Looking for something? Check here first:

► Kindle Deals: 10 HarperCollins books for $0.99/each (ends 1/31/2012)
► 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge - Sign-up here | January Review Link Up
► 2012 Men in Uniform Reading Challenge - Sign-up here | January Review Link Up
► How to make those reading challenge progress bars - read my tutorial

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I’d like to thank Brianna for letting me visit her amazing site today! I recently decided to visit the town for which my novel, Poughkeepsie, is named. While there I had to make a special stop:

Navigating the streets of Poughkeepsie after a snowstorm takes some concentration. Between the dirty snow dyeing everything gray and the black ice, I should be paying more attention. But I’m not. Lying next to me is a copy of my book; the title the same as the name of the town and a bagged lunch. I had to bring him something good to go with the bad. Though, with a salami and ham sandwich, I was saying a small prayer he hadn’t converted to vegetarianism while I’d been busy. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I just had some meat for him in the bag.

I pulled into the commuter lot. There weren’t many cars, which surprised me. The Poughkeepsie train station was almost always busy. I gathered up my things and my courage and headed for the stairs. The sun was peeking in and out of the clouds like a naughty child hiding in the clothes racks at a store.

So he would be in the shade, if he were there at all.

I was already cold and my mind cried a bit, thinking of him huddled on the platform.

Now, I found myself praying he wasn’t here. Surely one of his brothers would’ve tucked him somewhere warm. I held the handrail as I descended to the stairs to the tracks. At the final stair I stopped, searching for him, relief and disappointment clashing together forcefully –forming tears in my eyes. I’d really wanted to see him. Apologize, explain…feed him.

A few commuters harrumphed past me, vocalizing their displeasure at my “statue on the stairs” impression. I snuggled the book and the lunch to my chest like a teddy bear. It crinkled and I remembered to not squeeze so damn hard.

I gave up. He wasn’t there. I was just wasting time. As I turned to go back up the stairs I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Why I had not thought to look a little harder, I didn’t know. Maybe avoidance.

He was here after all. I took in two quick, deep breaths. The sparse gathering of commuters didn’t pay me any mind as I slipped into the shade spot.

Blake Hartt was sitting on the ground, head resting against the brick wall of the station. His hands were wrapped lightly around his cardboard piano. It looked like he was napping until I caught his foot tapping out the rhythm of the approaching train.

I cleared my throat, louder than necessary because the train was loud. His startlingly green eyes opened. He looked surprised that I had snuck up on him. He stood quickly, rolling his piano and stuffing it in his back pocket.

He nodded at me, and I watched the surprise get crowded out of his eyes by wariness. He looked from my clutched hands to my face and back again --registering the reason for my visit and putting his gaze shyly on his feet.

He was beautiful. Heartbreakingly so. He was tall with messy blond hair, and a silent strength.

“Hi Blake.” I tried to gage how this impromptu visit would go.

“Ms. Anastasia. Happy Holidays.” He bit his lip and wouldn’t look at me.

He was always so formal. I resisted the urge to correct him. Call me Debra, call me friend, just understand that I care.

We waited as the passengers got on the train and it hurried away, taking them to New York City. After an awkward period of time it was obvious it was my job to explain why I was here, Blake wasn’t going to take any guesses.

“So the book. I have it here. For you…if you want it.” I held the thick book out to him.

Blake eyed it like a poisonous snake.

He shook his head. “No. No, thank you, but no.” He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, making it messier. “Congratulations though. I know you’ve been at this a while.”

His good tidings fell flat. I’d written the story with his permission three years earlier. It was my fault that I hadn’t checked in more often, after the initial afternoons spent in this very spot. I’d another book to promote, and then there was editing. No good reason. He’d felt every day I hadn’t been there, I could tell.

“I’m sorry. I’m here to apologize.” Tears filled my eyes for the second time.

He finally looked at my face, distressed by my emotion.

“You did nothing wrong. No tears.” He held out his hand, but did not touch me or take the book.

“I did. I got busy. I forgot all you gave me. Your story. Your dreams. I forgot about this.” I motioned to the gorgeous Hudson River trimmed in snow and shrugged.

He matched my shrug and pulled out his piano, rolling it and unrolling it. “It’s okay. I understand. Did it go well? Did you like holding it --the book?”

I dropped it on the pavement, and then placed the bag of lunch on its cover. I stepped over them both and made my way into his shade. I wanted to hug him, to pat his back, but I had to settle for standing closer.

“It was satisfying. My kids were proud.” I leaned against the brick.

“How are they? Your husband?” He snuck a peek at me.

“We’re fine. No, really good.” I tensed.

“Something happened? Is everyone okay?” He faced me then and took my hand, his kind nature overwhelming his distrust.

“We are. We’re good. It’s just…” I didn’t want to tell him. It seemed a horrible complaint to offer up to a homeless man. He just waited me out. After all the hours we spent together, he knew I’d spill the details. “Remember Hurricane Irene? Back in August?”

He thought for a second then nodded. “Yeah, Beckett said Southern Maryland was hit hard.”

“My house didn’t make it through the storm. We were in it when the big oak in front fell on the roof. It’s a miracle it didn’t go straight through. We lived in a hotel for a while, now the insurance have us in apartment while we wait for the rebuild.” Tears fell on my cheeks. I hadn’t cried telling anyone about the events, but I cried with him.

He pulled me into a strong hug, patting my back like I had wanted to pat his. “Shh. Everyone’s okay? The animals too?”

I nodded into his dark green army jacket, mumbling, “Yeah, you know I went back for the crazy animals. Damn near got killed doing it. Ha.” He smelled like mint and soap.

“That’s good. I’m so sorry. I’m glad you’re all safe.” He held me until my tears stopped.

“I feel like such a jerk weasel complaining to you about losing my house. God, I’m a tool.” I pushed out of his sweet hug and wiped my eyes.

“My reality isn’t your reality. We can still care for each other, that’s okay.” He glanced at the clouds, which were starting to commit to covering the whole sky. To prove their intentions they even started to sprinkle little drops of sleet.

He leaned down to gather my things and bring them to the safety of the overhang he stood under for shade, letting it be an umbrella.

“That’s for you, by the way. Did you have lunch yet?” I pointed at the bag he was trying to give me.

He just smiled instead of answering.

“It’s a good lunch. I had someone else make it.” I smiled back.

Even Blake knew how much I sucked in the kitchen.

“I didn’t earn this meal.” He was putting his walls up again.

“It’s all I brought besides my words to share. Let me. I came all this way.” I put my hands in my pockets, silently refusing to take no for an answer. The sleet made splashy, cold sounds on the pavement.

He rolled his eyes. Blake put the book under his arm and opened the bag. I waited while he ate, dying inside because he’d been hungry.

He nodded when he finished, “Thank you. It was delicious. So glad you didn’t make it.”

I fake punched him in the arm. “Be funny. But I’m glad.”

He easily tossed the bag into the trashcan a few feet away. All that was left was the book. His story. Everything that ever mattered to him distilled down to black and white pages.

“So, how much is in here?” He finally looked at the cover, touching the tattoo that was repeated on his own skin.

“You told me to write without fear. So…” I clenched my fists in my pockets, nervous again.

“All of it?” He thumbed through the pages as I waited. “Mouse?”

“As best as I could, he’s in there.” I tried to read upside down. Judging from the inverted words he was at a sex scene.

He made his eyes go wide. “This too?”

I pulled my hands up and held them out. “No fear, right?”

He chuckled a bit at my discomfort, and then he stopped at the dedication page. I knew what he was reading. I wondered if it was something he would like.

He spoke the promise out loud; “A portion of the profits from this novel will be donated to food pantries in Southern Maryland, which have been depleted by local demand since Hurricane Irene.”

“Yeah.” I had thought of a ton of different charities, hoping he would approve of his story being the conduit for one so close to my heart.

“That’s nice. I’m glad. If we’re going to tell the story, might as well do some good.” He tried to hand it back to me.

“That’s yours. You can toss it, burn it, whatever. I just needed you to have one.” I met his intense gaze again. “You don’t have to read it. It’s filled with Beckett’s cursing. Horrible really. My poor parents. They want to keep it on their coffee table in the retirement community.” I filled the air with words because I just didn’t want to hear Blake reject the story.

He held it in his hands. They were cold, ashy blue in color. He’d obviously been here for a long time. He tucked Poughkeepsie inside his jacket and slipped it in the pocket there. “Better?”

I smiled. “Come sit with me in the van. Let’s warm up. I’d love to tell you how the reviews are going.”

“No, thanks but she’s coming. Two more trains and then I get to walk Livia to her car. So, sorry, I can’t. But it’s cloudy, I can walk you to your van.” I saw his worried glance at the sky.

He was afraid of the sun. I knew this better than anyone else. The patchy clouds were tapering off their frosty offerings, threatening to let the sun have its head again.

“I’m good, thanks. I appreciate it. This is it then. I’d better get going, the husband wants to leave so we can get back to Maryland tonight.” I tossed my caution to the cold and hugged him again.

I felt him kiss the top of my head, “Take care, crazy author lady. Can you tell me how it ends?” His voice was playful, but as I looked up at his handsome face I knew he was genuinely curious.

I patted his chest gently. “It ends as it’s supposed to.”

“Okay, fine. Have a safe ride. Visit me next time you make it to New York. I’ll still be here.” He sat back down and smoothed out his cardboard.

I walked backwards a bit, the mischievous sun providing some warmth again. I hated that he’d never step into rays to take the chill off his skin. I should’ve said goodbye, but I couldn’t. He’d been in my head for so long, he belonged there now. I turned and walked up the stairs, mentally promising him I’d visit more often.

Thanks again, Brianna! Happy Holidays everyone!


Debra Anastasia is busy, just like every other mom. There’s dinner, the dogs, the kids, and their homework. The laundry pile turns into a big, heaping monster. When the clothes finally make it into the washer, it gets unbalanced and puts on an elaborate show before it cuts out. This crazy job that never ends is her first love and her crowning achievement.

Her writing started a decent handful of years ago when along with the dogs, cat, kids, and husband, the voices of characters started whispering stories in Debra’s ear. Insomnia was the gateway for the plots that wouldn't give up, wouldn’t let go. In the shower, a twist would take hold and— dripping and frenzied— she’d find somewhere, anywhere to write it down.

Debra grew up in New York and got a bachelor’s degree in political science at SUNY New Paltz. At the start of her marriage, she moved to southern Maryland with her husband. She still doesn’t trust crabs and all their legs, though everyone else in her family thinks they’re delicious. Her favorite hobbies include knitting, painting furniture and wall murals, and slapping clowns.

Earlier this year Omnific Publishing published her debut novel, Crushed Seraphim, and she’s currently pounding out the sequel to angel Emma’s adventures.

Find the author online: website | blog | twitter | facebook



He counts her smiles every day and night at the train station. And morning and evening, the beautiful commuter acknowledges him—just like she does everyone else on the platform. But Blake Hartt is not like the others . . . he’s homeless. Memories of a broken childhood have robbed him of peace and twisted delusions into his soul. He stays secluded from the sun, sure the world would run from him in the harsh light of day.

Each day, Livia McHugh smiles politely and acknowledges her fellow commuters as she waits for the train to the city. She dismisses this kindness as nothing special, just like her. She’s the same as a million other girls—certainly no one to be cherished. But special or not, she smiles every day, never imagining that someone would rely on the simple gesture as if it were air to breathe.

When the moment comes that Livia must do more than smile, without hesitation she steps into the fray to defend the homeless man. And she's surprised to discover an inexplicable connection with her new friend. After danger subsides, their smiles become conversation. Their words usher in a friendship, which awakens something in each of them. But it’s not long before their bond must prove its strength. Entanglements from the past challenge both their love and their lives.

Blake’s heart beats for Livia’s, even if her hands have to keep its rhythm. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never fails. Love never fails, right?

In an interwoven tale of unlikely loves and relationships forged by fire, Debra Anastasia takes readers into the darkest corners of human existence, only to show them the radiant power of pure adoration and true sacrifice. Complicated families and confused souls find their way to light in this novel, which manages to be racy, profane, funny, and reverent all at once.

Watch the trailer

Buy Links: Amazon | BN | Omnific | All Romance Books


To celebrate Poughkeepsie’s one month birthday please enjoy the giveaway of (1) *signed* print copy of Poughkeepsie, one handmade Poughkeepsie-themed charm bracelet, two temporary tattoos, and one signed Poughkeepsie train schedule for one winner and (2) eCopies of Poughkeepsie to two more winners.

Good luck to all who enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 People had something to say:

  1. UnknownDec 22, 2011 05:34 AM
    SQUEE!!! Poughkeepsie is THE book I've been drooling over this year, and I would LOVE to win the signed copy *SWOON*!!
    Thank you SO much for this giveaway opportunity!
    I'm a stalker of this blog and the author in all social medias, lol.

    Happy Holidays!

    Gena Robertson
  2. helpmerhonda72Dec 22, 2011 07:22 AM
    I'm always screaming about how much I love one of the ”other” characters in this book, and I don't give Blake enough love. Blake is so sweet, and courteous, and says all the right things. Blake also has a bit of naughty spark too. :-D Livia is a lucky girl.
  3. R FirasekDec 22, 2011 04:56 PM
    I'm with you Rhonda. Blake is the perfect example of the perfect man, if he wasn't a little bit broken. He reminds my heart to feel pain, love, and passion. Debra, thank you for this. :)
  4. My sister went to Vassar so after I read it I would pass it on to her.
  5. R FirasekDec 23, 2011 07:15 PM
    @R FirasekI showed this post to a friend at work who has not read the book yet. She cried. Her words: "No wonder you go around here stalking that woman." :) Yeah, I talk about Poughkeepsie at the day job. Die hard fan! :)

Thanks for stopping by! I love chatting so let's talk it up!

DO NOT leave your email in the comments.