Mothra

mothraOnce upon a time when I was single and living alone, my mom asked me to drive up to her house. “There’s a huge moth flying around. Would you kill it for me?”

I said I would. I’m not afraid of insects, but when they’re inside, they’re fair game. The only thing I’m really afraid of is birds.

I went over. Sat in the family room with Mom and waited for the moth to come.

The moth came.

Except it was a bat.

batI’m also really afraid of bats. Especially when they’re inside. However, being a sane adult, I did exactly what you’d expect. I screamed, “It’s a bat, it’s a BAT!” and dove under the coffee table.

Mom, too, began screaming. “Kristan! Don’t leave me!” she begged as I power-crawled to the door.

“That is not a moth!”

“What if it has rabies?” Mom said. “Please! I’m a widow!” (Like I’d forgotten.)

homer2The bat flew out of the family room, right over our heads, making us scream like we were being hacked to death with axes. Mom now had a death grip on me, so even if I wanted to leave (and I so, so did, and had NO problem leaving Mother behind since she’d tricked me into coming over with the “moth” story), I couldn’t, because my little mom has the hands of a medieval butcher when it comes to strength.

We formulated a plan. We’d open all four doors to Mom’s house and then flush the bat toward the nearest exit.

Ominously, it was MIA at the moment.

“I’ll go in the dining room,” I told my mother, “and you go in the front hall, and it’ll either go out the front doors or the sliders in the living room. Okay?” Mind you, this excellent, common-sense plan was hard won, because I was still huddled on the floor.

batbaies“What if it flies in our hair and has babies?” Mom asked. (She was serious.)

“What are you talking about?”

“That’s what they do. They fly in your hair and lay their babies.”

At that moment, the bat flew back in and we screamed again, and covered our heads so no bat-babies would be born on us. “Open the door, open the door!” I barked, but it was too late; the bat had flown back into the other part of the house.

Mom grabbed two umbrellas to shield us from the bat and her spawn, and, still crawling, we went our separate ways.

When the bat flew past her, she’d scream.

When the bat flew past me, I’d also scream.

umbrella2The bat, whose sonar was probably really messed up from all our help-we’re-being-slaughtered-here high-pitched squeals, kept flying around and around and around. At one point, its hideous little leathery wing brushed my umbrella, at which point I shrieked so loudly I popped a blood vessel in my eye.

Then…horribly…the bat flew upstairs. To where the four bedrooms are.

“Okay, gotta go,” I said, so, so grateful I had my own apartment in another part of the state.

But then the hideous creature flew back down the stairs. Mom and I clutched each other, screaming, and the bat flew out into the night.

“Close the doors, close the doors!” I yelled, and we ran to the four corners of the house to batten down the hatches against the killer bat.

And then it was quiet. We were a little surprised no police were tearing up the driveway, no neighbors had rushed to our aid. That’s the downside of living in the boonies.

“Is that really true, that they’ll have their babies in your hair?” I asked Mom.

“I think so. Goodnight, honey!”

And so, immeasurably older, I went home, never to sleep again. : )

 

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Sunday drivers

McIrish and I honored the great American tradition of driving aimlessly around this lovely summer day. We headed out through Connecticut and drove along the Hudson River. Here are a few things we did and saw.

DSCN6277We thought about buying this little cottage, but then realized that since we pay taxes, we already own it. It’s one of the many Vanderbilt mansions, now a national monument. These make me a little itchy (the mansions, not the Vanderbilts…I would totally date Anderson Cooper, no matter that he’s gay and I’m married). But my people were much more likely to have cleaned this house than owned it, and these massive houses just have me calculating how much Clorox Cleanup I’d need to scour the entryway.

DSCN6276We gazed out at the mighty Hudson and thought deep and profound thoughts (like where we should have lunch). Saw some cute babies and toddlers, who were fascinated with my crutches. Stalked a Husky owners club, but they weren’t very friendly. This pained me. Husky owners should be incredibly friendly, as are their doggies.

 

DSCN6279Hence, filled up with culture, we went out to eat and settled on this amazing diner, not far from FDR’s residence. I bet FDR would love their onion rings. I definitely did. They had drinks on the menu like Brown Cow and egg cream. Harriet the Spy drank egg creams. I don’t actually like them, but I do like the idea, thanks to good old Harriet.

We then crossed the river and found a gorgeous little city that was so beautiful and yet so economically depressed that we talked and talked about what could be done to revitalize it and in about half an hour, had solved all the problems of this and other cities in similar situations. All we need are a few billionaires to get on board.

DSCN6287On the way home, we accidentally came across another national monument, which made McIrish very happy, since he has a little National Parks passbook in which he can get stamps. (He’s a dork, but he tolerates me quoting Star Trek a lot, so we get along just fine). This was the J. Alden Weir home. It was closed, but it was so beautiful, and we walked/hobbled around the grounds until my sad little broken bone couldn’t take it anymore.

And then, home sweet home! Hope you had a great Sunday, too!

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The Princess

FlannerybabyflanneryI have always viewed my daughter as a slightly magical creature.

She didn’t cry when she was born. When the doctor slid her onto my chest and I saw her face, she opened her enormous eyes and simply looked around. “I love you,” I said, and those were the first words she heard. And I made her a promise later that day as I stared at her perfect face—I will do my best for you every single day.

She was a beautiful baby—people often stopped me to remark upon her amazing eyes and lashes, her pink cheeks and ready smile. As she got older, her hair became silken ringlets. She said her first word at 8 months, and she spoke in full sentences by the time she was 18 months old. She could read when she was four.

with her best friend...they are still best friends!

with her best friend…they are still best friends!

But more than her intelligence and long eyelashes…well, indulge me here, because I know I’m her mother, but it seems that she has an intuition for kindness. Somehow, she knows just what to say to the lonely old person or the awkward child. When she was two, I’d take her to see my great-aunt in the nursing home, and she would stop to visit every single person on the hall. When the old folks would ask how she was, she’d answer, “Fine, thanks, how are you?” in this funny, emphatic way. She’d go into their rooms and find something fascinating there, and always give a hug when leaving.

When her brother was born, she was almost three. There was never any sibling rivalry. He was her baby, too, and she would read him Peter Pan and feed him bites of her yogurt and sit with her arm around him, watching Sesame Street. On her first day of kindergarten, she befriended a little boy with a severe speech impediment. “I can’t understand him, Mommy, but I love him,” she told me. That boy’s mother requested that my daughter be in the same class as her son for the next three years.

Flannery

on Cape Cod

When my grandfather was widowed after 67 years of marriage, my daughter was one of the few who could make him laugh. “I’m here to polish your little bald head!” she’d announce, and proceed to do just that, giggling away until Poppy’s head was “nice and shiny.” She’d sleep over with me on Tuesday nights, and when he thanked her for the company, she’d say, “It’s so nice and cozy here.”

 

baldWhen she was sixteen, she made the decision to shave off her long, thick, shiny locks. Not just cut them off and donate them (she’d done that twice already), but cut them off, donate them and go the distance by shaving her head to the scalp. She raised thousands of dollars for a foundation that funds research for a cure for childhood cancers. She was the only girl in her entire high school with short hair, and her friends couldn’t believe that she really did it. Strangers would approach her and ask if she was a model; when she told them why her hair was this way, they’d often tear up and hand her some money for the cause.

A few years back

A few years back

She loves to read. She loves to cook. Her best friend is still her brother. She has spent this summer reading lots of books, playing the piano, visiting her friends, taking care of the horses and chickens down the street and babysitting the kids she calls the Tinies, because they were so young when she first met them. We’ve done her college shopping in bits and pieces. She’s ready.

On Thursday, McIrish, her brother and I will drive the Princess to her school, and thus will end the eighteen and a half happy, happy years of raising her, of her sleeping under my roof every night, of the four of us having dinner together each evening. I will miss her more than I can say, and yet I’m so happy for her, and so proud to have raised this magical child into a kind, intelligent, funny, responsible person. She hopes to become a neonatologist—fitting, since her brother was a preemie.

todayBut whatever she becomes, I know that I honored the promise I made to her the day she was born. She has made me a far better person than I was before motherhood—harder working, braver, more honest, kinder, and I thank her for that, and send her out into the world with such love that my heart nearly bursts with it.

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The Pedi-Egg & Other Wonders

raffaMy kids’ favorite store in the world is our local pharmacy. Like many small-town drugstores, it has not only cough medicine, hair brushes and vitamins, but also gifties, books and cards. Jewelry. Bubbles. Chalk. Those coconut-almond candies I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

But I love all drugstores. The CVS in the next town over has a fascinating aisle called As Seen on TV. Oh, my God, I love that aisle! The Pedi-Egg?! How ingenious! But what’s this? Pajama jeans! My favorite! And the Chillow—Keeps your head cool and dry. My head is never too hot, but what the heck? Why not? “Come on, Mommy, let’s go,” my beautiful Princess will say.

chillow“Do we have one of these?” I’ll ask, holding up an Ove Glove.

“Do we really need one?”

Honestly, the child has no idea what joy these products bring me.

Another favorite store is Sally Beauty Supply. My God! Who knew there were so many ways to push back your cuticles? I recently bought some callous remover. I’m really excited about that, since I have the soles of a Native American fire-walker. Also very seductive: the Mr. Pumice Pink Contour Shape Bar. Microdermabrasion scrub with Dead Sea Salt! How thrilling!

pedi-eggMcIrish sometimes grumbles when I bring home a new “potion or lotion.” But then I remind him about his shrine to garden supplies in our barn, and he generally puts a lid on it.

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Free books! and my Authors of the Week

When I got back from the Romance Writers of America National Conference, I decided to do a weekly feature on my Facebook page: Author of the Week. So many authors were good to be me when I was a newbie; I wanted to pay it forward, and pay it back. I contacted my writer friends and asked if they’d like to be featured, and so many of them said yes, that I figured I’d do a blog to keep up. If you’re not on my Facebook page, please pop over and keep an eye out on Thursdays for the Author of the Week. The first was my dear friend, Susan Andersen, who had a great book out this week (No Strings Attached).

But also this week are, in no particular order:

Jesse-Home~~element77
Jesse Hayworth. Jess writes wonderful, warm contemporary romances, but as Jessica Andersen, she also writes really smart, fast-paced suspense novels. Jess holds the status of First Published Author I Ever Met, and when I said, “I think I want to be a writer, too!” with all the enthusiasm of a Golden retriever puppy, she very kindly patted me on the head (or something) and said, “Go for it.” She’s tolerated me ever since. We all call Jesse Doc Jess, because she has a Ph.D. in something so brilliant and complicated that I forget what it is. Her latest book is a lovers reunited story, one of my favorite kinds. Jess is also a wicked funny blogger, so make sure you visit her at her website, here, for her bimonthly blogs at the Jaunty Quills.

For a chance to win a freebie from Jesse’s backlist, go to her Facebook page and tell her hi from her puppy dog of a fan.

FHSO_New-2-166x250My next author is another of the Jaunty Quills—Robyn DeHart (yes, that’s her real name, and isn’t it perfect for a romance author?). Robyn is one of those friends at first sight people, and her books are luscious, award-winning Regencies with a big dollop of adventure. Once you read her, you’re hooked. She’s a native Texan and when RWA was held in San Antonio, she brought her beautiful daughters to meet us…we’ve heard a lot about them, and they were even cuter in person. If only Connecticut and Texas were closer, I could babysit all the time. Visit Robyn’s website here and pop over to the Jaunty Quills for her blogs, too.

For a chance to win a freebie from Robyn’s backlist, go to her Facebook page and tell her Kristan is dying to babysit.

bethBeth Ciotta and I had the same editor for a short time, but sometimes, you only need a short time to make a friend. Beth is truly one of the nicest, kindest, biggest-hearted people in the business. During Hurricane Sandy, we all hovered by our computers, since Beth’s house was directly in the path of the worst-hit part of New Jersey. Thankfully, she came out okay, but jeesh! We all got a few more gray hairs because of it. Beth writes YA steampunk (she was nominated for a RITA this past year, which is like an Oscar for us romance writers) and steamy, fun contemporaries—her Cupcake Lovers series is fantastic. Visit her website here.

For a chance to win a freebie from Beth’s backlist, go to her Facebook page and tell her Kristan never met a cupcake she didn’t like.

 

Barefoot White use for uploadingMy last author of the week is Roxanne St. Clair, another author I met early in my career when we were on a book tour with 25 other authors. I was new, she was a superstar (still is!) and she was as nice and friendly as could be. Rocki latest series, Barefoot Bay, is gorgeous. I’ve never wanted to visit Florida more than while reading her books…all those lush, tropical breezes, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, the seagulls, the food… Visit her website here.

For a chance to win a freebie from Rocki’s backlist, go to her Facebook page and tell her Kristan really loves her haircut.

 

Make sure you watch my Facebook page for more Authors of the Week and more giveaways! Happy reading!

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A Connecticut Yankee in Texas

We Yankees tend to view Texas with a bit of confusion. It’s as big as a country, for one. There’s the whole “Texas and Proud” and “Things are Bigger in Texas” thing. In New England, we don’t brag about our states. We just quietly believe it’s the best place to live in the world. We also like winter. I’m not lying about this. So I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

imagesBut I loved my time in San Antonio. First of all, the people are so friendly and nice! My heart was blessed many times when people saw my crutches. I appreciated that. San Antonians were very eager for me to love their city and often told me where the best guacamole was (Boudro’s), the best time to visit the Alamo.

The coffee is excellent. It had a different flavor. Maybe it’s the water, because I think the hotel coffee was Starbuck’s, which I generally don’t like.

Distances are different in Texas. “It was only an 8 hour drive,” one woman told me (she’d come from a tiny town on the other side of the state to meet authors). “It was nothing.” If I drove for 8 hours, I’d be in Canada. I’d be having coffee with Santa.

Unknown-1Cabbies have no idea where anything is. We’d get into a cab, say, “We’re going to Boudro’s (which is an institution in SA),” and the cabbie would have to Google the address. One cabbie dropped us off four blocks from our destination, so I DID get to walk the River Walk after all. Or hobble, as the case may be. In New York, cabbies know where everything is. In New York, I could say, “I’m going to my aunt’s house,” and he’d know where that was.

“It’s hot” in San Antonio has a completely different meaning than “It’s hot” in New England. Good God. It was 97 degrees the day I flew in, and one person said to me, “I’m so glad we have nice weather to welcome you!” In Connecticut, people tend to hurl themselves off cliffs when it’s 97 degrees.

UnknownCowboys love a woman on crutches. I highly advise my single friends to keep this in mind. I met three cowboys. I wanted to keep them, but then I thought about McIrish and figured I’d stick with my firefighter.

The food…oh, man, the food! Was! So! Good! Even as I write this, my lips are tingling from the green chile sauce on my breakfast burrito.

Much of where we stayed is considered haunted, because of the slaughter at the Alamo.

I love being called ma’am.

I was sorry that I didn’t get to see more of the city, as I’d planned before taking my tumble in the parking lot, but what I did see was lush and beautiful. Tropical flowers and old, twisting trees, some truly awesome cloud formations.

So if you ever get the chance to go to San Antonio, I’d highly recommend it. Just maybe not in July. ; )

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I Heart Hospitals!

2264226670_52b1c00ea2So I broke my ankle. You may know that already. And you may know that I went to the hospital and had a wonderful time. For the second time in my life, I got to ride on a gurney and in a wheelchair. No pain meds this time, because I’m so brave and strong and all that. And I got an adorable doctor who’s young enough to have had me as a babysitter, who said, “It’s always you heroes who walk around and say, ‘If I can walk on it, it’s not broken.’ But you’re wrong. You just have an incredibly high pain tolerance.”

(Higgins gives McIrish an insufferably smug look.)

Not only that, I got a snarky and hilarious nurse named Larry, who said things like, “When people make fun of you—and they will—”

Me: “Why do I always get the smart-ass nurses?”

Larry: “You tell them they’ll answer to me. I’m not just a nurse. I’m your muscle.”

(Higgins falls madly in crush.)

During the exam, Dr. Adorable pushed on my broken fibula and said, “So THIS doesn’t even hurt?” I said, “No! I’m amazing! Honey, see how amazing I am?” McIrish nodded photopatiently. He’s a patient man. He also knew I was living the dream. “I’m so glad I shaved my legs for you guys,” I told Larry and Dr. Adorable. They laughed. A captive audience.

When Larry wheeled me down to the car, he said, “You didn’t think it would be this much fun, did you?”

Wrong, Larry. I knew. Does this look like the face of someone who fears a little medical attention?

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The third child

photoNot to brag or anything, but we have a pretty incredible flower garden. This is thanks to two things: we can’t grow grass to save our lives, and I’m married to an Irishman, and the Irish love their gardens.

When we were first in this house, I was the gardener, because McIrish was too busy with his two jobs to do much in the way of recreation. So I bought a starter garden kit and went to town, and it was quite nice. I’d plant (my favorite) and weed (not so much) and water (always fun). I had a Zen attitude toward the plants, thanks to my sweet little Irish mother-in-law, who is a master gardener. Some things thrive, some don’t. If a plant wasn’t working out, I’d give it the old college try and nurture it, and if that failed, I’d dig it up and toss it in the valley (where inevitably, it would do just fine).

We have what I call the junk garden…plants that I didn’t really care for but that were thriving. Bee balm, tiger lilies, cat mint…that’s actually turned out to be quite pretty.

DSCN3520But in the past couple of years, when McIrish gave up his second job in order to (in his words) “take care of you,” the garden has become splendid. “Taking care of you” consists of sifting dirt, fertilizing plants, deadheading, watering, relocating and weeding. I ask my husband, “Can you go to the market today?” and he gets this pinched look on his face. “I was gonna work in the garden,” he says, and I sigh and continue typing.

The kids call the garden “Daddy’s Third Child.” I think that says it all. But everyone who comes to visit comments on the garden’s beauty, and at any time from April through October, I can pick a bouquet of beautiful flowers. Sitting on the porch has never been so relaxing.

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Vacation

This past week, we were on vacation…the last vacation before our Princess Daughter starts college. It was a wonderful, nearly perfect time; we brought our niece with us for a few days, and my sister came up for a couple nights, and we ate lobster and rode bikes and hiked and swatted mosquitoes and tried to talk with the Malone-like lobstermen (which went about how’d you expect).

bassharborWe deemed our little rented cottage utterly darling and did things there we don’t do so much at home; McIrish surprised the kids by playing guitar, and I played the piano. We (well…I) got up before six, drank coffee and watched the lobster boats come and go. We visited the folks who brought me to Maine as their nanny, and their grown son, who once held my hand and asked me to read the subtitles on Return of the Jedi so he wouldn’t miss anything, was there with his two beautiful kids. That family was awfully good to me…treated me like one of them, and still do. They took us out on their beautiful boat, served us lobsters and we brought wine, and we tore into those poor crustraceans like starving animals. Ben’s little daughter took a shine to Princess and me, and his son adored Dearest  Son. Nothing like old friends.

viewfromcranberryWe hiked up Cadillac Mountain one day, ate chocolate croissants and blueberry scones from the tiny bakery and went to the bird-carving museum. A lady cutting her lawn got her tractor stuck in a sinkhole, and McIrish helped her get it out, and she rewarded us with cold drinks in the living room of the house her grandfather built. When the town fireworks were canceled, we were nonetheless invited to come down the marina and watch the unofficial fireworks, which were just as good. Maybe even better.

flannery&mommyYesterday, we drove home through Tropical Storm Arthur, which gave way to sunshine and fresh air in Portland, boys in the truck, girls in the car. Princess and I talked and laughed, sang along with the radio and got milkshakes at a rest stop. It was good to get home to Willow and Huck and our beautiful garden.

More than anything, though, this week was that age-old glimpse of what if. McIrish is not a lobsterman, and I don’t run a diner. Our kids don’t know their way around a boat. We don’t live on Great Cranberry Island, where you have to stock up for the winter in both wood for the stove and groceries, because you might be there alone with the other 43 residents for a couple of weeks before the ferry and mail boat can get there. We’re not summer people, and we’re not locals.

roadWe’re just passing through, supporting the local economy, snapping a thousand pictures and overtipping. We probably ask too many questions, and we’re not from far enough away to be all that interesting. But our kids don’t carry their cell phones on vacation, and neither do their parents, and we never litter, and we try to leave places as we find them. Hopefully, as summer nuisance goes, we’re not too bad.

But, being a writer, I imagine that road not taken. The bittersweet imagination, blessing and cursing me again with the life I didn’t lead and the places I haven’t been.

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And they’ll live happily ever after

Love2A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from a guy named Mike. He said his girlfriend was a big fan of my books, and he was wondering if I could help him out. He wanted to pop the question, you see, and he wanted to make it memorable…and he wondered if I could help. He had it all clear in his mind, but he needed me to write a letter.

So, being a complete sucker for love, of course I did! (I asked if I could tell their story on a blog, and they said yes, just for the record. In fact, they suggested I write a book about them!) Here’s what I wrote

“Dear Paula,

Hello! How are you?

Your boyfriend wrote to me and told me that you’re a big fan of my books, and I just wanted to say thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much it means to hear that. I’ve saved every single note from readers since I started writing, and each time I get one, I get a thrill. I’ve had a few boyfriends and husbands of readers send me an email, and I always think it’s so lovely that these guys took the time to write. It’s awfully sweet of them, don’t you think?

Mike told me a little bit about the two of you…he said he’s known you since second grade, and that he had a huge crush on you in high school but was too shy to say anything. (It sounds like a romance novel in the making, doesn’t it?) How wonderful that you ran into each other again so he got another chance! Sometimes, it’s all about timing. From the way he sounded, he’s completely smitten with you. He says you’re absolutely wonderful…in fact, he went on quite a bit about you, so to this romance writer, it sounds like a case of the real thing.

mike&paulaIn fact, you should probably turn around now, because I think Mike has something he wants to ask you.”

At this point, Mike got down on one knee, ring in hand. Paula burst into tears. The answer was yes.

Ah, love! Mike & Paula, wishing you a lifetime of happiness!

 

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