Category Archives: The Rest of Life

Hello? Anybody home?


Yes, actually, home is exactly where I am and where I want to be this weekend after a crazy (mostly in a good way) fall season. My adventures have left me a plethora of potential post topics, some serious, some sentimental, some just mental. To cram them into one would spoil the fun, so I’ll save most for another day and just do a quick update here to prove that I have not, indeed, fallen off the edge of the world.

First and foremost, I want to take one last opportunity to thank everyone who participated in and supported Romance for a Reason, my October blog tour for my newest book, Unbridled, which also served as a fundraiser for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and V-Day, an organization that works to end violence against women. With donations and proceeds from the sales of Unbridled we raised a few hundred dollars, a seemingly small amount, perhaps, but more importantly I hope many more people took the time to read and learn about these issues facing women and will be more educated and likely to help out in the future. Since I had technical difficulties with getting the paperback up on Amazon at the start of the month, I’m continuing to donate all the proceeds from both the e-book and paperback until the New Year. If you are interested in donating and didn’t get the chance in October, it’s not too late. Follow these links to help out!

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

V-Day

As part of the tour I also wrote a series of posts on females in fiction, which both kept me busy and allowed me to urge readers and writers to demand more of their women characters and of ourselves. I really enjoyed writing these posts. There are links to each on the final post for anyone who missed them and wants to check them out.

During October I also managed to sneak up to Vermont to visit Middlebury, the town in which I’m setting my newest novel, a young adult piece entitled All That Glitters. I’ll likely do a longer post about my visit later, but in the meantime, feel free to check out the first rough chapter here. I’m about twenty percent finished with the rough draft and spent a good deal of nights this month typing what I’ve written. I’m aiming to have a completed and typed rough by March!

Other than that November was spent travelling to DC with 150 eighth graders (which felt a little like taking a trip to the ends of the earth!), getting sick from said trip (planes, kids, and no sleep=instant cold), and trying to set the record for the number of awkward first dates in a given week—this last one may become a novel, never mind a separate blog post!

All in all, heading into the holidays, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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Gather The Girls!


September has now crept upon us; there’s no denying it. With
this admission behind us we’re able to start planning our fall activities. For
most people this means making a trip to the apple orchard, picking out
pumpkins, planning football food fests, and whipping up the first batch of
chili or other favorite comfort dish. It’s a time of crisp reds, bright
oranges, and rich earthy browns. 

For anyone with a connection to breast cancer,
though, fall means pink.

Actually, October is not only National Breast Cancer
Awareness Month; it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. So feel
free to mix it up and wear a little purple, too. Either way you’re recognizing
two important issues faced mostly by women and their loved ones. Recognition,
though, is only the first step we can take to honor and celebrate the strength
shown by these women. As you plan your fall activities, I’m asking that you
consider taking the next step—and have a little fun doing it!

When I began putting together the Romance for a Reason blog
tour for Unbridled, I was excited to share my mission with women (and men!) all
over the country—and the globe. That’s the beauty of a virtual book tour. It
occurred to me however, that I met with the best ‘girl power’ group of women I
could ever ask for every other month in the non-virtual realm of someone’s
living room. I got to thinking, Why not
combine the best of both worlds?
My book club has always been about
celebrating women—whether it be our favorite female characters or just our
friendships. Building on that to help support two great women’s charities
seemed a natural fit. The ‘Over-educated Ladies’ of book club agreed, and so our
Romance for a Reason book club party was born. Planned for a Friday night in October,
our book club will meet for a night of “smutty, drunken goodwill;” you’d be
amazed how quickly people read and respond to an email invite when you use this
as the subject line.

So how does it work? Any way you want it to! For us, I agreed to
host an extra meeting (we usually only meet every other month) for which
everyone simply has to bring a romance recommendation. It can be a true romance
book or any book with a romantic subplot, of any sub-genre. It can be an old
favorite or a new find. It can be PG or smut city. The idea is just to gather
the girls, have some fun, and, if people feel inclined to donate, to raise some
money for a charity or two. I chose the same two I picked for Romance for a Reason,
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and V-Day, since they related to breast
cancer and stopping violence against women, but you might want to choose a
local charity or one someone in your book club has a personal connection to.

So, for the check-list inclined:

1. Gather the girls. Pick a date in October (or any month
for that matter) to meet with your book club or just a fantastic group of your
girlfriends.

2. Choose a charity. Share the links to donate with the
group ahead of time, so people who prefer can make their own donations online,
but also be willing to collect and send in any donations made that night to the
chosen charity. And of course, keep it comfortable and confidential; it’s a
party after all!

3. Pick a book. Or don’t. Pressure to read THE book might
put off some people. Sometimes it’s just fun to share favorites we’ve already
read.

4. Enjoy the party and bask in the glow of goodwill—I find
wine helps with the glowing part!

If you’re looking for some conversation starters feel free
to steal these. The
Romance Reading Questionnaire is perfect for a mixed or mild crowd and
requires nothing but paper and pen, while the 
Body Lingo Bingo could get a bit
more … interesting? … and requires people to bring a book.

As you can see, the details are less important than the
sentiment behind the night. Do it to enjoy the wonderful women in your life. Do
it to help other women have the chance to do the same.

But do it. 

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Joining the Circus

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photo from: http://www.glenwoodnyc.com/manhattan-living/trapeze-school-new-york1/

Aside from a few quotes or
the occasional blog swap, my blogs are usually my own words of wisdom, humor,
or whatever else my mind spews out. But this story read at the end of my yoga
class yesterday was too good not to share.

Turning the Fear of
Transformation into the Transformation of Fear

by Danaan Parry (*Note: Many sites listed this 
parable as author unknown, so I’m not sure if this is the real author or
just someone who wrote it down, but I wanted to give credit in case.)

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings.
I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in
my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life
to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate
of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. 

I know most of the right questions and even some of the
answers. 

But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even
not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and
what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I
know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on
it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart
of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present,
well-known bar and move to the new one. 

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t
have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my
knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and,
for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the
new bar.

Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that
in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it.
I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks
in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the
essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net,
no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to
that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that
can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of
“the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe
that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real
change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old
buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is
looked upon as a “no-thing,” a noplace between places. Sure, the old
trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real,
too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting
nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a
sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars
are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real
growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the
transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be
honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being
out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are
still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our
lives.

So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with
making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang
out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab
that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where
change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the
true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to
fly. 

As I sat on my sweat
soaked yoga mat after nearly succumbing to the heat and humidity, as well as to
the humility of being the only newbie unable to stand on her head, I hadn’t
expected to be moved and motivated. But I was. Because whether it be attempting
a headstand for the first time in front of forty strangers, or jumping into a
new career, or traveling to someplace strange and unknown, we all occasionally
need some help letting go of that comfortable bar. I’m not sure I’ll ever be
the type of person who loves the void, the transition zone, but I do love
reaching the next bar and realizing I had the courage and the strength to take
the risk.

So next class, I’m kicking
my feet (or at least one foot) in the air, turning my world momentarily upside
down. If it means I fall and land on my rump, well, at least I’ll give the
experienced pretzel-lovin’ yogis something to laugh at.

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To Mom, With Literary Love



On a day when the country pauses to honor its mothers, it only makes sense for an author and lover of literature to highlight the mothers of readers’ favorite fictional characters. Let’s start with the fairy tales of our youth. Cinderella? Snow White? Er, perhaps some later classics. Maybe the lads fare better. Like Tarzan? Oliver? Huck Finn? 


Okay, so you don’t have to read too many books to determine a pattern when it comes to mothers in literature. Authors love their moms. No, really. They love them and respect their power to influence their children so much that they kill them off in droves. Some authors are kind enough to kill off their characters’ moms in the noble act of childbirth, but most prefer more violent murders, since it creates a lifelong motivation for vengeance in their main characters. 


Still not feeling the love? Look a little deeper. If orphans like Oliver Twist didn’t suffer from the absence of a mother’s love, they’d never be sucked in by the first scummy person to give them some attention. What would Fagin be without his orphan minions? If motherless lads like Huck Finn didn’t lack the social skills needed to be accepted by society, skills taught at dinner tables by reprimanding moms, they’d never flee their boring well-behaved towns to have the adventures readers crave. If loving moms didn’t sacrifice themselves to save their helpless babes, how would an orphan like Harry Potter, who was raised with little love, ever be compassionate enough to sacrifice himself for the greater good? That’s a lot of power to unintentionally give a group of people you don’t love. 


Good writers do little by accident. If they remove the moms from their world, it’s not due to any lack of love or respect but quite the contrary. Literature illuminates the best and worst of reality. Only by seeing a fictional world without mothers can we grasp their real power. Writers know what the rest of us know (or should), that moms make the world a better place!


So take good care of the moms in your world today. Pamper them, make them dinner, let them sit back and relax. Just be careful of what book you bring them to curl up with. You wouldn’t want them getting the wrong idea.


Happy Mother’s Day to all, but especially to my mom, my sister-in-law (who’s a mom-to-be this year!), and all my friends celebrating with their little ones. You may be absent in my books, but you’re ever-present in my heart!

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Book Club Meets Beach Club



The pollen in the air tells us we’re soon approaching summer. Assuming we don’t overdose on Benadryl before we get there, many of us will likely find some time to sprawl out on a beach or back porch for some summer reading. I don’t know why ‘beach reads’ tend to be the lighter, quicker stories that we pick up more for fun than for some deep literary enlightenment, but typically they are. Frankly, I’m fine with that. Sometimes it’s good to drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge. Other times, I just want a fruity frozen margarita and a steamy love scene.


So do margaritas and beach reads mean the philosophical discussions of book club must come to an end until fall? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean the girls (or guys) can’t get together for some fun discussions of even the most shallow reading material. Every book can be discussed, and not every book discussion needs to sound like it belongs in the halls of academia. My book club does a fabulous job of mixing serious literary discussion with more lighthearted, and sometimes lightheaded, book chat. So at your next book club, let the group get their discussions of themes, characters, and craft over and done with, and then have a little fun with your book, beach read or not. Reading is as much for entertainment as enlightenment!


Book club questions for after the first few glasses of wine:


  • Give the Twitter version of the book (140 characters or less). Put your fingers down, you don’t actually have to count.
  • Who in the book would you hop in bed with? Girl crushes/bromances are totally acceptable.
  • Who in the book did you want to bitch-slap? When & why?
  • If you were to write the author, would it be fan mail, spam mail, or hate mail? What would you say?
  • If this were an episode of Law & Order, would you want to play the dead body or the psycho? 
  • Who would cast as the main characters if the book were to be made into a movie? Please take into consideration any characters we see naked or shirtless and make them hot.
  • If this book became a musical number on Glee, what two other books would it be a mash-up of?
  • If you abandon this book club and join another would you recommend it, get the “flu” the day they discussed it, or attend one way or the other assuming there would be wine? 

And there always should be wine . . . or margaritas.


To read some reviews of the books my book club and/or I have read over the last year, check out On the Nightstand, my book review site. I recently added a review of the first five books of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, a fantastic time-travel romance tale. And since the moms will not want to be disturbed during the thousands of pages of Jamie in his kilt, a review for the kiddos, too, of Suzanne Collins’ series The Underland Chronicles.


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For Boston



While I continued to take part in the A to Z Challenge earlier today, posting my ‘N’ post on time, my mind is on another letter today. 


I was a student at BU on 9/11. As I walked to my 8 am grammar class the next day, I remember feeling that ‘day-after’ eeriness of a city too silent, too subdued to ever be Boston. This morning my heart went out to those making a similar trek, feeling the same unease.


So today, and likely for many days to come . . .


B is for my Boston, America’s Boston.


For the city where I first fell in love with the theater,

watched my first professional ballgame, 

set my first rugby scrum,

slipped in underage to my first bar.


B is for the brashness Bostonians love.


For learning to drive with reckless abandon,

to use one four letter word as all eight parts of speech,

to speed-walk even when the wind isn’t biting,

to make rivals out of entire cities. 


B is for the bravery Bostonians displayed.


For those whose first response was to run into danger,

For those who kept running to find ways to help,

For a city which didn’t panic, but pulled together,

For a city of fighters, who will not back down, 

who will regroup and rebuild,

and be back next year

as bold, and brash, and brave as ever.

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Do-over? Yessss, please.


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Silence. Nothingness. A
sucking void.

No, it’s not what happens
after I make yet another lame attempt to be funny in front of my too-cool
preteens. (Okay, it is what happens, but it’s not today’s topic.) It’s a
description of what has become of my blog since the new year began. I could
tell you it’s because I made a conscious decision to stop blogging so that I’d
have more time to spend on my other writing. I could tell you I’ve finally
begun that YA book I’ve been plotting in my head for three months. I could tell
you it’s because I’ve been so into my new exercise and diet routine that I
haven’t had a non-squatting or sit-upping moment to spare. I could tell you I
was busy doing some…um…thing much more exciting. I’d be lying or, in
that last case, fantasizing.

Reality is that the new year
didn’t get off to a bang. Heck, the old year didn’t even end on a bang, though
I bluffed my way through twelve rather chipper holiday blogs in hopes of
fooling a few people, including myself. So I wasn’t sure how to start blogging
again. The “Happy New Year and all the promise it holds” blog would have rung a
bit shallow knowing the battles some of the people closest to me would be
facing this year. But how do you follow up twelve Christmas blogs and ignore
New Years? The easiest answer is you don’t.

So, I didn’t. I didn’t
blog. I didn’t really even write. I edited and revised, but recreating is an
entirely different ballgame from creating. Creating takes a special kind of mental alertness. It
requires the ability to push everything else out of your thoughts to allow new
ideas, scenes, and characters to creep in. Stress devours mental alertness like
a New Year’s dieter fresh off the wagon devours carbs. Even if, in the last
month, I had managed to wipe my mind of the mundane, nothing good would have
filled that void. It was much healthier to get caught up on correcting,
meticulously work my way through my DVR’s queue, and read a few thousand pages
of a romance series. (I’m verra

pleased Mrs. Gabaldon never learned to worry about word count.)

That said, there’s a time
to ignore reality, a time to curse at reality, and a time to face reality. It’s
officially time to pull up my big girl panties, hide the television remote and
Kindle, and deal. Unfortunately, I can’t change how the New Year started, nor
can I completely control what the rest of the year will bring. I can’t stop
worrying or sympathizing, either. I can, however, have a do-over in how I deal
it, thanks to that slithering reptile that usually send shivers down my spine.
Today, as the Chinese ring in a New Year, I’m thanking the snake for a chance
to start fresh, not just with the blog, but with my outlook for 2013.

Every year, every day,
every moment comes with the potential for stress, or sickness, or any other
number of disasters. It also comes with promise for all the best things in
life: new love, new family, new friendships, and new lessons learned from both
the sweet and sour experiences we’ll face. So I’m shedding the skin of the last
few months and parading that promise with as much pomp as I can muster in the
aftermath of a blizzard. (Wine and Triscuits will have to do until the plowers at my condo figure out where to put all of nature’s finest.)

So raise a glass to the snake. It’s not often life hands
us a do over; when it does, sss-seize the opportunity!

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