Monday, August 27, 2012

New Book By Beth Ciotta!

Friends, I am delighted to announce a terrific new book by the fabulously talented Beth Ciotta! 

How do I know it's terrific?  Beth is one of my dearest friends and I read this book right when she finished it, so I have first hand enjoyment and knowledge.

You don't have to take my word for it.  Here's what some other folks have said:

“Rich with emotional complexity and a cast of wonderfully rich characters, Fool for Love is an absolute treat.”—Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author

“Ciotta writes with style, wit and heart. Can’t wait for the next one!”
Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author

"Ciotta’s wit adds spark to this tale of extended-family joys and sorrows, smalltown living, and complicated characters with secrets that will keep readers waiting eagerly for the next Monroe family story."—Publishers Weekly on Fool For Love

Fool for Love is available for sale tomorrow, August 28th.  You can pre-order it now in print or for your e-reader at Amazon.  Just click here!

Congratulations, Beth.  Here's wishing you great success, my wonderful, sweet friend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Whale of a Time!

I've been away from this blog for months.  I apologize, but I've been blogging regularly about my journey post-weight loss surgery over at my other blog - Weighty Matters.

It was never my intention to slight you here, and I promise to soon post with greater frequency.  I'm about to launch myself back into more fiction writing, beginning with a graduate course on Writing Romance that's being taught through McDaniel College by the incomparable Jennifer Crusie and Dr. Pamela Regis.  Ideas, characters and scenes for a new book are bubbling in my brain.  It's exciting!

Life has really been terrific for the last seven months, not that it was bad before!  I feel great and my spirit is invigorated.

I just returned from my annual vacation to Cape Cod where I had a wonderful time with family and friends.  I also took a whale watching trip out of Barnstable Village to Stellwagon Bank.  We saw at least a dozen humpback whales, including a mother and calf, as well as two minke whales.  I was able to get some cool photos and a couple of videos.  Since the last time I posted I showed you dolphin shots from the Keys, I think sharing whale pics today is in order!

Humpback whale surfacing to breathe.

A different humpback diving down to feed.

Humpback calf (probably around 8 months old) breaching.

Adult humpback slapping its huge pectoral flippers.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Boating and Dolphins = Joy

It's no secret to anyone that I love being out on the water.  I have had a bad jones for a boat trip for weeks now.  I hadn't been out on my boat since before Christmas!  That's ridiculous, but there were circumstances.  I was preparing for surgery.  Then, I wasn't cleared to go on the boat until my month follow up appointment in February.  At that point, the mighty wind picked up in the Keys and continued to blow for what seemed like weeks -- or at least every weekend.  I got a Sunday morning when I thought I could at least take a little ride and discovered that my steering wasn't working.

Got the steering repaired, but the wind and bad weather continued.  There were great conditions one week in April, but, of course, it was the week that I was away! 

Today, everything came together!  I woke to a gorgeous day with a light breeze and great tide level.  I was ready to go by 10 a.m.  Got my stuff together, climbed on the boat and lowered the lift.  I was just about to launch when I realized that my boat was listing badly to starboard.  I boosted back up and called the service guy.  He was free and came down to check things out.

Wellll....although I'd boosted the bow up a few times to drain out water that might have accumulated from all of the heavy rains, things were trapped in the starboard hull and that side's bilge pump wasn't working.  Rick grabbed a wrench and unscrewed the hull plug, then we waited while gallons of water poured out.

So, a brief delay, but not a fun-stopper.  With the boat now properly drained, we fired up the engines, checked the steering, and launched off the lift.  This also gave him a chance to feel how the steering was reacting since he'd replaced the fluid pump a few weeks ago.  He wants to make some adjustments when he comes to fix the bilge.

We cruised through the harbor out Sister Creek to the Atlantic.  Once out, the wind was higher and the water choppy, but my boat could handle it.  I throttled up and we cruised over the waves.  It was glorious!  Water like melted blue topazes as far as we could see and a brilliant blue sky.  We kept up the speed and enjoyed the view, the speed, the sunshine, and the crisp, cool breeze.

We went around Boot Key and out as far as the hump of the Seven Mile Bridge before I turned us toward the home port.  We were a couple of football field lengths away from the channel markers when we spotted the first dorsal fin.  We slowed down to look around and soon spotted multiple fins in different groups all around us.

I grabbed my camera and started snapping, which is not easy to do when the boat rocks and one doesn't know where the next dolphin will pop up.  By my estimation, there were 10 to 12 dolphins in the area, including two or three youngsters that were less than two years old.

I am extremely fortunate to be around dolphins every day at work, but I never get tired of seeing these amazing animals.  In the harbor outside my house or out in the open water, seeing them swim, play or just hang out never fails to light my spirit and fill me with joy.  What a great day!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Help with Color Choices, Please!

I'm about to move into my next home decorating projects.   I'm focusing on outside my house, beginning with my porch.  I spend a lot of time out on that porch by myself, with the pups, and with friends.  The view is lovely.  My house is along side a peaceful harbor.  A person can sit out there and breathe in the fresh air, watch boats and the occasional dolphin or manatee pass by.  There's usually a breeze blowing that can cool off even the hottest day.

I shot this picture at dawn one morning.

Since I spend so many wonderful hours on my porch, I want it to look nice and be comfortable.  The porch columns badly need to be patched and then repainted.  The concrete deck has needed to be repainted for a couple of years.  My porch furniture, a very (like at least 60 years) old wicker set, has definitely succumbed to years of salt water and heat.  It can't be salvaged.

I met with my favorite contractor today.  He's ready to do the job during one of my upcoming trips.   All I need to do now is pick out the paint color for the concrete deck.  That's causing me a bit of a dilemma.  I can't decide.

The house is painted a light purple -- sort of a faded violet or little-bit-darker-lavender. 

This photo of Nat and Pyxi was taken in the afternoon.  I'm going to miss that wicker sofa.  I loved the fabric when I first got the cusions redone.  They've faded, obviously, but the yellow was so vibrant and the colors in the print so sweet and cheerful!

This shows the color in the early evening about an hour before sunset.

I'm torn.  The porch columns, railing and ceiling will be painted white.  White does not seem to be a practical choice for an outside deck.  I love color.  John, the contractor, suggested a rich blue.  That's a possibility.  I went online to look at color wheels. (Home Depot's closed already today or I'd have run up to look at their paint cards.)  I was positive that this would help me find just the right blue.  Sure it gave me ideas, but not in the blue family.

Look at that center wheel.  Yes, I know that there's a pie wedge of blues on one side of the purple-lavender-violet slice, but look at the other side.  Pinks! 

So, I ask you.  Couldn't I choose something from the pink pie slice for the floor, or would that be too bizarre?

Should I mention that, while browsing catalogues for new furniture, I fell in love with a "reimagined" plantation chair and one of the finish choices is eggplant?

Tell me friends.  Am I on the verge of going too far over the top?  The plantation chair is a definite.  I can, I guess, be swayed on the concrete color.

Please.  Share your thoughts!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Goodbye, Cousin

The last blog post that I wrote here back in early March talked about learning that one of my cousins -- the first of our generation -- was going to be a grandmother when her oldest daughter gives birth in August.  In that post, I wrote:

I hadn't see my cousin in several years. When I did a couple of months ago at my uncle's service, all I could say was, "Wow!" She looks terrific!" She's a couple of years older than I am which puts her in her upper 50s. She's as attractive and sexy as she was when we were younger. I could tell by the look in his eyes, that her gentleman friend thinks so too.

I ended the post saying:
I'm happy for that not-yet-born child who's guaranteed to have one kick-ass grandma when he or she arrives in the world.

In a shocking, sudden, and heart-breaking twist of fate, that baby is never going to meet his or her maternal grandmother.  On April 21st, my cousin Jean was critically injured in a motorcycle accident that put her in a coma from which she would not wake up.  Yesterday, a week later, she left this world.

I'm heartsick at the loss of this beautiful, vibrant, woman.  As deep a sorrow as I feel, it can't compare to what my aunt, cousins, and Jean's children are experiencing. 

Jean was always a spirited, feisty woman.  Even when we were kids.  Although my family lived in New Jersey, and these cousins and my aunt and uncle lived in Connecticut, we saw each other throughout the year enough for us to be friends as well as relatives.  We all looked forward to the times when our family would travel up to their house, or when their folks would bring them down to ours.  Countless memories of sleepovers at our grandparents' home -- the four of us girls sharing an upstairs bedroom.  When I was 14, Jean and her older sister Joan spent much of the summer with my family in New Jersey.  They included me in their activities and never made me feel like a tag along pest.  We cleaned out a room over the garage and made it into a sort of club house.  We dubbed one of Dad's duck decoys Percival, made him our mascot and called the room Percival's Place. 

Sure, there were a few things we did that we probably shouldn't have, but we were teenagers.  We could have been worse.

Jeanie used to get up before the rest of us so she could get into the bathroom and do her hair and makeup.  I was in awe of her skills.  One visit, she insisted that my eyebrows needed to be tamed and shaped.  (She was right.)  I swear it took an hour of her plucking and I yelped the entire time.  I'm lucky she didn't get fed up and stop, but she stuck it out with great results.

No surprise that she became a professional hair stylist. 

When I was 18 or 19, she and Joan again spent a couple of weeks with us in the summer.  That was one of the years that our family hosted a couple of handsome tennis players when they played a tournament in town for a week.  (It was a big house.  We had room.)   We all needed hair cuts so Jean set up a makeshift station in our driveway one summer evening and went to work.  Rock music, Rolling Rock beer and lots of laughter filled the summer air that evening while we got our new looks.

I was working at a radio station and a Jersey bar band that I was crazy over was traveling the state to promote their record.  They were due to visit our station and I was thrilled.  Jeanie got up early with me that morning to do my hair and makeup.  I felt incredibly glamorous all day long.

Over the years of adulthood, we didn't see each other often.  Her older sister Joan and I kept in touch on a more regular basis.  A year before I moved to Florida, I went up to Connecticut and we were all at a Mother's Day barbecue at my aunt and uncle's home.  It was good to spend time with them. 

In recent years, my aunt and Joan kept me in the loop on everyone's activities.  So I knew about the divorce, Jeanie moving to New Hampshire and switching careers.  When we saw each other last December, she said something special that resonated and let met know that we felt the same way about each other, despite the miles and time that separated us.  "I know we don't see each other much, but we're cousins and I love you, Mary."  Right back at you, Jeanie.

We "friended" each other on Facebook and had more frequent contact than we'd enjoyed in years.

 It's so unreal that she's gone and in such a devastating way.  When I saw her last,  she was as beautiful as she was when we were kids, teens and much younger women. Apart from the sadness over the death of her father, I could tell that she was living a happy life and enjoying herself. 
Her boyfriend seemed like a really nice guy and he visibly adored and loved her.

 I have to believe that she was loving life and enjoying herself, hugging Jay around the waist as she rode with him on the back of his Harley. I want to think of her laughing and happy and not knowing what was about to happen.

I will remember her spirit and hold onto the belief that she's at peace in Heaven with her father, our grandparents and hers, and my mother.  God bless you, cousin.  I love you.

April 20, 1956 - April 28, 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

Another New Generation

My aunt called me last night to chat.  She wanted to know how I was doing post-surgery.  I wanted to know how she's doing since my uncle passed away in December.  Toward the end of the phone call she remembered something that she'd meant to tell me before.  She's going to be a great-grandmother!  The older daughter of one of my cousins will deliver her first child in August. 

Although I know that, age-wise, my cousins and I are old enough to be grandparents, hearing that one of us is actually closing in on that status, threw me a little, even as it made me smile, delighted. 

I hadn't see my cousin in several years.  When I did a couple of months ago at my uncle's service, all I could say was, "Wow!"  She looks terrific!  She's a couple of years older than I am which puts her in her upper 50s.  She's as attractive and sexy as she was when we were younger.  I could tell by the look in his eyes, that her gentleman friend thinks so too. 

By contrast, I don't ever remember any of my great-aunts or great-uncles seeming young.  I'm trying to do the math in my head.  I was 24 when my grandmother died at age 83.  I think she was the second oldest in her family.  So, when I was, say 10, she was 69.  Her youngest sibling would have been 53 and the others would have ranged in age upward from there.  I guess to a 10 year old, those in their 60s are old. Child eyes don't see the vibrancy, the beauty, or, God forbid, the sexiness.

Some of my closest friends are a bit older than I am and have been grandparents for years.  It doesn't seem so strange to me, nor have they lost their attractive qualities. 

 At 54, I don't feel old.  If I met an interesting 60 year old man, I'd think about dating him rather than considering him over the hill.

So, I'm really not sure why the news threw me. Maybe it's because this is another milestone for my generation in the family. It's a big mature step for someone who remembers when we both were crazy about The Monkees.

I'm going to put away the feeling of being rocked on my heels a little and just revel in the happiness.  I'm so glad that my aunt has this to look forward to when she's still adjusting to live without my uncle -- to whom she was married for 60 plus years.  I think it's great that my cousin is going to have a grandbaby to cuddle.

I'm happy for that not-yet-born child who's guaranteed to have one kick-ass grandma when he or she arrives in the world.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Purging Titles

Over the last year or so, I realized that, prepare yourself for the shock bibliophiles, I have too many books in my house.  The paperbacks are double stacked on my floor to ceiling bookshelves.  My master bedroom was overrun with bags of books.  The office that could qualify me as a hoarder had boxes teetering on other boxes of books until I couldn't find the room to even walk into the room. 

I knew I had to do something about the situation before the floors caved or the stacks grew to such height that one day the boxes would tumble and bury me and the dogs.  Going through the boxes and bags was a task I set for myself every weekend.  Every weekend because one Sat-Sun set would arrive and I'd find many other things to do other than sort through the books.  When you love books and reading as much as I do, books are not just paper pages between covers.  They matter.  The stories don't just entertain, they transport us to fabulous adventures and introduce us to people for whom we grow to care.

One of the reasons that I bought a Kindle a few years ago was so that I could continue to supply my voracious reading habit without overwhelming my already jam-packed space.

When I scheduled my surgery, I asked a good friend if she would come down and stay with me while I recovered.  I knew the doctors would put some restrictions on my activities and I also knew that I would get bored recuperating at home without company.  My brother and sister-in-law stayed with me for the first week, then Marilyn arrived.  Mar has a lot of energy and was eager to help.  She readily agreed to help me with the book sorting endeavor.

I wasn't allowed to lift any boxes or bags so Mar dragged them out of my office to my recliner.  It took me forever to go through each container.  I lifted each book out and studied it.  Some were no-brainers.  Heather Graham, Jenny Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, Anne Stuart, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts - automatic keepers forever.  Books by other close friends -- also keepers.

Books that were freebies in gift bags from conferences or contests -- into the "donate" box.  Even if I liked the book, I had to be ruthless.  If it wasn't a book that I was likely to read again, it had to go.  Some of them were books that I'd greatly enjoyed.  Take the J.D. Robb (also Nora Roberts) In Death series.  As much as I love Eve and Roark and the mysteries, I knew that I was unlikely to re-read the entire series.  I'll buy the new releases on my Kindle. 

The project took me a couple of hours and a lot of tough self-talk, particularly when I dithered over some of the titles.  I literally sighed over some of the books before I gently added them to a box.  When finally finished I had five boxes ready to donate and one half-full box of books to keep.  Before I could change my mind or second-guess my decisions, Marilyn loaded them into my car. 

I took them to our local library where a very nice man unloaded the boxes and all of the librarians profusely thanked me for remembering them.  Public libraries by and large suffer from cuts in funding.  Ours sells used books to supplement their income.

It comforts me to know my books will find good new homes where they will be read, appreciated and, hopefully, shared with still other readers.  I also believe that the ones I donated will help gain new fans and dedicated readers for their authors which will spur additional sales.

It's all good.  Really.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It's been a long time since I posted here with any regularity.  For that, I apologize.  I've had a lot going on.  Last summer, I decided to have weight loss surgery -- a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy in which 70% of my stomach was removed.  Once I made the decision and set myself on the path, my life then got consumed with doctor's appointments, medical tests, evaluations, consults and follow-ups.  The sleep test experience that I blogged about a few posts ago was part of that process.

The good news is that, with the exception of being obese with some high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent), I don't have other major issues and was a good candidate for the operation. 

I had the operation on January 25th and am now on the post-op recovery and transition process.  Believe me, it's a process.  I started on a liquid diet two weeks before the surgery.  For the first ten days post-op I was limited to clear liquids.  Now I'm on "full liquids" until I see the doctor again on February 24th.  It's boring, but my remaining stomach is still healing and my digestive system is adjusting.  Boring, but effective.  I've lost 36 pounds as of this morning.

I've started a separate blog, devoted to the surgical process, the changes in my life and health, my past history with weight, food and body image issues, and the promise of an amazing transformation ahead.  If you're interested in joining the discussion of that part of my life, please visit me over at Weighty Matters.

A lot of people have asked why I made this decision now.  I think it's a fair question and one that's sort of universal for anyone who makes a big change.  Why do two people who have lived together in a relationship decide to get married?  Why does someone leave a long time relationship?  Make a drastic career change? Cut off their long blonde hair and dye the remainder red? 

For me, I'd hit the point where I realized that after struggling with diets and my weight for most of my life, I needed to do something serious, some say drastic, and irrevocable.  I'm 54 and my body demonstrated to me on a daily basis that if I continued without change, I would be disabled by the time I reached 60, or I'd die before getting to that age.  This is my line in the sand.

Ten years ago, I made another big change.  I left my home in New Jersey, moved to the Florida Keys, and started a new career that has been the most amazingly wonderful thing for me. 

Two major changes with different motivations:  One motivated by desperation and the realization that it was time to put up or shut up and die; One motivated by the bright promise of being part of a terrific mission and involved in something greater than myself.  

Different motivations but both changes improve the quality of my life.

So, I ask you, readers, what changes have you made in your life?  What changes would you like to make?  Do you know why?  What keeps you from making the steps?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shout Out for Great New Book

Hi, friends,
I know I've been absent for a while.  I'll be back soon with a report on what's kept me from blogging.  For today, however, I want to give a big shout out to my friend, a fabulous author, Lucy March.  Her terrific new book A Little Night Magic hit the streets -- or your favorite e-reading device -- today!

Fresh, funny, charming with characters you'll fall in love with, this book will absolutely win your heart.

Don't take my word for it.  Visit The Bettyverse, a blog community created by Lucy, to read the reviews.

Congratulations, Lucy.  I already can't wait for my next visit to Nodaway Falls.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Hitting the Road - Virtually Speaking!

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope that 2012 is an amazing year for all of us.

I'm starting out the year on the road, in a manner of speaking, by taking part in my first ever blog tour.  Beginning January 3rd and going to the 13th, I'll be interviewed or share guest posts on a variety of different blogs around the Internet.

Come on by and visit me at these sites:

Tuesday, January 3
Interviewed at Blogcritics

Wednesday, January 4
Interviewed at Divine Caroline

Thursday, January 5
Guest Blogging at Waiting on Sunday to Drown

Friday, January 6
Guest Blogging at Allvoices

Monday, January 9
Interviewed at Examiner
Guest Blogging at Open Salon

Tuesday, January 10
Interviewed at Review From Here

Wednesday, January 11
Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Guest Blogging at Shine

Thursday, January 12
Interviewed at American Chronicle

Friday, January 13
Guest Blogging at Broowaha
Reviewed at Waiting on Sunday to Drown

The amazing Tracee Gleichner of and put together the tour.  If you'd like to see the page she composed for me, please click here.

See you on the road!