The Bountiful Birthday Blog

 

The time has come (and is now, past due) to regale everyone with the Big Birthday adventure of 2015. It actually began in 1945, but I’m going to skip a few decades and get right to the celebration stuff.

Negotiations, planning, arrangements, reservations for multiple plane flights, nearly did me in. I wanted to share this celebration with loved ones in Wisconsin and North Carolina, so the first leg took me to Atlanta and then Greensboro, where my Lodge Sisters, Ann and Salem greeted me warmly. We hugged, giggled and hurried off to fetch cooking supplies

WP_20150514_011 and special ingredients for chocolate martinis. (No kidding)

Once “home,” I unpacked and took a deep breath of a heavenly smell. All-day red sauce was simmering on the stove. (Ann’s specialty). First things first, I decanted the contraband (a Distillers WP_20150514_004Edition of Dalwhinnie single malt whisky barreled in 1997) into a beautiful carafe. The aromatic and beautiful spirit we would share with our favorite padre.

 

WP_20131208_014Louise and Christine joined us for an utterly divine chicken Parmesan dinner. Just when we were all too stuffed to move, Christine surprised us with an extraordinary 5 Spice pound cake with fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Oh My God. It WP_20150514_007was incredible! Thank you, ladies!

 

Friday morning was another special treat. I slept late and did not have to get up for three dogs! Sadly my hosts got up early and were chomping at the bit for breakfast. My bad. I didn’t realize they were waiting.

I know! Let’s go to I Hop!   Now everyone was happy.

Saturday was Operation o’dark Herman Miller. ssshhh. We only got part way there when Ann insisted we get some nourishment for this dangerous [you’ll see why later] maneuver. A quick stop at Sheetz (yes, really) provided some surprisingly delicious biscuits. Sated, we were off to Ann’s regret-able day job. The parking lot was empty as we slipped unnoticed in the backdoor, punched in the code, and navigated the staircase with the imitation Aeron chair.

WP_20150516_002While Ann stopped to shoot off a business email note, Salem, sensing danger, perhaps, wrestled the authentic 56# Herman Miller Aeron chair downstairs and stowed it safely in the car. By.Herself.  Eeejit.

WP_20150514_005Once we were safely home, and sure we hadn’t been tracked, Cocktails and whining about our ailments ensued. Pretty soon, we all felt much better.

WP_20150517_004 Sunday was brunch on “The Porch” with the Sharp family. A hip trendy and very popular place with inspired creations featuring tater tots–what’s not to love? Add a mimosa, a sunny morning, in the outdoor tent, and great company. It was divine and blessed. Thanks Father Ben!

WP_20150520_001Monday we had a favorite breakfast Frittata with hash browns. YUM. I was careful to save myself for the long-awaited Ryan’s dinner.

 

winston holiday 127Later, on the wonderful porch, I was surprised and celebrated with an utterly magnificent leather messenger bag!WP_20150516_006

It was just as delicious as the frittata. In fact, I slept with it (the bag, not the frittata) and refused to take it off.

 

WP_20150518_005Several special events preceded Monday night at Ryan’s, not just my birthday, and we toasted each in an epic celebration of food and wine. We all had patiently saved up happy moments for this one.

WP_20150518_006

WP_20150518_008     WP_20150518_010  We shared the best wines, the best dinners, the best service, as well as complimentary desserts. Then home by Uber. We had a nightcap and turned in to be ready for my morning departure.

It will be cherished as another bittersweet moment. I felt loved, spoiled, and didn’t want to go. However, I did want to see my Wisconsin family.

~~~~~~~~

My brother picked me up at Mitchell Field Tuesday afternoon, and soon we were touring the fast growing new neighborhoods that surrounded, what used to be my home for over twenty years. Oconomowoc. I hardly recognized it.

V__D62AMy niece drove up from Chicago and we had a chance to catch up before joining my nephew to have a birthday dinner at the Irish Pub.

WP_20150520_017

Everyone enjoyed dinner as we shared stories and memories of when we were all younger. Their thoughtful birthday gifts included jewelry, soaps, a surprising Yankee candle “Girl Scout Thin mint” and it smells just like the cookie. I told how I managed to miss the cookie sale every year, and out of the bag came a box of thin mints!WP_20150523_002

 

The next day an old friend dropped in for a visit. Then, John and I went through a box of memorabilia from forty years ago. Wow, some great pictures and information.  Then…it was time to go.

 

Now, it’s after Memorial Day weekend and I’ve been mulling over my past, present, and future. It’s been a long, interesting, roller coaster ride for which, I am grateful and blessed. My life has been filled with loving friends and family, challenging work, beautiful experiences, and more than a few pets. But there are a few more waiting for me.

Thank you all for touching my life and sharing yours.

1555385_10203297045363814_6578773644275601597_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sabbatical is over

Time to get back to business. I’ve been away researching, revising, and resting. Yes, sometimes I over do and need to pull back and recharge.

I just finished a guest blog for a friend who requested this topic, I decided to share it here. Since I am currently wrapping up the revisions on Book 4–“Deliver Us From Evil” (for release this summer) this is a good time to think about the Damaged Series. Next blog, I’ll provide an excerpt and the new cover!

For now…

V__5431Barrett’s Eye View of PTSD
“PTSD is a tawdry, insidious, undiscerning little bitch.

She doesn’t care who you are or how finely tuned your sense of logic or emotional balance is. It doesn’t matter to her if you’ve survived a war zone, walked away from a car crash, been physically or sexually assaulted, faced a devastating illness, said goodbye to a lover, friend, child, or parent, or even if you tried like hell to keep someone else’s business from going up in flames.

She’s a trickster for sure. She knows how to find your secret backdoor, piggybacks her way into your internal control room, then resets all your psychological, rational, and coping DIP switches until up is down, right is wrong, and haywire is your new steady state.

You can’t sleep, but you’re exhausted. You’re angry about things that have never bothered you before. Your heart races, your head throbs, your hands shake, and your left eye twitches wildly with any sudden noise. Parts of your body suddenly start hurting, and nothing makes them feel better. You isolate yourself from family and friends, and it takes all day to screw up the courage to dial a phone or write an email. Maybe even, you’re afraid to drive over a patched pothole on your street, or you order your groceries over the Internet because the dairy section is too much commitment for any given Sunday. Some days are definitely better than others. Then again, some days are worse, much worse.

Yeah, she’s a sadistic bitch – the stronger you are, the harder you fall. Just the way she likes it.”

— From the review by Salem West    –The Rainbow Reader. October 2011 

 

While it’s not exactly a ‘sexy’ topic, Samantha asked if I would discuss PTSD, since that was the running theme of my first series. (However, one of the unusual symptoms demonstrated was a hyper-sexuality used to compensate for the inability to express feelings. It also helped provide a connection and sense of being “present.”)

My intention was to tell a story about a damaged FBI agent visiting New Mexico for a little R & R. As often happens, my research took me much deeper, and the storyline began to mirror my character with increasingly frustrating symptoms. The horrific case she worked undercover in Chicago (involving serial murders with decapitated victims) primed her with the nightmares, headaches, and anxiety. A closed head injury compounded her symptoms and mandated some time off. The character moved to a strange city with no connections, and enough cognitive impairment to create more opportunity for accident and injuries. And the character suffered more head trauma.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is brought on by witnessing a terrifying, usually life-threatening, event. Severe anxiety, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts, and nightmares are common symptoms of the illness. These symptoms can worsen and last for years, so it is best to seek treatment for PTSD as soon as possible.” –Elements Behavioral Health

The constellation of symptoms, which included: anxiety, sleeplessness, impaired cognition, flashbacks, poor appetite, headaches, and depression, was carefully concealed from friends and coworkers at a great cost. Each of her interpersonal relationships revealed only one facet of her true self. Because of her experience and skill, she never appeared impaired.

In the fourth book, Deliver Us From Evil, a panic attack sparks a confrontation, and the serene affect is blown. She elects treatment through an equine-based therapy program. The delay in finding help, however, threatens her job, her relationship, and her safety. Of course, it’s a romance, so we know eventually it will end with a “happily ever after.”

In the initial appearance of the protagonist, she appeared as a smart, capable woman working in a male-dominated profession during the mid 90s. She followed a strict, self-imposed set of standards. Not unlike military standards, which created a convenient comparison. However, the deeper I delved into the character and the subject, the more difficult it became. I began to feel as if I was the one impaired. Any scenes in which I featured other characters were much easier to write, especially the dialogue.

Throughout the process of writing these four books, I found this particular character difficult to write because of her compartmentalized personality.

After I rewrote the first two books (for a new publisher), I needed to take a break and write something different. I just couldn’t be in her head any more.

However, what I learned from writing about this difficult topic has helped me grow as a writer. The more completely I put myself into the shoes of my character, the more authentic my words will be. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone as damaged as my character was, at times, exhausting. I also gained tremendous empathy for her and the other characters that dealt with her.

The enlightenment was a gift, a tool to unlock the depth and breadth of fictional characters. Additionally, it’s provided me insight into the difficulties faced by many of our public servants including police, fire, rescue, medical, safety, military, and security personnel. Every day these individuals leave home not knowing whether they will return or be seriously injured. That alone can create symptoms of PTSD.

For jumping in the deep end with my character, I’ve been rewarded with wonderful notes and comments from readers, thanking me for discussing post-traumatic stress disorder. Its victims are often invisible, because they lack visual evidence of their trauma. The experience has encouraged me and obliged me to provide stories to readers with as much authenticity as possible, for enjoyment and for insight.

Many thanks for stopping by.

Barrett_GCLS 2014 ad (1)

 

Part Two of the Collaboration Cha-cha with McMan and West

The Blog Mistress chimes in.  Again…. The results are in.

Friday  Jan.10th 2014  Results:
Ann’s number is:  10  (the winner is Elizabeth Sims)

Salem’s number is:  1 (the winner is Mary Anne Frett)
(believe it or not, these were from random.org)
Most interesting question: mesaraven’s question for Salem about how to attract knowledgeable readers to lesfic, etc.

* Thank you to all who joined us, we loved your enthusiasm and contributions. Mesaraven Please contact me (barrett.writes@gmail.com)  Elizabeth and Mary Anne contact Annmcman@gmail.com)

TOTS!

Ann, Salem and Barrett –Conference Nurse

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you remember in our last episode (day before yesterday-scroll down) Ann McMan stepped up and strapped on with her memorable responses to some questions about the collaboration on Hoosier Daddy.  Today, we’ll hear from her wife of 21 months, Salem West.

DSCF7275But first my intro to his part. Ironically, I also met Salem through her review of my first book. I was thrilled by her spot-on analysis of my intent in writing the experience of a veteran FBI agent afflicted with PTSD.

Long story short. We’re corresponded, chatted, and Skyped for months as she helped 2012-03-30 10.50.49with my Nanowrimo project. Within months, she introduced me to Ann–“the love of her life” and the rest is history. We all met face to face for the first time in Austin 2012 for the Lone Star Fest.

So it is my great pleasure to share the pensive half of team AMFA, Salem West.

Since 2011 when you debuted The Rainbow Reader, you have reviewed a variety of books from both large and small publishers, including independent and self-published authors. You have earned a well-deserved reputation as an independent and balanced reviewer.

 In 2013 you moved onto the stage as a fiction writer. Working with your wife, Ann McMan, you co-authored Hoosier Daddy: A Heartland Romance.

 Would you please share your thoughts about working both sides of the street?

Well, technically, “working both sides of the street,” means to engage in deceitful or duplicitous behavior. And, while it is true that my sisters often registered formal complaints with Grandpa Hames that I hid extra Hoppy Hippo cards up my H.R. Pufnstuf pajama sleeves when I was three, I can assure you that my good fortune in Animal Rummy was simply a combination of preparation, strategy, and providence.

I’m not sure what the proper idiom for reviewing books and being an author is, but it’s probably closer to ‘batting both ways’ or ‘straddling the fence.’ Be that as it may, the experience has been utterly terrifying. As a reviewer, I deconstruct a story and try to present an informed opinion as to whether or not the characters, plot, point of view, setting, style, and themes hit the mark—and are interesting, innovative, surprising, or challenging. However, as an author, I am the one the readers, reviewers, critics (and Ann’s mother), put under that very same microscope at 100x magnification.

 How has this experience differed in both preparation and execution from preparing your reviews?

For me, the preparation and execution required to write fiction is quite similar to what is required to write reviews.

WP_20131211_025 Before any words hit the Hoosier Daddy page, Ann and I talked ad nauseam, usually while eating dinner or taking a bath, about major and minor characters, plot lines, point of view, our setting for various scenes, how to combine our styles into one voice, themes, metaphors, and how to effectively mangle idioms for maximum literary impact. We knew the beginning, middle, and end of the story before we started writing, and we spent more hours than I can count doing research about UAW organizing efforts, union busting, the economic meltdown, transplants, the automotive manufacturing process, lockout/tagout, OSHA violations, monster trucks, and chair caning techniques. Heck, one night Ann and I spent hours driving around the highways and byways of southern Indiana and southeast Illinois on Google Maps so she could get the lay of the land and visit the small towns we were writing about.

When I review books, I often do comparable research about the type of book the author is writing, the area they are writing about, jobs and names of characters, and why certain chosen elements may have been used or not. I also consider wretched little things like pacing, editing, and realism of dialogue, and whether or not each scene has a purpose, and whether transitions are effective.

 Do prefer writing fiction or non-fiction? And would you consider another novel?

Well, there may be another novel down the road a ways, but in 2014, I really want to WP_20131206_008focus on taking The Rainbow Reader to the next level. By that, I mean that I’m concentrating on things like morphing TRR into an eZine—offering more reviews, op-ed pieces, and additional content. Having a Bully pulpit will be an added bonus.

As for fiction versus non-fiction, I honestly prefer being an essayist and the challenge of mastering my own voice. There could always be a book in that, but I’d still need to do some serious thinking and planning, and that would require more bath gel than we got for Christmas.

 You have married into the job of “first reader” for your wife Ann’s recent releases. Has your work as a well-read reviewer affected your beta reading skill?

First up, Ann doesn’t use beta readers. She is probably the ‘cleanest’ writer I’ve ever met—every time she opens her working file, she edits everything that came before. She is meticulous. So, if there is a mysterious beast called a ‘beta reader’ in her camp, it is surely she. As for me, I’m really a ‘first listener’ because I always ask her to read for me— I do so love to experience Ann McMan’s stories in her own voice. You could say it’s my guilty pleasure.

[ed. if you ever have the opportunity to hear Ann read–don’t miss it!]

WP_20131208_015Beyond that, I offer suggestions, ask questions, and flag inconsistencies, but I rarely do anything more substantial than proof and limited line editing on Post-it® notes before she submits the manuscript and the typeset galley. For the long-term health of the household, and in accordance with §7, Section 4, Part 2.E.3.c of our prenup, I must clarify that only Ann McMan makes actual editorial changes in her manuscript.

 And did writing Hoosier Daddy affect your objectivity for reviewing?

No. It didn’t affect my objectivity for reviewing. In fact, my objectivity for reviewing is one of the few things that weren’t influenced by the experience. I will say that it did fortify my policy of being honest yet respectful in my reviews. Now, knowing from personal experience, any book, whether praised or reviled, came about because of some author’s hard work, passion, and persistence.

Think it’s easy? Try it. No. Really. Don’t.

Why? Because the other thing that has really shifted is my frustration with shortcuts. That is, authors who don’t take the time to do the research, significant consistency errors, plot lines that disappear, and disregard for a pesky little worm known as grammar. Respect for the effort is one thing, but quality (or lack thereof) always comes through.

 Last summer you participated in an interesting panel with two other reviewers.  Can you share some thoughts on the changing landscape of lesbian fiction?

IMG_1132Not long before that GCLS Panel (featuring Elaine Mulligan and Lynne Pierce, and moderated by Carleen Spry) I published an editorial on The Rainbow Reader titled The Lesfic Boomtown Foretold: A Cautionary Tale by Salem West.  The thesis was that growth is a good thing, but too much growth too quickly can easily overwhelm an industry. Along with the huge increase in demand by readers of lesbian literature in the last three years, I see a significant decrease in the quality of writing, editing and publishing across the industry. I also see a reading population that has not yet found its voice when it comes to speaking up for their rights and expectations as readers. That is not to say that all writing, editing, and publishing is bad, because it isn’t. Likewise, there are several loud and proud voices in the reading community that continue to call for a correction. Still, across-the-board, we all need to consider our pursuit of growth in conjunction with our ability to develop authors, publish their products, and advance the legacy that our foremothers entrusted to us.

 And what do you see in the near future?WP_20131208_020

I need to run out to do my trading, and then home again for thirty minutes on the treadmill. After that, I may get back into the book for my next review, and start on dinner before Ann comes home from her regrettable day job. This is Tuesday, and that means meatloaf.

Thanks for participating in this unique joint effort. Let the questions commence!

**Wrap: Winners of a copy of Hoosier Daddy …OR a book of your choice from Ann McMan,will be selected by a random pick of the commenters. I have asked Ann and Salem to select the most interesting Question from either set of responses for a copy of Balefire. Winners will be announced Friday Jan 9th at 8 PM EST.

The collaboration Dating Game with McMan and West

My humble intro to this fun piece.

2012-03-31 17.13.08Ann and Salem are dear friends as well as colleagues. We have shared hours of stories, laughter, and serious conversation about writing, publishing, and balancing it all.

These women are remarkable and very talented, but I have no intention of violating their privacy and have tried to be respectful.

Today we will hear from Ann, and Thursday we’ll hear Salem’s answers. Both women have agreed to answer follow-up questions and will give a way a copy of Hoosier Daddy to a random commenter each day. I’ll throw in a copy of Balefire to the person with the most interesting (for everyone) question.

Without further ado…

Part One with Ann McMan Famous Author 1001354_628509520492852_1459246953_n

Welcome. Congratulations on the success of both Hoosier Daddy and your short story collection, Three.

Why thank you, Nurse Magill. I owe it all to my lack of better sense, and the Geritol cocktails I ingest every morning at the crack of five, while my beloved wife and our bevy of livestock are still pounding their ears in slumber.

 I’m happy you agreed to this joint Q& A. Rumor has it that you and Salem actually met because of her review of Jericho. True? (An auspicious beginning of a unique partnership, I’d say.)

In fact, it is true that Salem and I met because of Jericho. My editor at Bedazzled Ink, the august C.A. Casey, sent a copy of the book to Salem at The Rainbow Reader, hoping she might look kindly upon us and consent to read and review the work. (There are some spurious suggestions rolling around out there that Casey also attempted to ply her with a case of Merlot—but I know this to be a pious falsehood. Salem West wouldn’t drink Merlot if you held a loaded Glock to her head.)

So, as fate would have it, the review she had planned for October of that year fell through at the eleventh hour, and she found herself with an open slot. She picked up Jericho, read it, and (lucky for me) liked it. Her review was published on Halloween, and I’ll never forget sitting alone in my house, reading it between mad dashes to the front door to dispense Snicker bars and Sweet Tarts. I was, to be blunt, scared shitless to read what she wrote. I remember gritting my teeth and stealing glances at the words on the screen through squinted eyes—scanning quickly for any adjectives like “overdone, overblown, overwrought, overwritten,” or just the phrase “let me please get this over with.” But that didn’t happen. She really liked it. Loved it, in fact. She even sent a private note to Casey thanking her for sending the book and saying, “I feel like you slipped a ruby into my pocket.”

It wasn’t until a couple of months later, however, that we actually made personal contact with each other. I was too shy and too unfamiliar with the protocol of being a “famous author” (thank god that’s over with…) to know that I should’ve reached out to thank her for taking the time to read my book. So it wasn’t until she posted her “Rainbow Reader Awards” that I finally thanked her. And this I did on Facebook, not even knowing enough to realize that I needed to “tag” her so she would see it. I got lucky again—and Salem just happened to be online when my feeble post scrolled by on the side of her screen. She wrote a quick note to me, and the rest is history. Very warm and happy history, I might add. Of all the myriad debts I owe my little flagship Jericho, this one will forever be the greatest.

 Since a number of authors with whom I’ve spoken have told me that their partners neither read nor assist with their writing; I wonder how it works to have someone who is actively involved in the process?IMG_1137

What’s that wonderful biblical quote? ”Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and curse.” Yeah. That one. Let me just say for starters that you can’t get away with anything. Nothing. And neither can you slam something indifferent out and get a passive, “that’s very nice, dear.” Nuh uh. Being married to Salem and talking about writing is like being married to Yogi Berra and talking about baseball—except for me, there ain’t any seventh inning stretch. I might get ten minutes now and then to whine, but then the party’s over, and it’s back to the salt mine of chapter outlines and the hunt for elusive comma splices. She is a real taskmaster with strong opinions…informed opinions. And she understands how language works—and when it doesn’t. She’s also like an anthropomorphic reference book. I can be pounding away at the keyboard while she’s doing something entirely unrelated, and yell out to her, “Hey, Buddha? I need a word for _____________.” And she’ll reel something off the top of her head that’s exactly right. Best example of this? In Aftermath, when Roma Jean Freemantle is going to explain how the tornado destroyed her prized Chevy Vega—I needed to come up with just the right thing to fall from the sky and crush the car. It had to be something quirky and unlikely, so I asked Salem. Without batting an eyelash, she said, “A steam table.”WP_20131211_004

So let it be written. So let it be done.

You’ll find that I channel Yul Brenner a lot.

Whose idea was the joint venture on Hoosier Daddy?

Ours. Seriously. I think we were taking a bath at the time. We pretty much storyboarded and outlined the entire book that morning (it was one of those long baths that involved shaving legs, so it must have been in the Spring). We both thought it would be an absolute hoot to collaborate on a formulaic lesbian romance.  There was never a time when we debated about whether doing this was a bad idea. We believed that we had the right combination of skills, drive, humor, and psychosis to pull it off. When I was weak she was strong. When she was weak, I had Burke Street Pizza on speed dial. It worked out. Besides, she really is a comic genius with wonderful timing and a great ear for dialect. Plus she has good hair, and that alone covers a multitude of sins.

You’ve successfully published eight popular books in the past two years—along with working a full-time job as a graphic designer, which is a little daunting. Since I’ve asked Salem a couple of questions about her experiences in collaborating on Hoosier Daddy, would you tell us how the experience worked?

Oh, lord. Is this the Bob Eubanks part? “We asked your wife what your most embarrassing bed moment was, and she said…” Well. The experience worked very well. We would talk each night over dinner about where we wanted to take the narrative the next morning. We’d jot down notes or sketch things out in one of about a dozen notebooks I keep on my desk. I’d usually get up first (I’ve always been an early riser), feed the cats, put the dogs out, and get the coffee going. Then I’d head back to our tree house (what we call our studio) and get things fired up. By the time Salem came tottering down the hall with our cups of coffee, I’d be ready to get cracking. Then we’d go to work. I’d write something, she’d read it and add or detract—or we’d do the opposite. Sometimes, she’d sit right beside me and we’d hammer things out together. Occasionally, we’d work independently on different sections—but that was more the exception than the norm.  She did a tremendous amount of the research—mostly because she’s good at it. But partly because she was more familiar with the geography of the setting, and because she has tremendous background in manufacturing techniques and management theories…things that immediately lead me to glaze over and start humming show tunes.

 How do you divide the actual writing, revising, proofreading?942147_403950666383288_1121284428_n

We shared the writing, although we agreed that we needed one voice for the story. So even though we wrote it together, I was responsible to weave the components together to try to achieve a coherent narrative—like a quilt maker who takes diverse squares of fabric and stitches them together into a larger pattern that makes sense, looks pretty, and succeeds in covering any holes in the mattress. I hope we succeeded. I think we did. There are some densely technical sections that I left exactly the way Salem wrote them…to try and “fluff” them with Ann McMan Speak would’ve been tantamount to rewriting the Panama Canal Treaties, and I didn’t want to risk compromising national security by making any changes. Salem did nearly one hundred percent of the proofing. We did very little revising…but that’s not unusual for me. I pretty much revise constantly while I’m working. Consequently, my finished manuscripts are pretty much exactly what you see when you get the final product. I don’t think Salem normally writes this way, so we did have some struggle to achieve harmony with my resistance to “just put something down on the page” when I was feeling stuck or unmotivated. Fortunately for us, most of those exchanges of gunfire resulted in little damage to our physical surroundings, and we had enough Spackle on hand to cover the holes in the walls.

Are there Pro’s and Con’s of having an in-house “first-reader?”G&K1

You mean apart from the gunfire thing? Well…in a way, we each had an in-house “first reader.” And I’d say it worked very well. At least, it did for me. But then, I’m pretty spoiled by having someone as smart, savvy, and erudite as Salem West on hand as my eternal first reader. And there’s that whole good hair thing, too….

“Since there may be a question for some of your fans, would you clarify your status with your publishers and where your books can be found?”

That’s a great question, and I’m so glad you asked it. While it’s true that I have the very great honor of working with Bywater Books on my upcoming release, Backcast, I still maintain a close relationship with Bedazzled Ink. I like to think that, like Lana Turner in the Top Hat Malt Shop, Casey and Claudia discovered me, hunched over my first little manuscript…without the tight-fitting sweater, of course. So they will always be my first home, and they will always be the home of all forty-two volumes in the Jericho series. 
 
Oh. Did I say that out loud? My bad….

What can we look forward to reading next?

From me? I guess Backcast—which should be in my editor’s capable hands by the summer. Then it’s on to Patriarch, the next Jericho novel. And I thank you for the prognostication that these will, in fact, be things to look forward to! I hope so.

Thanks, Ann! This has been great–and entertaining, as usual. I, for one, appreciate what you have brought to the proverbial “Table” for all of us, readers and writers. Truly, Tip Of The Literary Spear…TOTS!

1175258_413820552062966_2138644082_n

Friends are Family with Festivity

WP_20131224_002Here we are at the end of December already. Looking back I realize it’s been almost a month since my last blog. I had every intention of writing a long melodramatic saga about my trip to North Carolina… and my six days without luggage. Alas, most of the drama has leaked out of me. (Fortunately for you.)

The Cliffs Note version was simply that, the freakish winter storm that hit Dallas-Fort Worth on December 5th created a domino effect of transportation nightmares for thousands of people. In spite of missing my connecting flight because of  “deicing,” I was still able to board the last flight out of Dallas to Atlanta. More drama, but I finally got a flight to North Carolina, which got me in at 11:30 p.m.

The most wonderful friends (and brilliant writers) in the world Ann McMan and Salem West warmly greeted me, even at that hour. Then there was the tragic news that my suitcase had not arrived with me. Being too tired and weak to do more than whine, I submitted to gentle reassurances and… the comfort of the 15-year-old single malt waiting for me at their home. sigh –a balm to my ravaged soul. And, the first look at the print version of my book!

WP_20131206_002 (1)

The following week was filled with extraordinary meals (both women are gifted gourmet cooks), laughter, hugs, puppy kisses, and cat-whispering. I enjoyed a tour and lecture at Total Wine from Salem who is also a consummate oenophile.WP_20131210_007 (1)

In addition, when we briefly ventured out, we enjoyed a home-style breakfast at IHOP, a fine Italian meal with Ann’s family,

then…we luxuriated in a holiday feast at Ryan’s WP_20131211_022Restaurant. It was an experience I will never forget.

WP_20131211_018WP_20131211_020

On Friday morning, while Ann worked, Salem took me to the local Walmart to get a few items to tide me over. The frustration might have been intolerable were I not with friends. They were kind and gracious about my limited wardrobe. In fact, truth be told, even with limited choices I think Salem preferred the Eeyore pajamas. WP_20131211_011      (They are quite fetching and comfortable.)  Wearing my jammies for half the day is something I never do at home because I have to take the dogs out. So that was a nice bonus.

WP_20131208_010   When the three of us were not actually working on manuscript deadlines, we kicked back, sipped good wine, laughed too much, listened to Christmas music, and watched Ann create culinary magic as Salem shifted between her tasks with the surgical precision of a sous chef and her Cesar Milan pet wrangling.

WP_20131207_004WP_20131206_008WP_20131208_014WP_20131206_017          WP_20131208_018      WP_20131211_029

… tree decorating!

My luggage arrived late Tuesday afternoon much to my relief. And it afforded me the opportunity to put on my one nice outfit to go out for dinner on Wednesday night.WP_20131211_025    and Paula!               WP_20131211_024

Thursday morning at o-dark:30,  my beloved Friends packed me a lunch and ferried me off to the airport. Best early Christmas ever! Love you guys!        WP_20131209_010

Now from the sublime to the mundane. We both finished our projects. Ann and Salem released  “Hoosier Daddy” shortly after “Balefire” two weeks earlier. During my visit, I finished the final revisions for “Flights of Fancy” a holiday Novella; Ann finished and submitted her holiday release of  “Three.”  1538884_470903026354718_1126446255_n

[Note: Dear publisher—we were not goofing off the whole time]Flights of Fancy_2 (1)

I arrived home safe and sound. My sweet dogs were well cared for and thrilled to see me. Once I had unpacked—my mostly clean clothes,  I got down to the business of Christmas and end of the year tasks.  One that I had been considering for sometime was whether or not to trade in my car. After a lot of number crunching and phone calling, I went looking for a new Forester. The selection was very small because the dealer couldn’t keep them on the lot. Then the bad news. In addition to being completely redesigned inside and out, the new model was approximately 6 inches longer, which I feared— Justifiably—would not fit in my garage.

WP_20131220_005I called the salesman after I went back online and happily discovered that the new Subaru Crosstrek was actually 2 inches shorter than my original car, .and he told me they had several choices available. More research, more number crunching, and I bought me a new car! I have to say I’m really enjoying every excuse I have to get out and drive it. It’s sits a little higher, it’s quieter, zippier, and has an electronic System that’s mind-boggling. CD, Radio, Bluetooth, phone, and backup camera.

I am ready for a road trip. But first, I need to get this formatted and posted for the patient people who may want to read it.

Thanks to one and all who have read and supported my work. Balefire Balefire_lightis enjoying a very successful run and “Flights of Fancy” will be released soon.

My wish for 2014 is an abundance of love for everyone and peace on our planet.