April is National School Library Month. What’s your first memory of a library?

SLM2014_banner_webI am a librarian. No joke. A lot of people might not know that about me, but I did receive my Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Today being the first day of School Library Month, I thought I’d take a moment to reminisce about the effect libraries in general had on me in my formative years.

My first memory of a library is not a very pleasant one. Our school library was a dark area right in the middle of the building with no windows. On the best of days, it wasn’t a welcoming space. I was probably about seven or eight on this particular day. I had an assignment to learn how to use the encyclopedias (back in the days before Google). I can’t remember what my assignment was, but I do remember noticing a little cluster of my classmates in a corner with an encyclopedia. Curious, I joined them.

Someone had found a picture of a statue. A naked man statue. Not much bigger than postage stamp size and in grainy black-and-white, it nonetheless held our third-grade attention like no teacher ever could. Until the blue-haired librarian found us.

I kid you not in the least, she had blue hair. And when she was angry–which she unfortunately often was–it all seemed to stand on end. That day was the angriest I ever saw her. She snatched the encyclopedia away from our unworthy childish hands. “That is art!” she snapped. (Or something close to those words.) “It is not something to be giggled about!”

Being a timid child, I fled to the darkest corner of the library, my cheeks burning, certain I was going to be found and led to the principal’s office, probably even be accused of being the ringleader pervert.

Nothing of the sort happened, of course, and I’ve learned to think of my blue-haired elementary school librarian as a sort of benefactor. She wasn’t the one who convinced me to go into library science, but she helped form my philosophy that a library needs to be a friendly place–for children, especially. No, the people who convinced me to go into library science were my “Ladies of the Library”. I discovered them when I was about twelve years old and started volunteering at the Transylvania County Public Library. Beautiful, happy souls who loved their work, these ladies took me under their collective wing and nurtured my love of books and reading.

It seems fitting to me that it was at the public library–the library my mother took me on weekly trips to from the time I learned to read, the first library I ever got a “library card” at–that I first fell in love with the idea of the preservation of knowledge. As for my ladies of the library, I remember them all with a great deal of fondness. I still have the little bookmark they gave me when I graduated from high school. They made the library a friendly place for me, and I thank them for it.

But the path that led me to becoming a librarian started there in my elementary school library. In the dark, foreboding corner of a dusty space filled with moldering books and guarded by a fierce, blue-haired custodian. God bless her.

So tell me…what is your first memory of a library?

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Quick Update: What I haven’t done.

You know that moment when you’ve been up all night with your kid who has the tummy bug and you’ve got a splitting headache and all you want is to take a shower and go to bed, but you’re still waiting to see if the Gatorade and pretzels are going to stay down this time?

Yeah. That’s me. Right now.

So I chose this moment to update you on what’s going on in my life. And maybe give you an excerpt from Saturday Love cause I really want more people to go out and give that book some love! It deserves it.

I’ve been staying busy, which technically means out of trouble. My kids’ school libraries are up and running and almost fully staffed by volunteers. I love moms who love books and kids! I’m writing somewhat furiously on Island Magic. This one’s like a maze. I keep hitting roadblocks and having to go back to the beginning. But I’ve got a good feeling about the current track I’m on. And I’ve been doing some other fun stuff like working on a fundraiser for the kids’ school, keeping up with their various practices, etc.

What I haven’t done (and that’s always what haunts us, isn’t it?) is be consistent with my marketing for Saturday Love. As I mentioned before, it really is a good book. And even if you haven’t read Ducks in a Row, Saturday Love is pretty much a standalone novel. So anyway, rather than bore you further with my regrets, here’s a taste before I leave you alone:

Will hesitated inside the front door. He glanced down the hall, knowing his mother waited in the kitchen. His brother and sister paused with him and Will looked at Lisa. “Can you give us a minute?”

Lisa opened her mouth to object, but Patrick jerked his head at the kitchen. “Tell Mom we’ll be there in a minute.” She frowned at him, but flounced down the hallway after a second’s hesitation. Patrick sighed and looked at his brother. “Don’t ask me.”

“I just want to know if she’s okay.” Will heard the note of desperation in his voice and saw it reflected in his brother’s eyes. “Jesus, I feel like a fucking addict.” He turned away.
A moment of silence passed, then Patrick spoke. “She’s fine. I saw her the other night.”

“Did she speak to you?” Will stood with his shoulders hunched, holding onto the old wooden banister that he’d slid down as a child. He could feel a slight nick in the wood beneath his fingers and remembered how it had happened. He’d been playing with one of his father’s knives from the kitchen, pretending to be in a swordfight with an invisible adversary. He’d never intended for the banister to take a hit, but it had. Will remembered how angry his father had been. He wondered how angry he’d be now.

Patrick didn’t seem to notice his brother’s preoccupation. “No. I don’t think she saw me. She was with her husband.”

Will closed his eyes, pain and relief warring in him. I’m glad she and Neil worked things out. It’s the right thing. But God it hurts to think of her in his arms.
Then again, it always had. How in the hell did I manage to fall in love with a married woman? Especially one who was still in love with her husband?

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I finally got it right! (Preview excerpt from ISLAND MAGIC)

I’m so excited! After working on Island Magic for at least the past six months, rewriting and then rewriting again when I hit wordblocks (ha, see what I did there with roadblock/wordblock?), I think I finally got it right! I have a really good feeling about this particular iteration of my latest in the Sleight of Hand series. At times I’ve even had to wonder why am I tearing my hair out over this story? Maybe it just doesn’t want to be written. But I do think it does want to be told. I just had to find the right way to tell it. And today, I hit on it. And because I’m so confident I’ve got it right and so excited about what I think the changes are going to do to my story, I’m going to give you a little preview!

The first few paragraphs of ISLAND MAGIC:

Even Logan didn’t expect magic that night, but when he thought about it later, that was the night the real magic started.

Night fell slowly in the Caribbean, and when it came, it was complete. Especially in the little bar on the beach that Logan loved. Even the tiki torches only spread small radii of flickering glow around their poles. The rest was dark, secret, a haven for those who would rather not be seen.

From his oasis behind the thatch-roofed bar, he watched the patrons of the resort milling around, coming in from the dark beach, usually hand-in-hand with someone else. Occasionally a group of young men would collide with a group of young women and soon they would pair off and head into dark corners. All Logan had to do was make their drinks and chat. No interference required on his part. He was like a voyeuristic benefactor, watching them leave his bar with nothing but good feelings.

He spotted Rachel in the bar, but he lost sight of her in a crowd of college kids. He frowned, craning his neck. It certainly had looked like Rachel. Nora’s best friend, the maid of honor at his wedding to a woman who was now dead. But what would Rachel be doing there? And why wouldn’t she have told him she was coming?

He recognized the long, luxurious hair and the lovely features, even though they had a hard edge he wasn’t used to seeing. And what was up with the slinky dress? Rachel had always seemed so strait-laced he’d figured she would be a suburban soccer mom by now, though he’d lost touch with her years before. This was no soccer mom. This wasn’t even the beautiful, gentle woman Nora had known in the years after their marriage.

As he spied, she sat at a table not far from the bar. She was alone, but everything about her said she had no intention of remaining that way. Logan noticed several men glancing her way. He couldn’t blame them. Her raven hair fell over one bare shoulder, her sleeveless red sundress setting off her tan. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he shouldn’t be looking at Rachel that way. Not Nora’s best friend. Never mind that Nora died eight years ago, his self-imposed exile hadn’t been long enough. He needed more.

When the waitress delivered her order for a frozen margarita with salt, Logan intercepted it from Ramon. “Sorry, man.” He grinned at his friend. “I’m gonna deliver this one personally.”

Ramon gave him a mock growl. “Earn me a good tip if you’re gonna pull rank on me, amigo.”

Logan flashed him a smile and vaulted the bar neatly, landing on the other side to appreciative looks from a group of young women. He saluted them, picked up the margarita and crossed to the table. “Your margarita, señorita.”

She raised beautiful dark eyes to meet his. God, he’d always known she was beautiful, sexy, desirable, but the raw sensuality in that gaze left him breathless. She smiled, playing along as if she had no idea who he was. “Muchas gracias, señor. To what do I owe the special delivery?”

He glanced left and right, then sat across from her, leaning over the table as if to keep their conversation covert. “Between you and me, I’ve been told I’m overly concerned with our guests’ satisfaction.”

The curve of her lips deepened and he knew she’d sensed a double entendre in his words. He wanted to laugh but didn’t give in to the impulse. He’d spent so many years on stage, his career so dependent on reading his audience, yet he couldn’t seem to see Rachel’s carefully guarded exterior anymore. It intrigued him enough so he stepped over a boundary he hadn’t crossed in years.

Leaning over the table, he beckoned her closer. When she obliged, her expression highly amused, he let his lips brush her ear. “Do you believe in magic?”

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Feminism: Why I think women are tired of it…and how I think that’s reflected in Disney’s “Frozen”.

I first went to see “Frozen” a week after it came out and mainly because my daughter wanted me to. Okay, I love Disney, but the main draw was the opportunity to share those couple of hours of girl time with my six-year-old. We don’t agree on much, but we do love princess movies! What I didn’t expect was to spend most of the movie in tears. Not because it’s a tearjerker of a movie in the classic sense but because it really spoke to me. Somewhere in that movie, I found a grain of truth that since then, I think, has blossomed into a little pearl of wisdom.

I relate to Elsa. And I’m not the only woman out there that does.

You have to understand that Elsa is not the focus of the movie. Although the movie is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, the focus of it is Elsa’s little sister Anna, a typical teenage girl held captive by her sister’s fear of her own power. Anna doesn’t know about Elsa’s power and when she finds out, she tries to help. And yet, it’s Elsa who women everywhere fell in love with. It’s her dolls that are being snatched up by collectors so fast it’s hard to find any of them on the shelf in the store. I’m not the only one who got a chill when Elsa faced the camera and sang in Idina Menzel’s lovely and perfectly rebellious voice, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”

So how does this kids’ movie relate to feminism? I’ve puzzled about it for a while. Why did I relate so much to Elsa standing on an icy mountain and declaring she’d never go back and “that perfect girl is gone”? I think I’ve figured it out.

Women are pigeonholed and it’s women who are doing the pigeonholing. We’re sticking ourselves into molds and expecting each one of us to fit exactly right and it’s not working. And what do we do when one of us doesn’t fit exactly into the mold of mother or career woman or wife? We frown and shake our heads and gossip. Recently a blogger published an article called I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry. Have a look if you want, although the article says pretty much the same thing as the title.

I’ve been wondering why on earth a woman would write such a thing. Why would you try to invalidate the choices of other women? If all women were forced to live the same lives as all other women, well, you’d eventually end up with an Elsa. A woman who breaks out of her mold and declares herself free of society’s bonds and dares that same society to try to stick her back into that mold. Although, to my disappointment, Disney only gave us a glimpse of what Elsa was like when she fancied herself perfectly free, I think I have an idea how to fill in the blanks. I think she had a lot of fun expressing herself the way she wanted to and not the way her family and her society had always expected her to do.

Women will never be perfectly free as long as we have people we care about to live up to. Whether it’s our children, our husbands, our friends or our role models, we’ll continue to fit into society in some way. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. But I am saying we should stop worrying so much about what other women’s choices are and support them in their chosen roles. Mothers, doctors, lawyers, sisters, aunts, daughters…I support you all in your quest to be yourselves and contribute something positive to society. But I do believe that we can’t allow that society to mold us into the image it wants out of us. I’m not a feminist and I know now I never was. I’m just a woman.

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Just a funny little story about the truth behind dishonesty.

I’m very busy right now writing Island Magic, the next in my Sleight of Hand series, but I wanted to take a break and tell you a story (almost entirely true, I swear) about something that happened to me this weekend.

First of all, meet Freddy, my Yorkie. He’s my life coach, my best friend, and, at times, my muse. Or at least he lets me bounce ideas off him when there’s nobody else around to listen. Freddy doesn’t say much, but he does let me know when it’s time to take a break, and I’ve found my walks with him can help clear the fuzzies out of my head better than just about anything else.

On one of these recent walks, Freddy and I are walking along minding our own business when a woman we’ve never met suddenly greets us with great enthusiasm.

I admit, I wasn’t sure she was talking to me. Freddy’s the one who attracts the most attention on our walks. And even I am bad about looking at the dog before I look at the owner most of the time. However, this woman not only waved and called, but actually crossed the road to speak to us. Okay, I’m bad with names but I’m not bad with faces, and I was pretty sure I’d never seen this woman in my life. I shot Freddy a suspicious glare and he protested his innocence by barking and sniffing the woman’s feet.

“Oh my, she’s getting big, isn’t she?” The woman laughed at Freddy’s antics.

Okay, that settled it. The woman didn’t know us. Freddy’s all boy except he’s been snipped and doesn’t really think of himself that way anymore. But what was the harm in letting the woman call Freddy a she? It didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother him. And we didn’t know this woman anyway.

In spite of this, we chatted a good two or three minutes before I finally made motions to leave. At this point, the woman taught me a valuable lesson. Making a face, she said in a confidential voice as if talking about something shameful, “You know, there’s a little boy Yorkie in the neighborhood too.” She peered at Freddy as if afraid he’d grow little boy parts. Then she nodded, satisfied. “But she just looks like a girl.”

Honestly, I could have sunk through the ground right then. Half of me wanted to own up to the fact that I’d basically lied to her the entire time we’d been standing there discussing Yorkies. The other half was terribly afraid she’d be mortified by her mistake. Escpecially after she’d pretty much let on that little boy Yorkies were something distasteful. I managed to make my escape much more gracefully than normal, however. “Well, after they’ve been fixed, it really doesn’t matter much, does it?” I laughed and waved and fled, Freddy in tow.

Being who I am, of course, I made the whole incident up into something quite philosophical by the time I got home. If I’d gently corrected the woman in the beginning, I might have avoided that particular awkwardness, and, I wondered, were there other aspects of my life I could apply this to? If I start out right on other things, will it finish up better? I’m always telling my kids that we follow rules—even those that we see other people breaking—because we don’t want to make the people around us feel badly.

Maybe I need to follow my own advice sometimes.

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SATURDAY LOVE: My current feelings (subject to change) about self-publishing

Whatever else you might say about self-publishing, I’ve never felt so free before!

Today marks the official publication of my book SATURDAY LOVE. It’s my eighth book, my fifth self-published. I’ve gotten much better at this thing over the past couple of years, everything from formatting to editing to cover design is better now. Even my writing is improving with every book, and I say that with no false modesty whatsoever. I can’t read one of my older books without blushing a little, and I wouldn’t want to change that. If I could read them all with unfettered pride, it would mean I was standing still.

But why do I say self-publishing is freeing? Whether it’s a good thing or not (and it’s definitely more work in many ways), I can publish what I want and make my own schedule. Having done it both ways, I thought I’d give you a sample schedule for both traditional and self-publishing.

SELF
Write
Finish book and set aside.
Write something else.
Return to first book, rewrite and set aside.
Contact editor and get quote.
Send book off for editing.
Write.
Get edits back. Lots of great suggestions! Pay editor.
Rewrite and make better.
Set aside.
Write something else.
Pull out book and read over making small changes and edits.
Decide it’s good and set a publishing date.
Write blurb.
Contact a cover artist, tell him/her exactly what you want.
Get back cover and be pleased. Pay cover artist promptly because you want to use them again.
Submit everything to CreateSpace.
Decide to go over one more time. Crap. How did you leave that apostrophe out?
Fix apostrophe and resubmit everything to CreateSpace.
Begin telling friends, posting on FaceBook, Tweeting, etc.
Publication day!

TRADITIONAL:
Submit book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Wait (begin checking email obsessively)
Wait
Wait (despair of ever hearing back)
Wait
Finally!
Open email with great trepidation to find a refusal.
Break smartphone/computer/etc.
Drink wine.
Resubmit book.
(repeat above process)
Finally!
Open email and rejoice to acceptance.
Wait
Wait
Contact with editor who gives you rough schedule of editing process and publishing schedule and sends you worksheets that will help the art department and blurb writers get a handle on what your story is about.
Complete worksheet and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get first edits.
Despair that there’s still so much wrong with your story.
Get to work.
Complete edits in much less time than is given and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get second round of edits.
Complete edits much faster this time because you and your editor understand each other better.
Return edits.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Final round of edits.
Complete and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Copy edits arrive, marked up by two or three additional editors you don’t know.
Crap. There’s still so much wrong! How is this possible.
Fix and return.
Wait
Wait
When will you get to see your cover? What’s up with that? And the blurb?
Wait
Wait
Finally! The cover arrives. The artist is very proud. He/she has a cover they know you are going to love!
It’s not what you’d imagined. But how do you tell him/her that? And it’s not bad, just not what you’d pictured.
Blurb arrives. It’s pretty good. They’ve taken your original idea and spiced it up with some catch words and phrases designed to make readers LOVE the idea of reading your book.
The cover’s really not that far off. And what do you know, anyway? You point out a few small things that could be changed.
The artist replies that those things are set, makes a very minor change and you’re both okay with it.
Wait
Galleys arrive. You read eagerly, certain your book can be nothing but perfect now.
Crap. Who left out that apostrophe? Was it you or one of the copy editors? Is it too late to fix it?
Decide it’s too small to bother editor with.
Decide it’ll bug you forever if you don’t.
Query editor about it and be reassured you’re not being a pest and they’ll fix the apostrophe right away.
Relax.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get advance copy of your book. Start querying review sites that haven’t already been hit by publisher about reviewing your book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Publication Day!

In so many ways, the process is the same. The difference is, the only person I have to wait for is myself, really. The editor and cover artist (and I’ve done self-publishing without either) never take long to do their jobs, and because I hire them, I know about how long that will take. So, in the end, I can publish what I want when I want to publish it. But I’m out here more or less alone, except for you guys, my readers.

SATURDAY LOVE is now out there. Feel free to give it some love. And if you’re worried about reading the sequel without reading the first book, DUCKS IN A ROW is free for the Kindle today. Do me a favor and go check it out, then let your friends know, too.

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SATURDAY LOVE excerpt:

In just three days, SATURDAY LOVE will be available for Kindle and in paperback for your enjoyment. In the meantime, however, I thought I’d give you a little taste of what Saturday love is like from my heroine Accalia’s point of view:

On Wednesday afternoon, she visited her friend Cyra, who’d recently had a baby. Other than Myron, Cyra was the only childhood friend she’d kept in touch with over the years.

Cyra greeted her enthusiastically at the door, pulling her inside to admire the baby, who slept in a bassinet in the sunny living room. Accalia stood for several minutes studying the tiny peaceful face framed by dark hair. What was it about babies, anyway? The tiniest, most demanding creatures in the world, but mothers would do anything to protect and serve them. She could see it already in Cyra. And if she stood still long enough and looked deep enough into her own heart, she could feel a longing to experience that servitude herself.

“She’s so beautiful, isn’t she?” Cyra nudged her friend and handed her a mug of hot, strong coffee.

“She truly is, Cyra. And you and Pavlos are doing well?” Accalia smiled at her friend.

Cyra beckoned her over to the couch. She sat with a sigh of contentment. “We’re exhausted. But Pavlos is a wonderful father. He gets up with me every night when she cries. I tell him ‘go back to bed, Pavlos, you have to be up early,’ but he does it anyway.” Her expression turned tender. “I married such a wonderful man.”

Accalia thought of Elene’s advice about marriage and friendship. If she hadn’t fallen in love with Will, if she’d given her marriage with Myron a chance, would she end up feeling such tenderness for him after the birth of their first child? When she tried to imagine the development of such feelings, however, her mind turned to Will.

As if she were reading her friend’s mind, Cyra gave her a mischievous smile. “When will you and Myron try the baby thing, anyway?”

Feeling her face grow red, Accalia took a sip of the hot coffee, which unfortunately did nothing to alleviate the heat in her face. She set it aside. “I—we don’t have any plans right now.” Especially since we’re not sleeping together. Loyalty to her friend Myron wouldn’t allow her to make such confessions—even to Cyra—however. She couldn’t risk embarrassing him that way. Still curious, she looked for another way to ask her friend about married life after the first passion had faded. “Now just isn’t the time. I’m returning to America soon. And…I worry. What if things…change?”

“Change?” Cyra snorted and shook her head. “Oh yes, it changes. Pavlos and I—well, once upon a time we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. And little Chloe is the result of that, I guess. I can see why you’d be worried about it.” She grinned, then reached over and took Accalia’s hand. “But even though most nights we’re too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep on the couch, we do it together. And I think if you have that relationship to base your marriage on, it’ll survive even the fatigue of a new baby. Besides, even now there are…moments.” She smiled a tiny private smile, then gave Accalia’s hand a squeeze. “Marriage is work, isn’t it?”

Accalia bit her lip and nodded. It’s work I’m not very good at.

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