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but I don’t think I had many when I was in my twenties.  Not like these women anyway.  Oh sure, just like the song says, I had a few but not that many.  Then again, maybe I’m just too old to remember or maybe the things I regretted back then just don’t seem to be as important now that I’m older.

The reason I’m thinking about regrets today is because I ran across an article on Lemondrop last night, Secret Regrets–If You Could Do One Thing Over, What Would It Be?  It’s about a book that’s a bestseller on Amazon Kindle, Secret Regrets: What if You Had a Second Chance?  The article focuses on women in their twenties and the regrets they have.  All I could think about when I read it was what a good idea the author, Kevin Hansen, had and that every romance writer that read the article would be instantly inundated with ideas for not just one, but many books.

Don’t know if I’ll buy the book, I have too many WIPs, not to mention more ideas for books than I could write in two lifetimes, but I have to say it would be a goldmine if I’m ever stuck for ideas.

Now, if I could just get that song out of my mind, I could get back to working on my latest WIP.  72,000 words and counting…

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Before I start, I have to tell you this post has me feeling a bit um, shall we say, creaky?  It’s a bit of a reality check when you find yourself watching one of the kids whose diapers you used to change standing in front of a minister pledging to love, honor, and cherish someone.   

Yep, that’s right, we went to a wedding this weekend.  Our oldest niece on my husband’s side of the family got married.  The bride, Rebecca, was jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the groom, Zach, was handsome and very, very excited.  As I watched them exchange vows, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, he’s either been hiding a bit of a flare for the dramatic or he’s extremely passionate and really, really, really eager to get married.”  And when it was Rebecca’s turn, she was the same way, though a bit less dramatic, but still…well, again, the word passionate come to mind.

So, when it came time to exchange the rings, the minister asked Zach’s mother to come up and take back the Purity Ring he’d worn since he was thirteen and took a vow to keep himself pure until he married.  Ah-ha, I thought, that explains it.  But then, when the minister at last got to the “You may kiss your bride” part of the ceremony, it became even more clear.  You see, Zach and Rebecca had not even exchanged a kiss on the cheek in all the time they’d been dating and engaged, never mind the lips.  That kiss, at the end of their wedding ceremony, was the first one for them as a couple.

I have to admit, I’m still a little dumbfounded.  I mean, I can understand if a couple wants to wait until they get married before they have sex, but waiting till you’re married before you kiss?  Hmm…I don’t get it, but as I’m clearly showing with this post, I’m old. middle-aged.  Plus, I’m a product of the baby boomer generation and well, you know us, we were all about free love–literally!

The thing is…I’d met Zach before and noticed he wore a ring on his left hand but I never thought anything about it.  I just assumed it was one of those new-fangled engagement rings for the grooms because my other niece who’s getting married in August bought one of those for her future husband.  So, I thought this was another hip–and yes, I know, showing my age again–young couple doing what young couples do today, exchanging not just wedding rings, but engagement rings too.  

But, I never expected that ring was a symbol of a vow he made to keep himself pure for his future wife.  And I do mean pure.  Not one kiss.  Man!  Unreal!  

Those crazy kids…what will they think of next?

That pretty much sums up how my days went last week–you know, nothing exciting enough to make your heart race and all kinds of things that make you shrug and say, “Oh, okay, so that happened.”

The top ten occurrences in my life last week:

1.  I finished the first round of edits on my paranormal romance, Snow Shadows, and sent it back to the editor.  That’s usually a yippee for me, but this time it was more like a “Whew!  Glad that’s over.”  No reflection on my editor or my publisher, it’s just my happy gene seems to be on the fritz right now.

2.  My husband and I, after looking at a million or so houses, have narrowed it down to two, which should be another “Yippee!” but I can’t seem to work up any more enthusiasm than “Okay, make the offer and we’ll see what they say.”  See what I mean about my happy gene?

3.  The Patriots lost the Super Bowl and after maybe two seconds of shocked disbelief, I couldn’t help but feel proud of Eli Manning and the Giants–mostly for Eli, ’cause after all, the Giants are a New York team and being a Red Sox fan practically from birth, well…nuff said.  But since Eli’s dad, Archie, and his brother, Peyton, are so closely connected to my alma mater, the University of Tennessee and I watched Peyton play at Neyland Stadium countless times, I almost feel like I’m a part of their very extended family, so congrats to you Eli!  And maybe now I can get that darned Three Dog Night song out of my head!  Eli’s coming…

4.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the halftime show–a major plus for me as I’ve been a fan for…forever.  But they didn’t play any of my favorite songs, so okay, that was nice, but nothing to jump up and down about.  Tom, why the heck couldn’t you play “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”?  It’s only one of the greatest rock songs ever and I probably maybe, um, there’s a slight chance I would’ve gotten up and danced a step or two…or at least thought about it.

5.  I worked on updating my web site, but I’m having trouble getting excited about that right now.  Maybe when I actually have a book on the market again, that’ll get better, but while I wait…blah.  No help for that, as far as release dates go, writers are more or less at the mercy of their publishers.

6.  I decided to take the month of February to polish up some of the books I have finished and see if I can’t get them ready to submit to publishers.  I currently have a half dozen completed manuscripts gathering cyber-dust on my computer and I need to do something with them.  I’m not making it a goal or a resolution–you know how I am about those!–I’m merely looking at them and trying to polish them enough to submit them.  If I make it, I make it.  If I don’t, well, such is life.

7.  The thing is…I don’t even have enough for a top ten list.  Ho-hum, that’s my life right now, it’s happening, but it ain’t anything to get excited about.

Then again, maybe it’s the dreary, rainy weather we’ve been having here in the mountains of North Carolina that’s got my emotions muted. 

Uh-oh, here comes another song–rainy days and Mondays always get me down…    

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with my head all but buried in a new short story which has grown to novella size and before it’s done may very well turn into a novel.  This is one that I actually wrote an outline for–something I hardly ever do–and the characters have just taken over the story, refusing to let it end at the word limit I had planned for it.  I love it when that happens, but I’m told it’s a very bad habit for an author to pick up.  Oh well…

In between the writing frenzy, all the madness of getting ready for Christmas, and dealing with a flare-up of the MS, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  It’s a little bit early I know, but someone asked me the other day where I wanted to be in five years in regards to my writing.  I won’t say I’ve never thought about it, because I have, but truthfully, not very much.  I mean, I have a sketchy-at-best plan, and sure, I’d like to hit the best-seller list one day–what writer wouldn’t?–but…goals, well, ick.

And really, it’s not so much the setting of the goal as it is the setting of a time limit.  That just doesn’t work for me.  I mean, I’m okay if someone else sets the deadline, but when I set them for myself, I almost never meet them.  Don’t know why that it is, but it is, and so I’ve learned not to say I’m going to do something in a set amount of time–which is, essentially, what a New Year’s resolution is.  Right?

The thing is…like goals and self-set deadlines, New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me.  I’ve made them in the past, but for the most part, they were forgotten and/or never attained.  So, if resolutions are your thing, I say, “go for it.”

As for me, I’ll stick with those unspoken dreams that are held close to my heart and shared only if and when I reach them.  Those work so much better for me.

Last week was an exciting week for me as a writer.  I received my signed contract back from my new publisher, L&L Dreamspell, along with a welcome from the owners, and an invitation to join their author group.  My days were spent up-dating my web site–which still needs a lot of work!–polishing the blurb for my upcoming book, Snow Shadows–I think I finally got it right!–and writing–or trying to write–a bio for my author page on LLD’s web site.  Ugh!  I really, really, really hate doing those things!  What I didn’t spend much time doing was writing.  I only managed to churn out a few thousand words and with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday, I’m pretty sure I won’t get much written this week either. 

That sucks, but I’m not complaining.  I consider myself very blessed to have a book–or three–coming out in print next year, to be able to spend time working on projects of this nature–okay, let’s be honest here, to waste a lot of time doing what others could do in a mere fraction of the time I spend doing them–and to…well, I won’t say enjoy, but at the very least, to be challenged by what I’m doing.

I was never much for challenges before, but these days I consider myself something of an expert.  What happened to change me?  Multiple Sclerosis.  I was diagnosed five years ago and since then, challenges have become a daily part of my life because the most predictable thing about MS is…it’s never predictable.  I have days when I struggle just to get out of bed and get dressed and I have days when I start out fine then the fatigue suddenly descends and knocks me flat.  I have days when my balance is so bad I have trouble walking and I have days when my thought processes don’t click the way they should.  And then there are the days when the monster goes into hiding and I’m not even aware it’s there.  For me, as I imagine it is for everybody with this or any other incurable disease, each day is a crap shoot, you just never know what you’re going to get. 

The thing is…whatever challenge MS throws my way, each day is also a blessing because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having MS, it’s to value each day and do whatever you can to make it count.  It’s a good policy to have, don’t you think? 

So this year on Thanksgiving if I’m asked what I’m thankful for, MS is going to be on my list–not for having it, but for the things it’s taught me.  Maybe I’m looking for the silver lining to this cloud that at times obliterates the sun from my life and at other times only hovers on the horizon, but it’s my cloud and it’s not going to go away.  I can either embrace it or let it smother me.  

I choose to throw a congenial arm around its shoulders and make it…well, if not exactly a friend, at least a bearable companion.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have officially changed their name to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Why?  Well, apparently “Devil” is the latest word being targeted by those people who demand we live in an unoriginal, white-washed, politically correct world.

That really bothers me because I see it as moving one step closer to a “Big Brother Society.”  But perhaps, that’s just me.  I am, after all, a product of the baby boomer generation and God knows, baby boomers have a tendency to look at the world through slightly different and much more cynical eyes than most people.  We practically perfected the idea of questioning authority and ended up changing the world.

My first taste of political correctness–though it wasn’t called that at the time–came when I was a senior in high school and we were told by those in authority that we would have to change our name, “Rebels”, lose the icons of the Confederate soldier and flag, and stop playing “Dixie” at ball games.  I had no problem with dropping the flag and soldier, and even the song if we had to, but I did have a problem with changing our name.  “Rebel” doesn’t necessarily mean someone who fought for the South in the Civil War.  Its true meaning is someone who rebels or is rebellious.  In other words, an individual who thinks for his/herself.  When you get right down to it, that’s exactly what our generation was all about.

Years later when my husband and I first moved to Maine, the top news story was that the government had decreed that the names of all geographical locations with the word “squaw” in them would have to be changed.  I followed the news reports for a while, all the time shaking my head at the number of people who jumped on the bandwagon just so they could stand up and proclaim their “political correctness.”  Most of them didn’t care one way or the other about the name, they just wanted to be seen as a do-gooder in society.  Bah!  How is it doing good to change the name of a city or mountain or even a creek?  Seems to me these people would have done a lot more good for society by standing up for something that could really make a difference in our world like <insert personal choice of rebellious cause here>.

Which brings us to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays–and I understand Tampa Bay’s not the only sports team dealing with this problem.  Idiocy!  I mean, really, can’t we come up with something to counter all this political correctness in our society?  God knows there are any number of things worth fighting for, things much more important and earth-shaking than the word “devil” being used in the name of a sports team.

I think Shakespeare said it best, “What’s in a name?”  And I’ll add to that by asking, is it worth fighting for?  Well, okay, I’ll grant you in some cases it is, but in most cases it’s nothing more than people trying to take away our individuality.

The thing is…that sucks.  I shudder at the thought of living in a world where every person is a carbon copy of everyone else, where Big Brother is always watching, and we, as a society, bow to his wishes.  Perhaps it’s just the baby boomer in me coming to the forefront, but we are not all alike and I’m pretty sure our creator didn’t intend for us to be.  Sure, we’re all basically the same, but we’re also individuals, and it is our uniqueness that makes us shine.

I have a sweatshirt that says, “Celebrate Diversity!”  And oh, wouldn’t I love to see that adopted as the rally cry of today’s generation?  Who knows, like the baby boomers with their “Make love, not war” slogan, a generation which celebrates individuality just might change the world for the better.

That’s a quote from Mark Twain.  I included it as the title of this post because not only is it appropriate to today’s post, it’s the world I’ve been living in lately.

I’ve spent the last couple of days with my head immersed in ancient Cherokee legends as I added some details to my book, Snow Shadows, which the publisher asked for before it goes into editing.  I’ve also been working–sporadically!–on the next book in the series and my sister and I are collaborating on a book based on the life of our great aunt and on the stories my dad tells about his childhood.  Yep, after the cancer scare, we both realized if we didn’t get some of his stories down, they’d be lost forever.  Neither of us are willing to let that happen.

So, we decided to quit talking about it and git ‘er done.  In preparation for the actual writing, we’ve been researching old Southern sayings and life in western North Carolina in the early to mid 1900’s.  And frankly, I’m amazed at all the sites we’ve come across for the sayings.  I do declare, I never knew Southern-speak was so popular, but it seems it is so, there you goAin’t that the berries?  The sayings, as you may have guessed by now, are many and varied, and a few of the sites include an explanation of what they mean–for all those who don’t speak “Southern.” 

Anyway, it’s fascinating stuff and a hoot for me as I grew up hearing quite a few of them.  It’s also turned into an enjoyable way to take a break from writing and I am chugged full and happy as a dead pig in the sunshine!

I am also grinning like a mule eating briars (I used to hear this all the time, and though I haven’t found it verbatim on any of the sites, I have found variations of it) because today, October 25, 2007, my rights for my book officially revert to me.  It’s been a long, frustrating battle with a publisher who at times could make a preacher cuss or hell, [they] could even depress the devil, but now that it’s over, I feel a huge sense of relief and a lovely sense of accomplishment–hence, my mile-wide grin.

The thing is, this publisher isn’t showing any evidence of mending fences with its authors.   I suspect the only reason I finally got a professional rights reversion letter from them is because I threatened to go public with their very unprofessional behavior to various author watchdog sites.  When I did that, I also gave them a 24 hour deadline to respond to me, and lo and behold, I received the reversion letter yesterday.  As of today I am free and clear

…but they’re still stonewalling other authors.  I can’t figure out if that’s good or bad.  Oh sure, it’s bad for the authors they’re not responding to, but could it also be a good sign?  Does it mean they’re willing to fight to keep their business going–which could be very good for the authors who get their rights back because those rights won’t be yanked away from us again by a bankruptcy court if they do go under–or does it mean they’re just being spiteful?

I don’t really know, but I do know they need to step up and address all of their issues instead of popping out of hiding every other week or so to toss another round of excuses in our faces.  I’m sick of that and I just want them to know:

Excuses are like back sides, everybody’s got one and they all stink.  Now, maybe I’m letting my mouth overload my tail but fish or cut bait!  If you don’t, I’m gonna knock you in the head and tell God you died!

You think that’ll get their attention?  Probably not, but giving them down the country sure did make me feel better!

…He opens a window.  Sure, we’ve all heard that old saying or a variation of it at some point in our life, and most of us probably smile knowingly or roll our eyes at the banality of it.  I used to be an eye-roller, but as of today, I’ve joined the ranks of those who wear an enlightened smile.

What changed my attitude?  Well, first, I’ll offer up my horoscope for the day:

The good news is that your career is about to take a very exciting turn — the bad news is that it might also take up a lot more of your personal time, at least for a while. Your past problems at work are all water under the bridge, and you have learned some very valuable lessons. 

I usually don’t pay much attention to my horoscope, just read it and move on, but today it couldn’t be more right.  Take the first sentence, “The good news is your career is about to take a very exciting turn…”  Okay, yesterday I was offered a contract from a print publisher on my sensual paranormal romance, Snow Shadows.  I signed the contract this morning and put it in the mail.  “Exciting turn” is an understatement, and the next part about it taking up a lot more of my personal time is yet to be proven, but it’s probably spot-on…and I don’t mind a bit!  

Now, the second sentence.  It starts with, “Your past problems at work are all water under the bridge…”  Well, my ongoing battle with my other publisher is just that, ongoing, but it does seem to be coming to an end.   Then it goes on to say, “and you have learned some very valuable lessons.”  I certainly have.  And for that I’d like to take a moment here to offer my thanks to the other authors and editors who are going through this battle with me.  They’ve been incredibly supportive, unbelievably generous with their knowledge, and an unflagging source of comfort when I needed it most.

The thing is…with all that’s been happening in my life lately, my faith in God has been on a bit of a down-swing.  I hated that, but I couldn’t seem to stop it from happening.  Then yesterday, when I received the contract offer, I’ll be honest and tell you God was the furthest thing from my mind.  Perhaps I was too excited or maybe I was so high up in the clouds that the thin air was clouding my thinking.  Who knows?  But when I read my horoscope this morning and that old saying popped into my brain, I couldn’t roll my eyes…because I suddently realized I was now living proof of its validity.

“When God closes a door, He opens a window.”  Oh, indeed.  The closed door for me was having to fight to get the rights to my book back from a publisher who wasn’t honoring the terms of their contract.  The open window–and in my case I got not just one, but two–is the group of friends who have been so wonderful in a time of need, and the new contract with a print publisher.

God may have closed the door, but he most certainly opened a window…or two.

Well, it’s Friday–or it was yesterday when I started writing this!–and this time I only have to go back about six months to find the topic of today’s Friday Folly.

I remember it clearly, even know the date, and could probably recount every second leading up my foolish action.  I’d been debating with myself whether or not to submit my novella to a contest.  I would’ve done it in a heartbeat, except the publisher holding the contest was new.  I’d just started having doubts about my other publisher, who was also new when I signed with them, and I kept thinking; you’ve been down that road before and what if the same thing happens again?  Finally, I decided to take a chance because the story fit the contest so perfectly.  So, I hit the ‘Send Now’ button. 

A month later, I was notified that my book had won and they wanted to offer me a contract.  I was thrilled.  I signed the contract without thinking twice about it and sent it back.  Over the course of the next month, I worked with an editor–who was wonderful–and the month after that, the cover artist–who was awesome.  Everything went downhill from there.

And now I find myself caught up in a battle with the publisher for my rights and it’s beginning to look like I’m going to have to fight for them.  Their breach of contract is clear–trust me on this, I’ve consulted a lawyer–so I wrote them yesterday and told them I was taking my rights back.  Given their history of not responding to emails from their authors, I really didn’t expect to hear back from them…

…except I did.  Their quick response was nice, and I was elated to read the opening line which went something like this: “As you requested, your rights will be returned to you.”  Oh, happy day, right?

Wrong.  By the time I finished reading their response, I was not just angry, but thoroughly pissed off to the point I was ready to go postal on these people.  The rest of their email was surly and about as far from professional as you can get.  I was, in turn, reprimanded, insulted, blamed for their problems, and threatened.  All that from a publisher who not only failed to live up to their contract, but has spent the last month making excuses and blaming their mistakes on everybody but themselves.  I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was.  

The only thing that saved me from publicly spewing venom about them on every group and blog I could find is the fact that they gave me my rights back.

That was good, right?  Well, no.

The thing is, they may have given my rights back to me, but they did it in an email that I refuse to send out to other publishers when I submit my book elsewhere.  So I promptly wrote them back and told them I expected to have a rights reversion letter in my hands on or before October 25 (the deadline I gave them in the original email), and I expected the letter to be written in a professional manner, or they would be hearing from my attorney.

Will they do it?  Who knows?  I think all bets are off with this publisher.  From everything I’ve heard, they aren’t paying their staff, much less their authors, they’re picking and choosing which parts of the contract they’ll honor, and they treat their authors–this isn’t hearsay, but fact based on my own experience–as if they’re idiots and/or children who are mentally challenged.

My problem now is how do I handle this?  I could take his email and delete out all the derogatory comments and use it as my rights reversion letter–or maybe I can’t, that’s something I’ve never needed to do, so I’ve never tried it.  Or I can continue sending them emails and certified letters until I get a professional rights reversion letter.  Or I can just turn it over to my lawyer and let him handle it.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but one thing I am sure of, this has the potential to be the worst folly of my life, because I’m not trying to kid myself that this will turn out all right in the end.   

  

Yes, I have another song lodged in my brain.  Difference is, this song I actually like–who doesn’t like John Fogerty?  I’m one of his biggest fans, and “Deja Vu” is one of my favorite songs.  Like they used to say on “American Bandstand,” it has a good beat and you can dance to it.  That’s true, but what makes it one of my favorites are the words.  Fogerty took a Yogi-ism, something that most people would chuckle over, and built a powerful anti-war song around it…and it works.  You have to admire a man who can do that. 

So, why am I singing that particular song?  No, I’m not at war…well, maybe I am.  I just spent all day composing an email to my publisher telling them I was taking back the rights to my book.  It was a very hard thing to do and my hands are still shaking, but I know in my heart it was the right thing.  Now, if I can only convince my head and my nerves of that.  

The thing is, this publisher is in breach of contract in not just one, but several ways.  I blogged about this a few weeks ago, back when I first started thinking about asking for my rights back.  I decided at that time to give them the two weeks they asked for to straighten this whole thing out.  I was hoping for the best, but deep down I expected the worse–or maybe I was just burying my head in the sand.  Who knows?  

In the end, I got what I expected, the worse.  And now, I’ve been advised by another author who’s already filed suit against them and pulled her rights that I shouldn’t ask for my rights back, I should demand them–which is what I did–in a long email complete with an attached file which detailed all my reasons.  I’m pretty sure that’s what has my hands doing the jitterbug, I hate confrontations, even when they happen in cyber-space!

Okay, so the email’s been sent and truthfully, I’ll be very surprised if they respond.  God knows a lot of their authors have been trying to get a response out of them recently, but they seem to be ignoring all of us.  So, I’m following up the email with a certified letter and then I’m going to keep sending the email every day until I get a response.

Wish me luck.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be the writer that finally makes them sit up and take notice.  And hopefully, do what they have to do to fix this godawful mess before more authors get hurt. 

On the plus side in my life while all this has been going on, the Red Sox swept the Angels and  moved one step closer to the World Series!  Now all they have to do is win the ALCS against the Indians–whoops!  Strike that, you know how superstitious I am!  Instead, I’ll just offer my deepest gratitude to the Cleveland Indians for taking out New York.  Now I can sit back and relax while I watch Boston and Cleveland battle it out for the prize.  I won’t go so far as to say I’ll be rooting for the Indians, but if they beat us and move on to the World Series, I don’t think I’ll mind as much simply because it wasn’t the Yankees.

Also, I submitted a query to a print publisher for my paranormal romance, Snow Shadows, and they asked to see the entire manuscript–okay, strike that one too.  Arrgh!  I really need to work on ridding myself of these stupid superstitions.

Maybe that would be a good self-improvement project for taking my mind off this war I’m fighting with my publisher.   

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams