Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater…

So chances are you’ve probably heard something recent about all the piracy issues with electronic books. Authors are losing money and people are angry and the other side seems not to see the big deal. This all happened several years ago with the music industry. I think it goes hand-in-hand with some other trends we’ve seen about. So what is the big deal? Is it wrong to download a free copy of an electronic book if the author didn’t give permission to do so? Is it stealing? Is it cheating?

h7013E5E7I don’t know if any of you are aware of another significant problem in our society, but as you all know I am married to a college professor, and this is certainly something that affects our lives. College kids cheat, at an alarming rate. I’m sure it starts earlier because frankly they’re quite good at it, taking plagiarism to a whole new level. This semester alone The Professor had 2 students from two separate classes cheat on a final paper, one of these students was a graduate student so we’re not talking about an 18 year old kid here. And the level of deception is sophisticated. I’m not talking the purchase of papers though that clearly is still happening despite universities efforts to prevent such behavior.

I heard a news story a while back where an ethics professor who caught a rather large number of students cheating on a test and he gave them all the opportunity to come forward and turn themselves in even though he already knew exactly who they all were. During the news segment they interviewed some random college student and he was quoted as saying, “everyone cheats, it’s just the way it is.” I’m saddened by this though I don’t completely believe it either. Right now I have 2 nieces and a nephew in college and I’m fairly certain that none of them have cheated.

ImageBut the mentality seems to be that this is harmless behavior, but let’s consider for a moment that if you cheat on a paper and you don’t get caught, chances are you’ll do it again. But where does that end? Then do you cheat on your resume, add some “white lies” to get the job? Do you then borrow a co-worker’s idea and pass it off as your own? It’s harmless, right? What about in your family? Do you cheat on your spouse? It’s just an emotional affair so that doesn’t count, right? Or maybe it’s just harmless online flirting, nothing real. Where does it end? How harmless can it be when the behavior stems directly from your own personal ethics?

So what do you think? Is it okay to download a book for free? Is it the same thing as borrowing from a library? What about cheating in school? Is it okay to cheat just this once?

**Also I must tell y’all that I have a new book out, I hope you’ll all check out The Temptations of Anna Jacobs, it’s the second book in my Dangerous Liaisons series, an historical romantic suspense about the hunt for Jack the Ripper.

 

 


I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. The Professor and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is five and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a three and is too smart for her own good.  www.robyndehart.com

Odd (wo)man out

MjAxMi1kNjhhMjI4MjZlYzc5YWNjInevitably it happens. You’re out in a social setting with other women and someone brings up pregnancy or birthing stories. Four years ago this was particularly difficult to me as I was sans children. But even now, after being a mom for nearly three years, it happens, and no matter how wonderful the company and how kind and generous they are, when the discussion turns in this direction, I feel left out. A bit like the weirdo. Yes, adoption is super popular these days and I can speak, which authority, on many aspects of adoption or parenting a child of a different race or dealing with CPS visits, etc. But when it comes to pregnancy and birthing, well, I never got past 12 weeks so I’ve got nothing to share.

I try really hard not to feel strange, but I feel like suddenly there is a giant blinking arrow above my head. ATTENTION: Here sits a woman who has failed at the fundamental purpose of womandome. Okay, that’s a bit exaggerated (not to mention a made up word), but you get my drift. It’s nothing that anyone says or does. I know that no one is trying to leave me out. But it happens.

For me, there was no labor pain, instead I had years of failed fertility treatments, failed adoptions and then bureaucratic hoops to jump through for my girls. For me, I didn’t fail at breast feeding because I never got the chance to try, instead I had a colicky 8-month old who drank the most expensive formula they sell and still didn’t sleep through the night. Instead of sweet-smelling baby soap and the little plastic bathtub, we had a toddler who was terrified of baths so we got a baby pool, put it in the backyard and we’d strip her down, squirt some Johnson’s in and let her swim around.

My experiences at motherhood were different from most women’s, and yeah, I feel it sometimes, but I know that it doesn’t make me less of a mother. It just makes me a different mother. And that’s okay. Despite that longing for the whole pregnancy/birthing experience (that I suspect will never go away), I wouldn’t have built my family in any other way.

So how about you? Ever had one of those things that always makes you feel left out? How have you handled it?

81OJEsNbx5L._SL1500_-2On a much lighter note: I have a new book release that I want to share with y’all. It’s the first in a new Regency-set series, No Ordinary Mistress. It’s only $0.99 so I hope you’ll check it out.


I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. The Professor and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is five and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a three and is too smart for her own good.  www.robyndehart.com

How to Be a Mom and a Writer: Part II

Last time I blogged, I chatted about time management and said the first step is to set goals. You need both long-term and short-term goals.

The next step is managing your time to ensure you meet your goals. First of all, you have to make sure your project is a priority. I’m not saying you ignore your child if he or she is sick or tell your husband you won’t cook for a month, I’m saying that the time you set aside to work is to be used only for that purpose. A lot of writer moms, me included, fall into the trap of spending too much time on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest during our writing time. That’s fine if you don’t have children who will need you later and your writing time isn’t limited. It’s not fine if that internet time is your only time to write.

2013-02-09 10.58.33

So during your work time, do not go online, do not answer the phone (unless it’s your child’s school), do not answer the door, do not do laundry, vacuum, empty the dishwasher, or any of that. Just work. If you’ve been trying to get your project or book done for a while and you’re having trouble finishing it, I am willing to bet money that it’s because you’re not working during the time you set aside.

Okay, moms, how do you find time to work with kids and husbands and all the rest? Take advantage of Mother’s Day Out programs or local day schools. My daughter goes to a school at church 5 days a week for half a day. That’s my time to write. Before she was old enough to go 5 days or to go at all, I had a college student come in two days a week for 4 hours so I could write. I wrote when she napped. I wrote after she went to bed and before she woke up in the morning. I still do! You can find 30 minutes or an hour a day. Whatever it takes to meet my page goal, that’s what I do.

2013-02-22 17.08.05

Now here’s what I’m not saying. I don’t watch TV (Winter Olympics? Haven’t seen them). I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like. I don’t go out with friends very often. I don’t sleep in. I don’t take weekends off (I may not write new pages, but I always have something I have to get done—like a blog, for example!). It’s not very fun to manage your time like this, but it produces results.

Still want to be a writer? Great. How are you managing your time?

<strong>Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama</strong>
I’m Shana G<strong><a href=”http://www.shanagalen.com&#8221; target=”_blank”><img title=”Shana Galen” alt=”” src=”http://freshfiction.com/images/authors/9443.jpeg&#8221; width=”150″ height=”152″ /></a></strong>alen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a four-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? http://www.shanagalen.com

//

//

How to Be a Mom and a Writer: Part I

A lot of moms ask me how I manage to write books and be a mom, a wife, and do all the stuff that goes along with that. Here’s an admission: I don’t do it all very well much of the time. Sometimes I don’t play with my daughter enough. Sometimes I don’t spend enough time with my husband. Sometimes I get behind on work. Almost all the time I don’t sleep enough.

Still, I do manage to write and promote several books a year. How do I do it? I wish I had a really glamorous suggestion, but the truth is the answer for me has been stringent time management.

If you want to write a book, or complete any big task, you have to do two things. First, you have to set goals. Secondly, you have to make a schedule.

Let’s talk about goals, and in the next blog (February 18) I’ll chat about schedules. There are two types of goals—short term and long term. When I’m writing a book, my long term goal is easy—the book’s due date. What if you’ve never written a book or don’t have a publisher-set due date? Let’s chat about that more after we discuss short-term goals.

 2014-02-11 10.40.30

If you look at the above photo of the calendar I have sitting beside my computer, you can see (Maybe, it’s small!) on Sunday I have penciled in SS and numbers. SS is the manuscript I’m working on, and the numbers are the page number I should be on by the end of the week. So each week I have a short-term goal of 25 pages. Each weekday I have a shorter-term goal of 5 pages. My books are about 240 manuscript pages, so that means I can write the draft of a book in about 10 weeks. But I have to meet my goals everyday. That’s where time-management comes in, and I’ll chat about that next week.

Okay, so how do you know how long it will take you to write your book or complete your project?  It all depends on how much time you have in a day and how many pages you can write a day. Let’s say you have 1 hour a day, maybe during naptime, to write. Write for that one hour every day for a week and record how many pages you wrote each day. Average those, and you know how many pages you can do a day. When Princess Galen was a newborn, I could write 2 pages a day. Now that she’s 4, I can do 5. Let’s not even talk about the heady days before she was born when I wrote 10-15!

Most books are between 75,000-100,000 words. How long are your pages? 250 words? If you write 2 pages a day, that’s 500 words a day. You can write 2500 words a week (unless you also work on weekends). That means you need 30 weeks to finish your book. Want to finish it sooner? Write more pages a day.

The point is that if you break a big task, like writing a book, into smaller segments, you can get it done—even if you only have an hour a day!

**Since I’m chatting about writing, I couldn’t allow the chance to go by without telling you that I’m giving away free gifts!

Sapphires Gift

If you pre-order my upcoming release, SAPPHIRES ARE AN EARL’S BEST FRIEND, and send proof of pre-order to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com you get the free gift! Hurry because this ends February 28.

SAEBF13

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a four-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? http://www.shanagalen.com

Barbies led the way…

original-barbie-dollWhen I was a little girl, my most favorite thing in the world was Barbies.  I loved them.  I loved dressing them and fixing their hair.  I never had one of those big Barbie houses, no, that was too limiting for me, I needed more space, more options than the doll house would provide.  No, I made furniture by stacking paperbacks and covering them with washcloths (perfect sofa!), and I had a great bed and using all the space in my room, they always lived in a sprawling mansion.  My friends loved playing with me because I would always create elaborate story lines and sometimes these games would last well into the night.  There was always adventure and danger and romance.  With lots of kissing.

It was a sad day when I had to put up those Barbies.  Much later than all my friends I had tried to keep playing, but somehow the magic had died for me sometime in between elementary and jr. high.  I still have all my Barbies, tucked away in my big, red suitcase, and someday they’ll be played with again, with my girls – I think they’re almost ready.

I learned a new way to play Barbies though.  A new way to create those adventurous and romantic storylines with lots of kissing.  And now I get paid for it.  It took me a while to realize that’s what years of Barbie playing was for me, I was cultivating myself as a romance reader and writer, learning the rudimentary steps of story and character creation.  Luckily some things have changed.  I no longer have to name my Barbies (uh…characters) Toni or Ashleigh.  Not that those are bad names, but they don’t really fit into Victorian times.  And my heroes, unlike Ken, aren’t plastic everywhere and have more than just a subtle bump.

I think about those times though.  Staying up way too late, listening to New Edition’s remake of Earth Angel or Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam’s All Cried Out, and playing Barbies who would dress in their costumes and go to Masquerade parties and dance and laugh and, of course, kiss.  I had no idea then that those times were building on something bigger for me, no idea that I was rehearsing for the coolest job on the planet.

I love creating stories.  I love coming up with characters that are unique and special in their own way, yet so familiar, you could swear you know them.  I love watching these characters hit obstacles and grow and change and become stronger, better people.  And I love making them fall in love.

Can you look back into your past and see tells of the adult you were meant to become?  And the real question…did you love Barbies as much as I do…uh did? 

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

I definitely haven’t started this line of questioning with my daughter. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid I volunteered the information more than I was asked. I wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, an opera singer, Madonna, and a psychologist at different periods in my childhood.

My mom stayed home, so I didn’t have her as a career role model. She always said I’d be a good teacher because I liked to boss people around. The other day my daughter, who is a few weeks short of four years old, offered up her opinions on her future career path.

Baby Galen: Mommy, you’re an author?
Me (cooking lunch or dinner or doing dishes): Yep.

Baby Galen: But you write books for adults.
Me: Yep.

Baby Galen: Mommy, I am going to be an author, but I’m going to write kids’ books.

Me: You are?

Baby Galen: Yes. But I have to wait until I get a little bigger.

Me: Yes, and you need to learn how to read and write.

Baby Galen: I know how to write! I can write A and B.

Me: That would be a short book.

And off we went to another conversation, but what I thought about later was the fact that this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation. I mean, it was the first in this incarnation, but it wasn’t the first time she told me she wanted to be an author. And it wasn’t the first time I thought, I don’t want her to be an author.

In the Wild

I promise you that when I was growing up the profession (I sort of laugh when I write that) of author never even occurred to me. I didn’t realize writing could be a job (again, laughing) until I was probably 25. Author is not a typical job, unlike firefighter, doctor, or teacher. Obviously, this interest Baby Galen has in being an author stems from wanting to do what her mommy does. Just like the kids of movie stars want to be actors and kids of engineers want to be engineers.

But I don’t want Baby Galen to be an author. Author is not a sturdy, solid, reliable job.  For most authors, writing is their second job. The rest of us have rich husbands, a trust fund, or have been doing it so long we’re finally breaking even or making enough to pay a few bills. There’s no health insurance, no unemployment benefits, and you’re only as good as your last sales report.

Yes, I love being an author. I love writing books, and I am extremely lucky to be able to do what I do. Would I have chosen this as a career if I didn’t love it so much? No way. It’s a lot of work for very little monetary reward and a hell of a lot of public criticism. There’s no job security. I want Baby Galen to choose a career where she doesn’t have to worry if she ‘ll still be employed in six months or whether she’ll be able to pay her medical bill if she’s in an accident.

Baby Galen

What did you want to be when you grew up (or maybe you’re still working on that)? What do you hope for your kids?

Keeping Things Romantic

Romance is a hard thing to squeeze in around kids. And romance is my day job, so that’s saying quite a lot if I, who spends hours a day contemplating shirtless rakes and blistering love scenes, suffer from the same romance BLERGH that every parent feels.

Granted, my job helps with that. I have excuses to focus on love, and why the relationship between you and that one special person is something to be treasured.

But even romance writers get the THERE ARE CHILDREN EVERYWHERE blues. My husband and I haven’t been on a date since The Hobbit came out. Before that it was in July. I know Robyn was blogging about this the other day. I share her pain. Time alone is a luxury. And we have out special needs boy, which compounds the problem of us being able to find someone to watch our children so we can escape for a bit.

Of course, my husband and I are also both home during the day which means we DO see each other a lot, but in passing. And if he comes into the office TOO many times during an afternoon I start to get that cranky, resentful hunch at my keyboard, which lasts through out the day and is like a big neon DON’T TOUCH ME sign, I am sure.

But we all know what the obstacles are. Dirty diapers, shrieking kids, opposing schedules, etc. But what about how to combat them? I think I’m the ‘newlywed’ of the blog group, at a shy seven years (no itch, shockingly), but we’ve been through a lot of rapid life changes and challenges and we’ve always managed to come through it clinging tighter to each other.

Plus, I write romance. Trust me. 😉

This is my Maisey List of Things That Have Helped My Marriage Stay Romantic:

1. I read romance. Really, that does help. I discovered romance novels while pregnant with our 2nd child. In addition to them being sexy, that didn’t hurt, they also reminded me of why romance is so great. They made me truly appreciative of what I had in my husband, and that was a very helpful thing.

2. We laugh. About stupid things. Last night we were awake at 1:30 in the morning, cracking up over my incredibly immature jokes.

3. We are honest. He knows what’s up with me, I know what’s up with him. He knows me, more than anyone else on earth knows me. And I know him.

4. Without TMIing…we don’t let intimacy slip. We don’t do the scheduling per se, though I think that’s a great idea, but we have rules. And we follow them.

5. We get mad at each other. This took a while. We both used to hold it in because we didn’t want to have any waves or admit that we’d FAILED and disagreed. Now we just let it out and I think we’re much healthier for it. And it’s sort of a part of…

6. We share things. Bless my husband he shares technical details of music engineering that I do not understand, and I bless my heart, I will summarize a romance novel for him. Or read him an excerpt. I know neither of us REALLY get it. But we share it. And the other one at least tries to pay attention.

7. My husband is awesome.

8. We do things together. *awkward segue*

Oh look, we did this together! We combined his music (he wrote the music, the lyrics, did the recording, the engineering and played all the instruments) and a little of mine (I showed up and sang into a mic) and my romance novels and made something that I’m really proud of. One way we stay in harmony (ha) and your husband writing you a song really does help keep things romantic.

I hope you enjoy the song! And I would so appreciate if you would share your tips on how you keep things romantic in the comments. 😀

Edit to include book info: Unbuttoned is the first book in my Silver Creek series, and it’s a novella with Berkley’s new InterMix imprint! It’s out June 18th and here is the cover blurb:

Carly Denton has learned to keep her buttons and emotions firmly fastened. Her parents’ constant drama, and an unrequited crush on her brother’s best friend, taught her to keep her passion beneath the surface. But she can no longer avoid the one man with the ability to bring that passion to a boil…

Lucas remembers Carly as a freckle-faced tomboy—not a frosty woman who treats him like a burr under her saddle. But when they have to work together on a charity project, Lucas is shocked to find their bickering melt into some serious mutual attraction. He’s determined to show Carly that he’s the man for her, if only she’d learn to let loose.

Lucas is the last man on earth Carly should give in to. The freedom she finds in his arms has her feeling happier than ever, but is it enough to make her realize that the greatest risk isn’t losing your heart, but losing the chance at happiness?

 

A fun quiz with Robyn

Ever watch Inside the Actor’s Studio? It’s on A&E and I totally love it. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with it, it’s set in a film school (acting and directing) and the host has one actor on stage and they go through the actor’s work, asking questions about techniques and whatnot. And then at the end the students get to ask questions themselves. I always think it must be a scenario not unlike that RWA’s National conference where the cream of romance’s crop is often available for workshops and questions. And it’s just really fascinating to listen to actor’s talk about their craft in similar terms to how I’m used to creating characters and story. But the best part of the show is right before the host turns the actor over to the students and he ends with a famous questionnaire.

What is your favorite word? CRISP – it’s the perfect onomatopoeia

What is your least favorite word? ENVELOPE – I never know how to say it

What turns you on? MY HUSBAND’S LAUGHTER

What turns you off? ANY KIND OF HARM TO CHILDREN

What sound do you love? My DAUGHTERS’ GIGGLING

What sound do you hate? SQUEALING BRAKES

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? WINDOW PAINTER – I’d love to do those holiday paintings on store windows

What profession would you not like to participate in? PODIATRIST – I cannot imagine wanting to work on people’s feet

What’s your favorite curse word? BUGGER

If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? YOUR LOVED ONES ARE WAITING OVER THERE

Answer it with me, and then this weekend I’ll draw one lucky winner to get a copy of my latest release, A LITTLE BIT WICKED.


I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. Last year my husband, The Professor, and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is three and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a walking-talking toddler who has a heck of a temper but is so cute, it almost keeps her out of trouble. Though neither of my girls are newborns, I’m fairly new to motherhood compared to the other peanut butter moms, but we’ve settled in as a family as if we’ve always been together. When I’m not trying to keep up with my two bundles of energy, you can usually find me on my laptop on Pinterest, no, that’s not right, um…you can find me writing, yes, that’s it, writing my latest historical romance. www.robyndehart.com

in which Robyn tries to whet your appetite….

Normally I don’t do (perhaps none of us do) a ton of blog focus over here at the PBMoms regarding our actual books. But I am deep in deadline mode right now and so cheating today and instead of sharing some story about my kiddos, I’m going to share an excerpt from my upcoming release, A LITTLE BIT WICKED (Entangled Scandalous, 12/12). I hope you enjoy!

*from chapter one*

He eyed his aunt who had, for all intents and purposes, just laid him out. “Who is this person, the one who can solve this problem?”

“Vivian March. The Paragon.”

The name had sounded vaguely familiar, but Marcus couldn’t place it. Vivian March. Well, she would be here soon enough and he could meet her then. His aunt had assured him that this woman, whom evidently was referred to as the Paragon, would be able to divert attention away from the scandal, effectively making it disappear before it did much damage. But in order for that to happen, she would have to agree to align herself with them, which would require a certain amount of decorum from him.

Marcus had never been particularly good at playing Society’s games. It was one of the reasons he’d left London to begin with. He much preferred the wilds of Africa and India and the like to the well-polished pretentious behavior he found here. At least in the wild, animals acted out of survival. People did not adhere to such courtesies.

But he’d agreed, for this evening, to mind his manners, and to meet with this woman to see if she could assist his sister and her debacle. So it was that he and Clarissa and their Aunt Maureen sat silently waiting for this Paragon to appear. At precisely seven, the butler opened the door and introduced her.

“Miss Vivian March,” he said.

The woman entered the room covered in a burgundy velvet cloak. She withdrew the hood and then slid out of the contraption, allowing the butler to remove it from her. She wasn’t overly tall and had generous curves that filled her pale pink satin ball gown nicely without being too revealing. Chocolate brown curls were expertly piled on her head in an intricate coiffure. Long black satin gloves covered her hands and slid all the way up to just passed her elbows. She was the picture of English modesty.

“Thank you so much for coming, Miss March,” Aunt Maureen said, coming forward to greet the woman.

Vivian March tilted her head and he finally saw her entire face and his gut knotted as a jolt of recognition struck him. Now he knew why he name sounded familiar. He knew her. Or at least he had known her, had met her. Briefly. He stepped forward to make his own greeting, her eyes met his. She didn’t even flinch, in fact she showed no sign at all she recognized him. But he knew one thing for certain about Miss Vivian March, she was no paragon.

“My Lord, it is my understanding you have recently returned from traveling abroad,” she said. Her voice was rich and sultry, full of seductive promise.

“I have,” he said. “And it would seem my family is in a bit of turmoil. I was told you might be of some assistance.”

She inclined her head, then turned to Maureen before she spoke. “Perhaps we should sit and you can tell me more about the situation.”

“Yes, of course,” Aunt Maureen said. She rang for the tea tray with cakes and they all sat in the parlor. “Please do sit, Miss March and thank you again for coming on such short notice.”

Miss March sat in a high-backed chair, but if it was possible sat even straighter than the wood back. Her gloved hands rested on her lap and a pleasant smile played at her lips.

Clarissa had yet to utter a word, instead she sat staring at her hands as they knotted the fabric of her skirt. Perhaps she was still angry with him for earlier today.

Marcus leaned against the hearth and watched the women sugar and stir their tea. How could Miss March not recognize him? He knew for certain it was she, though now ten years older. Womanhood had softened and rounded her figure to a voluptuousness he could scarcely look away from.

After she had taken a sip of her tea, she glanced first at Aunt Maureen, then at Clarissa. “Now what seems to be the problem?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Clarissa said. She set her teacup down and offered a feigned smile. “I had a conversation with a gentleman. That is all that happened. It is unclear to me why this has to be such an ordeal.”

“Yes, well what actually happens and what might have happened are not always perceived differently,” Miss March said. “So you had a conversation with a gentleman. Is he truly a gentleman or is that simply his species? Also, was this conversation had in private or in a public location?”

He half expected the woman to withdraw a notebook and begin making notes, but she simply waited for Clarissa to answer. When there was a long pause, Miss March spoke again, this time she looked directly at him. “Perhaps she would feel more comfortable if she and I spoke alone.”

He had lost count as to how many times he’d been dismissed today by the women in this house. Perhaps he wasn’t as prepared to handle this sort of situation the way Charles would have been, but damnation he’d only just returned to London. They might not want him to be the head of the family and they might not believe him to be competent, but he wasn’t going anywhere.

Marcus shoved off the hearth and walked toward Miss March. “This is a family affair. And whether or not the women in my family approve or not, I am part of this family. You were called here to help us. If my sister refuses to cooperate, then I’ll tell you what happened. The chit was seen talking to the owner of a gaming establishment.”

Miss March nodded and while she looked at him while he spoke, her body was still pointed toward where Maureen and Clarissa sat.

He turned to his sister. “Were you sitting in the carriage, or standing on the street?”

“On the street,” she said, her eyes locked on tea tray in front of her.

Miss March patted Clarissa’s knee. She was quiet for a few moments, then took another sip of her tea. “Yes, well, I can see why we have a potential problem. Do you know, perhaps, who saw you? That is, who brought this matter to your attention?” she asked Clarissa.

“Lady Jessup informed me at a card party yesterday,” Aunt Maureen said.

“Well, I can only guess it was her husband who saw you then, Clarissa. Lord Jessup is a horrific gambler and an even worse gossip. Chances are that other people know now. So it would seem that you definitely have a potentially damaging situation on your hands.” She came to her feet.

Aunt Maureen stood as well. “Will you help us?”

“I shall consider it this evening and will be in touch tomorrow morning,” Miss March said. She straightened her gloves and patted her hair.

“Is that all?” Marcus asked not quite certain what he’d been expecting but a woman who came, sipped tea, confirmed that yes indeed they were in trouble, then fled, was not precisely the big solution he’d been waiting for.

“I must consider the situation,” she said.

“I’ll walk you out,” he said.

“That truly won’t be necessary.” Miss March made her way to the door.

Marcus followed her regardless of her dismissive tone. He took her cloak from the butler. “I’m offended that you would pretend not to remember me,” he said. He held the cloak away from her, forcing her to turn and look in his direction.

She looked up at him; her warm brown eyes met his gaze. “I beg your pardon,” she said, her voice full of innocence.

So it was a game she intended to play. Well, a game he would give her. He draped the cloak over her shoulders, then bent to her ear. “Just remember that I know the truth. I know you are not the paragon people seem to believe you to be.” There was a sharp intake of her breath. “Until tomorrow, Miss March.”

Old enough–finally

As I write this, I am in St. Joseph, Mo, my parents home town, visiting my grandmother. Grandma Gray, as I’ve always known her, is now 94. Though she lives in an assisted living center, she requires very little assistance. She still gets around pretty well, exercises daily, and is as sharp as tack. One of the greatest gifts in my life as been that she has lived long enough for me to know her as an adult as well as a child. I brought my two young children with me for this short trip. My daughter, who is almost seven, loved every moment of her time with Grandma Gray. My son, who is four, certainly had fun–generally–but seemed to actually bounce off the walls a time or two. All in all, it’s been a good visit and I’m so thankful I came.

My Grandpa Marc, my Grandma Gray and I when my daughter was just an infant.

That hasn’t always been the case for my visits with my grandmother. Don’t get me wrong. I love her dearly. I always have. And she is a genuinely nice and caring person–to strangers. Among family, she can sometimes be harsh and judgmental. She has smothered me with disapproval and criticism. Throughout my twenties, even though I was college-educated, gainfully employed, married and managing my own finances and household, she treated me like a child. Nothing I did was good enough. And I’m the kind of person who continually strives to be not just good enough, but perfect. I’m the kind of person who feels criticism deeply. I can’t tell you the number of times she would give me some task to do while I was visiting. She’d have me put up wall paper trim or rehang the curtains or frame some photos. Jobs that weren’t big, but that she couldn’t manage herself. Things I would gladly do for her–except that she’d stand over me, watching, criticizing and huffing with disapproval.

This attitude has never been limited to these menial tasks she gives me, I merely use them to illustrate a point. All my life she has disapproved of my weight (I’m not obese, but a good twenty pounds over weight). And don’t even get me started on my career … no wait, too late. I’m started. She didn’t like romance novels. Thought they were smut. She once told me my book made her sick to her stomach. (Honestly, I knew she wouldn’t approve of the premarital sex in them and begged her not to read my books. I even considered not telling her my pseudonym.) Once she asked how much I made per book. Idiot that I am, I told her. For years after she introduced me by saying, “This is my granddaughter, Emily. She writes smutty novels, but at least it pays well.” As if those two things weren’t enough, as a nice little cherry on top, she never trusted my opinion. My husband and I could give her identical advice and she’d ignore me completely and then jump on board the second he suggested the same damn thing.So you can see why–even though I love my grandmother and cherish her many good qualities–I haven’t been eager to visit.

But an interesting shift has happened in our relationship over the last few years and I think I have my children to thank. I think–regardless of my age–she never saw me as an equal until I had kids. Somehow, having kids, magically made me into a person worth listening to. Or maybe, now that I’m a mother, I finally have things to say that she’s interested in hearing. Either way, I’m glad for the shift in our relationship. (It helps that she’s changed her attitude about my books, but that’s a topic for another post.) I’m so thankful that she lived long enough for me to know her as an adult. For the past seven years, we’ve shared a unique camaraderie. We are both part of the great sisterhood of mothers. Okay, so maybe it’s not unique. I bet nearly half the people in the world are mothers. Maybe new is a better word. However I describe it, I’ve enjoyed it immensely Finally, she treats me like an adult. Today, she even took financial advise from me. It feel like I’m ushering in a new era.

Do you have any difficult relatives? How do you manage them? Has your relationship, like mine, changed over time?