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


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:
Barnes and Noble

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.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Oh, Ryan Lochte

In 2012, I developed a little crush on swimmer Ryan Lochte. I mean, who wouldn't?

I was even sort of excited when I found out he was going to have his own reality show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do? I never ended up watching the shows because it became apparent in some of Ryan's post-Olympic interviews that while he certainly is pretty, perhaps his personality and brain power is not at the same caliber as his swimming.

I'm not sure how much of it is an act, but he appears rather dim. I don't think it's an act.

I wondered in this Olympics how much media attention he would get, seeing as how it is pretty clear that he's not the best character story. He doesn't interview well, and some of his waters tend to be on the shallow side. It didn't stop me from rooting for him, even with the hair debacle.

Again, it sort of shows the caliber of intellect. He's spent his whole life in the pool and didn't realize that chlorine would change the bleach color...

And then there's that night. The story of the robbery, being held at gun point. The "over exaggerated details." The drunken shenanigans.

I watched the Matt Lauer interview last night.

And I got mad. Now before you go thinking that I'm blinded by the pretty smile (and the much better hair), think about these things.

  1. Ryan and the boys had a night of partying. They were drunk. There was public peeing. A poster was ripped from the wall. Good conduct? No. Were they being drunken idiots? Yes. How is that different from rock stars and movie stars and other athletes? I mean, Lamar Odom OD'd after a WEEK long coke fest in a brothel (complete with hookers), but that's okay. 
  2. Inflating the story was a douche move, no question. He was probably still drunk. Still a douche. We also need to remember we're not dealing with a Mensa scholar here. And still, he (they) didn't do anything Justin Beiber or a hundred other celebrities haven't done.
  3. Ryan and the boys claimed to have been robbed at gun point. Now they are being called liars. The security guards (who were not police officers) pulled their guns, threatening to call the police. These rent-a-cops pulled their guns. No, they were not put to Ryan's head and cocked, but how rational are you when a gun is drawn in your general direction (and you're drunk off your ass)? What would we be saying if a security guard pulled a gun on an intoxicated individual in this country? Hell, police can't even pull their guns anymore.
  4. To "pay for the damages," all four swimmers had to give the security guards (not police, not gas station owner) all the money they had. Huh. That sort of sounds like armed robbery to me. These security guards actually have no legal authority, yet then demanded all their money. If the poster cost $50, that would be a lot. I'd guess Ryan and the boys turned over a lot more than that.
  5. Jimmy Feigan had to pay $11,000 in order to settle this case and get his passport back. How in the hell does reporting a false incident result in $11,000 in restitution? Extortion is more like it.
  6. Matt Lauer is a prick. Ryan Lochte may be a douche (you wonder how much Tums his agent and publicist go through). Matt Lauer did nothing but bully Ryan Lochte in that interview. It's a case of someone who has more power (in this case intellectual power) brow-beating someone who is not equipped to hold his own. 
In summary, Ryan Lochte is not bright. He did a stupid thing (for which he has apologized). However, he and his teammates were actually robbed at gunpoint, and Jimmy Feigan was extorted, and we all seem to be okay with it. Oh, and Matt Lauer is a bully.

Let's look into the shady corruption of the security guards and Brazilian government, and let Ryan Lochte go away for a while. I think that might be best for all of us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Inevitable

For some, it happens during. For others, it occurs just after. For us, it's been 22 years. The passage of time doesn't make it any easier though. It just leads to more "if onlys" and "should haves."

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of a high school classmate. She's the first. And when your class is only about 120 people, everyone knows everyone. The news has been shooting through my former classmates like wildfire.

But time happens and life happens and you drift and go your separate ways. I wasn't particularly close with Katie, although I met her before high school, attending cheerleading camp with her when I was about 12 and 13. I certainly wasn't in her inner circle, nor she in mine. In all honesty, I've only spoken with her twice since we graduated 22 years ago, both times at reunions.

It's still hard, so I know her close circle of high school friends must be hurting.

There has been something positive though. Old friends reaching out. Messages and phone calls exchanged. We finally make time for conversations that we've been putting on the back burner for years.

I know this was inevitable. But it doesn't make it any easier.

Rest in peace, Katie. You will be missed.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the blink of an eye...

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, then it will come as no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of the Olympics. Like quasi-addicted.

Okay, maybe not quasi...

In fact, I remember being in high school and spending my entire February break watching the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Remember when the Winter Olympics were just 2 years apart that time? Totally aside.

Anyway, they keep referring to the 2012 London Olympics. And I have to shake my head. Didn't that just happen? How could that be four years ago? Four years? Four years ago, my kids were getting ready to enter 3rd grade and Kindergarten. We were in Disney for the first time. I'd yet to publish my first book. So much has happened in the past four years.

I mean, it's been four years since we had this jem...

Aaaah, that Ryan Lochte ...

So then, as I'm watching all sorts of things I never dreamed of (Hello, Rugby!), they mention the next Olympics. In 2020.


I know it shouldn't come as a shock. 2016+4=2020 afterall. But what hit me is that my son graduates from high school in 2022. He only has one more Summer Olympics at home. I know it's a silly way to measure time, but I can't help but think of how fast these last 4 years have gone.

So, I'm going to spend the next few weeks watching the world unite, admiring the skill and talent of the athletes, and holding onto my kids a little tighter. Afterall, in the blink of an eye, they'll be gone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cover Reveal!

I know I've woefully abandoned this blog this summer. But listen--I've got good reasons.

First, and least important, I was reading. Reading is important for me because well, I love it. I started reading the Outlander series. I'm two and a half books in. I'm reading the hardcover versions and they do require significant upper body strength. For those of you not familiar, each book is 700-800 pages, so in hardcover, it's quite the heft.

The real reason I ignored blogging--I was writing!

After hemming and hawing and overall procrastinating since February, I finally set a goal and buckled down to finish my seventh full-length novel, Made for Me. This time last year, I was trying to write Live for This when I became distracted with the idea of writing a Christmas novella. I'd had the idea for quite a while, so with the timing being right, I wrote Completions and Connections: A Romantic Holiday Novella. It's a cute little story, and came out exactly how I'd imagined. However, some of the feedback that I received was that people wished there was more--that it was a full novel rather than a novella.

Which got me to thinking. And then, eventually writing. Michele, Christine's best friend seemed like she had a story to tell. Hence, my latest book, Made for Me. This is my first totally chick lit book--a fun, funny read that I can't wait to share with you.

Here's the blurb:

Michele's lack of focus in life hasn't bothered her, until the day she finds herself with mounting credit card debt, unable to afford her rent, and without a job. While her meddling family questions how she can end up in this predicament, at the age of 29, and single to boot, Michele doesn't want to admit the truth. All she wants to do is sew.
Faced with the prospect of moving back into her parents' house, Michele throws a Hail Mary pass and applies for a TV design contest, Made for Me. In order to win the contest, Michele will have to compete with nine other contestants to design the new wardrobe for Duchess Maryn Medrovovich, who's about to marry Prince Stephan of the United Republic of Montabago. 
While in the seclusion of the show, Michele starts to realize where her focus in life should  be, and what's truly important to her. However, a dashing competitor might just cause her to lose her focus once and for all. Can Michele keep her eye on the prize while being true to herself?
Okay, without further ado, here's the cover for Made for Me!

 It releases October 4, 2016, and is available for pre-order now!

Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Am I Missing Something?

I am a marketer's dream. I come by it honestly. I inherited it from my parents. My mom likes to buy vacuums and cleaning implements (and has single handedly supported Shark). My dad is a serious junkie. I can't tell you how many infomercial products he's bought. His latest is an electric pressure cooker. He bought it while in the hospital. I guess there wasn't much on late night TV. In his defense, he does use it every week, and hasn't blown up anything yet.

Frequently, my parents will mention a product advertised in an infomercial. And I have to tell them again that I don't watch infomercials. Not because I don't have time, or because I'm above it. But because I'm susceptible. I will become convinced, long before that 30 minutes is up, that I need that product. I don't know what it is, I will need it.

I am a marketer's dream. Years later, I will still associate songs with the product they represented. Commercials for food make me want to cook that or visit that restaurant.

But, there's something I don't get.

Watch this commercial. It's only 30 seconds.

So, am I missing something?

I get the purpose of toilet paper. Obviously. I use toilet paper. Obviously. I even like 2-ply.

But it has nothing to do with why I wear underwear.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that the purpose of wearing underwear is not because I don't wipe well enough. Even if I were intrigued by the ripples and plushness, this whole premise makes me scratch my head and make this face:

Cottonelle, I'm an easy target. And you totally missed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thank you, Sandra Boynton!

The year was 1991.

(Please give me a moment while I sob uncontrollably that 1991 was 25 years ago. Holy crap, where did that go?).

I was a freshman in high school with a big perm and a crush on a Sophomore. I was on a field trip to Boston with Math Club. We were in Quincy Market when I decided that I should probably get a birthday card for my dad, seeing as how it was his birthday and all. I'd already bought myself a Goofy watch at the Disney store. I remember going up to a small booth and spinning the rack of cards around. Then I saw it. The birthday card for my dad. This is what it looked like:

Copyright Sandra Boynton.
The card was a big hit. Like a really big hit. So much so that the next year, on that same trip to Boston, I found the same vendor in Quincy Market and bough another version of that birthday card. Best birthday card ever.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and I had my first child. My friend Amy gave me some board books for my shower. Included in that was The Going to Bed Book. As my son grew, he loved to be read to, and that was one of his favorites. I can still recite it. "The sun has set, not long ago, and everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub, with soap all over, scrub scrub scrub."
Copyright Sandra Boynton
Based on the awesomeness of that book, we slowly expanded my son's library to include many, many Sandra Boynton books. My dad was my son's primary babysitter when I worked. They've had a special bond since my son's birth. He spent just at much time reading these books to my son as I did. His favorite was Hippos Go Berserk.
Copyright Sandra Boynton
We also had one of the Sandra Boynton CD's (Philadelphia Chickens). It was set as a Broadway musical, which really struck a chord with our family. I still have trouble driving through farmland without this song running through my head.

But as children do, my son (and then my daughter) aged past their Boynton phases, though my dad and I have always held her close to our hearts, mostly for the memories with the kids. When we learned that our favorite children's author was also the author of the best birthday card ever, it was like for a moment, the world was perfect.

Fast forward another dozen years. This past year has been difficult for my dad, and this birthday was not guaranteed. So, what I really wanted was to find the Hippo Birdie card. Even 25 years later, everyone in our family remembers it. I had to find this card.

I follow Sandra Boynton on Facebook, and often share her drawings, especially on my author page. I decided to reach out to her to see if there was any way to get a personalized card or something special for my dad. I mean, she has to have a store, right? Does she sell autographed things?

Instead of being directed to her store, Sandra's daughter Darcy reached out to me and offered to send something for my dad for his birthday. I was floored, and then even more so when I received it in the mail. I cried.

How this woman (and her daughter who handles this sort of thing) could be so kind and generous to me--it just blew my mind. She had already impacted our lives in such great ways, and then here she was, doing it again. I've waited weeks for this day to come. My dad's 70th birthday.

I brought down the presents to him. Upon initiating opening the card, without even knowing what the card was, my dad started singing, "Hippo birdie two ewe." I told you, this card had an impact.

 And then when he realized that it was his card. And his new birthday mug.

Then to his personalized book. He kept asking me, "How did you do this? Did you send away for it? Do you know her? How did you do this?"

There's not much my dad needs in life right now, other than quality time with loved ones. Spending time with us makes him happy (I hope). Having some mementos of some of the greatest years of our lives--when the kids were little--is the cake. Having it personalized by someone who played an integral part in shaping it is the best icing ever. Chocolate, in case you're wondering.

And Sandra Boynton does have a place to buy this card (and other things too). You can click here to get the best birthday card ever.

Thanks, Dad for everything, and happy birthday.

And thank you Sandra Boynton for yet again touching our lives.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Thank You

There are people in your life who will tear you down. If you're lucky, someone will come along and build you back up.

I was lucky.

I had the same math teacher for grades six through eight. She didn't like me. She didn't hide the fact that she didn't like me. Frankly, I'm sure I was an annoying know-it-all. And math was not my favorite subject. Not that it will come as a shock to anyone who knows me now, but I used to rush through to get it done. In doing so, I tended to make careless mistakes. So, I was not a favorite of my math teacher. But it was, on a day I remember with so much clarity, that she sort of ruined me. She said to me, in front of my whole class that I "would never accomplish anything and would never amount to anything."

Nice thing to tell your student.

Not surprisingly, I lost all confidence in my math ability. Like one needs a reason to be insecure in those early teen years.

Going into high school, after attending the same school from nursery school through eighth grade was intimidating. There were all these other kids. I was no longer a big fish in a little pond. I was a little fish, and totally overwhelmed. I was fortunate though, as my two older brothers had traversed the way a bit. I knew some of the teachers, and they knew of me. That was sort of good and sort of bad (especially when the oldest brother is a class clown and doesn't make the best impression on a humorless teacher). But my brothers were good kids, strong students, and I did have the benefit of the same last name.

I was also a pleaser. I wanted people to think well of me.

Course I Math was intimidating. The teacher was an older gentleman, Mr. Corbeil. He had a reputation for favoring the boys and not the girls. Not what I needed after my previous experience. Especially not when most of my peers in the honors classes had the advantage of taking Course I in eighth grade. I was already behind. Did I mention that I was a bit anal and driven, and had my sights set on being valedictorian, as my brother would be that year? Yeah, my brothers set the bar high, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. Especially not in math.

But, Mr. Corbeil liked me. Despite the fact that I was a girl. Maybe it's because he liked my brothers. Maybe it was just me.

I did well in math that year. And throughout high school.

I was a four year member of Math Club, which, ironically did not really involve math at all. I don't remember what we did, despite being president. Mr. Corbeil was the moderator, which was why I did it.

Early on in our Freshman year, Mr. Corbeil announced that we were his last class and he'd be retiring when we graduated. He and his wife never had kids, but treated us like their kids. Mrs. Corbeil passed away a number of years ago.

Scrolling through Facebook a little while ago, a classmate posted Mr. Corbeil's obituary. I'd often wondered if he was still alive. I should have looked him up. I should have thanked him for believing in me. For giving me back some confidence. For realizing that my other teacher was not correct, and that I would amount to something.

I have a lot of people to thank along my journey. Mr. Corbeil was just one of them.

So, take a moment to thank the people who build you up. To let their words and encouragement be the ones to echo in your brain instead of the negativity. And then, take another moment to do that for someone else. Be someone's Mr. Corbeil.

Mr. Corbeil's Obituary

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I Don't Need a Day #worldautismday

Today is April 2nd. It's World Autism Day.

I shared this on Facebook yesterday:

Facebook was also so kind to remind me that on this day, in years past, I've shared the following:
 And this one too:

I don't need a day to remind me to think about Autism. I don't need to wear blue to be aware of Autism. I live Autism every single day.

Somedays, it's so hard. Other days, it's the easiest thing I've ever done. And I know how very lucky we are. My son is autistic. But he's so much more. Trying to sum him up with that one word is like saying he has blue eyes and expecting you to know everything about him from that one fact. He's entering adolescence, which is going to bring a whole new set of challenges. Especially considering that his body is losing control to hormonal fluctuations while his emotions are still about 3 years behind his chronological age, and he lacks the pragmatic skills to express himself without a whole lot of work on my part.

But he can express himself. And we're working on it. Every day we work on it. Some days are good. Some days are not. Some days the stress of the outside world is almost too much for him.

And we're so lucky. So very lucky. My son is one of the lucky ones. Because yes, he's autistic. But, like I said, he's so much more. He has friends (typical ones). Okay, maybe just one or two friends, but someone he can call for a playdate and they will say yes. He's well liked. He's not thought of as odd. He's in a regular class and is no longer on an IEP. College is in his future. He'll have a career. We have every reason to expect that he'll have a family, if he so desires.

At work, many of my students are not so lucky. Some are non-verbal, or are very limited in their verbal skills. Some are so locked in their own worlds that it's a privilege to be granted entry, even if for a moment. God, what a gift that is to receive, when they let you in. How crushing it is when you see the curtain fall and know you're back on the outside.

I don't need a day to remind me of all the work that parents and teachers and therapists do on behalf of individuals with autism. That is my everyday.

And I don't need a day to remind me of how lucky and how honored I am to know these individuals. I know every single day. Somedays I'm frustrated, and somedays I feel inadequate. But every day I feel and every day I know.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Fighting an Epidemic One Back at a Time

It seems to me that stories of the heroin epidemic are all over the news. From the allowance of every pharmacy in New York state to carry Narcan over the counter to the proposal of a heroin clinic in Ithaca that is staffed by licensed medical personnel (so that addicts can receive medical attention so they don't die while shooting up), the war on heroin is dominating the news coverage. 20/20 is running a special on it tonight, and a few weeks ago, I watched PBS's Frontline special, Chasing Heroin, about the measures being taken in Seattle to combat heroin.

I've never been addicted to drugs. I cannot speak to that. But here's what I keep gleaning from the coverage. Once someone is addicted to heroin, it is very difficult to come clean and stay clean. I'm not convinced that daily methadone is any better.

The other fact I keep hearing. Four out of five heroin addicts started with prescription narcotics. Let me say that again. FOUR OUT OF FIVE started with prescription pills.

Our medical system is broken, and this heroin crisis is a by-product of it. Fragmented, sequestered medical care that looks only at body systems and not the whole person. Physicians who won't refer to other fields, lest they be cut out of the loop financially. Big pharma pushing, encouraging, bribing. Patients get trapped in a downward spiral of doctor's visits, medications, diagnostic imaging.

This post may be biased. I am a physical therapist. I have eight years of college education and passed a state board exam in the field of treating dysfunction. That's what physical therapists do. We treat dysfunction. What is the largest symptom of dysfunction? Pain.

Why do people take narcotics? Pain

What leads to heroin use in 4 out of 5 heroin addicts? Pain pills.

Do we see a correlation here?

Studies have shown that early referral to physical therapy reduces medical costs in terms of follow up diagnostic imaging, spinal injections, and surgeries. If people are feeling better quicker, they will not need to take narcotics. If people are feeling better and do not have to have surgery, they will not need to take narcotics.

I know there is a time and place for prescription pain pills. There are some cases that narcotics are needed, like in post-surgical cases. However, I firmly believe that both the patients and the physicians are to blame in the growing crisis of narcotic addiction. The patients who want a quick fix, that magic pill. Physicians who are too eager to write that script for the quick fix.

What would happen if we shift our thinking when we hurt our backs (or shoulders or knees)? What if instead of visit upon visit to physicians and specialists, we went right to PT? Only 17 states have unrestricted direct access to physical therapy (meaning there is no physician referral/prescription needed). The other 33 states have limited or provisional access. Here's the catch: even though your state may have direct access to physical therapy, your insurance company most likely will still require you to have a physician referral otherwise they won't cover it. Additionally, in many states, physical therapy services are charged as a Specialist fee, which often means higher co-pays, and can be cost prohibitive for patients.

What if instead of relying on a little pill, we took a look at our lifestyles and made changes to make our bodies function better?

You know, going to the physical therapist a few times a week and making lifestyle modifications may seem like a pain in the neck, but as compared to life as a heroin addict, it seems like a no brainer.

I'm not naive enough to think that physical therapy is the cure for the heroin epidemic. It's not that simple. But we have to start somewhere, doing something. Allowing children to buy Narcan OTC so they can save their friends from overdosing is not the answer. We need to look at the root causes, and start there.

So, the next time you are hurting, instead of asking your physician for a prescription for pills, ask him or her if a referral to PT might be a better plan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Good Timing for #International Women's Day

Sometimes, things work out for a reason. Today, is not only release day for my latest novel, Live For This, but it's International Women's Day. (It's also #NationalPancakeDay, but that has nothing to do with either issue)

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, and will continue to say that I'd be nowhere without the women in my life. From my mother to my daughter to my best friend Michele (you may notice her name makes it into every book) to the mom's at school to my co-workers to my author friends, I've got a fantastic support system.

It's from these women that I draw inspiration to write my female characters. My resilient women. My characters are flawed, realistic. They're not perfect. Sometimes, they make terrible mistakes. But they get up, put their big girl panties on, and carry on. Much like the women in my real life do. The women that struggle with the balance of career and family and responsibilities, often putting not only their personal lives aside, but their health as well in order to take care of everyone else.

I've got a great support system around me, and out of it has come my sixth novel. Samirah, the main character in Live For This, is not quite as together as some of my other main characters. She's young--only 24, and has had a rough go of it. She puts up walls and defense mechanisms, which turns her into not a very nice person. There's not a lot there that makes her likable. Except, you know she's had a raw deal. Watching her grow, mature, and evolve is emotional, and heartbreaking at times. Like my other characters, she finds her resilience. Not necessarily by choice, but she embraces it none the less.

So, today, on my seventh publishing day, I ask you to celebrate the women in your life. May we all be resilient.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Somber Experience

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chaperoning my son's field trip (which in and of itself is a long story, but I'll save that for another time, as it is not the point of this post). We had a group of about 48 11 and 12 year-olds (sixth graders), and part of the trip was a tour of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

One thing that stuck not only me, but the teachers and other chaperones as well is that none of the children were alive when 9/11 happened.

They've always existed in a post-9/11 world.

They don't know know what the NYC skyline looked like with the Twin Towers, and how once they were gone, it created a huge hole.

They don't know what it is like to say good-bye to someone at the airport gate, or greet them there the moment they deplane.

They don't remember the days when bags weren't searched and x-ray scanners weren't the norm. When you didn't have to remove your coat and belt and shoes just to enter a museum.

They've always known the term Al Qaeda. They've always known of Osama Bin Laden and Jihad.

They don't have the memories of that day, knowing exactly where they were and what they were doing. Watching the horrible events unfold, live on CNN.

They don't understand the gravity of the statement, "He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald."

They don't know how eerie it is to see a sky with no air traffic.

They don't know how frightening it is to see a low flying plane.

My personal recollections are in this post, but we all have those stories. The teacher who had a view of the Pentagon from his classroom. The teacher with a classroom full of kids who was summoned to the office because her principal knew her sister lived in the city. The mother who's youngest sister was late for work at her job in the South Tower, arriving just after the first plane crash (she grabbed a friend and high tailed it across the Brooklyn Bridge).

I had four boys with me yesterday. We didn't have time to read every exhibit, so I gave them the quick synopsis. I have to say, I'm proud at the respect and somberness they showed. I still don't know if they got the gravity of the situation. The steel beams, twisted and mangled, crumpled like paper. Seeing the steel arch and how massive it is, and how small it was compared to the rest of the building. The fire truck (Engine 3) with the front end melted off. All 11 members of the Company perished that day. How the phone lines to pretty much all of New York were jammed, so that loved ones could not be contacted. The missing flyers that grew in the days after. The horror of knowing all the emergency personnel mobilizing at the local hospitals would have no survivors to treat. Of knowing that there would be a high casualty count from the plane crashes themselves, but that no one expected the towers to fall.

Of watching people jump out the window.

I don't know if I said the right things yesterday. It's hard to believe it's been almost 15 years. It feels like yesterday.

I feel like I need to take my youngest to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, when she's a little older. And then I will have no need to go back. I will carry in my mind, and in my heart, the terrible losses of that day until the day I die.

And I will pray that my children will have no such defining event in their lives.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Turning Pointe

Tonight was a turning pointe for me. No, that's not a typo. Well, it's more a pun than a typo.

I've done ballet since I was five years old. I am not a ballerina. I never have been, though it may have been my dream. Short, stocky legs and inflexible ligaments, as well as too many outside interests prevented serious pursuit. Not to mention I'd already injured by back by the age of 15, and done serious damage to my hip by the age of 20. A career on the stage was not in my future. But like the guys who play baseball well into their 50s and 60s for the mere enjoyment and camaraderie, I still dance.

I got my first pair of pointe shoes when I was in 7th grade. Twenty-seven years ago, for those of you counting at home. was 1989, so don't hate on the hair.

 Of course, we can comment that I was standing like this because I was en pointe, and no one took a picture of my feet. I had the starter pointe shoes, that had the suede piece that went all the way over the toe. They were Capezios. I don't know if they make them like that any more.

I had narrow feet as a teenager, and wore the Capezio Niccolini's for years. I saved a pair, and when I was decorating the nursery for my daughter, I decided to put them in her room. Yes, I decorated my baby's room with smelly old dirty shoes.

I danced my first year in college and then took a decade off from ballet. But it was my first love, and it called me back. Somehow, for some reason, after having two kids, I decided to give pointe another whirl. I bought new shoes (Suffolks) and hated them. They were agony. I'd been fitted and that's what was recommended, but those were not the shoes for my feet. Then, in 2011, I was asked to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy in my studio's Christmas show. I knew I couldn't do it with those shoes, and got a pair of Gaynor Mindens. They felt like heaven on my feet.

I was thirty-six years old the night I danced the Sugar Plum Fairy. Do I watch the video and cringe a little? Sure. In my head, I dance like a prima ballerina. In reality, my extension is not great, my knees aren't always straight and tight, and I certainly don't have the stamina I need. But, I did it.

I don't have a ballerina's body. But I have pretty feet. I'll take that.

In 2013, I was lucky enough to partake in a photo shoot with a local photographer, William LeBlanc. He was trying out a new technique and wanted dancers for it. I'm not a model, and I was unfortunately going through a blunt bang stage, but I've never felt so pretty or graceful.
Copyright William LeBlanc Studio. 2013.

 He did these photos of us individually. Normally I hate myself in profile, but he did such a great job.

Copyright William LeBlanc Studio, 2013.

Every so often, someone gets me actually dancing.

Tonight, it was with a tinge of bittersweetness that I said good-bye to those pointe shoes. Gaynor Mindens are meant to last, and I've gotten 4 1/2 years out of them. They've served me well.
And with anticipation and sadness, I started sewing the ribbons and elastics on what will most likely be my last pair of pointe shoes. If these last as long, I'll be about 45 the next time I'm in the market for a new pair. If the arthritis in my toes has it's way, I won't be getting a new pair.

If I sew another pair of pointe shoes, it will be for my daughter. Never again for me.

And that will be okay. For tonight, I danced. I lept and turned and marveled in the beauty of my shoes. The magic that they hold that for just a few moments each week let me feel beautiful and special. These shoes hold a gift, and I'm glad to be able to unwrap a little each week.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's Not Okay

There'a a big hub bub in Hollywood right now about the apparent exclusion of black actors in Oscar nominated roles. There are boycotts and hashtags and dialogue about the subject.

Dialogue is good. Silence is bad.

My disclosure: I am totally able-bodied.

My issue: The complete and utter lack of roles for people with disabilities in film and television.

I became utterly aware of this while doing research for my new novel, Live For This. The hero of my novel is this great guy, Michael Salinger. In addition to being smart, funny, and good-looking, he also happens to be a paraplegic. The story is not about him being paralyzed. Sure, there's a lot of that in there, as it colors how he navigates through life. His character was inspired by my next door neighbor growing up. He too had a spinal cord injury. His journey through rehabilitation is what made me want to be a physical therapist. You can read more about him here.

I'm a pretty visual thinker, and I use Pinterest to give me pictures of my characters, their clothing, settings, etc. so that I can describe them. I make Pinterest boards for my research and refer to it throughout the writing process. So, when I started Live For This, I needed to know what Michael Salinger looked like. So I started researching actors/models/athletes who have had spinal cord injuries. Do you know how FEW there are? Yeah, in terms of actors, about three. And no offense to those lovely men, they didn't fit my demographic (two were too old and the other had a different level of injury for what I needed). I was able to find an Irish actor, Peter Mitchell, who fit the bill, and Michael is based upon him (physically speaking, at least).

Not that Live For This is ever going to be made into a movie, but I felt VERY strongly that if I'm writing a character who is paralyzed, then the actor who should play him should also be paralyzed.

I'm guessing that there are more than three men out there who are in wheelchairs who consider themselves actors.

So, this brings me to my current rant. The movie trailer for Me Before You, based on the novel by JoJo Moyes was released yesterday. While I've been in my writing cave for the past two years, while I've certainly heard of the book, I've never read it. It was only about 2 weeks ago, seeing something about the movie, that I even realized it also featured a man with a spinal cord injury.

I just watched the movie trailer. Please watch also.

The tears are already flowing, right?

Except I'm pissed. The actor who plays the main male character is able-bodied. There is nothing accurate about his posture or wheelchair. It's Hollywood, coping out again.

When bodies are disabled, they are no longer perfect. When you are paralyzed, you lose muscle tone. Even if you are a good weight, your belly will seem to sag and pooch out because the inherent muscle tone that keeps your intestines in is gone. Limbs are skinny and scrawny as muscle tissue wastes away. Spines no longer able to stay upright curve to the side. If he can't lift his arms to feed himself, his wheelchair would have a large head rest. If he can't lift his arms, chances are his wheelchair would be driven by a tube that he sips and puffs to steer.

I did a lot of research beyond what my clinical experience has taught me. If I'm discussing what it's like to live with a spinal cord injury, I want it to be accurate, to do justice for people living with SCI. I can't say if JoJo Moyes did that in her novel because I haven't read it. I would guess she did. I only know that Hollywood has not done their homework. Not at all.

Sure Sam Claflin is easy on the eyes, but this is not right. Hollywood doesn't see it that way. This is as right as painting a white man's face black.

In other words, IT'S NOT OKAY.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Hodgepodge

This post may be a bit all over the place. It's been a long week. Consider yourself warned.

I'd thought about trying to do a live Facebook Mentions video tonight to talk about all this stuff. Turns out you have to be verified to do that, and my author page isn't verified yet. Working on it though! I watched Rachel Hollis do her chat last night, and so wanted to get in on it. The only reason I didn't attempt last night? I'd already taken my bra off and nobody wants to see that pop up on their computer screen (shudder).

So for today... a birthday!

One year ago today, Jump, Jive, and Wail went live. Hard to believe that it's been a year! I've been a bit distracted and didn't realize the birthday was coming up, otherwise I would have put it on sale!

But, I do have exciting news for Jump, Jive, and Wail though ... coming soon: AUDIO BOOK. That's right, I've just approved the first 15 minutes (estimated length is about 9 hours), so look for Jump, Jive, and Wail to be available on Audible and iTunes Audio this spring.

While we're on the audio kick: Killing Me Softly is also in production for AUDIO. If you'd rather listen than read, sit tight, and you'll have two more audio books to choose from. I'm Still Here and Hold Her Down are already available on Audible and iTunes. If you can't wait that long, Killing Me Softly is on sale for $0.99 this week.

I'm in the almost final editing stage on Live For This, with an expected publication date of March 8, 2016. It's available for pre-order on Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords, so order yours today! Here's my video teaser for Live For This:

As I promised a reader on my FB author page, here's a little (unedited) excerpt:
CHAPTER ONE: SAMIRAH You would think waking up in a pool of your own vomit would mean you've hit rock bottom. For me, it's just Saturday. At least, I think it's Saturday. My brain is fuzzy. Definitely not firing on all pistons. Slowly sitting up and wiping my mouth on the back of my hand sucks my remaining energy. I'm tempted to lay right back down and hopefully wake up ... never.It's not that I want to die. I don't. I just don't want to live my life. To me, my life is just a show. A facade I don like a thick layer of make-up. I exist. And I don't know how to change it. On paper, my life is not so bad. That's what I tell people at least. Not everyone can be a hostess at one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York City. My roommate and I dominate the social scene. It's not a party until we arrive. We hob knob with the elite. We are the beautiful people. We are important. Again, that's what I tell myself.
"Sam, are you alive?""Barely," I sigh, "Give me a sec."Meadow is not great at waiting. She's a neat freak and the mess I've made in here will not be tolerated. The ever-present anti-bacterial wipes assist me in returning the toilet and surrounding floor to its status quo pristine condition. Too bad the rest of the apartment is a shit hole.She apparently can wait no longer as the bathroom door flies open. Lucky for me, my reflexes are intact enough to allow me to jump out of the way before the corner of the door slams into my head. The bathroom is tight quarters for one person, let alone two. Ahh, the joys of city living."Were you in here all night?" Meadow pushes past, not even waiting for me to leave before she pulls her g-string down and plops on the toilet. Meadow's wearing only a short t-shirt on top. With a body like hers, she can afford to walk around half-naked. I work hard to look like Meadow, but the results are never quite good enough. Meadow doesn't appear to have any modesty around me. Not like I haven't seen it before, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I guess when you're a model, it's nothing to strip down in front of people. I'm not a model. Meadow pushes me to be more open, more "free" as she likes to call it. Certainly more liberal than anything I'd grown up with or been exposed to before I moved here.  "Last night was so off the hook!" Meadow continues talking while wiping and flushing. It doesn't seem bother her that I'm in here, and she never even waits to hear if I'm okay."Was it?" No matter how vigorously I scrub my teeth, I can't seem to get the foul acid taste out of my mouth."Tell me you don't remember again?" Meadow nudges me out of the way to wash her hands, and is moving on to examining her flawless face in the mirror. The night of hard partying doesn't show on her face. It's not fair.
I spit one last time and look at our reflections in the mirror. Meadow is tall and lanky, with unnaturally blond hair and breasts provided by a former boyfriend. My 5'6" frame appears short and wide compared to my friend, but I've always liked my curves. Not so much when I'm next to her. Meadow has convinced me to lighten my naturally dark hair to an ash blond. I'm not sure it does anything for me. Her skin is golden brown where mine is more on the pale side, with just a hint of olive. On my own, back home, a lifetime ago, I was considered pretty. Beautiful. Exotic even. Standing next to Meadow, I feel wrong. All wrong. I don't need to be beside her to feel wrong, either.My mother was British-Persian, and my hair and features come from her. My father, the bastard, gave me my most striking feature—gray-blue eyes that have been passed down through generation after generation of strong Norse peoples. Every time I look at my eyes, I see him, and hate myself.
I wish I could figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin like Meadow is in hers. I pretend I am, but it's simply an act. And although I would never consider myself a good actress, no one seems to notice. People see what they want to see. Even Meadow. 

I hope that's enough to get you interested!

And in other news, my next project is going to be a bit of a departure. I'm co-writing a book with Becky Monson. All I can say is that it's romantic comedy, and we expect to release in May or June. Well, I expect to release then. You all can start putting pressure on Becky to pick up the pace. :-)

The other excitement in the Biel household is that my daughter "adopted" two crayfish from school today. Woo hoo. I'd said no. My husband (middle name "Sucker") signed the permission slip. Those suckers are a lot bigger than I'd expected and rather ugly. Words like etouffee and jambalaya keep floating through my mind.

The last bit of randomness for tonight is that I've been seeing a lot of bald eagles lately. As a kid, they were an endangered species, and not even that common in a zoo. I see one pretty regularly, but I can never stop to get his picture. When I saw this one on Tuesday, I was able to pull over. He saw me, let me get a few pics, and then took off. So cool!

I think I've got all the randomness covered. Happy weekend!

Friday, January 1, 2016

If I Had A List...

I don't like the term bucket list. That's not what this is. This isn't because I just turned 40 and I'm having a midlife crisis. Ok, maybe I feel it coming on, but that's not what this is. This is a list of the things I wish I could do in my lifetime. The sooner the better, but if I had all the money, all the wish granting ability, this is what I'd do:

  1. Dance with the Rockettes. Even just a practice routine. I just want to try. Just once.
  2. Go on an African safari
  3. See penguins in the wild
  4. See whales in the wild
  5. Hit the USA Today Bestseller list
  6. Be on Dancing with the Stars
  7. Sing back up for Jimmy Buffet (it would be ok--probably better--if they didn't turn my mike on)
  8. Re-do the basement and have an actual office
  9. Sell enough books to have a retirement fund
  10. Have a beach house in Cape May, NJ

I know some (most) of these seem far-fetched, but I never thought I'd have written six books either. So, if anyone can pull any strings and wants to help me out, have at it. You know where to find me.