Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I Learned Running on the Treadmill

I'm on sabbatical from blogging for a few weeks, so while I'm still working out, I'm not sharing about it.  However, I thought I'd rerun some of my favorites from early in my circuit torture adventure.  This is from Week Ten:

Today's post really isn't funny, so if it helps, imagine me on the treadmill while you read this.  Honestly, I run like Velma on Scooby Do.

I hate running.  I really do.  I hate the pounding of my feet; I hate being out of breath, and I hate the monotony of it.  I would rather do 10 minutes of sit-ups than a 10-minute run.  My knees hate it, too.  So it's probably no surprise that once I left the Air Force and it's mandatory mile-and-a-half run, I never jogged or sped off unless it was after a wayward Fabian child. 

Guess what's an integral part of circuit torture?  At least it's only one to three minutes on the treadmill.  Not a lot of time to get seriously discouraged by the panting and the monotony.  However, over the past 20 years, everything associated with running has deteriorated, including my knees.  I discovered to my dismay (but not surprise) that I could barely manage 30 seconds at a 4.5 level on the treadmill my first week.  (That's about a 15-minute mile rate.  To compare, in the Air Force, I ran the mile and a half in 13:45.  And that's not a great score.)

Still, I kept doing as best I can, and my personal torturer, Ryion, kept pushing me and kept things varied--sprints one day, slow jog on a high incline the next, straight run after that.  One minute today, three tomorrow, two the next day...  I got shin splints (remember those from my military career, too), so I went to the elliptical for a couple of weeks, again pushing myself, trying the treadmill a day before going back tot he elliptical.  Basically just not stopping.

Today, I ran at an 8:13 mile pace for two minutes after having worked out for an entire hour, including running at slower paces.

I feel pretty good about that, and I've discovered when it's only for a minute or two at a time, I kind of like running.

The moral of the story, of course, is that you shouldn't let a discouraging beginning deter you.  With slow and steady progress, you can make great strides.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Book of Helen by Sherry Antonetti

The Book of Helen is a historical fiction about a historical fiction. At 65, Helen of Troy is newly widowed and exiled to the island of Rhodes where she's been offered sanctuary by the ruler, her childhood friend, Queen Polyoxo.  Having no rule, no family, no husband, no power and no role, Helen is striving to once again give the world a reason to remember her and to know something of her story as opposed to the poet's take. Helen's story addresses the three questions never answered in Greek Myths. 1) Why did she leave with Paris --impulsive yes but this is a powerful smart beautiful woman, there had to be more for her than eye candy to leave a life of luxury and power 2) why didn't the Trojans just toss her over the wall when she showed up with so much baggage that wasn't Spartan gold --i.e. the 1000 ships of ticked off Greeks and 3) what made Menelaus take her back when she'd put him through public humiliation and a 10 year war of waste? The line in Homer's poem is, "She bared her breast, he dropped his sword."  But there had to be more than that.  Her newly acquired scribe Pythia acts as the keeper of Helen's treasures and memories and helps her reestablish herself in her new home, but there are some not so willing  to forget the wounds of Helen's past that made her the most famous in addition to being the most beautiful, woman in the world.  

Get it from MuseItUp Publishing.

“Vain, ignorant, power hungry fools you’ve begotten Menelaus!” she muttered, and looked out again at the smoke from her husband’s pyre. “Goddesses give me all the strengths you have, I’ll need them!” and she set about changing from a mourning widow to a ruling queen. 

She fingered several dresses before settling on the deep gray robe trimmed with the thinnest line of gold. It conveyed a sense of power. Perfect. She let down her hair, weaving in a golden rope to help obscure the grey. A tall alabaster bottle, shaped like a swan, a gift from her mother, held her favorite perfume. Opening it filled the room with the heady scent of lemon and heart of jasmine, along with notes of rose, vanilla and amber. It provided her with the comfort, the presence of an ally, even though an unseen one. Jeweled gold combs placed in her hair set the sides softly. Arching her back and lifting her neck to appear even taller, she left the chamber.
The full council was already in session. “How long ago did they start?” she wondered.
Xenodamos held the floor. He spoke forcefully about the need to show strength against the Dorians, reasserting Spartan roots. “We need to show the same teeth which made us the most feared of all peoples. To do this, we must act not as kings or queens. We must act as free Spartans!” The men nodded in agreement.

“The great kings of old eschewed riches, sweets and soft things.” His eyes lingered on Helen in her finery. “They saw modesty and self discipline as the price of their freedom. They refused the honey cakes and sweet wines of those they defeated so as not to take on the slavish habits of the conquered who could not endure long without their luxuries.” He paused as his half brother stood up, dramatically opening a large scroll. The queen grudgingly conceded it was a beautifully planned performance and a more sophisticated elegant argument than anything Xenodamos or Megapenthes might devise. Someone else orchestrated this show.
Xenodamos continued, “The Dorians have threatened to take over much of the Greek mainland. They care only for the advancement of their own power.”
Megapenthes spread out his map detailing the sea coast islands. “They have taken much of the land, burned villages, destroyed armies.” He pointed to places on the map with his knife. We cannot let Sparta or its people become part of the Dorian conquest. We must stop them here.” He pointed to Athens.
“If I may speak in the midst of this fine presentation,” Helen walked to the center of the room. She still commanded everyone’s attention. But she caught the whisper of one of her sons, “This ought to be good.”
“It’s true. The king is dead and we have a pending crisis on our hands. We all know the Dorians outnumber us five to one. As my son pointed out, we have seen their ruthlessness in the destruction of whole towns.

“We are strong. But even we need time to assemble an army to take on such a force. We are not ready. Send an envoy with some of our ‘softer things’ Xenodamos so rightly condemns, to lull them into thinking we will surrender without a struggle.” She surveyed the map gesturing to the same points Megapenthes marked with nicks from his knife.
“The Dorians have already spread themselves across much of the Northern provinces. They may appreciate the opportunity not to have to battle again so soon. It will allow us to gather our forces, assemble allies and devise a strategy for plucking them from our shores.”
Megapenthes shook his head. Xenodamos glowered. Helen could see the men considering her proposal. “I didn’t even have a plan until now.” she thought smugly. Some in the audience were swayed. Her plan seemed not only reasonable but crafty. Nicostratus, the one stepson she loved well, even trusted, stood. He would help her win the day.

About Writing The Book Helen: The Book of Helen started when I was stuck in the hospital with my eighth child. My daughter was two weeks old and had RSV, a congestive virus which can be fatal to newborns if left untreated.  In between fretting and nursing and fretting at the nurses, I was reading the Odyssey. I'd left for the hospital in a hurry and my husband thoughtfully tucked the translation he'd just bought into my bag of stuff.  There were two lines about Helen slipping opium into the wine of the warriors as they talked about Odysseus and the Trojan war with Odysseus's son, Telemcachus. I thought, that little minx! She's drugging them so they won't get worked up about who started it all and I started writing Helen stories, about her betrothal, about her treasures, and so the story started to hinge on the tokens and gifts she'd acquired over her life. 

Then I started thinking about Helen and her version of what happened and why.  I started reading other Helen myths and discovered that she is the original Fan fiction character in Western literature, because every age crafted her to their own image either of what feminine beauty should be, or of the dangers of a beautiful woman. She became a resident of Hell in Dante's inferno, she's been a lover, a pawn of the gods, a rape victim, a shallow woman who liked boy toy eye candy, and a strong woman who could argue her case even to the people who suffered most for her decisions. While the Odyssey and the Iliad remained the same, Helen was often plucked from her story and plunged into new ones. It was fun and for a first time writer, wonderful, because whenever I got stuck in the writing process, it was time to go back to reading, there were always new myths, new stories to discover. I envisioned my Helen as an Ancient world's CEO, capable, detail oriented, a manager of people and things, controlling and showy, in addition to being spoiled, beautiful, demanding and at the same time, thoughtful about how things should be as well as how they are. Six years, three laptops and two more children later, she's ready.      


Sherry G. Antonetti has a master’s in Special Education from Boston College in addition to being a stay at home mom to her ten children.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Interview with a Zombie Exterminator

I'm offline for a few weeks, enjoying adventures with my husband and writing in notebooks.  In the meantime, here's a fun interview of Neeta Lyffe for your enjoyment.  The photo is actually my sister, Gina Koske, who is a personal trainer in LA.  Wish I could get her to post for the covers!

Good afternoon Neeta. It's so good to finally meet you.

It's a pleasure, Amanda.  I appreciate this chance to tell folks about zombie extermination.  It's a growing specialization--unfortunately, because the demand is still growing--but every one of us hopes to work ourselves out of a job eventually.

So, tell me, why did you choose your career path as a zombie exterminator?

It's a family business.  My mother, God rest her soul, was a single mom working as a general exterminator when she and her partner inadvertently stumbled upon a huge zombie infestation  while investigating what a cemetery thought were rats.  She and her partner discovered they had a talent for mowing down zombies.  (In this case, literally.  That riding lawn mower saved more than a few lives that night.)  Since there was obviously a need, they specialized.  Mom was a real activist for the cause of zombie extermination and prevention as well.  I hope she looks at my efforts with the reality TV show, Zombie Death Extreme as another way of building awareness.

What makes a good zombie exterminator? 

Strength:  strong arms, strong will, strong nerves… and a strong stomach.  You also need to be able to think on your feet.  Zombies, as we've come to learn, are far more variable than we saw in the movies.  It's amazing what can be used against them.  That's why I urge everyone to remember that your best defense against a zombie is not that butcher knife on the counter, but the cleaning products under the counter, the hamburger in the fridge, and the television.  (Turn it on and run!)

What's the best way to kill a zombie?

You have to destroy the brain:  sever the spine at the neck.  Decapitation, smash their brains.  Setting them on fire works well if they're I an advanced state of decay, but sometimes, that only stalls them enough to give you a chance to go for the neck.

Do you have a favorite weapon?

Chainsaw and a supersoaker full of TidyToidy.  They're the most effective, IMHO, but the chainsaw does get heavy.  I train a lot.

How does one secure one's home against the undead?

First, attitude.  Often an ARM (Animated Rotting Meat) will return to a familiar place--a home, workplace, bar…  Some people still think it's a miracle that their loved one is returning from the dead.  It's not--it's a tragedy in the making.  These are not people anymore.  I can't state that enough.  A moment's hesitation at seeing Uncle Joe can cost you your life--and maybe bring you back to hurt those you love.

Second, cell phone and car keys.  Most major cities have a skilled Z-Mat team and exterminators on call.  Get in your car and dial 9-1-1 as you speed away.  Some zombies are fast, but none can outrun a speeding car.

Third, cleaning products.  We don't know why, but with few exceptions, cleaning products will repel zombies.  Not the enviro-friendly stuff, however.  Bleach. Amonia.  You know those scrubbing bubbles?  Those are actually kind of funny to watch--but don't delay your escape to get some video on your cell phone!  Trust me, YouTube is not worth your life!

After that, imagination is your best defense.  Some zombies can be deflected by cigarettes; others by a beer.  Some will stop dead (pardon the pun) to watch Days of Our Lives.  In the Middle East, many devout families nonetheless keep a package of bacon in their refrigerators just for zombie defense.  Whatever you do, however, try it and run.

Is it true that if you blend in with a horde of zombies and pretend to be one, they will leave you alone?

No.  Oh, please, please, Amanda!  If any of your readers believes that tell them no!  They may get distracted by a pound of raw hamburger, but they can definitely tell the difference between a fresh brain and an undead one!

Thank you so much for your time.

No problem.  I hope folks will take a look at the book Karina Fabian wrote about some of my adventures on the Zombie Death Extreme Set.  It's called Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.  It's a fun way to learn more about zombies and zombie defense.

Purchase links:

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator :
I Left My Brains in San Francisco:
Learn more about the Zombie Exterminator novels at
Find out about all of Karina Fabian’s books at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Drugs, Exercise, and Potty Stops

I'm on sabbatical from blogging for a few weeks, so while I'm still working out, I'm not sharing about it.  However, I thought I'd rerun some of my favorites from early in my circuit torture adventure.  This is from Week Five: 

It was cardio week, which meant I sweat enough to power a water bender.
If you have not seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, then DO IT!
 And speaking of water, I started the next phase of my health regimen--drinking a gallon of water a day.  Basically, that means that between the jumping exercises and the drinking, I'm hitting the bathroom every 20 minutes.  My Professional Torturer laughs.

And, just to entertain my blog readers, this week I tried drugs.  Not those kind!  GNC was giving out some weight loss "supplements" as free samples.  Frankly, this is not something I would ever do in the long run and don't recommend, but for a week, why not?

The first one I tried is called Ripped Freak and has "green tea extract."  As near as I can tell, they've extracted somewhere between 10 cups and a tea shop's worth of caffeine.

Caffeine!  Yeah, baby!

When I was in college, I could drink pots of coffee until the wee hours of the morning and sleep like a log.  Now that I am a middle aged woman, I've put away youthful things--including my tolerance to caffeine.  So in retrospect, taking it at 4:30 in the afternoon was not the smartest idea.  However, after tossing and turning until 1 am, I did get smart and succumb to the inevitable.  In the next three hours, I cleaned a few rooms in the house, thought up several new scenes for Mind Over All, and read an entire book on St. Kolbe, whom I was able to write about the next morning after two hours' sleep.

The other pills are called Cellulor Super HD and CLK.  They, however come in 2- or 3-pill a day packages.  I was smarter and only took one a day.

However, the Ripped Freak came in a sample of two.  You know the saying, "Fool me one, shame on you, fool me twice, it makes a great blog?"  I took the second one on the morning of the 15th.  It makes a BIG difference to take them in the morning!  I'm writing this at 11 am, and the only thing I've noticed is I've gone through a gallon of water without noticing.

Anyway, with the sweating, the water and the chemical boost, I lost 3.6 pounds this week.  However, I gained .8 percent body fat,  and nearly 3 inches in the waist/abs area.  This just goes to show that even drugs cannot defeat the double-whammy of Fat Tuesday and Valentine's Day!

Anyway, I must say I recommend the water, but not the supplements.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Writing a novel in two months (or six, but still writing)

Last month, Larry Correia, a man I admire as a friend, writer, and force for common sense, posted that he finished a novel in 2 months: 75,000 words despite what some of us would consider huge setbacks in our time and energy.  And if you don't know Larry's work, he's a multiple NYT best seller of the Monster Hunter series and the Hard Magic series, published by BAEN.  He recently retired from his job to write full time.  I've no doubt that the book is excellent.

It's my new kick in the butt.

Think about it:  75,000 words in 61 days is ONLY 1230 words a day.  1230! That's perhaps two blogs or a day's worth of silliness on FB, Twitter and Google +.    I write 500-750 an hour longhand; more when typing.  How fast do you write?  Even if you only spent an hour each day--four 15-minute sessions!--you'd have 15,000 words--that's a novella, or a novel in six months. That's an episode of sitcoms of reality TV--or for that matter, how much time are you spending on Facebook's Plants vs. Zombies?

Look how it adds up.  You don't have to spend all day slaving at the keyboard, day after day, drudge, drudge, drudge, to make an impact.  1230 words--BAM!  Next novel out of the hopper and ready for crits.  Play the heavy metal bagpipes!

Here's what Larry said about this on my Facebook page:

It is like I tell people, there are only 2 steps to becoming a successful professional writer. 1. Practice until people will give you money for your stuff. 2. Find the people who will give you money for your stuff.

Producing actual stuff helps satisfy both criteria, as the more you write, the faster you'll be able to write, and the more you write, the more you'll be able to sell. It is just like any other job where when you first start out you don't really know what you're doing, so you put in the time and effort to practice. I can write 3-5k words a day in a good work day, and I've done 10k+ many times. (my record is 16k). But the thing is, I'm doing this for a living and I treat it like my career. When I started out I was doing way way less per day. But like any other job, the more you doit, the easier it becomes. In this case, scenes that I used to struggle with and slave over, I've written so many now that I just bang them out because I know what I'm doing.

Basically what I'm trying to say to everybody is that it really does get easier the more you do it. My personal goal is 10k a week average all year. So some weeks more, some weeks less, but even with editing, tours, days off, etc. I've got to write half a million sellable words a year.

So, no more excuses for me.  I'm putting a post-it on my computer:  WWLD?  1230 When I feel like playing a game of spider solitaire or think I'm too busy or tired, I'm going to look at that paper and get my words out!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Latest in Zombie Fighting Technology

I'm offline for a few weeks, enjoying adventures with my husband and writing in notebooks instead of computers!  Here today is an excerpt from I Left My Brains in San Francisco for you enjoyment:

The Zombie Exterminator novels take place in 2040, a time of manure-based fuels, Global Fattening, and the shambling undead.  For your pleasure, I present to you an excerpt from I Left My Brains in San Francisco, in which we learn about the latest in zombie fighting technology.

"Kelsey Gardenberger here with Ron Potter on the DoCam, and we are the Zomblog.  We are at the ZomZeitgeber Expo floor, talking with Expo Man.  Hello, Expo Man!"

The fully suited, helmeted android twisted its head and said in a purposely mechanized voice, "Hello, Kelsey Gardenberger.  Hello, Zomblog viewers."   It raised its hand in a stiff wave.

Kelsey laughed.  "As you can see, Expo Man is running Retro Animation 2 for Animatronics.  You can download the freeware version by clicking the link on the sidebar.  Expo Man is also modeling the latest in extermination wear.  Expo Man, can you tell us what you have?"

The android paused while it whirred for a programmed one-point-five seconds; then it replied in a voice more reminiscent of the still running The Price is Right.  "That's right, Kelsey!  I am sporting the essentials for the well-prepared--and well-dressed--exterminator.  Starting with my head, I have a Motomania's Apocalypse 2000.  Sturdy and lightweight, with the latest in night vision--and an optional visor wiper!"

It touched a button on the side of its head and a small windshield wiper swiped the faceplate while cleaning fluid flowed from the top.

"Perfect for removing zombie gore--or when motorcycling through the foggy mornings of San Francisco!  Motomania's Apocalypse 2000. 

"My HazMat suit, courtesy of Sausalito Professional Wear, is a durable yet ecologically friendly blend of natural rubbers and synthetic polymers, combined with nanite technology.  Designed by Exterminator Outfitters' Edmund Acolyte, two-time winner of the International Golden Scissors, it moves like a dream while removing the bulkiness of most HazMat suits.  Nonetheless, it's also packed with pockets--front, back, hips and thigh--for easy access to those wonderful thrown distractions that the cunning exterminator uses--plus a Velcro-sealed pocket for your car keys.  Attractive and practical--that's Exterminator Outfitters.

"But no amount of headgear or suit safety will save you if your feet aren't protected.  That's why Go-lashes, Inc. has come up with their best footwear since the Stomp.  The Treads live up to their name, with even heavier, longer-lasting soles and improved arch support.  The redesigned sole provides an extra spring in your step.  Whether stalking the undead or running away like a ninny--better Tread than dead!

"Of course, you won't be running away if you're armed with the latest in extermination technology!  Let's begin with the ranged weapons."

The Ghostbusters theme, remixed by ZombieRoulette for the Belching Dragon Flamethrower Company, played out of Expo Man's chest as he reached behind his back and pulled out the nozzle of the flamethrower.  "You know who to call!  And when you need to take out a large group of zombies fast, there's nothing like good old-fashioned firepower.  The Belching Dragon series of flamethrowers has long been a favorite among exterminators, and this latest model is sure to please.  The Mark 9's longer nozzle contains plasma rifling to ensure a more targeted stream, while Belching Dragon's patented turbos provide extra thrust, increasing flame distance by up to five feet without sacrificing accuracy.  The onboard breeze meter is married to the computer to automatically adjust the plasma rifling to compensate for wind.  When the shambling undead threaten your territory, it's time to call in the Dragon."

As the theme music died out, Expo Man returned the flamethrower to its slot and raised its arm to show the tubing attached to its wrist and elbow.

"The power squirt gun has long been a standby in zombie extermination, but with Squirz, they'll soon be a thing of the past.  Why deal with bulky plastic when the automatic, air powered Squirz attaches neatly to the arm, yet sends a stream of your favorite zombie repellent up to twenty feet?  With a simple switch, you can set it from stream to spray.  The flexible plastic liquid containment pouch, or LCP, fits over the hips and across the back, allowing most operators to carry up to five gallons without strain."

Expo Man reached into his belt and pulled out a short cylindrical hilt.  He waved it around as he activated the switch in a classic Star Wars move.  A thin line of light unfolded from the hilt.

"Also new on the market, but becoming a fast favorite, are the monofilament swords.  Here's the Highlander Original.  Note the ergonomic design of the handle and easy-access thumb switch for turning it off and on.  The VEB, or visible electronic beam, that surrounds the blade has five standard color settings--or download your own favorite color.  Who says exterminators can't be fashionable?  Remember:  when the head must come away from the neck, you need the Highlander."

Expo Man whirred to a stop with a polycarbonate smile at Kelsey.  She returned it with a plastic one of her own.  "Um…no chainsaw?" she asked innocently, although she bit down on the sides of her lips in hidden mirth.

Expo Man straightened.  "I'm sorry, but after the Craftsmaster Demonstration Fiasco of 2046, animatronics have been forbidden to handle chainsaws in public areas."

Kelsey pursed her lips in a sympathetic pout.  "Of course.  Thank you so much, Expo Man.  Would you like to sign us out?"

"I thank you, Kelsey Gardenberger."  Expo Man turned toward the camera.  "This is Expo Man at ZomZeitgeber 2047, and you are watching the ZomBlog."
Purchase links:

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator :
I Left My Brains in San Francisco:
Learn more about the Zombie Exterminator novels at
Find out about all of Karina Fabian’s books at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Curse you, Bagely Sweetness!

I'm on sabbatical from blogging for a few weeks, so while I'm still working out, I'm not sharing about it.  However, I thought I'd rerun some of my favorites from early in my circuit torture adventure.  This is from Week Three:

After week two's incredible progress, I backslid.  It seems circuit torture cannot overcome the awesome power of bagels with blueberry schmear.  I did discover, however, that "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" is pretty accurate--I lost an inch on the waist, but gained in my hips this week.  Curse you, bagely sweetness!

Resistance is futile!

Anyway, I realized on Friday, as I was crawling from the sit-up mat to the push-up mat, that if Dante were to write The Inferno today, my gym would be in the circle of hell where they send those whose sin is gluttony.  Personally, I'm hoping this is just Purgatory, and that I will suffer, be expelled of my evil ways, and come to a new heaven...where I can have a bagel on occasion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mini-Review: Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar

Synopsis (From Amazon): 

It began with stories of undead Taliban rampaging through Afghan villages, and faster than anyone could have anticipated; the darkness spreads through the world.

In a world laid waste by this new terror, four unlikely companions have been thrown together- a seventeen year old boy dealing with the loss of his family, a US Navy SEAL trying to get back home, an aging, lonely writer with nobody to live for, and a young girl trying to keep her three year old brother safe.

When they discover that the smallest amongst them holds the key to removing the scourge that threatens to destroy their world, they begin an epic journey to a rumoured safe zone high in the Himalayas. A journey that will pit them against their own worst fears and the most terrible dangers- both human and undead.

A journey through a wasteland now known as Zombiestan.

Mini-Review:  A friend recommended this book to me, and since I wrote briefly about a zombie outbreak in Afghanistan in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, I figured I should read it.  I was not disappointed.  The plot was one we've seen before:  world is overrun by zombies, but one child may hold the cure so we must get him to safety.  However, I was impressed by the realism of how people handled the situations, from tactics I could actually agree with the usual human stupidity I would expect in a world gone mad.  I also enjoyed the (for me) exotic locations:  Pakistan, Delhi, northern India.  I felt for the characters, especially the Navy SEAL.  (Sentimental me teared up when he did the heroic last stand to buy the others time, and afterward, a general (also a SEAL) promised to search for him.  "We don't leave our own behind.") I will warn you, though:  if you hate head-hopping, then this book might make you dizzy.  Personally, I had no problem with it and thought it kept the pace fast.

Definitely a fun read for zombie fans.

Get it on Amazon:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Love Scene from Mind Over Mind

This is my favorite love scene that I've written. It’s from Mind Over Mind, from DragonMoon books. It’s the first in a trilogy. Mind Over Psyche comes out in September, and I’m writing Mind Over All right now. Ironically, in this last book, Joshua is thinking back to this evening–it’s key to a lot of issues.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror the next evening, Joshua's grin was still on her mind. It was interfering with her ability to concentrate on her make-up, and her guests would soon be.

Could he have taken her comments as implying a personal interest? Did she want him to? He had a good body—OK, say it girl, a great body—nicely muscled without being overdone, his skin rich and dark and almost glowing in the sun. She shook herself as if to break a spell and, sighing, picked out a lipstick.

Worst part was, that wasn’t even the most attractive thing about him. If it had been, she‘d have been able to ignore it; she knew plenty of well-built guys. No, what set him apart was the way he looked at her, steady and intently, wholly focused on her.

It wasn’t just her, she told herself. He treated everyone with that kind of intensity.

Still, there was something…more…about the way he looked at her. And that smile…

Stop being silly, she chided herself. He was just flattered. After all, you’re attractive, and young enough for your opinion to matter. She stepped back and appraised herself in the mirror. Her silky black hair was swept up into a neat roll, with a few ends artistically escaping from the top. Into it, she had stuck a couple of black lacquered chopsticks decorated with green dragons. Her make-up, though moderate, was done with effect, with green eyeliner accenting the exotic shape and tilt of her eyes. The jade dragon earrings she’d found at a Renaissance festival adorned her ears. Her black dress had a high collar, and its folds of silk covered her collarbone and draped over her shoulders before plunging daringly to the small of her back, perfectly framing her tattoo. An Oriental dragon of green and gold twisted its way across her back, so that its head rested just over and between her shoulder blades and the tip of its tail curled at the base of her spine. It had taken her forever to find a dress that showed it off to its fullest, and she’d had to run next door to get Cindy to help her with body tape that held it in place, but as she twisted to watch the fabric fall softly around her dragon, she knew it was worth it.

The dress ended just above the knee. Her silk stockings—the kind with the seam down the back—and the leather heels with the “alligator skin” accents on the toes, finished the ensemble. But tonight was for the dragon.

It’d been a long time since she’d felt like this: daring, happy. Alive.

The doorbell rang, and she shoved all the cosmetics into a drawer and hastened out of the bathroom to answer it.

Despite her suggested “Newport casual,” Joshua was dressed to kill. Above subdued black pants that looked like some kind of soft suede and were cut a little baggier than his usual, he wore a dark, short-sleeved shirt with a reddish-bronze shimmer. Its priest-like collar wouldn’t take a tie; he wore a simple gold chain. He also had a small gold hoop earring in one ear. She could just smell his cologne, something spicy and musky that called her to lean closer.

She wanted to lean closer. Instead, she said, “Joshua, you’re early.”

Joshua leaned against the doorframe. He carried a black rectangular case in one hand, and held the other hand behind his back. “I left myself lots of time. Even so, I thought I might be late.”

“Oh? My directions weren’t clear?”

“Sure. Mostly. Your highways, on the other hand…”

Sachiko laughed. “Oh, no! How far did you go?”

“Not far. But I had to drive over the grass median to turn around, so I spent the next couple of miles watching my rear-view mirror, expecting a cop to flag me down. Speaking of cops, just how many Dunkin’ Donuts are there in Wakefield?”

Her hands flew to her lips, but she stopped herself before she could touch them and smudge her lipstick. “I didn’t even think! There’s that new one at Tower Hill and Patton, but you were supposed to turn at the next one, on Old Tower Hill. I think Rhode Island has more Dunkin’ Donuts per square mile than any other state in the union. I should have drawn a map. Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I stopped to check a map, and there’s a cool flower shop that just opened, so…” From behind his back, he pulled out a bouquet of oriental lilies, birds of paradise and red antriums.

“Joshua, they’re beautiful!” She took them from him, ignoring the thrill that shot through her when their fingers briefly touched. The suspicious part of her said, He gets lost and thinks about buying you flowers? He’s either that sweet or that interested. Despite herself, she knew which option she wanted.

“They reminded me of you.” He smiled shyly. “Graceful and exotic.”

She looked at him over the flowers. Their gazes held. That interested. For a moment, she was very sorry she’d invited anyone else. “Come on in. I’ll just put these in some water.” She backed up to let him in, then turned toward the kitchen, giving him a full view of her back. She hadn’t taken a step when she heard a loud THUNK! She glanced coyly over her shoulder. “Yes?”

Joshua’s keyboard lay leaning against one of his legs. He was staring, open-mouthed. He closed his mouth, opened it again, closed it, then finally burst out, “Tell me it’s real!”

She tried not to let her swell of satisfaction show. The dress had just paid for itself. “Every painfully inked inch. And?”

She still had her back to him. His eyes moved over her with a mixture of awe and desire that seemed more suited for the bedroom. Maybe he realized what his face was revealing, for he smiled—an embarrassed, tight-lipped smile—and finally said, “You are full of the most incredible surprises.”
She couldn’t help it. She laughed. “Go put your keyboard in the living room and have something cool to drink! Want a Coke?”

“Sure. Diet, if you have it. Do you want me to set it up?”

“If it’ll tuck out of the way somewhere.”


A couple of minutes later, Joshua was perched on a stool at the kitchen counter, a glass of soda in his hands. The flowers were in a crystal vase at the end of the counter, except for one bird of paradise, which Sachiko had cut and placed in her hair. He offered to help, but she refused—the kitchen was her domain. Besides, she decided she liked having the physical barrier of the counter between them until he’d calmed down some. She turned from the stove to catch his gaze flickering over her tattoo, and there was such fire in his eyes.

She liked that fire, she decided, and the thought unnerved her, and she turned back to the meal until she felt herself calm down as well.

After a few minutes of comfortable—if electric—silence, he asked, “So, why’d you do it?”

“The tattoo?” She gave the fish one last turn, then set the pan on a back burner to warm. She’d rehearsed and used a dozen different answers to that question over the years, but she found herself wanting to be a little more honest with him. She wiped her hands with a towel, and pulled the antipasto out of the refrigerator. “I was at a low point in my life. Really low. I’d just gotten out of a horrible relationship with Ra—my ex-boyfriend. I’d done some horrible things, things I never thought I’d do, and I wasn’t even sure why. It was like I didn’t know who I was anymore. I wasn’t sure I ever knew; I was just drifting, doing what others expected of me, being the good nurse, the good student, the good girlfriend. Anyways, I decided it was time to do what I wanted, find out who I was. Explore a little, you know what I mean? See what I thought of my wild side.”

She set the tray on the counter.

“I like it.” He snagged an olive and popped it into his mouth.

“Oh, yeah?” Suddenly, she leaned over the counter. “And just what’s your wild side?” she asked in a low, throaty voice.

She’d expected to embarrass him. She had a brief image of him choking on his olive. Instead, he chewed slowly, swallowed, then leaned over the counter so that his face was only inches from hers.

“I meant,” he replied in a similar purr that sent delicious shivers down her spine, “I like yours.”


He leaned closer. She closed her eyes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Circuit Training...Double Your Torture

Who knew I'd be such a glutton for punishment?

As most of you know, in the spirit of "for better or for worse--and you'd better share the worse!" I've convinced my husband, Rob, to join me in daily circuit torture.  Surprisingly to him, he's actually enjoying it, and he's losing weight and inches.  (Much better than his previous workout program, and I refraim from saying "Told you so"  Wait. No, no, I don't.)  Anyway, since I got him into this fine mess, it seems only fair that I continue to join him in the pain, so I've been going to class at 6 am with him. This past week, however, was an unusual week for Rob.  He had meetings in the mornings, and couldn't make it to the six am and get home to shower, shave and dress in time to get to work.

Now, I'm a paranoid woman at times, so I would still get up and go to the morning class, anyway, on the assumption that Rob might be late coming home or too tired to work out.  However, he came home each day willing if not raring to go, so as a result, I went twice.

Yes, two hours of circuit torture a day.  And it gets worse!

Because last week was Independence Day week, Ryion closed the gym on Thursday and Friday.  As a result, he upped the level of the program--whole body workouts, with floor exercises instead of the treadmill.  So instead of squats, we did squats with hammer curl presses, and in between--burpees, speed skaters, walking pushups, burpees.  Did I mention the ENTIRE CLASS of exercise--burpee--exercise--burpee?

Go ahead--do these for a minute, then go do a minute of squat-lifts with 90 pounds of weight.  (And if you think it's no big deal, come do it with my body!)

So, I did six classes this week like that, including Saturday since Rob wanted to go to make up missing Thursday and Friday due to the gym being closed. 

Here's the take-away I want you to get from this:  The reason I did it is because I felt like my exercise buddy (aka Rob) was depending on me for support.  Having someone to share the pain, er, obligation, with makes a difference. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

My Surreal Eco-Political Dream

I know a lot of authors say they get thier ideas from dreams, but when I'm not dreaming something too personal or frustrating, it's too bizarre to share.  Here's a case in point from last week:

I was in the White House (already stretching the bounds of believability), and President Obama was wrangling geese.  He was in a blue suit, chasing down the geese, grabbing them by the neck and hoisting them over the fence out of the White House lawn.  I told my daughter that he'd had special training to do this.  Then he shooed one out a partially open fence, but it got stuck and some kids pushed it out with a wagon.

Next, we were in the White House kitchens, but it looked like the kind of kitchen/dining room you'd find in an old trailer--cramped, cluttered and dark.  Dirty dishes in the sink.  Obama said he was hungry, and we were looking around for something to cook for dinner.  I nuked peas and butter, but he heated up some hazelnuts.  He said he wanted a whole bag of nuts.

Then, the polar bears in the pits in the back yard started making a ruckus, and Obama opened the window above the sink to feed them.  It was a crank-style window, like you find in old houses.  He tossed them a nut each, then closed the window.

He leaned against the counter, and that's when I noticed he looked like Dick Van Dyke (which I thought was a relief because I think Obama is an ugly looking man.)  He told me that he didn't know how the bears could be so happy when their daughter, Blondie, had been sold to China.  He told me he'd visited Blondie in China and it was the happiest trip he'd ever had.  He'd never laughed so hard as he had with Blondie.

Then some other people cam over, and we literally pushed aside all the junk on the table to one side so we could sit and talk.  Just as someone asked about my books. I actually had an answer, but the dream faded, and I woke up thinking, "It figures.  I never get the chance to talk about my books."

Now, perhaps, you understand why I don't write novels from my dreams.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Great Opportunity for Catholic Writers to Share Writing, Faith

Every year, the Catholic Writers Guild hosts it's conference in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network.  I didn't get to go for a couple of years, and I've missed it.  This year, I'm going again--with my Daddy, yay!  If you are Catholic and a writer and looking for a conference that not only teaches you wonderful writing and marketing skills and gives you a chance to pitch to Catholic publishers, but also gives you a chance to share your faith with enthusiastic, like-minded people, read on! (Or jump to and register. Registration costs $80 for CWG members, $85 for non-members and $45 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. )

Prominent Catholic Writers to Speak at CWG’s Catholic Writers Conference in New Jersey

Several prominent Catholic writers will speak at the fifth annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE taking place August 7-9, 2013, at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic writers with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe. The theme of this year's conference is “The Year of Faith.”

Speakers at this year’s conference include authors Patti Armstrong (STORIES FOR THE HOMESCHOOL HEART), Teresa Tomeo (Ave Maria Radio, WRAPPED UP, EXTREME MAKEOVER), Michelle Buckman (RACHEL’S CONTRITION, MY BEAUTIFUL DISASTER), Randy Hain (THE INTEGRATED CATHOLIC LIFE), Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (EWTN, CATHOLIC PRAYER BOOK FOR MOTHERS), Ellen Gable Hrkach (STEALING JENNY), Regina Doman (RAPUNZEL LET DOWN), author, blogger and podcaster Pat Gohn (BLESSED, BEAUTIFUL, AND BODACIOUS) and many others.

The conference will give authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Full Quiver Publishing, Ave Maria Press, Christus Publishing, Tuscany Press and Servant Books.  In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for critique workshop with award-wining short fiction writer Arthur Powers, and attend a writing workshop with award-winning novelist Michelle Buckman. Information for these events can be found on the conference web site.

Maurice Prater of Missionaries of the Holy Family attended in 2012, and he says he did not know what to expect at first. “But, what I gained from attending the Catholic Writers Conference, in terms of personal contacts and what I learned, has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made." Author Ann Frailey, concurs. “I met writers, publishers, artists and a whole host of other people whose mission it is to transmit the message of truth and hope to the world in a living, vibrant manner.  It was an exciting adventure!”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, sponsors this conference in August, an online conference in March, and a writers' retreat in October to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. "With members all over North America, these events bring our diverse membership together for fellowship and networking to promote our mission of creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters," says CWG President and award-winning novelist Ellen Gable Hrkach.

Registration costs $80 for CWG members, $85 for non-members and $45 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to