Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shh...Maeve doesn't know I'm on her computer

Hi everybody. Jasper here. I’ve gotta make this quick. Maeve’s cleaning up the kitchen and she doesn’t realize I’ve commandeered her laptop. Dang it. I wish the keyboard on this thing wasn’t so freakin’ sensitive. Please excuse any typos. Toshiba obviously DID NOT take into account the size of a fella’s paws.


In case you don’t know, I’m Maeve’s writing partner and I REALLY need your help. You see, Maeve reads all her stories aloud to me and I let her know what I think. Old Maeve’s pretty perceptive and not half bad as a writer –for a human. But her tales have one problem that I just can’t seem to get corrected. Would you believe that woman doesn’t put enough dogs in her stories? It’s criminal!

BEYOND A HIGHLAND WHISPER (coming in February from The Wild Rose Press) only mentions a dog one time when Nessa (the heroine) says dogs are the only creatures capable of unconditional love. My Maeve nailed that one. Even though I’m sometimes forced to pee in her house-shoes to punish her for leaving me home alone, I’m doing it because I love her. AND I’ll always love her, no matter what. But she only mentions dogs ONE TIME in that story.

Her other story, ETERNITY’S MARK,  is a little better. Hannah (the heroine) is a vet with an uncanny ability to know an animal’s thoughts. There’s a few more dogs in that story but not nearly enough to do us justice. By the way, ETERNITY’S MARK is the one she’s entered in some kind of contest. I think she called it Writing With the Stars? If you go to this link: http://www.rtbookreviews.com/content/writing-stars-vote-best-back-cover-blurb  and vote for her, I would really appreciate it. Around here, if Maeve ain’t happy –NOBODY’S happy. She gets too quiet and wanders off into the woods when she's sad. Then I have to go find her and act like some sillly pup just to make her smile. You understand.

And one more thing, could someone please explain to me why it’s okay to pee on the trees in the yard but it’s NOT okay to pee on the fancy one that Maeve put in the house?

Whoops! Gotta go. I hear her heading this way. Remember, tell Maeve: MORE DOGS!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas is EVERY day for me...

Hubby and I finally got the last of the gifts wrapped and stowed around the tree. He scanned the packages and said, “You don’t have anything under there.”

I laughed and replied, “I don’t need anything under there and besides, YOU already broke our agreement of not buying gifts for each other.
He grinned and shook his head. “I told you. That wasn’t a Christmas gift. It’s an I love you gift.”

If you happen to visit my Facebook page, this is the picture I posted of Mr. Sneaky’s I love you  gift.  This behavior is just ONE of the reasons I feel like every day is Christmas and have felt that way pretty much since June 1979.
That was when my knight in shining armor rescued me from an emotionally abusive hell. It’s been a long road and a painful struggle, but he’s taught me (and is still teaching me) the meaning of love, acceptance and trust.

Along the way, I received the wondrous gifts of two amazing daughters. Sometimes, I still look at them in disbelief. How could I have given birth to such two beautiful individuals? And then there’s my granddaughter. *sigh* Such a delightful gift. She gifts me with joy every day.

I’ve worked at the same job for twenty-three years. My co-workers are more like family than long time friends. I know there are lots of folks who’d love to have that gift.

Every day of my life, I receive more gifts than I could EVER begin to list here: laughter, renewed health, the devoted love of my dog, generous folks who take the time to let me know they consider me a friend. Never underestimate the power of something as simple as a smile or telling someone you care.

So, while I treasure this time of year. Christmas is every day for me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Patience is NOT one of my virtues.

Looks serene doesn’t it? This view of Loch Ness from the ruins of Urquhart Castle? Wish I felt as peaceful as this picture.

But Monday, December 13th is the start of Round Three in the Kensington Brava / RT Book Reviews Writing With the Stars contest. Yep. That’s right. Monday, December 13th unveils the six remaining finalists. *GULP*


To urge the day to arrive a bit faster and half-heartedly attempt to make myself useful, I thought I’d post a brand new excerpt from ETERNITY’S MARK −my entry that’s been battling for the win. Hope you enjoy it (and keep your fingers crossed that ETERNITY’S MARK makes it)!

Excerpt:

A loud crash followed by a roared curse brought her attention back to the bedchamber. Taggart stood in the doorway, sword drawn, eyes glowing with a murderous light. A tall, wispy man with thin trailing hair stood slightly behind him.

Padding into the room, Hannah crossed her arms over the front of her skimpy nightgown and scooted for her robe draped across the end of the bed. She glanced at the strange man behind the breakfast cart, then turned to Taggart with a frosty hiss. “Would you mind telling me what you think you’re doing? All you had to do was give me a few minutes and I would’ve eventually answered the door.”

Taggart sheathed his sword with an irritated thump as he scanned the room. “Why in the hell did ye no’ answer the door when Thaetus knocked and asked ye to allow him entry?”

As she yanked the belt of her robe tight about her waist, Hannah envisioned wrapping it around Taggart’s neck. How dare he talk to her as if she was a child! Who did he think he was? “He only knocked twice and I was busy. All he had to do was wait a minute. Since when do you break somebody’s door down when they don’t open it after a couple of knocks?”

“Actually, I knocked thrice.” Thaetus cleared his throat and folded his pale, narrow hands atop the brass handles of the cart. “And I called out to ye twice and asked if ye were unwell. When ye didna answer, I could only assume something had gone awry and ye needed immediate assistance.”

“Thaetus.” Hannah stalked across the room, hands clenched into the folds of her robe, struggling to channel her irritation. “Do you know what happens when you assume?”

Thaetus raised his chin, his spectacled eyes narrowed as he replied with a delicate sniff. “No. What would that be, Lady Guardian?”

Hannah glared at the stone-faced servant. She itched to fire back her standard smartass reply of it makes an ass out of you and me. She gritted her teeth and decided the phrase would be lost on the stoic-faced man. She might as well save her breath. She doubted Thaetus would get it. “Never mind, Thaetus. You’d never understand.” This was ridiculous. They guarded her like she was some national treasure. There hadn’t been any attacks since they’d left Jasper Mills. Surely, she was safe here at Taroc Na Mor.

“What were ye doing, Hannah? Why did ye no’ call out and answer Thaetus?” Taggart slapped at the twisted hinges dangling from the chamber doors, scowling at the damage he’d done to the paneling and the surrounding doorframe.

“I don’t believe that is any of your business.” With a huff, Hannah poured a cup of coffee and curled up on the settee to return Taggart’s fuming stare. She had to admit she rather enjoyed irritating him. And this was the second time she’d gotten a little more than breathless by seeing him rush to defend her. When he brandished his sword, his wondrous muscles bulged, leaving no doubt he’d slay anything foolish enough to cross his path. Hannah cradled her cup between her palms, remembering the warmth of Taggart’s essence when she’d helped him heal Septamus. She shifted on the settee, drawing in a rapid breath. These chambers suddenly seemed very warm.

Thaetus’ eyes widened with a horrified look and he tapped nervous fingertips atop Taggart’s arm. “Ye need to leave this room and allow the Lady Guardian to compose herself. Ye have upset her and you know that is forbidden.”

With an arched brow, Taggart studied Hannah closer then sidled a glance back to Thaetus’ bug-eyed expression. A roguish grin crept across his face as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Truly? Are ye absolutely certain, Thaetus?”

“Aye, Taggart. Ye know the rules. The Lady Guardian must be left alone.” Thaetus plucked at Taggart’s tunic with long, narrow fingers and jerked his head toward the door.

“Thaetus, I know we might’ve gotten off on the wrong foot and please don’t take this the wrong way. But you are acting strange. What exactly is your problem?” Hannah stretched forward, sliding her china cup onto the marble slab table squatting in front of the damask settee.

Taggart’s warm, rumbling chuckle bubbled up from the depths of his chest and echoed off the walls of the high-ceilinged room. “I have to tell her, Thaetus. ‘Twould no’ be fair to keep the lass in the dark. Ye’ve already given yourself away.”

Thaetus shook his head and backed against the wall, pulling the breakfast cart in front of his body as though it were a shield. “She will not be pleased. Consider yourself warned, Taggart. And ye might want to step behind here with me.”

Taggart rubbed his nose with the back of his hand as he gave a wink and a nod toward Thaetus. “Thaetus is an empath, Hannah. Ye might say he’s very sensitive to your…um…needs.”

Hannah looked from Taggart to Thaetus and then back to Taggart’s knowing grin. That son-of-a-. Thaetus had picked up on her very private case of the hornies and alerted Taggart in code. Embarrassed heat of this revelation stormed its way through her body. Her cheeks burned hotter than they had in high school when the zipper split on her jeans during her speech in the middle of assembly.

“Get out.” Hannah pointed at the door hanging off the hinges while fixing her gaze on the center of the coffee table.

“It’s all right, Hannah, I understand how ye might be excited by−”

“I said get the hell out!”

Thaetus took the lead and hurried toward the door, dodging the coffee cup Hannah lobbed at their heads. He only paused long enough to hiss to Taggart. “I advised ye she would not be pleased.”





  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Inspiration or over-active imagination?

Sights? Sounds? Scents? What triggers your dream-state? What tickles your muse? We've all heard the expression, "a picture's worth a thousand words".  Do pictures send your mind reeling, make your palms itch to jot down the story before it escapes?

Consider these ruins atop the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. After I snapped this shot, I lowered the camera and though I stood among several other tourists, I was all alone.  My mind whirled through the ruins, searched over the landscape like a bloodhound led by a scent.  Hubby had to touch my shoulder to break my reverie because I wasn't there.  I was watching ghosts of the past fit together chiseled stones and build walls without mortar.

Or what about this woman playing the harp along the path winding up the Cliffs of Moher? My mind painted her as a trapped soul, unable to communicate in any other way than the magical sound released by her instrument.  Perhaps she waited for a hero?  A hero to break the curse and release her from the prison of silence.

 Did this gentleman ride his pony to the town square each day waiting for a lost love who promised she'd someday return? 






You see? I'm hopeless.  Ever the dreamer, I never know when it will hit.  And it doesn't take far away places to send me into my own little world.



 

The sight of my granddaughter singing her heart out at the Christmas play triggered visions of a self-assured young woman waiting in the future.













Her serious admonition while singing this song showed me the headstrong side to the young lady coming in the years ahead.






 
And then there's the little wood imp, hiding in the forest among the trees just itching to whisk away a passerbye and sweep them through the gateway into the land of Fae.

Sights? Sounds? Scents?  What sends YOU into a dream?

Friday, December 3, 2010

At our house, it's all about the memories



I believe one of my favorite things about the holidays is all the gorgeous decorations. I love the lights, the velvety ribbons, the sparkling baubles gleaming at every turn. I so admire those talented folks able to turn their trees into designer-inspired works of art. But those of you who know me, know all too well that I’m just plain old me. And our family’s tree doesn’t quite fall into the “carefully decorated” category. We don’t have a perfect, color-coordinated decoration that’s suitable to grace the cover of a magazine. Our delightfully chaotic tree is all about the memories.




Hubby and I have been together forever. This is our thirty-first Christmas shared and we’ve collected a dated ornament for every year. You’ll also see a U.S. Air Force ornament commemorating the years he served our country.

Look a little closer and you’ll see the wonderful ornaments my granddaughter made. Those ornaments are more precious to me than all the gold in the world.

There’s also ornaments both daughters made. Their creativity makes me laugh. She told me the word “earth” was too long for the ornament –so she improvised.

Every time I look at that tree, I relive the happy times, hear the laughter, feel the warmth and love of all the Christmas’s past. So, looking back on this post, maybe it’s not the actual decorations that bring me such joy –maybe it’s just the loving memories they trigger. *Sigh*

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's all about choices...

How do you handle what life throws at you? Do you duck and end up wishing you hadn’t because what you’re standing in is WAY worse than what just flew past your head?

I CHOSE to go shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. I knew exactly what was about to catapult toward me with frightening speed. But my adventure into the dangerous environment of bargain hunting humans turned out to be laced with several very entertaining moments.

Moment #1 – The Drive-thru Opera:

Coffee! I needed coffee in the worst way at 1:30 a.m. The only place open was a 24 hr. fast food drive thru and everyone in the tri-state area had the exact same idea. So, we pulled into line. 45 minutes later, slightly frustrated and more than ready for our turn, we ease in front of the order box and a cheerful voice SINGS out: “Welcome to XXXX! We’re hap-hap-happy you’re here and we’re doing our best to make your DAAAAYYY better!!!!” Both my daughter and I explode with laughter. How could you remain irritated at a worker willing to greet his customers in such a cheerful way? And when he handed us our order, he smiled a GENUINE smile and wished us good luck in finding all our bargains.

Moment #2 – Be vewwy, vewwy quiet – they’re sleeping:

About three hours into our adventure, I collapsed on a heavenly bench while daughter plowed into her favorite shop across the way. Three older ladies plopped down beside me, dropped their heads against the back of the bench –and proceeded to snore. I would’ve done the same but the one closest to me was sawing them off pretty loud.

Moment #3 – The sales clerk who loved them all:

By the tenth hour of our shopping spree, my tail was wiping out my tracks. I’d grown silent, operating on complete impulse power, auto-pilot guiding me through the motions. I pulled my selections out of the cart and placed them on the counter of our last stop. The poor child chatted the entire time she rang up my purchases, oblivious to the glassy-eyed zombie I’d become. At the end of the chore, she patted me on the shoulder and winked. “You’re so tired: you forgot to give me one of our coupons. I know you’ve probably got it in your purse, so, I gave you the sale price.” With my last shred of energy, I pulled myself out of my lethargy and thanked her for being such a wonderful person. I thought about telling the manager, but I’m not too sure it wouldn’t get her in trouble. So, I’m hoping her good deed will bring her the blessings she deserves.

The moral? Life is what you make of it. How will you handle what’s tossed your way?

As an added note: Laughter is one of the greatest gifts. One of my friends emailed me these cute photo’s that brought a smile to my face. Enjoy!

















Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have I been here before?

 Have you ever had that eerie tingling sensation of familiarity with a place that’s entirely new? You know the one. All the tiny hairs coating your flesh ripple to attention as though summoned by some unseen force. Your entire being recognizes your surroundings and nudges your consciousness even though you struggle to deny it. It’s not possible. You know you’ve never been there before. Wikipedia’s definition of déjà vu is as follows:

Déjà vu (French pronunciation: [deʒa vy] (meaning "already seen") is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined. The term was coined by a French psychic researcher, Émile Boirac (1851–1917) in his book L'Avenir des sciences psychiques ("The Future of Psychic Sciences"), which expanded upon an essay he wrote while an undergraduate. The experience of déjà vu is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity, and also a sense of "eeriness," "strangeness," "weirdness," or what Sigmund Freud calls "the uncanny." The "previous" experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in some cases there is a firm sense that the experience has genuinely happened in the past.

Some people believe in it. Some don’t. I guess that’s normal for anything unexplainable. I’ve always kept an open mind about such things. My family used to give me the collective eye roll when I’d wink and explain that the reason I couldn’t wear turtlenecks was because, in a past life, someone must’ve strangled me. Imagine their expressions, when we discovered that one of my poor ancestors suffered hanging and then burning after accusations of witchcraft. Now, I’m not saying that she was me...or I’m her…but who knows?

I experienced the eerie feeling of déjà vu quite strongly a couple of times during our tour of Scotland and Ireland. The first rush to my senses occurred while standing at the edge of Culloden field. My bones ached with the desolate chill of the place. Sorrow. Futility. Despair. The wind reeked with sadness. I couldn’t stay on the battlefield very long. I told hubby I couldn’t bear the cold and retreated to the coffee shop inside the museum and waited for everyone else to finish their tour. I knew my ancestors had taken part in the Jacobite uprising. I don’t know if I ever walked on that field before but I knew I couldn’t walk it again.

The second rush of “welcome back” came to me while standing at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. You see, my ancestors that weren’t slaughtered during the Jacobite uprising escaped or were herded to Ireland. I remember my brother found a scrawled statement in one of the papers that they’d left the land of their hearts and fallen in love with the beautiful women of the green isle. Hope. Yearning. Homesickness.
The air-splitting caw of a solitary crow shouted these words across the wind. This crow kept pace with us while we enjoyed the lovely cliffs. I wondered if he was trying to remind me that I’d been there before. What do you think? Have we walked these paths before?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Are you SURE you've got the right address?

We received a lovely red envelope in the mail yesterday.  Well, I say "we". Actually, it was addressed to my husband.  Early on in our thirty-odd year marriage, we established this rule: what's HIS is mine and what's MINE is mine.  So, after I admired the weight of the mystery packet for a split second, I ripped it open.  A card bearing the word Free Gift immediately grabbed my attention.  My inner bargain-hunting beast stirred from it's murky depths, rumbling with a hungry growl. "Free?  We LUVZ free."  Interest captured, I read the rest of the colorful card, then exploded with an unrestrained snort.

"What's so funny?" Hubby asked, peering over my shoulder at HIS mail.

Tapping on the card, I drew his attention to the following statement (direct quote from the card):

"This limited time offer is extended only to a select group of candidates whose lifestyles match our world class community."

"Did you know we had a lifestyle?" I asked as I pushed up the sleeve of my favorite faded sweatshirt currently sporting enough dog hair to build another pet.

Hubby grinned and replied, "I think they'd be a little surprised if we showed up at their establishment."

Now, don't get me wrong.  I consider us extraordinarily wealthy. Our cozy little home brims with character, fairly bursting at the seams with love and laughter.  We each have our own vehicle and more than enough food to satisfy our needs. 

But hubby and I are a down-to-earth, middle-class couple and we've got a rather bad habit of speaking our minds when we're so inclined.  My idea of a rocking good time is sitting in the porch swing in my backyard watching Hubby grill steaks for our family.  Oh --and hot dogs and marshmallows.  Our granddaughter's not too wild about steak. 

Yes. We've traveled a bit --after working overtime to foot the bill and then scheduling vacation from our jobs.  And while I consider us rich beyond measure, I don't think we fit the mailer's definition of "select group of candidates".

When it's all said and done, I believe the MAIN reason we don't fit into this elite group is because we don't want to be a part of their community.  Their aloof statement offended me.  Who are they to judge? 

So, they are welcome to keep their free gift (a set of golf clubs - complete with a bag and yes, Hubby has been known to play cow pasture pool on rare occasions).  Hubby and I choose to pass on this offer.  I think we're going start our own elite community and we're going to let everyone join...even them.  But they have to bring their own hot dogs.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture – which is it and should you even care?

The debate of Nature vs. Nurture has been tossed about for years. It all boils down to the obvious conundrum: are we born this way or do our experiences mold us? Does it have to be one or the other? Could it be a combination of the two? As a writer, why should you care?


I’m no scientist or psychologist. I can’t prove or disprove either side of the argument. But as to why a writer should care is easy. By using nature AND nurture, layers of personality add depth to our characters to either endear or alienate them with our readers. A strong heroine triumphing over adversity triggers loyalty and affection. A character turned bad due to a history of abuse launches emotions ranging from heartfelt sympathy to an exploding sense of injustice and thirst for retribution. But writer beware. How you mold your character’s traits had best be plausible or you’ll catapult your readers right out of the story.

I’m a people watcher. I’ve studied them in an attempt to nail down believable reactions to outer influences. But have you ever noticed how reality often laughs at what “should” be? There are no constants when it comes to humans. Not every woman victimized by years of abuse turns out weak and unable to cope. Case in point: Oprah Winfrey. No one can deny the obstacles she’s overcome in becoming one of the most successful women of today. What made her different? Was it some special strand in her DNA enabling her to succeed? Or was it one particular life-changing event or person that led her through the darkness? Or was it a combination? We’ve read what she thinks. What do you think?

On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve all heard stories of the well-blessed child growing up to be a serial killer. What happened there? Close to my hometown, several years ago, we had just such a shocking incident. The seemingly well-adjusted son of a successful lawyer showed up at school, whipped out a gun and opened fire on his classmates. Everyone was astounded. Did he do it because he'd always been a loner and never quite fit in at school? Some blamed video games. I shudder to think that’s what caused the unexplainable violence. At the time the massacre occurred, video games couldn’t hold a candle to the games our children play now. The boy had everything he ever wanted, was well-loved and taken care of by his family. So, what went wrong? Nature?


I don’t know that there’s a correct answer to the question. What do you think? Have you ever read a book where the writer shaped the character by circumstances that were impossible to believe? How would you have told the story?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have you thanked a Freedom Defender lately?

I know it's been blogged about a thousand times and in a thousand different ways. But it bears repeating. We owe the dedicated men and women of our armed forces, both past and present, an enormous debt of gratitude.


My husband served in the United States Air Force for almost ten years.  Now it seems like a lifetime ago. We were a "lucky" military family. Yes, we relocated every two years. And no, not a single member of our family met our youngest daughter until she was eighteen months old because she was born overseas. But I considered us lucky since my husband served during a time of peace. I didn't spend months or years of my life wondering if I would soon be widowed and left alone with two children.

Sometimes, we were seperated for months at a time while he attended training. But thankfully, he was never sent to any hellish places filled with enemies plotting the most effective means of torture or battlefields exploding with action. Even though we were apart, I always knew he was safe.

I might not always agree with where they're sent or what our brave service members are required to do. But I am eternally grateful to them. Because of them, I'm free to post my opinions on this blog without fear someone is going to burst into my house and drag me off to some dank, cold prison. Thanks to them, I sleep a little easier at night because I know they're doing their best to keep our country safe.

So, even though the "thank you's" have been said a thousand times, I feel it's never said often enough. Too many of these courageous souls return to their families in a flag-draped box, or worse yet - they never return at all. I appreciate the sacrifices each of them have made and I also extend that gratitude to their families. Remember them. Honor them. They've more than deserved it. This post is for the defenders of our freedom.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Could this be what I think it is?


I wonder if the veil between worlds is thinner in Scotland? Take a close look at this picture. Do you see the curling wisp of white smoke twisting up over the wall of Edinburgh Castle? I snapped this shot while touring the castle during our trip at the beginning of this month. I wanted a picture of the great view across Edinburgh and especially the coal-tarnished spire of the church on the right.

I didn't notice this odd-looking stream of white smoke crossing the picture until we'd arrived home and printed the pictures. I use a digital camera and always check the shots on the viewer plus we downloaded the pics onto my netbook each night when we returned to our room.

There also wasn't a sign of any smoke anywhere that day. I've got the nose of a prize-winning bloodhound coupled with a monstrous sensitivity to smoke of any kind. I'm a reformed smoker, haven't had a cigarette in over twenty years. I’m a better smoke detector than the sort that needs batteries.

When I saw this phenomena the first time, I asked my husband if he remembered any smoke that day and jokingly added that perhaps it was one of our ancestors saying hello from the other side.

My husband descends from Clan Maxwell. My lineage traces back to the MacDonalds. Perhaps this visitor wished to be noticed by its descendants from "across the pond".

We'll never be certain what it was that day and I know some folks will laugh and blow it off. But I hope it was one of our long ago kin making contact from the other side. I wish them peace and safe journey.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How much is too much?

While talking to another author earlier today, I was asked how I thought I was doing in the Writing With the Stars contest. After swallowing hard, I kind of shook my head and confessed that I had misgivings about this voting stuff.  He didn't quite understand what I meant until I expounded on my doubts. "I'm afraid I'm not very good at putting myself out there and scrounging up votes.  I don't want to alienate people by constantly harping on and on about the contest."

He immediately bobbed his head in agreement.  "I know exactly what you mean.  I just unfollowed and unfriended this one individual because of their incessant posts and tweets about nothing but buying their book.  That's all they ever did. Read this excerpt.  The buy links right here.  I finally had enough - I GOT THE MESSAGE.  All they ever talked about was selling that damn book."

Which begs the question: how much is too much?  Twitter, Facebook, Myspace - there's an endless list of social networks out there that authors use to get the word out about their stories, connect with their readers and let them know what's going on in their world. 

But I've decided this global marketing thing can be much like walking a tight rope.  I have to admit, I've grown a little weary at times with people who seem to hold down that BUY MY BOOK button on the various forums.  Don't get me wrong, I love hearing about the new releases and reading the excerpts a couple of times...but when it's endless, it gets a bit old.  My book, BEYOND A HIGHLAND WHISPER comes out in February.  Will I be guilty of doing the same thing?  I hope not.  Knowing my fear of irritating people (writer = introvert), I'll run the risk of not talking it up enough.

I'm of the mind that blogging about the other stuff in our lives (trips, pet's antics, adorable kids, writing stuff) will (hopefullly) be more welcomed in the "readersphere" then a constant stream of BUY MY BOOK.  Of course, I could be dead wrong and just fooling myself into thinking this so I'll have an excuse not to pester people.  What do you think?  How do we as authors strike the perfect balance?

By the way *ahem* and *clearing throat with a shy gulp* - the link to vote on round one is here if you'd like to help me out.  Tomorrow is the last day to vote in this round:
http://www.rtbookreviews.com/content/writing-stars-vote-first-paragraph-and-last-line

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

*Sigh* I danced with a handsome Irishman!

Have you ever experienced one of those once in a lifetime moments?  The kind that makes it utterly impossible to stop smiling?  While on our tour of Ireland, I had one of those moments that still elicits a *happy sigh* everytime I replay it in my head.

One night of our visit was spent enjoying the lively entertainment at Tayor's Three Rock Pub.  Celtic musicians, wondrous dancers that could've starred in a Broadway production of Riverdance and an Irish comedian so funny he had us gasping between bursts of laughter filled the evening.
 
 During the livelier tunes and the dancer's heart thumping steps, I clapped along with the music and tapped my foot in time with the Celtic beat.  The music sang to my soul. 

At the onset of the final performance, the emcee announced the Celtic dancers would be choosing partners from the audience to join them in the final reel.  I knew I wouldn't be chosen.  I was well back from the front row, perfectly safe in my middle of the crowd seat.  Or so I thought.

I'd turned to take a sip of water and my husband leaned in close and whispered, "You're had."

I looked up and a lovely, dark-eyed Irishman stood in front of me with his hand extended.


I shook my head.  "Oh no, I can't."

He flashed his wicked smile, grabbed my hand and pulled me up from my seat.  "Oh yes, ye can!"


And we danced.  Well.  He danced.  I hopped up and down on one foot and tried to follow his grinning instructions to move this way, spin now, cross here, and etc., etc.

At the end of the reel, he gave me a warm hug and a hearty, "Well done."
     I melted.  Yes.  I'm old enough to be the striking lad's mother.  Yes.  I hopped up and down on my one good foot like a lame duck. (I'd broken the other one earlier in the trip.)  But in my memories, I floated light as a feather across the floor with a darling Irishman!



Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Writer's Alphabet

See the new footwear I acquired when I returned home from my trip? My husband thinks I'm extremely hard-headed.  I prefer to think of it as determined.  On day one of our trip to Scotland and Ireland, I twisted my way down a step and managed to break two bones in my foot.  On day two, I did it again.  Apparently, I'm a slow learner.  However, I have now FINALLY learned that while walking down steps and taking pictures, PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE YOU PUT YOUR FEET.  The reason my husband believes I'm a bit stubborn is because I didn't go to the doctor until we returned.  I gimped around on my lame foot for two weeks because I didn't want to deal with a clinic visit during my trip.

Anyway, for some strange reason (I have no idea why my mind works the way it does)...my silly head used this mishap to come up with the following writer's alphabet. 

A - is for author.  I write stories.  Hey, that's me!
B - is for bestseller.  That's what I want my books to be.
C - is for cliche.  Bad things! Everyone's heard it a thousand times.
D - is for determined.  If you're not determined...you won't survive.
E - is for email.  It can make or break your day.
F - is for Facebook.  A social place for work and play.
G - is for gulp.  What you do when you get a reply about your book.
H - is for happy.  What you are when an editor requests another look.
I - is for impatient.  What an author must learn not to be.
J - is for job.  We do this when we'd rather be writing.
K - is for kindness. Authors thrive when this is laced through a constructive critique.
L - is for looney.  Some people think we're this just because we listen to the "voices" of our muse.
M - is for manuscript.  The official word for our babies that we've nudged out into the world.
N - is for neverending.  There's always a story brewing.
O - is for opinion.  Everyone has one - sometimes good and sometimes bad. *sigh*
P - is for proof.  We do this a THOUSAND times and still don't see that one error until AFTER we've hit SEND.
Q - is for query.  A plea to editors, agents and publishers to please love our "baby" as much as we do.
R - is for revise.  If we revise it just one more time...maybe then it will be perfect.
S - is for story.  That's what it's all about.
T - is for tension.  What a good story has.
U - is for unwavering.  An author must never give up.
V - is for voice.  Find your "one of a kind" voice and shine!
W - is for writing.  What else would we do if not for writing our lovely tales?
X - marks the spot to sign on the contract we all hope to win.
Y - is for yelling at the computer when it doesn't save your file.
Z - is for Rebecca Zanetti - my great mentor in the Writing With the Stars contest! http://www.rtbookreviews.com/content/writing-stars-vote-first-paragraph-and-last-line

How about your writer's alphabet?  What "descriptions" would you use?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sage Advice

How do the very young become so very wise? My six year old granddaughter and I sat on the porch swing, enjoying the refreshing autumn breeze on a Sunday afternoon. She'd found a wondrous rock, all smooth and shining with the most interesting indentations around the circumference of its egg-shaped surface. This special rock exuded magical properties.  It was a wishing rock. She informed me we needed to hold this lucky rock against our foreheads, close our eyes and make our wishes. The rock allowed us each three wishes. I didn't know how she knew this, but such sincerity shone in her clear blue eyes, I didn't doubt her a bit.


She held the rock to her forehead, closed her eyes and made her wishes. Then she pressed the cool stone of promise against my brow so that I could make mine. I made my wishes. Who wouldn't take a chance at a little extra luck? I opened my eyes and asked her what else we should do to make certain our wishes came true? Did we need to keep them a secret? What were the wishing rock's rules?

Her eyes widened and she stared at me. "YaYa, don't you know the secret to making all your wishes come true?"

I squirmed a bit beneath such scrutiny, reluctant to admit the truth. "No. What's the secret?"

"It's easy," she said. "All you have to do is believe in yourself."

My heart swelled at the sincerity in her tone.  Such wise advice coming from one so young. She knew the secret and I didn't. I thanked her for teaching me such a simple lesson that I wish I'd learned long ago.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You might be a writer if...

(Image: Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

While getting ready for work this morning, the strange little idiosyncrasies attributed to the writing life started whirring through my head.  So, I decided to take a moment to jot them down.  See if you agree.

You might be a writer if:

1.  When you open your eyes in the morning and look at the pillow beside you, there's a synonym finder, a dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style and a sleeping laptop instead of your husband.  He ended up sleeping in the recliner (again) because there wasn't any room in the bed for him.

2.  The acronyms GMC and POV have nothing to do with a car manufacturer or a privately owned vehicle.

3.  When your friends see "that" look on your face, they beg you not to write them into one of your books.

4.  When you come across a particularly musical name, a character complete with an enthralling personality pops into your head and starts chatting about their life.

5.  Music, pictures, a funny ad on T.V. --anything can jolt free a herd of plot bunnies hippity-hopping through your mind.

6.  You drive past your exit on the way to your destination because a story is live-streaming in 3D Technicolor through your head.

7.  Coffee and chocolate are two MAJOR food groups.

8.  Your heart jumps into your throat whenever you receive an email with the word "Query" in the subject line along with the title of your manuscript.

9.  Your inbox averages hundreds of emails at any given time because of all the writer's loops you subscribe to--and you've got most of them set to digest.

10.  On Twitter you stalk...er...follow every editor, publisher, and agent interested in your genre so you can catch those golden tidbits of industry news.

11.  You have to set time limits on Facebook, Twitter, and reading other writer's fascinating blogs or your work in progress suffers from neglect.

And that said, my time is almost up!  Do any of these writer's traits fit you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eternity's Mark - Kensington Brava / RT Book Reviews Writing With the Stars Finalist

*Sigh* Don't you just love this pic I found while making the book trailer for Eternity's Mark?

*Shakes head to break reverie*  Anyway, while working on the web yesterday, I ran across this link that renewed my excitement about finaling in the Kensington Brava / RT Book Reviews Writing With the Stars contest:

Writing With the Stars - Meet the Finalists

My heart fluttered into my throat when I noticed the voting starts on October 11th.  That date just happens to be my husband's birthday.  I'm hoping that's a positive sign.

Since the starting date isn't that far away, I thought I'd unveil Eternity's book trailer and post a short excerpt. I've also posted the youtube version in a "permanent" slot on the side of my blog.



video

The following excerpt is where Taggart has just arrived in Hannah's hometown and is trying to win her trust.  She doesn't realize he's been sent not only to return her to the ancestral home of the Draecna's but it's Taggart's duty to protect her.  Rather than hit her with her heritage and the magic of his race, he's trying to convince her to come to Scotland under the pretense that she's inherited an estate in the Highlands.  However, Taggart's been followed by Sloan's vicious minions.  Wicked entities sent to detroy Hannah and bring back her blood. 

Excerpt:

“What doesn’t make sense?” Taggart mumbled, scanning the uppermost branches of the treetops and dropping his gaze to the darkest shadows beneath the bushes. He did his best to keep his voice low; to keep her calm, something neared, something meaning them both ill will. Had a minion followed them? Where the hell was it?


Hannah frowned down at Taggart’s hand on her arm then huffed as she slid out from under his grasp. “If the Guild of Barac’Nairn has watched over Taroc Na Mor for untold centuries and you’ve known all about my family, then why didn’t my grandmother or mother hear anything about this wondrous Scottish Disneyland and inherit Taroc Na Mor before either of them died? That’s the part about your little story that doesn’t make any sense.”

With a warning growl exploding from his chest, Taggart lunged, grabbed Hannah by the shoulders and dove over the railing of the bridge. He folded Hannah up against his chest and rolled with her underneath the structure. He cradled her head just above the water as she spit and sputtered against his chest.

“What the hell are you doing? Are you out of your fuc− are you insane?” Hannah clawed and kicked against him as the water rushed between their bodies.

“Shut up woman, so I can hear them!” Taggart jerked her hard against his chest, pressing his back tight against the base of the bridge. He reached out with his senses and listened across the dimensions, strained to hear the slightest sound. They had disappeared into the wind. Attack and leave, like they always did. A quick strike and then fade into the wind or the rain to ensure no one detected the destruction was their magic. They couldn’t risk those on this side of the threshold discovering their existence.

Taggart hauled them out from under the bridge and unrolled Hannah out of his embrace. He patted her arms, felt the top of head, then finally tucked a finger under her chin and tilted her face up for a closer look. “Are ye hurt? Did I scrape ye when I yanked ye over the railing?”

Blinking the water out of her eyes, Hannah hissed from between gritted teeth. “Bend down here.”

“What?” Taggart asked, bending closer to peer into her dripping face.

Hannah wadded up her fist and punched him right in the mouth, giving a satisfied huff as blood spurted from the split welting in his lower lip.

With a yelp of surprise, Taggart clapped his thumb to his mouth as he backed a few wary steps away. “Now what did I do to deserve that, ye wicked little beast?”

“What did you do to deserve that?” Hannah’s chin dropped to her chest as she paused from wringing out her ponytail. “You drag me off the bridge, yank me into the creek, tell me to shut up and then you ask me what you did to deserve a punch in the mouth? Are you kidding me? You’re lucky that’s all I did. And then you call me a wicked little beast?”

“Look over there!” Taggart pointed just beyond the bridge to the stand of trees just even with the height of her throat. Several good-sized oaks stood twisted off as though they’d been the size of toothpicks and now their splintered trunks lay scattered across the path like over-sized stalks of harvested broccoli.

Hannah stared at the downed trees. Her fingers traveled to the base of her throat as she caught her lower lip between her teeth. She turned and scanned the surrounding area, searching for the source of the destruction. “We just walked down that path.”

Taggart nodded. “Aye. We did. That very same path.”

Hannah looked back at the trees. “Those trees weren’t down then.”

Taggart shook his head. “No. They were not.”

Hannah wrapped her hand in the hem of her wet tee shirt and stretched on tiptoe to blot at Taggart’s bloody lip. “Bend down here. I’m sorry. I guess.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

I won this award from Gale Stanley at http://galestanley.blogspot.com/ . Thank you so very much, Gale!  It really means a lot.

I pass this lovely award to:

Michael Radcliffe
Victoria Roberts
Sarah Hoss
Rebecca Lynn
Miriam Newman
Donna Goode
Lisa Campbell
Jeannene Walker
Beth Trissel
Andrea Snider

This is how the award works:

Accept the award, post it on your blog along with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

Pass the award to 10 other blogs that you enjoy and contact the bloggers to notify them of your choice!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bond of Words...

There are those who say this business of writing is a lonely, solitary choice.  I  beg to differ with those misinformed folks.  I've discovered the world of writing to be a delightful place filled with kind, supportive friends.

As a member of Romance Writers of America, two online special interest chapters of RWA, and several writer's loops, I've met people from all over the world and every walk of life.  We all share a common thread: the wondrous bond of words.

When one of our group suffers disappointment or loss, Twitter tweets, Facebook posts and emails fly.  Everyone rushes to console our friend and spread the word for help and support.

When someone conquers an elusive publishing quest and shouts they've won the battle, the collective congratulations and resounding whoo hoo's set the cyber world on fire.

No matter the level of experience or success in the writer's struggle, I've found the brotherhood of words warm and welcoming to all.  Knowledge and tips are openly shared.  If you're stumped, all you need do is ask. 

Like all families, there's an occasional heated discussion.  But everyone strives to treat each other with respect and ruffled feathers are quickly smoothed.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could teach this comraderie to the confused, angry people trapped in the "real" world?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

She finally showed her face!

I captured her! My elusive muse finally showed her face. Though she's usually the voice jolting me from a sound sleep, this time she allowed me a glimpse of her "physical" form.


I ignored it at first. This nagging image picking away at the back of my mind. But then I finally had to listen to her. She's never been one to settle for being ignored.

I grabbed a pencil and my granddaughter's crayons and said, "Fine. You want everyone to see the face behind the whispers? Put your image on this page and I'll post it on my blog."

And then we drew. And erased. And sketched some more until she stopped saying, "Don't make me look so old. Erase that line. You've given me a double chin!" She's such a bossy muse.

Have you ever envisioned your muse?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yes, I screamed...

If your windows rattled from an ear-splitting WHOO HOO from Kentucky, I admit it.  It was me.  I was so thrilled when I received the news, my happiness exploded.

Out of five hundred entries in the Kensington Brava / Romantic Times "Writing with the Stars" contest, I'M ONE OF THE TEN FINALISTS! At first, I couldn't breathe and I have to confess my heart still revs up a notch when I replay the editor's call in my head. 

The contest will be launched in their November issue where our intros and photos will appear.  Then my paranormal romance, Eternity's Mark will compete in five rounds of competition starting with the December issue of Romantic Times.

The winner will be announced at the Romantic Times convention and in their May issue.  This could mean a publishing contract for Eternity's Mark if the judges like it and if the readers show their approval with a supportive vote.

I just have to remember to breathe...

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm a cracked pot and I'm proud!

How many times have you received those chain emails?  You know the ones.  They've got a cute story or some kind of neat saying and if you forward it to so many friends then good luck will beat down your door.  I tend to receive a lot of such emails.  I don't mind.  Sometimes, they're pretty cute but I rarely take the time to send them on.

However, the other day my daughter sent one that I found particularly touching.  She called me a cracked pot and I was honored. The following is the parable the "crack pot" email held.  If you've already seen it, I think it's worth repeating.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

An elderly woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she balanced across her shoulders.  One of the pots contained a crack while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.  At the end of the long walks from the stream to her house, the cracked pot only arrived half full.  For two full years, the woman fetched water daily, bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot swelled with pride, boasting of its perfect performance.  The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been intended to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, one day by the stream, it spoke to the woman.  "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The old woman smiled.  "Did you notice there are flowers on your side of the path, but nothing grows on the other pot's side?  That's because I've always known about your flaw.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.  For two years, I've been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my simple table.  Without you being just the way you are, there would be no beauty to grace my house."

Then the email explained the obvious moral of the story: Each of us has our own unique flaws.  But it's the cracks and flaws that makes our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.  Accept each person for what they are and look for the good to be found within them.

So, I'm proud to be a cracked pot creating a path of beauty in this world.  How about you?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We came. We conquered. We bought.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned OR a bride-to-be stalking a sale at a bridal shop. With the wedding mere weeks away, we had to find the perfect gown. And guess what? The local bridal shop just happened to be having a fantastic sale. Armed with my checkbook and having no idea of the imminent danger I faced, I accompanied both daughters to the store.

She’d done her research. Surfed the net and decided on just what type of gown she wanted. The store’s website provided a sneak preview of the lovely dresses crowding the racks. I never realized until we stepped through the doors just how many people shop for wedding apparel. Yes, I know it’s summer, the season of love. But GEEZ, the store brimmed with future brides and their muscle.

We spied the section marked “SALE” and made a bee-line for it. Daughter #1 started at one end, Daughter-to-be-married headed for the other. I dove into the middle of the fray, prying dresses free of their protective plastic and holding them up for my children to rate.

Daughter-to-be-married perked with interest at about the third dress I’d fished out of the over-stuffed wall of silk and tulle. Daughter #1 came up behind me, leaned in close and whispered, “Mama, whatever you do, don’t let go of that dress.”

The tiny hairs on the back of my neck immediately stood on end. Hackles raised, I glanced to the right. Three women glared at me as if I stood between them and their last meal. My survival hearing picked up the desperate hiss the young girl in the middle whispered.

“Momma, I want THAT dress.”

I locked my arms around the waist of the gown and through bared teeth instructed my daughter. “Get your sister over here now.”

We stood as one. The coveted dress locked in my arms and marched victoriously to the dressing room to try on the prize.

The dressing room assistant asked my daughter her size. After all, one must have the proper undergarments to fully appreciate if the dress will work. She returned with a bustier and one of those smoothing half slips that squeezes everything into all the right spots and then slicks it down so the faintest dimple doesn’t show.

I didn’t really understand why daughter needed such a contraption. She’s quite a petite young thing. But what do I know of high fashion? My idea of dressing up is ironing my jeans. So, she stepped into the suction cup slip and we started pulling it into place. After considerable hopping and expelling of breath, the torture chamber finally locked and loaded.

And then came the bustier. A frustrating contraption with fifty-bazillion hook and eye closures running up the back. I eyed the thing and asked, “I’ve got to fasten EVERY one of them?”

Daughter nodded, holding it in place, she gave me her back and said, “Go for it.”

The bustier was as bad as the peel-and-breathe slip. It was like stuffing ten pounds of sugar into a five pound bag. “Exhale more,” I instructed as I yanked it tighter around her.

“If I exhale any more, I’m going to pass out.”

She reddened a bit from lack of oxygen but we finally clamped it into place. Then I slid the dress down over her head and zipped it.

She stepped out of the dressing room to examine the results in the triple mirrors. The glaring enemy dress stalkers stood nearby but when I viewed my daughter, I felt no fear. I felt only pride at the lovely young woman on the pedestal.

We bought the dress and emerged unscathed from the shop. I’m just hoping when my other daughter decides to marry, I’m given enough time for a few preparation workouts at the gym.