I say, why use labels? I’m uncomfortable calling myself anything other than a mother. That’s the one label I am comfortable with. I’m a mom first and foremost. A private investigator next, even though that is fairly recent. Seven years ago, I wasn’t a private eye, but a federal agent.
So, even that was subject to change. Perhaps someday I might find myself better suited for a different job, although I will always help those who need help. Although I’d always admired Judge Judy, I would never want to be in her position: to judge the actions of others. That took wisdom…a lifetime of wisdom. Technically, I’m only in my mid-thirties, although I look much younger. Still, far too young to judge others.
Truth was, my current lifestyle was perfectly suited to private investigation. Other than meeting new clients, who tended to want to meet during the day, I got along just fine working the night shift.
So, yes, one of the constants in my life was that I was a mother. Of course, even that was threatened just a year or so ago, when a rare sickness almost took my son from me. A son who was growing so fast.
I have a daughter, too. A daughter who offered many challenges, the least of which was that she could read minds as easily as she read her Facebook newsfeed.
Yes, I was a mother…and a sister. My sister has had a rough time of it, of late. She’s recently been introduced to the some of the darker elements of my world, and might be holding a grudge against me. But she would get over it. She’d better. I need her in my life.
Of course, there was another constant in my life…a constant that I ignored. A constant that I denied. And, as they say, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.
Denial is my sanity.
You see, I have to deny what I am. Who I am. Or I would go crazy. I know I would. In fact, a part of me is certain that I just might be crazy. But not let’s not go there.
Yes, call me anything. But please, just please, don’t call me a vampire.
At least, not to my face.
About the book, Moon River:
Seven years ago federal agent Samantha Moon was the perfect wife and mother, your typical soccer mom with the minivan and suburban home. Then the unthinkable happens, an attack that changes her life forever. And forever is a very long time for a vampire.
Now in MOON RIVER, private investigator, Samantha Moon, is asked to look into a string of bizarre murders, murders that are looking more and more like the handiwork of a bloodthirsty vampire. But when her sister, Mary Lou, goes missing, Samantha, Allison and Kingsley take the fight underground…into the dark heart of a vampire’s lair.
J.R. Rain is an ex-private investigator now writing full-time in the Pacific Northwest where he lives in a small house on a small island with his small dog, Sadie, who has more energy than Robin Williams. He will be publishing a slew of new novels over the next five years, so stop by often and check out what’s new.
As part of the blog tour for her newest book, She Ain’t Heavy, author Arnine Cumsky Weiss has written a lovely guest post for me about the benefits of joining a writing group, something I’ve always waffled about. I think it’s really appropriate considering the number of my friends and acquaintances who will be starting NaNoWriMo on Friday.
Five Benefits to Joining a Writing Group
by Arnine Weiss
I moved to New York City several years ago, kicking and screaming. My husband transferred here for a new job, and I learned that a mid-life move is not easy. I came from a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania where people on the street said hello and neighbors watched out for each other. I arrived in NYC to learn that the only people who will risk making eye contact with you are those with their hands out.
To make a better connection to the city, I registered for a writing class, which has evolved into a writing group. One of the highlights of my week is getting together with these fine folks and sharing our writing. I’ve realized there are five major benefits in belonging to a writing group.
It forces you to meet deadlines. We all have busy lives and best-laid plans are often thwarted. By making a commitment to yourself and your fellow writers, the group keeps you on task and forces you to produce the expected number of pages.
The feedback. The groups I’ve been involved with provide gentle, honest feedback while mutual respect is fostered. Our members come from a wide demographic, making the perspectives varied and more interesting.
Sense of Community. Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, and writers spend time with characters that often don’t talk back. It can be isolating and requires constant discipline. The writing group creates camaraderie with like-minded individuals who understand your struggles and celebrate your triumphs.
Familiarity. As your history grows with your writing group, your colleagues get to know your work and your characters, sometimes better than you do. I’ve heard comments like, “Oh, John would never do that.” Or “Mary would never say that.” They refer to your characters by name and know what they look like and how they behave. And the group will call you out if your work is not up to your professional standards.
And finally, the snacks! We meet in each other’s apartments and celebrate each other’s work in an atmosphere of collegiality while snacking on fun food. It’s always a joy to get together.
Joining a writing group has changed my outlook on living in a city that can be cold and unfriendly. We started out as colleagues and have evolved into friends and like any good relationship, most of us are in it for the long haul.
About Arnine Weiss:
Arnine Cumsky Weiss is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and a teacher of English as a second language. She has worked in the field of Deafness for over thirty years. She is the author of six books. BECOMING A BAR MITVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES, BECOMING A BAT MITZVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES (University of Scranton Press), THE JEWS OF SCRANTON (Arcadia Publishing), and THE UNDEFEATED (RID Press) and THE CHOICE: CONVERTS TO JUDAISM SHARE THEIR STORIES (University of Scranton Press). Her second novel, SHE AIN’T HEAVY (Academy Chicago)was published in June, 2013. She is married to Dr. Jeffrey Weiss and is the mother of Matt, Allie, and Ben.
Just when counter clerk Teddy Warner is about to be evicted from her Scranton apartment, she bumps into beautiful, brilliant, blond Rachel – her estranged childhood friend whose mother forbid their friendship thinking Teddy was beneath them.
Teddy and Rachel reconnect over hot chocolate and under New Year’s Eve fireworks. Their discussion leads to an invitation. Soon, Teddy’s on her way to Philadelphia, where Rachel is a student, to share an apartment and begin an exciting new life in the City.
Teddy views Rachel as perfect. Rachel can’t bring herself to shatter the image by letting on that she is having an affair with a married man. Just when Teddy is starting to feel at home, Rachel insists on some privacy. Acting out her anger at being asked to stay away, Teddy indulges in a one-night stand.
When Teddy returns to their apartment the next morning, Rachel is being carried out on a stretcher – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. This unforeseen tragedy leaves Teddy alone in a strange city, with no money, no friends, and no connections.
As Teddy struggles to find her way, she meets a mentor at the same university Rachel previously attended who takes an interest in her, but with strings attached. She also develops a unique bond with the firefighter who rescued Rachel. And yet, Teddy remains committed to helping Rachel get back on her feet, at a time when no one else who supposedly loves her can accept her in this diminished way. Along the way, Teddy discovers her own strength in the roles of caretaker, lover, and friend.
I love learning about how and why authors choose their material, and I love even more when authors find inspiration in their normal lives, so when I was offered the opportunity to have Julia Ibbotson write a guest post about her amazing book, The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen I had to accept. I think her story is compelling, and I want to make all the recipes RIGHT NOW. But don’t take it from me, let Julia tell you about it in her words.
English afternoon tea and cakes in a Victorian rectory….
I wrote my first novel at the tender age of 10 years old, and I was desperate to be an author. The book was about my passions at the time: horses, farms and childish adventure, set in quintessential English countryside with afternoon tea and cakes on the large rectory lawn after a gallop in the hills…a local mystery solved over tea, in a sort of early teashop/coffee house mystery style. The stuff of romantic dreams for a little English girl from the city suburbs! But it never even made it to the publisher’s desk, and remains unpublished to this day!
Then, many years and two marriages and a long career in education later, on a romantic whim, my husband and I bought a dilapidated Victorian rectory in the middle of the English countryside, a mile from the nearest village, and spent the next four years renovating and restoring the house and gardens to their former glory.
I researched the house’s history: who lived there? What was it like for them? What happened to them? And because I love cooking for family and friends, I also wanted to incorporate recipes in my book: what were our family favourites? What recipes did previous occupants make? What did they eat in Victorian times or in the world-wartime when food in England was scarce? I documented it all and found my friends from across the world loving the idea: “Write a book about it!” Biting my nails with doubt, I decided to take a chance.
It was to be, I decided, the true story of our renovation of the rectory, but also about the history of the house and the village, and, because the kitchen was, and is, the heart of the home, I wanted food to somehow be the thread that held it all together. So I included recipes at the end of each chapter: cream scones, chocolate fudge cake, sticky toffee pud….
I wrote every weekend after a long week at work as a senior university lecturer. I wrote in my vacations. I took some annual leave simply to write. Once again, the creative juices began to flow, after many years of writing academic texts to a formula. I found that I was really enjoying it; so much so, that if I didn’t get to write on a particular day I felt lost.
Yes, some days it was hard going, some days I spent far too long on the distractions of Facebook and other social media, some days there was too much coffee drinking. At times I doubted my ability to write a whole book. But overwhelmingly I loved it. And gradually I got into a routine of writing and scheduled my days in the same way that I scheduled my professional days in my paid work. After all, I wanted to be a professional writer!
My book took shape and took on a life of its own. And then it was adopted first by an American publisher and now, this year, by a UK publisher. It felt wonderful! An author at last!
The Old Rectory has won awards at international book festivals and five star reviews, so this new author is beaming over her tea and cakes on the rectory lawn – or even over bubbly and chocolate fudge cake (from the recipes in the book, of course)!
I am now engaged in writing the first novel of a trilogy which follows a woman’s life through from the 1960s to the millennium. The first is called Drumbeats and will be out later this year; it’s set in the 60s in West Africa. It is a story about romance and tragedy against the backdrop of a small war-torn nation, about a young girl finding out what it means to grow up. Please do look out for it. Like The Old Rectory it will be available from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and Barnes & Noble, in paperback, Kindle and Nook.
Thanks for sharing my English afternoon tea and cakes on the rectory lawn today!
About the Author:
Julia Ibbotson is the award-winning author of The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, first published to acclaim in the USA and now re-launched with a brand-new cover by her new English publisher in the UK. Julia has been writing creatively all her life (unpublished!) but her day jobs to pay the mortgage have been as a school teacher and latterly a university academic, gaining her PhD at the age of 57. She delights in being a wife and mother to four, with four little grandchildren. She loves reading, gardening, growing food, cooking for family and friends and country life. Having published many academic texts and papers, she came late to actually publishing her creative writing, at the age of 60 plus, when she was persuaded to write the story of the renovation of her Victorian rectory in The Old Rectory. She has combined memoir, history, research, story and recipes in this first published book, which has won a number of international book festivals in the biography category, gained 5 star reviews on Amazon, and has been widely featured (along with her house) in the media. She has begun to delve into the world of blogging, Facebook and now has her own website at www.juliaibbotson.com at which she also posts blogs regularly, about writing, life and her passions. Her new project is a trilogy of novels following the life story of a new character, Jess, through from fleeing to West Africa as a volunteer teacher/nurse in the 1960s to the millennium. The first of the series, Drumbeats, is due to be published later this year. You can find out more on her website and on her author page on Amazon.
Author Julia Ibbotson and her husband glimpsed the old Victorian rectory on a cold January day. It was in dire need of renovation, in the midst of the English moorlands and a mile from the nearest village, but they determined to embark on a new life in the country, to make the sad neglected house glow again and to settle into the life of the small traditional village. As Julia researches the history of the house and village, supervises the renovations and cooks for family and friends, she records their journey. This real-life, award-winning account focuses on the quest to “live the dream” and, in the end, to find what is important in life. As the book foregrounds the centrality of the kitchen as the pulse of the family and home, each chapter ends with delicious but easy recipes, both current favourites and those from the historic period unfolding within the chapter: Victorian, Edwardian, wartime and present day. Reviewers have been fulsome in their praise, including “ enchanting”, “a talented writer”, “charming story”, “delightful”, “a jewel”, “ a great writer”, “inspirational”, “truly engaging”, and “destined to become a classic”.
Every author has their own ritual for when they write. Some have to wear a specific pair of Naot shoes. Others have to light a candle, brew coffee, and stir the milk in three times, clockwise. Last week, we reviewed Rolf Hitzer’s debut novel, Hoodoo Sea, which you can buy by clicking on the link above. This week, Mr. Hitzer shares one of his writing rituals with us.
My Writing Ritual by Rolf Hitzer
Prior to my decision of writing a novel, I had without a doubt, believed myself to be a normal person. Then I began to realize how annoyed I would become if I didn’t follow a certain procedure every time I sat down to scribble a few words.
Before writing, Hoodoo Sea, I didn’t drink tea. In fact, having a cup of tea was for the elderly or the British people. However, I found myself making a cup of tea each time I prepared myself for a writing session. Why? To this day, I still don’t know. And, I couldn’t have any tea, oh no, it had to be Chamomile Tea with a teaspoon of honey.
At first, I had thought nothing of it, that is, until I had run out of tea bags. Panic surged through me. Where did that feeling come from? I shrugged it off and sauntered down into the basement where my office was. I plunked myself into my chair, and again, became agitated. My focus and concentration became lost like the characters in my novel.
Well, after experiencing that incident I was never without Chamomile Tea again. What I find really bizarre about this is when I had finished, Hoodoo Sea, I stopped drinking tea altogether just like I had before. That is…until I started my second novel.