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.