Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hoping for a Better Me

Being a woman in America, especially being a Southern woman in America, I've had this ongoing battle, with myself, about my health and my weight.

When I was a much younger woman, I had an incredible metabolism. I could eat most anything I wanted, as much as I wanted, and it hardly mattered. I would run an extra mile or so, do some extra situps, and not give it a second thought.

Fast forward a few years and more than a few kids, and the story is very different.

Never mind that I am no longer 18. Forget about the fact that I have physically given birth to the six most wonderful children ever born to any woman, anywhere. I can hardly even think about fries without packing on the pounds. God forbid I actually give in and eat them.

I've been up and down over the past almost decade, since getting out of the Navy took away my huge motivation to stay in shape. While in the service, I was forced to do regular exercise. I had to keep in shape, no excuses. It was required. If only I had kept to the regular exercise routine I'd established after a decade in uniform, things might be different.

But I didn't. Instead, I found out that I was being blessed with The Baby on almost the same day of my discharge from the service. I jumped into being a REAL MOMMY with both feet, and enjoyed every tasty treat I could see. I didn't worry overmuch about losing weight. I didn't worry at all. After being forced to maintain a certain fitness level for a decade, I reveled in my newfound freedom.

After giving birth to number 6, the pounds slowly melted off. I stress slowly. I was bummed at not bouncing back as fast as the other 5 times, so I asked The Man to do a Total Body Fitness Program with me. We did Body For Life. And it worked. I got healthy, and slim, and was really happy with myself.

Then my mom passed away, and I didn't have the energy for much except trying to go about life without my mother. My newly gained healthy habits slipped. I put on some weight. Then some more. Then even more.

It wasn't until I got back from a family vacation that I realized how much weight. I was looking at our vacation pictures and I couldn't believe the HUGE woman was me. It was eye-opening.

So I decided to get healthy again. I went back to BFL, exercised like a fiend, ate really healthy. It was awesome. I remember the morning that I made a 5 mile run. It was one of the proudest mornings of my life. That lasted about 6 months, until I started working full time at a restaurant.

I love my job, most days. I enjoy the people, most days. I find it challenging and stimulating, most days. But it is time consuming. And exhausting. By the time I finish work every day, I have no energy left over for the very expensive gym across the street.

I just don't have time. I don't have time to exercise. I don't have time to eat healthy. I don't have time for ME.

Until now.

I've taken a page from a fellow blogger and author, and I'm going to MAKE time.

I'm starting BetterU.

Wish me luck?

I'll Keep You Posted!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There's a Mouse in my House

No, that's not me being figurative, or Seuss-y, or anything but very literal. I'm sitting in my chair, checking my e-mail, and watching him peak his little pointy mouse nose out of this space between the wall and the fireplace. He looks kinda cute, what with his lil nose and big mouse eyes. But really? He's a mouse. And he's in my house.

Are mice good for anything? If I don't get an answer in the affirmative, I will commence the buying of the traps first thing in the morning.

Of course, I'm home now. That's always a good thing. It's been a few days since my return, and I am rested enough to do a bit of a Top Ten run-down on Nationals. If you don't really care about that, then just clickety-click away from here now. If you do care, read on.

10. My roomie is vicious. Mean, even. And really should just get rid of whatever evidence she has that I snore. Because frankly, if you recorded me and it's pitch black and you can't see me, then really it doesn't count. I've consulted people about this, and they tell me that I'm correct. So don't think that you have a single thing to use as blackmail. Besides, I have pictures too!

9. The Marriot hotel is BIG. I think I may have stayed even on my weight (instead of the typical few extra pounds) just by the enormity of that hotel, and the fact that my room was in the old section, which added another mile to every trek.

8. My youngest girl child is a scam artist. I knew this one already, but watching her at the Literacy signing, where all she had to do was walk up to authors and stare pathetically at the chocolate to get a handful, really nailed it for me. She's going to be a grifter, I'm sure of it.

7. Pesto Ristorante is one of the very best undiscovered gems in the entire Metro DC area. If you're in the city and you don't go visit Vincenzo at Pesto, you are missing out. Be sure to get the boar sausage. Better yet, just put yourself in his very capable hands. You will not be disappointed.

6. Jade Lee does a fabulous workshop. I've never read any of her books, but she's a pretty darned good teacher. I didn't learn a whole lot that was "A-HA" new, but she said things that I already know in a way that reminded me how important those things really are. If she teaches at Nationals again, I will make sure to see her.

5. Jennifer Crusie has an amazing memory. After introducing her to my three younger girls, she met the older the next night. She actually remembered her from the other two times they've met. And she remembered a funny anecdote involving The Mans name. Plus, she's just so gracious. She's always a favorite!

4. Not all editors are scary people. I met one. I actually spoke with him and didn't immediatly barf. He was polite. He smiled. He very generously agreed to take a look at some of my book. It was a good experience.

3. Deeanne Gist is a dynamo of a woman. She is bubbly, energetic, friendly, and so dern nice. Plus, she's one heck of a writer! Who knew that the CBA had such wonderful writers? (Well, ok. I suspected. But actually meeting one of them was awesome!)

2. Being at Conference and still close to home was both a blessing and a curse. It was wonderful to be able to bring the girls to the Literacy signing. It was great to have Gret and The Man able to attend The Cherry Dinner. It was nice to be able to decide to leave early and just hop in the car and go. It was not, however, so great that the 52 mile trip back up there Friday morning after going to a funeral took 3 hours. Nor was it fun. Of course, that may have had something to do with being at the funeral in the first place - another thing I couldn't have done had the Conference been away.

And the Number one thing I learned this year at RWA Nationals...

1. Sharing a room with a Rita award winner is exhausting. I truly think she works as hard at Conference as she does while writing. But beyond the work there are perks. For instance, the lovely ladies in the suite next to our room slipped a note under our door inviting us to have a glass of wine. That wouldn't have happened had I been there alone.

All in all, this year was good. It wasn't terrifying like Dallas. It wasn't exhilarating like San Fran. Then again, this was neither my first year, nor was it the year that my roomie was up for an award. So. It was good.

And that's enough.

I'm already looking forward to next year, in Nashville. And the year after that, in NYC. Beyond that, I'll have to check my calendar. :)

I'll Keep You Posted!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday and Goodbye!

I can't talk all that much about Friday, because I didn't spend much of it at the Conference.

I had to go home yesterday to say goodbye to a very beloved friend. It sucked. I'll talk about that later, when I know that people won't be stopping in here to see how things are going on at Nationals. Be patient.

I did manage to make it to a few book signings, and that was cool. I got another JD Robb book for my boss, Rick. No matter where I see her, she always looks so gracious. -------------->

I also went to the Harlequin party. At the Ritz Carlton. Yes, I know that I don't write for Harlequin. Yet. But my roomie does, and she was kind enough to let me tag along. I'm adding just a few seconds of video that I took there. (By the way, THANKS to The Man for insisting that I get a new phone, and then hand delivering and installing a HUGE memory card it in for me the other day, so I could do videos and take lots of pictures. He is, as always, my True Hero!!)

Nora danced at the party. As did many others. Including yours truly. Then we went upstairs to the bar to get some food, because only dessert was available at the party and Kristan and I were both starved. On the way up the stairs, we joked about finding some cute guy to buy us drinks and food, since we were dressed and looking very much like the hot chicks that we don't often get to be in our Mommy lives. So of course, we run into an incredibly-past-the-legal-limit man at the bar that accosts us and slobbers on us, and at one point actually slaps my arm. We went to a table, and he was escorted to the elevators. We won't ever make jokes about things like that again. I will, however, make sure that scene ends up in a book, as it was very amusing in retrospect. Not so much while it was happening though.

When we got back to the hotel, we spent a few hours in our room, in our jammies, just talking. I can't describe how cool it is to get to hang around with this up and coming rock star of the romance world. But it's even more cool that we get each other. And when the door closes at the end of the night, when the makeup washes down the drain and the ankle killing FMPs have been stashed in the closet, we get to talk like the old friends that three years of conference and countless e-mails has made us.

I head home today. I'll blog more from there. But this has been a great week, and I thank all of you that stopped in to see what I was doing. I hope you were at least a little entertained!

I'll Keep You Posted (but from Virginia next time!)!!

Nationals Checklist, and a few other things...

I'll start with the Cherry Dinner, because I told you that I would.

The event was Thursday night. We went to Pesto, down the street from the hotel. Unlike previous Cherry gatherings, I had a vested interest in this one - I actually picked the place. The Man and I came up about a month or so ago and had dinner here, just to check out the menu and the setting. We loved putting ourselves into the very capable hands of Vincenzo, and he did not disappoint.

Still, on the eve of the Dinner, I was a tad bit on the nervous side.

I shouldn't have worried.

Gret and The Man walked up to the restaurant with me a little early, because I wanted to make sure that everything was set up and Vincenzo hadn't forgotten about us. I have no idea why I ever doubted Vincenzo. Everything was perfect, and he was waiting.

We had our own waitress, our own room, our own menu, and it was awesome. Jill had make your own nametags, complete with stickers to indicate if you were a Reader, a Writer, a Cherry, or a Wiffer (Will Write For Wine website and podcast). This is the nametag, mirrored -------------->

There were MANY Cherries in attendance. While I saw them all, I didn't actually speak to them all. But I did get lots of hugs from Jill and Corrina. I chatted with Orangehands! I also spent some really soul soothing time with my friend Robin (RSS). No matter how crazy I get sometimes, or how horrible I often am in the friend department ( frankly, I suck sometimes, but that is a whole OTHER post, that is already filling my head), Robin still opens up her arms and just hugs me. She really has no idea how much her constant, unwavering friendship means to me, and I take her for granted so often. But she is a stable force in my life, and the Cherry Dinner helped me reconnect with her. It was lovely!

Also lovely was sitting at the table between two of my favorite people (Gret and The Man), sampling the terrific food, sipping the glorious wine, and just being around people that share so many of my interests and passions.

Then The Cherry walked in. And the only open seat was at our table. So she sat. Wow.

Now, I've met her before. Many times in fact. And still, I get that heartbeat split second of "OH. MY. GOD. Jennifer-freaking-Crusie is right in front of me!!" And then I remember to breather, because air is good for the lungs and it would be mortifying to pass out in front of her. She smiled at me, then turned to Gret and gasped at how much she's grown. And she told The Man a funny story about being on book tour with Bob and Bob forgetting that The Man shares a name with one of their Heroes. It was a story that The Man had heard from me, but it was so cool to know that SHE remembered it as well. She really is a very gracious lady.

Then Kristan showed up. At that point, I went through that mental checklist of "Is this really my life?" that I often finding myself doing at Nationals. Do you know that checklist? Here's a sample:
- Am I really staying in a fabulous city?
- Am I really spending a week in a hotel that normally costs $1000 per night?
- Am I really rooming with a best selling, RITA award winning author?
- Am I really at a Zagat rated Metro restaurant, eating amazing food prepared by the world's most charming Italian man?
- Am I really sitting across the table from the NYT bestselling author whose fan group convinced me to actually give my dream a shot?
- Am I really still asking myself these questions, or will I finally one day believe that this is all happening to me?

So Thursday was over the top, and will be the fodder for many a blog in weeks to come. I hope you're enjoying this!

I'll Keep You Posted!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ahhh... The Cherries!

I have much to say about the Cherry Dinner. I'll tell you about the food. I'll tell you about Vincenzo. I'll tell you about the visit from The Cherry. I'll even tell you about the awesome invitation left under our door and the Cherry AfterParty.
But I'm not going to tell you about it tonight.
Because hey - it's 1 AM. And I'm a little bit tired.
And I have to be on the Metro EARLY tomorrow morning, so I can head home to say a final goodbye to a very dear friend.
So I WILL tell you about all of the wonderful things that happened tonight. I will. I really will.
But not tonight.
Tonight, I must sleep.
Besides, you can wait til the morning. Can't you?

But this ---------->
This is Corrina. And she's a Cherry. And she rocks.
More pics will follow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anne Stuart is just...

I actually spent the afternoon in Workshops. It was... fun.

I went to see Susan Egan, who talked about her job working with ICE. This was a fascinating workshop for me, as The Man is also working for ICE. I think I mentioned that I have no clue what he does. Well, technically that's not totally true. I know that he does some sort of computer security stuff for them. He's one of those technical wizards, and he's brilliant. No, I'm not just saying that because he's The Man. He really is. And Ms. Egan talked a lot about her personal experiences with the country's second largest law enforcement agency. She was informative, and entertaining. She also spoke really fast. And really - I still have no freakin' clue what The Man does. :)

I also went to see Anne Stuart, who spoke on Writing Dark Love Stories. As a writer of what will hopefully be pretty dark stuff, I wanted to get the inside scoop from a Master. She didn't let me down. She also re-iterated advice I've heard before. She said that you have to figure out the one thing your character would never do. Then you make them do it. For instance, if your heroine is afraid of guns and abhors violence, by the end of the story, she MUST kill someone in a very violent way. My job as a writer is figuring out what she would never do, and then putting her in a situation where she has to do it.

Like I said, I've heard that before. That's something I remember from my very first conference, in New Jersey a few years back. Eloisa James said that in romance, you must figure out the one obstacle that your couple could never overcome, then put them in that situation and have them find their way back to each other. It's usually called The Black Moment, and if you look for it, you will find it in every single book that you LOVE. It's there, trust me.

You want examples? Leave me a comment and I'll show you from a few of my favorite books.

Now it's time to relax in the room for just a bit. I have to change clothes. I have to e-mail Jill to find out where/when people are meeting for the Cherry Dinner. I have to pass that info on to RSS and OrangeHands so they can join me at the dinner. I have to change clothes. I have to walk a block to Pesto and make sure that Vincenzo remembers we are coming tonight.

So much for downtime.

I'll take pics at the Cherry Dinner, since it will be so many of my favorite people - including The Man and The Oldest Girl Child (aka - the one that got books for me while I was sitting at the feet of Anne Stuart).

I'll Keep You Posted!

The Keeper of The Nuts...

Linda Howard is an amazing woman. Cows and hay bailing aside, she finds the time to write some fantastic books. From her telling of it, finding the time isn't always easy, since she lives in a house full of crazies.

Does it sometimes feel like that for you? I know it does for me. I adore all six of my perfectly wonderful children. I couldn't write a better husband than the one that I am blessed to have. But really? Some days, it feels like I am the lone beacon of sanity in my otherwise crazy house.

Because really, is it so hard to do dishes? Or put things back where you found them? Or fold your clothes once in a while?

But then other days, like today, I remember something else.

In the midst of the craziness, one of my children will rub my feet. Or fix me The Perfect Cup of Coffee. Or my husband will install something incredible in the house or on my computer. Someone will hold my hand, or crawl into my lap, or just lean over and whisper "I LOVE YOU" in my ear.

On days like that, no matter that the dishes aren't done, or laundry has literally taken over the basement, I can't stop smiling.

And always, Always, I am encouraged to WRITE.

So I will follow Ms. Howard's advice, and just Hang In There. With my head staring down at my keyboard, I may not even notice the dishes. :)

Oldest Girl Child arrived today. She rode the subway from Chinatown to here. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life! When I met her, she said she'd have liked to stay down there all day, just to people watch. It amazes me sometimes that she's not a writer.

We had lunch, listened to the Very Inspirational Keynote, and are now chilling int he room. I'm off to hear a Workshop on I.C.E., since that is where The Man is currently working. I want to get the inside scoop on his job, since he can't tell me a darned thing. After that, I'm headed (quickly) to the Avon signing, then to hear Sister Krissie talk about dark heroes. Ooh la la.

I'll Keep You Posted!

She was a used car salesperson!

It's not often that something that someone says at one of these conferences really blows me away. Yes, I sometimes get blown away just being in the presence of greatness (witness my FanGirlSqueeMoment the first time I met Jenny Crusie - and every time thereafter!), but I rarely hear something that just makes me .

This morning, at the Opening Ceremony, I had one of those moments.

Janet Evanovich spoke.

Wow, did she speak. She answered questions about things from her writing process to when she sold her first book. She's a NYT Bestseller, right? She's won awards, made a pile of cash, been interviewed for the Today show, etc. She was funny and engaging.

She was also honest.

It took her 10 years to sell her first book.

Let me repeat that. It took Janet Evanovich, writer of the world famous Stephanie Plum series, TEN FREAKING YEARS to get published the first time. Her first book sold for $2000.

After going at this for a few years, finishing one book and starting another, it has gotten to be discouraging. I sometimes feel like it will NEVER happen.

But today, I learned that I have something in common with someone that has made it to THAT level - we both have families that believe in our ability to achieve our dream.

Without getting all sappy here about my great group of kids and my amazingly supportive husband, it was nice to know that the thing that kept her going is the same thing that keeps me going - the people that love me.

Thanks, Janet. That was an hour well spent.

Catching up on Nationals...

It is Day One. Or Day Three, depending on when people arrived. The Conference "officially" opens today, with the big breakfast featuring superstar Janet Evanovich. That's followed by the kickoff luncheon, featuring superstar Linda Howard. And already, I'm exhausted.

The hotel is beautiful, as most RWA Conference hotels seem to be. Major complaints seem to be that it is very spread out, meaning that I'll be walking MILES every day just to attend workshops. Plus, the Adams Morgan district is one of THE most expensive districts in DC. While it doesn't matter to some people, price is really an issue to some of us as yet unpublished struggling writers. It's costing almost as much to park and get internet as it is for the room. And let's not even talk about the $16 sandwiches. Ouch.

On a happier note, the Literacy Signing last night was AMAZING!! Just the sheer size of the room and the amount of people there was overwhelming. Living so close, I brought a few of the girls up with me for the day, and they attended the signing last night. Jordan wandered around by herself for a while, just taking it all in. Maggie stayed close to me most of the night, asking about different writers, if I knew them, what there books were like. I told her that one day she would be signing her own books at a table just like the ones we saw. We could be sitting next to each other. :) Emile, the little scammer, raised snatching candy and tchotchkes to an art form.

The girls got to meet many of the women that write the stories that litter my house. I took them by personal faves like Karen White and Diana Holquist, and they exclaimed over the bookcovers that they see beside my bed. They got to meet La Nora when we got a book signed for my boss. I introduced them briefly to one of my favorites from past conferences, Victoria Alexander.

And of course, they got to meet The Cherry. Yes, they got to stand in the presence of Jenny Crusie, and they were in awe. Of course, Jen was ever so gracious, and even took a picture with them. I can only imagine that Maggie will want to have a copy of that picture to put on her wall. My Blackberry is acting up right now, but as soon as it's working again I will post that pic as well. <--- I got it figured out. Bluetooth is such a cool thing!

Gret will be up here later today. She is riding the Metro alone for the first time. Can you believe that she is 17?!? Yeah, neither can I. She's hanging out with me today, joining me at the Cherry Dinner tonight, and heading home tomorrow. I'm so thrilled that she's going to get to share some of this with me!

This morning, I'm staying close to the room, waiting for Gret to arrive. Then heading to the luncheon. Hopefully I'll see Kristan there. That woman is busier than anything I've seen!

I'll be taking lots of pics, but I'm not sure if I can get them to Blogger yet. I'm still trying to figure out the whole transfer from B.B. to Mac thing. We'll see how well it goes. Otherwise, I'll just do the best I can and add pics when I get home. Added NOTE: Using Bluetooth, I can transfer the files from Berry to Mac. Berry is still acting weird, but it will work fine for me until my personal technology guru (aks- The Man) gets up here later today to fix it for me.

I'll Keep You Posted!

Thursday, July 09, 2009


RWA National Conference starts next week!

As I have for the past few years, I will be blogging during Nationals.

If you're interested, check back often during the week to see how things are going.

I'm fairly bursting with excitement since it starts in just a few days. This is one of my favorite times of year, because I not only get to see Book People (my favorite variety of people besides the ones that inhabit my house!), but I also get to see friends.

I get to share my room with a great roomie again, and that's always exciting. She leads such a glam life and all, so it's fun to have it rub off on me for a few short days. :)

This year will be extra fun because the conference is being held practically in my own backyard, right up the road in beautiful Washington DC. I'm making the very short drive next Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning. Plans aren't quite final yet. The girls all want to go to the Literacy event on Wednesday.

Plus, my OGC is going to join me for at least one night. She'll probably stay the night Wednesday and go home with The Man on Thursday, after the Cherry dinner.

Only downer so far has been that The Cherry might not attend the Cherry dinner. Sure hope she changes her mind and at least joins us for a drink or something. :)

Be sure to check out Blogging National to see other bloggers talk about their experiences in our wonderful city as well!

I'll keep you posted!