Monday, March 30, 2009


I am madly working away at my deadline this week, but I had to share this photo my friend Chris sent. You probably remember Garrett from previous photos - if not put his name in the search bar - upper left -- and see the pics -- but here he is, now THREE years old! I don't know how that happened.

He's a keeper, Chris!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Photo Friday week 9

I took this one morning when the dew was dripping from the leaves of the daylilies. There's nothing better than a photo that comes out as vivid as the real image I appreciated when I ran for the camera.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How well do you think you know me?

You know how those ridiculous surveys go around, and you're supposed to answer silly things like Coke or Pepsi, etc., well, my daughter sent me a backwards survey, and of course I knew everything about her. But how much do you know about me?

See how many of these you can answer about me:

Where did we meet?

Take a stab at my middle name.

Do I speak a second language?

Am I a cat lover or dog lover?

Do I smoke?

What color are my eyes?

Do I have any siblings? Can you name one?

What's one of my favorite things to do?

What's my favorite type of music?

Am I taller than you?

Am I shy or outgoing?

Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?

What is my birth month?

Am I Liberal? Moderate? or Conservative?

Have you ever heard me sing?

How many children do I have?

Have we been photographed together?

When is the last time you saw me?

Have we ever had a falling out?

If you and I were stranded on a desert island, what is one thing that I
would bring?

Am I right handed or left handed?

What type of work do I do?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Click here for more free Arby's.Good until 3/31.

Day at School and Alexis's Story Published

This morning I read to the 5th graders at Alexis's school. She chose an awesome book for me to read. Sorry, no pics of that. And then I talked about writing, and the bright students had so many good questions.

I enjoy school visits so much. The kids are always attentive and interested. They are well-informed about books, reading and writing. Teachers are doing a great job encouraging our young people to journal and write short stories.

One of the boys had written a vampire story. One of the girls had read Twilight. They asked how many books I've written and if I had favorites and where I sit to work. They told me their names, and I told them how many of their names I'd used for a character in one of my books.

Mrs. Mitchell is a great teacher. She had prepared the students for the visit, helped Alexis choose the book, and then she had saved a big surprize for the end.

She asked Alexis to come sit beside me and announced that Alexis's story had been published in a national newspaper for teachers and students! Alexis was so excited that she couldn't read her story to the class, so I had the honor of reading it to them.

What a great morning, and one we won't ever forget.
And--great news! I get to go to another school in a couple of weeks!

I couldn't help thinking about those students in Rwanda who need pens and paper to attend school. Please scroll down to the next post and see how you can send a student to school for under a dollar!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bisate Pen and Paper Project

Dean Jacobs is an author, photographer and humanitarian who has traveled the world, and is currently studying and photographing mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the Republic of the Congo. I asked Dean if I could share his latest project with you, and he agreed. Please take time to visit his website and blog.

Dean Jacobs:

The light poured into the dimly lit classroom through the one wall that owned the door and single window. It was enough to illuminate the brown dirt walls, floor and to allow the teacher to write on the black chalk board the lessons for the day. Light brown round wooden beams stretched across the ceiling that supported the corrugated tin roof, which kept the rains at bay for a school situated in a rainy climate. The village has no electricity. This day the sun was shining, making it easier to hear the tiny voices eager to ask questions.

Inside the classroom were neatly organized benches packed full with students. They politely raised their hands to ask questions of the guest.

“Will you help us find a Bic to write with?”
“Can you help us find notebooks for our lessons?”
“We are in need of textbooks to learn from, can you help provide these?” the soft voices quietly asked.

Questions similar to these continued for several minutes. The children are required to provide their own school uniforms and learning materials, such as a notebook and pen before they are allowed to come to school.

I noticed one small girl situated in the middle of the first bench had a torn, dirty and crumpled piece of paper clutched in her hand. It was supposed to be her notebook or qualified enough as one to be allowed to attend class for the day. It was probably all her family could afford; most of the people living in the village or nearby are subsistent farmers.

I have decided to charge ahead with the goal of a pen and notebook for every student at the Bisate school before I leave! It is far cheaper for me to buy things here then to have someone send something, the shipping costs add up especially when you ship weighty things like paper. The final day to donate will be May 11th, to allow time to wire the money, plus purchase and deliver the materials to the school. I will take photos and post them on my blog so you can see and share in the completion of the project.

The Dean of Travel Blog

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

If you are interested in participating with the Bisate school project please send a check or money order to:

PO Box 911
Fremont, NE 68026

Please make the check out to Travel4life.
On the information line please write Bisate Pen and Paper Project.
Send me an email informing me of the donation so I can send a receipt when it arrives.

One word of caution, we have been having tremendous internet troubles, so please be patient, but I will respond.

THANKS for your support with this!

NOTE: It costs 70 cents for a notebook and a pen for one of these children!

Photo Tuesday - just to throw you off

This was taken in my backyard. It was evening, just before sunset, and I got way down below the silhouette of the cannas to snap the clouds through the stalks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Barbie!

We've established that most of us are Monkee fans! LOL Gee, it's nice to be in such good company. So, let's go back a little about Barbie?

You probably haven't missed the fact that Barbie is 50 this year. (I confess I made her a favorite on Twitter.) There's a lot of fun being poked. There's a image of her looking old--Photoshop magic--and there are the cougar Barbie cartoons. Those are obviously created by men or those few women who never loved her. I loved Barbie. I still love Barbie. I can turn around at this very moment and look at three shelves of various Barbies in my office curio. I'm convinced that playing Barbies shaped me into the writer I am today.

My cousins and I were the most creative, obsessive and inventive Barbie players of our day. Our Barbies had their individual wardrobes and furniture, and we role played for hours on end. Days. I'm sure our parents loved it, because we would disappear into the biggest room we could find and become lost in Barbie world, only being dragged out for meals.

We used the boxes they came in to make sofas and beds, and we improvised for the rest of their furniture. I had an armoire and a canopy bed, and as the years went on, we had a couple of cars. Cars weren't really important though, and could be dispensed with. It was all about the relationships and the drama. And what drama there was. You know, among us there weren't as many Kens as there were Barbies -- no wonder the poor fellas went prematurely bald (remember that felt hair?) ! All the female dolls had to share the couple of guys. And then Midge came along and the stakes got even higher. That hussy, Midge!

G.I. Joe just wasn't a good match. Oh, he bent in all the right places, but he had those weird flipper-like feet and a really mean face with a scar - and he just wasn't cool. And back then nobody wanted to date a guy who wore camouflage and plastic boots, you know?

Our Barbies even got PG. We made maternity tops out of their pajama tops or short dresses and padded their bellies with their little pillows. And we had a couple of little babies we got somewhere; mix and match dolls, because Mattel sure didn't make babies for Barbie back then.

I played Barbie clear up until I was twelve or thirteen and never tired of her. And then suddenly I was too old for dolls and packed them up and gave them away. To this day I regret that. I wish I still had my very own first Barbie, Ken and Midge, but because I'm me, I've collected replacements over the years. No surprise there, eh?

Some day I might even tell you how many Barbies I have. And not only Barbie, I have the Disney dolls, Hannah Montana and a few My Scenes. (Bratz are just hideous, don't get me started.)

Did you love Barbie as a girl? Do you still?

And admit it now: Do you own a Barbie?

Shall I take pictures of mine for you?

Three Generations

My mom won a beauty contest featured in LOOK Magazine with her photo pictured here. My grandmother was a beauty. She had those white stripes in her hair for as long as I can ever remember. And she always wore a dress. She never owned a pair of trousers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Romance Literature Statistics: Readership Statistics

Studies done by Romance Writers of Amercia reveal these facts:

Number of Romance Readers
64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year.
2002: 51.1 million readers in America
1998: 41 million readers in America

Geography of Romance Readers
29% of the Southern population reads romance
27% of the Western population reads romance
26% of the Midwest population reads romance
12.6% of the Northeast population reads romance

Gender of Romance Readers
78% of romance readers are female
22% of romance readers are male (a significant increase from the 2002 survey that showed only 7% of readers were male.)

Marital Status of Romance Readers
50% of romance readers are married
37 % of romance readers are single
8% of romance readers are widowed
4% of romance readers are divorced
1% of romance readers are separated

Age of Romance Readers
22% are between the ages of 35-44
19% are between the ages of 25-34
18% are between the ages of 45-54
11% are between the ages of 55-64
9% are between the ages of 18-24
8% are 75 and older
6% are between the ages of 14-17
6% are between the ages of 65-74
1% are 13 or younger

Education Level of Romance Readers
42% have a bachelor's degree or higher ...
27% have college degrees
15% have post-graduate work or degrees
7% have associate degrees
17% have attended a trade school or have some college
23% have high school diplomas

Number of Romance Novels Read By Romance Readers in the Past Year
54% have read between 1 and 5 books
17% have read between 6 and 10 books
14% have read between 11 and 20 books
8% have read between 21 and 50 books
2% have read between 51 and 100 books

How Romance Readers Obtained the Last Romance Novel They Read
36 % bought their book new
25% checked their book out from a library
16% borrowed their book from a friend
13% received their book as a gift
5% bought their book used
4% got their book in other ways
1% traded another book for a new book

The Percentage of Romance Novels That Are Bought New
54% buy 20% or fewer books new
32% don't buy any new books
15% always buy new books

Where Readers Purchased Their Books
Mass merchandisers such as Target or Wal-Mart have become the most popular place for readers to buy their books.

31% bought their books from a mass merchandiser
22% bought their books from a mall bookstore
16% bought their books from a free-standing bookstore
8% bought their books from a mail order
6% bought their books from another outlet
5% bought their books from a book club
5% bought their books from a grocery store
4% bought their books from the internet
2% bought their books from an airport bookstore
1% bought their books from a drug store

Settings or Subgenres Romance Readers Enjoy
Romance readers ranked the following setting or plot elements for romance novels in order of most enjoyable:

1) Mystery, Thriller, Action plots preferred by 48% of readers
2) Exotic Settings preferred by 36% of readers
3) Contemporary themes preferred by 33% of readers
4) Inspirational romances with a spiritual sub-plot preferred by 31% of readers
5) Colonial American settings preferred by 27% of readers
6) American West settings preferred by 25 % of readers
7) Historical romance set in England preferred by 24% of readers
8) Scottish-set historical romances preferred by 21% of readers
9) Medieval set romances preferred by 21% of readers
10) Paranormal romances preferred by 18% of readers
11) Futuristic romance preferred by 14% of readers

Types of Covers Preferred By Readers
53% of readers prefer covers that are either abstract or romantic
35% of readers prefer sedate and abstract covers
12% of readers prefer romantic covers

RWA's statistics result from two studies commissioned by the association.

One study—on the sales of romance fiction—is compiled by RWA from Simba Information (an independent market research firm that studies the publishing industry), R.R. Bowker's Books In Print, the AAP, and other named sources. This study is updated every 12 months.

Another study focuses on reader demographics, book content, and book-buying habits. It is conducted via telephone survey and in-person focus groups by Corona Research, a market-research firm in Denver, Colorado. This first version of this study was conducted in 1998. The follow-up surveys were conducted in Summer/Fall 2002 and Winter 2005. Another reader survey is planned for 2008.

Photo Friday week 4

This is a shot I took from the moving car at sunset. It's Nebraska.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Join Brenda Novak's Book CLub

Join Brenda Novak's Fan Club for FREE this month only.

Gain access to the password restricted part of the Web site, which makes you eligible to enter the contests exclusively for fan club members, allows you to read monthly Crimebeat interviews with fascinating criminal justice professionals, counts your vote for various details on her characters and books, and guarantees you an invitation to her Cyber Christmas party at the end of the year (you never know who you'll meet at the party and you can win fabulous prizes!).

You will also receive a pair of 3D glasses (which double as a bookmark) for when you download your free 3D screensaver (check out the NEW Freebie section of the site). And that's not all! Every member of the fan club will receive a $10 gift certificate for her upcoming online auction for diabetes research!

Send an email that includes your name, mailing address and email information to Brenda's assistant, Anna, at

Free Facial Cleanser

Take this printable coupon to Bath & Body Works to take $10 off any Patricia Wexler M.D. Dermatology purchase through 4/5. Well, right now, there are several cleansers on sale for $10 (making them FREE with this coupon!) including: Acnescription Exfoliating Acne Cleanser, Universal Anti-Aging Cleanser and Dual Action Foaming Cleanser.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy St.Patrick's Day!

Free Arby Sandwich

I'm always looking out for you, aren't I? Here's a great deal! Buy a Pepsi - get one of these free sandwiches. They are GOOD. Try the American.

a little change - FYI

Dear Blogger Buddies,

I held out until the very end to not have captcha -those irritating letter and number verifications- for you to jump through in order to post your comments here, but after three horrific spam hits, I've enabled word verification.

Maybe you don't hate them as much as I do, I hope not anyway. I couldn't hold out any longer. Thank you for being my blog friends, and thank you for leaving me comments. Guess what? My biggest hits come when I post about American Idol - googlers must surf in and read my comments.


Another fun eharlequin contest!

Click over to eharlequin's reader boards and guess which bookshelf belongs to which author! One of them is mine. You SHOULD be able to tell, but the pictures are pretty small, so good luck!

and you never saw the same bunny twice

Friday, March 13, 2009

Photo Friday week 7

Took this mid-morning on a rainy day. I was on my way to visit one of my kids's school and stopped along the highway because everything was so green.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This is some mighty fancy footwork!

We've been practicing this for a long time, and we finally have it right. Watch my cute little skirt twirl at the end. Good job, Brad!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Attention: Parents of 2E Children

Please take a minute to read this explanation of Twice Exceptional (2E) children:

Gifted: High Abstract Reasoning

Learning Disability: There's many ways to define a learning disability--IQ/Achievement Discrepency (Autism falls here), Speech & Language, Mental Health Disorders, Behavioral & Developmental Disabilities, Other Health Imapairments (ADD falls here)

Twice Exceptional: Gifted and Learning Disabled Child
In a nutshell, a 2E child is one who is gifted and has a learning disability. If you know any parents who have a child with this diagnosis, and who are struggling, please send them to my friend's site at: Robyn is the mom of a 2E child, and she desires to create a community of parents who can help each other. Currently, there is nothing out there for parents of these children.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

American Idol Season 8

Cheryl's Predictions on The Top 13

Tonight the contestants chose songs from the Michael Jackson songbook. I do like MJ music, so figured it would be a knockout night. Paula looked fabulous.

First up was Lil Rounds, mother of three from Memphis. A tornado destroyed their home and they've been living in a long-term motel. Lil had a great quote: "The day you let go of your dreams is the day you let go of your life."

Kicking off the night with R&B style, Lil sang The Way You make Me Feel. She is a good performer with a great voice. She wore awesome earrings, by the way. Simon hated her outfit. Paula loved it. Some night each of the contestants should wear a black T-shirt and see what Simon has to say.

She is one of my favorites.

Scott MacIntyre was next, impressively playing a black grand piano as he sang Keep The Faith - with passion. Scott has been blind since birth, and played the piano as a small child. His sister is also vision-impaired. Impressive that he learned to play and sing this song just this week.

Simon said it wasn't a familiar song and he didn't like it. Scott has a pleasant voice, but for me the performance wasn't out of the park. He's still one of my favorites. I am really hoping they have an Elton John night, because he'd tear it up.

Watch this one!
Danny Gokey, 28, is a church music director from Wisconsin (in my language that's worship leader). He comes from a big musical family and lost his wife to cancer only weeks before the tryouts. He and a friend tried out, but his friend didn't make it. Danny sang Pretty Young Thing and rocked the house. Paula and Kara loved him, clapping and dancing. Paula said she'd recognize his voice with her eyes shut. Simon thought he sang awesomely, but that his dancing was hideous. Randy loved it all and Kara recognized Danny's joy in singing. She told him to thank his parents for making him sing his homework.

I HEART Danny and can see him winning/in the top three.

Michael Sarver is an oil rigger from Jasper, Texas who has a wife and young daughter. He sang You're Not Alone. I like to hear him sing, but I don't really care to watch. He has a nice smile. The song had a key change and he transitioned it beautifully. Simon says: He's not the best singer, but has passion and heart. Randy thinks he's one of the best.

In my opinion, he might go this week or next. When placed beside the competition,
he's only okay.

Jasmine Murray is 17 and from a big family in Mississippi. Her mom has to stay with her because she's a minor. She wore a cute dress and sang I'll Be There, one of my favorite MJ songs. She has a young vibe and will be popular with the young people who watch and vote. She has the glam factor goin' on and is poised.

Randy pointed out that he recorded the remake with Mariah Carey, and he liked Jasmine's version. Simon called her "Jas" and thought she was a little robotic. "Act your age," he told her.

She's not one of my favorites. I'd be okay if she was voted off, but I don't think it's likely. She's been a judge favorite from the beginning - it's the whole package thing - and I think kids will vote for her.

Kris Allen, 23, is from a big family in Conway, Arkansas, married 5 months and a church-goer with a pretty blond wife. He played the guitar and sang Remember the Time. I was confused, because he sang in a rock-style, but wore an awful green plaid short-sleeved shirt with pearl snaps like a western shirt. He holds his mouth funny when he sings, but he has an okay voice. The girls love him. He's one of Kristin's favorites.

Kara liked that he played his guitar; she thought it helped his performance. She revealed that he had helped other contestants with their songs that week--seems he's a big MJ fan. Paula said he's adorable.

Not one of my favorites.

Allison Iraheta is 16 and has wanted to audition since she was 9. She has a rocker look, with bright red hair and black clothing, and she sang Give It To Me in her gravelly unique voice. I compare her to Carly Smithson last year - but she's not nearly as good - and Carly didn't win. Simon said they know who she is because she's identified herself, and Kara told her to keep being a rocker girl.

She's okay, but not one of my favorites.

Anoop Desai, from North Carolina is an only child, taught his Indian culture and religion by his parents. He came on as the last choice in the judges' Wild Card pick and made the count 13 this year. He's one of *lizzie Starr's favorites - she has a thing for guys from India. He sang Beat It, and the song was a mistake, because he didn't do it justice.

Paula said that song was untouchable and anyone other than MJ singing it was kareoke. For kinder-than-necessary Paula that was harsh. Simon said the performance was horrible and lightweight and all agreed it was a poor choice of songs.

In my opinion - buh bye.

Jorge Nunez from Puerto Rico speaks Spanish of course, and came from a big family. At first I thought he was kinda of cute, but now I think he's a little on the freaky side. He sang Never Can Say Good-bye, but it was more Tom Jones than Michael Jackson.

QUESTION: Is wearing a sport coat with the sleeves pushed up tight above your elbows in style? I am not a fashion diva, but it reminded me of Don Johnson in Miami Vice.

His eyes and smile are what started freaking me out. Randy said the song was old fashioned. Kara felt no emotional connection. Paula didn't think it was the right song, but believes he deserves to stay. Simon thought it was an awful arrangement.

Jorge is my pick for most likely to be voted off this week.

Megan Joy Corkrey is a single mom who is a font analyst and had never been on a stage before. She's divorced and her best friend is her brother. She is a beauty, this girl. She sang Rockin' Robin, another of my favorite MJ/Jackson Five songs. She has an unusual way of pronouncing certain words and has the cutest actions and little dancing twists as she sings. She's unique.

Kara said, "That's so Megan" could be an expression and told her she put her signature on everything she did. Paula loves her quirky and unique tone. I do too.

I HEART Megan and think she'll be a real contender. She NEEDS to step up her song choices to compete with Danny and Adam! Note: They will be her competition.

Watch this one!
Adam Lambert grew up in San Diego but moved to Hollywood/LA to pursue a career. Black emu hair - Jay doesn't care for him because of his looks. Adam has a theater background. He sang Black or White in all-out BIG style. He has blown away every song he's done so far.

Paula loves him. She said we'll see him in the finals and gushed as though he'd already won. Simon said Adam was in a different league than everyone else we'd seen tonight. Randy thinks he's the most current, that he could make a record right now and be at the top of the charts. Adam had tears in his eyes by that time. (Good thing he didn't have on as much black eye makeup as last week.) Kara said he hit notes she didn't know existed and hoped MJ was watching.

Adam is one of my top favorites, and I double-ding guarantee you he'll be in the top three/two. I will find a Youtube for you when they're posted this week.

Matt Girard was in a tough position following Adam, and that will likely be a tough spot throughout the competition. His dad is his biggest fan. Matt played the Yamaha grand piano and sang Human Nature. He has a nice voice with great inflections, but again it was difficult because of the comparison.

All of the judges loved him. Randy compared him to Justin Timberlake. I guess the kids will like him? He's just okay for me.

Alexis Grace is a 21 year old single mom. Her dad is a long-haired musician. The Glam Squad did a great job on her hair, red tips are her signature, and she looked good. She's petite and cute with great teeth. She was one of my favorites from the get go. I had high hopes for her....

Dressed in tiny black satin shorts, she sang Dirty Diana. The word that came to me was slinky, but Kara said naughty. The judges liked her, except Simon thought her singing was over the top. I tend to agree.

She used to be my favorite, but the performance left me a little cold this time. I still like her, but she has to get her game on.

So there you have it - my annual commentary on the top contestants. Are you watching? Do you agree?