There’s What in New Hampshire?

Those who know me best are aware of two undeniable facts. I can’t do math or find anything on a map.

So, way back in early summer (which feels like decades ago), when Miranda MacLeod asked me to accompany her to a vineyard in New Hampshire, I thought she’d lost her mind. To me, New Hampshire and vineyards don’t exist on the same plane.

During the entire car ride, I was convinced the destination would simply be a wineshop, not an actual place where grapes are grown, picked, and then magically turned into delicious vino.

Utterly convinced.

When we pulled into the parking lot, Miranda pointed to a small fence with scraggly grapevines.

They weren’t convincing. How could anyone get a bottle of wine out of those?

I continued to gloat but did try being a good sport.

At no time did I say, “I told you so, sucker!”

But then Miranda told me to turn around. Low and behold, there were more grapevines. Rows and rows of them. I skirted around a building, and guess what. There were even more.

Whoopsie.

Instead of apologizing (something I’m loathe to do, even if the need arises more than I’d like), I opted to buy us two flights of wine samples. What else is one supposed to do on a vineyard?

As it turned out, there was a tour of the operation, but the only available time slots were after we polished off the samples, and since I wasn’t the driver, I had a lot more than Miranda.

By the time the tour started, I was tipsy, and instead of concentrating on what the woman said, I kept trying to get a photo of a cute bunny. I never quite managed but not for lack of trying.

Luckily, this research trip was for Accidental Honeymoon, Miranda’s latest release, and I didn’t need to remember any of the details. Sadly, the bunny doesn’t make an appearance in the story. Miranda doesn’t actually remember the critter since she was taking notes like a true professional, not trying to bribe a rabbit with a grape to get one decent photo.

Also, it wasn’t the last vineyard we visited together, because Miranda never holds my idiocy against me.

Sidenote: My skills with wooing a rabbit are right on par with getting a woman’s attention. The bunny sat on its hind quarters, gave me what I’m convinced was the rabbit version of the middle finger, and then ran for the hills.

Back to Accidental Honeymoon, I have to admit Miranda’s book is damn good, and hopefully she’ll still invite me on more research trips. Fingers crossed her next story involves a gin distillery, because this year is driving me to drink.

 

 

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Trying to Hold onto a Semblance Normalcy

This has been a weird year, and the news seems to get even more depressing, making it hard to stay sane. Or even semi-sane. Some days, I end up binging on ice cream while watching Disney movies to avoid going over a dark cliff.

In an effort to fight the darkness, I’m trying my best to snag bits and pieces of normalcy where I can.

Lately, on my afternoon walks, I’ve been enjoying the explosion of autumnal colors.

Growing up in California, I really didn’t get to experience seasons. I think I was thirteen the first time I experienced snow. I’d seen movies depicting beautiful New England fall scenes, but it wasn’t really real for me. It was simply something in the movies.

Now I live in New England, and every season, I’m blown away by the transitions. Even winter scenes charm me.

I’ve witnessed a lot of fabulous colors this fall. And, my apologies to my neighbors for snapping photos of their flowers. So far, I haven’t been harassed, but I’ve observed a few quizzical stares, although it’s hard to decipher facial expressions when all I can see are eyes and furrowed brows from well over six feet.

Fingers crossed for an amazing winter, if we make it that long. Whoops, the darkness is back. Time for ice cream and another viewing of Beauty and the Beast.

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Will Ten Cents Land Me in Jail?

If you listen to the Lesbians Who Write podcast, you’ll know I’m truly awful when it comes to math. Side note, when I agreed to cohost with Clare Lydon, I didn’t factor in how many times I’d have to do calculations. I mean, I run an author business, but math…

Anyhoo, back to the story, which is about going to the bank.

I received refunds from my health and dental insurance, and instead of crediting my bank account, each sent me paper checks. They still exist!

Since I don’t receive them very much, I wasn’t sure the best way to deposit them into my account aside from going into the bank. So, after refreshing my memory of where to sign the back of the check and to tally the two numbers on a deposit slip (I used a calculator), I marched off the bank wearing a mask.

Can I just say how weird it is to walk into a bank wearing a mask? Effing weird.

I stated my purpose and slid the papers into the window bucket. (There has be to a better phrase for this.)

The woman looked at me, the checks, and the deposit slip. Then she did something that still blows my mind. She asked me if I’d written eighty-five cents or ninety-five. I admit, I have terrible handwriting, but shouldn’t a bank teller be able to add two amounts on the spot? I couldn’t, hence why I never applied to work at a bank.

Also, I was wearing one of my silly cartoon T-shirts, cargo shorts, and flip-flops. Nothing about my appearance exuded math skills or adult-like qualities. People simply don’t take me seriously, and I’m totally fine with that. I don’t like the pressure. Another reason why I never applied to work at a bank.

I said I think it’s ninety-five, but I wasn’t sure, because I couldn’t remember the total, and my handwriting is truly that bad.

I warned her she shouldn’t trust my math, but she ignored that part and entered the number into her computer.

I couldn’t believe it, and after leaving the bank, I went for my walk. One question kept rolling around in my head: Will there be a warrant for my arrest if I was off by ten cents?

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I’m No Longer in Control of My Life

For well over a year, many of my friends and the better half have encouraged me to adopt a cat. I’m a pet person. Always have been. However, when my cat died in 2018 (after losing my dog in 2016), I said never again.

It hurts saying goodbye, and it’s cruel that their lives are so much shorter than ours.

I got a phone call two weeks ago from a friend with cat news. There was a four-year-old beauty who had been surrendered by her family because of the pandemic and had been in a shelter for months. My friend had just adopted two cats, so she wasn’t an option for saving the cat, but I could.

At first, I said no, but my friend wasn’t easily put off.

Then I remembered when Atticus, a stray, had climbed into my car during a nasty snowstorm. I always felt that he’d chosen me.

And, I kept looking at the photo of the poor kitty in the shelter. I won’t lie; I felt a connection.

After giving it serious thought, I said yes.

So meet Lady Grey!

Lady Grey is a sweetheart, but it’ll take time to earn her complete trust. I don’t know what her life was like before the shelter, but there’s pain in her. I’ll do everything I can to make her happy and feel safe. I even put a fancy cat post together, and even though I rock cargo shorts, I’m not the DIY type. I should say I was supervised because, honestly, this isn’t the time to be rushed to a hospital.

At first her royal highness didn’t want anything to do with the post, but after 48 hours of sniffing it, and then marching off with her tail in the air, Lady Grey has decided it’s her favorite place in the apartment.

She also has a cat couch (which is still in the introductory phase, meaning she sniffs it and then climbs into her perch) because every princess should have her own throne.

I think it’s safe to say I’m smitten.

 

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I’m Never Wrong

I grew up back in the olden days, when we didn’t have a VCR until mid-childhood. I also remember getting our first microwave. I’m still not sure how I survived without either, but the latter drastically changed my life since I can’t cook.

But back to the dinosaur age of entertainment.

Since we didn’t have streaming abilities, I had to wait for a network to play my favorite movie: Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

It was usually on Thanksgiving night. I remember this bit (or I think I do), because I would stay up to watch it, even though I had to get up ridiculously early the next day to drive to Las Vegas with my parents for a soccer tournament.

The memory is so vivid. Me sitting too close to the TV and then dragging my tired buttocks out of bed the next morning.

Here’s the catch.

After including the movie in my latest release: The Setup, I started asking my California friends if they also stayed up to watch it every Thanksgiving.

As it turns out, no one remembers this.

How is that possible? Like I said, the memory is so distinct.

Then I said, “Maybe it was Mary Poppins. That was my other favorite. They both have actors and animated scenes.”

Nope. No one remember this either.

I asked everyone I stayed in touch with since childhood, and that’s a whopping one person, because I’m not really a people person.

Either I’m wrong or Miranda MacLeod is.

I hate to call her out like this, but she is totally wrong because I am absolutely never wrong about anything, which is why I never ever have to sleep on the couch after refusing to apologize for things. I’m never wrong.

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WTF is TB Thinking?

A couple of days ago, I shared my version for the spark of Heart of Ice, cowritten by Miranda MacLeod.

Miranda is here today to tell it from her perspective.

Take it away Miranda

When TB called me last fall and told me she had an idea for a romance that started in a cemetery, I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but how do you even go about striking up a romance in a cemetery? Like, do you flirt at a funeral? But she had some solid ideas about a widow who is visiting her wife’s grave when she meets the new love of her life, and I thought okay, let’s see how it goes.

One thing about writers, most of us have other writer friends we trust, whom we can bounce ideas off of or go to with help on a specific issue. There’s the friend who’s great at comedic dialogue, or the one who intuitively spots where you can add more sexual tension.

TB and I spend a lot of time plotting. Not the jewel heist type of plotting (although…). So she told me her initial idea, and we bounced around some plot ideas, and she went off to her writing cave to get to work. At least, I assume it’s a cave, as any time we have a video call, the room is shrouded in darkness. That may just be so I don’t get a close look at her jewel heist plans.

Sometime after the holidays we were on the phone again and I asked how that cemetery book was coming along. She tells me, “I’ve written 30k, and I think I may have driven my manuscript over a cliff.” I asked her to elaborate, although I kind of already knew what was coming. Driving a story over a cliff is a regular part of TB’s writing process.

She told me how right now, her main character, whose name at the time was not Jack, is working for a finance company in London, and how she is hoping for a promotion, and might be coming back to the main office in Boston soon. There was a nice going away party planned at a local pub with all her London friends. And I very politely stopped her and asked, “If she’s working in London, when did she go to the cemetery?” And TB responds, “She hasn’t gone to the cemetery yet.” At which point I said calmly, definitely not shrieking at all, “You’re 30k into a romance and your characters haven’t met yet?!?!?! WTF are you thinking?!?!!!!!”

See? Totally calm.

A few days later, we met up in Concord, which is a convenient halfway point for us, and also the home of so many famous American writers that I’m pretty sure writing is in the air. We found a nice table at a local coffee shop, drank a lot of caffeine, possibly ate a few pastries, and totally replotted the whole story. And since we’d already done all that together, and our first cowrite, Holly & Ivy, had been so well received, we decided officially to make this book our second joint project. A few months later, we had a sizzling ice queen romance, which we called Heart of Ice. However, even though it only mentions the cemetery one time in passing, TB and I will forever refer to it as “The Cemetery Story.”

 

What happens when the one person who makes your heart sing is also the one person who could destroy everything you’ve worked for?

Laurie “the Hatchet” Emerson is a ruthless leader in Boston finance who’s rumoured to have a block of ice where her heart should be. If only. Recently widowed, Laurie fears she’s broken beyond repair, until a once-in-a-lifetime business deal reignites her passion for work and gives her a shot at proving to the world she still has some life left in her.

Jack Kennedy is a young portfolio manager who aspires to greatness. Unfortunately, she’s so many rungs down the corporate ladder she can’t even scrape up enough money to move out of her mother’s apartment. Her luck changes when her work ethic is finally rewarded with the job opportunity of her dreams.

A blizzard forces their worlds to collide, but what was meant to be a no-strings night of passion becomes more complicated when they both arrive at the office the next morning to discover they each spent the night with the one person in the city who could crush their futures.

Together, they just might hold the keys to everything they’ve ever wanted, but the difference in their ages and positions could spell the end of their careers. Will the ice queen and the protégé find happiness together or lose everything?

Best-selling lesbian fiction authors TB Markinson & Miranda MacLeod have written a scorching ice queen romance about love striking twice. Read it today!

 

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The Spark for Heart of Ice

I need to confess something. I frigging love cemeteries. The old, beautiful ones that date back well over a hundred years. When I lived in London, I would stroll through Brompton Cemetery to let my mind wander. It’s a very important part of my writing process. Long walks to spur my creative juices.

When I moved back to Boston, I missed Brompton. But I found a good substitute: Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. The first time there, an idea for a story flooded my mind. I continued walking for several hours for the idea to wash over me completely.

Now, this means just the kernel. Not the entire story. That usually takes more time to come to life.

But I had a very clear idea of a woman who had lost her wife, visiting the cemetery, thinking she’d never find a love like the one she had.

I started writing the book with the opening scene in the cemetery.

This was the first draft of Heart of Ice, the age-gap romance cowritten with Miranda MacLeod. Our cowriting process involves me penning the first draft, Miranda working on the second draft, and then both of us working on the remaining drafts until it’s ready for publication.

The problem was, about 30k into Ice, I called Miranda and said, “I think I just wrote 30k of backstory.”

She laughed, because it’s one of my habits, and it’s a stubborn part of my process for how I get to know my characters. You see, I love characters. They speak to me. All the time!

Miranda read what I had so far and agreed with me. Every word I’d written had to be chucked. Or, at least not appear in the actual novel.

A few days later, we met up in Concord to discuss the story. The good news was we had a firm grasp of Laurie’s story. Jack, the younger love interest, took a bit more time to let us in. This is another aspect of my process. I don’t like to rush a story. If a character needs more time to let me in, I allow for it to happen kinda naturally.

Our meeting took place sometime in January, or perhaps February (days, weeks, and months are muddled now). I know for certain it was pre-COVID, because at the time, we planned to meet every two weeks in Concord, which was a short train ride away for me, to go over the chapters we finished.

Ah, we were so naïve!

After my trip to London in early March, I ended up getting pretty sick, so Ice had to take a back seat. Luckily, I had drafted a large portion before leaving the country, allowing Miranda to work on it while I was doing my darndest to get better.

By the time I came back to life, so had the story. Miranda is a whiz with second drafts.

We started working diligently on it, and I have to admit, I think this is one of my better, if not the best story that’s come out of me. It looks nothing like the original 30k, and that’s a very good thing.

PS: While the cemetery doesn’t play a role in the story, Miranda let me bury Laurie’s wife there. So out of the original 30k, only the burial spot remained in the novel.

 

What happens when the one person who makes your heart sing is also the one person who could destroy everything you’ve worked for?

Laurie “the Hatchet” Emerson is a ruthless leader in Boston finance who’s rumoured to have a block of ice where her heart should be. If only. Recently widowed, Laurie fears she’s broken beyond repair, until a once-in-a-lifetime business deal reignites her passion for work and gives her a shot at proving to the world she still has some life left in her.

Jack Kennedy is a young portfolio manager who aspires to greatness. Unfortunately, she’s so many rungs down the corporate ladder she can’t even scrape up enough money to move out of her mother’s apartment. Her luck changes when her work ethic is finally rewarded with the job opportunity of her dreams.

A blizzard forces their worlds to collide, but what was meant to be a no-strings night of passion becomes more complicated when they both arrive at the office the next morning to discover they each spent the night with the one person in the city who could crush their futures.

Together, they just might hold the keys to everything they’ve ever wanted, but the difference in their ages and positions could spell the end of their careers. Will the ice queen and the protégé find happiness together or lose everything?

Best-selling lesbian fiction authors TB Markinson & Miranda MacLeod have written a scorching ice queen romance about love striking twice. Read it today!

 

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Not Acting my Age

The other day, I strapped on my backpack, which was mostly empty, but I made sure I had a full water bottle.

With my mask on, I went out for a walking adventure, doing my best to avoid people. Not an easy feat in Massachusetts. Whether in the US, UK, or Ireland, I’d always gone for long walks, with no particular destination in mind. But recent events have stifled me.

Since it’s September, I enjoyed the crispness in the air and the fresh smell. There’s something special about the way autumn smells. The leaves are starting to turn. Also, the clouds occasionally parted, giving glimpses of the deep blue sky overhead.

This is one of my favorite seasons, and even though this particular one is not the typical fall in New England, I want to do my damnedest to enjoy life. Safely.

So, there I was, out enjoying the day, when I neared a street I had to traverse, and there stood a crossing guard with a face mask. I’m getting used to seeing people in masks, but I was fairly certain the woman would mistake me for a school kid.

The backpack I had on was massive. It’s the one I use for travel when I don’t want to pack a normal bag. It was the only one that was empty (I haven’t been traveling) when I decided to go for my walkabout, and I know it makes me look like I’m wearing my dad’s backpack.

Also, for as long as I can remember, people have thought I’m much younger than I actually am.

I’m sure my Curious George T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops didn’t help my cause.

As I stood on the corner opposite the woman, I was certain she would step out into the road with her stop sign to assist me across safely. I understand this is her job, but it’s always been a slight embarrassment that so many think I’m still a kid. Sure, I act like one, but that doesn’t mean I am one.

Since I have a knack for getting into impossible situations, the better half probably appreciates those who keep an eye out for me.

When the light turned, sure enough, the crossing guard boldly stepped out and greeted me with a cheery hello.

I returned it with my own happy greeting, remembering that many of us have been isolated for months. Maybe she didn’t think I was a kid and simply wanted to have human interaction.

Although, she did say she wished I didn’t have too much homework for the weekend. Surely, she says that to all the adults.

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The Wedding Speech I Don’t Remember

Many, many years ago, I was maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding.

I’d never been the maid of honor before, and I think it took some time for it to sink in that I would have to give a speech at the wedding. Public speaking and I are enemies. In college, I took an entire year of French to meet my public speaking requirement instead of one semester of speech.

However, I couldn’t get out of the obligation at the wedding. I mean how does one say, “Pass” to their best friend on their most important day?

The entire day leading up to the speech, I was a nervous wreck.

The event took place on a vineyard, and before the late afternoon ceremony, the wedding party had a wine tasting. I’m not much of a drinker, so I only took tiny sips to avoid getting plastered and doing something horrendous like puking during the vows.

For the most part, I succeeded in not getting tipsy.

After the vows were exchanged, we sat down for dinner, and I realized I’d been signed up for a vegetarian meal. At the time, I didn’t eat much meat, but here’s the kicker. I hate veggies. My idea of a vegetarian diet consists of beans, rice, and cheese.

The caterer had prepared a gorgeous tower of colorful vegetables that was too pretty to eat. Since I hated nearly everything else on my plate, I didn’t touch it.

When I’m nervous, my throat gets dry. The only drink on the table was wine. I mean, we were on a vineyard, so this shouldn’t have been a surprise. I started drinking my wine on a completely empty stomach. The staff kept filling my glass. I continued sipping it so I could eventually speak when my time came.

The speeches started, and I noticed something that had never entered my head. Everyone had a prepared speech written out, and they read from a paper.

I hadn’t prepared at all. Remember, I never took public speaking 101.

And, I was now drunk.

It was finally my turn, and I remember standing to speak. That’s pretty much the only thing I can recall, aside from my knees knocking together.

After I spoke, I returned to my seat and downed another glass of wine.

The follow morning, I woke on the vineyard, and the entire wedding party planned to hit up some other vineyards in the area before we all scattered to our flights back home.

I was nervous to go to breakfast because I thought I’d flubbed my speech. I winged it when others had probably struggled for days finding the right words.

Not so confidently, I entered the dining area, and the mother of the bride told me how nice my speech was. I’d known her for years, and I chalked it up to her being kind. But, as the day progressed, everyone confided in me that I had given the best speech.

When we sat down on the plane, I turned to my partner and said, “What exactly did I say in my speech?”

“I can’t remember, but it made me cry.”

I still don’t know what I said, but I’m counting it as a win. It was also the last time I was maid of honor. I can’t handle the pressure.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Having an Odd Head

I have an odd head. There’s no breaking that news gently. Trust me, many have, especially people who cut my hair. They try to gently say I have terrible hair to style and not to expect a miracle.

What’s odd about it?

First, it’s tiny. While I purchase adult-sized baseball hats (I might have an addiction to them), I could get away with buying child-sized ones if it weren’t for the bill being shorter. One of the reasons I wear hats is to protect my eyes and face from the sun. A shorter bill doesn’t quite cut it, which is a shame since kid’s hats are cheaper sometimes.

Second, I have many cowlicks, and I like to keep my hair short. This poses endless problems. When a stylist is trimming my hair, many minutes are spent trying to tame the cowlicks, which love to poof out. My current stylist has said I have the worst hair to cut. Period. I actually took pride in the statement because if I’m going to have terrible hair, I might as well be number one in that category.

Third, on one side, there’s a protrusion of some sort. I suspect that at some point during my early days, I was dropped on my head, although no one has fessed up to this. Since my head is covered with hair, I’ve never been able to see how much damage there is. And, I’ve always been tempted to shave my head to see the weirdness, but given my tiny head, I don’t think I can pull off the shaved look.

Four, my hair is very thin and scraggly. Back in the 90s, when perms and curls were all the rage, many stylists attempted to curl my hair. It never worked out. For about five minutes, it’d look decent, but then one side would lose all the curl, and soon enough, so did the other.

Over the past six months, I didn’t get a haircut because of the pandemic. Another thing about my hair: I hate it when it touches my neck, which it was doing a lot during the last few months. At one point, I took the cat trimmer to the back of my head, getting the fluffy bits off my neck. A couple of months later, the better half took the scissors and hacked off the hair on my neck. A blunt cut, but since I couldn’t see it, I didn’t care.

Recently, I finally got a professional haircut, and I went super short because who knows when I’ll be able to get it cut again. My current do is giving me fantastic bedhead. Every morning I look in the mirror and chuckle. When you have terrible hair like mine, you have to have a sense of humor. Which is why I’m going to share some pictures to prove I have an odd head.

 

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