30 Day Challenge: Day 5 – Accessories (part the first)

Yoga: check. Biking: check (school and back, where I learned I can no longer tell the boy I love him in front of any other human being; yoga and back; school to the coffee shop and home again). Now on to the fun stuff: accessories!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a woman with a new hobby must be in want of new gear. Or something to that effect. One of the things Caz Nicklin’s book did was open my eyes to delightful, updated bike accessories. We don’t have to ride around in spandex (or the most up to date sweat-wicking fabric), hunched over speed bikes, toting things in messenger bags or backpacks. When I bought Persie, I also bought a saddlebag and a basket. Turns out, spending that extra $100 took the bike from a pretty toy to a useful mode of transportation.

Basket!

Basket!

This isn’t the most stylish basket Electra sells, but it’s weatherproof and easily snaps off and on. In the picture it holds the leather jacket I wore to take the boy to school, which was too hot for the ride home. For a quick ride I line it with a felted bag I knitted five years ago and never used until now, toss in my phone, a book, and keys. The handle means it doubles as a shopping basket, so I can bring home French bread or groceries like a Parisienne, yo. I’ve got my eye on a liner. Design matters.

In other news, my legs have stopped screaming in pain every time I so much as twitch, so maybe my body is over the shock? Yesterday I drove for the first time in three days, and it was a bit strange to not pedal up the hill out of my subdivision. I felt disconnected from the world around me, something I’m sure I’ll appreciate when it’s 40 degrees and raining, but it was still worth noticing. I read somewhere that our brains are meant to process the world at a walking pace; Persie can move faster than that, but really, she and I are happiest trundling along, seeing the moon rise. This morning on the way to school the boy and I saw an American Goldfinch taking a bath in the sprinkler run-off, something I would have missed from inside my behemoth of a car. Colorful birds seen from colorful bikes makes for a good start to the morning.

Tomorrow: the saddlebag!

30 Day Challenge – Day 4

Yoga: check. Biking: check. School and back, coffee shop and back, yoga and back, school and back.

My hamstrings are no longer speaking to me, and I had to ice my knee yesterday. The yoga class today was basically a yin class in a heated room, so we held the poses for a couple of minutes, and they were all good and stretchy for tight muscles and ligaments. This morning I woke up still physically tired from more exercise in a short period of time than I’ve had in…I can’t remember how long. Somehow 45 minutes of the elliptical 4 days a week and one hot yoga class a week doesn’t match up to what probably amounts to over an hour of biking and at least an hour of yoga a day. I’m not sure why. Different muscles? Hills? I’m old and crunchy?

On the plus side, however, I’m significantly calmer. Again, I’m not sure why, if it’s the intense yoga practice, more exercise in general which quiets the hamster wheel of my brain, or if I’m just flat out too tired to get anxious. I’m riding along heavily traveled streets in which traffic moves at 45 MPH, at least, so listening to music while I ride is out of the question; maybe I’m just more alert in general. Less zoned out and in my head. I’m spending less time online because two+ hours on the bike and in yoga is two+ hours I’m not in front of my computer. A dear friend got a cancer diagnosis earlier in the week, which got me thinking about priorities, always a good thing to examine every so often.

Whatever the cause, and it’s probably a combination of all these things, the first four days of this challenge have surprised me. I expected the yoga to ease some common computer/desk job aches and pains. I didn’t expect to notice the sky over my subdivision, or the supermoon. Right now I’m about to head out to the local astronomy club’s monthly gathering. The moon is just past full, Pleiades meteor shower peaks tonight, and the skies are finally clear. I started the morning biking under the stars, and I’ll end it star-gazing. The in between was pretty good, too. Let’s hope my hamstrings are happier tomorrow.

30 Day Challenge – Day 3 “What Was I Thinking?”

Yoga: check. Biking: triple check (coffee shop and back, yoga studio and back, school and back).

In the last seventy-two hours I’ve taken four hours of hot yoga when I normally take maybe one class a week. I’m sore. Really sore. On the plus side, the tendinitis in my left arm is gone, and my right hand is significantly better. I can’t say the same for my hamstrings. Mr C managed to knee me in the back of the leg last night. I know this only because rather than saying “ouch” I howled with pain. The yoga instructors assure me the “tenderness” will subside, and I’ll start feeling “better and better”. I’ll take their word for it, and perhaps add a few minutes with a heating pad to my reading tonight.

I biked to the coffee shop this morning with the pale white super moon setting in the west. One of our vacations this summer was to a “star party”, which is basically a gathering of telescope/astronomy-loving mostly dudes taking advantage of summer weather and dark skies to set up together and do some epic star-gazing. We had a blast. Seeing the moon this morning reminded me to get out the binoculars and take a closer look tonight. I hope you have a few minutes to do the same!

Thirty Day Challenge – Day Two

Yoga: check. Biking: check.

The days are getting shorter. I biked to class this morning on silent streets in cloudy pre-dawn lit most vividly by a rabbit’s white tail flashing down into the trees and brush crowded at the bottom of the ravine. I mentally added a headlight and maybe a reflective jacket to my growing list of necessary accessories.

I can’t remember the last time I took hot yoga class two days in a row. I’m sore, and my left knee already feels a bit strained; unless I ‘m completely inactive, that knee always finds a way to remind me that I’m not twenty. Bikram says you can mess with the gods, but not with your knees. In class I ignored the teacher’s exhortations to push PUSH PUSH! beyond my edge. Today I looked through the sweat running into my eyes at the edge from a careful distance back.

I’ve started watching the weather like a farmer, or a sailor, but after hot yoga, a steady rain can’t soak me any more thoroughly. The fenders keep the muddy street water from spattering my back, and the rain rinsed me clean. I squelched through the door to fresh scratch waffles, and the rather delightful knowledge I don’t have to go anywhere else today under my own power. Naomi Novik’s Blood of Tyrants will provide enough energy and excitement for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

30 Day Challenge – Day One

Recently several things crashed together in my head: conversations with friends about good fortune and living without fear, Cindy Ratzlaff‘s comment at RWA that you don’t have to be twenty-one to have your whole life ahead of you, my son turning ten a few days ago. We spent the boy’s birthday in Denver, where the cycling culture is very alive and well. While I was at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science I picked up The Girls’ Bicycle Handbook by Caz Nicklin. Like most kids, I spent quite a bit of time as a child on a bike, but in the last thirty years, riding a bike had become a “sport”, not a basic mode of transportation, or something I did for fun. I had a mountain bike hybrid I rode only when pressed, because the forward lean put too much pressure on my wrists and elbows, aggravating joints I wanted to keep healthy for writing. But something about the book (probably the cool fashion and the retro cruiser bikes) got me thinking. If I have the rest of my life ahead of me, I want to spend more of it on a bike.

Meet Persie.

Classically stylish...

Classically stylish…

 

She’s an Electra Townie 21d (because despite Nebraska’s reputation as a pancake-flat-flyover-state, Omaha is really rather hilly so I need all twenty-one gears). I named her for her color – persimmon – and for my son’s favorite character, Percy Jackson from Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. She was a big splurge, even before I added fenders, rear rack, basket, and saddlebag – but I absolutely adore riding her. I’ve been reading blogs written by women cyclists around the world. They cycle to work, to the grocery store, everywhere, and while most of them live in larger cities where driving a car is a bigger pain in the fanny than riding a bike, they make it look cool. Like, really cool. Like, bike in skirts and tweed and funky helmets and boots, and add saddlebags and baskets for loaves of French bread.

Biking. Come for the exercise, stay for the accessories. I can get behind this sport.

This morning, as I hauled myself to yoga to work out the kinks from twenty hours of driving on vacation, and a desk job that’s given me rather severe tendinitis, the yoga studio owner suggested a hot yoga challenge. In the past that’s meant taking a hot yoga (it’s Bikram-ish) class every day for a set period of time. Thirty days…sixty days…ninety days. As I sweated through the class – which I’d ridden to on Persie – both ideas came together in my mind.

For the next 32 days (because my birthday is in 32 days) I’m going to take a yoga class every day, and bike everywhere I can. I live in what I lovingly call suburban strip mall hell, but the good news about that is that the things I do most frequently: take my son to school, go to the grocery store, go to a coffee shop, go to yoga, are all within an easy ten minute bike ride. Today I put my mat, towel, and water bottle in Persie’s saddlebag and biked to the yoga class. And home again. Let me tell you, I’m quite a sight after ninety minutes of yoga done in a room heated to 105 degrees and 50% humidity, but I pedaled home feeling extra virtuous and the shower felt extra good.

That’s the challenge. Thirty-two days of yoga, and thirty-two days of riding my bike where I can. I’ve decided to blog about it because I need the accountability. Hold me to this, dear readers. Expect a post a day, pictures, observations, things I see that are cool, car/driver behavior that is cool…or decidedly not cool (I’m looking at you, whoever was driving the Lexus hybrid SUV that wouldn’t wait literally three seconds for me to turn left into a parking lot and therefore honked at a middle-aged woman on a bike).

What about you? Have you been mulling over a challenge, to read more, get more sleep, eat fewer carbs? I’d love some company, so if you want to jump in and set an arbitrary timeframe for a particular task or goal, please do! As Cindy said, we’ve all got the rest of our lives ahead of us…time to start living!

Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Lauren Dane tagged me in the Next Big Thing blog hop. The blog hop is an author answering ten questions about whatever their next “big thing” is. That author then tags more authors and so on and so forth.

It’s a fun way to find out a little bit about what your favorite authors are doing – or maybe being introduced to new authors. I’m going to talk about the book I just turned in, which will be out from Berkley Heat in September, 2013.

1. What is the working title of your book?

UNCOMMON PASSION. It’s the second in a series set in Galveston, Texas. The first book, UNCOMMON PLEASURE releases in March, 2013.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

One of the secondary characters in UNCOMMON PLEASURE, Ben Harris, intrigued me. He’s the second participant in a menage, the guy the heroine knows is up for anything, any time, with anyone. I got to thinking about what kind of man that would be. He could be fun-loving, easy-going, obliging…or he could be tortured, carrying the weight of a terrible past, and using sex to avoid dealing with what he’s done. Ben’s the second kind of guy. 😉

3. What is the genre of the book?

It’s erotic romance.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ben looks like Bailey Chase in his Deputy Branch Connally incarnation on Longmire.
Rachel Hill has all of Abbie Cornish’s reserve in Bright Star.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“A virgin refugee from a fundamentalist cult determined to experience life and sex to the fullest gets involved a man with troubled past equally determined feel nothing at all.”

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher?

This will release from Berkley Heat in March, 2013.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft took about 10 weeks to produce. I spent another 3 months getting crits and revising the manuscript.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think the virgin-meets-bad boy trope is fairly common in erotic romance. In fact, I’d already done a similar story, so finding new emotional territory to explore made this book an interesting challenge!

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been interested in the question of what turns someone into “that guy”, the one the characters can turn to for the ever popular “one night of no-strings-attached” sex. Giving him a heroine who needed experience but turned his definition of “experience” on his head seemed like the best way to create conflict.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s got all the characteristics of an Anne Calhoun erotic romance: a troubled, experienced paramilitary hero and a heroine who knows exactly what she wants who sets him back on his heels. Plus, there’s the ever-popular scorching sex. 😉

More seriously, in this book I explore family and friendships more than I have in previous erotic romances, so if you like community and family issues with your smexxing, give this book a shot.

I tried, folks, to find someone to tag for this blog hop, but everyone was either on deadline or had already participated. 🙁 So check out some of the amazing writers I contacted, all of whom have fabulous books releasing in 2013.

Megan Mulry, Mira Lyn Kelly, Alison Kent, Miranda Neville, Leah Braemel, Ruthie Knox, Elyssa Patrick, and Jill Shalvis.

19 Years and Counting…

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary.

Twenty-two years ago I walked into the first class of my sophomore year in college (8 a.m. American History if you’re curious) and saw a boy sitting with his long, long legs stretched out into the aisle. What flashed into my brain was That’s the man I’m going to marry. Which sounds all romantic and wonderful…except I was dating someone else and had no intention of ever getting married. I’m not prone to getting messages from the great beyond, so I just filed it away and went on with life. Two months later I asked the long-legged, quiet boy to study for a test with me. He turned me down. A few days later he said he changed his mind. Two months after that I broke up with the other guy. One year after that he asked me to marry him, and a year after that, we were married on a warm, sunny October day.

In 19 years together we’ve gone through one pregnancy, two cross-country moves, two houses, four cars (we keep ’em til they gasp out a last breath), two graduate degrees, one terrorist attack, one blackout, one transit strike, four trips abroad, and roughly six career changes between us. I’ve got gray hair. He still looks about twenty-five. This morning he told me he still gets butterflies when I walk into a room.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. C. I love you.

Dirt Town

Welcome to Dirt Town. Population: one to five eight-year-old boys, depending on the play date, and dozens of Matchbox cars.

Like so many creative projects, Dirt Town came about organically. We’d built Small Boy a fabulous sandbox fashioned like a red race car. He helped us put it together, paint the silver and black wheels on the sides, assemble the steering wheel and screw handles to the storage box in the front. We filled it with the finest white sand money can buy.

He played in it a handful of times, and then it went unused. He preferred a pile of dirt sitting beside the house after a landscaping project. But the dirt pile was in the full sun, so when the weather warmed up, he stopped playing there.

When the linden tree’s roots grew more and more exposed, Mr. C decided to improve the look of our admitted ratty back yard by spreading the dirt under the tree and adding some compost and grass seed. He got as far as transferring the dirt pile from beside the house to under the tree. The next day, we had this:

It doesn’t look like much. Those are old landscaping bricks. I’m not sure where the planks came from. The boys found long nails that fell in the dirt when we re-sided the house last spring and use them for something. I’m not sure what, as I stay out of Dirt Town. There’s something a little sacred about this kind of play, scraped out with gardening tools and a dump truck. It belongs to them and while Small Boy occasionally wants to show us a new “improvement”, for the most part, that’s his space to let his imagination go.

There are funny moments. When we had a heavy rainstorm, Dirt Town suffered severe flash flooding. Small Boy kicked the dirt and said, “We should have had insurance!”

Did you have a Dirt Town as a child? I did. A tree line bordered the edges of the playground I attended when I was Small Boy’s age. This was an all-girls school, and my friends and I would drag limbs and branches into fort-shapes, and ambush each other from these forts. We moved often, and when I got older I used to make houses out of the hanging clothes boxes, lining it with a sleeping bag and pillows and stuffed animals so I could read in peace. These kinds of spaces are important to kids, and adults, too. I have my own Dirt Town in the back yard. It’s shaped like an outdoor couch, and on sunny Sunday afternoons, that’s where I read and write and nap.

We’re tearing out the sandbox next weekend with plans to sell the structure on Craig’s List to someone whose kid prefers pristine white sand and a pretty red box. Around here, we play in Dirt Town.

In Which Anne Forgets She Wrote A Book

I’m not particularly creative when it comes to titling my WIPs. I used to stress about it, but after a while I started stressing about other things, like getting an agent and writing more books. I began calling WIPs by the hero’s name. In the last year I’ve written “Adam”, Sean, Ronan, and I’m currently working on “Ben”. In May I finished “Adam”. I slapped a title on it, my agent submitted the book to various editors for their consideration, it sold very quickly, and I forgot about it.

Flash forward to today. Debut author Elyssa Patrick, a good friend who’s just published a really sweet contemporary I recommend highly, sent me a Woot! email indicating Unforgiven was now available for preorder on Amazon. I read my emails right after I get out of bed (bad habit) and this was my sleep-rumpled thought process.

1. WTF? I didn’t write a book called Unforgiven.

2. Oh. Berkley’s assigned one of Alison Kent‘s upcoming Dalton Gang Heat cowboy books to my name. I’ve read two of the three and they’re delicious, but I didn’t write them, so…WTF?

3. Oh, wait. That’s what we called Adam when we pitched it. I guess I did write a book called Unforgiven.

Long story short, you can preorder Unforgiven, my first contemporary romance that will release in June, 2013. There’s not much to look at yet, LOL – cover art, blurb, etc, all to follow, but if you’re really eager to preorder, go for it! If you’ve ever read one of my books and thought, “Boy, I wish these two would stop having so much hot sex and do stuff together, like deal with terrible mistakes and broken dreams and find their way to an emotionally satisfying new life together” this is the book for you! It’s the story of Adam Collins, a former Marine who can’t forgive himself for the devastating mistakes he’s made in his reckless past who returns home and reconnects with Marissa Brooks, the woman who always tempted him in all the wrong ways…

And now I’m going to get some Diet Coke in me, because Ben awaits.

In Which Anne Forgets To Ask Her Husband If Writing Erotic Books Is OK

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and when I tell people what I write, one of the questions they frequently ask is “What does your husband think of that?” There are usually two subtexts under this question. One is “OMG you write TRASHY SMUT and your husband must not know because if he did HE’D PUT A STOP TO IT!” The other is, “Wow. Your husband must be One Happy Man.”

Cue the eye roll.

My flippant answer to either subtext is “I didn’t ask him.” If I’d decided to write literary fiction, in which a tiger and a man discuss the meaning of life while adrift in a boat on the ocean, no one would ask me that question. If I’d decided to write essays or short stories targeted for The New Yorker, no one would ask that question. But throw a little (okay, quite a bit) of sex and an extra player or two into the mix and people get…twitchy.

It’s kind of amusing.

The truth is that my husband’s been urging me to write romance for almost the entire duration of our marriage (coming up on 19 years) because he loves me and he knew I wanted to do this before I admitted it to myself. He admires the covers (and makes soothing noises about the less attractive ones). He helps me brainstorm on date nights. He consoles me through rejections. My writing time takes priority in our house. It doesn’t make any difference to him that I might be writing a scene involving a firefighter, a widow, and an EMT, all naked and naughty. I’m writing. I’m a writer. It’s what I do, who I am. He doesn’t judge the content of my subconscious.

As for the One Happy Man…yeah, it’s totally handcuffs and riding crops and “one night of passion that changes everything” around here because I’m totally taking the most intimate moments of our married life, fictionalizing them, and selling them on the internet for money.

Sarcasm aside, we did discuss the consequences, especially when it appeared I could make a career of this. I’m not in my life alone. We have a child. People are mostly supportive and kind, but occasionally stupid and cruel. These are not good reasons to reject a desire and a talent, however modest.

The third subtext to the question “What does your husband think about this?” is a genuine, gentle curiosity, untainted by OMGSMUTSMUTSMUT or a rather lurid inquisitiveness. In those cases, I tell the truth.

He thinks it’s awesome.