Friday, November 30, 2012

Hectic and Surprising Holidays

The holidays are such a busy time of year. For me, this year is especially hectic. My self-pubbed book, Helpless Hearts was just released in October, and I'm finding it harder to promote than the books I've published with The Wild Rose Press. I don't have a "support group" with my self-published title.

About the same time Helpless Hearts came out, my youngest daughter, Lauren, moved into her own apartment. There was the move and then the clean up of her old room following the move. Then, I signed a contract with TWRP for Embrace the Darkness , the long-awaited sequel to Out of the Darkness.

I was working on those edits when my youngest daughter elected me to have Thanksgiving at my house.

I wasn't all that keen on the idea. I had a book to promote, another to edit, and I wanted to get the house decorated for Christmas before my oldest daughter and her soldier husband came home for the holidays.

Mike's in the army and stationed in Germany. He and  Jennifer haven't been home for Christmas since 2008. And Jennifer hasn't been home for Thanksgiving since 2005. Jennifer told me they were flying home just before Christmas. And Lauren's room was still purple. So, after Lauren drafted me to host Thanksgiving, she got her boyfriend to paint her old bedroom.

It's now a soothing color called "beach."

Lauren even promised to come over to help clean the morning before or family Thanksgiving luncheon, but she overslept...or so she said.

No problem. I got the house cleaned, got the food cooked, and was ready for my guests when Lauren called to say she was running late--not at all unusual for my youngest. She's always running late.

The rest of my family arrived on time and were sitting in the living room talking when I saw Lauren's car pull up in the front yard. I figured the driveway was too packed for her to park in her usual place. So,I went to the front door to open it before she knocked. I figured she'd have her hands full with the food she was bringing for our Thanksgiving feast. But when I opened the door, I found my oldest daughter, Jennifer. The daughter who was supposed to still be in Germany until December 23.

Lauren had been hiding her away in her apartment for three days.

I've never been so surprised in my life." target="_blank">
my beautiful daughters

But now Thanksgiving is over and Jen is still here. I love having her, and her husband will be joining us a couple of days before Christmas. But visiting with her put me behind on my edits. Which, I finally completed late last night. Now, I'm patiently waiting for the art department to create the cover for Embrace the Darkness. And I'm trying to get ready for Christmas.

Then there's the day job. I work as a mammographer in a local hospital and everyone wants to get everything done before the end of the year when their deductibles start over. So, I've worked late almost every night since Jennifer's been home.

Life is hectic right now. And expensive. Besides holiday shopping, I had to spend over $500 on my car when it stranded us at a gas station as we were heading home from visiting my husband's family for Thanksgiving. Luckily, I have towing on my insurance policy and Lauren's boyfriend had driven separately so he could go to a race after church. The race was just a 1/2 hour drive from where my car stranded us. So, we didn't have to wait long to get rescued and we had bathrooms and coffee. Everything I needed for a cold November night stuck in a car with my husband and 2 grown daughters. We even played Monopoly on Jennifer's I-phone while we waited.

And now, the plumber is at my house, fixing a leak under my sink. There goes another couple hundred bucks! But I don't want to get so caught up with money, or the lack there of, that I can't give people meaningful gifts--even if I have to spend a little less this year. And I don't want to get so caught up in making holiday plans that I forget to enjoy the season.

Christmas shouldn't be so stressful. Hectic yes. Stressful, no. So I just need to slow down, take time to smell the Christmas tree (even if it is fake!) and enjoy my daughters' company. Life is too short. And Christmas 2013 will be here before you know it...unless the Mayans are right and the world ends on 12/21/12.

Then, none of us will be here for this Christmas. So, why am I even stressing? Time to enjoy the most hectic, chaotic, wonderful time of the year.

So, before the world ends, share your most surprising holiday story for a chance to win an e-book of Helpless Hearts.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Have Vonnie and She's Talking About Paris!

That's right, y'all. I have none other than Vonnie Davis on my blog today. Vonnie is a sister rose and a wonderful story teller. I fell in love with her novel, Storm's Interlude. And now, she has a new release that is definitely going on my TBR list. So, I'm just going to turn my blog over to her today...Vonnie?

 There’s a delightful bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. It sits on the Left Bank, within steps of the Seine and in view of the Notre Dame Cathedral. When we were in Paris, Calvin insisted I had to see it. He claimed it was the most unusual bookstore in the City of Light. I wasn’t prepared for the maze of narrow hallways leading to more alcoves of dust-covered books.

This Paris institution has an interesting background. Shakespeare and Co. was first opened at another location by Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate, in 1918. During the 1920’s, it was the gathering place for writers of the “Lost Generation” -- Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray and Ezra Pound. During this period, the store was the epicenter of Anglo-American literary culture and modernism in Paris. It is featured in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris.”

When the Nazis occupied the city, the store was closed down and never re-opened until another American, George Whitman, opened a bookstore in 1951 in a building that was once a monastery.  Later he renamed his English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company in tribute to Sylvia Beach. This store became a focal point for literary culture in bohemian Paris.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting to me. Whitman, in his youth, had hiked his way through Central and South America and was touched by the generosity of citizens who opened their humble homes to him and shared all they had. This universal-family-ideology stuck with him and, as a result, he opened his bookstore to starving artists and writers. The bookstore includes sleeping facilities, with 13 beds, and Whitman claimed as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years. His only requirements were that his guests, whom he called “tumbleweeds”, read, work at their art/writing and help out in the bookstore for two hours a day.

A delightful book, Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare and Co. by Jeremy Mercer, tells of a writer’s month living in the famed bookstore. Imagine! Free room and board in Paris. Granted one had little privacy. Bathroom privileges were on a scheduled basis. You had to be up and moving about when the store opened. But this is Paris, y’all!

Here’s the book’s description that reinforces what I’m sharing about the place. “Wandering through Paris's Left Bank one day, poor and unemployed, Canadian reporter Jeremy Mercer ducked into a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Mercer bought a book, and the staff invited him up for tea. Within weeks, he was living above the store, working for the proprietor, George Whitman, patron saint of the city's down-and-out writers, and immersing himself in the love affairs and low-down watering holes of the shop's makeshift staff. Time Was Soft There is the story of a journey down a literary rabbit hole in the shadow of Notre Dame, to a place where a hidden bohemia still thrives.”

Regular activities that occur in the bookshop are Sunday tea, poetry readings and writers’ meetings. George Whitman died there at the age of 98, nearly a year ago. His daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, now runs the shop and continues to allow young writers to live and work in the store.

So, of course, I had to include a scene at Shakespeare and Company in my romantic suspense, MONA LISA’S ROOM. Because my heroine Alyson Moore has unwittingly foiled a terrorist’s bombing attempt, she’s been placed under the protective custody of French agent, Niko Reynard. They’ve argued outside Shakespeare and Company and are now inside the store. Niko’s looking for a little gift as a making-up gesture to his charge, who is pretty upset with him…

“Where are you from?” Niko detected an Aussie accent.

“Australia. Brisbane. I’m here to experience Paris, study art and do a bit of poetry writin’.” Eddie’s eyes were scanning the shelves. “Ah, here we go, mate.” He climbed a stepstool to reach what he was after. Turning, he leaned down to hand the two books to Niko.

“Thanks. Sketches of Parisian Rooftops and Sketches of Gardens of Paris.” He quickly scanned through the pages. Aly would love these.

Eddie hailed a greeting at two men, dressed in suits, when they entered and ambled through the narrow store, quietly talking as they climbed the few wooden steps to the next section.

Niko briefly glanced at them before flipping the books over to check the prices. “I’ll take all three.” He waited for the total and paid his bill. “Wrap them please so my lady friend can’t see them. They’re a surprise.”

“Oh, lucky her. I just love…”

Suddenly, screams followed by loud thumping and books falling filled the bookstore. Niko sprinted in the direction of the high-pitched shrieking, gun in hand. He bounded up the steps and rounded the corner. “Aly! Aly! What the hell.”

He skidded to a halt. One of the well-dressed men he saw entering the store earlier was on the floor, books covering most of his body. His companion was staggering, holding his hands over his eye and screaming like a banshee as blood ran down his face.

In the corner stood a pale and trembling Aly, her frightened blue eyes dominated her face. “They…they grabbed me! Said they’d kill me if I resisted. I…I karate kicked them.” She swallowed, obviously trying to gain control. “Kung…kung-fooed the hell out of them, too. And…and…”—she pointed to the screaming man still on his feet—“I think I poked his eye out with one of my stilettos.”

Niko ran a hand down his face, keeping it over his mouth to hide the smile. What a piece of work. He wanted to laugh. He wanted to hug her. And damned if he didn’t want to shake the daylights out of her for stepping out of his sight. Hadn’t he told her to stay with him?

“You okay?” Niko’s gaze swept over her, looking for injuries. He fought the urge to pull her to him and embrace her until her trembling stopped. Frankly, if he were honest, his nerves weren’t the greatest right this moment, either. When he heard her scream earlier, cold fear did a free-fall straight through his system.
Some professional he was. While buying books, Aly had to defend herself. His gaze took in the shambles. By the looks of things, hell if she hadn’t done a damn fine job. “Answer me! Did one of these bastards hurt you? Are you okay?”

“I…I gotta pee.” She was shaking violently. No doubt going into shock. Today’s events finally took their toll.

“I’ll show her to the dunny,” came the Aussie accent behind him. “Ain’t no wonder she’s gotta use the loo. The woman beat the bullocks out of the blokes, she did. Gobsmacked ’em, I’ll wager. Shall I call the police or will you?”

“I am the police. Counterterrorism unit.”

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Have You Voted?

Have you cast your vote today? Oh not for the presidential elections. I voted in the early elections last week. (Though if you haven't voted, I encourage you to do so. It's your civic duty.) But what I'm talking about today is the Sizzling Hot Book Reviews Cover contest. The voting starts today and ends on Saturday. And my newest release, Helpless Hearts is up for cover of the month this month. How cool is that?

Helpless Hearts is my first Indie published book and the one with the awesome cover designed by my very talented younger brother. I'd love to win the contest, but I'm up against some fierce competition from some of my favorite Wild Rose Press authors. So, if you get a chance, stop by and vote for Helpless Hearts.

The "poll" is on the far right hand side of the page. Just click the box by my book title and name and then scroll down to click "vote."

Thanks in advance for your vote!