Today First And Fourth Fridays is pleased to welcome the wonderful Susan B. James. Susan is a Southern California actor and writer who also publishes children’s books under the name Susan J. Berger. And now to the First And Fourth Friday Questions:
1) What was the first book that so captured your imagination that you felt a physical loss when you reached the last page?
I get the feeling you mean grownup book? But at eight years old, it was Maida’s Little Shop by Inez Haynes Irwin. It’s now available as a free download. I still have that book and much of the rest of the series.
I read my first romance in July 1962, in Port Colborne Canada. It was a Mills and Boon romance (Harlequin in the USA) No Roses in June by Essie Summers. I still have a copy. I adored that book.
2) What is the most romantic/loving thing you’ve ever done for someone else? When Susan put this question to her husband, he texted “I can think of two. Our kids.” Too cute. She then texted back “Love you.” Swoon.
3) What is the most romantic/sweet/loving thing someone has ever done for you?
We are actors, so our anniversary celebrations varied in tune with our finances.
On our 5th year anniversary, Barry was flush. He’d just done Stir Crazy. We got a babysitter. He hired a limousine and took me to the historic Chronicle Restaurant in Pasadena. He stocked the Limo with roses and champagne. After dinner, the chauffeur drove us along Mulholland Drive. We drank champagne in moonlight.
Our 6th Anniversary was at Denny’s. They were both wonderful.
4) What do you think is the most romantic song?
Too many! I love Long Before I Knew You from Bells Are Ringing. And For Good from Wicked. The first song I danced to? Chances Are by Johnny Mathis.
Susan’s debut romance is Time and Forever. Here’s the book blurb, followed by a small excerpt. 1969. Love was free, man walked on the moon, and Sherry and Lorena found the loves of their lives. Sherry shared a kiss that dreams were made of, with a stranger on the tube in London. And ran away. Lorena found the love of her life in Los Angeles and married him.
2014. Sherry’s a successful businesswoman with two grown sons. Lorena’s an actress on a popular sitcom. Sherry’s husband dumped her for a younger woman eighteen years ago. Lorena’s husband died of cancer.
Sherry wants a second chance at Love. Lorena doesn’t believe that’s possible. But when a glitch in a Virtual Reality Adventure game sends them back to the real 1969, anything can happen.
Scene from Los Angeles in 1969.
Lorena took in the giant brown cement hat fronted with a brick colored awning. “I love it.” She craned her neck to look up at the Derby shaped sign ‘Eat at The Hat’. “The sign looks like it’s sitting on a water tower. I wonder why?”
“It may have had something to do with the dome air conditioning. The Brown Derby was one of the first air conditioned buildings in Los Angeles back in the thirties.”
Lorena was intrigued. “How do you know that?”
Dave shrugged. “Read it somewhere. I like odd facts. They also used to keep live chickens on the premises. They used to have a slogan on the menu ‘Chicken whose feet never touched the ground.’”
Lorena shuddered. “That’s gross. I’m not ordering anything with chicken.” She slipped her arm through Dave’s. “Come on. I’m starved.”
The Maître d’ showed them to a circular padded leather booth and handed them menus.
“Hey, this isn’t too bad,” Dave said. “I thought it would be more expensive. Meatloaf. $3.50. I like meatloaf.”
“Look, it’s George Burns.” Lorena pointed at one of the many framed caricatures above their booth. “And there’s Bob Hope.” She scanned the other booth looking at the pictures. “I don’t recognize half these people.”
Dave grinned. “Last year Andy Warhol said everybody was going to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Maybe he ate here once and that’s where he got the idea.”
A tuxedoed waiter brought them a cloth covered breadbasket and took their drink orders.
Dave lifted the napkin covering the bread. Heat wafted up from the thin dark buttery cheese sprinkled slices. He sampled one. “This is great.” He leaned over and offered Lorena a bite.
She closed her eyes to better appreciate the flavor. “Mmmm. Heaven. I could make a meal off this. But I have to have a Cobb Salad. It was invented here.”
“I thought you weren’t going to order anything with chicken.”
“It’s leftover chicken,” she said defensively. “If I don’t eat it, they’ll throw the poor thing out. Besides,” she added, looking around the circular room full of linen draped tables and red padded chairs, “I don’t see any cages. Maybe they quit doing that.”
The waiter brought their drinks and took their food order.
Dave lit a cigarette and glanced at the lantern-shaded chandeliers. “I could get used to this.”
Lorena tried not to look like a tourist while scoping out the other diners. “Look! There’s Carol Burnett. She’s my hero.”
Dave peered in the direction Lorena was looking. A waiter was carrying a telephone to a booth.
She jabbed him. “Not like that,” she whispered “You have to look like you’re not looking.”
Dave grinned at her. “I actually understood that.” He offered the breadbasket to Lorena. “Pay attention to me. You promised you’d tell me about my writing.”
Lorena tore her attention away from their fellow diners. She took a piece of the offered bread. “Well, the first one was the Hugo.” She bit into the cheesy goodness. “This bread is amazing,” she mumbled. “I wonder if I could get the recipe.”
Dave’s eyes lit up. “I get a Hugo? What for?”
“It was for a novella. The Wayfarer. It’s about . . .”
Dave looked like he’d been hit with a brick. “I know what it’s about. I wrote The Wayfarer for my short story class my senior year. Professor Davidson said it showed promise, but the way he said it . . . I don’t know if I even kept a copy.” He reached for his pack of Winstons.
Lorena firmed her lips, but the words came out anyway. “I wish you didn’t smoke.”
He tapped out a cigarette. “Why? I like it and everyone does it.”
“Yeah, well everyone doesn’t get cancer.” She bit her lip. She hadn’t meant to say that.
He froze. Put the pack down slowly as if it were a snake poised to bite him. “Is that what happened? I died of lung cancer?
Lorena nodded. Two tears squeezed out and trailed wetly down her cheeks.
Dave brushed them away with a gentle finger. “I gather no one’s discovered a cure for cancer.’
“Some cancers are curable, some are not.” Lorena drew a ragged breath, willing the blackness away. “You hung on an extra year because of the state of the art of medicine. But there was a lot of pain for both of us.”
“That seems so . . . It’s hard to imagine your own death.” He picked up the cigarette and lit it. “I was old though. That’s a good thing.”
Lorena slapped the cigarette out of his hand. “Not. Old. Enough!” Her eyes flamed. “Listen you jerk, do you know what it is like to have to watch someone struggle for every breath? To know you can’t breathe for them? To watch your heart slip away?” Her voice broke. “You were god damned not old enough! I wanted another thirty years with you.”
The waiter brought the check. Lorena reached into her purse and counted out the money in seething silence.
Dave took a deep breath. “I don’t think humans are made to imagine our own deaths. Or even remember them. Empirically, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t believe it.”
Lorena started to protest.
Dave leaned over and hushed her with a kiss. “I don’t believe you, but I will quit. I haven’t been smoking very long. I only took it up in grad school.” He took his pack of cigarettes and placed them on the table. “Maybe the waiter will take them as part of his tip.”
Lorena looked at Dave with wonder. Joy welled up inside her.
“What are you thinking?” Dave asked.
“Did you ever have a moment so perfect you wanted to capture it in crystal?”
“Yeah.” Dave looked across at Lorena. “Did you ever have a moment when the center of your universe changed?” He reached for her hand. “Let’s change time. Stay.”
Wow, I’m sure you now want your own copy of Time and Forever and to connect with Susan. Find her here:
On Facebook at AuthorSusanJames