December 31, 2011

Best of 2011: People's Choice Awards

The people have spoken through page views, and the blog post winners have been chosen. Let me start by thanking all the people who take the time to read my posts and a special thank you to those who comment.

I started this blog early this year, but didn't commit to it fully until May's WordCount Blogathon. Another tip of the hat to Michelle Rafter for planting the seed and giving me the confidence to soar. After that I found more wonderful writing communities who helped me with ideas and confidence: Kait Nolan's A Round of Words in 80 Days, Rachael Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, BlogHer's NaBloPoMo, Melissa Foster's WoMen's Literary Cafe, and SheWrites.

I also want to thank the lovely bloggers who have guest posted this year: Carrie Green, Lisa Pollard, Lisa Carter, Morgan Bailey, Nicky LaMarco, Eden Sterlington, and Liz Sheffield. Plus, I can't forget to thank my mom, dad, two sisters, and my daughters for their blog posts and contributions.

The flashing light is blinking and music is starting. My thank you time is coming to an end. But lastly I do want to thank all the authors who've shared their knowledge with me and on this blog. I've learned so much!

Reader's Favorite Posts of 2011

Knock on Wood: 11/11/11 and Break Your Mother's Back: Superstitions Part Two: Both posts talk about the idea of superstitions.

Feathers and Stone: Balance: Trying to find balance, something I know most of us struggle with.

Drifting Away: Third Campaigner Challenge: Before Rachael Harrie's campaign, I really had never attempted flash fiction much less put it out there for people to read.

Why I Blog: These reasons still hold true.

What Makes me Swoon: From Husband to Vampires to Volleyball Players: A fun post outlining my crushes through the years.

What Most Southern Women Love About the F Word: Mom has written some wonderful posts this year, but this was the most viewed. I think the tantalizing title grabbed people.

I look forward to many wonderful interactions in 2012.

Please share your favorite 2011 post from your blog in the comments below. I'd love to see them!

December 30, 2011

Christmas Break Highlights: Embracing Fun and Family

I've been enjoying a wonderful Christmas break with my girls and husband. I look forward to this time every year. I'm very fortunate that my husband's company shuts down the last week of the year. It doesn't count against his vacation time, so we can count on having this time with him.

My Favorite Moments From the Week

* Christmas morning joy: Really, is there anything better than seeing their faces on Christmas morning? They are so happy and want nothing more than to play with each other. Fighting is put aside and harmony abounds. It's short-lived, but man is it sweet.

* Family bonding without the pressure: Time is proving to go way too fast, and I try to always focus on enjoying my family. But it's so much easier when there aren't any evening practices, homework assignments, rushed dinners, and tight schedules. Sometimes it seems all I do is beg them to hurry or finish an assignment.

* Getting away from it all: I work from home and am responsible for the majority of keeping the house clean, laundry, cooking, etc. My house can feel like my work place. To truly relax, I need to get away. This year we went to Williamsburg, VA and enjoyed Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. So much fun and no cleaning, cooking, and laundry fell on Mama (until we got home anyway).

* Seeing life through the eyes of children: Too often, our fast paced life robs us of the opportunity to enjoy the little things. A week full of scheduled posts and focusing on family allowed me to see the joys my children find in the simplest pleasures. A card game, making cookies together, taking a walk, or even snow. Although this year our snow came from the fake snow machine at Busch Gardens.

I won't pretend that it's been perfect, the fighting has definitely crept back into our daily existence. But a perfect family would be boring, and I'm all about the joy of imperfection.

Hope you and yours are enjoying the last week of 2011. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year's!

What has been your favorite part of the holidays so far?

December 29, 2011

Red Heart Shop: Guest Post by my mom, Angela Silverthorne

In the spirit of the holidays, we thought our readers would enjoy this fun, humorous tale. We hope everyone is enjoying the season and the rest of 2011.


Red Heart Shop
I grew up in a shop, a beauty shop, that is. My grandmother who was born in 1918 decided to go back to school at 47. At the time, my mother was attending school at Georgia State, so I never considered it unusual to have strong, industrious, hardworking women around me. They never whined; they just did.

Consequently, calling my grandmother’s place of business a shop was apropos. In my mind, her shop could be likened to any workshop where men gathered to get their cars checked out and pick up on the latest news traveling down the info pipe. Grandmother’s shop steamed around the latest fandangle and the juiciest gossip. She used appliances, concocted hair remedies to grease and lubricate, and tackled complex problems on design and repair. She opened up at 7AM, often working 7 days a week.  She got called at the last minute, dealt with customer complaints, went to bed bone tired, and spent many hours at the funeral home making someone’s Mama look just like she did in life. And only Ms. Ann could do that.
I always sat quiet, observing, listening.  But my main intent was the conversation. I didn’t want to miss one luscious word, one dripping nuance or misnomer.

One day, Mabel (May – elongate and stretch the long a – Bell) came into the shop. She worked at the local mill, spool faced with cluster eyebrows. But this woman had a presence. When she entered the room, heads turned. On one particular day, I was kneeling, holding the dustpan as grandmother swept up mounds of multi-colored hair, laying curls atop resistant white, driving smelly perm solution airborne, when Mabel blew in, slamming the door with a staggering force.
“Ann,” she said loudly, “The usual.”

Grandmother pushed the last mound toward me, motioning me to dispose of it. “I’ll have you outta here in no time flat,” she stated, grabbing a cape and flinging it around Mabel’s neck. “What’s new?”
Two magic words, “what’s new,” began a runoff of names, misdemeanors, and indiscretions, most of which I didn’t understand. I did, however, understand the dicey rhythm of word delivery and reception. At one point, grandmother motioned for me to hand her a comb out of the sanitizer. I quickly maneuvered, delivering it directly into her outstretched hand.

In one instantaneous flash Mabel had me by the arm, pulling me close. “Have you been eating dog food?” she asked, her other hand running through my hair.
“Mabel!” grandmother shouted, “What’s into you?”

“Look at this hair, Ann,” she said, pointing. “It’s like a dog’s!”

Grandmother looked puzzled. When I winced, Mabel released my arm and exclaimed, “Dog food, dammit. She’s been eating dog food. I’ve been coming here for years, asking for this kind of hair, and you knew the secret all along, didn’t you?”

We stared. The woman must be mad.
“Ann, my hair is fried. The last time I walked out of here, I saw her with this.” Mabel pulled out a tin can of Red Heart. “See . . . right here on the front . . . that’s her hair, sure enough. Don’t deny it!”

I watched grandmother intently. She took the can out of Mabel’s hand, slipped up her eye glasses, paused and then exclaimed, “Mabel, you found me out. But I could lose my license over this.”
“Oh, honey, I’ll never tell.” She smiled broadly and winked.

When Mabel left, grandmother turned to me, “Explain.”
Feeling I was in horrid trouble, I began, “Well, I give Shots food out of my hand. When I’m done, I’m all greasy, so I do this . . .” Clasping my hands together, I rubbed them vigorously, stretched my fingers wide and ran them through my hair. “It musta worked. You haven’t said my hair looked like a scarecrow in two weeks.”

Grandmother reached down and kissed my forehead. She didn’t say a word. But I did notice a lot more Red Heart in the cupboard and a faint smell of it in the plastic bottle she kept by the wash basin. Funny how an odor can sit around on everything and no one will say a word.

December 28, 2011

Card Playing Day

Today, December 28, is Card Playing Day. What a wonderful way to enjoy the holidays. Gather your friends and family, fill the table with treats and drinks (slip some stuff into the adults' drinks for added patience and warmth), and pick your favorite card game. Laugh, enjoy each other, and be merry.

My girls are 11, 9 and 6. Some of our favorite card games:
  • UNO - It's hard to find a game that all three ages can play well. This one works. You just need to recognize numbers and colors. The older they are, the more strategy they can play. But in the end, like most card games, it's the luck of the draw.
  • Old Maid - What's more fun that sticking someone with Old Maid? I'm not very sneaky, so my kids read my face pretty well. It's the kid version of a poker face. And, finally, my kids are old enough not to start this game with, "That's not fair, I got the old woman."
  • Would You Rather - My kids love this one, and I love the inevitable laughter. The card game is silly, but fun. It's a choice between would you rather scenarios. There are no winners or points, just pure fun. Example: Would you rather not be able to hear anything or not be able to taste anything?
  • Apples to Apples - There are green cards with themes and red cards with random words. You throw down your best match of theme and word and the judge (the person throwing down the theme) picks the best one. So much fun.
The point is to sit down with friends and family and have fun!

Hope you are enjoying the holidays.

What's your favorite card/board game? My family is always looking for more!

December 27, 2011

A Break for Reading: Guest Post by my Daughter, Jackie Bach

My lovely sixth grade daughter, Jackie, is a great sport. She rarely grumbles when I ask her to write thank you notes after Christmas, and even went along with my idea to write this post.

Enjoy her thoughts on Christmas break.


Mom asked me to write a post for her blog this week. Like I don't write enough when I'm in school. She didn't even give me a topic, and I was in the middle of watching A Christmas Story when she asked.

She offered to type if I told her the words, so I made the deal.

I love Christmas break because I love being with my family. My sisters are nicer than normal, so I actually like playing with them (a little). I also love being home without homework because I have more time to read what I want.

Santa and my parents got me several books. And my Nana and Papa got me a Kindle Touch and a gift card for Amazon. I can't wait to download books!

I love to read series, so Mom and I are going to sit down later and look through Amazon. I've read 26 books since school started, and they were all 400 pages or more. I hope to read a few more over Christmas.

Right now, I'm reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. It's the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. So far I love them and can't wait for the Hunger Games movie next year.

Christmas break is all about wearing pajamas all day, playing games with my family, watching television, and the best of all... reading a good book.

Merry Christmas!


I'm thinking there's a great opportunity to sit on the couch with a book in my hand and bond silently with her! She's definitely her mother's daughter.

Not to be outdone, my other two girls wanted in on the action.

Reagan, a 4th grader and sports enthusiast, is looking forward to doing the gingerbread house that "we were supposed to do before Christmas."

Wait, I think that's more of a note to Mom than a contribution to this post.

Maddie, my first grader, said she was just looking forward to no school and being with her family. I gave her a hug. My other two girls told me to stop treating her like a baby. ;-)

From our house to yours, we hope you are enjoying this last week of 2011.

What's your favorite part of the holidays once the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over?

December 26, 2011

After-Christmas Sales: Finding the Bargains

The time honored tradition of heading out after Christmas to amazing sales has diminished in a poor economy. In some ways, this is great because the deals run all the time since retailers are desperate to bring in much-needed sales. Still, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of deals during Black Friday this year. The sales were less than stellar, and certainly not worth the effort of heading out at midnight on Thanksgiving day.

Everybody in my house had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly do not need to run out and find great deals but we do have gift cards to use. My parents used to give me money on Christmas day, so I could shop the after-Christmas sales and get more clothes (all I wanted in the teen years). Well, I also wanted a cute boy to like me, but Santa never seemed to take those requests seriously. Maybe Santa's like the genie in Aladdin... no wishing for love.

More than anything, I'm looking forward to spending the next week with my three girls and husband. Everybody has the whole week off. I've written posts ahead and stocked a couple of book reviews in anticipation. Walking around a crowded mall will just add to the memories. Although I'm sure my husband disagrees.

For all of you who enjoy after-Christmas bargains, check out The Year of the Indie Celebration sponsored by WoMen's Literary Cafe. From December 24 through December 31, over 100 authors and 100 books are featured. If you buy three eBooks, you get one free. Please see the site for details.

I know Kindles were on a lot of people's lists, so it's time to fill them up at a bargain.

December 25, 2011

Wishing Everyone a Merry Little Christmas

Why reinvent the wheel? This song says it all, and says it beautifully. Judy Garland brought it to us first in Meet Me in St. Louis, a 1944 musical. 

We mean every word and wish everyone the very best of the season and many blessings in 2012. From our family to yours:

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas*

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
Our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
Our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

* Music by Ralph Blane and lyrics by Hugh Martin.

December 24, 2011

A Holiday Poem: Happy Holidays!

'Tis the day before Christmas, and all through our house,
The children are always stirring, but, thankfully, no mouse.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.
The children rarely stay snug in their beds,
While visions of beach vacations dance in Mom and Dad’s heads;
And Mama in her sweatpants and Dad in his baseball cap,
Would love to settle down for any kind of nap.
On Christmas morning our kids will awaken like a flash,
Tear open the presents, as if in a mad dash.
When, what to my wondering eyes will appear,
But three beautiful children holding their family dear.
I’ll grab for the camera, so lively and quick,
And know to say a thank you to the idea of St. Nick;
Capture the precious memories with speed,
And hope the true gift of Christmas they heed.

We hope our family and friends, far and near
Have a wonderful holiday with moments so dear.
Take a moment to count each of your treasures,
And we wish you a 2012 filled with many pleasures.

I sent this poem out in my holiday letters this year, so I wanted to share it here with my favorite readers, bloggers, and writers. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and love of books with me this year.

May 2012 bring us all many great new reads and writing adventures!

December 23, 2011

Showing Gratitude As 2011 Draws to a Close

2011 has been an amazing year for me. Thanks to the wonderful writing and reading community, I have learned so much about the craft.

I wanted to express my gratitude in a fun way. Writers are:

Generous: It never fails to amaze me how giving authors and readers are. They are generous with their knowledge and their support.

Resilient: A true writer writes. They don’t let a less than stellar review or any other obstacle keep them from the craft.

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers—they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.”  Sinclair Lewis

They give a damn and process input, but you can’t stop the truly passionate writer.

Aware: Every moment in life adds to a writer’s story bank. Living life is invaluable.

Teachers: When they find out new information, they pass it on. They don’t covet knowledge, instead they use blogs to pass on what they are learning in this ever-changing industry.

Inspirational: The support from my writer friends keeps me going. When I have a bad writing week or stumble through parts of my story, they are there to encourage and give me that much-needed push in the right direction.

Thankful: The writing community loves readers. We know without fellow book lovers, our jobs would be less rewarding.

Unbridled: Writers access their heart and passionately release it through words.

“Words are the voice of the heart.” Confucius

Dedicated:  The writing spirit is contagious, especially when you see people who write through all life's obstacles.

Efficacious: Writers “have the power to produce a desired effect.” Words are the power.

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” Anaïs Nin

As 2011 comes to a close, I want to thank all my newfound writer friends for their support. You know who you are. And a special thank you to readers, especially those who have read Depression Cookies.

I am particularly grateful for the following writing communities I found this year: Kait Nolan's A Round of Words in 80 Days, Rachael Harrie’s Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon, the SheWrites community, and Melissa Foster’s WoMen’s Literary Cafe.

December 22, 2011

The Gift of a Smile: Guest Post by my Mom, Angela Silverthorne

Please welcome my lovely mother to the blog again.


The Gift of a Smile

Ah, Christmas . . .

Jesus. Trees. Lights. Cards. Presents. Carols. Joy. Stockings. Friends. Family. And, Mama.

Mama was always the first one I thought of at Christmas. I’d get to buy her two presents. One for Christmas and the other for her birthday. I never forgot her telling me how she hated being a Christmas baby. She felt either Christmas or her birthday was always being slighted.

At 15, I went to work for Cato’s Department Store. It was the first time I ever had money of my own. That Christmas I bought my first present, and it was for Mama’s birthday, a lavender sweater.

On Christmas morning, we all opened our gifts. Mama had several. Most said, “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday.” She opened them, set them aside, and politely thanked everyone. I watched and waited.

Later that day, I slipped over to my grandmother’s house and baked Mama a birthday cake. More than anything, I couldn’t wait to see her face when I surprised her.

The next morning, I got up early, ran over to grandmother's and rushed back home with Mama's cake. Proudly I sat it in the middle of the kitchen table. Next I retrieved her birthday gift hidden under my bed, wrapped in the previous Sunday’s comic paper. I didn’t have any ribbon; so, I used a tattered scarf my grandmother gave me. Placing it next to the cake, I waited and watched.

Within minutes Mama came down the hall, sleepy-eyed and shuffling in the pink bedroom slippers she had gotten for Christmas. I watched her every move. When she looked up and saw the table display, she halted. I watched and waited. Then tears slid down her face one by one.

That’s the first time I remember seeing Mama cry. At first, I thought I had done something wrong. I felt a tightening in my chest. You know, the sudden kind only a 15-year-old can experience. Then in the middle of tears, she smiled.

Today, I saw the perfect sweater for my mother’s birthday. It would showcase her bobbed silver hair and blue-gray eyes. I held it up, and then held it close. Tears sprang up so fast I struggled to blink them away. Tenderly I laid it back down with the others, making sure I caressed it before walking away.

My mother’s birthday is on December 26. This is the third year I will not be able to be with her. She died in April 2009. The second year after her death, I did the same thing. But for a minute, I forgot about her death and started to call her to see if she’d like to be daring and go with a hot pink sweater. That time I did cry. Out loud and in public. I didn’t even try to squelch the grief and heartache of missing her.

The first Christmas without her, I ached—a deep, longing ache. I was numb, refusing to believe there could be a Christmas without Mama. I bought flowers and put them on her grave. Then I went out and bought her a navy sweater. It’s still wrapped. In comic paper. Tied with a tattered scarf. Under my bed, until our new dog found it. Now it’s safe in my closet.

I’ve decided when I die if anything can pass through the curtain of death, I’m dragging my present to Mama just to see her smile, one more time.

A smile. The gift of a lifetime and into eternity. 


Are you missing someone special this holiday season?

December 21, 2011

Sale or Clearance Values: ROW 80 Check In

I'll be the first to admit it . . . my to-be-read pile grows at an alarming rate when I see 99 cent eBook prices. My heart skips a beat, but my brain pauses. Wait, why is it 99 cents?

I love red tags and clearance. My kids constantly moan when I say I'm not buying something because it's full price. I'll wait for an item to go on sale and will rarely buy something at regular price. Sometimes the waiting makes me appreciate it more.

But there's a difference between sale and clearance. Don't get me wrong, the occasional amazing product marked down beyond all reason will produce an embarrassing squeal of delight from me. More often than not, however, I wonder why an item is on clearance. Is it defective? Unpopular? Not selling well?

As an author, I know the time and energy that goes into a novel or short story or even an article. A piece of me is in every work I produce, a little blood, sweat, and tears if you will. How do I assign a value to that? I'm also an avid reader, and I want to purchase as many books as I can.

Mom and I originally had a small press publishing our novel, Depression Cookies. The owner was a lovely man who encouraged us and was our editor. He helped shape our novel. Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly as we were nearing publication. We panicked. We didn't know where to turn. We turned the wrong way, to Xlibris Corporation. I would self-publish again, and have met an amazing community of independently published novelists, but I would never go through a company like this. However, those rantings are for another post.

Xlibris set our price. $23.99 for a paperback and $9.99 for Kindle. Highway robbery if you ask me. But they didn't. Mom and I sold 600 of our own books (which we purchased for $10+ a piece) for $15. Much more reasonable for a paperback. I didn't know about Smashwords for a long time, and then was completely daunted by it for a while longer, so I didn't think I had any control over my Kindle price.

We are happy to announce that we are in the process of uploading to Smashwords and will be promoting our book there soon.

But, back to pricing. What's a fair price but also shows value and worth? I don't want to turn off a reader, but I also don't want them to question the worth of the product. The reader should be thinking sale, not clearance.

What eBook price screams clearance/less value, and what price seems like a bargain/good value?


My Last ROW80 update for 2011:

I value my ROW80 buds and hope you will offer some guidance on the subject above, although I know many of you struggle with this question.

I've been hard on myself this round about not meeting goals, but I must say I've accomplished more writing this holiday season than I have in years past. Normally, I'd use the holidays as an excuse. Not this year. And I have all of you to thank.

I wish all of you the best of the holiday season and many words (and other blessings) in 2012. I'll see you in Round 1 2012!

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O'Brien

Thanks for encouraging my passion through support and shared knowledge. It's a gift I've appreciated receiving.

December 20, 2011

One Day Only, Just in Time for the Holidays!

My email box is full of amazing deals and bargains. Subject lines tempting me to buy one more gift at incredible prices. I don't need a new purse or sweater, but maybe I should just click the deal and find out. Right? So savvy.

But today I wanted to pass along a really great holiday treat. Today only, December 20, you can visit Nadja Notariani's An Author's Adventures blog and enter to win a signed copy of our novel, Depression Cookies. Our book is the Day 11 feature of the 12 Days of Christmas Reading List promotion. Leave a comment and you are entered. It's that simple.

If you already have a copy of our book, please feel free to enter for a gift copy. I'm sure there's a mother or daughter in your life who would enjoy the book.

About Depression Cookies:

2011 Readers Favorite Book Awards, Silver for Realistic Fiction & Finalist Chick Lit
2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Finalist Chick Lit

Depression Cookies is a coming of age story woven around the heart of family triumph. It is told from two distinct vantage points, middle-aged mother, Abby, and her teenage daughter, Krista.

Abby is buckling under the weight of a husband who is climbing the corporate ladder, three daughters each with their own unique needs, a mother who is going off the deep end and family health issues. As she is meeting everyone else's needs, her own keep surfacing. She feels she is losing parts of herself daily and doesn't know how to handle the stress and conflict. All she truly wants is a little magic in her life.

Krista is thirteen, battling acne and low self-esteem, when her father waltzes in and announces the family is moving again. Instead of letting fear and anxiety rule her life, she is determined to survive the trenches of teenage cruelty and family issues without completely losing herself in the process.


Good luck. Mom and I wish you and yours the best this holiday season and into the new year!

December 19, 2011

Gifts: Waiting and Willpower Not my Strong Suit

I'm a kid at heart, and nothing brings that out in me as much as the holidays. I don't like surprises and have no willpower, so it should not come as a shock that waiting until Christmas day to open presents is difficult for me.

This has only become worse as an adult. I know, I'm supposed to be more mature. Problem with getting older . . . I have gained the knowledge necessary to justify my impatient actions. Each time I was pregnant, I was chomping at the bit to know the sex of my baby. My husband could have waited until the birth, but not me. I had to know. It was still a surprise, just a quicker one.

My family has learned not to send my Christmas gifts early. Instead of just shaking the package or ripping a small corner to figure out my gift, sometimes I'll just open it. I'm an adult. Who says I have to wait until Christmas or my birthday? It makes my family crazy, so they cut it so close with my presents now that sometimes they are late.

Don't worry. I don't let my kids peek. But I do peek at gifts people send my kids. I don't know why. It's a bit of a sickness.

For our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband wanted to surprise me with a trip. After I asked a zillion questions, he finally told me. It was a wonderful trip to Costa Rica, made no less special because I knew in advance.

My sister, Dana, even holds birthday cards to open on her birthday. Forget it. I'd walk by those cards a couple of times and it'd be all over. So I just open them as they come in. This way I spread the pleasure over several days.

Do you like surprises? Does it bother you to have gifts sitting around for weeks? For the moms out there, did you find out the sex of your baby before delivery?

Please tell me I'm not the only grown woman who can't bear to wait for fun stuff!

December 18, 2011

Tis the Season: ROW 80 Check In

Tis the season to make lists, check them twice, try to figure out who's been naughty and nice, decorate the house, wrap the presents, make many sweets, and spend time with family. What it has clearly NOT been the season for . . . getting writing done.

I have good intentions and lofty ambitions. Maybe it's all the sparkling lights around me. I'm just too easily distracted. My parents came in this week to celebrate an early Christmas and my dad's 62nd birthday. If you missed yesterday's post from him, please check it out here. He passes on some wonderful wisdom.

I wrote posts ahead of their visit and edited once everyone went to bed and into the wee hours of the morning. But I did all of this so I could enjoy my family time. Mom and Dad left this morning, after we made many wonderful memories and way too many sweets. Today was going to be my catch up day.

Someone please remind me weekly . . . I should never bank on Sundays for catching up, because clearly my children have the same plan. Today, I helped catch up my sixth grader on unknown equations, my fourth grader on a surprise teepee building expedition ("I forgot" is how that started), and my first grader with the three books she needed to read. By the time all of this catching up was done, good old Mom was left sitting at her computer at 8:30pm writing this post.

Guess who is catching up tomorrow, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and . . .


So, really this is my ROW80 update. Little else to say. I did finish the initial edit of my nonfiction editing job. It was a huge challenge, but I'm happy with my work. It is now back in the author's hand. Now I need to turn my attention to two other editing jobs and my own writing.

Reading was pathetic this week. I didn't even get around to many ROW80 updates. Something I'm going to remedy tonight. This Wednesday, the last ROW80 check in for this year!, I'm going to respond to all the linkys. I like to do that at the end of each round. I did post daily here, but only due to sheer determination and my NaBloPoMo commitment. Mom in Love with Fiction only saw two posts this week.

Exercise and sugar . . . dare I even mention those? Mom made Oreo truffles, cake, Ritz crackers covered in chocolate, chocolate dipped pretzels, and I made sugar cookies for neighbors. Let's just say I licked my fingers way too much. I'll get back on the wagon this week, and then fall off Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

I hope my ROW80 writer friends have been able to look past the sugar and twinkling lights better than I have. I still have until Wednesday to show some progress . . . that's my goal. Some editing and writing progress. It's vague, but it is year-end.

Watch out for me in Round 1 2012. I plan to start strong out of the gate and sprint to the finish!

December 17, 2011

Triple Whammy Gifting: Guest Post by My Dad, Dallas Silverthorne

Today is my Dad's 62nd birthday. To celebrate the occasion, I asked him to write a blog post about his most memorable gift. I know, I'm a sweet daughter... what can I say?


Tia asked me if I’d send her a blog post based on what I thought was one of the many gifts I had ever received that stood out as impressionable. Admittedly, she had to explain what a blog post was. But I agreed.

The list was numerous, from childhood memories of simple, country Christmases, where my favorite gift was contained in a penny candy bag filled with nuts, an orange, an apple, and two chocolate covered cherries; to countless ones spent with my daughters.

But I decided to write the one I felt has impacted my wife, children and me more than any other.

For months, I had been dreading my 50th birthday. 50? And on top of it, my daughter had just announced I was going to be a grandfather. Grandfather? What happened to the debonair young man who could fly a Frisbee halfway across a football field and do kip-ups to impress his adoring daughters? Gray hairs were sprouting. I was falling asleep at the drop of a hat . . . no, before the hat fell! What was happening to me?

Two weeks before that dreaded day, I had a physical. I left more dejected. High cholesterol. Zocor prescription in hand. I jumped into my red corvette and stomped on the gas petal, spinning clear of the doctor’s office. Heading back to work, I vowed I would get to my 50th, telling anyone who would listen that I had gone 50 years without meds. I would remain in control as long as possible.

On the Friday before my birthday, my wife and youngest daughter announced they were taking me to dinner. Frankly, I wanted to go home, settle in my easy chair and be alone. But how do you tell two excited women that you wish they’d go alone? So I went.

They took me to a nice restaurant. It was way too crowded. Too many people dropped by with greetings. A lot of them worked for me, so I feigned warm greetings. Couldn’t they all see the sign on my forehead, “Middle aged crisis brewing! Beware!”

Halfway through dinner, I happened to look across the room and almost fell out of my chair. It was my two brothers and their wives.  My head couldn’t spin fast enough. I looked dead-on at my wife. “Tell me you haven’t planned anything for my birthday.”

From their adoring, excited looks I knew something was coming. And for one moment, I was furious. I felt deceived. Hadn’t I told them not to do this? Before I could chew into them, I saw my family moving my way, smiling broadly.

Everything I had been feeling brewed sour. The next day, the doorbell kept ringing. One daughter arrived from New York. The other from Chicago. My brothers called and asked me to meet them for lunch. I wanted to run, but instead, I acquiesced and went.

Finally my wife confessed there would be a small gathering. Small?  By 7pm, 125 guests had arrived. Despite how I was feeling, the evening proved wonderful. The roasting was kind, and I poured my humor out in rare form.

Afterwards, I realized how special the celebration had been:
1. Turning 50 didn’t hurt. In fact it was a blessing of love that still humbles me.
2. GE stock split 3 for 1, first time in my 27 year employment.
3. I made it to 50 without taking one ongoing medication.

Looking back, I realized that was a pivotal time, not just a half century birthday. It reminded me:
1. Life is short.
Dad and his first grand-daughter, Jackie
2. A grandchild was on the way. My legacy would go on.
3. The added stock value beefed up my savings to finalize my dream. Retirement.

And for the first time in my life, I embraced the fact that I had:
1. Missed the mark—leading an unbalanced life.
2. Missed out—not being available for precious moments.
3. Missed life—no time for anything beyond 7 to 7 work days.

More than anything in my life, I wanted to:
1. Spend more time with God.
2. Enjoy my family.
3. Give to others.

So in the end, and reflecting back today, I realize that my 50th birthday began a new venture in my life. A new beginning. A lot of blessings. One of the biggest gifts I’ve ever received. A triple whammy multiplied many times over because I’ve been present in love rather than being absent in guilt.


As you age, what is your greatest gift?

December 16, 2011

The Gift of Yummy

Earlier this month I shared my great-grandmother's amazing banana bread recipe. Today, I want to share another yummy recipe from my mother, a 16 layer cake.

I've yet to try this recipe without Mom around, because it requires both skill and patience. When it comes to cooking, I'm a devoted recipe follower. I measure and re-measure, check and recheck. My mom is a "throw it in" lady. Sometimes trying to get a recipe out of her is madness. I have to watch, take careful notes, and try to ascertain what a "dollop" is.

This cake is delicious, gorgeous, and most importantly... equal parts cake and icing. Once you try it, you won't go back to regular cake. It's addictive.

Mom has gotten as many as 16 layers. I feel happy to get 12 to 13. My family is evenly split between chocolate and vanilla lovers, so we always have what I affectionately call the Jekyll and Hyde version to make everyone happy.

Since I've only made this with Mom, it's as much about the memories as the cake.

16 layer Cake
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Cake Mix
6 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Grease and flour cake pans. Use only enough batter, about 1/4 cup, to spread across pan. It will barely cover it!

Bake cake layers approximately 3 minutes. You want them to be shiny and not brown around the edges. Invert layers immediately onto wax paper. Continue baking layers until batter is used. you should get 14-16 layers from one box of cake mix.

Place cake layer on plate and spread approximately 1 tbsp of icing on a layer (you want it to be a thin coating), keep repeating until last layer is used. Use rest of icing to ice the sides and top of the cake.

Bonus: Mom's Icing
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
1 box confectionery sugar, sifted
6 tbsp milk (scant more if icing becomes too dry)
sprinkle of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in a glass bowl and microwave for two minutes. Stir.

If too thick, thin it with a bit more milk. Mom usually uses two batches of this icing recipe to ice her cake. I use store bought icing, so I'm fine. ;-)

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

December 15, 2011

Smurfette and a Gold Frame

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Alexander Pope

At first this quote seems depressing. Who wants to go through life expecting nothing? After all, it's the Christmas season. I spend months in preparation just so December 25 is full of special memories and happy children and family. And, to quote Shakespeare, therein lies the rub.

I build up the holidays and birthdays so much in my mind, I'm often left with a lingering sense of disappointment. It's slight, but nagging. My children constantly hand me altered and re-prioritized lists, and I run around trying to make them happy. I send out 150 Christmas cards, bake cookies for neighbors, and give gifts to everyone from the mailman to the office staff at school.

One of my dearest friends shocked me in college... her parents didn't make a big deal out of birthdays. What? I was floored. Not make a big deal out of birthdays. I'd never heard of such a thing. But she always seemed happy on her birthday anyway. To this day, I try to do special things for her birthday.

I'll never forget one of my birthdays. We had just relocated to Wilmington, NC. As usual, we moved during the summer close to my August birthday. I remember sitting on some boxes opening gifts. Later that night, I cried in my room. My presents: a Smurfette and a gold frame. Mom consoled me, and reminded me I had asked for both of them.

For years, I used the Smurfette and gold frame as a tale of parents being out of touch and not caring about their teenager. Later it become a running joke in our family. Any bad gift was compared to my teenage travesty.

Now, as a mother myself, I realize my poor mom was in the middle of yet another move and probably went out of her way to find two of the items I had mentioned. In her stress and chaos, did she mistake a one-time statement about liking Smurfette as a gift request? Maybe. But now the Smurfette and gold frame no longer represent a bad gift. They represent a mom who loved me and was trying her best.

In the spirit of the perfect Christmas or birthday, I often create high expectations for my children and myself. Expectations none of us can live up to. It's virtually impossible to expect nothing from big events, but I am learning to downplay the idea of perfection and highlight the fun in trying my best.

Just the other day, we made a batch of cookies. They came out looking pathetic and flat, more like cookie pancakes. We laughed it off, got out every color sprinkle we could fun, beautified those babies, and ate them. Each of my girls said they were the best cookies ever. Were they? No, but the laughter sure did make them sweeter.

Wishing everyone a beautifully messy holiday, full of endearing mistakes and memories!

Funny aside: Sure enough my middle daughter asked for a Smurfette and frame for her birthday, so the picture is from her set. I got quite the chuckle out of buying it for her!

December 14, 2011

Better to Give or Receive: ROW80 Check In

Yesterday, BlogHer's NaBloPoMo asked:

Which do you enjoy more: receiving or giving?

Each time I give a gift, I receive a special reward. I receive that warm, fuzzy feeling of making someone happy. When I receive a gift, I give thanks. The two go hand in hand.

I won't lie. I love the anticipation of opening a package. Your senses take in all the data first. Package size, weight, who it's from. Then there's the shake test. Does something rattle? Sometimes the anticipation is as much or more fun than the gift itself.

On the flip side, the giver gets to enjoy someone opening a special gift. I appreciate when people call me to thank me for gifts received, but it's not the same as watching someone open a present. I really should get my children to open presents on Skype for our friends and family who can't be with us on Christmas.

The most special gift I've ever received (and I received it three times) required a lot of giving on my part. I've never anticipated a gift more than the births of my three beautiful daughters. Admittedly, the receiving was more enjoyable than the giving. Still, as soon as the doctor put my daughter in my arms, the labor was washed away. Or, maybe just dulled. When my preteen daughter gives me flak, I can remember the labor pretty intensely.

As an avid reader and writer, I love reading books as much as I love writing books. It's the same concept. With a book, the anticipation is examining the cover and reading the back summary. The story is a gift from the author. I equally enjoy being on the receiving and gifting end of books. Hearing a reader loved my book is as big a thrill as someone enjoying the sweater I gave them. And a handmade sweater at that.

What's more fun... watching people open gifts from you or opening your own gifts?

A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

First of all, I'm truly grateful for the gift of ROW80. I am a better writer with all of your support and guidance.

Writing: More like brainstorming. Some writing (1,500 words), but more hours (5 hours). Switching between projects is still proving daunting for me. Hoping to get the hang of it soon. One novel is about to get to the meaty parts, so I think that's be easier. Two books in the beginning stages is draining.

Blogging: I'm having fun with blogging. Posting daily here and averaging at least three times a week on Mom in Love with Fiction.

Miscellaneous: There are so many great blogs and so little time. Still, I try to keep up. I'm looking forward to some down time over the holidays (I'm going to pretend I didn't hear sarcastic laughter. There has to be some down time coming soon!), and catching up.

Exercise: Much better. I actually ran one of my three miles yesterday while talking on the phone with my sister. I was pretty proud of my multitasking, until my breathing got a little heavier. All of the sudden my sister starts laughing and says, "Oh my God. Are you running?"

With the craziness of year-end and the season, how are my writer friends holding up?

December 13, 2011

The Gift of a Good Book: Shades of Gray, Alan Holloman

Today I'm passing on the gift of a good book and a great deal. As a mom, this book was particularly haunting, because it made me consider how far I would go for one of my children. It's a strong and believable motivator.

I hope you enjoy the review and book event information.

Happy Holidays!

From Amazon:  How far would you go to save your child's life? Could you break the law? What if your travel business was suddenly in danger of going under because of 9/11? A single father decides to partner up with woman from the opposite side of the tracks. Can their partnership deliver the cash they BOTH desperately need? Could they fall in love? And will they survive to see the Summer of 2002?

Shades of Gray, the debut novel from Andy Holloman, examines the depths of a father’s love and the ramifications of desperate choices. John Manning and his daughter, Lucy, are driving home from a nice evening out when their car’s brakes malfunction. What initially seems like bad luck turns into a much darker story.

John hasn’t had it easy. When his wife leaves, his whole world revolves around Lucy. His successful business, a travel agency, is hit hard by the events of September 11, 2001. Then, he finds out his daughter has a rare kidney disease and will need a kidney transplant.

Desperation and fear drive John to extreme limits to save his daughter, especially after a fateful meeting with a former client, Wanda. Wanda loves her daughter and has found a way out of her own personal hell, a way paved with good intentions but criminal actions.

Every action draws the pair deeper into an intricate web of deceit and danger. The reader is compelled to turn each page, but not just to find out what happens next. There’s also an emotional connection to the characters. The twists and turns lead to an unexpected and heartbreaking conclusion.

Shades of a Gray is a must read for anyone who enjoys a captivating thrill ride with emotional investment.

Fun note: I’m from North Carolina, so I thoroughly enjoyed the North Carolina references throughout.

Rating: A very enthusiastic 5 stars.

For more information, please visit the author’swebsite.

Disclaimer: I received this novel as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. A good review was not guaranteed or asked for. My opinions are my own.


What’s even better than a 5-star book? A 5-star book for 99 cents. December 13 through December 15, the WoMen’s Literary Café is hosting a Mystery & Christian Fiction Book Launch and 99 Cent Book Event featuring this novel and many others.  

For more information, please click the picture below.