Simple Gifts

On Friday, Gwen’s post brought up the subject of gifts.  I’d been contemplating a post on special gifts, and this just seemed like the perfect time for it.

My husband and I were traveling in our motorhome a few years ago, and spent a couple of days in Branson, Missouri. We wandered in and out of the various shops, just killing time and not really interested in buying anything.  And then we came to a dulcimer shop.  When I walked in, the sweet-yet-somewhat-plaintive sound of a dulcimer being played stopped me in my tracks.  The shopkeeper was playing, and I could have stayed and listened to him all afternoon.  The music spoke to me in some ethereal way.  It was the sound of my Kentucky roots and my Scots-Irish heritage.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the dulcimer, it’s an Appalachian instrument with a drone string that makes a sound reminiscent of a bagpipe. Seeing he had a fan, the shop owner broke into his salesman spiel, which resulted in my buying a dulcimer kit for my dad.  Dad likes to fiddle around (:-) with stringed instruments, and this one would make good use of his woodworking shop.

Fast forward to Christmas of that year.  My husband had retired, but I was still working.  He had created quite a nice woodworking shop of his own to piddle around in our barn.  Now, my husband is one of those amazing men who can do pretty much anything he puts his mind to, so I shouldn’t have been so shocked when he presented me with this unwrapped box.

Image My first reaction was What am I going to do with a pool cue–we don’t have a pool table?

“Why is Dad giving you a shotgun?” my daughter asked.

Then I opened the box.

ImageAnd there it was–the most beautiful instrument I’d ever seen.  Built, stained, embellished, polished, and strung by the hands of my beloved hero.  He also built the box out of a single block of walnut, cut by one of our friends.

Here’s another look:

Image

What does one say when presented with such a gift?  Words are inadequate.

But I started teaching myself to play and taking lessons from CDs.  I’m not great, but the yearning is there.  When I retired and we wintered that year at The Great Outdoors Resort in Florida, I was amazed to find an active dulcimer group of which I’m now a proud member.

One of the first tunes every dulcimer player learns is an old Shaker tune called Simple Gifts.  My husband’s gift was in no way simple, but the message was.  It simply says “I love you” every time I pick up my treasure.

And my hearts sings out loud to that melody.

Shameless Self-Promotion

EDITED: Hi everybody! Cynthia D’Alba sticking her head in. Pam didn’t know how to add pictures and I thought I’d add them so you will see the pure joy on her face at her first signing! Congrats, Pam. 

All of us here at ENALR are romance authors, but you already knew that.  The purpose of this blog is to get to know us as people.  Our likes, dislikes, quirks, families, dreams, pet peeves, etc.  You’ve celebrated anniversaries with us, wept with us over pets, laughed with us about our kids’ antics.  We’ve shaken our collective heads when trying to figure out male logic, and applauded and cheered when house renovations have turned out splendidly.

But because I can’t separate that I’m a romance writer from the rest of my being, the part of myself that I’m sharing will come across as the shameless self-promotion that it is.  But, here it comes anyway because I’m too thrilled to write about anything else today!

My Harlequin Superromance debut novel OUT OF THE DEPTHS released on August 7!!!  Yay!!!  This is the book that Cynthia D’Alba and I were discussing on a beach in Florida one day.  I was frustrated it hadn’t sold.  My agent was frustrated it hadn’t sold.  And as I was venting that frustration one day, Cyndi asked what it was about.  I gave her a short synopsis, after which she uttered those fateful words:  “That sounds like a Superromance.”

I had never read a Superromance, but I started reading them that afternoon.  Wow!  Cyndi was right.  Everything about the line felt right.  My agent agreed, submitted to the line, and the rest is history.

Last week, I walked into the Books-A-Million in my hometown of Paducah, KY and saw one of my books on the shelf for the first time.  It was a feeling like nothing else in the world.  The Yellow Moon Cafe in Cobden, IL, near where I live now, threw a celebration booksigning for me this weekend.  A large crowd showed up–people who cared enough to want to share this special time.  It was thrilling and very humbling.  I tend to be a bit shy, and the thought of being the center of attention had me so intimidated that around 3:00 that afternoon, I was ready to cancel.  But I didn’t–and I’m so glad.  Old friends showed up–some I hadn’t seen in years.  Family.  Former students.  People I’d never met.   An odd conglomeration of personalities coming together to celebrate my dream-come-true.

The highlight of the night came at the end.  The crowd was gone but a small, intimate group remained.  That was when my husband toasted me with champagne.  The pride in his eyes and his voice was another dream-come-true.

And that’s when it hit me that it wasn’t the sales or the reviews or the rankings of the book that was important.  It was the people in my life who believed in me.  Their love and support had made me important for a brief moment in time … made me SOMEBODY.

How about a little shameless self-propmotion of your own.  Share your proud moment with us.  For the first time on this blog, I get to offer a copy of my book to a someone who leaves a comment!  YAY!!!! 🙂

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

DH and I took a road trip out East recently.  On the way home, we got into a discussion about how much money our government seems to waste on signs.  I mean, I know that some, maybe most,  signage is necessary.  But when you think about the labor and materials that must be involved in the production of these things, I think I’ve hit on a way to cut government spending. Here are some of the ones whose necessity hangs in the balance for me:

#1.  Falling Rock—this one seems like the little boy who cried wolf. a) I have never seen a rock fall in one of these areas, and b) if a rock did fall as I was driving by, I’m not sure being warned it COULD happen would do me any good.  If a rock falls, I will try to avoid it.  But if a rock falls in an area without such a sign, I will also try to avoid it.  No sign—same result.

#2. Walk time shortened when train approaches—isn’t this a matter of common sense?  A very active  train track cuts through the middle of our small town and runs just a few yards north of the busiest intersection on Main Street.  There are FOUR of these signs at that intersection—one on each corner.  Now, for years, pedestrians crossed the street there, and I don’t remember a single one walking headlong into a train.  If a train approached, they either speeded up or slowed down, got across the tracks before the gates came down, or waited it out.  No one had to tell them their walk time would be shortened because of the train.  That was something they knew innately.  So who came up with this sign, and why did he feel it was necessary?

#3.  Speed monitored by aircraft—again, is this something that warrants a warning?  I don’t remember ever seeing a sign that says State trooper shooting radar at mile marker 103, so why do I need to be warned they’re monitoring my speed from the sky?  Is this a Big Brother ploy to make me suspicious of every airplane I see while I’m traveling?  If there are no planes around, can I go as fast as I want, secure in the knowledge that no one on the ground will be checking my speed?  And where are the warning signs telling me I’m no longer in that air-monitored area?

#4. No Pedestrians

No Bicycles

No Animals

This one is found on the entrance ramps to interstate highways.  I have no problem with the first two parts of this one.  It’s the No Animals that causes me to pause.  Does this mean I can’t legally  have my pet in the car?  Are cattle and horses, etc. not allowed to be transported on interstates?  Or is this one directed toward wild animals—the deer, raccoons, armadillos, skunks, groundhogs, opossums—that find their eternal sleep along our interstates?  If only they’d read the sign!  Couldn’t we at least save the ink that’s needed to print that line … make the sign shorter, thus cutting down on the amount of metal used?

So what do you think?  Care to join my cause?  What signs do you think are superfluous and why?

 

 

 

On My Mark

I was born with a birthmark—a bright red V in the middle of my forehead.  My parents were worried about me being self-conscious of it although the doctor assured them it would fade through the years.  For a while, my mom wouldn’t cut me any bangs for fear I would think she was trying to hide it.  But my aunt convinced her I’d be cute in bangs, so eventually she relented.  Occasionally, someone would point to the mark and comment about my sunburn, but that’s about as extensive as the conversations ever got.

Years passed, and the doctor proved to be correct.  By the time I got into high school, my birthmark wasn’t too noticeable UNLESS I was angry or sick.   My mark was dubbed as my “neon sign” by friends and family—a beacon that flashed bright red and warned everyone to steer clear that day.  At that point, I decided to take advantage of my novelty, so I ran for class office.  During my campaign speech, I drew attention to the V on my head and convinced the sophomores I was destined to be their Vice-President.  Needless to say, I won the election.

Fast forward a few years.  I was writing my first novel (The Timestone Key).  The story is a romantic Arthurian fantasy, and I needed my ever-so-average heroine to have something that was nondescript yet marked her as special.  Enter my mom with a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine under her arm, which was a bit of a shock in itself.  She’d swiped my nephew’s copy during a recent visit.  The magazine contained an article about a young boy who was a healer.  His parents knew he was a healer from birth because he bore the mark of a healer—a V in the middle of his forehead.  Poof!  I had that special something that my heroine needed.  But, more than that, I felt a surge of pride to be bearing the same mark.  It wasn’t just my “neon sign” anymore; it was something that had a place in history and connected me to a special group.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t think of myself as a healer.  But I do hope I can touch people in a special way through my writing.  Maybe one of my stories will make someone look at someone else in a different light or from a different perspective.  And maybe that look will lead to a broken heart being mended.

So how about you?  What is your most special trait or characteristic?

Happy (Re)Birthday to Me

Yesterday (May 13th) was my birthday.  It was also Mother’s Day, so it was an important day not only for me, but for women everywhere.  But today is perhaps an even more important day in my life.  I refer to it as my Re-birth Day.  On May 14th, 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so, as of today, I’m officially a five-year survivor.  I actually dislike using the term survivor because it implies that I faced death, and I didn’t—but others do.  It implies that there’s something heroic about me, and there’s not—but others are.  I’m simply someone who had a disease, and by the grace of God and the marvels of modern medicine, I’m cured.

 

I’ve been aware I was at high risk for the disease my entire adult life.  My grandmother had breast cancer.  My mother had breast cancer.  I had a benign tumor when I was 22 and started having routine mammograms early on.  So when the doctor confirmed what I already suspected after having several biopsies in as many years and a scare with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) two years earlier, I wasn’t completely surprised by the diagnosis.

 

What did surprise me were my options.  I went in expecting a lumpectomy like I had with the DCIS.  However, although the cancer was Stage 0, it was in more than one area and  scattered.  A lumpectomy would require losing one-third of my breast, radiation, and chemotherapy.   My other option was a mastectomy.  I would lose my breast, but no chemo and no radiation.

 

My decision shocked everyone including my husband, my doctor, and maybe even me.  I didn’t choose a mastectomy.  I chose a bi-lateral mastectomy.  Both breasts.  People told me how brave I was to take such a radical approach.  Let me assure you in no uncertain terms that I was not brave; I was terrified.  Terrified that in three months or three years I would be hearing the same terrifying diagnosis about my other breast.

 

I chose an option many women aren’t aware of—a simple, skin-saving mastectomy with only a 4% chance of recurrence.  The surgeon and the plastic surgeon were both in the surgery.  The surgeon removed my breasts, leaving as much skin as possible (which wasn’t much).  When he finished, the plastic surgeon inserted saline implants, each containing a port.  For two months, I went to the plastic surgeon’s office every two weeks and he would inject more saline solution through the port.  The skin stretched a little at a time until he had the mounds the correct size.  I was fortunate; he was able to stretch me to my previous size.  Then, we waited six months for everything to settle.

 

After the wait, I had a second surgery.  The plastic surgeon removed the saline implants and replaced them with silicone ones followed by another wait (three months).  The third surgery was optional—nipples.  But I’d gone this far and was thrilled with the results, so why stop now?  I took the option and loved the completed feeling I got from it.  No more blank faces staring back at me in the mirrorJ.

 

When the post-op report came back after the first surgery, I learned that my “good” breast did indeed have cancer; it was just too small to show up yet on a mammogram.  I made the right choice and have never regretted it.

 

I realize how blessed I am to have caught the cancer early, and I acknowledge the others who haven’t had the choices I had and have bravely faced whatever they had to endure.  But there are a lot of women like me out there who could have a choice.  Please help me get the message to them that EARLY DETECTION IS THE KEY.  I pray that every one of them can celebrate a Re-birth Day like me!

 

So my question for you today is an extremely personal one.  When was your last mammogram?

 

 

 

NO COINCIDENCE

 

As a writer and a reader, I know how off-putting it can be when a writer relies on coincidence to make things happen.  It rings untrue—feels too far-fetched.  And yet, in the real world, I love stories where fate, chance, or divine providence brings a couple together.  Stories where the timing was perfect … where a few minutes or even seconds could have changed two lives forever.

I have a friend from California who was visiting her parents in Kentucky one Thanksgiving.  Her mom sent her to the store for butter.  She ran into her high school boyfriend whose mother had sent him to the store for cream.  They chatted, exchanged phone numbers, and have been happily married now for seventeen years.  If one of them had reached the dairy aisle three minutes earlier, they might have never reconnected.

Another couple I know lost contact after high school.  Twelve years later, they were both Christmas shopping and happened to pass in a crowded shopping mall.  One cup of coffee turned into two, and they’ve been together over thirty years now.  What would’ve happened if they’d been looking the other way during that split second as they passed?

My own happy story is a matter of perfect timing.  I was playing golf and my now-husband happened to be in the foursome behind me.  I caught his eye (yeah—notice I said he was behind me, so he wasn’t checking out my face), and he asked for an introduction.  What if a foursome had played between us, which could’ve easily happened if I’d been a few minutes earlier or he a few minutes later?

Last year, we wintered in our motorhome at an RV resort in Florida.  One day during a massage, the massage therapist was fascinated to learn I was a romance author.  Imagine her surprise the next day when she ran into Cynthia D’Alba, who was also writing a romance novel!  She told Cyndi about me, and Cyndi contacted me through my website.  We’ve become great friends.  In fact, it was Cyndi who suggested my wip was a good fit for Harlequin Superromance.  My agent agreed, and I’m thrilled to report that Out of the Depths is scheduled as an August release in that line.  What if I’d skipped that massage, or what if Cyndi hadn’t been writing at the exact moment the massage therapist spoke with her?

Timing is everything.   

How about your real-life story?  Was serendipity at work?  Coincidence?  Perfect timing?  We would love it if you’d share!

      

New Kid on the Block

My parents still live in Paducah, Kentucky in the same house I grew up in.  I was never The New Kid on the Block .  But today, I find myself in that precarious position.  I might as well tell you right up front that I’m shy.  Oh, not once we’ve met.  I can talk the leg off a bar stool after I’ve made its acquaintance.  But, I’m a little out of my comfort zone making the first move.  Still, I want you to like me, so here goes.

I’m a romance author.  I currently have two books on the market.  The Timestone Key is an Arthurian romantic fantasy released in ebook form by Lyrical Press.  His Hotness is a romantic comedy released in print and ebook forms by The Wild Rose Press.  Both are currently available at Amazon, B&N online, the publishers’ websites, as well as various other online bookseller sites.  For blurbs and excerpts, visit my website: www.pamelahearon.com.  I recently signed my first contract with Harlequin, and my SuperRomance Out of the Depths is scheduled as an August release.

But, on this blog, everybody’s a writer, so I need to tell you things that will give you insight into my personality so we can be lifelong friends, right?  Try one of these: I love animals.  I love to travel.  I have a large perennial flower garden.  I play the dulcimer.  One of my favorite activities is geocaching.  I’ve ziplined and parasailed.  Hot onion rings dipped in a hot fudge milkshake makes my tastebuds happy.  I have an aversion to pretzels.  In fact, I can throw up just thinking about the skinny stick ones.  For some reason, I associate them with measles.  I’ve see Dr. Zhivago  26 times (and read the book).

Anything grab your attention yet?  Sheesh!  You’re a tough crowd. Okay, just a few secrets to make things more intimate between us.  I used to be a clogger in a dance group called The Polka Dot Kids.  My tear ducts used to stop up and I could make them whistle.  I’m addicted to computer and video adventure games that require me to solve logic puzzles to open the next level.

Oh, all right.  You want the stuff that’s way out there, don’t you?  The stuff that could land me on David Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks.  <sigh>  Well, okay.  But you can only read it if you promise to reciprocate with your own.

Remember—this is just between the two of us.

I can gargle “Swanee River” and it sounds really cool if I put a microphone against my throat while I’m doing it.

Okay … your turn!

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