A Furry Muse

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I’m well aware of the fact that in fiction, dogs rule. Way over cats. Stories involving dogs score much higher readership than those with no pets, or with cats. I understand that. My husband is not a big cat person. He’s a dog person.

But I am what I am what I am. And there’s no doubt, folks. I’m a cat person.

I used to raise them. Persians, for show. For over 10 years, the “Gempaw” empire ruled. I had a number of Regional and one National winner in CFA, the fancy’s elite group. But I had to make a choice, because breeding cats is a big commitment. If I wanted time left to write after my full-time day job, something had to go. My horse hobby, along with my cat breeding hobby, bit the dust.

Plus, I work for a school of veterinary medicine. We encounter the ravages of discarded strays all the time. How could I justify breeding, i.e., bringing more animals into a world-intentionally–where many do not have homes?

I have been cat-less for almost 5 years. In the last year, my husband’s beloved Boston Terrier, Chopper, passed in his sleep, leaving an aching hole in the family’s heart (my husband is definitely a dog person). We adopted a new baby Boston, Rudy, who has quickly become part of our family.

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Still, the hole in my heart remained. I wanted a cat. That’s what I asked for for Christmas. The ONLY thing.

Several weeks before the holiday, with the recommendations of two of my old-time breeder friends here in New England, I found Leo. He seems to be everything I was looking for: a high-white Persian, male, great breed traits and within my budget. When my grandson saw the pics of Leo from when I went to visit him, he said, “Oh, Grandma, he looks like Boss Baby.” Thus, the name: Pearly Pond Boss Baby Leo.

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For the record, Persians don’t really qualify as cats. They are a breed apart. They act more like dogs, yet in a superior kind of way. Are they snooty? Oh yeah. Can they live without you, like most cats? Maybe not, but they will die before they admit it.

I brought Leo home two weeks before Christmas. He is everything I wanted, and more. Beautiful, cuddly, feisty. He’s good for his weekly bath and tolerates the twice-daily face washing routine with grace. Leo will debut at his first show—a CFA event—next weekend. I have no expectations. I am just looking forward to showing off my purring love and re-communing with cat show friends from years past.

Leo sits on my desk while I write, or purrs in my lap. He has become quite the terror in the office, though, and has more than once been found trying to type on my keyboard or laying on it—which my computer simply does not comprehend!

He may cost me a keyboard at some point. Oh well. What the hell?

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This baby cat has filled a hole in my heart I really wasn’t aware existed. But now that it’s filled, I know I simply couldn’t go on without him. Leo’s future is not to procreate. I’m done with the breeding end of the business. I intend for him, as a neuter, to remain my muse for the foreseeable future.

Welcome, Boss Baby Leo.

 

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Movie Review: The Light Between Two Oceans

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A number of times, I almost downloaded this book to either read or listen to (the audio version), but the number of less than 3 star reviews had me faltering. Last evening, my husband, in his channel surfing, came across the movie version and said, “I think you might like this.”

Set on the lonely, remote Janus Island off the coast of Australia, this story chronicles the sad journey of a young couple, Tom Sherbourne and his gutsy wife, Isabella. Tom is the lighthouse keeper, and Isabella is willing to sacrifice literally all contact with society to be his wife (the supply boats only drift in quarterly). Their heartbreaking love story illustrates their devotion to each other, and their fruitless quest to bear children. In the movie, Isabella has suffered her second, late-term miscarriage and is tending to the grave of her second, dead child.

She hears a baby’s cries on the wind and turns to see a lone rowboat drifting toward shore. When Tom investigates, he discovers the occupants number two: a screaming infant, and a dead young man.

With the baby snuggled in his joyous wife’s arms, Tom is torn with a terrible moral dilemma. He knows he should report the incident, so the child’s rightful family can be found. He chooses instead to bury the unnamed man, and allows his wife to claim the child as their own. All seems well until, at the christening of their baby at the mainland church, Tom witnesses a young woman sobbing before a gravestone. It bears the name of a man and a child, lost at sea. The dates coincide with those when the tiny boat drifted ashore Janus Island.

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It seems that the child’s father was German, and the family obviously anti-German. This was the 1920s.  Since he was shunned by the mother’s family, she was at risk of being disowned–from a wealthy, influential family. The father then set sail in a tiny vessel with his infant daughter. It is never explained why the father took this drastic measure, what he died of, nor how on Earth his daughter survived.

This movie raises a number of disturbing moral questions. Was Tom Sherbourne right in claiming the child as his and his wife’s own? The real mother assumed her daughter, along with her husband, had died at sea.

(Spoiler Alert) When Tom sends a letter, then the rattle that he found in the boat along with the baby, to the real mother, she knows the truth.  Tom opens up a can of worms that ends up with him in prison, accused of murdering the child’s father. His wife is forced to give up the little girl, now four years old. Nobody has to explain how this transfer of families–at this innocent but cognizant age–affects an innocent child. Isabella loses not only her baby, but her husband as well.

A mournful tale exploring the true definitions of right from wrong, this movie left me sad and unsettled. Personally, if I had been Tom Sherbourne, I would have kept my mouth shut and raised the child as my own. His wife would not have suffered the ultimate heartbreak. The child’s real mother, never knowing the truth, would have moved on. She was onshore, in the mainstream, from a wealthy family, and had the ability to start over. Isabella, alone on an island with no one but her husband, did not have that same chance of bouncing back.

And never did.

Question: why was the real mother’s family so desperate to retrieve a child whose father they denounced for his heritage? Were they willing to “forget” the child’s lineage just because it was their granddaughter?

In short, this story opened up a seeping wound in my conscience and my heart that will probably not heal for awhile. Am I glad I watched it?

No. I would be like Isabella. I would rather go on not knowing the truth. For sake of her family. For the child’s sake. For the sake of all involved.

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~~~

Claire Gem is a multi-award winning author, as well as a professional book reviewer. You can find out more about her at http://www.clairegem.com

 

 

 

Love Like This . . .

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I had the joyous experience of witnessing my son say his wedding vows this past Saturday. As I plowed through a plethora of emotions besieging my heart, the one thing that finally occurs to me is this: how lucky they are.

Clark & MeThis coming Sunday, my husband and I will celebrate forty years of marriage. Love like that doesn’t come along every day. It doesn’t bless everyone’s lives. Only the lucky ones.

Watching these two together brings back the memories of my husband and me, all those years ago. As my younger son commented, “I’ve never seen my brother this happy.” It’s true.

It’s hard for a mother . . . to hand over her son’s heart to another. I think he’s in good hands.

 

Congratulations on your new, better lives as ONE, Ashley & Justin.

 

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~~~

Claire Gem writes love stories. She does it so well because she’s lived one all her life. Visit her website or Amazon Author page to learn more.

 

Unexpected Family

Did you ever find yourself thrust into a group of people who were supposed to have a lot in common with you but . . . not so much? It’s way worse for me. I’m a devout introvert. I’d rather spend time alone than with anyone else. So social situations can be, for me, awkward. Uncomfortable. Painful, even.

Now, add to that I’m flying all the way across the country – from New England to Burbank, CA – to a place I’ve never been. Alone. I’m rooming with folks I’ve never met other than online. I’m going to be spending 5 days with people I don’t know. The only thing we have in common is InD’Tale. InD’Scribe Con. Virtual connections.

Holy buckets.

Nervous? Uh, yeah!

It all started on the plane. JetBlue rocks – onboard WiFi, right? You never lose touch. Except that I discovered, just an hour before landing in sunny CA, after a 6 hour flight, that my planned roommate wasn’t checking in until THE NEXT DAY.

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It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was too-busy schedules and time zone differences and, well, my own stupidity. I shoulda coulda checked. Bottom line was, I was flying into Burbank airport, landing at 7:15 p.m. on a Thursday night (my brain thought it was 10:15 p.m.!) and I had nowhere to sleep. The Marriott where the InD’Scribe was being held was booked solid. My options were to Uber across town to another hotel, or to sleep in the lobby.

In steps Tonya Gibbons Smalley, Executive Assistant for InD’Tale, who smoothly said, “Give me a minute.” Her text arrived a moment before I landed, assuring me I not only had a place to lay my head, but arms to wrap around me, reassuring me I was not completely alone in a place where I’d never felt so alone.

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And so it began. And it never stopped. I have never – EVER – felt as accepted, so appreciated, so embraced, as I did by the staff of InD’Tale. I remember asking Tonya the night I arrived, “So, T.J…is she hard to please?” I mean, she’s freaking GORGEOUS, obviously brilliant…I felt so outclassed. Tonya assured me, “The first thing she will do is wrap you in a hug.”

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And she did. I have a new family. In California. About as far away (geographically) as one can get and still be within the continental United States.

It’s a crying shame. I love these people. I’ve never had so much fun, never smiled so much my face hurt, never worked my BUTT off so hard (Beth, you’re a slave driver, and I LOVE you, girl!), so hard in my life.

And I can’t wait until next time.

Thank you to all my new friends I met and grew to love in such a short, wonderful time. These are life’s unexpected gifts. Times like these are miracles.

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*****

Claire Gem writes paranormal romance featuring ghosts and psychics. She is an official reviewer for InD’Tale Magazine and loves, loves, loves, her new family in California.

How to make an author nervous

We live in a small town in southern, central Massachusetts. There are lots of privately owned, cozy restaurants here. Which is great, because I would MUCH rather eat out than cook.

Especially when it’s 100 degrees, like it’s been the past few days.

So, we go for breakfast to one of these local icons last weekend. The owner is a sweetie. She always hangs my posters for local book signings, and has (she’s told me) read a number of my books.

Last weekend, when we walked into her establishment, she calls from the kitchen,

“I just finished your latest book!”

As an author–a not terribly self-confident one–I wondered if this was a good thing, or not.

“So? What did you think?” I asked, cringing as I waited for the answer. She’s an extremely honest person, and I knew if she hated it, I would hear about it. As well as everyone else in the restaurant that morning.

“I loved it! When’s the next one coming out?” she shouted over the busy restaurant’s din.

I cleared my throat. “I’m working on it.”

And then came the words that I will print out and post on my wall in 6 inch tall, neon letters:

“HURRY UP!”

It doesn’t get much better than this.

~~~

Claire Gem writes contemporary romance and supernatural suspense. Visit her at www.clairegem.com.

Grandma, do dogs go to Heaven?

Oh, the responsibilities of Grandma. It’s hard enough to deal with the loss of a beloved pet, one who had become a member of our family. One who shared our lives, our home, our dinners (albeit through crumbs dropped on the floor) for over ten years. But with a six-year-old in the house, the task of Grandma became even more difficult.

We knew days before his time came that Chopper was leaving us. He was gracious and kind. He didn’t force us to make any difficult decisions. Chopper passed peacefully in his sleep the day after Memorial Day.

“No more dogs.”

This from my husband, through tears. Chopper was his baby. I knew better. I started searching for a new puppy just days after we put our boy to rest in our backyard.

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As it turns out, finding another Boston terrier puppy isn’t all that hard–unless you have specific requirements. I wanted one as close to Chopper as we could get. Small for the breed, around 15 pounds fully grown. Classic markings. Brindle in the black coat.

And that face . . .

As luck would have it, I found Bree’s Bostons and Buddies on Facebook. Every pup in her most recent litter was gorgeous, but one stood out. He was the runt and, since her litters carried the Game of Thrones theme, she called him Tyrion (I don’t watch the show, but I guess he’s a little person?).

Small problem: Grandpa isn’t a fan of Game of Thrones. Bigger problem: Bree lives in Louisiana, and we in Massachusetts. And flying a young pup–in cargo–is no longer a smart option.

What a saint this breeder is. She was willing to meet us halfway in Roanoke, VA. Ironically, in 2008, Chopper also came from Louisiana, although his breeder was no longer in the business. It was synchronicity. It was meant to be.

So we packed up the family and made the trip. “Rudy” (named after the movie by the same name–little guy, big heart) came home last Friday and oh, is he a doll. He is everything we’d hoped he would be and more.

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And so it came around (in an inquisitive, six-year-old’s mind) to the same question, as we watched our tiny, 8-week-old pup romp in the yard. Chopper’s yard. The one that used to be his domain. Where (in my grandson’s mind) his deceased buddy was watching from his shady corner under the flowering cherry tree.

“He looks just like Chopper, Grandma. Do you think it’s okay with Chopper that Rudy shares his yard? Do you think Chopper is in heaven?”

“I’m not sure, sweetie. But I do know this: sometimes really, really good dogs get to come back to Earth in a younger, healthier body. I think that’s what happened with Chopper and Rudy.”

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And so it will be.

~~~

Claire Gem writes supernatural suspense and really, truly believes in ghosts. Even doggie ghosts. Website

 

Love at Lake George – Win a Free Audiobook!

Join me today in welcoming the talented producer/narrator of my contemporary romance, A TAMING SEASON, the first Love at Lake George novel, Sharon Cline.

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Good morning, Sharon, and welcome to Emotional Journeys! I’m so glad I found you to narrate A Taming Season. This book and its characters have been very close to my heart. So I have to admit, I was more than a little picky in choosing a producer to be “their voices.”

From the first moment I heard your audition, I knew you could portray my heroine, Zoe, perfectly. What inspired you to begin producing audiobooks? And how long have you been at it?

What inspired me to narrate audiobooks is my love for audiobooks!  I commute about two hours every day to and from work, and sometimes I can’t wait to get into my car and listen to the next chapter of whatever audiobook I’m listening to.   In narrating, I love I can tap into another personality and try to feel what the character is feeling, and then try to convey the emotion through the words.

You really inject emotion into the characters’ voices. Do you have any training in acting?

I was involved in plays and musicals in high school and college.  It’s always been somewhere in the background of my life, and I love I can incorporate acting into my love of books.  I just started narrating books four months ago and am so excited!

Are you familiar with the location where the book takes place, in Lake George, New York?

I am not familiar with Lake George, but your descriptions make it sound beautiful, like a wonderful place to visit (just not in winter J).

Well, that’s true and it’s not. It’s true, Zoe did have a hard time making it up to Jason’s cabin that snowy winter night. But when I was ready to write that scene, I’d never actually been to Lake George in winter. So one frigid February, my husband and I packed up and headed north to spend a weekend on the lake. There are a few accommodations that stay open year-round, as Lake George has a busy winter “tourist season” as well — ice-fisherman, snowmobilers, and the like.

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I have to admit, it was spectacular. The lake freezes over entirely (a shock to me!), and we spent the afternoon watching the antics on the ice all afternoon from our hotel window. Then, I awoke at four a.m. and looked outside. It was snowing like crazy! Big fat flakes were wafting down around the street lamp so thick I could hardly see it. 

This is where I wrote the last few chapters of A Taming Season: Sitting right on its shores in the middle of a snowstorm 🙂

Back to you: I was blessed the day I was perusing narrators on ACX and discovered you, Sharon. The minute I heard your voice, I knew you were the voice of my heroine of A Taming Season, Zoe Anderson. It sounded like you really got into the role . . . can you tell us about what it was like to “live” Zoe’s story?

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I enjoyed playing Zoe because I could identify with many aspects of her personality.  She had an incredibly traumatic experience happen to her and has tried to build a normal life afterwards, struggling along the way.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled in some part of their lives, trying to manage complicated emotions.  Also I love that she was brave…I have a bracelet that says, “Fortune favors the brave,” and it’s an aspect of my personality I’ve been grateful to have throughout my life.   She was brave not only in her willingness to experience a relationship again, but brave in accepting herself as she is, and loving herself whether anyone else did or not.

You also did an outstanding job of bringing Jason’s sister, Jade, to life. In the story, Jade is Jason’s half-sister who was born and raised in Jamaica. Your Jamaican accent is amazing. How does a narrator adopt an accent?

Jade’s Jamaican accent is new for me!  I am so glad you’re pleased with it.  I listened to lots of outube videos with people speaking the accent to try to get the cadence down.

How does the narration process work? Do you read the entire book before sitting down to record, or just one chapter at a time?

I read a few pages at a time to get the gist of what’s going on in the book and then dive in.  It’s like I’m experiencing the book at the same time as the reader, the emotions are fresh and real to me that way.  The first time I experience an emotion is usually the strongest and I’m the most pleased with it in narrating.

Do you have a home recording studio? Or do you rent space in a professional studio?

I have a home studio, which I love because I can record any time.

What did you think of the story? You mentioned that you had difficulty in certain spots because you became emotional and had to stop for a while . . .

I had trouble with some parts of the book to keep my emotions in check, because I just felt so strongly what the characters were saying, what they were feeling.  It was like I was them, which is quite interesting in I’ve never played a male character.  But truly, how different are we really, when we all mostly want love and acceptance and to be valued, whether male or female?  I would stop sometimes because I’d get teary eyed and sound like I was stuffy.  But I loved feeling what they felt, like living and identifying with the human experience, vulnerability and sorrow and joy and uncertainty and frustration and anger and jealousy and best of all, love.

Do you think you might consider narrating the next book in the Love at Lake George series? (fingers crossed)

I’d be honored to narrate the next “Love at Lake George” novel!  I look forward to it!

That’s great news, and since I held this interview with Sharon Cline, she has also committed to producing my 2017 National Readers Choice Award finalist, The Phoenix Syndrome. That will be coming sometime later this summer, while I continue work on the second Love at Lake George novel, “Anchor My Heart.”

You can connect with Sharon on Twitter Here.

And now, for the giveaway 🙂 I’m giving away 5 free copies of A Taming Season in audiobook version! Just comment below to enter. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on July 4th, 2018!

Thank you, Sharon, for visiting with me today. It has been pure joy working with you, and I look forward to hearing the next production of The Phoenix Syndrome!

~~~

Claire Gem writes contemporary romance and supernatural suspense. You can find out more about her at her Website or Amazon Author Page.

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A Different Kind of Reunion – A New Release by Joanne Guidoccio

Today we’re celebrating Joanne Guidoccio’s release of her newest novel, A Different Kind of Reunion with an interview and a Rafflecoptor Giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Click the link to enter!

The blurb for this story really has me intrigued:

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While not usually a big deal, one overlooked email would haunt teacher Gilda Greco. Had she read it, former student Sarah McHenry might still be alive.

 Suspecting foul play, Constable Leo Mulligan plays on Gilda’s guilt and persuades her to participate in a séance facilitated by one of Canada’s best-known psychics. Six former students also agree to participate. At first cooperative and willing, their camaraderie is short-lived as old grudges and rivalries emerge. The séance is a bust.

 Determined to solve Sarah’s murder, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers shocking revelations that could put several lives—including her own—in danger. Can Gilda and the psychic solve this case before the killer strikes again?

Check out the Book Trailer here.

You can buy this exciting new release here:

Amazon (Canada):  https://is.gd/vR5Sxn

Amazon (United States): https://is.gd/lU0qw7

Kobo: https://is.gd/5MMKWF

Indigo: https://is.gd/11GpVs

Barnes & Noble: https://is.gd/ckNfhx

iTunes: https://is.gd/oPe0RD

The Wild Rose Press: https://is.gd/nQ2ZjT

And now let’s get to know Joanne a little better . . .

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If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

I would want Lorraine Bracco to play the part of Gilda Greco. A long-time fan, I enjoyed watching her play Dr. Jennifer Melfi in The Sopranos, a role she had to actually request. The producers had originally asked her to audition for the role of Carmela, but Lorraine felt compelled to stretch herself in the role of the psychiatrist.

Carlo Fantin – Colin Firth

Leo Mulligan – Woody Harrelson

Cassandra Coburn – Anna Kendrick

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

I think of myself as a linear pantser. Once I get the spark of an idea, I let it percolate. While driving or doing routine tasks, I imagine characters and come up with a title. Before starting to write, I plan the first three chapters and the ending. As for the rest of the storyline, I let it flow as I write.

Do your read your reviews?

I read all my reviews at least once. On “blue” days, I reread the excellent reviews. While reading the less-than-stellar reviews, I look for common themes. For example, several readers commented on the number of characters introduced in the first chapter of A Season for Killing Blondes. I kept that comment in mind while writing Too Many Women in the Room and A Different Kind of Reunion.

Describe your process for naming your characters?

When I first started writing, I paid little attention to name selection. Whenever I introduced a new character, I would use the first name that popped into my head and then become very attached to that name. That resulted in repetition and confusion. In A Season for Killing Blondes, Book 1 in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, I used Paolo, Paula, and Pauline for three of the characters. Thankfully, one of my beta readers pointed out the repetition. Later (after publication), I noticed the same problem with Mel and Melly Grace; Jean and Jenny Marie.

With Books 2 and 3 of the series, I have been more careful with name selection. I write out all the character names beforehand and spend several days getting comfortable with them. Anything that sounds confusing or repetitive is replaced.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

While sitting in Sister Maris Stella’s Grade 13 English class (circa 1973), I dreamed of writing the great Canadian novel. I followed the conventional advice of the times and pursued a career in teaching, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that someday I would resurrect that writing dream. In 2008, I took advantage of early retirement and devoted my second act to writing.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

It would be wonderful if I could fly at will. Whenever I felt the need to travel, I would pack my bags, stand at the doorway, and visualize my intended destination. Within seconds, I would be transported to a five-star hotel room in that particular city. This superpower would also come in handy during lengthy meetings and sticky situations.

Wow, if you figure out how to get that superpower, please share! It sounds like one I’d definitely like to have as well!

More about Joanne:

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio:

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Check out Joanne’s other books HERE. Thanks for joining me on Emotional Journeys today, Joanne, and best of luck with your new release!

~~~

Claire Gem writes contemporary romance and supernatural suspense. You can find out more about her at her Website or Amazon Author Page.

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High Stakes: Kids with Technology

When I was five, I had a coloring book. Maybe a few picture books. My grandson has an iPad. He had two. One cost almost as much as my laptop.

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Tonight, on our way in from a dinner out, he wasn’t listening (imagine that. He’s five…) He was carrying his iPad–the more expensive one–with the protective cover open.

“Please stay on the sidewalk. Stay out of the mud,” I said.

Of course, he didn’t listen. Stepping on the edge of the sidewalk, he got more than mud on his shoes. He tripped and fell. He’s fine (thank God). The very expensive iPad isn’t.

A shattered screen sent his mother into a tirade. I don’t blame her . . . but then again, he’s FIVE. He shouldn’t have been allowed to “play” with such an expensive piece of equipment in the first place.

So now he’s in his room, crying, banished. Banned from any iPad use indefinitely. Does he understand the brevity of the “crime” he’s committed? How can he? He’s FIVE.

My point is this: when I was that age, the biggest crime I could commit would be to break a piece of my mom’s china. Drop a glass. Spill grape juice on the carpet.

Today, the stakes are much higher. When a kid screws up, he can screw up BIG. Like, to the cost of several hundred dollars. That’s what it will cost to replace the screen on the iPad.

What effect will this have on him as he matures? Will he be more careful? Will the scar of having destroyed such an expensive piece of technological equipment serve as a lesson?

I think I liked life better when the worst thing I could do was to drop my three dollar coloring book into a mud puddle.