Location, location, location

Not bad for a late October day in the Windy City

Not bad for a late October day in the Windy City

Chicago.

I love reading and writing stories that feature it.

It's home.

Even though I grew up in the western suburbs and live there now, even though technically I only lived in city for a total of 3-4 years, even though I only worked half of my entire career in the Loop.

Chicago. Is. Home.

This became even more apparent to me as my hubby and I wandered a small section of it yesterday with our nephew. From the Mart to the Lake, from Daley Plaza to the Bean--the nephew's goal to take 250 pictures for photography class and our goal to show him the city he's barely seen. The sliver of land we covered was just a taste of everything Chicago offers but I saw things I never noticed before, and they all reminded me why I love the city.

When I was younger, the city was a mystery to me. I remember some of the first trips I took with my dad to concerts or sporting events, entranced by the skyline, mesmerized by the activity, and intrigued by the people. Then, when I was in college, my friends and I hit some of the bars. China Club, Medusa's, The Exit, The Beaumont, to name a few. My college radio friends took me to Wax Trax and the Alley, where I bought music and black t-shirts.

From meeting (Ogilvie Train Station), to dating (so many places), to living with (Lincoln Square) and then marrying my hubby (in the Hancock Center), there's no doubt to how much we love it.

The next novel I'll be working on is based in Chicago. It's the story of new beginnings for the heroine, and a career comeback for the hero's brother. It's based in the music industry (working 15 years in radio helped shape the story for sure), and the city plays an important role.

I had spent 2011-2016 working in the northern suburbs thanks to a job change. I missed Chicago. Maybe not the commute, but the energy, the opportunities, and that skyline. I literally created the role I'm in now (the day job) so I could be back in the city.

Every day, whether it's the view from the train or my car, that skyline still makes me swoon.

Highlights of our route with the nephew (doesn't include a quick trip to Wrigley Field or Wilmette to photograph the Bahai Temple)...15,000 steps on the tracker!

Highlights of our route with the nephew (doesn't include a quick trip to Wrigley Field or Wilmette to photograph the Bahai Temple)...15,000 steps on the tracker!

Monthly Blog: Back to "School"

It's mid-September and the leaves are starting to change on the trees outside my home-office window. Despite some 80+ degree temps in Chicago, and my A/C still running, we are on the verge of Fall.

Those cute booties I packed away months ago are already calling out "wear me." The three hangers of pretty scarves in my closet are ready to make their reappearance.

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I am a huge fan of fall (aka less sweat and pumpkin spice). Still, if there's one thing I truly miss when it gets to be this time of the year, it's back-to-school shopping.

The fresh set of pens and the notebooks that just begged to be filled with words...some of them even school-related words! While the studying and homework part lacked appeal, knowing that I had college-ruled pages available, made me giddy.

Perhaps that was when the addiction started.

Suffice it to say, as I writer, I still buy notebooks to write in. These have much more personality than Mead or Five Star could even attempt to bother to design. They come from a variety of places--bookstores, book fairs, museum stores, etc. My boss used to get them at conferences, or vendors would send them his ("my") way. Sometimes Walgreens even has a unique option.

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Wherever they come from, for some reason, each notebook has it's own distinct purpose. Taking notes for creative writing classes, journalling, brainstorming story ideas, sightseeing ideas and results of trips we've taken. I have one textured notebook with gold-tipped pages that I started journalling in five years ago. It started as a place I'd put ideas for my novel, website, blog, but then it became a place I would celebrate accomplishments or bitch about life. The last two years, the entries have become few and far between. I usually write a brief update about what's been going on lately, just to catch up with myself so to speak. I know this lack of "dear diary" is due to my intense guilt (I have it now writing this blog), that any writing I'm doing should be focused on my current novel. But I like knowing that I have that notebook. That I can pull it out, grab a pen and just write--manually.

There's something about writing longhand with a pen--the right pen--that is almost therapeutic. It not only takes me back to my teen years of when I would write my stories in those boring old spirals, but it allows me to think. Typing is sometimes too fast for my brain to work out an idea. When I am hand-writing something, it gives me a chance to think of the next words as I neatly, in cursive of course, parse out my thoughts.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but give me a smooth ballpoint and a notebook and I can write for hours. Stick me at a keyboard and I feel that the starts and stops merely disrupt my creative juices. I guess that's why I keep lined paper in the drawer under my laptop. 

Sometimes, you just have to go old school.

 

Story Tasting: TMRH

Instead of writing the random blog this month, I decided to share an excerpt from Tame My Racing Heart. I am rounding the bend in the second act and heading for the finish line (see what I did there?) so I thought I'd offer up a small taste...and I'm super lazy right now. LOL

Chapter Five

Gray had been awake for nearly an hour when he heard movement from the bedroom. The sound of the blankets shifting was followed by Sami’s footsteps to the bathroom. 

He’d spent the night on the sofa in her hotel room, just to make sure she didn’t pull another stunt like last night, and also to intercept Stevens if he made a surprise visit. 

You should have taken her out of the nightclub as soon as the event was over.

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He knew too well that all it took was that one brief moment. It could mean the difference between life or death. One moment you’re in a chopper with your buddies and the next, you’re treading water, two of your friends are dead and your shoulder is split in two by a bullet.

Okay, maybe the situation with Sami wasn’t exactly the same, but that one brief moment he’d looked down to tell Sasha to get lost, had cost him.

Gray heard the shower turn on and checked his watch. A car was coming to get them in an hour, so he headed into his room for a quick shower and to pack. 

Just as he was zipping up his carry-on, his phone rang.

Mom appeared on his screen.

Gray barely got the title off his lips before Peggy Finch was speaking over him.

“Grayson, you know it would be really nice if you’d just call once in a while. I don’t care how old you are, I’m always going to worry about you.”

“Yes, Mom. I’m sorry, I know it’s been a while.”

“A while?” Peggy laughed into the phone.

“How are you, Mom? How’s your knee?”

“Oh, not so great. Looks like I’ll need a replacement. I just don’t know when I’ll have the time. We have so much going on here.” He listened to his mom rattle off a list of events she was in charge of at the senior community where they lived in Scottsdale. “Plus, I just started delivering for Meals on Wheels and I can’t let them down. In the meantime, some of the ladies in my water aerobics class swear by some new herbal candy that’s supposed to help with pain management. Tomorrow, a bunch of us are going to see if we can buy some at the pharmacy.”

Herbal—

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“Mom, those are called edibles and they have cannabis in them. They sell them at a dispensary, not a pharmacy. It’s medical marijuana. You know that, right?”

“How do you know about it, Grayson?” Peggy’s tone sent him right back to adolescence.

“Mom, I mean, come on.” Gray rubbed his forehead.

“I’m just saying, you still have shoulder pain, maybe it would do you some good—“

“How’s dad?” Gray never asked about Jack Finch, but he’d do anything not to talk about weed or his chronic shoulder pain with his mother.

Peggy seemed to be caught off guard with the questioning and stammered a bit. “He’s doing well. Should I tell him you asked about him?”

Gray grunted. “I have to go, Mom, I’m heading to the airport soon.”

“Well, it’s nice to hear your voice.” She cleared her throat. “You know, your dad turns sixty-five in a few weeks. It would be nice if you could come to the party we’re having. I’ll email you the info.”

“Yeah, okay, Mom. I really gotta run. I’ll call you in a few days.” Gray ended the call before Peggy could speak again and grimaced. She’d find a way to make him feel guilty for that the next time they spoke.

He ran a hand over his face and pulled his suitcase over to the adjoining door.

Instead of barging in, he decided to politely knock before opening the door.

Sami stood in faded jeans, a cotton shirt with Myrtle Beach silk-screened on the front, and a black suede baseball hat over hair that was pulled into a low ponytail. 

She looked smaller, almost innocent. Her eyes remained downcast, but Gray could see the puffiness around them.

“Is this your incognito look?”

“This is my hung over look.” Sami slipped her sunglasses on. “I need coffee before we go.”

Gray followed her to the Starbucks in the hotel lobby and stood to the side as she ordered. He looked across the beige marble columns to the checkout desk where Chris Stevens stood with the woman who’d succeeded in distracting him last night.

Breathing through the urge to go over and beat the shit out of Stevens, Gray glanced over at Sami, curious how she’d react to seeing them. She had put her ear buds in to take a call, not noticing the couple at all.

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“Alec? Hey, sweetie.”

The boyfriend.

Sami’s tone was casual, like she hadn’t just cheated on him—but had she? Either way, she had flirted with another guy, stood for pictures with him at the event, even went back to his room.

Gray bit his lip.

And what would you have done if she’d told you she was going back to Stevens’ room? Tell her no. Stand outside the room while they—

Either way, she was acting like a spoiled brat. Sneaking away like that eighteen-year-old girl he once knew—except back then, she was sneaking away to be with him.

Gray heard Sami whisper “love you” into the phone.

He couldn’t get on that plane fast enough.