Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Rain

We had planned to head to the beach today, but it began to rain and the downpour said No Dice to all that. So now I'm stuck with two 8 year olds and three teen girls (plus my girlfriend, thank God, who'll help to shoulder the burden.)

So what the hell are we going to do today?

I have a feeling we'll end up at the mall. I think that shopping is fun, although sometimes it can be over the top

But with the rain and all there are other things that seem much more important. I'd really like to watch a Miyazake movie marathon, or read A Fine Balance (great book) or work on my own formats of my three books that have to go up on Amazon in July. 

I'm halfway through the first one, so you tell me if that schedule seems reasonable at all.

I seriously need a serious workout because with the teens and the kids there have been a lot of snacks floating around and one or two of them might have found their way into my mouth.

Plus I did dishes last night (twice) and again this morning and all of a sudden it's like, woah, crockery mountain at the sink. Please explain that if you can, housekeeping gods. So I suppose what I'm saying here is that, as usual, I could use some time to clean my house.

Plus, of course I have to blog and tweet and post to facebook and read emails, but that is an ongoing Sysyphusean task. 

Could also use a good pedicure, she said as she looked at the curved talons on the ends of her feet. 

However, I think we'll end up at the mall. Well played, three teen-aged girls, well played.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's Your Talent?

None of these will get me on any show starring Howard Stern or Sharon Osbourne, but here are some things I'm good at:

I burst into flames on the beach, so I'm really good at applying self-tanner. Not to look tanned, you understand. Somewhat normal is my goal.
Self-tanner FAIL, poor dear. 

I can create a dinner for my husband from the last of the Panko breadcrumbs, that one last chicken breast, and mayo. And rosemary; for crap's sake, don't forget the rosemary!

If a surprise guest will arrive in 30 minutes, I can create the illusion of cleanliness. Just don't open the door of the closet or the Dora Tent.
Love this thing. You can shovel a lot of stuff in here.

I can extricate myself from any conversation on politics.

I can spend 200 $ on groceries and realize as I pull into the driveway that I haven't actually bought anything to eat.

I can sit through the ninetieth showing of "Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas!" and enjoy it.

I can also extricate myself from any volleyball pick up game ever.

Here are some things that I can't do:

I can't find my husband, The Great Disappearing Act, when breakfast is ready.

I can't make my kid throw away any of her stuffed animals. (Sweetie, one more round of gift giving and Daddy and I will have to sleep in the garage, ok?)

Nor can I organize my desk. My friend can move two things and all of a sudden everything is in order, but I just don't have that gene.

I cannot resist any dish made with black olives.  Ditto mushrooms.

Oh yeah. Bring it on.

Breakfast is ready (Jersey blueberries, fresh cantaloupe, and waffles) and I have to go and shout in vain for my husband.

Please, in the interim, share some talents and challenges of your own!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Reading, check in

I posted earlier about the pile of books by my bed, and this is an update:

I finished Book 1 of the Hunger Games. It was a very compelling read, even though I'm not usually a fan of books written in the present tense. Still, I will go on and read books 2 and 3.

I'm halfway through Gideon the Cutpurse. I got stalled on this one. The action is constant and I like the characters. However, Gideon himself is a bit TOO likable. I've mentioned ad nauseum that I love a flawed character, and I suppose I have a hard time believing that an 18th century thief would act in such a nice, gentlemanly manner. Still, I'll continue to work away at the book, since there are some nice images and concepts. 

The Search for Wond-La has been one of my favorite reads. Diterlizzi created a fascinating world, although he does rip off a certain famous movie at the end. (I won't mention which one, since it would be a huge spoiler.) Still, the illustrations are breath taking, I love the characters, and the action is nonstop. Be warned - there is some disturbing violence.

I couldn't help peeking into Losing Beauty. That peek drew me in and I'd read four chapters before I knew it. Still, I promised myself I'd finish Gideon before I was allowed to read Losing Beauty.

Next up: The Last Guardian by Joan Hazel
The Land of Nod, book 2 by Gary Hoover
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Sykosa by Justin Ordonez
The Veronica Roth novels - Divergent and Insurgent

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Word Bricks and Backstories

Backstory - Part One

One thing editors and reviewers love to pounce on is "back story," that section in a book that explains how things came to be that way, or why a character is where she is. "Backstory!" we shout gleefully, as we wave a manuscript under the poor, bewildered writer's nose. "Must get rid of that backstory!"

However, books do need a certain amount of explanation. Readers like to know the wheres and whys, but they don't like to read a long, text-heavy lecture that explains them. 

For example, let's say you (the reader) have just picked up a book about Rose. I (the writer) want to make you understand what Rose is all about. So I include a few paragraphs filled with many, many uses of the past participle. Bored already just reading the words past participle, aren't you, you poor reader you.

Traditional Backstory:

Rose had decided to rebuild her life after her divorce. Her first husband had left her and their children penniless, and he refused to pay child support. Whenever she had made formal requests for payment, he had tracked her down and threatened her. She remembered how he had hit her, and as he left, he had told her that the children were next.

Now, this is pretty interesting action, but it is presented in a really dry, dusty way. Several more paragraphs of this and the reader will skim forward.

More than that, if they are looking at your Kindle or Nook sample online, they might decide to move their business elsewhere.

I am convinced that backstory is necessary, and that there is a creative, vibrant way to express it. In other words, writers can excite and inform at the same time. 

Let's try a rewrite of that paragraph, but in a completely different way.

New, Improved Backstory:

Rose sat by the window. She crossed her arms and winced. The bruise was still fresh from David's last visit. 

"Mum? Can I have my allowance?" Maeve entered the room. There was a rip on the knee of the girl's jeans.

"I'm sorry, love. I just can't afford it at the present."

It hurt to admit that, but the thought of what David would to do to her and, worse, to Maeve, if he returned was more painful.

Now the writer does several things at once. She makes the reader understand Rose's desperation, and she creates a magic picture of where Rose is, what her child is like, and where they are physically. The rewrite won't win any awards, but it's much more interesting than that first word brick.

Advanced Backstory - The Second Book in a Series

As an author of a series, it's even more imperative to get information about my characters out there. Someone may pick up my second book without having read the first. I could include a long "The Story Thus Far" section, but who ever reads those?

It would be better to bring the reader onboard with a few letters, a conversation, perhaps a cat walking among a pile of photographs. That requires much more dexterity but delivers far more interest.

Don't hate on the backstory. Seize it as a chance to serve up a fascinating chunk of detail about your beloved characters to those who make your writing possible: the readers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Cure for Picky Eaters

Yesterday my post was all, Oh the magic of having a child, yadda yadda. Of course, parenthood and being a mom means putting up with some pain in the butt stuff too.

One of my biggest challenges was getting my kid to eat. I think I might have one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. When she was three, she started to reject all fruits and all vegetables. She wouldn't eat cantaloupe, apples, carrots, or watermelon.

What kid doesn't like watermelon?????

But that wasn't all. She also wouldn't eat mac 'n' cheese, hot dogs, or pizza. All the kid foods, in fact, were a No.

I used to make her two things: bacon, and buttered pasta. That was all she'd eat.
Bub's perfect meal

Here's the thing. Since I had worked so hard to get pregnant, I approached motherhood with great zeal. I made all my own babyfood. While I was pregnant, I ate every green leafy thing known to man.

So to have my daughter reject good stuff after all that was shattering, to say the least.

I blame myself: at the time, there was a dearth of baby food recipe books. The one I found suggested giving the kid "cubes of tofu" as snacks.

That didn't go well. Let's just leave it at that.
"Throw that in the trash where it belongs and bring me bacon"

There were  several things that cured my child, and here they are:

1. The wonderful playdate moms. They would invite Bub over  for dinner, and she was so excited to be on a playdate that she would eat chicken with broccoli. Thank you, wonderful playdate moms!

2. Costco *sound of celestial choir singing* When we went, it was  lunchtime and I didn't have bacon or buttered pasta handy. We rolled around the store, and as the nice ladies in hairnets handed out  samples, Bub stuck out her skinny arm and grabbed those Dixie cups  filled with new food items. And ate them. She ate Japanese noodles, clam chowder, vegetable stew that day. And she still asks for them. Thank you Costco!

3. OK, here is the risky one, and please try not to faint with horror - I still wanted her to try fresh veggies. So I offered, once I knew she was responsible enough, to teach her how to use a sharp knife to cut up peppers and cucumbers.

Best believe I hovered over her like a second skin, but as she chopped she started to sample. And she actually ate - STRIPS OF RAW RED PEPPER.

This is like a Second Coming, you  do see.
Yeah, the knife episode didn't look like this at all. Somehow pepper seeds managed to splatter every inch of kitchen.

Not only that, but ever since the playdate mom / Costco / knife combo, Bub has started to request  different things to eat: omelettes, sushi, and pasta with stuff on it that isn't butter. That is huge in Bub World.

No watermelon yet, but who knows? Maybe by the time she's nine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Magic of 8

My kid turns 8 today. 8 is a cool number, since it is the eternity symbol turned on its head. It's a thing I never thought I'd see: that is, my kid turning into a young lady. She was an IVF baby, and at one point she was a "Frosty," a frozen embryo lying in a freezer in a lab somewhere. 

When my husband and I started the IVF process, I had no clue what would happen. Things got real, fast, when I realized that IVF involved shots in the stomach (self-administered) and shots in the butt (administered by my husband.) To illustrate how awful the butt shots were, I can say in truth that the stomach pokes were a breeze. 

The first round came, and I went into the lab. I was told to drink 16 oz. of water and hold it so they could do an ultrasound if they couldn't see the embryo. I also got a valium (that was the cool part.)

Out came the turkey baster, and I had to lie on my back with my legs in the air for 30 minutes afterwards. That's when the 16 oz kicked in with a vengeance. Finally I had to beg to go and pee before my 30 minutes were up, and the doctor grudgingly allowed. 

The result : no pregnancy.

Round Two - More shots, more water, another valium, and more basting. Again, I had to beg to go and pee. Yes, my bladder is the size of a small soft fruit. 

The result : pregnancy, followed by a miscarriage five weeks later.

Round Three - This was the last batch of embryos. The lab tech told us that when they were defrosted, one egg started to grow immediately as if it couldn't wait any longer. 

And I had to do more shots, in the stomach and the butt. I now have permanent scar tissue on my heinie.

This time I didn't drink all the water, and I waited on that valium. I took it a few minutes before the basting procedure, and it kicked in quite nicely, thank you. I fell asleep on the table, and they had to wake me up to go home. That was it - all done.

A few days later, I started to dream about snow and ice. I was in a winter scene, and the light glistened off thousands of icicles and snowflakes.

Result : pregnancy.  Final result : My daughter is about to turn 8.

The funny thing is that she loves to suck on ice and eat snow. Weird, huh?

The first time I saw her heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor, it was the strangest feeling. I felt like I had been on a long voyage, and I saw a beacon that called me home. 

The Lighthouse

Lost in electronic hush, 
  Near-darkness clouds our vision
We peer, looking for something -
  Something we forgot, or
Had dreamt years ago.
  And then, a thousand miles away,
The many-structured crystal flash
  Sweeps by us, and again, and now
In steady rhythm, our comfort is
  Calling us, bringing us to land.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Pirate Crew

In celebration of Book Bloggers' Collaborative Arggghsome Contest, I've decided to become a pirate and head to the waves, trolling the seven seas for booty. I have my eyepatch, my grog, my parrot, and my hook all ready. 

Plus I have a cool ship that I'm going to call The Fluffy Underpants.

I do need a crew, though. Here are my own 'orrible lot:

1. Errol Flynn - Because nobody does Gay Blade like Errol.

2. Captain Haddock - I'm a huge Tintin fan, as I've said before, so the Captain must come along.
Anyone who can curse like this needs to be on The Fluffy Underpants.

3. The Pirates! Band of misfits looked sort of like Wallace and Gromit so I'll take them on board.

4. Oh for crying out loud, Google! ALL RIGHT!!!!!

5. We need a good pirate wench, so I've selected Geena Davis from Cutthroat Island:
6. He's nearly a cliche now, but Long John Silver is an amazing literary creation. And he was the first one to say this: 

“Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest 
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! 
Drink and the devil had done for the rest 
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” 

7. And to round out the crew, let's have Anne Bonny, the famous Irish pirate lass who is played here by Jean Peters:

If you just can't get enough pirates, do go and check out Book Bloggers Collaborative. They are running a cool Rafflecopter contest with prizes  fearsome hidden bounty to celebrate the release of A World Apart by David Brown.

Demetrius makes his first mistake when he lets his best friend Halcyon marry Eleyna, the love of his life, without saying a word. On the day of the wedding, he walks away from the Elencheran town of Dove’s Meadow and joins the army.
He makes his second mistake when the pirate Black Iris tricks him into letting dozens of men, women and children die in a fire. Demetrius is imprisoned in grief and disgrace.
But he can atone. The Black Iris is dead. The Ivory Rose has risen to the top of the pirates and is leading brutal raids on the coast. If Demetrius can capture and kill her, he’ll win his pardon.
And then Demetrius discovers the Ivory Rose is Eleyna. He must decide which will be his third mistake: losing his last chance at a pardon, or destroying the one woman he’s ever loved.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Yesterday my daughter got the best thing in the world - a huge, brown paper package from London, covered with overseas stamps. You can't tie packages up with string anymore, alas. They get caught in the newfangled Post Office machinery.

The box came from her aunt in London. There is a lot going on in the city these days. It's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (did you watch the flotilla? And the parades? And did you see Catherine's red dress?) and of course the Olympics are coming up over the summer.

We were in London this year to visit. Of course my daughter wanted to visit Harrod's, that was destination number one, and Buckingham Palace. Sorry, Your Majesty, but shopping rates over your house. As we walked past the palace two things happened:

The flag was up, meaning that the Queen was At Home.
A helicopter flew in and landed. And I just know it was Prince Harry, aka Charming, Handsome, Heroic Prince.

And here's what happened in Harrods:

Shopping, duh.
Tea in the children's tea room, complete with chalkboards and a treehouse and yummy organic food.

Are you wondering what was in the package? My daughter had it ripped open by this time. Inside were loads of "pressies," including:

A teddy bear commemorating the Diamond jubilee
Chocolates shaped like crowns, ditto
An eggcup, ditto
A mug and a spoon, ditto
A tin of shortbread
T shirt with a sequin dog that says "We Are Not Amused" (our new favorite shirt)
A book of puzzles about the Olympic Games
Olympic chocolates
ANOTHER T shirt for the Olympic Games in London

Isn't that just beyond thrilling? Doesn't she have the best auntie ever? How on earth will we convey our thanks to London for all the gorgeous things?

If you have any ideas, leave them here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Creating a Zombie Cover: Guest Post by Rachel Tsoumbakos

This post is by Rachel Tsoumbakos, the author of Emeline and the Mutants, and The Ring of Lost Souls.  It originally appeared on the Cabin Goddess blog as part of Zombie week.

My kids are eleven and eight. For them, a normal day is to come home and find their own mother elbow deep in blood splatters. Such is the woes when mum is an author of the post-apocalyptic zombie novel, Emeline and the Mutants (insert Amazon link here). Sometimes their input is endearing: "Mummy, that's looks great!" Other times disturbing: "Can I have a go at smearing the blood?" But, all in all, it is something they no longer bat an eyelid at.
Rachel, in a non-bloody moment

So, how does one go about creating a bloody cover for a book? It sounds simple enough. Red paint + handprint = cover. Right? No, wrong. The bloody handprint wasn't the first idea. It wasn't even the first cover Emeline and the Mutants ever wore.

The very first cover involved blood spatter too, but it wasn't my own, so it had to go. Now being the handy (excuse the pun) sort of person I am, I decided cover art is something I could do. And certainly, I did produce a cover, but it was a long hard journey for a novice.

First, blood red is not a colour my local art supplies store stocked. You'd think it was a common shade of red, but according to the creeped-out look on the assistant's face, it's not. Instead I bought several tubes of paint in an attempt to mix my own. The first batch was pretty good too- until it dried. It went from shiny, vibrant, life-giving red to a darker shade of Uluru in about three hours.

This led me to the conclusion that I needed to photograph as I went or find another way to make the red stay the right colour. I decided to take photos, but first I had to property design the background newsprint. Is it just me or does everyone who is cutting and pasting newspaper look over their shoulder constantly and feel the need to have a hostage to complete the task? It's probably just me, yeah? Thought so.

So, with the background suitably newspapery, it was time to start with the blood. I mixed up my blood red and painted my hand. With it poised and really above my masterpiece, I suddenly had the brilliant idea to add PVA glue to the paint. Perhaps this would make it shinier. Not to mention more globular when I started the splattering phase of my artwork.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to wash acrylic paint off your hand? Neither did I. Having to explain 'blood' under my fingernails at school pick-up was a real challenge also. With a (mostly) cleaned hand, I added the glue. Then some more red followed by a smidge more black paint since the PVA lightened the colour quite significantly. But it was an instant improvement. Not only did the paint take longer to dry and stayed shinier and lighter, but it didn't dry on my hand as quickly.

Take two of my bloody handprint turned out to be a great success, or so I thought. The image was clear on the paper and the colour was fantastic. One look at it by my critics (read: my children) and the general announcement was that it was boring. Boring? How could a bloody mess on a piece of paper be mundane? I quizzed my kids further. Turns out, they just wanted to see more blood and a smearier image. Once again, I wasn't sure if I should be proud or disturbed at their comments.
There is much fun to be had in blood spattering, let me tell you. Not only do you have to don old clothes, but you need to cover your entire dining room with newspaper. You may be planning to hit just one small piece of artwork with paint, but the reality is that even the roof is within firing line!
Now, it seems to take a certain amount of maniacal glee to create the right spattering effect in blood. Light flicking aimed at the exact spot you expect it to land results in nothing more than a pinprick or two of colour and one big ugly blob. The trick is to really get your arm back over your head and fling your implement (in my case an old chopstick) like you are intending to cause injury. This level of intensity creates a splatter pattern akin to repeatedly stabbing someone you no longer like. Great viscous strands of bloody carnage result, the likes of which you can see in the image of my current book cover of Emeline and the Mutants.

Rachel Tsoumbakos is a stay home mother of two. Her main passions are writing, reading and organic gardening. Rachel lives with her husband, two kids, three cats and seven chickens in suburban Melbourne, Australia. While she has had several articles published through mainstream magazines, she has also written extensively for Suite 101 and True Blood Net.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I wish my child didn't spray toothpaste in such a wide splatter arc when she spits. If there was ever a CSI investigation in her bathroom, they'd think a serial killer worked that room.

I wish that I didn't find the audiobook for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw quite so funny. What does that say about me when I laugh out loud at jokes that are based on Cheese Touch and boogers?

I wish that the rate of growth for the hair on my legs and underarms and the hair on my head could be exchanged. One set of locks is long and luxurious, the other small and stubby. It's just the wrong way round.

I wish that the Easter Candy wasn't still hanging around in June.

I wish that someone could switch the flavors for creme brulee and celery sticks. That would be great. Thanks!

I wish that my credit card bill wasn't so large, but if we can't do anything about that now, then I wish that the money had been spent on new clothes, pedicures, and massages, instead of on termite treatments and a tire rotation.

I know I have a lot of wishes about my kid, but there's a lot going on with that child. I wish, for example, that she didn't feel the need to save every scrap of paper, including clothes tags and math worksheets. I'm ready to call Hoarders.

While I'm on that topic, I also wish that she didn't have quite so many stuffed animals. One more birthday, and my husband and I will have to sleep in the garage.

I wish all claw machines would go back to the fiery pit of hell where they were spawned.

I wish Clive Owens lived next door, but that's another story.

I wish Hub didn't bring home his travel mug with a cold, wet teabag inside it every night. 

I also wish he put all dirty socks in the hamper. There is one on the floor of the closet right now, guaranteed. ONE sock means that its mate made it into the big time; couldn't the effort be extended?

I'm certain that you have much better wishes than I have. Please feel free to leave a few in the comments section.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Favorite Foodie Blogs

I love food blogs. I subscribe to most of them by email, so when I come down in the morning and pop open the lap top, BLAM! There are recipes for mojito cupcakes, and chicken fajitas, and Irish Cream Milkshakes right there.

The best food blogs are fun by entertaining people who serve up a bit of chat (what my Irish mother would have called "Grand Crack") along with the goodies. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Confessions of a Cookbook Queen - Last year I made my daughter Butterbeer Cupcakes, right from this site (complete with little Harry Potter brooms. Are you impressed?) But there are tons more yummies, including these mile-high Chocolate Cookie and Cream cupcakes. They're a good contender for this year's birthday. Kristan, the site's author and cook, makes me chuckle every morning and if I don't have a post from her I'm sad.

2. Another cool baker's blog is Brown Eyed Baker. She did the Mojito cupcakes up there.

3. Cabin Goddess - Sure, it's cool that I made Butterbeer cupcakes and all, but I am not baking in a dry cabin in the Alaskan tundra. Kriss, who runs Cabin Goddess, does exactly that, and she achieves a high level of fun and humor and deliciousness at the same time. Who else would feature a Zombie dessert? And obviously, anyone with the first four letters K-R-I-S in their name has to be a great cook; must be some sort of foodie law. Plues, the Cabin Goddess also dishes book reviews and chats about the Manbeast and the Hairy Eyeball. What's not to like?

4. chocolate & carrots - For the healthy cooks out there, and for organic expectant mothers, this site is like a digital Moveable Feast for all senses. Caroline, the blogger-cook, has designed a deceptively simple site loaded with deliciousness. I'll never be pregnant again, but I do want to make this Cauliflower Pizza.

5. I just started following eat real, and all because of these vanilla waffles with lemon cream. Sandy has a nice, long archive of delicious recipes. Some are exotic, but she includes loads of basics along with them.

6. That's What We Said - This isn't strictly a food blog, since they dish about Real Housewives, Whatta Man, and the Batchelorette. I can deal, though, since they have Friday cocktails and weekly meal plans.

There are many, many more food blogs out blogs out there, but I'm picky - I want a fun column as well as  cool recipes to try. These blogs serve all that and more.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Last Guardian, by Joan Hazel

Joan Hazel's book, The Last Guardian, is on my reading list this summer. I can't wait to read a story about a group of shapeshifters.
But there's more than that - there's Mika, see. Ever since I learned about Joan's book, I've been drooling over her character. He's not just Mika, he's My Mika. Why you ask? I'll show you why:

OK! So now that we understand that whole concept, Joan has been kind enough to allow me to host an excerpt from The Last Guardian. And as a special treat, she has featured a steamy scene with CJ and with My Mika.
cover for The Last Guardian

"Do you not know me?" Mika spoke directly to her, yet continued to stare out into the middle of the lake. There was sadness in his voice, and CJ was unsure if the sadness belonged to her or to something else.
Did she know the man at her side? Her heart said yes, but her mind said no. Without shame or guilt, CJ stared at her companion.
He was taller than she by maybe four inches, no more. The earrings he wore were made from real feathers, wrapped with silver wire. The one closest to her swayed gently from the beating of his heart. Her gaze followed the long length of his braids to where they ended slightly above his belt.
The sleeves of the scarlet shirt he wore were rolled up exposing his forearms. Try as she might, CJ could not stop the woman in her from wondering if the skin beneath his shirt was the same deep sun-kissed color as the part she saw.
A laugh, deep and masculine, echoed across the lake. She would have thought it her imagination, had the sound not been followed by the plopping of frogs as they scattered into the water in surprise.
CJ's lifted her gaze to Mika's face. Still he stared ahead, unwavering. "Are you going to answer me?" she asked.
"The answer is yes," he said.
"Excuse me?"
"Yes, my skin is the same color all over."
"I did not mean…How did you…"
"I have been inside your mind since you were a child. It is easy for me to slip in and out of your thoughts without your notice."
The author, Joan Hazel

CJ grunted and crossed her arms over her chest in defiance.
"Forgive me. I did not mean to embarrass you," he whispered.
"You didn't. I, uh…" Okay, she thought. I am embarrassed. Dang it! "You still did not answer my original question," she said trying to change the subject.
"Does that mean you have finished taking inventory?" he asked with a hint of male smugness.
CJ blushed, but felt no true remorse. "You asked if I did not know you. I was only checking to see if I recognized you. Which, I am sorry to say I did not."
"Very well," he said, facing her.
Though there was little emotion in his voice, his eyes held a pain and longing CJ did not understand, yet felt compelled to erase.
Mika took her hand in his and placed it over his heart. Her pulse quickened at his touch.
"What…uh…what are you...?" she stammered.
"Do not speak, Charlie Jean," he said. "Only trust."
CJ peered deep into his caramel eyes. Gold flecks twinkled and danced in a way that was mesmerizing. If he asked her to walk on a bed of hot coals at this moment, she would do it for him.
"Close your eyes," he requested as he brought up his other hand to cover her eyelids with his palm.
If any other man had tried to touch her in such a way, CJ would have pulled away, but she ignored her mind's protests and did as he asked. With eyes closed, CJ allowed Mika to guide her wherever he wished.
"I need to know that you trust me, Wicahpi. Truly trust me."
CJ nodded her obedience. "I do," she whispered. "I don't know why, but I do." Even with her eyes closed, she knew her statement had made him smile, and that made her happy.
"This is real CJ. I am real. I need you to open your mind," he instructed her. "Open you mind and your heart. Allow them to guide you to our Mother. She gives us all the answers. It is our job to know how to receive them."
Time held no influence over the events that were taking place. For CJ it seemed to be both an eternity and mere seconds. The heat of Mika's body radiated though his shirt to penetrate into her hand, and the rhythm of his heart pulsed strong and steady through her fingertips and into her body.
"Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear my heart beat?
"Yes," she whispered.
"As my heart beats, so does that of every living thing upon the Earth. Every creature. Every plant. Even the water. Can you hear those?"
Timidly, CJ opened her heart and her senses to the world about her. She heard the breeze as it whispered through the pines and recognized the songs of the different birds that sang along its branches.
The world around her buzzed and thrummed. Each sound blended with the next to create a symphony that played in time to the beat of Mika's heart.
"You feel it. Don't you?" Mika asked.
"I feel it, but—but what is it?"
"Connection," he explained. "Connection to the Universe and all she has to offer you.”
Oh, let's just have one more look at Mika, shall we?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Maytag Woman

Our washing machine is broken. It's really, really broken, as in: the circuit board is fried. Good news, though; I married an engineer, so he can fix it!
Hurray! It's an engineer!

Except he can't. No one sells parts. When he called the local appliance store for a new circuit board, they laughed at him and told him to buy a new machine.

Now my husband, when he gets on a mission, is a bulldog. He just won't give up. He scoured heaven and earth (google) to find those parts.
any excuse to add a photo of a dog

And Lo! They will arrive on our doorstep this week, and he can fix the washer.

Here's the thing, though. I am DROWNING in laundry right now. We had just come back from a trip to the beach before the breakdown. Trips to the beach mean dirtying huge, heavy things, like beach towels. They tower in great dirty piles all over my house.

Plus, I'm doling out clean socks like a miser. And pajamas. ("Wear them another night, you're too young to sweat yet.")

I never realized how much I loved my washing machine until I didn't have it any more. I'm ready to grab those towels and socks and head out for a river and two flat rocks.

Oh, don't laugh at me, Mr. Maytag! I'm down to wearing those old pants, not that I was ever a fashion plate anyway, and the T-shirt that I wore to paint my mom's house. The shirt is black, the paint was white - you do the math.

So please, reading public, please cross your fingers for me that those parts arrive in the mail today. And give your own washing machine a pat from me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cover Reveal - Heart Waves

Danielle Sibarium is the author of For Always, a popular YA romance novel. She's known for her great characters and authentic settings. So when I heard that her next book, Heart Waves, was set at the Jersey Shore, I was really excited to have her write a guest blog about her book and the beach. She also agreed to do a cover reveal, and here it is:

Thank you so much Alison, for having me here today. It is both a pleasure and honor to be a guest on your blog!

There was always a part of me that loved the Jersey Shore. As a young child living in Brooklyn, nothing would fill me with more excitement than my father announcing we were going to spend the day at Seaside Heights. And it would be the entire day. We’d start our trek early, taking the forever long drive down the Garden State Parkway. Once we arrived, we spend the next hour or two searching for a parking spot. Okay, it wasn’t that long, but at eight, it felt like it.

We’d hit the beach, bake in the sun for a bit, cool off in the water, and then the fun would begin, at least my fun. After hours of anticipation we’d start to explore the boardwalk, rides, games, food; a never-ending world of awe and wonder. During my sweet sixteen party, my father told me he bought a summer house in Point Pleasant. No it wasn’t my birthday gift. And the house wasn’t a summer type of house. It was a beautiful house on the Inter Coastal Canal in a cosy year round neighborhood.

 For the next decade my family and I shared special memories I will cherish for the rest of my life at my father’s house in Point Pleasant. Not just my immediate family, but my extended family and friends as well. We’d gather together, sometimes twenty or thirty of us, for the weekend. Ridiculous races with floats and noodles in the pool, volleyball games and evenings at the boardwalk only touch the surface of good times we shared. This was my favorite place to be.  And just happens to be where Jenna Kingsley (the main character of Heart Waves) lives.

I never really thought about where Heart Waves would take place, it just naturally unfolded in my father’s community, looking out toward the Loveland Bridge. Many summer nights, I’d walk to the little community beach and talk to a friend while sitting on the swings. This became Jenna’s sanctuary. And how can I write a book about living here and leave out the most popular attraction of all, Jenkinson’s Boardwalk? One of the scenes I had the most fun writing was the boardwalk scene where Jenna unexpectedly is left alone and sees Reece with another girl.

For those of you who live in this part of New Jersey, I hope I’ve done justice to the wonderful community you embody. For those of you who don’t live here, I hope you get a taste of what it’s really like to live at the real Jersey Shore. 

Follow Danielle on Twitter!/Sibarium
Like the Heart Waves Facebook page!/heartwavesbook

Purchase on Amazon

Thanks so much for visiting, Danielle! I hope to entice you back soon.