Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Now for Some Good News...

The folks at the From the Heart Chapter sent me this lovely image to commemorate Line of Scrimmage taking 3rd place in the Lories Best Published Contest Single Title Category. Yay for Line of Scrimmage! My little book that could... Did!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thanks for all the love and support...

Thanks everyone for the outpouring over my lovely Consuela and her failing health. Things are more or less the same right now. She's definitely weaker, still not eating, but still interested in us and in what's going on around her. Since she doesn't seem to be in any pain and can get outside when she needs to, we are hoping nature will take its course in due time. Thanks again for all your love and support!! I know that many of you have been through this and it's so very difficult. I wanted to share with you this message Dan posted to his running forum:

One of my former running mates is about to die. Consuela, my dog. She’s 17 years old and we’ve had her since she was about 4-6 months old…just a little more than a month after my wife and I were married in 1992. We got her when I was in the Navy and stationed in Spain. She was in a kennel for strays on the Navy base and was just one day away from being euthanized. She’s a mutt but she’s 100% pure loyal and loving. We’ve had her years longer than we’ve had our kids…13 and 10 years old. She was the original canine member of what we refer to as “The Consuela Pack”…our family.

When she became a part of our family I immediately realized that she was a playful and athletic dog. She loved to play fetch and would literally be waiting for me when I got home from work with a stick or ball in her mouth. She was full of energy and we’d play for hours. In a very short time just playing fetch wasn’t enough. So, I started taking her on short runs with me through the Spanish neighborhoods and countryside. Her mileage continued to increase and eventually I was taking her on runs as long as 10 miles. The great thing about it is that Consuela didn’t need a leash. She wasn’t “trained” but she’d stay right at my side for the entire run. I’d look down and say “How ya doin’ girl?” and she’d just look up at me, with her tongue flapping and a smile on her face as if to say “This is the life!”…and it was…“Thank you so much.” Every runner needs a partner like that.

A year or so later we added to our family. Still no kids, but we welcomed another dog into our home. Roscoe, the second canine member of The Consuela Pack. He was about the same age as “Consy” and every bit an athlete. Now we had a running group. Except that Roscoe like to “roam” as the three of us would progress through a run. Of course Consuela would follow him. So, I resorted to using a leash for both of them. Roscoe was a great dog too. Sadly, we lost him a few years ago at about 14 years old.

But now it’s Consuela’s time to go. The years and illness have gotten to her. There are probably treatments or procedures the veterinarian could do for her to briefly prolong the inevitable. But at 17 years old how much time would it really give us? She’s not in pain and she still gets about enough to go outside and relieve herself. But that won’t last. Her appetite had tapered significantly over the past several months. Then, about ten days ago she essentially stopped eating altogether and now only drinks water. She even turns her nose at the most delectable table scraps that just a few weeks ago she would have devoured in no time. She’s gotten very skinny. Where there was once thick, lean muscle that enabled her to run the miles with me there is now pretty much just skin and bone. She was once a lean, healthy dog that could run and jump with the best of them. I took a little pride in knowing that I helped make her what she was.

My last run with Consuela was probably back in the fall of 2008. It was only a mile or so and by the end of it she wanted to walk. Like most of the runs in recent years, it did her in for the rest of the evening. But she always looked forward to her next run or game of fetch. And although that last run was a short one in comparison to those in her early years, I guess I subconsciously realized what was happening but refused to acknowledge it.

So now she’s clearly at the end of her life. It’s imminent. But we can tell she’s not in pain. We would do the humane thing if she were. Now, our runs together are just a fond memory…as they will always be. But she was more than just a running partner to me. She’s been the sister to my two human children. She’s been a companion when I was home alone. I could talk and she would listen. And with just the right receptive attitude I think she would offer advice to me. But now she just lays there and looks at us as if to say “I’m going. I don’t have long. I’ve given you all I have to give. Please say your goodbyes.”

It makes me cry, literally shed tears, when I think about her life coming to an end. I never thought I’d cry over a dog until we had Roscoe put to sleep. My wife and I stayed with him to the very end and we both bawled like babies. When “Consy” goes I know it’ll happen again. I just wish I could have one more run with her. One more fetch. But it’s not possible. So when you go on your next run please give a thought to my old running partner and imagine my little blond friend bounding at your side with perky ears and a flapping tongue. I’ll miss her.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beginnings and Endings

Spring has finally sprung in the Northeast this weekend. Today it's in the 80s, everything is in bloom, the birds are chirping, the windows are open, the whir of motorcycles is in the air, and lawn mowers are running. While everything outside comes alive, inside we're watching our beloved Consuela slip away. Since my last post, we've learned she probably has cancer. She's stopped eating and has become very listless. The sadness is overwhelming. At more than 17 years of age, we know there's no treatment or cure for what ails her, so we're doing everything we can to make her comfortable.

Friday night, we brought her into bed with us--the original three, the family we were before the second dog, before the daughter, before the son. We lay there for a long time, the two of us in tears, as she gave us little kisses and took turns staring deeply into our eyes. We honestly believed she was saying goodbye. Waking up that next morning, my heart was in my throat waiting to see if she had left us in the night. Upon hearing my approach, her head popped up, and I swear she smiled at me. Not yet, Mom. Sprawled across the doorway to our room--one of her favorite warm-weather posts--she was making sure, as she always did, that nothing happened without her knowing about it.

Yesterday she stayed out front on the porch for most of the day, soaking up the sunshine and listening to the birds chirp. Today we took a picnic to the beach, one last trip to her favorite place in the world. Back in the day, she would chase birds and sticks and anything else that caught her eye. This time she was content to sit on the blanket and watch the world go by. She did take a stroll down to the water's edge to dip her feet in. Dan held out a stick to her. We could see the desire in her eyes, but she just didn't have the strength. The heart is still there even if the will is gone. She enjoyed having her nose out the window on the drive, which is another of her favorite things.

Here we are together, my baby girl and me, a sixteen-and-a-half year love affair:

Emily took this photo of the original threesome, which says it all... When I saw it after we got home, I was struck by the sag of our shoulders as we took a last walk together on the beach.

And here's one I adore. You can't even tell that anything is wrong with her.

We'll no doubt have a tough decision to make in the next week or so. As we slowly lose her, I can't stop thinking about the day we found each other: December 8, 1992. She was on day six of a seven-day stay in a security kennel that wasn't going to end well for her. We were in our second month of marriage. People have often commented that we did a wonderful thing by rescuing her. I know the truth. She was the one who rescued me when I was far away from home and overwhelmed with homesickness. Once she came to live with us, everything was better. For anything we did for her, she's paid us back in spades by loving us unconditionally for more than sixteen years. I simply can't imagine life without her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Random Musings

Let's see... What's going on? Well...

1. I've been working on some revisions that are going really well. I love the way my agent's suggestions have breathed new life into my first and most favorite book. Yay, Kevan! I'm really looking forward to seeing what she thinks of this new version.

2. The reading frenzy from vacation continues. Last night I devoured the Blaze book "Hard Wired" by Jennifer Labrecque. I loved it and highly recommend it.

3. My daughter is finishing up her middle school years by playing Frenchie in "Grease," so I'm living with her Brooklyn accent and pink wig. My son begins baseball season this week with his first game rained out as usual. I think that's the fifth straight year he's been rained out on opening day. Poor guy!

4. My 17-year-old Wonder Dog Consuela has suddenly stopped eating. How do you spell D-E-N-I-A-L? It's unbearable to see her getting so skinny. Planning to call the vet today, but I worry they will say this is end-of-life stuff, and I sooooo don't want to hear that.

5. I'm speaking at career day at the middle school in early May. Last year I split the talk about 50-50 between the day job and the book writing. The kids were fascinated by the book writing, so I guess I will focus a little more time on that this year. I also have actual books I can show them this time around, so that will make it more fun for all of us. I'm scandalized to hear that many of Emily's friends have read Line of Scrimmage. I guess that makes me the Judy Blume of the new generation--at least locally. Oy! Emily hasn't read it, and that is JUST fine with me! I know it's only a matter of time, however...

6. Finally, can we talk about American Idol? OMG, I sooooo love Adam Lambert. He's amazing. Every time he sings I get goose bumps. He HAS to win! I can't imagine him not winning. Adam, Danny, Kris and Allison are in a league all by themselves. They are so insanely talented it's not even funny. The other three (Lil, Matt and Anoop) are vulnerable. I used to really love Lil, but the judges are right about her lack of originality. All you have to do is watch Adam, Kris or Allison to see what they mean about what's missing in Lil. I hope America gets it right and that Simon doesn't regret using the judge's save on Matt, who I don't think was worth the save. What do you think?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Reading Frenzy

I read "All of Me," by Lori Wilde, which was the final installment in a four-part series about women who wish on an ancient wedding veil and then find true love. The book was cute, and I liked the couple, Jillian and Tucker, who find themselves shacking up together in a house they both think they own. I've certainly seen that premise before, but I liked that Tucker was a grieving widower and that Jillian turns out to be just the right one for him. What I didn't like from a book I thought was a straight contemporary was the touch of paranormal that caused both of them to see each other in a sexually charged dream before they met in person. I was also disappointed by how long it took Tucker and Jillian to give into the attraction that simmered between them from the minute they met, and after all that build up, we only got one love scene.

That said, I did like the small town setting and the subplot surrounding Tucker's sister and her efforts to have a baby with her husband. Three books precede this one in the Wedding Veil series. Not sure if I'll check out the others after reading this one. I really liked Lori's recent Blaze, The Right Stuff. It was excellent!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Love at First Flight Earns 4.5 Bookmarks from Wild on Books!

"The love Michael and Juliana felt for each other seemed to happen quickly and simultaneously but I never discredited their feelings. The love they found themselves sharing with each other was that of soul mates and it was exactly what each needed. They loved sensuously and every touch was full of emotion and caring. I found their exploration of each other to be fascinating and it was as if I was witnessing a realistic and committed relationship unfold.

LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT by Marie Force is most definitely a keeper. It is an astounding book. I loved every single word!"

Thank you, Natalie!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reading Frenzy

I'm getting a nice break from real life this week, and I've been reading like crazy. Today, I devoured Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. Just like it's predecessor Sugar Daddy, I loved this book. Loved, loved, LOVED IT! I couldn't put it down. Haven Travis, a Houston socialite and battered wife, falls for Hardy Cates, a man who has known tremendous success in the oil business but underneath it all, he is still the roughneck he once was growing up in a trailer park. I like how Lisa Kleypas focused on the sister of her hero from Sugar Daddy. I liked how Hardy did something horrible in Sugar Daddy but I loved him just the same in Blue-Eyed Devil. I'm hoping the next installment, Smooth Talking Stranger, features another of Haven's brothers. Kleypas, known for her sizzling historicals, has made a wonderful leap to contemporary, and she writes in first person. Often I find first person hard to read, mostly because I miss seeing the hero's point of view. However, Kleypas does a masterful job with first person. I highly recommend both Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil.

I also read Lori Foster's My Man Michael, the latest in her SBC fighters series. I've loved most of the other SBC books even though I find fighting of any kind to be a major turnoff, but this one was just so-so for me. I wasn't expecting the paranormal element that appeared out of nowhere in this book. Michael "Mallet" Manchester has been badly injured in a car accident, and his career as a top SBC fighter is finished. Enter Kayli Raine from 200 years in the future and this is where this story just got weird for me. Usually, I have tremendous problems suspending disbelief enough to go along with anything paranormal but something kept me reading this book. I decided later it was the sizzling chemistry between Michael and Kayli. I skipped a lot of the stuff about the conflict in Kayli's colony that only Michael could fix in exchange for her mending his shattered leg as she transported him into the future. Hmmm... Okay. Their romance was fun to read, but I found the resolution of how he managed to remain 200 years into the future with her at the end of the book to be too pat. I've read mixed reviews about this book, and I can see how regular Foster readers would be taken aback by getting something they didn't expect in My Man Michael. She's known as a contemporary writer and this book is a major departure. However, I still love her and will continue to read her future books.

Next up is Lori Wilde's All of Me. I read one of Lori's recent Blaze books and loved it, so I'm looking forward to this one! I loaned my friend Kristan Higgins' latest, Too Good to be True, to my friend, but hope to get to that one this week, too. I'll let you know how they are!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Good News!

Line of Scrimmage took third place in the Single Title category of the Lories Best Published Contest! I haven't entered very many contests so this counts as my first-ever placement! Sponsored by one of my chapters, From the Heart, I heard the Lories were very popular this year, so I'm super excited to have placed.

Danielle, my publicist at Sourcebooks, tells me we can now refer to me as an "award-winning author" in promotional materials. How cool is that?

Happy Dancing!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Love at First Flight a Top Pick with Night Owl Romance!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 - Reviewer Top Pick

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters came alive and you truly could see and understand the conflicts and power plays that were happening. The story had a fullness about it as it encompassed two careers and two people’s friends and families. There was a real feel to the story and scenes that reinforced that feeling. Things didn’t randomly happen to move the story along but happened within the story in a logical manner."

"This isn’t just a romance novel or a legal story or any other classification but a mixture of many that cannot be separated. It’s a fantastic mix of romance against a legal story with danger lurking around every corner. There are high-speed car rides as well as romantic dinners with walks along the beach. An assassin comes into play as well as a teenage witness. It’s a book that should interest a broad spectrum of readers."

I can share the full review in June, but these are just a few highlights!! Thanks, Tammie!

And AlphaHeroes said...

"Here's a solid contemporary with a lot to love. An airport, if you think about it, is a place of infinite possibilities, of thousands of stories beginning and ending every day. Two strangers, both engaged, cross paths in an airport on their way to their "other half." The trip doesn't work out so well for either engagement, and when Julianna and Michael arrive back home, a friendship begins that quickly turns into more.

"What I really liked about these two characters is the way they take care of each other. There is an art to that, to doing small things for each other without thinking, with pleasure even, because you know the other will appreciate it. Julianna is a nurturing person, with everyone around her, and that's just what Michael needs. For his part, Michael offers Julianna a helping hand when she needs it, and some space to be an adult, even when he would prefer to get closer."

Thank you, Nicola!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First Review of Love at First Flight

From BookBinge. It won't be live until June, but I can tell you this much:

"Marie Force really has a knack for getting the reader emotionally involved with her characters. I felt the same way when I read Line of Scrimmage and Love at First Flight is no exception. I have to give kudos to her for writing such an unconventional romance so well. The fact that she could engage my emotions throughout the whole book really is a testament to her skillfulness of storytelling."


Monday, April 6, 2009

A Fond Farewell...

My Aunt Ann passed away early Sunday morning after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's. After hearing about just a fraction of what my cousins went through (as well as my sisters-in-law who nursed my mother-in-law through it) I certainly hope a special VIP room is reserved in heaven for Alzheimer's caregivers. They surely deserve some sort of everlasting reward.

I think it was Nancy Reagan who first referred to the disease as The Long Goodbye. That is an apt description, for when the valiant heart of an Alzheimer's patient finally gives out, the person has usually been lost to their family and friends for many years.

Since I received the phone call from my cousin yesterday morning, I've been thinking a lot about who Aunt Ann was before a terrible disease stripped her of all the things that made her her. I've discovered many long-forgotten memories. Here are just a few of them.

I remember childhood visits to Aunt Ann's summer cottage on the shore of the Sakhonnet River. I remember the long climb down winding wooden stairs to get to her rocky beach. I remember Ann overseeing the action on the beach wearing her ever-present navy blue Dr. Scholl's sandals, a baseball hat on her cap of steel-gray hair, and her hands jammed into denim shorts. "Don't even think about it," she would say sternly when one of the cousins got a big idea to pick up one of Aunt Ann's rocks and aim it at a sibling or cousin.

I remember her working the long clothesline in the cottage's side yard. Towels, wet bathing suits, sandy t-shirts clothes-pinned to the line until we were ready for another trip down to the beach. She called her spot by the river "God's Country," and it only took one dazzling sunset over the river and the bay beyond for a visitor to understand how the place got its name.

I remember decades of birthday cards, first to me and then later to my children, signed with love from Aunt Ann and Uncle Jack. During my college years, regular cards and letters would arrive from Aunt Ann, sometimes with just a pithy note about the goings on in God's Country (which later became their year-round home), other times with some "mad money" so I could buy a treat from her. She loved to say she "gave at the office," though I don't remember her ever working in one!

I remember the almost aristocratic, Kennedy-esque timber to her voice and how she would explode with laughter at the slightest provocation. Each of her four daughters inherited that ringing laugh, and I know their laughter will always remind me of hers.

I remember family gatherings, cookouts, birthday parties, Ann and Jack's 50th anniversary celebration—events at which the 5 original siblings, their 21 children, their 35 children and recently, the first of the family's fourth generation, would come together as a loud, messy, outrageous group. It's a great joy to most of us cousins that our 35 children would know each other in a crowd despite the distance of years and geography. For two weeks every summer, many of the cousins come home to visit, and the circle of beach chairs grows wider with each passing year.

I'll remember that my Aunt Ann and her sister Kay became first-time grandmothers on the same day. In an ironic twist, Ann's eldest grandchild and his wife both lost their grandmothers yesterday. In the great cosmic calendar in the sky, what are the odds of two such events happening on the exact same day?

My mother was Ann's baby sister, younger by 12 years. My mom was 10 years old when Ann married Jack. She was 11 when Ann made her an aunt. Five years ago when my mother died, Ann's daughters came running to me with food and friendship and old stories and lots of laughter. Last night I tried to return the favor and came home aching from hours of laughter over the same old stories. Some things never go out of style.

Our mothers are gone now but they left us with something so precious and enduring. They left us with each other.

Aunt Ann has gone home to God's Country. May she rest in peace.