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Mourning for Oklahoma

It’s a small world, and sometimes a cruel one.

I had a big day Saturday at the Ozarks Writers League conference in Branson. I left with my head swirling with marketing ideas, a manuscript request from an agent and a new friend—editor Mari Farthing.

Mari lives in Moore, Oklahoma. Need I say more? We’ve all seen the harrowing accounts of the massive tornado that ripped through Moore yesterday. We’ve all grieved over the children lost in the Plaza Towers Elementary School and the families who will never be whole again. Mari and her family are safe, but that doesn’t mean they are unscathed. You can read her powerful account of hunkering in her storm shelter as the storm passed and facing the aftermath here.

I should be writing my novel—that’s what I’m supposed to be doing at this moment. After all, I now have three agents who have requested full or partial manuscripts when it’s ready. I haven’t even told my friends about that third request yet. It happened just last night, and it didn’t seem right to celebrate a manuscript request in the face of such a tragedy.

Joplin, MO

Joplin, MO

All I can think about is Moore. And Joplin. I volunteered in the recovery efforts following the Joplin tornado two years ago, and the images still haunt me. The skeletal trees. The twisted cars and mangled playground equipment. The heaps of rubble that used to be homes, extending as far as I could see in every direction. The hollow eyes of the now-homeless woman who limped into the facility where I was sorting supplies, asking me what she should do.

Joplin, MO

Joplin, MO

And so, instead of writing my novel, I’m writing this, hoping that putting my thoughts into words will provide a catharsis. My kids are with their grandparents, or no doubt I would spend the day hugging them. That’s definitely how I plan to spend my evening.

Mother’s Day Musings

I’ve had a lovely Mother’s Day so far. I slept late (8:00 a.m. counts as sleeping in these days), snuggled with my husband then enjoyed breakfast in bed while editing chapters nine and ten. A beautiful, quiet morning with no children in it whatsoever.  Is it bad that the nicest way I can think of to spend Mother’s Day is to ship my kids off to their grandparents’ house?


I’m a firm believer that each stage of parenting comes with its own trials and joys.

With a newborn, you have lots of breaks while your little bundle of joy sleeps or plays happily in that expensive swing you bought, but you’re not allowed to sleep more than two or three hours at a time, leaving you stumbling through life in a sleep-deprived haze.

Wait a few months, and the five or six hours of sleep you’re getting at night feels like a luxury, but you’re going to need every bit of that energy as you chase your crawling/toddling explorer around the house, thwarting disaster at every turn.

By the toddler stage, you’re a pro. Sure, your little darling still needs almost constant attention, but you’re getting a full night’s sleep and a couple of breaks each day during nap time. But don’t get too comfortable–the terrible-twos/throttle-them-threes are just around the corner.

Never. Ending. Drama. That’s the stage my youngest is in right now, and as reluctant as I am for him to grow up, I can’t wait for this particular phase to pass. Anybody know of a never-ending font of patience I can tap in to?

My eldest is finishing preschool this week. He’s growing up way too fast. Video games, go-karts, sports, reading, arguing. LOTS of arguing. I appreciate the fact that his increasing independence gives me more time for myself and my goals, but I can already feel the precious childhood years slipping through my fingers.

And so, I’m enjoying a few hours to myself, without the demands and frustrations of mothering two small children. But I’m also missing their sweet, smiling faces, their little arms wrapped around my neck and their excited voices calling, “Mama! Mama!” when I walk into the room. As life-consuming as motherhood can be, it’s all worth it.

Anybody care to tell me what I have to look forward to over the next few years?

Mummies in Downton Abbey?

(SPOILER ALERT—Although everybody who cares has seen it by now, haven’t they?)

My little world was rocked last week by the death of Matthew Crawley in the Season Three finale of Downton Abbey. For a Downton fan girl, it was a rough evening.

And it reminded me of an interesting fact I stumbled across during research for my work in progress, a connection between the Edwardian-tinged aristocratic life of Downton Abbey and my tale of four modern kids who travel through time to ancient Egypt—the reign of Tutankhamun, to be specific. Surprising, right?

Downton Abbey is a fictional creation, but Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed, is very real. It’s the hereditary seat of the Earls of Carnarvon, and many details of the show are drawn from its history. And like Lord Grantham’s fictitious heir, the real 1920’s Earl of Carnarvon met a stunning end.

Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb is legendary. The world had never seen such a rich collection of burial goods, and the newspapers of the day exploded with tales of exotic adventure and ancient treasures. When several of the people connected with the tomb died over the next few months, stories of a Mummy’s Curse began circulating that still live in our collective imagination.

What does this have to do with Downton Abbey?

Lord Carnarvon funded Howard Carter’s expedition and was present when the tomb was opened. A few months later, he died in Egypt from an infected mosquito bite—a death many attributed to the Mummy’s Curse.

Just imagine Lord Grantham supporting the efforts of a determined archaeologist, traveling to Egypt to witness the opening of a newly discovered tomb and then dying, sparking whispers that he’d succumbed to the Mummy’s Curse. We’d think the writers had lost their minds, which is why truth is stranger than fiction.

Then again, the way the show’s been going, who knows? If Lord Grantham develops a sudden interest in Egyptology, I’m going to be worried. Season Four begins in 1922, after all.

The Liebster Award

I want to thank Marilyn Davies at Mindful Splatter for nominating me for The Liebster Award. I’m honored you thought of me!

Here’s how it works:

Thank the person who nominated you and put a link to their blog in your post. Answer the 11 questions they have given you, list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been chosen. With all the talented people out there, it should be easy. Finally, paste the Liebster logo on your page for others to admire.

So here goes.

The questions I was given:

  • What musical instrument would you like to play, and why? I played saxophone through college and often miss it, so if I decided to play an instrument again I would dig the old sax out.
  • Do you believe in ghosts? Depends on what day you ask me. Sometimes I’m extremely logic driven and only believe in things that can be proven. Other times my imagination takes charge and I get a great thrill out of creepy ghost stories.
  • If you had a chance to travel to Mars, would you? Definitely not. I actually thought about this recently when I saw a call for volunteers for a proposed colony on Mars. A one-way trip, spending the remainder of your life inside a glorified tin can, never again feeling the sun on your face or visiting friends or watching a sunset over the ocean . . . um, no.
  • What is your favorite book, and why? That question is just mean–way too many to choose from. “The Hobbit” had a major impact when I read it at the age of eleven, so I’ll go with that.
  • What is your favorite gift someone has given you? I love the spa days and thoughtful gifts my sweetie gives me, every sweet-but-misguided present my little ones come up with and the beaded Christmas ornament a dear friend recently made for me. I think my favorite gift, though, would have to be a surprise party for my birthday. There’s nothing better than the gift of love, friendship and time together.
  • Who is your favorite actor, and why? Brad Pitt, because we went to the same elementary school. and I remember him when he was a sixth-grade golden boy running for student body president. I was only in kindergarten, but even back then we all knew who he was.
  • When are you the happiest? Um, that question could easily get way too personal. 😉 I’ll go with right after I’ve finished a great writing session–nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment. Except when my little boys tell me they love me.
  • What is your favorite zoo animal? Giraffe. Our local zoo has a giraffe feeding station that my boys love.
  • Have you ever met a world-famous person, if so, did you talk to him/her? Why yes, way back when I was a student at Dartmouth College. A man was arguing with the cashier at the little local pharmacy because his bill was one penny off. He persisted until the line stretched across half the store and the poor cashier was in tears. I finally handed him a penny and asked if we could please move on now. He shot me a nasty glare and stalked out without a word. The other people in the store gaped at me, and one of them said, “Did you know that was Charles Bronson?”
  • How many books do you think you read a year? A couple dozen, maybe? I’d like to read more, but it’s hard to create my own fictional world when I’m caught up in someone else’s.
  • Who is your favorite author? Another cruel question. I can’t pick one! J. R. R. Tolkien, Philippa Gregory, Michelle Moran, George R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Carrie Vaughn and Cecily White for starters.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  • I can recite the Charm of Making from the film Excalibur.
  • I watched The Empire Strikes Back in French while traveling on a cargo boat in French Polynesia.
  • I adore cilantro and tomatillos and despise salmon and coconut.
  • I was lead singer in a bar band in Denver.
  • I love to scuba dive with sharks.
  • I make killer chocolate chip cookies.
  • I have a go-kart track in my backyard.
  • Halloween is my favorite holiday. No, the Fourth of July. No, Christmas!
  • I have nightmares about tornadoes.
  • When I was a kid, my granddad gave me a pig’s heart to dissect. He knew I’d love it.
  • Before I can go to bed tonight, I’m going to have to dig a fleet of toy cars out of my sheets.

11 Questions for the nominees:

  • What is your work in progress, and how did you choose it?
  • What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
  • If you could grant yourself one wish, what would it be?
  • If you could undo one mistake, what would it be?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • If you had time for a new hobby, what would you choose and why?
  • What bad habit do you need to give up?
  • Where is the happiest place on Earth?
  • If you had a time machine, what period would you visit and why?
  • What is keeping you from reaching your dream?

My 11 nominees are: