Mercy Celeste

Yesterday, Saturday, March 5th was such a beautiful day I decided I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge and do something different.

We drove over to the Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore is, well, the shore on the eastern side of Mobile Bay. Mobile is on the western shore. There’s an outlet mall over there that I needed to visit but I didn’t want to make the day about shopping. I needed to go to two stores for specific things. And it’s a long freakin drive. That got longer when we drove out to Fort Morgan.

If you read Shift in Time you’ll remember that I mentioned Fort Morgan a few times. I set Fane’s first life as a soldier on Fort Morgan peninsula and on a fictional mythical island that if it existed would be somewhere nearby. Cloaked and shrouded from human eyes and instruments. Fiction writing is awesome. You get to make shit up.

Anyway, Fort Morgan is one of two forts guarding the mouth of Mobile Bay and played a role in history as the site of one of the last sea battles of the Civil War. Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead…you’ve heard that before right? It was said by Admirial David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Anyway, moving on, the other fort Fort Gaines is on the western side on Dauphin Island. Both are still open to the public.

I’ve always loved touring forts. Something about it. While Fort Gaines on the western side has had the town grow up around it, Fort Morgan is still very natural, the buildings on the end of the peninsula some 20 miles from Gulf Shores are all historical land marks and I’ve always found the place to be quite beautiful, and eerie in it’s isolation.

Imagine what it would have been like to be stationed there before roads and civilization. You’re at the edge of the world with nothing around you but salt water and dense forest. The only way off is by ship, the only supplies are the ones brought in. There may not be fresh water, hunting would be good but vegetables and fruits would be a rare treat. And you’re wearing wool…in the broiling Alabama summer sun.

Yeah.

Just imagine. Politics aside. Just imagine.

I haven’t been out to the eastern Fort since the storms. By storms I mean Ivan and Katrina. The last time we went the fort was completely flooded and not open to the public. That was before Aubrey was old enough to walk.

So we took a drive back in time. And I had my camera. Incidentally, there are photos of the fort in the link above to give you some historical perspective.

The entryway into the citadel. Sandwiched between the two walls.

The view from atop the citadel. Why yes, moi of the bad knees made the lovely decision to climb the steep walls on the only sane staircase they had and immediately regretted that decision when the oh freakin hell don’t let the kid fall fear of heights kicked in. The kid and the husband descended on that lovely stairwell of nightmares you see in the first picture. It has narrow treads on one handrail, on the inside. Plus my knees are now pissed with me.

Alaina called it the room of terror. Aubrey posing outside the room of terror. I’m not exactly sure what’s she’s looking or pointing at but she thought it was funny. Okay so on the gulf facing wall there was this series of rooms. The other walls were painted black. There’s no lighting in these rooms. Alaina was the only one to weave her way in and out of all of the rooms and nooks and crannies. She told me this one room gave her the creeps with the hand prints and someone had written help on the wall. So I made her lead me back to it. The pictures show a white washed room with scarred walls and what looks like more modern hand graffiti on the walls but in reality there was very little light and most of what is in the picture couldn’t be seen in the room itself. I could see the wall with the large scar about head height on Alaina and some of the writing on the left wall. What the flash revealed did kind of creep me out. Yes it’s rust and scars and whatnot but I still see faces looking back at me.

On the way back out of the citadel tunnel Alaina stopped to look at something. I was behind her in the tunnel. It’s not exactly dark in here, more like very shadowed. I snapped both of these pictures in quick succession, just taking long enough to zoom in for the second. Alaina says the orbs are sun spots or something reflected or or or. I say they’re freaking orbs. Because there’s not a sunspot or anything to be seen on that wall from a distance. Not one thing.

IMG_0185

And we survived to tell the tale. No one fell off the wall. Mommy didn’t have a heart attack climbing the wall. No ghosts ate us for dinner. A good day was had by all. Nobody complained. Well except the dog, who was left at home for six hours with the cats.

Over the years certain things have become apparent to me.

  1. I’m a control freak.
  2. I’m a control freak.
  3. I’m a control freak.

There. It’s been said. I don’t like conflict. I will not get in anyone’s face or push my views or wants or needs on anyone. But dammit I want it all to be the way I want it and screw everyone else.

I’ve noticed this about myself pretty much most of my life. But I was trained to not make waves and to keep my opinions to myself and to shut my trap. Not because I’m a female, but because I am too much like my mother who is this times worse. I’ve also had no choice but to take care of everyone in my life BEFORE I could think about myself. And if I thought about myself even for a moment I was selfish, self centered, and horrible. Mostly because I wouldn’t give my brother something I’d bought for myself with the money I’d earned on my own…yeah…not what I was going to talk about…but anyway.

Three years ago I had no credit. None. I’d done what most women who married young or in a certain time period did, I did not build credit in my name that was not attached to my husband’s name. We bought cars, in his name. We bought a house together, in his name. We never had credit cards because well, he wasn’t the best at keeping his credit clear enough for credit cards. We’d been married for nearly 25 years at that point and I controlled all of the finances except I couldn’t call the car lender about a bill because it was in his name. I couldn’t talk to the mortgage company when things started going sideways, because it was in his name. And he worked 60 to 70 hours a week, mostly during their customer service times.

Three years ago I wanted to buy a house- a new house. We’d been renting for three years up to that point. A 950 square foot house. Yes, you read that right. We lived in a house that was essentially smaller than most apartments and we had four kids. We paid a thousand dollars a month to rent that tiny little house. It wasn’t a bad house. It was in a nice quiet neighborhood. We had a nice small fenced in back yard. And it was central to most of our needs. But it was too small. So I wanted a place that was bigger so the kids could all have their own bedrooms, and well, we weren’t allowed to hang art on the walls of that house or paint or put up curtains or anything that might damage the walls…I wanted a place where the kids could decorate their rooms and we could not be all up on each other.

Three years ago buying a new house was at the top of the list of impossible things I was never likely going to ever achieve ever again in my life. Why? Because of two things. No down payment and no credit or bad credit. Also not enough verifiable income. Not ever going to happen.

We also needed a reliable car. We’d bought the Jeep outright after the van died a gruesome death the year before, but it was a gas aholic and not all that reliable and we were putting more into keeping it running that we would have paid monthly to finance something. So we financed something. It took both of our incomes and all of his credit to finance the damned thing with a sub-prime interest rate…which means we were paying triple interest maybe even more.

A car for me that I was solely going to pay the payments for so I could have something not that expensive to drive around the city to take kids to school and pick them up again. And I couldn’t get it financed without the help of my husband. Because I had no credit and the last car we’d bought was only in his name and was sitting in a junkyard because it was dead.

Okay. Well, that was the first step. I had my name on a loan at least. Still wouldn’t get me into a house but I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a good first step.

One year later I had managed to save around a thousand dollars a month to go toward the down payment of a house. We didn’t have to pinch pennies at that time, but I wanted a house so I kept on pinching pennies. One kid was out of the house. Another kid was old enough to be out of the house. He couldn’t afford it as he was only a year out of high school, going to college full time, and working part time. Living at home was still easier and financially better for him. So we had one kid about to graduate high school, one working on college, and the little kid in first grade. Less people in the house but it was increasingly becoming smaller and smaller and…a freakin war zone because an almost adult was sharing a room with an almost second grader and…you can’t make kids sleep in dog houses in the back yard…it’s mostly illegal.

The husband and I toured home builder sites that spring and early summer. I applied for a house. We applied for a house. There was no way we were going to finance a house in any capacity that year. We didn’t have enough saved for the down payment. And neither one of us had enough credit to qualify.

But that turn down conversation was probably the single most educational conversation I’d ever had with anyone before or since. The guy who declined my loan told me exactly why he declined it, instead of giving me that neener neener sorry, better luck next time speech dripping with disdain because I am not worthy of his time because I’m not credit worthy…if you’ve ever been turned down for a loan you know exactly what I’m talking about. This guy spoke with me over the phone for half an hour telling me exactly what I needed to do to get a loan from his company. EXACTLY. And I did everything that he told me. It took me a year to get everything to fall into place and in that year of building my credit. Mine. Not the husband’s. Mine. I managed to save $20,000.00, which wasn’t enough for a conventional loan but was enough for an FHA loan. And one year after I had that conversation I had the credit I needed and the down payment and I bought a house.

Three years later, my credit is in the low 700s and climbing. Mine. In my name. Not his. Not shared. Mine.

I think this is important. I mean I’m not trying to say anything about anything other than I was creditless and if anything had actually happened to my husband, everything was in his name. I was totally dependent on my husband for my financial future, even when I contributed to our finances. And now I’m not. If something happens to him I don’t have to worry about anything. Three years ago it didn’t even cross my mind that I’d put myself in this position. Not even once. What was his was mine, right? Except I had to have his permission to discuss the loan on my new car that I was paying for, because he was the primary borrower on the loan. The car he didn’t drive. Didn’t put the money down on. Didn’t pay for. Because at the time he had the greater income, and he had the better credit record and I wasn’t worthy.

Yes it pissed me off. Because I was 43 years old and I considered myself to be equal to my husband and I had my own income and I never considered myself to be “dependent” upon him. I earned. I worked. I raised our children. I paid our bills. I bought our food. I cooked our meals. I did half of everything. But I couldn’t talk to the lenders on my loan about a charge that shouldn’t have been there without his permission and that pissed me off.

So yes, I am a control freak. Sue me.

But you know, I have a house, in my name. I have credit cards in my name. I have a new car loan completely in my name. And my credit is now better than his.

So what I wanted to talk to you about is how to build credit if you are like me. How to get credit when you can’t get credit because you don’t have credit to get credit because you never got credit because you always paid cash except for big items like cars and houses.

Step one. Go to Credit Karma and open up an account with them. They don’t ask for a credit card and you can keep track of your credit with them. They’re not spot on, but they’re a place to start.

If you have anything derogatory pay it off. If it’s not yours, dispute it. Try to clean up your mess so you can start fresh. I had my student loans, a $79 unpaid directv bill, and two medical bills to medical offices I’d never been too, for procedures I’ve never had done. Medical doesn’t weigh heavily on determining credit, but it wasn’t mine and I didn’t like it being there. If you’re behind on your student loans, get them current or in forbearance/deferment. If they’re too high, try to negotiate them down. You have 90 days either way, good or bad, before they report. If you’re bad, it will be 90 days before they report you’re not bad. If you’re not past the 90 days late mark, don’t let it get that far. Seriously. You can’t get an FHA loan if you have even a hint of a student loan issue.

Step two. Go to your bank and open a secured credit card. This is assuming, that like me you have never had a credit card and are not in credit card debt up to the Jolly Green Giant’s eyeballs. If you don’t have a bank, well, you should probably make that step two. I mean seriously, you need a checking account to get credit. How do you live without a checking account? I have two banks. I have a credit union savings and checking account and I have a traditional bank checking and savings account. I use the second one as my business account. My credit union does not offer secured credit cards and I couldn’t qualify for a non-secured card. My regular bank gave me a $700 line of secured credit.

What is secured credit you’re asking? In a nutshell I opened a “credit savings” account with $700 of my own money transferred from my existing funds to which the only way I can use that money is through the credit card. I swipe my card, that amount comes out of my secured credit account. I pay back my own account monthly from my checking account. Basically, I loaned myself the money to fund the credit card and I pay myself back each month. The bank gets nothing from this…as long as I don’t overspend my account and I pay it off each month there are no fees. Do either of those things and there will be fees. Probably big ones.

Step three. Go open a secured credit card with another bank. Wells Fargo was suggested to me. You will have to have money to open the account. See step two.

Step four. Use each card each month. Do not spend more than a third of your credit limit. This is important. Never ever max out a card just because you can. Never charge more than you can pay back at the end of the month. Charge a tank of gas. Or a pair of shoes. And pay it back. Do it every month for about six months-ish.

Step five. After six months or so try to open an unsecured credit account. A store card, like Kohls or a place where you shop. Don’t get one with a huge annual fee. And if you get it, use it exactly like you did with the secured cards. Don’t get more than one. Too many cards can look as bad as none. Never over spend. Always pay them off.

Wait a couple months maybe three ish and you should see your credit jump.

Closing an account even if you pay it off with no problems and everything was on time and you paid it off early will cause your credit to drop. This is an unfortunate fact. Not using a credit card for several months in a row will cause your credit to drop. If you let it sit idle for too many months, the credit companies will assume it’s a closed account. If it’s an unsecured card, the credit lender will likely close the account and charge you a fee. Be careful with your cards. That’s why it’s never good to have too many. I have three. I use them online only to order an item from non amazon companies to have shipped to my house. I only use each card once. Never more than a hundred dollars. And I pay them off as soon as the bill comes in. The nifty thing about the one I have with my bank is I simply have to transfer the funds.

Step six. Well, technically there is no step six. I mean if you want to finance a car, then go do that. If your goal is a house. Go apply. If it’s not enough ask them what else you need to do. Keep your credit spending under control. Don’t go into debt. When you’ve achieved your credit goal you can either keep the secured accounts or change them over to a traditional unsecured account or close them. Just remember that closing will look bad on your credit and who knows, you might want to have credit available for other things in the future and you have to have revolving credit to get credit. I’d keep the cards. Charge a tank of gas…because….that is the way the world works.

I hope this helped someone. I’m no expert by any means. I wasn’t in debt. I can’t help you get out of debt. I just know what I was told would help me. I did what was suggested to me. I went from credit in the low 400s to credit in the almost mid 700s. This took time. It’s work. I scrimped and saved and penny pinched for two years while I built my credit and my down payment.

I have been in my house for 8 months now. I can walk into any car dealer and get the car I want and drive it home with a non-subprime interest rate.

Credit is an amazing thing. Respect it. Respect yourself.

and there’s still a week left of February…sighs.

I haven’t been here in a while. I haven’t been anywhere in a while. I pop in a few times daily on Facebook and that’s about the extent of my activity. I’d apologize but it’s only going to get worse.

I guess to say something here, is hummm…don’t know.

I’m alive. The crud didn’t kill me. Didn’t even come close, unlike last year when it took me six months to get over it. I’m good. The older I get the worse it gets and the harder it is to get rid of. I drink enough juice and shovel in everything that supposed to strengthen your immune system or help you kick basic colds faster yet this one lasted a month. The last one damn near killed me. I fear the next one.

I have no energy. None. I’m just going through the motions of being human.

My youngest child has entered puberty. She’s 9. She’ll be 10 in a few months. She’s my fourth kid. I suspect I’m not going to survive the next four or five years. Sighs.

Okay, so I guess since the question has been asked five million times this week alone I should probably answer it.

There’s not going to be a fourth Scrimmage book.

I’m sorry.

I know I left a few threads hanging to pick up in the fourth book. That was nearly three years ago. I can’t pick up those threads and start weaving a new story with them. I’ve tried. I’ve tried and tried and tried and tried. I’ve deleted so many attempts. I’m not going to attempt a fifth version of picking up where I left Jude. Jude’s story is done. Jude’s story is now apart of Levi’s. Jude’s story and Levi’s story are all that’s left. And I can’t go there.

I’m going to leave it as it is.

What about Sunday Schooled?

Without what would have been the fourth book Sunday Schooled can’t exist. Leave Bo and Dylan at Six Ways and be done with it.

What’s next if not Scrimmage or Cold or a sequel to anything?

Nothing.

I’ve published 20 books. I’ve written 25. I burned one of those 25. The other 4 will never see the light of day.

I haven’t written anything since I finished Blues in September. I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s hives.

I sit at the computer with a blank screen and my brain starts screaming. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I start shaking. I turn off my computer and I go do something else. Anything else. I will clean my house to avoid thinking about writing.

I hate cleaning house. I hate it so much I had four kids to do it for me.

House work has become my treat for staying off the computer.

I bought new notebooks and pens and Dragon voice to text software with hopes that all I needed was a different place to write. A different way to write. A different anything.

The panic is still there.

Paper makes a delicious sound when it’s torn to shreds. Much more satisfying than deleting a Word file.

I stopped reading. I can’t read for pleasure anymore. I’m too critical of what I’m reading. I’m too angry about how bad this five star book is and how poorly written it is and how it’s got so many errors and plot holes you could drive a convoy of Death Stars through it without out touching the sides. I’m angry and I’m bitter and I can’t write because I can’t have a single error or plot hole or holy hell breaks loose and lord forbid I want to write something lighthearted then I’m accused of not writing it at all. Or if I write books like I’ve written and it upsets people who just want a short sweet sex visit with their favorite characters. I’m too dark. I’m too light. I’m insane and need to be stopped. I read my reviews. I read comments about me. I read comments about other authors, dragging them through the mud for something trivial…and my brain screams enough. I’ve had enough. I’ve had five years of enough. I’ve published 20 books. Most of them fairly long books.

Harper Lee passed away today. She’s from Alabama. She is probably one Alabama’s most famous children. She only published two books. The first one before I was even born. I’m not Harper Lee. I’m not ever going to be great. I’m not ever going to write that one end all be all book that defines literature for generations. I’m just a romance writer who can’t write because the voices in my head stopped telling stories and started screaming.

So I guess maybe that’s about all I have to say.

When you ask when…I don’t know.

Maybe one day. Maybe never. Maybe I’ll write again maybe I won’t I don’t know. All I know is I can’t hear my brain scream over the sound of a vacuum cleaner and that’s where I am right now.

Please don’t tell me I need medication or professional help because, yeah I’m sort of tired of being told that too.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. See you when I see you.

Peace,

Mercy

I missed last Friday. I know. I’m horrible. I’ll try to do better. I was sick. My brain was swimming.

So it’s February. Nice short month. I bought a vase of hydroponic tulips from Costco the other day. So far I haven’t killed them. They were just sprouts at the time, now they’re taller than the vase, but no flowers yet. I love bulb flowers. I kill bulb flowers at an alarming rate. Even faster than I kill mums in the fall. I am death to plants. They know it. They see me coming in the garden centers and I can hear them cringing in fear. Don’t pick me please please for the love of Daisy I don’t want to die.

I follow the direction on the pot sticker thing. I do. But I am a plant killer. The husband bought me a plant for my birthday. My kids took bets on how long it would live. The husband has known me for almost 28 years and didn’t get what they were taking bets on. Let’s just say cut flowers have a longer life than potted plants in my care.

So, February. Two nights ago it was 72 degrees at midnight. Last night it was 35 degrees. Yep it’s February.

And we’re all dying.

Spring flowers are blooming. Then they’re goo. Then they bloom and are like will you just effin make up your effin mind February what the fuck man.

Spring in February you ask?

Well, it’s that weird season down here when it’s hot then cold then hot then cold then rainy and tornadoes happen and well, that’s Spring. But Spring is in April and May you say….uh, yeah, by May we’re enjoying a nice early summer in which we have thirty minutes of perfect everything weather with nice temps with no humidity or mosquitoes. By June 1st we have the air conditioning set to arctic blast and start wondering when we’ll hit triple digits on the thermometer.

February, March, and half of April are spring. Summer is half of April through to whenever it’s good and damned ready to go away for Winter to have a month. Fall…well, we don’t really have a fall. It’s hot. The trees turn brown. It’s cold. Then it’s hot again.

Mucinex severe cold and congestion syrup is a miracle in a bottle. I highly recommend it.

I have not shipped out most of the prizes from last week yet.

I couldn’t stop coughing for much of the last week and was spewing germs so I thought maybe I shouldn’t send the plague through the USPS.

If I stay non-coughy through the weekend I’ll have everything out by Wednesday. It was 34 packages. That’s a lot of tissue paper.

So what’s going on here? It’s Mardi Gras week coming up. Small girl has a 9 day break. Yay. Going to sleep in and avoid downtown like…well always.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and as they say…

laissez les bons temps rouler

and by that I mean sleep

Mercy

 

Okay gang, 13 winners today, in the order that I have them listed above. If you wish to decline please let me know. If you already own the book you won and would like to swap it out, I have three titles available for swap. One or two copies of each. I need your mailing address for everything but the last one, that one I need your email address and your format preference, I’m going to try to get it straight from Dreamspinner to you, but I need to cover all bases. Please respond within 48 hours. Okay so here we go.
3rd prize: #31 Tammy with no last name
2nd #26 Susan Romito
1st #50 Trix
and the second set
9th: #44 Debra E
8th: #66 Denise with no last name
7th #58 Sherrie Landow
6th #47 Saxon Hawke
5th #56 Sula with no last name
4th #37 Maggie Johnson
3rd #63 Vickie with no last name
2nd #71 Daria with no last name
1st #23 CMDancer
and the bonus Clare London bundle goes to
#14 Connie Dingler

Congrats everyone. Email me your info to claim your prize at [email protected]

and a note to all previous winners. I have not shipped yet. I will get those out in the next few days. 34 packages is going to be really fun :-D

And the winners are for day 7:

3rd prize #7 Tracygee0

2nd prize #16 Heather Rouse

and 1st prize #12 April Watts.

Congrats ladies. To claim your prize email me your mailing address to [email protected]

So today is the day. It’s also the last day of this giveaway. I’m also over on Clare London’s blog for her birthday giveaway too. I also have a sick kid. So I’m going to be brief tonight.

My birthday and I’m giving away the gifts. Lots of prizes. Two first prizes.

The same rules apply: I’m not even going to ask a question today because I’m too tired to think of one. I have cake. Somewhere. Buttercream. And strawberries.

Okay so the usual prizes.

3rd: The final book in my library. Signed Print copy of Out of the Blues. And the last regular swag pack.

2nd: The deluxe swag pack and a signed print copy of Behind Iron Lace.

1st prize: The final Betsy Johnson handbag. I think it’s this one. I hope it’s this one. If I already gave this one away then it’s the other black and pink one.

Bag3

But wait there’s more.

Sooo there’s these:

Signed print copies of:

9th prize: Wicked Game

8th: Behind Iron Lace

7th: In from the Cold

6th:Let it Go

5th: Shift in Time

4th: Crazy from the Heat

2nd 3rd: Light from the Dark

2nd 2nd: Out of the Blues

2nd 1st: 7 inch Kindle Fire

and a special prize: I’m going to gift one winner with Clare London’s Greatest Hits ebooks bundle from Dreamspinner Press. I will need your email address for this one…as a thank you to Clare for having me on her blog today.

 

Just comment.

Thank you all for playing with me this past week. It’s been a blast. I now have to package all of this stuff up and get it in the mail.

Smooches

Mercy


  • Jodi Lockhart: *talk them into it Damned MS brain! ARGH!
  • Jodi Lockhart: I haven't been there in years. In fact I'm sure it was before Sandi was born and she will be 18 in a few months. I should take her there for a weekend
  • Marilyn Adam: Thanks for telling it like it is. When I was in business I saw many women whose husbands died or left and they had never even written a check! Much le

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