Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!

Book Excerpt – Chaos Theory

Feb 12, 2017

It’s Sunday, I’m about to head off to Mannheim for a book reading (I’ll let you know all about it tomorrow!) so I figured this was a good time for another excerpt from Chaos Theory. And I hate to say it, but at this point, between me having a cold all last week and my assistant dealing with some stuff, it Chaos Theory probably won’t be released until maybe the very beginning of March. Alas, these things happen! But here’s a bit to see you through….

“Is this on?” he said into a microphone. “Not that I really need it if it isn’t.”

Everyone laughed. Chairs were turned so people could see Howie, and for a moment, the delicious meal was abandoned.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Howie began. “I’d like to welcome you to PSF today to join us for this grand repast. Let’s have a round of applause for the excellent chefs of Haskell Catering.”

Applause filled the room. The head chef, a woman named Rebecca Standish, who Melody had known since childhood, nodded and smiled in appreciation.

“But, of course, you’re all here to find out what our spring mixer is all about,” Howie went on.

A buzz of excitement filled the large room. Melody grinned at Will. His mouth remained in a neutral line, but she could see the spark of interest in his eyes. Interest in more than one thing.

“Okay, okay,” Howie continued. “I know that it’s the worst-kept secret in town, but what you all don’t know is that we’re going to have a contest within a contest.”

That caught everyone’s attention, even nudging Melody’s focus away from Will and up to Howie.

“Our spring event is in association with Shoshone National Park and the National Park Services,” Howie went on. “And yes, we’re going to be having an orienteering competition.”

A ruble of enthusiasm filled the room. Howie smiled at it, but raised his hands for silence.

“So for those of you who don’t know—and at this point, I expect that’s about three of you—” Several people throughout the room laughed. “—orienteering is a survival game where people are blindfolded and dropped into the middle of the wilderness. Using only a compass and map, they’re challenged to find their way out, or find their way to a specific point.”

He paused so people could let that sink in. Melody found that her heart was thumping in excitement, half at the prospect of the challenge and half because the corners of Will’s mouth were inching up into what might actually be a smile.

“We’re going to be doing things a little differently,” Howie went on. “Since this is a mixer, rather than dropping you into the wilderness alone, we’re going to be pairing you up in teams, one person from town paired up with one person from Paradise Space Flight.”

It took Melody all of half a second to burn with the desire to have Will as her partner. He was exactly the man she wanted to get lost in the wilderness with.

“Furthermore,” Howie continued, “instead of just dropping you with a compass and map, in addition to those two things, we’ll be giving each team member a backpack full of preselected supplies. Some of them will be crucial tools for wilderness survival, and some will be….” He made a curious sound and tilted his head to the side. “Let’s just say they’ll be interesting.”

“Oh my gosh,” Rita whispered, making eye contact with Melody and Calliope. “Does Howie know about your game?”

Casey burst into snorting giggles. “Can you imagine the kind of stuff that would be in those backpacks if he does?”

“Now, in all honesty, the competition is meant for singles,” Howie went on, which only made the girls at Melody’s table giggle harder, as if he was confirming Rita’s suspicion. Will sent a frown Melody’s way, but she only winked at him. That caused Will to snap his eyes back to Howie. “We can make provision for any couples that want to take part, though. And you might find the competition within the competition to be just as enjoyable.”

Melody instantly stopped sniggering like a high school girl and sat straighter.

“As I mentioned,” Howie said, “this competition will take place at Shoshone National Forest. Well, Paradise Space Flight will be partnering them for an even grander enterprise as well. As you know, funding for the National Parks Service has been harder to come by lately, and our national parks have come under a certain level of attack. But Paradise Space Flight is dedicated to preserving and celebrating out natural heritage. Shoshone National Forest has been incredibly gracious to give us unprecedented access to their land. We, in turn, will be doing them a great service as well.”

He reached into his podium and held up a camera. “Each couple in the competition will be given a state of the art, professional quality digital camera. As you make your way through the wilderness, you will be responsible for taking photographs and videos of the natural splendor that Shoshone National Forest has to offer.”

A ripple of excitement and approval passed through the room. Melody exchanged a look with her sister that said photographing nature was right up their alley.

“So in addition to the prize for the couple to make it out of the forest and to the rendezvous point first, a second prize will be given to the couple who takes the best photographs, as judged by a panel of experts from PSF and the National Parks Service. Those winning photographs will be featured in a promotional video that PSF will be sponsoring to bring awareness to the glory of nature and hopefully to encourage donations.”

Status Update – Yep, Still Sick

Feb 11, 2017

Breaking out the big guns!

Ah, yes! I remember back on Tuesday night when I looked up the stages of a cold, only to learn that days 3 and 4 were the worst, and that most colds last 7-10 days. There was a time when I could kick a cold in five days, but alas, those days are not now. Yep, I’m still sick. But I am beginning to see the light. I’ve passed on from the run-down, thick-headed phase, but now I’m in my absolute least favorite stage of a cold—I’m coughing.

My extreme hatred of coughing goes back about fifteen years, to when I had bronchitis. Man, I never want to be that sick again! I’d never experienced anything like it before, and I never want to feel that way again. I never realized how accurate a description the phrase “coughing up a lung” was until that point. And maybe it’s a myth, but I’ve always heard that once you’ve had bronchitis, your lungs will never be the same again.

Well, it certainly feels that way now! I hate coughing. But as much as I hate it, I am endlessly impressed by how well cold medicine works! Back when I had bronchitis, the only thing that made me feel slightly human was Delsym. Dude, that stuff rocks! So I always keep some on hand. But the problem is, it’s so strong that you can only take it once every 12 hours. So I had the whole debate this morning between Delsym or regular cold medicine. Of course, the regular stuff has the active ingredient in Delsym in it, so there’s that.

In the end (because I know you’re desperate to know about the outcome of this dilemma) I went for the regular cough medicine. I’m hoping it will dry out my sinuses and ease the inflammation in my upper respiratory system, so maybe I won’t have to worry about coughing. So far, so good.

But also, I’ve discovered that steam really helps me not to cough as much. Props to my writer buddy, Caroline Lee, for cluing me in to that one! I think I might go out and buy a humidifier today so I don’t have to keep running the shower and boiling water. Especially since I just noticed this going on with the pot of water I boiled earlier. *shakes head* Kitten!

Status Update – Sick Day/Snow Day

Feb 09, 2017

I’m armed and fighting this thing!

Yep. Pretty much without fail, every time I hang out with small children these days, I catch something. And right now I have a mild-to-moderate head cold. I blame the bouncy castle playground! And with good cause, because I hear HN is sick too.

So being the nerd I am about things, and considering that I turn to research for comfort, I went online last night to look up the phases of the common cold. Because, of course, I wanted to judge where I was in the process and how much longer I was going to be annoyed by this. I mean, I’ve got stuff to do this weekend that requires me to leave my house and be around people!

So, in case you were wondering, symptoms of the common cold show up 1-3 days after exposure. Check. I started feeling like I had a sore throat Monday afternoon. Then Phase One, which is day 1-2, is the sore throat, fever, sneezing phase. Yep, that sounds about right. By last night, when I was looking all this up, my throat was no longer sore. Phase Two is then from day 3-4, and that, apparently is when you feel the worst. That’s when congestion and coughing kicks in. Hmm. Yes, I appear to be there now. And I hate coughing. But I kind of hate having a sore throat even more, so I don’t know about that “feeling the worst” thing. Fortunately, Phase Three, after day 4, is more or less a tapering off of symptoms until you’re back to normal.

Whew! So from Phase Two, I think I might just lie around today, hopefully getting my chapter for the day written. And helping me in my lying around efforts is the fact that it’s snowing outside! Of course, it was supposed to start snowing a lot sooner than it has, so I don’t think we’re going to get as much as they forecast, but still. Snow is a wonderful excuse.

But check out this screen shot from my phone’s weather app yesterday! Dude, that’s just wrong. Maybe that’s why there are so many germs abounding this winter.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 4

Feb 08, 2017

Victoria’s actual wedding dress, photographed when I was at Kensington Palace last summer. Dude, the woman was SHORT!

Well what d’ya know? Sunday night’s episode of Victoria did really well in terms of historical accuracy! I mean, aside from this continuing silliness about a romantic attachment between Victoria and Melbourne, and the fact that none of the servants’ stories are real.

Oh, one more note about the Victoria & Melbourne thing. I kept waiting for her to ask Melbourne if he had a mistress, since she seemed so obsessed with men and their mistresses in the middle of the episode. I would have loved to see Rufus Sewel’s Melbourne try to worm his way out of that one. Because yes. Yes, Melbourne did have a mistress, at that point in history and many before her.

But really, the episode was about Albert, and once again, they did a really good job of portraying him. (Other than my continued complaints about that actor’s vanishing German accent) Historically speaking, the allowance and the title was a super huge deal that had Albert’s knickers in a knot. He was exactly right to think that he was in serious danger of being the German stud, with no point and no power. He didn’t even have the usual power and authority that 19th century men had over their wives. In essence, Albert was the 19th century woman in that relationship (at first) and he knew it.

Albert’s actual wedding outfit

The allowance was also a big deal because it represented independence, like he said in the show. And Parliament really did screw him over on that one. But one thing the show didn’t portray very well (so far) was that the allowance thing, and a lot of other stuff Albert endured, was pure anti-German bigotry. The British people really didn’t like the fact that the queen married a German (not that she had much choice). For decades, up until he died, horrible things were written about him in the papers, and much later, in the 1850s, he was falsely implicated in a plot to…oh, take over the government or assassinate someone or something. I can’t remember what at the moment.

Anyhow, the bit where Ernst took Albert to a brothel? I’m calling shenanigans on that one. Ernst was probably historically right at home in a place like that, but from everything I’ve read about Albert, I can’t see him even beginning to consent to getting into a situation like that. BUT, if he had, he totally would have asked for a lecture and taken notes instead of engaging in the practice, like he did in the show.

One other minor detail that I’m eager to see unfold is the introduction of the character of George Anson. They’ve started out getting him right. Anson really was Melbourne’s man, and Albert totally resented him at first. (And he was ticked off at not being able to choose any of his own staff) HOWEVER, Albert and Anson became incredibly good friends. Like, Anson became one of the best friends that Albert ever had. I’m interested to see where they go with that.

And finally, Albert actually did like Melbourne. And Albert was also responsible for the reconciliation between Victoria and her mother, but I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.