Friday, December 23, 2011

Changing Traditions

The tree is up, the gifts are wrapped, and I'm finally ready for Christmas. Now, I sit here reflecting and thinking of past Christmases when traditions seemed so important.

When I was a child, my dad always cut down a fresh tree and we decorated a week before Christmas. When I got older, my younger sister and I trudged into the woods with him to help pick out a tree. Nowadays, I have an artificial tree and I decorate the Friday after Thanksgiving. Decorating is a lot of work and I put up quite a few. I'm just lazy enough to want to leave them up as long as possible before I have to go to all the trouble of un-decorating.

My artificial tree used to be fat and tall, like the trees from my childhood. Nowadays, my tree is still tall, but not so fat. I got a pencil tree so it'd take up less room--and I needed to make a space for all the presents. Now that Santa doesn't visit my house any more, everything gets wrapped and shoved under the tree--another tradition bites the dust.

We used to go to my grandparent's house for Christmas Eve supper too. My dad's entire family would be there: Uncles, aunts, cousins, even some great aunts and uncles and cousins. The next morning, we'd go back for brunch. As my cousins married and started families of their own, fewer and fewer cousins were able to make it to my grandparent's house. After my younger sister and I got married and had children of our own, we started having Christmas Eve supper at my parents' house and going to my grandparent's the next morning. Even that changed as my children got older. Then my grandparents died, and the family stopped gathering.

Grandparents have a way of holding a family together for the holidays--until the grandchildren start having children of their own. Then a new generation of grandparents begin new traditions. Or so it seems in my family. I don't have grandchildren yet, but my oldest daughter lives in Germany.

Because of the six-hour time difference we now exchange gifts on Christmas Eve morning via SKYPE. After the gift exchange, my daughter runs off with her boyfriend to spend time with his family. My husband and I go to my cousin's house, where I once again see those aunts, uncles and cousins. And we go to my parents' house after lunch on Christmas Day. These days, I work a lot of Christmas mornings for half a day to allow those with children to be home for Santa Claus.

For years now, we've celebrated Christmas with my husband's family the week before Christmas in an effort to eliminate the stress of so many families trying to divide Christmas day into rushed visits. But now that my sister in law lives in Utah, we seldom see her any more.

As I grow older, I find my life changing and those Christmas traditions I cherished as a child must change as well or the meaning of the holiday will get lost. My tree is no longer real, but I have the same ornaments. From the two turtle doves, now slightly mangled by a troublesome cat, to the first ornament I bought as a married woman and my daughters' "My First Christmas" ornaments, the tree still holds some traditions. And while we we no longer rise at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought, I still get up early on Christmas morning to go to work. And we still go to my parents' house on Christmas Day. But these days, we have our traditional oyster stew for a late lunch or early supper rather than at brunch.

Life changes and it's sometimes stressful. But Christmas isn't about the gifts or the dinners. It's about family and finding time to be with them and remember why we celebrate. So, no matter if your Christmas involves following time-honored traditions, creating new traditions of your own, or just trying to fit as many people into your plans as possible, take time to remember the reason we celebrate.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I have fellow HCRW and TWRP author Laura Browning with me today. Welcome to my blog, Laura and congrats on your new release, Santa's Helper.

Thanks.


In the midst of edits on an upcoming release, trying to finish another WIP and promoting Santa’s Helper, catching the Christmas spirit has been a challenge this year.

It really wasn’t until last night that it dawned on me why decorating the tree is one of my favorite activities. My teenager, for whom high-tech is a watchword, looked at the tree and said, “Why do you keep all of these old ornaments? Why don’t you get some new ones?” 

To which I replied, “Each one of those ornaments holds a memory.”

Sure, I have the requisite number of store-bought decorative balls, the ones that come in the packs of six or twelve, but along with that is the stuffed elf that’s nestled amidst the branches because its hanger has long since disappeared—the very first ornament I received at the age of five. In another spot is a small black horse with a “real” mane and tail. I purchased that during a trip to a botanical garden and zoo when I was six. There are ornaments to commemorate pets, and ornaments that my son made in elementary school. There is an angel my father-in-law gave me that has a tag proclaiming “Class of 1937.” Each year when I put it in a prominent spot near the top of the tree, I remember the man who would slip me “a spot of money, just in case you want to make a pie and need to buy some apples.”

I still smile when I think about that.

My tree might not look like an interior decorator designed it. It certainly doesn’t have any “theme” to it—unless you count the memories of loved ones past and present—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So last year, when I decided to write a Christmas story, I wanted to touch on themes that matter to me. In this case, a man raising money for charity for all the wrong reasons, and a woman scrambling for money for all the right reasons. That’s how Santa’s Helper, my holiday release from The Wild Rose Press, evolved.

Jack and Merry meet while he’s ringing the bell outside a mall after losing a bet, and she’s rushing in to a part-time job as a Santa’s elf, trying to provide some kind of Christmas for her young son.

Here’s an excerpt from Santa’s Helper:

 Merry sipped her coffee and angled her head at him. “You know, the first night I saw you, you didn’t look like the bell ringer type. And even though you’ve changed out of the fancy clothes, you still don’t look the type. How did you end up doing it…and doing it every night?”

Jack laughed. “I lost a bet with my employees and had to take over all their shifts.”

He watched in fascination as color stained her creamy cheeks. “Well, I’m glad. I’ve liked being able to bring you coffee and getting to know you.”

“I have another week, Merry.”

Her eyes widened. Was that hope he saw there? Gladness? “You do?”

He nodded before touching the delicate skin inside her wrist. “I want to kiss you. Will you let me?”
He watched her hesitate, and then she nodded. He smiled and scooped the last bit of brownie and ice
cream. “Here. It’s yours.” Her eyes held his as she slid the sweet from the spoon. Jack dropped the spoon into the bowl. “Let’s go,” he growled.

Santa’s Helper is available from The Wild Rose Press. You can also find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I’d love to hear some of your holiday memories. Leave a comment. You can also check out my website: www.laurabrowningbooks.com for a look at some of my other releases. Most of all – I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Somewhere--Beth Trissel


Beth Trissel, cyber friend and fellow Wild Rose Press author lives in the mountains of Virgina where she pens amazing stories of love rich in history. Her time travel romance, Somewhere My Love earned it's place on my keeper shelf.

So, please help me welcome Beth as she shares a bit about her latest book in the Somewhere series...

My fascination with the past and those who have gone before me is the ongoing inspiration behind my historical and light paranormal, time travel romances.  I’ve done a great deal of research into family genealogy and come from well-documented English/Scots-Irish folk with a smidgen of French in the meld, a Norman knight who sailed with William the Conqueror.  One family line goes directly back to Geoffrey Chaucer.  And there’s a puritan line with involvement in the Salem Witch Trials—my apologies to Susannah Martin’s descendants--but that’s another story.  In my recent light paranormal release, Somewhere the Bells Ring, I more deeply explored my Virginia roots.

Somewhere the Bells Ring is book three in my Somewhere’ series (not necessary to read these in order) with a Christmas theme.   Set in the old family homeplace where my father was born and raised, a beautiful plantation home from the early 19th century, the story opens in 1968 during the tumultuous age of hippies, Vietnam, and some of the best darn rock music ever written.  From that nostalgic year, the story flashes back to an earlier era, 1918 and the end of World War One.  Having a Marine Corps Captain Grandfather who distinguished himself in France in the thick of the fighting during The Great War and then tragically died when my father was only three definitely influenced this story.  

If you enjoy an intriguing mystery set in vintage America with Gothic overtones and heart-tugging romance then Somewhere the Bells Ring is for you.  And did I mention the ghost?

Blurb: Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative's ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn't so bad.

To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope--until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.

As Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe--in Bailey and the ghost--before the Christmas bells ring?~

Excerpt:
“Bailey.” He spoke softly, so as not to startle her.

She turned toward him. In her long, white nightgown, hair tumbled down around her, wearing that lost look, she bore an unnerving resemblance to the mysterious woman in Wilkie Collins’ classic mystery, The Woman in White. Eric fervently hoped the similarity ended there. As he recalled from the novel, that unfortunate lady had been unhinged.

Leaving the door ajar, he stepped inside. “We missed you at breakfast.”
She answered distractedly. “I wasn’t hungry.”

He limped to where she stood, the hitch in his leg a little less pronounced today. Maybe he was getting stronger. “Why are you here, looking for ghosts?”

“Or a door to the past.”

He tried to coax a smile to her trembling lips. “Did you check inside the wardrobe?”

“Eric, I’m being serious.”

“That’s what worries me.” Leaning on his cane with one arm, he closed his other around her shoulders and drew her against him. Such a natural act, and she accepted his embrace without pulling back. She smelled of flowers from her perfume and wood smoke. “Mercy, child,” he said in his best imitation of Ella, “it’s as cold as a tomb in here.”

“It wasn’t last night.”~

***Available in various eBook formats from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon Kindle, All Romance Ebooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nookbook and other online booksellers.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

When did Thanksgiving become a National Holiday?


The first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when the Pilgrims and Indians broke bread together to give thanks to the creator for a successful harvest. Most Americans are taught that this incident was the first Thanksgiving celebration. In reality, that one meal didn’t lead to a traditional holiday. It wasn’t a national celebration either because the colonies were still part of England at the time. No offense to our English ancestors, but most Brits didn’t much care what happened in the colonies.

As the years passed, however, more people celebrated Thanksgiving and remembered that first meal of Thanks between the Pilgrims and Indians. Still, no one celebrated an official Thanksgiving until America won its independence from England. In 1789, George Washington recommended and assigned Thursday, November 26th as a day to be devoted by the People “to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…”

Despite the proclamation, Thanksgiving wasn’t a national holiday.

Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln took office prior to the Civil War. In an effort to pull the country together, in 1863, he declared the last Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day. The country gave thanks to those who gave their lives in the Noble cause. And it gave thanks to those who yet survived the war that threatened to divide America.

Since that day in 1863, every president since Lincoln recognized Thanksgiving. But recognizing a holiday doesn’t make it a national holiday.

In 1939, in an effort to extend the Christmas shopping season, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the third Thursday in November as a day to  give thanks.  His declaration was met with controversy. Then in 1941 Congress set the national holiday of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November.  And it has been a holiday ever since.

It is a day celebrated as the kick off to the Christmas season. A day spent in celebration with friends and family. A day to give thanks to God for his many blessings. And a day to thank the men and women serving in our armed forces for their tireless dedication and sacrifice to this great nation.

So…

Thank you God for all the good in my life. Thank you for my family, my life, my health, and my home. Keep my family safe and healthy. And please watch over the men and women of our military. Hold them in your loving arms. Protect them. And keep them safe until they can return to their families.
Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Real Life Heroes Fart

Heroes are basically the same, especially romantic heroes. They may vary in size, coloring and ethnicity, but they are nearly always physically fit and nicely toned. Every woman wants him and every man wants to be him. It’s not just the romance hero either. Action heroes exhibit these same characteristics—and more often than not, action and suspense books/movies have a hint of romance. 

In the Bourne Identify, Jason Bourne has Marie St. Jacques. Jack Ryan "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games" has his wife.
 
In the Indiana Jones films, “Indie” successfully pursues an artifact and a woman. There’s even a romantic subplot in the Terminator movies.

And while James Bond isn’t monogamous, he always gets the girl. Or girls. He even gets married in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service.” He falls so madly in love with his wife, Tracy, he’s willing to give up his career and his free-loving bachelor ways.

Whether our hero is from a romance novel or an action movie, he’s going to come out on top no matter what the villain or life throws at him. Oh, they may lose a skirmish, but our hero is always the victor.

Heroes are never lazy, and they’re never slobs. They may get dirty in the jungle or after a brawl, but they clean up nicely afterwards and they never have morning breath. They don’t procrastinate or whine and although they may have an odd quirk, a hero has good manners and is never rude. 

In real life, heroes fart. And morning sex usually requires turned heads or a quick dash to the bathroom for a rinse or a brush—especially if your real life hero ate oysters and drank beer the night before. Otherwise, that sour smell coming from both your mouths could ruin the moment.

Trust me, there’s nothing romantic about morning breath. Or farting. I know. Woman pass gas too. But it’s not usually a source of amusement for them. Fictional heroes would never fart in the bed just before his lover joins him.

My real life hero not only passes gas in bed, he once had the bright idea to fart beneath the covers and then pull them over my head. OMG! I thought I was going to die. He laughed uncontrollably. I threatened to vomit on his crotch. 

It wasn’t his finest moment. But he’s still my hero, even after thirty-one years of marriage.
My husband with our youngest when she was7
He’s not rich, powerful, or titled. He doesn’t own his own business and he’s not a CEO. But he’s a dedicated, hardworking, responsible man who puts his family first.

Hubby with oldest when she
was 3


He’s a wonderful father and supportive husband.   


He stood by me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. He never hesitated to lift my handicapped sister from her wheelchair and carry her to the car or the sofa when she still had the muscle control to sit alone. 




He didn’t complain when I wanted to take her on a family beach trip either. He even pushed her chair through the sand so she could sit on the beach.

And since I became a published author, he does the laundry more often than I do. He’s not the role model for any of my romance heroes, but Devin Flannery from Wholesale Husband reminds me of him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11


Today is 11-11-11. Veterans Day--a day to commemorate those who fought with honor and heroism in the service of their country.

On June 28, 1919 World War I – known at the time as “The Great War”- officially ended and the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

Today, we Americans still celebrate Armistice Day, better known as Veterans Day. It is a day to give thanks to those who are serving or have served in our Nation’s military. It is a day to thank them for their sacrifice. A day to remember the fallen.

Although the French and Indian War was fought between the British and the Native Americans and French, it took place on what is now American soil. The French and Indian War lasted from 1754 to 1763. Less than ten years later, the colonist revolted and the American Revolution began.

The American Revolution was the war for America’s independence from England, fought between 1775-1783. Colonist fought and died to make America and country, and their sacrifice can never be forgotten. But winning the war didn’t mean the end of war. America became a new nation fighting for its own ideals and freedoms.

After the revolution, there were The Indian Wars, fought between 1775-1890. Then there was The War of 1812, fought until 1815 against the British. The Mexican-American War followed, lasting from 1846 to 1848.

Preceding the Civil War, there were many battles fought over the issue of slavery and states’ rights.  Border states like Kansas began fighting six years prior to the start of the Civil War, which began in 1861 and lasted until 1865.

In 1893, American military intervened in the Hawaiian Revolution, and our soldiers fought in The Spanish-American War of 1898. We also sent troops to the Samoan Civil War between
1898-1899 and the U.S.-Philippine War between 1899-1902.

In 1914, the world went to war after a long and difficult series of diplomatic clashes between Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, Austria-Hungarian Empire and Russia over European and colonial issues in the decade before 1914. The catalyst for the war occurred on June 28, 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. America joined the Allies in 1917, believing the Great War to be the war to end all wars, but the world wasn’t at peace.

Unresolved issues from WWI lead to greater conflict. War officially began on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. Germany then crushed six countries in three months — Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and France — and proceeded to conquer Yugoslavia and Greece.

Japan's plans for expansion in the Far East led it to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941, bringing the United States into the war. By early 1942, all major countries of the world were involved in the most destructive war in history. More than 50 countries took part in the war, and The number of people killed, wounded, or missing between September 1939 and September 1945 can never be calculated, but it is estimated that more than 55 million people perished.


America fought in The Korean War from1950-1953 and the Vietnam War lasted from 1956-1975. The brutality and lack of national support during the Vietnam War led to a disheartening lack of support for the military and an appalling lack of appreciation for those who served in that conflict.

American conflicts in the middle east began in 1980 during the Iranian Hostage situation. "Desert One" or "Operation Eagle Claw" rescued the hostages but the conflicts were not resolved.

Between 1981 and 1986, the US was involved in the Libyan Conflict, although Gaddafi remained in power until his death at the hand of his own people in October of this year.


U.S. Intervention in Lebanon employed US troops between 1982-1984. And in 1983, the US invaded Grenada to rescue US citizens trapped in that country.

In 19819, the US invaded Panama, Then in 1991, Operation Desert Storm began. The war was short but the hostilities were never resolved.

U.S. intervention in Somalia lasted from 1992-1994 and the NATO Intervention in Bosnia (Operation Deliberate Force) utilized US troops from 1994-1995.

In 1994, the US occupied Haiti, protecting that country’s citizens from rebels. After the U.S. Embassy bombings and strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan (The bin Laden War) began in August, 1998 and continued until his capture and death on May 1, 2011.

"Desert Fox" Campaign (part of U.S./Iraq Conflict) occurred in December, 1998 and the war in
Kosovo involved the US in 1999.

After the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the war on terror began.

In Afghanistan, there was Operation Enduring Freedom, which began on October 7, 2001and continues today. Operation Iraqi Freedom, began March 19, 2003 and is still part of America’s war against terror.

Wars come and go, but the sacrifice of those who serve should never be forgotten.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Importance of Cancer Support Groups

Please welcome today's guest blogger, David Haas. 


The Importance of Cancer Support Groups

Cancer is one of the scariest words in any language. Even with a support network of friends and family, fighting cancer can feel like one of the loneliest battles a person can undertake. This is in part because only someone who has had cancer can truly relate. Cancer survivor networks allow the person with cancer to talk to someone who understands what they are going through.
Although friends and family mean well, people with cancer often feel a need to discuss what they are going through and what they will be going through with someone who knows. Cancer survivor networks offer that information from people who have been there. There are many ways for people with cancer to find a support group. For those who feel like getting out and meeting people face to face, many cities and towns have groups not only for people with cancer, but for their families too. Doctors often know of support groups and can recommend a group.

For those who either cannot or choose to not get out and meet people, there are many discussion boards and websites that offer support. These websites usually have a place for family members so that they can get support for the fears and feelings they have, as well as learning what they can do to support the patient. The American Cancer Society hosts a website that has discussion boards for nearly every kind of cancer. If a patient is suffering from breast cancer, there are many different links that offer guidance and support for patients going through treatment. The American Cancer Society website lists support groups for cancers whether it is a common cancer like breast cancer or a rare disease like mesothelioma.

Support groups can be an important part of fighting cancer. Support groups can help patients make it through the physical trials, such as pain and fatigue. Support groups can also help deal with the psychological aspects of dealing with cancer by offering emotional and stress support. Studies have found the belonging to a support group can reduce anxiety and depression. These groups can also help the patient while undergoing treatment, and patients tend to cope better with all of the issues of treatment by understanding they are not the only ones to go through those issues.

Belonging to a cancer support group can be instrumental in fighting cancer. These support groups give the patient a sense that they are not alone in their battle, and it gives them a belief that the battle can be won.

David, 
Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. As a breast cancer survivor, I know the importance of not just family support, but support from other survivors. After I was diagnosed, the mother of one of my daughter's friends volunteered to go with me for my first chemo treatment. Before that day, we were merely acquaintances. But we shared a common bond. Cancer. She'd come through the other side of the same dark tunnel I was about to enter. And she knew what I was feeling while my family knew only what I was willing to share.
If you're fighting cancer, remember you don't have to fight alone. There are support groups out there.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Romance Reviews Year End Party

The Romance Reviews is celebrating with games and prizes and I'm part of the fun. Check out their awesome site and play to win! It's going to be fun!

http://www.theromancereviews.com/event.php

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Power of the Mask

Happy Halloween my fellow bloggers and blog followers. Today I have guest blogger Elizabeth Means talking about The Power of the Mask--and her new release, Dangerous Charade.

Welcome Elizabeth!

All Hallows Eve…the night ghosts of the dead return to earth to wreak havoc upon us mere mortals.  That’s what the Celts believed some 2000 years ago.  They also believed if one absolutely had to go out on this most treacherous of all evenings a mask should be worn for protection.  The theory being  the wicked spirits would be unable to identify anyone wearing a mask and therefore would pass them by without causing harm.  

Perhaps the dead can easily be fooled by something as simple as a mask but I don’t believe the living can be.  It seems to me, rather than hiding our identity masks only serve to better reveal the true personality of the one who wears it.  It is liberating to shed our everyday persona and pretend to be someone we’re not.   Do things we normally wouldn’t dream of doing.  All without the fear of judgment or repercussions thanks to the anonymity of a mask.  Who among us doesn’t find the notion at least a teensy bit tempting? 

No doubt this is why masquerade balls have been popular social events for centuries.  And why they’re still wildly popular today in many historical romance novels.  They provide the perfect setting for flirtatious banter, coquettish games and the intricate dance of seduction.  They also provide the ideal backdrop for mystery and dare I say…murder. 

 So what are you doing on this evening of opportunity?  Chances are you plan to hand-out candy at the door.  Then around nine o’clock you’ll see there are only a few Snickers left so you’ll turn out the light, eat them and go on about your normal routine. 
Live a little.  Go get a mask, put it on…and play.   Seduce your lover in a way that blows their mind, fool your neighbors, play tricks on little goblins that come to your door.  Throw restraint to the wind, just for one evening.

It’s Halloween!  What are you waiting for?

BLURB: Dangerous Charade
To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home to become an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency.  Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.
Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor.  After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era.  Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death.  But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations.  Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea…until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.


EXCERPT: Dangerous Charade
Gabrielle raced across the lawn toward a side entrance most often used by the servants at Westford. Dawn was breaking and she needed to move fast. If anyone saw her, she would be hard-pressed to explain why she was returning from a ride at this time of day, in the dark. And carrying a fancy parasol, no less.
She’d almost reached the door when Julian’s voice cut through the still morning air like a knife.
“Gabrielle.”
“Oh!” Her free hand flew to her mouth as she whirled toward the sound of his voice. He stood close to the building, hidden in the shadows. “My lord, you nearly scared me to death! I didn’t see you there.”
“Clearly.”
“Just what are you doing out here, lurking about in the shadows?” she demanded, adrenaline pumping.
“What am I doing?” He stared at her incredulously. “Not that I owe you any explanation for my actions while on my own estate, but I came out to watch the sunrise. What the devil are you doing?”
“I was…checking on Buttercup. I’m told she’s been acting strangely.” Gabrielle took a few more steps toward the building. “But—good news—it appears she’s doing fine.”
In a flash Julian was between her and the door. He regarded her closely. “That doesn’t explain why you’re lugging a parasol around in the dark.”
Gabrielle swallowed hard. She saw his green eyes narrow. “One never knows what one might encounter lurking about in the shadows. I may have needed it to defend myself from something. Or someone,” she added pointedly.
Julian stepped closer to her; they were less than an arm’s length apart. “Do you think you need it now?” The suggestive tone in his voice was unmistakable.
Her breathing quickened, and she averted her gaze. “What I think is that you are most unnerving.”
Julian reached out and tilted her chin up with his fingers. “What kind of game are you playing, Gabrielle?”
She didn’t answer. And he didn’t ask again. Instead he brought his head down very slowly and claimed her mouth with his own.

Thanks Elizabeth for joining us today. Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween. And be sure to stop by Elizabeth's website www.elizabeth-means.com to learn more about this amazing new author. And if you're looking for a good read, check out Dangerous Charadehttp://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=4629

Friday, October 28, 2011

Toni V. Sweeney's Breast Cancer Message

It's still breast cancer awareness week and today's message to women is from fellow author and breast cancer survivor, Toni V. Sweeney.
Good to Go for Another Year

Dear Ms. Sweeney:
            The radiologist has interpreted your recent mammogram and/or breast imaging study, and we are pleased to inform you that the results are normal or benign (no evidence of cancer).
            As you know, early detection of cancer is important

Okay, so I can breathe easier for another year.  Had my yearly oncology check, my mammo, and I’m A-OK and good to go.          
It’s been ten years now since I had the mammogram that wasn’t benign, or normal.  Ten years since I detected that small lump during a self-exam.  Ten years since I sat in an exam room, waiting for the confirmation of what I was afraid I was going to hear.
When I found what I thought was a lump, I didn’t delay making an appointment and going to a doctor.  I’m usually a wait-and-see person but this time, I decided to meet the problem head-on.  Surprisingly, it was my doctor who dilly-dallied around.  Perhaps it was because I was unemployed and uninsured at the time, I don’t know, but after the biopsy confirming his diagnosis, I was told to “go home and wait,” that he’d call me with a referral to a surgeon.
Four weeks later, I was still waiting, and becoming panicky.  After several phone calls which weren’t returned, I tried to think what to do.  I was a stranger in a strange city in a new state, so I turned to the only place I could think of:  the American Cancer Society.  Three days after speaking to someone on the phone, I was on a gurney, being wheeled into surgery for a lumpectomy.  I didn’t know that a few hours later, as soon as I walked through the door of my apartment, in fact, I would get a phone call asking me to come back—right then!—because they needed to do a second one.
Everything went well.  I proceeded through radiation therapy, driving myself to the sessions each morning for six weeks.  Then, I was started on Tamoxifen therapy instead of the traditional chemo.  I gained 60 pounds on that route, going from a svelte 109 to a lumpy 165.  Never going to lose it, they tell me, but—hey! You’re alive, so stop your complaining that you’re not attractive any more.  (Forgive my sarcasm here.  That has been, and always will be, a source of psychological upset to me.)
As to the rest of that letter…”early detection…is very important.”
Don’t I know it! 
The year before I was diagnosed, I saw an ad on TV, stating that very thing, and the man I loved made me promise I’d do those self-exams and have a mammogram each year.  I assured him I was already doing that.  Soon afterward, he died, but my promised stayed in place.
The point of all this rambling is that, no matter what the AMA or any other medical association says, I personally think self-exams are important.  Early detection counts.  Train yourself to do the exam at the same time every month.  After your period is a good time, because then the breasts are sensitive to touch and you’re able to find lumps easier.  Some women prefer to do them in the shower, using soap and water to aid sliding fingers over surfaces; some prefer to lie prone; some stand in front of a mirror…but all do them, and that’s what counts.  Even if you find what you think is a lump and it turns out to be simply a swollen gland…well, that’s good, too, because you found something and you had it checked.
Keep doing just that, and let’s head off breast cancer at the pass!
 
Toni, your story is similar to so many stories I hear as a mammogapher. I'm so glad you did NOT ignore the lump. Too often, women ignore those lumps and the warning bells in their heads. They justify not going to the doctor because they assume it's just another cyst or feel secure because they don't have a family history of breast cancer. I didn't have a lump or a family history but I was diagnosed with stage 1 (sneaking into the stage 2 category) invasive carcinoma and DCIS (ductal carcinoma insitu) on a screening mammogram.
So, please ladies, don't ignore ANY changes in your breasts. Do self breast exams. Know your breasts. If you feel a lump, see your doctor. If you are under 35, he may not order a mammogram because of your breast density, but please insist on a breast ultrasound. Breast cancer in women under 40 isn't common. But it happens. EVERY day. So be aware. Get informed. And if you're over 40, schedule an annual mammogram. 

And now a bit about Toni~
AUTHOR BIO:
Toni V. Sweeney was born some time between the War Between the States and the Gulf War.  She has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and a decade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains.  Her first novel was published in 1989. An accomplished artist as well as writer, she has a degree in Fine Art and a diploma in Graphic Art.  Toni maintains a website for herself and her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone, and has been associated with the South Coast Writer's Association, the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers, several other writer’s loops, myspace, Facebook, and YouTube. Her latest novel is Runaway Brother (Class Act Books, http://www.classactbooks.com/Runaway-Brother-by-Icy-Snow-Blackstone-Trade_p_308.html) and her next book, due for released November 15, is Blood Bay, a thriller, also to be released by Class Act Books.  It will be her 27th novel.