Monday Mayhem – Give it away, give it away, give it away now!

Are you on my mailing list? If so, you know I’ve done nothing but give it away this past week. I celebrated Julie Evelyn Joyce’s book, STEEPED IN LOVE, being named to the short list of finalists for the Kobo Emerging Authors prize by giving away a few copies of Steeped. Then, I celebrated those fabulous readers who actually open, read, and interact with my newsletter with a special Amazon gift card giveaway just for them!

This could be you!

Not on my mailing list? Look on the top of the sidebar of this page. There’s a little spot that says, “Join my readers group!” Enter your email there, and I’ll get you added too!

In other news…

I’m still hitting the gym. I don’t like it, but I’m doing it. Anythng to avoid writing, you know…

Okay, I’m not really avoiding it. I’m….circling it. I’m in the homestretch of drafting LOVE RENOVATION, and this is a tricky time. I know where it needs to go. I know what I need to change in the front 2/3 of the book. I know all of the work that needs to be done before I can call it done, and that is just…paralyzing.

So I am chipping away at it little by little. Because a little is more than zero, right?

*nods*

My herb garden is struggling. We’ve had a cool, wet spring so far. Very unusual for us. We usually skip spring and plunge into the summer sauna, so I don’t want to complain too much, but my pal, Basil, isn’t liking it. My Roma tomatoes are scrawny and shivering. Oh, and some insect is eating my pepper plants. *scowls* I hope they get heartburn.

On the other hand, the flowers are loving it. The irises were spectacular, as was the clematis. And just look at the Mr. Lincoln and Knockout roses!

Mr. Lincoln rose
Knockout rose

Tell me, what’s blooming in your neck of the woods these days?

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Monday Mayhem – Tempus Fugit

The view from my atio chair

I know, I know. I should watch my phraseology, but it’s true – time does fly. I know most people apply it to the short days and long nights of winter, but for me, Spring always seems to zip past me.

Look – Wednesday is May 1st. Gah!

And this year, rather than careening straight in to the oven-like heat of summer, we are actually having a spring. Fifty shade of gorgeous green. The flowers and shrubs are thriving. Highs have been in the 70s and low 80s.

All of which means a young woman’s fancy has turned to anything BUT writing.

I mean, I’ve had to sit on the patio and read books…

The view from my patio chair
The view from my patio chair

There’s been a tiny dino to take on adventures:

Rover the Garden T-Rex is back!

And a kitchen garden to construct so we could plant tomatoes, peppers, and herbs:

Kitchen garden adjacent to patio beds

Then there were the sexy Saturday nights spent assembling a new basketball goal so Fodder and I can shoot the hoops:

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t writing stuff happening too. I’m back to working on LOVE RENOVATION, TO MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE is still out on submission, and some old friends are coming back this week! I have repackage Spring Chickens – which means it has a new title and cover art. Lynne and Bram’s story will be available again as HOME IN HEARTSFIELD.

Exclusively for Amazon Kindle

So there you have it. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Don’t forget to add your email address in the sidebar to receive my reader group emails. Jennifer C. won a $5 Amazon gift card in last week’s drawing!

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Monday Mayhem – Flowy me

Okay, so I’m trying to be more on task this month. One of the tools I’m using is a nifty bullet-list site/app called WorkFlowy that one of my Twitter pals turned me on to. It’s super simple and streamlined, but allows me to make lists and check things off. I’m using it for everything from a sort of writing brain-dump, a diary, a gratitude journal, and a running to-do list.

Super simple, but a great way to keep up with things. I can use it on my desktop or mobile devices. If you want to give it a try, click this link and we both get bonus storage space.

In other news, I tried my first wardrobe styling service this week. I signed up to try Dia & Co in hopes of shaking myself out of the solid color shirts and Levis rut. They sent me a box of super-cute stuff – none of which I would have chosen myself – and I’m keeping all five pieces. It’s not cheap, but I think the clothes are good quality and it’s a nice splurge. I’ve signed up to get another box in May.

Check out this cute flowy blouse I can wear while I’m using my WorkFlowy app:

pink blouse

Congratulations to Nancy B! She won a $5 Amazon gift card last week in my newsletter giveaway. Are you on my mailing list? If not, be sure to add your email in the sidebar!

And I just realized I just linked you to a bunch of stuff like I’m some kind of marketing maven, but we all know that’s not the case. If I were, I’d have linked my BOOK PAGE and suggested you share it with a friend.

Slick, huh? Yeah, not so much. I just like sharing cool things I am doing and trying. And I’m always open to any fun stuff you want to share with me, so don’t hesitate to comment or email any tips, tricks, apps, or services you like to use. Spring is the time for new growth, right?

So, tell me…are you trying anything new as Spring approaches?

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Monday Mayhem – March on

It’s finally March. Thank goodness. February may be the shortest month, but it is my least favorite. Too gray. Too sad. I hate to wish my life away, but once again, I am glad it’s over.

February

Now, it’s March and I have no more excuses. I need to get my mind right and delve into this new project, rather than just fiddling with it. I’m just not quite sure how to do that.

One of my writing groups posts a weekly discussion question. A couple weeks ago, they asked what we thought our greatest writing strength is. Anytime up until late 2018, I might have answered with words like drive, perseverance, or focus. But lately, I find all my heretofore unassailable strengths have failed me.

It seems writing has become my Kryptonite.

kryptonite

I’ve spent a month coddling myself, and for the most part, I’m okay with that. February is rough for me emotionally, and though writing has provided some escape in the past, that wasn’t the case this year.

But now it’s March, and I need to figure out a way to march on.

Most people tend to seek comfort in the familiar when trying to push past troubling times, so I think I’ll do the same. The desk set up isn’t proving conducive, neither is dictation, so I think it’s time to roll back to the original writing zone – the recliner.

I’ll try to re-establish my grooves (writing and butt) this week. I hope it works, because I don’t think Fodder is going to be on board with me jetting off to Jamaica to hook up with Taye Diggs. I mean, he’s pretty understanding, but I don’t think he’s going to be cool with me pulling a How Maggie Got Her Groove Back.

So wish me luck, friends. I wrote Contentment and Commitment in that recliner, so it is a proven winner!

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Monday Mayhem – Buckle up!

Buckle up, friends, we’re at it again!

I have completed revisions on my Nashville story (Tentatively titled: Make You Feel My Love) and it is going out on submission. What does that mean? It means I’ll be a wreck for the next 3-6 months as we wait to see if any publishers bite.

nail biter

What will I do while we wait? Start the next book!

I have an idea. A big idea. Something different from anything I’ve written before. There’s going to be some world building involved, and a bit of a leap out of my contemporary romance comfort zone and into a world of intrigue, but I’m pretty excited to give it a shot.

ideas

Right now, the ideas/details/possibilities are are swirling around in my head. I’ve tried to capture the higher concepts and work them out in notes, but I’ve never been an extensive plotter. I think I kind of want to let my imagination go wild on this one. So, I’ll be writing it in a sort of ‘go big or go home’ mindset.

Wish me luck!

In the meantime, keep a nervous author in Diet Coke – buy a book. Already read them all? Gift one to a friend! I’ve been spiffing up the website. You can check them all out here.

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Monday Mayhem – Resolution Revolution

pinky swear

Resolution number one

As the new year begins, I resolve not to make a single, solitary resolution. Oops. Um…

Well, you get my meaning. By not making any resolutions, I have made my life infinitely simpler, and that will be my ultimate goal for the year. Like how I did that?

I may not be making actual ‘write it down’ sorts of resolutions, but I have made a few pinky promises with myself. Want in on them?

pinky swear
  • I have promised to stop looking around at what/how other people are doing. In the past, I was really good at keeping my eyes on my own paper, but this past year I slipped a bit. Okay, a lot. It’s hard not to play the comparison game, but I have promised myself I won’t be using anyone else’s yardstick when it comes to measuring up. Man, I hope I don’t disappoint me.
  • I promise to work smarter. As you may or may not be aware, there’s no publicity machine working behind the scenes here. Well, there is. It’s me. I am the machine. But, I have to admit I’m getting a little worn out in some areas. The cogs are slipping. So, for that reason, I am going to reprogram a bit for better (hopefully) efficiency. More on that later.
  • I will write what I want to write. I know this sounds kind of silly, but trust me, it’s not. When a person writes for publication, it’s very easy to get caught up in chasing trends in the hopes of getting in on the next big wave of romance branding. No. Not for me. I will continue to write the stories I want to write. They may not be what editors are looking to add to their lists at this moment, but that’s okay. I think I’ve found my lane and I like it here. No swerving for me.

Promises promises

I know. they don’t sound very ambitious, but I did that on purpose. I’ve set smaller goals aimed at consistency rather than quantity. I’m going to do my best to work across all the platforms available to me.

And for that reason (this is the part I promised to elaborate on later), I will be cutting back my blogging to ever other week, and using the time I would have used to write a post to create newsletter content.

The newsletters will be different from these posts. I always view my blog posts as more of a conversation. A peek into what I’ve been up to and a chance to get your feedback. The newsletters will be more of a brief little hi-dee-ho-neighbor.

I’ll include book information or recommendations, a favorite recipe, quick Q&A with other authors, music playlists, funny pictures, or other random things I’d like to share.

Not on my mailing list? Why not? You can click here or there’s a little box in the sidebar of this page where you can add your email address.

So I won’t be here next Monday, but I will be in your inbox sometime next week, right? You signed up? I won’t say when. It’ll be more fun if it’s a surprise, don’t you think?

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Monday Mayhem – The Best Laid Plans

Plans

I’ve got ’em! I love ’em. Plans, goals, aspirations, hopes and dreams…Over the years I have purchased an assortment of lovely paper planners to write them in, too.

And so sad that I never use them.

It’s that time of year again…

December means my social media feeds are full of photos my planner friends have taken of their new toys. And they are beautiful. Spiral, ring, or perfect bound. Covers made of leather or emblazoned with inspirational messages. Washi tape. Stickers…

My covetous little heart hammers each time I see one. I run to the planner website and gaze at the photo insets of interior pages, drooling over:

  • Bullet Journals
  • Goal setting
  • Daily routines
  • To Do lists
  • Morning and evening reflections

See what I did there with the bullets and all? *le sigh*

But I don’t click. Why?

Because when it comes to paper planners, I am Meat Loaf.

I want them.

I need them.

But there ain’t no way I’m ever going to use them.

 

Still, I can admire them from afar.

Are you a planner person? I have a friend who will only use Erin Condren planners. Another was showing off her 2019 #PowerSheets, which, I admit, tempted me greatly. Last year, I bought not one, but two of the Blue Sky planners a co-worker swore by. In different sizes, you know – one for desk, one for bag. I never made it past January.

I’m not anti-scheduling. I use electronic calendars faithfully. Lord knows, I love a good deadline. It’s just the thought of messing up my beautiful planner with mistakes stops me in my tracks. And yes, I have erasable friction pens in every color.

Perfectionism is a disease, my friends.

How about you? Do you keep a planner or journal?

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Monday Mayhem ~ Holiday Reads

The Holidays are Here

Well, gang, the holidays are officially underway. In our house, we don’t start anything Christmasy until after both Fodder and I have celebrated our birthdays and Thanksgiving. This year, his birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, so we leapt that hurdle in one.

Now, we fall headlong into Christmas and I don’t feel the least bit prepared. Then again, I rarely do. And when that happens, I fall back on holiday-themed entertainment to get me in the mood.

My favorites are the old Bing Crosby movies – Going My Way and Holiday Inn in particular. I love Barry Fitzgerald in the first, and the music on the second. And it isn’t Christmas without a visit from The Grinch – Boris Karloff version, thankyouverymuch.

Soon, my girlfriends and I will schedule our annual Love Actually simulwatch. I know, I know, the movie is problematic – blah, blah, blah. I’m in it for the Firth, okay?

And Billy Mack.

Confession: I am not  Hallmark Christmas movie fan

Friends keep track of the whole schedule, but if I am going to get sentimental over a holiday story, I prefer to do it between the pages. I also like stories where the holidays don’t always go to plan.

In the past, those types of holiday romances weren’t easy to come by, so I wrote some myself.

So, here is my holiday novel pimp:

Looking for love in all the wrong places? Go to the airport!

LONG DISTANCE LOVE starts out with Concourse Christmas  – a story where two people find themselves snowed it at St. Louis’ Lambert Field on Christmas Eve.

Readers can follow the highs and lows of Jack and Ellie’s long distance romance as it unfolds over a year’s worth of holidays and other milestones.

Or, if you are in the mood for something slightly more cynical….

New Year’s Eve doesn’t always go to plan.

First date number forty-eight comes to a screeching halt for Detective Langley Sheppard when his date lifts a pack of gum from the local convenience store. But things start looking up when he encounters spunky damsel-in-distress Jessica Vickers, who’s stranded in the store parking lot. Now Lang is about to discover that on a night when everything goes wrong, falling for Jessica feels spectacularly right.

Or, if you’re already looking ahead to 2019, I have a steaming hot calendar for you.

When the St. Blaise Regional Medical Center Board of Directors decided to jump-start their fundraising and public relations, they never imagined she’d be stripping their most prominent doctors, nurses, and support staff down to their birthday suits in order to beef up the hospital’s bank account.

The HOT NIGHTS IN ST. BLAISE collection of twelve sizzling novellas is now on sale for only $1.99!

If that isn’t enough to get you in the mood to tackle the holidays, I don’t know what will. Now go forth and be festive!

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Monday Mayhem – A Veteran’s Day short story

Veteran’s Day

Today, many offices are closed in observance of Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d provide those lucky folks who get the day off a little reading material. Here’s a short story called SNAPSHOT that was published in the first episode of Fictionvale magazine.

Snapshot

I never told anyone I was the girl in the picture. There wasn’t any point. The kiss didn’t mean anything at all. He was just a fella cast adrift in the big city at a time when everyone wanted to hold their loved ones close. I was just the girl who was close at hand.

And I happened to be married at the time.

At least, I believed I was.

Sixteen months had passed since Joe ejected from his plane somewhere over France, and I had no idea if I’d ever get to kiss the man I loved again. The end of the war meant there was still a chance he’d come home to me. I hadn’t given up hope, but I had given up kissing for the duration.

Until that day.

I never forgot that stranger’s kiss. How could I? It was near perfection. The only thing that could have made it better was if the guy had turned out to be Joe. Either way, the man had some chops. I can still feel the scrape of five o’clock shadow against my chin and cheek and taste the whiskey on his lips. But it wasn’t sexual or even romantic. That brief, hard press of his mouth to mine was nothing more than a punctuation mark on a war that had seemed like it might turn into a life sentence. A potent cocktail of relief, jubilation, and frustration served up by a pair of warm, soft lips.

It was just what I needed to remind me that I was still alive.

That brave, crazy, possibly drunk man gave me a taste of light in the days when the darkness felt so thick and heavy I thought it might smother me. I was grateful for it at the time. I didn’t know that kiss had the power to change my life forever if I let it.

To be truthful, I didn’t appreciate the notoriety. Unlike these kids today with their computer videos and their need to expose themselves and their dirty laundry on television shows, I had no desire to have fifteen minutes of fame. I only wanted my husband back. The photograph caused a hubbub when it was first published, but most of us didn’t give it another thought. We had bigger worries. I saw it and knew right away it was me, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I remember one of my fellow nurses going on and on about how romantic it was, and how she wanted to be kissed like that. I also remember feeling a little smug that I could say I’d been kissed like that, but I didn’t say it out loud. It seemed silly to gloat over a kiss. And there were more important things to do than moon over a foolish picture.

It wasn’t until years later that people started calling it “iconic.” I’ve always thought it was embarrassing. After all, I was a married woman, and there I was kissing some strange man in the middle of the street. As good as that smooch was, my mother would have said it was unseemly, and she’d have been right. I’d only kissed one other man before that day, and God willing, I’d kiss the same one again.

Like most people at that time, I lived in fear of the Western Union delivery boy. Thank goodness my neighbor, Jackie, was nearby the day the telegram telling me Joe was missing arrived. I’ll never forget her hugging me tight and telling me the only thing missingand killedhad in common was a single I. I clung to that shoestring of hope long after the Western Union boy pedaled away.

Later, I told Joe that semantics kept me sane. Semantics and pure, blind pigheadedness. I was not about to accept anything less than the life I’d planned to have, and I’d vowed to spend my life with him. Until someone told me that wasn’t possible, I was sticking by my word. Joe used to tease me about my stubborn streak, but I liked to tell him it was my stubborn streak that brought him home.

And it did.

Sort of.

I sent a six-foot-two-inch Colgate football player off to war, but the man who returned to me was barely more than a shadow turned sideways. I told myself it didn’t matter. Joe was home. He was safe. He’d gain the weight back. The toes he’d lost to frostbite were a small price to pay. He would heal. Eventually. But being on American soil wasn’t anything like coming home.

The world had changed. I was very different from the naive young bride he’d left shivering on the railway platform. I’d swapped apartments with another nurse because her husband came home and she needed more room, while I, on the other hand, had far too much space for my own good. I’d lost weight while he was gone, though it wasn’t nearly as extreme as Joe’s loss of bulk. Still, by the time he made it home, the letterman’s sweater he’d left behind had patches where my elbows wore holes through the wool. But those things were easy to fix. The hard part was healing the wounds no amount of home cooking could soothe. Joe had seen and done things that left scars that ran far deeper than the marks on his skin, and I hadn’t the faintest idea how to piece our lives back together.

I fed him and coddled him, using every bit of my famous stubbornness to hold on tight until he began to rebound in both body and mind. Like many women of my generation, I set aside my own ambitions and willingly handed the reins of our life back over to him. Day in and day out, I plumped his battered ego and massaged away his fears and worries. And I can honestly tell you I never gave that picture or the man in it a second thought.

Little by little, bit by bit, my Joe came back to me, complete with the slow, shy smile that made my heart turn somersaults. There’s no way to describe the pride and joy I felt when I watched him emerge from the shadow of death and stride right back into life like the conquering hero he was. There was also no way I’d risk shattering his fragile confidence. Not when we’d both worked so hard to rebuild it.

How could I tell my proud, quiet man that the woman he loved had made a fool of him on a national stage?

We were at a cocktail party the first time someone said I looked like the woman in the magazine. I remember feeling blindsided. My life was so different from the way things had been that day in Times Square it was hard for me to put two and two together. I remember I wore my hair up for the party even though Joe liked it down. I was nervous and anxious about making a good impression on his colleagues. My dress happened to be white. The man who’d made the observation let his eyes linger a too long on my hemline. I felt my husband stiffen beside me.

I laughed it off, telling the small knot of Joe’s curious coworkers that the guy I liked to kiss was a soldier and not a sailor. To my relief, Joe laughed too. Pride and admiration shone bright in his dark eyes as he slipped his arm around my waist and gave me a gentle squeeze.

He could never know. I’d make sure of it.

If you haven’t figured me out yet, I’ll clue you in on a secret—I’m a woman who always gets what she wants. I never said a word about the picture. In all honesty, I rarely ever thought about it. I didn’t have time. A year after his return, I was pregnant with our first child and feeling miserable twenty-three hours out of the day. Joe had landed a job with a life insurance company and was working his way up the ladder. We’d moved out to the suburbs.

Despite the rocky start, we had a very good life. Our three boys ran wild on a street where it was safe for them to ride their bicycles and play catch. I’m happy to say they grew into men as honorable and true as their father, even if my youngest did turn out to be a bit of a hippie. Joe mowed the lawn on Saturday mornings and took the trash to the curb on Tuesday evenings. I finally learned to cook something other than pot roast, and I volunteered two days a week at the Veterans’ Administration hospital. It was a perfectly ordinary, terribly predictable existence, which was just fine by us.

Every few years, some yahoos with a little grant money and too much time on their hands start waving that silly picture around and spouting cockamamy theories as to the identities of the kisser and the kissee. They make the talk show circuit, and a  passel of old guys and gals crawl out of the woodwork claiming they might be the ones the photographer captured in that clinch. I have no idea if one of the fellas might actually be the one who kissed me. I never wasted much time thinking about it. In truth, I couldn’t care less.

Joe and I shared thirty-seven more years before cancer took him from me far too soon. Day after day, I held his hand in mine as that horrid disease waged war on his body, but each time he opened his eyes, he somehow found the strength to give me a smile.

The night he died, I sat in that darkened hospital room with his gnarled fingers snug between mine. The whir and beep of machines measured our last moments together. His breaths grew impossibly shallow while my heart beat strong and relentless. His foot moved beneath the thin sheet. He turned his head and spoke his last request of me, tender and sweet.

“Kiss me.”

So I did. Desperate to mingle his last breaths with mine, I kissed the man I loved. Fat, hot tears streaked down my cheeks. They wet our lips and blessed his departure. The second I drew back, he slipped away from me, taking my heart with him.

That was the kiss that told the story of how the war was won. A simple brush of his lips against mine. A caress packed with the kind of innate goodness that can be never be thwarted by power-hungry madmen or even cancer.

If you ask me, that was the kiss that counted.

I just wish there’d been a photographer around to capture it.

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