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The loss of who I used to be…

Over the winter last year, I noticed that my hands hurt, my knees ached a little more than usual, and various joints bothered me that had never bothered me before. Then a telltale bump appeared on my left index finger, and I knew what it was. But I didn’t do anything about it until near the end of April. The call from the doctor’s office confirmed what I already knew: I have rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s very hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you hear news like this. I have been through so much the last few years, and I thought I had finally gotten over the hump, and it was going to be smooth sailing. I have projects waiting to be refinished in my garage, sandpaper waiting to smooth out rough surfaces. Instead, they sit there gathering dust.

Some days, I can’t even chop fruit and vegetables. Other days, I can’t pick up things around my house. I end up calling one of my boys or a friend for help. That doesn’t always work when you feel like it’s something that you should be able to do right at that moment, for yourself, without waiting for someone to come help you. And depending on their schedules, sometimes that wait could go for two or three days.

I hate it. It pisses me off. I’ve lost some of my independence and I can’t get it back. That doesn’t mean that I’m going down without a fight. I’ve mowed my yard, even though people tell me not to. Yes, I pay a price for doing it, which is usually a day or two of nearly unbearable pain, but the satisfaction that I did it without help soothes the pain a little bit.

This past weekend, my hands hurt so much I could barely cook. I did simple things that didn’t require me to cut up food or lift skillets or pots. When I did have to pick things up, I did it with two hands. There was a lot of frustration floating around my house. There’s still some growling going on.

My mother has R.A. The joke between us used to be that she was the legs of the outfit and I was the hands. Now, I feel like a lump on a log, stuck in the middle of a river without a paddle, wondering what the heck I’m supposed to do now. I miss the person that I used to be before last winter…before that phone call in April. Sometimes, it feels like I’m a little kid again, trying to figure out how to do things with limited abilities.

Does this mean I’m giving up? No. There are going to be a lot of days of frustration in the years ahead. I know that. I know that there are things I can do to help make things easier for myself. And I also realize that I’m not going to be able to do everything that I want to do. Swallowing my pride and reaching out to those that are willing to help isn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m working on it. I’ll learn to adapt.

But I still miss the person who I used to be…

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The people behind the writer…

You all know I write the books you love, but you don’t know what goes on behind the scenes to get the books to you. I’ve got a whole group of people who make me look really good. I think it’s a good time for you all to meet them.

Jamie Lee Scott – Jamie has been designing the book covers for Lizzie since day one. She is also the one who encouraged me to publish Old Coot back in November 2011 (oh my gosh, it’s been almost seven years!). She formats my books, too. She is the computer goddess. Bless you, sweetheart. You’re awesome!

Kristi SpinksKristi, Kristi, Kristi…she knows where all the bodies are buried. It’s why I keep her around. Just kidding…Kristi and I have been friends for a long time. I supported her as she pursued first her bachelor’s degree, and then her Master’s. She returns the favor tenfold every single day. She inspires me all the time with her courage and her zest for life. You are the bravest woman I know, Kristi, and I am blessed a hundred times over to have you in my life. You are one of my dearest friends.

Charlotte Massey – this wonderful lady is my heart and soul. She has been a blessing to me for forty-three years. She has seen me at my worst, held me up, dried my tears and held my hand. She has given me unconditional love. She took a wild seven-year-old and raised her to be a sweet, understanding woman. If you’ve read the Ghostwriter books, you already know her. She’s a character in that series. She’s my mom. Thank you for all you’ve done, Mom. I hope when I grow up, I’m half the woman you are. I love you!

Stacy Jeziorowski – Stacy is my most awesome, wonderful assistant (she knows where the bodies are buried, too!). Along with Kristi and my mom, Stacy edits all of my books. She and Kristi also help me brainstorm story ideas (you can thank Kristi for the headless man in Death Yells “CUT!”). But Stacy is also like a sister to me, and the person I turned to when my life went haywire over the last couple of years. Her strength and encouragement got me through some dark times. Stacy, I am so thankfully Jamie introduced us. You are like a sister to me, someone I can tell everything and anything to. Thank you for being there to give me a shoulder to cry on, and for all the kicks in the butt that you give me when I rightly deserve them. You are my rock and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without you. Love you!

James – My head assistant, my car guru, the one who always says, “Isn’t it time to blow something up again?” He also helps me brainstorm story ideas. I think my favorite story is a texting session I had with him one day when I was stuck on a story line. We shot ideas back and forth for thirty minutes, and it ended when we had plotted out someone’s death. “Did we just plot out a murder?” he asked me. “Yeah, we did. Cool, wasn’t it?” He told me it was. I replied, “This is what I do for a living. Isn’t it fun?!” I have had the pleasure and joy of watching him grow from an adorable little baby into a young man who is spreading his wings and trying to find his place in the world. I love you more than life itself, son. You are the greatest blessing and joy in my life.

Jim Massey – last, but by no means least, my late father. Dad was my biggest and loudest cheerleader. Whenever they went on vacation, my parents would brag about their daughter who was a writer. One time, they went into a Barnes and Noble and put my latest book on all their display Nooks. Dad would print out my manuscripts for Mom to edit, then enter her notes on the Word document and send them back. He never read any of my books while I was working on them. He waited until the day they were published, buy it and read it. I miss him every day, but I continue to write because I don’t want him to haunt me because I quit. I love you, Dad. I’ll see you again someday.

That’s the gang. A motley crew, but they’re mine and I’ve very grateful for each and every one of them!

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Walmart Adventures

Last week, I became acquainted with several gentlemen at my local Walmart Auto Shop. Monday, it was an oil change for James’ car. Tuesday, it was to order tires for my “new” Jeep Cherokee. I was run into a ditch about thirty minutes after we had the oil change on Monday. Yes, I’m all right. Just some bumps, bruises and sore muscles. Saturday, I went in because the steering wheel on my van had a bad vibration in it. I walked in and Bruce said, “You must really like it here!”

They were going to balance and rotate the tires, so I decided to do my shopping. When I had arrived at Walmart, the skies were dark and the wind had picked up. By the time I went to the front of the store to grab a basket, it had started pouring rain.

As the rain crashed down on the tin roof, I wandered over to the garden department. There were two ladies standing near the register. “Excuse me,” I said to them, “I realize that this is probably a moot point, considering it’s raining. But I need a watering can for my flowers.”

They both cracked up. One of the ladies led me to the aisle I needed. “You’re so funny,” she told me between giggles. “That was a good one. You totally made my day.”

I said, “I have a better one. When my son was younger, I used to send him to the mailbox to check the mail on the holidays. I’d wait until he was almost to the box, then I’d say, ‘Oh wait, it’s a holiday. There’s no mail today, James.’ ‘That’s not funny, Mom!’ The lady cracked up at that one, too. I mentioned it to James the other night, and his response was about the same as it was back then. He still doesn’t think it’s funny.

Spreading joy wherever I go, what can I say?

It’s Monday! Make someone laugh today!

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Middle of the night bathroom adventures…

Half-asleep, our heroine stumbles to the bathroom, the only light coming from the distant glow of the living room bulb. She sits down to take care of business when, through half open eyes, she spots a big bug in a darkened corner near the sink. “Oh crap,” she thinks, “there’s a bug in here with me.”

She doesn’t panic. She opens her eyes wider to get a better look at the bug. No shoes in the bathroom, but there is a book. If necessary, she can squish it with Clive Cussler.

She stares more intently at the corner. The bug hasn’t moved. It must be checking her out as well, trying to figure out how to freak her out. There…her eyes are focusing…she can see the bug clearly now…

It’s a…

It’s a…

…empty toilet paper roll that had bounced off the edge of the trash can and hit the floor earlier in the evening.

*sound of flushing toilet*

Our heroine, having survived her encounter with the deadly toilet paper roll bug, stumbles back down the hall and goes back to bed.


Hope you enjoyed this mini-heroine adventure! 🙂 Just thought you all could use a laugh in the middle of your Saturday!

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This is Me

(With sincere apologies to my wonderful assistant for this rather personal post)

In the past three years, I have gone through a lot of personal, life-altering things that have left me questioning who I am after all of this. The struggle has been difficult, and at times so overwhelming that I have felt like I was drowning (and folks, I don’t know how to swim; I have this whole thing about bodies of water larger than a bathtub). I turned to those that I knew would be there (my son, James, and my mom; Stacy, my wonderful assistant, and two or three others), but for the most part, I kept it all to myself. I turned to old friends that assured me they would help me through the pain and help me get back on my feet.

Then my world fell out from under me. My anemia returned, my marriage fell apart, and I was faced with major surgery (previously mentioned on this blog). Most of the people that I thought I could count on turned their backs on me. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I gained back some of the weight that I had lost. Frankly, I didn’t give a damn about much of anything.

I filed for divorce last September, determined to pack up my life and start over somewhere else. I’ve spent most of my life in Texas. I thought about it a few weeks ago, and realized that I moved to Texas when I was just a few months old (I was born on an Army base in Washington state), and I have spent most of my life there. Quite frankly, I have had enough of it. So I packed up everything I owned and moved to Illinois. Why? I had renewed some old friendships and made new ones on an earlier stay, and realized that I was happy here. Then my son and one of my other “sons” (who has called me Mama for about eight years) decided to move here with me, although James’ reason for moving was different from mine, and not my story to tell.

I’ve been here since November, and while things have not been as easy as I had hoped, I am settling in. But there is still an uneasiness, a sense that there is something missing. While I would like to lay the blame at other people’s feet (and a little bit of it is their fault), I realize that most of it lies with myself.

I shared a meme on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that said something to the effect of “I’m sweet, lovable, kind, shy and innocent…oh for heaven’s sake, stop laughing!” Some of you probably saw it and laughed, like I did. But I had one friend who didn’t laugh, because he said it was true. I’m not sure if he was serious or not, but it did make me think that he might have a point. I found that rather depressing.

I always feel like I have to apologize for who I am. And it bothers me that I have to do that. It bothers me that people cannot accept me for who I am. I’m not perfect. I’ve never claimed to be. I don’t want to be. Perfection is overrated. God didn’t make us to be perfect. He loves us for who we are, for what we are: imperfect and flawed.

I watched the Oscars tonight. I know that isn’t for everyone; I love movies, but I don’t go to see them in theaters that often. I usually watch them when they come out on BluRay or Netflix. As I watched them tonight, one of the nominees for Original Song caught my attention. It was a song from The Greatest Showman called “This is Me”, sung by Keala Settle (Lord have mercy, this wonderful woman can sing!). A song rarely moves me to tears (besides “Amazing Grace” which I have a hard time listening to since my son sang it at my father’s graveside three years ago), but this one had me crying.

I’ve sat here since listening to that song (I’ve played it several times since I first heard it), and I realize that I have spent most of my life apologizing for who I am. And I’m tired of it.
This is me:
I have a big heart, capable of loving many, but saving the deepest love for a few, even when they don’t love me as much.
I care for those close to me deeply, even when they don’t care for me as much.
I stand up for those I love and care for, even when they don’t do the same for me.
I take in those that are lost, for they need someone to love and care for them when no one else will.
In a perfect world, I would receive the same amount of love I give, even when I don’t deserve it.
In a perfect world, those I love would take care of me, even when I am grumpy and testy.
In a perfect world, those I love and care for would stand up for me when others talk bad about me or treat me like I am just spit on a sidewalk.
In a perfect world, there would be someone to love and care for me in a way that no one else has.
But this isn’t a perfect world.
I think my friend was right: I am naive, innocent and kind. But those should be good things, not bad things. If you are holding those things against me, what kind of friend are you? If you can sit there while someone treats me bad in front of me or even behind my back, what kind of friend are you?
I am not perfect.
I am flawed.
I am bruised.
I am damaged.
But I love.
But I care.
But I will give more than I take.
Even for those that cannot do the same in return.
Take me as I am or (with deepest apologies to my mother) kiss my ass.
This is me.
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A Sneak Peek of Ratone’s book!

As promised, here is a sneak peek of the Ratone Carver story. For those that aren’t familiar with Ratone, I introduced him in the latest Lizzie Crenshaw book, Death Wishes Upon a Star. I had actually started writing Ratone’s story before I started the latest Lizzie book, and decided it would be a good way to introduce Ratone to you. Enjoy!


Jenny tried to pull away, but the man’s grip was surprisingly strong, considering his state of inebriation. “Why don’t I call you a cab to take you home?” she said, putting her hands against the man’s chest and pushing.

“Nah, that sounds boring,” he said, getting awkwardly to his feet. As he stood up, the bar stool crashed to the floor. He shoved his hand into his pocket and took out his car keys. “C’mon, babe. Let’s go.”

A large hand grabbed the man by the back of his collar and yanked him backwards. The man lost his grip on Jenny, who scrambled out of the way.

“What the hell?” the man yelped as he was dragged away from the bar. “Lemme go!”

The hand that had a firm grip on him let him go, causing him to fall to the ground. Grumbling, the man stood up as Ash quickly came over and stepped between the two men. “Sir,” he said, quickly snatching the keys out of the man’s grasp, “I’ve called a cab for you, and it should be here in a few minutes. Why don’t we go outside and wait for it together?”

“Not until I give someone a piece of my mind,” he said, shoving Ash aside. “Now, just who do you think you are, draggin’ me across the floor like that? Do you know who I am?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Ratone Carver replied, crossing his arms and glaring at the man. “What are you doing in my restaurant, Sidney Greenberg?”

His eyes widening, Greenberg took a couple of steps backwards. “You aren’t supposed to be anywhere near me, Carver. I’ve got a restraining order against you.”

Ratone took two steps forward and leaned over until he was face to face with the scared man. “You better check that order, Sid. It expired yesterday.”

“I…well…impossible,” he sputtered. “It was supposed to be extended.”

“Did you tell your lawyer to make sure that happened?”

“Well, I meant to, but…”

Ratone reached into his back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “I carry this everywhere I go to make sure you don’t come near me.” He unfolded it and showed Greenberg the date. “It definitely expired yesterday. So I can put my hands on you if I want to, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Ami appeared next to Ratone, holding a styrofoam cup. She held it out to Greenberg, who snatched it from her. He took a drink and yelped. “This is hot!”

“Of course it is,” she retorted. “I just made it!”

“You need to pay your tab and leave, Sid,” Ratone said. “And don’t come back here or I’ll have you arrested.”

“For what?”

“Assaulting my waitress. And you wouldn’t like jail, Sid.”

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you, Carver?” Greenberg sneered. “Maybe you’d like to repeat the experience.”

Ratone reached into the front pocket of his chef’s jacket and pulled out a metal potato peeler. “Only if I get to repeat the reason I was there in the first place.”

Greenberg went pale. “You stay away from me with that thing,” he stammered as he reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. Taking out three twenties, he threw them at Ash, who let the money flutter to the floor.

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Cold as Ice by Julie Mulhern

Secrets have a way of coming to the surface when you least expect them, especially at social gatherings. How could Ellison Russell know that someone setting a couch on fire would start off a chain reaction that would lead to murder?

Ellison is trying hard to stay away from dead bodies, although she is seriously considering grounding her daughter Grace until she’s thirty. But when the body of Laurie Michaels, the mother of Grace’s boyfriend, is found in the freezer of he country club, Ellison has no choice but to get involved. Loans given to Laurie’s husband Tom by the bank run by Ellison’s dead husband are threatening Grace’s inheritance. Either Ellison investigates or risk losing everything for her daughter’s future.

As if things aren’t complicated enough, her mother is threatening to ruin Thanksgiving (just by showing up), Ellison’s sister-in-law arrives with a big surprise, and Anarchy Jones, the police detective who has won Ellison’s heart, has made her promise not to investigate the murder. What’s a girl to do?

The latest installment in the Country Club Murders is just as delightful as the previous ones. I read this one twice because I enjoyed it so much. There were things I missed the first time I read that shocked me the second time through. Julie Mulhern does a wonderful job of delving into the different relationship dynamics: between Ellison and Grace, and Ellison and her own mother. This case will test the bonds of all of Ellison’s relationships, but will murder cost her more than she can bear to pay? As Ellison says, “Forgiveness can be a long time coming.” If this is the first book you have read of Mulhern’s series, I strongly recommend you go back and read the rest of them. They are fantastic!