Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Brain

Have you ever suffered from temporary book amnesia? That disorientation you feel when you finish a really good book, look around the room, and wonder for a moment where you are and how you got there? 

Kind of like half the atoms in your brain are still in that fictional world?

I’ve experienced this phenomenon all my life, but now it's climbed to a new level. I’m currently writing book #3 of the Northern Lights Series. Meanwhile the first book, THE ALASKAN CATCH, comes out in August, so I’m working on excerpts and articles for marketing that book. The second book, A GIFT FOR SANTA, comes out in December and I've been working on frontmatter and am expecting edit notes for that one any day. 

All the stories are related, but have different characters and plot lines. Plus, I have a couple of different non-writing projects that need my attention. Sometimes, I find myself staring at a my keyboard, trying to remember what I'm supposed to be working on.

I know lots of writers have multiple projects going at any given time, but my approach has always been to immerse myself in one world at a time. That’s no longer an option. I'm going to have to learn how to transport from story to story without getting lost. Not that I’m complaining. Writing multiple books for Harlequin is a dream come true, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity. I just need to develop better juggling skills.

How about you? Do you read or write more than one story at a time? Any tips for organizing multiple projects? I'd love to hear them. 

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Friday, May 26, 2017

When in Doubt, Check It Out

Physically, I’ve always considered myself extraordinarily average. Brown hair, five-feet-five, not athletic but not hopelessly clumsy, just average. But I discovered I was wrong. My appendix was an overachiever.

It all started a little over a week ago, with an aching stomach. Just your usual stomach bug, and not a particularly bad one. I was just glad I had a week to recover before boarding a plane to Anchorage. The pain worked its way from my stomach down the right to the lower right side of my abdomen over the next couple of days. I felt better, but that area was still tender when I moved or touched it.

Then I had a fairly healthy couple of days, but the tenderness was still there, maybe a little worse. Sunday, I was fatigued as well as sore. I started googling appendicitis. While the pain and loss of appetite were classic symptoms, I had no fever, vomiting, etc. Still, I thought I should get checked out before flying. I called a walk-in clinic, but they said for appendicitis symptoms I should go to the emergency room. It didn’t feel like an emergency.

Monday, I tried to see the doctor who’d done my colonoscopy a couple of years ago, but he’s booked until October. They said go to emergency room. The tenderness wasn’t any better.  I gave in and my husband took me in.

The fine people at the ER did the usual – blood work, urine, etc. and started an IV for the dye they use in a CT scan. Turns out I don’t have particularly good veins for IVs, but eventually they got one in.

I went for my first CT scan. I’m sure I’ll be using that in a book someday, with that futuristic spinning light and that mechanized voice telling me to hold my breath. But then they stopped the scan. The IV wasn’t taking in the dye. They backed me out of the machine and lowered my arm. The dye started again. Raised my arm. It stopped. So, the IV only worked at table level, and I couldn’t go into the machine with my arm beside me.

Various people punched a few more holes, trying unsuccessfully to start another IV. Then a nurse discovered if I held my arm behind my head, turned outward to just the right angle, the drip worked. We were in business. The CT scan was completed and they sent me back to my ER room to wait for results.

And we waited. I presumed the delay had something to do with the difficulty getting the scan and half-expected to be sent back to do it again. The nurse confided to me she’d never seen someone with no fever or more pain than I was having come back positive for appendicitis. Finally, we got the call. I not only had appendicitis, it was ulcerated and I was going into surgery. Soon.

As it turns out, my appendix was in an unusual position, kind of hidden behind my colon, which for some reason tends to confine and mask the symptoms. The surgeon took it out in three pieces, and I spent a miserable two days in the hospital. But now I’m home, I’m alive, and I’m thankful.

Things could have been so much worse. If it weren’t for the flying deadline, I might have continued putting it off until my fever spiked and I got really, really sick before the surgery. What if I’d continued to blow off the symptoms and my appendix went kerboom halfway between Seattle and Anchorage? That wouldn’t have been pleasant, for me or the other passengers.

Here’s my Public Service Announcement for others with my tendency not to want to make a fuss. Go. The people in the ER are there to help. If it’s not a heart attack, or appendicitis, or whatever, that’s good news. If it is, thank goodness you went.

Friday, May 19, 2017


My first newsletter is out! You can read it by clicking here. To celebrate, I'm giving away this bracelet to one lucky newsletter subscriber. Hurry, the contest ends soon. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Antelope Canyon

On the way home from Durango, we took a little detour to Page, Arizona for a tour of Antelope Canyon, on the Navajo Reservation. I'd seen pictures, but they didn't compare to the real thing.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon. It's only about six to eight feet wide, and during flash floods the water rushes through, forming these fantastic shapes in the rock. Up above, the narrow opening means the light peeks in and paints the rocks with light and shadow, changing during the day. Our tour was in the evening, so didn't have direct beams shining in.

The tour starts in Page. While we waited, a talented hoop dancer performed for us. He manipulated a series of hoops over and around his body as he danced to the beat of a drum. Then they loaded us into the back of pickups and off we went to the canyon. 

Look up
Petrified waves
Like clouds, the forms of the rocks often seem to contort themselves into recognizable patterns and surreal shapes.

It's humbling to think of the millions of years it took to build up the rock, and then for the water to wear it away once again. 

Outside the canyon
Light and shadow

Can you see the bird?
I can almost make out faces in the outcrops.
I like the color contrast here.

Reverse cave

If you're in the area, maybe to see the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon is worth a visit, if only to exercise your imagination.

What shapes do you see?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Finding Rainbows

Yesterday we flew from Anchorage to Arizona, with a stopover in Seattle. It was raining (big surprise I know.) For various reasons, our plane out of Seattle was late getting off and we had to wait behind ten other planes for takeoff. So I was waiting, reading my book, and happened to look out the window to see this. 

I don't think I've ever seen a rainbow this low across the sky, or with such definition between the colors. The photo really doesn't do it justice, especially with the raindrops on the window, but you can take my word that it was spectacular. 

This is one of those lessons I keep having to relearn. Beauty is all around us if we pay attention. 

Look up. Do you see something beautiful?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Musical Memories

I was puttering around in my garage today and found a time machine. Yes, Virginia, those are real vinyl record albums. Granted, the time machine isn't fully functional because, while we do still have a turntable, the stereo receiver it used to be hooked up to is long gone. But it doesn't matter. Just looking at the covers is enough to send me back in time.

I remember when my friend introduced me to Tiger Beat and Donny Osmond. She had his album and a signed poster. *sigh* That smile, that hair. What twelve-year-old girl could resist? Then came the Carpenters and John Denver and Olivia Newton-John. Yeah, I wasn't much of a rebel. Eventually I discovered the Eagles, and Peter Frampton, and Fleetwood Mac. 

My college boyfriend, now my husband, didn't sing or play an instrument, but he had one great musical talent. Within a few notes of a song starting on the radio, he could name the song, the band, and often the album. He introduced me to Heart, Thin Lizzy, Credence Clearwater Revival, and so many more. Here's Homer Simpson remembering his music. 

Earlier in the episode, Homer Simpson claims music achieved perfection in 1974, and I wouldn't totally disagree. I've forgotten most of my algebra and almost all of the periodic table, but I can still remember the lyrics to "Desperado." Can you?

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Life isn't Football

Have you ever been to a college football game? I don’t even like crowds, and yet there is something exhilarating about hanging out with 50,000 of your fellow fans, rooting for your team.  The conflict is set, the stakes are clear. At the end of the evening, you’ll emerge victorious, or you won’t. But there’s always next season.

It’s especially fun in the student section, where enthusiasm is at its highest. You’re all on the same side, rejoicing at each first down, groaning over every fumble. If a call goes against your team, you all agree it was a bad call, because it’s your team, even if the replay does rather look as though the knee touched the ground. It’s all in good fun, because at the end of the day, it’s just football.

But I’m seeing the same behavior when it comes to politics. There is this bitter rivalry between the two parties, and everyone’s expected to root for the home team. Everything my party does is good, everything your party does is evil. Don’t show me the replay, because I don’t care. I’ll believe what my friends believe, because we’re on the same side.

Is it truly unimaginable that a person who believes women should make their own choices on abortion can also believe high corporate taxes are bad for job growth? Or that we spend too much on welfare and not enough on alternative energy research, or vice versa?

When a controversy pops up, do we really consider the implications, or do we blindly believe or dismiss information based on what our friends are saying? After all, if something is controversial, it usually means there are strong arguments on both sides. Hardy anyone’s against home-grown tomatoes or puppies.

It’s fine to have opinions. It’s fine to share opinions with friends. It’s not fine to marginalize or insult everyone who has a different opinion, especially when we haven’t researched the issue ourselves. Headlines aren’t a sound basis for policy-building. 

If we want to vow unquestioned loyalty to the home team, there’s always football.  

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Giveaway

My first Harlequin, THE ALASKAN CATCH, a Northern Lights Novel, is coming in August and it's set in my home state of Alaska! To celebrate, I'm giving away this Alaska salmon-themed kitchen towel and potholder to someone with a U.S. mailing address. If the winner is outside the U.S., the prize will be a $10 Amazon giftcard. 

UPDATE 3/30/17:  We have a winner. Congratulations, Darlene!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Check back often and read the newsletter for more fun opportunities.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Favorite Colors

I was setting up security questions recently, and one was my favorite color. I had to stop and think. Do I have a favorite color? When I was a little girl, my favorite crayons were magenta and blue-green. I still love those colors, but not always. My horizons have expanded.

When I’m choosing room colors, I’m drawn to warm neutrals with pops of color, such as deep red and sage green. Natural colors that are easy to live with. But when I see pictures of bright red kitchens or blue and yellow living rooms, I like them, too.

In clothes, it depends on my mood. Sometimes bright crimson or purple, sometimes simple black and white or shades silver and gray. Denim blue, of course. Mixes of blues, greens and purples like an ocean painting. A single clear shade of turquoise. Burgundy. Dusty Plum. Sunrise pink.

Yellow daffodils in the spring. Lilacs. Peachy roses. Purple iris. Clear blue delphiniums. Russet chrysanthemums. The palest blue of forget-me-nots, and the velvety purple of a pansy. Bright orange lilies, lacy white alyssum. It’s hard to find an ugly flower.

Truth is, I have trouble naming a color I don’t like. Generally, I’m not a fan of yellow-greens, but I’ve seen chartreuse groundcovers in shady gardens that are stunning, and some people wear it beautifully. Even mustard blends nicely with autumn shades.

Am I open-minded or indecisive? How about you? Do you have one favorite color?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Snow Sculptures at Fur Rondy

Photo by Bill Roth /  Anchorage Daily News
Fur Rondy (short for rendezvous) is the annual winter festival in Anchorage, where residents fight cabin fever with activities like the snowshow softball, the running of the reindeer, and outhouse races. There are other activities too, like hockey, sled dog races, and a poker tournament.

My favorite event in Fur Rondy as always been the snow sculptures. The frozen equivalent of sand castles, snow sculptures are, by their very nature, temporary. Beautiful, whimsical, or just funny, they’re created solely for the enjoyment of the artists and passersby. To bring a smile.

Like the bloom of a daylily or a rainbow, their short life is part of their charm. It's easy to put off going to the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty. They'll always be there, after all. But come spring, that snow sculpture will be gone forever, so we'd better enjoy while we can. They encourage us to live for today.

What temporary pleasures have you experienced lately?

Update: 2017 Snow Sculptures from GCI on Facebook: Love the T-Rex and the Mouse

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Voice of Experience

"Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Note to Forest Gump: Check under the lid.

Experience may be the best teacher, but sometimes she's a hard one. Fortunately, we don't have to make every mistake ourselves. Thank God for parents, teachers, writers, preachers, colleagues, friends, and mentors who share their knowledge and experience so that the rest of us don't have to get second degree burns to find out the stove is hot.

Of course, sometimes we're too stubborn to listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before. We've just gotta touch that stove. And once in a while, we discover the stove isn't so hot after all. In fact, it's quite managable if we take certain precautions. Just because someone gives us a piece of advice doesn't mean it's right, or right for us. That's how we gather the experience to pass down to the next generation.

Here's a piece of information I've shared younger relatives when they're ready to make their own way into the world. Suppose Earlybird invested $3000 a year in an index fund from age 25 to 35, and then stopped. Latebloomer waited until age 35 to start investing $3000 a year and continues until age 65. Guess who had the most money at age 65? Yep. Even though Earlybird only invested $30,000 and Latebloomer invested $120,000, Earlybird had more, due to the magic of compounding.* 

Now my father was a Depression baby. He didn't trust the stock market. Would his grandchildren be better off investing in CDs like he did, or taking my advice and putting their money into an S&P index fund? Time will tell. 

I guess the takeaway is to listen, learn, and weigh the advice carefully. We each have to make up our own minds about whether the stove is worth touching. But there's no reason nut haters should have to bite into a cashew chew by accident when there's a map right there on the candy box lid.

Do you have a piece of advice you've either found valuable or are glad you ignored? 

*I'd love to credit the book where I first read this but alas, its title is lost in the mists of time. It's probably still on a library shelf somewhere.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Road Tripping Dreams

Have you ever gone to a favorite restaurant and been torn between ordering your favorite item on the menu and trying something new? That's how I feel when it's time to plan vacations. Spend more time in those places we loved or see someplace new?

These are the states I've visited.

It looks like I've seen a lot of the United States, but  the map is deceptive; I've spent my life in the big states. Other than Disney World in Florida and Washington, DC, I've never seen the East Coast and somehow never made it to California. I have changed planes in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon, but airports don't count. (Although Portland airport included an excellent meal and the view of sailboats, so it's almost a visit). And I suppose I was technically in Virginia during that trip to DC. So officially, I've touched land in half the states.

I've seen the wide-open spaces of Big Bend in Texas, the stalactites and stalagmites in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and incredible rock formations in Sedona, Arizona and Bryce Canyon in Utah. We honeymooned in Yellowstone, hiked in Montana, snorkeled in Hawaii, and raised a family in Alaska. I love spending time in all these places.

But, I've never seen the autumn leaves in New England. I've never been to Gettysburg, or Williamsburg, or Charleston. I've never visited the San Diego Zoo, or the La Brea Tar Pits, or the redwoods. Then there's Hoover Dam, and the City of Roses, and New Orleans. And that's just off the top of my head.

And there's a whole world out there. I've only visited five countries outside the United States, and there are at least a dozen more I'd like to see. In fact, it won't be long before travel isn't limited to this world. Space tourism is coming.

So if I'm going to fit all those amazing trips into one lifetime, I'd better start planning some trips. How about you? Where are you planning to travel this year?

Monday, January 16, 2017

No Light Without Darkness

We've relocated from Alaska to Arizona for a few weeks. Yes, it's good to be able to go to the mailbox without worrying about slipping on snow or ice, but the best thing about heading south is the daylight.

It's been rainy our first few days here, but the sun has been playing peek-a-boo all day today. It's high enough in the sky that when it does appear, it casts lovely sun puddles through the windows, much to my dog's delight. In Anchorage, the sun never gets high enough to shine through the windows this time of year, and after a month of eighteen+ hour nights, I appreciate what a wondrous thing winter sunshine really is.

This is the view today from the top of the mesa. Look at the way the light and shadows paint the valley below. It's the contrast that makes it beautiful. And I think that's the lesson life is teaching me today. Without shadows, the sunshine would be flat and uninteresting. 

It's true in fiction, too. In any good story, it's the struggle that makes a happy ending so satisfying. The characters need to grow and change to deserve their reward. And we readers have to experience the darkness with them in order to feel the joy when they come into the light. 

Have you read any books lately that left you smiling?