An End and A Beginning

This past weekend marked the end of the band season, except for performances at playoff football games.  I’m not actually that happy, because now I’m on morning drop off duty since she doesn’t have to get to school as early (they practiced every morning before school).  So I’m driving just as much, if not more.

Now add to that some good news:  Middle made the junior high basketball team!

When Princess tried out years ago, over 60 tried out and only 18 made it.  Not good odds.  She ended up in band and grateful basketball didn’t work out.  The first day of this year’s tryouts, there were 30 girls, so better odds, but Middle was still really stressed out.  She had nightmares, fever blisters (she gets that from me), and one day she came home in tears.  This is highly unusual.  Middle hardly ever cries.

If she didn’t make the team, she was going to learn that awful miserable lesson that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it, you don’t get what you want.  Thankfully she did NOT have to learn that lesson right now.  She made the first cut Wed. when they downed to 20 girls, and the last 20 were good enough that Coach kept them all.

Now begins practice every single day after school at varying locations and times, some Sat. practices (her first practice was this weekend), and of course, the games.  That Man is determined to travel to these games if he can get off, but some of the towns they go to I’ve never heard of.  So we’ll see.

But yay, I’m so happy for her.  We have an athlete in the house!  She just sparkles on the court.  I can’t wait to see her in action!

Good Crockpot Recipe

Wednesday nights are just insane around here.  I usually have to go pick Princess up from writer’s guild after school, and somehow manage to feed the two youngest by 5:15 so they can go to basketball practice (they won’t get home until after 8).  I can’t make anything too spicy or weird because they’re going to be running.

I’d gotten in the (lazy) habit of doing something like fish sticks and tater tots because they’re fast and easy, but not the healthiest.  (Plus I hate that kind of processed crap.)

Then I found this recipe for easy Korean Beef in the crockpot.  What attracted me to this recipe is that it uses hamburger — and even better, you don’t have to brown it first.  My hamburger wasn’t even completely thawed, so I threw it in on high for 1-2 hours first, and then chopped it up and added the rest of the ingredients.  I doubled it, left off the green onions (do any kids like green onions?!?), and used ground ginger rather than fresh.  I cooked it on low the rest of the afternoon and it turned out really well.  I added a package of broccoli slaw for a quick veggie (just cooked it 15 mins or so) and cooked some basmati brown rice.

I loved this recipe.  I could eat it for lunch for days.  Middle wouldn’t even try it.  She’s not big on anything Asian, though I think if she’d tried it, she might have been able to eat it.  She had a sandwich instead.  So I guess I can’t put it on our regular rotation, but it was definitely good enough to mention and I’ll make it for myself!

Privacy and Trust

I like to run giveaways.  I like to shop for just the right prize to celebrate a new release, and then ship it to someone who loves books and presents as much as I do.  I love to mail out ARCs of that freshly printed book with a hand-written note inside.  I collected stuff at RT last year for the sole purpose of mailing out goodies to all of you who love bookmarks and trinkets like that, along with some free books.

I’ve made some incredible online friends and I’ve gotten a thrill from sending packages to the Netherlands, France, Mexico, Germany, Australia, India… you name it.

But in light of privacy concerns arising after Kathleen Hale’s stalking of an online reviewer (I’m not going to give her any traffic via links, but if you want more details, search her name on Twitter), I’m going to be much more careful about running giveaways–especially when I ask for a snail mail address–in the future.

First things first:  I’ve never knowingly misused anyone’s address, whether email or snail.  I’m so careful about contacting people uninvited that I’ve probably missed a bunch of reviews, even if you liked my book in the past, because I don’t want to spam you each time a new book comes out (even if you follow me on Twitter!).  After sending a package in the mail, I often delete the email with your address in it – but not always.  I went through my email this weekend and deleted anything that had “giveaway” and “address” in it to be safe.

Even if I’ve sent a dozen packages to you over the years, I no longer have your address.  If I do have a prize to mail to you, I will ask for your address and then confirm deletion of that address once the prize is shipped.  Of course you have to trust that I’m true to my word, but hopefully you’re not entering my contests and such if you don’t have that trust in me in the first place.

Privacy is important to me.  I have kids that I never mention by their real names.  I have a husband who never claims my author persona on Facebook and many family members who choose not to connect my real life to my author life.  So I value YOUR privacy as much as mine.

  • I will never share or sell your email address.
  • I will never add you to my newsletter because you contacted me about something else.
  • I will never keep your snail mail address and will use it for the sole purpose of sending a giveaway prize to you.
  • This shouldn’t be required to mention, but I WILL NEVER SHOW UP AT YOUR DOOR UNINVITED.
  • I will never share your snail mail address with another party, for any reason.
  • If my email is ever hacked, the only addresses they might easily find is any current snail mail prize waiting to be mailed out.  All other addresses have been deleted to the best of my ability given that I have thousands sent/received in my account.

In the future, expect more gift certificate type giveaways from me and fewer prizes that must be mailed.  I love to mail physical books out (even if it sometimes takes me way too long to get to the post office), but I do understand people’s reluctance to share that information despite my privacy statements.  So I’ll always offer a digital equivalent to any giveaway.

If you’re interesting in reviewing my book(s), PLEASE do email or tweet me.  I’m going to err on the side of caution and not blindly contact people who might be interested.  I’m considering setting up a form so that interested people can contact me that way for review purposes, or tag your email subject so I know it’s okay to contact you in the future.

Reviewers, bloggers, and readers:  thank you for all you do to share your love of books online.  I promise to do my part in protecting your privacy as much as is in my power.

Harris-Cox Plantation: Part 2

plantationIn this picture, the first floor to the left is where the original log cabin is.  Of course it’s covered over by the same gray clapboard as the rest, now.  In fact, the only place you can really tell it was a log cabin is where they built a hallway in between the old and new additions (I’ll share a picture of that shortly).

The fireplace on the far left end is supposedly original to the 1830 cabin.  Unfortunately, someone who lived there awhile back thought it’d be a good idea to turn the oldest part of the plantation into a garage.  They installed two big garage doors and loaded up the area with junk.

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It’s hard to see, but that circle up by the ceiling is where the old chimney/flue is, and the red brick/stone is the original fireplace.  There was too much stuff in the way for us to get back there for a closer look.  It was also dark (I’m not sure if anyone ever added electricity to that area), but the ceiling was covered in thin planks of wood almost like a wood floor.  The walls were plastered over.

In one corner, there’s an old cabinet that Mr. Naylor thought was also original to the 1830 cabin.  Again, I couldn’t get any closer to it because of the junk in the way, but it does look rather old.

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Beside the old garage was a more “modern” kitchen.  I’m not sure when it was redone, but Mr. Naylor described how parts were salvaged from all over everywhere.  Frosted glass was found in the basement of a church.  There were also a few nice antiques, including the stove which was his wife’s grandmother’s.

This clock belonged to a man named Chilson, called Challie by his friends and family.  Molly and I looked at each other and our eyes lit up.  What a cool name!  We’re definitely using it in the book!

More to come…


Harris-Cox Plantation, Part 1

plantation2A little background about the Harris-Cox Plantation.

I never knew its real name until I started doing research for our story.  I always called it “the old plantation.”  It’s also called “slave manor” by the locals.

Of course everyone says it’s haunted.  If you dare spend the night within its walls, you might hear the slaves rattling chains in the dungeon.  (There is no dungeon.)  The creepy graveyard you can see from the road is where the slaves are buried (nope, it’s family and friends of the family.  Sadly, lots of infant graves.)

In all honesty, I figured that it wasn’t a “real” plantation – that it had probably been built more recently to look like a real 1800s-era plantation.  In fact, part of the house was a log cabin built in the 1830s.  The two-story front addition was added around the Civil War.

Molly has a personal story about what happened when she and a bunch of her friends snuck onto the property at night.  I’ll let her share if she wants to.

My Mom told me a story once that she stayed there with a distant cousin and in the middle of the night, her dead brother came in and sat at the foot of her bed.  He died in a car crash when she was thirteen.  Why would he be at the old plantation?  No idea.

I never got to see the inside.  I just drove by it morning and night on the way to town.  It’s not really much to look at.  Old gray siding.  The roof is sagging in.  No one lives there any more.  I wasn’t even sure who owned it.

Luckily Papa knew and he contacted the current owner to see if we could get in.  Even better, Mr. Naylor (in his seventies!) met us at the house and shared all the history that he knew.  It was incredible.  He could describe the various phases of construction and had a story for all the old antiques that are still inside.  He knew where the glass for the cabinets came from (the basement of a church) and who owned the ancient hickory rocking chair.

boxcarHe even knew that the wood on the walls in the second floor addition above the original log cabin was probably from boxcars.  When the railroad quit coming through nearby Vista, MO, many people bought boxcars for the lumber.  It was so cool to see the old faded numbers on the walls!

If you’re a history buff, I’ll be sharing lots more pictures, so stay tuned!

Our Writers’ Retreat

buggyWow, we had a terrific weekend!

The first two days it was just me and the kids with Papa.  I wrote in brief 500-word stints and got about 5K in two days on Billionaire #2.  I helped cook meals and did clean up duty while the kids rode horses.  They rode about ten miles a day, believe it or not.  We also took a super nice buggy ride.

That brown horse, Smoke, might look narrow and skinny, but that little fellow can PULL.  He hauled five of us and two dogs at times (there’s a huge Great Dane that gave us a little trouble, and KoKoKoNa hurt her pad–she’s not used to gravel roads) without pause.  One hill had him digging in, sparks flying, and he wasn’t even breathing hard when we got back.

The weather was perfect and so very rare for the middle of July.  Not too hot, not too humid, a very nice breeze on the back deck while I worked.

Molly arrived Friday night and we talked and talked and talked with Dad and Princess on the back deck.  Saturday morning we got up early (which is super rare for us!) so we could have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:  a personal tour of the Harris-Cox Plantation, which is in our home town.

plantationI drove by that plantation every day until I left home and always loved that house.  I made up stories about it in my head and ate up all the gossip about “Slave Manor” as locals called it.

I never dreamed I’d actually get inside it.

Molly and I are co-writing a incredible story about this plantation.  Part fact…but mostly twisted legend and made up fantasy that we absolutely love.  This is our story.  Every crazy wonderful thing we both love.

I’ll share more about this plantation with lots of pictures and lore in the days to come.


My First Writers’ Retreat

It’s been a loooong time coming – but my Beloved Sis and I are finally getting together for a writing retreat next weekend at my Dad’s!  I’m taking off two days from work and taking the kids up Wed. night.  I know, not ideal, but I hope they’ll be so busy riding horses, etc. that I can still get a ton of things done.  Then Molly’s coming up for the weekend and we’ll laugh and talk and write ourselves silly.

We’re already making lists of what to bring, like coffee, Earl Grey tea, my milk frother, wine, duh!  But also bacon, cookies, Motrin, and of course my wrist braces.  Hopefully I’ll need them thanks to all the hard writing we get done!

We’ll be sitting out on the back deck with our laptops, listening to the cows, looking out over the rolling hills, drinking ice tea and watching the kids ride the fields.

I’m so stinking excited I can’t wait!

Survived the Move

It’s been a long couple of weeks but we survived!

The closing came down to the wire thanks to rain and a few minor issues with the final inspection (our town requires two trees in the yard and the builder had only planted one.  No joke!).  We packed up the other house and landed here with the movers before we could get into the house.  Nothing worse than paying guys by the hour and watching them sit in their truck, unable to do anything.

But finally we got permission to unload into the garage, and then the inspector finished up and we started hauling into the house.  I was hoping to have the POD delivered early and have most of that done first, but that didn’t happen either.  We left for the closing and the POD still hadn’t showed up yet.  Bad news, because That Man is physically unable to do that much hard labor to unload it ourselves and our movers were gone.

We signed paperwork enough to kill a few thousand trees and returned home to find that Papa and the girls had unloaded the entire POD into the garage.  I was dumbfounded!!

We returned to work on Tuesday, which was hard because I still didn’t have the house put together yet  My office is a shambles but I knew where my work equipment was enough to work.  I still have a ton of work to do in there and I need to rearrange a few things.  I have a cheap bookcase I’ll probably have to relocate.  I just don’t seem to have room.  This office is bigger than my other, but I have a window to work around and that changes the configuration just enough that I’m not sure where to put things yet.

With the three-day weekend, That Man put together Middle’s basketball goal (that was a seven hour job) and then organized the garage enough to get the van in.  I still have a ton to unpack out there, but most of it is stuff we don’t really need but also couldn’t part with.

Today, I finally finished the kitchen.  It was quite the challenge.  I have more cabinet and counter space here than the other house, but I lost a HUGE pantry.  (I had two at the other house.)  I do have a pantry here but losing that big walk-in pantry really hurt.  I love to cook and eat whole foods, so I have a ton of stuff.  Five gallon buckets of wheat.  Masa.  Oats.  Buckwheat groats.  The list goes on and on.  I finally moved in a smaller pantry cabinet we bought years ago (I’d planned to leave it in the garage) and that helped.

We also have a large walk-in closet in the master, so I plan to shift a few things in there that I don’t use very often.  My crockpot is in the coat closet on the shelf for now.  I’ll figure it out eventually.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I use things, what goes together when I make bread or bake or cook dinner.  Hopefully things are organized enough that I won’t lose my mind when I start cooking dinner.

For That Man’s birthday we also replaced his rusted out grill, so now we can start shifting some of the cooking outside this summer.

Tomorrow:  steak on the grill!

Writing update:  I haven’t accomplished much with the move, but I did do something stupid.  Raise your hand if you’re surprised?  As you know, I love a good challenge.  I saw the Historical Heroes Writing Contest and Jeannie Lin’s post encouraging POC characters, and yeah.  I wrote something completely out of left field for me.  I don’t typically write straight historical (I much prefer fantasy or steampunk where I can tweak history to suit my needs) but Dante Silent Crow walked in and took over.  He’s half black, half Apache, and his heroine is in serious need of his protection as a gunman.  I had fun with it.  We’ll see how it goes and if nothing happens with the contest, maybe I’ll write it for fun.

Okay, that’s a really long post but I think I’ve updated on the most important things.  Do help an author out and maybe post a review of The Billionaire Submissive if you can?  I’d appreciate it!

Final Stages of the Move

Less than two weeks until the big move date!  Cue panic!

Today, we loaded everything I’ve packed so far into the POD, along with the kids’ loveseat that will go in the basement.  I’m going to have to go through another pile of stuff I thought was organized but the kids dumped more stuff on top of it.  From now on out, each box will get taken out directly instead of lingering inside.  It’s too easy to get buried, moved, etc.

I also helped Littlest clean her room today and oh dear Lord it was a nightmare.  Every time she “cleaned” her room by herself, she just shoved stuff under her bed or worse, in her closet.  So we dragged out tub after tub, filled with everything from crayons to dirty clothes to trash to stuffed animals and everything in between.

The worst, though:  doll hair.

Evidently Littlest is a budding hair stylist and has worked on every Barbie and doll she has.  Unfortunately, she never threw the hair away – she just hid it in her closet.  It was actually quite creepy!  (At least she didn’t take doll heads!)

We went through every drawer, every item of clothing, every toy.  I have a stack of stuff to donate and several more bags of trash as a result.  And her room is packed!  She just has the stuff on her bed remaining.

Only two more kids to go….


Crazy Busy Summer

I wrapped up the synopsis, polished nearly 40 pages, and sent Billionaire #2 off to my editor.  Yay!  I’m hoping to finish it by the end of August, assuming she likes it.  The synopsis ended up being quite detailed – much longer than I really care to write (nearly 6K).  But as I worked on it, new ideas and layers came to me, so I recorded them.  I didn’t want to lose them.  I think it came out pretty well.  We’ll see.

I’m still drinking green smoothies.  My Dad brought me some fresh beet greens to try and I admit they were pretty tasty.  Nice and mild.  I have a spring mix that is so bitter I can hardly drink it even with a cup of mango and a whole banana in it.  (Once I eat the whole tub I won’t use it for smoothies again.)  Spinach is really my favorite, but I can do kale too.  It’s important to switch greens up to keep from having too many alkaloids build up in my system.

The two youngest monsters are away to church camp the rest of the week.  It was a scramble to get them ready (they only decided to go for sure on Sunday).  Princess is going to summer school and is already hitting extra band practice.  Middle has two basketball camps later this month and they’re planning two trips in June to head to my Dad’s farm (just 3 days each thanks to other activities).

Plus we’re moving by the end of the month one way or the other.

So it’s looking to be a crazy busy summer!