Friday, July 29, 2011

My no-good-very-bad-can't-end-soon-enough week

Ever had one of those weeks where you wish you could just stay in bed, and you cannot wait for Friday? Welcome to my week. The good news? It's Friday! The bad news? We're out of tequila. Must remedy that quickly. Why, you might ask? Here are the highlights:

1) My fabulous editor at St. Martin's press left me. She's off to a new job that sounds lovely, which I can't blame her for. And she's left me in what I gather are the very capable hands of another editor. But… I'm still bummed. My editor was such a champion of my new, soon-to-be-launched series, and it feels very scary and lonely to lose that wonderful of a cheerleader prior to release day.

2) The house hunt has gone from depressing and desperate to downright laughably ridiculous lately. I actually stood in a line of twenty people, lined up outside an open house this week, being herded in one at a time like cattle only to be interrogated about my job history of the last five years. And the place was barely bigger than a shoebox! We saw one house that we actually liked this week and could *almost* afford if we give up non-essentials like eating three times a day (who needs breakfast, anyway?). But as soon as we expressed interest, so did four other couples, and the landlord raised the rent by $200 a month and told us she required a $6000 security deposit plus four moths rent up front. Seriously? For a rental? That's bigger than most people's down payment!

3) The Big Boy has summer camp this week from noon to 6pm. I only have the babysitter for Baby Boy from 10 am to 1pm. So, there is only a one hour overlap from noon to 1pm where I am child-free to write everyday. One. Freaking. Hour. It's driving me insane. My muse is so jacked up on caffeine she can't think straight. Deadlines should not exist during summer break.

4) The people in the apartment next door to us just had a new baby. Which is a wonderful, amazing, joyous occasion… as long as it's not 2AM. All night long I listened to the little darling cry her itty-bitty lungs out through our thin walls. And this morning our coffee pot broke. Talk about timing, huh?

So… how was your week? Anyone else need a margarita? (Off to Starbucks, then the grocery store to remedy our tequila-less situation.  Hey, I'm pretty sure it's 5 o'clock in Paris already. ;) )

~Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jeepers Creepers!

I'm a sucker for a good haunted house story. Book or movie, scary stories that don't depend on gory slasher scenes or horrific devices of torture have always appealed to me. I remember reading the book AMMIE, COME HOME by Barbara Michaels a very long time ago and it scared the bejeebers out of me. I still love a great ghost story.

Last Friday night, it was yet another scorcher of a day. In fact, early last week my little hometown had the dubious distinction of being the hottest place in the USA with a scorching 'feels like' temperature of 137 degrees. All I want once I get home from work is to fill a large bowl with ice cream, sit down in my air-conditioned living room, put my feet up, and watch a movie.

I'd rented Insidious. One of the kids had heard it was scary so two-thirds of the triplets and yours truly sat down to enjoy some 'family time' and, hopefully, have the wits scared out of us.

We put the movie in around 8. We're sitting in the living room with all the lights off and the movie is at a rather critical part when outside the sky begins to darken and thunder rumbles in the distance. At first I don't pay it all that much attention. Then, more thunder. Closer, this time. The wind picks up. It starts to rain.

I pull the curtain aside to take a peak out, keeping one eye on the weather and one eye on the TV screen. Another crack of thunder--this time really close--and I look away from the telly just as both of my children let out a scream. At that moment, all hell breaks loose outside my window. Wind like you wouldn't believe sends sheets of rain against the windows, lightning flashes, and the lights blink. The sound of hail hitting the roof and windows is almost drowned out by a fierce, gale force wind. We hear a strange noise and my daughter rushes to the patio door and looks out into the back yard. And then I hear the words every mother dreads:

"Mom, you better come look at this."

I go over to the patio door off the dining room and look out--and see my utility shed being lifted off the ground.

We can only stare at the bizarre sight.

Lightning flashes and a great boom of thunder follows. The electricity goes out. More lightning. More thunder. And my shed is still trying to take flight.

Five minutes later the wind has died down and the rain is letting up.

We make our way to the shed in the back yard and this is what we see:

Fortunately, the shed got hung up on the garage or who knows where it might have ended up.

Have you had any bizarre or weird occurrences you'd like to share? A time when you had the pants scared clean off you? Near misses from scary storms?

And me? I'm thinking it will be awhile before I'm up for another scary movie family night.

Just sayin'.

~Bullet Hole~

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who was your first?

The first author who resonated with you, made you want to rush out and read the rest of a series, the author who made you care?

For me, it was Anne Rice, during the fall of ’92 at the University of Missouri. My roommates and I were talking one night and it turned out they’d all read this amazing vampire series.

Vampires were cutting edge at the time. My friend Shay handed me a copy of Interview with the Vampire and an obsession was born. I missed every one of my classes that week as I read Interview, and then The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned and The Tale of the Body Thief. I couldn’t put those books down. And my friends, like the enablers they were, ate it up.

Now, sixteen years later, I don’t remember much about Economics 51 or Calculus (thank goodness), but I can still call up that giddy feeling I had when I discovered a new series, heck a new genre, that I knew I’d read again and again.

Do you remember the first time you discovered a new genre? Or a series that made you the reader or the writer you are today? Share with us and one lucky commenter will win a copy of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Goals and Parakeets

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. I’d decide on what that goal was, and go after it with a fierce, blinding determination. Granted, some of that came from not thinking things through long enough—I tend to do things the hard way.

When I was five years old I lived with my grandparents in Florida and I decided I wanted my very own parakeet. At the time there were parakeets flying around wild. Since I had no money to go to a pet store and buy one, I decided to catch myself a pet. I took an extra birdcage from my grandparents’ garage, put bird seed in the bottom of the cage to attract my future pet, and held onto a string tied to the door from a ways a way so when the bird few in, I'd let go of the string and have the pet of my dreams. Nanny was all for it—what bright adult wouldn’t be? I’m sure my grandmother thought it was one hell of a fine way to keep me out of her hair for a few hours. I was a bit of a precocious kid. What she, my mother, and the neighbors didn’t expect was for me to sit out there for three days, only going in when ordered to eat and sleep. On the fourth day, I must have dozed off in my chair, and when I awoke, there was a baby bird in my cage. I was so ecstatic, I called him Happy. It never occurred to me that this bird was way too young to fly, heck, he didn’t even have many feathers. Happy was so young, we ended up having to crush his bird seed, wet it down, and spoon feed him every few hours. Many years later I learned the neighbor, who had a nest of parakeets in his backyard birdhouse, took pity on me. He snatched Happy from the nest, and put him in the cage while I slept.

When I decided I wanted to be a published author, I jumped in with both feet. There’s no sticking in a big toe to test the water with me. No, I race, blindly sometimes, to that goal and trust everything will work out. After all, I’ve been told I have enough sheer will for ten people. But I’ve learned sheer will is not enough, although I don’t think it’s possible to get published and stay published without it. What I didn’t know I needed was support.

When I told my husband I wanted to write toward publication, when I stated my goal—something he’d been encouraging me to do for a while, the first thing he said was that since I had two full-time jobs (writing and taking care of the kids) and he only had one (working to pay the bills) that he’d take over the laundry and cleaning. I know, I’m really, really lucky! Together we sped toward my/our goal, making our three kids team players. I thought I had everything I needed until the first day I walked into an RWA Chapter’s sponsored event and met other writers—writers who asked me what I was working on, who took an interest in someone bound and determined to move forward despite not knowing which direction to take. Some of whom became my dearest of friends. These are the friends who gently steer me in the right direction when they think I’ve gone off course. They are friends who are there to bolster my confidence when it slips into the depths of bad reviews or writer's block. They’re the friends who listen to me whine and tell me that my work doesn’t suck when it doesn’t, and that it does suck when it’s warranted. Oh yeah, and those friends don’t just stop with writing. No, they’ve become a huge part of the rest of my life too.

I realized that without those friends like my old neighbor who waited until my back was turned and stuck a baby parakeet in my cage, I would never have achieved my goal. My writing friends have put metaphoric parakeets in my cage I didn’t recognize for years later, and some I might never find out about, but when it comes right down to it, I’m grateful for every phone call asking me how I’m doing, every time they give me the gentle push to do better.

The other night after a long, hard writing session, I was outside with my dog, looking up into the stars and counting my blessings. I’ve achieved another goal, I sold a new series to NAL and I know I didn’t achieve it alone. I’m grateful and I thank God every day for my family and for my family of writers. Like I said before, I’m very, very lucky.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome Harlequin Intrigue Author, Dana Marton

Today, I'm bringing you a guest post by Harlequin Intrigue author, Dana Marton. If you're an Intrigue fan, you've probably read some of Dana's heart-stopping, action-packed books. Today, Dana tells us a little bit about her writing career.

You Don't Always Get What You Want - But What You Get Can Be Much Better

A friend of mine and I were talking about our jobs over the years. He’s had two. I had a dozen in the same amount of time. A few of my jobs disappeared due to company closure. A few I had to leave due to moving because of my husband’s job. I have to say, I never once quit and walked away just because the work was hard and the pay was low, and most of my jobs fell in that category. My last traditional job ended when the international company I worked for closed their U.S. office. I can honestly say that was one of the best things that had ever happened to me.

I decided to keep my office hours while I was looking for work. I sat down by my computer at 8 a.m. and didn’t get up until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In between sending out resumes, I started to write SHADOW SOLDIER. I’ve been writing on the side for about a dozen years by that point. But being able to give concentrated focus to my writing at last made a huge difference. SHADOW SOLDIER became the first book I ever sold. I didn’t get the steady, comes with benefits job I was looking for, but I got to see my dream of being a writer come true. I truly believe that sometimes God has something so much better in store for us than the thing we’re praying for.

Now that I’ve written 25 books, I keep dreaming of that BIG contract. I have fabulous author friends who’ve gotten calls from publishers with offers that would make me faint flat on the kitchen floor. Some have even gotten movie deals. I can spend hours daydreaming about that one, picking which A-list actor would play my action hero. But instead of the fame and fortune thing, a quiet, wonderful thing started to happen for my writing lately.

I started direct publishing.

I wrote GUARDIAN AGENT and released it straight to my readers. No publisher backing, no PR fanfare. Just a note here and there to the people I know like my writing. And, amazingly, they bought the book. The feedback has been fantastic. Yesterday, GUARDIAN AGENT, a story of a commando soldier who, in a high-stakes chase, comes face-to-face with the woman who’s been in love with him for the last decade, was #27 on Amazon’s list, out of all romantic suspense books currently in print. It’s not like being a New York Time’s bestseller, but it sure is a good thing and kept me smiling all day.

In GUARDIAN AGENT, instead of the rogue soldier he thought he was chasing, the hero gets this fireball of passion from his past. Which brings me back to my initial thought… We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes what we get can be oh so much better!

For more information on Dana and her work, check out her website.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What To Expect...

Right after I let her in on some good news the other day (which I'll share on the blog ASAP, as soon as it's 100% official), my friend Ann said something like "I'd be peeing myself if I were you! And not because of weak pelvic floor muscles, either."

OK, that made me laugh. Thankfully I didn't leak any pee, even though I do have those weak pelvic floor muscles she was talking about. And it's a good thing I didn't because it would have made my diaper rash even worse.

Say whaaaaat?

Yup. I'm in my mid-30s, and I currently have diaper rash. My internal furnace combined with rapidly increasing thighs causes friction in the worst possible places. And the only thing helping is actually slathering myself up with the super-high zinc ointment diaper cream that I keep in my toddler's nursery.

Ah, yes, the beauty bonuses of pregnancy just keep on coming...

(Yes, this is an overshare. Deal with it.)

It's supposed to get to something ridiculous like 105 here today in DC. Now, when I used to live in Arizona, 105 was nothing. 105 was the weather we'd get in October. But 105 in Arizona is NOTHING like 105 in DC, I promise you. It's not just a cliche when they say "But it's a dry heat!" about the desert.

In 105 degrees in Arizona, you step outside and it feels like 10 hair dryers pointed at you. A blast of hot air, but you can take it for the short walk from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car to your air conditioned office. It may be slightly uncomfortable as you reach for your bottle of water to quench your thirst, but it's entirely possible not to even break a sweat.

In DC, well, first of all, you're probably not taking your air conditioned car to work since parking costs like a gazillion dollars and traffic is so bad, so you get to suffer the long walk from your air conditioned house to the Metro station, then enjoy the stop-and-go trip packed in like those business men in those Japanese pod hotels with hundreds of other commuters (not to mention the crazy tourists with the SUV-sized strollers in the middle of rush hour -- come on, people! You're on vacay, sleep in!), only to melt when you get back out for the walk from the station to your air conditioned office.

In DC, 105 degrees feels more like you're drowning in a swamp. Which isn't really so far from the truth, considering as the nation's capitol actually was built on a swamp back in the day. But seriously, the humidity is so bad that the second you step outside, you feel like the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy pours water on her. (Which, incidentally, I've never quite understood...why does water cause her to melt? But I digress...)

With the ridiculous heat today, it would be the perfect time to just go nekkid, but unfortunately I have that thing called a day job to go to, and I don't think that would be very appropriate. So a sleeveless dress and diaper cream it is.

Hmmm...maybe it's time for me to get back to writing that cozy mystery about an 8-month pregnant sleuth that I was working on a few months ago. I definitely have some new funny moments in mind for her.

I get my body back in 4 months...but who's counting?

~ "Baby Face" Brice

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Soap Operas And The Art Of Longing

Recently I learned that Roger Howarth, one of my favorite soap opera actors, had returned to One Life To Live for their last few months on television (OLTL and All My Children will be moving online). I haven't watched a daytime soap in years but hearing that Roger was back was enough to get me to set my DVR and pull up a few old Youtube videos of his past performances to boot.

I stopped watching soaps for the same reason most other people did. The storylines are repetitive and go well beyond the suspension of disbelief, the acting is uneven (which is not to say some of the actors aren't amazing, it's just that some of them really, really suck), they're time consuming and so on and so forth. But there's one thing that soaps can do better than almost anybody else, they can make you passionate about a couple.  I loved Roger Howarth not just because he was one of the best actors on daytime...or any other time of day, but because of his incredible chemistry with Kassie DePaiva who played Blair to his Todd. Their storylines were as silly as all the other soap storylines but the push pull between the two of them was totally engrossing and flat out spectacular.

It just didn't matter what they were doing.  Hating, laughing or loving, it was all good. They were great even when their storylines were far from it. Now obviously Todd and Blair weren't everyone's cup of tea. Some viewers preferred Todd with Tea (Florencia Lozano). On Guiding Light there were Josh and Reva fans and Beth and Phillip fans but the point is that no matter what soap you're watching, the chances are you are dying to have a certain couple get together. You see shades of that with primetime shows but the fans rarely have the same intense emotions about the whole thing. In fact the only shows that mirror that kind of devotion for their couples are nighttime soaps like True Blood (the 21st century's answer to Dark Shadows). 

As an author of women's fiction I feel like it's important to understand how soaps, for all their bad storylines and frequently clich├ęd dialogue, inspire that kind of devotion from their viewers. It's not just that they're on every day and it's not just that the people who watch these shows are romantics because romantic or not the viewers won't see the romance in the many primetime shows that try to play that aspect up.

I personally think it's the longing.  No matter what the setup is the one thing you know on a soap is that every character is going to be longing for something. It's all they do. They long to find their real parents. They long to get revenge on the ones who hurt them, they long to have their memories back (because they have amnesia...again) and so on and so forth. They have fine tuned the act of longing so it should be expected that when it comes to romance they know how to load it up with extra longing. And if the actors know what they're doing they can make their viewers share in that longing.  I've heard so many soap fans say they want this or that couple to get together and just be happy but honestly, that wouldn't really work. What works is to have them get together and then break up and then fight to be together again. Moments of happiness are fleeting in soaps and although that frustrates fans it also feeds into their longing.  

Sex, Murder and a Double LatteI'm proud of the fan base I've been able to build for the protagonist in my book series (Sophie) and her love interest, Anatoly. Yes, their relationship has grown over the years and yes it continues to move forward but it's so incredibly volatile that there's plenty of room for arguing, hating, wooing and most importantly, longing. In life we want to keep the longing under control but there's no need for that in fiction. I learned that from daytime TV.

When it comes to make-believe we can "long" as much as we like and those of us who want to tap into that are wise to take note of what has been achieved in Soap Operas. Their ratings may be down, the shows may be canceled but no one who has ever watched a soap will forget about that couple whose longing they felt. 

It's a soap opera legacy to be proud of.

--Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leslie Langtry Goes To Girl Scout Camp...

A Contest! Our own Jana DeLeon is part of a contest with other Harlequin Intrigue authors, and since it's not her "time of the month" on the KF blog, I'm posting for her! Go to and enter for a chance to win a Kindle or $100 in ebooks! Enter by July 31!

The troop at Iniabi with their counelors

I went to camp and all I got was this muddy gaggle of girls.

Okay, I had a good time too. Last weekend, my co-leader, Julie-The-Amazing and twelve girls from our troop went to camp, four hours north on the border of Minnesota and Iowa. It was hotter than hell - 103 and severely humid. It rained the first night and all night until morning. We were in tents that consisted of a canvas frame over a wood platform. And I was with middle school girls. 12 middle school girls.

That probably doesn't sound good. In fact, I myself am wondering if I'm just an outright liar.

But we did have fun. The camp was gorgeous - surrounded by huge bluffs and pine trees with a noisy creek running through it. The views were stunning and the food was good. Granted I've never sweated so much in my entire life, and when it rained the trails turned to steep, muddy death trails, but oh well.

We cooked over an open fire, battled it out with jello, did the world's longest slip and slide, played in a mud pit, tubed on the creek and its charming little rapids, climbed the rock wall and zip lined to the bottom! And that was just the first 24 hours.

We also sweated (I don't think I've ever sweated so much in my entire life), got dirty, got bug bites, hiked up hill both ways, and drove four hours each way. And it still was fun.

I think it might have to do with 13 year old girls. They are old enough to crack me up, yet young enough to not mind getting dirty. They didn't care that they couldn't wear makeup - even though they wouldn't be caught dead without it at home. They aren't self-conscious about wearing swimsuits yet, and they still think farts are funny.

As we were driving back, the girls made me laugh so hard I was crying.

So what if I came out to the car the next morning to go to work and smelled baked on pickles rotting in the backseat? So what if, two days later I'm STILL wringing mud out of my new, Lands End swimsuit? So what if we are kinda broke because I bought the girls McDonalds on the way home?

It was worth it. And definitely more fun than the marketing meeting I just got out of...

The Assassin

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wine, Wine, Wine

I admit it. I’m a wine lover. No, I’m not one of those true wine lovers who keep a second refrigerator just for my wine. And I haven’t even considered putting in a wine cellar, or renting one yet. But nothing finishes off a day like a glass of aged grape juice. I mean, I write about murder, mayhem and sex, so I’m worn out by the end of the day. I need something to help me wind down. And what better way to do it than by sipping a glass of wine?

This isn’t new for me. I’ve been enjoying my glass of something red in the evenings for several years. True, I’m mostly a red fan. Now, I can appreciate a good Chardonnay. But I’ll go for a red before a white most every time. And it’s not about what I’m eating. It’s that warm finish I get from a really layered and complex glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. However, this last year, I’ve experimented and stretched my wine pallet.

We joined WineStyles, a wine club here in Spring, Texas, where we go and taste some of the finest wines from all over the world. For a monthly fee, (a very reasonable fee—remember, I’m married to a very frugal Scottish guy with short arms and deep pockets) we get two bottles of nice wine, at a reduction of the original cost. So I’ve spent a lot of time sipping, savoring, and sampling some pricey bottles. Much to my husband’s concern, some of them I’ve really liked.

“How much is this?” I’ll ask my WineStyles attendant pouring the tastings. I never ask unless I like it. And if it’s over twenty, my husband’s brow wrinkles. If it’s over thirty, it brings out a full-fledged frown. If it’s over fifty, he reaches for his chest. For those bottles over a hundred, I just wake him up from his dead faint when it’s time to leave.

Ahh, but the truth is that some of those pricey bottles of wine have left me wishing I had a spit bucket like in the Sideways movie. Basically, wine is a lot like art. What appeals to one person may not appeal to someone else. And price isn’t always the best way to judge the quality of a good wine. Or shall I say, price isn’t always the best way to judge the wine that appeals to me. Unfortunately, my hubby will tell you that “inexpensive” isn’t the best way to judge my pallet either. Poor fellow, it’s hard being married to a wine lover when your tastes runs more toward Strawberry Boones Farm.

However, being a writer and a lover of words, I’m big on the wine names. If a name of a wine draws my attention, I’ll pull it from the shelf and read the label. Not that reading the label does a whole heck of a lot for me.

For some reason wine makers like to add things like…It brings to the pallet the flavor of grass. Or things like…a finish with tobacco, earth, and sweet oak. Maybe it’s just me, but some of those descriptions turn me off. It’s been a while since I’ve gnawed on a blade of grass, chewed tobacco, or ate dirt. And I wouldn’t know the different flavor of a sweet oak to a sour one. I just know what I like. But needless to say, I’m still drawn to wines with usual names. And if they aren’t in the bad expression to the fainting price range, I’ll give them a try.

Last week, I brought home three bottles: Bitch, Ass Kisser, and Working Girl White. Can you tell what kind of mood I was in? Yup, I’m working on Blame it On Texas. Book 2 in my Hotter In Texas trilogy from Grand Central/Forever. (Look for Don’t Mess with Texas on August 23rd!) And let me tell you, there are some funny scenes and I was in a pretty humorous mood.

Thankfully, none of these wines puckered my husband’s brow with their price tags. And they all turned out to be enjoyable wines. However, for what it’s worth, I did rate them.

Because I like a bold red, with lots of fruit flavors, and a nice finish, my number one, the favorite of these was . . . pucker up for this one: the Ass Kisser. It’s South Australian--this wine is 59% Shiraz and 41% Grenache. Anyway, Ass Kisser has lots of fruit flavors, it’s bold, and to me, it has a hint of chocolate. Now you see, I know what all that tastes like.

My second place winner of the three was Bitch. And the name sounds better if you say it from deep in your throat and with meaning. This one is a product of Spain, Grenache Aragon. It’s sweet, light, and has notes of strawberry and raspberry.

The third place winner, and it may not be fair because I am a red wine lover, was Working Girl White. It’s 60% Chardonnay and 40% Riesling, which makes it very smooth, sweet, and refreshing.

So, there you have it, a little wine education from a not overly educated wine drinker. So . . . do tell. Do I have some wine drinking readers out there? What’s your favorite wine? Are you a real connoisseur or just know what you like? Is Boones Farms your choice of grape juice? Come on, share—especially if you have a great wine with a funny or unique name.


Monday, July 18, 2011

How do I Love Thee? by Diane Kelly

My 15-year old son recently began his first romantic relationship. Well, technically, it’s not his first. Back in kindergarten, he was in love with a cute little red-haired girl from his class and she returned the sentiment. They shared their Twinkies at lunch and drew crayon pictures of each other with smiling suns over their heads. It was adorable. Unfortunately, the relationship ended abruptly when he accidentally stepped on her foot as they took their places in line to go out to recess. No matter how many times he apologized, she wouldn’t forgive him. But who needs a high-strung girl like that anyway? He quickly moved on to share his Twinkies with an adorable Asian girl who was much sweeter.

Back then, I felt no need to offer advice. But now, as he’s putting his toe in the water of love, I wonder whether to give him some advice, to tell him what to expect, to prepare him for the crazy world of dating. Should I share some of the female perspective, tell him some of our trade secrets? Or should I let him learn on his own? And do any of the rules that applied back when I was dating twenty-three years ago even apply in today’s world? As a romance writer, I feel like I should be an expert on this topic. But I feel woefully inadequate!

Some things about the male-female relationship seem so instinctual that they don’t change. Men will always enjoy a conquest. They don’t tend to value a woman who’s too easily won over. Women seek a man whom they can trust to stick around, through good times and bad. The best relationships are those in which the two partners bring out the best in each other. It sounds so simple doesn’t it?

But where emotions are involved, nothing is ever simple.

My mother offered me only two pieces of dating advice. One, it’s just as easy to love a rich man. And, two, when a relationship has run its course, don’t embarrass the guy by telling him outright that it’s over. It’ll die a natural death on its own.

As to the first piece of advice, she was probably right. On the second, though, I think it would have been better for me to be honest with some of the guys I dated when I felt it was time to move on. Pretending to be busy and subtly rejecting them didn’t go over too well and probably only caused more confusion and hurt. On the other hand, a guy I was dating once showed up at my house with a hickey on his neck - from another girl! I’m assuming he came to the door to break up with me, though I never found out for sure since I simply slammed the door in his face. Maybe there’s something to be said for subtlety after all. : )

I need your help! Do I give my son advice and, if so, what advice do I give? What is the best and worst dating advice that you received? What dating advice did you pass on to your children?

Thanks for your input!!!

Diane Kelly's debut romantic mystery novel - Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure - will be released on November 1st by St. Martin's Press. Visit for details.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The House Hunt Continues

Update on the house hunt… we’re still looking. House #4 that was such a hot prospect? We saw it, loved it, were the fist ones to put in our application. We had high hopes. We crossed everything for days. But, just to hedge our bets, we went looking at more houses last weekend…

House #5
Very cute Victorian with a white picket fence and everything. Made an appointment to see it at 11am Saturday. Saturday rolls around, we show up at the house… to find two other families standing in the yard, too. They tell us they’ve been waiting for half an hour for the landlord to show up. Not good. I call him (luckily had his phone umber). He says, “Yeah, I just rented it an hour ago so I figured I didn’t have to show up.” Did I mention it was nearing 100 degree outside at the time? So not cool, dude. Cross #5 off our list.

House #6
This is one that was advertised as a near foreclosure that might consider a lease to own option. It’s vacant, so The Man used his real estate connections to get us in and have a look. 5 bedrooms, which rocked. A tiny living room that was 90% fireplace, which did not rock. And no master bedroom. And steep stairs. That creaked. On every step. And were a little “soft” to stand on. But the best part was the basement downstairs. Or, the beginnings of a basement that someone abandoned working on, left open to the elements, and was now filled with…. raccoons. Lots of raccoons. Cross #6 off our list.

House #7
This one was priced so very high. But we're desperate, so we went to see it anyway. It was okay. Not great, not great enough for me to pay a so very high price. No yard at all. On a hill. The landlord was currently living there, as was his extended family.

Him: “And this is the second master bedroom. There’s a bathroom there, but my mother is in the bathroom, so you can’t see it. But trust me. It’s very nice. Okay, on to the kitchen…”

Then, as I was leaving the owner said, "By the way... did I tell you we raised the rent by $500?" Uh, no. You did not. Turns out he had so many responses that TWO people (yes, TWO) actually offered him $500 a month more than he was asking to rent it to them. So, in order to be fair, he raised it $500 for everyone. Cross #7 off our list.

House #8
We showed up to this one last, exhausted, worn out, still in 100 degree heat. There was an open house from 2-4pm. We get there at 2:15. There’s a line in the front yard. The owner is taking people one at a time through the house on a tour. We wait AN HOUR in the heat with the toddler and are seriously ready to chuck it all and go live in a tent somewhere when we finally get shown in. The place is beautiful. Expensive, but beautiful. And blissfully air-conditioned. (I could get used to that!) We definitely want it! The owner says he doesn’t even need to see an application, he’ just offering it based on who emailed him first and asking if they want it...and we’re 6th in line. Doh!  Really, pal? We just waited an hour in the heat on the off chance that five people in front of us don’t want the house? Sigh.

Needless to say, we did not get House #8. And House #4 that we had such high hopes for? The landlord gave it to someone else. Because they offered four months rent up front. Crafty. I'm totally doing that at the next house.

Cross your fingers there is a next house. I'm starting to stalk homeowners at this point.

~Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This 'n' that...

I thought I'd start out by sharing a picture of the monster trumpet vine in my back yard. Every year I swear I'm going to cut it back a little and spiff it up. As you can see, that hasn't happened yet. And with my green thumb abilities, when I do give it a trim, it'll probably look much worse.

I'm still in a bit of a "didn't get to go to RWA National in NYC" funk which may explain my recent lack of enthusiasm for various projects. I miss the feeling of being energized and encouraged after spending a week with all those enthusiastic, like-minded fellow writers. I miss the interaction and stimulation. Writing is such a solitary occupation. That's why I'm really looking forward to a one-day writing workshop in September in Montezuma, Iowa, where Les a/k/a The Assassin Langtry and I will present a writing program. Due to my work schedule, I haven't even been able to make local RWA meetings recently and am sorely in need of hanging out with other people who also hear voices in their heads. Good times.

Since I have been indulging in blatant self-pity, I also know there's nothing like a good book (or three) to get me out of the doldrums. My tax man recommended the book THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins and I picked it up this past weekend. I finished it in a day, went out and bought the next book, CATCHING FIRE, finished that, bought the last book, MOCKINGJAY, and I'm 3/4 of the way through it. I plan to send a thank-you card to my CPA for telling me about the series. It's that good.

What books have you read recently that knocked your socks off? What are you reading currently? When have you stepped outside the genres you typically enjoy and found a "keeper" for your bookshelf?

Next up for me after I finish MOCKINGJAY is THE SHACK by Wm. Paul Young.

Happy reading!

~Bullet Hole~

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The road less traveled

Happy Wednesday! I’m back from New York and wow – what a trip. My favorite part was a tour of the city that I took with life-long New Yorker, Charles Schwartz. He offers one-on-one walking tours, anywhere you’d like to go. And since I’d only seen the more touristy parts of the city, I told him to show me what else I was missing.

I had a side motive as well. You see, I have a short story due at the end of the summer and a bit of inspiration is always welcome. I mentioned that to Charles and also told him I write paranormal fiction.

So he shows up like this.

Talk about a treat – my very own vampire tour guide. And that was only the start of the fun.

We walked all over the city – I saw the Algonquin, gathering place of great writers. We saw the “literary walk” leading up to the New York City Library. We ate at the famous Katz’s Deli. Charles even showed me an old church, built by the Dutch when they owned the island. It’s supposed to be haunted by one of the first Dutch governors, and it had a heck of a cemetery. You all know how much I love old cemeteries.

Then we found the inspiration for my next story, just as I’d hoped. We walked into McSorley’s Old Ale house, built in 1854. Abe Lincoln hung out here. Teddy Roosevelt. John Lennon too. You could smell the history. You could see it on the walls. In fact, they claim that no piece of memorabilia has been removed from the walls since 1910.

Houdini’s handcuffs are cuffed to the bar rail. Wishbones hang above the bar, left there by soldiers going off to fight in World War I. They’d re-claim them when they returned. I could literally feel the weight of the generations.

I knew right away, I’d found a home for my story. I’m not quite sure what will happen yet, or who will walk through the doors of my version of this bar, but I can’t wait to find out. In the mean time, I’m grateful to see this hidden gem, a place I never would have known existed. Thanks to Charles for taking me off the beaten path, and showing me the possibilities around every corner.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I can’t wait to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins…

By Robin "Red Hot" Kaye

When I was in the third or fourth grade I went to the library to get a week’s worth of books. I had recently moved away from my dad in New York, AKA my supplier. When I used to visit my dad on the weekends, he’d take me to the bookstore, and let me buy as many books as I wanted. Books to my dad were like milk, something parents encouraged kids to have as much of as they could stand because it was good for them. It didn’t matter what I read. As long as I was reading, well, that was enough for him.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the desk to check out my stack of books and the librarian said no. Seriously, she refused to allow me to check out those books—all seven of them.

I was a very polite kid and never mouthy with adults. In my house, if the thought even crossed my mind, I’d be smacked upside the head. If I had been stupid enough to mouth off, I’d have had the pleasure of attending my own funeral or I would have found myself praying for it. Needless to say, I stood there in front of the librarian in a state of shock, wondering what I had done wrong, and frankly, too afraid to ask. But my biggest fear, the one that had all the blood draining from my face, was what would I do if the library never let me take out any books?

To me, reading was like breathing—it was necessary for life. Reading gave me a safe place to escape and after moving around a lot—about every nine months on average—I desperately needed that. The worst part was, I wasn’t going to my dad again for months. I didn’t know how I was going to survive.

I went home empty handed, called my dad in tears, and told him what had happened. My dad exploded over the phone. After his tirade ran down, he told me to go back to the library and give that librarian a piece of my mind.

Now, I had always listened to my dad, but I didn’t necessarily trust him to tell me everything I needed to know. You see, there was a time he told me if anyone hit me, I was to hit them back harder. He’d never said, except for nuns. I think I was the only kindergartener ever expelled from St. Paul’s Catholic School. Live and learn.

After explaining my trepidation, my dad assured me it would be all right, so off I went back to the library. When I asked the librarian why she hadn’t allowed me to take out the books, she told me that all the books I picked out were inappropriate for children my age. Which, looking back at it, was probably true. I was big into Robert Ludlum, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Wilbur Smith, and the occasional John Le Caree. At the time though, I didn’t know what she meant. I’d been reading my dad’s books since first grade. She asked if she could call my parents. I offered to call my dad collect for her so she could speak with him.

When the poor woman got off the phone with my dad, I felt sorry for her. She asked if I would read a book for her. She went to a section of the library I had never been, and pulled out Mr. Popper’s Penguins. “Make sure you read this,” she told me, and then explained she’d ask me questions about it when I returned.

All of a sudden, reading felt like homework, but if that was what it took to get my other books, I’d do anything—even read what looked like a stupid kid’s book.

I went home and read every book I’d taken out. Finally, when I was out of fun reading, I cracked Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and for the first time, I fell in love with a book that was appropriate for my age. I went right back to the library and discussed the book with the librarian, and after that, every week she would have one appropriate book waiting for me at the desk. Still, Mr. Popper’s Penguins was my favorite, although The Mouse and the Motorcycle was a close second. The best thing about it was having someone to talk books with. My favorite librarian was the only person I missed when I moved away.

When I had kids, I couldn’t wait to read them Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and although they seemed to enjoy it, they didn’t love it like I did. Maybe it was because I never allowed them to read inappropriate books—not that it seemed to hurt me any—but my kids grew up on great kid’s books. Still, when they heard about Mr. Popper’s Penguins coming to the big screen, they were excited for me because that was, by far, my favorite book growing up.

What did you read growing up?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips on Customer Service

Bad manners and lack of customer service rarely surprise me anymore, but I kinda got tickled a couple of weeks ago. I had a guy at my house repairing blinds that the cat chewed the string off of (I'll deal with the cat later) and I also had the Verizon FIOS guy coming to give me new, blistering fast Internet.

While I am aware that FIOS is delivered for most by modem, I wanted two hard drops - one in my media room and one in my office - for backup. Must have Internet to work and stream Netflix! And I paid for them up front.

So the FIOS guy shows up and I tell him where I want the drops. The blind repair guy has the blind laid across my kitchen counter restringing it and I'm standing across from him with the FIOS guy. When I tell him where I want the drops, he frowns and says "Is the entrance to the attic in the garage?" To which I reply "Yes." Then he gets this disgusted look and says "It's going to be hot up there."

Well, no crap! It's June in Texas. We've had two weeks of over 100 degrees and you install cable stuff for a living.

I just point to the garage door and FIOS guy stalks out the door. The blind repair guy just looks over at me and raises his eyebrows. So I say "Would you like to give him some customer service tips?" (Because the blind repair guy provided the kind of customer service I imagine you got 50 years ago) He just looked at me and said "Noooooooo." Then he scrunches his brow and says "Did he think he wouldn't have to go into the attic? I mean, he installs cable."

Heck if I know. First time I've ever had a guy who installs cable get an attitude over going into the attic.

So what's up? Are the rest of you allowing cable installers to lay lines right across your flooring? Did I miss a politically correct cable moment? Was I supposed to wait until winter to change service?

Deadly DeLeon

Friday, July 08, 2011

Am I ambitious, or just insane?

A week ago I returned from a lovely week in NYC at the RWA National Conference, where I had the delight of running into fellow Killers Diane Kelly, Christie Craig, and Robin Kaye.

As always, I run myself ragged at these events, traipsing all over the city going to parties, not to mention trying to catch as many workshops at the actual conference itself as possible. And you can't forget all the "downtime" (where you're actually still "on" because you're networking) at the bar.

I even managed to squeeze in some time to take in a Broadway show, and got to see my old dance school pal Cara Cooper in "Jersey Boys!"

But despite the grueling schedule, I still come away reenergized and excited. Excited to dive into the next manuscript, excited about all the new ideas I have, and excited to connect with my favorite authors and online buddies. Oh, and of course, excited for next year!

And next year definitely should be fun. RWA is heading to Anaheim for a Disneyland extravaganza! I've got a toddler, so should be perfect, right?

Except that I'll also have a 7-month-old. Am I insane for even considering this idea?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Good News Is That YA Doesn't Turn Your Kids Into Masochists

Last month Wall Street Journal critic, Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote an article in which she expressed her dismay in the current content of YA fiction. In her opinion it's too dark and the graphic scenes of violence, self-mutilation (cutting), sexual assault are not only unsettling they're contagious. In other words, if a teen reads about a character who cuts herself she might want to cut herself too because a book has "normalized" the behavior. This set off a fire storm on Twitter, chastising Ms. Gurdon which lead to another article by Gurdon and more Twitter outrage and most recently a NPR interview in which she defended her which point Tweeters went ballistic.

I don't think her article was worth the plethora of hostile Tweets. For one things, she writes for the WSJ so she was basically preaching to the choir anyway, certainly not to anyone who might buy the books and I don't think she has enough influence to encourage mass book bannings (which isn't what she wants anyway).  To be honest, I too have noticed that a lot of the YA books are pretty dark these days and certainly sex is not the taboo subject that it used to be in teen novels. I personally don't feel that a book always needs to be dark to be deep. But to say they normalize behavior? That's the part of Gurdon's article that gave me pause.  Books aren't like movies. Books engage your brain in a way that movies don't. They make you think not just about the basic plot or the overall message but the details. Movies wash over you, the images that are meant to make an impact usually do. You probably won't notice the extra standing by the tree paralyzed with fear, knowing that she's not going to be able to get her child out of the way of the monster, astroid, falling building or whatever. You might not really absorb her horror or her pain. You can't avoid the extra in the book because the author makes you read about her. The author (assuming he/she is talented) will make you understand that pain and hopelessness in your brain and feel it in your heart. Hollywood somehow manages to glamorize violence and desensitize us to violence at the same time. When you're desensitized to violence you may be more comfortable committing violent acts or dismissing the violent act of others.

Books don't desensitize us to anything. If we start to become desensitize to the events of the story we stop reading and pick up another book. So if books aren't desensitizing us are they glamorizing dangerous behaviors to teens? Do teens seek to emulate the protagonists they love?

Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary EditionI tried to think back to my reaction to the books I read as a teen and adolescent. I loved Gone With The Wind but I never wanted to be Scarlett and she certainly didn't make me want to spend my days pining away for a married man. I loved Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Guess it goes without saying that I didn't want to be like any of those characters. Since sex wasn't featured in the teen lit that was around in my youth I would buy racy Harlequin romances. To this day I still remember reading my first sex scene...I was in middle school. And yet I didn't choose to lose my virginity until I was in college.

But then what about those Sweet Valley High books I used to love so much? I went through that series like popcorn and I did want to be like those characters because the books made it very clear that everyone should want to be like those characters. The twins, who were in the center of it all, were described as the definition of beauty. That definition is as follows: having blonde lightly wavy hair, having green eyes and being 5'6". I spent my entire middle school years praying that I would reach 5'6". It was my only hope. I could never have blonde hair. I would always have impossibly kinky curls. My eyes would be brown to the day I died. So either I reached 5'6" or I would just have to walk around with a bag over my head praying that some blind guy would ask me out. Those books affected my idea of beauty. They increased my insecurities.

But I can't say that I wish I never read them. The reality is that many people do have this narrow view of what is or is not physically desirable. I was going to be confronted with that at some point in time anyway. At least I was entertained during the confrontation.

But more to the point, Sweet Valley High is very different than the books Ms. Gurdon has a problem with. Sweet Valley High was all about glamour. The whole point was to make you want to live in the twins' world. Any careless racism or what-have-you wasn't intentional (IMO) so we never really saw the dark side of it. The books Ms. Gurdon is taking issue with are ones that deal almost exclusively with the dark side of things. All you see are the negative consequences to bad behavior and you see it in visibly disturbing detail.

FrankensteinIn other words, wanting to emulate these characters would kinda be like wanting to emulate Frankenstein's monster because, you know, despite the misery, loneliness, violent tendencies and utter rejection from society he was actually a very intelligent, surprisingly relatable charter who was pretty cool in a dark and moody kinda way. So yeah, sure, sign me up for that.


AfterIt's hard to make cutting seem like an attractive activity and if kids are going to learn about substance abuse (and obviously they will) better that they learn about it in a book that ends with the characters self-destructing in gruesome and disturbing ways rather than in say...Hangover II. If a teen is going to get pregnant let's feel her emotional turmoil and pain as we did in Amy Efaw's After instead of giggling along with Juno (although I did find that film entertaining).

I do think that publishers need to publish more YA books that aren't all about doom, gloom and clinically depressed vampires. And it's silly to think a book is good just because it's gritty. But I don't think that YA, in its current state, is destroying America's youth.

And I can tell you right now, if YA books didn't feature teens who had sex (in what are still highly edited scenes) real teens would be sneaking off to the drug store to buy Harlequins the way I did.

Pick your poison.

Kyra "fashionista fatale" Davis

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Life Is Just A Bowl of Jelly - Or How I Became An Animal Hoarder...

This time, it wasn't my fault. Nope. Can't blame me. Mr. A is trying...but he can't pin this one on me.

Apparently, I ALLEGEDLY adopt a new animal every time he's deployed. This, of course, isn't true. But he likes to tell that "story" every time he's around someone new. One time, ONE TIME, we adopted a maltipoo when he was in Iraq. That means EVERY TIME, I do that.

So here's the real story...

The kids have been wanting a kitten. I've been telling them (because Mr. A tells everyone I'm responsible for our dearth of pets) that it's up to Daddy. After all, Daddy is allergic to cats and, as he says, the only voice of reason when it comes to acquiring pets. I KNEW Mr. A would say "no."

This weekend, we're driving and he says aloud, "Look! The neighbor has a sign out offering a free kitten." This sends the kids into a kitten-begging frenzy not seen since the great kitten giveaway in 1954. They beg, whine, and actually bat their eyelashes as we go for groceries, to Borders and Super Target.

But Mr. A is the self-described VOICE OF REASON! Which is why I'm so suprised when he says, "Hey, why don't you run next door and see if you can borrow the kitten to see how she is?"

I've never seen two children move faster.

We had the kitten on the back porch exactly 2 minutes before he said, "Well, what shall we name her?"

Which is how we came to have a 9 week old, runt of the litter, kitten named Jelly.

The next night, we are hanging with friends, and he proceeds to tell everyone how I manipulated him into getting Jelly. He claims he "had to do it" so I wouldn't adopt another pet while he's in Afghanistan.

Our friends believed him, and promptly named ME an animal hoarder. Sigh.

The Assassin

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

NEW YORK CITY!!!!!!!!!!!

I did it. I survived New York City and the National RWA conference. Normally, when I go to a writing conference, I seldom leave the hotel. As a rule, the fear of becoming road kill isn’t part of my conference phobias. Mostly they consist of toe pain, back of the heel blisters, wardrobe malfunctions, and brain farts when talking to editors and readers due to too much wine and staying up late giggling with the roommates. But since this trip, I’ve added the road kill phobia to my list of things to obsess over before attending a conference. You see, this year I had meetings, and parties to attend all over the Big Apple. Which meant, I had to hail a lot of taxicabs.

Now, I’m the type of person who learns by watching others. And not being a complete idiot, I did just that. I went outside and for a good hour, I studied the art of taxi hailing. Problem is that everyone had a slightly different approach. Some people used the two finger approach; some had the one finger technique down. I heard some people whistle. Some people just held out their hand, and continued talking on the phone or chatting with friends and a taxi came running over like a hungry dog at dinner time. Some people just stood on the curbside and those yellow go-mobiles would screech to a halt right in front of them. I mean, they might have wiggled a brow at the driver, but if they did, I missed it.

I know that you city folks are probably laughing at this country bumpkin. But, seriously, I’d never hailed a cab before. I hadn’t ridden in a taxi until I was almost drinking age. In the south, we believe in cars. And if your car is broken down, we believe in calling a cousin. If their car is broken down, we call another one. That’s why we have plenty of cousins in the south.

As a southern lady, I’m not much of a risk taker. And while taxi hailing might not be up there with bull riding or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, it was pretty darn scary.

When you’re standing on the side of the street in Times Square and the yellow cars are zipping past so fast that all you see is a golden blur, that’s risky. Now consider that you’re short, so you have to actually get on the street to be seen, it doesn’t feel like no small feat. Not that it can’t be done by vertically-challenged individuals, because I watched one of my editors, about my height, get me a cabbie in no time flat. But me . . . ha! After standing there for a good twenty or thirty minutes, knowing I was going to be late for my meeting, this southern, soft-spoken lady, got downright pissy. I mean, when people to the left, and people to right of me were getting carted off like royalty while I stood curbside, my arm muscles aching from all my hailing a cab attempts, I was tempted to go from the two finger technique to the one finger salute.

Seriously, the way those taxi drivers were zipping down 45th and 46th street, it appeared they got points for every tourist they either passed by or ran over. One point for the Jersey people, five points for the tourists from bordering states and a whole-heartedly ten points for tourists who were cab hailing impaired, talked funny and said y’all, and were crazy enough to go out wearing something other than a shade of black. And one look at my poor-hailing capabilities while dressed in my brightly colored wardrobe, and they had me down as a y’all-speaking ten-pointer at first glance. I had several near death experiences and was late for three events.

One of those experiences had a taxi so close that if it had been a man, I could have had him arrested. I’m not blaming anyone here, but I had followed my wonderful agent into the swirl of traffic. Yup, her Jersey-hailing approach was a tad different. She didn’t wait for the crazy yellow vehicles to come to her, she went to them. Not that I don’t appreciate her go-getter attitude; it’s what a writer wants in an agent. I just wouldn’t enjoy admiring her abilities from the underside of a taxi or while standing in the street with my backside kissing a bumper. In her defense, she didn’t tell me to follow her, but considering she had more hailing capabilities, I wasn’t about to let her out of my sight during rush hour.

Ahh, but other than a few near misses, I had a blast. I stayed up too late giggling with my roomies and met up with three of my Killer Fiction gals.

I had the honor to say hello to some of my favorite authors, got to walk out on the balcony of the Flat Iron building, ate fancy hors d’oeuvres and drank some good wine at my publisher parties. I signed books until my hand cramped, learned a few more things to stuff in my educational bank, and met up with some of my own readers.

Yes, I experienced some toe pain, bandaged a few heel blisters, suffered through a few brain farts, but thankfully only had wardrobe malfunctions in the privacy of my hotel room. Life was good in New York City. And I plan to go back the first chance I get. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m practicing my taxicab hailing. I wonder if they teach that class at my community college.

So. . . what’s going on with you guys this summer? Are you going on vacation? Do you love the big cities? Are you taxicab hailing impaired? Any hailing advice you’d like to share with me?


Monday, July 04, 2011


It’s the 4th of July! A day when those of us in the USA remember the day our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, breaking ties with Britain and that horrible tyrant King George III. Of course, these days, it’s less about history and more about cooking hot dogs on the grill, drinking beer, and exclaiming “ooh!” and “ahh!” as we watch a fireworks display.

Freedom. What a precious thing that is, huh? We’re so used to it here that we take it for granted. But when someone we know recently traveled to the Middle East to visit her elderly mother, we got a harsh reminder that not everyone enjoys such freedoms. This person had to worry whether the officials of the country in which she’d been born and raised would discover she’d participated in demonstrations here renouncing that country’s government. She was so concerned about the potential consequences that she refused to take her child with her rather than risk she’d be jailed and her child get stuck in that country. Free speech? Due process? Forget about it there.

As a writer, the right to express myself in words is something I treasure. I can say anything I want and nobody can do anything about it. Okay, I can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater unless, of course the theater is on fire, but I can mention to a friend that when George Clooney appears on the screen my nether regions burn for him.

A BIG THANKS to those in the Armed Forces for making these freedoms possible for all of us. Here are some veterans I’d specifically like to thank:

My father, Lt. Col. Paul Rowan O’Brien, Jr. (Ret. and deceased), who flew KC-135 tankers in Viet Nam

My brother-in-law, Stephen Curran, who served several years as an airplane mechanic in the Air Force

Charles McMillen, a fellow writer and all-around nice guy who served in the Army in Viet Nam and lived to write stories about it (some terrifying, some touching, some both)

Whether you live in the US or elsewhere today, I hope that you are free to enjoy yourself to the fullest!

Are you doing something unusual to celebrate today? We’d love to hear about it!

As a thank you for stopping by, and to celebrate this day of freedom, I’m offering a free “swag bag” of promo items for my upcoming release, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure. The bag includes a purse-sized manicure kit, emery boards, and pens. If you’d like one, just send an email to with your mailing address and it’ll be on its way!

Friday, July 01, 2011

House Hunters

For the past six months The Man and I have been house hunting. The apartment we’re in now was a great starter place, but it’s getting a little cramped. As in bursting at the seams with Baby Boy’s toys. Let me tell you, legos on the bedroom floor can be deadly, especially when stepped on at 3 in the morning. (I’m thinking of writing them into my next book. Death By Legos?) Plus, with Big Boy starting junior high in the fall (gulp), we really want to be closer to his school. So, we first started looking at homes for sale in the neighborhood last year. Only when we went to get qualified for a loan, the banks kinda giggled at us. (Really, banks don’t consider “writer” a “stable profession?” Huh. Go figure.) Which left us renting again. Only the problem is, apparently there are a lot of professions that banks don’t consider “stable” at the moment, and everyone and their mother is trying to rent in our school district. The competition has been insane. The day something goes on the market, it’s already rented. People are starting bidding wars. It’s every renter for herself in an all out race to the house. (Sometimes literally – I have cut in front of other cars to get to an open house first.) For example:

House #1
This place was a little on the small side – about the size of our apartment really – but it had a yard, was in a great neighborhood just a couple blocks away from one of my best friends, and near a really cute park. So, we applied, crossed our fingers, and waited to hear back. And waited. And waited. Finally after two agonizing weeks, I called the owner. Her response: “Yeah, your 2009 tax returns weren’t really what we were looking for so we gave it to someone else.” 2009!!?? Seriously? My six months of 2011 pay stubs weren’t enough to prove I have steady income? I mean, even the bank only wanted 2010. Sigh.

Two weeks go by in which I am haunting Craigslist like a vulture, ready to pounce the second something comes on the market. And, yet, I am always two steps behind someone else, and the place it already taken. Gah!  Then finally...

House #2
This was a super cute townhouse in a cookie-cutter development. The yard was small, more of a paved patio, but the community had a pool and gym, and the place was within our budget. (Just barely, but we could stretch a little.) Due to my diligent refreshing of the Craigslist rentals page, I caught this one just five minutes after it came on the market. I emailed the owner right away and set up an appointment for later that afternoon. He told me I was the first one he was showing the place to. Score! We get there, it’s cute, we tell him we’re going to rush home, fill out the application and send all the supporting financial paperwork to him ASAP. And we do. Thank God there were no CHP on the road, because we were seriously speeding home. We totally ignored Baby Boy’s naptime in our frantic quest to get bank documents scanned and license plate numbers copies down. An hour later, we emailed everything to the owner, sure we were the first ones to get our app in. Yeah, not so much. It turns out the lady that came see the house 10 minutes after us, actually emailed her application to the owner before viewing the house. She wrote the deposit check sight unseen. And she got the house.

House #2
This one was way out of our price range. As in, thousands more than we’re paying in rent now. But we were getting desperate. It came on the market, and within an hour I was one the phone to the rental agency. One freaking hour after it went on the market she said they already had two applications in, but she’d show it to us that afternoon on the off chance that both fell through. Since off chances seemed like all we had at that point, we agreed and met her later that day to see the place. Five other couples were there viewing it at the same time, all asking to be in line behind the two whose applications were already being processed. Yeah, needless to say, being 7th in line, we did not get this house.

As you can imagine, we’re getting really desperate now. We have an appointment in an hour to see House #4. And this time, we’ve learned. I already got the application, filled it out, and emailed it in to the property manager two days ago. I created a kick-ass, kiss-butt application packet including a letter about how awesome our kids are, what a responsible family we are, and how much we would respect and care for their property while living there. In addition to the pay stubs they asked for, I submitted bank statements, stock statements, letters of recommendation from former employers, friends, local prominent residents, and our current landlord. And I capped off with an adorable family photo. I have my checkbook in hand, and if this place is even halfway decent, I’m dropping a deposit check and offering them $50 more a month in rent than they’re asking for. We are SO getting a house.

Cross your fingers for me.  And toes.  And perform any other good mojo tricks you may have.  We serisouly need it.

~Trigger Happy Halliday