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My newest book, A Calculated Risk, opens in a very unusual setting – a funeral.  Certainly not the typical scene to hook the readers and make them want to keep turning the page.  But it is at this funeral the male lead’s small and unexpected act of kindness causes the heroine to begin to realize there may be much more to his character than she’d initially thought.

I was in Pensacola, Florida a few days ago to attend my uncle’s funeral.  No, I didn’t meet my prince charming this week.  But I did witness hundreds of people making small and unexpected acts of kindness out of respect for the deceased and those of us mourning our loss.  And our whole family was so appreciative.  From the moment we left the parking lot of the funeral home, through every stop sign and street light as we wove our way through town, and until we pulled into the cemetery overlooking the bay, every single car in traffic stopped.  Even though some streets were several lanes across with a median dividing directional traffic, the other drivers waited until the entire procession had passed.  No one seemed irate that they might be a few minutes late getting to their destination.  No one sped away as soon as the hearse passed by.  It was truly impressive.

So I would like to say thank you.  First to the deputies with the Sherriff’s department, who moved in tandem with such precision as they cleared a path and got us safely to the grave site.  And next I want to thank the citizens and general public of the city of Pensacola.  It was a small thing.  But by pausing patiently in traffic, you showed respect and compassion.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

Feel free to stop by The Romance Studio for Spookapalooza, Oct 24 – 31.  There will be several authors participating, sharing book blurbs, interesting stories/recipes, and even offering prizes.

http://trsparties.com

spook5_promo

I live in the deep south, so fresh air is relatively simple to find.  A fresh attitude, however, is not so easily obtained.  But I have come to realize that the more I have of the first lends itself toward helping me find the second.

In recent months, I feel like I’ve been getting hit from all sides. My job is up in the air.  My home life is going through its own share of turmoil.  And I’m watching a couple of friends go through major health crises right now. It is easy to wallow in the doldrums these days.  And my attitude has definitely been leaning far to the negative side lately.

Spook

My daughter has been taking horse riding lessons for quite a while.  But recently we switched from group lessons at one barn to private lessons at a different one.  Initially, she was taking evening classes with the new instructor. But now that the days are shorter, we have switched to Saturday morning lessons. Today just may have been one of the most perfect mornings I’ve had in a while. The weather couldn’t  have been nicer, and we had the whole place to ourselves except for the instructor.

While she began her lesson at the front of the pasture, I went to area behind the barn and sat on a swing in the sunshine and watched the other horses as they grazed.  It was so peaceful and refreshing.  I was even inspired to use that time to fit in today’s routine in my C25K program.  There is nothing like jogging in an open field with the smell of hay and cut grass to wake up your senses!

Today’s time spent in the fresh air did my spirit a world of good.  I could have spent that hour with my nose buried in my Nook like I usually do.  But instead I paid attention to the beauty around me, and it motivated me to do something good for myself.  I know there will still be times when I give in to the mully-grubs. But I’m going to try to be more positive.  And at least on Saturdays, I know I can count on Beauty, Nova, Echo, and my other equestrian friends to cheer me on!

kanuga

Last week I was in the midst of preparing my eleven-year-old daughter to travel three states away to attend camp with her entire sixth grade class. With my son in college and my daughter going away for the first time (other than sleepovers with friends), I wondered how I would pass the hours until her return.  I haven’t had that many free nights to myself since before her birth!  I challenged myself to not waste those nights, but to actually do something with my time.

Fast forward one week, and my daughter is back – safe, sound, and sleeping in this morning since she just got back around midnight last night.  She had so much fun on the trip, and arrived home full of stories and very happy to see her mama and her cats!

As for me, I had a slow start on my “empty nest adventures”. Work deadlines forced me to spend my first night at the office until way past quitting time.  By the time I got home, I was wiped out and turned into a couch potato watching old episodes of Criminal Minds.  But all was not lost.  On Day 2, I accepted a challenge my sister had thrown at me a few weeks ago.  I started the “Couch to 5K” challenge!  Shocking, I know, because exercise is very foreign to me. But I committed to doing it, and I have to say it’s actually been fun.

There are many programs available that offer to take slugs like me and get us off said couch and participating 5K walk/runs within a matter of weeks.  The one we are using is an app for our phones, and is so easy to do!  I enjoyed the first couple of nights so much, I have already roped a couple of co-workers into starting the workout program too.

As often happens, the thought of doing something can be worse than actually doing it.  It was hard for me to imagine I could ever actually run a 5K, so I had a “what’s the use?” attitude and kept putting off joining my sister in this program.  But after hearing her talk about her progress for several weeks, I was finally ready to say “I can do this!”.  I have a long way to go before I can actually pin a number to my t-shirt and cross a finish line. But I’m having fun taking it one day at a time.

race bib

What is something you have been putting off?  I challenge you to just jump in with both feet and go for it!  Good luck, and remember to have fun.

finish line

mountainsNext week will find me in unfamiliar territory.  Am I taking on a new hobby? Planning a trip to a first time destination? Signing up for ballroom dancing?  Nope…none of those.  I am going to have one week without any children at home.  My oldest is in college, of course, as you already know.  But my youngest will be going on a class trip to camp several states away, in a little corner of paradise in the mountains.  She is excited, yet nervous at the same time.  She’s never been away from home for that many days at one time. And she will not be allowed to take her iPhone (a terrifying thought for her!).  But mostly she is excited.

Her mom (that would be me!), on the other hand, hates the thought of her being that far out of reach for so long.  She and I are nearly inseparable, and I’ll miss her so much.  And yet….it has occurred to me that for the first time in eleven years I will have a week’s worth of evenings all to myself.  I’m just now beginning to consider how to fill up my time.  The mind boggles at the possibilities!

It goes without saying that I’ll spend part of that time working on my next manuscript.  And I will probably hang out with Kate Patrick, my closest sidekick, at least a couple of nights.  I’ll have a chance to read new books that have been on my wish list.  And I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time thinking, “I wonder what she’s doing right now.”  But I am challenging myself to do something out of the box, something unexpected.  I have no idea yet what that will be, but I’m open to suggestions.

She will be full of stories to tell when she gets back home.  Hopefully I’ll have a few to share with her, too!

fallWell, technically it starts tomorrow.  But it’s close enough.  I love the fall season. It’s a chance to relax and enjoy life at a slower pace before the holiday madness begins.

We’ll finally get a break from the high humidity and heat, even if we do have to sacrifice an hour or two of daylight in the evening.  Football is back in full swing. The fair comes to town. There are lots of movie premieres to look forward to. And my family starts planning the annual Halloween party.

And one of the best ways to relax in the cooler weather is sitting on the patio with a big mug of coffee while reading a good book.

Any recommendations?       coffee book

UPDATE: New Book!

UPDATE:  A Calculated Risk had its release day September 16, 2014!!

It is now available for purchase.  Thanks to everyone who supported me during the writing process, and to those who have already gotten their copy.

http://www.amazon.com/Calculated-Risk-Joan-Chandler-ebook/dp/B00NIDCMBQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411005877&sr=8-1&keywords=calculated+risk+joan+chandler

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-calculated-risk-joan-chandler/1120357308?ean=2940150314450

http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=4&products_id=942

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Some exciting news!  I have signed with Secret Cravings Publishing for my next book, A Calculated Risk. I have just finished the second round of edits, so it’s moving along quickly now.  My release date is scheduled for some time in September, if all goes well. I will be sharing more about this in the coming weeks. ACalculatedRisk_Draft

  Dawne’ Dominique has done a beautiful job with my cover.  I love it!!

Two f-words have become huge in my life over the last year.  Football and Facebook.

old TV

Growing up, my father would watch any football game that was on television. Didn’t matter what teams were playing.  He knew them all and he had a favorite that he was pulling for in every matchup.  It didn’t make sense to me, as a little girl.  I’d think, “But we live in Georgia.  Why are you pulling for the Dallas Cowboys?”  I knew nothing about the game and didn’t understand how the path to the playoffs worked and that there was a method to the madness if you wanted to see your team in the Super Bowl.

nfl

By the time I was in college, I’d figured it out.  I pledged allegiance to the 49’ers and the Saints.  And when they faced each other, I had to cheer for the Saints (I’m a southern girl, after all).

A funny thing happened, though, and over time I cared less about pro football, but got totally absorbed in college football.  I  became a fan of one certain team, and would watch every game.  I kept up with the rankings every week and kept my fingers crossed that we’d end up in the national championship game.

football map

Then, strangely, this past season got much bigger for me.  I started following not only my own favorite team, but I followed all the others as well.  I started becoming just like my dad…watching football because there was a game on, regardless of the team.  I’d watch to see who was defeating whom, and how much of a threat would they be when we played them later in the season.  And it extended not just beyond my favorite team, but even beyond our own conference.  I watched Ohio State, FSU, Oklahoma, Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford, Oregon, Clemson (well, you get the idea). I kept up with how, if this team loses it helps our ranking go up, and if that team wins it will hurt our ranking.  I’d go to work on Monday mornings and chat with all the guys about the miracle plays we’d seen, or how this team crumbled, or that player got hurt, or there was a new rising star on another team.

So it is safe to say that football has a bigger role in my life than ever before.

And as this past season progressed, I found myself spending more and more time on the second F-word I am writing about today.  Facebook.  Oh, I’m neglectful about posting things to it myself.  I rarely update my status or post photos about anything.    But I’ve gotten somewhat obsessive about reading what other people post during games.  You can learn a lot about your friends by looking at their written  sentiments.  Some people who seem so demure are absolutely evil when it comes to putting down the opposing team.  Some, who have every right to take cheap shots, will never stoop that low and find something positive to say about both teams.  Others – my favorites- inject humor in their posts and come up with some of the funniest plays on words or catch phrases.  Yeah, they might still take a cheap shot (maybe even against my favorite team), but it’s so witty and clever you find yourself laughing with them rather than getting irked.

Phew!  I guess it’s good that the college ball season and bowl games are almost over.  Only a couple more days and I’ll no longer be chained to my favorite easy chair in front of the television.  I need to use those hours to go to the gym to tackle my own new year’s resolution.

See, even I can make a pun once in a while.  🙂

 

Happy New Year!

Wow!  Hard to believe it’s 2014 now.  I wonder how many weeks it will take before I stop writing 2013 on all my checks and other documents??

2014

This is the time of year we all typically make new year’s resolutions.  My friend, Kate Patrick, told me yesterday that she’s taking a new approach and not making any for 2014.  I will have to check in with her later today to see if she is sticking to that or if she’s changed her mind and set a few goals for herself after all.

I am still contemplating what mine will be.  It’s a yearlong commitment, so I can’t enter into it too hastily. I have till midnight to decide, right?  🙂

I do know that I am looking forward to this new year, however.  I have a good feeling about it, and think some nice surprises could be in store for me and my family.

I hope it brings lots of great things your way, too.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

fireworks

It’s almost a new year, and there is much to look forward to in 2014.  But before the stroke of midnight tomorrow, I have been reflecting on the blessings of 2013.

2013

The biggest surprise has to do with my father.  We’ve had him for a full year, and last Christmas we were all expecting him to have only a matter of weeks left.  But the fact he made it to another Christmas isn’t what has surprised us all so much.  It’s the fact that his quality of life is so much better!  My grandfather was a Pentecostal minister.  I grew up hearing stories of real miracles.  I know that doctors are just God’s instruments, and that He ultimately decides the number of our days.  But to see my father off of oxygen, not using a walker any more, and actually planning a short trip to the hunting camp (where he’ll relax in the cabin – not in the woods 🙂  ) is truly amazing.  The disease is still present, but he is enjoying his days, and I am so thankful.

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I’ve got a new hobby this year, and I’m loving it.  “Hobby” isn’t the right word, but it’s as good as any, I suppose.  I’ve discovered the world of horseback riding!  No, I’m not taking lessons.  But my daughter started them at the end of summer and I go out with her every week.  The stables where she takes lessons are so picturesque.  The two story barn is gorgeous.  The acres and acres of pasture are vibrant green, with white fences around them and beautiful pink and red flowers planted everywhere.  The horses are so beautiful and strong.  After a tough week at work, I can’t tell you how cathartic it is to sit under a tree for a few hours and watch the horses and their riders as I take in the fresh air and the sounds of birds chirping, and the clip-clop of hooves.  It renews me every time.

My son continues to excel at his college experience.  He has made friends that I know will be lifelong ones, and he’s really gotten focused on what he has to do over the next three semesters until graduation.  He has a fresh excitement as he is already getting job offers once he earns his degree.  It’s surreal to watch his ease around “big wigs” that he’s crossed paths with, and to see him parlay those encounters into job offers is something I know I’d NEVER have been able to do at that age.  But he’s smart and charming and interesting, and it’s genuine – not put on.  I’m looking forward to finding out what the future holds for him.  I think the sky’s the limit.

Despite a real rocky end to 2012, by the close of 2013 my extended family has made amends and seems as close as ever.  Or almost anyway.  I’ll settle for almost.  I missed the ones who pulled away a year ago, and am grateful they have come to terms with the things that were bothering them and that they’ve been able to move forward and put it in the past.

Work is still stressful, but the last few months have seemed better.  I don’t know if they are actually better or if I’ve just gotten better at letting the little things slide.  But whatever the reason, I’ve had a better time of it on the job lately, and that’s something I am very thankful for!

job

My mom turned 80 this year, and she is still so in love with life.  She is active, has a huge circle of friends, and is the glue that keeps our family together.  We all love her so much, and we rely on her to be our listening post, shoulder to cry on, keeper of all secrets (what happens on Berwyn stays on Berwyn!!), and prayer warrior.  Oh yeah, and to make the dressing on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (nobody does it better).

I could go on and on.  It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong in life and miss all  the things that are right.  But once you stop to actually think about the good stuff, you can quickly realize you’ve got it way better than most.  At least I do.  I am blessed. And I know it.

 

 

 

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