Wednesday, November 19, 2014

20 Things I Am Grateful For This Thanksgiving



1. My precious husband.
2. Being able to pursue my passion for writing
3. My mother's health.
4. Joey is alive and well and enjoying his low-carb, high-protein diet of unending Friskies.
5. It is the beginning of Academy Award movie season.
6. Friends I can count on to pick me up when I'm down and out.
7. Pansies in the garden. Their little "faces" always bring a smile to mine.
8. Sleepytime tea and Milano peppermint stick cookies.
9. A new outdoor ice skating rink with lights strung above it.  
10. An extended family far and wide to think about and worry about. 
11. NHL hockey is back and better than ever.
12. Christmas music on my iPod.
13. Colder weather.
14. Sharing the joy of seeing the world through children's eyes.
15. The "new house" smell of cleaning chemicals the housekeepers leave behind.
16. A fire in the fireplace and a candle on the hearth.
17. Time with the kids and the grand doggies.
18. Downloading new recipes for Thanksgiving sides.
19. Organizing the new closet for better use.
20. Hope for a better future.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Write A Novel In A Month


There's this thing. It's ca-razy. It's called National Novel Writing Month. NANOWRMO.org for short. And it happens every year during the month of November. Here's the one-line pitch: you write 1,667 words a day for 30 days and in the end you have 50,000 words of what could be a first draft of a novel.

NANOWRIMO started on the west coast. And even though it's called "National", it has gone international. You can see writers in the UK, India, and Australia, all cranking out words on the chart on the NANOWRIMO home page.

Whoever picked November to be the month to write an entire novel had to be a young dude. No middle-aged chick would pick the month in which you are going to have as many people as possible over to your house to eat a turkey dinner with multiple sides. It's not realistic.

Also, If I had been given the choice, I would've picked a month with 31 days. That way we could've spread the word count around a little. And let's face it, January is a slow month.

This is the third time I've attempted to play the NANOWRIMO game. Last year, I quit after 30,000 words. That is the closest I've ever come.

This year I've joined a group of writers at Savvy Authors to work together toward our goal. We spend a part of every day cheering each other on.

And then there's my manuscript. I'm not sure the 50,000 words I'm putting down on the page will make any sense. They certainly aren't in the right order.

I also wonder if I will have to rewrite an extra time because I wrote the original so fast.

None of this really matters. I'm just stalling before I start working on today's words.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Most Precious Cat Ever



When I first started dating my husband, he told me he had the best cat ever. I was a bit offended because at the time I was completely besotted by my own calico cat. Shortly after that I fell in love with Joey. It's hard not to love Joey. He's a big love bug. He talks all the time. He's a good snuggler. He stares at you adoringly. He chirps at birds and squirrels. He is the perfect cat. The best cat ever as far as I'm concerned.

And so it was very upsetting when I realized this summer that he was not himself. He had just turned 14 and he was drinking a lot of water. At first I tried to tell myself it was because it was so hot, but I knew we had to take him to the vet and I also had a good idea what his diagnosis was going to be.

Joey is diabetic. It happens in elderly cats. I was surprised to learn that unlike humans and dogs, with treatment, cats can go into remission. I threw myself into Joey's treatment plan. I went down the grocery store with the multipage list of "low carb, high protein" foods he was allowed to eat. (He's basically on the Atkins Plan. He can't have carbs. So he's completely off kibble. It makes it hard for him to gain weight.) I learned how to prick his ear to draw blood and check his blood glucose. I learned how to give him injections. I cried when I had to draw blood every hour for 12 hours. Through it all -- all of the things that I've done to him -- Joey has not wavered in his devotion to me. 

By now, one of our girl cats would be plotting my death.

The vet gave us her personal cell phone number and asked us to text us updates. She told us that she had one cat that went into remission after two weeks! I was hopeful that if I was an enthusiastic as possible this would happen for Joe -- but it has not. He's had good days and bad days. 

When we first started texting BG updates to the vet, she would respond right away -- "That's great news!" "Wow!" But after a bit, she stopped responding immediately. Or a few hours later, we'd get a "Thanks for the update." My hubby gets upset by these delayed responses. When he doesn't get what he thinks is a proper or immediate response -- he wants to text "Are you on a date?" and "Hey! I'm waiting here." 

So far, I've kept him from doing this, but I don't know how much longer he will be able to resist. 

All that matters to me is Joey. He is, after all, the best cat ever. Everyone knows that.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Meet My Characters: The Fairy Godmother's Rulebook


I've been tagged by the lovely VS Morgan to join a group of talented writers in the Meet the Character Blog Hop. I am pleased to introduce you to Nathan Nolan, the hero from The Fairy Godmother's Rulebook.

About The Fairy Godmother's Rulebook
A modern day fairy godmother's first assignment is to create the perfect Happily Ever After ending for her stepsister. What could possibly go wrong?





Who is Nathan Nolan?
Nathan Nolan has been lauded in the media as the Steve Jobs of hotels. He sold his first travel app when he was 20 for a sum of money in the millions. He tapped into the zeitgeist of what the modern business traveler wanted in luxury accommodations.  He doesn't believe in anything that isn't on the bottom line of a Profit & Loss Statement. Tall, dark and handsome, he may not look like a computer geek now that he's all grown up, but he’s still a skinny-necked thirteen year-old who most girls overlooked.

Where does The Fairy Godmother's Rulebook take place?
The story is set in Los Arboledas, a sleepy little town along the central coast of California where happily ever after seems to happen every day. Three hours north of Los Angeles, it's an easy weekend getaway for movie stars, newlyweds and hopeless romantics. You only had to drive into town under the purple canopy of the jacaranda trees on Main Street to feel the tingle of something extraordinary. The locals won't talk about what happens in Los Arboledas. They'll change the subject if asked directly, but you know they've heard the rumors, and they all have stories to tell.

What Nathan doesn't want you to know?
He's a billionaire, but he doesn't want to rest on his laurels. He's constantly working to build his business. He believes purchasing the magical Los Arboledas Inn will provide the Nolan Group with a luxury spa where their high-end business clients can go to relax and unwind. A concept he doesn't believe in. He doesn't know how to relax and unwind. 

What Nathan wants:
He wants to monetize the magical atmosphere of Los Arboledas.

What Nathan needs:
He needs to learn to believe in the magic of fairy godmothers and fairy tales.

Excerpt:

     "What I'm about to tell you is not something I usually have to point out to most people, Aviana," he said. "I'm twenty-eight years old. I have regular features and I'm over six feet tall. And I'm a billionaire. With a big "B."

     "Bragging isn't an attractive look for you." I was lying. I would find him attractive if he was speaking in gibberish.

     "Maybe not, but it's the truth," he said. "And I want to be completely honest with you because I want you to be completely honest with me." Nathan had me backed up against the garden wall and was quickly closing the space between us. 

     His face was this-close to mine.

     "The size of my bank account is usually a big turn on for women. Of all ages. I don't have any problems getting dates. Ever."

     "I know that. It's just that…" I started to explain. 

     Nathan he cut me off. "So you don't have to do your matchmaker thing for me. Got it?"

     "Got it," I said. 

     "Promise?" He asked. 

     "Promise," I wanted to taste him.  He smelled so good. 


     "Do you? Because I'm only saying this once because I want to be perfectly clear. I want you." My heart skipped a beat. I couldn't contain a gasp and I couldn't maintain eye contact with him. He lifted my chin so that his green eyes were looking directly into mine. "I want you, Aviana. Not your stepsister, your best friend or your stepmother. You." 



####

Next week the talented Kady Winter will be hosting the Meet My Characters Blog Hop

Kady's journey into writing began with adapting a passion project screenplay of hers, which became RUN, the centerpiece of her Young Adult historical fantasy series, THE POTEET CHRONICLES. These stories are set in southeast Missouri from the early years of European settlement though the Civil War. She's currently working on the prequel to RUN, as well as a New Adult series set at a grand hotel resort during and just after World War I. When she's not lost in research,Kady enjoys the Olivia Pope diet (popcorn and red wine) while binging on the awesome array of TV series out there nowadays.

Kady will be introducing Abby Stafford, the 18-year-old heroine of RUN.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like These


Do you remember when your mom told you to do good at school and keep your legs crossed and all of your dreams will come true?

Okay. So maybe those weren't the exact words your mom used, but I was told that good things only come to good girls. And I believed it. 

And I waited, and waited, and waited for my dreams to come true. Now and then I got tired of waiting and I went to the dark side and did some things that I'd rather forget in order to take a short cut to my goal of happily ever after.

And just so we are clear, I know now there are no short cuts to happily ever after.

But over the last few years, it does seem like the bad girls were winning. And why shouldn't they? Not only are they crossing the finish line on the road to happily ever after before you, they're having way more fun than you are on the journey.

There's really no stigma to being a bad girl anymore. And maybe that's a good thing.

For heaven's sake, Kim Kardashian made a sex tape and the next thing you know she's having one (no, make that two) multi-million dollar weddings at castles overlooking the sea. And it turns out Hollywood actresses aren't reading books or studying algebra in their free time. No. They're taking nude selfies. How do I know, their nudies keep getting leaked onto the internet. We've all seen them. And it turns out this kind of invasion of privacy doesn't ruin their careers...it makes them more famous and gets them more jobs and magazine covers.

Fame and fortune have been replaced by Infamy and Internet.

And then along comes Amal Alamuddin. An international human rights attorney who is licensed to practice law in two different countries -- London and New York City. She speaks eight languages. Wears designer clothes. Listens to music on her iPhone. And didn't succomb to the allure of a "starter marriage" in her twenties because she was holding out for Mr. Perfect.

And along comes Mr. Perfect. George Clooney...(sigh) They don't make 'em any more perfect. I know this to be true because I've studied his photos very, very closely.  He's also witty, bright, politically savvy, and a classic Hollywood hunk.

George Clooney has been at the top of my list FOR-EVAH. I think he's the bees' knees.  And over the weekend when he and Amal got married, I was nothing less than  over the moon.

I think this headline got it right: Internationally Accalimed Barrister Marries Actor

Seriously. George is lucky to have her. It's exactly as my mom always told me. Keep your nose in your books and your legs crossed and Prince Charming will find you.

Finally, the good girl wins the heart of the handsome movie star. And the bad girl...she ended up with Kanye West. Good luck with that...

Let this be a lesson to all girls who are still waiting for their happily ever after.


Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter


I am not a complainer. Like my guru Tim Gunn is always saying, "I make it work."

I am a quiet book nerd who could go an entire day without speaking to anyone other than my husband or my cats and feel just fine. I don't like to rock the boat. I don't want to draw attention to myself, or be the life of the party.

So you can imagine what it took to make me use the following phrases in public last Thursday night.

Phrase Number One: "This is some bullshit."
Phrase Number Two: "This sucks ass."

I used them in rapid-fire succession while we were checking into the over-priced and under-decorated Delano Hotel in Las Vegas. We had planned three nights at Mandalay Bay, but when my husband got an email that we could upgrade to the snazzier-than-thou Delano for a very minimal fee, he took the opportunity.

On arrival, we were greeted by a lone valet. He was unable to find a bellman, any bellman to help us with our bags. There were however around twenty people dressed all in black (security) huddled around the front door. No one opened the door to help me as I struggled with my bags. Inside I found a rave going on. And I couldn't find the check-in desk. I was directed to go back outside. My husband and I spent the next fifteen minutes in the company of a UK businessman wandering around the parking garage looking for the hotel entrance. We finally found our way to the secret check-in desk location. 

When I asked to see a manager, I was directed to a gum-snapping, grooving to the music young woman two computers over. She was obviously not the manager. When my husband asked to see the manager, he was directed to a man who said he would "comp us something." We were never compensated in any way.

We went to the room. It was small and decorated in a cold, minimalist way that only a Cold War Russian could appreciate. We went back down stairs to get a drink and were told we couldn't get one without a wristband. Where do we get a wristband? 

"Dunno."

Back to the front desk. Here's your wristband. And here's a whole lotta attitude to go with it. This is where the two above phrases come in. Insert here.

We left the next morning before checkout time and escaped to the comforts of the gorgeous Mandalay Bay hotel where we were treated like royalty. I took names of the staff who were kind. I plan on writing a note.

We were badly treated. I tweeted about it. No response. 

I've been searching the internet for a place to send my comments about the crappy hotel and the crappy treatment we received as well as the nice hotel and the nice treatment we received. Funnily enough, there are no email addresses listed online for either hotel.

So if you know how I can get in touch with the manager of the Delano Hotel in Las Vegas, please let me know. In the mean time, I'm telling my tale online.

Monday, September 8, 2014

An Unmarketable Skill


My memories of growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan include long summer days in and around the water. I had a summer friend – someone I only saw during a few weeks of overlapping vacation every year – she and I were matched by our grandmothers and spent every sunny day we could on the beach. Our activities were the same from the time we met when we were in fourth grade until we graduated from college.

The days were long in northern Michigan. The sun didn't set until well after 10pm. I remember having freckles across my nose like brown sugar and scabs on my knees like strawberries. Other than sunning ourselves and bobbing around in the water, our favorite occupation was hunting for Petoskey stones. These speckled stones are actually fossils made from coral in a sea that covered North America when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I can't remember a time when I went to the beach and didn't look for Petoskey stones. It is like second nature to be look down for speckled gray rocks while walking in the waves. It's an instinct that I don't remember anyone ever teaching me – I just knew when I had one in my sight.

We got to be so good at collecting rocks that at one point we opened up a rock business outside the post office. We were eight years old. I think we sold ten for a dollar. We made a killing selling stones to all of our grandparents' friends. And throughout our twenties when we were struggling to find our way in the world we often comforted each other with the thought that we could go back into business again.

It has been twenty years since I hunted for Petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan. I returned with my new family last week. The water in the lake was as cold as I remembered, but within minutes it was the perfect temperature as it washed over my sandy feet.

I was able to find Petoskey stones quickly and easily. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't as easy for non-native Michiganders. There were so many pretenders mixed in amongst the stones in the waves. I was thrilled to discover I had a special skill. I can identify a Petoskey rock at three paces. Huzzah! We all went home with non-Petosky treasures. I've a couple of blue stones on my desk, as well as a white one with what I think is the pattern of a dancing horse on it.

It was a blissful day. The sun was high above in a blue sky. The seagulls cried and the waves gently tossed small stones and sand in their wake. I could smell whitefish being smoked in the harbor and I knew as the sun got lower in the sky I would soon be around a table of my beloved family members. 

Everything was the same as when I was young, but I took it all for granted then.  Now that I'm not there every day, I know what a treasure hunting for Petoskey stones truly is. It it is my little piece of heaven here on earth. If only my Petoskey hunting skills were something that I could put on my resume.


Maybe it's finally time to open the rock shop.