Ramblings

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Over the years I’ve had numerous jobs. And when I say numerous … I mean like over 50. Really. I’m the female version of George Plimpton. (Only he was into sports. And a writer. And he made TONS of money … but you know… kinda like him.)

Anyway, I started working when I was 15 at the local Micky D’s. This was the beginning of drive-throughs and when we used to make shakes the old-fashioned way, with a mixer. A squirt of flavoring and ice cream, then blend. That stupid machine and I didn’t get along. I can’t tell you how many times it exploded all over me. But my most memorable moment was when a container of strawberry topping slipped from my hand to the floor. It hit the tiles flat on it’s bottom which caused the most interesting eruption of strawberry sauce, easily 5 feet in the air. How do I know this? When it was done, it was dripping off my face and the brim of my hat, and down the front of my uniform. And all of this happened in slow motion in front of a lobby filled with the lunch crowd. FULL! Oh, yeah, that was a fun job.

Let’s see, I’ve worked at a jean store, a mortgage company, an aquarium, a frame store, a processing plant, an overnight summer camp, and a daycare. I’ve been a waitress, a “gofer” for a game warden, a science teacher, a lab assistant, a janitor, an ed tech, a tutor, a resident assistant, a substitute teacher, and a secretary at a job recruiter and a real estate office.

Some of those jobs I didn’t really like. Being a janitor in a girls’ dormitory wasn’t really something I enjoyed. I’m not even going into the whole bathroom situation. Nor the job working second shift at a processing plant for computer components. I spent the summer straightening wire leads with plyers and boiling components in oil to watch for bubbles. *shudders* Those were long days. But the summer I worked on an island off the coast of Maine at an overnight camp was awesome. Working as a lab assistant, teaching physics labs in college was pretty cool as well. And I didn’t really suffer when I worked as a waitress. All those people to visit with … yeah, it was fun.
 
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Of course I’m blogging today, it’s Valentine’s Day… the most romantic day of the year and what kind of a romance writer would I be if I didn’t acknowledge this day for lovers?

When I decided to start a writing career I could have chosen a different direction… children’s books, science books, text books… any number of genres were open to me as long as I had the drive to write about them.

But I chose romance. Why? Because I’m a sucker for love and the happy ending. I enjoy nothing more than getting swept away as the hero and heroine find their way through a sticky maze of conflict to end up in each others’ arms and find that fate meant all along for them to end up together. *sigh*
 
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I’m going to admit that I haven’t done many things that are “typical”. I didn’t pretend not to be smart just to impress a boy. I didn’t sneak makeup in my book bag and put it on at school. And I never pilfered romance novels from my mother’s nightstand.

The first one no doubt had to do with being a middle child and always trying to prove myself to my older siblings. There was no way I was ever going to look dumb in front of them. And the second two things on the list were definitely influenced by Mom herself. My mom’s really pretty and I don’t remember her wearing makeup. So the whole thing was a non-issue in my house. There was no one saying I could or I couldn’t, so why rebel? The whole makeup thing seemed like a huge hassle in my opinion. And then there are the books. My mom was a reader. She took 4 and 5 books out of our little library every week and carried them home. She was pleased as punch when we picked one up and thumbed through it. I can’t say for sure when my love of reading began, but by the time I hit middle school I was reading adult books … including romances.
 
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I haven’t always hated December. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure as a kid I met it with new mittens and eager anticipation. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve decided I’ve come to dread this month of the year. Hands down. Least. Favorite. Month. Let me count the ways …

1. The fact that the days are shorter and shorter and even after the Winter Solstice, there aren’t enough days left in the month to see an appreciable difference in the sunset. And turning on all the lights at 3 pm is just plain depressing.

2. Winter arrives. ‘Nuf said.

3. Junk food EVERYWHERE! I know this should be a good thing, but I just don’t have the willpower to say “no”. It taunts me until I capitulate and enjoy its sinful calories.
 
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Wow, it seems romance chat is hitting the airwaves hard and I’m loving it! Unfortunately not always with a positive twist … which I’ve never understood. Here’s my view. If a book has characters working on a relationship (and who isn’t?) then it can fall into the romance genre. They’re likely trying to save the world, bring down the bad guy or save a man/woman from themselves, but still … it’s romance. Not every romance is a Harlequin category. But I think that’s what readers are thinking when they say they don’t like romance.

Just the other day I was chatting with a guy who was surprised to realize romance was so much more than English Lords seducing the naive virgin Countess in hopes of stealing her land. He went so far as to say that perhaps romance writers actually seem to love men and may actually be advocating for wonderfully naughty things to be done to them.
 
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I’ve just passed my 10th anniversary. Oh, not of my marriage. 10 years ago this past June I broke my chalk and picked up a keyboard. Yep — I became a fulltime writer. And it’s amazing to me how things have changed in my life.

The first year it was me and the computer. Simple. I got up I figured out where my story was going and I wrote. Family members were my beta readers. They read. They critiqued. I adjusted. What a simple life of writing. And one that made me very happy.
 
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paper pilesI know this phenomenon isn’t unique to me. Well, at least I’m hoping it isn’t. I’m talking about the paper lying around my house in small mounds (which seem to breed in the night while I’m sleeping! I see that smile … you know exactly what I’m talking about).

I have a stack of paper from the new medical insurance. (That I tucked into an empty cupboard to get it out of the way.) Another stack that’s accumulating as I pull together information on the new boxed set I’m involved in.  And of course there’s all the information about the houses Mr. Nina and I are looking at as we try to figure out our next move and I’m adding that to the growing mound of paperwork I need to go through. There’s the receipts that will be used during tax time when we figure our “moving expenses”.  Switching over retirement accounts and all the new registration and license information for the cars and did I mention bills … yeah, well those are in this insanely high pile on the sideboard.
 
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I write books. I treat it as a business. But creating my product is only one facet of everything I have to do to be successful in the publishing business. As everyone knows there isn’t a business out there that doesn’t advertise.

Because what’s the sense of writing books if I don’t let readers know they’re out there?

So what does that mean? Well, it’s that “P” word that makes even successful authors shudder. Promotion. I’m currently pulling things together for the convention season. I have all the usual materials including bookflats and bookmarks, pens and magnets, and I’ve even put together a couple of excerpt books. I send them wherever convention coordinators are looking for goodie bag materials.

Here are my trading cards (available to readers with just an email …)
collectorcard-2.5inx3.5in-h-frontBlind Her_Back.jpgClaire_Front.jpgClaire_Back.jpg

Now I’ve expanded to buy an ad in the Romantic Times convention floor plan. Literally thousands of people, authors and readers alike attend this week long celebration of romance. I also now have a book cover in a deck of cards. The five of spades.

But for the first time I’m venturing into stuff. I’m looking at reusable grocery bags and chip clips. They’re a tad on the expensive side. And I’m really wrestling with this. Any good business would spend their advertising dollars only where there is return. But for an author that’s a very nebulous thing to measure. It’s said a person needs to see something at least 10 times before it registers. Wow, that’s a lot of people who need to not only see my name, but realize that I write romance novels.

I’m not sure if the money I’m forking out is going to be worth it. But I figure I’ll give it a try for this year anyway. At the very least that’s 100 more reusable grocery bags that’ll be out there and saving the environment from plastic.

But of course this still doesn’t answer the question … what makes you plop down your hard earned green stuff to buy a book? 

Because Halloween is a couple of days away I thought this week I’d share some paranormal thoughts. Today’s topic: GHOSTS. And I gotta tell you, as I type this in the dark late hours, with Sandy’s wind slashing rain against my windows, I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting some specter to be checking my spelling. *shivers*

Because folks … I know ghosts are real.

Unlike so many other paranormal entities, vampires, werewolves and fae (oh, my) I’ve seen my fair share of ghosts and I don’t mind admitting, they scare the living bejeebers out of me. I grew up in a very old house that had been built in the late 1800’s. That sucker was full of creepy sh*t, though I seem to be the only one of five children who saw/heard anything. Mystery foot falls running up and down the stairs. Attic doors that opened on their own. Lights that turned on when no one was in the room. People walking into rooms and then disappearing. You know, the sort of thing a teenager home alone doesn’t want to experience.

One of the wildest times happened when I was home alone with my boyfriend (who became Mr. Nina). We were *cough cough* studying in my room when we heard this wild lawn party going on at my neighbor’s house. Music, laughter, people talking. I opened the window to check it out (because I’m nosy like that) and guess what … there was no party outside. I pull my head back in, sure enough, the sounds of a distant party. Outside … nothing. I looked at creeped out boyfriend to confirm he was experiencing the same thing and we bolted from the room. Funny thing is, my parents came home shortly after we’d settled ourselves in the livingroom. Hmmmm. I’ve often wondered about that one.

When I was in college, my parents went through a divorce and my mom was in the house by herself a lot. She finally experienced the feet running up and down the stairs. Though she never mentioned seeing anything, I wonder if it was finally quiet enough for her to hear what had been going on around her all along.

To this day, I still sense the spiritual world. I can’t talk to them or see them, which is just fine with me, but I know when they’re there. I don’t need Ghost Hunters to confirm what I already feel. It’s the reason I can’t watch movies like Sixth Sense or Poltergeist. I replay every ghostly scene, tossing and turning at night, convinced if I open my eyes, someone will be standing over me.

My son is also sensitive. He spent many a night in my bed after he woke to find “the boy” watching over him in his bedroom. Yeeeah, I so couldn’t sleep in that particular bedroom of that house either. For the last two years we’ve been in an apartment in a refurbished mill. I understand there is a spirit in the common room downstairs … I don’t go down there. But I am grateful there is plenty of ambiant light lighting up my room at night. I never have to wonder when I wake in the night if something is haqnging in the shadows that isn’t human or feline. I liked it that way. I’m hoping the next house we buy will be the same. It keeps the nightly trip to go pee from terrorizing me. LOL!

So what about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Or do you think I’m completely off my rocker on this one? You know me. I’d love for you to share … I’m just curious like that.

(I’m also hanging out at Tabby’s Nocturnal Nights talking about writing memorable characters. She’s having a wonderful Halloween party over there. Stop by and join in the fun!)

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My sister-in-law is visiting. And to my amazement she grabbed some reading material before heading into the bathroom. Kinda surprised me. Why? Because I think reading in the loo is more of a “guy” thing. I think most woman pop into the bathroom in hopes of having at least two minutes to do their thing before someone knocks and yells “Moooooom”. And every woman with children will tell you the little ones have a special radar tuned in to their mom. It doesn’t matter how engrossed they seem in activity, all it took for me to get their attention was to pick up the phone, lean my head back and close my eyes for a couple of moments or shut the bathroom door … those little angels came running with some desperate need that had to be fulfilled at that moment.

But men? Men seem to find their zen in the bathroom. Guys gather a couple of magazines, the daily newspaper and the mail before heading in for their “quiet” time. And EVERYONE knows it’s best to steer clear of that corner of the house for several hours after that door opens and the green fog drifts away.

Now, my guilty pleasure? Soaking in the tub with some fancy candles burning around me and slipping into the lovely water with a wonderful book (and a glass of wine). *sigh* Since I was a library gal prior to being a writer this meant worrying about ruining a library book. When I started buying my books there was less worry, but still I had to be diligent about making sure the pages didn’t curl from the steam rising off my bubbles.

With the advent of e-readers bathroom reading is even easier. Slipping that e-reader into a gallon sized baggie allows one to read without worry of getting the reader wet. And flipping those pages from one hot scene to another? Easy peasy.

So grab that book, a glass of wine and some candles and settle in for a long hot soak in the tub. Just tell the family you’re doing something like re-wallpapering the bathroom walls or scrubbing the floor … anything that doesn’t involve relaxing. Because you know they won’t leave you alone if they think you’re not busy!

So curiosity has me asking … are you a bathroom reader?

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