My Critique Partners

Thought I'd introduce you to my critique partners, the Cowtown Critiquers. We are all part of the North Texas RWA chapter where we all met. We send our chapters back and forth through email whenever we need help. We're pretty relaxed as far as scheduling goes, although we started out with deadlines to turn stuff in, but that kind of fell and got scattered along the well-intentions trail.

We meet in person once a month after our RWA meeting. You'll usually find us at a Cotton Patch in Colleyville around a table laughing and talking and the waitresses there are so sweet, they never make us feel like we've overstayed our welcome even when we've been there for hours and ordered nothing but dessert and something to drink.

I love hanging out with these gals and brainstorming. I come back from our sessions pumped up with creativity and jazzed to get back into writing. It's amazing how a table full of creative people can uplift your own creative energies.

So on with the introductions: This is Chrissy. She's the baby of the group, both in age and in when she joined RWA and really got serious with her writing journey. She's such a hard worker though and in a relatively short time, her writing went from "needs a bit of work" to "amazing". She has a stubborn protective streak when it comes to her characters. In a brainstorming session if we suggest putting her characters in harmful situations, I can see her mentally shift in front of her characters with the stance of a protective mama bear: "Oh, no, you aren't putting my characters through that." It's rather amusing and very cute. But then after she takes a moment to process, she'll go ahead and put her beloved hero and heroine through as much hell as the rest of us do to ours anyway. Somebody has to suffer for literary greatness, right?

This is Jen and Gina. Two of the most amazing generous, get-the-job-done people I know. Actually I can say the same about Chrissy and Michelle. All my critique partners are hard-working generous people, who end up volunteering to do a lot of things that benefit others for our chapter. 
Jen is our grammatical go-to goddess. Once my writing has passed through her fine-tooth comb, I know it's in a fairly stable shape.  It won't need life-support at any rate. Her writing tends to hone in on characters going through periods of growth and self-realization. Strong people becoming stronger. Much like Jen herself. Out of all of us, I sometimes think she doesn't see how good of a writer she really is. 

And Gina is so calm and able to focus on a story-line as a whole, seeing the big picture and what the characters need to go through in order to have their happily-ever-after. Even when she speaks, she has that peaceful lulling kind of quality in her voice. She's a tinkerer though, always finding a new scene that could be added to make a story better. I'll bet if she could, she'd go back and tinker with her books that are already published.   

This is Michelle. She's a go-getter, knows exactly what she wants out of a writing career, and isn't afraid to go out and grab the bull by the horns to get it. She writes the most genuinely true-to-life character interaction scenes I've ever read. The characters might be doing something mundane and simple, yet I'm hanging on every word, every movement. 

So, that's them, my critique partners, women I treasure as friends and as my first readers who won't let me get lazy or take easy short-cuts and keep my writing focused and on track. 
Love 'em. Share the love and check out their sites if you get a chance.   

Riding Around in Cowtown

Pat and I enjoyed lunch at an icon of downtown Fort Worth Joe T Garcia's. As usual, it was packed, but it's deceiving large and windy in there. Wind-ee, as in it winds around.
 Anyhoo, I had the Chimichanga plate. S'good, while Pat and two others each had large Fajitas. Every dang one of us took home a to-go box.
We took lots of pictures of the beautiful courtyard since no one was out there due to the possible rain. You'd think we were all tourists and not native Texans. Oh, okay, I give, I was the only non-born-here foreigner in the group, but I've lived here my entire adult live, married a native and birthed native Texans~~so there.

Then on our drive home I went totally tourist and snapped some shots from the car of Fort Worth's main street. Yes, the very street they once drove cattle herds down through to the slaughterhouse. My mother-in-law told me that when she was a little girl you couldn't get within a few miles without smelling the awful stink. 
The Stock Show is about to begin so peeps are already hanging out in cowtown.

Old split steps I thought were cool.  

 Cowtown Colosseum where the rodeo will take place. 

 Exchange Street

 Yep, that's a live longhorn. For 5 buckeroos, he'd let us sit on him, but the thrill of climbing up onto a longhorn didn't outweigh my laziness of not wanting to park and get out of the car. Just sayin.
 This is over by where the gutted remains of the slaughterhouses are. For all I know, this could be part of those old facilities. Looks cool though.  And below is an old factory that caught my fancy so I snapped a shot off.

Dead Running Giveaway

Dead Running

Cassidy Christensen is running.
Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.
Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.
Running from painful
memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.

With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she'll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them?
When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.

Dying to Run

Cassidy Christensen wants to run.

Captured by the traffickers who killed her mother, her only hope is Dr. Tattoo, a man she loves but nobody trusts. When she finally gets a chance to run, someone else she cares about is taken. Running might be her only chance at survival, but she won’t
allow another family member to be killed in her place.

This must-read sequel to Dead Running will have you laughing, biting your nails, and hoping for more.


Author Cami Checketts

Cami Checketts is married and the proud mother of four future WWF champions. Sometimes between being a human horse, cleaning up magic potions, and reading Bernstein Bears, she gets the chance to write fiction.

Cami graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Exercise Science. Cami teaches strength training classes at her local rec and shares healthy living tips on her fitness blog:

Cami and her family live in the beautiful Cache Valley of Northern Utah. During the two months of the year it isn't snowing, she enjoys swimming, biking, running, and water-skiing.


Website</ a> * Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Fitness Blog

#BookBlast Giveaway


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Happy Birthday Cameron

I've blogged quite a bit about my son Chase who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis two years ago, but I've rarely mentioned our first baby Cameron. He was a week shy of 3 months old when he died, our sweet little redhead, our firstborn, my parents' first grandchild.

He had Otahara's syndrome, an extremely rare--one out of a million cases--disorder of seizures. Our neurologist couldn't say what caused it, just one of those tragic things. I read a gazillion books on seizures, and although some came down to head trauma, most in infants couldn't be explained.

I have my own theories. Cameron had a very difficult labor, the induced contractions were too strong and slammed his head over and over against my pelvic. I had the bruises to prove it and Cameron's head was lopsided and bruised for a few days after birth. No one dared confirm that though, probably didn't want lawsuits brought against my pregnancy doctor (who I never ever went back to).

A week later, Cam had his first seizure, a little facial tick I would never have recognized, but my pediatric nurse sister did. Those seizures turned into grand mals, and well... the tragic part is that it was the seizure medication that took him. He was on a strong one that also took away his immunities...and he caught a cold.

I tried to tell myself that it was a blessing. Three months old and he had no development, couldn't even lift his own head. We were already scheduling therapy sessions, but we knew the multiple seizures had already damaged his brain and he'd never have a normal life. But try telling yourself that is a blessing when you're only in your twenties, your baby is in the cold ground, your breasts are still full of milk, and your arms are empty and you just want him back.  

I knew it was meant to be though. I knew it before he was ever born--that wonderful, sometimes awful mother's intuition. It felt like my entire pregnancy, his entire life, I was holding my breath, waiting for it to all go bad. I also knew that he didn't want to be on earth. I'd look in his eyes and he wasn't there. Not in that ill, low brain function way of not being all there, but his spirit was literally off to better places, too busy to be bothered with the constrains of an earthly body. There was always the sense of urgent business about him, as though his spirit was so consumed with pressing matters on the other side that just coming to earth to fulfill the requirements of gaining a body, was such a bothersome task. I'd look at him thinking, "Come back, Cameron. Just come back for a while and be with me."

Which he finally did. The day before he died. He was all there. I looked in his eyes and saw an intelligence beyond this life while he fully looked back at me. I didn't realize at the time that it was his gift, his good-bye.

We also didn't know that Cystic Fibrosis was looming on the horizon years later and would take another son.

It's funny, but I often imagine free-spirit Chase, finally able to run and play, dragging Cameron away from his serious pursuits and zigging around the spirit world together.  

Happy Birthday, Cam. I love you. Your life was short, but you've never been forgotten.

My Fiftieth Year

photo by thesparechangekitchen
I turn Fifty this year. The big Five-Oh, You're over the hill and rolling down it, When's menopause going to hit? Fifty. FiftyFiftyFifty.

I shouldn't like that so much, but I do. It took a long time--fifty years, ha!--to get here and I have a lot of past that is painful, a lot of things I've had to conquer and get over, and other things to let go or toss aside and move on in spite of. I earned every single one of these years and I feel happy and light and free. Freer than I've ever felt. So what if one of my ear lobes has a wrinkle in it and slopes so that I can't just wear any old pair of earrings because they aren't level? So what if my belly sits on my lap like a frightened old cat? Getting old is part of life. Embrace the great things about it. 

Okay, so I don't really turn Fifty until June, but I'm taking a page from my older sister Bekie. (Notice how I said older?) I have only one sister I get to be the youngest for and she's it. She's always been adventurous and wise beyond her years. When she turned fifty (Because she did it before me), she celebrated the entire year. Even took a European trip on her own for fun. 

While I don't see a European vacation in my immediate future, I've decided that I'm going to do something for myself each month. Something that I haven't taken the time to do either because of finances or not being able to leave my ill child home alone for a long period of time. 

This year I'll be going to the RWA national conference in Atlanta in July. I've wanted to do that for 6 years, but there was never any way possible. 

I'm going to lose weight. Okay, yes, I say this every year, but now I have a diabetes doctor telling me I have to and prescribing some meds to help with my dumb diabetic body wanting to store all the sugar it can. This time I can do it. They've already helped me lose 15 pounds so I just have to stay the course.  Maybe I'll be a new healthy slenderer me by my birthday. Fifty and fabulous. Oh bother, I'm fabulous now. Fat or skinny, I like me. This is for health cuz I have a lot of things I want to do. I also want to buy whatever clothes I want. So I'm doing it for that too.

Speaking of...I'm going to buy clothes this year. I've been Miss Practical and haven't really gotten much for myself the past couple of years. That's changing. My books are selling well (Thank you very much my dear readers--I'm truly grateful) and I can afford to get things for me as well as the kids. Purses, shoes, clothes. Yep, this is my Fiftieth year. I deserve it. 

Have a Sister's Weekend with, well, my sisters. I miss them terribly. 

A Massage. Would you believe I've never had a professional massage? That's almost criminal, isn't it? So that's on the list.

And that's all I can think of for now. I'm sure more things will pop up as I think of them.

So what kinds of things would you treat yourself to?