Authors in Bloom Blog hop winners!

We have winners!! Before I announce them, I want to thank everyone for participating and for stopping by and saying hello and offering such great tips.

Because you guys inspired my gardening so much, I decided to give away TWO copies of a When Love trilogy book! :)

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Catherine C.

AND

Brandi D.

 

Congrats ladies!!! Winners have been emailed.  I hope you all had fun on the hop and got to talk with a bunch of new authors and readers alike.

Everyone have a very happy Easter, happy Passover, or just a great weekend!

 

Melanie

Authors in Bloom blog hop

Well, spring has…retreated in South Texas.  And I’m a little worried. I planted a few vegetable plants thinking we were over the worst and along come two cold snaps. The first one I thought killed my tomato plant but it’s come back looking even better (thank goodness!). I’m just hoping that this recent cold front won’t kill the teeny, tiny cucumbers starting to emerge. Also, I have a few strawberries starting to get color but they’re not quite ready to be picked.

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I decided to participate in the Authors in Bloom blog hop partly because I liked the name and partly because I’m always looking for good gardening tips. What the purpose of this blog hop? To share gardening tips, recipes and of course, discover authors you may not have heard of before. :) Believe it or not, most of us are human and our creative skills are not limited to writing. I know quite a few who craft, garden and draw or paint in addition to writing. It’s like we can’t help ourselves and we like to make something out of nothing.

There are quite a few others participating in this blog hop which runs from April 7th to the 16th. AND there’s a Kindle DX up for grabs too if you’re able to visit all of the authors participating in the hop. There will be giveaways, recipes, and helpful gardening tips. It’s a win-win situation!

Follow the link for the Rafflecopter giveaway.  Up for grabs is a copy of any of my When Love Trilogy books either ebook or print. Print copies will be mailed to US entrants only. Descriptions can be found on the Bookshelf tab.

There’s also a Facebook party happening on Dianne’s page if you’d like to visit. You can find it here. Don’t forget to show love to the authors participating by stopping by to say hello or share your own tips. Right now, I could use them. I didn’t plant enough cucumbers to make a batch of pickles but I’m hoping to get at least a few decent specimens for salads.

Here’s a current recipe the Hubby and I discovered. Simple and surprisingly filling.

Ham-zucchini wraps

Whole wheat tortillas

Deli ham

Ricotta cheese

2 zucchini, sliced julienne style. (I used the cheese grater)

Spread thin layer of cheese on the tortilla, then layer ham and zucchini. Roll and eat. Simple as that. I made two small tortillas for dinner and couldn’t even finish the second one. This also works great as a sandwich. I added a bit of pepper to the ricotta.

Have fun on the hop and I can’t wait to see what types of tips and recipes anyone has. And if you have suggestions about how to produce a fantastic cucumber crop, please leave it in the comments!

You can find the other authors here. I have to link you to Dianne’s post because the Linky list doesn’t want to work with WordPress.

Melanie

Misconceptions

They’re all around us. We judge people by looks, by their attitudes, by what they drive and a multitude of other things. We also judge books by their cover, genre and even author.

When I do a search for my trilogy online, a bunch of other sites come up in conjunction. “True love waits”, “waiting for true love”, etc, etc, etc. The word true isn’t even in any of the titles. The first book, When Love Waits for some reason comes up with all of the Christian references to abstinence. Say huh?? How the hell did that happen?

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Google search 3-31-14

Well, I’ll tell you. It’s all about the words LOVE WAITS. When I did a Google search for the title, I was only worried about there being another book out there of the same title. At the time, I didn’t notice those other articles coming up. I just hope that people who search for the book don’t think it’s about a couple who waits until after they’re married to have sex> They’re in for a BIG surprise if that’s the case.

Now to my point. When exactly did respect for another person become strictly a Christian concept? I ask not to start a Holy war but to garner discussion. I consistently get asked if my books are Christian or Inspiration. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have people on the covers or because of the titles. In the trilogy, there’s at least one good sex scene that’s open door but not graphically descriptive. None of the couples are married. It’s a quandary that has me thinking of redoing the covers.

I try to portray characters that either have or gain mutual respect for their partners. Of course, there’s a journey they have to take, but I try to have my characters find the person who will ultimately respect the other. The sex is consensual, between adults, and I hope – done tastefully.  My characters are equals. Something I think is missing in some of the younger relationships. Compromises are made, the woman are cherished and are feminine but at the same time are strong and when something needs to be taken care of, they are more than capable of accepting the challenge/responsibility. On the other side, the men are strong in their own right, but not overbearing oafs. (Those who have read When Love Waits and Lingers, I just heard you snort because you thought of Kyle Logan and his attitude.) They treat the woman as equals in the relationship and if they don’t at first, they learn to.

I’ve never thought of those concepts as belonging to one particular religion. I’ve always thought those qualities were needed to have a healthy, balanced relationships where both parties are overall satisfied with the circumstances no matter what your personal beliefs, with regards to religion. This is why I’m confused that people think my stories are Christian. They’re stories of people and their challenges.

Am I trying to eschew those who associate themselves as Christian. Absolutely not! What I am trying to do is make the stories appeal to a wider audience. Something that people of any religion, and hopefully different cultures, can relate to.

So after this cover revelation, why haven’t I put people on the cover? Two reasons. The couples I find that best represent the story really make it look like a Christian novel and damn it, I like the original covers! And I like covers that don’t have people on them. Okay, so that’s three reasons, but you get my point.

I may or may not put people on Renaissance Wench. I’m still trying to decide what to do. All of my ideas aren’t gelling and if I have to resort to a professional cover designer, I may change it up and have people. Time will tell. I’ll see what happens when I really start working on the cover.

Tell me, have you ever picked up a book because of it’s cover and then been totally thrown off when you got into the story?

Have a great week!

Melanie

 

Listening to the world around you

The World around us. It’s a beautiful thing and full of not only inspiration but of healing elements such as the warming sun, the nourishing springs, and the light breeze across your skin. For a good portion of us, we’ve removed ourselves from this nurturing element that surrounds us every day.

Spring fever is creeping in with the warming weather and even my four-legged furballs are anxious to go for the first walk of spring. I have planted a few things which an unexpected cold snap killed one of them. I’m making an effort to get outside more this year and listen to the thing around me.

But it’s not just spring that made me think of this. It’s listening to our bodies. So many of us work, have families, deal with stresses and countless other time and energy sapping activities that we start ignoring when our bodies tell us to slow down and take time to heal, recharge, reconnect. One thing I’ve learned from working two and three jobs at a time was to listen to my body and pay attention when it tells me to slow down or sleep.

Knowing the norms for me is what spurred me to make an appointment with my doctor.  I know there are conflicting reports out there about mammograms, but I’d only had one – six years ago – and my gynecologist kept asking when I was scheduling the next one. After feeling something wasn’t quite right, I scheduled a mammogram. I’ll keep this light for the sake of the men reading the blog – I had persistent skin irritation that wouldn’t go away and I wasn’t sure if it was normal, so I made an appointment.

I go in, have my lady parts gently mashed between hard plastic plates (warmer than the metal ones) and went on my merry way. Two days later, I get a call saying that a previously noted tissue mass has grown in size. Not significantly, but enough to take a closer look at. I went in the following week and had detailed pictures taken.  The tissue ‘mass’ had grown from 8mm to 11mm in 6 years.  MM mass sizesNot significant growth in the world of cancer cells, but enough for the doctor to want to look closer at it. I was taken in the get an ultrasound done. First one in my life. Scary thing about it this whole thing? I saw the mass immediately when the tech put it on the screen, but I hadn’t felt the mass. I’d done a self exam before I made the appointment to make sure there was nothing else abnormal in there. And I hadn’t felt it.

Doctor looks at the ultrasound and comes in to tell me he thinks they should do a biopsy. I’ve heard of these, I researched it after the phone call asking that I come in for further scans. So I sort of knew what to expect.  And was a little disappointed when they didn’t do it that day. Yeah, I’m weird like that. Anyway, I come in two days later and got the needle biopsy.

You know, it didn’t hurt. I felt pressure, but it didn’t hurt. You know what hurts now? The irritated skin AROUND the injection site where the damn Steristrips pulled at my skin. Damn bandages. And it’s at the spot where the edge of the cup and band of my bra meet right under the armpit. So it’s been uncomfortable and still a little achy but I don’t know if that’s because I keep moving around or because I’ve been thinking about it so much.

Here’s the strange part. From the moment I experienced the skin irritation (okay, itching, my breasts itched like a mother! and I scratched them…raw at times [now you understand why I called and made the appointment] but I digress), the hubby and I talked about the possibility of breast cancer. What we would do, what I would do, if it came down to radiation/chemo and/or mastectomy. We had this discussion a month before I made the appointment. It was almost like my body knew something had changed and was readying my mind for a possible severe consequence.

After two weeks, three sets of mammograms, an ultra sound, a needle biopsy, and two sets of lab tests, the mass was found to be benign. It’s called a Fibroadenoma. For now, it will be left in the breast since there were no pre-cancerous cells present. It will have to be watched and I am now the proud owner of a titanium “wing” which is located inside the mass and alerts future technicians that the area has been biopsied. Oh, and the tech assured me that I wouldn’t set off any metal detectors.

For me, this round of “Oh, you’re in your 40′s? Let the health scares begin!” had a happy outcome. But it made me think about what the outcome would have been if I hadn’t listened to my body or hadn’t known what was normal for me. I’ve seen doctors get irritated when patients question their diagnosis. I’ve seen patients go in and fib to doctors about their condition in order to get medications they really don’t need. But in the end, the patient (hopefully) knows their body best. And if you’ve been listening to your body and your gut instincts, alarm bells should go off when a treatment is offered that doesn’t quite sound right.

When the doctor said he wanted to do the needle biopsy, my first gut reaction was “Do it” and we made an appointment for two days later. I’ve learned to listen to my gut, though with matters of people I still let things override what my instincts tell me. I only thought about cancelling because of the cost but the cost of chemo and losing a breast seemed much more to pay than the bill for the biopsy.

I know some people will read this and think it’s a PSA for getting your mammograms done. It’s not. It’s simply a reminder to Know Thy Self. Know when your body is telling you something. Know your limits. Know yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror once in a while. I mean, really look – you know, without those blinders we wear that disguise the stretch marks, weight gain, cellulite and beer bellies – and see what’s changed. Take an inventory. Whether you write it down is up to you. But really think about your bodies. In turn, I think it will help connect you to the world around you and maybe you can help someone else.

I may not fully understand a cancer survivor’s battle, but I’ve been given a glimpse and it has helped me assess just what is really important to me. I’m a fighter and I’d always thought a diagnosis of cancer would send me screaming in panic. I hunkered down, put on my helmet and grabbed a weapon all while saying “Bring it on, bitch.” And my house is cleaner than it’s been in months!

The moral to this tale? Stop and smell the flowers. Or if you’re allergic, just stop and listen. You never know what you’ll hear.

Melanie

Pictures from one of my lunchtime walks (an attempt to get out of my own head and worry while waiting for the results). My effort to pay attention to what’s around me.

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Finding the Balance

Balance.  Yeah, I’ve never possessed it. I’m a klutz – I would probably fail a sobriety test stone cold sober. I’m not kidding. My mom always said I would grow out of my clumsiness and become a graceful adult. She lied!! My 6 broken toes, 2 broken fingers, several strained ligaments, and achy joints can attest to that.

Anyway, back to balance. I’m actually talking about balance with respect to learning when to let go of one thing and go to another. Last year, I definitely wasn’t in balance. I was focused completely on the writing. It drove my hubby crazy. And I totally apologize for that, babe. This year, I’m trying to be more forgiving to myself. I’m trying NOT to feel guilty if I don’t write every day. I tried the 100 words a day challenge and all it did was stress me out.

Now I’m working on finding the balance. Making sure I take care of me, take care of the hubby, take care of the house, and take care of my writing. While I’ve gotten quite a bit written, it’s not as much as I thought I would. I made the mistake of trying to compare this year to last year.  Last year was an anomaly I’m not sure I ever want to repeat.

I’ve felt guilty for neglecting the housework and have been slowly trying to catch up. Then I found this…

http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com/40-bags-in-40-days-2014/

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I have found the balance! It focuses on cleaning one area a day. Not a room, an area. I’m on day 7 of the challenge and I can already see a difference. I’ve cleaned out my sewing table and the container that holds all my notions. I’ve cleaned out a few kitchen drawers and ended up opening a good portion of the counter in the process. I’ve started making weekly menus again. I cleaned out the apps on my phone.

And you know what? So far, these cleanings haven’t taken more than an hour – if I don’t dawdle. An hour!! Can you imagine how much crap I can get rid of in 40 days?? That’s a huge bonus. But I’ve discovered another bonus. When I sit down to write at the end of the day, there’s not that nagging guilt in the back of my mind that I really should be cleaning something. Because it’s already been done. Which has made my writing sessions a bit more productive. I might have less time in a day to write, but I’ve been able to get a good amount on the page. AND a new idea, plus a way to make my B&B books a bit more interesting. Though it may change from a 5 book series to less.

If you’re interested in the challenge, there are several ideas of areas to clean on the website and a blank calendar so the start date is flexible. So far, this thing is addictive. I’m curious to see just how much I can declutter taking it one area at a time. Now, if I could only get back to scheduling these posts in advance…

Have a great week everyone.

Melanie

DIgging my way back out.

After a month of self doubt beating me on the head until I considered giving up writing, I’m slowing starting to dig my way out of the self-pity and darkness. There were a few other things in between that helped lower my resistance, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I went to our monthly writer’s group meeting not anticipating much to happen. After discussion on various topics, I decided to read the few pages I’d written during the month. Something so completely different from what I normally write that I was nervous to even read it to them. Their reaction surprised me. The pages were well received, more so than I thought they would be. Now, where to go with it?

This is something I’ve been considering for a while. Writing something darker than my normal contemporary romances. I wrote a little on it Saturday night, but found myself writing a bit lighter, for lack of a better word. I went to it after the rewrite I’ve been working on. That’s definitely not going to work. I’m going to have to finish what I’m working on before I move to the other. Not only is it darker, but it’s also in first person, which I’ve never tried before.

I’m not so much afraid that no one will read it, I’m afraid if I go to dark, I won’t be able to find my way back. I’ve done a lot of burying deep and ignoring the bad things that have happened in my life. I don’t know how writing dark will effect me. I guess as long as I keep something light around me and in the works, I should be okay. Plus, I don’t think the hubby will let me get too deep into it. And I have a few co-workers who have no problem telling me when I need an attitude adjustment or a pick me up.

Once I figure out where the story is going and where it might fit, I will give little peeks of it. I’m curious to see how it’s going to be received by readers.

As for the sun, it’s a little scarce in So. Texas right now thanks to another cold front. Going to have to run the negative ionizer on the air purifier. Supposedly, they boost your mood. If our time in Niagara Falls was any indication, it’s true. I would go again just to sit  on Goat Island and listen to both American Falls and Horseshoe Falls (though American Falls was my favorite) or even go downriver to Fort Niagara and sit on the green or in the park and gaze out to Canada just across the river or across Lake Ontario at Toronto.

So, I’m off to start another week of writing and such. At least there’s been somewhat of an upside. I’ve gotten quite a bit of housecleaning done and I weeded my little patch of dirt in front of the apartment. Hopefully this cold front doesn’t kill the tulips I planted. It’s the first time I’ve tried tulips so I’ll be a bit bummed if they die already.

Have a great week everyone! Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement, virtual (and real) hugs, and links to things I could use.  It was very much appreciated.

Melanie

Houston Authors Bash rundown

Go check out Natasha Hanova’s blog here to see how my day at the Houston Authors Bash went last Saturday the 22nd.

Don’t forget to thank Natasha for having me over to visit.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Melanie