Hello readers! Here are some books I’ve purchased recently that I think you might like, too. Some are new releases I’m looking forward to reading; others are old favorites. Most are on sale, but because price drops are unpredictable, they may or may not still be discounted at this time. Purchase at your own risk. And check back, I’m adding to this regularly. Because recommending books is one of my Favorite Things!
I believe this one is regular price now… BUT! I’m including it here because I just finished reading it and loved it so much! It’s a mother-daughter story, which ticks all kinds of boxes for me. There’s a brain injury, horses, numerous damaged souls, various kinds of love and mostly, hope. So much hope! I love when a story leaves me feeling like I too could conquer my fears and make the world a better place! Take a look and see what you think:
From USA Today bestselling author Meg Donohue comes a mystery, a love story, and a mother-daughter tale about two women on a precarious journey to uncover their true selves.
Passionate and funny, radio personality Gail Gideon is a true original. Nine years ago when Gail’s husband announced that he wanted a divorce, her ensuing on-air rant propelled her local radio show into the national spotlight. Now, “The Gail Gideon Show” is beloved by millions of single women who tune-in for her advice on the power of self-reinvention. But fame comes at a price. After all, what does a woman who has staked her career on being single do when she finds herself falling in love? And is the person who is harassing her in increasingly troubling ways a misguided fan or a true danger to Gail and her daughter, Nic?
Fourteen-year-old Nic has always felt that she pales in comparison to her vibrant, outgoing mother. Plagued by a fear of social situations, she is most comfortable at the stable where she spends her afternoons. But when a riding accident lands Nic in the hospital, she awakens from her coma changed. Suddenly, she has no fear at all and her disconcerting behavior lands her in one risky situation after another. And no one, least of all her mother, can guess what she will do next…
I have this one in hardback and love it. So when I saw it for $1.99 I got it for my Kindle, too, so I can read it again without dropping it on my head at night and giving myself a concussion. My wrists (and brain) thank me!
#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts weaves together passion and obsession, humor and heart, in a novel of two people opening themselves up to the truth—and to each other.
For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets. But to Eli Landon, it’s home.
A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigations after being accused of—but never arrested for—the murder of his soon-to-be ex-wife.
He finds sanctuary at Bluff House, even though his beloved grandmother is in Boston recuperating from a nasty fall. Abra Walsh is always there, though. Whiskey Beach’s resident housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker and massage therapist, Abra is a woman of many talents—including helping Eli take control of his life and clear his name. But as they become entangled in each other, they find themselves caught in a net that stretches back for centuries—one that has ensnared a man intent on reaping the rewards of destroying Eli Landon once and for all.
I just finished reading this one and it’s one of the best crime stories I’ve read this year. Suspense galore, with great characters dealing with the topical and sensitive subject of illegal immigration. Fantastic! Currently $1.99 but don’t know for how long, so hurry!
“A tremendous talent.”—Lee Child
In this powerful novel from award-winning author Suzanne Chazin, a tense stand-off between a Hispanic police officer and an undocumented immigrant leads to the shooting death of one, the shattered life of the other, and the shocking connection between them. . .
On a clear, moonlit night in December, police detective Jimmy Vega races to the scene of a reported home invasion in an upscale New York community. As Vega arrives, he spots a Hispanic man who fits the description of the armed intruder, running from the victim’s estate. Vega chases him into the woods. When the suspect refuses to surrender—and reaches into his pocket—Vega has only seconds to make a life-or-death decision.
What begins as a tragic mistake takes an even darker turn when Vega uncovers disturbing links between the dead man and his own mother’s brutal, unsolved murder. Vega’s need for answers propels him back to his old Bronx neighborhood, where he is viewed as a disgraced cop, not a homegrown hero. It also puts him at odds with his girlfriend, Adele Figueroa, head of a local immigrant center, who must weigh her own doubts about his behavior.
When a shocking piece of evidence surfaces, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Vega to put all the pieces together—and is willing to do whatever it takes to bury the truth. Only by risking everything will Vega be able to find justice, redemption, and the most elusive goal of all: the ability to forgive himself.
Amazon.com: No Witness but the Moon (A Jimmy Vega Mystery)
Amazon.ca: No Witness but the Moon (A Jimmy Vega Mystery)
Do you love sexy New Adult romance? Then you’ve GOT to read this latest by Robin Bielman. Hot, emotional, funny, it’s got it all. I finished it this week and I think it’s my favorite of all her books. 🙂
I wasn’t supposed to see Levi Pierce ever again. A few months ago, he charmed the pants off me and we spent one incredible night together.
End of story.
Only it wasn’t. Pretty soon everywhere I turn, I see him. Our best friends are dating. My mother mistakenly—and happily—thinks he’s my plus-one to my cousin’s wedding. And he’s the guy I have to work with on the most important job opportunity of my life.
Here’s my problem: I like Levi. I like his killer smile and his dreamboat eyes and definitely the way he makes me feel in bed. But I’ve sworn off relationships. So when the sexual tension reaches epic proportions and we fall back into bed together, I tell myself it’s temporary. When I start to feel more, I tell myself it’s over.
Only Levi isn’t a forget-it kind of guy. When his lips are close to mine and he swears he’s always wanted me, my defenses disappear. But some things in life just aren’t meant to be.
Or are they?
Yes, this is my book. I thought I’d throw it in here for those of you who don’t get my newsletter. Since it just came out recently, I’m still pretty excited. And yes, I ordered a copy for my Kindle… plus a paperback online… and yesterday I bought a copy at Coles. Just because I could! And because my author copies haven’t come yet and I couldn’t wait. 🙂
The spectacular scenery and craggy beaches draw tourists to the small Oregon town of Sunset Bay. But Sanctuary Ranch offers a different kind of experience: a refuge for people—and animals—desperate for a new beginning . . .
Haylee Hansen has made a career out of caring for and training the dogs and horses on her aunt’s ranch. Part halfway house, part work camp, it also gives troubled kids and adults the tough love they so desperately need. Haylee should know. She was her aunt’s first success story. But now her turbulent past is about to show up on her doorstep . . .
After thirteen years running a level one emergency room in Portland, Aiden McCall arrives in Sunset Bay a broken man. Anger and anxiety have nearly taken over his life—and could sabotage his new job at the local hospital. Until someone proposes an unconventional solution: a therapy dog.
Haylee has seen her share of damaged people, but no one like Aiden. As she tries to match him with the perfect dog, he’ll help her to see that no one has a perfect life. And that opening yourself up to love is the only way to heal your soul . . .
I’m a Jodi Picoult fan from way back when I read My Sister’s Keeper, years ago. So when I saw this e-book on sale, I one-clicked immediately!! It’s got family drama, a missing mother, elephants (ELEPHANTS!!) and a whole heap of 5 star reviews. I mean, thousands, people. Which doesn’t surprise me. It’s Jodi, after all. 🙂
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.
As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.
Amazon.com: Leaving Time (with bonus novella Larger Than Life): A Novel
Amazon.ca: Leaving Time
I just one-clicked this book because I need a little Christmas spirit and I know I’ll find it here. Plus, the uber-talented Susan Fox, who also writes from British Columbia and is a friend of mine, has a story in this!
This winter, let four tales of mistletoe magic and the spirit of the season cast a special glow as some of your favorite authors introduce stories of hope, happiness, and holiday hearts.
CHRISTMAS KISSES – Fern Michaels
Starting over in a new town with a new job, Meredith thinks buying Noah’s grandmother’s house will be a simple business deal. But neighborly Noah is determined to make Meredith feel at home—and as the holiday season works its magic, he’s suddenly hoping that she’ll find a place for him in her heart.
BLUE MOON HARBOR CHRISTMAS – Susan Fox
Jillian and Michael have nothing in common—except the child two reckless college students created eight years ago. When Michael unexpectedly asks to meet his son, they have the twelve days of Christmas to get to know the adults they’ve become—adults who just might be ready to fall in love for real.
SECOND CHANCE CHRISTMAS – Jules Bennett
A blind date turns out to be anything but when Ruby finds Knox on her doorstep. A few years ago, she nursed his dying wife. Can two lonely people defeat the shadow of the past and let the spirit of Christmas offer them the most special gift of all?
FINDING COLIN – Leah Marie Brown
When Grace is suspended from work over the Christmas holidays, she does the only sensible thing—she travels to Ireland to find her favorite actor! But while the Colin she finds may not be a star, he’s ready to show her that gifts come in all shapes and sizes—and love is the miracle that truly counts.
Amazon.com: Winter Wishes.
Amazon.ca: Winter Wishes
Look! Look! One of the Love at the Chocolate Shops is FREE! You’ll definitely want to grab this one. ‘Tis the season, after all, right? This one is by the talented Debra Salonen and provides the lead-in to my own story, THE CHOCOLATE CURE. You can read them in any order you like – but then you’ll want to read them straight through, in order, to get the overarching story. Love and chocolate… sigh… what could be better?
Ad exec Krista Martin, while feeling more Grinch than elf, still jumps at the chance to co-chair Marietta’s Secret Santa Society. Why not? Especially since brilliant, attractive, and innovative tech wunderkind Jonah Andrews has agreed to help. He’s well connected and Krista’s hoping for some advice on rebooting her career.
Jonah knows Krista has a not-so-hidden agenda, but sparring with her over cocoa at their Secret Santa meetings is the most fun he’s had since returning to his old hometown. Krista may come across as all business, but Jonah’s positive he’s glimpsed a little girl inside her who wants to believe in Santa… and in love.
This book has popped onto my radar a couple of times. Currently on sale for $2.99, 738 Days: A Novel by Stacey Kade is a gritty story about a teen kidnap victim who gets away. The first bit is so thrilling I couldn’t resist one-clicking. It’s next up on my Kindle. Of course, that TBR pile is teetering pretty hard, so who knows what I’ll actually read next. SO MANY BOOKS! SO LITTLE EYE ENERGY! My favorite problem in the world. 🙂 Anyway, check this one out. It looks great.
At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.
Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.
Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he’s sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.
To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?
Amazon.com: 738 Days: A Novel
Amazon.ca: 738 Days: A Novel
I loved this book! It’s got all my catnip – secrets, family history, confessions, mothers!!! And a crap-ton of 5 star reviews. The e-book is currently $3.99 so see what you think!
Your husband took his own life. Tell the truth and destroy what’s left of your family. Or keep a secret that will tear you apart. What would you do?
Olivia and David were the perfect couple with their whole lives in front of them. When beautiful baby daughter Zoe came along, their world seemed complete.
But now David is dead and Olivia’s world is in pieces. While she is consumed with grief, her mother-in-law Ivy is also mourning the loss of her son. Both women are hiding secrets about the man they loved. Secrets that have put the family in danger.
Something was very wrong in Olivia and David’s marriage. Can Olivia and Ivy break their silence and speak the truth? A mother should protect her child, whatever the cost… shouldn’t she?
Amazon.com: A Mother’s Confession: A heartbreaking story with a breathtaking twist
Amazon.ca: A Mother’s Confession: A heartbreaking story with a breathtaking twist
I read this one with my kids, erm, some time ago. And LOVED it! I’m not normally a fantasy fan but this series is great. And of course, this one was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman.
**** Includes an exciting preview of THE BOOK OF DUST, the long-awaited new book from Philip Pullman set in the world of His Dark Materials, arriving October 2017! *****
The modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an “All-Time Greatest Novel” and Newsweek hailed as a “Top 100 Book of All Time.” Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.
Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.
Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.
But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help on of them will be to betray the other…
A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman’s award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which contintues with The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.
This is regular price ($9.99) but I bought it anyway because of the upcoming movie starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. The book has fantastic reviews so I’m crossing my fingers.
When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.
Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.
Amazon.com: The Mountain Between Us
Amazon.ca: The Mountain Between Us
This is just all kinds of catnip for me so it had to go on my TBR pile!
“Wounded souls of all shapes and sizes, human and animal alike, tug at the heartstrings and evoke the right blend of tears as well as laughter.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 star, TOP PICK!
You can’t buy love…but you can rescue it.
With her no-kill animal shelter at risk of losing funding, Megan Anderson is working doggedly to save the animals in her care. She’ll do anything for them—even go toe-to-toe with a handsome man who’s in way over his head.
Craig Williams has had his share of heartache recently, and he’s not in the mood to get the guilt trip from a spirited (and beautiful) animal shelter owner. But the more time they spend together, the more he realizes it’s not just animals Megan is adept at saving—she could be the one to rescue his heart.
Soon, Craig and Megan find that the magic of unconditional love can do anything…even lead to their forever home.
Amazon.com: A New Leash on Love (Rescue Me)
Amazon.ca: A New Leash on Love (Rescue Me Book 1)
I love Paula Altenburg’s books! This is an international escapade, a true romantic adventure. If that’s not a subgenre… then it should be!!
The games are about to begin.
Au pair and ex-pat Isabelle Beausejour has been living abroad for most of her twenty-four years, traveling the world with her irresponsible father. When Isabelle finds herself stranded in Bangkok, with no job, no money, and nowhere to turn, she soon becomes desperate.
Intelligence officer Garrett Downing is on the hunt for military goods that have gone missing. Instead, he finds himself coming to the aid of a young woman with more resourcefulness than common sense.
Isabelle has no choice but to accept a stranger’s help in getting home. Once there, however, as enemies turn into lovers, it soon becomes a game of keeping secrets. Garrett is more than he seems. Isabelle knows more than she’s willing to admit. Will she choose loyalty to her father over the love of a man who tells lies for a living?
Okay, I loved this story even before it got picked up for a Hallmark Christmas 2017 movie! And, ahem, I even got to be on-set one afternoon when it was being filmed – sitting alongside the author, C.J. Carmichael, and the publisher, Jane Porter. HOW COOL IS THAT???
All he wants for Christmas…is an answer
Finn Knightly a.k.a. Finn Conrad wants to know why his recently deceased father left his nurse fifty thousand dollars after knowing her a mere six weeks. So he travels to Bramble House B&B in Marietta, Montana to find answers.
But Willa Fairchild is not the conniving woman he expects to find. Before he knows it, Willa-and her six-year-old son Scout-are stealing his heart. And that’s before he finds out Scout’s secret and the real reason this Christmas is so important.
Amazon.com: A Bramble House Christmas (Carrigans of the Circle C Book 6)
Amazon.ca: A Bramble House Christmas (Carrigans of the Circle C Book 6)
Barnes and Noble: A Bramble House Christmas
Kobo: A Bramble House Christmas
I just re-read this story and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Oh, it’s got blood and terror and suspense galore. But it’s also one of the most hopeful and romantic stories I’ve read. Read it. I’m telling you.
A “superior thriller”(Oakland Press) about a man, a dog, and a terrifying threat that could only have come from the imagination of #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz.
On his thirty-sixth birthday, Travis Cornell hikes into the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. But his path is soon blocked by a bedraggled Golden Retriever who will let him go no further into the dark woods.
That morning, Travis had been desperate to find some happiness in his lonely, seemingly cursed life. What he finds is a dog of alarming intelligence that soon leads him into a relentless storm of mankind’s darkest creation…
Curious about my next book, launching November 28? Click the link for your exclusive Look Inside SUNSET BAY SANCTUARY!
“…everything I look for in a novel…intensely likeable characters… personal and emotional healing, a beautiful setting, some loving soul-searching, and… romance.” Anne Marie B, NetGalley, 5 Stars
“…a sweet, touching story of loss and redemption…once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait to see who’s next to find love on Sanctuary Ranch…” -Trish S, NetGalley, 5 Stars
“… masterful, empathetic portrayal…Sunset Bay Sanctuary is everything you want in a cozy small-town romance…”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
And it’s four stars from RT Book Reviews! Can you hear me squeeing? Here’s what they said:
SUNSET BAY SANCTUARY by Roxanne Snopek
“While the romance in this story is a sweet, slow burn, the pages will keep turning as the characters careen from crisis to crisis. Aiden’s near-breakdown is a masterful, empathetic portrayal of a strong person in the grip of a mental health low point, and the author skillfully delivers the message that we all have cracks in our outer façade. A supporting cast of loyal friends sustains the feel-good embers, and animal lovers will delight in the detailed personalities of Haylee’s service dogs in training. Sunset Bay Sanctuary is everything you want in a cozy small-town romance. It does deal with the sensitive subject of adoption, and while some might find it biased in one direction, it does not detract from the story.”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
SURVIVING A LIVE-IN HOME RENOVATION PROJECT
It’s the Year of Renovations, at Casa Snopek. Phase 1 was creating a small guest suite, complete with bathroom and kitchenette (sink/bar fridge/counter), which is where we’re living while the rest gets done.The rest, meaning the kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, carpets, paint… really, it would have been easier to move.
Anyway. It all began in late July and won’t be done until early December. Hopefully. Maybe. Don’t really know.
That’s a long time to be without a kitchen, folks. At first, it was fun eating take-out and fast food and checking out the local restaurants. But that’s a) expensive b) dangerous for the waistline and c) tiring.
So I bought us an Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s the best kitchen device I’ve ever had.
I LOVE this baby! The first day I made chicken soup – awesome – and rice pudding – the best I’ve ever made. This, my friends, is the way to survive a live-in home renovation project. Do you have yours yet?
Here’s the .com link and the .ca link, for my Canadian friends.
Some of you know we recently traveled to China. It was an amazing trip, but I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow because we’ve all lived through slide shows of Uncle Morris’s trip to Wisconsin as a kid.
But I will relate one story.
If you’re… delicate… you may want to give this one a miss. Otherwise, here goes:
Everyone, it seems, is curious about the bathroom situation in China. So yes, we saw squat toilets. Yes, we used squat toilets, yes, we remembered to bring our own TP and yes we managed just fine. I’m also pleased to report that Western “potty” toilets were available in many places. Not the smaller tourist spots, mind you, so, ahem, scheduling is important.
Ah yes, scheduling. You’ll understand me when I say that sitting in an airplane, traveling across time zones, eating different foods at different times, being sleep deprived and experiencing bathroom anxiety can all play havoc with a person’s system. Schedules get disrupted. Sometimes schedules come to a complete halt. You getting me?
Now, we’d brought with us a small arsenal of pharmaceuticals, prepared for pain, sprains, coughs, congestion, motion sickness, dry eye, crowd anxiety, what have you. We assumed the worst-case scenario would be an explosive case of food poisoning.
Wrong. In fact, after several days of progressive… sluggishness… I would have welcomed a little salmonella. I finally admitted my distress to one of our travel companions. He’s a doctor. I’ll call him Dave.
“Dave,” I said. “I have one goal today. It’s the same goal I had yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Can you help me?”
“Sure.” He handed me a packet. “Take this.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s the stuff you take before a colonoscopy. Drink it before bed. It’ll put you right.”
Those of you who’ve had colonoscopies know where this is going.
“Dave,” I said. “It’s bad enough in the privacy of your own home. But while traveling? IN THE LAND OF SQUAT TOILETS?”
“Just take a little,” he said.
Which reminded me of when I went for pregnancy ultrasounds and they were running late and I’d drunk eighteen gallons of water that morning and the nurse, upon seeing my distress, gave me a little medicine cup and said, “Pee out a few tablespoons.”
Except so very much worse.
Declining medical advice, my husband and I took to the streets of Beijing, looking for a convenience store. Surely there’d be some good old Ex-Lax out there somewhere, we thought.
Nope. We ended up in an herbal pharmacy, staffed by people who spoke zero English. We typed the word “constipation” into our English-Chinese translation app and the clerk understood immediately. She sold us a package that looked like this:
With instructions that look like this:
I was using a fabulous little app called Pleca, which works thusly: you hold your phone over the words you need translated and BOOM, you get the English version.
Decoding the translation requires a little effort, because the characters have meanings that depend upon the characters before and after them, so they could mean many things. Here’s a partial snapshot of the box, as translated by Pleca:
My favorite part is the description, in small letters that you probably can’t see:
“… for real hot product delay due to consumer lag…”
It’s a lyrical language, isn’t it?
The box contained eight packets filled with tiny red beads.
“Do I eat them?” I asked my husband. “Do I smoke them? Make tea from them?”
“I don’t care,” he said. “We have a two-hour drive to the Great Wall in the morning. This ends now.”
So, I dumped them into a glass of water, shot it back like wormy mezcal, then lay down on the floor next to the bathroom and waited for them to work.
They did not.
But two hours later, as I was imagining the Chinese herbalists enjoying my method acting, and rethinking the colonoscopy prep idea, my dear husband, who’d happened onto a fresh fruit stand, saved the day by plying me with fructose and fiber. Consumer lag ended shortly thereafter and life returned to normal.
Life isn’t a box of chocolates, my friend. It’s a very large bag of cherries.
I’m delighted to announce my latest release, THE CHOCOLATE COMEBACK, part of the Love at the Chocolate Shop multi-author series by Tule Publishing. This is a fish-out-of-water story about a flighty, failed fashion model named DeeDee, a conservative businessman named Isaac and his younger brother, Mark, who has Down syndrome.
How often does a romance make you cry, make you laugh out loud, make you fall in love with someone? Every real romance does just that, and this story did it for me. These characters are flawed, funny and poignant. Mark Litton is refreshingly real, and the joy that comes with his challenges is rarely written so authentically. I was cheering by the end!”
…a delightful story, filled with humor, love and turmoil as Mark inadvertently brings Isaac and DeeDee together.”
…an engaging, uplifting romance that… tackled such a heavy topic – developmental disabilities – and didn’t sugarcoat the reality of it. We saw both angles, that of the family member and that of an outsider with zero experience joining that family… made me want to be a better person.”
…a beautiful enriching story…”
…exciting, entertaining, and well-written…”
I’m blushing… and thrilled at the response. I hope you enjoy it, too.
We’re Treating Readers to a Spring Fling!
with a Mega Gift Card Giveaway April 2-24
and Facebook Hop April 21-24
Enter for the chance to win:
$1250 in Amazon Gift Cards
Amazon Echo Dot
Sponsored by the 77 authors listed below
Constance Phillips • Debbie White • Tamara Lush • Nancy Segovia • Helen Smith • Stella Marie Alden • Alyson Hale • Shirley Hailstock • Dena Garson • Ava Bradley • Tamara Ferguson • Lynda Haviland • Eva Chase • Ashlee Price • Allyson R Abbott • Phoebe Rose • Ysa Arcangel • Tee Garner • Jennifer Allis Provost • Rachel Woods • Amelia James • Jacqueline Diamond • Marsha A. Moore • Siera London • Emily Leigh • Aileen Harkwood • Jenna Barwin • Tara Lain • Christa Paige • Cynthia A Clement • Marie Booth • Hope Welsh • Sarah Fischer • Marie Johnston • Anne Renwick • Brea Viragh • Gayle Parness • Trish McCallan • Aubrey Wynne • JD Monroe • Sharon Kay • Elizabeth Rose • H. D. Thomson • Amy Brent • Caitlyn Blue • Margo Bond Collins • Bokerah Brumley • Felicia Beasley • Amy L Gale • Olivia Wildenstein • Tracie E. Christian • Patricia M Jackson • Kristy Tate • Astrid Arditi • Lisa Mondello • Cassie Alexander • Lori L. Robinett • Amanda Uhl • Melissa Belle • Josie Riviera • Layla Messner • Bree Dahlia • Cherie Claire • Barbara Barrett • M. Black • Lizbeth Selvig • Cailin Briste • Mia Ford • Bambi Lynn • Roxanne Snopek • Stacy Gold • Alex Gordon • Kristine Smith • Marianna Baker • Greta Boris • Oliver Chase • Allison Gatta
One entry signs you up to each of our newsletters. You can also earn extra entries by signing up for our newsletters early, before the giveaway ends on April 24 (don’t worry, you won’t be double subscribed).
Be sure to also join us for our Facebook Hop April 21-24, when we will have 77 gift cards for you to enter to win. That’s a gift card at every stop! Plus a bonus giveaway for the winner’s choice of an Amazon Echo Dot or Kindle Fire. For more info, visit the Hop website
Maddie Cash, the beloved heroine of my latest book, THE CHOCOLATE CURE, adores these delicious bite-sized treats. Each book in the Love at the Chocolate Shop series features a special treat, and as a gift to our readers, we’ve got recipe cards to go along with them! We give them away regularly on our Facebook page, so please visit us there.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe for Maddie’s irresistible treat. Enjoy!
Salted Caramel Pecan Treasures
Mini-muffin tin plus 24 mini-muffin liners
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramels, unwrapped (approx. 45 caramels)
1.5 tablespoons evaporated milk (can substitute milk or heavy cream)
24 whole pecans
Coarse pink Himalayan salt
- Fill mini-muffin tins with mini-cupcake liners.
- Microwave chocolate chips, checking and stirring frequently, until smoothly melted
- Drop 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner, reserving ¼ of chocolate in bowl for later. Using pastry brush, paint the melted chocolate onto the bottom and about 2/3 up sides of liners.
- Place chocolate-lined mini-muffin tins in freezer.
- Microwave caramels and evaporated milk, checking and stirring frequently, until smoothly melted.
- Remove muffin tins from freezer. Place one whole pecan in bottom of each cup.
- Pour caramel into chocolate cups until about 2/3 full, covering pecans completely.
- Return tins to freezer for about 5 minutes.
- Use pastry brush to paint remaining melted chocolate onto chilled cups, completely covering the caramel. Sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt while chocolate is still warm.
- Return to freezer for about 30 minutes.
As many of you already know, our 13-year old miniature poodle Myshkin slipped on the icy steps last week and came up lame. Not just a little lame, but three-legged, no toe-touching, time-won’t-heal-this-owie lame. We were pretty sure it was a ruptured cruciate ligament, which for best healing, requires surgery. Especially in an old dog.
Worrisome but okay, we’ll do what we have to. He’s our boy.
Here’s the bit I didn’t post about last week. When we did the work-up to make sure Myshkin was healthy enough for surgery, x-rays showed a suspicious mass in his abdomen. My husband, also known as Dr. Ray of Ellwood Park Animal Hospital, naturally errs on the side of caution when it comes to our own pets (wise man that he is) and referred him for ultrasound. We agreed that, if Myshkin’s got a malignancy, we wouldn’t put him through knee surgery.
But oh, that would have been so awful. Our sweet boy.
I know I have to be prepared.
He’s a 13-year old dog, after all. I’m not totally delusional. But still… he’s a healthy, fit old dog… active…happy… loved… and turns out I’m not as prepared as I thought…
So yesterday, we went to our fantastic referral center, Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital where the lovely, kind and very thorough radiologist Dr. Alex Bratton proclaimed Myshi to be in excellent health, no tumors, just some weird anatomy that warranted investigation but is not what we feared. Thank you Dr. Alex!
Then, with about ten minutes notice, surgeon Dr. Geoff Hutchinson – same doc that put Gemma back together after tangling with the coyote last winter- adjusted his schedule to get Myshi in THE SAME DAY, to fix the knee. Dr. Geoff added an extra procedure to his already fully-booked day, and we’re so very grateful for his kindness and generosity!
Then, it turns out that the vet tech assisting Dr. Geoff in surgery that day was a young woman did her practicum and first few months of practice with us! I was very sad to lose Jenna as a staff member because she’s excellent at her job… but I couldn’t blame her for taking a position at a referral center. I’d have done the same thing at her age. And then she ends up caring for my dog! 🙂 Thank you, Jenna! Boundary Bay overlaps with the Animal Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley and we’re endlessly grateful to everyone, from reception staff to the technicians and assistants to the doctors. You guys are the best!
The surgery went well – Dr. Geoff found that Myshi had torn his meniscus as well as his cruciate. (If you’re gonna wreck it, wreck it good, I suppose.) Myshi’s home now, sleeping the sleep of the well-medicated. He’ll be confined to crate/closet for the next week at least, and we’ll be carrying him up and down stairs, but we expect him to return to full mobility.
Our sweet boy isn’t heading for the rainbow bridge yet and we’ll be cherishing every day he has left.
On a pragmatic note, may I put in a plug for pet health insurance? You might think that, with a veterinarian as a husband, vet bills are not an issue for us. That’s mostly true. However, we carry health insurance on our dogs exactly for situations like this, where complicated conditions require diagnostics, treatments or surgery by board-certified veterinary specialists. These highly trained elite professionals are worth every penny – but those pennies still add up. Insurance means we don’t have to make a difficult decision about a beloved family member for financial reasons.
We use PetSecure, “Canada’s Pet Insurance” but there are many companies, with many tiers of coverage. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. (I get no kick-back for this, in case you were wondering. I just know that it prevents a lot of heartache and stress.)
Please, don’t wait until it’s too late. Take it from me, these things happen without warning.
THE CHOCOLATE CURE is now available! And wow, are we celebrating!
Tomorrow’s launch party has tons of awesome prizes… I’m so excited to show you!
This is a sample of what’s up for grabs. You definitely want to join us tomorrow, Thursday January 5, 7-8:30 Eastern (4-5:30 Pacific) Hope to see you there because… this is #WhatLoveTastesLike!!!
There’s also a prize package with a Tule Publishing tote bag containing all sorts of goodies. Which one are you hoping to win?
The cat-lover t-shirt?
The dog-lover t-shirt?
Or the cool chocolate-pill-vial mug? (That’s my favorite!)
My latest book launches this week! This is for anyone who understands what it’s like to want to start over, to just… re-do… parts of your life.
No more chocolate! No more meddling! No more men!
New Year’s resolutions are great. Announcing them in a crowded bar, with a chocolate martini in her hand? Not Maddie Cash’s finest moment. It’s time this new realtor got serious about her life and this time, she means it.
But when hospital volunteering lands her at the bedside of bruised and battered Mick Meyer, who has no knowledge of Maddie’s reputation – and no memory of the kiss he begged from her during that long, pain-filled night, her best-laid plans are put in jeopardy. It’s not just his sweet tooth that’s tempting her.
The hunky bush pilot with the concussion has an old family property to unload. Making this sale could be Maddie’s professional salvation. But when Mick turns on the charm, she’s in danger of forgetting all her best intentions… on chocolate… on meddling… and especially on men.
Early reviewers love The Chocolate Cure:
I loved, loved, LOVED Maddie and Mick…A truly great read!”- LadyWithAQuill Reviews
If I could rate this novel six-stars, I would.” –Danielle Urban, Goodreads
… a wonderfully fun read…” -Bette Hansen, Goodreads
THE CHOCOLATE CURE is book #4 in the Love at the Chocolate Shop series, a multi-author series set in and around Marietta, Montana’s Copper Mountain Chocolate Shop. Join us for fun, prizes, recipes and more here!
Anyone else here addicted to bags?
We recently visited with friends who have a very large, beautiful house, with the best walk-in closet and laundry room I’ve ever seen. I confess, I had storage-envy after seeing their place.
And I immediately recognized another bag-lover. Not only does my friend has a long shelf in her closet devoted to her handbags, but she also has another floor-to-ceiling cupboard in their laundry room to house those shoes and bags she uses less often. I LOVE it!
Recently, after having my credit card compromised, I’ve become a fan of Travelon Anti-Theft bags, with RFID protection. I’ve got this one, in red, and I love it. We hope to do more traveling in the coming years, and security is kind of a big deal for me. Also, since I just finished writing another book, I figure I deserve a bit of bag-shopping as a reward. Right?
I wear a lot of black, so red often works. But not always. I’m currently looking for a similar bag, but in a different color. This one, maybe? I love purple and I like the water bottle pockets. Not sure about the front compartment though.
For years, I was hooked on Derek Alexander bags. They’re an entirely different kind of bag, leather, elegantly designed, and fairly pricey, so I can’t indulge myself much on these. But this is one of the best organizer bags I’ve ever had. I find I need more room now, though.
Sometimes I wish I had a cute little bag for when you’re going out and you only need to bring keys, a credit card, tissues and lip balm. A friend of mine has an adorable Kate Spade mini-bag that looks something like this:
Isn’t this so pretty?
Right now, I’m leaning towards this one. All the Travelon security of my red bag, in color that will work with my blue-green-checked winter coat. What do you think? What’s your favorite bag?
PS: I almost forgot the family drama! I read this New York Times bestseller by Jacqueline Mitchard years ago and loved it. Jodi Picoult says, “Reading just doesn’t get any better than this.” Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “no-holds-barred family drama.” It’s available in digital format now, and is on sale for $1.99 though I’m guessing that won’t last long. I’m getting this for my Kindle, to re-read. Anyone else remember this book?
PPS: the book I just finished writing is called The Chocolate Cure, part of the Love at the Chocolate Shop series. There’s family drama here, too, though it’s the kind that makes you smile, not the kind that makes you want to stab yourself in the eye. In case you’re interested, it’s available for pre-order now and will be released January 4, 2017.
Each year, Melissa McClone puts together an amazing donation for her local Fisher House. For those who don’t know (I didn’t) Fisher Houses provide military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury. As you can imagine, this is a traumatic time for families, many of which includes young children and overwhelmed mothers.
Melissa solicits donations of books and other pampering, self-care items, including some stuff for kids and packs them into lovely insulated thermal totes can also be used to safely transport breastmilk. You know, for those many moms who need to be in two places at once.
This is a fantastic cause, people, and it strikes close to home on two counts for me. I’ve always believed in the power of books to transport us, especially in times of distress, plus I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding and was a peer counselor for new moms for many years when my own children were young.
Contributing to this is an honor for me. Will you help support us? Melissa’s put together some great prizes, as her way of saying thanking you for being our readers.
Enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here’s my sponsored tote. Isn’t it pretty?
Thank you! Readers are awesome!
Collect the Eggs and Enter To Win!
Bring the Men of the Zodiac home with you! Enjoy all 12 of these alpha heroes today.
Take part in the fabulous Men of the Zodiac Easter Egg Hunt. All you have to do to win prizes is to find all twelve of the eggs on each of the websites listed. Then input the colors in the Rafflecopter and you get a chance to win a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
You can find out who won the contest at the Men of the Zodiac Author Chat taking place March 28th from 8-10 pm EST. There will be more chances to win other prizes at the party!
You can start the hunt here with this color, from my own Leo hero’s egg:
Once you’ve collected your eggs from Amanda Usen, Sonya Weiss, Robin Covington, Sarah Ballance, Theresa Meyers and Entangled in Romance, to here for the Rafflecopter giveaway. Rafflecopter giveaway. Good luck!
So, I got my hair cut today. I’ve worn it long for quite some time now – usually in a ponytail or clip – and I’m a little tired of it. I tend to chicken out when it comes to major change, so I figured I’d just get a trim and color touch up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
So it occurred to me it might be time for a change. But what? A purple streak? An asymmetrical layered bob? A pixie cut? The possibilities are endless.
I’ve tried a few different styles over the years and my three very fashionable daughters have provided much helpful feedback. “Don’t ever do that again, Mom,” is a favorite comment, when looking through old photos. “I love your hair exactly as it is,” my husband reminds me regularly. Very sweet, except for the glint of fear in his eye.
Change can be scary – but it can be great, too.
My publisher is currently re-covering all the books in my first contemporary romance series, THREE RIVER RANCH. Two of the books are keeping the original art, but updating the look. And three of them have received total make-overs. And let me say, I love them all! What do you think? Which one’s your favorite?
As far as my hair goes, this is where I landed.
Today at Tote Bags ‘n Blogs, I’m sharing one fitness tip and one recipe. (Just in case, I’ll post it here too.) How great is that, being that it’s the first week in January and we’re all focused on starting the new year off right, and aren’t yet depressed because we ended up eating the last of the Christmas fudge instead of throwing it out, like we told ourselves we would?
Anyway, I’ve promised myself for the past several years that I’d get more exercise, particularly yoga, which you’d think would be easy, because I love yoga and there are so many ways it’s good for us. Unfortunately, going to yoga class involves leaving the house, a barrier many work-at-home-borderline-kleenex-box-slipper-recluses may recognize. Writing works the mind, but it’s trash on the body. Yoga keeps me limber enough to create worlds like my latest Sunset Bay Sanctuary series. 🙂
But recently I discovered a great way to bring the yoga class to me, via apps! Whoo-HOO! All you need is a quiet spot with a mat or carpet, and your favorite device. You get the soothing voice of an instructor, pictures of someone in the postures and voila, you just follow the instructions to bliss and great abs. Or so I tell myself.
Here are the three I’ve found:
Down Dog has options for your level of experience, the kind of music you want and the length of practice. I’ve done it several times already and really like it. I’m using the free version so far, but there’s also a monthly membership I might upgrade to, if I get bored.
I’ve also downloaded Yoga Studio. Billed as “The #1 yoga app for iPhone” this one has many more options, making it more customizable to your own needs. As it’s only $3.99, I downloaded it but haven’t tried it yet. Early days.
There’s also All-In Yoga. As I love to have options, I downloaded the free version of this one on my phone too, because, why not, it’s free. I haven’t played around with this yet, to say whether or not I like it.
So far, my “do more yoga this year” resolution is going great, thanks to these apps. (You’ll notice I kept my resolution fairly vague. It’s the key to success.)
As for the recipe, it’s called 5 Minute Magic Green Sauce and it comes from Lindsay of Pinch of Yum, to whom I’m eternally grateful. This stuff is amazing.
It’s basically a pistachio-avocado pesto. Lindsay says she could eat it every day for the rest of her life and I GET IT. It’s delicious! I’ve made two batches in less than a week. It’s fantastic in salads, or as a dip for crackers or vegetables, or straight from the spoon. I’m eating it on toast for breakfast, right now, in fact. Here’s the recipe:
5 MINUTE MAGIC GREEN SAUCE
1 cup packed parsley and cilantro leaves (combined)
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
Juice of one lime (or two – get lots of limey goodness in there!)
½ cup water
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup shelled pistachios
- Pulse all ingredients – except pistachios – in a food processor until incorporated.
- Add pistachios and pulse until mostly smooth (depends on what consistency you want.)
- Serve as a dip, spread or sauce – or add additional water or oil to thin the sauce for use as a dressing or a
Lindsay adds that you can sub walnuts or almonds for the pistachios and it’ll work, but she doesn’t think the taste is quite as good. I *LOVE* the pistachio version; those babies are expensive but worth it for this stuff. (I suspect pine nuts would also work but I have no data to back this up at the moment.)
I mixed this Magic Green Sauce with cooked farro, spinach and halved cherry tomatoes for a hearty and delicious salad. You could use quinoa or couscous, probably and it would be just as good.
I’m with Lindsay on this: it’s AWESOMELY YUMMY!
Anyone else have current favorite recipes or fitness tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!
From MACLEANS, April 26, 2015, by Emma Teitel:
When American filmmaker Laurie Kahn set out to make Love Between the Covers, a documentary about the women who read and write romance novels, she was struck by how often she heard the same story. It wasn’t a tale of beefy bodice rippers or love at first sight; it was a story about snobs. “I can’t tell you how many people I interviewed,” says Kahn, “who told me that people will walk up to them on a beach and say, ‘Why do you read that trash?’ ” Apparently, where lovers of romance novels go, contempt follows. Sometimes it’s subtle contempt—a raised eyebrow from a colleague, or a snarky comment from a friend (usually the kind of person who claims to read Harper’son a beach vacation). Other times it’s more overt, even potentially damaging. When Mary Bly (pen name Eloisa James), an academic and New York Times bestselling author, began writing romance, she was advised to keep her fiction writing secret or risk not making tenure at the university where she worked.
For some reason, argues Kahn, perhaps because its subjects are female, romance novels are perceived as fundamentally silly, when other popular “genre fiction”—namely, fiction by and for men—is not. “Nobody,” she says, would walk up to “a man reading Stephen King, or a mystery or sci-fi novel” and scoff. And she’s right: Stephen King may write circles around romance novelist Nora Roberts, but mystery-thriller buffs James Patterson and Dean Koontz most certainly do not. Yet Roberts is the butt of jokes—a universal default example of “bad writing,” while her equally schlocky male contemporaries get a free pass.
Read the full article at: Why romance novelists are the rock stars of the literary world.
So you know how you go to the mall for shoes sometimes and end up buying a couch? Well that happened to us recently. To be fair, we’d been toying with the idea for a long time. A long time. Because you know, there’s always a better use for the money, right? Anyway, it all started in the Bay, when hubby went to the bathroom.
I’m in line to buy a housecoat to replace the one that got amniotic fluid on it when I was in labor with baby #3. (She’s in second year university now. Don’t worry, I washed the housecoat.) Hubby texts me. Meet me in furniture. Ah yes. You have to go through the furniture department to get to the washrooms.
Be right there I respond. Shouldn’t be long; there are only two women in front of me. The first one has three bras from three different tables and one second AFTER the cashier completes the sale, exclaims, “Hey. They’re supposed to be on sale.”
“Sorry,” says the cashier. “The ones ending in .98 are excluded.”
“That can’t be right,” says the woman and proceeds to usher the cashier to the various tables, arguing with her about it. This goes back and forth for awhile.
You coming? texts hubby. I want to show you something.
Seen it I respond.
No, not that. It’s a couch.
The woman with the bras is considering whether or not the $2.50 is going to make or break the deal. She goes with break and stalks off, affronted.
“Wait!” calls the cashier. “I need your credit card to void the purchase!”
A chase ensues.
A few minutes I text.
Hurry he responds.
They get rid of the bra-less wonder, finally, and what do you know. The next one is using a gift card that may or may not have expired.
On my way I tell him. The tide turns. The gift card works. My housecoat is on sale. All is well in my world.
We cross paths on the escalator, he coming down to find me, me going up to meet him. He leaps the divide and drags me over to this enormous Natuzzi sectional.
“Sit,” he says. “Isn’t it comfortable?”
“You win the lottery?” I ask, running my hands over the buttery-soft leather.
It’s solid, big and gorgeous, just the kind we’ve been drooling over forever – and way, waaayyy more than I want to spend. Ever. For that money, it should have wheels.
“Look,” he tells me, pointing to the tag. “Half price.”
Okay, I’m impressed. But it’s still more than I want to spend. But he has a triumphant, hopeful expression on his face. He takes me over to another sectional. It’s disassembled, so it looks a bit sad, but it’s exactly the same as the one I just sat on.
“What?” I said. “It’s the same one. Still too expensive.”
He points to a teeny, tiny scuff mark. “See that? Twenty percent off the sale price. The sale price!”
We go home, take some measurements, think about how to rejig the room. And yup, two days later, it came home. We spent the day moving stuff, reorganizing and cleaning. My back hurt but you know what? I got to alternate hot and cold packs while sitting on an awesome new couch!
What do you think?
I love soup. It’s the best part of the autumn-winter stretch, when we’re often cold at the end of the day. I love to make a big pot of vegetable-hearty soup on Monday and usually the leftovers stretch for lunches and on-the-run meals until at least Wednesday. Add some bread and cheese to mix it up a bit and we’re good.
(Also allows us to eat pizza and cheezies on the weekend without feeling completely dietarily irresponsible.)
Boxed broth makes it a lot easier to cook soup quickly. But this article reminded me that I used to love making my own broth. Maybe it’s time to start again!
There are two characters in my Three River Ranch series of books that love to cook for, fuss over, and generally take care of those around them. Their names are Bliss and Blythe, twin sisters of “mature” years and this kind of meal is just their thing. FYI, all books in the Three River Ranch (4 Book Series), including the Christmas novella Saving the Sheriff, are on sale for 99c from November 2-6.
Candy isn’t Everything!
Treat yourself to some new books, for when the tricksters are all gone and you can finally relax. Online retailer KOBO is having a fabulous sale right now, but in the USA, it ends TODAY. Here are the details:
United States/Australia/New Zealand – ends Friday October 30th
Promo Code: GET50SALE
Canada – ends Saturday October 31st
Promo Code: CA50SALE
United Kingdom – ends Monday November 2nd
Promo Code: UK50SALE
Thanks to YOU, dear readers, A Montana Born Christmas hit the USA Today list, debuting at #78 this week! We couldn’t be more thrilled! This news is a wonderful early Christmas gift to me and the seven other authors in this bundled set. Book lovers really are the best people, aren’t they?
Blitz-wide giveaways (INTL) in our Rafflecopter giveaway include
- $10 Amazon gift card
- eBook copy of Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone eBook
- eBook copy of Flirting with Forty, a free download for the Kidnapped Christmas Bride + swag
- eBook of any Megan Crane backlist title
- eBook of any Roxanne Snopek backlist title
- eBook copies of Promise Me, Cowboy, & Good Together by CJ Camichael
- all four e-book titles in The Scott Brothers series by Katherine Gabera
- eBook copy of His Outback Cowgirl by Alissa Callen
- eBook of Hometown Hero by Dani Collins and a $10 Starbucks card + swags)
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway now!
Publication date: October 20th 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance
Ready to two-step under the mistletoe with a hot cowboy? How about a gorgeous tycoon? Spend a white Christmas in Montana with eight heartwarming, contemporary romances. This limited edition collection features sweet and sexy holiday stories from bestselling and award-winning authors. You’ll find eight romantic heroes to fall in love with in A Montana Born Christmas boxed set. And all for less than a dollar!
Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter
Life has been tough at Copper Mountain Ranch and widower Brock Sheenan’s kids have never had a proper Christmas. His new housekeeper, Harley Diekerhoff, is determined to change that–but she doesn’t count on falling in love with her taciturn boss.
Come Home for Christmas, Cowboy by Megan Crane
Christina Grey Cooper has finally given up on her marriage and returned home to Marietta to lick her wounds. But Dare can’t let the love of his life go, even if what’s standing in the way of a true holiday miracle is himself… Can the magic of a White Christmas in Montana help him save what he’s nearly lost forever?
A Cowgirl’s Christmas by CJ Carmichael
Betrayed by her father, Callan Carrigan has to decide what matters most to her. Fighting Court McAllister to get back the family ranch, or giving Court what he really wants—her heart.
A Cowboy for Christmas by Katherine Garbera
Back in Marietta, disgraced, the last person Annie Pruhomme wants to see is hunky Carson Scott. Does he hold a grudge, and why does he still look so hot?
Mistletoe Wedding by Melissa McClone
An instant family isn’t on ranch foreman Tyler Murphy’s Christmas list, but event planner Meg Redstone’s kisses are. Getting her under the mistletoe, however, is going to take a miracle…or help from Santa.
A Sweet Montana Christmas by Roxanne Snopek
A marriage in jeopardy, a decrepit honey farm and an unexpected birth on a dark, snowy night. All they need to rediscover their love is a Christmas miracle.
Blame the Mistletoe by Dani Collins
Commiseration over being alone for the holidays turns to a holiday fling, making Liz Flowers think Blake Canon is giving her the Best Christmas Ever. But when family secrets are revealed and their children arrive home early, will they be able to keep the season bright?
Her Mistletoe Cowboy by Alissa Callen
Ivy Bishop plans to spend Christmas holed up on an isolated Montana ranch far from the city and her ex-fiancé. But the more time she spends with the workaholic cowboy next door the more she realizes her heart isn’t actually broken – yet.
Welcome to the Christmas season! It’s time for gingerbread, twinkling lights, Jingle Bells and mistletoe. And here’s the perfect way to start: with a bundle of heart-warming holiday love stories, now available for download. Curious? And forget pre-order – it’s available NOW!
My award-winning story, A Sweet Montana Christmas, is included in this lovely bundle, along with seven other wonderful stories, all guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood. And all for 99c!
The brilliant author Nancy Robards Thompson recently issued a #100DaysofHappiness challenge and I’m taking her up on it. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might recall my 100 Days of Bikram Yoga challenge, where I not only did 100 straight days of Bikram yoga, but I blogged about it most days as well. 100 day challenges apparently work for me.
So here’s my entry for Day 1.
As some of you know, our youngest daughter left for university this past weekend, leaving me a little… forlorn. Motherhood has been my primary identity for well, most of my adult life. Natural childbirth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, the works. Attachment, baby. All the way. Plus, I’m a Scorpio. We grab on. Tight. (Mama Doesn’t Share Food!!)
Which was all great. Until now when my primary task IS to let go.
Some things were easier when our girls were smaller. For instance, we could tuck them into bed, set the alarm and know they were safe. Some things were almost unbearably sweet: the fresh-from-the-bath smell when tucking them into bed. The full-belly laughter. The innocent, wide-open trust in their eyes. The hand-holding.
But there was lots to counteract that easy sweetness: screaming fits, hours-long bedtime rituals where I just wanted to spray them with Nap-Time (come on, you’ve thought about it too!) not to mention the power-struggle between 30 pounds of arched-back fury and a non-negotiable car-seat. In the dreaded mommy-van.
As our daughters have grown into independence, I’ve morphed as well. But this milestone, last chick launched, is forcing me to evaluate my life and goals. The Next Stage of my life is here. How do I want to play it? (And for the last time, Honey. Naked Wednesday is NOT a thing.)
So this is my Day 1 of Happiness: I’ve got a wide-open world ahead of me, with three fantastic adult children and a husband who loves me even when I get broody and existential. I’ve got a career I love, with readers who remind me that exploring the landscape of relationships through fiction is important. I’ve got excellent friends who also love me, despite my neuroses, or what I call The Adventures of Roxanne’s Brain.
Change can be hard. But life is very, very good.
The Millionaire Daddy Project… a fairy tale? Let’s see.
Kingdom? Check. Bachelor Dane Bergman’s restaurant business is definitely his kingdom.
Prince? Check, that’s Dane, though he just thinks he’s rich and powerful.
Princess in jeopardy: Dani, Dane’s unexpected, unknown-until-now preschool daughter. A tough nut, this one. Just like her daddy.
White knight: that would be Pamela Atwater, who’s also manager extraordinaire, devoted pinch-hitting nanny, loyal friend and – surprise! – a sweet, sexy seductress as well. She’s the only one who can bring father and daughter together.
Battle scenes? Sure, but they are more face-to-face and emotional than army-to-army with halitosis and maggots. (FYI, my characters all have excellent oral hygiene and since it’s my fantasy, there is no need for bugs, ever. Period.)
Happy ending? You know it. Though you may shed a tear or two as well. Rights are wronged, truth comes out, people discover untapped potential and love conquers all.
Read the full post at Entangled Indulgence where I share the best ever recipe for sangria, too.
The Secrets of Cherry Lake
Last night, I got together with my co-creators to celebrate the launch of this new contemporary Montana romance series. Authors Joan Kilby, Paula Altenburg, Jeannie Watt and I had so much fun with our readers. Talk about a party. Bad dates, first kisses, questionable personal habits, it seems nothing was off limits.
Since our series is about secrets, we did a bit of sharing. Now, if you’ve read my blog before, especially some of my earlier stuff about yoga, nakedness, kids, marriage, etc. you’ll know that I’m a pretty open book. You’ll also know I’m a little… scattered. As evidenced by the thing that slipped my mind entirely last night: I have a whopper of a secret to share.
(Thanks to the invention of time travel, er, virtual reality, you can view our launch party for yourself. You can even, if you act quickly, still enter to win some pretty great prizes.)
- SMALL TOWN SECRETS kicks off the series, with a “yesteryear” snapshot of Cherry Lake founder and patriarch Nathan Jackson – who has a big, big secret to carry. Then our series moves on to Nate’s grandchildren. The sins of the father, it seems, really are visited upon the children.
… a beautiful, nostalgic way to begin a new series…
- In my Cherry Lake novel HER SECRET PROTECTOR, town photographer Carrie Logan has a huge secret: she used to earn a living taking boudoir photos. And even took some pretty saucy shots of herself, too. Not exactly what the school board wants on class photo day, Carrie discovers.
Can you guess my secret? That’s right. I had some sassy pictures taken of myself once, too. They weren’t the nearly-naked “Goddess photos” that Carrie specialized in, but they definitely displayed… attitude. (And no, I’m not sharing!) It was tremendous fun doing something so outside my comfort zone. That’s what Carrie’s clients find out, too. Her family, however, isn’t quite as thrilled.
- In Joan’s book, THE SECRET SON, available now, there’s an even bigger secret. (Hint: who is that sexy new cherry picker?) Watching the effect of this on her characters is simply wonderful. Early reviewers love it and I know you will too.
Awesome read… great beginning to a new series.
- Paula Altenburg’s HER SECRET LOVE features Carrie’s wild cousin Jessica, back in the town she swore she was done with. I just love Jess…
- Jeannie Watt’s THE SECRET BRIDE is also chock full of goodness. Horses, kids, a drool-worthy Jackson cowboy. Yummy!
I adore all these stories. Can you tell? Come visit Cherry Lake with us. Share some secrets. We promise, we won’t tell.
Next week, Tule Publishing launches a new series, called The Secrets of Cherry Lake. I’m delighted to be part of it, along with authors Joan Kilby, Paula Altenburg and Jeannie Watt. We’ve had a great time creating this little world and we hope readers will love it, too.
The books will be released one per week, starting August 25 with the prequel novella Small Town Secrets (written by me) and the first book, The Secret Son, by Joan Kilby. To celebrate, we’re holding a Facebook party, here. We’d love it if you joined us!
Hello my friends!
I’m delighted to announce that today, I appeared on the USA Today Best-selling Books list with my very first romance novel, THREE RIVER RANCH.
This might not mean much to most people, and no doubt I’ll be back to normal…(insert sound of a needle ripping across vinyl)
NEVER! This is a watershed moment in my career, something I’ve been striving for since I began writing! I seriously can’t breathe, I’m so excited, people! I’m going to be kicked off the internet soon for excessive use of caps and exclamation points. BUT I DON’T CARE!!
As some of you know, I’ve been working super hard this winter, but I had no real thought of hitting a list until this week and even then, I was afraid to hope. All authors dream of being able to include the words Best-Selling Author with their names and the USA Today list is one of the most coveted.
A good book is an author’s triumph but a bestselling author is a publisher’s triumph.
I don’t know where I heard it, but it’s true. In today’s market, getting our work seen by potential readers is our single biggest hurdle – after writing the books in the first place, that is. I’m forever grateful to my publishers for the support and enthusiasm they’ve shown my work.
Entangled Publishing launched the THREE RIVER RANCH series in August of 2012 and it’s their muscle that’s brought my work in front of enough readers to make this list. Tule Publishing released my THIS OLD HOUSE novella series between September 2014 and April 2015 – which has been a little brutal on all of us – but those stories have also been warmly welcomed by readers, further increasing my reach.
But the bottom line is that you, my readers, have put me onto this list.
So let me say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, THANK YOU for reading my stories.
Thank you. <sniff>
Actually, it’s two low prices, one book FREE (our favorite price of all, right?) one book $0.99 (our second favorite price!) and one audio book FREE. How cool is that?
As most of you already know, I’ve got two separate contemporary romance series completed now. The fourth novel in my THREE RIVER RANCH series came out a year ago and the first one, titled – wait for it – Three River Ranch, is $0.99, for a limited time only. It’s the perfect time to meet my collection of hot ranchers and the women who tame them. And their dogs, cats and horses. Oh, and Bliss and Blythe, the elderly, meddlesome, ever-feuding twins who manage to know more than they should about everyone. Read through to find the audio-book link.
My second series is called THIS OLD HOUSE, and in each book, someone is renovating a lovely, old, tumble-down heritage house, and discovers much more, including love, in the process. The fourth novella came out in April and the first book, FINDING HOME, has just become free, for a limited time only. It’s the perfect time to check out this series at no risk, readers! Hopefully you’ll find my make-believe world the perfect place to escape to, when this world is just a little too close.
PS: If you’re an audio-book fan, like I am, you should know that THREE RIVER RANCH is also available in audio format, with WhisperSync for Voice. It looks to me like the audio book is free, people, so this is a great chance to download it.
You’ve heard a lot from me lately… but I’ve had a super-busy winter leading up to these two spring releases and finally, they’re both available. THE MILLIONAIRE DADDY PROJECT is only up for pre-order at this time, but I’m hoping lots and lots of you one-click it and/or put it on your want-to-read shelf at Goodreads. I’ve even got a lovely coffee-table book about beautiful BC wineries to giveaway, for your help spreading the news about this book.
But the really exciting news is… CINDERELLA’S COWBOY just went live! Early reviews are so important to the success of a book, and I couldn’t be happier with the response so far. If you enjoy this story, please consider adding your comments to Amazon:
“…I was barely off the first page before I was grinning–it was a great start to a fantastic book.” -Cary Morton, NetGalley
“I loved the underlying theme of your true self is what shines through and draws people to you… I am so in love with this story, just might read it again.” -Isha Coleman
“… a great series by Ms. Snopek, especially when we get to revisit old friends in each book.” -Pat Fordyce, NetGalley
“I really liked this book. It’s nice to see the underdog win.” -M. Neith
“Although this is the first book I have read by this author it will not be the last.” – T. Jones, NetGalley
So yesterday afternoon, while I was diligently working away at my desk, out of the corner of my eye I saw a group of young people walk past my window. Before the Krispy Kreme FUNdraiser banner had fully registered in my brain, I was out of my chair, grabbing for my purse. Kids! Selling food! For a Good Cause! Surely I had some cash here somewhere.
I yanked open the door before they even rang the bell. Poor guys. Assaulted on the front porch by an unwashed writer who hadn’t eaten all day and several dogs determined to protect her, from what, they knew not.
I didn’t even hear what they were raising funds for. All I heard was “$10 for a dozen” which is exactly what I had.
I brought the box into the kitchen and opened the lid. Twelve of them, round, glistening and golden like the sun.
And then there were ten.
As I licked the glaze off my fingers, it occurred to me that I might be in trouble. It was very quiet in the house. D3, the only one of our chicks still in the nest, was napping off final exam stress in her room. Hubby was still at work and currently on a health-and-fitness kick, which meant he was unlikely to help out anyway.
So. It was just me and them.
I’d like to mention that I’m not even a huge Krispy Kreme fan. Sour-cream glazed from Tim Horton’s are my true favorites. Nevertheless, my-oh-my did these hit the spot.
By evening, we were down to seven, then six, then four. I can’t say how it all went down, only that D3 raised quite the clamor upon her reanimation and immediately set about catching up. When hubby got home from work, he and I went for a walk, which allowed him to bend his dietary rules. Since I walked too, I also partook. (The walk probably burned off calories equivalent to two bites, but never mind that.)
Then the Vancouver Canucks got knocked out of the playoffs, so I needed some comfort. There were two and a half donuts left in the box. Who leaves a half-donut just sitting there?? Not me, I’ll tell you that.
When I got up this morning, the last two were still there, old, lonely but still decent looking.
Naturally I identified with them and felt they deserved a dignified end to their stay with us.
It may not have been my best decision to date. I feel enough shame to keep me from doing this again for a good, long time. But not so much that I won’t share the story, or remember it with pleasure.
Which, when it comes to shame, is the perfect amount.
CONTEST OVER: Congratulations to MICHELLE HARLAN, who won the book!
But I’m always happy to hear from readers, so feel free to keep the comments coming, people.
My next release from Entangled Publishing comes out May 12 and features a hero who knows his wine, his beer, his food and living the good life. Because I set THE MILLIONAIRE DADDY PROJECT in Vancouver, BC, I chose to showcase BC wines! From now to May 8 I’m hoping to pique reader interest in this story, and for your help, one of you will win a copy of this gorgeous coffee-table book by John Schreiner called British Columbia Wine Country.
What’s THE MILLIONAIRE DADDY PROJECT about, you ask? A wealthy urban restaurateur’s life is turned upside down when he discovers he’s got a four-year old daughter he never knew existed. Dane Bergman is forced to rely on his uber-competent executive assistant Pamela, who the kid adores on sight. Little Dani’s first response to her new father? She takes one glowering look, crosses her arms and announces, “I don’t have a daddy!”
But things change when Dane takes his daughter – and Pam, in the role of reluctant nanny – to his gorgeous West Coast island hideaway, for some hands-on tutoring in parenting. It’s a month of learning for each of them as boundaries get blurred, interactions turn into relationships and Dane discovers that Pam’s lessons on caring for a little girl have opened his eyes to so much more.
What do you think? Will you help me spread share this with other potential readers?
It’s simple to enter: using the Rafflecopter link below, show me THE MILLIONAIRE DADDY on your Goodreads shelf, visit me on Facebook, comment on this post (or on Facebook) and/or *Tweet a message about this contest.* Nothing to buy, no hoops to jump through, just waving the flag with me, right? And I love you for it! <3
Enter here and good luck!
* Does writing tweets give you hives? Here are a few suggestions:
- Is TMDP on your Goodreads shelf? WHY NOT? http://gvwy.io/tl1buol #newrelease @RoxanneSnopek http://bit.ly/loveTMDP
- Cheers! Help @RoxanneSnopek celebrate her #newrelease 4 a chance 2 #win a gorgeous #wine book http://gvwy.io/tl1buol @pentwineinfo
- Heaven is: kids out, @Tantaluswine in! Celebrate #newrelease #newdaddy #romance by @RoxanneSnopek 4 chance 2 #win http://gvwy.io/tl1buol
- Preorder @RoxanneSnopek’s #newrelease for a chance to #win http://bit.ly/loveTMDP http://gvwy.io/tl1buol @BCWineLover
Thanks again, my reading-buddy wine-appreciating friends!
The Authors in Bloom blog hop is now ended – Congratulations to Alisha who won the $10 Amazon gift card from my contest! Hop over to Dianne Venetta’s page to check out the other winners and get great garden tips.
Thanks to all who entered and shared their lovely garden comments! I had a wonderful day in the dirt: today, herb garden. Next, cherry tomatoes. How about you?
I’m participating in a cool contest you might want to enter. Here’s how it works. Read my post. (You’re doing it right now!) Then pop onto the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky participant!
And then – this is very important, so pay attention! – move on to the next author blog. If you visit EACH and EVERY author-hop, you’ll be eligible to win the grand prize: AN E-READER OF YOUR CHOICE (up to $200 value) or second prize: a $25 gift card to the e-book retailer of your choice. Not to mention all the cool stuff the individual authors are giving away. Sounds cool, huh? Contest is open April 8-17, so you’ve got lots of time to enter. Good luck!
Roxanne’s Gardening Tip: for a dry, sunny area where you want low-maintenance but high impact, plant Basket-of-Gold (aurinia). Here in the Lower Mainland of BC, it returns year after year and self-seeds.
I started years ago with a couple of ugly little rooted twigs that a friend gave me. She looked at me seriously and said, “You won’t believe what these will turn into.” Now I’ve got aurinia blooming all over this difficult, rocky area of my yard.
Each year I plant a few more sprigs in new places and each spring, I’ve got fresh spots of color! As you can see, they can get quite large, too. I love how they drip and drape over the edge of the rock wall.
This hardy perennial is also fragrant. It blooms for a couple of weeks in spring, then has a second, smaller bloom in summer.
So, some of you know that I’ve been struggling with issues with my shoulder-back area. It’s a chronic sitting thing. The disease of our age, I suppose. Who hasn’t had trouble of this kind, I ask you? First-world problems.
Nevertheless, imagine a cramp in your calf (is that what they call a charley-horse? I’ve never known for sure.) but instead of your calf, it’s under your shoulder-blade somewhere, deep inside. And it doesn’t stop. A knife in the back would be a kindness but where’s an enemy when you need one?
After one bad episode in fall that abated – more or less – with prescription meds and time, I got another one about a month ago. What freaked me out this time was that exercise, ie: yoga MADE IT WORSE! Went to my clinic again, with very low expectations, I might add.
But to my surprise, the doctor I got this time not only took me seriously but sent me for a battery of tests to rule out, among other things, cardiac problems. (Post-menopausal woman with a panicky look in her eye and radiating back/chest pain… hm.) Then, he sent me for something called Intra-Muscular Stimulation, aka Dry Needle Therapy.
That knife in the back I was looking for?
Gotta go. Limiting the time I spend at my desk is part of my therapy. Come back soon, I’ll tell you more then. In the meantime, is there a therapy that’s worked for you to counter chronic back pain? Please, share!
To thank all my lovely readers and supporters for helping me launch The Cowboy Next Door, I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway. Each tweet enters you to win this cool prize package, containing two print books, a cowboy-themed dishcloth, chocolate, soap, pen/paper, and a coveted Tule Publishing tote bag! You know you want it!
I know I am! My very first romance novel, THREE RIVER RANCH, was selected by Barnes & Noble for their 28 Days of Love promotion, which means that until February 15, it’s on sale for $0.99 at all major book e-tailers, including Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo. And two of my lovely author friends have also got books featured: Robin Bielman’s Keeping Mr. Right Now and Samanthe Beck’s Light Her Fire are also available at this special price. That should take care of your weekend, right?
Three River Ranch is the foundation of my first romance series and it’s long been a reader favorite so I’m beyond delighted to feature it here again! To celebrate, I’m giving away an e-copy of choice to one reader and her friend.
To enter, leave a comment here, telling me which friend you want to win with. Or go to my Facebook Page and post a message, tagging your friend. Talk about win-win!
Winners will be announced on Monday, February 15.
Have a wonderful, romantic weekend!
I’m delighted to announce that the latest book in my This Old House series is now available!
The Cowboy Next Door is the story of Eric, a former rodeo champion, older-and-now-wiser, who meets a sassy-lass single mom Leda who’s reinventing herself and doesn’t need anyone telling her how to do it.
But Leda… well, let’s be honest. Her judgment track-record is nothing to write home about and everyone can use a hand, from time to time, right?
Eric is really, really nice. And generous. And gorgeous. A dab hand with both babies and horses. Oh, and the dogs adore him.
He’s also a white knight looking for a distressed damsel, and Leda wilts for no man.
This novella is on sale for 0.99 right now, so it’s the perfect time to get your copy. If you’re already a fan of Montana Born Books, welcome back to Marietta, Montana and thank you for reading! If you’re new to my work, welcome here, make yourself at home and let me know what you think!
I love hearing from readers!
I’m happy to report that my poor doggy is feeling better. He’s trying to hide it, though. He’s deeply conflicted and seems to want to pretend he’s not here, as any attention from us ends up (in his mind) with a needle, a pill being shoved down his throat or a finger poking his behind. He seems to forget about those eggs I scrambled for him yesterday.
He’s not entirely rational.
However, since he’s now going up and downstairs at his usual pace (I had to carry him for awhile. Yes, it was pathetic.) and willing to snooze in his usual post by the window (I’ve got the bedroom door closed, so he can’t get to his Crate of Denial), I believe things are on the up-and-up. Now, if only we can get him eating actual dog food again.
I’ve had to start facing the difficult fact that, at age 11, Myshkin is well into his senior years. A Miniature Poodle, he’s sturdy and strong, a great example of the breed. He’s also super masculine, nothing frou-frou about him. (Except the neuroses, but I’m not one to judge.) I always told Dear Hubby that it was his job to make sure Myshi lives forever, or at least until 20. Toothless, blind, wheelchair, diapers, I don’t care.
It’s not so funny anymore. And I don’t want him to be toothless, blind, in a wheelchair and wearing diapers. No one wants that. I won’t let him live in misery. I don’t even want to think about that. Not yet.
Three years ago, we lost three of our four cats within a four-month span. It was horrible. I haven’t written about it because, well, it was horrible. Mylos, our 14-year old orange tabby male shorthair, had been diabetic for several years, though we managed to get him into remission twice. He was a wonderful, cooperative old boy, but once he developed painful complications, we had to make the decision.
Tabitha, our oldest daughter’s 16-year old silver-grey tabby female shorthair, lived with kidney failure for a long time, despite being difficult to treat. Graceful, with an incredibly luxurious coat, she was a dignified, rail-thin old lady, who would have simply faded away. We tortured ourselves about her; she wasn’t in pain, exactly, but eventually we had to make the humane choice.
Sophie, my favorite (Not really. But sort of.) was our middle daughter’s bombshell calico/tortoiseshell longhair. Healthy, perky, sociable, her death was the worst. One day, with no warning, she became unable to walk. X-rays revealed an enormous abdominal mass, impossible to remove surgically. As the youngest (we think, she came to us as a young adult) we were completely unprepared, and the loss hit hard.
Now we have Bryan (he came with the name), our youngest daughter’s big, tough orange tabby who doesn’t miss the rest of them at all, and is pleased to have us all to himself. At 14, his health is pretty good, but still. He’s 14.
It’s a fact of my personality that I tend to hold onto things. You know, old magazines, children, grudges, stuff like that. It’s not easy for me to let go, even when it would be better for all if I did. I blame my Scorpioness. Also, my brain.
And I hate that in this stage of my life, loss could strike at any time. And not just my pets. I’m thinking of putting my mother in bubble-wrap and giving my dad an “I’m Fine is Probably a Lie” forehead tattoo. I’m just glad they’re near enough for me to intervene when they decide to fall off sidewalks and explode their organs. I’ll refrain from including photos. But I’ve got them, parents. Remember that.
Love is sharpened by the awareness of loss. I hate that, but I must accept it.
Now it’s time to check my dog’s bum. Thank you for your time.
So as some of you know, on Friday we discovered an enormous anal gland abscess in poor Myshkin. So, down to Ellwood Park Animal Hospital to have it lanced, cleaned out, and a drain inserted by Dr. Ray, aka Dear Hubby, aka Dad. (The downside of being a vet: your own pets get to see you as The Guy With The Sharp Thing) But drugs are very good and poor, poor Myshi came home stoned, with his butt-end snugly wrapped in a towel which will henceforth belong to him.
For those of you pet-free people, let me give you more ammo for remaining pet-free: anal gland juice smells like a skunk-diarrhea cocktail left out in the sun to ferment. We dearly love our boy but that is not a lap-friendly smell. Not something you want curled up beside you at night. So the poor boy’s been relegated to a crate, which he actually loves, though he loves nothing right now. Nothing. At. All.
See? He won’t even look at me.
His misery is complicated by the fact that he’s intelligent enough to be super-easily stressed by life events. Fireworks, for example, mean that the house is burning down and safety may only be found by returning to the nearest uterus. So having a baboon-butt with two extra holes and a hunk of latex flapping out of it hasn’t done him any favors, stress-wise. And it’s obviously very, very painful. Dr. Dad took the drain out last night, but the canine appreciation has been slow in coming.
Unfortunately, he also has a history of pancreatitis, which tends to flare up when he stops eating, which he does when, say, when Mom goes away for more than eight hours (She’s dead! I knew it!) or someone lights a candle in the bath (Cordite! Hellfire!)
So, yes, now his belly is painful too, and he’s nauseated, which means we have to give his antibiotics by injection, rather than pills. So the two people he trusts most in his life are poking holes in him, prodding at delicate areas, then locking him away like a leper because, come on, dogs can smell. He knows he’s hideous.
Life as he knows it is over.
He’ll feel much better tomorrow.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation you were completely unprepared for? Have you had to watch your life’s work disappear in front of your eyes, taking your hopes and dreams with it? Have you ever seen the disgusting stuff that comes out of old, rusty pipes? Then you have an idea how Melinda and Austin Sweet feel at the start of A SWEET MONTANA CHRISTMAS.
I’m happy to announce that A SWEET MONTANA CHRISTMAS is now available! For today and probably tomorrow, it’s $0.99 but it goes to the regular price of $2.99 after that.
If you happen to read it, would you consider writing a brief Amazon review? Or giving it some stars on Goodreads? It makes a huge difference and it’s really good karma, too.
Could you use an extra $200 right about now? I know I could! I’ve teamed up with A Girl With a Kindle and several other authors to give away exactly that! Here’s the link and good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway
To those of you new to me, announcement: I have depression. I know, I know what you’re thinking. “How can it be? Look at that smile! You’re so funny, quirky, even sometimes. Not to mention cute like a baby goat and oozing talent from every pore…” No? Well, whatever. I’m not a mind-reader.
Anyhoo, depression. The great first-world plague of our time, a genuine life-threatening illness that nevertheless makes us feel like pitiful, self-absorbed losers because compared to so many people in the world, we have awesome lives.
A lot of bad self-talk comes with the territory.
I’ve learned a great deal about the continuum of mental health since I was first diagnosed way back when my youngest was a toddler.
By the way, baby blues? Take 90% of functioning adults, inflate their bodies, put their hormones in a blender, then hurt them in places that really want to be treated nicely. After that, isolate them from their usual social circles, strip them of all status and economic power, and give them the job of caring for what everyone says is our “future, the most precious things in the universe” but is in fact a sleep-destroying effluent-producer, and the job doesn’t pay the couple-of-bucks an hour that teenagers get to spell you.
Oh, and don’t forget, it really is the most important job in the world and you really want to succeed, but you have zero training and will mostly suck at it.
To every doctor who has smiled dismissively and said “there, there, it’s just the baby blues,” may there always be a mosquito in your room at night and you always get a 15 second ad on YouTube.
Back on track, now. I’ve learned a lot about the black dog that lives inside my head (no, not my lovely poodle, he’s right here beside me), mostly that a) a lot more people than you know have or have had or will have a dance with that dog b) few of them will talk about it and c) most of them will be somewhat terrified, enormously ashamed and incredibly grateful to hear stories of other people’s experiences.
And on that note, the entire reason I began this post, I read a great little piece in Smart Bitches, Trashy Books today about depression, and I thought I’d share. More specifically, it’s about Amy Poehler’s book Yes, Please. That’s right, Amy Poehler’s dealt with depression.
PS: In case you’re worried about me now and want to send cards or flowers, or drive by the house to see if the lights are on, I’m fine. I will probably always be prone to flare-ups, like people with eczema or herpes, but it doesn’t control my life. I have an awesome life and, more importantly, I know it.
I just learned that my first romance novel, THREE RIVER RANCH (Entangled Bliss, 2012) will soon be available as an audio-book, with Audible. I don’t know about you, but with my overused, sadly-abused eyes, audio-books are quickly becoming my favorite form of night-time reading. So I’m beyond thrilled to know that one of my books will be accessible in this way.
Now available at Amazon.com! Happy Book Birthday to me…
I hope you enjoy Logan and Samara’s story – if you’ve a moment, I’d love to hear what you think about it! While this is book #2 in the first Montana Born Homecoming series, the stories can be read out of order. Book #1 is already out: SING ME BACK HOME, by Eve Gaddy. And stay tuned for the next three stories in this five-novella series. You won’t be disappointed!
The Best Things About Sweet Romance
You’ve caught that bug. The Virus. You know the one. It’s been going around, the “common cold” germ that sets up shop inside your body like rats in a condemned building, leaving you to spend your nights hacking up your lungs, trying to breathe through the pin-hole that is your “good” nostril, swigging the four-years-past-due-date cough medicine you found at 2 am, wondering how long it would take for your family to notice your dead body on the bathroom floor.
The virus your doctor tells you with a gentle smile is “just a cold,” inciting a deep desire to French-kiss his eyeball and see how he feels about it then.
You know, of course, that there are a gazillion people with “real” illnesses and problems far worse than yours. And after seven-to-ten days, once you’ve more than a sliver of mucus-free brain to work with, you’ll be ready to take on the world again.
For now, though, you need happy, healing thoughts.
And would it kill someone to bring you a cup of tea, maybe a hug? Care? Just a little?
Whether it’s a bad cold or a bad day, a break-up, or a break-down, a flood, a fire, a flat tire, we all go through times when we’re running on fumes and what we need most is to surround ourselves with happy, healing thoughts and feel cared for, just a little.
For me, the answer is full-on immersion in a fictional world that’s bright, pretty, kind and most of all, hopeful, ie: sweet romances. Such stories don’t pretend the world is some magical place of utopian, possibly narcotic-induced hysterical perfection. But the focus is on the light, not the dark. On overcoming, not suffering. A fresh breath at dawn, not the midnight congestion.
Tender romances gently remind me that I too, can get through hard, lonely times, that I too, can overcome my flaws and be a better person, that a smile, a hug, an embrace, can make a world of difference, for the giver and the receiver.
That I too, can survive this virus and go on to lead a full, normal life.
Sweet love stories: a literary cup of happy, healing tea.
I’m feeling better. How about you?
So I was at the oral surgeon’s today with our youngest daughter. Lucky gal has three un-erupted wisdom teeth that will need extracting. Yikes. Anyway, after the intro given by the lovely nurse, the doc comes in, all wild-eyed and Superman-ish. We’ve known him for many years; he used to be our neighbor. I really like him, but he’s a little scary.
“Well, that was fun,” he says, sliding into his chair like it was home base.
I look expectantly at him, unsure how to respond. Is he mad? Is he having a bad day? Do I want to know, in either case??
“90-year old lady,” he explains. “Alzheimer’s. Needs all her teeth pulled.”
“Ah,” I said. (I’m a real conversationalist.) We’d passed the lady in the waiting room. Poor thing was definitely unhappy and confused.
“Won’t do it though,” he continued, looking between us as he prepared the punchline. “Mouthful of rotten teeth and she refuses treatment.”
“Why?” we asked obediently.
“Because her teeth made her go blind.”
Daughter and I look at each other.
“That’s right. Says her teeth made her go blind. Adamant about it. Had to tell me the whole story.” He shook his head. “Some days.”
“You’d think,” I said, “that she’d WANT to have her teeth out, since they made her go blind.”
You know. She’s got Alzheimer’s. Her reality, and all. My daughter understood me.
Doc Superman did not.
“The teeth didn’t make her go blind,” he explained. “The dementia did that.”
We stuck to the business of wisdom teeth after that.
Many of you know that our oldest daughter got married this summer.
It was an event of such family celebration that six weeks later, we’re still riding the high.
During the reception, her father made a lovely speech about change and growth in marriage. (Plus fatherly wisdom and the usual lightly-veiled parental threat of they’ll-never-find-your-body-if-you-ever-hurt-her.)
I heard it for the first time while we were standing at the podium and it made me cry.
I am lucky to be married to such an insightful (and teachable!) man.
I was unlucky to be the following act, especially since I’m lame at speeches.
But I like stories. And since we’re a family of avid readers, it seemed fitting that I read a story that I wrote when our daughters were very young.
A few people have asked about it, and Stephanie has given me permission to share, so here it is:
Once upon a time a young couple had a baby. This utterly unremarkable occurrence that happens every day around the globe, ordinary as dirt, was as momentous to them as a meteor hitting the ground. Unbelievable, really, to think that a 6 pound 4 ounce bundle of eyes and limbs and noise could turn a naïve, hesitant girl to mother and a nervous, unprepared boy into a father.
Unbelievable, really, that they were allowed to leave the hospital with her.
These uncertain parents took great pains to learn their new roles. The baby was fed and changed and rocked. The mother played Patty-Cake, read Runaway Bunny, sang Twinkle Twinkle. The father played Choo-Choo with the strained peas and gave tummy raspberries. The baby grew smiley and cuddly and learned to wave her arms to be picked up.
She also learned to spit those strained peas and scream in the grocery store and weep and wail when the lights went out. From the very start, this baby, like all babies, took, took and took. And the parents gave, gave and gave, because that’s what parents do.
Time passed. The little girl grew strong and mobile, and her needs changed. She began to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. She began to say no. To many, many things. She learned to love Cheerios, to hate her car seat, to become a big sister, to resent sharing, to be excited about vacations, to demand “I wanna go home, I wanna go home,” at bedtime in a hotel.
The mother loved her baby, but sometimes she was afraid, and even angry at how much was required of her. Sometimes, in secret, the father wondered if he was strong enough, or smart enough to do this wonderful, terrifying job. But each night, when they looked at their little girl sprawled crosswise in the bed, her hair every which way, limp with sleep and replete with trust, they felt themselves grow and become somehow… more… than they were before she was born.
One day the mother looked up from her work and saw with a start that the baby who had changed her life had sprouted tall. Her face was steady and knowing, and there was a slender grace to her once-gangly limbs. The mother searched wonderingly for signs of her baby and found her again in the clear blue eyes that sparkled just as they did on the day they first opened on the world.
Then, as the mother watched, she saw this baby-child-woman stoop suddenly to kiss her little sister. The sight of that small, unbidden kindness caused the mother’s heart to leap and swell and with a gasp, she felt all the care, all the giving rush back, bursting upon her like a garden in spring.
The years went on and the parents – naturally – were called upon again and again to give of themselves. But now when they do it returns in a flood, a stream of love looping back, growing swifter, stronger, wider, magnifying and spreading, bringing with it new, fresh gifts and more joy than those parents could have ever imagined.
Once upon a time a young couple had a baby. And she rocked their world.Thank you, Stephanie, for bringing Steven into our lives. We love you both so much!
May I recommend immersing yourself in a snowy romance novella, perhaps while drinking something cold, slushy and icy? My novella Saving the Sheriff, previously released as part of the Stranded With a Hero anthology from Entangled Bliss, will be out under its own cover July 28.
So cool off this summer with a sheriff, an elf, a truckload of reindeer and a black-out blizzard:
The power might be out…but the heat is on.
Every year, free-spirited Frankie Sylva banishes her holiday loneliness with good deeds. This time, she’s rescuing a truckload of neglected reindeer—until a blizzard sidetracks her scheme, and now she’s stuck…literally.
Local sheriff Red LeClair is shocked to find a very cute, half-frozen woman trespassing on Three River Ranch in a ditched rig, with a suspiciously empty trailer. Is she a horse thief? Is she on the run? Is she out of her mind? He has no choice but to take her back to the ranch and keep an eye on her.
But when the power goes out, Red and Frankie are forced to depend on each other in a way that both have avoided for years. The sheriff’s quiet holiday is suddenly festive: a crackling fire, candles, carols, and an irresistible stranger…who might be a felon.
Thanks for visiting Three River Ranch and enjoy the sunshine!
Here’s what readers are saying about Saving the Sheriff:
5 stars: “… the Three River Ranch series is up with my fave Bliss books… with the romance, touching moments, fun and laugh-out-loud humor of all of the Three River Ranch full-length offerings, I loved it.” – Nicola_1202 from South Yorkshire, UK
4.5 stars: “You will smile, laugh, and probably cry a little bit.” -Kim “Read Your Writes Book Reviews”
“Excellent story… As I’ve been reading the series, I’ve come to feel more of a vested interested in the protection of the wildlife around us. I love it when I’m about to learn something while I enjoy a good story. WTG Ms. Snopek.” – an Amazon customer from Nebraska
“This happens to be my favorite story of all of them.” -Melody May from Montana
“…this story has all the Christmas cheer you could ever want.” -BookishLove
Yesterday, while picking up a few things for our daughter’s garden wedding next month, I happened to come across the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever. I stopped in my tracks in the Wal-Mart stationery section, scrambling to hang onto my tub of Miracle-Gro, fresh bottle of Advil, Miracle Revitalist face cream and Hello Kitty pajama pants.
There it was, the book that made me cry when I read it to our babies, staring at me the month before our first baby’s wedding. Yup, that’s me, bawling in Wal-Mart.
If you have children and a heart in your chest, read this book. You could read it to your dog, too. But bring tissues. (And buy the hard copy. This is not an e-reader kind of book.)
Or Why I Hate Technology.
So last week, I started having some trouble getting online with my desktop computer. This is my main brain, and the fact that I’m so dependent on something I understand so poorly makes me very uncomfortable. Paranoid, even. Technology bothers me, like a splinter in my mind.
Then the new printer quit.
Then none of the networked laptops could get online.
It was horrible. Like being dropped back into the seventies, onto a big black dial phone that won’t stop ringing. I couldn’t Tweet or Like or Share. I couldn’t even send an email to explain that I Couldn’t SEND AN EMAIL. So now that I can again, I thought I’d explain to those of you who follow me (yes, both of you!) why I disappeared temporarily.
I did all the usual things to fix it: restart computer, unplug and replug router, push buttons on modem, bang hands on desk. Nothing worked. So I sent an urgent Hail Mary SOS to Morpheus, our computer technician. After two hours – and this guy is good – he shook his head and said Something Very Bad and Unusual Occurred and you may be Totally Technologically Screwed. Apologies for the jargon.
Yay. Did I mention that our old cordless phones have 3 seconds of charge, making them useful only for screening our vacation winnings, and that I communicate almost entirely by email? (Of course I use Pinkie, my iPhone 4, but she lives a fairly sheltered life. I don’t want to stress her out.)
So the next morning, I put Pinkie on speaker and called my internet service provider. After about an hour of clicking and pointing and whatnot, they told me “everything’s JUST FINE on our end. It’s your router.” So I followed the White Rabbit…
…to the router customer service number. I attempted to interpret the polite instructions of our call-center representative. I have to say, she pulled out all the stops. But after another hour of various machinations, including standing in the closet, plugging a five-pound laptop into the too-high router, with a too-short cable, then balancing it on my shoulder, while my daughter typed in commands above her head, all she could tell us is that “it’s not us. It must be them.”
So I called my provider back. I think they could hear my eyes spinning over the phone because they hastily agreed to send a technician out first thing in the morning.
Long story short, after replacing the modem, the router, a bunch of cords and plugs and whatnot, it was discovered (not by me) that a cable doohickey from 12 years ago had cracked or something.
So everything’s just fine.
Well. Something won’t stop twitching in my forehead. But at least I’m online again.
As many of you know, we’ve got a wedding coming up this summer. My big contribution (besides the bride!) is getting our yard in shape for the ceremony. Fortunately, we’ve got a talented landscaper helping us, so it should be spectacular-spectacular!
But it occurred to me that before the reception, I might want to learn a few basic dance moves. Since I love to dance. And have no ability to do so.
Naturally, I went to YouTube. Do you have any idea how many dance tutorials are out there?!? Well, I didn’t.
I won’t be doing this:
I won’t be doing this, either:
So I’m going to focus on learning three moves. Three. There is nothing more basic than this. Wish me luck.
This summer, our oldest daughter is getting married, right in our own backyard! I’m so excited to be a mother-of-the-bride. Thankfully, Bridezilla is nowhere to be found!
My own wedding, many years ago, was a small affair in a beautiful old stone chapel near where my husband and I met. As we lived in Ontario and the wedding was in Saskatchewan, this meant planning-by-distance. I do not recommend this.
We flew in a week before the whirlwind event, and flew out the morning after. Thanks to my family, it was a lovely ceremony. My sister – and only bridesmaid – made it even more special by singing for us, a beautiful song that had everyone in tears.
My daughter is also planning her wedding from a distance. Fortunately, she’s super-organized, a good thing, since she has seven – that’s right, seven – bridesmaids! But if I know my girl, it will still feel intimate, focused on friends, family and fun. And of course, the celebration of love.
In my latest release, RESISTING THE RANCHER, the story unfolds in the weeks leading up to a garden wedding at which my hero Jonah and heroine Celia are best man and maid-of-honor. I confess that as I wrote the wedding scene, I was imagining the flowers and decorations that will adorn our own yard this summer.
There’s something special about every celebration of love. Whether you were there as the bride, groom, attendant, parent, guest or guy who parks the cars, is there a special wedding memory you’d like to share with us?
From a guest blog post at Kate M. George
I try not to read my reviews, but what can I say, I have no self-control. And with reviews like this, you’ll understand why: From Angela on Goodreads:
4 1/2 stars! This was the one in the series I was most looking forward to because when we met Cee Cee Gamble for the first time in His Reluctant Rancher she was the spunky but difficult “little sister.” Now in Resisting the Rancher we get to see Celia Gamble as an adult, still spunky but having had to mature through some tough circumstances.
My favourite aspect of the whole Three River Ranch series is the way Roxanne Snopek characterizes the animals. Mistral and Chewy seem like old friends by now; Cyclops and JD are the newest additions. And the horses are always present because of their place on the ranch(es) but also because of the relationships the human characters have with them.
Although I don’t usually read romance, I always read Roxanne Snopek’s fiction because it includes everything I want in a story: well developed characters, a memorable setting, excellent dialogue, a heart-rate raising plot line and true-to-life resolutions of conflict. I only approve of “happy endings” if they are truly believable and I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t read this latest novel yet. But trust me: Snopek knows what she’s doing!
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Resisting the Rancher for an honest review. I would have loved the story to be a bit longer, set over a longer period of time–but it’s not really a weakness to leave your readers wanting more.
Many thanks to Angela!
In that instant between turning the steering wheel and hearing the blast of horn from the guy in your blind spot. Well. Only once. Actually, there are random moments throughout the day and night. I wish I knew, really.
It depends. If my publisher wants a “friends-to-lovers” book, then I craft a rough – very, very rough – plan first. Then, I figure out what kind of people might get into the situation I’ve created and – most importantly – WHY they might get into it. I use astrology sometimes too, to figure out the inner workings of my characters. If it’s a book I’m starting from scratch, it’s almost completely characters. I’ll get a glimpse of a quirk, say a woman who draws concentric circles on her hand while she’s on the phone. Something very small. And I go from there.
I always thought it would be the epitome of coolness and success to be an author. I’d always written in the usual varied forms, but at one point, I simply had to try to write a Whole Book. Start to finish. It was incredibly uncool and a complete non-success (see how I did that?) but I considered it a huge accomplishment and determined to do it again and again until I arrived at the successful coolness I crave. Looks like I’ll be writing for a long time to come!
A family saga that has yet to see the light of day. It might be best that way, but that’s the book that made me really feel like an author, all full of angst, suffering, ancient history, themes, hope, etc. Yeah, probably best it stays under the bed.
You know, I think it’s Sabrina Becker from Fake Fiance, Real Revenge. She’s a nurse-midwife and there was a period of time when I considered that career path. But I had three babies instead, all totally natural births. I was my own midwife, you could say!
A novella that’s part of a fantastic series beginning in fall. I’m so excited about these characters! That’s all I can say for now but watch my website for more information.
Highly confident people believe in their ability to achieve. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else put their faith in you? To walk with swagger and improve your self-confidence, watch out for these fifteen things highly confident people don’t do. Now, I’ve come a long way, baby, but this shines light on several (okay, many)
troublesome areas for me. How about you?
- They don’t make excuses.
Highly confident people take ownership of their thoughts and actions. They don’t blame the traffic for being tardy at work; they were late. They don’t excuse their short-comings with excuses like “I don’t have the time” or “I’m just not good enough”; they make the time and they keep on improving until they are good enough.
- They don’t avoid doing the scary thing.
Highly confident people don’t let fear dominate their lives. They know that the things they are afraid of doing are often the very same things that they need to do in order to evolve into the person they are meant to be.
- They don’t live in a bubble of comfort.
Highly confident people avoid the comfort zone, because they know this is a place where dreams die. They actively pursue a feeling of discomfort, because they know stretching themselves is mandatory for their success.
- They don’t put things off until next week.
Highly confident people know that a good plan executed today is better than a great plan executed someday. They don’t wait for the “right time” or the “right circumstances”, because they know these reactions are based on a fear of change. They take action here, now, today – because that’s where progress happens.
- They don’t obsess over the opinions of others.
Highly confident people don’t get caught up in negative feedback. While they do care about the well-being of others and aim to make a positive impact in the world, they don’t get caught up in negative opinions that they can’t do anything about. They know that their true friends will accept them as they are, and they don’t concern themselves with the rest.
- They don’t judge people.
Highly confident people have no tolerance for unnecessary, self-inflicted drama. They don’t feel the need to insult friends behind their backs, participate in gossip about fellow co-workers or lash out at folks with different opinions. They are so comfortable in who they are that they feel no need to look down on other people.
- They don’t let lack of resources stop them.
Highly confident people can make use of whatever resources they have, no matter how big or small. They know that all things are possible with creativity and a refusal to quit. They don’t agonize over setbacks, but rather focus on finding a solution.
- They don’t make comparisons.
Highly confident people know that they are not competing with any other person. They compete with no other individual except the person they were yesterday. They know that every person is living a story so unique that drawing comparisons would be an absurd and simplistic exercise in futility.
- They don’t find joy in people-pleasing.
Highly confident people have no interest in pleasing every person they meet. They are aware that not all people get along, and that’s just how life works. They focus on the quality of their relationships, instead of the quantity of them.
- They don’t need constant reassurance.
Highly confident people aren’t in need of hand-holding. They know that life isn’t fair and things won’t always go their way. While they can’t control every event in their life, they focus on their power to react in a positive way that moves them forward.
- They don’t avoid life’s inconvenient truths.
Highly confident people confront life’s issues at the root before the disease can spread any farther. They know that problems left unaddressed have a way of multiplying as the days, weeks and months go by. They would rather have an uncomfortable conversation with their partner today than sweep an inconvenient truth under the rug, putting trust at risk.
- They don’t quit because of minor set-backs.
Highly confident people get back up every time they fall down. They know that failure is an unavoidable part of the growth process. They are like a detective, searching for clues that reveal why this approach didn’t work. After modifying their plan, they try again (but better this time).
- They don’t require anyone’s permission to act.
Highly confident people take action without hesitation. Every day, they remind themselves, “If not me, who?”
- They don’t limit themselves to a small toolbox.
Highly confident people don’t limit themselves to Plan A. They make use of any and all weapons that are at their disposal, relentlessly testing the effectiveness of every approach, until they identify the strategies that offer the most results for the least cost in time and effort.
Okay, I’m no Dale Carnegie, but I’m not walking into the Fraser River with rocks in my pockets, either. But here’s what I’m going to watch for: I tend to need a lot of reassurance (feel free to give it, anytime now. Really.) and I hate inconvenient truths. They’re so darn… inconvenient.
How about you? What are your trouble spots?
Author & article source: Daniel Wallen | Lifehack
And huge thanks to the wise and confident Paula Altenburg for sending this my way!
Don’t miss out on great books – Check out our Steals and Deals!
Pump Up Your Book and Roxanne are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card and 1 set of signed print copies of the 3RR books (1, 2, 3 and 3.5)!
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- 2 winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive each of the prizes
- This giveaway begins April 14 and ends on April 25.
- Winners will be contacted via email on April 26, 2014.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!
ENTER TO WIN!
Tomorrow is launch day for RESISTING THE RANCHER, the latest book in my Three River Ranch series. Here’s where I’ll be for the next two weeks – I’d love it if you joined me! Of course, there are prizes to be won:
#1: $25 Amazon gift card
#2 a print set of the series books so far!
Guest blogging at What’s on the Bookshelf
Book reviewed at My Devotional Thoughts
Book reviewed and Guest blogging at The La La Land of Books
Interviewed at A Writer’s Sketchbook
Guest blogging at What is That Book About
Book reviewed at Read Me
Book reviewed at What I’m Reading
Interview at Romance for Every World
Book reviewed at Steamy Guys After Dark
Book reviewed at Sleep Deprived Book Lovers
Book reviewed at Rage, Sex and Teddy Bears
Book featured at Romantic Reads and Such
Featured at 3 Partners in Shopping
Reviewed at Ramblings of a Book Lunatic
Guest blogging at Reading Between the Wines
Featured at First Page to the Last
Book reviewed at Vilma Akins
Book featured at A Book Addict’s Delight
Featured at RhiReading
Reviewed at Becky on Books…and Quilts
Guest blogging at Kate M. George
Reviewed and Interviewed at Read Your Writes Book Reviews
Reviewed at Book Reviews by Lexi
Featured at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Reviewed at All Things Romance
Reviewed at Bibliotica
Reviewed at Smart and Savvy with Stephanie
Would you like to read my books a week or two before official release? Will you post an honest* review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, Kobo, etc?
If you’re jumping up and down, yelling “Yes, yes, pick me!!” then join my review team!
Team members will have exclusive access to things like deleted scenes, early cover reveals or maybe jokes that I know will get cut. I may also ask for your help now and then, say if I’m stumped on a title or character name, or I’ve written myself into a corner.
Because having a team behind me is more awesome than you can imagine, I’ll be sending thank-you gifts from time to time, too.
The only requirement is your review posted within a day or two of the book’s release. If you want to mention it on your blog or various social media platforms, I’d be delighted, but that’s totally optional.
I’m keeping this team small and all members will have access to each others’ email addresses.
My next book comes out September 25, so if this is for you, click below to join and wait for my email!
*HONEST! Of course, I love to see those 5-star reviews, and you wouldn’t sign up if you didn’t already love me, right? But believe it or not, the occasional lower-star review shows readers that I didn’t pay some review-bot to spit these out.
Bikini season is coming. (That’s right Starks of Winterfell, *summer* is coming.) But few of us are as emotionally tough as Brienne of Tarth who, tormented for her Amazonian physique, dons armor and becomes a great warrior.
I’ll wager that most women, young or old, svelte or zaftig, tall, short or in-between, have felt insecure about their beach body at some point in their lives. Sadly there are some for whom body image is a constant, crippling influence affecting every area of daily life.
I once suffered body image issues, badly; ironically, I was much younger, thinner and fitter at the time. Now I’m older, wrinklier, saggier and I have the toned musculature of someone who spends much of her time sittin’ and thinkin’. Plus, I’ve had three babies. You know what a balloon looks like when you let out the air? That’s my belly.
But the strange thing is, I don’t care nearly as much anymore. My body is a road-map of my life and every scar and line and lump tells part of my story. I’m healthy, average and normal (physically, at least. Mostly.) I’ve made peace with my shell. Mostly. And I’m grateful for what I can do with it. I look after it so hopefully I’ll be able to keep on doing things with it for a long time to come.
So if you love summer and dream of soaking up the sun, like I do, don’t let popular culture and media images defeat you. Here’s a quick guide to finding the best beach wear for your body type:
.. I can sometimes be found writing HEA stories of another kind. Many of you know that animal rescue is a passion of mine. A few years ago, when PetSmart Charities asked me to write about their National Pet Adoption Weekends, I said a resounding YES!!
Here are a few of the delightful people – and animals – I’ve met through these events.
That’s right, I said FREE! Entangled Publishing has just released a sampler of all the Bliss authors published by the imprint to date! Chapter one of Three River Ranch is included – as well as a never-before-seen deleted scene.
If you’ve been thinking of trying out a Bliss book, but don’t know where to start, this is your risk-free opportunity. Download now:
We see deer in our neighbourhood often. But it’s always a lovely surprise to see them close-up. Mama Deer is actually watching them from our patio, but I don’t know this yet.
Oh wait! There she is!
It really sucks taking photos through a window. But if I draw attention to them by a) saying “Look! Deer!” or b) Opening the door for a better look, I’ll tip off the dogs, who will promptly lose their teeny-tiny minds. And the deer disappear. Disdainfully, after a few moments of teasing them. “You?!? Want to chase us?! Good luck.” So I quietly take photos through the window with my iPhone.
Mama? Wait up!
Never mind. I have an itchy bum.
Kids. Let’s go. Bye. I’m leaving now. Seriously, I’ll go without you. I will.
And enough with the bum already! You have a tapeworm. Deal with it.
Post-game interviews crack me up. They are All. The. Same. Phrases fed to players by coaches, with the sole purpose of saying as little as possible while still appearing to answer the questions. Miss one lately? Let me catch you up:
Host: So, (Ilya/Sergei/Mikhail, etc) what were you thinking when you felt the puck on your stick in those last few seconds?
Player: Well, (James/Scott/Kevin, ctc) I am thinking I must to keep it away from their players, get it down ice and into net, fast as possible. I’m not sure even what I was thinking!
Host: Tell us what your team did today to achieve this stunning victory.
Player: Why you heff to esk? We give one-hundred-ten percent, we play as team, we push envelope right out of comfort zone, and at end of day that make difference. No need for to reinvent tire.
Host: What do you think is your secret to success?
Player: We go out strong and focus energy on puck, to be getting it in net. We keep simple and manage game. We play good road game. We take one game at time. Like I say, at end of day, game is what game is.
Host: Well there you have it folks, the secret to success! Congratulations again.
Player: Spasiba. Also, keep feet moving. Very important in hockey.
1) Being able to see the back of your own thigh!
The downside: being able to see the back of your own thigh.
Happy New Year!
Here’s what’s ahead of me in 2014:
The fourth book in the Three River Ranch series, because, hello: cowboys! I’m also working on a couple of new ideas, including:
a) a gritty brothers-and-dogs series, set in a small mountain town where search-and-rescue and MMA-style fighting leads each guy to the love of his life. While helping Aunt Mabel train Cupcake-the-Killer-Chihuahua.
b) A series of novellas set in a San Francisco no-kill animal shelter, where hard hearts open and lives are saved. Plus sourdough and Pier 39.
c) A reunion/secret-baby/amnesia story that is mostly done but not submitted anywhere yet. I know, I know, it sounds cliché. It totally is. BUT. It’s also plausible, with a gorgeous half-Hawaiian hero, a damaged but determined heroine, the sweetest island-child ever, and a woolly-mammoth-style service dog. And it’s set on the warm, sandy beaches of Maui. Mai-tais, anyone?
As you probably know, I write romance, a genre with established reader expectations, ie: happily-ever-after endings. But mine usually involve a deep, dark undertow for my characters to overcome to earn that HEA.
Why do I write romance? I’m fascinated by relationships, the change and growth that occurs when two people struggle through to their happy ending. Plus, it’s fun. Real life can be tough. Romance makes readers feel good. Sometimes that’s all you want.
How does my writing process work? Mostly by sheer panic. I’m a crush-writer, a deadline-smasher, an under-the-threat-of-death kind of author. I don’t write every day. However, every day I’m thinking about my books, my characters, my storyline, what makes a great grand-gesture, what kind of jeans they wear, snappy come-backs they might make… I try to write these things down, so that when the deadline approaches, it’s there for me.
Thanks for joining me today! If you have questions or suggestions about upcoming books, drop me a comment. I LOVE comments!! Enjoy New Year’s Eve and here’s to a wonderful 2014.
PS: On January 6th, visit the following authors as they discuss their processes:
Annie Seaton lives on the east coast of Australia where, besides working as a publicist and editor, she’s also a writer of contemporary romance. She’s been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. She and her own hero of many years are living their own happily-ever-after with “Bob” the dog and two white cats. Annie relaxes in her garden or on the beach…or most likely at sunset on her deck overlooking the ocean, a chilled glass of wine in hand. She loves to meet readers on Facebook and Twitter, too.
EJ Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she became a financial manager, database designer and business intelligence consultant. Now, her daily commute stays in-house, where she writes with a cat draped across her wrists and a dog attached to her hip. Her stories include gay and straight characters because her life includes gay and straight characters – as does everyone’s.
Nora Snowdon has lived in New York and Toronto, where she worked in the financial market, gambling dens, environmental protection, food service industry, sold shoes and either appeared in or directed over 25 plays. Then Nora moved to the wet West coast and became a Writer of Elegant Smut. She has five novels available on-line and many others on the way. Check out her quirky romances (and read the first chapters) here!
A special think you to Sheila Crosby, who invited me to participate in this blog-hop! Sheila is British, but lives on the island of La Palma, just off the North West coast of Africa, where she originally came to work at the astronomical observatory. Sometime during her three-year contract, she met the tall, dark, handsome local man who became her husband, and ended up staying. Lucky, or what?
… even if not MOST charming.
Zach Gamble came in 5th in his category, which means there are 120+ people who think he’s pretty darn charming, which is pretty darn thrilling to me! A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who voted – you know who you are and I send a gigantic hug to each of you!!
But the most charming? Readers think it’s Zach Gamble, the hero of His Reluctant Rancher. I have to tell you, I may be just a bit partial to Zach, myself. After all, he’s holding his family together through a really rough time, while dealing with his own personal demons. He’s got a couple of border collies that adore him, and you can’t argue with the judgement of a dog, can you? Plus, he takes an orphaned kitten in out of the cold. YES, HE DOES!!
(Rumor has it that he looks like Joe Manganiello, which doesn’t hurt.) So, if you think Zach’s a Most Charming Cowboy, please vote for him. Voting opens on December 15, 2013. Tell your friends!
I’ve discovered a new book recommendation service. It’s called The Fussy Librarian, and it’s a way for readers to discover high-quality newer authors who might otherwise remain unseen. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content (ie: sex and violence) and then the computers work their magic.
Books must have a 4.0 minimum rating, with at least 10 reviews (a bit lower if there are 20+ reviews) so you’re getting good recommendations. From what I’ve seen, they’re all priced between 0.99 and 5.99, although I’ve seen the occasional free book offered as well.
They email you with books matching your preferences, and that’s that. It’s free to join, and free to have books listed.
And this week, one of my books will be going out to subscribers who’ve checked off the Romance-Western box.
I think it’s pretty cool — check it out! www.TheFussyLibrarian.com
Kiss and Tell interview with Sheriff Red LeClair of Stranded With a Hero:
Please describe your physical appearance (eye color, hair color, height, etc.)
6’ tall, brown hair, brown eyes (although Frankie calls them “whisky-colored”). I don’t know what she’s talking about. Women, right?
What’s your profession?
Sheriff of Lutherton, Montana. Nice, quiet place, almost no crime, nothing to interrupt my peace-of-mind. Then Frankie came along.
What kind of music do you listen to? (What song is on your iPod right now?)
Kinda off music right now, thanks for asking. But Frankie’s convincing me to crack my mind open to it again.
Do you have a special skill?
I make the best campfire coffee you’ll ever taste!
What’s your favourite dessert/food?
Boxers or briefs?
Boxers. But in winter – especially in a power outage! – I rock a pair of long johns like you would not believe.
What is you favourite movie of all time?
Minority Report. (Don’t tell Frankie, but I agree with her that Love, Actually is better!)
Early bird or night owl?
We protector types are up whenever duty calls.
If you had to describe yourself as an ice cream flavour, what flavour would it be?
Oh, I’m rum-and-raisin. (Goes with the whisky-colored eyes, I guess.) Okay, maybe I’m not to everyone’s taste, but Frankie loves me and that’s all I care about.
“Hop on,” said Red, gesturing to the tractor.
Frankie looked at the small seat behind the steering wheel. “Forget it. I’m not driving that thing.”
He laughed. “Damn straight you’re not. But you’re not walking down alone. And since there’s no passenger seat you’re riding with me.” He climbed up, straddled the seat and slapped his thigh. “When we first met, you were an elf driving a load of Christmas reindeer in a stolen truck, on unfamiliar roads, during a blizzard. You’re trying to say this is beyond your comfort zone?”
She colored but her lips twitched. “Ignorance is bliss, Sheriff. I’m wiser now. Happy?”
She clambered up over the frigid steel and slid between his legs, barely perching on the molded metal seat. He put one arm around her and pulled her closer, settling them for what would be a bumpy ride. She clutched his leg to brace herself.
Oh yeah, he was happy.
He laughed again and pulled her tight. He was laughing a lot these days, he realized.
“We don’t exactly fit,” she muttered, squirming against him.
His grin faded. He swallowed. Hard. If he got any happier, he’d have trouble driving. “We fit just fine.”
We fit perfectly.
The thought surprised him but he realized it was true. Not only did they fit, but in the brief time he’d known Frankie, her energy, her optimism and determination had breathed life into the cold, dead ashes inside him, warming a spark he’d forgotten was there.
He tightened his legs around her.
She turned her head and the movement brought their lips close enough to touch.
“Ready,” she answered.
Before he could think, he took the risk and made it happen, one quick soft touch, lingering just long enough to warm him through and through. Frankie caught her breath, but she didn’t pull away or turn her head, not until he released her.
“Mm.” Her little sigh made him want to do it again, immediately, inside by the fire. “For luck?”
“If you say so,” he answered, feeling as if his chest could burst wide open at any moment, letting music, Christmas carols even, pour out of him. He turned the key. The tractor rumbled to life and he clenched his thighs to keep her small body secure. “Hang on.”
Today we’re talking with Snarky Mom Reads about favorite Christmas music and movies. (Visit her site to win PRIZES!) In case you want to hear what I have to say, without bribes (aww) here’s the interview:
In my story, Saving the Sheriff, my heroine Frankie likes to sing. And not just sing, but change the lyrics. (Which, I discovered, is harder than you think, at least if you’re doing it on the fly.)
Unfortunately, my hero, Sheriff Red LeClair, isn’t in the mood for a singing kind of Christmas. Sad, really, because he’s got a great voice. But he’s wounded, you know? And music is one of those things that can really access the emotions. There have been times (usually hormonal) when I couldn’t listen to a People’s Jewelers commercial without breaking down in tears. Oh, I’m a barrel of laughs, all right.
Many of us can’t have Christmas without music. And as Red learns, once you start singing along, you can’t help but get in the spirit of the season.
Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, sung by David Bowie and Bing Crosby
All I Want for Christmas, the scene from the movie Love, Actually
Zion’s Daughter, by Boney M
Carol of the Bells, by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, complete with light show
And in case you have time on your hands (and, unlike Red and Frankie, electricity!) here are:
The Holiday, with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law
Love, Actually. I’m a fan. Can you tell? So many great characters in this one. The music is awesome, especially Billy Mack’s naked version of Love is All Around Us. I dare you to watch this scene without tearing up.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase. Don’t judge me.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the original cartoon version. I think I was three when I saw it for the first time. Don’t do the math.
This list is by no means comprehensive, so I appeal to you: what are your favorite Christmas songs and movies? (You know, so we can help Frankie torture Red!)
Carson, Mitch and Zach are going to FRANCE! Yes, the ink is drying* on a three-book deal with Bragelonne Publishing for the French rights to Three River Ranch, His Reluctant Rancher and Fake Fiancé, Real Revenge. Am I thrilled? You be the judge.
I’ll be sure to post photos of the new covers – with titles in French! – when I see them.
*The best part? The news arrived on my 50th birthday!! <sigh> I know, perfect, right?
It’s Happy Book Birthday in Roxanne-land! My novella is now available for purchase, as part of a holiday anthology. Along with my story, this collection contains work from Karen Erickson, Coleen Kwan and Cindi Madsen, heady company indeed!
If you can’t wait for a little Christmas spirit, dip in – you’ll find plenty here!
Title: Stranded with a Hero
(A Bliss Christmas Anthology)
Author: Karen Erickson, Coleen Kwan, Cindi Madsen, Roxanne Snopek
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 350 pages
Release Date: November 11, 2013
Tomorrow is the start of another NaNoWriMo. During National Novel Writing Month people from around the globe commit to writing 50,000 words in a brand-new project, in 30 days.
They don’t have to be 50,000 good words. The idea is to just pull the cork and see what spills out.
I wasn’t going to participate this year. I’ve been burnt out, exhausted and very near the dreaded writer’s block that I’ve always claimed doesn’t exist. However, this year’s NaNoWriMo event falls during a Mercury retrograde – in Scorpio. Which means that this year, there might be some pretty powerful stuff pouring onto the page.
What are we hiding from our own consciousness? What are we afraid to admit to ourselves? This Mercury retrograde phase promises to ferret it out of us and deliver a chance to reconcile with darkness in our lives that we either truly don’t see or have tried desperately to sweep under the rug.
I’m a classic rug-sweeper, a deny-er, a smoother-over-of-conflict. And dang it all, there’s no great, nail-biting, stay-up-all-night books without it. You see my problem.
So, what if I use the next few weeks to explore that pulsating darkness within, lance that poisonous mass in a dramatic Alien meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest gesture of literary defiance? (FYI: we in the biz call that previous sentence Purple Prose. Don’t do it.)
Karmically, the universe is screaming at us to open wide and swallow the nasty medicine that will give us a new perspective. The nasty medicine is the uglier part of your life … the part that you might take great pains to hide from others. From yourself.
To up the ante, I’m also at that stage of life where my developmental tasks include taking stock, reviewing and adjusting goals, facing the fact that even coconut oil and psyllium husks can’t turn back time and that yes, that is my ass now. Naturally, I’ve been avoiding this inventory-taking.
Once you call yourself out on it something powerful will happen. You will be unrestricted from the grip that this darkness holds over you in your life.
Best case, I emerge better, stronger, faster. Worse case, I’ve got another lavender-hued pile of schlock on my hard drive.
What the hay. Where do I sign?
Yesterday afternoon, I returned home from my 15th consecutive year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. A few of those years, including this one, I was there as a presenter, which also meant providing critique services to other writers in the Blue Pencil Cafe appointments.
During these 15 minutes slots, writers bring 3-5 pages of a work-in-progress to an author for an opportunity to get feedback, ask specific questions or simply practice the pitch they’ll be lobbing at an editor later on. Much sweating occurs.
This may have been one of the best years for me yet, and the honor of seeing such excellent work from up-and-coming writers was truly a highlight. (You know who you are. I expect a mention in your awards speech.) I’ll post more about the conference later, once I’ve met my current deadline. But I just had to share the message that popped into my in-box this morning from the Daily OM:
You may feel that you are winning in everything you do today, which could be due to your successes at work or at play. This feeling of being able to accomplish anything might be the result of an increased confidence in your ability to reach your goals. Today would be a good time to use this momentum to continue to set realistic objectives for yourself. You might want to think about what targets you can create for your life that you can easily attain.
So. I’ll be riding that wave for as long as I can. I’ve got my
realistic reasonable possibly-remotely-attainable goals in front of me and now it’s time to work.
What secret goals do you have? Is there an important, scary, outrageous task that scares you, but that might just be possible if you try? Why not see if you can catch a bit of this energy and see where it takes you, too? Let me know what happens!
I’m a casual astrologer. Yeah, yeah, I know. But despite growing up believing it was witchcraft, and now being surrounded by people who think it’s a ticket to Crazy Town, I find it a fascinating lens through which to interpret my world. So, whether you want to pray for me, or slap me upside the head, think about this: Is your life currently a crap-sandwich? Is everything difficult? Everyone against you? Well, it’s possible – crack your mind open now – that this isn’t just all about you. Maybe the Universe is sending you a wake-up call.
The following is an excerpt from star astrologer Jeff Jawer, on the current Mercury Retrograde, with occasional pithy remarks by me:
I hate my computer. Traffic’s a disaster. No one understands me.
The communication planet Mercury turned retrograde on Monday, October 21 and will continue moving in reverse until November 10. (From Roxanne: retrograde planets aren’t actually going backwards, of course; they only appear to do so because of their speed relative to the speed of Earth.) Astrologers describe this event as a period when we tend to make more mistakes. Misunderstood messages, misinterpreted information, technology, and travel troubles are expected more frequently during this period. However, this is an extra special Mercury Retrograde cycle that presents additional problems as well as unique opportunities.
Yay. Extra special mistakes. I can’t wait.
Mercury’s occurrence in mysterious Scorpio can drive minds deep below the surface to uncover hidden fears and desires — which can be painful — but is excellent for gaining psychological insights. It’s vital to work with these uncomfortable truths rather than sweeping them under the rug.
Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I think I’ll go out to the garden and eat worms. (Anyone else remember that song?)
Trust is at a premium in this sometimes suspicious sign, so don’t share your secrets or those of others unless you have complete confidence in the person with whom you’re talking. Discretion is a must, and when in doubt, keep intimate information to yourself until you can express it in complete safety.
As if that’s not enough, Mercury meets stern Saturn, which is in the midst of its two-year stay in Scorpio. This triple transit of mental Mercury and demanding Saturn can force the mind into narrow spaces and manifest itself as depression or doubt. (Thank you very much, Universe.) Yet the focus of these aspects can also filter out distractions and enable us to deepen thinking and master critical details.
Argh! Change?? WHY?
A key quality of any Mercury Retrograde is that it offers second chances to correct errors, reconnect with people, and absorb information that we didn’t get the first time around. Doing this in dense, dark Scorpio requires us to stay calm in what can feel like threatening situations. True, change is inevitable and in many cases it’s scary, yet the constant movement of the planets is a reminder that life is a dynamic process and that there are times like these when standing still is more dangerous than making changes.
Alright, already, Mercury! I’m paying attention! Now, can Windows 8 start making sense?
Mercury in Scorpio represents the mind of a skeptical researcher. It’s about using negative thinking to get positive results. Still, Mercury is a trickster and is especially adept at fooling us when retrograde and in mysterious Scorpio. Therefore, this is a time to learn – or relearn – that thoughts and reality are not the same thing. Our perceptions can mislead us with false clues and erroneous assumptions, which is where the value of a doubting mind comes in. We can and should question facts and conclusions based on what we see and hear.
You know what they say about assumptions. They make an ass out of you.
The truth lies in our emotions. Those feelings that lie below the level of conscious thought are powerful and meaningful forces. Perhaps we can use this Mercury Retrograde period to step back from the obvious to sense, feel, and connect with the unexplainable mysteries in ourselves and the world around us. Since our primary explanations about human existence are either dimmed by religious or limited by scientific analysis it’s time to open new channels of information. Don’t let doubt and fear keep us from discovering the deeper answers that we need to face the challenges of these transformational times.
Enlightened, emotionally aware zombies, vampires and werewolves ahead?
And Happy Halloween, everyone!
The ultrarich were a monotonous lot, but they sure knew how to throw a party.
Mitchell Granger reached for another glass of champagne, feeling as if his face was about to crack, reminding himself that he was glad he wasn’t like them. They were pretentious. Predictable. Profoundly shallow. He wasn’t like them. Not at all.
Still, he hated feeling like an outsider. He was amazed that Della Fontaine hadn’t noticed his discomfort, but then she’d been too busy leading him around by the nose, showing him off to her crowd of bejewelled and coiffed cronies. Plus, she assumed he wanted to be there, and people generally saw what they expected to see. Thank God she was thirty years older than he was.
Not that the age difference would bother her, Mitch thought with a shudder.
He glanced around the room. He should be mingling— that’s what he was there for. But he’d never heard such inane conversation, such a waste of breath. If he heard one more exchange of “You look fabulous!” he might rip off his tux and hurl his drink at the oversize canvas wall-hanging people had repeatedly informed him was “an original.”
An original what? It looked like someone threw up against the wall.
“So?” Della asked, jolting him out of his daydream. “You enjoying my little shindig?”
Della was from Detroit, Michigan, but her latest late husband had made his fortune in Texas oil, and she grabbed every opportunity to “sling a little West,” as she called it. Her teeth-jarring and inconsistent accent was at complete odds with the cool, sleek mansion Mitch had built for her, but then, Mitch couldn’t imagine the home that would suit her.
“Great,” Mitch said. “Great shindig.”
Della patted his cheek, her chins jiggling with the movement. “Liar! You hate this sort of thing. Bowing and scraping before people with more money than brains. Right now I imagine you’re trying to come up with an excuse to leave.”
Mitch looked away, willing his face not to react.
“Well, you can’t go just yet,” she said, a mischievous expression on her troll face. “I’ve got a surprise for you later.”
He didn’t think it was possible to get more depressed.
“Oh, don’t worry, handsome. It’s a good surprise. You’ll love it.”
“Really.” Because their tastes were so aligned? He forced himself to smile.
“I’m going to make all your dreams come true.” She waited for his reaction, but he’d gone still, afraid to hope. “Aren’t you going to ask for details? Oh, hell! I’ve got a few more cheeks to not kiss. I don’t even know why I invited half these people, but too late now.”
His heart was beating so hard he could barely swallow.
“Don’t worry, this crowd is used to hearing me say what I think. They can’t afford to risk offending me and I confess, it’s amusing as hell!”
He winced at her cackle, but the guests around her were carefully, deliberately oblivious. He tried to remember a single name, but between personal trainers, tanning beds, cosmetics and surgeons, one artfully beautiful matron was more or less interchangeable with the next. The men were hardly better; every hand he’d shaken tonight had been soft as a baby’s. No calluses here.
That’s what made Della Fontaine so fascinating in a must-stare-at-the-car-wreck sort of way. She didn’t bother competing or pretending. She was an anomaly in this group, the richest of the rich, impervious to public opinion, able to speak and act and look and live exactly as she pleased, appropriate or not. Jabba the Hutt of Mercer Island.
And the thing about it was, if Della Fontaine decided to wear a tutu, tiny frothy skirts would suddenly be all the rage.
But she was canny enough to know that if she weren’t wallowing in wealth, she’d be cut out of their circle so fast it’d send her tacky twenty-four-karat-gold tiara spinning. They didn’t like her, but they couldn’t afford to let it show.
Mitch would do anything for that kind of freedom. Well, he amended, remembering Della’s predatory eye, almost anything.
“Welcome, darling,” Della murmured again, leaning her powdered cheek toward that of yet another sorority sister. “It’s been too long.”
“You must tell me your secret, Della,” said whoever she was. “You look fabulous.”
And that did it. A crazed laugh rose in Mitch’s throat, where it collided with a mouthful of champagne, sending it down the wrong pipe.
“Oh dear, Mitchell,” Della said. She looked alarmed, but that might have just been the way she’d drawn on her eyebrows. She gave him a linen napkin. “Are you all right?”
He waved his hand and nodded, pointing to the vestibule.
“Of course, of course.” She shooed him away. Della wouldn’t want her pet to make a mess on the carpet, after all. Mitch stumbled, coughing, through the vast and vaulted rooms until he came to the veranda overlooking Lake Washington. He leaned against the wide, curved stone wall and, his throat ready to function again, sucked in the sweet night air drifting in off the water.
Gradually, as he watched the stars come out and listened to the susurrations of waves, Mitch felt himself settle. He’d go back to Della’s party, smile until his cheeks hurt, flirt as much as his stomach could handle, and finally, once he’d jumped through all her hoops, Della would reward him with the contract that would make Granger-Ellis the foremost property development company in the Pacific Northwest. His partner, Jon Ellis, was counting on him to land this deal.
Creating Della’s to-be-determined destination resort would make Mitchell Granger—persona non grata in his hometown of Lutherton, Montana—the talk of the industry. They’d write about him in business magazines. Invitations to parties like this would flood in, and he’d be able to ignore them if he wanted. He’d have his pick of clients.
So for all that, he could handle a bit more of Della Fontaine, he assured himself. Reluctantly, he braced himself to reenter the phony cacophony.
“There’s my boy!” Della called. She trundled to his side, reaching one beringed hand out to grasp his sleeve. “Mitchell! Come with me. I have someone I want you to meet!”
Mitch pasted a smile on his face and prepared for another hungry female.
Instead, he found himself looking down at a sweet-faced, golden-haired girl who looked as if she felt as under attack as he did. Her pupils were so wide, her blue eyes looked almost black, and her tremulous smile did not reach them. She looked twenty, maybe twenty-two.
“My stepdaughter, Paris.” Della gave the girl a little shove. Paris stumbled against him as she took his hand.
“I’m so sorry—”
“Nice to meet—”
She blushed as she apologized, then swallowed, a blue vein pulsing visibly in her slender throat. This child was a baby bunny in the nest of a velociraptor.
“Isn’t she lovely?” Della crowed, as if the girl wasn’t there. “I think the two of you will hit it off. And why not? She’s single, you’re single. You’ll thank me for this, Mitchell.”
In the space of a second, three truths snapped into focus for Mitch. First, Della, stepmother and guardian of this shy young woman, intended for him to take Paris off her hands. Second, lovely as she was, Paris held zero appeal for him. None of these society women did and never would. And third, rejecting Della’s stepdaughter would be career suicide.
After that, Mitch’s brain clicked into autopilot, pure survival mode. He had no other explanation for his response. “Paris,” he said, lifting her hand to his lips. “I’m delighted to make your acquaintance.”
“Me, too.” The girl blushed again and shot an anxious look at Della.
“I’ve no doubt we will be friends,” Mitch continued, then added a wistful smile for effect. “But I’m afraid anything more might be a problem for my fiancée.”
The Birth on Earth Maternal Health Care Clinic of Lutherton, Montana, needed thicker walls, Sabrina Becker thought as she listened to the groans of the young woman in front of her. It was one thing to embrace natural childbirth in all its vivid reality; it was another to have the soundtrack playing on full volume for the wide-eyed prospective parents in the next room.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the young father’s eyes roll back in his head.
She leaped to his side just in time to keep him from breaking his skull when he fell. “Oh no, you don’t!” As it was, he’d have a goose egg to commemorate the birth of his first child. Well, she had no time to worry about him.
“Come on, Daddy, buck up. Mama needs you.” Sabrina eased him into a sitting position on the floor, against the wall of the birthing room. “Press your forehead to your knees.”
“I…I’m okay,” he mumbled.
“Of course you are.” Sabrina gripped his chin gently, assessing his pallor and unfocused gaze, then pushed his face down again. “Stay here for a sec, okay? I’m kind of occupied at the moment.”
Another cry from the mat on the floor. “I think my water just broke!”
Sabrina grabbed a towel. “Almost there now. You’re doing fine, Jenny!”
She could remember the mom’s name. But the dad’s? Gone like self-control at an ice-cream bar.
Focus, Sabrina! You can sleep later!
Her assistant, Daphne, was wrapping up the prenatal class and then she could look after Dad. Until the next call, at least. Sabrina was thrilled that word of mouth was making her center the place to go for uncomplicated natural childbirth care. But she’d been up for two nights running now. She needed a nap. She needed more staff. And she needed more space.
She needed a fairy godmother.
The about-to-be-new-dad groaned from the floor. “Did I…pass out?”
“Swooned like a medieval maid,” Sabrina said. Surely he could manage to sit upright while his wife pushed out their child. “Come on, Daddy, coffee break’s over. Hold her hand. Talk to her. Hey! Look at me! Can you handle it?”
He nodded, and then rolled onto his knees next to his wife.
“Oh God, I can’t do this!” the mother-to-be cried. “Make it stop, Sabrina, make it stop!”
Transition, she thought. “Almost there now, honey. Breathe!”
The baby’s presentation was putting pressure on the mother’s sciatic nerve, and the only way she could get relief was to labor on all fours, on a yoga mat. Fortunately, Sabrina was set up for every possibility. If women wanted a water birth, she had a tub. If they wanted to labor in a Jacuzzi, they could. She had a birthing ball, an open-seated chair, a pole. She had music, candles, and massage oil. She had sterile instruments, monitoring equipment, and adjustable beds.
But only two birthing rooms.
What she needed was more…of everything.
The man’s eyes started spiraling again.
“Daphne!” Sabrina yelled. “Dad’s losing it here.”
Brad! That was his name.
“Jenny wants Brad to cut the cord,” she said as Daphne jogged into the room. “If he passed out at this, he ain’t gonna like what’s coming.”
Every midwife in the history of the universe knew that in the ultimate deciding match in the battle of the sexes, the hands that rocked the cradle really did rule the world.
Jenny moaned, moving back and forth slightly on her knees. Sabrina checked her again—almost time now. The woman had been laboring since the previous evening and they were all exhausted.
“You’re fully dilated, honey. You’ll feel the urge to push any time.”
With that came the next contraction and a roaring grunt from the floor.
“What are you doing to her?” Brad stood up, then wavered, all the color leaching from his face as he watched his wife bearing down.
“Down, boy,” Daphne said, pushing him back onto his knees. “Stay.”
No matter how many classes they went through on labor and birth, Sabrina thought as she slipped her gloved hands between the woman’s thighs, they were still shocked by the reality.
The baby’s head emerged, a thatch of black hair, followed by a tiny, scrunched-up face.
The sight, as always, gave Sabrina a jolt of joy so pure and crisp that she felt her throat catch. Birth was primitive, earthy—but it remained the single most awe-inspiring experience of her life, no matter how many she attended. It also remained the greatest desire of her heart.
And her greatest fear.
Her one short-lived pregnancy had ended in sorrow she’d had to bear completely alone, thanks to the jerk who’d abandoned her. Didn’t matter what extenuating circumstances he might claim: Mitchell Granger had left her when she’d needed him most. And if she ever got the chance—
“Aaah…,” Jenny moaned. “It’s coming! It’s coming!”
“Dad! Hey!” Sabrina barked, gesturing with her chin. “Look alive! You’re going to be the first face your child sees.”
“I…am?” he said, looking at her in alarm.
“You are,” she confirmed. “But not if you’re out cold.”
“Is…everything…okay?” the woman gasped.
The next wave hit and she bore down again with a great cry. “Everything is just fine.”
Sabrina slipped her finger into the infant’s mouth, sweeping it free of mucus. She cradled the slippery head with a sterile huck towel, easing out one shoulder, then the other.
“Say hello to Daddy, little one!”
“Oh…my God…,” the father murmured.
But to Sabrina’s relief, he’d finally snapped to attention.
“Here we come, baby love,” she crooned as the mother gave one last great push. The rest of the child slid out into the warm towel, still attached with the purple twisted cord. “Welcome to the world, sweetheart!”
Jenny, shaking with fatigue, collapsed onto the mat. “Is everything okay?”
“Baby is just great, Mom.” Sabrina quickly checked the infant, swaddled him in another dry towel, and handed him to his father. Then she turned to the new mother, wrapping her with warm blankets, plumping up cushions and bedding to bring the most comfort.
“Lie back, okay? I’m going to put your son on your chest.”
Brad still looked shell-shocked, but his color was fine, and he held the baby with firm arms. Sabrina directed the young man to lay his newborn son on his wife’s naked body, and together, they watched the infant crawl and creep and nuzzle his way to his mother’s breast.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Jenny said, laughing and crying at the same time. “I mean, you showed us videos, but—”
“I know.” Sabrina swallowed.
“I love you so much, Jenny,” Brad said in a choked voice.
“I love you, too.” Tears ran freely down Jenny’s face. “We’re a family now!”
Sabrina’s throat clenched. Usually she celebrated with her clients. But today, maybe because she’d been thinking about Mitch, she couldn’t watch.
“I’ll, uh, give you three some privacy.” And she dashed to the washroom to pull herself together.
The only thing Sabrina Becker wanted as much as a baby was to find Mitchell Granger and hurt him, the way he’d hurt her.
Maybe then that Mitch-shaped scar on her heart would finally heal.
Conversation in the room ebbed, as it always seemed to do at the absolute worst moments. All heads turned to Della, who stood blinking in confusion.
Paris looked as if she wanted to disappear.
Finally Della clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re a dark horse, aren’t you, Mitchell Granger? Keeping this under wraps? And here I’ve been thinking of what lovely babies you and Paris would make. Where’ve you been hiding this girl? You should have brought her tonight!”
“She’s…” His relief vanished. He had to make this convincing. “She’s in Montana.”
Really, Mitch? Way to limit your pool of possibilities. A fiancée in Fiji. Now that would have been convenient. And difficult to disprove.
Where, he wondered, would one go about finding a mail-order bride? Was there even still such a thing?
“Ah, yes, your hometown. Lutherton, is it?”
He should have expected Della to look him up. He hadn’t offered many details about his past, but that wouldn’t stop a woman like her. Memories flooded in, wounds he’d long ago vanquished—or thought he had.
You see, Mitch? You did it again. Another stupid, impulsive idea. He hadn’t heard that voice for years. Perspiration broke out on his back. You don’t stop to think and this is what you get. Stupid, stupid boy.
“We’re, uh.” Mitch swallowed, wiping the back of his neck. He wasn’t that boy anymore. He was a success. Supported by his non-Fijian fiancée. Who had no name. “We’re taking it slow.”
Instantly the years fell away and Sabrina’s face popped into his head.
No way, Mitch. You are not going there.
Poof! His sultry Fijian fantasy lover vanished in a swirl of thick, honey-colored hair. Sabrina’s hair, which always fell straight and heavy, halfway down her back. Her clear blue- gray eyes that had seen beyond the dyslexic, angry boy, failed by the school system. She was one of the smart kids, and her tutoring had gotten him through final exams. He wouldn’t have graduated without her.
He wasn’t pretending to be engaged to Sabrina, no way, no how. He didn’t even know her anymore. Well, he knew she’d returned to Lutherton. He knew home and family were important to her.Which just showed how completely unsuited they were for each other. Despite what they’d once thought.
Taking it slow? They hadn’t taken anything slow back then.
For almost two years, they’d been in love. Secretly at first. Her family would have never accepted the rebellious loser he’d been then. They’d have happily embraced his younger brother, Carson, though—the smart son. The good one. Even now, Mitch tasted the sourness at the back of his throat.
Carson had always had it so easy and now, he even had Three River Ranch, the family home. Plus a wife and a kid.
Della nudged him with her elbow. “Everyone loves a love story, dear. You should have told me!”
A crowd was gathering. Mitch felt heat rise along his neck.
“It just never occurred to me. I didn’t think it was pertinent to our professional relationship.” He heard the stiffness in his words. Damn. He was screwing this up.
“I don’t give a hoot for ‘professional’ and you know it. My late husband ran things that way, everything at arm’s length, lawyered up the wazoo, all crossed and dotted and signed in triplicate. Nothing wrong with that, but I think you ought to know someone before getting into bed with him, so to speak.”
She took Mitch by the arm and led him to the bar. “Get this man a couple of fingers of single malt, will you? What the heck, get me one too, while you’re at it.”
Mitch lifted his glass in a toast, wondering how he could get Della back onto the subject of her prospective business plans.
And away from his “fiancée.” The scotch seared his throat but did nothing to ease his growing panic. He could have just taken Paris out a few times, been the sophisticated date she needed to polish up her social persona.
But no, sneered the voice. You had to come up with this awesome lie instead.
“I apologize, Della,” he said, striving for the right tone. “It never occurred to me that you’d be interested. My situation with…my fiancée… We have a complicated relationship.”
That was putting it mildly. Since she didn’t exist.
“I’ve been married four times, you dolt. Of course I’m interested.” But her light tone belied the sharpness in her eyes. “Mitchell, sweetheart, pull that big old stick of firewood out into the sunshine, will you? Relax. That thirty-year-old glass of peat isn’t going to drink itself, now is it? I didn’t mean to insult you or impugn your integrity.” She winked at him. “Isn’t that a great word? Impugn? My second husband was a medieval scholar. Oh, the things that man taught me.”
The prawn canapés squirmed in his stomach. “No offense taken.”
“So gallant! And such a liar!” She laughed gaily. He could see the gold fillings in her back molars. “But you’re determined to put on a good show and I respect that. You’re ambitious, driven. Good boy.”
He clenched the glass until his knuckles whitened. “What do you want, Della?”
“Ah, the bear awakens!” The smile fell off her face like the curtain at the end of a show. “I’m bored, honey-pie. I’m richer than everyone else I know, which means my friendships are all suspect. I don’t have the energy for another husband, not to mention sex.”
Mitch squeezed his eyes against the image. “Thank you for that.”
“So I’ve turned my considerable resources to doing whatever interests me at the moment. Right now, you interest me. Your background as a cowboy interests me. Your hometown interests me.”
But it wasn’t his home anymore and he hadn’t been a cowboy in a long time. A knife twisted in his chest. He’d cut it all off, the good along with the bad. That was the sacrifice he’d been forced to make. And it had all been worth it. He was a new man.
“That was a long time ago, Della.”
But sometimes, when business stresses kept him awake at night, he imagined riding, alone, the feel of warm leather against his legs, the smell of grass and earth and horse. Every now and then, he dropped by a local riding stable. It wasn’t the same, following a set trail on a bored, anonymous horse, but it was the best he could get.
Did remnants of an honest-to-God cowboy still lie dormant within him, deep down and buried? No matter how he tried, he’d never stopped craving the open range, the rugged mountains, the smell of horses and sagebrush. He could never get the land entirely out of his system. He could never let go of his home.
Only it wasn’t his anymore. It belonged to Carson, who’d earned it fair and square. Who’d met the terms of his father’s will and gained the title and everything that went with it.
Land, success, community acceptance, space to pursue his dreams…
Carson had been in the right place at the right time. Mitch’s luck never went that way.
“You’re a cowboy, all right.” Della put her hands on her hips. “You’re not spit-shined and hair product-ed to death, like this crowd. A little shaggy, a little of the bad boy about you. But whatever you say.”
He bristled, then forced himself to smile. “I missed a haircut.That hardly makes me Butch Cassidy.”Not to mention he’d paid an image consultant good money, way back when, to create exactly the right look.
“Here’s the deal.” She pursed her lips, as if reading his mind.“I’ve got a few properties I want to look at. Foreclosures, rundown places I could get for a song. I’m thinking of a high- end mountain resort. Horseback riding, hiking, maybe golf, plus every spa treatment under the sun and top-notch chefs. What do you think?”
“I’ll need to see the spec sheets.” His interest was piqued, but there was something about Della’s behavior that set off warning bells in his head.
“Paris’s father fancied himself a cowboy,” Della mused, ignoring him. “But he made his money in oil. He built himself a little spread. A few thousand acres. Of course, he was tired of it by the time I came on the scene, so we didn’t spend much time there. But Paris did and she misses it. Maybe I should have held on to the place, for her.”
“Is there a thread I should be following here, Della?”
“Before I make any decision,” she continued, “I need to do a little market research. That’s where you come in.”
“The US of A’s a big place. You wanna give me a clue?” he asked.
You could just walk away, Mitch reminded himself. Stop this crazy race to the top. Tell Ellis this one didn’t pan out. Go back to your luxury condo, focus on your existing clients, be satisfied.
Ah, but that was the problem. He’d tried that. No matter how many deals he landed, no matter how high he’d climbed from construction joe to contractor to investor to bigger investor to the next big thing, it was never enough.
Underneath, he was still the loser from Lutherton.
She narrowed her eyes at his tone. “You can’t guess where we’re going?”
Suddenly he understood. He met her eyes and saw her smile triumphantly.
“Surprise! We’re going to Montana! Your old stomping grounds, to be precise!”
“You can’t be serious.” Mitch laughed. “You want to build a resort out there? Why? No one goes there. Not voluntarily, at least.”
“Just ’cause it wasn’t your cup of tea don’t mean there’s not busloads of software execs wondering what life would be like if they chucked it all to live off the land. Horses, hard work, sunshine. Never underestimate the power of money, delusion, and regret, Mitch, my boy.”
Oh, yeah. He knew.
“Besides, land is cheap right now and I’ve got myself a brilliant land baron who knows the area inside and out.” She reached over and patted his hand.
Mitch thought fast. He’d stayed away for a long time, when he first left. But now, he’d be there on business. Carson would see the influence that Granger-Ellis had, and if they found a spot and went ahead with the project, the whole town would bear witness to his success.
“It’ll be the biggest job of your career, Mitchy-boy,” Della said. “You know you want it.”
Sabrina would see his success.
“We’ll stay at your old place,” Della said. “You can tell your brother I want to learn about his mustang sanctuary.”
She really had done her homework.
Della at Three River Ranch. Carson would shit fence posts.
But then Della would write Carson a check with a lot of zeroes and he would smile and take it.
Mitch could see it all. He would arrive in town, the successful businessman, bringing with him a patron. And not just any patron, but one who could make an enormous difference in Carson’s life. Carson would owe him.
And Carson would hate that. But he’d be able to say nothing.
And if Della decided to purchase property in the area, she’d boost the local economy immeasurably. Mitch would be the hero.
Ten years ago, Mitch had broken free of the place, which was what he’d always wanted. He’d left Lutherton in shame, brokenhearted, alone, penniless. He’d made a brief appearance last winter, after Carson’s wife, Rory, begged him, long enough to know that nothing had changed, that Sabrina was still there, that he hadn’t ruined her life. And that she still had some kind of irrational power over him.
Every second had been torture.
But to return home victorious, like this? Maybe that’s what he needed to finally be free of the demons that plagued him.
Della pulled out her cell phone and punched a few buttons. “There. I’ve texted my assistant to charter a flight, book a limo, and reschedule my calendar. I’m thinking a month, maybe two. Maybe you and Paris— Wait. I forgot. You’re already taken.” She grinned at him. “You can introduce me to your lovely fiancée, too, while we’re at it.” She reached a claw out and grasped his arm.“It’ll be so exciting. What’s her name, anyway? This secret love of your life?”
Maybe it was the crashed mental systems, but he simply couldn’t come up with anything better than the woman who truly had been the love of his life. A lifetime ago.
“Sabrina.” Her name jump-started his brain and suddenly memories of her, of them, flooded over him.
The blog tour launching Fake Fiancé, Real Revenge (the latest book in my Three River Ranch series) is complete. I’m delighted to say we had a total of 2152 entries, over two months. Hugs to Brynna Curry of Sizzling PR for organizing this blog tour! And – OF COURSE – the lovely Debbie Suzuki of Entangled Publishing for handling all things publicity!
These are the best prizes I’ve ever given: one iPad Mini and two personalized e-reader sleeves! (Thanks to Cafe Press for helping me design the beautiful sleeves!)
And now – the best part:
Kindle Sleeve #1 goes to…… Joseph H. of Michigan
Kindle Sleeve #2 goes to…….. Stephanie L. of Oklahoma
and the Grand Prize of a iPAD MINI goes to………. Ron P. of Utah
Congratulations to these winners! And a big THANK-YOU to everyone who participated!
And no, it’s not because it’ll besmirch his lily-white mind. I don’t write those scenes. Well, not really. (Not under this name, at least!)
It’s because we’re happy together and I’d like to keep it that way!
(Also, it’s because we could both be secret agents ready to turn on each other in a second.)
Welcome Roxanne. Thanks for stopping in today. I’m thrilled with this chance to chat.
Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
He gripped the doorframe, unable to meet her eyes. “If I don’t say this now, I’ll lose my courage. Maybe you don’t want me. Maybe you can’t wait for me to leave. Maybe I’m the worst thing that ever happened to you. But maybe not. It seems to me like we’ve moved past all the old stuff, but maybe it’s my imagination. Tell me if it is and I’ll go. I’ll never mention it again. But.” Now he met her eyes, those sparkling pools of endless blue. “If it isn’t…”
“Luck is just the beginning.” He poked a finger in Mitch’s chest, but not maliciously. “It takes work. And a hell of a lot of courage. Hardest thing a man can do is look at himself honestly.”
You all know what an iPad Mini looks like… but here’s what the Kindle sleeves I designed look like! Enter here: I’m giving away two of them.
They fit any e-reader, they’re lightly padded, with velcro on the top, so your device stays safely tucked inside. My Kindle went through airport security recently, and I’m glad I had the sleeve! (Las Vegas, baby. It was AWESOME!)
Also, you’ll notice that I’m back in the pony-tail-and-no-makeup zone. After a week of looking professional, I’m returning to my comfy writer persona. After all, I work alone, in silence, behind a closed door, sometimes in the dark.
Don’t worry. I almost always remember to brush my teeth.
Why Bon Jovi? First, why NOT Bon Jovi? Second, keep reading, you’ll get it.
Today, I share the story of my journey to publication with Entangled Bliss. I left out the goriest bits, but it still brings back memories of some tough times. It’s on the Entangled in Romance blog, or you can read it here:
Best. Job. Ever.
(Or Why I Haven’t Spent the Last Year Swanning Around as a Famous Author)
First of all, stop laughing. I know I’m not famous. Second, before my editors and publicists have heart attacks, don’t panic, I still aim for fame. (And my friends would probably say I do plenty of swanning.)
This post is about something different.
It’s about reality. Sorry.
I know, I know, I’m supposed to be all dewy-eyed about being a published author. The joy of seeing my name on a cover, having readers tell me they love my book, and of course, the delight that comes with each sweet word that drops onto the page, expressing exactly what blossomed in my soul. Yeah, yeah, I feel all that.
But that stuff is a bit like the thrill of riding a roller coaster. Or that heady I-can-do-anything sensation of falling in love. Or the terror-slash-joy of meeting your baby for the first time.
You need to feel all that stuff, with every cell of your being.
Then you need to stop feeling it, and tuck the memories into a fire-safe box, deep inside your heart, where you can pull it out when reality kicks in.
Because it will.
The fair leaves town. The baby becomes a puke-factory. The honeymoon ends.
For writers, reality comes in bad reviews. Or no reviews. Or a book that disappears into that vast wasteland of the forgettable. Bad numbers. A dropped series. Oh, reality can bite hard for writers.
I’ve been writing for a long time. I know. That stuff hurts. (Not baby puke, that’s painless. And it washes out. Also, 25 years with the same guy, folks. Twen-tee-five.)
Sometimes reality can make you want to curl up in a ball and just… stop… trying.
But writers are made of different stuff. We have to hang in there, despite the hard knocks, because it’s all part of the job. Our job.
So, way back, when my books weren’t selling and the kids were all in “a stage” and I couldn’t remember why I got married in the first place, I opened up that fire-safe box and reminded myself that it’s all part of the deal.
Then I put my head down, donned my big-girl panties and did the work. Mopped the tears, educated the man, paid the bills – and the rough times passed.
And as I kept writing, pages accumulated. Manuscripts got finished. I studied my craft, learned about the industry, followed market changes. And every now and then I’d write something that expressed so perfectly what blossomed in my soul, that I’d be overcome with gratitude. Even dewy-eyed.
Maybe I’d never have a huge audience, but I was doing what I was meant to do.
And then, last year, I got a call from my agent. Entangled Publishing wanted my book.
First I didn’t believe it.
Then I questioned the mental integrity of the editor. I mean, really. She wants me?
Fortunately the wisdom surrounding me prevailed. We signed the contract and I went to work. Revisions. Promo. Drafting the next book. More revisions. More promo. Still more promo.
And gradually, I realized that I’d entered a whole new world, where editors actually edit, where, in fact, a team of editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, publicists and artists are all dedicated to polishing your book and getting it out to the widest audience. And most amazing of all, a world where writers get paid. (Fame and fortune. Did I mention I want both?)
I felt like I was living in a dream. When would I wake up?
I submitted another proposal. They accepted it and right now, I’m celebrating my third release with Entangled Publishing. Fake Fiance, Real Revenge comes exactly one year after that momentous first book, Three River Ranch, was released under the Bliss imprint and there’s two more coming in the next six months.
The fire-safe box in my heart is full to bursting. After all those years of hacking away in silence and solitude, I’ve got people who believe in me. And readers who want my stories. Dewy-eyed? As I write this, tears are pouring down my cheeks.
But enough of that. There’s no time for swanning around. I’ve got a deadline to meet.
I’ve got the Best Job Ever. And it’s time to work.
“Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself.
Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?”
– Jon Bon Jovi
I’ve just begun a two-month, 27-stop blog tour to celebrate the release of Fake Fiance, Real Revenge.
The links are being updated as my posts go live, and you can find the list here. Every blog stop gives you more chances to win!
The third book in my Three River Ranch series is out! Fake Fiance, Real Revenge was released early this morning to a ready-and-waiting audience – and the reviews are starting to trickle in. Or pour in, as it seems to me! Kelly at Kindle and Me read it as a standalone, and says now she’s going back to get the first two because she couldn’t put this one down!
Melody May comments: “I think Fake Fiancé, Real Revenge is probably one of my favorites out of Three River Ranch books. Here’s why: 1) We have fake engagement. Let’s be honest those are always trouble no matter how well the characters plan their escape from whatever they are trying to escape from never works. 2) Revenge. Seriously, who doesn’t want to extract revenge on someone that has hurt them in the past. 3) The whirlwind know as Della Fontaine. She wreaks havoc on the good people Lutherton, Montana.”
Nicola says: “I loved every page (except the last one; didn’t want it to end). I laughed, I swooned, I fell utterly in love and my heartstrings were well and truly pulled. In fact tears threatened. With plenty of emotion, banter, flirting and sexual tension, there was never a dull moment and this is my favourite book so far. Would I recommend? Without a doubt, it deserves every star and I can’t wait for #4.”
And thanks to the Saturday sale, readers are discovering the first two books. @AshleyBodette tweeted this: “I just finished #ThreeRiverRanch by @RoxanneSnopek and it was a BEAUTIFUL story! P.S: it would make an AWESOME movie!”
Dani is a Romance Writers of America Greater Vancouver Chapter sister, and we shared the joy of getting our First Sale plaques together last year! Dani is going far, people. Be sure to check out her books!
Thanks to you, dear readers and supportive friends, I went – in 24 hours – from being more or less invisible on Amazon, to having Three River Ranch land on the Amazon TOP 100 list! Three River and His Reluctant Rancher both landed in the TOP 20 on the Series Romance list.
With the third book, Fake Fiance, Real Revenge, releasing tomorrow, this couldn’t be better timing. So, THANK YOU THANK YOU for all your sharing and rah-rahing on my behalf. I appreciate it more than you know!
As part of the Kindle Daily Deal, you can try my books – and any of the other Entangled Bliss books – for only $0.99. If you’ve been waffling, this is the perfect time to buy!
But don’t forget, it’s TODAY ONLY!!
What do you think?
(Keith Urban is the inspiration for one of my favourite characters so far.)
Mitchell Granger, of FAKE FIANCE, REAL REVENGE
(releases August 12), is forced to shed his corporate image
and return to the cowboy roots he thought he’d destroyed long ago.
Turns out, the hat still fits.
Which version of him do you like best?
(PS: don’t forget to visit my Facebook page take a look at the prizes we’re offering as part of the launch. iPad Mini, anyone?)
GQ? or People?
Black sports coat? or black leather?
Tortured? or laid-back?
The End. You’re welcome.
You’ve gotta see this:
My latest book will hit the digital world on August 12, 2013 and this time, I’m able to share some pre-release teasers! The links aren’t alive for pre-orders yet, but rest assured, I will let you know when they are!
“Real-estate tycoon Mitchell Granger has a problem. In order to secure a lucrative deal with an eccentric client, he told the teeny white lie that he was engaged…and now he needs to prove it. Even worse? The only name that came to mind was Sabrina Becker, the girl he was never good enough for growing up, and who still lives near his family ranch.
Sabrina doesn’t mind posing as Mitch’s fake fiancée—no, she doesn’t mind at all. One, she’ll make him pay with new construction for her business. And two, Sabrina’s got a plan to exact revenge on her first love, the boy who left her and Three River Ranch behind. She’ll pretend so well, he’ll fall in love with her…and then he’ll get a taste of what true heartbreak feels like.
But as Mitch sheds his corporate skin and picks up his dusty jeans and cowboy hat, will both his and Sabrina’s grand plans get derailed by love?”
So, Pik is having a bad day. You know the kind. (In the words of Nicole Kidman’s dead soldier-husband in The Others, “Sometimes I bleed…”) And my Pik is not one to suffer in silence. I don’t know where that comes from. Must be her dad’s side. Anyway, this morning, she’s moaning about the various hardships in her life.
Pik: “I can’t predict the weather! Too hot for pants. Too cold for shorts.”
Me: “How about capris?” I’m very helpful that way.
“I’m too bloated!” she wailed. “I can’t get into them!!”
I’m feeling a touch smug, reveling in the crone-zone, glad to be done with that business. But still sympathetic, of course. Of course!
“Plus,” she added, “I’m out of my favorite tampons! Now I have to use the gross cardboard kind!”
Me: “Please. That’s the only kind I ever used.”
Pik: “Well, Mom, come on. You are a little… looser… than me.”
The image of a flag, flapping in a brisk breeze, pops into my mind. Poof. Sympathy gone.
“I meant,” I said, “that’s what I used… when I was your age.”
Conversation over. Have a Happy Period. Suckah!
If you’re playing the Sizzling Summer Reads game – and you should be because there are tons of prizes – you’ll be looking for some easy answers to my question.
So I was working on edits for my summer release with Entangled Publishing. Things have been crazy around here, so I was having some trouble. I know, I know, we’re ALL busy. I’m not claiming that my life is more hectic than yours, or that, to use the phrase coined by hubby and his coworkers, “my gash is deeper than yours.” (Yeah, yeah, I hear it.)
Anyway, I was under the gun, hoping to finish in a week.
Unfortunately, this particular week included painters, junk haulers, carpet cleaners, weekend meetings, and oh, FATHER’S DAY!!
I warned my family not to leave me alone when I was working. Don’t talk, don’t look at me, don’t call me unless someone was dying. (I was iffy on that. I mean, what am I going to do? If your number’s up, your number’s up.)
But still, every time I sat down, the phone rang. Or someone came to the door. Or a semi-urgent day-job message would pop into my in-box.
And. Then. The. Dog. Barked.
And it wasn’t a Good Doggy bark, like a full bladder alert, or a scary guy notification, or a bug sighting. This was a half-hearted “wwwuuuf” like she thought something should be happening, but wasn’t.
Our other two dogs are smart. (See Smart Black Dog, above) They understand words, vocal tones, body language. The right look and they fall to the floor, waiting for the apocalypse, sad but certain that I am the only thing keeping them alive.
But this one (sweet, loving and cute as all get out) is blank as an unpainted wall. She thinks that when you grab her scruff and yell SHUT UP, SHUT UP BEFORE I KILL YOU, it means “Hey! Treat time!”
So, defeated, I left the house and drove, yes, to Walmart where, for the five hours I worked in my car. Uninterrupted. Anonymous. Phone off. Perfect temperature, perfect light, perfectly quiet homeless dudes politely ignoring me.
And there, fuelled by Pop-Tarts and Vitamin water, I powered through to the end.
This is a repost, so apologies to those of you regular followers. (Both of you.) But I’m making this soup tonight and thought I’d share ’cause you’re all so fascinated with my menu. I KNOW.
So my horoscope yesterday said I was going to wake up with a cold. Big newsflash, Daily OM. I’ve been waking up congested for a couple of weeks now. It’s allergy season.
However, it was one of those icky, grey days that we on the Wet Coast should be used to by now … but AREN’T. At least, I am not, and reserve the right to complain about the rain, grizzle about the drizzle. And make soup. Because soup just tastes so good on days like that!
Also, I’m doing the Wheat Belly diet right now, so soup is perfect. As long as it’s not accompanied by bread. Wheat Belly is basically a version of Atkins. (Good thing I didn’t know THAT before I started.) Low carbs. Lots of veggies. Lots of chicken. Lots of nuts. But, in case you missed it, NO BREAD. (I grew up on the prairies… no wheat? My family thinks I’ve fallen prey to a cult.) So far, in six weeks, I’ve lost about eight pounds. (All of which was gained through the winter, mostly from pie.)
So this week I made a version of chicken soup that my sister introduced to me last summer. At least, it’s more or less like the one she made. I can’t really remember.
One rotisserie chicken (you can roast your own chicken if you want… if I roast a chicken, I’m gonna eat roast chicken. If I’m making soup with it, someone else can roast it.)
2 cartons of chicken broth
garlic (I used two cloves because that’s all I had. More would be fine.)
1 can diced tomatoes (not the big can, the medium sized one. Although I’ve done it with the big can too, so never mind.)
Juice of 2 limes (you could use more if you want it really limey)
Salt/pepper to taste (I use sea salt that’s got herbs in it… you might want to add your own herbs… but I’m not holding a gun to your head, do what you want)
tortilla chips (I like Fresh is Best corn chips… mmm… what, don’t judge me. It’s NOT WHEAT.)
Saute the onion and garlic – OH! Celery! I used celery this time, too. Saute that with the onion and garlic – in the olive oil, in a big pot. Dump in the chicken broth. Shred the crap out of the rotisserie chicken. Chop up the meat. Add to pot, with the tomatoes. Juice the limes into the pot. Lick your fingers. (Add a little salt, a little tequila… wait. Different blog post.) Cook until done. (My favorite cooking instruction!)
Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream (it’s not wheat either!) and slices of avocado. I might have missed something, but really, you can take it from here, can’t you? If not, have a margarita and quit whining!
The door slipped off its hinges when she turned the knob, probably a hint that she should have asked a few more questions before signing the lease.
“Stand back, Mistral,” she said to the mop-faced dog at her feet. “This is gonna make some noise.”
Rory McAllister took a deep breath, placed one hand protectively over her belly, and applied her shoulder to the stubborn door. With a crash, it toppled open.
The dog, her dark eyes peeking out from a mass of shaggy dark-chocolate fur, whined. Rory understood the sentiment. The anxiety building in her ever since leaving Billings for rural Blaine County, Montana, escalated.
“Don’t worry, sweetie,” she said, reaching down to stroke the dog’s ears. Rory had to be strong. She’d wanted to change her life, but she hadn’t bargained on this. “Our Realtor, now she should worry. These are not appropriate living accommodations.”
That’s what leaping without looking got you: the Bates Motel.
“I’m going in,” she told the dog. “Cover me, okay?”
Rory pushed back her sleeves, goose-stepped over the door, and promptly tripped on a plank lying across the threshold. Although she grabbed the doorjamb in time to stay upright, she wasn’t fast enough to protect her sleeve from a stray nail.
Rory examined the tear in her favorite thigh-length peasant blouse: hopeless. And it was one of the few things that still fit. Clearly, this adventure called for more than cotton. Chain mail, perhaps.
Or at least denim. She pulled the sleeve away from her arm, wincing at the smudge of blood that marred the soft fabric. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and blotted the stain, feeling a wave of self-pity wash over her.
No way! Rory gave her head a savage shake, and then remembered that her long hair had been replaced by short, stylish layers. This was her new image, her fresh start. Her new life.
“A flesh wound,” she muttered. “That all you got, house?”
Carefully, she stepped over the plank, felt along the wall until she found the light switch, and flicked it. Nothing. She flicked it on and off, just to be certain.
Rory sighed. “Des told me this was a mistake. I should have known.”
Her best friend, Desiree, had begged Rory to think things over longer, or at least to take a look at the place. But Rory couldn’t get away fast enough, and this was the only town near the birthing center she intended to use. Plus, she needed to be spontaneous, to try something different, to risk change.
Mission accomplished. Granger Lodge looked about as risky as they came.
Panic fluttered in her chest as Rory proceeded gingerly through the hall toward the main room. Enough late afternoon light filtered through the dusty windows to illuminate the interior, and Rory took a good hard look at the location of her new home. It was private, spacious, and the rent was unusually cheap—of course, now she knew why.
Again, her hand pressed against her body, and she willed herself to stay calm. Surely there was some kind of mistake.
Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, dust and debris lay thick on the floor, and on one wall, two-by-fours and laths showed through the plaster. From the center of the ceiling, an ancient wrought-iron light fixture dangled crookedly at the end of a half-unraveled wire. A threadbare couch and two wooden chairs remained in the room, as well as a scarred coffee table and bits of broken crockery that lay scattered on the floor. It felt to Rory as if the occupants had gone to get milk and forgotten to return.
Thirty years ago.
It certainly explained why her Realtor wasn’t here to greet her. “It’s perfect for you,” Mrs. Fulston had gushed over the phone. “Lots of wide open space, fresh air, exactly what you’re looking for.” A year-round creek full of trout, a clear mountain view, deer and antelope—oh, the woman knew her job.
Apparently, she also knew a mark when she saw one.
Claiming a sudden family emergency, the woman had all but thrown the keys at her, dived into her car, and sped off in a spit of gravel.
“Family emergency my eye,” Rory said.
The dog, unconcerned with the mess, scrambled past her, eager to explore new territory.
“Oh, sure.” Rory gave the dog a black look. “What do you care? You’re not scared of mice.”
Mistral ignored her and forged ahead, snuffling into dusty corners, her black tail collecting bits of debris that followed in her wake.
When had everything gone so wrong? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. And what was she supposed to do now?
“Way to go, Rory,” she whispered, not trusting her voice. Darn those hormones.
She bent over, hands on her knees. Focus. She’d go back to the bed-and-breakfast in Chinook. Call the agency. Get this sorted out.
Breathe. She straightened up, swallowing hard. There must be an explanation. By tomorrow, she’d probably be laughing about the misunderstanding.
But what if there wasn’t? What if this mess was it? Really, she had only herself to blame.
Who rents a house without seeing it first?
Carson Granger took a deep breath, flexed his fingers on the steering wheel, and hit the dial button for his attorney’s number again. He couldn’t blame the lawyer for Derek Granger’s will. Carson had expected complications from his father; he should have anticipated a nightmare.
“Okay, Jonah,” he said, calmer this time. “Tell me the rest of it. But hurry up. I’m almost at the ranch and I’ve got to unload these mares as soon as I get there.”
“You’re not going to like it.”
“Big surprise. Everything so far has been such a treat.”
“Just so you know,” Jonah prefaced carefully, “I tried to talk him out of this. These kinds of things are tricky. But Derek was…insistent.”
“Yeah. That’s one way of putting it. Just tell me.”
“As it stands now,” Jonah explained, “once the dust settles, you and Mitchell will share equally in the estate, the boundaries of which you are already familiar with and which have remained unchanged.”
“Your father insisted on providing motivation for you to accept the…remainder of his terms.”
“Jonah.” Carson lowered his voice. “If there’s something you haven’t told me yet, spit it out.”
The lawyer spoke quickly, as if reading from a script. When he finally finished, Carson had nothing to say. It was unbelievable. Until they found wives, neither he nor his brother could inherit. If his father had pushed his crabbed hand right through the cell phone and grabbed his son by the throat to deliver the news personally, Carson could not have been any more shocked.
“The Granger name must live on, huh? Well, I’m not playing his game,” Carson said finally, then punched the button to end the call. “I’ll get my mustang sanctuary. And I’ll do it without him.”
Thanks a lot, Dad, he thought as he maneuvered the battered pickup down the bumpy lane toward the corrals. As he rounded the corner, he saw a mini 4×4 parked sideways in the driveway of Granger Lodge, his childhood home, long since abandoned. Who the hell was here? Everyone knew his father had lived in the guesthouse, in the clearing behind the lodge. The old man had never gotten around to demolishing the original structure, and for once, Carson was grateful. It would be a perfect headquarters for his rescue foundation.
But it needed some serious work. He’d barely begun cleaning up; he didn’t have time for interruptions. If it was that damn real estate agent again, he’d throw her out bodily.
He stomped viciously on the brake, remembering, too late, the occupants of his horse trailer. As the truck lurched to a standstill, a series of squeals and metallic crashes erupted behind him.
He scrambled out of the truck.
“Whoa, girls, take it easy.”
The horses were near hysteria. He looked in cautiously at the closest one, the one he called Stormy. Her eyes rolled wildly in her dun-colored face and flecks of foam dotted her lip. The trip had been too much for her. He needed to get her quieted. She’d had enough stress.
He looked toward the house with a scowl. More kids, maybe, looking for something new to wreck? Good luck to them; they’d vandalized everything long ago. He couldn’t wait until his assistant arrived next week. He hoped the guy was big enough to intimidate trespassers.
He strode up to the front porch, where he found the door hanging off one hinge.
Gritting his teeth, he stepped around it and walked inside. “Who’s in here?” he shouted.
A number of things happened in succession: A dark, hairy blur pelted toward him, barking madly. Carson dodged, and then crashed into someone, a woman from the shriek she let out. The stranger stumbled backward, her fall broken by a large, black plastic bag full of the debris Carson had swept up the previous week. The bag burst open and a cloud of plaster dust billowed up around her, coating her skin. The dog was going nuts.
“What the hell? Are you all right?” Carson reached out with one hand and covered his nose and mouth with the other. He had to shout over the barking. “Is that your dog?”
She nodded and the movement set off a storm of fresh coughing and choking.
“Here.” His proffered hand was suddenly blocked by a mass of curly fur that quivered between him and the woman.
“Um,” he gestured at the dog, eyeing its teeth.
The woman waved her hand wordlessly and the dog ceased the racket and the jumping. It held its ground, though, unhappy but obedient, while Carson pulled the intruder to her feet. As she coughed, she held her belly… Oh, God. She was pregnant. Considerably, definitely pregnant. And she’d wiped out on his property. Just watch, he thought with a sinking heart. She’ll sue for injury.
Finally, the woman regained her breath. “Thank you,” she croaked, then glanced at the dog. “Mistral, back off.”
Instantly, the dog stopped hovering and contented itself with throwing filthy looks and the occasional guttural growl in Carson’s direction. It was a guard dog crossed with a dust mop.
He looked at the woman and bit back a laugh. White powder clung to everything. Her hair looked like tufts of meringue. Her eyes and nose were watering freely, tears streaking through the white and mixing with makeup to form muddy drops that puddled on her chin. She blinked at him through eyelashes that looked as if they’d been dipped in flour.
“Sorry.” He couldn’t help smiling as he wiped plaster dust off her back. “That’s what you get for trespassing.”
She glared at him, and a chunk of plaster fell off her forehead. “I’m not trespassing.”
He gestured vaguely toward her torso.
“You might want to…” He stopped.
But the woman looked down at herself and gasped, a hot flush of red staining her cheeks. A crucial button had blown off when she’d landed and her neckline gaped open, exposing her blue-and-white gingham-checked bra, from which a scrap of newsprint fluttered, proclaiming her to be New and Improv.
She pulled the edges together over her chest and turned away from him to hide the rest. She squeezed her eyes shut and the muscles in her jaw flexed as she gritted her teeth.
Carson cleared his throat and returned to business, forcing the image of her breasts out of his mind. “How many times do I have to tell you people? This place is not for sale.”
The woman opened her eyes and pulled her head back a fraction, but when she drew breath to speak, dust choked her again. He watched helplessly as she rummaged through an enormous bag while hacking her lungs out. By the time she’d found a bottle of water and drunk enough to stop coughing, her eyes and nose were streaming again, and her voice had all but disappeared.
She opened a different section of the bag and withdrew a sheet of paper. With a plaster-streaked hand, she slapped it against his chest.
Carson looked at it and immediately felt the blood drain from his face. A rental agreement. Signed, sealed, and delivered.
He had a renter. A pregnant tenant, with a dog. On his ranch! The ranch that his father should have handed over years ago, long before that last stroke.
He opened his mouth but no words came out.
“So,” she wheezed, “who’s trespassing now?”
Need a laugh today? I promise, this’ll do it.
I love playing with words. Except when I’m on deadline.
Then the fears begin to raise their ugly, chattering mugs:
“You can’t write. You’re a hack. You got lucky before. You’ll never do it again. If you can’t do it better – and you can’t – why bother? Plus, get a haircut! Oh, and you’re fat.”
Listening to Michael Hauge‘s workshop From Identity to Essence on my iPod last night (about the sixth time I’ve heard it now, you’d think I’d catch on wouldn’t ya?) gave me some more last-minute things to change/add/emphasize about the main characters in my current work-in-progress.
The one due… um… yesterday. (Don’t worry, I got an extension.)
It also gave me some fresh insight into my own fears. All of my writing contains some degree of truth and truth can be pretty freakin’ risky. So yeah, maybe this will be the book that proves me a failure. Maybe everyone will snicker at me behind my back. Maybe I’ll end up a WalMart greeter, after all.
Maybe that’s a risk I have to take because if I don’t, I’ll never get any closer to being the real person I am. To living my essence. My best, truest, self.
It’s funny, I’ve heard it said that the Dark Night of the Soul for characters generally rides in on the Dark Night for the writer. It seems you can’t write about character change and growth without taking just the tiniest peek into your own tortured psyche.
Oh man, talk about an occupational hazard.
So yeah, this is me. Living’ the dream. Dealing with exactly the problems I’ve always dreamed of having. I am lucky beyond measure that I get to explore the stuff that makes us human, take characters to the brink of despair and then lead them to their true selves. Every hero and heroine who becomes more, better, stronger than they thought they were, helps a tiny part of me become more, better, stronger.
All life is story, and all stories start with words. These are mine. Thanks for reading.
So I was eating my chicken a couple of nights ago, leafing through RT Book Reviews, the magazine for readers of commercial genre fiction. I’d gotten behind on industry reading because, well, I’ve got a book deadline, but I always get to RT eventually. I love to find out about new authors, new series, behind-the-scenes stuff and, of course, the reviews.
RT Book Reviews – formerly called Romantic Times, because it was the premier go-to place for romance reviews – now covers the gamut of commercial genre fiction: mystery, suspense, thrillers, mainstream fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, erotica, young adult, inspirational, contemporary romance, historical romance and, of course, category romance – you know, those small series books by Harlequin.
There haven’t been a lot of Entangled books reviewed in RT Book Reviews yet – after all, Entangled is only about three years old now. A baby. A fetus, in publishing years. But they’ve begun popping up, particularly in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal, and I like to keep track of what my “sister” authors are doing.
I glance through the sections where I’ve seen Entangled authors reviewed. Mainsteam, nothing. Romantic Suspense, nope. Oh, here’s one! RT’s young adult section, TeenScene gave Cecily White’s PROPHECY GIRL four stars! I’ve heard great things about this Entangled Teen book. (And the editor, too!)
Nothing in Paranormal or Urban Fantasy.
I run my finger down the list in Contemporary Romance. Oh, two Entangled authors this this month, that’s good! Let’s see… Gina Gordon’s A TASTE OF TROUBLE, from the Entangled Edge imprint. Four stars again! Wow, it sounds like a great book. I’d really like to write for that imprint, too. (Mental note: download Gina’s book asap.)
Now… who’s the other Entangled author reviewed in RT this month… I run my finger further down the list…
HOLD ON. THAT’S ME!!! That’s MY name! The reviewer calls His Reluctant Rancher an
“…emotional story…” and “… pure fun.”
I almost choked on my chicken. But let me assure you, I’d have died happy.
Here on the mountain behind us, all sorts of wildlife have been popping up. Fawns and bunnies, of course. Robins, towhees, Stellar’s jays, finches and my favorite: hummingbirds! Last year we had a bear so we’re all keeping an eye out for that one again. Recently we had a bobcat hanging around. Our dogs think this is pretty cool, but what do they know? By the time they find out otherwise, it’ll be too late.
I love being surrounded by nature. But nature doesn’t always benefit from us butting in. In fact, nature almost always loses. That’s where the dedicated people involved in wildlife rehabilitation come in. Committed and knowledgeable, these people are on the frontlines, mending the damage caused by habitat loss, inappropriate human-wildlife contact, injuries by vehicles or pets. This is the time of year when wildlife rehabbers spring into high gear (ha, did you see what I did there? huh?) and need your help. Several years ago, when I wrote a book on wildlife rehab, I learned so much about how we can help wildlife recover from our human ignorance – and why we all need to do our part.
It was my favorite book of the series.
Then it went out of print.
Now, thanks to the dedicated and talented team at Heritage House Publishing in Victoria, BC, my little wildlife book is alive again! New title, new cover, updated content… didn’t they do a lovely job?
So… (drum-roll please) I’m thrilled to announce that the repackaged version of my book, formerly titled Wildlife in the Kitchen, is now available for purchase, in both paperback and digital format. For any of you who support wildlife rehabilitation in all its entities, you’ll be happy to know that Elizabeth Melnick of Elizabeth’s Wildlife Centre, in Abbotsford, BC, is featured prominently in this book. And as soon as print copies are available, I’ll be donating her a box of 50 to use in fund-raising, volunteer appreciation or whatever best serves her needs. I’m so proud to have been able to include her story in this book – and to call Elizabeth my friend!
PS: one of the cool things about being a writer is that you never now when one idea might spark another, or where this trail of sparks will lead. This book contains a chapter on wild mustangs, the free-roaming horses that continue to run wild across parts of North America. Researching these amazing creatures fascinated me – and continues to do so. So, I started writing a novel about a guy who makes this his purpose in life – but is the son of a Montana cattle rancher. Oooh, conflict. That little spark turned into Three River Ranch, the first of what is now a four-book series of digital romance novels with Entangled Publishing.
Riverina Romantics posted the most delightful comments about His Reluctant Rancher! You can read the rest for yourself, but here are my favorite parts:
“One person, she thought. All it takes is one person who believes in you.”
Zach Gamble’s family is falling apart. After a truck accident that left his brother dead and his dad paralyzed he is barely holding it all together. They are in serious danger of losing the family ranch and all he needs is his father to get himself together enough to help convince the board of investors that they can keep everything up. Desiree is his last hope to get his dad back to where he needs to be. Trusting her to do this is hard, but dealing with the feelings she makes him feel is even harder. She is beautiful and turns him on in a way that he finds hard to resist, but she’s smart, interesting, loving, tough and all the other traits that he respects and never thought he would find.
“You’re no twig,” he said, brushing snow off her backside, “but trust me, Des. No man alive is complaining about where the sand settled in your hourglass.”
This book has it all. Hot, sexy cowboy? Check. Family dynamics that add to the story, rather than annoy? Check. Witty banter to hold your attention? Check. Sex scenes to curl your toes and make you wish for a hot cowboy of your own? Check, check!
The strength it takes for Zach to keep his family afloat is awe inspiring and the way Des step up to help out is so sweet. I love that the self proclaimed city girl is willing to get dirty to make things just a little bit easier for this family and for Zach.
“You’re on the same ride as the rest of us. Sometimes we lead. Sometimes we follow. Sometimes we get lost. But the main thing is, we’re on the journey together.”
Hm. I guess this makes it a 4-HEART review.
I didn’t feel like posting a recipe today because eggs, spinach and goat cheese swirled together in a frying pan isn’t much of a recipe and that’s what I’m making tonight. (Spinach Eggs works with my Wheat Belly diet, on which I’m pleased to report a general shrinkage of my wheat belly. Toast would be awesome with these eggs. Toast would be awesome, period. But I’m all about the shrinkage right now so… no toast. :()
If you don’t think this is hilarious, well… too bad.
… and other stuff people say to writers.
Just to be clear, MY friends never say things like this. MY friends are supportive, loving cheerleaders… and of course, it goes without saying that my family is behind me 100%. Mostly.
They probably wouldn’t kick up a stink if I used a pen name, but they’re rooting for me, nevertheless. 95% for sure.
That got your attention, didn’t it? Don’t worry, this isn’t that kind of post. It’s about something I heard on the radio yesterday. Apparently, the concept of a “double” bed, ie: for two people, doesn’t mean the same thing in Germany as it does here.
The clip I heard on the radio was from a woman, I’m guessing young, who was aghast at making this discovery while on vacation. She felt that sleeping under separate duvets totally destroyed the romance.
No snuggling close beneath the covers. No playing footsie. Etc. Etc.
I think, give it a decade or two, honey. You’ll be kicking those hot feet over to their own side, believe me. Having your bed-mate take all the bedding with him when he rolls over, now that damages the romance.
But then, so does insomnia and hot flashes.
If you’re lucky enough to be with someone who matches you annoyance for annoyance, and puts up with you anyway, you’ll probably be happy to sleep side by side in whatever bed you happen to find yourselves. Etc. Etc.
My husband and I are lowering our intake of starch and simple carbohydrates. Well, bread, mostly. This is a true hardship for me as I dearly love bread. I adore it. Sourdough, focaccia, whole-grain, oatmeal…I love to bake it, smell it, look at it. I love it for breakfast, toasted with peanut butter. I love a slice before bed, with honey. I love to pull the hot crusts off a fresh homemade French loaf and slather it with butter and… you get the drift.
My aim in this wretched soul-sucking endeavour is to get my cholesterol levels down into, well, survivable levels. That means get rid of the belly fat and <huge sigh> for me at least, that means no bread. And without giving anything else up, I’m down a few pounds, so I guess it’s working.
However there are many, many foods that I love that are not bread, and this is what I’m focusing on. I enjoy vegetables and I love soup (though soup is best with – you guessed it – bread!) but vegetable-only soup usually leaves me feeling like something’s missing. Like sausage or chicken or a whole whack of pasta. Recently, my husband had a craving for Olive Garden’s minestrone soup, so I looked up the recipe and figured I’d give it a try, not expecting much.
Holy macaroni, was I ever wrong! Chock-full of vegetables and beans (good carbs!) with only a wee handful of pasta, this fulfills my veggie count for the day, satisfies my appetite completely and is totally delicious. And it’s completely vegetarian, broth and all! I followed the recipe almost exactly. (Hm. Note to self: I might be onto something here.)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small minced white onion
- ½ cup chopped zucchini
- ½ cup Italian green beans
- ½ stalk minced celery
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cans (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained
- 2 cans (15 oz) great northern or small white beans, drained
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 cups hot water
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- ½ cup small shell pasta
- Measure olive oil into a large stock pot and heat on medium.
- Put the onion, celery, garlic, green beans, and zucchini into the pot and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
- Add the vegetable broth, drained tomatoes, beans, carrots, hot water and spices to the pot.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the spinach leaves and the pasta and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
From SharedWorlds, a series of cool photos for us writers who could use a hand.
You might already know this, but I’m an extemporaneous cook. Recipes are guidelines. Creativity rules. Therefore, my instructions can be a bit… vague. But really, when it comes to soup, how wrong can you go??
This week, my youngest spawn is lying on the couch with tonsils the size and colour of rotten plums. When they’ve been sitting in the fridge drawer for, I don’t know, a couple of months. Between the pain, and the appetite-killing antibiotics, she’s not eating much. But soup works, so here’s what I did today.
Chop up an onion, a couple of leeks and a bunch of potatoes. Toss them into a pot, where you’ve got a couple of tablespoons of oil heating. Sweat everything until the onions are clear and limp. Add a box of chicken broth. Cook until potatoes are soft. Puree the whole thing with your hand-held mixer-thing. You can use a blender if you’re careful. I have a history of cleaning soup off the ceiling, hence the hand-held device. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I use sea salt. It just tastes better.) Last, add about a cup of cream, half-and-half or evaporated milk. I use evaporated milk, because of, you know, cholesterol. It would taste awesome with heavy cream though.
Garnish with flat-leafed parsley and/or fresh chives. I thought cheese would be a nice addition. My daughter liked it with Gruyere. I liked it with Asiago.
Super-easy soup, especially for the pathetic tonsillitis-afflicted spawn lying on my couch. Warm and smooth on the throat.
As soon as I figure out Windows 8, I’ll add photos.
Don’t hold your breath.
Our job is to find it… and then tell it.
Just in case you missed my interview with Jamie and Kati of Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance, I’ll paste the transcript here. What a great time I had with them!
There’s still a few days left to enter to win a Kindle, too, so don’t forget to get your name in!
Jamie and Kati: Hi Roxanne! Welcome to Romancing Rakes For The Love of Romance.
Roxanne Snopek: Thanks! I’m happy to be here!
J&K: Share 5 fun facts about yourself.
- I like anchovies and I’m not ashamed to say it.
- I got my first tattoo last year, at age 49. Pretty sure there will be more.
- I had my appendix removed at age 14. My sister, brother, one daughter and one niece all had their appendices out around age 14. And they say appendicitis isn’t inherited. (Of course, my husband had his out last fall, which blows my theory. Hm. Maybe it’s me…)
- I go a little bat-crap crazy when I see spelling and grammatical mistakes in advertisements or signs. Rabbies vaccines? REALLY? Nature’s Pickin’s? Nature’s PICKIN’S WHAT? (Oops. Time for my crazy pills!)
J&K: Share a little bit about HIS RELUCTANT RANCHER[no copying blurb :)]
RS: It takes place a few months after Rory and Carson’s story in Three River Ranch, during a Montana winter, bleak, cold, deadly. Into it bursts Desiree, with her vroom-vroom sports car, va-va-voom body and potty-mouth, and pretty much knocks hero Zachary for a loop. There’s grief and longing and pain and a yummy massage scene. There’s horses, cows, dogs, cats, and the cutest kitten named Rogan you ever met! That’s all I can remember.
J&K: What is it that makes your hero and heroine perfect for each other?
RS: They understand each other. They’ve got some similarities in their backgrounds and each of them is able to see perfectly the blind spots of the other. And don’t we all just love to have our mistaken beliefs pointed out?
J&K: If your book were to have a theme song, what would it be?
RS: The intro to Hockey Night in Canada, or whatever it’s called now. I finished this book right around when the hockey strike ended and my husband was in major hockey-withdrawal. Apparently they’re now forever linked in my mind.
J&K: Do you have any writing rituals? (blasting music, eating cookies, drinking wine…)
RS: Silence in the bat-cave. Distractions make me crazy.
Typical scenario happened just now.
“Hey Mom,” called my daughter from the kitchen. “You know what’s interesting?”
I yelled back, “WHAT!!!” with such force that she came to check on me. I guess I sounded mad.
J&K: If you were stranded on an island, what 5 books would you take with you?
RS: HAHA! My e-reader! Gotcha! Okay, okay. You’re right, there’s no power on this island.
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. (My tattoo is a quote from the book.)
- Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. (Myths!! Folktales!! Psychology!! Plus if I was a Wise Woman, I’d probably figure out how to get off the island)
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (So twisted, so disturbing, it would make me grateful for my peaceful pigoon-free island)
- The Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery (because who doesn’t dream of a blue castle?)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (why not? I’ve got time.)
J&K: What do you have next in store for readers?
RS: I’m working on the third and fourth books right now. One will be the story of Carson Granger’s brother Mitchell (the one who looks like Keith Urban!!) and one will be the story of Celia Gamble and Jonah Clarke. Since I haven’t figured out a poster-boy for Jonah yet, Mitch’s story will probably be up first.
1. Alpha or Beta? Alpha, baby. Bring it.
2. Wallflower or Belle of the Ball? I’m a TOTAL wallflower.
3. Debutante or Spinster? I love spinsters… I love imagining why they never married, who they loved and lost… so many questions! Plus, they often turn into Wise Women.
4. Virgin widow or Secret baby? Secret baby! I’ve got a series in the works, all riffs on the secret baby trope.
5. Titled peer or Working man? Workin’ man. Muscles, you know.
6. Love at first sight or Second chances? Hm, second chances. I’m very indecisive.
7. Naval officer or Swashbuckling pirate? Pirate!
8. Vampires or Shifters? Shifter… Alcide, preferably.
9. Western Historicals or Western Contemporaries? Contemporaries.
10. Writing or Reading? READING! Are you kidding? Writing is HARD.
11. Paperbacks or e-books? 50-50. I told you I was indecisive.
12. Plotter or Pantser? Again, a hybrid mash-up of each. You see? It’s a problem.
13. Author’s choice: I’m going to poach my favorite question from this interview. If you were stranded alone on a deserted island, what book would you most want to have with you? (Don’t say your e-reader, I tried that.) And why?
J&K: Thanks for visiting us Roxanne!
RS: Thank you! It was a pleasure!
Don’t forget to visit the site and enter the contest!
I love food. I love baking. Ergo, I love recipes.
Also, ergo, I need to exercise a lot more. Soon.
But before then, I’d like to share one of my favorite recipes with you, on this inaugural Favorite Recipes Friday post. My latest book, His Reluctant Rancher, continues the story of Three River Ranch. Two of the characters that populate this world are twins Bliss and Blythe, older women who wander around looking after people, scolding and feeding them as they see fit.
They also nurse a mysterious grudge between them, which will be revealed in time!
In His Reluctant Rancher, Bliss brings the Gamble family a carrot cake that she says is far better than the one Blythe serves at her bed & breakfast. Now, I don’t know Blythe’s recipe, but I do know this one, and it truly rocks. It’s the cake I made for birthdays when my girls were small. Because it’s so chock full of nutrition, I could relax in the knowledge that even if it’s all they ate all day, it would be okay.
“I Wish I Knew How to Quit You, Wheat!”
NOTE: since I first wrote this, I’ve read Wheat Belly, the premise of which is that wheat is responsible for most – if not all – of modern humanity’s pain and suffering. You know, diabetes, high cholesterol, painful joints, fuzzy brain, bad hair, bad moods, slow drains, slugs and possibly that irritating syndrome in which whatever line you’re in always moves slower than the ones beside you. Aaaaanyway. Wheat. I figure I’m carb sensitive but am not quite ready to part with it entirely. We’re working on a trial separation, a weaning situation. The recipe below has been modified to reflect this.
This is from the La Leche League Whole Foods Cookbook. Can you tell that my girls liked to work alongside me? I’ve modified it somewhat, as I almost always do, but here’s the gist:
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used 1 1/4 cups flour, and 1 cup coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cups oil (I use canola or olive)
3/4 cup liquid honey
3 cups grated carrot (or zucchini, which I haven’t tried, but would probably be great, too.)
1 cup canned unsweetened crushed pineapple (save the juice for the frosting)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Stir it all together. Put into greased and floured pan of your choice. (This makes a fairly large cake.) Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Cool, then frost with cream cheese icing. (Cream cheese, pineapple juice and enough icing sugar to make it taste good.) Then I covered the top with coconut because the frosting seemed a little gooey.
Boom. Bliss-ful Carrot Cake.
Hello friends! As many of you know, I’m deep in the midst of a multi-stop blog tour to celebrate the release of His Reluctant Rancher, the second in the Three River Ranch series. The tour-wide giveaway is a KINDLE – how cool is that? And you’ve got opportunities to enter at each blog stop. Some of the stops include reviews of the book; some are guest blog posts by me; some are interviews. The interviews are a lot of fun, and this one at Herding Cats & Burning Soup went particularly well. Good chemistry, I think! Sigh. How I love book bloggers…
Do take a look and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to enter to win! That’s my bribe. (And don’t feel that because you actually know me in, like, real life, that you shouldn’t enter. I’d LOVE to give my prize to someone I know in, like, real life. The “like” is a nod to my lovely daughter Pik, who cannot seem to utter a sentence without it. I mean, like, I like the word like too, but like, I don’t need to, like, use it in, like, every sentence.)
The rest of the tour is posted here, and goes something like this:
Official Blog Tour Stops
Wednesday, 2/27 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews
Friday, 3/1 – What I’m Reading
Monday, 3/4 – Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance
Wednesday, 3/6 – Bookin’ It Reviews
Friday, 3/8 – Herding Cats & Burning Soup
Monday, 3/11 – RhiReading
Tuesday, 3/12 – The Book Cellar
Thursday, 3/14 – Urban Girl Reader
Friday, 3/15 – Janna Shay’s Fair Play
Monday, 3/18 – My Reading Room
Wednesday, 3/20 – Whispers at Moonlight
Friday, 3/22 – Ramblings From This Chick
And for anyone wishing to, like, clean up their language, here is a step-by-step program:
Don’t forget to hit “LIKE” after reading.
From Heritage House, the new improved version of Wildlife in the Kitchen, finally!
I know, I know, His Reluctant Rancher has barely hit cyber-shelves. But it’s never too soon to start working on the next book. And I think it’s going to be Mitch Granger’s story.
What do you think? Could these guys be brothers?
Life with my Mr.(Always)Right and the Saffrines has its ups and downs, naturally. Some I share here; some are hidden deep in the vault. Typical, ordinary stuff of life.
Not like this.
This will make you wonder how
some parents survive…
Congratulations to Annah Schoonover, who won a $25 Amazon gift card!
The Entangled in Love blog-hop was great fun and we had tremendous participation. Some of your First/Worst/Cursed Job stories were truly awful. Whenever we’re out for dinner or in the grocery lineup or wherever, and I see an obviously young and inexperienced person, struggling to learn a new job, I remember what it felt like to be that person.
Karma’s a boomerang people.
Isn’t this the sweetest cover? Let me know what you think! I can’t wait to hear from readers!
*Sorry, the Entangled in Love hop is over. But my blog tour runs until March 31/2013 and I’m giving away a KINDLE! Join me for a chance to win!
My youngest daughter recently got her first job, as a grocery store cashier. She works mostly evening shifts, which suits her teenage nocturnal lifestyle. At her three-month review, she got kudos for her friendliness to customers, plus thanks for getting the most charitable donations.
My first job was cooking breakfast in a nursing home. I had to get up at 5 am. It was wretched. Old people are mean and so was my boss. Plus, 5 am, people! Later, I taught aerobics, slung ice-cream, prepared tax returns and got fired by a florist. Then, I spent two years in school to earn $8/hr and get peed on.
But now I get paid to play with words, an occupation that suits me very well, as it involves almost no human interaction and very few early mornings. No one throws porridge at me and I’m almost never peed on. (I find myself begging people to like me, however. You won’t make me beg, will you?)
At the start of my latest book, His Reluctant Rancher, Desiree Burke is reeling from a career setback. She’s frustrated at not being able to use her skills fully, and Des being Des, she doesn’t take this quietly.
And she ends up disgraced, humiliated and unemployed.
But this bad luck, of course, is how she discovers a whole new, even better, life.
If you don’t understand occupational angst and your career path has been sweet and smooth, well, congratulations. You can go back to polishing your silver spoon.
I want to hear from the rest of you: what career mishaps have you experienced? What odd occupations came your way? Do you have a first/worst/cursed job story? Did you gain anything from it?
One lucky commenter will win a $25 Amazon gift card! And be sure to check out the other Entangled blogs for other great prizes.
During my October/2012 blog tour, I had great fun interacting with readers and book bloggers. Here’s a transcript of the conversation from GoodChoiceReading:
(PLEASE NOTE: all prizes have already been awarded!)
In October 2012, I participated in a virtual book tour, to promote Three River Ranch. I visited over a dozen blogs in about three weeks, giving interviews and talking with readers. It was great fun and by the end, I was getting tired of the usual answers. Some of the interviews are a little wacky…
Here’s a transcript of my conversation with My Reading Room:
(PLEASE NOTE: all prizes have already been awarded.)
Today I welcome Roxanne Snopek, author of Three River Ranch, a delightful contemporary romance set in Montana focusing on a man, a pregnant woman, a funny dog and horses. What more could you ask for? It has humor, romance, lots of great emotions and everything I love in a romance novel. My review will be a little later today, but first have a seat with your favorite cuppa and learn a little more about Roxanne, Three River Ranch and then enter to win a copy of the book.
1. What three things do you need in order to write?
I was a late adopter of the whole digital-reader thing. Reluctant to learn a new technology, just to read a “book” that could lose power and leave me stranded before I was ready to turn out the light! Reluctant to further strain my pathetic eyes. Reluctant to give in, and let my own stories go into the ether of last resort.
Boy was I wrong. Here’s why:
1) I love my Kobo! The charge lasts forever, and gives me lots of warning when it does get low. The eye-friendly e-Ink technology is no tougher on my eyes than a paper-book. In fact, it might be easier, because I can adjust the font size. Plus, books like Game of Thrones and The Passage no longer leave me with an aching wrist!
2) Not only do I love reading on an e-reader, being published in digital-first format is the most exciting experience of my writing life. What I once thought of as giving in is, in fact, launching my career to a whole new level.
3) Going digital doesn’t mean giving up “real” books! (See below) Did paperbacks kill hard-cover copies? No. It’s just another format option, with (usually) a friendlier price-point.
And finally, the best part of digital books: the BUY NOW button! From the comfort of your bed, while your spouse snores beside you. No waiting to start the next in the series, no panic over not having exactly the right book for your mood.
BUY. NOW. <click>
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Words of wisdom from some great writers:
A beautiful clip of the human-animal bond at work.
Hello. My name is Roxanne. I’m a Mennonite.
I know, you’re thinking how is that possible, since I wear make-up and jeans and don’t have a little black beanie pinned on my braids? My pacifist rebel blood set me on a different path from my ancestors but there is much I cherish about my Mennonite heritage.
Wareneki… noodle-y, cottage-cheese-y, creamy…
Rollkuchen and watermelon… the perfect summer supper, well, except for the deep-fried batter bit…
Cabbage borsch… thrifty, delicious – and nutritious!
…and plumi moos, that cold sweet pudding-y soup filled with prunes and raisins and cherries.
Watch out, though; those prunes pack a punch. Hm. Maybe, with all the noodles and bread, that’s the point.
Anyway, since carbs aren’t my friend and I don’t spend my days hitched to a plow, I rarely indulge my Mennonite appetite.
Music, however, is a different story. Especially at Christmas.
Despite a deep suspicion of the arts, the Mennonite culture embraces music as form of worship. (Nothing you might want to dance to, though. Dancing is Very Bad. There’s an old joke among us Mennos: why don’t Mennonites have sex standing up? Because it could lead to dancing.)
So although we do not dance, few Menno kids grew up without music lessons of some sort; most of us sang in the church choir. Some of us sang in chamber choirs that even went on tour.
That’s a life-time ago, but I can still sing along with The Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah and it remains one of my favorite pieces of music, especially at Christmas.
My family tree is filled with humble, hard-working, painfully honest people who are probably deeply concerned for my soul. After all, as a fiction-writer, I am, by definition, a liar. And although I can’t dance, I dearly wish I could, which is just as bad.
Nevertheless, I am grateful for the bedrock of love and faith I was raised with. I am grateful that we can celebrate Christmas together despite our differences, with simple pleasures.
Like music and food.
And speaking of that <drum roll, please> the winner of a $25 Amazon gift card is:
Your prize will be winging its way to you shortly, D’Ann!
To everyone else, thanks so much for joining us on the blog hop, and checking out the fabulous line-up of Entangled books.
There’s nothing like being Entangled In Romance!
It’s time for the Annual Christmas Letters to start arriving.
I don’t write one, figuring that if you don’t already know what’s going on with us, we don’t like you that much anyway. Plus, I’m always depressed after hearing about how great everyone else’s lives are. After all, I didn’t put in a pool last year… or save a whale/cure Chlamydia/get my PhD/bear famous offspring/visit an orphanage/run for office/kick the booze/etc.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Come on people, it’s the darkest time of the year. Get into the spirit! Don’t tell us how great you are; tell us stuff that makes us feel superior! Tell us something like this:
“To our distant relatives and obligatory acquaintances:
We can’t be there to enjoy the sweet-potato-brussel-sprout pie with you all, thanks to that pesky restraining order, so we’ll share the highlights of our past year like this.
First of all, that thing on Dear Hubby’s neck turned out to be benign. What a blessing! They won’t take it off, as it’s no danger, but it scares the grandkids so I made him a scarf. He won’t wear it (he’s grown fond of “Scabby”) but since he’s not around much, it’s okay. (Dear Hubby travels five days a week, which is terrifically satisfying for us both. LOL!)
Speaking of our darling dumplings: our oldest has moved her trailer onto the pad beside ours! She’s now a happily-single mother, since the father of the third one disappeared. I loved him dearly but, to be honest, he was a bit of a felon.
Seriously, I’m such a lucky Grandma to have them constantly underfoot! Turns out we don’t need a fancy “house” to be happy; we just need our wonderful family – and separate TVs, LOL!
Middle child is like a whole new person, since they changed her meds. She’s now pursuing her dream of becoming a taxidermist and if her work on our dearly departed cat, Stink-Eye, is any indication, she’s found her niche. And they said she shouldn’t be around knives!
Just goes to show you, doctors aren’t always right! LOL! (Don’t worry, sis, I know Johnny is a better-than-average doctor. We’re so lucky to have such an accomplished, handsome, smart, sweet nephew in our gene pool. I KNOW.)
Our own baby boy might not be a doctor, but we’re still proud of him! He’s really turned things with his new business venture! We’re not too sure of the details; at first he said it was agricultural. Now he says it involves cooking. Who knows these days? And not to brag, but it sure brings in the cash! Just last week, he bought me a skillet!
Perfect timing because since the menopause, I’ve been a wee bit moody and I find throwing cookware helps. It’s great exercise! LOL! And thanks to the hot flashes, I haven’t had to plug in the heat yet this winter! Bonus!(The beard was a surprise, but I’ll wax when he wears the scarf.)
And now, an announcement: I’ve started my own business! I’ll have more details when the kit arrives but for now let’s just say that it could put Dr. Johnny out of business! LOL!
Seriously, I believe in this product 110% and I know you will too. Also, I’ll be making $4000 a week – and without a medical degree! LOL!
But of course, it’s not about the money – it’s all about giving back. I just feel blessed to be doing what I’m meant to do, brightening my little corner of the world.
Love and Merry Christmas from our trailer park to yours!”
You see? Nothing lifts the spirits like a little seasonal Schadenfreude! (Although rum-and-egg-nog works, too.)
And don’t forget to hop over to the other Entangled author blogs! There are lots of other prizes to be won!
Hey everyone, join me and my author-friends as we chat about all things books, Christmas and love. There’s a boatload of prizes to give away – don’t miss your chance to win!
Stay tuned; I’ll know more soon.
Isn’t suspense great?
This is an act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.
But it’s all the more amazing because all 21 of the dancers are complete deaf-mutes. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring. Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics. But it had long been in the repertoire of the Chinese Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40 countries. Its lead dancer is 29 year old Tai Lihua, who has a BA from the Hubei Fine Arts Institute. The video was recorded in Beijing during the Spring Festival this year.
Thousand Hand Guan Yin was created by Chinese choreographer Zhang Jigang, and describes the legend that Bodhisattva Guan Yin has 1000 hands. Bodhisattva vows she will not become a Buddha until there is not a single tear drop left in the world.
…a delightful read. Ms. Snopek delivers an entertaining story with confidence and wit. I was charmed by both main characters, and loved all the animals as well. Who could resist? I look forward to her next book.
… doesn’t do anyone any good when you’re right.”
Or so said Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House, if I recall correctly.
Most of us are plagued with self-doubt at one time or another. I seem to have it a lot. Which doesn’t make sense, given that I’m also right a lot of the time. Or at least, pretty self-righteous. It’s an unfortunately combination, which may explain why I don’t go out much. It’s better for us all.
Or maybe it’s a writer thing. Nora Roberts said “Writing doesn’t make you neurotic; neurotics become writers.” So I guess it was inevitable.
But, writers, plumbers, doctors, ranchers or whatever, we’re all prone to human failings and frailties. It’s a fallen world, after all. Despite our best intentions, we all inflict bone-headed, self-centered, blindly stupid mistakes on those around us, for which we end up scraping for forgiveness.
And sometimes, we have to be big enough to do the same for others.
I’m at that wonderful stage in my book where my characters have slipped off each others’ masks just enough to see the true person beneath. It’s an ugly, painful experience, but wildly, truly, whole-ly human. I love being able to orchestrate this from above, putting true words into the mouths of made-up people, giving them honest actions and reactions in fictitious lives.
I wish it would come together the way I see it in my head. It would be The Best Book Ever.
But who knows? I could have it right already. And self-doubt doesn’t help anyone, when you’re right.
The final week of October looms ahead, and with it, Hallowe’en, which used to make me excited and these days just makes me tired.
But this year, it also makes me scared. But not for the reasons little kids get scared.
No, it’s not zombies and ghosts that scare me. Not even having those convenient, bite-sized chocolate bars around the house. It’s my October 31 deadline for the second book in my Three River Ranch series, for Entangled Publishing.
Is it ready to submit? No.
Will it be ready to submit? Yes.
On time? Hell, yes.
I haven’t missed a deadline yet and I don’t intend to start now. But dang, I wish I could work at some kind of reasonable, regular pace.
So I’m putting my nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, pen to paper, butt in chair, hands on keyboard…
… and now and then, when I comeup for air, I’ll do a little yoga. Because if ever I needed, in the words of Frank Costanza “SERENITY NOW”… it’s NOW!!!
PS: If anyone interrupts me this week, and it doesn’t involve arterial blood…. well, it will.
It’s Sunday. The Sunday after The Conference. I think my brain is bleeding. I know my eyes feel like someone poured sand in them, and my throat is scratchy. Undoubtedly I’m incubating some horrid hotel-air Ebola-type virus that will lay me flat when I can least afford it.
But I don’t care.
But this means nothing to most of you.
Suffice it to say, I worked my patootie off, reconnected with old friends, met some new ones and am totally recharged to write the next book – and the one after that, and the one after that – the very best I can.
I’ll post something more interesting shortly. Because if I learned one thing this weekend – thank you, Sean Cranbury! – it’s KEEP BLOGGING!
…a little gem of a story. And because I’ve enjoyed this one so much, I’ll be watching for more in the series.
…a sweet contemporary romance. A quick read with a fast-paced story. The characters were well developed and the story flowed seamlessly. The richly drawn setting made me feel like I was at Three River Ranch.
If you’re looking for a category romance that won’t make you cringe at the cheesiness of the over-the-top trope and you love animals please look no further! If you’re sick of heroines who get walked all over by heroes who are overly alpha you will find THREE RIVER RANCH a refreshing change of pace that will warm your heart.
Tomorrow I’ll be guest-blogging about Three River Ranch on the Fresh Fiction site. I hope to see you there!
One lucky commenter will receive a free download of Three River Ranch. If you’ve already got your copy, come join us anyway – I promise, I’ll make it worth your while!
Will I be talking about cowboys? Home renovations? Bad break-ups?
Only I know for sure.
Full of strong characters that are simply good people trying to do their best… I loved the interactions and honesty that flows between Carson and Rory… I really hope that author gives us a spin off book… with her writing style, I can promise you I will be buying more of her books.
‘Tis the season when spiders make their annual bid for world domination. This little nugget has been guarding my garage door all day. Pictures never quite do them justice, but with legs out, she’s about three inches long.
THREE INCHES OF SPIDER??
That’s about four inches more than I’m comfortable with.
Now, I’m no squealy girly-girl. I think snakes are cool. I like digging in dirt, banging nails into things, lifting heavy objects. I understand the value of spiders to the ecosystem, the concept of environmental balance, circle of life and all.
But as soon as My Mr(Always)Right comes home, I’m making him KILL IT!
I see this all the time in reviews, and never knew what it meant. Well, today, in Challenge #3 of Entangled Publishing’s #HeroWars, I learned!
Come join the fun as we promote the Bliss books, including my latest release, Three River Ranch. Oh, did I mention? There’s a bright shiny NOOK for one lucky participant, too!
*Nope, not the way to hail a cab in Mexico.
Loved this story! The romance quickly jumps off the page even though it takes the characters a little while to catch up. (Which I loved. And I especially fell for Carson – he is swoon-worthy.) The story is heartwarming and sexy, the characters wonderfully engaging!
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and was sad to leave Carson and Rory at the end. Roxanne Snopek skilfully blends in the mustangs, the dog breeding and caring for special needs children into this beautifully crafted story. I can’t wait to read her next one. Highly recommended!”
A huge thank-you to everyone who downloaded
Three River Ranch last weekend!
Thanks to you, it reached
#71 on Amazon’s TOP 100 romance series list!
Next week, the promotion begins in earnest, so if you haven’t already “Liked” me on my Facebook author page, please do so! There will be contests, chats, “Hero Wars,” and more, and this is where I’ll announce it. And we’re starting with:
SHOW YOUR WILD SIDE & WIN!
Service dogs and horses are a big part of the Three River Ranch story, so we’re asking readers to share your favorite photos of your dog or horse for a chance to win prizes, including a cameo appearance in one of my upcoming novels or a gift card to PetSmart. The photos will be judged by you, the participants, so pass on the news – we want lots of photos!
I’ll be able to tell you more soon on Facebook, so stay tuned!
Whew! Three River Ranch is now launched onto virtual bookstore shelves everywhere. It was a busy weekend, and I’m happy to report the following:
1) we hit #71 on the Top 100 Romance Series list on Amazon*.
2) our first review is up, a lovely 5 stars!
3) our actual publicity blitz will begin shortly, with some cool contests and prizes. Please join us – it’ll be great fun!
Thanks so much for all the support, clicks, tags, tweets, likes… I have so many people rooting for me and I am beyond grateful for all of you!
*(Nope, not the kind of list that gets you-know-who a tattoo…USA Today, New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, that’s our target! Go big or go home, baby!)
Hm, probably not… but I’m going to hold him to his off-the-cuff promise, and I’ll need your help to do it!
If Three River Ranch hits a best-seller list, which of the following should my husband do:
a) dye his hair
b) get an earring
c) get a tattoo
Repost this challenge on Facebook, Twitter, etc, Like and Tag the book on Amazon, then vote for your preferred body adornment.
I’m so excited! My latest book, and first romance novel, is now available at Amazon! Barnes & Noble, Chapters-Indigo, etc. are all on deck.
Mark Twain is rumored to have said, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”and now I understand. (This is unverified, and possible a complete lie, so no hassling me.)
In case you didn’t know (we didn’t) July/August is not the best time, weather-wise, to visit San Francisco.
I know, summer, California, you expect heat, right?
Well, they call San Francisco Fog City. Being long time fans of Tofino, BC, we now have a frame of reference. Fog City is like Tough City, folks. Expect mist and wind… rejoice if you get sunshine.
So we’re on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus one afternoon for a tour of the city. We’d finished our shopping at Macy’s – for jeans and t-shirts, since we didn’t bring any – and were heading out to meet our daughter, Otis.
Suddenly our bus pulls over. The driver gets out. Gets back in. Shuts off the engine. Gets out again and disappears. There’s a guy outside my window, talking on his phone, gesticulating and flailing. Someone hollers down asking what the problem is.
“The bus hit my car,” he yells back. “Didn’t you feel anything?”
He’d been running behind our bus for a block or two before anyone noticed.
My Mr.(Always)Right and I sat there for about 15 minutes, knowing Otis would be waiting. Finally figured we’d lose less time walking, so we got off.
Here’s the other thing about San Francisco. Hills. Steep hills. Up. Down. Carrying bags that grew heavier by the minute. Naturally, the sun WAS out right then, and we were stinkin’ hot.
Finally after several miscommunications, and circling Alamo Square a few times, we found Otis, and together trundled down to the next “hop-on” spot, as indicated on our trusty map.
We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Clouds moved in. We noted to each other that none of us had seen a bus along this route, in the entire time of our disorientation. Very strange.
Finally MyMAR goes into the nearest store, to ask what time the bus usually arrives.
“Oh,” the man laughed. “The bus doesn’t stop here. That’s a typo.”
With uncharacteristic restraint, my husband inquired as to where we might actually find the bus.
“I have no idea.” The man appeared mystified. “People always ask me that.”
By sheer accident, we saw the bus heading down a nearby street. We threw ourselves onto the road, screaming and waving. The driver pulled over and let us get on.
“Did you KNOW,” panted my husband, “that your MAP. Is incorRECT?”
“Oh yeah,” he answered. “It’s been wrong for years. But I’m jus’ the driver.”
The final loop of our bus tour was over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was around 5 pm and the sun we’d enjoyed briefly when we “hopped on” was long gone, pushed away by a wall of fog we could literally see settle over the city. So we’re outside, on the top of a bus, heading across a very long bridge, very high above the water. The wind is so strong I’m not only holding onto my hat, I’m holding onto my glasses.
MyMAR sat with his bare feet burrowed into the Macy’s bag holding our clothing purchases. Ccccccold. Ssssso. Ccccold.
A couple in front of us were sharing a jacket while she sat on his lap. Anyone small enough was curled up on the floor of the bus, under the seat.
By the time we got back, all we could think of was getting inside, getting warm and getting fed. So we stopped at the first seafood place we stumbled into. And it was goo-ood.
1) When I get the French E instead of quotation marks… now I can`t even show you because I`ve tried to fix it… and instead, I`m getting the backwards apostrophe… d`ya see what I meanÉ
Now the E replaces the question mark!
/2) When the hashtag symbol for NUMBER is replaced by the backslash (forward slashÉ… damn you keyboard!!) symbol.
/3) When the backéforward slash symbol is replaced by >.
Oh for %?&*% sake.
Where did the question mark come from up thereÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ
I give up.
First person to solve this problem for me gets a prize.
Okay, I can finally announce it! I’ve signed a two-book deal with Entangled Publishing!!
It’s a “Horses, cowboys, babies, oh my,” series, the first of which is called Three River Ranch, scheduled for release August 25.
Yes, you read that right. 21 days from now. Entangled is a digital-first publisher and they work at warp speed. My New York editors are super enthusiastic (plus, they actually edit, which is far less common than you might think). Also, I’ve got a team – a TEAM! – of publicists on my side.
As Chandler Bing would say… could I BE any more excited?? (uh, that’s a no.)
Stay tuned, friends. (Ha-ha. Get it?)
Our youngest, referred to herein as Potsticker, or Pik for brevity, shared the following joke with me this morning. (Her life is a barrel of bloody razor-blades. Just ask her.)
It’s not original, so if you’re the one who told it first, well, sucks to be you.
First-born child: “Mommy, why am I named Petal?”
Mommy: “Because when you were born, a petal landed on your head.”
Second-born child: “Mommy, why am I named Rose?”
Mommy: “Because when you were born, a rose landed on your head.”
Last-born child: “My favorite color is potato.”
Mommy: “Shut the hell up, Brick!”
“I’m off to Lindsay’s now,” Pik says, on her way out the door. Nothing like a sweet summer day, and a friend with a pool.
“Keep your phone with you today, okay?” I tell her. She didn’t respond to any of my texts yesterday, but she was at the lake and I figured they’d spent the day in the water.
“I will, Mom,” she says with the careful deliberation one uses with the mentally disabled. “But my phone doesn’t let me open your texts.”
Okay, now I’m not the most tech-savvy, but even I know this doesn’t make sense.
“What are you talking about?”
“I can see your texts, but my phone doesn’t let me open them.”
“There’s too many texts, I guess.” It appears she’s inherited her tech-savvy from me.
“Okay, your whatever-box is full. So you need to clear it out then.”
“Yeah. But there’s like, two-thousand of them. I don’t have time.”
“You still have to do it.”
“I don’t know!”
“But you’ll answer me if I text you this afternoon?”
“I told you, I can’t!”
“Well then why bother even taking your phone if you can’t use it?”
“I can use it. I just. Can’t. Open. Texts.”
“So you could call me then, if you see a message from me.”
“Awesome. Do that, then.”
In a whoosh of hair and skirt, she flung open the door. “Bye,” she snapped. Then, almost against her will, she added, “love you.”
You have to smile. What else can you do?
This fall, when our youngest leaves for university, my husband and I will become, rather suddenly, empty-nesters. Well, I should say, our nest is empty of human offspring. Our remaining dependents now consist of one ancient, sexually-frustrated cockatiel, four elderly cats, two poodles (smart and healthy, if a little high-strung) and one Cavalier King Charles spaniel with the sweetest temperament ever. (Blank as an unpainted wall, though, our Addie.)
We’re not particularly looking forward to taking over all the pet chores; however, we know it’s time limited. Our two oldest cats, Tabitha and Mylos, are particularly frail.
While Tabi is holding her own, we’ve been treating Mylos for diabetes for several years. He’s now in remission for the second time, but over Christmas, he developed pancreatitis. We didn’t expect him to make it to spring, but he recovered, more or less, with antibiotics. Then he developed hyperthyroidism, and it looks like his pancreatitis is flaring up again. We’ve decided that we won’t let him go through another episode, given his other illnesses, so as soon as we see signs of discomfort, we’ll be walking him to the Rainbow Bridge.
At almost 17, he’s had a long life, but it’s always sad to lose an old friend.
We were at a Canada Day party recently (well, on Canada Day, duh) when a friend asked me what my favourite book was. And then LISTENED FOR A RESPONSE. A brave man, our friend. Or perhaps really, really bored. Asking me about books is like asking our spaniel about food. Specifics don’t matter. The answer is YES YES YES, GIMME GIMME, MORE MORE MORE.
My favourite book of all time is, of course, Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, for many reasons. (Ask me, next time you’ve got a couple of hours to kill.) But I’ve read many other good ones lately. Last night, I finished The Marriage Bargain, by Jennifer Probst, and it was great! (I’m fond of her publisher, for reasons I will announce shortly. Stay tuned, fans.) I enjoyed Goodnight Tweetheart, by Teresa Medeiros – it’s a good story, AND I learned a bit more about Twitter. Sworn to Silence, by Linda Castillo, is a great, gripping thriller set in Amish country.
And then of course… there’s the Shades of Grey trilogy. I read the first two, grudgingly, as research. (It’s true! I’ll tell you more about that soon, too.) But I confess that part of me wanted to know just what all the hoopla’s about. Literary pop culture; I like to have one section in Trivial Pursuit that I have a chance at winning!
I won’t add to the plethora of scathing criticism about her wordcraft. (I try not to say bad things about other writers… we have feelings, you know.) It’s not my favourite book, HOWEVER, Ms. James has done a great job creating a multi-faceted, tortured hero in Christian Grey, so props to her for that.
Anyway… it’s time to get back to work. But I’m curious: what are you reading right now? What’s your favourite book of all time?
I know I like cowboys. Always have. I love horses, too, even owned one for a short time. About 14 years ago, as a surprise birthday gift, my Mr. (Always)Right had some photos taken for me. Now understand, horseback riding isn’t really his thing. He’s what you might call a reluctant cowboy, but he knows my weakness, so he duded himself up with chaps, boots and hat, and found a friend with a cooperative horse.
For a touch of “bad boy” he even attempted to add a cigarette! (Of course, since he doesn’t smoke, all the pictures are of him either coughing or laughing.)
Why am I talking about cowboys today? Well, (drum-roll please!) in August, Entangled Publishing will release my first book featuring, wait for it: a reluctant cowboy.
This book will be available in digital format only, at least initially, so if you don’t have a Kindle or Kobo or iPad or Android… well, get into the twenty-first century buckaroo. It fits way better in a saddlebag than 43 paperbacks.
With all the comings and goings in our house lately, proper meals are a hit and miss affair. I know it’s typical of this stage of life; kids hopping up and down on the brink of the nest… dad finally trading his 60-hour work weeks for some fun stuff … and me with my predictably random schedule. (By the by, did you know that the term “freelance” comes from the Medieval name for soldiers who hired themselves out for whoever would pay them. Game of Thrones calls them “sellswords.” Boom. You’ve just been Clavened.)
But as I was saying, thank goodness for frozen thin-crust spinach pizza. And tortellini, without which I believe my youngest would have succumbed to starvation. Alone in her room. Neglected and forgotten, as last-borns always are. Or so they believe.
Yesterday, however, we are all around to eat at the same time, so I made a proper dinner. Salmon with lemon-dill sauce, my famous Kitchen Sink salad (don’t ask for the recipe, it changes every time) and fresh asparagus, grilled and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. Check out the plate: more than half-full of veggies.
I feel so virtuous, I may have to go to Starbucks for a lemon-cranberry scone.
Silicon Sisters Interactive‘s founders, Brenda Bailey-Gershkovitch and Kirsten Forbes, were nominated for the 2012 YWCA Women of Distinction award in the Science, Research and Innovation category. Since Brenda was out lollygagging in Sweden, Kirsten represented the company alone, and promised to name us all in her acceptance speech, should they win. Alas, the award went to another worthy over-achiever.
I am so proud to be part of this team! Here’s why I love writing for SSI:
Kirsten says: “Though it’s easy to pillory videogames as being responsible for some ill effects on today’s youth, at Silicon Sisters we’ve seen otherwise. Games can be a safe world in which to practice and rehearse skills that might otherwise be too stressful – from making friends to challenging the status quo to allowing yourself to fail and see the consequences. Silicon Sisters supports healthy choices for youth.”
Well, he’s going to starve to death, surrounded by food that he can’t see because it’s BEHIND SOMETHING!
I think I first learned the word “synchronicity” from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way is a kind of self-help program for blocked creatives, you know, the socially-challenged introverts who slouch around moaning “I don’t know what to do with my life!”
The gist of synchronicity is this: the magic is already in you, and when you are willing to do the work to find it, the universe will support you. Kind of a Dumbo’s-magic-feather thing. (Or as Morpheus taught Neo, “Free your mind!”) It’s a particularly good book for would-be writers, and god knows there’s no group more prone to slouching and moaning.
Anyway, the first time I did the program, my freelance income in one year went from about 10K to 30K. Pretty good when you consider that the overall average income for writers hovers below the poverty line. Sad, I know. Why do we do it? (Cue the s and m.)
The second time I did it, I sold my first non-fiction book, which was quickly followed by six more, plus a novel. Needless to say, I’m a pretty big fan of Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way, and many of the lessons I learned wove themselves into the fabric of my creative life. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives! Leap, and the net will appear!
Then the economy tanked, and took a lot of publishing houses with it. I, like millions of ordinary working stiffs, entered a dark period of fiscal and existential uncertainty. Lucky me, I went peri-menopausal right then, too. Hormonal chaos. Oh, my kids started leaving the nest then, too. Maternal clutching and tuition bills. Oh, my husband started graduate school then too. More tuition bills. But no clutching.
A dark period indeed.
I was ready to learn, but there was no teacher. I leaped, but there was no net. In fact, I fell on my face, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in lost royalties when my publisher went belly-up. (And just when my laser hair removal bills were ramping up, too!)
However, I kept writing. (Really, what else am I going to do? I’m virtually unemployable. I have the attention span of a gnat. Plus, I tend to go off on tangents…) I went to writers’ conferences I couldn’t afford, but had a great time at. I attended writing retreats that had no apparent consequence, but at which I met great people. I pitched ideas that had minimal traction in the industry – but kept my name out there. I finally hired a professional web designer to give me a proper web presence, even though it pretty much broke my writing piggy-bank.
My tank was on Empty, out of hope, purpose, direction, meaning… yup, s and m all over the place. After all, if nobody’s buying what I’m selling, well, What Am I Going to Do With My Life? I needed something with Epic Meaning, on par with raising exceptional young women, a task at which I excel, but which utilizes skills that translate poorly on a curriculum vitae. Also, I demand compensation commensurate with my experience. You heard me. Pay the writer, man.
And then one day an email popped into my in-box.Well, really it was a Facebook message, which routed to my inbox. Which I accessed by my iPhone because I was on vacation at the time. (Tangents. Gnats. See what I mean?)
Anyway…. a woman I’d met a year or two ago at that writers’ retreat I couldn’t afford – a woman I’d have bet wouldn’t have remembered my name! – had recommended me, via my new website, to someone she knew who knew someone else who was looking for … you guessed it, a writer. And not just any writer, but one with a very specific combination of interests, combined with – get this – an ability to go off on creative tangents. TANGENTS? I am so there. And then, around the same time, my agent and I found some potential homes for the numerous manuscripts I’ve got collecting dust on my hard drive.
Slouch and moan? Who has the time?
All of which is to say that after a very long dry spell, synchronicity has struck again, reminding me that the first rule for success in any creative endeavour is to just hang in there.
Eventually the competition will give up. Or die.
Then they’ll have to publish me.
So, I was in the pharmacy line-up the other day. I wasn’t picking up a prescription, and it wasn’t urgent, so I could have gone through the regular check-out, but after a few moments, my curiosity was piqued. The woman ahead of me sounded like she might give me some material and boy, was I ever right.
Just think: pharmacists go to school for this…
WOMAN: (middle-aged, matronly) Hello? (banging on bell)
PHARMACIST: (young, earnest, harried) Yes, how can I help you?
WOMAN: That girl told me she’d get my pills, and then she disappeared.
PHARMACIST: Let me take a look. Hm. (Picks up the bag on the counter.) These?
WOMAN: No, not those! I’ve already paid for those. A different one.
PHARMACIST: I don’t see them here. When did you drop it off?
WOMAN: I didn’t drop it off, I called it in.
PHARMACIST: Oh. Did you tell her that?
WOMAN: I don’t know! Are they here?
PHARMACIST: When did you call it in?
WOMAN: Earlier today. Or maybe yesterday. Is that important?
PHARMACIST: Here we go. Thyroid medication, correct?
WOMAN: Yes! Good, I need my pills. Here, I forgot some other things, too.
PHARMACIST: Certainly. Do you need a bag for five cents?
WOMAN: No. I’ll pay debit.
PHARMACIST: That’s a credit card, Ma’am.
WOMAN: Oh. (switches cards, fumbles with machine)
PHARMACIST: It’s a chip card, Ma’am. You’ll have to insert it at the bottom. (ahem) The other way. (pause) Let’s try again. It looks like a PIN error.
WOMAN: This isn’t working! I’ll pay cash. (exchange of bills and change)
PHARMACIST: Here you go, have a nice day. (reaches for the ringing phone)
WOMAN: Wait. You forgot my shampoo. (removes it from behind her other purchases)
PHARMACIST: Of course.
WOMAN: I’ll pay debit again.
PHARMACIST: That’s a credit card, Ma’am. And you’ll have to turn it around so you can insert the chip – the little shiny square – into the machine. The other way, Ma’am.
WOMAN: So complicated. There we go. Oh. (Looking down at her prescription while pharmacist prints receipt). Wait. What’s this? It says here that I have to take this twice a day.
WOMAN: I can’t remember that! How am I supposed to remember that?
PHARMACIST: One in the morning and one at night.
WOMAN: But I only take my pills in the morning! And, oh, what’s this little label? “Do not take within four hours of eating.” I’ve never seen this before. How am I supposed to do that? I can’t skip breakfast!
PHARMACIST: Well, maybe you could take your pill a little earlier? Or eat breakfast later?
WOMAN: I get up at 7:20 and I eat breakfast at 8.
PHARMACIST: If you could hold off eating until 9 am, that would probably be enough.
WOMAN: But it says four hours! That’s not four hours. I don’t understand.
PHARMACIST: It works best on an empty stomach, so the closer you can get to four hours, the better.
WOMAN: And look! “Do not take with dairy products.” I eat yogurt for breakfast! When did this happen? Why can’t I have dairy products? Does this mean my thyroid pills aren’t working?
PHARMACIST: (looking anxiously at the ringing phone) It’s a matter of optimal absorption, ma’am. It’s a standard precaution. Milk products, vitamin and mineral supplements, they should all be taken separately from prescription medications.
WOMAN: Wait. VITAMINS TOO? I always take my vitamin pill at the same time as my thyroid pill! At breakfast! With my yogurt!
PHARMACIST: Perhaps you could take your vitamin pill at night, ma’am.
WOMAN: How am I supposed to remember that? How do I even know my pills are working? Maybe I’m wasting my money?
PHARMACIST: Your doctor will check your thyroid levels and change your dose if necessary. She’ll probably want you to be on it for a few weeks, first, though. When did you start the medication?
PHARMACIST: (pause) You should be fine, in that case.
WOMAN: So I can take it with my breakfast, then?
PHARMACIST: (gathers her patience) The longer you can wait, the better it’ll be absorbed into your system. If you can avoid dairy products and supplements, it’ll be absorbed better into your system. You’ll have the most consistent results if you take it twice daily, twelve hours apart.
WOMAN: Twelve hours? What? I’ve never heard this before. Do I have to set an alarm?
PHARMACIST: (eyeing the line-up nervously) Morning and night, ma’am. Before breakfast, and before bed.
WOMAN: Oh. But you said not within four hours of eating. (counting on fingers) Am I supposed to get up at 3 am in the morning to take my pill?
PHARMACIST: Ma’am, if you took your pill the moment you woke up, and then waited as long as possible to eat, that would probably be fine.
WOMAN: So I can still have yogurt?
PHARMACIST: (helplessly) Ma’am? Perhaps you should talk to your doctor.
WOMAN: Oh, I’m not worried. (laughs) I’ve been doing it this way since I started, after all.
PHARMACIST: If there’s nothing else then…
WOMAN: Oh, actually, I need toothpaste, too.
PHARMACIST: (facilitates transaction silently, but with extraordinary speed) Have a nice day then.
WOMAN: You know what? I think I need a bag, after all.
PHARMACIST: Of course you do.
WOMAN: Let me see if I can find a nickel.
PHARMACIST: Don’t worry about it. Here’s a bag. On the house. Good-bye ma’am. Can I help the next person in line? PLEASE?
Alright, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t have eavesdropped on the conversation, but, really, would YOU have walked away?
…or does this drive anyone else nuts, too?
You’re in the kitchen, cooking dinner for the spawn. Mate is due home anytime and you’re running late. The phone rings. You turn down the heat on the pasta sauce.
“Hello?” You stir the sauce, phone propped between shoulder and ear. “Hello!”
Nobody there. You turn the heat back up and start the water boiling for the spaghetti. Phone rings again.
“Hello!” you snap.
“Hello?” says a voice on the other end. You don’t recognize it.
“Who is this?” There’s a suspicious smell coming from the stove.
“Hello? Is this Liz? I’m looking for Liz.”
“No Liz here!” You stir the sauce, which is now sticking to the the pan. The water is boiling, so you toss in the estimated amount of pasta, which you know won’t be the right amount, but whatever.
The phone rings again.
No voice on the other end.
“Still no Liz here,” you say, before hitting the button, wishing there was a way to slam down a cordless phone.
Then. It. Rings. Again.
You take a deep breath. “Liz died!!” 411, moron. Look it up.
A pause. Then, “Honey? What’s going on?”
Not a single phone call all day long, but the moment you get involved in something time sensitive, it’s a fricking alarm clock.
You hear laughter. From behind him. He’s not listening to you.
“I’m in a bar,” he says, interrupting you.
“What do you want? Spit it out! I’m busy!” He doesn’t hear you. Although to be fair, how could he? It’s seriously loud in there. Loud enough that he can’t hear you, you can barely hear him. In fact, why the hell did he call in the first place.
“Is there supper tonight?” he yells. Happy hour’s come and gone, you think.
“There would be,” you yell back, “but I keep getting interrupted.”
“I can’t hear ya, babe,” he says, laughing at something someone else is yelling. “I’m gonna hang out here for awhile. Is that okay? Love you!”
He hangs up. The pasta sauce is burning. The noodles are boiling over.
I could kill him with my brain.
I have a tendency to mordant thoughts: you know, the cruelty of school children, the inevitability of loss and the utter futility of pretending your existence matters, in the big picture . Yes, really. You should see me at a party. (Also, what to do about that gross stuff that accumulates on the inside of the dishwasher. It makes me gag. Plus, how are you supposed to reach it??)
And right now, I’m feeling extremely sorry for myself. Poor, poor me.
Anyway, because, as I may have mentioned, I’ve buggered my elbow, I won’t go on and on here. I’m supposed to limit my usage of said elbow. But in case any of you’ve missed her episode on depression, Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half captured my mental malaise perfectly. (Sistah from anothah mistah? Hm.)
Last spring, I did 100 consecutive days of Bikram Yoga. 90 minutes of sweating, bending, sticking, stinking yoga, every day for a for more than three months straight. I was invincible, toned, and annoyingly vocal about the benefits of Bikram Yoga. Everyone should do it, I proclaimed. (Well, everyone without a heart condition.)
The heat and humidity are brutal, but as far as the postures go, it’s relatively easy. Breathing exercises, standing postures, balancing postures, a few lying on your back, a few lying on your belly, a final twist and Bob’s your uncle. No inversions, no planks, no dogs facing anywhere.
So in 100 days, I got all bendy and strong and self-righteous.
Then I made a crucial error. I took a break. Straw #1.
Also, I started Extreme Gardening again, which I count as exercise, but in fact, a repetitive injury scenario. Straw #2.
In fall, a new, non-hot yoga studio opened, and my husband agreed to accompany me. (He’s convinced hot yoga will kill me, and he’s refused to be there to witness it.) I was all gung-ho to get bendy again and eagerly threw myself into the deep end. After all, I know what I’m doing. This is old hat for me, piffling yoga compared to the truly hard stuff. (Yoga’s not competitive, my eye.)
I forgot about the inversions. Downward-Facing Dog, to be specific. Third and last straw.
Imagine doing a push-up. Got it? Now, hike your butt up into the air, until your body forms an upside-down V. Keep your legs and arms straight, and your head between your elbows. (Hello, Dog? You had me at “push-up.”)
Inversions have been a problem for me before. I did a head-stand (yeah, I DID!) only a few years ago, during an Iyengar class. I had various bands and straps and blocks and braces holding me together, but the fact is, I got up and stayed up.
Then I came down and couldn’t move my neck. No more head-stands for me, said my chiropractor.
Well, this time, I modified my postures but continued doing them. Then, after escalating pain and swelling in my elbow, I attempted to use my curling iron and just like that, I couldn’t bend or straighten my right arm. (I know in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem. But try brushing your teeth with your unhandy hand. Try blowing your nose. There are limits to the level of spousal assistance I’m prepared to ask for.)
“Tennis elbow,” said the doctor at the walk-in clinic. “Take drugs and rest it.”
“Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow,” said the massage therapist. “Ice it and rest it.”
“Hm,” said my chiropractor, digging his fingers around my medial and lateral epicondyles (buggered) and triceps tendon (buggered.) “I think the main problem,” he said, pressing the head of the ultrasound machine into the joint, “is olecranon bursitis.” Basically, if it’s in my elbow, it’s buggered.
The warmth and pressure felt good, so good, I let my guard down. “A little adjustment,” he added, just before whacking the joint straight with the heel of his hand. Did I mention that I can’t straighten or bend my arm?
“No more Downward-Facing Dog,” he advised, once the screaming stopped. Also, no more push-ups, no planks, no shoveling snow or washing my car by hand. (Rats.) No golf or tennis. (Darn it all.) No hand-holding, enthusiastic waves, or sudden pointing. (Fortunately, if I’m careful, I can type just fine.)
And as soon as I can, I’m going back to the hot room. Pop-Eye’s Elbow? No thank YOU.
What do William Shakespeare, Neil Diamond, Annie Dillard, Tom Brokaw, Lisa Kudrow and Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis have in common? They fall into the same Myers-Briggs personality category as ME! It’s true. We’re all Introverted-iNtuitive-Feeling-Perceiving kinds of people. (Although I have to wonder exactly how they got Will to take the test.)
If you’ve never done this test, or haven’t done it for some time, try this version here. It’s called the Jung Typology test. 72 yes/no questions, it doesn’t take much time, and it’s free.
At the end, you’ll get an assessment of your personality that includes:
- Your type formula according to Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers typology along with the strengths of the preferences.
- The description of your personality type.
- The list of occupations most suitable for your personality type.
These kind of things amaze and fascinate me – which isn’t surprising, given my score. But it’s so consistent! There are always questions in these type of surveys that are easy to answer, such as:
a) Do you prefer to act immediately rather than speculate about various options?…. NO. I want to speculate. For as long as possible. Back and forth. There are many things to consider, you know.
b) Do you prefer meeting in small groups to interaction with lots of people?….. YES. The smaller the better. In fact, do dogs count?
c) Is your desk, workbench etc. usually neat and orderly?…. NO. Have you seen my desk? (Seriously. I know it’s here somewhere.)
Then again, there are always questions that I have to read over several times before I even understand them. And then, I’m not sure which way to answer, possibly because of a) above. Like these:
d) Do you easily perceive various ways in which events could develop?… um, I might perceive a few ways, depending on the situation.
e) When considering a situation, do you pay more attention to the current situation and less to a possible sequence of events?… as in what, can I tell the future? Well duh. Can’t everyone?
f) Do you like to keep a check on how things are progressing?… what things? A watched pot? That line that fills in on the download screen? Do I look for grey hairs? Weigh myself repeatedly? What does this mean??
But here’s the thing. I’m as honest as I can be with the easy ones. And with the others, I try. Then I go back and do it over, several times, changing some of the answers I feel uncertain of. And no matter how I changed things, and how many times I did it, how many combinations and permutations, it always comes out the same. The percentages in each category changed somewhat, but I still landed in the INFP camp. I guess, like Popeye, I yam what I yam. (I wonder what category he’s in?)
Less than 10% of the population falls into the Introverted-iNtuitive categories. (Be kind to us. We’re lonely.)
What category are you?
A+ for a creative – if slightly disturbing – history assignment. And major props to the teacher for sending students out into the Twitterverse.
1. Unit 4 (Bay of Pigs)
Slaughtered the one and only CIA! Sent them running with their tails between their legs. #Cuba4THEWIN
DATS WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ‘BOUT!! #Cubarocks #HowdoesthatfeelUSA
Dear God… #WHATHAVEWEDONE
Sorry you had to find out this way. #CubaStillRocks
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?! #You’reinBIGtrouble #JKcomeforwardPLS
Oooh, you’s in trooouubbllee… #Wouldn’tWantToBeAmericanRightNow
Deep trouble! I feel ya, man. JK you suck!! Oink, oink!! #AndSoItWasDecreed…
2. Unit 5 (6 day war)
Greatest territories gained by Israel in SIX FREAKING DAYS!! Where the party at?? #WE’RENUMBER1
Call Guinness, this has to be a record. #kickingsome@$$
Fo Shizzle. #ICanFinallyPutInThatPool
WTF WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?! #OutOfTheLoop #USUCK
Snooze you lose, bubba! #AwkwardButAwesome
IMMA KILL U #RevengeIsBestServedANYTIME
Use proper English, please. #HateAbbreviations
You know where you can shove that? You stupid little—
Whoaa, no need for name calling! Let’s be civil here. #Didn’tYourMotherEverTellYou…
OKAY NOW YOU’RE ASKING FOR IT. #KeepMyEyepatchOutOfIt!!
Sooo…we kind of have no place to live… #Nomorepovertypls
I’m getting to it. #JUSTGIVEMEAMINUTE
What’s all this then? #WWIIIPLEASE
Nothing!! Absolutely nothing!! #Can’tAnyoneKeepASecretAnymore
3. Unit 6 (Rosa Parks)
Soooo I got kicked off the bus today because I wouldn’t give up my seat to this middle aged white woman with a serious stick up her @$$. #FML
Ouch. We should go protest!! #TimeIsNow
Dude. No one’s blowing up anything. Chill. #NotThatMad
No violence? I applaud you. #Let’sTalkAboutOurFeelings
Omg can we just stop with the sweet talk already? Or is the plan to kill all the racists with diabetes? #TalkingDoesNOTHING
The goal is to not kill anything, young grasshopper. #UseYourWords
WTF why didn’t you just give up your seat?? #PeepleRStoopid
STFU AND GTFO. #WellSaid
“Only what is really oneself has the power to heal.” – C.G. Jung
Last spring, my daughter invited an acquaintance over to the house to bake cookies. They lived in the same neighbourhood, shared a few university classes and the impecunious eye of a hopeful gas-saver. By the time they’d taken the last batch from the oven, they’d agreed to car-pool.
But it didn’t last.
The day after their cookie-baking date, the friend discovered she was ill. Really ill.
This week, barely six months after her diagnosis, she died.
My daughter visited her early on, before it became apparent that this was not a get-well-soon kind of illness. They hadn’t passed the superficial stages of early friendship and death is nothing if not intimate. Besides, what do you say to someone who had the same plans as you, but won’t even be here a year from now? Or a month from now? How do you claim one second of the time left for idle conversation?
I don’t know the family, and can’t pretend to know what they have gone through, and will continue to go through. But I think I can imagine.
I think every parent can imagine.
It’s what makes us lie awake at night until all the cars are back, what makes us freak out when a cell phone goes unanswered, what makes our heart-rate skyrocket each time the phone rings at an odd hour and we can’t mentally check off everyone as safe and sound.
We can imagine, because from the moment they come to us, we know fear. We can never, ever be absolutely certain that they are safe and sound. The fear of loss changes a person.
My daughter is in nursing school. In her career, she will see all sorts of people in all sorts of extreme situations. She won’t be able to claim she knows what they’re going through, but she will be able to imagine a tiny fraction of their pain.
And she will be a better healer for it.
On Tuesday, January 24 at around 9:15 am, radio host Joan Cameron will be reading a chapter from my book Great Cat Stories. Appropriately enough at this time of year, the chapter she’s reading is called “The Cold, Hostile Streets.” It’s about the work of a woman named Linda Jean Gubbe, founder of Street Cat Rescue of Saskatoon or, as it’s commonly known, SCAT.
Having spent my childhood in Saskatchewan, I understand a bit about the coldness, if not the hostility, of the streets. I’ve seen my share of cats with frostbitten ears and tails. And the arctic front we’re experiencing in the Fraser Valley this week is a good reminder that, for all my complaining, my loved ones and I – including our four cats and three dogs – are fortunate to be safe and warm. Not everyone is.
Thank you, Linda Jean, for helping the cats.
And thank you, Joan Cameron, for spreading the word.
You’ll be glad you did.
Yes, there’s really a dog underneath all that snow-covered hair. He loves the snow because, hello, snowBALLS! It’s like the world is covered with potential toys for throwing, catching, chasing, eating. It’s all good, as far as he’s concerned.
Except for the snowballs that collect on his legs. Once he starts walking like an old Texas cow-hand, I know it’s time to bring him in for the big melt-down.
Yesterday was fun, the snow was pretty and clean, we were all excited about a snow day.
Today’s blizzard, not fun. My fingers haven’t been this cold since I left the prairies. I’ve had my fill of shoveling. And I can’t get out to yoga to fix up all my sore muscles because a) I can’t get off the mountain and b) the yoga classes are cancelled. Because of the SNOW.
It’s been a slice, Old Man Winter. Can we be done now?
So I was in the grocery store the other day with Pik, the youngest of my spawn, known collectively as “The Saffrines.” I brought her along for Sherpa duty… I mean, mother-daughter bonding time. Okay, to shut down the “there’s nothing to eat in this house” refrain.
It wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped. She’d brought her cell phone.
“Can you help me out?” I asked, trying not to sound petulant. “I don’t know what kind of cereal you want.”
“Sure, in a sec,” she said. She was ten steps behind me, texting madly, a pound of honey-coloured curls between her and reality. I rounded the corner. Any minute now, she was going to be run over, and I didn’t want to see it. Fine. She could eat toast.
In the baking aisle, she caught up with me, and I tried again. “Do you know if we’re out of baking powder?”
She lifted impossibly wide, blue eyes up at me.
“Baking powder. Do you know if we’re out?”
She frowned. “What’s that?”
I frowned back. “You baked cookies yesterday. You use it all the time. Baking. Powder.”
“Mother,” she said. “I Don’t. Know What. That Is.”
I swung around to point at the shelves. “Seriously. Look at the container. You don’t recognize it at all??”
“Oh!” The light dawned over her gentle features. “Baking powder!”
“That’s what I said!!”
She laughed. “I thought you said bacon powder.”
Yep. True story.
… to hurt, or to heal. Please, watch this….
Best part of being a writer? You can take a nap whenever you want, and still get your pages in. In fact, stay in bed all day, who cares? Got my dog, my phone, my new iPod, and my trusty AlphaSmart Neo. And, since I’m neither dead nor in a coma, I got my 2000 words in, which puts me over the 50K mark.
Worst part of being a writer? Technology removes all our excuses.
And now? Hm, I think it’s time to lie down.
I passed the 10,000 word mark earlier today, which means I’m well on track to completing the first draft of a 50K-word manuscript. I’m actually aiming for 70-75K, which is a typical length for a work of contemporary commercial fiction.
I’ve been studying plot and structure for the past few years, since that’s the toughest part of the craft for me. Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure. Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Screenwriters Michael Hauge and Alexandra Sokoloff. Robin Perini’s Discovering Story Magic. Between these and many others, I’ve patched together a storyboard-and-index-card method that – SO FAR – seems to be working.
Hopefully, I’m not jinxing myself, here.
This is what my writing work-space looks like:
This big newsprint sheet is my “template” of where I need to have certain structural elements, and at what percentage of the story, according to the final word/page count I intend my book to be. It’s all very mathematical and smart. I like it a lot.
Then I lay out my index cards, one for each chapter. I want 20 chapters in total, allotted as follows: five in Act I, 10 in Act II, five in Act III.
The cards marked with red are for Act Climaxes. As I write the actual text, on my laptop, I make notes of the scenes on the appropriate index card. This helps me keep track of what happens when, and where, so that it’s easier to write my synopsis later. This also allows me to write scenes out of order, without getting completely messed up. You might notice that I’ve got a scene written in Chapter 7, even though I haven’t written Chapters 4, 5 or 6 yet.
Isn’t it kewl?
6014 words. Need yoga.
Reminder to self: some of these NaNo drafts will end up as published books. Sara Gruen wrote the first draft of Water for Elephants during National Novel Month.
I can do this.
It’s tasty, yes. But I bought it for the name.
The following post may contain content boring to men and the general public. Hopefully there are middle-aged mothers out there who can relate. Nevertheless, reader discretion advised.
A Day in Menopause-Land, a suburb of Crazy-Town
7:30 am: Drive youngest Saffrine to school. See Why You Shouldn’t Talk in the Morning. Cry a little. I used to be such a good mother.
10:30 am: Finish current day-job tasks. Am now free for writing. Or Tetris.
10:35 am: Begin plotting story for National Novel Writing Month. Feel virtuous for removing Tetris from Facebook.
10:36 am: Plotting is hard.
10:37 am: Simply cannot work with current tools. Brain seizes upon the notebooks recommended by Ivan Coyote at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Nothing else will do. Gather journal and other materials for coffee-shop writing, once notebooks have been acquired. I have a Plan! This Day I WRITE!
10:45 am: Do hair, make-up, put on power shoes. Look successful, be successful.
10:46 am: Blot face, following hot-flash brought on by hubris.
11:00 am: Staples in town does not have the aforementioned notebooks. Must go to next town, a half-hour away. There is no option. My focus is laser-sharp and unbreakable. Plus, I’m all dressed up. I can’t go back home.
Noon-ish: Second Staples store, no luck. Mall, no luck. Side-streets I took accidentally because I’m directionally-challenged, no luck. Feet starting to hurt. Worse, I pass a young woman with happy, blonde toddler. Wave of nostalgia comes over me. I was her, once. My Saffrines looked just like that! Did I enjoy it sufficiently? Did I treasure those precious years? Did I make macaroni collages with them? No, I did NOT! I should have another baby.
12:15 pm: Repair make-up in car. Give head a shake. New baby would require new husband. And new brain. Also, ovarian function.
12:20 pm: Go to Chapters for a restorative book browse. Perhaps caffeine. Feeling a little shaky. After shopping, I will calm myself by journaling my thoughts. Yes. I will Write.
1:00 pm: No tables in Starbucks.
1:30 pm: Go to nearby heritage town where there are cafes aplenty, all of them cute, independent and NOT CROWDED. See more serene mothers with happy babies, all wearing natural fibres and using non-violent voices. Come on! Where are the scary-eyed ones?? And why didn’t strollers have cup holders when I had babies??
2:00 pm: Latte and soup in a delightful antique store/cafe. The quiet soothes my ravaged soul.
2:15 pm: Have written one line in my journal, mostly expletives, when the antique doorbell tinkles, and a group of people enter. I attempt to ignore them. This Day I WRITE!
2:20 pm: Hard to ignore, as they are moving furniture. One of them carries a clip-board and a bull-horn. Turns out the quiet, tucked-away cafe I chose for my rare day of out-of-the-house writing is hosting a movie shoot. Yes, today. Seriously.
2:25 pm: Walk back down cute heritage-town streets back to car. Feet now throbbing.
2:26 pm: Start car but don’t know where to go. Anywhere but home. Still haven’t gotten any writing done! Consider following highway until I run out of gas. Who would miss me anyway? Put head on wheel and sob! In an earlier life, this would be PMS. But I haven’t done That in seven months, so it’s “just” menopause. Hurray.
2:27 pm: “Cat’s in the Cradle” come on the radio. Weep for lost opportunities. Better not drive yet. “Butterfly Kisses” comes on next. Switch to traffic station. After all, there’s a tw0-hour parking limit.
2:30 pm: Hot flash and with it, existential panic. Chest tightens. I can hear my pulse in my ears. Am I having a heart attack? I can’t have a heart attack yet! I have too much left to do! My Mr(Always)Right is already wildly successful. The Saffrines are on their roads to success, their lives ahead of them, full of promise and potential. Me, I’m just on the road. Driving. To Crazy-Town.
2:31 pm: I miss my exit, which seems somehow fitting.
2:32 pm: Remember Pic is waiting for after-school ride. Call Hic to do it, since I can’t, having fallen into my own navel. Motherhood skills definitely on the wane.
2:45 pm: My day of writing and notebook acquisition has been an utter wash. Although I did find a new brand of underwear which I am hopeful will change my life.
3:00 pm: Take one last swing through local Staples, on a whim, since I took the wrong exit and all. And VOILA! How did I miss them the first time around? Ivan was right. These are so cool! Surely this will be the tool that catapults my writing career to stardom!
3:31 pm: Realize that I’ve wasted an entire day. A day I can ill-afford to waste because, hello, I’m not getting any younger! The next heart attack could be real!
3:32 pm: Crazy-Town, here I come!
3:33 pm: Mental slap upside head. Get a grip. Seriously. You know that Everything’s Fine. This is just Life. It’s called a Mid-Life Crisis for a reason.
4:00 pm: Remind myself that Crazy-Town is populated by some very nice people, many of them writers.
Plus, in about a month, I’ll be able to drive there in my new car.
After all, if you’re gonna be a cliche, you might as well enjoy it!
Excerpt from an actual conversation with one of the Saffrines this morning. (If you’ve missed our earlier episodes, this is how I’m now referring to my spawn, in order to mask their identities. When specificity is necessary, they shall be known as Owodunni – Yoruban for “it is good to have money,” Hiccup and Potsticker. Or, for brevity, Hic, Pick and Otis.)
Anyway. The conversation this morning.
Me: “I’m going to Office Depot today. You need anything?
Saffrine: “Um, yeah, I need mechanical pencils.”
Me: “I think I’ve got some in my office. Have you checked there?”
Saffrine: “I usually just refill the ones I’ve got, but I’m almost out of the little lead refills.”
Me: “So you need me to get mechanical pencil REFILLS?”
Saffrine: “No. I need mechanical pencils.”
Me: “Are your mechanical pencils broken?”
Saffrine: “No, but I’m almost out of refills!”
Me: “I understand that. So, you’re telling me you don’t want to refill the ones you’ve got anymore, and you don’t want to use the ones in my office. Correct?”
Saffrine: “I just need more mechanical pencils.”
Me: “I don’t understand why you can’t refill the ones you’ve got, since you’ve been doing that already, and I can buy refills.”
Saffrine: “Fine. Don’t buy me mechanical pencils.”
Me: “I don’t mind buying you mechanical pencils. I’m happy to buy them for you. Nothing would give me greater pleasure at this moment than to dump a box of mechanical pencils onto your lap. I’m simply experiencing some confusion over the lead refill issue.”
Saffrine, looking at me with that mix of irritation and concern that makes you want to drop-kick them: “Mom. You do understand that when you buy mechanical pencils, they come with lead, right?”
That’s when I gave up.
It’s Wednesday, the third day after returning from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and I do feel somewhat like I’ve risen from the dead. (Or maybe it’s because my kids got me into watching Walking Dead. Which is awesome… and I don’t even LIKE zombies.)
But the past year for me has been something of a dead zone. Like various bits and pieces of my life have been stuck on “pause.” Like I’m living in that ominous time between the flash and boom that lets you know how close you are to the storm. (“Pause?” “Flash?” Duh. Try “menopause.”)
This conference, and the friends I meet up with there every year, brings me back to life. You know who you are – or maybe you don’t. Our interactions might be brief and maybe I met you this year for the first time, but you did something that helped me believe in myself again.
Pam Patchett, my eloquent and thoughtful friend – and fellow dog-lover – on the other side of the country, who is so generous with her hugs, and whom I never get to spend enough time with! Deb Andersonwho always has the coolest hair, and so much energy!
Sheri Hart who I only met last year but I feel like I’ve known for much longer, Nick Andreychuk who always inspires me with his productivity and cool ideas, the whole gang at the RWA Greater Vancouver Chapter…. and then, of course, the Big Name Authors…
… the Celebrities who inspire We’re-Not-Worthy Fan-girl moments … after which everyone settles down to have an ordinary conversation over butter chicken.
After all, wherever we are on the path of publication, we’re all writers struggling with the same stuff:
Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
Sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.
Thank you, my friends, for reminding me that I’m not alone.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re going about your day, minding your own business, your body doing all it’s usual breathing and digesting with absolutely no conscious instruction on your part. Then suddenly your epiglottis gets distracted, misses a cue and there you are: choking on your own spit.
Not just a little tickle, either. I’m talking about the alarming fits that are especially precious during funerals and job interviews. I had to leave the front row of a crowded – and silent – lecture hall this past weekend at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference for one of these interludes. Thank you, body. That’s not quite how I envisioned earning name recognition.
I can understand inhaling food or beverages. That’s just inappropriate multi-tasking – the choker was probably talking with a full mouth. I’ve done that too. Karma. I get it.
But spit? With no warning? There’s no reason for that!
And why do these episodes usually progress to full-blown, tears-streaming down your face, voice gone, coughing fits that only end with that horrible gag-belch-cough?
I hate it when that happens.
People who blog regularly are divided on how much to share, how much to keep quiet. “I never post pictures of my kids,” says one blogger who refers to her kids as Freebird and Bubba online. That makes sense, with weird kid stalkers and all out there.
“I never write about health stuff,” says another. “That’s just gross.” See, now I find health stuff fascinating. The grosser, the better. Sorry, but sooner or later, I’ll write about my own medical adventures (I want “I told you I was sick” carved on my headstone.)
So the concept of overshare gives me pause. I decided that perhaps I need to censor myself occasionally, for the sake of my offspring, who may or may not have reputations they’d prefer to ruin themselves.
I mentioned it to my daughters, who shall hereby be known as Hiccup, Potsticker and Owodunni (Yoruban for “it is good to have money.” We believe in head starts.) AKA Hic, Pik and Otis.
“Oh god,” moaned Hiccup. “She’s gonna give us crazy nicknames.”
“Yeah,” added Potsticker. “Something stupid. Like Saffrine.”
Don’t worry, Hic and Pik, your identity is safe with me.
PS: Saffrine’s looking pretty good right now, isn’t it??
30 minutes post blog-publishing:
“Moooom,” complained Potsticker. “You screwed up our nicknames.”
“Yeah,” said Hiccup. “I said ‘Saffrine,’ not her.”
Yes, you read correctly. They are arguing over who gets credit for a non-existent pseudonym.
Right now, Saffrine is my favourite child.
To all the artists in the world: THANK YOU!
… or at least, not for this dude. The following ad has been circulating amongst yoga enthusiasts for awhile and I first read it on my studio newsletter. It’s awesome!
Yoga mat for sale. Used once at lunch hour class in December 2009. Usage timeline as follows:
Register for hot yoga class. Infinite wisdom tells me to commit to 5 class package and purchase a yoga mat. I pay $89.74. Money well spent, I smugly confirm to myself.
Open door to yoga room. A gush of hot dry air rushes through and past me. It smells of breath, sweat and hot. Take spot on floor in back of room next to cute blonde. We will date.
I feel the need to be as near to naked as possible. This is a problem because of the hot blonde to my left and our pending courtship. She will not be pleased to learn that I need to lose 30 pounds before I propose to her.
The shirt and sweats have to come off. I throw caution to the wind and decide to rely on my wit and conditioning to overcome any weight issues my fiancée may take issue with. This will take a lot of wit and conditioning.
Begin small talk with my bride to be. She pretends to ignore me but I know how she can be. I allow her to concentrate and stare straight ahead and continue to pretend that I don’t exist. As we finish sharing our special moment, I am suddenly aware of a sweat moustache that has formed below my nose. This must be from the all the whispering between us.
Instructor enters the room and ascends her special podium at the front of the room. She is a slight, agitated Chinese woman. She introduces me to the class and everyone turns around to greet me just as I decide to aggressively adjust my penis and testes packed in my Under Armor. My bride is notably unfazed.
Since I do have experience with Hot Yoga (4 sessions just 5 short years ago) I fully consider that I may be so outstanding and skilled that my instructor may call me out and ask me to guide the class. My wife will look on with a sparkle in her eye. We will make love after class.
It is now up to 95 degrees in the room. We have been practicing deep breathing exercises for the last 8 minutes. This would not be a problem if we were all breathing actual, you know, oxygen. Instead, we are breathing each other’s body odor, expelled carbon dioxide and other unmentionables. (Don’t worry, I’ll mention them later.)
It is now 100 degrees and I take notice of the humidity, which is hovering at about 90%. I feel the familiar adorning stare of my bride and decide to look back at her. She appears to be nauseated. I then realize that I forgot to brush my teeth prior to attending this class. We bond.
It is now 110 degrees and 95% humidity. I am now balancing on one leg with the other leg crossed over the other. My arms are intertwined and I am squatting. The last time I was in this position was 44 years ago in the womb, but I’m in this for the long haul. My wife looks slightly weathered dripping sweat and her eyeliner is streaming down her face. Well, “for better or worse” is what we committed to so we press on.
The overweight Hispanic man two spots over has sweat running down his legs. At least I think its sweat. He is holding every position and has not had a sip of water since we walked in. He is making me look bad and I hate him.
I consider that if anyone in this room farted that we would all certainly perish.
It is now 140 degrees and 100% humidity. I am covered from head to toe in sweat. There is not a square millimeter on my body that is not slippery and sweaty. I am so slimy that I feel like a sea lion or a maybe sea eel. Not even a bear trap could hold me. The sweat is stinging my eyeballs and I can no longer see.
This room stinks of asparagus, cloves, tuna and tacos. There is no food in the room. I realize that this is an amalgamation of the body odors of 30 people in a 140 degree room for the last 55 minutes. Seriously, enough with the asparagus, ok?
140 degrees and 130% humidity. Look, bitch, I need my space here so don’t get all pissy with me if I accidentally sprayed you with sweat as I flipped over. Seriously, is that where this relationship is going? Get over yourself. We need counseling and she needs to be medicated. Stat!
150 degrees and cloudy. And hot. I can no longer move my limbs on my own. I have given up on attempting any of the commands this Chinese chick is yelling out at us. I will lay sedentary until the aid unit arrives. I will buy this building and then have it destroyed.
I lose consciousness.
I have a headache and my wife is being a selfish bitch. I can’t really breathe. All I can think about is holding a cup worth of hot sand in my mouth. I cannot remember what an ice cube is and cannot remember what snow looks like. I consider that my only escape might be a crab walk across 15 bodies and then out of the room. I am paralyzed, and may never walk again so the whole crab walk thing is pretty much out.
I cannot move at all and cannot reach my water. Is breathing voluntary or involuntary? If it’s voluntary, I am screwed. I stopped participating in the class 20 minutes ago. Hey, lady! I paid for this frickin class, ok?! You work for me! Stop yelling at everyone and just tell us a story or something. It’s like juice and cracker time, ok?
It is now 165 degrees and moisture is dripping from the ceiling. The towel that I am laying on is no longer providing any wicking or drying properties. It is actually placing additional sweat on me as I touch it. My towel reeks. I cannot identify the smell but no way can it be from me. Did someone spray some stank on my towel or something?
Torture session is over. I wish hateful things upon the instructor. She graciously allows us to stay and ‘cool down’ in the room. It is 175 degrees. Who cools down in 175 degrees? A Komodo Dragon? My wife has left the room. Probably to throw up.
My opportunity to escape has arrived. I roll over to my stomach and press up to my knees. It is warmer as I rise up from ground level – probably by 15 degrees. So let’s conservatively say it’s 190. I muster my final energy and slowly rise. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. Towards the door. Towards the door.
The temperature in the lobby is 72 degrees. Both nipples stiffen to diamond strength and my penis begins to retract into my abdomen from the 100 degree temp swing. I can once again breathe though so I am pleased. I spot my future ex wife in the lobby. We had such a good thing going but I know that no measure of counseling will be able to unravel the day’s turmoil and mental scaring.
Arrive at Emerald City Smoothie and proceed to order a 32 oz beverage. 402 calories, 0 fat and 14 grams of protein — effectively negating any caloric burn or benefit from the last 90 minutes. I finish it in 3 minutes and spend the next 2 hours writing this memoir.
Create Craigslist ad while burning final 2 grams of protein from Smoothie and before the “shakes” consume my body.
Note to self – check car for missing wet yoga towel in am.
… I miss my mind the most.
I don’t know where the joke originated, but I can relate.
Although for me, it’s not my mind, it’s my glasses. Yup, I lost my glasses this morning. (Losing my mind came later.)
Anyone who wears glasses understands the conundrum. How do you look for your glasses when you can’t see to search, because you LOST YOUR GLASSES??
In fact, I have more than one pair, so it wasn’t quite that traumatic. But still, they were my favourite, newest ones, my Juicy Couture frames in a nice cranberry colour. The ones that make me look like Lorraine Bracco.
And seriously. They’re either on my nose, my dresser or my night table. Maybe the bathroom counter. Possibly my car. But that’s it. How far can they go?
My girls gave me that “here she goes again” look when I asked them this morning if they’d seen them. I don’t misplace things as often as I probably should, given my rather loosely organized lifestyle. But it makes me absolutely batcrap crazy when I do. It’s all I can think about.
Why aren’t they where they should be? Why? WHY? Where are they hiding? Where? WHERE??? Am I going blind?? Am I insane?? (This is where my mind started to go.)
Is someone gaslighting me?? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN’T FIND THEM?
They must be in one of the usual spots, right? So I look AGAIN on the bathroom counter, the night-table, the dresser. My car. My office. The laundry room. The kitchen. Nope, nope, no, no, of course not, why are you even looking there??
Then an awful thought dawned on me.
I sometimes set them on the bed before I do my nightly sit-ups.
Quickly I patted down the comforter and the quilt. The usual creases and bumps were there, but nothing resembling crumpled stylish plastic in a flattering cranberry shade. But my spidey senses were tingling.
I slid my hand down between the mattress and the footboard, and voila! there they were, in all their stylish glory, miraculously unharmed and uncrumpled. Instantly I tossed aside my older, unfavourite glasses and put the Juicys back home where they belonged, grateful for the return of both glasses and sanity. (And of course my perfectly composed Dr. Melfy look.)
From now on, they’re either on my nose or the dresser. That’s it.
Maybe the night-table.
Possibly the bathroom counter.
But that’s IT.
Picture the scenario: Man slumps home to his young family after work, barely speaking, shoulders tight, forehead creased.
The actual conversation:
She says: “Are you okay?”
He says: “I’m fine.”
She says: “You look tired.”
He says: “I have a headache.”
She says: “Ouch. Is there anything I can do?”
He says: “No.”
Within this brief interchange is a world of unspoken communication, a whole theatre of marital misunderstanding. Permit me to elucidate.
After 23 years of practice, and the help of a gifted marriage counselor – who can finally put in that pool thanks to us – my husband and I are experts at decoding the murky messages underlying such communications. We may not always choose to use our powers for good, but it’s there for us anyway.
For those of you who may still be struggling with the, for want of a better explanation, language barrier, I’d like to offer up my expertise, free of charge.
Here’s how that brief conversation above plays out, in his experience:
Man comes home to young family after work, slumped, quiet, tense.
She says: “What’s the matter with you? And don’t blame me. I’ve done everything I can do to make your life easier, at incredible personal sacrifice. And you just walked in the door, for god’s sake!”
He thinks: I’m a man. I’m fine. At least, I would be, if you’d get off my back, for one single second. And I just walked in the door, for god’s sake.
He says: “I’m fine, honey, just a little tired. You look very pretty. Can I help with dinner?”
She says: “Don’t ‘pretty’ me. That’ll get you exactly nowhere. You think you’re tired? You don’t know the meaning of the word, buddy. You should try spending a day running after your hell spawn. I hope you’re not hungry because I didn’t have time to get groceries.”
He thinks: Well you clearly didn’t spend your day cleaning. But I should cut her some slack. It’s my fault her life sucks, after all, I got her pregnant. Ah the good old days, when we used to have sex.
He says: “Sorry I’m such a bear, darling. I have a teeny little headache, that’s all. I’ll try not to inconvenience you with my pain.”
She says: “”YOU have a headache? Well, I’VE got a migraine. Why, right now, I believe my head might explode, splat, all over the kitchen. Probably because it’s my time of the month, hormones you know. It’s hell being a woman, you have no idea. Can you watch the kids for a few hours? I need to lie down. I’m cramping. And I blame you.”
He says: “Of course, sweetness, I only wish I could spend more time with our precious angels.” Dang, I’m a good husband. Too bad it won’t get me some.
Here’s how she experiences the same conversation:
She thinks: Uh-oh. Rough day, by the looks of it. I was hoping for some help with the kids, but I guess not.
She says: “Are you okay?
He answers: “I’m fine. I don’t need you. I don’t need anybody.”
She thinks: That hurts, but cut him some slack. Maybe it’s not me. Someone needs to be the bigger person here, and that’s clearly not a Y-chromosome kind of job. But I’ll tell you what, there’s no sex tonight.
She says: “You look tired. Can I rub your feet? I’m hear to listen, if you’d like to talk. Or just be together, quietly. Whatever you need, sweetheart.” Except sex.
He answers: “I have a headache.”
She thinks: Well of course! That explains everything! I’ve had enough headaches in my life to understand just what you need when you’re feeling rough. And you’re a man, so you naturally have a lower pain threshold. I can take care of this.
She says: “Oh poor you! Can I give you a neck massage? Get you an ice pack? Some Advil? Here, sit down, put your feet up.”
She thinks: Dang, I’m a good wife. But you’re still not getting sex.
This is my latest project, for my friend Elizabeth, of Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center.
I always drew and painted as a child, but it wasn’t until after my own daughters had been taking art classes for years, that it occurred to me that I might enjoy taking it up again, myself.
So, a few years ago, I started taking a water-colour class with local artist Donna Senft. And what do you know, I love it!
Recently, I got adventurous with some enormous mixed-media projects. Well, the real reason is the two enormous blank walls in my husband’s new animal hospital, just crying out for some colour. I figured, I might as well take a stab at some BIG decorative canvases. My idea was a little vague, but I thought it could come together into something amazing. Donna always says the great thing about me is that I’m not afraid of the paint. I’ll slap it on any which way, figuring I can always change it later if I don’t like it.
A good thing, as it turned out.
Curious about my process? Here’s a step-by-step, following the progress of three new pictures I did over about a weekend, last month.
I bought three big canvases from Michael’s store, two 24×48, one 24×36.
Before anything else, attach your hangers. You don’t want to do this once the picture’s finished – you might ruin the surface. Tip: unless you have a very brave and trusting toddler, hold those teeny-tiny nails with needle-nosed pliers.
Next, I roughed out the stencil placement.
Then, I prepped each canvas with texture. On a smaller picture I’d use proper artist’s gesso, but at about 10 times the cost, for these big surfaces? Home Depot Polystipple. This is fun. You slop it on any old way, so it creates interesting cracks and crevices for the paint to collect. (Hm. That reminds me, I’m out of lipstick.) But make sure to leave a fairly flat space for the stencil.
Once the texture is dry, cover the surface with a base coat of colour. I used the same paint we used for the walls as my base. I mean the same paint, as in the half-empty cans of latex the painters left for touch-ups. Really, this isn’t fancy.
Then I started adding colour. I’ve got a checker-board theme going, so I continued it here.
I liked how these were coming together. So naturally, I went the next step.
Q: Why wouldn’t you add a crooked swath of blood?
A: Because that’s not the desired ambiance for a veterinary hospital. Duh.
Fortunately, latex is pretty forgiving while it’s wet. I just washed it off, then painted over it.
Once I got the base more or less how I wanted it, I added some droplets, drips and splotches. Acrylic latex is wonderful for this kind of treatment.
Then I got going on the stencils. These are custom designed by The Mad Stencilist, ordered online, shipped to my door. Super convenient.
I had to do a few touch ups around the edges of the letters on this one, but that’s basically it. Voila!
For most people, summertime means enjoying time outside, in the sunshine. Well, maybe not this year so much … but usually.
Some people like to do things like hike the West Coast Trail, or go para-sailing, or bungee-jumping. Others, like me, prefer to pick berries. Perhaps swim in calm water, and then dry off in the sun, with a book. And possibly a glass of wine.
But I’ve taken my share of risks. Glad I did ’em, even gladder I’m done ’em.
For example: Many, many years ago, my husband and I took our staff on a white-water rafting expedition, a team-building/summer party sort of idea. Unfortunately, none of us had ever done this before, and we had no idea what those numbers – Class 1, Class 5 – meant, in terms of danger. For the record, the higher the number, the greater the likelihood of violent death.
Ours was a Class 4-5.
We didn’t figure this out until we’d already driven the three hours it took to get there, undressed in front of a group of hippies, squirmed into our wet suits, signed the waiver stating that we understood any mishap would render our life insurance null and void, leaving our children impoverished orphans, and then listened to the instructions on what to do when – not IF but WHEN! – we got thrown out of the raft, dragged underwater and lodged behind a snag.
Oh well, in for a penny and all that.
The very first thing they did was dump each of us into the lake, so we’d be wet before hitting the river. Now, it was probably around 30 degrees C in the valley, but this is a glacier-fed lake, high up in the mountains. The water was the kind of cold that makes your innards shrivel, your lungs contract, your entire body seize. And this wearing a wet suit. Then, once you’re good and wet, muscles frozen, they tell you to climb back in the raft.
Right. I can’t move enough to stay afloat but I’m going to haul myself up and into a raft.
So, they grabbed me by my wet suit and dragged me back in, like a wounded manatee. The humiliation. Once we were all sufficiently drenched, quaking and aware of our own human frailty, it was time for the fun to begin!
The guide on our raft was an Aussie (aren’t they all??) with a delicious accent, who kept yelling at us whenever we weren’t paddling hard enough. I was having enough trouble hanging on, let alone paddling, so I got yelled at a lot.
Being a good guide and understanding the relationship of entertainment value to his tip, he’d named all the various rapids. The Roller Coaster. The Dragon. The Swirly Whirly. As we came up to each one, he’d call out the name, and then add “OF DEATH.” As in, “Alrighty mates, paddle harder, here comes… THE MOTHER-IN-LAW … OF DEATH!
But, with his accent, it sounded like he was saying DEAF instead of DEATH. And despite the likelihood of our own imminent DEAF, we kept laughing at him. And maybe because of the laughter, we ended up enjoying the day, even THE MOTHER-IN-LAW OF DEAF!!
I can say with certainty that I will never go on such a trip again, but I’m awfully glad I did it.
Mostly, I’m glad we all survived.
Or, if you’re an artist … or a lateral-thinker … or an entrepreneur… or you feel you were under-served by the public school system … or you’re a teacher, passionate about education, wondering why it doesn’t work for everyone…. or you just like cool cartoons, you’ve got to see this. It’s a little long for the modern attention-span, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Our three daughters stayed out of the system until grades 11, 11 and 10. For years, I had the faint, secret fear that I’d ruined their lives, that they’d all end up living in our basement, social misfits who couldn’t go to university because they didn’t know the multiplication tables and had never done macaroni collages. What was I THINKING???
Being me, I naturally took it to The Next Level. I envisioned my beautiful, talented daughters popping out illegitimate, cross-eyed babies – between cigarettes and during commercial breaks – who they’d fill with Coke and Twinkies before sending them upstairs to stay with Granny while they went off to pursue their careers as Wal-Mart greeters.
I think there was banjo music playing in this scenario.
Anyway. A little medication tweak and extensive therapy got me off the roof and it’s all okay now. The youngest is entering her senior year in high school, an Honours student. The oldest will graduate from UBC next year with her BA in English Lit, and plans to go on to teachers’ college. Our middle daughter, after getting halfway through her Bachelor in Fine Arts, is switching gears and entering nursing school. Both the older two have held down part-time jobs while studying. Both have struggled to figure out what they want to do with their lives, at least for now. Both have emerged victorious. I know the youngest will go through a similar journey, and will find her own way, too.
They may be a little fuzzy on math at times, but hey, there’s an ap for that. And being our daughters, I expect medication and extensive therapy may be in their futures, as well. It’s okay. I started saving for that years ago.
The main thing is this: they know who they are. That’s tough to learn in a factory school.
Wednesday evening, my next-door neighbour Sherri came to our door in a panic.
“Is your husband home?” she asked. “There’s a fawn at the bottom of our road. We think it’s been hit by a car.”
People had already called the SPCA, the police, animal control, anyone they could think of, and nobody could help. Since my husband’s a veterinarian, and we’re kind of known as the local “animal people” – our three dogs and four cats might be a tip-off – Sherri thought of us.
As it happened, Ray wasn’t home yet, which meant he was still at the clinic, but that’s only about 5 minutes away. I told Sherri I could put the fawn in the back of my car and bring it to him.
If nothing else, I thought, we could at least provide humane euthanasia.
But when I got there, I found that the fawn had not been hit by a car. However, she had been wandering in circles on the road, where she probably would have been hit, so a couple of guys tried to shoo her into the woods, when they noticed a wound on her rump. They couldn’t get her off the road, but they managed to get her restrained on the sidewalk, where she lay, kicking and bawling.
For anyone who hasn’t heard a fawn cry, ooooh, shudder. It’s heart-wrenching.
A small crowd had gathered by the time I got there, and we noticed Mama-deer hovering nearby. I saw the wound, but since Baby was so feisty – really, those hooves are a lot sharper than you’d imagine – I suggested we let her up so she could get back to Mama.
But when we stood back, Baby just lay there. She was in shock, no doubt stressed from our inept handling, as much as anything.
While she was still, I took a closer look. Other than the laceration on her leg, she didn’t look injured, but it was a nasty cut, infected, oozing pus and serum. Plus, she’d scraped her face up on the concrete, struggling against her would-be rescuers.
By this time, a conservation officer had shown up. His mandate was also humane euthanasia, which he was prepared to do pretty much right then. And for a critical injury, it would be absolutely the right thing.
Now, this fawn wasn’t critically injured, but there’s a good chance she’d succumb to her infection, or be coyote or cougar bait. We couldn’t see Mama around anymore and the fawn certainly wouldn’t survive alone. We’d already intervened; now we were committed. Euthanasia or treatment, we had to do something.
“If you want her,” said the conservation officer, clearly relieved to be relieved of his duty, “this is your chance.”
Ray and I feel pretty protective of our mountain creatures, and Ray always plays Good Samaritan when he happens onto a dog or cat in distress. But deer are a little out of his area of expertise. So he called our friend Kenny Mac, a wildlife veterinarian, who thankfully, knows how to restrain a fawn without hurting it, and without getting clocked by those hooves.
Between him, Ray and me, we got Baby safely to the clinic, cleaned her wound, gave her antibiotics and fluids and a safe place to rest for the night. By morning, she was on her feet, bawling for breakfast, looking 100% better.
She’s now being cared for by Critter Care, a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, and will be released back to the wild as soon as possible.
Maybe one day Baby will make her way back home. I hope so.
I know, how lucky are we to have this kind of wildlife just outside our doors, right? The dogs think it’s quite an enormous responsibility, keeping all these interlopers out of their territory, and most of the time, it’s okay. (Having survived a coyote attack a few years ago, Myshkin frantically informs us – from the safety of the yard – whenever one of these bad guys is around.)
Deer, rabbits, bear, bobcat, eagles, owls, we’ve got lots of interesting wildlife, but the deer are by far our most frequent visitors.
When the dogs see the deer, the predator switch flicks on and they lose their small minds. But their prey just looks up as if to say, “Seriously. You’re going to chase US?” Then they take one leap and disappear, leaving the dogs hopelessly snarled in blackberry brambles.
But when there are new-born fawns, it’s a different story.
A few weeks ago, we noticed one doe hanging around behind our house. Apparently Mama-Deer had a new fawn tucked away up there, because every time the dogs went up the mountain, instead of running away, Mama-Deer charged at them. Well, I should say “him.” Addie and Gemma like to bark, but let’s face it. Neither of them are exactly … athletically inclined. So Myshkin’s the only one who can even get near the deer.
Well. The look on his face was priceless. You could tell he was thinking: “Hold ‘er Newt. Who changed the rules to this game? I’m the chase-er, not the chase-ee.”
But he’s no dummy. He saw the crazed-mother look and I don’t know, maybe he recognized it. At any rate, he turned right around and left her alone.
And then, a few days later, we were rewarded when Baby popped out to greet us.
Yesterday, I saw Baby again, under very different circumstances. Stay tuned, I’ll tell you all about it shortly.
I stood at my kitchen window this morning, waiting for my coffee, and was treated to an airshow. Swallows swooped between my rescued spruce tree and that darn cottonwood that will not be killed, sparrows fed on aurinia now gone to seed, hummingbirds dipped in and out of my hanging baskets, chattering and squabbling. Occasionally one perched on the supports against which clematis vines send their delicate tendrils. The scent of roses, planted and tended by my own hands, hung lightly in the morning air.
Butterflies drifted in and out of a patch of pink yarrow. Now and then, a robin flew in to break up a gathering, and deep within my heavily-laden currant bush, a pair of roufus-sided towhees scratched and pecked. As my coffee and toast got cold, I watched a group of little red-headed finches perch along my espaliered apple tree, six or seven amongst the four horizontal branches, each budding with a different variety of apple.
My yard might not be magazine-worthy; there’s whole patches that I haven’t dealt with properly yet. I plant things, only to realize that they would look better or be happier in a different spot. I build a terrace, only to decide a month later that it’s not quite deep enough, or needs more rock. Wild bunnies make lunch dates in my flowerbeds, and the deer sample pretty much everything, but I figure they were here first, the least I can do is be gracious.
So I move plants, redo hardscaping, dig, replace, adjust. Slowly but surely, I’m making headway against the invasive thorny weeds, but it’s a never-ending task, and I use Polysporin as hand lotion every night. I suspect the apocalypse will end with fleas, cockroaches, thistle and blackberry standing triumphant.
For me, gardening is – like so much of life – an ongoing project. Ideas sprout in me like scarlet runner beans, and I’m never happier than when I’m working on some new possibility, be it a book, a painting, a recipe or a new twist on an old relationship. But bringing ideas to maturity takes patience, thought, observation, more patience, and the willingness to try out something, even if it turns out to be wrong.
Or even if – especially if – someone tells me it was a bad idea.
More creative minds than mine insist that there are no bad ideas. I cling to this. Some ideas are better than others; some ideas are simply jumping-off points. But none are bad. The fifth try might be perfect, but you can’t get to five without going through four. Writers refer to this as the “shitty first draft” concept, which makes sense. Manure is fertilizer, after all.
So I shore up my shaky courage in times of creative drought and seek out warm shelter and support. I’ve found that gardens usually come back, when the season is right; life, it seems, is forgiving to those who keep trying.
So I’ve got flowers, animals, birds, insects, and even food. I’ve got stories, friendship, love, beauty, purpose. It’s summer, finally. My little bit of Earth is thriving …and nurturing my soul along with it.
That’s all I’m going to say about yoga right now. Next topic:
Can I be honest?
This isn’t an opening gambit, ala Joan Rivers or Oprah. Nor is it a request for permission. It’s not even a rhetorical question. It’s an actual question, one I’ve been asking myself for, I don’t know, about four decades.
Not sure I’ve ever asked it out in the open, though.
Pretense has always been a burr under my saddle. Maybe because I grew up Mennonite, which like most upbringings is a mixed bag of blessing and challenge. But the “Praise the Lord, we love the Emperor’s new clothes,” aspect of enforced happiness always made my jaw hurt. Of course, maybe it’s not the Mennonites’ fault; maybe it’s chronic low serotonin levels. Maybe it’s because my Sun sign is Scorpio. (And Moon, Mercury and Neptune. Which would explain the brooding.) Maybe it’s my Introvert-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging personality. A first-born, a mesomorph body type, a middle-aged menopausal woman working through the throes of an identity crisis.
Who knows? (And who cares, right?)
Well, here’s the thing: I don’t think I’m alone in my existential questioning. I suspect there are a lot of women in the grocery store, clinging to their sanity like it’s the last can of beans in the bomb shelter, but smiling, smiling, smiling, wondering what on earth they’re doing wrong and how come they’re the only ones not in on the secret to lasting happiness and personal fulfillment?
Okay, I’m a little idealistic. Scorpio, remember?
So I try to ride that fine line between healthy honesty, and being the weird close-talking neighbor who tells you all about her recent hemorrhoid surgery within your first ten minutes of meeting.
Here’s where it connects to yoga: honesty is related to stamina. Endurance. Steadfastness. Stick-to-it-iveness. Hangin-in-there. Doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. No excuses, no “oops”, no “sorry, I meant to” or “I was going to next Thursday,” or when it wasn’t raining, or the dollar picked up, or the yen went down, or your mood stabilized. And no “I didn’t think it would be this hard” or “but I got tired” or “I forgot.”
That all sounds pretty judgmental, doesn’t it? When it comes to interpersonal relationships, honesty is a key player. The closer the relationship, the more important trust is. And the bigger the betrayal when it is broken. “Forgive and forget” is a nice idea and has its place but “forgive and file it away for future use” is human reality, and sometimes the only way to check repeat-offenders.
Personally, when it comes to conflict I’m a natural-born fan of avoidance, denial and the Armani-clad Emperor.
But I’m facing it.
Can I be honest? It might be my biggest challenge.
Even bigger than Standing-Head-to-Knee.
Now that I’ve finished my 100 days of Bikram yoga, I don’t know what to title my posts. I still did a class today… that would make 101 classes… if anyone cares… maybe I’ll start counting the days out of 365, as in, “how many yoga classes can I do in 2011?”
Hm. That’s an idea. Stay tuned.
In other news: I’m the goat-parent today. Yes, you read right. As of this morning, I had two out of three daughters miffed at me. (It’d probably be a hat-trick but the third doesn’t live here anymore.)
And the remarkable thing is, it feels okay.
I have a poodle-like need to have people not be mad at me. I’m a first-class conflict-avoider, a peace-keeper, a comforter, a pleaser. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. (I’d like to point out here that the Mennonites built a whole religion around conflict-avoidance, except they called it Pacifism, and it got them out of fighting in wars. We’re still a fairly agreeable lot.)
So for me to feel okay about this is… new.
But you’re probably wondering when I’ll get around to the “Hangover” part of this post. Alright, here you go.
Our 16-year old has been wanting to go to The Hangover II movie, which comes out tonight. She’d mentioned it a few times, but I guess I’d filed it in the “Think About This Eventually” area of my brain.
“Can you drive me and my friend to the theatre?” she asked yesterday, finally coming straight to the point.
“Sure,” I answered. “No problem.” Agreeable, remember?
“And, um, will you buy the tickets?”
“Why?” Oblivious, naturally. I was probably chopping vegetables or something.
“Well,” she hedged. “They might not let us buy them.”
“Why not?” Still not getting it. Or maybe I was distracted by onions.
“Hm… well… it’s a restricted movie.”
Aaaaand the penny dropped.
“Let me get this straight.” I looked at her enormous, blue, beseeching eyes. “You want me to sneak you and your friend into a movie that you wouldn’t otherwise be allowed into because the powers that be deemed it inappropriate for people in your demographic.”
“Uh-huh!” She nodded eagerly.
Now this is a girl who’s seen the first Hangover movie, in the comfort of our home, in the company of her parents. Yes, all the inappropriate content, the foul language, everything. Supervised exposure and open communication about such content has always been my policy. I figure being homeschooled for 10 years puts her behind the times, exposure-wise, so I think of it like a vaccine.
But actively participating in such sneakery? I could probably go along with it if it was just my kid, but her 16-year old friend? Whose parents I haven’t met? You never know what kind of crap could rain down on you. Not comfortable.
Which made her mad. Mad! (We have a close relationship, and she’s a pleaser, like me, so this was something of a breakthrough for both of us.)
But I held firm. Then I pulled out the crisp, rarely-used “Ask your father” card.
Her face fell. This was not the answer she was looking for. In her experience, Mom says yes, Dad says no. Mom encourages, Dad cautions. Mom says “why not?” while Dad tells you the 50 ways it could kill you.
But he surprised her.
“Sure,” he said. “I’ll drive you and I’ll stay for the movie, too. In case you need an adult.”
I pretended to be surprised, too. I know he doesn’t get as many chances as I do to be the hero-parent. So today, it’s his turn. And he gets to see a movie that I probably wouldn’t go to with him. (I mean, I’ll watch it at home… if there’s nothing else on… but pay to see it in a theatre? Meh.)
And I get the TV to myself tonight.
I don’t want to take all the credit, I mean, after all, the guys are playing great hockey. They’re on fire. That counts for something.
But my 100th day of Bikram yoga falling on the Canucks 100th game of the season? Come on. Can’t be a coincidence.
You’re welcome, Ryan Kesler. Call me.
In case anyone was wondering, beer and yoga do not mix. Not when we’re talking Bikram Yoga, and I’m on my 98th consecutive day.
Today, the Vancouver Canucks played the San Jose Sharks at noon. By chance, some dear friends of ours were in town and able to watch with us. We had brunch together, and later, as the game went from great to awesome, we switched from coffee to beer. I don’t drink much, and knew it wasn’t the smartest move to add a second diuretic to my system, but what can I say? I like beer, I love my friends, the Canucks were rockin’ and well… I felt a little what-the-hell-ish.
I’ve had several very strong days in a row. I figured if I wimp out at today’s class I’ve earned it.
And I did okay – until the floor series. It’s strange that my energy seems fine for the standing series, which are aerobically more challenging, only to wilt and fizzle once I’m lying down. I wonder why?
My progress in the standing series is coming along nicely, I’m happy to report. Standing-Head-to-Knee doesn’t bother me much anymore. I still can’t hold my legs out for long, and Head hasn’t met Knee yet, but I couldn’t get either leg out straight at all, for a long time. Even the set-up was very challenging. So the progress is significant, if not particularly visible.
And the longer I do this, the less I care about the visible changes. I mean, sure, I’d like to be slender and willowy again like I was in my twenties, but only if I could get there without strenuous dieting. Which I can’t. And I find myself being less critical about my body, as I push the boundaries and discover new abilities. The pain in my hips I moaned about three months ago? Gone.
Slowly but surely, I’m changing my body, lengthening ligaments, tendons and muscles. When I began this, 98 days ago, I figured I’d see a massive overhaul of my physical self in 30 days. Then I got real; obviously it would take 60 before I’d be a super-model. Somewhere after that, I realized my physical self was never going to be on the cover of Yoga Journal, and that the real changes, the important changes, would come from the inside out.
Function before form, substance over style. I’m working on the essence of who and what I am.
Should’a guessed it might take more than 30 days.
Sniffy Snifferson was back in class today. Really, there’s something wrong with a person who’s so oblivious. Lest you think I’m psycho-reactive, I wasn’t the only one annoyed, as I heard a few other pointed huffs and ahems. To no avail, though.
As I attempted to reach a Zen-like state of non-attachment to my sniff-free existence, it occurred to me that I probably have habits, tics if you will, that annoy others. “No!” I hear you protesting. “Not you!”
Nonetheless, I have to consider it. Unlikely, to be sure, but within the realm of possibility.
“I thought I saw you in Home Depot today,” said Randee as I swiped my pass card. “I tried to say hi, but you looked… busy.”
Why is it always that just when you’re at your smelliest, dirtiest, wearing garden-clothes and that horrible hat, that you run into someone you know? Of course, they recognize you despite the hat, sunglasses and the massive grunge, which makes you a little nervous because shouldn’t that be just a bit of a disguise? Or is that your baseline and you just don’t realize it?
“You looked a little… intense,” Randee added.
And there it was, the thing I do without realizing it. My kids call it “scary eyes” and it happens when I’m in a hurry and annoyed with people who have mnemonics up in their staff room to improve their customer service, but cannot in fact, put their snazzy little rhyme to practical use.
“Um, yeah,” I said. “I was trying to buy bark mulch and it wasn’t going well.”
No less than six people attempted to assist me in putting a bulk order through, a procedure we’d been assured a few months ago would be “no problem.” In the end, after about fifteen minutes cooling my heels, I was told they’d have to look into it and call me back.
So yeah, I had my scary eyes on. What can I say. At least I wasn’t sniffing.
In the paper this morning, I read about a 47-year old actress who’s cutting back on work because she needs “… a little more free time to be a mom” to the baby girl she and her husband have recently adopted to go with their four-year old son.
Now, she may be the Super-Mom of the Universe, I wouldn’t know. Maybe she just chose her words poorly. Maybe she’s read all the attachment parenting books, maybe she puts in more time than any other mom at her son’s preschool, who knows, maybe she’s wearing one of those tube-and-bag dealies so she can breastfeed her adopted daughter.
Having a second child at that age is a questionable decision, in my opinion, but hey, maybe her 47 years wear better than mine. (Pretty safe bet, she’s an actress after all.)
Here’s what I do know: it takes more than “a little more free time” to raise children. Parenting isn’t a hobby. It’s not a spare-time deal, a “fun” thing to do once you’ve checked off all your other life goals.
Nor is it necessary. You don’t have to do it. In fact, if you’re waffling on the idea of reproducing, take the hint and Just Say No. It’s okay. The world will manage without your genes being carried forward. And you’ll get to keep traveling, guilt-free and unencumbered.
But most of us still discover parenting by surprise, catapulted into the fast lane of the Grown-Up Highway before we thought much about it. (Surprise, not mistake. No baby is a mistake.) And we’ve found that parenting is the best, most rewarding and most important job of our lives. And bar none, the most difficult. There’s no room for selfishness once a baby enters the picture. Or there shouldn’t be, at least.
As Peter De Vries said, “Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.”
The key is parents who step up and embrace the new maturity a child demands of them, every day, all day long. Not just the free time.
Hot yoga is hell on the laundry schedule. Every class means one large towel, plus a hand towel, and one entire outfit – top, bottom, underwear, headband. Also I usually have a third towel for the car, so I don’t soak up the upholstery.
On the days my daughters join me it means an instant mountain of drench-n-stench in the laundry room. Of course, I toss it in the washer right away – when I can. But I’m not the only one who does laundry in the house (thank god) so sometimes the machines are in use. Then, the towels have to sit there, emanating their funk. Imagine those cartoon wavy lines of stink rising up into the air, creeping up the stairs, ghostlike, until they’ve infiltrated every room in the house.
Now, I’d like to point out that one of the lesser-known side effects of menopause is an increased sensitivity to odours. Which is fine when you suspect a gas leak. But it seems I’m always asking “What’s that smell?” or “Can’t you smell that?” until people just tell me to shut up. Which makes me doubt myself.
I should know better.
Back to laundry. Since the laundry room also houses the litter boxes (two of them; we’ve also got another set upstairs. Four cats, sigh.) it’s not a happy room for me. To make matters worse, the garbage cans into which the used litter is dumped is just around the corner, in the garage. It’s a trifecta of gag-orific odours congregating in about 25 square feet. The girls are very good about staying on top of the litter boxes, rather than face the wrath of my nose. But still.
So, yesterday I noticed that the mat in front of the stairs just outside the laundry room looked a little murky. I got down on my hands-and-knees, turned it over and picked up the unmistakeable slap of ammonia.
Cat piss. I knew it! I knew I’d been smelling something more than my own mouldering, sweaty yoga duds. The cat in question has a history of such transgressions, but she’s been good lately. Or so we thought. Or maybe it’s one of the others, letting her take the rap.
I got out a bucket of Mr. Clean and channeled my disgust into adiosing every iota of cat urine out of the tile. And the grout. And the wall. And that thing at the bottom of the door that keeps out drafts. And the baseboard.
But it’s like trying to unring a bell. Once cat urine gets in a wall, can you ever really get it out? Even if I succeed, I’ll have the olfactory memory forever. Is it real? Is it my imagination? Does it matter?
I’ve soaked the affected area and you know what? It smells better already.
A: Obviously, each of us is the Hero of our own story. When I say Hero, I mean Heroine, Protagonist, Main Character, Star of the Show, Point-of-View Character, Dude, The Big Guy, Harry Potter. The one who owns the story.
You, in your show. Me, in mine.
But some of us forget that sometimes. We get stuck in Best Supporting roles. (Not really, of course, because the camera of our lives is still focused squarely on us. It just seems that way in our own dumb little minds.) What happens, I think, is that it’s easy to slip into a passive role, to let events happen, rather than take action to direct those events.
Good stories have main characters we root for, because they are active, decisive. They act on their own behalf. (That’s why they call them “actors.”)
We can’t help but be the Hero of our own story. Whoever owns the show is the main character. Period. Real life heroes are also active; they live on their own behalf. (Yet we don’t call them “livers.” Hm.)
As you may have guessed, I’ve just returned from another day with Michael Hauge, talking about story structure, the inner and outer journeys traveled by characters over the course of a movie or novel. After the talk concluded, he challenged us as writers – and as evolving human beings – to ask ourselves the same question we must pose to our characters.
What is the next specific, significant step I can take
on my journey to my goal?
Then, fill in the blank:
“I’ll do whatever it takes to (insert the step identified above)
but just don’t ask me to ________.
This blank is the thing that stands in our way, it’s the thing keeping us from finding our True Selves, going from Identity to Essence, from immature to differentiated, child to adult, asleep to awake, pathetic orphan to best-ever wizard, etc. There are all sorts of psychological explanations for this process, but I think we all understand the concept. There’s the ordinary people we are in our ordinary lives; and then there’s that potential to be extraordinary that lies within each of us.
Hero material. We’ve all got it.
We just have to get out of our own way.
Yes, that means I did a double day on Friday. It was a calculated risk; at the 9:15 am class, I noticed it didn’t feel as hot as it sometimes does.
“The heater’s not working right,” explained Dan. “It’ll be fixed on Monday.”
Hm, I thought. This is about the best chance I’ve got to do another class in a day without killing myself. So I went back for 3:30 pm.
“Weren’t you here earlier?” asked Angela.
“Yup,” I said. “So if I can’t do much, that’s why.”
But I ended up having a second strong class in the same day. It felt awesome. It completed my 90-day challenge without using my loophole-day on the front end… and… it means I can continue my challenge. New goal: 100 classes in 100 days.
Ten more days… piffle.
And today, I spent the day with a group of writers learning about novel structure with Michael Hauge. I learned two things in particular that struck me, as they have to do with Real Life, as much as they do writing. He said that a character arc is the journey a character goes through from living in what he calls his Identity, to moving into his Essence.
I love this concept. Our identities make us feel safe and protected, even if they aren’t healthy. Our identities are who we really believe we are – even though it isn’t, not really – and this ignorance is key, which is disturbing to me because I like to think I’m a pretty self-aware person. But I guess that’s why they call them “blind spots.” If ya could see them, they’d just be called “spots.”
Example: in The Titanic, Rose starts out completely in her Identity as a kept woman, the unhappy fiancee constrained by a man who objectifies her and a mother who sees her as a meal ticket. She clings to this identity, this persona, this mask, so tightly that she’d rather pitch herself into the deep blue, than change. She sees no way out, although obviously, she could just tell her mother and Cal to shove off. But that wouldn’t be something her persona would do, so she can’t. But Jack sees something more in her, and helps her see it herself. He sees her Essence, and helps her gain the courage to embrace this part of herself.
Example: in Jerry Maguire, when Renee Zellweger’s character says about Jerry “I love him for the man he wants to be, for the man he almost is.” (Loosely paraphrased, don’t sue me if it’s a bit off.) She sees beneath the mask he’s constructed, to the Essence of him.
We love to watch characters go through this development from shallow to deeper, from someone who’s immature, afraid, insecure, wounded, and who wears a mask to protect the tremendous vulnerability he can’t even admit is there, and become something more, something better.
That constant tug-of-war between living in one’s identity and living in one’s essence is what inner conflict is all about. I think most of us get that. Super-scary.
“You can be safe and unfulfilled,” says Michael Hauge, “or you can be fulfilled and scared shitless.”
Here’s the message to both ourselves, and our characters: “You can have everything you long for, or need on one condition: you must give up your Identity and live in your Essence.”
Can I write characters like this? Oh, how I hope so.
But more than that, I want to live it.
So what does that look like for me, I wonder?
Yes, yes already, those of you who’ve been virtually nudging me. I’m not dead or on the lam. I forgot, okay? I forgot to blog.
So here I am. Happy?
This might be an appropriate time to check in on the whole 90-Day Challenge thing. My goals, as you might recall, upon embarking on this endeavor, were lofty. Lose a bunch of weight, gain Gumby-like flexibility and a Buddhist-monk sort of serenity. Oh, and I wanted my hot flashes to disappear, too. And my depression/anxiety/chronic identity crises/general mental deterioration to magically lift. Maybe, if I worked really hard, I’d get a complete physical, mental and emotional makeover.
If you’re gonna dream, after all…
But here I am, 90 days later, pretty much the same person I was when I started. Not quite as dramatic as I was hoping. Here are a few more details:
Weight loss: negligible. (However, I’m eating like a horse, so it’s not really a fair assessment) I’m much more toned now, though, so I’m fitting into a smaller size of jeans. Still have the poochie-mommy-tummy but hey, I never expected miracles there. You know. Pie.
Flexibility: definite improvement here. I’ve got more mobility in my shoulders, that persistent knot in my neck is gone, my hamstrings are much looser and my hips don’t hurt anymore. Right now my lower back is sore, but I’ve been at my Iron Gardening again and I suspect that it would be a lot more sore, if it weren’t for the yoga.
Buddhist-monk serenity: um, yeah, about that. If I can still freak out at a sniffer, I’d say serenity is still in the “goal” column, as opposed to the “achieved” column.
Hot flashes: they’ve actually been better lately. Don’t know if it’s the yoga, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, or the herbal supplements and progesterone cream. But I’m NOT CHANGING ANYTHING, just in case.
General mental disorder: meh, I’m still me, what can I say? The sun is shining now, which makes the whole world a better place. I do think the intense physical activity has had a good effect on my brain, you know, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, etc. The discipline of sticking with A Hard Thing like this is good, makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I am happier now. Is it the yoga? Who can say. But sort of like the hot flashes, I don’t want to stop the yoga, just in case.
And having fallen into this daily chronicling of my yoga challenge has been excellent for my writing-muscles. Again, the discipline of jotting down something more-or-less coherent every day (I know, I KNOW, I missed a day. Can you just let it go??) forces my brain into channels that open up creativity, letting loose little nuggets that might have otherwise have been lost.
Believe it or not, this is fun for me. (Yup. I’m a riot at parties.)
So, I’ll be continuing on with the yoga, and the blogging. Don’t know if it’ll be quite as every-day-ish as it has been, or if it’ll be mostly musing about yoga.
I guess we’ll see. Stay tuned, readers. (And thanks for hanging in there with me – it means more than you know.)
We had a sniffer in class today. You know the kind. We’re all lying in Savasana, waiting for the class to start. The silence in the room is broken only by the soft trickle of the humidifiers and the occasional rustle of people adjusting their mats.
Then… sniff, sniff. Snork, snert, sniff.
Sniff-sniff-sniff. Rapid-fire. Like a Beagle on scent. Not a productive sort of sniff, which although grosser, at least one can understand. This was the unnecessary nervous-tic sort of sniff. Or maybe it was the type of sniff you do when there’s a dry booger way up high that’s driving you nuts, but it won’t dislodge by blowing, so you try to suck it back up into your brain instead.
Personally, I think it was an attention-getting sniff. A cry for help, if you will.
A damp towel applied firmly over mouth and nose for a few minutes, I thought. That would help.
I had to grip onto my inner peace with both fists, I tell you, because that’s the sort of thing to drive me right postal. I lifted my head to see if I could identify the culprit. (Why? What difference would it make? Would I really attack her with my towel? I have no answers…)
Breathe-in. Breathe-out. Do not sit up and yell, “For God’s sake, get a tissue!”
What is it with people who do things like this? (The sniffer I mean, not me, the psycho-reactor.) Are they completely unaware of the fact that they are making the only – and certainly the most unpleasant – sound in the room? Are they deaf?
Perhaps I have nasal-mucous issues, I’m willing to admit the possibility. After all, I grew up blocking out the sound of my dad gargling on his own post-nasal drip, and still gag at the thought.
So, okay, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the only one getting irritated. Big picture, let it go, don’t sweat the small sniffs…
Then the woman next to me let out an overly deep breath. And another one cleared her throat, rather deliberately.
Coincidence? Maybe. The class started then, effectively shutting down the sniffer, so we’ll never know.
But I choose to believe that I’m not alone with my sniff-issues.
I mentioned awhile back to my husband that I was intrigued with the idea of setting up a mason bee colony. Megan and I had seen them at a nursery, where we’d learned that there’s been an overall decline in the population of pollinators. We large, clumsy, land-greedy humans have messed up a lot of habitat, and ultimately, no pollinators means death for us all. Kind of like losing the sun, I guess.
As he’s allergic to bees, he did not meet this idea with enthusiasm. (Plus, I have a history of great ideas that end up forgotten in a closet somewhere, which is no big deal if it’s something like scrap-booking, but not cool for ideas that are alive and breathing. I’m of the opinion that in order for a few ideas to stick, one must try many, but I’ll c0ncede the point on this.)
It turns out that mason bees are a non-aggressive species. They’re more efficient than honey bees, with less stinging. They just want to go about their buzzy little business and couldn’t care less about humans.
But I didn’t bother making the argument.
Then, last night, the girls gave me my Mother’s Day gift: a colony of mason bees, and a nifty little condo for them! (FYI: the cocoons come in a pill-vial and look like rabbit turds. “Um, thanks …?”)
“Dad really does love you,” said Andrea, giving credit where credit’s due. He and Megan did the legwork, and turns out it was quite a search expedition to find the nursery that sold them, since he couldn’t exactly ask me about it, and Megan’s spatial abilities are a lot like mine. As in “it’s on a highway somewhere.”
So now I’ve got mason bees! I put them out next to the climbing roses. Can’t wait to see what they do.
But here’s the best part: my husband did something he didn’t really want to do, just for me, because he thought it would make me happy.
You know what? It worked!
I’m in the homestretch of my 90-Day Bikram Yoga challenge and recently learned that day 90 will fall on next Saturday, when I’m scheduled to be at a writers’ workshop in Vancouver. All day.
Double-class days are no fun, as I’ve mentioned before. So what do I do? Wave the white flag of defeat? (as opposed to the white towel of Canuck-fever… I’m waving that one wildly!) No. I’m in this for 90 days.
So I checked my calendar, to see exactly how much yoga I’d been doing before the challenge officially started… and I practiced nine days in February, including Feb. 13, which means I started a day early! Which means I’m actually on day 84 today!
Ha-HA 90-Day Challenge. Take that.