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Merrill's Musings...Portland Adventures

It's my last day in Portland, Oregon and MAN has it been a good trip! If it weren't for my amazing husband and adorable furbabies, I'd be tempted to hide out in her attic and hope that she didn't notice I hadn't left. Oh, but the kids need to go back to school, huh? And there's that job... Darnit! It was almost a fool-proof plan.

Portland is a great city and I'm happy we've had several opportunities to visit over the past few years. It's a progressive city in regards to environmental awareness and a tad bit hipster, but the people are nice and friendly and there are several neighborhoods with lots of character to explore. We haven't even done everything yet, and every trip we've been busy every day. The houses are adorable, there are a plethora of cute old buildings I could spend hours in, the Saturday Market is filled with one-of-a-kind goodies for everyone. I loved seeing this street sign as Harvey Milk is one of my heroes. It's becoming a bit more diverse in cultures here, but they have a ways to go. The city reminds me of a much more spread out version of Berkeley with a little Austin thrown in. They don't use the phrase Keep Portland Weird for nothing. I feel inspired here. It's definitely a place that if I didn't live in California I'd love to call home.

My friend has lived in this house that we are watching for about five years now. As I spent the week doing her chores, cleaning her kitchen, feeding her pets, doing laundry...I found myself imagining what it might be like if I would have been a stay at home. Of course, I could never have afforded to stay home full-time, and if I didn't teach where I do, my kids would not have been able to go to school in that district, so there are a lot of pluses to the life I chose. Not to mention, living in the Bay Area makes it nearly impossible to stay at home unless you want to seriously curtail your lifestyle, which we chose not to do. I wonder what not working would be like in regards to my writing as well. But that's another post...

Portland was good to us, but man, it's going to be hard to return to real life. I did pick up the I Can't Adult Today placard. Think it will work?

We had several goals for this trip:

1. Visit my beautiful nieces that live about 30 minutes from Portland

2. Visit at least two college here for my daughter to get an idea what going to school here would be like

3. Eating

4. Shopping

5. And of course, I needed to write.

How did we do?

We had a wonderful time with the nieces. My youngest niece and I especially had a great visit as many times she's not been as open to talking with me and visiting with me as she's reserved, unlike the rest of us weirdos. I finally got to see her ride her horse, which was a little de ja vu, especially when my daughter was offered a horse to ride. (I do miss watching my daughter ride, but not being in the horse world has freed us up to do more traveling and made it possible to get her a car, cutting my mom taxi duties in half.) My little niece is a brave soul and an excellent rider. It was great to see her coming into her own.

My eldest niece is in an exciting time of her life. She's headed off to Germany on an exchange program for a month, she's in a play, she has prom and graduation coming up, and she's making plans for college. Seeing her blossom has been so wonderful to experience. I hate it that they live so far away, but the past couple of years we've made it a point to get up here and visit, so that makes it a little easier.

We visited Lewis and Clark College (pictured0 and Portland State University. Both were great schools with lots to offer, but completely opposite experiences. I'd love for her to have the small liberal arts education like I had, but after attending a high school with nearly 4000 kids, she thought the more urban campus might be better for her, although after the visit she wasn't sure. We have a ways to go before making decisions, but it's sure exciting.

EATING OMG Portland is a foodie city. Even for me, a boring eater, there is sooooo much to choose from. We've had incredible pizza twice. We've had more donuts than anyone has any business eating. I've had fantastic salads, sushi, Persian food, and we still have a couple of meals left. We returned to The Barley Mill Pub and Fulton's Pub, both of which are McMennamin's properties. I highly recommend them for their food, atmosphere and great service. I've been to several and hope to eventually see all of them here in Portland. The Barley Mill even had a jukebox, which I played much to the appreciation of our super cool server who appreciated a break from the usual Grateful Dead soundtrack. Not to knock the Dead, but they had some fantastic offerings in their jukebox. I played The Kinks, The Who, David Bowie, Tom Petty, and so much more.

I love my friend's scale, though, because it told me I'm five pounds lighter than I was before I left, which is highly unlikely. True, I've gotten in several over-10k-steps days, and there are a buttload of stairs in this house, but let's be real. One does not lose weight while eating Voodoo Donuts. By the way, my son claimes the double-decker grilled cheese from this, one of Portland's food carts, was the best sandwich he's EVER had. I nibbled. It was pretty damn good.

Shopping...Portland is a vinyl lovers DREAM! So much music. I picked up vinyl from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Dick Dale, and Nina Simone at Music Millenium, which just celebrated it's 50th birthday! it's a four-building-wide store with so many tasty morsels in it! I also bought the complete collection of Penelope Spheeris' Decline of Western Civilization and a Vincent Price collection. I had to take a picture of the excellent Osmond's album, but sadly, it did not make the purchase cut. I had to post though hahaha. Portland also has several live music venues, which I haven't been to yet, and I can't wait until I can actually go see a show up here! Totally on my bucket list.

We also had to visit Andy and Bax. It's my son's favorite place. It's a combo outdoor rec/military surplus store and my son picked up a new gas mask to add to his collection. I cannot speculate what his fascination is with masks, whether they be gas or hockey a la Jason Vorhees, but he's a pretty awesome kid, so I indulge.

Powell's is a booklovers dream, although my visit was a tad disappointing. I'd just read the article in The Guardian—which further elaborates on the issues of diversity in Romance Writers of America—and I decided to do some research on their diversity offerings in romance. Sad state of affairs...Of course, the Bay Area independent booksellers stock little to no romance, saying "it just doesn't sell" so I even finding a romance section in Powell's main store was awesome. But it was small and I found few authors of color and no gay romance. I went to the separate section upstairs that touted gay fiction and lesbian poetry, but I saw none of the authors I follow. Not a single book from my publisher, Dreamspinner Press (To be fair, by this time my son was hot and tired and ready for his Grilled Cheese Grill visit so I didn't check the spine of every book in the section, but I looked for familiar names and found none). I did tweet about my visit and Powell's commented on my post, which was awesome. I plugged @WOCinRomance for them to find diverse authors and they thanked me. Score.

WRITING! Dudes... I finished a paranormal funny romance that will be out June 24th. The title? Shifted: A Minded Story. So that means...More Maggie and Louis! That's right. Cover reveal and blurb will be out soon. The book will be out June 24th and there will be all kinds of special announcements. I can't wait to share this story with you. It was awesome to revisit Maggie and Louis and move them a little farther in their journey. I also started a new project that will hopefully be released around the end-of-year holidays. That one I'm trying a little different writing process so wish me luck!

BONUSES: I got to have dinner with one of my favorite people, author Annabeth Albert, and her family! The big group of us descended upon a small hamlet in Oregon and proceeded to chow down on some delicious pub food. Annabeth is one of my go-to authors for stories with all the feels as well as for advice and support in this crazy publishing world. I'm so grateful to have her one messenger post away when I need a weird question asked. Her latest release, Arctic Sun, starts a new series for Carina Press set in Alaska that I can't wait to dive into. I also posted three giveaways in Annabeth's Angels and will choose winners on Sunday, so go on over and enter! There are lots open from some fantastic authors.

I'm currently reading (and loving) Adrianna Herrera's American Dreamer, so once that's finished, I will travel to Alaska and fall in love with another Annabeth Albert series, I'm convinced. I also read Bru Baker's Under a Blue Moon this week and I'm on the third book in that series now. Yes, I read more than one book at a time. I also write more than one book at a time.

I picked up some goodies for my raffle baskets at Booklover's Con AND a very special subscriber-only Crazy Cat Lady package! That's right! If you'd like to be entered to win, share this blog post with a friend, and then email me and tell me why you should be considered a crazy cat lady! I'll choose a winner and email them in a week or so.

Next weekend I travel to Los Angeles for two very exciting events. The LA Times Festival Of Books is happening at USC and I will be signing in the Dreamspinner booth at 11:00 on Saturday. Then on Sunday, I'll be joining authors Khloe Wren, Eva Moore, Kate Allure, Claire Petretti Marti and more at the Lil Book Bug in Lancaster, CA for a signing from 1-5. If you're in Southern California, I'd love to meet you!

That's all for this edition of Merrill's Musings! Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance...

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