Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Secrets We Keep by Karen Rock



The Secrets We Keep by Karen Rock

The concept for my current release, Heartwarming suspense A COWBOY TO KEEP, began with idea of secrets. Mitch Album said, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” and I agree. That’s why we sometimes refer to secrets as skeletons in our closets. We think… out of sight, out of mind… but those secrets rattle and shake to make their presence known, no matter how many locks we put on those closets. The truth will out…

My heroine, Dani Crawford, a respected and newly promoted stable manager at Mountain Sky Dude ranch has been hiding from a past mistake she’d rather forget. She’s none too happy when law enforcement lands on her doorstep in the form of my cowboy/ bounty hunter hero. When he goes undercover to unmask the culprit behind a double homicide, a killer he suspects may have also murdered his brother, his sleuthing reveals explosive truths that, eventually, leads them both to forgiveness, happiness and everlasting love.

As I was penning the novel, I thought about some of the skeletons rattling in my closet and thought I’d share one exclusively with you… I’ve never told this to anyone else before, save my younger sister Cathy, who was a part of that dark and shameful day. Here’s how it goes:
Living in upstate New York, a stone’s throw (literally) from the Canadian border, it’s safe to say my family lived a fairly isolated life. When my older sister Jeanne got her first job (HUGE!) teaching in Brooklyn (INCREDIBLE!) and got her own apartment (THE HEIGHT OF SOPHISTICATION!), my younger sister Cathy and I begged, pleaded, and basically wore down my parents until they agreed to let us drive down for a visit over the Easter break. Newly minted license and the keys to a Delta 88 Oldsmobile in hand, I felt invincible. Empowered. And most of all FREE. My mother—not so much. She worried, second-guessed herself and made us promise, promise, that we would be careful… the catch-all maternal phrase that’s supposed to ensure that wayward lambs are not led astray.



Except my sister and I were actually really good girls. We were always careful. In fact, our nickname for Cathy was Sister Cathy because we were certain that she’d become a nun someday (she’s now happily married for twenty three years with two kids- but hey- it could still happen). I’d never even had my first kiss and wouldn’t until my freshman year in college which was still a year way. So, you see how two na├»ve, giddy girls, can certainly not intend on any trouble all the while heading straight into a heap of it. I tell you, we didn’t see it coming.

Our visit with Jeanne was everything we dreamed of. We ate at the polish deli in her neighborhood (EXOTIC!), visited the Brooklyn Library (CULTURE!), and stayed up to watch the David Lettermen show every night (EDGY!) which we thought—thought—would be the guiltiest secret we’d have to keep from a mother who kept us on strict schedules and didn’t approve of David’s sometimes foul mouth. Except for Cathy nearly smothering Jeanne’s cat to death when she fell asleep on top of him, the visit went off without a hitch. If only the same could be said about the trip home.

You see, finding Brooklyn is fairly straightforward. Leaving it is a labyrinth of one way turns and dead ends that will leave you sobbing and screaming, “How do I get on the BQE?” The BQE is short for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the route we needed to take (according to our dog-eared map—no GPS back then!) to get home. Cathy was my copilot and, unfortunately for both of us, not the best navigator. We spent nearly two hours driving in circles, becoming more and more lost, going from bad neighborhood to worse while we frantically sought an onramp to the BQE. I suppose we could have stopped and asked for directions. And I believe we did that a couple of times without success. We didn’t know where we were, didn’t have cell phones back then to call Jeanne, and were too afraid to get out to ask to use anyone’s phone on streets littered with trash, graffiti and cars missing hubcaps, antennas, and even windows. 



Finally, Cathy spotted a small sign with an arrow that read “BQE”. I was about to hit the gas when a man jumped in front of us, sprayed out windshield with Windex and began smearing it with a dirty sheet of newspaper. “What do we do?” I asked Cathy. She just shook her head. We’d never seen anything like it. Eventually, he stopped and knocked on my window, scaring the daylights out of both of us. I hit the gas pedal and heard a scraping sound as my Delta 88 Olds sideswiped a car that was, if possible, even bigger than mine and much much fancier. It was a “Pimp” car as my sister Jeanne had pointed out whenever we’d passed brightly painted, flashy cars with foxtails dangling from antennas and fuzzy dice hanging from rear view mirrors. She made us cross the street when we saw one and here I’d just gone and hit a one! Even our windshield washer guy ran away. Terrified.

“What do I do?” I cried, expecting the police, gunfire, a deranged man in a fedora at any moment. I couldn’t just leave the accident. I’d been brought up better than that. My mother would never approve of a hit-and-run. And she’d never let me have the car or go on a trip again until I was thirty, at least. 
“What do I do?” I repeated, crying now.

“GO!” a voice hollered in my ear.

I whirled and there was my steely-eyed sister- Sister Cathy, who prayed in the morning and night and never missed a Sunday mass- pointing at the BQE sign. “GO!” she yelled. “Go, Karen, Go!” I hit the gas pedal again and for a sickening minute the car simply shuddered in place. Our rear fender was locked on the pimp car’s bumper. We’d never get away.

A man shouted something behind us, but Cathy’s voice was the only one I heard. “Go!” I slammed on the pedal again and we finally lurched free. My Delta Olds squealed around the turn and, miraculously we swerved onto the on ramp to the BQE. We didn’t speak on the trip home as we listened to my father’s limited music collection: Carol Carpenter and Barry Manillo. I don’t think either of us heard a note. We were sunk in our thoughts, reliving our close call. I kept wondering if we should go back and leave a note, watch the news, call a tip line?

What had we done? It was the worst trouble either of us had ever gotten into (circle back to the sheltered life lived a stone’s throw from the Canadian border). I’d been rehearsing my confession to my parents for the past hour, since I knew Cathy would insist on the truth.

My heart sank when I spotted our exit for home. Suddenly, Cathy broke her silence. “Don’t say anything to Mom and Dad,” she said. Dead calm. Like she’d just said, “And Peace be with you.”

What?!

I gaped at her. Who was this person and what had they done with my sister, the future nun? “We have to, they’ll see the marks,” I insisted (half-hearted, I’ll admit, since the nunnery was never in my future)

“We’ll tell them it was a hit and run. We found the car this way.”

They won’t believe us, I thought, especially since I’d never seen Cathy lie about anything. She’d be horrible at it. “Let me do the talking,” Cathy added, still calm. A wafer wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “You’re a terrible liar.”

I laughed, and we exchanged that “spit in your palm and shake” look—a secret between sisters we’ve kept all these years until this day. Since I’m pretty sure Cathy won’t be donning the habit, I feel safe in finally confessing this to you.

That being said, let’s just hope she doesn’t read this blog…

You can keep a secret, right?

If you made it all the way to the end of this long story, thanks! And you have a chance to enter to win an autographed copy of A COWBOY TO KEEP. Have you ever kept a secret? Share one, or something we might not know about you, in the comments section to enter. I’ll announce the winner here on Monday, April 10th as well as on my author facebook page http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites. I hope you’ll also check out A COWBOY TO KEEP which is on sale now at all major online retailers as well as http://www.harlequin.com

 

46 comments:

  1. That is so funny! And probably terrifying to you girls... But I had to chuckle. It's always the last one you expect, isn't it? ;)

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    1. Exactly! Who'd have thought my sweet, straight-laced sister would be the tough one in this situation?! Never would have expected it... lol

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  2. I probably would have done the same thing. Terrifying, but funny after all these years. So glad you made it home okay. Sorry I can't think of any deep dark secrets to share.

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    1. You're so right! At the time we were so shaken up we couldn't speak for the six hour car ride back north... but after... we've shared a lot of laughs over it... just not with other people until now- lol

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  3. What a story, Karen! My sister and I also had a few crazy experiences together. Of course, our mother, being the good detective she was, always caught us. Congratulations on your latest release. Hugs to Zoey!

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    1. Mother's are SO good that way... but they kept us safe and in line (relatively- lol) Thanks for the congrats and Zoey gives you a hug back :)

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  4. Never kept a secret that I recall.

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    1. Gloria you are so good! I do feel a little less blemished now that I got that one out of the closet, though- haha.

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  6. What a story, Karen! You absolutely have to use this in a book some day. But you're so right about those secrets and one day, if I'm as braves as you are, I'll spill mine! Looking forward to your book, which sounds like another great Heartwarming read. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks so much, Janice :) It did feel good to finally share it- and it gave me a laugh as I wrote, thinking about how young and innocent we were and what a tough guy Cathy- Sister Cathy- turned out to be- lol

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  7. Wonderful story/secret, Karen. Ah, those (scary) windshield cleaner guys...glad you got out of Brooklyn. In the time I lived in NYC I never ventured into Brooklyn--and still haven't! I once heard it said that every character has/should have a secret. Congrats on your new book.

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    1. Some part of Brooklyn back then were kind of sweet and old-school, like the polish section my sister lived in, but other places you'd never wanted to accidentally find yourself in because of all the gangs. I agree- that ever character in a book should have a secret. I never really thought of it that way and I'm glad you shared that wisdom :)

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  8. I agree with Janice that you should use this in a story. You had me completely enthralled and I couldn't read fast enough! I am happy to know that no harm came to you and your sister.

    Thanks for sharing your secret, and I promise not to tell! :)

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    1. Thanks, K! And I especially appreciate the promise since there is the real possibility you may meet Cathy some day. We're planning to go to Montreal for one of the fireworks night and to visit the Harry Potter-themed pub there... so maybe we can meet up :)

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  9. That is hilarious. Thanks for sharing your secret with us!

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    1. It sure feels good to laugh about it now! Thanks, Patricia :)

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  10. This is so funny and I'm so glad you were both safe! It reminds me of when my daughter went to Chicago with friends the week after she got her license, only I didn't know until much later that she did the driving because everyone else was scared to. I'm shuddering again just thinking about it.

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    1. Hah! The secrets daughters keep from their mothers... I'm a little glad I don't know everything my daughter does at college since it'd probably scare me as they go into Boston quite often...

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  11. Your piece brought back a memory or two! You were brave for driving in the city--my sister and I would have been at the nearest bus or train station. It's great story.

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    1. Aw! Thanks, Virginia- I think we were probably more naive than brave- but I'll take it :) I think the only thing that saved us was that my car was as big and muscle-y as any of the cars on that street so maybe, if they didn't see the hysterical teenage girls in the front seat, they hesitated long enough for us to get away!

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    2. Congratulations, Virginia! Your name was randomly selected as the winner for my giveaway. Please email me with your address at karenrock@live.com and I'll send your prize ASAP :)

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  13. Okay, let me start over. I always knew you had a dangerous streak in you! Great story.

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    1. LOL- of all people, YOU know me best...

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  14. Oh, my. I was riveted. You were funny and brave! What a great combination.

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    1. I'll take that, Pam! Though some might say dumb and dumber- lol... My sister was actually the brave one. I was just frozen- which is basically my go to reaction, I've discovered, when I get really surprised or scared.

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  15. I'm dying to know why Tara had to delete two of her comments!!! Ah to be a fly on that wall as she typed...

    Great story, Karen! Someday I'll share my cousins-in-NYC story but it got a little scarier than yours and a little druggier...

    And, hey, lady: Do you mean your dad's Karen Carpenter songs? Who is this Carol Carpenter??? (I'm a huge Karen Carpenter fan.)

    Finally, there's a rule of thumb in theatre: every character should have a secret. It may have nothing to do with the play and will therefore probably never come up, but it will create a deeper, more interesting character if, for instance, she knows she's pregnant and nobody else knows and will never find out. Duh, duh, duh.

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    1. Oops! Yes- it is Karen Carpenter... whom I think I might have actually been named for so I should have gotten her name right...lol She's a beautiful singer. And I like that rule of thumb. I never really thought about it that way before.

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  16. Karen, this made me laugh out loud. I have a couple similar sister stories. And I'll had that neither one of us were ever slated for the Sisterhood. The driving around endlessly part really had me chuckling. I often wonder how we survived without cell phones, Mapquest, and GPS?! Not to mention all the hours wasted and panic attacks. We would just get in the car and go places.... Thanks for sharing this "secret." You made my day.

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    1. I'm glad :) And you make a good point- life is easier with GPS and cell phones and mapquest- but it's less adventurous for sure without that added layer of "We could drive right into the Grand Canyon if we're not careful" element- lol

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  17. What a wonderful story! Actually, I have a similar one that also involves a side swiped car when I was 18! Your book sounds amazing and I can't wait to read it. :)

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    1. We just have to forgive our 18-year-old selves, right, LeAnne? We knew not what we did... though we sure thought so at the time ;)

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  18. lol...

    In college (around age 20), a friend was dating a guy who was from NJ, but he lived in NY. She wanted to visit him, but her parents wouldn't let her go alone. I had a car. My parents wanted to have a number where we would be. Unfortunately, my friend was the queen of subterfuge with her Sicilian immigrant parents. She gave me a NJ address and a NY number. My mom questioned it. I just said that was the info I had.

    We went. His friends didn't like us. We went into the city (as a group) drove around--saw the Twin Towers--and we finally ended up at Fulton Fish Market--we'd been there on a high school trip. And, we saw someone we knew from high school and college there. Crazy.

    Drove home. Forgot you're not allowed to pump your own gas in NJ--yelled at by the attendant. Traffic was horrible. She never even helped pay for expenses.

    denise

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    1. LOL- I felt like I was reading one of my crazy college adventures... you made me laugh :) Especially the part of about your friend being the queen of subterfuge. I had a roommate like that and she landed me in lots of trouble, and got me out of plenty, too ;)

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  19. Your story was hilarious, and way too close to the truth with my stories of my sister. She had many secrets and took them to the grave. Seriously. I'm not telling, either! But we DID do something similar in Chicago. Love the story!!!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine :) See- I knew we were kindred spirits...

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  20. Hi Karen. What a share! Hope your sister forgives you ;-) Unfortunately all my secrets are still under lock & key. But I absolutely agree, the truth will out eventually! The covers wonderful by the way, congrats :-)

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  21. Are you sure we can't tempt you to share, Amy... No? Ah well... lol. Thanks for your compliment on the cover- The Art Dept is always so amazing :-)

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  22. What a story Karen. I can relate to much of what you said because I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Aside from the occasional gunshot or robbery, we enjoyed living in some pretty nice neighborhoods though. The subways back then were atrocious.
    I have a secret. When me and my best friend were about twelve we stole our parents' cigarette butts out of ashtrays and tried to smoke them. We were entertained all of 5 minutes, got bored, and never did it again. Neither of us became smokers later in life. ( :

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    1. Ooooh- that's a good secret, Laurie! I can picture those nasty cigarette butts - no wonder you're a nonsmoker! Thanks for sharing that gem :-)

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  23. So glad that you arrived home safely. All my secrets always end up coming out, so I can't think of any to share. =)

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  24. Those secrets always do, Kimberly... they just won't stay hidden... sigh*

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  26. Congratulations, Virginia! Your name was randomly selected as the winner for my giveaway. Please email me with your address at karenrock@live.com and I'll send your prize ASAP. :)

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