Thursday, February 23, 2017

Holding On and Letting Go

It's a beautiful, sunny day. The windows are open, the kids are outside playing. The winter coats are hanging up. It's 60 degrees ... in February.

Before I can even question this gift that Mother Nature is bestowing, I'd best get to my point. After about eight or so years of threatening to work on our basement, my husband has actually started it. Long story short--we had a finished basement. Due to the incompetency of our contractors ten years ago, we lost it, having to gut it down to the walls and floor. The rebuilding process has not been speedy. In the meantime, that area has become a dumping ground and storage area. For the past six weeks, my husband has been cleaning out, which included several dump runs. Now, mind you, I've been asking him to get a dumpster for years because I knew we couldn't start work without cleaning out first. It doesn't matter who suggested it. All that matters is that it's getting done.

Except now my husband wants me to move on his timeline. I may or may not be biting my tongue when this sort of thing happens. One of my tasks is to go through the bins of baby clothes. I saved everything for the first five or six years of my son's life. He's now 13. I had good reason to save it--we didn't know if we were done. We're done. My daughter is nine, so we've been done for a while, whether we knew it or not.

But there's another reason for me to save. I'm sentimental, and I attach emotions and memories to things. My husband is not and does not. This difference makes it hard for us to find common ground at times. On the other hand, both my parents are savers (pack rats, semi-hoarders), and that's not a good situation either.

Take, for example, one of the boxes in my pile to clean out. It's mostly filled with liquor. Not a bad thing, right? Well, it was my grandfather's liquor that I cleaned out of my grandmother's cabinet when she sold her house. Almost 12 years ago. And my grandfather (who would have been 100 yesterday), has been dead for almost 28 years. So this liquor has been around for at least 30 years, but judging by the bottles, probably longer. So, I make the executive decision that I'm dumping the liquor and recycling the glass. I happen to mention this to my mom last night, in discussion of her father's 100th birthday. Later on I get a text from my mom. My dad wants the box of liquor, and I'm not to get rid of it. Something tells me that I'll be cleaning that box of liquor out of my parents' house in the future.

So, there are these bins of clothes. I did start giving clothes away after a certain point, so I guess this could be much worse. I'd say there are about 20 bins. I told my husband I'd reduce it to 1/3 of the current number. He doesn't remember that conversation. So I start bagging clothes. I can't look too closely or take too long, otherwise I won't be able to give anything away. I look at these small outfits and can picture the kids in them. I think of a simpler time, even though I probably didn't appreciate it. Back to the days where the kids' worlds revolved around me. Back to a time when I wasn't staring eye-to-eye with my son.

I joked with someone that I needed to watch a few more episodes of Hoarders to be able to complete this task. I'm sort of not joking. Nor am I poking fun at the people on the show. I can very much relate to the feeling of not wanting to give anything away because it means something. But I also don't want to live like that (and I want the basement finished someday this year).

I know that a tiny pair of shoes won't keep my kids little. A blanket won't make them need me like they used to. I have to force myself out of the past and to be in the moment, listening to them play outside on this gorgeous gift of a February day.

I'm passing the clothes on. To friends. To charities. I hope someone else makes as wonderful memories in these clothes as we did.

P.S.--I'm keeping four bins. Two for each kid. He wanted me to keep one bin total. Tough. I win.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

16 for '16

Right now, many people are bummed as heck. The news of the past few days, the icons we've lost, are weighing heavily on most people right now. I actually cried when I told my kids about Carrie Fisher.

2016 has been a bad year for a lot of people I know. No two ways about it, but in some ways 2016 has been a great year too. So, no matter what you are feeling right now, I want you to sit down and make a list of 16 good things for 2016. It might be hard, but it's time to stop focusing on the negative and remember the positive.

Here's my list (in no particular order):

  1. My book, Jump, Jive, and Wail, was nominated and was a finalist in InD'Tale Magazine's RONE Awards.
  2. My son participated in and his team won a debate. This was a months-long research project. Seeing him get up and speak in front of a crowd (he led-off for his team) made me cry.
  3. My daughter learned how to do cartwheels, handstands, and round-offs. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but ask the poor girl who taught her in gymnastics this summer--it's huge.
  4. For the first time in my life, I bought a new mattress. It's on an adjustable frame so I can lounge comfortably, and my back and hip pain is reduced tremendously.
  5. I got to vacation in Cape May again, including my morning walks on the beach with my dad, which I didn't think would happen after his stroke last year.
  6. My cousin got married (to a great guy). My cousin's and I had a blast at the wedding and I feel closer to them than ever.
  7. My book, Live for This, was featured on Maryse's Paranormal Book Blog (no, it's not paranormal), which resulted in my best organically performing book to date (meaning no sales or promotion).
  8. I got to see my great-Aunt who lives in California. She's in her 80's and an absolute delight. I'm so happy I got to see her again.
  9. I traveled to Burbank, California for the RONE Awards. It was the best four days of classes and camaraderie with my author people, who I absolutely adore. I don't know when I've laughed as much, nor when I will have the opportunity to rap to Vanilla Ice while wearing a Victorian gown again.
  10. Said trip to California only cost me $11.20 in airline fees. That should be number one.
  11. We were able to bring my mother-in-law to stay with us both this summer and for the entire holiday season. We're all she has, and we're trying to convince her to move here, but it's been good to have her here where we can help her.
  12. My son transitioned to Junior High. We were prepared for a tough one, but he sailed through it and was on the honor roll first quarter.
  13. My daughter has become a very wonderful writer (for a nine year-old), and I love sitting next to her while we're working on our projects.
  14. My best friend, even though we only get to see each other like twice a year, continues to be my biggest support and cheerleader, and I don't know how I'd get through everything without her.
  15. My husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. I was sick as a dog, so we didn't have a big shindig, but we were still able to take joy and pride of all we've weathered through fifteen years of ups and downs.
  16. As of tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, for the first time in 31 years, I won't need glasses. I'm having LASIK done and won't have to put contacts in or wear glasses to see the TV, to tell what time it is, and to go to the bathroom at night. I still can't process what that's going to be like. 

You know, there's so much more I could list. My challenge to you...make your own list.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

NaNoWriMo

It's November again (how did that happen?), which means it's National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to 1,667 words a day. It doesn't sound like much but it is. It takes a lot of focus and dedication to get the words in every day.



I sort of hate NaNo.

I sort of love NaNo.

What I hate is the pressure. Sometimes (like this year), I'm struggling to get the words down (I want to say to get the words on paper, but since I write on a computer, that's not exactly true). I fell behind on November 3. Usually I'm ahead in the counts at least until the second week. I get so far ahead I can even skip writing for a day. Not this year. I made up some ground yesterday, but I still am 500 words behind, not to mention the additional 1,667 I owe for today.

What I love is that I write. I've been in a writing slump since I finished Made for Me. That was the end of July. So, yeah, I need motivation to write. Plus, NaNo works for me. My first attempt at NaNo (2013) resulted in the first 50,000 words of I'm Still Here. April and July are Camp NaNo, where you set your own word targets for the month. I finished I'm Still Here  in Camp NaNo in April 2014. I started Jump, Jive, and Wail in the July Camp NaNo 2014. I finished it just before NaNo 2014, so that's when I started Killing Me Softly. I didn't complete (win) NaNo in 2014. November is a hard month with work, conferences, and the holidays. I stopped about 27,000 words into Killing Me Softly. I felt okay with that decision, and since I had to edit Jump, Jive, and Wail, I never looked back. Camp NaNo in April 2015 saw Killing Me Softly get finished. Live for This was started in the July 2015 camp, and finished as my NaNo 2015 project. The April and July camps for 2016 are how Made for Me was written.

Certainly I write other than in November, April, and July, but it is when I get the bulk of my books done. This NaNo, I'm working on the follow up to Made for Me. I have a working title, but I'm not sure it will stick. You can be sure it will start with N though. :-)

I may not blog for the rest of the month, but you can be sure my hands will be on the keyboard. I owe it to myself. I owe the world Kira's story. And, let's face it, NaNo works for me.


  


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Indie Book Day

I'm getting this post out a few days ahead of the game. Today, I'm here to talk about Indie Book Day. This year, it's October 8, so consider yourself warned and ready to grow your TBR.


Truth be told, I started as indie because I wasn't getting any bites from the multitude of agents that I queried. More honestly, I've continued being indie because it is something I truly, truly believe in. Oh sure, there's part of me that would love to receive an offer from a Big 5 Publisher with a huge advance and lots of zeros. But I also know that it's not the reality of the market right now. Here's the reality. Over a year ago, I received an offer. I was waiting to check into my hotel at the RWA conference when I opened the email. My brain could barely process it. I was reading a contract!

But after the conference was over, I read the contract. It was for a book that was already published. They would give it a new cover and re-edit it. I looked at the company's covers. They are made using the same stock photos that I browse through to make my covers. In fact, the publisher had used a photo for a cover from the same shoot with the same models that my cover was made from. And in return, there would be no advance, no sign-on bonus. I would make a 45% royalty on e-book sales. As an indie author, I make 70%. I would be responsible for 100% of my marketing for 24 months. I'm responsible for 100% now. I would have no creative control over the cover, nor would I be able to put the book on sale when I want. It made no sense to take this deal.

And once I sent in the declination letter, I stopped querying, tweeting, and pitching for a publisher. Even though I had been fairly confident in my decision to be indie before, I was absolutely positive now. And I haven't looked back. Being indie has given me the ability to write a serious contemporary romance (Live for This) and follow it up with a light and funny chick lit book (Made for Me). It lets me write a Christmas novella when I feel like it. It lets me set deadlines and adjust them as I need to. It lets me be creative and be true to who I truly am, therefore bringing you the best book I possibly can.

It doesn't mean it's always easy. Watching people launch books that their publisher has secured 50 reviews for is disheartening. Fielding the comments--"Oh, do you actually edit your book?"--gets tiresome. The backhanded compliments about really being published. Let's face it, despite the larger share of the ebook market, indie books and authors remain the red-headed step-children. Well, I've always felt I should be a redhead. For me, even though it may be a more difficult path, it's the right fit.

To help celebrate Indie Book Day, I've put together a Pinterest board. Check it out for lots of great indie books, as well as blog posts by talented indie authors like myself.

And, because I practice what I preach, here are some great indie reads (other than mine, obviously) you should be checking out:

Elements of Chemistry (3 book trilogy) by Penny Reid
Art and Soul by Brittainy Cherry
First and Goal by Laura Chapman
Face Time by S.J. Pajones
Miss Adventure by Geralyn Corcillo
Speak Now by Becky Monson


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Lucky #7

Lucky number seven.

Today's pub day for my seventh full length novel, Made for Me. Seven novels. Three and a half years ago when I released Good Intentions, I had no idea that this would happen. That I'd be here, writing a post for my seventh novel.

This book is fun. That's what it's for--fun. It's light and funny and hopefully it leaves you with a smile on your face. Inspired while watching Project Runway and my friend Wendy's frequent posts about Kate Middleton, we follow Michele as she hits rock bottom and then pulls herself up by entering a TV design show. Yup, fun.

There's a fair amount of sewing detail in this book. That, I owe to my grandmother and my mom, both of whom were avid seamstresses. I learned to sew by watching them.







And since I know you want to know, Made for Me is now available at the following retailers:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
iTunes

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Weekend of Nothing and Everything

I had the best weekend. It was a weekend of nothing that meant everything. Of course, there was the usual--soccer, religion, laundry, grocery shopping. Sunday dinner at my folks' house. In many ways it was unremarkable. But in this ordinary way, it was totally unremarkable.

Friday night started with a dinner out--just the four of us--to The Cheesecake Factory. The kids had given us gift cards there for our anniversary (thank to a little help from Grandpa). I was too sick at the time of our anniversary to use them, so Friday was perfect. Spared me from cooking; changed up the routine from pizza. It was a pleasant dinner, even with my daughter telling jokes that took about five minutes to deliver. In case you were wondering, a joke with a five minute set-up is not worth the punchline. But it was a pleasant dinner. The only time electronics were used were to Google some facts that had been under discussion. There was a cat drawing contest (Sophia won for anime, I won for realistic), as well as talk about school and life in general.

Saturday saw Sophia playing soccer on a beautiful fall day. The difference in her investment in playing since even last spring is huge, and that is really paying off on the field. Jake found a snail, which is the sort of thing at which he excels--noticing the small details of nature. After the soccer game, I lamented to my husband that since Ohio State had a by-week, there was nothing to look forward to.

Boy was I wrong. You see, TNT was playing a Star Wars marathon. All day, Episodes 1-3, and then The Empire Strikes Back in prime time. Jake reluctantly came into my room when I called him. Until he realized The Phantom Menace was on, and then he was transfixed. He's never seen all of The Empire Strikes Back, so he was excited for that to air. Sophia was off to a birthday party sleep over (or over as I call it because I'm not sure there was any sleep involved), so it was an all Jake evening.

Pat and I took him out to dinner at one of his favorite places, The Melting Pot. Then, we came back and watched The Empire Strikes back. Of course Jake didn't make it through--we dvr'd it in anticipation. We also noted that TNT was starting the whole marathon, episodes 1-6 at 5 am on Sunday, just in case we needed to catch up.

Jake and I have spent most of the weekend binging on the Force. Noticing the discrepancies, finding the links. In between, we got some laundry folded, waste baskets emptied, homework done. There's been conversation during the commercials, as well as during dinner. There's been dancing and singing. My boy, who doesn't like to sing in front of people on pain of death, sang along with me. P.S.--It's subtitled so you too can sing along (I don't need to look at the words. Not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of that fact).



It's been the best weekend with my son.

Because I know it will not always be like this. He's on the cusp of teenage-dom. The mood swings, the sullenness, the surliness--we already see them. There are lots of times when he wants nothing to do with me. And I get it. It's normal. Someday, he won't need me. Won't want me. There are also lots of times where stress and anxiety rule his world, and I don't get to see the laughing, laid back Jake that hung out with me all weekend.

We did take a break so Jake could watch football with his uncle. Even driving over, we couldn't help but marvel at the perfect crystal blue sky and were even lucky enough to see a bald eagle soaring in the sky.

This is a weekend of nothing and everything. And I will never, ever take it for granted.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Green Thumb

A year ago tonight, we got the call that my uncle (and godfather) lost his battle to esophageal cancer. Prior to his diagnosis 19 months earlier, he'd been the picture of health. One of the best things I can say about him is the absolute passion and zeal with which he lived his much too short life. The list of his accomplishments is extensive, but tonight I want to share a story about this great man.


My uncle loved to garden. Each spring, he planted thousands of seedlings. At one time, he had three gardens going, in addition to tending the church garden. Among many other things, growing food from the earth was certainly a passion that he shared. As such, he was a wealth of knowledge about all things plants and was the guy we asked whenever we had a question.

When Sophia was in pre-school (I think 4 year-old, but it could have even been 3 year-old), they read the story of Johnny Appleseed. Her wheels are always turning, and she started pilfering apple seeds to plant because she wanted an apple tree to grow in our yard. Knowing that planting trees from seeds outside is not always successful, we told her we'd have to ask Uncle Andy the best thing to do. And he, being the generous soul that he was, gave Sophia her own sapling that he cut from one of his apple trees. It was about 18" tall. Sophia and my dad planted it in our backyard, and then we waited. We prepared her that for the tree to really have apples would take years, and that she would probably be in high school before it happened. There are a few crab apple trees in our neighborhood, but not many apple trees for pollination.

The first year, a deer took a several nibbles out of her tree. We weren't sure it would make it.

But it did.

Then last summer, as we knew it would be Uncle Andy's last summer, Sophia discovered three apples growing on her tree. I didn't believe her when she told me. But she was right. Her tree had apples. Almost unbelievable, considering the tree is only about 4 years old.





The last time we went to see Uncle Andy, Sophia picked the apples, and we made applesauce for him. He wasn't able to swallow much, and I don't know that he actually got to eat it. He passed away about a week later.
















This year, we had an unusually warm winter that caused the fruit trees to bud early, only to be damaged by a heavy frost. There are no apples this year.

I really felt that the apples last year were a fluke and had something to do with Uncle Andy. The lack of apples this year reinforces it.

To a great man, our own personal Johnny Appleseed... may we all have such a passion in life and for life.