the success I have, Viviane, and now I’m handing it to you on a golden platter. Don’t be so foolish as to dismiss it so easily.”
“Yes, I know you sacrificed everything for your business, Mother.” The fire blazing within Viv had turned icy cold, and her face appeared taut and white. “You sacrificed Daddy and me for your success. I would never do the same to my children, and I would never accept the business that caused me so much unhappiness. I don’t want it, and I don’t want you. Never contact me again.”
She rose from the table to lean over her mother. “And I don’t like to be called ‘Viviane.’ It’s pretentious. My name is Viv. Goodnight.”
Véronique sat very straight and still, only her eyes betraying her anger. Viv strode triumphantly from the restaurant, thrilled that she would never have to see her mother again.


Viv may not want to celebrate Mother's Day with a mother like Véronique. Has she really heard the last of her, or will Véronique give up that easily? 

This Wednesday,  I will be posting the final chapter in  The Dating Do-Over preview. Buy the e-book now at $2.99 for one third off the regular price. But hurry - the sale will be over on Thursday, May 14!

To buy the book, click on the "Contact Cathy" app at the top right of this post and leave your name, e-mail address, and a message saying you'd like to purchase The Dating Do-Over. I will e-mail back information on how to purchase the book with a coupon from Smashwords, where you can easily download it in the format of your choice.

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Happy Mother's Day!