How a Husband Handles Heartbreak

I spend a lot of time telling stories about my husband that make people laugh. Fortunately, he’s fine with it. In fact, he kind of loves being “internet famous.” But this man is so much more than a laugh factory.

When Hurley nabbed a baby bird in our back yard last month, I figured the poor thing was dead. I shooed the dog away and ran back inside for some shoes and my glasses. With the ability to see properly, I could tell the little guy was probably injured, but I didn’t know how much. He could still hop around the yard, but the tree branches were out of his reach. Still, he was safe enough without the dog menacing his every move, so I left him to his parents.

Later, I ran to the car to grab something and found the little guy just underneath the driver’s side door. He didn’t move a muscle while I was there, so I left him again. The next time I let the dog out, I’d nearly forgotten the tiny bird. Hurley had not. Within moments, he was chasing the poor thing around the yard.

Liam and I decided to act. We snatched the dog back and put him inside the house. Then we set up a makeshift nest in the bottom of a cooler. The walls were too high for the bird to get out, which was reassurance for us that he wouldn’t inadvertently jump to his death on the hard ground or inside my dog’s mouth.

I visited the Walden’s Puddle website (a wildlife rescue near Nashville) and learned how to care for the injured bird until we could get an appointment to turn him over to smarter and more experienced people. Every hour, for twelve hours, I hand-fed the bird mushy cat food by tweezers.

When I woke the next morning, I ran out to check on the bird first thing. Liam wasn’t far behind. My heart skipped a beat when the bird jumped up to greet us—or probably to escape, but I’m sentimental. Liam brought out the cat food mush and herded Hurley into the yard so I could get the bird fed. I couldn’t believe he’d made it through the night! We just had to keep him alive until 4:30 for our appointment with Walden’s Puddle.

Every hour, I fed the bird, but then we had to leave him alone for a bit. We timed our trip to the wildlife sanctuary perfectly. When I rushed through the house to grab the cooler for our trip, I was so excited that we’d saved this bird. Until I reached the cooler and found that our tiny new friend had slipped away while we weren’t looking.

His little body lay limp on the nest we’d made, his bright eyes once filled with trust now glazed. Just thirty minutes away from salvation, he’d given up. He didn’t know, of course, that we were working hard to keep him alive so that he could be healed at the hands of wildlife experts.

The first tears slipped out as I ran back to tell Liam we’d lost the bird. I expected him to think I was silly for crying. It was just a bird, right? Instead, that funny man of mine took my hand and led me back to the cooler where we stood in silence for just a few moments.

Then he grabbed a shovel and dug a small grave next to Rosie, and we laid the little guy to rest. As I cried, Liam just held me. Before we walked away, he said a short prayer. That bird wasn’t our pet and never could have been, but Liam gave him a final resting place of honor. And he’d never admit it, but I saw him shed a tear or two, as well.

And that’s how a good, loving, respectful husband handles heartbreak.

I wrote this just after we lost our little friend but waited until now to post for reasons I can’t really explain. Mostly, I couldn’t proofread without crying. :-\

Plaid Pajama Pants and Black Forest Gateau: A Wedding Story

There is no end to the stories I could tell about our wedding day. The “proposal,” the snow, the plaid pajama pants in our photos… Really, the day was magical in that Liam-magic sort of way. Today, for our 9th anniversary, I’ll share another.

For this story, I have to tell the punch line first. Then I’ll explain. Because every joke is better when you have to explain it, right?

Last night, before drifting off to sleep, Liam asked me, “Do you know what should have been happening at this time nine years ago?”

I thought long and hard, coming up with stuff like, “We should have been going to different houses to sleep,” or, “We should have thrown those plaid pajama pants away.”

Over and over, he shook his head. Finally, he took pity and said, “My groom’s cake should have been in the oven.”

See, we had a small, quick wedding. The cakes were a bit of an afterthought, one supplied by my parents just so we’d have at least a few traditional things here and there. There was a small bride’s cake with two layers, and then there was Liam’s requested Black Forest Gateau. Yes, he always calls it gateau.

After the short wedding and the drive through the snow to the mountains for our tiny, tiny, tiny reception, we dug into the champagne (in dollar-store flutes) and cake. Liam totally bypassed the bride’s cake and attacked the chocolate and cherries.

And then he made this face. Not the face that says, “Ewwwwwww.” Rather, I think, the face that says, “I don’t know exactly how to make Black Forest Gateau, but I don’t think this is it.”

He struggled through a few more bites and then switched to the other cake. Later, he said the gateau was way too moist for his liking. I tried a bit and agreed. It was kind of…gummy. But we took it home with us anyway and put in the fridge like we might consider eating another piece.

Then I got the great idea that I might heat it up and eat it like a cherry-chocolate cobbler with some ice cream. I stuck the bowl of “cobbler” in the microwave and two minutes later pulled out a big, fluffy piece of Black Forest Gateau.

The baker had seriously forgotten to bake our cake. And Liam has never, ever let me forget it.

Bibliocast: Favorite Reads of 2014 and What I’m Excited About for 2015

Don Theo invited me back to the Biblio Circus Bibliocast yesterday, where I talked about my favorite reads of 2014 and the books I’m looking forward to in 2015. I’m a big fan of indie and small press authors, so we explored Brigid Kemmerer’s Elemental Series, Elizabeth Hunter’s Irin Chronicles, Kate SeRine’s Transplanted Tales, Emma Trevayne’s Coda Series, and Carol Oates’s Shades Series.

http://player.cinchcast.com/?platformId=1&assetType=single&assetId=7258849

Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Biblio Circus Show on BlogTalkRadio

Another Moment with Irish Author Carol Oates

Carol Oates is one of my favorite people. We’ve never met (though I hope to remedy this when in Ireland in a few weeks), and sometimes we go months without contact, but when we do get a chat, she’s always friendly, engaging, and fun. That’s why I love sharing her work with anyone who follows my books, too. Well, she also writes exciting Young Adult and New Adult books with some similar themes, so I figure if you like my stuff, you’ll like hers, too.

Carol has a new book coming out very soon, so I asked her to come back and let us know what she’s been up to. She agreed to answer some questions about her latest book and everything that has come before. Enjoy!

You have several books available right now. What’s the latest release? Can you tell us a little about it?

My latest is Something Wicked. It’s a New Adult supernatural and draws on a number of elements to twist a vampire story into something I hope readers will find unique. Something Wicked spans 1869 to modern day, and follows Henry Clayton, a young medical student, who is attacked by a vampire and abandoned on the streets of Dublin. His search for a cure drives him to London and the brink of madness in the time of Jack the Ripper. Back in Dublin after more than a century, Dougal, an immortal highlander and Henry’s friend, learns of a plot by a vampire cult to awaken the first vampire. Reluctant to get involved at first, Henry is drawn into the mystery when he meets a young American woman who seems to have a role to play in the cult’s plan.

something wicked by carol oates

Do you share any traits or characteristics with the main character?

Not at all, unless you count both being Irish, and I suppose we both are a little hot tempered. Henry is a dark character. He flips flops between self-hatred of what he is and a sort of reluctant acceptance. He lies to himself all the time about his motivations, whereas I’m an open book. He never learned how to move on. That’s not me at all. I hate giving up on anything thing. However, once I do, I’m over it.

What’s the hardest thing about writing in the fantasy genre?

Keeping my imagination in check. For instance, this book has vampires, witches, druids, my own spin on Celtic folklore, and a sin-eater. World building to include everyone can be hard at times, but it’s worth it to read the finished story.

Describe your process from start to published. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you self-edit or work with an editor?

Something Wicked was a failed NaNoWriMo project in 2010. I’m not one of those writers who can turn out a story in six months. I wish I was. It can take years for me to go from idea to complete manuscript, but I also usually have several in different stages at the same time.

I start with an idea, research, and make notes. The research tends to continue as new things come up during writing but the bulk is done at the beginning. I write everything longhand in notebooks, so the typed up version is a second draft and usually unrecognizable from my scribbled version. I then write another couple of drafts.

Sometimes at this point, I might set the story aside to percolate while I work on something else or rewrite it entirely. Eventually it will go to trusted pre-readers who will always have a lot to say on the story and my writing. I am not a good writer. I was in a remedial English class in school and a critique of a much earlier work suggested I get myself a copy of English for foreign speakers, despite English being my first language. I have to work very hard for anything to be even a readable standard.

After I apply feedback, I will go through the manuscript again. Then, a last run through following along with a text to speech program.

After all that, I have to submit the story and hope it will be picked up for publication.

Something Wicked required a re-write, then intensive editing, copy-editing, and proof reading. In other words, if my book is good, it’s because an entire team of people worked solidly for almost a year to make it good. In the meantime, I turn in acknowledgements, dedication, and a cover form with any input I might have for the cover artist. At this point, I begin working with a marketing associate on ways we can promote together to get the book noticed.

The last stage of the process is reading and approving galleys (which I’m doing at the moment), a cover reveal and publication. Publishing is hard work and long hours, but at the end of it, the idea has become something tangible and out there in the world.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

A couple of things. While writing Something Wicked, my notes contained Dougal’s backstory from the time he was a wee lad in the Scottish Highlands to when he left after he was turned. I loved writing Dougal and kept writing him because he kept talking to me when Something Wicked was done. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever make it public.

I’m a good way into the third and final Shades book, Atlantis Rising. I also have a few other things I’m tinkering with.

What was the last book you read?

I’m almost done with Jessamine by Shani Struthers. It’s a wonderful story, with a slightly ghostly feel to it. Shani’s prose is simply dreamlike and she has a wonderful way of submerging the reader into the location of the story with her words. This one should be on everyone’s ‘to read’ list.

What song would be on the soundtrack if your book were a movie?

I try hard not to imagine a movie. It’s like that fantasy thing I spoke about earlier, it’s very hard to keep in check. It starts out picking songs and end up with me wondering who I’ll be sitting next to the premiere. My imagination runs away. However… if there was a movie… Halestorm featured heavily on my playlist while writing. Innocence, Familiar taste of Poison, I’m Not An Angel. Dante’s Prayer by Loreena MeKennitt was also on there.

What does your typical day look like? When do you find time to write?

Typically, my day revolves around my son who is 19 and special needs and requires full-time care. I will try to get up before he does and check my emails, then get both of us dressed and have breakfast. I have to drop him off at his day service for a couple of hours. While he’s there I’d do shopping or house stuff, or any errands that need doing. Walk the dog (a new addition to the family). I might get a chance to write a little or check on social media. Then I pick up my son. The late afternoon and evening is often taken up with his plans or projects. On days he’s not in his service, we usually have trips or activities planned. I try to keep one day a week free, what we call a home day. I write around him, which is where the notebook comes in handy. I write on the train, or the bus, or if we are out anywhere I’m not driving. I take photographs everywhere we go to use for inspiration.

You have more than one series. Can you tell us about your other works?

The Shades books start out with Shades of Atlantis, then Shades of Avalon. They are about Guardians, a race of supernatural beings who once rules a utopian society on the island that became Ireland. Their battle and subsequent downfall became the inspiration for the fall of Atlantis. The books revolve around three main families, Wallace, Pryor, and Hamilton families. They live in the human world, hiding their true heritage. Their shared history and connection to the royal bloodline of the Guardians puts them all in the path of a corrupt Council that will stop at nothing to retain power. The second book introduced heroes of Camelot to the story. Each book is told by a different character and the third book is one of my current projects.

Ember is set in an alternative reality where angels are exiled from Heaven, those who wanted to live among humans and those who came to destroy those angels. When Candra Ember learns she is the only Nephilim in existence, she finds herself having to choose a side or be the cause of a second angelic war. The second book, Iridescent, sees a demon unleashed on earth who offers Candra a way to send the angels home. The story is complete as is, although there is potential to expand further as some point.

Can you share an excerpt of your latest release?

A scene from 21st century

Doug came from the back yard carrying an armload of thick chains. The aroma of smoke and lighter fluid permeated the air, blown in by the sharp breeze. He glanced down at his bounty and raised an eyebrow.

“Look what I found in your shed. Do I want to know what you were planning to do with these? Something fun I hope.”

“I picked them up while I was out the other night. I thought you might want to use them on me at some point.”

He chuckled. “Aye, you’re a fine looking man, Clay, but not my type.”

“In the event I lost control,” I clarified. “I don’t want to hurt Ari.”

He scowled, his lips pinching up in disapproval. The chains clanked against the quartz countertop of the island. “Well, at least it’s convenient. Will you please reconsider leaving now?”

“I can’t.”

He rolled his eyes.

I took a blood bag from the fridge and poured it into a large glass. “It’s hard to explain it. I can’t leave.”

“How long do we have before—” his eyes flickered upward “—wakes up?”

“He looks like he went a few rounds with a truck, so a while yet.”

Doug dragged his fingered through his hair. “I wish I didn’t have to ask…”

“It was Ari.”

He huffed out a breath. “What happened while I was gone?”

“Four of them came in as soon as daylight faded. I fought off three and the fourth got to Ari.”

Doug began to pace slowly and shook his head as though trying to work something out. He tilted his head sideways and an eyebrow arched into his ruffled fringe. “And she took care of him?”

I dipped my head once.

“I knew it wasn’t normal how she just took everything.” He rolled his hand toward himself, illustrating his point.

“I really don’t need an I told you so.”

Doug stopped across from me. “I wasn’t going to offer one.” He tapped the counter with his knuckle, his knowing green eyes piercing through me. “What else?”

I took a swig of blood, biding some time. “We talked and we kissed.”

He waited a moment while I finished the glass and rinsed it. However, I wasn’t inclined to share the details.

“Just a wee kiss, eh? Anyone ever tell you that you’ve a gift for bad timing and understatement, Henry Clayton?” A moment later he expression hardened. “I want this to be a good thing. I want to believe it’s real, but you have to admit the timing is all screwed up.

“You don’t have to tell me. When I kissed her, it was like the end of the world.”

He laughed. “Exactly how a good canoodle should be.”

 

Where can readers find you and your books? 

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon.com

Amazon.uk

Simon and Schuster author page

Omnific Publishing

Something Wicked Trade paperback link

 

 

 

 

A Year of Liam Conversations

I started to write a big introduction about how wonderful he is and how almost 9 years of marriage has been magical. Mostly, it’s been hilarious. I share the funniest (and most PC) stuff on Facebook, so I decided to scroll back through some of the conversational highlights of 2014. So, instead of going on and on about him, let’s just giggle.

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Happy holidays!

9 Christmas Songs That Won’t Annoy You

I just got done reading a blog about the “most annoying Christmas songs,” many of which I agreed with. Still, ‘tis the season and all that. I’d rather be jolly than annoyed, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites—at the very least, my favorite versions of some popular ones. When I set my Spotify to “private session,” there’s a good chance I’m listening to one of these songs, and I will be until the New Year.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas | Swear and Shake

Surprise! There’s a Swear and Shake song on this list. Who knew? But for real. Listen to Kari’s caramel vocals, the happy banjo, the festive uke. Who could hate Christmas while listening to this?

Underneath the Tree | Kelly Clarkson

Someone needed to knock Mariah Carey of the Christmas Pop throne. I love that Kelly Clarkson did it with this song. Will I hate it in ten years after it’s been overplayed and overperformed on every Christmas special ever? Maybe. But for now, it makes me smile.

I Never Spend a Christmas That I Don’t Think of You | The Statler Brothers

Guys. Bring this Christmas album back now. I grew up listening to this group with my family while traveling to various family holiday functions. The nostalgia is strong with this one.

Fairytale of New York | The Pogues featuring Kirsty McColl

Probably the most depressing Christmas song on the planet. But let me tell you, you haven’t experienced Christmas until you’ve seen a full, rowdy Irish pub come to a complete standstill the moment this song begins to play.

It’s Christmas Time Again | Matthew Mayfield

Mostly I love this one because it’s Christmas Matthew Mayfield style. Since I love his music and I love Christmas, getting them both together in one song is a pretty exciting gift.

It’s Christmas, I Love You | Daniel Ellsworth and Alva Leigh

Again, who’s surprised? Daniel Ellsworth on another “Jen’s favorite music” list. Well, I love his stuff for a reason, and this is epic Ellsworth. Fun, funny, quirky, intelligent, Christmas. What’s not to love?

Over the River | The Last Bison

I love that this folk band doesn’t try to hide or downplay their classical roots. Instead, they fold it right in, the way our ancestors surely did. It’s a study of the past, present, and future of music, and then, of course, there’s Christmas.

The Lights and Buzz | Jack’s Mannequin

It’s a few years old, but I’m still not tired of it. Maybe because I only listen during Christmas, or maybe because it’s Jack’s Mannequin. Either way, it’s a nice addition to the playlist, and a break from all the same ol’ songs.

Cuddle Up | Catey Shaw

This is less a Christmas song and more a winter song, but it’s cold outside. Her voice is adorable, and I can’t get enough of the bouncy beat. It’s perfect for invoking thoughts of lit trees, hot chocolate, and Christmas movies.

So, how many will you add to your Christmas list? What’s your favorite Christmas song this year? I wanna know!

Big Thanks to Biblio Cast!

On Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking with Don Theo III at Bibliocircus for their first Biblio Cast. This was especially fun for me, since Don and I went to high school together. We talked about Going Under: The Oracles of St. Ambrose, specifically how Chase Bradford is a “fish out of water” for most of the book. It’s a feeling we were both familiar with.

If you missed your chance to listen along, you can catch the podcast by following the link below. Huge thanks again to Don and Bibliocircus for hosting me.

Biblio Cast.

WHY Women Over 30 Should Stop Wearing These Things

A few days ago, this little article tripped its way through my Facebook feed a few times, so I clicked. I fell prey to the bait. The idea behind the blog is that women over a certain age should stop wearing particular items because, well, we’re just too damn old. Ridiculous. The more I thought about each thing on the list, the more I asked myself WHY we have to stop wearing them. With that question in mind, I went back through and realized there are some valid reasons, maybe, that a woman shouldn’t wear these things over the age of 30.

Leopard print

Sure, I guess a woman over thirty should stop wearing leopard print if the print is MADE OF REAL LEOPARD FUR. But only then, and only if you’re morally opposed to fur or allergic to cats.

Sparkly pants

The real danger with sparkly pants is a sunny day. These things, while cute on woman of any age, could potentially blind someone. On a cloudy day? Go for it.

Oversized sunglasses

If it’s not sunny outside, wear the sparkly pants but leave the oversized sunglasses at home. Otherwise, wear any old size sunglasses you want. It’s your face, your eyes, and your fashion sense.

Non-matching socks

Come on. You’re gonna have boots on anyway, so who really cares? There is absolutely no reason you can’t wear non-matching socks. Ever. Go mix ‘em up right now if that’s your thing.

Hoop earrings

Don’t ever, ever wear hoop earrings if you’re allergic to the metal.

Furry boots

With winter coming? Furry boots are a must. Only, they’re not a smart idea around my house because Hurley thinks they’re other animals and attacks. My personal choice is not to wear them because I don’t want my feet to be chew toys. No attack dogs in your house? NO REASON NOT TO WEAR THEM.

Furry anything

Look, people started wearing fur because it was warm and necessary. If you’re cold, wear fur. If you live in the tropics, it’s probably not necessary.

Tube tops

I have no justification for this. But still, if you like it, wear it.

Short dresses

Most of the United States will be in a polar vortex for a majority of the winter. That’s a pretty good reason not to wear short dresses. But if you’re impervious to the cold, show those legs.

Mini skirts

Again, cold. But if you wear furry boots and furry other things, you might just stay warm enough.

Overalls

Um, I suppose if you’re not a farmer, you could do without these. But maybe you are a farmer. Or an Osh Kosh B’Gosh model. Or maybe you just like them. Seriously, wear the overalls.

Crop Tops

Ever sat in a chair that’s really cold? With a crop top, that cold hits right in the middle of your back. If that kind of thing bothers you, don’t wear a crop top.

American Eagle

Hey, even this snarky blog said their jeans fit perfectly. Do what you want.

Booty shorts

Definitely don’t wear these if you’re going to a job interview. Unless your interview is at Hooters. I don’t judge.

Old sneakers

Now this is ridiculous. Putting on your favorite busted tennis shoes after a long day in heels is better than a bubble bath. But if you’re about to model the latest Jimmy Choo designs, the Chucks must come off.

Cheap bras

The only reason you shouldn’t wear cheap bras is if you’re planning to go braless. Otherwise, who are we to tell you how much to spend on your unmentionables?

Glitter eyeshadow

If you have sensitive eyes, the glitter might irritate them. Otherwise, glitter eyeshadow is awesome! It covers the fact that you haven’t tweezed your eyebrows in a week.

Platform flip-flops

If you have weak ankles, platform flip-flops are a no-no. I avoid them at all costs, honestly, but I’d rather lose an eye than break my leg again. If you’re a thrill seeker? Go for it.

Abercrombie & Fitch

I agree with this one. Don’t give money to these people. They help perpetuate the myth that only a certain type of woman is beautiful, and you deserve to feel beautiful no matter what.

Scrunchies

What’s not to like? They’re easy on your hair, meaning less breakage and smoother cuticle over time. Don’t wear scrunchies if you prefer the free-flowing mermaid look. Wear them if you’re dressing as Cyndi Lauper for Halloween. Actually, wear them whenever the hell you feel like pulling your hair out of your face. It’s your damn hair. (Thanks, Jasmine, for this contribution.)

So, yeah. I say women have a right to feel comfortable and beautiful in whatever they’re wearing, whatever others might say or think. Don’t let a snarky article make you feel like less. As long as you like it (and can deal with the consequences of wearing it), no one should tell you otherwise.

Why Halloween Is a Nightmare on Elm Street for Introverts

Someone just asked me what we plan to do this evening for Halloween, and my knee-jerk reaction was “Turn off the porch lights, lock the door, and pretend we aren’t home.” I have nothing against Halloween, or kids, or giving away candy. When I was a kid, I didn’t take issue with getting free candy. I just rarely take part in the whole giving/taking free candy, and for one very good reason: I’m an introvert.

The Three Times I Remember Trick-or-Treating

Aside from a ridiculous blitz of my neighborhood as a senior in high school and a scavenger hunt in college, I stopped knocking on people’s doors for free candy at a pretty young age. What I do remember about Halloween went a little something like this:

Age 6

“Well, hello there! And what is your Halloween costume this year?”

“I’m a cat.”
“Are you now? Can you meow for me like a cat?”

“No.”

Age 7

“Oooh, and what is this cute rock star doing at my door?”

“Trick or treat.” (Shakes bag of candy meaningfully and stares over shoulder at Mom.)

Age 8

“Well, this is a creative costume! Did you make it yourself?”

“Yes.”

“And did Mommy and Daddy help?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose you want some candy, huh?”

“Yes.”

I’m sure I went along with my sister and little friends to houses around town after that, but the story was always the same. I didn’t want to show off or do twirls. I didn’t want to explain my costume, which should have been obvious, anyway. I just wanted to grab my candy and go.

The One Time I Remember Passing Out Candy

As an adult, I got excited about the first Halloween when I’d hand out candy. Surely this would be different, right? I bought piles of it, ready to pass out to kids in the neighborhood, excited to see all the costumes and watch their faces light up when I gave them the good stuff.

Darkness crept in, and I turned on the front porch light. I sat on the couch, waiting for the doorbell to ring. With each passing minute, my stomach squirmed more. I was excited! Or scared? Yeah, maybe scared.

Finally, someone knocked, and I jumped to my feet. When I pulled open the door, a huge group of kids stood with bags and buckets at the ready.

“Trick or treat!” they chorused.

“Hi!” I said.

“I’m a lion!”

“I’m a tiger!”

“I’m a bear!”

Oh, my. I had no idea what to say. Each kid took his turn explaining his costume. Parents huddled at the end of the sidewalk, watching the whole interaction with expectant faces.

“That’s…nice. Here’s your candy.”

I waved, shut the door, turned off the porch light, and spent the next two weeks eating candy.

And then a married a guy just like me. So, that’s why we’re not doing anything. We’ll turn on a scary movie, or maybe just a rerun of Criminal Minds. We’ll leave the door shut, the lights off, and shush the dog if someone dares to knock anyway.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!