Friday, December 30, 2005

Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart

I've been shopping to selectively spend some of my Christmas money. Just before Christmas I bought myself an Alphasmart. It's a lightweight little keyboard with a Word processor that I can carry anywhere. It holds eight files and plenty of text, so I can work on various projects. Once you've written your text, you simply download it via a USB connection, and it flows right into your open text document on your PC. I love it! You can check them out at They still have the 3000 on sale this month. It's a steal, actually!

What I needed was the perfect bag to store and carry my Alphie in, and I found one yesterday. A stylish leather bag that looks like a purse, and it has pockets for notebooks or research, the cord, a phone, etc..

Also bought myself a bracelet. Okay, one teeny weeny piece of jewelry for all of Christmas wasn't bad at all. And...please hold your laughter...the new Ricky Nelson Greatest Hits CD. I listened all afternoon today and was swept back to my youth by that seductive voice. "Everlovin' your my one desire, Everlovin' you set my heart afire. Everlovin' I'll be ever lovin' you."

I'll be watching for the coat sales next. And maybe one more teeny weeny piece of jewelry....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award Nominees

Logged on today to find a dozen congratulations for an RT nomination!

HER BODYGUARD Geralyn Dawson HQN (Jun)
TO TEMPT A TEXAN Georgina Gentry Zebra (Feb)
PRAIRIE WIFE Cheryl St. John Harlequin (Feb)

I always felt this book was special -- I'm glad they thought so, too!

You can click on Reviewer's Choice Awards in the Book News box if you want to see all the nominees in all the categories. I like to read as many of the books in the categories as I can.

Think I'll celebrate by taking down the Christmas tree and vacuuming. Ah, the exotic life of a romance writer.

Monday, December 26, 2005

So what did you get for Christmas?

On Christmas Eve Day as I was preparing for the family to descend the next day, I kept finding cash envelopes around the house: on the coffee maker, taped to the back of a child, in my make-up drawer, beside my computer! My husband gave me cash for Christmas! LOL I'm loving it, and planning what I'll buy myself. (My wish list is pretty intimidating.) Good job, Honey! Your gift definitely doesn't have an electrical cord!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Announcing W.I.C.O.E. Seminar For Men

Women In Charge Of Everything is proud to announce the opening of its EVENING CLASSES FOR MEN!

OPEN TO MEN ONLY Note: due to the complexity and level of difficulty, each course will accept a maximum of eight participants

The course covers two days, and topics covered in this course include:


HOW TO FILL ICE CUBE TRAYS Step by step guide with slide presentation


DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LAUNDRY BASKET &FLOOR Practicing with hamper (Pictures and graphics)


REMOTE CONTROL Losing the remote control - Help line and support groups

LEARNING HOW TO FIND THINGS Starting with looking in the right place instead of turning the house upside down while screaming - Open forum




REAL MEN ASK FOR DIRECTIONS WHEN LOST Real life testimonial from the one man who did



HOW TO BE THE IDEAL SHOPPING COMPANION Relaxation exercises, meditation and breathing techniques



Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sue's Scones

I made these for my ladies Christmas Tea, which was today, and they were the hit of the tea party!

2 c all purpose flour, sifted
1 large egg
1/3 c granulate sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
6 oz white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c craisins
1/4 c unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 c finely chopped dried apricots
3/4 c heavy whipping cream
1 c coarsely broken walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the cream, egg, and vanila. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and knead until combined. Knead in the white chocolate, walnuts, and fruit.

With lightly floured hands, pat the dough out into a 9 inch diameter circle in the center of an ungreased baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut circle into wedges. If you double the recipe, spread the dough out in the pan and cut into squares.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Recut into wedges if necessary.

Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container.
They make ahead and freeze beautifully!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Things To Ponder

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient funds" when they know there is not enough?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why doesn't glue stick to the bottle?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized? <>

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, "It's all right?" Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, "That hurt, you stupid idiot?"

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bob's Chili

Got this recipe from my cousin. It's chili weather!

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (1.25 oz) McCormick chili seasoning
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can mexican flavored diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can chili beans
1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 4.5 oz can chopped green chilies, drained
1 16 oz jar banana pepper rings, drained & chopped
1 16 oz jar Pace Mild Pacante Sauce

Brown meat; season with salt & pepper to taste. Drain meat, add chili seasoning and simmer a few minutes. Add pacante sauce (set jar aside) and simmer a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, beans, green chilies and pepper rings. Add water to empty pacante sauce jar (about 1/2 cup); add to chili until pan is full or chili has enough moisture.

Cover and simmer about 30 minutes.

May also use hot chili seasoning and/or Medium pacante sauce if you dare.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Winner!

My family thoroughly enjoyed the lists of things you're thankful for, and on the holiday, they had the tough job of selecting a winner. Their favorite list was Missy W's. Missy, post me with your address and your book will be on its way!

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Can't believe we're on the slide into Christmas now. Don't tell me how many shopping days left. LOL

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How many shopping days 'til Christmas?

Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women.
Follow these rules and you should have no problems.

Rule #1: When in doubt - buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can really never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.

Rule #2: If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.

Rule #3: If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99- cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.

Rule #4: Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties. And never buy men bathrobes. I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.

Rule #5: You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

Rule #7: Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after shave or deodorant. I'm told they do not stink - they are earthy.

Rule #8: Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. "Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink." You get the idea. No one knows why.

Rule #9: Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his day and he will always have parts left over.

Rule #10: Good places to shop for men include Northwest Iron Works, Parr Lumber, Home Depot, John Deere, Valley RV Center, and Les Schwab Tire. NAPA Auto Parts and Sears Clearance Centers are also excellent men's stores. It doesn't matter if he doesn't know what it is. "From NAPA Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn't this a starter for a '68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! Thanks."

Rule #11: Men enjoy danger. That's why they never cook - but they will barbecue. Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"

Rule #12: Tickets to a football game are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts." Everyone knows why.

Rule #13: Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chainsaw. If you don't know why - please refer to Rule #8 and what happens when he gets a label-maker.

Rule #14: It's hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a step ladder. It must be an extension ladder. No one knows why.

Rule #15: Rope. Men love rope. It takes them back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Do not use the words "gift" and "major appliance" in the same breath!

What is it with men and appliances? Anything with a cord, they come unglued over. Men are thrilled with power tools under the Christmas tree. Am I right?


It's been the rule in our house since the dawn of time that anything that plugs in is NOT A GIFT! I repeat not a gift. If it plugs in, it means work, not pleasure. (There are a few exceptions, in the form of stereos, computers or special requests.) So when my husband mentioned the other day that I might want to start thinking about one big thing we could buy for Christmas, my mind had a happy dance. I know I'm not the only woman in the world who adores gifts. I love presents! Love to give them, love to get them. I sort of felt him out with a couple of suggestions.

Then he told me he'd been thinking along the lines of a stove.

Excuse me? A major appliance is not a Christmas gift. Not in any way, shape or form. Did he change into Tim Allen when I wasn't looking? Do I suddenly look like a woman who'd rather cook than say, wear a diamond bracelet, hmm? What was he thinking?

So tell me: What's your opinion on "presents" that plug in?

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I love contests as much as I love lists! LOL

Here's my new one:
Make a list of the top ten things you're thankful for right here in the comment section of this post.
On Thanksgiving Day, I'll have my family read them all and select the one they like the best.
Sound fun? I think so.

What to win, what to win...hmmm...well, those autographed books were pretty popular.
The winner recieves the book of their choice from my backlist.

So, put on your thinking caps and make a list! I can't wait to read them!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Listen to me stutter

Click on the 10/31 archive to hear Laura Mills Alcott interview me on Voice America.


Thanks to all of you who made my October blogging so much fun! I hope you'll continue to come back to read and chat.

What can I say? One of anything is never enough for me. So I drew THREE names from the fish bowl!!

You're all winners, but those who get their choice of an autographed book from my backlist are:

Jennifer Yates
Missy W

Please post me at and let me know your address and which book you'd like to have me sign and send to you. If you need to see my backlist of books to choose one, go to:

(The only book I don't have copies of is Christmas Gold.)

Thanks again and come back real soon!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Potty Talk: another pet peeve

One thing is for sure: Women's restrooms were designed by men.

And probably not by normal-sized adults for that matter. I'm certain that there are engineering planning committees made up of male dwarves. If public restrooms are designed by full-sized adults, then they are warped individuals who take glee in maniacally placing stools and doors and tissue dispensers so that women who are not limber or three feet tall can't possibly use the facility without being contortionists.

Today I attended a planning meeting for our local writers group and we held it at a nearby restaurant for lunch. My friend, Chris and I used the restroom afterward, commenting as soon as we opened the stall doors that this was going to be interesting. I'm not a tiny person, but I'm not that big either. I can't help but wonder how on earth an overweight person maneuvers one of those stalls without wetting her pants.

I managed to hang my purse on the back of the door by standing beside the stool, and then in a movement not unlike something you might have seen Jim Carey perform, I managed to lower my jeans and, leaning back, sidle to the right so I could perch.

Meanwhile, Chris, who IS a small--ish person--is lamenting from the stall beside me that she has her head cocked sideways so she can sit down without knocking herself out on the door.

BY this time I'm looking for one of those alarm buttons like you see in hospital bathrooms. Push it and someone comes in with a jar of petroleum jelly to get you back out of the stall. Or looking for--at the least--a hidden camera, because surely this is Candid Camera. I quickly check to make sure I have on a good pair of underwear.

At least this particular restroom wasn't one of those where the toilet tissue holders were installed on the wall beside you at about mid-calf, so that when you need to roll off some tissue, you have to stand on your head. And then, you get two one-ply sheets because the paper-miser feature prevents the roll from actually rolling. Back to the head-stand.

I mean seriously, people, could the architects please figure in a few more feet in their designs? Realistically, Americans are getting larger every year.

And bathrooms ain't.

The Most Recent Montana Mavericks

The most recent Montana Mavericks series is called Gold Rush Grooms. Here's the list:

STRANDED WITH THE GROOM, Christine Rimmer, SSE 1657
ALL HE EVER WANTED, Allison Leigh, SSE 1664
CABIN FEVER, Karen Rose Smith, SSE 1682
THE GUARDIAN, Elizabeth Lane, Harlequin Historical 9/05
THE TRACKER, Mary Burton, Harlequin Historical 9/05
BIG SKY RANCHER, Carolyn Davidson, Harlequin Historical 9/05
THE BOUNTY HUNTER, Cheryl St.John, Harlequin Historical 9/05

If you want a complete list of all the Montana Mavericks, going back to the very first one, the list is posted on my website at:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Alan Jackson's reply in a song

I got this link to Alan Jackson's song from another author. Apparently singers and songwriters get asked questions similar to the things we discussed a few days ago. If you haven't already heard this, you'll get a good laugh.

I like to share free stuff

Sign up to receive a free sample of Post-It's new Sticky Picture Paper:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Things People Say To Fiction Authors

"You have to write the story of my life! It would make a great book!"

Seriously. I don't write non-fiction, so it's not likely I'd write someone's life story. (Besides, I don't think I want to know you that well.)

"You have to write about my experiences at work/in the Army/in college/in Pick-A-State."

It's true that life is stranger than fiction, but a story requires a plot, with conflict, great characterization, and it's put together and twisted and shaped into a finished product. Stories about life experiences are biographies or non-fiction.

"I've always had this great idea for a book. I can give it to you and you can write it."

If you're so excited about it, you write it. We can't expect another person to be as excited about our ideas as we are. And -- I have plenty of ideas of my own. Time and marketability are the issue.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Top Ten Pet Peeves in Romance Novels

In no particular order these things irritate me:

1 - The heroine has tiny feet.
How many people actually think of their own feet as "tiny?"

2 - The heroine falls asleep thinking about what's going to happen.

3 - The heroine has "small perfect" teeth.

4 - Jumping in and out of heads/point of view.
Do readers notice or care when we even know what the cab driver's thinking?

5 - A couple jumping into bed before I care about them - or before they care about each other. Yawn.

6 - The ending feels rushed, as though the author only had so many pages to resolve everything in.

7 - A story that starts out with so much backstory that I feel as though I've missed the previous book.

8 - Heroines who giggle.

9 - Heroines who only need a shower and a little lip gloss to look like JLo. Yeah, right.

10 - Hero's with bad attitudes and nobody ever calls them on it.

How about you?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My Favorite Places

I love lists! Can you tell? LOL

These are some of the places I love to go, in no particular order:

1 - garage sales, ideally all in one awesome area and all with incredible stuff at really low prices

2 - flea markets

3 - salad bars

4 - drives in the country in the autumn

5 - viewing model homes

6 - historic homes

7 - any place on a vacation trip with no rigid schedule

8 - movies

9 - family dinners

10 - kids' Christmas programs

Friday, October 21, 2005


From Harrison House Publishing Co.:

Diet Snapple, 16 oz. $1.29 =$10.32 per Gal.
Lipton Ice Tea, 16 oz. $1.19 = 9.52 per Gal.
Gatorade 20 oz. 1.59 = $10.17 per Gal.
Ocean Spray juice 16 oz. $1.25 - 10.00 per Gal.
Qt. or milk 16 oz. $1.59 = $ 6.32 per Gal.
Evian Water 9 oz. $1.49 = $21.29 per Gal.
STP Brake Fluid 12 oz. $3.15 = $33.60 per Gal
Vicks Nyquil 6 oz. $8.35 = $178.13 per Gal.
Pepto Bismol 4 oz. $3.85 = $123.20 per Gal.
Whiteout 7 oz. $1.39 = $254.17 per gal.
Scope 1.5 oz. $0.99 = $84.84 per gal.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More on Story Ideas

Having been asked to write more about how I come up with stories got me thinking. I've never found that warehouse outside Tulsa, so I do most of the dirty work on my own. LOL Actually, the ideas are the fun part, the part that never runs out. Carrying out the work is the hard part. There are a lot of people who call themselves writers and who come up with ideas, but there are far fewer who actually do the work and get it all in publishable story form on paper.

Ideas come from anywhere. TV shows, the newspaper, songs, other books.

Which books haven't I mentioned? Georgia wanted to hear more details and Malvina said her favorite book is The Doctor’s Wife, so: The Doctor's Wife came from watching a talk show where the female guest told her story. She came from the "trash family" in a little town. I felt so sorry for her and her story was so sad that I sat and cried. Often when I'm moved by someone’s real life story, I want to write one that turns out better. It’s like I can fix the world one book at a time or something. The real person in this case was ridiculed and teased by the other children. Her family was so poor that she wore her brother’s underwear. Her mother gave birth to more than one baby and made the daughter go bury them. One particular time, she secretly gave the baby away. This was one of those reunion shows, and they brought out the sister whose life she saved so many years ago and they were reunited with hugs and tears. Bizarre story, eh? Once again truth is stranger than fiction. Well I changed all that and had the baby be my heroine’s and had her hide it to keep it safe. But that’s where the idea was conceived.

Most recently I got an idea for a story from a dateline news show about child victims/child heroes, and it featured Elizabeth Smart among others. One of the stories really impressed me, so I came up with my own situation. I asked myself what becomes of a child like this when they grow up? How do they cope with this stuff? The story evolved from there and it's under consideration for publication right now. It just feels like a BIG story to me. I’m excited about where it’s going.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Desperate Author Syndrome

Sometimes it's pretty intimidating trying to be fresh and brilliant day after day. Writers have to "perform" on command, even on bad days, even when they'd rather be doing anything else. Sometimes there just isn't enough chocolate in the world to keep me seated in this chair. And then I remind myself what my wonderful critique partner told me. I don't have to be brilliant or better than anyone else. I just have to do what I do. I just have to be me. And I ain't always brilliant.

Who reads romance?

From a past survey:

* average age of Harlequin/Silhouette readers: 41.1, compared
to the median age of the total population of U.S. women, 40.

* current household income of readers: $36,000 (U.S),
compared to the U.S. average of #32,264.

* 60% of current readers are employed outside of home.

* readers’ favorite magazines: Good Housekeeping, Reader’s
Digest, People, Woman’s Day and Redbook.

* readers enjoy a variety of music: Country & western is by far
the most popular choice, followed by Golden Oldies, Easy
Listening/Classical, Rock and Jazz.

* readers love crafts: painting, cross-stitching, sewing,
crocheting and knitting were the top choices.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I just read........

I just finished AIN'T SHE SWEET. Once again Susan Elizabeth Phillips blows me away with her vivid characters and storytelling. I always start out thinking, "How am I going to like this person" -- "Is this really the heroine/hero?" and then end up loving them.

Friday, October 14, 2005

**why do I write romance?**

I write romance for the same reason I’ve read romance for years: I love the genre. I love losing myself in the challenges and trials of two characters who are destined to be together.
I guess I want to believe that there’s somebody for everyone, and that under just the right circumstances and with a bit of that magic we call romance, happily-ever-afters are within our reach.
Before you scoff and call me a Pollyanna, I assure you I’m enough in tune with reality to lock my doors and warn my children of strangers. I watch the news and I see the state of our world. But what do we have if we don’t have hope?
Romance is all about hope.
After my fourth book, Saint or Sinner, was released, I received the most memorable letter I’ve ever received from a reader. She told me how much she’d enjoyed my book, how she identified with the characters and how she’d cried for the heroine. Like the character in my story, she’d been stalked and beaten by someone who should have loved her. Unlike my character however, the reader has permanent nerve damage to her arm. Her story touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes and gave me pause to think over what I was doing.
I sat at my desk thinking how shallow my work is. I make all this stuff up! I order peoples’ lives about and manipulate them to suit my plots, but it’s all fiction.
While I sit in my lovely office, sipping cup after cup of coffee and munching M&Ms, and blissfully typing away, out there in the world people are experiencing devastating hurts and losses and traumas.
That thinking lasted about ten minutes. And then I realized why this young woman had been touched so profoundly by my story. She said she hoped that some day she would meet a man like Joshua, a man who would love her. She had hope.
Romance is about hope.
We invest our time in the characters in these stories because we know that no matter what dilemmas befall them, no matter what obstacles they face or which conflicts arise, in the end, love will conquer all; good will win over evil; and a happily-ever-after will prevail.
Each of us hopes there is that special someone out there, the man or woman who will love us and fill that place created in our heart just for them. Romance brings that hope to life, and through the stories of love and commitment, we experience the fulfillment of the human dream.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I always find this one of the silliest questions I’ve ever heard, and reply with a quip—that people take seriously!

“I subscribe to Idea Monthly.” They say, “Oh.”
“I close myself in a dark closet, chant a mantra,
and don’t come out until a complete story has come to me.” Oh.
“I remember everything everyone tells me and I use it.” Oh.
“Little green men come to me and night and whisper plots
in my ear.” Oh.

Seriously, I have to wonder whether or not the people who ask that question have never had an original idea enter their heads? Writers get their ideas just like everyone else does. Ideas just come to you. As a writer, you learn to brainstorm and embellish on the original idea until it’s plausible.
Many of my ideas come from hearing a song, watching a movie, reading a book, or from my research. Something will catch my attention, and I’ll think “what if”? Then I play with the notion until I turn it into a story.
From the original concept, I develop the characters first. Exactly what kind of person will fit this role or this scene or this setting? Then I create the other lead character with built in conflict and an opposing goal.

-- Heaven Can Wait originated as taking a girl who knew nothing of the outside world from a sequestered environment and flinging her into a completely alien culture. That theme still fascinates me, and I have more ideas for others.

-- Rain Shadow developed from the desire to do a sequel to Heaven Can Wait, using Anton as the hero, and needing an exact opposite to pair him with. Thus the gun-toting Wild West character of Rain Shadow developed.

-- Land of Dreams came from my fascination with and empathy for the children who rode the orphan trains, and, as a result of the many diaries I’d read. So many of the children suffered in their new environments nearly as much as they had on the streets of New York, often being sexually abused or used as servants, and many thinking they’d been adopted into families, only to find out years later that they hadn’t. I wanted to give some of those kids a good home. And Too Tall Thea was a character burning for a story and someone to love her.

-- Saint or Sinner sprang from my passion for watching late night westerns. There’s an old black and white flick with Joanne Woodward where this guy comes back from the war and builds a church. She’s just a kid he tries to reform, but I thought…what if this fellow had a life after death experience and came back a changed man…and there was a woman who didn’t believe he’d changed?

-- Badlands Bride actually started out as a title I’d saved for years. The idea of having an unprepared reporter go west disguised as a mail-order bride popped into my head, and I decided to send her to the badlands and use that title. I love the underdog characters, you may have noticed. She's desperate for her father's approvel.

-- A Husband By Any Other Name came from the Bible story of the prodigal son. One son runs away, squanders his inheritance and comes back to his father’s welcoming arms. The brother who stayed home and worked doesn’t think that’s too fair, even though he surely loved his brother. Seeing the father plan a feast and roast the fatted calf irks him. I further complicated that story by having the brother who stays home marry the fiancee of the brother who went away. Did I mention he pretends to be the brother who went away?

-- The Truth About Toby. I’ve always been a bit fascinated with dream interpretations, I guess. I had originally titled the book Dream A Little Dream For Me, because the hero is helping the heroine with precognitive dreams. Austin came to me first, a reclusive, tortured hero who simply wants to forget the horrors of his past. And for him I created Shaine, the woman he can’t resist, who needs him to remember it all.

-- The Mistaken Widow is a historical version of the movie, “Mrs. Winterbourne, where Ricky Lake pretends to be Brenden Frasier’s sister-in-law. As soon as I saw the film, I started picturing it in a historical scenario. My story has a bit more twists and turns, however.

and on and on.....

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Grammar Check!

I don’t know about you, but I ALWAYS need to brush up on some of these tricky words! I hate it when my editor’s the one to catch them!

Affect/Effect: “Affect" is a verb; “effect” is usually a noun that sometimes means “to render”.

As/Like: “As” is a metaphor and should not be used in place of that, whether or like; “like” is a preposition/simile. Use “like” only when comparing two things.

Between you and I/Between you and me: “Between you and me” is the only correct usage.

Eager/Anxious: You’re “eager” when you’re looking forward to something; “anxious” is when you’re dreading something.

Elude/allude: “Elude” means to evade, to foil; “allude” means to refer to indirectly.

Farther/Further: “Farther” is actually measurable distance. “Further” is metaphorical distance.

Fewer/Less: “Fewer” refers to things that can be counted. “Less” refers to things that can’t be counted, to degree, or value.

Implied/Inferred: The person speaking “implies” things which are not actually spelled out. Imply means to express indirectly, to hint at. The person listening “infers” things which were not spelled out. Infer means to surmise, to derive as a consequence.

In between/Between: “In” is superfluous.

Lay/Lie: “Lay” is a transitive verb meaning “to cause to lie” (lay, laid); “lie” is an intransitive verb meaning “to be at rest” (lie, lay, lain).

Regardless/Irregardless: There is no such word as “irregardless”. (Just ask your spell-checker.)

Set/Sit: “Set” means to cause to sit and requires an object; “sit” means to be seated.

Which/Who: “Who” or “that” refer to a person. “Which” or “what” refer to an object or situation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

favorite books

I unashamedly admit that all my favorite books are romances. I like a good thriller or mystery as much as the next guy, but as for favorites--those books that work their way into my heart and onto my keeper shelf: romances.

I've mentioned that I "clean sweeped" (would that be swept?) my bookshelves last spring. I mailed boxes of books to Dog-Eared Books in Independence Missouri, and gave bags and bags away on freecycle. Also held contests on my website for collections. But I still have my favorites by:

LaVyrle Spencer
Kristin Hannah
Candace Camp/Lisa Gregory
Pamela Morsi
Linda Howard
Sharon Sala
Theresa Weir/Anne Frasier
Laura Kinsale
Catherine Anderson
Jude Deveraux
Maggie Osborne
Alexis Harrington
Deborah Bedford
Megan Chance

I love Judith Ivory, Janet Evanovich, and have ALL the Montana Mavericks and Logans Legacys, as well as many many Harlequin Historicals--written by some of my best buddies. There are more, but those are some of the favorites.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hearing from readers

I love to hear from readers! It still amazes me that people all over America and even in other countries are reading and enjoying the books I've written. Sometimes I hear from someone who's just discovered a book that's several years old and was a favorite of mine. It is so good to know that those stories are not forgotten.

In this business, you're only as good as your next book, and you can't afford to sit back on your laurels, whatever those may be, so it's often a much-needed boost of encouragement to know readers are hooking into the stories and characters I've spent so much time and energy creating.

I remember renting a post office box in the hopes that someday I would hear from someone who'd read my book. What a joy it was to unlock that box and find those envelopes inside. I always sat right in front of the little substation and read the mail. I kept a letter opener in the car so I could open them neatly.

Know what? I still have a letter opener in my car. I still read those letters when I get to my car -- sometimes as I'm stopped at traffic lights. And the little box I started out with as a keepsake box for mail has grown into two big boxes of fan mail.

Sometimes readers send a picture and I have those thumbtacked around the area surrounding my work area. It's often an encouragement to look over at those and know I'm writing this story for YOU!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Black Bean Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cans (15.5 oz each) black beans
1 - 2 Tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
1/2 c orange juice (optional)
salt and pepper

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
grated cheddar cheese

Sauté the onion and scallions in olive oil until translucent. Stir in the garlic, cumin and oregano. I love cumin, so I add more! Sauté one minute.

Add beans and pepper flakes, water, Kitchen Bouquet and bay leaf. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add orange juice and season with salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes and then turn off heat and let cool down.

Remove the bay leaf. Using blender or food processor, dip out about half the mixture and puree in batches, then return to the pan. This makes it nice and thick. Heat again.

I serve it with oyster crackers and shredded cheese. You could also garnish with red onion or cilantro of you like those tastes.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Soup Weather

I love soup and soup recipes! Fall is the perfect time to use those fresh vegetables and cook up yummy soups. I've been chopping and freezing zuccinni and onions and green peppers for the winter. I made a yummy black bean soup this week. I'll post the recipe.

I'd love to have your favorite soup recipes too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

ebay auction for Katrina aid

The AAR Aid auction featuring a set of my books is now online. In the first two auctions All About Romance raised more than $7, 500 for the victims of hurricane Katrina and they're hoping to add another $5,000 to the total with this third and final auction.

The items will be up for bid until next Monday. You might see something you'd like; there are plenty of books and even critiques.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Busy Weekend

I spent the last four days in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Kindle The Flame women's conference. It was wonderful, uplifting and a great getaway. It was 104 degrees one day, however! And I took all business clothes -- skirts and trousers with jackets. :::pant:::pant:::

Friday, September 23, 2005

Naming Characters

I have to know my characters' names before I can get anywhere in creating a story for them. Just like I have to have a title before I can write pages. The names make sense, I don't know about the title.

The character's name has to fit them in my head. The name has to help me picture the story person. I have ten books of names, everything from baby names to character naming to Bible definitions to naming pets. You can also find popular names by years on the Internet. Once I've chosen, the first name usually never changes; often the last name will change as I bring in more people.

Secondary characters take almost as much work. I make a list of the alphabet and then tick off beginning letters I've used for names. You can't have two character names sound alike, like Charlotte and Charlene or Monique and Monica or even David and Dennis, because the reader will get them confused. Also endings have to differ, for example you wouldn't want Whitley and Rigby and Riley in the same scene.

Heritage/nationality is important as is era. As is connotation. I would never name a high-powered executive-type woman Tiffany or Trixie. Also there are names that just plain make you think of someone else: Fabian, Orlando, Sly, Madonna, Britney, Charleton to name a few.

Someone suggested it would be fun to see a list of all the names I've used in books. I guess it would. It just wouldn't be fun compiling the list after all this time!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Blueberry Peach Muffins

Don't forget the July tips for making perfect muffins:

Keep liquid and dry ingredients separate until the last minute and stir only until moistened.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a twelve-muffin tin.

Mix and sift together dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda - make sure it's fresh!
1/4 tsp salt

Mix liquid ingredients:
1 6 oz container fruit-on-the bottom peach yogurt
1 large egg
1/4 cup olive oil - or butter if you must
1 cup fresh blueberries

Topping: 1/2 cup low-fat granola, lightly crushed

Stir both together and fold in blueberries. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each well. Sprinkle crushed granola over the tops.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the crowns are golden. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


A blonde was sitting on the train reading the newspaper.

The headline blared, "12 Brazilian Soldiers Killed."

She shook her head at the sad news, then turned to the stranger sitting next to her and asked, "How many is a Brazilian?"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Caught Up!

It was a rare week. I'm not sure where everybody was and what they were doing, but the email lists were few and far between. Even my spam folder was slim. For the first time in I don't know how long, I am completely caught up on email.

I always have folders full under each of the three addresses I use. There are always those posts that get pushed back, because I don't want to answer them, deal with them, do the work right then--and so they collect cyber dust. I had a few that had been there for a month or better! One was a survey I fully intended to complete. I did. One was a email to myself reminding me to do something. I didn't. A few were newsletter digests I finally skimmed. Check. One was a project for an editor. Check. Now I can't even recall what the others were.

My freecycle folder can fill up in a day. Easily 50-100 posts on a Saturday. But I might miss something good, so I always skim and delete. Someday someone might post a chintz teapot and cups and I'll be all over those. You just never know.

I wonder about those people who boast they limit their email to after their work is done, or a half hour a day, or a couple of times a week. Some people even forget to check email. Yes, it's true. Hmmm. I seem to check email more often when I'm on a roll with my writing. It's something I do when my brain freezes and won't squeeze out another word. Like shopping. Or driving. Or eating.

Hey. Email me. You know I'm here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Don't you just love long weekends?

What could be better? An extra day for a real breakfast...time to chill...time to take care of things you've been waiting to handle. We got yard work done. The black-eyed Susans and bachelor buttons out front were done in, so they got clipped down to reveal mums, caladium and even pansies that had miraculously survived the heat! I had a pretty little birdhouse peeping over the top of that wild bed of flowers. The space is now filled with those remaining flowers, an old wooden bench and clay pot filled with red geraniums. A scarecrow will soon sit on the bench -- and I found a huge old basket to pile pumpkins in and around. Probably a few cornstalks will complete the scenario. We ate the last of our corn over the weekend.

Yes, I'm as crazy outside as I am inside. Speaking of inside...I painted my front door while my hubby mowed and ate weeds (should that be weed-eated? -- er -- used the weed eater). LOL It's a loverly shade of red -- red with just a tinge of pink. I love it.

This afternoon we were cutting sections of vintage picket fence to use in the back for my rose garden, when we got rained in, so we ended up recovering our kitchen chairs. They're vintage bentwood chairs, made in Romania; the seats used to be blue, but now they're dark red. I don't know what they were in their first life -- cane perhaps. I love them. Anyway, those were tasks we'd been wanting to get to for some time now, so that feels good.

On the list: a wonderful old round pedestal table that's been in the garage awaiting attention. The top needs repaired and put back on. It has two leaves that make it a huge oval. I'm thinking red for the kitchen. (Our garage and shed are filled with vintage furniture projects.)

What did you do over your three-day weekend?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Books For Hurricane Evacuees

I'm sending a box of books for hurricane evacuees in Houston. They are also seeking children's books. If you'd care to donate in this way, you can send books to:

Hurricane Evacuees
Reliant Superdome
c/o Red Cross
2700 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77098

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Bounty Hunter In Stores!

I don't know where the rest of the summer went, but it's time for my newest release!  It should be on the shelves now, though truthfully, my mind has been occupied with the tragedy going on in the gulf states.  I didn't allow myself to watch any news all day today.  It's as horrible to helplessly sit by and watch as it was when the Twin Towers fell.  I am praying for help to arrive and carry much needed supplies and comfort to those people.
Authors around the country are offering autographed books for an ebay auction to benefit the Red Cross Relief Fund.  I'll post more info about that as I learn it.
My publisher Harlequin has donated to the Relief Fund, as are hundreds of individual writers.  If you don't know where to send a donation and you'd like to help, there's a list of organizations providing assistance in my previous blog.
About THE BOUNTY HUNTER: This is Lily Divine's story, the great-great grandmother of Lisa Jane Martin, the young woman who inherited the gold mine in MILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER.  Now, you will learn the true story of the infamous Lily and the sheriff who comes to Thunder Canyon to clean up the wicked establishments.  Both stories were so much fun to write.  I can't wait for you to read Lily and Nate's story. 
There's more to the story of Thunder Canyon than just my book!  There are four historical Montana Mavericks out this month!  Each one covers a different era in the history of the town.  Here's the list:
Montana Mavericks Historicals, 9/05
THE GUARDIAN by Elizabeth Lane, ISBN: 0373811225
BIG SKY RANCHER by Carolyn Davidson, ISBN: 0373811195
THE TRACKER by Mary Burton, ISBN: 0373811209
THE BOUNTY HUNTER by Cheryl St.John ISBN: 0373811217
Be sure to look for those.  I'm working my way through my stack with pleasure.
Fall is my favorite time of year.  I've already been harvesting pumpkins, and I'm putting together a scarecrow.  Have a lovely holiday weekend and enjoy your blessings.  I've been feeling especially fortunate all week.

Charities involved in helping victims of Katrina

American National Red Cross – providing disaster services and relief
2025 E St NW
Washington, DC 20006

Salvation Army National Corp. – local, regional and national disaster relief programs
615 Slaters Ln
Alexandria, VA 22313

America's Second Harvest – providing food to victims
35 E Wacker Dr
Ste 2000
Chicago, IL 60601

Feed The Children, Inc. – sending emergency food, water and other relief supplies
PO Box 36
Oklahoma City, OK 73101

Mercy Corps – assisting families affected by the hurricane
3015 SW First Ave
Portland, OR 97201

Samaritans Purse – helping victims of natural disasters
PO Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607

Hearts With Hands Inc. – activating response teams to assist in the Gulf Coast
951 Sand Hill Rd
Asheville, NC 28806

Noah’s Wish – dedicated exclusively to rescuing and sheltering animals in disasters
PO Box 997
Placerville , CA 95667

North Shore Animal League America – world’s largest no-kill pet rescue and adoption organization
25 Davis Avenue
Port Washington, NY 11050

Humane Society of The United States – rescuing animals and assisting their caregivers in the disaster areas
2100 L St NW
Washington, DC 20037

Thursday, September 01, 2005

In the wake of Katrina

I've been so caught up in watching the news reports coming from New Orleans and the gulf states that I've done little other than write what I can and handle daily tasks. It's difficult to see the hardship and desperation, and it makes a person feel almost guilty to be going through their normal routine--and eating and drinking. I keep thinking about all the things we take for granted, like our beds and toilet paper! Even the smallest comfort is lost to them right now. I pray for those thousands of people that there is immediate help there for them. Already authors are coming up with ways to aid the efforts, and as musicians do, we use our resources. There will be an ebay auction for signed books, with the proceeds going to the Red Cross Disaster Fund. I'll post more when I know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Learn How Everything Works

Here's a fun site you can check out when you have time. You can learn how just about anything works!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Barbra & Barry fans take note: Guilty Pleasures

It's been twenty-five years since Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb wowed us with their Guilty album. It remains one of my favorites. It's being released as a 25th anniversary album at the same time the two have a new single out. I listened to Guilty Pleasures on AOL's first listen site, and I'll be first in line to buy a copy. I'm a huge Barbra fan. She's like Cher--she only gets better. I have her last CD of duets and have enjoyed that. But back with Barry again? What could be better? Any other fans out there?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Don't forget to JUMP!!

I love my jump drives. I discovered them too late for a few catastrophes, but in time to prevent future losses. If you don't have a jump drive to back up your files -- run! don't walk to an office supply store and buy one. I have three. My favorite is a little Attache that holds 256M !! Yes, it's like an entire extra hard drive. You can free your hard drive of graphics, etc. and speed it up, but the real bonus is knowing that if you have a crash, you haven't lost your data. Been there more than once, did that, not gonna happen again.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Today I spoke with my now long-distance critique partner and explained the story I've been bantering around in my head and on paper without having it actually take off. She asked me one question. A question I've asked other writers a million times: "What is their external conflict?"

Duh. Duh. A hundred times duh. She thinks in a direction my brain refuses to go, so her tough questions started me in a new direction. My head was bursting by the time we finished our talk.

I've said it before and I confirm it again -- two brains are better than one!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My other brains

I am a writer who appreciates a good critique group or partner. I've been in a critique group for all the years that I've been published--and most of those in a group that meets every single week. We go through stages. Stage of productivity, members moving away, and our process of screening a replacement.

It's serious business, this critique group thing. You don't invite anyone who isn't compatible. You have to respect the people who are going to offer comments on your work. For me it has nothing to do with published or unpublished; it has to do with work ethic, knowledge or willingness to learn, and enthusiasm. And another brain ain't nothin' to turn your nose up at. I love my other brains during the brainstorming process or when I'm stuck. Sure, I get the ideas on my own, I put the pieces together and make all the decisions, but I only have one brain and one life experience. Getting feedback from other writers who have different perspectives AND understand the process of story writing is invaluable to me.

I know some writers who don't like anyone else meddling in their stories--some find it changes their story too much. I go into the process with elements I've chosen that I won't budge on, so the possibility of taking my story a wrong direction isn't a problem for me. I'm flexible about everything else because new perspectives keep me fresh. If someone in my group makes a suggestion that isn't considered, it's not because it was a bad suggestion; it's just because that idea didn't work for that writer's story. We all understand that. Nobody gets her nose out of joint.

Our noses are all in joint, thank you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Would you believe I subscribe to Idea Monthly?

The process of creating a new story is multi-layered. I would love to watch how other writers do it--not to compare--just to see what works for them. And often, the same process doesn't work twice in a row. Because, what is creativity if not subjective and fluid? That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I have various ideas in various stages--well, truth be told, I have a HUGE notebook titled "story ideas" and it's jammed with scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, lists and hand-written notebook paper pages, with an occasional picture or a few paragraphs I whipped out on my PC. Also notes from talks shows and profile programs like Primetime.

This is my second week on an idea for a contemporary that's coming together. I started out with the main female character's backstory and a grid on her goals, motivation, etc. and only a vague idea of the love interest. I had his name last week, but not hers. Today I chose her name and an iffy working title. I also found a picture of her. It's a community story, so there are several characters to create and flesh out. I'm still not sure where this story takes place. I was thinking Kansas and I'm not sure why. I have the atlas open right here and it looks like a good place. I've been there, so that helps.

This female character, her name is Megan, has so many emotional issues that none of the other characters can be weighted to the same degree. His name is Sean Finley. He's a county DA moonlighting as a carpenter. How much fun is that?

I heard an author say that she dreams the ideas for her books. That would sure cut down on the angst on my part. My dreams don't lend themselves to plots, much as I wish they did.

People invariably ask authors where they get their ideas. You know the truth for me is still, "I really don't know."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My eye was twitching!

On Saturday at my local RWA meeting, two writers who are collaborating on a book gave the program and explained their methods. I was fascinated. I was also amazed. And I had to hold my eye to keep it from twitching.

The two writers met ahead of time and went over every aspect of their compatibility. Impressive. They made lists and charts and got down to work and made more lists and charts. They planned how many pages and words and how many chapters and then how many pages her chapter and then how many scenes per chapter and whose point of view those scenes would be in.... They had the details of every chapter written down!

Every chapter. I asked to look at their chapter notes. Uh huh. They knew what was going to happen in every chapter. But the question I didn't have a chance to ask--because it was off topic for collaborating, but that I plan to ask when I have lunch with one of the authors this week is: How did they know what to write down?

How did they know what was going to happen in each chapter? I mentioned before that I'd tried that method and just sat staring at note cards for a week solid. The concept does not gel in my brain. How does a writer know that stuff before they get to it?

Back to this: The right way is the way that works for you. I guess I'm still doing it the right way. But I'm still astounded, too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gotta love 'em

Any young moms out there who know someone who can just do it all? I remember seeing young wives and mothers who had well-behaved children, cooked everyday, had clean homes, served on the PTA board, volunteered at church and always looked good - makeup, hair, the works! My husband would wonder why he didn't have a pair of clean socks, and I'd have just cleaned up the last mess and spotted another one, with no time to catch a breath or comb my hair in between.

It's the same way in the writing community. There are writers who seem to have it all pulled together. They publish three books a year, have families, take vacations, serve on the local or national board, and always have time to do you a favor and volunteer for a task you wouldn't dream of taking on.

And these people are just so darned nice and genuine, you just can't hate them! Are they better organized? I know they don't have more time in their days. Sleep less? Get more help from their families? Maybe they're really neurotic basket cases. People pleasers who try to do it all at the risk of something we don't know about. Doesn't look like it, does it?

If this is you, please tell the rest of the world one of two things:
1 - your secret
2 - you're not as pulled together as it would seem

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mmmm, rhubarb!

A friend with an acreage, who doesn't like rhubarb cut me a box full! I cooked it all into a sauce and froze quart containers. The rest we've been eating over chocolate cake. Yum. I have a recipe for rhubarb crunch, too. Sort of like apple crisp. That's next. Isn't summer food great?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on Writing

I have friends who plot out every chapter and know everything that's going to happen in their story before they ever get started. How do they do that? I've read books and sat in workshops where methods are outlined. One year I actually made it a goal to plot a book chapter by chapter on note cards.

You know what I did? I sat for days and days, LOOKING at those blank cards -- well, not completely blank, they had chapter numbers -- and wondering what the heck to write on them. Hero and heroine meet, that's pretty easy. At the end everything is rosy --that's a given. But in between? Holy cow! As hard as I tried I couldn't get words on those cards. The cards actually CRIPPLED me.

I do a synopsis first. That's how I sell the book. But my synopsis is about the characters and about their motivations, but not about the details of the story, except for main plot points. Once I know in my head who the people are, what drives them and what they want, THEY tell me what they're going to do and say next. I don't know the middle of the book. Often I don't know the end. I just know the characters and I keep them together to see what happens next.

My method makes the plotters crazy. Their story wouldn't go anywhere if they didn't have it planned. Are they right? Am I? Yes. Whatever works for the writer is the right way.

Now, some would think that after hearing me say how I write that I just fly by the seat of my pants. Not so. I know my story people's backstories. I know the incidents that shaped them into the people they are. This way I can challenge them in the most significant ways with the things that happen to them. I know what they want. I know what's holding them back. I know their long range and short range goals, their character flaws, their character traits, their fears, their internal motivation, their personality and ten or more descriptors/adjectives about the person. I usually know the black moment.

I know a couple of scenes that I want to touch on - and I know how the story should FEEL. Sometimes I know the theme and I always need a working title.

Just don't talk note cards. My eye will start twitching.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Today I finished the novella for the '06 Spring Brides anthology. My working title was ALMOST A BRIDE. It's fits perfectly, but it might change. I was glad for the opportunity to write Charmaine's story. Charmaine has been around since SWEET ANNIE. She's also a ecomdary character in HIS SECONDHAND WIFE. She's Annie's cousin, and at once time she thought perhaps Luke was interested in her, but he had eyes only for Annie. Annie promised her that the next too-good-to-be-true man would be hers, so I found him. Remember the guy who looks like Jack Sparrow? That's him.

So now a few days of housecleaning are in order. You won't tell anyone if I slip out to catch a few garage sales, though, will you? And a new story will be simmering on the back burner. I have a couple of proposals out right now, but daylight's burnin' -- can't just wait to hear on those, you know?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Writers Write

"Writers write everyday." A statement we writers often hear, made by other well-meaning writers.

Recently a writer friend told me how upset she was by that statement, because it didn't allow for life to happen. The insinuation is that "professionals" write every day, through every situation and storm in life. Nice if it works for you.

If you're a writer, aspiring or published, you have to learn a pace and a rhythm that works for you.

I agree, writing means you have to write. Duh. There are people who call themselves writers who do a lot of talking. Talk about writing, talk about what they've learned, talk about the book they're plotting. But writing is hard work. And the cut between the writer and the talker is clearly defined by pages. Pages, manuscripts, queries and submissions. SHOW ME THE PAGES!

That said, you can accumulate pages without writing everyday. What!? Sacrilege, you say? I used to beat myself up because I didn't have the same schedule that the "professionals" have. I've sat through workshops and author interviews where the eager newbies in the crowd are asking, "How many hours a day do you write?" And the typical interviewer inevitably asks, "Describe a typical day in your life."

Some days I write a little. Some days I think and plot. Some days I go to garage sales. Some days I sweat bullets over a scene. Some days I sit with a friend who needs me. Some WEEKS I tally pages like there's no tomorrow. On deadline, I sometimes write all day and half the night. Some days I watch movies or read a book. Does that mean I'm not working? Does it mean I'm not a professional?

Okay, I'm not Nora Doesn't-Need-A-Last-Name (sort of like Cher) but neither is anyone except Nora. And I've heard her talk about her days - she exercises and has a family and a life. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. I have a friend who admits she has no life other than her writing. Does she produce a lot of books? Yes. Do I want that for myself? No.


This book helped me realize that I'm creating all the time. Even if I'm painting a room or arranging flowers or shopping at a flea market, my brain is processing ideas. I may not write for a couple of days, but when I sit down and open the file and put my fingers on the keyboard, the story flows out.

I'm not one of those people who plan the story all out head of time. More about that another time.

This week I received a silver commemorative pin from my publisher, acknowledging and celebrating the publication of my twenty-fifth book. The accompanying letter says, This is a significant achievement." I think so, too. I consider myself a professional. Those twenty-five books were written since 1993. Four of them last year alone! Did I write every day? No.

My husband spent two weeks in the hospital. (I did take line edits along with me while I sat with him all day.) My daughter with her family of six lived with us for five weeks while their new home was being finished. Do YOU think I wrote everyday? We moved to a new home and the next week I went to RWA national conference. And I have a life with husband, family, church. I don't write everyday. But I'm a writer. The pages are the proof.

Friday, July 29, 2005

I Just Read....

When I read a book I loved, I can't wait to share it. I guess that's common for us readers, eh? Blogging is going to be a great venue for that. Sometimes I get in a reading funk and nothing holds my interest. I keep searching for just the right thing. I really hate it when that happens, because I want to be swept away, thrilled, enamored, but everything's unsatisfactory.

I started Robyn Carr's RUNAWAY MISTRESS last night and couldn't put it down. Finally! I was enamored. The cover is pink with a purse and crossed legs, pretty chick-lit looking and not something I'd normally pick up, but it's a MIRA and I often hit it big with a MIRA, so after reading the back copy and the first page, I bought it. I'm not badmouthing chick lit; it's just not my personal cup of tea. In case you hadn't guessed, I LOVE romance.

As the story began, it didn't seem headed in a romantic direction, but the situation and the story and Jennifer/Doris drew me in, hook, line and sinker. There was a perfect blend of secondary characters who were so multi-dimementional that they fleshed out the book and didn't bog down the romance. I never mind a slow start to a good romance. I'm not one who thinks the two people have to be together in chapter one and that's that. Nope, build it up, make me care.

That's the writer's job, you know, first and foremost. To make the reader care. I cared. I cared until midnight last night when I finally stopped trying to hold my eyes open and turned out the light. I cared when I woke up early and snuck in another couple chapters. I cared when I was supposed to be working on my own story today, but wanted to go read. I cared when I finally took a break and sat on the patio with a cup of coffee. I cared as I was cooking supper with the book in one hand. I cared after supper while my husband watched the news. I cared right up until the last page when I could finally lay that book down.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh Those Eyes

I'm currently writing a novella for the '06 Spring Brides anthology. It's Charmaine's story--readers will remember her from His Secondhand Wife as well as from Sweet Annie. She is Annie's cousin who deserves the next too-good-to-be-true man to come along. I finally found him for her--and he's the last fellow anyone would expect her to fall for. I use a different tactic writing short for a novella, thinking lighthearted rather than angsty, and winding up conflict much sooner.

I usually have a visual of my characters, pictures on my bulletin board or wallpaper on my desktop. Jack Easton looks like Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Carribean. Whenever I want to picture him, I shrink my Word program and gaze at my wallpaper. Oh my, those eyes.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Desk Stuff

I have a desk that wraps from one side of my office, along the wall, and over to the other side, so it's actually two corners and one wall. The entire back behind the work space and below the hutches are fabric bulletin boards, and they're filled with bookcovers, notes, and pictures of readers.

My work computer is in the corner closest to the door, and the top is completely littered at any given time. There's a pile of mail to be answered, a wooden pencil holder that looks like books filled with remotes, the matching tissue box, dictionaries and thesauruses, the notebook for my current book--always open--post-its & pens, my jump drive--I'll never be without back up again--a little tin of cuticle cream and cuticle scissors, hotel-size hand lotions, a shell worn smooth from rubbing, and a magnetic sculpture. It's Xs and Os on a magnet base, fun to stack and play and fiddle with.

I also have three Crayons from Sharon Sala's workshop at the last RWA conference I attended, where she spoke about coloring outside the lines.

Okay, there's a cup of cold coffee and my cell phone at this moment, too.

I should take a picture, eh, and then I wouldn't need a thousand words.

It's so hot!

How hot is it?

It's so hot, I went to the store for flour, sugar and eggs yesterday, and came home with a cake!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Christmas In X-S: Thinking COOL Thoughts

I promised to tell about this before the end of July.

We love Christmas decorations! We have an entire storage room filled with only Christmas decorations, including four trees and a 40+ piece Dickens Village. One of our trees is pre-lit with all white lights and it revolves. It's incredible. We can do trees in many styles:

* By color - purple; blue & green; red & green; gold; or multi.
* Entirely Santa, including concrete sleigh base.
* Victorian - I do this one every year because it's my favorite.
* Old fashion toys and dolls,
* Handcrafted
* Vintage ornaments

The boxes of bead garland in all colors and varieties weigh a TON.

One year we had an enormous tree and made the mistake of using the old-fashion bulbs. I had to remember to turn it off before I blow-dried my hair! And just walking past it, we felt a wave of heat. We disposed of those light sets once the season passed.

My husband's favorites are the bubble lights, and we've built our collection so that we can do an entire tree. It goes really well with the old-fashion Santa theme.

The village is a masterpiece of electrical ingenuity each set up. At one time my collection was small, and it could be displayed on a piece of plywood covered with cotton snow. Then it grew to the proportions of covering the tops of seven bookcases and two china hutches. Since we moved and downsized, it simply doesn't fit anywhere, so it's lying fallow for a season or two.

I'm a silk flower freak, too, and I have enough Christmas silks to replace all the planters and vases and swags and drape the mantle with greenery swags and lights. Even the bathrooms have themes at Christmas time- Santas, angels, elves--with decor and towels, candles and shower curtains to match.

I have a Santa mug collection, you know those old-fashion heads? It takes up a few shelves now, and includes a teapot and creamer and sugar.

A couple years ago, my husband bought me the most beautiful holly teapot and creamer and sugar set--now one of my favorite things.

I have collectable candles from the 50s - angels, reindeer, trees, igloos, choir boys & girls.

I have several Nativities, my favorite being the porcelain Home Interior set from a few years back, including the stable and accessories.

I'm sure there's more I haven't thought of... what can I say? I love Christmas.
Posted by Cheryl St.John Jul 26, 2005 10:17 pm


Friday, July 22, 2005

Birthdays and other events, like cucumber rallys

My husband suggested I take the patio umbrella out to the street behind our house and set up a stand to sell cucumbers. I told him that probably wasn't going to happen. But we are seriously overrun. The neighbors have cukes, my critique group has cukes; my daughter takes 'em to work, my hubby takes 'em to work--and still they multiply. Two mounds, that's all we planted, but yikes!

I mentioned we were having a birthday party. Our family has grown so much that it's a rare month that doesn't find us gathering for birthdays at least a couple of times. I love to get creative and serve brunch, with breakfast casseroles, etc.. My daughter LeighAnn and I occasionally cook up Mexican Day or Soup Day. But of course, with such a large gathering, we often have the old standbys, grilled burgers and dogs, tastees, chili, and good old ham and turkey on the holidays.

I don't know how I always get the same jobs at these events--but I'm trying to shake off the stereotype. My son-in-law Brad claims he's going to have me buried with an ice cream scoop in my folded hands, just so I'll look normal. I bought him one for Christmas one year--one just like mine, a heavy duty industrial strength flat scooper--but of course I am the one who wields it at their house. Last birthday I hid until the scooping was underway.

While I'm on the subject of birthdays--when we moved I organized photos into albums until my brain went numb and I stashed the rest back into boxes where they will await the next millennium.

Birthday cakes. Remember how exciting those first birthday cakes were? You couldn't get enough pictures of your baby with that first taste and frosting up his nose. Wasn't that darling? Then the second, third, and fourth birthdays, etc., and then the second third and fourth kid--yes I have four and I lived to tell.

And then the grandchildren start arriving--or so they say.

Here is my pledge: I will never, as long as I draw breath, take another picture of a birthday cake. I mean how many cake pictures does a person need? And you know, one shot was never enough, you had to take two in case the first one blurred or something, heaven forbid, and you wouldn't be able to see Strawberry Shortcake or Spiderman clearly once he was a sweet memory in someone's tummy.

You know what I'm talking about. Just you try sorting 20 or 30 years of photos and try to get sentimental about a cake that was only so so in 1983.

And darned if I'm not the one who gets stuck opening all those kids' toys that have been hermetically sealed and wired and clamped. Sometimes you need a screwdriver! I'm telling you, Santa could catapult those boxes out of his sleigh onto our concrete driveways and Barbie wouldn't have a hair out of place.

The packaging is three times the size of the toy inside. It takes half a roll of wrapping paper to go around this box, and once you get the twisties unwrapped and the taped peeled off and the plastic removed, you have a little pile of Power Rangers and half a dozen bags of trash. And---

ever lost a minuscule part and had to search through all those bags because you might have accidentally thrown it away? heh heh It's always with Colonel Mustard in the sofa cushion.

Anyone have a cucumber muffin recipe?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How do you say St.John?

Today a reader posted asking how my last name was pronounced.  She obviously knew of the Old English pronunciation.  Well, my grandmother always pronounced it "SENT-jen" with the accent on the first syllable, close to the Old English.  My family and I pronounce it SAINT John, with the accent on Saint.  And when it's printed, there is no space between the St. and the John.  Like this --------> St.John
There you have it, all you ever wanted to know about my name.
Today I was blown away to note that my first blogs have gone into the archives!  Guess I'm awfully chatty!  If you want to read more blogs, click on the archive button on the right.
And by the way, did you know "blog" is not in email spell check?  Not mine anyway.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Books, Books, Everywhere Books!

When we moved last summer, we downsized. I packed up eight huge boxes of paperbacks and mailed them to friends Tina and Connie at Dog-Eared Books. I also dropped off bags and bags at the Goodwill. Sold old hardbacks at a garage sale. I Freecycled bags of books. I went from seven bookcases in my living room to four. I sent a box of vintage Harlequins to my editor--she was thrilled. Some of them originally cost .25 and I had inherited them from a family member. I loved them, but they'd been in a box for years.

Just this past Spring I purged my office to incorporate new, more streamlined furniture and went from eight bookcases in my office to five. If I can get rid of one more, I can keep my office curio. I no longer have a tbr cabinet. I gave that away, too. Gave away bookcases. Used some for storage in the basement. I finally faced the fact that I'd never read all those new books--and that I'd never re-read the ones I'd read and kept.

For four months I held weekly contests from my website and newsletter and gave away packages and sets of books--many of them autographed. That was costly because of postage, but it was a huge hit with readers and I gained many subscribers because of it. I'm much more selective about what I buy now. And much more selective about what I keep. I only keep my very favorites. If it was a good read, but I probably won't read it again, I give it away.

I still support my fellow authors by buying books, but I now have them generically signed and give them away in contests.

And you know what? I don't miss them!

Sizzling Summer

Today was the first day in the low nineties for weeks. It's so hot, the dog doesn't even want to go out. We had a birthday party here on Saturday and instead of grilling, I cooked and we ate inside. We still have cake left. My daughter Kristin ordered it, and it was half white with chocolate chips and half strawberry--and the entire thing had chocolate frosting. Her theory: birthday cakes are usually boring because people always order the same thing. That's my girl. Yum.

We have to water our flower gardens and vegetables every other day. We have cukes coming out our ears and HUGE green pumpkins!

I put up a feeder with thistle seed for the finches, and they're just darling. We have a squirrel that loves to tease the dog. Sits on the opposite side of the privacy fence and shakes his tail--the dog goes crazy.

Tonight, since it was cooler, I walked to a huge bank of daisies and chrysanthemums at a nearby park area and dead headed the dried flowers for the seeds. Our berms in the front are mostly wild-looking flowers, except for the lilies and gladiolus and mums.

I have a huge tub of strawberries to plant, but it rained last night, so I'm waiting for the ground to dry out.

My fingers are sore from those prickly flower heads.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

About Freecycle

I've mentioned Freecycle in a couple of posts, so I thought I had some 'splainin' to do for those who've never heard of it. Freecycle is a yahoo group where people post things they're giving away. I've seen washers and dryers, toys, clothing, pets, coupons, books, just about everything given away. When you have an item or items you no longer need, but you'd like to see someone else use, you post it. I get anywhere from five to thirty-five repsonses, depending on the item. You just pick someone and they come get it.

On the other hand, when you see an item posted that you'd really like, you post a request, and they pick someone. I've been gifted filing cabinets, strawberry plants, cala lilies, vintage light fixtures--including an awesome glass chandelier and other cool stuff. The group in my city is over 2,000 members now. I'm in a large city and new members joined after there were announcements in major magazines.

To check and see if there is a Freecycle group in your city, you go to yahoogroups . com (scrunch that) -- if you're not registered at yahoo, you'll have to register with a password and a profile. Then where it says search for a group, you type in Freecycle - leave a space - and type the name of your city. It will bring up local groups, if any. We have suburbs near us which also have groups, and I'm on one of those, too. If you don't want 50 posts a day, set your mail to digest, so a whole day's mail comes in one post. Warning, though, you may miss something good if you're not watching. There are rules, and you'll have to be approved by the list mom. In my city there's a monthly luncheon where members get together, bring stuff to give away, and socialize. I've never had time to do that yet, but I will.

So, that's the skinny on Freecycle. If you are already a Freecycler or if you join, let me know.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Dumb jokes make me laugh

A man takes his Rottweiler to the vet and says, "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?"
"Well," says the vet, "let's have a look at him."
So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally, he says, "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? Just because he's cross-eyed?"
"No, because he's really heavy."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Kinder Than Necessary

This week my women's prayer group challenged each other to be kinder than necessary--to find ways to be kind. I haven't mentioned it to anyone, not even my family. But what I'm seeing are people being kinder than necessary to me, and I'm appreciative of those acts and those people.

A writer whose name I recognized, but whom I don't know personally emailed me out of the blue to tell me she loves all my books and that she buys each one she sees. That made my week.

My daughter who works and goes to school and is very very busy asked last night what she could do to help me. I said cleaning one bathroom and vacuuming the family room and all the steps would sure be a blessing, and she did it there and then.

I posted on my local Freecycle list that I was looking for a little antenna to affix to a television with no cable for the top of my refrigerator. A lady named Kim posted she had gone to look in her basement and found one for me.

A gardener posted strawberry plants on Freecycle, so I took a shovel and a galvanized tub and dug a mass of healthy-looking plants from the prettiest garden I've ever seen. My ground was too wet, because I'd just watered, so I'm babying them in the shade until I get them planted.

Is being kind necessary? That was the question that floated past me as I was reflecting on our weekly project. I'm a firm believer in what goes around comes around, and I believe it is necessary and healthy to do things outside ourselves that don't seem for our own personal benefit, and in the end they are.

Ever notice how unhappy selfish people are? Ever notice how miserable you get when you turn inward and focus only on yourself? I challenge you to do something nice for someone today, and see if the kindness doesn't come back to you. Call someone who's on your heart; send a note or a card to a lonely or hurting friend, relative or neighbor; take a batch of muffins to the cranky lady next door ( have just the recipe for you); let someone into traffic ahead of you; ask the checker without a smile how's she doing today and really hear her answer. This week when a child speaks to you, get down eye-level with them and listen. And if you can't think of anything else, smile. It's a gift worth giving. :-)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Queen of Muffins

I am the queen of muffins and breads. There's a secret to awesome muffins, did you know that? The secret is not to mix the ingredients any longer than to barely moisten. Uh huh. Otherwise the gluten has a chance to do its thing and the muffins get rubbery. I've experimented with making muffins like those you get in the restaurants. I have several great recipes, but you can use one simple basic recipe and work from there.

I was blown away when the silicone pans came out--bought one for bundt and a couple others. They rock. Do use vegetable spray on those and on non-stick pans, and make sure you get the top of the pan so that the batter oozing over doesn't stick. I like them full so they have a cap on top. Don't use paper liners! You loose those scrumptious crusty sides.

Important: Preheat oven to 400.

Sift all your dry ingredients. I learned that from my aunt who has always made the best cookies in the world. Presifted flour or no, sift it all together to add air. You'll notice the difference, guaranteed.

Whisk the wet ingredients, then quickly add the dry, and stir with a spatula only to moisten evenly. Any lumps will bake out.

I keep a shaker of cinnamon and sugar handy. I always sprinkle the tops, but you can also sprinkle the tin after you've sprayed it and before you pour in the batter.

Spray your spoon or measuring cup, so that the batter slides right off.

How many muffins you get from this recipe depends on the size--regular, you'd get 12--big ones like the bakery, you'll get 8.

Sift dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Liquid ingredients:
1/2 c virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 c milk
2 large eggs

Fold in additional ingredients quickly, spoon into tins and bake 20 minutes until golden. Let cool 15 minutes. Allow silicone pans to cool completely before turning out muffins.

Here are my favorites additives:
* 2 mashed bananas, walnuts and cinnamon

* all the above plus craisins and chocolate chips

* mandarin oranges, orange juice instead of milk, orange peel, and sprinkle lemonade mix on top

* cranberries and walnuts - I keep cranberries in the freezer, then quickly cook a cup at a time in the microwave.

I often have so many muffins and small loaves of bread in the freezer that I take a basket to church on Sunday morning. My pumpkin bread recipe is to die for. I'll share that later. I use my grandma's banana bread recipe, and it's a hit as well.

Let me know if you make some yummy muffins!
Posted by Cheryl St.John Jul 14, 2005 3:51 pm

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Clutter Pro or Con ??

I was flipping through a magazine last night (yes, one of THOSE magazines), and there was an article on freeing your kitchen from clutter. The suggestions included:

Clutter pro: Afix shelves or racks to a wall.
Me: What walls?

Clutter pro: Store extra food stuffs in the basement
Me: Did that, basement's full

Clutter pro: Hang shiny pans from a ceiling rack
Me: My family eats here, you want them dodging skillets, too?

Clutter pro: Move spices out of cupboards near the stove--they last longer if they're not in heat
Me: Keep mine in the freezer--freezer's full, so's the one in the garage

Clutter Pro: Place a shelf over the sink
Me: You can see it from my front door--don't think so

Clutter Pro: Get everything out, and if you haven't used in in the last year, get rid of it
Me: Just moved in last year and daughter LeighAnn Clean Sweeped for me--still miss those sippy cups and that extra pair of tongs

Sorry, you're going to have to do better than that for this chicky--bring in the big guns!

Cher :-)

Joys of Summer

Today I was good to myself and had lunch with friends. It's one of the perks of being self-employed--you can schedule anything as long as you get the work done. We gathered at a lovely froo froo restaurant that serves a hundred varieties of salads and quiche and ate in the sunroom. I had the salad sampler plate and a bowl of cool gaspacho. Mmmm. Can you just see your hubby or boyfriend digging this place? Not. But there were a few brave fellows there on their lunch hour.

There's a huge wooden table at the door and all the loaves of bread it holds are $1 each on Tuesdays, so I brought home a couple loaves.

You've got to love cell phones, right? What did we ever do before we had them? I can have my calls forwarded to my cell phone and no one knows I'm not working when I answer. LOL "Yes, I'm here slaving away. Yes, I'll take another lemon slice in my water, please. No, I was just making up dialogue for my characters."

It's so HOT in my city that we're thinking of renaming it Oma-HOT. We're watering our yard and garden like crazy. My hubby brought in a dozen beautiful cucumbers tonight. One of my daughters stopped by and promptly took over half--her kids love them. I took several to dinner at her house on Sunday and they were gone in a heartbeat.

The pumpkin patch is taking over the garden, so we have to clip back and trim a few of the flowers off--but they're so pretty. Especially in the mornings when the flowers are open and bright yellow. We have quite a few good-sized pumpkins--but alas no tomatoes yet.

I stopped at a stand with a sign that read Yutan. That's a small community outside Omaha. The tomatoes had stickers on them that read "Arkansas vine ripened." What kind of a racket is that? I bought some anyway, because we're salivating for BLTs.

The corn has been luscious. My hubby buys it from truck gardens on his way home from work and we grill it in foil. That's my favorite way. Yum.

I love summer food.
Cher :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Christmas in July??

No, I'm not going to tell you about my Christmas obsession just yet--I'll keep you wondering and checking back...

It's been an awesome couple of months with back-to-back books. Actually it's been an awesome year, because I had a book out in February, as well. I don't know which one has received the most positive feedback. Everyone told me they cried their eyes out, but they loved PRAIRIE WIFE. Then everyone said they laughed themselves silly at MILLION-DOLLAR MAKEOVER. Now for HIS SECONDHAND WIFE I'm hearing the words "beautiful" and "lovely".

Yesterday I had a email chat with a reader and she was interested in knowing a few behind the scenes facts about the story. I thought maybe you'd like to know, too. Ann asked me how I decided to make Kate's baby a girl--if I knew all along or if it was difficult. I had to go back to the synopsis to find out.

I went back to the folder on my hard drive--which always takes a minute because many times my working title was not the same title that made it to the actual book. This one started out as Darlin' Katy. I sell the book by writing a synopsis and the first couple of chapters, then it's sometimes months or maybe even a year before I write the book.

Originally, I had Kate give birth to a baby boy "with his mother's hair and his father's chin", but as I was actually writing and the story was unfolding, the baby's identity changed. It just felt "right."

Ann had observed other books where the couple marry and the woman is pregnant with another man's child, and she noted that the baby is usually a girl. She suggested that "strong man protecting a darling baby girl" was what made that work.

Strong man protecting darling baby girl definitely works, but I don't think I ever actually thought of it like that; the sex of the baby just fell into place as appropriate for the story and the characters.

Back to titles. Here are a few working titles and then the chosen title:


If you have specific questions about how I create my stories and I'll answer right here.

One more thing...I mentioned how authors propose and sell books, then months later actually write them. Getting back into that story is often a challenge. That's what I've been doing--I'm on deadline right now. I don't believe in writer's block. I believe in the practice of BITC. *Buns in The Chair.* I sit here, I turn off my Internet program, I put my fingers on the keyboard, and words come.

Sometimes it's like starting a car engine in sub zero temperature: erR erRR eerrRRR
then finally VROOOM!!

BLOGDATE: July 2005

Okay, I'm offically a blogger. Only recently did I even know what blogging was and never did I think I'd be doing it. Bloggers blather. They talk about any old thing that pops into their head that day--and people read it! Many bloggers write about things that irritate them. I've come up with a thing or two....

Something that irritates me? All those dump stands crowded in front of the books in Walmart--right in front of the romance section--right in front of the series books. Sunglasses, cookbooks, teen fashion magazines--I've mentioned the situation several times to my local store manager without much success. They have nothing to do with stocking the books, you know; that's done by an employee of the book distributor.

So I move the stands and racks to get to the books, but of course next time I go back, there they are again--or others just like them.

The good news is, those stands in the way don't seem to be deterring the die-hard romance readers, because the series and romances still fly off the shelves. Good job, readers!

The other thing in that section that bugs me? All those subscription renewal cards that fall out of the magazines all over the floor. Isn't a renewal form inside the magazine good enough? Wouldn't one suffice? Do we need four that say the same thing with different pictures?

And speaking of magazines...I'm addicted to decorating magazines, especially flea market, Victorian, collectables, cottage or country. Big surprise there, huh? I subscribe to several. And my subscriptions are probably good until 2020. You see, those sneaky companies have a racket. They send renewal forms that look like bills--and they send them months and years before the subscription expires. What are we conditioned to do? See a bill, pay it.

My husband was cheerfully paying all the bills until I realized my subscriptions had all been extended until Judgment Day.

I know you're on the edge of your seat wondering if I save all these magazines. (Oh, and I have a friend who saves me home and garden magazines, too.) Well, the answer is no. But I do save pictures and articles and instructions. They're organized in plastic sleeves in notebook binders by rooms, Christmas, garden....

Sometime I'll have to talk about Christmas....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pie safes and stoneware and tools...oh my!

Jul 6, 2005 2:49 am
Pie safes and stoneware and tools...oh my!

What is it that makes a person a collector? A recessive gene? A childhood lack or longing? An obsessive personality? I’ve often pondered this question, and I’ve decided it’s probably all of those plus other reasons I’ll never understand. My grandmother was a collector. Oh my goodness. The precious lady never threw away so much as a scrap of fabric, piece of paper or a bread wrapper I think her frugality and saving nature was a product of her time, however. From her I inherited the ability to stretch a meal that would feed four to making do for twelve in the blink of an eye and without a trip to the grocery store.

I have learned to force myself to throw away cards and papers and magazines--however I keep notebooks filled with the articles and pictures I will use. Eventually. Someday. My mother’s nothing like my grandmother. She saves cards, books, mementos and letters, but has never had a problem getting rid of old toys, dishes or clothing. However I have a couple of aunts who are collectors. I have learned to weed through clothing and books and the kids’ old school papers, and I have only one remaining box of cards and letters--okay, maybe two.

When we moved from the house where we raised our kids, I made them go through the boxes of school papers and drawings and look at them all, and I gave them all their report cards, etc. Recently I did an office makeover, with all new furniture, cabinets and desks. It was a huge job and I spent days going through filing cabinets, throwing away papers I’d moved twice and didn’t need. In the past year I’ve even reduced bookcases from fifteen to nine--and have given away all of the books that were on them!

Now, if collecting is a gene, does that mean my children and grandchildren have it? If it’s a compulsion, that does mean they’ll have seen enough in me and go another direction? My oldest two daughters are minimalists, and it’s an amazement to me. When they’re finished with something, out it goes--furniture, wall décor, kitchen things--you name it. Their homes are beautifully decorated and welcoming, with no excess clutter or displays of unnecessary items. My youngest daughter was the most like me. Her bedroom at home was full, and anything the other girls or I were getting rid of, she wanted to keep it. And she did. But after having her own child and making several moves, it was easy for her to start pitching.

My daughter-in-law is an extreme minimalist. She likes things plain. She says it calms her. Last year when we moved to a new home, I was in the middle of deadlines and didn’t have time to do all the painting I wanted or hang things and get out all my stuff. I was getting depressed because I didn’t have my “stuff” around me. When I mentioned that to my daughter-in-law, she glanced around and said, “I like it. It’s peaceful.” Just watching HGTV and seeing new paint colors being rolled onto walls gives me a thrill and the urge to redecorate.

Now mind you, I love new paint and I adore and must have color, but I don’t actually do the “work” myself, oh no. My darling husband is the best painter in the world. He has been known to balk at faux techniques or anything fancy, so I have to help out there, but I’m basically the packer, advisor and gopher.

I’m not alone in my love for “stuff”. Recently two of my writers friends and I traveled to antique weekend in Walnut, Iowa. Oh my goodness! Vendors and sellers from all over the Midwest come together for this yearly occasion. The streets of the town are lined with campers and canopies and tents--business area, as well as the shady tree-lined neighborhoods. The homeowners either set out their own wares or they sell food or drinks. Kids pull wagons selling water and pop. The legion hall and the school are filled with booths and tables. We walked and browsed from early morning to late afternoon and didn’t see it all.

It was interesting to see what other people were buying. One man bought a “four holer”. It was a long old board with four holes that had once been the seat in an outhouse! That was the topic of conversation everywhere he dragged that thing. Why he wanted it or what he planned to do with it, I have no idea. I guess I do draw the line somewhere.

My friend Chris collects anything Snoopy, as well as wood handled cookie cutters, kitchen things, and red, white and blue, as well as German dollhouses and furniture. My other friend, Carol, picked up doilies and fell in love with a pitcher and bowl set--she likes bells and Victorian things. I found a cup and saucer with red roses, a teapot made in Japan, a doily edged with pansies and a red and white potholder to add to my collection. Also bought a floral teapot and a cup with no saucer. I have extra saucers--you can pick up the pieces really cheap and then mix and match. Now, obviously I didn’t need any of those things.

Part of the thrill of shopping flea markets and antique stores is “the hunt”. Only die hards, like the breed we saw in throngs that day, will drive out of town, park in a field with parking attendants on horseback, and fight crowds in the blazing sun to look at every last thing to make sure they didn’t miss something wonderful. And that’s the thing--once I’m there, I have to see it all. Every last thing--every nook and cranny--every piece of glassware and each pie safe and all the old dolls and stoneware and--okay, I do skip over the vintage tools. Hey! There is something I don’t collect! If I left without seeing it all, there would be a nagging question in my mind that I’d missed the one thing I couldn’t live without.

Some of you just don’t get it, I know. You’re in the category with my daughters. But I know there are some of you nodding your heads and thinking, yep, that’s it, right on the nose. That’s me. And if there’s someone reading this who has decided they don’t want all their good stuff anymore, call me. I’ll be right over.