Snakes on a train

trainI’d counted on our cross-country AMTRAK trip to be an adventure, one like I’d never experienced. Certainly the delays and other foul-ups on the behalf of the train company added extra layers to the “adventure” I’d never expected, but not all of them were bad. Exactly.

Because of a ticket snafu, we ended up for one overnight in the coach section. I had as seatmate an exchange student who buried herself under a plush white winter coat and slept for nine hours. Little Miss had a Christian woman with two bags of newly-purchased religious books and an addiction to straight solitaire on her tablet. Across the way was a tall, middle-aged gentleman with a black knit cap he kept pulled down tightly, who dug out a shiny new tan gabardine vest half way through the trip and put it on, looking like he felt like a million bucks.

Then there was the mother and teenage son from Nebraska who alternately cuddled and said I love you and then split, with the boy disappearing for twenty minutes at a time claiming he hated her.
But the ones that interested me most came to my attention later in the evening, after the lights were dimmed and people started falling asleep. I never thought to look at the first one, especially after I heard what he was saying.

I know, I know. I’ll have to go to the Greyhound station in Texas to get them. I couldn’t help it…I didn’t want to fight him…Yeah. Yeah. Punk got in my face…No, I’m on the train. I just bailed as soon as I could. Figure maybe they’ll chase the bags. Yeah. Yeah I’m all right. Fixed myself up in the john…Dunno what’ll happen now. Tell Richie… yeah, you know what to tell him. I’ll call…

Made me wonder if I should even close my eyes.

Then the middle-aged black man behind me started talking in succession on his phone to a couple of different people. One was a buddy, I think the second was the woman he’d just run out on.

No, baby, I couldn’t just sit there and listen to you dump on me all day about how I can’t do this, and I can’t do that…No, I didn’t tell you I was going. You’d just discourage me. You always discourage me—I know what I need to do. Don’t tell me what I need to do!

 I could hear her voice, though not her words, screeching back at him. Then he went off on a tirade very similar to Samuel L. Jackson’s in the movie of the similar name. With kids all around. At 3 a.m.

She hung up on him. I think. He switched to his buddy.

You know I’m going to California. I’m gonna fight. I can get matches there. She all about ‘what woman you run off with?’ and ‘how can I leave her?’ like I gonna be nothing without her….ha! That’s what I’m saying…I just can’t stay there. Can’t stay there. Nuh-uh. Sure I didn’t tell her. What I tell her first for? Then she just drag me down…

He went on to more “colorful” language, and I wondered why he thought the destruction of his three-year relationship wasn’t private business.  Or maybe if it’s only strangers around you, they don’t count as real people and you don’t have to show them some respect.

That was apparently the thought of some unknown miscreant who raided the suitcases stored in the common area below in the middle of the night. Even our AMTRAK car attendant lost her suitcase to this creep. She’s a nice lady. It made me feel bad for her. What the $^$%%# is wrong with people? Don’t get me started—Samuel L. might just have to move over and take a seat.

Too many snakes on this train.

Don’t assume, ask–a rule to live by

When I was a kid, maybe fourth or fifth grade, one of the highest honors you could get was to be chosen as a school Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signcrossing guard. Remember those kids? They would wait with the professional guard and help others cross the street, take care of stragglers, all that sort of thing.

At Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Euclid, Ohio, in order to be selected as a student guard, you had to have all A’s and B’s and be a good, reliable student. I’d transferred to the school in fourth grade, so I didn’t get chosen right away, of course, and that was fine. So in fifth grade, I was ready when they announced the names, because I always had good grades and was a teachers’ pet kind of gal. But they didn’t announce mine.

So I worked even harder, and when they announced the names for sixth grade, I just knew I’d be included. They nominated other girls who lived on my street. They nominated just about every one of my classmates in the top reading group. But they didn’t pick me.

I was devastated.

What was wrong with me? I mean, I remember being one of those nerdy kids the cool kids picked on. My stepmother had an odd sense of children’s fashion, and I didn’t have a lot of friends. But this could have been a real self-esteem builder and verification to the other students that I wasn’t a total loser.

It took me awhile, but finally I got up the courage to ask my teacher why I hadn’t been selected. She smiled quite fondly and said, “Oh, Barbara dear, we didn’t think your parents would let you participate.”

So they hadn’t even given me the chance to ask if I could–the school officials had just made that decision for me. Expecting I’d be disappointed by my parents saying ‘no,’ they were being kind by not inviting me.  Forty years later, I still feel that disappointment and loss of vindication.

Raising children on the spectrum brings me into a confrontation with this issue a lot. How often do others–or even us as parents–leave our kids out of activities because it’s assumed they won’t like it/do well at it/be interested? Are we being kind when we shield them from potential failure?

If I assumed that Little Miss couldn’t deal with loud activities because of her sensory issues, she’d never have signed up for chorus, which is one of her favorite classes at school now. She loves singing at concerts. IMGP0394

She would have missed one of the greatest concerts we ever attended–and one she loved–because we’d have skipped it rather than helping her cope with a set of good headphones and a blanket to cover her head when it got overwhelming.

We might have assumed that she couldn’t compete with other children in the county fair contests, but she tended her flowers and won a ribbon every year. She attended dance classes, even though she opted out of the performance. That was okay with me, because I asked her opinion first. She wanted to dance with Miss Heather, but she didn’t want to participate in the end of season event. I don’t see that as someone who doesn’t finish what they start, I see it as someone who’s empowered to make their own choices for age-appropriate activities.

The boys, too, have been offered options–martial arts classes, music classes, theater classes, after school gaming sessions. They don’t choose many, not being particularly ambitious. But they get the first chance of refusal, which I believe is the right way to go.

What about you? Have there been events or activities you’ve offered to your children that you thought they couldn’t/wouldn’t like or be able to participate? Is it better to keep them from the disappointment of failure? What have they tried and succeeded at that surprised you?

***

VoodooDreams_w7507_medOn the same note, I will not assume that you don’t like free books, but I will ASK if you’re interested in this, the third book of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series, standalone novels of romantic suspense, all with a heroine who’s a lawyer in the great city of Pittsburgh. VOODOO DREAMS is FREE for Kindle December 17-21. You may get one for yourself and as many friends as you think would like it for Christmas! Here’s the storyline:

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious–but handsome–lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He’d much rather devote himself to her–especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to threaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle’s clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

 

Summer trip, Part Two

DSCN0611I’ll start with the view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park which was interesting in a number of ways, including how close we were to the beach, although pursuing the wildlife was much more fun. The park is “green”, so the restroom/shower facilities were all specially designed to fit with the local ecosystem.

The wildlife that popped up all around our campsite included some fabulous green iguanas like this guy:

igianaThe area, though is known for its blue crabs, which had hideyholes in the ground all over the place, several around the campsite itself. My daughter had the chance for prolonged conversation with some in the mornings, since she is an early riser, but I didn’t get to see so many.

Out time in the Keys sadly came to an end, and we headed north, where M and kids rented a car to head home, while we stayed in Satellite Beach with a friend of mine from the old newspaper days. It was two days full of fun, great food and success!new adventures.

Linda’s friend Rob was so generous with his time–one afternoon, he took the girls to his neighbors’ dock. Here’s the result–they each caught one!

success strikes againAnd yes, Mr. Redfish was delicious.

While we were there, we also had the chance to visit Kennedy Space Center. Yurie was excited to go there because of the rocketships and the history. Little Miss just went for one reason:

DSCN0637Yes. Angry Birds in Space. A whole building devoted to it, with a maze, and games, and the opportunity to sling birds at pictures of pigs. What says space travel more than that?

She actually did pay attention to several of the other exhibits (though she was still pretty obsessed with the Birds), as she demonstrated in later conversation. We took a bus ride out to see some of the outbuildings (including the one where Rob works!) and then came back to sit through a mock-up of a moon landing, which was cool (especially for those of us old enough to have watched it on live tv) .

DSCN0630

DSCN0632It was great reconnecting with Linda. We’ve both gone on to interesting lives, she as a counselor/teacher and me as an attorney/writer. But to take just a moment to relive those escapades as young writers–driving out onto the flight line at the air force base, checking out the drug hangouts in Florida City and nearly getting nabbed by the DEA–was awesome.

Then a sad day as we drove to Miami for Yurie to catch her plane home to Japan. We all survived the logistics of getting her to the airport during rush hour in Miami in a giant RV, AND of getting her multiple suitcases to the baggage carrier successfully (and the fact that the Miami Heat apparently won some sports event and we could have been marooned in city traffic for days, but we didn’t know it at the time). Goodbyes were tough. We’ll miss you, kid.  😦

The next leg of the trip was to Fort Pierce to visit another old friend of mine. We were both a little worse for wear for the years that had passed, and both dealing with chronic pain. But it didn’t stop my friend from being a delightful hostess, and we had a wonderful couple of days. Here she is with her friend going to a Mad Hatter party:

DSCN0642She looked great, and I’m so glad we stopped to see her. She lives in a beautiful condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and invited me to come stay with her on a more permanent basis. Have to admit, I’m keeping that in the back of my mind. There are worse choices.

Little Miss was more delighted with the two miniature dogs living there:

DSCN0644They were cute, but definitely fonder of her than of me or other visitors.

Finally, north to Asheville, to complete our travels, to visit with K and her lovely partner L. We always have a good time with them, and they work so hard at creating a life together with L’s son, even though the state of North Carolina is much less than helpful in its acceptance of gay rights. We took the chance to do nothing a lot of the time, preparing for the long drive home, and took advantage of the KOA’s nice facilities, pool, park, etc. to just let go.

DSCN0654poolAnd of course we visited L’s new job–Asheville’s Ultimate Ice Cream shop. With unique flavors like goat cheese and bing cherry, chocolate and ginger, and even caramel with blue cheese (to DIE for…), it was an amazing tastefest. That was before we got the maple and bacon ice cream.

Yes, I said bacon.

It was unbelievable. Please put it on your bucket list. Right now. I’ll wait while you get a pen.

Hard to believe all this fit into 16 days, but it had to come to an end eventually. What didn’t come to an end, of course, was the pile of work waiting for me when I got back. But then that’s what the real world is about. Time to start dreaming of next year’s vacation!

 

 

Our newest creation

Yes, yes, I know I haven’t posted here as often as I’d like–hopefully you’ve missed me! The good news is I’ve been doing substantial amounts of writing-related work, which is a good thing! The latest venture is this little bit of video, a book trailer for my first published novel, The Elf Queen. A book trailer is supposed to be like a movie trailer, giving enough of the story to entice folk to come see/read my book. (and hopefully the rest of the series!)

So what did you think? Is it exciting? Suspenseful? Must you go buy the book at Amazon right now? Okay, if you must. Pssst:  pass it on…  🙂

Also, come visit blogs around the country where I’m posting, as Lyndi, on the subject of writing, reading and life:

At Southern-Fried Gothic on the importance of setting to your story

With Nicki Markus on how every little change is the beginning of something bigger

and today and Friday with The Greater Fort Worth, Texas Writers, on connecting with readers. Leave a comment on Monday’s or Friday’s post and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of The Elf Queen!

April brings more than showers this year…

That’s right! I’m announcing the arrival of two new bouncing baby books in the next several weeks. I hadn’t planned for them to come out at the same time, but…who’s complaining? Not me!

First, check out book two in the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, THE ELF CHILD. It’s available at Amazon.com in ebook form, at Qoop.com in hardback, and currently at Createspace in paperback, but to Amazon and Barnes and Noble within the next few weeks. Here’s a little teaser for it:

  The moment Astan Hawk accepts his clan’s challenge to protect the young Elf Queen Jelani, trouble dogs his heels. Jelani’s human upbringing clashes with clan tradition and spurs dangerous intrigues within the Circle of Elders.
   Seeking revenge against Jelani for the loss of his mentor Bartolomey, outcast Grigor Biren finds powerful elf mages deep within the forest and sets out to prove himself worthy to learn their secrets.
     When Astan finds that his father Daven supports the agenda of the Circle, he has no choice but to turn to Jelani’s human friends for help.  Paranoid Crispy, empathetic Iris, and computer whiz Lane complicate Jelani’s unexpected pregnancy and the young queen’s attempts to rule her people. After the child is born, everything that could go wrong does.
     Can Astan carry through on his promise to keep Jelani safe when the whole world seems to have turned against them?

Hardback available at Qoop. Ebook at Amazon, Omni-Lit and Fastspring…more to come!

Urban Fantasy not your thing?  Try a little gritty romance in the New Mexico desert.

After a run of bad relationships, Lily Pearl Evans has finally become an independent woman. In the New Mexico desert town of Chaparral, she works for herself, sets her own rules, and is determined no man will hold her back again.

Gene Nicholas worked for more than a decade to achieve his dream to be a doctor. Wanting to share his gifts with those less fortunate, he leaves south Florida to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders in Mexico.

When Gene provokes a showdown with the local Mexican drug cartel, he becomes a man with a price on his head. On the run, he ends up on Lily’s doorstep–a mystery man forced to conceal his past to protect them both. With the cartel’s dangerous web drawing tight around them, can Lily and Gene survive a drug lord’s revenge?  (check the link for an excerpt)

But I’m not taking the rest of the month off. I’ve got another romantic suspense in final edits for TWRP, a science-fiction novel under consideration at Spectra/DelRay, and The Elf Mage is reeling out nicely too.

Now if I could only get my personal life to fall into place….life could be perfect.

Drop by the blog of Emma Lai for my post on how writing helps keep me sane in an insane existence…

A little redemption goes a long way

I’ve found over the years that my writing life has ups and downs. Specifically, there are times when I feel like I can climb the literary Everest without one of those sherpa guides, and others I feel like I need to trash-can the whole idea of being a writer.

Today, my writer friend Tom reminded me of a time not so long ago, maybe eightteen months or so, when I was dejected and determined writing was a waste of time for me. He reminded me of this at a booksigning sponsored by the northwestern Pennwriters group, where I was surrounded by other writers and would-be writers, discussing my novel The Elf Queen and the sequel, due out next year, and sharing all our writing with each other.

Hmm.  Guess that shows you never know what’s coming around the bend, right? As agent Irene Goodman says, “If you quit, you aren’t an author any longer, and that’s the end.”

Or as Nancy Panuccio says:

There’s a misconception that, in order to be brilliant at something, you need to be blessed with innate remarkable talent. Not so, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell, who studied the most successful musicians, composers, artists and athletes in history, reports that the difference between success and non-success, between genius and mediocrity is 10,000 hours. That’s right. Anyone from Jimi Hendrix to Bill Gates to Hemingway who has succeeded has done so on the back of at least 10,000 hours.

Thank you to Tom, Jean, Eric, Jeff, Carm, Ed, Paul and all of you who reassured me that I was on the right track after all, and encouraged me to keep going. Shame on those who felt it was more useful to tear down my work. I’ve got to approach this more philosophically. All the time I’ve put in, writing novels, over the last forty years? Apparently I’ve paid those dues. Now to start on the next 10,000. Back to the word processor!!

Happy faces at my booksigning--mine, too!

And then there was more…

I discovered this week that I have been merrily sending people off to look at my author’s website–and it’s not there.

*collective gasp*

Well. Surely I have to remedy that situation.

Therefore, please stay tuned over the next few weeks when I hope to unveil a new WordPress page, one I’ll be able to keep updated myself, as I never did know how to access the old HTML one. I will have a couple of interactive stories, one from a collection I made called “A Life in the Day,” a series of moments that changed people’s lives, and the other featuring a fictional Pittsburgh lawyer I’ve written about several times named Suzanne Taylor. Also a list of what’s available out in the world of my writing, and a lot of fun tidbits.

I hope it will be interactive for readers and writers and we will all come together and share great things. The leaves are coming out, flowers are blooming, and we’re all going to blossom into creativity!