Status Update – Status Quo

Mar 15, 2017

Yeah, I’ve been really lazy about updating my blog lately. After I made such a big noise about wanting to post more often here so I can avoid the turmoil of FB. Well, the only excuse I can give is that nothing really exciting has been going on in my world. And you know, sometimes it’s nice when there’s just nothing to report.

Except maybe that snowstorm yesterday. We were forecast to get 12-16 inches. In the end, I think we got about 5 inches of snow with about a quarter inch of ice on top of that. I’m lucky that I didn’t lose power, but I did wake up in the middle of the night last night (which is normal) and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about whether my car is frozen into its parking place, and the fact that I don’t have a shovel to dig it out. But looking out the window this morning, it looks like a couple cars that were in other parking spots had no trouble driving over the snow that was plowed against the backs of all of our cars.

See, that’s about as exciting as things have been lately. But for me, that’s actually a grand improvement. I think I’ve mentioned before that this has been a tough winter for me and my stress level. But in the last week or so, things have been looking up. I’ll admit, I started taking a bit of St. John’s Wart, which may or may be what’s contributing to the upward tick.

Kitten therapy or just having this grumpy old man yell at me to snap out of it?

Side Note: Back in the 90s, I worked for an herbalist at his health food store, and I learned a LOT about alternative medicine. I’m incredibly sensitive to pharmacology, if that’s the right way to say it, probably because Mom never gave us a lot of medicine when we were growing up. Not even aspirin. But then, we were really healthy and didn’t need it. Nowadays, I find that holistic medicine works just fine for me, even though it does nothing for other people. As my old boss taught me, that could be because my system hasn’t adapted to allopathic drugs. It could also be because he taught me which brands and preparations actually work and which are glorified grass clippings in capsules. The answer, by the way, is that liquid herbal preparations are a billion times more effective than capsules, and the brands Gaia Herbs and Herbalists & Alchemists are pretty much the most reliable brands on the markets.

But anyhow, the reason I mention this is because I’ve heard a lot of storied from friends of mine who have been having serious problems with depression this year. Like, VERY serious. It makes me grateful that my anxiety and depression is just annoying, and that I can handle it with herbs and kittens. My heart really goes out to those friends. And it makes me grateful that I’ve had nothing to report for a while. Sometimes smooth sailing and calm seas can be just what the doctor ordered.

Weekend Excerpt – His Magical Bride/Talia: The Magical Bride

Mar 12, 2017

Well, I may have been a little lazy these past few days (everyone deserves some lazy now and then), but I’ve been busy behind the scenes! I have the first draft of His Magical Bride (steamy)/Talia: The Magical Bride (sweet), Book 10 of The Brides of Paradise Ranch out at the editors right now. It’ll be out in just one week! Woo hoo! Here’s a bit to whet you’re appetite…

Their whole crew started along Elizabeth Street toward the church. As soon as Trey was ten feet past the hotel, he felt as though he’d been hit by a wave of panic. It was really happening. He was really about to go and get himself hitched.

“Uh, Miss Lambert.” He stopped, reaching as gently as he could for Miss Lambert’s elbow to stop her as well.

She did stop. So did all of her friends. Trey was near to making a run for it, until she told her friends, “You go on ahead.”

The ladies nodded and hummed and gave them both knowing looks. At least they continued on without a fuss. Trey waited until they were a good, long distance away before taking a breath.

“You can call me Talia,” Miss Lambert said. “Since we’re about to be married and all.”

“Yeah, about that.” Trey rubbed a hand over the lower half of his face. Talia’s gentle smile faded. “See, the thing is, if I’m being honest, I’m kinda having, well, second thoughts about this whole marriage thing.”

Talia suddenly looked as tired as a young woman who’d ridden miles in the back of a peddler’s wagon would look. “I see.” She lowered her eyes.

Trey’s chest started to ache in a peculiar way that he wasn’t used to. “I’m not saying that I won’t marry you,” he rushed to tell her.

“You’re not?” She looked up at him with so much hope in her eyes that a lump formed in Trey’s throat.

“No, ma’am. I made a promise. And I know what kind of life it was you left behind.” He knew he was echoing everything Virginia had said to him at the train station, but the woman had spoken the truth. “I will most certainly marry you, it’s just…” He let his sentence trail away and let out a helpless breath through his nose. “It’s just that I’m thinking I might not be ready for all the things that come along with a real marriage.”

“Oh?” She blinked fast, her brow knitting in confusion.

“You know, things like children and intimacy and…and children.”

Talia’s face brightened inexplicably. “Oh, I see.” She was back to smiling again, although Trey had no idea why, considering everything he’d just said. “You want to have a marriage in name only to start with. Until we get to know each other better.”

Was that what he’d asked for? “Uh, yeah,” he answered.

Talia’s smile grew so big that she laughed lightly before saying, “I’m perfectly fine with that arrangement. It’s a sensible one. I always did wonder how a woman could jump into every aspect of marriage so suddenly when her whole world has changed.”

She’d taken all that from what he said? “I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.”

“We do. And thank you, Trey.” She reached out, and it was several seconds before Trey realized she wanted him to hold her hand.

Still feeling a half-step behind, he took her hand, and together they headed on to where the others were just approaching the church.

Trey had stood by George during his wedding, and he’d attended the weddings of more than a few of his friends in the last few years, but he had no idea how fast a marriage ceremony could feel when you were the one standing at the front of the church with a woman.

“Do you, Trey Alexander Knighton take this woman, Talia Lambert, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Trey almost answered, “Huh?” when George asked the question, a teasing twinkle in his eyes, but he managed to squeeze out, “I do,” without looking like too much of a numbskull.

“And do you, Talia Lambert, take this man, Trey Alexander Knighton, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”

“I do,” Talia answered with more certainty than Trey would ever be able to manage. She smiled up at him too with a look that said she was confident she’d done the right thing. How did she manage that?

“Then by the power invested in me by God and the Territory of Wyoming, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

 

Status Update – Grow WHEN You’re Planted?

Mar 08, 2017

Steppin’ out in my city, London, in the 1890s

So on Monday I wrote about how there are times when I think that I was totally born on the wrong continent. Or at least that my heart feels like is should be in England. Well, I would like to add a little twist to that. Because after earning two degrees in History and spending a lifetime reading history books for fun, I am going to go out on a limb and say I would not have minded living in the last part of the 19th century at all.

When I say that, I’ll specify that I would have liked to be born in the 1860s so that I would be in the prime of my life in the 1880s – 1910s. There’s just something about that time period—whether you call it the Late Victorian and Edwardian Age or the Gilded Age—that I absolutely love. The fashions were beautiful, the architecture was stunning, and technology was way, way more advanced than you’re thinking right now.

Because here’s the thing… I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 99 out of 100 people in the 21st century have no idea what the late 19th century was like, and in fact, they probably have a very, very warped and flat-out wrong view of how advanced it was. You! You’re wrong! Those 40 years between 1880 and 1920 were NOT dark times of dirty people with no hygiene or technology when women were considered property! You’re wrong, wrong, wrong! (Those days that you’re thinking of are the 1820s – 1860s)

I would TOTALLY have worn this costume to ride my bicycle!

The fact of the matter is, while we think life has changed and technology has developed super fast from the 1980s until now, we ain’t got nuthin’ on the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Within those 40 years I mentioned, civilization saw the development of electricity and plumbing in homes, public sanitation, public transportation (including subways), automobiles, steam ships, refrigeration, movies, and gramophones, not to mention the bicycle craze, women being admitted to universities, holding offices, and voting, the development of germ theory and sterilization for surgeries of all kinds, and the importation of food from all over the world, which drastically improved public health and nutrition. In fact, I had an interesting discussion with a doctor once in which he agreed that people at the end of the 19th century were probably far healthier than people nowadays, because there was more physical activity and less processed food.

But still, a lot of people balk and cringe and continue to operate on the mistaken assumption that just because a few things weren’t as advanced (penicillin hadn’t been invented yet, so yes, people died of infection more…but hey, they die of diabetes and weight-related illnesses in equally as great numbers today, I’ve seen the hard data that proves that) the whole era was a morass of backwardness. That phenomenon has always baffled me. It’s very black and white thinking. Just because the infant mortality rate (among the lower classes, not the middle or upper classes, mind you…I’ve seen the data on that too) was higher 125 years ago MUST mean that the entire era was gross and nasty and horrible. It just isn’t true.

Yep, this would totally have been my 1890s attitude!

Yes, there have been a lot of advances in the 20th century. There’ve been a lot in the 21st century too. But we’ve also lost things. To me, it’s not so much that life has gotten better as the years go by, it’s just that it’s changed. And I think I would have gotten along just fine 130 years ago. IF! And here’s my big, big, IF… IF I had the same family I do now and/or I had married a nice guy. Because the one thing that I can’t excuse away is that if I had lived 130 years ago, my brother Stewart would have been responsible for me if I’d never married. But Stewart would have been super cool about that, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared if I still wanted to be an author or live independently. Because by that era, women did. And I wouldn’t have been part of the upper classes anyhow, so who cares what the rules—which fewer and fewer people were following in that era—said.

 

(All images came from Pinterest and are public domain)

Status Update – Grow Where You’re Planted?

Mar 06, 2017

Me where I belong

Over the weekend, I had an interesting experience. I’ve been watching this amazing documentary series called Chef’s Table on Netflix, where they profile a big-time chef each episode. I was watching the one about Ivan Orkin, a gritty Jewish guy from Brooklyn…who runs a top-class ramen joint and has lived in Japan for 20 years. He talked about how the very first time he landed in Tokyo, he knew in his soul that he had come home.

Dude! That’s exactly how I felt about London! Well, I loved England when I went there in 2010, but when I spent 10 days in London last summer, I knew that London—specifically the Earl’s Court area of Kensington—was where my soul belonged. Something about it just sings to me. I feel completely comfortable there and at peace.

Now with me, I assumed it was because of the known ancestors I have who were from London. I have it in my DNA. But watching this show about Ivan Orkin…he’s Jewish. I don’t think he’s got Japanese ancestors. So to listen to him talking about how much his soul felt like it belonged in Japan really had me thinking.

This looks like a street where I should be spending more time!

What is it that makes us feel as though we belong in a place? Especially when it’s a place that is thousands of miles from where we were born and raised. Is it a DNA thing? Is it a spiritual thing or something that has to do with all of those layers and layers of stuff that I believe exists on some plane other than the physical/natural one for each of us? And have you ever felt as though you belonged in a place that was not where you were?

The other odd part of my weekend experience was that every time I told someone about how I feel about London, like at church, their initial reaction was to laugh. Yep, everyone. Not mean laughter, mind you, but the kind that suggests they think I’m joking or exaggerating. Actually, one woman, after laughing at first, then confessed to me that when she traveled to Europe for the first time, she absolutely loved it and felt as though it was incredibly special.

And that led me to wonder if this sense of displacement, of being born in the wrong place (or maybe the wrong time?) is much more universal than we think. Are we, perhaps, at least some of us, not born where we’re supposed to be? And is it then our life’s work to figure out a way to get ourselves to our true homes or to bring that essence to where we are?

I know there are some people who think exactly the opposite of the way I think. When I was living in Alabama, I had a co-worker/friend who I think was a little incredulous that I had moved down from the North in the first place. She called me out for being a Yankee all the time. And when I announced that I was moving back to Philly, she gave me a parting gift: a plaque painted with the words “Grow where you’re planted.” I found that plaque offensive, actually (though not the giving of it—that was done in good faith).

This is just one of hundreds of pics I took of the architecture of Kensington, my favorite part of London.

Because as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt as though I belonged where I was born. In fact, my love of England and the yearning to go there (and stay) isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly sprout up during that first trip in 2010. I’ve had a fascination with England as long as I can remember. I mean, tiny, tiny Merry used to dream of it. Maybe it was because my grandparents did a lot of traveling when I was young. Or maybe it’s because they had guests come to stay with them from all over the world…. Like my friend Janina, who I remember staying with my grandparents when I was about 8. I thought she was amazing then, and I still think she’s amazing now (and not just because she takes care of my cats when I go away and I take care of hers when she does the same).

Anyhow, it makes me wonder about belonging and nationality and what might be happening with us on all those unseen levels. So do you feel deep in your heart like you belong somewhere else?

Status Update – Nerds: I love them!

Mar 05, 2017

So I bet you think I’m going to start off this post by talking all about how I decided to write a romance novel series about nerdy guys. But nope! I’m going to start off by talking about how I recently started watching The Big Bang Theory. I can’t believe I waited so long to watch that show! It totally cracks me up. Why? Because I think I’ve known just about all of those guys at some point.

I hung out with a lot of the nerdy guys in college…sort of. Let’s just say I was around them more than I was a part of them. Because like the show depicts, sometimes it’s really hard to break through the nerdy guy social wall, because they’re so focused on the things they love. That’s what I love so much about The Big Bang Theory. I know that nerdy guys have criticized the show for depicting stereotypes and appropriating nerd culture, but dude, I’ve heard those conversations. I know those people. And that’s what makes it so wonderful. (The nerdy guys I have known have also had a slightly hard time laughing at themselves, so I’m also not surprised by the criticism, but let’s face it, all TV makes fun of some stereotype or another.)

Anyhow, I am so incredibly grateful for this show, because I discovered it at a time when, frankly, I’ve been dealing with a lot of…well, I’m not sure I’d call it depression, but a lot of blue days. It’s been great to have something silly, goofy, and relatable to watch and laugh over. I think I’ve laughed out loud during just about every single episode.

And that loops back around to why I wanted to write a series with nerdy guys and girls as the heroes and heroines. Nerds of Paradise is sort of my tribute to all those college guys I hung around, all the guys I knew who played D&D and larped (Live Action Role Play) and had arguments about the merits of various super powers and who was the best superhero. It’s for the guys I knew who tried to build a catapult that would launch a water balloon from the center of the college campus where we went into the center of the high school campus that adjoined it. Did I say try? Because I’m pretty sure they succeeded…and got in trouble for it.

The reason I love nerds, even though they generally get a bad rap in American culture, is because they are so creative! They think beyond common boundaries. They always have some wild idea that they want to research and then make a reality. That’s what makes them so wonderful, even if their social skills aren’t top notch (although with some, they are, and a friend refers to those as “nerd adaptables”). I was recently reading a book about American cultures and values, and they mentioned that nerds are less appreciated in this country than in Asian or European cultures, and that just makes me sad. Because as far as I’m concerned, the nerds are what it’s all about!