Monday, August 31, 2009

Surprise!

And oh, man, was I surprised!Our kids threw a surprise party for my husband and me, to celebrate a big wedding anniversary and milestone birthdays this year. They managed to pull it off without us having a clue!

Our friends J&L wanted to go out for dinner Friday night. This had been planned for a few weeks. Earlier in the week my daughter asked if it was okay if she had friends over Friday night. I said sure, but we won't be home, we're going out with J&L which was fine. She did a little house cleaning that day to get ready for her friends, which I thought was so nice. I picked up a few snacks for them and the makings for mojitos in case J&L maybe came back to our place after dinner. My son asked if he could go over to a friend's place that night, and again I said sure, as long as you have a ride home. He said his friends would drive him home. I didn't suspect a thing.

J&L picked us up, we had a really nice dinner and bottle of wine and when I suggested going back to our place for mojitos they said great! Still not a clue.

J was texting as we left the restaurant. Still no clue.

Our other friend B called my husband's cell phone as we were finishing dinner. Just to see where we were and what we were doing. He calls like that all the time. Still no idea.

We walked into a house full of people, with balloons and decorations and food, even a big birthday cake, and I almost died! I had NO idea. I stood there in shock for about ten minues and was in a complete daze for a good part of the evening!

It was so much fun, and I still can't believe they pulled it off without us knowing a thing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Extreme Close Up Chapter 8



This was crazy. He’d been fighting these feelings for years. He’d known it wasn’t going to be easy to see Ally again, but he’d really hoped after five years his crazy crush on her, or whatever it was, would have diminished. The fact she and Carter were together had put her firmly off limits. But that was no longer the case.
Now she and Carter had split, nothing stood in the way of pursuing her. Except, of course, friendship. His friendship with Ally. His friendship with Carter. Friendship was the only thing he had.
Despite Jack’s current annoyance with Carter, he was still a friend. A friend who had stood by him during one of the most difficult times of his life. He could not put the moves on his friend’s ex-girlfriend. That was one of those unwritten laws of friendship.
Blowing out a long breath, he stood up. “I’m going to turn in now.”
Ally nodded, looking confused and concerned. “Yeah. Sure. Me too.”
He carried his empty bottle into the kitchen and set it on the counter as she turned off the stereo and the lamps. Then he followed her upstairs.
It was almost like they were a married couple going to bed. He’d follow her into her room...
Stop. Stop with the horny thoughts. With a terse “good night” he marched into his own room and shut the door forcefully. Jesus.
He threw himself down on the bed. How was he going to stay here with her? She’d seen him looking at her mouth. Staying with her in her home, all cozy and intimate, was going to be beyond difficult.
Then a thought flashed into his head. Ally wasn’t with Carter, but what if she was with someone else? She hadn’t said anything, but then...he hadn’t asked. His gut cramped.
Tomorrow he’d go to a hotel if he still couldn’t get hold of Carter. It would be safer. Much safer.
By morning, he was still determined to do that. This time, he got up before Ally, so he started coffee and poked around in her cupboards for food. She’d bought some cereal – hey, Fruity Os! His favorite. He hadn’t had them in years. He poured himself a big bowl, added milk, and went into the living room to see if he could find some cartoons to watch.
What a trip. It was like being a kid again, eating Fruity Os in front of Sunday morning cartoons. He was still sitting there, bare feet on the coffee table, remote in hand, when Ally came down.
“You already ate?” she asked, yawning. “I’m sorry, I really slept in today.”
“That’s okay. I found the Fruity Os.”
“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed them.”
She wore a pair of snug black athletic shorts, and a tank top hugged her upper body. He had to drag his eyes away from her breasts, their perfect shape outlined by the white tech fabric.
“I’m going for a run,” she told him.
“You still run? That’s great.”
“I sit at a computer all day. I have to get some exercise somehow.”
“Listen,” he said, leaning forward on the couch. “I’m going to get a hotel room for tonight. I don’t need to put you out any longer. You probably have stuff to do and I don’t want to get in your way.”
She rolled her bottom lip under her top teeth and nibbled on it. “You’re not in my way.”
He hesitated. “Are you sure? I know you and Carter aren’t together now, but...I don’t want to get in the way if you’re seeing someone else...”
Her eyes widened. “Uh...no. There’s no one else.” She started to say more, but snapped her mouth closed.
“Are you sure I’m not in your way?” Why was he even asking? He should just go.
“I’m sure.” She looked like an athlete, auburn hair in a ponytail, her legs slim and muscled, her butt firm, abdomen flat. Funny, she’d never been athletic, although she’d always had a nice body. She obviously worked at staying in shape.
Seeing her dressed in the skimpy running outfit didn’t help his rising urge to grab her and put his hands all over her. He gulped and went for more coffee while she went for her run.
They spent the rest of the day apart, Ally working, Jack reading her book – loving her book, really; snooping through old photo albums for pictures of his friends – Carter, Brittany, Ally, even one of him that Carter’d taken after grabbing his camera away from him.
When Ally walked into the living room later that afternoon and stretched her hands way over her head, her snug white tank top lifted up and revealed her smooth, firm belly. Jack’s mouth went dry and his body clenched.
“Did you get a lot done?” he croaked.
The corners of her mouth tilted down. “Not as much as I’d like.” She blew out a frustrated burst of air. “So. I guess we should go.”
“I don’t have anything for Sarah.”
The idea had come to him while he’d been sitting there.
“I don’t think she’d expect anything. Remember, you’re just an old friend of her mom’s visiting her.”
“Yeah.” He swallowed. “Okay. I’m ready.”
He remembered how to get to Pasadena and between the two of them, they found Brittany’s house, a small bungalow in a nice, middle class neighborhood with a park at the end of the street. As they walked up to the door, Jack’s armpits prickled with sweat and he licked his dry lips. Ally glanced at him, and the warm support in her eyes made him straighten his spine. They rang the doorbell.
Brittany opened the door and greeted them enthusiastically, like they were all old friends - which they were – but an underlying tension belied their camaraderie. She showed them in to her living room where a small girl curled up on the couch watching television.
Jack stopped and stared at Sarah, trying to act naturally.
“This is my daughter, Sarah,” Brittany said. “Sarah, can you turn off the TV?”
Sarah reached for the remote and clicked it off, rolled to her feet off the couch. “These are my old friends from high school, Jack and Ally.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Sarah said with an ego-bruising lack of enthusiasm. Smaller than Jack expected, a pair of capri pants and a t-shirt hung on her thin frame. A baseball cap covered her hair and her big eyes dominated her small face. Blue eyes, like Brittany’s...and like his own, he supposed. He swallowed.
“Nice to meet you, Sarah.” He wanted to say so much more, but he had to act casually, as if he was indeed just an old friend visiting.
“I’ll go outside,” Sarah said.
“No, that’s okay, baby,” Brittany said quickly. “You can stay here with us while we visit. Come sit here with me.” She patted the sofa cushion beside her, and Jack and Ally took a seat in armchairs.
“I should offer you a drink...coffee? Iced tea?” “Iced tea would be great.” Jack needed a drink to wet his parched mouth and throat. He tried to drag his gaze away from his daughter to reply to Brittany.
“Me, too,” Ally said with a smile.
“I’ll be right back.”
Brittany disappeared into the kitchen and Jack returned his gaze to Sarah. He sucked air into his lungs. “So, Sarah,” he began. “How old are you? Nine?”
“Yes.” She gazed back at him solemnly. She hadn’t smiled since they’d walked in the door – was she always so serious?
“That means you’re in grade...four?”
“I’m going into grade five.”
“I see. Do you like school?” She shrugged, picked at the hem of her T-shirt. “It’s okay. I missed a lot this year because of...because I was sick. It was hard to catch up.”
“Oh. I didn’t know you’d been sick.”
Sarah glanced toward the kitchen where her mother was clinking glasses, but just nodded.
“So you must be happy it’s summer holidays.”
She nodded again, looked down at her fingers playing with the T-shirt. Jack glanced at Ally, licked his lips again. “Your mom says you’re a good student.”
She lifted those huge blue eyes to look at him, still no smile. “I guess.”
Jack started to feel very warm and a little desperate. Brittany returned with three glasses, handed one to Ally and one to Jack. “Do you want some tea, baby?”
Sarah nodded. “Yes, please.” Well, she was polite, anyway. Brittany handed the third glass to the girl, then disappeared again, and returned with a drink for herself.
“Well,” she said brightly. “This is so nice to see both of you again after all these years. Tell us abut your job, Jack. I’m sure it’s been very exciting.”
Exciting, yeah, but not appropriate for a nine year old to hear about. He talked generally about some of his travels and what he’d done, checking out Sarah’s response from time to time. She looked...bored. Great. He was a boring dad.
A fist grabbed all his insides and twisted. God, why couldn’t they just tell her who he was, so he could abandon the edgy pretence and just be himself?
Extreme Close Up Chapter 9

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday


This week I finished Taste of Fear by Shannon McKenna. Three great stories in one book, the usual Shannon McKenna intense alpha heroes brought to their knees by a good woman. Sigh.

Just started Deeper by Megan Hart. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I read her Spice Brief that she is one of my absolute favourite authors! I love how she writes. Her stories are always intensely moving. This story has me totally intrigued and trying to figure out what happened and I suspect I’m going to be shedding some tears before it’s done…

Still working on those research books House of Mondavi and At Home in the Vineyard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Extreme Close Up Chapter 7


Jack gave her a slow, unnervingly sexy smile. “No, you’re not.” His white teeth gleamed in his tanned face, those crystal blue eyes knowing, and suddenly a wave of heat washed over her.
Her frown deepened.
“You can’t stay mad at anybody,” he continued softly. “You never could.”
“Well, maybe I’ve changed.” She folded her arms across her chest. She could stay mad. Sometimes. Okay, not often. But being mad at him was a lot safer than the warm tenderness growing inside her.
“We’ll get to the bottom of all that once we track down Carter.”
“I’ll call him at his office on Monday.”
The waiter appeared with their check and Jack reached for it, then slid a platinum credit card into the folder. “Thank you for dinner,” Ally said.
“My pleasure.” He grinned. “I think any other time we went out to eat was either for pizza or burgers.”
“Impecunious college students don’t have money for extravagant dinners.” She smiled back at him. “We’ve come a long way, baby.”
When they got home, she hesitated. It was too early to go to bed. “Would you like a drink?” she offered him. “I’m going to have a glass of wine.”
“A beer would be good, if you still have some.”
She nodded and went to get their drinks while he sat down in the living room. When she came back, she slid a CD of jazz music in her stereo.
“Hey, I like this,” Jack said. “It’s Jeff Greene, right?”
“Yes,” she said, surprised, sitting on the opposite end of the couch from him. She turned sideways and sat cross-legged, pulled a cushion onto her lap and clasped her glass of wine in two hands.
“I saw him play in a jazz club in Paris.”
“Oh. Wow.” She sipped her wine. “Tell me more about the good things you’ve seen.”
So he did. She listened to stories about Paris, London, Athens, the things he’d seen, the people he’d met.
She’d missed Jack so much. Sure, she’d been happy with Carter - for a while - but there had always been an empty hole in her life.
Their eyes met. Everything fell away, the dark corners of the room fading to nothing, the world narrowing to them, on the couch. Even the sultry tones of the saxophone music subsided into the background. Ally felt that feeling that had bothered her years ago, the entire last month before graduation - a yearning, a feeling of wanting something, needing something so badly, but not knowing what it was.
“Do you want to talk about what happened with Carter?”
She stared at him.
Jack lifted a shoulder, looked away. “You didn’t say much yesterday.” He looked like he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the details.
“I don’t know. You and Carter are friends. I don’t want to talk about him in a way that makes you uncomfortable.”
He nodded. “Yeah. Carter stood by me through the whole pregnancy thing. You and Carter both,” he amended. “You guys showed me what true friends are. But I have to say, I’m a little pissed at him right now, too.”
“Carter is a guy who always needs something new to keep him entertained,” Ally said, rubbing a finger around the rim of her wine glass. “You saw that in high school – how he changed activities, changed courses, changed girlfriends.”
“Like the time he quit the yearbook on us halfway through the school year, to join the debate team.”
“Yeah. Although he was a really good debater.”
Jack grinned. “He just likes to argue. He’d say the sky is green just for the sake of an argument.” Ally returned the smile, although less enthusiastically. Carter’s love of debate had increased over the years, and while it may have served him well in his profession, she’d gotten damn tired of him disagreeing with everything she said.
“I never realized it went so deep,” she said. “I can only guess he got bored with me and needed something ...someone new and exciting.”
Jack snorted. “Dumbass.”
Ally smiled a bit. “It actually happened more than once. The first time, I never did anything.”
“Ally.” His eyes gleamed with understanding, despite the gentle censure in his voice. “I know you don’t like conflict, but come on. He was cheating on you.”
“I know.” She felt a twinge of embarrassment and shame at how she’d avoided the problem. “I was pretty sure he was fooling around, but I thought if I just pretended I didn’t know, it would all just go away. I know, I know, stupid plan.” She sighed. “After that, I was paranoid and suspicious all the time. Apparently with good reason. When I came home one day and found him in bed - our bed - with his...with another woman, that was it.”
“I hope you got a new bed.”
Ally stared at him, then burst out laughing.
“As a matter of fact, I did.”
“Friend or no friend, he’s an asshole to treat you like that,” Jack muttered darkly. “You don’t deserve that.” He shook his head, tipped the beer bottle to his lips.
Again Ally felt that warming, softening, yearning feeling, a need for a hug. Her mouth went dry and she swallowed with difficulty at the thought of pressing her body against Jack’s.
“I think Carter cheated on every girl he went out with,” Jack continued.
“Huh?”
“Yeah. I never really knew what the deal was with the girlfriend he left when he moved to Garden City, but for sure in college I caught him a few times with other girls.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ally said slowly. “I remember. He was going out with Shanna and you said you’d seen him with another girl. But you played that down, made it sound like nothing.” Her eyes narrowed. “In fact, I thought he was still going out with Shanna when he and I...got together. I asked him and he told me he’d just broken up with her. I bet he didn’t. Oh, God. What do you think Shanna thought of me?” She closed her eyes momentarily.
His eyes were soft as he looked back at her. “You always saw the good in people,” he said. “I didn’t want to ruin your image of Carter. There were other times I never even told you about.”
Ally could not believe her ears. She picked up the cushion on her lap and hurled it at Jack. Hard.
“Hey!” Jack tried to duck but the pillow hit him in the face. He knocked it to the floor. “What the hell was that for?”
“You could have told me!” she cried. “Jesus, you could have saved me from getting involved with him, if I’d known that stuff.”
Now it was Jack’s jaw that dropped. “I...never thought of that.”
“Damn it, Jack.” She rose up on her knees, furious. “You should have told me.”
He looked like he’d been turned upside down and shaken. “I...I’m sorry Ally.”
Her lips twitched at his apology - was it his hundredth? - and so did his. She sank back down to the couch. “No, I’m sorry,” she said, letting out a long breath. “I can’t really blame you for my mistakes. But seriously. I wish I’d known that.”
They sat there, both breathing heavily, staring at each other. Suddenly, Ally was looking at Jack’s mouth and to her intense shock, when she looked back to his eyes, he was looking at her mouth too. Their eyes met in mutual astonishment. Ally’s lips parted, her mouth went dry. At that moment, the only thing she could think was that she wanted to kiss Jack.

Extreme Close Up Chapter Eight

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Finished Secret Ties by Opal Carew. The way it ended up kind of surprised me, in a good way.

I also read Breaking Midnight by Emma Holly. I’m not so much into vampires but it’s Emma Holly, and it was great! Super hot and several romance stories for the price of one.

And I started Tasting Fear by Shannon McKenna (great week for favourite writers, Emma Holly and Shannon McKenna are two of my top picks!) This is a big fat book (reading it in print) which includes three sisters’ stories. At the moment I’m a little annoyed with Liam, but I’ll probably forgive him (and so will Nancy, LOL).

Meanwhile I have several other non fiction books on the go:
Still reading The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler
Started: The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in US History (there’s a title for ya) by Tyler Gray
and
At Home in the Vineyard by Susan Sokol Blosser. Lovely.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Meankitty

Today I am a guest at Meankitty's blog - come see what I think about cats.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Extreme Close Up Chapter 6


Jack nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I actually am. Confused. Not sure whether to be pissed or happy or...” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Confused.”
Ally swallowed hard. It was surprisingly hard to think of Jack and Brittany as parents. A couple. A couple with something linking them together, forever. They’d been in love once. It wasn’t out of the question that they could care about each other again, especially since they had a daughter to bring them together. The idea caused an ache in her chest. She cleared her throat. “I’m sure Brittany is doing a great job of raising your daughter.”
Jack started the car. “How about we go out for dinner somewhere?” he offered. “My treat. To make up for all the bread I ate this morning.”
Ally laughed. “Oh yeah, that’s a fair deal. But, sure.”
“You decide where. I have no clue.”
She chose a restaurant closer to her home and again gave driving directions to get there. The funky, casual place usually had a long wait for a table, but it was early and they were shown right in.
“This is nice,” Jack said approvingly, checking the place out. Huge bronze and glass light fixtures hung from the high ceiling. Dark wood tables and chairs sat in the center of the room and upholstered booths lined the walls.
“You’re a world traveler now.” Ally wondered how this measured up to some of the places he’d been. He laughed.
“Yeah. But this is great.” Their eyes met and he blew out a long breath. “Wow. I’m sorry to drag you into this, Ally.”
She looked at him and tipped her head. “Isn’t that why you came? To drag me into this?”
His eyes widened and she smiled.
“I’m kidding. Sort of.” How could she not be involved? They were friends, despite her anger at him for ignoring her for the last five years.
“I didn’t really expect you to come and see Brittany with me,” he said slowly, his features relaxing. “Thank you.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
He nodded, played with the knife and fork in front of him. “Will you come with me tomorrow?”
Her heart expanded in her chest at his low, husky question, his head bent as he looked down at the fork. “Of course.”
He looked up and the emotions darkening his eyes and the lines bracketing his mouth made her throat tighten. “Thanks, Ally. I know this isn’t your mess to deal with, so...thanks.”
She nodded, not sure if her voice would come out if she spoke. There was silence for a moment, while she swallowed hard a couple of times.
“Tell me what you’ve done, Jack,” she finally said. “Tell me about your work.”

***
Over dinner they set aside the monumental problem of Jack’s fatherhood, and he talked about his work in Iraq.
“Things aren’t always like you expect,” he commented slowly. “I spent some time embedded with the Marines.” She nodded, but didn’t say she already knew that. “It was quite an experience. I had to train like I was one of them. Lifting weights, climbing ropes, trekking for miles in the desert. Man,” he shook his head. “Physically, that was tough.”
She eyed his broad chest and shoulders, his hard muscles.
“But it was almost more of a challenge mentally.”
“How so?” She watched his face as he talked, trying to interpret the various emotions passing across it.
“When you’re an embed you have to agree the military has control over the work you do that gets out. I started to almost feel like I was betraying my profession.” He shook his head. “You can lose your objectivity. You stop asking the hard questions, start accepting things. Every day we journalists tried to remind ourselves we weren’t one of them, but you hear the same messages over and over, and it gets to you. And you start to develop relationships, friendships...when you have those ties, you might not be so objective. I wanted to see more. I wanted to know the Iraqi people. I won’t go into detail, but there were stories I wanted to tell that...well, let’s just say not everyone wanted them told.” He lifted a broad shoulder. “So I went out on my own.”
“Oh.” Ally’s eyes widened. “That must have been even more dangerous.”
“Yeah. Without the protection of the military, I was taking some risks. I hooked up with a few other journalists. Another American, a Canadian, and an Irish guy. We traveled around together. We got into some trouble, some pretty tight situations. But we had a lot of laughs, too.” He smiled and she saw the fondness he’d had for these fellow journalists. “I took some time off and I traveled in Europe a bit. Got to see something more than just ‘shock and awe’.
“Then about two years ago I got to know a contact in the Mahdi Army, in Baghdad.”
She looked inquiringly at him.
“The Mahdi Army is a militant branch of the Shiite movement to resist American occupation.”
“Oh.”
“So Mohim and I worked together. He knew I was American and he was basically keeping an eye on me and what I was doing, but on the other hand, he let me get inside and see things that no one else could. You know, you get a whole different perspective on things when you make friends with people. I got incredible access to the workings of the Mahdi Army. There were times where Mohim stood up for me, vouched for the fact that I wasn’t an American spy. I owed him my life more than once. He was a young guy, same age as me, but married with a little baby.” The intense sadness in Jack’s eyes made her skin prickle in anticipation of what she was going to hear.
***
Jack looked down at the table as he talked, picked up a fork and turned it over. “One day I was at Mohim’s home, having tea. I never met his wife. She always stayed in the back room of his home when I was there. We heard the helicopters coming and then the explosions. Mohim and I ran out into the street. I grabbed my camera, of course. They were firing basically right at us. Mohim’s house was destroyed.” He looked up, and the pain and anguish in his eyes made Ally’s eyes sting. “His wife and baby were killed that day. After that, he was a different man. He was from a poor neighborhood in Baghdad. All he’d ever wanted was a life with dignity and freedom. He never had that under Saddam Hussein. And then he never had that with the foreign invasion. All he’d ever known was violence and struggle.”
“Oh, Jack.” Ally watched Jack as he talked, definitely older and wiser now, a little world-weary and cynical.
“But it puts things in perspective.” He fingered the stem of a water goblet.
“It does make you realize what’s important. And how trivial some of our problems seem.”
He nodded. Their eyes met in mutual understanding. She wanted to reach across the table and take hold of his hand to show him she understood, even though she had never experienced anything like he had. But she stopped herself. Memory of the last night she’d seen Jack before he’d left - the way he’d touched her as he adjusted her position for her graduation photograph - sent a shimmer of sensation through her.
They had finished their dinner. “Tell me more,” she invited. “I remember hearing about all the antiquities that were destroyed. That’s so tragic.”
“Well, we still don’t really know the whole truth about that,” Jack answered. “The Iraq National Museum was definitely looted, but there were some miscommunications ...” his mouth twisted wryly, “...or something, about how much was actually destroyed. Some thought looters had even accessed the museum’s underground vaults and destroyed priceless ceramics that had been packed away there. Ceramics that tell the story of civilizations over nine thousand years in Mesopotamia. But apparently museum staff hid a lot of the items in secret locations.”
“Wow,” Ally breathed. “That’s lucky.”
“Yeah. They had a plan in place from the Gulf War to hide things.”
Ally shook her head, amazed at Jack’s experiences, at what he’d learned. What a remarkable man. He put his own life on the line to make sure people around the world saw what was happening.
Typical of him, too, he hadn’t wanted to be bound by rules that kept him from following his own values, his honesty, his deep-seated desire to always do the right thing. As a photojournalist, he felt an obligation to tell the truth, no matter how difficult it was for him.
And now...he wasn’t running or hiding from his obligations. Something expanded and warmed in her chest. It might have been her heart, which had been frozen for a long time. It felt...scary.
She frowned, looked down at the table and said, “I’m still mad at you.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday





This week I read Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis. Jill’s one of my favourite authors, but this book was one of the best I’ve read of hers in a while. I got a lump in my throat and teary-eyed reading it! The story between Emma and her father was very touching.

I also read Reason Enough by Megan Hart. It’s a Spice Brief, and I wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t by Megan Hart, another one of my favourite authors. For me there’s not enough romance in a Spice Brief. The cool thing about this story, though, is that it’s about the same characters from Megan’s book Dirty. I do love checking in on characters after the story ends! They have a lot of hot married sex in this story. (Anyone else notice these characters also appear in Stranger?? :-) Along with another character from Dirty? I was waiting for them to all meet up in Stranger and for poop to hit the fan, but it didn’t happen.)

I started Secret Ties by Opal Carew. I don’t know why I keep reading her books. They are undeniably hot but a little too mechanical for me. But the domination and submission theme got me. We’ll see how it goes.

Also in progress: The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I don't know if I can do it!

I have this great idea for a story. Actually, it’s a series of stories. There are so many possible stories in this idea! It’s big. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever thought of doing. I’ve done all kinds of research and made pages and pages of notes, and I’ve sketched out my first story, the characters, and even the subplots that will thread through all the stories.

But I’m not sure if I can do this. It’s daunting when I start one new book, to think of how many words and pages lie ahead of me. But when I’m thinking three or even five books? Aaack!

I guess I just need to take one step at a time. Write the first book. Write the first page. Write the first sentence. I know from experience that when I start a book feeling like I haven’t quite nailed down all the details, they do come together by the end. I don’t have to have all three or five stories completely planned out before I start the first one. Even if I end up with one story and never write the rest, that’s still something. Right?

The subject matter is intimidating too. It’s something I have no experience with and characters will travel to places in the world I’ve never been to. The jungles of South America. The coast of Africa. I don’t know if I can do it! But I won’t know unless I try.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We saw local musician Sierra Noble sing this live Friday night. She told us this was the first song she ever wrote and the first song she sang in public. She's an amazing musician. She recently opened for Sir Paul McCartney!

I love this song...



Friday, August 7, 2009

Guest blogger: Diane Craver

My guest blogger today is Diane Craver, who happens to be a fellow Samhain author. I'm always interested in knowing how life experiences shape other authors' writing and here's Diane's view on that:



As a writer, I have to admit that my stories are influenced by my many life experiences. Hey, I've lived life fully! LOL Even though I might use some real-life situations and interesting features from actual people for my characters, I create fictional stories for the reader's enjoyment.

When I wrote my newest release, WHITNEY IN CHARGE, I wanted to write a story about sisters and their family bond. The focus had to be on the youngest sister, Whitney, since I'm the little sis in my family. I could easily write how the older sisters like to mother the youngest. In Whitney's case, her sisters Shannon and Regan want Whitney to get back into dating. Unfortunately, they think they know best and sign her up for skydiving so that she can meet hot guys. Whitney hates heights and flying!

In my chick-lit mystery, book, A FIERY SECRET, the main character is a feisty investigative reporter, Catherine Steel. The inspiration for her came from my daughter Christina. I stole a few of her amusing dating stories for a bit of the storyline. There's a secondary character Miranda born with Down syndrome. She was fun to write. I think it's important to show people with disabilities in a positive light. Miranda is actually based on my youngest daughter Amanda. She is a vivacious 19-year-old and brings great joy to our family.

Luke Brunsman, a character in my inspirational romance, NO GREATER LOSS, was inspired by my husband, Tom. I also like my heroines to be strong women with athletic abilities. Psychologist Jennifer Hunter is a great tennis player (I'm not) and Tori Moorhead in my women's fiction, NEVER THE SAME, is awesome in sports. After watching our daughters, April and Emily, excel in sports, I like to include athletic abilities in some of my female characters. I admire athletic talent, especially since I have none in that area. Hey, I started out on the varsity girls' basketball team but was moved to the reserve team.

But I don't just get creative ideas from my own family and life. TV has been a big influence. One idea actually came from a news report about a plane crash. When I heard of a woman walking away from this crash and wanting to change her life, my imagination took this compelling idea to develop the story for NEVER THE SAME. The same thing happened with A FIERY SECRET. On TV they mentioned Prince Charles and Camilla Bowles getting married, and an idea popped into my head how cool it’d be for the main character to have a fantasy related to Buckingham Palace.

I will continue writing some real-life situations for my characters, but I will also use imagination to mold them into unique people.

Thank you so much, Kelly, for hosting my first stop. I've enjoyed being here today.

Here's the blurb and an excerpt from Whitney in Charge (sounds great!). Leave a comment for a chance to win! On August 15th, Diane will give away a free download of Whitney in Charge and a $5 GC to Amazon.




TV producer Whitney Benson is tired of her older sisters’ attempts to fix her up with every single male they meet. Shannon and Regan cross the line when they arrange for her to go skydiving with the simple excuse that more guys like to float in the air than women. Whitney meets two eligible bachelors, Jack and Ben, who constantly battle for her affection. Which one will she choose? Both men make Whitney realize, even a heart shattered by her husband’s death, can once again be made whole. But did she have to fall off a cliff to learn that?
EXCERPT:

Shannon and Regan entered the room with determined looks, immediately making her wonder what they were up to. With her being widowed and their mother gone, both felt she needed direction and had told her so more than once.

“Whitney, we need to talk,” Shannon said.

“But first, let’s go into the kitchen.” Regan smiled, carrying Chinese food. “I brought your favorite.”

“And fortune cookies,” Shannon added.

Well, that wasn’t a good sign. When they wanted her to cooperate with their plans, Regan always thought food was necessary in winning an argument against the youngest sister. Two years ago, she’d been a television news producer for a popular morning program, but those two still treated her like the baby sister. Maybe if she’d had children with Rob, things would’ve been different. Probably not. She’d always be their little sis.

What plans did they have for her? She loved Shannon and Regan but at times they overwhelmed her. Whitney followed them into the kitchen, getting plates from the cupboard while Shannon made coffee.

Regan opened up the containers of food. “We think it’s time you get out of the house and do something exciting. Mom would want you to go on with your life. And…” She grinned as she scooped out fried rice. “We thought of something to do for you.”

Whitney shook her head. “That’s not necessary—”

“Yes, it is.” Shannon put a spoonful of sugar in her coffee. “You quit your job and came back to take care of Mom.”

“I didn’t mind. Both of you have families, and I didn’t have any reason to stay in New York.” Please don’t mention Rob.

Shannon carried the cups of coffee to the table. “Regan and I have thought of the perfect thing for you to experience.”

Whitney broke open a fortune cookie and read from the slip of paper, “You will soon fall in love with a handsome stranger.”

Shannon thumped Whitney on the back before joining them at the table. “That fortune fits right in with our plans for you.”

“I think it fits in with any single woman’s hopeful plans,” Whitney said. “But certainly not mine.”

“It’s a sign,” Regan said in an eager voice. “You’ll see.”

“Not a cruise. Remember, I told you I don’t want to go on another cruise.” Several months earlier, they made her go on a three-day trip while both took turns staying with their mother. They had meant well but going by herself and being surrounded by couples hadn’t been much fun. Shannon and Regan were disappointed that Whitney hadn’t fallen in love on the ship. The only available guy she might have been interested in was the recreational director and he was too short.

“We knew you’d say that, and we’ve heard you say how you’ve done it all.” Regan put a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “But we thought of something you haven’t done and will be a thrill of a lifetime.”

“And when we tell you what it is, please don’t say no,” Shannon said. “We already paid for it.”

Whitney stared at them. “Okay, you have me curious now. What is it?”

Regan set forks down on the table and mumbled, “Skydiving.”

Whitney gasped, spilling coffee on her hand. Why in the world would they pay for her to go skydiving? Had they lost their minds? “You can’t be serious. Are you trying to kill me?”

“You won’t be jumping by yourself. We talked to the owner about signing you up for a tandem skydive for your first jump. You’ll meet fun people.” Shannon patted Whitney’s hand. “And the female-male ratio is good…”

Regan nodded. “There are more guys than women skydiving. And the men are hot and love any woman who drops from the sky.”

With raised eyebrows, Whitney asked, “How would you two know?”

“We checked it all out before we got it for you,” Shannon said.

Regan grinned. “Shannon, you’re skipping the best part of our visit. We drooled over all the instructors before we signed you up. I did mention I thought you’d be the most comfortable with Nate.”

“Why Nate?” Whitney asked.

Shannon laughed. “Regan couldn’t take her eyes off him. He’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

Whitney swallowed a forkful of rice. If her sisters were correct and there was an overabundance of men, she knew why. Men wanted to act macho, but how many brain cells did they have to think jumping out of a plane made them tough? That wasn’t fair. Just because she wasn’t into skydiving didn’t mean it was stupid. When had she become so critical? She knew when. After Rob’s death, the optimistic, open-minded part of her died with him.

“Maybe you two should go skydiving instead of me.”

Regan shook her head. “No way. We want you to go.”

“But I’m afraid of heights.”

“It’s time for you to overcome your fear of flying.” Shannon took a bite of shrimp. “We want to go to Hawaii sometime. Remember how we promised Mom we would? Just the three of us.”

Whitney shrugged. “That’s different. I can fly to Hawaii without doing skydiving first.”

“I don’t think so.” Regan scooped a heaping spoonful of chow mien onto her plate. “You drove me crazy when we flew to Wisconsin for Aunt Martha’s funeral. You had such terrible anxiety attacks.”

Why did she have to have such stubborn sisters? The last thing she felt like doing was something stupid like skydiving, but she knew they’d never give up on her. They always thought they knew best because they were older and married. Big deal they were a bit older. Shannon just turned thirty-nine, and at thirty-four Regan was only three years older than Whitney.

Shannon nudged Regan, grinning with her eyebrows arched high. “Tell her about Jack.”

Regan shook her head. “Not a good idea.”

“Who’s Jack? Another skydiver?” Whitney asked.

“He’s a paramedic and single. He’s worked with Casey, but Jack’s not a firefighter. He’s not interested in meeting you.” Regan gave Whitney an apologetic shrug. “Sorry. It’s a shame because Jack’s a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey.”

Shannon raised her eyebrows. “What did Casey tell Jack about Whitney?”

“Not enough obviously,” Regan said. “But I’ll─”

“No.” Whitney put her hand on Regan’s arm. “Don’t say anything. I don’t want to go out with someone who feels pressured.” She grinned. “Although resembling McConaughey might change my mind.”



Extreme Close Up Chapter 5


By maythiphoto machine Photobucket


Brittany looked down at her coffee again and Jack studied his old girlfriend. “I don’t get why after nine years you finally decided to tell me.”
“Well...Sarah’s been asking questions about her dad lately. She always has, but now it seems she’s almost desperate to have a father.”
“What have you told her about me?”
Brittany nibbled her bottom lip. “Nothing.” She lifted anxious eyes to his. “I’m sorry, Jack. Please don’t think I wanted to cut you out of her life or discount you in any way. It just seemed...easier to not get her hopes up, to not make you seem too real to her, when I had no intention of ever actually contacting you. You know.”
Jack’s heart squeezed in his chest. “Never? You were never going to tell me I had a daughter?”
They stared at each other and the warmth of Ally’s hand covered his on the table and gently squeezed. He turned his palm and wrapped his fingers around hers, taking comfort from the gesture almost without conscious thought.
Brittany nodded, eyes downcast again. “I’m sorry. I really am. I was only trying to do what I thought was best for my daughter. Truly, I love her so much, I’d do anything to protect her, to care for her...you have to understand a mother’s love, I think, to really get that.” Her voice shook and Jack noticed Ally reach over and take hold of Brittany’s hand, too.
It blew his mind, sitting there with Ally holding both their hands, connecting them through her. She always understood, always offered compassion and comfort. He remembered so well the night he’d told Ally about Brittany’s pregnancy - Ally’s shock, but also her empathy, and her unconditional support.
“Maybe I’d understand if I’d had the opportunity to be a father to her.”
Brittany winced and glanced at Ally, who bit her lip. “You’re absolutely right.” Brittany’s voice shook. “I can only say I’m sorry so many times. I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t trying to take something away from you. You know?”
“What about Sarah? What have you taken away from her by not having her father in her life all these years?”
Blue eyes glossed with tears and Brittany swiped a hand under each eye. “I still think it was the right thing to do,” she whispered. “I don’t want to fight with you, Jack. I know you’re angry, and you have a right to be. But I’m asking you to put that aside for your daughter.”
Jack glanced at Ally, saw the compassion in her eyes. God, he needed her take on all this, needed her to put it into perspective because right now, his mind was fried.
“I can do that,” he said slowly. “I don’t know what exactly you expect from me right now. But I’m here, so that says something.”
“It says a lot,” she replied softly. “So if you want to meet her, I’ll set something up. When do you want to do it?”
Again Jack glanced at Ally, a little surprised to find himself relying on her.
“It’s up to you,” Ally said softly, their hands still clasped on the table. “How long can you stay?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I can take a couple of weeks off.” He’d worked for Firestone Images since he’d left college, had rarely taken any vacation time.
“Just a couple of weeks?” Brittany’s face drooped with disappointment. Man, what did she expect?
“I do have a job I have to go back to. How long did you think I should stay? Will it upset Sarah if she meets me and I leave again?”
Brittany chewed her lip again. “Well. Yes. It might.”
“Britt, you knew I wasn’t coming home permanently.”
She sighed. “I know. I guess I was just hoping you might be around a little longer...to get to know her.”
Jack and Ally exchanged a glance. “I’ll see if I can stay a little longer, but no guarantees.”
Brittany’s eyes grew pensive for a long moment. “If it’s okay with you, I’m not going to tell her right away who you are. You two can meet, and I’ll tell her you’re an old friend of mine. Then we’ll play it by ear. You know?”
No. He didn’t know. He had no freakin’ clue. But a strange pinch of disappointment smarted inside him that Sarah wouldn’t know he was her dad. God. What a mess.
“Sure. It’s up to you, Britt. You know best what’s good for Sarah.”
“Do you want to meet her tomorrow?”
His gut tightened and his blood surged through his veins. “Uh...sure. Okay.”
“Where are you staying?”
“With me,” Ally put in. “You’re welcome to come to my place if you want.”
“Whatever you think would be best for Sarah,” Jack repeated.
“How about you both come over to my place?” Brittany proposed. “I’ll tell her that you’re an old friend in town for a visit.”
“Do you want me to come?” Ally’s voice was low beside Jack. He turned to her. Yeah, hell yeah, he did want her there. He couldn’t imagine doing this without her. But, Christ, she didn’t need to get dragged into this mess.
“We can talk about that later,” he said. He turned back to Brittany. “Where do you live?”
She wrote down her address. “I still live here in Pasadena, near my aunt and uncle.” She handed it to him, and they all stood up.
“I know this is crazy,” Brittany said as they walked out of the coffee shop. “Again, I’m really sorry, you know. I didn’t want to mess up your life all those years ago, and...” Her voice thickened. “Now I have anyway.”
Jack stopped on the sidewalk outside, looked at Brittany. “It’s my fault this all happened,” he said quietly. “So don’t be too hard on yourself.”
She gave him a shaky smile and then Ally and Jack climbed into his rental car. They sat there for a moment. Ally looked at Jack.
“Are you okay?” she asked.

Extreme Close Up Part 6

Don't forget! If you're enjoying Extreme Close Up, please consider going to TextNovel and voting for it - you have to register, which is a pain, but only takes a minute and there are lots of other great stories there, too! !

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest blogger Saturday and a contest!


This weekend I’ll have a guest blogger – I think this is a first for me! Fellow author Diane Craver will be here to talk about how her stories are influenced by her life experiences. With six children, I’m sure Diane is a very busy lady and has lots of interesting life experiences that shape her writing. I’ll also have an excerpt of Diane’s release of Whitney in Charge, now available from Desert Breeze Publishing. And since this is part of Diane’s blog tour, leave a comment for a chance to win a prize! On August 15th, Diane will give away a free download of Whitney in Charge and a $5 GC to Amazon to one lucky commenter, randomly drawn from the comments during that week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Okay it's actually Tuesday, but I have to post this early because I have to be at the day job very early tomorrow morning, long story.

This week I read True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson. This is my first book by this author. I'd heard good things about her and all the quotes inside the front cover made big promises which sadly didn't actually deliver. I was also prepared to love this story because it's about a hockey player and you all know I love hockey players! So much I wrote my own story about one, but that's another post. And the hockey player is Canadian! It's cute how she throws in the "eh"s once in a while at the end of Ty's sentences but they didn't actually sound that natural, certainly not as natural as when I use them, eh? (I confess, I do say it a lot.) Also one teeny problem with the hockey - Ty was branded a traitor by his former team when he accepted an offer to move to another team for a better chance to win the Stanley Cup. Sorry, that doesn't happen (unless he's a free agent which it didn't seem like). The decision to trade a player is made by the two teams and the player doesn't have much say in it (right Wayne Gretzky?)

I also have to give major credit to Ms Gibson for writing a heroine who is a former stripper and Playboy centerfold who marries a rich old man for his money. Those of us just beginning our writing careers would be annihilated for trying something like that! But the story was pretty good although also pretty formulaic apart from the stripper/centerfold/trophy wife thing, and I have to say I LOVED it when Ty faces off against Sydney Crosby and says "Ready to lose Cindy?" and then disses his facial hair. GREAT LINE! (even though I cheered for Cindy's Penguins!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anniversary celebration - win an eReader!


LASR is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary with a big contest to win one of 3 eReaders! Starting today there's a scavenger hunt with chances to win.

The Sony Reader above is the one I have, and I love it!