Friday, March 2, 2018

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is March 2nd, which for anyone with a school-aged child, we know is Dr. Seuss's birthday. I dare anyone who is a book lover to deny some love of early literacy as a result of Dr. Seuss. We, of course, had books in the house, and my grandfather belonged a book of the month club where he received pretty much the whole collection of Dr. Seuss and related books. I can still picture them on the bottom of the built-in bookcase in the TV room (FYI and totally unrelated, my grandparent's house is now a restaurant, and you can eat in that room with those bookcases still there). What a great gift for all the grandchildren (there were 24 of us, so it was probably a wise investment)!

As a child, my personal favorite Dr. Seuss stories were The Sneetches and What Was I Scared Of? They were both part of the collection, Sneetches and Other Stories, which overall, is fantastic. My other favorite was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. I don't know why I liked this story, but I remember picking it to read to my third grade class.

As a parent, the Dr. Seuss books took on a whole new meaning and love. When my son was born and very young, we received as gifts (and then purchased) a whole bunch of the Dr. Seuss books in the little board book form. Often they were abridged from the regular form, but this is how I grew to love the stories. Jake loved to be read to. Oh the hours we spent reading The Foot Book, There's a Wocket in my Pocket, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and ABC's. Despite the fact that my son is now a teenager (weep), I can still recite sections of them. Big A, little a, what begins with A? Aunt Annie's Alligator ... a ... a ... a. My dad "adopted" the nickname "the bofa on the sofa" from Wocket, in reference to the only place he will sit in our house. I swear, the couch cushion is indented from him and his numerous hours of babysitting.

When Jake was about eleven months old, he was sitting on the floor of the living room. My dad had just arrived (and taken up his usual place on the couch, across the room). Jake was in a little footie-pajama outfit and playing with his foot. My dad looked at him and said, "Left foot, left foot, right foot, right. Feet in the day, feet in the night," which is the opening line from The Foot Book. Jake took off like a shot, crawling down the hall to his room. We didn't think anything of it until he came crawling back a few minutes later, The Foot Book in hand.

Then there was always the debate about who had to read Fox in Sox. It's a tongue-twister for most people, but my dad hated it especially. He used to tell the kids, "Grammy wants to read Fox in Sox to you." I don't think she appreciated it.

One more cute Jake/Dr. Seuss story: when he was in pre-school, they were celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday with green eggs and ham. Jake told his pre-school teacher he couldn't eat the green eggs because, "they weren't ripe yet." ♥

Now as an adult, I can see the allegorical messages in Dr. Seuss's books. I was in a classroom yesterday, waiting for a student, while the teacher began reading Sneetches. I couldn't help but think about the book I'm currently listening to, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and the topic of race relations.

If you haven't picked up a Dr. Seuss book recently, why not celebrate today by reading one? I guarantee you'll end with a smile on your face, especially if you're reading about a tweetle-beetle battle.
My own Thing 1 and Thing 2

Happy birthday Dr. Seuss!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Age Ain't Nothing But a Number

I think I may be getting old. Don't get me wrong, it beats the alternative but ...

While watching pro-sports, like the NFL, I realized that any players my age are "super old" and many are retiring. It's odd to think that Peyton Manning and I would have graduated high school together. I'm technically 3 months older, but we don't need to focus on that. Pretty soon, there won't be anyone "my age" left in professional sports.

And then, spilling across my Facebook feed is the sad news that Dolores O'Riordan from The Cranberries died suddenly. She was 46.

I remember when The Cranberries burst onto the scene. I was in high school. It never occurred to me that the lead singer was relatively close in age to me, about the same age as my oldest brother. That news, along with the news of her death, is hard to process.

There are days when I feel old beyond my years. There are days when I simply cannot even entertain the fact that I'm middle-aged (there, I said it). More and more, my friends and I are having conversations of life-altering illness and declining health. People are getting sick and not recovering. It's weird to think I'm entering into a phase of life where accidents aren't the leading cause of death. My peer group is tossing about words like EKG and screening and bifocals and arthritis and ... colonoscopy.

But still, I'm blessed with another day on this earth, with another chance to watch Tom Brady (just a year younger than me) play in another football game. I'll ignore the chink in my neck and the ache in my hip and be thankful that I'm still drawing breath.

RIP Dolores.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pivotal Moments

I'm lucky that in my (almost) 42 years on this planet, I can look back and see pivotal moments that changed the direction and shape of my life. In fact, without even realizing it, I've often blogged about them.

There's the one when a sick day spent at my grandmother's house and a piece of "junk" mail led me to the medical field and working with kids. You can read about that one here.

Then there was the time I was getting allergy shots and my next door neighbor's step-mother said the words that gave me direction in my career. That story, in addition to directing my career, also gave me inspiration for the book of which I'm most proud, Live for This. That book even won an award this year. You can read that story here.

And how about that time that the use of a standard comma instead of the oxford comma led me to meet my husband? That's a funny one, although not really, because the PT/Speech therapy cap is STILL limited by that damn lack of comma. Want to here that story? Read about it here

And so, on this 13th night of December, I just asked Alexa to play my favorite Christmas song. If you know me or follow me at all, you know it's Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. Now you're going to shake your head and tell me you've never heard of it. But you have. Take a few blissful moments and rock out.

You've heard it, right? Now take a gander at the lyrics. I've always loved that song. So much that for years, I wanted to write a story based on the song. Then, one August, as I was writing the heaviest, and most important book (Live for This), I decided to put that aside and write a fun holiday novella based on my favorite Christmas song. That's how this came to be:

So, it's a stupid little novella. What does it have to do with the rest of this post? Well, it's another pivotal moment, and every time I hear the story it reminds me. I had a lot of fun writing this book, and as soon as I was done, even though I knew I had to finish Live for This first, I knew I was going to write a chick lit series based on this book. The rest, as they say, is history. Made for Me and New Attitude, the two follow up books (and I hope Queen of Hearts as well) have been my most successful books. They've hit bestseller lists and Made for Me was not only featured in Woman's World Magazine, but it also won Honorable Mention in the Reader's Favorite International Book Awards. This New Beginnings Series has changed the face of my writing career. It's made me a successful author.

I always knew going in that these books wouldn't be the "important" book of the time, but I've been contacted by more than one person who found comfort/laughter/inspiration in my words. These books, although light entertainment, have touched people. All because of a song.

So, before rushing off to my son's concert ("on with the boots, back out in the snow"), I'm going to listen to my favorite Christmas song one more time, and thank my lucky stars for all my pivotal moments.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trippin' on a Hole

When I was in college, at the apex of the grunge/alternative music movement, I grew to like Stone Temple Pilots. They were (and still are) my favorite of the 90s bands. While at work one day (I was a waitress at an Applebees), the bartender, my friend Jeff, mentioned how he'd gone to the STP show the night before at UMass. I was terribly envious that Jeff had been to see them live. Jeff didn't realize I was a fan, and if he'd known, he said he would have brought me. Jeff went onto describe the opening number, STP's cover of "Dancing Days" and how Scott Weiland sang it sitting on a couch wearing an afro wig. It was well known that Scott Weiland was a heroin addict and was most likely losing that battle. This was early 1997. Neither Jeff nor I thought Scott Weiland would live to see another tour cycle, and that neither of us would see him perform live again.

We were only half right.

June 26, 1997, while driving home from our apartment, after a night of drinking, Jeff died. It was his own fault. It doesn't make it hurt any less, especially since we all knew he probably shouldn't have been driving. Especially since he refused the offer to stay at our place. Jeff had battled his own drug demons, and his return to Massachusetts was his attempt at a fresh start. He knew if he stayed at school in Miami, he'd wind up dead. His death occurred two months to the day after he'd been to that concert, and we'd talked about the most-likely imminent death of Scott Weiland.

That summer was hard on all of us. People changed. Grief does that to people. It can bring them together or tear them apart. We all missed Jeff. A week or so after it had all happened, I'd driven home to my parents' house. On the way back, just as I hit the NY-Mass state line, heading into the Berkshires, "Dancing Days" came on the radio. Even back in 1997, the STP version was not widely played.

Multiple times over the next two years while driving between NY and Massachusetts, I heard that song as I hit the border. I cannot for the life of me explain why, other than Jeff was with me. When I'd hear the song, I'd touch the guardian angel hanging from my rearview mirror, knowing Jeff was there. Cursing him for his stupidity. Laughing at the cruel twist that Scott Weiland was still here while Jeff was not.

I got to see STP in concert twice before Scott Weiland was kicked out of the band for good because of his drug use.

Then, the event that Jeff and I'd predicted in 1997 happened. Scott Weiland died of a drug overdose.

Today would have been Scott Weiland's 50th birthday. My Facebook feed is full of things about him, celebrating his life while mourning his death. I didn't know Scott Weiland, but I did enjoy his music. Instead of missing him today, I'm missing my friend who's been gone for over twenty years. Almost half my life.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Don't Do It

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, as one does on a Saturday morning, sipping my coffee, when I came across an article (from a radio station) about how "Motherhood is less and less appealing to Jennifer Lawrence" or J-Law as apparently we're supposed to call her.

Here's my advice. Don't do it.

I am the mother of two. I love my kids. They are without a doubt the best things in my life. And I ABSOLUTELY wanted to be a mother. My whole career was literally planned around it.

But, man, is it hard. Like, hard.

There are days (perhaps one or two this week) when I want to give up. When I want to run and hide. And my kids are older (13 and 10). We're not in the screaming all night, potty training, "I do it myself" phase. My kids are relatively self-sufficient human beings. In fact, the 13 year-old made the coffee and delivered it to me in my room, complete with a biscotti (side note: I highly recommend teaching your kids how to make coffee). But it's still hard.

There are days that are totally awesome too. My kids are fantastic, and I hope will be fantastic adults some day. But they are also strong-willed, smart, clever, and self-directed. You know, kids. I often feel like I'm the bad guy. Like I'm banging my head against a brick wall. Like I'm repeating myself over and over. Like I'm repeating myself over and over (whoops, sorry. Nothing I say is ever heard the first time).

There are sleepless nights. Messes you didn't make that you have to clean up. Laundry. Bodily fluids that don't belong to you. But even worse than those are the intangible things. The fights with friends. The school struggles. Learning disabilities. Attention deficit disorder. Teachers who don't get your kids.

It sometimes seems that society still expects every woman to want to have kids. I know several who don't and never do. Some of those women succumbed to pressure and had kids. Guess what? It doesn't turn out well, either for the mom or the kid. Moms deserve so much credit. They're the unsung heroes. But I also have the utmost respect for the woman who says (and sticks to it) that she doesn't want kids. If you don't want them, you shouldn't have them. There should be no judgment. There should be no convincing. No means no. We need to stop speculating about what Hollywood starlet is going to have a baby next. We don't ask when the male celebrities are going to have kids. Often male stars become fathers and we barely know it until their girlfriend/wife/significant other delivers. Meanwhile, women can't eat a burrito for fear of sparking rumors about their bumps.

It's time to stop.

Being a mother is a hard, often thankless job. It's the most important thing I will ever do, but that's my choice. Let's support our sisters out there who want a different choice. Let's make it not a thing anymore.

And if you don't want to do it, don't do it.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

End of Summer Reflections

I'm tired and I'd rather just vlog this than type it all about but the bags under my eyes are horrendous due to lack of sleep. So, I apologize in advance for the disjointed, rambling nature of this post. Consider this some true blather, more a collection of my thoughts.

  • August is over. Holy crap, where did it go? Summer, come back. Please. 
  • I had 3 days of work this week. It sort of sucked especially since my kids were off. My parents were super awesome and took the kids, but I missed them. I liked being at home this summer.
  • I'm having difficulty watching the news out of Houston. It makes me anxious and panicky. It doesn't mean I don't feel terrible about what people are doing down there, and I'll be doing my bit (besides the praying I've already been doing) to help. But I don't want to see it.
  • I'm about to launch my 10th book. I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that I've written 10 books (9 novels and a novella). That being said, I'm finding plot bunnies EVERYWHERE and I feel desperate that I can't get the stories out fast enough. 
  • My low back/hip went out on Tuesday. It's been a long time since I dealt with these issues, and man did it suck. I had to miss hanging out with friends because I couldn't walk (I'm better, fingers crossed).
  • I looked through a friend's Kindle Bookshelf today (she showed me). It sort of felt like looking through her underwear drawer. But it was also cool to see the books from authors I've met or will meet in October at InD'Scribe Reader Con and Book Festival, with my books on the shelves right next to theirs.
  • Earlier in the week when my Facebook giveaways weren't getting any love, I messaged as many authors/bloggers as I could to help me share. I cannot believe the people who gladly helped. I am in awe of what a kick-ass community I belong to. It's truly one where the majority of the people really want to see all of us succeed. Just great people.
  • Later in the week, a member of my community (clearly not the in above-mentioned awesome group) was really, truly awful to me. It was the first time on my publishing journey that I've cried from hurt. This person said that self-published books aren't really published because "anyone can pay to self-publish a book." This person reiterated this position multiple times until I had to walk away for fear of my inner mean-girl rearing her vengeful head. I guess in one way this person is right. Anyone can self-publish a book. Not everyone can sell books. Not everyone can write books that people want to read. Not everyone can get solid, strong reviews and be nominated for awards. Not everyone can make money. But I can do, and have done all those things.
  • College football starts tonight with the Buckeyes. Yes.
  • Project Runway is also on tonight. Double Yes (and thank goodness for the "Last" button on my remote control).
  • I read I think 14 books over the summer and I'm reading at least one more before Labor Day. That's what I call accomplishment. 
If you're on Facebook, check out the giveaways I'm doing this week on my author page to celebrate the release of Once in a Lifetime on September 5, 2017. Ten books. 

I can't even.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I just got back from RWA 2017. For those of you not in my writing world, RWA is the Romance Writers of America, and this was their national conference, held in Orlando, FL.

But to me, RWA stands for Really Wicked Awesome.

Why was this week so great? So. Many. Reasons.

First of all, I got to go and hang with my posse. My inner circle. My writing peeps who I talk with every day online, who are with me every step of the way, and I with them. It's extra special being able to actually see them, hang out with them, brainstorm with them, and laugh until you cry with them. These are my friends and seeing them for four days a year isn't nearly enough.
Melissa Baldwin, Becky Monson, and me at the RITA Awards

Taking the boat to Disney Springs. It's the only Disney experience I had the whole time because I was too busy learning.

Last day, so sad. :-(

Next, I got to meet in person people in my outer writing circle. People I've "known" online for years. Brainstormed with. Supported. Received support from. It's great to meet these people in person. A blogger who is very active in our of our groups drove two hours to have dinner with us all. How cool is that?
With the great Camille Di Maio from my Great Thoughts, Great Readers group

With Rochelle B. Weinstein, also from Great Thoughts, Great Readers. She let me give her a copy of Live for This to read. 
With my online buddy, Laura Chapman. I was so proud of her for doing the literacy signing! She's fantastic and I was so happy to finally meet her in person.

With the group from Chick Lit Chat. Blogger Kayla (Book Lover in Florida), Laura Chapman, JQ Abbey, Silvi Martin, Rick Amooi, Becky Monson, Melissa Baldwin, Jennie Marts, and me!

The cool aspect of the conference is that I get to meet big time authors. And most are soooo approachable and down to earth, especially when I'm acting like a spastic fangirl. Which, by the way, I excel at.
The Kirstan Higgins. I can't even. Still. 

Jennifer Probst is absolutely the coolest. I'd love to share a bottle of wine with her someday. I imagine alcohol would make me so much less of a bumbling idiot. Or not. 

My surreal moment of the conference came when an author approached me after I'd asked a question in a workshop to discuss the topic. We were talking branding, genre, and book covers and when I pulled out one of my books to show her what I was talking about she said, "Oh my God, you're Kathryn Biel!" Apparently, we write in very similar styles and genres, and my books appear in her metadata. To make it even more cool, when she showed me her book cover, I pulled out my phone to show her the screen shot of her book that I'd taken the night before as I was discussing cover options for my next book and said, "I want it to look like this!" This author and I decided we were destined to meet and to put our heads together to find the audience who want to read "mainstream fiction with romantic, comedic, and sometimes suspenseful elements." There's not a category for that on Amazon yet, but perhaps we can forge one.
Y'all need to check out Violet Howe! According to the data wizards at Amazon, if you like me, you'll like her too.

Okay, surreal moment number two. When I was giving my writing idol Kristan Higgins a copy of one of my books and she asked me to sign it for her. ME! When I told my daughter about it, she said, "Did you freak out?" Obviously, the answer is yes.

All the above aside, here's why the conference was awesome. I learned tons about my craft. About marketing. About running my own business. About how to write characters that will keep you up all night reading, laughing out loud, falling in love, and coming back for more. I stumbled into writing. I didn't know much, or anything, about it when I started. I didn't know to show and not tell. I didn't know characters have a flawed belief. I had no idea about internal and external conflicts or how to use action verbs to describe a character. Since I started going to conferences and workshops two years ago, I've learned so much.

There's also so much more I need to learn, to work on. I almost said to perfect, but I don't know that that's a reasonable goal, as I think this will always be an area in which I can improve. I've got pages and pages of notes to look through. I hope the information seeps into my brain, filling my subconscious as I sit down to write my next project. And every project from here on out.

Yes, this kind of conference is expensive. It means time away from my family. But RWA is so worth it. Compared to the wealth of knowledge and experience at this conference, I know nothing except this. If you are a writer, you should be going to classes and workshops to further your skills. I CANNOT stress this enough. GO TO WRITING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS. There is a huge network out there of people willing to teach you, if you are only willing to learn. Only a fool thinks they have all the answers.

So now I'm home and I'm so tired I don't know where to put myself. My back hurts, my feet hurt, and my blisters have blisters. So while this was me at the conference:

And this was Becky at the conference:
Don't judge. I was so close to doing this on the last day.

This will be me for the next week as I try to absorb it all and write my best book yet: