Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Need to Help

Everyone is aware of the horror that visited Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last week. I first heard about it in between mall stops while I was Christmas shopping, and at that point, being still early in the day, no one really knew just how horrific it would turn out to be. Each time I got in the car and heard the latest update, I couldn't believe it. It was far too much for anyone to bear, and I've done quite a bit of crying in the last several days.
My little guy just turned 8. Seeing all those little faces, so similar to my son and all his friends, left me by turns shocked, numb, angry, and aching so badly I thought it would never end. I haven't shed this many tears in a long time. And then I think of the parents suffering through this and I start all over again. I can and can't put myself in their shoes. I can because I am one of them, my child is still innocent and sweet and has his whole life ahead of him, and to lose him or my daughter would destroy me. And I can't because I'm not experiencing such a devastating and wrenching loss. I am so grateful for that, and yet at the same time, I want to be with those parents and hold them and wish I could take away their pain. I can't. No one can, ever. There's only one thing that would ease their despair, and it's not something any of us can give them.
The talk of gun control has reached an unbelievable crescendo, and that's a good thing. I'm not going to go into that here though – I agree something needs to be done, but I don't know exactly what that is. I don't think anyone does at this point, but guns aren't the only issue with this situation. The gunman was a very sick individual – normal, healthy, adjusted people don't do these sorts of things. And that is another thing I'm hearing of in the aftermath – treating and recognizing mental illness and giving (or more importantly, not cutting off) the families of those afflicted the resources they need to deal with that issue.
But that's also not why I wanted to share my feelings. I'm grieving as most of us are. I want to do something, anything, but I feel helpless. I've looked over the various funds that have sprung up and determined where I can send some money. It's not a lot, but if it can provide someone with much needed grief-counseling, or expenses, or other support to survive this, I feel I've done something to help. But it doesn't do anything to ease this need to help in some greater way.
I've made a lot of donations this year – clothes, food, toys. Our area was hit hard by Sandy in the fall, and we had so much and were so lucky, that I gave away bags and bags of things that others needed more desperately than my family did. I felt like I'd done something really productive – I helped feed and clothe a couple of families who lost everything, and I hopefully made the holidays a little brighter for children who would not otherwise have their usual holiday cheer.
But this is different. I feel powerless and weak, even as I click that Pay button. It just doesn't seem like enough. I've thought of sending condolence cards, but then I think they're probably getting hundreds of thousands of those. Then I saw the #26ActsofKindness trending on Twitter and dug a little deeper. I read Ann Curry's tweets, and I realized this was something I could do to honor those lost in this senseless tragedy. I let people trying to make a left go, I let two people in front of me at the post office last night because I knew I'd take much longer than they. It's not much, but it's something, and I will keep it up – a way to remember the angels who needlessly lost their lives.
And maybe, since there are so many people doing this, we can learn to change ourselves, even if just a little bit, to be kinder, gentler people, it may have an even bigger impact on all of us in the long run. Those little children and the heroic teachers and administrators deserve to be honored in exactly that way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Do You Buy for the Guy Who Wants Nothing?



Literally. My husband is THE most difficult person to buy presents for. Um, well, not quite. My mom is worse because she just buys herself whatever she wants whenever she wants. *waves* Hi Mom! :D

Anyway, now that the holidays are upon us, it's time for the phone calls from various family members, usually his. "What does he want?" "Does he have one of these?" "Do you think he'll like this?"

And I never know what to say. I never know what the hell to get him myself, and I have the double pleasure of having to buy him something from the kids. I'm usually pretty easy – I always have a list of "love to have" things that I can tell people to pass along to those who ask. But my husband just refuses.

"Just get me a shirt, it's all I want." I just want to smack him sometimes. No one wants to buy him a shirt, not when he already has 879 of them! I try to explain there's a big part of holiday gift-giving that focuses on the giver, and the thought they put into getting something they hope you'll love. Asking me to tell them to just get him a shirt just kind of spoils it for me.

Even harder, is with his family, we pick names, and everyone is expected to spend a certain amount on the person whose name they picked. A shirt that will cover that amount will not be a shirt my husband wears.

Every year, I try to come up with something interesting. Something he might have fun with. Bought a tabletop casino game – blackjack, poker and craps. We like to do AC and gamble, so I thought he'd like that.

It's in the closet. Has been for about six years now. Think we used it once.

The three teams in our house are the NY Rangers, the NY Giants, and the NY Mets. I've gotten jackets, calendars, mouse pads, framed prints of big moments. But you can only buy someone so much sports-related paraphernalia before it becomes just clutter. Though the 360 degree view picture of the Garden the night the Rangers won the cup in '94 (we were there in our regular seats!) is in full view in the family room.

Tools often work, but he's picky about what he wants and says he really needs. Again, I remind him holiday gifts are not about needing (though I'd be thrilled with a new microwave this year. Maybe a dishwasher? And we desperately need a new car), they're about making someone happy. A shirt isn't going to do that – not from his perspective anyway. If he was a woman and enjoyed clothes as I do, I might think he'd have a point. But I've seen him open shirts before, he gives it a nice perusal, says thank you with a kind. happy smile and puts it away.

I'm sorry, but when you open a Christmas gift, the reaction should be "Oh cool, this is really neat! Thank you so much! I love/wanted this!"  I try to pick gifts for people that will bring that reaction, because there's nothing better than giving someone something they really would like but probably wouldn't buy for themselves. When he stands in front of something and admires it, I know that's something that he'd yell at me for spending the money on, but be thrilled I got if for him. I have had to tell him on several occasions to "STFU and just be glad I know what you want and took the time to get it for you!"

But anyway, here we are again. Here come the phone calls and the emails and my daughter cornering me to remind me we have to get Dad a "good" present. I know. I dread this about as much as I dread his birthday because it causes such stress, when all he has to do is just find me something he wants, no matter how frivolous it seems to him. Look in the catalogs, check the sale flyers and emails. Surely there's got to be something to tickle his impractical side! No one wants to be practical with a holiday gift (though if someone wants to pick me up that microwave, I have no objections!), they want to please your inner child.

Maybe that's the problem. He's forgotten how to be a child. Good thing I haven't! Not that it's helping me much as I plan my shopping missions.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Publisher Woes Part 3!!!



Well, it looks like it's time for legal action. The 90 days as contractually stipulated that I gave Noble Romance to correct my breaches of contract has gone unanswered. I even had the courtesy of giving them about a week's notice that the deadline was approaching. On the 90th day, I sent another email, exercising my right to terminate the contract, as is very clearly outlined in my contract. Here is the specific clause which is included in contracts for both books I have with Noble (there's more to this clause, but this is the part that is most damning to Noble):

"VI: Term of Agreement
In the event that either party commits a material breach of the terms of this Agreement, the other party may notify the party in breach by providing a written description of the breach which shall be delivered by certified mail. If the breach is not corrected within 90 days after such notice, then the aggrieved party may terminate this Agreement and all rights granted the Publisher will thereupon revert to Author at the time of the termination.

Upon termination of this Agreement for any reason, Publisher will remove listing of the Work from its website and all download-based distributors and advise Books in Print that that particular ISBN is no longer in print. Publisher may continue to sell existing stock of physical formats (diskettes, CD's, cassette tapes, print books) but may not create new physical copies of the Work."

Well, guess what – I'd consider owing me money on each book for over a year constitutes a material breach, and not answering my certified letter, as I was obligated to send, and did so, honoring the terms of the contract on my part, constitutes not correcting breaches. Not even a fucking acknowledgement of the receipt of my letters. Therefore, I am within my rights to terminate said contract. Which I most certainly did.
Clearly, Noble Romance Publishing has no intentions of acting professionally, or ethically. Hell, they're outright stealing from other authors! You may find of particular interest, how they are violating the copyright of Aleksander Voinov. Here is his blog post outlining the outright thievery of his work: http://aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/noble-romance-has-violated-my-copyright.html

I am appalled at the behavior of people who consider themselves savvy businessmen. Excuse me? What freaking planet are you living on that lying, cheating and outright stealing make a savvy businessman? I've learned several things over the last months and it is not pretty. I am not at liberty to discuss a lot of what I know, because it's not my place to tell it, but trust me, these people running Noble have got no idea what it means to be in business. In this day and age, just about everything communicated via the internet is legally binding. You can't say that the person in charge (Jill Noble) who signed the contracts had no authority to make changes to those contracts and renegotiate them as necessary, and that the communications via email aren't valid, then turn around and say you are enforcing the electronic contract, because clearly, that person who signed the contract in the first place (Jill Noble) wasn't authorized to do so! If email or internet communications aren't valid, then I have news for you – none of the contracts signed electronically are valid at all either. Which means I, and only I, hold all rights to my work. And if you dare say that my email terminating the contract isn't valid, well guess what? There's a certified hard copy heading your way. Nothing more legally binding than that – and you are required by the terms of the contract to honor it!

As I said initially, it's time for legal action. It seems the only way these people will behave professionally, ethically and legally is by forcing them to it. I'm ready to do so. So are others. I've put my paperwork together and am filing an official grievance with RWA. And please spread the word – if anyone aspiring to be published is even considering Noble on their short list, advise them to get the hell as far away as they can as fast as they can. It will only cost them money, heartache and aggravation.

I very strongly suspect Noble will not last through the long haul, but the sheer pig-headedness of TIIC will keep them hanging on as long as they can bleed more money from their authors. The problem is, enough of those said authors have had enough of the bullshit and are no longer willing to let themselves continue to be treated as garbage. I know I'm not. Game on! (If only I could say that about the NHL. Whaaa! What is wrong with this world?)

Oh, and check this out:  Noble has a new meaning! http://jswayne.wordpress.com/noble-romance-publishing/

Monday, November 19, 2012

Disney Recap - The Highs and Lows

So it's time for a Disney recap. The return and resulting week since have been chaotic, to say the least, so I haven't had a chance to get to it until now. As for the chaos, well, I'll get to that in a little bit.
The day we arrived was sunny and warm, perfect Florida weather. Plane was on time, we got on the bus and when we arrived at the Grand Floridian, we didn't even have to go inside. A concierge greeted us and took us to a cart where they drove us to our building and checked us in in the room! Going for the Club Level was a fantastic idea, and surprisingly, wasn't that much different in price – we definitely got our money's worth!
Throughout the day, the main room of our building is a mini-cafĂ©. There's breakfast in the morning, snacks and lunch throughout the day, afternoon tea, happy hour, desserts, everything. The kids loved it – they'd go down and grab some food and sit at one of the tables, watch the Disney videos.
This time around, we didn't plan every second. We decided what to do when we got up, with the exception of a few dinners and lunches. Donald Duck was #1 on the hit list for the little guy – he somehow had developed an obsession for the crabby duck, and luckily we had some really awesome interactions with him throughout the trip – dinner and breakfast at Chef Mickey's (where they sang Happy Birthday to the little guy to his amazing delight – he almost knocked Minnie over he hugged her so hard! Lol!) But Donald was the man on this trip, and we saw him in every park we went to.
This was little guy's first time being big enough to ride a lot of things and he loved Space Mountain so much he went on twice! He likes the wild roller coasters – I personally am not much for them, and definitely not any that go upside down, but I can see he's going to freak me out for years to come as he tries scarier and scarier coasters!
Anyway, we spent one day at Downtown Disney, and the last two visits, we just didn't have time, so I was really glad to check it out. We all had a great time checking things out, and had a nice lunch. We saw Wreck-It Ralph, too. Cute movie, we all really enjoyed it.
Epcot was awesome – the annual Food & Wine Festival was in full swing – we somehow manage to hit that every time we go. We joked about eating our way around the world – lamb chops, egg rolls and pot stickers, ravioli, hot dogs & kraut, Swedish meatballs – you name it! The kids had a blast getting the snacks, and finding a corner to eat it while we watched the street performers of the local country doing their thing in the courtyards.  And we finally, after ten years, we met Princess Aurora – DD's all-time favorite. We actually went and waited for her to come out, thanks to the awesome lady who let us sneak in on the Aladdin and Princess Jasmine line after it was closed. She was the best and we had a blast hanging out with her as the line moved along.
The one thing I do recall from my first trip in 1976, was that back then, the characters just walked around randomly. While waiting in line and spending a few minutes with the characters was awesome, the very spontaneous moment of seeing them just hanging around the park was truly magical. Been a long time since they did that.
Anyway, our last day was in the Magic Kingdom. We had lunch reservations with Cinderella, so we spent the morning there. And while we were there, the new Fantasyland was open for Dress Rehearsals! Everything but the new Be Our Guest restaurant in The Beast's castle was open! We met Gaston – check this guy out:

Is he perfect or what?
We tried a LeFou's Brew at Gaston's Tavern, and it was actually really good. Creamy and citrusy, but with a hint of carbonation. We got to see the Little Mermaid ride, and Belle's Village, so it was literally the best day. Lunch was delicious – I've yet to eat anything at Disney that wasn't.
We relaxed and packed that afternoon, since we had tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, complete with parade and all sorts of special events. Snow on Main Street, coca and cookies, etc. We arrived, got our wristbands, which they check just about everywhere, and h it a few rides. Then waited for the parade. As expected, it was amazing – every character, film, etc. was represented and done really well. The dancers and performers come right up to the kids and really get them involved. I have to say, as we shared our turkey leg and watched the parade, no one does it better than Disney.


And isn't the castle just beautiful?


The holiday decor was incredible. But I'm not surprised - it is Disney after all!
But that was where it all ended. Shortly after the parade, DD is not feeling well. Her stomach. And of course, it's not long before she's in the throes of whatever this is. Thank you to the ladies in First Aid who helped us out – it was a rough night, but might have been worse if we hadn't found you!
Poor thing was up all night and halfway through, DH is not feeling well. And they had the same thing for lunch, so now I'm worried about food poisoning. But when the little guy woke up the next morning in similar shape, I knew it was worse. We'd gotten a bug. At least it was the end of the trip, but now we had to go to the airport and fly home! Poor little guy was in the throes of it in the airport, the plane, etc. At least, everything was on time, and we made it home early in the day. Where they all proceeded to pass out. By that night, they were starting to feel a little better, so I made them soup, ginger ale and the whole bit.
By the next afternoon, I was down for the count, and far worse than the rest of them had been. Figures. At least my office happened to be closed on Monday, I was still in sad shape as I dropped the kids at school, after missing two weeks (!!!).
To top it all off, the day job has been incredibly busy, it's budget season, so there's been no time to breathe and because of our trip, I couldn’t take any additional time off to cook the annual two-day sauce for little guy's birthday. He was quite happy with pizza though, and next year, we'll get back to normal. I hope. Is there such a thing?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Survived Hurricane Sandy



Wonder how long before that's on a bumper sticker?

Anyway, Hurricane Sandy has come and gone – or as she was called by many, Frankenstorm. She was big enough on her own, but she also combined with other systems which turned her into a giant, with brutal winds, nasty heavy rain and storm surges we've never seen the likes of before, bearing down on the East Coast like a gigantic bat out of hell. And for some people, hell is what she brought.

New York City didn't fare so well. The flooding boggles my mind. I've never seen anything like this in this area in my lifetime. When I see the images of what happened in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens (OMG! Breezy Point!) it makes me realize just how lucky we were. I have no doubt that New Yorkers will come through this with their usual hardy yet blasé attitude, and will make everything better and stronger than ever.

I live in New Jersey, though, and as I mentioned, we were relatively lucky – we lost power, schools were (and still are for now) closed, and even my office closed for two days. Unfortunately, I have to go back tomorrow. My street survived without too many catastrophes – a few big branches down, some people's cars were damaged, but the power was the worst of it here. And we had a generator that we ran intermittently to keep the fridge going. Borrowed dad's spare – seriously, how many people do you know who have a SPARE generator? Only my dad! lol

However, once you left my nice section of the street (I live on a long, straight boulevard), it turned into a war zone. Trees down everywhere, roads impassable and closed, dangling wires, etc. It was pretty bad, and though we were lucky to get our power back relatively quickly, others are still out and will be for days to come. My parents, who live one town over, will be out for at least a week, if not more. One of their neighbors' trees came down and took everything with it – wires, telephone poles, other trees. Even ripped the meter off one of another neighbor's house!

But all in all, it wasn't as bad here as it could have been. Other places were literally demolished. The horrific nightmare that assaulted the Jersey Shore will haunt me for some time.  My beloved Stone Harbor was under several feet of water last night, though now that it's receded a bit it looks to have survived mostly intact. Our house on 98th Street appears to be still standing.  Considering the storm came ashore right about there, the lovely seaside haven is very lucky. I've seen the devastation done to other places on the shore, and it just makes my heart ache. As a born and bred Jersey Girl, I spent a good portion of my summers on the shore, in one town or another, with friends or with family. It hurts to know the shoreline will never be the same. I don't know when I'll get back to see everything, most likely next spring or summer, but I am expecting changes, and I'm reasonably sure I won't be too happy about most of them. I've been able to view many pictures some of the hardier souls took as they braved the onslaught, and I know they likely don't come close to the reality of seeing it firsthand. If you've ever been to Seaside or Point Pleasant, you know how nice those boardwalks are, and how much fun. Well, now many of them are pretty much gone. But I have faith in our Jersey folks – we are a tough bunch and we don't back down. We'll rebuild with our usual "we ain't gonna take this crap" attitude. Sandy, you may have made us stumble, but we'll never fall.

I say this because if you ever have the chance and can take the time to really explore NJ, you'll realize just how critical this state is to the forming of our entire country. The place is covered with historic landmarks, and so many of them date back to pre-Revolutionary War years. Many of our successes were planned and strategized here, fought here, and yes, we lost some crucial battles. But without NJ, there might not even be a USA! I think that points to our resilience, and as difficult a time as many of us here in the Garden State are having, we will prevail and we will go on, bigger and better than before!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The NJRWA Conference - A Rousing Success

Last weekend, I attended the NJRWA Put your Heart in a Book conference. I've been to it before, many years back. For the last several years, it usually coincided with day job travel, so I haven't attended in quite some time. This year worked out perfectly, and since 2012 was fairly successful on the writing front, the opportunity to participate in everything I could was impossible to resist. I registered, reserved a room for the entire weekend, and signed up for the bookfair.

Case in point – Jennifer Probst. (Jen, get ready! lol)  I have known Jennifer Probst for close to twenty years now. Back in the day, she was a regular in our critique group. We were sorry when life, as it will do, kept her from coming anymore. But the best part about Jen is not only is she lots of fun, she is one of the biggest cheerleaders in our chapter! Seriously – I suspect she has a stash of pom-poms in her house somewhere. Her excitement for her fellow writers and friends is that genuine, enthusiastic and infectious. :D Anyway, as some of you might have heard, Jen's book, The Marriage Bargain, topped all the bestseller lists and got her an awesome deal with Simon & Schuster. Her name and Entangled Publishing are on the map. One of the roundtables I attended at the PAN retreat was moderated by Bob Mayer. He mentioned Jen's story in his presentation, about 10 minutes before she came in. Once he knew she was there, he asked her to tell her story. When she finished, he admitted he'd heard at least 14 different versions of the story from 14 different people, and none of them said anything like what she did.

That whole point brought home how important spreading the word about Noble, face to face, with the facts, had become. So in that respect, the conference was a great success. People heard it – and I bet they'll share it as well. Writers like to talk as much as they like to write and read. Besides, truth trumps the BS every time!

Anyway, one of the things I like best about this conference is that the content – workshops, special events, social gatherings – are on a caliber of National's conference, but on a much more intimate level. There aren't 3,000 women running around a hotel/resort, there're 300. Or thereabouts, could be more, but anyway… There's time to talk to people, to truly meet them and spend some time relaxing over a drink, or a snack, or just catching our breath in the lobby. The workshops are top-notch and I learned a lot in every single one I attended.  Since I've gone back to more regularly writing historical, I was very interested in the workshop hosted by Eliza Knight and Kimberly Killion, "Corsets, Codpieces and Kilts… Oh My!" It was very informative - some of it I knew, a lot of it I didn't. It was probably also one of the most fun workshops I'd attended - quite hysterical at moments - and I will be using a bunch of the info I picked up.

Of course the booksigning was lots of fun too – I sat behind Jen! And Mary Jo Putney! (fangirl moment #3)  And then realized Eliza Knight was right across from Jen! (fangirl moment #4 – and not a pretty one, I'm afraid. lol).

On Saturday night, a bunch of us grabbed dinner in the hotel bar, and Heather Graham joined us (fangirl moment #5). That was the most fun I'd had in a long time – I surprised myself by being fairly calm and somewhat civilized! lol  Seriously, Heather has an awesome sense of humor and she and her husband were genuinely regular – like the crew I hang with in my neighborhood - and fun. And Heather seriously rocked it during the party Saturday night – she's got an amazing singing voice too!

Bottom line – one of the best cons I've attended, for many reasons. Some of them fun – like hanging with my friends and making new ones, and the opportunities available to me as a published author - and they will be remembered for years with lots of fondness. Some reasons not-so-fun, but important, and I got to be a part of that as well. There's still a ways to go, and NJRWA's conference was the perfect place to continue that progression, on several and very different levels.

Here's hoping the stars line up so I can go again next year!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's Disney Time!




  We decided a few months ago that it was time to take the kids to Disney World again. They've been running some great package deals, and my mom's a travel agent, so she can always get us the best rates available. So we booked it.

I've been to Disney lots of times – a few times when I was a kid and it was only the Magic Kingdom at that point, and you had to use those paper tickets, the best rides were always the "E" tickets. We had friends who lived in the area and we'd always stay with them.

When I got married, I went there on my honeymoon. After that, often because of business travel, either mine or DH's, we'd tack on some vacation time and buzz around Disney for a few days. We stayed in lots of different places, with different options. From top of the line, to economy style.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, we took her for the first time. We decided, after having tried out various other hotels, we wanted one with the monorail. We booked the Polynesian, which was one of the first resorts when the park first opened. My daughter loved it – she got to ride with the conductor on her first monorail trip, back when they still allowed people in there. It was Halloween too, so she dressed up as Sleeping Beauty and we partied in the Magic Kingdom with characters in costume, trick or treating and the whole works. Disney does an amazing Halloween party. Breakfast in Cinderella's Castle – for which I had to get up early and call three days in a row, 30 days in advance to get those reservations.

We took the family two years ago, again for Halloween. This time we stayed at the Grand Floridian. We stayed there on our honeymoon, and have concluded there is no place better to stay – and it's where we're staying again this time. Last time was the little guy's first experience, and I have to say, much as I love everything about Disney, the best thing about it was seeing my kids' faces when they saw it all for the first time. It is impossible to accurately describe the expressions. They're just that amazing. He met his favorite characters – Woody! Buzz Lightyear! Lightning McQueen! Tigger! He loves rides, and wanted to go on everything he could.  He did have a few sort-of catastrophes - got so excited to see Mickey for the first time at breakfast, he fell and hit his cheek on the corner of the table. Then nearly choked on a piece of  the ice we'd gotten to reduce the swelling. But overall, he had a blast!

What kills me is the fact that both times, all they wanted to do was get back to the hotel and go in the pool. Seriously? What is with that? Not that I minded – DH and I would get a few drinks and hang out poolside while they splashed and swam. The pool is open 24/7, so we were often there at 11:00 or later. But come on – with all the cool things there are to do in Disney, they wanted to go swimming? Really? 

We hung out with other parents, all saying the same thing. Their kids loved everything in the parks, couldn't get enough, but throughout, all they heard, just like we did, "Is it time to go back to the hotel yet?"  I guess in Disney, that's the equivalent of "Are we there yet?"

There are some new things this time around but sadly, we're getting there too early to see all the new Beauty and the Beast attractions. That'll be for next time – maybe two years, when DD is a senior and can afford to miss a couple days of school again. We're both disappointed – from the age of 2 until nearly 6, Beauty & the Beast was her favorite. We watched it at least daily the first couple of years, and several times a month for a few years after. We still find ourselves watching it together when they show it on one of the Disney channels. Sometimes I think I love the story more than she does! Actually, there's no surprise there. The Beast, like many of my heroes, is rather a jerk in the beginning, though he has good reason to be. Then again, being a jerk got him in that whole mess anyway, but Belle saw through all the crap to the real hero within. Personally, I preferred he would have stayed as the Beast, but that's not how the fairy tale goes. But he is definitely one of my favorite heroes, simply by the virtue of his un-heroic traits. :D

As for our trip, we will get to see the Christmas party this go-round. We're a little later than normal, so that'll be something new and fun we haven't done before. We've seen the start of the decorative prep our last couple of trips, it'll be cool to see it all done. One thing about Disney, no one does it better. The attention to the tiniest detail, both in the attractions, events and shows, as well as the guest services, blows me away. I've yet to find a place that does it better. Some come close, true, but IMO, Disney still holds the top spot by a very wide margin.

In any case, we're about a month or so out and I've got to start my lists. I already have a folder with all my reservation info – hotel and dining so far - I love that everything is online now, planning all the details is so much easier. This time, we're kind of going to just go where the mood takes us – this trip is way less structured and scheduled than the last. But there's still so much more to do to be ready. I need to figure out what to bring – car trips are easy, we bring it all. Can't do that on a plane. But I am a good packer and can get a ton into a suitcase without going over weight restrictions.

Should be an interesting month as I try to wrap up this ms, get the last of the revisions on the other done, and prep for the trip. Oh yeah, and Halloween's coming, too.