Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

I love St. Patrick's Day...don't ask me why, but I do. I love seeing the Irish (2% of the world's population is Irish, and the other 98% wish they were) take such pride in their heritage, and I think it's a riot that they go to such extremes to celebrate their day; green beer, green eggs & ham, corned beef dinners, shamrocks, parades...I love it all! My younger sister, Alison Patricia, was born on St. Patrick's Day. My dad's family is Irish, although I didn't realize this until I was in college.
I didn't understood the true meaning of Irish pride, however, until I married into the Foley clan. They take their heritage very seriously. My husband's younger brother and sister, Sean and Meghan, loved everything Irish. Meghan had a shamrock tattoo on her ankle. She had Irish bumper stickers all over her car. Her favorite band was the Drop Kick Murphy's. Her dream was to someday travel to Ireland. So when she died unexpectedly on St. Patricks Day, 2006, at the age of 23, we were all devastated. The loss was made harder by the fact that her brother, Sean, had died just nine months earlier, at the age of 25. He was Irish to his bones, and supremely proud of it.
The day now holds new meaning and significance for us. So today, I cooked an Irish feast (vegetarian-style), with Guiness Stout mixed into the stew and a dessert laced with Bailey's, and we raised a toast to Meghan, who would have enjoyed the fact we were listening to her favorite music, and less than thrilled about some of the remembrances we shared. We raised a toast to Sean, who no doubt would have been raising hell in true Irish style, if he were still with us.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Meghan and Sean. You'll always be loved and remembered.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Truth is Stranger than Fiction!

There's been some weird stuff in the news lately. Did you hear about the lady who sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years?? I don't even want to know what she ate for dinner the night before the sit-in (sit-on??)! Yikes. Even weirder, her boyfriend was apparently feeding her during this time, and asking her when she was going to come out of the bathroom. "Um...not today, dear. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year...or the year after that." Hello! If my significant other spent two hours on the toilet, we'd be calling the paramedics! But the thing that keeps running through my mind is...did she shower? Did she brush her teeth? Apparently not. I haven't seen any pictures (shudder), but here's my mental image of the sad scenario. Admittedly, I have a vivid imagination so it was probably not as bad as this. The woman is obviously ill, so glad she finally got help, but man...two years???

Monday, March 10, 2008

Copy-Edit Hell

OMG; I just received my line edits back for Overnight Sensation, and I'm trying really hard not to freak out. I guess Harlequin is pretty swamped right now, because they sent my manuscript out to a freelance copy-editor, rather than using Laura (whom I loved working with). So the manuscript arrived in the mail today, along with a note from my editor that said, "...she was a little heavier with the pencil than I would have liked. Take a look and let me know what you think." Dude...heavy isn't the word; it looks like the Exxon Valdez had an oil spill all over the pages...just about every line on every page has something that she's changed. In some cases, the change is warranted. In many instances, however, it's a word preference that adds no value, i.e. "badly potholed road" versus "deeply potholed road." Or "clad in" versus "encased in". I want to throw up looking at it. I'm not even sure how I'll document the changes I agree with versus those I don't. I can't fit any more proofreading or editorial marks on the paper; it's chock-full!! I'll scan a few pages for you and upload them tomorrow so you can see for yourself. It's pretty ghastly.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to meet a May 15 deadline for Book #3 (was I on drugs???) which is now going to be part of a series of books, each involving a Special Ops soldier from a different branch of the military. So I'm doing Delta Force. Uh...ever try to dig up info on these guys? I found a bunch of books on how they get recruited, selected, and trained, and there are even some books that talk about their involvement in Iran and Grenada, but quite frankly I'm not all that interested in what they do covertly as operators. I can make that stuff up. I want the skinny on their personal lives. I want to know how their job impacts their personal relationships. Do they bring weapons home with them? Do they maintain "ready rooms" or "war rooms" in their homes? If I opened their closets, would I find any uniforms? If so, would they have any distinguishing insignia or rank on them? What do they tell their significant other they do for work? Do they do background checks on women they're interested in? What if she has less-than-pristine past? So...not knowing where else to turn, I signed up for a military discussion forum and asked my questions there, on a site for special ops discussions. I got a big, fat, resounding silence. So I changed tactics and asked the same question regarding your standard-issue, traditional USASOC guys and got pretty much the same response. Code of silence, not going to get any info here, Delta is an airline, blah, blah, blah. One guy even suggested my name be turned over to Intel as a possible Tango! While I understand and appreciate their lack of candor, it's been frustrating to say the least. I want to write a good story, one that at least seems plausible, but I guess I'm just going to have to make stuff up. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking...I signed up for a Reiki class at NECC next month, here in town. My heroine is a Reiki master, so am hoping that portion of my story will at least be believable! Okay, enough whining.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Back to Reality's hard to believe it's all over! I've been back for three days, and reality is beginning to set in. It's been raining. It's been cold. It's been crazy busy at work. I wish I was still on St. Thomas! The only tangible reminder is my tan, and in a few days even that will be gone! But it's wonderful to be home, to hug my girls and sleep in my own bed (without earplugs, LOL!).

I've been scrambling to put together my synopsis for Overnight Sensation, which my editor asked for two weeks ago and I still haven't finished. Tonight. I'll finish it tonight and send it to her, then begin working on Book #3! Then I'll put together a photo show and send it to Robin and my parents.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cruising St. Maarten

Okay, is it just me, or does each day seem better than the last? Today we woke up and we were already docked in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. Since we knew we were going to be in port until 4:15 that afternoon, we had no sense of urgency about disembarking. So we put on our bathing suits, packed a lightweight beach bag, had a quick breakfast, and left the ship around 9:30. St. Maarten's Dutch province is the jewelry capital of the Caribbean, and I had a craving for some Mishima Opal (or Australian Opal) set in silver, either a bracelet or a ring, or maybe some earrings. So we took the water taxi from the pier over to the downtown shopping district. Whatever I'd been expecting...well, my imagination just didn't come close. Here's a picture of the main shopping road. It was so pretty, with cobblestone streets and shop after shop after shop, shielded by these gorgeous palm trees. Unfortunately, it was so early that many shopkeepers hadn't yet seen any customers and were like vultures when they saw us coming. They actually came out onto the sidewalks and tried to entice (or drag) us into their shops. When I told one shopkeeper that I was looking for opals, he nodded in excitement and then tried to sell me a HUGE diamond ring! This thing had five rows of diamonds, with three blue diamonds set into the center. It started out at $4,600 and by the time he finished his marketing spiel, it was down to $1,000.

My husband would have a heart attack if I came home with a $1K diamond ring that he hadn't bought for me himself. So we decided it was too early to shop, and instead caught a taxi over to the French side of the island, to Orient Beach, where we rented two lounge chairs and an umbrella, and watched the wind surfers and parasailers and topless sunbathers go by. Here's a picture of the beach from the deck of a little food cabana on the beach behind our chairs...

And here's a picture of Robin, sitting on the deck. We ordered a couple of beers, and split an order of nacho's, and a shrimp quesidilla that was fabulous. I didn't realize that the prices were in Euro's and not US dollars, so it was a little pricier than we'd thought, but so worth it -- totally delicious. We only stayed a few hours, and returned to Phillipsburg in time to do a little more shopping before we had to return to the ship. Robin bought a bottle of the local liquor, Guavaberry, which was really yummy and they didn't confiscate it on our return. We had plans to drink some of it when we got back to our room, but somehow we forgot!

Dinner that night was formal (again), but we weren't as into this time around and dressed a little more comfortably. Hmmm...I don't remember what we did after dinner, but I'm sure it was fun!

Cruising St. Thomas

This morning we arrived in the port of St. Thomas. I managed to order room service successfully, and we sat on our balcony and nibbled fruit and croissants while we watched the ship pull into port. We had to get up fairly early in order to meet up with our group for a sailing excursion to St. John. We were down on the docks at 8:30, where we all climbed aboard a brightly painted and curtained safari type vehicle for our ride to Sapphire Bay, where our boat was waiting. They drive on the left side of the road on St. Thomas, which I didn’t know, so nearly had a heart attack when we pulled out. The ride across the island took about fifteen minutes and consisted of hairpin turns and steep climbs, followed by breathtaking descents. Sort of like a roller-coaster. Actually, exactly like a roller coaster! We passed a lot of areas where poverty was apparent, and a schoolyard filled with schoolgirls in uniforms. The gas is almost $4.00 per gallon here.

Sapphire Bay is just that – deep, deep sapphire blue and the marina where the sailboat is kept (Sapphire Marina Resort) is tiny, surrounded by clusters of small condos. At first, the boat looked small to me. Once I really got a look at it, however, I realized it was at least 50 feet long. Here's a picture of it here. The skipper’s name was Jeff; a good-looking man in his early 40’s with curly hair and a great tan, but not too friendly. His first mate was a younger man named Toby, who had blonde hair and a great smile. We had go barefoot on the boat, and the top of the long cabin was covered with green seat pads, so we each grabbed a spot under the sail and watched as Toby and Jeff maneuvered the boat out of the slip. It was a tight fit, so Toby actually got into a little rowboat and used it to bump up against the front of the sailboat and push it in the direction of the open ocean. Then he tied the little boat to the back of the sailboat where it bounced along on the waves. We left Sapphire Bay and crossed Pillsbury Sound to St. John. The Sound is big, and it was a very windy day, so the waters were extremely choppy. Once they released the sails, it was fascinating to watch them letting out line, and then pulling it in to control the fabric. Too much line and the sails would flap uncontrollably; too little line and they’d pull so taut that we’d nearly go on our sides! At one point, the boat was almost laying on its side, and we were all scrambling for a secure foothold.

I was looking at the rough water and thinking there was no way I’d snorkel in that, but as we approached St. John, he found a quiet little cove (that's moisture on my camera lens, not clouds)where the water color changed from the dark sapphire of the Sound, to this light, aqua green. He dropped anchor alongside several Katamarans, and I could see there were many snorkelers in the waters. The beach was pure white, and behind that, just jungle. So I made my way to the rear of the boat and put on my mask and snorkel, put on my flippers, and jumped in. The water was incredible – 78 degrees, which was just warm enough without being too warm. I felt a little claustrophobic at first, but the body wants to be face down, floating, so I just went with it. Once I realized I could breath, I relaxed. We snorkeled for an hour, admiring the sealife of these small coral reefs – the reefs themselves were sort of brown and yellowish, but the fish were brilliant – purples and yellows, and iridescent colors. We saw lots of sea urchins, but they didn’t look cute like on Sponge Bob, they looked wicked!

After an hour, we swam back to the ship. I took off my flippers and climbed up, but wasn’t expecting the deck t be so slippery and went right on my hip and knees, and wrenched my shoulder. Embarrassing and painful (not to mention the HUGE bruise I now have on the back of my butt!). They served a buffet style lunch of meatballs, pasta salad, green beans, bread and cold cuts, and little brownies. My first plate ended upside down on the deck, but the second plate was delicious. Jeff kept pouring "Nooners" for us, which were delicious frozen rum drinks. I bought a New Horizons tee shirt (the name of the sailboat) for John, which was identical to the shirts both Jeff and Toby wore. I think he’ll like it. By the time we left St. John and returned to the ship, I felt pleasantly boneless.

We had enough time to take a shower, change our clothes, and return to St. Thomas for shopping. Right outside the docks there were several blocks of shops. Again, they were mostly jewelry and souvenirs, but we had fun poking through them. I bought a little cabana-striped bag for each of the girls, a cute little Caribbean top for me, a magnet for mum, and that was it. By the time we returned to the ship, I was done. Robin wanted to go to a Crown and Anchor cocktail hour, but I went to bed. I managed to sleep for an hour before we had to be at dinner. After dinner, we went to see a magic show (kind of hokey) and then stayed for the Love & Marriage game show, with three couples selected from the audience. Totally hysterical, made all the more funny by Allan Brookes, the cruise director. I laughed until my face ached. I think this has been the best day of the cruise so far!