Why has the blog been quiet? Sorry! So you see, it’s like this.
If we’re Facebook friends, you already know this, but a week or so ago I finally inked the deal with Boroughs Publishing Group for the first three books in the loosely-connected StarTide Agency contemporary romance series (the guitar book, for those of you following along). (Can I get a huzzah? lol.) I also signed a separate contract for a 12k short story called a Lunchbox Romance (something you can read during lunch).
Why sign a contract when the world is the author’s oyster right now with self publishing? Because I can’t do it all, and more importantly, I don’t want to do it all. I’m still learning. I have a long way to go before I send my work out into the world all by myself.
That said, I did not make this decision lightly. It was made after a month of discussion with Jill Limber, the editor who made the offer; contract dissection; soul searching; and then going to RWA’s national conference, and having a great time there with Michelle Klayman, Jill, and Chris Keeslar (the Boroughs honchos). I like them, I have faith in them, and the fact that Chris Keeslar had worked on contracts for my Dad back in the day (when Chris was fresh out of college and at Dorchester) gave the whole thing a symmetry that just felt right. Plus the quality of the stories I’ve read from Boroughs has been extremely high. (Which reminds me – In The Place Where She Fell is an AMAZING short story by Mary Beth Bass. Go read it!)
I am still a bit happily dazed, and am now facing the fact that I’m writing to contract deadlines. So far, it’s not as scary as I thought, and the deadlines are generous (though I plan to beat them by a mile). It’s nice, knowing that someone has the confidence in me to bring a three paragraph description of a novel into fruition.
There’s also this other book that’s waiting not-so-patiently to get edited. It’s done, but it needs to shine before I send it to an agent. So I think I’ll be doing that on my Sundays. Some writers take Sundays for their books not contracted; working on something different from their usual. (For me, that’s the ballet book.)
So, that in a nutshell, is why the blog has been silent. Things have been happening, writing has been getting done, and life has been being lived.
In these days of global uncertainty, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.
Today I’m talking about the pink wines, my favorites, the Rose´s. Not to be confused with White Zinfandel *shudder*. It’s not that you won’t remain my friend if you drink White Zin. But I admit that it will shift the way I think about you. Let’s call it my character flaw and move on, shall we? (And for those who love White Zinfandel, here’s an article telling you why you’re right to love it and I’m all wrong, lol.)
Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Rose´ Mendocino County, 2012 Alcohol 14.5% by Volume; about $8
On The Label: “This lovely Rose´ is crisp and off-dry with notes of strawberry jam, raspberries, and stone fruits. It is full-bodied and well-balanced with a long lingering finish.”
My Take: Very pretty color, and a nice flavor. Not a wine I would drink with a heavy meal, but perfect for noshing and sipping while discussing movies with friends on a balcony nineteen floors up, the night wind caressing the heat from your skin. It has a steel Chardonnay characteristic to my taste.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ Good for pool parties, chips and dips, and hanging out with friends and talking. High alcohol content, though, so watch that you sip water between glasses of wine.
Green Fin 2013 California Grenache Rose´ Made with organic grapes. Alcohol 11.5%
by Volume; about $5
On The Label: “Made entirely with organically grown grapes, this Grenache Rose´was gently pressed and cold fermented to maintain a true Rose´character. Sweet cherries and perfumed raspberries swirl together and blend into the palate where a refreshing finish rounds out the organically grown wine. Serve slightly chilled. Enjoy!”
My Take: Yet another label that gets kind of gooey. If you’ve been reading this wine blog for any length of time, you know that the more descriptive the label, the more snarly I get. Which is the main reason I never read labels before buying wine. Anyway – tasty? Yes. Less of a Chardonnay taste, and more of a gentle sipping wine taste. No food necessary, especially at the lower alcohol content, but good with noshes too.
My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ and at this price you can get several bottles for that party you’ve been meaning to have. Perfect, again, for sipping poolside, or late at night with good friends and meaningful conversation.
As usual, this is just my honest opinion which will depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.
~ Until the next time, cheers! ~
My Rating System: Undrinkable; Barely Drinkable; Drinkable; Very Drinkable; and the ever-popular “Stay Away! This is MY wine, you Slut!”
This Romance Writers of America Conference was a different experience for me. I’ve been going to the RWA National Conference, on and off, since 2002; this one had me in a different zone. A step up in my career. The difference, you ask?
Don’t laugh. For the very first time, building on conferences from the past 3 years, I had people to shmooze with. Relationships to nurture.
I came in 3rd with my guitar book in the ImaJinn A Romance Contest with ImaJinn Books, and got to hang a bit with my editor-crush Brenda Chin. I will most definitely work with her some day. (My chapter mate, Sarah Vance-Tompkins, won the contest and the chance to work with Brenda and I am SO thrilled for her!)
Later on the same evening, I drunk-pitched my young adult novel to a funny, fun and nice editor at a big house and got a request. (Only 2 glasses of wine, but when all you’ve had to eat is the parma ham and the tapenade and toast, that will do it.) And then I drunk-emailed the agent that’s interested in the book. (Luckily it was a clean and clear email. No gushiness nor misspelled words or bad grammar. Sheesh.)
And I hugged people. Two memorable hugs -NYTimes Bestselling Author and my dear friend Tawny Weber, who gave one of the best hugs of conference – she was sharing my joy and I’ve known her since 2003 – and Sharon Sala. If you’re a writer and you’re not following Sharon, she shares a lot about her life with her Little Mama, and usually all I can say on her posts is “sending love and hugs”. So it was beautiful that I could physically hug her (ran into her at the pharmacy in the mall) before she had to leave the conference.
Yeah, so I hugged people. Lots of people. Ran across the room to hug people. Reached over chairs to hug people. Juggled coffee to hug people. It was so cool, getting to touch people that I’ve known and loved online “for reals” and in person. I can’t even mention all of them here because I’ll forget someone and that would be bad, so if I hugged you, consider yourself hugged yet again (!) and if we didn’t connect, I’m SO sorry and please grab me next time for a hug (and I’ll be sure to interrupt your conversation to hug you!). I hugged agents and editors, longtime friends and brand new friends, and every single hug refreshed my spirit and connected me to the world just a little tighter.
Conference is about so much more than going to workshops (though I did some of that) or sitting in the bar (did some of that, too). It’s about forging working relationships and friendships. It’s about letting that agent know that you do think about her even if you didn’t recognize her (sorry, hon! Conference brain.). It’s about turning yourself into a real person for those in the industry. More than that, it’s about giving yourself the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.
It’s about volunteering to help at the literacy signing. I got to work with Nalini Singh, prep the books for the folks in her line and yes, there were LOTS of folks in her line! Nalini and I had been in a yahoo loop way back when, called the Brainstorming Desireables, so it was terrific to reconnect, plus she’s an awesome writer.
(I can’t tell you the times I went to introduce myself, and was told, “I know who you are.” Always a thrill, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.)
It’s about cramming into someone’s normal-sized room to a party hosted by the Houston RWA chapter, with 50 other conference goers, and giggling and marveling at the intelligence of the woman who used the conference coffee travel mug as a cocktail shaker. Effing brilliant.
It’s about walking for a mile to get to a publisher’s dinner, and laughing, talking, and getting to know the folks sharing that particular journey. (OMG I wouldn’t have missed that walk for the world. The WORLD, I tell you.)
It was also about sharing the whole experience with two roommates, women that I trust and love. About sitting on the balcony at night in the humidity and the wind, drinking beer, and philosophizing about men, the conference, relationships, pain, and turning it around and making ourselves pee with laughing because we also talked about boobs, and menopause, and hair, and the damned humidity. From the early morning flight out to San Antonio on Tuesday, to giving sleepy hugs at 7:30am on Sunday, those two women were (and remain) my touchstones.
Going to RWA National Conference is about writing, yes, but so, so much more. My heart is full and my spirit light as I look forward to the next part of my career. Thanks, Dad, for recommending that I join RWA. Sorry I waited until 2002 to follow your advice.
And, as always, this was my conference experience. Your mileage will vary!
I’ve read her Urban Fantasy series, Inhale, Exhale, and Just Breathe; and I’ve read her erotic trilogy, Strings, Beats, and Nocturnes. I thought I was prepared for anything Kendall Grey could throw at me.
Was I wrong.
Hot Blooded, to me, is a Hawaiian version of film-noir style, if film noir had been done now instead of the fifties.
Blood, and sex, drugs and family – ‘ohana is everything – drive the story. It’s a twisty dark tale that is utterly believable.
Grey shows you what some people will do when pushed to their limit. It’s gritty, it’s real, and it’s damn good fiction. Some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time.
If you’re looking for something different, something out of the ordinary, something that will change the way you look at the concept of “family” – then read Hot Blooded. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought. I’m dying to discuss it with someone.
I’m in San Antonio this week, soaking up the Romance Writers of America atmosphere and hugging the stuffing out of my friends. May your week be a grand one – mahalo!
Most of the time, the two days prior to going to RWA’s National Conference are spent in a state of sweaty panic. The clothes I need to wear are a) lost, b) suddenly too small, or c) have strange stains in suspicious places. Or, horrifically, all three. (lol)
So I spend way too much money on clothes that are barely adequate, stuff them all in my too-small huge suitcase, and spend the entire conference in a state of panic/misery due to my feeling uncomfortable in the clothes I have to wear.
For some reason, this time around I’m good. I didn’t buy clothes for conference. Nor did I buy new shoes just before conference (to buy new shoes just before you stand for five days straight is not a good thing, in case you were wondering).
What I did do is put together an entire outfit for each day of the week, not including travel days. Then – no joke – I labeled each outfit for the day I’m going to wear it. Packed each outfit, layer by layer. Added underwear, sox, jewelry, shoes. Everything’s now packed for those important days, and I still have room in my suitcase. It’s a lovely feeling, because I always come home with more stuff than I leave with; having extra room in the suitcase lowers the possibility that I’ll be over the weight limit on the return flight.
But extra room makes me nervous. Which means, of course, that I’ll need to add some pieces for the nights, and extra tops. Just in case.
And maybe another pair of shoes. Oh, a hat – I think I’ll really need a hat. And of course my dragon will be going with me – everyone needs a dragon, right? And art stuff. Well, maybe not art stuff, it’s not like I’m going to have time to draw or get fancy, but still. Should I put in the ms I’m editing? lotta pages, but maybe there’s room…OOH! CAMERA! Day planner. Should I add my day planner? And maybe I should unpack and double check those clothes…
…This year, I’m not panicking. Not panicking at all.
In other news, there were certain things I was planning to get done prior to National Conference, such as: pedicure, manicure, massage, facial, get hair cut and colored. Yeah, well. I did color my hair, and I’ll probably give it a bit of a cut this morning after my shower. So there’s that…
Hoping to be able to shout from the rooftops my news soon. In the meantime, have a safe and happy week!
If you have a name for the he-dragon in the photo, fling it to me in the comments!
Hi there! Yeah, it’s me. Sorry I’ve been absent. There’s been SO much going on that it’s going to take me a while to get everything organized in my brain. But first off, my dad was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything he’s done for the San Diego Book Awards and Read-4-Fun programs (both groups live on donations, by the way). He started those two groups twenty years ago, and they’re still going strong. My husband and I, as well as my brother Greg and his lovely wife Tina, were all there to cheer him on.
Yeah, so everyone stood in front of the projector – but that didn’t lessen his savoire faire.
A couple more photos from that night…
Mark A. Clements is SO TALL (about 6’6″ or 6’7″…) and my dad so short, lol! Below, Daddy rocking his Cunningham tartan hat and beard.
The San Diego Book Awards ceremony was held about four weeks after he was flooded out of his house. (You can read the first installment and see the photos of that here). On June 21, 2014 I wandered through the house I’d been born in, and it seemed so small. Bare of everything. Stripped down to the cement foundation, the house looked awkward, old. It felt chilly despite the warmth of the day, as if everything I’ve grown up with and known is gone forever. But I had to face it. Seeing it that way, while my dad is alive, was sad, yes; but not devastating.
(The above photo is also by Greg Cunningham.)
As of this writing, Dad’s still not back in his house, but the carpet is in and all the painting is done. (We thought we’d be moving him back in last weekend but it didn’t happen.) As he keeps saying, he’s writing 2K a day because there’s nothing else to do at the residence hotel he’s been staying at (for almost two months now). He’s discombobulated and just wants to get back to his garden, and who can blame him?
(I’ll have another post later about the 4th of July in Tehachapi – wonderful day!)
As for me, I’ve got lots on my plate. Finishing up a Fairy Tale on spec, editing my ballet novel, working on book 2 of the StarTide Talent Agency series, plus coming out with new editions of my Demon series books (plus book 3, finally!). Busy, but that’s the way I like it.
Plus there are some short plays I’m working on. Busy, it seems, doesn’t begin to describe my life…please add in there the Day Job and family. Whee!
Next week, if you’re in San Antonio, come see me…
I’ll be at the Romance Writers of America Annual National Conference. There’s a HUGE book signing that’s open to the public on Wednesday, July 23rd, from 5:30pm to 8pm – I’m not signing, but I’ll be there helping the authors who are. I’d love to see you! So grab me and tell me how you know me, because I’m terrible with both names and faces, and I promise you a big squishy hug.
Here we are, in the middle of summer. Hope yours is going swimmingly! Hug your loved ones and keep positive. Life just keeps on getting better.
It didn’t used to happen. Falling, I mean. Sure, I’d walk into walls. I’d trip over absolutely nothing. Ballet dancers do that (or I did, anyway). But falling? Only when I was aiming for a triple pirouette.
But Then I Hit 40. And then 50.
Things started to change. A benign tumor was growing in my right ear. Fibroids were developing in my uterus. My center of balance started to shift. Falls became more common.
I have some doozies in my recent past. Like, right over the top of the handlebars, for instance. Or falling backward from opening the window, and landing on my tailbone. Oh, and there was the one where I was walking to the kitchen and I stepped wrong, and broke my fibula. Yeah, that was a good one. (Fast forward ten months and I did it again, at the Day Job. Sigh.)
Since then, there were the two – or maybe three – times I’ve gone sprawling, face-first, in the grocery store. (I blame the shoes I wore.) Or on the street, heading to my car. (Dark, rain, puddles, headlights.)
By now, the tumor is long gone. Ditto the uterus. I should be back to “normal” and just be walking into walls and tripping over nothing. Right? For some reason, I’m not. And that totally sucks.
Falling never ceases to be nerve wracking. Like, is this the time I totally ruin my body? Or, is my tumor back? In the other ear this time, maybe? Do I have multiple sclerosis like my mother did? Is this the time I break a hip, an elbow, both wrists? The thoughts that go through my head after a fall are agonizing, and I know I can’t be alone there.
I do balance exercises. It’s one of the reasons I started giving myself a ballet barre again. I work at balance, I swear I do.
17 at Heart
In my heart of hearts, I’m seventeen. Or maybe twenty-nine. (Oh, shut up, lol.) I have the verve and agility and balance out the wazoo that I used to have. And that remembered verve gets me in trouble. I wish it didn’t, but it does. Every. Single. Time.
My last fall happened over the weekend. I’d been meaning to do something – not sure what – and when reminded, I jumped up from the chair with verve and alacrity, and immediately tripped over the footstool. Barking my shin, my toes, bumping the coffee table which tipped over several fragile marble chess pieces (breaking two), landing on one hip and one wrist before gracefully rolling onto my back, legs to my chest, breathing slowly and taking inventory.
Two days later, my wrist is still sore. My hip has recovered, as have my toes. My shin has a nice 4 inch, barely visible scrape/bruise which is tender to the touch but otherwise unremarkable. I have survived. I live, to fall another day.
I will redouble my balance work. I will do my best to make my pathways as clear as possible. I will do everything in my power to stop falling. But the one thing I refuse to do is pull away from my inner seventeen-year-old. I like her. I don’t want to give her up. I don’t want to have to live so cautiously that I am afraid to do anything. Because for me, that’s no way to live.
My spirit is seventeen. I’ll curb her when I need to, but I won’t squash her.
I used to judge people who parked in handicapped spaces and then step out jauntily from their sporty car. Most of these folks looked rich and entitled. They rarely looked disabled. Many of them, most likely, weren’t even handicapped. I mean, come on. UCLA football players were caught illegally obtaining handicapped parking placards in 1999, so it’s not like this is a new thing.
But then I became disabled. Or, rather, I gained a disability, as technically I’m not disabled. And while I don’t need a handicapped parking placard, I have come to realize that my disability is invisible, which brought me to the thought that there are many disabilities that are invisible.
As I’m also working on making my world as much a judgment-free zone (because judging people without all the facts is a pet peeve of mine), I decided this is one thing I can discuss from personal knowledge. (Okay, not the handicapped parking placard per se, but the invisible disability part.)
Losing hearing in one ear is a disability.
Like I said, it’s not one that comes with a handicapped parking placard, and it’s absolutely nothing when compared with total deafness. But not being able to echo-locate can be dangerous, mainly because I still think I can. For instance, I can’t always hear cars coming on my right side when I cross the street, so I have to be extra-vigilant. I can’t tell where gunfire is coming from (and in many areas of America, that’s damned important), or which direction a siren is coming from. A crowded, noisy room gives me a headache and makes me talk much louder than I normally would. Plus I have to turn my good ear toward the person speaking, so I can hear them – which often means I can’t SEE them when they talk, which can lead to awkward social interactions – until I confess my disability to the other party. (Okay, that last isn’t dangerous; it just has the possibility of being totally awkward.)
Other “Invisible” Disabilities
Other disabilities that might not be immediately apparent and that could require that handicapped parking placard are described as follows, from the Invisible Disabilities Association:
“The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.”
Now, granted, someone with cognitive dysfunctions (for instance) probably won’t be driving a car; but the point is, there are disabilities out there that are not noticeable, and that may require a handicapped placard. Or, you know, some compassion.
So what the hell am I asking here?
Think before you judge. Pretty please.
Think before you speak your mind to the person popping out of her expensive car in a handicapped parking spot. This might be her first pain-free day in weeks. Think before you cuss out someone who doesn’t get out of your way in the grocery store, even though you’ve said a polite “excuse me”. This may be his first foray into the world after surgery (which can leave the brain muddled for months). Think before you make fun of someone who doesn’t look/act/talk the way you do. They have as much right to live a happy life as you do.
And if you see a woman about to step into the path of an oncoming car, make sure to shout at her and get her attention. She just might not have heard that car coming up on her deaf side. (My thanks to the anonymous gardener in Studio City, who made sure I didn’t lose an argument with a speeding SUV last week.)
Live a compassionate life, people. In doing so, you’ll receive compassion, which is something all of us deserve.
So, what’s one of your pet peeves? I’d love to know!
Everyone’s doing boxed sets this year, several books bound together with one low, low price. This phenomenon has usually been in the romance world – sweet romances, country romances, sexy romances, gothic – well, you get my point.
Now, just in time for Father’s Day, Wolfpack Publishing has come out with a Western Boxed Set. Some authors you may know include Kat Martin, L.J. Martin, and Chet Cunningham (yes, my dad). So I’m VERY excited to share this with you.
Spread the word, grab the boxed set for your dad’s Kindle, and make my day. Here’s the blurb for it:
“NEW RELEASE SPECIAL $1.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME! 9 full length Western novels from America’s premier western writers – Western Writers of America Spur Award winners and runners up, NYT best selling authors. Frank Roderus, Robert Vaughn, Gary McCarthy, Chet Cunningham, Douglas Hirt, Kat Martin, L.J. Martin, Cliff Hudgins & Thom Nicholson. Over 650,000 words of fine western writing. Action, Adventure, Romance at its very best!”
This includes my dad’s book WADE’S WAR. So you see, you REALLY need to pick this up!
Thanks for dropping by! Who’s your favorite Western writer?
~ I’m working hard on my next novel and didn’t have time to write up a new wine blog – but please enjoy this reprint from last year about this time. Wines to go with barbecue season! ~
Today I’m talking about two big reds that are a little more expensive than what I usually highlight. In California, you’re just as likely to have a spicy Mexican recado on your brisket as you are a sweet and tangy southern barbecue sauce. At times, I’ll admit, a cold beer or ale goes a long way with the Mexican flavors. But a big, bold red wine is almost always good.
Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Sonoma County Alcohol, 14.5% by Volume $15.99 on Sale at Vons (normally $26.00)
On the Label: “Our Grand Reserve Cabernet is crafted with grapes hand-selected from specific areas of our Jackson Estates Grown vineyards on Alexander Mountain estate and other nearby properties. Growing vineyards on these mountains and hillsides has produced intense, concentrated grapes. This Cabernet has cassis, currant and black cherry tones with enticing aromas of mocha, nutmeg and cinnamon that are the efforts of 17 months of barrel aging.” – Jess S. Jackson, Founder
This is a wine drinker’s wine. By which I mean, it’s not an easy sipping wine unless you REALLY like complex wines. Which I do. You want to serve this wine with the meal, and preferably before your guests have imbibed too much. With it’s deep garnet color, smoky rich scent, and a vibrant taste it’s a wine that deserves attention. It will stand up to almost anything you toss on the barbecue.
Or, if you’re like me and want to give cooking a pass, you can serve it with rich cheeses and crackers and some salume as you watch the stars come out while having a summer picnic. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t drink a big wine!
My Rating: ~ Very, VERY Drinkable ~ though pricy! Watch for sales at your favorite grocery store.
J. Lohr Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Seven Oaks Estates, alcohol 13.5% by Volume $12.99 at Vons on sale.
On the Label: “Our Seven Oaks Cabernet is grown in our vineyards in the Estrella Hills area of Paso Robles, one of only three appellations in California that produce “world class” Cabernet Sauvignon. The Seven Oaks Cabernet has aromas and bouquets of cherry blueberry, violets, and vanilla. The flavors are lusciously full, balanced by firm tannins. Serve it at 65 to 68 degrees F with grilled or roasted red meats.
“J. Lohr Estates wines are best characterized by their intense flavor and remarkable balance. Jerry Lohr practices the French system of planting each grape variety in its ideal appellation. With over 3,000 acres of vineyards, quality control is ensured from selection of optimum rootstock and clones through all facets of artisan winemaking. Each of these steps is focused on one goal…flavor second to none.”
My Take: My husband and I have a fondness for the J. Lohr label, as it was one of the first, affordable, bottles of wine that we remember ordering in a restaurant that wasn’t a half carafe of the house wine. Now of course, J.Lohr is up there in price in restaurants, but you can usually find it in the grocery stores for between $10 and $15 a bottle (which puts it out of my usual price range).
The wine? Juicy. Rich. A hint of oak. Perfect with a nice steak, grilled chicken, vegetables. If there’s any left after the meal, enjoy with a chocolate truffle. Your mouth will thank you. This is an easy wine to drink, and will likely appeal to a broader spectrum of people. I enjoyed it, but for me, this isn’t my first go-to wine.
My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ A good bottle for that intimate barbecue.
As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.
~ Until the next time, cheers! ~
My Rating System: Undrinkable; Barely Drinkable; Drinkable; Very Drinkable; and the ever-popular “Stay Away! This is MY wine, you Slut!”