Strong Women: #divorce

When I was trying to think of a tag line for my blog (and for my writing), I realized that something that most of my writing includes strong women, often dealing with scandal of one sort or another, and, last but not least, second chances. In Denim & Diamonds, Beth finds herself with a cheating fiance and a dead daddy. In a nice twist, her dead daddy leaves her his horse ranch, with a provision that she has to run it to get her inheritance. She takes the challenge, relieved at the chance to escape the chaos of her life and start over fresh.

broken-heartMost of my friends know I was married before, but it isn’t something I talk about a lot, largely because it’s not a part of my life I’m particularly fond of. It was flat out hard. My job was demanding and required a lot of travel (Kay & Ann Marie & Kim can back me up on that!). In hindsight, that may be the only reason the marriage lasted as long as it did. We were young when we got married. I was 20, he was 19. After five years of marriage, I came home from a business trip and a neighbor asked who the cute little green sports car belonged to that had been at the house while I was gone. Don’t get me wrong, there were problems before that. Arguments about money. Frustration about house work. He took a couple of late night calls from his employee, Chris. When I found out that Chris was short for Christine, and she drove a little green sports car, I knew. It cut like a knife. I confronted my husband, asked if the marriage was over, did he want a divorce. His reply? We can’t afford to get a divorce. NOT the answer I was looking for. In an odd way, I was relieved. The decision of whether or not to leave was no longer a difficult one. In spite of having a challenging job that I enjoyed, a home that I loved, and neighbors that were good friends, I picked up and moved. In order to make it on my own, I needed the love and support and security that home provided. I didn’t move home with the parents, but to a nearby town.

It was hard. Flat out HARD. Leaving behind the life I’d built was difficult, but the hardest part was admitting failure. My marriage had failed. The how didn’t matter. The first night in my new apartment (in a bad part of town – it was all I could afford), I curled up in the fetal position and cried myself to sleep. I allowed myself that night to mourn the death of my marriage. Then I made a conscious decision to look forward. I felt like I’d wasted five years of my life, and was ready to get on with life.

Second Wedding (and my stepdaughter!)

Second Wedding (and my stepdaughter!)

I reconnected with friends from high school (hi, Denise!). After working as a professional at a college, I found myself working nights at a telemarketing company selling children’s books and encyclopedias. Quite a fall for me. Finally got a job as a receptionist at a law firm, which led me to the career that I love. Met my now-husband. We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary (we all look real happy in that pic in the upper left, right?). My life is sooooo much better than it was. I’m so much happier than I was. And I am stronger than I thought I was at the time.

In my writing, I often draw upon those feelings – the fear of being alone, feeling like a failure, the sadness, the anger, the hurt, the betrayal – to make my characters more real. I’m drafting the second novel in the Diamond series, and it features another strong woman as the main character. I hope she turns out as strong as I think she is. I want my readers to experience the fear, anger, and happiness of my characters. And I hope, in some small way, it helps my readers through their own bad times.

Because, dear readers — just like me, just like Beth, you are stronger than you think.

 

Finding my Zen: Suffering

As I’ve mentioned before, I began exploring Buddhism after my therapist suggested I look into Mindfulness as a way to deal with the stress of the Empty Nest. To my surprise, I found a philosophy of life that resonated with me.

The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.

Lost . . .

Lost . . .

Personally, simply noting that fact was a huge step in the right direction. I made this Truth my own by recognizing that suffering is a natural part of existence. We come into the world screaming (being born can’t be that pleasant – good thing we don’t remember it!) and it ends in death. All around us there is sickness, injury, poverty and depression. Instead of wallowing in that and focusing on the negative, I recognize that it is. Instead of fretting and worrying about the existence of suffering, I see life with a realistic view and can then focus on action and do something about it. Though my goal is happiness, I know that there is suffering. It is not something to dread. When I have a bad night, when the tears just won’t stop, I accept that suffering without judgment and move forward, ready to tackle the day without trying to analyze the feelings of the night before.

Acceptance is the first step. Then we can move forward.

 

 

 

Hey, baby . . . you wanna?

I get so frustrated with the lack of personal responsibility in our society. The current wave of public opinion on sexual harassment drives me crazy. Victim blaming is flat out WRONG. Every day, I drive past female college students with words on their rear ends, running with ear buds in their ears, oblivious to everything but the phone clutched in their hands. Let me be clear: assault is NEVER okay. It is never the victim’s fault. But it IS our responsibility as women to protect ourselves.

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Jodie Foster in The Accused

The comments I read in a Huffington post piece infuriated me, and I am deeply concerned about the sexually charged culture of our schools. Victim blaming is nothing new. Remember the movie, The Accused?

Can we agree that no means no? Can we agree that rape, assault, and harassment is never okay?

But here’s the thing – drinking and driving isn’t okay either. Driving recklessly is wrong. Yet I still get in a vehicle with airbags, put on my seatbelt, and drive defensively. Burglary and home invasions are wrong. Yet I lock my doors, don’t open the door to strangers, and have a security system (and my husband and I are both pretty handy with a gun). What I’m saying is to think about your actions. Just as I try to make myself a less attractive target in a parking lot by walking with purpose, with my keys in my hand and looking around. Women can do things to make themselves a less attractive target.

It is time for women to start ACTING defensively. Take responsibility for your own protection. What are some things women can do to protect themselves?

Dress appropriately. I’m not saying you can’t dress sexy. Go for it. But there’s a difference between dressing sexy and dressing in a way that gives a bad guy easy access. I recently saw a picture of a young woman who was very nearly a victim in an underage club that had a “rape room” in the back. She was literally wearing a bra and a mini-skirt that was so short you could see her thong. I thought at first that she’d been attacked. Then it came out in the news report that she was just dancing. That was her club attire. I am NOT saying she is to blame for what she was wearing, but I am saying that she was an easy target.

Use the buddy system. If you go to a party, have a buddy. Agree that you will keep each other in sight, and look out for each other. Any time you are alone, you put yourself at risk of attack.

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy

Choose your (potential) sexual partners wisely. Make sure you know someone (and trust them) before you are alone with them. I’m a bit twisted and read a lot of serial killer stuff. That handsome guy you fall for at first sight might not be such a nice guy. Ted Bundy was handsome and likeable and seemed trustworthy, too. And in more recent times, we heard about the Craigslist Killer.

Limit alcohol and drugs. You can not be fully able to protect yourself if you are impaired, and if you are impaired, you may allow yourself to get into a dangerous situation.

Be aware of your surroundings. Know who you are with. Know where you are. And see the previous point. If you’re totally wasted to the point that you can’t even say no, you’re not aware of your surroundings.

Take a self defense course. I have my conceal & carry. The class was about so much more than just carrying a weapon – a good part of the class was about being aware of your surroundings, how to get out of a scary situation, and how to spot red flags that should put you on high alert. Most colleges offer self defense classes through their campus police departments, and so do many martial arts gyms.

Those are my tips. What do you want your daughters, sisters and friends to do to protect themselves? What do you do to protect yourself?

And if you’re looking for an escape from reality, join Beth and Beau at the Diamond J Ranch in my book, Denim & Diamonds.

#ScrapRack

I tend to start thinking about organizing and cleaning up in the fall. Maybe it’s the start of school, the time that I used to start fresh. Last fall I signed up to take Tiffany’s Get Organized Challenge, after I bought myself a ScrapRack the previous Christmas. The Challenge was good. It made me think about how I scrapped, and forced me to evaluate how I stored all the goodies I’ve accumulated. This fall, I signed up for the challenge again. It has been good for me. I’m now on Week #5. The payoff? I’ve actually scrapped two nights this week. Just went in for an hour or so after work and created.

If you are a scrapbooker, I recommend the ScrapRack. It’s a great way to store your paper and embellishments so you can maximize your crafting time. An even bigger bonus: you’ll save money. Once you see what you have, and pull everything together, you will begin to purchase with intention.

Another bonus: you’ll begin to organize other parts of your life. I am a writer. Though usually scattered in my approach to writing, I’ve begun to focus my efforts. The book I am currently editing needed several major changes: (1) the insurance payout had to be denied, (2) the poison needed to be changed from melamine; (3) the heroine needed to be better defined, and (4) the passive voice needed to be cut. Instead of half-ass attacking all items in one massive pass, I am approaching it step by step.

How do you organize your hobby? Do you find that something that works with organization in one area of your life affects other areas?

#Introvert

Decorations

Decorations

Yesterday we hosted a BBQ to celebrate my step-daughter’s graduation from college. I’m so proud of her, and was thrilled to host a party so that everyone could let her know what a big deal this is and how much we all want to support and encourage her. It was wonderful, and I had a good time.

But here’s the funny thing. I dreaded it. The idea of having lots of people here. Wondering if everyone would have a good time. Trying to figure out how much food for how many people. Thinking about drinks. What about alcohol? Good idea? Bad? I didn’t get all the decorations done. It was hot. Would people get too hot? Were there enough chairs? How much tea did I need to make? The house was a mess. I couldn’t clean fast enough. I hauled 2 boxes of stuff to the Salvation Army.

The Grad

The Grad

And now that it’s over, I’m exhausted. Totally and completely exhausted. Drained.

I think it’s because I am an introvert. I’m happiest when I’m alone. Would be perfectly happy as a hermit, most of the time. Some people freak out being alone, wondering what they’ll do, how they’ll survive. I’m the opposite. I need time alone to recharge. And, I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of my stepdaughter, who is such a happy, delightful person – someone that everyone enjoys being around. She just makes you smile. Proof is in the pic. ;o)

How about you? Introvert? Extrovert? Whichever – how to do you recharge?

BOOK TOUR: #SpecialRun by Lena McCoy (and a #giveaway!)

specialruncover

add-to-goodreads-button

Special Run: If an animal spoke to you, would you listen? Botanist/psychokinetic Katrina Ormstead created a super hash. A variety of marijuana she calls MAGIC. Before she can share her successful medical findings with the scientific community, she’s murdered. There is, however, one witness begging to come forward. Special is Katrina’s wolf-hybrid dog. She saw her mistress die. She wants revenge. Now she has to convince food photographer, animal psychic and Katrina’s best friend Wheat Keigwin of the same thing. Together, dog and woman dedicate themselves to solving the mystery behind Katrina’s death.

“Trust me, if you’re an animal lover, a paranormal fiction follower, a reader of rom-coms, or a murder mystery aficionado, you should really buy this book.” Charlie Bray’s Indi Book Reviews, The Indietribe Newsletter – Read the whole review at: http://eepurl.com/Pd4gv

I just finished reading Special Run and am thrilled to have the author with us today (and please keep reading – my review follows her post). I asked her to tell us about strong characters, because her main character, Wheat, was so appealing to me. Lena, welcome – and please, tell us about Wheat and how you came to write such a strong character!

When the story Special Run came to me in a dream, my character, Wheat Keigwin, was born.
Special Run literally came to me in a dream. The urge to write the outline was so powerful when I woke the next morning, the first thing I did was find a pen and pad of paper. Besides the outline of the story, I wrote the descriptions of the main characters and a young Meg Ryan became Wheat Keigwin.
Physical description aside, as I studied my notes, I realized in my dream Wheat was a fearless, no nonsense woman. It wasn’t until I started writing the story that I realized she was an accumulation of the women I’ve known.

I’ve been surrounded by strong women my entire life. How could my character be anything less?
I knew from the start Wheat would not be some bumbling damsel in distress, tripping her way through the book. She is a character that meets challenges head on. As an author I know I bring my own experiences into my writing. I tribute my life growing up in rural America with the way I view and grow my characters.

Like me, Wheat grew up with women who put the Nike™ brand to the test. “Just Do It” could be the mantra for all farm and ranch women. Without a grocery store around the corner, you learn to plan in advance or use what you have for food. You’re creative when it comes to making a costume for Halloween. You do chores, take care of your husband and your children and still find time to make quilts for the less fortunate.

I grew up in a home with no complaining. You did what you had to do to accomplish a task. You had to take care of your animals no matter what the weather or time because they provided for you – money and food. You ate the food God provided and thanked him for a full belly. Even when Wheat is afraid, she knows it is no use panicking because it won’t change the outcome. Underlying that fact, I know she believes in God and knows her fate, whatever it is, is in his hands.

Because of Wheat’s personality I had to find a way to make her grow and change. Facing an inner demon and being true to her best friend allows Wheat to use her psychic ability in a positive way. She has mixed feelings about an old love interest and struggles to sort the emotions. However, because of her inner strength, the decisions she makes or based on her core values.

Currently I’m working on the sequel to Special Run called Bulldog Fall. Wheat Keigwin once again is an amateur sleuth with a dog in need and a mystery to solve. Wheat is the conduit that helps a dog bring a killer to justice.

In progress concurrent with Bulldog Fall is an unnamed thriller I’m writing. Once again my protagonist, Mesa Stone, grew up on the farm. It allows me to use my life experience to create a strong woman. She knows about bailing wire and she isn’t afraid to use it!

REVIEW (note: a copy of the book was provided to me in return for an honest review)

What initially drew me to this story was the setting. We’ve vacationed in Colorado and I could totally picture a desolate huddle of buildings squatting in the harsh landscape east of the Rockies. The characters were believable and layered. As an animal lover, the power that allows Wheat to communicate with animals was appealing. As a mystery lover, I was drawn to the possibility that a dog could assist with an investigation, and bring a murderer to justice.

The story begins with Wheat as she returns to her Colorado hometown after her best friend is murdered. We quickly learn that this isolated town is much more than it appears to be at first glance. Hidden from the rest of the world by a protection spell, the town harbors a unique collection of talented folks who have powers that vary from the ability to heal animals to call fairies.

I have to admit, the beginning chapter was difficult to read when Kat and her dogs are shot. The idea of the wolf-cross Special dragging her battered body across the blood-soaked ground to protect her mistress was heart wrenching. And that was exactly what kept me reading. Special witnessed Kat’s murder and, thanks to Wheat’s talent of talking with animals, the dog has the ability to bring her mistress’s killers to justice. After a wreck in an old grain truck that seems a bit too convenient to be just an accident, Wheat loses her ability and must depend on traditional investigative skills to find the bad guys. The local Sheriff, who runs with the pack of wolves during the full moon, does his best to combine police work with the talents of the townspeople to find out who has broken through the umbrella of protection to hurt one of their own.

Quirt, a federal agent with a K9 partner, Blow, comes to town to investigate a tip about drugs. Kat was working with a unique strain of potent marijuana called MAGIC that has amazing powers. The plant holds the secret to healing diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, but the potential for success may have died with Kat. Was Kat killed for the miracle drug? Will Quirt find his rightful place with his pack? And will Wheat accept her power . . . and finally open her heart to true love?

The action is well-written and the story compelling. The story was strong enough to overcome a few minor typos here and there. Occasionally I lost track of the characters and their connections. There are quite a few secondary characters, with a variety of powers, and at times that can be a bit overwhelming. Overall, though, the story was engaging. I recommend it for readers who enjoy paranormals or mysteries. I also recommend it for animal lovers who are looking for something beyond the typical dog story. Overall, I give it 4 stars.

Buy Link:

Amazon

 

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An agriculture journalist, Lena Jo McCoy has worked in the print-media fields, both newspapers and magazines and has spent most of her life devoted to agriculture. Lena Jo has long admired the works of animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, Cesar Milan as well as the farmers and ranchers she’s written about and is dedicated to the humane treatment of all animals. When she is not playing servant to her two English Bulldogs, Lena Jo finds herself at the computer writing the next story.

You can find her here:

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Enter to win one of ten print copies of Special Run. Available to US addresses only. Enter through Goodreads.

#RIPArleneMartel

After the shock of losing Robin Williams yesterday, I was so sad to hear the news of Marlene Artel’s passing. I had the pleasure of meeting her last spring at the Chicago Star Trek Convention. She was an absolute delight. In honor of her memory, I decided to share my previous post this evening:

Arlene Martel

Arlene Martel

Arlene Martel was the first celebrity I saw at the Star Trek convention in Chicago in May 2013. I passed her in the hotel lobby with a fairly large man accompanying her. She was so elegant, with her striking good looks, dark hair and large sunglasses. At first, I thought she was Joan Collins. She nodded to me and said, “Good morning.” I was agog – a celeb spoke to me! But who was she? Would Joan Collins actually make an appearance? I knew she had been a guest star, but nothing had been said in the emails from Creation about her. When I got in the vendors area, I spotted her and immediately noted the pictures on her table – she was Spock’s wife! It was Arlene Martel! If you don’t know anything about Arlene, please check out her website here. I made my way through the line and finally got up to her. I was trying to decide which photo to buy, and one photo was of her as Spock’s wife in Amok Time. She leaned over and said, “What the hell am I holding there?”

I laughed, looked closer and said, “I think it’s a ring.”

“Oh, yes!” she said as she settled back in her chair. “They had the most fabulous jewelry on that show!”

I leaned forward and whispered, “They didn’t let you keep it, did they?”

“Oh, no, we had no idea what we were making when we were making Star Trek. Like those ears in that photo,” she pointed to the picture of her with Spock, “Those ears hurt so bad and when shooting was over, I ripped them off and tossed them on the makeup table. Couldn’t wait to get rid of them. And someone told me they sold at auction for $35,000. And I threw them away!”

Arlene Martel: In Star Trek and The Twilight Zone

Arlene Martel: In Star Trek and The Twilight Zone

When I finally settled on the photo of her with Spock, we talked about the episode and had a hilarious conversation about Vulcans going seven years without sex. Arlene laughed and said, “Seven years – can you imagine? I couldn’t go seven days!”

Arlene was an absolute delight to meet. She actually spoke with me – not just at me. Asked my opinion about television and movies. I was so impressed with her. She and her husband have written a book about mental illness. She was such a delight, I can’t imagine her having any struggles. But after meeting her, I want to read more about her.

Rest in peace, Arlene. I am honored to have met you.

Virtual #BookTour: Sunshine Book Promotions

Do you like to win? Do you like free stuff? Pop on over to Sunshine Book Promotions today, read an excerpt of Denim & Diamonds and sign up for a free Amazon gift certificate! Have you gotten your free ebook? If not, go get it!!

Bonus: Throwback Thursday picture from vacation 2010 at my favorite family vacation spot.

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Katelyn & me at Silver Beach

I Heart Reading: First #BookReview #4Stars

Going on this virtual tour hosted by Enchanted Book Promotions has been very exciting. The biggest part of this, for me, was getting a review. I was curious to see what someone who reviews books regularly would think of Denim & Diamonds. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. It could be good, or it could be bad. It took me a while to gather up

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Book Tour August 2014

enough courage to read the review. I finally did. And, yup, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Please, stop by I Heart Reading and see the review for yourself. Then pop on over to Amazon and download a FREE copy of the ebook for yourself.

If you enjoy reading, be sure to support the authors you like. Buy their books. Download free books (even if you already have the paperback!). Review their books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Goodreads. Tell people about their books. Your favorite authors will appreciate the love. 🙂

I Think I Have . . . oh, look! Shiny . . .

Before I forget . . . Denim & Diamonds is on Amazon! And it’ll be featured over on Under the Covers Book Blog today.

I’m pretty sure I have ADD. I am on a virtual tour this week to promote Denim & Diamonds, and have a book signing scheduled at Village Books this weekend. I took today and tomorrow off to promote. And I am having the hardest time focusing.

Case in point. I went to Youtube to find some videos on ADD. This is what I ended up watching.

Dog Commercial

Yesterday was even worse. I told the hubs I wanted to move our barrister book shelves from the breakfast nook to our living room. I moved a few things then realized it was nice outside and I headed outside to trim some limbs off the small trees that have sprouted up behind the house. Then I noticed the horses need water and filled their tanks. Then I realized the shade was already hitting the pool and decided to hop in. So, what did I accomplish? Not much.

Which brings me to today. My days off are precious. I have a limited number of minutes to spend promoting this book. I’ve got to get it together. So, I made a list on my new smart phone and I hope to power through that list over the next few hours.

So, do you have trouble focusing? If yes, what do you do to trick yourself into paying attention? How do you get things done?