Category Archives: Friends

My Thorn Among the Lilies

“I’d rather be the thorn. They’re sharp and pointy.” — my youngest

The first time I stepped out of the car wearing the Darth Vader-esque boot that has made up half my footwear for the last month, my youngest daughter took one look at it and deadpanned, “You’re never going to be able to accessorize that.”

That is only one of many reasons I love the kid.  While both of my children are phenomenal young women and I’m thankful to be their mother, I have a soft spot for my wise-cracking, moody, impatient youngest.  This summer especially, she has demonstrated remarkable fortitude in the face of disappointments.

Originally, my mother-in-law planned to take her to France for three weeks. However, my MIL’s doctor found a malignant skin tumor shortly after our daughter’s passport arrived. Thankfully, the doctor appears to have removed the entire tumor and my MIL is sailing through chemotherapy. While my daughter is as relieved as the rest of us that her granny is doing so well, it’s only human to feel disappointment at the change in plans. Who could blame her?

Then I injured my leg severely enough to warrant a cast and crutches. So instead of visiting Paris and the Ardennes, my youngest spent three weeks serving as my hands and feet. My oldest helped where she could, but she had a lousy summer last year when her college closed.  To make up for credits lost when she transferred into the state university system, she’s been taking day classes, night classes and summer school for nearly 12 months.

My younger daughter managed housework, cooking, grocery shopping and driving me to and/or from work. Granted, she already knew what she was doing for all those things, but she was spending a lot more of her time doing them. And according to my family I am not a very good patient.  (I have no idea why they’d say that.) Yes, there was a certain amount of muttering, but I can’t complain. There were also a lot of times when she’d poke her head in the door and ask I wanted a drink or something brought to me.

Not only that, she had to say good-bye to her best friend Sarah because Sarah’s dad accepted a job on the East Coast. Sarah is everything my daughter is not: perky, optimistic, mild-mannered and soft-spoken. She and my moody, outspoken, assertive offspring have been inseparable since seventh grade. My daughter would use her sharp tongue to scare off people like the obnoxious boy in math class that creeped Sarah out, in return getting a daily dose of cheer. My daughter has other friends she loves dearly (she may be moody but she’s no loner!), and they all form a Lack of Sarah Support Group for each other. But the day Sarah moved away required Mom hugs and medicinal Ben & Jerry’s.

Our tastes aren’t the same, but she’s got a sound critical eye, particularly for film, and she’s smart enough to be able to back up her opinions with good arguments. We’ve had some great conversations about dance, books, and movies.

As a late bloomer myself (really really really late), I watch this daughter make her plans for college and beyond, knowing that like most of us, she may very well change directions mid-course. I’m thrilled that she’s looking at the future with as much optimism as a moody sarcastic person can. Changes and obstacles are the nature of life. But even if her plans fail, she won’t.

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Birthdays and Books

I turned another year older in September.  Although I think attaining another year is always worth celebrating, especially when you notice that they’re starting mount up, ahem, this one was pretty quiet.  A number of family members have been hospitalized for various ailments this month, so there wasn’t a lot of motivation to hold a big party.  Besides, last year I pulled out all the stops & spent the day with a girlfriend who treated me to a day in a gorgeous spa.

I did feel guilty about such indulgence, but only a bit.  After spending four years either at or driving home from a figure skating competition with my oldest on my birthday, I felt entitled to some pampering!

My friend and I had a blast.  We got mudwraps, which sounds disgusting but which felt like being brushed with a thick layer of warm chocolate.  We got facials.  We got manicures.  It was just marvelous!  Much as I’d like to, I won’t be celebrating other birthdays in such sybaritic luxury in the foreseeable future, but I will always treasure the memories of this particular one.

In honor of my birthday month, September, and the arrival of the cover for Her Scottish Groom, I’ll give away up to 5 copies of my current release, TO BE SEDUCED, this Friday!  I’ll draw names from among commentators to this post, so tell me how you feel about birthdays and which ones were your most memorable.

And don’t forget to check out Authors by Moonlight tomorrow, when I’m unveiling the cover of HSG!

Resurfacing

Having turned in my revisions after weeks of steady work, I spent a week mentally catching my breath and another one literally looking around me.  I don’t know if this is the case for all writers, but after days and weeks of immersing myself in characters and their time period, returning to my own life is a bit like breaking the surface in a pool.  Under water, the sights and sounds of life above the surface can be heard, but they’re muted.  When you come up for air, that first breath of air fills your lungs in an exhilarating rush, but you’re also taking in bright sunlight, vivid colors and shouts, music and laughter.  All of these are delightful, but the first two seconds almost assault the eyes and ears.

Once I hit the ‘send’ button to the editor, I looked around and started wondering: When did summer get here?  How can it be time to get my hair cut again already?  What is that pile of laundry doing in my room and has it been washed or not?  Who broke into the basement and left that mess all over my desk???

As  post-deadline life settled down, I’ve given myself permission to not sit at the computer for hours day after day.  In between writing sessions, I’ve cleaned, cooked, gotten my hair done, spent time with my family, spent time with fellow writers (hurrah!), danced at a wedding with my beloved (double hurrah!), and just generally acted like a normal person.  Or at least as normal as we ever get in my family.

I’ve also visited two works-in-progress and decided they weren’t total wretched pieces of crap, and plotted my next book.  Most of it, anyway.  Writing is a process as well as a craft and an art.  I know it will take a bit of time before I am really pulled under again into the world of my next set of characters.  But settling down to work on each day’s pages, I look forward to the next dive into the pool.

Why Demons are Our Friends

Sorry, not an entry about paranormal romance!  I’d have to leave that one to my daughter.

This is about our personal demons, the things external or internal that make us break out in a cold sweat.  Not stuff like being afraid of bugs, which I consider PERFECTLY NORMAL even though my Dear Hubby laughs at me every time I make him kill a spider.  I’m talking about the fears that make us break out in a cold sweat and want to dive into the nearest dark corner to hide every time we think of them.

Deadlines are a good example for me.  Currently I am revising my next book.  I am on schedule. The writing may not go perfectly smoothly every day, but it progresses.  I enjoy the chance to make my book better.  All is well, right?  Right??

Except for the sinister little voice in my head whispering “deadline…it’s coming up…gonna be here before you know it….” and it’s making me a bit paranoid.  I’m not quite waking up in a cold sweat every night, but I tell myself before going to sleep that I better not waste any time the next day, cause I gotta turn in my work soon.  I hate that teeny weeny voice, but it’s doing me a service.  Thanks to its nagging, I’m not letting myself play in the sunshine or goof off (much) because once I turn in the revisions it will finally shut up.  At least till the next deadline.

Once the Deadline Demon is placated, others will come forward to replace him.  Some, like stage fright, I’ve become inured to over the years.  Others may always have a hold on me.  For example, it is still difficult for me to put my words out there for others to critique, even people who I know are helpful and supportive and on my side.  I’m still terrified of sounding stupid.

But fears must be conquered if any of us are to move forward.  Our personal demons befriend us when they tell us where we can be better.  Do the work to meet the deadline.  Get up in front of the crowd and speak.  Send the query letter.  Even (shudder) kill the bug.  You may fail.  You may not.  You may freak out completely.  Do it again.  No heroine ever got what she wanted by giving up.

My Secret Life as a Skating Mom

Our oldest daughter is a senior level skater.  My husband and I are way too familiar with early mornings at the rink, twice a day practices and off-ice conditioning.  I have bedazzled more skating dresses than I care to think about over the years and I can usually predict when a skater is going to fall on her jump from the way she sets up her entrance.

Our daughter will probably hang up her skates after this season, which will be bittersweet, but even without getting to the U.S. Championships or international competition, it has been mostly a good road for her.

Skating can be expensive, time-consuming and at times frustrating, but there are tangible benefits.  Our daughter learned valuable lessons from this sport about what is important to success: Commitment and hard work.  The right equipment.  A good coach or teacher.  A good support system.  As parents, we learned to make the hard calls for our budget and say “no” to the competition or workshop we could not afford.  As a result, we don’t have a second mortgage and we do have a coach who gets paid on time.

Our daughter lettered in academics at our local public high school and graduated with a scholarship.  She attributes this to the self-discipline and perseverance she learned from figure skating.  She gained a second father in the person of her coach, who shall be known on this blog only as the Mad Ukrainian.  (We lucked out with him.  He yells a lot, but nobody shows more concern for their students’ well-being.)  The unspoken code of deportment required of all skaters, parents and judges at competitions has also helped her through difficult personal encounters outside skating.  (Never cry.  Never whine about marks.  Never EVER bash another skater, even if you’re an Olympic medalist.  This is bad form, and the Skating Powers That Be will exact revenge.  I’ve watched them do it.)

She learned not just how to win and lose graciously, but that at some point, everyone fails.  She knows now to get up, assess the goal and change it or try again.

She is also able to use her knowledge to coach younger skaters, which is a boon to her wallet (and ours!!) and a credit to the Mad Ukrainian.  She’s worked with international-level coaches and  choreographers over the years.  While she might struggle with the all-important triple jumps, she takes pride in footwork and spins that garner high marks and compliments.

Most important to her and to us, she has learned that competitors and their families can be friends.  She has — and needs — dear friends outside the discipline, but only another skater gets the triumphs and disappointments of the sport.  The same goes for parents and siblings.  We’ve watched some of these young women for years.  By now, our families sit together in the stands and cheer for all of them.  Sure, each mom wants HER daughter on the podium.  But we all know how hard every skater out there works.  We’re not blind or stupid, either.  We don’t focus on details the way officials are trained to, but we can generally tell who should get the best scores.

Figure skating throws up hideous public scandals periodically, but for every incident of knee-bashing and bribed judges, there are countless unseen episodes of kindness:  Competitors squealing “You’re here!!”  and tackle-hugging each other in the rink lobby.  An official taking time to comfort a little girl in a sparkly dress who forgot her routine.  Experienced skating moms guiding new ones through a first competition.  Rivals and their families laughing together at a post-competition dinner.  These are the intangibles that gold medals can’t replace.

Saturday at The Bookworm

I had a lovely afternoon on Saturday, February 13th, at the Bookworm in Omaha!

The Bookworm, an independent bookstore , graciously offered to set up a book signing after I queried them late last year.  Manager and part owner Beth Black set up a table and plenty of chairs in a well-lit corner and even provided a much-needed bottle of water for this nervous author.  I don’t recall having such a severe case of dry mouth in my life!  I hoped Beth wasn’t too optimistic — while I knew several people planned to be there, the chairs outnumbered them.

I should have known better!  At least half my wonderful critique group came, some with friends or family; so did members of the Heartland Writer’s Group, one of my RWA chapters; and members of my church.  I am still touched at the support offered to me by family, friends and colleagues.  Cheryl St. John took pictures for me, and even Victoria Alexander stopped to chat with me a few minutes.  These are two wonderfully supportive authors!  My mentor and president of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild, S. J. Walker, took valuable time out from her horrendous deadline to cheer me on.

I did a reading, talked a bit and answered questions without embarrassing myself too much.  Meanwhile, the Bookworm sold out of their two dozen copies of To be Seduced!  That’s why the stand at my elbow is empty, lol.  Pictured with me is Cheri LaClaire, a member of the Heartland Writer’s Group.  Yeah, I know — I’m looking down.  Really, this is not much of a loss.  And I look so industrious!

The signing ended (on my part anyway) awash in relief, triumph and a sense of blessings bestowed.  Thank you to everyone who attended.  I appreciate each and every one of you!

I Didn’t do this Alone

Following the good example of Cheryl St. John, I’m going to celebrate the arrival of my first copies of TO BE SEDUCED by thanking the people who have encouraged me, advised me, and helped me on the way to holding my own book in my hands.  (A real book! With pages and words and everything!)

Sally J. Walker is a walking cheerleader for anyone who wants to write seriously.  A storyteller from childhood, she has moderated and prepared lessons for our weekly critique group since before I joined.  Her passion for the written word  in books, screenplays and poetry helped me take myself seriously as a writer.  Thank you, m’lady.  Your energy is a constant inspiration.

HRM Johnnye Gephardt’s autocratic slash and burn of unnecessary adjectives, her brutal assessment of passages as ‘boring’ and keen ear for repetition and clichés is painful and yet welcome.  I will delay my assassination attempts long enough to curtsy in gratitude and roll my eyes across the floor to Your Majesty.  May you strike terror into our pens for many years to come.

Kimberly Stokely’s encouragement keeps me going even when I want to give up and never wrestle with another word again.  If a writer as good as she is likes my stuff, I guess I don’t suck completely.  You can get an idea of her ability in the Jan/Feb issue of the Writer’s Journal, where she won the 2009 Romance Contest.  Kim, when you get your first book deal, you will leave the rest of us in the dust.  The cheering behind you will be me.

Cheryl St. John is one of those authors who seems to offer support and good advice as easily as she breathes.  Over the last year, she has dropped so many helpful nuggets into the lap of this new author.  I’ve learned to listen when you speak.

Jim McGowan, Cher Powell, Aaron Loyd, and Patti Lynn are fellow writers whose words inspire me, both in their own writing and their critiques of mine.

Peter Senftleben of Kensington Books has guided me through the publication process with unfailing courtesy and patience.  It has truly been a blessing to work with you.

Post a comment below about anyone who has helped, mentored or encouraged you.  I’ll draw three names to get one free copy each of TO BE SEDUCED and post them Tuesday 1/27/2010.