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 do 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 no 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.

Yes, it’s summer. Yes, I have a new day job. And yes, I have been ignoring you all completely. Sorry about that. To be fair, I doubt you want to hear about how much fun I’m having going to work early, working through lunch and staying late. Then I come home and work on freelance stuff.

See? I told you it wasn’t fun. Actually, I like the job a lot, so it’s not bad, but it’s keeping me from the blog and the book. But last week, a wonderful thing happened. It turns out, we’re supposed to have 9 paid holidays, but somehow we missed one this year. So someone at work suggested earlier this year that we get Thursday and Friday off for the 4th. A moment of brilliance there, let me tell you.

So I took my first vacation in forever. Sure, I bop on down to South Carolina regularly and hang with Regan Black. But it’s always a crap shoot as to whether or not we’ll actually leave her house.  Because we’re, you know, really. exciting. writers.

At the news that I could have four days off in a row, I made plans. Snarky Daughter and I took off for the beach on Wednesday night after she got off work. Which means we got to the coast at 1am. For those wondering, Scout Son was at Scout Camp learning to sail. We do not pity him, although he remains jealous.

Now, here’s where it got sinful… because driving 9 hours round trip for 36 hours at the beach wasn’t sinful enough. We went out to the beach and read. Books. We ignored phones, email, wheat-free dining and life in general. Snarky Daughter and I both read two books while we were down there.

Heaven with a hint of sunburn. Took several hundred photos, but haven’t downloaded them yet, so just trust me when I say that Beaufort, North Carolina is wonderfully relaxing. Parts of it were also the inspiration for the town of Blakely in The Heiress and Her Fake Fiance.

I’ve been home for five days now. Is it too soon to go back on vacation? This time I’ll work on the book. I promise!

Scout Son’s birthday is just around the corner… the day after mine. Gifts are always appreciated. By both of us.

Being that the big day is coming, that gave me the perfect excuse to waste boatloads of time on thinkgeek.com. If you haven’t heard of this site, but you know what a tardis, x-wing fighter or firefly is, you have to go visit.

A few years ago, I got Scout Son a t-shirt with the schematics for the Trojan Rabbit. Again, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m really surprised you’re here, but since you are here, you must have a sense of humor, so go watch Monty Python’s Holy Grail. OMG.

Anyway, I got him the t-shirt, which he fell in love with and wore to school once. Seems the majority of kids in his seventh grade class had no idea what the shirt was talking about. Go figure. And, wanting to fit in, he never wore it to school again.

But now he’s been accepted into what his sister fondly refers to as “Geek School.” At Geek School (she goes there too) he will be revered for wearing the shirt. And so, with a BOGO going on for t-shirts, I headed over to thinkgeek and cruised through all 419 shirts. Twice.

I laughed out loud at many and shared them with my family. Yes, this is considered quality family time at our house, because We. Are. Geeks. Yes, I had to explain some of the shirts, and no, I would not wear most of them out in public because I am a closet geek. I go out of my way to hide it. Also, while I understand the humor in this shirt instantly, I don’t know binary, so I shouldn’t wear it.

 binarypeople

 

 

f297_airspeedvelocity

 

Extra points for anyone who immediately responded “African or European?”

 

But this is my personal favorite.

ea7d_book_better

 

After all that searching, I finally have the shirts narrowed down to a favorite for each of us. Might just have to go through the selection one more time… or I could go visit some of the other sections of the site.

So, I got a day job, and I had a schedule going. Get up, write a book, work out, go to work, come home, fall into a coma. Working from home you forget how tiring work actually is. At home, I could take a nap in the middle of the day and claim I was on a conference call when I blew off email for a few hours, but once you go into an office, that’s over.

Funny thing. I thought I had the schedule all worked out and things were trucking along. The kids were getting fed, the animals were pissed (but in a house full of three cats, when are the animals not pissed), all was normal. Except… you know what I forgot about scheduling?

Blogs. Reading them. Writing them. All of it. Oops. You guys and my Lynda.com classes fell off the list entirely. And do not even remind me of the Italian I was trying to learn. Dios mio!

And then there were those infamous words, “Do NOT download Triple Town. It will suck your days away.” Anyone want to guess what three out of four people in my house now do with expendable time? Thank you, Regan Black.

And while we’re on the subject of losing track of time and Regan Black, have you read her stuff? Have you? I’m telling you, she’s the best undiscovered paranormal writer out there right now. No, I do not make a profit if you go look her up on Amazon, and yes, you should still go do it. Like elves and stuff? Think Kresley Cole only lighter. Yeah, she does that. Want darker futuristic? No problem, she does that too. She’s why I don’t write paranormal, so if you’re looking for something to read this weekend, and are going to be stuck inside because Tropical Storm Amanda/Amelia/Something with an A is coming, go pick up her books.

They’re way better than Triple Town and those damn evil Pandas!

OK, no we didn’t. We talked about it because Regan Black’s cats keep hiding stuff under there. But we didn’t really have a second bucket… or motivation. If the cats are dumb enough to put their toys under the fridge, they don’t really need them.

The Hip and Edgy Writer's Group

The Hip and Edgy Writer’s Group

For all of you currently scratching your heads, it’s Writer’s Weekend. That wonderful weekend when I get together with my best friends and we talk writing, and eat and drink, and get caught up on everything, and eat and drink, and cackle and spew coffee on the laptops, and eat and drink, and you get the idea.

These women don’t freak out when they find out I’ve never done a tequila shot. The give me a silent look of “what rock did you crawl out from under,” grab a lime and another shot glass and that’s that.

I’m fairly sure this is what sorority sisters do when they get together. Maybe not. We talk A. Lot. about writing. We talk about our characters as if they’re real people, we lust after Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and a bunch of other hot men, and we all eat things we shouldn’t. For me, that’s pretty much every food on the planet, including the two donuts I had for breakfast.

Leave me alone. If you can’t have Iron Man for breakfast, donuts are a close second.

This morning I got up and Regan looked at me and said, “When are you giving up the fight and walking on the beach. You know you’ll feel better.” Which is just one of the many reasons I love these women. They get me.

Normally, I don’t fight the call of the beach. But it’s Memorial. Day. Weekend. And the beach is 30 minutes away. So going to the beach is a production. Unless it’s 8:15 am. Then it’s really easy to park in the parking meter area, walk the beach for an hour and leave before you have a sunburn and when everyone on the beach is still happy.

Isle of Palms before the crowds hit

Isle of Palms before the crowds hit

Anyway, she was right. I walked on the beach and now it’s all good. When I win the lottery, you’ll find me living on the South Carolina coast. With three other writers and a large company of imaginary friends, er, characters.

And I get to stay for another whole day. That’s one more potential walk on the beach before I have to go back to reality.