Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's new with you?

Does it really feel like it's almost Christmas? Not to me!

I have to say though, I'm not such a Scrooge this year. Much better than last year.

But I have been a blogging slacker. I'd like to say that it's because nothing has been going on, but the truth is that there has just been so MUCH this year, I haven't really had the time to keep up with the blog. Horrible, I know, since I was really good at it last year. But then again, last year just seemed... slower.

The kids are growing like weeds in June, but I'm working more than any 'stay at home' mom should work. I think that technically I'm not a SAHM anymore, because, well, I'm at work all the darned time. These things happen when you take a full time job, yes?

The blog isn't the only writing that I haven't been doing. My book, ALMOST SOUTHERN, that is 'almost' finished, has come to a halt. No, the story didn't stop working. No, the characters didn't stop talking. I just have decided not to write, right now. I've got a lot of things going on, and trying to balance the writing with the job with the church obligations, and still manage to be a halfway sane mom and a semi-decent wife was not working. Since I can't get rid of the job right now, and the kids and The Man seem to be sticking around, the writing is the thing that needs to take a back seat. this is not a FOREVER quit. It's just an indefinite hold. I've got to catch back up with the rest of my life, so that I can finesse the story's end and get it sent off. So if you're wondering about prayer requests for me - that's the one. Pray that my life settles enough for me to be able to write again. Because frankly, I miss it like crazy.

Christmas is just a few days away, and with that comes... the month of EVERYTHING. We celebrated our anniversary earlier this month. Still can't believe we've been married more than five years. Shane's birthday was last Friday. I took him HERE, and HERE. It was a double birthday/anniversary celebration, NO KIDS ALLOWED. Oh bliss! Second Girl Child has her birthday on Friday. We're taking her to a Japanese Steakhouse and to see a movie. Oldest Boy Child has a birthday on Christmas Eve. He will be a teenager. My heart catches when I think about that. I just don't feel old enough to have TWO teenaged children. Very bizarre.

My Great Uncle Bill passed away this past Saturday. Yes, another hard loss. I'm internalizing this one, as none of my immediate family knew him all that well. I, however, have very fond memories of him from childhood, so the past few days have been spent thinking about him and the things he said and did when I was a wee one. I also ache for his wife, my sweet Aunt Doris, truly one of the kindest women that I know. They were married for 49 years this past October. Now he's gone. That's just so hard to fathom. Please keep her in your prayers as well, along with the rest of my family out in Oklahoma. This is a very hard loss for all of them.

Have a safe and happy Christmas. Grab your loved ones and hold on tight to them, ok? Don't forget to share all of that love in your heart. "Here today, gone tomorrow" isn't just a saying. It's the truth. And sometimes, tomorrow gets here a lot sooner that you ever thought it would. Don't let a single opportunity to express that love pass you by.

Hugs to everyone!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Yeah, I know I haven't blogged in months. Yeah, I know you have no idea what's been going on in my life. Yeah, I know that's bad. SO here you go... updates since last I blogged.

I got home from Nationals and a very good friend passed away the very next day. Then I got a call from one of my very best friends asking me to be there when her child was born. So, I drove to PA to be there for the birth, then drove home to attend the funeral. I still managed to log 48 hours of work that week.

I started a new job. It's full time. I'm doing training for the same company I worked for earlier this year. Did I mention it's full time? And an hours drive from my house? The kids are NOT happy about this, but they're adjusting.

My brother and niece came from New Orleans to visit. We spent time here, and also went to Virginia Beach. It was a blast, and I'm looking forward to their visit next year.

I wrote like a maniac and managed to come "this close" to finishing ALMOST SOUTHERN. Seriously, I have tweaks to do, but other than that, it's done.

I started a new book for National Novel Writer's Month (NaNoWriMo) a few days ago. ALMOST SOUTHERN is actually a product of my NaNo efforts from last year, so hopefully this year will be productive as well.

My husband got a promotion at work. He now works many more hours than he's home. I enjoy the raise, but hate the time he's gone.

My husband also had his college graduation. We had a party at our house for this auspicious event. My in-laws attended, as did many other people. It was grand.

My children continue to grow like weeds. Oldest girl child is a beautiful young woman. Oldest boy child is taller than me. I think he's stronger too, but I'd never tell him that. Next oldest girl child is blossoming. I hate it. Youngest boy child continues to be the one that makes me laugh. Second youngest girl child ha become a voracious reader. (YAY!) The baby is still the baby, even though she's that one number that's one more than five. Some things never change. Thank God.

I've had some personal setbacks, of course...

I seriously thought I was have a split from reality towards the end of the summer. Thankfully, a friend stepped in and invited me and my fam to her getaway house on the Chesapeake Bay. She will never know what her kindness meant to me, nor will she ever fully realize how close I was to having a meltdown before she stepped in. To Robin, I am eternally thankful.

I was able to attend a gathering of some of the best people on this planet in Dayton, Ohio. Yes, I said Ohio. I met about 15 other writer and reader friends (also known as CHERRY BOMBS) in Dayton, to attend the signing of AGNES AND THE HITMAN by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Jenny and Bob hung out with us at The Cheesecake Factory before the event. We all stayed up way late after the event. Oldest Girl Child attended as well. It was one of the best times I've had this year.

I have a friend that is going through some physical problems right now. She's been very silent about them, dealing with most things on her own. She's in my thoughts constantly, and in my prayers daily. She's one of my Hero People, and she doesn't even know it.

I lost a friend recently. To cancer. I hate cancer. It's been around me way too much. This death hit me hard, possibly because it's the third death this year, more likely because the person that died was such an amazing inspiration to so many people. Margaret will be missed.

So, really, not too much going on here. That's why I've been so silent.

I have been keeping up (kind of) over on the book review blog. Right now, we're running a contest. Check it out.

I'll try to be better about updating at least once a week. However, with NaNo, you just never know. And for the Ohio contingent that checks in here (the ones from Dayton AND the ones in my family), I will try to post pictures of the kids soon.

Hope this was enough info for you all.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day Five - A Real WINNER

This is just short and sweet, because I want to head back downstairs to the party, but I wanted to let you all know that...

ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE, by Caridad Ferrer, won the RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title!

There were many other winners, for many other awards, of course. They are all special and brilliant and wonderful. I will announce them all later. I'm not trying to slight any of them, or make it seem like this win is any better than any of the others.

It is, however, MUCH more personal. My oldest daughter, Gret, LOVES this book. She's passed it around to her friends, and they LOVE this book. Beyond it being a fave of most every teenaged girl I know though, it's also one of my faves.

As many of you moms may know, it's hard to find a book that you feel comfortable handing to your young adult. Gret is 15, and while that means she is no longer a baby, she's not a grown-up either. I handed this book to her with a smile.

THANK YOU Caridad, for writing a book that I could hand to one of my favorite chicks. She's waited a while to read something by a Cherry.


Day Five - We have a tv in our room?

OR - There is so much to do here I've almost forgotten about the rest of the world!

First of all, I have to send out some cyber love to one of my very best friends (and a TERRIFIC review and critique partner) - Charity. Charity and I decided to go to Dallas together for Nats last year, when we were both suffering terribly from "Not-Lanta Envy". We planned and pinched pennies and registered the very first day (or at least one of us did :) ). We talked and chatted about it for months. We were both SO excited. Then, as many of you know, Charity's town, Coffeyville, Kansas, ended up plastered all over CNN due to disasterous flooding. This threw a MAJOR kink in the plans for us to attend Nats together. Char called me in tears to tell me she couldn't make it, afraid that I would be angry. Well, one of my best friends couldn't even drive out of town, as it was literally under a river. How could I be angry? However, I was sad, because I knew I couldn't afford it on my own. But Robin and Kathy agreed to let me share a room with them, and I got to Live The Dream. But it has been very bittersweet for me, as I don't have my other half (really- my better half) here with me to share it. With every new person I meet and every experience I have, part of me is over the moon with giddiness, but part of me cries very silent tears that my friend can't share it. She's home cleaning up from the ravages of Mother Nature, and coming to Nats is really low on the list of her personal priorities this week. She's just such an amazing person though, and I know how much she really wanted to be here, so I couldn't help but do something to brighten her day. Guess what I did?

I hung out with Kristan Higgins. Charity LOVES Kristan, as I may have already mentioned. She picked FOOLS RUSH IN as the Top Pick of 2006 for our review blog. Charity's only request was that I find and meet Kristan, and do a FanGirlSquee, just for her. I have obliged many times over. ;) On my way to Kristan's room, I made a frantic phone call to Charity, leaving a "CALL ME RIGHT THIS MINUTE" message. Then I waited. When the phone rang, I handed it to Kristan and asked her to answer it. She did. The conversation went something like:
Char- Dee?
KH - No, this is Kristan.
Char - Kristan who?
KH- Kristan Higgins.
KH - (mouthing to me) ouch!

It was beautiful. though Charity can't be here in person, she is here in spirit. I miss ya babe. Gt your bags packed for SanFran, ok?

In other news - some of you have asked why I'm not posting many pictures. Gret has my camera at camp. She's not allowed to have her cell phone there, but I can have mine here. So the reasoning was that I would use my camera on my phone, and still be able to take pictures. The reality is that I don't have a wall charger for my phone, and short of renting a cab to drive me around while charging the phone on the car charger, my phone would not have made it through the week with all of the pictures I wanted to take. So I'm relying on others to take and post the pics. Thanks, CherryRed, for your post about Blogging Nationals, and to the Fabulous Jude, for compiling a list of all of those blogs, and all of you other people that are taking and posting the pics because I can't!

I've learned that I'm not a Conference Purist. By that I mean that while the workshops are amazing, I have stood firm on my promise to myself to go with the wind. Basically, I still have my list(s) of all the workshops that I "needed", but I'm using it only as a guide, when I have nothing else to do. HAH!

Nothing else to do? Like the Publishing events where they GIVE you tons of free books? Or the people that just wander around, waiting to meet new people? Or bumping into someone in the hall that you saw in the coffee shop last night, and stopping to talk for 20 minutes? Or all of the people, these amazing women (and yes, even a few men!) that are so giving, so willing, so helpful, and so excited for you to reach the next level of success?

I only realized this morning that there was a tv in my room. I knew there was, on a logical level, but have had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to turn the blasted thing on. PTL! My kids would be shocked and appalled, of course, as the tb here has cable, something they do not have at home. I'm a mean mom. What can I say?

I'm heading off to my very last workshop now - Say Goodbye to the Slush Pile. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I know that there will be lots of great information presented, and I can't wait. But I'm telling you now, if I meet an interesting person on the way down the hall, forget about me going to the workshop. I'm getting the cd's, and as you already know - I'm not about to miss any opportunities.

More tonight, after the Golden Hearts and RITAs are announced.

I'll Keep You Posted!

PS- Real quick GOOD LUCK to Caridad/Barb Ferrer, who is up for TWO RITA AWARDS tonight. You can see the winners announced real time here. Or just check back with me later for a complete list.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day Four - Where the heck am I going to put all these books?!?

I am not going to allow myself to get ANY more books. And I'm NOT putting all of the titles and authors over on the book review blog either. There are just WAY too many to type. My fingers would probably fall off. I will let you know that some of YOU have books here in this picture. Not all of you, because some of the authors just signed the books to me before I could even ask them to sign them for someone else. That's ok though. I can split them with the other Dee. Because, quite frankly, my husband is going to have a TOTAL FIT when he sees how many books I've gotten here.

Just a sampling of the authors:
Lori Avocato
Mary Castillo
Kayla Perrin
Caridad Pineiro
Ken Casper
Gena Showalter
Mary Janice Davidson
Erin McCarthy

and too many more to count!

You think it will matter to him that all but a few of them were totally FREE?

I'll keep you posted!

Day Four - Lunch Break... and WOW do I need it!

Holy Cow! I went to two workshops this morning. Both were great, they really were. But here's the thing... I'm not sure how many more I'm going to attend. Have you gone through this at Nationals?

I came here with a very specific goal in mind: to learn ways to get ready for my pitch in New Jersey. I also gave myself "permission" to miss some workshops if other opportunities presented themselves. You've probably already noticed, or may even already KNOW, that there are no lack of "other opportunities" at an RWA National Conference.

While the workshops are WONDERFUL, they are a tad bit scary as well. I mean, I'm hearing about all of these things that I 'should' be doing, and I was starting to feel a bit... discouraged. So I skipped a workshop and just sat outside and talked to people. VERY. GOOD. CHOICE.

With my "First Timer" ribbon firmly attached to my badge, people seem to want to come up and ask me how I am liking things. This led to a conversation about how things were just so...overwhelming, and how I was learning a lot of things that I am evidently NOT doing, or doing WRONG, though I should add that NOT A SINGLE PERSON has told me those words. It's just a feeling I've gotten, sitting in some of the workshops with people who are SUPERSTARS.

I was instructed to WRITE. That's all. Just write. Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before. And the people that have told me that are very smart people, people whose opinions I value and advice I trust. However, hearing some of the people here tell me that everyone has a different style, a different way of doing things, but the end result is the same - a book? Yes, that's what I needed to hear.

Thinking about it though, I've heard those words before, just said in a better way. Does THERE ARE MANY ROADS TO OZ sound familiar? Yeah, I know. I've been hearing that for months. Actually, for over a year. So I KNOW this already. But hearing it again, in a different way, was nice too.

Lessons learned? I need to WRITE. Take the advice I can use, leave the rest for others. And most of all, here at Nationals - HAVE FUN.

I'll keep you posted!

Day Four - So last night I got grounded...

I was up a bit late last. I walked into my room after midni...ahem...after one am. But I had a good excuse - I was "networking". When I walked in, the room was dark and quiet. So in I tiptoed, brushed my teeth, changed into my jammies, and headed for my bed. Kathy sat up real quick and issued a "You are GROUNDED, young lady!" Just like that, I was sixteen again, totally busted for breaking curfew.

We had a great laugh about it, and had a wonderful chat about all of the people we've met and the things we've learned so far. And I'll have you know that the whole "meeting people in the bar" thing is SO true. However, I firmly believe that as this is a professional conference, and I'm trying to look professional, I should stay not-so-tipsy. SO I've limited myself to ONE drink during every bar trip. Just one. Followed by much water. I think I'm just afraid that I'll have more than one and look like an idiot. You may know how that goes. Or maybe you don't.

I've been feeling very guilty because I've spent some extra time with Kristan Higgins. Charity LOVES Kristin's work, and told me I had to meet her. Well, she's just about one of the coolest authors I've met, and she knows lots of people. But beyond that, she's a stay-at-home mom who understands how hard it is to write with kids around. She's just great!

Yesterday's Keynote Luncheon Speaker was Lisa Kleypas. She was adorable, while still being classy. The fact that she gave a nod to the recently departed Kathleen Woodiwiss was even classier.

I was invited to a meeting of the RomVets, the Romance writing Veterans. I'm a Navy Veteran, and it was really nice to be around other women who shared some of my same struggles. I'm looking forward to joining their group.

I've met so many people here, and had some really cool things happen to me. However, some of those things are better left unsaid on a blog. The Man knows all about them, or will as soon as he checks his e-mail today. But suffice it to say that the "something big" that I was feeling - yeah. Wow! Some people are not nearly as scary as I thought they were.

No, I haven't done an agent or an editor appointment. I'm learning stuff here to use in New Jersey, when I pitch my book. I already know who I want to pitch to in NJ, though, thanks to some of the people I've met here. Very charming people, those agents. :)

I don't know how much time I'll have for blogging today. I've got a full workshop schedule, and am only blogging now because I snuck up to the room for some caffeine, to ward off an impending headache. I'm headed back into the fray soon though. Plus, there are publishing events today, and I'm going to try to make it to some of those. However...

I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day Three - Opportunities, Missed?

(OR - Why I ditched the one workshop I really needed to talk to an already bestselling author for over an hour...)

This morning, I had plans to go to at least three workshops. Big plans. I spent the better part of my first day here pouring over the Conference book, searching for the workshops that related to what I 'needed'. In my opinion, I 'need' to learn about the business side of the house. I need to learn about editors and agents, promoting and pitching. Yes, I need to hone my craft, because, I can admit this - I am NOT the best writer out there. But I'm starting to believe some of you guys when you say that I'm pretty good. So the writing thing? I'm comfortable with my storytelling abilities, even though I know that I need to improve my craft. But that is an ongoing process. I mean - Jenny Crusie still talks about how she can get better, right?

I had it all planned out. I wrote down all the workshops I 'needed' to attend. I wrote them down by day, even though I didn't bring my Day Planner. I wrote them down in order by time, with the room number and the presenter, and the title of the workshop. I even had them in order of personal importance.

At 8:30 this morning, I was sitting there waiting for Joan Johnston to start her "Writing the Unputdownable novel" workshop. She passed out her books to a select number of people, and I got one. Then she told us that we'd have to SPEAK. In front of the whole room. About her topic. And it would be taped. I almost barfed. Almost. The workshop was fantastic. I learned a lot about how to start and end chapters that keep readers wanting more. Plus, Joan was fabulous. I will admit that I haven't read any of her books yet, but I WILL NOW. She made a fan in that workshop, and I am grateful for the knowledge that she passed to us.

At 9:45, I was ready for Anna DeStefano and Michelle Grajkowski to present "She Said/She Said: Communication Skills that can make or break your career". Honestly, it was refreshing to see someone of Anna's caliber talking about how GOSSIP IS BAD, and how the things you say and do can come back to haunt you, and how really, isn't it just as easy to be nice and PROFESSIONAL to people than it is to be rude? Plus, she talked about how a rejection letter is about your WORK, not about YOU. It was perfect. They were both professional, and it reminded me of mine and Charity's attitude about the review blog - Always Honest, Never Cruel, and how if we can't find at least three nice or positive things to say about a book, we just won't review it. Really great lessons to live by, and work by. And I have to admit, it reminded me of my friend, author Jennifer Talty, who has recently been handed a professional temporary setback that many writers have really ranted and raved about. But not Jen. At least not in public. I don't know what she says to her best friend, or her husband, or her bedroom walls, but I do know that anywhere her name is shown, in e-mails and blog comments and her own blog, she has remained the utmost in professionalism.

I was supposed to be in an 11am workshop, Honing Your Pitch:Making the Most of your editor/agent appointment. I was looking forward to this one. I needed this one, as I plan to pitch in New Jersey, and I have no idea how it is done. This is really the one workshop that I came to Dallas for. And I blew it off.

Yes. I blew it off. I walked outside and sat down, just for a second, to get out of the air-conditioning. And up walked Victoria Alexander. Just like that, I knew that I would stay there and talk to her for as long as she kept talking, no matter what I might miss. I could buy the conference CDs, but there was no way that I could pay $99 and have a personal conversation with her, without her having me arrested or something for stalking. So we sat there, for over an hour, and talked about her books, and about her career, and about my book, and other people's books. I told her what I liked in her books, which ones I really remembered. She told me about the next one of hers coming out, and the one after that. (Yes, I know who the 'last man standing' is. But I'm not telling.) I listened to her talk about how she writes, and how she doesn't write, and things that she wished she would've known, and things she was glad that nobody bothered to tell her. She even listened to me too, even though I'm pretty sure that I sounded like I was having a HUGE FanGirlSqueeFest at her expense.

She listened. I can't give a higher compliment than that. She knows that I'm a first timer. She knows that I'm nervous. She knows that I read and love her books. But she listened to me. She let me gush about her work, of course. But she listened to why I liked specific parts of her last book, she told my how and why she did certain things, and she listened to my reactions. She listened to me (no, not THAT one!), and I think she actually heard what I had to say. It was so nice of her to talk to me in the first place, but then to sit there and chat with me like I had something to say?

Then I remembered - I do have something to say. I'm her fan. I read her books. Not only am I a writer, I'm also a reader. Regardless of whether my writing career is anywhere right now (and we can all say that it's not too far. That's ok. It will go farther!), I am her audience. So of course she listened to me. I am the person that enables her to keep writing.

But also? She's just NICE. I mean, really, she's a NICE person. She's funny. She's witty. She's charming. Yes, those are all true. But she saw my little orange "First Timer" tag on my badge, and she spoke to me anyway. She didn't know that I'd read her books when she sat down. She had no idea that her latest book "What a Lady Wants" was the very last book that I read before getting on the plane, or that it's still on my front patio waiting for a re-read when I get home. She just saw me there and sat down, and opened up a whole world of possibilities for me.

That's what the past few days have been like for me. I've had some plans, places I thought I needed to be. But I made the promise to myself on the plane on the way here that if it came right down to it, I'd let myself free from those written plans, and follow the wind, if I had the chance. Sure, I'd choose the workshops that were smart career choices, instead of just going to the ones done by a speaker I loved. However, if it came down to rushing off to a workshop or chatting with an interesting person, I'd stay and chat.

So today? Was that workshop, that I've already heard RAVE reviews about, a missed opportunity? Not. Even. Close. I'm very glad to say that I totally ditched the one workshop I really wanted in order to shoot the breeze with an author that I've greatly admired for years. I needed to pinch myself a few times to make sure I was awake. I was. I still am.

I told you something BIG was going to happen. I made a choice, and I am confident it was the right one. I wouldn't trade a single second I spent with her. I'm actually hoping that I'll get more chances like that, opportunities to ditch my schedule and really connect with more people. That's what being here is all about after all. Right?

I'll keep you posted!

Day Two - Recap

It's the end of the day (or the beginning of the next one. Whichever way you look at it is fine with me). I am, still, in awe of this place and the amazing people that are here.

The Literacy signing was overwhelming, but in a good way. There was a huge room, filled with 450 authors, who were just as excited to see me as I was to see them. It was amazing. You saw my list of the people that I got to meet, and those were just the ones whose books I bought. I met others. Many others.

I got to gush at Barbara Samuel, who is actually responsible for the book review blog. I wrote my very first review, not much more than a FGSF, of her Madame Mirabou's School of Love. I adored that book, and couldn't wait to tell people about it. After meeting her tonight, I am even more glad that I told people all about that book. No, our review site isn't HUGE, but it still makes me proud to be able to tell people about books that I've enjoyed.

I met Caridad Ferrer. We reviewed her book, Adios To My Old Life, which is up for a few RITA awards this year. Gret LOVES that book, and Caridad signed a bookmark for Gret. She was just so NICE.

I spoke with Alesia Holliday/Alyssa Day. When I told her that Charity said "hi", she looked at my name tag and smiled BIG, and said that she reads our site. It was a very cool moment for me, since I used to read the LC every day. She even gave me an Alyssa Day bag to carry all of my books.

I had a moment of silence with Eileen Rendahl, another former member of the LC. We both sighed over how the LC is no more. Very sad. But OMB Eileen is just totally gorgeous, and I love her books, and am excited to read her newest one.

I had dinner and drinks with Kristan Higgins. She has been so freakin' amazing to me practically since I checked in. I didn't get a picture with her (or ANY of these people, darn it!), but I was there, with her. She wrote Fools Rush In, Charity's Top Pick of 2006. I have to tell you, she's even more charming than I thought she would be, and I have really loved getting to know her.

I sat with some Cherries at the bar (of course!). I wish I would have had my notepad to write down their names, but I didn't. However, Julie is wonderful, and she gave me a Cherry sticker for my nametag. And I just adore her.

I had drinks (well, just one, but I made it last!) with Vicki Lewis Thompson, who writes the Nerd books. I still can't believe I sat there for a while and talked to her. And guess what - just like all of the other amazing writers I've met here, she's a REAL PERSON. Why this continues to amaze me, I'll never know. But she was wonderful, and funny, and gracious, and, and, and...

I finished the night outside, talking with Misty Simon. I met Misty in March, in Boonseboro. We had lunch together with a few other authors (including Samantha Graves/CJ Barry, who I also saw at lunch today). I had the very best talk with Misty tonight, and it was just great to talk to an author that is a few steps ahead of me career-wise, but who still spoke to me like a peer. Misty is wonderful, and I can't wait to read her books.

I've enjoyed meeting some of the really big name authors. They have all been gracious, warm, giving, and encouraging. But I have to admit that some of my best moments so far have been with some of the newer authors, like Kristan and Misty. There just seems to be an almost instant camaraderie that springs up between people here, whether you are published or not, new to the business or not, scared spitless to speak to a 'star' or not.

Again, just like New Jersey, I feel like I've found my people. I can hardly wait to see who I will meet tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day Two - Literacy Signing

Short post. Just went to the Literacy Signing and OhMyBob were there a ton of people! I met some of my very favorite authors, and lots of authors that are new to me. There werre over 450 authors signing their books. It would have been overwhelming if everyone hadn't been so darn nice!

Quick list of people I met, then I'm off to have dinner with Kristan Higgins:

Patricia Gaffney - she is just so amazing, I love her!
Caridad Ferrar - up for TWO Rita's, LOVED her book, it was featured on D&d, totally wonderful woman
Day Leclaire - new author, very nice!
Eileen Dreyer - old favorite, signed TUMF for the D&d blog
Anne Stuart - another old favorite, signed TUMF for the D&d blog
Pamela Britton - a Nascar book, looks interesting, very nice lady
Ruth Wind - one of my faves, using a pen name for this one, can't wait to read it!
Lori Avocato - great lady. having dinner with her as soon as I finish this post
Victoria Alexander - you already know I love her, she's a riot!
Alyssa Day - cool streaks in her hair, said she loves the D&d site, so she's a keeper :)
Eileen Rendahl - Beautiful! Plus, she's one of the LC, so you know she's a fave
Teri Thackston - new to me, but very very nice
Amie Stuart - new to me, sweet lady, and she gave me a teddy bear. Gotta love that.

Ok, now I'm late to dinner. I'll gotta run!

I'll keep you posted!

Day Two - Goody Room

Had to dash back to the room to drop off all of the goodies I just picked up! Oh my lands, that room is just packed full of freebies, including BOOKS, bookmarks, games, keychains, pens and CHOCOLATE. I adore the writers that add a little bit of the dark stuff. :)

Here's a pic of my stash from the first pass of the room. The books I grabbed this time around are:

got the look, James Grippando
There Goes The Bride, Lori Wilde
Bitten & Smitten, Michelle Rowan
Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Breaking Free, Lauraine Snelling
Late Night Talking, Leslie Schnur
The Winter Rose, Jennifer Donnelly
The Blue Zone, Andrew Gross
Mad Dash, Patricia Gaffney

Also, there were a bunch of excerpts, and I picked those up as well. Also, for learning craft, I got "Secrets, The Best in Women's Erotic Romance" even though I don't write erotic, or anything like erotic. I thought it would be interesting to see how it's done. Plus, they had Volumes 1-15, so I grabbed two of them. I'm sending one to Charity, even though she doesn't write erotic either. Never hurts to have research books available.

Now I'm heading back downstairs, to see how many new people I can meet!

I'll keep you posted!

Day One Recap

I forgot to post the picture of the Welcome Gifts we got. You'll see the bag, black and green, great straps, lots of room for books. Also a Conference program and a Journal and the Notes for all of the Workshops. On top of the workshop notes book is a very nice pen, along with my nametag and pin.

What RWA bag would be complete without books? Here are the titles from my bag. I'm guessing everyone else got the same, but will investigate later to be sure...

The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell, Samantha James
The Leopard Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt
Bite Me If You Can, Lynsay Sands
McKettrick's Luck, Linda Lael Miller
The Shoe Queen, Anna Davis

I don't have time to even read the back covers of these right now, but you can look them up and tell me which ones to read and dish when I get home.

Ok, off to meet more people now, on my own. The "we" is split this morning, as the other two are attending Chapter functions. I'm on my own, but weirdly enough - not the least bit nervous. Just filled with this curious sense that SOMETHING BIG is going to happen today.

I'll keep you posted!

Two for me, Three for her...

It is day two for me. I'm heading off to the Goodie Room, then just wandering around for a while. The Big Event is tonight, and I'm so excited!

I got this picture and e-mail from my friend Carolyn. She's at the camp as a chaperon, with Gret. Gret seems to be having a grand time, pictured here with Carolyn's daughter Kelsey. Gret is wearing black, of course.

I'm on Day Two, she's on Day Three. I'm wondering which of us is having more fun...? ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day One, Part the second

Still here. Yeah, I know, like I'd leave, right? We (whenever I say "we" I will be speaking of RSS, Kathy and myself) had drinks at the top of the Reunion Tower. We sat there through the entire hour-long rotation, soaking in the sights of Dallas and meeting a new friend from this area. See that pic? Isn't it stunning?

After drinks, we headed outside so I could pollute my lungs. While there, we ran into Victoria Alexander, and had an amusing conversation about how she kills her husband, Charles, in every one of her books.

We've met a variety of people so far, and the conference hasn't even "officially" started yet. As most of you told me, the people are warm and friendly, and I doubt it has much to do with the actual temperature outside. Again, like last year at the NJRW Conference, I feel very blessed to be among a group of writers that are not only gracious but very giving.

Truly, my cup runneth over.

I'm really HERE...

Here I am, at RWA Nationals in Dallas, Texas. The conference doesn't "officially" start until tomorrow, but RSS, Kathy Mix and I got here earlier today. We wanted to get settled in and scope things out.

I won't bore you with details of my VERY early morning after the VERY late night. I won't chronicle how at 10:15 I had firmly decided NOT to attend, due to a sobbing seven year old. I won't even explain how I possibly caused bad relations with the Brits because I think I may have snored, VERY loud, on the plane.

What I will do is tell you that this place is amazing. We've been here for a few hours and already I'm overwhelmed. But in a good way. I've met some of the nicest people, including Maureen Child. Maureen immediately took the voice of my friend BCB, who has told me for the past year that I'm a WRITER, and has been great at encouraging me. I'll be looking for Maureen in the bar, which is where I've been instructed to hang out in order to meet new people. (Honey, if you're reading this - it's TOTALLY for research. I'll only be drinking cranberry juice. Really!)

I'm going to try to blog a LOT this week. Ask your questions, tell me which authors I should seek out, let me know what you want to hear. Tell it to me in the comments.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

...into the future...

And I don't like it one little itty bitty bit. Today is the anniversary of the day that my life changed forever. Some of you may be familiar with this feeling. For those of you that aren't, please disregard this little swagger down memory lane.

I was 19 years old when I met my destiny. It was temporarily cloaked in the body of a 22 year old sailor, with dark stubble, hazel eyes, and a beer in his hand. Love at first sight it was not. I was in the navy, in school in Florida, and studying late on Friday night so I could be the Honor Graduate from my second training school. He was partying with a group of people on the balcony, outside my room. Instead of introducing himself to me, he dragged me into a physical comedy routine that ended with me soaked in beer. I got cleaned up, he apologized, handed my underage self a beer, and it was pretty much a given where I'd be spending my spare time from them on. Fun? Yeah, he was that. As well as being a worldly sailor, seeming so much more mature than me, he was also a musician, and he had a place off base. To my 19 year old self, these things were perfect. Looking back, I realize that he was not my destiny, but at that time in my life, it sure seemed that way. However, he was only the vehicle, the motorcycle ride to my fate, as it were.

As often happened, I became in a 'delicate condition'. Young and incredibly optimistic, we married. Mistake? In hindsight, yes. By that time, I was already well on my way to becoming a mom. Marriage wouldn't have changed that. Oh, but to be able to whisper those simple words of truth to my younger self. It would have saved me countless sleepless nights, many tears, and even a few broken bones and more than a few bruises. Again, hindsight. I mentioned that my destiny was only temporarily cloaked in his body, right? On this very day, fifteen years ago, my whole world went topsy-turvy, and it hasn't been the same since.

At 10:15 am on July 9, 1992, my oldest child was born, forever changing the course of my life and thrusting me at once from the teenager I'd been a mere two days before (my birthday is on the 8th, you understand) to a person that was now responsible for the very life of a whole other person, albeit a very small person.

I can still recall that day, those hours leading up to that moment that she came rushing out of her safe harbor. I was anxious. Would I be good enough? Strong enough? Already I'd gotten the feeling that I'd be doing most of the parenting on my own. Could I love her more than I loved anything else, including myself? Was there a book I could read that could prepare me for this? Fear gripped me with every contraction. I was in a hospital with people that barely spoke English, on an island in the middle of the Caribbean, with no friends and no family, save for the man that helped me into that condition, and he was only mostly sober. I called my mom countless times from a payphone in the hall, literally doubling over with the pain from my body's readying itself to let her fly solo. Once, I dropped the phone and fell to my knees, tears springing to my eyes, as I heard my momma on the other end of the phone, calmly trying to offer advice to her only daughter, crying right along with me for most of the night. I wanted her to be there so much, I wasn't always sure which hurt more, missing her or the contractions.

Finally, my daughter made her appearance. Time stopped for me. It was like God, who I'd always secretly doubted actually existed, hit 'Pause' for me, allowing me to capture and record everything in my mind's eye, every smell, every sound, every single thing. I can see the stark sterility of the delivery room, the green of the doctor's scrubs and the white of his mask against his brown skin. I can smell the faint hint of alcohol radiating from the pores of my husband, and the tangy smell of my own blood. But mostly, I saw Heaven. When that doc held her up for me to inspect, it was like that very same God that I had doubted shined a celestial light right down upon her head, illuminating her for eternity as the beacon of change in my life, and he allowed the angels to herald her arrival with a soft chorus of Amazing Grace. For someone raised in a Baptist church, with a Southern momma and a family that believed, if sometimes only on Sundays, in the existence of a Supreme Being, that Heavenly light and chorus of angels might as well have been a phone call from the Almighty Himself. Looking at that perfect face, and oh my soul she was so perfect to behold, I knew that God existed. There was just no way in hell I'd created her on my own, and I was pretty sure she hadn't gotten much from the man next to me either. It could only be God. That was my shining moment. I got God, and motherhood, wrapped up in a perfect pink blanket, with shining brown eyes and a serious look on a determined face.

She's changed over the years. I don't even know how to explain all she's been through. She was the sweetest baby, hardly ever crying, with a big full laugh that seemed to come from somewhere deep inside her soul. She spoke her first word, momma, when she was about 5 months old, and was talking in short sentences by nine months. At two, she could clearly say "Don't antagonize me!" to her uncle. He didn't listen very well though. She named her brother, because she could pronounce Michael but she couldn't quite get out Gabriel, and she doted on him and claimed him as her own, regardless of the stretch marks he'd given to me. I can remember fighting with her at three, when she unbuckled herself and climbed out of her car seat, and refused to get back into it. I pulled over and put her out on the side of the road, then moved the car about 15 feet. She screamed at me, not in terror but in anger. How dare I make her buckle if she didn't want to! Three was a rough year, for both of us. By four, she'd calmed down enough to enjoy helping me, and was settling into the role of big sister very well, to her three other siblings.

At five, she dropped my hand at the front door on the first day of school, kissed me goodbye, told me not to cry because she'd only be gone a short while, and walked off down the hall without looking back. At six, they all went to stay with my mom while I went on a naval deployment. That was the hardest time of my entire life, as the baby almost lost his life and I actually had to fight the state of Texas to get them all back. Through it all, she reassured and comforted me, always touching my hand or cheek when I needed it most, usually offering a smile or an 'i love you' at just the right time. By her seventh year, we'd found our future as a family, and she settled in quite nicely to being a Daddy's Girl to the man that still adores her more than life itself. But not more than I do. Yes, he chose her, as he chose all of of us, so he gets points for that. And yes, he's never, not for a single second considered himself a 'step-father', and has almost come to blows with people that have called him that. But really, I claim just a drop more, because she was mine first. I nurtured her in my own body. I nursed her, and changed her diapers and bandaged her knees before we knew his face.

Today, I woke at 4am and drove her to camp. She expressed her concern at being gone from all of us, and reminded me that she'd never actually been anywhere, except a sleepover, without at least one of us. Her fear surprised me. If I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be fearless. That's how she seems to me. Fearless. If something bothers her, she faces it until it isn't a problem for her.

She is the most amazing young woman I know, and I know quite a few. Is she the perfect teenager? Hardly. She has her moments of stubborness (no idea where she gets that!), she occasionally gets mouthy, even shows disrespect once in a while. But overall? Those moments are far outweighed by her moments of brilliance, when she showers her younger sisters with devotion, or her grandmother with affection, her father with laughter or her brothers with loyalty. When she leans her head on my shoulder while we're watching a movie, or kisses me right in front of her friends. When she sends me a text message with something funny that she's seen, just because she knows I'll laugh as well. When she makes and brings me a cup of coffee in the morning because she knows I had a late night at work and need the boost. When she writes a poem for my favorite author, because she knows it will make me smile. Her brilliance shines through in those everyday moments where her maturity and compassion far outweigh her actual years.

I've watched this girl grow up. In many ways, I've grown up right along with her. As the oldest, she's been around to see all of my shortcomings, all of my spectacular bad-mommy moments, though she rarely reminds me of them. She's seen me survive abuse, she's seen me walk away from heartache, she's seen my tears when I had no idea how to get out of bed. She's watched me try for love again, choosing so carefully because I had other people to consider, not just myself. She's watched me build a life with a man, a very very good man, watched how I chose him, how we interact, how he treats me. I talk to her, long and often, about what she deserves, and she believes it because she knows that I won't accept any less anymore. She's seen me at my worst, when my world crashed with the near death of my youngest son, and the actual death of my mother. And still, through all of that, she loves me.

When I dropped her off this morning, she was thinking not only of camp and how much fun she would have this week, but also of me. She knows that this week, I'm taking another step towards my dream of being a published author, heading to a writers conference in Dallas while she is at camp. She hugged me and told me to have fun. Fun. She understands how nervous I am, but she's so excited that I'm taking this step. She's one of my biggest fans.

I have other children. Five other children. They are all beautiful and brilliant in their own distinct ways. Each of them owns a piece of my soul. I'd walk through the very bowels of hell for any single one of them, slay a dragon or kill a man with my own bare hands to save them. that instinct, that mothering urge, was born on this day though. On that day she was born and changed my life. On the day I realized that yes, I do have it in me to love someone more than myself, and yes, it might be hard, but I really could manage, even on my own if I had to.

She may be the daughter, but she's taught me so much. She taught me how to be a mom.

I love you, Gretchen.

Happy Birthday.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Almost Southern (excerpt the last)

I'm posting this one early (even though it will have Thursday's date on it) because I'm going to be busy on Thursday. I'll fill you in on that "why" later. A brief setup for this one... it happens pretty late in the story. It is actually the final turning point, before the end of the book. This story is basically a 4 parter, and this scene sets up the end. If that makes sense to you, great. If not, check out the HW/SW How To Write Workshop, and maybe it will.

"But Granny Grace, I don't know what to do. Can't you just tell me? Tell me what to do," Glory all but wailed. Sitting on the swing of the enormous wraparound porch, using her left foot to move the swing into the rhythmic motion she'd always found so soothing as a child, Glory pleaded with Grace for guidance.

As usual though, Granny Grace's lips were sealed tighter than the lid on one of her mason jars of pickled beets. Grace simply stared at Glory, looked at her with a combination of pride and exasperation, and made no sound at all.

Frustration getting the better of her, Glory stopped the swing and jumped to her feet. Sitting here on Granny Grace's porch wasn't doing a damn thing for her. Frankly, Glory couldn't remember the last time that Granny had given her more than a slight hint at anything. Granny seemed to love to just sit there in her rocker, watching Glory stew and huff and swing herself with her left foot. Well, enough was enough. Granny was the matriarch, and she needed to start living up to her responsibilities and dishin' out some advice, real fast.

"Fine. Don't say anything. I'll figure it out on my own. Without your help, as usual. You just sit there rockin', with your lips practically sewn up, and keep all your words to yourself. I don't want 'em, and I don't need 'em. I can figure this out on my own," Glory all but spat. She was hoping that her outburst would cause Granny to react, to open up.

Reverse psychology always worked in the movies. Of course, that was Hollywood. Not Brimstone, Mississippi. Glory should have known better than to even try. There were some things that almost eighty years in the world protected you against. Apparently, reverse psychology from a fuming grandchild was one of those things. She watched as Grace kept rocking, the steady squeak of her chair reminding Glory of how many times she'd been out on this porch, hopin' for some answers.

"Look Granny, I get that you're not gonna tell me what to do. Hell, even you can't have the answers to everything, right? But at least tell me how to make this up to him. The man loves me. I know he does. And I love him right back. I've always loved him, Granny, and it's killin' me bad right now, thinkin' that I let him walk away. But I really didn't have a choice, did I? I mean, I've seen what The Curse does to the men that hook up with us. I know I don't stand a biscuit's chance at the breakfast table of marryin' that man and livin' happily ever after. Still though, I want to go find him, Granny. I want to find him and tell him how much I love him. I want a shot at happily ever after." Glory glanced at Grace and noticed that her spine had stiffened.

Right then, Glory heard the sound of footsteps, coming from the edge of the porch near the steps. Glory looked over and saw her momma, walkin' the length of the porch, eyes glued to Granny Grace. Having no idea what her momma was doing at Granny's house after more than two decades, Glory fastened her eyes on Granny's and waited for an explosion, or at least a minor disturbance.

"Hear that, Grace? Glory wants you to answer her. She's already lost one good man because of your 'curse'. Don't make her lose another too. It's time she knew the truth. Tell her," Mercedes implored.

"Mercy, you have no right to be spoutin' off at the mouth. We made a deal, you and me. I've kept my end of it for over thirty years. You better not stop keepin' yours," Grace replied, with her typical steely determination. When she used that tone of voice, nobody dared to argue.

Nobody but her daughter.

Mercy squared her shoulders and took a step forward, putting her cool hand on Glory's arm as she came to her side. Glory turned slightly so that both women were in her line of sight. Both of these women, so strong in different ways, both held the answers to what Glory needed. One of them had always been the past that Glory tried to outrun, the crazy momma that left her baby girl in front of the double doors on the wide wraparound porch. The other one had always been the pillar of strength that Glory leaned on, like the oak tree in the backyard that she scaled as a child. Glory held her breath and waited, sensing that explosion any second.

"I don't want your deal anymore. It's not worth it. Not if it means seeing Glory in this much pain. Don't you see that? The whole reason for that stupid deal was to make sure that my baby girl never felt pain. Well she's feelin' it now. You can stop it, you know. All you have to do is tell her the truth. Just tell her, momma," Mercy added that last word as a whisper.

Glory flinched at the use of the maternal name. As far as she knew, Mercy hadn't called her mother any other name besides Grace for over thirty years. That same feelin' of walls crashing, of tumbling, of having the air sucked right out of her lungs, hit Glory in that instant. She snatched her arm out of Mercy's grasp and directed the full force of her flashing blue eyes at Grace.

"What deal, Granny? What's she talkin' about?" Glory questioned her grandmother.

"Now chile', don't go listenin' to her babbles. You know she's most likely off her pills right now. She has no idea what she's yammerin' on about. Go on in the house and fetch me a glass of lemonade. I believe your momma and I have some words that need to be said betwixt us," Grace reached out and tried to pat Glory's hand, but for once Glory stood her ground.

"What deal, Granny?"

"I said to go on inside, Glory. Don't you stand there on my front porch and give me lip. I've already heard you swearin' like a sailor today. You think I'm gonna sit here and listen to you demandin' things that you got no right to demand? Now get inside and let me speak to my daughter," Grace demanded.

"No way. Not this time. In this past week alone, I've watched a baby-faced preacher bury my great-grandmother and helped deliver a baby. I've lost one man and chased away another. My momma's waltzed back into my home and I've seen [removed, by author. You have to buy the book or bribe McB to find this out!!]. Now you're sitting there, rockin in your damn chair, with some big secret that's about my life, refusin' to tell me. Well I got news for you. I'm not leavin' this porch until I know what it is." Glory was shaking as she finished, her voice louder than she'd ever used with Granny Grace and much more forceful.

"Oh Glory. Sweet Glory. Hallelujah! Finally yer showin' some fire. I was wonderin' how long it would take you to break those damn reins you been keepin' on your spirit.About this man, Glory. What does your heart tell you to do? What do you want?" Grace demanded.

Confused by the abrupt change of direction of the conversation, and even more confused that Granny Grace hadn't washed her mouth out with lye soap for her outburst, Glory took a second to try to decide how to answer.

"Want? Well, I guess I want what the fairy tales promise. I want a happily ever after," Glory finally answered. "But I don't see what that has to do with any deal you made with my momma. You're not gettin' out of it, Granny. You gotta tell me."

"All in good time, child. All in good time. First though, let me tell you something else. And you listen up good, y'hear? Happily ever after does not exist. It never has and it never will. If that's what yer lookin' for, then that man is better off without you, and you're better off without him. Now, I can see by the look on your face you think my mind's as jiggled as your momma's but hear me out. The best that you can get is happy, Glory. Just happy. Sure, you may get beyond that some days. You may feel like you're livin' on top of the ferris wheel sometimes, or that big rush you get when you're drivin' your car too fast down the road. But that feelin' don't last longer than a gray hair at Edna's beauty shop. There is no ever after, Glory. That's what I'm sayin'. You just have to be willin' to take each day as it comes, the good with the bad. Don't worry about the ever after. The good Lord takes care of that for you. You just search for that happy. And if you can't seem to find it, then you make some of your own, with the person you choose to share your days. You bake' em a pie, pick 'em some flowers, rub their back. Do whatever it takes for you to find that happy every single day, Glory. But don't you expect it. Don't you ever expect that it will be there, just because you think you deserve some fairy tale. You treasure those happy moments when you get them, and remember that they might not last forever. But live like they will," Grace finished, in what was surely the longest uninterrupted string of words Glory had ever heard come from her Granny's mouth.

Shocked almost speechless, Glory asked the one thing that she couldn't help but ask. "But Granny, what about The Curse?"

"Yeah, Grace. Tell Glory about The Curse. I can't wait to hear this one," Mercy said, taking a seat on the swing.

Grace fixed her eyes on Mercedes and uttered eight words that tilted Glory's world so far off its axis, she wasn't sure how she was still standing.

"The curse - -. - - - -[again, removed by the author. Sorry, can't let this one out just yet.]."

And for the third time in a week, Glory felt her legs give out as her butt landed firmly on the ground.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Almost Southern (excerpt the fourth)

Glory pulled the worn afghan around her legs, legs that were currently tucked next to her aching backside, and settled into her favorite chair, in the corner of her quiet room. The steam from the oversized cup of coffee was wafting straight up her nose. As she sniffed in the heavenly aroma, tears coursed down her cheeks. You can't count on anything in this world turning out exactly like you plan, except your coffee, Glory thought to herself.

Pete had left the night before, in a cloud of anger and hurt . Glory could still see the disappointment shimmering in his eyes that last time he'd looked at her. All of their years together, in fact all of their lives that they'd spent side by side, minus those four years when she'd gone off and ruined almost everything, had pretty much disintegrated when he walked through her door and found her in the arms of another man.

Since they'd been no taller than carrot stalks, Pete had been her near constant companion. They'd learned to swim in the little crick that ran right behind Granny Grace's field, stolen pecans from Ol' Mr. Cratcher's yard, and talked about everything under the moon. Pete was the first boy she'd ever kissed, and everyone around had been so sure that he'd slip a ring on her finger right after graduation. Of course, nobody had counted on Glory taking off in the middle of the night, much like her own momma had done eighteen years before, and heading up North to go to college.

She'd been gone for four years. Four long years of living away from Brimstone. No Granny Grace's wisdom dished out with bowls of steaming greens, no wiseass cracks about not really being Southern, no Pete with all of his expectations and promises of forever. Just four years in which she'd lived in a place so foreign to her soul she might as well have been on another planet.

For four years, she'd tried to hide her accent, that thick drawl that some people associated with stupid. She'd put away all of her favorite sayings, bottled up every ounce of Southern that she could, and tried to fit in to the place of her birth. She even tried to enjoy the food, though God's angels only knew why those people thought gravy came from jars.

Alice couldn't have felt more out of place in Wonderland than Glory had felt during those years. If it hadn't been for meeting Jackson Edward Hastings the Third, Glory might have just come running home to Pete. Her story might have been different.

But she had met Jack. She'd loved him, in a way that she'd never even known love could be. He was like the other half of her very own self, the half that she'd always been missing. Jack was a sunrise over the cotton fields on a quiet late summer morning, full of fire and bursting with the promise of a brand new day. Jack was the only person she'd ever truly considered testing the powers of the Baker Family Curse on. She had been fairly sure that he'd be strong enough, man enough, to stomp that ol' curse into the ground, smash it faster than the fireflies Glory had squished in her fat fingers as a kid.

Of course, in the true way of Fickle Fate, Jack had disappeared from her life in the same way that every other man had disappeared from the life of every other Baker woman for the last few generations. One day he was there, in all of his splendor. The next day her world came crashing down right around her ears. Just like her world was crashing right now.

Lost in heavy thoughts and feeling like she was drowning in a river of pain more potent than her Uncle Tommy's strong cider, Glory didn't hear the front door to her house open. She didn't see the figure standing in the doorway of her quiet room, staring at her from faded denim eyes that were the same color as the stonewashed jeans she was wearing. When she finally realized she wasn't alone, she raised her tear-stained face and her mouth dropped open almost to her chest.

"Well damn, Glory. Shut yer mouth before you catch a mess of flies. And get up of yer butt and come hug me. I'm tired as a dog, haven't seen you in month of Sundays, and I'm hopin to high Heaven you've got something stronger than coffee in this house."

Glory shut her mouth, looked straight into that face, and couldn't think of a single thing to say. She slowly set down her coffee, pushed aside the afghan, gingerly straightened her legs, rose to her feet and crossed the room. She stopped two steps from the arms that had been flung wide open for her and took a deep breath.

"I don't know why in God's acres you're here, but you need to get the hell out of my house. Right. Now." Glory started shaking, with either rage or fear. She wasn't quite sure which. Maybe a little bit of both.

"Now Glory, is that any way to talk to your Momma?"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Home Sweet Home...

No internet for a week!

Can you even imagine it?

I have a ton of posts stored, so I'm going to spend a few hours getting them all pretty for Blogger. Then I'll fill you guys in on my trip, the wedding, Grams, travels in a van with six kids, meeting Charity and her fam, meeting CBs and not meeting CBs, and anything else that I wrote.

Plus, there will be the next to last sneak peek of Almost Southern, from last week. The final glance will appear on schedule, this Thursday. Can't wait to hear what you guys have to say about it.

The posts will show up with the date that they were intended to be posted, but I will add an ATF (After the Fact) label into the title, ok?

Glad to be home, but really missing my Grams right now. I'll be back to post more real soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Let's talk about love, baby! ... ATF

~ Yes, another ATF post. You'll get used to them. I have lots to say about my trip.

As a writer of books (see, I actually said I was a writer, OH. Give me about three decades before I add any word like "good" or especially "damn fine" before 'writer' though, ok?), books especially about women, I take an interest in relationships. Especially those relationships that define women. Also, recently I've discovered that I'm not really a 'romance writer'. That is to say, I write stories that have romance in them, but the romance is not usually the central theme of the story.

This was a very major thing for me to discover, especially since I really thought I wanted to write romance. My current passion, Almost Southern, has a pretty hot romance in it. It is not, however, a true romance. If you've read the three excerpts (and really, why wouldn't you have read those, since all you have to do is click on that link, or go over in the sidebar and scroll down to where it says "read some excerpts"), you may see how I've set the story up to be about Glory, instead of the romance between Glory and Pete or Glory and her mystery voice that can whoosh her with a look. Yes, there will be romance. Of course there will be romance. You will get to see Glory in all of her... well, glory. But the story is really about her. As a woman. And some of the stuff that she has to deal with. As a woman.

I think that a good story is just that... a good story. I don't think it matters if the writer is a man or a woman, or if the story is about a man or a woman. However, I do think that there are differences in how men and women write about things. I think that's because men and women take very different views of the same situation. I also think this is a very good thing. Wouldn't it be dull if we all painted the canvas the same way? If we all used the same words to describe the same situation? I'm not just talking about the individual voice that each writer has. I'm talking about being able to tell, sometimes just by the way the writer describes the emotions of a person, whether the writer is a man or a woman. Again, it's not to say that one is better than the other.

As a woman though, I love the challenge of exploring the range of emotions that we women experience every day. At the top of that list of emotions, for me anyhow, is love.

This past week has shown me so many glimpses of so many different types of love. It's overwhelming when I sit here and think of all of the loves that there are, and how we each choose to express those different types of loves in our own unique ways.

For instance, I saw the love of a husband for his wife when The Man reached over and brushed his hand against my cheek while I was driving. He stared at me in a way that made me wonder if I was wearing cheese on my face. I wasn't. He just wanted to touch me. We've been together for more than just a few years, and it still never ceases to amaze me that this man chose me. Me. (No, I mean ME, not that other "me" that lives north, ok? Geez, that just never gets old!) I was humbled by the emotion in his voice when he whispered "You're beautiful". Of course, his glasses were broken, and he was exhausted. Still though. That's a very deep love. Passion in his voice, and tenderness, and even a little bit of awe. Together through familial opposition, parental death, financial disaster, childbirth, major moves, career changes. Even one of those generally has the power to erode love. But not for us.

I saw the love that a father has for his daughter, as I watched my amazing father-in-law give away his baby girl on her wedding day. He was so calm, so proud. I realized then that no matter how much I love my girls, there is a very special bond between a girl and her Daddy. I was honored to witness it that day, and I am forever grateful to have been part of the day.

The love of a groom for his bride is an overwhelming thing. Walking down the aisle in front of my baby sister on her wedding day, I kept thinking I'm not going to cry. I did really good. Until I turned around and got a look at Andrew's face. His eyes were shining with tears, and you could see his heart in those tears. The day that they'd waited for, planned for, anticipated, was finally there. His bride was walking to him, and their lives were going to be joined. And for the record, I was not the only one that cried. If I'm not mistaken, every single one of the Ladies in Pink (that would be me and Alison, Erin and Rachael) were sniffling when we got a glimpse of the groom.

The love of an aunt for her nephew (and his very large family) was something that I've never really seen first hand. However, The Man's Aunt Laurie showed that to me in spectacular fashion. She opened her arms, and her lovely home, to my clan over the weekend. She made us feel so much a part of her family, so welcome, that we literally did not want to leave. In fact, we missed a dinner date in Indy because of her hospitality. Thanks, Aunt Laurie. You're amazing!

I saw the love of grandparents for grandkids that live far away. The Man's folks live in Ohio. We live in Virginia. There are quite a few state lines between us. However, the love that was shining in Lynn's eyes when she saw my babies was unmistakable. Bill was the same way. I had a great time with my "other" mom and dad.

Brothers and sisters share another type of love, and that was a fun thing to watch. I know the love that I have for my brother, but it's always interesting seeing that same relationship played out between others. The Man's brother, Tim, is really funny. I'm not sure that I ever realized that before. He's also a damn good partner at pool. And The Man's sister, Heather, has this special sparkle in her eye when she looks at either one of her brothers. It's difficult to watch sometimes, not knowing all of the stories, not being a part of the history. Thankfully, I understand it because of my love for my own brother. Special, that sibling love.

Friends also share a unique love bond. Even "new" friends that are really old friends. Meeting Charity for the first 'real' time could have been, maybe even should have been, weird. But it wasn't. Because of the special love that we have for each other. With constant e-mails and phone calls, we've built this unique relationship that not even physical geography could hinder. It's different than the love you share with family. But trust me, it is no less wonderful.

Finally, there is the love that I share with my history. My history takes the form of this incredible woman that lives in Oklahoma. She's going blind, she sometimes smokes like a chimney, she watches more Turner Classic Movies than any person should. She's my Grams. When Gret knocked on her door holding pizza boxes, you could have knocked Grams over with a feather. Thankfully, she let us in the house, even though she was NOT expecting us. Yes, we surprised her. And she never complained. She just made room, passed out blankets, kissed her great-grandchildren too many times to count, and laughed. A lot. I will love the wind-chime sound of my Grams' laugh until the day that I die.

With all of the different versions of love that I've witnessed in just the past few days, is it any wonder that I love exploring the transactions of everyday lives? Love is such an integral part of my day, every single moment of my every day, that I couldn't not write about it.

Romance? Yeah, it'll be there, in my stories. But really, there's so much more to love than that. Don't you think?

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's about time! ...ATF

We left Ohio MUCH later than we planned yesterday. So late, in fact, that there was no way we could meet my CB friend Bryan for dinner in Indy. I was severely bummed, but I really didn't think he'd relish a call at 3am, when we finally made it through there.

However, we ended up pulling into Kansas in time to see Charity. And Bear. And Miss Beautiful. And Her Hubs. I don't have pictures. Well, I do. But they are in my phone. And my phone is dead. So. Go to the link. Or just click on her name over there in the sidebar. Yes, go now.

Since I'm actually posting this ATF (After the Fact), you get to read ahead a bit if you go check out her site. But there are PICTURES. Of ALL of the kids. So go. Just go. Charity says some really nice things about me and my kids in her post.

The coolest thing about this though? Well, it was kinda weird finally meeting her after "knowing" her for a year. I mean, we've chatted over on JCF. We've e-mailed. We've started our own book review blog. We even send each other gifts. But to meet? In person? Weird. Here's why...

It totally was not weird at all. Not even a little bit. (That's the weird part - that it wasn't weird. Shouldn't it have been weird? I'm beginning to suspect that this is a normal phenomenon with Cherries and CBs worldwide, as I have yet to have a less than spectacular meeting with a CB or a Cherry. Well, there was that one. But we just won't discuss her, ok?)

Charity has this amazing way of making people feel totally comfortable and right at home. She just walked right up to the van, wearing her Cherry shirt, and opened her arms to me and my family. I held her, tight, and thought... yep, this is exactly like I knew it would be.

We went inside of her home (and regardless of what she says, it looked just fine! MyBob, they were in the middle of a remodel and it looked better than my basement does any day of the week!), put on a movie for the kids, plugged Gret into the internet, and sat to chat. As I knew would happen, talk turned to books. From then on, it was like we were two peas in a pod. Seriously. I haven't felt so welcome, so comfortable, in the home of someone other than family in ages.

When it was finally time to go, I was sad. But at the same time, I was looking forward to our next meeting on Friday.

Honestly, this was one of the highlights of my trip. Even better than seeing Johnny Depp. And if you know me, you know that's saying a LOT.

I love you, Kansas!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tinkle, tinkle, little star... ATF

So my baby sister got married yesterday.

Well, she's not technically my baby sister. She actually belongs to The Man. I guess she now technically belongs to a new man though, huh? I digress.

My baby sister got married yesterday.

WOW! What an event. And of course I have a kid-story to tell. You ready?

The wedding and reception were held at the beautiful Lakeside Center in Navarre, Ohio. Please check out that link. This post will make a little more sense if you can get a visual of where the wedding took place.

I am in my very pink bridesmaid dress, in line behind my SIL Alison. Behind me in line is my new friend Rachael, followed by the MOH Erin. After Erin is Michael, the ring bearer (also The Man's youngest cousin, age 4). After Michael, Maggie and Emile were in all of their flower girl glory. Those two looked like princesses, with their hair all done up, in their beautiful ivory dresses, cute shoes, and baskets full of rose petals.

We walked out, one by one, to meet up with the groomsmen (including The Man), in front of the little bridge that leads out to the gazebo. You'll see the gazebo in that link, and you can see the bridge on that site. All was going beautifully, including the fact that the girls did a wonderful job of spreading those petals in front of their aunt as she was walking.

The Bride and Groom made it out to the gazebo, and Maggie took her place next to Alison while Emile stood next to me. Everything was perfect. Uncle Irwin even made the call to the weather people and the rain stopped just before the ceremony began, and stayed away until after the event was over. (Did I mention that Lakeside Center belongs to The Man's Aunt and Uncle?)

A Bride was given away, passages were read by selected family members, tears were shed. It was all going along very well. Then I noticed it. Yes, IT. The unmistakable Dance of Impending Doom being done by my darling baby, right by my side. She had to go, and I mean go.

Are you picturing this? Back and forth, one foot to the other, back and forth, like she was doing the steps to a very intricate dance, this child swayed and moved. Finally, she looked up at me and stage whispers... "Momma, I really have to go." Not having a clue what the protocol is for disappearing flower girls, I whisper back..."Can you hold it for just a few more minutes?" "I'll try," she stoically replies. Another minute goes by. Then... "Momma, really bad." Expecting to hear the sound of liquid hitting the lake below us at any time, I lean down to her and say, "Baby, they're almost done. Wait until you feel like you're going to explode, ok?"

See, we hadn't covered this part in rehearsal. I had no clue what to do. I knew only that the event was being filmed, and that I was sure to hear about my youngest leaving in the middle of the ceremony. Not to mention the fact that I was envisioning all sorts of things. She could have tripped and fallen in the lake if she went by herself. She could have gotten to the bathroom and decided not to come back. She could have slipped on the stone path up to the house and dirtied her pretty dress. How much longer can this possibly take? I wondered to myself. I got my answer... A LOT, at least in the mind of my jig-dancing baby.

When she had reached maximum capacity, she looked up at my with her huge eyes and said, "Momma? I tink I'm gonna 'splode now." I glanced over at The Man and shrugged my shoulders. I mean, what's the worst that could happen? Someone would stand up and scream that they were gonna call the flower girl police? I 'tink' not. So I gave her the rules: No running. Straight there, straight back. No running. Wash your hands. NO running.

She went off the back bridge, doing a power walk that would have made one of those mallwalkers proud. She was back in under two minutes. I have no idea if she ran when out of my sight, but she came back with no stains on her dress. And a huge, very relieved, smile on her face.

She stayed right there by my side for the remainder of the ceremony, very still and serious in her offical flower-girl capacity. She only slipped up and lost it one single time. When the preacher said, "I now pronounce you Man and Wife. You may kiss the Bride," she pulled on my hand and in a very plain voice asked, "So now can we call him UNCLE?" I giggled and nodded yes. He's been an unofficial member of the family for quite a while, but they all waited until they could officially bestow that special name.

And can I just add that the Bride and Groom never even knew that she was gone until after the ceremony, when I apologized?

Anyhow, welcome to the family, UNCLE Andrew. I am so thankful that my baby sister brought me a new brother!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wuv...twue wuv...

Tomorrow, after I get the chance to do some uploading (or my wonderful daughter does it for me! hint hint) I'm going to post some pictures of the wedding.

For now though, I'd like to take this chance to welcome ANDREW into our family. Andrew married my lovely sister (in-law) Heather today.

The wedding was perfect, as all weddings really are. Regardless of any of the "little things" that come up, the end result is the same - a man and woman joined together, at the very beginning of THEIR life, together.

I have many more ruminations about the wedding, the couple, and love in general. I'll be sharing them tomorrow. For now, I'm going out with The Man, his Brother Tim, my delightful Sister (in-law) Alison, and Rachael (my new friend). We're going to a little place next to our hotel, to spend some time hanging out, something we rarely get the chance to do.

See you all in the morning!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Where's your place?

No, I don't mean the one that you share with your partner. I'm running a G-rated blog here. Ok, sometimes it veers into PG-13, but still...

I'm on the first day of a trip that will take me from Virgina, through DC and Maryland, West Virginia (three times, actually, though only because of it's shape), PA, Ohio (for a three day stop for a wedding), IN (and a stop to see Bryan and Cathy), IL, MO, OK (where we will see Grams! and Charity and Marcia), Arkansas, TN (and Sheryl from Canada, don't ask why she's in Memphis!), then back to VA. It makes me tired just thinking about it, not to mention how I feel about driving straight through the night to get to Ohio. My husband broke his glasses the day before the trip, and we didn't have time to get a new pair, so I'm going to be doing all of the driving. Normally, I drive during the dark, when it's nice and quiet. He drives during the day, so I can read. Not so much this trip. So, I'm tired. And cranky. That's a lot of places, you know?

However, doing all of that driving last night, I realized that it's the perfect time to write a book, even though I can't technically write while I'm driving. But I got so much figured out last night. I've been really struggling with a certain part, and the quiet of the road really helped me be able to see it.

I want to know where your "quiet car in the dark of the night" is. Where is the place where you can go and pick apart your stories, take apart the pieces, and put them back together again?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hop along, baby bunnies...

This is just crazy. Yesterday, it was a snake in the basement. Today? Rabbits in the mouth of the dog.

Here's my own special form of an apology for all of those that I terrified with that black snake picture yesterday.


Also, I'm heading out today, on my Grand Adventure. I'll be seeing some of you very soon! We'll also be attending a much anticipated wedding, and visiting Grams. Please keep us in our thoughts and prayers while we travel.

I'll try to keep updating while I'm gone, but I have no idea where or when I'll have internet connections. I promise pictures when I return though!

Almost Southern (excerpt the third)

A loud banging on the door brought Glory straight up out of the depths of one of the most sensual dreams she'd ever had. She struggled to ignore the loud, insistent pounding on the door. Tried in vain to escape back into that haze of pleasure that she'd been experiencing before the banging started, to slip back into that soft, warm place where she could hear a sweet voice whisper her name. Finally, Glory realized that trying to grasp those last, willowy wisps of fantasy was futile. The dream had floated away on wings as light as Granny Grace's butter cookies, and all she was left with was a very rude person trying to pound a hole into her front door.

She trudged down the stairs rumpled from sleep, wearing only a pair of men's pajama pants and a tattered Ole Miss t-shirt that could have held three more women her size knotted at her navel, missing her left sock. As she reached the front door and glanced down at her feet, she wondered, as she did every single morning, if there was a magical fairy that slipped into her room in the middle of the night and removed one sock, one left sock, and hid it away in a grove somewhere.

With her right hand firmly grasping the doorknob before giving it a slight twist and tug, Glory was in no way prepared for the sight that greeted her when she flung the door open and grumbled "Alright already. You can quit your banging now."

Standing there on her front porch, in the dead center of Brimstone, Mississippi, wearing a smartly pressed, probably Italian, suit that easily cost twice as much as her car, was a man that sucker punched the air right out of Glory's body in one quick whoosh. And he didn't even have to raise a hand to her to do it.

He quirked a dark brow at the sight of her, noticing how the pajama bottoms rode the curve of her hips. He glimpsed the creamy expanse of skin that her tied shirt exposed. The corners of his mouth, oh Lordy what a mouth, lifted upwards, in the hint of a smile. His eyes sparkled as they roamed her body, taking in every detail, mentally drinking in the sight of her like a man that's been standing too long in a field of cotton on a sweltering August afternoon. His slow perusal of her trembling body took in her missing sock, the cuffs of her bottoms, the knot in her shirt, the bared shoulder from a neckline that was four sizes too big, the wild auburn that framed her startled face, and ended with his emerald eyes settling into a quiet contest of wills with her denim blue eyes.

"Mornin', Glory."

That voice, a blend of rich dark chocolate and sweet smelling cigar smoke, rolled over Glory's senses like the waves of the Gulf of Mexico rolled over the sands of Gulf Shores, smooth, tickling, relaxing. Relentless. Just a hint of danger was there, at the very edges, almost imperceptible. But Glory recognized it immediately. It was a voice from a long time ago, another life really. The voice belonged to someone that knew her, knew every crevice of her body, every hidden corner of her soul. That voice was from her past, a past so hidden and secret, so closely guarded, that not even Pete knew about it. Granny Grace might have suspected, but even she wasn't really sure.

It was the voice from her dream.