Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Author, LK Hunsaker

Today's guest is LK Hunsaker, friend and fellow author whom I plan to kidnap one day and take with me to a writer's conference, preferably somewhere warm. Until then, we'll just have to find our "steam" in our writing, LOL. LK makes a great point, in that who we are as people is not necessarily reflected in our characters -- more often we write about who we wish we were, or wish we could be...or take the best (and maybe sometimes the worst) characteristics of those around us and bring them to life...but that's the beauty of writing...we can make our characters be anyone we want them to be. And LK has some special characters she wants to share with us today, characters sharing a very special moment, exploring the power and beauty of human touch, so sit back and enjoy. I know after reading this and other excerpts from Moondrops & Thistles, this exceptional story has moved to the top of my TBR pile. Welcome, LK!

Hello Liana! It’s so nice to come and play today. :-)

While I was trying to come up with something decently creative to post here that I haven’t already said or answered, one of the followers for my blog contest in relation to the tour had a suggestion of a possible topic of discussion:

“I'm waiting for you to reveal something about what inspires you to write the "steamy" parts!”

Now granted, my steamy parts (and I do mean in my books) are not all that steamy. I’m more an inward-looking psychological writer. I’m more mental than touch-feely and to tell the truth, I’m not big on hugs, personally. I have characters who love hugs. And I do like virtual hugs because it sometimes is the thought that counts! And that’s where my steamy parts come in.

How many of you have caught view of the “perfect” man or woman, visually perfect according to your personal taste, and wondered what it would be like to actually touch that person’s face? Has anyone not ever done that? Yes, it’s okay if you’re in a permanent relationship and still do it. From my psych training I fully remember that fantasy is a perfectly normal and very healthy part of life, whatever your status. It can even improve your long-term marriage to fantasize. It’s good for you! It can also be good for your partner, because let’s face it, when you’re happier, your partner is likely to be happier.

I’ve read author interviews where the writer says her heroes are based on her husband. I find it incredibly sweet. I also find it a little too personal for me. Nope, I might grab a few of my husband’s personality traits, such as with Daws and his ability to handle any job that’s thrown at him, which has always had my unfailing admiration, but when it comes to the steamy stuff ... that stays separate.

My personal life and my work are both joined and separate. My fiction is me and yet it’s not.

The steamy parts come from basic biology and the fact that touch is an incredible adrenaline rush as well as a mental stabilizer. Wow, did I just throw ice on the whole romance writing thing? Okay, so it comes from when I read a tender scene or watch one in a movie or see that “perfect” type somewhere and feel the mental rush of possibility, of pulse racing, of “what if,” of how it would feel to touch his face, just once of course. Yes, face touching is prevalent in my books. Sometimes it goes beyond that.

In real life, I would never touch a strange man’s face, regardless of how perfect he is physically. That’s where fiction comes in. Fantasy is healthy. Why else would romance be the #1 best selling genre year after year?

I hope Liana won’t mind that I got so steamy on her blog, but it is appropriate, since she was kind enough to read through my first real love scene, written for Moondrops & Thistles: shorter & spicier edition, and okay it before it went out.

I’m going to leave you with a lead in to that scene. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook of Moondrops short & spicy! And go to my blog next for a chance to win the full print version, personally signed, plus a transforming mug with the cover art, and a Support Our Troops bracelet: http://lkhunsaker.blogspot.com

Moondrops & Thistles: shorter & spicier edition

LK Hunsaker


“What do they do?”

She sighed again. “Mom is the typical homemaker who doesn’t do anything but that. I used to try to get her to do anything else, pick up a craft, play cards with the girls, something. She would never do it. I think because Dad doesn’t want her to do anything else. Can’t tell you how much I resented that she’d let him run her life that way.”

Daws nodded to himself. Made sense. Explained her insistence about being independent, not allowing him to “take charge” as though he might want to. “What does he do?”

“Oh. He lays floors. Or used to. He’s retired now. He also did some cement work. Things like that. And he took care of animals now and then. That changed with the year. We had chickens for a while, goats, turkeys, peacocks that made the most dreadful noise, and a couple of horses he tried to breed but they didn’t seem to like each other much.”

He chuckled. “Man of many interests.”

“Man who couldn’t commit to one thing. Drove Mom crazy.”

“And you.”

She looked up at him, questioning.

“That why you’re determined to stick this job out, like it or not?”

“No.” She turned her eyes forward again, down at the sidewalk. “I’m sticking it out because it’s the one thing I’ve wanted more than anything in the world and I’m not willing to let go of the chance only because a few morons try to stop me.”

By the tone of her voice, Daws decided it was again time to route around. “Have siblings?”

“A few. And I don’t want to try to explain them so how about we let that go?”


“You’re offended now.”

“Not at all.”

"You sound like you are.” She stopped and faced him. “I left all that behind on purpose. It’s no longer part of me. Of my life. Any more than yours seems to be.”

He studied her eyes. So firm, resolved. Of course she had to know better. Your family roots weren’t ever fully left behind. His weren’t, regardless of how he tried. They never would be. Not enough. “I’m sorry you felt you had to put it behind you.”

“Yeah. Well, it happens.”

Daws raised a hand to her face. “If you ever decide you want to talk about it, I’m always willing to listen. But I’ll understand if you don’t.”

“Will you tell me more about yours?”

“Nothing much more to say about mine.”

“I don’t think I believe that, but I’ll give you the same offer.” Deanna brushed his lips, hinting. “Ready to go in yet or are you still afraid of me?”


“To which?”

“Both.” With a quick grin, he led her to his building and walked her up the stairs.

As she settled in, he pulled out two hard lemonades and took them to the couch where she sat with bare feet pulled to her side. Deanna accepted one of the bottles, looked at it quizzically, and peered into his eyes.

“Am I right?”

“How did you know? Did I slip up and tell you?”

He gave her another grin, took a long swallow, and rubbed a hand over her shoulder with a light massage.

“Guess it’s true.” She returned the favor by caressing his leg.

“What’s true?”

“You’re not bothered by feet. At least by my bare feet on your couch.”

He caught her eyes as he took another swallow, and set the drink out of his way. “Are you ticklish?” At her raised eyebrows, he clarified. “Your feet.”


Daws slid his hands around the leg she had resting atop the other and coerced it gently until her knee bent upward and her foot rested against his leg. He soothed a hand over top. “Can’t imagine anyone bothered by them.”

“Well, it’s not very classy, I guess, to run around the house with bare feet. Not sure why it isn’t since they are clean...” She broke off as he began to massage her foot.

He watched her face to be sure it didn’t tickle and he wasn’t too rough. Her eyes closed, her head dropped back, and her expression ... made his body tighten. It took little encouragement to get her to shift to the end of the couch, allowing access to both feet. And she pried her lemonade between her thighs for security, to prevent spilling it as her body loosened, relaxed.

“That feels incredible.”

“Does it?” He pressed his thumbs up the middle of her feet, watched her breasts rise as her shoulders arched back. The buttons of her blouse pulled against their holes. Her fingers gripped the edge of his couch.

Suddenly, she pulled away, put her bottle on the table, and pressed in against him, her mouth to his, arms around his neck. He tasted the lemonade on her tongue, felt her breasts surge with her breaths. He circled her small waist and encouraged her closer. It took little encouragement. She was fire. Bright. Hot. Piercing his armor of what he thought was thick as Kevlar. She was proving how wrong he was. It wasn’t Kevlar. It was aluminum. Durable. But not unbendable.

Buy Link:

(shorter and spicier edition)

(full edition, also at BN.com or at your local indie store from Indiebound.org)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Win With Number Sixteen on the 16th!

Once again I'm participating in The Romance Studio's Year End Splash Party, this time giving away an autographed copy of my all-time favorite book to write, Thin Ice. What better way to celebrate hockey season than with a copy of Eric and Emily's award-winning story about second chances?

All you have to do is answer question Number 16 -- coincidentally today's date and Eric's number as captain of the Minneapolis Saints -- for your chance to win! In the meantime, here's an excerpt to give you a taste of what's in store for our soon-to-be family...Emily has finally given in to her eight-year-old son Robbie's fervent desire to play hockey and doesn't know where to begin to get him the equipment he needs. A not-so-chance meeting at a skating rink leads her to ask Eric for advice. With a big smile, he tells her he knows just where to go.

The door opened and a wiry black man in a blue plaid flannel shirt and jeans stepped back to admit them. “Eric, good to see you,” he said. “Your stuff came in Friday afternoon.”

“Glad to hear it, but that’s not why I called. Sam, I’d like you to meet Emily Jordan and her son, Robbie.”

Sam smiled in welcome. “Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jordan. Robbie. I was just making some coffee.” He turned and checked the pot. “It’s almost done. Anyone care for a cup?”

Emily declined, but Eric accepted. After a brief pow-wow with Eric about the Saints’ chances for making the playoffs while the coffee finished brewing, Sam turned to Emily with a warm smile. “What can we do for you today, Ms. Jordan, besides bore you with a lot of meaningless statistics?”

“Meaningless?” From the sound of it they’d been discussing the team’s chances as intently as she’d consult with Augustus about a critically ill patient.

“Absolutely. Because no matter what the sports gurus say, the Saints are going all the way...and this guy right here is the one who’s going to take them.” He clapped Eric on the back, nearly sloshing the coffee Eric was staring into all over his front. “Yes ma’am, you’ve hooked up with a real champion here. Captain Cameron to the rescue.”

The light in the storefront was dim, but Emily would have sworn she saw Eric’s ears redden. “Emily doesn’t really follow the sport, Sam,” he said quietly.

Sam looked at her in startled surprise, then back at Eric. “She doesn’t?” As if such a thing was inconceivable.

“No, but Robbie does, and he’s joining the Mites League. I’d like you to set him up with the works.”

“Sure. No problem. Got everything he needs right here. Top of the line.”

Within minutes Robbie looked like a miniature gladiator. Emily felt a sharp pinch in her purse as the two men outfitted her son with layer upon layer of padding, the three of them conversing in a sports jargon she couldn’t begin to comprehend. Secure in the knowledge her son was in the hands of experts, she changed her mind about Sam’s offer of coffee and poured herself some.

She cradled the styrofoam cup in her hands and strolled over to the window. Peering through the dusty horizontal blinds, she studied the Suburban. Five years old already when she’d bought it last year, it desperately needed a tune-up and new tires. That might have to wait again, now with Robbie’s newest expenses. Between paying off her school loans, Robbie’s tuition and helping out her family, she was pushing her financial limits to the wall. And with the cost of gas these days...

She sighed. There were times when she wished she didn’t have to drive such a big vehicle, but that was one phobia she couldn’t seem to get rid of.

She turned away from the window and found Sam gone and Eric crouched before Robbie, testing the fit of his equipment. She sipped her coffee and felt the sting of tears as Robbie solemnly answered Eric’s quiet questions. What she wouldn’t give to have her family see Robbie right now. But home wasn’t somewhere she could ever go again. Not as long as her father was alive. She wondered how her mother was doing, if her health was holding up. It was times like this, when she felt closest to Robbie, that she missed her own mother the most.

Sam reappeared with a fistful of hockey sticks, a pair of black leather skates and a huge white jersey. As her son stood there in a pair of black padded pants that looked five sizes too big but apparently fit perfectly, Eric slid the suspenders up over Robbie’s shoulder pads, then dropped the huge jersey over his head. He asked Robbie to sit, then laced his skates. Only her son’s face and hands resembled anything close to an eight year old’s, and even that changed once Eric settled a hard red plastic helmet with a grid mask on Robbie’s head.

Eric adjusted the chinstrap, while Sam handed Robbie a huge pair of padded black gloves to try on.

“So, what do you think, Ms. Jordan?” Sam asked, grinning.

Eric and Robbie looked her way, Robbie more still than Emily could remember him being while awake.

“I think you look wonderful,” she told her son, her voice catching. “I can’t wait to see you in action.”

Robbie let out a whoop of joy. Emily lifted her eyes to Eric’s, not caring that he saw the emotion in them. “Thank you,” she mouthed, as Robbie waddled over to Sam to select a stick.

Eric’s answering smile touched her mother’s heart. “If that doesn’t keep him safe, nothing will.”

For more information, go to my website.
To purchase Thin Ice, New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf and EPPIE award winner, go here.

Thank you, and have a great day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Summer of Music

Trying to get back on track with my blogging, both here and at the PMDD site, where I haven't posted in over two months. As my last post says, I'm taking time out to pursue more research on the subject. And I am. I've enlisted the help of a friend from my Qigong class, and, I hope to have more good information to share over there in the fall.

As for what's going on here, I'm still as busy as ever, now getting ready for out of town family to visit. Until then, I will be cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, and that includes clearing my desk of anything that doesn't need to be there, because when they come, I will take the entire week off from the computer. Tonight another friend and I will be shampooing the carpet, so after I finish this post, it's off to move furniture in preparation for that.

Earlier this week, I attended the U2 concert in Pittsburgh with my son and friends. The U2 360 tour was the largest, and largest grossing rock concert tour ever, with a road crew of around 400 and a stage that takes 120 eighteen wheeler trucks to transport. (From a lookout point on one of the stadium ramps, I counted 30 of them lined up in rows of two, big, bright, shiny, new-looking tractor-trailers, just waiting to be loaded up again.)

The stage took four days to set up (in the broiling heat) at Heinz Field, and 60,000 people were expected to attend. The show we went saw was the last American tour date of the tour, which started in 2009. Only one more concert after ours, and the tour is over. I bet that road crew is happy. One of the statistics posted on the jumbotron that blasted images from the center of the stage said that during the tour 17 children had been born to crew members.

In all, the trip took 13 1/2 hours, 7 of them spent at the stadium. And only 20 minutes spent in traffic, Thank you God. We stopped and had a nice dinner (grilled trout and veggies for me) on the way, and arrived at the stadium around 5:00 p.m. The show began at 7:00 and U2 came on at 9:00. They played for nearly three hours to a crowd that was standing and swaying and singing for almost every song. (including me, of course....how I wished I'd had a tambourine along...I had to settle for clapping my hands or banging on my binoculars :)).

The weather was perfect, with a cool breeze wafting in after dark. The open air format made the sound level more than bearable. Of course it was loud. At least I didn't have any hearing problems afterward :). At times the concert felt like a spiritual experience, which I am sure is what the band intended. The positive energy in the stadium had my hands practically vibrating. (We've been learning all about energy fields in Qigong.) The band came back for three or four encores, the last of which was the best of all, an impromptu song (and one of my favorites) inspired by a friend who lives in Pittsburgh and was at the concert--see the video below.

What can I say, other than it was one of the many highlights of a stellar summer so far. Well worth the time and effort and wait and expense. Of the tickets. Not all the add on "convenience" fees, and the extravagant mark ups for food and drink and souvenirs at the stadium. Can't say I was shocked, because I do get out enough that I've seen prices rise steadily, but this was an orgy of greed going on. They even had announcements that you were not to bring in things like Tylenol, chap stick, and sun screen, because they had them available there for your "convenience."

Yes, and if the food and drink prices were anything to go by, that "convenience" would have cost me dearly.

But the concert itself was awesome, and I'm already scouting around for my next one. This, for me, has turned into the Summer of Music, between the Fourth of July party jam sessions, and the CDs my son has been bringing me for my car. (Taking a break from listening to all those motivational CDs :)) The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Adele...
Yes, Adele. For once I am actually current with something that's going on in the world of pop culture, and it feels good :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Hodgepodge of Catching Up

Wow. This is apparently my 401st blog post here. Whoda thunk I had that much to say? Although at least ten percent of those are guest authors, probably more.

Anyway, I have been super busy, to say the least. My strawberry garden proliferates, only it's full of weeds, not strawberries. I do have a few berries coming in, but need to get out there before the weeds choke the strawberry plants to death. To replace the row of strawberry plants that didn't come up, I planted a row of cherry and grape tomatoes. We get a few a day, and they don't usually make it as far as the house. Nothing like a ripe, warm tomato fresh from the garden.

Instead of weeding, I've been busy trying to clear my desk of projects before my parents come to visit, because I know I won't get any work done while they are here. I don't do well when my focus is divided.

The 4th of July picnic was beyond awesome. I had so much fun playing the tambourine that I developed big bruises on my left hand and right thigh. Each one of them well worth it. What was supposed to be a one day party instead became a two day party, with a surprise birthday party thrown into the mix.

The food was awesome, the company even better. We had music, laughter, Margaritas, and badminton. The weather was great, and the bugs stayed away. We were singing and dancing and jamming well into the wee hours of the night.

I can't believe the phone has rung at least half a dozen times since I started this post. When school's out of session, everything changes from moment to moment. I thought I had a free hour to write something up here, and now I need to go, barely after I've gotten started.

But it's all good. I'd much rather be busy than bored :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Author, Stephanie Burkhart

Today's Guest Author needs no introduction, as she is a regular visitor here at Liana's Place, but I'll take a stab at it anyway :). Please welcome my friend, the multi-talented and prolific author Stephanie Burkhart!

Taking the Journey – It's about the characters, Silly.

I'd like to thank Liana for having me here today. She's such an inspiration, personally and professionally in my writing. My latest release is a paranormal romance titled "The Wolf's Torment." Set in Romania in 1865, Crown Prince Mihai Sigmaringen has a secret – he's a witch. Can his love for Theresa give him the courage he needs to save his family from the werewolf that haunts them?

At first I was going to talk about the Black Sea, but then I got to thinking – it's about the characters, Silly, and bringing out the humanity in them despite their supernatural abilities. So I'll share some cool things I learned about the Black Sea and then talk about my most challenging character – Lady Theresa von Kracken.

The Black Sea is amazing and it's a great backdrop for a paranormal story. They've been writing about the Black Sea for ages and since the Black Sea borders many different countries, there are many different myths. "Jason and the Argonauts" is set on the Black Sea. A Ukrainian legend tells of a violent arrow in the sea. It's so violent that when the sea tries to expel it, there are turbulent storms.

The sea itself has all the properties of an ocean. It has salt water and the various fish include anchovy, tuna, and dolphins. The Winter Olympics in 2014 are going to be held in Sochi, Russia, which is on the coast of the Black Sea.

Romania is one of the nations on the Black Sea and it is also the setting of "The Wolf's Torment." This story is the "prequel" to "Twilight Over Moldavia." The premise of "Twilight Over Moldavia" is that poor Prince Stefan has been cursed to become a werewolf. Can Caroline's kiss free him from his fate? After I wrote it, I just knew I had to write the story about Stefan's parents, Mihai and Theresa, and how Stefan came to be cursed. Which leads me to Theresa, Stefan's mother. How could a mother curse her own child to become a werewolf? It's because of this question Theresa's character is the most challenging in "The Wolf's Torment."

As the novel opens, the reader meets a young Lady Theresa von Kracken on her way to Delfin Castle to become engaged to Moldavia's Crown Prince, Mihai Sigmaringen. Theresa's family is a powerful witching family, but her father saw in a dream that Theresa must never be taught the ways of witchcraft (or she'll die) so she has remained blissfully ignorant of her own heritage. Theresa believes supernatural characters like witches exist and she believes them to be good. When Mihai reveals he's a witch to her, she accepts him as he is.

Theresa's love for Mihai is pure, having been cultivated through their dreams. As the novel progresses, Theresa cannot ignore the evidence that she's a witch as well. She comes to believe that because she is, she can meet any challenge. Viktor preys on her vulnerability after she receives an emotionally shattering loss. Can a heroine do the wrong thing for the perceived "right" reasons?


From The Pen & Muse:

A complete werewolf story through and through, Burkhart does it again with an amazing cast of characters, entertaining dialogue and plot. Lovers of historical paranormal romance will enjoy this read, the first in the Moldavian Moon series.

From Reader's Favorites

5 Stars - The Wolf’s Torment has it all, witches, werewolves, a vampire, a princess and a prince. This is paranormal romance at its finest.

Enjoy this Excerpt:

Theresa rushed to Sonia's side as her sister-in-law doubled over, clutching the backrest on the sofa. They were in the library. Sonia usually did her knitting there while Theresa worked on her painting.

Mrs. Nocesti helped Theresa carry Sonia to the couch. She lay on her side, grabbing her distended womb.

"Where does it hurt?" asked Mrs. Nocesti.

"Here," Sonia grunted. She pointed to her side, near the rib cage.

Theresa wrung her hands together, worried. Sonia was in her eighth month and her baby was nice and round. Sonia reminded Theresa of when Victoria had given birth. She hoped that wasn't happening now.

"She's not going to have the baby, is she?" asked Theresa.

"No, the pain is in the wrong place. I'm going to get Dr. Stanza and the willow bark pills."


"I will." Mrs. Nocesti rushed out the door.

Theresa knelt next to Sonia, rubbing her hand over Sonia's hair. "This is so sudden. Did the baby kick?"

"I don't know...Theresa...am I bleeding?"

Theresa shivered at the thought, but visually checked Sonia's dress. "I don't see any blood staining your dress."

"Thank God. Theresa, it hurts."

"I'm sorry. I wish I could do something."

"Hold my hand."

Theresa offered Sonia her hand. Sonia gripped it so tightly, Theresa's knuckles turned white. Her own pulse accelerated. Spots appeared before her eyes. Theresa's breathing grew rapid. Theresa saw the baby in the womb, kicking the spot of Sonia's discomfort. The baby struck the blood barrier. It was weak, and because of that, was causing Sonia pain.

"Baby, no, don't kick your mother there. You're hurting her. Please, don't kick. Turn around, please, turn around," Theresa said, gasping for air as sweat trickled down her brow. The baby turned. It was a boy.

Sonia let go. Theresa's link with the baby disappeared.

"What did you do?" whispered Sonia.

"I...I don't know."

"Theresa, you made it stop? How did you do that?" Sonia gasped.

"I don't know."

"Are you a witch? I felt your energy -- it pulsed through me."

"I..." Theresa couldn't finish. Her mind reeled in confusion.

Mrs. Nocesti and Dr. Stanza rushed in.

"Sonia!" cried Dr. Stanza.

"The Queen!" exclaimed Mrs. Nocesti.

Theresa knelt, one hand clutching the couch, the other her womb. She wasn't as round as Sonia. Theresa took a deep breath. She couldn't explain what had just happened, but it had rocked her to the core of her being. No human should have the type of experience she just had. She felt the baby. She felt Sonia's pain. She learned Sonia's baby was a boy. Dare she think Sonia was right? Dare Theresa believe herself to be a witch?

Visit the Book Trailer on You Tube and give it a 'like' at:

The Wolf's Torment is available as an ebook only on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony Ereader. Formats include: PDF, html, and epub which can be found on the Publisher's Website, Kindle, Nook, and All Romance ebooks.

About the Author: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She also served as an MP in the US Army. Multi-published, she has a children's book, "The Giving Meadow" with 4RV Publishing. She's an avid reader , loves coffee in the morning, and her favorite movie "werewolf" is David Thewlis, Lupin from Harry Potter.

You can find me at my website, blog, and Facebook.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taking Time Out To Appreciate Beauty

Taking the easy way out today...too much going on. I had a blog post in mind but neither the time nor energy to write it...feeling kinda funky hormonally today...either that or it's allergies. Got this in an email from a faith sharing friend, and it's a message we all could benefit from...

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made ...

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Enjoy life now....you never know when things will change.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rediscovering the Feminine Face of God...

Holy cow….here it is Holy Week, and only five days away from Easter. How did that happen so quickly? Life has been a total whirlwind these past 6 weeks, but in a very, very good way. Before Lent started, my life was (once again) careening out of control—not in a destructive way--but in an over-committed way. I was saying yes to too many things, had far more on my plate than I could handle, and was starting to miss deadlines and fall further and further behind.

So I decided that for Lent I would *Just Say No.* I would take on no new projects, meet no new people, make no new appointments, accept no new social invitations, volunteer for nothing new. For the six weeks of Lent, I would only complete projects already begun, honor commitments already made, and spend time with people already in my life rather than seek out any new connections.

One of those commitments was what I call *doing Lent.* This means fully immersing myself in the practice of Lent, in the hope of gaining spiritual renewal and rebirth. Not that I was suffering spiritually to start with. But with all that busyness, I was getting further and further away from what feeds me spiritually, and I was feeling the disconnect, and noticing the drain on my soul.

So I went into Lent with the best of intentions, planning to fully participate in the myriad Lenten activities offered by my parish, immerse myself in reflection and renewal, maybe even blog about the meaning and traditions of Lent.

Turned out I didn’t need all of that. All I needed to find my renewal in Lent was three nights with the parish mission speaker, Edwina Gately, and several evenings with the women's speaker series our parish now puts on annually during the weeks leading up to Easter.

The good news about finding my answers so quickly, was I was able to get right to work on implementing my new spiritual practices, and my, what a difference they have made. (More on this some other time.) Let’s just say that this is one Lenten season that will see me totally refreshed and renewed, thanks to the hard work, dedication, and devotion of so many women of faith, most of whom I am blessed to know through my own faith life and parish.

The creators of our women's speaker series, Sophia’s Circle, are nothing short of amazing. For years untold this faith-sharing group of about a dozen women talked of offering in love something uniquely feminine and uplifting for their spiritual sisters in our parish, and finally, three years ago, they were able to pull it all together and offer their first speaker series.

They didn’t expect much attendance. Spring is a busy time for women in this small town farming community. Winter doesn’t give way to spring gracefully around here, and in March and April you’re just as likely to be driving to church in a blizzard as you are in shorts and flip flops.

So imagine their surprise that first year when each night of the 6-week series, attendance grew, until well over 100 women showed up. Imagine their surprise when they started out big right away with the second year’s series.

Imagine the time, energy, effort, and creativity that had to go into brainstorming, planning, and executing a whole new series this year. Expectations had been raised in the past two years, hungers had been awakened, and now it was time to deliver.

And deliver they did, in a powerful four-week series that centered around the words Purpose, Passion, Power, and Peace. The series was no less effective for being two weeks shorter than before. Easter is late this year, and people are busy with taking advantage of dry roads and growing things. The words they chose to focus on meshed beautifully, and created a cohesive message of renewal and rebirth representative of the positive face of Lent.

Purpose…the speakers encouraged us to look deep into our hearts, find that which we love, and focus on that as our purpose in life. Sometimes our desires are in conflict with God’s purpose for our life, but eventually we come around, be it by the long, hard road, or the quicker and somewhat less painful one. I say *somewhat* because God never promised there would be no pain in our lives, only that He would be there to share our burdens, maybe even turn them into blessings.

So which route you take to find your Purpose in Life depends on your relationship with God. But either way, if you don’t find it—and that’s not to say your purpose can’t change over time—you most likely won’t be a happy camper and your life will not be as full and rich as it could be. You’ll be like a puzzle piece, part of a whole, but with holes in your life that need to be filled if you aren’t connected to the rest of the puzzle.

So go into the silence, search your heart, find your Purpose, and then pursue it with Passion. I missed the week on passion, unfortunately, as that was opening night for the high school musical and I was there to witness my son and several of his friends’ passion for singing and dancing instead. But I don’t think I’m lacking in that department. If you have any doubt, read my PMDD blog post, They Only See Our Failures.

I repeat: Find your purpose, and pursue it with Passion.

The third week, we were reminded of our Power as women. Women as healers, women as caregivers, caretakers, peacemakers and nurturers, generously endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A candlelight meditation brought the overwhelming amount of positive energy in the room into clear focus. In this week we celebrated the feminine face of God, which goes by many names, including Mother God, Sophia, and Wisdom. We ended the evening arm in arm, singing along with Libby Roderick’s How Could Anyone Ever Tell You (you were anything less than beautiful?).

Find your Purpose, and pursue it with Passion. You have the Power within you.

The final week, our focus was on Peace. Being at peace with ourselves, our relationships, relatives, situations, circumstances and perceived failures, walking in trust with God that all is as it should be and we shouldn’t waste our time and energy on blame, worry, anxiety, and fear. Again, during the meditation, I clearly felt the creative energy and power in that room, as well as a pervading sense of peace that comes to me more and more frequently these days, due in part to my Qigong classes three times a week.

Peace, as it turns out, was the special word I took home from last year’s women's speaker series, and I have made great strides in that area in the past twelve months. Would I have done the same without attending the series? I don’t know, and does it really matter? What matters is that my life seems to be falling into a pattern of Purpose and Passion, Power and Peace that this year’s speaker series has only validated from without, and that is a good and positive thing.

I know where I’m going, even if I don’t yet know how I will get there, but I have the Power and Passion to follow my Purpose, and the Peace of knowing God supports me all the way.

Thank you, women of Sophia’s Circle, for once again bringing us closer to our God, in whatever form we choose to view Him or Her, and to the women we were meant to be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keeping Up With a Friend

"Keep your friendships in repair." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

That's what I was busy doing today...having a spontaneous lunch with a friend who moved away several years ago, and I haven't seen in a while. It was nice to catch up :). Sunday continues to be my day of rest, apparently from the blog, too. While I've been busy since I rolled out of bed, all of it has been spiritually uplifting. Qigong class, Mass, lunch with a friend, some leisurely errands run, a few books browsed and bought, and now it's time to pick up my son, maybe get a walk in, a light supper, and then settle in for Movie Night, which is something we've done for the past 12 years on Sunday nights.

I'm really enjoying my new Sundays...and to think, I almost didn't go to Mass today. I thought it would be too crowded.

Here's another good one: I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar. ~ Robert Brault, Freelance Writer

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Reputations Get Made...

How time flies! Three weeks ago today, I was on my way back from a women’s writers’ retreat I had been looking forward to for months. In the blink of an eye, it was over. You may recall I blogged about the retreat last year—in particular the fun we had at the Martini Bar on Saturday night. The coordinator enjoyed my post so much she posted it on her website to help promote the retreat—which, by the way, was filled to capacity and a huge success this year, as well.

So this year several new attendees came to the retreat, apparently looking forward to a martini, in addition to reading, rest, relaxation, and a wealth of information about writing. When I had I registered, the coordinator had told me there was another woman from my area registered, as well. I recognized her name as someone from church, so I called her and we traveled together.

Thank God, because it was another blizzardous weekend, and if I had been traveling alone, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have gone. Been there, done that, wasn’t too eager to do it again.

But my friend was from this area, and well-used to winter driving conditions, so off we went in her minivan. Good thing, too, because 20 minutes out of town, the weather cleared up and we had no trouble at all. We even arrived a bit early, got her checked into her hotel down the way—the B&B was full up—and managed to stop at Malley’s Chocolates and stock up before heading off to the retreat.

Imagine my surprise, when on a whim I asked the desk clerk at the hotel if there was a chocolate shop around, and he said yes, right down the street. A clear example of ask and ye shall receive J.

So without my friend I wouldn’t have gone. Turns out that without me, she wouldn’t have gone, either, as she’d learned about the retreat from reading my blog. She was looking for one of those martinis. I’ll admit I went back looking forward to a repeat of the experience, myself. I hadn’t ever had a martini before, and haven’t had one since, but suddenly I found myself dubbed “The Martini Lady” and on Friday night was called up to the front of the room and presented with a lovely framed pastel portrait of a martini, complete with olives.

Writing is such a solitary occupation that I have it posted up above my desk, to remind me that yes, writers do indeed get together and have fun every now and again J.

But my, how quickly reputations are born! The others told me I'd made it sound like such a wonderful time they wanted to experience it for themselves, and having a martini was the talk of the retreat. Unfortunately, this year, the Martini Bar was full, so the group I was with visited an Irish pub instead. Seven or eight of us pulled a few tables together at the back of the room, and proceeded to order drinks I hadn’t heard of in years, since my twenties, when ordering such drinks were the norm—white Russian, Fuzzy Navel, Slo Gin Fizz…and my own simple but straightforward vodka tonic.

Not so simple and straightforward, I realized, as in the intervening years, vodka has apparently taken on flavors, and a lot of them. “What kind of vodka do you want?” the bartender asked. “Just vodka,” I said. She indicated the bar behind her, with a couple dozen flavors of vodka lined up in a colorful row. “I know, but which kind?” “Just vodka, I repeated. Don’t you have any kind of vodka that isn’t flavored? The last time I had vodka, Smirnoff’s was the one you got. Don’t they make that any more?”

"You haven’t tasted flavored vodka?” she asked, in amazement. Then treated me to a sample of espresso-flavored vodka. It being after nine already, and me not used to drinking, no way was I going to mix alcohol and caffeine—I’d be up all night!!—so I thanked her ask if she minded if I shared it with the others.

Which is exactly what I did…I never did find out what it tasted like.

Fortunately, she managed to find a bottle of plain vodka under the counter, and fixed me a drink.

We were the oldest patrons in the bar. As it slowly filled with people half our age we listened to a lone guitar player strumming Irish tunes and happily chatted about children and colleges and the things menopausal women discuss when we get together. And, being writers, we observed the room around us. The pick ups, the hook ups, the couples getting friendly as they flirted with each other before moving on to the main event later.

At one point I saw the bartender pull out a fishbowl and fill it with ice. Her hands expertly holding two bottles each, she poured and poured until the ice cubes were covered, then added (in this case) some red liquid to the bowl and stuffed six big red straws in it. The bowl was almost ceremoniously carried to a back table by three young men and one young woman, who was apparently the designated driver, as she didn’t drink. I noticed one of the young men leaning on her heavily as they shuffled out of the bar less than an hour later, the fishbowl completely empty.

I went to ask the bartender about it. Yes, she said, it was called a fishbowl, and was made with gin, rum, vodka, and tequila, and cost $20. Was I interested? No, thank you, I all but gasped, waving my hands in front of me—I just wanted to know what it was. She smiled indulgently and patted my arm reassuringly, treating me like the fish out of water that I was, and kindly fixed this little old church lady another plain vodka tonic.

Around eleven, with the bar packed and the songs getting less and less Irish, the ladies and I happily trundled back to the B&B, where we sat in the foyer next to a cozy fireplace, the area lit only by the small white lights of a still-decorated Christmas tree, and sipped glasses of Bailey’s Irish Cream from a bottle I had brought along. I might not drink often, but I know how it’s done J. The Bailey’s added a nice, quiet nightcap to the evening.

I wonder if this means next year I’ll be awarded a picture of Bailey’s?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creating A Spark

This week we had a fantastic mission speaker at church, Edwina Gateley, poet, theologian, artist, writer, lay minister, advocate, and single mom. The first night she spoke to us about Trust, as in trusting God, walking in faith, walking in trust that all our needs will be met.
She explained how God is always eager to reassure and comfort us so that we might believe in our possibilities and become a holy people. She told us the original word for “holy” in Hebrew meant “to practice,” as in practicing your faith.
Simply practicing our faith makes us holy…doing the right thing, reaching out to those in need. Holy isn’t reserved for only the special few. Everyone’s hands are holy….it’s what we choose to do with our hands that makes a difference. Do we use them to help—or to hurt--others?
The second night she spoke of personal transformation, how the Holy Spirit is always waiting to s-t-r-e-t-c-h us to recognize God’s presence in ourselves and all people. She told story after story of personal transformation in herself and the lives of the people she has worked with in Africa and on the streets of Chicago, where she ministered to recovering drug addicts and prostitutes.
Last night she challenged us to use our gifts to reflect God’s love in our dealings with others, in particular the poor, the homeless, the abandoned and marginalized people in our world. She acknowledged that bad things are happening the world over, but we can’t focus on that, we need to seek out the sparks of light and help those sparks to shine more brightly. Again, she shared story after story of personal transformation.
And she reminded us that every little bit of good we do makes a difference, to someone, somewhere.
So today was soup making day. I got out the stock pot and opened the freezer and filled the pot with leftover pot roast, crock pot chicken, an assortment of savory sauces and gravies made from previously made roasts, three bags of vegetables, and a magic array of spices. Took me three hours to get it to taste “just right,” but in the end, it all came together beautifully…and the aroma…nothing better than the smell of home made soup wafting through the house.
Unless it’s accompanied by the sweet smell of baking. While the soup bubbled, I baked two cakes, and cleaned the kitchen. Then, after the soup had cooled, I put it into the containers provided by the homeless shelter, and delivered it, along with two dozen pairs of socks I bought at Christmas time, but never got around to dropping off.
Tonight, someone without a home will at least be able to enjoy some home made soup, made with real beef and chicken, a piece of cake, and a clean pair of socks.
It’s just a spark, but it counts all the same. Is there somewhere in your life you can create a spark or two?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting back up to speed...

It is difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving. ~ Henrietta Mears, Christian educator

What with being sick all last week, and then going away for a long weekend, I’m so far behind I don’t know where to begin. I’ve got ideas for at least four blog posts, and no time to write them. Too busy trying to juggle all the balls--work, writing, and exercise, cooking, cleaning, and home maintenance, driving my son to and from school, appointments, and practices, and keeping up with church activities, which are moving into full swing with Lent just around the corner.

I’m going to “do Lent” this year. Some years I have not fully participated in the process of Lent. Some years I’ve taken full advantage of all the church offers, and others I’ve missed out completely. I know one year I was too sick to go anywhere or do anything—that was right after we moved into a new home and all the off-gasses from the carpet and such made me so ill I collapsed. Another year time simply got away from me and Lent was over before I knew it, with nothing in me changed or renewed.

But this year I’m going to throw myself into Lent wholeheartedly, which I understand to be a time of spiritual reflection and renewal. There are other, more formal descriptions for it, (and I might even get into the history and practices of Lent sometime during the next couple of months) but that’s what I choose to make it—a time for thinking about the positives in life, and not focusing on the negative.

To that end, we have lots of great speakers lined up at church, including the Women’s Series of spiritual events I wrote about last year, and many soup suppers to enjoy.

Speaking of which, I went to a prayer and potluck supper at church this week that was very nice. Kudos to the ladies who decorated the tables with white linen tablecloths and candlelight. The atmosphere was warm and intimate, the company great, and the food incredible—as always. (I think church ladies are the best cooks around, hands down.) Everyone brought a donation for the food pantry and a dish of some sort, and there was more food there than all 60 or so of us could eat.

I made a double batch of cream of carrot soup, which turned out very nicely, if a bit different tasting. It’s spiced with orange peel and allspice, an interesting combination. To thicken it, I blended two cups of broth with fresh, oven-baked squash. It gives the soup a hearty texture you can’t get short of loading up on more fattening thickeners.

Only half the soup was eaten—there was so much food to choose from—so today I went around giving away plastic containers of soup, and will wait to hear the feedback. I had some for dinner, and it tasted almost sweet, but with a tang from the orange peel.

Really, there’s not much going on here, and I’m just trying to catch up from being so sick all last week. I thought it was a cold, but it turns out it was (and is) seasonal allergies, which I am still dealing with, with mixed results success-wise. But at least I am moving forward this week, no longer sitting still J.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eric and Emily's First Kiss -- Thin Ice

Yesterday I blogged over at the Long and Short Reviews Valentine's Day Celebration, where, among other great prizes, you can enter to win your choice of a Kindle, Nook, or $150 gift certificate just by making a comment on any of the posts there. The more comments you make, the more chances you have. On the Goddess Fish Party Pavilion Blog, where I shared some of my excerpts, it's the same deal. Just leave a comment for a chance to win. They're also offering several smaller prizes throughout the day, so if you leave a comment, be sure to check back and click on the posts where they announce the winners. (You can find the links to their announcements in the sidebar). You have seven days to claim your winnings.
One of my excerpts at the Goddess Fish Pavilion was of Eric and Emily's first kiss. So in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll share that here today, and choose my own random winner for an autographed copy of Thin Ice from the comments on this post today and tomorrow, Valentine's Day. The winner will be announced on Tuesday!

Emily has just, very reluctantly, given Eric a tour of her home. He refused to return her car keys (they'd traded cars and he's come to return hers) until she relented. Little does she know, he doesn't have the keys...read the excerpt below to find out where they are :)

I like it,” Eric said. “I like it a lot.” He turned to her and smiled. “Robbie’s very lucky.”
The nostalgic note in his voice made her wonder where he’d grown up, what his life had been like before he’d become a star athlete. He’d denied it that night in the ER, but surely he had family somewhere.
The grandfather clock in the hall chimed six-fifteen. Emily looked at the kitchen clock in surprise. Eric had been in the house for over twenty minutes. “You’re going to be late.”
“I know.” His eyes captured hers. “Walk me to the door?”
She swallowed, knowing what he was asking. “Sure.”
But at the front door, she paused, suddenly unsure. What would happen now? Would he say goodbye and mean it this time? She doubted it. And how did she really feel about that?
“Thanks for letting me inside,” Eric said quietly. “I know it wasn’t easy for you.”
“Easier than I expected it to be,” she said wryly.
His eyes darkened to brown velvet. “I’m glad.”
Their eyes locked and he slowly lowered his head. Heart hammering, Emily went perfectly still. But when his lips touched hers, everything faded away but the moment. And in that moment, Emily Jordan tasted heaven for the very first time.
Never had she been kissed with such quiet reverence or sensual finesse. Never. After a brief first kiss that barely brushed her lips, Eric kissed each corner of her mouth with whisper softness, then returned to press his lips to hers again in a kiss that made every part of her yearn for more.
He pulled away just as she swayed forward, catching her gently by the upper arms. He looked into her eyes for a long moment, then sent her a slow, sexy smile, a smile filled with a delicious sense of warmth and promise.
“See you soon,” he said and released her.
Emily nodded, too dazed to speak. Her headache was gone. Her muscles no longer ached. Every ounce of her earlier tension had evaporated. She felt warm and fuzzy all over, as if she were floating. Eric opened the front door and loped across the lawn.
“Eric, wait!” she called when he was halfway to his car.
He turned, a distracted look on his moonlit face.
“My keys.”
He pointed to the Suburban. “In the ignition.”

Happy Valentine's Day!