Monday, March 10, 2014

Caveat Emptor - Ticket version

Yesterday, I got a DM from my friend Kimmi who told me she was getting ready to buy Adam Lambert tickets and needed some advice on getting good seats. Apparently she thinks I know something or something. ;) I gave her the advice, she got the tickets and promptly told me I need to write a book on ticket buying. Personally, I don't think there's enough for a book, but she was convincing, so I decided a blog was in order.

I am no amateur when it comes to ticket buying. I'm not saying I'm an expert by any means, but I do have solid experience when it comes to snatching up good tickets. As someone who suffers from various forms of anxiety, this experience is an anxiety all its own, especially if getting killer seats are of vital importance to you. Just putting that out there. By the way, good seats are always of vital importance to me. I'm a ticket snob. I mean, I would rather not go than to get crappy seats. Yes, it's a sickness. Someday, I may seek help. Until then, I'm happy with my obsession - especially if it can help other people.

Now, I will put this disclaimer out there and get it out of the way: my blog does not guarantee you good seats. As I told Kimmi, 50% of getting good tickets boils down to sheer luck combined with unwavering dedication. If you take my suggestions and you still get crappy seats, don't blame me: I'm not Ticket Master, k? Also, if you don't care where you seats are as long as you're in the building, this blog isn't for you. It's to help die-hard music lovers who want to get within spitting distance of the stage(s).

1. Study your artist and find out the layout of the arena (staging, seating, etc) as early as possible. Sometimes this can be done via social media (Twitter is fantastic for it because you can connect with other fans who can give great advice), your artist's website or Ticketmaster itself. The better idea you have of how the arena will be laid out, the easier it will be for you to determine where you want to sit.

2. Connect with other fans, join social media groups and forums, peruse YouTube to see how your artist performs (if you don't already know). Some artists stick to one main stage, others have a "B" stage. Some even climb up on little platforms throughout the arena. That being said, I have never seen an artist go up to the top level seating, including the "VIP" boxes that typically go for more money. 

3. Be willing to go to more than one concert, if possible. Many artists will have several shows in nearby cities that are a simple road-trip away. Some of you are probably looking at me like "This chick is a total groupie. Different cities? Good lord!" But, if you've ever had seats in the nosebleed section and you're afraid of heights, you'll be much more willing to drive a couple hundred miles if it means not having a panic attack. The purpose of going to at least one additional show is to learn the arena layout and find out where your artist goes and what the views are from those areas. Obviously, the benefit of going to more than one show is getting to see your artist again and who doesn't love that?

4. My experience with pre-sale is mediocre, at best. I've done it once and honestly, I didn't get any better seats than I did if I'd have waited until regular sale. The best seats aren't the only ones offered during pre-sale or fan club sales. Some of them are, but not all. And neither are the best seats only offered to VIP ticket buyers. It may seem that way, but I promise you, they're not. Some artists may prove me wrong, but for the majority of the artists today, you can get front row without taking out a loan from your 401k. If you have the opportunity for pre-sale, by all means, check it out. If you find the exact seats you want, snatch them up. Same goes with VIP, if you want all the goodies that come along with VIP. But with pre-sale, hitting refresh too many times can be dangerous as they usually fill from the front to the back, pushing you further back in the arena. And with VIP, most of the time, the VIP handlers choose your seats for you based on whichever package you buy. More on VIP later.

5. Speaking of which, Kimmi asked me "Where are the best seats?" Honestly, it depends on the artists, but in my opinion, third row is PRIME seating. If you can get front row, obviously, that's awesome, but I've found that you can still get a LOT of great interaction with your artist from third row. Same goes for B-stage seating. Or aisle seating on the way to the platforms your artist may have staged around the arena. The first level balcony next to the stage is also a great area to be, especially those first couple rows. You probably won't get the right angle to see the screens they have hanging next to the stage, but you've got a better chance of being closer to the artist themselves. Again, I highly suggest veering away from top level balcony seats.

6. Make sure to register your personal information with your ticket-buying site before the date of sale. It will save you time later on. This being said, part of me wonders if the sites don't register cookies with your computer that says you've been there before and thereby offers you worse seats than before. It may sound skeptical, but I know airlines do this when you are searching for airfare rates. So it's up to you to gauge which is the truer case.

7. On ticket-buying day, if it's an artist that is likely to sell out (Bieber, One Direction, etc.), buy whatever tickets become available on your first click. If you take the time to click again, not only will you be tossed up to the third balcony (if you're not already), you could risk on a total sell-out. On high-demand artists like this, the entire arena can literally sell out in just a couple of minutes. No, I'm not kidding. One Direction sold out in three minutes. I can't even microwave a burrito in three minutes. If you want better seats, you can always try to find them later, but if you just have-to-or-I'll-just-die get tickets to the show, buy on the first click. Trust me on this.

8.  Buying later is always the option I go for if it's not one of those go-or-die scenarios. Usually about 2-4 weeks before the show, the artists, radio stations, promotional groups and arena have claimed their promo tickets and whichever ones haven't been used are thrown back into the mix and these seats are released to the public. They may say they've "added seats" as if they suddenly found forty feet of room and added more chairs, but this is essentially what is happening. This time frame is the best time to find those VIP seats for regular prices. In 2009, I was able to snatch up 3 third-row seats for a show that had been giving me row H, L and M up til that point. This is where Refresh Hell comes in.

9. Refresh Hell is the term I've given that buying process (either on Ticket Release Day or later on, closer to the show) that causes the most anxiety for me. This is where you keep hitting refresh on your browser to see if better seats become available. Sometimes, I'll even have a couple of different browsers going to hold the seats I have so I can see what comes up if those are taken. If you can't multi-task, it might not be a bad idea to enlist a friend to help you with this. And don't be too impatient with this process. To get those third row seats, I spent about thirty minutes hitting refresh before I finally landed on row A instead of row H.

10. It should also be noted that while I don't typically use sites like Stub Hub or any other second-party ticket sellers, they have been found to be profitable for ticket buyers who want good seats. The benefit is you can get super close to the stage. The downfall is you'll pay up to 500% more for tickets bought on these sites. If that doesn't bother you, knock yourself out. Obviously, in this age of electronic tickets, it's important that you remember not everyone is honest and counterfeit tickets are sold every single day, all day long, so BE CAREFUL to buy from reputable sites with guarantees, not from newspaper ads or Craigslist. Even physical tickets you buy from someone may have been printed out a dozen times and sold to a dozen different people.

The only other tip I can recommend is to become familiar with band, staffs and security for your artist. Every artist wants to know their music is touching lives. The more familiar you are with the artist and the people surrounding them, the more they will want to express their appreciation. This does not mean that I'm telling you to create fake relationships with these people. Their time is valuable and they don't have time for groupies expecting hand-outs or back-stage passes. I'm simply saying, if you're passionate or proud of your artist, this is an excellent way to show it. Don't be annoying. Don't ask for anything. Don't offer sexual favors (yes, it happens). Don't be stalker-ish. Don't be bat shit crazy. 

I'm sure I've forgotten things, so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and I'd be happy to answer it for you. Good luck!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's all in your head

Can someone tell me the difference between this woman:



and this woman?

 


I'll give you a hint: it's not something you can see.

Yes, I've lost weight in the bottom picture. I'm also wearing a bit more make-up. But those aren't the difference either.

Give up?

The woman in the bottom picture feels sexy. The dress obviously helps, so do the killer high heels she's got on (that you can't see), but it's more than just that. It's all about how those things made me feel. When I bought the dress, I gave myself a 50% chance of actually fitting into it, much less wearing it in public. But the more I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized the dress really was amazing. And I felt amazing in it.

I want to lose some more weight and I'd love it if I had longer legs and perkier breasts, but even I was a perfect size 6 with a 35" inseam and 22 year old breasts, if I don't feel sexy, then I'm still no more so than I am now. It's all in my head - always has been. So instead of dogging on myself and having a melt down in every dressing room I go into because I'm not a supermodel, I'm going to embrace my curves and know that how attractive I feel is a choice.

And I choose sexy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

16 and Living the Dream

Last week, my 16-year-old and I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to New York City. I've taken numerous trips to NY without her, but this was the first time we ventured together and it was incredible.


To see her light up in Times Square as she took in the sights, the look on her face when she got to meet Jenny McCarthy for the first time, the way she gazed in awe at the Empire State Building the first time she saw it...nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to that.



My mother and I took family vacations when I was younger, but mostly to amusement parks or fishing resorts, no place as cool as New York City and certainly never with just her and me. So to be able to share this experience with my daughter was the greatest thing ever. I was worried that because we weren't able to do as much as we wanted to because of the cold weather and pending Super Bowl craziness that she wouldn't enjoy the trip, but she assured me it was a 57 of a scale of 1-10. Regardless, just spending time together in the most amazing city I've ever been to was priceless. 



As far as sightseeing went, we got to see Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park (driving-through), the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, and Macy's in Herald Square. The extras we got to enjoy included seeing the View (and meeting several celebrities) and spending about four hours on the Blue Bloods set with Donnie Wahlberg. We got to have lunch with Sherri Shepherd after the View and kiddo was tickled about Sherri asking her all kinds of "interview"-type questions about what she planned on doing after high school. We did some shopping, a lot of eating and took tons of pictures, too. We also managed to get turned around on the subway once and ended up DEEEEEEEEEP in Brooklyn at midnight (not something I recommend, by the way), but it was an experience we won't soon forget.


The trip didn't start out smoothly, which made it that much more special, I think. The original plans included taking the Megabus to Chicago and flying out of O'Hare into NYC. The reverse was also the plans for coming home. Unfortunately, a blizzard derailed our plans. Megabus cancelled all bus trips to Chicago, so that meant Hubby having to drive us to Chicago. We stayed with friends and then he took us to the airport the next morning before he returned home. Thankfully, the plans home worked out. We came back into Chicago and stayed with my friend Cathy who spoiled us rotten. The whole trip, actually was thanks to some great generosity on behalf of our friends. Buddy pass airline tickets, open houses to stay at, etc. We were very fortunate that the trip worked out the way it did. 

Sis decided that this needs to be a tradition we pass down through generations. Since I took her to NYC, she plans on taking her daughter someday. I can only hope I'm still spry enough to join them. I look forward to the next trip I get to take with her, but also when I get to take Big Man on a trip, too. 



Saturday, January 18, 2014

I'll always be...

On the inside of my right wrist, I have the word "trust" tattooed. On the other one, I have "breathe." I did this a couple years ago to remind myself to do the two things I have the most difficulty doing. 

It's rare that I am able to just take a deep breath and let things go. I think about them, roll them over in my head repeatedly, lose sleep over them and overanalyze everything to death. Also, I've realized that I don't breathe deeply. Like, at all. I have never measured, but I'm sure I only use about half the capacity of my lungs on any given day. I breathe very shallowly because my body is always tense. Always. Shoulders, arms, neck, chest. When my body is tense, I'm not able to breathe in like I should. You know when you're watching a scary or suspenseful movie and you take that sharp breath in and hold it? That's what I do all the time. I'm always on edge - waiting for the worst to happen. It's rare that it actually does, but that doesn't mean I'm not constantly anticipating it. It's made for a most stressful existence.

Trust, on the other hand, is the paradox. I don't have any problem trusting other people. Sometimes, I'd like to think I don't trust easily, but the problem is that I do. I believe what people tell me because I'm authentic and genuine. I don't approach life with dishonesty or manipulation, so I fool myself into thinking that others are just as honest and forthright as I am. Sadly, as time goes on, I'm finding out, they're not. Many people have agendas. I won't say all people because I'm not that cynical, but there are a lot of people out there who are only looking out for themselves. The worst part about this is that I'm more likely to trust someone who is manipulating me than I trust myself. I question my own instincts and judgment ALL the time - what to have for dinner, what I should wear, how I should wear my hair. I'm always asking for people's input on things that I shouldn't have any problem choosing for myself. I mean, I'm a smart woman. More intelligent, actually, than most people realize. But I don't trust myself to make the right choices - not when it comes to simple stuff and most definitely not when it comes to big things.

I'm learning that I need to start breathing deeper and trusting myself. I'll probably always have to be reminded to take a deep breath; I don't know how to do anything else. But I'm going to make a conscious effort to be better about it. I can't go through life always expecting the worst to happen, especially when my life is as good as it is.

I'm a firm believer that people are brought into our lives as blessings or lessons. And I'll always be the person who believes everyone is a blessing until I'm shown otherwise and I'm okay with that. I'd much rather feel like a fool for believing the best about people than having walls that prevent me from getting close to anyone.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

As promised, an excerpt from "Better in Time"

Better in Time is the second book in the Time After Time series and the sequel to my debut novel, Distance and Time. This excerpt contains no spoilers for either book, so feel free to read without running the risk of ruining anything. 

I know what you're wondering, "When will it be published?!" And sadly, the only timeframe I can give you is "before the end of summer." As I've stated before when posting online fiction, I would much rather deliver a stellar story after a long absence than give my readers a half-assed book. As always, I will keep you posted so you don't miss the release and I appreciate your enthusiasm and your patience.

If you haven't already purchased Distance and Time, you can go to Amazon buy it here.

Now -- go enjoy the first part of Josh's side of the story:

_______________________________________________________________________

Summer 1992
This place was like every other club I’d ever been to: loud, smoky and filled with girls wearing mini-skirts. Even though I’d just turned twenty-one a few months ago, I’d been a part of the club scene for years. It came with the territory of being in a boy band. 

I was lead singer for a group called South Station Boyz. My bandmates, Marc Reyes, Dave Butler and Bobby Callahan had chosen to go to other venues tonight. Marc opted for dinner and a movie with a couple of the girls from our wardrobe team and the other two chose some seedy strip club. I had no desire for that kind of attention, so I bowed out. I appreciated beautiful girls, don’t get me wrong, but stuffing singles in the oily G-string of some half-naked woman bathed in stinky perfume didn’t really appeal to me.

I sipped on a glass of Scotch as my eyes wandered the room. True to form, it was filled with short skirts, half-shirts and hair styled so big, it was like I’d gone to a singles bar for peacocks. 

“It’s a smorgasbord here tonight. Eh, Josh?” My friend, Mike nudged me and tipped his head toward the dance floor. He worked on our crew and convinced me to come out with him and a couple other guys in our entourage. I didn’t really feel like dealing with fans tonight; we’d had shows every night for the last five nights and this was my night off. But the only thing I hated worse than clubs was sitting alone in a hotel room. 

“Definitely a buffet of beauties,” I replied with utter boredom. 

Then my eyes landed on her.

She was with three other girls but she didn’t look like she fit in with them. Their smiles were big, as were their hair and high heels. Their skirts weren’t, of course. She, however, was wearing ripped jeans, some shimmery purple shirt and flats. They walked confidently through the crowd while she shuffled nervously, eyes not seeming to meet anyone else’s. I pulled my gaze away when Keith and Andre joined us and started telling us about some chicks they met up at the bar. I pretended to care but let my eyes wander again. 

I found the mystery girl again and watched as she and her friends settled in at a table across the dance floor. I sipped from my glass and nearly choked on my drink when her eyes met mine. I struggled to act casually as I tipped my head and smiled at her. She bit her lip, but the corners of her mouth curled up in smile before she quickly looked away.

For years, girls have thrown themselves at me. They’ve slipped their numbers into my pocket at fan meet-ups; they’ve snuck into my hotel room at two in the morning; they’ve sat outside my house for days on end during breaks from tour. I’ll admit, at first that kind of attention was flattering, but after all these years, it was getting old. I couldn’t take any of these girls seriously, much less date them. There was too much at stake. But this girl? I needed to get to know her. She seemed…different.

The guys retreated to our VIP room behind the DJ booth and I reluctantly followed them. Mike ordered another round of drinks, but since I was still nursing the Scotch I’d ordered almost an hour before, I passed. Only paying half-attention to their conversation, I stood at the glass and tried to watch my mystery girl, but she’d disappeared. Only two of her friends remained at the table. Anxiously, my eyes scanned the platform where their table was, then the bar and finally the dance floor, but I couldn’t find her. The knot in my gut urged me to leave the VIP booth and return to the spot I’d been standing before. I ignored the glances my friends gave me when I got up and left. I didn’t care what they thought.

Once I reached my perch above the dance floor, it only took a moment to spot her again. She was dancing with one of her friends and had her back toward me. She was thoroughly involved in the beat of the music and I was completely entranced by her. I couldn’t tear my eyes away or stop my feet from moving closer.

When I was finally behind her, I put my hands on her hips and began moving in rhythm with her, apparently giving her quite the shock. She spun around and stopped dancing. I flashed a smile and gently rocked her hips with my hands, reminding her of what she had been doing. When she began moving again, I slid my hand to the small of her back and pulled her closer to me as we began to move in sync. 

“Damn girl, you’ve got some killer moves,” I muttered to myself, seemingly louder than I’d intended because it warranted a response from her.

“Thanks, Josh.”

Shit. She was a fan. My radar had been wrong. Maybe this girl was like all the others. I faked a smile and mumbled something about the tabloids. Regardless, this girl was still beautiful and I couldn’t have been wrong about her innocent nature. That, at least, was a breath of fresh air in my world. Too many girls acted like sluts and would’ve climbed me like a spider monkey by now and this girl could barely touch me without pushing away again. Maybe she was different, after all. I had to find out for sure.

“Have a drink with me?”

I watched her bite her lip as she looked over at her friend, then followed the girl’s eyes up to the table. She was actually shy. How adorable! 

She nodded and I didn’t ask for a second confirmation before I wrapped her hand in mine and led her back to the VIP booth. By now, the guys knew to clear out when I brought anybody to join me, so they emptied out quickly. Not knowing how old she was, I ordered her the weakest fruity drink I could think of and myself another Scotch. 

When I asked her what her name was, she smirked and gave me some movie quote. Had I not been completely taken in by her eyes, I would’ve caught it, but I looked like an idiot when I didn’t respond right away. I wanted to kick myself. I was blowing it!

This girl was complex, that’s for sure. She came across confident. Her quick wit and responses to my questions made it seem like she talked to celebrities every day, but her body language said otherwise. She was clearly nervous. Her posture was rigid, she sat with her knees together and her back was straight as a board. She didn’t offer much conversation willingly and she kept nibbling her lips. Her perfect, plump, kissable lips. 

Jesus, slow down, McCarthy! I was getting ahead of myself. I didn’t even know her name or age yet. But part of me didn’t care. 

As the night progressed, we danced more, talked more and I spent the rest of the evening staring into her beautiful blue eyes. She finally relaxed a little and told me more about herself. I learned that she had turned eighteen just a few weeks earlier, was the baby of her family and that her name was Carly Cooper.

Carly. Her name flowed from my mouth with ease. It was a name I knew I wouldn’t soon forget. If I had my way, it was one I’d remember forever.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pro-crap-stination

I'd love to tell you that I'm an organized, on-the-ball person who has her shit together, but alas, that's not the case. Okay, so I am fairly organized, but only in certain areas of my life and most definitely not when it comes to work. And I'm a total procrastinator. Remind me to give you examples of all the ways I do that someday. 

(Ha! I'll be here all week! Try the veal and tip your waitresses!)

My goal was to publish Distance and Time in July for both e-readers AND in paperback. Yeeeeeah. That didn't happen. Then, I set the goal to have it done by September. October. Umm, November? Christmas? sigh Yeah, those didn't happen either.

I could give you a dozen reasons as to where I went astray, but it all boils down to the tenacity of making the changes and edits necessary to get the book printed. After having spent so much time with Josh and Carly during the writing and initial publishing process, I needed time away from them (and they from me!). I needed to deal with reality, for one, and concentrate on writing Better in Time, the second book in the series. Since Better in Time is Josh's story, that didn't really give me the break I needed. So, instead of sacrificing his story, I made the decision to put off the printing process for Distance and Time. It was an executive decision and, I believe, the right one.

I'm happy to tell you that I have finally made the final edits that should put paperback copies of Distance and Time in your hands very soon. Granted, it won't be tomorrow, but we're closer than we've been before. I know my graphic designer has a busy, hectic schedule, so it all depends on when her schedule clears a little, but overall, it shouldn't take nearly as long as it did me.

I believe apologies are important, but only if it means that you're going to make changes so what you're apologizing for doesn't happen again. So, in essence, I'd love to apologize for the length of time it's taking for the paperback copies to be printed, but in reality, I know this won't be the last time I procrastinate and therefore, my apology is pointless. I will ask you to bear with me, though. I think the stories and characters are worth overlooking my shortcomings in the promptness department. At least, I hope they are!

Stay tuned for updates and release dates for upcoming material, including this precious paperback that has taken me so long to get in print.

As always, I cherish you, my fans!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Mom Dated an Everly Brother

Okay, well, she didn't actually date an Everly Brother, but apparently she did hang out with them once. She was with her best friend and the two of them met Phil and Don after their concert and showed them the town.

It's been over 30 years since my mom told me that story, so I don't remember the details, I don't know if she got a kiss goodnight or even a picture with them, but I do remember thinking "my mom is the coolest chick on the planet!"

I mean, seriously! She dated a celebrity!

"I didn't date a celebrity, Melanie."

"Well, no, but you went out with one!"

"Not really, sweetheart."

"But you know one!"

My mom, who made the best lasagna on the planet, could do farm chores in less than twenty minutes, crocheted the most comfortable afghans ever, and gave the best snuggles ever? Famous! Because one night in the 50's when she was sharing a malt with a girlfriend at a diner, she had a conversation with one of the guys who sang a song I heard a few times on a record player.

Mom, of course wasn't famous, she didn't walk the red carpet, she didn't even remember which Everly brother was "hers" that night. But for a few minutes, in my six-year-old-mind, she was bigger than Elvis. And what mom doesn't want that?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tis the season to be ripped off!

It's that time of year, folks. Trim the tree, buy the presents and hide the Santa gifts in the attic. And pray your house doesn't get broken into. During the months of November and December, there are roughly 400,000 burglaries reported each year. This is, on average, 20% higher than the other months of the year.

I'm fortunate and while I have had things stolen from me in the past, my house has never been broken into. I'm grateful for that, but honestly, it's not because I've been especially cautious. It's just been out of sheer luck, I think. 

I grew up in small towns and live in one now. In these areas, it's common to leave your doors unlocked and curtains wide open because it's easy to trust your neighbors. Everybody in a small town knows everybody else so there's a sense of camaraderie and Neighborhood Watch (even when you don't want them to). Everybody knows who "belongs" and who doesn't, who's doing what, where their neighbors work, what time they get home, who their kids hang out with (and who they shouldn't be hanging out with). All in all, small towns are great for those reasons. Unfortunately, there's also a down side to that because it means everybody knows your every move - when you get home from work and which lights are left on when you're gone. It's easy to become too comfortable in towns this size. 

Last night, my friend's house was broken into. Fortunately, they got spooked and left before they had an opportunity to take much. That doesn't mean it's not unnerving to know that strangers were in the house without permission or knowledge. 

It made me think about how routine our lives are and how easy it would be for someone to rob our house. We discussed this at dinner tonight and we talked about ways to prevent this from happening. Some are obvious things, but others not so much. Our list might help you, so I'll share it here:

1. Lock your doors. Every time you enter and exit. Every. Time. Even if you're at home, even if you're only in the back yard, even if you're just taking a nap, even if you have a dog, even if you have a gun. Lock them. It won't necessarily stop somebody, but it makes it far more difficult to get in. Same goes for your car, shed, garage and other outbuildings. Double-check the window locks, too. It's easy to forget to lock them after the wonderful fall temps have turned cold.

2. Be unpredictable. If you work the same schedule day after day, change things up a bit. Come home for lunch a couple times a week. Take an occasional afternoon off or go into work late. If possible, work from home a day or two a week. Catch a ride with someone else so your car is in the driveway when it normally wouldn't be. If you go somewhere the same time every day or the same day every week, change it up. The more confusing your schedule can be to a potential burglar, the less likely they'll be to break in.

3. Close your curtains. During the Christmas season, it's tempting to leave your blinds and curtains open to show off the twinkly lights on your tree. Stop it. It makes it far too easy to window peep and see who's home. It also gives burglars the opportunity to take inventory of your belongings. When it gets dark, pull 'em closed.

4. Enlist friends. When you're going to be gone overnight or for any extended amount of time, have friends come over and check on things. Park a car in the driveway for a while, turn on different lights in the house and turn others off, turn on the clothes dryer, etc. Have them bring in mail, newspapers and any packages that may have been delivered. Ask if they'll stick around for an hour or two so the house appears lived in. Hire someone to shovel the walk (or in the summertime, mow the lawn) while you're gone. 

5. Make noise. I used to make fun of my mom because she left the television on when we left the house. I never understood why. I finally asked her one day and she said "because it deters burglars." If someone is lurking around your house and they can't see in, they're going to listen for activity: TV, radio, appliances, etc. They'll look for smoke in a chimney or the steam from a clothes dryer. Turn a TV on in one room and in another, leave a talk radio station on in a somewhat muted volume so it sounds like people talking. Plug your vacuum cleaner into a timer for five minutes (make sure it's angled so air can flow through it and it doesn't burn up the motor). Any noise will make a burglar think twice before breaking in. Also, if you still have a land line phone, turn the ringers off or turn it down to 2 rings instead of 4 before it switches to voice mail. Don't forget to turn your clock alarms off. It'll act like a beacon to shady people who are paying attention.

6. Shut up! If you're away from home, don't announce it on social media. (I'm horribly guilty of this.) Or, if you can't control the urge to discuss it, make sure to mention who's still at home or that you're grateful for house/pet sitters (even if you don't have them). At the bare minimum, set your statuses to private so nobody but friends can see what you've posted. Nothing says "I'll all but leave a key under the mat for you" like "Four days til the Bahamas!" on your Twitter.

Obviously, there's no foolproof way to prevent a break-in if someone really wants your stuff, but these are some of the ideas we came up with tonight at dinner. What are some of your suggestions?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

NaNo Wrap-Up

I haven't posted much about NaNoWriMo and the struggles I've endured this month in accomplishing my goals because I believe that excuses are like assholes - everybody's got one and they all stink. That being said, I've got a different view on NaNo that I'm not sure many other people have.

I hate it.

No seriously, I intensely dislike NaNo. Not saying others have to feel that way, but it's how I feel personally. Don't get me wrong, anything that gets anyone to sit down and pour out the words in their heads and hearts for any length of time is fantastic. What I don't like is how I can't follow the rules.

The concept is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Essentially, this creates a novel. You're supposed to keep writing continuously without giving thought to errors, editing, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, etc. Don't edit. Write in any order it comes to you. KEEP WRITING! Our Iowa group's motto is "Yay, crap!" meaning whatever you type, keep it and edit it later.

I. Can't. Do. That.

First of all, I have to write in chronological order. Period. I can do flashbacks like nobody's business, but overall, I write things in order. I've never been able to read a book series by starting anywhere but the first book and if an author puts out a prequel after the series has been published, I get pissed because I feel like I should've read it first. I know, I know. Ridiculous, but it's how I am. Always have been.

Secondly, when I write, I don't use an outline, so the stuff I write is something that comes to me as I write it. This means to make sure what I've written is factually accurate (I'll come back to that), I research it as it comes into my head. For instance in my first book, I determined that my character lived on 69th Street in New York City. I personally walked the street she lived on in my book. I also walked to the next block where another character "lived." Obviously I don't always go to this extent, but if it can be found online, I will find it and research the hell out of it. This takes extensive amounts of time to do and essentially takes up time that, during NaNo, should be spent writing. 

And in regards to this factual accuracy thing - it's an absolute. I'm the person who will watch a movie or TV show and holler out "FILM FLUB!" whenever something isn't right. I catch every detail that isn't right and I call it out, even going so far as to find proof of their mistake online. I've been this way since I was a kid and that won't change anytime soon. That being said, it's natural that my books will be as factually accurate as possible. I detest the thought that someone will read my book and say "There's no way that person could've gotten from that street to the other street in two subway stops" or whatever the case may be. I don't want anyone to shout out "BOOK FLUB" when they read my stuff.

These are the first three hurdles I must endure when racing through November. The others are smaller and simply excuses that aren't worth a crap - I was sick for about a week and slept 80% of the time; I was under a great deal of stress regarding a possible relocation for our family; I've been busier this year than I have been in past years and haven't had as much time devoted to writing. But really, my biggest excuse for not finishing all fifty-thousand words is the internet. Between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (oh, you dirty, dirty whore!) and crap like Candy Crush and Words with Friends, I wasted most of my time doing stupid, pointless things that should've been spent writing.

I don't blame anyone for my lack of "success" with NaNo. It's my own fault and I own it. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

It does, however, mean I have my work ahead of me in December and January to finish the second book in my series so it can be published in the spring like I want. 

To those who "won" NaNo, congratulations. To the rest of you who didn't "win," I still think if you got anything written this month, that's a win. The point is to write and if you did it, then you did it. Congratulations to you, too!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Close to home

I found out the other day that my fellow NKOTB Blockhead friend Angela has colon cancer. It's been diagnosed as stage 3 and has metastasized to her lymph nodes. She's my age and has two young children. To say this is unfair is a vast understatement.

While I'm not in a position to donate as much as I'd like to, I am in a position, as an author, to give a portion of my book's proceeds to her. From now through December 31st, I am giving 25% of my profits to Angela to help with expenses.

If you've already bought my book but would still like to donate, you may do so here:
Donations for Angela

To purchase my book and have 25% of the proceeds go to Angela, you may do so at the following sites:

Amazon: Distance and Time
Barnes & Noble: Distance and Time
iTunes: Distance and Time
Smashwords: Distance and Time
Kobo: Distance and Time

Thank you for anything you're able to do. Your generosity is appreciated!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Updated Confessions

Since I last did this list of confessions in 2008, a lot of things have changed. I thought I'd update the list a little.
1. I am scared of anything in big numbers (swarms of bugs, groups of people, geese...omg, geese! I HATE geese!)
2. I love the 80's nostalgia and can remember almost everything about them.
3. I've outlived all my parents and step-parents.
4. I would love to own a designer purse or shoes just once...but I'll never buy it for myself. The cost of designer bags and shoes is unnecessarily exorbitant.
5. I have six tattoos, but I HATE needles!
6. I have been in love several times in my life. I love the feeling of being in love.
7. I enjoy the dark and the quiet.
8. I would love to live in a big city for a year...just to see what it's like.
9. I love to lay outside in winter and listen to the click of snowflakes hitting the ground...but I haven't done it in years.
10. Clowns scare the hell out of me. Like for real. They creeeeep. meeeee. ouuuuut.
11. I have bitten my nails to the quick since I was a kid and can't stop.
12. Some people have a happy place they retreat to when they're stressed. Or wear a certain sweater. Or cover up with a special blanket. I have my cat, Shadow. She's my therapy animal and I'm actually in the process of having her declared a service animal.
13. Aside from the 488 books I have on my Kindle, I also have six bookshelves full of books, most of all I've read.
14. I have been cooking since I was six. The first thing I ever made was chili. My favorite thing to cook now is homemade tomato soup.
15. I miss my mother more than any other person in the world.
16. I once performed at the Iowa State Fair in a kids' singing/dancing troupe.
17. I would LOVE to play Rizzo from Grease! at some point in my life, but I'm too old.
18. I had a theater scholarship in college.
19. I *hate* spending money on myself...I always feel guilty.
20. I believe in angels and ghosts.
21. I have seen every episode of Law and Order (SVU and CI) at least once and watch the reruns nightly.
22. I care what people think of me, but lie and say I don't.
23. I don't like kids. There are a few exceptions, but mostly, I find them to be noisy, messy and demanding. I'm enough of those things all by myself.
24. I am a born flirt. My husband is too, so he knows it's harmless. :)
25. I love jewelry but own very little.
26. I nearly died in later pregnancy and child birth with my son. He nearly died as well.
27. I slept in my mother's bed with her until I was 11 - I was afraid of the dark.
28. I never know when to say no to people and end up overextending myself as a result.
29. I'm more content sleeping all day and being up all night.
30. I detest socks...but even more so if they're the least little bit dirty, worn-through or wet.
31. My favorite way to spend time is roadtripping with my bestie.
32. When I'm mad, I clean, reorganize or rearrange my house.
33. I still believe I'm invinceable and make poor health choices as a result.
34. I hate talking on the phone, but I love texting and IM'ing (I can type faster than I can talk)
35. I come from a very closely-knit family, but since my mother's death, I don't have much to do with many of them.
36. I never knew my biological father.
37. I know how to shoot a gun better than most men.
38. I can't watch a child wiggle a loose tooth. It makes me nauseous.
39. So does the sound of someone vomiting.
40. I am wicked smart when it comes to grammar, spelling and punctuation.
41. I still have my childhood diaries and read them frequently.
42. I am star-struck whenever I get near a certain friend of mine.
43. I was writing checks and buying cigarettes at the grocery store when I was 14. (My mother had cancer and we lived in a small town...the clerks knew it was with her approval and by her request.)
44. I have never cheated in school.
45. I feel that jealousy is the most wasteful emotion ever. If you want what I've got, get it. If you can't, that's a choice you've made.
46. I hate wearing watches.
47. I once was a huge part of my church's praise team, but never sung a solo in church. I did, however, play Khaleel the Worm from Veggie Tales in a Vacation Bible School production.
48. I am nicer than people think.
49. I honestly don't follow world or national news - it has never interested me.
50. I also don't usually watch local news. It's too depressing.
51. I want to have my photographs published someday.
52. I didn't learn to swim until I was 13 and then taught preschoolers how to swim the following year when I worked at the pool.
53. I once dated a bartender for the free drinks and backstage passes he was able to get me to concerts at his bar.
54. I was a cheerleader in high school but gave it up so I could help counsel other teens who had lost parents through death or divorce. Not once have I regretted that decision.
55. I rarely wear my wedding ring, though it's my favorite piece of jewelry.
56. If I won the lottery, I would probably be broke again shortly thereafter because I love spending money on other people.
57. I feel embarrassed when someone gives me compliments or asks my advice because they think I know more than they do.
58. Every cell phone that's "died" has been from drowning of some sort (the cat dripped water on the first two and I dropped the third one in the pond at a cemetery).
59. I was never in Girl Scouts and never went to summer camp, though I wanted to badly!
60. I have bought meals for homeless people...and once even their dog.
61. I have also given my two cents to a person pretending to be homeless.
62. I love music, though I usually sing off-key and can't play a single instrument.
63. I still see my "First" from time to time around town.
64. I am a strong-willed person to hide my insecurities.
65. I once slept for 24 hrs straight.
66. I haven't had my hair grown past my shoulders since I was 5.
67. I prefer baths to showers.
68. I have an American flag that was carried by my father in Vietnam.
69. I always wanted to write a book but always felt I didn't know enough about anything to write it well. Until my friend convinced me to do it scared. So I did. :)
70. I have over 11 gigs of pictures on my hard-drive, over 6,000 physical pictures and at least a thousand negatives in my possession.
71. I've never seen Star Wars.
72. I can't watch Saturday Night Fever because of the bridge scene.
73. My favorite food in the entire world is soup. I have dozens of recipes, but my favorite, by far, is my mom's homemade tomato.
74. I don't like plain chocolate.
75. I hate riddles.
76. I love to peel sunburns and pick at zits. Gross, I know.
77. I can pick up on almost any accent within five minutes of talking to someone (British, Southern, Minnesotan, Middle-Eastern, Chicagoan, East Coast, etc)
78. I have great relationships with both my kids and am proud of how they've turned out.
79. I can't sleep with a light on if I'm in bed for the night.
80. I have never won first place for anything in my life, but have come in second many times: an art contest in 3rd grade, a spelling bee in 7th grade, a lip sync contest in 9th grade, a national fashion design competition for doll clothes when I was 8.
81. I wasn't able to wear flipflops until I was 33. Now, you can't keep me out of them.
82. I have a bottle of perfume that belonged to my mother...from 1985.
83. I hate barking dogs, screaming kids and loud cars - noise bothers me greatly.
84. I've never passed out, but I was given a roofie once on vacation in Philadelphia.
85. I once burnt so badly on a tanning bed that I had stripes like toast and smelled like burnt flesh for a week.
86. I was once given a pig for Christmas by my parents. I couldn't eat pork products for years because of it.
87. I've been wearing high heels since I was in 5th grade.
88. I wear fake toenails on my big toes because I lost most of mine to ingrown nails in high school.
89. I would love to be pregnant one more time, but only if I was a surrogate.
90. I cured myself of arachnophobia by holding a tarantula at a petting zoo.
91. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade at the encouragement of my high school guidance counselors despite the fact that I've always been a good student. (Don't worry...I went back a month later.)
92. I have kept every video tape I ever had with New Kids on the Block on them...and still watch them from time to time.
93. I refuse to share my apple pie schnapps recipe with anyone.
94. I've had glasses since I was 2 yrs old and would *LOVE* to get Lasix done.
95. I never snuck out of the house when I was a teenager.
96. I got drunk when I was 2½ at my brother's graduation party.
97. I feel like I've stepped into my mother's role in our family - organizing family events, being a memory keeper (pictures, family stories, etc.)...and while most of the time I'm glad to have that role, it is sometimes a burden to me.
98. I still remember the first nightmare I ever had.
99. I've never lived anywhere but Iowa...but may be moving soon!
100. I am handier around the house than my husband is. (But he's better with the laundry!)
Here's the link to the original list if you want to see what I changed. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Better in Time

As I enter the second week of NaNoWriMo, I'm finding my groove and while my word count isn't as high as I'd like it to be at this point, I am writing and even my measly 2,500 words are better than none at all, especially after a three month writer's block. I'll take them!

I was hoping to have my second book published in February, but as it sometimes does, life interfered and I've been trying to carefully choreograph the chaos. Unfortunately, I'm a slower learner than I used to be, so life is winning -- for now.

BUT...there is good news.

I've settled on a name for the sequel to Distance and Time. As tradition seems to be holding strong, I went with a song title again and this one speaks to me so strongly I got chills when it came to me. It's so perfect!

Better in Time, the second book in the Time After Time series, is written from Josh's perspective. As you may recall, Josh McCarthy is the male lead in Distance and Time and many readers have asked to know more about him. As a result, I've decided to let him tell his story. While you'll get to see his reaction to a couple of key scenes from the first book, you'll also get to know what he's doing now and how he's dealt with the blows handed to him in book one.We'll catch up with some of the other guys from South Station Boyz, as well as getting to meet some new characters, too. It's exciting to see it all unfold and I can't wait to get it into your hands next spring!

Now, who wants an excerpt?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm waaaaay funny! Hire me!

While job hunting today, I ran across the following ad:
HELLO CUSTOMER CARE COORDINATOR CANDIDATE!
Are you a powerfully proficient problem solver and a pleasant, peppy, playful, people person?
Do deadlines tremble at the sound of your planner?
Are you totally chill while all those around you are, like, freaking out?
Then we're freaking out because we want to talk to you!
[Name of the business], is expanding our fast-paced fast-growing service department and we need a fun, funny, fast thinking, hard working person with a great spirit and a happy soul to grow with us.
You are part customer greeter, part traffic cop, part salesperson, part awesome!
Auto repair experience isn't required but it would be uber-groovy if you knew the dif between a caliper and a water pump.
Every great service department needs glue to hold the whole thing together. Is that glue, you?
If you have sick organization and customer service skills and a proven track record of being successful glue, email your resume and cover letter stating in 200 words or less why you like cars and why you would hire you. Thank you! 

Okay, first of all, whoever placed this ad is awesome. And clever. And witty. And totally somebody I want to work with. Secondly, I can't not apply for it. I mean, c'mon! Aside from Dick's Last Resort, a job where I get to crack jokes and be funny all day is the PERFECT job for me! So I sent them my resumé and cover lettter:
Dear Funny Peeps who Posted the Job Ad:
Rumor on the interwebs is you’re lookin’ for some sort of car smartie. It just so happens that I fit the bill. You could just take my word for it and hire me now. You know, save us both the hassle of an interview where you ask me what kind of animal I’d be if I could be anything and the pain of a background check (that murder rap was a frame-up, man!). I’m totes legit, I promise! But I know there’s red tape all over stuff like this. So here’s my spiel on why you should hire me.
I’m kinda the funniest person I know and I love to have fun – practical jokes excluded because c’mon! Nobody likes Vaseline under the door handle, dude. Be original! Anyways, like I said, I’m waaaaaay funny; I’m also wicked-smaht, super OCD (that means organized), quick-witted, a total smart aleck to keep those service guys on their toes (I mean seriously? Who would sleep on the job when I’m likely to duct tape them to their undercarriage-scooter thingie? Yes, that’s a technical term.), and I approve of awesome alliteration (see what I did there?). Now, I probably don’t know where exactly an intake manifold is located, but hey…look at me using that word in a sentence! (I’m guessing it means big $, big $, big $, no Whammies?)
That glue that holds the department together? I’m it. I’m better than Gorilla glue, baby!
Now, that 200-words-or-less thing? *snort* Not happening, buddy. I’m a chick. We can make a “hello” into an three-day convention with key-note speakers. (Quit pouting. You’re loving this.) Long story short, I like cars because I don’t like being at home and there's some stupid ordinance against keeping a camel inside city limits (blah!). As far as why I’d hire me? I’d hire me because I’m a crap ton of funny (which is just slightly less than a buttload, but way more than a smidge). Oh, and because I know how much I need money. You know, to put gas in that car that takes me away from home.
So, are we done here? You ready to hire me yet and put everybody who is far less funny than I am out of their misery as they try to figure out how to approach your ad? Suh-WEET!
BTW, that “part customer greeter, part traffic cop, part salesperson, part awesome!” thing? I *might* be overqualified because let’s be honest, I’m TOTALLY awesome. You know you’re thinkin’ it.
Write me back, homie!
Your future Car Smartie (Customer Care Coordinator)
P.S. Do I get handcuffs to go along with that cop uniform?
P.P.S. Ignore how laaaaaame my resumé is. I jacked it from some joker in a book and jazzed it up with my own job history.
If I don't at least get an interview, I'm going to be extremely disappointed in their sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How's that Bucket List coming along?

Last year, I vowed to begin completing more items on my Bucket List. By the year's end, I'd completed eighty-six items on the list, fourteen of them having been done in 2012. WOO! Unfortunately, the claws of depression gripped me pretty hard and I spent much of the year just trying to breathe. Actually getting out there and living was far beyond my capabilities at the time.

This year, I've also been slow on checking things off the list, but even so, checking even one item off the list is an accomplishment because I'm not dead yet, so there's always tomorrow to get more done. Of course, I'm constantly adding new things to the list so my quest will never really be done, but it keeps things fun.

What have I done this year?

February
264. Photograph a Pacific sunset. Done in Malibu at Leo Carillo State Park.
249. Do a tequila shot with Michael Cudlitz. Feb 24th at Chevy's in Burbank.


April
266. Have Buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar. April 9th on our way home from Ft. Drum.
268. Meet Bret Michaels. At 7 Flags Event Center on April 28th


July
267. Have my book published. Distance and Time went to digital sales on July 16th.



August
81. Ride in a private plane. August 9th - A pilot friend of mine took me on a brief flight to the Des Moines area for aerial photos.


October
144. Own a white kitten. Meet Jack aka Repo. We adopted him on October 8th.