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Letting Go, with Love!

J Logo sm[NOTE: this is a repost from two years ago, but worth revisiting.]

Isn’t it odd, that when the time is right, the Universe sends you the one message you need to hear on any given day? I found that to be true, today. This is Saturday morning, late September, and I’d slept in. I’d just finished my coffee so thought I’d empty the dishwasher. That load had been waiting several days already. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re busy people. Don’t judge, okay? Okay.

The bottom rack has the utensil basket and I always start with that, then move on to everything else. With all the hardware back in their slots and bins, I noticed a three inch long piece of masking tape, edges curled and crisp from age, in the bottom of the utility basket. The tape had finally come loose from a pie server that had belonged to my mother.

Mom had been a second grade school teacher for 32 years, played the organ every Sunday at mass, and sang at many weddings in our little community. It was her habit to mark stuff when taking a pot luck dish to the numerous events, and over the years, I got used to having my last name on the back or bottom of most everything we owned.

"Giddy-up, Grandma!" Many years ago, my sons and my mom. Great memories!

“Giddy-up, Grandma!”
Many years ago, my sons and my mom.
Great memories!

Mom passed away eight years ago and, like everyone else who’s suffered a similar loss, I’ve missed her every day. I’ve since incorporated many of her kitchen items into my own, but that one pie server is the only item that refused to let loose of the pesky label. Who knew that masking tape was that strong? I’d dug my fingernail into the ends of the tape, run the thing through the dishwasher numerous times, and it’s never let go. Until today.

Tears filled my eyes as I saw that bit of tape—with my maiden name inscribed in my mom’s unique handwriting—at the bottom of that basket. It was like mom was hugging me from Heaven. Of all the days in the year, she picked this one day to let me know she’s never truly gone away. You see, today is my birthday.

Thanks Mom, I love you, too!

Ceramic Cooktops and Hubby Training–not!

J Logo 75Since moving into this house a few years back, I’ve struggled with keeping my ceramic cooktop clean and shiny. When it’s clean it shows every little bit of dropped crust or crumb–even the remnants of an attack of  salt and pepper seasoning by Hubby Dear, aka: Captain Bulldog. [Yes, he’s earned that nickname, folks.]  CB will often use the clean cooking surface to heat/toast a tortilla. [See what I mean?] Okay, I get how that is easier than dragging out a frying pan, but seriously? It leaves a burnt mess that seems as if it’s become part of the ceramic. [Again, he’s earned that nickname.]

stovestove topWell, this week I stumbled upon the answer to keeping that ceramic cooktop looking clean and shiny–almost brand new. We’ve been using a special liquid cleaner made just for these types of cooktops, but it works best if it sits for a few minutes. I’d started to do up the dishes and wipe down the kitchen countertops when I noticed that Captain Bulldog had recently made tortillas, so I grabbed my bottle of stove top magic, smeared it all over the wet surface, and went on to other chores.

Yup, forgot about the cleaner on the cooktop…and dinner time rolled around. We made do with microwave popcorn because we were both dealing with deadlines which isn’t such an unusual situation around here. Anyway, that was four days ago. One day soon, I’ll finish cleaning the stove, but I’m having way too much fun seeing how long it will be before Captain Bulldog breaks down and finally says something about it. <chuckle-snort-giggle>If you liked this true story, remind me to tell you how I’ve gotten out of cooking these past twenty years. No joke!

Okay, so what’s your most dreaded household chore, and how do you deal with it, or not?

 

 

The Care & Feeding of Our Support Systems

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It’s almost my birthday. Well, not mine, actually. On August 27th, it will be the first anniversary for the release of my debut novel, THE 25th HOUR. It’s the Book Birthday! Yeah, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Recently, I had a conversation with another author about cramming our writing life into our daily activities. So, it seems like the perfect time to repost a blog I wrote a while back. This post is just as relevant today as the day I wrote it. 

FROM 4/29/13:Once again, this blog was born from a phone conversation I had with a friend. While making a point, I realized I’d just thought of another idea that deserved a little discussion. How many of us work like dogs trying to scratch out a few minutes, here and there, to write? Yes, just about everyone. You’re lucky if you’re free to schedule your writing time around your life. If you’re that person, you may as well stop reading right now. But, most of us squeeze writing into our everyday worlds. If you’re that person, then I hope my comments will be helpful.

Me, in Captain Bulldog's arms, dancing!

Me, in Captain Bulldog’s arms, dancing!

My day job consumes the bulk of my conscious moments. Once I get home every day, my energy turns to all the normal family duties. When the basic chores are done, I rush upstairs to my office and dig in for the night. Hubby Dear has a longer work day than me, and I never know for sure what time he’ll be home. Through the years, we’ve settled on our evening meal being take-out a lot more often than I’d like to admit.

We have this “You fly, I buy” deal going. Whoever drives doesn’t pay for dinner, the one who stays home picks up the tab. That works in my favor when my budget is tight and against me when a deadline is looming. I’m sure this mode of dealing with the necessary evils of cooking and washing up has averted many an argument in the house.

This is where I have to stop and tell you that I’m probably married to the most supportive husband in the world. It would take a whole other blog to explain just how seriously he supports my writing. Just know that he understands how driven I am to succeed in this crazy writing business.

Captain Bulldog and me, boating on Killarney Lake, southwestern Ireland.

Captain Bulldog and me, boating on Killarney Lake, southwestern Ireland.

The hours we writers spend at the keyboard can suck the life out of a good marriage, but we can’t forget to maintain our relationships. That’s an ongoing need and it’s easily overlooked. If we don’t put effort into our immediate support system, our loved ones won’t stick around long enough to help us celebrate when our dreams become reality.

We’ve all heard others say they feel like they’re butting their heads against a brick wall, that they’re never going to get a publishing contract. We’ve all faced those self-doubts. It’s inevitable. Well, a while back, I came downstairs well before bed time and joined my hubby on the sofa. Apparently, he knows me fairly well. He said, “What’s wrong?” Seeing that he truly was concerned, I relented and let the ugly truth spill from trembling lips. “I’m so tired. I don’t know if I can keep going at this pace. Maybe I should put writing aside…for a while.” His response shattered me to the core. “You’ve been working so hard. I hardly ever see you.”

Wow. Just…wow. This man, this wonderfully supportive soul obviously felt alone and he missed me. He’d been suffering in silence while I worked to perfect my craft. Talk about facing the grim reaper of failed marriages, if I didn’t change my routine, I stood a real chance of losing the best thing that ever happened to me.

Texas Bluebonnets

Love our Texas Bluebonnets!

We talked things over and I made some changes, right then. We now go on dates. Real dates. Dates where we ink our schedules with time for just the two of us, like once a week or so. It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time, but it could be a weekend get-a-way, too. We started with a Friday night dinner and a movie. That was fabulous! The next week, both our schedules were pretty full so we enjoyed a simple but healthy lunch after Sunday mass. Last weekend, we drove up to a lake north of Houston, stopped at a restaurant overlooking the water and enjoyed the sights and the best burgers within three counties, drove the neighborhoods and picked out possible dream retirement homes, saw the Texas bluebonnets, and giggled like kids again.

Released: August 27, 2013

Released: August 27, 2013

The trip, though only a few hours out of the whole weekend, made us feel like honeymooners again. So worth the time.

That investment reinforced what we both need, each other. Giving away a few precious moments of writing time is like insurance against catastrophe. I’ve noticed since then that Hubby is even more excited about the upcoming release of my first novel.

I’m so fortunate to have my very special hero-hubby in my life, and to have had him fight for our marriage. Yup, I’m one lucky writer.

The whole point of this blog is this: I, alone, chose this career, this writing life. My family didn’t, but they’re left to deal with the consequences…the fallout, if you will…of my being there physically, but not in reality. It’s not always about us or our writing. Sometimes, it’s about our support systems. Hug your family!

Okay, I’m back. Take heart, y’all. With grit, determination, and one eye on the most important things in life, we can do it all–eventually. We need to know we’re not alone in this, the thing we can’t not do–write. Who’s your biggest cheerleader? Has that person ever hinted, like my hubby did, that you could spend more time with them? What did you do to remedy the issue? I’m needing ideas for my next Hubby Date, so please share. Thanks bunches, y’all!  

 

RWA14 – J’s recap

Melanie Pikor, highlighting the Converse, Texas, road sign.

Melanie Pikor and the Converse, Texas, exit sign!

J Logo 75Melanie – WHC, and Converse, Texas:
I arrived in San Antonio a couple days early, thanks to hitching a ride with an online critique partner who just happened to be working in the Houston area the week before the RWA14 conference. You gotta know I jumped at the chance for three hours of one-on-one with the awesome Melanie Pikor. Shortest trip ever, thanks to sharing writing, promotion, and publishing ideas—not to mention a bit of Lalala reminiscing. When we passed a road sign noting “Woman Hollering Creek”, the giggles never stopped. Melanie could have written ten different books based on that phrase, alone. And THEN she saw the exit sign for Converse, Texas. Yup, stopped and took pictures, but this is Texas and if you’ve pulled off the side of the road, I guarantee, a nice fellow will stop to lend aid. Cool Dude pulled in beside us, off in the fairly flat ditch, and made sure we were okay. Sweet guy! Ask Melanie about that sign, or WHC, next time you see her!

Kicking off "Flat Jan" week at RWA14: that's the Marriott Riverwalk Hotel sign you see between the two Jan's. It sure looks small from the 28th floor. :)

Kicking off “Flat Jan” week at RWA14: that’s the Marriott Riverwalk Hotel sign you see between the two Jan’s. It sure looks small from the 28th floor. 🙂

Flat Jan:
My very good friend, Janet Nash, was unable to attend the conference this year. She’d registered, like most of us, back in January. Temporarily sidelined by a surgical procedure a week before the conference, she had to cancel. Undaunted, she made her own version of Flat Stanley for a couple of her friends. I know of at least three Flat Jan signs floating around RWA14, and it’s amazing how many times Flat Jan turned up. Jan, herself, might have missed this year’s conference, but Flat Jan sure had a good time! Fingers crossed that next year she’ll be there in person. Love you, Jan!

Enjoying the huge suite: Arlene Hittle, Melanie Pikor, Mary Behre, and Ashlyn Macnamara.

Enjoying the huge suite: Arlene Hittle, Melanie Pikor, Mary Behre, and Ashlyn Macnamara.

The Upgrade:
We arrived in San Antonio when the Fertilizer Convention was in full swing at our hotel. Talk about “raining men!” Well, long story short, within three days, I’d checked into four different rooms. Nothing bad, just a logistics thing. To summarize, I’m tipping my hat to Marriott Rivercenter Hotel Manager, Toby, for making our stay the best, ever. We ended up in an oversized king-sized suite. Seriously, the suite was huge. My roommies and I , Mary Behre and Wendy La Capra, really appreciated the extra space. Perfect H.E.A.!

Sylvia Garza, Patty Murnin, and me.

Sylvia Garza, Patty Murnin, and me.

The Book Signing Event:
It was an honor and a huge thrill to be signing my debut novel, THE 25th HOUR, published by Soul Mate Publishing at RWA14’s “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing on Wednesday, July 23rd. A few members of my husband’s family were able to attend, and they wandered the rows of tables, awed at the grand assembly of published authors. They’ve always supported my writing, and are notably proud of my achievements, but they said that seeing the massive crowd, in person, really put my writing life into perspective. And, getting to meet a few of my fans—in person—was one of the highlights of the conference. Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!

Me and good friend, Kathryn Jane. She brought me silk Lilacs all the way from Canada! (Can't get them this far south.)

Me, and good friend, Kathryn Jane. She brought me silk Lilacs all the way from Canada! (Needed for book signings, and I can’t get them this far south.) So thoughtful!

Lilacs!
This is Kathryn Jane, my super-sweet friend who lives up in Canada. Check out her books, her BLOG, and FB page. She’s one of my go-to gals for all things horse related. Trust me, she knows horses. Well, a while back, I’d mentioned on FB that I couldn’t find any Lilac silk flowers anywhere in Houston. Since they don’t grow this far south, apparently the retail trade believes we don’t need to have the sillk version, either. Well, I’m from South Dakota where Lilacs thrive. I love them so much, they’re in my story and they’re on the cover of my book. How could I have a book signing without a few Lilac sprigs to decorate my table? Argh! The ever-so-lovely Kathryn Jane said she’d bring me some when she came down for RWA14. She never forgot, and they arrived in pristine condition. I’m blown away by her thoughtfulness. She’s true-blue. Bless her!

SMP authors, me and Rebecca Heflin. She said she wore the wrong boot. LOL!

SMP authors, me and Rebecca Heflin. She said she wore the wrong boot. LOL!

$hopping: handbags, boots, and books!
What’s a road trip without a little shopping excursion, planned or spur-of-the-moment? If you know me at all, you know I’m the last to hit the mall. And, everywhere we went, there were books galore. Love that! Well, San Antonio knew what they were doing when the built a mall that was actually connected to our hotel. You betcha, I trekked through it several times…and dropped a few $$$ in my wake. Did I mention, books? Brought over 25 of them home. Yea! The first time I went to the mall was to walk with my roommate, Wendy La Capra. Walked out of the mall with a nifty new handbag. Another great find was my blinged-out boots. Won’t be wearing these anywhere near a horse or corrals, but they’ve got book signing events written all over them. I’m thrilled with my purchases, and such great deals! Totally worth driving in from Houston more often. [[waggle$ eyebrow$]]

Soul Mate Publishing table at RWA14 Trade Show

Soul Mate Publishing table at RWA14 Trade Show

The Trade Show:
RWA sponsored a vendor trade show, first time ever, and Soul Mate Publishing was there. A huge crowd spilled into the room when they opened the doors, and we stayed busy all afternoon. We had SWAG, free books, and a video for all to enjoy. Four SMP editors were on hand to visit with attendees, answer questions, and take pitches: publisher and senior editor, Debby Gilbert; and editors, Char Chaffin, Cheryl Yeko, and me, Janet Clementz. (Yeah, that’s my real name.) There was plenty of space to mix and mingle, and tasty refreshments in the center of the room made for an enjoyable afternoon. Truthfully, we were so busy, I didn’t get a chance to check out the other vendors. Good job, RWA!

Friends of Jan Nash: Beppie Harrison (holding Flat Jan), me, and Ruth Kenjura.

Friends of Jan Nash: Beppie Harrison (holding Flat Jan), me, and Ruth Kenjura.

 

Wish I was there!

Wish I was there!

NWHRWA:
Long time chapter member, Ruth Kenjura, is known for having her annual “Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate Party” during one evening of the conference. You never know who’s going to show up, and it’s always great fun. The first time I attended, I lost my voice due to laughing so much. I do my best to make it every year, but sometimes I just can’t, and this year it happened again. <sigh> Here’s a little of what I missed. Next year, I vow to be there!

Back row, L-R: Kristal Hollis, Lynn Cahoon, Mary Behre, Amanda Sumner, Melanie Pikor, Valerie Bowman, Jaye Garland, Jodi Vaughn, Alison Atwater, and Maura Troy. Sitting, L-R: Virginia Lee Boylan, Wendy LaCapra (behind VLB), Arlene Hittle, Ashlyn Macnamara, Beppie Harrison, Kathleen Bittner Roth, and KC Klein (behind KBR).

The Lalalas 7-26-14, standing L-R: Kristal Hollis, Lynn Cahoon, Mary Behre, Amanda Sumner, Melanie Pikor, Valerie Bowman, Jaye Garland, Jodi Vaughn, Alison Atwater, and Maura Troy. Sitting L-R: Virginia Lee Boylan, Wendy LaCapra (behind VLB), Arlene Hittle, Ashlyn Macnamara, Beppie Harrison, Kathleen Bittner Roth, and KC Klein (behind KBR).

L-R: Amanda Sumner, Mary Behre, Virginia Lee Boylan, Lynn Cahoon, Barbara Bettis, Arlene Hittle, Kristal Hollis, KC Klein, Jaye Garland, Maura Troy, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Beppie Harrison, Dina Danna, Wendy LaCapra, Marian Pearson Stevens, and Jodi Vaughn.

The Lalalas, 7-24-14, L-R: Amanda Sumner, Mary Behre, Virginia Lee Boylan, Lynn Cahoon, Barbara Bettis, Arlene Hittle, Kristal Hollis, KC Klein, Jaye Garland, Maura Troy, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Beppie Harrison, Dina Danna, Wendy LaCapra, Marian Pearson Stevens, and Jodi Vaughn.

Bill Board and Recipes for J's Release, and LaLaLa Mojito!

Billboard and Recipes for J’s Release, and LaLaLa Mojito!

Johnny Kimball, creator of my special mixed drink,  J's Release, in honor of publishing my first novel.

Johnny Kimball, creator of my special mixed drink, J’s Release, in honor of publishing my first novel.

The Lalalas: I’m thrilled to be among this powerhouse online critique group. Our members live all across the country and throughout the world. Since we rarely get to see each other in-person, except for our national conferences, this year we made a special point to gather on a couple different dates and times. Due to our individual schedules, you know, like editor/agent meetings and such, it was impossible to get everyone who was in attendance into one photograph. And, check out the drink menu. That’s my special drink, “J’s Release” featured on the billboard, and was created just for me by Johnny Kimball, a bartender in Nashville, in honor of publishing my first book. Click on the two pictures to expand the photos and see all the members. Between the two, we’ve captured most of the members who attended RWA14.

With this much networking, awesome workshops, and conference fun, you know we’re all looking forward to RWA15. Look out NYC, here we come!

Wills & Estates: PLAN for it, baby!

 

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Writing Historical Romance is like digging up Jewels from our past and polishing the rough edges till the glitter and brilliance shines through.

Writing Historical Romance is like digging up Jewels from our past and polishing the rough edges till the glitter and brilliance shines through.

What happens to your literary works, published or still in draft form, when you die? If you’re an artist, of any medium, you need to protect your work beyond your own days here on this beautiful earth. You owe it to your loved ones to set this up now, before you think you need to, and no, it’s not inviting death to your door. Creating a will and setting up survivor’s rights to your real and intellectual property is the same thing as carrying an umbrella–just in case there might be rain, you (your literary works) will be protected.

If you’re still not convinced, click the link below. Neil Gaiman says it best, and he’s made it terrifically simple by providing a Do-It-Yourself form. Fill it out using Option 1 or Option 2, and BAM! You’re done. Thanks for playing!

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html

Fixed!

Well, that didn’t take nearly as long as I’d expected. Many thanks to those working behind the scenes to get my book title correct. WooHOO!

If you’re not in the know, scroll down to the previous post. You’ll laugh. I did!  Anyway, now Y’all can pop on over to AMAZON and get your copy. Hurry, before the title changes again. 😉

Book Cover & Amazon Page now match!

Book Cover & Amazon Page now match!