This day in history: July 26** …Got plans?

I love research. And as with anything, even fictional writing, you should know your facts. If you’re writing historical or regency romance you definitely have to get the facts straight, or else you will be getting letters and emails from your readers.

Even in contemporary romance, which is what I write, you have to get the facts straight. If your character was a teenager in 1980s, you certainly better know that Culture Club and Boy George, or Earth Wind and Fire, might have been one of the groups they were listening to, and not Maroon 5, since they weren’t even a band, yet.

I digress. Again.

As I said, I love research and history. So, I did a little digging and found a few historical events (and birthdays) that took place on July 26, in various years. I also tried to associate a weekend activity with these events.

•1963 – Syncom 2, the world’s first geosynchronous satellite, is launched from Cape Canaveral on a Delta B booster. So, I thought a trip to the museum or planetarium always works.

1951 – Walt Disney’s 13th animated film, Alice in Wonderland, premieres in London, England, United Kingdom. Rent it or buy it and watch it with the little ones in your life, or by yourself!

Here are a few July 26 birthdays.

1909 – Vivian Vance, American actress (d. 1979) Enjoy “Ethel” and Lucy on “I Love Lucy” reruns or on DVD.
1922 – Blake Edwards, American film directorPink Panther, or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, anyone?
1928 – Stanley Kubrick, American director (d. 1999) Feel like a scary movie, or something historical, watch his classic movies, “The Shining” or the original “Spartacus” with Kirk Douglas.
1973 – Kate Beckinsale, English actress – Do you hear “Underworld,” “Van Helsing” or “Serendipity”calling?

As for me, I will probably relax with a movie, starting with “Van Helsing,” (hey, I need a dose of Hugh Jackman) and then head to Barnes and Noble, grab a chai-tea latte, and see what’s new on the shelves and on NOOK. I’ll also take my dog, Poe, for a walk in the park, and then head home for a LONG nap! If my Sunday morning is as peaceful as Maroon 5’s, I won’t complain! 🙂

Whatever you do this weekend, enjoy yourself and the journey.

See you Monday!

** Today is actually the 27th, but I reference the 26th. This is what happens when you write a blog the day before. In any case, the dates and facts are correct. I guess I thought I’d 1) get a jump on the weekend, yesterday or 2) make sure I had your attention!;-)

Either way, enjoy your weekend!

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Puerto Rico: My epiphany

I believe traveling isn’t all about visiting new sites and cultures. It’s about clearing your head. When I plan a trip, I get extra excited. In the past, I’ve discovered there’s an underlying meaning to my travel. It’s usually to find something lacking in myself or my life.

I can relate to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, the author of “Eat, Love, Pray” journey to find everything. At some point in our lives, I think most of us make the decision to do just that–or at least discover what’s wrong in our lives and try to rectify it.

On a trip to Puerto Rico ten years ago, I did just that. Granted, my journey didn’t me to Italy (not that time, anyway), India, and Indonesia, like Ms. Gilbert. However, it took me to an island breeze, lush beaches and blue-green waters, where I vacationed by myself– to find myself.

It was a much needed vacation. It was also a chance to clear my head, to put things into prospective, and to weed out the negativity that had been a part of my life for several months: the wrong people, bad decisions, and not enough of the right decisions.

Sound familiar?

I’d stop doing the things I loved. Writing. Reading. Spending time with family and friends. And for what? Someone else’s existence? Not a wise move. I had to squash that.

Puerto Rico will always have a special place in my heart because it’s where I realized that my life had taken a turn off course and if I wanted to survive, I had to regain control. Needless to say, the island helped me see things clearly. And as I lay on the beach in Condado early one morning, the sun and horizon came up to greet me, as did tears of clarity. I’d had an epiphany.

The next day, I took the bus through Old San Juan to do some shopping and sightseeing. My destination was Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fortress built in 16th-century to guard the San Juan Bay and protect Puerto Rico from seaborne enemies.

The fortress still stands in perfect condition and a tour around the citadel takes you on a journey back in time. The displayed cannon balls used to fight off ensuing enemies, gives you a true glimpse into the past.

My walk to the fortress from town was a few miles. When I reached the entryway of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, I was once again in awe of the island’s beauty. At that moment, I became acutely aware that this pathway was more than the road that led me to the citadel’s discovery. It was the road that would lead me to discover myself.

I took this picture just before I headed up the hill, and although the road was long, I knew it would lead me to my destination. As it turns out, this was defining moment in my life, and a life’s lesson.

I learned that all my goals, destinations and yes, even fears, require that I walk toward them, not away from them.

I keep this picture in my office to remind me of that lesson, and as a reminder of my personal journey to find myself. If you happen to be at a crossroads in your life, I’d like to offer a bit of advice, if I may. Plain and simple, DO YOU.

No matter what responsibilities you may have or how many people depend on you, it’s important that you’re content with who you are as an individual. Take care of yourself, and take time to clear your head and regroup.

It’s your life. It’s your journey.

Thank B&N it’s Friday!

For the obvious reasons, Friday is the best day of the week. People who work hard all week, finally get the chance to join in the universal yelp of TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday). There’s nothing more liberating than singing that phrase as you grab your coat, snatch up your car keys, run for the train, or hand your money to the bus driver.

The happiness that follows (even though you may have to share Saturday and Sunday with errands, little league, work around the house) is euphoric. And in the summer, forget it! The trek to the beach, barbeques, family outings for the most part begin on Friday!

What a day!

There is, however, another reason why I love Fridays: free online books—ranging from the classics to obscure—available at Barnes and Noble (B&N) . They’re primarily geared toward NOOK owners. However, everyone can download the NOOK app and benefit from this weekly offer. A true book lover’s haven.

There are some critics that may say the books are of less than best-selling stature, and THAT’S why they’re free. Maybe. But it’s still free! And you won’t have to pay good money for something you don’t like.

And who knows, even in the worst written book, there can be a kernel of knowledge, some piece of craft that helps you in your writing. Free Friday boards and blogs also provide recommendations, so you’re not totally wasting your time.

So indulge. Check out B&N’s Free Friday books. I’m going perusing later on today. I haven’t visited the site in a while, so I’m anxious to see what’s new. TGIF!

I’d love to hear about your favorite site for free online books.

The old, “put your dog in a stroller, move” …

Yippee! It finally happened. I’m so excited I had to share my good fortune. Did I get a three-book contract, you ask. Did I hit the lottery? No, something so much more!

I officially became an empty-nester! No more offspring living under my roof! They all have roofs of their own. They all have their own electric and cable bills. Woohoo!

But as I revel in this momentous occasion, a nagging question starts to surface. What the heck I am going to do now? This solitary state is so new for me.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived alone. (I know, hard to imagine. But it’s true.) I’ve always been living with SOMEONE: parents, siblings, ex-husband, and children. Now, I’m alone. (Except for my trusty dog, Poe.)

And I love it!

But what am I going to do? I’ve already turned one kid’s room into an office. (I’d been planning that one for awhile.) Hey, I needed space to think and write.

Still I have to think of other things to do, when I’m not at work or writing. So I’m making a list. It’s not a whole lot, but it’s a start.

1. Take acting lessons. I think it will help me with my writing and characters.
2. Go to the gun range. One of my characters is a police officer, so I want to feel what he feels when he’s on the job.

Okay, wait. These ideas are great. But they sound like research for my writing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I want to do these things. They will help me with my stories.

But I want to walk on the wild side. You know, dance naked in the moonlight, hang out all night and live off of 4 hours sleep (like I did when I was in my 20s), drink diet coke and eat a Milky Way bar for breakfast.

You know. The good stuff.

Right. Milky Way bar for breakfast? Am I kidding? I’m going to take a breath (And no, I’m not putting Poe in a stroller!) and give some serious thought to what goes on my list.

In the mean time, I will go in my office, close the door and see what my characters are up to. Their lives are much more interesting right now.

Oh joy. What am I going to do when I retire?

Going down the Soul Train line …

I’m a quote person. Love them. Always have. In them, I always find inspiration or comfort. I also find common sense and my mother’s voice. (She’s no longer with us, so they mean even more to me.)

This particular quote by William W. Purkey (pictured) is my mantra.

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Nice, right?

For most people, it’s something that you may learn later in life, when you’re in your 30s and 40s or unfortunately, later. But don’t wait that long. Learn to live now! Dying to go on a cruise to the Caribbean? Do it. Besides, paying for it, what else should hold you back?

My sisters (I have two) and I are planning a trip to Italy next year. I’m so excited because 1) this will be our first true “sisters” trip, and 2) it’s Italy!

Not only will we see the beautiful sights, (men, included and they’re at the top of my list. Hey, I write romance, okay?) drink wine, and indulge in great food, but this will be research! My mind is filling with all kinds of stories and plots for a new book (or two), and I haven’t even arrived yet. However, planning the trip is just as much fun because I’m doing it with my sisters.

No matter how old you are, 10, 15, or 25. Enjoy life each and every day because it’s too short to be a wallflower. Go dance.