Donna sold her first manuscript in 1989 and has since become a bestselling, award-winning author of thirty-four novels (and counting) along with four audiobooks. She writes under her own name, Donna Fasano, as well as the nom de plume Donna Clayton.
Still happily married to her high school sweetheart, she and her husband of 32-years divide their time between homes in Delaware and on the coast of Maryland. The Merry-Go-Round, the book we’ll be discussing, is Donna’s first foray into the world of independent publishing.
SLP: Donna, let’s begin by giving our readers a bit of insight into your beginnings. First, where were you born?
DF: Elkton is a quaint little town in Maryland’s Cecil County. It was once hailed as the Marriage Capital of the East Coast because there was a time when marriages were performed there with no waiting period (that’s changed now). Debbie Reynolds was married there, as was baseball legend Willie Mays. I do remember spending many a Saturday at the public library on Main Street and seeing couple after couple visiting the Little Wedding Chapel. All those flowers and lacy dresses and happy smiles—all that love—can be pretty romantic to a little girl. Probably has a little something to do with my career as a romance writer.
SLP: Where were you raised?
DF: In Elkton, but I spent a handful summers in Palm Beach, Florida where two of my aunts lived. I think that’s where my love of the beach comes from.
SLP: Where were you educated?
DF: How clichéd would it be to say I was educated at the School of Hard Knocks? Although I have many happy memories of my childhood, my adolescence was cut short when my mother died; I was 13. I had a 6-yr-old brother who needed mothering and a grieving family in need of nurturing. It was just natural for me to slip into those roles. That tragic experience brought my family extraordinarily close.
SLP: Where do you currently reside?
DF: I live with my husband of 32 years and we divide our time between a home in northern Delaware and place on Maryland’s eastern shore. We’re empty-nesters, our 2 sons having grown up and moved out. We do have 2 ‘furry’ kids living with us: Jake, a black and white border collie—an old guy who thinks he’s the King of all he surveys—and Roo, a merle-coated Australian cattle dog that looks and acts like a wild dingo.
SLP: Do you write fulltime, and if not, what is your principal occupation?
DF: While my children were young I wrote part-time and focused on being a mom. Once my boys were older, I focused more on my writing and wrote fulltime during the years they were both in college. Luckily, my earnings covered their tuition and education expenses. I haven’t written fulltime for several years. I call myself semi-retired (but please don’t tell my husband or my agent).
SLP: What literary genres appeal to you as both writer and reader?
DF: I came to writing as an avid reader, and although my reading taste varied greatly (and still does), my genre of choice back then was romance. I devoured those books like delectable gourmet chocolates. So I naturally gravitated toward writing romance novels (there’s something about that happily-ever-after that just lifts my spirits). I’ve also written women’s fiction novels. As a reader, I’m game for anything. I read literary greats like Anne Tyler and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as mass market best-selling authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Amy Tan and Maeve Binchy. That famous saying, “Too many books, not enough time,” is so, so true!
SLP: What writers have most influenced your work?
DF: All of the above! It’s difficult for me to read for pleasure anymore; I’m always working. I find myself observing, “Hmmm, I like how he wove in that foreshadowing,” or “Wow, she really knows how to develop her characters.” A writer can learn so much by reading other writers: how to set a mood, or grab a reader by the throat, or hook a reader into turning one more page before putting down the book. I would use different colored highlighters to notate characterization, hooks, introspection, description, etc. I didn’t attend college; I learned all I know from reading the works of other writers and from the graciousness of several authors who took me under their wings: Judith E. French, Hunter Morgan and Candace McCarthy, to name three.
SLP: What other genres such as screenwriting, travel writing, etc., if any, have you considered?
DF: Well, I have ‘how to’ books on mystery writing, screenwriting and children’s fiction. I’ve dabbled in writing children’s stories and even submitted a few, but there have been no takers. Oh, I do write newsletters for two churches, if that counts. (I think it should.)
SLP: I understand that you’re a three-time winner of the Holt Medallion. What exactly is the HOLT Medallion, when did you win it, for what books, and in what categories?
DF: The HOLT Medallion is awarded annually by The Virginia Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. HOLT stands for Honoring Outstanding Literary Fiction. Of all the awards I’ve won, my medallions are precious to me because the contest judges are romance readers. All three of my medallions were earned by titles entered in the Traditional category (Traditional Romance is a sub-category of the Romance genre). My winning titles: Wife for a While, ’95; Who’s the Father of Jenny’s Baby?, ’99; Thunder in the Night, ’04.
SLP: With 34 books totaling more than 3,500,000 sales, you’ve had a remarkably successful writing career thus far. Looking back, are you surprised by your success? Has it exceeded your hopes or expectations?
DF: In a word, YES! I was (and remain) very surprised by my success. I wasn’t a student who excelled; I was too mired in day-to-day chores of running a household—what I was going to cook for dinner and who needed what laundry washed when—to focus on schoolwork. Oh, I enjoyed school and I loved to read (it was my escape), but formal education just wasn’t something I had time for. That sounds so terrible to me as I type it out. So the fact that I was able to write one book, let alone 34, that sold to a New York City publisher, that won awards, that made best-seller lists, that incited readers to write me letters asking when my next book was coming out…why, it’s mind-boggling to me. I feel very blessed.
SLP: What has been your most difficult hurdle in establishing yourself as a writer?
DF: Everyone faces hurdles; it doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, a bus driver or an Olympic track star. Get it? :::nudge, nudge::: (Something tells me I should go read the other author interviews on your blog to make sure that joke hasn’t been used.) I think the hurdles have been different at different times in my career. I was my own biggest hurdle, early on. My self-doubt was a huge mountain I had to conquer. Then there were well-meaning fellow writers who told me I couldn’t sell a romance novel with a sports theme. (I sold it.) Then there was the twenty-something editor who suggested I might be a bit too old to write romances. (I was in my forties at the time, and in my estimation nowhere near being a geezer, so I kept writing…and selling.) All in all, I think I’d call the minor irritations I’ve encountered bumps rather than hurdles, and my answer to them has always been to keep writing.
SLP: Do you write primarily at home?
DF: Yes, I have a really nice, souped-up home office. (Pssst…don’t tell the IRS, but I usually write in the living room where the big windows allow me to look out at the woods behind my house. Or if I’m at the beach, I write at the dining room table where I can glance up and see the sunlight glistening on the bay.)
SLP: Do you sometimes write in public places such as coffee shops, etc.?
DF: No. The simple fact is I don’t like people watching me work.
SLP: Do you have a preferred time of day to write?
DF: My favorite time to write is late morning through early afternoon. I started that schedule years ago when my boys were school-age. I could spend a couple of hours on housework, then get some writing in before they arrived home and it was time to cook dinner, drive to soccer practice, football games, etc.
SLP: Do you set aside specific times to write? If so, when?
DF: At this point in my career, I don’t set a writing schedule unless I’ve sold a book and I have a deadline—I’m a fanatic about deadlines.
SLP: Do you feel you have sufficient time to write?
DF: Yes. I live in an empty nest, so there’s plenty of time to write.
SLP: How many hours per day do you devote to writing?
DF: It varies widely. Unless I’m working under contract, I’m not very disciplined. I’m much more productive when I work under pressure.
SLP: If possible would you like to write full time, or do you have other overriding interests?
DF: I’ve written full time. In fact, I’ve written over-time. :::grin::: I had 5 books hit the shelves in 2000. I felt as if my life consisted of nothing but writing. It was a lucrative year, that’s for sure, but my world was way out of balance. A person has to make time for family and friends, going places and enjoying new experiences. It’s all about balance.
SLP: Why do you write? Is it a compelling urge for you or more of a pastime?
DF: I’d say I fall somewhere in between. Lots of my writer friends say they knew from a very young age that writing was in their blood, that writing was a burning desire that overrode all else. Writing wasn’t something I considered until after I was married and my children were young. I came to writing from a completely economic standpoint, wondering what employment would offer working hours that left me time for my most important job, that of being a mom. (Thank goodness I didn’t know any aspiring writers at the time who would surely have warned me about the difficulties of getting published.)
SLP: When and how did your interest in writing first assert itself?
DF: Actually, it was my husband who, after looking around at the piles of romance novels, suggested, “You’ve read lots of these; why don’t you try writing one?” My initial reaction was to look at him as if he’d gone stark raving mad and say, “I can’t write a book!” But he planted a seed that sprouted.
SLP: Do you have any other creative outlets or interests such as music, dance, or graphic arts?
DF: You can’t see me, but I’m looking at you as if you’re stark raving mad.
SLP: Had you failed as a writer, what do you suppose you’d be doing today?
DF: When I was young, I thought about being a teacher. My husband and I have many DIY projects under our belts, so being a carpenter might have worked. I also love to cook, so I could have been a chef. I’m a voracious reader, so I could see myself working in a library or as a syndicated book reviewer. I like to garden, so I might have considered organic farming. I LOVE to eat, so a restaurant critic sounds exciting. Hey, this is fun!
SLP: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of being a writer, and what are some of the worst?
DF: I had a book hit the shelves the same month as the Oklahoma City bombing, and a woman wrote me to say that getting lost in a chapter of my story each evening before going to bed was the only way she was able to forget, even if for only a few minutes, that she lost seven friends and family members in the tragedy. Letters like that one, awards I’ve won, accolades from readers and colleagues, these are the rewarding aspects. And I won’t lie, earning money doing something you enjoy is nice. The worst aspect? I’d say beginnings (in other words, the blank page). Probably not a very original answer. To me, the blank page incites both excitement and fear. Anything could happen. Or nothing could happen. It’s thrilling and frightening at the same time.
SLP: What is your writing process like? Do you primarily write on a computer? If so, do you prefer a laptop or desktop?
DF: I have evolved with time. Many years ago, I wrote everything out. There’s just something elementally satisfying about the feel of pushing a pencil against paper. But as I became more practiced as a story-teller, the ideas came faster than I could write so I began typing directly into my desktop computer. Now I work mostly on a laptop.
SLP: What writing software do you use?
DF: MS Word.
SLP: How do you handle a sudden idea or insight?
DF: Notes. I’ve been known to make notes on anything that’s within reach—envelopes, store receipts, napkins—and my husband is afraid to throw away any scrap of paper with writing on it for fear of my retribution.
SLP: Are you a serious note-taker?
DF: Oh, yes. The more detail, the better.
SLP: Do you have a daily goal as to how much you write?
DF: When I’m under a deadline, I write at least 5 pages a day (about 1,000 words). Accomplishing more than that always puts me in a good mood.
SLP: Do you have a specific technique for beginning the next day’s writing?
DF: I always edit the previous day’s work.
SLP: Are you ever troubled by writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?
DF: Over the years, I’ve learned that if you sit in the chair and put your fingers on the keyboard, the words will come.
SLP: Do you typically work from an outline?
DF: Absolutely. I normally go to contract after submitting a proposal (2-3 chapters and a synopsis). From the synopsis, I prepare a chapter-by-chapter outline.
SLP: In first drafts, do you write in chapter sequence, or do you tend to bounce around?
DF: I always write in sequence.
SLP: Do you generally focus on a single project until finished?
DF: Yes. My characters tend to take over my thoughts, so it’s difficult to set one project aside to work on another.
SLP: Have you carried any of your characters from book to book?
DF: Yes, I’ve written several romance mini-series usually comprising 3 books. Each book has its own male and female lead protagonist, but all the characters show up in all the books in the series.
SLP: How intense is the writing process for you? For instance, do you ever dream of your characters, storylines, etc.?
DF: I get very ‘into’ the scene when I’m writing. I see, hear, taste and feel what’s going on; I’m actually ‘there’—wherever there happens to be. I’ve missed a fair share of lunch dates with friends and doctor/dentist appointments. But when I missed a carpool run and left the children sitting at the school, I started setting an alarm clock.
SLP: Do you visualize your scenes, or are they primarily driven by language?
DF: I’m a visual thinker. My scenes run like movies in my head and I scramble to write down everything I experience.
SLP: To what extent is your work associated with your personal geography? Does the label “regional writer” apply at all?
DF: I’ve written books that take place where I live, but I’ve also written stories located far and wide (and a couple in cities and countries that are totally fictitious).
SLP: Have you experimented with shifting points of view?
DF: I mostly stick to the POV of my female and male protagonists. I once read a story with a scene told from the family dog’s POV. That was going a bit far, in my humble opinion.
SLP: What are your own reading habits like? How much do you read?
DF: Every. Single. Day. I can’t imagine a day without reading.
SLP: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
DF: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Anne Tyler, Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth George, Eckhart Tolle, Rami Shapiro, Catherine Cookson, Anne Lamott. I could go on and on.
SLP: What are you currently reading?
DF: Deeper than the Dead by Tami Hoag, The Twelve Blessings by Dr. George King and Roll Around Heaven by Jessica Maxwell.
SLP: Do you prefer fiction to nonfiction?
DF: There was a time when I did, but I would say my taste is now 50/50.
SLP: Does your reading center on the genre in which you write?
DF: No. I tend to pick apart romance novels, so it’s difficult to read them for pleasure—difficult, but not impossible.
SLP: When discovering a book you’ve begun isn’t to your liking do you feel compelled to finish it?
DF: No. But I will give the book a good, solid chance to capture my interest. If I’ve read half the book and it hasn’t grabbed me, I’ll set it aside. There are too many books waiting to be read to agonize over finishing one I’m not enjoying.
SLP: Given a choice, which would you prefer to read, an ebook or a paper book?
DF: I love the feel of a book in my hands; however, I’ve just discovered ebooks and I’ve downloaded quite a few.
SLP: Do you mostly read current books?
DF: I would say yes. Mostly. I just found an old, hardback edition of Pure as the Lily by Catherine Cookson at my church’s flea market and I had to have it. As soon as there’s a gray, rainy day, I’m going to curl up on the couch and indulge.
SLP: Tell us a bit about your current book, The Merry-Go-Round. Can you summarize the plot?
DF: Here’s the description I wrote for Amazon:
When 38-year-old attorney Lauren Flynn shows up in court, it’s usually to defend a client, but now she’s ending her marriage to a man whose mistakes have cost her far too much: her nest egg (paying someone else’s debts is grating), her freedom (her web-surfing, hypochondriac father is moving back in with her) and her heart (which was broken by deception and lies). Little does she know that she’ll be awarded a small piece of swampland and a dilapidated merry-go-round. Although she’s momentarily delighted by the fanciful animals, Lauren is far too sensible to get entangled by enchantment. She quickly learns that the carousel animals are worth a mint, so she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Maybe while refurbishing the circus menagerie she can restore some semblance of normalcy to her existence. Or will the merry-go-round cause her to make a mistake or two of her own and teach her lessons she didn’t even know she needed to learn before bringing her right back around to where she started? One thing is certain; Lauren discovers that, when she’s willing to open her heart to love and forgiveness (of both herself and others), life never fails to offer a wild ride.
SLP: The book seems a good candidate for film adaptation. Have you considered pursuing that avenue?
DF: I haven’t, but it sure would be fun to try.
SLP: Was the Lew character fun to write?
DF: Ah, that man was a gem from the get go. He marched his rotund self onto center stage, shoulders hunched, mouth drawn into a grumpy frown and complained, “My hair hurts.” I knew I was going to love the guy.
SLP: Were the characters fairly fixed before introducing them, or did they evolve?
DF: I would say they were all fleshed out except for Greg. I have experienced failure before, but not to that extent, so I had a difficult time grasping how someone could get into his position. I spent some time talking to him (that sounds SO strange) and finally figured out his motivation and mindset. Once I realized his good intentions made his situation go very wrong, I could empathize with him and tell his story in a way the reader could, hopefully, come to respect and even admire him.
SLP: Did you work from a plot outline?
DF: Oh, yes. I sold The Merry-Go-Round to Harlequin for NeXt, a line of women’s fiction books the company published. However, by the time I completed the book, the line had gone defunct, so the publisher returned all rights to me. (Don’t feel too bad for me; I got to keep the advance.)
SLP: What is the genesis of the carousel element in the book? Did you have previous knowledge of the value of rare ponies, etc.?
DF: I wanted to write a book where the protagonists had been married but were miles apart at the onset of the story, and by the end of the book they had come full circle. I was sitting on the boardwalk at the beach, people watching (one of my favorite pastimes), when I noticed the merry-go-round. . .bringing its riders full circle. It just fit. I had no idea of the value of carousel animals when I started this project. I found pictures on the internet of some gorgeous, expensive ones.
SLP: How did you come to learn that carousels rotate in different directions?
DF: The internet is an amazing thing. At the risk of sounding a bit. . .odd, I have to confess that information often finds me when I need it rather than vice versa. I had lots of eerie experiences when choosing the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. When I started chapter two (where Scott, Jr. is introduced as Lauren’s client), I remember thinking, I need a quote about people acting really stupid. Before I finished the chapter, a friend sent the John Wayne quote completely out of the blue. It was perfect. That happened all throughout the book. I only had to go hunting for one or two of the quotes I used.
SLP: Is one gender more difficult for you than the other?
DF: As long as my characters have solid motivation for their actions and I spend enough time getting to know them, I don’t have too much trouble slipping into their skin.
SLP: Do you find male dialog to be more difficult than female?
DF: Depends on the male. There are alpha males and beta males. I prefer beta males who are more talkative, more open with their thoughts and feelings. If my story calls for an alpha male, I feel as if I have to pry open his emotions with a crowbar.
SLP: Did any of the characters prove more difficult to manage than others?
DF: Greg was difficult, until I got to know him. And Lauren gave me some problems, too. Readers are often uncomfortable with a female character they feel is too strong. Lauren was angry when the book opened, and I felt she had good reason to be. She was protecting herself; however, I was afraid that some readers would be put off by her independence and wouldn’t hang in there long enough to see Lauren had vulnerabilities, that she had lessons to learn and that she had to realize that she had contributed to the failure of her marriage.
SLP: How long did the book take?
DF: I worked on the manuscript for just about 3 months.
SLP: Once started, did the story unfold as you anticipated?
DF: Pretty much. I had no idea Scott, Sr. was going to have such horrible. . .technique in the bedroom. (I’m chuckling.)
SLP: Were you blocked at any point?
DF: No. The characters took over. In my experience, that makes for the very best story possible.
SLP: Were there scenes in the book that made you cry?
DF: Well, I laughed until I cried when Lauren was expecting so much from Scott and received. . .so little. And writing the scene where Lew had to go to the hospital was difficult for me. My dad had by-pass surgery and he’s also had half of his lung removed due to cancer, so I have experienced the same kind of fear as Lauren.
SLP: Did the book end as you originally envisioned?
DF: It did.
SLP: Did you consider multiple endings?
DF: No, I knew what I wanted from this book.
SLP: Is the book entirely a product of your imagination or were some characters and/or events based on experience?
DF: Like any other red-blooded married woman, I’ve contemplated divorce a time or two. You know, when he forgets your birthday. Or he walks in the front door, and hearing a crinkling sound, you’re sure he’s brought home flowers to celebrate your anniversary, but you find out it’s just his leftover orange rolling around in his lunch bag. Needless to say, my husband isn’t very romantic, but we’re still together after all these years. So I had to imagine Lauren’s divorce adventure.
SLP: Do any of your relatives or associates believe they’re in the book?
DF: If they do, they haven’t complained. I have been known to take memorable or quirky traits of people I know or have met and incorporate them into my characters; however, I hope I’ve been able to tweak them to the point that people don’t notice that I’ve used a mannerism or some aspect of their personality. My friends know very well that I’m a writer and that everything is fodder for my stories.
SLP: Did you ever feel that the characters were taking the story in unforeseen directions?
DF: Scott, Sr. sure did, although, luckily his actions caused an abrupt end to his role in Lauren’s life. It’s when secondary characters do something so intriguing that I’m left wondering if a story of their very own is warranted that causes a problem. That has happened in the past and I’ve had to woo the character into submission with promises of a leading role in another book, or yank them from the work-in-progress and come up with another character.
SLP: What are your other titles and in what order were they published?
DF: A list of all my titles in order of publication is available on my website: www.DonnaFasano.com. The site has just been completely revamped, so I hope people will go have a look.
SLP: Do you have another project underway?
DF: I have written a synopsis and a chapter and a half of an inspirational romance proposal.
SLP: Does it have a similar theme to that of The Merry-Go-Round?
DF: No. This story is about a single mom who is running from a bad situation and gets stuck in a small town in Texas. . .where she finds her happily ever after.
SLP: When do you anticipate finishing it?
DF: Soon. Very soon.
SLP: Now for a few general interest questions concerning the state of the publishing industry, particularly the impact of the rapidly expanding ebook readership. What do you believe will be the short- and long-term impact of ebooks on the publishing industry?
DF: I believe ebooks are making and will continue to make a huge impact on the industry. Setting the ‘business’ issue aside, it’s irresponsible to continue consuming our earth’s resources the way we have been. Going electronic just makes sense. From the business standpoint, ebooks open up the market to writers like never before.
SLP: What do you think of the current publishers’ pricing structure for ebooks?
DF: This is a business, and as in any business profit is the bottom line. Publishers have stockholders to answer to. I do understand that. But as a writer, I would like to earn a decent living. All I’ve ever heard from publishers is how deeply production costs eat into profits. Since the costs of producing ebooks are slashed substantially compared to print books, it’s only fair that writers earn a bigger share of the profits.
SLP: Do you own an ereader?
DF: I don’t. A Kindle was on my Christmas list, but Santa didn’t come through. I do, however, have a birthday coming up. I have downloaded the Kindle app for PCs onto my laptop and I love it!
SLP: What do you believe might be the impact of Apple’s new iPad on the ereader market?
DF: The more the merrier is what I say. The more ereaders there are out there competing for the market, the more affordable ereaders will become.
SLP: That wraps up the Q&A portion of the interview. I must say that Donna’s well deserved success may be a surprise to her, but it isn’t to me, nor do I suspect to her legion of fans. Here’s a peek from The Merry-Go-Round to illustrate the delights that await her readers:
You don’t know a woman till you’ve met her in court.
~ Norman Mailer
“It’s a great day for a divorce.” Lauren took a quick look around to see if anyone had heard her talking to herself before she hurried up the courthouse steps. If everything went according to plan, she would walk out of this building a free woman. She’d sleep a lot better and breathe a lot easier minus the hundred and eighty pounds of man meat she’d been lugging around for far too long.
A blessed blast of cool air billowed from the building when she hauled open the plate glass door. Although it was a few days into September, the hot, humid temps that plagued Sterling through the lazy months of summer where stubbornly hanging on. She lifted her hand in greeting to Rusty as he tucked the floor polisher into the janitorial closet; she nodded to colleagues she met in the hallway. The reverberation of her high heels clicking against the marble floor had her smiling. It was a satisfying sound—one she’d heard nearly every workday since she’d passed the Maryland Bar and ordered the door plaque that read Lauren E. Hunkavic, Attorney At Law.
Of course, it was Flynn now. The name change was about the only good thing that had come from her marriage. Not that she wasn’t proud of her maiden name. Her Czechoslovakian great-grandparents had risked everything, left everyone they loved in search of a new life across the ocean. But kids were mean. And mercilessly unrelenting. Every Halloween she had been saddled with Hunk-a-trick. The summer she went through a chubby stage, it had been Hunk-a-thick. She lost the weight and they’d come up with Hunk-a-stick. She hadn’t gone on a single Saturday movie outing with friends that she hadn’t heard Hunk-a-flick at least once. Missing a couple of days of school turned her into Hunk-a-sick. Although the teasing during her adolescence had been mostly innocuous, it had been endless and irritating as the hell. Her parents and teachers alike had explained that the kids were simply goading her into reacting. “They’re paying for a ticket,” her dad had told her, “but you don’t have to put on a show.” High school seemed to mature most of her peers, but there had been a moron or two who just seemed to get crueler and nastier in their twisting of her last name.
Turning the corner, she wasn’t surprised to see her father sitting on the bench near the elevator. His beat up Dodge Ram had been parked on West Main Street directly in front of the courthouse steps. He must have arrived at daybreak to bag the prime spot. Even though she was ten minutes early for their court appointment—the first slot of the day—Lauren had been forced to use the side lot.
She tried to gauge her father’s mood as she got closer. If Eeyore ever took sick in the 100 Acre Wood, Lew Hunkavic would be the perfect stand-in for the pessimistic Equus asinus.
“Hey there, Dad. You look good this morning. All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You must have slept well.”
Asking her dad how he was feeling held too great a possibility of opening a huge can of big, fat blood worms. Instead, she made a habit of making the most positive assessment possible.
“My hair hurts.” He raked his stubby fingers through the thatch of silver covering his scalp, tilting his head and wincing as he did so. “Been hurting for days. You’da known about it if you’da called.”
“Dad, we had dinner on Sunday,” she reminded him lightly. “It’s only Wednesday.”
“I know what day of the week it is,” he groused.
She punched the elevator call button. “Come the weekend, you won’t have to worry about me calling you, will you?” A slight movement had her eyes darting to his face. She’d thought she’d seen his mouth quirk, but surely she was mistaken. He had to be as dismayed about these circumstances as she.
“Besides that,” she continued, “your hair can’t hurt.”
He rose from the bench, the rubber tip of his cane squeaking on the polished stone floor.
“Hair is made up of nothing but dead cells, Dad. No nerve endings, no pain.”
He glowered, his gray-green eyes narrowing on her, just as the elevator dinged, the up arrow lit and the doors slid open. “It’s carbunculosis.”
They stepped inside and Lauren touched the button that would take them to the third floor.
“An infection of the scalp. I researched it at that website I told you about. All Natural Health dot org.”
The internet. It was both a blessing and a bane. A person could find information about anything there. Anything.
Most people spent their golden years traveling the country, or engrossed in some well-loved hobby, or immersed in great works of literature. Not her seventy-year-old dad. Oh, no. He spent his days hunched over a keyboard, trolling the Web for medical maladies with which to label every ache and pain he experienced.
Softly, she warned, “Dad, it wouldn’t hurt to get a professional opinion.”
He straightened. “You telling me my scalp isn’t sore?”
“I’m not saying that at all.” Suddenly, Lauren realized she’d better back peddle a bit. She needed her dad in good spirits this morning. Well, as good as his spirits could be, anyway.
The doors slid open and they exited the elevator.
“I have no doubt you’re hurting,” she told him. “I can see by the look on your face. Maybe you should go see Dr. Amos.”
“Charlie Amos is a dimwit.”
“Dad, you and Dr. Amos have been friends for—”
“I don’t need a doctor, Lauren. I bought myself some tea tree oil. A few drops in my shampoo should take care of the problem.”
“Tea tree oil, huh?” She stifled the sigh building at the base of her diaphragm. “Where’d you hear about that? Find A Cure dot com?” Before he could respond, she said, “Dad, you need to forgive Doc.”
“Bless my butt and call me Betty. The man couldn’t diagnose a simple rash, Lauren.” Lew shook his head in disgust. “Dry skin, my ass. I knew I had a problem, and I found a cure, too. That old quack can’t even turn on a computer, let alone do a Google search. He’s way behind the times. How can he ever expect to keep up with advances in health care?”
Medical journals, maybe? Professional conferences? Refresher courses? But Lauren zipped her lip.
The fact was that the good doctor had the gall to warn her father not to take everything he read on the Net as gospel truth. That had been four months ago, and since then her dad had refused to acknowledge Dr. Amos existed.
They arrived at the double doors of the courtroom, and Lauren spun to face her father.
“Okay, Dad—” she lifted her free hand, palm up “—can we set this aside for now? This is very important to me.”
The deep sigh he emitted could have been his reluctance to veer off the topic of his latest infirmity, or it could have been his reaction to the court petition she’d filed. Either way, she’d felt it best to ignore his gloom.
“We’ve gone over what the judge might ask you, right?” She dipped her chin, arched her brows, straightening the collar of his royal blue dress shirt. “You remember how to respond, yes?”
“Lauren, I’m not a four year old.”
She gave him a small smile, smoothing the fabric of his shirt. “Sorry, Dad.”
Her attaché thumped against the door of courtroom number three as she grabbed the handle. The room was empty and quiet as they made their way up the center aisle and took seats at the plaintiff’s table. Lauren snapped open her soft leather case and pulled out the file containing her divorce papers.
Papers that were missing a vital signature. And it wasn’t hers.
She spent a few minutes studying her notes and mulling over all the arguments and rebuttals that might arise. The court clerk entered from one of the two doors located behind the judge’s bench, perused the room and then ducked back inside the office.
“The judge must be ready to start,” Lauren told her father, glancing at her watch. One minute before nine. “It’s just like Greg to be late. Never takes a single thing seriously.” Dipping her gaze to her notes again, she murmured, “He’s probably rescuing some poor, decrepit soul out there somewhere.” If there was a poor, decrepit soul within a hundred mile radius of Sterling Greg would find it, that was certain.
A few minutes later, the door at the main entrance to the courtroom swung open and Greg waltzed in. Lauren forced herself not to turn around, keeping her eyes glued to the documents in front of her. But she could see his loose, breezy stride in her mind’s eye. And she could easily imagine his attire: battered, steel-toed Wolverines, worn blue jeans and t-shirt.
Thanks once again to Donna for a delightful interview, and a final reminder to our readers that Donna’s latest, The Merry-Go-Round is available now in Amazon’s Kindle Store as well as other leading online ebook retailers.