Saturday, November 03, 2007

Twilight Zone Time

So, I should probably start by admitting that I collect Christmas houses. I’ve bought one every year I’ve been married. (18) And, okay, I’ll admit it…sometimes I’ve bought more than one. Choosing the right house is a mini-big-deal for me. I really look forward to it. I wander around the store, look at past catalogs, pick up one, change my mind. You get the idea.

Yesterday was my day to get a house. Because it takes so long, I put my houses out right after Halloween. Anyway, there I was, happily celebrating an hour of house-hunting, relaxed. Sipping a latte. And…my cell phone rang. It was my daughter. She was at cheer practice. And she had questions.

I’m not one of those people who likes to talk on the phone in public places. So, my answers were clipped. Yes, Yes. Okay. Bye. Five minutes later, the phone rings again. Another question. Ten minutes after that…guess what, the coach let them leave early, if they wanted to. So, could I come pick her up? Now?

These are relatively normal things. After all, she’s 14. She’s a nice girl. She’s used to me being at her beck and call. But I wasn’t happy about it. And, well, I happened to be holding my new house…the North Pole Reindeer Spa. So, what did I do? I knew my husband was working from the house yesterday afternoon…so I told her she could either wait until I got back her way, or call her dad.

This little scenario makes me remember life without cell phones. I was on a drill team all through high school. What did I do when practice got out early? I waited. Now that I’m older and my high school years have that pretty sheen of nostalgia all over them, I recall hanging out with my girlfriends, thankful for thirty minutes or an hour of nothing to do. There was a drug store near our school. We’d pool money and buy ice cream, and sit on the sidewalks near the parking lot and talk. Flirt with all the boys who were waiting to be picked up, too. It was eerily fun. Secret, almost. Twilight Zone Time, where we could do things no one knew about because everyone thought we were occupied.

Sometimes, when it was time to be picked up, we’d all pretend that we just got out of practice…never admitting to eating rocky road. Now, I think I’d have a fit if I found out my daughter was running around town buying ice cream. And well, do teenagers even sneak ice cream any more?

So, maybe it’s good that my daughter doesn’t know about that twilight zone time of secret waiting. Maybe it’s good that she’s impatient, and has a phone to constantly communicate with me. But a part of me feels that she’s missing out.

End of the story? Tom picked her and her girlfriends up for me. I finished my latte, bought my house, and an hour later came home. I showed the Reindeer Spa off to my family-who pretended to think it was oh, so cute. Then I cooked dinner, supervised homework, and cleaned everything up.

And then it occurred to me…maybe I'm still attempting to have some secret time. Only now I’m buying houses instead of ice cream. But that ‘found’ time is as sweet as ever. So, anyone else remember waiting to be picked up when they were in high school? What did you do?

Friday, November 02, 2007


Holidays…when we gather with family for fun times and a nice meal. Where we strengthen family ties and catch up on everyone's life--Yeah, right. More on that in a minute.

First, congratulations to Lily--our October HAR blog winner! Lily, please contact the following authors through their websites to claim your prize: Shelley Galloway, Cindi Myers and Marin Thomas.

Keep the comments coming. Authors will be giving away more books to a winner for the month of November.

Okay, back to Holidays--the good, the bad and the ugly….

More likely than not, many of us will attend gatherings with people we have little or nothing in common--Family. You got that right. How is it that siblings can be born to the same parents yet be so different? Sister Susie-homemaker bakes up storm and everyone praises her cooking skills. Sister Margaret is Ms. Career Woman who travels the world and makes more money than your own husband. Then Brother Bob slides through life effortlessly, always finding people to fish him out of trouble or loan him money when he makes bad choices. And then there's you--Ms. Responsibility--the one who goes through life playing by the rules but no one cares or finds you interesting. Sound familiar to anyone???

I thought it might be fun to make up a list of tips on surviving the holidays with family. I'll go first:

1) Lower your expectations (I'm talking way lower). The day is not going to be perfect. It never has been and it won’t be this time. Uncle Joe will still tell off-color jokes and your father-in-law will undoubtedly bring up politics at the dinner table. And don’t forget Aunt Judy, she'll have one too many drinks and spill her red wine all over your white tablecloth. Just think…if no one sets the Christmas tree on fire the gathering will have been a success!

Okay, who's got the next Holiday survival tip?

Marin Thomas
For The Children (Oct 07)
In A Soldier's Arms (Feb 08)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beginners' pluck

A writer never stops learning, even when she’s been published for twenty-five years. Take me. I’m always experimenting with voices, fictional techniques and genres.

At first, every bit of knowledge seems confusing and hard to apply. Gradually, however, I integrate these skills into my subconscious, just as I once learned to drive or diaper a baby.

It can be hard to remember how awkward I was at the start. That unfocused style and those messy plotlines, not to mention the shallow characters and clumsy romantic arcs. Maybe some more talented authors didn’t suffer those problems, but I did.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of material from beginning writers. A few have won critiques through my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. Others have entered contests I’m judging, and some are students at a distance-learning institute for writers where I’ve begun teaching (you can check me out at I’m listed under my full name, Jackie Diamond Hyman).

Seeing their struggles reminds me of how easy veteran writers make the process appear. And a good thing, too. Who wants to read a book that seems labored?

I admire these valiant newbies. It takes courage to start up this steep hill, knowing how many obstacles lie ahead. My hat is off to you guys. I’m just glad that, through critiques and teaching, I sometimes get a chance to help.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween to those who celebrate...

Ancient Origins
Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

Famous Haunts

Birthplace of Liberty
Philadelphia was the first settlement in the colony of Pennsylvania, which William Penn founded in 1682. The city was the birthplace of the American Revolution, where great statesmen such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin once walked the streets. By the mid-1700s, Philadelphia was the largest city in the American colonies. On July 4, 1776, members from each of the thirteen colonies gathered in the Pennsylvania Statehouse – now known as Independence Hall – to sign a document called the Declaration of Independence. Many say that the ghosts of our nation's Founding fathers are still hanging around Independence Hall . . .

Dancing Ben
Benjamin Franklin was an extraordinary writer, publisher, and inventor, and he helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In later years, his influence and intelligence helped our country establish the Senate and Congress and adopt the Constitution. This remarkable man spent much of his life in Philadelphia,
And he may be there still, long after his death. Eyewitnesses have seen Franklin's restless spirit at various locations throughout the city. His favorite spot, some say, is the Library Hall of the American Philosophical Society, which he helped found in 1743.
Many claim that Franklin's energetic spirit even lives on in the streets of Philadelphia, coming to life out of an old statue. Legend has it that the wise old statesman is sometimes seen dancing through the City of Brotherly Love!

Anyone have a ghost story or something "Creepy" they'd like to share?

Marin Thomas
For The Children (Oct 07)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Random Musings & A Review

I'm not ready for October to end. Yes, my kids have Halloween costumes which is better than last year when I was trying to find one on this day. But I have a book due Nov. 15. I still have a lot of work to do on it so that my editor doesn't want to beat me with a stick. I have revisions due Thursday, but those will be done today. I'm a crazy person, but we talked about that a while ago.

I'm also still patiently waiting for my box of books. I received the author copies of The Christmas Date weeks ago. I haven't yet seen Hart's Victory.

My daughter needs it for a book report. She's scanning the porch more than me. Well, that and planning the fifty million places I need to drive her this week. (Uh, honey? Book due. Can't get it done with butt in the car. Need butt in chair at computer.)

The other daughter's book report form got eaten--my house makes homework assignments vanish. It's amazing. We don't have a dog, the carpet eats them. I'm serious. I need to contact her teacher. God help me if I forget.

So November's on its way in and I'm realizing that I've cut things close. I can do it. Four deadlines, one already down, and as of today, two to go. Oh, I'll be in Philly for 3 nights, Nov. 7-9, taking those out of the equation. I'm there for a jouralism convention where I'm writing and judging.

BTW, although I haven't yet seen my book, Harriet Klausner has. She wrote a review on her blog.

For fun, I'm posting the review here. It's my first book outside the American line (The Christmas Date is my 15th for American since my debut in Oct. 200o). So here's #16.

Hart's Victory
Michele Dunaway
Harlequin NASCAR,
Dec 2007, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373217823
Single mom Kellie Thompson’s beloved son Charlie is battling for his life against cancer. Charlie is a rabid NASCAR fan; so when a NASCAR camp for terminally ill children is arranged, Kellie insures her child attends.Charlie's hero NASCAR driver Hart Hampton has been in a slump so is relegated to the charity event for the terminally ill.

After meeting mother and son, Hart agrees with Charlie that he and Kellie are perfect for one another. However, she rejects his attention although she is attracted to him; her focus is Charlie. Hart wants both in his life, but though he won the kid over and the mom recognizes he is a caring soul, she still refuses his overtures; Charlie comes in first, second and third.

The romance places second and NASCAR shows up third as the star of this heart-wrenching tale is Charlie as he fights for his life yet wants the best for his mom whom he believes is his hero Hart. The three prime players are fully developed leading to readers feeling deep emotions almost as if they know the ailing child and care for him as much as Hart does. Michele Dunaway provides an angst-laden five tissue box character driven tale.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My sick "child"

Okay, so Da Vinci isn't a real, human child. He's a cockatiel, a little gray bird with a yellow head and orange cheeks. He is 20 years old, which is ancient, and he's never been to a vet because he's been healthy his whole life ... until now.

Recently he started pulling his feathers out. So I tracked down an avian vet (across town) and scheduled an appointment. But getting him there was no easy task because he doesn't willingly come out of his cage. I had to reach into the cage with a towel and grab him, then stuff him into a shoebox for transport. (This was the method recommended to me by the vet.) Let me tell you, you've never heard a shriek until you've heard an angry cockatiel stuffed into a shoebox. When I walked into the vet's waiting room, another client heard the commotion and asked, "My God, what's in there?"

With the help of an assistant who held him (with a towel, like I did, because he bites), the vet checked him out and said he appeared remarkably healthy for an old bird, and his plucking problem was probably nutrition related. Or he might be going senile, but I was hoping for the first option. For twenty years I've been feeding him the wrong things.

So now he gets a healthier diet than I do. I offer him all kinds of fruits and veggies, Cheerios, whole-wheat crackers, corn, beans, meat, cheese, plus a kind of bird chow. He eats the chow. He's afraid of everything else.

But anyway, he's doing better. It's been almost a week since he plucked any feathers. But he's still mad at me for the shoebox incident, and he hisses every time I get near his cage.

Stuff like this is no fun while it's going on. I honestly was afraid the bird was going to have a heart attack and expire in that shoebox. But now that it's over, I'm thinking I have to use this in a book. And that is the wonderful thing about writing. It gives me a constructive use for all the crazy stuff that happens in my life. I mean, you can't make this stuff up!