Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carnal Camelot

Isn't it a pretty cover? Yesterday Carnal Camelot was released in print. It is a duet of Chrysanthemum and Honeysuckle. If you want to race right over and order your very own copy, just click on the book cover.

Orrrrr, you can drop by at the booksigning at RomantiCon and pick up your copy. That way I can autograph it for you! For more information about RomantiCon, just click on the link!

I'm getting excited about the convention. I'll see a lot of my fellow authors who are coming from all over the place. It's always nice to spend time with your peers. We'll have the opportunity to attend some workshops (I'm a presenter at the promo workshop!) And of course, we'll party (just a little). In between, we'll talk and talk and talk and I'm sure when we head back home, we still won't be talked out.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Getting Ready For RomantiCon--Part One

I seldom leave home. I do mean seldom...maybe once every year or two. In the interim, things tend to slide. I write in my jammies, run around the house in sloppy shorts and tee shirt, shave my legs when I get around to it.

Usually, the "getting ready" process is a mad dash to beauty salons, nail salons, etc. until I am more or less presentable. This time my daughter is here to help out. Actually, I think she always wanted one of those dollies she could style and makeup and now that she has me instead she's having a wonderful time making me over.

I've mentioned on my blog on more than one occasion the problems I have with my beard. The beauty salon declined to wax it because it would possibly cause too much damage to my skin. Shaving on a daily basis is something only men should have to do. And bleaching just leaves we with a long white beard.

So we purchased a tub of wax and yesterday we began the arduous process of giving me a clean chin. I inherited a heavy beard from my maternal grandfather. Little did I know when I watched him stropping his straight razor twice a day that I would face dealing with the same heavy growth pattern.

Working in small patches to minimize the skin damage on my face, she slathered warm wax on my goatee and ripped away. Did it hurt? Yes, but not nearly as much as it did at the beauty salon. I still have a crop of short little whiskers left, but our plan was a second go round in a few days, so I'm pleased with the progress.

There's still the eyebrows to do, but they'll wait until closer to departure time. And of course, we have the hair to trim and color (cause goodness knows no one can tell that I'm getting OLD!) Manicure and pedicure. And too bad she can't arrange to remove a few inches from my backside, but so far her miracle working has been stymied in that area.

Heh. I'll be so beautiful no one will recognize me when I get there. Until then...

anny

Monday, September 28, 2009

In the still of the night...

Sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, you lay in the dark like a tree full of owls. I've tried everything on those nights. Sleepytime tea. A warm bath. A hot shower. A cold shower. Soft music. Counting sheep.

Usually, I break down and get up. I go into my office and sit at the computer and stare at a blank screen. On rare occasions, I actually write, but that's not the norm. No... eventually I open a game of Solitaire or Bookworm or some other mindless occupation. Inevitably, just when I'm getting involved with the game, I start nodding off.

Of course, you can't go to bed when you're close to a high score. Of course not! So I determinedly prop my eyes open and go for that last card...or word...or marble. And because I'm tired, I lose. Always. So why do I keep repeating this useless behavior? I'm not sure. I think it's just bullheadedness.

Fortunately, I don't have many sleepless nights. I'm usually too tired to keep my eyes open. But the next time it happens, I think I'll just go directly to the game, play like mad, and pray that I get tired really fast. And one last thing... I don't really care whether I win or lose.

I suspect I'll still be awake at four A.M.

anny

Don't forget! The last day of the Falling Leaves Contest is September 28! Scroll down for details!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beam me up!

Have you ever had one of those days when you thought perhaps you'd been snatched by aliens while you were sleeping? You know... maybe you're living in an alternate universe? A place where all the rules have changed and life is over as you knew it?

Yeah, that was what my day was like yesterday. No doubt today will revert to the same-old, same-old. But in the meantime, it was certainly entertaining...

anny

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Arthur's Royal Pocket Rocks...

When you try to think of something to use as promo for a convention, one of the qualities has to be that the item is attractive. Another excellent quality is that the item is something that might be useful.
And of course, you want the item to be something that reminds the reader of your books...

So here we have the useful, attractive Pocket Rocks. They can be a paper weight, a good luck piece, a decoration on a table, or whatever else the reader might think up.
Why Pocket Rocks, you say? Well, in Daffodil, King Arthur's pet rock Sidney has a pivotal role in the story. Initially, we contemplated producing a bunch of pet rocks. But my daughter pointed out that female readers might not find them attractive at all. So then we brain stormed until we came up with the Pocket Rock. If you look closely, you see that most of them have flowers on them... Flowers of Camelot!

I can hear you now... "How do I get my very own Pocket Rock?", you cry. Well, that's simple. Show up at my table at RomantiCon in Akron, OH. If you arrive early enough to score your very own Pocket Rock, that will put you in the running for some swell prizes. Some of the Pocket Rocks are very special, you see. Pick the right one and you'll be a winner.

And since y'all are so special... here's an excerpt about Sidney, the pet rock!

From Daffodil by Anny Cook

Two nights later, Raulf wearily leaned back in a steaming tub of water upstairs at the Two Trick Tavern while Daffodil washed his hair. Timmy was out trying to rustle up something for them to eat. Cooking was not one of the specialties of the ladies employed at Two Trick Tavern. When Raulf and his companions first arrived, the management wasn’t inclined to even rent them a room.

Fortunately, Timmy volunteered to change their minds and he did it with such lusty gusto that the ladies were presently napping and resting up for the second round. While they dozed, Raulf appropriated their luxuriously appointed bathroom for Daffodil’s and his use. Starving after his workout, Timmy slipped on his zipsuit and declared that he would bathe later as food was far more important. After all, he needed to keep up his strength for round two.

Prowling down the dark rubble-strewn alley that separated the Two Trick Tavern—or as it was locally known, the Triple T—from the rest of the scruffy little village, Timmy observed a man darting stealthily from one of the shadowy huts near the edge of the village. Curious, Timmy followed him to a dimly lit squat building near the center of the village. Further cogitation led Timmy to conclude that the building must be an alehouse where the locals gathered for a pint or two. And where there was ale, there was usually food.

He pulled open the heavy door and poked his head in just to be sure his conclusions were correct. Happy to see that they were, he slipped inside and made for the nearest empty high-backed booth. A plain young woman with a frankly unbelievable bosom spilling from her tight gathered blouse approached almost at once.

“What’ll ya have?” she demanded while giving the tabletop a lick and a promise with her grungy towel.

Timmy kept a leery eye on her straining top, positive that it was going to give way at any moment. Those were lethal weapons she was carting around and he wanted to make sure he wasn’t in the line of fire when her top exploded. “What do you have?” he asked absently.

“Venison stew, chicken pot pie and hot bread.” She rattled it off with the bored expression of a woman who’s been on her feet too long.

“I’ll have one of everything and a pint of ale.” Timmy edged deeper in the booth and glanced around the dark room as she stomped away with her blouse still intact. They must use some strong fabric in waitress outfits, he decided as he watched her leave. Only three lights flickered in the room, providing minimal illumination. He caught a whiff of smoke that revealed the presence of someone smoking illegal Earth cigarettes in the small room. Obviously, the local justice system was pretty lax.

The young woman returned with a tray loaded down with steaming food. It landed on the table with a thud as her breasts shimmied beneath the top. Hastily, Timmy helped her unload the tray. She shot him an odd glance and flounced off to get his ale.

Timmy grabbed a hot yeasty roll from the bread basket, tore it apart and dunked it in the smoking stew. Lifting the dripping bread to his mouth, he took a hearty bite and sighed with relief. It was delicious. The cook was probably a troll, he speculated. They were the best cooks in the kingdom. Without further hesitation, he dug in. He had polished off the stew and was nearly finished with the chicken pot pie when he heard the name “Sidney” from the booth behind him.

Pausing in his eating, he listened intently.

“Oh please! What kind of idiot keeps a pet rock?” a male with a whiny light tenor voice exclaimed.

“When you’re the king you can have any kind of pet you want—even a rock,” a deeper voice replied and with horror, Timmy recognized Florian LeFleur was the speaker.

Tenor voice laughed heartily. “That’s exactly why we need a new ruler. Tomorrow morning I’ll take Sidney to the blacksmith and borrow his anvil and sledgehammer. When I finish, Sidney will just be a pile of marbles.”

Florian growled. “Don’t be stupid, Nigel. All that will do is make the king angry. You’ll mess up the plan and your mother will lock you away with the pixies. Quit screwing around with the damned pet rock. Everything is under control. Our spies have informed me that my ex-butler Raulf has talked that idiot Gareth into giving Daffodil to him. It should be very easy to snatch her right from under his nose.”

“The butler did it, huh?” Nigel chortled in glee. “I always wanted to say that.”

Timmy heard Florian sigh gustily. “I cannot believe Morgana is your mother. She must be tearing her hair out. No wonder she suffers from PMS. I would have drowned you at birth. Get me the damned pet rock so I can return it to the king. We don’t want him to suspect a thing. Then go to the turkey races like you said you were going to.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cursive...

I was over skimming through Jaci Burton's blog today when I stumbled over her post about cursive writing. In the blog she cited an article about schools possibly discontinuing teaching cursive writing.


The article cited several reasons why children didn't need to learn cursive writing, though the primary one was linked to computer technology.

I find this trend disturbing for a different reason. While many things are on the internet, much of our history prior to World War II--the original documents, letters, diaries... are not. The vast majority of those primary sources are in cursive form. If our children don't learn to write--and therefore read cursive--who will be the custodians of those documents?

Isn't that exactly how language forms are lost? It seems to me that many of the dead languages had a "formal" written form plus a "shorthand" form. Will cursive writing be our formal form? And will this be the first step in shifting our language to the dead form?

Spoken language changes almost daily. When I posted a few days ago about spelling and my concern with texting changing the way we write, I only touched on one aspect of our language. The loss of cursive writing has many more implications than releasing our children from a few hours of practice.

To be sure, the issue of practicing is important. Some issues such as eye-hand coordination and small motor skills are improved by practicing cursive writing. In this day of identity theft, there is the very important issue of a unique signature for documents. How will we deal with that if we scuttle cursive writing?

Though many people (such as myself) use a computer for most of their writing, the vast majority of people don't use the computer for everything. Grocery lists, homework assignments, math problems, letters to Mom are most handwritten.

Some say that printing is clearer. In my day, cursive writing was just as clear. It's a matter of attitude and priority. I hope that schools do NOT decide to quit teaching cursive. Or someday, cursive might join the list of lettering forms that are the purview of calligraphers, practiced in secret, read only in quiet library rooms.

anny

Don't forget the Falling Leaves Contest! Click on the box for more information about how to enter!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Run for your life!

There are times when barreling ahead is manifestly stupid. Yet, sometimes we continue on a course that is clearly disastrous, possibly even catastrophic, because we don't want to be perceived as a quitter... we don't want to give up. Sometimes retreat is the better option. Sometimes running like hell in the other direction will save our life.

Making a decision to turn back isn't always as easy as it might seem. If the danger is not obvious, but intuition tells us it's present, it's harder to justify our decision. In that case, it requires extra resolution to walk away--especially if those around us perceive no danger.

I have been in a situation that's made me very, very uneasy for quite a while now. And in the last few weeks I've wrestled with the decision--walk away? Or stay? It's difficult to make the break.

Sometimes it can be the smallest straw that finally makes the llama lie down. I think I've had that littlest straw handed to me. And this llama refuses to carry any more weird stuff. No more smoke and mirrors. No more odd stories. And no more inexplicable reasons for strange behaviors.

I believe I'll ride back out on the horse I rode in on.

anny

Don't forget the Falling Leaves Contest! It will be over on Feb 28 so enter now!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

R U there?

I wonder what the dictionary will be like in fifty years--and if we would recognize any of the words? Will there still be spelling 'b's? Or spelling tests? Or will we revert to the colonial days when people spelled however they wanted to?

I have a family name that ends with "baugh". When the original family came to America, it was spelled "bach". They were of German extraction and that was pronounced like the composer. Bach. Well, they settled in an area where most of the governing bodies were groups of Scotch-Irish immigrants. And they (the Scotch-Irish) spelled "bach" as "baugh". Hence, our name now ends with baugh instead of bach.

Back then, name spelling was just one of the variables. I have an ancestor named Alice, Alys, Alis, Alics, Alyc, Alyys, Alies, and a couple more variants. As you can see, a simple name like Alice had many varients. You should see what they did with Bartholomew...

With all the texting and emoticons and other abbreviations, I just wonder how long it will be before spelling is a thing of the past. Will it be necessary? Or will we just shrug our shoulders and move on?

anny

PS: Today begins the Falling Leaves Contest! Just click the link for more information and many chances to win!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Romaden's Beginning

Angry shouts and terrified screams followed the heavy splintering wood as the raiders broke down the massive doors guarding the royal family’s apartments. While the king and his family were rounded up and slaughtered, loyal retainers raced through the secret escape passage with the king’s two small sons and infant daughter, determined to save the last of the royal family of Baryna.

Guards and retired warriors viciously defended the narrow tunnel giving the retainers precious time to reach the hidden vault far below the palace. When all who survived were inside, the last warrior released the prepared trap, filling the passageway with heavy stones that hurtled down on the pursuers. The warrior rushed through the bronze covered doors signaling the guards to slam them shut. Heavy iron gates descended with a frightful clang from the ceiling behind the doors, barring them from the inside. A terrible silence fell over the small group as they came to grips with the bloody terror in the royal apartments.

Finally, Aken, the leader of the guard straightened his shoulders and declared with bitter anger and grief, “The king is no more. Long live the king.”

In the center of the big room, a young woman set a small sturdy boy on his feet. Sleepily, he rubbed his eyes and yawned as all around him, men and women knelt to swear fealty to Romaden, their new king.

By morning, the weary group had reached the Tarchema Barrens. Even in the early hours of dawn, word that Rainal, leader of the raiders, was seizing the king’s throne, had filtered through the dark streets of Baryna. At the edge of Tarchema Barrens, following long held plans, the group split in three, each taking one of the children with them. Those that guarded Romaden also accepted the responsibility of guarding the royal regalia and royal chronicles and genealogies.

Once each child was safely within the family stronghold on the rocky island retreat off the coast of Gultera, the retainers would split up, melting into the small towns and large cities, forming a network for information and support. Rainal the Usurper would find his reign more difficult than he imagined.

* * *

A woman would no doubt be the cause of his death, Eli thought, but probably not today.

With the billowing dust storm at his back, Eli dared to breathe a tentative sigh of relief. The posse hot on his trail had disappeared in the first swirling rust colored clouds. If the storm didn’t catch up with him before he reached shelter, his escape would be assured. He shook his head at his own foolishness. The village headman’s daughter was a luscious morsel, too tempting to pass up though he knew better than to fall for such feminine wiles. Well, he would remember next time to keep his hands to himself. His primary goal now was to outrun the storm.

Then he spied the colowoots lazily circling overhead. His grime-rimmed eyes slid over the barren land searching carefully as he reined his weary shnormies to a halt. The lop-eared beasts stopped on the rutted trail, flapping their long ears and raising small clouds of dust when they stomped their feet. Tiny stinging latibugas swarmed up their legs, attacking the fresh source of food.

In the Tarchema Barrens, you were either prey or predator. Often you were both, but Eli preferred to be on the predator end of that scale. He pulled his spyglass from the pack behind his seat, climbed up on top of his dusty caravan, and studied the immediate area while keeping a cautious eye on the dust storm at his back. The little bloodsucking colowoots wouldn’t be this far out in the wastelands unless there was a body to feast on.

Out in front of him, to the side of the trail, a flock of colowoots squabbled over a dark shapeless bundle. Eli didn’t waste time wondering if the victim was dead yet. Colowoots didn’t attack the living. He clambered down from his perch atop the caravan and took up the reins, snapping them over the shnormies’ haunches with a quick flick. The approaching dust storm was gathering speed. He needed shelter for his caravan and animals and he needed it immediately.

Under the snap of the reins the shnormies moved into a jerky trot, pulling the wagon over the rough ground toward the bundle. Though time was running out, Eli couldn’t afford to pass by the body without at least coming to some conclusion about how it came to be subars from nowhere. No one walked into the Tarchema Barrens on foot. When his caravan pulled up alongside the body, his uneasiness turned to alarm. The dead man was no roaming wanderer. His fine clothing and handsome riding boots told their own tale. Here was a wealthy man, alone and dead, with no mount in sight.

Wrapping the reins around the caravan brake, Eli hopped down and approached the body. The colowoots shied away, squeaking in anger while he grimly checked the body for wounds inflicted by men. They weren’t hard to find. From the numerous slashes and cuts, the man had fought fiercely before succumbing. A second look at the boots assured Eli that they were the handiwork of a fine boot maker. Certainly robbery had not been the motive. No robber would have left them behind. On the underground market the boots would fetch enough distris to buy an entire herd of shnormies.

Briefly, Eli debated taking the boots himself, but in the end he suspected that they would bring him more grief than he could handle. He went back to the caravan and climbed up to the seat, casting an anxious look at the dark sky on the horizon behind him. No more time to tarry. He must find shelter at once. He snapped the reins, urging the shnormies into an unaccustomed gallop. Ahead of him was a ravine with a large cave. If they could make it before the storm, the cave would provide shelter for both his caravan and the shnormies.

The caravan jerked as the wheels bounced over the ruts. The first tendrils of wind began to hum across the land. As they approached the lip of the ravine, Eli hauled back on the reins to slow the shnormies’ headlong race over the edge. They thundered down the slope into the ravine with the caravan slewing from side to side. In desperation Eli braced his feet and yanked on the reins. The shnormies slowed to a walk before stumbling to a stop, sides bellowing, a few feet from the cave.

It took Eli a few heart pounding moments to realize the shnormies’ abrupt halt wasn’t due to his heroic efforts. Rather, they shied away from the scent of death that permeated the ravine. Wearily securing the reins, Eli leaped down, racing over to the nearest body. He hoped to find someone alive since the colowoots were not present in the ravine, but he was doomed to disappointment. The man was clearly dead. Rushing from body to body, Eli found that none had survived what was obviously a deliberate massacre.

After hurriedly dragging the tumbled bodies out of the way, he led the shnormies and his caravan deep into the cave just as the howling dust storm descended upon the ravine. The shelter allowed him a few precious moments to fling the protective covers over the shnormies’ heads before he crawled inside the caravan and slammed the door shut.

The wind whipped down the ravine, scouring everything in its path with sandy grit. It howled past the cave mouth, screeching as it rose at the end of the canyon, racing over the flat barrens, leaving deafening silence behind.

He wanted nothing more than to stay in his caravan, huddled on his bunk, but there was no one else to deal with the dead. He would not shirk his duty. Rolling to his feet, he shuddered as he contemplated the task before him. Opening the cupboard overhead, he lifted down the jug of gulteria—fine dark ale from the coastal city of Gultera. The plug squealed as he worked it loose. After pouring some in his mug, he pounded the plug back in and set the jug back in the cupboard. Then while slowly sipping the soothing liquid, he mentally listed all that he must do before darkness fell on the ravine.

When the last drop was gone, he tugged on his cap, tied a fine gauze scarf over his mouth and nose, and went back out into the cave. First he stopped to check on the animals. After many trips across the barrens, the shnormies had adapted to the protective hoods, but Eli liked to give them a comforting pat or two as extra reassurance and reward. Though most people didn’t bother to name their shnormies, Eli felt a kinship to his animals when he named them. He patted Thumi’s gritty golden hindquarters as he stood placidly waiting for release from the caravan. Next to Thumi, Tomac stomped his feet restlessly and snorted. His dark brown hide twitched and he snorted again when Eli caressed his long neck and shoulders. “Easy. Just a bit longer.”

With a deep breath, Eli turned away, heading for the vandalized caverns out in the ravine. Once he searched them, he would place the bodies inside and burn them in the morning. But first—first he wanted to search for a hint of who the dead were and why someone had murdered an entire party of travelers.

A high pitched wail echoed from the ravine walls as Eli stepped out of the cave into the waning light. The tiny short hairs on his spine rose in alarm as his head came up, searching for the source. The next unhappy cry galvanized Eli to race for the caravans. Ripping open the door of the nearest one, he peered inside, astonished when he found himself face to face with a grubby youngster perhaps three or four years old who was peeking out of a storage space.

Eli climbed up into the caravan and squatted down next to the boy. He frowned, his nose wrinkling at the acrid odor of stale urine as he studied the youngster crouched in the hiding place. Finally Eli sighed. “What is your name, boy?”

“Romaden.” The boy’s lips trembled as tears threatened to spill over his dusty cheeks.

“Well, Romaden. Come out of there. We’ll go to my caravan and clean you up a bit. Are you hungry?”

After a moment, Romaden nodded.

“All right. Do you know where your clothing is stored?” Eli inquired hopefully.

The boy swiped his running nose with his sleeve and pointed to the storage unit under the bunk across the narrow aisle from him. Eli pulled open the drawer and stared down at the tumbled piles of ladies undergarments.

“I don’t think these are your clothes, boy. They seem a bit too frilly even for a youngster.”

Creeping from his spot, Romaden knelt next to the drawer, plunged his grubby paw into the lacy garments, and tugged. The false bottom yielded to his efforts, revealing neatly packed clothing for a small boy.

Nabbing the first things he saw, Eli jumped down from the caravan and grabbed Romaden under his arms, swinging the boy down to stand next to him facing away from the bodies. “Close your eyes until I tell you to open them. We’ll come back for the rest of your things.”

Obediently, Romaden shut his eyes.

Taking his hand, Eli led the little boy back into the cave to his caravan. When they were safely inside, he said, “All right. You can open your eyes now.”

While the boy stood very still staring at his new surroundings, Eli lit the lamp over his small wash basin and poured some water from his cistern in the bowl. Silently, he stripped the soiled clothing from his new charge and scrubbed him down from head to toe. While he cleaned and dressed the boy, he meditated on his next steps.

Tarchema Springs, the nearest settlement was over forty subars away, on the edge of the barrens. It was a small huddle of mud and stone houses where the inhabitants eked out a living by charging for the use of the springs and selling water. If all went well, it would take two days to reach the Springs. The next settlement, Qildomi Heights was two days on the other side of the Springs.

Somewhere between the ravine and the Heights, Eli would have to think of a way to hide Romaden’s fiery bright hair—silky red-blond strands that would bring a death sentence, even to such a small boy. From the moment he’d seen the child, he'd known what the raiders were searching for. They wanted to capture the missing heir of the exiled royal family of Baryna.

With a sour smile, Eli wondered which of the gods was laughing at him now.
More???

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To thine own self be true...

I've received another so-so review. Somehow, the so-so ones are more paralyzing that the really bad ones. What I find really puzzling are the books by other authors that received five star reviews--when I found myself disappointed in those same books. Hmmm.

Anyway, this isn't about other author's reviews, or for that matter, even my own. This post is about the no-man's-land where my writing is currently lost. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm recovering from the flu, or because I'm distracted by family issues, or because I'm thinking about meeting my fellow authors at a convention, but the writing is dead.

I admit the review didn't help. Not because it was a so-so review, but because I'm having a hard time trying to decide what I can learn from it. I always try to learn something positive from my reviews. And this one... well, I'm not sure how to "fix" the next book based on this review.

Every author I know is constantly striving to improve their writing. That's what I do--work hard with each succeeding book to make it a better story with memorable characters and an interesting plot. For some reason, I'm stagnating and moving backwards and I can't quite figure out why.

Perhaps its because I'm torn between two goals: improve the plot/story line or have enough sex in the story to qualify for submission to the on-line publishers. There's a sharp line of demarcation in the publishing field. Sex or no sex. And once again, I find myself somewhere in the middle--sort of uninterested in the excessive kinky sex that seems to be the requirement now, yet not really interested in the closed bedroom door of the old days.

Perhaps like old Will Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Have I lost my way?

For that matter, even if a publisher buys the story, will readers want to read it? Or will they be disappointed with the new and improved author? What do you think? Is less, more?

anny

Friday, September 18, 2009

Commute???

Me? I tele-commute. But back in my time, I spent several hours a day commuting (or providing transport for the commuter). At one time, in addition to working an eight and a half hour day, I spent an additional six hours driving back roads as I chauffeured various family members to and from work. My car was my office, my dining room, my study hall, even my concert hall.

What it wasn't was comfortable. In the winter it was cold. In the summer it was hot. And the car seat hasn't been invented that's comfortable after a couple of hours.

Like the postman, neither snow nor sleet nor rain... kept me from my appointed rounds. At four AM, I was up driving the house hunk to the park n ride lot so he could catch the bus, beginning his two hour commute into the city. Frequently, I followed the snow plows back home, giving me a fair idea of whether we would have work that day--or not. Since I worked for a school district, I definitely had a heads up about whether the district would be likely to put school buses on the roads.

I've used all sorts of transportation to commute from the ancient trolley busses used by the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and the "L" to the eight lane plus madness that is the 610 loop in Houston, Texas. I must admit that my favorite mode of commuting is via computer. Jammie clad, with coffee in hand, I can settle in front of my computer and begin my day.

There are, of course, disadvantages to tele-commuting. Hard to be sick enough to miss work when you're not leaving home. And you don't see a lot of people face-to-face. And you don't get much exercise when you don't go outside...

On the other hand, you save on clothing costs, can have your pet at work with you, and if a nap becomes absolutely necessary, the bed is close by. Actually, I do believe that's next on my schedule.

anny

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heart of a LION

There are those who wish they were lions... and those who truly have the hearts of lions. I wake up in panic, gasping because of a flu bug, but eventually I will be better. There are many with asthma and other respiratory diseases who face a lifetime of gasping for air, knowing their lives will never be disease free.

I suffer the aches and pains of encroaching age, knowing that I am not yet incapacitated. I know people who suffer walking the short distance from their home to their vehicle, yet they continue to persevere, carrying on the best they can with their lives because they refuse to give up or give in.

I squint as I work over my computer or with my beading, annoyed because the eyes won't quite focus. Yet there are many less fortunate who view the world through blurry eyes, feeling blessed because they can still see light and color.

Everyday I wake to a new day filled with promise and possibilities. I see the world around me. I hear the music of birdsong and the laughter of children. I smell the scent of rain and the sweetness of roses. I walk--slowly, but surely--wherever I need to go. I enjoy the company of good friends and precious family.

I salute all those who cheerfully persevere in life circumstances that are less than mine. They have the enduring hearts of lions. Let us pause a moment and listen to them roar in triumph.

anny

Today is T's twelth birthday. I remember the day of your arrival so vividly. Where did the years go? Blessings in your coming year! I love you. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Masterpiece...

Never trust decisions you make when you're under the combined influence of nasal spray, cough syrup, and your inhaler. If you then add a piece of chocolate cake and a soda, you're in real trouble.

At various murky points in the last two or three days I compiled a list of possible promo items to take to RomantiCon (October 9-12 in Akron, OH). On reviewing the list today, some are manifestly impossible. Most are impractical. And a couple are doable if I enlist the neighborhood in an assembly line frenzy.

Ideally, promo items should be relatively inexpensive, memorable (after all, they're supposed to keep your name in front of your possible readers), useful (at least in the short term) and unique. Something must separate your promo item from everyone else's promo item.

After much heartburn and headdesking, I've concluded such an item does not exist. Nope, it isn't out there. So like every other author out there, I'll show up with the usual suspects... magnets, chapbooks, maybe the odd book mark of three.

Unless I have a flash of brilliance in my cough syrup induced dreams tonight. There's still three weeks for me to think of something truly brilliant. *cough, cough* But I'm not counting on that passing flash of insanity. Nope. I think I'll settle on the magnets. Now I'm off to see what I can design that will be truly memorable...

anny

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Still fighting the crud...

And maybe tomorrow I'll be up to doing more than sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. In the meantime... something prettier to contemplate than my aches and pains:
T and D went to the local town festival with their Poppy and parents on Sunday while I moaned and groaned and coughed in solitary splendor. The pic above is a sample of the beautiful face painting they did on T's face.
This is a pic of D. She was so enamored with the painting that she cried when she had to take her shower and wash it off. I can't say that I blamed her. Her mamma talked to the ladies that had the booth. They told her they do children's parties. What a cool idea.

anny

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Calling in sick...

Well, life is just one bit of fun after another. I have a bug. Exactly what species of bug, I'm not sure, but it's one that incorporates pretty much everything from a stuffy head/runny nose to the heaves. So I think I'll toddle back to bed and try to sleep it off.

Have a nice weekend!

anny

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The kissing bits...

Do you remember The Princess Bride when the little boy asks if he has to hear the kissing bits? I thought that was a charming movie. In the last few weeks I've watched more movies than I watched in quite a long time before that. One thing that's struck me in the recent movies is their loss of innocence.

Even the children's movies seem so much less innocent than they were a decade ago. I'm wondering when the time came that it was okay to have more than kissing in a movie marketed for kids? I suppose that the same is true on television.

In the last few weeks I've had occasion to watch several television shows and truthfully? I'm not impressed. Comedy isn't funny. Reality isn't real. Mysteries are all centered around sex crimes. Drama is flat. And sports aren't sportsmanlike. Even the news is slanted and unfair.

What's safe to watch with kids? Does anyone remember I Love Lucy?

anny

Friday, September 11, 2009

Parent's Night

Inevitably, there will be a ton of posts commemorating 9/11. For me, it's always a celebration because my older daughter was supposed to be on a plane flying into New York City from Florida that day. You see, it's her birthday. And for her, it's forever a bittersweet day now. Today she's 36. And every year I'm grateful that she's a year older. Happy Birthday, J! Many, many more.

Two nights in a row at "Parent's Night" at school was probably two nights too many. Wednesday night we climbed stairs, visited every classroom and talked to every teacher for T at the middle school. In our case, it was also an opportunity to touch base about the temporary needs T would have until her arm heals. I was impressed with the creativity expressed by teachers who were willing to come up with solutions so T wouldn't get too far behind.

Even the gym teacher had some "exercise" ideas for T. And she offered to speak to a friend who is a physical therapist about some safe exercises for her fingers so T doesn't lose too much mobility.

Then last night we visited the elementary school and sat with a bunch of kindergarten parents while the teachers explained what "our" kindergarteners were doing. Facial expressions told the story--it was obvious which parents were first timers and which had been here before.

By the time we got home, my daughter and I were very tired and there were chores to be done. The main one was the evening wound care and cleaning. For those who have weak stomachs, just skip to the bottom of the post!
This is a close of up the damage. Under those steri-strips are a hundred and fifty stitches. The surgeon did such a superb job that if all goes well, she'll only have a hair-line scar on that section.
Now the wrist on the other hand... well, we're ecstatic that she didn't have any permanent loss of feeling and mobility and if a scar is the price, then we're real happy. Below and above the stitch line are deep scrapes that curiously hurt more than all the stitches. Isn't that the way it usually goes? The wrist section accounted for another twenty-five stitches.

Tomorrow, she goes back to school. And boy, is she excited. Thank you to all the authors who've offered prayers, money, and good wishes. We all appreciate it more than you can know. I'm so looking forward to thanking many of you personally at RomantiCon in a few weeks! Romance writers are the best!

And tomorrow, I promise to post about something other than my family!

anny

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hugs...

Hugs to Charles our maintenance man. You are a crown jewel among men. Thank you for calling 9-1-1. Thank you for running into your apartment to fetch a towel to help stanch the bleeding. Most especially, thank you for running across the parking lot to direct the ambulance to the right location. You are fabulous!

Hugs to Dr. Sarah who painstakingly stitched and stitched and stitched literally for hours (about three and a half) all while maintaining her compassion and humor. Your bedside manner is beyond compare and your stitchery is superb. Even in the midst of an inordinate amount of blood, you took the time to involve T in her own care and you listened. You understood that being eleven doesn't mean you're invisible. If I ever need sewing up, I want you to be there.

Hugs to Jane and the househunk. When everything was falling apart, you held the center together. You kept the homefront on an even keel and also dealt with the aftermath. When kids are present at a terrible trauma of one of their friends, they're often ignored or dismissed. Jane calmed them down, dried tears, and answered their questions. The househunk (Poppy) fed D (mac and cheese) and played endless games of Rapunzel Barbie. They most especially serve who stay at home and wait.

Thank you to my fellow writers for your support, generosity, and compassion. In most emergencies, you don't really know the emotional and physical cost until days later. I suspect that will also be true here. So I may very well take you up on your offers of financial help because while I would find it nearly impossible to ask for myself, I won't hesitate to ask for one of my grandchildren. I bet the same is true for all of you. Blessings on each and everyone of you!

anny

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is the nature of your emergency?

It was an average afternoon. We were fixing dinner. The kids were playing. And then... it happened. "T" was playing tag with the other kids, missed her stop, and ran her arm through a window.

Her dad was outside, messing with the car. A maintenance man was coming down the stairs. And between the two of them they called 9-1-1, summoned an ambulance and we went careening off to the hospital around 5:30 PM. A couple hundred stitches later, we walked back in the door at home at 2:00 AM.

It was messy. We're all tired. But fortunately no nerves and tendons were permanently damaged. And she had a superb surgeon to sew her up.

Which brings us to current events. Like so many other young families in America, they are uninsured. Accidents seldom happen when it's convenient, when we have money in the bank, when we have a savings plan. They nearly always happen at the worst moment. Currently both parents are unemployed. When you lose your job, you lose your insurance. And the parents are worried about paying for painkillers and antibiotics out of pocket.

What kind of country do we live in when a twelve year old girl does without painkillers with a hundred and seventy five stitches in her arm? Sure there are twenty-four hour drugstores but they charge more than someplace like Walmart or Sam's Club. Hopefully we can afford them when we crawl out of bed.

So for those who don't want some kind of health care plan... stuff it. Drop by and hold my granddaughter's hand and explain to her why she has to hurt. For those greedy drug companies out there that charge and arm and a leg for meds... shame on you. Face us one on one and explain why we have to decide whether to have our meds or eat.

I've paid taxes since I was sixteen. Lots of them. And I would pay more if it meant that everyone of my children and grandchildren were insured. I would gladly pay if it meant that no child had to go to sleep in pain.

anny

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Downtime

Downtime is harder and harder to achieve. Real downtime, I mean. Like the dog in the picture, sometimes we sits and thinks... and sometimes we just sits--and our minds race aimlessly on the hamster wheel in our brain. That's not the same as not thinking.

I suspect that's when we end up more exhausted than when we actually spend time in productive thinking. Hamster wheel thought is certainly not restful. On the contrary, it's debilitating and discouraging. And frustrating. We can't seem to capture even the smallest concept as it whizzes by on the never-ending spin.

Some call it writer's block. But I believe it isn't only writers who suffer from the murky morass in the brain. We notice it because we're trying to create. But what about those people in other walks of life who can't concentrate? And more importantly, why can't we concentrate?

Perhaps it's because we never tune out from our frenetic, ever "on" lives. Escape used to be possible simply by walking out the door. Telephones were stationary devices--designed only for talking to another person. They didn't deliver e-mail, text messages, or the weather. When you left your home or job, you were alone in your vehicle or on foot, with time to think productively. You had time to process your day at work or the last book you read or the fight you had with your spouse that morning.

There was time. Downtime in the truest sense of the word. Now the only downtime available may be when you're sitting in the bathroom. And from past comments on various posts, that may not be true either. I've heard of people who take their cellphones into the bathroom while showering--just in case someone calls.

Hello! More than likely, they'll call back! If you truly want to find out how important you are in the scheme of things, spend some time in the hospital. You'd be amazed at the way the world continues to rotate without you--and how short a time people will miss you. Think about it. That's right. Snatch a moment from your busy schedule and really think about why you're so busy.

What can be eliminated? If the answer is nothing, then it's time to reprioritize. Life is too darned short. Carve out some thinking/praying/meditation time to think real thoughts. Spend time contemplating the world around you. Appreciate the uniqueness of your children or spouse. Notice their smiles or the way they walk. Savor the sensation of chocolate on your tongue. Breathe in the swirling ribbons of scents that surround you. Smile. Kiss a frog. Turn off the world and listen to the silence.

Live.

anny

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life lessons from Beadwork

My granddaughter has been helping me make some of the zillion beaded hair piks I will be taking to RomantiCon in October. As we poke through bead containers selecting the beads for each pik, we talk about "girl stuff". If occurred to me that beading is a metaphor for the things we need to know about life in order to be successful.

Have a plan. Whether we're creating a masterpiece or just trying to get through life, we need to have a plan. Gather the materials, create a workspace, decide on a design... Without a plan, we may find ourselves short of the exact color of bead that we need--or lost in the woods in our lives.

Create a design. Having a general idea is all right when you're making your overall plans, but when it gets right down to the actual work, you need to have a specific design. What colors do you want? Small beads or large? A long strand or short? Our lives also need an overall design. The choices we make depends on our original design.

Follow the logical steps. "T" was appalled when she discovered we had to first prepare our piks before we could start beading. There were prepartory steps to be completed--painting, drilling, marking them with my website--first. But without completing the preparation, our beading would be unsuccessful. The same with our life choices. "T" wants to be a doctor. Then there are steps she can work on even now. Doing well in school. Leading a healthy lifestyle. Treating others with compassion and grace.

Be adaptable when things don't work out. Sometimes we come up short. We didn't count the beads right. Or a bead breaks. Or the strand we're stringing them on falls apart. Then we might have to start over. Or tweak the plan a little. Adapatability can be a life saver. Humans suffer more stress and anger when they fail to adapt to the changes around them. Some things we can't plan for... acts of God or acts of other humans. When that tornado hits town or that car runs a red light, an important part of the coping mechanism is our ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Take pride in our workmanship. "Nobody cares." Who is this person we talk about all the time? Who is NOBODY? And why is his opinion important? On my journey through life, the person I have to face in the mirror every morning is ME. Nobody? I've never met him. When I finish my beaded creation, it doesn't matter if others like it or not. What does matter is whether I'm proud of my work. Actually, that's true whether I write a book, work in an office or dig ditches. Did I do a good job?

Don't forget to have fun. Whether beading or just living life, if we forget to be happy, if all around us is drudgery, then we need to take a pit stop and reassess our plan. Someone once asked me how many piks I planned to make? And my answer? I don't know. When it isn't fun anymore, then I'll stop. How many books do I plan to write? I don't know. When it doesn't satisfy something in my soul, then I'll stop writing.

And I'll make a new plan.

anny

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reclining...

Any one remember recliners? The recliner used to be the mainstay of the living room...always positioned directly in front of the TV. The man of the house came home from work, flopped in the recliner, clicked on the TV and promptly fell asleep. No home was complete without a recliner.

When the little ones came along, they slept best on Dad's chest in the recliner. Mom could cook dinner, wash a week's load of clothing, heck, hold a dance in the living room without a hitch in the snoring that emanated from the recliner. I used to sneak in some reading time while they were snoozing out.

Strangely enough the recliner was the man's chair. I was never very comfortable in it because I couldn't get the foot support to fold up properly unless I first rolled over the side armrest and then stood on that sucker. Who need something like that when an ottoman will work just as well?

But there was one particular thing that recliner was used for in the early years of our marriage. It was an excellent place to make whoopee. Drawing on my vast experience, I recently wrote a love scene that takes place (mostly) in a recliner. The comments from my critique partners were kind of funny. One confessed she'd never done "it" in a recliner. Another mentioned she hadn't read a "recliner" scene lately.

Frankly, I feel sorry for any underprivileged woman who hasn't had the opportunity to take a recliner for a road test. It was my favorite place until the kids were too mobile to allow us the necessary privacy. Sigh. Those were the good old days.

Now days we'd probably have a breakdown if we took one for a road test. But ah... the memories.

anny

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Happy Painters


Gary

Wes

Jane, my neighbor had several rooms in her apartment painted. Behold the hunky painters! For several days, they cheerfully whistled and sang while they worked, making a tough job better. Here's a hug for Wes and Gary!

Often we meet workers when they visit our homes to repair or upgrade parts of our homes or apartments. Now I know we've all met the surly, less than pleasant men and women, but in my experience there are far more men and women who are cheerful, very competant and efficient. They work hard to make things as unstressful as possible. This blog is for the workers all around us who meet us for a passing instant, change our surroundings for the better, and move on. Thank you!

anny

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dancing in the Dark

Last night I went to bed very late. Everyone else had long since gone to sleep. All the lights were out and I didn't want to wake anyone up so I set off across my apartment in the dark.

Usually, there is ambient light in the apartment, even if all the lights are out. Certainly, there's enough to walk around safely, but last night because my eyes hadn't had time to adjust to the darkness, it was like walking into a black velvet sack.

I made it all the way to the bathroom where I made a pit stop. Now the light in my bathroom is wired to a very noisy exhaust fan. Very loud noisy exhaust fan. And really, why would I need light to use the bathroom? After fifty plus years, I pretty well have the mechanics down, you know? So, sitting in the dark in there was... really, really dark.

There is no window in the bathroom so no ambient light at all. I contemplated the difference between the darkness in the living room and the bathroom and realized that the lack of light in the bathroom was so total that it was nearly suffocating. Even though I had a clear idea of my place in that space, I still found it almost claustrophobic. Odd.

After completing my business in the bathroom, I opened the door to a different world. The living room that had seemed so impenetrable just moments before now seemed brightly lit, though nothing had really changed--except now my eyes had adjusted to the darkness. Now all those small points of light that normally light our nights, the tiny lights given off by electronics (microwave clocks, stove clocks, cell phone chargers, etc.) were more than enough to light my way to the bedroom.

The amount of light we need to navigate our way in life depends on our starting point. If we set off into the sudden darkness from a place of bright light where all is going well, then the darkness is disorienting and suffocating and scary. But if our life is already in a dark period, a time of despair, then even the small pinpoints of light from minor triumphs are enough to lead us to safety. We might have to be more cautious, but we're more appreciative of our limited resources.

It's all a matter of perspective.

On another note... Yesterday I received my cover for Prisoner of the Heart. This is my contribution to an anthology from Resplendence Publishing titled Carnal Reunions. The anthology is a collection of stories about young women who went to college together and are now returning for their tenth anniversary. The reunion is more than one of friendship. Each young woman finds the opportunity to reunite with that special man who "got away" the first time around.

In Prisoner of the Heart, Becky, a divorced mom, returns to the college town in search of a new life and job for herself and her children. There she meets Joe, a younger man who had a crush on her, but wasn't old enough to do anything about it. Now Joe is all grown up and determined to have a place in Becky's life. The stories will all be released November 10.


anny

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Text this!

What is the attraction to texting? I can barely press the keys to make a phone call. Texting is waaaaay beyond my capabilities. Making a phone call is a two handed, two eyed process for me that requires every bit of my concentration.

Texting? I would need complete quiet. That's not something I would want to do in a moving vehicle, let alone while driving down the street. For many years the authorities have known that distractions such as fussing children, music, and arguing can lead to accidents. How much more distraction would texting be?

How many people will have to die or suffer injuries before a law is enacted making texting while driving illegal? I suspect the price will be pretty high. We seem to be a mulish species, determined to have our own way until we are personally affected by something. Then suddenly, we do a three-sixty, converted by tragedy where we could not be convinced by logic.

Let us hope the price isn't too high in the end.

anny