Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pagan Spirit Gathering 2009--The Beginning of the Journey of the Rest of My Life

I'm finally home for awhile, which I’m sure my cats will appreciate. I may even get all of my July newsletters out on time! ;-) At any rate, the campground was cold and wet, then hot and sticky, and buggy, and we had to deal with porta-potties, but I survived living in a leaky tent for a week and managed to get to most of the rituals and workshops that I wanted to attend. Camp Zoe, Missouri is large and hilly and mobility was truly a challenge, but it was beautiful as well, and for someone whose idea of “roughing it” is a hotel room without a Jacuzzi, I think I did pretty well.

I was officially "croned" and am now considered an elder in certain circles. Pagan belief is that a female person goes through three stages—maid (from birth to having a child of your own); mother (from giving birth to menopause); and crone. The maid is carefree; the mother’s energy and wisdom are centered in her heart and radiate out to her family and friends and the rest of the world; and the crone’s energy and wisdom are held in her womb and shared with the discretion of experience. Becoming a crone means letting go of control of your children and grandchildren, but being there to dispense wisdom when they ask for it. Letting go has always been difficult for me, so this will be a major transition.

The main solstice ritual was planned by a theatre professor and moved me to tears. It also taught me something about myself and how much easier it is for me to be kind and loving toward others than toward myself. Learning to love myself is one of the challenges set for me for this next year, and that ritual helped me to take a big step in that direction. I can’t begin to describe this ritual, yet it is etched in my brain and will stay there for a long time.

We’re already planning for next year’s trip. We plan to acquire better quarters—at the very least a tent that has more space, is water-tight, and a more comfortable camp bed. We learned that if we bring an outdoor extension chord, we can have electricity in the disabilities camping area which means I can take my CPAP machine next year, and quite possibly a fan. I also need to find a stronger sunscreen for my face. Of course, what I would really like is a motor home.

More urgently, I need to manifest a new car. Mine is starting to have multiple problems and we were not able to take it on the trip. We rode with a friend in the cramped back seat of an “extended cab” truck with our knees beneath our chins and were besieged with delays caused by other members of our caravan. If I’d had my own car, we would have been out of the campsite two hours earlier and home a good six hours earlier than we were. I can’t even imagine how tired our driver was. Next year, we will plan to stop overnight if we need to.

Finally, one of the musicians told me that I should have planned to sell books at the event. Despite the fact that my books have nothing to do with paganism or mythology or any of the pantheons, methods of divination, or magic they would have sold well because I’m “one of our own.” I did give away several promotional post-cards, so hopefully they will translate to sales.

I am still tired from the trip, and will post this tomorrow. All I did today was rest. It was glorious, but now that I’m back to the real world, I need to go back to work. There are WIP’s percolating in my head that need to come out.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wow! What a Weird Month

It’s been quite a harrowing time around here. About a month ago, my Sweetie’s mother and brother were in a car crash. His brother was just a bit shaken up, but his mother, who is in her seventies, sustained a broken back and internal injuries. We drove up to Chicago to help out when she came home from the hospital. He has two brothers and a sister. Both brothers and two grandchildren live with her (one brother is going through a divorce), and we took over her care when the one who had been in the car with her went back to work. I helped around the house while Raymond cared for his mother. (She’s a very shy and insular person, and since we’re not married, I’m not family.) One benefit was that I bonded with his fifteen year-old niece, and another is that one of his brothers got free tickets to a Cubs game that weekend, and we got to go. Woo Hoo! Cubs won! We came home for a week, then went back up to help out a second week. And that’s when my problems started.

Driving home from Chicago, we were on the Tollway in a construction zone with no shoulders when it sounded as though there were rocks under the hood. We drove that way for a minute or two, then suddenly I lost my power steering, my water light went on and a moment later, my temperature gauge hit the red and pinged at me. We were about two miles from an exit and somehow I managed to coax the car along and turn off the main road onto the exit ramp and the shoulder with steam billowing from the right side of the hood. I knew I was risking doing more damage under the hood that way, but I figured it beat getting creamed by stopping in the middle of the traffic and being rear-ended by someone doing 70. We waited a couple of hours for a tow truck and the driver took us to a friend’s garage where I think we got scalped, and I don’t think they did the work right because I’m having more problems with the car. The serpentine belt had broken and they replaced two pullies as well as the water pump, which my daughter told me her boyfriend replaced last summer.

However, my judgment was clouded, as I injured my back climbing into the impossibly high tow truck. The VA said the x-rays showed that I had damaged but not herniated a disc. That, however, was a full week after the injury, and the least of my problems. When I got home, I figured that if I went to the ER the docs would tell me that I’d pulled something and send me home with pain meds and tell me to rest. I had pain meds at home (left over from an eye problem last fall) so I took them and rested. By Monday, the pain had spread from my lower back to my upper back and abdomen. I have a history of urinary infections and kidney stones so I went to the civilian ER in Champaign and told the docs that I thought I may have a pulled muscle and a kidney infection. They palpated my back, found tenderness in the area of my right kidney and a lower vertebra, took a urine specimen, and sent me home with muscle relaxers, antibiotics and more pain pills and told me to rest. By the weekend I was in agony, but I had an appointment at the VA on Monday, so I decided to just keep doing what I was doing and address it then. That very nearly cost me my life.

I hate water. I mostly drink flavored sparkling water, but I ran out and I didn’t have the energy to go out and buy more. Besides—even if I liked water, it hurt too much to get up and go into the kitchen to get a drink, and I doubt I could have lifted a pitcher of iced tea or filtered water. Sunday evening, I phoned a friend and asked if she could drive me to the VA which is about 45 miles from home, as I did not feel up to driving, and Raymond is legally blind. She agreed and by the time we got there, my mouth was so dry I could barely form words. My blood pressure was 80/40, which is quite low and an indication of dehydration. The VA did x-rays, another urinalysis, and blood work. The x-ray showed the damaged disk, and the blood work showed that I was in acute kidney failure. Had I waited another day to go in, I may well have died. The docs said that my kidneys have been damaged by all of the medication I’ve been on for so long and cut my meds in half. Of course, they admitted me. They kept me on IVs the whole time I was there, which re-hydrated me and brought my kidney function back up to about 60% which is not optimal, but OK. I don’t need dialysis or a transplant or anything like that. I came home two days later and have been lectured on the negatives of pop (including the flavored water I’ve been drinking) and the virtues of water by everyone with whom I’ve spoken since then.

I don’t know whether it’s the release from the pain I was in that week or what, but for the most part, I actually feel better on less medication. I am concerned about my diabetes, however, as they have taken me off of all diabetic medication since my last blood test was in the normal range. I argued that it was in the normal range because I was on medication and they said they’d been monitoring it while I was in the hospital and it had stayed normal there. I argued that I hadn’t liked much of the hospital food and hadn’t eaten much while I was there. They told me to keep a log of my blood glucose levels and blood pressure and to follow up in the clinic in a week. It will have to be a two week follow up, since I am going on a spiritual retreat in the Ozarks (leaving tonight) and will have to wait until I return to see the doctor.

So, that’s what’s going on in my world. I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last two weeks, and I’m really glad that I don’t have any editing deadlines to meet right now. I’m currently working on Crystal Lady, a contemporary romance which I may or may not publish under my own name, since I will need a new tag-line for the contemporary genre. But all of that will come with time. I have a very rough first draft and am working on the re-write, which I hope to finish by August first, and then send to a critique partner.

Meanwhile, my blog is open to guests. Please let me know what week you’d like and whether you’d like to blog on a topic or answer my interview questions. See you on the authors’ loops when I return home.

And don't forget: Rock Bound is still available at Red Rose Publishing! http://tinyurl.com/buyrockbound.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Hi! I’ve decided to open my blog to other writers so they can tell us something about their processes and what they’re working on, as well as about the books they have out now or are about to launch. Therefore, I’m delighted to turn the blog over to Delilah K. Stephans.

RIW: Tell us about yourself, your family, where you live…

DKS: I live in Mobile, Alabama. Except for Hurricane season it’s a great place to live – we have a couple of cold days in the winter but I hate cold so it works for me. I’m a boring person really. I stay at home taking care of my disabled husband and elderly father and writing, of course.

RIW: How many hours a day do you spend writing?

DKS: It varies – some days I write almost six hours, some days zero. It depends on what is going on and how motivated I am. But, I make it a point to do something related to writing for an hour every day. Sometimes that means reading a book on writing.

RIW: What is the best thing about being a writer?

DKS: I’ve always written. I think writing is a compulsion, you either have the desire to write or you don’t. The best thing about being a writer is sharing the stories that you’ve created.

RIW: Has your life changed since you became a writer?

DKS: According to my husband I spend more time online now and more money on books. Mostly I’ve made some wonderful new friends that have the same compulsion.

RIW: Who are your favorite authors?

DKS: Oh there are so many! Sherrilyn Kenyon I love her Dark Hunter series and the fact that she is not a plotter, but her books are woven together in that world so well. Angela Knight who always manages to have some twist I didn’t expect in her books. Alexis Morgan who has become a friend and managed to write the best first kiss I’ve ever read – I hold every first kiss between my couples up against that one and haven’t surpassed her yet. Sandra Hill she always makes me laugh. Jeaniene Frost who has a remarkable talent for writing in first person. Others are Kresley Cole, Lora Leigh, Lucy Monroe, Kerrelyn Sparks, Christine Warren, Nalini Singh, Kathy Reichs and I’ve just discovered Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast mystery series.

RIW: Who are your favorite characters among the books you’ve written?

DKS: Well having only two books contracted – my favorites are Sarah from Sarah’s Story who is a very spunky heroine. From my second book, Black Velvet – the hero took my heart from the moment he strolled in and said hi. Jett has to be the most stubborn, foul mouthed and honorable hero I’ve written. But what can I say – I like the bad boys with good hearts.

RIW: What makes a good book?

DKS: That is such a hard question to answer. Each reader brings something to the experience of reading a book. In a romance I’m looking for a book that makes me care if the characters get together. In a mystery I’m looking for a book that makes me think, but I despise mysteries where I figure out the who long before the detective.

RIW: How does reader feedback matter to you?

DKS: Reader feedback is the life’s blood of an author. Good or bad reader feedback makes a writer continue to grow and challenge themselves.

RIW: How do you celebrate the mile-markers of publishing?

RIW: Signing the contract!

DKS: The day I got word I was being offered a contract, my husband and I were checking out of a Biloxi, MS casino. He’d been offered a free room, so we took it. I was standing next to him when I decided to check if I’d gotten any messages from the hospital about Dad – nothing serious but he has multiple health issues and the doctors don’t take chances – and saw I had a voice mail. I stepped away from the counter and listened. I squealed! Got a bunch of strange looks but didn’t care.

RIW: Finishing Edits
DKS: I slumped back in my chair and relaxed. I had always thought finishing the book was hard – then I had edits. Not that I don’t love edits – I do! It gives me a chance to fix things that I see after I submit – but sometimes trying to find the right word to put somewhere – is painful.

RIW: Going over the ARC or galleys
DKS: That was a surreal moment. Looking at the final PDF file and knowing THIS is what is going to readers. I don’t really remember celebrating – just a lot of painful smiles. You know when you are smiling so wide your cheeks hurt?

RIW: Release Day!

DKS: I went a little crazy! The night before I couldn’t get to sleep until around 4AM . I was truly worse than a kid at Christmas. I guest blogged at 4 different sites – luckily I could write those in advance and send them in – I just had to visit each one and comment. Checked the Best Sellers list every five minutes – until lack of sleep caught up. When I came back from a two hour nap – I was on that list!

RIW: Where do you hope to be five years from now?

DKS: Writing! No seriously. I can’t think of anything I would rather do. I hope to be in print. And to travel more than I do now. But on the whole – I’m happy with my life now and I’ve realized a dream. What could be better than that?

Sarah’s Story – Available Now from Red Rose Publishing.

Buy Link: http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/index.php?manufacturers_id=163&osCsid=b703251a6475c1fbfba428b000569c25

Booktrailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1wUxeyC6HU


“Shall we begin?”
I nodded. “Please, I have a lot to do once I return home and this is delaying me from business I need to attend to.” The drink helped and my voice didn’t waver.
He nodded. “Very well. Your given name is Sarah?”
“Yes.” The question was typical but that hopeful gleam came into his eyes again. Weird.
“And your middle name?”
“Elizabeth.” What the hell was with these questions?
“I think we can skip some of these.” He moved his finger down the list, occasionally looking up at me and tilting his head to one side while giving me the once over. One time he leaned forward, squinted and stared at my nose.
I knew what he was looking at. “It’s a mole. I’ve had it forever.” I muttered as I rubbed my nose self-consciously. It wasn’t big, just a little spot on the side of my nose, near the base of the left nostril. You really had to look to see it. I hated it and even considered having it removed. I probably would when I got back to the twenty-first century, if I got back.
He smiled, then went back to his list, making affirmative noises as he continued his visual inspection of me. He paused at an item, a sensual smile quirking his lips. “No way to verify that one here.”
Strangely the comment made me think of my tramp stamp. I had gotten it on a dare in Vegas during spring break the year before I’d joined TDC. I’d been celebrating freedom from two over protective brothers and gone a bit wild. The tattoo was another reason there’d been no male visitors in ten years. How the hell did you explain a tattoo to someone from the 1800s?
Simply a rose and barbed wire vine with a dagger in the center that looked killer above the waistband of a pair of low riders , it held the power to convey celibacy onto a time traveler. Some days I hated it and it was looking like today was one of those days. I took another sip of my drink to cover my smile as I wondered what this Union soldier would think of my tat. I also knew that I definitely wanted to find out.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Third-Hand Smoke

A study was just released that claims that "third-hand smoke," the residue from smoking tobacco that clings to the smoker's clothing and furniture, can also be dangerous to the people to whom the smoker is close. A major debate is raging over at a blog called "Crooks and Liars" and this is my contribution thereto.

Yes--I'm one of those people who has never smoked and has been fighting for over thirty years for the right to breathe clean air. It's become even more of a passionate issue for me since I scarred my lungs cleaning my oven three times with "fume-free" oven cleaner and then baking right away with the windows closed one holiday season. Now I cannot tolerate smoke of any kind--wood smoke, incense--even lighting too many candles with the windows closed puts me in distress. But even before that, when my then-husband smoked, I would sometimes get migraines that started with the smell of stale tobacco left in the furniture, even when he was at sea on weekly ops. Some people mentioned the fact that other smells make them ill. The difference between cloying perfume and alcohol is that the fumes from cloying perfume will not kill you or cause long-term illness. Yes--it can be annoying, but it is not fatal, as fumes and residue from tobacco products can be.

I don't know how valid this “third-hand smoke” research is, but I have fought the good fight for public health and clean air at both the local and state level and I will continue to fight this fight--both in terms of individual pollutants such as tobacco smoke, and other types of pollution such as auto emissions. We have cars that run on hydrogen and give off water. Why are they not in mass production and quickly replacing gasoline engines? Because the oil industry lobby is as large as the tobacco lobby. I also fight to clean up industrial pollution.

In short, I fight for people's rights to breathe clean air wherever they are. The Declaration of Independence mentions three "inalienable rights." Smokers often turn to this document and complain that our attempts to remove the toxins associated with smoking from the air is our way of trying to take away their right to pursue happiness. Well, I was a medic in the Navy and I fought for life. I think there's a reason Jefferson wrote "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" in that order. You cannot enjoy liberty or pursue happiness from the grave.