LOVE LAUNCH

Just finished reviewing the final cover and interior proofs for The Eyes Have It! We are on track to meet or beat our mid-fall deadline for release! To celebrate, I’m sharing another excerpt from the book:

I was a “walker.” I lived too close to school to take the bus. We lived in a nice enough neighborhood, near the edge of the city limits, less than a half mile from school. Most of the time, I liked being a walker. The pressure to rush for a bus and compete for the best seats wasn’t appealing. And since I was involved in a lot of school activities, I often didn’t get out in time to catch a bus, anyway, so living close enough to walk was convenient.

Except in midwinter. Like now. No snow, but a strong wind found its way down the neck of my partially zipped jacket. I was just a few blocks from home, but I set my bag on the ground and stopped long enough to zip and pull up my hood. I never wore a hat. Hats did terrible things to hair.

I saw the shadow as I reached to pick up my bag. My body tensed, and flashes of my self-defense course PowerPointed through my brain. My bag was loaded with books and pens, ready to be weaponized. I picked up my pace. My possible assailant mirrored the move. The shadow was gaining on me. I was surrounded by a city in transition. Most streets were crammed with houses. Some older blocks had been razed for new development. The side of the street I was on was dotted with vacant lots, awaiting an eager investor. Across the street was a convenience store I rarely went in, both because I had no need most days and because it was dark and crowded, with aisles close together. Still, it was a possible escape where I wouldn’t be alone. I remembered it was better to face the attacker than to be attacked from behind. If you couldn’t avoid a physical confrontation, aim for the parts of the body where you could do the most damage easily—eyes, nose, ears, neck, groin, knee, top of the feet. Avoid first. I stepped off the curb to cross the street. He followed. As I stepped up on the opposite curb, I gripped the handle of my bag and spun, swinging the bag as hard as I could.

“Hey!” Ethan shouted, his soccer reflexes kicking in as he deflected the bag with his elbow. “What are you doing?”

“I thought you were an assailant!” I scowled at him. “What were you thinking, following me and not telling me you were there?”

He looked a little sheepish. “I wanted to see how long it would take you to realize I was behind you.

“I knew someone was behind me. How was I supposed to know it was you? I don’t have eyes in the back of my head! What are you doing here, anyway? Do you live around here?”

Ethan shrugged. “I live that way.” He pointed east. “Just over the bus line, but I usually walk. I just took a little detour today when I came out of school and saw you walking.”

“Why?”

His turn to blush. But it only made his smile brighter. He had luscious lips.
“I wanted to spend more time with you.”

Valentine’s Day was over a week away. But in that moment, I felt like I understood why Cupid’s signature was his arrow, and it seemed he was on the prowl early. That was the only possible explanation for the sudden contraction and ache in the area of my heart. A wave of heat rushed through me. My hand had a mind of its own and reached out to touch his elbow.

“Did I hurt you?”

“Nah, I’m okay. Good thing I got my arm up.” He grinned. “That was a killer swing.”

I couldn’t pull my eyes from his face. How had I not noticed him before? Clearly, I’d been living in the bubble of my own comfortable group of friends and usual classmates. I sucked in a deep breath, feeling like I couldn’t get enough air. An unrecognized feeling swelled within me, an odd combination of awe and anxiety, excitement and exhilaration, heat and happiness. Was that …?

Ridiculous! I hardly knew him.

He raised his hand slowly. “May I?” he asked as his hand approached my cheek.

I nodded, my breath hitching at the warmth of his touch. And this time, I didn’t flinch. I leaned into his hand, closing my eyes, savoring the feeling that flowed through me.

“You feel it, too,” he half whispered.

I nodded, still not understanding what “it” was, but relieved that I wasn’t alone in the feeling.

“We don’t know anything about each other,” I said, still leaning into the warmth of his hand.

“We know our feelings. The rest can follow if we spend more time together.”

“But what if the feeling doesn’t last?” A parade of casual boyfriends marched through my mind, mocking me. Even as they marched, I knew this was different.

“There’s only one way to find out.” He kissed his fingertips and touched my forehead, sending a power surge straight through to my toes and back. “I have to go,” he continued. “I work for my dad a few evenings a week. I’m saving up for a car.” He sighed. “It’s so hard to leave you. What time do you get to school in the morning?”

“In time for the homeroom bell, but the building opens at 7:30.” Was he asking me to meet him?

“Would you come in that early?” His question so eager, so open.

I gulped a deep breath through my mouth, not quite a gasp, but close.

“Uh, sure.” Of course. Anything you want, you got it. I’m yours.

I was so screwed. I hated that. I also loved it. How could that be?

He smiled that deadly, beautiful, leg-melting smile that started this just a few hours ago.

“My locker, whenever you get there. I’ll be waiting.”

I would have been a prime victim for a predator as I walked the last few blocks home. I was on another planet. On cloud nine. In la-la land. How many other clichés applied?

I felt it in my gut—life as I’d known it was about to change. Dramatically.

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THE ARMENIAN LEGION

One of the lesser-known stories about the experience of Armenians during World War I, the period of the most aggressive extermination attempts by the Turks, was the formation of The Armenian Legion: 1916-1920.

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One of the women I interviewed spoke of her father’s decision to join the Allied Forces in the Middle East. She said he was frustrated that the Americans were not joining the war effort. His betrothed and many other family members were trapped under the oppression and extermination efforts. She spoke of him saying he wanted to kill the Turks who were killing the Armenians.

He wasn’t alone.

According to the display in the Armenian Museum in Watertown, MA, “The Armenian Legion was formed during the darkest days of World War I, when the Allies (France, England and Russia) faced a military deadlock on the European and Middle Eastern Fronts….. At that time the Armenians were facing the devastating aftermath of the Genocide of their people at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government.”

1200 Armenian men left their comparatively comfortable lives in America to fight and possibly die in foreign lands. Their explanation? How could they not, when their families and neighbors – if they had survived the actual genocide – were still under threat and domination by the Muslim Turks who despised the Armenians.

Many of the soldiers in photos of the Armenian Legion appear to be little more than boys. And perhaps that’s what they were. Their mothers and sisters and aunts and neighbors had disappeared—in the desert, in their village – and they had no way to know who, if any, were still alive. Most were not. But they knew they had to help stop the devastation. They had to kill Turks.

Along the way, they helped orphaned Armenian children and even adopted one boy as their mascot.

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Their heroism reached its peak – literally and figuratively – in September of 1918, when they seized the hill at Arara.

It would be years in most cases, if ever, before they would learn the fates of their loved ones. Too often they just never knew.

But this story has a happy ending for at least one family. The woman I interviewed was proof. Her grandmother and mother survived the death march through the desert. When the Central Powers nations were defeated, with the help of the Armenian Legion, they were able to find their way to America and reunite with the men who had come before them. These surviving women went on to create home and family in America. The father survived the war and brought home a physical reminder of his time with the Armenian Legion–matching vases made from spent weapons, which my interviewee proudly displayed on her mantle.

Vases made from French Army Artillery Shells

Learn more about the heroic Armenian Legion at the Armenian Museum.

Posted in Armenians, Genocide, History, WAR! | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

SNEAK PEEK: THE EYES HAVE IT

Enjoy this sneak peak at THE EYES HAVE IT!

Kuwait–Saudi Arabia Border—199117671959[1]

Josh’s Arabic was rudimentary. He understood it better than he spoke it, although even that was rough. But the most flawless Arabic wouldn’t have made this conversation with Samar easy. It was even harder than he’d expected.

They had just made love. It wasn’t the first time. He never meant for this to happen.

When his regiment first arrived in Saudi Arabia during the military buildup, he had two things on his mind. Make that three things. First was surviving the war to come. Second was concluding his military commitment, preferably alive and fully intact. And last, but far from least, marrying his fiancée, Emily.

Josh and Emily had been a couple since their freshman year of college. They were a good match, because they had so much in common and shared so many interests. Family definitely was important to them. They defined success as doing something they enjoyed that mattered to society. Their friends joked about them, saying they sounded more like a Kennedy-era ’60s couple than one that came of age in the glitzy yuppies decade.

But Samar stirred his soul. Haunted his dreams.

“They will kill me,” Samar said quietly, eyes averted. “My brothers. I have dishonored them. They will have no choice.”

“They don’t have to know,” Josh replied, so naïve, so self-centered. He had not considered the clash of cultures. Had not thought about what this meant for a Saudi Arabian woman.

“They will know.” She turned away from him. “They may already know.”

“Then come to America.”

“They will not let me. And even if they agreed, the process takes so long. Years.”
Josh tried to turn her back to face him. She resisted.

“Then I will tell them I want to marry you.” Those words choked out. What about Emily? But how could he abandon Samar? How could he allow her to be stoned to death because of him? Because of their love? How did they get here?

“They will not allow it. You are American. You are Christian.” Silence. “I am dead,” she added quietly.

What could he do? How could he prevent a tragedy? One for which he was responsible? He had never felt so powerless.

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THE ARMENIAN TAPESTRY

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A-no’o-nus Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse. Hal’/lee a-me-ree-ga-tsee yem.
Hos yem.

My name is Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse. I am Armenian American.
I am here.DSC00675

It has been a while since I have posted about my Armenian book project. Happily, that is because I’ve been immersed in the edits and preparations for the publication of my fourth novel, The Eyes Have It. But thoughts and actions related to sharing a story about Armenians and their immigration to America during the genocide years under the Ottoman Turks have never been far from my mind.

My research into the early Armenian immigrants, including my grandparents, has been going slowly. As an example, I requested a copy of my grandmother’s death certificate and was told it would take 4-6 months. I know when she died, but no one, even the oldest surviving family members, knows the cause of her death at the age of fifty-five.

Since I anticipate writing this story as historical fiction rather than non-fiction, the exact cause of one character’s death isn’t essential. But it could provide some insights into her and her lifestyle.

Who, really, was Sultan?

Characters in any story must spring to life for the reader. The more I can learn about each of them, the more alive and real they will seem. What did they like to do? How did they spend their time each day? How did they interact with others, both family and non-family? How did their origin influence all of this?

How similar and different were they from other immigrants who may or may not be related? How did the immigrants from, say, Kharpoot (like my ancestors) differ from those who came from Van, or from Marash, or Adana, or Aleppo?

How did the circumstances surrounding their leaving Armenia or Turkey influence them? Their age? Before or after the worst of the massacres? Surely a woman—with or without children—who was driven on a forced march through the desert, watching the deaths of so many—including children—at the cruel hands of the Turkish soldiers, that woman, as a survivor, likely would have a different life view from one who fled the threat of massacre. One who watched family members gunned down or hung or otherwise tortured would evolve differently from someone who escaped before the worst of times.

And how did their experiences translate into how they interacted with their children, the first generation of Armenian Americans? And how did the experience of those first-generation children affect how they lived, married, and interacted with their own children?

These are the puzzle pieces I must locate and place into the bigger picture I hope to create–the tapestry woven by these Armenians and their families and friends.

Who are these people?

Early Sunday School

Bedk e meg-neem hee-ma.
Gu des-nu-veenk no-ren.

I must go now.
I’ll see you again

Posted in Armenians, family, Genocide, Grief and Loss, Immigrants, Resilience, Strength, survival | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

COMING EARLY FALL…

 THE EYES HAVE IT!

Star-crossed lovers, 21st century style.

“With her new novel, Dawn Lajeunesse proves she understands the human heart as well as any writer working today, and she knows how to make a reader’s heart thump hard—with anticipation, with sorrow, with fear, and with joy. The Eyes Have It is an intelligent, poignant, rewarding experience.”—Mark Spencer, author of A Haunted Love Story: the Ghosts of the Allen House

Finished-Ebook image

Two editing reviews completed, one to go.

WATCH FOR UPDATES AND PROMOTIONS!

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HANG ON TO THE HOPE!

I don’t often post any book reviews. But one just released by a friend of mine caused me to make an exception. It’s a fast read, but don’t be surprised to find yourself going back and re-reading parts that touched you at the core of your personal experience.

The Cycle of Grief, by Betty Gurak, is one of the most moving, personal approaches to handling the loss of a loved one that I’ve ever read. It’s not long. It doesn’t get mired in psychological concepts or formal studies. Its a documentary of one woman’s experience of the shock of the sudden loss of her husband and the journey she traveled as she made her way through the darkest days, months and years to where she finds herself now.

Betty's Grief Book

Betty takes us on a multi-year journey, from the initial shock and disbelief through the stages as she experienced them, told in a combination of narrative and poetry and illustrated beautifully by her grandson-in-law.  “It was a tree so full of life when sorrow came to play. A barren tree took its place, its leaves had blown away.”

“Tom never made it back to our home. At the fourth hole, the Lord decided to call him to His home instead. It was then that the brick wall made its appearance.”

Betty describes the darkness that descended. ” The cries became louder, the pain deeper.” She believed her heart would never heal.

She talks of the things that helped her through that time. “Writing for me was like listening to music–soothing.”

And the times she closed herself away. “There were days I would sit on Tom’s recliner and wrap an imaginary cocoon around me; a place where nothing could hurt me again.”

On the rare occasions when something caused her to laugh, she felt guilty. “I put my hand to my mouth in hopes no one would know the laughter came from me…. How dare I laugh like that…. I didn’t know how I was expected to act.”

Months later she noticed the wall was beginning to crumble–just a bit…the darkness was showing signs of hope….

“In time I began to see another change in the brick wall…. It was starting to lose its hold on me as it continued to crumble… Brightness began to filter through the holes…. The hope continued.”

“I am seeing that, just as the tree goes through its cycle of life, so must I go through the cycle of grief.”

“…happiness will return, but you have to be willing to let it in. Get involved with something that makes you happy. Find something you like, and maybe you can share it with others.”

Betty found solace in her writing, and chose to let the readers know they are not alone.

Anyone who has gone or is going through their own cycle of grief will find Betty’s story will help you through your own journey.

“I still think of you every day, but now it puts a smile on my face.”

Betty's Husband

Find Betty’s book on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=betty+gurak&crid=1Z8GWEHCCV6FW&sprefix=Betty+Gurak%2Caps%2C136&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11

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Ain’t it funny…

How time slips away!

Sometimes schedules collide to make time disappear. However if pressed, I could point to the many pleasures and tasks that have consumed my time.

Time Flies

The biggest of that: my publisher sent the results of the comprehensive edit they completed for my review, comment, revisions and/or acceptance. What an experience!  I had to review page by page, read the edits, add/change/delete text based on the comments, and respond with my impressions. There wasn’t a single page without some kind of edit, although many were simple, like adding a quotation mark I missed, or removing a comma. But there also were more significant comments and recommendations, some of which were a little bruising–although I knew on some level the editor was right, the comments stung just the same.

letters flying out of the book

And then there were the obvious clashes of generations. I’m a retiree. I probably have close to 50 years on the editor, which means my life experiences–and therefore my attitudes–were different.

Once again, I had to step back and think about what the editor was saying and why. My novel targets young adults. It’s suitable for older readers, but the fact that two high school seniors are the main characters means it would be categorized as YA. “Self,” I said, “You haven’t been in high school in over fifty years, AND you haven’t had children in high school. Translation: you know NEXT TO NOTHING about being a teen in 2019.

I reached deep inside me to find some genuine humility. Some edit suggestions I still disagreed with. As an example, I had the main character saying she wouldn’t walk home from her summer job when she finished work at midnight because it wasn’t safe, and would be just asking for trouble. The editor said that implied that girls are responsible if attacked, and not the attacker. The top of my head nearly blew off. “Are you nuts?” I thought. Just because it’s not politically correct to say a girl might be inviting trouble walking home alone at midnight doesn’t make it any less dangerous. There are lots of predators out there who don’t care about what’s politically correct. If they see vulnerability, as in a young female the predator outweighs by half her weight, and if they are so inclined, they will take advantage of the opportunity. It has nothing to do with political correctness. It’s about common sense safety. I did compromise on this – I took out the part about “inviting trouble” and just left that it wasn’t safe.

There were a lot of examples like this. I had to keep reminding myself that the book targets young women OF TODAY, not of my generation. So I yielded or at least modified (reluctantly) on many such examples.

Editors aren’t your personal friend. They have a job to do: help you make your book the best, most professional and most salable product possible. This editor showed that she knew her job and had honed her skills to a level of excellence. I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel good. But it was necessary.

So, just when I was thinking, “I should NEVER try to write another young adult story”, I came to the editor’s final comment:

“Job well done! This is among the very finest manuscripts we’ve seen from (this publisher) in eight years.”

Holy smokes! I wasn’t prepared for that!

Bottom line: no manuscript is perfect. The writer is too close to it. A skilled editor can view it through a different lens. The edits may bruise, but the outcome is a much better product.

Now I hope the reviewers agree and her comments are reflected in sales!

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