What Sort of Grandma Will I Be?

In April 2019, I’ll be a grandmother. *screams, jumps around room*

*Smooths hair* I’ve given up on the idea that I’m too young to be a grandma. I mean, people still gasp when I tell them the age of my kids, and as long as that continues, I think it’s safe to embrace the joy of being a grandma.

Because I had a grandma who rocked my world. I am a writer because of her encouragement. Apparently my Roman nose comes from her, and so does my strangely long second toe.

When I was six, she moved away and became my first pen pal. Yes, that used to be a thing before there was a World Wide Web that made such an idea obsolete.

I want to be involved in my grandchild’s life.

But what does that mean?

Grandma Next Door

Before we had kids, my husband and I bought our first house. It was down the block from his parents’ house and the place he’d grown up.

I was more than a little nervous about this. I wondered if he parents would be over all the time, interfering, trying to tell us how to do things.

And then I had kids. Mine weren’t the first grandchildren, but I still feared the worst.
It never came to pass.

My inlaws were respectful of our privacy and space. They rarely dropped by unannounced, and we truly didn’t see them any more frequently than we had when we lived across town.

My mom lived up the road a few miles and worked down the street. I didn’t see her at my house all the time either.

So, I tell myself that just because I live close to the grandkids doesn’t mean I will see them every day.

But, these grandparents did show up to Saturday soccer games and weeknight t-ball games. If there were school concerts, they attended. Eventually, there were high school events, and they tried to be supportive of those, too.

That’s what I want for my grandkids. I want them to know I’m proud of their accomplishments and I support their dreams.

Commuting Grandma

Can I be proud and supportive if I live an hour or more away?

I think that’s a definite YES as long as my health allows it. If my heredity plays its role, I should have at least twenty years of healthy days ahead. That sees me through their high school years, for sure.

I could drive an hour on a weeknight to attend a concert or play. It wouldn’t be a hardship to drive that far on Saturday to watch a soccer game (although I’d prefer to watch just about any other sport over soccer).

What if we moved further away? What if the “commute” was three or four hours? Would I still be available to support their activities?


Visiting Grandma’s House

The truth is, I loved visiting Grandma’s house. I loved baking with her (and it wasn’t all about licking the beaters) and playing games with her.

This is the grandmother I want to be. Oh, and the jury is still out on the special grandma name, but I’m leaning toward “Lolly” and my husband could be “Pop.” Then the kids could say, “We’re going to Lollypop’s house!”

In this day when kids are SO involved in activities, will my grandkids want to spend time at my house?

The bigger concern for me: if I live too far away, will I make it impossible for them to do so?

Yes, I think my husband and I should plan our retirement according to our dreams. But we didn’t have children so we would never see them or spend time with them.

I’ve enjoyed having the monthly game nights with my kids. I’d love to see that continue with grandkids, teaching them to play rummy and cribbage. Of course there will be Chutes and Ladders and Sorry. Some games are too classic to pass up.
I won’t see them every day. I doubt we’ll ever live “down the block.”

Friends of ours said they LOVE living three hours away because when they go to see the grandkids, it can be a special trip and devoted to total grandkid time. It makes the visits special.

Is that a truism I can count on?

Even after my grandmother moved two states away, I still considered her a loving and involved grandma. In this day of Facetime and Skype, I’m sure I could check in weekly with my grandchildren.

But will I?

We’d planned to do the same with our adult kids, but their work schedules don’t mesh with ours. And they’re busy with their lives. Will it really be different when kids come?

What are your thoughts? What sort of relationship did you have with your grandparents? What kind of grandma do kids these days want?

National Novel Writing Month Again

November.

Five years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and I wrote a young adult fantasy novel.
It was beyond easy to churn out 50,000 words in less than thirty days.

This convinced me I could be a professional author. I have the ability to write at a professional pace.

And that manuscript?

I revised it and tried to sell it to agents. But no one was buying. So that book and the other two in the trilogy are slumbering on my hard drive.

Will I ever revisit them? Maybe. I did re-read them and I love the premise, but since my audience is engaged in my Christian romances, I don’t have an audience for these books.

I still wish to write the young adult fantasy books. I even submit the polished manuscripts from time to time. But since the doors aren’t opening, that means it isn’t the path God wants me to take at this time.

Still, it’s November, and I love the camaraderie of writing with others who are trying to create something from nothing. So, my plan for this National Novel Writing Month is to complete the final book in the Texas Homecoming trilogy and to draft Tessa Travers’s romance.

Texas Homecoming

The first book in this series shows up as book nine in the First Street Church romance series.

You can check out LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS here. I hope you’ve read it. If you have, what did you think?

The second book is on its way back from my line editor. Once I get the manuscript back, I’ll incorporate the editor’s recommended changes, make any small adjustments and read through it for a final polish.

It’s due at my publisher’s office by December 1. I’ll have it there early, and hopefully, LOVE’S RECOVERING HOPE will hit the shelves at Amazon before Christmas.

This means the love story between Jaz and Bailey is fresh in my mind. It should pour from my fingertips with ease during the month.

The working title is LOVE’S EMERGING FAITH.

This is the quick blurb I wrote for the nanowrimo.org website:

His past calls out his future in the ultimate showdown.
Bailey Travers wrote off his biological father the same day his grandmother gave him and his sister to the state. Too bad the thief and dealer is out now and back to ingratiate himself to Tessa Travers, who has none of the black memories Bailey hasn’t considered in a decade.
Jazlyn Rolle’s only back in Sweet Grove to help her mother recover from an automobile accident, but when she discovers a runaway in Cider Mill Park, she can’t leave the situation alone. He reminds her of the boy Bailey carries around in his soul, and helping the boy gives he more sense of purpose than anything her paralegal work has done.
While Bailey tries to keep his father from making off with more than a few antiques, Tess is pushing him to forgive the man and welcome him into their life. She can’t see past the charming exterior that pushed their birth mother into using and dealing drugs. This time, he won’t let Jaz rescue him. It’s time he faced down his past or he’s sure they won’t have a happy future.
Letting go of a sure thing, Jaz walks away from her job in Austin and embarks into a degree program that will allow her to be the County Children’s Advocate and administer a new halfway house for foster system kids. When her father shows up to support the opening, she’s come full circle.
Bailey will need every ounce of the emerging faith in God and himself to banish his past and grab the future Jaz offers him back on the ranch where he belongs.

Tessa Travers

As early as last May, I fell in love with Tessa Travers. She was a bubbling force of nature, and I decided she needed her own story.
But she didn’t come to me fully formed.

I had an idea that the romance would center around her determination to convert her family’s ranch into a dude ranch, and the hero would be her business partner, but I didn’t have much clarity beyond that.

After the pain of the Deep Thinker’s Retreat, I know better than to sit down to write without sketching out my character’s SEQ. I needed to know what Tess’s dark moment story was and what lie and fear haunted her because of it.

Furthermore, I needed all of those things for the hero, too. I had some work to do before that story was ready to be drafted.

But, I’ll manage to scribble down enough so the first draft won’t be too ugly.

Have you ever written a novel? What is the hardest part for you?

Looking Ahead to Retirement

Retirement is for the old. Or the rich. And let’s face it, I’m neither.

But when your investment advisor calls you to discuss your retirement portfolio, you start thinking about it.
If the lady selling pre-paid funeral packages calls you a few months later, it’s probably a second hint. You know, that maybe you SHOULD be thinking about retirement.

There’s plenty of press that says Americans better start planning to work until they’re 70. And why not if you’re healthy? And if you’re going to live until you’re in your 80s, that still gives you plenty of time to enjoy life.

If there is life after work.


I’m not so sure. My mother retired and a few years later she was struck by lymphoma. Five years later, we were weeping at her funeral.

There’s not a single guarantee that any of us will make it beyond today.

So why think about retirement?

Well, if you want to retire, you’ll need to make a plan.

What’s the Right Age?

According to the TIME MAGAZINE article I’m referencing, most Americans are planning to retire too early. Half of them retire between the ages of 61 and 65.

What’s the problem with this?

Well, you can’t claim social security benefits until the age of 66 (67 for those of us born after 1960). And you can forget about Medicare until after you’re 65.

My husband would like to retire sometime between 63 and 66. As an author, I don’t plan to ever retire, but I do hope to stop substitute teaching when my current license expires.

We’ll see if that dream comes true.

What’s After That?

My thought about retirement is: Why?
What are you going to do if you don’t go to work?
In my experience, people retire and their health fades. This is true about nearly half the people I know. They stop getting up in the morning and they don’t make any plans for their days.

This wasn’t the case for my mom. She enrolled in Master Gardeners and learned a new skill in an arena she loves. She worked with her husband making items to sell at bazaars. They traveled.

And then disease struck.

Poor health is one of the things that robs retirement of any of the expected joy of living.

It’s also the reason some people plan to retire on this side of sixty.

A teacher I worked with for ten years retired before her 60th birthday because she had the means. She’s still substituting at the school, but most of the time she’s involved in home improvement projects, riding one of her horses and spending time with family and friends.

She decided when a friend of hers received a horrible medical diagnosis, that she wasn’t going to wait. She wanted to live, not just work all her life for someone else.

I admire her. Her mother is 90. Will my friend’s financial resources support her if she lives that long?

Our Early Plan

This month, we borrowed an RV and traveled over to LaPine, Oregon. It’s the place my husband has scoped out that seems to have inexpensive land.
His plan: Get an RV and travel a week here and there but keep a home base. When we’re done traveling, sell the RV and settle into a 2,000 square foot house (paid for) that’s close enough so the kids and grandkids can (and will) visit, but is also located in an area with enough outdoor activities to keep us active.
My plan: Be debt-free. Yeah, that’s about it.
I’m all for traveling in an RV. I think I would enjoy it as long as it became “my home.” Because I’m a home body. I love my bed more than any other place to sleep in the world.

But my idea if travel in an RV involves being on the road for a month or more at a time. I want to explore every state in the US and drive coast-to-coast through Canada. You’re not going to do that in a week and see anything.

I’ve always envisioned myself being part of my grandkids’ lives, though. When my Gram moved away, I was heartbroken. My best childhood memories involve visits to her house.

Can I be a grandmother if I live hundreds of miles from my grandkids?

What do you think is the prime age for retirement? What do you hope to do when you’re retired?

Professional in Need of Feedback

I’m a professional author. That means I write a story and send it off to my publisher. Right?

Wrong.

In most cases, most professional authors write a manuscript and return to it to rewrite, revise (not the same as rewriting), edit (not the same as revising) and polish (a cat of an entirely different color) as many as TEN times before sending it off to anyone. And often, their first readers are NOT their editors but a group of alpha readers, many of whom are writers in a similar genre.

Now that I’ve been a published author for four years, my manuscripts should be pretty close to perfect at the end of two or three drafts.

I wish.

My Process

Sadly, I don’t write a first draft that’s ready for public consumption. Not even by my Aunt Betty who dearly adores everything I write (because she loves me). Manuscripts I write have generally survived three passes from me before they go to my early readers.

  1. FAST DRAFT: Just as it sounds. I sit down with my character sketches, the major plot point beat sheets and write the story.
  2. REWRITES: A few weeks after I finish the first draft, I read through the manuscript and mark it with symbols. I mark where more detail is needed, where there is a plot hole, where I’m bored and where things don’t make sense. A week later, I sit down with that manuscript and rewrite all the troublesome areas. Usually, I will increase the word count by about ten percent.
  3. REVISIONS: Shortly after I finish the rewrites, I turn to page one and begin revisions. I start by making a scene chart. At the beginning of each scene, I ask what the goal of the scene is and whether it’s accomplished. If there is no goal, the scene is scrapped or rewritten to reflect a goal. I go sentence by sentence through the revised scene and cull needless words.

Now my manuscript is ready for beta readers. Generally, I send them a list asking them to look at specific aspects of the story, but I always invite them to comment about anything they like or dislike as they’re reading.


Once all the comments come back, my manuscripts get three more passes.

  1. MORE REVISIONS: First, I read-through the comments and make changes on a scene level as I see fit based on the beta commentary. Sometimes, I have to scrap or completely rewrite scenes. Other times, I need to add some meat. I may not work on EVERY scene in this pass, only the ones that needed work according to the readers.
  2. EDITS: I print out a copy of the manuscript and read it aloud. Yep, some people might find this crazy. I use a colored pen to mark up the manuscript. Usually I read a couple chapters and then return to my computer to input the changes. Sometimes they get changed again as I’m doing the inputting. This pass generally takes longer than any of the others.
  3. POLISH: I compile from Scrivener to a Word document. I do a few macro searches for overused words and change them out. Then I start at the first page and polish line by line, making sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are as perfects as I can make them.

Now, the manuscript is ready for my publisher.

This Story

This summer, Kindle Worlds closed down. I begged Melissa Storm, the author who owned the universe I’d published in there, to form her own small press. She did!

Sweet Promise Press is unique in that they are 100 percent shared series. Not only has she opened up the First Street Church universe that was the Kindle World, but she’s invited authors to pitch ideas for other worlds. Then she opens up submissions for these individual series.

As an author from her Kindle World, she invited me to the group right away. I submitted interest in two of the first five shared series, and I’m contracted to write a novella for the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers series in April 2019.

The novella is written. As I pen this blog, it is with an amazing editor for critical feedback about plot and character arc, as well as the style. Since I’ve never written this genre, I’m worried my sense of humor may get missed or not resound with readers.

One thing about Sweet Promise Press that was quite different from Roane Publishing (where my first fiction works were published)is that they only proofread. It is part of the author contract that a manuscript is line edited before submission.

This is NOT that edit. I’ve contracted the recommended line editor to handle that closer to publication.

My manuscript is with Kristen Corrects, Inc. for something more along the lines of a developmental edit. Except that would have cost about twice as much as what I’m paying her to do with the story. I’m hoping that I’ve got the story RIGHT and only need help with the comedic elements.


SO…I hope I sell enough copies of this story to offset the cost of TWO rounds of editing.

My Hope

I worked with Kristen on my first First Street Church novella, Love’s Late Arrival. She really helped me make that story shine.

I’m hoping she’ll be able to spot all the weaknesses in this new story.

In this case, readers deserve to get the best story. I know I can deliver a great story, but if I miss the mark on the humor, the reviews are going to scream it.

“Romantic comedy is supposed to be funny!”

Most of my stories have an edge of darkness. I always end on a hopeful note, but I’m a realist. I don’t write fluffy stories. My character face some hard issues, but they press on and find light at the end of the shadowy journey.

That’s not the case here. So I had to find lighter issues for my characters to face, but I didn’t want it to be trite.

If anyone can help me bring the story to a smile-inducing place, it’s Kristen.

What questions do you have about the writing or editing process? Are you surprised I spend so much time on each manuscript(and will still release three new novellas and two short stories this year)?

There’s No Changing History

I’m not a history buff. I won’t even claim to like studying historical events. But when I’m traveling, I do appreciate absorbing historical sites and monuments.

For me, it has nothing to do with the past. Seeing a landmark placed in a specific spot to cement a significant event touches the part of me that realizes time is limited. Life is a river rushing me ever toward the sea of eternity.

But these monuments are like a boulder in the river.

A person could rest on them. A person could take a break from paddling against contrary currents. The boulder offers a solid place in the maelstrom.

Of course, I’ve been rafting on the Deschutes River in Maupin, Oregon. A boulder could capsize your raft. It could dump everyone you love into the foaming mess of whitewater, eager to devour you…or at least scrape you along the sharp and unforgiving stones of the riverbed.

Actual photo of my family rafting the Deschutes.

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Florida for a couples’ retreat. The retreat was held at the Renaissance International World Golf in St. Augustine.

After my first ever lunch of Cuban food, we strolled through the historical fort. There was an old Catholic rectory. The governor’s house had been converted to a museum.

Crowds teemed through the unique shop area. Sun beat down from an autumn sky unlike those in Oregon. A fickle breeze lifted clothes that clung to every inch of perspiring skin.

In a park near the marina where traffic backed up because a draw bridge was raised, there was an old depot platform. Several statues and monoliths paid homage to people and events of the past. There was even an old pillar remaining from the Spanish capital that had once occupied this oldest of American cities.

The Monument to Men

One of the monolithic stones, a quite simple piece of plain rock, had been raised to honor those from the city of St. Augustine who gave their lives protecting it during what southerners refer to as The War of Northern Aggression. (That’s the Civil War for those of us who aren’t northerners, but have been blessed to be raised near the end of the Oregon Trail in God’s Country.) *sticks out her tongue at a particular cousin who will be reading this*

Where I live, there are monuments like this to veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War I and World War II. I believe there’s even a little something for veterans of Desert Storm.

The point of this monument is to memorialize soldiers who fought for their homes. Some of the monuments honor the survivors. The ones that are most poignant to me are the memorials of those who died for the cause.

What person should not be honored for giving their life for a cause?

The Inscription

I don’t recall the exact words. But on a pole to one side of this simple memorial a metal sign had been mounted.
It claimed that there had been some legislation requiring the removal of all landmarks in honor of Confederates in the Civil War. It went on to state that residents petitioned to keep this simple monolith intact and were granted their petition.

Thank you, petitioners. This is what U.S. democracy is supposed to look like.

Better yet, why pass ridiculous laws that do nothing?

I can imagine the very men honored by this monument rolling over in their graves.

“People say we were fighting to keep slaves,” one would say. “I was fighting for freedom.”

“Freedom from a government that wanted to minimize our personal rights,” another says.

Because this war wasn’t fought over a single issue. The largest percentage of men who died had probably never owned a slave, nor would have chose to if they could.

The Facts

History happened. It’s over. There’s no point in trying to change it.

What is the reason a law might give for tearing down a simple monolithic column in a small park in St. Augustine, Florida? Is there any reason that would be acceptable?

We all know the slogan, “Never forget.” It was painted everywhere from social media to billboards in September. But it had been used decades before for Normandy Beach and Pearl Harbor.

This simple monument reminds us that men died for a cause. Let’s not judge the cause. We weren’t there, and we couldn’t possibly know what what in the hearts as they marched away from their homes and families…never to return.

You and I can attest that politicians say a ton of stuff we don’t agree with. Their words get recorded, and in another fifty years when the next generation reads them, are they going to judge you and I by those words?

Look at the word: history. His story. I write stories for a living, and they are different from the stories other authors of a similar age and gender write. Because they are my stories.

That plain monument asks us to pause for a moment and remember a story: one that cost men in St. Augustine to sacrifice all. Each of them had a personal story, and sadly, those are probably lost.

But the price they paid? It should be remembered. And honored.

Do you like history? What is a historical place you’ve been that impacted you?

Two Sisters in the City

A visit to the Big Apple ranks prominently on many a bucket list. This author had never considered it because she’s a country girl at heart.

But when her older brother invited her and her sister to visit the city, the creative must perked up its head.
“Lots of stories in the big city,” it said.

The planning for the trip began more than a year in advance. This was because the calendars of three busy adults can be hard to coordinate.

What had been imagined as a springtime visit morphed into an end-of-summer visit. And boy did the difference in humidity make itself known. As soon as the travelers exited the air-conditioned airport and waited for New Jersey Transit.

We should be melting at the airport NJT station

Two sisters traveling the city with their older brother and his spouse should have the same experiences to share. Or not.

Enjoy the informal interview with these ladies about their six-day visit to New York City.

What were you most looking forward to?

Shari says: “In recent years, I’ve been traveling more, and I’ve decided that the place is about the people more than the scenery. In this case, I was most looking forward to spending time with my brother, who I hadn’t seen in five years and getting to know his husband better, but also hanging out with my sister who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.”

Connie Says: “What I most looked forward to was spending 6 days with my sister and seeing our brother. I was excited to be going to a Broadway show or two and seeing the Statue of Liberty in person!”

Shari Responds: Uh-oh! Since our answers on this question are pretty similar, this might not be the discourse on diversity of opinion that I imagined. Whoops!

What food impressed you most?

 

YUM! I cleared my plate.

Shari says: “I knew my brother was a food snob, so I was expecting the best of the best. So I was a little surprised to enjoy the Napoli salad at Stella 34 (on an upper floor in Macy’s) as much as any of the other fancy meals. The best food? The lobster roll and extra crispy fries at Ed’s Lobster Bar, a literal hole-in-the-wall local joint.”

Connie says: “The food that impressed me the most – most memorable the luscious New York Cheese cake from Jimmy’s (I think she might mean Juniors).The Greek Dinner at Loi’s – it was tasty and beautifully plated! Brunch at the Met was a great experience, but my sister had the best item with her french toast. I did enjoy my eggs Benedict. I also really enjoyed the Spanish Tapas at Tia Pol (?) We ate a lot of new things so it was hard to decide between a few.”

Shari snorts. “I said FOOD. Not dessert. *Rolls her eyes.

What restaurant experience impressed you most?

 

Last day of the trip: Outside the MET

Shari says: “I expected high class dining at these pricey establishments. The meal that offered what meets my definition of that was the brunch we had in the dining room on the fourth floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). They offered a simple menu of three courses with gourmet dishes, amazing presentation and well-dressed staff waiting to whisk away your dirty dishes, refill your drinks and deliver the next course with a flourish.”

Connie says: “The restaurant experience that I enjoyed the most was the brunch at the Met. The food service was not rushed. There was plenty of space in the restaurant, a nice view, excellent service and the food was good and wonderfully plated.I loved that we ALL ordered different items and tasted each others!”

Shari GAPES. “Wait a minute! We talked about this on the plane, and you said Loi’s was your favorite restaurant experience!”

What surprised you most?

Connie says: “The things that surprised me the most was the smell of New York and how HOT the Subway Stations were!Even tho I expected the city to be big, when you view the skyline and travel to the various parts of the city it can be overwhelming to a small town girl like me!
I expected the crowds, noise and rushing from one place to another.”

Shari says: “I expected stinky everything and everyone to be rude and self-involved. Not at all what happened. We got caught behind a few sanitation trucks and THAT was super-smelly, and there were a few token obnoxious people in many of the places we went (not as many as I expected on the subway and bus), but overall, it was just a city.”

What was your favorite show?

 

Were getting ready to laugh for two hours at the Lyceum Theater

Shari says: “I’d seen WICKED before at the Keller in Portland, OR, but it seemed like a different story here. Still, THE PLAY THAT WENT WRONG was full of antics and endless laughs. It was exactly the sort of thing I needed that night, and it made everything else bearable.”

Connie says: “My favorite show was “Wicked” – I love musicals. The play that we saw was HILARIOUS! We had two great experiences on Broadway! “My Fair Lady” could have been my favorite, but I was voted down…”

Shari shakes her head. “No. Chris was willing to see it. He even told me whatever my experience, it wouldn’t compare to Broadway. You AGREED the play none of us had soon was a good second choice. You even agreed to “Phantom” as the third choice if Sunday turned rainy.”

What was your favorite site?

 

It is SO brilliant in Times Square

Shari says: “I wanted more of Central Park. I wanted to see everything. Even this morning, I saw a spot on the Today show with the anchors meeting Jimmy Fallon by the amphitheater (which we did see) and blowing bubbles by the fountain (which we also saw). I was just so over-stimulated from the MET, that I didn’t get to enjoy the park like I’d hoped.”

Connie says: “ONE really? View from the Top of the Empire State Building at night – just amazing. 360* view of the skyline, bridges, river, all of the lights. Quite memorable! Well worth the price for a once in a lifetime event! Broadway, the set at Wicked – walking on Broadway, lining up to see a show, thrilling!
I also looked forward to seeing Times Square at night – the lights, billboards, signs are amazing. A city of lights! Maybe I was thrilled with the view of the skyline and lights, because I am a small town girl and don’t enjoy being in the big city typically!”

Shari says: HA! There’s the diversity I’m looking forward to. And I managed to pick ONE thing! This post would be a million words long if I didn’t draw the line somewhere.

What do you wish you could have seen/done?

 

Our guide treated us to WICKED the second night of our trip

Shari says: “I really wish our tour of the UN building would have worked out. It’s an important place for the fabric of international and cultural relationships. I plan to make sure to see it when I return with my husband in 2020.”

Connie says: “What I wish that I could have done was see at least one more Broadway Show! There were many great ones playing!!! I would like to see a ballet or go to a concert at the Lincoln Center, I wished that we could have toured the UN and seen the 9/11 Memorial. I understood why we weren’t going to the memorial, as our brother was showing us a good time in his city!”

What three things are a must see in NYC?

Connie says: “3 things!! WHAT???? Must see: at least one Broadway show!!! I believe that everyone should see the skyline from the top of the Empire State Building, plus the history is very interesting. Get views of the skyline from different vantage points – The Brooklyn Bridge, The Staten Island Ferry, The rooftop garden at the MET. I found Grand Central Station awe inspiring, I could have spent more time there definitely. I enjoyed walking across the Brooklyn Bridge after seeing it from the Ferry, walking over the traffic was neat. I would add the Statue of Liberty, but I think that goes with the next question.”

Roof Garden at the met

Shari says: “I think you can get the same overall perspective offered by the Empire State Building if you fly into the city in the day time. But you HAVE to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s an icon. You MUST see a show on Broadway. I would like to say make it a musical because no one knows how to make a musical shine (and I’ve seen MANY of them on MANY large stages) like Broadway. You also need to go through Grand Central Station and Central Park.”

It was Grand Central Station in there

 

What three things are a must DO in NYC?

Connie says: “Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue and another view of the city skyline. Definitely eat New York Cheesecake! Ride the Subway – interesting experience, plus the quickest way to get around!”
Shari says: “You have to take the subway. Everywhere! Really. To really “know” a place, you’ve got to immerse yourself in the culture, and there’s nothing that says New York City like the subway. Hail a cab. Really. It may feel foolish, but if I can do it, so can you. I really didn’t care about Times Square as we were planning the trip, but after going through it a couple times, you MUST walk through it. In the daytime to do some shopping and see the performers. At nighttime to be amazed (possibly made dizzy or even given a migraine) by the lights. Incredible!”

Any additional advice for those wishing to travel to NYC?

Shari says: “I hope you read the series of posts I wrote. There’s lots of tidbits for better travel hidden there. Plan for your plan to go awry. Get the Metro Pass and enjoy the microscopic cultural study on the trains and buses. If you can get a local guide, that’s the way to have an authentic experience, but decide what’s non-negotiable before you go, and create an itinerary with plenty of leeway for travel delays and time snags.”

Connie Says: “Buy a 7-day Subway pass and use it! Rent a bike if you are going to visit Central Park – you will be able to see more. If visiting the UN besides getting your tickets beforehand, arrive there at least an hour before your appointed tour time to get your ID picture taken and group’s bracelets. This happens across the street from the UN Building and doesn’t seem to be very well-known. Travel with someone and get a tour guide or travel with someone that is very familiar with New York. It makes the visit more enjoyable”!

Have you been to New York City? What advice would you offer?

Nine Lives for the Crazy Cat Ladies

Welcome to the culmination of the NINE LIVES of Fellowship of Fantasy’s newest release.

Grab your print or digital copy of PAWS, CLAWS AND MAGIC TALES today.

Here’s an annotated table of contents so you can see what you’re going to get. The italicized parentheticals are my mini-commentary on the stories because I’ve read them ALL!

The Witching Hour by Savannah Jezowski
As shadows encroach on the city of Lite, one cat stands between humanity and the hounds of darkness. Will true love save the day?            (A comedic not-actual romance that is a perfect kick-off to this collection.)

The Tail of Two Kitlings by Sharon Hughson
Two kitlings. One tail. A mother’s sacrifice and a brother’s betrayal. Who will survive the Siamese curse?

Black Knight by Laura L. Laura Croman Zimmerman
When a jingly bell goes missing, there’s only one supercat to solve this crime—the mysterious Black Knight. (Not just another Batman tale. I smirked. Perfect bedtime reading for your kiddos.)

Sulphur & Sunshine by Grace Bridges
How to Handle a Dragon, Feline Edition: on a volcanic shore, the accidental appearance of a local fire-guardian has unusual consequences for a street cat. (A different sort of story. The perspective threw me off at first, but in the end, I liked it.)

The Magic of Catnip by A. J. Aletha Bakke
An impulse purchase of catnip leads to unexpected shenanigans. (Prepare to laugh.)

The Secret Treasons of the World by J. L. Rowan
When Braelin stumbles upon an outlawed Guardian, she must choose between his safety and her own—and the cost may be more than she can bear. (A gripping story with the feel of YA epic fantasy.)

The Poor Miller and the Cat by Lelia Rose Foremann
When a poor miller rescues a cat, it promises to make him a wealthy man. But what is true wealth? (The requisite fable.)

Alex the Cat and Alex the Prince by Ace G. Pilkington
The prince’s parents are telling him he has to marry for money, and his cat says it could cost him his life.

Whisker Width by H. L. Burke
Get a cat they said. It’ll be fun, they said. No one mentioned the portals to a mysterious realm opening up in Kara’s bathroom. (I didn’t want this one to end because it felt like it was just beginning. That’s author-speak for too good to be so short.)

The Honorable Retrieval of Miss Sunbeam Honeydew by Pamela Sharp
When two princesses of the realm claim the same cat, how far will their loyal retainers go to see that each princess gets her way? (Loads of fun, and another great story for bedtime reading to your kids.)

The Witch’s Cat by Rachel Ann Michael Rachel Harris
Walk under ladders. October the 13th. A black cat. Perhaps the only way to bring two lovers together is through the worst luck. (Entertaining. Defied some stereotypes.)

The Cat-Dragon and the Unicorn by Janeen Ippolito
Ademis the cat-dragon only wants his freedom but must graciously help a scared unicorn girl who should be glad of his benevolent assistance. (If you don’t want a cat-dragon after reading this, you’re not as far along the crazy cat lady road as I am.)

Destined for Greatness by Jenelle Leanne Leanne Schmidt
Kendall knows he is destined for great things. The problem is, the Fates — if they even exist — don’t seem to agree. (Very tongue-in-cheek, but KITTENS!)

Sammy’s Secret by Karin De Havin
A ring is lost. A friendship is ruined. A cadre of cats is on the case!

Death Always Collects by Jeremy Rodden
Loki, a regular old Siamese cat, finds Death looming to take his human. Bargain as much as you want, but remember: Death always collects. (Not what I expected, but a regal portrayal of a cat’s loyalty.)

The Wild Hunt by Naomi P. Cohen
When an immigrant violinist’s music enchants a Cait Sidhe, she’s entangled in the secret world of the New York Fae. (Not your usual wild hunt, but a twist of some stereotypes written against a historical backdrop.)

Read one tale. Read them all. Leave your review on Goodreads and Amazon.

This 1/16th of the authorship thanks you.

Cattin’ Hook thanks me to put him down already!

A New York View of the National Debt

New York City offers a unique snapshot of what it means to be American. After all, Ellis Island recalls the historical arrival of many of our ancestors to “the land where dreams come true.”

Snapshots give a glimpse at something. And many people choose to only share the happy and positive peeks at their world. Such a one-sided view could be the root of much of the selective ignorance that abounds in our country.
My guides in New York reminded me that New Yorkers repeat everything three times. Basically because no one is listening to the announcements. Or each other. That simple fact could preach its own sermon.

One of my guides was quick to point out all the examples of mediocrity. In the four years he’s lived there, he’s found that most of New York is a study in mediocrity. There’s no, “If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability.” It’s more like, “Just get it done already.”

Sadly, I think that’s becoming the American way.

The National Debt Clock

I might have walked by the clock without paying attention. From a distance, it’s just a stream of digital numbers that change in a random pattern.

Our guide pulled on my arm and pointed it out. I had to snap a few pictures because…the number kept going up.

This is a full-frame of the first snapshot I took.

Here is a brief history copied from Wikipedia:

The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized running total display which constantly updates to show the current United States gross national debtand each American family’s share of the debt. It is currently installed on the western side of One Bryant Park, west of Sixth Avenue between 42ndand 43rd Streets in Manhattan, New York City. It was the first debt clock installed anywhere.
The idea for the clock came from New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, who wanted to highlight the rising national debt. In 1989, he sponsored the installation of the first clock, which was originally placed on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, one block away from Times Square. In 2004, the original clock was dismantled and replaced by a newer clock near 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. In 2008, as the U.S. national debt exceeded $10 trillion for the first time, it was reported that the value of the debt may have exceeded the number of digits in the clock. The lit dollar-sign in the clock’s leftmost digit position was later changed to the “1” digit to represent the ten-trillionth place. In 2017, the clock was moved again to One Bryant Park, near its original location.

A little bit closer view of the second number: taken maybe two minutes later.

***Inquiring minds want to know HOW MUCH the deficit increased in that short lapse. $4,726,692,000 (nearly 4.75 BILLION in a couple minutes). I wish I was kidding.

Watch it running LIVE here.

Living Outside a Budget

Our government is a poor example of living within its means. Seriously, as much as they tax everyone and everything, there shouldn’t be a problem meeting their expenses.

It’s not like they hand out free healthcare on the corner. Or offer up free college educations to anyone and everyone.

And if you’ve spent any time inside a public school (believe me, I have), you know that the money isn’t being spent there to improve the education of one of our best resources: children.

But, what should we expect? Most people don’t even know what a budget is. Or if they do, they don’t have one. A Gallup poll says only 32 percent of Americans maintain a household budget. That’s only one-third of the millions in our great (if highly indebted) nation.

For more information on this, read the article I reference on debt.com.

There weren’t any statistics on how many of the Americans who had a household budget actually lived by it every month. Based on the free-spending mentality in Washington (DC), I’m thinking it might be another low percentage.

If we want to shake our head at the government’s poor planning, we need to take a closer look at ourselves.

As goes the citizen, so goes its government.

Externals or Internals

The problem isn’t just about budgeting. It’s about priorities.

We’ve become a society fixated on the next new gadget and making everything ultra convenient.

Ten years ago, no one would know what I meant if I said, “Looking for a dog sitter? There’s an app for that.”

Because phones were still NOT all that smart, and not everyone had access to the Internet in their pocket (or purse).

But these days, we don’t even wonder or ponder questions. We just Google it. And Heaven forbid if Google is wrong. It might take a million signatures to verify that inaccuracy.

This mindset makes all the external niceties in life the focus. Where we’re going to eat dinner takes precedence over if we can afford to eat dinner. Or better yet, if we SHOULD go out to eat because it might not be the best for our health.

Internal things like deep relationships are exchanged for fleeting interactions on the latest social media application. Oh, I sent my dad a SnapChat photo on Father’s Day. He knows I love him.

Is that really how we express our internal emotions? Or have we become so shallow that we don’t appreciate the years, and work, and emotion, and sacrifice our parents contributed to our lives.

Really, a phone call only takes a second. And it even uses fewer keystrokes than sending a text message.

Putting Numbers In Perspective

Let’s face it, our mind cannot even comprehend a billion dollars. Most of us believe a million would solve all our financial woes.

Our biggest personal debt is probably a home mortgage. I choke at my nearly $200K one, but my oldest son owes closer to $450K. In that case, a million dollars wouldn’t even pay off that bank once Uncle Sam took his cut.

But what about tens of trillions of dollars? Or HUNDREDS of trillions of dollars? That’s how much money the United States of America owes to its debtors.

And we can’t fathom how much that is or where that money will come from or how it will ever be paid off.

Here’s a little comparison in something we might understand better: Time
113,052,009,072,912 seconds would be 1,308,472,327 days. Which translates into 3,584,855.69 years. Still can’t fathom it?

Using the worldwide average life expectancy of 70.5 years, this 3.5 million is equivalent to the lifetimes of 50,849 people.

Makes me wonder if it will take that many lifetimes before our country can pay off this debt.

And still, the national debt counter continues to rise.

Tripping through New York City Part Four: Like a Native

Ah, New York, New York. So much to see in the City that Never Sleeps. But where should a tourist start?

No need for this tourist to wonder. Instead, she booked the best tour guides a girl (or guy) can get: two New York City Natives.

Okay, not-natives, but that sounds snappier than “residents.” Neither resident was BORN in NYC (which would make them true natives), but they’ve been living and traversing the city for four years (and visited it multiple times before that).

On this trip, these almost-natives showed us the best way to experience all the city has to offer. In return, we helped them check a few “touristy” items from their bucket list.

Travel by Subway


There are maps. There are diagrams on every platform and in every station. The underground stops are marked above ground with green orbs.
I still would have gotten confused, turned around and ended up in the Bronx without my native guides.

New Yorkers take public transportation. And no matter how many mugging or murder scenes you’ve seen in movies, the subway is a safe, efficient, economical (and somewhat) simple way to get around the Biggest Apple in the World.

Taking A Ferry (or three)

New York City is on an island. So are the many neighborhoods which comprise it.

Traveling via water is the ONLY way you’ll be able to navigate to some destinations on your “must see” list for the trip.

We took a ferry to Staten Island and from Brooklyn to Manhattan.


If you want to go to Long Island, you’ll probably take one. You can take one to Jersey City or Queens.

These are walk-on ferries. Most of the ferries I’ve ridden before are for cars (or walk-on). You can bring your bike or long board on the ferries, but no motorized vehicles allowed.

Tickets at Lincoln Center

Tourists want to see a show or two on Broadway. According to one of my tour guides, “New York is a city of mediocrity. Except for on Broadway. There, New York is World Class.”

See a show on Broadway. But don’t pay full-price for your tickets.

There is a well-known TKTS booth in Times Square. The line is crazy long. If you go to the Lincoln Center, there is no line and if there happens to be one, you can wait in air conditioning for your turn to purchase show tickets discounted at least fifty percent.

Our guide treated us to WICKED the second night of our trip

Eating in the “Shady” Places

Like all cities who capitalize on tourism, there are restaurants galore that cater to tourist traffic.

Some of them are even worth eating at.

However, a big advantage of tripping around a city with a native is that they know the difference between a sketchy place and a hole-in-the-wall worth visiting.

Our first night, the hole-in the-wall was John’s on Bleaker Street. There we sampled New York pizza (an institution, and you haven’t had pizza until you’ve eaten it in New York City).

Our third day, we dropped into a little place I would have deemed sketchy and passed right by. Beside it, there was a restaurant with a long line-up. I would have went with it had I been touring without the benefit of a native.

But Ed’s Lobster Bar offered up the best hand-cut French fries I’ve had in months and months. And the lobster roll was a buttery delight.
I would have missed out on what my brother feels is the best lobster roll in New York (forget about Luke’s) if the native hadn’t been leading my exploration.

YUM! I cleared my plate.

Friday Night in Little Italy (or Chinatown)

Friday night we ate with a small part of ten in the back room of an authentic Italian restaurant in Little Italy. Earlier in the day, we’d walked through a small portion of Chinatown (which borders it).

But when the lights go out, things get a little strange in New York City.

The restaurant employed “two Long Island girls” (my tour guides words are in quotations here) to “entertain” us in “true Italian” underworld style. This meant a keyboard and modified karaoke singing. Meaning we were all supposed to sing along on the chorus…or lead out if the musician didn’t know the song well enough.

It wasn’t a quiet evening. There wasn’t a way to hold a conversation with the six people I didn’t know at the table without yelling.

My head and throat felt like they’d been overexposed to the strep virus by the time the multi-course dinner (with all-you-can-drink wine and beer–for those who drank it) ended.

The best part? My sister and I managed to close out our souvenir shopping while walking from the restaurant to the dessert place.

What’s SoHo?

Well, it isn’t NoHo, Dumbo.


If you’re still clueless about this, it could be because this is all New York City-Speak for three very different neighborhoods in the metropolitan area. Because having a bunch of boroughs isn’t enough for New Yorkers.

SoHo is short for South of Houston (in Manhattan). It follows then that NoHo means North of Houston. And Dumbo? Well that’ll all about being Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass in the borough of Brooklyn.

Don’t shop in these districts unless money is no object. However, you’ll want to check them out because they each have a distinct “flavor” of architecture, businesses and foot traffic.

Have you ever toured a city with a native guide? How did it compare to a self-guided tour?

How NOT to Tour the UN Building: Tripping through New York City Part Three

Many cities tempt the historian or patriot or citizen within you. New York City is an international destination which invites residents of the world to peek inside the headquarters of the United Nations.

As you approach the complex, the semi-circle of diverse flags flap and sway in the constant stream of cabs, commercial and private vehicles and dignitary transports sporting a single flag.

How many countries can you identify by their flags (without the help of an outside source)? My own knowledge was tested and fell short.

Touring the UN Headquarters requires a ticket. Tickets are available online ($20 plus a $4 processing fee).

Most people assume purchasing tickets in advance simplifies the process. One less line to wait in at the point of interest. Right?

Wrong.

And in the spirit of bureaucratic failure everywhere, the United Nations makes purchasing tickets simple but understanding the process for admission complex.

Our Non-tour

Mr. Native NewYorker planned a complex itinerary for our five-day visit to the city (and we were beyond thankful he did this). He purchased tickets online and in advance for the Empire State Building and the UN Building. In fact these were the ONLY tickets he purchased in advance.

The Empire State tour went off without a problem. The UN? Anything associated with the government should have been suspect, I guess.

Unique tiling make sweltering on the various subway platforms bearable

The morning of our scheduled and pre-paid tour, we rode the subway to a station a few blocks away. Our guide works in a building not far from the world peace organization, so he showed us his office and introduced us to his co-workers. When we finished that, we had more than an hour until our tour time and were only a few blocks away.

No problem. There are plenty of things to see in New York City.

The walk toward the UN Headquarters takes you past several embassies and a number of international hotels. Cars flying foreign flags and black SUV’s with even blacker windows swept past on the street.

A guarded entrance at one end is clearly marked for delegates. The passes we had told us the cross street where we could find our entrance, which was also guarded. We hadn’t expected less.

As we walked, we quizzed each other about the different flags. Some we knew easily. Several we speculated about. Mostly we felt under-educated about these symbolic representations of diverse cultures who understood the importance of working together in our ever-shrinking global community.

That’s when a group of tourists rushed away from the marked visitor’s entrance.

As we speculated about our own passes, a man crossed the street and informed us, “You have to get actual tickets from the office over there.” He pointed to a nondescript brick building with large blue signs screwed to a few of its walls. “Only one of your group has to check in.”

Ah, check-in. No problem. We still had nearly twenty minutes until our tour time.

Except the line wrapped around the block. And a person about twenty individuals back had a 10:15 tour time and had been standing in line since that time.

A sign we had to search out said people who purchased tickets and had assigned tour times should move to the head of the line. Except…the number of people who fit this bill stretched nearly to the corner.

In the fifteen minutes we searched for a way to make our tour appointment, exactly TWO people emerged from the building with tickets in hand (and ID bracelets for all members of their groups). If the line moved, I didn’t notice.

And the guard at the door was both unsympathetic and unwavering.

Our prepaid tickets might have funded his paycheck, but he wasn’t moved by our plight.

Advice for the UN Website Designers

Our native guide was furious, but that didn’t stop him from wadding up the worthless paper our non-tickets were printed on and dropping them into the nearest trash can.

Nor did it get us inside the United Nations Headquarters.

We have a little advice for whoever decided to join the digital age and pre-sell “tickets” for this tourist stop.

  1. If you sell vouchers for actual tickets, this should be clearly stated on the non-tickets
  2. Important information, such as arriving an hour before your tour time and the process for redeeming vouchers for tickets should be in bold print at the top of the vouchers
  3. An address and a name for the office where you need to report should be included (rather than the vague cross-streets and “across from the entrance” verbiage used on our worthless non-tickets)
  4. Lines for redeeming vouchers should be clearly marked at the ticketing office
  5. In fact, an external booth clearly marked “Redeem your tour vouchers here” would be expedient (and yes, you can take pictures there and tie it into criminal databases; even Disneyland uses cameras at their entrance now)
  6. A helpful person should man the doorway

Seriously, the world is a disappointing place. The UN is a symbol of hope. Attempting to tour it should not provoke native New Yorkers toward violence.

An iPhone camera is NOT equipped for the scope of the UN flags

These small steps would smooth the process and alleviate the influx of frustrated people who paid money to support world peace only to be shoved toward an emotional outburst that could lead to something quite contrary.

This Doesn’t Have to Happen to You

It isn’t impossible to find the office – IF you know you need to look for it.

The most frustrating part for us was that we were early enough to have made our tour. We bought coffee and traversed the opposite side of the street on the end away from the entrance looking for the perfect photo spot to get a shot of as many flags as possible.

Then we went to find the entrance. And learned the passes we had paid for didn’t admit us.

And the line we needed to stand in moved slower than sleeping slugs and included people with tour reservations for 45 minutes earlier than ours (and they wouldn’t be able to go back in time to make that appointment).

Things you need to know if you want to tour the UN:

  • Read the fine print
  • Arrive an hour early (this is in the fine print)
  • Have identification and your tickets ready
  • Find the not-so-clearly-marked Visitor’s Information Center (it’s across the street from the Visitor’s entrance but is in a plain and not well-marked office).
  • Plan to stand in line to get “actual” tickets for your scheduled tour time

Everyone deserves to see the headquarters of this organization with a mission for world peace.

Have you been to the UN Headquarters? What was the best part of the tour? Share your recommendations in the comments.