Monday, December 30, 2013

I Resolve to Make No Resolutions

It's not that I think I'm perfect. I know better.

But I also know that if I vow to shed those pesky ten pounds or promise to break a bad habit on January 1 simply because it's New Year's, I'm only setting myself up for failure. I have to resolve to do something or change something, not based on the calendar, but based on my personal circumstances. 

For me, New Year's is a time for reflection. It's a time to look back over the past year, see what changes I've made for the better and move forward; see what has occurred that I'm not happy about and how I can change those aspects of my life. 

2012 was a challenging year for me with major upheavals and some bitter losses. I learned some harsh lessons, discovered some tough truths, and gained some insight into the hearts and minds of others. 2013 settled me in a much better place, but offered new lessons and new challenges to be met and mastered. I see room for improvements looming in 2014. 

And so I plan to move forward, with my eye on new goals, prepared for changes along the way, stronger, wiser, and proud of what I've survived and accomplished. No matter where the road takes me, I'm ready for the journey.

How about you? 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why Your Partner Doesn't Want to Accompany You to Your Writing Event (and Why That's Okay)

Last night was my local writing group's annual holiday party, and I had a blast, as I always do at these events. But as I drove home alone (as I always do), it struck me that though spouses and guests were invited, few significant others attended. Oh, sure there were some. About half a dozen or so. But most of us came alone. And I noticed that even those who had brought partners in the past to previous events came alone this time. When it comes to bringing spouses, writers tend to be a "one and out" phenomenon.

Over the dozen years I've been involved in different writing events, I can count on one hand the amount of times my husband has accompanied me. (Technically, I can count on one finger the amount of times he's accompanied me.) At one time, it might have bothered me. I might have wondered why he didn't seem to support me openly by coming along. But I've come to realize something over the years. 

We writers scare people. Hard to believe, isn't it? I mean, as a species, you really couldn't find a less aggressive group. Interview us and you'll find that 90% of us were the nerds in school, the quiet ones in the corner, the observers. We're not normally known for striking fear into the hearts of anyone.

But writing get-togethers for non-writers are like Sci-Fi Conventions for people who've never seen Star Trek. We're total geeks to the nth power when surrounded by fellow writers.

In the writing world, you're either Team Shakespeare or Team Bacon. (And only those in the writing world will understand that analogy.)

Oh, sure, we try to be inclusive. We talk about pop culture: movies, music, and television shows. But when we do, we focus on the characterization in the lyrics, or the story arc, or the brilliant writing. If we mention the hunky actor or lead singer, it's because of the emotional range he displayed or because he's the perfect model for our current protagonist. 

Bring up a bestselling author, and we'll discuss the least known book on his/her backlist in great detail because it will be our favorite. And we'll all cite the same scenes as particularly noteworthy or utter failures. We'll use terms that mean nothing to anyone who only reads when on vacation and always chooses the current hot best seller.

When writers talk about a recent trip to some European country, we wax poetic about the archaic facts we learned and not the sights we photographed or the beaches where we tanned our fannies. 

We share amusing anecdotes overheard in coffee shops and hospital waiting rooms because we know they'll someday make a "great scene."

Our standard ice-breaker in conversation is, "So, what are you currently working on?"

We play "author bingo" and games that require you to come up with a word in the English language that has a double u in less than 5 seconds. 

Mention a t-shirt seen in a souvenir shop that proudly proclaims, "F*** Google. Ask Me." Every writer in the room will raise a hand and admit, "Yeah, that's me." We can't help ourselves. Our heads are encyclopedias of useless facts.

For the non-writer in this scenario, one of us can be tough enough to deal with. But to be locked in a room for several hours with forty or fifty of us? Or more? That's a challenge even the most loving spouse can't rise to on a regular basis.

And honestly? For most of us, it's a good thing to be on our own in these situations. We're with our people, our fellow introverts and observers. The pressure is off. We don't have to worry if our significant other is having a good time. 

We can shout out, "vacuum!" to that double u question and have a group of people look at us with admiration instead of hearing, "It's bizarre that you know that." 

When we complain that our protagonist refuses to follow the plot the way we planned, we receive nods and encouraging advice instead of eye rolls or blank stares.

We can talk to the bartender about his day job as an EMT for over an hour, knowing it's actually research and not worry someone might mistake it for flirtation.

We can sit in the corner and jot notes on napkins--and no one thinks we're odd or anti-social. In fact, we'll probably have to wait our turn to find a chair in the corner! 

So, if you've got a partner who does accompany you on a regular basis, be sure to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice he/she is making for you--and not just with a dedication in your next novel. Take your head out of your laptop every once in a while to say "thanks" and "I love you" and "wow, you look great" and "when did we change the color of the walls?" and "how'd I get so lucky?" Because you did.

But if your partner doesn't come with you to these social engagements, at least wait until you're out of sight and earshot before you give that fist pump and say, "Thank God." 

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Funeral for a Friend

It was bound to happen eventually. I mean, I have a reputation for being hard on those I love, those I rely on to see me through the rough times. After all, there's only so much support a good friend can supply before they just can't give any more. And I can be a bit too needy sometimes. I know that. It's only natural that, after a time, my demands become impossible to meet and the giver can no longer provide me with succor.

I've said goodbye so often over the years. I should be used to it. But this time is different. 

Oh, sure, I saw the signs lately. The times I'd seek out encouragement or a jolt of courage, and it would take just a little too long to get a reaction. But I told myself I was imagining it. Denial, the professionals call it. Deep down inside, I knew. I just didn't want to admit it. Didn't want to believe I'd burned out another one. After all, I thought this time was gonna last a lot longer. I'd invested so much more in this relationship.

But, in the end, I wound up disappointed yet again. And so, it's time to say farewell.

Farewell, dear Keurig. You were wonderful. But you've gasped your last. And so, I must put you out of your misery (and mine), consigning you to the Kitchen Appliance Hall of Fame along with all your past counterparts: the Mr. Coffees, the summer blenders I've burned out on too many margaritas, the toasters the Hubster has punched (don't ask). Alas, poor Keurig, you served me well. You shall be missed.

Rumor has it the Cuisinart's on sale with a rebate. I think I might be in love again... 

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Favorite Holiday Movies

I'm waaay behind on all things Christmas this year so I'm trying to get in the spirit with the help of my trusty DVR. Here are some of my favorite movies for the season. Warning! They're not going to be to everyone's taste. And bear in mind, there are hundreds of choices out there. These are my particular favorites.

1. Last Holiday. Queen Latifah and LL Cool J (my kids will tell you how much I love this guy!) star in the story of a woman who's always played by the rules, facing a fatal illness, who decides to spend her last Christmas going out with a bang. 

2. Bridget Jones's Diary. Yes, it's a Christmas movie. Bridget and Mark run into each other at the Christmas Curry Buffet. Mark's wearing the horrible reindeer sweater. That kiss in the end in the snow? Come on! It's a Christmas movie. At least, in my book, it's a Christmas movie. Pffft! For anyone who's lived under a rock and has never seen or heard of Bridget, this is the story of Bridget Jones and her rocky love life, her see-saw weight, and her dysfunctional parents, told, in part, through her diary entries.

3. The Ref. Oh my God, I could watch this a thousand times and still laugh at the same lines. "Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hidin'." "If you don't mind, the corpse still has the floor." "Slipper socks. Medium!" When cat burglar Denis Leary bungles a job in the booby-trapped home of an eccentric millionaire, he takes a couple hostage to avoid the Christmas Eve lockdown set up by the town police to find him. Unfortunately, he's chosen the most dysfunctional family in the state of Connecticut. Brilliant performances by Leary, Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, Glynis Johns, Christine Baranski, and J.K. Simmons.

4. The Muppet Christmas Carol. No, I'm not the least bit embarrassed (though my kids are). There are tons of versions of this Dickens classic and I'll watch them all, including the Lifetime version, Ebbie, starring Susan Lucci as a female Ebeneezer, but the Muppets bring a special whimsy, and Michael Caine is so good at being bad.

5. The Holiday. Two broken-hearted women on opposite sides of the world, played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, switch homes to avoid spending Christmas alone with their misery. After some amusing mishaps, both find their "gumption" with the help of the delectable Jude Law, a charming Jack Black, and a timeless Eli Wallach.

6. Bad Santa. Sure, it's in very poor taste. But it's funny. Billy Bob Thornton is a thief who becomes a mall Santa every year, cashes out on Christmas Eve by robbing all the stores, blows through the cash on booze and drugs over the next eleven months and starts again the following November. Along for the ride is his trusty accomplice elf, Tony Cox. 

7. While You Were Sleeping. Lonely Chicago El fare collector Lucy has a secret crush on commuter Peter. When he's mugged on Christmas Eve and tossed on the rails, she jumps on the tracks to save his life. At the hospital where Peter lies in a coma, Lucy is immediately swallowed up into his family where they think she's his new fiancee. All except Peter's brother, Jack, who not only has suspicions about Lucy, he has feeling for her, as well.

8. Christmas Vacation. Yeah, we're the Griswolds. Poor Clark wants a good old fashioned family Christmas but, as always, goes overboard and disaster ensues, along with hilarity.

9. Trading Places. Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine (Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy) are the pawns when the Duke brothers decide to test a theory that environment has more to do with a person's life choices than upbringing. Brilliant satire with some uproarious moments.

10. Love, Actually. Still the best for me. So many love stories--some sad, some happy, but all poignant--all told around Christmas. Each one melts my heart to a puddle of mulled cider. 

What are your holiday movies to get you in the spirit?

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Word of the Day: FREE!

In Your Dreams, Book II of the Afterlife Series, is currently free for Kindle users for the next five days! What are you waiting for? Go get your copy! Here's a sneak peek I've never shared before:

“You’re a hero, Belle. Or I guess, in your case, a heroine.”

“I prefer the term, ‘super goddess,’ if you don’t mind.” She snuggled against Sean on the plush couch and watched firelight dance shadows over the hard lines of his face, in such contrast with his starlit eyes. This time, he’d brought her to a winter wonderland. She’d barely hung up the phone before he whisked her to this quiet, rustic ski chalet. Outside, snow swirled while she and he stayed warm and cozy together. The two of them. Together. Alone. Romantic—in a weird kind of way.

“Super goddess, huh? What does that require? A cape and a halo?”

“A cape, a halo, and a super god by her side. You interested in becoming my sidekick?”


“We make a great team,” she said with an enticing lilt. “Don’t you think this is kind of like...fate? Like, I don’t know…I’m the Pepper to your Iron Man-slash-Tony Stark persona. Maybe I’m supposed to keep helping you with these cases of yours. I could be your official liaison with the living.”

He kissed the top of her head. “That’s a great idea, but I’m not so sure the Elders will see it that way. In fact, I bet I’m going to be in a heap of trouble after this interlude is over. Maybe even before. So if I leave here suddenly, without warning, don’t be afraid, okay? It just means I’ve been called up to face the penalty for my actions.”

“Why should you be penalized?” Peeved on his behalf, she sat up straight and screwed up her face. “We saved that poor girl’s life. Isn’t that what’s important?”

“Somehow, I don’t think the Elders are going to be too thrilled that I involved you, an attempted suicide offender, to save another attempted suicide offender.”

“You know,” she retorted, narrowing her eyes at him, “under normal circumstances, I’d kick your ass over that whole ‘attempted suicide offender’ moniker you’ve tagged me with, but I’m more concerned that you think you’re going to get in trouble for saving a teenaged girl’s life. Which, by the way, is ridiculous. All you hafta do is tell them the truth. I was around, and I could do what you couldn’t. It’s not like I was your first choice, right? I mean, you tried other options before you contacted me. But it’s because of my phone call that Nicole Zuniga is alive and will get the treatment she needs.” She thumped her chest. “Because of me. For the first time in my life, I really feel like I made a difference to somebody. And no invisible ‘Board’ is going to take that away from me.”

The wood popped, and a spark flew. Startled, she flinched.

“Easy, tiger,” he crooned and, with a low laugh, gathered her closer against his chest. “I got you.”

Yeah, he did. More than he realized. She shook off the crazy thought that she might be falling for her guardian angel. Stick to the topic, babycakes. You’re much safer there.

“One thing bothers me,” she said. “How come your boss didn’t just call Nicole herself? I mean, why’d she have to drag you in to help that poor girl—and then you had to call me? Not that I’m angry about it or anything. I’m glad I could help, but...why’d she need us?”

“Because communication between her and any of her cases is much more limited than what I have with you.”

“You were telling me about that on Rodeo Drive. Remember? When I was trying on shoes?”

His forehead pleated. “Yeah, but there’s more to the story than what I told you then. It’s strange. Everyone else in my department is limited to communicating with their offenders through dreams—only dreams. Meaning, the offenders have to be asleep. As far as I know, you’re the first person to ever sense one of us is around when you’re awake—and to address that fact. And I’m the first officer to physically leave my realm to come to yours. To be touched by someone and feel that touch. Apparently, the bond you and I share is unique.”

Unique. What exactly did that mean? What made them so special? Could it be love? Oh, Jeez, she was seriously jumping the gun here. But then again, her experience with true love was nil. Carlo had never really loved her—she saw that now. For her part, she’d only been infatuated—and not even with him. With the idea of him. She’d been in love with love, not her husband. Big difference.

She glanced upward at Sean. What kind of experience did he have with love? Probably a helluva lot more than she did.

“Sean? Have you ever been in love?”

He didn’t answer at first, and Isabelle mentally prepared herself to hear he’d left a wife and six kids behind on Earth, and he couldn’t wait until they were all reunited.

“I don’t think so,” he said at last, and she had to stifle her sigh of relief. “Not in my last lifetime anyway. I was engaged in another life, but I don’t remember any of the details.”

“I don’t really understand love,” she admitted. “I thought I did. I mean, I look at Justin and Tony, and the love between them is so obvious—so palpable—it hurts. You know? I don’t think anyone’s ever loved me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like…I don’t know. It’s not so much that Justin would lay down his life for Tony and vice-versa. I mean, I know they each would. But the loss of one partner would totally devastate the other. Me? I’ve always been…replaceable. God knows, no one who proclaimed they loved me has ever held me in higher regard than everyone else. When push came to shove, my mother chose my stepfather, Carlo ran off with a younger version, all my so-called ‘devoted’ fans have long forgotten me.” He started to say something, but she put her fingers to his lips to halt the argument. “I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I’m just stating fact. It would be nice to know someone loved me unconditionally, no matter what dumb thing I did, what careless remark I made, whether or not I had money or clout. Not like the way Justin and Tony love me—in a friendship way. But how they love each other—in a romantic way. I want someone who values me for who I am, not what I can give him. Someone who guards my heart and places his in my hands for safekeeping.”

The wood popped again, as if even the fire scoffed at her childish dreams. “Forget it.” She shook her head. “I’m not making sense. Forget I said anything.”

He didn’t reply right away, but his fingers twirled in her hair. Funny. He seemed to know exactly what to do to make her comfortable, to make her feel loved.

“First of all,” he said while his fingers tunneled through her hair to massage her scalp, “there is nothing about you that’s replaceable. Would I be working so hard to convince you to stay alive if you weren’t special? Trust me when I say, you have a lot to offer the world and the right man who’s lucky enough to discover you. Just because no one—including you—has figured that out yet doesn’t make you unworthy of love. If I were alive, I’d haunt you more than I do now. I’d spend every second of my life marveling at your courage, your wit, your enormous heart. Stay alive, sweetheart, and find the love that was meant to be yours.” He kissed the place where his fingers had traveled. “And secondly, for the record, I l—”

Poof! Isabelle woke in her room. The chalet, the fire, and the man of her dreams were all gone. 

Where'd he go? Only one way to find out. Get your copy here

Now. While it's FREE!

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