Monday, December 31, 2012

Stirring a Hunger

As I write this, it's Sunday night, it's cold, I'm tired, and I'm already thinking about bed. The TV is on, and the commercials are driving me nuts. Philadelphia Cream Cheese slathered on a toasted bagel, when we have neither Philly nor bagels in the house. Close-ups of a big greasy burger with crispy fries from a restaurant on the far side of Tulsa. Fresh blueberries. Barbecued ribs with a side of pickles and onions. Drool . . . sigh . . .

The ads are definitely working . . . but they're making my dinner salad look pretty sad in comparison. It's just not fair.

Friday, December 28, 2012

You Know What They Say About Good Intentions?

The road to hell is paved with them.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I would set a schedule and stick to it: post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Like clockwork. No excuses.


The truth is, I've never stuck to a schedule in my life except for school, where I could be punished for being late, and when I worked in the real world, where I could lose my job for being late. I do meet most of my deadlines on time (or very close), but I'm horrible about actually doing things in a timely fashion.

The funny thing about it is I've been like this my entire life, and yet I still manage to fool myself totally. Oh, yeah, I'm gonna blog three days a week. I'm gonna walk every morning after breakfast. I'm gonna clean house today. Or tomorrow at the latest.

I'm cynical as can be when it comes to people, situations, politics, but when it comes to myself, I'm the most gullible one out there.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Parties and Jobs

I often think when we're trying to celebrate something with more than four people that regular jobs certainly get in the way of having fun.

Due to various commitments, my family had Christmas Eve last night -- the only time every single one of us could be there. We had great food (my contribution was chips, crackers and a block of softened cream cheese with Meg's red pepper jelly poured over it -- delicious!), and the kids were a hoot. While they were opening gifts, we somehow broke into a group chorus of "Soft Kitty" from The Big Bang Theory. My niece Kate commented, "Some families sing Christmas carols. We sing 'Soft Kitty.'"

Nephew #1 is at the age that his gifts aren't much fun in the moment -- video games, gift cards, cash. My grandson and Nephew #2 were thrilled with every package they ripped open -- lots of squeals, wows, and requests to take items out of their packages. (Have you ever noticed that toys have enough plastic ties, wires and packaging to make removing them a major ordeal?) Baby Nephew is ten months -- just old enough to like the wrapping as much as the gifts. The ornament with his initial went into his mouth every time his mom wasn't looking.

I'm still ready to see the last of the this holiday season, but for all of you out there who are feeling more elfish than I am, may you have a "Soft Kitty" Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Christmas Tree!

Charisse asked if I would post pictures of the tree when it was finished so, Charisse, these are for you.

Hm. Bit of a blur, huh? Is this better?

Okay, here's the real thing, though you can hardly see the lights on.

It's decorated entirely with glass ornaments that I painted last year. I know some of the colors aren't exactly Christmas colors, but they really pop, and it's my tree so I get to use colors that make me happy. Here are a few close-ups:

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two Hours, Four Phone Calls, A Dozen Emails, Two Dozen Curses . . . or Setting up a PayPal Account

Yesterday I tried to set up a PayPal account. I had one oh, so many years ago, but lost my password and changed my e-mail address. I couldn't get in to change the address, and when I tried to reset my password, they kept sending the new one to the old address which I no longer had. After a while of tearing out my hair, I gave up.

But, yes, the time has come when PayPal seems desirable again. So I created the account and everything went great until I tried to add my bank account. Nope, that account was associated with the old account.  At least this time I could get a new code by phone that allowed me to access that account. I went in to delete it, but they had to have a current email address first. I tried to use my primary address (couldn't -- it was tied to the new account). I was able to add my husband's address to it, get it verified and then close the account.

Next I went back to the new account and tried to add the bank again. Couldn't do it. That bank was associated with another account. So back I went to the beginning, searching for an account for which I didn't know the email or password. Another couple phone calls, adding a new address, verifying it, closing that account . . .

Finally I got the bank added to the new account.

And I wrote down the email address and the password.

In three places.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Hero to Come Home To

Ta-da! The first book in the Tuesday Night Margarita Club/Tallgrass series is done!

Well, at least for me. The cover's still being finalized, and the production and sales people still have their stuff to do, but as of 10:20 last night, I've finished the page proofs and won't see the book again until it's been printed and bound and my author copies have arrived.

It was both sad and sweet reading the book. I still love the story, so that's good. But saying goodbye to Carly and Dane was kind of sad. Oh, they'll show up in the following books -- they get married in Book 3 -- but not as major characters. Their story is told. Therese and Keegan's story is already told, too, and Jessy and Dalton's is in the works. In fact, when I'm not writing, I'm working out story ideas for Lucy, Marti, Fia and Ilena. And when those are done, there's Bennie, Leah, Noah, Dillon and LoLo, and I'm sure more characters will pop up with their own romances.

That's one of many good things about a series: there's always someone else with a tale so you're never at a loss for ideas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ethnic Characters

Years ago I heard this advice from two writers: white authors shouldn't feature major characters who were Native American or African American because they don't "get" them. (The first writer was Native American, the other African American.) The mandate kind of surprised me, since I'd started in publishing writing ethnic heroes and heroines, and I'd read plenty of books I'd loved featuring characters of a different ethnicity than the authors.

For whatever reason, those opinions stuck with me for a long time, until I'd written the last of my Southern Knights/Serenity Street series, when a reader asked if I would make a particular character the heroine of her own story and give her the happily-ever-after she deserved. I kind of stumbled around in an answer, until the reader said, "You're hesitating because she's black, aren't you?"

I admitted that I'd been told by other authors that I shouldn't do ethnic heroes or heroines, and she laughed. "I'm black," she said, "and I'm asking you to write this black woman's story."

She went on to point out that, regardless of bad advice, I did write black characters; they were just secondary characters. She reminded me that, first and foremost, heroes and heroines were people. Forget the color of their skin: at their core, they were men and women who hoped and tried and won and failed and were lonely and happy and angry and loved or neglected. They had dreams; they had disappointments. Nail the emotions, she said. That was what readers wanted. The rest would follow.

Though I haven't written that final Serenity Street book, I did take the woman's advice to heart. I learned that, basically, writing a character of a particular ethnic background is no different than a character from a specific geographic background or even a character in a particular occupation. I've read books set in my home state of Oklahoma where it's apparent the author thinks we're all cowboys or Indians, uneducated or oil-wealthy, living in log cabins or soddies or mansions. I've read books with Southern characters who are caricatures from Gone with the Wind  or Hee-Haw. I've read books with a military background where even the basic terminology, ranks, ideas, are miles off the mark.

And I've read books written by people who have never set foot in my state but nailed the characters. Who haven't gotten closer to the South than looking at a map but write as if they grew up in Macon or Charleston or Raleigh. Whose only interaction with a police office has been talking their way out of a speeding ticket but who write cops so believable, you'd think they either were cops themselves or were married to one.

The key is research. We don't have to be murderers to be able to write people who are. We don't need to be white, black, Indian, cowboy, soldier, cop, schoolteacher, Christian, atheist, Jew, mother, father, child to be able to write characters who are. We need to research the backgrounds of our characters, though. We need to know them, inside and out. We need to do them justice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pecan Pie

My mother's goal in retirement was to learn to make an absolutely perfect, flaky, delicious pie pastry.

My life's goal has been to never eat pie crust if I can possibly avoid it. So far, I've done quite well, thank you, though there are those irritating bits that scrape off on the fork when I'm scooping out the filling. Someday I'm going to try baking this pie without the crust. If it works, problem solved, right?

Our son was six or seven when we moved to South Carolina the third time. Our first morning there, we went to a pancake place and he ordered a "puh-CAHN" waffle. "That's one PEE-can waffle?" the waitress repeated. No, he replied. Puh-CAHN.

(I've erased from memory the remarks he made when she brought grits to go with the waffle. Mercifully.)

That year we didn't get to come home to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, so I asked for requests. His dad always wanted mincemeat pie. (I don't care if it is sold in a grocery store, mincement is NOT edible.) The kiddo asked for a pecan pie and sat at the counter sneaking nuts while I made it. He was totally uninterested while I mixed the eggs, Karo, sugar and butter, but when I started to pour it into the pie crust, he got distraught.

"What are you doing? That stuff is gross. It doesn't go in a pecan pie!"

"Then what DOES go in?" I asked.

He shrugged, rolled his eyes as if I were the dumbest baker in the world and said, "Pecans. And crust. That's all."

This from a child who ate Cool Whip on sandwich bread.

Everyone's a critic.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Parades and Route 66

If you're my age or older, you probably remember hearing the song/saying/whatever the heck it was: Get your kicks on Route 66.

66 was opened in the 1920s and ran nearly 2500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. It meanders across Oklahoma -- we had more miles of it than any other state. Because of its importance in travel and migration, it's also called the Main Street of America and the Mother Road.

We just called it "our road."

The house where my sisters and I grew up is located maybe a hundred feet off one of the remaining sections of the old original 66 outside Sapulpa (right down the road from the TeePee Drive-In). I learned to ride my bike on that road. To skateboard and, later, to drive. We used to trek down it to visit my granny (when we decided not to cut across the fields, climb two barbed-wire fences and cross the railroad tracks) and up it to visit friends. It was nothing special back then, not to us. When people would come out in their restored old automobiles and convoy past the house (sometimes dressed to match the period of the cars), I just thought they were weird.

Anyway, back to the present . . . last night was Sapulpa's Christmas parade, and the theme was our road. There were old cars, girls in poodle skirts, old old fire engines and trucks, and a couple floats that represented the TeePee and some other places along the highway (the Blue Whale, Carl's Pigstand, Wimpy's Cafe, the old Dairy Queen). It would have felt a little more appropriate had we gone downtown to Dewey Street, which IS Route 66, to watch, but it was a nice trip back in time as it was.

And after freezing my butt off, listening to the music and watching the little boy beside us absolutely beam with excitement, I'm thinking at least some of the blah might be leaving my humbug!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Deck the Halls, Blah Blah Blah

I'm not a Christmas sort of girl. I usually do some decorating, but over the years it's gotten less and less. I have an entire large closet packed to the brim with ornaments, wreaths, lights (about 5,000, give or take), stockings, etc., but I can't remember the last year I actually used all of it.

Having five in-house dogs means decorating takes a little extra effort. No live tree, because when we tried that, they peed on it every day. Nothing within their reach, either, so the artificial tree has to be mounted on a table 3' tall, and breakables have to be wired onto the branches for the times they misjudge their mad dashes through the house and crash into the table. No stockings hanging from the fireplace where they can yank them down. No Father Christmases or elaborately dressed angels on low surfaces, either, because they're just so darn much fun to chew on or cuddle with.

This year I don't have the tree up yet, and I'm not sure I actually care. Once we put it up, after a few weeks, I'll just have to start thinking about taking it down again. I haven't done any shopping -- everyone just wants money. I haven't even gotten out the old Elvis Presley CD of Christmas tunes.

Though it's not all bah humbug around here. I watched Elf the other day, laughed in the right places, and even sang along.

Nineteen days until Christmas. I'll either get in the mood or the holiday will be over and I won't have to think about it again until next year.

That's an idea I can get behind.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quirky Names

I read somewhere recently that actor Rob Morrow named his kid Tu Morrow.

One of my cousins has a daughter named Harleigh Davidson.

My kid went to school with a girl whose name was pronounced "TOE-shane." Kind of pretty, isn't it? Unfortunately, it was spelled "Towchain." Did her mother see a wrecker on the way to the hospital to deliver?

But the quirky names I really want to talk about today are character names. I've had a few, usually by accident. Like Chance Reynard in A Little Bit Dangerous. I knew "chance" meant luck or fortune in French, but I used the last name of my friend, Monica. (The book was dedicated to her, too.) I didn't know until the book was done and my editor told me that "reynard" meant fox in French.

In the Tuesday Night Margarita Club/Tallgrass series, I've got twin brothers, Dalton and Dillon. I named Dalton first, knew that because of the family tradition, his brother's name also had to begin with a D, and chose Dillon. It wasn't until my editor mentioned Marshal Dillon and the Dalton gang that I recognized the significance. You'd think someone born and raised in Oklahoma would have caught on right away, but I didn't.

Not long ago I read a review of a book that takes place in Texas in which the three best friends are named Dallas, Austin and Houston. Now I'm reading a book in which the hero and his brothers are named Clay Rhodes, Stony Rhodes, and Tulane Rhodes.

So now I'm curious. What's your thought on quirky character names? Do they make you smile or roll your eyes, or do you just not care?

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Thank you, Christy Olesen, for tagging me for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

The Next Big Thing blog hop poses a series of questions to writers about their current WIP. Since I've got two works-in-progress (A Love to Call Her Own in the Tuesday Night Margarita Club/Tallgrass series and an as-yet untitled story in the Copper Lake series), I've decided to answer the questions about my next book, already written and on the schedule.

What is the working title of your book?

The book is Copper Lake Confidential and is scheduled with Harlequin Romantic Suspense for April 2013. That means it will actually be on the shelves around mid- to late March.

I'd like to be able to tell you what number in the series it is, but I've lost track. Tenth? Twelfth? There've been a bunch. It stands alone, though. You don't need to know anything about the previous books to enjoy it.

Where did the idea of the book come from?

I have a real fondness for atmospheric stories – you know, creepy, ghosty, spine-tingling types – and I love vulnerable, flawed characters. Usually it's my heroes who have issues, but in this one Stephen's as normal as a hero could be, while it's Macy who's got problems. After her husband's death revealed horrific secrets about the man she loved, she wound up in a psychiatric ward for a time. She's trying to take back her life – and begin caring once again for her three-year-old daughter – but either she's going crazy again . . . or someone's trying to make her think so.

What genre does your book fall under?

This one is romantic suspense, though, like I said, more of a psychological suspense. I can write action scenes. I just prefer to raise goosebumps.

Which actor would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Um . . . here's one of my quirks: I don't watch many movies or watch a whole lot of television. (Getting fewer than a dozen channels helps with that.) I don't recognize most people on the screen or in magazines like People.

I was lucky enough to have a movie made from my book, Season for Miracles. I didn't know who David Conrad was at the time, but no one else could ever possibly be Nathan; he made that character his own. So I'd leave the casting to someone who's actually familiar with actors.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh. I'm a big believer that more is more. Why say in twenty words what I can put into two hundred? Let's see . . .

Macy Howard's come home to Copper Lake to put the past to rest so she can make a new start for herself and little Clary, but when danger stalks her, she begins to doubt her competence and her sanity. The only thing she doesn't doubt is new neighbor Stephen Noble, who believes in her when she can't believe in herself.

Okay, so it's two sentences. Close enough, right?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book will be published by Harlequin.

How long did it take you to finish the first draft of your project?

I'm a first-draft writer. Probably 99% of what you see in the published book is my original version. It generally takes me about five to six weeks to write a 70,000-word book. Each day when I start work, I reread the pages I wrote the day before, and I make whatever changes are necessary then.

I love that I normally don't have to do second drafts or revisions, because usually by the time I reach the end of a story, I'm so ready for it to be done that I'd kill the characters rather than live with them any longer.  

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Um, other Harlequin Romantic Suspenses, I guess. In the past, my romantic suspense books have been compared to Sandra Brown's, JD Robb/Nora Roberts's and Linda Howard's, and my straight romances with Robyn Carr's and Debbie Macomber's.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

I love the Copper Lake series, with Copper Lake Scandal my all-time favorite. The villain in that book had a wife and an infant daughter whom he adored. I always think a villain, to be effective, has to have some redeeming traits. After finishing that book, I wondered from time to time about that wife. What happened to her after her husband's death? After all his creepy, horrifying secrets came out?

What else about your book may pique readers’ interest?

There's a dog in it – isn't there usually? Scooter is a yellow Lab mix who shares a lot of traits with my own puppers. He's not only the mechanism through which Macy and Stephen meet, but he's a lot of fun, too.

So now that I've answered the questions, I'm supposed to tag some other authors to find out what's THE NEXT BIG THING they're working on. I'm choosing some of my favorite people:

Linda Trout (new book out!)

Lynn Somerville (new book out!)

M.A. Golla (great middle-grade fantasy books, with a Christmas tale available now!)

Susan Shay (just sold my favorite of everything she's ever written!)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pardon my Rant

I understand the separation of church and state, okay? I get that not everyone embraces the same religion or, in fact, any religion. In my experience, most people who do support religion know where to draw the line with regards to government.

What I'm complaining about today has nothing to do with religion, even though it might look that way on the surface.

An Oklahoma family wanted to donate a stone monument for the Oklahoma State capitol grounds with the Ten Commandments engraved thereon. The legislature voted in favor of accepting it; the governor agreed; the monument was erected.

And a group from Wisconsin is now threatening a lawsuit to get it removed.

The town of Buhler, Kansas, had a cross, among other things representative of their town, on their seal. The same Wisconsin group threatened a lawsuit. The town of less than 1300 residents changed the seal because they couldn't afford to get embroiled in court.

Should the monument have been erected? Should the cross ever have been included in the seal? Not the point.

The point is this: what business is it of the Wisconsin group what we here in Oklahoma and Kansas choose to do? What standing do they have to sue us (or threaten us) on any issue that takes place within our states? They don't live here. They don't work here. They don't pay taxes here.

Oklahomans are perfectly capable of running their own business. We have plenty of residents who can complain and threaten lawsuits just fine, no help needed from outside state lines. If you don't like the way we do things here, go home.

Oh, wait, you aren't here to start with. It's none of your business. Shut up and worry about what's happening in your own town/state, and leave us alone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Love Criminal Minds, But . . .

Is it odd that Criminal Minds has my absolute favorite cast of all shows on TV but I'm about to give up watching it?

I've been a fan from the beginning. I've seen every episode multiple times (except for the two-parter where the guy had a split personality and let his dogs rip a woman to shreds - I refused to watch it a second time). I think David Rossi is the sexiest guy on TV, I adore Spencer and JJ, and I bow at the temple of Garcia. (I even wrote a secondary character who was a thinly-veiled take on Garcia.) I like Prentiss and Hotch and don't even want to smack Morgan more than once an episode.

But  enough is enough, or I guess I should say too much.

Too much violence. Too much gore. Too much graphic ickiness. When a show makes me queasy, when the storylines routinely make my stomach hurt, it's time to change the channel.

It seems people are bored with regular bad guys, so TV shows/movies/authors have had to kick it up a notch. The villains can't just be murderers, rapists or terrorists anymore; they have to remove body parts, skin their victims, torture them brutally. The ick/discomfort factor has gone through the roof.

And so, Criminal Minds, much as it pains me to say it, you're off my must-see list. I'll continue the practice I started at the beginning of the season: I'll watch the first few minutes, but at the first sign of gratuitous, graphic violence, the first torture or dismembered body, I'm switching to PBS.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life in Harmony

I used to have a sort of balance to my life. I wrote as much as I could six months of the year and did as much as outdoors work the remaining six. Then one summer I got laid up by a brown recluse spider, then broke my elbow. The next I broke my wrist and had surgery. The next I had two knee surgeries. The next I had a scope on one knee and a total replacement on the other. The next I had a tummy tuck.

You get the idea: I traded mowers, trimmers, matches, shovels, and chainsaws for doctors, anesthesia, and rehab.

This summer I got virtually no yard work done--too busy with the five books I contracted to write in one year. The fourth book went off through the ether to my agent and editor on Sunday, so Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I gathered gloves, goggles, matches, and tools and hacked my way into the jungle.

Oh. My. Gosh. I don't have anywhere near the stamina I used to have. Granted, I'm a few years older, but I've gained a few bionic parts. Shouldn't that balance out somehow?

After too many hours, all I can say is there's a 50X200' foot swath of front yard that's trimmed as neatly as any golf course and one of the brush piles has been burned to ash. The little side yard looks great, too, but Bob gets credit for that. Now there's only the remaining three acres or so of dead foot-high weeds, another acre of dead six-foot-high Johnson grass, and three brush piles, plus a half dozen trees to cut down.

By the time I work out there a while longer, I'm gonna be so happy to return to my desk and Book 5!

Friday, November 23, 2012

When All Else Fails, Check the Oil

My husband and I were watching a young woman and her mother outside the restaurant where we were eating. Daughter got in her car, turned the key, and nothing happened. Mom stepped up, gestured to her open to the hood, and very efficiently went about the task of checking the oil. She pulled out the dipstick, wiped it on a napkin, stuck it back in, then pulled it out and squinted to read it. Judging by her expression, low oil wasn't the problem. She put the dipstick back in, shrugged, and slammed the hood, Daughter got out of the car, and off they went to Mom's car.

I have to say, checking the oil has never been my first thought when I can't get so much as a click on turning the key. Then again, I'm no mechanic.

My response would have been the same, though: catch a ride with someone and make the non-starting car someone else's problem.  Isn't that what dads, husbands, brothers, and tow truck drivers are for?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

T'is the day to eat too much, watch too much TV, and have too much fun. (At least with my family.)

It will also be my first Thanksgiving since going gluten-free, so no dressing, no gravy, no Kings' Hawaiiaan rolls, no baked desserts and, worst of all, none of my bil's mother's chicken and noodles.

Wonder how successful I'll be?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Disappearing Act

I know, I missed the last two blogs, haven't been on Facebook, and haven't tweeted in a while. I'm in the final pages of  A MAN TO HOLD ON TO, the second book in the Tuesday Night Margarita Club -- a couple thousand words past my target with still more story to tell. It almost always works that way. Thankfully, it almost always works, too, that I can write far more words every day at the end than I normally do. It's a good thing, since scenes keep expanding and story threads keep whispering, "Go ahead and tie me up" or "I'm not done until the next book; keep 'em hanging."

Anyway, I'll be back here -- and everywhere else -- within the next few days. In the meantime, y'all have fun in your lives without me!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The New-Car Experience

Our son and daughter-in-law bought a new car last week, and he was waxing poetic over all the cool mechanical/electronic aspects of it. So many horsepower or CCs, some type of headlights, nineteen-inch something-or-other . . . And when he finished, I said, "Cool!! It's got retractable sunscreens!!"

I would so buy a car with retractable sunscreens.

The smell and feel of a new car, especially with all the high-tech options available, tempt me from time to time. But then I think about the new-car payments, and the new-car parking-in-the-north-forty, and the obligatory keeping-the-new-car-clean at least until the smell fades.

My truck is eight years old. It's got four-wheel-drive, which is necessary here on the hill in winter, and enough room to haul the puppers to and from the vet. It's already got dings -- one from sliding into a ditch one winter night when even four-wheel-drive wasn't enough and one from backing out of the garage. (I take the blame for that one. The rail for the garage door didn't look that close in the rearview mirror.) It's finally at the point where Bob doesn't automatically seek out the most distant space in the parking lot and I actually (don't tell him!) park up front when I find a space.

And keeping the faithful old truck helps us avoid the dreaded car salesperson.

I realize, people who live on commission have to be aggressive, especially when there's so much competition. South Memorial in Tulsa is turning into two giant car lots, one on each side of the street.

But I'm not the sort of person who does well with pressure or negotiating. When we bought the truck, we walked onto the lot, looked around a bit, took it out for a test drive, and I said, "I want this one." Bob glared at me behind the sales guy's back and asked, "Don't you want to look at some others?"

"Nope, I want this one."

Oh, the grin that sales guy was wearing as they went inside to "negotiate."

When the inevitable happens and we do have to replace the current vehicle, I may have to stay home while Bob does the looking, the haggling and the buying.

Because I'd buy the first one with retractable sunscreens.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Duc and the Ice Cream Carton

Back when we lived in North Carolina, I stood at the kitchen window one day and watched our son and his friend come up the street toward our house from the woods where they'd been playing. Every ten feet or so, they'd stop and look behind them. Turned out, they'd found a tiny little puppy in the woods and were coaxing him along. The kiddo wanted to be able to say, "Look what followed me home," rather than, "Look what I brought home."

When they reached the house, they rang the doorbell and were waiting with hopeful faces when I opened it. "Look what followed me home," the kiddo predictably said. "Can I keep him?"

I hadn't had a dog since before I got married. Bob was in the Navy, and we moved every few years. Rather than go through the hassle of buying and selling homes, we rented, and our rental agreement said in giant letters, No pets!!!! (Okay, the exclamation points are mine, but still ...)

Not wanting to be the bad guy, I said, "Ask your dad." Bob knew the lease terms as well as I did, and I'd much rather have him be the one to wipe that hopefulness out of the kids' eyes.

The kiddo summoned him to the porch, Bob sat down, and the wiggly black puppy climbed into his lap, licking his face all over, and Bob looked up at me. "Can we keep him?"

Duc was a black Lab mix on a bit of a bad hair day. If you scrunched up his face, he looked just like a Chow. He was one smart pupper. While running wild in the back yard one night, he broke a toe on the long back leg of an Adirondack chair. Don't let him climb stairs for a while, the vet said, so we carried him up and down the stairs in our tri-level house. Once the toe was healed and he had the okay to climb on his own, I went into the kitchen without him one day, and he sat at the bottom of the steps, pitifully whimpering and holding up his (formerly) sore foot.

He loved ice cream. Every time we went to Baskin Robbins, we bought a scoop in a cup to take home to him. Another day he sat in the kitchen and watched eagerly as I spooned the last of the ice cream from a carton that had been in the freezer. It was barely a scoop and I wasn't about to share, much to his disappointment. I threw the empty carton into the trash, then went into my office to eat at the computer.

A few minutes later I heard a scraping sound in the kitchen. Figuring he'd gotten into something, I went to the door and found I was right. I'd mopped earlier and left the empty bucket sitting in a corner. Duc had turned the bucket upside down, scooted it across the room to the other corner, where the trash bin with its swinging door stood. He'd climbed onto the bucket, bracing himself with one front paw on the counter and the other on the wall, and stood, halfway in the trash can licking the ice cream dribbles from the carton.

Problem-solving in a one-year-old dog. I always said he was smarter than a lot of people I knew, and I still believe it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Women in Romance

I read a review of a new romance novel yesterday in which the reviewer made the comment that women never fare well in this particular best-selling author's books. Coincidentally, the same day I started reading my first book ever from another best-selling author and found the same thing.

The hero is very wealthy, as heroes who don't think highly of women often are, and he's very accustomed to getting his own way. Back in August, I blogged briefly about my dislike of alpha heroes, and this guy is really alpha. He determines to have sex with the heroine almost immediately after meeting her, threatens her job if she doesn't comply, orders her about like the lowliest of employees, harasses her, hires people to snoop into every aspect of her life, then lies to gain her sympathy so she'll spend time with him.

That's where I turned off the Kindle.

Set aside my dislike of domineering heroes. My complaint here is the heroine. At first the hero's persistence -- after she'd very clearly told him no a dozen times -- annoyed her, but before long, she was flattered. He was looking into her finances because he was a wealthy man and wanted to be sure that she had no designs on his money. He commanded her where to go and sent drivers to make sure she got there because he was so very interested in her and concerned that she arrive on time, safe and sound. He was interrogating her employer and friends because he was a wealthy man and wanted to know the character of the woman he was pursuing. (She called it pursuit; the law calls it stalking. Hey, it depends on your viewpoint, doesn't it?)

Flattered. By a stalker. Where was this woman's spine? Why did her brain malfunction every time he came around? What kind of heroine is she?

The worst kind. She was no more a heroine than he was a hero.

How many years have we been repeating to our sons and daughters and anyone else who will listen that No means no? Is it supposed to make a difference when the man refusing to accept no is handsome, has a great body and is richer than sin?

The facts that this particular book is a New York Times best-seller and that many other romance novels contain similar characters in similar situations suggest that for a good number of readers today, the answer is a resounding yes.

I know: it's fiction. Make-believe. Not real. But I find it disheartening that some writers and readers still, in some part of themselves, embrace the idea that domineering, controlling, stalking behavior is in any way romantic. Don't we need to relate to the characters to enjoy a book? Don't we live vicariously through our heroines, root for them, fall in love along with them? These two sent such huge shudders of revulsion down my spine that I couldn't make it through more than a few chapters.

No surprise, I would have done a few things differently if I'd been writing the book. First, the heroine would have threatened the man's dangly bits the second time she had to tell him no. If a third negative was required, she would have called 911, she likely would have fallen in love with the cop who answered the call, and the rich psycho jerk probably would have wound up dead or, at the least, unable to threaten other unwilling women.

That's what I call a happy ending.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Entertainment as Hobby

There's a common lie going around -- has been going around ever since the first time some moron figured out how to illegally copy a music cassette or CD and share it on the Internet with other morons who were too cheap to pay for what they wanted. The lie has been perpetuated by people who make a living allowing/helping others to steal copyrighted work and repeated by some people who just somehow, apparently don't know any better.

"Real musicians care about the music, not about the money."

That's a quote from some guy named Jack Gillespie in a comment on a piracy article last week on the the Huffington Post.

The morons' theory is exactly that: real entertainers -- musicians, actors, authors, etc. -- care only about their art. They create for the pure pleasure of creating. They want their music to be heard, their shows to be seen, their books to be read, for the sole pleasure of flexing their creative muscles and bringing pleasure to their audience.

In a word, bullshit.

There's no doubt that every creative person has a desire to share their creativity. A person very well might have a talent for some endeavor, but talent gets you nowhere without hard work and commitment. The creative person who doesn't put thousands of hours into studying and improving his/her craft doesn't exist. It's a passion, granted, but it's also work, hard work, just like becoming a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer.

But no one expects a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer to work for free, do they? Even the suggestion would be viewed as ludicrous.

So why do people expect authors, musicians, artists and poets to work free?

Yes, every author I know wants people to read their books. But no one (with the possibility of one writer I know) wants to give their books away for free. (And that one author wouldn't turn down payment. Believe me.)

Art in any of its forms is a need in the artist. They are driven to create.

But it's also a job. Those books don't write themselves; those instruments don't pay for themselves; those paints and canvasses don't magically appear in studios that build themselves. It's a job. Not only does it cost the artist to produce, but while s/he does it, s/he has to eat, pay utilities and rent and car payments and buy clothing.

If creative people are supposed to give away their products for free, why isn't the rest of the world giving us stuff for free, like houses, food, electricity, computers, medical care, education for our kids? We have to live. We have obligations. We need exactly the same things you work to obtain, and that's what we're doing. We're working. To make a living. To make -- God forbid! -- money from our art so that we can continue to produce it and not have to give it up in order to get a paying job to survive.

Saying that it's okay to steal our product because "real" artists do it solely for the art and not for the money is so incredibly stupid that I -- who earn my living with words -- cannot find the words to express it.

I don't know what Jack Gillespie and all the thieves who pirate music, books, movies, etc., do for a living, but it's a fair bet, for the ones who have a job, that they don't do it for free. They may love it, they may hate it, but they do it for one reason above all others: for the paycheck.

And so do we.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Taming Wild Dogs

From the moment we brought Olivia and Chance into the house, they acted as if they'd been born to such luxury as beds, air conditioning and ice water to drink. They bonded with our other dogs immediately, although Olivia eyed our alpha Jack measuringly every time he walked into the room. She showed no gratitude; the pleasures of being an indoor dog with a steady supply of food and water were hers by right.

Chance showed his gratitude by climbing on our laps every time we sat down and rubbing his face on ours. It was very hard to watch television, because even though he was a puppy, he was a large puppy mixed of three large breeds.

Because our yard isn't fenced, we took the dogs out on leashes to do their business. Getting a walk with lots to investigate and scent along with a potty break makes the house-breaking business easier.

On our first full day with Olivia, Bob took her out midday for a walk around the nearly-five-acre yard. It was August, a hot, lazy, still time in Oklahoma. The sun shines bright enough to make your eyes hurt. It steals the color from the sky. The clouds are too bored to even drift, and the buzzing of insects never stops.

They walked the yard, and Olivia checked out the apple trees, the post oaks, the maples, the crapes. She pounced on leaves and ducked under the low branches of a giant fir, and she paid special attention to the mole tunnels and gopher mounds. Underground in their cool burrows, the moles and gophers were undeterred by the day's exquisite heat.

After her potty break, they walked a little more, across an open part of the yard that was once pasture and still feels like it when you ride the lawn tractor across it. She took a step, just fine, then took another step and collapsed to the ground on her side.

Bob jiggled her leash. "Olivia, come on."

She lay utterly still. No flicker of her eyes, no twitch of her tail, no rise and fall of her ribcage as she breathed.


Still nothing.

He dropped to his knees in the parched grass, panicked now, calling her name in a louder tone, giving her a shake.

Nothing . . . except the slight sly opening of one eyelid, quickly slammed shut again, and the faint upturn of the corner of her mouth. She was trying very hard not to grin.

He sat back on his feet and, no concern now, said, "Get up, Livia. It's time to go in."

She jumped to her feet, looking around wide-eyed, tongue hanging out her mouth, and headed toward the house, pulling him along, as if to say, "Let's get inside. It's hot out here. What's the hold up?"

She who had scared every other animal on the hilltop had added her new father to the list. Thinking her heart might have stopped just about stopped his.

For the record, she did exactly the same thing the next day. He had exactly the same response.

She learned fast how much power she had.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dogs Gone Wild

Once upon a time our neighbor's son decided he needed pets to keep him company. The old man had always had dogs, but the last one had died a few years before. So Son went to the animal shelter and picked two puppers off doggy death row: a charming yellow Lab/golden retriever/wire-hair mix and a beautiful, regal, ruling-the-world (even if she was on death row) pit bull.

Unfortunately, Son didn't ask Dad whether he wanted two puppies. (Dad didn't.) He just brought them out with a big bag of food, said, "Look what I got you," and hightailed it back to town.

Dad was slowing down. He was in his eighties, and instead of the mowing, gardening and other outdoor projects he'd always done, he'd taken to passing most of his time in a comfortable chair inside the house. He really didn't want puppies. He didn't even name them.

So boy Lab and girl pit ran wild around the hilltop. They came to our house every morning, looking pitiful and hungry, and we fed them. Then they went to our other neighbors' houses, we later learned, and chased their dogs away from their food and ate it, too. They might have come from different breeds, but boy Lab and girl pit were as tight as blood siblings could be. She led, and he followed, showering wiry yellow hair everywhere.
Chance, aka boy Lab
They got into the trash cans.

They dug in flower beds.

They chewed the wiring out of the neighbor's trailer.

They intimidated every dog on the hilltop.

They chewed the wiring out of the same neighbor's same trailer.

The neighbor complained, and Son decided Dad really meant it when he said he didn't want the dogs. They had to go.

I really, really wanted yellow Lab. He was the sweetest ball of fuzz you ever saw who only wanted food in his belly and someone nearby while he snoozed. I wanted him so much that I was willing to take the wild, regal, demanding pit to get him.

So Bob left a message for Son and got no response. Again. And again.

I left a message for Son and heard nothing back. Then, two days later, he showed up at our door with what was left of the bag of food and a container of cookies. "They're yours," he said, then left.

Notice he didn't have the puppers with him. They were running wild somewhere, getting into something, irritating someone. But we knew they would show up. After all, dinnertime was approaching, and they never missed dinner.

And that's how we wound up with Olivia and Chance.

{More next time.}

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dressing to Impress

We were at McDonald's with our grandson the other night, and while he played like a wild man in the playground, we sat on too-small, too-hard benches and people-watched. (A dozen kids, an enclosed space with a high ceiling that echoed . . . too noisy to carry on a conversation.)

A little car -- a Camaro, I think -- pulled into a parking space, and two teenage girls got out on the passenger side, both made up and dressed up for some Friday night fun. Two teenage boys got out of the driver's side and, a few steps behind the girls, strutted into the restaurant as if they were the coolest, toughest, hippest guys around. It would have been cute and maybe even a little impressive that they projected such confidence at such a tender age . . .

. . . if I hadn't just witnessed their struggles to get out of the car. Their belts were cinched below their butts, making anything resembling normal movement or grace impossible. And by the time they wiggled and grunted their way out, their underwear was poking out at odd angles in back. Boxers for both. Plaid for the skinny one. I'm pretty sure he gave himself a wedgie maneuvering out of the cramped backseat.

I've never been able to embrace sagging as a fashion statement. It just makes me snort out loud, and I have to fight my impulse to grab their undies or bump into them just to watch them flail to recover their balance.

I do miss the days when underwear was meant to be . . . well, worn under your outer garments.

But think of all the snickers I would have missed out on.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nutrition - More Than I Wanted to Know

Like so many other people these days, I'm trying to drop a few pounds. It's way easier today to track calories than it was back in the dark ages. I remember little pocket-sized calorie counters and trying in vain to figure out nutritional information on fast food and even most packaged food. Keeping a food diary was impossible -- they were always incomplete and I usually lost them. (No surprise there.)

But this is the Internet age. I have an account at WebMd where pretty much all I have to do is type in some info every day, and it does the calculations for me. When we want to go out to eat, I Google the restaurant. (Sorry, McAllister's, 990 calories for a fourth of a muffaletta and all that sodium . . . I might see you once a year in the future.) (On the other hand, I felt 900 calories was a fair trade for a Five Guys burger and a quarter cup of fries.)

One of the things I'm trying to watch is sodium intake. Holy cow, it's in everything. According to Olive Garden's website, one of their dishes has 6000 milligrams per serving. That's four times my recommended amount for the entire day in one meal. Even the unsalted butter I use has a little sodium in it. What's up with that?

Nutrition -- like investing -- is one subject I never wanted to know much about. I just want success at both. Now I'm actually learning what's in the food I eat and how much is too much . . . or not enough. I commented to my husband that I'd fallen short of the recommended range of carbs every one of the first four days. Ha. One little hamburger bun at McDonald's took care of that.

It's a challenge, eating well and being satisfied. So far so good . . . I hope I last in the long run.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing Male Characters

I took part in a conversation a while back about nailing the male voice when we're writing. Several people enthusiastically said, "Oh, you've got to read So-and-so's advice on writing real men. She's the best!" Or "You've got to read Someone-or-other's guidelines. No one writes real men like her!"

I read, and kept wondering, what am I missing? Do I live in another universe? Are we of different species? Because the men in my life don't talk like So-and-so's or Someone-or-other's. The primary distinction of So-and-so's male characters was that they grunted a lot and spoke in incomplete sentences. For Someone-or-other, they cussed. (I was going to say cursed, but there's cursing and there's cussing, and these guys cussed) and they jumped to a lot of conclusions. (A woman broke their hearts? All women were bad.)

The popularity of grunting, cussing heroes proves they have their place, but when did this become the gold standard? My father was a strong man -- a soldier, a protector, a provider -- and not once did I ever hear him swear or see him run roughshod over anyone else. He was kind to children and gentle with animals, and he loved his family dearly. He wasn't sappy about it, but everyone knew.

But based on the standards of the alpha hero, he's not a real man.

There's so much more to a real man than the way he verbalizes. Instead of focusing of narrowing our choices to only a few, let's write about all the real guys out there. There's too many good ones to limit ourselves to just a few.

Monday, October 15, 2012

These Passwords Are Killing Me!

I used to be naive about Internet passwords. I had two: one for financial pages like Amazon and the bank, one for everything else. After ten million people told me how careless that was, I finally started setting up different ones for just about every place.

And, naturally, I began forgetting them. I tried making them familiar but with a twist -- marylinandbob -- but I couldn't remember which part I had deliberately misspelled and how.

I tried connecting them to the site they were for -- deargodi'mfreezingtodeathherepleasemakeitsummeragainpleasepleasei'llneverwhineaboutheatagainifyoudo for the utility company. But I'd forget -- is it freezing for the gas company which provides our heat or sweltering for the electric company which provides our AC? Was I having a hot flash when I made up the password or trying to find feeling in my blue toes?

Then I began writing them down. On slips of paper. That were NEVER where I needed them. Yes, iTunes, that's why I've changed my password seventy-two times.

Finally a friend mentioned she used an address book to keep track of hers. Aha! The light bulb came on (and apparently I was safe with the electric company for another few weeks).

Do you know how hard it is to find simple little address books? Ugh.

I did buy a teensy little notebook, and now all my passwords are safely in one place. If I can just remember where I put it . . .

Friday, October 12, 2012

Adults Behaving Badly

I was on Facebook the other day when a man stated his opinion on a subject and a woman on his friends list immediately castigated him. "You are so stupid!! You're a moron if you believe this!! I can't believe how freaking idiotic this is!!"

It left me wishing for a cyber-smack button. If Facebook can have "like" buttons, surely they could add a little open palm ready for a smackdown.

People behave so badly on the Internet. Finger-pointing, name-calling, lying, manipulating, libeling . . . this has all become acceptable behavior online. I'm amazed at how many supposedly mature adults are incapable of conducting themselves with any degree of dignity and how rarely they show even a shred of respect to anyone they see in opposition to their own beliefs.

(I'm also amazed that they always need multiple exclamation points to make their lividity known, but that's just me.)

Growing up, I learned manners. My family, school, church and community valued politeness and courtesy. We understood that it was entirely possible that not everyone we met would share our beliefs on God, politics, war, government, Coke or Pepsi, and we understood that that was okay. It didn't mean we were right; it didn't mean we were wrong. It just meant we were different.

We rarely called people names. We didn't erupt in self-righteous flames every time someone dared to disagree. We didn't insist that those who didn't share our views weren't fit to exist in our narrow-minded worlds. We certainly didn't go to someone's home and scream insults at them, yet people today think nothing of going to an individual's blog, website or social media pages and doing just that.

You express an opinion at your own risk. Say anything at your own risk. I can't count the number of times friends have made very inocuous statements online, only to find themselves the target of some snarky, aggressive or enraged "friend" pouncing on them with all guns firing.

Manners, politeness and courtesy seem to be heading the way of the dinosaurs on the Internet.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing Kids

I don't tend to have a lot of kids in my books, though I've written my share over the years. I don't know if they just don't generally fit into my style, or if I've had too much personal experience to want to deal with them at work, too, or if I have doubts about making them real or sympathetic or authentic.

I find a lot of kids in books lack authenticity. They're props more than anything else: they come in when they're needed, then disappear again. When they disappear, man, are they gone! Not a peep, not a concern from Mom or Dad about doing their laundry, fixing their food, overseeing their homework, refereeing their fights, etc.

(I knew a woman who did this in real life. When she needed to impress people with her maternalness, she trotted out her adorably cute kids. The rest of the time, they pretty much ceased to exist in her world. Amazing.)

But authentically written kids can be a pain. I read for pleasure, not to observe some whiny brat having temper tantrums on the page. Yeah, real kids whine and have tantrums. No, it doesn't entertain me.

And so I find myself currently writing a whiny brat. She's got reasons for her behavior. Life has not been kind. But writing her character means treading a fine line for me. I want her to be realistic for the situation she's in and for people to understand and sympathize with her, but I don't want her so realistic that readers are saying, "Sheesh, get this kid off the page!"

Who would have thought that I can handle hundreds of adult characters with ease but just might be done in by a thirteen-year-old girl? :)

Monday, October 8, 2012


A friend and I got new computers about the same time. Within forty-eight hours, she'd transferred everything from her old computer -- files, programs, documents, music, photos -- to her new computer.

I'm still operating with a minimal amount of date on mine. My iTunes library is on four different computers (one at least six years old). I still have photos on an old Gateway laptop with a 3 1/2" floppy drive. I have years worth of emails copied into folders on my third -- or is fourth? -- last laptop.

Writing-wise, on this new computer I have the work-in-progress for Forever Romance, A Man To Hold On To, and the first Tuesday Night Margarita Club book, A Hero to Come Home To. I also have the work-in-progress for Harlequin -- Charlotte's story! -- and a manuscript I'm critiquing for a friend. That's it. None of the ten million words of other manuscripts, notes, research that reside on various other computers.

One day I might surprise everyone, me most of all, and get every single piece of data on the same computer at the same time. In the meantime, though . . . I like to live dangerously.

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's Fair Time

The Tulsa State Fair is in full swing. Will we go? Don't know. We talk about it every year, but usually it passes before we make it over there. The idea of seeing the exhibits and sampling the food is appealing. Getting there, traffic, parking, crowds -- not so much.

When we were kids, going to the fair was a Big Deal. School let out one day, and my mom and various of her sisters would gather their kids and go for the day. We always packed a lunch -- just paying the admission and riding the rides was a splurge. We didn't waste any money on buying food unless it was cotton candy. Back then the fair was the only place we ever got cotton candy.

Our mothers would mostly turn us loose with instructions to meet at certain times under the KELI building. It was a spaceship-like structure that housed a radio station upstairs and was the easiest place to recognize on the grounds. Only the little kids had to stay with the moms -- I remember my aunt Lois looping a length of clothesline around her youngest to keep him nearby. People looked at her funny then. Who knew that in twenty years parents would be paying bucks for classier-looking kid leashes?

Bell's Amusement Park used to be right next to the Tulsa Fairgrounds, and they had the best rides. That, the baby animal barn and the quilts were the reasons I went to the fair as an adult. I was so disappointed the first time Bob and I went together because they wouldn't let me on Zingo, the big roller coaster. (I was five or six months pregnant.)

Bell's is gone now, Zingo along with it, and we haven't been to the fair since they lost their lease. Maybe this year instead of just talking about it, we'll actually go. After all, we haven't even had fried Snickers yet, and they've already moved on to fried watermelon, chocolate-dipped corndogs, Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers and fried bubble gum.

Hm, maybe if we go, we should pack a lunch. Wouldn't want to drop dead on the midway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Don't-Really-Care-If-I-See TV

This fall season's shows have been a disappointment.

* I don't care that Steve's mother is still alive on Hawaii 5-0.

* Since NCIS hinted that one of its regulars would die, I really wanted one of them to die. Preferably Tony. Or Abby. Or, hell, at this point, even Gibbs. I hate when a show suggests they're going to kill off a character, then doesn't do it, or it's someone so minor you can't remember who they are.

* What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. I love Dennis Quaid -- he's earned passes for a bunch of bad roles by playing such a good Remy McSwain in The Big Easy -- but this show was amazingly boring.

* Criminal Minds. The new regular reminds me of a female Gideon from the first couple seasons -- not in a good way. The case wasn't interesting, and the interactions between the regulars mostly seemed off. After fifteen minutes, I was officially watching it only for Spencer and Rossi. I do love Spencer and Rossi.

* Watching Last Resort again would be my retired-Navy-hubby's, um, pardon the pun, last resort. I didn't see the first episode. He did. He (and the TV we share) won't be tuned in again.

* Blue Bloods. I didn't get to see all of the premiere and didn't care. I like the Reagan boys, can't stand the Reagan girls (except for Danny's wife), but imo, the strength of the show depends on the writers. Some episodes they really nail. Others . . . well, like I said, I like the Reagan boys.

But not all is a letdown. Sunday night was the first new episode of Once Upon a Time, and they nailed it. They started off with a great recap of the entire first season -- not just an "on the last episode ..." but a full hour hitting the highlights, both past and present, for all the major characters. I've never missed an episode (not even the second time around), but it was still nice to have my memory jogged. I still envy Snow White the potion she got from Rumplestiltskin that made her forget Prince Charming's existence, but hey, that's one out of a dozen and a half great characters. Everyone else is fun and interesting, and even Charming is showing a bit of potential. (Though I think it's telling that if you drop one letter of his name, you wind up with toilet paper. Hmm.)

Anything you've seen and liked or hated or don't ever need to see again?

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Love Amy Farrah Fowler

If you've been around me long, you know I'm a big Big Bang Theory fan. Not only is it the funniest show on television in a long time, it's taught me more about physics than all my years in school. (Okay, in defense of my schools, I avoided science classes like the plague. I was forced to take an intro biology class in college. I dropped out mid-semester to avoid failing, took it again, hired a tutor and squeaked out a passing grade -- barely.) Still, not only has TBBT taught me a few things, it's made me actually go out and look for physics stuff to read.

It took me a while to warm up to the character of Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, but she's a hoot. That deadpan expression, the way her character interacts with the others, the lack of emotion most of the time . . . she's just so funny.

And these days we need all the laughter we can get, right?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The P Word

When I was a kid, two subjects were off limits for polite conversation: politics and religion. All these years later, I don't see many people talking about religion in social settings, but man, the no-politics idea has been smashed all to hell.

There are so many things I hate about politics that it's hard to know where to start, but today I'm sticking to social media.

Stating your political beliefs on Facebook and Twitter is fine.

A good-spirited debate is less fine, in my never-humble opinion, but still okay.

Assuming that everyone who friends/follows you shares your beliefs is naive and harmful to a friendship.

Ranting that if your friends/followers don't believe exactly as you do, they are responsible for the destruction of the universe and should die a slow painful death crosses the line.

My opinions are very strong, and they're mine. I don't try to ram them down someone else's throats. I don't automatically assume that if you're a Democrat, you must believe this, or if you're a Republican, you must believe that. I don't insult people publically for daring to disagree with me, and I don't take kindly to people who try to deny me that same right.

(Except for people who vote straight-party tickets. It amazed me back when I was in grade school and found out there were people who actually voted for someone for no other reason than he was a Republican or a Democrat, and it absolutely astounds me today. Vote the issues. Vote the candidate's track record, for God's sake. All Democrats are not created equal, and neither are all Republicans.)

Campaign for your candidates. Give money to your party. Nurture your beliefs.

And please grant everyone else the right to do the same.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Shall I Talk About?

Subtitled: What would you like to read?

Until this week, I've made a point of writing here about writing. I love talking about writing. But sometimes I get tired of it, and since a lot of my readers are among the ever-shrinking group of people who aren't actively writing a book, thinking about writing a book, are waiting to get bored so they can write a book (and make a million dollars), I thought maybe I could limit the writing talk to specific stuff. The rest of the time I could blog about my other passions: reading, my grandson, my family, dogs, food, power tools, etc.

What do you think? If I keep writing about writing, are you going to go away and never come back? If I stop writing about writing, are you going to do the same? Or am I just so darn entertaining that you don't care what I'm writing about?

(Pardon me while I snort.)

Anyway, dolls, it's up to you. Comment here, let me know on Facebook or let me know by the numbers when I check in after a week or two and you've kept visiting or have slowly trickled away.
One of the crape myrtles next to my driveway this week. I love this time of year! At least, during the odd moments when I'm able to breathe.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lessons About Parfaits

Do you remember the scene in Shrek where Shrek is trying to explain to Donkey that ogres are like layers? Donkey comments that not everyone likes onions, but how about parfaits? Everyone likes parfaits.

[If you haven't seen the movie, you're either A) lacking young children or B) lacking young grandchildren and C) are missing out on some great lines.]

Anyway, not just being perverse as I sometimes I am, I'm sticking up my hand here. I don't like parfaits. Don't like eating them and sure don't like making them.

Every Friday Cam and I "make" something sweet. It's usually chocolate chip cookies, though we've also done brownies, fudge, no-bake oatmeal cookies, red velvet cookies and Rice Krispies treats. (They were really good! I think I've had them about twice in my life and never liked them until this time around.)

Last Friday we made parfaits from a kit.

Lesson 1 - don't spend $5 on a kit when all you need is chocolate cookies, butter, pudding mix, milk and Cool Whip. And that way you get as much of the chocolate cookie crumbs as you want.

Lesson 2 - Cam, who can outdo a squadron of fighter jets for sheer decibels, thinks the mixer is too loud and so can't do that part.

Lesson 3 - real honest-to-God parfait glasses are wide at the top for a reason, which is . . .

Lesson 4 - it's darn hard getting layers of chocolate pudding and whipped cream into a non-parfait glass without smearing both on the sides, unless . . .

Lesson 5 - you use a margarita glass, when it works just fine!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Perfectionism or Nitpicking?

How do you tell the difference?

I'm actually not sure there's much of one, if any at all. I like things done right. I especially like words spelled right, sentences structured right and paragraphs punctuated right. (Okay, it should probably be "properly" instead of "right" those last three times, but I'm going for an echo of the first "right.")

Yes, I review text messages and emails before I send them to catch typos. I don't rely on spell check in my manuscripts because I don't entirely trust it. I do, however, trust the spelling ability that got me in more spelling bees than I ever wanted to be in as a kid.

I've actually copy-edited magazines, newspapers and published books -- not because I'm getting paid for it, but because it drives me nuts to see mistakes go uncorrected.I spent hours last week removing a stupid formatting error that showed up in my manuscript. I tried to leave it there and continue writing. I just couldn't do it. I hate it when I make a typo or leave out a word on Facebook or Twitter.

I don't consider myself a perfectionist, though. (If you could see my house . . .) I don't like to think of myself as a nitpicker, either.

I just like to think I'm a writer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

High Maintenance

A common piece of advice writers get -- one I agree with only in the broadest of senses -- is to write what you know. Some people take it too literally, thinking they can only use occupations/locations/experiences personally familiar to them. Not so.

An author who's never been shot at can realistically write how it feels. A mother who's never lost a child can write a mother who has realistically. A woman married to a chubby, balding accountant can easily relate what it feels like to fall in love with a tall, dark, mysterious and dangerous spy. All it takes is imagination.

None of my characters are like me. Sure, we have things in common, but the sad fact is, my life is boring (just read my bio; you'll see), and the really sad fact is, I'm high-maintenance. I'm an emotional mess. I'm a klutz of the first degree. I'm allergic to everything. I require great amounts of attention and care (thank You, God, for a husband who can handle it). I'm not the sort of heroine I want to read about, and I think the sort of hero that heroine would require would stretch the limits of believability.

But I don't have to be a heroine.

I just have to be able to relate to one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why I Love Writers

Not long ago I was talking with a group of writers. Once we finished the usual writerly discussions -- plotting, creating characters, self-editing, dialogue, etc. -- the conversation turned to other things we find of interest, such as dishes we like to cook, adventures we've been on and our personal preferences in handguns.

Yes, in a group of romance writers ranging in age from college age to grandmotherly, more than a few of us know what we like when it comes to pistols. (Mostly semi-automatics, mostly compacts.)

Writers are the most diverse people I know. In my own close circle of friends, there's a scuba dive master, a bomber car driver, a veterinarian, a Harley rider, a couple of guitarists, some incredible singers, an airplane mechanic, several computer experts, runners, yoga enthusiasts, gourment cooks, bakers, master gardeners, world travelers, teachers, nurses, dog lovers, cat lovers, people lovers.

You can get an answer to just about any question from a group of writers. If no one knows, they will automatically do what my son's tae kwon do instructor taught his students in that situation: find out. Our heads are stuffed with an incredible amount of information, and we love sharing it. We'll support you, make you laugh, encourage you, make you cry, cry with you and always be there for you.

We are a pretty damn good bunch of people.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Prince -- A Good Thing?

I'm a huge fan of Once Upon a Time and can't wait for the new season to start. I have only one complaint about the show.

Prince Charming is a real prince. And not in a good way.

Come to think of it, he's not too charming, either.

In a romance novel, the prince (in the past), David (in the present) would definitely not rate hero status. He's not evil enough to be a villain. He's not evil at all, in fact. He's just bland, mopey and spineless.

Even Pinnochio and Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin) are both way more hero material (okay, anti-hero in Gold's case) than David could ever be. Granted, David and Mary Margaret (Snow White) aren't the primary characters, but their relationship is still such a disappointment. Every time she moons over him, I just want to shake her and say, "Wake up! Go find Pinnochio or Grumpy or Jiminy Cricket. They're all twice the hero material David is!"

Man, when a wooden boy, a dwarf, and a cricket are sexier and stronger than the prince, that's one sorry prince.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sock Puppet Masters

If you're even on the fringes of the book world, you've heard the fuss the last few weeks about sock puppet reviews. There was a guy in Bixby, OK -- home to my favorite chiropractor and one of my favorite hamburger places -- who made darn good money selling phony 5-star reviews to authors. The phony reviewers would post their phony reviews on Amazon, and readers would get suckered into buying the books.

I rarely pay attention to reviews, for anyone else's books or mine. A good review is great, a so-so one can take the shininess off your day, and a bad one sticks around forever. Best to avoid them, in my opinion.

I always wondered about those hundreds of 5-star reviews for books I'd never heard of from authors I'd never heard of. Not that I claim to know every writer out there, but when people are raving deliriously about a book on Amazon and there's no buzz anywhere else, I have to wonder. Especially when the gist of the reviews was pretty much the same.

Now writers feel the need to announce, "I've never paid for reviews," and Amazon reviewers are prefacing their comments with, "I didn't receive payment for this review." It's a sad thing when it comes to that, but I'm not surprised. The publishing market has shrunk over the past ten years, and with the advent of indie publishing, where anyone who wants to publish anything can, there's a huge drive to take every advantage possible, even resorting to fraudulent reviews and fake praise.

I understand the guy in Bixby has gone out of business. A good thing, in my opinion. Readers deserve so much better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Computer -- Yea! Oh, No!

My two poor old computers, a desk top and a laptop, have been on life support the last few months, so this weekend I bit the bullet and bought a new one. It's another HP -- I think that's all I've ever owned besides a couple of Gateways back in the day -- only it has a honkin' big screen and a numeric keypad.

Now I get the fun of transferring everything over from not just one computer to another, but from two. Pictures, manuscripts, files, etc. -- oh, boy.

The last time I did this, I bought a program guaranteed to make the data transfer for you. I worked and worked. It didn't. It copied everything two or three times. It just stored the info in a place where I couldn't find it for the transfer. Waste of money.

This time I'm going one of two routes: emailing everything to myself, or using the external hard drive. We'll see how it goes . . . and whether I'll have any hair left when I get done.

First, though, I have to get used to the keyboard. I'm not flexible when it comes to keyboards. I can use two without problem: my old desk top and my old laptop. I can't even use Bob's without having to redo everything. Kind of weird considering that keyboards are basically same . . . but so not the same for me. Sigh.

I'm an uncommon person.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Waiting for Inspiration

I've known a lot of people over the years who call themselves writers, who love to talk about writing and all its aspects and who are thrilled to discuss their books in particular with you if you ask. But there's one problem: they don't write.

Oh, they do, but they wait for inspiration.

Unfortunately, contracted deadlines don't wait for inspiration.

Writing is a lot like anything else: the more you do, the more natural it feels. (I was going to say "the easier it gets," but that's a lie. It's rarely easy. It's constantly learning, practicing, working, improving.) If you write on a regular schedule, odds are that your story is going to flow regularly, too. Writing's an art, but it's also a job, and unless you're luckier than me, you have to do a job whether you feel inspired or not.

I read a quote -- wish I knew who said it: "I only write when I'm inspired, so I make a point of being inspired every morning at 9 a.m."

When wanting to tell the characters' stories isn't enough to get me to the computer, the inspiration of a deadline does the trick.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When the Voices Shut Up

I've been writing professionally for 26+ years, and I've never had writer's block. I believe it exists; it just hasn't dropped in for a visit with me yet. I hope it never does.

There are times, though, in every book where I cannot make forward progress no matter how hard I try. It's as if the characters have just shut up, folded their arms over their chests and turned their backs to me. I write, delete, write, delete, walk, fuss, bang my head on the desk . . . then remember: the fact that the story won't move means that I've gone wrong somewhere. This was something I experienced in the first book I sold on a partial, so you'd think all these years later, I would remember it, maybe even expect it, and immediately know what to do about it.

The solution is simple: I go back thirty or forty pages and start reading, and when I see that the story's gone off on a tangent, that's where I start rewriting.

But I can't just say, "Oh, okay, this scene isn't working so I need to flip back a few chapters." It's like I have to go through the writing/deleting/writing/deleting/head-banging. It's all part of the process.

Since I'm fortunate enough to have a process that I actually (at least partly) understand, couldn't it be a simpler one?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What's Inside Your Head?

One of the most common questions I've gotten as an author is where do I get my ideas. (Along with "How much money do you make?" and "Do you personally research all those sex scenes?") (Answers: "None of your business" and "Yeah, and I practice the murders, too. Want to help?")

I told a friend the other day that in the beginning, the question of where I got ideas really baffled me. I thought everyone had people and plots living in their heads. I thought the only difference was that I wrote mine down and others didn't.

Which makes me wonder . . . What does go on inside the head of a non-writing person? Do they ever fantasize about romance, mystery, suspense, adventures? Do they really not have other people in there with them, or do they just refuse to recognize them? Are they too logical to acknowledge the voices hiding in their frontal or temporal lobe? Are they unwilling to be labeled different or weird?

(Upon the sale of my very first book, someone I was very close to said, "Oh, you're not weird, after all. You're creative." Like it was a huge surprise.)

And the big question: don't they get loney or bored? My brain has always been filled with lives and emotions and voices other than my own. I would feel so lost without them. But if that's all I had ever known, I guess it would seem normal.

Given a choice, I'll take weird any time.