Home Away From Home

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7655151673We’re a Disney family. Fanatics. Junkies. Addicts. Hubby and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World. In fact, we bought ourselves the most generous (and yet practical) wedding gift ever – we bought in to the Disney Vacation Club. We wanted to give our children the same love of the magic and wonder that we feel whenever we visit the parks.

welcomehomeNow here’s the thing. We get people who ask us all the time, “You’re going to Disney World… again? Didn’t you just go last year?” Yes and yes. Sure, we switch it up a little. One year we surprised the kids with a Valentine’s trip to Disneyland. Twice now, we’ve vacationed at Aulani in Hawaii. And pre-kids, hubby and I stayed at Disneyland Paris, taking the train into the city each day. Talk about amazing!

wdwJust because we visit Disney World over and over doesn’t mean it’s the same experience every time. We try out different times of the year. We never do the parks in the same order. We always try to do at least one thing we’ve never done before. And there are things we could never anticipate, that make it that much more special.

One memorable year hubby and I visited the ER in Celebration, FL, Disney’s own town (and nearest hospital) when stubborn baby #1 gave us a scare in utero. Turns out I was severely dehydrated. Fast forward 18 months and the same baby is now an entertaining toddler, drawing a crowd at a jumping fountain in Animal Kingdom. She’s since grown quite shy, and hates it when we point out her “spot”, though the dancers at Raglan Road did manage to get her up on stage for a quick lesson in Irish step dancing.

Down for the count.  He held out much longer than expected.

Down for the count. He held out much longer than expected.

I remember every bench, ride and occasional restaurant where I held a napping child. I remember the scraped knee in front of the Great Movie Ride. I remember the Mickey topiary at the Wilderness Lodge that our oldest had to say goodbye to before we could depart. I remember getting the flu and hubby running to the park entrance for a wheelchair for me to get me back to Boardwalk. (Yeah, I yakked somewhere along the way.) I remember my first visit back after weigh loss surgery made it possible to walk through the ride turnstiles without getting stuck.

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We were taking a sit break in the Italy pavilion when I checked my email and learned that my publisher wanted to buy Wynter’s Journey. One year we celebrated hubby’s birthday by doing the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. How blown away was I when they handed the adults trick or treat bags too? And they gave out the GOOD stuff! Reeses, Milky Ways, M&M’s. We saw our first (and probably only) armadillo at Wilderness Lodge one year. So freaking cool! Seriously, every year brings an entirely unique experience.

sundaeThis year was a milestone for our youngest. He was tall enough to go on ALL the rides. He was brave enough to try out Space Mountain (hated it), Rockin’ Rollercoaster (loved it) and Kali River Rapids (went on once w/o us). We spent a down day at Typhoon Lagoon, a first for us as a family. OMG, the sand pail sundae! It’s early spring, so we spotted dozens of baby ducks. Oh, the feels! Youngest tried so hard to catch one of the speedy lizards that are so plentiful. And I cannot say enough about the Flower and Garden Festival.rollercoaster

Will we go next year? Well that’s a big “duh”! Because guess what? RWA Nationals is being held at the Swan and Dolphin. Score! Way to mix business with pleasure. (Can you say tax write-off?)

Are you a huge Disney fan? Do you go year after year? What do you tell folks when they ask why? And last of all – do you have any favorite vacation photos that you’d like to share in the comments? I LOVE seeing families enjoying Disney World as much as my family does.

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.

 

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Whoever came up with the quote “Never judge a book by its cover” should have saved themselves the effort. ‘Cause, seriously, we all do it. There are SO many books on the market now. New releases and books that have been out for years. It would be great if we had the time to diligently read the backs, the book blurbs and the reviews. But we don’t have time. So the easiest way to sort through endless titles for something that looks promising to us, is covers.

I write small town contemporary romance. When I first envisioned possible covers for my Scallop Shores series, I thought I’d get something along the line of Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, a glimpse of the town, maybe a peek at the shoreline, that sort of thing. But unless you actually ARE Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, you don’t really get a say in how your covers are designed.

Crimson Romance told me they had a uniform “look” for their contemporary line. Okay. I get that. My first book, Drawn to Jonah, featured an okay looking guy with an adorable kid on the cover. He looked preppy and much older than the guy I’d written about. Not at all how I pictured Jonah, but this was my first book and I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted.

Pretend he's younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt - 'cause he's a handyman.

Pretend he’s younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt – ’cause he’s a handyman.

Five of Hearts came out and while again, the guy on the cover did not match MY version of Dean Patterson, this guy was pretty hot. Sales for FoH were doing much better than sales for DTJ. Was it the cover, or was it the fact that it was a new release? I needed more info.

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No doubt this guy is hot, but I was picturing longer, sun-bleached blond hair. But he’ll do. He’ll do nicely.

 

Two months later, Wynter’s Journey was released. The original cover they gave me had a couple embracing, and while that was great, the man was SO ugly I burst into tears upon seeing the mock up. They replaced it with a picture of a red head standing alone. I felt it did a much better job representing the story of a woman embracing her new independent life and all the choices that came with it. However, sales for WJ were dismal at best. Was it the story line or the cover?

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She looks confident, ready to take on the world. I had hoped that would resonate with women readers, but… not so much.

 

In the meantime, I was busy cranking out my next book, and didn’t have any more new releases in 2014. So I could sit back and study the sales without wondering if the order it came on the market had any effect. It became more than clear that FoH was the best selling of any of my books. By far. And to be honest, I think that story is the most “out there”, in terms of story lines. He used to be in a boy band, for crying out loud! I really didn’t think that would interest anyone but me. Go figure.

Then I got the cover artwork for my latest release, Trapped in Tourist Town. I cried tears of joy this time! It featured the lighthouse from the town I grew up in. This book was the nearest and dearest to my heart and the cover was the perfect representation of that. And people dig lighthouses, right? They’ll see that gorgeous cover and ‘one click’ like mad people, right? Wrong.

Maybe if I hadn't hidden his cute face behind a camera???

Maybe if I hadn’t hidden his cute face behind a camera???

January sales for Five of Hearts beat out the new release of Trapped. February sales beat it out by FAR. So now I’m convinced it is the cover of FoH that is selling the book.

And with that in mind, I will push for a hot guy on the cover of my June release, Always My Hero. Because readers do judge a cover. And in this over saturated market, I need to find a way to compete. Unfortunately, I’ve set a precedent and my sweet books just wouldn’t look right with a shirtless man (more’s the pity!) on the cover. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a smokin’ hot guy to play the role of Ryan Pettridge, ex-football quarterback and single dad. Let’s see if Ryan can beat Dean for top spot in Scallop Shores’ hottest heroes.

I've had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.

I’ve had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.

Pinterest – Time Suck or Lifesaver?

I’ll admit when a friend first told me about Pinterest, I didn’t understand the concept. (Which is probably why I haven’t done anything with my Tumblr and Instagram accounts yet.) Pin photos to various boards. Why? Though I’ll admit, going through all the pretty pictures was a lot of fun.

Where else can I tell the world about my love of all things pumpkin spice?

Where else can I tell the world about my love of all things pumpkin spice?

Then I set up boards for Scallop Shores and each of my books as they came out. I started to realize that Pinterest had a very real value for me. I could show people how I view my characters and my fictitious town. It was a way of turning my books into a 3-D reality. It made them…more real. At least that’s what I hoped. I realize every reader is welcome to their own interpretations and that’s great. But if I can show them exactly how I visualized something, that could help immerse them in the book, right?

Downtown Scallop Shores, complete with Civil War monument.

Downtown Scallop Shores, complete with Civil War monument.

 

And what about real life? The family’s got to eat, right? If you’ve read any of my early posts, you know I hate to cook. And when I do cook, it had better be easy or I WILL screw it up. (My mother loved to tell the story of how I once asked her where the “boil” setting on the stove top was.) So Pinterest is invaluable for locating crock pot and other fool-proof recipe ideas.

Hard boiled eggs in the oven – a school lunch staple!

 

Speaking of real life, Pinterest has saved my bacon when it came to school stuff. What to make the teachers for Christmas/Teacher Appreciation Day? What to make for the bake sale my daughter was kind enough to sign me up for? What to bring in for birthdays/last day of school goodies to serve an entire class?

Every teacher gets a scarf for Christmas.

And it is awesome for researching my latest series. I don’t have a board for that. Why? It’s secret. Okay, it’s about fairies and I’m super nervous that people who are used to my small town contemporaries won’t have any interest in a series that is more fantasy/supernatural in theme. Doesn’t mean I won’t write the series. And it doesn’t mean I don’t devour all the pins that really scream to me to be added into a book some day. I’m just not ready to share it with the world.

 

Inspiring, no?

 

Could I lose myself on Pinterest for an unspecified amount of time? Yes. Is it worth it? For the most part. How about you? Are you on Pinterest? What do you use it for the most? I’m always open to new ideas. 🙂 If you want to find me and my eclectic assortment of boards, I’m at: https://www.pinterest.com/mzdecuir/