Conquering Your Fears: What I Learned 271 Feet Above the Jungle Floor

I am afraid of heights. No, revise that. I am terrified of heights. And I’m such a chicken that I’m not just terrified when I’m up high. No, I get nervous when my kids are too close to the open air railing on the second floor of the mall. Really. I get the adrenaline rush to the leg muscles and the whole nine yards. I actually got lightheaded on Tower Bridge and I wasn’t near the edge. We took a double decker bus tour in London and Oldest complained she had bruises on her arms from the way I clung to her anytime we went over a bridge. I. Do. Not. Like. Heights.

Which brings me to an interesting question? What the Hell am I doing climbing up a teeny tiny stone walkway that is slick with water and mud, going up the side of a cliff in the middle of the jungle in Belize? Oh right, I’m going to zip line across the jungle five times and then repel down the sides of two cliffs. Because I apparently thought this through.  Yeah right.

Oldest screams out “This is going to be soooo awesome!”

I am faintly nauseous.

Guide One says “hang onto the top wire and pull it down for me.” Great, now I’m dangling in the air, over a tiny, rickety platform 97 feet from the jungle floor. And I’m being attached to two tiny wires by nothing but a couple of carabineers. “Now sit down, hold onto the strap and lean back.”

Me: “I don’t know if this is such a good…” Out into the jungle I go.  Eep. And before I get the chance to really scream, or cry, it’s over.

“Don’t worry,” Guide Two tells me. “The next one is much longer.”

Great, so across another small bridge we go and I’m latched in again. Oldest is behind me. “Yay! We get to go again. And this one is higher!”

Yay. Guide Two announces “One. Two. Three. Go!”

And I’m out into the jungle again. This time I’m brave enough to open my eyes and take in the beauty around me. If I’m going to die of fright at least it shouldn’t be in the dark. The ground? Well it’s really far away. But everything around me? Well that’s beautiful and yes, I’m high and it’s going fast but with the sun and the butterflies and all the pretty things I’m seeing maybe this heights thing isn’t so bad. Wait, is that a snake in that tree? How close is it? It can’t launch itself onto the zip line can it?

Oldest screams all the way across about how awesome it is. If that thing was a snake, well he’s decided she’s too much hassle and has fled. My mom follows not far behind, giggling the whole way.

A short hike and we are at zip line three. This one requires you to use one hand to brake instead of desperately clinging to the safety line like it’s your last hope of salvation. This requires a bit more vulnerability on my part. Its okay, I can handle it. The snake was afraid of me after all. Yep, I can do this. Across the canopy I go. Oldest is right, this is awesome. Who was it afraid of heights? Not me.

Because this has been my year of conquering my fears. And I’ve had a lot of help. Even though most of the people who’ve helped haven’t realized just how much they have. My husband who looked at me in November and said “how has that RWA thing been going?”

Me: “I haven’t joined.”

Hubby: “Well go join already. Come on. Let’s go sign you up.”

The members of the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance Writers Society that said, let’s do Editpalooza over at Savvy Authors together. Somehow, pulling Luck of the Devil off my hard drive and starting to edit it didn’t seem so hard if there were other people I knew doing it too. I mean, surely they were kind enough so far. They wouldn’t laugh at my little novel. Now, I didn’t end up with any of them in my edits group but they led me to the wonderful Liz Pelletier, editor extraordinaire.

Ah Liz, I could write odes to her and to my editor at Entangled Publishing, Libby Murphy. I could write sonnets. Oratories. They could consider taking out restraining orders because of how much I adore them. Liz, the person who helped me conquer my biggest fear and didn’t even realize it. The woman who with one little email completely rocked my world and caused more than a few gray hairs. “Why don’t you submit this to Heather Howland at Entangled Publishing?” Because you see, that was my biggest fear and my biggest goal. Funny how those things intersect. My biggest goal was to be a published writer. My biggest fear? Handing my work over to someone who could tell me I sucked. But, if I was going to make a go of this I had to put myself out there. And Liz liked it enough to email after all. So off it went. And I went out to get some hair dye to cover the gray hairs hitting the Send button had caused.

The rest? Well that’s history. Luck of the Devil is coming out in August from Entangled Press and we’re in the Caribbean on vacation while I type, type, type away on the sequel. Because, given a chance, I still love to spend the day writing. This hasn’t become work yet and muses willing it never will be. Don’t get me wrong it’s hard. Especially with all the doubts that maybe Luck of the Devil was the only good idea I had in me. But it’s still the thing I’d rather do over everything else.

Except right now, I’m staring at the side of a cliff while Guide Number Three explains the fine art of repelling down a cliff face. Sit back, spread your legs apart and think of England. Oh wait, that’s a visit to the OB/GYN. Here its sit back, spread your legs, bend your knees, and down you go. At a rather fast clip.

Guide Number Four, who catches my not inconsiderable bulk at the bottom, “You scream like a little mouse. It’s very cute girl.” Well thanks. At least at 30 I’m still cute.

Two more zip lines and another repel and we’re back at base camp. Guide One asks about my fear of heights. The guy who caught me at the end of the second repel asks “You’re afraid of heights? I couldn’t tell girl. But you know you sound like –“

“A mouse when I scream?”

“Don’t worry none girl, it’s cute.”

Oldest swears this is the best adventure ever. Hugs me so tight that I think my ribs are bruised. I tell her to lay off the Wheaties and switch to some sort of sugary cereal instead. But she’s right. This might have been the coolest adventure ever. At least for now. Who knows? I have a lot of other fears to conquer. Sharks, snake charming, wearing a bikini. Nope, scratch that last one. I’m content to leave it alone.
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The Three Words of Doom For Any Vacation: Mom, I’m Bored

For the past two weeks I’ve been on vacation in the Caribbean. For the first three days I was in New Orleans and after that the family and I went on a 7 Day Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines.  Maybe you’re curious why we chose to go on a cruise. Maybe you’re not. Either way I’ll tell you why – because everyone swore to me it was the ultimate family vacation. The best way to make sure that three generations – from 55 to 2 – had fun. It’s all inclusive. The food is paid for. There are plenty of things to keep every single person busy. And then, and then if that’s not enough there are shore excursions.

Obviously these people don’t know my family at all. And the next person who gives me advice on the perfect vacation? Well I’m going to take them out and hamstring them.

Day One – six hours in a tiny pool and burnt feet on the water slide. “Mom my shoulders hurt. I’m bored.”

Day Two, the oldest goes to Camp Carnival for three hours and the youngest goes to play with the babies. Lunch. Youngest has strange, vaguely human looking bite on his arm. Oldest goes back to camp. Youngest refuses. We take turns playing with youngest and reading on Kindles and I spend time typing away on a story that isn’t quite finished to my satisfaction yet. At dinner oldest asks  we are going to do something tomorrow aren’t we?”

Day Three:  The oldest sighs and goes to camp again. Youngest once again refuses. Boredom sets in.

Day Four: Belize. Zip lining. Just the girls. Daddy stays behind with the youngest (who is too young to zip line) and we trek into the Belizian jungle to see assorted birds, butterflies, and jungle creatures. It’s not nearly as hot as you think a jungle would be. Oldest explains to me this is the “best adventure ever”. I have to agree. Zip lining will get its own blog because it is by far the best adventure ever.  Even for someone terrified of heights.  The only problem is, Mom is not Oldest. Mom has studied Economics for way too long in University. And Mom? Well Mom sees a whole lot of “have nots” roaming around Belize while we use their jungle to zip line in. If Tourism is their Number 1 “export product” and big cruise ships are docking every week why is it that so many people don’t seem to be getting fat off the bounty coming off these ships? And trust me, some of these people are quite fat. So Mom does what any well trained scientist does. Mom digs. Turns out the “recommended shops” (right there at the gangway that offer ‘Huge Discounts’) these shops aren’t owned by locals. These shops are owned by companies that are partially owned by the cruise ship industry. Mommy thinks “yes, Belize may be making money but they’re not getting the lion’s share of the profit here.” Mom begins to wonder if that progressive bleeding heart of her youth might still be in there.

Day Five: Intended shore excursion to Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras. Cancelled because the glassy water we see from our windows is “too treacherous to dock in”. The Captain’s words. Not mine. Worry not, the money you spent to go on shore, we’ll use it as a credit for things to buy on ship. Not being a fan of expensive jewelry (have enough thanks and I only have 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 ears and 1 neck) or duty free booze, or designer perfume this requires me to go to the desk. Grudgingly I am told this money will eventually be returned to my credit card where my line of credit with the cruise ship has been established. Although wouldn’t I much prefer to try my hand at the casino? Not really, thanks. I have a story to type away on. Oldest asks if there are any books in the library she can read and requests a land based vacation next year. Mommy continues to chant “the boat is not moving. The boat is not moving. You are not going to throw up. The boat is not moving.” Stomach is still not fooled.

Day Six: Cozumel Mexico. Also known as my 31st birthday. The gangway is a mile long and loaded down with Carnival photographers. How many pictures do I really need of my joy at being back on solid ground? Carnival thinks I need at least 5. And a trip through duty free for booze to celebrate.

Then I got to swim with dolphins. And drink margaritas. Not at the same time because I think the fish smell from the lagoon would have really killed the joy in my strawberry margarita but they are the same trip so I rejoice. Splurge for tequila in duty free because Ano Gold is only available in Mexico and I have missed it greatly the past 5 years when I haven’t lived near the border where it routinely “accidentally” made its way into my local Liquor Store. Begin mentally taking stock of margarita related ingredients at home.  Most importantly I am on land. Which means the urge to hurl has disappeared.

Dinner. Amazing once again. The video of my special birthday hat and being sung Happy Birthday by three tables full of people will be posted on Facebook sometime today. Only regret? Not having more of an appetite for birthday cake. Cake was awesome. It probably held my caloric intake for a week but it was awesome anyway. My only regret is that I could only eat one piece.

Day Seven: Oldest – “We’re at sea again?  When do we get back to port? Couples are beginning to fight. Loudly. The drunks are beginning to get weepy. Children are beginning to bicker. The staff is significantly less friendly than they were on Day One. The sheets are decidedly grubby from sunscreen, sweat, dirt, and saltwater over the past seven days. People are beginning to grumble about how they may have gotten scammed on their bills. Or in Mexico. Is this shirt I bought from a street vendor in Belize fading already? Why the Hell is the waterslide only open ½ the time? How much is that drink again? What do you mean I’ve been drinking three a day of these things and you’ve been watering down the booze the whole time? Festive is beginning to die. And this is when they bring around the envelopes for tipping the maitre des. Once people have realized that a $70 per person gratuity was automatically added to their bill and they have to deal with Customer Service to get it taken off. The cruise has given up on the paid entertainment and gone to passenger karaoke. I realize that I’m not the only tone deaf person in America who can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Now, to be fair, the food is awesome. I may have gained twenty pounds this trip and that’s with the seasickness. The stateroom steward is amazing. I think the man may be part ninja. He’s that stealthy. Every time the magician comes around my youngest grabs his nose because he’s convinced the magician first pulled 1 foam ball out of it and then somehow got 4 more up in there at the end of his tableside act. The guy was so good even I couldn’t follow his hands. And most three card monty players will only go two rounds before they run me off. The waitstaff? These people are masters. Masters who seem to be serving us breakfast, lunch and dinner. Always with a  smile. Always with a kind word. Always remembering the children’s names and little quirks about them. The hostess Dewi remembers husband’s diet and asks about the sunburn she spotted on my shoulders the first day. Asks how the knotty plotline bit that didn’t work the day before is coming. The waiter Leroy remembers that Youngest prefers everything with ketchup and asks Oldest about movie she told him she was going to see the night before. He listens attentively to Oldest talk about zip lining and makes appreciative noises about the bruise on her knee.  The waitress Ika greets Youngest and asks for fist bumps and kisses. She remembers that Oldest likes hot chocolate only luke warm and doctors it with milk to get it just right. These are the people who make cruises great. The nameless people who have patron’s snapping fingers in their direction and still smile. The people who seem to be working when I get up and when I go to bed. And I remember working long hours and still keeping a smile on my face. Not  being allowed to take tips because “to serve is reward enough”. These people are what keep Day Seven from becoming a nightmare of epic proportions as people coming off a Caribbean high begin to bounce off each other.  They’re the people who keep this place from starting to look like the end of 24 Hour Party People with John Simm (a great movie if you haven’t seen it).

In the end? I got twelve uninterrupted days with my family to just take a break and get away from the world. Twelve beautiful days in the sun. Zip lining, swimming with dolphins. Great food. My hair is like straw and I would willingly kill my own mother in law for a Dramamine but I got twelve worry free days with my kids. And even my characters are breathing sighs of relief at how uncluttered my mind has become. But next year? I’m going somewhere where the closest I have to get to moving water is a beach chair.  

Meditations on the Paranormal Homeland

I’ve been in New Orleans for three days now and you could almost say it’s an anachronism. What Paranormal Romance writer hasn’t been to New Orleans? It’s like we flock here to the land of Anne Rice and her vampires. Us, and our characters, live on the soul of this Mecca on the Mississippi River. When you scribble away in cafés here and someone asks what you’re doing they seem almost resigned to the fact that you’re going to say “I’m a writer.” Invariably they ask “vampires?”

I’ve thrown a few people over the past couple of days with my response. “Nope, demons.” The voodooines and the hoodooines want to chat. Psychics want to read my future and tell me the pitfalls that come from messing with the little devils. Because here, well everyone talks about the bloodsuckers but demons? They aren’t just fiction down here. Anyone who saw Katrina knows that.

Vampires may hunt from the third floor of the Old Ursuline Convent but a demon’s responsible for the murders outside. Everyone knows vampires don’t rip the throats out of their victims –wastes too much blood. Demons, those are living, breathing creatures down here. And you don’t mess with them. In fact, it might be considered best if you take yourself out to the St. Louis Cemetery No 1 and stop by Marie Lavaeu’s tomb. She’s been known to lift the spirits haunting people from beyond the grave.

Why do we, as a profession, flock here? Is it just because of the vampire Lestat and those Mayfair Witches? Do we find this place to be home because Anne Rice gave us legitimacy here before we had it anywhere else in America? Is that why so many writers choose places like New Orleans or the English Moors to set their stories in? Is it just something about the place? Or the history of being like those who came before us, a never ending line of writers reaching back to our foremothers – and the occasional forefather—of the romance genre and paying homage to what they’ve given us? Or is it something we can’t describe?

For me, I’ve been to this city nine times in my life. I’ve wandered the Garden District; eaten hard, overpriced beignets at Café du Monde; I’ve gone back to my little café hidden in the district and gotten the real thing instead. I’ve drank my way down Bourbon and I’ve taken part in both a first and second line in the cemeteries. I’ve seen most of it, done quite a bit, drunk myself silly more than once and eaten myself sick every single time. After nine times it’s no longer a surprise. I know what I like and I keep going back.  

But I keep coming back. And this time I brought my kids. Why? New Orleans has some part of home in it for me.  It’s not just the music, or the people, or the parties. It’s this thing that comes over you in the still of a French Quarter morning once the drunks have been rousted back to their hotels. It’s underneath the cypress in Audubon Park. It’s hidden in little nooks and crannies of the Garden District. It’s this indefinable feeling when the street car reaches Tulane tower.

I can’t tell you what it is. I can’t really describe it. But it seems like stories lurk there. The beginnings of scenes that could be. Characters that are yet to be born inside my head, wiggling their way in and catching a ride back to my keyboard. I don’t know why we flock here or what we think we might find. All I know is that we keep coming and, in my case, always find something new has hitched a ride back with me. 

I Have Seen the Light And Been Converted

No, I haven’t “found religion” and to quote one of my book’s characters, Malachi, I also didn’t know it was lost. Nor have I suddenly started agreeing with the whole “Romance is Porn” argument that has set the Romance Writer/Reader world on fire from last week.

Anyway, this blog post is not about that. This blog post is about Supernatural. The series that I have avoided for six seasons. And not for any real great reason. Okay in the beginning it was a good reason. When Supernatural first came out I was finishing graduate school. Hubby was finishing graduate school. And we had a toddler. There was no television in our lives. None. Because any free time we had was spent sleeping like the dead. So there went watching season 1. Then came the YEAR OF WHICH WE DO NOT SPEAK. Yeah, going from that title you can guess I didn’t catch up then either. Then Supernatural became one of those shows that “yeah, I’ll watch it when I get the chance to catch up on the back episodes so it makes sense.”

Four years, three moves, one sick parent who needed to be cared for in my home, death of said parent, another child with minor special needs, the toddler becoming a super active elementary school kid, finding a job, getting a job, learning to hate my job, writing a book, submitting a book, getting said book published, working on second book. Well you get the idea. It’s been a bit busy. So a dear friend of mine decided to end my excuses of “I’m just soooo busy” and buy me the complete series. All six seasons. Because the easiest way to persuade me to do something is to just hand it to me and let it sit, just where I can see it. Then damn it, I’ll watch just one and then go back to what I’m doing.

Since I’ve been on bed rest it started with Sex and the City. Smart friend only let me borrow her copy and didn’t buy me my own. Smart because I made it two episodes and turned that sucker off. Carrie Bradshaw makes me want to take too much pain medication so I don’t have to deal with her anymore. Seriously, a pain medication filled haze was better.

So after my nap I tried Supernatural. OMG. I said “I’ll watch one episode and then go write.” After the first episode I said “eh, one more episode won’t kill me.” At the end of the third episode hubby acted in place of my self discipline and took it away so I could write this blog and start tearing away at chapters.

Why have I not been watching this show? My busy schedule should not have been an excuse. Now it will be my special reward for meeting writing goals. Meet a goal – drool over a Sam and Dean episode.

 

What about you? Are there any television shows that you found years after they aired and kicked yourself in the butt for not watching them sooner? 

Lightening Up for Summer

Summer is finally here. Which is great because it’s nice and warm here in Pittsburgh. In 8 days I leave for my vacation. No worries I’ll be blogging for lovely New Orleans and probably more frequently from the Caribbean.  If you’ve haven’t friended me on Facebook (Patricia Eimer) or on twitter(@PatriciaEimer) then  you might want to consider it for my real time updates on what I think of the Big Easy and life on a cruise ship.

Anyway, summer is here. Summer is wonderful. I love summer. I am now and have always been a summer baby. So, in honor of summer my darling Mother mentions that my roots are showing. Which isn’t bad considering I’m a brunette that just goes a slightly more interesting shade of brown. Not like I go blonde or anything. That would require a ton more upkeep, trust me I know. I did the blonde thing for a while. And it completely doesn’t work for me. One day I’ll post embarrassing pictures so you can see just how ‘not blonde’ I am.

So anyway, it’s into the hair dye aisle during my weekly grocery shopping expedition. There I am, in the hair dye aisle looking at possible a bazillion different color combinations (3,986 if you want to be exact and yeah, I just totally did that math by myself) and darling Mother makes a rather interesting comment.

“You know its summer. Maybe you should lighten up your hair a bit? It might look nice.”

Me: “Okay, what the Hell.” A box of Golden Radiance (golden blonde) and a lovely light brown called Caramel Swirl hair dye go into my cart. Then once the kiddos are in bed it’s time to begin adventures in chemistry.  Have  I ever mentioned I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd? Oh yeah, I covet those periodic table shower curtains.

The dye is purple. That should have been my first sign. It smells like something sinister and possibly toxic. It burns my scalp in ways that would be illegal under the Geneva Convention if someone else was forcing me to do this. But apparently it’s perfectly fine as long as I’m willingly doing it to myself. Like my ill fated Bikini Wax a few years ago I begin to wonder about having my head examined. Just as I’ve resolved to call for a psychiatric evaluation the timer goes off and I can get the burning chemicals of fiery pain off of my scalp.

The first thing I notice is that my hair is still pretty dark. Okay, it’s still wet. Everyone’s hair is a little dark when it’s wet. Except for my son the platinum blond but that’s another story. I was sure it would dry to a lovely, light caramelly brown color with golden highlights. I just had to let it dry. So off to bed I go and the next morning I look in the mirror. I’m two toned. The top of my head is a lovely light brown. The rest? Well it’s the same color as before. Just sort of ashier. Lightening up was a total fail. Which takes me back into the hair dye aisle and back to colors closer to my old standbys. This time I am a lovely mixture I have named Brazilian Garnet. (Mixture of Brazilian Brown and Crushed Garnet from Feria).  

My only consolation? Mrs You Should Lighten Up tried the same thing. Except she was completely gray so there was a lot less color to get through than my dark locks. And she tried the same color scheme. Except, instead of a light caramelly brown she’s a shade somewhat related to a copper penny when it’s clean.

They say blonde’s have more fun but I wouldn’t know. But I think I’ll have an okay summer as a brunette just the same.