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April 24th, 2016

Remember a year or so ago when I said I’d post pictures of the bathroom when it was done?
Well, the last piece of trim went up Friday.

bathroom 2

bathroom 3

bathroom 1

Because we’re moving in about 3 weeks.

Actually, we’re moving as soon as I get the latest book done, which had better be in less time than that, or movers will have to put me and the computer in a box with a work light and ship me like freight.

The story of the New House.

Casa de dos quesos is a huge, 6 bedroom farm house in the middle of the country. But the boys are gone, and we don’t farm. The last time I planted a garden the chipmunks took everything, so I gave up.

It was all getting to be a bit much.

So, evenings, after Jim went to bed, I started sneaking out to real estate sights, to look at realty porn.

And one night, about a year ago, I found the house. It’s only about 30 miles from where we are. It’s in our price range. It has fewer steps, fewer bedrooms, more bathrooms (that don’t need fixing) and 4700 square feet.

Remember when I said fewer bedrooms? We’re down sizing!
To a renovated Catholic church turned B & B.

I convinced Jim to do a drive-by.

Jim said we didn’t need a church.

The owners were having a garage sale so we bullied our way inside.

It has jetted tubs in the choir loft. It has a two kitchens.

Jim said I didn’t need two kitchens if I wouldn’t use one.

It has so many stained glass windows that you can’t see out, and a powder room in the confessional.

Jim said we didn’t need a church.

But, it has a bell.

I asked the owner if the neighbors cared if we rang it. He said no, but insulation would fall out of the ceiling.

Jim said, ‘You know, if you put a piece of PVC pipe around the rope…”

Ha. I had him.

Common sense got the better of us, and we did not offer. We discovered that one of the owners is the twin sister of a friend from church. Every Sunday I asked it it had sold. Several times, it almost did, and all the deals fell through.

A year later, I am buying that church.

#2 son came along for the first walk through and gave us a thumb’s up.
#1 son is his father’s child. He said,

This is like “We Bought a Zoo” but with less Scarlett Johansson.

Then he saw the inside.
He’s moving home in Fall.

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February 27th, 2016

I am not into superstitions. I don’t read my horoscope. I don’t throw salt over my shoulder.

After 4 months of trying to sell the Casa de dos Quesos, I broke down and buried St Joseph in the yard, because, technically, that’s Catholicism. And if St Joe comes though, as people promise me he will, then it is not superstition but a miracle.

BTW, if anyone wants to buy a six bedroom farmhouse in Wisconsin that is great for writing in, message me!

I am mot superstitious. But I am totally on with fortune cookies.

The day of my first book release, I went out for Chinese and got a fortune (which I lost and cannot quote exactly) that said something about my creativity making many people happy.

See? Cookies are true.

Of course, there was that time got a cookie that said

“Name the four basic food groups.”

Which I did, not that it netted me anything. And that was at the late great and thoroughly lamented Lucy’s South American/Chinese Restaurant. It was a weird fortune. Maybe fortune cookie are different on the other side of the Equator. But the empanadas were good, so what did it matter?
And there was that fortune I got at #1 Son’s house that was written in Spanish. But he was living with a Peruvian Jew at the time. Hands across the water. Do not argue with the cookie.

I am used to getting weird fortunes. But I was not prepared to get this.

fortune cookie

What am I supposed to do? Fortune cookies are supposed to be better if you add “in bed” to it. But that only makes this one worse. Where else would he be sleeping? On the couch? Hunched over a typewriter in a cookie factory? Worse yet, the message implies the cookie is alive. Should I feel bad for having eaten it, while it was asleep

And how much later was I supposed to come back? Was I supposed to take another trip to the buffet, or should I go back tomorrow?

So many questions and so few answers.

Anyone else get weird cookies?

Available now! A book with no fortune cookies at all:

[Secrets of Wiscombe Chase]

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February 19th, 2016

Lately, I am trying to reduce stress. I’m cutting back on caffeine, but it’s not doing much. I think I actually need to cut back on reading the news. Maybe I should just turn off the TV and stare at a blank wall until after the November elections. Or, I could find something else to do with my spare time.

I heard about this new game, which is hardly a game at all. It’s Japanese. Very calming.

Neko Atsume is a cat collecting game. You have a cartoon back yard, which you fill with cat toys. Then, animated cats come, and you take pictures of them and store them in an album.

That’s it. Nothing else happens. This is the game equivalent of a Zen garden, but with kitties instead of raked sand.

I never meant to be a cat person, but judging by the number of them sleeping on the desk as I type this (2) I must be good at cats. There is also a dog under the desk.

And, in case the IRS is reading this, I consider the pets scattered all over this room to be part of the writing process and not a sign that I am using this room for something other than its designated purpose.

Can you tell we just did taxes? That’s why I’m trying to cut down on stress.

But Neko Atsume looked relaxing. So, last night, I downloaded it to my Ipad. It took a while. I had trouble typing because I had a cat in my lap, and another one hopping on and off my chest. But I went to the app store, and it was free. Since I am about to send all my money to the federal government, free is relaxing.

I got a cartoon yard, and put a red rubber ball and some cat food in it. I closed the game and reopened, as suggested.

No cats.

Obviously, it takes a while. I came back in a half an hour.

No cats.

How about better food? And a cardboard box. Cats love those.

Not these cats.

A plastic bag? And a heating pad. Maybe it’s cold in cartoon Japan.

Or maybe not.

I start complaining on Twitter, and my friend Tara assures me that these things take time. Give it fifteen more minutes.

When I come back, the food dish is empty, and so is the yard.

DAMMIT.

Obviously, there are cats somewhere. I replace the cat food with sashimi.

It disappears. Still no cats.

Back to cat food, since I no longer have game currency to buy luxury entrees.

This is gone, too. The cats are supposed to be leaving me presents of fish in gratitude. But so far, they have left me squat.

The DH thinks, maybe I have animated raccoons.

I think, pretty soon, my Ipad will begin smelling like cat pee. But I won’t know why, because there still won’t be any cats.

neko atsume

And don’t forget, Coming March 1, a book that also does not have any cats. (Just horses and deer).

[Secrets of Wiscombe Chase]

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February 5th, 2016

So, the usual apologies. Been gone a long time, blah blah, disaster, sturm und drang, blah blah, writer’s block…

But, every so often, an event comes along that is so important it cannot be ignored.

I went to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I couldn’t help it. I had to. I like movies. And I like zombies. And I love Pride and Prejudice.

Also since it was set in Regency England(ish) I think it might be deductible.

But mostly, I went because I love train wrecks, and this had every indication to be one of those. You see, I read the book, which sucked donkey balls. That was mostly a lazy cut and paste job of a few zombie scenes stuck into the Jane Austen original. Loved the concept, hated hated HATED the execution.

It was better than the Dark Shadows movie.
It was better than Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
It was better than the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book.
(And all three of those were written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Anyone sensing a pattern?)

It was not as good as Jane Austen’s Fight Club.

Nothing is as good as that.

But if you ever watched P&P and wished it had more (any) fight scenes, this movie is for you. Particularly, if you want to see actual Jane Austen dialog delivered during those fights… And if you ever kind of wished that Jane had a bit more starch to her, or wanted to see Lizzy give Darcy a roundhouse kick to the head…

This could be your movie.

On the down side:
It was neither scary nor romantic. Most of the acting was bland. Lizzy was too weepy. Darcy looked kind of like a narcoleptic version of young Robert Vaughn with really bad hair. Some of the evening gowns looked kind of like polyester prom dresses, and there was too much leather on both men and women.

The filmmakers had the same firm grasp of English geography and the amount of time it takes to get places on a horse as I do. And I once tried to tell my husband that Wales was on the East coast.

(Because it was east of me. In my mind, England has no west side. It’s all east. I’m not ignorant of UK geography. I’m ignorant of ALL GEOGRAPHY. And I have no sense of direction. I use both Siri and a GPS, and I still get lost.)

And the premise was ridiculous.

On the up side:

Matt Smith as Mr. Collins was excellent, and apparently the only one let in on the joke. He stole every scene he was in. Some of the fight scenes were pretty good. The zombie makeup was good. The sprigged muslin day dresses were very good.

And the premise was ridiculous!

Also, unlike the book, there was a plot. It wasn’t a great plot. But it was a plot! And not awful. Possibly because the screenplay was written by Burr Steers and not Seth Grahame-Smith (who is better at coming up with titles than books).

Also, there is a wet shirt Darcy scene, which was with a great ironic shout out to Colin Firth, or put in by people who never read the actual book. (I am hoping it’s the former).

I give PP & Z a tentative thumbs up. See it at a matinee. And if possible, drink first.

And while I have your attention, I have a new book coming out in March

[Secrets of Wiscombe Chase]

“What do I want? Satisfaction. Reparation. Revenge…”

Though Gerald Wiscombe left for war a naive boy, he returns a man determined to claim what’s rightfully his! But when Gerry suspects that his wife has been less than faithful in his absence, he intends to seek the truth.

The Secrets of Wiscombe Chase does not have zombies. But it does have Rex (the wonder deer).

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October 26th, 2015

Last week, I went to the drugstore to pick up my happy pills, in prep for last week’s dental surgery.

(Which was successful, by the way. I now have a big hole in the back of my jaw that is healing so that another implant can be fitted.)

But, since I have a weakness for all things Halloween, and have sworn off fun size candy, I took a walk down the decoration aisle, just to see what was on sale. And I remembered why it was I had planned to come back for the mark down.

They had Victorian style, spooky telephones.

Really, the last thing I need is another decoration. But this is and faux antique, faux rotary phone that would look great in our entryway. It’s motion sensitive. It rings. And if you pick up the hand set it utters dire warnings. I need more dire warnings in my life.

I needed this phone.

So, in the cart it went, as I proceeded back towards the pharmacy.

Did I mention motion sensitive?

RING

And it’s loud.

RING RING

And every step I took jolted it in the cart, causing it to go off.

RING RING RING

People were staring. Probably wondering why I wasn’t taking a call. And it was pretty impossible to look around innocently and pretend that it was coming from somewhere other than me. I tried walking faster.

RING

And slower.

RING RING.

But I really didn’t want to walk slower, since it the trip to the back of the store already seemed to be taking forever.

RING RING RING

So, I took the receiver off the hook to stop the ringing.

I’D TURN BACK IF I WERE YOU.

Too late. We are already through the greeting cards, and into the vitamins, practically to the pick- up window.

Now, the pharmacists, are glaring at me, muttering to the people in the drive thru about someone’s Halloween decoration.

YES. COME CLOSER. COME RIGHT UP. THIS WAY.

More side eyed glances at the impatient woman with the phone.

Dammit I know they’re busy. This is not my fault. Really, people. If you didn’t want this to happen, why are you selling this damn thing? And I am in too deep now to take it back. The only hope is to leave it on the counter and run.

The pharmacy clerk comes to the window, and I put the phone on the counter, ready to check out.

WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU.

Really, phone. You don’t have to be rude.

She gets me my drugs.

AT LAST, I’VE WAITED SO LONG.

Help me.

So. I check out, put it in a bag, which only slightly muffles its maniacal laughter, and I get it home.

Now, finally the fun will begin. It will go off any time my stupid cat walks past it, and I will have sweet revenge for every time he’s peed under the bench in the office.

Dead silence. Apparently, this is a Walgreen specific haunted phone.

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October 20th, 2015

As usual, I am back to the blog after months of absence with a pile of excuses. Of course, the last batch of excuses is, by far, the best ones I’ve had.

In the last year, everything has gone wrong.

Maybe not everything. We are all still alive. But since #2 Son got sick last October, we have been in a downward slide of expensive disasters and rapidly increasing bills. The broken refrigerator and lawn tractor, and the dying drier are par for the course around here.

But I have now taken to greeting people I haven’t seen in a while with “Have I talked to you after the house almost blew up, but before the dog almost died?”

The details on that, BTW are:

A 3:00 AM windstorm that damaged twenty or so trees on our property, rolled the propane tank and resulted in a driveway full of firemen in full gear, and immediate evacuation with dog (but not cats, who are really hard to evacuate). And also pictures of my lawn and an interview with my husband on the Milwaukee news…

Followed a few months later by a normally healthy dog that got gastric torsion and needed emergency surgery to remove his spleen.

The dog is fine, although he has a new seam down the middle. The house is mostly back together, although there are still many damaged trees on the property. I even managed to get a wood worker to take the majestic pear tree, which looked like it had been hit by a bomb, but had plenty of good lumber. But as far as I know, there is no one coming to get the mashed up stand of box elders.

And then, there is the dental implant I will be having replaced today, because the titanium pin that has fused with the bone of my jaw, just as it was supposed to, is now broken. It’s like Wolverine getting a hang nail. Apparently, my dentist has only seen this 3 out of 10,000 times.

Lucky me.

No, really. I’m lucky. Because, unlike the dog, my mouth is still under warrantee! And I get to take valium and Demerol before the drilling. I’m normally a pretty straight arrow, except for enjoying Wisconsin strength cocktails. But after the year I’ve had, I have earned one afternoon of drug induced relaxation.

And did I mention my plan to sell the house and buy a renovated church? That’s still a work in progress. And I should be questioning the wisdom of living under a steeple of any kind since one of the blank spaces on the Merrill Disaster Bingo card is “Lightning strike.” Perhaps I should not be provoking God.

All the same, the heart wants what the heart wants. The poor DH is rolling his eyes. But I know how to manipulate him. When he tries to talk me out of it, all I have to do is say the words ‘secret room’. His eyes glaze over for a moment, and then he says, “There would be space for one. But what would we put in it? A man cave?”

Hell no. If we had a secret room, it would not be gender specific.

More soon.

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April 22nd, 2015

I survived my surgery and am scarred up a little, but on the mend.  I look  not too different, and am seeing better than I have in a decade, which is a great comfort.

 

And, if anyone is interested, I am still running a raffle until the end of the month, to celebrate the release of  my last book, scroll down the page a bit, to the brass ring entry or go to the home page for a chance to enter.

 

And now, for any of you who need it

 

A lesson on how NOT to write.

 

Am I the only person left on the planet who is still watching Castle? Sometimes I wonder. Because maybe that hour on Monday was just some sort of delayed drug reaction, since it had kind of the same vibe as that day in the hospital two weeks ago, when I was watching the Errol Flynn Robin Hood.

 

Actually not. Even drugged to the gills, I was asking my husband if that deer on Errol’s shoulders didn’t look a whole lot more fake when viewed in HD.  I can come up with no excuse for what I was seeing as I watched Castle.

 

For anyone who cares:  Beyond here lie spoilers!

 

Although, really, you shouldn’t care. You’re better off if I just ruin this, and we all pretend it never happened, and maybe just imagine a better end to the season arc.

 

To catch  everyone up: At the end of last season, Castle and Beckett were about to be married, when he got waylaid on the way to the ceremony, leaving his poor bride-to-be with nothing but a wrecked car in a ditch.  The beginning of the season picks up with him being found, lost at sea with no memory of the past weeks, a sunburn, a bullet wound, and apparently exposure to Dengue fever.

 

I missed the first ep, and am glad. Because I didn’t know about the Dengue fever until this week, and am glad. That alone would have been enough to make me laugh.  WTF? Did he spend the summer on that Island from Lost?

 

Anyway.  By the middle of the season, he has investigated his own disappearance and discovered that he was the one who requested that his memory be wiped because, apparently, there is something so horrible in his recent past that it needs to be removed without a trace.

 

Oh kaaaaay.

 

I am mildly intrigued.  Obviously, there will be a wonderful, dark secret revealed at some point in the future.  Even though I found the whole ‘kidnapped on the way to the wedding’ thing to be too stupid for words and an obvious ploy for ratings, and an embarrassing contrivance to stretch out that engagement for a few more episodes.

 

It’s like, if anyone was watching Bones a year or two ago, right before they  FINALLY decided to get married, only to have an obsessive, serial killer/stalker show up to tell Booth that he had to break it off without explanation and break Bones’ heart in the cruelest possible way.  Because the killer had tapped their phones, bugged their house, gotten to their friends, and accessed every element of their lives and would KNOW if he told her even a little bit of the truth. And then would kill innocent people at random, and it would be all Booth’s fault

 

And, even with months to brood on this, Booth couldn’t figure out a way to communicate with the most important person in his life that would end that stupid plot device.   Because, apparently, a trained FBI agent can’t navigate his way out of the plotting equivalent of a wet paper bag.

 

I am also thinking back to the mess that X Files became, in the last season or so, when Scully got pregnant and Mulder was the father but it was by artificial insemination, or a miracle or something, instead of, God forbid, the logical result of seasons upon seasons of sexual tension.

 

Maybe she was infertile and needed medical help. But when you create a scenario where pregnancy by alien abduction makes more sense than two people not having sex?  Just give up and get the two of them together.

 

Why do we want the X Files to come back, again? Because there was a two-headed dog in the last movie they made. Because when you think, “How do I improve this dog?” the answer is “A second head.”

 

It’s one thing to be a mad scientist. It’s another thing to be a stupid scientist.

 

But I was hoping for better from Castle.

 

Castle started the season down the dangerous path to relationship crazy town, then kind of pulled it together by letting the characters get married, and have a functional relationship. Sure, he became a detective for a while.  But he stopped.  Let’s just pretend that it never happened, kind of like we’re ignoring the amnesia and Dengue fever.

 

And then, suddenly, last Monday, he started to regain his memories.  With a couple of dreams and a little bit of hypnosis, he accurately remembered license plate numbers, tattoos, and faces of  friends from prep school (that he had not actually seen as adults). There were a couple of murders, and everyone telling him not to be so obsessed.

 

And it all led to a showdown in an alley in the last ten minutes of the episode, where a waiter turns out to be an old school friend who grew up, joined Al-Qaeda,  changed his mind and demanded that Castle be brought in as his CIA contact, (since apparently, he knew no one was going to shoot the star of the show). Castle stopped a major terrorist plot and saved thousands of lives, and then decided to forget about the whole thing (???). So the CIA implanted false memories (???) which were also forgotten, but then remembered. And now he’s not supposed to tell anyone.

 

Of course, he immediately tells his mother, his daughter and Beckett. The end.

 

And all the action/adventure scenes they showed us were just dream flashbacks, because they saved the real story for a conversation in an alley.

 

A lot of people think romances are implausible.  But if you ever set up the HEA for 300 pages, then postpone the wedding because of a asteroid strike or coconut crab attack, give up on romance novels. You belong in television.

 

 

 

 

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April 2nd, 2015

1980 was a good year for me. I was a freshman in college. And, instead of putting on the Freshman 15, I lost it, did my hair and make-up, and got a couple of new outfits. I officially peaked the day before my Geology 201 final.

 

The next morning, I woke up with my right eye swollen shut.

 

I made a bunch of wild guesses on the cause of that. Stress? Could be. Allergies? Definitely had those, so I took some antihistamines. Pink eye? Stye? Other? I didn’t have time to go to a doctor, so I skipped the mascara and tried not to be contagious.

 

In a day or so, it went away.

 

In a month or so, it happened again. That time I went to a doctor.  They went through the same list of diagnoses I had given myself, declared it pink eye, gave me some eye drops that didn’t help, and sent me home.

 

And it happened again. And again. And again. It usually happened a week before my period. When I told that to doctors, they usually looked at me like I was crazy and told me that the only consistent predictor I could give them had nothing to do with anything. Then they gave me the same eye drops I’d already tried and sent me home.

 

So I slept with my head elevated, yelled at myself for excess salt intake, and gave up make-up for all but the most special occasions, like my wedding. I was always scared to death that days like that—days were there’d be cameras— would fall in the week before my period and I’d wake up looking like I’d been someone’s punching bag the night before.

 

After a couple of years, I had a permanent spot of crepey skin on the eyelid. After ten years or so, I found a particularly bad tempered eye doctor who gave me a diagnosis. Blepharochalasis syndrome.  It was really rare. It wasn’t an allergy, though they didn’t help it. It was probably autoimmune.

 

:Great,” I said. “How do we stop it?”

 

“We don’t,” he told me. The treatment was to wait until it stopped on its own and to get surgery to fix the mess.

 

“That’s not fair,” I said.

 

“Who said life is fair?” he said. Did I mention he was kind of a douchebag?  I went home in tears. A week later, he sent me a letter saying he was interested in my condition and wanted to study me.

 

I ripped it up.

 

Some more years passed. Sometime after age 40, I had the worst outbreak ever. Half my face was swollen. The eye was bright red. I went back to Dr. Douchebag who took his nurse out in the hall and yelled for five minutes that she had not correctly tested my vision, while I sat trembling in the exam room. Then he sent me to more specialists.

 

They were fascinated.  They poked my eye with sticks and asked me questions about spiders and wasps. Then, they asked me again, because they didn’t believe I’d swelled up like that without help from some outside agent.  And I went through the same song and dance I’d been doing since I was 19. No, my husband did not hit me. No bugs. No food allergies. No. No. No.  It just does this, sometimes.

 

This was my own personal super power. I couldn’t fly or turn invisible. I had a useless facial deformity that made people greet me with “Hi, Chri… OH GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR EYE?”

 

They gave me some prednisone, which worked real well until they tried to taper me off, and the eyeball itself swelled up. Yeah. That hurts as bad as you would think. It also looked like a movie special effect. But after a month or so, things settled down. After that, I considered the problem to be “in remission.”

 

Of course, in remission means I haven’t been forced to wear large dark glasses for a month straight to keep from frightening my own children. And I have one permanently baggy eye, a fear of cameras, and a tendency to brush my teeth and do my hair with my eyes closed, which makes me think there is probably something very screwed up with my personal body image. I also have a field of vision cut to the point where even my incredibly cheap insurance company admits I have a problem. Not enough to pay, of course. I get to count it towards the deductable.

 

My son is dealing with auto immune kidney problems and my mother now runs the risk of breaking out in boils when exposed to sunlight.   Until recently, those of us closest to her blamed this on the fact that she was a soul-sucking vampire. (Thank God for anti-depressants. We were ready to resort to garlic and holy water). Mostly, I think it’s proof that, genetically speaking, we are a pretty screwed up family.

 

But I am finally going to do something about it. Despite the fact that the money I’d set aside for surgery just went to buy a new fridge, I am getting my eyelids fixed next week. And since I am special case, even the plastic surgeon is not sure how this will work out. It may reactivate the old condition. For all I know, when she makes the first cut, it will unleash the demon that brings on the apocalypse.

 

If so, sorry about that. The end of the world is Tuesday morning. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

 

It may make things better. It may make things worse. Or maybe, no one but me will see a difference. I am pretty sure I’ll look different than the picture on this site, since I already do. That pic is ten years old and heavily ‘Shopped.

 

There is a chance that I am unintentionally about to do the full Renee Zellweger. Everyone made a big deal when America’s squinty-eyed sweetheart showed up with eyes wide open, claiming to be ‘rested’. Maybe she was just like me. After a couple of decades of it, I am tired of walking around with my brows forced up in a state of perpetual surprise, just so I can see on the right side. I would like the luxury of resting bitch face and not resting, “What’s wrong with your eye?”

 

So, if you or anyone you know sees Christine Merrill at RWA this year and wonders, “Did she have some work done?”

 

The answer is, yeah, she did.

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March 30th, 2015

Lots of things going on in my end of the world this week.

[lady felkirk]

is on sale until the 31st.

My latest book

ring from a marquess cover
[ring from a marquess]

is just hitting the virtual shelves.

And, as usual, I should be very busy finishing the next book. Also, there will be more blogging than usual this month, since I have a few things I just have to share about Liam Neeson, and Renee Zellweger.

But, in the meantime, how about I run a raffle? For the month of April, I am experimenting with Rafflecopter, and givng away fabulous prizes!

Since this is a give away to promote my two books about the de Bryun sisters, who own a jewelry shop in Bath, I’m giving away some bling.

First prize:

ring 1

A sterling silver ring with a heart-shaped, 5/8 carat synthetic ruby (ring size 9, as is). You will also gt autographed copies of A Ring From a Marquess, and The Truth About Lady Felkirk.

Second prize:

ring 2

A ring from my jewelry box of undetermined materials and provenance. I got it used. It is approx a size 8, silver colored metal with a large, pink stone. Also, autographed books!

Third prize:

Just the autographed books.

Enter below. And enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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March 27th, 2015

Romancelandia is in an uproar this week. Speaking as someone who has been living in that particular country for over ten years, uproar is nothing new. Uproar is out national pastime. It’s a baseball double-header, without the 7th inning stretches. All the freakin’ time.

The Recap (which many of you don’t need): There are two big blogs, Dear Author, and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The head of Dear Author is Jane Litte (not her real name). This week, Jane Litte admitted that she is also Jen Frederick (still not her real name).

Jane is a blogger who reviews, watches the industry, and has always demanded transparency from writers and other industry professionals. She has been quick to find scandal. Sometimes, she’s been a little too quick.

Jen is a best-selling writer of New Adult fiction, who has been welcomed into various writing lists as a friend and co-worker, by authors who would have been less than thrilled had they known that she was also Jane Litte. Jane got thrown out of Romance Writers of America a few years ago because some of her actions were deemed not romance writer/industry friendly.

Although Jane claims to have worked hard to keep Jen out of the blog, instances have been found of Jen’s works being advertised or promoted on Jane’s blog, mostly by people working with Jane.

So far, Jen has not said anything in public about efforts to keep Jane out of her writing. And if you are wondering, Jane and Jen have been the same person for 2 or 3 years now.

Jane is half of a Podcast with Sarah, from Smart Bitches.

Smart Bitches used to be two people. Now it is mostly one. Except for the fact that there are now other reviewers as well. But we’re only really talking about one bitches, when we talk about Smart Bitches. And she only has one name, even though she blogs, writes non-fiction, and occasionally fiction.

But Smart Bitch Sarah has been working with Jane, and knowing she was Jen, but unable or unwilling to say so, because Jane told her a secret. So Jen ended up being promoted on a podcast run by Sarah and Jane, and gave a prize in a contest run by Sarah and Jane. And maybe it was Jen’s publisher’s fault, and not Jane’s inability to keep Jen out of Jane’s work.

Confused yet?

And writer’s who thought that Jen was a real person are kind of furious that they were talking to Jane. But now, apparently, Jane is offering some of them promo opportunities on the Dear Author blog, trying to make amends… And there’s this lawsuit that has nothing to do with Jen, but is probably kind of sticking to Jane’s real name, which will not be mentioned here. But people want to know if the person doing the suing is posting stuff as another person…

And mostly, there are way too many people to match up with the number of bodies in the room. It’s like Sybil in here.

I’m just Chris, BTW. Hi. Nice to meet you. Sometimes embarrassed to be using my real name. Because sometimes it is nice to separate the out author (AKA THE FABULOUS CHRISTINE MERRILL), and leave her behind.

If I could dump Christine, Chris could post stuff on blogs and not be accused of only talking because she was trying to sell books. If Chris has an opinion, she could afford to argue it and not lose any sales. She could have a bad day and not spoil what might be her only chance to make a good impression with a fan or blogger.

Christine has to sell books. And Chris needs the money to pay big honkin’ medical bills (since #2 son lost his job, possibly because of illness, and is not able to sell blood like a normal college student, because said blood is now tainted).

So, generally speaking, unless the topic is how much people like vanilla pudding with a side of white bread, both Chris and Christine keep their big mouths shut on the review blogs. Chris used to post. And occasionally, she’d mix it up a little. But only a little.

But eventually, she decided to back away, because both blogs did some shit she didn’t agree with. Sometimes it was the main posters. But mostly it was the commenters who would go on a rampage over real or perceived slights by authors, followed with name calling, virtual hair pulling, wailing, lamentations, threats of bad reviews, and the dreaded I WILL NEVER READ HER OR ANYONE WHO DEFENDS HER, EVER AGAIN!

Did Jane or her blog have the power to ruin someone’s career? I don’t really think so. There was that time when Smart Bitches took down a plagiarist. And it always kind of seemed like Dear Author might have wanted to find someone who could fall that far from grace.

Mostly, the blogs and their commenters have the power to ruin your day. Or maybe your week. They can ruin your confidence in yourself. They can make you feel stupid and powerless, because as a writer, you have to be able to take a bad review like a fast ball to the gut, and walk it off. They can make writing hard. And writing is what pays the bills.

But you know what? Readers and bloggers have the right to talk. But just saying that in some blogs would get me called out as a condescending author graciously conceding the audience their God given free speech like she thinks she’s some kind of queen…

Fuck that shit. The best way to avoid a fight is not to say anything. How’s your vanilla pudding? Mine is delicious. But I welcome your opinion on the recipe and acknowledge your right to prefer chocolate. Or even butterscotch (you freak).

Hence the writers loops that Jen was a part of. Now known by some non-writer, defenders of Jane as cliques or super, secret author clubs that we writers make, just to exclude fans (because we are just that bitchy. Shame on us. Fie and for shame, you book writing, high school, mean girls).

These loops are not sales spaces. They are not performance spaces. They are not public. They are usually invitation only. And for friends. Specifically, for friends who can keep secrets. We all promise, going in, not to speak publically about what is said.

I was invited to one a couple of years ago, that was started by friends, who were allowed to bring friends, thus creating a ‘friends of friends’ thing. But while I was off watching my father die of cancer, arranging a funeral, etc (which is the sort of stuff I might discuss on a list like this), that whole damned list disappeared.

I started to wonder if I’d done something to get shunned. But the friend who invited me said some other FOF blabbed, thus causing the whole list to disband as a bad idea. Another list I was on had a beloved, longtime member drop out because a member of her family got a job with a publishing house some of us worked with. This connection could chill conversation in both directions, so she voluntarily quit.

Yes. We writers are that serious about our secrecy. We talk about marketing, publishing, sales numbers, editors, and salaries, and are up front about who is likely to screw you over. It is not a ‘special club’ thing, but more of a ‘none of your beeswax unless I know you well’ area. It is also not a sales area, or a performance space. Writers are stuck in performance mode for a lot of their on-line lives, like actors.

This is backstage. The audience isn’t invited. We also talk about personal stuff, like death and illness and divorce. We cry. On the ones I’m on, we use our REAL NAMES. It’s close friends only. Friends of friends can’t be trusted. And we sure as hell aren’t inviting editors and reviewers, since they might be the ones who made us cry.

After years of blogging about author behavior, and demanding complete transparency in business interactions: insisting that authors shouldn’t be messin’ in the reader space, and calling herself anti-author, pro-reader, Jane Litte was on a lot of people’s list as someone they wouldn’t piss on if she was on fire.

Not me. I would piss on anyone. I mean, I would use water… I mean…

Seriously. I will admit to schadenfreude in this. But I don’t have any grudges in the industry that would have me yelling “Burn witch, burn!” and spraying lighter fluid. I mostly keep away from the blogs. And I will admit I do it out of fear of reprisal, and fear of the loss of reputation. I am able to stay not angry, because I do not engage.

But now? This.

There is a seriously long comment list on Smart Bitches right now that is winding down to the “Well, just what do you expect them to do?” phase of beating the dead horse.

I can only answer for me.

What do I expect?

Apologies are nice. I don’t think we’ve gotten a good enough one out of Jan Litte yet. And Sarah is at least on her second one since she had to apologize for running PR a couple of years ago.

I don’t think “Sorry, this will never happen again,” will work. If not this? Then something else. Something will happen. To forgive and forget is to ignore valuable experience.

I think first we need to let go of the idea that either of these blogs is just a reader space. Blogging has been business not fandom for a long time. There is advertising. Money coming down from publishers for the podcast. Books pushed for friends. Books written by the bloggers on both sites.

As an industry, we’ve been treating both Dear Author and Smart Bitches as if they’ve been on the other side of the ethical divide from authors. We were interacting in public to sell books. They were there to keep us honest. They called us on our shit, which is a good thing. We needed that. I am coming out on the vanilla pudding idea that ethics is good! Disclosure is good!

In that vein, I, Christine Merrill am an author who once handed out a promo copy during a gynecological exam. Even though I don’t want to, on some subconscious level, I am trying to sell you books.

Which are out RIGHT NOW! Where ever fine books are sold. Did I mention my medical bills? Poor Sean and his kidneys. That I just had to buy a new fridge on credit, because taxes, tuition… And the Bookscan numbers? Oy. For God’s sake people. Throw me a friggin’ bone.

Ahem.

But I think it’s time that we all admit that the blue sky over the main romance blogs, is being painted under a pseudonym, and sponsored by Penguin, Putnam, Harper Collins, Grand Central, et al. They are ‘in the business’ and selling books, just like authors are. The next time someone calls out an author behaving badly, remember, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

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