I've been spending unexpected moments longing for odd things lately--especially this weekend. I was in St. Augustine, walking the streets ... George Street, residential streets, and I longed to live there and I couldn't figure out why.
Was it the atmosphere? The history? The fact that the houses were all different like I was used to back in my neighborhoods up north? Was it the cute little shops--all different with fewer chain shops and restaurants? That had to be it--uniqueness. Was that the theme? Different homes? The uneven sidewalks that had seen countless generations walk to school as they fought against old tree roots? Different shops? Different coffee origins? I do gravitate toward unique things and people.
But at one point I walked past a corner house that wasn't particularly spectacular on the outside--many St. Augustine homes are not: they are often old and beaten up from flooding--and I suddenly wanted to go inside. I stopped walking a moment and wondered what was wrong with me. I mean why? I didn't know the people. I thought, thought, and ... then I had it.
Roots. The home looked like the people living there had roots they put down over the years. The flower pots looked like they had been there a long time. I could see some stuffed shelf units through a window. There were rocking chairs on the beat up porch and an older shed in the backyard that I imagined held a mower and a family history worth of junk.
I grew up in the two-family house my father grew up in. I found my grandparents' old Christmas ornaments in the attic. Our home was ... ours ... our history. I had found marbles my father and uncle used to play with while digging in the backyard. My mother always spoke of the past as if clinging to it even though she had left England in her early 20s. Both my parents were very regimented in the way they did things. I grew up very adverse to change, always seeing the sentimental in everything. Always trying to hold onto the past.
It was exhausting.
Eventually, that way of thinking made me feel stuck and I grew a fear of the past repeating itself ... seeing school pictures of your father on his first days of school standing exactly where you did in yours will do that. By 17 I was craving change--but I went to a close college where I didn't need to stay in dorms. Going further was discouraged. But that's another story.
When I got married and moved out, then later moved a little further into NJ, it was to a town where we used to visit family friends. I had dreamed of moving to that beautiful suburb my whole life. It was like a dream come true. After a while, I did find its drawbacks--I suppose every town has them. Still, I wasn't prepared to move from my comfort zone and all the way down South three years ago.
Now I'm in a brand new development where the houses, despite variances in style, all look the same to me. There are rules about what can be displayed, etc., and I feel like I've lost my roots and that much of this new area has been wiped clean of its past. But change happens. I know this: You can't step into the same river twice.
After renting it out for years, my parents sold my childhood home shortly before I moved out of NJ--with many of the things they had deemed so worthy of hanging onto still in it. And when I moved fom my home, so many things had to be given away or sold first. And I hate the sadness of so much being gone, but it was just stuff--not important. Yet, sometimes I need to remind myself of that. So, now I'm surrounded by chain everything, and the only sense I can find of history and roots is in antique shops--which I can't stand. But that, too, is another story.
So, I'm caught between running from the past and wanting to feel roots. Looking to the future and missing the past. And this, too, is exhausting. So, looking at that house on a little street in St. Augustine, wanting in, perhaps was my heart's way of wishing to experience roots even if they were someone else's. And that ... I think ... is just plain weird.
I guess what it means is that I'm still in transition down here...even as more changes are heading my way with kids going off to college. It really is time to look toward the surprises of new horizons and while I do enjoy the idea of that, part of me is stubborn, still trying to grab the past and hold it close, and asking myself, "For what?"
Before leaving St. Augustine, I walked on the beach, played with the shell-strewn sand. Finally, I relaxed. Fiddling with small handfuls of shells out of gajillions, watching huge amounts of water tumble, roll, and seep up onto the shore ... it became a momentary peace. I was small in comparison, yet I had my place in it all. The shoreline balanced my love and hate of nostaglia, my craving for the past and my yearning for something new and fantastic in the future. I wish I could bottle that feeling.
Anyway, like I said, it's complicated.
Just wanted to announce that I get to pair up with The Voluptuous Book Diva for this year's Foster an Author! It all takes place next week beginning October 22nd. Please visit this review blog!
The site is super pretty, isn't it? But right away I started to get the feeling this blog was more than just a pretty face. The blogger, Laura Hernandez, has read and reviewed loads of books and has earned outstanding rankings as a book reviewer. In fact, Book Sirens has given her the following reader rankings:
Laura is always up to sharing anything that authors and even other bloggers need shared. All they have to do is hit her up on the page or click on the email button.
I hope you'll check out the Voluptuous Book Diva website for reviews and cover reveals, like her on Facebook, share and comment on her Foster an Author posts and follow her on Instagram!
What's the toughest part about being you?
For me, the thing I love to do most, write stories, is part of what makes my life tough. Oh sure, writing is rarely easy for anyone. How it makes my life tougher though, is this...
I can't get MY story right. I can't find my way to the ending I want. Am I talking fame? No. Sure, I wouldn't turn it down, but I'm talking about the story I told myself for decades: I would grow old with my family and my closest friends--in some cases, they have become one and the same. I thought we would be physically there to support each other through our entire lives. And yes ... we can talk, but what happens when we really need each other or when it's time to celebrate milestones? Serious illnesses? The marriages of children? Retirement parties? Empty nesting? Deaths? The birth of grandchildren down the line? I am no longer physically there to share those moments, the good, the bad, the ugly.
I had to move. I don't know if and when I'll ever be able to move back. Money is tight, so hopping a flight isn't always an option. And today, thinking about all this, I really struggle with what feels like writer's block. My friend--more like a brothe--is finally getting married. His bride is a wonderful person. And I'm so happy for them, but I cannot share in this day. Try as I did, I couldn't rewrite the situation and stick to the story I had in my head for years.
And it hurts so bad. Of course, the truth is that the moment you decide something about your future is the moment God, the universe, fate laughs and switches the game up. So "writing" your story and your HEA is a stupid move to begin with. As much as I know this, my heart isn't about to bow to the logic of my brain. So, I'll smile at the pictures on social media and truly feel happiness for my friend who deserves a wonderful day. Never in my wildest dreams, though, did I think I would miss the wedding of someone so important to me. And it's only one of many significant moments to follow.
Although, when it comes to stories, I don't write with definitive outlines ... just very loose ones. So, I guess it's time to put on the big girl panties and keep writing, keep living. Time to work on finding some sort of thrill in not knowing what my story has in store for me.
What's the toughest part about being you?
When I began writing the first story arc--Ren & Galen's story--for the Awaken My Heart series, I was dealing with some missing pieces of my own. Not the same sort Ren and Gale dealt with by a long shot! However, it really doesn't matter what type they are, missing pieces can hurt.
When a jigsaw puzzle is missing pieces and you’ve looked for them long enough, you eventually arrive at the conclusion that the vacuum cleaner or the dog ate them, they’re gone and not coming back. The puzzle is useless now. Better to chuck it and buy another.
It’s not so easy when the pieces missing are part of your heart, your psyche, part of your soul. As we go through life, some of us lose more pieces than others. Some loser bigger pieces. Some are lucky enough to find them again or cobble together suitable replacements. For others, nothing works and they simply let those missing pieces gape wide open, allowing all sorts of garbage like toxic people, bad habits, and self-loathing to collect.
Ren and Galen’s story arc in The Awaken My Heart series is all about cleaning out those empty spaces and finding beautiful new pieces in each other that seal them up perfectly. It’s a transformative, healing story of one person who had filled the empty pieces of her heart with ice and desperate habits and another who filled his with guilt and self-denial.
In Jigsaw Hearts, Ren and Galen struggle to clean out the spaces left from their missing pieces to make room for the pieces they find in each other. Pieces of You, Pieces of Me gives us a glimpse of their new normal where they make sure those new pieces fit nice and snug. In Whole Piece of My Heart, they show us what they’re ready to do for each other if anyone tries to dislodge those pieces again.
I hope you'll enjoy this first section of the series! Already read it? Please consider giving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you feel like it! Thank you!
Talk to me for more than ten minutes in person and you'll probably hear me lament how much I miss my friends up north. Probably not what anyone really wants to hear, but when the friends you've known for so long are as wonderful as mine, it makes sense. The following story is one of meaningful friendship and the universe throwing me a bone.
So, someone I know where I live now took to social media talking about a bout of anxiety. I thought I would share what I do for anxiety and for not being able to sleep: lavender tea. I discovered it years ago, back up north in a little cafe I love in Nyack, New York. I used to buy it loose from there after that. Now anytime I'm back home I grab some to take back with me. Anyway, I went to buy a box of lavender tea bags to share since I didn't have access to the loose stuff anywhere near my current residence and I only had maybe one serving left from my last trip. Driving home, I fell into a bit of a funk thinking about how I had to use these tea bags instead of varying the strength with the loose tea I love from my little Art Cafe. I know ... first world problems, right? Definitely. Still, the real issue was far deeper than that. I didn't just miss the comfort of easy access to that particular tea, but the comfort of knowing my friends were not far if we needed each other.
Anyway, I headed home from the supermarket, stopped by the mailboxes, and I had a package! One of my dearest friends had sent me something. I tore open the envelope (decorated with colorful markers!) and the smell of lavender hit my nose. I nearly cried. Again, it wasn't just the comfort of knowing the next bunch of times I wake in the night and can't sleep, I have that tea handy to get me back to sleep ... it was the comfort of being reminded that those friends who know me so well are never as far away as the miles between us.
And that's the secret with any relationship, isn't it? Wanting the best for your friend, your sibling, your parents, your significant other. So I thank my friend for not only sending me a meaningful gift, but for allowing the universe to work with her in it arriving at the most perfect time.
So thank you to my amazing friend, who usually makes me laugh, but today had me sniffling! Love you!
My newest baby is here! Well, almost. Official launch is September 2nd! I so love this cover ... the intensity you can see in his biceps as he holds her so tight. As if she is everything. And in this book, Galen will definitely let you know that ... mostly in his own voice.
This novella makes Ren & Galen's story arc in the Awaken My Heart series pseudo-complete. Pseudo, as in we will be diving into Corinne's love story next, but you will see what Ren, Galen, and the whole Zabriese family is up to on the sidelines along the way. AND I might just throw another novella or mini their way at some point.
I hope you'll snap this heart-wrenching story up when it debuts, love it, review it, and talk it up. Thanks so much to those of you who already do!
I'm so excited to share the first of two new covers with you! Jigsaw Hearts and Pieces of You, Pieces of Me have new covers to go along with the launch of Whole Piece of My Heart (late August).
Thanks so much to the wonderful fellow authors and readers who provided early feedback! You're awesome sauce!
With this cover, comes a new blurb: To overcome her sensitive nature, successful entertainment journalist Ren Hayden locks away her emotions along with the scattered pieces of her tragic childhood. The only person she trusts, but probably shouldn't, is a criminal—her brother, Seth.
When Seth dies unexpectedly, he sets off a chain reaction causing Ren's coping mechanisms to falter. Unable to make sense of messages she receives from beyond the grave, she can't stop herself from finding comfort in the arms of Galen Zabriese—the brother of the woman Seth ruthlessly conned.
Ren discovers life's missing pieces in Galen and steamy experiences in his bed but struggles to feel worthy of his love. While battling his own missing pieces, Galen becomes hell-bent on drawing Ren's real nature to the surface. Can selfless, true love help them complete each other or will Seth's past catch up with them first?
Jigsaw Hearts is a stand-alone novel full of emotional depth and steamy romance. Ren and Galen continue the beginning of their life together in two follow-up novellas, Pieces of You, Pieces of Me and Whole Piece of My Heart. Look forward to more novels and novellas involving the unconventional, flawed, but fabulous Zabriese family throughout the Awaken My Heart series.
Cover reveal for Pieces of You, Pieces of Me will be up in a few days. Watch for it!
Sure, there are steamy love scenes and interesting locales for engaging in them in my books. I've grown to love writing those scenes because they provide more details about the sort of people Ren and Galen are through how they treat other. And for me to get into characters, whether I am the reader or the writer, I want the details, no matter how personal or private. Sex scenes offer opportunities to reveal a couple in their most vulnerable state. Are they having fun together? Or simply fulfilling physical need? Do they tease with love or a need to dominate? Does the intimacy in the bedroom (or in this case, the museum, the forest...you get the picture) continue into their everyday lives? More than anything else, I want my characters to navigate true, selfless love--the sort worth fighting for. Just the other day, I saw--in real life--where I wanted Ren and Galen to end up in their later years:
I was at an event at a church. Further down my row, I found myself startled to see an elderly man playing with his wife's hair. It seemed such a 'young couple' thing to do and it floored me. I actually got teary. Occasionally, he would squeeze her shoulder, then go right back to twirling a lock of her hair. That was a couple who had seen life together. They probably saw the good, the bad, and the ugly and came out of it together. Sure, people express love in different ways, but I was so touched by them, that I could see Gale twirling Ren's hair in their golden years and it was such a perfect moment. That simple action spoke of partnership, friendship, attraction, the need of one to be near the other, and true love. And that's what I want my character couples to project to readers. I hope it's coming across.
Thanks for reading,
The much debated question ... which is better? Sex or chocolate? You'll have to decide that for yourself, but the decision is that much tougher when you throw this chocolate bar into the equation!
Another plus is that it's chocolate with a conscience.
From Tony's website:
"Right now, slaves are working on cocoa farms in West Africa. Many of them are children. Tony’s Chocolonely exists to change that. Our vision is 100% slave free chocolate. Not just our chocolate, but all chocolate worldwide. With incredibly tasty chocolate we lead by example and show the world chocolate can be made differently: in taste, packaging and the way we treat cocoa farmers. Alone we make slave free chocolate, together we make all chocolate 100% slave free. So we ask you to join in. The more people choose slave free and share our story, the sooner 100% slave free becomes the norm in chocolate.
The choice is yours. Are you in?"
Well, I'm in. I don't know how eating Tony Chocolonely is going to figure in with new eating plan I decided I would begin next week, but everyone deserves a reward, right?
Every tried Tony's? What did you think?
"Look!" my daughter said as the plane flew low enough to see the lights of New Jersey and New York. "Civilization!"
I couldn't have agreed more. It felt that way, anyway. We went "home" to New Jersey/New York/Connecticut over spring break and it was as if the 'real me' floated back into my body the moment the wheels slapped onto the runway. I don't belong where we live now. But the Northeast? The need to see the people and places I love made the slow crawl of disembarking torture. Really, I envy people who have moved a lot during their lives; I imagine the constant longing for a place isn't quite as bad.
I need a mere five pins to label a Florida map with the people and places I need in my life there. I need a large box of pins to label the tri-state area.
I'm back in Florida now and reflecting on the serious battery charge I received from ten days surrounded by friends, favorite locales and the general energy of the area. I had three malls within a ten-minute reach whenever I needed it. (I didn't need to go, but loved knowing I could!) I said what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it, because friends who are like family know me well enough to either understand where I am coming from or love me enough to not care that we disagree. I had endless access to amazing food establishments, yet sometimes was happy just to grab a coffee at an indie cafe. I explored new places despite having lived up there all my life. I enjoyed unexpected bagpipers in Port Authority to snowy winding roads in the Catskills.
Winding roads and a frigid reservoir in the Catskills, NY
It's all very different from Central Florida; the endless miles of newer, cookie-cutter buildings and homes, predictable store and restaurant chains, and rather conformist points of view. I know there are places in Florida I'd probably enjoy more, and hell...you can't beat palm trees, but I guess, for now, I have to learn to bloom where I'm planted.
The trip was bliss, really. Although, I do know the grass is always greener. I mean I had to remind myself after a day of traipsing through Manhattan that I hated every minute of rush hour, commuting, and sometimes rude people when I worked there. The snow was beautiful in the burbs, but I can say for certain that I do not miss shoveling it. We went to a play at my kids' former high school and instantly felt more engaged in a school building than I had since moving. But ask me how much I hated the gossipy, Queen Bee mom scene when we lived there!
More than anything else, I miss my friends. The way they all went out of their way to spend time with me only made me realize more how lucky I am to have them. They really are a life line through calls and social media. Hubby is lucky I love him so much--he was one of the few reasons my daughter and I got back on the plane. :)
So, does it get easier to move the more you do it?