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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A WHAT? You gotta be kiddin' me!

Right in the middle of my latest scene from Almost Southern (which, YES, you will have tomorrow, before I go on my travels!), I heard a frantic wail from below my bedroom.

Now anyone that is a mom, or has the role of a mom, or even knows a mom, generally knows that there are many different types of wails, and they each mean very different things. There is the wail of hunger, most often associated with newborn babies. There is the wail of pain given when an older brother has you in a choke hold, most often followed by the wail of anger when the older brother won't let you go. There is the wail that follows someone turning off the television during the last 3 minutes of "The Gilmore Girls" series finale, most often followed by a wail of pain from an oldest sister hitting someone. Hard.

Yes, there are many wails, but one that always gets me is the wail of "Mommmmmma! Snaaaaaaake! In the houuuuuuuuse!" Um, yeah. That one got my attention, as it's not often heard. Ok, for the record here, I can honestly say that I've NEVER heard that wail before.

So I rushed right out of the room, down the stairs into the kitchen. Here's what I found: my Mags trembling, my Jo squealing, and Michael (who only this morning scared me with his strength during a playful bout of wrestling, which earned me no less than three bruises), sweet Michael, the protector of all things feminine whilst The Man is at work, catching a snake on the stairs that lead to our fully finished basement.

Yes, Virginia, I said a snake. In my house. In the hands of my son.

I have no idea how this snake got in here, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the basement door being not always securely fastened. Still though... a snake. In my house.

Can I just take a moment to say "EWWW!"

See for yourself:

Love the one you're with?

Yesterday was rather bizarre for me. I told you guys about all that is going on, including my inability to finish book. That had been really bothering me, so I decided to fix it. I bought a re-print book from one of my tried and true authors, determined to break this long dry spell of non-reader-lust. Did it work? You be the judge.

I will be posting a review of that book later today. I might even come back here and put in a link to that review. I might. No promises there. The book just affected me on such a deep level, and I haven't really been able to stop thinking about it since.

You all know about my wonderful husband, and how much I adore him. Really, he's the most decent man that I know, and I'm very lucky to have him in my life. Well, last night I went out with some friends, and The Man decided to stay home. I think I've mentioned how much I like going out without it. Not much. But I'm a big girl, and I also really enjoy the chance to get out of my house and be around other grown-ups, in a setting where I am not "Mom". I crave this time every week, so unless there are very extenuating circumstances, I tend to go out.

One of my favorite things about this new place to go is the general atmosphere. It is very nice there, and the clientele is a bit more polished than in some of the other places we've been. Perhaps one of my favorite things is just watching people. As a writer, I love trying to figure out each person's "real story", discover or invent their 'dark moment', learn what makes them tick. Let me tell you, it can get really interesting to do this at a bar. When people drink, their inhibitions are lowered, and they tend to show a side of themselves that is normally kept safely tucked away. Whether this is good or not really depends upon the person, and the side that they are revealing.

Watching the revolving door that some people seem to have placed on their hearts is disturbing to me. Seeing someone with a new warm body every week is just so sad to me. Even more difficult is trying to figure out if they've already had a 'dark moment', something that led them to treat relationships as something temporary, or if their 'dark moment' is just around the corner for them.

And of course, all of this ferments in my brain. I let it just gather up there, stewing and simmering. One of these days, it will make a really great roux, I'm sure. Right now though, it brings up some issues for me. Some of you are writers, and some of you even write romance, so help me out here.

Are there themes that you feel really do not belong in romance? I'm not talking about some big debate about other people defining romance, or trying to keep writers out of romance because of what they write, or anything else. I'm asking because of the book yesterday, and things that I see on a regular basis where I think "I could write this" but then trying to figure out what "this" is, because I just don't think it's romance.

Are there things that really trip your squick-meter? Are there certain things that just do not work for you at all when you read a romance? For me, it's adultery. I just don't think that there is any way to sell sleeping with someone that is not your spouse as romantic. If you make that commitment, if you walk the aisle and say the words, then you are supposed to forsake all others. Right?

But, you say, what if you stop loving that person, and meet another person that you really love more? Then is it ok?
For me, the answer is still 'no'. If you meet someone that you love more than the one that you're with, then get a divorce.

But, you say, what if the one you're with treats you really bad, really really bad, and you're just not happy anymore. Then is it ok?
Again, still 'no'. See my answer to the first question.

But, you say, what if you just think you made a mistake in being with the one that you're with, because this other person just gets you better, and understands you more, and really makes you smile? Then is it ok?
Still 'no'. If all of that is true, then get yourself out of the relationship you're in first, then feel free to explore your feelings with the other person.

Does this mean that I hate all books that have adultery? Not at all. I think that there are many instances where this subject is handled beautifully, and I love reading stories about love and betrayal and hurt and pain and angst, and all of that real life stuff that happens. But those aren't romances. Does this mean that I think that a book can't be a romance if it has adultery? Not necessarily. There are a few, a very select few, romance authors that are brilliant enough to bring me along and draw me into a story where one the the MCs is unfaithful. For the most part though, I just don't find that romantic.

Thankfully, I am not the person that gets to sit in the big red chair and determine what is romance and what is not. I am the person that gets to sit in my bed, underneath my down comforter, and write down a story on my shiny laptop. Is it going to be a romance? I'm really not sure yet. I think that Almost Southern is more about Glory than it is about the relationship between Glory and Pete. They already have an established relationship. And I just don't know if Glory could ever cheat on her man.

So tell me, what themes make you cringe when you see them? I'm not looking to start a debate here, I'm just interested in what makes your skin crawl when it comes to romance. Is there anything? Or are you one of those people for which anything goes?

Oh yeah, and I promised that I'd say hello to my very dear friend Bill. He actually drove up from Glouster to meet me last night. We had a great time hanging out, people watching, and talking. Bill is one of those special people in my life, that just accepts me for the crazy that I am. He actually started out being friends with The Man, but I stole him. And he told me if I didn't say hi that he wouldn't make the trip again. So HI BILL. Now you have to come back up in a few weeks. Of course, I guess it's really The Man's turn to go out with you now. Bummer. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's a brand new day! Ugh! I'm overbooked!

This week is so crazy for me, as some of you already know. I'm going to take a few short minutes to fill you in on stuff today.

- I've been a book-writing*** fiend lately. I've just been consumed by my muse, and am taking this wonderful and totally unexpected burst of inspiration for all it's worth. I have no idea how long it will last, or what I'll be left with when it's over. For now, I'm thankful.

- I've been a blogging fiend lately. As some of you have noticed, I've been posting a lot. I personally committed myself, months ago, to doing a month-long blogging extravaganza. I picked May as the month because I could give it a catchy title, "a blog a day in the month of May". I was NOT planning on having the writing bug hit me. I was not thinking that this was the one month of the entire year that was chock-full of travel. Basically, I just was NOT thinking. But I am blogging. So, there's that.

- I have been a reading slacker. I've bought books. I've picked books up. I've even tried to start reading no less than a dozen books, from various genres. I just can't seem to get into any of them. This is tough, because reading has always been my strongest passion, next to my God and my family, and it's a little weird for me not to read at least one book per day, usually having about 4 or 5 going at the same time.

- Due to not reading, I've also been a reviewing slacker. What can I say? I can't review books*** if I can't read them. Thankfully, Charity*** has been keeping the review site*** going, and hasn't even threatened to kill me. Yet.

- I'm in the middle of wedding plans. Not my own, of course. My wonderful sister (in-law), Heather, is finally marrying her long-time sweetheart, Andy. Their wedding is taking place this Saturday. My two babies will be flower girls, and The Man and I will be attendants. So, I've been to the bridal store no less than 4 times in the past few weeks, picking up, picking out, exchanging dresses for the big event. I finally have 4 dresses, one for each of my girls. I'm hoping that the seamstress gets done with mine in time. It was promised last week. It's still not here. Shhh, don't tell Heather. She doesn't need the stress.

- Directly from the wedding (in Ohio), we are traveling to see my Grams (in OK). I'm very excited about this trip, since I haven't seen her since December of 05, and half the fam hasn't seen her since December 04. She's requested 2 bottles of wine. Anyone know the law about taking alcohol across state lines? Am I going to be a fugitive?

- During the travels, I have set dates to meet some of my IFFs (Imaginary Internet Friends) all over the Eastern part of the country. I'm hoping to meet Bryan*** and Cathy in IN, Marcia in OK, and CMS*** in Memphis (Don't even ask why the Crazy Canadian will be in TN, ok?). I also get to spend time with Charity***. We're taking all of the kids to see Pirates III on opening day, in Tulsa. If you're in the area, why don't you join us?!?

- I may be getting transferred to a different store. I actually have a phone interview today with a GM of another restaurant. I've already talked to my GM, and the DM, and I'm possibly moving up to Northern Virginia to be an ETC (Employee Training Coordinator). This is a great opportunity for me, and I love to train, so that's good. However, it is full time, 40 hours a week. The salary is decent, and the benefits are nice. I'm just not sure how a homeschooling mom of six, who writes all the time, is going to manage a full time job. Don't tell my husband, but I'm more than a little nervous, ok?

That about catches you up on everything. As you can see, I've got my hands full this month. Ad this is the month I decided to blog every day. Though I've done it so far, I don't hold out hope that it will continue past Thursday. We travel on Thursday night, and I have no idea what the internet status will be in the many places I'll be spending the rest of the month. Maybe I'll sneak into a Panera Bread. Who knows.

Oh, and be sure to catch the series finale of GILMORE GIRLS tonight. It's going to be An Event at our house.

So tell me, what's on your calendar?

***PS - you can find all of the links for these wonderful people over in my sidebar. What are you waiting for? go check out their blogs too. If they are fun enough for me to visit, they are fun enough for you to read! Note: Excerpts from my current book, Almost Southern, can be found on the sidebar as well. Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Degrees of Unacceptability?

I was having a discussion with my charming baby girl this morning. You know the one, that just had a birthday, and is now the year that is too many for her to count on one hand. Yep, that's her.

She asked me why sometimes the police arrest black men that are driving very expensive cars.


Serious. That was her question, and she was not going to allow distractions or subject changes until she had an answer.

In the simplest terms possible, I explained racial profiling. I told her how some people, because they don't know better or are just not very nice, look at someone and make a judgment about that person based on the color of their skin. She didn't get it until I said "What if someone saw you and said 'Now there is a very small little girl, with light brown skin and blonde hair and green eyes. She must be a BRAT!'" That did not sit quite right with her. She decided that racial profiling is VERY BAD. She also decided that it's not very nice at all to make a decision about a person because of the way they are dressed, or the color of their hair, or anything else except for what is INSIDE of a person ("But not inside like the blood and guts, but inside of your heart, Momma").

Smart kid.

About an hour later, however, she threw me for yet another loop. Talking to this kid is sometimes like riding a roller coaster. She spilled her soda and exclaimed "Now I've got crap all over me!" Huh. After a short "Did you really just say 'crap'?" discussion, I had to figure out how to handle this.

With each child, there has come a time when they have uttered some word, some phrase, that I, as the mom, did not feel was totally acceptable. As they age, the degree of acceptability seems to change, at least for me. For instance, if the almost-15 y.o. had said "Crap!" I wouldn't have even blinked. But with the baby, it just doesn't seem quite right to me. Granted, there are still words that I prefer that the older one doesn't say. But I really shy away from having any hard and fast rules, or a strict list, of what words are ok and what words are not.

I think part of this comes from being a writer. I see all words as beautiful, even if I don't particularly care for a certain word or phrase. I really don't like to label a word as "bad", and have it be forbidden. I prefer to explain that a certain word of phrase really shouldn't be used by a small child, that it is an adult word, or that it just doesn't sound very good coming out of such a sweet/small mouth. The only word that is really not allowed is "Can't" as in "I can't do that." Acceptable alternatives are "I'm having a hard time" or "I need help with that" or even "I really don't know how this is possible". But I just don't want them to ever feel like they "can't" do something. That's just me.

I try, very hard, to watch my language in front of my kids. However, a jacka$$ has been known to slip out while driving, and a $h!t has been uttered when I'm late for work. Am I proud of this? No, not really. But neither am I ashamed. I think that the overuse of 'profanity' often gives the impression of a person that has a very limited vocabulary. Think about it. When you meet someone that swears a LOT, what is your initial impression? I've always told my kids that people use those words because they aren't smart enough to know any others. But that's not always true, is it? I have a writer friend that loves the f-bomb. I know lots of people that use 'swear words' in regular conversations all the time. Hey, I was in the Navy for 10 years. They don't have that saying "Curse like a sailor" for nothin'. And yes, I can curse with the best of them.

I'm wondering though, if any of you have different degrees of acceptability when it comes to these words. I seem to have about three levels. Level one includes words like shoot and heck. Level two has things like crap, and even damn and hell. Level three is for the other ones, like $h!t and f**k. Then there is the group of "I really want to swear right now, but realize that this is an unacceptable situation, so I'll use something else instead" phrases. I happen to LOVE to say "Sunny beaches!" and "Fudge Ripple Ice Cream!" and even "Shiitake Mushrooms!" or "Damage control!"

So share. Are there degrees of acceptable words? Do you draw the line at "heck"? And what are some of YOUR "other" words or phrases?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Memories, light the corners of my mind...

Misty water-colored memories... of the way we were...

Ok, so I'm not Barbra Streisand. Get over it. But that song has been rolling around in my head all day. Surprised? You shouldn't be. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a Babs fan. The Way We Were is actually one of my very favorite movies of all time. And it doesn't even have an HEA. Come to think of it, one of my other faves, Casablanca, doesn't have an HEA either. Hmmm, and neither does Gone With The Wind. Something for me to ponder. Another day.

Today is Mother's Day, and I wanted to share some things with you. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably guessed that this day is a little rough for me. I have six wonderful children, and I love seeing them get all excited about my special treats for today. But I also spend a great deal of each Mom's Day thinking about my mom. Sometimes that's not so bad, sometimes it is. When you grow up in a family where the mother was most probably manic depressive/bipolar, you end up with a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to memories of your childhood. Today, I'm choosing to concentrate on the good things. I invite you to step into my memories with me today, and revel in the happiness that I found there.

My mom...
- was one of the most beautiful people I know, with sparkling green eyes, honey blonde hair, and a thousand watt smile.

- had me when she was 18, so we basically grew up together. Are you familiar with the Gilmore Girls? That was us in a lot of ways, but without the cool history in the quirky town.

- celebrated every single holiday ever thought up by the folks at Hallmark. And even a few that they never could have dreamed.

- bought presents for every one of those holidays. Have you ever gotten a Groundhog's Day gift? I have.

- never went to work on "perfect days". And she kept me out of school for them too.

- would sometimes call in "happy", and take me for double-fudge brownie sundaes and hot chocolate at Denny's.

- knew just where to find the best shaped seashells in Newport Beach.

- also knew how to get a table at The Crab Cooker without having to wait.

- met celebrities through her job, and always got me autographs (Nadia and Bart were my favorites, I was a gymnast for quite a while).

- woke me up very early to witness the televised wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales.

- called me in the middle of the night when Princess Diana was killed.

- sent me money to take flowers to the British Embassy and sign her name in the tribute books (I lived in MD at the time).

- also called me when Michael Hutchence of INXS died, because she knew that I'd luuvvered him as a teenager, and once gotten a kiss from him as an adult.

- loved old movies, especially the ones we now call "Classics". She's the one that got me hooked on Babs, and Bogart and Bacall, and Vivien Leigh, and Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracey, and Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, and just about any other person that starred in a movie that has since been techni-colored by Turner.

- called me every single year of my life at exactly 12:40pm on my birthday, no matter where in the world I was.

- always made my comfort food, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy, whenever I came to visit. Every single time.

- had this unique ability to find the absolute most perfect gift ever, for every person, for every occasion.

- bought me a calendar every year for Christmas. Every year.

- often told me she was proud of me, even sometimes when I didn't really deserve it.

- welcomed my husband, a Yankee almost 5 years my junior, into our Southern family with open arms.

- loved my children with a passionate devotion that I sometimes secretly envied.

- used to tell everyone that I was her best friend.

- would do things like make a jumbo shrimp cocktail and serve it with chilled wine, and put Van Morrison on the stereo. At 2pm. On a Tuesday. And share it with me. Just because.

- once took me and my three oldest daughters to New York. To see Cats on Broadway.

- taught me, through things she always did, things she never did, and things I wished she'd done, how to be the mom that I am today, a mom that passionately adores all six of her divinely beautifully perfect children, and wants nothing more than to be the very best mom ever.

My life with my mother was not all peaches and cream. We had some rough spots, many very rough spots. There were times when I did not like her. At. All. But I wouldn't be the mom I am today if she would have been one single bit different than she was. For that, I am eternally thankful.

And I miss her.

A lot.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Did you ever...

just want to lay down in your bed and sleep until you woke up naturally, without the aid of an alarm clock, nudge from a spouse, or persistent shakes from a hungry child? That is ME today.

I have no real reason to be so tired. Unless you count that I did not get to sleep until after 3am. Then got out of bed and on the road at 7am. My body is begging for rest, but my mind just won't shut off. Ever have days like that?

I think a big part of it is that my story is just brewing, and bubbling, and boiling over. I'm at a point in my DLD draft that is tough, but it seems to be working. I don't really know if it actually is working or not yet. I won't really know until I get beyond this part and finish the whole thing, then go back and see what I've got. But right now, it just seems to be flowing.

I tried to read a book today, but I couldn't concentrate on the story. My mind kept going through the last scene I wrote, picking it apart and piecing it back together, filling in some blanks that I'd left, and setting things up for another scene. That's a really weird thing for me, not being able to read. Generally, nothing can stop me from reading. I have a book with me almost all the time. I read at stoplights, I read in the tub, I read in bed, I read while the kids watch tv, I read outside, I read at my desk, I read at work on my breaks. I read. That's what I enjoy doing, and why I used to post so many book reviews. However, either I'm picking the wrong books these days or my head is just too into my own story to try to make sense of another one. No clue.

Thanks for the new blog updates, Sheri and Michelle. Amy, it's an honor to have you come here and comment. Charity, you know I love you! Thanks for the new post. And to that sweet young man that commented on my last post, my hat is tipped to you (Do women tip their hats? No? Well, you know what I mean!).

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I'm really not sure how I feel about that right now. I have no idea if my children and The Man have gifts for me. I really don't care. No, I mean that. I'm one of those people that just really hate the idea of a designated day to give gifts. I wasn't always like that, but I find it more and more as the years pass. Tomorrow will be hard in some ways, but you guys probably know that already. It will also bring joy, because I am a mom and I've got some really great kids.

I'll let you know how things go.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Where is everyone?

Ok, this is really just a RANT post, so feel free to ignore it if you want. You are perfectly welcome to read one of the excerpts from my current WIP, but please, for the love of God and all that's holy, if you read it... please comment. Just your thoughts. Either tell me you hate it or that it needs a lot of work or that it totally sucks, or that Glory annoys you, or that Granny Grace is a punk, or SOMETHING. But let me know, ok?

Now for the reason I'm ranting... Well, I won't tell you all of it. But part of it has to do with some of my blogging friends. See, they hardly ever blog. And that's bugging me to bits this month. Because all I have time to read is blogs, or something online. And nobody will post anything new. Very, very frustrating.

I've been writing like a fiend lately, going way more than I did during Nano, even. If you remember, I was doing about 3000 words a day during Nano. It's been like that again, but even more. Totally insane. My wrists are throbbing most nights, between the laptop and the trays at work. But it's such a good throb that I can't even complain.

I take short breaks while I'm writing, just to give my hands a pause. Generally, I want to read what's been up with YOU guys. So I click on my links (updated now, did you notice?) and see... nothing new. With the possible exception of Amy, who earned her place as the Spring Highlight because I've been loving the stuff she's put up lately, most of you guys*** are really blog-slackers. For some of you, it has been literally MONTHS since you've posted anything new. For others, only weeks. Ok, and Charity FINALLY posted something new yesterday, after a whole week (But hers are really worth waiting for, so I won't scream too loud. Plus, she's had the stomach flu, so I guess she's got an excuse).

Who am I to complain, when there have been stretches of time that I've also been a blogging slacker? And in fact, I *am* a blogging slacker right now, if you check out the review blog (but that's because I've been so busy WRITING that I haven't even READ anything in weeks, but that's another blog altogether). Well, I am the person that is trying to finish a book, and needs some contact with the outside world while I'm doing it.

So, for me, pretty please... if you're in my links, please update your blogs. Because I miss you. And I want to know what you've been doing. But mainly, because I need something new to read while my wrists rest, ok?

Help a chick out here, will you?

*** Ok, short disclaimer here... In all fairness, there are a few of you that have been posting on a semi-regular basis, like Laura Florand and JenT, and Michelle Hulse and ZaZa. So if anyone else wants to read some really awesome posts, go click one of those four people, ok?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Almost Southern (excerpt the second)

Short note: Different place in the story. Not sequential. That's just how I write. Deal with it. And YES, I changed my blog. :)

"Granny, I've got to head out of town for a few days. I won't be gone long. I promise to be back by the weekend. I just wanted you to know that I won't be here. I've already told MaryLynn, and she's gonna stop in to check on you while I'm gone, ok?" Glory explained to Grace, as she was setting the table for Sunday dinner.

Sunday dinner was a Tradition at Granny Grace's house, and Traditions were something not to be taken lightly. As the only daughter of the only daughter of the new family matriarch, Glory was pretty sure that her Sunday dinner duties might soon be expanding. She had disturbing visions of future Sundays, where hoards of the Baker clan would descend upon the house and demand food. It had happened at Grandmother Rose's house until last week. They vultures would need a new place to eat. Glory had no problem believing that the small dinner between two, or oftentimes three, would soon become An Event.

"Well, Miss Glory, I s'pose I'd like to know where you're headin' off to this time. It's not like I don't have enough on my plate these days, what with my mother dyin' and not even knowin' how to get hold of your own momma. Now you're up and leavin' me too? That's just what I need right now, about as much as I need another hole in my head," Grace pointedly stated, before huffing into her seat at the head of the table.

"Oh Granny, don't be like that. I'll only be gone a few days. I have to go down to New Orleans to meet with a client. I'll call you three times a day while I'm gone, I promise. Besides, with MaryLynn around, you won't even know that I'm gone," Glory soothed.

"Oh peeshaw. MaryLynn. Like that silly girl is gonna be any help. She couldn't find her way out of a cardboard box, iffn the lid was left open. That gal's one rock shy of a full load, I'm tellin' you. Well, at least tell me you're takin' that young man of yours with you. And tell me you're maybe gettin' married while you're gone. That would be somethin' to lift my spirits," muttered Grace, around a mouthful of greens.

"Married? Granny Grace, how many times do I need to explain to you that I am not going to marry Pete Wilkes? Isn't it enough that we've been datin' for six years? Why would I want to ruin a perfectly good relationship with marriage? Besides, I love Pete, and I have no intention of lettin' the Baker Family Curse kill him," Glory replied, clearly exasperated with the turn the conversation had taken. It was a conversation that had been had many times in the past, and knowing Granny Grace, they'd be having it many more times in the future.

"Ruin your relationship? By gettin' married? Glory Bea Baker, you was raised better than that. And I don't want to hear any of your foolishness about killin' that poor man by marryin' him. What happened to your grandfather was a long time ago. It was the war that killed him, Glory. Not any curse. A bullet from a sniper caught him right in the neck and he drownt in his own blood. It had nothin' to do with marryin' me."

"Well, that may well be, but it doesn't explain my own Daddy, now does it. One dead man might be an accident, but two dead men married to Baker women clearly means a curse in my book. And I just don't want to take that chance. Not with Pete. He's the best man I know, Granny. I'd like to keep him alive, if it's all the same to you," Glory explained, for what felt like the hundredth time.

"Your Daddy was a fine man. And that was about as freak an accident as anyone's ever seen. And that preacher man dyin' on the way to the courthouse had nothin' to do with any curse either. You wanna know what I think? I think you're just tryin' to connect all of these random events to git you out of a big ol' Southern weddin'. That's what I think," Grace stated emphatically. "And you're breakin' your poor Granny's heart in the process," she added for good measure.

"A freak accident. A freak accident? Granny, he choked on a lemondrop the first morning of his honeymoon. Nobody chokes to death anymore. Clearly, that was a sign from God Himself that my parents were not supposed to have spent their lives together, don't you think? And then the preacher was killed when his car hit a gator on his way to file the papers after the wedding. Who in the world tries to drive over a six foot gator in Mississippi? No wonder my mother ran off up North to have me. I bet she thought she could get rid of The Curse as long as I wasn't born right here in Brimstone."

A deep voice broke into their conversation. "How are my two favorite ladies this afternoon? From the sounds of it all the way out on the sidewalk, y'all are havin' your typical Sunday Curse discussion. What did I miss," Pete asked, bending to kiss Granny Grace on the cheek and wink at Glory across the table.

"Well, young man, I was wondering when you were going to stop by. We missed you at the service for my mother the other day. Glory said you were out of town. Again. I'm hopin' all of these trips are going to stop when you finally make an honest woman of my granddaughter," Grace sighed, as she patted Pete's hand.

"Now Miss Grace, you know Glory is about as honest as they come. Besides, if I stop takin' trips, then how am I goin' to still be able to find you these?" Pulling the backpack off his shoulder, he extracted the ugliest ceramic chicken that had ever been made. It had an unusually long, skinny neck, short legs, and one eye was painted closed. One of its wings was ruffled, making it look like it had been chewed on by a fox. Setting it gently on the table next to Grace, Pete smiled across the table at Glory.

"I have no idea why you keep bringing her those God-awful things. Like she doesn't have enough crap in that living room to stock a rummage sale for nine years already, you bring her something new every time you stop by," Glory chided, almost under her breath.

"Well, since you refuse to marry this man, and that means that you're not going to be bringin' any babies into this house, I don't see why I can't have all of my pretties sittin' out wherever I happen to want them. Do you?" Grace pouted, clutching the hideous chicken gently in her hands like a Faberge egg. Not that she'd ever acually seen a Faberge egg. Grace had always thought it silly that people collected single eggs, when there were so many whole chickens out there to choose from.

At the mention of babies, Glory went silent. It wasn't often Grace brought up babies anymore. Usually it was a topic that they steered clear of, by mutual, though unspoken, agreement. Thinking of the children that would never run through the house, the giggles that would never be heard, was enough to dampen Glory's spirits.

Damn, and damn again, Glory thought. Damn the Baker Family Curse.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

location, Location, LOCATION!

I've talked about this a bit on this blog, and even more on the Dish blog, but I need to discuss it some more. I'm hoping that some of you writerly types out there will chime in. I love hearing from you guys!

How much does your setting influence the stories that you write? If you write sci-fi, then this may or may not be different for you. I'm looking at this in more of a contemporary light. Does the place where the story happens really mean something, or is it just so much background noise?

There are books that you read where you know that the place is central to the story. You know that the book would not be the same if it were set somewhere else. You just KNOW that location means something. Blame It On Paris, by Laura Florand, is a prime example of how much location matters to some people in a story. The book is a love story, written in memoir style, about two people from very different cultures. The cultures of France and the American South are explored, detailed, and laid wide open for all the world to see. Paris becomes an actual character in the story, as does the hometown of the main female character.

While I loved that book, I don't think that every story needs to identify with its setting in quite the same way. For BIOP, it was very important that the reader get the feel of the land, the people, and actually identify with things in both cultures. It helped to illustrate that people from everywhere are really just people, and that while we may have some major differences, we can still thrive together. The author shows this many times, in many different ways. It was part of the story. But it doesn't always have to be, does it?

I'm just trying to figure this out for my own book. I'm writing the story of a woman that has lived in the South her entire life, minus the first five days. She was actually born in the North, by design. Her mother hated being Southern, and when it was time to give birth, she drove across three states to do it out of the South. The book explores the meaning of family, and how people identify with a presumed set of values inherent in a culture. For me, I could not set this book anywhere but in the South. And I knew just where in the South it had to be set. There was really no question about that for me. Being raised Southern, but always feeling like a fake, is a central part of the story, and I couldn't very well set the book in Detroit to explore those issues.

So where is your story set? And is that setting incredibly important to the story?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

That year that's one more than five

Or... Bringing up girls beyond Pride and Prejudice

If you don't like reading my 'personal posts' then just click on one of my links now, because this one is all about ME, baby. Or, more precisely, all about Emile, my baby. (But really, it's not ALL about either of us, as usually happens around here. Don't say I didn't warn you that this has very little to do with writing though.)

If you're one of my CB friends, you may be familiar with my goals for May. For instance, you might know that I have a particular goal in mind concerning this very blog. You may also know that I am trying to embody the "Carpe Diem!" attitude, trying very hard to accept each and every single moment for exactly what it is - an exquisitely precious gift that should not be taken for granted. If you're not a CB and didn't know those things before, I just told you, so now you're all caught up to everyone else.

Our lives are so full of "moments", seemingly inconsequential snippets of time that have been tagged in our minds with a big, blinking light, to signify that "something BIG, or IMPORTANT, or LIFE-CHANGING happened right here, so don't forget this one!" Normally, we record those things from each "moment" that make an impression on us personally, a particular ocean smell or a screeching bird sound, the way the light catches something and creates a prism, ten feet of snow on the ground, the perfect blend of taste and texture of something on your tongue. Each recording is a very personal thing, unique to each person, singular in scope, never able to be duplicated, even on film. That's why no two people ever remember an event in precisely the same manner, because each personal memory, each recording, will vary, depending on what specific things in the environmental setting combined to pique the interest of any particular person. No two people will have the same group of things that arouse their senses in exactly the same way, as each person brings their own group of pleasures and prejudices into every situation.

It sometimes takes days, or even months and sometimes years, to be able to recall a specific "moment" as momentous, to pinpoint it in our minds and get the correct "This is BIG" tag attached to it. I mentioned this a bit when I talked about those "Ah-ha!" moments that we have, didn't I? Sometimes though, if you're very lucky, you recognize those moments while they are happening. You get a glimpse of a certain truth, or something very like it, at the exact moment that it happens. That was me, very early this morning.

Lest you think that those moments cannot happen on a regular day, to a regular person, let me assure you that you are mistaken. I came in from work earlier than usual, with Shane right on my heels. We got our requisite hugs from the children, and settled in to watch a movie that has been sitting on the shelf, unopened, for a few weeks. The boys were playing one of their gaming stations, the girls were gathered for the movie. The two youngest snuggled next to and between Shane and I on the couch, while the eldest took her favorite chair and the second grabbed blanket and pillow and curled up next to the couch. It wasn't long before the three younger ones were asleep. After the movie, Shane headed to bed. As typically happens, the eldest asked me to watch 'just one more movie' with her. This is our special thing, our very own time that is stolen form the world that we inhabit, with so many other children demanding so much from both of us. We've carved out our own little island where we can go and enjoy the quiet, but it comes only on occasion, and only, usually, around 2am.

She picked the newest version of Pride and Prejudice to watch, the one that actually was responsible for her reading the book. In this house, if you want to see a movie that is based on a classic, you must first read the classic. (It works beautifully. For instance, did you know that "10 Things I Hate About You" is based on Shakespeare, as is "She's The Man"? And most Brit chick-flicks, a big fave on our house, are based on Jane Austen books. And the genius of Tolstoy and Lewis go far beyond what was shown on the screen. It's true. Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me!) We've watched this particular movie many times, have most of the lines memorized (especially the ones that are taken verbatim from the book), and even sigh at the same parts.

Last night though, she must have been very exhausted. She fell asleep shortly after it started. I thought about gently waking up all four of my sleeping beauties and sending them off to bed, but something stopped me. My mental camera was at work, recording my life, as is usual. But it hit "Pause" as I glanced around the room, and it automatically tagged what it was seeing as "Something BIG". Thankfully, I was paying attention, and I didn't have to wait years to see what my heart and mind saw so clearly.

While that movie was playing itself out on our big screen, I was sitting on my couch in the hours right before dawn, surrounded by the four most incredibly wonderful young women in the world. It was the first day of a big change, for me especially, but also for one of them. You see, my baby is officially that year that is one more than five today. And early this morning, in the quiet hours that make up that time best used for meditation and reflection and prayer, I was in the midst of all of them on this most special of days.

She will no longer be able to count her years on one hand. Ouch. That still stings to admit it. It's not like it was when the oldest reached this milestone, almost 9 years ago. I was excited for her, joyous to watch her grow into the amazing young woman that she is today.

Those days, so long ago, when she went from infant to toddler, then from toddler to child, and even from child to teenager, were days of celebration, for both of us. We rejoiced in her journey towards adulthood, in her advancing years, in the quest that she's made to become even more independent. I feel like we've become friends, united in the goal of seeing her reach her majority, to strike out on her own and carve her very own way, the way that oldest daughters are meant to do. I remember that yearning, that desire, to get out there and start 'living'. I see that in her eyes, and I want to help her get there. So when the calendar advances and adds yet another year to her, I accept it, mostly. Yes, there is still the gasp in my throat when I realize that my oldest is *gasp* almost 15, that this time next year she will have been driving, in a car, on the road, for almost 6 months. That in just a few years she will leave me, head off to start her own set of adventures, armed with only the lessons that she has learned from me and her very own dreams. Sure, those heart-wrenching moments still happen with the oldest, but for the most part, I keep them silenced, if only because I refuse to dim that light that is glowing in her eyes at the thought of living.

It's a totally different story when I think of my baby though. The baby, that gorgeous creature that you see at the top of this post, is simply not supposed to get older. She's not. It has got to go against some fundamental law of the universe. She is supposed to stay this sweet age, this FIVE age, for the rest of her life, frozen in time as the perfect blend of sass and innocence. She is not supposed to get older, and grow bigger, reaching almost eye-level with her older sister (the one that is now that *gasp* SEVEN age!). She knows words now, big words and sometimes not nice words. I believe she uttered the not-so-hysterical words "dirty" and "bastard" in sequence last week, and I believe it was intentional. Where did she hear those words used together, and why does she think it sounds funny enough to use in the 'chips' aisle of the grocery store during a shopping expedition? I almost fainted, then wanted to cry, then felt like screaming. Is that rational? To be honest, the hysterical part took over. I tried to remain stern when I explained that those were not nice words, and should not be used by someone that is the FIVE age, and really shouldn't even be used by someone that is the THIRTY-FIVE age (not that anyone in our house is that age. Yet.). But I'll admit it - I laughed when I said it, and the Cannon in my head went "Click. Tag. File." And that moment has been properly documented as "Big", thankyouverymuch. She didn't know those words last year, and I shudder to think of the words she will add to her ever-expanding vocabulary by next year.

So this morning, before my house stirred, I stretched out on my couch with my baby wrapped snuggly in my arms. The other three were scattered in various poses around the room, all actually close enough for me to reach out and touch. They were all enmeshed in the land of dreams, fighting dragons or picking flowers, eating chocolate or driving cars. I don't know what was in each of their minds as I lay there watching them sleep. I only know that as I glanced around the room, I felt this incredible joy spread through my body, this lightness around my heart.

In this crazy world full of people that do terrible things to each other, where people die, or leave us, or hurt us, or hate us, in this insane world where each day could be full of fear, I've been given this extraordinary gift. I have been entrusted with these four female souls, to guide and shape and pass the torch of womanhood. To entrust with the secrets of a sisterhood that goes beyond the simple bonds of blood, straight to the soul, a membership into a club that counts half the population of the world among its members. Being a woman is a wonderful thing, a sometimes frightening thing. And it is my job to teach these four amazing creatures how to do it, and do it well. It's daunting, I can assure you. Much different than raising sons is the task of raising daughters. I feel a much different sort of pressure to get things right with my girls. For often, the foibles of boys are overlooked for quite a while. They make mistakes, but so often it is the young girls that must pay the actual price of live with the consequences of those mistakes. Though I do not agree with that aspect of society and I hope to raise my boys to be different, I'm raising my girls to know those differences and to see beyond them.

There is a line in the movie, where Elizabeth is talking to her mother about marriage. Elizabeth says something like "Is that really all you think about?" Her mother replies something like "When you have five daughters, tell me what else will occupy your thoughts, and then you'll understand." That line always makes me pause, but it stopped me cold this morning. Mrs. Bennet uttered those words, and I glanced around the room at the sleeping beauties within reach, and I realized how far we've come, but how far we still have to go.

I made the choice, at 18, to join the Navy. I've lived all over the country, and outside of the country. I've seen Egypt and the UAE. I've ridden a camel in Oman and drank apple tea in Turkey. I've danced on cobblestone streets in Crete and seen a mosque in Trieste. I've eaten Greek food in the Latin Quarter of Paris, and walked through an outdoor market in Marseilles. I've tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, eaten pizza next to the Leaning Tower in Pisa, and sat in a piazza drinking cappuccinos across from the David in Florence. I did this because my mother passed her gypsy blood directly to me when I was still in her womb, and I embraced that life. That was my choice. I knew I had the choice to make, and I made it. I saw life, I breathed it, inhaled it, embraced it, in so many places and in so many ways. Then I saw another way to live, different things to want, and I carved out a new life, in a house on a hill with babies all around me.

I see my daughters not as burdens to get rid of, as people whose lives I must plan, but as extensions of me, adventures waiting to happen. We no longer live in a society where the best that we can hope for our girl children is that they will eventually come to enjoy the company of their husband. They are not burdens to be lifted by an available, and preferably rich, man. To me, having a daughter is one of the greatest blessings this universe has ever bestowed upon me. To think that I have been blessed four times over is amazing. I don't think of them as burdens to be lifted, but as gifts to be enjoyed. The times, our very culture, has expanded to the point where a daughter no longer means bills until you find someone else to take over the expenses of her existence. My girls are being raised to expect, even demand, that their goals be attained, that their hopes be met, that their dreams be made reality. They are being equipped with knowledge and courage and grace and mercy and fun and sparkle, so that they can venture forth into the world and make their own way. I love that they are so adventurous, so bold and brave.

But darn it all - why does the baby have to be, on this very day, that year that is one more than five? Couldn't she wait, just one more day, to conquer the world?
And I just had to share what she did when I asked her how she was going to show her age when she was that one number that is one bigger than ten. Priceless, I tell ya!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just how old are you anyway?

Another thing that I've been struggling over in my story is the age of my MC. Her name is Glory, so from now on, that's what I'm going to call her. (Quick aside: if you've been around here for a while, you know that she's had MANY names over the last few months. Somehow, the name "Glory" just clicked with me. And of course, since her family is very Southern, she has to have one of those names that sound Southern, right? No, it's not a stereotype thing. It's true. My grandmother was actually named "Ima Mae Day". No joke. So, Glory Bea Baker just fits for me. If you don't like it, tell me why.)

Anyhow, Glory is a grown woman. That much is already clear. She has this thing that she's running from in her past. So she can't be an early twenties person. She's also had time to build a small career, so again she needs to be older than early twenties. I think she needs to be older than late twenties as well. I'm thinking she needs to be mid-thirties.

This is rather convenient, because that is the same age as me. I happen to know a little bit about how a woman in her early mid-thirties feels. That part should be easy to write. I hope. What I worry about is writing the older woman, Granny Grace. I think I should be able to write the scenes that are from Glory's POV fine, I don't have too many fears about those ones. But I know that there are going to have to be scenes from Grace's POV as well. At least I think there will be. Since I have much of the story already down, and I am making adjustments and additions for Grace (basically that amounts to re-writing EVERYthing, but that's ok, see, because it's gotten so much stronger), I don't have a POV for her yet. But I hear her so clearly, that I'm pretty sure she's going to have her own voice in the story as well.

I'm just wondering if any of you have struggled over the age of your MC, or any of your characters. Have you thought at first that maybe your person should be younger, then realize that she needs to have a few years? Have you thought she should be older, then just known that she needs to be younger? I think of this with Glory because of where she needs to be in her life to make the decision that she has to make. She needs to be older, she needs to have gone through some schtuff already, she needs to have experienced loss and grief already, but not be debilitated buy it.

I don't know. I guess I'm just rambling. It's just that it seems that people sometimes define us by the number that we use to describe ourselves, whether that be the number on the scale, the zip code we have, or even our age. I want Glory to be something more than just her numbers. She's pretty average in her weight, she lives in rural Mississippi (a place where I have spent no small amount of time. Remember, I was raised in the South), and she's past the sweet peach of her youth, and is ripening before her very own eyes. She is MORE than those numbers that people use to pigeon-hole you, to lock you into their own version of who you are.

So am I. And knowing most of you the way that I do, I think you are as well.

But still, she has to have an age. Doesn't she?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Down to the wire

It feels like I'm down to the wire with my writing right now. If any of you have been in this situation before, maybe you can help me out.

I have been working on my current story since November. It has changed quite a bit since I started it, and I think that's a really good thing. I feel these ideas flowing through me lately, and I sometimes can't even sleep unless I get out of bed and write them down. I'm totally loving this, I have to admit!

However, I have a self-imposed deadline looming, and I'm getting kinda nervous. I'd like to have this story done by July. I'm heading to Dallas for RWA Nationals in July, and I'm going to be meeting Charity there. As she's my critique partner, I'd like to be able to hand her a completed ms when I see her.

What does this mean to me right now? Well, I've only got about 7 weeks left to write this story. Now, I've been writing it for quite a few months, but I've changed it lots and lots. Still though, the main conflict isn't going to change. But do I have enough time to finish it, or am I setting myself up for failure?

I do know that, as far as plans go, I plan on spending my time at Nats learning about pitching, and publishing, and all of the 'business' stuff that I'm pretty much clueless about. Then, I hope to have my WIP ready to pitch in Jersey. That's the plan.

Some of you are writers. Some of you have done this before. Is it possible, or am I just dreaming?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Random weirdness

I was up most of the night. We had a slumber party for my baby. She is turning the age that is one older than five. I can not say the age, because it is an old age. And I am just not old enough to have my baby, my very last child to jump from my womb, be that one year that is older than five. So. Instead, we all pretended that she was going to be the good age, the FIVE age, again. She even pretended with me, for about as long as it took for her to realize that she'd have one less candle. Which means, I stayed in my little dreamworld, where my beautiful youngest child is NOT turning a number that is bigger than the amount of digits she has on one hand, and SHE, darling child that she is, put that big number right in the middle of her cake, but told me to cover my eyes. She did, however, offer to stay the FIVE number for another year. All I have to do is give her her very own Television and Playstation. As. If.

I put up a scene from my current WIP, right here on this very blog. Did you miss it? Well, just scroll down. It's pretty much the opening scene. It was one of those off-the-cuff, what would happen if I did this instead of that, things. In the original version, it does not open at a funeral, nor is there a grandmother even mentioned. That just happened last week, actually. I literally woke up in the middle of the night and knew that it had to be changed. The central theme of the story is going to be the same, but the motivation for Glory is totally different, much more real, much less contrived. I like it better this way. Hopefully, you'll agree.

I've decided to put up a small scene every week. I think I'm going to do this on Thursday. They will not be in any order. They may not even really make sense. It is just going to be me showing you that I am writing something. You may comment, lavish me with praise *grin*, or tell me it sucks. However, if you tell me it sucks, you better darn well add your name, and a way for me to get in touch with you. Because I'm going to want to know specifics. That doesn't mean to just tell me it's ok, especially if you think it sucks. This is supposed to be a writing blog, right? So if it sucks, tell me why.

Have any of you noticed anything so far this month? About this blog? I'm trying something new. I'll tell you about it at the end of the month. We'll see how it goes.

Finally - It's CINCO DE MAYO today. I remember years gone by when, as a child, my mother would take us to Olivera Street in LA. They had these huge festivals every year. It was so much fun. The food...oh, the food. Now, of course, I'd be heading for a booth that sold margaritas. Because really, what's more CINCO DE MAYOish than margaritas? Nothing! That's right, nothing at all. Grab yourself some decent Mexican food, and I don't mean for you to make a run for the Border, ok? Grab some friends, gather round and pour out a few "rocks, lotsa salt" type drinks, and ENJOY!!

Just remember - Friends don't let friends blog drunk. Or something like that. So be careful out there today, ok?