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Hey! You! Please don't forget to vote!

We do not take our votes for granted in our family–such a privilege people in other countries only dream of having is something not to be wasted. This year our daughter in Australia made certain her ballot was back in plenty of time to be counted. I wrote this four years ago when our son was living off-the-grid high up in the Peruvian Andes. It was quite a task to be sure his vote arrived in time:

            We’ve always taken voting very seriously in our home. No matter what the circumstances, we have ensured that we cast our vote; it’s a right we do not take lightly. And when we had kids, we made it a point to regularly bring them along with us to the polls, with the hopes that they, too, would take this essential right of our democracy seriously. The kids would get to pull the lever or push the button, and wear their “I voted” sticker with pride all day long. Oh, and buy sweets at the inevitable bake sale awaiting us as we exited the polling station (maybe a bigger lure than I’d own up to).

            Having traveled in countries where oppressed people would likely sell their mother for a fair vote, we truly value such a privilege. In fact, we take voting so seriously, you might say we’d go to the ends of the earth to make it happen.

            So when my son departed in September for a year-long adventure, with the likelihood of being off-the-grid for extended periods of time, we had to be creative about trying to get his absentee ballot to him. Little did I know how resourceful we’d have to become…

            When he left, ballots weren’t yet available. Which meant we had to brainstorm how to get something to him, knowing not quite where he’d be, nor when we’d hear from him. We were told mail was unlikely to ever reach him. Okay then….We didn’t hear from our son for several weeks, and finally he hitched a ride to the nearest town (six hours away) and we were able to Facebook message with him to nail down details. We decided it made the most sense for him to get an address for the hostel he was overnighting at. The plan was for Kyle to arrange for Raul, the farmhand at the farm on which he was working, to pick up the ballot upon its arrival when he’d go to visit his family every two weeks, bring it back to Kyle on the farm, where he could fill it out (we wisely included sharpened number two pencils), and await Raul dropping it, pre-packaged for return delivery via the hostel, two weeks later. We’d left plenty of time to get this done.

            Kyle wanted to vote so badly he was willing to pay the steep ($90) one-way FedEx delivery cost for three-day delivery. Each way. Now I have to say I was pretty surprised to hear they would deliver something high atop the Andes mountains in Peru in three days time for any money, let alone under a hundred bucks. It took Kyle a 16-hour bus ride and another 4-hour ride jammed in the back end of a taxi and another six piled high on a vegetable truck to get to this farm. And FedEx assured us they’d get his ballot to him, no problem.

            Only they didn’t. Two weeks later when Kyle hiked to 16,000 feet atop a mountain and surprisingly found himself with text service on his phone (who knew?!), we discerned that the all-important ballot was stuck in customs, only FedEx failed to notify us. Cue about a hundred emails, another forty phone calls, countless texts, and a lot of gnashing of teeth because of the efforts expended to make this happen, only to have it fail, and FedEx assured us the package would arrive that day. We’re still waiting. So far it’s been almost a month since we launched the three-day package on its journey, and the best we can tell, the envelope is part of FedEx’s innovative Llama Express program, which clearly isn’t working so well.

            In the meantime, Kyle climbed the mountain again to find out where the package was a week later, as Raul was about to make his bi-monthly foray six hours away to visit his family. No worries that my daughter, who’s been studying in Italy this semester, freaked me out by telling me she’d skydived from an airplane over the Swiss Alps at 15,000 feet, and how can you breathe at that altitude another 1000 feet up? We’ll save that for another column. Because the focus was on the vote.

            We finally heard from our son this week. He’s left the remotest reaches of the Andes, en route to some other equally obscure part of Peru, but temporarily in civilization. Sans his absentee ballot, which now seemed to have little chance of arriving, let alone returning Stateside in time. But I had a plan. A friend at the Department of Agriculture has a friend stationed in Peru, who so happened to have sent me information from the U.S. Consulate in Cusco about being able to cast your ballot and having Uncle Sam ensure it’s timely shipping home. I asked Kyle if he could divert to Cusco, which we’d heard was a gorgeous city and he’d wanted to get there anyhow. I called the Consulate, found out that while it was too late to facilitate the gratis USPS shipping, anyone who’s applied for an absentee ballot but hasn’t been able to receive it is able to download a Federal write-in ballot. Voila. All you need to do is a) find an Internet café where you can download and print the thing. Yeah, right. And b) find an envelope. Ditto. And c) take it the four more hours to Cusco, where you go to the DHL office (because apparently, as if we needed to learn this, the roving FedEx office is evidently less-reliable). No problemo.

            As I write this, Kyle is en route to the glorious Incan city of Cusco, with plans to pay overnight shipping costs to send his ballot via DHL, with the hope/confidence that his vote will be counted come election day.

            If not we’ll all be pretty disappointed, with the efforts to which we went to make this happen. (Oh, and FedEx? We’re expecting a refund, natch).

            Now for the rest of us, all we need to do is show up at the local school, or fire station, or wherever your polling station is. You can load up on brownies and chocolate chip cookies, buddy up with friends and neighbors you’ll see while there, and hopefully not throw the stink-eye at those you know who are voting for the “other” candidate. Here’s hoping you get off your butt and vote on Tuesday. (unless, er, you’re voting for that other guy…)

Categories: News

G'Day, Mayte!

I thought I’d take a few minutes away from my Australia holiday (visiting my daughter here finally!!!!) to post pictures from our trip so far!

It’s been AMAZING. We’ve done some super cool things—first off, well, dream occasion: I got to hold a koala! They’re so soft and smell like eucalyptus (well that and poop, or maybe it’s just koala pheromones…). I even held a python, against my better judgment.

We spent a few days on a boat in the Coral Sea (around the Whitsunday Islands, which is on I think the southeastern border of the Great Barrier Reef), got to swim with a turtle! He came right up to me with his nose to my face—friends for life ;-). We also flew over the Great Barrier Reef—it’s so breathtakingly beautiful.

In the midst of this great vacation, I do need to remind myself it’s a working vacation, as I’m preparing for a book release right when I get back and I’ve got a book due to my editor then as well. Have to squeeze in some writing before our sea kayaking tomorrow (while ignoring the fact that the credit card bill will be arriving shortly upon our return, gulp!).

Posting pictures below!

Categories: News

Happy Dog Days!

How did August get here so fast? And what’s with insulting dogs by suggesting the hot, uncomfortable waning days of summer have something to do with them? Though truthfully, July was much worse around here—I guess it was good I had book deadlines because I barely moved from the sofa and the comfort of air conditioning, desperate to avoid the near 100° temperatures and oppressive humidity. Today it’s raining and 78° and I’m not complaining!

I have been crazy busy writing this summer. I don’t know what I was thinking when I asked my editor if she had time for one more book from me this year. That was when I thought I had time to write it—turns out that was slightly delusional on my part. But…with a bit of luck, I’ll finish another book today and will get past that deadline hump for a little while.

(here’s what I was working on! It’s a new series! The Royal Romeos, and book one is Red Hot Romeo):

So what do I do when I’m crunching on deadlines? Well…I procrastinate, of course! Facebook is the curse of my existence. As a “pantser”—a writer who writes by the seat of her pants—I do not approach my books with organized outlines and spreadsheets and huge wipeboards covered with diagrams. Alas, it’s me, my (occasionally stagnant) imagination, and my laptop. And sometimes when I set my fingers to that keyboard, well, all I hear are crickets. Which then leads me to Facebook, where I’ll go while away five minutes here, ten minutes there, to stimulate my temporarily constipated imagination. Translation: where I waste time, to my great chagrin. It’s where I find amusing things like this (link:

Or this: (

To add to it, my adventuresome son took the summer off after grad school and before the real job to wander off-the-grid in South America, including several weeks along the Amazon River. Incommunicado offspring in strange lands can leave an imaginative mom a little anxiety-ridden, so on those occasions when we would get a notification from his Spot GPS locator, telling us his exact location in the remote wilds of Brazil, I would slightly fixate on wondering what it’s like there. And with the GPS link, I can zoom in on the satellite view to the point that I can see treetops in the Amazon jungle as if they are broccoli! And the squiggly tributaries to the Amazon River that look like tapeworms working their way through a body. I’m a bit obsessed. Here’s a cool link to one ( : click on “satellite” on the top left box in the map, then zoom in with the + symbol on the bottom right, you can get close enough to see the shadows cast by the clouds on the river. Technology can be amazing.

So another distraction when I’m writing is research. I can go down a serious research rabbit hole and not surface for hours. It’s why I can’t “do” Pinterest—if I start on that place I’ll never be found again. A funny downside to researching things like crown jewels, elite ski resorts, fancy sports cars or designer ball gowns, is that the internet thinks I’m actually in the market for a $500,000 Lamborghini, and so ads for that, along with ones for $50,000 ruby rings and the like appear everywhere in my internet trail. One look at the ads that show up everywhere I go online and you would wonder seriously about my deluded world. I can only imagine the ads that will start showing up today, as I spent an hour last night learning how to trap venomous snakes and researching the correct tools to use. I expect targeted promos for my very own snake tongs—and not the “cheap Asian imitations,” according to one vendor ;-). Perhaps I should get on Pinterest and show you all the amazing things and places that actually exist for those who can afford such luxuries…

So whatcha reading? I have a recommendation for you but it’s kind of an odd one for me, as I tend toward escapist reading. But I heard this author named Sarah Hepola on NPR recently discussing her memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, and she was quite amusing, and I then realized it was an editor I’d almost worked with last year, so I was curious enough to buy her book. It’s actually quite funny, and trust me, the only way I’d want to read about alcoholism is if it made me laugh. Great read and exceptionally gifted writer. ( Meanwhile, I’m vacation-bound soon and need beach read suggestions so send them on!

Today I’m releasing A COURT GESTURE, book 8 from the It’s Reigning Men series—hope you can check it out! There’s a sample chapter or two from Red Hot Romeo, book one in a new series I’ve just started, a spinoff from IRM called The Royal Romeos, set in Tuscany, which is my happy place!

In the meantime, I’m taking part in The Strong Women Giveaway with 150 authors, which goes to the end of August—there are weekly prizes and two lucky readers will win $1000! Go here for details:

And check out my Goodreads giveaway contest for readers in the US/Great Britain/Canada for a paperback copy of Something in the Heir (

So I’m going to see my daughter in Australia, mate, and I cannot wait! I wanted to share some pictures, plus a super cool video her sailor boyfriend posted on Facebook from one of his fellow sailors. You might remember I have a thing for whales and all…check this out! ( And this is near where my daughter lives—sort of like someone in Philly would road trip to the Jersey Shore for the weekend, well when she has a chance to get on a boat for a couple of hours getaway, this is where she goes—pretty spectacular, isn’t it?! (add pictures here)

Last thing: I’ve been dreadfully sedentary this year with many book deadlines—a perfect excuse for me to not budge my butt, and I’m pathetically out of shape. I want to get back to taking better care of myself and I’m much better when I have peeps who are doing it with me. Anyone interested in joining me in trying to get in shape? If so message me and maybe we’ll start a Facebook group or post about it on my Facebook author page to motivate each other!

Thanks so much for reading my books, and also I’m so grateful if you get a chance to post reviews on Amazon and other book sites. Looking forward to some great beach read suggestions from you! Have a great rest of the summer!




Categories: News