REALITY BITES: Virtual Match #2 is Available. Sneak Peek Inside.

The day you’ve all been waiting for (okay, maybe it’s just ME who’s been counting down the days) is finally here. The second book in the Virtual Match Romance series is available from your favorite online retailers. Click here to get your copy.

Maybe you still haven’t read Reality Meets its Match. If you’re like me, you don’t want to wait for the next installment, so why start a series if you have to wait?

Because this is a fun romance that will have you feeling good about life.

Still not sure it’s for you?
Well, today, I’m going to share a little Ronnie and Marcus interaction.

Keep scrolling down to read an excerpt (if you haven’t seen enough on my Facebook page for the past month or in my newsletter last week). At the bottom of the post, enter the giveaway for $10 of books from my publisher. Hey, you can pick up the first book in the series, some other fantastic novellas or read one of my earlier fiction stories in one of several anthologies.

Hello beautiful!

Reality Bites
Virtual Match #2
Ronnie wanted a Virtual Match, until she fell for the guy on the other end of the texts and emails. After real-life dating for only a few weeks, things start to heat up. Ronnie’s crazy family gets crazier, and her therapist gives her an ultimatum.
Marcus teeters on the edge of falling in love, but when he learns Ronnie’s secret, he’s afraid of moving too fast. The idea of life without her terrifies him more than anything else.
Ronnie runs back to the safety of her career, but can her heart ever be free from what Marcus has awakened?
 
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
Here’s an exclusive (YOU CAN’T READ IT ANYWHERE ELSE) peek inside the covers of Reality Bites:
(From Chapter Two)

She answered his knock before it resonated.
A pale blue polo clung to his sculpted chest. His bicep jerked when he raised a paper bag.
“Takeout?” Ronnie sidled out of the doorway.
“Not tonight,” Marcus said while sauntering in.
She watched his tight backside, nearly closing her fingers in the door. With a shake of her head, Ronnie relocked the door and followed him into the kitchen.
“My mom’s beef barley soup recipe. We’ll see if I did it justice.”
He withdrew a plastic container, dark with soup, and placed it on the counter. A package of wheat crackers and some sliced cheese followed.
Ronnie brushed behind him, inhaling the scent of ocean breeze and musk that was uniquely his. She pulled two bowls and small plates from the cupboard. “Soup weather is here already?” At least eight months of the year were gray and cool in their bayside city, making soup a perfect accouterments. Even some summer nights whispered for a steaming bowl of chowder or chili.
“An easy fix.”
Ronnie set the dishes beside the soup container and pulled spoons from one drawer and a ladle from another. When she swung back, she crashed into Marcus’ broad chest. His arms circled her waist at the same time his chin jerked out of the way of the swinging ladle. “Sorr—”
He cut off her apology with warm, soft lips.
Ronnie melted into his chest, opened up to his probing tongue. Kissing this man had quickly become one of her favorite activities. A faint taste of garlic and pepper echoed the soup’s delicious scent. Her pulse throbbed in her neck.
He pulled back slightly. “I missed you, gorgeous.” His husky whisper tickled her ear, sending a cascade of shivers down her spine.
Want more? Buy it now.
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
 Make sure you connect with me on these major platforms so you’ll never miss a new release, special giveaway or chance to hang out with me virtually or in person.
LINKS:
 
Better yet, subscribe to my newsletter. All subscribers get access to a free short story and first dibs on special sales and giveaways. It takes less than a minute to sign up and best of all…FREE BOOKS.
~~~oOo~~~
 

GIVEAWAY!

A $10 Roane Publishing Gift Card

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

Meet Some Everyday Heroes

My fascination with heroes has only been strengthened by the current comics-into-movies craze. What’s even more inspiring? There are heroes around us dressed in the guise of an ordinary person.

This month on my blog, the midweek posts (I will be changing from Thursday to Wednesday halfway through) are dedicated to these individuals.

Today, I’m dumping some links to videos and articles that will give you a glimpse at the sort of people who we don’t see in the news.

Why do they tell us all the bad news? Shouldn’t they always follow it up with some good news?

While mainstream news shows protests and property damage, another kind of television station focuses on the goodness birthed from tragedy. Here is a video that shows how the fury of nature brings out the best in some people.

I’ve seen people hanging from a bridge in protest. I’ve seen others standing on an overpass threatening to jump and end their lives.

Would you have the courage to stop someone from jumping? In this next video, you’ll also see heroes reaching out to rescue those who are falling.

I had mixed feelings about the last story. When I saw the headline, I immediately thought, “Here’s an everyday hero.”

Hero mom dies rescuing son from Oklahoma fire

And then I read the story.

Every mother would hope to have the same courage to enter their burning home when they realized their young child is still inside. That’s what this woman did, after escaping with her two infant sons, too young to walk out on their own.

But then I read on. Rescue crews were on site. Trained professionals were there to do the job. She didn’t listen to them.

In the end, both she and the four-year-old she tried to rescue perished from injuries sustained in the fire. Now her other children our motherless.

Would the fire personnel have been able to pull her son out in time if they weren’t trying to rescue her too?

We’ll never know. While I admire her self-sacrifice, part of me feels the loss was unnecessary.

What’s your idea of an everyday hero? Do you have some stories for me?


Like what you read here? Would you like a Hero Delivery directly to your email inbox? It can be on the way in a few clicks.

Check out Poet Inspired and  my other books. Already read one or more of them? Your honest review is a golden nugget in this writer’s world.

Happy Birthday to my Baby!

Twenty-three years ago yesterday at a few moments after midnight, my he-will-forever-be-my-baby son entered this world.

Yesterday, we celebrated that occasion. It was a huge family dinner. My four, their wives and the family of my baby’s wife.

My baby has a wife?

I know. Wasn’t it just yesterday he arrived in the world?

So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993
So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993

Right. Yesterday…plus twenty-three YEARS.

But I remember how happy he was as a baby. He made the cutest gurgling noises. Like he was singing to himself.

We called this one the Under the Table Jig
We called this one the Under the Table Jig

And he seemed almost indestructible: falling off decks and through windows. But he didn’t always escape unscathed.

His enthusiasm for living rubbed off on all of us.

A0025

It didn’t surprise me when he decided to take to the stage. People at church  had been saying he was going to be a preacher for years.

Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin
Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin

He was always a natural ham. Why not add makeup and bright lights?

Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him
Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him

How did he get from a playschool graduation to this in three blinks of my eyes?

DSC_0069

As an adult, he headed off to college. And graduated from that before I’d begun to fathom how he would deal with those student loans.

My two sons...and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me
My two sons…and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me

And now, he’s married. He and his wife have their own little love nest. And student loans.

But life isn’t about loans, it’s about love and living each moment with joy.

And this baby boy of mine has been doing that second part well for a lifetime. What’s not to love?

If you know him, how about commenting with a favorite memory?

Like what you read here? Would you like a Hero Delivery directly to your email inbox? It can be on the way in a few clicks.

Check out Poet Inspired and all my books. Your honest review is a golden nugget in this writer’s world.

Three reasons why I avoid Guilt trips

guilttrip

Come along on a recent guilt trip I took! No, really. It will be delightful. I promise!

“Did you know Lily’s foot was hurt?”

My stomach plummeted lower than the soles of my manure-encrusted boots. This friendship detonated in front of me. I’d done the unthinkable – injured her horse.

“No. When did this happen?”

Explanations ensue. Part of my brain is processing the input, determining guilt or innocence with the finesse of an experienced judge. Sounded like it happened in the field. I worked her in the arena. Whew!

“She was wondering why you trotted a horse with an injured foot.”

The guilt swells again, almost exploding my chest. What sort of imbecile would lunge a horse that was limping? But she wasn’t limping. Apparently, all that head tossing she did – low rather than high – was supposed to clue me in.

Except I’m a greenhorn. Yes, I noticed her stretch seemed shorter than usual. She moved sluggishly to a trot when she normally snapped into that gait.

Let me tell you, when an expensive animal is involved, the guilt trip can be bumpy.

My mother could put me on a guilt trip with less than a blink of the eye. One well-placed glare, saturated with condemnation, and I was gone.

vacationwatsthatIt made me appreciate the fact that this sort of trip was hardly a vacation. There wasn’t anything fun about it. Did it lasso me into conformity? Certainly. Until I decided I was done being controlled by someone else’s whims.

Mothers are expert “travel agents” for guilt trips. Older siblings learn the job well, too. Most of these must become teachers since, next to Mom, teachers have perfected the art of launching an unsuspecting soul into guilt orbit.

I decided to be atypical. As a mother and a teacher, I refuse to employ the guilt-inducing tactics that produce the desired compliance for sons and students. I have my reasons. Three of them.

Guilt trips damage self-esteem

You don’t normally hear me spouting to protect self-esteem at all costs. I think focusing on low self-esteem is a form of pride. Let’s focus on edification instead.

Guilt tears down. It makes a person second-guess their ability to make decisions. With one good swing of its hammer, guilt can make a decent person feel lower than pond scum.

“What was I thinking? How could I have done that? I’m stupider than dirt.” Doesn’t sound like healthy self-talk to me.

Guilt has a silent partner: shame

At the end of many forays motivated by guilt lies the ugly companion of guilt: shame.

While on the little trip, we fill our heads with the negative self-talk demonstrated above. By the time we reach our destination, we’re feeling about one centimeter tall.

You can be sure that the inevitable whammy life will throw at us as we disembark the Guilt Train will shove us under the wheels. Slicing through our soul with a hefty dose of shame.

“I’m going to stay in my room for a week. I’ll never go near another horse. I’m a danger to everyone.” Sounding more desperate all the time, right?

Guilt doesn’t teach responsibility

This is the biggest reason I despise guilt trips. My job as a mother and teacher is to help my sons and students grow into rational adults. They need to learn to be responsible for their own choices.

Too many guilt trips and those people start blaming us for their mistakes. After all, we’re the only one who seems to condemn them and send them down the dark path to shame.

I believe in natural consequences.

In the event of the stupidity revealed at the outset of this post, I suffered natural consequences. Lily needed shoes on her front feet to reinforce the walls of her hooves so her soles wouldn’t get bruised by the hard ground. The ferrier couldn’t come for almost ten days.

The natural consequences of exercising an injured horse: no working or riding her for at least two weeks.

Every choice has a consequence. You choose not to go to the family reunion regardless of mother’s attempt to guilt you. The rich uncle you’ve only met twice writes all attendees into his will. Guess what you aren’t getting?

What do you think about guilt trips? Do you employ them? Have you been on one recently?

A Mother’s Life

When you’re writing your mother’s obituary, it occurs to you that sometimes words fail. A life is more than education, residence, employment, awards and surviving family. All the column inches in the newspaper can never hope to capture the full story.

My mother’s life conceived mine. If she had listened to the obstetrician who told her pregnancy and her body didn’t mesh, I would not be here to write these words.

My mother worked hard to make sure I had what I needed. She taught me the value of hard work as a means of reaching beyond the necessities of life into the pleasures. Did I appreciate having to scrub the toilet twice a week? (Make that six times if the first attempt didn’t meet her specification for cleanliness.)

Episodes of raw fried chicken and undercooked potatoes aside, I can prepare tasty and healthy meals because my mother taught me how to use a stove. I started drying the dishes at the age of five (lucky older sister got to wash). I recall stirring jam until I thought my arm would fall off, being hypnotized by the valve on the top of the pressure cooker and sending raw venison through the meat grinder.

My mother taught by example as much as by direct instruction. She loved to read. She sat in the chair with my sister on one side and me on the other, reading aloud to us. When we were old enough, we took turns reading the stories to her. She sang along with The Carpenters as their 8-track played on the stereo. She took us to church on Sunday and helped us learn to recite the books of the Bible.

As much as I grumbled about keeping my room clean, I knew what a clean room should look like. Our house was spotless. No need for a “five second rule” in our kitchen. Go ahead and eat directly off the floor; it’s as clean and sanitary as the counters. No joke.

My mother worked at the bank when we were younger. When we were in high school, she returned to college to pursue a nursing degree. She taught me that a person is never too old to pursue a dream.

I resented her determination to get high marks in college. She spent too much time studying, I thought. Of course, when I returned to college as a 40-year-old, I couldn’t settle for less than an “A” either. She had passed her perfectionism on to me – by example as much as admonition.

I wanted to make my own choices. I deliberately chose things she disapproved for my life, claiming it demonstrated my independence from her. Most of my regrets were decisions I made simply because I knew Mom wouldn’t want me to do it. Can anyone say “stupid”?

I didn’t appreciate her advice until I had children of my own. I didn’t understand her grief at my rebellion until my own children stood toe-to-toe with me debating the rules I set for them. The magnitude of her love in the face of my idiocy boomed like a megaphone when I cried over my own children.

How can these sentiments be expressed in journalistic style for the obituary page? In truth, I’ve barely scratched the surface of describing my mother’s life. More experiences lie ahead when the epic boundlessness of her love and sacrifice will be revealed again and again.

A mother’s life is about securing the best for her children and grandchildren. In the absence of financial wealth to purchase this, my mother spent her own blood, sweat, tears, love, wisdom and time to procure success by outfitting us to strive for it.

What words describe your mother’s life or your life as a mother?

Successful Parenting Outcomes

Daddy and newborn son
Daddy and newborn son

Recently, four women sat around discussing childbirth. Once you’ve experienced that moment (or those long, arduous hours), there is no going back to the forgetful bliss of beforehand.

Not one of us would willingly exchange our children to avoid the pain. Little did we know, the delivery suite adventure was not the peak of our pain. It was only the beginning.

The real work begins when you have a dependent bundle of tears, wails and excrement that relies on you for everything. A deep sigh of relief doesn’t come when they can finally walk and feed themselves. No, there is more they need to learn. And you are the teacher.

I would have never made it past the first three years of my sons’ lives without the wisdom of my sister. She was a walking talking parenting manual. Later, I would be thankful that my husband had the patience to teach our Velcro-reliant son to tie his shoes and both of those boys to drive (yeah, I gasp and grip the door handle when my husband’s driving so I didn’t have the capacity for that stress).

Only now am I fully able to look at my sons and reflect upon my parenting successes. In the midst of it, the failures immediately announce themselves. We hustle to adjust and change our strategy. If it doesn’t seem to fall apart, perhaps we’re heading our children in the right direction.

Hours of Labor - All Grown Up
Hours of Labor – All Grown Up

The truth of this desire to see our children succeed in more than athletics and scholarship became apparent to me recently.

First, I read this great article by Karen Schelhaas, who restricted unnecessary spending for one year. “The unexpected highlight of the experiment came when I offered to buy my 12-year-old daughter a black shirt at a store, and she responded with “Mom, I already have a black shirt. I don’t need another one.”   That’s right, babe. You don’t.”

My eldest son graduated college but has only landed a couple interviews which netted no job offers. I realize that our emphasis on education placed him in this position, but the ugly state of the economy keeps him from shining forth.

Did we fail him? I don’t think so. Life is ugly at times. We can make all the right choices and still end up unemployed.

Our opportunities to teach don’t end once our kids graduate and move away. Our example,  a megaphone, announces our ideals and convictions.

Hard work pays off. Keep working to find a job and eventually you will land one. Don’t expect your first job to be your dream job; see how many jobs Dad and I have had?

How do you judge the success of your parenting? Is it even right to have a barometer in this arena? Maybe you think it puts too much pressure on the kids. Let’s talk about it.