Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Big Cheese by Grace Burrowes

I'm fond of the phrase, "seventeen pieces of Swiss cheese have to line up just right," to describe a situation where everything that can go wrong aligns for the most improbably, bad result. But those pieces of Swiss cheese can line up in the other direction, too.

A story can fall into your lap that, for once, has a premise you can reduce to one sentence:  "Honor demands that he seek vengeance, while she has vowed to live a life free from men prone to violence."
I can count on one hand the stories I've come up with that lend themselves to a tagline, but "The Captive" is certainly one of them.

The Captive also has a gorgeous Jon Paul cover in an eye catching color scheme. If you look closely (some author's name is plastered all over the image, so I'll show you the art here), the lady's hand is on the gent's wrist, which is wrapped in soft white linen. Who holds whom captive?

This is an example of a cover resonating with a specific story. That image, of his wrist entrapped by hers, wouldn't go with just any story--it fits this one beautifully, though.

My characters, Gilly and Christian, brought equally large parts baggage and chemistry to their tale, and wow, does that make for a swift turning of the pages. I also had help from Devlin St. Just, a secondary character whom I know fairly well, but even I gained an insight or two about him in "The Captive."


Then there's the conflict: Gilly won't trust herself to deal with any man who can't govern his violent impulses; Christian is convinced his very sanity, much less his honor, depend on exacting mortal revenge from the man who tormented him.

And best of all, my nemesis, Robert Girard, brought more to the story than an ability to lurk in bushes and snivel. I knew Girard would be my next hero, so I had to walk a line between making Christian's loathing for him credible, and giving Girard some positive qualities. In a villain, self-loathing can be a very positive quality. 

Finally, something about this story wanted me to tell it. I'm personally against violence as a problem solving tactic, and yet... playing nice-nice with Hitler wouldn't have gotten the job done, would it? You're being abused by the people who are supposed to protect you and nobody will help you--maybe it's time to fight back. Or do you become like the  abuser when you resort to violence? I can't always find an answer to that question that I'm confident in, but my character found their answers to their questions.

So a piece of my soul got tangled up in this story, and that's apparently a good thing.

I will always think of this book--and The Captive Hearts trilogy--as my best serving of Swiss cheese, and I do love me a good Swiss cheese. When did your seventeen pieces of Swiss cheese line up just right, and put you in the cat bird seat? To five commenters, I'll send signed copies of "The Captive."

90 comments:

  1. CONGRATULATIONS on another best seller! You are truly a master of the written word, Miz Grace.
    I'd have to say the cheese all lined up for me more than 40 years ago when Mr. B stepped into my life. Then again 17 years ago when I got my first "call"...and this week when the WIP started to fall into lovely place. I love it when that happens.

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    1. A hat trick of excellent cheese, Madam Author! And doesn't it seem like when you have those experiences of a hunch paying off, hard work paying off, determination paying off, that the cheese gets in the habit of lining up more often?

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  2. I love Swiss cheese, too, love the holes with all the yummieness around them. The lining up of all the pieces of cheese happened in the year 2004. Had met hubby in 2001, got married to him in 2003, put all the paperwork together for my move to Australia in the years 2002 to 2004 and then it happened. The boss sacked me, I got my visa, the trial at the tribunal ended with the boss paying me out and I paid with that payment the transport company for getting my stuff down under. I thought that everything turned out well then. Still have to smile when I think of those days. Next year I will have my 10th anniversary living in beautiful Australia for 10 years with my hubby. Best move I've ever made.

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    1. The universe has ways of putting resources where they're most needed. Both times I was laid off, I ended up in MUCH better positions, though there were some scary months in between, and I still get spooked from time to time.

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  3. Sounds wonderful Grace! Any book with Devlin St. Just in it anywhere sounds divine!!!
    Hmm, 17 pieces of Swiss cheese... I was a trained Registered Nurse once and when I notified my employers that I was pregnant with my first child, I was told there would be no pay/benefits/concessions so I ended up walking away from the profession. When my child was a toddler, I trained as a counsellor and have never looked back :-)

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    1. And isn't that irony for ya: A health care professional doesn't have health care when mother and child need it most. Glad you walked. Nursing is one of hardest professions on the planet.

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  4. Things don't usually line up in my favor, I'm afraid. Question - who is the gentleman in the pic who is portraying Robert Girard?

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  5. My 17 pieces of swiss cheese happened when I met my hubby... It was an "us against the world" thing with all odds against our favor. My family didn't want him for me, he was the local bad boy, his family and my family had a fight, we had a 9 year age difference (I was 19 then) . We had resigned ourselves that we wouldn't get our HEA but we still fought for our love. Now, 6 years later, we are happily married

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    1. Zeee, there's a book in that tale, and one thing about bad boys: They're not afraid to stand alone, they're not afraid to fight. Glad your bad boy didn't have to stand alone AND fight alone.

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  6. I've found the swiss cheese stories are the ones that really stay with you. Probably because life is just as messy and somehow always manages to come full circle, but not always or usually the way you thought it would. If you look back you can see where your choices and the choices of others have lead you to where you are now. So Yay for swiss cheese stories! Mine feel like they're lined up now, ive had a ton of crappy things happen over the years, too much to get into here. But with my Husband, daughter and baby on the way even with all the crappy stuff, I somehow feel whole.

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    1. One of my nieces just told me yesterday that she's expecting her first, and though this gal has a PhD in competence and charm (also English lit), a baby is a whole 'nother level of challenge. I told her what my mom/her sister told me when I was facing motherhood all unexpected: Babies have a way of making everything wonderful. My sister was right, and it was lovely to hand that comfort on to her daughter. Full circle--you're right!

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  7. I'm not especially lucky at things going my way, but not unlucky either. I'm just happy with everything that I have.

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    1. Michele, so in your case, I'll go with... wise for 500. There's a saying about "the harder I work, the luckier I get." I also think that the more you appreciate what you have, right here, right now, the more you HAVE.

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  8. Can't wait to read this book. I am so looking forward to it. I don't know if my swiss cheese will ever align, but I love your stories because they have substance. thanks for sharing your talents.

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    1. Nobody ever said getting the danged cheese to line up with easy! Maybe that's the lesson my characters have to learn?

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  9. I think I've been blessed with many "17 pieces of Swiss cheese" moments. At least tree of them involved job opportunities at times when I desperately needed a change (in both work and life) and the job I really wanted looked unlikely if not impossible to attain. Then all of a sudden, it did happen, bringing many positive changes and life-enriching experiences in the years following the move. If we are using food metaphors, I am hoping that in the big buffet of life, we all get more than one chance for a perfect bite of Swiss cheese.

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    1. Glad the job-fairies waved their wands when you needed them to! And yes, there's Swiss, Harvarti, cambezola, a good sharp cheddar, gouda, smoked gouda... there's probably a word for somebody who loves cheese.

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  10. Congrats on the new book! There have been many times in my life that things have lined up and worked out and vice versa but I have to say the biggest, most important event was meeting my husband and starting our family. It almost didn't happen but thanks to multiple instances of what felt like fate.

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    1. And another great romance needs to be written! I stole my parents "swiss cheese" when I wrote a little Christmas story about a couple separated by her parents. He had a Christmas job working at the post office and saw a letter go by addressed to her at her new location... Thank goodness for Dad's eye for detail!

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  11. PS: I adored the Captive and can't wait for the next two books. When you stop publishing something new every month, I will be very sad. :(

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    1. Anon, you won't need your hankie for nearly a year if all goes well. I will be one busy lady for the duration of that year, though, and then... gonna write us some more books!

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  12. Loved the "Swiss Cheese" story. The one of mine that I can think of happening most recently is when my daughter and son-in-law decided to sell their home in our old hometown and move to Tennessee with our two grandsons. Hubby and I owned two homes and immediately put them up for sale too. Fortunately, the Swiss cheese aligned just right....they sold their home and we sold our two all around the same time. They moved to Tennessee and two weeks later we went to visit them and found a home to buy. Now we live within ten miles of them and get to see our grandsons all the time.

    BTW, this book is second from the top in my TBR queue and can't wait to read.

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    1. Sharon, that has to be some kind of record, for one family to sell three houses boom, boom, boom and THEN to find two houses within ten miles of each other. Well done, Grandma! And Tennessee is beautiful, isn't it?

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  13. The one thing that comes to mind was when I was layed off from work, I went to the unemployment office the same day, went right up to a cork board in the back and found an education, where the last day to sign up was that same day SMH. I got it, =) even if two women at the place tried to make me not apply ( a woman being a network technitian? snicker) but I managed and now I´ve worked eight years at the same place, as operation technitian, and I love it. =) So if I wasn´t layed off that day, where would I be at this moment?
    Love your cover and can´t wait for my chance to read!
    Thanks for the giveaway & Happy Thursday!
    //Linda

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    1. Linda, an ounce of determination can make all the difference. Good for you--and WHAT were those women thinking?!

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    2. I know, right? A bit older ladies, so sure of themselves and not letting me apply at first SMH still makes me sooo angry.
      They shouldn´t work in such a place, trying to guide younger people to a job.
      I´m hoping Karma takes care of them. =)

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  14. Congratulations on the book - I can't wait to read it!!! How many more books are coming out soon or in the works? Have a great day, Grace!

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    1. pianokam, I need to update my website because we have LOTS more in the pipeline, clear into next summer and beyond, but the immediate future is The Traitor (Aug), The Laird (September) and What A Lady Needs for Christmas (October--Scottish Victorian). I'm also joining with Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel, and Miranda Neville on Christmas anthology called, "In the Duke's Arms," and then we start on some contemporary novellas to introduce next year's "Sweetest Kisses" contemporary trilogy, and THEN it's back to the Regency with The Duke's Disaster, and then and then and then....

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  15. Congrats on your newest release. I think the cover is gorgeous!

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    1. I commend your taste in covers, Lori. The entire trilogy was blessed by the Cover Fairies, but this one is my favorite.

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  16. I have never heard the swiss cheese analogy!
    Congratulations on the success already of The Captive!
    Are you planning to put this series out on audio book?

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    1. krazy, the same audio house that did such a lovely job with The MacGregor trilogy is considering this bunch too. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, eyes crossed...

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  17. The cover is beautiful. Can't wait to get my hands on this book!

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    1. Thanks, Tammy! Good luck with the give away.

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  18. Hi Grace,
    That cover is absolutely fabulous! As far as swiss cheese, I absolutely love the stuff. However, I do not think think I am an "all the pieces in order" kind of gal. I am married, with hubs for 20 years, and we have 7 children. Hubs says that we will never have a dull moment because there is always something going on and after the kids are grown, we will have grand-kids to contend with. He is probably right. That said, even if those pieces never line up just right, there can be beauty in chaos if you allow it, don't you think? *wink* Congratulations on the release and one of the best covers I have seen in a while.
    Kendra

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    1. I am one of seven, and yet my daughter is an only child. You think that as a parent of many children, you're living a selfless, tired, busy existence because you love your kids, but the gift is really to the next generation below them. When my parents are gone (ages 93 and 90 at present), I will still have a half dozen siblings to lean on, share memories with, and entrust my daughter to as the years go on. THAT is a gift of tremendous magnitude.

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  19. My Swiss cheese story comes from when my mother was in hospice care, dying, in June, 2001. My sister & I were taking turns staying with her, and it was my turn when I received a call that my middle daughter had broken her leg while at camp. The orthopedist told us that it was so badly swollen that Bekah had to wait several days to have it casted in the hospital under anesthesia. With all these events happening all at the same time, I felt like we were in a hurricane, praying just to have a few minutes inside the eye of the storm to catch our breath.

    Mama passed on Saturday morning, and Monday morning found us at the hospital getting the leg casted. The funeral was scheduled the very next day, and we were also supposed to be leaving on vacation on the next Saturday. Forfeiting our reservation at this late date would cost us almost the entire rental - $3000.

    When the orthopedist came to talk with us while Bekah was in recovery, my dh asked him about the possibility of taking Bekah to the beach, with her being in a cast from hip to toes and in a wheelchair. He told us that as long as she didn't get sand in the cast, she'd be fine.

    When I expressed my concerns about being away from medical care (nearest hospital was 35 minutes away), he asked where we were going. When I said, "St. George Island," he laughed and told us that he was going to be there as well that next week, only five blocks down from where we were staying.

    Talk about Swiss cheese lining up!

    And, yes, we did go on to take our vacation, although it was just not the same, having buried Mama only three days before. <3

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    1. What an odd, mixed up, painful, sweet time. Mama sent you on that vacation though, and even arranged for the doc to be less than a mile away. Glad you went, for you and for your family.

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  20. Congratulations Grace for your new book! This cover is so gorgeous! I would love to win a copy in exchange for a review! Thank you Grace for offering your readers a copy of The Captive!

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    1. Nicole, the offer of a review is appreciated, but you've already WON a copy in the Fab 5 giveaway last week. Now that I don't have any immediate deadlines looming, I will get that copy TO YOU!

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  21. I loved THE CAPTIVE, although it hurt my heart more than once. So glad when these two found each other. And the TITLE, oh, so fitting, along with that fabulous cover.

    I think that when I met my husband and we were both ready for each other. He's not my first husband, but then, we weren't ready for each other the first time I married. When we met, things just fell in place. I was divorced, he had a good friend who was divorced, who made him believe that divorcees were NOT Jezebel's, lol...so he was ready for me, too!

    Thanks, so much, for sharing your words with us.

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    1. Kathie, I love that cover more the longer I study it. Is she imprisoning him by grasping his wrist? Is he imprisoning her with his hand at her back? Are they Captives or are they CAPTIVATED? That image is the entire book in a single visual instant. Jon Paul's a genius, plain and simple.

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  22. I love that you are going to turn your villain into a hero in your next book. Very clever. It would be a very hard line to walk as you don't want readers to hate him in one book and love him in the next! I cant wait to read it!

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    1. April, I think there are some readers who've already written old Girard off, but our modern sensibilities regarding torture weren't shared back in the day. Spies were dishonorable vermin, held in contempt on all sides. All sides also agreed that if the prospect of capture was awful, soldiers would fight harder to avoid it. Very strange outlook from our point of view. I'm wishing Girard luck and hoping he and Milly can top Christian and Gilly's performance.

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  23. Love the beautiful cover! I can't wait to read the story. I don't personally like Swiss cheese, but it makes for good analogies! lol

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    1. I honestly prefer Jarlsburg to Swiss--it's milder, less abrasive, has a lower melting temperature. My dad would say the proteins haven't quite turned, but we don't need to know that when we're making our sandwiches, do we?

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  24. Congrats on the release of The Captive & all the rave reviews it's garnering. I've never had Swiss cheese before - we're not big cheese eaters where I live. I guess I'm lucky in a way that my life has been rather uneventful. No big Swiss cheese aligning moments.

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    1. Ah, but those moments can align serendipitously too! Now you have me wondering where in the world people aren't fanatical about good cheese?

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  25. That is a gorgeous cover! I hadn't ever thought of Swiss Cheese that way before. I've often thought that things happen as they were meant to, tho we often can't see it as things are happening, but sometimes looking back it seems more obvious.

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    1. One of the exercises that characterizes competent management is the "near miss analysis." Most of us hear of occasions when disaster ALMOST strikes, the newspaper almost doesn't get out, the surgeon almost cuts on the wrong side, the kid almost got lost at the mall. A near miss analysis looks at all the safety features that have fail, in succession or simultaneously, the back up features that have to fail, the checks and balances that ALSO have to fail, and tries to make the process fail safe. The Swiss cheese analogy comes from that environment. Under what circumstances would every check, precaution, safety net, guard rail, and dead bolt give to allow a disaster to occur? Not a cheery speculation, is it?

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  26. Grace, I having always enjoyed reading your stories and look forward to this one as well...Swiss cheese, there are a lot of holes in this cheese isn't there? That's how I feel sometimes, when things go a certain way I now it's because of God's Grace and His Blessings but, a times I sure mess things up...thus the holes.

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    1. The nuns used to tell us, "you never know when you're winning," meaning what feels like bad luck can often turn out for the best. Both times I was laid off--new single mom, new mortgage, new house moving bills--it turned out for the best.

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  27. I've never heard that term before. Jon Paul has the best covers in the world and I love yours and very much looking forward to your story (all your stories). I have to say when I had my two healthy, wonderful daughters. So is that 34 pieces of cheese lol.

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    1. Lemme see... then my mom had... 119 pieces of swiss cheese lining up just right. I like that!

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  28. Bless with family and friends, so I always feel good about my cheese.lol

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    1. And they probably feel the same way about you!

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  29. Congratulations! You are great at what you do, you deserve it!

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    1. Jody, thank you. I do work a lot at sharpening craft, but mostly, I am just plain happy when I'm writing. I hope that shows in the results, and that the readers get some happy too.

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  30. Swiss. My first choice in cheese. Always. The pieces lined up right for me 36 years ago this very month when I met my future husband in a job interview. [I had just left my abusive 1st husband] This Nov we celebrate 35 wedded years and we're now retired and still HAPPY!

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    1. Come along, grow old with me. The best is yet to be... lovely, lovely lines. Glad you had the gumption to ditch the bum and trade up. Many of us take way too long to make that leap.

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  31. I don't believe that my "Swiss Cheese" has ever lined up just right, but I'm eagerly awaiting the day!

    Your cover for The Captive is so beautiful, Jon Paul Studios work is always brilliant!

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    1. Well, then, here's to pieces number sixteen and seventeen properly arranging themselves in the VERY near future (and yes, Jon Paul Studios does the BEST work, and JP is soon to unveil a new website...!)

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  32. I loved the book.

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    1. THOSE are an author's four favorite words!

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  33. My Swiss cheese moment happened when my twin daughters were born. My doctor did not know that I was carrying twins and when the first baby was born everyone in delivery room was sure something was wrong because she was so tiny, but nothing was wrong just another baby. Everyone was fine just little.

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    1. My mom had a similar experience, but the doc began to suspect when his petite patient grew enormously pregnant in the last few weeks. He didn't share his suspicions lest he upset the lady. She delivered brother John, and Dr. Helpful said, "Keep pushing, Mrs. Burrowes. You're still in labor." THAT'S how she found out she was bringing home not one baby but two. Fortunately, nearly seventy years ago, you got to stay in the hospital ten days after a birth, if you were so inclined.

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  34. can't think of anything

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by anyway, bn100. We worry about you when you're too quiet.

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  35. I love your books! Congrats on the newest release :-)

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    1. Thanks, Venus, and be sure to pick up The Traitor next month, and The Laird in September. I blush to admit I'm very pleased with the entire trilogy.

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  36. I'm grateful that most of the time, the unlikely occurrence of bad things stacking up has led to situations which are bad, but overall harmless. The kinds of things I end up laughing about later on.

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    1. In the horse show world, we'd screw up all weekend long on the show management end. We'd order too few golf carts and forget to charge them, so the volunteers tooled around in our pick ups all weekend. We'd order too much lunch and end up giving away left overs in the show office. We'd come up short in the ribbon count and have to paw through the storage shed for extras half way through the weekend. Our rule of thumb became: Did the boo-boo become apparent to the competitors or affect the horses? If not, it's only a boo-boo. The show must go on, and we'll do better next time. Not a job for perfectionists!

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  37. I was feeling pretty lucky 10 years ago when I decided to sell my California townhouse and realized I could get over 3 times what I paid for it. I was able to sell it and buy a house with a pool in Florida for cash. I bought the townhouse at just the right time, when prices were really low, and I cashed out when they were at their highest. I'm no expert, so it just turned out that I played the market just right. :D

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    1. And you bought in the right location, thanks to Proposition Thirteen. My parents own a house in San Diego, and have benefited from the same cap on property taxes. Glad the real estate game worked out for you, Barbara. Who doesn't want to know somebody in Florida with a pool--especially long about January?

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  38. I feel like things are usually pretty good for me. I am happy where I am at in life right now

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    1. How many hordes and scads and bazillions of people don't have the wisdom (or circumstances) that allow them to say they're happy where they are in life right now. Good on you, Sheryl!

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  39. I'd have to say everything lined up perfectly when I was deciding which college to go to.. it all started with a visit and went from there :-)

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    1. I had the same sort of experience when I was ten, Krysten, not with a college, but with a piano teacher. I had it in my head I would teach myself how to play, and that plan wasn't exactly getting me dates at Carnegie Hall. My sister's piano teacher brought her home from a lesson one day as a courtesy, and I met Mrs. Rossi. She was short, loud, bold, fun and an excellent teacher. Until I met her, nobody was going to teach me how to play piano, but from Mrs. Rossi, I was happy to take lessons.

      And that has made all the difference, to quote Robert Frost.

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  40. The Captive sounds wonderful, and the cover? Just gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks, Merrissa! The back stories aren't cheerful, but then, backstories seldom are. I went out of my way to make many of the settings beautiful, sunlit, flowery, and soothing, because those characters had been through enough!

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  41. My cheese story is I found love again. After a disastrous first marriage and not wanting to do that again. I was content to be a mom and being with my family. Lordly. He was in military and pursuit me. I have been happy ever since. He is a great dad. Supportive and helped to take care of my grandmother and be my partner. I could not ask for anything more. My life is not perfect, but happy.

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    1. Celvia, don't you think perfect would be boring? I'm not even sure what perfect would look like, or how it would improve on all the joy I have right before me.

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  42. That's a saying I haven't heard before. I can't really think of anything at the moment that fits it, though.
    jmcgaugh (at) semo (dot) edu

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    1. Another saying I heard several times in Scotland that stuck with me: He's punching well above his weight. I know nothing about boxing, but I get that. Exceeding expectations, pulling more than his share of the load, outclassing his peers. I kinda like that phrase, though it's violent.

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  43. when we wanted to buy a new house and had to stay within a certain budget, the house "fell" into our hands. last one in the neighborhood, selling below the resale market at the time--still worth more, too! old house sold quickly, all the stars, er swiss cheese aligned.

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    1. When the real estate gods smile on you twice, you are blessed indeed. Then there are other folks, who have double disasters--can't sell the old house, the new one isn't ready on time... Moving is the next most stressful life change after death of a loved one, and I've wondered how much of that is simply the real estate juggling.

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  44. My children didn't need me to be the stay at home mom anymore. This was several years back and I felt a little lost not being needed in the same way but knowing I had to be near enough in case of an emergency or oversight by the kids on something. So I walked in and interviewed at a nearby business that had advertised a position. They took a chance on me though I didn't have references having been a homemaker for over a decade and a half. Then my husband couldn't find a job...we had moved from afar. The economy took a dive and everyone tightened their belts, etc. I became the sole breadwinner under unusual, unexpected and difficult circumstances. My employer apparently felt that my skills were not being used to the full and was seemingly impressed with my even temper in the face of personal and professional issues. They promoted me and the entire situation gave me a boost of confidence I had not had before. It also helped us as a family to hold on until my beloved found work.

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    1. Quite a story, and reflective of the entire recent recession. Women were not as unemployed as men, and while some of that was because women aren't in the executive jobs as much as men, another part of the statistic is explained by the fact that women will take a job--any job--to help make ends meet. They don't hold out for that career track position, put salary minimums on a subsistence job, or wait for something that exactly matches their skills. Women, in other words, are more flexible and adaptable in the work place... just like YOU! And thank heavens you were!

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  45. And the winners are: Zeee, Linda, Merri, Gretchen and bn100. Please email me with your snail mail address at: graceburrowes@yahoo.com and tell me whom you'd like the book signed. Thanks to everybody for your comments--you folks lead interesting and intrepid lives!

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    1. *yay* =D Thank you!
      Happy Monday!
      //Linda

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