Thursday, December 28, 2006

ABC Meme, from Joss's blog...

A- Available or single? Yeah, sure.

B- Best Friend? Shane. Duh. Then Kelly, she's known me longer than anyone else. Kim and Charity fit right in there as well.

C- Cake or Pie? Mom's yucky old chocolate cinammon cake.

D- Drink of Choice? Cafe Momma, aka coffee fixed just for me by my daughter Jordan.

E- Essential Item? books

F- Favorite Color? red, and I've really taken a liking to PINK the past few months as well. That might have something to do with my fabulous Pink Warrior friends, Michelle and Renee though.

G- Gummi Bears or Worms? bears. it's just fun to bite off their little heads.

H- Hometown? Well, I was born in Winfield, Ks. But I grew up all over the place. I graduated in Vegas, so we'll go with that. It just sounds so much cooler than Kansas, huh?

I- Indulgence? I really don't have that many of these. I guess my lambrusco.

J- January or February? February. It's the month that reminds me most of Europe, as that's when I was in both Italy and Paris.

K- Kids and names? Gretchen, Michael, Jordan, Mathew, Maggie, Emile.

L- Life is incomplete without? My husband. No, really. I can barely make it through a whole day without him. You guys have been witness to that.

M- Marriage Date? Our legal marriage date is in December. But we celebrate our anniversary in August, the day of our first kiss and dance.

N- Number of Siblings? 1 Brother, Ron, who is younger and a big pain in the butt. He's also one of my very favorite people in the whole world.

O- Oranges or apples? Oranges, especially if they have cloves in them and are simmering in a huge pot of dark wine, about to be made into sangria.

P- Phobias/Fears? Failure. Most notably as a mommy. Also as a wife, friend, writer. You name it, I'm afraid I'll screw it up.

Q- Favorite Quote? Duh. Just take a look at my "favorite sayings" over there on the right

R- Reason to Smile? see "K"

S- Season? Any of the ones that aren't winter.

T- Tag three people! Tag? Oh, I suck at that game. I can't run fast enough to catch the big kids, and I feel too bad to catch the little kids, so I'm usually "it" for at least three rounds!

U- Unknown Fact About Me? I ran away from home when I was 18. I just hopped on a bus from Vegas and headed off to California. I had $39 in my wallet and $5 in my pocket. Every last penny was stolen from my wallet, so I showed up in San Diego with enough for bus fare to the beach. I took that bus, met a really cool couple, slept on their floor for a few days, headed north to LA, found a job, stayed in a shelter-type place for a fw months, then went out to Texas to see my grandparents before going into the Navy. I'd already joined before heading off to California. The bus trip and 4 following months was just me seeing if I could make it without anyone else. I did, of course. I think I've never been more scared, or more proud, of anything in my life. And if my daughter (any of them) ever tries anything like that, I'll probably kill her.

V- Vegetable you hate? I can say in all honesty that the only veggie that earns HATE from me is PEAS. Can't stand 'em. Won't fix 'em. Gag if I even smell 'em. Spinach? Bring it on. Brussels sprouts? Love the things. But peas? Oh Gawd, I hate those!

W- Worst habit? Not finishing what I start.

X- X-Rays you've had? head. wrist. knees. ankles. stomach. chest. geez, sounds like i've been messed up a lot. But really, except for a broken wrist during my first marriage, i've never had a broken bone.

Y- Your favorite food? i LOVE Mexican food.

Z- Zodiac? crab. well, Moon child sounds so much better, doesn't it? still though - i'm a crab!

Just wanted to share...

This is the view from my office window.
Words don't even begin to describe it, so I thought a picture might work.
Thanks to all of you that reminded me that I do, in fact, have a voice.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Joy!!

Spreading it is more fun than I remembered...

I am overwhelmed this Christmas morning. I don't know how else to explain it. First, there was THIS beautiful gift, from two of my favorite authors (Jenny and Bob, her and him, The Cherry and The GAM). Then, there was the rest...

Last night, the fam went to church for the Christmas Eve candle lit service. It was beyond beautiful. The sanctuary was decorated in candles and colors, smiles were everywhere, and music filled the air. All of our church families had the opportunity to showcase their own special talents. Some people read passages, some performed on the guitar or piano, some sang. We also had a special time of the Lord's Table (Communion, to some of you). During this time, the floor was open for anyone that felt compelled to give testimonies. I don't know how it is in other churches, but I always love it when we get to give testimonies. This year, for me, the highlight centered around a young woman named Tia. Tia is new to our church. She's a teenager that attends the local high school. She was brought to our church by her best friend, Amanda, and Amanda helped lead her to the Lord. Tia's family has been out of church for over a decade, but her newfound passion for Christ brought them to our church last night. When Tia gave her testimony, thanking our church for wlecoming her with open arms, thanking her friend for bringing her, and thanking the Lord for her Salvation, there was not a dry eye in the house. That included her mom and her dad. Tia's mom also gave a testimony, thanking everyone for being there for her daughter, and promising to start attending with her. Truly, this was the best Christmas gift I could ask for. Our family has been praying for Tia and her folks, and seeing the three of them there, sitting together and worshipping God on that Holy night, well, it was an answer to prayer. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful way you answer our prayers!

This morning started around 5am. When you have little ones, you get an early start. Ok, that's not entirely true. When you have a mom that has been up half the night, waiting to see smiles on little faces, and the clock finally hits 5:30, and she sneaks into the room where the 3 youngest girls are sleeping and starts singing Christmas carols in their ears, that's when you really get an early start.

Stockings first, of course. No, we don't do Santa, but they still expect stockings. Then, it was trying to get the teenager to wake up. She was being stubborn. Finally, we were all assembled around the tree, after moving the couch from the tv room so mom and dad had a place to sit. Then the fun began.

Golf clubs(Jo), Bionicles(Mathew), Tinkerbell blankets(Gret), Cherry wallets(Mags), wallets filled with GameStop gift cards(Michael), handheld Princess games(Ems), socks(Shane), and BOOKS!(me, of course), were just a few of our Christmas treats. I will say that I got BOTH Dear John in hardback AND Between, Georgia in audio format, along with a new bag for the Mac I am getting soon, a thumb drive to move all my wip's around (when I get my Mac), a new very soft robe, lots of fuzzy socks, pens, silverware, a new addition to my Christmas village, a Bible engraved with my name, and many other wonderfully perfect gifts. Yeah, I am LOVED, what can I say?

The kids are totally ga-ga over their Wii, of course (thanks a ton, you know who you are!). Shane likes most everything he got, including his Fighting Irish tie and new clothes. The only oops was when he opened his new Zen-M. Instead of the 60gb, I got him the 30gb. He says it's ok, but still, it's not exactly what he wanted, so I have gift remorse. You know how that goes, right?

So what does all this mean? Well, here's the deal. You all really blew me away with your love and support when I mentioned how difficult this season is for me. Penny and Sheryl sent e-mails. McB sent an e-card, as did Robin. Other people sent e-mails or left comments. And Charity, oh dear sweet Charity, made sure that I got not only one, but TWO, calendars. I felt so loved, so very blessed this year. I kept telling Shane how wonderful my friends are, but I don't know that he really understood just how much you all mean to me. You're so much more than I ever dreamed!

Last night, watching Tia sit there next to her parents, tears streaming down her face because they were actually with her, was like a revelation. No, I didn't have my mom next to me. And that hurt, I won't even try to pretend it didn't. But she was there, in spirit, in my heart, in the smile of my shildren and the warm and reassuring pressure of my husband's grasp. She was there. And like Shane said, if she could, she'd probably kick my butt for being such a Grinch. And this morning, watching the joy on the faces of my babies, I know what she must have felt for so many years.

See, it's not just about the gifts. It's not just about the traditions that you share, new or old. It's not about who gets what for whom, or how much you spend. It's in those smiles you see on the faces of the people you love. It's in the strength of the arm that goes around your shoulders when you're feeling pain. It's in the support and friendship that shows up in your mailbox, electronic or the one by the road, when you're least expecting it. Christmas is about love.

God loves us enough to have sent his only Son to this earth, to be born and to grow and to travel and to teach, then to die for our sins on a tree. There is no greater love than that. Through His love, we were given the best Christmas gift imaginable, better than an audiobook or a Wii. And through His love, it's possible to see how many other gifts we are given every single day.

Every. Single. Day.

I miss you, Mom.

I found my Christmas Joy.

Thank you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas which I *heart* the Grinch...

In which I *am* the Grinch!

Ahh, the holidays. That wonderful time of year where families gather together in the spirit of love and joy, to give gifts and sing songs and eat food and share happiness. Right? RIGHT?!? Yeah, right. And if you're thinking this blog will be all happy at the end, stop reading now.

I gotta admit this to you guys, and you can ho and hum and call me Scrooge all you want, but here it is... I freakin hate Christmas! There. I said it. Go ahead, tell me I'm a Grinch. Tell me that my heart is ten sizes too small and my face is green and I talk funny. Tell me that I'll be visited by 3 ghosts and all little Timmy needs is medical attention but won't get it because I'm a hateful tightwad miser. I don't care. I really, really don't. Not even one little bit.

When I was a wee lass, Christmas was a magical time of year for me. Well, frankly, if there was a day that Hallmark made a card for, it was pretty special. Did any of you ever get a gift on Groundhogs Day, Flag Day, Labor Day? I rest my case. My mom had this way of finding something for every single holiday that you could possibly imagine. She loved giving gifts. She loved shopping. She had this incredible talent of finding the exact right present for the exact right person, every single time. I never got a single thing that I had to pretend to adore. She was just THAT good at the gift thing. Even with my kids, she was amazing. It was joy and light, just watching people open packages that she had lovingly wrapped. I even liked watching my brother open his gifts, because I knew he would have the perfect thing too. And did I mention that she did it all the time, even if we didn't quite have the money for it? We might be eating good ol' mac-n-cheese until April, but by God, we were getting the perfect gifts at Christmas!

Growing up like that, I was always in the Christmas spirit. I never had to fake it. I loved seeing all the snowflakes and trees go up, no matter how early. Christmas music? Couldn't get enough of it. And yes, I inherited my mother's talent for finding the perfect gift. I nurtured that talent so well, and for so long, that it became almost a magical thing. I was a shopper and a hoarder and one of those people that was totally done buying every single gift by the time October 1st rolled around. Really. I'm so not kidding. October 1st. One year, I was done by my birthday. That's in July, in case you forgot.

And the gifts? I bought them for virtually everyone I knew. Kids teachers, bus drivers, mail delivery people, favorite checker at the Food Lion, Preacher, friends, family, and of course about 4 different Angel Tree kids. I just loved finding and buying, and giving, and watching those faces light up on Christmas morn.

Four years ago, that all changed for me. Why? Well, five years ago, my mom died. Three days after spending her last Christmas with us. She was on her way home and she just...died. We buried her in January and that was the start of my Grinch-ness. That year, 2002, the Christmas joy also just...died. I think part of it was knowing that when I opened my gifts, I wouldn't find that perfect one from my mom. I dreaded Christmas morning for months, knowing that that one special gift would be missing from under my tree. Well, that one special gift and a calendar. Every year, she got me a calendar. Every year, it was different. Every year, it was just right. One year, it was Angels (my nickname). One year, it was seascapes (I luvvver the ocean). One year, it was babies (I like those too :) ). I knew that even though I'd hinted to my various friends and family that I'd really miss that calendar, it still wouldn't be there. And it wasn't. And even though I got some really great gifts that year, none of them were "perfect".

The years have slowly slunk by, and every time it hits October, I start getting this roiling in the pit of my stomach. As soon as I see that first green tree, or hear that first carol, I get a pounding behind my left eye and a tic at my jaw, and I just want to run and hide until January. I can't stand to shop anymore. I don't buy gifts for anyone unless I have to. And lately, I don't even like buying gifts for people that really deserve them. It makes me sad and mad and sick, but it's true. I have lost my Christmas joy.

I will buy for my children. I will buy for my husband. Anyone that does not live in my house is pretty lucky to even get a phone call from me at this time of year. I feel bad about it, but not bad enough to make myself pretend to like this season and go out and try to find gifts for other people. I've resorted to gift cards for Shane's family, because I can get those at the WaWa and I don't have to actually go into a store. They're the only people on this planet besides the ones living under my roof that I'm getting anything at all for, so I guess that's a bonus, right?

Much of it is because my mom is gone. I know this. I know she's gone. I know she isn't coming back. I know that I didn't do anything to make her leave, and that she knew I loved her when she left, and I even know she loved me. But she was my Christmas joy and inspiration for 29 years. Now that she's gone, I just don't have that anymore. Still though, that's not all.

I hate the whole "I want this, so this is what you must buy me" mentality that prevails during this whole damn season. What? My kids don't have enough crap already? We need a special day just to spend a metric butt-ton of money on stuff that will be broken or forgotten by the first of the year? Yeah, right. And grown-ups? Gimme a break. You have a job. You make your own damn money. Buy yourself whatever the heck you want and save me the hassle. WHY should I buy something for you? WHY should I feel guilty knowing that you're going to go out and spend $15 on a generic basket of bath stuff for me that I probably won't even use (unless, of course, you actually go to Bath & Body Works. They have really nice baskets full of stuff)?

I like giving stuff the whole year long, but I hate doing it at Christmas. It's just so forced. It's so calculated. It's so damn fake. Christmas is not about how many new toys or things you get. It's about the celebration of the birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yeah, I know he wasn't really born on December 25th. I know it was actually a pagan holiday. But is it called "Paganmas"? No. It is NOT. It is called CHRISTmas. It's supposed to be about Christ.

So to everyone out there that is secretly thinking that you're going to get a card or gift from me, because you know deep in your heart of hearts that I love you and that you are special to me and that you are my ray of sunshine and I will surely want to express all of that this month... EXHALE. It's not going to happen. Yes, I do love you. Yes, you are special. Yes, you are the ray of sunlight that brightens my every waking moment, and I want to shout it from the rafters for all of the world to hear. But...get with me on this one, ok?

I hate Christmas.

I'll be sending you a gift for Groundhog's Day.

Thank me later.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Do I have an accent?

Finding my own voice

I was talking to my oldest child the other day about my writing. In tyring to explain about why it is a bit frightening to me to finish my story, I started talking to her about why it was that I write in the first place. I mentioned to her that I was on my yearbook staff in high school. I was also on the school newspaper staff. At each of my duty stations while in the Navy I wrote stories or articles for my command newsletter. Growing up, I wanted to be a war journalist. Yes, I'm serious. I wanted to have an old camera, in a battered bag, and travel to hell's armpit and take pictures and write stories that made people think and feel and cry. That was my dream. I could see it in my head.

I have no idea why I wanted to be a war journalist, except maybe because I love photography and I love writing. Seriously, I don't love war. I think war is crazy scary, and I'm not all that hot on jungles or guerillas, or gorillas either, or Kalashnikovs, or seeing death up close and personal. I watched a butterfly die one day and cried for weeks, so I'm really not sure what made me think I'd be able to watch real people die without having to spend the rest of my days in one of those beautiful wrap-around white coats. Silly, really, thinking I'd be able to do that.

But in talking to Gret, I remembered something else. See, I've always been a writer. I think I may have mentioned before how I've always liked to write, but I think I wasn't really ready to admit how much a part of me that writing is. I can remember attempting my first novel. I was in 8th grade. I wrote about 100 pages of it. I let a few friends read it, and one of their moms read it also. She actually cried. She told me that when I got my first book published, she was going to buy 50 copies of it and pass them out at Christmas and tell everyone that she read my first book. Man, I wish I could remember her name! Of course, we moved so much that I barely recall the names of any of my friends, much less their moms. Well, except Jennipher Anderson. I remember her mom's name was Pam, and she had a sister named Julie. She was my friend in 4th grade, when I lived in California.

Anyhow, I've always loved to write. I've started a lot of books, but haven't finished most of them. Usually, something happens in my life that takes me away from the story. Normal things that have stopped me from finishing have been things like moving, giving birth, getting deployed, losing my mother. You know, some real life changing things have happened. As such, it has been a bit hard for me to find my "voice" as a writer.

I think that a writer's voice is what distinguishes each and every book. Some writers are so unique that you can almost recognize their writing without looking at the name on the cover. Most of you have favorites, and it's because that person has a way of weaving together words that creates a magical place for you, a place that you never want to leave. I sing the praises of my favorite voices all the time. I can actually hear the author's voice as I read their books, and it is like listening to music for me. That's why I think it's been so hard for me. See, I don't have an accent.

I grew up all over the place. I was born in Kansas, but never lived there. I lived in Oklahoma and Texas as a baby. Then we moved to Panama, as in Central America. Then to Vegas. Dallas. California, Arizona, back to Vegas, south Texas, Georgia, back to Vegas, California again, back to Vegas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Maryland, and three different places in Virginia. I am married to a man from Ohio. He sounds Canadian. My children sound like perfect little mixes of Southern twang, Texas drawl, and California surf. But me? Yeah, no accent. None. I sound a bit like a radio broadcaster, I guess. Those of you that know me may not realize that though. I'm more of a chameleon with my voice. I can do accents, but I don't really have one. So when I'm writing, I don't hear the lyrical notes of the South, or the brassiness of the South Bronx, or the dropped "r's" of the Northeast, or the long "o's" of the North. I feel like it shows in my writing. And I don't know how I can make the words more me.

I'd like to sound like a cross between Annie Savoy and Delta Burke, with a little Kathleen Turner thrown in for good measure. When I think about it, I want people to read my words and hear huskiness and sultriness and breathlessness. At heart, I think I'm really from South Carolina, or maybe Memphis. If I could pick, I know I'd be Southern. My mom was Southern. My Grams still is. My kids sound like it. My husband is convinced that in a few years he will be (he's got it in his head that when he turns 37, he'll have officially spent more time in Virginia than Ohio, so then he will be SOUTHERN. He refuses to believe me when I tell him it doesn't work like that!). I watched Bull Durham enough to memorize every inflection in Annie's repertoire. I can do the whole "despite my rejection... I am...monogamous" thing and be spot-on, really!

I'm just not sure that wanting to be Southern, wanting to sound Southern, being raised by a Southern momma with Southern rules, eating Southern food, having all of my good memories - every single one of those happy-firefly-warm-breeze-through-the-pecan-tree-at-twilight memories- take place in a Southern place... well, I just don't think that makes me Southern. And dernitalltoheck, I wanna be Southern! I wanna sound like Scarlett when she's standing out on the side of that hill, turnip in hand, making declarations to the air. I want to sound like my friend Kim, who can make even a curse sound like poetry rolling off her Tennessee lips.

But really, I just want to be able to describe things, like the sun, as it's waving a silent goodbye to me, sinking slowly into the horizon, leaving behind a trail of lava and fire and roses across the sky, bathing the meadow outside my window in beauty. I see this sight every day. I make sure that I'm sitting here in my chair at sunset every evening, just so I can see that daily last hurrah of the sun. I arranged my desk next to a window, just for this daily reminder of beauty, to be able to witness this amazing ritual, this breathtaking miracle. It stops my heart every single time. It brings tears to my eyes. I can hear the angels singing in my ear, telling of the promise of another spectacular display, same time tomorrow.

If I could find a way to describe this in a way that other people would also be able to envision this sight, then I know I would have found my very own voice. But until then, I guess all I have to say is...

"Hey, look... the sunset. Ain't it purdy?"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Go!! Write!! WIN!!

I'm channeling my inner cheerleader in an attempt to get you over to the Book Review Blog today.

We have unveiled our December contest, and it is Spectacular!!

Click here to check out the "old" book review site
Click here to check out the "new" book review site.

Both sites currently have all of the same reviews on them. However, after 1 January 2007, we will no longer be double posting. Only the "new" site will have NEW reviews. We will leave up the old site with a "Redirect" post, but no new reviews will be posted there.

Anyhow, you can comment on EITHER site, or send us an e-mail at to enter the contest. The prize, of course, is some amazingly fabulous books. I won't give you any more details. You're just going to have to head over there to find out all of the details.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get on over there now!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So, you all want to know what I've been doing, huh?

Yeah, I get that from your e-mails. No, I haven't fallen into a NaNo induced coma. No, I didn't follow my phone doen the toilet into the septic tank. And No, I really didn't break all ten of my digits skydiving off my back deck. I've just been...busy. Ok, not really, but that's my story, and I'm... yeah, that's lame, isn't it?

Truth be told, I've had my head buried in one book after another since November 30th. I have not even picked up my laptop to see if those people I walked away from are still standing on the beach waiting for me to come back and fill in the ending. I don't know what to do with them. Geez, that's not true either. I know exactly what to do with them, I just haven't had the energy to do it. Well, maybe I've had the energy, just not the motivation. Ok, ok, I've just been nervous.

There. I said it. Are you happy now? I'm scared witless to finish my story. I know what's going to happen, and I think it's the exact right thing. But here's the deal... when it's done, it's done, you know? I mean, yeah, I'll have to go back and do some editing (ok, a LOT of editing). And if I actually manage to pitch it and there is some interest, I'll probably have a ton of rewrites to do. But still, basically, once I head back up there and finish it, then it's finished. And I just don't know if I'm ready for it to be over just yet.

As much as I struggled during November, as much as I stressed overmaking my word count, and worried over those unexpected turns it was taking, I just really like this story. No, scratch that. I'm being honest here. I totally love this story. I mean, I really, really got into this story, these people are so real to me, I am so intimate with their lives, their motivations, their hearts, that I'm afraid to end it. Sounds dumb, doesn't it?

I told Robin and McB all about it at lunch. Well, I didn't tell them about not wanting to finish the story. I hadn't even admitted that to myself yet. But I did tell them about the story. I told them the basic outline, and even some of the twisty-turns that it had taken. I dropped a few small bombs, and then the big one. I even told them how it would end. They seemed to like the idea. Mind you, they haven't read it, and I have no idea if my writing can actually keep up with the plot, but still, just knowing that they liked the idea of it was enough to make me feel good, really really good.

Yeah, I'll finish it. I'm giving myself until the end of this month. Then I'm shelving it until I finish the Beach Story. Then I'll go back and do some edits. There are a couple of plot points that I need to strengthen, and one major thing that I want to change. I know what that is, but I'm not sure how to change it yet. It will work itself out in my head by February, I'm pretty sure.

For Life Updates, here you go: Kids are growing like weeds in June. Shane took me out for our Anniversary on Thursday night. He bought me a new coat (it is B e a utiful!). We went out to HappyEndings and he had to drink car bombs because the Browns were getting their butts kicked and the owner of the club was a Steelers fan. Charity called me and I actually got to talk to her instead of just e-mail her. It was the perfect night.

More later. The kids are, at this exact moment, yelling at me to get off the computer so we can go get a Christmas tree.

I LOVE my life.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"It's over!" she sang joyously!!

will blog next week and tell you all about it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I have been such a blogging slacker this month. Thank you all for being patient with me while I toil through NaNo. Unlike some people (like ScopeDope), I am NOT done with my story yet. Here's what happened:

Shane went out of town to El Paso on business.

That's it. Nothing more. He went out of town. he was gone for a week. A whole darn week. And I just lost it, as usual.

Oh, I wrote while he was gone. Like the good little writer intent on finishing NaNo that I am, I managed to do my daily word count the whole time he was gone. For the most part. Of course, when I recently read what I'd written, it was one of those huge "WTF???" moments that I sometimes have.

It was bad. No, it was beyond bad. It was utter and total crap. How do I know this? Well, there were people in my story that had no business being there. I have no idea where they came from. I don't know who they are, or how they made their way into my story. It makes no sense. Plus, these people had totally hijacked my plot. I mean, they literally took it away from the location. They were almost in another freakin state! Seriously, they left the cozy little town that I had envisioned and traipsed down the highway to the beach, and stood there on the sand telling me this was where they wanted to be. HAH!

So now I'm stuck with over 20,000 words that I don't even remember writing, a plot that in no way resembles what I originally envisioned, and characters that I don't really know. I have no idea whether I should hit the delete button a few thousand times or keep writing. I'm wondering if I should just finish it up the way it is and do some major editing in December. See, I'm not sure if I have time to do a total re-write. And I'm thinking that kinda goes against the whole point of NaNo. So I'm heavily leaning towards getting my butt back upstairs in front of my laptop and just burying my head until I reach at least 50,000. It's not really that far off, but I'm just not sure where to go with this story.

One thing is for certain... if Penny expects me to pitch this crap in Jersey, she's lost her mind. I can't wait til December is over and I get back to my other story. At least those women don't fight me and take off for the beach when I least expect it. Well, now that's wrong, I guess. Because if I remember correctly, that's exactly what they were doing when I put them to bed on October 31st. Hmmm, maybe my stories are bleeding together. Or maybe the beach will be for me what Chicago was for SEP.

And did I mention that I read some fabulous books this week, in between trying to figure out where my NaNo story was heading? Well, I did. And I reviewed a few of them over on the book blog. And I've got even more to review next week, after NaNo is officially over.

Wish me luck, I'm headed back upstairs now.

And no, Sheryl, the book isn't done.


Friday, November 17, 2006

My blogroll is Snark-less

Short post.

Straight to the point.

I love Anne Stuart.

I want friends like Jenny Crusie.

That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Awww, just kidding. I'm still going. Just like that silly little pink bunny. Still going. And going. And going.

NaNo is going surprisingly well. Which is good, because everything else is not going as well. Of course, that's to be expected. Why? Well, take a guess. Did you guess that Shane is out of town again? Yeah, you get the gold star.

My darling husband left on Sunday for a week in El Paso, Texas. He's out there on business. And he might try to take a large flashlight out to that river near there and see if he can catch anyone trying to swim across. He actually told me on the phone today that he wanted to head into Mexico to get some souvenirs for the kids. I practically screamed (ok, I DID scream) in his ear that he was NOT TO GO ANYWHERE NEAR THE BORDER. If you are familiar with what happens when my husband goes out of town on his own, then you know why. If you're not, then I will say only that his first business trip, to Las Vegas, ended in a car crash on a deserted road near the Grand Canyon, a broken axel on a rented SUV, a hospital quarantine, and a spinal tap. Then there was last year's hunting trip, where he almost fell off the side of a mountain pretending to be Spider-Man, and almost got eaten by a bear. This year's hunting trip left him with near pneumonia after riding down the Rockies on an ATV in a blizzard. Needless to say, the thought of him going into a foreign country without his birth certificate or a passport filled me with anxiety. Add that to the fact that my man has very little knowledge of the language (brilliant, yes, but honestly, the man spent TWO years in Spanish 1, ok?), and I was terrified that they might not let him come back. Thankfully, he agreed not to head south of the border, so we'll all get our made-in-Mexico trinkets at bought-in-America prices.

Also, I'm back at work. Yeah, I know, I said I wouldn't do it. But then again, you all know what a sucker I am. I couldn't help it. I did put my foot down and tell them that I can't close anymore, so I'll be home by 9ish from now on. AND I'm only going to work 3 days a week, instead of the 5 that I'd been working. I have to tell you, it was HARD to go back in there and do that all again. My feet ached, my legs hurt, and my wrists are still cracking from carrying those trays. However, I continue to meet very nice guests, and often I get to talk about books, or my writing. Plus, honestly, the jewels of conversation that I overhear are just wonderful. I have a huge file of "Things I heard at the restaurant", and some of them have already found their way into my NaNo story.

I missed the VRW meeting on Saturday, and I didn't make it down to Chesapeake to see Jenny and Bob for their conference. Both of those things really bummed me. On the bright side, taking time off from writing today has helped me catch up over on the book blog a bit. Big hugs to Charity for keeping that thing afloat. Please head over there and enter our Veterans and Rookies contest. Since this isn't the book blog, I'll tell you that one of the books that has recently been reviewed will be in the prize pack. And we're having a real live author judge the contest. And I'm adding at least 3 other books to the pack, inlcuding another recent review, and gods in Alabama. Joshilyn Jackson is doing a booksigning next week, and I'll have a winner by then, so I'm going to get her autograph in gIA and have it sent right to the winner.

Anyhow, it's sorta late, and I have a date with a book upstairs... in bed. Yeah, still chucklin' over that fortune cookie thing. It's funnyhow you get those warm fuzzy memories out of nowhere. I was out with the Youth Group last week, having dinner after a Baptist Youth Fellowship meeting. We were at a Chinese buffet. When the bill came with that plate of cookies (no, not those kind of cookies, geez people I was out with kids!) my sweet-as-pie Gret grabbed for them, ripped one open, read it lightning fast, then started laughing. She passed it to her friends and they all giggled. It took me about 10 seconds to remember that I'd taught her the little trick, so I hustled off to her end of the table to read... "Your life holds many fun adventures" and I just groaned. I didn't even need to ask why she laughed.

Here's to you, New Jersey friends... bed!

Friday, November 03, 2006

NaNo again

Thanks for your comments, your e-mails, and yes, even your e-cards. Your support has been a blessing.

Gret moved the coffee pot upstairs to my room on Wednesday, so i didn't have to come downstairs for refills. Then she kept the kids quiet for a while, so I could write in blessed peace. Amazingly enough, I wrote an entire scene in less than two hours. When I reached the end of the scene, I had 1779 words. That was just amazing to me!

Yesterday, I read instead of writing. I don't know what exactly was wrong with me, but I couldn't write. Actually, it was because the story was going through some major stuff in my head, and I just needed to chill while it clicked.

See, I had this awesome idea, and a basic outline, last month. Then, Tuesday night, I couldn't sleep. I knew NaNo was starting, and I was excited and nervous for it, but something was really bothering me. I had a new person in my head, and she was really insisting that her story be told. I struggled with it most of the night. I mean, I already had a really good idea, and I'd actually done an outline. I couldn't just change all of that a few hours before the start, could I?

If you're a writer, you know what I mean. Sometimes you struggle to come up with the words and ideas, and sometimes they fight to be loosed from your head. Well, taking a huge leap, I decided to go with my new idea. All of that work, research and planning would keep. The other was a really good idea, and I knew I'd use it, but right now, I need to go with this one.

Thank the Lord I followed my instincts!

I wrote most of the morning. Now, at Day 3, I'm further along than I thought I'd be, and it feels pretty good, especially considering I didn't put down a single word yesterday.

I know how Penny feels, and it's both exhilerating and exhausting. Now I'm heading out with the kids, and I'll be out most of the day. When I get back tonight, I'm going to help Cherry Red with e-bay stuff for the next MicheleFund auction. Then I'll sleep.

Honestly though, I can't wait until tomorrow, when I have more time to work on my story!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


at least until November is over!

November is finally here, and with it comes NaNoWriMo. This is my first ever NaNo challenge, and I want to make it to the end! With your support, encouragement, and understanding, I'm sure that will happen.

Basically, NaNo is the National Novel Writers Month challenge. The idea is to write a novel in a month. In order to "win", you must write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. You can't work on something that you're already doing, you have to start a whole new story.

Sound easy? Sound impossible? Well, I happen to know that it's neither. But it WILL give me a reason, a motivation, to just write. I know of a few people that have actually sold their NaNo challenges as novels. Lani Diane Rich has sold two of hers. While Lani is obviously FABULOUS, and I luvluvluv her writing, I've met her. She's a real person. She doesn't have a halo or wings, and, other than her incredible hugs, she's a pretty regular SuperStar person. I say SuperStar because that's what 'real writers' are to me. "Real" meaning, in this case, someone who actually gets their stories finished, unlike, oh, say, ME. So my thought is that if a person that I've met (although she IS a SuperStar) can do this NaNo thing, then I have a shot at it too. Sounds reasonable, right?

The goal is 50,000 words in a month, which breaks down to almost 1700 words a day. 1700 words towards my story. Are you getting where I'm going with this? Yeah, if you're thinking "1700 words for the story means not that many words for the blog," then you're right where I am. I won't be blogging very much, if at all. I will try to post a weekly word count, but other than that, I doubt I'll be on here much through the month. See, I really really want to "win" NaNo.

What can you do to help? Well, you can post comments like the typical "Book Done Yet?" You can send me e-mails with smiley faces. You can send me your love! Please, don't send me links to great books that you're reading, that will only cause jealousy. Don't tell me what a fabulous time you had with your kids, I won't be spending as much time with mine. And don't talk to me about how much sleep you got last night, because I couldn't sleep a wink. I was much to anxious/nervous/excited about NaNo.

Know that I'll be thinking about all of you, and wishing you luck if you're doing NaNo as well. I know Penny is doing it, as is Kim. I can't remember who else is, but please leave a comment if you are. I'd love to be able to cheer you on!

So, without further ado...

It's NaNo time!

1Nov06 10:28am - Holy cow. Just ran word count and I'm at 1779 words right now. I can't even believe it. Of course, I'm going to keep going. Just had to take a bathroom break, get more coffee, put some food down my throat, check e-mail, and let you guys know that I actually already reached my goal today. Hooray me!!

Current NaNo count:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,779 / 50,000

Saturday, October 21, 2006

While the cat's away,

the mouse loses her mind.

At least, that's how I felt since last Wednesday. You see, my darling husband went to Colorado to hunt elk, and I stayed home with the wee ones. If you want to hear the rest of the story, grab a cuppa and settle in, because it's a doozie!

I got home from New Jersey on Sunday night. I was bubbling over with all that I'd learned, and excited from meeting so many wonderful people. I had it in my head that I would spend at least a week or so getting organized, writing all sorts of great stuff, cleaning the house. Oh, did I have plans. Well, guess what happened.

Monday, he stayed home from work because it was a holiday. He had lots of homework to do before his trip, so I went out on our normal Monday date to the Colonial Tavern by myself. I got home late, but he was still up. I was tired and went to bed, he stayed up and finished his homework.
Tuesday, he came home early, met me and the kids in town, and we had dinner. Then we went home and he tried to get last minute work stuff done. Finally, around 1am, he decided to start packing. Then he made a trip to Wal-Mart, came home and packed the rest of his stuff.
Wednesday, 330am, we left for the airport. We got up there around 5am-ish. I dropped him off and headed home. I crawled back into bed and stayed there for most of the day. I did make it out of bed long enough to take Gret to church, but that's about it.
Thursday, my friend Hannah insisted that I come to lunch with her. We went to a hookah bar. That was a first, but it was fun. Again, I went home and stayed in bed for most of the day.
Friday, I took my friend Kim to get a massage. This was a birthday present, but also because her husband was out on the mountain with my husband, and she literally hadn't left her house since the guys left on Wednesday. She takes it pretty hard when her man is gone, so the massage was really therapeutic.
Saturday, I went to work. I figured if I stayed home and in bed another day, Gret would get really worried.
Sunday, I made it all the way to church with the kids. We ate breakfast, then they went to Sunday school, then we left. I just couldn't be there any longer. I broke down and started crying, and so I just herded them up and left. Then I went to work again, and worked until close. That helped, as it kept my mind off the fact that I was going home to an empty bed.
Monday, I stayed in bed all day. I did, however, manage to still make it to the Tavern at night, so my friends didn't worry that I'd gone round the bend.
Tuesday, I stayed in bed all day, until the evening. Then Kim called. Her grandmother was dying, and her dad was in surgery. I went over and spent the night at her house, in order to leave for the airport at 3am.
Wednesday, I took Kim to the airport, then went home and cried, and stayed in bed most of the day.
Thursday, I had lunch with RENEE, then went to DC to get Shane.
So all those plans I had? yeah, well let's just say that my basement is not cleaned out, my desk is still piled high with papers, and my garage is still a mess. I got nothing done, unless you count reading about 10 books. I didn't even write, since I somehow managed to pull one of my cables from the back of my computer and couldn't get online for almost a week. Pathetic, isn't it?
And if that wasn't enough, after feeling like I got nothing done the entire time Shane was gone, in spite of having PLANS to get LOTS of stuff done, today I did the biggie -
I dropped my cell phone down the toilet, right as I started flushing it. My phone was in my pocket, and it slipped right out into the bowl. So I watched it flush, because my mind could just not grasp the fact that it plopped in there. I literally watched it get washed away. Well, almost washed away. Shane tells me that the toilet is now clogged. He got a new phone out of the deal, and I'm waiting for Kel to send me her old one.

So I couldn't call my friend Robin to tell her that I would LOVE to go with her to the VRW meeting, because her number is in my phone. And I couldn't call Kim to let her daughter talk to her, because my phone is in the septic tank. And I couldn't call Kelly to find out how her week went, because her number is on my phone, which is in the septic tank. Are you getting the picture? Good, because I'm not, because my camera is on my phone, which is in the septic tank.

So if you know me, then send me an e-mail with your phone number, because I don't have it anymore. Because it's on my phone. Which is in the septic tank.

On the bright side, Gret assures me that this is just the sort of funny thing that can happen to one of my characters in my next book. Is that supposed to make me feel better? Well, I guess it could be worse. It could be me in the septic tank.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

... in bed!

Silly sayings and funny anecdotes from the NJRW "Put your heart in a book" Conference

You've probably already read my 'professional' account of the NJ Conference. If not, you can either scroll down, or click here. Both will get you to the very same place. That post talks all about the some of the writers that I met, some of the workshops I attended, and some of the things that I learned. What it doesn't talk about, in any great depth, is my friends.

I am very lucky to have found an amazing group of friends over at the He Wrote/She Wrote blog. If you're familiar with me, then you know about the blog already. If not, I highly encourage you to go check it out. The people there will pull you right into the heart of an amazing family, even if you just drop in to say "hi, I read the book". Some of those people were heading to New Jersey for a Romance Writer's conference. I decided to join them, since I'm a romance writer.

If you've ever agreed to meet people from the internet, you may know how I was feeling. I've never met most of these people in real life, but they frequent my blog, and have been known to send e-mails and e-cards just when I need them most. They are cyber-friends. However, it was still a little nerve-racking to think of meeting them vis-a-vis. I mean, what if there was no chemistry when we were in the same room? What if they were strange? What if they thought *I* was strange? Can I just tell you how silly I was to worry?

I rode up to New Jersey with my friend Kim. She used to be my neighbor, but we moved. Now, we like to trade books, share jokes, go on trips, drink coffee, play Skip-bo, and generally have a good time together. She agreed to join me because I had no desire to head to NJ on my own. She drove us up to DC, where we picked up a CherryBomb by the name of Margarita (hereafter known as McB). Getting around DC took as long as the rest of the trip to NJ, but it was time well spent. We laughed, joked, talked books, and drank Starbucks. Really, what more could a girl want? On the way up, I told them this little story...
Thursday morning, on the way to the train station to drop of my Best Beloved (aka, husband, Shane), our 6yo daughter, Maggie told me: "Hey Mom, I forgot to tell you that you got a phone call yesterday. It was from those people at the place you're going. They said they had to cancel it, because there's something wrong with New Jersey." I tried to hide my giggle with a cough while her sister, 5yo Emile, asks "Really, Mags? What's wrong with it? Is it broken?"
It cracked us up for days, and I had so much fun re-telling that story. Thanks for the start of a great weekend, Maggie!

We followed the directions and made it all the way to the road where the hotel was. Unfortunately, Kim had a little problem trying to get into the hotel parking lot. See, nobody mentioned the fact that you have to turn right to make a left. So we learned, early on, that there is, in fact, something wrong with New Jersey. The roads are very bizarre.

We checked in to the hotel and went down to meet our fellow CBs. After knocking on their door, it was opened by none other than Cherry Magic Sheryl (CMS). Well, she just pulled me into this great big Canadian style hug, and I knew right then that everything was going to be just fine. We walked in and met Scope Dope Cherry Bomb (SDCB) and RobinS (RSS). Again, they were very friendly. And this part disturbed me a bit - they sounded just like Shane! Seriously, he picked up speech patterns from a friend from Toronto and ditched his Toledo accent, and these women sounded just like my husband. It was comforting, yet unnerving. I mean, they even say "about" the same way. Just too cute, really!

We made our way to the bar, where we each had exactly one drink. No, I'm not kidding. We had ONE. Then we all switched to water. None of us were anywhere close to drunk OR rowdy, so we were all pretty astounded to see two security guards come over to tell us the bar was closing. Again, I'm not kidding. They sent TWO. For six perfectly sober women. Can you say "overkill"? Then the guy got all weird when he asked if we were there for a conference, and we explained that we were romance writers. He thought we said "romance riders", and it just went downhill from there. We headed back to the Canadian's room, which happened to be stocked with Pink M&Ms, in honor of BREAST CANCER AWARENESS month. If you know me, you know that I shaved my head for my friend Renee, who is battling BC right now. So, their kindness really hit home. And so did those chocolates. Honestly, it was just one example of Canadians showing random acts of kindness that I witnessed over the weekend. These women are just amazing, and I adopted both SDCB and CMS before the night was over.

Friday morning dawned bright and early. The rest of the day was spent getting kicked out of the club room (not a joke, that club room police lady was just RUDE!), shopping, and attending the conference. At the mall, we did manage to convert a new Jenny Crusie fan, when I bought a perfect stranger a copy of one of Jenny's books in order to get her to the Saturday booksigning. Hey, just doing my part for the advancement of The Cherry!

Friday night, we met up with Jen-T and some of her friends for dinner. It was all that I thought it would be. Her friends were all a hoot, and she was the life of the party. We managed to do a group phone call to Bryan, another one of our CB friends. RSS, being the incredibly friendly person that she is, invited another conference attendee along to dinner. I still hope we didn't permanently traumatize that poor woman! Then we headed back to the hotel, and hung out with the Canadians for a bit. CMS and I hit the pool, and then got kicked out. 2-for-2 on getting kicked out of someplace, 2 nights in a row. After heading back to the bar, and again getting asked to leave (do you see a trend here?) we headed off to bed.

Saturday dawned bright and early, and
I joined CMS in the pool for a swim at 6am. I tried in vain, but just could not get either Kim, nor McB, to believe that it was invigorating. The day was also full of conference stuff, then the real fun began. We all got together at the book signing, and descended on Jenny and Bob. J&B were so friendly to us, took lots of pictures with us, signed lots of books, laughed at our dumb jokes, and even offered us some wine. They had a few spare bottles, and were willing to donate it to our cause. This is the part where I ran into Bob in the lobby and convinced him to pose for a picture in front of a tree. Of course, I waited until after he handed over the wine. I'm not dumb! So off we headed, back to the Canadians room again. (Are you getting the idea that they are just party animals?) Once again, Robin brought an unsuspecting innocent (Nancy) into our midst, but she didn't seem all that scared. We ordered Chinese food, and started drinking J&Bs wine, and talked shop. There was this one moment when RSS started telling this story. Somehow, I missed the beginning, and asked her what movie she was describing. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when she explained that it was actually the plot to her next book, and she'd just thought of it that weekend. I know, without a doubt, that she will one day be a HUGE name in the publishing biz. That woman has an amazing gift for storytelling, and she blew us all away. I can't wait to say "I knew her then..." But for right now, I'm glad to say "I know her!"

The Chinese food finally arrived, and Nancy wandered off to find her friend Julianna. They are both published, but were still so friendly, even while we were trying to explain the phenomenon that is the blog. Neither one of them ever said that we were all nuts, even though the evidence was right there in front of them. Bob only knows what was said after they left. ;>)

Also, I was reminded by CMS of a game I played in my teen years. See, when you have a fortune cookie, you have to read it, then say "in bed" at the end. It makes it all the more interesting. Don't believe me? Well, it can turn a very boring "Your friends will never disappoint you" into the much more interesting "Your friends will never disappoint you in bed". See, it is so much more fun. Try it yourself the next time you find yourself holding a fortune cookie. Fast fact: Do NOT give this advice to your teen daughter, especially if you are in a Chinese restaurant, as she will then immediatly tell her best friend, whose entire family is also in the restaurant, and you will be sitting there worrying that the best friend will tell her rather proper mother. Yikes. And yes, I'm speaking from a whole day of experience on that one!

Sunday, we had a great breakfast in the hotel. Right? It was great, because we were all together, no matter how bad the service was, or how much they charged for a bagel. Not a single person was bothered by Kim, who kept her nose in a book most of the meal. Actually, I think most of us were looking at her and either thinking how smart she was to bring a book, or how we hoped that one day, someone would be so engrossed in one of our books.

Alas, as all good things must, our visit came to an end, proving that - yes - there is in fact something wrong with NJ. It's broke. How else can you explain the feeling of sadness I got when we pulled away from the hotel?

My bright shining moment of sun? When I realized that we could all come back again NEXT year!

Thank you to all of my friends that made this conference so perfect. I would not have had the courage to sign up if it weren't for you. I would not have had the courage to attend if you hadn't agreed to be there. And I know that I would not have had so much fun without you by my side. From the drinks at the restaurant, to chocolates, to necklaces, to flamingo purses, to laughs, to shared confidences, to Mudslides, to all of those silly little moments that will live in my memory, you shared something that made a tremendous impact on my life, both as a writer and a person. You turned something that could have been a simple "mommy weekend away" into the beginning of the fulfillment of my dream. I could not be more proud to call another group of women 'friends' than I am of you.

You inspire me...

... in bed!

(Hey, you, over there, that last part was a JOKE! But doesn't it just make you giggle?)

Monday, October 09, 2006

All by myself....

Don't have to be...all by myself...anymore....

That's what I've been singing for the past 24 hours or so, since I left the New Jersey Romance Writer's "Put Your Heart In a Book" Conference. As I'm a writer, it should be relatively easy for me to use those, you know - word things, to perfectly describe my feelings. However, as is wont to happen often after being so incredibly overwhelmed, I'm having a very hard time figuring out exactly what to say to explain how I'm feeling.

You see, to say that I had a great time would be the worst type of understatement.
To say that I enjoyed meeting old friends would be sound trite.
To say that I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was would be putting it mildly.
To say that I can't imagine anyone being more gracious and classy than Jennifer Crusie would just not be enough.

We'll start off with Jenny Crusie. She was sick. Yes, I mean she was literally sick, still. She has the worst kind of cold, with sniffles and all. She still managed to look absolutely beautiful the entire time. Her wit and charm continue to astound me. She gave the Keynote address with Bob Mayer, and it had most of their CherryBombs trying to quell the giggles. She also did a talk with Sister Krissie/Anne Stuart, that was totally hysterical. Well, the talk wasn't hysterical, but it was funny watching them play off of each other, and it was heartwarming to see them interact. Then there was the "YEX and Violence" talk, featuring Jenny and Bob. I really wanted to see this one. I'd been looking forward to it for months, actually. It was a big part of why I went to the conference. But, as luck would have it, I was scheduled to volunteer in the "Waiting Room" for people getting ready for the editor/agent appointments. Bummer, huh? So I set my phone alarm (to vibrate) so that I wouldn't be late. Well, wouldn't you know that the damn thing did NOT vibrate, but went off in loud and annoying peals, as Jenny was speaking? It did, and I was mortified. I mean, how rude is it to the presenters to hear a cell phone during their presentations? Really rude, that's me. It was an accident though, so I reached for it as fast as I could. Which was, of course, not nearly fast enough, because Jenny asked whose cell it was, and then she saw me, and made it known to everyone that "Oh, it's dee." Frankly, I didn't really hear anything else, as I waited and prayed for a hole to open up and swallow me as I grabbed my bag, apologized profusely, and ran from the room. Frankly, I'm still mortified, especially after having half the people in the room repeat Jenny's comment about me getting kicked off the island. Jenny, if you're reading this (AS IF!!), I can not apologize enough. Really, I can't. But all's well, as she was so incredibly gracious and generous later that same day, while at the Book Signing. She took pictures, and smiled, and even told Bob to give us their wine (yeah, we drank wine from Jenny and Bob, how freakin cool is that?). So, once again, Jenny has proven that she deserves to be at the very top of this writer's list of people that I want to be like when I grow up. Because, well, she totally rocks, that's why.

Christine Bush did the "Welcome" talk for the newbies. I was there, as were Penny and Robin S, from the CBs. Honestly, there were times during that talk that I was moved to tears. Christine was so welcoming, so helpful, that it was just overwhelming. She really is another class act, and I feel very lucky to have met her.

I have a list of some of the people that really blew me away, and on the top of that list are Michelle Cunnah and Lani Diane Rich. I was sitting outside with my friend Kim, and I noticed two women across the way, talking to someone else. I have no idea what made me feel like they were familiar, but that's how I felt. So I asked who they were. Wouldn't you know that it was Lani Diane Rich and Michelle Cunnah, from the Literary Chicks? Well, it was. And wow, can that Lani give a hug! She recognized my name, I guess from all of the totally un-original and very boring comments I make on their blog, and she grabbed me and hugged me. I had to introduce her to Kim, because Lani wrote a line in one of her books that Kim says all the time, and it was just really cool to introduce them. It went something like,"Kim, this is the one that wrote that line that you say all the time" and Lani saying something like "You quote me?" and Kim admitting that yes, she does. Michelle just stood watching this whole thing, and Lani finally introduced her, and MAN, is Michelle just cute as a freakin button! I ended up running into Michelle fairly often, and she was just so friendly every single time. Michelle is actually a really cool person, and made me feel pretty at ease every time we saw each other, which is incredible, because hey, she's Michelle freakin Cunnah, you know? (ok, so I had way more than a few fan girl squeeeeee moments this weekend!)

Overall, this conference was exactly what I needed. My CB friends are great, and I love them for the encouragement and support that they show me. My critique group is amazing, and I am already learning so much from them. However, going to NJ, being around so many published writers, and so many just starting out writers, it was eye-opening. I am lucky enough to belong to an organization full of amazingly talented women, that consider it a calling to help those of us that are just getting started. The advice and encouragement that were handed out made me feel part of something very big, and very special. I told my husband that even if I hadn't known it before, I know now that I really want to be a romance writer, because I really have to be one of those women. After this weekend, I no longer feel like I'm "all by myself" with my writing. I know that there are women out there that want me to succeed, and that they will be willing to help if I ever get up the nerve to ask. Also, I know that I belong, thanks to the urging to join RWA, to an organization that is there to support me and help me reach my goals.

Truly, my cup runneth over.

(I know that I haven't really mentioned the CBs. I've talked about all of the famous people, and the organization, and the conference. There's a very simple reason for that - I want you to understand that for me, there is a world of difference between meeting famous authors and meeting the CBs. While I am still all starry eyed at bumping elbows with those fabulous people, my heart is overflowing with love for my friends, and I just feel it would not do them justice to be mentioned with other people. That's why there will be a follow-on post, that details the more personal and private moments that I shared with the most incredibly special people in the world: RobinS, McB, Jen-T, Penny, and Sheryl. Stay tuned, will ya?)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Here I go again...

But not on my own.

I'm heading off to NEW JERSEY for the NJRW Conference! Can you believe it? If you'll remember, I registered for this conference at the urging of Jen-T and some of the other CherryBombs earlier this summer. This is my first conference, and I'm a wee bit on the butterflies-engulfing-my-torso side right now. I'm also ready to jump right out of my skin from excitement!

I didn't get all of the things done that I wanted to have done before this conference. I'm not anywhere close to being finished with my WIP. I don't have anything to show to anyone, really. I feel like a slug, since I had such high hopes this summer of being able to show something to someone. But alas, that is not to be.

Instead of feeling disappointed, or like a total flop of a failure, I've decided to just enjoy the trip. I've worked my butt off (almost literally) this summer, and this is my reward. I didn't go to RWA Nationals in Atlanta. I haven't gone to any of the local VRW Chapter meetings. I basically have been a wanna-be writer lately. But I'm going to make up for all that this weekend.

I did, however, join a critique group, and that has been interesting. My crit partners are both amazingly talented, and I sometimes feel like a fake. Their stories are so different from mine. But then again, those are THEIR stories, from THEIR hearts and souls and experiences. Mine is from ME. That's not bad, right?

I'm excited to finally get to meet Penny and her daughter Sheryl. I also get to meet Jen-T. I am picking up McB this afternoon, and she's riding up there with me. I'll get to meet RobinS. Plus, and this is just HUGE, both Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer will be there. There will also be a mini-orchard full of Cherries, including both Lani Diane Rich and Alesia Holiday from the Literary Chicks. I feel like Alice, getting ready to jump down that hole. "No, drink ME", says the little bottle I have stashed in my bag!

If you're a praying person, send up a few that I will have a relaxing weekend. If you're not, then just send me some happy thoughts. I know that there are people that deserve this trip more than I do, but I'm not sure that anyone needs it more than me. I just wish I could pack up Charity and bring her along. Well, there's always Nationals in Dallas next year. So. There you have it.

Jersey bound, baby!

Friday, September 29, 2006

ugh. Just UGH!

Do you ever have so much to do that your life seems like it's running away from you on quick little feet, running much faster than you ever ran, even in that winning-the-50-yard-dash dream you have ever time you see the Olympics on television? Yeah, like that. But faster.

You have things that you MUST do, like breathe. You obviously make time for breathing, right? Then there are the things you really should do if you hope to keep functioning, like eating and sleeping. Sometimes you manage to both eat AND sleep on the very same day. Those are good days. Then there are those other things that must get done. Like laundry, so you don't show up at work in the same smelly clothes you wore the day before, and people turn up their noses as you walk by... And showering, again, to avoid those turned up noses. And buying groceries, so your children may also eat something besides YOUR Quaker rice snacks. And actually going to work, so you have money for said rice snacks. And paying bills, so you don't have to sit around the house in the dark because your power has been turned off, yet again, because you forgot to mail the damn check on time. And being a taxi-driver, so the rest of your community doesn't realize what a slug you are because you just don't want to drive 30 miles, yet again, to drop your children off at yet another function. You getting the picture yet?

There are things that you may want to do every day instead. Like if you are me, then what you really want to do every day is stay in your very confy jammies that you got from your very best friend, snuggle up in your very warm bed, and read. All day. Stopping only every hour or so to inhale some java that your children have left quietly at your bedside in the hopes of gaining your favor and allowing them to have yet another ice cream bar. Really though, as long as they are relatively quiet (their quiet is ALWAYS relative, let me assure you!), they could do just about anything if I am in a book. Yes, I get that into my books. Always have, and God willing, always will.

Or, again if you are like me, you may want to write. Well, that used to be me. I used to want to write all the time. Lately though, I've been so discouraged about my writing. My people have taken a vacation. I hear no voices lately. This troubles me on a very basic level. And frankly, it scares the crap out of me.

I have two stories going right now. One is very hard for me, because it deals with a woman and her relationship with her mom. It's hard to write, but when I started it, I knew I had to get it out of me. This woman was talking to me all of the time. I mean, she used to SCREAM at me at the most inopportune times, like during church, or during sex. And no, there is no correlation for me between the two, I'm just illustrating the times when her voice called my name, and she insisted that I pay attention.

My other story is much funner, at least on the surface. It's about four women and their relationships with the men in their lives, and with each other. This one is lighter in some ways, but also deals with some heavy stuff. I started this one while working on the first one, really as a way to distance myself from the first story, because the first one was really putting me through the wringer.

But now? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Big fat goose egg on the flow. I mean, I sit at my desk. I have my computer turned on. Some days, I even open up one, or both, stories. I have every intention of writing. I want to write. But I just can't. I have outlines. I know where these stories are going. I know how they will end. I've seen the endings of both in my head. I've heard conversations from all of my peoples. But the fun is just not there for me, because ... well ... because of all of that other stuff. You know, the stuff I was talking about in the first few paragraphs? All of that basic, every day, LIFE stuff seems to have stolen my joy for writing. Life is my joy stealer. Shane would laugh at my choice of words, but he'd know what I mean.

Despair over this had taken a pretty big hold on me. I was fairly certain that I would just have to pack it in, throw in that towel, and admit defeat. Tell everyone that I'm a big fake. I can't write. I can't do it. I'm not good enough. I'm not dedicated enough. I am a fraud.

And that made me sad. Not just a little blue, like you get when the ending comes to Casablanca, and you realize that no, not even this time, will Ingrid Bergman stay behind with Humphrey Bogart. I'm talking full blown dog-just-died-the-day-after-i-lost-my-job-and-the-car-got-repossessed-and-now-i-must-live-in-a-dumpster distraught. See, I love to write. But since big bad L I F E is a joy-joy-joy stealer, what could I do?

Well, I changed my mind. I'm going to sit my butt in my chair, and I'm just going to write. Because I can. And frankly, once again, I've been inspired by... (ok, you know what's coming already, don't you?)... yeah, Joshilyn Jackson. I read her blog, Faster Than Kudzu, today. Ok, who am I kidding, I check it about 10 times a day just to see if she's posted, because she's my idol, and I want to grow up and BE her, right? You all know this already, it's nothing new. I want to write...not like her, exactly, but like her. If that makes sense. You, over there in the corner, stop shaking your head. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I want to have my stories flow out of me, onto the paper, and from the paper, into the hearts of women. I want to be able to touch people. No, not like that, now stop it already. You know what I mean. I want to be sunlight and rainbows and bacon cheeseburgers, and all things right and pretty in the universe. But on paper. So please, go on over to Joshilyn's blog, right here, and read about the time she's had with her latest masterpiece. It's been rough for her, to say the least. And she just walked away from it, for a season. But she's back, OH LORDY is she back. And her post made me cry. Not those fake crocodile tears that lead to ice cream around my house. But I sat here at my desk and weeped buckets, or at least rivers of mascara. Because I know what she feels like, though not on as grand a scale, I'm sure. And she's so eloquent. Plus, she's pretty. But it made me see that even people like HER go through the rough stuff. That's part of writing. Yet even if I walk away from it, the stories will still be there in my soul. They will still beg to get out.

And you know what? When I stopped trying to make them come, I heard this whisper. It was one of my girls. She was giggling a little, in that way your best girlfriend does when you finally realize something that she's known for ages. And she said, ever so quietly, "I'm glad you finally get it, NOW WOULD YOU PLEASE LET ME FINISH MY STORY?!"

Yes, ma'am.

Oh, just go...

on over to the book blog and enter the contest already!

Yep, that's right. We're running our monthly contest. This one has to do with banned books. So click on over there and tell me what your favorite book from the Banned Book list is. Go on, get over there.

There is a PRIZE for this, people. Seriously, some lucky person is going to win a $20 gift certifcate to their favorite major bookseller. All you have to do is comment (or blog and link) about how any of the books on the banned books lists had an impact on your life.

It's so easy, really it is. The contest is over in 2 short days.

Couldn't you use $20 for books right now?

Friday, September 22, 2006

What's wrong with that book?

I got an e-mail from my darling husband a week or so ago. He knows how much I LOVE to read. He knows that reading, to me, is as important as breathing. There are some days when I can do nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, until I have finished a book. He knows that my book taste is not restricted to any specific genre, though he also knows that I do have a few favorite authors. Basically, he knows that I love him, and I always will, but BOOKS, dear friends, are the magical things that keep me sane and happy most of the time. He accepts this, and we get along great.

However, his e-mail disturbed me greatly. It contained this link here. The link will take you to a Google page that contains 42 books that have been either banned or challenged in the 20th century. Well, 42 books, that's not a big number, right? Here's the kicker: Those 42 books are on the list recognized by the Radcliffe Publishing Course of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. That was so shocking to me. How can almost half of the 100 best novels of the century be either banned or challenged? I still am in such emotional turmoil over this that I can't put my feelings into words. However, I thought that those books must have been banned or challenged quite a while back. I mean, who on earth could imagine banning something like "Brave New World", or "Of Mice and Men" these days? Well, if you click this link, you'll find that some of these books have been banned and/or challenged as recently as 2004. That's right, I said 2004. In this country! If you're not as shocked and appalled as I am, shame on you!

Banned Book Week starts tomorrow, September 23, 2006. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Please join me in taking a moment to appreciate these wonderful books this week. Pick one up and rediscover the magic of a story. Read one and fall in love all over again. Yes, some of them may not be to your taste or liking, but there is something very special in ALL books. A writer put a piece of their heart and soul into these creations. Even if you don't think a specific book is great, you can't deny that the writer is a magical person.

Here, for your information and enjoyment, is a list of those 42 banned or challenged books. Any typographical errors are mine, because these books deserve more time and attention than a simple cut and paste. I'm typing them all in, one by one. They deserve no less. And please, head over to the book blog this upcoming week and enter our contest. The prize is a $20 gift certificate to the book seller of YOUR choice.

Keep Reading!

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Catcher In the Rye, JD Salinger
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
1984, George Orwell
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Ulysses, James Joyce
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Lady Chatterly's Lover, DH Lawrence
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Women In Love, DH Lawrence
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
The Call of the Wild, James Baldwin
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
Rabbit, Run ; John Updike
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
Native Son, Richard Wright
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Monday, September 11, 2006

I see skin!!

As I said, a few of us cut some hair off. Renee is going to take some of it and make bangs and wispies for 'hat days'. I think it's pretty cool. Plus, she can now choose between blonde, curly or red. The rest of us are just going to enjoy not having bad hair days for a while.

Top left is Brie, Renee's awesome oldest daughter. Brie took her cut all the way to the scalp, and she looks terrific!

Top right is yours truly. I wasn't as brave as Brie, since we only had one disposable razor and it had already been used. Razor cuts scare me, I'm a chicken. Still, it's a little shorter than my last cut, huh?

Middle right is Renee and Brie together, hamming it up. This was before we razored Brie's head. I gave her a mohawk. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was pretty cute!

Bottom left if Renee. You can see her beauty and strength. She's one of the most incredible people I know. Keep her in your prayers!

Now, I'm heading off to bed. It's been a long weekend, full of fun and fellowship. I'll tell you all about the shearing party another time. I have to get some sleep though, since I worked today, after getting up at 5am to cook breakfast at church. I'm a little sleepy now, so I will catch up with the rest of this later...


Shine on, lovely people

Saturday was a big, bald day for us! Renee, my incredibly beautifully strong friend with breast cancer, got a great new look. Since nobody wanted to be left out, a few of us decided to lose some of our locks right along with her. She thought we were all geeks for doing it, but we had a great time.

To the left, you see Jesse. Jesse is Renee's husband, and one of the nicest guys I know.

To the right, you see Shane. Shane is MY husband, and the sexiest man I know. And yes, even with no hair, I still think he's incredibly sexy. Of course, knowing that he shaved his gorgeous black hair in honor of our friend, he seems even sexier to me. Acts of kindness do that to me, what can I say?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

servER to servANT

I work part time as a waitress in a nationally known restaurant. This restaurant is known for Southern style food, and we serve breakfast all day. If you know the place, you know the atmosphere there is reminiscent of your Grandma's house. We have a saying there when something is just wrong. We say "That is sooo not 'country fresh'". That means that it isn't up to the standards of the place. We use the saying for just about everything, from language to food. If it's not "country fresh", then we shouldn't be doing/having/saying it at work.

I've been thinking about those standards and the restaurant's slogan, and how they seem to parallel Christian life. No, this place does not profess to be a Christian business, since that would be so un-PC in today's world. Really though, to me, their standards scream "Christian work ethic". For me, it's refreshing. But that's not what this post is really about.

I'm a waitress. Really, we're called "servers" now, so as not to be gender-biased I suppose. For seven hours a day, four days a week, I'm a 'server'. That means that my job is to serve people. That's what I do. I'm supposed to do that with a 'country fresh' attitude, right down to a smile. I should have a willingness to serve the guests that enter that place and sit at tables in my section. It shouldn't be tough, that's what they pay me to do. No, I don't make much, only $2.18 an hour. Yes, I get tips, when people remember to leave them. Honestly, I'd like to know who taught some people to tip, since really, a $3 tip is not all that great for a $40 bill, especially if your food was delivered fast and right, and your drink was never empty. But that's another story.

A server, by definition, serves. I'm a pretty good server, I think. My managers love it when I work, and constantly ask me to work extra shifts (I've recently learned the art of a tactful "no"). I have recently been asked to train new people, even though I've only been with the company a few months. I have 'regulars', who will actually wait until one of my tables is open instead of sitting at another table. In almost 5 months, I've only had one instance where a manager had to intervene at one of my tables, and that was a kitchen error. I bend over backwards and go out of my way to please my guests. I really work my butt off, and at the end of the night I leave and feel like I've done a decent job. Yes, there is always room for improvement, and I LOVE to get better. However, all in all, I'm not too bad.

What has really been bothering me lately is that I think of myself as a part-time server. I go to work, be a server, go home, and leave that behind me. Yes, there are plenty of ways that I still practice that country fresh attitude outside of work, but it's more because of the server mentality. I don't want to be a server though. I have a different purpose, or at least I should.

I'm supposed to be a SERVANT.

I think this is part of the reason that I'm disliking nightshift so much. On days, I had a group of women that shared my faith, and we would get into daily discussions about the Word, Christian life, Jesus, everything, really. If I was having a hard time, I could ask for prayer, and there would be women that would stop what they were doing and say a prayer for me right when I asked. I had the chance to fellowship, and was constantly uplifted just being around them. I felt stronger in my daily walk, because we were accountable to each other. I don't have that on nights. There are very few professed Christians, and most of them are so worldly that it's difficult to tell what they are. I don't see Christ in them. I want people to see Christ in me, and I feel like that is slipping away from me now.

I want to be a servant all the time, and a server some of the time. I want to be able to talk about my God, my salvation, my redemption. I want people to see me at work and recognize me for what I am - a servant of the King.

I have been very blessed recently to know that the Lord is hearing my pleas. He always sends people into my path when I am feeling low, to brighten things up or lift me up. Tonight, it was a family that prayed together before their meal, and another family that talked to me about Christ. It felt so good to tell them that I knew I was going to Heaven, and they knew I was saved because I said I knew it, instead of I hoped it. That was cool. It was also pretty rare. Most nights, I drag in from work tired, worn out, discouraged, and not in the mood to be a server, much less a servant.

What I've realized is that being a server can actually help me be a better servant. I don't mean that I need to bring you hot biscuits or re-fill your coffee to make you happy. I do mean that by keeping the 'country fresh' attitude all the time, and striving to serve others all the time, I can actually work towards having a servant's heart... all the time. Not just part time, not just at work, not just while I'm wearing my apron and smiling.

That's what I want. I want to be a servant. To do that, I need to keep trying to be a better server. Honestly though, if I fail the restaurant I'll be sad. But to fail my Saviour? That would break my heart.

Besides, to fail Him just wouldn't be "country fresh", now would it?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

They say that...

Breaking up is...hard to do....

Oh friends, it is a sad, sad day in this house. I am commiserating with a broken-hearted teenager.

Last night, the young lad called my house, while Shane and I were both away (good timing!) and broke up with my beautiful daughter! He said that since he is starting high school (first day was yesterday), and they would only see each other at church, he wanted to break up with her.

She held this information until this morning. She didn't tell me last night, though I knew something was wrong. She didn't mention it when we were all gathered on my bed at midnight, me and her and Shane (while Ems and Mags slept in the same bed), giggling and talking. I think she might have been worried about what her dad might say, so she held onto the info until this morning.

My strong girl didn't shed a tear when she told me, but I think she is still plenty upset. If you'll recall, this was her first boyfriend. They really seemed to get along pretty well. We just had his family over for dinner on Sunday, and we all thought things were going pretty well. Now, I just don't know.

I was actually worried about this very thing happening. I even mentioned it to Gret a few weeks ago. I asked her what would happen when he started to high school, and she said she thought things would still be ok. I had my doubts. I mean, they're 14. Trying to keep a relationship together is hard enough. Add in the fact that you see each other only once or twice a week, one of you is in public shool while the other is homeschooled, and well, your hormones are RAGING, and it's just not good.

So today, instead of schooling or cleaning, we're doing something else. We're going to station ourselves in front of the tv and watch every single teen angst movie that we own. I mean, besides chocolate, is there any better cure for a broken heart? Nah, I don't think so...

BUT, if you know of one, tell me. Also, I want to hear all about YOUR first broken heart. Tell me in the comments section. Tell me all about it. Purge your soul of that long ago heartache, so I can share the stories with my beautiful young lass. I want her to realize that this is not the end of the world, and that scores of women have gone through this and survived. Help me out.

And have your shovels ready. The boy just might need his head whacked once or twice. I haven't decided yet...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Anybody have a shovel?

Ok, if you're not a CB, you probably don't know what that means. If you are a CB, can I just tell you that I LOVE YOU!?!

My life has been a bit crazed lately, as many of you may have noticed. I have gotten all of your e-mails and blog comments. Thank you, Christina, for your concern. Thanks Char and Kim, for your well wishes. Thanks, Jen-t for your comments. And THANK YOU, Penny, for that wonderful e-card. You are all so great, and I get teary just thinking about the amazing group of women that I can call "friends". Really, your strength, lent so lovingly, helps me make it through the days sometimes, even when I can't be around to tell you.

I'm still on nights at work. I have to rant about this a little bit. I'm closing every night, 4 nights a week. I've stopped doing extra shifts, so that's a blessing. Still though, the place closes at 10pm, but I don't normally get home until midnight. On Fridays, it's later, since we close at 11pm. Frankly, the money has slowed down, since the summer travel season is over. That's not the problem though. The real problem is that I am surrounded by young people that seem so very lazy. They start whining to leave around 7:30. Usually, the manager will let them leave just so nobody else has to hear them whine. It's very frustrating. Plus, they like to take tables and make tips, but they don't seem to actually like doing the work associated with their tables. We wear pagers that vibrate when food is ready for our tables. The food is not supposed to sit in the window for longer than one minute. If it's not your food, you should still get it out to the table, because, well, nobody likes to eat cold food, right? A favorite thing to do is to either NOT wear the pager, thereby never getting notified that your food is "up", so you don't have to actually take it out... OR, just not showing up to take out your own food to your tables. This seems like a small thing, I'm sure. But it really sucks for people that really want the guest to have a nice dining experience (that would be ME), and get warm food, served the way they ordered it. Generally, I end up 'running food' all night, or getting biscuits or cornbread, or re-filling ice, or getting salads. Now, I wouldn't mind this a bit, if EVERY OTHER PERSON were doing it as much as I do. However, that's just not normally the case. Usually, there are about 5 or 6 people that have 4 tables, that constantly take tables away from other people (like me) because "you were busy". And I just want to scream: "Yeah, busy running your damn food!" Can you tell that I just can't stand it when people are unwilling to do their jobs? Then, at the end of the night, they brag about making $130, while I go home with $70. Their sales are over $500 while mine are around $250. It gets old after a while. It wasn't like this on days, and I really can't wait to go back. PLUS, I really miss my husband.

I have hardly touched my computer in a week or so. I was at the old house getting it ready for our renters every day last week. Shane took the day off on Wednesday to help. Then we spent all day Saturday over there. It was actually kind of fun. So, I'd get up and head over there, do manual labor for a few hours, then head back home to shower and change, then head in to work until midnight, then get up and start all over again. It was a VERY tiring week. But the good news is that I don't have to do that anymore. YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! I know we're not out of the woods financially yet, and won't be until November (we're taking a LOT of vacation in October, or it would be sooner!). Still though, knowing that we're keeping that house is great. I mean, it's an investment and we may never get another chance to own two homes so easily. The goal is to have a house for each kid, with the hope of the rent paying for their college. Right now, we've got Gret's in line. In a year or two, we'll be looking for something to buy to help with Michael's education. We'll see how this goes. Wish us luck.

We had Gret's boyfriends fam over for dinner on Sunday. That will take a whole blog to tell you about, so you'll have to wait. Right now, I'm headed into the family room to watch "The Graduate" with the kids. Gret has wanted to watch it since seeing "Rumor has it" a few months back. I'm not all that sure it's appropriate for everyone to watch, but then again, it's a dark, cold rainy day, the popcorn is popped, Jo brewed coffee for me, and I haven't spent any really good time with the kids in over a week. So yeah, I'm pulling the Mommy card on this one and calling it a classic, and we'll talk about it during our "Music and it's effects on Standard American Classic Movies" class that we're going to do...tomorrow. (yeah, great, now I have to come up with a class plan for that!)