What a Way to Celebrate!

Well, I’m a year older now.

Okay, technically, I’m a day older than I was yesterday, and three days older than I was on October 12, my official birthday.  But you know what I mean.

Sand Fence and View.img_assist_custom-349x233

This year, we decided to take advantage of a relative’s kind offer, and we spent my birthday (and a long weekend!) at the beach — Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks.  We typically go down there once or twice a year, usually in the heart of winter.  Duck is a wonderful place off season — nearly deserted, with most businesses closed up tight, with nearly no one on the beach, and with cold, bracing winds that can howl all night in classic nor’easters.

Not so much in mid-October this year!

The temps were in the 80s — I dramatically overpacked for cool weather and just got by with the T-shirts I brought (and I mourned my failure to bring shorts or sandalsl!)  On Saturday, the beach was actually *crowded*, and there were lots of folks on the sand every day.  All the businesses were open (even the Dairy Queen :-) ), and the roads were surprisingly busy.  In short, “our” Duck looked completely different from the Duck we normally encounter.

Of course, it was enjoyable, all the same.  We took walks on the sand (with surprisingly high tides and lots of waves!), and we indulged in meals at our favorite restaurants.  We got a lot of reading done, and we watched a lot of movies — binged the second half of HOMELAND, Season 3, and the BEYOND Linklater movies, and an odd, well-made little film called A SIMPLE PLAN.

All in all, a perfect birthday weekend, brightened by the Facebook posts of many, and emails from even more, and cards and phone calls and, and, and, and…  I feel well and truly spoiled!  (I also feel like I’m never going to eat anything other than salad and lean grilled meats, for the rest of my life :-) )

And that is why it’s time for me to get back to work :-)

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9 Uses For a Flip and Tumble

Flip and Tumble — brand name for a light cloth bag that folds into its own pouch and can easily be tucked into a purse or, in a pinch, a pocket.  (First pointed out to me by Justine Larbalestier!)


  1. Hold snacks purchased for early morning flight from Washington DC to Albuquerque (by way of Minneapolis, because why shouldn’t one fly north to end up south?)
  2. Hold rental agreement on “compact” car, which turns out to be a Chevy Malibu the size of the Queen Mary’s younger sister, because no “Corolla equivalents” were available in the parking lot.
  3. Hold funky keys for room at the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, which looks like it could be the movie set for a film about convent life in the old Southwest (if, you know, the nuns had king size beds in their bedrooms and massive multi-jet showerheads in their bathrooms and drank lemon ice water every time they passed through the hotel lobby on their way to some fun exploration).
  4. Hold refillable (and many, many times refilled) water bottle for use at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival, where over 200 artisans from dozens of countries display and sell handmade art and crafts (along with a fun international “food court”, and a surprisingly cool breezeway at the top of the hill, just perfect for taking a break in the hot-but-not-blazing (it’s a dry heat!) afternoon.
  5. Hold raincoat for afternoon gulley washer that created a 15 minute deluge followed by 15 minutes of light rain.  Oh.  Wait.  I left my raincoat back in my room, so the Flip and Tumble wasn’t any good for this.  But I was under shelter for almost all of the rain, so no big deal.
  6. Hold guidebook with information on Tia Sophia’s, a hole-in-the-wall breakfast restaurant with a yummy, yummy, yummy breakfast burrito featuring sausage, potatoes, cheese, and lots of red chili sauce.
  7. Hold cell phone used for navigating from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, where one can watch a fun short documentary about the “town with no name” where the atom bomb was developed.  One can also peruse the science museum on site, but one might want to have higher degrees in science to understand some of the exhibits.  Or, one can play with the brain-teaser games on spacial relationships that become addictive the closer one gets to (not) finding a solution.  (Don’t rely too much on the cell phone, though, because coverage will cut out about 5 minutes away from the museum.)
  8. Hold laptop and Kindle while attending the Annual Feast Day dance at the Cochiti Pueblo, because even though it’s warm in the shade and hot in the sun, it’s much, much cooler than the trunk of the car, where the suitcases are waiting for their return journey home.
  9. Hold snacks purchased for on-flight dinner, after a cross-airport sprint when Leg One of the return flight lands 35 minutes late, due to weather in Minneapolis.

All in all, my mother and I had a wonderful trip.  We found amazing treasures at the Folk Art Festival, spoke with dozens of friendly, kind people, and truly enjoyed our mother/daughter break!

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Retreating from Retreat

I’m back!  And I’m sitting at my computer!  At my desk!  With wifi at the ready!

And I’m guessing my productivity is going to plummet…

Here’s where I spent most of last week writing:


I was at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Pennsylvania, where I started my writing retreat speaking to a great group of writers with interests as varied as memoir, short stories, journalistic articles, and novels.  We had some great talks, great meals, an amazing campfire and, oh, a little writing time.

They left on Sunday, alas, but that only meant that it was time to dig in for the serious work — a writing retreat with Maria V. Snyder.  Maria and I spent five days in a cabin (yes on electricity and water, no on wifi, TV, radio, etc.)  I wrote 35,000 words and edited 3/4 of STOPPING SHORT (Book 6 in the Diamond Brides Series) — and I talked with Maria about writing and family and life, and I ate way more food than I should have, and I talked with Maria, and I took a couple of easy hikes, and I talked with Maria…  Well, you get the idea.

Here’s the writer, in situ.  (And no, you can’t see the dive-bombing carpenter bees that became my constant companions):


I drove up on Friday, discovered that I’d locked myself out of the house by forgetting to bring my house keys on retreat, wrote at the local library until Mark came home to spring me, and spent one night in my own bed.

Then, on Saturday, I spent the entire day with the Washington Romance Writers, doing two presentations and a reading with Lady Jane’s Salon.  By the time I got home Saturday night, I felt a little drunk (although I hadn’t touched alcohol) and a little hoarse!

Sunday was a day of rest, with time to chat with my mother :-)

And now, I’m back in the saddle, with a ton of writing on today’s to-do list.  And so…  I’m off!

How about you?  Did I miss anything major last week!  I won’t be able to catch up on everything so shout out if there’s something I should know!

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Open Letter to New York City Denizens

So, we took a trip to New York this past weekend.  Our main goal was to see PIPPIN (comments to follow in a later post), and we took in ALL THE WAY (a play about LBJ, starring Bryan Cranston — comments to follow in that same later post).  The trip started out beautifully, with a whole slew of New Yorkers being fun and inviting and just about the opposite of every stereotype of New Yorkers.  (I’m talking about the guy at the fast food counter who made me laugh, and the guy in line at TKTS who joked that he was buying up the last 60 tickets for GLASS MENAGERIE and giving them away to people who could answer Tennessee Williams trivia (only to discover that I stage managed a Williams play and knew more trivia than he’d bargained for), and the dozens and dozens of people who seemed to be in just a good mood, making our trip fun.)

And then a Bad Thing happened.

We were heading for dinner at Katz’s Deli, walking from the closest subway station, and we hit a patch of black ice, out of nowhere, in the middle of a block that had been perfectly clear at the corner.  I was just about to tell Mark to be careful, when I saw him fall.  His feet swept out from under him, his back hit, and then his head smashed — hard — against the sidewalk.  I yelled for someone to call 911, and the closest two people stopped, but they were from out of the country and didn’t have working cell phones.  The third closest guy stopped, and called.  I thought at first Mark was having a seizure, but then I (slowly) realized he was just trying to breathe.

In the midst of my panic, and waiting, waiting, waiting (it seemed like forever, but was probably 10 minutes), Cell Phone Man stayed with me.  And dozens of people who walked (skated!) by stopped.  People offered to help, offered to call, offered to do anything they could.

When the EMTs arrived, they took a quick assessment, attaching a cervical collar and getting Mark on a back board.  (Their treatment was interrupted by two other people slipping on another section of the same ice — those people weren’t injured, just shocked.)  It took me and a helpful bystander to brace the gurney for the EMTs to shift Mark onto the device, and then the EMTs needed to “sled” the gurney down the ice before they could raise it.

Mark was conscious, but somewhat disoriented, and the EMTs recommended that we go to Bellevue, because it’s the local trauma center.  We agreed, and they took us there.  Along the way, Mark’s memory continued to clear (although he *still* doesn’t remember falling.)  At Bellevue, the EMT walked us through the triage process, and we only waited about five minutes before a doctor came by for a preliminary exam.  He strongly suggested a CT scan, which we agreed to.

We waited an hour for the exam (having been moved from our original emergency room bay, after they brought in an agitated, aggressive man who seemed to be drunk or high — there were police in the emergency room for another case, and it seemed the hospital workers wanted Mr. Agitated near the cops).  Ultimately, the scan results came back, showing no bleeding in the brain (YAYYYYY!).  We talked to the doctor one last time, were told that the dizziness and headache and memory problems could last for days, weeks, or months, and Mark was discharged.

Everyone at the hospital was wonderful.  Nurses kept us informed and answered questions about timing and waits with patience and accuracy.  The doctor was reassuring and kind.  The man who handled discharge patiently explained where I could get food (it was nearly 9:00 when they took Mark to the scan, and I’d only had a bowl of soup for lunch hours ago….) even though he must give those directions dozens of times a day.

The next day (yesterday), we headed down to Penn Station, hoping to change our tickets to an earlier train.  The gate agent was wonderful, slipping us onto a virtually sold out Acela (a faster, more comfortable train than the regular, with priority on the rails, in case of backups), for only the difference in ticket price.  A Red Cap escorted us to the train for pre-boarding, so that we didn’t have to deal with the scrum that always forms, as people with reserved tickets jostle for seats as if it’s the last train leaving Saigon.  (Okay, *trains* didn’t leave Saigon, but you know what I mean…)

In the end, we got home about six hours earlier than we would have.  Mark is sore from the fall, but the bump on his head isn’t as troublesome today.  He’s still getting dizzy if he moves too fast or leans over, but he’s feeling much less foggy.

And I’m left more than a bit unnerved about how bad it could have been.  And so grateful for so many people who stopped to help strangers.  And wishing there was some way that I could thank everyone involved.

And thinking I’ll only try to go to Katz’s in the summer from now on…

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Retreating from Retreats

Wow.  I hardly recognize my office.  My writing desk.  My cat-trap blanket…

What?  You don’t have a cat-trap blanket?  It’s a crucial tool in my writing arsenal — a lap blanket knit out of Heavenly yarn.  when Poppy decides she needs to sit on my keyboard, to supervise my work, I lure her onto my lap with the cat-trap blanket.  She makes bread, and I get work done.

So, I’ve returned from my back-to-back retreats.

For those playing along at home, I spent five days on my first retreat.  I left you some clues along the way, but no one figured out where I was — Orlando, Florida, staying at the Disney Yacht Club Resort.  (The giraffes were viewed from a “Sunset Savannah” room at Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The Eiffel Tower was viewed from the edge of the EPCOT park.)

While in Orlando, I ate my body weight in whole-grain croissants, and I drank a tanker full of tea (with coffee for those couple of mornings when I was nearly too exhausted to write.)  I worked during the days, then spent the evenings with my best friend.  We stayed up talking *way* too late most evenings.

I rewarded myself with the Cirque de Soleil show, La Nouba, and it was magical.  I despise the regular circus, with its animals and noise, but I love, love, love these shows that walk on the edge of Magritte.  They trigger a million writing ideas, and all the while I’m simply astonished by what some human bodies can do.

I came home from Orlando and spent about 24 hours with husband and cats before heading off to my “local” writers retreat, a couple of hours north of here, in Maryland.  This is a group of four other authors; we get together a couple of times a year.  The stay isn’t nearly as productive (there’s only one full day, with people arriving and leaving on Friday and Sunday), but it’s always fun to check in on everyone else’s careers, and to get *some* heavy lifting done.

So, my total, for the week of retreating:  Approximately 25,000 words drafted, and approximately 38,000 words edited.  Today, I’ll wrap up THE VERY FIRST TIME (the third of the Diamond Brides books.)  I’m pleased!  And eager to move on to the fourth book!

So?  What did I miss while I was out of touch?  What’s new with you?

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Back From the Beach

Hi, honey!  I’m home!

I’m back from a lovely four-day trip to the Outer Banks, where I stayed in a relative’s amazing beach house…  Highlights of the trip:

  • Reading.  And reading some more.  And doing a lot more reading.  And then some.
  • Mini-golf, at the fourth place we stopped at.  (The first two were closed for the season; the third had closed for the night 15 minutes before we got there, but the fourth was just right.  Even if I lost by one stroke.)
  • Eating.  And eating some more.  And doing a lot more eating.  And then some.  (Favorites included the Brie LT Sandwich at Cravings — crispy bacon, creamy brie, green leaf lettuce, and tomatoes that tasted like garden-grown tomatoes — even though it was November.)
  • Long walks on the beach, mostly at sunset.  The first day, the waves were high and plentiful — all the way out to the horizon.  The second day, the waves were standard — a few breaking close to shore.  The third day, the sea was almost dead calm — tiny little breakers right at the shoreline, but nothing to see for miles…  Here’s a pic from the second day:IMG_0060
  • Not writing.  Not a word.  Not even to scribble down ideas for the next novel.  Even though I had lots of ideas swirling around inside my head.

Now, I’m back home, and excavating my inbox, and trying to shift life back to normal.  The high temp on this blustery day is supposed to be 42 degrees — a far cry from the 65 we enjoyed on Sunday.  At least I have cats glued to my lap to keep me warm…

So?  How about you?  How was your weekend?

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