Clearing the Clutter, One Book at a Time

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11, 2016 by gerrybartlett
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After the Purge

Oh, no, I didn’t just call books clutter, did I? But if you could see my office and bedroom you’d agree. I have way too many books. Some I’ve read, some have bookmarks or tiny slips of paper in them about a fourth of the way through and some are in the dreaded “to be read” pile. There are stacks, bookcases overflowing and even baskets full. And I’m not counting extra copies of my own books that I need to give away. I’m an addict. I console myself that at least it’s not heroin. Or chocolate. But we won’t talk about my food cravings, okay?
January is my month for making promises to myself. So I decided it was time to attack the book situation. I was ruthless. Well, as ruthless as I can be when there are stories involved. It took a while. Because I’d stop and read the back cover copy before I could toss a book in a bag to go to Half Price Books. I’d decided to try to make a little cash from my discards. Reading the back cover sometimes led to hitting the first chapter. If I was still interested, the book made it to the book shelf in my bedroom. This will become my library where I can go when I decide I deserve some reading time. Sounds good, right?
Not that this will keep me out of the bookstore. I just love browsing for the latest releases. I’m one of those dinosaurs who still reads real books. I own a Kindle but won’t even plug it in to charge. It doesn’t satisfy me the way holding a book does. So I have all this clutter. Those books with the markers in them? Obviously I lost interest partway through. I didn’t bother reading the back of them. They went straight into the bags after I rescued my bookmarks.
Many of these books came to me free from the summer Romance Writers conference in New York City. Something happens to me when I attend one of those conferences. I vow not to bring so many freebies home but then there they are, mine for the taking. They’re so pretty and new. I shove them into my suitcase. Hey, maybe I’ll learn to love books set in Outer Mongolia during an apocalypse. And who’s to say that sweet Amish vampire won’t grow on me? Anyway, I come home weighted down. Many of them went into the bags too. I will never read them. Why not give strangers a chance to discover what are probably great books?
Now if you think I have empty shelves after a ruthless purge, think again. I’ve included a picture to prove there’s still a problem here. One neat shelf in the bedroom, yes. But then there’s the stuffed and overflowing one in the office. And two baskets plus cabinets a few other places. No apologies. I started writing romance because I loved to read it. That love never went away. And keeping up with what’s popular is necessary if I want to stay current in the marketplace. At least that’s what I tell the IRS when I deduct the thousand dollars I spend on books each year. Yeah, expensive habit. But addicts have to pay the price. Is there rehab for this? No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to be cured of this habit.
Have you got any bad habits you want to get rid of this year? Bite your nails? Watch too much TV? Confess here. I won’t judge. One lucky poster will win a gift card from Amazon just for sharing by January 25th. So be sure your email addy is there after your post. Good luck and share on.

Body Issues

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2016 by gerrybartlett

If there’s one thing I’d like to do in 2016, it’s get over this whole thing about being uncomfortable in my own skin. At my age, and I’m not telling, it’s obvious my shape and size aren’t about to change significantly. I have areas that I hate–stomach, thighs. I could go on but depression is setting in. I’m sure you have your own list even if you weigh 98 pounds dripping wet. It’s a female thing mostly. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Good question. The result of this personal hate thing is that we diet, exercise and make resolutions that set us up for failure. It’s really bad during teen years. But we don’t outgrow it. Especially if life throws us curve balls that just reinforce that self-hate. A boyfriend dumps us. A mean girl makes a remark that sets up a tape in our heads every time we go bathing suit shopping. You know what I mean.
I just got back from a trip to a beach resort. We had to spend a lot of time by the pool. In a swimsuit. I didn’t love it. Coverups were my friend. Which was silly. How tan can you get in a coverup? But then again, who is going to see that tan when I swath myself in fabric most of the time anyway? It’s a vicious cycle. I’m attaching here a book review I put on Goodreads. “Dumplin'” is a well-written book that hits this problem like a hammer on a nail. The girls in the novel all have the same issues I’m still working on decades later. It’s a shame. Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you.
Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title and cover copy hooked me. An admittedly fat girl from a small town in Texas enters a beauty pageant. Okay, so I’m from Texas and have my own body issues. If you’re a woman and don’t, go back to your home planet. The voice is funny, sad and intriguing. Willowdean doesn’t have a boyfriend and starts the book never even been kissed. She’s on the verge of her sixteenth birthday. When a good-looking boy shows interest, she doesn’t believe it. I loved the small town vibe, the easy reading and the whole Dolly Parton theme. But the real hook is the way we get the emotional truth about girls this age coming to terms with how to love themselves. Do they in the end? Read it and see. It’s not laugh out loud, how could it be? This is serious stuff, girls. But it is heartwarming. Teens should read it and think about the message. There are a great variety of issues touched on here, something for everyone.

View all my reviews

New Year’s Eve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 30, 2014 by gerrybartlett

I used to feel like I had to do something important on New Year’s Eve. It was my late husband John’s birthday. His family didn’t make a big deal out of birthdays and, when I married him, I was shocked to discover he’d never had a birthday party. So when he turned forty, I had a big deal party. Combined with New Year’s Eve, it was a fun night. Guests brought gag gifts to rub in his over the hill status and we danced and had a great time. It was at home so we didn’t even have to worry about driving after all the champagne at midnight. We served coffee to the guests who had to.new year

As we got older, we tried to keep celebrating but the traffic, the cost of a big evening out, kept us from really enjoying those kinds of nights as much as we used to. By the time John was gone, I was used to struggling to stay awake until midnight so we could share a kiss. I know, lame. But if you’re over fifty, you’ll understand. Singles probably still worry about that important date and who they will get to kiss at midnight. Now I’m usually asleep by the time the new year rolls around.

This year I heard friends talk about babysitting grandchildren for New Year’s Eve. My own child doesn’t go out on the holiday and would never dream of asking me to babysit. Wise choice. He knows that’s not me. I have several pals who never had kids and one who is a rebel like I am. So we’re getting together with a good movie or two and a bottle of bubbly. I have a guest bedroom if the drive home is a problem. Yes, we’re showing our age, but so what? I think as you get older, you have the right to do what you want and ignore what others might think of you.

Are you eager to party hearty and wear a silly hat to bring in 2015? Or will you be like me, watching the people in Times Square on TV and thinking it looks too cold and too crowded for comfort. It’s cool to watch the ball drop, but not the same without Dick Clark. Yes, I’m showing my age, which I won’t admit to, but I’ve earned my comforts.

I’d like to hear what you’ll be doing on the last day of 2014. Was it a good year for you or a disaster that you’ll be glad to see the end of? My year was okay. I’m healthy and so is my family. As time goes by, I realize that’s pretty much all I need to hope for. Comment here. I’ve got an autographed copy of Real Vampires Say Read My Hips for one commentor who posts by January 5.

The Thanksgiving Table

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 27, 2014 by gerrybartlett

Who would you like at your table for Thanksgiving? I made up a little quiz to help you decide. That’s if you’re not stuck with family members who would fail this test. You know who they are–the aunt with the white glove who finds the dust on top of the TV. The cousin who always manages to hit the bathroom when you’ve run out of toilet paper. Or the screamer who is lucky enough to see a cockroach and you haven’t seen one in, um, months. Best yet? The newly diagnosed relative who is on an exotic diet. Why doesn’t she just bring her own tofu in a Tupperware dish? Well, anyway, have fun and have a happy Thanksgiving.

1. This person:
a. Vacuums her house every day
b. Vacuums once a week
c. Doesn’t own a vacuum cleaner
d. What’s a vacuum?

2. She is ruthless about:
a. Dusting. There’d better not be a speck anywhere, especially on those ceiling fan blades.
b. Cleaning under the bed. No tissues under her king sized.
c. Organizing her closet. It’s color coded and out of season clothes are in storage. She’ll take a peek in your closet, you can count on it.
d. She has a dust bunny named Ralph.

3. He likes to talk about:
a. His last colonoscopy.
b. The time he sat in traffic for two hours on the same freeway you travel every day.
c. People you have never met and hope you never have to. You’re surprised he has friends.
d. The exciting places he’s been and that he wants to take you to next time he goes.

4. She comes dressed:
a. In an expensive designer outfit that immediately gets covered in your dog’s hair.
b. As a turkey. Isn’t it a cute idea for Thanksgiving?
c. As a Pilgrim. Look at the hat my clever child made in Kindergarten ten years ago.
d. In jeans and a tee shirt ready to help put the meal together.

5. This person eats:
a. Only food that begins with the letter “P”.
b. Nothing with salt in it, but didn’t warn you about that beforehand.
c. Everything and lots of it. She brings her own to go boxes and expects to take home leftovers.
d. Whatever you serve and compliments it all.

6. Your cousin comes with:
a. Five friends who had nowhere else to go. Of course she didn’t call first.
b. A hacking cough and fever that is bound to be contagious.
c. Her homemade pie that is obviously either underdone or burned, take your pick. Her feelings are hurt if everyone doesn’t “Take just one bite.”
d. The side dish she had called to ask if she could bring. It’s perfect and enough for the crowd.

Okay, I hope you know that “d” is the right answer for all of these. If you have ever been stuck with any of the others, you have my sympathy. I’ve had the boring dinner guest, the picky eater and the clearly contagious a few times. I know my relatives don’t read this blog so I’m sure I’m safe in saying they won’t see themselves here. Hope you have a great day and that your Christmas feast is even better. It’s my turn to cook this year so we’ll see how that turns out. I’ll let you know.
Gerry

Gerry Faces Some Hard Truths

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 21, 2014 by gerrybartlett

I don’t believe in resolutions, they just set me up for failure, usually by January 20th, so I decided to face some hard truths this year. Will they help me handle 2014 any better than I have any other year? Probably not. But you never know.

1)      Hard truth number one: Some things are inevitable. Like death, taxes and the fact that as soon as I put on mascara, I’m going to sneeze. Yep, raccoon eyes. A few other inevitabilities? I’ve found my perfect lipstick color, so it’s been discontinued. Ditto on the blush. And I’ll run out of my Estee Lauder foundation when they’re not having a free gift. Happens every time.

2)      Hard truth number two: I weigh naked every morning in front of my full length mirror. It’s something my mother did and she stayed a size twelve petite until she died at age 89. What I discovered? Gravity and glass cleaner are not my friends. Yep, those are hard truths.

3)      Hard truth number three: Lipitor may not be the wonder drug it’s cracked up to be. Okay, so I test it with a steady diet of steak and baked potato with butter and sour cream. Because I have faith in that drug. And my supplements. Anything in the health aisle for the heart is in my pill container: magnesium, CoQ10, fish oil, I could go on. And still my cholesterol hovers over 200. I’m blaming it on heredity, Dad.

4)      Hard truth number four: the route from my computer to the refrigerator does not add up to ten thousand steps a day. You know you’re supposed to walk that much daily, right? Hmm. So I also do a lot of browsing the bookstores and trodding the aisles at Macy’s. My new Fitbit puts it all at about 2000 steps, maybe less. So here’s that hard truth: I’m a slug.

5)      Hard truth number five: Those books in my head will never magically travel to my computer. I don’t get writer’s block. I have dozens of story ideas in my mind all the time. I can tell you all about them. Where are they? Buzzing around in my brain. How many hours do I spend putting them on the page? Not very many. So this hard truth is the hardest. If I want my writing career to go higher, be more than it is, I’ve got to put more energy into it. Starting here. With these hard truths.

How about you? Any hard truths staring at you, daring you to face them? I’ve started an exercise program and am doing pretty well with it this year. Not for weight loss, I gave up on that long ago. I’m into it for my health. I’m writing more now and getting ready to self-publish my first novella. Yay! So just writing down these hard truths has pushed me to make some changes. Still going to eat steak, but saving it for once a week or less. The sneezes? I already take an over-the-counter medication daily, so not sure what else there is to do besides allergy shots or getting rid of the dog and you know I’m not doing that.

Share here what you consider a hard truth in your life. And good luck in the New Year. I say every year is a chance for a fresh start and attitude.Image

What I’ve Got on the Shelves

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2013 by gerrybartlett

I’ve been remodeling my office and it’s been a pain. First, I had to clear the clutter. I had files going back to the eighties. And I hate to throw away anything. There are still decisions to be made about a lot of it so they’re in a closet for now. Then I realized I was a book hoarder. I am doing a massive book giveaway. Don’t ask. That’s being taken care of. I’m donating or selling a lot and some special people are getting some of them. Yes, I will be mailing soon. If I can get to the envelopes.

One of the first things I did after the paint dried was put up my rows of published novels. I think we get so caught up in the daily grind that we don’t always take time to realize what we’ve accomplished. I started writing back in the early eighties. Remember those files I mentioned? Some of them are from the first workshops I attended. They are full of advice that just won’t fly now. I also have my first novel written on a Smith Corona typewriter. What a pain to use white-out and carbon paper. Yes, youngsters, that’s what we did. God forbid you had to make major changes in a manuscript. 

I found my first rejection letter there too. It was from a line called Second Chance at Love. Very complimentary for a first book and the editor asked to see more. I didn’t see the good things, just saw no and quit writing for a while, like years. Bad, Gerry. Then I joined Romance Writers of America and found a support group. I struggled along, writing more manuscripts, learning craft from published authors who volunteered their time to teach workshops. I went to my first national conference and was blown away when I saw Nora Roberts speak. Her advice? Put your butt in the chair and write every day. I came home jazzed, determined to succeed. 

Finally in 1998 I got the call. I sold my first two books, romantic suspense. In 2000 I sold a Regency historical. But I found my real success when I stumbled on a vampire named Gloriana St. Clair. I had a hook–she was bloating when she was turned in 1604. That one thing made my book stand out enough for me to finally snag an agent. I’d been trying since the eighties with no luck. This was 2003. Yes, it was a long, long journey.

Since then I’ve had ten contracts for Real Vampires books with the tenth, Real Vampires Know Size Matters, coming out this December. Writing has become a job, not always a thrill ride. So I put those books on the shelf to remind myself that I have to be proud of what I’ve accomplished. It was a miracle that I got published at all. Some of the writers I started out with never did manage it. I have two books that were translated into German and I get fan mail daily. I am blessed and I know it. I need to keep the joy in the writing and stop worrying about my clutter and the hassles of the publishing world. Yes, I’m behind on everything. That mailing will get done. Just not today. And who knows when this office will finally be as perfect as I’ve dreamed it would be? 

But here’s my bottom line. No one is harder on us than we are. What have you done that you refuse to give yourself credit for? Did you finish a project? Complete a course? Get a degree or win an award? What are you proud of? I’m really proud of the fine son I raised. He is a great father and husband. And he can fix my computer!

Post here, I’d love to know what you have been doing. And I’ll pick a random poster to win a gift card, Amazon or Barnes & Nobles, your choice, by September 30 just for sharing. So come on, brag a little. Where else are you going to do it? Oh, yeah, those frogs? I collect frog princes. I was lucky and found my prince a long time ago. Now that he’s gone, I’m afraid it’s all frogs out there but you never know…

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Gerry’s Sword Dance

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2013 by gerrybartlett

I'm 5th from the right, back row. Short hair. Best friend Pattie is the last one on the left, little blond on the back row.

I’m 5th from the right, back row. Short hair. Best friend Pattie is the last one on the left, little blond on the back row.

I just posted a picture of me in the Scottish Brigade back in high school. That was Austin High School in Houston, Texas. We dressed in kilts, had a bagpipe corps, along with drums and bugles. It was awesome. As part of the drill team, I learned Scottish dances, just like the sword dance Blade did in Real Vampires Know Hips Happen. Yes, I used my own experience when I wrote that scene in the latest Glory book. We only did the sword dance once and it was for a special occasion.

Now I don’t tell my age. I heard once that a lady never tells. But this was back when John F. Kennedy was President. He was coming to Houston to give a speech at Rice University. The Brigade was invited to perform for him. The speech was given at Rice’s football stadium which held thousands of people and it was expected to be packed. Of course our sponsor was eager to have us do this. It was summer, we were out of school, but we headed to campus near downtown and began practice. We’d never done a sword dance before but somehow we got some swords, not sharp of course, and that’s what we began to learn.

Now Houston in the summer is just a little cooler than hell itself. We practiced in shorts but when the big day came we wore our dress uniforms. That meant wool jackets, wool kilts, knee socks, plaids over our shoulders, hats, the whole nine yards. We were so excited. We marched in to the beat of the drums and the sound of the bugles. Company C, my group, was always last. We were the shorties. My best friend and I were always close together. I still see Pattie frequently. Lucky for me. Anyway, we formed groups of four, the crowd got silent and the bagpipes started. Talk about goosebumps!

Then we began to dance. We twirled and leaped over the swords we laid on the ground. I think I still remember a few of those moves. We’d practiced so much it was automatic. No way could we mess up in front of the President of the United States. Our kilts flared out as we danced. We had to keep solemn faces, that was part of the show, but after we marched off the football field, we were excited. We’d done it!

Do I remember the President’s speech? Not a word. I saw Kennedy again that November, the day before he was shot when he drove down Airport boulevard. He waved to us and said hello through a microphone in his limo. He wasn’t in a convertible in Houston. This all happened in 1963. Yep, I was just a kid.

Anyway, when I was writing Real Vampires Know Hips Happen and had just visited Scotland, that day in Texas came to mind. I knew I wanted Jerry to dance for Glory. Because the sword dance was something that warriors did. It was a man’s dance but graceful. I loved doing it for the President, but how great if our strong hunky Scot could show Glory his elegant side in this ancient ritual. Of course his sword would be lethal. I was glad mine was little more than a toy.

Funny how that high school experience became useful so many years later. But that’s how writing goes. You never know what you will draw on when you sit down to tell a story. The people you meet, the things you go through, they are all potential story lines.

I had a great time with my gal pals in the Brigade. We enjoyed slumber parties and exchanging gifts before every football game. Any fond memories of your high school days? Share and you can win a gift card from your favorite book retailer, Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Twenty-five bucks this time. Comment by April 15, tax day. I can’t wait to hear what you have to share.

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