Gripe of the Week (Lynn Kerstan)

There are more books I want to read than I have time to read! Yes, there would be a little extra time if I never watched TV (which I rarely do), worked an occasional crossword puzzle, or vacuumed. But not nearly enough to make a discernible dent in my To-Be-Read pile.

Life is chock-full of stuff we gotta do and stuff we wanna do. Not to mention essential pockets of time for dolce far niente—”sweet it is to do nothing.” Work is a “gotta,” of course, but it does more than eat up my time. Nearly all of it involves reading, editing, and teaching writing classes, leaving me bleary-eyed and zoned out on words. Add hours spent on my own writing projects, and almost the last thing I want to do is pick up a book.

At the same time, I ache to read. And nearly everyone I know has a favorite book or twenty that I really must read. “Here. I just finished this. You’ll love it! No hurry getting it back to me.” I stammer out a grateful-sounding excuse-apology, but I really want to say, “Would 2030 be okay? I should be in the nursing home by then, with nothing much to do but read.”

Most of the proffered books are well-known and worthy. They top bestseller lists and tell meaningful (often based on a true story) tales that wrench the heart, warm the heart, or inspire us. I have no doubt they deserve their many loyal fans. But they are not my books, not the books I most enjoy.


In my academic life, I read just about all the “litrachure” I can manage in this lifetime. What I want now is a terrific story (preferably an historical or fantastical setting) with lots of action, passion, pain, sacrifice, heroism, excitement, fabulous dialog, and generally good writing. Krissie’s upcoming “House of Rohan” trilogy is right up my alley. Broadie “Rebecca” put me on to an excellent fantasy series. I’m also a sucker for witty repartee, so on occasion, a clever romantic comedy hits the spot. And if good buddy Alicia Rasley recommends a book to me, I can be sure I’ll like it.

Right now, like millions of fans, I’m chomping at the bit for A Dance of Dragons, last book in George R.R. Martin’s superb Ice and Fire series. The two previous books topped the New York Times list, and publication of Dragons has been scheduled and prominently announced a couple of times in the last several years. Talk about missing deadlines! Seems now that the concluding book got too long and is still not finished, so there will be a seventh “last book” as well, The Winds of Winter. Fine by me!

There will also be lots of demand for his next book and all the ones that came before. HBO’s The Tudors series is about to toddle off, to be replaced in 2011 by A Game of Thrones, based on the first book of GRRM’s Ice and Fire. They’re filming now in Ireland, and the cast includes Sean Bean. Guess I’ll be subscribing to HBO next year! If you’d like a preview, here’s a video of the major players.

Okay. I’ve talked about “my” books. Some of them. The very best will show up one of these days. Meantime, what kinds of books do you most love? Are there series or authors (not counting the StoryBroads, to avoid redundancy <g>) on your “must read” list? Tell us about them.

My Budding Career as a Filmmaker (Maggie)

Frisbee Training for Dogs

Okay, just so you know, I got so wrapped up in making a You Tube video of hdmi extenders my dogs that I totally forgot it was my day to post. But I think the video will absolutely make up for it. Please go check it out and report back.

I have a slightly different version on my Facebook page. But what a blast this was.

Next, I’ll make my own book video!

Sorry so short, but really, watch the video. My dogs (and my guy) are amazing!

I Had The Time of My Life (Tara Taylor Quinn)

The Fourth of July is a tough time for me and my family.  While anticipating celebration one year, we experienced tragedy instead.  Major life changing tragedy for all of us.  That’s not something you ever forget, no matter how many years pass.  It’s not that we spend the day living in sadness.  It’s not like memories are the highlight of our day.  Or even a focal point.  They’re just always there.  Hanging in the background.  Lingering.  This year, for the first time in many years, what’s left of my family who were there that day, were together over the fourth.  We were at our family cabin – a place where all involved had spent many many happy fourths.  We didn’t speak of the one bad fourth of July.  We didn’t mention the loss.  We just wandered around each other and couldn’t get in sync.  The day did not start out well.  As a matter of fact, it started out worse than I could ever have imagined.  Instead of pulling together, we were at odds.  All trying.  And all, somehow failing.

I’d pushed Mom to call my aunt who has a place on the lake close by.  I’d heard her son, my cousin who I hadn’t seen in years, was up with his family.  I really wanted to see him.  He reminded me of the one we’d lost all those years ago.  And Tim had yet to meet him.  (My cousin, that is.  Blessedly, Tim knew the one we’d lost.)  So eventually we all found our way to grooming and becoming presentable.  We piled into my brother’s car, strapping the little ones into car seats, making certain that the one too big for a car seat was settled in.  And we were off to spend just an hour or so with my aunt and her family.

But as life often has it when you do all you can do and fail and yet are open to more, fate took over for us.  We arrived, a mostly silent bunch at my aunt’s.  One of the young ones wasn’t all that happy as we climbed out of the car.  You could tell by the look on her face.  In truth, the only happy ones who climbed out of that car were the two littlest ones who didn’t know any better.  They’re always up for adventure.  For seeing what life has in store for them next.

My aunt was waiting out front.  She greeted each one of us with a hug and a kiss and a personal welcome that made the world steady again.  Upright.  I don’t know that she remembered what the day signified.  It’s been a lot of years.  We didn’t speak of anything – not even with each other.  But love and family doesn’t need to speak.  They just need to exist to make things right.  After greetings, my aunt ushered us inside and downstairs, telling us that everyone was down at the water, pointing through the backyard to the deck at the edge of her yard.  The deck overlooks the lake that is only a few steps below.   It seemed like the place was swarming with people.  All family.  Many of whom I’d never met.  I’ve lived across the country from most of my family for all of my adult life.  I’d missed marriages and births.  On Saturday, I got caught up.  At least partially.

I thought I saw a dear uncle who’d passed away several years before.  It was his son.  All grown up.  And the splitting image of him.  That cousin has a wife and three sweet children.  I saw the cousin I’d been looking forward to seeing again.  And his wife and kids, his son in law and his grandchild!  I saw his older sister’s (an absent cousin) daughter and her husband and their two kids.  I saw his older sister’s son, too.  Last time I saw him was…I don’t think ever.  I heard about his birth.  I’ve seen pictures through the years.  I was really close to his mother (the absent cousin) when I was growing up.  And there he was grown up and married.

We visited with my aunt and uncle.  And…well…there was this boat.  A bunch of boats actually.  The lake was filled with families and boats and people and water skis and jet skis, and…inner tubes.  I’ve never been tubing.  Not as in, sit in a tube tied to a speed boat and fly over the water with no control of anything whatsoever.

You know that cousin I wanted so badly to see?    We’ll call him…Dennis.  He had the boat.  And the tube.  His sat three.  When I first got there, my absent cousin’s daughter, I’ll call her Temptation, was availing herself of a little liquid courage so she could go out on that tube without fear.  I watched.  And cheered as she, with Dennis’ wife and daughter, loaded up in the inner tube.  I waved them off along with other folks.  I watched another cousin jet ski.  And I sat on the deck with Tim and talked to my aunt.  And watched over my brother’s little ones who were playing in the water.  I was content.  Finding peace.  Filling up.

Temptation made it back safe and sound!  And wanted to go again.  She’d stored up extra courage.  She wanted me to go.  Nope.  I was in jeans.  Dead ender right there.  My aunt was sure she had a swim suit.  Yeah, but, I’m too little.  It would fall off.  It was a one piece.  I could tie it up.  And my aunt’s little, too.  Nope.  But thanks. 

This time when they went, though, I rode in the boat.  I was a spotter.  My kind of job.  Just sit and enjoy the water and the wind on my face and watch three other brave fools risk their lives.  Temptation’s husband and toddler were in the boat with Tim and I.  I got to chat with him as I watched his wife brave the water.  I’ve never seen someone have so much fun being foolish and risking their lives.  I spotted…hilarious fun.  And nothing else.  Nothing untoward. 

Back at the dock, I climbed onto the deck and sat again.  Next thing I know, my two little nieces have on life jackets.  They were climbing into the inner tube.  Really.  No one seemed to notice that they were only six and ten.  Neither of them looked the least bit scared.  Not unusual for the daredevil six year old, but for my logical, careful, sensible, weigh every possibility ten year old niece?  She was grinning from ear to ear.  The boat pulled out.  The inner tube, bearing my beloved little ones, went after it.  I busied myself with my five year old nephew in the water.  He needed my careful attention.  Or so I’d determined.

Eventually the boat came back.  With the inner tube still behind it.  The kids were grinning and talking a mile a minute.

Temptation was there again.  In my face.  And you know what had to happen.  Everyone probably knew what had to happen before I did.  Temptation wanted to go tubing again.  And she wanted me to go with her.  It wasn’t the first time she’d asked.  Or the second or third.  A couple of words to my aunt and Tim and I were upstairs in a bathroom with a one piece suit and a pair of swim trunks.  And fifteen minutes later (we had to wait for a gas run) we were seated with Temptation in that three seater tube.  I reminded Dennis, the boat’s owner and expert driver, that I was related to him.  And older than him.  He reminded me that he loves me very much.  All was well.

Instruction was administered.  Dennis’ wife instilled confidence.  I could do this.  I was going to be fine.  She showed me the signal to give when I had to stop.  Promised me her husband would stop instantly.  She showed me the signal to get him to slow down, too.  There was another signal.  A thumbs up.  That meant I was doing just fine.

We started off at about five miles an hour.  No wake.  Barely a ripple in the water.  I was good.  Really good.  I could handle this.  I wasn’t a fool.  I was living life on The Fourth of July, dammit.  (That was the beer talking.  I’d taken Temptation’s advice and sipped from a can for a tiny bit before we left.) The boat sped up some as we left the dock area.  It sped up a little more.  But there was none of the criss crossing I’d seen as a spotter.  No sudden turns that sent us over wakes.  And I was having a blast.  The sun was shining.  It was in the nineties.  The water sent up a cool spray as we sped merrily along.  Tim raised his thumb.  We were okay.  Temptation raised hers, signaling that she was fine.  I was raised mine, too.  Guess they were watching for that one.  The boat sped up.  I didn’t care.  I was doing fine.  And then the boat turned.  I held my breath. This was it.  My stopping point.  I was just having too much fun to make the signal.  Or was too afraid to let go of my hand hold to do so.  Tim asked if I was okay.  I yelled back that I was having a blast.  We crossed the wake…and…I was still having fun.  More fun.  He signaled that all was well.  I did, too, putting my thumb right up there.  I even let go with both hands and put both thumbs up.

And the speed racheted again.  And again.  We flew across the water swerving and turning and jumping wakes until my throat hurt from screaming and laughing.  How could I have lived so many years and not had so much fun?  Temptation was having fun, too.  No fear for her.  And Tim, he laughed his way through the entire experience.  By the time we pulled into the dock, I was exhausted, but exhilarated.  My mom and aunt were both down there, waiting for us to climb off the boat, checking to see how I’d done.  I’d had the time of my life.  Truly.

Later, when we were on our way home, reliving the experience with my brother who’d been one of our spotters, I finally found out why the boat kept speeding up.  I hadn’t paid as much attention to my tubing instruction – my signals - as I’d thought.  Thumbs up didn’t mean you were doing great.  It meant speed up.

Paradeless in Newport Beach (Suzanne Forster)

 

I tried my very best to get to a parade last weekend.  I cialis cheap love parades but seem destined not to go to one on the Fourth.  We had a local parade and festival here on Saturday and I decided to check it out before I went shopping.  Allan was at a movie with his friend.  They go to horror movies every Saturday morning and then eat afterward.  Can you imagine a heaping plate of scrambled eggs after a horror movie?  Doesn’t sound very appetizing to me.  

While trying to track down the parade route online, I discovered it was bicycle parade.  I want real parades with marching bands and floats, but figured the kids and bicycles would be cute, so off I went … in search of the parade that wasn’t.   I never found the darn thing.   I’ve lived in Newport half my life and am intimately familiar with the area, but when I found the cross streets listed in the newspaper ad, there was the park, but no sign of any people or a parade, not to mention a festival.  Maybe it was canceled?  

Disappointed, I went ahead with my shopping, but made covert plans to try to talk Allan into going to the BIG parade on the 4th in Huntington Beach where they have floats and everything else I love, including tanks and military units, lol.   And to my shock, he agreed to go.  We mapped out a plan to get there, based on what streets would be blocked.  My only concern was finding a parking place.  On our one other parade escapade we managed to find a parking spot on a side street and only had to walk a few blocks to the parade.  But that was twenty years ago.  Fingers crossed.   

The parade started at ten a.m. and by ten-thirty, we were still searching for parking.  The side streets were jammed with pedestrians, bikers, and double parked cars.  It was almost impossible to drive, much less park.  Finally, we gave up and headed home.  Paradeless!  I was now 0/2 and feeling very sorry for myself.  Allan tried to make it up to me, not that it was his fault in any way, but to be honest, I was struggling not to blame it on him simply because he refused to double park and risk a ticket.  Where was his sense of adventure?  How much could a parking ticket cost?  He pointed out it was towing charges that would get expensive.  I floated the idea of getting out and dashing over to the parade route for a peek just so I could say that I did it!  He could circle until I got back.  Ten minutes tops.  Did I mention our last parade escapade was twenty years ago?  

But he wasn’t going for it.  We did one last lap and left.  ::sigh:: 

On the way home, he tempted me with breakfast out and movie, but I was just too bummed.  And then he came up with a winner.  How about this, he said.  Next year we’ll find a hotel in Huntington Beach and we’ll go for two nights.  That way we can get up early enough to catch the Kiwanis pancake breakfast in the park, watch the parade and then stay for the fireworks on the pier that night.  

Allan is not a fan of pancakes, parades or pyrotechnics, certainly not the way I am.  I looked at him suspiciously, but inside I could feel a tiny spark burning through my gloom.  That’s a year away, I said–and besides you’ll never do it.  Sure I will, he said.  We’ll drive back to the area next week and pick out the hotel.  Let’s find one right on the beach and I’ll make the reservations a year in advance, if necessary.  

Now, I’m getting interested.  A year is a long haul, but it’s also more time to anticipate–and anticipation is half the fun.   I knew I was over my funk when I started event planning with him.  We discussed the possible hotels and all the things we could do in Huntington Beach—idyllic coastal community and surfing capital of the U.S.A.  It’s right next door to Newport Beach, but MILES away on parade day.  We could break through all those police barriers by staying in the heart of the city.  We’d be where all the action was.  What a plan. 

Suddenly breakfast and a movie sounded good too–and off we went to have an omelet’s at Coco’s and catch the noon movie at the multiplex.  We saw Knight & Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, probably the perfect movie for the Fourth.  All in all, a good day–and I learned something.  Even a paradeless downer of a day can turn into a delight if you’re open to it. 

Hoping everyone else had a good day too,

Suzanne

COUNTDOWN Pt. 3 (Anne Stuart)

Busy, busy week.  And look what we have to show for it.  THE WICKED HOUSE OF ROHAN, the prequel to my upcoming trilogy, is available on-line, absolutely free, for a limited time.  And trust me, it’s lovely.  10k words of wickedness and redemption, love and happy ever after, and did I mention it’s free?  I’m looking at the ocver and I just notieced the hero seems to be wearing something around his neck.  Probably the key to the room he locked the heroine in.  Such a naughty boy, but then, my heroes are always naughty boys.

There are tons of way to get it.  Here’s the easiest if you’re not Facebook-phobic:

http://www.facebook.com/author.annestuart?v=app_4949752878  Be sure to click wall and hit “like” if you want any more updates.

This link will take you directly to eHarlequin, where you can download it for free in any number of formats.

If you don’t like facebook, head directly to my website:

http://www.anne-stuart.com/books.html

If you’ve got a Nook, or simply like Barnes and Noble, you can go to:

http://tinyurl.com/2bvahqr

Or last but not least, Amazon will be offering it free in the next day or two.  Apparently they’re slower to get these things up and running, so if you click right now they may still be charging for it.  Just keep trying and sooner or later it’ll be free.

For Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/35ew4fj

And now everything’s going to be bold from now on.  <sigh>.  I’ll be back next week with more neuroses and hard work.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Pooped at the Pops (Lynn Kerstan)

 That’s a forecast, not (yet) a reality. Monday the 30 members of the San Diego Master Chorale participating in the San Diego Symphony Star Spangled Pops over the Fourth of July weekend rehearsed our musical contributions to the show. On Wednesday evening, after a crazed hunt for parking places, we gathered at beautiful Marina Park for a run-through with the orchestra and conductor.

The park juts out into San Diego harbor, so when greedy seagulls winged in to scout for handouts, I was glad of the stage overhang sheltering the performers. More than a few audience members seated in the open are likely to be pooped on at the Pops. 

 I’m both looking forward to and dreading this weekend. The privilege of working, even in a minor way, with conductor Marvin Hamlisch is well worth the hassles.  Child prodigy and a graduate of Juilliard School of Music, the maestro has composed forty movie scores, Broadway’s landmark musical The Chorus Line (among many others) and won 4 Emmys, 4 Grammies, 3 Golden Globes, 3 Oscars, 1 Pulitzer Prize, and a Tony.  So far, I’ve seen him only at the rehearsal, where he was friendly, laid-back, and calmly professional. Said nice things about our singing, too. But I can tell that when we’re live in concert, he will burst out like the fireworks that cap each performance. The crowds will love him.

All four crowds. When the Fri/Sat/Sun night shows sold out, the symphony added a Saturday matinee. So much for my hopes of walking with my club in the fabulous Coronado 4th of July Parade. I keep trying, but every year, something prevents it.  Lynn’s Law of Simultaneous Occurrences strikes again.

   Here’s a snapshot of  my view from onstage (backs of heads) and a pic of a casual Mr. Hamlisch working with the symphony.
The next shot silhouettes the Master Chorale’s fellow singers, the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choristers, lined up along the edge of the stage. In a lovely bit of programming, the children will open a show chock-full of rocking bluegrass and rousing patriotic music by singing, a capella, the national anthem. The sound is truly glorious, especially when they reach “the screech,” as I think of it. You know, that high note most of us can’t get to at “o’er the land of the freeeeeee.” These kid nail it gloriously, and the boy sopranos wing their way even higher into an harmonic stratosphere. We altos can only sigh with envy.

Now, though, we all face a weekend filled with early “calls,” parking madness, hanging around, taking shuttles to the venue itself, hanging around a lot more (we only sing in the second half), four nights with fireworks (more than I need, thanks very much), and a mass exodus by hordes of happy audience members and performers. And we’re singing only four songs. Short songs. There are soloists as well, and bluegrass music, and, well . . . never let it be said that San Diego can’t put on a show.

And here’s why I really like Marvin Hamlisch: “Music can make a difference,” he said.  “There is a global nature to music, which has the potential to bring all people together. Music is truly an international language, and I hope to contribute by widening communication as much as I can.”

Me, too.

So, what are your plans for the weekend? Parade? Picnic? Is barbeque involved? Fireworks?

The Benefits of Basking! (Maggie)

Maggie

I’m clearly thinking something evil here!

It’s July! Can you believe it? I know it’s cliche to say how time flies, but it really does seem to be speeding faster and faster for me. July already! Wow. By the end of August the leaves will be starting to turn. But let’s stay focused in the present.

It’s a big holiday weekend for those of us here in the US of A, as Independence Day, otherwise known as the fourth of July, is this coming Sunday. Lance I have big plans, too. We’re heading up to Black Lake with the dogs, and we hope to be out on the water to watch the annual, huge fireworks display. We’re going to take our kayaks and just have a fun, relaxing weekend. The weather looks gorgeous and there’s not one thing here that we can’t leave for a couple of days.

This is a weekend for some serious basking. So much tension, a lot of it good tension,sbiancamento denti but even excitement is a form of tension, right? I’ve been on pins and needles as the first of my six-in-a-row releases, KILLING ME SOFTLY, was released this week.

It took one of my favorite emails, the daily quote from Abraham, on my Facebook page, to remind me to relax. Here’s what it said: (And I’ll explain the parts that someone new to this stuff might not get at first glance.)

“The thing that we want you to understand is, through all this sorting and sifting, you have done all the asking. You have made all the decisions, one at a time, and they’re all in your vortex and they’re all queued up. You’ve done the work.

“Now your work is to play on the beach. Your work is to release resistance. Your work is to appreciate and bask and find clarity and look for delicious ease and flow. In other words, your work is to look for feelings that feel good. Your work is non-work. Your work is to relax and release. Relax and Release, relax and release. And it is our promise to you that you will find all of those answers. They are all queued up. You’ve  just got to get into the vortex!

“You’ve got to stop clinging to what’s out of the vortex. You’ve  got to  loosen your grip on what’s outside the vortex. You’ve got to play more. You’ve got to laugh. You gotta release more. You’ve got to have more fun. You’ve got to think less and you’ve got to meditate more. You’ve got to bask more.

“Don’t make it a thinking game, let it be a feeling game. Then watch what happens. So much there for you!”

Okay, so let’s review this bit of wisdom. The work is already done, it says. The work that’s done is what Abraham calls the sifting and sorting and deciding. What that means is that as you go through life, you come across things you like and things you don’t like, and every time you see something you like, some part of you wishes for more of that. And every time you see something you don’t like, a part of you, way down deep, realizes what would be better, and a desire for that improvement is launched. Your car breaks down, you automatically launch a desire for a car that’s dependable. See?

When you want something, the higher part of you, the part that is pure spirit, that is part of the greater Whole, the Universe, shoots out and becomes the thing you’ve wished for. It’s done. You’ve created the new car just by wanting it. You just can’t see it or touch it just yet.

Now the only thing you have to do to get it, is to stop focusing on the broken car. Because you can only get what you focus on. And focusing on that broken car, keeps you in the broken car. The broken car has served its purpose. It showed you what you wanted, what would be better. You’re done with it now. Turn your attention away from it, and get onto a subject that feels good. When you feel good, the new car, and all the other desires you’ve launched without knowing it, and those you’ve knowingly launched too, begin flowing straight into your life.

Abraham calls the place where the things you have created, but that haven’t manifested for you yet, are kept, your “Vortex.” Or your “Escrow.” That’s where your new car is. When you’re blissfully happy and have not a worry in the world, you are in there too, and that’s where all the good stuff is.

So when something big and bad happens, here’s what you need to know. It happens based on what
you put into your vortex somewhere in the past. It’s old news. It had to go somewhere, so just know that it’s temporary. It also happens for a reason–to give you some contrast so you can see more clearly what would be better. Your wish for the improvement is the only reality to focus on. Your attention to the current “reality” will only keep it “real” longer. “Ignore it and it’ll go away” is a surprisingly powerful truth.

I tell you this so that you will no longer feel guilty when you are doing “nothing.” Lying on the a sun-drenched beach, or frolicking in the water. Barbecuing or watching fireworks. Screaming in delight on a rollercoaster or basking in your lover’s arms–these activities are accomplishing more for you than all the hard work you’ve ever done or ever will. Moments of bliss are what open the floodgates and allow more bliss to flow into your life.  And the work you do from a place of bliss, will go rapidly, easily, efficiently and bring more reward than any work you do from a place of tension and worry.

So give yourself permission to bask. Maybe even with a good book!

Happy 4th of July, Everyone! Let me know how you’re celebrating!

Abraham-Hicks.com