Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

Wishing you fun and love and happiness in 2012.  Southern tradition holds that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day brings prosperity, so as a public service, I'm posting a recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Salad, which I found many years ago in a cookbook titled Miami Spice.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad


2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (canned are acceptable)
2 ribs celery, cut into fine dice
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
¼ cup finely diced green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus 4 sprigs for garnish toss together in a bowl

Mix:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss into bean mixture, chill, eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nativity

I found this poem printed in a magazine when I was in my twenties and have always loved it.  With all that Christmas means to the religious, for me, in the final analysis it comes down to a mother, a father and a child.

Nativity

I doubt He came to chants of angel choirs,
or that His birth was heralded afar.
We charge the tale as afterthought requires,
convert a feeble candle to a star,
bring Eastern kings to worship at the byre. 

More like, some older woman from the inn
sent Joseph to heat water at the fire,
and helped the frightened girl to usher in
the wrinkled, squalling Babe, and tore a clean
old linen sheet to make the swaddling bands;
then, having finished, left the girl serene
and trudged back to her room to wash her hands. 

I find the daily miracles of earth
sufficient portents for a Savior's birth.

     Roland A. Browne

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Detour

The muse is at the mall, probably still shopping (or maybe people watching) and I'm at home, getting ready for the holiday and finding myself doing a lot of crocheting.

Crocheting???

Who would have thought that with all the other things to do I'd have picked up the crochet hook and started an afghan?  I'm obsessed!  I love to crochet in cool weather.  The weight of the piece on my lap is warming and I love to see the work progress.  So, crocheting it is, for the time being. 

My friend Sonja says one kind of creativity always sparks another, and so hopefully the sometimes mindless yarn-overs and single crochets will give my brain some free time to work through the story problems and character oopses in Take Me Home.  Then, at the end, I should have an afghan and a book!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Counting Down To Christmas

I'm beginning to get excited about Christmas.  Cards are in the mail.  Wreath is on the door.   I'm through with shopping and getting ready to pull out the decorations. I spent the afternoon making holiday bags out of food boxes from the pantry and packaging up some spiced almonds and pecans I made over the weekend. 

I'm not spending a lot of time writing, although I have morphed Lindsay, the heroine from Take Me Home, from a secretary/assistant to the in-house counsel for hero Shadow's sports agency.  Now, if she leaves the city, she has even more to lose.  Yay!  (Does that sound mean?  No worries.  She gets everything back, and more, when she falls in love.)

How are you preparing for the holidays?  Is your schedule shot to pieces like mine?

Happy writing (and celebrating).

Monday, December 5, 2011

At Loose Ends

What to do?  What to do? 

I'm eager to begin rewrites of my NaNoWriMo novel, Take Me Home, but I'm getting mixed suggestions about how long I should let the book "simmer."  The NaNo folks say wait until March for NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month).  Stephen King says give it six weeks. 

I think about the book a lot, even though I'm getting back into reading, crafting and trying to improve my cooking skills.  Maybe since I'm so unsettled about what to do, I should think about it some more. 

So, I will. 

PS to those of you who are thinking of trying the Cuppa, Cuppa, Cuppa Cake.  I made one today, with pineapple, and before I put in the pan I decided to throw in a cup of blackberries I had lurking in the fridge.  OMG, as the young girls say.  Best thing I ever ate!  Try it!

In the meantime, happy writing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Final Update

I finished my NaNo novel this morning at about 10:00.  After validating through the NaNoWriMo website and being declared a winner, I read the first thirty pages of Diane Gaston's Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy (book three of the fabulous Three Soldiers miniseries), cross-stitched for the first time all month, watched a bit of the Today Show, brushed my teeth and went out to lunch.

For the first time in thirty days I wasn't watching the clock to make sure I got to the computer on time.  I loved the freedom, but, oddly, I miss my novel.  Yes, the hero and heroine got their happy ending.  I wrote epilogues about their wedding day and the day the hero finds out he's going to be a dad. 

I'm looking forward to the editing/rewriting process, now that I have a step by step guide to the plot. 

Will I do NaNoWriMo again?  Definitely.  The intense writing was hard on my neck and shoulder and my chair made my back hurt, but the joy of having a solid framework for completing this particular book is exhilarating.  I like that.

Congrats to all of you who've been NaNoing along with me.  Congrats also to my nephew Brian, who also won this year.

Happy writing!

Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update: Charging Toward the Finish Line

Only three days to go till the end of NaNoWriMo.  It's been an exciting, eye-opening experience.  I'm on track to finish my 50,000 word novel well before midnight on Wednesday, November 30th!

If you're NaNoing, I hope you're on track to finish, too.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

LET US GIVE THANKS

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For children who are our second planting,
and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks:
For generous friends with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes,
and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, who like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.

From View from a Tree
--Max Coots

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fast Food For Writers: Dessert, the second


Here's another dessert you can put together while the oven is preheating:

(Extremely) Rustic Apple Tart



I call this Extremely Rustic because it didn't come out looking as pretty as it usually does.  It tasted great, though.  I was tempted at one point to simply slide it off the baking sheet into a bowl and serve it with a spoon, but I prevailed, and with the assistance of  two spatulas and a pie server, finally got it onto a plate.

You'll need: one pre-made and rolled out pie crust (available on the dairy aisle) and a can of pie filling (I have used apple and cherry and plan to try peach the next time I make it.)

Spray a baking sheet or pizza pan with a release agent (like Pam) and roll the crust out on it. 

Dump the filling in the middle and bring the edges of the crust up toward the center.  Let the edges overlap a little.  Sprinkle a bit of sugar on the edges of the crust.  Because the crust makes contact with the release agent it isn't necessary to use water or an egg wash to moisten. 

As the tart bakes the crust will loosen up a bit and the filling will spread out.  That's how it takes on the tart shape and not a deeper pie shape.

Bake at 350 degrees F for an hour or until the crust is the color you like.

Tip:  Don't let the crust become too warm before you begin working with it (a little chill from the fridge is a good thing).

Top with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. 

Enjoy! 





Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inky, Again

Inky is here, visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Here he is  on the lookout for a plot twist! 


He helped me with my NaNo writing last night by going to sleep on the chair mat directly behind me.  I couldn't move for about half an hour, in which I wrote bunches of words. 

Good dog! 

Happy writing!

Friday, November 18, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update, with a nap

Still forging on.  30,461 words in 18 days.

Happy writing (I know I am!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fast Food For Writers: Dessert

I have two dessert recipes than can be assembled in the time it takes your oven to preheat—assuming your oven is 23 years old like mine and can be a little slow.


Cuppa, Cuppa, Cuppa Cake (from the movie, Steel Magnolias)

1 cup sugar

1 cup self-rising flour (or you can add 1½ t fresh baking powder and ¼ to ½ t salt to all purpose flour)

1 8 oz can crushed pineapple

Combine in a bowl (Batter will be thick). Pour into buttered 8 inch square baking dish (or a pie-plate works fine, too). Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Let cool before serving. Will be dense, but springy. Serve with ice cream or a light whipped cream.

The original movie version uses fruit cocktail (ugh!). I have also tried applesauce, but like pineapple best.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update: Back on Track

I spent most of the day Saturday writing, mostly in fifteen and thirty minute word sprints, in order to write 3,492 words (a record for me).  I got caught up and resolved not to fall behind again.

This type of writing, all in, all day long, is a killer.  I remember when I first began writing.  I'd get to the computer early in the evening and spend hours crafting sentences, searching for just the right word.  I put in a lot of time on my elbow, with my chin cupped in my palm, constructing the perfect prose that would make me, if not famous, then successful as a writer.

Now I have a note on my computer monitor that says, JUST WRITE IT! and it means just that.  Have the thought, write the thought.  If it's not perfect, don't worry.  It will all work out in the edits.

Happy writing!

Friday, November 11, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update: Hitting the Wall

I knew it might happen, but was woefully unprepared for it.  On Thursday, I hit the wall.  The late nights and sitting in front of the computer so much caught up with me.  I logged fewer than 500 words for the day and was in bed before 10:30 p.m.

Not all was lost, though.  I took my notebook with me and plotted the next scene--the heroine's introduction to the people in the town she originally hated.  It's a turning point for her and for the story, too, where place becomes home.

Here's what Paperback Writer (www.pbackwriter.blogspot.com) had to say today about NaNo and intensive writing of this sort:

"Writing professionally is an endurance marathon, and this is one of those tough stretches in the process when you find out if you have what it takes to be a successful writer. We don't stop when the new and shiny wears off. Successful writers find ways to avoid or at least stall other ideas distract them from the work. We do whatever we can to shut their door in the face of that no-treats, all-tricks doubt. If something dumps us in a trash can, we climb right back out and keep writing. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how much we don't want to."


I'm going to take this advice and keep on keeping on.  If you're like me and have the voices of characters rattling around in your head, we really have no choice.

Happy writing!



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fast Food For Writers, part 2

In continuing observance of NaNoWriMo, here's another offering that's good for the soul.


Karen’s Version of Impossible Pie




Ingredients:
1 1-lb. bag of frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)
½ cup chopped white onion
1 8 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces


Mix above ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and cook briefly (until you can smell them). Spoon into a 9” pie plate that has been sprayed with Pam.


Mix in blender:
2 eggs (or a two-egg container of egg substitute)
2 T chilled “lower fat” margarine
1 T baking powder
½ cup skim milk
6 T flour
½ t salt
pepper to taste


Blend on high for 15 seconds. Pour over vegetables and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done.


Top with 1½ oz. grated low-fat cheddar cheese and return to oven until melted.


NOTE: This is an old Weight Watchers recipe adjusted to allow for more onions and mushrooms (my favorites!). If you use eggs instead of egg substitute or butter instead of the lower fat margarine, you may need to adjust quantities.


This is yummy as an entre just out of the oven or wrapped in a tortilla, with salsa, as a quick lunch. 


Enjoy (and happy writing!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update, with a tip!

I'm loving NaNoWriMo!  Six days, 10,288 words!!!

Here's the tip:  don't forget to back up.  Sunday afternoon I sat down to write and my computer told me, "the amount of memory has changed."  So, I thought, no biggie.  Then I logged onto Word and discovered that over 1400 words from Saturday night had been lost.  I panicked until I realized I'd backed up my work as soon as I'd finished.  What a relief. 

Sometimes the universe has to smack you in the face in order to get you to do the things you should already be doing. 

Stop by on Wednesday for another Fast Food For Writers recipe. 

Happy writing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, I'm doing it!  Participating in NaNoWriMo when I wasn't really sure I could do it.  Last year my friend Judy quit after three days.  I've made it through four and racked up 6,769 words.  Admitedly, it is 10:00 p.m. and I did just finish for the day, but I'm here!  I'm hanging in and having a ball. 

My RWA chapter meeting is tomorrow and I desperately need to trim the dianthus, but writing will have a priority, too. 

How about you?  What are you writing this weekend? 

 If you're NaNoing, good for you!
 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fast Food For Writers, part 1

If you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year you'll need sustenance!  Aren't you glad I'm here to supply you with quick and tasty recipes to keep your body going and those words flowing?  First up is a fantastic Black Bean soup--full of spice and fiber, it'll do you good!


Note:  I'm not much of a photographer, but this sure did look good on my luncheon table!

If you’re falling behind on your page/word count, here’s a quick, yummy soup recipe. It’s nutritious, too.

Instant Black Bean Soup (from Cooking Light, then adjusted by me)

2 15oz cans black bean soup, undrained
½ cup salsa (mild, medium, or hot. Your choice)
1 T chili powder
2 cups vegetable broth (I like Emerel’s)

Pour one can of beans into medium saucepan. Use a fork to mash them well. Add remaining beans, salsa, stock and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Makes 5 one-cup servings. (You can cook this longer to make it thick and stewy, but you won’t get as many servings).

Top with ½ ounce reduced-fat cheddar and one T sour cream.

I like this with broccoli slaw and sliced apple on the side.

Enjoy!

Happy writing!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

Believe in yourself.  After that, everything is easier. ~ Larry P ~

Last January when I wrote out my goals for the year I listed taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and attempting to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It's the last day of October and I'm still somewhat on the fence about whether to participate.

Or am I?

On Friday night I officially registered at the NaNoWriMo website.  I started plotting a book (the fifth, and last, I think, of the cowboy books).  I've caught up on cleaning projects.  I pre-planned several blog posts.  I cooked and froze some meals so that I won't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  My schedule is cleared.

So, why the reluctance to commit?  Isn't that a guy thing? 

Maybe it's a fear of failing or the fear of success--another rough draft on my list of not-quite-finished manuscripts that I want, really want, to complete. 

I'm eager to start a new project.  That's one of the most fun things about writing. 

So why not just do it, you big chicken? 

Okay, okay, I'm in.  Come Tuesday, right after I take my daily walk, I'll be at the computer, making the magic happen again.

Just to prove I'm serious, I'll share the back cover blub I wrote for this story, Take Me Home, last March:

He's the perfect man 

Witty, urbane, handsome and rich as Croesus, big-time sports agent Shadow Markham is a man's man and a woman's dream. 

She's a hardworking woman  

She's shaken the dust of ranch life off her shoes.  Lindsay Palmer is ready for the bright lights and big city diversions of Denver but she never dreamed her boss would be the main attraction.  Or that he'd drag her screaming and kicking her Jimmy Choos all the way back to the country.

Or that she'd want to stay there, forever, as long as he was there.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy writing! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I Love Fall

In addition to being able to write outside, there are a couple more reasons I love fall.

Here's one:

After a couple days of rain my roses decided to bud.

There's still one to go and I'm looking forward to seeing it.  We've got some rain scheduled for this weekend and I wonder if there will be a repeat show.

Flowers always inspire me.

So do mild temperatures, gentle sunshine and the friend I had lunch with today.

Of course, most everything inspires me, except mosquitoes, and dang, if we don't have a bunch of those this year.  Maybe if they'd leave me alone I'd have time to clean the moss off the flower beds!  That does not inspire me!!! 

Happy writing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Begin at the Beginning

Gosford, Texas, five miles, the sign read.

Tucker Richmond eyed the barren landscape and laughed. “More like godforsaken, if you ask me.”

A hazy recollection hit like the ground rising up after a bad toss from a rank bull.

Godforsaken. His bruised and battered memory replayed the moment; sweet, feminine laughter accompanied by the music of birdsong and a kiss as brief as the rippling of a swiftly moving stream.

Then, fast as it came, it disappeared.

All but the phantom ache of a broken heart.

He laid his hand atop his chest, reassured by the measured beating he felt there. “Still alive, old buddy,” he told himself. “Head as empty as a rain barrel in a drought, but still alive.”

The exit came up fast, but not as a surprise. He’d been heading for it for days—-even before he’d left home, it seemed. Toward a girl named Shea Osborne. A ranch named the Busted Heart. Memories of a life no longer his.

He bore to the right.

This is the opening page of Married in :08 (that’s eight seconds, for all you city slickers). It’s the first of the cowboy books, or cowgirl books, I guess I should say, as the series is titled The Cowgirls of Gosford.

Tucker is a rodeo man, a bull rider who’s sidelined for the time being as he recovers from the accident that took away his memory. He travels from Oklahoma to Gosford, Texas to find Shea Osborne, the girl his parents say was the love of his life. He doesn’t expect to find a beautiful woman who has moved on from her childish fancies of love to raise twin five year-olds who look suspiciously like him.

This is the writer’s lot: we find stories and characters we fall in love with. Sometimes the writing goes well and editors fall in love with those stories and characters, sometimes something is missing.

My goal is to finding the missing parts, one word at a time. I know I can do it because I love writing, I love Shea and Tucker, and I believe in happy endings. I hope you'll stick with me because you do, too.
Happy writing!





Monday, October 3, 2011

Finally Fall!

I finally got the cool(er) weather I was hoping and I've moved my study to the porch.


There's my little computer, my calendar and the printed manuscript of "Married in :08" which is my new (or should I say, ongoing)  project, along with my neighbor's lovely fence.

 "Married" is the first in the series of cowboy books.  It's the story I love the most and has always been a thorn in my side because I just can't seem to get it to be the book I know it can be. 

The characters, Shea Osborne and Tucker Richmond, are wonderful, but their story is a train wreck (there, I said it).  But, there cannot be a series without a lead story, and "Married" is it.  Sooo, from now on, until my fingers fall off--now there's an image to go to sleep on--I will work on it every day until it's finished. 

And I mean, finished for the last time, because goodness knows I've thought it was finished a dozen times before. 

Tucker and Shea deserve their happy ending and I'm determined to give them one.  Not to mention their children, Brandon and Brianna, who have been stuck at age five for lo these many years, unable to grow up. Now that's a noble goal if there ever was one.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Happy writing! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weather Obsessed

I’ve been a little obsessed with the weather in the past few weeks, ever since I caught a whip of fall in late August. (Yes, I can smell fall. It’s a gift.) I’m eager to move the writing operation out onto the porch where I can catch a breeze and see the birds at the feeders.



Over the weekend the weather folks began pitching what wonderful weather we were going to have for the first of October. Sunday morning they were saying temps would be in the mid 80s. By Sunday night, the estimate had gone up to 86 or 87. This morning they were saying 88 or 89. My question: How is this fall? Even in Florida, nearly 90 is not autumn.


I have to cut them some slack, though. They seem to be as desperate for fall to come as I am. Since this was the third hottest Florida summer on record, I feel their pain.


I suppose I must be patient. I promise, though, that I will not be one of those people who complains about cold weather during the winter.


Unless it freezes. Then, all bets are off!

Happy writing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back in the Saddle

We got some much-needed rain in Central Florida. This morning everything is washed clean in more colors of green than you can count. Still hot (expecting 90s) but not so humid. That’s fall where I live.

Last night I took some time to scout out where I am in my various projects and realized I’d gotten behind on my goals for the year. Delusions of grandeur had me thinking that I’d be preparing The Cowboy Way for submission at about this time, but alas, it came in second in the Touch of Magic Contest and the editor who read the finalists only ranked them and did not comment—and also did not ask to see any of the manuscripts.


One of my Noodler sisters gave me the idea of writing a novella about the settling of fictitious Gosford (where all the action takes place) and I’ve spent way too much time thinking about that. I’m also preparing for NaNoWriMo and spending a lot of time plotting what will happen when Lindsay Palmer and Shadow Markham are thrown together at Tucker Richmond’s rodeo school.


Who are these people, you ask?  Stay tuned…

Happy writing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Taking a Break

Hey, guys,

I'm going to be on a short break, hopefully not longer than a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy these last few days of summer.  Live, laugh, love, and write, write, write.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keepin' It Light Friday

And I used to think there was nothing good on the Internet…

"The Hokey Pokey" (as written by W. Shakespeare).

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

Verily.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What I'm Reading

Had to take a couple of days away from writing to catch up on reading.  I needed to refill the well, so to speak, and replenish my inner dictionary. 

In a weak moment I picked up one of my favorites, This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland and fell in love (again) with one of the supporting characters, Colin of Berkhamshire.  So naturally I had to read Colin's story, From This Moment On, which transported me back to medieval times when men were men who carried swords and protected the weak, regardless of their sex.

I read a snippet of Barbara O'Neal's How To Bake a Perfect Life through the library's DearReader service and knew it was one I wanted to finish.  This is truly women's fiction at it's best.  The characters are real, their conflicts are heart-breaking and the resolution is as uplifting as you would ever want a book to be.

I hope you try all three.

Happy reading.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Donating Blood

I donated blood today, as I have every two months or so since retiring from my library career.  I chose today because it's my father's birthday.  Had he beat the cancer that took his life he would have been 90 today.

My dad's blood type was AB negative, so much more exotic than my garden variety B positive.  Growing up I remember the occasional calls he would get from the local hospital with requests that he hurry over and donate a pint because of someone who was having emergency surgery or was involved in an accident.  He always went willingly.  In later years I know he donated at the local blood mobile but I have no idea how many gallons of blood he donated in his lifetime.  I've yet to make it to one gallon.  My brother, another frequent donor, has t-shirts and key-chain medallions heralding his many donations. 

I guess you could say donating blood is our family tradition.

Here's what the American Red Cross says about blood donations:

Every minute of every day, someone needs blood. That blood can only come from a volunteer donor, a person like you who makes the choice to donate. There is no substitute for your donation.

When you make a blood donation, you join a very select group. Currently only 3 out of every 100 people in America donate blood.

From its beginning, the American Red Cross has formed a community of service, of generous, strong and decent people bound by beliefs beyond themselves. The American Red Cross blood donor embodies this principle.

To learn more about blood donation opportunities, visit www.redcrossblood.org/ or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733 2767).

I hope you'll thing about making blood donation a part of your schedule.  It's painless and convenient.  And you lose a pound!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hood Ornament

Back home from Kentucky, still trying to get back into my routine.  I've almost caught up on my reading.  Some days it's more fun to read someone else's book than to write your own.

When on my way to have lunch with my gorgeous niece Jennifer I realized there was a lizard on the hood of the car.



I wasn't sure if he was using me for transportation or if he was in one of those wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time situations.  He jumped ship, er...car, about five miles from home. 

It's great to be able to take that leap, even if it is into unknown territory.  Bon chance, lizard.

Happy writing.

P.S.

Inky and I decided not to pursue our writing partnership.  All his plots involved Milk Bone dog biscuits and I wanted hunky cowboys instead.   Plus, he took too many naps.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Writing with Inky, day...

Friday was a rainy, gloomy day in Kentucky.

Inky spent it guarding his ball from maurading villains.  Note the fierce face.


Against my sage advice, he took his ball onto the deck (in the rain) and dropped it over the side.



Can you see it, there between the flowerpot and the basketball hoop, on the outside of the fence?  Guess who got an umbrella and fetched it back?  Good writer. 

Today, Inky amused himself by ripping open his dog bed and pulling out the stuffing.  Bad Inky.

Happy writing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Writing with Inky, day 2

Another busy writing day for Inky. First, he practiced his fierce look, the one he uses to scare the villains away.

Then he settled in for a nap.
This writing gig is tough on a fella.
Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On The Road

I'm in Kentucky this week, visiting family, breaking in a new writing partner and searching out some old haunts.
Who's the new writing partner? His name is Inky and he's an adorable little wildman. Here he is, thinking up new plot lines:
Inky spends a LOT of time thinking up new plot lines.
I took a side trip to Bernheim Arboretum today. Bernheim is probably the most beautiful place on earth, but don't tell anybody. I want to keep it to myself.
Here's Inky in his little doggy house when I got back:
He was a very good dog while I was gone. He got a Milk Bone dog biscuit as a reward. Later he helped me fill bird feeders and water plants. Then he tore a paper towel into a million pieces and let me pick up the pieces. VERY good dog.
Bernheim Forest, where I went hiking, is in Bullitt County, Kentucky, about fifteen miles from historic Bardstown. Since I was there last they've built a new Visitor Center. It's a sustainable, certified green building, almost all windows, tucked in to a wooded area and looks like it popped right out of the ground.
Here's the beginning point of my favorite trail, Rock Run.
Rock Run loops through the forest between trees and around rocks. There's a gully that runs down the middle of the loop, which, luckily wasn't too wet. Sometimes, if I don't have on my hip waders, I have to turn around and go back. Not so today. It was a wonderful walk, mostly.
Here is a picture of the place where I fell the first time:
I didn't bother to take a picture of the place where I fell the second time.
And except for seeing the biggest horsefly I have ever seen in my life (when I heard it coming I thought it was a helicopter) I didn't see any other wildlife.
I hated to leave, but time was awastin' and critters were awaitin'. My last view was of these pink Black-eyed Susans. Don't have anything like this in the yard back in Florida.
Happy hiking.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America


This patriotic little plant is new to the world. It was just potted last week. It's young, hestiant and spindly, kind of like America was back in 1776. It has tremendous possibilities, though. With a little care and a lot of water and light, it can become anything it wants (except for a cactus, I suppose). Just wait and see how great it will look by Labor Day.

Here's a shout-out to my dear friend Jim Childress. He's at home recovering from open-heart surgery. Fourth of July has always been one of his favorite holidays and I'm sure he'll be enjoying it, and probably watching 1776 for fun.

Happy holiday!

Friday, July 1, 2011

What I'm Reading

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden.

From the blurb (that's librarian-speak for the inside front cover text):

In the summer of 1916 Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, close friends from childhood and graduates of Smith College, left home in Auburn, New York, for the wilds of northwestern Colorado. Bored by their society luncheons, charity work and the effete young men who courted them, they learned that two teaching jobs were available in a remote mountaintop schoolhouse and applied--shocking their families and friends. "No young lady in our town," Dorothy later commented, "had ever been hired by anybody."

Nothing Daunted is the story of Ros and Dorothy's adventures in the mountains of Colorado and their lives after returning home.

I was enchanted by the prospects of the story, told by Dorothy's granddaughter Dorothy Wickenden. There was one quote that really caught me and wouldn't let me go. Ferry Carpenter, the man who advertised for teachers for the Elkhorn school, wrote Ros and Dorothy prior to their leaving for the west and advised, "If you have a 22 you had better bring it out as there are lots of young sage chicken to be found in that country and August is the open season on them."

I'm still not sure if that would have made me eager to go or determined to stay.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rakkutta ja lapsionnea

A rainy day got sunny when I found a nice surprise in the mail today. It was a little box from Harlequin--two copies of Rakkutta ja lapsionnea.

No, I’m not playing dancing digits on my keyboard. Rakkutta ja lapsionnea is Daddy in Waiting in Finnish.






One of the most fun things about being a Harlequin author is receiving copies of foreign editions. When I pulled this one out of the box I had a bit of a déjà vu experience because I remembered being paired with the incomparable Holly Jacobs before. Hmmm. I had to pull out my box of foreigns and my last royalty statement to realize that one of the copies was a direct sale copy and one was a retail copy. Not that it matters...I’m just happy to be in the game.

You may note that there are different covers on the books. The one on the right is my original cover and the other is Holly’s. In the baby cover sweepstakes, both are winners.

I once had a sister author tell me I was lucky that I got such a cute baby. She said that Harlequin babies usually look like space aliens. Hey, I’ve seen some of those babies, and my friend was right.


So, if you’re in Finland this summer, look up a copy of Rakkautta ja lapsionnea. If you miss it, it’s probably available at Amazon.com for a penny.

Happy writing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wild Kingdom

I'm working on a scene today that has dogs in it. Deputy Buck Thomas, the hero of The Cowboy Way, has three Border Collies.

As you know, Border Collies love to work. On the Triple Bar T, (Deputy Buck's family's ranch) the dogs have two jobs: they instruct visitors on how old-time cattle ranching was done (man, horse, dog) and they herd things.

Any things. People, cows, birds...you name it.

One of the dogs, Chris (his mates are Bill and Jack) has fallen in love with the heroine, and she with him. There are also some barn kittens that the heroine falls in love with, but that's another part of the story.

I hesitated to put dogs in this story, because, as you know, kids and dogs always steal the show. And, wouldn't you know it? Chris turns out to be a minor hero of The Cowboy Way. But it is a ranch story, and there were already these three great dogs living there...so why not.

It's no secret that I love animals--well, except for squirrels. So, imagine my annoyance when yesterday I noticed that the squirrels had brought a friend along with them to the feeders...a rat!

I was not amused.

In fact, I was really upset until I saw the newest denizen of the back yard, a hummingbird. Yes, I have finally attracted a hummingbird to my feeder. As best I can tell, it's a female ruby-throated hummingbird. She's small and kind of plain, but I'm so happy to see her when she comes by. Watching her delicate wings flutter while she looks for food, and then seeing her jet off when she's done just makes my day.

So, what's your pleasure? Birds or squirrels or rats? Did I forget to mention the snake on the porch yesterday afternoon? Or the mosquitos? Ouch!

It's a regular wild kingdom around here!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flowers for You

These sweet dianthus (some call them Pinks) greet me each time I go in or out my front door.




In this same pot I've had zinnias, azaleas, a rose (didn't make it a week), a hibiscus (had to water it twice a day) and some primroses that survived against all odds and retired to the little woods behind my house.


I love flowers. In my stories the heroes are forever giving the heroines flowers (Daddy in Waiting), taking the heroines to wildflower meadows (The Cowboy Way), and sneezing because they're allergic to flowers (Untitled, at this point).


I hope you have lots of flowers (both real and figurative) in your life.


Happy weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perseverance

Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped. Lillian Hellman

The hand-to-hand combat with The Cowboy Way continues. On Monday afternoon I cut the scene that had been driving me crazy, only to put it back that evening. Tuesday I wrestled with the next scene, then decided that the characters were bickering (a big no-no in a romance novel). A short re-write later they were working as a team again.

What’s next? Darned if I know. If Lillian Hellman is right, I’m probably not supposed to know. I’ve had characters hijack a story before and that kind of writing into the unknown is fun. This—wrestling—is not.

One thing for sure. I’ll keep plugging away until I find out.

Happy writing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Procrastination

Over the weekend I read an interesting post by Victoria Strauss over at the Writer Beware blog (http://accrispin.blogspot.com) where she speaks to the problem of Internet procrastination.

I have to admit that there is a LOT of distraction to be found online. My solution is to do online “research” on my Netbook and remove Internet access from the computer on which I do the majority of my writing. That particular computer is in my study, and believe me, there are ample other distractions in that room—and the Internet can’t hold a candle to a single one of them.

First, of course, there are the books. Last year I weeded them down to only the keepers, and there are still several hundred of them. I struggle not to pick up an old favorite when the writing is not going well, or as quickly as I’d like. Lynn Kurland’s This Is All I Ask is a perpetual temptation.

Then, there’s the stereo. I love to listen to music while I write. While working on the cowboy books, it’s soundtracks. Brokeback Mountain and Crazy Heart, especially. And I love Toby Keith. When he sings “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This (Unless You Mean It Like That)” I just have to stop and drool.

The window overlooking the back yard is hard to miss. From my desk I can see the woods and the bird (or should I say, squirrel) feeders. Even with the windows closed I can hear the cardinals singing for their breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Finally, heaven help me, I cannot fight the siren song of Spider Solitaire. Just one game, I tell myself. I’ll only play until I win, I insist. Oh, it helps me to play a game or two and let my mind wander (this worked for me exactly twice, and I’m still using it as an excuse).

Yes, Solitaire is the alternate spelling of PROCRASTINATION. I know this because I looked it up on the Internet.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lightning

I'm begining to feel that this is more a weather blog than a writing blog. The heat index today was 105 degrees! Hot, humid, bright, bright, bright sunlight...that made it a great day to stay inside and write.

My revisions of The Cowboy Way are forging ahead. I feel as though I'm in hand to hand combat with every paragraph, every sentence, every word. Does the heroine ask the right question? Give the right response? Does the hero reply in kind or is he just stubborn enough to poke and prod and rattle her cage? To-may-to or to-mah-to? Po-ta-to or po-tah-to.

Mark Twain had it right:

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

One thing is for sure...it's illuminating.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yesterday...

Had to ask the muse to sit on her hands yesterday while I worked in the back yard. The process of planting some rose bushes turned out to be a little more complicated than I’d anticipated.

I bought Knock-Out roses for the flower beds. I was excited about them for several reasons, not the least of which was their tolerance for direct sunlight and drought resistance—both of which (sun and drought) we currently have in Central Florida.

Also, they’re adorable! The flower isn’t tightly furled like a hot-house rose, it’s more like a wild rose. They currently only come in a deep red color, but there are rumors that pink and yellow are on the way. Since I’m trying to attract hummingbirds to the yard, red is the perfect color for me.

I’d heard that Knock-Outs didn’t have thorns, but that’s not true. I have the scratches on my hands to prove it. Not sure yet whether they really do dead-head themselves, or bloom from spring to fall, but that just adds to the enjoyment when you are the most amateur of naturalists like me.

After I rounded up all my tools, kneeling pad, drop cloth to hold the mulch I raked off the beds, then went back into the house ten times to get water, pruners, etc., etc., I was ready to plant. Got the first three into the ground, watered them, moved the mulch into a non-grassy area so the landscapers wouldn’t run over it, then…

I stepped on a rusty nail.

It was a funky little nail, about an inch long attached to a flat metal plate about an inch square where the head should be. I’m guessing it’s a fugitive from the time my roof was replaced, about three years ago. I recently moved a piece of wood from the area where I picked it up and think it might have been hiding there.

Question? Do you know the date of your last tetanus shot? I didn’t. I changed doctors a couple of years ago, and they didn’t know either. So, the gardening stopped so that I could run over to the doctor to get the shot. Now I have a record of my most recent vaccination and a list of others (influenza, etc) for the next time I need to know.

Question? Did you know that the “new” tetanus shot is paired with a pertussis vaccine? Now, when you’re vaccinated, you not only avoid a nasty care of lockjaw, you won’t be a danger to little babies. That’s a plus for me, since my youngest great-nephew is only one year old.

The roses? I finished planting them this morning. I’d hoped to get to them early, since we’re expecting a high temp of 97 today. I stepped outside at 9:00am and it was already hot, but luckily, shady by the porch. They’re watered and waiting for the mulch to be replaced. I’ll have to do that later, maybe when the temp drops to a more manageable level—95 or so.

Till then, I’m enjoying the view.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What I'm Reading

I could never write a mystery. I don't have the kind of mind that can sort clues from red herrings, the cute bad guy from the cranky cop with the manly, twice-broken nose or the spooky old house from the modern, crisply white beach-side home that will eventually be covered in blood.

I was raised on John D. McDonald and Ed McBain, because that's what my parents read and what was most often found laying around the house, but I was never interested in writing one. I was more of a Dreiser, Shakespeare, Nancy Drew kind of a gal.

Disclaimer: The Cowboy Way does have a teeny, tiny mystery element to it, but I don't make it hard to solve. I reveal the bad guy's name on the first page...Bradley, if you must know.

So, I'm glad that great writers like T. R. Ragan (Theresa to her Noodler sisters) has taken up the romantic thriller mantle. I just finished Abducted, now available for download on Amazon.com (and others). You don't want to miss this one, folks. It's suspenseful, chilling and un-put-downably good. You'll double lock your doors and put a baseball bat next to your bed, guaranteed.

Abducted is the story of Lizzy Gardner, kidnapped by the totally warped and crazy Spiderman when she was in her teens. He's back now, kidnapping, torturing and murdering other teens, and Lizzy knows she must help capture him. She teams up with Jared Shayne, her boyfriend at the time she was kidnapped, and together they solve the mystery.

The characters in this book are so well-drawn and well-motivated, I couldn't stop reading. Don't you love a book when you can't wait to find out what happens next???

I highly recommend Abducted to everyone who loves a good thriller, and especially to those who don't often read them. It's that good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Poetry Day

It was Poetry Day at the June meeting of Central Florida Romance Writers on Saturday. Our speakers were two poets who courted through poetry. Their story was fun and inspiring. Interspersed with readings were several short (5 minutes) writing exercises. Out of three attempts I managed to write one thing I was happy with and thought I'd share. We were talking about food imagry here...

strawberry lips
almond eyes
cherry cheeks
skin smooth as vanilla creme
voice like melted chocolate

what man could resist such a woman?

what woman could resist such a gourmand?

I love stepping outside my comfort zone and being prodded to stretch my creativity. Sometimes it takes a cattle prod...but that's another topic for another day.

Speaking of cattle (I wasn't, really, but play along with me here), rewrites of The Cowboy Way are going swimmingly. Ideas tend to ping-pong around in my head when the writing is going well, so ideas for other projects are bubbling up, too. There's nothing I can do but just go with it. Where fiction is concerned, a flood is always better than a drought.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What I'm Reading (YA Edition)

I was browsing on B&N.com last week ordering Tangled (Have you seen it? It's too cute) and to round out the order (love that free shipping) I bought A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. It came out in 2003 and I don't know how I missed it, because it has a Theodore Dreiser connection.

From the back cover:

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this astonishing novel weaves romance, history and a murder mystery into something moving, real and wholly original.

I just started it today and I'm already impressed with the wonderful descriptions and characterizations.

YA. It's not just for kids.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Before you close your eyes tonight, please take a moment to think about all those brave soldiers, men and women, who have, throughout the years of our proud country, fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Think also of their families, who miss them every day.

I know I will.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Revisions Revisited

A week in an Internet-free zone has been hard on my blogging but great for my writing. Revisions on The Cowboy Way are going better than well.

I have writing friends who talk about “revision hell,” but for me it’s always an eye-opening experience. Having to concentrate on each sentence, each word, asking myself if it fits, if it progresses the story, if it makes sense, and having to be honest with myself about the answer, has made me a better writer. It’s been emotional and exhausting, but it’s been fun and kinda cool.

I’m looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend. I’ve made plans to go shopping with a friend. I’m sure that at some point we'll hit a book store.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not Writer's Block...But What?

I'm having a Scarlet O'Hara day today...I haven't done one thing that couldn't just as easily be done tomorrow.

I did have lunch today at a wonderful vegan restaurant with my friend Jennifer, and we did talk about books, but talking about books is not the same as writing one.

When I got home I watched the news--none of it good--and read for a few minutes, listened to the thunder pounding outside, and hoped for rain.

Dinner was late and I didn't get to the computer until 9:00pm. Slaved over the same ten pages I've slaved over all week. Ugh.

Not a productive day. The muse is not amused.

I'd love to say I have a fool-proof plan for tomorrow, but really, I tolerated 30+ years of work-related planning and the nicest thing I can say about it is how wonderful I felt when I was able to give it up.

So, here's the not-a-plan. I will finish off those doggone ten pages that have given me grief and edit/rewrite (as is required) the next ten. Possibly more, possibly not. There is only one thing writtten in stone. I will try.

P.S. It never did rain.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stolen Moments...With a Book

On Saturday, with the announcement that I finalled in Central Florida Romance Writers Touch of Magic contest I've put myself on a rigorous schedule of editing and reworking the manuscript (The Cowboy Way) just in case it's requested by the final round judge.

That same day I stopped by my local library branch to pick up a hold they'd called me about. I thought it was the new Peter Walsh book--he's the world's best (and most down to earth) organizer and has great advice about getting control of clutter.

Not that I have clutter in my house...at least none I'll admit to.

But, ahem, anyway, much to my surprise, the library had THREE books for me. The Peter Walsh, which can wait (much like the clutter I don't have), but also Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris, which cannot. Can Not. No way.

That's where the stolen moments come in. I started with the Brooks. Have you read her books? Oh, my gosh. What a delicious writer. Read Year of Wonders first. You'll be forever changed.

From the first word, Caleb's Crossing is amazing. The voice is incredible. The descriptions are lyrical. I'm allowing myself only 25 pages a day so that I can keep up with my own writing and still be finished in time to take it back to the library. At some point I know I'll break, and keep on reading, probably well into the night.

Uh oh, I think I just heard the ominous sound of a tiny cracking in my resolve.

Think about cowboys, Karen. Think about cowboys.

I'll let you know how it all works out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Can Hold My Breath for 2:02:04

Did you see the Derby? Aren't those horses some of the most beautiful creatures on earth? As a Kentucky girl (have I mentioned that before? Oh. Only about a million times? Sorry. It's in the blood) I have vivid memories of driving past horse paddocks, watching the colts gambol around with such charming abandon. I always hold my breath during horse races--mostly from awe, but also in fear that one of the horses will break down or be otherwise injured. When the race is over I cry. Every time. I never cry at NASCAR races or hockey matches. Or T-ball. Or squash. I'm weird like that.

Have another breath-holding experience to report. Touch of Magic contest (Central Florida Romance Writers) finalists were announced at the meeting today and I finalled with my cowboy contemporary, The Cowboy Way. Thrills, chills and excitement! Happy dancing and lots of hugging. Manuscripts go to the final round judges next week. Should hear results mid to late June. If your fingers are not otherwise engaged, please cross them for me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hurricanes on the Brain

I’ve got hurricanes on my mind today, which is strange, because the weather is so perfect here. Highs in the high 80s, breezy, a bit of a shower around noon.

It won’t be like this for long, though, this being Florida. Wicked hot weather is on its way. I’ve learned that from my experience as a 25-year Florida girl.

Hurricane season starts in about a month, but that’s not the only reason I’m considering the weather. For an exercise at my RWA chapter meeting tomorrow we’re going to work on plotting a hurricane story.

Like every other writer in the southeast I have the seed of a hurricane story in my head. The hero is a widowed state senator, at a low point in his career and popularity after a drunk driving arrest. The heroine is a widowed stay-at-home mom, forced to go back to work after her husband’s death. Both have pre-teen daughters who attend the same school and hate each other. Because I remember the unpredictability of Hurricane Charley when he visited Florida with his friends Frances and and Jeanne, I’m setting this one in an upscale community on the Gulf coast.

If my idea is selected for the exercise tomorrow I may go home with a completed plot.

That would be an extremely exciting prospect if it weren’t for the fact that I already have five other projects in production. Plus that half-formed idea for my NaNoWriMo book.

Oh, heck. Why not make it six? The more the merrier, right?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just Call Me Nature Girl

My favorite thing about working outside (translation: on the screened porch) is watching what goes on in the natural world. I’ve already mentioned my revelation about the whirlybirds on the maple trees, but I don’t think I reported when all the mating began. Wow, it’s been busy out there.

Business at the feeders has been brisk. I have six squirrels this year (they’re pigs, I tell you…pigs with fur and tails!) and when they started to mate they went at it hammer and tongs. I was concerned that someone was going to get hurt, but so far all is well. I should have noted the date it all started and then looked up the gestation period of the gray squirrel, but it was easier to just sit and let the spring breezes waft over me. I’ll save all the naturalist stuff for next year.

Also have three pairs of cardinals this year, and oh, were they ever sweet during mating. One pair would fly to the roof of the storage building in my neighbor’s yard and the female would wait while the male flew to the feeder, selected a morsel (black oil sunflower seeds this year) and brought it back to her. Then he’d feed her and return to the feeder for another offering. I wasn’t surprised then, when small dark flying objects started dive-bombing the back yard on Sunday evening. Fledgling cardinals are not known for their aerobatic control, but I knew they’d improve as time went by. They were back this evening, led by Mama and Papa Cardinal. Neither of the fledglings ever made it to the feeders, though they came close to figuring out the landing part. They stayed mostly in the maple tree, quietly chirping the whole time, so that Mama and Papa would know where they were. Can’t wait until tomorrow for a return visit.

In other news, the love bugs are swarming, the lizards (actually brown anoles) are showing their flags and I actually had a hummingbird fly through the yard. Unfortunately, the feeder was drying on the kitchen counter. I’ve changed the process for cleaning it—I cook and cool the sugar water before I bring in the feeder. That way I’ve got it back outside in under five minutes.

On the writing front, I’ve developed plots for two new short contemporary romances this week. Ideas are rising, just like sap, and the muse is happy at last.


UPDATE: The fledgling cardinals returned to the feeder with their parents on Thursday, then by themselves on Friday. They're still chirping constantly, which leads me to think Mom and Dad are nearby. All is well in the natural world.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What Makes Him a Hero

I missed the wedding but caught the balcony scene. The bride was radiant, the dress lovely, the kiss…sweet.

The traditions put a lump in my throat.

To be honest, I got tired of the press coverage about five minutes after the engagement was announced, but one thing, amidst all the thousands of things that were reported about the royal couple was this: that William had allowed his relationship with Kate to develop slowly that she could have time to think about what she was getting herself into.

Not many couples do this. Certainly if William’s parents had taken a breather to consider what they were about to do, things might have turned out much differently and we wouldn’t be having a royal wedding today.

But to wait, to make sure history wouldn’t repeat itself…and to lessen the possibility for heartache all round, that’s love.

And that’s why I think Prince William is a hero.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doing Bad Things To Good People

It’s one of the keys to solid romance writing, and it’s called conflict.

Conflict is my weakest thing. I hate doing bad things to good people. So do most of the writers I’ve talked to about this over the years. One person even likened it to stabbing the hero or heroine with a knife, then twisting it. But we do it, because, honestly, fiction is more like real life than we care to admit.

I love a story in which the conflict is so deep and painful that I cannot imagine how the story will end, how the hero and heroine will ever have their happy ending.

Anne Mallory, one of my Golden Heart sisters from 2003 (yes, I’m talking about the Wet Noodle Posse), and one of my favorite Regency-set historical authors, did this beautifully in Seven Secrets of Seduction (Avon, 2010). Miranda, who is not in society, is hired by Maximilian, Viscount Downing, who definitely is, to do a librarian-sort-of job organizing his private library. He plans to seduce Miranda and write a how-to book about the process. Oops, best laid plans and all that, they fall in love.

Maximilian and Miranda indulge in their flirtation, and, oh, the banter. I love banter. I try and try to write banter and only occasionally hit the mark, but this is one of Anne’s best qualities as a writer. Every word out of her characters’ mouths is perfection.

Miranda knows they cannot marry because of their stations in life. Maximilian knows it, too. So does the reader, who is, as she should be, rooting for a happy ending.

But, when? But, but how? Oh, come on, you know it all works out!

Because that’s the promise of romance. They always live happily ever after!

At least that’s what the sticky note on my computer monitor says. I know I can put my characters through the wringer as long as I make it up to them in the end. And I will...I promise.

P.S.

Two other books that have wonderful conflicts (and deliciously happy endings) are Mary Balogh’s A Matter of Class (Vanguard Press, 2009) and Karen Templeton’s Rita winning A Mother’s Wish (Silhouette Special Edition, August 2008). Karen’s July, 2010 Special Edition, Welcome Home Cowboy, also nominated for a Rita, is wonderful, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hungry?

I bought a new colander today.

The old one (emphasis on the old) was plastic and broke because I had it sandwiched inside the stockpot between two sets of stainless steel mixing bowls. It was a tight squeeze and the old colander gave up the ghost last week.

At the store, while I was holding that miracle of technology, the stainless steel and mesh colander, in my hands I suddenly asked myself, do my characters ever cook?

I couldn’t remember! In category romance, unless the plot is food related (chefs, caterers, restaurant workers, etc.) there’s not a whole lot of time or word count to devote to what the characters eat. Yes, they go out on dates to restaurants and eat, often pizza, but you rarely, if ever, get a blow by blow description of the food. Characters rarely, if ever, go to the supermarket.

In Daddy in Waiting (Silhouette Romance, June 2005) my hero, Matt, was concerned that the pregnant heroine, Jenny, wasn’t getting enough to eat, so he gave her a caterer. Not only did the caterer go to Jenny’s office every day to prepare lunch, she dropped off care packages to her over the weekends. (Not that it applies here, but Matt also gave Jenny a chauffer and car—Matt was just a tad obsessive).

In the first of a series of contemporary cowboy books I’m working on, one of my favorite scenes takes place in the heroine’s vegetable garden. Then, there’s a cute cookies-and-milk scene at the kitchen table that I love, also.

Come to think of it, the second cowboy book takes place at a guest ranch in Texas, and there’s a dining hall there—but the hero and heroine never cook—just eat good old cowboy food. The hero has a thing for peach cobbler and hand-cranked ice cream (and the heroine).

So yes, in spite of my momentary memory lapse when it came to whether or not culinary matters figure into my books, the answer is yes.

And in the vernacular of the day, yes, the characters really cook, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What I'm Reading (and a tribute)

In the past year I’ve had a lot of time to read, and it’s been heaven. I kept a list—the totals are running into the hundreds now,--but the books I enjoyed the most were Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death series. The first was Mistress of the Art of Death, introducing Adelia, a twelfth century version of today’s CSI and her lover Rowley, and, my favorite part, the family she creates for herself in England, far away from her home in Salerno (where she grew up and attended medical school—in the twelfth century! Yes!).

When I’d finished Mistress I immediately went to B&N.com to see if there were other books, and there were (The Serpent’s Tale, Grave Goods and A Murderous Procession), so I quick-like-a-bunny-rabbit reserved them at the library and read them like a woman rescued from the desert gulps down water.

I had to wrench myself away from the fourth book to scoot up to Flagler Beach to have lunch with my Noodler friend Merrillee, but as soon as I got home I sat down to enjoy the (cliff-hanger) ending. Wonderful!!! I noted that Franklin’s website was listed on the flyleaf of the book, and, curious about when the fifth book in the series would come out, I pulled out my trusty Netbook and looked her up.

Much to my surprise—and horror, if you must know—I discovered that my new favorite author had passed away in January of this year.

I couldn’t even look at a book for the next four days. I felt as if I’d lost a friend—or friends, if you will, because I had come to love all the characters in the Mistress of the Art of Death series.

And not a word, anywhere, about the future of the series.

A little piece of me hopes that someone, perhaps one of Franklin’s daughters, will complete the series and give Adelia and Rowley their happy ending. A larger piece of me will always remember Franklin as one of the most accomplished writers I’ve ever read.

I’ll miss you, Ariana.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Of Stories and Things

The muse is really on my case this morning. I want to write, I need to write. My brain is working on a story problem, specifically how to get the heroine of my WIP into the guest room bed of my bachelor hero’s bachelor pad...

Question: Would a bachelor who lives in a bachelor “pad” have a guest room?

...in a way that is not too rushed, not too obvious and not too coincidental (see Harlequin? I really do pay attention).

Answer: Yes, especially if he’s a big-shot Denver developer whose apartment takes up one-half of a floor of a big-shot Denver condo building that not only has a media room but also a sauna right there in the apartment! Rich people. Ya gotta love ‘em.

I think I’ve got it—the pacing I mean. I just need to sit down at a computer that’s not hooked up to the Internet, and not on the back porch near any form of wildlife or plants that need to be mulched. Or weeds that need to be pulled. I need either to go in the house and lock myself in the study where I can’t see the hummingbird feeder which seems to have dead ants inside the sugar-water container or just cry uncle and call the day a waste.

But nooooo.

I started out the day with a goal, I really did. It was to get the vacuum cleaner downstairs by 11:00 a.m. That was it. You see, I’ve just been through four days of having the flooring replaced on the ground floor of my townhouse—a job that should have taken one day, two at the most—but anyway, it took four days because of a moisture problem. For two of those days I stayed cooped up in the house with the air conditioner on (that moisture thing again) and I hate to be in the house with the air conditioner on. I’ll get enough of that when summer rolls around.

In order to reach my goal for the day I turned off the computer at 10:37 and went in search of the vacuum. Along the way found the laundry that didn’t get done because of the flooring project. I sat in the new chair in my study. I watered the plant in my bedroom. I dragged the vac and the laundry downstairs. I vacuumed the porch and put on a load of clothes in the washer. I sat down at the computer again to have this nice chat with you. I feel much better now. More organized, more efficient, less like the not-a-multitasker I really am.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to clean out that hummingbird feeder and think some more about my book. But I promise I'll only do one thing at a time.

Later…