A few weeks ago, Snarky Daughter and I went on a college visit. We were gone for four days, with a 12-hour visit to Canada tossed in for fun. Hey, we were thirty minutes away, we had passports, come on. You’d go too. It was a lovely 12 hours, and I highly recommend visiting our Northern Neighbor if you haven’t already.

When we got back, our two normal cats who hang together all the time, were fighting. It was a nightmare. I’m not sure what Lord of the Flies thing happened while we were gone (Scout Son and Sarcastic Roommate were at home), but now I have two cats on kitty Prozac, and high hopes that within 30 days they’re return to normal.

While we were gone, there must have been some skirmishes on my bed because now my duvet cover needs to be replaced. Nothing insanely gross, but it’s time. It was also falling apart.

You’d think duvet covers would be cheap. I mean, we’re talking about two flat sheets sewn together. I know this because several years ago when there was a laundry incident with my comforter and I couldn’t find a duvet cover I liked, I… you guessed it… bought two sheets, sewed them together and made a duvet cover.

It’s not that I’m cheap. It’s that I don’t see why one should cost $150. It’s sheets people. There’s nothing between them. Also, I’m not an overly floral kind of girl so finding a comforter/duvet cover is painful. Really painful. I’ve just spent eight nights looking for one that is 1) not covered in flowers, 2) not pink, and 3) not hellaciously expensive. But since duvet covers cost as much as comforters, I’ve extended the search out to the whole deal.

Like I said, the last time I went through this, I gave up, bought two 300 thread count sheets I liked and pretended I was a seamstress. I’m not, but everything in the stores is Bed in a Bag these days. I don’t need a whole set with a thread count of 2 and bits of bark dangling off the threads. I discovered phenomenal sheets with a bazillion thread count (once you get over 300 you never go back), so the whole combo thing doesn’t work for me.

This is right up there with bra shopping, and you all know how I feel about that. In case you’re wondering, I pretty much hate all shopping. It makes me great as a packaging copywriter, but horrible if you have to live the shopping dream with me. And everyone in the house has been living the duvet cover dream.

After eight days of going through Amazon, Overstock, Bed Bath & Beyond and every other online retailer (and yes, I did look at pretty much every page for each one of those), I finally settled on this dark blue Moroccan pattern. No flowers, no pastels, hides everything. I love it.

Next up: creating a new entertainment setup in the living room. Because the only thing I like more than shopping, is adding a DIY component to it! IKEA hacks, here I come!

You’ll remember I’m cruising Seventeen magazine, trying to figure out if I can write New Adult fiction. Since I can’t really define New Adult fiction, probably not. But even if I could, there’s one small problem. I’m old.

Really old.

I didn’t think I was that old until I started paging through the magazine. Here were the clues:

Page dedicated to the “twirl power” of bright skirts. Apparently dull colored skirts don’t twirl as well. Of course, since the skirts barely cover the model’s butt, I was left wondering how she can sit down, let alone twirl. Honestly, you see longer skirts on the tennis court. Or the average cheerleader. Yes, I have seen what girls are wearing to the mall lately. I cringe there too. Old.

When we aren’t learning about short skirts, we’re learning about crop tops, so “you look and feel easy, breezy.” Ladies, we never want to feel easy. And yes, paired with the nonexistent shorts the model is wearing, you will feel breezy. Please feel free to explain to me why people continue to confuse sexy with almost naked. There’s a difference and we’re doing young women a huge disservice by suggesting otherwise. (See? Old.)

They’re using words that aren’t real. Hyper-real? Again to describe the twirly skirts. Somehow the prints on them are “hyper-real.” Hopefully, you’re buying underwear that matches your hyper-real print skirt because it’s going to be hyper-exposed if you aren’t hyper-vigilant.

Flirt-ify. As in your wardrobe. Oy! Your shorts have a .25” in-seam and your flouncy (my word not theirs — you can tell because it’s 1. real, 2. not hyphenated, and 3. a complete word) crop top ends at your bra band. You don’t have any wardrobe to flirt-ify.

Fashion-y. Hyphenating things does not make them words. It does make you sound stupid-y. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of the AP Style Manual. Even they say hyphens are passé.

Along the same lines, they can’t complete a word. We have faves, perf (perfect), sesh (session, as in makeout or boxing, depending on the article), get-gorge (seriously, not only can we not take a moment to say gorgeous, but we have to hyphenate get and gorgeous) and adorbs. Amaze. “The results will be amaze!” Sweet Jesus, people. For the cost of two extra letters, you could have said amazing. Or, you could have dropped “be” and still had a legitimate sentence. I could cry.

It would be totally adorbs if the magazine would take a clue from their advertisers and write complete sentences. Like, oh my Gawd! And that is why I can’t write New Adult fiction. Or an article for Seventeen. Because I’m a child of the 80s, when we learned how to write the whole word, use hyphens appropriately, and could look sexy in a freaking prairie skirt and oversized sweater. Like we saw in…Seventeen. Although if I did write an article for them today, it would be entitled, “How to Hook a Guy While Wearing Jeans and a Sweatshirt. Yes, Really.”

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go work on my ombré pedi, and be all whatevs about the dishes in the sink.

A couple months ago Delta kindly informed me that all those miles I got when I flew with them years ago were about to expire. Being a sucker, I went with magazine deals. Lots of magazines. Like seven of them. I didn’t even know they still came in paper format!

Yeah, okay, I totally knew they still came that way, but I digress. Which is really hard to do with this blog. Sssoooo, among the magazines I signed up for was a subscription to Seventeen for Snarky Daughter.

For those who don’t know her, SD wears jeans/baggy shorts (depending on the season) and t-shirts to school pretty much every day. I really can’t blame her. I wear jeans and clingy shirts to work every day. Hey, I matured.

SD can hold her own in any geeky boy conversation. Doctor Who? Hitchhikers Guide? Stars Trek and Wars? She’s got you covered. Mascara, the current trend in skirts, and all things girl, not so much. Yes, she’s mini-me. I have no idea what brand mascara I use, nor do I particularly care.

I remembered reading Seventeen well before I was 17, and it was helpful in all things high school girls care about. We were the target audience. With my subscription, I wasn’t always hip, but at least I knew what was in. So against all her cries, I got the magazine. Which sits on the counter, unread.

Except last night, I was bored so I went looking for the horoscopes. What can I say? I wasn’t all that pleased with whatever Glamour had cooked up for me this month. Lucky me, Seventeen says I’m coming in to some money this month, and romance. Happy Birthday to me!

While flipping through, I found…

“Your Summer Kiss-spiration! Welcome to kissing season!”

Painting of a Kiss

The Kiss by Francesco Hayez

Here I’ve been lamenting the lack of kissing in my life lately, only to find out it’s not kissing season. HUGE sigh of relief over here. I was beginning to think it was me.

To celebrate kissing season, Seventeen quoted a bunch of guys ages 18-22 (and I’m sorry, but that’s icky — your target market, as defined by your name, is jail bait) about what guys think about during your first kiss with them.

Being a really good mom, I read the entire article out loud, because SD was not going to read it. And she deserved to know that twenty-something guys have no clue what they’re doing when they’re kissing. That was actually kind of humbling to hear, although not really a surprise since I remember kissing guys at that age.

Since that was already making SD scream, Mmmooooommmm!!!!” at the top of her lungs, I kept reading. In the article’s sister blurbs (all four pages of kissing info), I also learned that his top five makeout spots haven’t changed over the years. The beach, under the stars, and in a car still rank up there. Duh. And apparently guys still want to make out in a public bathroom. Huh?!!?

I shared the blurb about the Kissing Jenga game, a kissing truth or dare game which could be hysterical if you’re over 30 and have a bucket of margaritas to share with friends. I can’t imagine this being fun when you’re 17, because really, how many people have you kissed? “Spill your biggest #kissfail.” Seriously? It probably involved braces. Now, once you’re over 30, you have some serious #kissfails to work with.


(Because it’s also margarita season, here’s a tutorial on making margaritas. You’re welcome.)

Sarcastic Roommate and I rated the “other areas to kiss” advice. They actually nailed that one, although I’m not sure SD believes us. Which is fine because I’m not sure she needs to be traveling away from lips any time soon. I do know she never wants to hear any of this come out of my mouth again.

I’m thinking of laminating the article so I can read it aloud often. It was downhill from there, but I am psyched that kissing season is upon us. White shoes and makeout sessions. Gotta love summer!

But I have to ask. Do I need a kissing license?

Cassie knows. She sees the suitcase and she knows. I’m leaving. The size of the suitcase – and the amount of food I cook and pack – seem to dictate the level of concern.

The YMCA duffel bag is a good bag. It means we’re headed to Doggy Paradise. You see, at our house, there are rules. Dogs do not get on the furniture. Period. Ever tried to share a couch with a Doberman? Share is not in their vocabulary. Lounge over every possible square inch of free space plus half your lap and most of your keyboard? Definitely. Share, not so much.

Cats can get on the couch, may sleep on the bed until I want to go to bed, and they never get on the counters or table. Right. So there are rules for Cassie, and there are suggestions for the cats. The cats ignore the suggestions unless they involve a locked door. The dog plays by the rules because she’s a dog.

An unspoken rule is that if I am baking copious amounts of goodies, am packing wine in the same bag as some dog food, and have the YMCA duffel bag, we’re going to Regan Black’s house.

Doberman on Couch photo

That’s Cassie taking over 3/4 of a couch at Regan Black’s house. The remaining 6 inches were reserved for a house guest who thought Cassie looked to happy to make her move.

And the rules are different there. In Doggy Paradise, there are toys with squeakies in them. And we may squeak them all day long. We may play fetch in the house. We are still not allowed to chase or tenderize the cats in any way, but that’s okay, because… dogs are allowed on the furniture. All the furniture. Any time they want.

People will select places to sit so they don’t disturb the dogs. Also, dogs get marshmallows there. Like I said, paradise.

A real suitcase is bad. That means I’m going somewhere without her. Unless it’s Thanksgiving and that’s Paradise on Steroids because it’s four days with Aunt Regan and turkey. And a bunch of teenagers who love dogs and want to spoil them past the point of rotten. What’s not to love?

Lucky for Cassie, just back from a girls’ weekend, the duffel bag is staying out for a repeat visit next month. She sees it, and she knows. Just don’t tell her about the college visits planned in July.

Okay, that might be a little strong, but not by much.

Have I mentioned the computer I have at the day job? Imagine a habitrail. The hamster snoozing in his wheel represents my computer’s RAM. On Friday, I was working on an InDesign file. Seven pages, two photos per page. Two. In order to work on the file, I had to break it into seven files, one page per file. Want to guess how long it took to print a page? Go on, you know you want to. Twenty minutes.

In order to do anything with one of these files, I had to close everything else. Everything. No Spotify, which isn’t a loss since I was trapped in a never-ending loop of Don’t Stop Believin’. No chat. No database to manage. Nothing.

With a lot of time to kill. I thought about pulling out my laptop, which does not run off of hamster power, and doing some of a lynda.com class, but that wasn’t going to go over well. And no obvious texting at work, so no chatting with Reunion Guy for me.

Chatting with Reunion Guy is a challenge. He knows things. Smart things. I have to work to hold up my end of the conversation. And I love it because I spend a lot of my day waiting on the hamster in my computer and working with people who do not use me to my full potential. But apparently Reunion Guy has a day job too. It comes with an impossible To Do list, better tech and not a lot of time to spend amusing me. I think it’s time to rewrite his job description, but whatever.

So what to do while I’m waiting… After the online class idea, I considered watching the last episode of Angel on my iPad. Do not mock. I was busy having kids when Buffy and Angel were on originally, so I’m playing catch up. But I can’t really talk my way around that if I’m caught. Also, I actually have to watch that show.

That’s when I remembered TEDTalks. It’s not like you have to watch them. They’re talks. Some guy on a stage talking. The iPad doesn’t even have to be facing me, so no worries there. Ha! A plan. And seventeen minutes before a piece of paper kicks out of the printer. So I bop over to TED on the iPad and scan the mix of stuff on the main page and come to… Christopher Ryan’s Are We Designed to be Sexual Omnivores?

Okay, yes it’s a great title and I was intrigued. It was pretty engaging and thought-provoking. Happy day. My last awake brain cell was being challenged. You know what happens after you watch a TEDTalk? It suggests other talks you might enjoy. You know what you can’t do when you’re trying to look busy waiting for a printer to print? Scroll through the complete list of talks. So hey, they have a suggestion, I might as well watch it.

And their suggestion? Helen Fisher’s Why We Love, Why We Cheat. After that, it was a lovely French woman explaining what kills desire in long-term relationships. The funny thing is, with her accent, she made it sound great. Are you sensing a theme? Is there something TED is trying to tell me?

All I did was keep playing their next suggestion for me. Which is how I, the romance writer and firm believer in happily-ever-afters, listened to an hour of psychologists, anthropologists and scientists tell me that humans are not meant to be monogamous, the many reasons people cheat, and what our significant other can do to be more appealing to us.

I choose to believe TED wanted me better prepared for my next relationship. Or better prepared to torture my characters. Either one works for me.

It’s that time again. When we sit down and determine everything we want to change about ourselves, promise we’re going to do it, and then…don’t. In case you missed it there, I’m not a fan of resolutions. I think it comes from working at the YMCA.

People come in on January 1, all full of I’m going to drop 40 pounds in three weeks because I watch The Biggest Loser enthusiasm, and then find out they have to work. Hard. By Valentine’s Day the majority of those folks have given up because they didn’t give themselves a realistic goal. The worst part is, if they’d just gone another two more weeks, they’d break the barrier. They’d suddenly notice they look different, their clothes fit differently and the numbers on the scale would go down. We warned them that eight weeks is the magic number. But at six weeks, they bail.

And we’re all like that. Nobody ever makes the New Year’s Resolution, This year, I’m going to be nice to myself. I’m going to take it easy. I’m not going to judge myself.

Because I don’t really believe in them, and because I never follow through with them, for several years my resolution was to learn to juggle. Which I can now sort of do. For very short periods of time.

This year, I’m ready for big changes in my life. I want big changes, to the point that I may go nuts if some of them don’t happen. For the past few years I’ve been very passive in living my life, and last fall I realized I was over that. So this year I have one of those huge, scary, never going to actually do it resolutions: become the person I want to be.

For the last few years I’ve put me last. Last as a writer because, hey, I have these kids and they need to be fed and the mortgage needs to be paid, so do everything you have to to get that done. But when I was done doing that at the end of the day, there was no time or energy left for me. Don’t get me wrong. Those things still have to happen, but I’m putting me higher on the list. I don’t think Boy or Girl Scouts is going to be happy when they hear that, but they’ll get over it.

So yes, my resolution is huge because being that person means writing more books, selling a house, potentially moving across the country, it’s serious change. But all of it is so that I can be nice to myself. And since nobody else is going to tell you this, let me: you have permission to be nice to yourself too.

Happy New Year!

We have a new computer in the house: an Apple IIc.

Our latest technological addition

Our latest technological addition

I’ll wait a moment while we all remember a time when there were no servers, and 64K was a ton of memory.

And now, because I know you’re wondering why we have this thing, here’s the story.

I was minding my own business, happily working away on my MacBook Pro with a bazillion K of memory, when Scout Son walks in to interrupt my workday.

“I found something weird in the garage.”

Since the “garage” is a 2,400 square foot barn, the possibilities are endless. I’m thinking snake, opossum or any one of the countless mice. “Um-hmm,” I say not looking up. Whatever it is, it can have the barn.

“There’s a box of games out there?”

Still not looking up. “What kind of games?” I’m thinking, there’s no Monopoly in the barn.

“I don’t know. But they say Electronic Arts on them.”

Still not looking up. Hey, don’t judge. I really wanted to get a scene in before it was derailed. “Oh. Those games. Those are from when I play-tested games for them and your grandmother worked there.”

“WHAT?!!?”

And there went the scene. It’s hard to write a love scene with a screeching thirteen year old boy in the background. “I’ve told you this.”

“No.”

“Yes. I have told you that the coffee cup in the kitchen with their logo and my name on it is from the beginning of Electronic Arts. I have told you your grandmother used to work there, and I used to play games for them.”

“But there are games in the garage. You’ve been holding out.”

“You’ve held that box in your hands before. I have not been holding out.”

“Can I play them?”

“You could try, if you had a machine that played them.”

It’s 2013. Only a teenage boy would take the time to find someone who had a IIc kicking around. Plugged in. Functional.

He’s upstairs now seeing which games survived twenty winters in the garage. And he’s happy. Sometimes I don’t understand my kids.

There are times when you need to call on a friend. Saturday, when I slipped and banged into both a wall and the refrigerator (hey, if you’re going to do it, do it right), and messed up my hand and shoulder, I called my best friend and a favorite author, Regan Black.

The timing, it turned out was perfect. I was lamenting not being able to type for a few days, and she was looking for guest blogging opportunities. Because I can lose a weekend to her storytelling, it seemed perfect. We could chat (with her doing all the heavy lifting, er typing), and you’d all get a chance to meet a fantastic writer of romantic suspense with paranormal elements.

So, grab a cup of coffee (illegal in one of her futuristic series), and join us!

Tell us about your newest book.

Bulletproof, by Regan Black

Bulletproof, by Regan Black

Bulletproof is the result of a perfect storm – a brainstorm that is – between a highly accomplished romantic suspense author and a paranormal romance author searching for some overdue direction.

From the back cover:  A soldier is nothing without his honor.

To avoid a dishonorable end to his decorated military career, John Noble made a deal with the devil. He gave up his name, endured harrowing training, and accepted every mission thrown at him for one purpose: redemption.

When he accepts his latest orders, providing personal security for a reporter in trouble, he bargains hard to guarantee it will be his last job for the shadow agency he knows only Unknown Identities.

An ambitious reporter, Amelia Bennett, is about to break the story of her career, if she lives long enough to tell it. Caving to her boss’s demand, she hires a bodyguard and soon it is obvious John Noble is the only obstacle standing between her and certain death.

Just when John believes he has found someone he can trust and love, who loves him unconditionally for who and what he has become, his orders are amended: Amelia Bennett is to be terminated.

Introducing Unknown Identities: an alternative for elite soldiers and spies facing criminal charges… if they can survive the program.

 

I’d like to say Bulletproof was something in my idea file that I knew I would write someday, but the truth is far more fun. This book, the entire new series, sprouted over the course of several ‘what if’ phone calls covering everything from plot, to character, to career with my mentor and friend, Debra Webb.

Debra: “What if… you try writing romantic suspense?”

Me: “What if… I miss the paranormal, supernatural stuff?”

Debra: “What if… you weave that in too?”

Me: “Hmm…” And then I’d run off to write.

A master storyteller, and brilliantly quick with an idea, Debra and I had a fabulous time dreaming up increasingly dire consequences for John and Amelia as Bulletproof came together. I learned so much in the process of this book and the experience of working so closely with someone as accomplished as Debra was exactly what I needed.

It’s my hope readers will feel that passion and excitement as they read Bulletproof, Double Vision, and the stories that will soon follow in the Unknown Identities series.

What motivates you to write?

The notion of two children in college is a pretty good motivator for any smart businesswoman. But well beyond the profit and loss stats, I want my children to see how consistent effort, perseverance, and dedication to a goal pays off.

What’s your next project?

Along with Bulletproof, Double Vision, and Sandman will debut at the end of October so readers can enjoy a few adventures in the Unknown Identities and really get a full escape into that world.

As readers enjoy those three UI stories, I will be working on expanding the series with a short story adventure which will be included in an anthology entitled My Evil Valentine which is set to release in February 2014.

And I’ll let you in on a secret, the fourth novel in the UI series stars an assassin referred to as End Game. His adventure will be a tough one, but I can’t wait to see where he leads me.

Will you share an excerpt of Bulletproof?

Sure! This is the first time Amelia and John are face to face:

Reclaiming her usual confidence under fire, she looked him dead in those exotic green eyes and issued a reprimand. “You’re late, Mr. Noble. Nine o’clock, that was our agreed upon meeting time.”

“I’m here now.”

Flustered that he blew off the infraction without even an apology, she placed her hand in his. His grasp was firm, his palms rougher, more calloused than she’d expected. Frankly, nothing about him was what she’d expected. He was extraordinarily good looking in a dangerous sort of way and made her uncomfortable on too many levels to analyze just now.

She gestured up the block. “I’m running behind. We’ll take my car.” She hit the clicker to unlock the car and reached for her door, but he beat her to the handle. Water slipping down his beard-shadowed jaw, he opened the door and waited as if he had all the time in the world.

Definitely odd. “Thanks.”

He gave her another of those negligible nods.

That instinct she trusted above all else railed at her to snap out of it. “Just a minute.”

She hesitated before getting into the driver’s seat and dug around in her purse. Didn’t matter that it rained steadily on them both. She pulled out her cell and snapped a photo of John Noble.

She flashed a perfunctory smile and dropped behind the steering wheel.

While he closed her door and then walked around to the opposite side, she sent the photo to her boss with a text explaining that this was the bodyguard, John Noble.

She shoved the key into the ignition and started the engine while Noble settled into the front passenger seat.

“Why did you take a picture of me?”

Amelia fastened her seatbelt and checked the street before shifting into Drive. “The truth?” Might as well see if he could take her straightforward approach.

“Preferably.”

“If I disappear and they find my body,” she eased out of the parking slot, “the authorities will have a description of you to go on.”

His attention remained fixed on the street ahead of them for endless seconds before he responded. “If I made you disappear,” he said, his tone dark and ominous, “your body would never be found.”

Thanks, Regan for stopping by. Because I like you all, and want you to ignore your families for a day like I’m ignoring mine, here are the links for Bulletproof.
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple iTunes

So, last Monday I made the last second decision to go to my 25th high school reunion. That entailed going into work that morning and begging my boss to let me take Thursday and Friday off so I could fly standby from North Carolina to San Francisco.

It also required a dress. The last time I saw any of these people was at the 10th reunion. Since I was sick, and pregnant for that one, I was not looking my best. And here’s what I learned about early reunions. You really shouldn’t go. Back at the 10, everybody talked to the friends they had in school and the cliques were still in place.

As you get older, I won’t say the cliques break down completely – these were your best friends for a good part of your youth and you want to catch up – but everyone’s more open about meeting people.

I was pretty nervous about this one. My besties from high school weren’t going, and it turns out I don’t remember who was in any of my classes from 25 years ago. I remember names and I remember faces and I even remember having some class with some of these people, but I can’t for the life of me remember what classes we were in.

At least I know I’m not alone. It’s going to take pulling out our high school transcripts for Reunion Guy and I to figure out if we were in classes together. I’ve pretty much decided no, we just shared a circle of friends. I thought he was a member of my floating morning poker game, but he was unaware I had such a thing, so apparently not.

So nerves aside, I had a fantastic time. Maybe it’s senility and none of us remember who we hung with, or maybe it’s because we all know how to do mixers now. All I know for sure is that I met a lot of really interesting people. Some I had classes with, others I really didn’t know except by sight – hey look, it’s a member of the football team (who has really nice taste in Scotch, by the way). But we’re all doing interesting things and people who barely knew I existed back then were happy to talk to me that night.

Including the guy I had a crush on in high school who asked me if I was single now. But I’ll leave that for another day…

I blame Nora Roberts.

I was looking for something new to read. At this point, I should share that I’m not a Nora Roberts fan. Sacrilege, I know. I like her as JD Robb, but normally her straight romance leaves me cold.

But Regan Black suggested I read the Bride Quartet series. So, when I was standing in the bookstore, desperate for something to read, I pinged her and said, “What Nora thing did you think I’d like?”

A week later, I’d read them all, and I wanted a wedding.
Since I’m 1) not dating anyone, 2) can’t afford a wedding like the ones in the books, and 3) am still not dating anyone, it took a while for me to figure out why I wanted a wedding.

I mean, I’ve been married. Third generation to elope in order to avoid a big wedding. And divorced. So, with no shot at a wedding on the horizon, I reread the series this time to try and figure out why I loved it.

And what I realized about those books, is they’re just as much about the amazing friendship of the four heroines as it is about falling in love. And what I really wanted was a massive party and to live on an estate with my three closest friends. We’d all have sections of the estate that were our own so we could all write, and then there’d be common areas for goofing off together in the evenings.

The problem with having good friends at least two hours away is that you don’t get those lunches and time to hang together that you’d like. On the upside, you do get to plan long weekends where you hang together, eat good food, drink good wine, and just generally relaxing.

So, while I sit here looking for a dress and planning the guest list for my fictional wedding with my friends, I hope you’re taking time to do something fun with friends as well.