Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cover for the German version of Nice Girls Don't Live Forever

How cute is this? It will be available in July 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The One Christmas That Wasn't a Disaster

So I've been writing all week about my various holiday misadventures. Now I want to talk about one pretty memorable Christmas that was nothing but good.

Eighteen years ago on Tuesday, I went on my first date with my husband, David. I was 14, and he was 16. I had a huge crush on him, with his big brown eyes and easy smile. And he was four inches taller than me, which is super-hot when you're a high school freshman and you're almost six feet tall.

We were set up for a double by David's cousin, Stewart, his then-fiance, Shanna. My parents, well, my dad, wasn't exactly thrilled at the idea of my dating a boy two years older than me. I think it had to do with David's weird semi-mohawk haircut. (Which I LOOOOOOOOOOVED.)

My parents told me that I could only date during the day until I turned 16. Matinee movies, lunch dates, etc. I think they thought that would make David lost interest, if dating me was sort of inconvenient. To their surprise, he put up with that for two years. Ultimately, that's what made them trust him and come to love him. Because now, they pretty much like him better than their biological kids.

I spent forever getting ready for that date. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find that David wasn't there! I started to panic, but Shanna explained that his mom didn't realize he had a date and scheduled a doctors appointment for him, since we were out of school.

We had to go pick hom at the doctors office, which was the weirdest way to start a date. We went to see A Few Good Men. I was so nervous, my palms sweated constantly. I didn't realize, in the dark, that David had his hand outstretched on his knee for most of the movie so I would hold it. Shanna thought our inability to figure out how to hold hands was pathetic, and insisted that we were all going out again on Dec. 24. She said we had no choice. We were both relieved not to have to face the "we need to do this again sometime" conversation.

And then the poor guy had to drop me off at my house and face interrogation by my gigantic smartass uncles who were in town for the holiday.

On Thursday, we went to see The Bodyguard. David took my hand immediately after the lights went out, just to get Shanna off his back. By the time, Kevin Costner carted Whitney Houston out of that night club, he'd leaned over and kissed me. I immediately told him, "I don't want to date anyone else. You're mine now." and that was it for us.

Seven years of dating, ten years of marriage, and two kids later, he still insists "I Will Always Love You" is our song since we were seeing The Bodyguard when I "told him I was his girlfriend." But I hate that song, since it's basically about leaving someone. And when we see a movie, he still leaves his hand on his knee, so I can hold it.

Happy Anniversary, Babe.

And Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Today's holiday disaster: The Abused Christmas Tree

I am allergic to real Christmas trees.

It's sad but true. Every Christmas when I was a kid, my parents would get a real tree and I would end up sick as a dog by the time Christmas morning rolled around. There was one year that my parents got me this awesome two-man tent and set it up in the living room with all my presents inside. My brother and sister were opening their presents and Mom said, "Where's Molly?" I was inside the tent, asleep from all the decongestants I was on.

So my doctor finally figured out that the trees were what was making me sick and recommended that my parents switch to an artificial tree. My brother, Matt, is still irritated by this and fondly remembers going to the Christmas tree farm to pick our tree, "before Molly and her stupid nose ruined Christmas."

Fast foward to David and I getting married and buying our own artificial tree. Christmas has always been a big deal to us, because we started dating on Christmas Eve, so we went all out and got a really nice model. We brought it home and set it up and realize it was about two inches too tall for our ceiling.

"No problem," said David. "I have a piple cutter. I'll just cut an inch or two off the bottom stem."

We didn't realize that the bottom of the tree was tapered for a reason - so it would fit snugly into the tree stand. Cutting off the bottom meant out brand new tree leaned about 10 degrees to the right at any given time. Our angel looked sort of tipsy. Still, we duct taped it upright and it looked great.

The next year, while I was unloading the tree, one of the branches that was "guaranteed to hinge neatly for perfect storage" snapped off in my hands. This set off some sort of hinge chain reaction that led to three more branches jumping ship. I now had a bald spot the size of a Buick on the back my tree. I dutifully angled the bald patch toward a corner and decorated around it, then duct taped the tree into its stand for safety.

The next year was something of a brown recluse baby boom in western Kentucky. Spider bites went through the roof at local emergency rooms. Home owners were warned to be careful as they opened boxes of winter clothes and blankets, because that's where the recluses like to set up their little spider condos.

When I was unloading Baldy the Christmas Tree from the attic, David said, "You better open the box outside on the deck, you never know what could be hiding in there."

I scoffed and told him it would be fine, but I dragged the box outside just to avoid an argument. I went back inside for something and David started going through the box to find the tree stand. Just then, three huge brown spiders crawled over the lip of the box, as if to say, "Who the hell do you think you are? Moving our condo outside?"

David yelped. I screamed. We shoved the box as far as we could away from the house.

"That's it!" I yelled. "We're getting a new tree!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More holiday disasters: Santa Claus is Dead

I've decided that I'll be posting my holidays disasters every day this week because, well, I have enough stories to last for the next month.

Children are not encouraged to read this blog as this is the story of how I learned that Santa Claus isn't real. I was 6 or 7 and my family was living in Mississippi. A lot of our neighbors were very... rural. And considering that we were originally from Kentucky, that's saying something.

Now, Shannon was a school friend whose family lived down the street. Her dad, Charlie, was VERY rural. As in tricking small children into trying chitterlings, rural. (My tastebuds were never the same.) And he had a rather weird sense of humor.

Apparently, he thought it would be hilarious to get his older daughter to come storming into the house, one afternoon just before Christmas, pretending to be upset, because her "school office" sent home a letter telling parents that Christmas had been cancelled. Why? Because Santa Claus had been shot in a post office robbery.

That's right. They told me that Santa had been gunned down while waiting for stamps.

I was, of course, quite upset by the news and promptly burst into hysterical tears. Did Dad or older daughter put an end to the joke and assure me that everything was OK and Christmas was still on schedule? No. They sent me home.

Because my sister, Manda, was 4 and did believe in Santa, I decided to suck it up and pretend like nothing happened. I didn't want to upset her. I guess, even as a kid, I had a bit of a martyr complex.

So all evening I was quiet and glum, through dinner and bathtime and bedtime. All the while, my stomach churning and I wanted to cry. I went to bed, only to wake up at 2 a.m., screaming at the top of my lungs, "SANTA'S DEAD! HE'S DEAD! THEY SHOT HIM!"

My parents thought I was having a nightmare until I tearfully confessed that Mr. Charlie had broken the bad news earlier that day. Santa was dead. My dad left the room to call Charlie.

To this day, I don't know what was said. I do know that I didn't see Shannon all that much after that.

My parents had to confess that Santa had not been shot in a post office robbery, it was because he wasn't real. They told me the whole story about parents buying, hiding and setting up presents on Christmas Eve. I felt betrayed for about five minutes before I realized I'd been let into a secret club of "people who knew." And that I would be able to collude with my parents to prolong the Santa myth for Manda, and later, my brother, Matt. And I did, for years, and I made sure that when they were old enough, I was the one who GENTLY told them about the Santa myth. I did not allow robberies to enter into it.

So there we have it. My traumatic Santa story. How did you find out the big guy wasn't real?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Disasters Redux: The Nintendo Incident

Hey All,

Since everyone seemed to enjoy the Holiday Disasters Sharing, I thought I'd give you just another of example of how my family warped me into the person I am today. When I was 11 or so, the Great Original Nintendo Craze swept the nation, and if you weren't shooting pixelated ducks with an orange and gray plastic gun, you were missing out.

My parents weren't bandwagon-jumpers when it came to toy fads. Our Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids were sewn from kits. Mom taught us how to bake real cakes instead of using an Easy Bake Oven. There was no place for Sea Monkeys in the Harper home.

But, somehow, some way, my parents managed to obtain a Nintendo system just before Christmas. They hid it where they always hid the Christmas presents, in their bedroom closet, behind my Dad's mustard yellow bathrobe. Imagine our thrill as my brother, Matt, 5, and sister, Manda, 8, and I conducted our annual snooping expedition through the closet. There it was, that year's Holy Grail of Christmas presents, and we were getting one. We squealed and hopped up and down so violently, we nearly knocked over a dresser.

This was about a week before Christmas. Every year, the weekend before Christmas, before our Grandma Bobby took us out to lunch at Patti's, a local restaurant known for its Christmas decorations and mile-high meringue pie. As we were enjoying our pie, Manda pipes up, "Hey Grandma, guess what? Mom and Dad got us a Nintendo for Christmas. We found it in the closet!"

Grandma Bobby arched an eyebrow and said, "Oh, really?"

Even Matt knew Manda had just done something really stupid.

Christmas Eve rolled around and we were waiting for Dad to come home from his annual last minute shopping frenzy. (Because shopping before Dec. 24 is for sissies.) Mom carried the Nintendo box to the front door as we yelled, "Hey! Hey! Where are you going with that?"

Mom said, "Oh, I'm just taking this over to the neighbors' house. They asked me to keep this over at our house, so their kids wouldn't find it. Apparently, they snoop all over the house, trying to find their presents, isn't that awful?"

We stammered agreements about how horrible the neighbors kids were, and watched as Mom hauled away our Christmas dreams.

Christmas morning came and no Nintendo. We were crushed. Sure, the art sets and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were nice, but there were no Nintendo. We went over to Grandma Bobby's for Christmas lunch and Grandma pulled us aside to give us a "special" Christmas gift. A Nintendo cassette.

Cue the crying. "We didn't get a Nintendo, Grandma!"

Grandma feigned innocence. "But you said you found one in your parents' closet!"

"It was for the neighbors kids!" we wailed.

Mom rolled her eyes and said, "Look behind the tree."

There, behind the tree, was the Nintendo, which Mom had hidden at Grandma's house after Grandma Bobby let her know what rotten snoops she was raising. We were torn between elation and confusion. One of us may have cried. A lot.

"And let that be a lesson to you," Mom said. "No more snooping."

Did Mom change the location of her Christmas present stash? No.

Did we ever snoop around looking for Christmas presents again? No.

Did we play the hell out of Duck Hunt? Yes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Disaster! Giveaway with Jane Porter

Hey All,

Today we're hosting a little holiday trauma session and giveaway with absolutely fantastic Jane Porter.

I was lucky enough to be seated next to Jane at the Kentucky Book Fair, and having spent most of the day people-watching and sharing ridiculous stories from our lives, I can honestly say I want to be her when I grow up.

Jane's sharing her favorite holiday disaster story with us today, while my "Saga of the Exploding Stuffing" is posted at Jane's site. See details below on how to enter to win a copy of Jane's "Flirting With Forty." You may remember it was recently made into a Lifetime movie with Heather Locklear.

So here's Jane's tale of holiday woe:

My personal best Christmas disaster incident happened shortly after I became a single mom and went shopping for a Christmas tree with my boys. In fact it made such an impact on me, I actually wrote the scene into my novel, Flirting With Forty. Here’s an excerpt to share the scene… My main character Jacquie has just arrived home with her kids and they’re trying to maneuver the Christmas tree from the car into the house to set it up….

“Okay, William, Jessica, stand back,” I hang on to the SUV’s roof rack. “I’m going to drag the tree to the edge and then drop it down.”

I scoot the tree across the roof, cringing as the branches squeak and scratch.

Even though this isn’t a double trunk tree this year, it’s still heavy, heavier than expected and suddenly its caught on one of the rack rails. I tug, the tree doesn’t budge, I check the twine, it’s cut, check the tree, the branches aren’t caught. The tree is just too heavy to knock off the roof.

“William, I’m going to need a hand. Be careful.”

He’s eager to help. Jumps up on the driver’s seat, reaches for the top part of the tree.

I grunt as fresh noble fir branches slap my face. Another good hard yank and I should have tree off….

I put on a CD of Nat King Cole’s Christmas carols, do a little stretching, okay—feeling vaguely like Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon—but that’s fine. Anything to keep this fun.

Jess, William and I fling open all the doors, grab a piece of tree and drag-carry our increasingly less noble, Noble Fir into the living room.
We get it there and it lies in the middle of the floor hogging space.

I stand back, rub sap off my hands. It’s a healthy big wide tree.
Still rubbing my hands I share the plan: “We’re going to slide the tree into the stand while it’s still on the ground. And then together we’ll lift it. Then while you guys hold it steady, I’ll tighten the screws and we can start decorating.”

It’s a good plan. It should work.

It doesn’t.

The tree’s lower branches won’t let us get the tree stand ring high enough around the trunk to hold the tree upright in the stand. We lower the tree down, screws are loosened with great difficulty (I shouldn’t have been so zealous with the pliers until I knew the tree would fit.)

We’re going to have to cut branches. And of course I don’t have any tools for cutting branches.

In the divorce Daniel get the second house, the Porsche, the new young girlfriend and the old saw we used for things like this.

I should have bought a saw.

“How about scissors?” Jessica suggests.

“Scissors will break,” I answer, sitting on my heels, hearing Nat croon but it’s not helping.

“How about a knife?” William offers.

“Sure.” I’m battling here for warmth and charm.

“Get the bread knife, though. That’s the long one with the serrated edge—“ I see his blank look, break off. “Never mind. I’ll get it.”

One bread knife later, I’m sawing at the slim lower branches that seem to have sprung up all over the tree base. It takes minutes to cut just one. There are at least ten more. My God. This could go on all night….

I’m still sawing away, swearing beneath my breath. I take a rest.

“Mom, let me do it. I can do it. I’m strong.”

“I don’t want you hurt.”

“I won’t get hurt.” He takes the knife from me. “Stand back.”

Stand back. I almost cry. Little boys shouldn’t have to ever take care of their mothers. “You can try, just for a minute,” I say, crouching close by in case he slices off a couple fingers and I have to run fast to get them on ice.

Nothing will go wrong, I tell myself. Why would anything go wrong? This whole tree thing has been a roaring success.

William saws and hacks away at the tree. Carpenters and contractors on home improvement shows would be appalled at our craft skills, but we’re a family, and we hack and saw like a family. “How’s it going?” I ask him.

“Good, Mom.”

Jessica’s crouching close now, too. “My turn.”

“No, Jessica. You’re not going to use the knife.”

“Why not? William is.”

“William’s almost four years older.”


“Knives are dangerous—“

“You let him do everything and you don’t let me do anything.”

“You’re right.” I sit back, hands on thighs. “I should have let you get crushed by the tree instead of William. He’s ninety pounds and you’re what? Forty? You can handle it.”

She rolls her eyes at me. “I wouldn’t get crushed. That’s an exaggeration…”

“William, that’s good,” I say, beginning to get uneasy the longer he saws at the tree. I’m just waiting for the knife to slip, fingers to fly, blood spurting. And I’m seriously not good with blood.

Twenty minutes later we’re ready to try to stand the tree again. William and I are holding the tree and trying to shake it all the way down to the bottom of the stand and we can’t get it down no matter how hard we try.

I stand back to see what it looks like while William is buried in the tree, holding it steady. “Maybe it’s okay like this,” he mumbles around a mouthful of pine.
I’m thinking he’s right. It looks straight. Enough.

“Keep holding the tree, and I’ll tighten the screws the rest of the way.” I’ve located a second pair of pliers and with pliers in hand I wiggle on my stomach beneath the tree, heading in face first as if I’m auditioning for the staged version of Desert Storm. Jessica’s crawling in from the other side with her pliers and together we bang and clank on the screws while William shouts encouragements.

“You’ve got it,” he says. “Looks great. I think it’s going to work.”

“Mom, I’ve got this side,” Jessica says.

And finally, sappy and red-faced, I crawl back out. The tree looks okay.

“Are we going to decorate now?” Jess asks, putting the pliers now to bookends, and drawer knobs and anything that protrudes….

Three hours later, the kids are finally in bed and I’m just finishing washing my face when I hear a horrible splintering crash from downstairs. I go cold everywhere and for a second can’t move. I just stand there with a sick icy feeling in my middle and I can see myself in the mirror, puffy shower cap still on my head, traces of foamy soap suds at the hairline, and I know what it is, that thud punctuated by breaking glass.

The tree.

It’s just gone down.

I just got up to check my tree stand after reading that.

OK, my lovlies, I’m giving away two copies of Jane's Flirting with Forty, and Jane's got prizes and Christmas goodies, too! All you’ve got to do is read Jane's story here, and then visit her blog here to read my story, then share your personal christmas disaster story with us on both blogs to enter the giveaway.

You don't have to share your story on both, but if you do, you double your chances for winning! And remember, no story is too weird. You can't spell "dysfunctional" without "F-U-N."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Want to read Jane in French?

A few months back I posted a short story about Jane Jameson, set after book 3, but before the upcoming book 4. One of my lovely filles, Eden, has translated "Nice Girls Don't Sign a Lease Without a Wedding Ring" into French. Her blog can be found here.

Thanks, Eden!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fun Interview And Giveaway

Enter a comment at this blog interview with Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks and you could win all three Jane Jameson books!

Click here to view the blog.