Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Happy New Years!
I'm going to be participating in a New Year's Day chat tomorrow from 5pm-6pm at Several other authors will be chatting tomorrow as well. Drop by and check out the contests and the excerpts.
It's been a rough couple of days. Z has been more than a bit fussy. He doesn't want to be held or put down. He doesn't want to eat, he is dry, he doesn't have a fever, his tummy is soft and he's having regular bowel movements. He just wants to fuss.

It's been really important having a second parent here during this time. I become more and more amazed that anyone could raise a child on their own. Single mothers already have my utmost respect. But now, it is even more astonishing to me that anyone could do this alone.

One of the few places Z is quiet is in the car. We took him on a very special trip yesterday, his first trip to a book store. Of course we limited him to one book (grin).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Family Trees

We use the symbol of a tree to talk about our families. The metaphor or simile springs easily to us. The parents are the roots, nourishing the small plant even before it grows branches or leaves and becomes self-sufficient. Children are like branches that grow, stretching to new heights and spreading outward into the world. This symbolism is easy to see and commonly used and I don’t disagree with it. But I do think that the real metaphor or similarity between a family and the tree has only a little to do with branches and roots. It has more to do with rings.

If you cut a tree’s trunk you see rings in the wood starting in the center and reaching outward. Each year, each growing season adds a new layer to this all important support structure of the tree. Each ring, if you know how to read it, tells you something about the season in which the tree lived during that time or, if you’ll permit, tells you something about that “generation”.

The rings in a tree can tell you the age of the tree. Each growing season leaves a ring and by counting them, we can trace the age of the tree. The color and thickness of the rings tells us about the generation. Some rings are thick and show a good and prosperous time while some are thin and show a hard dry spell. Our families are like this too.

If we took a cross section of our family, a core drilling at the risk of mixing metaphors, you would see the family and how each generation added to it. Each new group of family members and the time in which they lived adds a new layer to the mix. Some live through good times and leave large thick rings, some live through hard times or short growing seasons and leave narrower rings, but each adds to the beauty of the pattern that shows the growth of the family.

And if we are lucky someone can tell us a story of that generation, of that ring. We can preserve it and the people who made it with the laughter, tears and sharing that comes from knowing your family history. I come from a large family. I have the sad task of living in a time when our family’s structure is changing and has changed over the course of my life.

When I was young, my family –and we are talking large, huge, extended family –would gather together for holidays. My great-grandmother was the youngest of her sibling group, but the longest lived. Most of them lived in the Hungarian enclave that is Bloomington/Normal, Illinois. We would load up on Thanksgiving or at various time of the year and go to Bloomington to visit her last remaining brother and the children of her sister and brothers who had passed on before I was born. Being a child I can’t tell you how many people would pack the designated house, but my memory tells me the number was huge. Family came in from everywhere though the truth was that most of us lived in a fifty mile radius.

People would tell stories about family members, each generation including the generations who were gone on. I regret that I don’t remember more of those stories. Yes, Uncle Herbert was just a name to me, I’d never known him, but the stories of his peccadilloes were fodder for many uproarious bouts of laughter long after he died. He was a happy, fun-loving man and my grandmother’s memories of him were delightful to listen to even for those of us who had never known him.

Uncle Herbert was my great-grandfather’s brother. He was a bit wild and now days we’d probably be organizing family interventions for what was surely a substantial drinking problem. Then he was just one of the family characters. He lived for a while with my great-grandparents. My grandmother used to tell stories of lying awake listening to the old clock that her mother’s grandmother had brought with her from Hungary. Like clockwork, just after the clock struck a particularly scandalous hour Uncle Herbert could be heard singing loudly and raucously as he stumbled up the path and past my grandmother’s window.

I remember many of the stories and tidbits that were passed around the table and around the Christmas tree. How my great-great grandfather would come by and pick my grandmother up in his wagon and drive to town with her. “Lissabet” he called her and she remembers him fondly though the pictures our generation has of him are of a stern and somewhat grumpy looking man. My great-grandfather’s brother was spoken of, Hip Rebmann, known as such because he lost a leg jumping the trains. My great-great Aunt Mary, my great-grandmother’s only sister with whom, by all accounts, she never had a moment’s sibling rivalry was spoken of with a hushed reverence.

I remember my great-great Uncle Andy. The last of my great-grandmother’s siblings, he lived on a large plot of land that boasted a small orchard. We children were to play outside and stay out from underfoot. Very elderly at the time, Uncle Andy would sit out back and watch us while the men gathered around and talked. He always scared us more than a bit, most likely because of his glass eye and his thick accent. I’ll never forget being scared so badly I froze when he caught me climbing a ladder to get an apple off one of his trees. He waved his cane at me and shouted for me to get down and behave myself before he gave me a wallop.

And my Uncle Joe Hoeniges. Not really my uncle but my great-grandmother’s nephew. He and his brother George were loud, fun and loving men. Uncle Joe played Santa year after year for the Catholic charities and the fire department charities. My Aunt Lee, his wife, and her sweet, quiet smile. Aunt Jetty who I remember as delicate and always a bit sad. Her son had died in Vietnam and I don’t think she ever stopped grieving for Tommy.

These people live in my memory only now but what beautiful layers they added to our family tree. I worry that soon no one in our family will be able to read the rings. We won’t know what contributions the generations passed have given us. We are changing as a family. I grew up surrounded by cousins and we were closer than some siblings I know. We grew up still very much that immigrant family that deferred to Aunt Anna (my great-grandmother) and while she lived the idea of one of us missing a Christmas Eve celebration or a Thanksgiving was unheard of. Our family pulled in on itself after her death and again condensed after my grandmother’s death.

This Christmas, for the first time in my life, I celebrated with only my immediate family. I love my SO and I love my son, but I miss the connections that held us together as a larger family. My nieces and nephews will never know that type of a family. Z will never know it. I’ll tell him the stories, but now so far removed I don’t know if they’ll make an impact and truth be told I don’t know if I can remember them all or if he’ll care. It makes me sad to think that one day, the rings that were my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and even myself will no longer be of any significance. They will be undecipherable rings that mean nothing.

And our tree will grow smaller and the wood will be less rich and less beautiful. That is the saddest part of all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm currently reading Boji Stones by Sandra Cox and loving it. It's a great story and Sandra is an awesome writer.

We've been recovering from the holidays. We're trying to find a rocking recliner to put in Z's room. The wood rocker we have is lovely, but it's not as practical as a rocking recliner would be. Z's like the SO, he has a good deal of trouble settling into sleep. I know normal baby sleeping patterns, but he has a problem staying asleep once he goes to sleep. A recliner would mean more sleep for us.

We were at the mall today and walked past the pet store, one of those less reputable ones. We've actually personally contacted Animal Control on them because of an older Irish Setter puppy we saw there once that was grossly underweight. They ended up closed down a couple of weeks later because of a "virus" but reopened to continue to peddle over prices puppies to people who can't really afford them.

I was quite upset the week before Christmas when we were in the mall to see Santa. We paused to look at the bunnies. I overheard a salesperson doing a hard sale to a young couple. I was disgusted. She (the saleslady) was going on and on about the payment plan and no money down for a 7 month old puppy that was selling for almost two thousand dollars with interest, but hey, it was only $25 a week.

She said nothing to them about taking care of this animal. She said nothing to them about the responsibility or the problems a puppy who has spent 7 months in a cage that is less than two by two feet. A puppy who spends 7 months doing what instinct tell it is wrong, urinating and deficating in it's "den", will be nearly impossible for the average person to potty train. The dog is likely to have numerous other behaviors such as destruction, aggressive eating behaviors, etc. This saleslady wasn't even cowed when the young man revealed that the girl had no place to keep the dog and it would have to stay at his house.

I did not stay to see if the woman made her sale. If she did, that puppy is headed for an almost certain trip to the animal shelter. The woman's behavior was not only irresponsible but down right repugnant.

I applaud shelters and the rescues that close down adoptions in the weeks before Christmas. No impulse buys for the kids. Parents who want to give a puppy or kitten for Christmas (the worst possible time to add a new pet to your home) can arrange the adoption and pick up before hand in most cases.
Pet ownership is an important committment you make to another living creature, one who will rely on you for protection, food, shelter, medical care and training. It is not one to enter into lightly and it isn't one we should discard lightly either.
This came to mind because as I passed this same pet store today, most of the cages were empty. I was looking at a Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and was approached by the sales clerk. Even after I told her several times I was not interested in purchasing a dog and was attempting to leave the story, she kept pushing the dog. Pet sales is not the place to behave like a disreputable used car salesman.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day!

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

~Norman Vincent Peale

Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years. Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.

~George Mathew Adams

"Wow, check out this haul! And I can't even unwrap presents yet!"


Hope you all had a great Christmas filled with love, family and joy. Oh, and if Z asks, Turkey, mashed potatoes, and a chocolate chip cookie pie taste like formula.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Everything is ready for Santa's visit. As we try to put Z to sleep so Santa can come, I was thinking about the Christmases I knew growing up. Z will never know those types of Christmases. I'll make sure of that.


I was thirteen or fourteen that year. It was the year I was baptized and the year my family lived in a small ranch style house in a neighborhood most people wouldn’t venture into during the day, let alone at night. Our street sat right on the dividing line between the territories of two rival gangs. No, this wasn’t New York, L.A., or even Chicago. It was a relatively small Midwest town who had seen recent influxes of people from the larger cities like Detroit and Chicago. With these new comers came the gangs. But oddly enough they didn’t bother us. Our street was neutral territory. And the gangs aren’t what I wanted to talk about.

We were very poor that year. Not just “things are tight” poor, but “the cupboards are bare” poor. We often ate only one meal a day because there was very little food. Breakfast or lunch had to be scrounged from left-overs in the fridge or were limited to buttered toast with government surplus butter and the twenty-five cent loaves of white bread from the day old store. The recession of the 80’s was hurting everyone. Almost no one we knew still had a job as most of the plants in town had closed down. Our small town lost General Electric, Hyster, Caterpillar, General Motors, Quaker Oats and even our Chuckles plant. (Remember the little gummy candies in the pack with assorted flavors? My grandmother worked for 30 years making those things. But that’s another story.)

Christmas? No way. We kids knew how bad things were and we didn’t even talk about presents. As the oldest of the kids I knew that while some of the younger ones still thought Santa would remember them, they were in for a big disappointment.

One day my stepfather came home from helping a friend who hauled off people’s trash to help earn extra money. That day he came home with the back of the truck filled with scrap lumber. He called us out to help unload it and I thought he was crazy piling up old pieces of wood. That night after my siblings had gone to bed, he put on his coat and went outside. He came in with an armful of wood. Now I was sure he was crazy.

He cleared off the table and laid it out. With a pencil he began drawing a pattern on a piece of cardboard. It took only a few minutes for me to be enthralled watching. I love woodworking. I love the smell of the wood, the feel of it, how it smooths itself and how the creations take shape. If I’d have been a boy, I’d probably have become a carpenter. After letting me watch for about a half an hour as he used his scroll saw to cut out the patters he looked up at me. After a long pause he handed me the piece he’d cut out and a piece of sandpaper. “If you’re going to watch, you might as well help.” And I did.

That December I helped him make doll cradles for my sisters and a rocking horse for my brother from the bits and pieces he had scrounged from other people’s trash. We stained them, painted them and lined them with scraps of a garish blue velvet that had also been salvaged. I helped my mom sew little mattresses. I helped my stepfather glue yarn my grandmother gave us to the horse for a main and a tail. The same blue velvet lined the rocking horse’s saddle. We kept all of this hidden during the day and pulled it out at night to work on after everyone was asleep.

A couple of days before Christmas, my mother stood in line at the Salvation army and picked out a couple of second hand dolls. She brushed their hair, cleaned their plastic bodies and my grandmother sewed simple little dresses for them from scraps. On Christmas Eve I helped arrange these treasures under the tree and went off to bed. There would be nothing for me the next day when I awoke, but it felt so very good to know the younger kids would awake to find that Santa hadn’t forgotten them after all.

When morning came I followed them into the living room. I couldn’t completely suppress my disappointment that there would be no gift for me, but I tried hard not to let it show. To my amazement there was a rectangular wooden box sitting under the tree. It had been pieced together from strips of wood, stained a dark walnut color and the words “Holy Bible” had been burned into the top and outlined with gold paint. I lifted the lid to find the same blue velvet lining and a white Bible. I didn’t care that the Bible had been bought cheap because someone had ordered it with their name and not picked it up. I didn’t care that the name on it wasn’t mine.

My father had left my mother and me before I was two. He never had any contact with me and I could pass him on the street today and never know. All my life I had felt the void. But in that moment I realized the man sitting on the sofa smiling smugly was trying in every way he knew how to be a father for me. I realized that despite all the problems we had, he thought of me as his daughter. He and I had worked into the early hours of the morning on the kids toys. This gift meant he had stayed up even later to finish this for me.

Santa Claus came that year to our house. He didn’t just bring dolls, cradles and a rocking horse. He brought us a father.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is coming!

Two days to Christmas and I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in a long time; excitement over the holiday. Oh, it’s always nice to visit family and I love the bright shiny colors and the lights.

What’s more I love the feeling that seems to invade many people during this season. We all have horror stories of rude people and the nastiness that can end up as part of the quest for commercial side of the holidays. But there is also the other side. People are freer to smile at strangers in the mall or on the streets. They think of others and charitable donations are at their highest this time of the year.

There is something about the season that makes us think of family and open ourselves to joy and goodness. The flowers on the church alter seem more beautiful. The candles seem to burn more brightly. The music seems sweeter.

And this Christmas just seems to be even more of everything. I’m not sure if that makes sense. Maybe it’s being a new Mom. Maybe it’s having a little one and being able to foresee the experience of seeing it all through his eyes again.

Z will be less than three weeks old when Christmas comes this year. But we are still celebrating for him. He has a stocking that most likely will remain unstuffed this year, but it is hanging by the fireplace. We have tree up in our living room, it’s small but it is decorated and presents sit beneath it. We know he won’t be able to enjoy any of the presents for a couple of months, but there are still three presents wrapped with bows for him.

Today we were at the thrift shop, we were looking for a second bouncy seat and a second swing to leave at the sitter’s. (We found someone we think will be great, a retired nurse who will have Z as her only little one.) I found a small plate that says “Cookies for Santa”. It’s adorable.

Changing topics completely, I recently finished Anny Cook’s Magnolia and One Thousand Brides by Solange Ayre. Magnolia, part of the Flowers of Camelot series, was exactly what you’d expect from Anny Cook, hilarious and hot. One Thousand Brides was a great treat. It was a fascinating story about a woman, part of 1000 human women, who was abducted by an alien species to be their new brides after a plague kills their women. I highly recommend both books from Ellora’s Cave.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Fairs

We’re fortunate enough to live near a Scholastic warehouse. For those of you unfamiliar with Scholastic, in addition to being the US publisher/distributor for the Harry Potter series, they have the distinction of being one of the premier distributors of children’s and young adult books in the U.S. Scholastic has book fairs where they take mini book stores into schools and set up for kids to buy books.

I love book fairs. I have a tradition of buying books for my remedial reading class each year. I let them pick out a book and I buy it for them. The only hitch is it has to actually be a book. No gamers’ code books. This year I got a pass because A.) I’m not there when the fair came through my school and B.) I’m not teaching the remedial reading class for the first time in 8 years.

Twice a year the warehouses for Scholastic have large discount sales. Since we live near one we are fortunate enough to be able to go. We did so today, sneaking in under the wire for the last day. We got out with half of our usual total because we mostly bought for Z (in case you missed the earlier post, that is what Smudgie has been dubbed based on his middle name). You will see home-school parents, teachers, librarians, all trying to make the budget money stretch farther by buying books at anywhere from 25-80% off. We rarely get out of there for less than $100 as we are buying for my classroom, nieces and nephews and ourselves.

Yes, we are those relatives who give books for gifts. Or at least that’s how I used to think the kids saw us until my brother’s van was totaled by an elderly woman who got confused and hit the gas instead of the brake. The accident meant they had to abandon a knapsack full of books we’d gotten the kids in the van as it would have had to have been cut out. The kids called us and gave us a list asking, “If you’re going to buy us books this year, Aunt Jae, can we have new ones of these?” The top requests? Do Your Ears Hang Low, Click-Clack-Moo, and Don’t Let The Pidgeon Drive The Bus.

This year, as I said, we got out cheap. Just some classic story books, a couple of board books and no we don’t think he actually understands them now. We still read to him, I’ve been doing it since he started kicking. It’s the tone of voice that’s important, not what you read. You can read the sports page, the daily gossip column, the ingredients off the cereal box, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve been reading aloud to him from whatever I’m reading. But we needed some new material for rocking and reading as I’m currently reading Anny Cook’s Magnolia and I am NOT reading that out loud to my son even if he can’t understand it.

Another way the e-reader is superior. I can sit in the darkened nursery as I rock Z and read away with one hand.

Speaking of books, below there is an excerpt of the latest release. It’s the third and final book in the Jewels of Ursus trilogy. Remember, books make great gifts and Ellora’s has a wonderful sale going on right now.

Soul Stone
Elyssa Edwards
From Ellora’s Cave


She knew she was dreaming. And more so, though she had never had this dream before, she knew what would happen next. Slowly she turned and faced the bank of tall windows with their French doors that opened out onto an even more impressive garden. She hadn’t heard a sound, not even the twittering of birds or the crunch of a blade of grass but she knew he’d be there before she looked.

And he was. His body took up most of the single doorframe. He was tall. She’d never seen a man so tall unless he had on silk shorts and was running up and down a basketball court. He stood backlit by the sun that created a corona around him as it reflected off the blond hair that reached almost to his elbow. It was a soft golden color that cast highlights brighter than the rays of the sun.

This stranger in her dream stepped into the room and walked toward her slowly with the grace of a lion. His bare feet made no sound and she found she could not look away from the blue eyes that watched her. His golden skin stretched across a gorgeously smooth chest. Each muscle defined and calling to her as if trying to tempt her to touch him. Surely this was a dream because no man could really be this beautiful.

“Callista?” He whispered her name softly and she understood the question it held. He was asking her permission to be there, her consent for the dream to proceed. As she watched his eager face, his name appeared in her mind.

“Tarris,” she watched as pleasure filled his face. The simple act of speaking his name seemed to please him immensely.

“Please tell me you are not afraid of me, beautiful one.” His hand lifted toward her, extended, offering her his touch.

“No,” she barely breathed the word but reached out and took the offered hand. He relaxed visibly and his other hand moved up slowly toward her face as if giving her time to move away. His large palm cupped her cheek and he smiled.

“Good.” A serious expression filled the searching blue eyes. “Never be afraid of me, my love. Never would I harm you. No matter what, I would never harm you.”

“I know,” and she did. She saw in him tremendous strength. She saw in him the potential for terrible anger. She saw in him the ability to destroy all that he touched. But yet something inside Callista Marshall knew he would never turn this darker side to her. The absurdity of it teased the edges of her mind. She was so certain who this man was, he was so much more real and defined to her than any real man had ever been.

’Cause he’s all in your head, a tiny part of her that seemed almost awake reasoned.

A strange smile flitted in his eyes for a moment before Tarris leaned in and brushed her lips with his own. Her head felt light and fuzzy as if she’d drunk one glass of wine too many with dinner. His hand moved from her cheek to wrap itself in the red curls that defied taming. As he pressed the kiss deeper, she felt his tongue slip out and flicker softly against her lips.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and lifted up on tiptoe to kiss him back. A strong arm pulled her close as his tongue pressed between her parted lips to taste the inside of her mouth. Definitely a dream because surely no man tasted this wonderful. His hand splayed across the small of her back as he kissed her passionately. His tongue probing into her, brushing against hers and urging her to take up the duel.

There was something about his scent that caused a physical reaction. The smell of him was pure male, a mixture of the sea, the forest, the sun and the rain with the smell of a man’s skin as he cradled you and held you close.
Now wander off and see what wonderful things Anny Cook, Kelly Marstad, Sandra Cox and Jenny Beans have to say.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Traditions and Santa

We wrapped up the last details for Christmas except what we're doing for our own Christmas dinner. We're going to be on our own this Christmas for the first time. We've always gone home to one family or the other for Thanksgiving and Christmas, alternating each year.

But this year with the little one and recovering from the c-section, plus the expense of going, we're doing Christmas here in Georgia on our own. We've been discussing the fact that we need to build our own family traditions.

This year I'm going to make something I haven't made in years, not since my great-grandmother passed away. Merba. Merba is a cookie bar that my great-grandmother used to make. It has a cookie like crust but is topped with preserves and nuts. It freezes amazingly and can be kept for a long time. We'll have to see if I can still do it. There is a trick to making the lattice-work top.

We started what I think will be one tradition. The visit to see Santa. We took Smudgie to see Santa today and got his picture taken. The Santa was great.

We've also been checking out daycare and babysitters for when the Momma has to go back to work. I'm going to hate it. No way will I ever feel okay about leaving him with someone else. What if they don't pick him up when he cries? What if he doesn't get his diaper changed as soon as he needs it? We've seen three daycares and one in-home. There is one center I like, but it is $175 per week. That's $700 a month! The in-home is going to run about $100-135. I met a lady today that I really liked. Her home was clean and there were lots of toys. She only has a couple of kids right now and can only have a total of 6. We have a few more to check out. We just want to be ready.

Lets have a peek at this Santa to get us all in the mood for the holiday.

Doesn't this just bring to mind a lovely old-fashioned Christmas?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yahoo is a pain!

Yahoo somehow had a glitch, or my computer has a bug, but my inbox on my mail emptied. I logged on today and all my mail that I'd been hanging onto was emptied.

So...Beth, the winner of the opal contest, please email me with your address. I was getting the box ready and had saved your addy on the mail.

Sleep deprived and otherwise doing well. Smudgie, who has become known as "Z" from his middle name, is keeping us hopping. We had our first trip to church today and he was good as gold, slept the whole time.
The only time Z gets really, really angry is when it's bath time. He is definitely not a water baby.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Smudgie has arrived

Smudgie has arrived.

After 39 hours of labor...yep, 39...he finally made his appearance via c-section. All that kickboxing he'd been doing had landed him with his cord wrapped twice around his neck and he couldn't descend fully. But he's here and weighed in at 7 pounds 3 ounces and 21" long.

We're home now after some difficulties with feeding. Smudgie couldn't figure out how to use either the bottle or the breast. We were using a syringe and trying to tach him to suck. Finally I realized he was sucking the pacifier someone had given him. So we found nipples the same NUK shape as the paci and he immediately began to feed just fine with no more vomiting.

I adore the picture above. Unfortunately that's not been the general response of our dogs. George snuffled him, seemed to think he wasn't as important as everyone else seemed to think and went back to watching out the window. Gracie, while excited, just sits and watches him. Shiloh has decided that we are idiots and she has to make sure we know what we're doing. Every time he makes a peep, she runs to us. If we aren't standing directly next to him, she tries to herd us to him. She also growls when the other dogs get too close to Smudgie.

Wendell isn't a happy camper. He grabbed hold of the hem of Smudgie's sleeper sack and tried to pull him out of my arms. Luckily Wendell weights all of 10 lbs. He also has tried to climb onto my lap repeatedly when I have Smudgie.

We'll figure it all out. It's scary and a bit surreal. I'll probably blog more about that later. But I do wonder when I'll ever find time to write again.

But Anny Cook has a release coming up at Ellora's Cave, Sandra Cox had a recent release at the Lotus Circle and Kelly Marstad and Jenny Beans always have great things for us so run over and check them out.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

This will likely be my last blog for a bit. We've started timing contractions and they're about 12-15 minutes apart. Trying to rest in between but wanted to give you an excerpt and one last taste of Santa before I disappear for a short while. No, not the santa to the left, the one at the end of this blog.

I feel the cat's pain. My SO and I have a heated discussion each Halloween about putting my dachshund in a "hot dog" costume. So far Wendell has been spared the indignity, but I know on of these days I'm going to come home and have to murder someone.

This excerpt is a first. This is the first look at Circle of Wolves which will be released February 19, 2009 under Jacqueline Roth from Cerridwen Press. This book is written in the same world as the Jewels of Ursus trilogy and as Measure of Healing. In fact, you get a sneak peek at the heroine of Circle of Wolves in Measure of Healing.

Circle of Wolves
Jacquéline Roth

War. His world stands on the precipice and he is the best chance to stop it? All his life his secret has been protected by his family and friends. They’ve all protected him from those who would have seen him tagged and caged like an animal. Or worse, exterminated. Now that very secret makes the earth mage Evan Forester the perfect choice for this mission:Find the Wolves and convince them to form an alliance with the mage world. But what he finds among the Wolves is more than he ever dreamed possible for himself. The very nature he is forced to subdue and hide, they would welcome and celebrate. Even more, among these people he finds the one his soul calls “mate”. Still the awful truth remains, if the alliance fails, he will be forced to choose between the place he calls home and the one woman he loves and who loves all that he is, wolf and man.
“You don’t often see one of your kind who’s one of them. They’re usually smart enough to stay away from us. Looks like you’re a slow learner who didn’t learn his lesson the first time.”

Evan saw no need to prevaricate. “As I was only a bit more than a toddler at the time, perhaps you are correct. I didn’t learn my lesson.” He looked at the dark-eyed man. “My name is…”

“Yeah, we know what your name is, Evan Forester.” Alexi motioned to his companions to sit. “If you’d planned on keeping it a secret I must say you did a poor job of it. You must have told half of Europe your name.” Karl arrived with drinks.

Alexi placed one in front of Evan and smiled. “Now, you have my undivided attention. What exactly do you want, Evan Forester? Why are you looking for us?”

Evan pushed the drink aside. “I wasn’t aware I was looking for you. But then, I don’t know who you are.”

The brown eyes narrowed again and then reopened as he shrugged carelessly, “Alexi Gregoravitch.” No hand was offered but Evan hadn’t been expecting it to be. Gregoravitch. It was the name he was looking for. He had found the heart of the “family”.

The man before him was acting the stereotypical wolf-man, internalizing behaviors of the wolf into his actions. His eyes challenged Evan for dominance, his posture pressing his advantage and trying to force Evan into a more submissive role. Evan let him—to a point. If he challenged this man, he could end up back at square one. If he drew back too far, he might be deemed unworthy of any respect and that could be outright dangerous.

“I see. Then you’re not who I’m looking for. I have a message to deliver but not to you.” Evan picked up his cup and drained the last of the now cold liquid.

Alexi’s smile didn’t waver but his eyes darkened. “No kidding. Let me guess. You expect to deliver this message to Stanislav Gregoravitch personally?”

“That is my intent.”

Alexi laughed out loud. “Do you really think the Alpha of all Wolves would allow your kind to even enter his presence?”

“Why not?”

“Because of what you are, you idiot.” The humor was now gone. Alexi was looking at him down his aristocratic nose. “No curse wolf would be allowed beyond the gate, let alone in my father’s presence. No, my little friend, you’re not getting near him.”

“Curse wolf?”

Alexi laughed at him again. Evan felt his patience slipping. He was used to snips and jibes that were meant to be good-natured but often came out cutting and harsh. Years of friendship with Marcus McClendon, the circle’s fire mage who had all the spark and danger of his element, had taught him to deal with that. But the lack of concern for feelings, the true and utter disregard for how his words would be received, made this man’s comments different. He was speaking to him as if he was talking to a lower form of life. The way members of the conclave spoke about the dark creatures they believed they had the right to contain or destroy upon the slightest whim.

“You don’t know what a curse wolf is?” His companions were guffawing. When Evan ignored him, Alexi pushed one of the glasses toward him again. “Come now. Drink with us and maybe I’ll see what I can do.”

Evan knew there was no intention in this wolf-man to help him at all. Perhaps, though, he could get more information out of him. Evan picked up the glass hoping there’d been enough time for the Babel Potion to enter his blood before this alcohol hit his system. He watched the other men slam back the contents of the glass and followed suit.

And began to gag. Sputtering he tried to ignore the uproar of laughter coming from the other men. Great, Evan, he thought, that was smooth.

“Sorry,” Alexi’s eyes glinted wickedly, “should have warned you. Karl makes this stuff in the back room. It’s not exactly safe for human consumption.” The eyes narrowed. “But then that’s not really a problem for some of us is it.”

Evan wasn’t sure he heard correctly. What ever this stuff was he had just voluntarily poisoned himself with was churning in his stomach. Alexi pushed a second glass toward him and gave him his most charming smile. “Go on. The second one isn’t as bad. You might want to take this one more slowly, though.”

Unable to believe his own stupidity, Evan lifted the glass and swallowed. He didn’t gag this time or choke. Outwardly anyway. He put the empty glass down. “Look Alexi,” he saw the other man’s eyes widen and his mouth compress tightly. He had said something wrong but wasn’t sure what it was.

“That’s Mr. Gregoravitch to you, pup-eater,” growled one of the other men. His light eyes seemed lifeless and cold as they glared at Evan.

“It’s all right, Ivan,” Alexi’s smile was back. “I don’t think he understands the reality of things. Perhaps we simply need to explain a few things to him.”

“If by that you mean to beat me senseless hoping I’ll absorb the information from your fists, I assure you it won’t work and it might prove more difficult than you are imagining at the moment. It would be much more effective if one of you just told me what you’re talking about. What is a curse wolf? What do you mean my kind? And what is a pup-eater?” Evan felt the effects of the drink warming his veins.

Alexi laughed and shoved another drink in front of him. “I think we shall have a long talk, my new little friend.”

Now our real Santa:
This Santa sure must have a tremendous tolerance for cold or the North Pole is a bit warmer than we've been led to believe. That or the elves washed his suit and bag in hot water again. Silly elves.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Murphy Is Alive And, Unfortunately, Well.

Most of us have heard of Murphy’s Law. This old adage goes, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

The expression and the other “laws” attributed to Murphy supposedly came from Capt. Edward A. Murphy who was working on an Air Force project in the late 1940’s. Captain Murphy’s sayings were supposedly written down by others and passed into common awareness. Others dispute this origin and claim it actually came from what was known as sod’s law as in any old sod. My favorite is that it came from a Mr. Murphy whose car (in the U.S.) ran out of gasoline. He was walking with his gas can, facing traffic, wearing white. He died after being hit by a British driver driving on the wrong side of the road.

No matter how Murphy’s Law originated, today was proof positive that it is alive and well in my life.

First, my car tags expired and I’ve not received my new sticker despite having paid for it. I called to find out what was going on and was told the system was down and I have to call back later.

Later while at work I received a voice mail message from my SO telling me that the Honda had to be towed to the shop because it was leaking oil. Really leaking. As in it lost 4 quarts of oil all over the driveway. The repairs were going to range from $600 to a brand new engine.

As I was driving back towards home so I could pick up the stranded SO and we could go to today’s doctor appointment I got a phone call from my SO. My mother-in-law had emailed to say that my brother-in-law’s baby (due in January) had died. According to the MIL who is not prone to exaggeration, he’d taken his girlfriend to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. Her cervix had been stitched shut early in her pregnancy to help her not deliver too early. They were to take the stitches out this week. The hospital left her sitting in the emergency room waiting room 10 hours until her uterus ruptured. They still delayed performing a cesarean section until the baby’s heart rate had dropped dangerously low. The little guy was born dead and the girlfriend is in serious condition due to loss of blood.

On the way to the doctor’s appointment I made the mistake of telling my SO, in response to the very dangerous question, “Can this day get any worse?” by saying that the day wouldn’t get worse.

It didn’t exactly, but the fun kept coming. On the way home from the Dr. appt. my Chevy started making this horrific grinding noise. We had to have it towed to the shop, the same shop that had our Honda. Just after giving us good news that the Honda could be repaired for $300, they informed us the Chevy was going to cost almost $700.

So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and there is a Murphy too.

The doctor, by the way, said we are dilated 1cm, this from completely closed on Tuesday. They’ve scheduled the induction for Thursday if Smudgie doesn’t make his appearance between then and now. I know, lots of walking, a bit of spicy food, and some more massage are in order.

The SO and I are both taking “family leave” for Smudgie’s arrival. We decided that this was probably a sign that we didn’t need to be driving so much and have both begun our leave effective Monday.

Now to more pleasant things. This is a Santa that appeared on my blog last year but he’s so delicious he bears repeating. He is, I think, my favorite of my Santa pics. He certainly looks as if he could fix anything that ailed you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday favorites

This time of year one of the things I look forward to is watching the holiday classic movies. We all have favorites, don’t we? Everyone from Forbes (highest to lowest grossing) to Movie Phone (viewer votes) has their compiled list. I have mine too but these are in no particular order.

White Christmas- I love Danny Kaye. I actually cried when he died. This feature is just heartwarming and sweet.

Miracle on 34th Street-Natalie Wood in black and white of course. I hate colorization.

The Bishop’s Wife-Cary Grant. *sigh* do they make them any more elegant, charming and sexy than that?

The Santa Clause-This first installment was wonderful, but the franchise should have stopped there.

It’s a Wonderful Life-This one was over done by Turner Broadcasting for a long time. Let’s face it, it’s great, but we didn’t need to see marathons of it for days on end. One of the teacher’s at my school calls my principal “Clarence” because she says he looks like the angel Clarence. Needless to say my principal is not amused by this.
A Christmas Story- You either love or hate this one, get it or don’t get it. I get it. I love it. I grew up in the Midwest and getting bundled up, fights with the furnace, “don’t touch your tongue to metal” and other things rang true from my childhood as well. However, those with cable are quickly going the way of It’s a Wonderful Life with this one as TBS now runs it in day long marathons. Too much of a good thing folks.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-A sequel that was better than the original. The lights scene reminds me of my family. My brother once stapled himself to the roof of their house while putting up lights. As this was in Illinois, he got pretty darned cold waiting for someone to find him and get him down.

Bells of St. Mary’s-I love Ingrid Bergman as a nun. This is just one of those warm you heart kind of movies. This one was one of my grandmother’s favorites too. My grandfather bore a bit of a resemblance to Bing Crosby in his early days. It’s about the power of prayer and the strength of faith.

The Homecoming: A Christmas Story-The beginning of the Waltons. This told the story of Pa trying to make it home for Christmas and the struggles of being a poor family during the Depression. Most of the cast, except for Momma Walton is the same as those in the television series. No film has ever screamed family like this one.

And I have one dark horse that I’m probably one of the few that remembers it. Or liked it. In the 80s or 90s, Dyann Cannon, Tony Curtis and Kris Kristofferson remade the Barbara Stanwyck classic “Christmas in Connecticut.” I loved this remake. I’ve no idea why, but I do. Oddly enough it was directed by Arnold Schwartzenegger. News is they’re doing a remake in 2009.

Now these aren’t actually Christmas movies, but they are set in the Christmas season and I love them both. They’re action films that kicked serious butt.

Die Hard- Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman at their best looking. And it was a damned good film.

Lethal Weapon-Mel Gibson when you didn’t cringe as you heard his name.

So what are your favorite holiday movies?

Now for our festive Santa

As you can see they must be having an unusually warm December at the North Pole. That, or Mrs. Claus has cranked up the heat on purpose. This graphic is supposed to have falling snow and sparklies, but I can't seem to get them to transfer when I post it. Oh well, our photoshopped Santa is still nice to look at.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Proof that stupid is universal

For some reason I can't explain, this Santa reminds me a bit of a fire fighter. The suspenders? Maybe Santa heads up the North Pole's volunteer fire brigade.

There are some stories you just can't make up. I saw the following stories on the net.

Something new in women's lingerie:

A password-protected bodice has been introduced that includes a global positioning device. The designer says that underwear could help woment who were kidnapped but critics say it's really a state of the art chastity belt that will let men track women.

In related news, a patent was granted for a bra whose cups could also operate as air-filtration systems in case of a chemical terrorist attack.

Not so brilliant plans:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, in response to his state's financial crisis fired 10,000 part time and temporary employees and then ordered the salaries of the remaining employees be paid minimum wage. The flaw in this plan? The only people who could reprogram the states out of date payroll computer system were part of those fired by the governor.

A man in Washington state nearly drowned after he drove his SUV off a boat docking ramp. He told rescuers that he had been trying to rinse the mud off his tires.

In Glasgow, Scotland a sixteen year old tried to file an age discrimination suit against a company that did not hire him because of he was late for the interview. The teen claimed that due to his age no one should expect him to be able to find the address. The job he was applying for? A cleaning company.

Why I hate crocodiles and alligators:

Members of a US soccer team visiting Zimbabwe were told it was a ritual to cleanse themselves in the nearby river before a game. But one tiny detail was omitted. Crocodiles. Sixteen when in, fifteen came out.

Visitors to the shrine of Khan Jahan Ali in Bangladesh routinely bathe in the pond to wash away evil spirits. They bring chickens to feed to the crocodiles for good luck. Officials were shocked when the crocodiles ate one of the visitors. "Normally the crocodiles are very friendly."

Now go off and visit Anny Cook, Kelly Marstad, Jenny Beans, Sandra Cox and the other talented bloggers to the left.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Still waiting

Yep, still waiting. Midwife said today that there's no progress. They are starting to use the word "induce". We spent some time tonight doing some accupressure that is supposed to help naturally induce labor. They say you should start it as soon as you Dr starts mentioning induction. Otherwise Smudgie will arrive when he gets ready. It's just hard to be patient.

To take my mind off things I've been doing some writing. Not a lot of progress, but some. I just read a quote from writer Sherrilyn Kenyon where she said she had completed 126 pages in 24 hours. *BLINK* That's flippin' amazing.

The latest installment in The Jewels of Ursus series, Soul Stone, released recently. It has my favorite cover and I think it finishes the series really well. Try this taste from the prologue.

Soul Stone
Elyssa Edwards

He is physical perfection. He is sex personified. He is an incubus. All his life Tarris has followed the rules that would keep him from transforming into the dark soulless predator who fed on the sexual energies of women, draining them to madness or to death. His Bears, shape-shifters Mark and Luke Ursine, shared their passions and their lovers with him all their lives. Something, however has changed. Now that he can no longer feed in a safe and controlled way, he faces a choice: hunt or starve. Callista is quiet and reserved. Her restrained exterior hides an astonishing passion and vivid imagination that has captured him. Who knew that a creature that had no soul could love a woman so deeply? Tarris must now find a way to control the change he feels coming and defeat the hunter who pursues him, obsessed with possessing Callista and destroying the incubus.


“Something happened when Sarah and I mated.” Mark shifted uncomfortably. “We didn’t know it would. We had no idea…”

“Once we mated, Mark…” Sarah hesitated. “He could no longer allow Tarris to join us.”

“That’s insane. No offense, Sarah but Mark and I have shared our lives and our dreams with Tarris for as long as we’ve known him. He’s fed off our sexual energies, participated in the most intimate moments of our lives for over a century. He’s an incubus but he’s not because he’s followed the rules. He has only us and you’re telling me Mark would deny him? Let him starve?” Luke saw the truth of it in their faces. “But it’s only a dream,” Luke rationalized, astounded. How could Mark deny Tarris?

“That’s the problem.” Mark’s voice was filled with a dull ache. “In the dream the Bear takes over, Luke. He won’t share his mate.” Mark’s face twisted. “I’d do it in a minute, so would Sarah. But I can’t stop it. And awake he can’t feed from us. Not like he needs to.”

“That’s why…” Tarris had surprised Luke with the interest he’d shown in his life since the mating of Mark and Sarah. An interest that had stopped abruptly when Luke and Anna mated just over two months ago.

“Luke, now that you’re mated,” Sarah said softly. “There isn’t…”

“There is no one for him to feed from,” Luke’s stricken face paled. His heart ached and his brain was twisting trying to find possibilities.

“What happens if he doesn’t feed this way?” Anna pressed. “How long can he go without feeding?”

Luke met her eye, “He should already need it. I assumed he was sharing with Mark and Sarah, giving us some time alone.”

“Why can’t he just find a new partner?” Anna asked.

“He could but that would mean hunting and if he does that he puts himself at terrible risk.” Mark answered his face faintly angry. “Besides Anna, what if I told you to just go find another mate?”

She sighed sadly. There was no other mate for any of the four who sat in this room. All had been bound by lovers’ stones, a mating more powerful than the norm for the Weres. A mating that was for life and precluded all possibility of finding another. “So what will happen?”

Luke’s voice was hollow and cold. “He’ll starve. And when the hunger grows it will overwhelm him. It should already be beyond endurance. Tarris is strong. But when he can no longer control it, he’ll become what he was born to be. We’ll lose him to the hunt.”

Tears slipped down Sarah’s face as she sat down next to Anna and took her hand. Anna had only been with them since her mating two months before but she was from the hunters, those who tracked and killed the preternatural creatures of the world. “Anna, he’ll become a full incubus. Hunted not just by hunters but by our kind as well. They have no soul, no mercy, no kindness. Tarris once made them promise they’d never let that happen to him.”

“How could you stop it? If we can’t feed him, how will you stop him from becoming one of them?” Anna asked fearfully.

“By killing him,” Luke whispered.

“By killing him,” Mark agreed.

Sweet Little GI Santa
This Santa has a famous face. Now we all know why Reese Witherspoon wears such a sunny smile.

Now wander on over to the ladies whose blogs appear on the left and see what they're up to. Sandra Cox has some funnies on her blog, and Anny Cook, Kelly Marstad and Jenny Beans always have something interesting to say.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Measuring your...yeah.

***There are some elements of today's blog that may be a bit adult in content. Please use your discretion.***

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but I'm not sure what necessity sparked the creation of these odd new products I saw on the net recently.

1. Batter Blaster has created a new way to make pancakes. This aerosol can dispenses pancake batter ala cheeze whiz. Scary. I mean how hard is it to mix a bit of milk with the instant pancake mix. Oddly enough it carries the USDA "organic" seal.

2. I won't get started with my usual soapbox speech about how today's society is leeching all the fun out of childhood with its "safety" consciousness but I'm annoyed to report that Thudguard has created a soft helment to protect your child's head as he or she learns to walk. This killjoy is available at

3. My Beautiful Mommy by Big Tent Books is a children's picture book that explains to children the concept of cosmetic surgery. Written by a plastic surgeon, the book tells the story of a little girl who is worried because her mommy is getting a nose job. You know, do you ever look around at the books being published and wonder just what drugs some publishers are taking?

4. Baby bikinis? Yes. The over sexualization of generations of young female children continues as Swedish designer Ellos releases a line of baby bikinis. Good news here though, the outcry from parent groups and feminist groups have caused the company to discontinue the line and issue an apology.

5. Just when you thought there was nothing new that could be designed for parents of babies Zaky has come up with hand shaped pillows that rest against your infant to give them the feeling of being held while they are sleeping in their own beds. While the concept seems rather interesting, I have to admit it seems a bit creepy to me when you look at the design.
6. The applications of the next product are rather intriguing. The Mood Dress or Bublle Dress from Philip's Designs changes color based on heart rate and other bodily functions associated with stress. The manufacturer promises that they are also working on a radical new idea for tattoos. The new shape shifting tattoo would change shape based on the wearer's mood or design.

7. And last, but certainly not least by any means, is the Condometric. Spain has now given us a condom with a built in ruler. Tired of hearing your man boast? Wanna prove that size doesn't... matter? Condometric has a measuring tape printed down the side of the condom. No longer will women's concept of spacial relations be skewed by repeatedly being told that this _____________ is eight inches.

On to other things:

It snowed a bit today. Just a few random flakes visible in the beams of the headlights but it made me feel happy. I love the snow. It's what I miss the most about living in the South. There is something pure, refreshing and invigorating about snow and cold temperatures.

And speaking of snow, the holidays are underway. So today I offer you this to get your mind flowing with Christmasy thoughts and your blood pumping.

Don't forget to head over and see what the ladies whose blogs are on the left are up to. Anny Cook, Sandra Cox, Jenny Beans and Kelly Marstad as well as other brilliant writers like Bronwyn Green always have such interesting things to say. Check them out.

And check out the new release Soul Stone at Elyssa's website. Beth R, be sure to email me back to confirm your address so I can send your prize off to you.

Why I Haz To Go Back?

This little guy and I share the same feeling. The holiday is over and I'm back to work. I was hoping I wasn't going to have to go back. (pokes Smudgie) But, here we go, back to the land of preteens. My purple bears don't snore, but they do squeal, whine, pout, etc.

Have a good first day of December! Check out the blogs by Anny Cook (who is back from her whirlwind travels), Sandra Cox, Jenny Beans, Kelly Marstad and the other fascinating people blogging to the left. And come back by; I promise to be more interesting tomorrow. I may even dig up some nice holiday eye candy. Cause even Santa likes to show off what keeps Mrs. Clause warm on those cold nights at the North Pole.