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Monday, April 30, 2007

A Two Koala Day by Trish Morey

Anyone else out there love omens? Not the scary movie kind, but the meaningless things you can read into events of no real consequence. Or is that just me?

I love a good omen. Just last week I handed in a book with a hero called Sheikh Tajik. (Yes, I know it sounds like cheek to cheek, but I kind of like that) Anyway, my sheikh gets called Taj for most of the story. And of course, once I hand in a manuscript, I pretend to be happy while all the while I’m obsessing about all the things the editor is going to find to hate about it.

Anyway, in the midst of all this obsessing, I look for anything that might make me feel more positive. So the other day I’m in a liquor store stocking up on wine for a Saturday night out with friends and what do I see across the checkout that makes my insides sizzle? A beer called Taj. I kid you not. In big, bold letters and all the way from India. “It’s a sign!” I say, without a clue what kind of sign, but immediately adding a bottle to my purchases for luck.

The next day there’s a feature in the weekend papers – posh Indian hotels owned by none other than the Taj Group.

Now, that has to be an omen, right?

Okay, it’s meaningless and daft but it works for me. Like today being a two koala day, which means it’s going to be a great day. How do I know? Because every day I walk the pooch and every day I search for koalas high in the gum trees. Sometimes I see maybe one. Then I know it’s a sign that it’s going to be a good day. Two koalas means the day will be even brighter and more productive/fun/exciting (insert your word of choice). A three koala day, that’s the pinnacle of the koala richter scale, and you know your day will be the best ever. And if you don’t see any, well, you know they’re there somewhere, you just didn’t see them.

Daft? Very possibly. Meaningless? I don’t know. You see, spotting those gorgeous furry critters up on high, maybe sometimes with a baby hugging on tight, makes me smile. Sometimes they look down at you, all cute furry face and big fluffy ears. How could you not smile? And if I’ve seen three koalas I carry those smiles through the day. Self-fulfilling prophecy? No doubt. It works for me.

Anyone else out there have their own brand of signs and omens?

Koala images courtesy of Lone Pine
Taj Mahal Beer image is from Stawski Imports

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

My tattooed baby girl

By Norah Wilson

My second-born child, my only daughter, my baby, turned 18 this month. She’ll graduate high school with honors in June, and can’t wait to start on her liberal arts degree this fall. And all I can think is, how did it happen? How did she turn into a young woman so quickly?

She was two weeks late arriving, and weighed in at a whopping 10 lb, 3 oz (which I blame on my quitting smoking during the pregnancy). At age 18, she weighs little more than 10 times that much. She’s a committed vegan, and is passionate about the environment and the local music scene. She is tattooed and pierced and absolutely gorgeous, in my admittedly biased opinion.

Yes, my beautiful baby is tattooed. Fairly heavily, in fact. And yes, we still butt heads over it occasionally. I keep urging her to slow down; life is a long journey and she won’t be the same person tomorrow as she is today. Of course, she insists she knows what she wants on the canvass of her own body. And as she has pointed out to me when I raised the specter of health concerns, modern tattoo parlors are not the purveyors of dread diseases that we’ve been led to believe they are. Not a single case of HIV has been traced to a tattoo parlor in America, whereas 7 cases have been attributed to dental clinics. Likewise, you are far more likely to contract Hepatitis C at a dental clinic than from a tattoo (unless your get your tattoo in prison, perhaps). Thankfully, with the exception of a few modest pieces, her tattoos are discreet and private, and not for public consumption. I know that tattoos are becoming more mainstream every day, but visibly tattooed people still encounter negative reactions. I have no doubt that tattooing will eventually become so commonplace that it will no longer carry such negative or deviant connotations, but in the meantime, I’m just grateful my daughter likes to keep her body under wraps.

But what got me started on this blog post? Reading teasers for the May edition of the WetNoodlePosse ezine. Our own Dr. Debra will field a question from a mother whose daughter wants more piercings but dad isn't excited about the idea. Having been on the same hot seat as that mom a number of times, I can't wait to read Dr. Debra's advice!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Earth Day One Week Later—What Can You Do?

Okay, so maybe I’m married to an environmental scientist who refuses to use a sprinkler system in the hot Georgia summer. Yes, our lush fescue lawn is brown and crispy by mid-July. And maybe, unlike most people, we faithfully compost, participate in our county’s recycling program, and capture any stray water we can find, be it rainwater from the gutters or shower spray. Yes, there are buckets in my shower in the summer. Thanks to marrying the man I did, I have discovered that’s how one keeps a vegetable garden alive when one vows to conserve water by any means and refuses to use a sprinkler system, even though the house came with one. I’ll even grant you that we are those weird kinds of granola-head people who don’t turn on the air-conditioner until the thermostat hits ninety and we’re sweating like proverbial pigs, BUT I’m not asking you to live as I do.

All I want from you is a simple pledge to stop running your car engine as you wait for your kid to walk out of a dance studio or run off a soccer field after practice.

Since the Earth Day celebration on Sunday, many celebrities and politicians have urged you to change to fluorescent bulbs. They have suggested you use alternative fuels and buy hybrid vehicles. I’m not asking you to buy anything. I’m keying in on the middle verb of the environmental mantra “Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse.”

One small way parents can reduce emissions is to just turn off the car when they aren’t moving in the vehicle. If the interior of your car gets hot and stuffy while you’re waiting on your child, turn off the engine and roll down a window. It’s what us pioneers did back in the pre-air-conditioning, only three TV channel days. If you like to read while you wait for ballet class to end and night is falling, you can buy an LED book light that clips right onto your thriller. If you need tunes to make the wait for practice to end bearable, borrow your child’s iPod.

Making this one small change CAN help. Thanks!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

What do I write next?

Every time I finish a book or get bored with my WIP, I usually ask myself, “What should I write next?” Maybe I should write a YA. They’re shorter and I have a fourteen-year-old daughter living down the hall (great for research). I could write a YA in half the time it would take to write a single title. But maybe…just maybe I should write another medieval time travel. After all, I have already done years of research and my current time-travels do well in contests. No, I think I’ll finish my current single title contemporary because that’s what I love to read and that’s what I love to write.

“Okay, self,” I tell myself. “You LOVE to READ and WRITE single title contemporaries. So write them!”

So then why do I often feel this nagging pull within to write a romantic suspense, or maybe take a stab at writing a small-town story for Superromance, or something for Harlequin American? Writing an intrigue sounds good too. And then I spend a day plotting one of these stories, but ultimately find myself right back where I started…hard at work on one of my many half finished single-title contemporaries.

I have been writing for twelve years. I know what I want to write. So why do these thoughts of writing something “different” keep niggling at my brain? Is this a crazy mental affliction all writers possess? A form of procrastination? A middle-of-the-book syndrome? Help!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A true story of instant gratification denied.

The Writer’s Journey (for writing time!)
by Ila Campbell

--The following is a true story--

After almost a month of not being able to write because of familial and work-related duties I was very much looking forward to having the full day in which to write. No papers to grade. No husband’s uncle’s 70th birthday party, no more exams to write, no more frightened freshmen who need hand-holding. Just me, my notebook and my favorite coffee shop.

So Thursday night I am editing a document for my husband’s company (making it clear to him that after I finish, I’m not accepting anything else until after my free day). I notice that my eyes are giving me more trouble than usual, and that the headache that’s been hanging “just back there” for a couple of days is getting worse. Maybe I can sleep it off. That works sometimes. So I shut off the computer and go to bed, saying I’ll finish it first thing in the morning.

7:00 am. Morning comes and my eyes are so bad, I can barely even look at the computer. My shoulders are so knotted, I can’t bend over without my head trying to explode. I’ve had this often enough to know the signs. I have about 6 hours before I’m crying from the pain. 12 before I have a full-blown tension migraine and can’t move my head at all. I’m past the point where muscle relaxants and exercise are going to help me. I need a sports massage.

Fortunately, I know exactly where to find mine. So I pack up my shower stuff, send the kids off to school and tell my husband I’m going to the public baths where my sports massage guy works. This guy is particularly good, as he’s gotten me out of the full-blown migraines before and knows exactly which spots to hit to get me out of pain the quickest.

9:00. I get to the baths, go straight up to the massage place and wait the half-hour until it opens.

9:30. No one comes.

10:00. I notice a little sign taped up on the door. (It’s easy for me to overlook these things since they’re written in Korean and I’m lazy when it comes to reading unnecessary things in another language.) The note politely tells me the massage guys are on a two-day conference.

Sorry, no relief for you.

I decide to get an oil massage from the bath ladies – not a favorite of mine, but it might relax me enough to get by. But guess what? They don’t get in until 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Disappointed, I spend a half hour or so in the hot tub, which works only as long I’m inside. As soon as I’m out, the head starts up again. If I’m going to write at all today, I gotta find my massage.

12:00. I get home and start leafing through the local coupon book, looking for a place that does sports massages. No luck – they’re all face massage places. My husband says he’d seen a few Thai massage places in the next neighborhood over. He’ll drop me off.

12:30. There’s three massage places in two buildings. I go to the biggest one, which is really nice. Great interior, English menu that says, “This is not a disreputable establishment.” Trouble is, the person who does the full body massages does not come in until 2:30. I’m ready to start beating my head in against the counter. I take their card and say I’ll call them back.

I go next door. As I’m opening the door to place no. 1, I notice there’s one of those old-fashioned revolving barber’s poles hanging by it. In Korea, the barber poles hang in front of barber’s shops and massage places to indicate that there are some ‘extra’ services (involving girls in miniskirts and way too much makeup). So I was not surprised when the cleaning lady shoos me out.

The next one upstairs is unattended, but I’m getting desperate. I finally shout out another cleaning lady who casts a quick look at the back offices and whispers, “No women!”

12:45. I call the “not disreputable establishment” and book the 2:30. Right on schedule, at 6 hours into the headache, I start crying in the restaurant. But I survive, and get to my appointment and get an 1-1/2 hours of pushing, pressing and pretzeling. I get home at 5 pm, pain-free, but without a single page written. Oh, and a husband complaining I could support a small African village on the money I spent that day.

But the good news is, he felt sorry enough for my unsuccessful quest that he kept the kids occupied for six hours the next day so I could make up my writing time. So even unsuccessful quests can bring happy rewards! (And a knowledge of places I can warn my husband against frequenting!)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dealing with Traumatic Events by Dr. Debra

With the rest of the nation, I’ve watched the events surrounding the shootings at Virginia Tech with horror and sorrow. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. They have been in my thoughts and prayers all week. I also have sympathy for the friends and fellow students of the victims, the faculty and staff at Virginia Tech, and the Cho family. What a horrible, painful nightmare for everyone to experience. In the space of a few short hours, life changed, and they will never be the same.

Those who watched the tragedy on the news and internet or read about it in the paper or online may also be traumatized, especially if they have experienced trauma in their past. For many, their original trauma may be reactivated, and they are experiencing their symptoms all over again.

As a specialist in counseling trauma victims, I wanted to give a brief list of symptoms and suggestions for healing. My hope is by posting this on the blog, it may help some people identify what they are going through and help them on the road to recovery.


Symptoms tend to fall into four categories--physical, mental, emotional, behavioral.

Some physical symptoms are: changes in sleep patterns or appetite, upset stomach, and headaches.

Some mental symptoms are: lack of concentration or focus, forgetfulness, confusion, and flashbacks.

Some emotional symptoms are: numbness, crying, irritability, feeling vulnerable or unsafe.

Some behavioral symptoms are: angry outbursts, consumption of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal from others.


There are many ways to help heal from a traumatic incident. A few suggestions are:

1. Deep breathing/ relaxing visualizations.

2. Share thoughts and feelings with supportive others.

3. Avoid personalizing or taking responsibility for the incident and how others are reacting to the incident. (For example: If I were friendlier to him, maybe he wouldn’t have shot people.)

4. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope.

5. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling, no matter how much you want to avoid your feelings
6. Do cardiovascular exercise.

7. Be kind to yourself.

8. Make sure you get enough rest and eat well.

9. Do the activities you enjoy.

If your symptoms persist for more than another week, I urge you to seek counseling with a therapist who understands trauma.

Anger, hatred, blaming, arguing will only add to the dark horror of the tragedy. What our nation needs now is to focus on love, positive thoughts, words, and deeds, and personal resolutions to be a better person and make the world a better place.

Those bright, talented people who died at Virginia Tech are no longer here to make their positive contribution to the world. But I am. And you are. If we all can learn and grow from this experience and become better people, then those at Virginia Tech will not have died in vain.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shutting the Door, and Finding a Way to Open It Again

Two summers ago one of my brother's good friends drowned on the 4th of July. My brother, who was 16 at the time, was devastated - this kid was one of those people who was just a joy to be around, and he died saving his brother's life.

While I hurt and wept for my brother, I learned I couldn't think on it for more than a moment or two. (Even as I'm writing this, I'm jumping around the Internet.) Just thinking of what that boy and his family endured is just too devastating. So I shut the door. In my mind, it is a big industrial strength metal door, and nothing can penetrate.

I've done the same this week with the shooting at Virginia Tech. I listen a little, I cry a little, and I shut that door.

I haven't always been like this - I absorbed every moment of 9-11. But I think the terrified mother in me, the one who wants to lock up her 15 year old so he'll be safe, just can't deal with the thought of children dying.

But here's the thing - stuff still leaks past that industrial strength door. This week I was listening to A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES on the way to work. One of the characters killed a pregnant mother wolf and could see her babies still moving inside her, and I started sobbing. Cried all my make up off. Then yesterday I was reading my class a chapter of Number the Stars and started crying again (not as bad, that freaks them out).

Then, as if there isn't enough pain in the world, one of my friend's dad is very ill, so she's staggering along, and another friend called me yesterday to tell me she and her husband are divorcing. I am stunned. And I have no idea what to do to help them. I'm closer emotionally to the former, and physically to the latter. Both know they can call me, but will they? What can I do to ease their days?

And isn't THIS an uplifting post on my birthday????

Friday, April 20, 2007

Collective Grief by Diane Gaston Perkins

In this month's Ask Dr. Debra, Dr. Debra tells how to deal with the grief of a loss of a pet. She made the point that this grief was perfectly human and understandable, and that the emotions around such a loss are common for any of us who have lost a pet.

This week in Virginia, we have had to deal with a different type of loss, the loss of 33 lives, most of them so very young, on a sleepy college campus nestled in the Shenandoah Mountains. I have been lucky in that I've not known any of those precious lives lost, lucky that my son attends a different Virginia college, but this loss seems much too close to home. I've been experiencing a sort of collective grief, a grief mainly consisting of acute empathy for the victims and their families. In Virginia we've had way too much experience with this sort of collective grief. On 9/11 a plane hit the Pentagon, just a few miles from where I worked. Then the Sniper hit and more victims fell while merely going about the ordinary tasks of life. The Virginia Tech shootings seem so terribly tragic for the loss of young lives just on the verge of making their mark in the world. How much potential have we lost?

Of course, the collective grief of this week is not confied to Virginia. People all over the world are looking at the photos of the victims, reading about their last moments and weeping as I have done.

I'm sure Dr. Debra would advise that this sort of grief is normal, built of empathy and compassion. I think it is important to acknowledge the feelings, to readily say this was a lousy week, to be sad. To care. I also know that each person must take care of themselves. One can see or hear coverage of this tragedy 24 hours a day. It is best to limit the viewing, to get relief from the pain of it all and to go about daily life as you need to do. It is also okay to do something enjoyable (like read a romance novel!) to escape the collective grief.

If anyone who reads this has been personally touched by this tragedy, my tears are for you. All our tears are for you. We do care. And like the students who have been so affected by these events, we wrap our arms around each other in a collective hug and comfort ourselves--and you--as best we can.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Perfect Shoes and Hat -- Kiki Clark

I think every state has that saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Well… maybe every state but Hawaii. Regardless, I defy other states to say it fits them better than Colorado, where we can have sun and 70 degrees, hail, and snow on the same day. Last Thursday, I think it was.

Even so, Coloradans are determined to get outside whenever we can, which means our closets are full of everything we need to deal with sartorial uncertainty: hats for sun, hats with strings for the notorious Chinook winds, crushable wool hats for snow, light coats, heavy coats, sweaters to go under a light coat when a heavy coat is too much, and every shoe permutation from flip-flops to ski boots. When relatives call and ask what they should pack for a visit, every Coloradan says the same thing. “Layer.”

Having lived here for about 20 years, matching clothes to climate has become a personal challenge – a chance to shout semper paratus (Always Prepared) and laugh at the sky on days of spitting rain and driving winds (though I rarely do that, because I hate having water spots on my glasses).

This summer, my husband and I are going to Greece with other members of our community chorus, which means I must reconcile my tendency to bring something for every contingency with the amount of luggage I want to schlep.

We’ll be cruising through the islands for part of the trip, which means dressy sandals are a must. But dressy sandals aren’t good for long days of sightseeing, and tennis shoes aren’t good when your sightseeing ends at the beach, and flip flops don’t have enough arch support for the walking that goes before the beach. Therefore, I will also pack my Keens.

Keens are a hybrid of sandal and sneaker, and are waterproof to boot. Of course, this kind of high-tech, function-before-fashion shoe will mark me as an American, but somehow I think hanging out with 40 pasty folks all absentmindedly humming Shenandoah will do that as well. If anti-American riots break out, I don’t have to run faster than everyone – just the sopranos.

The other end of my body requires protection as well. Summer in Greece will be hot. We’ll trudge down ancient stone roads, looking for shade among baking stone ruins. Unfortunately, straw hats do not pack well, and crushable wool is too hot. I’ll buy a straw hat there, which will bring my number of chapeaus up to something like 30 if it makes it back in one piece. Eh. They stack.

There is this to be said for traveling to Greece during the summer. At least I won’t leave town in a driving blizzard, only to have to drag a bulky coat through Athens. Been there, done that and own the T-shirt, which is what you layer under a wool sweater in October when the day has been warm but the temperature plummets 20 degrees after the sun drops behind the mountains.

Don’t miss Ten Tips for Packing a Suitcase,
in this month’s Wet Noodle Posse Ezine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Alabama Girls

I hemmed and hawed over purchasing Charles J. Shields', MOCKINGBIRD, the unauthorized biography of Harper Lee, the author of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The hemming and hawing was mostly over the fact that Miss Lee gave Mr. Shields the cold shoulder, which he admits frankly in the opening. I do believe public personalities deserve to have their privacy, if they so choose, and should not be subject to cameras being shoved in their faces or strangers appearing on their doorsteps.

But being a writer with Alabama roots, I succumbed to my desire to know more about how one of my all-time favorite books came to be. So I hope Miss Lee will forgive me my curiosity.

I'm happy to say Mr. Shields did not raise the hairs on the back of my neck with sordid tales. For the most part, his accounting of Harper Lee's life seemed to be told with a desire for accuracy and a measure of respect.

What really grabbed my attention was the description of young Miss Lee's character. So much of the young woman Mr. Shields portrayed in his account is embodied in my heroine Gracie Lynne Calloway from my story WALTZING WITH ALLIGATORS, which will on shelves in 2008. Gracie is a rough and tumble girl who has little use for pretense or fancy clothes. Like the persona Shields describes as Miss Lee, she has an aversion to nosy reporters. Gracie goes so far as to land facer on one overzealous member of the press during the course of my story. Neither Miss Lee, nor Gracie, suffer fools without comment. Both are intensely loyal to family and friends.

A good chunk of the book covered Miss Lee's relationship to Truman Capote and her assistance while researching his novel, IN COLD BLOOD. I'll spare you my own feminist remarks regarding his treatment of Miss Lee and just say I preferred reading the parts about her childhood and the supportive friends she made in New York during the creation of her book.

In the end, I came away with not just a renewed respect for brave story she wrote, but with a respect for the writer, Nelle Harper Lee. She's my kind of woman.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


At work, that is--and as a writer! Moreover, as a writer of ah, unusual fiction.

Here's how it happened. I'd been asked to contribute to a book my company is publishing called The Elements of Internet Style--a cool sort of book about how the internet has changed how we read and write and how we have to develop new usage rules. Think about it--email or e-mail? If you dump huge chunks of text on your website (and should that be Web site or Website?) will anyone stay around long enough to read them ?

So the editor of the book, at a company meeting, read out my bio with great glee--not only have I held some rather unusual jobs (archaeologist, performing arts publicist, yak groomer, classical music radio announcer--I'm making one of these up) but I am a writer of women's historical fiction for HarperCollins and erotic romance for NAL. Gasps of consternation. Now, some of the people already knew about my other life. But this is an environment where our concept of a good time is a spirited half-hour debate on appropriate comma usage; if you post a notice in the coffee room about proper disposal of soda cans someone will attack it liberally with a red pencil. Mass market fiction is viewed with some misgiving.

And then what? Surprisingly, very little. A few comments that I write something for the new 18+ restricted part of the company website (right. Talk to my agent); some genuine interest and admiration. Yes, getting a book published from a bona fide publisher is a big deal. It's nice to be reminded of that.

Do your colleagues at work know what you read or write, or that you have a passion outside of work? Do you keep it a secret, and if so, why? I'd say in my case it's because I've long believed that work and the rest of my life should be discrete; keeping that balance and distance is important.

And what did you think of the original (BBC) The Office vs. the pale NBC imitation?

Join my newsletter list at my website, and I'll send you a copy of my short story Snow, the Seven, and the Moon. Most of the commas are correct.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


Recently I've been doing research for a book I'm writing. In the story there is a basketball team, and I needed to give the team a mascot or nickname so they would have a name like the Florida Gators or the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, just to name a couple. So I found a Web site that has a very extensive list of college mascots and nicknames. I found the list quite fascinating. Did you know there is a team known as the Banana Slugs? Yes, you read that right. Let's give a big cheer for the Banana Slugs of the University of California--Santa Cruz.

Did you know there are a lot of teams with Blue in their name? We have the Wesley College Blue. Then there are the Blue Angels, Blue Boys, Blue Demons, Blue Devils, Blue Hawks, Blue Hens, Blue Hose (what is this one?), Blue Jays, Blue Knights, Blue Raiders, Blue Streaks, Blue Tigers, and last but not list in the list of blues, the Blue Wave. The most popular mascot nicknames are animals. The top four are Eagles, Bulldogs, Wildcats and Cougars.

Another interesting nickname is the Billiken, the mascot of St. Louis University. What is a Billiken, you ask? It's sort of a good luck charm, a funny looking little guy with a pointy tuft of hair on the top of his head. You can take a look here:
He was a popular craze in the early 1900's--that era's pet rock.

The last interesting nickname I found is the Zips of the University of Akron. The original name was the Zippers, which was shortened to Zips.

What was the name of your high school or college team? Mine is the Milligan College Buffaloes. Go Buffs.

Munson University is the name of my imaginary college. What kind of nickname should I give them? The Munson Mustangs? Do you have any suggestions?



In her book, BIRD BY BIRD, Anne Lamott writes, “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.”

She goes on to say, “….don’t worry about the plot. Worry about the characters. Let what they say or do reveal who they are, and be involved in their lives, and keep asking yourself, Now what happens? The development of relationship creates plot.”

As many of us know, Anne Lamott shares a lot of wonderful writing advice.

Every book on my keeper shelf is there because of the characters. If a book doesn’t have compelling characters that make me care, I usually end up putting the book down and forgetting about it. And yet, even though I am aware of this, I often find myself working on a story and thinking, “What should happen next?” Instead, I should be thinking, “What would my characters do next?”

Any thoughts?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Big Divorce Adventure

by Bridget Stuart

Message to my blog buds: you may not have noticed, but I'm not in Texas anymore.

Farewell, Texas cops who give me actual speeding tickets instead of smiles; so long, big rolling estate with a swimming pool which cost about a dollar and fifty nine cents; bye-bye fake Christmas trees and scorpions in my shoes; sayonara SXSW Festival and the bluebonnet hill country. I'm back in Massachusetts with the kids, but without the Professor. No, he hasn't gone on to that big university in the sky, he's just…in Texas, and plans to stay there. Have fun, Professor.

…as I plan to do.

The kids and I have returned to our picturesque little New England fishing village on the rocky coast. This village is chock full of tiny houses so humble, so simple, so charmingly ramshackle and shabby, that their prices would gag a Gates.

But we need to live here. This is the only home the kids have ever known, other than the brief Texas fling. It's where we have all the friends, schools, and support we need to start again without the Professor. And so begins a new adventure: how to pretend to your kids that this whole radical downsizing thing is really, actually a whole lot of big time fun.

"Mom?" My older son asks, looking around the living room that is smaller than his bedroom was in Texas. The floors are covered with carpet tacks and someone's incontinent pet was clearly without any reverence for the hardwood, if the large black stains are anything to go by. "Is this…poverty?"

Ha ha ha! Mom launches into an explanation of "Location, location, location" compounded with the virtues of a huge lot with room for expansion (an expansion that will happen when Mom suddenly starts pulling down the big bux)--all delivered with a jittery smile.

"It'll be GREAT!" I laugh. "You can help me pick out the colors, and figure out what to do with the furniture, and…"

Silence. In fact, my younger guy is giving me that sideways squint which means he's figured it all out. Scary, I tell you. And they haven't even seen the hole in the floor upstairs yet--the one where a toilet is supposed to be.

The good news: contrary to popular reports, Massachusetts is the friendliest place on earth. In accordance with this friendliness, it contains some of the nicest plumbers, electricians, contractors, and other such talented people (yes, some of us have *useful* talents) on earth.

Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Afraid to look

by Charity Tahmaseb

I discovered last week that Harper Collins not only has a first look program for adults (Harper Collins First Look Program), but teens and kids as well.

I explained to my son what an Advance Reading Copy was and what one did with it (read, review, not sell). Once he understood what was involved, he was very excited about the program. He chose Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac. I hope they draw his name.

The whole thing started me thinking of ARCs in general. I love them. I wouldn’t say I have an actual collection, but if someone if having a contest for one, I’ll enter. I have one that’s autographed.

But I don’t know how I’d react if I saw one of my own--someday, in that murky and distant future. I have sold short stories and articles. I’ve seen them in print. Sort of. My method goes like this:

  1. Open journal.

  2. Scan journal table of contents for my article/story.

  3. Admire table contents. A well-organized table of contents is a thing of beauty.

  4. Find page.

  5. Open journal to that page.

  6. Slam it shut like I’ve just peeked at a Playgirl centerfold.

  7. Hide journal in desk drawer.

I’m starting to wonder. If I’m ever so lucky as to have an actual ARC someday, with my name on it, will I turn into a complete basket case?

I’ve heard stories about authors who carried that first ARC/book with them everywhere, or slept with it, or stared at it unremittingly.

For you published authors out there, how did that first ARC/book really make you feel? Any trepidation to go along with the joy? Did you want to sleep with it or did it unnerve you just a little?

There are, I tell myself, advantages to being unpublished in novel length fiction. As much as I love ARCs, this might be one of those advantages. So, in the meantime, I’ll continue my quest for ARCs with other people’s names on them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tea time

Every once in a while, I feel sorry for myself because I don't drink plain ol' black coffee. Oh, I enjoy coffee, all right--the kind that comes candy-coated, beaten to an icy pulp and frosted with cream. But the stuff that comes straight from the pot and doesn't hold up the buffet line? Never developed a taste for it, and now I'm too old to make the effort. So I'm stuck with a caffeine delivery system that sometimes causes problems: tea.

Unlike my mocha'd, frappy coffee treats, I like my tea plain and black, whether it's iced or hot. None of those herbal or flavored versions, no thank you. English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, or Orange Pekoe for me--and please skip the lemon. And that's where the trouble starts.

My husband groans and slumps in his chair when I order tea at restaurants. First I have to explain that I want plain black tea--is this available? Of course it is--what kind of establishment do I think I'm patronizing?! If I've ordered hot tea, the assortment arrives for my inspection, usually delivered in an attractive basket. I thumb through, looking for a packet with plain black tea inside. Chamomile, apple, ginger, good. I have to ask the folks in the kitchen to try again. If I've ordered ice tea, "no lemon, please," it invariably arrives with a lemon wedge shoved on the rim of the glass and that citrus tang oozing into my drink--ugh.

Once I asked for plain black tea, and the helpful young waiter disappeared for nearly a quarter of an h
our. When he returned, he apologized and told me there had never been any black tea on the premises--the kitchen staff wanted me to know that all their tea was a kind of reddish-brown color. Sigh.

When my granddaughter is old enough to sample some tea, I'll pour her a cup from her great-great-grandmother's Spode Buttercup teapot, and we'll have a little party. Maybe she'll learn to love tea as much as I do--enough to put up with a bit of trouble every once in a while to get some of that plain ol' reddish-brown stuff.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bring on the Spring (Fashions)!

I remember as a kid growing up in rural Kentucky that the fashion lines between winter and spring and between summer and winter were always drawn with a large black crayon. One never, and I mean never, wore white before Easter or after Labor Day. My grandmother taught that a “lady” always spent at least a few minutes on each of those holidays moving items from her cold weather purse (usually black) to the summer one (usually white, sometimes even straw).

Now I live in Florida where white is worn year-round—with sandals. If it’s cold, (anything below 80) we throw a jacket on over our shorts. Fashion lines are blurry and my grandmother is spinning in her grave.

So why am I suddenly worrying about winter/summer fashion faux pas? I’m so glad you asked. I was at my local mall on Friday night to pick up a birthday present for my nephew-by-marriage and was looking for a summer purse (grandmother’s lessons die hard) in Dillards, when what should catch my eye but the cutest little burgundy velvet evening bag. It was on sale and I had to have it.

I have the same problem with pink shoes, but I won’t bore you with that today.

I bought the bag, thinking that if I could find some shoes in the same color I could wear them with my “little black dress” to one of the functions at the National conference in Dallas. Then I started to wonder whether or not it would be "proper" to carry a velvet bag in the height of summer.

Did I worry? Did I fret? Did I pray to the fashion goddess?

No. This Florida thing must be rubbing off on me, because I don’t care anymore if it’s proper or not. I’m carrying it and I’ll bet everyone who sees it thinks it’s the cutest bag they ever saw, even if it is velvet.

That's kind of freeing, isn't it? Think about it this week when you're changing your purse. Or not.

Sorry, Grandma.

And There Were Days I Thought Writing Was Hard

by Lee McKenzie

Don’t get me wrong, I love to write! But I’ve recently had to embark on a whole new aspect of my chosen profession . . . promotion. My first book will be out in June and I am beyond excited, but there’s much to be done. More than I anticipated. Bookmarks, a website, profiles or updates for various other sites, interviews for newsletters, creating a newsletter of my own, deciding whether to blog or not to blog, and the list goes on.

In December I attended a workshop—"The Year of Living Dangerously: Taking the Step from Unpublished to Published Writer"—presented by my friends Susan Lyons and Kate Austin, and the timing was perfect. Their advice? "It’s never too early to have a plan." I just hope it's never too late!

I’m still on the steep uphill climb of this learning curve but thanks to their advice, I’m slowly developing a plan that I hope will work for me and fit my budget. Over time I’ll refine it as I discover what does and doesn’t work.

I'd love to hear from authors—published and unpublished—who have a business plan. What works for you? And has your plan evolved over time?


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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Feeling your age

A few nights ago, my husband and I went to a rock concert at the local arena. We've gone to see rock shows in the past -- Van Halen, Creed, etc. -- but this was a bit different. Evanescence was the headliner, so there were a fair amount of goth people in the crowd. At one point, my husband asked me if it all made me feel old.

Actually, no. In fact, going to concerts like that make me feel younger than I am. I've always been a believer in you're only as old as you feel. A lot of it comes down to mindset. I actually feel more like I'm in my 20s sometimes than my mid-30s. When I look at how many years it's been since I graduated college, I can't believe it. It doesn't seem like that long ago. I don't feel like I'm much different than I was then. I like a good bit of modern music, like teen movies and TV shows, and read books aimed at teens. Yes, my name is Trish, I'm 36 and I watch Smallville and read Stephenie Meyer books. :)

I firmly believe our mindset affects us physically. My husband's grandmother can do way more physically than my parents, and she's 20 years older than them. I'm sure you've met people who were old enough to be grandparents who were still doing amazing things physically and mentally. They're running races, climbing mountains and writing books. They're inspiring.

The human body is a complex machine, so we have to keep our bodies, minds and attitudes in tip-top shape so the machine keeps whirring away for a good long time. When I'm 80, I still don't want to feel old -- mentally or physically. That's why I intend to keep reading, going for walks, working out at Curves, attending rock concerts, watching Smallville and Supernatural, and writing young adult books. Who is going to join me?

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