A Sinful 4th

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!


And on the Second Bucket of Margaritas, We Moved the Refrigerator.

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.


Summer Vacation Should be Mandatory

Summer vacation. Remember that one?

Snarky Daughter started it before Memorial Day. Scout Son’s last day in seventh grade is Friday.

I’d forgotten how awesome summer vacation was. Until my contract ended in March. I’ve now been on summer vacation for going on three months. I’d like to tell you all it sucks. I mean money is tighter than tight, and while I dream of the beach, I can’t afford it, no matter how I run the numbers. Although I’m running to the store later for a lottery ticket, just in case I can win my way out of my financial crisis.

But, even with that hanging over my head, it’s still a great time of year to be off the clock. I walk every morning and listen to the birds. OK, I listen to some crazy woman from Prevention’s Walk Off Weight program telling me to walk faster, but that’s only in one ear. The other ear listens to the hawk overhead and prays he hasn’t figured out I have chickens in the yard. So far, so good.

I get to garden for a while each day instead of cramming it all into Saturday. And I get to play with my kids. Tomorrow I’m headed to the zoo with Girl Scouts. When Scout Son gets out, I can’t wait to play volleyball and badminton with him. I’m caught up on Boy Scout merit badges and rank advancements and both kids’ sashes are up to date. Shocking, I know.

But I’ve pretty much decided that everyone needs at least a month of summer vacation each year because of all the stuff you can cross of your To Do list. I’ve painted, cleaned, sorted, cleaned, stripped wallpaper, cleaned… you get the idea. Closets that I’ve been meaning to get to for years are straightened out. I’ve picked up knitting Snarky Daughter’s blanket since she dropped it two rows in two years ago.

In case you missed it, I’m also a lot happier since I’ve been on vacation. I’m more rested and exercising more, which always puts me in a better mental place. And that’s the real reason we all need summer vacation. To go play in the kiddie pool, relax and remember why fun is important and how much fun family is.

Enjoy your evening. I’m headed into the living room to battle my kids in a Super Monkey Ball race.


I Will Survive

It’s normal for writers to hear voices. Usually they’re the voices of my characters. And I’ll admit those voices are always there. But I knew I needed to go to the beach when I not only couldn’t hear my characters’ voices, I couldn’t hear my own because the voices I care about were being drowned out by others.

Let’s see, there was Little Miss You Can’t Go Out to Dinner Alone or People Will Talk. Now I can ignore her for some places like Taco Bell and the local diner, but I was having a really hard time ignoring her to go to the Sea Captain’s House Restaurant. Which was really ticking me off because what the chef there can do to a filet is amazing. It took about five hours for me to decide that I really didn’t care what people would think.

I did go early, partly so that I wouldn’t take up a table on date night, but mostly because I skipped lunch and wanted to get back to the hotel and a bottle of wine. The chick who told me to stay and have dessert? She can stay. Dessert Chick force fed the bitchy voice who keeps telling me You’re Not Attractive and You Have Fat Thighs, and she seems a lot happier now. She’s wrong on the first point and right on the second and when she has some good suggestions for working out that my body will tolerate, she can raise her hand and I’m willing to call on her.

You’re a Hack, Go Get a Real Job. When she’s not suggesting I get a real job, she’s suggesting I write real books. Um, I have a day job to take care of my family. It’s not glamorous, so if a million of you want to go out and buy my book for $.99 over the next couple of months, I’ll be happy to quit it and write full time. But until then, the day job stays, thank you. And as for books, mine have words and tell a story. The have a beginning, a middle and an end. There are character arcs, plot points and snappy dialog. I think they are real, thanks. So they stay.

You Can’t/Shouldn’t/Nice Girls Don’t…I could go on, but let’s be real. You know these voices. It took two days, but I kicked each one of them into the ocean. And slowly, as I got rid of each voice, I’d hear a little bit more of my own. You’d think as I got rid of all the opinions of others, that really don’t matter anyway, my voice would have gotten louder, but it hasn’t. She’s not screaming out for attention.

I think maybe she’s enjoying the peace. I was worried for a while I’d kicked her into the ocean too, but she’s made her presence known over the last few days. Oddly enough, she isn’t sharing her thoughts or feelings. Besides writing and spending time with some close friends and family, I can’t tell you what I like to do. That voice and I are going to have to try some new things and figure it out.

And I will. Because since I kicked all the other girls out, I’ve heard Gloria Gaynor singing…

At first I was afraid.

I was petrified.

Kept thinking I could never live without by my side.

But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong.

And I grew strong

I learned how to get along…

It’s quiet here now that all those opinionated voices aren’t living with me. Except for the singing. Hopefully the characters will start talking soon. Until then, I suppose there are worse theme songs…


A Blog a Day

This weekend I went to the beach to write. It was supposed to be a weekend filled with lots of plotting and writing and a little bit of personal introspection. (Is there any other kind of introspection?) What I got was a ton of introspection and a little bit of writing. On the upside, all the walking and introspection meant I didn’t gain any weight, and given what I was eating and drinking, that’s a miracle in itself.

In the middle of all the fun emotional stuff I put myself through, I realized the blog isn’t working. Now, for the three of you who read this regularly, that’s not news. A quick look at post dates will tell you that I’m not doing this on any regular schedule. The problem has been I didn’t have a theme for this thing.

Do I write about writing? Hmm, probably not. Writers read writing blogs, but we don’t usually support the blog authors by buying their books. There are lots of reasons for that which I’m not going to get into. So while readers do enjoy learning some of how we get the words on the page (lots of banging head against walls and drinking tequila), you don’t want to read about it every day.

And there’s a limit to how many bits of trivia I can concoct about a fictional town and the people who live there. Do you really want to know the name of the puppy Matt and Jess get six months after The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé ends? Not really, which is good, because until I typed that sentence, I didn’t know they had one.

I liked the daily journal idea. I know I’m supposed to be writing in one, but let’s be real. Write words that pay or write in a journal. Which one would you choose? But writing some form of a journal here, that talks about the adventures of motherhood, writing, finding myself and maybe falling in love? Well, who wouldn’t want to read that?

OK, so two men popped into my head immediately, and to them I say, you probably don’t want to read my blog. Like I said, there was a lot of personal growth at the beach and the one thing I figured out is this: I don’t know who I am.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to please my mother, my ex-husband, my kids, my community… The list goes on. Nowhere on that list was me. That changes today. With this blog.

I’d like to say that I’m going to write here every day (we’ll see what happens). Lucy March did it after she got divorced on her A Year and Change blog. I discovered it recently while cruising the new blog she’s doing with Jenny Crusie and Anne Stewart, who are also taking this year to reFab themselves.

And now, so am I. So fasten your seatbelts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Changes is Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

So, I realized something this morning after a long walk on the beach snapping over 100 pictures of the sunrise. No, I don’t know why I had to take so many, and since I forgot the cable to download them, I’m not going to know which six are any good until I get home. Ah, the mystery!

OK, I realized two things.

#1 God meant for me to live at the beach. I thought I needed to live between the beach and the mountains so I could have a choice. Screw that. I’m meant to be here. This is where I run whenever life gets me down. Luckily, life tends to get me down in the winter when the rates are good and the cold breeze reminds me of Northern California, so it’s not a huge hit to my wallet, and I get to stay in nice places with great beds.

#2 You can’t be a writer and stop reading. You have to make time for both.

That’s hard to do. Between the day job, the writing I haven’t been focused on (hence the trip to the beach), feeding the kids, running errands, cleaning… well, you get the idea. During the week, I spend 11 hours a day either at the day job or commuting to/from it. By the time I get home, feed the kids and hear about their days, and do physical therapy (for a few seconds of stupidity on a ladder), I have, at best, 2 hours to pay bills, check email, write, work out…. And weekends are spent with at least one full day of errands that couldn’t get done during the week.

But reading has to be in there too. Turns out, that’s part of the job requirements of a writer. But lately, I haven’t been filling the creative well. I haven’t been reading blogs, books, or anything more than the headlines on CNN.com. Small wonder my creativity has dried up.

So part of my “home” work this weekend, you know, at the beach, is to find blogs worth reading, and catch up with some authors who always make me laugh. Jenny Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, don’t fail me now!

Who are the favorite blog and book authors you turn to when you have to escape?