Surviving the Holidays

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Ah, Christmas. That special time of year. Great food. Holiday traditions. Memory making. Spending time with family and loving every minute of it. But does it always turn out exactly the way we want it to? And do we REALLY enjoy all the time spent making sure that the rest of the family has a great Christmas?

Here’s my honest opinion on this holiday season:

cookiesI hate baking. But Christmas cookies (and fudge, and brownies, etc) are something the kids love to make and deliver to the neighbors and close friends. Maybe I’m getting OCD in my old age, but watching the kids make a huge mess on the kitchen table with flour, frosting and 50, 000 different types of sprinkles gives me hives. We’ll still do it, because they love it and I love them. But…Christmas stress.

alvinI used to have so much fun, the first couple of years, with Alvin, our Elf on the Shelf. But that sucker arrives the day after Thanksgiving and stays through Christmas Eve. That’s a whole lot of Alvin antics to plot out. And with the kids getting older, and not playing with toys much anymore, Alvin’s bag of tricks is sadly depleted. Little Guy is seven years old and still believes that Alvin is magical. So I struggle to come up with inventive ways to delight him each morning. And that leads to…Christmas stress.

stockingsWe needed new stockings this year because the names were becoming unreadable on our old ones. I found some at Target and bought each of us our own color. I figured if I ended up not having the nerve to attempt to glitter glue our names on them then at least we’d know whose was whose by color. I ended up attempting the names. They came out pretty good – until I realized I wrote Big Sis’ name on MY pink stocking. And then, while they were nowhere near dry, Little Guy managed to ruin every single one of them. My fault for leaving them on the kitchen table to dry. We have brand new stockings, less legible than the ones I threw away for that very reason. Next year I will pay big bucks to get some professionally personalized stockings. And save myself some huge…Christmas stress.

One day? How about a good FIVE weeks?

Now everyone is home from work and school for the next two weeks. I planned a mini-vaca for a few days after Christmas. But for now I’ve got to keep them all entertained, keep the house from getting trashed, keep the kids from killing each other and keep myself from hiding at the bottom of a bottle of wine until after the New Year. I hate Christmas stress!

Please tell me I’m not the only over-achieving, Martha Stewart screw-up. Anyone else have holiday horror stories they’d like to share? Bring me a Christmas giggle or two. I bet it bring everyone who reads this post just a little bit of Christmas cheer to know they are not in this alone.

We Still Love Our Fairy Tales

Cinderella-2015-film-reviewbatb

 

Fairy tales have been around for centuries. We grow up on stories of princesses and heroes, dragons and witches. They are full of adventure, danger, laughter and, yes, love They are beautiful classics that stand the test of time. So why should we stop enjoying them just because we are no longer children? Who says we have to?

snowwhite

Sure, the animated princess movies are great, but the live-action ones that have come out over the years? Happy sigh! Even before Disney started remaking Malificent and Cinderella, there have been plenty of retellings. One of my favorites is Ever After. Drew Barrymore did an incredible job as Cinderella. Ella Enchanted is another version of the classic that I love.

everafter

And let’s not forget one of the biggest hits in the last few years. Once Upon A Time has found a way to take nearly every fairy tale ever told and fit it into one (fairly cohesive) plot. Couldn’t manage to fit a character into Storybrooke, Maine? No problem – Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. Yeah, gotta say I never got into that one, overkill effect and all. But you have to give them points for trying.

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Teens are getting their own dose of happily ever after with new renditions like the summer hit, Descendants. Just think, Malificent’s daughter finds true love with Belle’s son. Pretty freakin’ cool concept, if you ask me. I think that movie was playing on our television set at least five out of seven days each week, the first few weeks it was out. I’ve certainly memorized all the songs (not by choice).

Descendants

So is it any wonder that those very same classics are finding a whole new life in the book world, as well? Modern retellings. Sexy, sweet, in between. We readers love our happily ever afters.

How amazing would it be then, to buy ONE collection and get FOUR brand new versions of stories we have loved for years. Beauty and the Beast. Goldilocks. Cinderella. Aladdin. All told from an adult perspective, just not exactly as you remember them. Fairy tales set in modern times, but with a twist that makes this telling completely unique. Intrigued?

Here it is, Modern Magic: A Quartet of Fractured Fairytales. With stories by Nancy C. Weeks, Stephanie Cage and Andrea R. Cooper. Available for ereaders everywhere. http://bit.ly/1MxXDO6

Release date November 9, 2015

Release date November 9, 2015

What is your favorite fairy tale? Who did it best? Was it a movie or a book? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Cover Reveal – Modern Magic

Fairy tales aren’t just for children, any more. One month from today, folks! A bit of a departure for me, as I am used to writing small town contemporaries. But Crimson Romance put out a call for this collection of twisted fairy tales and my muse refused to let me pass this one up.

Modern Magic: A Quartet of Fractured Fairy Tales takes the classic stories of Cinderella, Aladdin, Goldilocks and Beauty and the Beast that you know and love, and gives them a bit of a shake up. Here’s a sneak peek:

What if Cinderella ditched the prince’s ball and sent her fairy godmother to find love in her place? 

Suppose a streetwise hero hired to steal an all-powerful Genie (stuck in a flash drive rather than a brass lamp) for a tech company ended up running for his life with the CEO’s gorgeous, intelligent daughter? 

Or what if the bed that a certain golden-tressed girl accidentally napped in belonged to the hot and famous middle brother of a notorious boy band? 

Can you envision the sparks that might fly if a bitter and downright beastly wheelchair-bound woman propositioned a handsome bookseller to stay with her in exchange for her rare book collection?

Intrigued? Ready to see the cover? Are you sure? Want to holler “shut up already and show me the picture!”? Here you go:

Release date November 9, 2015

Release date November 9, 2015

Here’s an excerpt from A Late-Blooming Rose, my own version of Beauty and the Beast:

His pork chop was cold. Of course that was to be expected when one wasn’t allowed to sit down to eat his own dinner until he’d done fifty thousand things for his new “employer.” Four days into his thirty-day ‘sentence’ and he swore she got more and more creative with her unrealistic commands. Beau shook his napkin out, giving it a little snap before smoothing it over his lap.

The clatter of silverware bouncing off of marble tile roused Beau from his own thoughts. “Oh dear, how clumsy of me! I’m afraid I’ll need a new fork.” Eva flashed him an insincere smile.

“They’re in the drawer in the kitchen.” Beau continued to chew his food.

“I think I know where my own forks are. This is my house, after all. What I don’t understand is why you aren’t moving. I asked you to get me a fork.”

“And I told you to get it yourself.”

“But you work for me! You are my caregiver.” Her chest heaved as her breathing sped up.

“I am doing this for you without pay, without benefits, and without any sort of thank yous. It’s not hard to see why you can’t hold on to staff. You are rude. You are demanding. And you deliberately bait people just to see how miserable you can make them.”

“Congratulations. It took you a fraction of the time it took all the others to figure that out. Must be all those books you’re so fond of.” She sneered. “As you didn’t bring anything with you, it won’t take you long to pack up your things. So sorry it didn’t work out.”

“Oh, I have no intention of leaving.” Beau cut into his pork chop and popped the juicy bite into his mouth.

“You aren’t getting me a new fork like I asked. I’ve fired people for far less.”

“Eva, did I leave after you insisted I replace the sheets I’d just put on your bed because you thought they were too colorful? Did I leave after I spent an hour on the roof adjusting the satellite dish, only to learn that you’d just unplugged the TV? Or when I had to scrub out all the cupboards when you claimed to have seen a cockroach in the kitchen? I still don’t believe you, by the way. But I’m still here. A shame that you can’t fire me, hmm? Give it your best shot, sweetheart. I’m a lot tougher than you give me credit for.”

Beau nearly laughed at the murderous look in her eyes. Eva Mitchum was a woman used to getting her own way. She glared at him as though she could bend him to her will using only her mind. The spacious dining room echoed with the clink of Beau’s knife and fork as he continued to eat his dinner, the dinner he’d spent the afternoon cooking. He wouldn’t have been surprised to see the top of Eva’s head fly off as she gave vent to the anger seething in her gaze.

“I can’t eat my pork chop without the proper utensils,” she ground out, after several long minutes of pouty silence.

“Sure you can. Just pick it up with your fingers. Those still work, don’t they?” Yeah, that was probably crossing the line. But after the hell she’d put him through over the last few days, Beau couldn’t help it. The woman would try the patience of a saint!

He sighed, intending to apologize, but when he looked up, he was shocked to find her doing just what he’d suggested Eva sat across from him, holding the pork chop between her dainty fingers and nibbling at it carefully. She studiously avoided his eyes now, which was good. He didn’t want her to realize just how much she’d shocked him. He’d won this match, and he intended to savor the victory for as long as it lasted.

The rest of the meal passed without incident. Eva was through with her childish attempts at goading him into losing his temper, or walking out on her, or both. She was silent, reflective. Beau didn’t get the feeling that she was plotting her next scheme. Instead, she seemed almost confused. Had no one ever stood up to her before? No wonder the woman was on a major power trip. Eva was used to being spoiled, whether it was because she was confined to her wheelchair or because she bullied everyone into doing her bidding. Learning to become more independent would do her a world of good, though Beau highly doubted she’d agree. Lesson one had gone surprisingly well. At least she hadn’t thrown her steak knife at him.

Modern Magic is up on Goodreads if you’d like to drop by and add it to your “want to read”list. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26842591-modern-magic

What is your favorite fairy tale? If Crimson were to do another collection of twisted fairy tales, what would you love to see added? When you think of classic fairy tales, do you envision the original (usually darker) version, or the ‘Disneyfied” versions? Leave your comments below and let’s see who shares your favorites.

People Watching – a Writer’s Perspective

eyesonyou I’ve got my eye on you. Yeah, you. I’ve been watching you for some time now, and you didn’t have a clue. Nah, I’m just teasing. Well … partially. I people watch. It’s part of the writer gig. We can’t help it. People fascinate us. Mannerisms, clothing styles, the way people interact with each other – or the way they studiously ignore each other. Hair styles, hair COLOR (hey, it’s all fair game). For the record, I wish I had the nerve to get one streak of bubblegum pink in my hair. I’d totally rock it.

I have to wonder if people would make a conscious effort to change their behaviors if they knew they were under the microscope, so to speak. The person who enters a store (or exits) only to stand in everyone else’s way while they, what, collect their bearings? Interesting. Or the not-so-happy family at Disneyland, that are spending their precious quality time screaming at each other, instead of enjoying their vacation. (Okay, admission: Hubby and I people watch at the Disney parks and can’t help but giggle when we discover one of these free shows.) 😉 I know. We’re terrible people.

People watching has its disadvantages too. The guy picking his nose at the stop light? Where’s my eye bleach? Wardrobe malfunctions. Litterers. It’s amazing what people will do when they don’t think anyone is paying attention.

kittywatching

And then there are the moments worth watching out for. The ‘pay it forward’ moments that make you tear up and give you the warm fuzzies. Folks treating each other with kindness. Reaching out a helping hand. Offering up a friendly smile and a hello. Parent/child bonding. Human/pet bonding. Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good dog-spoiling moment.

bonding
Even if I’m not jotting things down in my handy-dandy notebook, you can be sure I’m taking it all in and filing it away for future reference. Whoever said “Life is not a spectator sport.” didn’t know any authors. So if you walk past me on the street and I’m squinting at you, it’s not that I don’t like you. I’m just trying to decide which of your facial features would look best on my next hero or heroine. peoplewatching

Just remember, you never know when someone is studying your movements. Be kind. Look for a garbage can before you throw that wrapper on the ground. And for God’s sake – use a tissue! Just because you are in your car does not mean other people can’t see you. *shudder*

Okay, now it’s your turn. What is your favorite people watching moment? The good, the bad or the eye-bleach moments?

Book Reviews 101

reviewmeme3I made myself a New Years’ resolution this year that has been much easier to keep than dieting. It’s fun, it’s easy and it feels good. For every book I read, I leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s that simple. There have been one or two that I chose not to review, not because the author didn’t deserve a review, but because the author didn’t deserve a poor review. Some books just aren’t for us, and that’s okay. Some books probably could have used a lot more professional help getting them ready for publication. But as a fellow author, I don’t think it’s my place to chastise them in a public forum.

quoteIn talking to readers, I have found that the biggest reason they site for not leaving a review is fear of getting it wrong. They think there is a format. They must first summarize the book. Yes, several professional reviewers do this. No, it is not necessary. After all, that is what the book blurb is for, right? The gist of the review is to tell other readers what YOU thought of the book. Why did you like it? What didn’t work for you? Don’t give the ending away. That just spoils it for everyone. And don’t trash the author. They wrote that book out of love and passion for writing. So it wasn’t your thing. It still came from their heart. If you must express your misgivings, do it in as kind a way as possible. We’re all adults here.

A lot of readers don’t realize this, but the more reviews a book has, the more chances it has for marketing opportunities. Which is really unfair, but an established way of life. So the bestsellers, which don’t need any help, get all the promo spots, while the struggling mid-listers and those of us still in obscurity beg for reviews on the street corner. Authors can list their books with Ebook Soda and the Fussy Librarian if they have at least 10 reviews for their book. Know what? Out of five books I have on the market, ONE has enough reviews to actually list it with these email subscription sites. And those were mostly begged off friends and acquaintances. Heck, I’m not even qualified enough to tell you what an author with enough reviews can do for their books. The more reviews, the more possibilities to get your books before more readers.

wordofmouthI just finished a book last night. PARIS TIME CAPSULE, by Ella Carey. It was fabulous. And I want the world to know about it. So I wrote a review. http://www.amazon.com/review/R30M8U22S0TTUZ I posted it on Goodreads and Amazon. I pinned her book cover to my Pinterest page “Books I Recommend”. I tweeted the review link. Am I doing this for myself? No. But I felt passionately enough about how awesome that book was that I wanted others to discover it. I learned about it on Facebook when another author mentioned how she couldn’t put it down. Word of mouth, people. It’s the biggest marketing tool out there, and it starts with reviews.

reviewmeme1It’s simple, really. When you finish a book (preferably if you know you can give the author at least 4 stars), click “write your own review” on Amazon. Imagine you’re talking to a friend, telling them about this great book you just read. Why did you like it? What was a really unforgettable scene? Was it a character you absolutely fell in love with? Was it the author’s writing style? Did you want to keep turning the pages? Did you want to forgo sleep, hide from your family, ignore the household chores? Say that! It doesn’t have to be long and thought out. It just has to be honest. And no one cares if there are typos in your review. You are the reader, not the author. Something made you buy that book (or borrow it) and you’d be helping countless others if you shared your experience with them. There are SO many choices out there now. We need all the help we can get, as authors – to be discovered, as readers – to find the next great book escape.

Authors: Share your thoughts on what it means to receive a review for one of your books and help others to understand the importance of even the briefest review on Amazon.

Readers: If this doesn’t convince you to write at least one “test” review for a book you’ve read, tell us why. If I can’t help you craft a review you feel comfortable posting, I am sure there are countless others out there who can.

And to those of you who have ever taken the time to leave an author a review, thank you from the bottom of my heart.readingmeme

 

If I Could Write Anywhere

It’s summer. The kids are busy with their various camps. Folks are coming back with stories from Nationals. We aren’t due for our mini-vacation until the end of August. I’ve taken the summer off from writing to focus on the kids and a few projects around the house. But I’m restless. I want to write. I want to get away and write. So this morning I took a little virtual getaway to research some fun locales and play a game of “If Money Were No Object”. Here’s what I came up with:

Seriously, writing in peace would not be an issue here. Getting up the nerve to get in a tiny boat to row over, might be.

Seriously, writing in peace would not be an issue here. Getting up the nerve to get in a tiny boat to row over, might be.

I could spend all winter testing out the views from each window in this massive cabin.

I could spend all winter testing out the views from each window in this massive cabin.

I love reading books set in Ireland but never felt I could write one, never having been. Dump me off here and I have enough inspiration for a dozen books, at least!

I love reading books set in Ireland but never felt I could write one, never having been. Dump me off here and I have enough inspiration for a dozen books, at least!

And if we're going to exotic locales, Paris is a must for a romance author. Keep the cafe au laits coming, garcon!

And if we’re going to exotic locales, Paris is a must for a romance author. Keep the cafe au laits coming, garcon!

This would be perfect for my fairy series. If I sit quietly, who knows who might show up for a visit?

This would be perfect for my fairy series. If I sit quietly, who knows who might show up for a visit?

I'm not sure if I'd want to travel to this writing spot, or move in permanently. It's just...perfect.

I’m not sure if I’d want to travel to this writing spot, or move in permanently. It’s just…perfect.

Another pricey getaway, but well worth the $$$. Santorini views from a balcony. I'm picturing a tall, dark and tanned hero for the book written from this spot.

Another pricey getaway, but well worth the $$$. Santorini views from a balcony. I’m picturing a tall, dark and tanned hero for the book written from this spot.

And for a more permanent writer's retreat...a cabin for the backyard. I would LOVE going to work each morning!

And for a more permanent writer’s retreat…a cabin for the backyard. I would LOVE going to work each morning!

Write all morning, play all afternoon. Now *that* would be the life. Occupation: beach bum. I like the sound of that.

Write all morning, play all afternoon. Now *that* would be the life. Occupation: beach bum. I like the sound of that.

I don't know about this one. Part of me wants to write, but another part wants to curl up and read the day away. Ahhh...

I don’t know about this one. Part of me wants to write, but another part wants to curl up and read the day away. Ahhh…

What would your favorite writing retreat look like? Describe it in the comments. Or leave a photo. I’d love to see it.

It Must Be Monday – Summer Edition

mustbemonday4:58 AM: Amazon Fresh dropped off a grocery delivery on the front steps. It’s supposed to be “undisturbed”, but try telling that to our overprotective rescue pup. Does she wake the entire household with her barking? Nope, just me. It must be Monday.

“I can’t eat this cereal, it’s Daddy’s.” “I know it’s pink day at camp, but what if no one else is wearing hot pink, like me?” “Stop running around naked and put some clothes on.” “Did you know if you put tape on the dresser it will make it nice and shiny?” (Yep, tape all over the dresser.) It must be Monday.mbm

Two salami sandwiches, one with mayo and one with mustard. Can’t mix them up or no one will eat them. Meant to buy spill-proof water bottles over the weekend. Crap. Filling out camp paperwork at the last minute. It must be Monday.

“I have a tummy ache.” Why? “Because I swallowed the toothpaste.” You know better than to swallow toothpaste. “I know, but it tasted so good!” It must be Monday.mbm2

Why is there a slimy, gelatinous substance on the Lego I just found on my bedroom floor? And why am I touching it? I don’t want to know. Can I rewind the clock and do that last five minutes over differently? It must be Monday.

No clean shorts means creating a pair of cutoffs from a pair of holey jeans. Now youngest wants his shirt to match. Can I just cut the bottom off? No. Just a trim? No. It must be Monday.mbm3

Trying to talk the natural curlyhead into brushing her hair into some semblance of order. “It’s fine.” No, it’s actually kind of scary. “You’re so bossy.” It’s my job. It must be Monday.

“Can you help me put this bandaid on?” Why? You have no cut. “I know. But if I put it on, then if I run into something, it will already be protected.” It must be Monday.mondaycat

I need a laugh folks. Tell me your It Must Be Monday horror stories. Let’s help each other through another Monday.

Unplugging & Reconnecting

WP_20150704_001Our 4th of July routine usually involves staking out a spot on the parade route a day or so early, then lighting off fireworks and sparklers once it gets dark. But this year people started putting their chairs out along the town’s main street on June 26th. Seriously. Am I the only one who finds that obnoxious? It used to be the night before. And then it was the entire day before. But now… Nope. I’ll pass, thanks.

WP_20150704_003This year we decided to do something different. We packed a backpack with water and snacks, headed out the door bright and early and spent the day exploring Mt. Rainier. You guys — THIS is how you spend the 4th. The views are phenomenal. The crowds were minimal (compared to what we would have encountered at the parade). The air was fresh and clean. And the temperature was blessedly cooler than the heat wave we were going through in Seattle.

WP_20150704_013I was so excited to take pictures and hopefully find a little inspiration for my next series, set in the Pacific Northwest. But the best photo ops happen when you are unprepared, as I discovered when a deer came out to stand in front of our car less than five minutes from the park entrance. It was like she was saying “Welcome to the mountain, DeCuir family. Enjoy your visit.” By the time I was through gawking, hubby had honked his horn to get her to move along and I couldn’t scramble to grab my phone to take a picture fast enough.

WP_20150704_064Oh yeah, did I mention that my phone became a camera only, that day? There was no cell service up there, no wifi to tap into. I thought I’d get the shakes. I was taking some fantastic pictures, but I couldn’t upload them to Facebook. I had no access to my email or texting. I had no choice but to live in the moment. And I’m so glad I did.

We took the easy trails. The kids ran on ahead, searching for cougars and black bears. Hubby used the gnarled walking stick he bought a couple of years ago for hikes that we’d promised we would take but never did. Everyone had a favorite wildflower out of the varieties that grew so prolifically. We realized that we could take the exact same route at different times of the year and have an entirely different experience, depending on the season.

By the time we piled into the car at the end of the day, we were all covered head to toe in dust and dirt. We were exhausted and achy. But we were smiling and talking and, most importantly, happy. I thought the kids would grab their DS games and lose themselves in technology, once we got on the road. But they didn’t even touch them. We talked the whole ride home, about the day we’d had, the things we’d seen, the things we didn’t get to see but would like to go back for, the things we’d like to do over the rest of the summer…

It wasn’t the way we usually spend the 4th of July. It was better. We made memories that I hope the kids will be able to share with their own children some day.

What did you do for the 4th? Are you hardcore traditional, or do you like to mix it up? We need some ideas for next year. 😀

Blogger’s note: I uploaded a TON of pictures to wordpress. Either half of them came out sideways (and refused to let me turn them) or they were too big to insert in my post. Sigh. Apparently they are just not meant to be shared with the world. lol If you’d like to see more, I’ve added some to a Pinterest folder: https://www.pinterest.com/mzdecuir/research-photos/

Always My Hero – Release Week Fun

Now available on ereaders everywhere!

Now available on ereaders everywhere!

When I announced the cover to Always My Hero, I added a description about the characters. I’ve done excerpts on a couple of other author blogs, and will be sure to promote them as soon as they are up. So today I thought I’d do something different. Here are a few fun facts about Always My Hero, and Scallop Shores in general:

1.  My original idea for the Scallop Shores series involved three books. It wasn’t supposed to be about the town, so much as it was about three best friends. Trapped in Tourist Town was the first. Always My Hero was the second and the third was a half-formed idea that never quite took shape.

2.  To get a better feel for my characters, I posted pictures on a giant whiteboard on my desk. I’m still trying to figure out the name of the actor/model that I chose for Ryan. I’m posting the picture below, and if anyone knows, PLEASE enlighten me! Bree’s character I based on Alexis Bledel, Rory Gilmore if any of you are Gilmore Girls junkies.

Ryan33.  Always My Hero is the first book I’ve ever sold BEFORE I wrote it. It’s also the book that took the shortest amount of time to write. Amazing what a deadline will do for productivity.

4.  Wynter’s Journey is a re-write of the very first book I ever wrote, about ten years ago while we were still living in San Diego and baby #1 was napping. It was never meant to be part of the Scallop Shores series.

5.  Always My Hero was started when I was pregnant with baby #2, but when morning sickness took over, all writing fell by the wayside…for a few years.

6. Next year will mark twenty years since I have lived in Maine. Holy crap! We’re heading back for a wedding this fall and that will be the first time I’ve visited in almost seven years. So all my inspiration for Scallop Shores truly comes from memory. I imagine my hometown has grown considerably and that makes me so sad.

7.  If you’re planning on attending Emerald City Writers Conference this year, I will be donating a “Scallop Shores” themed basket that will have lots of goodies from my trip to Maine. (Sorry, no actual lobster, but maybe a stuffed animal?)

8.  I hate coming up with character names, street names, business names, etc. So if you went to York High School with me, or you are just from York, Maine, see if you recognize any of the names in my books. I never use full names of anyone I actually knew. So thank you to all those who helped me get over that pesky naming hurdle.

9.  I had originally named the series “Lobster Cove”. I LOVED that name. But then my editor discovered a real town in Maine with the same name and it caused inconsistencies with my first book, Drawn to Jonah. Apparently the real Lobster Cove was a lot farther away from New York City and could not be reached in the four hours I said it took by car. Dang. So I held a contest on Facebook and chose a new name. The winner got her name listed in the acknowledgements in Drawn to Jonah. Sigh. I still miss Lobster Cove.

10.  There are several sexy new bachelors introduced in Always My Hero, leaving an opening for more books in this series. If you read the book, I’d love to know who you’d want to see getting the next Scallop Shores book.

So did you learn anything new? Did you have a question about Scallop Shores, or about writing Always My Hero that didn’t get answered? Leave it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Examining My Bucket List

bucketlistThe kids and I were in the car the other day and pull up next to a convertible at a red light. “Now THAT is on my bucket list,” I sighed. “What’s a bucket list?” My six year old wanted to know. “A list of things you want to do before you die,” volunteered his sister. Which naturally led us into a discussion on what we’d add to our bucket lists.

I should probably add that the ideal place to ride in a convertible would be the shore.

I should probably add that the ideal place to ride in a convertible would be the shore.

#1 – Now let me clarify – I do not want to own a convertible. I just want to ride in one. 43 years old and I have never ridden in a car with the top down. I think there is something very sad about that. So if anyone out there has a convertible, lives nearby and wouldn’t be mortified to see me waving my arms in the air and laughing like a lunatic, can I hitch a ride?

This also makes me want to go back to Hawaii.

This also makes me want to go back to Hawaii.

#2 – And this one has been on my bucket list since I was a kid. I want to swim with the dolphins. Seriously, how cool would that be? Their skin looks so slippery. They are incredibly intelligent. They rescue humans in the ocean. And this one isn’t as hard to achieve as one would think. We were just in Hawaii in April. Had we wanted to spend the money and the time, we could have looked up a place for a nice little meet and greet with Flipper. Some day I’ll get the whole family on board and we’ll say ‘screw it’ to the expense. You only live once.

Breathtaking, isn't it?

Breathtaking, isn’t it?

#3 – Okay, the next item is SUPER expensive and really hard for me to justify the expense. I want to ride in a hot air balloon. Just once in my life because, quite frankly, it might end up terrifying me. But the views! OMG. I almost crossed this one off ten years ago. Then we found out I was pregnant with my daughter. First time pregnancy jitters had me nixing this as too dangerous. Yeah, totally regret that now.

Now you all want to go out and hug a panda, don't you?

Now you all want to go out and hug a panda, don’t you?

#4 – Another animal theme here. Both kids have expressed an interest in working as a vet. I jumped on this one! “Okay, so here’s what you do: you go to vet school and instead of opening your own practice or working with boring cats and dogs, you work with exotic animals.” “Why?” they want to know. “Because then you can get a job at a zoo. Once you work at a zoo, you can invite your old mom in to cuddle babies.” Lions, tigers, pandas, chimps… I’m not picky. I just want to hold an exotic animal. What? Too weird? They were rolling their eyes at me too. Sigh.

So there are some of my bucket list items, some easier to cross off than others. Little Guy wants to eat ice cream every day for the rest of his life. Big Sis put “get published” on her bucket list. Yes! That’s my girl. 😀 What’s on your bucket list? Leave it in the comments below. The three of us are always looking for new and exciting ideas.

 

Giving Myself Permission To Be A Kid

300003aLast summer I was under deadline to finish a book. This past fall I signed a new contract that kept me busy through April. Then in May I got the bright idea to submit a story for a collection whose deadline was ridiculously too close for comfort. Deadlines = stress. They also create a crazy writer mom – just ask my kids. Sure, they love when I order pizza for dinner. But they prefer to eat that pizza with a loving, snuggling mother, not a distracted animal who may or may not bite.

I had planned to write a Christmas anthology over the summer. A self-imposed deadline this time. I also have three different series at various stages of plotting, inside my head. It can wait. It can all wait. My ideas aren’t going anywhere. In fact, the longer I wait, the more insistent they will become to jump out of my head and onto the screen. Anticipation can be a good thing.3000038

Instead of writing this summer, I am giving myself permission to take these precious few weeks off. I’m going to spend time with my kiddos. I’m going to look at life through their eyes. Yeah, I’ll still do laundry and cook dinner. Can’t get away from some adult responsibilities. And I’ll take advantage of other adult perks–like being able to drive us to our next adventure.WP_20150621_003

I think we’ve gotten off to a great start. We’ve created fairy gardens for the front yard. We built a sand castle and discovered a hermit crab and some freaky gelatinous substance that may or may not have been alive. We’ve charted new trails at the park that must be explored. We rode the Ferris Wheel on the Seattle waterfront. And we went out for ice cream.icecream

The kids are signed up for some summer camps. Last year I would have used this time to hole up in a coffee shop and write my heart out. This year I’m recharging my creative batteries. I have no idea WHAT I’ll do with my free time. But it will be relaxing and fun and something that I can look back on once I’m in my writing groove with fond memories, knowing I made great use of my time. A blanket, my Kindle and a quiet trail in the woods – perfect! Watching the dog stick her head out the car window in absolute bliss while we go for a summer drive – even better!

When the kids go back to school and I go back to work, the creative juices will be flowing. I’ll have all kinds of new memories to be able to use in one of my books someday. And maybe I won’t take on quite so many writing projects for the following school year. Because, like my children, I’m not a big fan of Crazy Writer Mom either.

How about you? What are your big plans for this summer? Anything that is making your inner child jump up and down with glee?

Cover Reveal: Always My Hero

Drumroll please…

I’d like to introduce you to the newest hero of Scallop Shores. Ryan Pettridge. Back in high school he was the town superstar, taking the Wildcats all the way to State – and winning. He received a scholarship to UCLA. Everyone thought he was headed for the NFL. Then he hurt his knee and his football career was over before it started. Ryan spent the next thirteen years hiding in Southern California, working as an accountant, hiding behind a desk. Anything to keep from being reminded of one of his greatest loves – football.

But then his father had a stroke and Ryan was forced out of hiding. He came home to run the family hardware store. His plan was to sell the place, set his parents up for a comfortable retirement and get back to CA before drawing too much attention from the townsfolk who always treated him as a town hero. He didn’t deserve their accolades. He’d failed to become the hometown celebrity they seemed to think he was.

And of course there was Bree. He’d failed her worse than anyone else in town. He’d given her his heart and, more importantly, taken hers in return. And then he’d left, never to come back. Ryan didn’t deserve a second chance with Bree, but the more time he spent with her, the more he found himself wondering what could have been. If he could be anyone’s hero, he’d be hers. Because when the former football quarterback gave his heart to the shy bookworm whose tutoring helped keep him on the team, he gave it for life.

Coming June 29th to ereaders everywhere!

Coming June 29th to e-readers everywhere!

So what do you think? A bit of a departure from my other covers, right? When you read the book, you’ll see it ties in a lot more than you realize. 😉 Curious? Always My Hero releases June 29th from Crimson Romance.

Counting Down To Summer Vacation-Can We Stop The Clock?

Help Button“Mommy, how many days until we get out of school for the summer?”

Pshhh, ages and ages. I check the calendar. Less than six weeks. Okay, don’t panic. Don’t let them see you’re scared. Where the heck did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was doing the ‘back-to-school’ dance all through my blissfully empty house.

Back in September I had just submitted a book proposal to my publisher. I had a clear cut schedule of the days I would write, my day to volunteer in the kids’ classrooms and a day to run errands. I had everything neatly written in a calendar. I had a system. I had a plan.But once the kids get out of school for the summer, my plan gets turned on its ear and I need to push myself that much harder to get my word count in each day.summermeme

Now don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my kids. I’m a little obsessive about getting out of the house with them and making memories that they’ll be able to share with their own children some day. My own mother suffered from agoraphobia while I was growing up. This meant that she preferred to remain in the safety and comfort of her own home. It meant my sisters and I had to look for things to occupy us within our neighborhood. We couldn’t afford summer camps. One week out of the summer, our friends’ mom would drive us each morning to bible camp. So when my kids start to utter a whiny “I’m bored”, I probably take it a little too personally.

Last year I spent a lot of time tweaking and scheduling so that I had camps lined up for both littles–at exactly the same time. Makes sense, right? I actually got a decent amount of writing in that summer. This year I went with a different approach. I consulted the kids and let them choose the summer camps they wanted to attend, not giving a flip whose landed on what week. So, while most weeks are filled with some sort of camp (mostly of the three hour variety), only one week has them going at the same time. Which means that I’ll drop one child off for a fun day or afternoon filled with activities, socialization and some sort of take home craft to display, and one child will remain with me…bored.kidsbeingbored

Which brings me back to the ‘pushing myself’ bit. And the obsessive mom trying to make sure her kids are having fun. I wish I could say that I am flexible enough to write whenever. Midnight, and the rest of the house is asleep? No problem! But my creative brain turns on about six AM and turns off about…aw heck, five PM. So yeah, I’ll be the dork mom on the playground, sitting at the picnic table with my laptop, hoping that if my child falls off the equipment, they can drag themselves over and somehow pull me out of my scene in order to let me know we need to pack up and head to the emergency room. I’ll get hateful looks from the involved moms who remembered to pack snacks, apply sunscreen and actually chat among themselves. But the alternative is forcing my kid to find something to do at home, which gives me mommy-guilt hives that I refuse to deal with. It’s a trade off.

Will I do this every single weekday during the summer months? Heck no! They’re only young once. Just as I get obsessed about needing to fulfill my word count, I also dig in my heels and find excuses not to write. If the weather is gorgeous, I’ll pack ’em up and head to the beach. Maybe take a ferry ride across the sound. Ice cream is always a great way to make summer memories, especially if we’ve had to drive a bit to get to someplace we’ve never tried before. The zoo is always a favorite destination. All work and no play makes a dull mom. And I may come out of it with another book, but I’ll have lost the memories my kids spent making with everyone else. It’s all about striking a balance. I’m trying to let the kiddos take the reins this year and hoping that we all get what we want out of this summer vacation. And trying not to panic.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

 

A Writer Mom’s Special Day

momsdayI was told to bring a book to bed last night, to read in the morning. I was not allowed to get up until I was served breakfast in bed. Now given that the kids know chocolate is my favorite food in the world, I was a little nervous about what to expect on my breakfast tray this morning. However, the actual menu was a lot tamer than the one I had imagined. Toast, marionberry jam and strawberries. And they figured out how to use my Keurig machine! I wish I’d had a camera to capture their expressions as they carried it in. They were so proud! I’m choosing to ignore that they put four packets of sweetener in, when I use half of one. I carried on like it was the best coffee I’d ever had. Because seeing those little faces grinning so big, it WAS the best coffee I’d ever experienced.

Nope. This was not their actual creation. ;)

Nope. This was not their actual creation. 😉

Little Guy couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to give me my gift. At school they’d made seed paper hearts that could be planted in the soil and would grow all sorts of wildflowers. He also couldn’t wait for ME to plant my own seeds. He did it for himself yesterday, when I wasn’t looking. And then set up his own fairy garden–right.on.top. Sigh. Gotta love his enthusiasm.

Hubby thinks my restaurant choice for Mother’s Day was a bit odd. But hey, he’s a last-minute-reservations kind of guy and he was shocked that no one else had made reservations yet for this place. It’s an Irish pub in downtown Seattle, very close to Pike’s Place Market. The best part? It’s supposedly haunted! How cool is that? We’ve never been. I’m dying (is that an insensitive choice of words?) to check it out. Spirits, you’ve got a believer in your midst, come out, come out, wherever you are!

Doesn't look so scary, huh?

Doesn’t look so scary, huh?

So while today promises to be chaotic and full of adventure, I treated myself to a blissfully quiet lunch at a garden cafe yesterday, followed by a stroll through the local nursery. I snagged a Star Blooming Jasmine and a dwarf raspberry bush for my ever-growing collection of plants that may or may not live to see this time next year. And while I spent some quality time by myself (not writing!), Hubby took the kids to the mall – a place he avoids like the plague – because Big Sis told him exactly what I wanted for Mother’s Day and was able to guide him to just the right stores. God bless this 10 year old – she KNOWS how to shop! Even hubby was impressed.

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

All you moms out there… birth moms, adoptive moms, grandmoms, fur baby moms, moms of the heart and dads filling in as moms AND dads… all of you, enjoy your special day. Heck, enjoy every day with your loved ones. Make memories and show them all how much you love them. And now I’m weepy…again. I’m a walking Hallmark commercial today. And I’m off to have cuppa number two (with a bit less sweetener).

Author Swag – Promote Your Brand

This stuff's for keeps!

This stuff’s for keeps!

It’s that time again. Conference season is gearing up. Whether it’s RWA Nationals, RT, RomCon, Romanticon, ECWC or any of the numerous reader and writer events throughout the year, now is the time to figure out your budget for swag. You don’t have to plan to attend, either. If you can’t afford the conference fee, consider donating swag to the goody bags and giveaway tables. Your brand can travel the globe, even if you can’t be there to hand it out.

Many conferences have started to “go green”, meaning they will no longer accept paper items, such as bookmarks, trading cards and book covers. But it doesn’t mean they won’t accept ANY paper. Think outside the box! Door hangers, notepads, sticky notes – if it’s useful and reuseable – it’s acceptable.

A yummy recipe and a spiral notebook

 A yummy recipe and a spiral notebook

And while you’re thinking outside that box, here’s your chance to really stand out. Lots of people donate pens. Think useful but think UNIQUE. You want to be the author whose swag stuck out and people remember for years to come. Write erotica? How about condoms with your brand on them? Definitely one of the more memorable pieces of swag I remember seeing. (Sorry, no picture here – had to ditch that one before the kiddos got into my goody bag in their search for chocolate.)

If you have the budget for it, there are lots of reasonably priced places to find promotional items that you can customize to suit your own brand. 4imprint, epromos, positive promotions and even Staples offer a range of products that will help your brand reach more people. Magnets, clips, water bottles, binders, stress balls, you name it. Choose something conference attendees are going to want to hang on to.

So many choices!

So many choices!

My first foray into author swag was more of a DIY project. The little girl in my debut novel loved fairies and fairy gardens. So I put together a seed packet with my cover on it. I bought a large jug of seeds at Home Depot. I found a place online that sold little white envelopes in bulk. I ordered stickers with my cover on them from Staples. Then I called on a group of friends, had a seed stuffing party and voila! (Make sure you make it worthwhile by feeding your helpers. I ordered pizza.) Uniquely me, and hopefully something that the attendees of ECWC 2013 still remember. 😉

My DIY swag

My DIY swag

Think about your brand. What would best represent it? Are your characters chefs, bakers, etc? One author gave away pie servers. Very memorable! One author always includes dogs in her books. She donated the most adorable stuffed animal dogs with her logo on a tag around their collar. There are so many things we can do. We’re authors–imagination is our forte!

I’ll even tell you about my own idea for this year–if you promise not to steal it. I write sweet, small-town romances. So, I thought sweet … chocolate! Get it? I’ll be ordering some personalized M&M’s. It’s so awesome, because I can carry my brand further. I am all about pink and they have a few shades. Woot! They have the most amazing business card cases that you can fill with the M&M’s, but that’s entirely out of my budget. But I’m handy. I’ll figure out a way to package them and make them look pretty for the goody bags.

So come up with your swag pieces that scream your brand in a bold and memorable way. And then come find me. Yeah, you had to know I had my own agenda in here somewhere, right? I’m the 2015 Goody Bag chair for the Emerald City Writers Conference. If you’d like to donate to ECWC’s goody bags, email me at: ecwcgoodiebags@gmail.com.

For some more great ideas on author swag, check out Carmen Cook’s blog posts on author swag ideas from RWA Nationals and ECWC:

http://carmencooknovels.blogspot.com/2013_08_01_archive.html

http://carmencooknovels.blogspot.com/search?q=swag

http://carmencooknovels.blogspot.com/search?q=rwa+nationals+swag

http://carmencooknovels.blogspot.com/search?q=rwa+nationals+swag&max-results=20&by-date=true

Got enough ideas to get you started? Okay, now go forth and be creative! Bring me something amazing. I’ll be waiting. 😀

 

 

Learning Life Lessons From My Children

reminderSometimes we get into a funk over discouraging news or things that didn’t work out exactly how we’d expected them to. Just because we aren’t kids anymore doesn’t mean we won’t pout over times that didn’t go our way. I was having one of those pity-parties-for-one when my 10 year old helped me realize there was a different way to look at the situation.

Writing is hard. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. And that’s just to get the book out. Then add in the promoting and marketing of the book, of your brand. It seems petty to whine that it will likely be many years before I qualify for PAN, when some authors are still struggling to get that first book published. So today I am going to write myself a list to remind myself why I am grateful to be an author.gratitude

1.  I get to do what I have dreamed about since I was in 8th grade – tell my stories. I’m going to concentrate on continuing to tell them to the best of my ability and not worry about who is actually reading them.

2.  The excitement and joy that comes with a new story idea is a heady rush. It fades over time, so it’s important to remember the feeling — because it will come again — and it is amazing.

3.  I am meeting so many great people that I never would have met if it hadn’t been for being published with Crimson. And while I may never meet some of them in person, just talking with them on social media has made a huge impact in my life.

4.  I have an outlet for my weirdness. I get to be an introvert and not have to make excuses for it. I can embrace it. 😀 And there are others like me!

5.  My work clothes are whatever I happen to have on — which on most mornings is a bathrobe or pjs. How many people can say that?

6.  I do not have a work commute unless I CHOOSE to leave the house and head for the nearest Starbucks, Panera or Cafe Ladro. And this excursion would cost me maybe a ten minute drive at most.

7.  Release day. It’s like my birthday, Christmas and every holiday rolled into one. I have memorized all my books’ release dates – they are my book babies, after all.

8.  Covers. Whenever I get depressed about sales (or lack of sales), I go to my Amazon author page and look at all the pretty covers. Those are mine and no one can take them away from me.

9.  Swag. I get to design cool stuff to give away to readers. And readers LOVE free stuff. And giving stuff away makes me feel good. Giving it away in person forces me to interact with people — and that’s a very good thing.

10.  I can Google/Bing myself. How awesome is that? I have made some amazing discoveries doing internet searches of myself. 😉 Seriously. Someone made a video of one of my books and posted it on YouTube. I wouldn’t have had a clue if I hadn’t come across it on a search engine. Made. My. Friggin’. Month!

*** And most of all, I am grateful for the support of my family. Their love and enthusiasm keep me inspired. Their patience when I am under deadline and serving cold sandwiches or cereal for the third night in a row humbles me. I couldn’t do it without you guys. Hugs, sloppy kisses and hey, I’m gonna cook you a proper meal tonight! <3happy

Procrastinators Unite — Some Day.

procrastination

Are you a doer…or a procrastinator? It’s okay to admit you’re the latter. In fact, I hope you will — because that’s what I am. There are levels, and limits, don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit around playing Candy Crush all day. I’m the type that will do all sorts of productive things to get myself out of the things I really SHOULD be doing. I can go on a marathon laundry spree, if it gets me out of the phone calls I am supposed to be making.

If I can put it off indefinitely, I will. The cats have destroyed the couch and love seat downstairs. To the point where they live INSIDE the couch. It’s done. Time to haul them to the dump. I’ve been saying that for the last three years. This will be the year. Yup. Uh huh.

I’ve been getting notices for years that we don’t have enough coverage on our house. If it burned down tomorrow, we’d be screwed. But unless that letter from the insurance company is tacked to my forehead, I won’t remember to call and update that.panic

Now there are things with deadlines that I don’t have a choice but to address. Taxes? Just a few days ago I gathered all the paperwork we have in the house into a file. Now it’s hubby’s turn. Oh, did you think I procrastinated alone? Nope. It’s a family thing. 😀

Summer camp forms. Medical release forms. Pulling out my credit card and typing all that info in again and again. Why?!? To give the kids some semblance of a summer vacation that they’ll be able to look back on with somewhat fond memories. To give me a brief respite from the needling and bickering that would otherwise be driving me toward a Mommy ‘time out’. And as worthy as this is, Holy Mother of God, I’d rather have a root canal!lazymeme

I’ve been meaning to get the mortgage refinanced. Again, been saying this for years. But it means gathering all the right materials and making a (potentially long) phone call. Maybe I just have a phobia of talking to people on the phone. Could it be that simple? Nah. I’m just lazy.

How about you? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. What would you rather put off? And what do you instead? (Hey, I could be missing out on some valuable procrastination fun!) We’re all in this crazy thing called life together. 😀

10 Things About Me (the Author Me)

There. I differentiated. That means I have a whole other blog post (or two – I could split it into 10 things about me as a person and 10 things about me as a mother.) Woot! Hey, thinking up blog material is hard stuff! 😉 So today’s list is strictly things about the writer side of my life. (Does that make it sound like I have multiple personalities? Hey, I’m a writer – I DO have multiple personalities!)

At my first book signing last summer.

At my first book signing last summer.

Here we go:

1. The first piece I ever submitted was a short story for Woman’s World magazine. I *wish* they’d used form letters back then. Brutal!
2. I’ve been known to dream entire novels in my sleep (and they are DARK!). Nothing I’d write because they really are disturbing and not sweet, happy-ever-after books, so why I dream them, not really sure.
3. When I get stuck and need inspiration, I head to the shower. Something about the water drumming on my head gets my ideas going again. I even have my handy dandy Aqua Notes so I never miss a thought.


4. At a book signing for Dean Koontz, I asked that he sign it “good luck with your writing.” To which he started a discussion. OMG! Super nice guy and he very sincerely wished me luck.


5. I used to write *NSYNC fan fiction. I turned one of those into a full length novel and sold it to Crimson Romance. Five of Hearts is my best selling book to date. And I thought I was the only one who’d go for it. Still amazes me…


6. My dad had this weird policy that he would never read a book by a woman author. So when I was a kid, I made it my mission to get published one day, so that I would be the FIRST woman author he ever read. Unfortunately, he passed away before I got my first contract, but I’d like to believe I would have been the one to change his mind.


7. While I love my work space at home, I have been known to write in the car, at gymnastics, basketball practices, every coffee shop in town and nearly anywhere I have to play chauffeur for the kids. Having ‘littles’ makes me flexible, I guess.

8. When it came time to discuss whether or not I would choose a pen name, hubby reminded me that our last name is already recognizable in the Hollywood community (my father-in-law was the production designer on Top Gun, Ghostbusters and Sister Act, to name a few. And my grandfather-in-law won Oscars for his set design work on The King and I, Cleopatra and more.) He insisted I didn’t want to risk offending anyone by NOT using my married name proudly. So there ya go.

Big Sis spending time with Great-Granddad, Big John's, Oscar.

Big Sis spending time with Great-Granddad, Big John’s, Oscar.

9. I have been writing romance for about ten years now, with a niche in small town contemporary,  on the sweet side with a cast of quirky characters that you’d love to spend time with if you knew them in person. However, I have been obsessed with fairies for almost as long. And I have a series brewing in my head, to that end. Part of me is incredibly excited to start working on something so completely different. And part of me is looking for any excuse NOT to embark on an adventure so far out of my comfort zone.

10. Hubby is incredibly supportive of my writing and my latest celebrity boyfriends. When I was writing Five of Hearts and he knew I was using a photo of Chris Hemsworth for inspiration, he bought me a Thor action figure to place on my desk. When he learned I also had a thing for Chris Evans as another certain Marvel superhero, I discovered a Captain America flash drive in my stocking that Christmas. Love him (the hubby). He’s a keeper!

This guy has a special spot on my desk.

This guy has a special spot on my desk.

Saving the day - one manuscript at a time.

Saving the day – one manuscript at a time.

So that’s a little bit about the writer side of me. Yeah, I stole the first seven directly off my Facebook page. But we have already established that I am lazy, so there ya go. Kudos to everyone that got through the whole post. You rock! Anything completely surprise you? Anything you expected to see but didn’t? I’d love to hear from you.

Throwback Thursday – Big Sis Edition

I bought a journal a couple of weeks ago that you’re supposed to take turns filling out with your daughter. It’s an amazing way to open up, to share thoughts and feelings without any of the awkwardness. Yesterday I was filling out the page on “firsts”. So since today is already a dedicated theme day on most social media sites, I thought I’d use this blog post to reminisce about my baby girl.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

I highly recommend this journal to mothers of daughters.

So where to start down memory lane? Have I ever mentioned she was a preemie? Five weeks early, anxious to get a jump start on Christmas, was our only guess. And she was such a little scrapper that she only spent four hours in the NICU. I’m here. I’m ready. Now take me home.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

She was so tiny I dressed her in a costume from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

In looking through photos, I realize I have a lot more memories I want to share than I really have room to blather on about. Not sure what blog layout protocol is, but I’m going to use the photo captions to tell the story. My blog – my style. ;P Here we go:

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Ever the resourceful child, she turned the back of a chair into an art easel.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Last formal portrait before her brother was born? I was terrible at having those done.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn't stick.

Dance class. One of many extracurriculars that didn’t stick.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

This was Chimp. Her first best friend. Came with girl clothes that she quickly ditched because SHE was really a HE.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

One of the only girls in her pre-K class, she insisted on being a bride for Halloween. She had the boys fighting over her that year.

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes... I do NOT miss this stage. ;)

Ah, the graffiti artist stage. Her furniture, her clothes… I do NOT miss this stage. 😉

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

1st day of kindergarten. My brave little baby was growing up.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

One and only basketball season. Spent most of her time on the court hugging her teammates.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Dressing up for the renaissance faire. One of the things I miss most about her growing up is no more dress up time.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

Crazy cat ladies have to start somewhere, right? She loves ours and they love her right back.

 

The Second Child Syndrome

Big Sis and Little Guy

Big Sis and Little Guy

I was weeding out paperwork over the recycle bin the other day (read: tossing kindergarten homework) when I realized something. I’d put together a box – a big put-together-style box from Staples of adorable artwork and first writing projects, etc from Big Sis. Starting in preschool and going through first grade (because, truly, after that it’s just not quite as cute anymore).  But I had never done the same thing for Little Guy.

Yep... facepalm moment.

Yep… facepalm moment.

The only thing that is saving me in this situation is the fact that I am slightly behind on the paperwork weeding. The stuff I was doing before? That was just to clear off the kitchen table. But the desk, the filing cabinet, the microwave cart? Well, let’s just say I hope to have a boxful for him once I get all that sorted through.

But this leads me to examine what other things I’ve slacked on with the youngest that I went all out on with the oldest. She got Mommy and Me classes. He did not. She got story times at Barnes & Noble. He got… a couple of them. She got trips to the toy store and the bookstore to buy awesome new things to play with. He got…to play with the hand-me-down toys and listen to the chewed-on, colored-over picture books.

I kept a journal with each of them, including milestones from their first three years. (Though his is decidedly thinner.) And I did manage to take as many (if not more) photos of him as I did with her. Though that could be because I’m obsessed with documenting the cute moments and camera phone technology is a lot better now. 😉 But I swear we only dig out the digital camera for our one family vacation per year and Christmas morning. So, thank God for those cameras in our phones!

When Big Sis was a baby, it was just the two of us all day. I saw everything. I marveled at all the changes, all the milestones. Do you know who caught Little Guy rolling over for the first time? Big Sis. She had to tell me after the fact. I missed it.

Double facepalm moment.

Double facepalm moment.

Life goes fast. They come home so tiny and helpless and then the next thing you know, they are tugging their hand out of yours and telling you not to embarrass them in public. (Sorry, kiddo – I’m your mom – it’s my job.) I think a portion of today is going to be spent weeding through paperwork to get to the cute stuff. I need a reminder of my Little Guy when he wasn’t quite such a pro at reading and writing. When he couldn’t count to one hundred backwards or list dozens of random facts about the presidents. I need to make sure I’ve got plenty of memory-joggers to keep me company when my Little Guy is all grown up with little guys and gals of his own.

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I'm slacking!

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I’m slacking!