Getting Personal & Key West Dreaming

On the Homefront

Hi my friends,

I admit, I’ve been living a bit of a roller coaster these past two weeks. Not that anything is really wrong or desperate, like illness or death, but emotionally I’ve struggled. In times like this, music and writing nourish my soul and make me whole again. I write romance, and to write romance, a person needs to truly believe in a happily-ever-after. My relationship with my husband is a huge inspiration in this way. Lately, I haven’t always appreciated him or the sacrifices he makes on a daily basis for our family. He works long hours far from home, and yet I still expect him to pull his weight (and more) at home. He always has, but that doesn’t mean he always will. I wonder if someday he’ll say, “Enough.”

I thought a lot about that this week. I considered many ways to show him how much I love him. I thought about sending him love texts (no, not sexts, that’s not my style, and with my luck, I’d accidentally sext the sitter or one of my colleagues). I’ve never done that, so I didn’t want him to be suspicious. I considered writing a love note. I also thought about surprising him with his favorite meal–but I’m not such a great cook.

None of those ideas seemed right.

Then I was on my way to work a few days ago, and I accidently hit CD instead of FM radio. I only have one CD in my car, and it’s David Archuleta. (Yes, I adore the beautiful purity of his voice.) His song, “You Can” played, my love anthem. Not because of him (Sorry, David!), but because the lyrics bring me back to 1984 when my husband was my best friend on the verge of becoming my boyfriend, when I first realized he could be the one to “save me from myself.” I wasn’t a lost soul by any means, but I lacked belief in myself, and I didn’t grasp my true potential until he came into my life.

So this is for my husband, the one who always believed in me and helped me believe in myself:

What song reminds you of a special person in your life?

Key West Dreaming…

For my fellow Key West lovers, here are some recent photos I took just for you:

Ocean Key Resort Sunset Pier Restaurant

Mr. Rooster on Duval

Pier at Westin Casa Marina, Key West

Duval Street — After the Storm

Until next time, I hope you spend your days doing what you love best.



PS  Any Key West topics you’d like me to blog about? Let me know. I love to chat Conch Republic.

Dancing in Your Flip Flops

Welcome! Kick off your shoes and slip into a comfy pair of flip flops.


Back in late April, the weather here on Long Island was unseasonably warm. On one of those beautiful afternoons, my husband and I hit the jackpot–home without the kids.

Our pool wasn’t open yet, but that didn’t stop him from grabbing the loungers out of the backyard shed while I poured wine and plated chips and salsa. All that was missing was a palm tree swaying in the breeze.

And some laidback, tropical tunes.

That got me to thinking. Margarita Moments aficionados need a playlist. Here’s the compilation to date (Titles to be added with reader suggestions!):

  1. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
  2. Key West Address – James T. Slater
  3. Toes – Zac Brown Band
  4. Living on Key West Time – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  5. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems – Kenny Chesney
  6. Pour Me a Vacation – Pete Harris
  7. Hot Sand, Pina Coladas, and Caribbean Beer – Seth Turner
  8. Changes in Latitude – Jimmy Buffett
  9. I Don’t Have to Be Me Until Monday – Steve Azur
  10. Here in the Conch Republic – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  11. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
  12. Looe Key Tiki Bar – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  13. When the Sun Goes Down – Kenny Chesney
  14. Two Pina Coladas – Garth Brooks
  15. Blame it on the Margaritas – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  16. Meet Me in the Keys – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  17. I’m Living on an Island – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  18. Red Wine – UB40
  19. All Summer Long – Kid Rock
  20. Baby I Love Your Way – Big Mountain

Have you ever heard of #2? If this song’s lighthearted lyrics and video  doesn’t get those flip flops dancing, I don’t know what will. Enjoy!

I love this YouTube slideshow of one of my favorite tunes.

Do you have any songs to add to our playlist? Where do you buy your comfy flip flops?

Blogging this past month was really fun! Thanks for helping celebrate Jolyse Barnett’s Margarita Moments & Other Escapes first blogiversary. All May commenters’ names were placed in a hat (one slip per comment) and my obliging daughter randomly picked out the winner. Congratulations to Catie Rhodes!!! Email me at with your address and your handpainted, crystal Lolita Margarita glass will soon be on its way. I look forward to future giveaways that include a copy of my latest release. It’s only a matter of hard work, luck, and timing, right? 🙂

A Love Story

Wedding Day

Twenty-four years ago today, I married my true love and best friend. But our love story began long before April 9, 1988.

At fifteen, I was tall, lanky, studious, and shy compared to most girls my age, yet eager to fit in despite lacking social graces. I survived adolescent crushes and ventured into dating. None of those boys, however, made me swoon like the heroes in my favorite novels. Night after night, I’d gaze into the starry darkness from my bedroom window, dreaming of the perfect romance.

The Michael Buble song, I Just Haven’t Met You Yet, reminds me of that yearning optimism I had as a teen.

I met my future husband autumn of ’83. He was a very confident, handsome guy with a great sense of humor, a potent combination as far as I was concerned. We hung in the same circles and kept bumping into each other, although I focused on my studies and dating guys I felt were more in my league. My future husband and I had a playful, friendly relationship, but it didn’t go any further than that.

Until months later, he stole a kiss. I began to suspect he was the one, but I didn’t want to believe it. At that point I had a love interest back home and figured he did too.

Sophomore year of college, he’d walk me home Saturday nights whenever my roommate wasn’t available. I began to share my accomplishments and sorrows with him. He offered emotional support after my breakup with a boy back home. We talked about our childhoods, our aspirations, our religious beliefs, just about everything. We’d become best friends.

Then he ruined everything by asking me out on a date. I had to refuse. What if things didn’t work out? Luckily for our love story, he wasn’t easily dissuaded. He brought me flowers. He asked me to a movie. He courted me.

And we lived happily ever after.

Well, not so fast. Our road to marriage was a bumpy one at times, both of us having grown into strong-minded, focused young adults, intent on making our way in the world while trying to figure out how to fit our lives together.  The 2005 movie A Lot Like Love, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, reminds me a bit of our real-life romance:

As we’ve wound our ways through the years,

we’ve lived our marriage vows,

loving each other

for better for worse,

in good times and in bad,

through sickness and health.

Twenty seven years after our first date, we’re still best friends, and we’re still crazy in love with each other. Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

That’s our love story. What’s yours? 

The Angst before the HEA

Happily married to my best friend many years now, I have to dig deep to remember the uncertainty of new love or unrequited love or betrayed love. Music helps me to reconnect to these various types of angts my hero or heroine may experience at the crisis point in the story–where all seems lost.

Adele’s award-winning song, SOMEONE LIKE YOU, draws me in. I feel her pain, and it becomes my own.

Listening to this song, I begin to imagine “What if.” What if my husband weren’t mine? What if he fell out of love with me and we parted ways? What if he then found someone new, someone to share a new beginning, leaving me behind to start over–alone? That’s when I sit down at my laptop and click away, the tears streaming down my face, feeling my character’s pain as my own. Exhausting? Yes, but I believe it makes a difference in the quality of my writing. The emotions are authentic, the character’s actions and dialogue match the depth of his/her despair.

Writers, what resources do you use to create authentic character responses at the crisis point in your story? 

A Sweet Escape

You may look at your car as a way to get from Point A to Point B, or as a gas guzzler, or even as a favored possession you’re thrilled to tool around in. My car isn’t anything fancy; it’s got over a hundred thousand miles on it, has a faint, spoiled milk scent from baby years gone by, and isn’t the least bit feminine. I live in the northeast and feminine-looking cars don’t help much on winter roads. We also wouldn’t be able to afford getaways if we spent our money on little numbers like the one shown above. Yet my car, when I have the luxury of being in the driver’s seat with no passengers to transport, can be a vehicle for my own little, sweet escape.

This summer has been extraordinarily busy, and it was a rare occasion the other day when I found myself driving somewhere alone. Ahhhh. I turned up the volume of my favorite radio station and began to sing. A few songs later, my voice was warmed up. Well, as warmed up as my voice could be. Let’s just say kids have been known to cover their ears when I belt out “Happy Birthday.” Anyway, I was relaxed and the knots in my neck had begun to loosen. That’s when Natasha Bedingfield’s 2008 pop hit, “Pocket Full of Sunshine,” shot over the airwaves. My day was perfect.

Singing along, images flit through my mind and emotions swell. Music does that, doesn’t it? I think of my children and my hopes for their future. I think of my losses and how my wonderful friends and staying positive got me through the grief. I think of mean people I’ve encountered, secure in the knowledge their cruelty has only made me stronger and more compassionate. I think, too, of my husband’s love, our relationship keeping me entertained and completely head-over-heels crazy for him 90% of the time (Nobody’s perfect, right?). Threaded through all these random thoughts and feelings is a newfound contentment with who I am and where I’m going in life.

I smile up to the sky, I know I’ll be alright

This song lifts my spirits at the literal level, too. Sunshine reminds me of my favorite season, days at the beach, backyard pool parties, and tropical vacations.

As the song ends, I’m struck by how this could be my blog’s anthem. You see, I like to think of my posts as moments of happiness I’ve bottled up to share with you. In turn, you can hold that happiness close to your heart, your own little pocket full of sunshine. Corny, yes, but that’s me. I hope you have a wonderful week! Please don’t hate me too much for putting that tune back into your head.

What song lifts you up and fills your soul?

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