Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tis the season to be ripped off!

It's that time of year, folks. Trim the tree, buy the presents and hide the Santa gifts in the attic. And pray your house doesn't get broken into. During the months of November and December, there are roughly 400,000 burglaries reported each year. This is, on average, 20% higher than the other months of the year.

I'm fortunate and while I have had things stolen from me in the past, my house has never been broken into. I'm grateful for that, but honestly, it's not because I've been especially cautious. It's just been out of sheer luck, I think. 

I grew up in small towns and live in one now. In these areas, it's common to leave your doors unlocked and curtains wide open because it's easy to trust your neighbors. Everybody in a small town knows everybody else so there's a sense of camaraderie and Neighborhood Watch (even when you don't want them to). Everybody knows who "belongs" and who doesn't, who's doing what, where their neighbors work, what time they get home, who their kids hang out with (and who they shouldn't be hanging out with). All in all, small towns are great for those reasons. Unfortunately, there's also a down side to that because it means everybody knows your every move - when you get home from work and which lights are left on when you're gone. It's easy to become too comfortable in towns this size. 

Last night, my friend's house was broken into. Fortunately, they got spooked and left before they had an opportunity to take much. That doesn't mean it's not unnerving to know that strangers were in the house without permission or knowledge. 

It made me think about how routine our lives are and how easy it would be for someone to rob our house. We discussed this at dinner tonight and we talked about ways to prevent this from happening. Some are obvious things, but others not so much. Our list might help you, so I'll share it here:

1. Lock your doors. Every time you enter and exit. Every. Time. Even if you're at home, even if you're only in the back yard, even if you're just taking a nap, even if you have a dog, even if you have a gun. Lock them. It won't necessarily stop somebody, but it makes it far more difficult to get in. Same goes for your car, shed, garage and other outbuildings. Double-check the window locks, too. It's easy to forget to lock them after the wonderful fall temps have turned cold.

2. Be unpredictable. If you work the same schedule day after day, change things up a bit. Come home for lunch a couple times a week. Take an occasional afternoon off or go into work late. If possible, work from home a day or two a week. Catch a ride with someone else so your car is in the driveway when it normally wouldn't be. If you go somewhere the same time every day or the same day every week, change it up. The more confusing your schedule can be to a potential burglar, the less likely they'll be to break in.

3. Close your curtains. During the Christmas season, it's tempting to leave your blinds and curtains open to show off the twinkly lights on your tree. Stop it. It makes it far too easy to window peep and see who's home. It also gives burglars the opportunity to take inventory of your belongings. When it gets dark, pull 'em closed.

4. Enlist friends. When you're going to be gone overnight or for any extended amount of time, have friends come over and check on things. Park a car in the driveway for a while, turn on different lights in the house and turn others off, turn on the clothes dryer, etc. Have them bring in mail, newspapers and any packages that may have been delivered. Ask if they'll stick around for an hour or two so the house appears lived in. Hire someone to shovel the walk (or in the summertime, mow the lawn) while you're gone. 

5. Make noise. I used to make fun of my mom because she left the television on when we left the house. I never understood why. I finally asked her one day and she said "because it deters burglars." If someone is lurking around your house and they can't see in, they're going to listen for activity: TV, radio, appliances, etc. They'll look for smoke in a chimney or the steam from a clothes dryer. Turn a TV on in one room and in another, leave a talk radio station on in a somewhat muted volume so it sounds like people talking. Plug your vacuum cleaner into a timer for five minutes (make sure it's angled so air can flow through it and it doesn't burn up the motor). Any noise will make a burglar think twice before breaking in. Also, if you still have a land line phone, turn the ringers off or turn it down to 2 rings instead of 4 before it switches to voice mail. Don't forget to turn your clock alarms off. It'll act like a beacon to shady people who are paying attention.

6. Shut up! If you're away from home, don't announce it on social media. (I'm horribly guilty of this.) Or, if you can't control the urge to discuss it, make sure to mention who's still at home or that you're grateful for house/pet sitters (even if you don't have them). At the bare minimum, set your statuses to private so nobody but friends can see what you've posted. Nothing says "I'll all but leave a key under the mat for you" like "Four days til the Bahamas!" on your Twitter.

Obviously, there's no foolproof way to prevent a break-in if someone really wants your stuff, but these are some of the ideas we came up with tonight at dinner. What are some of your suggestions?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

NaNo Wrap-Up

I haven't posted much about NaNoWriMo and the struggles I've endured this month in accomplishing my goals because I believe that excuses are like assholes - everybody's got one and they all stink. That being said, I've got a different view on NaNo that I'm not sure many other people have.

I hate it.

No seriously, I intensely dislike NaNo. Not saying others have to feel that way, but it's how I feel personally. Don't get me wrong, anything that gets anyone to sit down and pour out the words in their heads and hearts for any length of time is fantastic. What I don't like is how I can't follow the rules.

The concept is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Essentially, this creates a novel. You're supposed to keep writing continuously without giving thought to errors, editing, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, etc. Don't edit. Write in any order it comes to you. KEEP WRITING! Our Iowa group's motto is "Yay, crap!" meaning whatever you type, keep it and edit it later.

I. Can't. Do. That.

First of all, I have to write in chronological order. Period. I can do flashbacks like nobody's business, but overall, I write things in order. I've never been able to read a book series by starting anywhere but the first book and if an author puts out a prequel after the series has been published, I get pissed because I feel like I should've read it first. I know, I know. Ridiculous, but it's how I am. Always have been.

Secondly, when I write, I don't use an outline, so the stuff I write is something that comes to me as I write it. This means to make sure what I've written is factually accurate (I'll come back to that), I research it as it comes into my head. For instance in my first book, I determined that my character lived on 69th Street in New York City. I personally walked the street she lived on in my book. I also walked to the next block where another character "lived." Obviously I don't always go to this extent, but if it can be found online, I will find it and research the hell out of it. This takes extensive amounts of time to do and essentially takes up time that, during NaNo, should be spent writing. 

And in regards to this factual accuracy thing - it's an absolute. I'm the person who will watch a movie or TV show and holler out "FILM FLUB!" whenever something isn't right. I catch every detail that isn't right and I call it out, even going so far as to find proof of their mistake online. I've been this way since I was a kid and that won't change anytime soon. That being said, it's natural that my books will be as factually accurate as possible. I detest the thought that someone will read my book and say "There's no way that person could've gotten from that street to the other street in two subway stops" or whatever the case may be. I don't want anyone to shout out "BOOK FLUB" when they read my stuff.

These are the first three hurdles I must endure when racing through November. The others are smaller and simply excuses that aren't worth a crap - I was sick for about a week and slept 80% of the time; I was under a great deal of stress regarding a possible relocation for our family; I've been busier this year than I have been in past years and haven't had as much time devoted to writing. But really, my biggest excuse for not finishing all fifty-thousand words is the internet. Between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (oh, you dirty, dirty whore!) and crap like Candy Crush and Words with Friends, I wasted most of my time doing stupid, pointless things that should've been spent writing.

I don't blame anyone for my lack of "success" with NaNo. It's my own fault and I own it. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

It does, however, mean I have my work ahead of me in December and January to finish the second book in my series so it can be published in the spring like I want. 

To those who "won" NaNo, congratulations. To the rest of you who didn't "win," I still think if you got anything written this month, that's a win. The point is to write and if you did it, then you did it. Congratulations to you, too!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Close to home

I found out the other day that my fellow NKOTB Blockhead friend Angela has colon cancer. It's been diagnosed as stage 3 and has metastasized to her lymph nodes. She's my age and has two young children. To say this is unfair is a vast understatement.

While I'm not in a position to donate as much as I'd like to, I am in a position, as an author, to give a portion of my book's proceeds to her. From now through December 31st, I am giving 25% of my profits to Angela to help with expenses.

If you've already bought my book but would still like to donate, you may do so here:
Donations for Angela

To purchase my book and have 25% of the proceeds go to Angela, you may do so at the following sites:

Amazon: Distance and Time
Barnes & Noble: Distance and Time
iTunes: Distance and Time
Smashwords: Distance and Time
Kobo: Distance and Time

Thank you for anything you're able to do. Your generosity is appreciated!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Updated Confessions

Since I last did this list of confessions in 2008, a lot of things have changed. I thought I'd update the list a little.
1. I am scared of anything in big numbers (swarms of bugs, groups of people, geese...omg, geese! I HATE geese!)
2. I love the 80's nostalgia and can remember almost everything about them.
3. I've outlived all my parents and step-parents.
4. I would love to own a designer purse or shoes just once...but I'll never buy it for myself. The cost of designer bags and shoes is unnecessarily exorbitant.
5. I have six tattoos, but I HATE needles!
6. I have been in love several times in my life. I love the feeling of being in love.
7. I enjoy the dark and the quiet.
8. I would love to live in a big city for a year...just to see what it's like.
9. I love to lay outside in winter and listen to the click of snowflakes hitting the ground...but I haven't done it in years.
10. Clowns scare the hell out of me. Like for real. They creeeeep. meeeee. ouuuuut.
11. I have bitten my nails to the quick since I was a kid and can't stop.
12. Some people have a happy place they retreat to when they're stressed. Or wear a certain sweater. Or cover up with a special blanket. I have my cat, Shadow. She's my therapy animal and I'm actually in the process of having her declared a service animal.
13. Aside from the 488 books I have on my Kindle, I also have six bookshelves full of books, most of all I've read.
14. I have been cooking since I was six. The first thing I ever made was chili. My favorite thing to cook now is homemade tomato soup.
15. I miss my mother more than any other person in the world.
16. I once performed at the Iowa State Fair in a kids' singing/dancing troupe.
17. I would LOVE to play Rizzo from Grease! at some point in my life, but I'm too old.
18. I had a theater scholarship in college.
19. I *hate* spending money on myself...I always feel guilty.
20. I believe in angels and ghosts.
21. I have seen every episode of Law and Order (SVU and CI) at least once and watch the reruns nightly.
22. I care what people think of me, but lie and say I don't.
23. I don't like kids. There are a few exceptions, but mostly, I find them to be noisy, messy and demanding. I'm enough of those things all by myself.
24. I am a born flirt. My husband is too, so he knows it's harmless. :)
25. I love jewelry but own very little.
26. I nearly died in later pregnancy and child birth with my son. He nearly died as well.
27. I slept in my mother's bed with her until I was 11 - I was afraid of the dark.
28. I never know when to say no to people and end up overextending myself as a result.
29. I'm more content sleeping all day and being up all night.
30. I detest socks...but even more so if they're the least little bit dirty, worn-through or wet.
31. My favorite way to spend time is roadtripping with my bestie.
32. When I'm mad, I clean, reorganize or rearrange my house.
33. I still believe I'm invinceable and make poor health choices as a result.
34. I hate talking on the phone, but I love texting and IM'ing (I can type faster than I can talk)
35. I come from a very closely-knit family, but since my mother's death, I don't have much to do with many of them.
36. I never knew my biological father.
37. I know how to shoot a gun better than most men.
38. I can't watch a child wiggle a loose tooth. It makes me nauseous.
39. So does the sound of someone vomiting.
40. I am wicked smart when it comes to grammar, spelling and punctuation.
41. I still have my childhood diaries and read them frequently.
42. I am star-struck whenever I get near a certain friend of mine.
43. I was writing checks and buying cigarettes at the grocery store when I was 14. (My mother had cancer and we lived in a small town...the clerks knew it was with her approval and by her request.)
44. I have never cheated in school.
45. I feel that jealousy is the most wasteful emotion ever. If you want what I've got, get it. If you can't, that's a choice you've made.
46. I hate wearing watches.
47. I once was a huge part of my church's praise team, but never sung a solo in church. I did, however, play Khaleel the Worm from Veggie Tales in a Vacation Bible School production.
48. I am nicer than people think.
49. I honestly don't follow world or national news - it has never interested me.
50. I also don't usually watch local news. It's too depressing.
51. I want to have my photographs published someday.
52. I didn't learn to swim until I was 13 and then taught preschoolers how to swim the following year when I worked at the pool.
53. I once dated a bartender for the free drinks and backstage passes he was able to get me to concerts at his bar.
54. I was a cheerleader in high school but gave it up so I could help counsel other teens who had lost parents through death or divorce. Not once have I regretted that decision.
55. I rarely wear my wedding ring, though it's my favorite piece of jewelry.
56. If I won the lottery, I would probably be broke again shortly thereafter because I love spending money on other people.
57. I feel embarrassed when someone gives me compliments or asks my advice because they think I know more than they do.
58. Every cell phone that's "died" has been from drowning of some sort (the cat dripped water on the first two and I dropped the third one in the pond at a cemetery).
59. I was never in Girl Scouts and never went to summer camp, though I wanted to badly!
60. I have bought meals for homeless people...and once even their dog.
61. I have also given my two cents to a person pretending to be homeless.
62. I love music, though I usually sing off-key and can't play a single instrument.
63. I still see my "First" from time to time around town.
64. I am a strong-willed person to hide my insecurities.
65. I once slept for 24 hrs straight.
66. I haven't had my hair grown past my shoulders since I was 5.
67. I prefer baths to showers.
68. I have an American flag that was carried by my father in Vietnam.
69. I always wanted to write a book but always felt I didn't know enough about anything to write it well. Until my friend convinced me to do it scared. So I did. :)
70. I have over 11 gigs of pictures on my hard-drive, over 6,000 physical pictures and at least a thousand negatives in my possession.
71. I've never seen Star Wars.
72. I can't watch Saturday Night Fever because of the bridge scene.
73. My favorite food in the entire world is soup. I have dozens of recipes, but my favorite, by far, is my mom's homemade tomato.
74. I don't like plain chocolate.
75. I hate riddles.
76. I love to peel sunburns and pick at zits. Gross, I know.
77. I can pick up on almost any accent within five minutes of talking to someone (British, Southern, Minnesotan, Middle-Eastern, Chicagoan, East Coast, etc)
78. I have great relationships with both my kids and am proud of how they've turned out.
79. I can't sleep with a light on if I'm in bed for the night.
80. I have never won first place for anything in my life, but have come in second many times: an art contest in 3rd grade, a spelling bee in 7th grade, a lip sync contest in 9th grade, a national fashion design competition for doll clothes when I was 8.
81. I wasn't able to wear flipflops until I was 33. Now, you can't keep me out of them.
82. I have a bottle of perfume that belonged to my mother...from 1985.
83. I hate barking dogs, screaming kids and loud cars - noise bothers me greatly.
84. I've never passed out, but I was given a roofie once on vacation in Philadelphia.
85. I once burnt so badly on a tanning bed that I had stripes like toast and smelled like burnt flesh for a week.
86. I was once given a pig for Christmas by my parents. I couldn't eat pork products for years because of it.
87. I've been wearing high heels since I was in 5th grade.
88. I wear fake toenails on my big toes because I lost most of mine to ingrown nails in high school.
89. I would love to be pregnant one more time, but only if I was a surrogate.
90. I cured myself of arachnophobia by holding a tarantula at a petting zoo.
91. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade at the encouragement of my high school guidance counselors despite the fact that I've always been a good student. (Don't worry...I went back a month later.)
92. I have kept every video tape I ever had with New Kids on the Block on them...and still watch them from time to time.
93. I refuse to share my apple pie schnapps recipe with anyone.
94. I've had glasses since I was 2 yrs old and would *LOVE* to get Lasix done.
95. I never snuck out of the house when I was a teenager.
96. I got drunk when I was 2½ at my brother's graduation party.
97. I feel like I've stepped into my mother's role in our family - organizing family events, being a memory keeper (pictures, family stories, etc.)...and while most of the time I'm glad to have that role, it is sometimes a burden to me.
98. I still remember the first nightmare I ever had.
99. I've never lived anywhere but Iowa...but may be moving soon!
100. I am handier around the house than my husband is. (But he's better with the laundry!)
Here's the link to the original list if you want to see what I changed. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Better in Time

As I enter the second week of NaNoWriMo, I'm finding my groove and while my word count isn't as high as I'd like it to be at this point, I am writing and even my measly 2,500 words are better than none at all, especially after a three month writer's block. I'll take them!

I was hoping to have my second book published in February, but as it sometimes does, life interfered and I've been trying to carefully choreograph the chaos. Unfortunately, I'm a slower learner than I used to be, so life is winning -- for now.

BUT...there is good news.

I've settled on a name for the sequel to Distance and Time. As tradition seems to be holding strong, I went with a song title again and this one speaks to me so strongly I got chills when it came to me. It's so perfect!

Better in Time, the second book in the Time After Time series, is written from Josh's perspective. As you may recall, Josh McCarthy is the male lead in Distance and Time and many readers have asked to know more about him. As a result, I've decided to let him tell his story. While you'll get to see his reaction to a couple of key scenes from the first book, you'll also get to know what he's doing now and how he's dealt with the blows handed to him in book one.We'll catch up with some of the other guys from South Station Boyz, as well as getting to meet some new characters, too. It's exciting to see it all unfold and I can't wait to get it into your hands next spring!

Now, who wants an excerpt?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm waaaaay funny! Hire me!

While job hunting today, I ran across the following ad:
HELLO CUSTOMER CARE COORDINATOR CANDIDATE!
Are you a powerfully proficient problem solver and a pleasant, peppy, playful, people person?
Do deadlines tremble at the sound of your planner?
Are you totally chill while all those around you are, like, freaking out?
Then we're freaking out because we want to talk to you!
[Name of the business], is expanding our fast-paced fast-growing service department and we need a fun, funny, fast thinking, hard working person with a great spirit and a happy soul to grow with us.
You are part customer greeter, part traffic cop, part salesperson, part awesome!
Auto repair experience isn't required but it would be uber-groovy if you knew the dif between a caliper and a water pump.
Every great service department needs glue to hold the whole thing together. Is that glue, you?
If you have sick organization and customer service skills and a proven track record of being successful glue, email your resume and cover letter stating in 200 words or less why you like cars and why you would hire you. Thank you! 

Okay, first of all, whoever placed this ad is awesome. And clever. And witty. And totally somebody I want to work with. Secondly, I can't not apply for it. I mean, c'mon! Aside from Dick's Last Resort, a job where I get to crack jokes and be funny all day is the PERFECT job for me! So I sent them my resumé and cover lettter:
Dear Funny Peeps who Posted the Job Ad:
Rumor on the interwebs is you’re lookin’ for some sort of car smartie. It just so happens that I fit the bill. You could just take my word for it and hire me now. You know, save us both the hassle of an interview where you ask me what kind of animal I’d be if I could be anything and the pain of a background check (that murder rap was a frame-up, man!). I’m totes legit, I promise! But I know there’s red tape all over stuff like this. So here’s my spiel on why you should hire me.
I’m kinda the funniest person I know and I love to have fun – practical jokes excluded because c’mon! Nobody likes Vaseline under the door handle, dude. Be original! Anyways, like I said, I’m waaaaaay funny; I’m also wicked-smaht, super OCD (that means organized), quick-witted, a total smart aleck to keep those service guys on their toes (I mean seriously? Who would sleep on the job when I’m likely to duct tape them to their undercarriage-scooter thingie? Yes, that’s a technical term.), and I approve of awesome alliteration (see what I did there?). Now, I probably don’t know where exactly an intake manifold is located, but hey…look at me using that word in a sentence! (I’m guessing it means big $, big $, big $, no Whammies?)
That glue that holds the department together? I’m it. I’m better than Gorilla glue, baby!
Now, that 200-words-or-less thing? *snort* Not happening, buddy. I’m a chick. We can make a “hello” into an three-day convention with key-note speakers. (Quit pouting. You’re loving this.) Long story short, I like cars because I don’t like being at home and there's some stupid ordinance against keeping a camel inside city limits (blah!). As far as why I’d hire me? I’d hire me because I’m a crap ton of funny (which is just slightly less than a buttload, but way more than a smidge). Oh, and because I know how much I need money. You know, to put gas in that car that takes me away from home.
So, are we done here? You ready to hire me yet and put everybody who is far less funny than I am out of their misery as they try to figure out how to approach your ad? Suh-WEET!
BTW, that “part customer greeter, part traffic cop, part salesperson, part awesome!” thing? I *might* be overqualified because let’s be honest, I’m TOTALLY awesome. You know you’re thinkin’ it.
Write me back, homie!
Your future Car Smartie (Customer Care Coordinator)
P.S. Do I get handcuffs to go along with that cop uniform?
P.P.S. Ignore how laaaaaame my resumé is. I jacked it from some joker in a book and jazzed it up with my own job history.
If I don't at least get an interview, I'm going to be extremely disappointed in their sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How's that Bucket List coming along?

Last year, I vowed to begin completing more items on my Bucket List. By the year's end, I'd completed eighty-six items on the list, fourteen of them having been done in 2012. WOO! Unfortunately, the claws of depression gripped me pretty hard and I spent much of the year just trying to breathe. Actually getting out there and living was far beyond my capabilities at the time.

This year, I've also been slow on checking things off the list, but even so, checking even one item off the list is an accomplishment because I'm not dead yet, so there's always tomorrow to get more done. Of course, I'm constantly adding new things to the list so my quest will never really be done, but it keeps things fun.

What have I done this year?

February
264. Photograph a Pacific sunset. Done in Malibu at Leo Carillo State Park.
249. Do a tequila shot with Michael Cudlitz. Feb 24th at Chevy's in Burbank.


April
266. Have Buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar. April 9th on our way home from Ft. Drum.
268. Meet Bret Michaels. At 7 Flags Event Center on April 28th


July
267. Have my book published. Distance and Time went to digital sales on July 16th.



August
81. Ride in a private plane. August 9th - A pilot friend of mine took me on a brief flight to the Des Moines area for aerial photos.


October
144. Own a white kitten. Meet Jack aka Repo. We adopted him on October 8th.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Fall Y'all!

October 1st. When the hell did it become October first?! Where did the rest of the year go? Feels like just yesterday I was putting away Christmas decorations and it won't be too long before I'm dragging them back out. The good news is that my lazy ass never took them back to the shed, so at least I won't have to be digging them out of the shed when it's cold and there's snow blowing around. 

We're a little more than a month into the school year. Big Man is a senior now (still trying to figure out when that happened, too) and Midget's a sophomore. The older they get, the more I enjoy spending time with them. Sure, they still try my patience at times, but overall, they're pretty good kids.

Hubby has been busy with work. He's the type of person who gets restless when he isn't busy, so between his full-time job and his part-time job, I see him in passing half the time. He's happiest when he's busy, though, so I don't fuss too much. He also started bowling, so he's actually enjoying some of his free time, too.

Me? I've been busy with a thousand things and nothing at all. Aside from working on the second book in the Time After Time series, I've been spending a lot of time with friends and family. We lost Pops (my bestie's dad) at the beginning of September, so we've been focusing a lot more on what's important: loved ones. Sunday dinners are becoming a tradition for us and that's something we really enjoy. With most of my family gone or moved away, this "adoptive" family of mine has been pretty great to kickstart old family traditions. 

This month should mark the release date of Distance and Time in paperback, which I am THRILLED about! I know a lot of my fans are old school folks and have been waiting for this. And I have to admit, it's going to be pretty incredible to have my OWN book on my bookcase instead of everyone else's. Not that being an author isn't a reality for me, but having it in literal black and white somehow makes it more real. Pretty exciting!

I'm hoping to get some Halloween decorations up later today or tomorrow and really gear up for Fall. Who knows, I may even get a hair up my butt and do some baking later. Yeaaaaaah, we all know that isn't gonna happen, but it was a fun thought, right?

What's on your agenda for this month?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Daisy a Day

In 1995, the internet was still relatively new to the masses. We were warned to never give personal information to anyone we met online because it wasn't safe. People weren't who they said they were and everybody was a child molester. Okay, you and I know that wasn't true, but there for a while, it was a little scary and everybody was overly cautious.

Despite that, I managed to navigate my way through a great chat site full of people from every imaginable stretch of life - lawyers, actors, politicians, writers, insurance salesmen, housewives, musicians. We shared little bits of our lives in public forums and, in time, began developing very real relationships in an otherwise cyber world. On New Year's Eve that year, I met Heine.



Heine was twenty-four years older than I was and, while at times he was very much a father-figure to me, there were many times, when he filled a role in my life that until then, no other man ever had. I grew to love him deeply despite the fact that we've never met in person. He was my shoulder during a very dark post-partum depression. He helped me cope with my divorce. And many times, he was the only person I trusted with things that mattered the most to me. I wasn't one to trust easily, especially during that period of my life, so to give that to him meant a lot to both of us.

We had silly times and inside jokes. We had heart-felt conversations and shared our favorite music with one another. Like any relationship, we had our share of disagreements, too but Heine was the kind of person I couldn't stay mad at for long. He was sensitive and generous. His heart knew no bounds when it came to forgiveness and understanding. I cherished our friendship and always made sure he knew how much. Heine taught me how to live in the moment, soak up every drop of rain as well as every ray of sunshine and appreciate life for every experience we have.

Because of that, I wanted to do something special to honor his effect on my life. The tribute came in the form of a daisy tattoo. It was my first and will always be the most special to me for who it represents. Heine used to sing to me one of his favorite songs, "Daisy a Day." It seemed fitting that a daisy symbolize his impact on my life. Heine was deeply touched by what I'd done, despite his religious belief that tattoos were a forbidden thing. Knowing Heine, it was probably because it was forbidden that he liked it so much. He was a rebel like that, sometimes, and he taught me to be a little bit of a rebel, too. He appreciated my spunk and moxie. He liked my sassy, demanding nature and encouraged it in every way. He loved me completely and unconditionally, as did I in return.



On August 21st, 2006, all of that changed.

Heine and his son-in-law went on a fishing trip together on Lake Nipissing, near Toronto. Neither of them came home from the trip. Their boat somehow capsized and both men drowned.

I won't go into how profoundly this loss affected me, but I will tell you that I still miss him. I still think of him. I still go to our private chat room on the site where we met. I still leave messages for him as if he'll log in at any time. It brings me peace and helps me deal with the lingering grief.

In the last seven years since the accident, I've been trying to figure out a way to visit the lake where Heine died, but haven't been able to get there. And honestly, I'm not sure I could handle the reality of seeing it in person, anyway. But I wanted to somehow recognize the place where he took the last breath.

I thought about it for quite a while and finally decided what I wanted to do. Last winter I called on a friend who lives in Canada to see if she'd be willing to do it on my behalf since I couldn't get there myself. I had a very simple, but specific task in mind. She arranged with a friend of hers who lives near the lake to take a daisy to the lake and throw it in the water. I wasn't specific about what to say or do. I knew that Heine would know what it meant, so much explanation or fanfare wasn't needed.

Today, on the seventh anniversary of his death, an "angel among us" carried out my wish. I don't know their name and I'm certain they don't know mine, but I am so grateful for their kindness. This is the breathtaking result:


I'll give you a daisy a day, dear.
I'll give you a daisy a day.
I'll love you until the rivers run still,
And the four winds we know blow away.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Distance and Time - available, at last!



Hey all!

Unless you've been held captive or have been otherwise away from social media this week, I'm sure you've already heard about the release of my debut novel, Distance and Time from my Time After Time series.

For those who have ignored my self-promotion, were kidnapped, or whose internet went down for the week, you can find the book in eReader format at the following links:

Amazon (Kindle)
Smashwords (for all eReader formats)

Many readers have asked for paperback copies and that will be an option very soon. I've outsourced that task to my creative editor, illustrator and formatting genius, Kim, who has assured me it's coming along nicely. Because it involves a printed book, it obviously takes a bit more time to ensure it's exactly how I want it, but I promise, as soon as it's made available, I'll let you all know. Also, there are free Nook and Kindle apps available for download to your phone, tablet or PC at BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.

To those who have already bought it, read it, and/or reviewed it, thank you SO much! I appreciate all the feedback I'm getting and I'm thrilled that you love Josh and Carly as much as I do. To those still waiting, thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy it!

Also, please leave me reviews, if possible. As I've mentioned before, I am not only the author, but I'm also my own publisher and marketing team. I am responsible for how well my book is received and I am fully reliant on your reviews, tweets, shared statuses and everyday word-of-mouth to help spread the news of my book. You can leave reviews on my author page on Facebook, Goodreads, and wherever you bought the book.

Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Follow-through

My name is Mel and I have a problem with follow-through.

Hi, Mel!

I'm 39 years old and for the very first time in my life, I set out to do something and accomplished it. When hurdles came between me and my goal, I found a way to knock them down or go around. I didn't let naysayers get the best of me. I refused to listen to the voice in my head who said repeatedly, "You can't do this." I pushed. And I busted my ass. And I did it.

I published a book.

Is it a best-seller? I don't know. I don't even care right now. All I care is that I did it. I did something that I've wanted to do my entire life and I followed through with it until the end. It wasn't without help from others, of course. Encouragement, support and physical assistance through some of the tougher parts, but dammit, I did it. It's my moment to celebrate, so if you'll excuse me for just a moment...

Cheers, bitches!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thirty-nine


In an hour, I turn thirty-nine. That's a lot of cakes, birthday candles and parties since this first birthday in 1975. I still love cakes. And birthday parties. And presents. But I don't get too many of those these days and that's all right, I guess.

Mom always made the biggest deal about birthdays. She threw me a party every year. Many of you may remember the slumber party I had in 1982. 



And 1983.

 

And 1984.


My mother was a brave soul, lemme tell you. After my 8th birthday, she swore she'd never throw another slumber party with that many kids again and she stayed true to her word.  


I did have a 50's theme birthday one year and a swimming party the next. Mom was always good about making me feel special on my birthday. I miss that. I'm sorry to say I don't make big deals out of my kids' birthdays. We'll have parties every once in a while, but for the most part, a special dinner and cake is about all we do.

The thing is, for as great as all those birthdays were, it's the every day I cherish the most. It's laughing at the goofiness my kids come up with. It's crying over their sentimentality. It's enjoying their stories and company. It's having all the kids meet up with us at Buffalo Wild Wings and having a good time. It's listening to them interacting when they think I'm not paying attention. It's not about the birthday candles or the cake or the presents. 

Scratch that. It's TOTALLY about the cake, too - ice cream cake from DQ, thankyouverymuch.

But mostly, it's about enjoying the company of my family.

And I gotta say, 39 is looking pretty awesome.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sneak Peek at Distance and Time

Sleepless nights. Writer's block. Rewrite after rewrite. It's been a long time coming, but I am so excited to announce Distance and Time is officially on the way!
            Carlene Cooper was your average teenager. Average, that is, except for her relationship with Josh McCarthy, member of teen mega-group, South Station Boyz. Young love blossomed at a chance meeting when Carly was a senior in high school and Josh was just discovering what stardom really meant. Despite their chemistry, it was no surprise to anyone when their very different lives took very different paths a few months down the road.
          Years later, their paths cross again, and they must decide if the spark they felt back then is strong enough to rekindle. Josh has built a name for himself in show business, but Carly, too, has planted roots as a journalist in New York City. Will they be able to successfully merge their lives and overcome the obstacles that drove them apart a decade earlier?

          Just as she comes to the decision that will change their lives one way or the other, Detective Trey Foster enters her life unexpectedly, and Carly is faced with another choice. Will she choose the man she's spent her whole life loving, or will she push it aside for a chance at happiness out of the spotlight?
 
July 16th, 2013, I will be releasing my debut novel Distance and Time, the first book in the Time After Time trilogy. It will be available through Kindle, Nook and other digital formats, and, for those who prefer a physical book, it will also be published in paperback. I'll post the links for purchase as soon as they're available, but it should be available through all the same means you purchase books now.

As an independent author, I need your help. Whereas most authors have an agent and publisher to help market their book, I am my marketing team. But, I have what those authors don't have: YOU! You are my most important asset when it comes to word-of-mouth advertising and online reviews. I'm sharing the first chapter of Distance and Time here and, if you like it, I'm hoping you'll share it with others. When the book is released on July 16th, I'm asking you to read it then go online and review it at sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

Without further ado, I give you Distance and Time:


Chapter 1
July 2003


            I gasped as my driver blasted his horn and slammed on the brakes sending me, my bag and my cell phone careening toward the Plexi-glass partition.  It was the third time we’d been cut off in less than two blocks. I adored living in Manhattan, but the traffic was murder. I despised city traffic. I used to despise cities, in general. How I ended up in the biggest city in the country still baffles me.

            I am from a small Minnesota town just outside Minneapolis, where I was headed in exactly two-and-a-half hours, provided I didn’t get smeared across 3rd Avenue first. Another cab nearly sideswiped us, and I held my breath again. My nerves were shot, and we weren’t even out of the city yet. I scrambled to gather my belongings from the floor and stuff them back into my purse.

            “Damn it! Watch where you’re going!” The cabby combined a verbal lashing with a blare of his horn again, though we both knew the offending driver wouldn’t hear him or the horn. Everybody honked his horn in this city. It was second only to breathing. In fact, if one listened closely, there was a melodious rhythm to horn-honking, each horn having its own tone of voice. A series of quick beeps could be perceived as friendly encouragement to merge ahead of someone while a long blast indicated impatience or frustration. This horn was definitely the latter.

            This trip to Minneapolis was not my idea, but since my broken engagement in May, my best friend Alejandro had been hounding me to snap out of my depression and visit him. He apparently believed that catching up with old classmates at our ten-year reunion would help me do that. He was mistaken –- I needed far more than that to fix what was wrong, but I humored him anyway. And by “humored him,” I mean that I let him buy my plane ticket and pay for my hotel room for the weekend. I suspected he would also be picking up my liquor tab, too.

            Traffic began to move again, and I settled back into my seat, my thoughts quickly drifting to my high school years. While school itself wasn’t bad, the relationship with my parents was shaky at best, so I was more than ready to leave town by the time my senior year came about. I researched colleges nationwide, even the University of Hawaii –- whatever it took to get as far away from home as possible. That was my goal: to escape. My guidance counselor reminded me daily that the only way to get into a decent school was to get good grades and be involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible.  I did as much as I could so my bases were covered, but I focused primarily on the activities that would look best on my college applications, like editing the school newspaper and participating in speech and debate. My stepfather made it blatantly clear he wasn’t paying a dime for my schooling. “If you want it bad enough, you figure out how to pay for it,” he said. So I did.

            Four years later with a degree from NYU in my hand and my whole life head of me, I rented my first grown-up apartment. While small, it was clean and in a safe neighborhood just a few blocks from Columbus Circle. I loved it, and it suited me perfectly. I was one of the few single women in New York who could afford to live in Manhattan without a roommate or a sugar daddy. That didn’t come without a price, though. I had run into my soon-to-be landlord at Starbucks –- literally –- just a few weeks before I had to give up my student housing. Ira Goldman was a sweet, small-framed Jewish man, and I hadn’t seen him when I turned around too quickly in the crowded coffee shop. He ended up wearing my latté. I begged forgiveness, and he gave it to me, but not before he introduced me to his son, Eli –- who was a not-so-sweet, not-so-small-framed Jewish boy –- and guilted me into a date with him. I barely made it through the date with Eli, whom I would liken to a whiney octopus, but I did manage to land a great one-bedroom apartment out of the deal. Six years later, Ira still charges me half the rent he does the other tenants because he’s convinced someday I’ll convert to Judaism and marry Eli.

***
            Another car horn jolted me back to the present. An impatient driver behind us motioned to move out of his way. My driver glanced in the rear-view mirror but dismissed his impatience with a shrug. His indifference was returned with some foreign hand gesture –- probably Italian –- of which I’m certain I didn’t want to know the meaning. I definitely hated big city traffic. This little vacation would do me some good. My stress levels were high. Deadlines were constant, and I had to frequently remind myself that writing was my passion and not the tedious job it often became. I blindly reached into my handbag and dug around for my container of Tums, shaking a couple out and popping them into my mouth. I was sure I was getting an ulcer.
            Going to the class reunion didn’t remotely interest me, and while I debated not going, I couldn’t avoid home forever. As a rule, I didn’t believe in regrets and had never wished I’d done anything differently, but I suppose I had to face my demons at some point. I’d faced my biggest demon –- my stepfather, at my mother’s funeral in 1995, but other than that, I’d avoided home for the most part, offering one excuse after another why I couldn’t join my siblings for the holidays or other special occasions.
            Alejandro was the only reason I was going to this reunion. He didn’t really give me an option. “We’re both fucking fabulous! You’re published. I work for the Chicago-fucking-Bulls. We’re going if for no other reason than bragging rights. Pack your shit!”
            I’d known Alejandro since junior high. His family moved to our little town when Alex and I were in seventh grade. In our town of 1,500 people, he and his family were the only Hispanics. Needless to say, in a world of pasty-white Minnesotans, he stuck out in the crowd. He’d been teased mercilessly by our classmates, first for his heritage and then, in high school, for his sexuality. Our friendship started out of pity; I won’t lie. But we soon forged a strong bond. He was my best friend in high school, and now, years later, he’s still my best friend. We had gone through everything together. He was there for me when my first boyfriend broke my heart. I was there when his did. He was there when I stood up to my parents about moving to New York my senior year. I was there for him when he came out to his family the same year. To say we’d been through Hell and back was a mild understatement. If best friends could be soul mates, this man was mine.
            Even now, with eight-hundred miles separating us, we stayed in touch. In college, we’d begun our traditional “Friends Night” every Thursday. We’d watch Friends, then one of us would call the other, depending on whose week it was to foot the long-distance bill, and catch up for the next two hours.
            Alejandro wasn’t far off the mark about us being fabulous, actually. If the alumni newsletters were to be believed, we were more successful than most of our classmates. I worked for one of the most circulated papers in the nation, and I lived in one of the greatest cities in the world. It would be fun to act a little haughty, I thought. And really? It wasn’t much of a stretch for me these days. I’d always felt like I was too good for the simplistic, slower lifestyle of the Heartland and wanted more. I considered myself an East Coaster within ten minutes of stepping onto New York concrete. I snipped many of my Midwestern roots as quickly as possible, wanting to distance myself from everything I’d grown up with. If truth be told, other than the occasional e-mail or phone call, I had cut ties with almost everyone back home. I moved on and outgrown so many people I’d once called friends. Alex and I were very much alike in that respect, which is what had cemented our friendship all those years ago.
***
            The cab finally pulled up in front of the terminal at LaGuardia, and I went inside. I checked my suitcase, waited my turn to be molested by Homeland Security, then headed to my gate and waited. I sucked back half a bottle of water and downed two Dramamine. I didn’t usually get sick when flying, but I hadn’t felt good for a few days and hoped it would help. Between my anxiety over the reunion and the deadlines at work that had me running on empty, I had been burning the candles at both ends for quite a while now.
            I pulled out the yearbook I’d put in my carry-on, flipping through it and smirked at Alejandro’s signature inside the back cover. He had filled it with random memories in the form of a top-ten list –- typical Alejandro: lists and summaries. He had always been OCD like that. God love him. I was looking forward to seeing him again.
            I thought back on our friendship and random memories filled my head: sophomore year and the argument over which one of us could have the tall, quiet one from our favorite boy band (He won, of course, because he’d read in some tabloid that they batted for the same team. “You’re not even his type!” he said. Who could argue with solid logic like that?); Junior year when he lent me his cardigan because I forgot it was picture day for the yearbook and hadn’t worn dress clothes; Senior year when I told him I’d been accepted to NYU, and we spent the entire weekend holed up in his room eating ice cream and lamenting how we’d never see each other again (even though we both knew we’d talk every day on the phone). Although we weren’t as close as we once were –- the distance between Chicago and New York caused much of that drift between us –- I still considered Alejandro my best friend.
            The loudspeaker boomed with the boarding announcement for my flight. I stuffed the yearbook back in my bag, handed the attendant my ticket and made my way down the jet bridge. I grabbed my iPod and the latest Cosmo from my bag before I tucked it in the overhead luggage compartment and settled into my first class seat, a luxury I refused to compromise on, at least for this particular trip. The complimentary (and much-needed) liquor was worth the price of the ticket. Within a half-hour, we were soaring down the runway and lifting into the sky. When we reached cruising altitude, I tucked the magazine away, stuck my headphones on my ears and turned on my mp3 player. I filled an entire playlist with songs from the 80’s and 90’s, and I couldn't hold back that nostalgic lump in my throat as their song came on. I forgot they were ever that young…that any of us were. I was immediately transported back to high school.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

It's not many authors who get the chance to take a month off from their lives to go on a writing sabbatical before their first book is published. In fact, there aren't many people in general who get to take a month off from life. Given the chaos in my life over the last year, I feel especially blessed to be able to do this.

I recently touched base with a couple of friends of mine -- one in the writing world and one who is a former PR person -- who gave me some priceless advice on launching my book later this summer. So while I'm technically supposed to be spending much of my vacation writing, I'm also using this time to reach out to those who have been valuable assets to me during this writing phase. 

As a reader, I never truly appreciated the work that goes into writing a book, much less getting one ready for publication. My job consisted of buying the book and inhaling it as quickly as possible, then waiting impatiently for the next book. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. Up until recently, most authors had an agent and a publisher to take care of all the details. But, in this world of self-publishing that so many authors are entering lately, the hard work is up to the authors themselves. Being a rookie in this field, it's even tougher because I don't have a lot of people who've gone before me to pave the way. I have numerous author friends, but as I mentioned, most went the traditional path. I'm sure I will screw up at some point -- at many points, probably -- but that's all part of learning the process I suppose. 

All I know is that I'm enjoying all of it, despite how overwhelmed I feel at times. I can't wait to get Distance and Time into the hands of my readers so you can fall in love the characters as much as I have. I think maybe I'm even more excited because every minute of the process is in my hands. I am a little nervous, of course, but knowing that I'm in control of each step of this book helps me appreciate the process that much more. 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Mel_Henry for the latest book updates. If you're less of a Twitter person and more of a Facebook person, you can find me there, too: Mel Henry. I look forward to getting to know my readers!