Is There a Halo in Your Life?

Let's_All_Go_to_the_LobbyLast Saturday night, my hubbie declared it Movie Date Night. Don’t get me wrong– I love date night– but he isn’t the best movie picker. We like to go to a locally owned and managed theater. A glass of chardonnay and some popcorn is my idea of an adult snack bar. So, at 9:00 a.m., we got on his Ipad and picked St. Vincent starring Bill Murray. I didn’t really understand the synopsis of the movie but I knew wine would make it all better, whichever way it fell. Continue reading

The Corndog Monologue

It’s Coastal Carolina Fair time! My belly dance troupe, Palmetto Oasis, has been asked to perform on November 1st and I thought— why not repost what I wrote two years ago? See you on Saturday!

November, 2012…….

Ever since I’ve joined the belly dance community, glitter and sparkles have become an ordinary presence in my home and body. After performing, it isn’t uncommon to grab a bite to eat before we go home. Sometimes we bring street clothes—or not! Our eyes are painted like jewels and bodies dusted in gold glitter.

Having said that, our troupe was asked to perform a thirty minute show at The Coastal Carolina Fair. Our performance was on the Saturday that Hurricane Sandy skirted our coast on her way to the Jersey Shore. We were told in spite of the wind (and thankfully the rain had stopped) the show would go on. A troupe husband offered to drive several of us in his van. My husband and sister drove separately with plans to stay after and entertain my niece. With this in mind, I brought street clothes. Continue reading

Up Close and Personal With a Few Favorite Authors

We all like to get “up close and personal” with our favorite authors, learning more about them and why they do what they do. This blog is a part of a virtual blog tour that is giving us the opportunity to do just that with people we know, and introducing us to people we might want to know. I was invited to participate in this tour by author and publishing CEO Terri Ann Leidich.

Terri Ann Leidich

Terri Ann Leidich

I met Terri through Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win and was thrilled when her publishing company, BQB Publishing, accepted my manuscript for Ameera Unveiled. We’ve shared our love of words ever since.

Terri isn’t just a publisher, though. She’s the author of three books: From a Grieving Mother’s Heart, For a Grieving Heart, and her debut novel, Family Inheritance, which will release in October, 2014. Terri lives in Christiansburg, Virginia with her husband and foodie, Glenn. I enjoyed sharing a bbq lunch with them after the Pubsmart Conference. I not only count Terri as a highly skilled and talented publisher, but someone that rejoices in my writing triumphs and helps me over speed bumps.

So here are the questions I’m required to answer as part of this unique blog tour, and then I’m going to introduce you to some amazing authors I think you’ll want to read…

a) What am I working on?
Ameera Unveiled
is launched and marketing takes a piece of my time. However, I’m now working to write a novel based on the lives of the adorable men of the Old Navy. My childhood was guided and molded by the global struggles, starting with the Cold War, in which my father(s) were Tin Can Sailors. Beside my own lifetime experiences as a Navy dependent, I’ve been embraced by many military veterans and entrusted with their memories. The confessions of Tin Can Sailors fill note cards scattered around my writing room. Hopefully, I can weave a tale that preserves a period of time with less technology but a complicated simplicity.

But, like Terri said in her post, I need to focus on capturing a second story. I’ll continue to absorb their stories, educate myself on historical facts as I attempt to create characters. Characters that hopefully represent a National Treasure– our Tin Can Sailors.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t feel worthy to compare myself to veteran authors of women’s fiction. My writing perspective tends to remain on challenging my writing style. I love to use humor in the face of personal growth. But, at the same time, I like to untangle facing the unknown with all the complications of being human. And that’s not limited to the genre of women’s fiction. Of course, my voice tends to reflect being part of the Baby Boomer era and personal spirituality. Each phase of my childhood did have a dose of innocence and naivete that is not as common for the past few generations. I tend to promote a moral compass and leave some subjects sacred. So, I guess I may be a bit of a dying romantic?

c) Why do I write what I do?
I love to observe people and the serendipity aspects to reaching one’s destiny. I am a fan of revealing the internal depths of my characters. I grew up surrounded by adults that were resilient in the face of hardships. Hardships that spanned disruptions in our economy to global aggression. I’d like to preserve the pride of generations to work and aspire to accomplish dreams. My childhood was filled with a freedom to roam neighborhoods, play kick ball in the street and explore undeveloped woodlands. I want to preserve the memory and experience from a less technically advanced world. Let’s still talk on the front porch, not from a text on a cell phone!

d) How does my writing process work?
I am blessed to have a writing coach, Shari Stauch, who never lets me get away with being too soft or frozen. However, my personality tends to love spontaneity rather than rigid outlines and schedules. I have a strong sixth sense for personal movement. So, if I’m pushed to research, interview and observe– I know it is going to pay off.

As Terri Leidich says, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Once I leave the starting gate, it seems to flow and develop page by page! Attempting to create Ameera Unveiled, I was encouraged to turn off my editor and just write. So, I did. Little did I know that we would cut and paste so many times when it was accepted by BQB Publishing. I loved my main character for a while– until I had edited with the whole crew that gets you to the finishing line. I was about to ask for a divorce! Or smack her around a bit and demand that she quit whining! But, the joy for me to share the deep and strong bonds of healthy women was worth it.

Thanks for the visit– feel free to ring the door bell and visit on the porch next time! Now, here are my blogger/author, recommendations – Enjoy!

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick

going on nine2I had the privilege to meet Catherine at an intimate book reading at a mutual friend’s home in Charleston, SC. She took us behind the scenes of her newest novel, Going on Nine. I resonated with so many of her memories. I purchased and devoured her book.

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick grew up in suburban St. Louis, the second of six children who ― like the heroine of Going on Nine― meandered through sultry summers unscheduled and unfettered. After graduating from the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, she worked as a staff feature writer in Hannibal, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.

In September of 2001, Catherine was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week for Wisconsin’s largest newspaper. At first word of the terrorist attacks, she rushed to Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. An account of her reportage that day is included with accounts of other reporters and photographers in Running Toward Danger (2002, Rowman & Littlefield). A front page of the newspaper edition containing one of her 9/11 dispatches is among those memorialized in Washington D.C.’s Newseum. Her book-length account of her harrowing experiences that week has been accessioned into the State Historical Society of Missouri archives.

going on nineGoing on Nine (Familius, 2014), a coming-of-age story set in 1956, is Catherine’s second novel set in St. Louis. A Matter of Happenstance (Plain View Press, 2010), her debut novel, is a four-generation family saga that explores the power of personal character over coincidence.

Catherine is a board member of the Chicago-area TallGrass Writers Guild. She and her husband, Dennis, have two grown daughters in Chicago. She and her husband live in Glenview, IL, and Bonita Springs, FL.

Deb Mangolt:

deb photoI was introduced to Deb at her book signing at a Charleston Barnes & Noble. Later, we bumped into each other and forged a deeper personal connection at the Pubsmart Writing Conference in Charleston, SC this past spring. She is a delightful and witty woman I look forward to running into or intentionally spending time with. She co-authored a girlfriend oriented platform book called Drink Wine and Giggle. I’m all about wine-ing!

As an Event Planner and Certified Professional Coach, Deb brings her positive attitude and bubbly personality to turn family reunions, corporate team-building drink wine coverevents and women’s retreats into memorable and intoxicating experiences that demonstrate the power of true compassion.

Deb’s former career in corporate finance has taken her across North America from Ohio to Tennessee to Toronto and finally to Charleston, South Carolina where she resides with her husband. A devoted hospice volunteer, member of the Charleston Center for Women, and an avid golfer and runner, Deb completed the Kiawah Island Marathon in less than five hours.

 Jackie Madden Haugh

jackieI met Jackie attending the Faulkner Words and Music Festival in New Orleans, LA in 2010. While in the infant stages of writing Ameera Unveiled, I was extremely moved by a situation while on vacation in Florence, Italy. I felt driven to preserve it and forwarded it to Shari Stauch. She pushed me to polish it and submit in the essay competition– it short listed. Needless to say, she pushed me to attend the conference that Fall… and I met Jackie. What a beautiful and resilient woman! I don’t get as much personal contact with her as I would like, but was thrilled to hug her at the Pubsmart Conference this past Spring.

Jackie Madden Haugh is a true native of California. Born in San Francisco, on December 31, 1952, to the son of Irish, Catholic immigrants, who fled the potato famine in the late 1800′s, and the daughter of silent movie actors, circa 1915 in Hollywood. Sandwiched between three boisterous brothers, life for Jackie in her youth was anything but calm and trying to have a voice amidst the rampant testosterone and alpha-male posturing was an impossible feat for her.

MichelleBookCover3-copyWith the gift of a small six-by-six diary on her tenth birthday, Jackie discovered the joy of journaling. Hiding in her room, pouring her heart and soul out on the blank pages not only gave her solace, but a friend who would listen to her thoughts, dreams and desires without any judgment.For the next forty-five years, she continued writing and in April, 2009, she self-published her first memoir, “My Life in a Tutu.” It started as a simple gift for her children, but instead morphed into something much larger. Word got out about this project in her small suburban town of Los Altos, California and to date she has sold several hundred copies there alone.

 Jackie still resides in the loving home where she raised her four adult children. She continues to work in her career as a real estate agent, but devotes her spare time to her writing and her love of teaching dance to children. Currently, she is working on her next project in her series of memoirs, “Tipsy in a Tutu.” It is the hilarious story of friendship between three single woman in a world of married people.

Facing the Unknown – Coping Skills?

crazy eyesOne of the underlying issues for my main character in Ameera Unveiled, is feeling like she is never in control. She resolves to face childhood forbidden zones as she enters an empty-nester zone, but this isn’t always easy. Trying something new is never easy, especially when we haven’t been raised to embrace the unknown.

Some readers have resonated with Ameera’s internalization and self doubts. Others tip their heads and say, “What’s the big deal?”

In that I grew up with many social and gender stigmas as a baby boomer, it is a big deal. As the author, I chose to use a belly dancing class as a catalyst to raise her comfort zone bar. Combined with the instructor who would not take ‘no’ from her students, this produced a lot of internal, wide-eyed panic moments for Ameera. Continue reading

Laying the Keel

I launched my debut novel, Ameera Unveiled, on July 25, 2013. Subsequently, I’ve been pushing her into the internet waters. What an endless sea of opportunity to navigate! As the captain of this ship, I am blessed to have the support of BQB Publishing and their managers. Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win keeps me on task and sets my course for the next portal of call. Being new to marketing and social media, sometimes it is a slow and tedious assignment.

But since the launch, I’ve been researching a new idea using my childhood experiences as a Navy dependent. I am laying the keel for my next project. keel1

My writing room is littered with my father’s military record, the shadowbox with brass plates of ship assignments, and personal possessions that would have been on his desk or dresser. His dress blues hang on a doorknob proudly displaying five gold hashmarks. I’ve been privileged to make new friends with veterans through the VFW and American Legions. I loved attending Liberty Call with the Goose Creek Tin Can Sailors. They’ve embraced my request for stories of their glory days. I’ve climbed and descended into the bowels of the USS Laffey at Patriots Point. The smell of grey paint and fuel refreshes my childhood memories of visiting my dad’s floating office.

My new Orders? Start writing it. In my mind, I stand across the word-processing shipyard and watch as the keel is laid. I’ve set my compass and now I have to follow my heart on where the story will take me…research floor

Over 50? How did that happen?

DSCN0382Until I entered my 40’s, I had 20/20 vision and shared my clothing with my young adult daughter. I line danced at a local country dance club, Desperado’s, until 2:00 a.m. and went to Pappy’s for $1.99 breakfast– then went to work on less than four hours of sleep.

I suppose due to my late bloomer genetics, my abdomen was in decent shape, allowing me to get away with a two piece bathing suit. I could eat anything I wanted. I benefited from the oasis of youth. Continue reading

Tin Can Sailors – A National Treasure (Part II)

FatherDaughterDanceClip2It’s easy to live in the past, especially when it so colors the present. But, since I was privileged to be my father’s date at the recent 7th Annual Liberty Call Goose Creek Tin Can Sailor Reunion (April 11-12), I felt compelled to shift my view from that little girl in a military family, to an adult woman with new perceptions. I was blessed to meet and mingle with my father’s peers.

I learned so much by observing. The bond of these tin can sailors was a brotherhood from serving on a destroyer, always together in cramped quarters. I didn’t see the faces of senior men, I saw the boyish twinkle in their eyes as they reminisced about being bachelors, chasing girls and general cruise antics. I joined them touring the USS Laffey at Patriots Point climbing ladders to the Chiefs’ Quarters. I saw the enlisted berths and all the various spaces they were forced to share on rough or calm seas. I heard them relive so many stories that happened in the engine room or conditions when the boilers were cranked.

tin can sailor (2)The smell of grey paint and fuel recalled my childhood memory of Dependent’s Day. On Saturday morning, I even tried to get to the American Legion to partake in breakfast – shit on a shingle.

As a proud daughter of two career Naval fathers (my biological father, and later, my stepfather), I finally have a deeper appreciation of the jobs and duties and of these proud enlisted men. And this was all during a time of no internet, unlimited cell service, microwaves or hundreds of television channels. It seems unimaginable now, doesn’t it? We all relied on snail mail or family grams.

I’m in awe of their pride and passion for standing in the shoes of a Tin Can Sailor. If you know someone that served at that time, gather their stories! They are National Treasures.

Do you have a story about our parents’ generations? Please share it with your comment below!

Tin Can Sailors – A National Treasure (Part I)

Part I – From the eyes of a Tin Can Sailor’s Daughter

l_lzumus-navy-tin-can-sailor-1-inch-pinBeing raised in a Navy career family, I’ve developed a sense of duty and pride to shoulder responsibility. My childhood was a mix of consistent moving to new Naval bases but adorned with innocence and imagination. On weekends and during summers, I and my sisters were ordered outside to find something to do. We’d ask for a sheet and make tents across the clothesline along with our tea sets and play pots and pans and other role playing games. Continue reading

Belly Dance: That’ll Teach Me

Belly-Dance-HumorMy sincere thanks to author Diane Henders for this guest post. This article ran on Diane’s own site on February 12, 2014 and I laughed out loud when I read it – This is sooo Ameera’s journey. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Get to know Diane better at blog.henders.com. Photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m taking a beginner belly-dance class.  It has been a tremendous learning experience, despite the fact that I have absolutely no natural aptitude for it.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

The word ‘choreography’ has ‘chorea’ as its root.
Dictionary.com defines ‘chorea’ as ‘any of several diseases of the nervous system characterized by jerky, involuntary movements, chiefly of the face and extremities.’  That explains a lot.  I’m a word geek.  I’m just doin’ it right.

Also pertaining to choreography:

In choreography notes, ‘CCW’ means ‘counter-clockwise’.
It is not a typo for CCR.  Which is a relief, because as much as I love Creedence, I just can’t see belly-dancing to ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’.  ‘Bad Moon Rising’, however, would be frighteningly apropos.

Never trust your friends.
The friend who exhorted me not to laugh at her… has belly-danced before.  The friend who swore she had two left feet… used to be a cheerleader.  Their hip shimmies are perfect, even though the only time they practice is during the one-hour class.  I practice every morning, and I still look as though I’m frantically trying to dislodge a barbed-wire wedgie.

If you stand with your feet close together instead of planted sturdily shoulder-width apart, you look more like a belly-dancer and less like you’re about to punch somebody’s lights out.
Unless you’re me.  Then it helps, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem.  I’m really not planning to punch anybody; that scowl is just baffled concentration…

Belly-dancing is best suited to women who have hips.
When you’re built like a telephone pole, it doesn’t matter how much you shimmy, you still look like a telephone pole… in an earthquake.

If you use an X-rated phrase to memory-associate the names of the moves, you WILL begin to giggle at inappropriate times in the class.
But that’s okay, because giggling is pretty much the only appropriate response to watching me try to belly-dance.

Studio mirrors were created by Satan himself.
Just sayin’.

I am apparently incapable of shimmying my hips without simultaneously flapping my hands.
This might not be so bad if the objective of the class was actually to impersonate an epileptic penguin.  But on the up side, I’ve developed a genuine empathy for tubby flightless birds with neurological disorders.

Start every day with a smile!
It’s hard not to, when I’m confronted by the sight of myself gyrating gracelessly in the mirror every morning.

Which leads me to…

Do not practice belly-dancing while wearing nothing but your underwear and a jingly hip scarf, even behind closed doors in the privacy of your own home.
Or, if you do, don’t describe it to your friends.  In a restaurant.  Just as the waiter sneaks up behind you.  For the record, he had the best deadpan I’ve ever seen.

Humility is a virtue.
I’m so friggin’ virtuous right now, it’s making my eyes water.  By the time the lessons are finished, I fully expect to achieve sainthood.  Or possibly martyrdom.

How to belly-dance.
Well… no.  I haven’t actually learned that yet.  But we have six lessons left, so I’m still hoping…

* * *

The instructor keeps going on as if she actually expects us to dance this piece in front of an audience.  If anybody’s got an inspirational story about how you started off sucking at something and ended up acing it, now would be a really great to time to share.  Even better if you ended up acing it after six lessons…

dianeAbout Diane Henders: “By profession, I’m a technical writer, computer geek, and ex-interior designer.  I’m good at two out of three of these things.  I had the sense to quit the one I sucked at.

“To deal with my mid-life crisis, I also write adventure novels featuring a middle-aged female protagonist, Aydan Kelly.  And I kickbox.

“This seemed more productive than indulging in more typical mid-life crisis activities like getting a divorce, buying a Harley Crossbones, and cruising across the country picking up men in sleazy bars.  Especially since it’s winter most months of the year here.

“It’s much more comfortable to sit at my computer.  And hell, Harleys are expensive.  Come to think of it, so are beer and gasoline.

“Oh, and I still love my husband.  There’s that.  Guess I’ll stick with the writing.”

Spotlight…. please!

My family has always joked that of the four girls in the family, the spotlight was always on Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. (Yes, she is the topless one in the picture) However, while researching dated photos for my next writing project, I ran into this photo taken by my father as he finished his degree at Purdue University. My sister, Kerry, had even tried to trump me by being born exactly one month before from my FIRST year oldest daughter birthday!  Obviously, I hadn’t got the memo that my time in the spotlight was over!spotlight with Kerry

As I struggled to get a story within the cover of Ameera Unveiled based on my own childhood angst without the instruction of formal dance training, I assumed I had always been shy and fearful. Officially be advised… the posing diva is Mu-ah. Continue reading