Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rain and Dogs and College

(Me with my freshly graduated kiddos back in June.)

Glory be & hallelujah it's raining in Tulsa, Oklahoma!!

This has been the hottest, driest, most miserable summer we've had in a while. With temps over a hundred for days and days, I've been feeling a tad panicky. I LOATHE being hot. Running simple errands becomes an endurance marathon. Though the AC is blasting, it's never quite cool enough for real relief.

The hotter I get, the more grumpy I get, which has made getting everybody ready for college even tougher than I'd anticipated. Through shimmering heat rising from blacktop parking lots, I've schlucked comforters and throw rugs and pillows. Clothes and more clothes and enough extra underwear to last the first semester. We've got shower tubs and shoes and monogrammed wraps and towels. Mirrors and photo frames and a room-sized wall mural of the bare-chested Abercrombie & Fitch guy that my daughter's store manager gifted her with for her dorm. All of the above now resides in my living room, which has got the dogs freaking out.

Home is my favorite place to be, so last month when I left for a week in Orlando at the Romance Writers of America's annual conference, all of my furry babies went on hunger strike. Now that they're once again seeing piles of stuff being packed, they eye me with suspicion every time I near the front door. I am the giver of cuddling and food, but the kids play with Cocoa, Sweet Pea and Daisy. So when Hannah, Terry & Russell leave, I fear there may be more doggy trouble.

Back to the heat, it has been an odd blessing. I'm so annoyed by the hot weather, that it's temporarily taken my mind off the gravity of Monday morning. Save for vacations and holidays, my nest will never be full again. I'm not even kind of sure how to process that statement. Was it really me who used to pray for school to start so I'd finally be home alone?

I play games with myself, thinking never having to share the TV won't be bad. (Poor Hubby doesn't get a vote!!! LOL!!) For the first time in eighteen years, the house will be clean. No more laundry mountains. With no more pizza rolls and cookies and fast food, I'll be instantly skinny--stop laughing!! But seriously, I'm scared. If change is supposed to be good for us, then why am I secretly filled with terror? I want to snatch up my beautiful smart and funny babies and never let go. In the same breath, I'm so proud of them and excited for their new adventures that I know it's time to let go.

It's odd to me that just as I make the final push to send them off, the heat has broken. Throughout the packing process, I've been a warrior. Shopping and sorting and organizing as if it was the essay question on my final parenting exam. Now that it's nearly done, like summer's heat, I'm exhausted. Flooded with memories, and wondering why I was so eager for my cute third graders to go back to school.

My daughter asked what I used to do before I had kids and honestly, I don't remember. That person doesn't seem real. For eighteen years, I've put everyone else's needs ahead of my own to the point that with just me to focus on, I feel a little lost. Is it wrong to at the same time feel a little excited? Maybe with my extra hours I will manage to exercise. I'll watch movies only I want to see and wake not when school schedules tell me, but when my body tells me. I'll "waste" entire afternoons reading for pleasure and never again go to PTA.

If I had this morning's rain falling in a book, just in time for the heroine's breakdown, it'd feel almost cliche. But for me, it's a tremendous relief. Like a sign that just as this awful heat has passed, so will my angst. I really will feel whole again and love it. I just need to make it past Monday . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Of Gators and Thongs and Heat and Nice People and the Orlando Conference

Warning! rather long and perhaps boring for some…

Orlando was hell – as in, it was hot as hell.

Stepping off the plane, we were blasted with furnace strength hot air and it wasn’t much better inside the terminal. Americans have unfortunately discovered that running their air-conditioning set on Frigid costs a lot more money that setting it to say, Medium Warm. Still, it’s at least cooler than outside.

The Disney experience started at the airport where we had to board a monorail to take us to the baggage terminal. It got even more surreal when we boarded the shuttle bus to our hotel – called the Swan and Dolphin (decorated with 100 foot high swans and dolphins frolicking) – can you believe it???

Everyone in Florida drives at least 20 mph over the speed limit and never indicates. So we hurtled down the freeways at breakneck speed, changing lanes like the Artful Dodger while our driver yelled into his cell phone in some strange language (he was from Haiti so whatever they speak there apart from English and French) the radio blasted steel drum music and I kept an eye out for gators lurking in the ditches that surrounded the roadways. (the place is one huge swamp) Although I’m not sure why I was so scared of meeting a gator face to face because it would be crushed beneath the wheels of the shuttle before it got anywhere near me!

Fortunately, hubby and I arrived at the hotel in one piece and were given a lovely suite. After checking the bathtub for gators and ordering room service, we got a good night’s sleep.

Went to Disney’s Epcot before the conf. started and it was so hot that I ended up with huge blisters on the balls of my feet from the heat coming up through the acres—no make that square miles—of concrete in the place. (I was wearing shoes, not barefooted btw)

People were dropping like flies from the heat. I felt so sorry for any of the workers who had to work outside, it was dreadful. There were lots of garden areas with trees but they were fenced off and the trees rarely shaded the paths (read: 4 lane roads, the paths were so wide). Not that it mattered, the temp. was the same in the shade as in the sun. L Even at 11 pm it was still just as hot – ugh!

My husband forced me to accompany him on this horrendously frightening simulator ride that was a voyage to Mars, complete with vertical takeoff! It was hideous! I screamed the whole time as the G-forces felt like I really was taking off right through the roof of the space pavilion. In fact, I could feel my face doing that wobbly thing that you see on astronauts when they’re in that frightfully, sick-making (notice the copious and gratuitous use of adjectives) g-force training machine.

Hubby could feel his face doing it too (we established this about half an hour after the ride when we were capable of speaking coherently and without drooling) so it wasn’t just my imagination.

I tried closing my eyes, hoping that getting rid of the visuals would take the ghastly –“I’m gonna throw up the entire contents of my body cavity!” feeling away, but that only made it worse, so I had to open my eyes and watch as we hurtled towards planet Mars, me screaming all the way. Hubby was probably screaming too, but I couldn’t hear him above the noise I was making. They really should have to stop those things if people scream too much. You could easily have a heart attack, or worse. The thing is, you’re locked inside this spaceship capsule with 3 other people and there is NO escape! I should sue them for scaring 10 years off my life. And get a new husband – one who doesn’t make me go on scary rides with him.

Anyway, back to my feet, since they’re so interesting to me. They hurt so much, I couldn’t get into a pair of shoes and had to spend the entire conference wearing my thongs. (no, not the rubber ones you get at Woolies for 79c, these were more upmarket - from Walmart…). So then I felt I had to keep apologizing to people for looking like a dag and wearing my thongs to the conference. Which of course caused many a raised eyebrow because of course in the US, thongs are women’s underwear (the uncomfortable type that is similar to tooth-flossing one’s backside, if you get my drift). They call them flip flops here (is there a sillier word for footwear?) I became known far and wide as the delegate who wore her thongs (and dared to talk about it) J

On Thursday I met with my wonderful editor, Paula Eykelhof, for breakfast and pitched my Jane Austen adaptation to her. She seemed to like what she heard. Lucky I’m popping over to the UK in a couple of weeks to start my research isn’t it?

Later that afternoon I met again with Paula and the editor of Harlequin American, gorgeous Kathleen Scheibling to discuss more of The O’Malley Men series. J

On Friday I had the huge honor of being a featured author at the Harlequin Spotlight, where Kathleen discussed how they found me (at an Aussie conference) and why they picked me up (because my writing has energy and humor J and I’m willing to work with editorial direction, apparently.) J

Also on Friday I participated in the Harlequin book signing and met many new readers and some lovely people from both the New England and Desert Rose Chapters and thanked them for awarding me the Bean Pot Award and the Golden Quill for “Colorado Christmas”.

That evening, the HAR team took us to dinner at a very posh restaurant in the hotel. I ordered scallops and prime beef and pavlova and enjoyed every morsel! Was delighted to make the acquaintance of fellow HAR author, Leigh Duncan who reminds me of Debbie Macomber, because she has a lovely open face and smile!

Oh, and on the Wed. night before the conf. started, I became a star for two whole seconds on u-tube at another signing – The RWA literacy signing. Here’s the link. I’m about 2min 41 secs in. Hope you like the Minnie ears I’m wearing in the clip?
We had a fabulous time at the Harlequin party on the Friday night – they bring in the same DJ every year because he’s so good. (no idea where the guy really lives, will ask next conf.) Good food and great music. Somewhere on this blog is a pic of my conference buddy, Cathleen Ross and I eating the decorations (yes, the decorations, ‘cos there’s only so much sugar a girl can take) at the Harlequin bash.

The awards night on Saturday was spectacular as usual and Kandy Shepherd and I cheered the Aussie finalists in the GH and Ritas madly (and anyone else we really liked.) We were stoked when Kylie Griffin won the Paranormal Romance GH for her story, Bloodborn: Book One in the Light Blade Series. I have no idea what any of her title means, but I’m so very happy for her and hope she gets The Call very soon!

Hubby was a trooper throughout (apart from the hiccup with the simulator and ensuing divorce procedings). He spent a lot of time at the pool. Not that it was refreshing – more like swimming in warm soup. I say, soup rather than a bath because there were so many kids in the pool that it contained an awful lot of icky stuff that wasn’t pure H2O.

There were dire warning on the lagoons surrounding the resort, not to swim in the lagoons. They didn’t actually state why it was dangerous – although I suspect the ubiquitous gators were part of the reason. However, they did look awfully inviting, edged by acres of white sand. If you didn’t read English then you could be mighty tempted to take a dip (provided you didn’t fry your feet to a crisp on the white hot sand getting there in the first place).

Attended heaps of workshops by top-selling authors, met lots more and caught up with old friends.
By Sunday it was all over and we were looking forward to returning home to Colorado. Except our flight was delayed 3 hours. While waiting in the Bus. class lounge (thank you American Express!) a huge thunderstorm struck with lightning striking the ground everywhere. We had a bird’s-eye view of all the excitement. Planes were stranded out on the tarmac as they couldn’t dock at the airbridges because it does something with the earthing and people end up fried to a crisp (like it’s any different walking around Orlando in the heat of the day?) Or night… for that matter.

While there, I bumped into a very elegantly dressed African American woman in the loo and admired her beautiful shawl. She thanked me very politely and we went our separate ways. She looked familiar. Then a bit later I heard the lounge attendant saying that Patti LaBelle had just left. No wonder she was familiar! Had heaps of Top 40 hits in the 70’s and 80’s including Lady Marmalade, which I loved. So will add that to my brush with fame after meeting Robin Williams in the Zen lounge at San Fran. He kindly signed a book for me btw.

I wonder if either of them saw me on u-tube?…

Make a comment and you could win a copy of my latest tome, “The Sheriff and the Baby”. The one signed by Robin Willliams!
Till next time!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Favorite characters

YAY! I remembered my blog day before it passed this time! I’ve been having a busy summer – with deadlines, kids home and the writers conference in Orlando. At the Harlequin party during the conference, I received a pin for having 25 books published with them. That was such a thrill and an honor. My upcoming September Harlequin American SINGLE DAD SHERIFF is my 26th, and one of my favorite books I’ve written. There’s a little scene stealer that takes over the book from the first chapter right through to the epilogue. Tommy Phillips is definitely a favorite character of mine and quite a character.

I’d love to hear about your favorite characters – real or fictional. Leave a comment and I’ll draw a couple of winners for signed copies of my April Harlequin American, HIS BABY SURPRISE.

Hope you’re all having a great summer.
Happy Reading!