A Good Day

Remember earlier this month I wanted to revisit times in my life when I was more connected to my son? I got my wish yesterday.

The boy came with me to school because I needed an extra pair of hands (we had Game Day, a Faculty/Fifth Grade kickball game and a Sundae Party). I figured the boy would be handy, AND could help me pack my room.

I woke him at 5:45 - WAY early for him, and we left the house by 6:30. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up lunch and the ice cream for the Sundae Party, then went to Starbucks so he could try the new Banana Frappacino. On the drive to school, we talked. I found out he's more committed to donating his hair to Locks of Love because one of his very good friends (he had a crush on her earlier in the year but now he says he loves her like a sister) was diagnosed with cancer. I don't know what kind, and he said he hasn't known very long, but she's on the medication and is losing her hair. So this weekend, we're going to get his hair cut.

He talked about music, and school, and being on the newspaper next year. He talked about maybe being a high school teacher so he could connect with the kids like his favorite teacher does.

We got to school, and everyone oohed and ahhed over how tall he was and how long his hair was. My little girl from New Orleans was scared of him (he is pretty big - I think he's past 6'2 now) but once we got back into the classroom and set up the games and the boy sat with her and played, she got over it.

He watched the kids while I played kickball with the teachers - we won!! 15-6! I had a sacrifice RBI. Then we went back in, played more games. I loved watching my boy with my kids. He explained things so patiently, and let them hang on him (my student who is his name twin wouldn't leave him alone ;) ). My boy moved from game to game, playing, and the kids were so thrilled when he sat with them. They wanted him to eat lunch with them, but he ate with the teachers. One of the kids brough Scrabble and we both got hooked. I said we'd get the game (though we have a closetful of games we rarely play.)

After school, I'd promised we'd go to the Witte Museum because it's free on Tuesdays and he wanted to see a special exhibit they had there called In the Dark. The commercial had said it would be there through June 4, but when we got to the Witte, the exhibit was gone - Monday was the last day. So we went to the Science Treehouse.

Let me tell you, the Treehouse is cool, but mostly full of little kids. But my big, tall boy had the best time playing on the green screen weather wall, banging on the Stomp-like percussion, playing with air pressure. I actually ran into one of my students and her dad and brothers there. The dad thought my boy was 17! He's only 14!

We went through the whole museum, talking and he was joking around. We watched the prarie dogs play (who knew?) and went to the log cabins out back and went BACK to the Treehouse (did I mention I was exhausted? But I didn't say a word because this was the day I'd been wishing for.) And on the way to the car, he saw the Texas Rangers museum and wondered if anyone went there, and said he'd like to go someday.

We stopped at Panda Express for dinner, came home and watched LOST and I could barely hold my head up. I was in bed before 9!!! (Of course, I woke up at 2 AM and couldn't go back to sleep.) But it was a wonderful, wonderful day.

It's Official - I'm a Girly Girl

It was the gel souffle that did it. Gel souffle! For your skin!

I've never been much of a girly girl. I mean, I wear make up and dresses and sandals and earrings and bracelets, but Bath and Body Works used to flummox me. Those counters at the departments stores? I didn't even glance over. And manicures and pedicures? Heck, I can barely sit still for a haircut!

Three things happened this year that shifted my way of thinking. First, Colleen sent me a goody bag with sugar scrub, bath oil, cuticle cream and nail polish. It was just such a fun surprise! And smelled soooo good (it was orange-y. I don't remember. I used it up pretty quick.) I got addicted to sugar scrub - a very nice exfoliant. I've made two batches of my own, though I can't make it smell as good as that batch.

Then, my friend Sarah at school is ALWAYS talking about girly stuff. She's very girly, and used to work at one of those counters in the mall. She's talking about lotions and salt scrubs and pedicures, and did I mention I adore her? You know how when you adore someone, some of the things she likes rubs off on you?

And then, JoAnn gave me a Bath and Body Works gift card for my birthday. I was going to be absolutely practical. I got my foot scrub. But I also got this sea silt or something for the bathtub. Uh, addicted.

My uncle gave me a gift card to Walmart for my birthday, and when I went, they didn't have any of the blouses I liked anymore. What did I buy? CDs? DVDs? Plants? Nope - nail polish and eyeshadow. And foot cream.

My brother and sister in law gave me a gift card to Target. I saved it till yesterday (can you believe it?) I wanted the resin Adirondak chairs they had on sale. They were out. (I TOLD my dh we needed to go Sunday - did he listen??) What did I buy? Scented candles, the summer scented ones (note to anyone interested - they are NOT very scented, not for $6.50 apiece!)

Then I had a coupon for a free lotion at Bath and Body Works. You had to spend $10 and you got a free $8 bottle of lotion, and Sarah was talking about the pomegranate martini lotion. What Sarah has, Mary has to have. Did Mary get the antibacterial soap, 5 for $10? No, but she wishes she had! I got the sample pack of all those sea silt products, including the gel souffle, which smells really good and also makes your skin feel soooo smooth.

So. I turned into a girly girl when I wasn't even looking!

Are you a girly girl? What do you indulge in?

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Past, Present and Future

Yeah, I don't know what that title's about. I know all I want to do is go back to bed. My sister in law and I are the only ones in the family working today. I know, I shouldn't complain- in a week I get 10 weeks off. But I'm tired and cranky NOW!

So, I kind of started this last week, asking about what ideas you have and how they're different from what you usually write. Sooo...here's what I have written:

A three-heroine/three hero story (600 pages!)
Two sports hero stories
A military hero story and a former military hero story
A single mom story
Two single dad stories (one is a sports hero)
Two reunion stories
One bad boy comes back to town story
One best friend story
Two firefighter stories (one is the best friend)
One amateur sleuth story
One futuristic (surprised me, too)
Two cop stories (one is a reunion story)

Here's what I've started:

A hostage story where a hostage falls in love with the hostage negotiator. It finalled in a contest - I don't remember which. I never finished it.
A Sex and the City type story.
A romance bringing Moulin Rouge into the present day
A story about a man whose father killed his mother. I tried to put romance into it and killed the magic. Stupidly didn't save the original.
An adventure story on a cruise

Here's what I want to write:

A Bermuda Triangle story - I just don't want to rip off Lost
A tornado chaser story - I know who he is, but not who she is.
A spy story with three potential heroes - including the villain.
A story about a mom who gives up everything for her kids, until she has a chance to make her dreams come true.

I've never written:

A story where the hero and heroine have a sexual relationship that turns to romance
A historical
A medical/office romance
A comedy
A secret baby/amnesia/marriageof convenience (though I have an idea for the latter). I did write a cowboy story when I was in middle school, though ;)

What have you written/never written?

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500 Posts in One Year!!!

Two milestones today....500 posts and my one year anniversary of blogging. Wow, it seems like NO time sinc eI was picking out my look, and my name. I'm recconected with some friends, made new friends, hopefully didn't make any enemies - at least that I know of ;) I've talked about writing - my own journey and craft and the importance of chapters. You've met my dh and ds and Cindi and my mom. You've mourned my grandmother with me. You've celebrated with me.

Here's a special thank you

Here are some more!

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You want to know something weird? I was only awake ELEVEN hours yesterday! Even with two naps, I was falling asleep on the couch last night. Then we had a bad storm and looks like more rain on the way. We sure need it. Off to X Men and then a barbecue today!

Ideas Running Around My Brain

Are there kinds of stories you wish you could write? Characters you wish you could write?

When I was watching The DaVinci Code, they were talking about the Knights Templar and October 13 and my writer's brain just perked up. Wow, wouldn't THAT be a great story? (My dear friend Elizabeth said Linda Howard already wrote the ultimate book on the subject, but still.)

Then I was reading Mr. Impossible, which ended up on my keeper shelf. The hero was just so irreverent. I LOVED him. I would love to be able to write a hero like that. My heroes are usually so serious, though they can have a wry sense of humor. This next one will be more serious.

I have so many ideas popping in my head - hopefully I can settle down soon write them.

What kind of stories would you love to write? What's stopping you?

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Negativity

Negativity has been coming at me from many sides lately. For one, I’ve been riding with my mom this last month since our schools are across the highway from each other. Thing is, she does most of the talking, and much of it is complaining, from school to being broke to my youngest brother not needing her anymore, to how they never get to go to their land. It’s exhausting. I hurt for unhappy she must be, but at the same time, I kind of rise up in kind, complaining myself. Now, I love my job (which she clearly doesn’t) and I hate that I get there in a bad mood because she is. I’m going to try to find the courage to talk to her about it today. If you don’t hear from me, it may be that she left me on the side of the road.

So this is the mindset I went into watching The Family Stone. I’d heard others say it wasn’t the rom/com they marketed as. It was quite simply, a family of jerks. JERKS. Okay, Sarah Jessica Parker wasn’t the nicest person, and she was kind of stupid (which made you wonder how she interacted in the business world, where she was clearly successful) but the family prejudged her based on one bitchy sister, and then her support system – her REASON FOR BEING THERE – dropped out from beneath her. I guess the mistakes the writers made was making her too sympathetic, to me, anyway. But I really wanted to throttle Diane Keaton’s character (and I LOVE Diane Keaton). She raised a bunch of JERKS. I went to bed with such an ugly feeling.

Then I read a friend’s email that there’s a big brouhaha going on at AAR. I resisted going. I did. I knew that kind of negativity isn’t good for me. I took a bunch of blogs off my blogroll last year because they were so negative. All that happens when I read that stuff is that I get madder and madder. I’m afraid to post, because people jump on your case, and I am not very good at defending myself. But I went to see what it was all about, finally stopped myself from reading more. (Though I honestly want to know why everyone thinks RWA is the devil. It’s an organization run by volunteers who give up a lot of their own personal time, and then get attacked in public forums. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but nothing, not even the ill-advised surveys last summer, make them deserve this.)

I’ve long ago quit email loops with negative people, or I skip their posts. I align myself with positive people at work. That’s not to say we never complain, but we also try to work out solutions. Isn’t that the only way to combat negativity? What do you do?

Also related, what would you say the difference between negativity and sadness is? I want to see the last Grey’s Anatomy again, and while it was sad, I felt it was also positive (except for Meredith!).

So, here's something positive.

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Sigh.

"I Was Wrong."

Ya think, Locke? Sheesh. What an episode to end the season, though! I couldn't tear my eyes away (except about 5 till 9 when I clicked over to see Taylor win AI! SOUL PATROL!!!) So, many questions answered, so many more raised. What happened to Locke and Eko? What happened to Sun, Jin and Sayid? What's going to happen to Sawyer, Kate and Jack, and WHY those three? What about Walt and Michael? Will they make it home? Poor Desmond tried for weeks. And who were those guys in the mountains who saw the alert about the magnetic anomaly on their computer screen? Also, I thought they were going to show the plane crash.

I spent the last two days rewriting my sucknopsis, with help from Trish. Hopefully it's all good now, and I can get back to DLB, which was done, but the distance I've had from it makes me want to add something else, then send THAT. THEN I can start on something new.

Today is the boy's last day of school - no more lunches to make!!!! No more dresses for me - I'm going to capris every day. And I need to start packing - have to stop at the HEB for boxes.

Tonight, I'll finally watch The Family Stone, I guess.

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Soooooo Tired

Came home from the field trip, then the doctor, and collapsed on the couch. Did I go to bed after 24? NOOO. I stayed up to watch the Spurs lose in overtime. Why-oh-why did they have to foul Shaggy, the best free throw shooter on the Mavericks?

So I'll be a lazy blogger today. TrishJ sent this to me.

HEALTH QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good !

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! ... Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

And yes, this is mostly just an excuse to post this.

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Season Finale Week

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. No, not that it’s the week before the last week of school. It’s season finale week!

Tonight, I thank heaven for VCRs (yes, still in the 20th century there). 24 first – What will the terrorists do to the nuclear submarine? What will the first lady do about Aaron? What will Jack do to the president?

Alias – What will become of Sloane? What is in the vial? (My suspicion is some kind of elixir to make you live forever.) Will Sark be in it? Surely Irina will be. What about Weiss? Will Sydney and Michael try for a normal life with Isabel?

Tuesday night – American Idol. I love Taylor, have since he auditioned. NEVER did I figure he’d get this far, though, But I’ll be cheering him on. Ruben’s been the only male American Idol, right?

Wednesday – LOST! So many questions and only 2 hours. Who’s on the boat? Who’s the guy with the beard? Why do they want THOSE 4? Where was Locke going?

So while my days will be long, with a field trip and 5 parent conferences and an after school meeting and awards and a doctor’s appointment, I will be looking forward to my evenings.

Munich report – GREAT character study about what living a life of violence can do to a man. You could just see him becoming more and more haunted, wondering when it would end. I woke up thinking about it first thing this morning. Ended a bit abruptly (after 2 hours and 45 minutes) and may I say – Eric Bana has the finest butt in the world. He made 70s clothes look good.

I know, serious movie, but I never claimed to be deep ;)

I finished and forwarded Hot Shot and the synopsis. Hopefully will get to look at DLB soon.

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A reward? I think not.

I reached my goal on my revisions yesterday and took the evening off to watch The New World.

Deadly dull, IMO. Lots of slow walking. Lots of choppy scenes, though beautiful scenery. More voiceovers than dialogue, but I don’t know if it was my DVD, but I could hear very little. The music bugged the heck out of me.

If you’re watching for Christian Bale (who was, okay, REALLY handsome in this), he doesn’t show up till the last 45 minutes. They did, however, do a good job with sexual tension without hardly any kissing.

So glad I didn’t see this in the theater, though.

Today, The DaVinci Code, revise 70 pages and the sucknopsis. Tonight, Munich. That movie is almost three hours!!

I'm also blogging at WNP today - you know I never have a shortage of things to say!

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Oh, and why didn't anyone tell me about this show???

Into the Firestorm

It got me all fired up for revisions!

Learning Curves - A First Book

Celebrate Terry's first book!!!

LEARNING CURVE
Terry McLaughlin’s debut novel
Harlequin Superromance
May 2006

What it’s about:


High school history teacher Joe Wisniewski may be in a rut, but he dug it
himself and he’s not planning on getting out anytime soon. The last thing
he wants is to mentor a starry-eyed newcomer, so when he gets an
unexpected assignment—Emily Sullivan, a student teacher with a steamroller
smile and dynamite legs—he digs in deeper and ducks for cover.

Emily has looked up to the legendary “Wiz” for a long time. In her
opinion, the man is coasting these days, and she’s sure a little change in
his routine is exactly what he needs. The question is: Will Emily get Joe
fired up or just plain fired?

0373713487.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_

What others are saying:

"...a skillfully developed story with wonderful characters and excellent
dialogue..." 4 Stars from Romantic Times

"...sassy, sexy and riotous entertainment..." 5 Stars from CataRomance

"...snappy, entertaining, compelling...richly drawn characters and laugh
out loud dialogue...” National Bestselling Author Roxanne St. Claire

To learn more about Terry, visit her website:

10 More Days

And not enough time!

I have 5 parent conferences scheduled, a field trip, grades to turn in, my room to pack, books to turn in, awards to make. Every time I get one thing done, I have to do two more things! BLEH!!!

Looks like I am going to 4th grade with my class, though. I’ll be sad to leave Cindi, but I’ll be working with her husband. I think we’ll have a strong unit.

My son only has 5 days left, brat.

I overslept this morning - snoozed three times. This is AFTER coming home yesterday and taking an hour nap on the couch! At least it's Friday.

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Our Town

Did anyone ever see/read the play Our Town? It's been awhile so my memory is hazy, but the main character dies and goes back to different periods of her life to visit. She can't interact or change anything, she just watches. But she gets to select which days she can go back and "relive," so to speak. I think she picks the day she got engaged, the day she got married, all the highlights of her life with her husband.

As I look at my son, who is 14 and 6'2, with all that long hair and the lean face with whiskers on his chin, I wish I could go back and revisit the days when he was younger. I don't know if I'd pick a special day, like a vacation or a holiday. I think I'd pick an ordinary day. A day, maybe, where we went to the zoo together, or Sea World, and then went to lunch and came home and rested in the cool house. A day where maybe one of our favorite movies came out on video and we would lay together on the couch watching it, his little body curled into mine, his hair smelling of boy sweat and shampoo. A day where we played softball in the back yard, or I sat and watched him splash around in one of those little pools (the year I didn't buy one of those was a sad year, lemme tell you.) Maybe the day the three of us went to Lost Maples Park, even though he was exhausted by the climb up the "easy" trail. Or the first time he saw the ocean. Maybe even our trip to Disneyland.

I loved him being a baby, but I guess I want to go back to a day when we were interacting.

He still loves me, still talks to me, will let me hug him now and again, but it's not like it used to be and that makes me more sad than you know. He's very close to my husband, which is reassuring, but not the same. I miss my little boy.

Here is a picture from when he was still shorter than me.

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In other news, I think the SARA meeting went well last night. ANOTHER SARA sold to Triskelion. That makes something like 7 of our writers for them! I still think we're focusing too much on the new members, though. I guess that's natural since most of the board members are new. And I'm thinking having only 20 members at meetings isn't a bad thing - I got to talk to about everyone.

Here's a picture from Butterfly on a Wheel.

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Chapter Meeting Tonight

Yeah, I know, big whoop. But here's the thing. I know I've whined a bit about my chapter here, and tonight's meeting is a brainstorming session about what we want from SARA. Apparently we're going to fill out something called an Octopus chart? Have any of your chapters done this? You tell what you like, what you would like to improve, and add a wish list of three things.

Do any of you have any cool programs in your chapter that you really like? I'm just unsure of what I want from my chapter right now (and honestly, making it to the May meeting is more than I can do most years - this time of year is just stressful). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

What did you think of American Idol last night?

Sorry...obsessed....

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If You Tivo'd Grey's Anatomy Last Night, Skip This Post

What a night! I took my shower early and the dh comes banging on the door. "Your show's on!" (He likes it too - don't let that fool you.) So they replayed Sunday's show which helped me understand Izzy a bit better, her desperation.

Then the first hour last night - will they get the heart, won't they get the heart? Will she kill Denny? What are the consequences going to be? I was sitting cross legged on my couch, leaning toward the TV. Poor Denny, lying there while the interns are running around. I wondered how long it would take Bailey to notice they were gone. You know how it gets on my nerves when Jack from Lost cries all the time? Doesn't get on my nerves when Denny cries.

And Burke - all he wanted was Christina by his side and she just didn't have it in her. A nice thing about an ensemble cast is that you got to see his relationship deepen with McMeany.

Then, the second hour. The interns covering for each other, except, of course, Alex, who was needed comic relief, especially during the planning of the prom (which was weird, okay? Considering they didn't even show the niece that much!) Even Bailey was pretty funny when she came into the prom planning and started barking orders like she always does.

Denny was alive, sitting up, had proposed. The way he looked at Izzy melted my toes. When she came back in and said, "My turn," and his whole face lit up. And Bailey chased her off.

The interviews with the interns - OMG, really showed their personalities. George and his philosophy, Alex and his I-don't-give-a----, Christina and her need to be aloof. I loved the chief's response to that - "I don't want to be responsible for making you less human." Then Meredith turns the tables on him. I can just see him after the interviews, all muddle-headed, especially after listening to George, who always goes off in left field.

And then, oh, and then.....that last commercial break was the longest, EVER! I thought it was interesting the way we found out - Callie coming for Meredith and Bailey going to the chief. And then Izzy, not crying, and then crying and Alex, of all people, picking her up and carrying her and comforting her (and yes, you know I was in love). Y'all, I should have taped it because I was SOBBING. My son was looking at me so weird, and my dh saying, "You know this is FICTION," and I'm sobbing, "But he LOVED her and she LOVED him and he made her feel like HERSELF!" And then Izzy quitting and damn, I really like her because she risked EVERYTHING for what she believes. Even Christina learned that. I guess we'll have to wait till September to see if Meredith does.

Anyway, awesome, awesome show, awesome, awesome writing. I think what really got me is that they surprised me. He had the transplant, he was sitting up, he was happy, and then BOOM.

On the downside, I think I missed the first 15-20 of 24 last night - thought the Pres would be on longer, so set the timer for 8:15 or 8:20 - not sure which.

Good Morning America is showing a lost scene from last night's episode, and Alex himself is on The View today.

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Grey's Anatomy, Insomnia and Plotting for Dummies

Was I the only one screaming, "NO, IZZY!!!!" at the TV last night? By the last five minutes, I was watching from the kitchen, hands pressed to my face. What is going to happen? To Denny and to her career, and then she drags George into it?? And then BURKE??

16 more hours....must tape 24, though I'm mad at it.

I've already been awake for an hour, still not feeling myself, knowing I have to go to school for those three parent conferences (though I don't know if they're today or not.) My kids are good, in any case. But I sure would like a good night's sleep for a switch.

I'm almost done with the first scene in Hot Shot (I know, I was going to finish it Friday...I have never had more people in and out of my house than I have this week...argh!). Meanwhile, I'm playing with the synopsis for Alex's story, just to get it out of my head. I'm actually plotting the romance first. (I may be slow, but not stupid. Okay, maybe a little.) But I'm not that great at plotting. So I've got my internal conflict. I've got my set-up. Then I was thinking three external events that impact the internal conflict? Does that make sense? Would those be the turning points? And when you plot, do you have something pull them apart, but something else bring them together, under the umbrella of those turning points?

Speak slowly and use small words - this is new to me ;)

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What Is Family?

The other day my mother-in-law said something about being proud of how Baby Brother turned out. The comment struck me for two reasons - she's known me since I was BB's age, and she has been part of the family longer than he has. Of course she'd feel invested in BB - he's part of her family. (I think it's taken her about that long to realize, too.)

So it got me thinking about family. You've read about Cindi. I've always said the girl has created her own family, despite the fact that she has a large, close one of her own - 2 sisters, a brother and her mom, not to mention that her husband is one of 11 children. Still, Cindi draws people to her.

Our friend Lucinda is a single mom with grown children. That she's a rabid Spurs fan first drew Cindi, but that one common interest brought them close enough to buy season passes together, go on vacation together - and Lucinda and Cindi's mom even go on those benefit walks together.

Corrinna is another friend, a single woman with no family in town. Cindi's family has essentially adopted this woman - Corrinna has gone on vacation with Cindi's oldest sister, and has more influence than anyone we know on her middle sister.

When Cindi's oldest sister was going to have her first baby, the amnio indicated he had Down's Syndrome. Cindi's middle sister and I cried on the phone together as we thought about poor Maryanne's choices. (Maryanne had the baby, who is perfectly healthy and in 5th grade.)

Then there's the rest of our crew who meet every holiday, even though we're spread over the state. Patti, single and a vice principal in Austin, used to teach at our last school with us. She still shows up for every gathering, though she also has a large family of her own.

Norma is married with no kids, and her mom has Alzheimer's. She told us when we came to her dad's funeral that she knew who her friends were.

So that's what family is, y'all. People who are invested in you, who include you, who love you. I'm so happy to be part of Cindi's family.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, Y'ALL!

(I have some great pictures of the crew, but no scanner, alas. You have to make do with Gerry.)

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Anybody Doing This?

I'm chicken.


AMERICAN TITLE III
They always say that good things come in threes. So once again Dorchester is offering all unpublished authors a chance to participate in the American Title contest, co-sponsored by Romantic Times. This year we’re looking for contemporary romance: chick lit, romantic suspense, paranormals, romantic comedies and anything that falls in between. The finished manuscript should be 80,000-90,000 words, but to start we just need the first three chapters and a synopsis that summarizes the story from beginning to end. Send your entries by June 1st to:

AMERICAN TITLE III
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., Suite 2000
New York, NY 10016

Please note that “unpublished” refers to authors who have never had a
full-length novel appear in print form.


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I dreamed about Alex again. Also had a very complex dream about school, something about a talent show/science fair/writing contest/cooking competition all on one day. And I finally got to meet the principal's wife. And the principal kept disappearing with Cindi.

That was a drug-free dream, too, I want you to know.

And if you're curious, the new flavored Tostitos are gooooood.

Rumor Has It

The mail came, with this movie, and so I watched it. It was....okay. I just don't get why they set it in 1997. I mean, I do, because clearly they didn't want a heroine, so to speak, close to 40. Or the Kevin Costner character close to 60. Or the grandmother character close to 80. Still, the whole movie felt kind of off because of that. But I thought KC was charming, and JA is so beautiful.

But I would have written it differently.

I think Hollywood definitely needs to look elsewhere for its romantic comedies.

Her dress at the Casablanca night was really cool, though.

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Yesterday, Today and TV

Hi, guys! What a long day yesterday was – I had an outpatient procedure at the hospital and had to be there at 6:30, according to the doctor. Of course, when I got there, the hospital people yelled at me for being late – said I was supposed to be there at 5:30. Like I wasn’t stressed enough. But they processed me quickly, had a hard time finding a vein to take blood, hauled me to pre-op. I was out less than a minute after hitting the stretcher in the OR. Came awake with a sore throat (they intubated me – glad I didn’t know they were going to do that) and shaking from the anesthesia. FINALLY had something to drink – I’m always so thirsty – and then I could get dressed and go home.

Came home and ate two Milano cookies Cindi had bought me and went to bed. Slept FIVE HOURS. Woke up when the boy came home. Spent the rest of the day on the couch, and of course everyone came over. I could barely talk because of my sore throat, but that didn’t stop them. Sigh.

Anyway, took off today as well. ESK emailed me and LOVES Dee’s idea about the divorce.

So my goal today is to rewrite the first scene and strengthen Gabe.

Also to finish reading Ice Bound so I can return it to the library.

Also to clean off my back patio, which has a lot of mud and leaves from last week’s rain.

Also to try the honey butter chicken biscuits from Whataburger.

So…did you see The Office? The declaration? The kiss?? OMG. And my MIL was here and I had to explain to her I’d been waiting all year for that declaration and kiss, because my dh had to shush her.

And American Idol – Chris gone. I can’t believe it. I thought it would be Katharine for sure. Trish said she could never get through for Chris when she tried to vote. I heard Chris say something like people assumed he would win (not as arrogant as that – I’m paraphrasing) so they didn’t vote. I think that’s probably what happened.

Alias – just like the good ol’ days. Of course, my brother was here during most of it, but I saw the end, so that’s okay.

LOST – so glad Eko didn’t die. So sad for Hurley. So what did Eko’s brother mean when he said Locke had lost his way?

Invasion – very concentration camp-ish, no? I'm so bummed that next Wednesday is my chapter meeting. My old VCR is getting a workout this week!

Oh, and did you see that Grey's Anatomy will be on 20 20 tonight?

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I can't WAIT to read this book!

I just got it yesterday!

A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston, Harlequin Historical, ISBN: 037329400X

She's a 2006 RITA Finalist for Best Regency Romance, and her latest book is out this month!

Reputable Rake

Cyprian Sloane's reputation is of the very worst. A gambler, smuggler, rake, and a spy, he now faces the greatest challenge of all--respectability! He will force Society to accept him. Nothing will stand in his way... Until he meets Morgana Hart, whose caring nature thrusts her into the company of ladies of the night and risks a scandal that will destroy them both. To become a gentleman, Cyprian must sacrifice the lady--or is there a way to save them both?

Feel Good Movie

I just watched Last Holiday with Queen Latifah, and it was so good! I just loved her character, and the secondary characters - no one was cardboard, IMO. She's diagnosed with lesions on the brain, takes all her money out of savings and blows it. But as she does it, she affects all these people along the way, and it's just really nice. I had one bone to pick at the very end, when one of the people she changes doesn't show the change, but minor. I liked it very much, and she's just so beautiful.

Here's the evil kitty. Doesn't he look evil?

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The Dress Is HERE!!!!!!

And I love it!


Ignore my head - look at the dress!

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Conversations with Emily

I finally hooked up with my agent yesterday when I was walking back from taking my kids to PE. (Had my phone with me - wise, yes?)

Here's the deal:

OPENING SCENE

She didn't think the first scene was as good as it could be. The first scene used to be Gabe coming to the firecamp and finding out he was getting a reporter, Peyton, on his crew. The problem with that was his ex-wife was on the scene, and she was the one assigning him the reporter. The bigger problem is that Gabe still is hurt by his ex-wife, still has feelings for her. Which makes sense, but not in romance land - not if he's going to be hooking up with Peyton.

So I'd rewritten the opening scene where Peyton meets Gabe the night before they meet at firecamp, at a dancehall/restaurant/bar. It was hard to write, since that other scene had been the first scene for years, literally. My friend Kris said when she read it that she could see my goal, but not the character goal, and Emily echoed that (though I thought I'd fixed it.) So Emily wants it to be a scene where Peyton's taking control of her life, she sees Gabe and decides she wants him. Which could be fun. But I don't want them to go all the way, so I have to figure out a) how to stop them and b) what makes Peyton special enough that he won't blow her off (which he's adept at doing).

GABE

He needs to be more adamant about never wanting to leave the job. This, I can do.

PEYTON

Oy, Peyton. This one is the toughie. From the dawn of time, her motivation has been that her husband died in the line of duty and she's doing a series of articles on people who do dangerous jobs so she can figure out what makes them tick. This changed during the last revision to where she's still doing the series, but SHE wants to be heroic. Emily doesn't think that's strong enough, but she wants me to keep it tied to these things so I just don't have to gut the whole book. My friend Norah suggested that Peyton have a secret that could be revealed if she does this job, a secret that would lower her in Gabe's estimation, but I just can't wrap my mind around what.

THE GOOD NEWS

The suspense plot is good and strong. Thank God. That was the hardest part!

AND she wants me to write something new after I do this. I told her about Alex's story and she really liked it.

SCHOOL

OMG, I have to get ready for work, and I'm staying there today till everything's done (I've been carpooling with my mom and she likes to leave right away.) I have to get ready for a sub for 2 days, get progress reports out (which requires grading papers), schedule conferences and do paperwork for the kids who are going to summer school (3 - half of what I had last year), do my self evaluation and good Lord, organize my room. It's awful.

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Office Supplies - A Love Story

When my grandmother was teaching, she would tell her mother, "It's time to go back to school. I smell pencils."

So you see, I come by my office supply addiction naturally.

Back in the day, when I first started writing, my needs were few - pens and spirals. They couldn't be any old pens, though. No Bics for me - they had to write nice. That requirement lasts till today, where my favorite pens are the Dr. Grip Gel pens (though I've lost my pink one - wah!) Even Nora has a favorite pen, though of course I've forgotten what it was (but I used it for awhile, too.)

I soon learned spirals, while great for transportation, were too limiting, so I moved onto binders, the fatter the better. There are these really cool ones my friend Robyn uses, that come in colors, but I prefer the ones you can slide pictures in, kind of make your own cover.

Then there are notecards, ostensibly for brainstorming scenes. They have to be in color, don't you know - certain colors for certain storylines. I buy them every time I start a new story. Don't ask how many packs I have now. I never quite can get into it, but buying them is still sort of a ritual. (I even have some that are marbelized.) I do the same with colored Post-Its. Only the real ones, now, because once I made a huge storyboard and taped it on my hallway closet with all the generic stickies and every time I came home, the foyer looked like the parade had been through.

When I was contesting, binder clips were a passion - the prettier, the better. Until I stopped getting the pretty ones back with my entries. Hmmm....

My new thing is the highlighters with the Post-It flags in the barrel. Have you seen these? I go through my hard copy, make changes, flag them and then I can find them easily when I go to enter them in on the computer.

If the jerk cat doesn't tear them all out.

What are your favorite writer toys?

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What I've Been Doing Since I Haven't Been Writing (Besides Coming Up with Long-Ass Titles)

What I’ve done since I haven’t been writing:

Okay, it’s only been a week, and not quite that.

I’ve judged 6 contest entries and read a partial for Trish.

I’ve mopped my living room and cleaned my kitchen and bathrooms.

I used that Oxy refinisher stuff for my living/dining room floors.

I’ve created a rubric for some trade books in my classroom.

I’ve updated my school website for a contest next week.

I’ve gone through my blogroll three whole times!

Got Mother’s Day gifts and cards – on time!

Watched Talk Soup and every Blockbuster movie the day it came. (Matchpoint, which was COMPLETELY not what I expected, and Hoodwinked, which wasn’t as funny as I was led to believe. Except the hyper squirrel. We liked the hyper squirrel. And it’s a good lesson in POV.)

Cruised the Internet – did you know Denny from Grey’s Anatomy is also in Supernatural and that his birthday is the day after mine? SURRRRE you did ;) Also found some new Gerry pics.


What I haven’t done:

Sit on my patio or in my big chair and just READ.

Exercised.

Cooked or baked.

So really, not that much more. I did watch a lot more TV. I slept later. I went to bed earlier. But all in all, not that much more. I can find balance, if I work hard enough.

Emily is calling tomorrow. Fingers crossed it’s not something huge.

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Word of Mouth

I think of any business, the book business benefits from word of mouth. The first book I bought based on a friend's recommendation was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I scarfed that baby and the three after it right down.

I was looking at my TBR and marveling how large it’s grown since I started using the Internet. Word of mouth has had me trying books I never would have picked up otherwise.

Case in point, Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase. It won some contest on AAR and so I got it. I’m reading it. It deserved the award.

I’m also reading Icebound, which Trish had recommended. It hasn’t gotten to the Antarctica bit yet, but it’s good.

I categorized my TBR pile by where I’d heard of the books and decided to give them a try. Here are some samples, or I’d be here all day.

From online reviews:
Medusa Rising by Cindi Dees
Rules of Engagement by Katherine Caskie
Michele Albert books
Sophie’s Last Stand by Nancy Bartholomew
Secret Soldier by Dana Marton

Books by people I’ve met online:
Catherine Mann’s books
Off the Map by Dorien Kelly
Tracy Montoya’s books
Primary Suspect by Susan Peterson
Carrie Alexander’s books
Karen Templeton’s books

Books recommended by blogs, message boards or email loops:
Gena Showalter books
Diana Peterfreund’s book
A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court by Marianne Mancusi
Bitten and Smitten by Michelle Rowen (okay, I read this already, but it’s a prime example)
Vickie Taylor’s Gargoyle books
Not a Girl Detective by Susan Kandel
Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner

Books recommended at RWA workshops:
The Price of Pleasure by Kresley Cole
Lisa Gardner books

What books are in your TBR and where did they come from?

The radar looks like someone dashed a lot of red and orange paint on it - I guess I won't be hitting the grocery store for a bit!

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20 more days

The countdown continues….

3 more Fridays
3 more Thursdays
4 more Mondays
4 more Tuesdays
4 more Wednesdays

4 more mornings of duty.
14 more lunches to make.
One field trip.
One talent show.
One field day.
No more trips to the school library (inventory starts next week) and one more to the public library across the street.
One more story in the reading book.

Did I mention I might move to 4th grade with these kids? Loop with them? I’d keep the same class, complete, and perhaps get my GT (gifted and talented) hours and add three more kids from Cindi’s class. It would be hard to leave my unit, but I have only had three classes in 17 years that I was so fond of, and who knows when I’ll have such a group again? And seriously, y’all, I miss these kids on weekends. At least if I know I’ll have them again, I can look forward to next school year.

So, why am I counting down?

I’m tired. I fell asleep at 7:30 last night.

The drive – 30 minutes each way. Tiring AND expensive, though now I’m riding with my mom who teaches at the school across the street (it isn’t as convenient as it sounds, though we’ve been going to Starbucks everyday.)

I’m just tired of bring on a schedule. I want to be on my own time.

And when I do, I hope I can make the best of it.

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SWEEPS Month (Or, why I'm really taking a break in May) SPOILER WARNING!

I’m so glad I’m taking this month off because I can watch Sweeps Month without guilt. So much happening!!!

Grey’s Anatomy – am I the only one who didn’t recognize Chris O’Donnell as McVet? And for McDreamy to come in and assume…If Denny dies, I’m going to cry for a week.

24 – OMG, bad pilot, possibility of getting shot out of the air! Pres. Logan will do it, too, I have no doubt. Devane kills himself, Audrey is bleeding to death. Who is the guy running the thing behind the scenes, though? (Other than the jerky dr. from ER) They’ve kind of abandoned the real-time issue though, haven’t they? 4 more hours!

American Idol – no suspense, really. Chris or Katharine will win. I’m glad Taylor survived! He’s fun. Did anyone see the results show? Was there a bottom 2 or 3? Who else was there with Paris?

Alias – last week with Will and Anna ROCKED. This week, Nadia woke up from her coma. Yawn. Anna looks like Sydney, so the whole time, I’m wondering which is real Syd and which is Anna. Then Nadia goes to Sloan and tells him to choose Rambaldi or her. Guess who he chooses? I didn’t think it would be so bloody. I almost was sad to see Nadia go. And the French chick. Next week looks GOOOOOOOOD!!!

Lost. The minute it was over, I jumped off the couch and ran to email Trish. My email? Subject heading: OMG! Body: OMG!!! OMG!!!
Wow. Good episode overall, I looked up and saw it was ten till nine! Then all the shooting and the dying and now the female body count is up, and I want to know why! Also, Henry said Ana had killed TWO of the others. I know she killed the one on the hillside – who was the other one?? And man, Henry can play Locke like a flute, huh? I wish I hadn’t watched the previews for next week, though.

I’ve lost interest in Invasion. The only part I remember last night was the dying teacher.

I know I’m sick of my story when I don’t even want to look at a picture of Gerry….

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Surrender

Sigh. My agent emailed. She wants to talk about Hot Shot. Again. I don’t think I can go back to that book one more time. It’s as good as I can make it. If that’s not good enough, maybe I just need to step back.

For the millionth time in twelve years, I ask myself, Why am I doing this? So I went out back to water my plants and started playing the “If” game. You know the game; you’ve all played it.

If I quit writing, I would have time to sit out in my yard and read, just for pleasure, without feeling guilty about not writing. And maybe after awhile, I’ll stop diagnosing “just how she did that.”

If I quit writing, I could sell all those how-to books I bought but never read, and almost make up for the cost of the contests I’ve entered. Plus, I’d have more shelf space for the books I could buy to read for pleasure without feeling guilty.

If I quit writing, I could go on a real vacation, not have to plan it around National.

If I quit writing, I could stop running to the answering machine and the mailbox as soon as I get home, hoping for word from New York.

If I quit writing, I could stop spending so much time at the post office, stop spending so much money on ink and paper.

If I quit writing, I could paint the sunroom. And the bedroom.

If I quit writing, I could be a world-class teacher, could keep up my house better, could become a great cook. (Okay, let’s not go crazy here, Mary.)

But…

If I quit writing, my husband would kill me after all the money I’d spent on books/conferences/contests.

If I quit writing, I won’t have an excuse to have a picture of Gerard Butler hanging by the computer.

If I quit writing, I’ll no longer have a place in the writers’ communities I’ve become a part of. That may be the hardest of all, to explain to them, to turn away from friendships forged in the flames.

If I quit writing, the persistence I want my son to emulate will be wasted. I’ll never be able to say I’m not a quitter again.

If I quit writing, I’ll never walk into Barnes and Noble and see my books on the shelf. I’ll never know if the next book might have resulted in The Call.

If I quit writing, I’d be giving up on a dream I’ve had since I was nine years old.

So, will I quit? I don’t know. Writing, and waiting, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and to think I’m doing it voluntarily almost makes me insane. How can something I’m so compelled to do bring me down?

So it may be time to take a step back, reevaluate. But I have a feeling that walking away will be harder than moving forward.

We had a badass hailstorm here last night, from out of nowhere!

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Movie and Book Month

I am finished with Don’t Look Back. I’m going to let it sit till the end of the week, since that’s the first I can mail it anyway, in case lightning strikes and I come up with something new. I’m still light on pages, am hoping my agent can come up with suggestions.

The rest of the month, I’m taking off (you can start making wagers now how long that will last.) I’m going to read and watch movies and TV and not feel guilty.

I’ve been slogging through The Hostage in the name of research. It’s…interesting to read outside the genre. I’m on page 60, I think, and good heavens, we have done everything but gone to the bathroom with the hero. I keep waiting for something to happen to disrupt his mission, but no. He gets on one plane. The stewardess makes him check his bag because there’s no room in the overhead compartment. So he’ll have to check it and then need it later, right?

Wrong.

He gets on another plane and starts watching Ransom with Mel Gibson and thinks of what a good job Mel did in We Were Soldiers, and how he’ll watch to see what choice Mel makes in the movie.

He falls asleep.

That’s not even mentioning the times the story has stopped dead still for backstory or to introduce a new character.

No wonder this book is over 450 pages.

Clearly the author has done his research, but can we please. Get. To the hostage rescue. Already.

Before this, I read A Demon’s Kiss, which, I hate to say, is a rotten title, and it has a crummy cover, but what a cool concept. The Grail as the cure for vampirism. It’s been forever since I’ve read a medieval, and it was awesome.

I also started Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, and it is set in Egypt, which is very cool. Has great characters – the hero is a bad, bad boy – and a bluestocking heroine, a kidnapped brother, exotic setting. I may just give up on The Hostage and indulge myself in this one.

I saw Casanova this weekend. Very fun little farce – I would have liked it to be longer. Not as sexy as one would think a movie about Casanova to be, just some ribald humor and one brief love scene. Surprising considering the R rating.

Saw Tristan and Isolde last night. Bleak. Blech. Crying James Franco. Rufus Sewell as a good guy for a switch. More love scenes than Casanova, yet PG13. I don’t get it.

Tonight, Aeon Flux. I know, I’m not holding out much hope.

We haven’t had a hunk picture in awhile.


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Happy Anniversary, House!

Today is the 7th anniversary of moving into our house. Weird for me to remember, I suppose, but I never in all my life dreamed we’d be able to live in this neighborhood. My dh and I each grew up less than 5 miles from where we live now, but in less grand houses. When we married at 20, we lived hand to mouth, and we got in some financial trouble. We went to counseling, and because of that, were able to be debt free and save for a down payment. We qualified for this house, and while I was uncomfortable paying as much as we ended up paying (we more than doubled what we’d been paying in rent, but we’d also tucked away extra each month as if we were making a larger payment, which was how we saved the down payment.)

My brother and his wife had bought a house in October before we bought this, and recommended their real estate agent to us. She was awesome. She gave Dale and Sonia a gift certificate to Outback for the recommendation, gave us one to Saltgrass Steakhouse for something, and another to Texas Land and Cattle the day we sold. Anyway, I mention Dale and Sonia because they paid the same, and bought a house the same size. We are such copycats! Theirs is about 30 years newer, though.

We found this house the first day we looked, February 6, 1999. We were in the neighborhood looking at another house (that my son’s best friend ended up moving into), and we had seen some pretty crappy ones. We walked into this house, and there was so much light from the skylights and the sunroom, the people who owned the house were making chili and beans. The floors gleamed. We both knew right away this was where we could live. Like I said, though, I didn’t want to commit to the house payment, so we looked at other houses, but came back to this one. And came back. And came back.

After our offer had been accepted, we took every excuse to drive by and look at it. We planned our furniture, our decorating style, where everything was going to go.

I swore I would never take this house for granted, and I have lately. I promise to be better, especially since I’m nearly done with DLB.

I found pictures we’d taken when we were moving in. We have a LOT more stuff now.

The front of the house.

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Here’s the front door, which isn’t in such good shape anymore.

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The living room from the entrance (that’s my grandmother)

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The living room from the other end.

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The kitchen.

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The dining room. I loved how open everything is.

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The sun room – not particularly sunny ;)

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The main bathroom. The other is just like it, only peach.

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The boy’s room. When it was clean.

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I don’t have any good ones of my bedroom, or the other two bedrooms. Or my patio ;) But I do love my house!

Goodreads

M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
ratings: 11 (avg rating 3.33)

Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
ratings: 11 (avg rating 4.00)

Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
reviews: 2
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.00)

Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.00)

Good Reads

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MJFredrick
I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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