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A Tribute to My Buddy

My husband, Mark, and I had to make the painful decision on Monday to put our beloved Hell Hound, Hercules, to sleep. It was a decision we agonized over. Our heads know it was the right decision, but our hearts aren’t convinced yet. Therefore, I’m creating a tribute to my buddy in the hope that the heart will finally agree with the head.

Hercules was a Chow/Shepard mix breed and one of the sweetest dogs I’d ever known. Born in 1997, Herc was a part of my life for thirteen years — longer than Mark — and saw me through some of the roughest parts. He was also there for some of the best. Facing the future without him is going to be a challenge. He was more than a dog — he was my buddy.

Hercules was the kind of dog that everyone loved and who loved (almost) everyone he met. I won’t bore you with all the details of mine and Herc’s friendship, and frankly, I don’t want to share those memories. Some things are too personal and still to raw to share.

As for why we made the decision we did, Hercules lost most of the movement in his back legs Sunday night. We’d known he had arthritis in his hips for several years but the nearly complete immobility he displayed Sunday night scared us. We rushed him to the vet’s office Monday morning for tests. X-rays showed advanced deterioration of the joints in his hips as well as a mass on his liver. Blood tests revealed elevated liver enzymes and a few other abnormalities that I can’t even recall now. The vet advised us of the options for treatment, including specialists with poking, prodding, biopsies, and exploratory surgery for the possible liver tumor. Even if we had attempted to treat what could’ve been cancer, it wasn’t going to help the pain he’d feel with each step, if we were even able to get him walking again.

The other option was to let him go. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to consider, but neither Mark nor I could subject Herc to more tests for a “maybe” on the tumor and a “definite yes” on the pain caused by his deteriorated joints. While Mark and I were debating what to do, we could hear Herc whining from the kennel area. That clinched it for us. It was as though he was telling us what we needed to do. Though it was difficult, we agreed to let him go and said goodbye.

Hercules will be cremated and his ashes returned to us. I’ll take him home to Mississippi, back the home that he knew for most of his thirteen years, back to where he was happiest…back to where he can run and play without pain.

But, I fear, Mark and I will carry the pain of his loss for much longer.

In loving memory…. Hercules, 1997-2010

Author M.I.A.

It’s baaa-aack!

Okay, “it” is really me and I’m only sorta back. I’m gradually returning to normal life. If you’ve been wondering where

I’ve been for the past month or so, let me fill you in.

December was a busy month. It seemed like every week brought a new event, both good and bad, and they all culminated into an emotional rollercoaster that’s only now slowing down. Without going into details, here’s the record of the ride:

December 15 – I arrive at my mother’s home in Mississippi for niece’s wedding.

December 18 – Wedding rehearsal.

December 19 – Niece’s wedding. Mom unable to attend due to illness.

December 20 – In the early morning hours, Mom passes away in her sleep.

December 22 – Nephew’s birthday.

December 23 – Mom’s funeral.

December 24 – Other nephew and niece-in-law welcome their first child. (Yes, I’m a great-aunt now. Gods, I feel old.)

December 26 – Family gathers for Christmas.

December 27 – Mark returns to Mobile and I remain in Mississippi at my mother’s home to work on Book 2 and help with estate issues.

December 28-Present – I’m still in Mississippi, planning first trip back to Mobile at end of January, and still working on Book 2.

So, it’s not that I wanted to disappear for weeks but circumstances have required my dropping out of sight for a while. However, I’m now happy to report that I’m returning to normal life -– if you can call my life up until this point “normal” –- and I hope you’ll see more of me in the coming weeks.

For those who follow the Criminal Minds group blog, I’ll be returning to my usual Monday posting February 1. I’m also planning to make my first posting to The Magic District blog next week (Wednesday, January 27). I don’t have constant internet access so doing anything, including responding to emails, is tricky. (If you’re expecting an email response from me, I’m not ignoring you, just interweb challenged at the moment.)

The good news here is I can report that progress is being made on Book 2. Given recent events, I can tell you that spelunking in the cave of my unconsciousness is not easy right now. It’s hard to write about rogue vampires, creepy killers, body dumps, and psychotic episodes when you’re living in the same house where your mother died only a month prior. Some days it’s not so bad, but the scenes that require a body… Yeah, I admit I procrastinate on those days andput off writing those scenes as long as possible. So while progress is being made, it’s slow and I’m nowhere close to where I’d hope to be in the story by this point. But, progress is being made. Words are making it to the page. They may not be the best (yet) but at least the pages are stacking up and the story is unfolding.

Speaking of pages, Mr. FedEx paid me a visit yesterday and brought with him the page proofs for BLOOD LAW. Squeeeeee! For those who don’t know, page proofs are the uncorrected pages of a manuscript that has been formatted for publication. The text appears exactly how it will be printed in the final version. It’s also the last chance for the author to make minor corrections. Over the next few days, I’ll be reading these, making corrections (if needed) and will then return them to Ms. Editor who will send them along to the next stage: galleys! Galleys are similar to ARCs in that they are sent to various people for possible cover quotes, advance reviews, etc. Yes, I’ll be recieving copies. Yes, I will be teasing you unmercifully with them. Why? Because I’m evil. Muwahahaha!

And…on that note, I’m going to shut this down and get back to work.

Thanks to everyone who’s expressed condolences for Mom’s passing and offered encouragement. You know who you are and how much you’re appreciated. *hugs*

Mama Drama and Emotional Dodgeball

It’s been a long, rough week and I’m exhausted — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s why:

On Friday, November 27, my mother fell (who is seventy-seven, by the way) and broke three ribs. Thankfully she did not injure her hip, screw up the artificial knee replacement or shoulder surgery she had a few years ago, nor did she hit her head. The broken ribs did not puncture or injure any vital organs. She simply has large bruises on her side and hip and, of course, the ribs.

I, along with Mark, drove to Mississippi that same night, and I stayed with Mom for the week. Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done while I was caring for her, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking Mom to the doctor for follow-up visits from the emergency room, etc. However, the sacrifice is paying off because Mom is recovering very well and is now able to stay by herself for the most part. My siblings are checking on her frequently throughout the day and there is never anyone too far away should she need assistance.

But, as often happens, life threw the family another undodgeable ball. The younger brother of one of my brothers-in-law was killed in an auto accident Saturday night just a few miles from my mother’s house. It was late at night and the roads were slick from a rare snow fall in southwestern Mississippi. Jason was only a year or so older than me and we’d grown up together. His family lived “across the woods” from mine when we were growing up, and our families spent many summers enjoying one another’s company. Aside from being my brother-in-law’s brother, he and I had been childhood friends and although our lives had taken us in different directions, he was still a part of our extended family. My heart breaks for everyone who lost a son, brother, uncle, and friend on Saturday night. Jason will be missed.

However, on a happier note, I get to spend the next week at home with Mark and my kitties before having to return to Mississippi for my oldest niece’s wedding. It’s hard to believe she’s even old enough to get married, but she is. It seems like only yesterday she was scrunching up her nose and pronouncing “noodle” as “noonle” and being obsessive about Barbie. Oh, how time flies.

Speaking of how time flies, there will soon be a new addition to my family…other than the nephew-in-law I’ll gain next week. My third nephew and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. My first great…whatever. I love being an aunt. I get to spoil ‘em and run…and since I live in another state, I get plenty of mileage out of the spoiling and the running.

Now, as for news on BLOOD LAW, there has been some new developments. My wonderful editor, Danielle Perez, is leaving Random House to take an executive editor position at NAL/Penguin. While I’m sad to see her leave before BLOOD LAW is released, I wish her the best of luck in her new venture. She’s an awesome editor and I’ve learned a lot from working with her. She’ll be missed but I’m also excited about working with my new editor, Shauna Summers. Because of all the “Mama Drama” that’s been going on with me lately, Shauna and I haven’t had an opportunity to chat yet, but I’m sure we will soon enough. I’m really looking forward to getting to know her and working with her.

Also, another new development: As of December 7, (today) I’ll be joining the Criminal Minds group blog as a regular contributor. I was invited to join by the wonderful Kelli Stanley and since as how that entire group of authors simply rocks, I couldn’t say no. I’ll be making my inaugural post shortly on the subject of “Have you ever worried about your family’s reaction to a scene you wrote?” Short answer: Hell yeah. Long answer: You’ll have to read it on Criminal Minds. ;)

And mark your calendars! By now you should know that BLOOD LAW is scheduled for release June 22, 2010. However, you may not be aware that on June 23, 2010, I will be having a virtual book launch party at Bitten by Books! There will be prizes, Q&A, and mass hysteria. I’ll post more details as they become available, but mark your calendars now so you don’t forget. (And if someone could make certain to remind me a few days in advance that would be great because I’ll probably be a quivering pile of babbling goo on June 22.)

I think that covers all the updates I have for now. Be sure to check Criminal Minds later and then come back here for instructions in a new extreme sport that I and a couple of friends invited. You won’t want to miss it. ;)


Bad boys…Bad boys…What’cha gonna do?

I didn’t post after the last two Citizen’s Academy nights because I knew I would be hitching a ride with a Mobile patrol officer, and I wanted to save my blogging for the “good stuff.”

First, let me catch up on the Citizen’s Academy goings-on. Basically, anyone can make a complaint to the internal affairs division. Whether that complaint is actually handled by IAD as opposed to the officer’s direct supervisor depends on the seriousness of the complaint. Vice squad handles the drug and prostitution stuff. The K9 unit…all I can say is this: Do NOT mess with the dogs. If you’re ever in a situation where cops bring in the dog and tell you to “Come out or we send in the dog, and you will be bitten!” — believe them. The juvenile/youth crimes division has one of the hardest jobs. I won’t go into detail as to what they investigate, but it’s not only heartbreaking but frustrating for them to deal with it all.

Now…on to the “good stuff.”

I arrived at the Second Precinct in time for roll call. The officers were discussing some of the issues/calls they’d seen the previous night. This past weekend was Bayfest here in Mobile — big music festival — and the calls were numerous and varied. Everyone hoped for a quiet night. As often happens, talking about these hopes led to the opposite.

My assigned officer and I received the first call within moments of leaving the precinct. We were heading to the Tillman’s Corner area for the night and answered a call about dogs running loose in a neighborhood. The dogs had allegedly attacked a neighbor’s dog and chased a couple of kids down the street. We arrived on the scene to discover what appeared to be a German Shepard and a great Dane had managed to get out of a fenced yard. There wasn’t much to do other than watch the dogs to keep them from going after anyone else until animal control arrived. We were off to a rousing start.

Second call was to go pick up a shoplifter. Another officer provided backup, which seems to be standard procedure for any call, and actually transported the suspect to Metro jail. We then proceeded to regular patrol.

Patrolling is exactly what it sounds like. The officers ride around for 12-hour shifts, responding to calls as they come in, and actively looking for suspicious activity. Naturally, these guys know the “hot spots” and check them frequently. I can honestly say that I’ve seen parts of the Mobile metro area I never care to see again. It didn’t take long for the first of the “Code 3″ * runs to come across the radio.

A call came in regarding a young child jumping from a vehicle at a red light only to be snatched up again by the driver.

There’s something both exciting and frightening about speeding through nearly empty, darkened streets at 90 mph with blue and white strobe lights reflecting off pavement and surroundings. The siren echoes off the buildings in places and on the radio when other officers call in their positions while they have their sirens activated. Plus, there is the X-factor of not knowing what you’ll find once you arrive on the scene. Lots of thoughts run through your mind…and if you’re blessed with an overactive imagination as I am, none of them are good.

Fortunately, this call turned out to be a case of a kid being pissed off at his mother and showing the poor judgement of “I’ll show you and run away right now, right here in the middle of the street.” Thankfully, the mother caught him before he was harmed. Thankfully, the kid was frightened enough by all the cops showing up that maybe he won’t do something so boneheaded again. (Although the officers did offer to shackle him and run him into Metro, but his mother declined the offer, opting to “deal with him when we get home.”)

From there, we returned to our appointed area of patrol. Actually we were on our way to respond to burglary call when we spotted a speeder and got to have a little bit of a chase. Nothing major…a few blocks and speeds under 100, mainly in the 80 range. Ticket issued and we were on our way.

Once we, and the backup unit, arrived at the burglary call, I was very impressed with the professionalism both officers exhibited. They asked a lot of questions, checked the point of entry and the area from which the items were taken, dusted for prints, gathered as much information/evidence as possible, and treated the homeowners with both respect and compassion while maintaining their authority. My assigned officer was very accommodating when I asked questions later about the process I witnessed, the next steps, and even the paperwork he was required to complete. In fact, he readily answered all my questions, although I tried not to ask too many or distract him while he was driving at high speeds…which leads us to the next series of calls.

We were patrolling when a call of a fight was made to 911. The caller said the individuals involved were armed to the point it sounded like a near riot. Naturally, everyone headed to the area. Luckily, by the time we arrived, the fight had broken up…and it wasn’t as big as it was described. Mainly a family dispute and it was back to answering calls and patrolling.

It was while we were in the southernmost areas of the precinct’s coverage that a call came over the radio of shots being fired with injuries. This was the first call where I felt really apprehensive. Because we were so far out, we had to literally burn rubber to get back. I can verify that there is very little traffic on the streets of Mobile in the wee hours of the morning, or on I-65. Good thing. As we headed back into town, we traveled north on I-65 with speeds hitting about 110 mph. The suspects, unfortunately, evaded capture and it was later learned the victim wasn’t as seriously injured as initially thought. Things calmed down and it was back to routine patrol.

We answered calls regarding assaults, 911 hang ups, loitering, and other “minor” stuff for a while. Then another call of shots being fired was issued and we were off and running again. If you’ve ever watched the TV show “COPS” and seen instances where a bunch of units arrive on a scene and the cops have guns drawn, pointed at a suspect on the ground, and are actively searching both a house and the perimeter…yeah…it was one of those. I chose to remain in the car for this call. When my officer got there and reached for the shotgun that hung over my head, you better believe I’m staying out of the way. He and his fellow officers have other things to worry about than me.

The scene was cleared and as we where leaving, a call of a possible wreck and/or shooting came over the radio. You guessed it. Light, sirens, the smell of burning rubber. I know understand why all law enforcement patrol cars tend to look a bit battered and sound like they are halfway to their vehicular graves. They never stop moving for more than a few minutes at a time and even when they’re parked, the cars are normally left running…locked…but running.

By this time, it was only an hour or so away from the end of the shift. We returned to the precinct in order for paperwork to be filed before the official end. I parted company with my assigned officer at this point.

The night was interesting, informative, fun, exciting, and at times, scary, and I’m so happy I did it. I’d love to do it again one day and maybe I will. But for now, I’ll be content to stay in front of my computer and leave the “good stuff” to the professionals.

* “Code 3″ is when an officer response to a call with full lights, siren, and speed.

Don’t Panic!

Last night was another session of the Mobile Police Department’s citizen’s academy. (I did not try to drown myself with a water bottle this week!) We learned about the various precincts, different areas within the department, saw video from a dashboard camera of a pursuit that ended in a shoot out (The officer involved was uninjured and the two car thieves were arrested.), and saw some of the cool toys Mobile PD uses, including Segways and the ultra coolest, Sky Watch, a mobile observation tower.

We also signed up for “ride alongs” with patrol officers. I chose to ride with someone from the precinct in which I live and to report for morning roll call in order to get the “full experience.” The patrol officers work in 12-hours shifts. I’m going to attempt to stay for the entire shift. I don’t know if I’ll make it the full 12-hours, but I’m going to try. The “ride along” is scheduled for Friday…chosen because Mark will be working from home that day and my day of editing BLOOD LAW would be somewhat disrupted anyway. Plus, I’d rather sleep in on Saturday.

Speaking of BLOOD LAW, if you have already pre-ordered through (Thank you, thank you, thank you!!), you probably received an email stating the release date has changed from May 25, 2010, to June 22, 2010. Don’t panic! This isn’t really a “delay” so much as a “correction.” Dell, my publisher, has said from day one that I was scheduled for a June 2010 release. This was not unexpected. All you have to do is follow the instructions in Amazon’s email to accept the changed date. (And, please, do so before the deadline listed in the email, otherwise, I believe your order will be cancelled!)

Bouchercon 2009 is only a few weeks away! My schedule is rapidly filling up with all the requests for lunch, coffee, drinks, and dinner. (Sorry, folks, but Friday, October 16 is booked solid, including lunch with Ms. Editor and Ms. Publisher, and the Random House cocktail party.) When, why, and how did I become…popular? It amazes me. I’m just a geeky gal from the Mississippi backwoods, never “popular” or “cool” in high school, and now…suddenly…people know my name and want to hang out with me. It’s all very surreal to me.

While on the subject of surreal, I’ve confirmed my attendance to the RT Booklovers Convention in Columbus, OH — April 28-May 2, 2010. This is the first confirmed conference appearance for next year — and my first RT Convention, period. I’ve heard wild stories. Don’t know if I’m ready for this or not, but I’ll be there. Other appearances are in the works and I’ll keep everyone posted as news becomes available.

One tiny final conference-related bit of trivia here… One of Mark’s (former) co-workers, Mike, (Hey, dude! *waves*) recently moved to San Diego, CA. Mike has been a great and early supporter for BLOOD LAW and I made a deal with him. If he can provide 100 people to show up for a book signing at the Random House booth, I would attend San Diego Comic Con next year. Mike’s response: “I can do this.” So…now comes the question, “Can he do this?” If memory serves me correctly, I believe the last count for BLOOD LAW attendees stood at 7. Will he make it? Will I attend SDCC? *looks at calendar* Hmm…I don’t know…only time will tell…

Of course, all these appearances hinge on BLOOD LAW‘s release. To that end, I should probably get back to work. So….


Cops and Wet T-Shirts

Yesterday was a busy day here at Hacienda del Holmes. Naturally, the cats were spazzing most of the morning. Scraps of paper, dust bunnies, and shed whiskers become mighty dragons in their minds. There was a whole lotta pouncing, chasing, and general mayhem. (Only Nugget was in a dragon-slaying mood this morning, so it was relatively quiet.)

I spent most of the day catching up on emails and doing other “housekeeping” type stuff until it was time for Ms. Editor to call and discuss the final round of edits for BLOOD LAW. It’s all minor tweaking in the vein of adding a sentence or two here and there to clarify things. It shouldn’t take long to wrap these up at all. Huzzah! We also discussed the plan for Book 2 and she gave the official green light on it. (Good thing, too, since I already started writing it. Hehe.) We also discussed other Super Secret Items Which I’m Not Currently At Liberty To Divulge. *evil author grin* Overall, it was a good conversation that left me completely jazzed to get to work on these edits.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to start work right away. Last night was the opening night for the Mobile Police Department’s “Citizen’s Academy” and I was selected to participate in the program. I spent three glorious hours learning some of the basic foundations of law enforcement. According to our schedule of events, the next 11-weeks are going to be filled with information and fun. I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about their community and how the police operate within it to check with their local PD and see if they offer a “Citizen’s Academy” type program. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us all, and have a little fun in the process.

Of course, being the complete klutz that I am, I can’t go anywhere in public without doing something to embarrass myself. The Academy staff provided light food fare — finger sandwiches, fried chicken wings, barbecue meatballs, and beverages — for everyone. I chose to stick with water as my beverage of choice. Everything is going great when suddenly the water bottle slips as I’m taking a sip. What is the most natural of reactions when something starts slipping from your hand? You tighten your grip. Well, you can guess what happened next.


Water up the nose. Water splashed all over my chest. (When I told Mark about the incident, his reaction was to laugh hysterically and say that I should’ve told everyone I was “there for the wet T-shirt contest.” Yes, I smacked him.)

*sigh* Only I can nearly drown myself with a bottle of water while surrounded by about thirty people, including five or six highly trained cops, and at least one nurse.

This is why I often avoid the buffets and such at cocktail parties and stick to non-alcoholic drinks served in real glasses. I’m a klutz. If I can possibly drip, dribble, spill, stain, or otherwise embarrass the hell out of myself, I’ll find a way to do it. I don’t even have to be at an important function. I can do the same whenever Mark and I go out for dinner. It happens so frequently that we’ve created a motto: “If Jeannie doesn’t drip, it wasn’t worth the trip.” Grace in motion, I am not.

Oh well… All these little embarrassments build character. Right? Right?

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