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Thursday, May 31, 2012

State your View!

No, we won’t be delving into politics, religion, or even philosophy. We get enough of that stuff on the news. Instead I want to discuss reading spaces. 
Until last year I lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment with a view of the parking lot seen here. It was dull, drab, and I hated to sit on the porch because I felt like everyone was watching me. So it never got a lot of use by me at all. But last October we moved into a little larger two bedroom apartment on the first floor with a larger back porch than what we had before and can I just say what a difference it’s made. I spend my morning coffee outside on the back porch and listen to the birds. At night my husband and I sit on the porch and listen to the frogs and owls. It’s a completely different setting than the one in the city. Don’t get me wrong city life has its advantages and though we’re still technically in the city, we’re far enough out that we can actually really see the wildlife.
I saw a family of deer the other day! I was so excited to see a female with two young fawns just outside my door! It’s been well over six years since I’ve been that close to deer so you can imagine my surprise. We have a cute little mocking bird that sits on the tree next to the woodshed outside of our door and pecks away every morning. I love the tempo he makes. And a frog jumped all the way up from the creek to our back porch just yesterday! I tried not to squeal like a little girl but it was tempting lol.

Once I started writing seriously years ago, it seemed that I’d stopped reading. I could never find enough time in the day to read. It frustrated me because that was the reason I started to write in the first place. Reading was such an integral part of my upbringing that I felt as if I’d lost my best friend.  

And then I moved here. One day, weeks ago I grabbed my kindle and sat outside on the porch to enjoy the peace and quiet of the day to read. I lost all track of time and before I knew it, night had fallen like a shroud of mist around me. I realized I was squinting in the semi-darkness and I was forced inside to finish the book. But I discovered something that day. The reason I had stopped reading wasn’t due to lack of time, it was lack of comfort. With my stressful life in the city, work, kids, school, and then coming home to be mommy, all of this, combined with no place inside the house to unwind drove my love of reading out the door.
I needed to de-stress my life and find someplace I could just relax. It was difficult in a tiny apartment with a view of the parking lot where a group of teenage boys hang out on a daily basis banging their loud music. And inside the house was just as bad with the TV running nonstop, and multiple bodies (two of them teens) going in and out of the house at all hours of the day. It made relaxing in any way, shape, or form nonexistent. So I’m here to state my view— now that I have one— and reacquaint myself with reading. I discovered that in order to get in the mood for reading, it’s very similar for setting the stage for “romance.” You need to relax, unwind, and take a breath. So I’ve rearranged my porch, bought myself a nice “reading” chair and I have a wonderful place to enjoy good cup of Jo along with many great books!
I am so ecstatic to be back in my reading world, rediscovering my favorite authors as well as enjoying some many new faces, many of them here at the Lady Scribes. It’s been a blessing all around to have moved into my new place but mostly because I remember why I started writing in the first place. I think that has given me back “the magic” of writing. You know that wonderful little thrill you get as the story unfolds right before your eyes. For a minute there it was becoming a chore or a job, but now my writing has that something special in it. And I think we all need to take some time to enjoy “the view” once in awhile. 
So state your view. Where do you discover the magic of reading? In a favorite reading chair? On your porch? Maybe in the bathtub? And tell me what are you reading now? Me? I’m currently reading James Rollins Map of Bones that my good friend Catherine Gayle sent me in the mail and loving it. What about you?  
Our exciting new playground!

My youngest son, Caiden in his new pool! 
(We totally hooked up a hose to the faucet and ran it out the door!) 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Vicarious Life - Guest Blog by Darcy Burke

Today, we are absolutely delighted to have debut author Darcy Burke with us. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win her debut novel, Her Wicked Ways!

 The Vicarious Life
One of the reasons I’m a writer is the ability to vicariously say and do things via my characters that I probably wouldn’t. And frequently don’t on the spur of the moment. I can recall many instances where I think, “I wish I’d said XYZ!” or “I wish I’d done LMNOP!” Unfortunately, life does not have a rewind button yet (I’m confident technology will take care of this for us some day). Fortunately though, as a writer, I get to take a moment (or, um, days or weeks) to ensure my heroine says and does just the right thing, the thing I’d like to go back and say or do.

Lady Miranda Sinclair, the heroine of my debut novel, Her Wicked Ways, is a bit of an outrageous character. She definitely says and does things I wouldn’t, which was one of the things that made her so fun to write. She is, in fact, a rakehellion or a female rake (not in the sense of extreme womanizing or gambling, etc., she is after all a female during the Regency period). In the way that we may find bad boys attractive, but that we may not actually pursue them, a little part of us (women, that is) might like to spend at least a day as a rakehellion. Wouldn’t it be fun to ignore our stronger inhibitions and just live in the moment? Yeah, for about as long as that moment lasted! But sometimes it’s fun to think of what it would be like to stretch your muscles and maybe be a little…more. Or in this case, ask yourself (after you’ve read Her Wicked Ways of course!), what would Miranda do?

At the start of Her Wicked Ways, Miranda’s coach is held up by a highwayman. Here’s what she does:

“What do you have for me?”

She stepped toward him until they stood a mere hand’s width apart. “I have nothing, save a kiss.”

His jaw did drop then. Brazen enchantress. “I don’t need a kiss. I need money.”

She sighed, a sound of deep regret. “I told you, I have no money.”

“You’re lying. You reek of wealth.” Fox sniffed loudly to punctuate his statement and got a nose full of her alluring scent for his trouble.

“I know.” Her lips curved into a small, almost seductive smile. It stole his breath. Literally. When he finally remembered to take air, he did so quite audibly. Her mouth widened then, and her face shone like the sun on the brightest summer day.

What the hell kind of highwayman fixated on some chit like a cheap Byron impostor?

Fox reined in his wayward lust. “You must have something of value. A piece of jewelry? A quizzing glass?”

She arched a brow. “What do you take me for? A doddering dowager?”

Good God, no. Never that.

What’s most important to me about a strong woman is that she’s true to herself. She knows who she is and owns her identity. She wears it like a badge of pride and doesn’t give a fig what anyone else thinks. This, I think, is not an easy thing to do, and it’s something Miranda does with every fiber of her being. She knows where the line is and precisely when and where she crossed it.

And now I turn it over to you, dear readers, if you could spend a day—without repercussion!—behaving in a way you normally wouldn’t, what would you do?

 Darcy is giving away an ecopy of Her Wicked Ways to one lucky commenter in the format of their choice! Blurb below:

She was his savior
Banished from London for her reckless behavior, Lady Miranda Sinclair is robbed by a dashing highwayman en route to the country. By offering him a kiss in lieu of the jewels she had to leave behind, she commits the very type of act that caused her exile. When her dour guardians extend her punishment to performing charitable work at the local orphanage, she’s further tempted by the home’s owner, a provincial gentleman who stirs her passion in a most wicked way.

He was her downfall
Desperate to save his orphanage from financial catastrophe, Montgomery "Fox" Foxcroft leads a double life as a highwayman. The arrival of wealthy, well-connected Miranda, whose kiss he can’t forget, presents a lawful opportunity to increase his coffers. His problems seem solved—until she rejects his suit. Out of options and falling for the heiress, Fox must risk what principles he has left and take advantage of her wicked ways—even if it ruins them both.

Darcy Burke wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. An RWA Golden Heart® Finalist, Darcy loves all things British (except tomatoes for breakfast, or any other time of day, actually) and happy ever afters.

A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her devoted husband, their two great kids, and three cats. In her “spare” time Darcy is a serial volunteer enrolled in a 12-step program where one learns to say “no,” but she keeps having to start over. She’s also a fair-weather runner, and her happy places are Disneyland and Labor Day weekend at the Gorge. Visit Darcy online at http://www.darcy-burke.com, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/darcyburke, or like her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/darcyburkefans.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wild about the Zoo

With the American summer holidays fast approaching those in the northern hemisphere and the Australian winter driving us indoors, I thought I’d share one of my favorite activities: visiting the zoo.

For me, trips to the zoo are best done in Spring or Autumn. Not too hot, not to cold. But while I love trips to the zoo, sometimes it’s not always possible. Time and money and bad weather can often get in the way of a great day out. But there is a pretty cool solution to visiting the zoo with your kids without even leaving the comfort of our houses: visit the zoo online.

Zoos have fantastic resources to keep the kids amused, and some even have live web cam in animal enclosures. I’ve spent today surfing the web and I have to say I’m impressed. How often can you take a peek at the Chester Zoo in England when you’re half a world away? Zoo cam makes it easy. Here are some of the most interesting sites I’ve found today:

ourpandasAustralia: PANDA CAM at Adelaide Zoo

Recently, Adelaide Zoo in South Australia acquired two Giant Pandas: Wang Wang and Funi. They are part of the global Giant Panda breeding program.


Baby Penguin Chester ZooUk: PENGUIN CAM at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo also has webcams in their Flamingo and Giraffe enclosures.

Ireland: WOLF CAM at Dublin Zoo

Sea Otter Cam

Canada: SEA OTTER & SEA NETTLES CAM at Vancouver Aquarium


So, if you’re frequently at a loss for finding quiet ways to entertain your kids through the holidays, or are an animal fan yourself, be sure to bookmark this post. The Japanese Sea Nettles are lovely to watch. 

Remember, the web cams are all operating in real time so you’ll need a rough idea of when its daylight at that zoo before you settle in to watch. Another activity for the kids to research perhaps?

Do you have other entertainment sites that your kids love to visit? If so, please share them in the comments section and spread the resources to other parents.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Road Trip!

In just over a week's time I will be taking my four and six year boys on the time-honored, All American, designed to make Mom lose her schmidt, ROAD TRIP!
Hello darling. I just called because I heard you lost your effin' mind!

The reasons behind making the trip are a little bit sad and a little bit happy.

My grandmother is ninety-two and has gotten much more frail in the last few years. My dad (who is to blame for this cockamamie idea), would like to see his mom again for what might possibly be the last time. And he asked if we would like to come with him and, of course, we do. I miss my grandmother, I haven't seen her nearly as much as I would have liked to in the last decade, and I'm not very good on the phone.

(Ask anyone. I do not enjoy the telephone. Talk fast, get to the point and let me get back to parenting/cooking/writing/watching The Daily Show.)

But it's happy, because we get to see her, and the rest of my dad's family, and some very good friends that we don't get to visit nearly often enough. So, there's that.

Because it would be ridiculously expensive and chaotic to fly with the munchkins, we decided to make the drive from North Carolina to Connecticut in my mini-van instead. It's about a full day's drive, not too bad, especially since The Beast is fully loaded. (I've got two TV/DVD players, with cordless headphones and Wii plug-in, up in here, yo. Bling, bling.) Also, after six years of driving to South Florida to visit my husband's family, I'm prepared to deal with breakouts of boredom.
We forgot the Cars 2 DVD at home?! Cry me a river, Lunchbox.

Want to color? I got this. Two lap trays with pockets on the side to hold crayons and markers and a hard flip "desktop" for drawing on.

Hungry? Same lap desks convert to portable tables, so the kids can eat on them, and now the pockets can hold silverware or drinks.

Feel the need for an epic battle between good and bad cars? Detach the flip top of the tray, and you have a "well" where you can crash and smash to your little, evil...um, I mean, energetic...heart's content.

Feeling the need to poke your brother, make high-pitched noises for no reason at all or ask "Are we there yet?" for the 873rd time? Just ask Mom to pop in a DVD and slap some headphones on. It's better than getting left on the side of the road.

 Being On The Road means eating almost exclusively out of Mickey D's or The Cracker Barrel , but one of the ways around that is to bring your own food. We do this a lot. It looks like we are in some survival movie, when we go on vacation. There are at least two bags full of "snacks". And when I says snacks, I actually mean what most people would consider a week's worth of groceries. Fruit, dried fruit, two or three types of crackers, pretzels, bread, peanut butter and more fruit. Did I mention we usually pack a small cooler too? Cheese sticks, jelly and maybe some lunch meat.

Also, we bring a gallon or two of water. In case we are stranded in the desert. You know, the one that magically appeared overnight somewhere in Virginia.

Because you never know when The Zombie Apocalypse could happen, and darn it, I'm not going to die because I had to go foraging for food because someone forgot to pack enough Fruit Rollups!
This is what happens when you have to stop for road trip munchies.

Also, we have a lot of luggage. Let's just not go there, m'kay?

I'm actually looking forward to this, though. My husband and my mom both have less flexible schedules and had to stay behind, so it's just me and my dad and the boys. I think it will be fun, sort of a bonding time. And did I mention that we are staying at my aunt and uncle's house...out in the driveway in their RV bus? I've never slept in one before. I'm going to look at it as luxury camping. I think the boys are going to love it, and it will be good practice for the Major Travel Campaign that my husband and I are thinking of undertaking in a few years. In fact, this whole trip will be a trial run for the Big Time.

We want to travel from NC to Maine, then up into Canada, and come back by way of The Great Lakes. We might be insane at the end of those two weeks, but we will have memories, damn it!
"Donner? Party of one?" It's a cookbook! It's a cookbook!

(I have many memories of my own childhood road trips. Most of them are from the books I refused to look up from.)

Did your parents take you on road trips when you were young? Did you enjoy them or hate them? Are they something you would do now for a vacation or do you prefer to fly somewhere warm and loll on the beach instead?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

She Made it a Year

I think you all know by now that I'm a Crazy Cat Lady. And if any of you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you have probably seen my grumblings about my dear, sweet, adorable demon-spawn kitten, Dakota.

That's her in her carrier, AKA cat prison, just last week. She had to go to the mean, horrible, no-good, really-bad vet. It was AWFUL. The humans are mean to her. Very, very mean. They deserve lots of hisses and growls.

She doles them out in kind. Our vet is at PetSmart, and after our visit, I took her over to the cat toy aisle. Silly me, I thought it would help to make up for the awful visit to the mean vet if I got her a new toy. In the process, she hissed and growled at every human we passed, all of whom just wanted to look in her carrier and tell me how cute she is.

Yeah, I know she's cute. Trust me, I know it.

Well, as of the twelfth of this month, Dakota is officially a year old. And as of next Tuesday, she will have officially been part of my household for a full year, even though we only intended to keep her long enough to get her weaned and then find her a new home.

This is her on the day she arrived, in the palm of my sister's hand. My sister has TINY hands for an adult, by the way. Mine look monstrous compared to hers. So really, that's Dakota on the hand of say a 10-year-old girl, by comparison.

She was only two and a half weeks old when she came to live with me. Back then, she spent a lot of time sleeping in the make-shift incubator we made for her (an old bucket from cat litter with a few towels on the bottom, placed over a heating pad set to low).

Dakota had been abandoned by her mama cat on the day she was born--still covered in after-birth and with the umbilical cord attached. The lady who found her took her home, cleaned her up, and she and her husband spent a little over two weeks trying to keep up with the demands of this tiny little thing that probably didn't have any shot at survival, if not for their efforts.

Newborn kittens eat every two hours around the clock...did you know that? By the time she came to live with me, she was down to bottle feedings every three hours. Still a massive undertaking, but at least I worked from home, so I didn't have to make special trips home in the middle of my work day to feed her. Dakota's rescuer and her husband both worked full-time away from home. It was just too much for them to keep up with.

She was teeny-tiny! I don't remember how many ounces it was that she weighed when she came to live with us, but she was as small as the keys to my dad's pickup truck...and they were decidedly heavier than she was.

Not only that, but when it was mealtime, she wanted her bottle, and she wanted it now! I wish I had video of her guzzling her bottles. If we didn't give her a big enough hole in the nipple, she got frustrated, and my hands ended up bloodier than they needed to be, because she dug her little razor-claws into me in her frantic need to be fed, and be fed RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

She literally finished each bottle within seconds. Good thing I knew to burp her. Yes, you have to burp bottle-fed kitties and puppies, just like you have to burp bottle-fed human babies.

After the burping, she immediately wanted to curl up with me and take a nap, as pictured to the left.

Even back then, she had the makings of becoming a devil-kitty. We just didn't realize it. I mean, look how cute she was! See the innocent-sleepy-how-adorable-am-I look? See the cute ears that are barely starting to open and the blue baby kitty eyes and the little white socks and the adorableness just oozing out of her?

How could anything that cute possibly be a bad kitty cat?

How could anyone NOT love her to pieces?

Impossible. Ludicrous, even.

How can you resist this sweet little princess kitty who just wants to love you and be loved by you and steal your heart forever?

You can't.

And if you tried to resist the cuteness (seriously not worth the effort back then), she'd roll around on the floor and be cute all over again.

Seriously. Resistance is futile when it comes to bottle-fed baby kitties, just like when it comes to the Borg.

If that rolling around on the floor because her tummy was so full from guzzling her bottle as fast as she could possibly consume it routine wasn't enough to steal your heart (pictured to the left), well, seeing her tiny little self falling down into the edges of her cat bed while she napped it off would probably do it (below).

See the super-sleepy kitty look here? Yeah, it was an act designed to steal your heart.

Also, notice the tail pulled up between the legs? She started the chase-and-attack-the-tail routine long before she could chase anything very well.

That tail is long and dangerous. It needs to be caught. It needs to be killed. It needs to be put in its place, and Dakota will do it, darn you, humans.

Slowly but surely, though...well, actually, faster than we ever imagined...Dakota started to grow up. And with growing up, she started to get into things.

Here she is at about 6 weeks old or so, curled up ever-so-innocently around the power box that keeps one of the laptops charged.

What you don't see in the picture is all the teeth and claw marks all along the cord. I'm telling you, already, she was becoming a devil cat. Do not let the cute, innocent eyes fool you.

Being fooled by the cuteness only leads to more trouble.

Or here, where she's about four months old and looks like she couldn't possibly have been doing anything naughty. Yeah, don't buy it. Do not trust the innocent cat eyes for even a second. This was the look that likely came right after she got caught walking around on the kitchen table (a big no-no in my house) and knocking things off onto the floor. If not that, she'd just been doing something naughty. I promise.

Rule-breaker. That was her from a very young age.

It took a while for my older cat, Kiki, to warm up to her. I should have taken that as a sign of all of the trouble to come.

This picture was one I took the first time they shared my lap. Dakota was five months old by the time this happened. Notice Kiki was asleep, and Dakota came up to join her.

The cuddle session didn't last long. Once Kiki realized that the Bad Cat had joined her on my lap, she left. That was it. She was not going to share my lap with such a rule-breaker, such a demon cat who wanted to take over my life. Nope, the Kiks wasn't so sure about all of that.

She still isn't, for that matter. They don't cuddle. At best, you could say that Kiki puts up with Dakota. Most of the time. I don't think they'll ever be best buddies.

Still, even with everything going against her that she's had, this little demon-spawn, devil-cat, hell-beast kitty has somehow made it to a full year old.

Who woulda thunk it? Definitely not me.

She's decided that I am her human, though. Which only makes sense. Since she was a mere two-and-a-half weeks old, I'm the only mama she's ever known. (Darn the luck!)

Because of that, Dakota rarely lets me out of her sight. Here she is, "supervising" while I write. You can probably tell she takes this job very seriously.

Sadly, her bad habits have only intensified as she's gotten older. And none of the cuteness has abated.

I only wish I had video to share with you all of her leaping against the walls to turn the light switch on and off and on and off and on and off. One of these days, we'll catch it.

In the meanwhile, I'll just keep trying to find ways to deal with this little monster. There's no telling how much past a year she'll make it, though. Her lifespan outlook might depend on how many more times she drools on me when she wants me to get up and feed her in the mornings. :)

Have you ever taken on a pet, or a job or project, that was only supposed to be temporary and somehow ended up having it become permanent? Do you have a demon-spawn cat in your home? Do you want one?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Midsummer Nightmare

Okay. Maybe I’m being a bit of a drama queen with the title, but seriously, summer vacation is one huge headache. There’s no school! Parents need school to maintain their sanity.

I realize teachers need a break to maintain theirs as well, but why does the break have to come all at one time? I would love year-round school with shorter breaks throughout the year.

My top 5 reasons for dreading summer vacation:

1. “I’m bored!” These two little words from my daughter send a shiver of fear through me. They are usually the early warning signal that something is going down real soon. Maybe it will be something bad like a broken bone, a gash that leaves a scar, things that make you scream, WHAT THE HECK IS IN MY FREEZER? (That’s just my experiment, mom.)

Or maybe it will be creative like this…
A portrait of flowers ripped from my garden.

Or maybe a little bizarre like this…

Doesn't everyone keep their stuffed toys on the front lawn?

Or really bizarre like this…
Some of you saw this on my FB page or Twitter. Don't be alarmed. It's just an Avatar Barbie.
2. "What do we have to eat?" Our son is no longer a baby. He’s a swarm of locust, better known as a teenage boy. A house full of groceries is gone in a day! As he’s eating breakfast and still chewing, he’ll ask what we’re doing for lunch. Last summer I would hear the wood floor creaking at midnight and find the evidence of a feeding frenzy all over the kitchen the next morning. It was like something out of a Stephen King novel. Well, if Stephen wrote about jelly and brutal butter knife attacks on bread.

3. “Moooom!” If my daughter calls for me once a day, she calls for me a thousand. I swear my name is like a soothing chant to her. Mohm! Mohm! She sometimes doesn’t even realize she has called me. She’ll look at me blankly and say, “Huh?” I'm so conditioned to answer to "Mom", I once answered my cat's meow.

4. "Are you done yet?" The biggest issue with kids at home all day is I work out of my house. If I'm home, my kids think I’m available. I don’t blame them, but the fact is I have phone calls to make, sick people to visit, and documentation to write. And this is very hard to do when I’m interrupted a hundred times a day by my daughter who is bored, misses me, and wants to know when I can come spend time with her. Of course, the minute I clock out, she’s ready to go play with a friend.

Then there’s my son who wants to know if I want to pick up McDonald’s for lunch. Oh, and by the way, what are we thinking about for dinner? And will I take him to the store to rent a video game? No? What about the mall to pre-order a game? Then what about Best Buy? No to that too? Oh, hey! There was this really funny show he watched and since he has no idea how to give a summary, he’ll just feed it to me verbatim. “Waaaaaa!!!!”

I don't really scream. I just want to.
5. "OMG. If my kids don’t get in bed and stay there, my head is going to explode!" There’s no quiet time during summer. No uninterrupted snuggle time with hubby. No watching TV in the basement without the sound of plodding footsteps overhead. If we were smart, we’d wake the kids up at 6:30 in the morning so they would go to bed earlier. But the morning is my ONLY quiet time. I never want to give it up.

A part of me realizes this won’t be forever, so I try to practice patience. Our son starts high school next year and soon he’ll be gone. (He will, right? I don’t think I could take an adult child living in the basement.) Our lives will be altered forever when he goes to college. Then our little girl will grow up and leave the nest. (She is leaving, I swear it, even if she says she’s going to live in our house and send us to a retirement home. LOL) And then my husband and I will have so much peace and quiet, we probably won’t know what to do with ourselves. So, I’m just going to sit back and try to enjoy these days without complaining. Well, with minimal complaining. I think all parents are entitled to grumble a little from time to time.

What are summers like at your house? And what was your favorite part of summer when you were a kid? (I used to love playing hide-and-seek at night with the neighborhood kids.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Top Five Time Sucks

I'll be the first to admit it: I have a weakness for certain websites. More specifically I have a weakness for Social Media. Mostly, I think it's because I'm a stay-at-home-mom, and conversations with a 4 and 8 year old can get kinda...well, you know.

For example my 8 year old decided to play a joke on me. It went a little like this:

8 Year Old: Mommy, say hi to your knee.
Me: Hi, Knee
8 Year Old: *giggling* You just said hiney.

Thought provoking, right?!

Here's my list of sites where I get my fix. I even linked them to my name so I won't be alone in the madness you can join in on the fun:

1. Twitter-  It's all about Fast Furious Conversations That You Cannot--something shiny!--Wait, what was I saying again? Never mind, it was so fifteen seconds ago.

2. Pinterest--Nowhere else (except a Martha Stewart magazine) can you be made to feel like an idiot for not realizing that a piece of metal, a couple of sticks and a plastic bottle will keep your kids enthralled for HOURS. I call BS on that one.

3. facebook- Admit it: you like seeing what your old high school and college friends are up to, what their house looks like, if their children are hellions and what *they* look like now.

4. Lady Scribes- Seriously, let us be your time suck. We're entertaining, informative and have chic women posing at the top of our page (especially that one with the heart-shaped purse). It's like we're the news, only romancier.

5. Email- Specifically hitting the refresh button every three seconds. Almost as exciting as staring at a pot of water while waiting for it to boil.

What's your favorite way to get lost on the internet?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thrown a Curve Ball

I don’t know anyone who isn’t crazy busy, especially during the month of May. School is ending, graduation parties weekly, school concerts, school plays/musicals, Mother’s Day, getting ready for Memorial Day, etc. And, on top of these a lot of us still have a day job or a publishing schedule to keep with, or both. So, we schedule each second of every day to accomplish every goal we must reach.

For me, I had a deadline to finish A Misguided Lord. I was already behind and planned on writing the rest last weekend. It was how my Mother’s Day weekend was going to be spent. I knew what was going to happen in the story and just had to sit my behind in the chair, ignore the rest of the world and find the last 15,000 words. Those words should have been written at least a month earlier, but things happened, and kept happening that pulled me from my office. The publication date for the e-book version was set at May 24th. Nothing like cutting it close and I had more than a few e-mails from an editor and critique partner asking for the rest of the book.

On Friday, May 11th, the clock at the day job was edging its way to 4:30 p.m. and then I would be free to write to my heart’s content and bring Lord Clayton Bentley and Miss Eleanor Westin to their happily-ever-after. I could see them in my mind and couldn’t wait.

Then something weird happened. My left eye began to act up. It didn’t want to blink. Odd. Was I having an allergic reaction or something? I rubbed it a few times, shrugged it off and figured I was just tired.

As I was driving home, the left side of my face went numb. It was if I had been given a shot of Novocain. That is exactly how it felt (without the painful needle/injection part). I kept tapping my cheek and moving my jaw. What the heck was going on? I had a moment of fear that I was having a stroke, but I had no other symptoms. So, I went home, did a few things around the house, looked in the mirror a few times to study the oddity in my face, and went on with my business. Except my face didn’t get better. I will be honest. I was getting scared and the internet was but a few feet away. Don’t you love how researching symptoms can either scare the life out of you, or bring comfort? However, what I did realize over and over was that I should go to the ER. Okay, yes, that should have been obvious but I am stubborn. I don’t go to the doctor unless it is absolutely necessary and even then I try to put it off. You think I would learn. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia because I put off going to the doctor. But that is another story of my stupidity.

Anyway, hubby took me to the ER when he got home from work and I received the diagnoses I had begun to expect from internet research: Bell’s Palsy. I had heard about this condition but didn’t know that much about it. What I have since learned is that:

1) Outside of a trauma (which I did not have) they have no idea what causes it;

2) They don’t really know what they can do about it. I was given a prescription of Prednisone and an anti-viral medication;

3) They can’t predict how long it will last. I’ve heard from six weeks to three to six months!

4) Bell’s Palsy basically paralyzes one side of your face. My left eyelid will not close on its own. I have to physically do that. It gets dry and I have to add drops. I have to tape the eye closed to sleep. I found it is really hard to fall asleep when you are looking into the room. How do people manage to sleep with their eyes open? And, it is very sensitive to light, even in the office at the day job! I can’t be in the sun and do you know how gorgeous our weather has been? Hubby is working in the yard as I type this and I so wish I could be there with him pulling weeds, tending blooms *sigh*. It is 90 degrees with hardly any humidity. Maybe I will find a pirate patch and join him. Argh!

5) There is no way to determine if a person will recover 100% or not at all, or somewhere in the middle.

So, what does this mean? My planned writing weekend was a bust. The stuff happening with the face, sensitive hearing, difficulty eating, talking and not tasting, wasn't so bad. Besides, losing about 20 pounds wouldn't hurt. The worst part of this: I couldn't read! I couldn’t sit at the computer and do my thing. I left Bentley and Miss Westin in a precarious situation and needed to get back to them. Not only did this mess with my writing deadline, but all I do at my day job is work at a computer or read documents. I needed an answer and I needed one quick. If this was only going to be a few days of disruption, I would have dealt with it. But at least 6 weeks! I can’t be put on hold for that long. My boss can’t be put on hold that long and more importantly, neither can my characters. So, I spent Monday and Tuesday home from the day job trying to figure out how I was going to make this work. My computer time was limited. I kept the ceiling light off and used only a desk lamp because that does seem to help and started off using both eyes, but the left would water and I couldn’t see. Then I would tape it shut or put a patch on. That lasted a little while before the right blurred and ached.

Have I mentioned this was a bit frustrating? My habit is to write a chapter, go back, edit, revised and then move on, and I edit as I go, tending to back up a paragraph or two, or three. So, what is a girl to do when she has characters screaming at her to finish their story but she can’t look at a computer screen above thirty minutes at a time? She closes her eyes and types.

Yep, that is what I ended up doing. I sat my behind in the chair, patched the left eye, closed the right, put fingers to the keyboard, and let the character write the story with only occasional glances at the screen.

It was liberating!

The story flowed and since it was a pain to go back and try and edit, I didn't and kept going. I wrote, rested, wrote and rested. At the end of the day, I had around 10,000 words!

Yes, you read the number correctly. I can’t believe it either, but they are there. I cringe at the thought of how many typos or grammatical errors may be lurking on the pages, but most of the remainder of the story got written. And the pages have been sent off to my critique partners and editor. I may just reach my deadline yet. As it is Saturday morning as I write this (patting self on back for having blog written early), I anticipate the day will close with my typing The End, even if I am not looking at the  words. In the past week my endurance of looking at the computer screen has gotten much better however, I still can’t put in the hours I used to.

What I have learned is that this curve ball was actually an excellent thing to happen to the author in me. I was forced to stop self-editing as I go and simply write. It freed me in ways I can’t begin to explain. Even when all of this is over, I think the habit of simply closing my eyes will stay with me for good. It was just too much fun to write without questioning, second guessing or editing and to just let the story flow out through the fingertips. You should try it sometime.

Have you ever been thrown a curve ball that you think will screw up all of your plans only for it to be one of the best things that could happen to you?

Jane Charles
Countess of Content

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I Survived Prom

I Survived Prom

For the second year in a row I feel like I need to buy a T-shirt that says “I Survived Prom!”

I suppose to start this story; I need to begin with last year’s prom.  I was about an hour and a half away from home at an outlet mall searching for a prom dress that wouldn’t cause me to have to take out a second mortgage on the house, and a storm hits. Hard. There was nothing at the outlet mall anyway, so we tear out of there drive to one of those discount warehouses where every prom dress is $99.  Yay, I’m thinking we hit the jackpot. 

But no. The only person who could wear those slinky thin dresses without looking like they were starring in an X-rated movie, were size zero girls or 11-year-olds who hadn’t yet hit puberty.  And then the storm found us. Again! It sounded like a hurricane was bashing the metal warehouse un-insulated roof.  We high-tailed it out of there drove another half-hour outrunning the storm and troopers that we were ended up at the mall. 

I should stop here to say I hate malls. Store after store. Walking, walking, walking.  I want everything but can have nothing . . . well, you get my drift. I digress.  We are now in the dressing room trying on one gown after another, and the phone rings.  It’s our friends from a mile down the road.  “Was our house okay?” she asked, her voice high-pitched and trembling.
“Is my HOUSE okay?” My heart lurched. “What do you mean?”
Apparently a tornado had just taken off half her roof. 


Now, I’m from California. We don’t get tornadoes. We get cute little wind-whippers. All the way home I’m wondering about what we’re going to find. News images from places like Kansas where are that’s left is rubble run through my mind, torturing me. I start worrying about my dogs. My cat. My other kids!

Finally, we get closer to our neighborhood. Trees are torn up and uprooted.  The roads are barely passable. Lots of roofs down, and fences torn up. 

But then we pull into our neighborhood, and everything is fine. Not a leave off a tree. How is that possible?

Needless to say, prom dress shopping that day was over.

Eventually we found the perfect prom dress at a bridal shop, and I swore I would never shop anywhere else again.

Fast forward to this year. I waited too long and a week before prom our favorite bridal shop had NOTHING. Here we go again, driving all over the state searching for that one dress that popped!

Finally, we found a Prom dress. No natural disasters this time. Just the normal — alterations, rushing across town to beat the clock and make it to the tailor on time. The search for the perfect shoes.  

The perfect pedicure.

The hair. The hair jewelry. HAIR JEWELRY? Who knew? Not me.

Next, a special trip to find the necklace and earrings, and I’m beginning to think I’m going to need to call the loan agent after all, when I go to the florist to buy the flowers. Oh, and let’s not forget the professional make-up job.

It was a whirlwind week. And she looked beautiful. But I had to admit, after hours and hours of shopping, I lost my patience and told her she was being way too picky. Her answer to me— “Just wait until I get married, mom!”

Interview with THE Romance Man

Today, I'm very excited to have The Romance Man at Lady Scribes. I first learned about RM through a facebook post by author Jessica Scott. Nosy person that I am, I clicked on the link and started reading the most hilarious book review evah. Seriously.  The line that killed me was: The hero kept appearing out of nowhere; I think the author confused Navy SEALS with ninjas.

Don't be fooled (and  DEAR LORD don't read his blogs at work or church--if you work at a church, you're just plain screwed.), RM takes romance seriously, even his approach to reviewing and sharing too much information has a serious bent.  And it's because of this approach that he has amassed a serious following.

Usually, RM is doing polls and asking outrageous questions to get into the mind of the female reader, but today he's revealing all for us.

Marquita Valentine:  I read on your blog that you came out to your wife, Lexie--about reading Romance Novels, that is.  How exactly did *that* conversation go, and does she support your addiction?

Romance Man: It wasn't so much coming out as getting caught. She walked into my office while I was reading and I had to tell her. When she got done laughing I told her about the book I was currently reading and some of the others I had read. She was shocked simply because I am not the kind of guy you would ever think reads romance novels but she loves it. We read them together at night while we are in bed and it is great quality time together. I think every man should do this with his wife. It will improved their relationship and their sex life.

MV: Have you spilled the beans to any of your friends about your alter ego? 

RM: No, I have not told any family or friends about this. Since you have read my blog I'm sure you can understand why.

MV: What do you think a guy could learn by reading a romance novel?

RM: Romance novels are a blueprint for what women like and want and I can't believe more men haven't figured this out. I can't believe it took me so long to figure out. These are books that are written by women for women so they are filled with things that women like and find attractive. They are like an instruction manual and I have learned so much about women reading these books. 

MV:What's your favorite type of heroine? 

RM: Strong and feminine. I believe women can be strong and feminine and most writers do this well. I have read a few books where the writers mistake physical strength as the only kind of strength and sometimes they wind up writing women that are macho. I don't like that. I like women that are mentally and emotionally strong. That is very sexy to me. 

MV: Now that you're a pro at reading romance, do you have a favorite genre? 

RM: I am far from a pro but so far my favorite is Military mainly because I was in the military and I can relate to alot of the things in those books. I have not read a Historical yet and I don't really like Paranormal because they aren't normal. I like Contemporary though.

MV: Everyone loves your blog and it's become very well known in such a short span of time. How are you coping with your new found anonymous fame?

RM: It's bizarre in a lot of ways. I have a lot of new authors asking me to read their books and I get emails asking my opinion. It is strange that anyone would care what I think, my wife doesn't even care what I think. I wrote a blog called "Men and Marriage", it was geared toward men and was just some things that I thought men could easily do to improve their marriage and the response I received was huge. I got incredibly emotional, sad emails from women talking about there marriages and their problems and I realized that even though I am just a blogger what I write can effect people and that is a strange feeling for me. 

MV: Are you surprised at the welcome you've received by the romance writers' community? 

RM: Stunned is more like it. When I started my blog I really thought women would hate it because of my language and content but it has been the complete opposite women love the site. Everyone from readers to authors have been so kind to me and I never expected that. I have developed close friendships with many of these women and I think the romance community has some of the nicest people in the world in it. 

MV: Is there any situation you'd like to see written in a romance novel? 

RM: Yes I want to see a romance novel that does not have a happy ending, just once I want to see that. I also want to see a hero who is a war hero, vampire and shape shifter who falls in love with a heroine who is an alien.

Thank you so much for blogging with us today, RM! I hope you'll come back!

You can find The Romance Man on Twitter, facebook and at his blog.

What book would you suggest RM read next? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life Lessons From a Cat

My parents have taught me many valuable lessons about life, but the most valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far was just taught to me by my cat Gandalf.  Our cat is eleven, in human years, and if any of you have a pet you’ll know for a cat that’s not so old.  Consider Gandalf to be about sixty-two.  Imagine, if you will, that Gandalf is your parents’ ages.  I ask you to do this because in cat years that’s just about how old my parents are. 

I want you to suspend your reality for a minute and pretend Gandalf is a person, perhaps your mom or your dad.  One day you notice that your mom or you dad is getting thinner, too thin, so you mention it to them, and go with them to see the doctor.  After two weeks of extensive testing the doctor tells your parent, I’ll choose my mom, that she has a fat absorption problem, and that she must, for the rest of her life, mix a powder with her food in order to get the nutrients she needs from her food. 

Your mom has gotten really weak at this point, so you take her home and assume the responsibility of feeding her.  Stubborn mom, won’t eat!  She’s that one-in-a-million person who can smell the powder in her food.  After a week of coaxing, begging, and watching your mom drop more weight, you call the doctor again because now you are seeing your mom’s bones actually protruding from her face.  The doctor stubbornly says it can’t be the powder, but you, being the person who has mixed it for your ailing mother for a week, assures the doctor it is.  The doctor gives you a test to give your mom some food without the powder, and if your mom eats that food, then the doctor will believe you. 

Your mom gobbles that powder free food up and you call the doctor and tell them.  The doctor has an odd tone, as if she’s none to pleased to have been proven wrong by a commoner-a non-doctor!  Then the doctor tells you and your mom that she has NO choice.  She has to have that powder or she will die. You listen and nod to the doctor then politely explain, again, that your mom is starving to death because she won’t eat food with the powder in it.  The doctor tells you to try another type of food, so you do.  You try ALL different types, but the food is not the special diet food and it makes your mom sick, plus she can STILL smell the powder. 

This goes on for another week and now you can plainly see your mother is starving to death. You take her into the doctor, and the doctor takes one look at your mother and instead of trying anything else to help your mom the doctor coldly states you must put your mom to sleep.

Stop!  Come back from imaginary land.  This is exactly what happened with my cat last week.  As I stood in my vet’s office crying, I couldn’t gather the strength, at that moment, to put my cat down.  Instead, I went home and called my mom who used to be in the business of animal rescuing.  I told her about my cat, and she told me I needed a second opinion.  Why hadn’t I thought of that? 

My mom drove to my house and took my cat with her to her vet that very day.  At that point, my cat had gone from nine pounds to four.  He was, in fact, starving to death.  That was last Friday.  Yesterday, my mom called, she lives four hours away, and told me that tomorrow my cat could come home with her.  You see, Gandalf is doing much better.  This new vet tried a different powder that my cat wasn’t as finicky about eating.  I had asked my old vet if there was another medicine, and she had told me no.  This new vet also fed Gandalf special fluids to hydrate him until he would eat again.  My old vet took one look at my starving, dehydrated cat and told me to put him to sleep.

Here comes the valuable lessons my cat just taught me.  Doctors are not God. They make mistakes.  Some doctors are better than others.  Most importantly though, second opinions are a must.  I’m glad I’ve had these lessons hammered into me now, before I made the mistake of listening to a doctor who gave me the wrong advice.  I’m just sorry that I didn’t seek a second opinion for my poor cat sooner.  I’m proud to report though that my new vet has told me Gandalf is a fighter, and he thinks he will survive.  I can tell you that my two young boys, me and even my husband, who has always loved to grumble about the cat, are so glad to hear Gandalf is doing better and will be coming home to us soon! 

Have you ever had a valuable lesson taught to you by your pet?

Have a great day,
Julie Johnstone
The Marchioness Of Mayhem