Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Minor Accomplishment

I know, I know. I've been terribly neglectful with this blog. I can make all the excuses in the world. Basically, life is busy, and for a few weeks, this blog took a back seat. I hope not to be as negligent in the future.

Anyway, today, I achieved a minor accomplishment. I finished sewing my daughter's First Communion dress. I started in in February. In my defense, I took about a month off from working on it. My goal was to get it done by Easter. When Easter week rolled around, I had it all done with the exception of the button loop/button on the back and the flower trim. The flower was vexing me. My daughter was set on it, and try as I might, I just couldn't get it right. I tried talking her out of the flowers. That didn't fly. She was set on that stupid flower, and I was at a standstill. Well, today, I conquered the flower, and it's my favorite part of the dress!

I wanted to make her dress for the experience of doing it together--shopping for the pattern and fabric, sewing, measuring, being together. Well, I did most of it on my own, with my daughter begrudgingly returning to the dining room for fittings. But, in those times when she sat at the table with me, making cat toys on her sewing machine, I knew that it was all worth it. I'm carrying on a long tradition of sewing. I grew up with my mom sewing. I still have a few of the dresses that she made me. I loved (and still do) fabric, which is probably why I like to sew. My grandmother (on my dad's side) was a gifted seamstress and made everything. Her daughter (my aunt) also sews and made her daughter's First Communion dress, as well as her dress for my wedding (just as my grandmother made my aunt's dress for my parents' wedding). I don't know that my daughter will want to sew, but it will not be for lack of exposure.

My daughter had a few requirements for her dress: puffed sleeves (I think she's secretly channeling Anne Shirley), long, sparkly, a flower, and a bow. In the planned project, she was getting it all except the bow. The sparkly component will be the death of me. She picked a fabric, organza-like, that had silver glitter on it. Which is now EVERYWHERE in my house. It will be the death of me. On the other hand, the fabric was easier to work with than normal organza or chiffon, so I am learning to deal with the glitter. My uncle questioned the use of glitter in a First Communion dress, but rest assured, it is not gypsy or Vegas glitter--it is really just enough to give a sheen to the dress from afar.

I went on Pinterest and found a tutorial for a veil. The veil took me less than an hour to make and is perfect. My daughter has ultra-fine hair that defies most styling products. Her go-to hair accessory is a headband. Rather than try and make her hair do something it's not meant to, I put the veil on a headband.

I am so pleased with this project. I have no formal training and don't claim to be a seamstress. Maybe in another life, I would have pursued fashion, but for now, it will stay a hobby. My daughter is happy, and I'm happy that I could give her everything she wanted. Most of all, I'm so proud that I am done with two weeks to spare!

Saturday, March 14, 2015


All my life, I've had pretty vivid dreams. I remember a good chunk of them as well. I still remember a dream I had when I was very young, less than five. It was in black and white, and set at our old house (we moved before I was three). My mom put orange marmalade on my toast. The orange marmalade was in color, like something that was photoshopped, twenty-five years before photoshop existed. I woke up crying because I HATE orange marmalade, and I felt that, in my dream, my mom did it on purpose.

I also remember a nightmare I had when I was not that much older. I went into the basement at my aunt's house and it was lined with tanks of creatures, including an octopus that was coming out of the tank after me. For the record, my aunt had no tanks of any kind in her basement.

Sometimes, I get to visit with people in my dreams. I've had lots of pleasant visits with my grandparents. When I wake up, I have a moment where I'm not sure if they're still here or not, and then sadness washes over me as I realize that they are no longer here.

My dreams have been great in coming up with story ideas. Several of my books contain scenes that were directly inspired by dreams. The collision scene between Declan and Kaitlin in the beginning of Jump, Jive, and Wail is one. I will wake up and instantly know that that dream is meant to go in a book.

When I was in college, I noticed that if I had pepperoni pizza at night, I would have bizarre dreams. I referred to them as pepperoni dreams. Now, I occasionally take melatonin to help me sleep, and the dreams I have when I take it are so far out there,

Last night, I had neither pepperoni nor melatonin. My dreams throughout the night consisted of the following:

  1. A tiger in a dense wooded area that was attacking its prey, only to burst through the trees onto a soccer field in the middle of the city and attack the players. I was a witness and ran to a nearby hospital to hide.
  2. Going backstage at a Weird Al Yankovic concert (except it wasn't backstage, more like an office building with lots of computers). I got to meet lots of people, but not Weird Al himself.
  3. My uncle was trying to steal items from my aunt (his sister) that he thought he should have been entitled to from my grandparents' estate. This included the corner of a silk painting (????) from Spain. For the record, there is no such painting.
  4. My aunt ignored her brother and instead gave me clothes from her wardrobe (which does not really exist), much to the dismay of her daughter. She gave me a long pashmina type dress which was much too long so I tried to give it to my cousin who is much taller (she was still mad though).
  5. I was preparing to go to England for a book event. I was set to leave in two weeks and just realized that I did not have my passport (true, I don't have a passport).
Dreams 2-5 melted right into each other. I'm sort of bummed that there's nothing that is good story material. I wonder what the heck was going on in my brain last night.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just tired

I'm just tired.

Last week was February break, which was great. Got a whole lot of nothing done. Well, that's not true, but I wasn't super active. With temperatures below 0 and windchills even lower, I wasn't motivated to leave the house much. My kids were happy for the down time as well, getting to play with toys that they don't have time for, binge watching HGTV, and enjoying the ever-elusive pajama day.

And now, it's caught up with me. Working full time (for the first time since my son--who's now 11--was born) is taking it's toll. Of course, it's annual review season, which means there simply aren't enough hours in the day. This week, was just one of those weeks. Late after-school meetings, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Learning Fair, dance, doctor's appointment. The hubs and I have been playing tag team running here and there and we're now thinking that we're not allowed to spend more than 5 minutes in the same room before one of us has to rush off.

So, I'm tired. I tend not to sleep well. There's the 2 am pee. There's the stupid cats who like to torment me by chewing on electrical cords or systematically knocking items off my dresser until I get up. There's the night sweats (and no, I'm not making the change, I've had them for 8 years now). There's never enough sleep. And the bags under my eyes are showing it. They're so big, they're practically steamer trunks. I even edited them out of one of the picture's from my son's birthday party.

Today, a concerned co-worker said, "You look like you don't feel well. Are you sick?"

Yeah no, that's just my face.

So tonight, I'm already in my jammies (God bless the hubs for doing the Scouts run tonight). I did a "rejuvenating" cucumber peel-off face mask to help my apparently terrible looking face. We're just going to gloss over how I may have gotten the goop a little close on the under eyes and how I may have had a moment of panic that mask removal may result in the loss of my lower eye lashes.

I don't know if it helped. I think I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead and call it a night. Maybe I won't look so bad in the morning.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fairy Tale Fun Blog Hop (and a CHOCOLATE BROWNIE GIVEAWAY)

Your mission: read this blog post, comment on the question posed, and check out the other blogs that are part of this blog hop. Every blog post comment enters you to win a Sprites Gourmet Brownie Gift Box from Fairytale Brownies.

My mission, should I choose to accept it ... compare my heroine(s) to a fairy tale or real life princess. Uuuuhhh, no way can I do that. Or can I? You see, I'm sort of anti-fairy tale. Especially as being the mom to a young girl. I don't want her thinking that she can live her life as a damsel in distress and expect some man to come riding in on a white horse and save her. Or, that "and they all lived happily ever after" is how marriage goes (sometimes it does, but it comes with lots of hard work).

I pride myself on writing women who don't necessarily start out strong but end up that way. Sometimes, there is a man (handsome and dashing, of course) to help boost her up, but I want my characters to find their hero in themselves.

How, how, how am I going to write this blog post? I can compare Esther in I'm Still Here to Merida in Brave, solely based on their hair.


Actually, now that you mention it, the physical resemblance is sort of uncanny. But I'm still not sold on the fact that I can say Esther's journey is a fairy tale. Tragic past, bad family, handsome doctor (well, 2 actually), more tragedy...oh wait, maybe it is.

Not that I'm a supreme feminist or anything, because I love a good love story. I do, I really do. But I also love butt-kicking women as well. Women who don't let evil step-mothers or ignorant townspeople or curses stop them.

And then I realized while watching the movie Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett for the hundredth time--Elizabeth! That's my princess! That's who I want to draw comparison to. This beautiful woman who doesn't let men push her around. Well, maybe she does at first, but then she wisens up. She is "no-man's Elizabeth."

Plus, Joseph Finnes is dream as Lord Robert. That is, until he turns out to be a weak, married turncoat. I prefer to think about him in the beginning of the movie. (sigh)

And I realized that this Elizabeth bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Zurlo, my protagonist in Hold Her Down. A family who has overwhelmed her identity, a man who has ulterior motives, being called a heretic (and harlot). The name thing is purely coincidental, but I'm glad to say that Elizabeth Zurlo shares her name with such a strong woman.

I think I've done it! By George, I've compared not one but two of my main characters to princesses! One Disney, and one real (although I do think the movie may technically be considered historical fiction).

And now, what do you need to do? (Sorry, this giveaway is open to US APPLICANTS ONLY)

Answer this question: Disney princess or real princess (flaws and all)? Who and why?

Leave a comment for your chance to win THIS brownie gift box from Fairytale Brownies. You will need to include your email in the comment so we know how to contact you if you win.


Check out these blogs and leave a comment there too. Each comment enters you to win the brownies. That's 18 chances! (BTW, 18 is my lucky number)

Just click on the links below to visit the blogs and read how these lovely ladies size up their characters to fairy tales. Leave a comment (with your email address) and you will be entered to win.

Again, this giveaway is open to US Residents Only (sorry). I hope you chose to accept your mission. This post will self-destruct...oh wait, wrong genre. 

And they all lived happily ever after. Is that better?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Can Happen When You're Snowed In...

So, here in Upstate NY, we braced ourselves for Winter Storm Juno. This is what happened:

A whole lot of nothing. My kids were pissed this morning. I mean, pissed in a really pissed off way. What made the situation even more upsetting is that my school district (located East and South of my home) was closed. Yep, I got a snow day and they didn't. Except, it's been snowing all day. I can't even go pick them up because the roads are so bad, and the bus is a safer means of transportation in this kind of weather. Pretty messy out there now.

But that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is that being snowed in makes for interesting dynamics, at least when you're writing a story. In my second novel, Hold Her Down, Elizabeth finds her car off the road and stranded out in an ice storm. She is forced to walk to a nearby house for help, and it changes her life. Here's an excerpt of Hold Her Down:
Elizabeth buttoned and zipped up her flimsy windbreaker and pulled the unattractive hood up. She balled up her fists and shoved them into her pockets. And she had no other choice but to walk. Her clothing was no match for the first sign of winter in the mountains, and was doing little against the cold and wet that was seeping into her very bones. She tripped and fell hard to her knees, and then to her shoulder, when she wasn't able to extract her hands from her pockets quickly enough. Great. Just great. She was lying on the cold, wet ground, her knees stinging and her shoulder throbbing, her hands still stuck in her pockets, pinning her arms underneath her. At first, she was so mad that she could not even form coherent thoughts in her head. Her mind was just a swirl of red anger. She was angry with Peter for being a controlling bastard of a husband. She was angry with her mother for encouraging her to marry Peter in the first place, because she thought Elizabeth would need to be taken care of. Mostly, she was mad at herself for never standing up for herself, for letting herself be pushed around, for caring what others thought. And as hot as her anger burned, it was not enough to keep her warm. Her hands were burning with cold as were her feet. She wondered if she was developing frostbite. Vaguely, it occurred to her that people died outside in weather like this.The thought of death should've scared her, but it didn't. It infused a calm of blues and purples in the swirl of red in her mind. The pain her chest, which was her constant these days, abated. If she were dead, she would not have to deal with her useless husband and she would no longer have to worry that their marriage might be over. She would not be poor and destitute if Peter left. It would not matter that she had failed at marriage. It would not matter that she was unlovable. Elizabeth slowly unfolded herself and rolled to her back. A dusting of snow and ice now covered the ground. The cold bit through her body and made her wince. Her knees were now exposed and probably bleeding from the fall. She was shivering uncontrollably, her body struggling to keep warm. Her body was fighting, unaware that her spirit had given up. Elizabeth closed her eyes and relaxed into the snow. The snow was still falling, hitting her gently in the face. The snow fell quietly. Otherwise, there was no sound. Elizabeth was at peace.
Death. In her death, she would not have to worry about packing up her house and moving when Peter officially left her. She would not have to hear the whispers from the other mothers, from Nancy Beemer and the like, talking salaciously about her marriage that had fallen apart. She could just let go and slip away into the darkness and cold, and her mind would eventually stop racing with the thoughts of anxiety and worry. People would think that this was an accident, a terrible one, and no one would realize that she was a coward. There'd be hushed whispers certainly, but no one would speak ill of her. She had never before contemplated suicide. It seemed like such an easy solution. In the past, when she tried to picture the last moments of her life, they certainly had not looked like this. The few fleeting minutes she had considered it, she'd always pictured herself an elderly woman, dying peacefully, surrounded by multiple generations of her family. The graceful matriarch, accomplished, successful and beloved by all. She had not pictured her life ending at the age of thirty-four, alone and freezing to death. A total failure. But this way, she would not have to face her failure. People tended not to speak ill of the dead. Even the nasty mothers would talk about how hard she worked for her kids. And her worry would be gone. She would no longer lie awake worrying about what would happen to her children.Her children.
Elizabeth's eyes flew open. Her chest constricted. What would happen to her children? Who would raise them? 

Without even realizing I was doing it, a winter storm again surfaces in Jump, Jive, and Wail, stranding the two main characters at the airport. Here's a teeny-tiny sneak peek of that one:
I tell him my flight number and he smiles again. Those dimples are damn engaging, if you ask me. I want to run my finger over them. "We're on the same flight. Or, we were supposed to be. I doubt if we're getting out of here tonight."
His comment rudely yanks me out of my ogling of his adorableness. "Wait—why do you say that? We're just delayed." 
"Yeah, but based on the forecast, I doubt we're going to get out of here." 
"What forecast?"
"There's, like, a massive winter storm moving up the East Coast. That's why there are so many delays." He whips out his phone and swipes a few times. "New York is supposed to get at least twelve inches." 
"Seriously?" I look at my boots. They are boots in name only. They are really sweaters with a rubber bottom. They will be no match for snow and cold. "I'm so not prepared for winter weather." 
"It's only March." He looks at me like I'm an idiot who didn't even think to check the weather of my destination. Perhaps that is just my interpretation of how he is looking at me, because that is how I feel. 
"But spring started this week. It needs to start warming up soon. I can't stand winter." I protest. As if my whining is going to change the weather pattern. 
"Last I checked Mother Nature doesn't take personal requests." He chided me, jokingly. "Plus, you live in Detroit. How can you not like winter? Isn't it automatically in Michiganders DNA?" 
"I'm not from Michigan originally. In fact, I've only been here about six months. I don't really love it, truth be told." 
"No? Where are you from then?" 
"Originally, way Upstate New York, near Lake Placid. I lived in Park City, Utah, for a while as well." 
"For a girl who doesn't like winter, you've lived in some pretty wintery places."
I make a face. I don't need to be reminded. "I used to love winter, but I'm over it now. I think I want to move to Florida or Arizona or someplace warm and tropical." 

I'm pretty sure my next book will not involve a winter storm, but with Mother Nature's unpredictability, who knows what will inspire me?

Hold Her Down is currently on sale for $0.99 and Jump, Jive, and Wail releases in less than 2 days (37 hours, but who's counting?). Links can be found in the Book tab at the top of the blog.

Stay warm and drive safe my friends!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Preparing to Take Flight

Things are really ramping up here for the release of my next book, Jump, Jive, and Wail. I've made it through the editing process, with one last pass through to go. The full cover is done and has far surpassed any expectations. The paperback has been formatted and is en route to me as we speak. A Release Day Blitz is scheduled. Guest blog spots are in the works. Reviewers have been lined up, ARC's sent out.


Now the panic sets in.

Obviously, with no publishing house behind me, I'm on my own for promotion and publicity. So, you might see me on here a lot, or on other social media outlets. Bear with me, I won't always be hocking my own goods.

I'm really excited about this book. I think it's my best yet. It's different from the other three, but I hope my readers will still appreciate my voice.

So, to get you as excited about the book as I am, here's what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna share the beautiful full cover:

Then, I'm gonna share my video teaser:

Then, I'm gonna give you this still teaser:

And finally, I'm gonna tell you that on 1/19/15, the next edition of my newsletter is going out. It will have the first chapter of Jump, Jive, and Wail in it. You get to read it a full 10 days before anyone else! (Sign up is at the top of the page under the tab that says BIEL BULLETIN)

I really hope you like it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Life Was Changed By A Standard Comma

Last night I was having a conversation with a friend about those missed opportunities in a Sliding Doors (if you've never seen the Gwenyth Paltrow movie, you really need to check it out) sort of way. You know, one small interaction can drastically change the outcome of a situation. Then, I posted a funny meme on my author page about commas.

Way back in the day, I was taught to use the standard comma, as illustrated above. Only recently, when trying to name my book, Jump, Jive, and Wail, did I, at the advice of my author posse, start using the Oxford comma.

After looking at this meme, I realized that the standard comma changed my life. Way back in 1997, when I was still in college, Congress passed this thing called the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. A lot of people probably don't remember it. I do, because it hit along with a major reform in insurance reimbursment. As a result of the BBA, there was a spending cap put on, amongst other things, outpatient therapy services that Medicare paid for. This was a big thing in the Physical Therapy world. It meant that people who have Medicare for their insurance (you know, people over 65 who tend to have a lot of health problems, joint replacements, injuries, etc. and need therapy) now had a limit on how much therapy they could receive. Here's where the comma comes in. In the BBA, it listed a $1760 cap on outpatient therapy services: OT, PT and Speech. How that played out was there was a $1760 cap on OT services and a $1760 cap on PT and Speech services combined. This was especially impactful in people who had strokes, where motor and speech skills can be affected.

How did this change my life? Easy. Insurance stopped paying for endless therapy, which meant the money stopped coming in. PT places were laying off PT's and forget about getting a job as a brand-new graduate in 1999-2000. My best friend got laid off and I was unemployed. I interviewed and sent out resumes, but to no avail. We ended up moving to Ohio, where we both found employment. It was then that I met my husband and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, I don't know why or when people decided to stop using the Oxford comma. I distinctly remember learning not to use it when I was growing up.

I can't say I'm sorry that a comma changed my life. I'm pretty happy with where I am now. It's just a little odd to think about something so small, that could have made such a big difference.

But I'm doing my darndest to use the Oxford comma. I think I've conquered the whole two spaces after a period thing.