Sunday, October 1, 2017

Carrying on with calm – another book event under my belt

The month of September was not lacking when it came to how busy life can get in a single month.  My head is spinning a little when I look back at the past 30 days. When it comes to my personal life, my day job and my writing, there has been a lot going on lately!

While the days are busy, much of my attention has involved making changes so that I can more effectively focus on my writing career. That includes getting myself back out there as an author. The first part of September I attended a writer’s conference – a much-needed day out to mix and mingle with other like minds and to meet and learn from seasoned and bestselling authors. And then a few days ago I had my first book signing in…quite some time, now that I recall the last book club meeting I attended as a guest speaker.    

I had at first only called this most recent event an author meet and greet. My expectation was that maybe only a handful of the attendees would have heard about me or even read any of my books beforehand. The exposure, as well as the practice of speaking in front of a group, can only be a good thing, so I was more than willing to take part when one of the residents wanted to schedule an event so that other residents of the community could meet me.

I should have been more nervous before arriving but, honestly, I didn’t have much time to think about it because I had worked at the office that morning, taken a long lunch to attend the Celebration of Life for my great uncle who had passed away a few months ago, and then spent a few more hours at work before heading to the venue.

When I arrived and entered the room where the event was to take place, I barely had time to prepare myself because the room was already full of people! Apparently there was a snafu with the time and many of those who were present thought the event was set to begin a half hour earlier than the agreed upon time, so that when I arrived to get set up, they were all waiting for me to begin.

This is where my lessons in life come in handy. I just had to go with the flow…you know the saying: keep calm and carry on.

Since two different times may have been posted and there were others who were still likely to arrive, the host asked me to hold off until our agreed time, just in case. My husband was with me and he took it upon himself to entertain the early attendees with stories and humor about the two of us and his perspective as the husband of an author. I wasn’t able to listen to all of what he said, but based on the amount of laughter I heard, I could tell he was doing a fantastic job.

When the time came to begin the event, and even more attendees had arrived, I was humbled by the number who had come to meet and hear from me. My husband told me that there were close to 40 attendees present, which is a terrific turnout for someone who is still at the beginning stages of getting their name out there. I shared with the group my journey as a writer and while I couldn’t recall now exactly what I covered during that hour, I pretty much spoke from the heart. I had a great time and afterwards, as I met some of the attendees on an individual basis, I felt good about the fact that they appeared to have enjoyed themselves as well.

With another book event under my belt, and the number of chances I was given that entire day to lose focus or falter, I feel great about the fact that I was able to keep calm and carry on. I’m still learning as I go, but what’s great is that I’m paying attention and able to make use of what I’m learning.  J

Until next time, carry on and have a great week!



Sunday, September 24, 2017

When social media “speaks” to you

I have a love-hate relationship with social media and I’m likely not alone with my feelings. Over the past several years, as I’ve continued to grow as an author, I’ve read many posts and books about how or why we should use social media in our endeavors as we try to get our name out to readers. 

For me, it’s still a work in progress and since the “rules” and available media tend to change on a regular basis, a WIP it will always be. 

I’ve stuck with Facebook, not because I particularly like it but because it’s what I know. I have continued to use this blog, although I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing right when some months have a huge spike in interest above others – which means trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong the rest of the time. I have not dabbled with Twitter, at all, because I honestly don’t have the mental energy for it. Pinterest interests me, because I like the concept, but if I ever try it, it will be for my own use to pin what helps me with my stories. And I thoroughly enjoy Instagram, but only personally, as I have yet to become daring enough to use it for my author self.

There are more options, but who the heck has the time to keep up with all of them while also writing and publishing books? Some authors do, I’m aware, but possibly because they have a team of people helping them. It’s too much for just one person to tackle on a regular basis and any attempt to do so will eventually result in major burnout.

When I think about the above options, I realize Instagram is my favorite because it is the only social media I take part in that never irritates me. I enjoy the photos, videos and quotes all shared by those I follow. Other than some new ads that now pop up every so often that I may not be interested in, Instagram has been quick to figure out what I like or don’t like so that even the ads aren’t rubbing me the wrong way. Hopefully, that won’t change.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a different story. And I’m talking about my personal page, not my author page. There’s just too much when it comes to drama, opinion, politics, anger, belittling, negativity and photos or videos shared that I don’t particularly wish to see. The world can be an ugly place and I’m not saying we all need to hide our heads when it comes to what’s going on around us, but FB is all very subjective and I’m tired of using any social media that embodies that ugliness as a whole. Some might say I need new friends, or I should follow more positive pages; but that’s the point…my friends and pages I follow aren’t the issue. Since FB tends to pick and choose what you get to see, I’ve seen more of a trend of the ugly over the inspiring. I guess it’s what FB believes followers like to read.

So I was surprised this morning when I decided to view my FB news feed. After scrolling through a few updates from friends and family, there appeared before me posts with a more positive theme…one after another, again and again, these were the types of messages I was reading:

To be happy let go of what’s gone, be grateful for what remains and 
look forward to what is coming next

Life should not be a journey to the grave… (basically, make it a life worth living)

8 things to remember when going through tough times…

Let it go…

...breathe – don’t quit

Life is beautiful – soak it in and be grateful

Find yourself again

Now, I don’t require a pep talk from FB every day, but it was nice to scroll through my news feed and see these types of positive messages over the more negative ones. I’ll be making some serious changes in my life soon and it was a breath of fresh air – a positive push, even from random feed on social media, can help you feel you’re headed in the right direction. 

Will this change how I use Facebook? I won’t quit my FB timeline, but monitoring the news feed still won’t be a daily habit since I doubt this positive feed trend will continue. My timeline and my Instagram feed are more than enough for me right now. 

So did my social media “speak” to me this morning or was I just on the lookout for what might inspire me and answer some internal questions?  I’m not going to admit to my computer or any social media having that much power over me…instead I’ll chalk it up to pure coincidence.  One of my favorite quotes about a coincidence is:



Coincidence it will be.  J

Happy scrolling – and have a great week!


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Always a student, in life and in art

Life is full of lessons, along with a number of sides you look forward to or hope to avoid, and topped with promises and regrets. Regardless of the lessons we experience, we will usually learn something from them, whether about others or about ourselves and hopefully any change we go through is only for the better.

I’ve had my share of life lessons the past few years and while I’m not exactly sure how someone else might describe how these experiences have changed me, I would say that the lessons I’ve learned have brought about an intense desire to switch things up so that I can experience life differently. It’s been a work in progress, with some bumps and bruises along the way, but I am eagerly moving toward making those changes happen.

When we experience a change in ourselves, it may be immediate or gradual, or we may not notice it at all while others around us do. What we can only hope for, really, is that we don’t remain stagnant or unwilling to learn or refuse to understand how an experience has affected us.

That’s the way it is in life.

And that’s the way it is in fiction.

When life is hard, for readers anyway, we enjoy escaping by reading. Taking part in the lives of characters who are going through possibly similar experiences, or even if they aren’t, who are going through some sort of adversity which will help us take our mind off our own problems for a bit.

Characters we read about, with needs, fears, issues and family drama, jump off the page when we read about them, and if the book is written well, they appear to us as real individuals we continue to think about even when we aren’t reading. Books are truly magic and a great break from reality. 

As with real people, characters should not remain stagnant.  Readers appreciate changes in a character; it makes them more believable. As a writer, I get lost in the story I want to tell and might not always appreciate the fact that my characters, who are like real people to me, may not be showing the reader how much an experience has changed them. Or are they changing, but I’m not aware of it as much as I should be in order to express it on the page? I need to have a serious conversation with my characters, if that’s the case. J As an author, I’m continuing to learn the tricks of the craft and the art of writing and while I continue to learn, I trust it will benefit my characters and beyond that, those who enjoy my books.

This bit of insight, which I knew but might have gotten off track from, is the result of my time spent at a writer’s conference yesterday.  Attending these conferences never fails to increase my desire to continue to learn because I am reminded there is so much more to writing than just writing. It may seem daunting, I certainly won’t ever know everything, but while I continue to learn I’ll become a better writer and continuous learning will only feed my desire to live a creative life during my journey as an author.    

It's time for me to get back to being creative. Have a great week and keep reading!


Sunday, September 3, 2017

One of the most difficult posts I’ll ever write…

Hi everyone – I had thought that my update for the month of September would be to fill you in on my book status and when the fourth book in the series might be available, or how the writer’s conference went or even how my own book event turned out.

But I’m writing now, sooner than I expected to, in order to share the saddest news to you from my author self. I’ve suffered another loss, and this time it has affected me in a way I hadn’t put any thought in to when I first began to write my mystery series.

Piper - using her paw to get my attention
I’ve shared with you in previous posts about my dog, Piper, who has dealt with some health issues the past few months. Piper is also the only “real” character in my mystery series and I have thoroughly enjoyed adding her cuteness to the personality of her fictional alter ego. 

Sadly, the issues that continued to plague Piper came back with a vengeance this past week. We attempted another surgery to remove the infection, and a new mass in her neck, but I’m heartbroken to share that a few days after surgery, complications arose and there was nothing more we could do. I was with her when she passed, I’m so thankful for that, but saying goodbye was gut wrenching for me. She was my little shadow, my muse, my writing buddy (always lying on the floor in the office with me when I was plugging away these past five years) and her absence will be felt…Every. Single. Day.

When I first began writing this series and decided to add Piper as a character, I never thought about what it would mean to me if something ever happened to her. Whether or not I could continue to write about her, no longer having her by my side. Whether I could continue to share her personality traits or quirks in the series, when I wasn’t around her to see them firsthand every day. 

Whether I’d want to continue to share parts of her with others, when I couldn’t have her here for myself.

These thoughts had never occurred to me…

Admittedly, as I review my latest novel and read over what I wrote about Piper in the story, it’s difficult. I want her here, with me. Admittedly, it’s only been two days and I need some time to heal. However, when I sat down today to work on my book, and as I let myself become immersed in the story, something happened I did not expect. It felt good to read about her. It felt good to imagine her healthy…hanging out with her owner, going for walks, playing outside, riding in a vehicle. Doing what dogs do, rather than how I’ve seen her the past few months due to her illness.

And I felt her here, with me. 

She’s no longer physically here with me, but she will always be by my side, in spirit at least. As a “character” in my series, the memory of her will continue to live on through my books, and because of that, she will live forever.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August antics as summer winds down

Seriously, this summer is just flying by – how about you? Are you finding it hard to believe the month of August is already half over?

The past few weeks have just been a continuation of a very busy summer – with no rest for the weary!

This month I’ve been working through the edits on the fourth book in my series, and preparing the book for a final run through. I’ve really enjoyed the feedback from my editor and as much as I dislike editing my own work, I’m remembering how much fun it is to work through edits from my editor.  It’s also such a great learning tool for me – and feedback from a professional is so helpful when it can make you sit back and review your work from the viewpoint of another.

Ocean Shores sunset
In between writing/editing, there have been a number of other distractions this month involving my day job (we have a new boss after being in limbo for over five months), my health (my back, on-going the past six months…ugh), Piper’s health (yes, still), and just getting away here and there to enjoy what the PNW has to offer before our weather turns on us. One such trip was to the beach where my husband and I celebrated 26 years married this month. I’ve wanted to get to the beach all summer but haven’t had time, so I’m glad it worked out for our anniversary. The month of August also marked the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing; it’s always the “firsts” that are the most difficult to get through after a loved one passes away. I saw a quote on Instagram recently from “The Walking Dead” that kind of hit home for me…“The pain doesn’t go away. You just make room for it.” Sad, but so very true.

I also agreed to commit to an author event for the first time in…quite a while. I won’t call it a book signing, really; more like a meet & greet, since I’m not sure how many of the attendees will have actually read any of my books when I come to meet them. What is cute, though, is the woman who is putting the event together. I sent her a copy of No Mother of Mine in preparation for the meet & greet. She’d heard about me and wanted to plan an event with me, but apparently hadn’t yet read any of my books. The book was mailed on a Monday and by the end of that week, she called to say she had already finished the book and really enjoyed it. Again, although I’m a reader myself, it still amazes me how quickly readers get through my 400-page books! I still pinch myself because it is surreal when I take in the fact that readers are enjoying my work and literally devouring my books when they get them. 

The meet & greet isn’t until next month, which is probably a good thing considering how busy August has turned to be. Which means September will be a fun month, not only with the author meet & greet, but also an upcoming writer’s conference, and time spent finalizing the fourth book in the series in preparation for publication. And soon I’ll have the fourth book in the series published, so that I can finally complete my young adult novel and also get to work on another book before the end of the year. 

But I need to get my focus back to August – there’s too much to be done yet this month.

That said, I’m taking a blogging break the rest of this month and I’ll post another update in September. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I did this summer…so far


One more day in the month of July and then we’re sliding right into the last real month of summer. This week, everyone in the PNW will be preparing for a real heat wave expected to hit us mid-week, so I guess many will be sliding into the new month on their own sweat. Temps nearing or over 100 degrees…not optimal for many who don’t have access to A/C because these high temps just aren’t normal around here. If this continues, our summer weather will be holding out until September and beyond. Some will love it, others won’t but Mother Nature doesn’t tend to care what we think.  J

How has your summer been so far? Mine has been a mixed bag, really it has, but I guess that’s what’ll keep the summer interesting.
Piper

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know I’ve had some difficult moments with Piper during the months of May and June. I wish I could say we were all through it, but unfortunately, she has been struck yet again with another infection and she’s back on antibiotics as of last week.  We’ve been in and out of the vet a dozen times over the past two months…I’m sure if she could speak she’d say she hopes this time will be the last. Even with everything she’s gone through, she’s been such a good girl through all this; it’s probably obvious, but I really can’t say enough about how special she is to me.



Home from Hawaii!
June also marked my oldest son’s return home from Hawaii – funny enough, on one of the days when I had to take an unexpected trip back to the vet because Piper had pulled out her drain tube after surgery, I returned home from the vet to find a bunch of luggage in the front hallway. Nothing can eliminate the anxious feelings of a parent better than the knowledge that their kid is finally home safe and sound after a long trip.



Steps while in Orlando!
June was also busy with preparations for a family vacation to Florida where we visited all the theme parks at Disney World over a four-day period, as well as Universal Studios for two days.  



Just a sneak peek...







While my absolute favorite place to “be” was Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, my favorite ride by far was at Disney World, in the newest addition of Animal Kingdom. Avatar’s Flight of Passage is nothing like any ride I’ve ever experienced since we first began going on theme park vacations more than ten years ago. I really can’t put into words how absolutely amazing the Flight of Passage is, but if you ever get the chance to experience it, do it. You won’t be disappointed.



Very alert & just about ready to fly
 

Let’s see…what else? 

Oh yes, birds. 

This summer has been quite the experience with birds. Not just the normal characters who visit every summer, although I would like to see more owls than I have so far. No, this summer we’ve been treated to quite a few baby birds. The first family was a nest of robins in a shrub in our front yard – one we had planned to cut way down because of how large it had gotten. But once we realized there was a nest of babies, we had to put that plan on hold. When the babies finally left the nest, the plan to cut down the shrubs was halted yet again when we discovered a new nest with more baby robins in the other shrub. 


Cheez-it B&B for birds

And baby robins weren’t our only guests this summer; we also had some swallows who decided our porch would be a good place to start a family. Their home was probably like no other, but it worked for them and all six babies thrived in this odd-looking nesting box. It was seriously fun to watch them grow as they received food from their parents, and then watch as they learned to flutter and fly and finally move on. We don’t have cats right now, or this situation would have made me very nervous!



The month of July has been busy with family events just about every weekend – to include a wedding reception, an outing to the zoo with my two great nephews, hanging out at the annual Oregon Trail Days and a family reunion at our house just yesterday. 

I think I’m ready for some free weekends during the month of August, if I get my way…I have a book to complete! 

I hope your summer so far is a fun one to write home about – carry on and stay cool!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Christmas in July, and other distractions

The weather we’ve been enjoying in the Pacific Northwest has made this an enjoyable summer, so far. Other than the 97 degree heat I was treated to my first day back from Florida last month, our weather here has been pretty outstanding. The burn bans are starting and soon there will be talk about the lack of rain, but we’ll be subject to wet weather soon enough. I’m in no hurry to see it just yet.

We’re hosting a family get-together the end of this month and about the end of June and beginning of July, I figured I better stock up on some items I thought might be good to have on hand for some summer kid-friendly fun. I also needed a new umbrella for one I had accidentally broken. When I went shopping, I was shocked to see that the summer items were either completely gone, or were down to a limited quantity tucked away in a clearance corner. In place of where they had been were school supplies.  Kids hadn’t even been out of school a month yet! I visited a couple of different stores looking for items on my list and also discovered the appearance of fall and Thanksgiving items. Good grief. By the time parents finally decide they should shop for school items (those who don’t know better), they’ll probably be shocked to find Christmas items instead.

I eventually found an umbrella, which I discovered was broken when I got it home. Ugh. I had to take it back, only to learn that the color I had chosen was no longer available. I was left with the choice of a bright lime green, light brown and dark brown. I settled with the light brown and called it good - and it had been marked down even lower since I purchased it so that I also received some cash back in return. J Finding the other summer items I was looking for was a challenge, but I finally crossed off all but one item from my list.

I’ve also noticed that there have been quite a few Christmas movies on t.v. lately. I happened to notice them one day when I was scrolling through the guide to see what was on. Eventually, when I saw more Christmas movies on the guide another day, I realized they have been playing more often than not this month on some channels. I guess people really do enjoy watching movies with a Christmas theme in July. 

We’re technically only, what, a month into summer? I don’t want to think about the holidays yet, or the change in the weather we’ll be heading towards, or the thought of having to wear coats or sweaters to keep warm, or worrying about driving to work in the snow. 

Do you ever frequent the magazine racks at the bookstore?  Do you notice a new trend that has been receiving wider audiences?  It’s the art and practice of mindfulness. However, in order to achieve that required mental state, part of it includes focusing on the present moment. That’s a difficult task when stores constantly pull us from the moment by thoughts of what’s to happen months and months away from today. For some it may be easy to ignore that pull, but for others, like those with children still in school, they are forced to focus on that future moment or risk missing out on the items they’ll need and which won’t be available when they finally go out in search of them. Unfortunately, the offering of seasonable items a season or two in advance is a tactic the stores will likely never change since it appears to be a competition of who can get their items on display first.

So I bought my umbrella and other items I needed for the gathering, I ignored the school supplies, and I quickly perused the fall and Thanksgiving items, before shaking my head and telling myself I did not need anything from those shelves at that moment.

Then I drove home, took off my shoes, and walked barefoot in the yard out to my gardens to check on my veggies and herbs while listening to the sound of the birds around me. The sun is warm and inviting, the smell of the herbs is invigorating, and beyond the birds and a slight breeze, the quiet of the woods around me is relaxing. Grounding myself in this way reminds me to keep focusing on the present, to enjoy these moments, for soon enough the clouds will constantly cover us, the gardens will be gone and going barefoot will not be an option if I want to keep warm.

I’ll enjoy fall and the upcoming holidays when it’s their time, but for now, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy these beautiful summer days. I hope you do too!

 

  

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bi-yearly check in…already?


What travels faster than the speed of light?  I’m beginning to think just your average year! A bit of an exaggeration, I’ll admit, but still…we’re already moving on into the last six months of the year – how did the first six months treat you?

My last check in was the end of April, and it feels like a lot has happened in just the two months since that time. I’m still doing what I can to continue to improve on my monthly intentions, so that I can continue to have good progress on my tasks and expectations, both personally and professionally. As I review my original list of mindful intentions for 2017, here’s how I’m doing now in that regard:

Reading and writing - I am still reading almost daily, both fiction and non-fiction. Whether I can sink into a good mystery or thriller, or read a new book on writing or inspiration, I’m always on the lookout for new options to add to my reading list. I’ve discovered, however, that lately when I read fiction I’m having a difficult time wearing just my “reader” hat…because my “author” hat likes to stay put sometimes. I tend to read stories more critically, or I compare them to how I like to write, or I see a mistake or misspelling and realize even the work of well-known authors aren’t perfect. But regardless of which hat I’m wearing, being a reader is in my DNA and will always be a constant in my life.

And, when it comes to my own writing, the fourth book in my series was sent off to the editor for review this past week. It’s such a huge relief for me to finally be at this point! I took so much time off after losing my dad, and then soon after with the illnesses and later the loss of my step-mom and my mother-in-law back-to-back, it was just really difficult to keep my head where it needed to be in order to keep up with my writing or stay on a regular schedule. Everyone deals with grief in their own way; I just had to figure out how to deal with mine, rather than what was expected or what I thought others expected from me, and I've had to push through my fears. It doesn’t have to be a lonely journey, but you do tend to travel that road alone. What works for you might not work for another, and sometimes it takes awhile to figure that out.

Growth, gratitude, focus, letting go - following up on the above, I have dealt with some serious blows but I have also grown through them, learned from them, and I have accepted the process of letting go of what I cannot change and of what might hinder me. I’m grateful, not for the bad parts, but for what I’ve learned from these past few years. It hasn’t broken me, but has made me stronger and has helped me focus on what matters most and for that, I am grateful.

Be mindful, be present, balance, strength – part of my new mindset involves being mindful, so that I can continue to find calm in the chaos, let go of hindrances, be present in each moment and find a better balance in life. I’m also constantly focused on how I can better myself with building strength and being more active. Yoga, meditation and journaling are just a few activities that help me in all those areas. 

Less clutter – I moved on from the house, after cleaning out quite a few closets and drawers, and we finally tackled the garage. It was a chore, but it felt good to go through everything, store items in bins or throw them away if necessary, and it felt especially good when we were able to haul off two truckloads of large items that had been taking up way too much space. There’s still a little more work to do, but it’s a manageable task compared to what we started with.

Travel, adventure, family – May and June were busy months when it came to travel and family. My oldest son, who has been living in Hawaii for the past year, came back home. Some might think it was because Hawaii was too expensive, but that wasn’t the case for him. He actually did very well and enjoyed living as an islander. But he decided it was time to come home and as a mom, you can imagine I’m thrilled to have him living nearby where I can visit with him more often, not to mention enjoy the holidays together. Only a week after he came home, we left as a family for a vacation to Florida. In June, no less, where the heat and humidity likely match, or was a bit worse, than where my son had been living in Hawaii. We’d sweat buckets during the day before the rain clouds came in the afternoon to soak us and lower the temps a bit but other than that, we had a great time and an unforgettable adventure.

Be brave, dream, create – these may be the hardest or the most fun, depending on the day or the mood, but these are also intentions I never wish to forget or discover buried under all the daily, common or necessary tasks. I am brave, I can’t help but dream and I love to create. Those traits are what make me, me, and they are intentions that will always make me feel complete when I stick to them. 

So that’s my bi-yearly check in. With half the year under my belt, and a better mindset and positive attitude as I move along, I am ready to take on the next six months! 

Until next time…take care and read on, or write on, if you’re also a writer.  J



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Piper’s own little mystery – a month-long saga

For those of you who have read my books in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series, you’re aware that my protagonist has a rescue dog named Piper. For those of you who know me, or who have read about this fact in previous posts, you also know that I actually do have a Lab-mix named Piper. Other than Jorja, who is loosely based on my life as a private investigator, Piper is the only character in my books based on an actual…being.

Piper just wasn't feeling well
Since my last post on Mother’s Day, I’ve been very distracted with a mystery surrounding Piper after she began to have some serious medical issues with her neck. It actually began just before Mother’s Day weekend when her neck began to swell up. I called to schedule a vet visit but wasn’t able to get an appointment until the following week, which seemed to be okay at the time. But then during Mother’s Day weekend, that changed completely when her neck became so swollen, it caused the area to rupture. 

Nasty business, that. And just a bit scary.

The vet looked Piper over and discovered she had an abscess so they kept her overnight to drain it and get her started on some antibiotics. I took her home the following day with high hopes that all would be well and she would heal soon enough. 

More than a week later, on the day she was to return for a simple follow-up appointment, her neck had begun to swell again. At the vet’s office when they were looking her over, the area ruptured again. Our vet was not equipped to help any further and we had no choice but to take Piper to an emergency vet. This time, the ER vet prescribed different antibiotics and placed drain tubes in her neck to avoid any further swelling until the area healed.

But Piper was able to pull both drain tubes out within a couple of days - I think she was getting sick and tired of having her neck messed with. And I really can’t blame her.

Even without the tubes, the area continued to drain so I kept ace bandages wrapped loosely around her neck to catch most of the drainage and I watched her like a hawk for the next week until her follow-up appointment. By the time we went back to the ER vet for a visit, the swelling was much better, but we could clearly see a mass just below her jaw line that appeared to be more than fluid. An ultrasound had already been used and no tumor, foreign object or injury had been seen, so the reason for the mass was still a mystery.

This was getting serious because we had no answer and yet she still had a condition that would obviously continue to cause issues.

Our only other option was to think about exploratory surgery - to at least remove the infected tissue, and hopefully discover the underlying cause of the infection. Obviously, I couldn’t let her continue as is, that would have been cruel. There really was no other option, so we scheduled her for surgery last week, having no idea what to expect but with a hope and a prayer that the vet would finally figure it out and fix our girl.

After dropping Piper off that morning, I waited all day for a phone call and could barely focus on anything else but what news I would get. The surgeon had multiple surgeries that day, some more serious than Piper so the wait was understandable. But by the time the surgeon called me that evening, I was beyond worried. I was scared.

Chunk of wood found in Piper's neck
But the surgeon had terrific news when she called – after removing almost all of the tissue and finding nothing (at that point even she thought she wasn’t going to find the underlying cause), the surgeon was finally rewarded with the answer to the mystery when she was working on the last infected area. Buried deep in the tissue she found a small chunk of wood! Her guess is that Piper was chewing on a stick and that a piece of it punctured through her throat in an area that heals fairly quickly, often within a day or two, so that after the puncture healed, the wood was stuck inside the neck.

Mystery solved!

Piper home after surgery - feeling better already!

That small piece of wood is probably the most expensive piece of wood I’ve ever purchased, but my relief is priceless, especially after discovering Piper’s condition was caused by a foreign body, rather than a disease or illness of some kind we might not have been able to heal her from.

We’d do just about anything for our kids, as most parents would, and that includes when it comes to our fur babies. If you’re not an animal lover, then you might not understand, but when your pets are part of your family, it can really affect you when you see they are hurting or sick.

So that’s what’s been keeping me distracted for the past month. Just thought I’d share Piper’s story and the mystery I’m glad we finally solved. 

Until next time – have a great day!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother’s Day – a day to celebrate, remember, be thankful

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Whether you are a mother, or an aunt or grandmother who is like a mom…and even to those who only have furry kids to love - It’s a wonderful day to celebrate moms, or to remember moms no longer with us, and to be thankful for the good times we’ve had and the memories we share.

Last year this holiday was a difficult time for me, as a daughter, because both my stepmom and my mom-in-law were losing their battles to cancer and both passed away shortly thereafter and within a few months of each other. Now I can only remember them, celebrate who they were, and be thankful for the time I had them in my life. While I did spend time with my own mom last year, I likely wasn’t the best of company since my thoughts and focus were constantly someplace else; but she is my mom and I’m sure she didn’t hold it against me. That’s what caring moms do.

This year, I celebrate my mom, remember moms who have passed on and I am thankful for my own boys, who have never made me feel as if I need to wait for a holiday to hear how much they appreciate me. I am very, very grateful for that. The hardest part for me this year is the fact that my oldest is living in Hawaii, so this is the first Mother’s Day we haven’t been able to spend together. 

I don’t mean to get too emotional, or end on a sad note, so I thought I’d share some cute quotes about moms to make you smile:

There is no way to be a perfect mother…but a million ways to be a good one.

Good moms let you lick the beaters…great moms turn them off first.

My kids call it “yelling” when I raise my voice.  
I call it motivational speaking for the selective listener.

The quickest way for a mom to get her children’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.

My nickname is “Mom” but my full name is “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom...”

A worried mother does better research than the FBI.

And finally, here’s the definition of “Mother” – 

One person who does the work of twenty. For free.

So to all the mothers out there, whether your kids live near, or far, whether they show you every day, or make today something extra special to remind you they really love and appreciate you, or whether your only kids are the furry kind who have absolutely no idea what the significance of today might be, I wish you a truly wonderful and blessed Mother’s Day!



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monthly check in – May we look forward to May?

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of April already…I hate to say it, but where the heck does the time go?

I haven’t offered an update on my monthly intentions since February, and I thought now would be a good time to check in.  So where am I with my tasks and expectations? When I review the words that came to mind when I thought about 2017, there are a number of them I’ve been working on the past few months. 

Instagram post for my idea of Serenity
Reading and writing – I’ve been reading pretty much every day, whether fiction, magazine articles, writing books, whatever I have on hand at the time I have the time to read. With my writing, I’m taking some time to continue to review, edit and make changes to the fourth book in the series since I still have some time before my scheduled professional edit. As long as it’s in my possession, I’ll probably continue to find something I can correct…or change…or add. In the meantime, I’m also working on my young adult novel. And of course, I’m always journaling. 

I’m also planning on which writer’s conference(s) I want to attend this year – one for certain I’m already signing up for, and the other I’m still thinking about since it’s a 4-day commitment. Whether I attend just one or both, I look forward to the continued learning opportunity and meeting other like-minded individuals.

Less clutter – I spent a couple of weekends going through closets and drawers and boxes until I finally had enough items to stuff my SUV and then I donated everything. The amount of clothes and household items we were able to donate was incredible. We just don’t need that much stuff! I’m still working on clearing out some other areas and items, as time permits, and I’m hopeful by the end of the year I will finally feel free from the clutter. 

Reflection – I’ve been doing a lot of this lately…and it’s still a work in progress. I don’t know what answers I’m looking for, but eventually I believe some changes will be necessary and for someone who isn’t terribly great with change, this can be a scary concept but I’m working myself up to appreciate it can also be exciting.  

Be present, find beauty, create – I took part in a photo challenge during the month of April, and I really enjoyed finding different ways to take photographs to show my point of view or my interpretation of what it was we were supposed to be sharing with others. 

Because I really enjoy monthly challenges, I’ve signed up to begin a new challenge tomorrow – it’s a routine & habits challenge. I’m interested to see what I might learn about my habits, or about myself.  If the challenge proves to be useful, I’ll share what I learned.

Travel, adventure, family – I recently took a trip to Vegas and had a terrific time with my family; I’m now planning and looking forward to my next travel adventure. If I’m going to spend money on anything, besides books, I’d much rather spend it making memories with my loved ones, instead of buying stuff to add to the clutter.

Movement, strength – I enjoy Yoga, cardio and other attempts to stay active, and I’m still really enjoying my new Fitbit, as it continues to remind me to move my butt every hour throughout the day, which is so very helpful when my day job has me sitting more than I’d prefer. And there it goes…I just received my notification that I need to get up and move to reach my step count…

...I took a quick walk to reach my goal.  It’s always nice to be rewarded when I reach my step count – the little dancing person icon on my Fitbit is cute – it would be fun if I had a similar little writer icon who could jump with happiness while throwing pages in the air when I reach my word count.

Now that’s an idea…  J

The past few months have been encouraging as I continue to work on my intentions, and besides giving me a sense of accomplishment, I enjoy moving into a new month with a renewed interest in upcoming expectations.

Hello May…let’s do this!



Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Easter Bunny didn’t visit today, but my Muse did.


Today was a special day for many. Easter Sunday is a day for church goers, family gatherings, and fun times for children as they search for colored eggs, whether real or plastic ones filled with treats.  A time for visiting, taking photographs and relaxing on a nice Sunday afternoon.

This is likely the first Easter Sunday, ever, that I haven’t had plans for a family dinner or gathering. It left me with the feeling that I had forgotten something, that I should be someplace else or the sense that I should be doing something.

I did get to spend some time outside. We’ve had a break in the weather and it was nice to just get out for some fresh air while I tackled a project. Once I got myself planted again at my desk, I decided I had to make good use of this holiday if I was just going to sit around at home. I used the rest of the afternoon to review the earlier chapters of the story I’ve written for my young adult novel. This is a novel I’d like to publish later this year, after the fourth novel in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series is finally released. The fourth Jorja novel will be edited soon by my editor, but she has a very busy schedule and that edit is still a ways out, so I’m taking the time in between to work on my YA novel. My expectation is that the fourth in the series will be published before the end of summer, and if my young adult is ready and gets on the calendar for a professional edit, it will be published before the end of the year.  It’ll be a challenge but very satisfying to publish two full-length novels before the end of the year. 

As I was reviewing and editing the first chapters in my YA novel, I was once again enjoying how much fun it is to review what I’ve already written. To get back into the story from the first day of my characters’ lives in the world I’ve created. To reacquaint myself with them from the beginning; it’s something I just never get tired of. I find little snippets and trinkets of special details about the characters or details about the story that I may have forgotten about until I read back through it again. It’s always a lot of fun and still one of my favorite parts about reviewing my work. The review went so well, I was then able to add additional details and answer some lingering questions I still had with some of the plot points in the story. The Muse was a chatty Cathy today and I took advantage of it.

So today wasn’t my usual type of Easter holiday; it wasn’t really a day off either. But that’s okay. I was able to make good headway on reviewing and editing my YA novel, and adding to the story, as well, so that soon this novel will also be ready for a professional edit. It feels satisfying to know that this will be a productive year. 

However you spent this Easter Sunday, I hope you also had a wonderful day doing something that brought you joy.

Have a great week!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

When childhood memories come calling


I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my childhood, or just what it used to be like to be a kid in the midst of all the grown-up stuff we were ignorant of or allowed to pretend we knew nothing about.  Why the nostalgia about the past?  It’s not nostalgia really…I don’t actually wish to be a kid again. It’s just memories about the way things used to be, and what it was like to grow up as a kid in a small town.   

Maybe it’s due to the preview I watched recently of Stephen King’s novel, It, which is about to make its way on the big screen in a few months. I have always enjoyed horror and suspense novels and I’ve been reading King since even before I became a teen. Like many of his stories, the novel, It, certainly struck a chord with readers, as many could relate to having some sort of childhood fear. I remember my biggest fear as a kid was that something was in my closet, or under my bed. I couldn’t sleep without the closet door being closed, and when I went to bed I would run and jump onto the mattress, rather than risk getting my bare feet too close to what might lie beneath it.

Thankfully, I’m not afraid of clowns, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it through the book King wrote about Pennywise and the children who met him, but there is one thing I’m afraid of, which I won’t mention for those who plan to see the movie but haven’t read the book (and if the movie sticks to the script). I just know it’s one part of the movie when I’ll likely be closing my eyes, or at least peeking through my fingers.

Aside from the childhood fears, there are days when I miss what being a kid was all about – when all you really did was live in the moment. I’m talking before we learned to dread Mondays and wish for Fridays. Before cell phones and video games, before there were more than five channels on the television (oops, I’m dating myself!). There was no whole day spent inside the house in front of any kind of screen. That just wasn’t allowed, or you’d likely get put to work. I grew up on a family farm with hardly any neighbors other than nearby family and with many acres available for us to explore. My brother and I would take off, even as fairly young kids, to go for a walk through the woods, hang out at the creek all afternoon or ride our bikes down the road to our cousin’s house.  Obviously, these days, letting your kids just roam around like that isn’t really advisable. 

But that’s the adult in me talking.

The kid in me didn’t think like that. 

Instead, we followed where our curiosity led us. We’d catch frogs or, even better, find frog eggs before they hatched, put them in a bucket and watch them for days until they finally hatched and we could dump them back in the creek. We’d find logs that had fallen over the perfect spot on the creek, and lie on the log with our hands stretched out towards the water, waiting patiently…until a salamander finally came up for air. We’d use our hands to catch as many crawdads or fish as we could, and see who could finally find the biggest one. We meant no harm to anything; everything we caught, we threw back to be caught another day.

Those are memories I enjoy when I recall what life was like as a kid. We didn’t think ahead to what the day might have in store for us, we lived in the moment, enjoying nature and letting curiosity drive us.

My childhood fears had no basis in fact; there was nothing in my closet or under my bed. And, like most children, even if I knew this to be true, I still thought it was possible, and nothing in the world was going to make me look to make sure nothing was hiding from me. I just jumped in bed, pulled the covers over my head and willed myself to go to sleep quickly. I feared monsters that did not exist but never thought about how I could have very easily run into a bad situation any of those days I played as a child in the woods. 

But that’s what being a kid is all about – it’s letting the imagination roam and the curiosity drive you.  And if you’re lucky, the adult in you will remember how to do that again, even if it’s only every once in awhile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Which gadgets bring enjoyment to your day?


There’s much to be said these days about taking time away from the computer, the cell phone, the television…anything that tends to keep you inactive for too long, or which limits your ability to really be aware of your surroundings, or live in the moment of what’s actually going on around you.
Courtesy of Death to Stock photo

I’ve written before about the need to unplug in order to recharge – a funny sort of contradictory statement, but I think many these days would have to agree it’s a good thing to do every now and then.

But lately I’ve been having some fun, not with the normal sort of electronics that might cause an increase in pounds and therefore, tighter jeans, but instead other sorts of gadgets which should help do the opposite.

First, music has always been part of my day. I listen to it on my way to my day job, I listen to it while at the office and again on the drive home. I have specific tastes when it comes to music, but any playlist I put together will tend to have more upbeat songs and I generally care more about the beat than who is doing the singing. If I don’t find myself rocking back and forth, drumming my fingers or tapping my foot, I’m on to the next song. However, I don’t really enjoy upbeat songs where the artist is basically repeating themselves, with a few other words thrown in for good measure. And unless I’m in a particularly bad mood and just want the company of sadness, I tend to skip, or tune out, slow or sad songs; although they will win my favor if they actually have a good beat. In fact, I’m listening to a good one right now…The Other Side by David Gray.

I’ve been using a music app on my phone and I enjoy the large number of songs and types of music at my fingertips. My favorite gadget lately has not only been my cell phone and the music app, but also my new JBL portable speaker. It was a gift for Christmas and it’s one of my favorites. Although I’m still not able to listen to music while I work on my novels, I’ve found that I am able to blog, journal and free write while listening to music. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to listen to music while working on a novel. It might sound odd, but I’m a bit tentative about using music when I write, as I don’t want the music to have any influence on any emotions on the page. What if a sad song comes on when I’m trying to write about something funny, or what if an upbeat song plays while I’m trying to write something serious? I also don’t want to be distracted by having to skip a song to find a song that might put me in the right “mood.” 

While the cell phone is often the enemy when you’re told to unplug, I’ve used it to focus less on negative social media and more on what helps keep me focused on my intentions. When I made my New Year’s intentions, I wanted to focus on writing, health, self-care, rest/relaxation and family/fun.  Music is fun, it can be relaxing, it can make you happy and it can make you move. 

Not so long ago, I almost gave up on the idea of using a smart phone. I thought I’d just stick with a basic phone and leave it at calls and texting. Now…I don’t think I’d ever want to give up my Android. I found another fun use for it, and that’s to keep tabs on another new gadget I’ve decided to try out: a Fitbit. While the Fitbit seems a bit bulky for my wrist, I’m enjoying this latest purchase a lot. When my New Year’s intentions included walking/moving more, drinking more water, sleeping better, being more mindful of what I eat, and making time for regular meditation/breathing exercises, this little gadget helps me keep tabs on all those intentions, plus some. When I’m writing, I can sit at my computer for hours…without realizing how much time has gone by and without realizing that the only part of my body that’s moved much are my fingers while I type and my eyelids when I blink (and my arm when I take a sip of my coffee). I enjoy the fact that my Fitbit reminds me every hour to get up and move so that I can reach my step count. It shows me how well, or how awful, I’ve been sleeping so that I can possibly begin to make some adjustments. I can easily keep track of my water intake. I like being able to see a comparison day to day on how active I’ve been, what goals I’ve reached and I’ve never been more aware of my heart rate in my whole life. It really is quite a fun little gadget.

I’m getting no kickbacks for talking about these devices I’m using. I just wanted to share because for me, the gadgets that bring enjoyment to my day also give me in return something that makes me happy (music) and which focuses on something important (my health). Regardless of the fact that these items might need to use an outlet at some point, I can’t take away the benefits they provide to me. 

Now, if I only I can find a gadget that will help me write faster!
    



Sunday, March 12, 2017

How do you travel? Via fact or fiction?


I just returned from a vacation that made me so tired, I needed a vacation to rest after returning home. That’s nothing new, as I really can’t recall a time when a vacation actually meant relaxation. My husband and I are the same in that regard, thankfully, or I doubt we’d ever enjoy vacations together. 

Inside the Venetian at Las Vegas
When I think back to some of the vacations we’ve taken, I can probably count on one hand how often the bulk of one day was spent doing nothing. Why? Because there’s always too much to see and do! I can rest when I’m at home, but when I’m in places like Mexico, or Alaska, or Hawaii, or taking a road trip, whether it’s through three states or even up to ten, I don’t want to assume that I can bypass something that interests me or the rest of the family because we can always see it “next time.” 

My most recent trip was to Las Vegas – a place I haven’t visited in quite awhile. It really hasn’t changed all that much and I don’t know if I expected that it would have, but it was nice to return to find that it was still familiar. The one thing I do not miss about Vegas is the desperation emanating from so many, not only from those who visit but also from those who live and work there. But besides that, it’s still a fun place to visit and play, and where you will get more than your fair share of steps in every single day.

If you’ve never been to Vegas, you may not feel you’re missing out on anything, or maybe you secretly hope to see it someday. Honestly, I could describe what it’s like to vacation in Vegas, but it wouldn’t take the place of seeing it for yourself.  

New York New York from the strip
For those who don’t travel, whether due to financial reasons, health reasons or because other obligations prelude them from even attempting it, they might not ever know what it’s like to visit Las Vegas or Hawaii or Alaska, or foreign areas such as Mexico and beyond. Their only experiences of such places may be limited to photos and descriptions from others. Of course, there are some who just have no interest in traveling – like my in-laws. They were farmers, had little interest for much beyond the farm, and the furthest they traveled was to California or Oklahoma to see family. That was by choice, as they really had no interest in seeing new or foreign places.

But for those who do wish to see new places, how do they explore if they aren’t able to set foot outside their own state line? If someone isn’t able to travel, and they also have a love for books, they will most likely read about it. They will find authors who plunge characters into plots taking part in areas of the world they are interested in reading about.  Sometimes, stories will wrap you up with memories of a place so vivid you can no longer resist the idea of seeing it for yourself if given the chance. Before I visited New Orleans, I read Interview with the Vampire and The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. I’d already had an interest in seeing New Orleans, but after that, I just had to see it for myself. When a conference was scheduled to occur in New Orleans for private investigators, I jumped at the chance, and the city did not disappoint me.

Gaining knowledge from the experience of others might be insightful and exciting to hear about, and reading books by an author who can describe a character’s surroundings so vividly can be fulfilling to some extent, but I hope everyone gets a chance to explore someplace new at least once in their lifetime. I don’t believe anyone will ever regret taking advantage of living life and seeing new things when the opportunity presents itself. When I think back on the amazing places I’ve visited, I feel very blessed for the experiences and for the memories that will always be a part of me.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February: short-term month, long-term gain

This has been a busy month, and for a short month it’s been stocked full. The day job has been very busy, I’ve stayed on track with writing so that I’ve passed my minimum monthly word count even though I’ve had to deal with chronic back pain and more chiropractic visits than I would use in a whole year, there’s been extra time spent with family, and a couple of visits to the vet to learn that the mass the vet felt in Piper’s neck wasn’t a tumor, but actually a toy she had swallowed. 

Yeah, that turned out to be an expensive toy. But Piper’s now doing great, and in the end, that’s what matters most.

For the month of February when I check off my list of mindful intentions, I’m doing pretty well, even if my attempts at exercise have been limited due to having to take it easy because of my back. 

But what I’m really pleased with is the writing…I’m at a place now where I haven’t been in a long time: I’m at the end of a book, tying up the mysteries, getting to the last page of the story where “the end” is appropriate to type in.

It is a feeling I’ve had before with each prior book, but with each book it’s also a bit different.  Either way, it is an emotional ride when you know you’re nearing completion of such a large project and an intense feeling of satisfaction when you know you have finally completed your first draft. 

With each book I write, I learn something: I learn more about the craft, more about the process, and also more about myself. Because it has been awhile since I’ve been able to say that a first draft is about to be complete, I thought I’d go back through old blog posts to review how I felt when my prior first drafts were completed. 

Once the first draft of my first novel, No Mother of Mine, was ready for editing in 2012, I was only just beginning to learn what was involved with the process when it comes to reviewing and editing. The very first book, obviously, is not an experience that will ever be matched again; at least as it relates to the extreme surreal feeling when you can acknowledge you’ve just written an actual novel. By the time I completed the first draft of my second novel, Best Kept Secrets, in 2013, I was more aware of what was ahead of me before the book could be published, but I now laugh at myself when I read over that blog post for predicting that at some point in my future the process of editing would get easier. 

I’m not sure that will ever be true. The first draft of any novel is a wild animal to be tamed, and it should not be mistaken for as an easy task.

Something else I wrote in the post about my second novel, but which I caught myself nodding my head to in agreement as I was reading it, was this:

During the editing process, we come to the intersection of Creation and Control…which is what it takes to make sure the story is complete, the words make sense, the characters aren’t flat and the plot twists and turns enough to give readers true delight.

I like how I described the editing process in that way, and it’s something I’ll have to remember each time I’m in the middle of reviewing any draft of a novel.

The last time I completed a first draft of a novel, not counting the short story I published in 2015, was Ties That Bind towards the end of 2014. For the third novel in the series, I brought in someone new to assist with the editing and as each phase for each novel has taught me something new about the process, so did my new editor. And with the new editor came a new appreciation for the editing process.

It’s been a long time coming, so it feels good to begin the editing process again.  It’s also a great feeling to know that I’m moving forward – working on that momentum I’ve focused on for this New Year.    


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Confessions of a book addict


Hi, my name is Paula, and I’m addicted to books. Reading books, writing books, buying books… 

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

I was thinking back to my first love of books and I’m pretty certain it was during grade school when I was allowed to purchase them during the Scholastic book fair. I’d have a set amount to spend, and while I can’t recall what that was, the amount probably couldn’t purchase even one book today. I’d devour the little paper catalog, choosing a book, a poster, and whatever else might not put me over the maximum amount I was allowed. And when I finally received my purchase, it was like Christmas in July…or whatever month the book fair usually occurred.

My love of books since I was a kid has only grown and it might be called an obsession, but I’m sure there are others who have many more books than I do. Right? I’m sure there are. 

But it’s more than books, oh yes, I’m on the lookout for more than just new books to read…I have a watchful eye for new journals, scrapbooks or scrapbook paper, stickers, notebooks, note cards, you name it. Anything paper, I adore.

So the other day, I visited the bookstore with the intention of getting a coffee, but also with the secret hope that one of my favorite magazines was finally available at the store. This particular magazine is made for paper-lovers like me. It felt like I’d been waiting for months for the next issue. Well, actually, I had…as I believe the English edition of the magazine is only printed quarterly. Worse than that, it’s printed in Poland, so it takes longer to finally become available in U.S. stores, which is maddening when I can see the issue is available on the website. Why not just order it online? I wish, but shipping and handling would mean my cost would be more than three times the amount I pay when I buy it in the U.S. And I can’t justify paying $70 for a magazine.

Anyway, I checked the usual area where the magazine is usually waiting for me and…it wasn’t there. Disappointed, I moved away from the magazine rack to stand in line to order my coffee. I almost bought a cookie too, to pacify my mood, but I had to remind myself I’m trying to change my eating habits to include more healthy choices (the coffee doesn’t count – it’s the one vice I won’t give up).

After placing my order, I wandered around to look at some of the other magazines for sale and as I neared the area where I find some of my favorite Yoga magazines other than the one I subscribe to, there it was…THE magazine. 

Hiding in plain sight, but near the fashion and health magazines; not its usual location.

I felt like a kid in a candy store…or like the kid I used to be, gleefully receiving my next purchase chosen so thoughtfully from the Scholastic magazine. 

When life as an adult can feel so hectic, so overwhelming, and so…serious, it’s nice to have moments when something as simple as a book, or in this case, a magazine I’d so (im)patiently been waiting for, can give you a taste of that childish glee many have lost along the way to adulthood. 

Moments like these should be cherished for what they are – little moments of happiness to take pure pleasure in, especially if it brings out the kid in us.