Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I'm Thankful For...

Thanksgiving morning 2008, cooking up fun in the kitchen

When we think about Thanksgiving as a holiday, we tend to think Turkey, Stuffing, and Cranberry Sauce. But the original meaning of the holiday was for the Pilgrims to literally Give Thanks for surviving a long hard year in the New World. They were giving their thanks to God and Mother Earth for providing an abundant harvest and letting them live to see another year.

When I count my blessings tomorrow at the Thanksgiving table, my family will be at the top of my list. My mom and dad and sisters, who traveled to visit us last November to celebrate the holiday, as well as my husband's family, who we'll be traveling to visit with tomorrow. My kids have lots of aunts and uncles who love them, and a fun bunch of cousins to play with. They have grandparents who dote on them as well as get silly with them (note the holiday mustache on my daughter in the photo...)

It's been a tough year for a lot of people. Downsizing, economic woes, stock market fluctuations, the ongoing war efforts, health issues and insurance tangles, bad grades on last week's report cards... but even with all the bad in the world, we still need to make time to smile. To be thankful for those things that are good in our lives.

What are you most thankful for? Take a moment to think about what really matters to you this year. And give thanks for whatever it is that makes you smile.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Issue of CapeWomenOnline

The Holiday Issue of CapeWomenOnline is here!

Visit to read all kinds of fun holiday stories and recipes.

I've written an article on why people should be asking Santa for ebooks this year, as well as an environmental story on choosing eco-friendly gifts from local Cape Cod stores.

My fellow author Marissa Doyle has a great article on Victorian Holiday traditions, and my good friend Nicola Burnell tells us why women really want handmade chocolates for Christmas. Yum!

Take a few minutes to check out these articles, and the great recipes for the holidays. You won't be disappointed!

Monday Morning Musings

NaNoWriMo word count: 32,198

I've been writing this morning, and feeling better about reaching the 50,000 word goal by next Monday. I should be able to wheedle out writing time between now and then, right?

In the meantime, I though we could talk cranberries. We have several active cranberry bogs here in town, believe it or not. Real estate may be at a premium with million dollar beach front homes, but the cranberry bogs are down the middle of Cape Cod, where you can't see the ocean anyway. They are beautiful in their own right, and if you bike or walk the Cape Cod Rail Tail, you'll pass by a number of them. Stop and take a moment to appreciate their beauty.

Some of them are official Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers, with signage to that effect. So their berries get turned into the can-shaped gelatin that my kids and husband prefer. My husband actually likes it to be served with the can lines still visible. Whatever.

Before we moved to Cape Cod, my middle child had a preschool teacher named Mrs. Tripi who taught the kids about Massachusetts cranberries and how to make cranberry sauce from scratch. They started with fresh berries, of course. We've made it in our house every year since. My sister the chef just called last night for his recipe, so I thought I'd share it here for everyone to see how easy it is to make your own cranberry sauce for the upcoming holidays.

Except, of course, fresh sauce doesn't have the fun little can stripes on the sides.

Mrs. Tripi's Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 pound package of cranberries
2 oranges (Mandarin, Clementine, or Navel)

Wash and sift through cranberries, removing stems and bad berries. Peel oranges and take off as much of the inner peel as possible.

In saucepan, stir together water and sugar. Bring to boil. Add fruit to saucepan, and bring to boil again. Reduce heat to low boil for ten minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

NaNoWriMo wordcount: 28,168

I had set aside Friday to catch up with my word count for the month. I got everything else done, and was cracking my knuckles over the keyboard when the phone rang.

Daughter in nurse's office with fever, had to be picked up immediately. "The best laid plans..." as Steinbeck said. And, as Jillian's father points out in Unfolding the Shadows, Steinbeck was already paraphrasing from Robert Burns...

I didn't get much writing done.

And now the run-up to Thanksgiving. The kids have half days on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then no school Thursday, Friday, or Monday. And there goes the rest of the NaNoWriMo month of November.

Last night I had an idea for the plot twist, and sat down and banged out a stream of words, right up until I killed off one of the characters. (someone should die in a romantic suspense, don't you think? so far it's been all character and situation building, and a little conflict as well as sizzling kisses.)

But after typing the part where a character proclaims, "He's dead" my fingers stopped flowing across the keyboard. They slowed down to a mere trickle of letters, not words, and every one had to be deleted. After several false starts, I decided to call it a night.

Today the sun is shining, and the sky is already blue. Should I rake the leaves and mow the lawn one last time, or figure out how to get my heroine out from under the cloud of suspicion that has descended like the Chatham fog... Is this really a question? Well, yes, keeping in mind that the kids are home from school today, being Sunday and all.

I guess I'll try to write until it's no longer an option. Part of me is dreaming of the days in the future when I'll be sad that all the kids are grown and moved away from home, and all that I have to keep me busy is my writing. Doesn't sound so very sad at the moment...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ten Days left of NaNo...

There are only 10 days left in the month of November. Ten days to accomplish the NaNoWriMo challenge that I signed up for... and I'm still making my way through the corn maze, trying to find the words I need to find my way to The End.

I'm at 25,261 words. More than half-way, but not nearly close enough to the goal line.

But it's not like I haven't been writing. I have a cool new story I'm thrilled with. I had to take time out from the new story to work on finishing revisions to my Mermaid middle grade book, in order to send the full manuscript to an agent who requested it from a partial. I also renewed and then completely revised my website, since supporting my online presence is part of being an author. And worked on CapeWomenOnline magazine.

I also survived a Girl Scout sleepover and planned two other Girl Scout meetings with my daughter's troop (one of which is tonight) as well as attended the Veteran's Day ceremony with the scouts. I've helped with middle school math, moon journals, tide charts, essays... I've driven to guitar lessons, kids' hair appointments, band practices, voice lessons... I even went to a dinner party off-Cape (without kids, what a concept!)

So should I consider it an epic-fail if I don't make it to my NaNo goal?

I don't think so. I'll still have accomplished all of those other things. And I'll still have the first hundred pages of a new manuscript all ready to work on. But I think I'll keep trying to finish anyway, to make it through the maze to the finish line, even if it really isn't possible.

Because the only real failure would be to give up and not try.

As long as I try, I win.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Ghost Tale For Tuesday

I'm falling behind on my NaNoWriMo word count, and am still working to get the Holiday Issue of the magazine online... and I didn't think to line up a story teller for this week. Darn! I've had a few people say "Sure!" and sound enthusiastic, but then... nothing. If you have a true-tale ghost story you'd like to share, please email me! I'd love to share it here on a Tuesday....

On Friday the 13th, my daughter's girl scout troop decided to join their old Brownie troop for a camp out. Thank goodness it wasn't a tent-out, because of the Nor'easter that blew across the Cape Friday and Saturday. No, it was the annual mother-daughter sleepover, held this year at one of the local churches, a big old wooden building that's been standing on Main Street for at least two hundred years.

About twenty girls and their moms in total attended the event, and we spent the first three hours creating holiday crafts for our winter money-making sale in early December. The cacophony of the Fellowship Hall was almost unbearable. Then we settled the girls down just a smidgen to have a ceremony, learn some camp songs, and put on a few skits. Typical girl scout stuff. By eleven o'clock, most of the moms had gone home (not wanting to sleep on the hard floor, and who can blame them?) and those of us left sent the girls to wash up and get ready to go to sleep.

There were four of us left in the Fellowship Hall, sweeping up the glitter and feathers, and chatting. The girls and the other mothers were at the far end of the church, too far away for us to hear them, or for them to hear our gossip.

I swept up the stage area, and I closed the stage curtain and the doors on either side. I knew there was no one left in that area, although at that moment my only thought was never to bring feather boas to an event like this again. The mess...!

As I finally sat down to take a rest, we heard noises coming from behind the stage curtain. "Did someone come back upstairs?" I asked. I walked quietly to the stage door, and opened it, looking for the girls who should really be in bed. The lights were still off. No one seemed to be there. The noises had stopped. I got a little chill, and decided to just close the door without further investigating.

Just as I sat back down with the other moms, the noises started again. It was as if they were echoes of the prior cacophony. Not voices, but jumping and scraping and folding chairs being pushed about. Another mom (braver than I was?) jumped up and went to the door. She flipped on all the lights and the sounds again ceased. We heard her walk slowly along the stage, hidden by the curtain but her footfalls echoed clearly. She came out of the far door, turning off the lights as she exited. "No one," she said, her eyes a little wider.

I was very glad that we were sleeping in a different room, down the hall and down the stairs, and away from where the spirits were playing. Ghosts of girl scouts past? I unplugged the portable organ, just in case. Didn't want them firing up the camp songs in the middle of the night...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is here once again...
Oh, stop rolling your eyes...

Don't think of it as a bad-luck day. My kids think of it as our family's good luck day, actually. My husband was born on a 13th. Colgate University's lucky number is 13, the school where my husband and I both attended college. My husband even belonged to a singing group called the Colgate 13. They still call themselves Thirteeners... We have a lot of 13s all around us.

We need to embrace the number 13, just as we've embraced vampires, evil faeries, wizards and werewolves. Maybe there's a book in there somewhere...

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update...

NaNoWriMo word count: 22,331

I've finally surpassed the number I entered accidentally by using the word-counting bot last week. Yeah!

Life is all about timing, as one of my characters in Unfolding the Shadows likes to say.

Being a mom, a writer, and a magazine editor is hard to do all at the same time. My life seems to be about more than mere "timing" at the moment, though. It's all about the scheduling, and how to fit all the pieces of my life together like a happy jigsaw puzzle, and still get a recognizable picture without anyone ending up in tears. Not my kids, not my co-workers, and not me.

I'm sorry to say that I've let my frustrations get in the way of my relationships lately, and need to work on this piece of the puzzle a little more. Just getting something done isn't enough if people are still unhappy. Not unhappy with the result, per se, but unhappy with life.

Meeting deadlines shouldn't be our goal in life. They are guidelines to live by and offer structure as we travel down the road, but they shouldn't be the goals. Having happy, healthy kids, and having friends who support you are more important things to strive for.

If I make it to my NaNo goal, great. But not if I have to miss my daughter's Scout sleepover to do it. And I know the magazine will go online when its ready. I need to let go of some of my control issues, and trust that eeryone will play their own parts in the musical of life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My First Review!

I received an advance copy of my very first review today! The email says it will be posted at the review site in mid-November. I guess I can stop holding my breath!

Most of the review details the characters and plot, but the reviewer from Romance Reviews Today concludes:

"An enjoying and entertaining read, UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS is an appealing paranormal romance. The tale moves along at a good pace. It has interesting characters and a good storyline, with everything tied up nicely at its conclusion."

(I can't stop smiling!)

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

My middle child really got into Halloween this year. He's had his costume idea since August, when they started showing ads and music videos featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker from The Dark Knight. He executed on it beautifully. They did fun Halloween activities in middle school as well - not dressing up and eating cupcakes, but writing creepy tales and watching scary movies.

The following story is one he wrote for Language Arts, using as many of the week's list of spelling words as he could. I'm not going to underline the spelling words, though - you'll have to just guess at that part. The names have been changed to single letters, at the author's request. Enjoy...

Halloween Night, an untrue story...

Once upon a time, on a Halloween night, I was running through the extensive woods near our home. The pervasive clouds tried to block out the sparse light of the full moon in meager attempt at total darkness. The moon still found a course through the accumulating clouds and mist. This has surpassed my expectations, I thought.

It was true; it was a perfect Halloween night.

As I ran, I finally came upon a small barren area surrounding a house. My brother S waited by the house. When I got to him, he called my sister's name and T got there in a moment. "Is this the house?" she asked.

"Yes," S answered. I wasn't sure, but it looked like it could be haunted. I hoped it was, or else this was a waste of a Halloween.

I had found the house three weeks ago, and we were sure of two things. One: it was abandoned. Two: there was a reason. So we'd been planning to sneak in since I found it. Now that we were here, I wasn't so sure.

We tried the door first. Locked. We tried the windows second. Boarded up. S searched around the house for a back door or something. When he got back, he told us that there weren't any back doors or secret doors. Then he said we should give up and leave. Strange, S wasn't a person who gives up easily.

T and I went around the house. T saw it first. "What are you talking about, S? There's a door right here," she said as she reached for the door knob.

"It's locked! Don't even bother!" S said, slapping away her hand. For some reason I don't know my hand shot out and turned the door knob. It opened easily. Then a wave of nausea hit me. It passed in seconds.

Sean made a strange screeching sound and lunged at me. He punched me in the nose, then started strangling me. Then he let go and acted as if nothing happened. Next I heard a sharp hiss. T and I went through the door, S following.

The room was empty except for a table. On the table was an open box. Sean hurried over and closed the box. "What?" he asked us as we stared at him. T went over to the box and opened it. S screamed a terrified scream and they both disappeared. I ran to the box. Just as I stopped, I disappeared too.

Epilogue: Three hours later...

S, T and I left the small house as the clouds finally covered all of the full moon. We started running home. Mom and Dad would be worried about us. I was hungry. We all acted as if nothing had happened. After all, nothing had happened. Then, a single ray of moonlight slipped through and shined across our gray eyes. Well, something had happened to S, T and B.

But nothing happened to us.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNo No No

I feel like I'm headed for an epic fail for the NaNoWriMo challenge. After breaking out of the gate really strong, I've stumbled, and am having trouble regaining my momentum.

I haven't even opened my novel document today. Not once. Big no no.

I sat down to write last night, thinking I knew what I wanted my characters to say and do. They wouldn't behave. They insisted on saying things that took me down a path I couldn't get off... so I quit and went to bed. It was midnight anyway, so that was probably a good thing.

But now I don't want to go back there, to the scene I don't know how to end.

I've been defending the concept of NaNo on other blogs for the last week (only during my sanctioned procrastination times, of course) But the weekend started to make me wonder if I was going to be able to finish the challenge. November is a busy month. On the outside of things, it seems as if it should be quiet. In reality, Not so much.

I'm not going to quit. I'm 17,000 words into a story that I didn't have written before. I'm excited to be writing a new storyline. But I like to excel, and I'm not sure I'll be able to.

I know the NaNo "pep talk emails" warn of this part of the month, where you beat yourself up and feel like you're the only one destined to fail. I need to get through this and back to the part where my fingers fly across the keyboard with minds and dialogue of their own. And I need to do it before Thanksgiving break gets going...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My first NaNoWriMo mistake...

So I'm writing frantically and have been all week. Really. Lots of chocolate Halloween candy fueling the frenzy. (I blogged about that a few days ago, LOL.)

After getting up early and whipping off several more pages AND a blog post, I took a break and went to check out the cool NaNoWriMo website. It's got some cool stuff and encouraging words, and places to customize my own page.

I tried to fill out my "Novel Update" page without uploading any of my actual pages, but when I navigated back to the page my info was gone. So I decided I must NEED to enter the actual novel pages for the NaNoWriMo word-bot to count the words (why take my word for it, right? I could be lying, or misinforming everyone.)

I was pretty proud of my word count this morning, too. I was up to about 7,000 words.

I tried to copy and paste my pages into the word counter. Nothing happened. I tried it again. Nothing happened. I tried a third time, and still nothing. Finally I decided that I must have simply forgotten to hit "send" the first time, and that the page uploading wasn't necessary.

I hit send.

The word counting robot decided I must have written 21,000 words, since i entered my text three times. Argh! Do I look like a cheater now or what? Try as I might, I can't figure out how to undo the word count. If anyone knows how, let me know so I can start over.

In the meantime, I'm still writing furiously and frenetically, trying to catch up with what the word-bot thinks I've already written. I managed to bang out another few thousand words today, even with the regular procrastination and magazine editing and mom-stuff I had to do (my middle child had a classmate over this afternoon to gather materials to make a Mesopotamian brick... really... and my daughter had her first voice lesson with a new teacher...)

As of a few moments ago, I'm up to 11,700 words. A good fifth of the way to my goal. But still 10,000 words short of what the word-bot thinks I'm up to.

Have you heard the phrase "Be the person your dog already thinks you are" ?

I'm trying to be the writer the word-bot already thinks I am.

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

I'm participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge this month, and debated whether I should take the time to keep posting ghost stories and creepy tales... but I know some of you out there are enjoying these stories (and may only read my blog on Tuesdays...) so I thought I'd try to keep up.

There's a website that collects people's ghost stories - - which I don not recommend reading at night. Only in full daylight. Some of the stories are really creepy. Not that these people are good writers, but the journaling aspect of the tales make them even more "real" somehow.

There are a lot of stories detailing how people have had experiences with lights and appliances turning on and off. In reading the more "scientific" and "ghost hunting" websites, it seems that paranormal investigators consider this fairly normal and obvious, that the spirits are energy and able to manipulate other energy fields. Like turning on lights.

This happens to me on a fairly regular basis. I've gotten used to the lights. My ghost seems to like to turn the light in the t.v. room back on at night, I'm not sure if it's to tease me, that I have to walk all the way down the hallway and cross the whole house to turn it off again, or if he's just hanging out in what used to be his library.

Last night I was sure that I heard the fan on in the upstairs bathroom. I could hear it humming clearly from the downstairs bathroom (they are situated on top of one another) so I sent my son upstairs to turn it off. He came back down and said it wasn't on. I ran to the downstairs bathroom, and no longer heard the noise. As I was getting ready for bed, the light in the hall turned on AND then off again. That freaked me out a little.

There haven't been a lot of "incidents" in the house since last winter. I actually had assumed that the old woman who sold us the house had finally died, and she and her husband were together at last and had gone on out of this realm. But things started up again about half-way through the summer.

The worst - and by worst I mean freakiest - is when the ghost turns on the air conditioner in my husband's office. It always happens when my husband is away for the day on business, mostly when I'm alone in the house. I always check to make sure he hasn't left the air or heat on in his office when he travels (the heat is electric as well) But when the air turns on I can hear it humming from my bedroom, which is directly below. This summer, I finally unplugged the unit completely, and told my husband to only plug it in when he wanted to use it.

The ghost hasn't figured a way around that. Yet.

Do you have ghosts who like to play with your electrical appliances? Turn fans on and off, or play with your t.v. when no one is in the room? Tell us about it!

Next week, I'm hoping to have one of my kids be my guest blogger with his Halloween tale that he had to write using his spelling words. Surprisingly enough, it's a great spooky tale and I can't wait to share it. But right now, I have to go and write at least 2,700 words if I want to keep up with the NaNoWriMo challenge...wish me luck!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Begins!

I'm officially signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, and somehow decided not to start on November 1st. All three kids had play dates all over town and I had a Girl Scout meeting to attend. Plus the fact I had to go through the Halloween photos and create cheery little blogs about them...

Okay so I totally procrastinated for the first full day of the writing challenge.

Today I'm writing fast and furious - fueled by chocolate candy stolen from the kids' Halloween piles. I'm trying to steal equally from all three, but my daughter has the most candy, so I've dipped into her stash too much already.

Writing frenzy + Halloween Candy = Guaranteed stomach ache.

On the bright side, I whipped out almost 800 words in the last two hours, not including the emails and FaceBook breaks I took to clear my head. I'm half-way to my daily goal, as they say you absolutely need to write 1,667 words each day to make the 50,000 word goal. We'll see.

Another writer on FaceBook pointed out that November isn't the optimal month for those of us writers with school-aged children, as they have Thanksgiving break as well as all those annoying half-days of teacher-parent conferences. And Harwich decided to schedule a teacher in-service day for the day after Thanksgiving break. The last day of the month. My last chance to finish.

In fact, to have any hope of completing the challenge, I just realized I need to FINISH my 50,000 words before November 23rd, when the 1/2 day and vacation madness begins.

So wait, then I need to recalculate my daily totals. Where's the calculator button?

I need to write at least 2,272.72 words each day to reach my goal. Okay, 800 doesn't sound so impressive anymore.

I'd better get back to writing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween: One Very Long Weekend

Halloween actually started for us on Friday afternoon, with a party at the town Community Center. There were games, prizes, friends from school and tons of candy donated by our local Shaw's supermarket.

There were some "messy" games, like the mummy toilet paper one...I'm glad I don't work on the clean-up crew! But mostly, the annual event is about connecting with friends.

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. It was a beautiful morning for the last week of field hockey scrimmages for my daughter.

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

The Harwich Girl Scouts trick-or-treated during the middle of the day over at one of the nursing homes in town. The nurses and some of the patients handed out candy to the costumed Brownies and Juniors.

Lots of the residents interacted with the Girl Scouts, and were so happy to see the costumes and young faces. The girls chatted with some people, and waved and smiled to others, remembering to say "Happy Halloween!" as well as "Thank You!"

After an hour of smiling, the girls rested in the lobby while waiting for parents to pick them up. This was my daughter's second costume of Halloween weekend. She's the Lawyer on the far right with the yellow briefcase. She told people she only handles
"Kid Cases, about candy and trampolines."

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

In the afternoon, there were guitar lessons, band, bank party, and trick-or-treating at the Cape Cod Mall (you wouldn't believe all the little kids who went to do their holiday candy collection inside the safety of the mall!)

After all that, we met up with friends and did the actual walking-in-the-dark-of-night "real" trick-or-treating around a neighborhood over in Chatham that is one of the more popular spots in mid-Cape, and then another neighborhood here in town that also had a few really decked out homes. Half the excitement is in walking in the dark, scuffing your feet through the dry leaves. That feels like the Charlie Brown moment to me.

The trick-or-treaters end a very long Halloween!
You can see that for actual trick-or-treat my daughter decided to go with the "Queen of the Night" costume (with her new black tiara from the mall.)
It's better to be something really scary when it's dark out.