Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday Feature: The World's Greatest Places of 2021

Full disclosure: I haven't read this week's feature...yet. But, since I'm on vacation, I thought I'd share some beautiful places with you. It seemed only fair.

Have a great weekend! See you next week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

An Unlikely Destination

I am the most unlikely beach candidate. I hate heat, I don't swim, and I burn to a veritable crisp. To go onto the beach, I put on comfy shorts and a tee shirt, a hat and sunscreen, then park myself under an umbrella for the duration of my stay on the sand.

And yet the week we spend at the beach each summer is my favorite week of the year. It's right up there with Christmas and my birthday which, not coincidentally, involve some of the same people. Last year, despite COVID, we booked two weeks in the community where we've stayed since my daughter was small. It was essentially sheltering in (a different) place and getting takeout from (different) restaurants. My husband made his early morning visits to the beach while my daughter and I slept. He was at loose ends a bit for some of our trip but my daughter and I happily chilled out at the condo doing whatever we happened to feel like doing, insulated from COVID and the rest of the world in general, with the exception of one of her friends joined us for part of the trip. 

It was wonderful.

While my husband's favorite spot is the beach, mine is (as long-time readers already know) the screened-in porch at the condo. This post, in fact, comes to you directly from that spot. The sun has set, the ceiling fan is whirring overhead and the crickets and bullfrogs are, for now, competing with the sounds of traffic whooshing by. In an hour or so, the bullfrogs and crickets will dominate and I will still be out here, reading, writing or engaging in other quiet pursuits for most of the rest of the evening.

Two of my novels were born at the beach and one, which has been digging in its heels and throwing a temper tantrum for months now, has finally agreed to play nice now that we're meeting on the screen porch. I'm hoping the momentum generated here will carry into our return, freeing me to finally start putting words on the page led, once again, by the nose by the characters who are really the ones in charge. 

I've heard people say that the beach is their happy place and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. I feel a sense of calm here that is unique to this place and, while I've considered analyzing it, I fear that logic would break the spell and ruin the magic. Besides, I don't need to know why I feel the way I do. I just need to know that I do.

Though I try to keep schoolwork away from the beach (unless we're down here while a semester is in session), I feel no such compunction when it comes to my writing. I have a notebook dedicated to "beach pages," along with a stack of notebooks dedicated variously to a reading journal and individual projects in various stages of completion. When I instituted "beach pages" a few summers ago, this was my rationale:

What better place is there for me to let my mind go free and to simply empty thoughts onto the page? Faced with seemingly endless stretches of sand and sea, why shouldn't I let my mind do likewise, moving beyond the boundaries of topics and chapters and deadlines?

While that's by no means the only reason we come to the beach, it is a part of the trip I look forward to. Even on days (like today) when beach pages turn out to be more work than I expected, it seems that something always shakes loose with writing or promotion or something new and creative. As my mind whirs along with the fan overhead, I am grateful, once again, for an opportunity to recharge physically, emotionally, and creatively. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

5 Things I Know About Marita Mercer and One Thing I Learned

I love talking about my characters almost as much as I love talking about my actual flesh-and-blood child and, since Marita is my protagonist (or one of them, anyway), she and I have spent a lot of time together.

If you've read Casting the First Stone, Chasing a Second Chance, and/or Courting Peace, you might know these things about Marita, too. Or, you might disagree, or have come up with a revelation of your own. If so, please share in the comments! 

Here are five things I know about Marita Mercer.
  1. She takes parenting very seriously.
  2. Although she'll never admit it to her parents (especially Rosemarie), she'll always be grateful to them for all they've done for Charli.
  3. She regrets not at least trying college. (She won't admit that to her parents either).
  4. Her biological clock is ticking. Softly, but more insistently than she'd care to admit.
  5. She's not sure she can be the woman Lukas needs her to be, no matter how hard she tries.
And one thing I've learned? She's neither as rigid nor as tough as she wants people to think. That side she shows to her best friend Bets? It plays a big role in every relationship decision she makes, from her parents, to Charli, to Angel, to Lukas...or any other romantic interest. Wait. Is there another romantic interest in Courting Peace? Well, there just might be :-)

Any surprises? Additions? Arguments? Fire away!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday Feature: 18 Easy Ways to Take Waste out of your Daily Routine

For the past several years, my New Year's resolutions have included using less plastic, and this year, I added reducing my paper usage to the list as well. While I'm far from paperless and plastic-free, I've adopted some good habits: using washable cloths and towels instead of paper towels, cloth napkins instead of paper, and reusable shopping bags instead of plastic. I've long been the person who uses both sides of the paper and has piles of scratch paper consisting of the flip side of something else. I sometimes forget or make a conscious choice to go with paper (or plastic), I'm definitely moving in the right direction.

Today's feature, an article from the Ten Thousand Villages publication, Mosaic, quotes Anne-Marie Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

I'm proud to be one of the millions doing it imperfectly. And, while I don't usually choose an article quite so directly tied to a business for my Friday Feature, the suggestions in this one are good, with many providing easy starting points. The photos, while clearly connected to products, offered their own inspiration as well.

What's one thing you can do to save the planet?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Way Back Wednesday: There's More Than One Way to Read a Book

Sometimes, I feel as though I'm writing about the same thing over and over again but, then again, I guess there is a certain rhythm to life. This post is from two summers ago, around the same time in July, but I could have written it yesterday. One new addition, though -- adding a reading journal has nudged my reading up a notch. I don't like not having something -- even if it's only a magazine article -- to log at the end of the day. Slowly, but surely, the combination of my TBR pile, my Kindle (with its own TBR samples and books), Audible, and my extensive magazine collection (not to mention the internet) give me plenty of opportunities to lose myself in the written word. 

It's a great way to spend a summer.

To read, or to write? That is the question (with apologies to Shakespeare).

As a writer, educator, wife and mom, there never seem to be enough hours in the day, despite the fact that everyone in my family is officially old enough to take care of him/herself. Because I know that reading feeds writing I also know I should do both. And I want to. I really do.

Every week, that annoying Screen Time feature on my iPad reminds me that I managed to find plenty of time to play silly games and engage in social media, seemingly contradicting my stated desire to find more time to read and/or write. (Luckily it doesn't also track TV and Netflix time. Yet).

Bad habits? Maybe. But the games do make me think (more than TV and Netflix) and, besides, I'm often playing them when I'm too tired to actually engage my brain. As for social media, much (but not all) of it is an offshoot of work.

Still, I could be reading instead.

I've read a few articles with tips on how to read more (silly, perhaps) and I've been reminded of the fact that do read -- I read a lot. But, since I'm reading lots of things besides books, the other reading I'm doing interferes with my ability to finish books quickly. As I result, I don't have the wonderful satisfaction that comes with arriving at the end of a book and closing it for the last time, secure in the knowledge that I've lapped up every word.

Last summer, I downloaded Audible so I could listen to books on the beach. Once home, I started listening to books in the car, even though I don't have a very long commute. That resulted in my dipping into even more books and -- triumphantly! -- getting to the end of books even when I wasn't at the beach. I was being read to instead of reading myself, but I was still reveling in a good book.

GDJ via Pixabay
Lately, I've taken my audiobooks out of the car and begun pairing my audiobooks with my iPad games. I can listen to a book while I do a jigsaw puzzle (yes, on my iPad) or play one of the games I like, doubling my enjoyment and feeling more productive (and maybe even a little virtuous) at the same time.

Slowly, I'm adding more reading (and listening) of books to the equation but, as even an algebra 
novice knows, equations have to balance. Finding time to read that's not also prime writing time...well, that remains a challenge, leading me right back to where I started.

To read or to write? That is the question. Either way, I win.

So maybe it's not such a dilemma after all.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Five Things I Knew About Angel Alessio...and One Thing I Learned

Angel Alessio is arguably the most forgiving of all my characters. Unfortunately, her sweet nature means that people count on her kindness, knowing she'll understand whatever mistake or error in judgment they might have made -- and that means she gets taken advantage of.

Poor Angel. She deserves so much better. Luckily, she's surrounded by characters who know this and who (mostly) behave accordingly.

Here are five things I know about Angel.
  1. She has a good heart and sees the best in everyone.
  2. She would do anything for Spencer, Charli, Jim, her father...and Marita.
  3. She has been defined by her mother's abandonment and her father's love.
  4. Even when Jim's appeal is far from evident to everyone else, Angel can still find a glimpse of the man she fell in love with.
  5. She is overwhelmed by the love and compassion she receives from her female friends and extended family.
And the one thing I learned? Angel is much tougher than anyone gives her credit for.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Friday Feature: If I'm an Apple, Can I Retire Next Week?


No, I'm not really planning to retire next week -- or even hoping to. But, as someone who has already retired from one career, I've done a fair amount of reading on IRAs, annuities and stock portfolios, and I've never heard retirement explained in terms of fruit. If I had, perhaps my eyes would have glazed over less often.

Jim DeGaetano has used exactly that analogy, though, classifying wannabe retirees as pears, apples, and strawberries based on their expected income for needs, wants and legacies. In this clear article from Next Avenue, he lays out what it means to be an apple, a pear, or a strawberry, and what to keep in mind, based on which fruit best describes you. 

I love it when professionals find clever ways to explain their areas of expertise, especially when they can do so without being condescending. Now, if only all financial planning was as easy as A is for Apple.