Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fried Green R&R

My husband has been celebrating my birthday for nearly a week now. With so many thoughtful "because it's your birthday"gestures . . . that I should be at least 3 years older. Not gonna go there. Not. But, yesterday morning we did go on a ("because it's your birthday") trip to Austin. And I loved every single minute. Probably because--for this native Californian--it feels a bit like home. Which is probably the very reason that the rest of Texas lovingly forgives Austin for living up to its tag line: "Keep Austin Weird" (as printed on tee shirts, hats and coffee mugs everywhere). It is wonderfully true. And was a great place to spend the last official days of my week-long birthday celebration. Which came after SO many LONG days of hustling to get a grip on CODE TRIAGE, the third in my Mercy Hospital Series. A book set in San Francisco, California, an intriguing city that reminds me a bit of . . . Austin, Texas. Imagine that! So here's a few cool things I got to experience on our whirlwind 24-hour visit to the Texas state capitol:

1) Fried green tomatoes (dipped in chipotle ranch dressing) at Threadgill's. Boasting "Feel good food and great music for 76 years and counting." The photos of celebrities who'd performed there floored me, and the warm and friendly "What can I get y'all?" from our waitress was . . . frosting. What she got me . . . was fried green tomatoes. Hot, battered, and better than birthday cake!

2) Austin's annual "Art City" event: more than 200 artists in tents along the closed-off Caesar Chavez Street, with every media you can imagine: blown glass, wire sculpture, digital photograpy, oil, pastels, watercolor, pottery, woodworking, leather . . . hand carved guitars. And music in the streets, from Hip Hop to country and everything in between. Free shuttle buses, and "rabid recycling" (Austin is oh SO "Green") which had a goal of "zero trash" beginning to end. What an amazing celebration of the arts!

3) Dinner at Stubb's Barbecue, another Austin landmark, for a dinner that included (beyond brisket, of course) pecan topped mashed sweet potatoes and cheesy creamed spinach, laced with jalapeno--water between every delectable swallow!

4) A taste of 6th Street: Amid historical houses from the 1800's, this area boasts the gamut from cafes to upscale restaurants to bars, art galleries, tattoo parlors, and--above all--music that spills from doorways. And people, everywhere . . . including UT students, street folks, politicians and celebrities. We strolled the streets and ended up watching a young guitarist named Trent Turner who played his heart out--awesome.

5) And then, just to end on a softer (lower decibel and caloric) note: we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, an incredible expanse of acreage developed by former this former first lady and actress Helen Hayes, in 1982 to protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Flowers, native grasses, stone buildings, butterfly habitats . . . enhances by the work of local artists and sculptors. Awesome, indeed.

All in all, from fried green tomatoes, to tents filled with art, to electric guitar, to native Texas wildflowers, it was an amazing--and refreshing, revitalizing--24 hours. I saw it, ate it, heard it . . . experienced it. A real birthday treat.

R& R. Austin style. I loved it.

Tomorrow morning--way too early--I'll be back to my fictional world at Golden Gate Hospital. To bring my readers my best. The same way all those artists in Austin--sculptors, chefs, musicians, painters . . . and more--will continue to do the same.

A brotherhood, without a doubt. Right down to the chef who battered those fried green tomatoes. Way cool--I love it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grandma Training

Tomorrow is my birthday and I'll be 59. Despite those decades, I look pretty darned good . . . considering that I've had TWO BABIES in the past two weeks! Wait, don't call the National Enquirer so fast: those were grand babies. Two April blessings: Ashland Skye MacKinnon (posing with photographer Daddy's camera above) in California, and Drake Andrew Peterson in Arizona, snuggled down in the second photo. A boy and a girl. Ashland born 3 weeks early at 5 pounds 12 ounces, and Drake born on Tax Day at 8 pounds 3 oz. Both are happy, healthy and very loved . . . no better start. And though Ashland is the first grandchild "on my side," (meaning a child of my child), I'm proud to say that my Grandma Training started more than a decade ago. Because I married a Grandpa-- Andy had two grand daughters when we met. We'll have our 10th wedding anniversary next month, but in truth I was called "Grandma" for the first time the Christmas before we married. Andy still loves to tease me about that story:

We were engaged, it was Christmas and I was tickled for the opportunity to co-host a holiday party at his California Gold Country home. Included was grand daughter Lillian Rose (living in Las Vegas). She was two, dressed in green velvet, white tights, satin ribbons-- a wide-eyed angel already after my heart. Her great grandmother, Dorothy, was also there. And, because I am( by accusation) more than a little "Martha Stewart" at such times, I'd fussed and decorated and baked . . . to the point of creating gingerbread cookies, frosted (red, white and blue) in the shape of Texas--the Calvert family's native state. Yes, I was that eager to please. (And it was a far cry easier than the armadillo cookies that followed the next year, but that's another story).

After most guests had gone and the party was winding down, a sleepy Lillian toddled down the hallway, rubbing her eyes and repeatedly asking, "Where's Grandma?" I suspected, naturally, that she was looking for her great grandmother, her only grandmother on site.

In moments, my rascal of a Texan fiance--grinning ear-to-ear and loving every second--arrives at my side, carrying his grand daughter. She breaks into a smile, holds out her arms and exclaims "Oh . . . there's Grandma!"

An amazing--and rare-- speechless moment for me. But then . . .

Two year old logic dictates that the woman doling out cookies at Grandpa's house must be Grandma!

And now, a happy decade later I am the proud grandmother of SIX (four girls, two boys) the latest arriving just in time for my birthday. I've never had such a wonderful gift.

Last week I flew to California to meet Ashland, first week in May we'll fly to Arizona to meet Drake. I'm getting this Grandma thing down.

But then, I started Grandma Training early!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Juggling Begins

It's easy to understand that an author must have certain skills. Quite obviously, she must be able to type (unless she has two year deadlines and lots of paper and pencils--or someone to transcribe from a recording); she must have some knowledge of book structure; and (though not exactly a skill per se) for fiction authors, an imagination is always good . . . but mostly she must be able to JUGGLE. Yes. Especially in the case of a multiple book contract. Because (after the jumping up and down squealing with joy part) a multiple book contract means . . . more than one book. And at some point, the work related to all of these books co-mingles . . . and juggling must occur. I'm at that point now with the Mercy Hospital Series. To illustrate, see the photo above:

1) Airborne over my right shoulder is CRITICAL CARE--the writing completed on my part. Out to reviewers. (Click here for awesome new review). Very soon I will be preparing for a launch party, doing interviews, traveling to book signings. I will spend some time every day on marketing tasks.

2) The blur over my chest is DISASTER STATUS--first draft completed, initial revisions accepted by editors (yay!). It will be returning to me in less than 2 weeks for a final "red-line" edit.

3) In my (cramping) left hand is CODE TRIAGE, the third book in the Mercy Hospital Series. Beginning stages, first draft. The reason I'll be up before dawn, sipping coffee, type-type-typing throughout the summer. I must be at the halfway point in this third novel before the first book in the series hits bookshelves nationwide. So, it goes something like this:

Toss: Market/promote, catch, Toss: revise/edit, catch, Toss: write new book, catch. The phase cycle, of course, repeats with each book. And, at some point-- maybe using my feet--I will need to write a proposal for a new series of books and throw that in the air as well!

, as you can imagine, is a blessing for an author. So is three decades of experience as an ER nurse. Because I've juggled:

1) overdoses
2) severed arteries
3) anaphylactic shock
4) cardiac arrest
5) respiratory arrest
6) cockroaches in ear canals
7) Legos in nostrils
8) tar burns, radiator burns, electric shock, thumb blisters from playing video games
9) terror, grief, despair, gallows humor, joy . . . and even lying on a trauma gurney in my own ER.

Juggling books? Sure, why not.
But I want that fuzzy pink hat, okay?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking flight . . . for Ashland Skye

This post is a bit early, because the last few days have been crazy and are about to gather even more momentum. The week began with marathon writing sessions to finish revisions on DisasterStatus, then Wednesday I was thrilled by the arrival of Advanced Reader Copies of Critical Care (beautiful, Tyndale did an awesome job!)

And then just as I was jumping up and down and shouting over the glossy cover image of the handsome Dr. McSnarly . . . I get a phone call from my son in California saying that he and my daughter-in-law are headed to the hospital for induction of labor. Three weeks early, due to troubling complications: Talk about your euphoria balloon going pfffft.

So I go into full-out Mom (and pending grandmother) mode, praying (and asking for prayers from amazing friends), making phone calls, sending text messages back back and forth like a maniac (actually, I'm sure I did look like a maniac--since I must stand in my driveway to get phone reception. We have a metal roof.), all the while attempting to do the last critical read-through on my book revisions. And then:

Yesterday, at 11:56 (via emergency C-section) our grand daughter,
Ashland Skye MacKinnon
was born--5 pounds 12 oz, 19 inches, with lots of black hair . . . just waiting for satin ribbons. Or a ballcap. Or both. Mama's doing well, Dad's proud and grateful, and Grandma CeCe (that's me) is flying out to California in the morning.

I love her name: Her Mom and Dad went to college in Ashland Oregon, and that beautiful Pacific NW sky appears in many of their photos and in endless memories.
My editor said the name sounds like the heroine in a book. I was thinking the same thing.

And right now, I'm counting blessings that she's here, and that she and her mother are safe and healthy.

Wednesday I typed and prayed, and prayed and typed. Thursday morning we mailed Advanced Reader Copies of Critical Care to volunteer "influencer" readers. Thursday afternoon, our grand daughter was born.
Today I hit the button to send Disaster Status revisions flying through cyberspace to Tyndale House. Tonight I'll pack. Tomorrow I'll get on a plane . . . and go fly off to meet the newest heroine in my life, Ashland Skye.

Who was a "bit early," just like this blog post.

I'll be back for Easter. And I'll bring pictures . . . that's what Grandmas do.

Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes--you are some of those blessings I count.