Friendship (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Taken a few years ago – this photo sits on my desk just to the right of my monitor, a constant reminder of my inner strength.

I’m just back from the Romance Writer’s of America annual conference.  It was in San Antonio this year.  I attended swank parties.  Danced.  Listened to reputable and knowledgeable speakers talk to me about society and books and markets.  I heard data and financial reports and marketing initiatives.  I verbally confirmed two upcoming deals consisting of five books.  And while all of that is why I went, all of it is vitally important, the stand out to me was the two hours I spent in a half round booth, sitting between Patricia Potter and Tim, with Lynn Kerstan next to Pat, sharing a bottle of wine and artichoke dip, with a 360 degree view of San Antonio spread before us as we revolved around the tower we were in.  A life long memory was made that afternoon.  To add to the years of memories I share with Pat and Lynn.

It’s those memories, the strength I gain from those two ladies, that see me through life’s crises.  We don’t even have to speak of things that hurt.  Our eyes meet and we just know.  And are comforted.

As women, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, cousins – as family members, we tend to those we were born to.  And those we married into.  In the society in which I grew up, I always had a sense that friendship was secondary to all of those other roles.  I had a sense of guilt for being committed to friendship – and so I really wasn’t.  Not by deed.  My heart was there.

Life has taught me differently.  Some friends will come and go.  Some aren’t true friends.  They’ll stab us on their way out the door.  But when we are lucky enough to have true friends, to make heart to heart connections with those who sit beside us not because they were born to it, but simply because they chose to be there, we are rich beyond measure.

I am lucky enough to be so blessed.  And I truly believe that if our doors are open, we can continue to be blessed every day that we are alive.  By the friendships we’ve cultivated through years, and by new friendships that walk into our lives.  This is the core of life – the heart connections we make.  We need not feel guilty about them anymore than we feel guilty for breathing.  We’d be fools to pretend we don’t need them.  It’s not a choice between family and friends.  It’s not an either/or.  Having one doesn’t diminish our need for the other.

What do you all think?  Have you ever struggled with this priority thing or am I the only one?  Do you have friends that are vital parts of your lives?

I’ve recently started an open friendship on Pinterest.  It’s not to sell anything.  It’s just there to build friendship awareness, friendship energy.  If you’d like to join, just to soak up a little of the energy, please feel free.  If you have a quote or a picture to post, feel free to do that, too.  The board is here: http://www.pinterest.com/tarataylorquinn/friendship/.  I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Freak electrical storms (Suzanne Forster)

Regular lightning is scary enough.  We’re having direct strikes here in southern California, and the local news is calling them the most dangerous kind of lightning.  They come out of the clouds and hit the ground or the water with such force that people in the vicinity mistake them for exploding bombs.  Yesterday in Venice Beach, California, thirteen people were hurt by four cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, and tragically, a twenty-year old man, who had just gone into the water when the lightning hit the beach, was killed.

What’s going on the weather?  It’s been lovely here in Socal.  We’re having a reasonably mild summer, temperature wise, considering some of our past summers, and then, literally out of the blue, a lightning storm worthy of a disaster movie.

The storms, called “monsoonal thunder storms,” were reported to be caused by warm air coming out of Mexico, which is extremely rare, because such fronts usually don’t make it as far west as California.  Actually, any kind of lightning strike is unusual in California, where the chances of being hit by lightning are one in 7.5 million.

Lightning was also reported on Catalina Island, where a man on a golf course was struck.  I know he survived, but I haven’t heard what condition he’s in.  Last night the storms were hovering around the Colorado River, which makes me wonder if they’re attracted to water.  Now they’re predicted to be moving east, out of the Southern California area.  Let’s all hope they’ve lost some of their electrical charge and that they don’t hit any more populated areas.

Just Googled and found some great tips to avoid lightning.  It does say that water should be avoided because it’s a conductor, also open areas, but claims that cars are one of the safest places to be because even though they’re metal the charge travels through the metal in the car and not through your body.  I wouldn’t have guessed that.  Be safe, everyone!

Suzanne

 

 

Ghosts? Carolyn

Our Malice in Memphis mystery writers group is getting geared up to write our second anthology of Memphis stories. This time we’re concentrating on ghosts in various Memphis environs. I wanted to include banshees and such like, but I was voted down. They were right. We’d have wound up with werewolves or vampires or, God forbid, zombies. I really hate zombies. Even werewolves are attractive, except when they’re tearing your throat out. Zombies are not.

So, ghosts it is. And when I mention that to my non-writer friends, I invariably am offered at least one ghost story that either they or their friends and family have experienced. I have always felt that any ghostly apparition was simply the remains of leftover energy. In other words, no ghosts.

Now, I’m starting to wonder. I’m starting to wonder if George has stuck around to look after me. That would be just like him. First of all, as an engineer he was a control freak. I’ve never met one who wasn’t. Then, even though I seldom caught him at it, he did try to look after me. Frequently in ways I didn’t either need or want looking after, but, hey, it’s the thought that counts.

I keep a fifty-foot heavy tractor chain in a pile in my carport just outside my den door. Don’t ask why. Last week I went out to feed the horses at 7 am and found the heavy chain strung out all the way across the carport in front of my car. Ooooo-kay. Nobody human comes up my driveway without lights and alarms going off.

Next I opened the den door, dropped my door key in the pile of leaves that I had not cleared out, and could not find it, although I knew it had to be right at my feet. I was locked out of the house. Inside the alarm was going off like crazy. The alarm company called to make sure I hadn’t been attacked, commiserated, but didn’t offer to come out to let me in. I tried everything except breaking the glass in the door. Then I decided to check—just for kicks—the door into George’s office. I have not been IN there since he died, much less tried the door. Guess what? It was unlocked. Seriously? I walked back out to the carport and found the key I had lost sitting on the doorstep in plain view.

Finally, I found the keys to George’s truck, put them somewhere, and promptly lost them (What is this thing with keys?). I knew they were in my car, but couldn’t find them anywhere. I took everything out of the center console, and even dusted it out. No keys. That evening I went to dinner with my friend Beverly and told her to hunt for my keys on the way. Nothing. Until she looked at the center console. The ignition key was poking out from under the console in plain view. When she opened the console, the key, which had been balanced, fell out. As it would have done if it had been there earlier when I cleared the console out.  See what I mean?

So, if he’s here, he is benevolent. I’m glad of the company.

 

Off to Texas (Pat)

Sorry to be so late today, but I’ve been getting ready for a road trip to San Antonio, and road trips always consume a lot more preparation than I expect..

First the suitcase.   What to take?   I’m going to Romance Writers of America Conference in San Antonio, and I hear it’s going to be hot.   Very hot.

I’m driving from Memphis to San Antonio..   And that means I have room to take more than I usually take.   No watching suitcase weight.  Therefore I’m taking everything but the kitchen sink.

I belong to a rather large group of romance writers who, many, many years ago, started an on-line community.   That was in the first days of the internet, and the core of the group still remains.   They have two parties at every conference: a beginning one and an ending one.   Since I’m driving, I offered to help with wine and food.   There goes the trunk.

And I’m traveling slow.   Half the way one day, half the next.   That means sloppy comfortable clothes.    But then there are some quite dressy days at the conference, days when I meet and party with my editor and agent, and that means more formal clothes of which I have few.   And I’m undecided between comfort in heat and some dignity.   Therefore I have two suitcases full of maybes.   When you have a whole car, why make decisions now?

There is also my pile of books.    Not, mind you, that I will have any reading time.   I’m meeting with fellow bloggers Tara and Lynn Tuesday and Wednesday before being plunged into non-ending events.  I probably won’t have time to read even one, but I’m bringing four.    Well, maybe five, plus my Kindle.

I’m like LInus in Peanuts.   His blanket is his security.   Books are mine.  ‘

Now I can’t forget solt drinks and niblets for the road trip plus several maps, AAA books and numerous books on the delights of Texas.   Not that I’m going to have any time, but still . . .

Finally, there was writing my note (more like a manuscript) for the couple who is babysitting my dogs.

And speaking of dogs, I thought I would leave this week with a photo my darlin’ great niece Beth took of the dogs and me.

Katy and Allie and me

I will be absent next Saturday, that being the most important and packed day of the conference but I’ll be reporting back to you the week after next.   If, that is, my packed car makes it back.

 

 

Sleep, wherefore art thou? (Suzanne Forster)

At times I’ve feared I was an incurable insomniac.  At other times I’ve slept so much I began to suspect a touch of sleeping sickness, which is actually caused by an African insect, I believe.  However, I think it’s physically impossible to have both at the same time, which suggests I don’t have either, so that’s somewhat reassuring.

I’m sure there are probably good long periods of time where I’m somewhere in the middle of the Sleep Scale, or certainly more balanced than either insomnia or excessive sleep, but those two extremes never fail to get my attention when they’re happening and as is the case with most afflictions, while you’re dealing with them, it always seems as if they’ll never go away.

A Sleep Log might be good.  That way I could keep track of what’s actually going on.

Right now I’m in Owl mode.  As I write this, it’s well after midnight and I’m not even close to calling it a night.  If only sleep deprivation made me as wise as an owl.  A couple more days of this and I’ll be more than ready to slide into Sloth mode, which is probably nothing more than a reaction to my late nights.  At any rate, it’s the insomnia I need to work on.

One thing that works to cut down the wakefulness is to simply surrender to it.  When I can’t sleep, I do something restful that fills the time, such as reading or watching late night TV, which can induce sleep almost as quickly as a sleeping pill.  Late night TV is generally pretty bad fare.

I also write blog posts.  Now you understand the incoherence.  Late night snacks work too, but then I have weird dreams and eventually I grow out of my clothes.

I’m told the problem is an overactive brain.  I have a dear friend who tells me when she can’t sleep, she visualizes taking her brain out of her head and laying it on the pillow next to her.  That way her brain can stay busy for as long as it wants and she can go to sleep.  My brain refuses to stay on the other pillow.

Clearly I need some tricks to subdue my overactive gray matter.  It would also be nice to have active brain during the day for a change.  So, does anyone out there have any surefire methods for getting to sleep?

Suzanne

in praise of draft horses – carolyn

Last night I watched an interesting show about a man who creates and builds swimming pools that include waterfalls and rock pools. I wish I could afford one, although my friends who have pools say that it’s like having an extra child.

This designer always scouts the area for wonderful rocks that he can add to his design. Last night he found some, all right, but they were in a preserve that does not allow machinery. He usually works with a huge front loader that can pick up, load, or drag his big boulders, load them on trucks, and move them to their new location. That was not possible because of the restrictions.  He was feeling pretty bummed out, having found his boulders and then being denied the method of moving them.

Not to worry. A neighboring farmer arrived with a pair of stone boats—big sledges.  Pulling them was an eight-up team (eight horses) of big, beautiful, black Shire horses. My Zoe (my driving horse) is half Shire. She’s not as tall as those horses, but I’ll bet she’s just as broad. She weighs nearly eighteen hundred pounds. Anyway, it was  like the cavalry arriving. Not only were they beautiful with the long white feathers (long hair) around their ankles, but they were intelligent and professional. They knew their job, and didn’t need much help from any human being to complete it. The driver attached a pair to the largest boulder with chains, and then told them to move it. There is nothing quite so fine in my book as watching a huge pair of draft horses set their shoulders into their collars, hunker down, and pull.  The boulder rocked a couple of times, then it simply slid off behind them and followed them as calmly as a puppy at heel.

The television show did not stick around to watch all the rocks being loaded onto the stone boats. I wish they had. I never tire of watching the guys in our area who log with a pair of humongous Percheron mares. I have used them—the Percherons, that is—in several of my books, and plan to use them again. I have found draft horses in general to be the kindest, wisest, lovingest of all the horses I’ve known. I guess there’s something about being Godzilla-sized that gives them the freedom to let their gentle nature come through.

At the awards banquets for our local hunter-jumper association, the announcer always used to say to the parents out front watching their children win awards, “You people have no idea what these kids go through to get those little ponies to behave.”

Ponies, by the way, are not baby horses. Baby horses are called foals. Ponies are horses that stand at 14.2 hands and below. By contrast, my half Clydesdale dressage horse stands 17.2 at the withers. A hand is four inches. Basically it’s the measurement of four fingers held crossways. To give you an idea, I am five feet nine. I cannot see over my dressage horse’s withers. If it cools off this afternoon, I plan to drive my Zoe, the half Shire. Let’s hope she proves me right and behaves herself better than a pony.

 

This and That (Pat)

My aplogies for being missing without leave last Saturday.

I was in a marathon writing frenzy trying to finish my book on deadline, or at least within a week of the deadline.   I made it, but not without a bunch of 18 hour-days.

I’m popping up now for a breath of air, and then I’ll probably be in another frenzy with revisions since Harlequin moved up my book from April to February.

It’s the sequel to “A Soldier’s Promise,” and the hero is about as opposite from Josh as two men can be.   Clint Morgan is outgoing with a quirky sense of humor that hides a painful childhood and his present reality.   He can  no longer fly helicopters, the one and only love of his life.   Until, that is, he meets Stephanie, Covenant Falls’ animal doctor.

The chemistry between these two is really fun.

After my marathon finished on Wednesday, I went into zombie mode for two days, and I’m just now surfacing as a functional human being.

My first act in that state was to make tomato gravy.   Both Lynn and Tara will tell you that while tomato gravy doesn’t sound very good, it’s really quite exceptional.   I think both friends come to Memphis just to savor this delicacy.

The secret is big, fat vine ripened tomatoes.    You melt butter in a frying pan.   Slice tomatoes, then coat them with flour on both sides.   Then you add about one-eighth or one quarter cup of whole milk.   (Has to be whole milk) .   Then I add spices: savory, salt,  a fantastic Cajun spice, Worchester sauce, lots of garlic and what ever else I see within reach.    It’s ready in about ten minutes, and I pour it over whilte toast.

It is absolutely delectable.    It is a southern dish, I think.   My mother used to make it every morning during the summer.   My dad grew the best tomatoes ever.

Try it sometime.   But, remember, really good juicy tomatoes only.

Now I have to write some promotional material for the new book and get ready for the Romance Writers of American Conference in San Antonio.  I’m leaving a week from Sunday and driving from Memphis to San Antonio.  a trip of about 750 miiles.   (I stop halfway).

I hope you are having a storm free summer.

Oh, and there was a feature on me in Southern Writers Magazine.   You can access it at southernwritersmagazine.com

I Thought I Was Going To Die and Free Offers (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I saw my life in the balance this week.  I was in a truck.  On the side of a mountain.  The drop off was a couple of thousand feet.  There were inches between our vehicle and the drop-off.  No guard rail.  No wall.  Just…inches.  The road was washboard dirt – and loose sand.  And one lane.  With occasional vehicles in both directions.  It was steep up followed by a hairpin turn and steep down followed by a hair pin turn.  Every time you put on your breaks, you slid.  Steep down, followed by hair pin turn and if you put on your breaks you slide.  Just wanted to make sure I painted that picture clearly.

It took us almost three hours to go twenty-two miles.  Three hours of sheer terror.  Of hanging on to the door, staring at the mountain wall on one side of us rather than the drop off on the other.  Three hours of facing that fact that I might die that day.

We were driving on pavement one minute, exploring, and suddenly the pavement ended and there we were.  Trapped.  There was no way to turn around.  A chance we took, a choice we made put us on the road to hell.  We had to ride it or die.

At one point I announced that I had to get out and walk.  We were about halfway into the twenty-two miles.  At that point I was fairly certain that my chances of walking 12 miles in 106 degree heat with two small bottles of water were better than being in that vehicle another second.  Tim told me not to be ridiculous and didn’t stop.

I was terrified.  He was…pissed.  Really pissed.  Seriously pissed.  I’ve come to realize getting angry is the guy version of fear.

The second we hit pavement I burst into tears.  Tim pulled off and I got out.  Immediately.  I looked around me and saw the most incredibly beautiful sight.  I was on top of the world.  I could see for miles.  Beautiful mountains that went on forever.  And below me, a crystal clear lake that also went on as far as I could see.

And then I realized that I’d just been given another gift.  Another chance to know and understand.    Sometimes we have to do all we can do and then…trust.  Sometimes life is out of our hands and that’s when we hang on and ride.  Sometimes we make bad choices, but we can still come out on top.  Sometimes it seems as though the road to hell is never ending but it’s really the road to heaven.

I promised offers and I have a few of them:

1.  For the next few days, enter to win more than fifty prizes, including a Kindle fire, offered by more than fifty Harlequin authors.  http://www.perrytalebooks.com/perry-tells-blog/

2.  Review The Friendship Pact, by ttq, on Amazon and receive a free e-copy of Wife By Design.  Email staff@tarataylorquinn.com for your free copy.

3.  Like or follow ttq on Facebook and Twitter by July 20th and be entered to win a year of ttq books.  All likes and follows between June 20th and July 20th are automatically entered.

4.  Join the open #Friendship board on Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/tarataylorquinn/friendship/ post your own friendship pictures, and receive a moment of feel good.  Take a chance on gaining a reason to smile.

Happy Fourth – Carolyn

 

Wonder of wonders, it’s been actually liveably cool this week, which means I got to play horse not once but twice. And that means happiness. In my case, it’s not a warm puppy but a warm horse. Not only that, but a marvelous man with a gigantic (and working, unlike mine) tractor and bushhog cut my pastures. Good thing, since driving Zoe to my carriage was a lot like traversing the Oregon trail without the danger of being scalped. I truly wish I enjoyed gardening or jogging out of doors, but I don’t. I read Southern Living with envy, but my idea of al fresco living is curling up in the front porch swing in the late afternoon with my IPad. But not for long, since every wasp, mosquito or horse fly in the county finds me and says, “Ah! Dinner!”

Our Fourth of July tradition is fried chicken, cucumber sandwiches, my late husband George’s recipe for baked beans, and watermelon on the patio afterwards. If possible, I watch 1776 and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I am positive in 1776 that we will never get that pesky Declaration of Independence signed, and I invariably cry when we do.

This year I had to attempt to recreate George’s recipe for baked beans from memory. It takes all day, brown sugar, molasses, onions, catsup, and a hint of Poupon mustard. My children say that I largely succeeded. My mother said that it is inappropriate to eat watermelon until the Fourth, no matter how ripe they may be in the stores earlier. Since I don’t like watermelon that much, I’m delighted not to have to eat it but once a year for tradition’s sake and letting somebody else take home the leavin’s.

The Fourth is kind of a watershed holiday for us. My mother died on the Fourth, and this is our first year without George. My friend Pat produced Brunswick stew for seventeen to twenty members of her family and spent three days doing it. I don’t have anyone left but my son and daughter-in-law. I say it’s just as easy to cook for seventeen as it is for three. She says I’m crazy, and she’s generally right about things like that.

So this week it’s back to heat indexes over a hundred, which means I probably will hunker down inside and wish I could take Zoe for a drive. She will stand in the barn under the fan or wallow in the pond and roll in the mud. And leave me to wash the mud off her.