To Pasta- With Love by Karen Rock/JK Rock

I celebrated jkrock3 tree picmy birthday last week doing what I love the most: spending time with my family.  It was a low key affair with maximum meaning. My husband, daughter and I shared a quiet day with a meal out, cake, presents, and a trip to see Richard Curtis’ (writer/director of Love Actually) latest film About Time. I’ve always loved his films, such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, for their emotional intelligence and sensitivity. Yet About Time offered more than a beautiful love story and intriguing characters. It contained a message that stayed with me past the end credits. To quote the main character, Tim, “Live life as if there are no second chances.”

In this time-traveler tale, Tim, along with the other males in his family, can go back in time to correct their mistakes.  Yet this beautiful story of unconditional love showed thaabout timet some things cannot be changed, however much we might wish it so. I completely identified with Tim’s longing to see a deceased relative. There are many moments in my life I wish I had a second chance to relive. Times when I let every day stresses and worries keep me from fully enjoying my life and those I loved.

If I could pick one day to revisit, it would be the day my nonna taught me how to make homemade pasta. As her health was failing, the need to learn our family’s Italian recipes became urgent. I’d already learned how to make her gravy (sauce as it is normally called), focaccia bread, eggplant parmesan and other recipes. Yet, as a busy college student, I hadn’t found the time needed to learn how to make pasta from scratch. I phoned my grandmother and planned a Columbus Day weekend visit. NonnaHowever, when the time neared, I regretted making that commitment. My boyfriend was acting strange and distant, I had a paper due, and my roommates hadn’t chipped in to pay the electric bill. When I called to cancel, my Aunt Pam lectured me. She said Nonna had been preparing all week for my visit and had spoken of little else in her excitement. Nonna had insisted, despite her arthritis, on scrubbing her entire apartment and having my aunt take her grocery shopping so that she could personally pick out the ingredients. It would crush her if I didn’t follow through. Resigned and resentful, I agreed to make the trip.

Nonna wasn’t one to show affection. She dished out her love through her food. When I arrived, she handed me a plate of my favorite cookies, her almond biscotti. It was her way of saying, “I’m glad you came, and I love you.” Yet I was too upset about my troubles back in Albany to notice. I listened with half and ear as she prattled in her broken English. Whenever she was excited, her speech was mostly in Italian, and I didn’t try translating it this time. Instead, I let the words wash over me as I thought about my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Michael. I went to bed early, knowing she’d wake me up as she always did- at five am- by poking me with a broom’s bristles, followed by her booming belly laugh. But my restless night made me cranky in the morning. Instead of giving in and getting up, I refused to leave my bed until seven. When I finally showered and dressed, she’d been sitting at the kitchen table, ingredients at the ready, for almost two hours. Ungrateful person that I was, I barely apologized and we set to work, my hands following hers as we went through the steps and set the pasta out to dry.

orecchietteAlthough I went through the motions of making Orecchiette (pasta sometimes called ‘little ears’), my heart wasn’t in it. Nonna grew quieter as the day went on, sensing, I’m sure, my lack of enthusiasm. I spent the evening arguing on the phone with my boyfriend instead of watching television with her. In the past, we’d always poked fun at game show contestants, ranted about the evils of the world while watching the news, or clucked in sympathy with talk show guests. But this time, she sat alone, hunched on the sofa, silent, as I had what I thought was a crucial exchange with Michael. The next morning, I did get up at five a.m. But my early rise was motivated by my need to leave quickly. I wanted to get home and continue my fight with Michael, finish my paper, and round up my roommates’ share of the electric bill.

Well, I did get the money for the electric bill, I earned an A on the paper, and Michael and I made up- for the time being. Yet all of that pales in comparison to what I’d lost: the chance to fully appreciate the last time I’d see Nonna alive.  She died a month later, and all I have from our last day together is a hastily scrawled recipe. I would give anything to have a second chance to redo that time. To linger over coffee and almond biscotti with her, to pay close attention to what she said, to jump out of bed and help her set up for pasta-making, to patiently learn our family recipe rather than rushing through it, to sit beside her as we watched TV, her hand slapping my knee as she laughed, my head on her shoulder as I inhaled her favorite scent- gardenia.

italian thanksgivingAbout Time was a great reminder that life doesn’t give us do-overs. We shouldn’t let the stresses and worries of our everyday lives keep us from appreciating those we love and the wonderful blessings we’ve been given. The message couldn’t come at a better time given the Thanksgiving Season. Being thankful isn’t enough. It’s important to take action as well- to be engaged- to pay attention to the things that matter most. The normal moments I take for granted are the ones I will want back someday. Better to appreciate them now, than wish I had another chance to enjoy them. So my wish for this Thanksgiving is for us all to be thankful and to be giving. To commit our hearts and minds to those we love instead of allowing other, less important things, to steal that time from us.

campcoverwithquoteIf you could have a second chance, and go back in time, which moment would you relive? I’d love hear your thoughts! Answer in the comment section below, and be entered to win a copy of Camp Boyfriend, print/Kindle/Nook version- your choice. I will announce the winner on tomorrow. Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, laughter, and unconditional love. Oh- and pasta too 🙂


Thanksgiving …

It’s impossible to name all the things I’m thankful for in one short blog post … I feel gratitude, sincere gratitude, every day. Nevertheless, living abroad, today is the day my heart feels the tugs the most. I miss the Thanksgiving Day parade in the background while madly vacuuming the house for my mom. I miss the smell of turkey sauce, warm bread, and stuffing. I miss the anticipation of having our closest friends come for dinner to share the same stories we passed around each year. The stories carry more weight and love than the pile of buttery potatoes. I miss the Picon Punches my dad made, with brandy floaters, and the talk about football. I miss the Reisers … our Thanksgiving family.  (My favorite Thanksgiving story has always been told by Julie about the time my dad, whose chicken was burning on the barbecue, ran into the sliding glass door.)

But instead of wallowing (okay, I wallow just a touch), I feel happy (and mildly panicked) because I began Thanksgiving with my Colombian family eight years ago. Every NOvember, they start asking, “When’s the day? Are we doing it again?” It’s become a day they look forward to as well. It’s a day my Colombian family and friends gather in my home and give thanks. And I’ve gone from sawdust turkey and dry veggies to a pretty damn good meal. (My turkey is better than my family’s. Sorry, guys. It’s true.)  There are variations to the menu. But the most important remains: Love. Today I share my thanks with the family who took me in and accepted me with all my “American quirks.” And my daughters draw their little hand turkeys. We sit around the table. We laugh. And we celebrate the lives we share.



So. HAPPY THANKSGIVING wherever you are. I’ve now cried my homesick cry. (Brined the turkey in tears!) And I’m ready to go to battle with the meal!

Much love from Colombia. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Gratitude Giveaway!

One thing all the writers at Scene13 agree on is that we are so thankful to our readers. And to prove how thankful we are, we’re having a giveaway! Just in time for the holidays! All you have to do to enter is click the image of the Rafflecopter form below (which will take you to the actual Rafflecopter form) and follow the entry directions. Check out all the cool books you can win. Amazing, right? Enter, and then spread the word!

And once again, THANK YOU!!!


Give Thanks

I believe that giving thanks should be something that happens on a regular basis. It’s not always easy to remember, and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s easier to be in an ugly, unthankful mood rather than look for the positive. I try to give thanks throughout the day, beginning as soon as I wake up, and ending as my head hits the pillow at the end of a long day. I find that when I give thanks for small things, those things grow, and soon, I have an abundance of things to be thankful for. Whenever things are a bit blue in my life, I take a moment and write a list of all the things I am grateful for. I’d like to share that list with you (in no particular order, I usually write whatever pops into my mind first):

– A healthy, loving support system

– Random strangers that smile at me in the street

– Health and healthy living

– Laughter

– Home

– Healthy relationships

– Challenges that make me stronger

– Opportunities that I am given

– The ability to work hard

– Good eye sight

– Working limbs and organs

– Coffee, and lots of it

– Really heavy books

– My jobs

– The gift of the written word

These are just some of the things I think about to help me see the good in my life. Sadness is easier because it’s surrender. It’s difficult to think positively. With work and effort, it becomes natural. Make gratitude and heartfelt thankfulness a part of your day, every day.


Cheers friends! Happy Thanksgiving (Or, Thanksgivukkah…)





Thankful for Bloggers

Tyler here, and as you may already know, Sherry and I are sharing blog days this month. Today we are thankful for bloggers. Look at all these awesome bloggers that participated in the blog tour. Where would we be without them?

So, here is a giant THANK YOU and shout out to all the dedicated bloggers who work tirelessly, without any compensation to support authors.

Kayliegh @

Pavarti @ Pavarti K Tyler

Keri @ Quill Cafe

Dvora @ International Girls YA Book Club

Jael @ As I Turn The Pages

Penelope @ Library at the End of the Universe

T’t @ Never Ending Stories

Jessica @ Simply Infatuated

Haley @ YA-aholic

Rochelle @ Books Like Stars

Ali @ My Guilty Obsession

Stephanie @ Cover 2 Cover

Kelly @ Kelly Hashway

Leigh @ Leigh Hershkovich

Brooke @ The Cover Contessa

Amy @ Book Loving Me

Jennifer @ Jennifer Armentrout

Judith @ Judith Graves

Brooke @ The Cover Contessa

Gaby @ Shadow Libros

Yael @ Yael Itamar

Frankie @ Frankie’s Bookshelf

Angie @ Zephyr Book Reviews

Jessica @ Crossroad Reviews

Andra @ Unabridged Andra

Becky @ Stories and Sweeties

Sara @ Sara Larson

Ashley @ Fire Star Books

Megan @ Amethyst Daydreams

Jennifer @ Jennifer Jenkins

DJ @ CurvyWriter Blog

Thanksgiving Top 10

Since the things I’m thankful for are never far from my mind throughout the year, Thanksgiving for us tends to be more about making time to be with extended family (which always includes a traditional feast of scrumptious food). So in the spirit of list-making fans everywhere, here are my top 10 things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1) I’m thankful I only have to supply a single dish or two—I’m a terrible cook when it comes making fancy food.

2) I’m thankful to have relatives who can accommodate such family functions. It would take me a month and a small fortune to make my house company-ready.

3) I’m thankful that everyone is obligated to take the day off, otherwise we might never make the time to see other! Especially when traveling is involved. I’m ALWAYS left with the guilty feeling that we really should make a better effort to gather more often… but it rarely seems to work with everyone’s crazy-busy schedules.

4) I’m thankful for the reminder about vehicle maintenance. If it wasn’t for a long drive and carpooling, I might be putting off an oil change until the next big drive, and all the kids’ junk on the floorboards might pile up for another few months.

5) I’m thankful that there is no business happening throughout the world on this American holiday, which means I can unplug and spend guilt-free, quality time with my family without missing a thing.

6) I’m thankful that my kids have the opportunity to pick and choose from an amazing assortment of foods. (see #1)

7) I’m thankful for the excuse to go buy something a little dressy. I hope I actually do!

8) I’m thankful that I won’t have to spend the next six months working off that extra helping. (see #9)

9) I’m thankful for the picture on facebook assuring me that no harm will come from consuming 10x the necessary amount of food as long as it was made with love for Thanksgiving: No ‘bad’ calories, no ‘bad’ sugars, no ‘bad’ fats, no ‘bad’ carbohydrates, no ‘bad’ cholesterol, no preservatives, no glutton, no pesticides, and certainly nothing that has been genetically modified in any way.

10)While I’m in the mood to believe anything I see on facebook, I’ll be thankful that everyone has someone special to share the day with, that everyone has shelter to stay warm and snug, that everyone has more than enough food to eat and money to get wherever they need to go, and that there will be no tragic accidents to ruin a perfectly good day.

Be safe everyone!

 (Click on the image for how to make these cute turkeys! Because kids and sugar are a great mix on Thanksgiving!)


When Good Emotions Go Bad—Thankfulness vs. Gratitude

The topic his month was sent to us as:  “Thankfulness/gratitude – anything along those lines, anything you want to do with it.”  It may only be me, but I see a subtle difference between thankfulness and gratitude.  For me, thankfulness is the feeling of peace and joy I get when I recognize all the good things in my life.  It’s a big, loose, open wash of contentment.  Gratitude is a similar emotion, but it’s aimed at the specific person who provided whatever it is I’m thankful for.  And don’t get me wrong—there are many wonderful people who’ve earned my gratitude, and I give it to them in full measure.  But that’s another word that attaches to gratitude—measure.  I feel gratitude in varying amounts, depending on the size of the thing I’m grateful for.  And (being a writer) this makes me think of all the different ways I can use gratitude to create, not peace and joy, but conflict for my characters.

What may seem like a big deal to the giver may be deemed smaller by the receiver, resulting in hurt feelings when the giver doesn’t get the gratitude they think they’ve earned.  And what does the giver do about that?  If they nag the receiver to acknowledge all they’ve done, how quickly does gratitude turn to resentment?  If your giver likes to manipulate people, do they use gratitude as a lever?  Maybe even to the point where people reject their “gifts,” because there are so many emotional strings attached?  Sounds to me like the oft rejected giver (with the proper psychotic twist) might even be driven to murder the ungrateful.  After the first murder, they might even start punishing all the “ungrateful” one after the other.  (Who says proper middle-aged aunt Hazel can’t be a serial killer?)

Good emotions gone bad can make for wonderful character conflicts.  Off-hand I can’t think of any way thankfulness could be turned to the dark side—probably because it’s more or less contained in the person who feels it.  But gratitude is aimed at another person…and almost anything that involves more than one person can get mucked up.  So what other “good” emotions have we seen writers turn to the bad?  Love?  Patriotism?  Compassion?  Have your characters ever started out on that well-paved road, and ended in a bad place?

Hilari Bell writes SF and fantasy for kids and teens—plenty of scope for all kinds of emotions to go bad!  Loyalty is the one that gets twisted up in Thief’s War, which will be released on Feb. 27th!