Monday Mayhem – Missing you

I wrote the big mother/daughter relationship post last week because I knew I couldn’t do it this week. Today, I don’t want to dissect my relationship with my mother.

I just miss her.

This is the rough week.

On February 8th of last year, we lost Jewels’ mom and our friend, Joyce.

My dad passed away on February 9th, 1998.

Saturday, February 11th will mark one year since my mom went to join him at the big cocktail party in the sky.

Yeah…I’m not a big February fan in general.

Luckily, a snafu in scheduling and some other real life distractions will keep me busy, so I have the perfect excuse to hole up for a few days.

So, go call your mommy or daddy, if you can. Kiss your loved ones. Cuddle a puppy. Or kitty. Or bunny. I’ll be back next week, and we’ll muddle through the rest of this month together.

xoxo

Mags

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Monday Mayhem – Our heroines

Most women share a common source when it comes to learning what it means to be a woman – our mothers. In some cases, we learn by example; in others, we get a cautionary tale. But all in all, I don’t think there’s anyone who has more of an impact on how we are shaped than our mothers.

I look like my father. Same eyes, nose, chin, and mouth. Same sinuses. (Thanks, Daddy.) Robert E. used to like to say I was created in his image. But there were times when he’d look at me, shake his head, and say, “How can anyone who looks so much like me, act so much like her?” My mother and I shared the same sort of no BS, straight-to-the point attitude toward life. And we weren’t shy about expressing our opinions – popular or not.

Last February, one of my best friends and I lost our mothers within days of one another. Julie’s loss of her mother, Joyce, was shocking and untimely.

Julie and her mom were best friends. They told one another everything, hung out like girlfriends, and were squarely by each other’s side at every twist and turn. They were pals. Just like Lorelai and Rory…the early days.

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After suffering debilitating strokes and all the accompanying complications, my mother’s passing was one of those heart-breaking blessings.

Suzanne and I were not like Julie and Joyce, or even Lorelai and Rory. There was definitely more of an Emily and Lorelai vibe, minus the overt animosity.

We didn’t talk about anything personal, if we could help it. But that didn’t mean we didn’t love each other. In a weird way, it was just the opposite. Mostly we kept quiet to protect one another from being confronted with things we did not need or want to know. Things that would worry, upset, or hurt the other.

I don’t think people ever quite get over losing a parent. We lost my dad 19 years ago, and I know we all still miss him deeply. But mothers and daughters…there’s no human relationship more complex, more fraught with pitfalls and packed with joy, than the constant push-me-pull-you that goes on between mothers and daughters.

No matter how old we are, we will always, ALWAYS, have moment when we wish we could call mom and ask her what to do. It doesn’t matter if nine times out of ten we went out and did the exact opposite of what she advised. That’s what makes the mother-daughter dynamic the relationship most worthy of ‘It’s Complicated’ status, in my opinion.

Soon, Jewels and I will pass the one year mark since that god-awful week. Since then, I’ve had no less that four other girlfriends lose their mothers as well. Each time, my heart ached.

For them.

For me.

For all the things we didn’t get a chance to ask and all the news we didn’t get to share.

Or not share.

You know, for their own good.

 

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Monday Mayhem – March on

Feminist.

A word that many women, including myself, have been reluctant to own. Over the past few years, I’ve grown more conscious of my own of my place in the world. Like many people who’ve reached the mid-point in their lives, I’ve been examining my priorities, and the impact I make as a woman, as an American, and as a member of the human race.

Though this self-exploration, I became less afraid of calling myself a feminist. I do admit that sometimes I felt the need to add some over-explaination to something that should be self-evident, but I’m making a mindful effort to stop doing that.

Feminists believe that women are equal to men.

Full stop.

Nothing more, nothing less. Equal.

I guess if there’s one good thing that came out of 2016, it’s that women are becoming more vocal in their belief in equality. Others can call us what they want, but we know who we are.

We are women. Some of us are Americans. We are human beings deserving of respect.

I marched here in Little Rock on Saturday. It wasn’t the biggest march to take place, but it was still a hell of a lot larger than the organizers expected. And in a ‘red’ state, no less.

 

It was moving, so moving, to be part of this peaceful and positive assembly.

Best of all, my husband was by my side.

Because the strongest heroes are the ones who know how to love a strong woman.

And if you find yourself mired in the morass, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

 

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Monday Mayhem – My stories, at the core

Last week, I asked what you expect when you open one of my books. Your responses were so moving. Thank you. You let me know that I am indeed already hitting some of the key points in what I want to write.

I spent a lot of time in 2016 examining my work, and trying to identify the elements I think are essential to what I wanted to say – what’s known as a writer’s core story.

(This may freak those of you who know me out, but I’m posting a picture of fruit:)

Trying to suss out one’s core story it a little like nibbling at an apple (or so I hear). I started with reviewing some of my books and works in progress as a whole, then began to examine certain elements in small bites. When I got down to the center, I had a better handle on the parts that were so important to me that they re-appear in novel after novel.

Here’s what I think my core story is:

Heroines: Powerful, independent, unapologetically sex positive, and feminist. Their journeys mostly involve examining, adjusting, and reestablishing their expectations of life and love.

Heroes: Confident and strong, but not the stereotypical Alpha male. They appreciate complex women and are up to the challenge.

My emphasis is almost always on character growth and reinvestment in themselves. In my books, women are not always relationship seekers and men do not necessarily flee from commitment.

Humor will always be an important part of my writing. I require moments of it in all forms of entertainment – even the most gut-wrenching dramas. To swipe a quote from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” It’s true. If I can move a reader to one or both-or even at the same time-I consider it a win.

So how did my vision match up with your expectations?

Well, we got the humor bit down. A couple of you mentioned tears, strong heroines, and guys who are up for meeting their match, so I must be doing some things right.

This is the interesting thing about being a writer. The themes we tackle in our work grow and evolve as we do. If you’d asked me in 2011 if I considered myself a feminist, I may have hemmed and hawed a bit, shying away from the label. Now, I wear it proudly. Sex-positive? I never really thought much about how we view and judge female sexuality. The norms and constraints simply were what they were. Yeah, um, no.

But we’ll talk more about those topics in another post.

My point is, life is all about evolution. Conscious or subconscious, I’ve been seeing some shifts in my own work over the last year or two. Thanks so much for your replies last week. Your feedback is vital to me. After all, I’m telling these stories in hopes that you will connect with them.

As we type, I’m working on a few different things. I have sent the first book in the upcoming Play Dates series to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critique. I’m inching my way toward the end of the draft on book #2 and hope to have it done by the end of the month.

Just for fun, I’m participating in a 1 page per day challenge for 2017, and for that I’m playing with something entirely different. There are a bunch of current and aspiring authors participating. It’s not too late to join in. There’s also a super secret Facebook group where we babble about what we’re doing. If you want to participate, tag me. 🙂

So now you know what I think I should be writing. This time I’ll ask a different question: How do you think I’m measuring up? Are there areas where you (as a reader) think I’m falling short? Maybe one or two where I hit it out of the park?

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Monday Mayhem – The heart of the matter

Welcome 2017! I’m making an effort to start the new year off with positivity. So far, it’s been pretty easy since I’ve been in my favorite place (home), with my favorite person (Fodder), doing my favorite things (a little writing, a little reading, making some chicken salad, taking a nap). I’m really good at napping. And, as my new author shots prove, hanging off lamp posts:

2017 marks my fifth year of blogging. Yep. If you check the sidebar, you will see that I type the truth. The archive dates back to January 2012.

It’s pretty much been five years of my checking in once a week or so and babbling at you. Well, I plan to continue to do so, but I do think I’m going to make a couple of minor tweaks. I still plan to let you know what I’ve been up to over the course of the week, share writing news, and dish out a little personal TMI, but I want to try to make my posts more topical.

2016 was a year of upheaval for me and for many people I know. Like many, I turned inward. I spent a good deal more time in introspection, trying to sort out what’s important to me, and how I plan to proceed in the midst of the social-political chaos that’s swirls around us now.

In the coming months, you’ll probably hear more from me on more serious topics than those we’ve discussed before. These are the bits of me that have been stealthily weaving their threads into my stories without me really realizing it.

I’ve stopped telling people that I write contemporary romance with a lot of kissing and stuff. Of course, I do, but that’s not what I think is at the heart of my stories anymore. You’ll probably be hearing a lot from me about my ‘core story’ in the coming months. By core story, I mean the common themes that you, as a reader, can expect to find in any Margaret Ethridge/Maggie Wells novel.

 

But before I start telling you what I think they are, I’d be curious to know what your expectations are when you open one of my books. I’m not looking for flattery (though I am open to it), just your initial reaction/expectation when you hear that I have a new book available.

I look forward hearing what you have to say, as well as sharing my thoughts with you, but for now, I hope that your 2016 at least had a happy ending, and here’s to a passel more happily ever after in 2017 and beyond!

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Monday Mayhem – Eeep! It’s December!

Yeah, so super fast post because it has been a super crazy week and I am super tired. I’ve been keeping up with my #31brightspots, though I admit some days have been a little darker than others. Here are a few highlights:

Long, frustrating day at work, but I came home to this

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Tacos make everything a little better.

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Truth.

Lolled in my warm bed with a hot book on this cold morning. Now, lunch with my girls.

Best way to spend a Saturday morning, in my opinion.

And the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon is with my Diamond State Romance Author pals. Here’s a picture of me and Brinda Berry. I may or may not have been squeezing her knee under the table. A lady never tells.

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And Sunday was spent preparing for Christmas. The house is decorated outside and in. Any my little angel helped his doting granddad put his Great-grandma Willene’s angel atop the tree.

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As I type this, we’re just home from attending a living Christmas tree concert and ready to collapse. That was my jam-packed week. What happened in yours?

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Monday Mayhem – Thankful

It was Thanksgiving in the States this past Thursday. If you read the news (and my Twitter feed), you’d think that there was little to be thankful for in America, but I think we can all agree that the media skews things a tad, right?

Right.

Yes, there are things happening that no one likes, but there are so many more things happening that are good. Family and friends spending time together, neighbors helping neighbors, and all of the many, many blessings that we enjoy – food, shelter, clothing, Netflix, bubble baths, nacho cheese Doritos, books…

The month of November was a rough one – I won’t deny that. There’s an ever-growing cadre of us who believe all of 2016 can go and stuff it now. I even gave up putting slips of paper in my happiness jar sometime around April. It wasn’t that good things weren’t happening. It’s just that they kind of got buried under the headlines.

But I’m going to try to go out on a high note. I have until Wednesday to squeeze in my NaNoWriMo numbers. I’m over 45k as of this writing, and should be able to make it again. If I do, I’ll post my winner-winner-chicken-dinner badge here next week.

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The end of NaNo means Thursday is December 1st. Yeah, I know, duh. But this is the last month in what many of us consider one of life’s crappier years, so I’m going to try to see it through as in the same way I hope to start 2017 – full of positivity.

For the month of December, I’m going to try to write one happy/positive thing down each day. Doesn’t have to be anything big or monumental, just bright spot. When I prepare this post on Sunday evenings, I’ll update you on what I’ve collected, then put it all together in the end. I may even tweet a few, just to counteract all the other stuff in my timeline.

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31 days of bright spots. Should be totally doable. I bet you can too. Who wants to play along?

P.S. In case you missed me blabbing all over the place – LOVE & ROCKETS released last week. Please read. Please review. Please tell your friends to do the same. *puppy dog eyes*

P.P.S. I can’t even with the Gilmore Girls yet. Still processing so much of it, but let me just say: Like Lorelai, I’m happy. So happy I haven’t even had a single fanfic idea. Thanks for making my life easier, ASP! *ducks and runs*

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Monday Mayhem – News edition

So, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple months:

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Official Announcement
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Unofficial-but-fun newspaper headline

That’s right! NaNoWriMo is about to start and I’m heading back into the cave to start work on book #2 in this series!

So if I don’t see you… Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be back next Monday with an update!

Have a great week!

And Happy Halloween from my tiny-face pumpkin, Pumpito!

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Monday Mayhem – Someday is today edition

First, let me say: GO, CUBS GO!

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I was born a Cubs fan. It’s as much a part of my DNA as my daddy’s nose or what my husband calls the ‘Suzanne stare’ (named for my mother). Some of my earliest memories of being a cubs fan involve men’s pocket combs.

You see, the men’s rooms at Wrigley Field used to be equipped with vending machines like this:

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They dispensed blue plastic Chicago Cubs combs, and each time we went to Wrigley, I used to beg my dad and brothers to get one for me because they weren’t in the ladies’ rooms.

Baseball games were also the perfect opportunity to exploit my love of hot dogs. As far as I can remember, the hot dogs served in the Friendly Confines have been of the kosher all-beef variety.

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When I moved to Arkansas, it was a bit of a challenge to uphold my standards, but my friends at Hebrew National came through. Still waiting for the Vienna Beef, though.

When I lived in the city, I spent a few years in Lake View (just east of Wrigleyville). Many a warm summer day was spent watching the crowd and listening to Ronnie Woo Woo call to fans as I sipped beer in the beer garden at Murphy’s Bleachers.

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I loved those days so much, I ended up writing them into a scene in my novel, Contentment.

My dad was the epitome of a Diehard Cubs Fan. He caught almost every game either on WGN-TV or WGN-AM. I can still sing the whole ‘Hey, Hey! Holy Mackerel’ song. I can still hear the voices of Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. I remember one of the first times I ever used someone cell phone was from a rooftop party across from right field. Who did I call? My dad. What did I say? “Hey Dad! See the Torco sign, look three buildings north. I’m waving to you!

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I’m be no means an avid Cubs fan. I don’t watch the games on TV. Most of the time, I have little more than a passing acquaintance with names and stats and a general idea of how they are doing. But I do keep a framed photo I took of the Wrigley Field sign next to one of my parents. Because they are all a part of who I am.

The Cubs are heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945. The last time they went, my dad was serving in Germany post WWII. This time he’s in Heaven with Jack and Harry, Ron and Ernie, and all the diehard Cubs fans who never stopped believing.

And they’re waiting to fly the W flag once and for all this season.

GO, CUBS GO!

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Monday Mayhem – Deep Fried Edition

It’s Sunday evening. We’re just home from the state fair. Every thing I have eaten today has been deep fried or smothered in butter.

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Welcome to October in the South. This is my true love, turtle funnel cake.

We did visit the Rabbit Exhibition, but did not bring one home with us. While it was wonderful to pet those twitchy little noses and rub soft cheeks, we still miss our TimBunny. It’ll be a year this week, and he’s still the most troublesome pet we’ve ever adored.

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I’m enjoying my October downtime, but now that we’ve passed the halfway point in the month, I’m starting to ramp up again. I’m revising book one in The Series Yet to Be Announced, and playing with character worksheets for the project I hope to take on for NaNoWriMo this month.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting very still, popping Tums like candy.

Happy Monday to you all!

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