Parenting

Geese are evil and other bird(brained) musings

The newest Cupid’s Coffeeshop story, Lucky Latte, is available now! I hope you’ll love Grayson and Claire’s story.

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Since spring finally sprung here in the DC area, Fox, The Pilot, and I have been taking many walks around our neighborhood after dinner. Sometimes, these are restful and I’m free to snap photos. Other times we’re chasing Fox on his scooter like we’re trying to outrun zombies. It’s usually a combination of both, actually.

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One of my favorite things, other than the terrific weather, is that The Pilot and I get a chance to have a conversation on these walks. Like any long-married dual-career couple with a school-aged child, conversation more in-depth than “Did you pick up the milk?” and “What time is Cub Scouts?” can be rare.

So, I thought you all could accompany us on our walk and listen in. You’ll probably want to nominate The Pilot for sainthood after you hear this but…here goes.

Wait–first, before you read this, you have to understand my issue with geese. You know how in Gilmore Girls Jess has a small issue with swans? Well, I have the same issue with geese. Vicious animals. There are actually memes for evil geese! I am not alone!

Jess Swans

My issue stems from this story. Last spring, we took Fox to a local farm to enjoy the spring weather and so I could snap some photos with my expensive DSLR camera that gets used about as often as my wedding china. Anyway, The Pilot, Fox and I were walking by the ornamental lake when suddenly there’s a vicious hiss from next to the path. And a sleek black head rises slowly from the mud.

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Now, I am deathly afraid of snakes. If you’ve ever seen a goose raise their head, it looks not unlike a cobra rearing, especially when seen from the corner of one’s eye on a dimly lit forest path. Yes, I am intellectually aware that cobras are not native to the greater Washington, DC area but in the split second I saw the cobra/goose, I was too panicked to remember all the bio lessons I skipped/slept through/read a novel through over the years. So I screeched and grabbed Fox in a death grip. And apparently, according to The Pilot, I screamed, “I will throw my camera at you!” to the goose/cobra.

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I don’t actually remember threatening the goose/cobra with expensive photographic equipment because panic had set in and I was convinced Fox and I were going to die. The Pilot was on the opposite side of the path so I figured he’d survive to tell the tale. The poor goose was just protecting her nest. We had mutual, common goals. She was protecting her eggs and I was protecting my chick. Child. Whatever. Anyway, since then, I’ve not been on the best terms with geese and The Pilot hasn’t missed a chance to tease me about it. My antipathy toward geese is especially unfortunate as they love nothing more than to settle in the swampland near DC and hiss at me.

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Okay, and the second thing you have to understand is that I went shopping with my BFF last weekend. And we went to Pier1 and I may or may not have spent a mortgage payment. (Side note to The Pilot: YES! We do need those carrot napkins. AND the bunny ones too!) Anyway, I purchased this bluebird painting to display in my front hall. It’s springy right?

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And it’s a bluebird which I like because bluebirds mean happiness. And I was shopping with my BFF, which I only get to do about once a month or so when our schedules align. And everyone knows you have to grab things when you see them at Pier1 or they’ll be gone. And my BFF had a coupon. So, clearly, the stars aligned and I had to buy this painting. It’s science, ya’ll.  It’s now in my front hall where my mother saw it, which is where my story starts.

Oh, wait! Later in this story, I’ll mention that I collect rooster stuff. But that’s not because they are birds. That’s because, when my mother read my first novel, Forever a Bridesmaid, she had a pearl-clutching fit of the vapors over the hero’s use of the “c” word that rhymes with lock during the first love scene. I try to use it in ordinary conversation with her as often as I can: “Cockamamie, Coq a Vin, Cock-a-doodle-do!” Also friends and family (other than my mother) give me housewares, mugs, and magnets with roosters which never fail to make me laugh. So I collect cocks. I mean roosters!

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And last, my mother, sister, and The Pilot are all wonderful present givers and like to coordinate presents for me because otherwise I’ll just buy it for myself! So, here we go.

Me (to The Pilot): I love my mother, really, but if she tells you I want more bird art for the house or anything with birds on it, don’t get it as a gift. I’m not a bird person. I don’t like birds.

The Pilot: But you just bought that bluebird in the cherry blossoms on Saturday (NOTE: I think it’s actually a dogwood branch but clearly The Pilot and I are not up on our flora and fauna trivia).

Me: Well, I like bluebirds. Not geese.

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By this point in our walk, we’re by the lake in our neighborhood, and the geese, sensing my presence armed with camera equipment, have begun making their way toward me. It’s like cats and horses. They sense the dislike. The Pilot claims this is because everyone in the neighborhood feeds them so they flock whenever they see humans. But I know they’ve got me on their little geese network and are plotting my imminent demise.

The Pilot: Okay. Got it. No bird presents.

Me: Well, see, I like bluebirds. Because they are a symbol of happiness. So I like the symbolism. This is because I was an English lit major and am trained in symbolism. It’s like pineapple.

The Pilot (probably not listening because Fox had taken off on his scooter and we’d just corralled him back onto the path, away from the evil geese and their duck henchmen): Do birds like pineapple?

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See? I’m not the only person with geese issues.

Me: It’s a symbol! The pineapple was a symbol of welcome in colonial times. Just like the bluebird is a symbol of happiness. But I don’t like birds. Wait! I like robins. Sign of spring.

The Pilot: And you decorated the house with chicks. (NOTE: Not live chicks. Just Easter decorations but I can see how this would be confusing for The Pilot).

Me: That’s for Easter. Oh wait, I like owls too. And I collect roosters now. But that’s my mother’s fault. Maybe I do like birds! I’m actually a bird person! {NOTE: Stopping on the path for this road to Damascus moment was a mistake as it gave the geese a non-moving target}

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The Pilot (Somewhat muffled as he’s now pulling Fox’s scooter out of a bush again): To Kill a Mockingbird is one of your favorite novels.

Me: That’s a book bird. Doesn’t count. Also, not really about birds. It’s about…

But I didn’t get to tell The Pilot what To Kill A Mockingbird is really about because no less than four geese charged the path then and hissed at me. I fled and now can’t go walk near the lake anymore because they are out to get me.

Maybe I really hate birds…

Evil Goose

Guest Post

Stranger Than Fiction, Larger Than Life.

Hi everyone! I’m so thrilled to share a guest post from the amazing Sophie Childs with you today. I love what she wrote about her mom. Her books are full of just as colorful, quirky characters. Pick up her new release, We Just Clicked today! Take it away, Sophie!

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Have you ever had something happen to you that was so outrageous that nobody would believe it was true? They say that truth is stranger than fiction and, according to my editor, if I wanted people to feel that my novels were realistic, I had to tone down some of the anecdotes I used as inspiration. There was one story in particular that included the exact lines a guy had used when he met me in a bar and I was told that nobody would say that. To be fair, he had been rather rude, but it still happened!

They say that you should write what you know, so I weave a lot of real life touches into my stories, even if I do have to tone them down to make them plausible. It’s not for nothing that you’re warned to be careful around writers or you could find yourself in their next book. So when I was plotting out my latest novel, We Just Clicked, I decided that I wanted my protagonist, Erin, to be surrounded by supporting characters who would be just as interesting as she is and what better person to inspire one of those characters than my own mother?

In September this year, it will have been 20 years since my mum died. She had three types of cancer and lived for years after being given six months to live through sheer will power alone. That’s just the kind of person she was. On the last day I saw her, she gave me money to buy myself a birthday present and apologised for not having been able to get to the shops herself. She died three days before I turned 23 and if you’re reading this from wherever you are, Mum, it’s OK. It is absolutely fine that you didn’t trot down to the shops when your body wouldn’t let you.

But that was my mother. She was generous and caring and it mattered to her that birthdays were celebrated. It’s thanks to her that birthdays are such a big deal in our house now. I can’t let someone’s special day pass without making a fuss. I know that it would have devastated her not to have been able to hold on for any longer so that she could share some birthday cake with me.

That’s not all. My mother had a more… quirky side to her. She was born in German-occupied Poland and her family were refugees who fled the Nazis over the mountains to Austria where she grew up. Her accent was what can only be described as Cockney German and I wish that I could mimic it because it was like nothing else I’ve ever heard before or since.

After she died, I learned a lot about the side of her I never saw. Let’s just say that my mother was a little light fingered and that’s putting it politely. Since she didn’t do it when I was around, I have no idea why she did it, but some of the stories I heard at the wake were hilarious. Take the time my brother was getting married. She wanted to get him a wedding present, something nice but also practical, but she didn’t have much money. What could a 50-something kleptomaniac cancer sufferer do? The only thing she could think of under the circumstances. Go into a shop, grab a kingsize duvet, shove it up her jumper and walk out pretending she was pregnant! She got away with it, too.

She had that kind of confidence that meant that people didn’t question her. She was a nice lady. She couldn’t possibly be doing anything naughty! Combine that sweet side with a Germanic outspokenness and she could get away with just about anything. There’s certainly a lot of her in the character of Delia, Erin’s mother. However, I had to tone down the details of my mum’s real life antics before I could use them in any form in my book.

I wanted to keep things believable, after all!

Sophie Childs is a home educating mother of five and the author of We Just Clicked, recently released by So Vain Books. She likes to think that she’s not nearly as eccentric as her mother, but suspects that her husband would beg to differ… You can find out more details about her work and sign up to her mailing list at www.sophiechilds.com

 

7 Day Blog Challenge, Writing

In Defense of Romance Novels

Surely you’ve heard the snark. The titters over the lurid covers. The pollyanna insistence on a happy ending. Bodice rippers. Lowbrow, genre, not-literary. Porn for women. Harlequin used to be accused of selling books like bars of soap.

Romance novels get a bad rap.
And it’s totally ridiculous. Let me tell you why.

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Myth One: Feminists don’t read romance novels.

A feminist is a person who supports social, economic, personal, and political rights for women. Romance novels are written for women, by women. They feature a woman choosing her life partner. The woman chooses to find romantic and (usually) sexual fulfillment on her own terms, whatever unique terms those might be. The woman chooses—that’s not even true of all countries in the world yet and certainly was not historically the case. Of all genres, romance novels feature empowered women blazing their own path to their own happily ever after.

 

Myth Two: Romance novels are not literature.

I think what the person who says this is just being pretentious. They want their reading choices to say, “I’m so smart! I only read real literature.” What does that even mean?

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Romance novels are a genre, with conventions and tropes that are expected by the readers of the genre, just like mystery, science fiction, horror and all other genres. On the other side of these commercial genres, literary fiction stands in contrast. What is literary fiction? Whatever doesn’t fit into the defined genres. There is a sense that literary fiction is somehow worthier and more noble because it’s usually a slog to read with a sad ending. And historically (though this has changed in recent times) it was written by men.
Oh, and also, just as an aside, romance readers don’t only read romance. Most romance readers are voracious readers who read across a broad spectrum. So, if I want to read my Nora Roberts today and my Margaret Atwood tomorrow and my Shakespeare on Friday, I will, thank you very much, with no one’s approval of my reading choices required.

Myth Three: Romance novels are trashy.

Why are they trashy? Because they contain sex scenes? But no, that can’t be all of it. Mystery novels, horror novels, science fiction, and even “literary” fiction often contain sex scenes. Romance novels are trashy because they depict women enjoying sex. Quell horror! We can’t have that!

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Also, not all romances contain sex and those that do range from soft-focus love scenes to explicit sex. But why does our society frown on women enjoying sex? And why is that acceptable? Shouldn’t good, consensual sex be part of a loving, respectful, romantic relationship? This also ties into the tired “romance novels give women unreasonable expectations” chestnut. So, if a romance novel teaches readers to expect respect, love, and really hot sex and most partners can’t provide that, the problem is not with the romance novel, is it?
Myth Four: Romance novels are all the same or formulaic.

Okay. In the sense that all cars are the same, all computers are the same, all hamburgers are the same, it is true that all romance novels are the “same.” According to Romance Writers of America, the defining characteristics of a romance novel are that it feature a central love story and an optimistic ending. It’s usually a couple, though that couple can be heterosexual or homosexual. Some books feature more than two partners. And the optimistic, emotionally satisfying ending usually does mean that the couple commits to a relationship for the foreseeable future—the so-called happily ever after.

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Within those confines, there are too many sub-genres of romance to list. The main three are contemporary, historical, and paranormal. Beyond that, there are Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA). There are contemporaries set in small towns, in cities, in far flung locales. There are historicals for every time period from antiquity to World War II. Paranormal can encompass elements such as ghosts or magic to fully realized worlds containing every mythical creature ever imagined. There are also romances set on future starships or on alien worlds. And that’s not even to speak of favorite tropes such as arranged marriages, friends to lovers, second chance at love… the permutations are literally endless.
In the last few months alone, I’ve read romances set in New York City, one set in contemporary India, a Georgian take on fairy tales, and one set in ancient Rome.

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But they’re all just the same, carbon copies of each other. Just like all mysteries are the same—I mean the killer is caught at the end, right? Or all sitcoms are the same because I mistake Big Bang Theory for The Office every time. **eyeroll**

I’ve been reading romance for over thirty years and I just published my sixth romance novel. I love discovering each couple’s path to happily-ever-after. I’m a proud feminist. I am a well-educated woman, with a graduate degree. Before I became a writer, I enjoyed great success in my chosen legal career. I’m happily married and the mother of a son.

And I’m proud to say not only do I read romances but I write them too.

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7 Day Blog Challenge, Manifesto

A Romance Novelist’s Manifesto

Hi gang! This week might be a bit different here in blogville as I’m doing Jeff Goin’s 7 day blogging challenge. I loved his book, The Art of Work, and am looking forward to completing these challenges this week. BTW, it’s not too late to join on the fun. Go here or click on the picture.

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Our first assignment was to create a manifesto. I suspect this will be a living document but here’s my first crack at it. Would love to hear thoughts and feedback. Thanks!

I believe in happily-ever-after. I believe in soulmates. I believe that love is the most important force in the world. I believe in love that stands the test of time, through death, into eternity. I believe that the single most important choice we will ever make is the person we choose to spend our one wild and precious life with.

Since the dawn of time, humanity has fallen in love, over and over, in endless variations. Every one of those love stories is as unique, beautiful, and wondrous as a snowflake. What a miracle for two people to find each other in this seething mass of humanity sharing this blue planet spinning through the cosmos.

Romance novels delve into that short period in a person’s life where they meet their soulmate, struggle to make it work and fall in love. What could be more exciting, more thrilling, more joyful than a couple falling in love?
Many people are dismissive of romance novels. Everyone’s heard the criticism. They’re formulaic. They all end the same. They are porn for women. They raise unrealistic expectations of love and relationships. They cloud women’s minds so they can’t tell fact from fiction.

Those critics are not my readers.

My readers are the people who believe in love, the people who want to travel with a couple on their unique journey to their own happily-ever-after whether that journey occurs on a sleek spaceship or at a medieval joust or in a contemporary city.

I want to take my readers on that magical journey that falling in love is. Let them experience the excitement, the fear, the desire as the hero and heroine find each other, challenge each other, and finally, love each other. I want to my readers to be able to immerse themselves in my story world, to laugh, to cry, and to cheer my hero and heroine on their path to their happily-ever-after.

And, if my words can provide a much needed break for a stay-at-home mom, a harried career woman, a lonely widow, a hopeful student, or a mom sitting at the bedside of a sick child, than so much the better. Maybe I made their lives better for a few hours, gave them hope or a laugh or just a respite from their busy, overstuffed modern lives. If so, I will consider my life well spent.

Just as I cannot remember a time before I could read, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write down the infinite stories, the varied characters inside me. Just as I have always been a writer, I will always be a writer. It’s up to me to sling the ink, to spin the yarn, to craft the tale. My readers bring their imaginations and their perspectives and together we create a story.

And find our own happily-ever-afters.

I made a poster in Canva for it too. I think I’m going to frame it for my office.

Manifesto

Cupid's Coffeeshop

Release Day!

The third story in the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series, Lucky Latte, releases today! Be sure to grab your copy now!

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To celebrate the release of Lucky Latte, the second book, Cupid’s Kiss, is FREE until 14 March 2016. If you haven’t already read Mac and Val’s story, scoop up your copy today.

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The first story, Java Frost is also available for only 99 cents.

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And you can pre-order the April, May, and June stories now too:

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Since it’s release day and I’m frantically busy, Friday Favorites will return next week (3/18). See you then! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day next Thursday for those who celebrate!

Cupid's Coffeeshop

Introducing Grayson and Claire

The third story in the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series, Lucky Latte, comes out next week. You can pre-order your copy here.

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Today, I’d like to introduce you to the hero and heroine of Lucky Latte. Readers of Cupid’s Kiss met Claire O’Shaughnessy already. Claire is an accountant and very career focused. We find out in Cupid’s Kiss that she hates her newest co-worker at her accounting firm. And in Lucky Latte we find out why. She looks like Grace Phipps in my head.

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Claire needs a date for her sister’s wedding. And her handsome co-worker–who Claire just happens to loathe–volunteers to help her out–if she’ll work with him on the firm’s biggest account. Grayson March just moved to Ashford Falls from Texas. I imagined him looking like Chris Hemsworth.

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Will Claire and Grayson be able to turn their fake romance into the real thing? Find out in Lucky Latte!

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