2018 – Year of Memories and Modifications

Well, I didn’t publish a book in 2018. I wrote one, but it’s pending an agent’s interest. I took a break from working on two other novels to write this post. One is a women’s fiction, and the other a contemporary romance that might be the first in a series. So my goal for 2019 is to publish at least one of them!

penned con signingIt was a busy year. I attended several author/reader events locally as well as the Romance Writers of America conference in Denver and the Penned Con book fair in St. Louis. Met up with writer friends, made new connections and had a blast meeting readers.

Plus, we had a lot of action on the home front. Both kids graduated in May – fortunately, a week apart. One with a bachelor’s degree and the other, her masters. Being my son’s final college tennis season, we traveled to a few more of his matches, which took us from Orlando to Kalamazoo and several places in between. Lots of fun times and memories made! And, I’m happy to report both are gainfully employed and pretty much self-sufficient! Woo-hoo! I’m calling that parental success! 🙂

That said, we are now truly empty nesters. And that feels weird. And it changes everything! No more winter breaks that last three to four weeks. No more “Spring Break.” Our daughter was home for Christmas, but only for a few days. We were only able to fit in a quick overnight to see my folks because both kids had to be back at work the day after Christmas. Our daughter flew back to New York on Christmas Day. This new reality is cramping my style, for sure!

But it’s like the old saying, “The only thing constant is change.” It just keeps coming!

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but I’m hoping for new adventures, new connections and new books! Wishing you all peace, good health and happiness!

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Darlene

Stunning colors take the edge off

I know some people love fall. It’s their favorite season. For me, it’s generally okay. Not my favorite, though, because it puts an end to summer and is the prelude to the bitter cold temps and drab landscape of winter.

This year we haven’t had a lot of nice fall weather. It’s been a little rainy and on the chilly side for me. We never got that 70-something-degree Indian summer. Instead, it seems like one day it was 89 and then all of a sudden, it was 59.

But this year, fall gave us something else. It gave us absolutely stunning colors! I honestly can’t remember a fall that’s been as pretty. I can’t remember wanting to stop the car every couple of blocks to take pictures. The colors are brilliant and bright. The reds are vibrant, the yellows glow and the oranges blaze like fire.

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It’s already almost a week into November, and the gorgeous colors are taking the edge off of this transition that I usually dread. Hooray!

This is also the first fall in a few years that we haven’t ventured to central New York to visit our daughter and enjoy the spectacular views that are the hallmark of that area this time of year. So, I appreciate getting a taste of them here at home.

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I’ve taken so many pictures it was hard to narrow them down to just a few to share. But here they are. Enjoy! Hope you’re having a colorful season, too!

Darlene

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Nature’s stress relief

Ah, the soothing sound of a babbling brook! I recently returned from a vacation trip to Colorado. It wasn’t a whirlwind, action-packed, sightseeing, tourist kind of trip. It was more of a let-it-go, kick-back, unwind and relax trip. And at the center of that kind of trip is nature — lakes and streams, shimmering aspen trees, secluded trails, a little wildlife, wildflowers and scenic vistas.

I love the sound of a rushing Colorado stream. While we were there, we dined creekside, walked along a trail that followed a gentle stream, and hung out, just listening to the sound of the water cascading over the rocks. I could sit and read or write with that sound as a backdrop for hours!

For me, the water is mesmerizing to watch, and soothing to listen to, especially if the creek is moving fast enough to drown out traffic and other noise. It’s as if nature is saying, “Ahhhh, take a break.”

Enjoy this little snippet!

 

Are there other sights and sounds of nature that give you pause and refreshment?

Darlene

It’s book-for-a-buck month!

That’s right. During the month of July, Smashwords digital book seller is having a huge sale — and lots of books are only $1. That’s a great deal! And that means you can get my contemporary romance Something Good for only a buck!

Something Good was a Rone Award second-place winner in 2015, and also won Still Moments Magazine’s award for Best Ending. It has a 4.7 average review rating on Amazon, and some great reviews!

“… an absorbing story of redemption that’s hard to put down.” – Kirkus Reviews

“With surprising plot twists and unique character conflict, Something Good more than lives up to its name!” – InD’Tale Magazine

Get Something Good for $1

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Grab your copy, and enjoy!

Darlene

Ready, set, launch! Graduation hails accomplishment and transition

Well, we hit another milestone. Last weekend, we finished up the last of the college graduation festivities. For the first time in a couple of decades, we have no kids in school. We have no college tuition payments to make.

As many of you probably already know, this is big. Huge. In many ways.

As I reflect on what this means, sure, I see home projects and travel we can now do because we might have a little extra cash. It’s also been a fun trip down memory lane. But mostly, I see a transition to a new stage of life. We will never be as involved in our kids’ lives. They’ll have so many new experiences that won’t involve us. Meet so many new people that we may never know. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now that feels a little strange.

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There’s also a sense of accomplishment. Yay! We managed to keep them alive to “adulthood.” The oldest, who just graduated with her master’s degree, is already pretty self-sufficient. The youngest is now a young man also on his way to being self-sufficient. We’re so proud of both of them. Proud to be launching decent, functional, intelligent contributing people into the world.

I suppose the other emotion is relief. As the mom, of course I’ll still worry about them, but it feels different now. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Maybe I can relax a tiny bit and enjoy watching their progress from a little more distance. I can’t wait to see how the next couple of years unfold – where life takes them. And me.

So far, I have no big plans other than to buckle down and get some writing done, launch a few more books into the world. Maybe a trip or two. I think we’ll take some time to ease into this transition, and let things settle. And then . . .

Well, who knows? We’ll toss our mortarboard in the air and see where it lands. 🙂

As always, time marches on. Enjoy the ride!

Darlene

You go, girls! Happy travels!

It’s almost summer, and that means travel, vacation, relaxing with friends, right? Hopefully there’s a little of that in your summer plans! I’ve heard of so many great girl trips lately, that I asked my favorite travel agent some questions about planning the best trip with friends.
Enjoy, and happy travels!
Chatting with Janet McLaren, Cruise Planners, personal travel advocate:
Thanks for inviting me to your blog! It’s always fun to talk about travel, and travel with friends is always the best!

 

IMG_3852– What are some of the most interesting or unusual girls’ trips you’ve arranged?
It seems like women either want to get away for relaxation at a resort with a good beach and spa, or they want a cultural adventure with a combination of organized events and independent exploring. I’d say for most interesting: a group of ladies who are going to Italian wine country this summer. They are sharing a villa near Florence for a week and taking day trips into the city and into surrounding towns, then spending two days in Rome.
Getaway cruises are always popular, too, because they are usually economical for everyone and don’t require as big a commitment of time. One group of ladies takes a short cruise to Mexico every January when the fares are low.

– A friend of mine recently visited Barcelona on a tour with her wine club. I’ve heard of book clubs attending author-sponsored cruises. Are these kinds of themed-trips gaining in popularity?
They are, but they are mostly arranged by private groups, not the cruise line. An exception is river cruising — several of the top lines “theme” a number of cruises each year. I’m looking at one for a group right now that is focused on beer (haha, right?), but there are wine themes, music, and Christmastime, too. Also, there are land tours that are geared for special interests. I know of literary-themed tours in England that focus on historical sites related to authors such as Jane Austin, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens, for a few examples. Garden tours abound, as well as castle tours (think Downton Abbey, for instance), and “quaint towns.”

            Best shopping?   Mexico — the short cruises that go there, and the resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen are excellent for picking up handicrafts, jewelry, and clothes. New York and London shopping trips are still popular, although you have to watch the conversion rate of the British Pound to be sure popping off to London is a value or not.

            Best for beach/relaxing?  Interestingly, I get a fair number of inquiries about Miami Beach. The old-style glam resort hotels and the nightlife are very appealing. You get a nice combination of beach time, relaxation, and some fun. Restaurants are a big thing there, too. Of course many all-inclusive Caribbean and Mexican resorts have it all in one place! That’s probably the easiest getaway of all — just go, get transported to your resort, then don’t worry about very much at all. 

            Best sightseeing/culture?  Europe is still number one — history, churches, museums, wine, music, art, ancient architecture — it’s easy to come up with a common interest that binds a group together for a shared experience.

– Any tips or special advice for women traveling together?

Yes, I find that I am often reminding people that they cannot possibly do everything in one trip! Select a theme then let me help plan a reasonable, “do-able” outline that won’t exhaust you — decide on a few important highlights. Save some down time; not every minute has to be planned out and everyone could use a little “me time” mixed in, too.

– Any places you’d advise small groups of women to avoid?

Yes, sadly not all places in the world are travel-friendly to women and male-centric societies make for too much stress and worry. For some reason Dubai holds a fascination (I suppose for the shopping), but I wouldn’t choose it for a girlfriend getaway. India, China, some places in the Mideast and Africa — not worth it. Exceptions: I think a well-coordinated safari in certain locations would make a terrific all-woman adventure, and a historical or spiritual journey in Israel and Jordon would be safe and rewarding.

 

Thanks for sharing your time and expertise, Janet! I want to do it all! Dear readers, do you have a favorite spot for trips with friends? Tips or experiences to share? We’d love to hear them!

Contact Janet for additional info and ideas. 866-592-7351 | 972-231-0066 | jmclaren@cruiseplanners.com | www.cruiseplanforyou.com

A little peace and quiet, please!

Sometimes you just gotta get away.

We were in Orlando a few days ago for spring break, the destination determined by our son’s tennis team. We deliberately elected not to visit the crowd-magnet attractions such as Disney World, Sea World or Universal Studios. And yet, we could not escape the crowds. Of course I didn’t expect to have the place to myself, but there were times I found myself about ready to run screaming to try and get away from all the people. They were everywhere. The beach was crazy. The parking was challenging. And. The. Traffic. The nearly stand-still lanes of cars creeping along the highways between Clearwater and Orlando made for a stressful and tedious drive.

But finally, on the next-to-last day of our trip, it happened. We got away. We found ourselves on roads with few other cars in sight. Call me crotchety, but I just don’t enjoy listening to screaming children, being run into, being coughed on or having my freshly-pedicured toes stepped on. Crazy, right?

P1080353The answer? Nature. I said before we left that I’d like to see some alligators from a safe distance, and preferably from our car. And we did!

We discovered that outside of Orlando, near the Kennedy Space Center area, are some awesome nature sanctuaries. We spent several hours meandering by car along gravel roads through scenic marshy areas that were full of wildlife – gators, turtles, hundreds of birds, butterflies, and the occasional wild pig.

Several times, we stopped along the road and simply took in the scenery around us. We gaped at the alligators and watched flocks of birds skim across the waters and lift into the sky. We saw interesting foliage and grasses. We took our time – and lots of pictures. It was quiet. Peaceful. Refreshing.

And for this introvert, much fun. 🙂

Do you have a favorite get-away?