Battle Music

Battle Music

I am in the process of editing the next book in my Paranormal Romance series, and there is a riot scene in the heart of the book. I enjoyed the research, actually found the videos I watched informative. But when it was time to write the actual scene, I struggled to find the correct way to string the words together. The words wouldn’t come, because the last place you’d ever find me is in the heart of a demonstration or riot. In this case, I’m just not a joiner.

After a couple of false starts, I turned on my Games Of Thrones Pandora station and it was smooth sailing from there. The song selection helped channel the emotion and sense of threat I wanted to convey. Here are a couple of examples:

Here’s another amazing offering I discovered on the station. This really helped focus the emotion I wanted in the scene. It builds to a great crescendo.

And there’s this – did you know if you search YouTube for ‘angry music’ you get and incredible assortment of powerful and threatening options?

I don’t write angry things very often, so it was nice to find some options to help me through. But for the record, I’m an 80s woman. Give me the Doobie Brothers or The Eagles any day of the week.

 

What Was I Thinking

What Was I Thinking

I recently went back to work after being a stay at home writer for two years. I love writing, but  I worried about doing nothing but pounding away on my keyboard day after day. Some days I didn’t leave the house. I felt I never had anything interesting (or not writing related) to say to my husband.
I didn’t want to become one-dimensional (Flat Stanley might have gotten a new girlfriend in Flat Gemma). So I asked for my old job at the health club back. My boss said yes immediately, and that part-time would be perfect. 15-20 hours a week, I thought. Perfect.

Except …

The company was sold, and thanks to my steal-trap mind, I know a lot more about the old system than most of my co-workers (I know all the secrets, and all the best hiding spots). I am unable to get my behind out of the office once I hit the 4-hour threshold. It’s my goal every day, but if you multiply my 4 hours by 2, that’s how much I’m working. Each and every day.

So I try to sneak in writing time when I can. Up at 5 AM to write, writing at night after dinner. Doing my social media stuff when I can. Grocery shopping at night (a task I hate worst than cleaning the toilets, but we won’t be discussing my lack of time for cleaning the house).

I know there is a thing called work/life balance, but my teeter-totter is definitely stuck on the work side of things. But, with my usual Pollyanna attitude, I’m just going to leave a working song that always gives me happy feet.

I’m Just A Nerdy Girl, Living In A Nerdy World

I’m Just A Nerdy Girl, Living In A Nerdy World

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m a total geek about all things Sci-Fi. Star Trek, Star Wars, doesn’t really matter (except for an enduring adoration for Chris Pine and Karl Urban in the new incarnation of Star Trek). If the action takes place in space, the final frontier, I’m watching it. And Guardians Of The Galaxy? Oh yeah. I’m on it. One of my all time favorites is FireFly.

There is something so intriguing about this series. I love the characters, the interaction, the fact that it seems to take place right here on Earth, yet we know if doesn’t. I didn’t know about the series until after I’d watched the spin-off movie, Serenity. I fell in love with the entire premise, and was hooked. If an episode of FireFly is on, I’m sitting down with popcorn to watch it.
True story – recently, we converted out Customer Management Software where I work. I didn’t have log-on credentials, so my supervisor told me to use his. He recited it, and it included the word serenity. He explained it was his favorite word and his mantra. I told him I figured it was a play on FireFly. His jaw dropped and when he recovered from the shock, he told me his regard for me just skyrocketed. We bonded over a sci-fi reference.

Are you nerdy like me? Do you park it on the couch to watch a favorite futuristic show? Please, don’t let me be the only nerdy girl living in a nerdy world.

Just A Taste Of The Wedding Gift

Just A Taste Of The Wedding Gift

I’ve never written a story for a boxed set, so this was a novel experience for me. My book, The Wedding Gift is one of 20 in the Wedding Dreams Boxed Set, releasing April 18. 3000 pages of sweet to spicy tales of nuptial bliss, and sometime, not so blissful.

My story is about Gage Cassidy, a wounded warrior, his fiance, Elle Sweeney, and a marvelous goggle-wearing therapy dog named Sigmund. I hope you enjoy this little taste…

“What I don’t understand is why he’s pushing me away.” Elle Sweeney shoved her phone in her back pocket and bent to straighten the kindergarten kid-sized chairs. She worked her dark blond curls into a ponytail as she used her hip to shove a pint-sized desk back into an orderly row.

School had let out for the summer two hours ago and her room was in disarray. Elle had conducted a cute little awards ceremony and she’d accepted a bazillion hugs from her students.

In the now quiet classroom, she had only her aide, Sally, and a burgeoning sense of helplessness and frustration to keep her company. She’d texted Gage the second the kids and their parents had scattered, and, now, an hour later, it was apparent he was ignoring her.

God, she’d been so happy to see him. The drive to the airport in Denver had passed in a blur of eagerness and anticipation. He’d requested only she meet him, instead of his entire family making the trip. And his mom and dad had agreed.

The sight of him riding the escalator to baggage claim had finally caused the tears to spill over. Rugged, handsome, weary, but looking so damn good in his BDUs. It was only after he’d swept her up in a hug she realized how gaunt he’d become. He’d buried his face in her neck for several long minutes, hiding his tears against her skin. She hadn’t bothered to hide hers.

Their kiss was like a recreation of the very first time he’d kissed her. Tentative, sweet. It felt like coming home. Every inch of her body tingled when he’d wrapped her in his arms for the first time in a year. Deployment was hell, but oh, God…that first kiss. They’d spent the night in Denver, in a luxury suite she’d been saving for months to pay for. They’d checked in early to the knowing smile of the desk clerk. And for a time, life had been rosy, filled with pent-up passion and words of love. Until he’d rolled to his side and fell into a fitful sleep without…

The nightmares began that night. His moans had jerked her awake and she’d held him tight while his heart slowed and he withdrew into himself. He’d refused to talk about it. She had no experience dealing with returning warriors, so other than whispering words of love, she didn’t know how to calm him. How to help him reclaim the funny, happy man he’d been before he left for war.

“Is he seeing someone?” Sally Gagnon asked. At fifty-something, Sally had started working in Elle’s classroom as an aide, helping with whatever was needed for a class of twenty kindergartners.

“No. My dad is standing by, ready to help, but Gage is uncomfortable even talking about setting an appointment.”

“Well, I guess I can understand that. But I’d bet your dad would remain impartial.”

“He should be able to, but can you imagine talking to your future father-in-law about intimacy issues brought about by traumatic wartime experiences?” Heat flashed up Elle’s chest, neck, and face. The curse of being pale. Those blushes were unconquerable. She couldn’t believe she’d said anything to Sally. But frustration was getting the better of her. They’d had a spectacular physical relationship before he’d shipped out. But in the month he’d been home, they’d only made love three times. Each time had left her…lonely.

Sally shuddered then laughed. “I see your point. Does Gage have a dog?”

That was an odd question. Elle tipped her head to the side. “Cricket passed a year before Gage was deployed. He hasn’t had the heart to get a new dog.”

He’d loved that old Black Lab so damn much. He’d been devastated when the vet had told him Cricket had cancer. His hand had shook as he signed the consent forms to euthanize his pet. More than a pet, really. Cricket had been his best friend, other than Elle. He’d sat, his back to the wall, with the seventy-pound dog on his lap as Cricket breathed his last.

Gage had broken down as soon as they’d left the vet’s office. They’d driven to the dog park Crick had loved. They sat silently on a bench, watching other dogs playing with their humans. Gage had hurled the dog’s leash into the small pond, then kicked a tree hard enough to rake bark from the trunk. Thankfully, Gage had been wearing the steel-toed boots required for his job at the mine.

It had been the first time she’d seen him so upset. But not the last. Normally, Gage was even-keeled, but in the month or so he’d been home, he’d become more and more fidgety and out of control. He tried to hide it from her by constantly heading to the river trail to jog for hours. He’d come home too exhausted for words. Just thinking about it now made her eyes sting and ache with unshed grief.

“Listen, my daughter has been training dogs for stroke and cardiac patients,” Sally offered. “She told me last week she was fostering a shepherd-boxer mix that had been trained for PTSD victims. Have you heard anything about therapy dogs? Is that something your dad could recommend?”

“I haven’t heard of them. Dad’s never mentioned them. But I haven’t really talked to him about Gage’s problem. Somehow, it feels disloyal.”

Sally laid her hand on Elle’s forearm. “Grab your purse. I’m going to introduce you to Emily and Sigmund. Men are basically boys at heart. And what boy doesn’t want a dog?”

This set is on preorder right now for 99¢. You can buy it at all these retailers.

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By the way – The authors of Wedding Dreams are sponsoring a great giveaway. You can enter for a chance to win an iPad mini by clicking this link 

 

Have you tried the Santa Clarita Diet yet?

Have you tried the Santa Clarita Diet yet?

I’ve been binge watching something lately, and feel like I shouldn’t confess this weird addiction. I can’t even really pinpoint the reasons I’ve been watching NetFlix’s Santa Clarita Diet. Other than it’s a little funny. Oh, and Timothy Olyphant. But for clarities sake, let’s just call this show The Walking Dead Light.

The premise is straightforward. Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) and her husband, Joel (Timothy O (oh, what a tall drink of water)), play Realtors©. Sheila suddenly becomes a member of the undead set. Now, she’s on the most restrictive low carb, high protein diet ever. The couple must learn to deal with her new diet and to hide it from the nosy neighbors. Oh, the plans they hatch to provide her with sustenance. To satisfy all her cravings, they opt to only kill people who are truly awful. It only gets tougher when they find many of the drug dealers/murderers/and arms dealers they target turn out to be not as despicable as they’ve been lead to believe.

I first started watching on the recommendation of a friend. And I’m glad it did. In most episodes, their teenage daughter, Abby, is more mature than they are. This character is played brilliantly by Liv Hewson. Add in the bumbling cop, the affair-indulging neighbor, and a smarty-pants potential love interest for Abby, and I consider this a true winner. Oh, and did I mention the show stars Timothy Olyphant? Here’s a little treat, I mean clip of him talking about the show (and yeah, Drew is in there as well).

I hope you’ll give it a try. It’s very entertaining.

 

 

Closet Confusion

Closet Confusion

In January, I decided I haven’t had enough interaction with actual people. I sit in my house, by myself. And truthfully, I was a little bored with my own company. So I opted to go back to work. The day I asked my old boss if I could have my part-time job back, he asked me to start that afternoon. (It’s good to be missed).

Unfortunately, working in public again presented a major dilemma for me. Most of my professional clothes are out of style, and I simply can’t show up wearing my regular work-from-home uniform of pajama pants and a hoodie. There are limits to decency and nobody wants to see my ultra-thin paisley jammie bottoms. It was time to inventory my closet.

Luckily, I’d bought some dressy clothes to attend a few conventions last year. Dresses, pants that weren’t exactly jeans, silky tops and sweaters that still fit (bonus!). And I’d just bought a couple pairs of shoes while visiting my parents (my mom and I turn shoe shopping in a performance art ). So I wasn’t in as bad shape wardrobe-wise as I’d thought. Plus, with the way fashion works, everything old is new again.

So I toddled off to work every day last week, happy to be interacting with people and looking smart. Now, if only my boss hadn’t decided I should be an bookkeeper. Because no amount of fashionable clothes will ever make me love numbers! I majored in Journalism for a reason.

At least, I’m a fabulously dressed numbers-cruncher.

Just A Taste of Risking the Vine

Just A Taste of Risking the Vine

I’ve got a little secret … I love wine. So much that I’m writing a series set in and around vineyards. The research was fun and informative as I started. Risking the Vine features Jacqui Bishop and Luke Rossi, who have been sent to Team Vino, a team building camp in wine country. They’s met each other before, in Medford where they are from. But now, they are really going to get to know each other. Enjoy!

 

As the wait staff placed baskets of bread on the table, Luke asked, “So we met at a hospital happy hour, but you aren’t an employee. Where do you work?”

“MedServices. We’re a medical records management firm,” she replied.

“Hate to say it, I think we use your competition.”

“I know. Bella’s told me on numerous occasions.”

His eyes darkened. “Bella’s okay. We’ve worked together to settle a couple of issues with the nurses’ union. She strikes me as one of the sane ones in the HR department.”

“Hmm. Well, I’ve never heard her described that particular way.” Jac smiled at the idea of her zany friend being sane.

“In my experience the entire department thrives on a witch hunt.” Luke’s tone was glum. “They are constantly looking for a scapegoat to pin the latest trouble on, instead of considering the source of the trouble.”

“I think that’s the case with most organizations.” She reached for a piece of bread. Time to change the subject. “Where did you move from?”

“Most recently from Tampa. I’ve always lived in the southeast, so this is an interesting change.”

“How so?”

Luke spread butter on the piece of sourdough bread he’d selected. “The climate in Oregon is cooler and more temperate. Still terribly humid. There are a lot of rainy days in the northwest.”

“So right,” Jac replied, tugging on her hair, closer to straight than curly today. Humidity sucked, which was why she typically wore her hair up. She never had trouble making small talk, so why were they talking about the weather?

“Why are you here? And by here I mean at team building camp.” The expression in Luke’s eyes seemed open and curious. But something else lurked and smoldered, more than mere friendliness.

Low in her body, Jac experienced an answering heat. She cast about, trying to recall his question. “Oh . . . um, I’m up for a promotion and since I’ve never supervised people before, the owner wanted me to learn some tricks to boost cooperation between my department and other internal clients. Although, being out of the office hasn’t stopped the calls from coming in. I guess it’s nice to be missed.”

“Trouble?”

“Nothing I can’t handle. I’m in client services and sometimes our customers can be demanding. Medical billing, records and privacy concerns, all can be a bit of a nightmare.”

“Tell me about it,” Luke sympathized. His gaze clouded. “Probably a lot like personnel and budget management.”

Jac leaned to her right as the waiter put a bowl of stew in front of her. Her shoulder brushed Luke’s. Warm, welcome heat from the contact thrilled her. Even though she sort of already knew the answer, she asked, “What brought you here?”

Luke fisted his hand on the table, tapped it a couple of time, while a muscle in his jaw popped.

Oops, sore subject.

“Let’s not talk about work anymore, okay? Honestly, I’d rather talk about the weather or baseball than my job. Or whether or not you have a husband.” He lifted one brow and tipped his head to the side.

A small sizzle raced across her belly. “Uh . . . no, no husband. Not even a boyfriend in sight.” And she hadn’t been heavily involved with anyone since her college sweetheart. Damn him.

He nodded. “Good. I didn’t have a chance to get to know you at happy hour. I’m glad to fix that now.”

The slow lift at the corners of his mouth drew her in. Made her believe he really did think it was good she didn’t have a significant other.

Popcorn has a day!

Popcorn has a day!

Today in my inbox I received a proclamation from the lovely folks at National Day Calendar. It’s National Popcorn Day. Popcorn has its very own day. And rightly so.

Hand to heart, popcorn is the one food I simply could not give up. I can resist (who am I kidding?). I even defriended it for a while, but I will always come crawling back to it. My favorite is movie theater popcorn, followed by the microwave stuff. Pop a bag of that salty, fluffy goodness and I’m eating the entire thing. Those 100 calorie snack bags are for underachievers.

I’m not a purist, although I do prefer my popcorn with just salt (definitely not a fan of anything sweet). In college, I had an air popper and my roommates and I would add brewers yeast or parmesan cheese to the snack. But recently, I’ve discovered several new flavors – Cilantro Lime, Garlic and Herb to name two.

Today I want to share a recipe I discovered from Shutterbean on Pinterest for Sour Cream and Onion Popcorn.

Photo courtesy of Shutterbean.com

SOUR CREAM & ONION POPCORN

makes enough for 2-4

recipe slightly adapted from Seriously Delish

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons powdered buttermilk*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1  teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place a 3 quart saucepan (or Whirley Pop) over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and popcorn kernels to the pan. Close the lid and  move pot back and forth (or whirl around!) on the stove and pop the popcorn until you start to hear the popping slow down. Remove from the stove. Put popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. (I cheat and use lite microwave popcorn.)

Drizzle the popcorn with olive oil and toss it well to coat. In small bowl, whisk together dill, cheese, buttermilk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour it over the popcorn and toss the popcorn evenly to coat it in the mixture. Taste the popcorn and season it additionally if needed.

* If you cannot find powdered buttermilk for this recipe, powdered milk can be used in a pinch. You might need to adjust to the salt level as the powdered milk is slightly sweeter and less tangy than the buttermilk.

Enjoy!

Music To Make My Brain Work

Music To Make My Brain Work

I’m often asked if I listen to music when I write. And the answer is a definitive YES! But what kind of music I listen to varies by the task I have in front of me.

Editing, for example, can ben done while I listen to music with words. I have several stations programmed on Pandora like Maroon 5, or the Imagine Dragons. Even the Doobie Brothers. I don’t mind the familiar music while I’m tweaking and perfecting.

If I’m creating, I need something that’s purely instrumental. Again, Pandora has several options for me. Cello Concertos, Piano Sonatas, or my current favorite, a station named Requiem for a Dream (I found the last extremely helpful when writing a battle scene).

But for those days when I really have to crunch the the words, I log into my Brain.fm account, opt for the Focus section and really go to town. The Binaural tones truly blocks all other noise out and lets me write up a storm (today’s word count in about 2.5 hours was 3200. It really works). Check it out when you have a chance. I’ve even used the sleep option on those nights when I can’t seem to shut my brain off.

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A New, Healthier Me

A New, Healthier Me

I’ve recently lost quite a bit of weight (Let’s talk again in six months to see if I’ve kept it off, okay?) and I managed the task by dieting and some occasional exercise. It seemed to take forever, so you can bet I’m going to go out of my way to try to keep it off. But along comes Autumn, a season when I typically want to get in my kitchen and cook up all the yummy comfort-style foods that I am nostalgic for. Meatloaf, lasagne, chicken and dumplings, homemade mac and cheese. Exactly the kinds of foods that adds the pounds on in the past.

So, I’ve started a new recipe file and I’ve titled it Keeping The Pounds Off (or Do Not Put That In Your Mouth). Every meal is an adventure in trying to find ways to make a recipe healthier, but still ensure the taste brings back good memories.

Recently, I tried a recipe for Healthier Chicken Pot Pie from AllRecipes and was pleasantly surprised. It was easy and tasty. Here’s a picture of the final product. I’ve copied the recipe for you below. If you try it, I hope it brings back memories of family meals and fall.

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Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery in a saucepan. Cover with water. Boil until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and vegetables are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
  3. Cook and stir onions in butter in a saucepan over medium heat, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and remove from heat. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken mixture in bottom pie crust; pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in top to allow steam to escape.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until pie is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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