Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who Am I???

I spent half my childhood in California and half on a tropical island (sounds rough, doesn't it?). I wanted to be a mommy, writer, poet and artist, in that order, but an unfortunate lack of eye-hand coordination eliminated "artist" from my list.  I followed my heart and married my firefighter-cum-Coast Guardsman boyfriend, who is the inspiration for my heroes. I write scary, funny romantic suspense novels with paranormal elements. For unknown reasons, dogs have infiltrated every manuscript. I write because I can't help it, and it's more fun than most of the alternatives.

Please join me at Romancing the Genres, the new group blog I'm starting with Judith Ashley! 

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Friday, September 24, 2010

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It had to happen sooner or later, I guess. Even an upbeat incurable optimist has the occasional bad day, although it takes a lot to get us down.
Yesterday, a lot happened.
First, bugs invaded the cereal - and as it turned out, everything else in the pantry that wasn't sealed in an airtight container. EWWW!!!
Then I received notice of editor rejections for not one, but TWO of my manuscripts.
Holding onto chipper optimism by the skin of my teeth, I emailed a partial submission that an agent had requested. She wanted fifty pages and a query letter sent in the body of the email. There are so many ways that can go wrong that I'm not even going to try list them. I blind-copied myself (because I believe in computer gremlins), opened the copy when it arrived in my inbox, and discovered that the whole thing was centered and looked ridiculous, not to mention so hard to read that no sane agent would even bother to try.
Then my beloved cat, Freckles, gave me a hint as to why dogs have worked their way into my heart. He threw up a load of pilfered dog food on my computer cord connections. Despite my diligent efforts to clean all the gunked-up nooks and crannies, my pc insists that an unknown device has taken over one of my usb ports and I can no longer access my printer.
So I whined to my sister during our online chat and sent her a sad blue emoticon. And I whined to my writing buddies and I whined to my DH and I whined to my perfect dog, Penny. I listened to all their words of wisdom and encouragement and went for a walk in the park and basked in Penny's unconditional love.
Then I fiddled with the email and re-sent it with the words Reformatted Willamette Partial Request in the subject line. The second time, I eluded the gremlins.
I threw away the insect-infested food and cleaned the pantry and sprayed the shelves for bugs, then laid down fresh shelf liners and re-organized and enjoyed feeling virtuous.
I picked another editor to query.
And when I found ants on the kitchen counter, I searched out their nefariously-clever entry point (an outlet cover) and foiled them before they could do any real harm.
I decided the unknown device and printer problems weren't going anywhere, so I curled up with my own personal Hero and my naughty cat on the sofa and watched Warehouse 13.
And today, which was tomorrow last night, is a very good day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

For All You Twilight Fans

When we spotted this beached boat along the Oregon Coast, my DH couldn't resist snapping a few photos. Is this picture a great metaphor or what?
Plus, such an awesome name for a boat. What a great title for a book! :)
Do you have any picture metaphors to share?
(If we can't upload photos in a blog comment, upload it to your own blog/website/Facebook Page and postthe URL in your comment.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Truckers, Don't Make Me Come Back to Haunt You!

(Courtesy of )
Yesterday, I nearly (and unexpectedly) joined the Real World Dead (as opposed to the FaceBook Dead, from which I recently arose to live a second life). Real World death is permanent. And we are always just one misstep away from Eternity.

What does this have to do with truckers?

Yesterday, my mortal body was almost life-suckingly mashed inside my Jeep, squashed with my vehicle between a big blue semi and a concrete freeway wall. The Coroner would have had the unpleasant task of prying the remains of my cold, dead hands out of whatever was left of my twisted steering wheel.

Instead of blogging, I would be sending messages of comfort and love from the Other Side to my DH - and haunting a certain dumb-!?#@&! truck driver for the rest of his earthly life. His keys would have a way of disappearing from his pockets. His tires would have a way of going flat in rest stop parking lots. His logbooks would have a way of drawing the attention of regulators.

I would get him off the road.

Luckily, I can't do that. Miraculously, I'M ALIVE!!!
So here's a message to all you road warriors out there:

Mirrors are not the mack truck equivalent of bling.
They have a purpose.
They prevent those missteps that boot mortals into the Hereafter.

Use them wisely, or else.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Balloons from the Other Side

First, let’s get one thing straight.

Messages from the Next Life don’t usually come in the form of email, snail mail, or phone calls (but I’ve learned to never say never). The Afterlife probably has immutable Rules that govern one’s actions, just as in this life gravity happens and fire burns. That doesn’t mean the people who have moved on don’t try to offer comfort, assistance, and the occasional laugh to their loved ones.

It means they have to get creative.

In my last post I told you about a message of comfort my father sent when my mother was hospitalized for a life-threatening infection. The statistically-improbable (as in billions-to-one odds) pattern of meaningful family names he created by manipulating nurses’ work schedules (and probably a whole lot of other minor events and inclinations) was a sign that comforted me.

Signs from the Afterlife come in an infinite variety. The trick is to recognize them while maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism. Sometimes, once a sign has been used, it will be repeated as a shared reference in future communication.

My father was a career pilot. He loved to fly almost as much as he loved his family. When he was dying of cancer, he hoped to regain enough strength to soar above Oregon’s high desert one more time—in a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, he waited too long to be able to accomplish his goal.

Fast forward six months and two thousand miles to my youngest son’s house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The kids had climbed in bed with their parents because it was a Sunday morning. No one had to get up early.

Then the danged Siamese cat jumped onto the bed. Instead of pouncing on someone to wake them up, he ignored them all and he walked across them to the window. Then he stood on his hind legs and checked out the back yard.

Whipping his tail back and forth, he yowled like a banshee. After a minute or two, three-year-old Lily checked to see what had scared him. “Mommy, Daddy, look! Look!” Her mother sat up with a yawn and turned around.

A rainbow-striped hot air balloon was landing in their back yard. How often does that happen?

Fast forward five years to my mother’s hospital room. Dr. Boddie (pronounced body; you gotta love the irony) explains that my mom’s condition is deteriorating. Her severe sinus infection may have spread into her spinal fluid, causing meningitis. He needs to do a spinal tap to be sure so he will know how to proceed with her treatment.

I held Mom’s hand as they rolled her to a procedure room where they would draw fluid from her spinal canal. My throat ached with fear. I closed my eyes and mentally reached out into the ether. Tell me she’s going to be alright, Dad. We stopped. I opened my eyes and looked inside the procedure room.

A poster of five hot air balloons soaring high above the ground greeted me.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Message from the Other Side

Here it is, the blog you've been waiting for, Terri!

Here's my account of the amazing, magical, loving, and slightly freaky way my father comforted me from the Other Side (of death, for those of you without access to tv, radio, print media, or the internet) while my mother hovered on the brink of death herself.

Sorry my post is a day late; this is my second crack at posting this blog. Yesterday my internet connection went belly up just as I finished typing. I couldn't even save, let alone post this.

* Keep in mind what some tv character on some show I watched last week said: "One connection to an event is a coincidence, two is a pattern, three is a plan."

My father died six years ago, but he's still around, keeping an eye on his loved ones. Sometimes I recognize signs of his presence. He definitely offered me some comfort the week Mom fought an uncertain battle against a life-threatening infection .

When my husband and I arrived the day after Mom was admitted to the hospital, her nurse's name was Diana. Not Diane, Diana. That's my only sister's name.

I smiled at the coincidence.

Later, Mom's condition worsened. She was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. Her new nurse was named Sally. That's my childhood nickname; my Dad always called me Sally.

I remember thinking, O-kay, Dad; is this your doing?

The next day I received a resounding "Yes."

Mom's new nurse's name was Catherine. Guess what Mom's name is? Yup! She never goes by Cathy; always Catherine. With a 'C'. Just like her nurse.

I found it comforting that Dad was watching over Mom and would be there if she lost the battle with the killer bacteria - which, I'm happy to report, she eventually won.

Another nurse was named Lisa, like Dad's eldest granddaughter. One was Amy, which was an inside joke that I'm not going to explain. Yes, people keep a sense of humor in the Afterlife.

I admit some nurses had names I felt no connection with, like hunky Nurse Dave from the previous post.

Wait a minute...I take that back. Dad was a professional pilot. My daughter's first husband, also a pilot, is a Dave. I hadn't made the connection until now.

When I saw the balloons, I knew Dad was telling me Mom would be okay. I'll tell you about them next week.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

July Dial-up Dilemma

(Written 07/09/2010)
First, let me explain my lack-o-blogging (or any other online communication) last week. My mother was hospitalized for a serious (okay, life-threatening) infection (she's doing well; thanks for asking) so I was otherwise occupied.

Now that we're at Mom's house, my online access is limited to an old PC with a dial-up connection.

Wow. I mean, WOW.

I'd forgotten what the online world was like in the old days. It's like I traded in my Ferrari for a donkey cart. Mom is too sick for me to go out, so I have a bad feeling I may not be able to post this for a long time.

Yesterday, after waiting for Yahoo to load for five minutes, I decided to try to clean up Mom's hard drive and update her programs to speed things up. I cleaned up her disk, got rid of trash, pared down her start-up menu.

Pared a few seconds off the Yahoo load time. *SIGH*

HP wanted to update Windows, so I let it. Six hours later Windows XP Service Pack 3 was installed.

Six. Long. Hours.

The PC booted up a little faster this morning, but Yahoo? Not so much.

HP wants to update Windows again. *SIGH*

Think I'll try to download Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 instead.

If that fails, maybe the night nurse will let me upload this blog on the hospital's wireless system when I bring Mom in for her evening IV antibiotic infusion. Mom's nurses go above and beyond the call of duty.

Hmmm. I think Nurse Dave is on duty tonight. I wouldn't mind asking him.
Wow. I mean, WOW.

There's always a silver lining, right?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where I Disappeared to in July

I planned to post regularly during our vacation, and technically I did.

I posted once the last week in June and then SURPRISE, an unexpected event happened on the third day of our three-week California/Oregon trip - during an absolutely scrumptious abalone dinner at my nephew Max's house in Sacramento, to be exact.
Have you noticed that unexpected events can be good news or bad news, but at first it's often too early to tell? Not so in this case. My Aunt Jean called to tell us my mother had just been admitted to the hospital with a raging sinus infection. She'd been on oral antibiotics, but the infection got worse.
Our vacation gave way to panic (after a five-minute period of denial: Me-"She's probably just dehydrated. Maybe it isn't that serious." DH-"She's in the HOSPITAL, honey. It's that serious.") The next morning we were on the road at daybreak, headed a days' drive north to Bend, Oregon.
By the time we arrived at St. Charles Medical Center (AKA, 'the hospital'), Mom was getting re-hydrated with IV fluids and getting some pain relief from IV morphine, but she couldn't remember the word for animal doctor or that stick with the bristles you use to clean your teeth, and I couldn't convince her she hadn't gone home to find her house overrun with bad little boys who'd drawn on the walls with crayons.
Dr. Boddie (pronounced 'body'; isn't that a hoot?), my husband, and I all came to the same conclusion at about the same time: sinus infections don't require patients to be harnessed to their beds because they are in La-la Land. Something else was afoot.
Dr. Boddie transferred Mom to the ICU and ordered a spinal tap. Long story short, the infection had spread to her spinal fluid. Mom had meningitis and encephalitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord as well as the brain itself), a life-threatening infection.
Luckily this story has a happy ending. Mom is one tough mother!

And the staff of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and support personnel at St. Charles are phenomenally professional and compassionate angels of mercy.
A different combo of IV antibiotics began to kill of the killer bacteria. When Mom was strong enough, ENT surgeon Dr. Villano cleaned out all the unmentionable gunk that blocked her sinus openings and then enlarged said openings so she wouldn't get another infection. A semi-permanent IV hookup thingy called a 'pick' was installed in Mom's arm so that she could have infusions of IV drugs twice a day for a week after she went home.
I cared for Mom in her home until she could manage on her own, but I'm down to weekly visits now (in August). She's made a miraculous recovery, thanks to the St. Charles staff and some answered prayers.

I'll blog later about silver linings and messages from the Other Side, but first I'll post the one blog I wrote while at Mom's but was unable to post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Iowa Hill, Sierra Nevada Mountains of California

My brother-in-law, Loyd, took us on a tour of some of the most scenic (and vertical) California Gold Country imaginable near Grass Valley and Auburn. I'll tell you what, those miners were unbelievably tough! Plus, they must have had great homing instincts, because finding their way on foot (most of this terrain is too steep for horses) from place to place was unbelievably difficult.

We stopped at Iowa Hill, a now-tiny community which dates back to the Gold Rush. In those days, thousands of miners worked the North Fork Canyon of the American River. The village sits on a ridge high above the river. The people depended on mule trains for supplies year-round.

A visit to the historic cemetery opened our eyes to just how brutal life was for the settlers. Babies often died in infancy. Mothers often died after giving birth. Many men died in accidents or were murdered. Typhoid and scarlet fever epidemics took a toll. And very few people struck it rich (or even 'middle class').

They lived on hope as much as anything. And many survived. Makes you think, doesn't it.?

Friday, June 18, 2010

These Guys Might Be On To Something...

Fun (& Required) Summer Reading

Soul Pancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions This website is a place to speak your mind, unload your questions, and figure out what it means to be human.

Coffee with a Canine features interviews with authors about their dogs. Coffee and dogs; what's not to love?

Living with Bears gives you the lowdown on finding bears, avoiding bears, and (more importantly) avoiding conflicts with bears. IMHO, this online brochure from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should be required reading for anyone who lives in or visits the Northwestern states.

The Astoria Warrenton Spirit of the Columbia website showcases my favorite Northwestern seaside community. Stuck at home? Take a virtual trip to the beach!

The U.S. Government's 'How to Renew Your Passport' website for all you adventurous international travelers:

I hope you enjoy these fun and informative Internet destinations. They include food for thought, a unique perspective on your favorite authors, and useful vacation information.
I love the fact that Soul Pancake addresses Life's Big Questions. Vacations are a good time to consider What's Really Important in life. Modern life is so fast-paced it's sometimes hard to catch your breath, let alone Think Deep Thoughts. But in the end, what will matter?


Friday, June 11, 2010

Flummoxed by a Car Hog

My DH is a Car Hog. When he's in the car, he want's to be in the driver's seat.

Usually, I'm fine with being a side-seat driver. Annoying him keeps me entertained. But when the trip is longer than four hours, I believe in switching off drivers for safety's sake (and to make sure he can move normally the next day).

Car Hogs do not give up the wheel without an argument - a long, exhausting, and often ridiculous argument. (Examples follow.)

"You're blind in one eye," he says, as if that explains anything. The great states of Iowa and Oregon both feel this is not problem; why should he think otherwise?

"The freeway winds through the mountains." Yes, and it goes straight through the valleys. What's your point?

"It's raining." Wow! Like I've never experienced that before!

"I can't relax when you drive." Not my problem. I have a good driving record. Maybe if I drove with you as a passenger more often, you'd relax.

So yesterday, he resorted to trickery.

"You can drive after lunch," he said reasonably. I agreed. I should have been suspicious, but I was hungry.

The rain stopped outside of tiny Creswell, Oregon. He pointed out a sign for a Mexican restaurant. We stopped to eat and he chose a chair facing the restaurant's front window. He lingered over a cup of cinnamon-scented coffee for a while. Abruptly, he decided it was time to leave and took the payment to the waitress.

Outside, it was pouring. "I'll get the car," he said. "No sense in you getting wet, too."

What can I say? I fell for it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Edgy Post

I've been fascinated by the edges of things for years. (One of my many quirks. Corners, too.)

Edgelands tend to be dangerous places:
The edge of night.
The edge of reason.
A cliff's edge.
Virgins on the verge.
(A verge is an edge, right?)
The edge of panic.
The edge of insanity.

Do you know that deer prefer to live at the edge of the forest, where trees share space with the lesser plants? Maybe that's why more deer live in Iowa, with it's cornfields and pastures and patches of woods, than in our huge Northwestern forests. More edgelands. Also more roads - and thus (unfortunately), more roadkill. I told you the edgelands are dangerous. Someone should convince the deer.

And what about the edges of a rainbow, where red light slips into infrared and violet slides into ultraviolet? Where does one color end and the next begin? Do photons vacillate between the Seen and the Unseen, like our minds at the edge of sleep?

My limits stretch and blur when I'm on the edge of consciousness. In that twilight land between the world of dreams and the everyday world, creativity blossoms; present, past, and future co-exist; anything can happen - and usually does.

My stories begin in the Edgelands.