Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: "Unleashed" by Sara Humphreys

            In her debut novel, Unleashed, paranormal romance author Sara Humphreys introduces us to the world of the Amoveo. The Amoveo are an ancient race of telepathic, dream-walking shape shifters. Unleashed is the first in a series of five books and begins with the story of Samantha Logan who is unaware that she is one of these fantastic beings. We meet Samantha just as she is rudely awakened from a vividly erotic dream. “Talk about a buzz kill,” she said to the empty room. “Typical. I can’t even get good sex in my dreams.” Her character is instantly likeable and relatable. You’ll want to meet Samantha for martinis and tell her she’ll meet a great guy some day. She’s had her share of disappointments in life and now she’s ready to make a change.
Discouraged by her lack of success in the New York art scene, Samantha moves back to her childhood home by the sea with her grandmother, Nonie. There she meets her handsome and mysterious neighbor Malcolm. As their interest in one another grows, we (and Samantha) learn about the Amoveo. Samantha’s father was a shape shifter who fell in love with a human. Such a thing was unknown in the Amoveo world. Each Amoveo has one true soul mate. If an Amoveo does not find and mate with his soul mate, his powers weaken and he eventually dies. Samantha is the first of her kind, an Amoveo born to a human mother.
Malcolm helps Samantha realize her true identity, not only that she is a powerful Amoveo, but also that she and Malcolm are soul mates. Reading about Malcolm’s ability to touch Samantha's mind as well as her body will keep you warm this winter. But there is more to romance in Unleashed. There is suspense, mystery and danger as well.
The Amoveo have long been hunted by the Caedo who believe them to be an abomination. When the Caedo learn of the existence of an Amoveo-human hybrid they put Samantha in their sites. Malcolm must act swiftly to save Samantha from a malignant fanatic you will love to hate. Plot twists abound in the ending of Unleashed and you will be hanging on every word.
Intrigued? Unleashed is available from and Sara will be signing is currently on tour promoting Unleashed. She’ll be at the Barnes and Noble in Walpole, MA on November 5th from 1:00-3:00. Check out her website for additional dates. If you find yourself hooked on The Amoveo, you won't have long to wait. Book two, Untouched will be available in April, 2012.
 Full disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review. However, Sara and I attended Marist College together and shared the stage in a number of theatrical productions. There may even have been a few beers consumed in our past.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo, Moi?

            Thursday night after a couple of glasses of wine some serious consideration, I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have pledged to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. That’s a little over 1,600 words per day. I wrote a post on Facebook questioning my sanity as I considered signing up and an old friend replied, “Not insane. Projects without deadlines never get finished. Do it.”  That sounded like wisdom to me.
I’ve had these characters tumbling around in my brain for quite some time now. I know how they meet. I know their flaws and their strengths. But I haven’t given them the time to tell their story. When signing up for NaNoWriMo, there is a section to tell a little something about the novel you’ll be writing. One of the boxes to fill in was genre. I realized I’m not sure if this book will be chick lit, romance, or literary fiction. The last one is a bit of a long shot, I’ll admit.
Between now and November first I have a lot of preparation to do. I’m thinking of this as a triathlon for my mind and I have about ten days to train. So here’s my training plan:

1.) Cleaning out this rats’ nest I call a workroom. It used to be the nursery (note the soothing blue and yellow paint). Now it’s my workroom, craft room, store room, and a place where stuff that has no home collects. It’s time to throw some stuff away!

2.) I’ll be scaling back on my blogging. I’ve been in a rut lately and the posts I’ve written haven’t been on par with some of my earlier entries like Mankie and this Sleepy Time. I’m not giving up blogging entirely. I’ll be publishing NaNoWriMo updates and occasional blog posts. Blogging has motivated me to write down some wonderful moments about boys as well as some of my own childhood memories. So I won’t stop entirely, but I won’t feel compelled to post something just because I haven’t done it in a while. If I don’t have anything to say, I won’t scrounge for something.

3.) NaNoWriMo has published Thirty Question Character Survey. I’ll be filling these in over the coming days to help flesh out my characters.

4.) This novel-writing thing is going to require me to spend a lot of time sitting on my butt. If I’m not careful, I’m going to pack on a ton while pounding away on my laptop. If I’m going to do this, I want to look triumphant not mountainous when I’m finished. Besides, my best ideas usually come when I’m running or doing yoga. I intend to keep get back to exercising regularly.

5.) I’m stocking up on coffee and coffee filters. I can’t risk skipping a day of writing simply because there is no java in the house.

6.) Finally, I’m going to set up a system for backing up my writing regularly. Losing thousands of words to a computer crash would definitely send me over the edge.

            So that’s my plan. How about you? Have you ever considered NaNoWriMo? Are you doing it this year? Any preparations? If you’ve participated, do you have any advice?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Hanging in There

Over the weekend, we went to a Pumpkin Fest sponsored by the local Cub Scout Chapter. One of the highlights of the day was a rock-climbing wall. I signed up my boys for scouting for all of the things they could learn and experience. I've learned something along the way myself. My kids are capable of so much and sometimes the best thing I can do is stay out of their way and let them do it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Did One Casket Say to the Other?

...Is that you coffin?
            This morning the boys and ate breakfast while I worked on my “to do” list for Thursday. Thursday is my day off this week and therefore my day to get anything done without the kids. Then I checked the calendar and realized today was my day off. I was glad to discover that before trying to punch in at work.
            Unfortunately the first thing on my to do list was to get over to the lab to have my annual blood work done. I was already halfway through my oatmeal and the blood work requires fasting. Alas, the blood work would have to wait until my next day off. I’ve already put it off for a month so another week shouldn’t matter too much.
            So I got dressed, got the boys on the bus and set off to cross a few things off my to do list. I went to the post office, returned some sweatpants to Wal-Mart, called the heating company to schedule a boiler clean out and brought our books back to the library—all by 10:30. I was feeling very virtuous and planning my next move over a cup of coffee. Writing? Nah, feeling too restless. Housework? I wasn’t feeling that virtuous. I could color my hair. No, I decided. What if the school nurse calls? I didn’t want to be elbow-deep in toxic chemicals and needing to run out of the house. So I decided to head to the Sprint store to look into upgrading my phone. I’ve been coveting an IPhone and I’m thinking of passing my old phone along to my son. After that, I’d hit the grocery store. I had just enough time to conquer both tasks before I needed to get in the horrible car pick-up line at James’ school.
            And then the phone rang. Guess who it was. Yup. The school nurse. James has been battling a mysterious cough at school. He went through it last year in December and we finally were able to get it under control with antihistimines and the occasional inhaler. This year he’s on Zyrtec and Flonase every morning. When he has an episode at school he gets Albuterol. They try breathing exercises and sips of water and cough drops. Then they call me.
            Last week I left a training class on Wednesday to pick him up at school. I took him home and made him Ramen Noodles. He hardly coughed after that. I kept him home on Thursday. It was my day off. He didn’t cough. At all. I sent him to school on Friday. The nurse called. There were only two hours left in the day. We decided to send him back to class. He was lasted for the rest of the day.
            So today when she called, his class had just gone into lunch. We decided to send him into lunch. I skipped the Sprint store and picked up groceries. If she called, I’d have the more urgent errand done. She called just as I was bringing the groceries into the house. He finished lunch but didn’t stop coughing.
            During my phone call with the nurse, three people came into the nurse’s office to offer him water. “As if I hadn’t thought of that,” she said. Apparently the staff seem to think she and I are neglecting him. When I picked him up I could feel the eyes on me. There’s the mother who doesn’t drop everything to bring her sick kid home. Even the principal was in the office listening to him cough. He’s attracting a lot of attention. He likes attention. But he isn’t sick. He doesn’t have a virus. He doesn’t need antibiotics. He isn’t asthmatic. At home and outside he is completely cough-free. He spent the weekend playing soccer and running around the woods with Cub Scouts. He even helped me clean on Sunday—and I have a serious dust issue at my house. Something at that school is making him cough.
            Is it possible he’s faking? Maybe. If so, he’s an enormously dedicated and gifted actor. It has to be unpleasant coughing for hours—even if it’s fake. And this nurse is no rookie—I’m sure she can spot a kid who just wants to go home a mile away.
            And what if he is faking? What then? What does that mean? Why is he doing it? He swears it’s real and it certainly sounds real. He isn’t allowed to go to Cub Scouts or soccer practice if he doesn’t spend the day in school. I make him do his homework and then it’s reading or some other “quiet” activity. No video games, no computer, and very little television (sometimes I let him watch it just to preserve my sanity). If we don’t find a solution, I’m going to have him change schools. I hate to do it. He loves his school and his teacher is fantastic. His older brother goes to a different elementary school across town where his TAG program is housed. They also have traditional classrooms and I could send him there. The building is newer. Maybe their air-carrying system is better. I’ve mentioned this as a possible solution and he didn’t look happy. If he is faking, maybe this subtle threat will help. Maybe that makes me a horrible mother, but I’m getting desperate. Now I’m going to go color my hair. I think I earned a few more gray hairs silver highlights this week.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Permanent

            This week’s Red Writing Hood prompt from Write on Edge was to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently. Fiction or creative non-fiction. There is a lot to think about: why someone would get one, what they chose, when they got it, what message does the tattoo(s) send?  This week I’ve written about my character Michaela. You can read more of her story by clicking on the page above that says The Story of Michaela.


            Provincetown is a different world after the tourists are gone. The bitter October wind tore at the grainy faxed image in my hand. Maybe it was crazy to come so far to get a tattoo. Moon Dance had come highly recommended and I clicked with Morgan, the tattoo artist, when we talked on the phone.
I had a vague image in my head of a tree with a Celtic theme and I wanted to incorporate the names of the kids into the design. Morgan faxed me a couple of sketches that were close to what I wanted. Then yesterday she sent me a drawing of a tree growing out a rock. All of our initials were subtly woven into the leaves and branches. I told her I’d be there in the morning.
Peter and I talked about marking our tenth anniversary with tattoos. I spent our ninth anniversary hiding under the covers of my bed letting someone else take care of my children. It’s been almost two years since he died and I need to stop mourning. I want to remember the look of adoration on his face when I walked down the aisle and the way his hands trembled when I told him I was pregnant. Not every woman gets to have that and I’m learning to be grateful that I did.
I took a deep breath and pushed open the door of the studio. Morgan was a tiny woman with a young face, graying hair, and perfect posture. We shook hands and she offered me tea.
“The design is perfect,” I told her. “It’s exactly what I wanted to express.”
“That’s great. Are you ready to get started?”
“No. Not exactly.”
“Having second thoughts? That’s okay. I don’t want to do the work if you aren’t sure.”
“When Peter died, I learned a lot about permanency. Everyone says tattooing is permanent. But it isn’t really. This design is a family crest that I’d like to pass on to my kids. I can’t do that if it’s a tattoo. I want this artwork carved into granite or wood. Something more permanent that I am.”
The tree in my yard that grows out of a rock.

I am one of the last remaining inkless women under 50 in North America. Since I have never gone under the needle, I asked on my personal Facebook page for people to share their experiences. It lead to a very spirited conversation to say the least. It was apparent that people hold very strong and personal reasons for tattooing and as well as not tattooing. The discussion made me realize that I was most qualified to write a story about not getting a tattoo.

This Sugarland song has been running through my head since I first read the prompt. It has the lyrics, "He's yellin' about my tattoos. We all live with the scars we choose. They might hurt like hell, but they all make us stronger." I don't want a tattoo, but I would like to be Jennifer Nettles when I grow up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Freckle Face

            When I became the mother of a boy and then the mother of another boy, it became clear that my life would be full of certain things. I was entering a world of fart jokes and toilet humor. I would have to enforce boundaries regarding insects and worms living outside our home. I would utter the phrases “lift the lid” and “ wash your hands” daily. I was going to need a lot of patience and a lot of band-aids.
            But I also knew there were things I wouldn’t have to deal with. There is almost nothing pink or sparkly in my house. There are no Barbies, no Hello Kitty accessories, and absolutely nothing with Hannah Montana on it. My husband has not purchased a shotgun in preparation for a first date. All feminine hygiene products belong to me. And I figured insecurities about appearance and body image were minefields that only parents of girls had to explore. I was wrong about that one. A couple of weeks ago, while I was putting James to bed he said, “I hate my freckles.” His freckles. Have I ever mentioned how much I love that boy’s freckles? It would be like a hot fudge sundae saying, “I hate my whipped cream”. I told him about the book Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. It’s the story of a boy who is so envious of a classmates freckles that he pays an exorbitant sum for a recipe guaranteed to produce freckles. Unfortunately the only thing the recipe yields is a bellyache. James and I had a good laugh about the story, I congratulated myself on remembering a book I read in third grade and he went to bed. I figured that was the end of it.
            Yesterday, while we were waiting for Owen’s bus to arrive, James said it again, “I hate my freckles.” I went on and on about how I loved his freckles and how they make him even cuter [by the way, I learned that seven-year-old boys don’t like to be called cute ]. I reminded him that Owen and Daddy have freckles like his and they are so handsome. I reminded him that his teacher whom he adores has lots of freckles. But he is convinced his freckles are ugly. Apparently someone at school has been calling him “freckle face”. I’d really love to kick some second grade butt, you know that? Why is it, we can love them, nurture them, build them up and some kid can come along and tear it all down? I know kids can be mean and every kid gets picked on for something. I know. I was the short girl whose name in Pig Latin was Icky-vay Ratt-pay. This isn’t a case of bullying. It’s garden variety teasing. But it hurts and it’s making him dislike a part of himself and that stinks. What do you do when your kids get teased?  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Saturday Morning Atheletes

On Friday I wrote a post about soccer season. The next day was James' first game since recovering from hand surgery. He desperately wanted to play goalie. I have no decent pictures of the game. I was too busy sweating, swearing and praying to take any.

Can't you picture these boys out on the town in a few years?

42! The answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

If the boys have let me take decent pictures I always agree to let them take silly ones...

They're really good at silly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Write on Edge: Saturday Ritual

            This week’s prompt from Write on Edge asked us to create a setting. “Someplace real? Imaginary? From your past? In your future? It can be fiction or creative non-fiction. But make your descriptions so rich that I can’t help but feel like I’m right there.”  We had a 200 word limit.

Saturday Morning Ritual
            The sun is so bright we leave the house without jackets and the October chill bites through our thin clothes. I go inside to grab sweatshirts for everyone. At 9:00 AM the gravel parking lot is already packed with aging but trustworthy minivans, tricked out SUVs and beat-up sedans. Children in soccer gear tumble out of vehicles, their brightly colored shirts emblazoned with the names of local businesses.
            My boys to run ahead to meet their coaches while I juggle the soccer mom’s survival gear: folding chairs, water bottles, and a large coffee. The leaves on the maple and oak trees are just beginning to change. In a few weeks those branches will be bare and this field will sparkle with frost. Today the uninitiated slip on the slick muddy landmines that dot the lush fields.
            Wrestling the kids into shin guards and cleats on a Saturday is a chore but I love the energy of early morning soccer games. Parents cheer in Spanish, Portuguese, Creole, Vietnamese and English. This is my hometown at its best—not a melting pot, but a stained glass window where individual colors shine through. Rooting for our children is the language we all share.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Write On Edge: 100 Words

This week's assignment comes from the wonderful writer Galit Breen from These Little Waves. Her challenge for us was to conjure something: An object, a person, a feeling, a color, a season- whatever you like using no more than one hundred words. I managed to use exactly one hundred words to conjure a morning in our house. I bet it's a lot like a morning in your house.

100 Words from Mom

            6:35 am
Tiny feet pound down the hallway to the bathroom.

I close my laptop and finish my coffee in one swallow.

            Cinnamon Life cereal or scrambled eggs?

            Do you have gym today?

            Is your homework in your backpack?

            Brush your teeth.

            Your shirt is on backwards.

            Where is your saxophone?

            Tie your shoes.

            I don’t know where your jacket is.

            Fundraiser? What Fundraiser?

            Go use the bathroom before we leave… just try!

            Please lift the seat!

            What? Go back in and get it!

            I love you. Have a great day. See you this afternoon.

            Hugs and kisses.

            8:25 am