Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jump, Jive, and Wail Cover Reveal!!!

I've been hard at work (which is why the blog has been suffering) on getting my fourth novel ready to go. Jump, Jive, and Wail is going to the editor this week, which means I can finally tell the world about it.

I was first inspired to write this story almost a year ago, while watching the Winter Olympics. I love watching the ski jumpers and thought that somehow, it would be cool to write a story about it. I happened to mention it to the lovely and talented Aven Ellis, and she encouraged me to go for it.

I had to do a lot of research for this book, which is something that I usually don't have the patience for. Since I knew nothing about ski jumping, I had to really look into it. One of the things I found out was that women were not allowed to compete in ski jumping before the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Women from several countries worked together and lobbied (and sued) to get Women's Ski Jumping allowed in. Staff from Women's Ski Jumping USA (http://www.wsjusa.com/) really helped me out, including the three-time US National Champion, Sarah Hendrickson.

Okay, enough about the background. Here's the blurb:
Kaitlin Reynolds is used to fearlessly flying off mountains. But nearly two years after a devastating injury has ended her ski jumping career, Kaitlin is still struggling to put one foot in front of the other and find her new life. A chance meeting with a handsome stranger begins to put life into perspective. Dashing figure skater, Declan McLoughlin has just returned from the Olympics amid a swirl of publicity and fan fare. Just as Kaitlin begins to have hope again, her charming savior turns out to represent everything she has lost. If Kaitlin can just let go of the past and take a leap of faith, will she find herself soaring into Declan's arms?

And I know what you really want to see is the cover, so here it is!!!!!


Once again, my cover was designed by cover designer, author, and all around amazeballs lady, Becky Monson.

Jump, Jive, and Wail is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

(It will be available on Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords, as well as in paperback as well).

I can't wait to release my newest book and can't wait to hear what you all think!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

For Eric

Forgive me if you've heard this story before. I need to tell it again.

When I was in high school, I had a little bit of a hard time deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. For a few minutes, I considered majoring in Communications. But I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. But the commitment to schooling and student loans that went along with medical school intimidated me. I was considering physical therapy and respiratory therapy.

Somewhere along this time, my next door neighbor was in a terrible car accident. He was thrown through the window of his truck and broke his neck. He was paralyzed. This was a hard thing to accept. He had been in my brother's class and I remember waiting at the bus stop with him.

As one can imagine, becoming paralyzed in your early 20's can be devastating. It certainly was for this young man. His step-mother, a nurse, used to give me my allergy shots, so we'd talk about things every week when I was over there. I knew that he was downstairs recovering, and I only went upstairs in the house. I didn't know whether to bring Eric up or not. I was a scared teenager and wasn't sure what to say in this sort of situation. One day, I asked how he was doing. His step-mother said, "He's had a really hard time. He didn't want to go on, but his physical therapist has been so great and gotten him moving again. She's taught him so much and I think she gave him his life back."

I left the house last night with the decision made. I wanted to be a physical therapist because I wanted to have that impact. I wanted to help people like Eric was helped.

And so a physical therapist I became. I've worked in rehab with people with spinal cord injuries, but I found my true calling in pediatrics. But still, it's all because of Eric.

A few years back, Eric's step-brother died. At the wake, I was able to tell him that story. I was also able to tell him, to his face, that every person I help through physical therapy, is a direct result of him. That he has helped those people. That made us both cry.

Tonight, I'm crying again, as I've learned of Eric's passing. He was too young to be paralyzed in his early 20's and too young to die in his early 40's.

Thank you for giving me direction. And for all the patients I've had in the last fifteen years, and will have in the next fifteen years, thank you. I hope that I can make a difference in their lives in your honor.

Rest in peace, Eric.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Don't Drive Like My Brother

Ok, in defense of both of my brothers, they probably drive just fine. I know one is a back seat driver, so I prefer to let him drive so he doesn't criticize me, but that's besides the point. This isn't about my literal brother but my figurative ones. Sisters too.

I live in New York. Even though I'm upstate, we're sort of known for our aggression and the speed with which we do things. I lived for a time in Massachusetts, and it's even worse there. It's fine with me. I'm a Northeastern girl. I like to go-go-go.

When I moved to Ohio, I was immediately and intensely frustrated by the slowness with which mid-Westerners move. They are never in a hurry for anything. Drove me crazy. Of course, I married a mid-Westerner. I don't know what I thought would happen. After 14 years together, he's still as slow and I'm still chomping at the bit. But for all the slowness in Ohio, I noticed something that we in NY tend to lack--friendliness. The first time I was in Kroger in Cincinnati and someone started talking to me, I had a death grip on my purse, sure someone was going to steal my wallet. Turns out, people are just warm and friendly. Moving more slowly through life allows that opportunity.

Same thing with driving. In Ohio, if you're trying to merge, people let you right in. In NY, cutting people off is an art form. But with the holiday season approaching, you just know traffic is going to be bad. It's the day before Thanksgiving and we're getting snow. I have to go out in a little while, and I am hoping that, at least in the spirit of the season, people take it slow. They let that car merge in front of them (guess what? Doing that actually helps the flow of traffic). They don't race for that parking spot, cutting people off the the process. They let that harried mom with the three kids in tow cross the street in front of them.

Unless you're travelling a long distance, speeding up doesn't actually save you any appreciable time. Slow it down and let someone turn in front of you. You'd be surprised at how good it can make you feel.

Happy Bird-day to those in the US!

*************

This post is dedicated to Tom Magiolzzi, who passed away recently. I listened to Car Talk on NPR more Saturdays (and Mondays when they played the re-runs) than I  can even count. The Tappet brothers were great for car advice, puzzlers, and many laughs. And they closed every show with the line, "Don't drive like my brother!"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Holiday Promo!!!!!

I had a brilliant idea. Or a really stupid one. Only time will tell.



It's November all ready. Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is descending rapidly. I like to keep Christmas out of my house until the turkey's been consumed, but that doesn't mean one can't start planning.


Okay, so here's the deal (and I'm sorry but this is restricted to continental US only. I will send to APO/FPO addresses 'cause those ladies deserve this).

Give your wife, mother, sister, bestie, kid's teacher or even YOURSELF a customized gift this holiday season. A personalized, autographed set of paperback books. My books, of course. Three paperback books, signed and shipped to you. Or directly to the recipient (but sorry, I don't wrap).

One low price: $35.

That's three paperback books (retail price $12.99 each), signed and shipped to you. One low price.

What are the books and what are people saying?

Good Intentions: Plain and ordinary Maggie Miller has had more than her fair share of bad men, bad luck, a tragic past, and would really like to buckle down start her new life in Boston as a pediatric physical therapist. But Ryan Milan, also starting his new life in Boston, is in the way of the low-key life that she has planned for herself.
Ryan shows Maggie that, despite her misgivings, he loves her for her. Ryan and Maggie could have the perfect relationship—could—but tragedy pulls them apart after a fateful night, and a long-term separation leaves them at a cross-roads.
When Ryan finds Maggie seven years later, he is shocked to find the life she is living. Now that Ryan's back, will her life take her in a direction she’s not willing to go? Can Maggie stay true to herself while finding true love?
What readers are saying:  "If you are looking for an intelligent, well written family story, I can recommend this book."
"This is a story that grabbed me from the very beginning. I actually read it in one day, not being able to put it down."

Hold Her DownElizabeth Zurlo is lost. She's a wife, a mother, a teacher, a PTA volunteer—but somewhere along the way, she's lost herself. Depression and despair can lead to desperate measures and when she is pulled back from the brink of suicide, Elizabeth slowly tries to rebuild her marriage and reclaim her life. Just as she has finally started to put herself back together, a scandalous novel rocks her small town ... and costs Elizabeth her social standing, friendships and ultimately, her marriage. However, the man who seemingly destroyed Elizabeth's life, helps her realize who she is and what she needs to do to become the woman she's not only capable of being, but the woman she used to be. 
What readers are saying: "I hope that women read this and love it as much as I have. I will happily recommend." -Charlotte Lynn, A Novel Review

"Hold Her Down is filled with curve balls and the ending left a smile on my face." -My Book Inspired Ramblings 
"I couldn't put the book down once I got into it and thought about Elizabeth for days after. The plot is outstanding, the characterization perfect. " -Authors to Watch 
"Hold Her Down is a refreshing story of one woman's journey of self-discovery that every woman should read. It is a realistic story that any woman can relate to and sympathize with, ponder, find inspiration, and celebrate their true inner-selves and the women that they can be." -Jersey Girl Book Reviews

I'm Still Here:  It started out as an ordinary day for Esther Comely-Cox, if you consider simultaneously totaling your car, smashing a Ho Ho in your face and meeting a handsome doctor ordinary. Estranged from her family over her sister's mental illness and death, Esther can't help but feel alone. And when Esther hears the voice of her twin sister who committed suicide seven years ago, she begins to question her own sanity, leading her to wonder if anything is what it seems. Searching for answers, Esther must confront her past while looking towards a new future—one in which she is finally accepted. Through humor and heartbreak, Esther learns that blood does not mean family, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder and that silence can speak volumes.
What readers are saying: "Let me start with a warning: Author Kathryn Biel pushes you into the abyss of mental illness and gives you Ho-Hos and Fritos to break your fall. It’s dark. It’s disturbing. It’s depressing. But it’s also hysterical and uproariously funny. If that doesn't mess with your mind, I don’t know what will." 
"The mystery of this book, and indeed of Esther's life, unfurls through Biel's insightful, witty, and often hilarious prose. This book is a TOTAL HOME RUN."

So, here's how:

E-mail me at: kathrynbiel@outlook.com to place your order. Payment instructions will be provided after e-mail has been received and processed. Shipment will not occur until payment is received. If you live near me and want to arrange a pick-up, we can do that too.

Orders MUST BE received by 12/11/2014. Sorry, no exceptions. I will personalize, sign and ship your books to whatever address you have requested. CONTINENTAL US ONLY!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pin It to Win It

For a very long time, I avoided Pinterest. Oh, sure, I was invited and even opened an account. But I never went on the site. The reason is two-fold: self-esteem and time management.

The self-esteem thing is this: all these people posting pictures of the wonderful things they've made. The beautiful cakes, the intricately decorated cake pops, the pumpkins made out of old books. All that stuff looks great. Except my stuff comes out looking more like something from a Pinterest Fail page than anything Pinterest-worthy.

Finally, I realized this:


So, then I avoided Pinterest because of time management issues. Namely, once I type in www.Pinterest.com, suddenly four hours have elapsed and I have nothing to show for it. I don't have that kind of time to waste. I need to keep up on Candy Crush.

So, for me, Pinterest was not a productive thing. But then, my good friend, the super talented Jayne Denker, sent me her super secret Pinterest board. I was beta reading for her novel, Picture This, and she had a Pinterest board all set up for the characters and setting and everything. It was the best idea ever.

When I write, I would find myself cruising the internet for ideas of settings, clothing and hairstyles. I would bookmark all these websites and refer back to them over and over. OMG, that's what Pinterest can do. I made Pinterest productive. I would put all my bookmarked sites there. I could cruise around and find what my characters looked like. So I did that when I was working on I'm Still Here. Back then, the working title was Incommunicado, but that got changed as soon as the novel was finished (and people were like, what does that mean?).

Two months have gone by since I'm Still Here was released, so now I think it's time to share that Pinterest board with you all. Do you want to know how I picture Esther or O.K.? Find them on the board. Is that how you saw them? Let me know what you think.

Here's the link to Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/tats1824/im-still-here/

I promise, this board won't make you feel badly about your ability to re-create the perfect arts and craft project.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sometimes

Dear Son,

Sometimes I forget where we started.

Sometimes I forget how far you've come.

Sometimes I forget what a long road it has been.

Sometimes I forget how hard it is for you to express your thoughts.

Sometimes I forget how hard things must be for you.

Sometimes I forget that things are hard because you are still smiling.

Sometimes I forget that you are aware of some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are oblivious to some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are autistic.

Sometimes I forget that you are only ten years old.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to play and be yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you are not doing things on purpose to annoy me.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you don't understand how to ask for help.

Sometimes I forget how frustrating it must be for you to be a square peg.

Sometimes I forget that the world doesn't always make sense to you.

Sometimes I forget that you have difficulty tuning out things that are distracting.

Sometimes I forget that I never thought you would speak.

Sometimes I forget that I thought I would never hear you say, "I love you, Mom."



But I will never, ever forget what a blessing and a joy you are and how much I love you.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Guest Blog Take Over: Jayne Denker on Marsden, Continuity and Swearing. (Or something like that)

Today, Biel Blather is being taken over by fellow writer and all-around funny gal, Jayne Denker. She's here to talk about her book, Down on Love, which is on sale this month.


(Blog) Tour of Marsden, Day 5
In Which Your Tour Guide Swears a Lot; Or, Continuity’s a Bitch

Hey campers. Are you still on the bus? We’re headed for Marsden, NY, the fictional small town in the heart of the Catskills that features in my rom com, Down on Love. If I sound a little subdued today, it’s because I have a raging headache, so if we could all play quietly as we roll along, that’d be great, mkay?



What’s bugging me, you ask? I mean, sure, I was mighty perky on the first four days of the tour (see the full list of stops at my blog, http://jaynedenker.com), but today I have one heck of a hangover. No, not that kind. A continuity hangover. I’ll try to explain; I just need a little pick-me-up first. Are you going to finish that coffee?

Okay, see, continuity is like air—you only notice it when it’s missing. When we’re watching a movie, we happily buy into it until we notice that Pretty Woman’s breakfast changes from a croissant to a bagel to a croissant in a single scene. That’s a continuity problem, and when we see one, our brains go “gack!” Well, try creating an entire town—and a population for that entire town—without any foreknowledge that you’re going to have to go back to it and write more...and try to make it all consistent!

When I was writing Down on Love, I wasn’t planning on making the first in a small-town romcom series. But my editor asked if I wanted to keep going with more books set in Marsden, and who was I to say no? I wrote the second book, Picture This, which came out in July, and now I’m working on the third, Lucky for You, which should publish in late spring or early summer next year. Although all the books take place in Marsden, they’re only loosely connected and can be read as standalones if that’s more your thing.

Now, Marsden is a great place to be. I’m having a blast “living” there as I write my books. Heck, I wish my real village was as interesting and fun as this place! But there’s no denying there are challenges when you write a series—the continuity kind.

I’m talking keeping the characters consistent, recalling all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, keeping all their interrelations intact (always fun, especially when you have connections, friendships, and feuds going back generations). Checking ages and making sure they mesh is a big issue.

And then there’s geography: Marsden has a vibrant, busy Main Street, filled with shops, art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses.

Result: major continuity hangover. And lots of swearing. LOTS.

But it’s okay. I have skillz. I’m a little OCD. I could figure this out and make sure that all the details in my second and third books matched what I wrote off the cuff in my first. I took a page from television and created a “bible” with all the facts I had about Marsden. I made character lists, with names, occupations, ages, and relationships.

I even went full-on Tolkien and drew a map of the town and its surrounding areas, mainly because there are so many shops and restaurants and offices on Main Street, I wanted to make sure I knew what was abutting what and who was across the street from whom. I had to make sure I didn’t inadvertently move the shops around, or have a character cross the street to a store or the bank that I’d actually mentioned was several blocks away in a previous book.

Questions I had to address beyond Main Street: How long does it take to walk from George’s sister’s house to, say, the hardware store? And what places would she pass along the way? What sidestreet is the gym on? How about the music store? Also, how far away is Whalen, the dicey neighboring town? What’s between Marsden and Whalen? What’s in the strip malls outside of town? Where’s the park? And where the heck is this elusive Chicken Shack fast food restaurant, anyway?

Phew, right? But I have to say, it’s pretty fun creating a whole town from the ground up, complete with history dating back to the 1800s to the present, a million characters, etc. And somehow I get the feeling that this imaginary town carries on even when I’m not looking. So if you hear me swearing and/or groaning in pain, don’t worry—I’ll recover.

If you want to check out the village of Marsden, stay on the bus—this blog tour continues next week (Monday, October 20), stopping at my buddy and fellow author Glynis Astie’s blog (www.GlynisAstie.com), where we’ll learn more about the Catskills, Marsden’s general location. Plus an excerpt!

You can also dive into Marsden right now, if you like—pick up Down on Love, on sale for only 99 cents (!) for the entire month of October, all e-formats.



Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you next week!


Sounds good, right? That's because it is! I've read both Marsden books, Down on Love and Picture This. And I know the third one's in the works because (tee hee) I have insider knowledge of it.

Here's where you can find Down on Love. Seriously--don't miss it!





GOOGLE PLAY: http://bit.ly/1x7If17

Wanna know a little more about Jayne?

Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who's way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she's not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor). She’d like to say she updates her Web site, http://jaynedenker.com, quite often, but most of the time when it crosses her mind, she shouts “Can’t you see I’m writing?!” and puts it off till another day.





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Immortal Words

I should be writing. I guess I am, this blog. That is not what I should be writing. I should be writing my next novel. I'm in the home stretch, the last 25%. I need to buckle down and finish it.

But, for the second time this week, I find myself watching movies on TV rather than writing. (Seriously, when people ask me how I find the time to write and I tell them I stopped watching TV, I'm not kidding. I really should turn the TV off right now.)

Two days ago, I watched Gone With The Wind. Well, part one anyway. I fell asleep during the intermission. It was 11:30 p.m. and need to get up at 6, so that was probably a good thing. Tonight, I'm watching The Silence of the Lambs. And I've discovered a common theme.

And now you're all scratching your heads trying to figure out what that theme can possibly be. I'll give you a hint. It's why I should be writing right now. Books.

Gone With The Wind is my favorite book. I remember how disappointed I was when I saw the movie after reading the book. However, it's been a while since I've read it or seen the movie. Watching it the other night, the dialogue gripped me. I remembered why I loved the story and am desperate to find the time to read it again.

I read and reread The Silence of the Lambs while in high school. I did my senior paper on it. I think I thought I was being cool and edgy. Watching the movie, I remember how consumed I was with both Red Dragon (the first Hannibal Lecter book) and The Silence of the Lambs.

Both Oscar winning movies with Oscar winning performances. Both based on books that changed me in some way and have stayed with me all this time (my definition of a 5-star book). Both paperbacks still sit in my bookcase and will never leave. My copy of GWTW is actually my mother's from when she was in high school and has fallen apart.

I just wish I could write a piece of literature that stays with someone for twenty years. Seventy-five years even.

It won't get done if I'm blogging here, so I'll just leave you with this.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hocus, Pocus, You Must FOCUS

There is an ongoing battle in my house right now between my children and myself. I'm trying my damndest to make my little people into responsible adults someday. I see that as the end goal. Things are not going so well these days.

School is in full swing, which means we're running a lot of the time. I actually keep the kids' extracurricular activities low in comparison, so it is not as bad as other families have. However, each one of my kids is having difficulty getting done what needs to be done. I am forever telling the kids what the plans are for the next day, what the plans are for the day, what time we're leaving, etc, etc, etc. The kids are preset for what we have to do and when we have to do it.

But then everything falls apart somehow. It is the givens, the constants that my kids can't keep up with. Like changing underwear, brushing teeth, eating breakfast. These are things that happen EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. and somehow my kids can't seem to do them without me asking, telling and then screaming at them. We're in a vicious cycle and I don't know how to get out of it.

It's only going to get worse when I start my new job this week and I'll no longer be here in the morning to put them on the bus. They are going to have to figure out what to wear, remember to change underwear and socks, brush teeth, brush hair, go to the bathroom (seriously, why do they not just do that?!?!?), pack snacks and lunches, eat, make sure their bags are packed, and dress appropriately for the weather. Writing it down, it sounds like a lot for a ten and seven year old, but these are the rote things we do every day. And these are the things that the kids don't do without excessive prompting.

My son has ADD. I get that. He's medicated on school days (another thing to remember!) but not on weekends. I can tell the difference. However, sometimes I think that we've provided him with a crutch to use and now he doesn't even have to try to remember things. He can remember something I said when he was four (we would go on a cruise), but can't remember that I told him to wear shorts because the temperature will be in the high 70's today. I will tell him specifically to do something and then he forgets and it becomes a big crisis. One in which I'm left scrambling to pick up the pieces (like when he leaves his current project in my car and he was planning on working on it when he was at his grandparents'.) Mistakes happen, I know. But sometimes I feel like he doesn't even try to be responsible for himself.

And my daughter is really giving me (us) a hard time right now. Her attention is so bad at home. I've sent an email to the teacher to ask how she is at school because I'm so concerned. But with her, it is hard to tell if she cannot stay focused long enough to follow directions or if she just doesn't give a shit. I think it is the latter. She's very strong willed and thinks she knows it all. As such, she feels she doesn't need to listen most of the time. We're having epic battles. She's seven. I don't know what I'm going to do with her.

I know my stress levels are through the roof because of a lot of reasons, but the new job is high on that list. I'll be working five days a week for the first time since I had kids. I don't know how that balance is going to work out. I need the kids to step up a little and it seems they're regressing. My son was almost hit by a car this morning as he ran recklessly through the parking lot at church. Every week, I tell him not to run and to pay attention and he just doesn't listen. He's generally not a super-impulsive kid, so I know he can control it. He's ten. I've been warning him not to run through parking lots for over eight years now. Why doesn't he get it? Will this experience be enough for him to remember the next time?

I know I need to let the kids' inattention and unwillingness to focus have consequences so they learn from their mistakes. I know that in the long run, this is how they will learn. On the other hand, I'm the one who has to deal with the fallout of their mistakes. Writing it down, I can see I need to let them fail. I am deluding myself into thinking that all of my harping will help them change their behavior. Obviously it hasn't worked so far.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Farewell

When my husband and I bought our house eleven years ago, it was surrounded by trees. Many of the houses on our street had trees or shrubs blocking the front view of the house, since we live on a very busy main road. Our first summer, we took down those trees, giving us view to the street and neighbors. And it is because of this view that I am so sad.

We have a neighbor across the street who has been an inspiration to us. When we first used to see him out (which was all the time), we referred to him as "Old Dude." Because he was. He was in his mid-eighties when we moved in. This guy was a dynamo--outside, working on his yard all the time. He has every gadget known to man, including an ATV and little lawnmower tractor that he would use to tool around his yard in. Over the years, we watched him take down trees, smoke out moths, trim shrubs, all from his ATV. Seeing him get out of the car to get his mail, we understood why. The years had not been kind to his back and standing up straight was a thing of the past.

Still, he kept at it and kept active. That was his motto, "Keep on movin'."We watched him plow his driveway in the winter with the plow attached to the front of his SUV. His yard is meticulously manicured. Every so often, when we were outside, he would drive his ATV over to our house to visit. He and my husband hit it off. Both engineers, they had a lot in common. He grew up in a house around the corner from the house I grew up in and his nephew lives just down the street from my parents. We learned his name and were on more than one occasion, were the recipients of spoils from his garden.

He would come and go several times a day. If he saw us out, he would wave. His wife passed away a few years ago, but still he kept trucking on. Soon, a lawn service came to mow the lawn on a regular basis (and then, after they left, he would be out "fixing" things). A plow came in the winter.

Then, last fall, I noticed that the cars were not coming and going. There never seemed to be lights on in the house. A snow fell and it was not immediately plowed. I said to my husband, "I think something has happened to him." I watched the house for a few days, and was delighted when I saw a vehicle pull up. I went over and rang the bell. It was our neighbor's niece. When I introduced myself, she asked if I wanted to come in to visit with him. Relief flooded through me and I spent at least an hour visiting with him. He had indeed been ill and in and out of the hospital.

Winter turned into Spring, which turned into Summer. And he was still at it, driving to and from his house several times a day (I always wondered where he went). That day in July, when my husband and I were in the car accident right in front of our house, he was outside and saw the whole thing. We talked to him, assuring him we were all right. After the police left, my husband stayed outside with him for close to an hour chatting about work.

Yesterday was the perfect early Fall day. A great day to be outside. I saw him outside tooling around on his ATV, which always made me smile. More than once, my husband and I have said that we wish we can be like him when we get old. In his nineties, still sharp as a tack, living at home, very active.

This morning, the lawn people came and treated his lawn for weeds. Then I saw his niece pull in. Shortly thereafter, two police cars showed up. Followed by the paramedics and then an ambulance. I knew as soon as the police cars showed up what it meant. The ambulance came and left, no sirens blaring. The family has arrived, and now the hearse is there.

I'm terribly sad at the moment. I know I shouldn't be. I barely knew him afterall. He was in his mid-nineties and most likely passed away in his sleep. Who can ask for a better way to go? In my head I keep saying, "But I saw him outside yesterday!"

Farewell Mr. Marchand. You were a good man, a good neighbor and kept a beautiful lawn. We will miss you.

Finding the Balance

Like pretty much every other mother right now, I'm digging my way out of the trenches. School has started. Yipee! Crap!

I love this time of year. I dread this time of year.

Three weeks into school, we're now in full swing. Dance lessons. Cub scouts. Girl scouts. Music lessons. Soccer. Religion. Not to mention school. And homework. Always the homework. I feel like every moment of my kids' day is scheduled. And while it keeps us running, I hate it. I hate when my ten year-old literally begs me for ten more minutes at night so he can play. I know he needs his sleep but he needs his play as well.

Fifth grade is serious business. They're changing classes and are responsible for managing all their materials, moving from class to class. It's a hard adjustment for most of the kids, and then add on ADD on top of it. Throw into the mix consequences for missed homework (read: detention) and stress is at an all time high.

Here's the breakdown of our afternoons: The kids get off the bus around 4 p.m. My son cannot work all day at school and then come in and do homework. We figured that out years ago. The kids get a snack and can relax, watch TV or play for a little while. Homework gets started at 5 p.m. We used to do dinner around 5:30-5:45, but I'm finally realizing that the kids aren't hungry quite yet (due to the snack, which they need). It takes my son about an hour to an hour and a half every night to do his homework. He plays an instrument, so he has to practice 30 minutes. He has to read for 20 minutes. When you add up the time, including dinner it is three hours. Bedtime for him is 8:30. That gives him 90 minutes (on a non-shower, no activity night) to play, relax, talk. To be a kid. On shower nights, it is about 60 minutes (he takes looooong showers).

Last week, we had a cub scout hike that was smack dab in the middle of homework time. He had to finish homework after, during his TV/relaxing time and then shower in the morning. This change to the routine stressed him out and he kept saying that we should not have done the hike (even though it is the type of thing he totally loves).

My second grader is the social butterfly who does dance and scouts and soccer and is still begging for playdates. She has boundless energy and a willfulness that may just break me (don't tell her I said that). Last year, we battled over homework and reading. This year, so far (fingers crossed), she's motivated and committed and she finds herself wanting to be loud and boisterous because her homework is done while her brother is still trying to focus.

We're all tired. For me, it's going to get worse as I go back to work next week. The papers have already started to pour in and clutter the kitchen. We're doing our best to keep on top of that so that it is not another thing to throw us out of balance.

We run a pretty structured ship around here. It is what my kids need (and myself as well) to be successful. With the hubs and I passing like ships in the night as we shuttle the kids from one thing to another, we have to have good communication and set expectations. Sometimes things fall through the cracks and it throws our balance out of whack. But we just hop back on the ball and keep going.


(Note: this is not me. Sometimes, I can carry plates without dropping them. That is all.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Play List for I'm Still Here

I listened to a LOT of music when I was writing I'm Still Here. Sometimes, I can't listen to music when I'm writing, but this story required me to. I can't explain why, just something about the feeling of it. As I was writing, songs would catch my ear and I would include them on my playlist for the book. Every so often, I would hear a song while in my car and have to say the name over and over until I could stop and write it down in my notebook so that I could remember to include it on the playlist.

Here are the songs that made the playlist. A lot of them set the tone for Esther's past relationship with her twin sister Aster. Some of the songs go directly with a scene in the book--try and see if you can figure out which!

·   
Carry On by Fun.

When this song came out, it made me think of an acquaintance who had gone missing and was later found to have committed suicide. I could not fathom why she would make the choices she made and this song always made me think of her and that she could have found the strength to carry on. Her story was the inspiration for Aster.


Paradise by the Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf


Don't Mess Around with Jim by Jim Croce


Mad World by Alex Parks


Gravity by Sara Bareilles


Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles


Roar by Katy Perry


Hands by Jewel


Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers


Be Ok by Ingrid Michaelson


Say Something by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera


Crazy by Gnarls Barkley


Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick


I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz


Heart of Glass by Blondie


Broken by Jack Johnson


Tomorrow (Annie Soundtrack)


Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit
(Warning, this is the uncensored version with lots of bad language)


Won't Stop by One Republic


It's Alright by Big Head Todd and the Monsters



I hope you all enjoy this musical journey that accompanies Esther during her time in I'm Still Here. Guess what? This is only list one of two. Stay tuned for another play list coming soon!



I'm Still Here is available on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Acknowledgments

As my third book, I'm Still Here, is about to go live on all markets in about 7 hours, I wanted to publicize my thanks to those who have made the book happen. I'm not sure it is the vogue thing to do, but I put my acknowledgments in the beginning of my books, rather than the end. I know that people tend to skip over this part, but to me it is important to include all the people who make my writing career a possibility.

As I have been acknowledged in a few books, I have to say, it is so cool to see your own name in print at the beginning of someone's book. So, here are the people that made I'm Still Here happen.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

To my bestie, Michele Vagianelis. Yet another story that would not have been written without you. Oh, and make sure to thank JV for the spam email I supposedly sent to him that got this all started.

I had an incredible team of beta readers on this project. Without their collective insight, suggestions and encouragement, this book would be nowhere near what it is today. I'm so lucky to have this group of lovely, smart and talented writers and editors: Jayne Denker, Tracy Krimmer, Heather McCoubrey, Jana Misho, Becky Monson, Susan Rys and Chrissy Wolfe.

And speaking of editors, this would be a hot mess without the critical eyes of Cahren Morris and Karen Pirozzi. I promise, someday, I will learn how to use a comma properly, as well as the difference between abject and object poverty.

I would still be floundering, trying to decide on a cover and a blurb if not for the great group over at ChickLitChatHQ. Thank you all for your wisdom and opinions!

My first friend in life, Julie Stewart (you will always be Julie Cheney to me!), thank you for giving me some insight about what it is like to be in a band. I wish you'd move back up here so I can go see you play again.

Meghan Francis, who is not only a talented soccer coach, but a gifted speech-language pathologist as well, thank you for answering my questions about aphasia. If there are any technical errors, I assure you that they were all mine in the making.

Becky Monson, cover designer extraordinaire—I'm totally crushing on this cover too.

Cheryl and Dean Schoeder, thank you for the use of your names. I'm sorry for what I did to them.

Without the support of my parents and husband, none of this would be possible. And now to that team, I've added my brother, Dan, who comes to my book events and asks insightful questions and my niece Lexi who helps me with my social media marketing. I'm so lucky to have all of you, as well as my biggest (smallest) supporters, Jake and Sophia.


I never knew it was possible to miss someone you never met. Mike, the void you’ve left is immeasurable and I wish you were still here.

If you're interested in reading I'm Still Here, you can find it here:


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Helping Out

I've often been asked what is one surprising thing I've found since publishing. My answer on my latest interview was to say the people who I don't know who have come out of the woodwork to support me. Now it is my turn to pay back some of that support.

I'm about to publish my third novel, I'm Still Here. The main theme of the book is finding family. The main character, Esther, has to learn what it means to be family. As the back cover blurb says, "... blood does not always mean family." While I do happen to have a wonderful biologically-related family, I also have a family of friends and a family of other writers.

As I'm on the cusp of publishing my latest work, one of my fellow writers is going through a very difficult time. Although we live in the same community and know some of the same people, we've never met. We've liked each other's posts and shared each other's links, but we've never met. But I know that I need to do something to help her at this time. Her husband is the former fire chief in the fire department in which my grandfather was a charter member. And now her family is going through a terrible time due to an accident at the fire house.

So, here's what I'm proposing. No, not proposing. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to donate a portion of my royalties during the month of September to the Wheatley family. So that means, anyone who pre-orders I'm Still Here will be donating to this family. Any pre-orders or purchases of any of my books through September 30 will count. The more people who buy books, the more we will be able to help this family out.

I thank you all in advance for helping me to show a small amount of support to the Wheatley family during this difficult, uncertain time. If you would prefer to donate directly to the family, you can send a donation to this address:

The Chief Jason Wheatley Fund
C/O The Verdoy Fire Department
988 Troy Schenectady Road
Latham, NY, 12110
I'm Still Here is available for pre-order on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Smashwords.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Piece of Cake

My mom always made our birthday cakes. And, of course, as a child, I wanted nothing more than the bakery concoctions with mountains of frosting and brightly colored roses that could induce a diabetic coma. However, as I grew up, I realized I don't like most bakery cakes (unless they're chocolate with chocolate ganache). I was attracted to the intricate designs. I wanted my cake to look pretty (not that my mom didn't do a great job. She did. There were no fancy roses or intricate piping though).

Then, when I was in college, Martha Stewart came into the picture, establishing an impossible xenith of decorating and home keeping. I have no where near the talent and skill it takes to be Martha, but dammit I'm gonna try. For years, I spent Christmas Eve frosting sugar cookies in six different colors of royal icing, just so they looked smooth and professional. They looked nice, but my mom's round ones with cream cheese frosting taste a whole lot better.

For my wedding cake, I chose a cake with fondant, just because it looked so smooth and nice. Just like Martha Stewart would make. I didn't actually eat any of my wedding cake that night. People kept coming up to me and asking what type of frosting it was. I smugly replied, "It is a buttercream frosting with fondant over it." Most people had never heard of fondant. I thought I was impressing them. Until the day after, when I tasted it, and realized it was horrible (fondant has come a long way in 13 years).
This was the only taste of the cake I got that day. You can see it in the bottom left corner.
And then I became a mom myself. I had three co-workers at the time who had taken the Wilson cake decorating classes and they made cakes. One of them even made the cake for my baby shower.

And as  mom, I wanted to make my own cakes. Of course, I wanted them to be fancy and professional looking. My first attempt for Jake's first birthday was not that successful.

What you can't see in this picture is the horrible time I had with the chocolate cake crumbing up. It kills me every year, trying to frost a chocolate cake (because that is what the kids ALWAYS want) with white frosting and not to get crumbs. Since 2005, I have tried several methods to reduce crumbing. My current one is to bake the cake, and then freeze it. Frosting it while frozen seems to help a little.

By Jake's second birthday, I was branching out into better designs. I'm pretty proud of the free-hand design on this one. I was still using canned frosting and the tube gel for decoration.

His third birthday had me thinking a bit outside the box, as I couldn't find how to make a Thomas cake without buying the pan and doing star tips, which scared the bejeezus out of me at the time. I was, however, stuck in the rut of using a 9 x 12 pan.

For Jake's fourth birthday, I finally changed it up. For the first time, I made my own frosting and started using gel coloring, rather than the liquid stuff. So many more color options and it doesn't thin the frosting out either. I also branched out into cupcakes this year. Go figure ... finally getting complicated when I have a baby in the mix.

With said baby, that meant I got to make two cakes a year. I finally tackled the star tip frosting for Sophia's first birthday. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Of course, I went off the deep end and made candy to go with her cake as well.

Jake wanted an ice cream cake for his fifth birthday. Not much to look at, but it tasted pretty good. He had a friend birthday party that year, for which we used a store-bought cake. His party and actual birthday were about a week apart, so we definitely needed two cakes.

For Sophia's second birthday, I traced this picture on waxed paper and then frosted that, putting it right on top of the cake. Back to the 9 x 12, but I always liked how it came out. The purple looks blue in this picture, but it was definitely purple and red. Or rojo, as Dora would say.

I went back to cupcakes for Jake's sixth birthday. I started to get more creative and confident in my skills.


But for Sophia, I don't know what got into me. I was like a person possessed. This is where my rush-through-it and OCD battle, which is really tough. Two of my dad's favorite sayings are, "I cut it three times and it's still too short" and "Ready, fire, aim!" Both of those apply to me. However, when you have crazy high expectations of perfection, it leads to a lot of hard work, over ambitious projects and ultimately disappointment. It wasn't terrible, but certainly wasn't what I wanted it to look like. The project engineer needs to be fired. Still, Sophia remembers getting the princesses to play with, so that's what's important.


I borrowed a friend's sphere pan to do a Mets themed baseball cake. This really wasn't that hard and I think it turned out pretty good (especially considering his party was about an hour away, and I had to carry this all the way up there). I need to remember that sometimes, the simpler cakes come out better.

But I forgot that lesson by the time Sophia's birthday rolled around. Pinterest had hit the scene, which can be a cake-maker's best friend and worst enemy. Still, not terrible, and I ventured into fondant again, used glitter and candy flowers. I don't want to think about how much this cake actually cost me to make.



About one month after Jake turned seven, he was looking at a catalog that has birthday party supplies and said, "For my next birthday, I want Tom and Jerry. I am going to be eight, you know." Eleven months later, I found a company that does edible images and ordered it so Jake could have his Tom and Jerry party. He had a homemade ice cream cake again for his family party.

Sophia wanted a horse birthday for her fifth birthday. This was her first time having a friend party. One of her friends had a peanut allergy, so I was limited in the ingredients I could use. I also need to come to terms with the fact that I cannot make a straight line. 

Jake wanted a Star Wars birthday for his ninth. For some reason, I am not very creative in February when his birthday rolls around. However, I think my frosting ability has improved slightly. It could be because I've invested in better tools over the years (a lazy susan has made all the difference!).


I hit Pinterest again for Sophia's birthday, and was pleased with this one. Still didn't love the way my frosting tasted but I loved the way this one came out.

Ok, mom-fail moment here. I have no cake for Jake's tenth birthday. But before you pass judgement, we were in Disney for his birthday and he got a cake there. He didn't have a friend party (his choice), so there was no second cake. I did send cupcakes into school (of which I have no picture). Sophia's birthday is in August, so she never gets cupcakes for school.

Which leads us to Sophia's birthday again. The party is tomorrow. She is having a spa birthday party. The spa's theme is zebra print and pink, so that's what she wanted for her cake. She also wanted a tiered cake (despite the fact that there will only be seven girls there). So, I combed Pinterest, and this is what I came up with. I think it is my best cake ever. Don't look too closely. It is a bit crooked and my fondant could be trimmed a bit cleaner. But I totally love it. Totally.


And now, I finally have a decent frosting recipe. As it happens, I have a friend who writes stories about a fictional baker. This fictional baker has a real buttercream frosting recipe that is AMAZEBALLS. Completely and totally. Best part, you can have that recipe too. It's right here. Follow the directions. Use room temperature salted butter.

As much as I love these cakes (even the messy, ugly, crooked ones), what I love is that my kids love them. Sophia came in the kitchen today and looked at the half-done cake and said, "That is the most beautiful cake ever." She helped me make it and decorate it as well, dictating where dots should go and what size they should be. She also approves of the frosting.

I love looking back on the themes and remembering where the kids were at that time in their lives. What their interests were.

My cakes don't belong on Pinterest. They are more in the Pinterest fails category, but I don't care. My kids have loved them and that's what makes this all a piece of cake.