Monday, August 28, 2006

I'm Back--and Still Hot and Grumpy!! LOL!!

What's more depressing than working, working, working all week, then spending your weekend chainsawing a dead tree and deep-cleaning? Doing all of that, then waking Monday morning to find Hubby spent half of his weekend at Niagra Falls!!!!! Then lounging in his fabulous Toronto, Canada hotel!!!!!

Here's an excerpt of his e-mail hotel description, so you can be sick along with me:

"The hotel is really nice. I'm on the 10th floor, and it is sort of like a suite. I have a separate living area and bedroom. The bathroom has the same marble that our master does, only it is gray instead of tan. There is even a vanity mirror with lights all around it next to the closet that you girls could use to preen if you were with me. And there is a live Bamboo tree next to my bed that is probably at least 10 feet tall." --Hubby

Instead of waking beside a lovely, ten-foot bamboo tree, I had two dog butts in my face, and a nest of wild Daughter hair!! LOL!!! Anyway, I am glad he's having fun, but sad for me!! LOL!!! Since my Harlequin editor's in Toronto, we talked about me going, too, but decided to be responsible and save $$$. Aren't there days you just hate being a grown-up??

Oh--with all his Gold-Club-Flying-Bonus-Wonder-Boy Points, he got to fly First Class, too!! If I'd didn't love him so much, I'd seriously hate him!! LOL!!!

Nothing much new to report. The tree in front of the kitchen window died and fell. Swell. As did another in the pond. I'm starting to feel creepy about all the tree deaths around the house--like the Tree FBI may come for a visit!! LOL!! Seriously, the one by the pond was pretty much a dead, leaning trunk when we got here. It has a few straggly branches and used to sport a bushy poison ivy vine before Hubby sprayed it. The tree in front of the kitchen was an odd, straight, TALL, branchless oak that has looked half-dead for the past year. I glanced out the window Sunday morning and noticed it'd tipped. Like it'd broken off at the base. Very odd. Not sure how to tackle removing it, as it's leaning against another tree.

Daughter had her first football game to cheer at Thursday night, so that was fun!! Despite the kick-off temp of 105, she looked amazingly perky!! I, on the other hand, felt--and no doubt, looked--amazingly bedraggled!! This was a pre-season tournie, and since our team won their first game, we stayed for a second game that didn't start till 9:30!!! We didn't get in bed till close to midnight!!

Knock-on-wood, but both kids seem incredibly happy and well-adjusted to high school. I'm talking so happy, there's been virtually no angst at all. I'm not sure what to make of this, but am sooo happy that for once, they're happy!!!

What's not happy is that I'm already getting a stomachache from worrying about getting the house clean enough for our Chinese exchange student who will be here on September 30th. Figuring he'll want to e-mail his parents, I'm starting with my office. Seeing how due to heat, this space has been abandoned for the past month, the cat has taken it over. There's cat hair EVERYWHERE!!!! I don't know what she's been doing up there, but it's nasty, and needs to stop!! I did get quite a bit done, but there's still a lot to go. I going to paint this morning until it gets too hot, then work on my anthology.

I talked with Editor Jen about the anthology's opening chapters on Friday morning, and she said it's off to a good start, so that was cool news!! She also extended my deadline to October 1st. That's nice, but seeing how I'll be cleaning 24/7 the week before our student gets here, I need to finish by the 18th--which was the original date.

It's my week to carpool, so guess I'd better find some shoes . . .

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just When You Think Things Can't Get Worse . . .

Well, one crisis averted, only to get slammed with another!!! Cocoa's home, healthy, and feisty as ever. Hubby devised an anti-tipping gizmo for the trash can, but Son sat down on the floor with her, and showed her how head-butting it in just the right place now tips it even easier than it used to!! Hmm . . . wonder if there's any way to get Son sent to college early--and take the dog with him?? LOL!!

After narrowly surviving family angst too icky to get into Monday & Tuesday, Hubby and I were out drowning our sorrows in vodka and a split cheeseburger, when Daughter calls Hubby's cell. "OH MY GAWD," she screeches. "HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIG TREE IN THE BACKYARD??!!"

As a matter of fact, yeah, I'd just seen it a few hours earlier, hauling laundry up the stairs, and it was fine. This oak is ancient and MASSIVE and the showcase of our backyard. It's on the pond bank, and our pride-and-joy cushioned swing sits in this gorgeous tree's dappled shade.

Long story short, the tree is gone. I guess rain from the previous night's storm must've weakened it, then an ant colony in the core finished it off. Fallen, it stretches half-way across the duck pond, and obliterated the swing.

After shelling out $400 for Cocoa's vet bill, I shudder to think what this will cost to have removed. I'm guessing $1000--at least. The branches are thicker than Hubby's chainsaw blade is long. The trunk's easily half a VW Bug!!! Our babies are wanting to go school shopping, but judging by the Altom Calamity Meter, they'll be sporting the latest in Adam and Eve Leaf-Wear!!!! Ugh. I'm just sick, sick, sick.

Meanwhile, more edits--this time on my April book, are making me even sicker. Fortunately, health-wise, I'm much better. Margaret and I were commiserating last night on a variety of topics, and turns out she had the same symptoms I did. Chest pain, sweaty, tired and blah. Seeing how we both came down with this mystery ailment Thursday--the day after our lunch and movie outing, we're thinking it must've been some bizarre food poisoning.

I do have some happy news--alas, not for me, but Margaret, so I'll borrow it!!! She just got a new, three book deal from Steeple Hill!!!!! YAAAAAYYY, MARGARET!!!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Scary, Fun & Wacky News!!!!!

Yikes--I think I liked it better around here with no news!!!

Starting with the scary, yesterday morning, Hubby and I got home from taking my edits to Fed-Ex to find that Cocoa had dumped the trash. No big deal, right? She does it a couple times a day!!! Well, Son and his pal had eaten turkey legs the night before (it's a guy thing--makes them feel medieval to chow on them while immersed in a video game they play!!). The busy day wound on--more about that
later--and Daughter and I were recovering from heat stroke, watching Overboard, when we noticed Cocoa breathing funny.

We watched her for about an hour, and when it didn't get better, and her stomach now seemed swollen and tender, we took her to a vet. Figures, our regular vet didn't answer their emergency number, so at six on Saturday night, we scrambled to find one!! Turns out my poor baby has pancreatitus (sp?) from eating too much turkey!!! She has a fever, and is having to be hospitalized and put on an IV till sometime on Monday!!!!!

Pet ailments are like a double whammy emotionally, because not only are you sad to see your baby sick, but sick over how much treatment is going to cost. Luckily, the vet assured us she'll be fine, but last night wasn't much fun without her. She's literally my shadow, so not having her constantly by me is disconcerting and blah.

Okay, on to fun news . . . Part of the reason we were so busy yesterday is that Daughter had her first Varsity football scrimmage to cheer at!! One of the crazier parts of the event, was when the football players played bowling with the cheerleaders and plowed down a pyramid!!! The scene was captured on local TV!!! Luckily, no one got hurt, and Daughter got great coverage, gasping as the trauma unfolded!! I taped it for posterity!!

She's stressed over their next performance--putting on a mini-show for Thursday night's 9th grade orientation!! Someone please remind me to find a red satun hair ribbon by then!! Usually, bows are ordered as a squad, and are big, fancy affairs, but I guess in high school, bows are more low key. Anyway, I hope she and the squad do great in front of her peers!! I especially hope they don't get *bowled* over again soon!!!

Moving on to wacky news . . . This report also involves Daughter. Her longtime boyfriend is moving to a town about thirty minutes northeast of here. (This is the same guy who bought her the Tiffany's necklace for her birthday.) Thursday night--10:00--I was laying in bed, certain I was having a heart attack (I still feel wretched, but wasn't able to get a doctor's appt. Friday), Daughter runs into our room, shrieking "Mom--you'll never guess what Boyfriend just said!" She rambled on about how they'd been in a fight, and she'd commented she never got to see him, when he says, he'll be right over!!

I rolled my eyes and said, no, he won't, but if he did, I'd take him straight home. He lives at least three miles from here, and would have to travel some fairly busy streets. Not only that, but we're under our first thunderstorm warning in months, and the wind was blowing like crazy!! She danced off to call a girlfriends, and I continued watching Seinfeld and hoping I wasn't dying!!!

Twenty minutes later, I hear the security bell chime on the front door. Figuring it's Hubby communing with the storm, I didn't think much about it. It chimes again. And again. A few minutes later, Son comes running in. "Mom, Mom! Sister's down the street with Boyfriend! I bet they're kissing!" Swell.

I added a bra and sneakers to my PJs, snatch up the car keys, then head out into the night. I'm not sure where Hubby was during all of this. I'm thinking downstairs, practicing guitar. Probably, just as well.

I find Daughter and Boyfriend, sitting in an empty field near the house--no kissing going on. They looked sweet, but my parent-alarm was going nuts!!! With Son in the front seat beside me, thrilled to have Sister in the hot seat (usually, it's him), I hollered out my window for the two lovebirds to get in the car. Underway, I asked Boyfriend if his parents knew where he was. He said, no, they were at a lodge meeting, but his brother did. He'd asked permission, and the 17 year old brother endorsed the mission. Double swell.

Just because I felt someone needed to, I lectured him on the dangers of skateboarding across town at ten at night, during an approaching storm. He said he skateboarded all the time, and didn't think it'd been any big deal. Excuse me, but I thought it'd been a VERY big deal, and if it'd been one of my kids, they'd now be in Mom Jail.

I got home to find Hubby in bed. He opened one eye, then asked, "Where've you been?"

I was going to share the events of RWA Friday, but after rehashing the last three days, I'm exhausted--and hoping things calm down in a relaxing way!!!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

August Blahs and RWA Thursday

Ugh. It's over a hundred every day here in Tulsa, and I'm mired in edits. Can you guess what kind of mood I've been in? GRRRRR. LOL!!! That said, there's not much to report in the way of new news.

Yesterday, Margaret and I did a last lunch and movie of the summer. I HATE it when she goes back to her day job!!!!! Having no one to lunch with is a serious bummer. We saw My Super Ex-Girlfriend which was very cute. Plus, the theater was nice and chilly!! We had time to spare before the movie, so she dragged me to this super-fabulous new florist/home decor store. Very, very mean of her!!!!! I could've dropped an easy $50,000 in five minutes. Seeing how after Atlanta, there's approximately $4.87 in checking, all I could do was drool!!!

Back to conference news, here's Thursday . . .

Thursday was one of those days that was so good, it makes up for all the icky stuff that sometimes makes writing feel similar to ditch digging on the fun meter!!! LOL!!! As usual, Margaret was off first thing in the morning, while I lounged in bed, reading. I think I finished my Janet E. book, as well as the cappuccino cookies I'd bought at Ikea--YUM!!!! I took my time getting ready, then headed down for the Harlequin American booksigning.

The signing was held in the Harlequin suite, which had been decorated with about fifty red, white and blue helium balloons. They touched the ceiling, and had a couple yards each of curling ribbon flowing down, so you walked through this party-forest to reach the head table where we sat. Way, way, fun and festive!!! I also heard there were awesome snacks, but I didn't get any!!! What's up with that???

Anyway, Pamela Britton was at a NASCAR race, so it was just Marin Thomas, Debbie Macomber, Ann Defee, and me!!!!! The signing began, and droves of people showed up!!! My editor, Jen Green, acted as my *handler*, handing me pre-stickered (with autographed copy stickers) books that were already open to the title page. The whole thing was quite surreal, and aside from my blechy hair, made me feel like Jessica Simpson at a CD release party!!! Oh--I think I have a couple hundred pounds on her, too, but we won't discuss that!! LOL!!!

From the signing, we piled into cabs to go to a restaurant called, Canoe. It's on the Chatahoochee (sp?) River, and super elegant, while at the same time, being not so elegant that it made you feel uptight. We sat at a round table, and I had Paula Eykelhof (Executive Editor) to my left, and Kathleen Scheibling (Associate Senior Editor, American Romance) to my right!!! How's that for cool company??!! To Kathleen's right, was Marin Thomas (Code name, Brenda!! ) She is so much fun!! Kind and gentle and all around cool gal--and taaaallll!! I'm so jealous!! Next, was Jen Green (Editor, American Romance), Ann DeFee (double Rita finalist!!!). Ann's also way fun with an infectious laugh!! I very much enjoyed her company!! Next, Loriana Sacilotto (Executive Vice President, Global Publishing & Strategy), then--taa daaaa . . . Debbie Macomber!!!!! I had a creamy potato soup appetizer and salmon--double YUM!!!

Back at the hotel, I was late in meeting with my agent, Michelle Grajkowski, so once I found her in the lobby, I yanked her up to my room for girl talk. We were supposed to be discussing the State of the Laura Marie Altom Union, but Michelle's so fun and giggly, whenever we meet in person, we never seem to get much done!!

From this quasi-meeting, we had to settle down and meet with Jen and Kathleen to further discuss me!!! By this time, I could tell my editors were pooped, and still had appointments to make, so I kept my questions brief, and seeing how much by this point in the day, I was LOVING my job, I certainly had no complaints!!!! From here on out, whenever I whine about how hard writing is, I'll just think back to how much fun the results are!!!

Okay, so like this wasn't already enough partying for one day, Margaret and I met up with my Winnie and Beth, and headed to the PASIC, Editor of the Year party. From there, we went to KOD's Death By Chocolate party. And from there, quite near death from exhaustion, we went straight to bed!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

RWA--Wednesday/Current Home Stuff

Good lord, it's tough coming back to reality after having been gone a week!!!! All that stuff I didn't do the week before RWA? It's come back to bite me with a vengeance. Anyway, I'm ticking stuff off my To Do list, and this morning am heading halfway to Arkansas to pick up Mom and Dad's dachshunds. Combined with our two--yes, that makes for FOUR wieners for the next four days!!! ARGH!!!! :-O Fortunately for us, M & D's dogs are better behaved than ours!!! LOL!!!

In other current news . . . Daughter got 4 of her 6 cheerleading uniforms!! CUTE, CUTE, CUTE!!!!! I told Hubby that it'd be much cheaper if we just bought her the fun costumes from the start, then skipped coaching fees, tumbling fees, pep club fees, etc.!! I can't wait for the first game. Since she's on varsity, even Hubby's excited about watching *real* football. I just watch my baby!!

Okay, back to RWA . . .

Wednesday, while Margaret chased around at the crack of dawn, getting ready for her mini-conference, I lounged in bed, reading the latest Janet E. (LOVED IT!!!), then got ready for the big trek to IKEA.

I met Dream/Danica in the lobby, where we waited for her friend who had the car. CJ Lyons is a doctor and just sold her first book to Tor ( I think). We stood outside the store that I'm pretty sure occupies an entire city block, waiting for the cafe to open. While waiting, a cute redhead runs over--Staci Wallace. Danica, CJ, and Staci are all part of an online critique group and had plenty to talk about. I kind of felt like I'd crashed their party for a while, but once we started chomping on our yummy .99 cent breakfast, I began feeling like more of the gang. After eating, everyone exchanged biz cards. Staci had cellophane-wrapped cookie panties attached to her card!!!!!! She had them professionally made, and I was seriously jealous!!!

(**Secret Confession Time*** I'm still not all the way unpacked, and while pilfering through my stuff, looking for candy, Daughter came across the panties. She thought they were cute, too, then set them on top of the suitcase. That night, I hear rustling beside the bedroom door, only to find the panties in Cocoa's mouth!!!!!! Apparently, she also liked them??!!! We rescued them in time for them to only be partially mutilated!!)

Back to IKEA . . .

CJ and Staci are IKEA regulars, so this was no biggee for them. Danica and I, on the other hand, were virgins, so we wandered around oohing and gaping. TONS of cute things for kids!!! I could've filled a whole suitcase, but since the mean, airplane people only let me take two, and they were already full of shoes and purses, I had to show restraint!!! I ended up getting a few cheap organizer-type-thingees for my office and cookies. What more could a girl need??

Got back to the room, intent on napping, only to find the maid there. Ugh. Dumped my stuff, then headed to deliver my Bookseller Tea goodies. Denied. Some woman not from RWA--can you imagine???? LOL!!!--stopped me and said in a very grumpity tone that the room was her company's till 3:00 on the nose. O-kay.

Went back to the room. The maid was gone, but Margaret was home!! Yay!!! We swapped stories about our day, then got ready for the tea and big booksigning to be held that night.

Just after 3, we went to the bookseller thing, but it was seriously crowded and hot and we found no booksellers!!! I ended up heading to the goody room and handing out sunglasses in person to anyone who wanted a pair under the condition they had to wear them and have fun!!! LOL!!!

The big event of the night was the literacy booksigning. I loooove hosting yard sales because of all the fun folks you get to talk to, and this is like the granddaddy of all yard sales, only everyone stopping by your *sale* is a friend!!! VERY cool, only every year, the As are stuck staring at a wall. Just once, I'd like the As to be in the middle. I know it makes no sense alphabetically, but it would be more fun!!

After the signing, a huge gang of us tried to go out to eat, but everything was packed. We ended up buying sandwiches in the lobby, then taking them back to our room. I know--boring, but as it was already pushing ten, what're you going to do???

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

RWA Atlanta--Part One

Whew--I'm back from Atlanta, and still EXHAUSTED!!!!!! I'd planned to add a few entries while at the conference, but alas, was too cheap!! When given the choice between buying Internet access or purses/jewelry, I'll take the latter every time!! LOL!!

Here's a daily rundown:

Monday--Had a wonderfully uneventful flight in. Checked right into our pretty room on the 6th floor of the Marriott Marquis (GORGEOUS place!!! 47 stories and it was all open in the middle w/ glass elevators!!), then, while Margaret napped, I watched Y & R!!! Doesn't get any better than that!!

We unpacked, then checked out the mall attached to the hotel. Had a strange nacho-like lunch in the food court, then shopped!! Picked up a great pink and white polka-dot purse everyone in the elevators always seemed to love!! Oh--I also snagged a new pair of sneakers at Naturalizer, as I'd failed to pack a single pair of comfortable walking shoes!!!!

That night, we met up with my Winnie and her roomy, IM author, Beth Cornelison, at a sports bar. I was still reliving the black beans from lunch, so I just ordered soup, then snagged one of Winnie's chicken strips!! YUM!!!

Tuesday--Woke up at the crack of dawn to tour the Georgia Aquarium. You have to make reservations, and ours were for 8AM. Good thing, seeing how once the 9AM crowd showed up, the place was too crowded to even see any fish!!! I HIGHLY recommend seeing this place, but only if you go early. They had whale sharks and beluga whales and a gazillion sharks. Gorgeous, gorgeous, but seriously overcrowded.

From here, we schlepped back to the hotel to drop off gift shop purchases, register for the conference (no more fun ribbons to attach to our badges. BOOOOO!!!!!), then took the Marta (subway) to the Atlanta Underground where we basically lunched and tore through a Dollar Store finding goodies for the Booksellers' Tea. I signed up for it, but didn't know we were supposed to bring party favors.

Seeing how I'd made simple business cards with a beach scene and my web site, I tied those with curling ribbon to kid party sunglasses. They turned out darling!! Took the rest of the afternoon to make those. While Margaret napped, Winnie and I had an assembly party in her room while watching Airplane (but a space shuttle version I didn't even know existed) and eating peanut M & Ms. We were supposed to have our goodies downstairs, so we schlepped them all down, only to be told to come back the next day at 2.

Sixish ( I think), we went to the general meeting for the Kiss of Death chapter. The free dinner was a great enticement, as was the evening's speaker, Suzanne Brockmann (sp?). Her speech was wonderfully inspirational and made me vow to quit whining!!! (At least for thirty minutes, or so!! )

From dinner, we headed to one of the hotel bars, where we met lots of cool people!! I'm going to butcher names, but here goes . . . We originally sat down with my Winnie, Beth and Margaret, but then snagged Cynthia Cooke and Nina Bruhns (LOVE them!!). Next, Dream/Danica from wandered by, as did Margaret's friend, Dana. (LOVE them, too!!!) Nora Roberts was seated a little ways down!!! How's that for cool??!! We didn't get back to the room till late, but had fun catching up!!

Margaret was speaking the next morning at a mini-inspirational writing conference that Winnie would be attending, meaning I had no one to play with on Wednesday!! I mentioned this to Danica, and she invited me to IKEA. Having always wanted to go to one of these supersized houseware stores, I agreed to meet her at 9 in front of the concierge desk.

To be continued . . . Time to take Daughter to cheerleading!!