Thursday, January 18, 2018

Try The Gazelle

Dieting is a misnomer. Actually, it should be called making healthy choices. Most of us don't because that would required thought, planning, money, blah, blah, blah. Truthfully, we enjoy the bad foods more than we enjoy the good foods.

The hunk and I attend Weight Watchers--mostly so we weigh in on a regular basis. The program is an excellent starter program for individuals who want to make changes in their eating choices. For the rest of us, it can offer support when we go wild with those bad choices. Or perhaps another member can offer some alternatives so we can change up our menus.

But! It mostly boils down to daily choices. That's what it's all about. What we eat--and how much we eat--determines the final number on the scale. Or as our leader says, the feedback from the scale tells us whether we're making good choices. The longer you spend time paying attention to your choices, the more conscious you become when faced with an increasing array of choices.

For instance, hamburger, fries, and milkshake. Yeah. Sooooo fattening. Eh, fried chicken, salad, and tea. Hmmmm. Fried. And how much dressing is on that salad? And is it sweetened tea?

Well. I eat stuff. I eat ice cream once in a while. I relish every bite. And then I'm done with it until the next time I go visit my friend Jane, because that's when I eat ice cream. I look forward to it. But there isn't any at my house. That's the key. If you're going to eat something that's a less than healthy choice, eat it someplace else. And then walk away.

When we started W.W., my breakfast added up to 28 points. I was only allowed 32 total points for the day. Butter = 5 points per pat. Jelly = 3 points per tablespoon. Creamer = 2 points per 1 ounce. Heh. When's the last time you measured creamer? So, I made some changes. And I squirreled my breakfast down to 13 points. I made substitutions. I tried the gazelle.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Value of Time

Almost everyone in the picture above is dead. The youngster sitting on the car roof is in his seventies. The fellow out on the edge of the picture on the right is my dad--he's eighty-seven. And the guy, second on the left in the front is his brother who is eighty-three. The dark-haired woman behind the third man in front her nineties and unfortunately, not really sure who the rest of us are.

Now, I guess you're wondering why I'm telling you this. It's simple. Time is precious.

When I was a youngster, most of the folks in the picture were around all the time. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and of course, my own parents. Within ten years of the time this picture was taken, my paternal grandfather died of a blood clot during surgery and my mother died in a car crash. Both were unexpected and far too young to be dead.

While I was growing up, there were times when I had occasional flashes of wisdom to realize my family members wouldn't always be around. When you're young, you think your life will always be the same, but I'd lost my mom so underneath that veneer of security, I knew that wasn't true.

Once I was an adult, I had a better idea of life's realities, but still...old age was far off. And then it seemed it wasn't as far off as I believed. My older family members started dying--some of old age, some of cancer, and others from other ailments. Abruptly, the family circle was down to three or four.

A couple days ago I spoke to my father. It was a casual call, checking on them because I know the weather is bad where they live. We talked about everything from the neighbors, to the unusual snow on the ground to an acquaintance of theirs who brings negativity to an entirely new level. None of our conversation was earthshaking or soul searching, but it was reaching out, touching his heart. He mentioned another person he tried to call several different times, but after very brief conversations this individual always had something to do. Dad said, "What he really means is he doesn't have time for me."

I try to call my parents at least twice a week. They live 1800 miles away. I can't just drop by whenever I want to see them. But I can call. I can spend whatever time they have to talk with me. Do they tell me the same old stories over and over? Yep. Do they lose their train of thought? Oh, yeah. So do I. Do I love them? With all my heart.

Some day, probably not too far in the future, they'll be gone. And then, all my precious time won't bring them back. So if you have someone you love, pick up that phone. We all spend time on things we find important. Ask yourself, just how important are they? Enough to give up a television program? Or a computer game? Or any of the other silly nonsense we spend time on?

Make the call.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Series Bible

Ah, the adventures of writing a series. Who can remember all the details--especially when you make up the world and culture as you go along? Well, that's where a series bible comes into play. It doesn't make any difference how you organize it as long as it suits your working style.

Some people keep their info on a spread sheet, some use paper and pen, and others use a program similar to OneNote, and others might even use index cards. The important thing is to keep that sucker up to date. And of course, remember where you put it when you finished your last book.

In the process of revising/updating/editing my Mystic Valley series, I found out just how much I've forgotten. It took a while (emptying closets, book shelves, trunks, etc.) but I finally located the bible for the series. I was pleasantly shocked to discover it required minimal additions and changes--even with all my revisions. In effect, I was reinventing the wheel with my revisions. If I had first consulted the bible, then I wouldn't have had to recalculate time lines. Bah!

Today is an 'update the bible' kind of day. If I work through it quickly enough, then I'll get back to my edits on Dancer's Delight. Might even finish those tomorrow. And then it will be on to Traveller's Refuge. The exciting thing for me is to see how intricate and detailed the world I created really is. Over time you forget your own accomplishments. This has been a reminder for me. I'm a world class creator.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chronology Interrupted

Over the years, I've had numerous discussions with other authors about their feelings when reading their older books. I would say the number one complaint by most of them is grammar/punctuation errors. As I prepare my older stories for republication, I'm mortified to find that is not my number one issue. Nope, my topper is the wild, chaotic time-line in this series.

In one book alone, a character was in turn fifteen, a budding warrior, seventeen, a Champion warrior, sixteen, a hunter, and finally the future High Clan Chief--all in a period of two months. Another character took his warrior vows at two different times in two separate locations in the same period.

In the previous book, the main character accomplished various tasks in two weeks, five weeks, eight weeks, but the entire time elapsed was two months. I'm poor at math, but even I can tell that doesn't add up.

One character was forty-five when the book started and fifty two when it ended...six months later. It's a good trick if he could pull it off.

Next to all of the time-line errors, the excessive 'thats' and 'justs' and other annoying issues are all non-starters. It appears I will need to start back at the beginning with a series of maps and a detailed chronology and family tree lest I end with someone marrying their great aunt Susie three years before they were born!

Heh. I always loved solving a good mystery. Game on.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Internet Life

Recently, one of the individuals I follow on Facebook posed the question, "How much time do you spend on social media and what is the major benefit you receive?" Most of the posters responding totally skipped the benefit part of the question and just listed the amount of time they spend online.

I could have done the same thing, but instead I thought about it and then pointed out the major benefit for me--and likely for a lot of others--is the opportunity to interact with other people. Because of medical issues, I rarely speak face-to-face with people. If the hunk and I go for a walk, we're careful to stay a safe distance from other walkers. He does the shopping while I read in the car. Without the Internet, it could be a lonely life.

But... through the miracle of the Internet, I can interact with friends, fellow authors, readers, fact, I have the opportunity to meet far more folks than I would otherwise. Through the magic window, I can read the news, laugh at kittens, sympathize with folks caught up in various disasters, chime in with my opinion on various issues, and read what others think about the appalling political situation in our country. I can reach out to fellow authors with encouragement and advice. I can share photos with my family. None of it would have been possible fifteen years ago.

Do I spend too much time on the Internet? Of course, I do. We all are guilty of that. But for a growing segment of the population, the magic window provides a necessary chance to cast off our shackles of loneliness, to become less hermits and more citizens of our world. Not everyone grabs the opportunities afforded to them, but for's a life saver.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Kissing Bits

Editing an older book, especially one written for a publisher known for their 'steamy' offerings, can be something of a conundrum. Do you tone it down? Heat it up? Leave it as is?

I know some authors who face similar challenges with technology. It doesn't take long for the entire world of electronics to whiz into an entirely different orbit. Since the series I'm working on has NO technology to speak of, that isn't one of my problems.

But the kissing bits is something else to ponder. I've really looked at the story I'm currently editing, trying to judge what to do. And I've concluded the series will be best left as is. Yep, it's a bit steamy. But the central theme of the series is the cultural differences between one world and another. And how the new-comers face dealing with those differences is what the books are about. Therefore, trying to write around the steamy bits would be counter to the story.

In this case...yeah, the kissing bits have to stay.

Anytime an author edits/revises/changes an older book for the current market, there are always going to be issues the author has to decide. Life and cultural mores change sometimes in the blink of an eye. If you don't believe this truth, just think back over the last year or two. Cultures constantly evolve, whether technologically or morally or financially. Five years ago, people and corporations routinely used checks. Now almost all money transactions are via electronics. Music was sold by CDs. I have no clue how it's sold now as I quit buying when I couldn't figure it out any more. Movies have skipped directly from the theater to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

For the most part, I believe leaving a book intact as written is best. Corrections (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and time-line issues excepted) should be minimal. After all, that book was written at a particular stage of the author's development. That's where they were at that time. And for me, at that time in my life, I was writing darn excellent steamy romance stories.

If I'm lucky, I might do so again.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Editing Shenanigans

As many of you know, I was previously affiliated with a publisher that's no longer in business. I spent most of a year wallowing in my 'oh, woe is me' mode before settling down to work on republishing my books. The hunk gave me a nudge by providing funds for new covers. And once I had covers, how could I justify sitting around on my duff while the books languished on the computer, hidden away like steamy secrets. And so.

I located the most recent version of Dancer's Delight and started wading through the story, making the changes I've long wanted to implement, deleting all the 'thats' and 'justs' and other over-used words, and changing some to more appropriate words. Around half way through, the hunk proposed we take advantage of the holiday sales to replace my aging computer and he tossed in a huge new monitor as I'm also aging and need a bit of a push with the old eyesight.

When I finally was able to return to the manuscript, I had no idea where I left off. Yep. You would think I would have some notion, but I've just read it too many times, so I decided to give my eyes a rest and printed out the entire thing.

In the process, I was reminded of something I've always known, but sort of shuffled to the back of my tired brain. Editing on paper is vastly different from editing digitally. Our brains and eyes process the printed word quite differently than digital. I expect some of the bad editing we see in other's books is due to this very thing.

But there's another advantage to editing on paper--at least for me. I love using my handy-dandy red pen, slashing through unneeded words, scribbling alternate dialogue in the margins, and noting down bits of research to take care of. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and yeah, power. Power I revel in over my own work. There isn't the same fulfillment when working on the computer. And I also believe the slower business of reading and editing on paper allows me to contemplate the words I'm working with. It allows me to mentally 'hear' the dialogue and descriptions. It permits me to ponder the inner rhythm of the story.

It's going to take a while longer than I planned to finish editing this story, but already I can see it will be worth it. And after all, that's the main thing isn't it? When this book is for sale, I'll know I've presented the very best of myself.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Logging Off

So...the end of 2017. It was quite a year. Alarms, anxiety, anger, and aggravation abounded. I'm not going to go there today. Today, I'm going to find something positive. I'm not sure what it will be yet, but surely there is something.

I've noticed a lot of folks on Facebook are taking time to express their thankfulness and gratitude for the support they've received from their online friends. And you know? That's a good thing. In this day of scurrying to and fro for jobs, errands, work, school, it's a blessing we have the Internet to keep in touch with our loved ones and friends.

In the past, reaching out and touching someone meant writing a letter, stuffing it in an envelope, slapping a stamp on it, and entrusting it to the United States Post Office. And then you waited. And waited. And waited. And if you were lucky, the recipient might actually write back to you.

Then, phones came along. Of course, it was quite expensive to talk to family and friends unless you waited until late at night. Then cell phones came along. And we can talk to anyone, anywhere. Between the Internet and our cell phones, there's really no excuse for us to fail to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones. This coming year, I resolve to keep in touch more.

Life has been pretty good this year. As I told my father this afternoon, I woke up every day. I have food, shelter, and clothing. Everything after that is icing on the cake. Too often, we forget to count our blessings. This coming year, I resolve to be more mindful of all the blessings I receive.

For all my friends and family out there...may you have a most blessed and peaceful new year.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Late Christmas Child

My last Christmas post for 2017...

Christmas 2003. It was a busy, busy year. In June we moved from New York to Maryland because the house hunk was transferred. Moving is always stressful, but this time it was particularly so because we lived in our last home for nineteen years. So much stuff. So much stuff to sort and get rid of or throw out! Then in mid-September Hurricane Isabel roared into Maryland. Fortunately, we were not near the flooding, though one of the trees behind our building ended up on our balcony.

Our younger daughter was pregnant, due in late December. We made arrangements to stay with our oldest son. Our daughter and her boyfriend were staying in a small room so Christmas was celebrated at our son's apartment. No baby. It appeared that the baby was in no hurry to arrive. We made arrangements to wait the baby out, but by December 29th, we were running out of our medications and reluctantly made the decision to go home the next day. That afternoon our daughter called, "Don't go yet! I've started labor!"

In a little while, her boyfriend called. "She wants you to be here when the baby's born." So we hopped in the car and made the forty-five minute drive across the Hudson River to the hospital. When we arrived, he was waiting for us and ushered us up to the maternity floor.
She didn’t quite make it for Christmas, but on December 29th close to midnight, the househunk and I were with my daughter and her boyfriend, present when Daisha Monet made her entrance. 

Witnessing the miracle of a new baby never gets old. The precious gift of a new life—especially at Christmas—is a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

She's fourteen this year. Happy Birthday, baby!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve Tacos

We have tacos every Christmas Eve. Why? As a remembrance of friendship above and beyond the usual. In this vignette, I tell the story.

Christmas 1981. We lived in Houston, Texas, far from our families. My dad called to tell the hunk he needed to come home. His father was very ill. We could not afford for everyone to go and our daughters were both in bed with the flu. We decided he would take our sons with him (mostly because I knew he would have to make frequent stops if they were along). When they arrived in Chicago, my parents planned to take the boys to Indiana to stay with them.

I was fine until Christmas Eve. Then the loneliness engulfed me. My friends were all busy with their extended family gatherings. My extended family lived far away. My daughters were sleeping the holidays away, too sick to care if they had gifts or not. I was feeling underprivileged and deprived as I stood at my kitchen counter eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The telephone rang. My friend, Linda, inquired about my plans for the evening. I admitted that I didn't have much planned except a shower and bed. She told me to get my purse and coat ready. Lester, her husband, was already on the way over to pick up my girls and me. We were invited to her home for the evening. I protested that the girls were sick. She pointed out they could sleep at her house as well as mine.

When Lester arrived, we wrapped the girls in blankets and carried them out to the car. The trip to their home was only a couple blocks away so the girls slept through the journey and were soon cozily asleep in bed. We spent the evening quietly, playing board games, eating tacos, and singing along with Handel’s Messiah. It was a lovely peaceful evening. Just after midnight, Lester drove us home.

On Christmas Eve our family has tacos as a remembrance of that Christmas Eve spent with loving, compassionate friends. Of all of my friends, they were the ones who saw my need and acted.

A miracle.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Surprise

The end of that year was an incredibly turbulent time. In November on my fourteenth birthday, President Kennedy was assassinated. It was in the beginning years of the Vietnam War. The Cuban Missile crisis was not long before that. Uncertainty was everywhere. So herewith, the story of Christmas 1963.

Christmas 1963. That was the year that Christmas wasn’t going to bring even one gift…we thought. It was a poor financial year. I didn’t exactly know that we were poor. We had plenty to eat. We had clean, warm clothes. We had a warm, sheltering apartment in Chicago that my stepmother, Maxine, worked hard to make a haven for us.

Now that I am a parent and grandparent I realize how difficult it must have been for her to sit us down a few weeks before Christmas and explain that there wasn’t any money for gifts. If all the money she had managed to save was pooled, we could have a special Christmas dinner. Back then there were no such things as food banks or church assistance.

Soberly, we considered the dilemma, and then one by one, we agreed that a special dinner was the best use for the money we had. Once that was settled, we put it behind us and life went on.

Then, a couple weeks before Christmas, Mum told all of us to hurry home immediately after school, as there would be a surprise. Friends of the family planned to bring each of us a gift and wished to be present when we opened them. So on this day, I slung my books into my locker at school and rushed home. Pounding up the stairs to our second floor apartment, I eagerly flung open the door—and froze in my tracks.

Every level surface in both the dining and living rooms was covered with gifts. Piles of beautifully, lovingly decorated boxes with bows and trinkets. A tree twinkled merrily in the corner. The melodies of familiar Christmas carols filled the air. Unexpectedly, Christmas had come to our home.

As I stood in the open doorway, I could not imagine what had happened. Certainly, we didn't get rich overnight. I shut the door before walking around the rooms gently touching the lovely boxes. Mum, more excited than I had ever seen her, urged me to look in the kitchen where two boxes of groceries, a ten-pound ham, fifty pounds of potatoes, and a five pound box of chocolates sat on the table. A special Christmas dinner indeed!

In a little while, when my brothers came home from school and my dad arrived from work, we opened the gifts. Of all the Christmases in my life, this is the one I can remember every single thing I received--not because I was a greedy kid, but because they were all gifts of sacrifice from strangers.

Our family friends were a minister and his wife with a church in Indiana. One of their church families approached them, seeking a family that wasn’t going to have any gifts for Christmas. The parents and children of this church family voted to give up their Christmas gifts so that a family, unknown to them, would have a special Christmas.

The minister and his wife undertook the responsibility of obtaining clothing sizes and special needs, plus transportation and delivery of the gifts. And they delivered our heartfelt thank you letter to the anonymous family.

As Christmas grows closer, whether we are rich or poor, I look back on that Christmas and know that we are blessed because we are together. Every year I remember the blessing of being loved unconditionally by strangers.

A miracle.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Long Road Home

Every year I reprint a few of the Christmas memories I've shared from the past. This is from Christmas 1989. May all those traveling this Christmas be safe...

Christmas 1989. “Please come if you can. Uncle Charles has terminal cancer and probably won’t be with us next Christmas.”

For many years in my family, holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving) have been alternated with the in-laws. This year was not a our family Christmas, but the family was trying to get together anyway. It wasn’t a great year for us. My husband was on disability from an accident at work. I was on unemployment because my company, Waldenbooks, had moved their warehouse operation from New York to Tennessee. The boys, recently graduated from high school, were out of work, since they had also been employed there. Jobs were scarce with 700 unemployed warehouse workers suddenly in the job market. I was attending school as a dislocated worker, hoping to obtain the skills for a new job.

“Please come.” Our car was shot. There was barely enough for a gift for each of the kids. Friends had provided Christmas dinner components for us. The trip from New York to Indiana was out of the question. Reluctantly, I called my parents with the news.

The kids asked us if we could talk for a few minutes. “Suppose we give up our present money…would we have enough gas money to get there?” one of them asked.
My younger son offered to change the oil and do a quick check up on the car. The older one pointed out that we could take turns driving. The car had very little heat…but my older daughter suggested that we could take extra blankets.

Slowly, one objection at a time, they showed us that we could make the trip. I called my parents in LaPorte, Indiana and suggested that they make some extra beds.

We traveled to LaPorte, stopping only for restrooms and coffee. Our car was a tight squeeze for five small people. We had six large people. The kids said that was a good thing as we all stayed warmer that way. Meals were sandwiches eaten in the car. In Ohio, we ran into snow. The car heater didn’t work well enough to defrost the windows so they began to freeze over. There were frequent stops to clear them, but we made it. After eighteen hours on the road we arrived in LaPorte. There was close to a foot of snow on the ground.

It was a great Christmas, rendered more poignant because of Uncle Charles’ illness. There were more family members there than at anytime before or since. Two came from Guam. Others came from all over the United States. Close to 70 people sat down for Christmas dinner. Afterwards there were games, carols, and visiting.

A couple of days later the trip home was longer with a blizzard to contend with. In Pennsylvania, the snow was so heavy that it melted on the headlights, creating a sheet of ice that coated them. We stopped frequently to clear them just so we had light. Cars were sliding off the road. It was night. Plows couldn’t keep up with the storm. The rest areas were closed. We had no money to stay anywhere so we kept moving. Twenty-six hours later, we arrived safely home.

Anyone who has traveled with teenagers knows that it’s impossible to travel far without petty squabbles and picking. However, our entire trip, bad weather, extremely uncomfortable conditions, with limited money, there wasn’t a cross word from anyone.

A miracle. Several, in fact.