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!