Road Kill: No Jury Would Convict Me

Dear MDOT (also known as Michigan Department of Transportation—or, in some (many) circles, Michigan Department of Torture),

On any given day, my feelings for you are little more than a basic dislike. Sort of like the way I feel about that first mosquito of the evening in the summer, the one that’s warning me that I’ve got about ten seconds to take cover, because I’m about to be eaten alive by its brethren. What’s really annoying about that damn mosquito is that gorgeous summer nights in Michigan are rare, and we are reluctant to give them up, even for blood-sucking mosquitoes. Bring on the DEET.

If only there was MDOT DEET.

You see, right about late April, that general annoyance turns into hardcore, absolute loathing. As the orange construction barrels come out and my commute grows longer and longer and LONGER, I run out of ways to occupy my time while I SIT IN TRAFFIC. And since it’s frowned upon to scroll Facebook while you’re on the road, even when you’re practically parked in the middle of the street, I tend to start daydreaming. And since you are first and foremost in my thoughts these days, I’ve begun to imagine what MDOT employees’ lives are like.

I imagine what it’s like to work for a state-funded road construction company in January, in the Midwest. On a frigid day where the sky is a gorgeous shade of blue, unobstructed by a single cloud. It hasn’t snowed in a few, so the roads are clear, dry even. And there’s no precipitation in the forecast for at least thirty-six hours. No need to call in the salt truck and snowplow drivers, no need to replenish the supplies. So you have nothing but time on your hands…

“Hey, Joe, let’s play that Game of Thrones game.”

Joe jerks out of his snooze, the front legs of his chair hitting the linoleum floor with a thwack. “What the hell you talking about, Frank?” he demands while rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

“You know, where we look at the map and decide where to set up construction next spring. And our goal is to fuck up as many commuters as humanly possible. Remember when we came up with that seventeen-year I-75 project?” Frank’s bobbing his head, practically panting like an eager puppy, ready to play fetch.

“Yeah, that was pretty genius,” Joe says with a chuckle, as he recalls last winter, when they played this same game. “Okay, okay, let’s play. Who gets to go first?”

“Here’s a piece of paper. Whoever can draw the most convoluted detour route wins. Ready? Go!”

“Shit, I always suck at this part.” Joe shakes his head as he stares at his drawing. “Look, I took drivers a really direct way around the construction. No closed roads or anything. Man, I need more training.”

“Let’s see if we can fix that. Here, take these darts. Now, let me set up this dartboard. What’s that look like to you?”

Joe lifts his hand and points at his palm, at the base of his thumb. “Southeast Michigan.”

“Yep. And see this road?” Frank waves his finger up and down, indicating north-to-south.

“Yeah. That’s M5. Isn’t that a fairly new road? We aren’t planning construction already, are we?”

“Oh, hell yes we are. Not just construction, but we’re closing the fucking road. Those commuters are getting way too comfortable. We need to shake things up a bit. Now, how good a dart player are you?”

Joe grins and smacks his chest. “Pretty decent, actually. I’ve won my family’s annual tournament seven years’ running now.”

“Excellent. Here. See how many roads near M5 you can hit. For every one you get, we’ll shut it down for approximately the same time we expect the construction on M5 to take. Bonus if they’re north-south routes, like M5.”

Joe whistles. “Damn, you’re cold-hearted, Frank.”

With a wicked grin, Frank says, “That’s why I work for MDOT, Joe.”

 

Disclaimer: I’m sure MDOT employees are lovely people who do not throw darts to determine which roads they should close or repave. Heck, they may even read romance novels. This is simply the mental meanderings of an author stuck in rush hour traffic…again.

 

Living With Grief

It’s Sunday morning. I’m stretched out on the couch wearing comfy pajamas, a super soft fleece blanket draped over my legs. It’s dark outside, a rainy, overcast day. There’s no one else awake at the moment. I’m trying to write a book, but every time I glance up from the laptop, my gaze focuses on a family pic, one that includes my son.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve felt the waves of grief crashing over me. Admittedly, it’s been nice. Grieving is exhausting and if I’m really being honest here, I’m kind of sick of doing it. I’m not foolish; I know it will never go away, but I do welcome that time when it doesn’t encompass my life, when it isn’t a major player in every moment of every day. That will happen at some point, won’t it?

It’s coming again, though. I can feel it. That lurch in my chest on Saturday as I dusted the mantel, over which a gorgeous black and white pic of my two children hangs. I think they were five and two or maybe six and three in that picture. Her arms are thrown around his shoulders and they’re both smiling, so obviously happy. Like at that moment, they knew they had their whole lives ahead of them–together–and in general, it was gonna be positive. It’s amazing how swiftly such an outlook can change, isn’t it?

My daughter is starting to talk about her brother with more frequency lately. I know this is good, because I know she’s still grieving too, and she’s struggling to figure out how to get on in this world in a capacity she never, ever expected: as an only child. I know she’d sure as hell rather not have that status. Besides wanting her brother back, she doesn’t like having all the attention focused on her, plus I know she feels this new sense of obligation to be “good” for the sake of her parents’ sanity. So not fair to her. To any of us.

But it’s hard, so very hard. I’m not there yet; I can’t talk about the good times, the memories. I can’t look at the pictures for more than a moment.

Two of my nieces spent the night this weekend, and I pulled out his bike so they could all go bike riding. Just cleaning it up; greasing the chain, putting air in the tires, wiping off the dusty seat was hard, because it makes me remember. His birthday, when we gave him that bike. His surprise and elation; it hadn’t been what he was expecting, but he’d been thrilled. We’d nailed the birthday gift that year.

And now we have an extra bike taking up space on the back porch.

Even though one of my nieces is the tallest and therefore would have been most comfortable on his bike, my daughter claimed it as her own. She does that; what’s his is now hers, and she’s not really interested in sharing. I get it, although I’m not like that. I’ve been more inclined to throw things away—because what the hell am I going to do with them?—whereas she collects mementos, physical reminders of the memories. I don’t begrudge her this, nor was I about to suggest she let the taller girl ride his bike. Those seats adjust, and mine worked just as well for my niece.

And then they were off, riding up and down the street, armed with sweatshirts to protect them against the slight nip in the spring air. Enjoying themselves, the comradery. Life. The way kids should.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, writes blogs, and occasionally sends cool newsletters. Signup here: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

Redefining “Normal”

Since March, I have consistently referred to my life as “our new normal.” We were forced to learn to live in a world without my son in it. We abruptly changed from a family of four to a family of three. To having a son and daughter to only a daughter. My daughter went from being the youngest to the only child. From hiding in her brother’s shadow to being thrust into the spotlight. The center of attention; a position she had mostly attempted to avoid for the first ten years of her life.

So much has changed. We had to figure out babysitting for the summer. We decided to move her to a different school, in an attempt to shield her from students who knew my son and for no other reason other than curiosity would want her to relive that day, that period of her life. The catalyst to all this change.

The house stays cleaner, the laundry piles less. Our grocery bill is smaller. Our snack drawer is leaner. Our go-to meals have changed, as my daughter isn’t as big a fan of homemade tacos and Frito pie as her brother was. There’s no more arguing over pizza night. It’s Hawaiian, end of story. Unless you want to add boneless wings.

On the weekends, I now have the house to myself (well, the dog and I) for hours and hours in the mornings, whereas Brady, like me, was an early riser.

The sounds of bickering are rare in our house these days. There is no clamoring for the front seat anymore. Car trips are easy. Airplane trips are financially feasible. Choosing a restaurant, no debate. Family time is pretty much whatever my daughter wants it to be.

It’s so different from five months ago, yet it’s now… normal.

Today, someone else pointed out her normal. Her son has seizures. They never know when they’re coming or how severe they’ll be. They leave her son exhausted and her emotionally drained. “But it is part of our normal and we are trying hard to go about that normal,” she told me.

And then I thought about another friend whose son has a severe peanut allergy. It’s “normal” for him to read food labels, everywhere, no matter what or where he is. He’s eleven.

Then there’s the friend who is in her twenties, whose mother was her best friend, and she recently lost that best friend to cancer. Her new normal is living without her best friend—and growing her relationship with her dad.

One of my daughter’s friends is being raised by her grandparents. If you ask her, her life is pretty darn “normal.”

Another friend has MS, was diagnosed only a few years ago. When the disease wears her out, she gets annoyed, but otherwise, life is just… normal.

Just like the rest of us. Sort of skews your definition of the word, doesn’t it?

 

Tea and Tissues and Middle School

When my children started kindergarten, the principal of their elementary school hosted an event called “Tea and Tissues.” Each year on the first day of school, parents of kindergarteners dropped their kids in their classroom and then made their way to the library, where the principal had coffee and tea and cookies and tiny packages of tissues waiting. She would greet the parents, joke about how hard the first day of school was, and reassure us she would take excellent care of our babies. She then read a book to us, something along the lines of parents letting their children fly free, I think, and then she sent us on our merry way, tears dried, emotions in check, comfortable in the knowledge that even though they were now in someone else’s care, they would be fine, likely blossom even.

I wish middle school had “Tea and Tissues.”

Today is the day. Monday, August 22, 2016. My daughter’s first day of school. First day of middle school. First day at a new school, in a new school system. First time she’s gone back to school before Labor Day. First time she’s gone back… alone. As the only one. First time she’s been the first to experience something.

That’s a lot of firsts. And I’m a hot mess because of it.

Will she like her new school? Will the other kids like her? Will she make new friends? Will she find her classrooms? Will someone help her figure things out? Will she remember she has lunch money in her backpack? Is her uniform correct? Did we buy the right shoes? The right supplies? Did will complete the mounds of paperwork correctly?

Will any of these kids, these new classmates know what happened back in March? Will they remind her, ask her about it? This is what we are trying to avoid by sending her to a new school.

Almost as bad, though, will they have no idea and say unintentionally hurtful things, about suicide, brothers, life?

I dropped her off this morning, both of us nervous, but her fairing much better than me. After she waved and walked into the gym to join her classmates for the first assembly of the year, I walked out to my car and sat in the parking lot and cried. Luckily, I’d parked far out, so there wasn’t much foot traffic, many people to give me curious looks. Although few of these people know me yet, so perhaps they assumed my child was a kindergartener, and I was sending her off to school for the first time ever.

Now I’m back home, and it’s time to start the workday. There is nothing I can do for the next seven hours except worry. And wait. I won’t know anything until two-thirty this afternoon, when I pick her up from her first day of middle school.

I think I need some tea. And more tissues.

 

What’s The Right Answer?

“How many kids do you have?”

This is the latest dilemma my husband and I have had to figure out. What’s the right answer?

“One here, one in heaven.”

“Two.”

“One.”

What the hell do we say?

That first choice up there would obviously spur a litany of questions none of us wants to deal with—not me, not my husband, not the complete stranger who was just being polite and will probably never see us again. The second choice could cause some awkwardness, too. Take, for example, the recent situation my husband encountered.

You see, he likes to play golf. We live down the street from an easy, inexpensive, nine-hole course. So come springtime, after work, he tries to grab nine holes, at least once or twice a week.

Last week, on a particularly lovely Thursday evening, he took off to play, alone. There were three guys in front of him, reasonable golfers, but there were three of them and they were enjoying themselves, so no matter how poorly he played any particular hole, my husband kept catching up to them. And the single guy behind him kept catching up to him.

While waiting for the group in front, my husband watched the guy behind him make a poor shot. He could tell exactly what was wrong, so he told the guy. Fast-forward to the next hole, and the guy’s shot improved. While they were yet again waiting for the threesome in front of them, my husband said, “My son and I used to take lessons, every other week. My son was doing the same thing you were, and the coach corrected him, told him what I suggested to you.”

“Oh,” said the other golfer. “How old is your son?”

“He was thirteen.”

The guy nodded, totally missed the past tense verb (because who’s expecting that??), and said, “How come he isn’t playing with you tonight?”

My husband paused, couldn’t think of anything else to say, so said, “He passed away, back in March.”

And then they both felt uncomfortable. Because no one wants to hear that, no one wants to say that, and no one has a clue how to recover from such a conversation.

And yet, saying, “I have one kid and one kid only” doesn’t really work either. Because we had two. For the last ten (almost eleven) years, we had two. In fact, it’s still automatic to want to say, “Two.” I don’t know when—if ever—that instinct will go away. And as people constantly remind us, we still do have two. It’s just that one is in heaven now.

It feels uncomfortable leaving him out of conversations, because that feels like leaving him out of our lives. And as much as it hurts either way, he was very much a part of our lives, at least for thirteen years.

So what’s the right answer? I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on the conversation, although, like the conversation my husband had with a fellow golfer, it’s still bound to get awkward. Because let’s face it: being the parent of a dead child spurs a plethora of emotions and feelings, very much including…awkward.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and writer of blog posts that are somehow helping her cope with the grief of losing a child. When she isn’t blogging about–and dealing with–real life, she likes to write happily ever afters, one book at a time.

Intro-Extrovert… I’m So Damn Confused

I just want a minute to myself… Okay, not really.

For those of you who don’t know, my life inexplicably changed about six weeks ago, when my thirteen-year-old son died. Yeah, it sucked. It still does.

Not that I’ve had time to wallow in that fact. Save for those precious moments in the bathroom and my stupid-long commute to the day job, I haven’t had a minute to myself since the day it happened…Wait, I forgot about the mornings. Used to be, my son and I got up at the same time and left the house at the same time each day. Now, I’m the first up and I’m walking out the door just as my husband and daughter are dragging their tired not-morning-people butts out of bed.

Also used to be, I treasured my alone time. Liked it. Craved it. I was one of those intro and extroverted people. Give me a crowd, and I’ll do my damndest to make them laugh. Give me a few hours all to myself, and I’ll get lost in the plot of my latest book and wish I could never, ever leave.

Now, I hardly know what it’s like to get lost in a book, whether reading or writing. My friends and family won’t let me. Everybody’s afraid to leave me alone. Or maybe that’s my perception. Maybe they genuinely are concerned. Really, though, I know they all just want to help, however they can. And nobody knows how to help, because who the hell plans for something like this? So everybody figures they need to keep me occupied so I won’t think about it.

And they’re right. And I love them for it. I appreciate it, too. I am amazed by the number of (already strong) friendships that have somehow managed to strengthen in the wake of the life-altering disaster my life became a few weeks ago.

But that introvert is still in there, too. And she’s desperate to get lost in a book. One she wrote—or is almost done writing—would be nice, because I’m about due to schedule another release. I don’t like to keep readers waiting too long between books.

Or, hell, reading a book would be nice, too. Cover to cover. Entirely immersed. So hooked I can completely and utterly forget about the real world for a few hours.

I just need to make sure it has a happy ending. Because I need a few of those right now.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and is trying really hard to write blog posts that contain a touch of humor.

Why Shapeshifters?

Here’s a question: why shifters? I now have two series centered around shifters – the Twisted Fate Series (Of Love and Darkness was released in June, 2015, and Prim and Proper Fate will be released in 2016, followed by the final book in the series, in 2017) and the Lightbearer Series. Twisted Fate is entirely about shifters, while Lightbearer was supposed to be about magical beings called, well, Lightbearers. Yet when I threw shifters into the mix in that series, it became about them. How did that happen?

Lightbearers-January2016

The answer is simple: shifters are one of my favorite genres to read. So not coincidentally, I also happen to enjoy writing about them. They are sexy, strong, powerful, hot, did I mention sexy? In my reasonably extensive research, I have learned a few things about these seductive alpha beings.

I’ve learned they all have one thing in common. All shape shifters have the ability to change from human form into…something else. And that, as far as I have been able to determine, is the single aspect that defines every shifter in every book I’ve ever read or written. Beyond that, well, every author interprets them a little differently. Which is the way it should be, right? We’re talking magic, and magic is defined by the imagination of the person writing it – and reading it.

Some shifters can only change into the form of one animal. These are typically referred to as were-animals (werewolves, were-bearers, were- you get the picture). Others are able to shift into pretty much any animal, or, as I like to explain in my books, the form of any warm-blooded creature. The shifters in my Lightbearer Series can even shift into the form of birds, if they are so inclined. This comes in handy when one wants to escape rapidly and he’s on the second floor or at the top of a cliff (both situations occur in the first book in this series).

Many shifters’ clothing cannot shift with them. The clothing is either shed before the shift or, if the shift must occur with little notice, the clothing is torn to shreds when the body changes and alters, and the shifter must figure out another means of covering his naughty bits when he returns to human form.

The shifters in my books can shift while wearing clothing, and when they return to human form, their clothing returns to their body exactly as it was before the shift. I admit, I made this decision out of convenience. I considering the no-clothing route because, let’s be honest, that makes more sense, from a non-magical standpoint. But I was having a difficult time writing the whole, “Hold on, I have to strip and hide my clothing for later” aspect into the various scenes and plots and sub-plots of the series. So I decided if magic can make a person change from human to animal, then magic can make that person’s clothes reappear when they return to human form.

Some shifters have the ability to speak to each other telepathically. Some are able to harness other forms of magic, too. Some have glowing eyes. In my Lightbearer series, the shifters’ eyes glow when they are feeling strong emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, passion. Even if the shifter is trying to act stoic and passive, the object of his desire, if she is smart enough, can figure out pretty easily that he feels something, if his eyes are glowing. It’s practically a declaration of love.

Or lust.

Some shifters eat only red meat. Actually, the desire to eat red meat might possibly qualify as the second thing all shifters have in common, now that I think about it. Or maybe not. A vegetarian shifter could make for an intriguing storyline.

Many shifters have obsessive, jealous personalities. Like a dog, protecting his bone. Or his house. Or his mate. My shifters have this trait. In fact, it plays heavily into the next couple of books in the Lightbearer Series.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few common traits. What other traits do you notice in your favorite books about shifters or weres? Which common traits are your favorite?

Have you been enjoying these posts? Be sure to check my website often, because I’m sure I’ll have more for you soon!

Oh yeah, and if you haven’t yet, you should check out my Facebook group, Come Wine with Tami. It’s all about hanging out and getting to know (new) favorite authors. Once a month, we have a featured author Q&A, too. Don’t miss it!

Come Wine With Tami Lund-2

 

 

Blogging About Favorite Shifters

I haven’t been blogging regularly lately, at least not here, on my own blog. Mostly that’s because I’m blogging in other places. Once a month (usually on a Friday) you can find me over at the Writing Wenches website. Every two or three months on a Wednesday, you can read my words on the Soul Mates Publishing blog. And every other Wednesday, I’m hanging out at the Love, Lust, and Laptops blog. And in between all that blogging, I’m always in the middle of writing another book. Or several.

So here’s what I’m going to do with this blog. I (virtually) hang out with a bunch of pretty cool authors who write, among other topics, shifters. And as we all know readers of shifter romance are a voracious bunch, I decided I’m going to give you a pretty regular dose of blog posts from fellow shifter authors. Might even happen a few times a week.

For example, today I’d like to direct you to a blog post by a fellow shifter author who also happens to be a Writing Wench. So you know it’s gonna be good.

Take a look at Skye Jones’s post about her favorite shifters. You know you want to.

My Favorite Shifters by Skye Jones 

SJones-ClaimedbyLove-Cover

And check back soon. There’s bound to be another post by another author, and probably about shifters.

Oh yeah, and if you like this concept (learning about all sorts of new authors), you should check out my Facebook group, Come Wine with Tami. It’s all about hanging out and getting to know (new) favorite authors. Once a month, we have a featured author Q&A, too. Don’t miss it!

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