Dish wars

My friend, she’s the oldest of seven kids, was talking about doing dishes as a kid and I flashed back to the dish wars at our house.

I am the oldest and was the fastest dish washer. I just wanted to get it over with. My younger sister (by 11 months) was an epic staller and usually the dryer. And if she found one miniscule particle on a dish, she gleefully dumped it back in the dish water.

I got to be an epic stacker of dishes in the drainer. One time since my sister was epically stalling, I built an epic 3-foot tall tower of dishes. Mom was not happy.

My mother-in-law told me she stretched the family budget and splurged on a dishwasher because she couldn’t stand to listen to her kids fighting over washing the dishes. And they were all four years apart and she worked afternoons so she only heard the fights on weekends.

Dish wars were either valuable life lessons I can use in my writing –  goal, motivation, conflict, Deb Dixon talks about in her fabulous book, “Goal, Motivation, Conflict, The Building Blocks of Good Fiction” or it was just pointless bickering – which I guess I can also use in my writing.

Goal: get dishes done. Motivation:  So I could watch TV, go to a friend’s house, read a book, or do homework. Conflict: working with younger sister who stalled and put clean dishes back in the water for me to rewash, or washed them herself, super slow, so I had to wait for the next one.

The only dish wars at our house these days (as empty nesters) is the best way to stack dishes in the dishwasher. (I am still a epic stacker). My husband, an engineer, believes he knows best. I, as the person who usually empties out the clean dishes, believe I know the best way to cram as many dishes as possible into the machine so the dishes come out clean. Again, this may be pointless bickering or a good life lesson.

At this point, I’m betting on a good life lesson. All those dishes have to count for something.

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Read an excerpt from “In the Depths”

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Chapter 1
Damn her editor. She was such a hard ass.
Becca Paxton tried for the fifth time to reach a town councilwoman for a comment following a stupid remark she’d made at the council table during a meeting.
Councilwoman Franks was obviously dodging Becca’s calls and the copy desk was waiting.
The council meeting had run past midnight after she’d pulled an eight-hour day before the meeting. Becca was at the end of her eight-hour shiftand her patience.
Her focus was shot. She couldn’t write another word if she had to.
Sleepshe wanted sleep and the delicious, blue-eyed, sandy-haired man who’d taken over her dreams.
They were so real she felt herself flushing and wet just thinking about him.
“Cheryl,” she called to her editor, “she won’t answer or call back. I left her my office and cell number.
Cheryl peered at her over her reading glasses. “Did you text her?”
Mike, her colleague, looked over at her, rolled his eyes, and winced.
Becca gritted her teeth. “I don’t have her cell phone number. City Hall wouldn’t give it to me.”
Cheryl stared at her laptop and didn’t answer her.
Fuck this.
“I’m heading out,” Becca said. She packed her laptop iits soft case and slung it and her purse over her shoulder.
Mike followed her out. They both paused for a beat in the parking lot. Becca felt the island breeze on her skin and watched as the sun slipped closer toward the ocean.
“It’s easy to forget this, isn’t it?” Mike said.
They were both island transplants from small towns in the Midwest and hired in at the Kauai Gazette on the same day.
“Got any plans?” he said.
She and Mike were only friends. He was deliriously happy with Cerissa, who Becca found offbeat, quirky, sweet, and delightful.
“Sleep,” she said. “Lots of it. I may actually use my comp time tomorrow.”
“Glenn from sports keeps asking me about you. Have lunch with the guy. Put him out of his misery.”
Becca laughed. “I’ll think about it. Go home to Cerissa.”
He waved goodbye, and she stowed her computer in the backseat of her Corolla. She glanced in her rear view mirror and cringed.
Haggard blue eyes ringed with dark circles stared back at her. She’d pulled her shoulder-length blonde hair, which had lightened a bit in the island sun, into a pony tail which only drew more attention to her pale skin.
She’d only dated a couple guys since she got the staff writer job a year ago. Eager to get a foothold and make a name for herself, she’d focused on her job and worked a lot
of nights on her beat. She should let Mike fix her up with Glenn.
He was hot and real. An island native, his dark hair and eyes and firm, heavy-set build turned more than one female head.
So why did she only want to shut her eyes so a guy with a lean, surfer’s body and amazing hands could do things to her she’d never done with anybody when she was awake?
She pulled into her apartment complex as her cell phone pinged.
It was a text from Councilwoman Franks.
She texted Cheryl the councilwoman’s response, copied and pasted it into Cheryl’s email, called her editor’s desk phone and left a message.
She called Councilwoman Franks back, but she didn’t answer.
Her text had been delivered. She sent another asking her to confirm receipt and added that she’d called Franks, but got no response.
Cheryl texted back yes, no “good job,” no “nice follow up,” or even “thankyou.”
Becca rested her head on her steering wheel. She loved Kauai, known as the Garden Island, even though she was terrified to swim in the vast expanse of the ocean, something she’d only discovered after she moved from the mainland.
She did fine in pools. She’d grown up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and had made occasional trips with her family up to Lake Michigan when she was growing up. She never went in past her waist and only put her feet into the Pacific.
Her younger brother and sister, Keith and Cara, who were inseparable as children and still close, dove without fear into the whitecaps while she dogpaddled close to shore, the odd one out.
Her father spent most of his time making sure her mother took her anti-psychotic meds. Becca wasn’t asked to join in her younger siblings antics, which seemed silly to her, anyway.
So Becca grew up with her nose stuck in a book, magazine, or newspaper and joined Keith and Cara outside for a game of horse or burn, only at her parents’ urging.
Someone tapped on the window.
She jumped. Cold sweat trickled down her back. How could she have left herself so vulnerable? She kept her hand on her cell phone.
The police she talked to on the crime part of her beat always said not to fight for property.
She turned her head to look at the person who knocked.
It was himthe guy from her dreams.
Was she falling prey to her mother’s mental illness?
“No,” she screamed.
Another car pulled next to her and the guy standing beside her car was gone.
The older lady in the other vehicle didn’t spare her a glance as she got out of her car, her ear glued to a cell phone.
Shaking, Becca got out of her car, stood on unsteady legs, grabbed her stuff, walked into the building, got on the elevator, and made her way to her third floor apartment. She dropped her stuff on her tiny kitchen table.
She didn’t think her dreams could be a sign of psychosis. Her dream man did not ask her to harm herself or others.
The last thing she wanted now was to shut her eyes. She sank into her couch and did a search on her cell phone on symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Was she experiencing a brief psychotic episode? Some of the symptoms fit—seeing and feeling things that weren’t there. The information said these episodes were triggered by severe stress, such as death of a loved one or a natural disaster. A cranky editor didn’t qualify.
Her heart, which had been hammering in her chest since the knock on her car window, slowed and against her will her eyes closed, pulling her into a dreamless sleep.
Ethan paced the great hall of the Garnet City.
What was he thinking startling Becca like that when she was so mentally exhausted? His sire Thobian said he was impatient and told him to wait, but his need to touch her in her waking state was too strong.
It was easy to slip through the portal and bridge time and space because the autumnal equinox drew near. He’d looked into the quartz crystals a full earth year ago and saw Becca, his twin flame. His life and world had come alive and made sense.
She didn’t know her destiny was with him under the vast expanse of ocean that she feared. He had taken her in her dreams, repeatedly, to their mutual delight.
Lovion, the ranking member of the Ruling Council, smirked. “She screamed at the sight of you. She must come with you willingly.”
“Her mother’s illness makes her fearful,” Thobian said.
Ethan’s sire held a seat on the Ruling Council but cast only one vote. In cases of deadlock, Lovion cast the deciding vote, and he hated land dwellers, even those who could take sea form.
“She is mine,” Ethan said it quietly and calmly. The members of the council, except for Thobian, looked shocked at Ethan’s words. Lovion sneered.
“He can be spared from his duties for a time,” Thobian said.
Sea forms ensured to their best ability that under water ecosystems remained viable in the wake of natural disruptions and those caused by land forms.
Ethan’s mother Lara and his sire Thobian chanted ancient words of protection. Ethan bowed his head in thanks.
He grabbed a triangular quartz crystal and the ruby necklace he would give to Becca to signify their joining, sheathed his lucky knife, and headed through the winding caverns to the portal.
Becca sat on the beach and watched the surfers. She tried not to think about work. Things were heating up in the local election coming up in November in the town she covered as part of her beat. She loved writing about crime, education, and human interest stories, but she didn’t like the government part of her beat. She checked the time.
She had agreed to have lunch with Glenn from sports. He covered high school sports and worked lots of nights, so lunch worked out best.
Becca glanced at the surfers. One caught her attention.
He had golden skin over a lean, toned swimmer’s body and sun streaked hair like the guy in her hallucination. How many surfers looked like that in Kauai? She gathered her things as the surfer drew closer. She needed to get ready for her lunch date.
She sat inside at Zeke’s restaurant, a Kauai institution, waiting for Glenn. He’d texted to say an editorial meeting had run late and he was on his way. She looked at the memaid carved of wood that hung near the bar.
An exquisite necklace had been carved so it hung just above her bare breasts. Her tail was resplendent in shades of crimson and turquoise
“It’s a persistent legend.” It was Glenn. He kissed her cheek and took a seat across from her. “Sorry, my editor—”
Becca laughed. “Say no more.
They placed their orders, shrimp for her and Mahi Mahi for him. Her eyes were drawn back to the carving.
Glenn smiled and squeezed her hand. Disappointingly, she felt no spark. He felt warm and comforting, like a friend. “The oldtimers say their elders believed they existed.”
Her thoughts strayed to her dream lover and the surfer.
“Do you surf?” she said.
He kept hold of her hand. “Sure.” He chuckled. “I grew up here, so yeah. Went to U-H then came right back to this rock. Borin’ huh? Why did you come?”\
“I don’t think it’s boring,” she said. “I don’t know why I came here. I needed a job, but there are newspapers and TV stations in Fort Wayne, where I grew up.”
“A Hoosier.”
“Yep,” she said, making her voice sound as flat and Midwestern as she could.
He laughed, still holding her hand. “You’re beautiful. You could be on camera.”
She shuddered. “I barely passed my speech class at I-U. If you put a mic in my face, I can’t string two words together.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, letting go of her hand when his cell phone vibrated.
“My editor,” he said. “One second.” He ended the call quickly and they finished their food. The shrimp was succulent and beyond delicious.
She stared at the carving of the mermaid. “The detail is unbelievable,” she said, popping the last bite of shrimp into her mouth. “There are males, too,” Glenn said, “allegedly.”
She laughed at his reporter-speak.
“Do you miss your family?” he asked.
Did she?  “I was never especially close to my brother and sister. They’re still in college, I-U and Purdue. My parentsmy mother’s fine when she’s on her meds.” She dropped her gaze. “She doesn’t always take them, she feels good, and then she stops. And Dad has to keep a sharp eye on her. He’s a cop, so he doesn’t miss much.”
“That’s rough,” he said.
“Not always. She’s great when she’s great,” she said.He reached for her hand as his phone vibrated again.
“Deadlines,” he muttered. He put cash on the table. “I got to get back. Stay and have dessert if you want.” He kissed her cheek and squeezed her shoulder. “Are you busy Friday night?”
Before she could answer, he said, “I’ll call you, ’kay?” She smiled and he left her. She admired the way he moved through the room with an athlete’s grace for such a big, solid guy, but she feltnothing, not one tingle.
She didn’t want dessert so the waiter brought her a selection of tea bags.
Ethan wanted to physically remove the island dweller’s hands from Becca’s skin. He forced himself to take deep, even breaths until the dark-haired land dweller put his mouth on her cheek and hand on her shoulder. Ethan stood so fast the chair he sat on fell to the ground behind him, startling some elders sitting near him.
He smiled in apology, righted the chair, and made his way to Becca.

Losing a piece of Paris

This past March, I lost a bit of Paris, the pashmina I bought from a vendor on the Champs-Elysees, on my first and only trip to Paris nine years ago.

I’m wearing it in this head shot. I muscled my way into this trip when a good friend and colleague, Linda, told me she and her best friend were going to take a girl’s trip to Paris. I asked to tag along, and said I’d sleep on a pull out. Linda’s friend decided not to go, so it was just the two of us.

I got Rosetta language tapes from my local library to learn some Francais, and learned how to ask where the women’s bathroom was, although I had to ask how to flush the toilet, and purchased three tickets for the first level of La Tour Eiffel, rather than one ticket for the third level. (They were very nice about refunding my money and getting me the ticket I wanted).

We saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, toured the Musee d’Orsay and got stranded on a Metro train near Notre Dame that stopped its runs for that day.

I’ll never forget the man who saw me and Linda sitting there, in an empty train, waiting for it to start up again.

He said, in English, “Train is done.”

We got off, went shopping, and drank the best brandy I’ve sipped in my life.

This week Harlequin discontinued a number of their lines, leaving many wonderful authors and editors stranded.

Those lines are done.

I hope they went shopping and sipped brandy.

I can buy another pashmina (although it will never be quite the same).

The Harlequin editors and authors will hopefully find new homes and places for their work to shine.

But Harlequin will never be quite the same, either. Pieces of it are gone.

But I have the images on film (digitally, and hard copies) of both Paris and me wearing my pashmina and we have the stories these Harlequin authors and editors worked on to make them the best they could be, in print and digitally.

I’m not sure I will get back to the Champs-Elysees (although I would return tomorrow if I could) or if Harlequin will bring new lines in to replace the ones they’ve cut,  or bring those authors and editors back onto the train.

Sometimes we lose things.

And it just plain sucks.


The greatest love story never sold

In my day job, I had the privilege of coming across one of the best love stories I’ve ever heard or read.

And as a romance reader and writer, I’ve heard and read a lot.

But it would never sell.

It’s a December/December romance with no back story, which makes it so amazing.

Think of  “The Notebook” without the back story, but the couple are in good health – such good health they roller skate nearly every day.

At ages 74 and 89, Carole and Russell skated at the same roller rink. Carole was reeling from the sudden death of her husband and although her balance was bad, she always wanted to take up roller skating, so she did.

And she got good at it.

Her locker at the roller rink was next to Russell’s. She found him easy to talk to, but she had no interest in dating anyone.

They worked together to serve coffee and donuts to the “skating family,” and went out after skating sessions with the group for lunch.

Carole enjoyed spending time with Russell so much, she asked him out.

Russell hesitated. He liked her –  a lot – but he knew she suffered a terrific loss with her husband, was aware of their age difference, meaning he would likely die before she did, and wanted to spare her another round of grief.

But he took her out for a hamburger, and let her know that he had no intentions of getting married again. He’d lost his first wife in the early ’80s after 30 years of marriage and his second marriage failed.

Carole told him she didn’t have any plans to marry again either.

So they dated and skated.

And on the wheels of love, they grew inseparable.

Russell wanted Carole to go with him to a reunion of the World War II veterans who served aboard his ship. He joined up when he was only 17 in 1945.

Carole told him she would go with him, but not as his mistress.

“She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said.


So they got hitched, moved in together and skate together four times a week.

And they are in love. She calls him “honey” with a twinkle in her eye, touches him often, and really laughs at his jokes.

It’s the real deal.

And it would never sell.

And that’s just a damn shame.





Facing fear

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Matisse said creativity takes courage. He was speaking of placing colors, but this is more than true of placing words on a page or screen.

I belonged to a critique group a few years back. We met in a local Borders book store, that’s how long ago it was, and one night one of our casual members, Mitch, brought his friend, a lovely older woman who was losing her sight to the group.

Mitch gave us some of her work to read, which were written in an essay form from the point of view of Violet, a fictional, delightful, eccentric older woman. She had written these, a great number of them, when she was younger.

They were wonderful.

And she had never submitted them for publication.

She was afraid – not of rejection, but that someone would steal the character. She said someone in the advertising business had told her years ago to be very careful with Violet.

And she was. I don’t think she ever sent it anywhere.

Another member of our group thought she would self-publish her children’s books because she didn’t want to face rejection.

Rejection simply sucks.

Whether you are pitching to agent face-to-face, getting e-rejections, or never receiving anything back at all from an agent or editor you’ve submitted to, it’s disheartening, to say the least. And it can make you scared to keep trying, or simply want to give up.

I nearly did.

I asked a member of the local chapter of my Romance Writers of America group, who writes as Anne Lawson, “When do you decide that it’s just not working?”

She begged me not to give up and to submit to her publisher.

I did and I have eight novellas under contract with them.

Still, I face rejection. And it sucks.

Another member of my RWA chapter, who has ten books published (or soon to be) with Harlequin, and praise for her one of her books in her suspense series from author R.L. Stine, said she got over 100 rejections before she got published.

There’s hope.

But only if you let your work see the light of day.

And with that may come rejection.

But I think of Violet who languished in file cabinets for years. I so hope that lovely lady got past the fear of someone stealing the delightful character she created and submitted it for publication, or published it herself to great acclaim, as it deserved.

And quirky Violet gives me courage to keep writing and sending things out.









Why I read and write romance

I had the privilege to interview Sara after she turned 104, as a staff writer for a local newspaper.

Sara’s brother taught her to dance the Charleston when he returned home from World War I, much to the chagrin of her very strict Italian immigrant parents. She never dated her husband Vito unchaperoned until she married him when she was 17, in what she hinted at was an arranged marriage.

And she spends her days reading romances.

In the days before e-readers, everyone knew what you were reading.

I really started to devour romances when my children were babies. I got disdainful looks from people at the beach, my daughter’s dance class and on airplanes after they glanced at the cover. I wrote a couple, had an agent for one year, but no success.

I finished college with my journalism major and got a job as staff writer where I’ve been for 17 years.

I got serious about writing romance again as our nest emptied. I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and got some real help, guidance and encouragement, and have eight books under contract with Black Opal Books. Four are out, “Under the Riptides,” “Reclaiming Lexi,” “Double Dare, and “In the Depths,” (just released) “Maybe your next one will be a mystery,” my  83-year-old mother has said more than once. And my father, also 83, says, “It’s not that I wouldn’t read a book with that content…it’s that my daughter wrote it.”

I get it.

I guess.

Then I think of Sara.

She lives on her own in an apartment (not assisted living) throughout the week and her family takes her out on the weekends. I asked her how she spent her time, and what her favorite things were, did she watch TV?

“I don’t watch TV,” she said. “I read.”

“What?” I asked.


She held up the current one she was reading and pointed to a neat stack she had on a table in her tidy apartment.


She raised two daughters with Vito. When her daughters were teenagers, Sara worked for the war effort during World War II in a plant in Detroit that made airplanes.

“They call me Rosie the Riveter,” she said. “If you don’t put the rivets on the right place, the planes might have blown up. When the war was over, they fired everybody to call the former workers back, but they kept me. It was nice. I had a lot of friends there,” she said.

The company wanted her to work the night shift, but her husband didn’t want her to work nights, so she quit.

She was married to Vito for 56 years until he passed away in the 1985. She didn’t remarry.

And now she gets in lost love stories, as I do, reading them and writing them.

I don’t know that Sara will read my stories, or if she is still with us.

But she is still with me, with every word I write.



Cover reveal for “In the Depths”

Release date is April 8.

Becca Paxton spends her days trying to cover news and write stories for a newspaper on Hawaii’s Garden Island to please her bitchy editor. She spends her nights asleep in the arms of a dream lover with sandy brown hair, turquoise eyes, and a toned surfer’s body who takes her to sexual heights she never knew existed. Problem is Ethan is a merman who knows Becca’s destiny lies with him under the sea, and she’s afraid of vast expanses of water. He’s wanted her and waited for her since he first glimpsed her in the crystals many earth years ago. Can he convince her she really is a sea form, as he is, and he is really the man of her dreams? And can she leave her life on land and the parents she loves to be with him in a strange world?

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