Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy Birthday, Little One!

Today is my daughter’s fourteenth birthday! Hard to believe that my  baby is now solidly in the teen years. Fourteen years ago we were in the hospital waiting for armageddon, otherwise known as the Y2K meltdown. My husband and I figured the best place to be during Y2K was the hospital–and we were right.cake

There wasn’t a glitch in service. No power failures, no computer malfunctions, just the miracle of life happening again and again and again. Our little bundle of joy came out with low blood sugar–shocking, really, considering my sweet tooth. She was whisked away to the NICU where she spent her entire stay with visits from her mom and dad for feeding. She was tiny compared to her older brother who caught his first sight of her through thick glass holding two lollipops from his beloved Aunt Galisa.

So much has changed in the last fourteen years. I won’t bore you with our personal journey, but I will offer this as an excuse for the short post. I’m off to spend the day with my beautiful daughter. Every birthday is a gift. Every moment precious. I plan to soak them all in through her eyes today.

Happy New Year to all!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/zenat_el3ain/3727013559/”>Aih.</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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Overcoming Obstacles to Get My Game On

Cover OutsidersI still remember the first book I wasn’t able to read.  It was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  My problem was not for the reasons you’d think.  Yes, this was a controversial book at the time—I attempted to read it in 1973 as a young elementary school student.  But the issue was that I physically couldn’t read it.  You see, I was the girl with the Coke-bottle glasses and the rare vision disorder that’s only cool to ophthalmologists.  By the time I’d reached the fifth grade, the books I wanted to read—the one’s everybody was talking about—were printed with a smaller font than the Weekly Reader and my mixed up brain just wouldn’t let my eyes hold focus long enough to see the tiny words.

For an eleven-year-old, not being able to read about Ponyboy, Sodapop, Two-Bit, Johnny and the rest of the Greasers was devastating. My options were slim since audio books were still a blip on some entrepreneur’s radar.  Fortunately, I had a group of devoted friends who volunteered to read the book aloud to me every day at recess.  I spent the next few years being read to, until technology and ophthalmology made life a little easier for me.  Still, I remember being sixteen and having a doctor tell me I would most likely have difficulty earning a college degree much less being able to realize my dream of becoming an author.  The synapse connecting my brain to my vision just wouldn’t allow me to accomplish those goals.

baby with glassesTen years later, that same eye-doctor marveled at my earning not only a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, but a Master’s Degree in Public Policy.  Better yet, I was working as a writer.  Well, sort of.  I was actually a Congressional investigator who got to write reports and testimony for Congress.  But one of those blue books turned out to be my first best seller, a feat I’m still proud of today—even if the subject matter could be used as a sleep aid.

Fast forward another two decades and I’ve finally accomplished my dream of becoming a published novelist.  Sure, I can’t actually read the printed version of my books.  Not without specially ground hard contact lenses, reading glasses, and a magnifying glass.  But I don’t have to read it.   I wrote it.  Those words on the page came from the voices in my head; voices that refused to be silenced by a nagging disability.  (Okay, there are those who think the voices in my head are my real nagging disability, but we’ll save that for another post.)

My process of getting those words on to the actual page is pretty convoluted.  Fortunately for people like me, the technology that allows speech to text has been perfected and is now widely used.  Who knew back in the days of being read to by friends that a talking phone named Siri would become my constant companion?  Or that the British voice on my GPS would take the place of struggling to read the fine print on a map?

Unfortunately, my reading vision will never improve.  But the stories in my head refuse to be denied. They flitter before my eyes and throughout my brain demanding to be told.  One way or another, I’ll get them on paper and if just one person reads my books and enjoys them, all my efforts will be worth it.  This holiday season, I’m grateful to all the readers out there who’ve taken the time to read and review my books, it really means a lot to me.

So tell me, what kinds of obstacles have you had to battle to achieve that one thing in life you always wanted?

(This post originally appeared on the Totebags and Book blog site.)

Christmas Reads

Merry Christmas! I hope you’re spending this joyous day with family and friends, participating in the traditions you love most. But in case you’ve got some down time after the gifts are opened and the dinner dishes have been cleared away, I thought I’d recommend some holiday books I’ve enjoyed reading this year.

The Trouble with Cowboys, a novel by Melissa Cutler

Amy Sorentino’s number one rule? Stay away from cowboys. She’s got a long history of getting burned when reality doesn’t live up to her fantasies. But when she moves back home to help her sisters save her family’s ranch, it’s not long before she comes toe to leather boot with Kellan Reed. Kellan isn’t looking for a relationship, and he certainly doesn’t need Amy’s drama in his life. But when a lawsuit draws them together, their hormones override their heads in this hot contemporary romance. 5 stars.

Snow Kissed, a novella by Laura Florand

Broken by grief, Kai Winters fled her marriage to hibernate in her mother-in-law’s woodland cabin. When her not-yet-ex-husband Kurt shows up on a business errand for his mother, he gets snowed in, and the two are forced to confront their wounds. Delicate as mouth-blown glass, this story will weave inside you and capture your heart. Poignant and ultimately uplifting, this contemporary romance will also appeal to women’s fiction readers. 5 stars.

Christmas at Copper Mountain, a novella by Jane Porter

Harley Diekerhoff can’t bear the thought of being surrounded by children at Christmas, not after everything she lost in a horrific plane crash three years earlier. So she takes a temp job as a housekeeper at a Montana ranch, where she doesn’t have to think or talk, but can just work with her hands all day. She’s content there until her boss’s eleven-year-old twins run away from boarding school and show up unexpectedly on their father’s doorstep. Brock Sheenan doesn’t appreciate his pretty housekeeper’s advice about raising his kids, but when they blossom under her care, he begins to wonder whether he’s been a grieving widower too long. Contemporary romance. 4 stars.

Christmas at Crescent Cove, a novella by Shelley Noble

A follow-up to Beach Colors, this story is part of the Holidays at Crescent Cove collection. Model-turned-farmer Brianna Boyce is happy with her role as single mom to two Chinese girls she’s recently adopted. When David Henderson shows up on her property, she’s not exactly welcoming. In her experience, men bring nothing but trouble. David is just passing through, planning to leave town as soon as he delivers a letter from a friend who died in Afghanistan. But Bri and her two little girls warm a heart chilled by the atrocities he’s seen in his ten years as an aid worker. He wonders whether it’s time to put down the roots he’s never had. Women’s fiction, it will also appeal to romance readers. 4 stars.

When Sparks Fly, a novella by Sabrina Jeffries

In this story from the Snowy Night with a Stranger anthology of regency romances, Elinor Bancroft has determined never to marry. She’d rather spend life as a spinster than settle for one of the fortune hunters who court her. When a carriage accident leaves her stranded, along with her young cousins and injured aunt, the party is forced to accept the hospitality of Martin Thorncliff, nicknamed the Black Baron, a self-exiled social pariah. Unintimidated by his prickly manner, she soon sees how grief and guilt have wrecked him. Her kindness wakens a deep longing in him, and he discovers that having a houseful of noisy children at Christmas brings at least as much joy as inconvenience. 4 stars. (This anthology is a free read on xoxoafterdark.com until January 20, 2014.)

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did. Have a safe, happy, and healthy new year!

 

Celebrate!

I find myself whipping through the holidays against my every intention to slow down and enjoy the moment. I want to consume the scent of evergreen–something we don’t get a lot of here in Florida–and linger in the beauty of the lights, the magic, the meaning of the season. My children have been counting the days, of course, hardly able to contain themselves as they anxiously await the big night. (Who knew there was something called Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve?) Thank goodness the actual day has arrived!

gingerbread house

It’s a beautiful time of year, one we celebrate with friends and family, sharing our hearts and time, contemplating our blessings. It’s a time to give, a time to receive, a time to take stock in where we’ve been, where we’re going and what it all means. This year has been a whirlwind for me. I’ve completed my new series, Ladd Springs, releasing book 5 out of 5 later this month. It’s been exciting, exhausting, challenging and rewarding but well worth it. Now, I take time to breathe and simply “be” before continuing the process of marketing and brainstorming the next set of books from Dianne Venetta. (Does it ever end? ;))

Kids are great

Hopefully not. Hopefully, for as long as I’m living and breathing I will have the spirit of creativity in my heart, the passion that sustains me and gives back in the form of entertaining stories which provide escape and release from the everyday stress and strain of life. We all have busy lives. We live in a time where technology propels our minds at the speed of light and thrusts us from activity to activity, goal to goal. I, for one, am taking a breather. If only for a day, an evening, a moment, I’m jumping off the “merry-go-round” of obligation and duty and sitting calmly at home with my husband and children.

Trying to, anyway, and I hope the same for you. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year. See you in 2014!

Just show up

This past weekend, my girlfriends and I participated in the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run. This fun run is exactly what it sounds like — a horde of half-naked men and women trekking down Peachtree in Santa hats and sleigh bells and barely-there bathing suits, to raise money for a local nonprofit. In this case, for Kate’s Club, an organization that empowers kids and teens who have lost a parent or sibling.

photo 4After the run, while we all warmed up inside with peppermint schnapps and shots of Fireball, Kate Atwood, the founder of Kate’s Club, said a few words of thanks. Her message stuck with me long after the chill left my bones.

The best gift you can give anyone, she said, is to simply show up. When a child loses a loved one, when a family member loses their job, when a stranger loses their way, to just be there for them, to give of your time and full attention, is a gift more valuable than gold.

It’s a message that’s so easy to forget during the holiday frenzy, when time is scarce and commercials lure us into thinking the ultimate gift is a shiny new car wrapped in a big, red bow. Whipping out your credit card is so much quicker and less painful than sitting down and listening to someone’s tales of woe, but what is the message behind our gift? That Amazon.com is the cure-all for everything that ails us? 

If you have kids, and if your kids are anything like mine, they have a Christmas list as long as their arm. They want jewelry and clothes and books and electronics and skis and guitars. They want a shiny new car wrapped in a big, red bow. 

But at the risk of sounding like the Grinch, they already have enough stuff. This year, I think I’ll take Kate’s advice and give them more of me instead. I’ll schedule time for bottomless pots of tea and linger over long dinners together. I’ll watch movies or ride bikes or hang out at home. I’ll do absolutely nothing, as long as it’s with the people I love. 

photo 1

When a few weeks ago, my girlfriends suggested we don our skivvies and sprint down Peachtree in broad daylight, I thought they were crazy. But my girlfriends asked, and I showed up, and along with a couple hundred other Atlantans, we raised over $100,000 for an amazing cause.

And you know what? I feel like the winner here. 

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