Excuse me. Which way is my future?

You know those people who seem to shoot out of the womb knowing exactly where they’re headed and what they’re doing in life? Yeah. I’m not one of them. I’m a wanderer. I came into the world, blinked uncertainly and said, “Hmm. No thanks. I don’t need directions. I’ll just go this way for a bit and see if anything looks interesting…”

In the golden years of pre-school, I remember belting out “Singing in the Rain” from the side porch of the house, envisioning myself a world-renowned singer…until my imperfect pitch and fear of public performances killed that particular dream. But, no matter. By the end of third grade, I knew I wanted to become a vegetarian, because I wanted to work with animals for a living. By the time I’d figured out the difference between vegetarians and veterinarians, I’d also come to the conclusion that liking my pets and wanting to touch animal INSIDES were two very different things. Plus I liked bacon. A lot.

By the end of high school, I had matured. I knew that whatever my ultimate life path, I should probably earn a living, so I decided my college major should be business, because it involved money. This seemed a good place to start when planning for one’s future. I took accounting. And finance. And micro economics.

Along the way, I realized I enjoyed my English classes as much (okay, more) than my business classes, and shouldn’t I enjoy myself along the way? So I diversified. I added a second major.

By the time I’d graduated from college and begun my “real life,” I’d worked as a waitress, a data entry clerk, a warehouse employee, a fundraising consultant and a real estate appraiser. Notice the theme here? Me either. Clearly, I had education up the wazoo and no direction in life.

So I began to write a novel.

Before long, I was married, bought a house, and life gifted me another job (in government contracts and project planning for an engineering firm) and then, later, a position in marketing at a boutique investment firm. I had a baby.

The novel was very, very bad.

Years went by. And while life was–lovely–I was still wandering, searching for that thing, that purpose that would make me feel whole and happy. So, with baby #2 on the way, I asked the unthinkable: Would it be possible for me to stay home and become a (dare I say it?) romance novelist? Dearest Hubby, fearing the wrath of pregnancy hormones, said, “yes.”

I finished the novel. By this time, I’d learned to revise (mostly because those first chapters were sheer and utter crap and had to be obliterated.) But, I kept the basic premise and the names of the main characters, and before long I was joining my local writers group and submitting to an editor and… miracle of miracles… rejected. Turns out this happens a lot to novelists. But, I was nothing if not persistent. I wrote another novel. And another. And another…

It was not easy pursuing this new path in life. My business background told me the reality is that few novelists ever make enough to quit their day job. The English major in me wondered when I was going to write something “important.” But there was that little singer, vegetarian, pet-lover inside who knew that this was my purpose.

And, yes, It’s true that announcing one is a romance novelist is somewhat akin to announcing you are a stand-up comic. The pay is poor. The chances of making it ‘big’ are even worse. The jokes are built in. Maybe I haven’t plotted a straight course in life, but I’ve collected lots of story ideas along the way. And at the end of the day, I’m happy. We romance novelists leave the world a brighter place: a place where a smile, some laughter and a happily-ever-after are the reward for enduring the struggles, frustrations and heartache in life. And if that isn’t worth taking the long road, I don’t know what is. 🙂

So, do tell: are you a laser-guided, purpose-filled missile or a life wanderer? Share your story!

In gratitude to first-responders

I wasn’t intending to blog today, but I feel blessed and need to say, “thank you.”

You see, it’s a picture-perfect summer morning here in New Hampshire. Cool temps, blue skies… and sirens in the distance. For many of you, sirens may be so much background noise, but when you live in the country, it’s different. Questions immediately run through your head. Where are they going? How many are there? Who lives over there or commutes through there at this hour? Unlike more heavily populated places, sirens here mean there’s a high probability someone we know is in trouble. And the first-responders, too, are people we know: neighbors, husbands, fathers, wives…

My daughter at 18 MonthsI’ll never forget the night years ago when I was home alone with my two small children. My son was five, my daughter not quite eighteen months. I was in the kitchen getting ready for dinner, the kids in the living room, my daughter happily kicking a soft rubber ball… and it all happened so quickly. Her foot got caught and she fell backward on the hardwood floor. I swept her up and begged her to ‘breathe’ as her eyes lost focus and she fell limp and unconscious in my arms. The five year-old was old enough to understand what 9-1-1 meant, and I simultaneously tried to reassure him while I held my daughter and prayed she’d wake up and be okay.

It was only minutes before help arrived. The first person at my door? A dear friend and my daughter’s godfather. He isn’t technically in our town and it wasn’t his ‘jurisdiction,’ but he and his wife were eating dinner and heard the call go out on the scanner and knew who it must be. Soon others, neighbor EMTs, from up the hill had arrived. My friend (and godmother to my daughter) quietly came in the door and took my five year-old to her car so he’d be cared for while we assessed my daughter and determined whether we should transport her for evaluation.

And in those awful moments which, thank God, were short-lived, and in which my daughter came to and my husband finally arrived, I knew there was nowhere I’d rather live than here, in this community, where, yes, people know your business and your commuting schedule and what you look like without make-up but also where these same people will drop whatever they are doing–their ‘day’ jobs, their dinners and their own celebrations–to rush to help.

So, it wasn’t a shameless attempt to garner “hot hero” points when I made the heroes in my first two books volunteer firefighters. To me, they are the epitome of what is good and hopeful about living in a small town.

I do not know why the sirens were sounding this morning. But I am so very grateful to first-responders everywhere for answering the call–and to dear friends and neighbors who live life with courage and honor. If it’s only in fiction, I dedicate my happily-ever-afters to you.

If you would like to honor a first-responder in the comments section or share your own experience(s), please do. These men and women deserve to be recognized for their service!

Ta-da! The Big Cover Reveal

I clearly remember when the (now) 11 year-old would dress up in her fanciest princess dress, crystal jelly shoes, tiara and fairy wings and leap into the living room with a triumphant, “Ta-da!” She learned this theatrical entrance, of course, from her elder brother, who used to leap around, handily dispatching invisible storm troopers with his awe-inspiring light sabering maneuvers (while simultaneously terrifying his mother that he was going to break a window.)

Fast forward a few years, and our “ta-da” moments are fewer and farther between, which I think is too bad, because the whole deal with “ta-das” is that they are moments where you’re not afraid to have all eyes upon you as you leap onto the stage of your choosing and announce something wonderful. Shouldn’t we have more celebratory announcements?

Ta-da! You might say, I got out of bed this morning!

Or…

Ta-da! I made dinner for my whole family–again!

These may seem like small achievements, but if you don’t celebrate them, who will?

And so, TA-DA! Here’s the cover to my August release, Luck of the Draw!

Luck of the Draw book cover

I’m so excited to finally show it off! Isn’t it pretty? Doesn’t it look refreshing and cheerful? Don’t you just want to dive in?(Plus, I made dinner for my whole family–again! Woot!)

As adults, we tend to shy away from singing ta-da as often as we used to, and that’s a shame, because I firmly believe we all need our moments in the spotlight to shine. So don’t be shy. Share a ta-da! moment of your own below! Tell us about something you’re proud of accomplishing or just want to show off. There’s no need to feel silly. After all, you’re talking to a grown woman wearing a light-up butterfly tiara and waving a virtual book cover.  🙂