A dinner to die for?

Went out to eat last night and saw this lovely mermaid artwork on the wall (below) As a horror movie junkie, I’m of course immediately reminded of Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” and that iconic scene (also below ) where one of the characters’ dead body is made into a grisly mer-themed sculpture. To top things off, “Brick House,” the song Zombie used in the scene where this particular character was sliced and diced later played on the in-house Muzak while we were eating. Too freaky!

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The Nutshell

So my Book Tour celebrating the release of Dark Vengeance Part 2 kicks off this week, and I’ve been busy in the meanwhile completing interview forms, guest blogs and more. In the midst of all this me-time, I accidentally completed an entire interview from my own perspective, when it was supposed to be a character interview. While I redid it from Lina, my heroine’s point of view (and you’ll be able to read it soon on Eclipse Book Reviews!), I also saved my original responses. I’m sharing them here as part of the official Book Tour kick off! 

Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?

I think my best quality is that I’m good at time management. Writing is a time-consuming business in and of itself, but I also have two school-aged children and work as a registered nurse.  I also work as a freelance copyeditor, so I have a lot of different hats to juggle at any given time. I try to dedicate myself to one project at a time when I’m writing, so that I can give that story and characters my full attention and energy. I feel like my readers deserve that!

My worst quality is probably that I’ll let myself get stretched too thin by adding “just one more item” to my already really full list of things-to-do. In the last year, especially, I’ve worked hard to better recognize this tendency within myself, and to give myself permission to say no sometimes. It’s really helped to reduce stress in my life that can come about when I have too much on my plate.

What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?

I try to find the good in things, the positive side, the proverbial silver lining. I believe in second chances—both in giving and receiving them—and truly feel like there’s no such thing as “black and white” when it comes to personalities. This is true for both real life, and with the characters I write. Even when I create a complete wreck of a villain—someone who doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever—I try to figure out what makes them tick, what has happened in their lives to make them feel and act that way.

What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?

Even though I live in the city, I have a secret yearning to be a country girl, to just move out onto a farm and have horses and chickens and cattle and dogs. I want a big, old, rambling farm house out in the middle of nowhere with a wrap-around porch from which I can look out and admire the stars at night. I miss the stars, living in a city. So yeah, I’d like to be a country girl. Either that or a beach bum.

What are you most afraid of?

Spiders. Without a doubt.

What do you want more than anything?

To be happy. My definition of what this entails changes from week to week, it seems like, ha ha. But overall, I think to be happy, I need to accept that what I have accomplished, what I have, is good, plentiful. I need to remember to stop and enjoy the moment, and not worry about the future, fret over the past. I need to celebrate the successes of others without feeling like it somehow makes me less by comparison.

What is your relationship status?

I’ve been married to my own personal Prince Charming since 2001. We have two kids, a big dog, three cats, and a rabbit. Sometimes we still enjoy a date night at a restaurant without a kids’ menu.

How would you describe your sense of fashion?

In a word: lacking. I’ve never had a keen eye for fashion. My seven-year-old daughter does, however. I don’t know where she gets it from. She’ll put together the cutest little colorful outfits for herself, strike all kinds of sassy poses—she’s definitely a pint-sized fashion plate. Me—I’m in a T-shirt and sweat pants, no make-up, my hair up in a clip. Or worse.

How much of a rebel are you?

I don’t know if I’m a rebel as much as I’ve just always seemed to wind up marching to the beat of my own little drummer. I very seldom actively rebel. Quite the opposite, in fact. I don’t like conflict, so I try hard to smooth over potential such situations whenever they arise. I’m a people person, and I like making friends, but I’ve never really felt the urge to conform to whatever makes a clique of people mesh in order to fit in. I’m just myself, idiosyncrasies and all, and if people like me, that’s terrific. If they don’t, I might try a little harder, or I might just figure ‘screw them.’ It usually depends on how much caffeine I’ve had.

What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?

My kids. Without a doubt.

What is your idea of happiness?

See above.

What is your current state of mind?

Exasperated because my kids are arguing over who is going to pick up stuffed animals off the floor in my son’s room. And my son is teasing my daughter because the rabbit is in his room. And my daughter is refrigerator-surfing, saying she’s hungry. And I’m trying to finish this interview. Life as usual around here.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring. My husband and I bought them from a Celtic store here in Louisville, and they were ordered directly from Ireland. The design is that of a Celtic knot, and because the interlocking lines can never be broken (just like true love), the rings had to be custom-made to fit each of us, instead of sized.

And my kids. And probably my computer and iPhone, since I can’t seem to live without them anymore.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I have a very quirky sense of humor that usually endears me to people. Either that or they give me an odd look and move away from me very slowly.

What is it that you, most dislike?

People who lie. And spiders.

Which living person do you, most despise?

I don’t think I despise anyone. (See previous note about believing there’s something inherently good in everyone, even people who seem completely irredeemable.) However, I do dislike and even despise the choices that other people sometimes make, and the actions that come about as the result of these choices. I could probably name some conservative pundit-type figures in response to this, given I’m a liberal at heart, but honestly, in my work as an RN, I’ve seen people who make me feel more immediately angry or disheartened by their choices. For example, the twenty-something year-old kids who have ruined their hearts by doing drugs, and have to have repeated open heart surgical procedures to try and correct the damage—only for them to go out, shoot up some more, and screw their hearts up all over again. I despise that. When patients fake symptoms so they can bog down the healthcare system in order to get pain medication so they can get high—and in turn, take healthcare workers away from other patients who have genuine medical needs…I despise that. But I don’t despise the patients who have made those choices; I try to give the benefit of the doubt. And I try to care for them—and about them—anyway, even if I know nothing I say or do will change them, because chances are, they don’t have anyone else who will.

What is your greatest regret?

That I haven’t enjoyed my successes more—that I haven’t given myself permission to enjoy them at face-value as they occur, without wanting or wishing they were greater, or more significant.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

I’m going to have to be honest and say that he’ll do housework without being asked—that he just instinctively realizes that it needs to be done, so he does it.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

I’m going to have to be honest and say one who likes to eat as much as I do. And drink margaritas. And laugh at herself…and at Kim Kardashian.

Who is your favorite hero in fiction?

Alex Franks, from A.E. Rought’s paranormal YA “Broken.” Dark, brooding, mysterious, sexy. And young. I’m a dirty old woman.

Which living person do you most admire?

Sharon Sala. I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting her during my term on the Romance Writers of America national Board of Directors several years ago, and without a doubt, her quick wit, quicker temper, and ability to speak her mind—even when she knew her opinion wasn’t the popular one—completely wowed me and won me over. I’ve kept in touch with her on Facebook since then, and have learned more about her life outside of writing, her struggles and joys as the primary caregiver for her mother, who has dementia. That Sharon is able to remain so strong in the face of such adversity—and how she’s overcome so much adversity to this point in her life—is a remarkable testimony to her character. I wish I was half the woman she is; that I could face my life with half her fortitude and sense of humor.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

Again, I’d be happier, more satisfied with myself and my life in the moment. I’d relax more, laugh longer, worry less.

What is your motto?

I have several mottos that have served me well. “What’s the worst that can happen?” is one of them. I use this on myself when I start feeling anxious about something. I envision the worst case scenario for an outcome, and rationalize with myself how to deal with it. Sometimes I realize just how preposterous and impossible that worst-case scenario is, it puts the entire situation back into proper perspective for me. But in any case, it helps me feel less stressed, because it helps me to get a better, more realistic handle on the situation.

Most recently, I’ve started using “Not my circus, not my monkeys” as my mantra, because I am easily flustered by things that are entirely out of my control. If I can’t change things—if all I can do is soldier on and do my best and hope for a positive outcome—I need to remember that, and reassure myself.

Empty nest blues

My kids have made new friends on our block. My neighborhood is a mix of families like mine, elderly people who have lived in their homes since they were constructed in the post-WWII urban sprawl, and college kids renting temporary digs. It’s a nice neighborhood, and our street is limited access, so there’s not a lot of through traffic, so we can usually enjoy the illusion of some peace and quiet, despite living so close to downtown. But even though we’ve seen the occasional other kid or two in the neighborhood, and even on our street, we haven’t befriended any of them really until just recently. 

Now my son’s up at the crack of dawn, ready to get on his bike and pedal over to his new friend’s house. Because we don’t let him bike out of our sight (ah, the joys of modern parenting), he zips up and down the street with his new buddies, or they race up and down the sidewalk shooting Nerf guns at each other. You can hear them laughing and shouting from a mile away, I’m sure. And they take turns running into and out of my house, and their house, with a jubilant energy that’s enviable.

And I’m sick of it already.

I’m glad they’ve made friends, don’t get me wrong. But in the time span of 72 hours, I’ve gone from struggling to keep them entertained and warding off the persistent whines of “I’m boooooored!” to now only seeing them in passing as they either zip by on their bikes, or zip through the house for the back yard. Trying to get them to come in for lunch is like pulling teeth. At dinner time, you’d think I was torturing them, the way they complain and gripe. To make matters worse, I can’t corral them into the house for five minutes before their friends show up at my front door, wondering if they can come back outside and play now.

This is a big adjustment for me. I’m used to having my kids around. During the school year, yeah, I’m okay with them being gone, but it’s summertime now, and they’re supposed to be here. We’re supposed to be doing family things. I’m supposed to be whining about no free time, and missing my personal space — not suddenly wondering why in the hell I’ve got it.

I know it’s inevitable – the shifting of the centers of their respective worlds from me and my husband to their friends. But as with the deodorant and talks about puberty, I wasn’t ready for empty nest syndrome to hit quite so soon. 

First Hiccup, now my kid: The horror of puberty

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Yesterday, I bought my son deodorant for the first time. He’s getting to an age now when I know puberty (and all of the associated hormonal melodrama) is right around the corner, but I guess I was hoping to squeeze a few more years in before having to have any of those mutually embarrassing “your body is going through some changes” talks. And God, I’m as lousy at them as I always suspected I’d be.

In researching online, I discovered I’m not alone, though, at least in the deodorant department. Technically, my son is past the lower age limit at which puberty can begin, and there are literally dozens of websites and online forums with parents posting that they’ve had to buy their kids deodorant, and asking if this was normal. (Apparently so.)

So now in our bathroom, next to the Crest fruit-flavored, sparkly toothpaste and Iron Man toothbrush, we now have a little thing of Arm & Hammer Essentials deodorant. I read lots of good things about it online from other parents; it’s aluminum free and gentle on a kid’s underarms. Also, apparently buying a product that includes an antiperspirant as well as deodorant isn’t a good idea for kids, because of the harsher chemicals. Who knew? Now I do. In the span of 24 hours, I feel like I’ve become a guru on the subject of kids’ armpits.

Yesterday, my son also announced that he was “too old” for Disney’s new movie, “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” when I suggested we go and see it. Where my daughter’s eyes lit up at the prospect, his nose wrinkled and he rolled his eyes in a way I suspect will soon become all-too familiar. And this morning, he made breakfast for us: scrambled eggs and bacon. “I don’t need any help,” he told me when I tried to get the butter out. “I can do this all by myself.”

At least he still lets me hug him.

The first small waves in the tsunami of adolescence are making landfall in my house. I’m bracing myself for what’s yet to come. 

(And dear God, did I just find a whole internet topic on “precocious puberty?” Precocious? If memory serves, psychotic is more like it…)

Back in the saddle, outside the box

10451726_10152264443228558_3796504134047502670_nI’ve been thinking about restarting a blog for a long time, if only to have a place where I could vent my brain occasionally about life, love, work, writing, family life, etc. Yeah, I have Facebook for that, but sometimes it’s nice just to jot something down that absolutely no one else in the world may ever see. I blogged for years when I first began my pursuit of publication, and have kept copies of all of those old blog posts, even though my original blog is long gone.

So what made me finally bite the bullet and blog again? This picture. I needed to see this. I’ve read some pretty scathing remarks from readers on plot choices I made in Dark Vengeange 2. I knew when writing  Dark Vengeange 2 that the choices I made wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but I made them anyway because I felt creatively they were in the best interest of the series as a whole, that they would keep the stories moving forward. I could have given those readers the sugar-sweet HEA they wanted, but then there would be no place left really for the Brethren to go in my opinion. I’ve opened up a lot of doors creatively to keep this series interesting and engaging for me as a writer, and I hope, for you as a reader. In other words, I plan ahead, and my stories NEVER stop with the words “The End.” I’m always thinking of what will happen next, and planning for the next book, and I want to give readers an overall series story arc that’s engaging, exciting and unexpected.

I will never stop thinking and writing outside of the proverbial box. I’m never going to compromise what I feel makes a stronger, more powerful, poignant, or passionate story just because I’m worried someone out there might not like it. If that pisses someone off, I’m sorry. If that means I lose you as a reader, I’m sorry.   That wasn’t my intention. Just the opposite, in fact. And to those readers who have contacted me to let me know they enjoyed the book and couldn’t wait to see what happens next, thank you. That was my intention.