“I still believe that people are really…”

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Would you finish the sentence with a) selfish to the core b) naturally brutal c) always dumber than they look d) good at heart?

Last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune caught my eye.  “Instead of ‘I do,” a jilted Minnesota bride says ‘I give.’  At first glance I thought it meant I give up, and I imagined

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But the picture that went with the story showed a smiling young woman with the caption, “What was supposed to be my dream wedding will be their special day.”

Ah.  She gave her wedding to a friend?

Actually, no.  This Moorhead MN bride gave her Fargo wedding reception for 200 guests to a local charity that serves people with disabilities.  They’re having a Halloween party tomorrow night!  The jilted bride doesn’t plan to attend, but she’s not crying over the non-refundable 15 grand she’d already paid, either.

And she’s not doing this:

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Presumably she won’t do this:

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Because even though her intended informed her two months ago that “he couldn’t pretend to love me anymore,” this plucky (romantics love plucky) found a way to rise above her broken heart and empty bank account by bringing happiness to 200 deserving people.  Not only does she feel better, but so do readers.  We don’t know this woman, and we don’t know the guy who got cold feet, but we’re convinced that she deserves better.  She’s given us romantics reason to believe in her.  She’s supported our faith in human nature, which buoys the optimism that gets us through the night.

Back to our multiple choice.  If your first impulse is to pick d, you think like Anne Frank, the ultimate romantic whose single book—what turned out to be her life’s work—continues to inspire those of us who refuse to give up on the nobility of the human spirit despite evidence (think Congress of late) to the contrary. 

Years ago when I sat down to write a story that would, much to my surprise, eventually become a book, it was just an idea that came to me, and I wanted to see where it would lead and who the people were who promised to take me wherever that was.  They were the kind of people I liked—good at heart people—and they were going to overcome obstacles or die trying.  I didn’t set out to write a romance.  At the time (1980’s) I wasn’t reading much popular fiction, and I wasn’t aware of the burgeoning boom in “bodice ripper” historicals and series contemporaries.  I wrote a story that was born of my vision, which is stubbornly optimistic.  And since my characters didn’t die trying, my story qualified as commercial fiction in the romance genre.

The nobility of the human spirit.  The better angels of our nature.  Celebrate every chance you get.

And here’s what I’m celebrating this week.

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Isn’t it gorgeous?  Three of my holiday novellas in one volume, available now for pre-order ((e-book) with a release date of October 25 in trade paperback and e-book.  THE SHARING SPOON.  Do check it out.

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Friday the 13th

imagesAre you afflicted with paraskevidekatriaphobia?  That’s fear of Friday the 13th.  I’ll admit to a few shivers about it this year, as it’s picture day at school <g>  But many people go to great lengths to avoid the bad luck they are certain follows this day.

Why is Friday the 13th considered so unlucky?  According to legend, if thirteen people sit down at a table for dinner, one of them will die within the year.  Some cities refuse to name a 13th Street or Avenue.  We’ve all been in buildings that don’t have a thirteenth floor.  And it’s been noted that many infamous serial killers have thirteen letters in their name:  Theodore Bundy, Albert De Salvo, Jeffrey Dahmer and Jack the Ripper.  Judas was the last (13th) to arrive to the last supper, and at the end of the evening betrayed Jesus.

Friday’s had a bad rap throughout eternity.  Some say the trouble with Friday started in the Garden of Eden, when Eve tempted Adam with the apple.  (Am I the only one who has always thought Adam was a huge wienie to succumb to a piece of fruit?  And he was pretty quick to throw Eve under the bus for the whole thing, too.  Definitely not hero material.)  Friday was Hangman’s Day in Britain.  Witches observed their Sabbath on Fridays.  During pagan times, Friday was execution day.  And the crucifixion is said to have happened on a Friday.

No one knows when unlikely Friday became entwined with unlucky number thirteen.  But it was probably simple math:  Unlucky Friday + Unlucky 13 = doubly bad luck.  To most of us it’s just another day.  But for the ultra-superstitious, any misfortune that happens to befall them on this day, from hangnails to true woe, only underscores the truth in Friday the 13th’s bad rep.

Do you have any superstitions?  Do you think Friday the 13th is unlucky?  Have you ever had anything unfortunate happen to you on this date?

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Oops….

?????????????????I’ve been working on preparing four self-published books to go up on Amazon later this fall.  It has been a lesson in tedium, patience, and perseverance like none other!  Checking every sentence, word by word, for errors introduced through the scanning process (as in, a number one for the letter “L” or an apostrophe in place of a quotation mark), watching for things that have changed since the books were first published (who hunts for a pay phone anymore?) and trying to improve the prose itself have been very time consuming.

Then now and again, there are things that make me stop and laugh. The scanning process, it seems, has a bit of a sense of humor.  It may correctly interpret the word “the” for five pages, then suddenly convert the word “the” into “die.”  Definitely changes the meaning of a sentence!   Some of the changes are completely nonsensical.  And then, there’s the sentence I came across yesterday.

??????????????????????????????The scene: the heroine is hunting for cattle in rough country.  Someone  sabotaged her saddle by  slicing through most of the billet on the off side of the saddle.  Now, a billet is a heavy, very sturdy leather or nylon web from which the cinch hangs from the saddle, and when one saddles a horse they’re tightening up the cinch on the left side of the horse–so except for quickly checking to make sure nothing is twisted on the right side, it would be more easy to miss carefully executed damage to the billet-especially in the dark shadows of early dawn.  The scanning fairy, however, changed the word “billet.”  So the sentence read…

Mandy frowned. “I’ve never seen a bidet break like that.”

I guess not.  Especially on a saddle!

On an earlier book, I had a heroine setting a table with  “mocha placements” …only,  scanning changed it to “mocha placentas.”  Eeeuw!  I’m just thankful both errors were caught, but I know I’ve seen some oddities appear in my own published books as well as some books I’ve read.  You can bet that if you do find an error, the author is horrified…and that there will be lots of readers who let her know about it, too!

Without naming specific books or authors, of course, have you ever found any such little typos that made it into a published book?

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Need a Reason To Believe?

image In people, I mean.  Here’s one.  We just watched a NatGeo Wild episode called “The Lady With 700 Cats.”  Lynea Lattanzio calls herself a crazy cat lady, but she’s no animal hoarder.  She runs a 12-acre sanctuary, no-kill rescue facility and adoption program for cats that might well be the largest of its kind.  She’s devoted 18 years and everything she owns to giving cats a second chance after they’ve been abandoned or surrendered for whatever reason.  It’s a huge undertaking, one that just keeps growing because this woman never turns a needy cat away.  There was a time when Lynea was personally quite well-heeled, but having turned possessions into cash for cat needs and her California property into The Cat House, she often finds herself scrambling for funds, but she says she’s never been happier.  Not that there aren’t setbacks.  She had my granddaughter sobbing over the death of a kitten who’d reached  the sanctuary and its medical services too late.  The program relies on donations and volunteers.

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Closer to my home is “Sharing and Caring Hands,” which was started by a woman who regularly volunteered with a Minneapolis organization for helping the poor and decided in 1985 that she could do better on her own.  A master at organizing volunteers, Mary Jo Copeland earned a $2200 stipend from a local television station and started a small storefront operation dedicated to helping the homeless, the poorest of the poor, and those whom she saw “falling through the cracks.”  She has worked tirelessly to build program and its hugely expanded facilities through donations.  While volunteers are still the backbone of “Sharing and Caring Hands” (overhead is less than 8% of the program’s budget) a paid staff with Mary Jo as director run a nationally recognized program that is exactly what its name implies and a source of pride for Minneapolis.

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In February of this year, 70-year-old Mary Jo Copeland was awarded the Citizen’s Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

There are many ways to give one’s life, and those who actually do it—give their whole lives for the sake of others—give us a gift beyond the needs they seek to fulfill.  They give us reason to believe, as Anne Frank said, “in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

Tell us about someone you admire who champions a worthy cause and makes a difference for others.  I’ll give one randomly selected commenter the e-version of my own REASON TO BELIEVE.

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Congratulations to Sandy Bradburry, who won my last drawing, a download of THE LAST GOOD MAN.

Excerpts from many of my books are available on my website.

Posted in book giveaway, books, cats, charity, real heroes, homeless shelters | 7 Comments

Please Welcome, CJ Miller (and giveaway!)

avengers_backpackPlease help me welcome CJ Miller back to the convertible today!  Just a little about CJ:  She’s a  3rd generation Harlequin reader and the 1st in her family to write professionally, C.J. published her first book with Harlequin Romantic Suspense in 2012. She lives in Maryland with her family. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and reading. C.J. believes in first loves, second chances, and happily ever after.

Now here’s CJ:

My son’s first day of school is next week. He’s picked out a backpack and we’ve filled out the required paperwork. My husband and I have talked to him about school and what kinds of things he’ll do in his classroom. I have my camera at the ready. My son’s excited. He can’t wait. He’s prepared.

But not me. I’m not prepared.

My “baby” is old enough to go to school. Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital yesterday?! I don’t worry about the school itself. We’ve selected the school he’s attending because the teachers are warm and welcoming, the school is safe and fun, and everything about the classroom is bright and cheery.

Why the apprehension?

I’ve enjoyed the last 3 years being home with my children, filling our days with playing, running, eating, cuddling, napping and reading. Our day is loosely structured around meals and naps and bath time. It’s like summer vacation all the time. It’s awesome.

And now he’s going out into the world.

No matter how anxious I am, I won’t let him see me sweat. I will be all big smiles and fist bumps and high fives.

Any tips for get through the first day of school?

ShieldingTheSuspectI also have a book out this month with Harlequin Romantic Suspense. Shielding the Suspect (http://amzn.to/140THu8) is about the youngest Truman brother Brady, an Air Force pararescueman who was introduced in my first book, Hiding His Witness. I’ll give away a copy to one commenter*.

Shielding the Suspect has nothing to do with first days of school, so maybe it will be a good distraction for parents in the same boat as me!

* The giveaway is limited to U.S. mailing addresses only, adults aged 18+. I’ll post the winner in the comments later today. Please send your mailing address to cj at cj-miller DOT COM within 48 hours to claim your book.

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Facebook Funnies

A few somethings to get you smiling as you start your work week:

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Hope everyone had a great Labor Day.  Work weeks that are missing a Monday just *have* to be great, don’t they???

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Eureka!

F17DHubby and I like to take little trips for our anniversary.  We don’t always have a firm destination in mind.  In fact, that detail is often up in the air until the last minute, in a process that he refers to as ‘spontaneous’ and what I call ‘indecisive’. Ultimately we hop in the convertible and tool away for a spot we haven’t been before.  This year we had more problem than usual coming up with a destination.  OK, to be truthful, he went through *nine* possibilities before I finally wrested the decision from him and came up with our spot this year–Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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I can imagine you scratching your heads.  Let me explain.  We like to go to the Ozarks with family, but couldn’t swing it this year with everyone’s schedules.  So I merely suggested going further south to the Table Rock area.  Doing an online search, I became intrigued by Eureka Springs.  So knowing nothing more than what I’d read online, we headed off.

index_537_2205656071Nestled at the foot of the Ozark mountains, it was utterly charming.  We stayed at The Crescent Hotel, built in 1886, and it came with a history filled with scandal, con men and the requisite ghosts.  The entire downtown district is on the National Historic Registry.  It’s filled with Victorian architecture (which I love) and unique little shops, restaurants and bars.

456CThe history of the town was even more interesting.  The area wasn’t a town at all until the ‘healing springs’ in the area made it a destination spot.  There are twelve springs in the vicinity, some right in the center of town.  Blue Springs, shown here is just a few miles away.  It pumps 38 million gallons of water daily and no one knows exactly where the water comes from.  It was considered a sacred place by the local Indian tribes centuries ago, and the Cherokee camped there on the infamous Trail of Tears.  More about the town’s history can be found here:  http://www.eurekasprings.com/historical/

The area is also filled with caverns, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen.  One once hosted Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington for a jazz concert.  We took a tour through one that took forty-five minutes to walk through.  It’s easy for me to get lost in time in areas like these…to imagine myself hundreds of years earlier, walking the same steps as those earliest inhabitants.

SAMSUNGHere’s an example of the Victorian architecture found there.  I *want* this house.  I covet it for my very own.

The town’s motto is “Eureka Springs.  Where the misfits fit.”  Which gives you a clue to the varied people we ran into during our brief stay.  Alas, none of them were ghosts, although every building we visited had a haunted history.

Of course, my mind turned to plots for books.  The town was so historied and peopled by such distinctive characters, it cries out for a plot of its very own.  But for days all I could think of were stories suitable for contemporary romance, which I don’t write.  Until I saw the springs.  Ah.  Now the murder and mayhem possibilities arose.  My muse had finally wakened.  She went into over drive when we toured the cavern.  She’s dark that way.

There were a few bumps in the road, to the tune of two new tires and a power steering pump for the convertible along the way 🙂  But all in all, it was a place that had me mentally vowing to return to.

Have you ever happened upon a place that speaks to you on some level?  One that delights and captivates, and makes you promise to visit it again? 

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