Saturday, December 31, 2005

What Resolutions Are You Breaking in 2006?

New Year's Eve. Already.

The year 2005 is almost over. I woke up early this morning, before it was even light outside, so I could savor every waning minute of this year(and also because I remembered that I hadn't written my Warner Women blog....)

Since I was awake, I jotted down a list of resolutions. And when I wrote them, I really had the best intentions of keeping them. But as I read them over, after a cup of caffiene, I already know I am going to break every single one.

But it's the thought that counts, right? that more about being gracious when you receive a really horrid Christmas gift (like a lemon-head paperweight--and yes, the lemon-head was a real Christmas gift this year)?

Here's a peek at the resolutions I will break:

I will be more organized, and plan my time so I won't end up writing a book in a month. (I might be able to keep this one-- but after Janaury, when I have to write a book in 30 days--have a Feb. 1 deadline, after all.)

I will make time to relax, to read, and fill up the well again. (I probably can keep this one too, but after January, when I write my book, and after February when I am flying out to Arizona to do some signings and present a workshop, then fly up to New York for another signing. Then I can relax. Note to self: check on next deadline.)

I will eat better and exercise more. (LOL. Okay, I just know better. I am an author. I spend most of my time on my rear in front of my computer. It's in the job description, I think.)

I just erased everything else on my list. The best anyone can hope is to be a better person and to make the most of the coming year. Oh, and to have fun doing it. Fun = Happy, in my book (just my book in general...not the one I have to write in January.)

Here's to a Happy 2006. Cheers.

So, what resolutions are you breaking for 2006?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

He Says, She Says...Best Books of 2005


My New Year's resolution is to faithfully write down all the movies and books I experience through the year, to share a "best of" list.  My husband does this, and since I didn't write my own official list for 2005, I'll share his.  Plus, I'll throw in my own comments because that's what wives do.  Enjoy.


Kern says:  Here is the list you have all been anxiously awaiting, my top ten books of 2005 (Potter Springs, of course is a shoe-in on any list.)


Britta says:  See why I love him?


Kern says:

10. Gil's All Fright Diner, A. Lee Martinez:

Very funny book by local author and friend of Britta's. It's the story of a washed up vampire and zombie that save a west Texas diner from demon possession. Not usually my choice, but I laughed all the way.


Britta says:  Alex is a total hoot.  I don't care if you normally read this type of story - you'll love it.  He's hysterical and has those sentences where you grab a friend and say, "Listen to this!"


Kern says:

9. The Life of Pi, Yann Martel:

Story of a young boy adrift in the Pacific with a tiger. White knuckle ride after the first 100 pages which I recommend you skip altogether. I was thirsty the entire read.


Britta says:  Do NOT skip the first 100 pages.  Read them, soak them in, and know that after page 100 you're in for the roller coaster.  I still think about that book, and Richard Parker may be one of the best characters I've ever read.  And he's the tiger.


Kern says:

8. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, Joshua Braff:

Great story about two Jewish brothers growing up in the New Jersey suburbs in the 60's with crazy parents.


Britta says:  Funny book, a startling peek into the male point of view.  May share more than you'd ever want to know. 


Kern says:

7. The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson:

Travel essay written in the 80's. The author borrows his grandmother's Escort and hits 44 of the lower 48 states. Bryson is a hysterical writer with great insight to people. Any of his books are a hit.


Britta says:  Haven't read it.  For funny and true, try Augusten Burrough's memoir Running With Scissors.  It's raw and might turn your stomach at times, but you won't forget it.  Plus, they're making the movie and you should ALWAYS read the book first.


Kern says:

6. All The Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy:

Great adventure of a young man from Texas who travel to Mexico on a horse in the 50's. Great story.


Britta says:  I love Cormac McCarthy.  His writing is so spare and full of tension.  I'd also recommend No Country for Old Men.  The villain is terrifying.


Kern says:

5. A Million Little Pieces, James Frey:

True Story about the author's experience in drug rehab. Harrowing story that will spark conversation with anyone else that read it.


Britta says:  I started this one night at 5 p.m. and finished it at 2 a.m.   An all-consuming on my list is his My Friend Leonard.


Kern says:

4. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini:

Story of a boy in Afghanistan, and his early adulthood. The narrator is detested in the beginning, but finds redemption in the end. Wonderful story, with a clear picture of life in Afghanistan from the Soviets through the Taliban.


Britta says:  I'm reading this right now, and I'm struggling with the unlikable lead character.  My husband promises there's character growth, so I'm sticking with it.  The writing is gorgeous and the immersion into a completely different worldview and setting is worth the trip.


Kern says:

3. An Unfinished Life, Mark Spragg:

Set in rural Wyoming, it is the story of a young girl, Griff who finds herself along with her mother, living with her crusty grandfather and an old disabled war buddy he cares for. The story is the love that develops between the grandfather and Griff. Loved every page.


Britta says:  This may be in one of my top 10 of all time.  I picked up the book last January because it had a blurb from my hero Kent Haruf who wrote the exquisite Plainsong.  I wept when I finished and am nearly evangelical about getting other people to read it.  Haven't seen the movie yet because the book is still so close to my heart.


Kern says:

2. The Captain's Wife, Doug Kelley:

True Story of Mary Patten, 19, who navigated a ship with a mutinous crew from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn in 1854. Her husband was the captain, who fell ill shortly after departure. I woke up one night certain I needed to check the jib sail.  You will feel as though you are on board. I loved this book from start to finish, and had the pleasure of meeting the author in Oklahoma City last April. It is hard to find, but worth the look.


Britta says:  Haven't read it, but did meet the author and he's a lovely person. For a paranormal twist on the kick-butt female standpoint, check out Candace Haven's hilarious Charmed & Dangerous.  Made me want to wear stilettos and fly my own plane, sporting fabulous hair and clothes while saving the world.


Kern says:

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving:

Perhaps the best book ever. I will never forget the characters and events of this book. I read it in August, and I still think about it, quote it, etc.  Owen seems like someone I knew, or grew up with. It was that vivid. It is the only book of his that I've read, and A Widow For One Year is on my list for 2006. It is long, but don't be daunted. I loved every word, and often found myself going back to read certain parts. Owen is a tiny little boy with a sickly demeanor and funny voice, but has a razor sharp sense of humor. The story follows Owen and his buddy Johnny, the narrator, from childhood in a small New Hampshire town through the Vietnam War. Undoubtedly the best book of the year.  IT STILL GIVES ME THE SHIVERS!


Britta says:  Oh, little Owen.  One of the best characters in literature, ever.  This book is so powerful, funny, clever and wise.  Heartbreaking and profound.  I'd also add A Widow For One Year as a must-read.  It's a multi-generational twisted love story with all the humor and darkness that is John Irving.  Brilliant.


For all the great reads I forgot to write down and recommend, I apologize.  I hereby resolve to do better next year.


Happy Reading and Happy New Year!



Britta Coleman (author of Kern's favorite book ever, Potter Springs)







Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Week After Christmas

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday season! I picture us all kicked back by the fire, enjoying a glass of eggnog, our smiling families around us.


Okay, I'm really picturing us doing another load of laundry, still attempting to get on top of the dishes from the family Christmas dinner two days ago, and negotiating around kids who have worn out the batteries in their presents and are nagging to go down to the mall.


No matter where you are on the Christmas chaos continuum, I hope your holiday was full of love and music and twinkling lights.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

T'was the night before Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone and may you get your heart's deepest desire. I wish for you all the most peaceful of holidays. May the spirit of the season fill you with love and joy that last throughout the coming year.

Much love,

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Melodrama by Megan Crane

Some people look forward all year to December, when they can go home to visit their families.

(I don't know any of these people, but that's what they tell me on television, so it must be true.)

(The fact that all the people I know are drama queens might have something to do with this subjective analysis, I grant you)

I, however, traverse the country primarily so I can skulk about my hometown in a surly fashion, coming up with ever-more-exciting ways to depress myself. Trimming the tree, decking the hall, engaging in twenty-year-old squabbles, braving the mall parking lot, and eating all manner of Christmas cookies to the point of daily indigestion? Totally secondary.

My holiday routine is based on pain. The more angst, the better. I like to loiter near my high school, for example, and think of the eighteen year-old disaster I was when I escaped that place. That's always good for bringing the pain. I also like to drive in big loops around the outskirts of town, playing extremely dramatic music whilst staring out at the cold, barren landscape, shivering, and remembering the numerous things that broke my heart.

Now that I'm a legitimate writer-- or anyway, can prove my profession with a simple internet connection-- it's even worse. Because now I'm no longer wallowing or being histrionic. Now I'm working.

Here's the horrendous bar wherein my first love and I once quarreled terribly.

Here's the lake where I worked one long, hot, underpaid summer, while everyone else I knew from college was living the bright life in New York City and I was alone, alone, alone.

Here's the site of my first job, the unlucky company wherein I spent my boring days dreaming of greatness while racking up the long-distance phone bill.

Here's the building in which I suffered through the seventh and eighth grades; the building to which I should address my therapy bills.

Here's the junior high school staircase I once, famously, fell down-- five seconds after being unforgivably rude to a schoolmate, thus learning two very important concepts for the price of one: a) karma is, indeed, a bitch and b) you should listen to your mother because you never know when karma's going to get you and expose your ratty underwear for all to see.

All of which could be in a book someday, I tell everyone. You never know.

Wish me some Merry Melodrama, people. I've been back two days and I'm just getting going...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Here's to you! by Diane Perkins

Today I am going to tea with my friends, Julie, Lavinia, and Mary (Mary Blayney -- see her “Poppy’s Coin” in JD Robb’s April 2006 anthology, Bump in the Night), a Christmas tradition. Last Saturday, I had lunch with Julie (again), Helen, and Virginia, more writing friends, the ladies to whom I dedicated my first book. And after Christmas when it isn’t so hectic, I’ll have lunch with Lisa, Darlene (Darlene Gardner, Million to One, Dec 2005) and Karen (Karen Anders, Give Me Fever, Dec 2005). How lucky I am!

One unexpected benefit to writing Romance has been the friends I’ve made. At this time of year when we remember friends with Christmas Cards (I never get around to sending cards!) and gifts, I want to acknowledge them all. In fact, I started writing this blog acknowledging them all, but it got way too long!

So let me go at this a different way. What is it these friends have brought me?

One thing is a feeling that I am never alone. There are other people in the world who also have stories running around in their heads, who love love stories, who believe in the happy ending. They totally understand and accept me, and when I am with them, the shyness I’ve lived with all my life just disappears. I love being with writer friends. I love talking about writing, about Romance.

They’ve given me courage. Had I not had this foundation of friends, I am not sure I could have weathered the inevitable rejection and discouragement that this business brings. I have always had examples of others who have “made it,” who have reached whatever new goal I’ve set for myself. They inspire me, make me believe I can do it, too. Encourage me to Never Never Never Give Up (Winston Churchill).

They’ve given me support. My friends have sustained my belief in myself as a writer. Before I sold they helped me believe I could be a published author. Now they help me believe I can still write books that readers will love. At last year’s RWA conference, when I learned that Warner had passed on my latest proposal, the Warner Women on this blog gave me hugs, told me their similar stories, brainstormed with me, and their belief in me helped me get that new contract. More Warner books from me, folks!

They’ve given me fun. With who else could I rave on about my obsession with the new Pride & Prejudice movie! My Romance writing friends understand the enriching value of fantasy, how even we happily married adult ladies can fall in love all over again, and laugh about it, and be totally silly.

They’ve opened the world to me. Through this writing life I have made friendships with people from all over the world. Some of my dearest friends are in Australia, including Melissa James who has written Silhouette Intimate Moments and is about to launch Harlequin’s new Tender line. She and I are in nearly daily contact through the wonders of Instant Messaging. My writing for Mills & Boon (as Diane Gaston) has given me friends in England and as far away as Egypt! Through the writing I’ve also traveled - to England twice on Novel Exploration tours geared toward Regency Writers (and which have given me another new set of friends)

I am so grateful to my Romance Writing friends. I wish this New Year’s I could be with them all at midnight, toasting them all with a glass of bubbly champagne. I’ll toast them, I promise, though we can only all be together in spirit. But that is what is so wonderful -- my friends are always with me in spirit.

Here’s to you, my friends!

(for more of Diane's musings on friendship read her Wet Noodle Posse blog, )

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I was really looking forward to my blog post for December - the time of year for wishes of peace on earth, good will toward all. But this year it appears political correctness has become the new Scrooge.

My Fa-la-la-la-la is fading fast.

Poor Santa is even under heavy PC attack!

With Santa's permission, I'm forwarding the correspondence Santa received from the new PC Holiday Coordinator - and Santa's (ahem) reply:



1. Yelling out "Ho, Ho, Ho" in today's society could possibly offend someone's sister, girlfriend, wife, or mother.  Please use "Hee, Hee, Hee" in the future.

2. Rudolph with his nose so bright red has PETA concerned reindeer abuse may be rampant at the North Pole.  Expect a visit from the Humane Society.

3. "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night" is NOT PC!  "All" do not celebrate "Christmas" and hopeless insomniacs never have a good night and are offended by people who do.  Just leave the gifts and go - QUIETLY.

4. Thin people are offended by your weight.  And not-so-thin people hold you responsible for that offensive "fat and jolly" connotation.  Consult your physician about a proper diet - and stop being so dang jolly until you reach your goal weight!

5. All "Christmas" references have been deemed politically INcorrect and holiday songs have been modified accordingly as follows:  "I'm Dreaming of a White Whatever" - "O Whatchacallit Tree" - "We Wish You A Merry Who Cares" - and thanks to a fabulous suggestion from pop music idol Prince/TheArtist we now have  "The Twelve Days of the Holiday formerly known as Christmas."

6. PLEASE NOTE: Santa's Workshop will be closed down immediately by the EEOC unless equal opportunities are made available to non-elf, non-pointy ears, non-pointy shoe wearing employees.

7. Naughty or Nice has been declared irrelevant by the Civil Liberties Union - gift discrimination will not be tolerated!

8. Got milk?  Pour it out and choke down those cookies the best you can.  Vegans are threatening a protest - and CNN plans to broadcast the demonstration LIVE.

9. Your traditional red velvet suit is a "fashion fatality" according to Queer Eye for the Straight Icon.  And body hair is out - the beard has to go!  Carson Kressley will be contacting you for a complete makeover.

10. Donald Trump will expect you in his board room on December 26th to evaluate your implementation of the new PC holiday guidelines.  A WORD OF CAUTION: Just because you're Santa doesn't mean you'll be exempt from those fatal words "You're Fired!"

PC Holiday Coordinator


Are you elfing kidding me?

In the interest of being politically correct, I'll refrain from telling you what you can do with this job!

Ever so Sincerely,

Despite my own fading Fa-la-la, I truly do wish all of you a Happy/Merry (insert your own preference here).

But wouldn't it be wonderful if being politically correct meant respecting ALL holidays, traditions, and beliefs without taking personal offense to those that don't match your own?

Candy Halliday

Friday, December 16, 2005

One of those days . . .

Occasionally, my plot twists get tangled and my characters aren’t cooperative. On those days I may entertain the thought that I should chuck the whole business and go out and get a job. Nothing too strenuous or mind taxing.  Twenty hours a week, Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. would be nice.

When the thought starts sounding too good, before I reach for the classifieds, I pull out my list of reasons I would really rather Not.

Lack of Wardrobe. Once upon a time I had a wardrobe. Oh, I have clothes in the closest.  Several pair of nice slacks and a trio of blazers that I can throw on when necessary. A few dresses suitable for special occasions. I own three pairs of pumps that I haven’t worn in years. Shopping might be fun, but I’m not sure my charge card could stand the strain.

Elderly Car.  My ’96 Grand Prix is in good shape with only 70,000 miles on it. I take it out of the garage twice a week or so for trips to the grocery store, the library, the coffee shop, or the post office. Twice a month I go for breakfast and a gabfest with friends. If I start putting major miles on the car, I’m sure it would protest, maybe quit, and then I’d have to work just to pay for a new car.

Office politics. I’ve worked for terrific bosses. I’ve also worked for those who think they know everything and absolutely refuse to listen to reason and then wonder why a project turned sour and blame everyone but themselves. Enough said.

My Grandsons. I’m listed as the contact on their Emergency Card at school. If they’re sick enough to leave school, I bring them to my house and proceed to fuss, pamper and spoil. They may now be too old to cuddle with in the rocking chair, but they’re still young enough to enjoy curling up on the couch with me to watch a movie. I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

I like writing. I may grumble and gripe and moan and groan over some aspects of the publishing business that I find annoying. Yes, some days sitting in front of the computer is tougher than I would like it to be. No, I can’t think of one single job I would rather be doing.

#1 reason for working at home. As I’m sorting out a tangled twist in TWILIGHT MAGIC, I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt, with a cup of hot coffee and a warm banana walnut muffin, staring out the patio door into my backyard. Temperature is 21 and the snow is coming down in huge flakes, and the wind is blowing that heavy, wet snow around. And I don’t have to go out there.

Wishing you and yours a Blessed, Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy New Year!

Shari Anton

MIDNIGHT MAGIC, Available Now!



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Flaw in the Ointment

The Style section of last Sunday’s NY Times had a front-page article about the “new” hero on television. Using the word “neanderthal” the writer referred to morally flawed or ambiguous characters like “it’s-every-man-for-hisself” Sawyer on “Lost,” or “it’s-for-the-greater-good” Jack Bauer on “24.” The idea, according to a fan of “Lost” quoted in the article, is that “men gotta do what men gotta do, and if some people have to die in the process, so be it.” This, of course, is in direct contrast to less complex heroes of the past, like Magnum, who were always on one side of the moral divide. But in shows like “Lost,” major characters have killed people, and the viewer still identifies them as “good.”

All of this got me thinking about romance heroes and heroines. My first book, LIKE A KNIFE, had a morally ambiguous hero, Nick. He’d sold arms to Libya when our country said it was illegal, and was implicated in the death of a child. In fact, the book was rejected by an editor at Avon for exactly this reason. Angelina, my heroine in DEAD RINGER, is a sexually aggressive woman who supposedly “feeds” off rich, old men. In my upcoming April release, BLACKOUT, the heroine, Margo, sleeps with the hero for the first time not because of any deep emotional attachment, but because the nightmare of her life makes it difficult to sleep, and sex is a good narcotic.

All of these characters find redemption, love, and acceptance by the end of their respective stories, and I ask the reader to see them as “good” people. But in romance, do more conventional characters have greater appeal? Is the fantasy that a romance novel creates more satisfying if the hero or heroine are old-fashioned “good” guys? And if so, is romance “stuck” in an out-dated concept of the world, which gets more complex by the hour?


Annie Solomon

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Christmas Story


My day to post is the 11th and I have no idea where I was mentally when that day came and went. My apologies.

The sad truth is that I'm just one of those people who has overextended her life - as have so many of you - only I handle it badly. Once Thanksgiving hits, I'm in an ever-increasing downward spiral of deadlines, responsibilities and to-do tasks, heading toward the end of the year with no hope of possibly getting it all done. For that reason, instead of enjoying the season, I tend to be somewhat of a Scrooge. I do, however, remember with great fondness, one particular Christmas.

It was years ago, before my third child was born, and my older son and daughter were four and two years old respectively. We were driving from Texas to Missouri to visit my family in Columbia. This was not our first long car trip and being much younger ourselves, my husband and I would usually set out in the late afternoon of the first day and drive all night while the kids slept. (Actually, my husband drove while I did that jello-neck head-bob thing while fighting to stay awake and keep him company. )

Now, if you are an avid hunter, like my husband, or married to an avid hunter, then you'll know that there's a huge Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, MO. In those days, we didn't have a Bass Pros Shop in or close to Houston and so the one in Springfield was the only one we were likely to see. Unfortunately, we were usually passing through Springfield long before the store opened and never had a chance to stop.

On this particular Christmas trip, however, something happened to prevent us from leaving Houston at our usual time and we ended up hitting the road around 3:00 or 4:00 the next morning. By the time we reached Springfield, the sun had set and both kids and adults were beyond tired of riding in the car, so we decided to stop for the night. The added bonus to this decision - and likely the final argument in convincing my husband to spend money on a hotel room - was that the Bass Pro Shop was still open!

With a light snow falling, we arrived at the store. It was in full holiday regalia with bright sparkling lights in the parking lot and on the building, huge candy canes lining the walkways and wreaths hanging on hunting stands. The grills, pits and four-wheelers were adorned in huge red bows and right by the entrance, in a display all his own, was Santa sitting in a sleigh pulled by eight white-tailed bow-and-arrow shooting dummies.

In eager anticipation, we walked into the store. It was like being transported into a wonderland. Music played in the background, the scent of freshly roasted nuts wafted through the air. There was so much to see, we hardly knew where to start. My kids were immediately drawn to the large grizzly bear standing in a display off to the side.

"Is it real?" my son asked, gazing up at the huge creature.

"No, honey. It used to be alive," I explained, "but someone shot it and stuffed it." I worried that this might trouble him, but he seemed to accept it and we moved on. Next we saw a bobcat, perched on top of a dividing wall.

"Is it real?" my son asked again.

"No, honey," I replied. "It used to be alive, but someone shot it and stuffed it."

This became a ritual exchange as we moved through the store, inspecting all the animals on display. Finally, hours later, replete with packages of goodies, we left the store. As we made our way across the parking lot to our car, I felt a tug on my hand.

"What's wrong?" I asked, looking down into my son's troubled face.

He cast a quick glance to the front of the store before looking up at me with big, sad eyes. "Momma...who shot and stuffed Santa?"

Happy Holidays to you all!


Sunday, December 11, 2005

From Sarah McKerrigan...

I have a motto regarding desserts.  If it isn't chocolate, it's not worth the fat.

Of course, there are exceptions.  I can't go to New York City without indulging in a slice of cheesecake.  Every Easter, I make these amazing macaroons that look like little bird's nests with pastel candy eggs.  And what's Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?  (Though the best Thanksgiving pie I ever made was pumpkin-chocolate.)

But if I'm going to spend the calories, I'll take chocolate any day.

Recently, my husband, a lover of exotic, organic, raw food, has discovered chocolate nibs, chocolate in its purest form.  I have to admit, the taste of the roasted bean fragments is rich and complex, sugar- and fat-free, but you have to pick little chunks out of your teeth for hours afterwards, sort of like chewing on coffee beans.

I love a box of chocolates, even though a good half of them are likely to be duds.  I don't care for mixing chocolate with maple sugar or coconut or lemon cream.  But the surprise is half the fun, and if you get a nasty one, it's just an excuse for having another.  On the west coast, See's makes a reliable assortment, and Godiva is a pricier, but tasty choice.  Whitman's or Russell Stover's have probably sat on the shelf a while.  I'm actually quite spoiled, since my best friend lives in Switzerland, and I have access to the best chocolate on earth.  I have to limit her to sending a box of Lindt or Teuscher on Valentine's Day, no more.

Nutella is the nectar of the gods.  And never mind spreading it on bread.  I like to keep the jar in the refrigerator so that when you eat it by the spoonful, it doesn't drip.

But my favorite chocolate treat is homemade chocolate chip cookies.  They're so good that I have to make them only for pot lucks and at Christmas.  Otherwise, my family would look like potbelly pigs.  I don't do anything special, just use the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag, making them with real butter and chopping the walnuts very coarsely.  But I like lumpy cookies, and I always undercook them a little, letting the radiant heat kiss the tops just long enough to leave them chewy.  Sometimes on request, I'll make my special Christmas cookies, halving raw cranberries to add to the dough.

Unfortunately, chocolate didn't exist in Europe in the Middle Ages, which is where my novels are set.  As much as I love chocolate, my heroines can never indulge in its dusky, rich, melt-in-your-mouth, round-on-the-tongue, heavenly essence.  On the other hand, the women in my books always fall in love, which scientists contend creates the same endorphin response as chocolate!

Have happy holidays, everyone, and remember...with chocolate, nibble, don't gobble.

Sarah McKerrigan...

Stories to keep you up all night.
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Friday, December 09, 2005

Everything I ever needed to know about writing I learned from America's Next Top Model

America's Next Top Model has just wrapped up its fifth vapidly engrossing season. Some time during the previous season I realized that Miss Tyra Banks herself was speaking to me through the show. Telling me what I needed to know about being a writer. It may have been because I'd recently switched meds, I honestly don't know. But she spoke to me. She told me to impart her message to other writers, through the metaphor of modeling. And this is what I shall do. I am but a Disciple of Tyra. A D.O.T., if you will. Prepare for your life to be changed forever by this information*.

Eleven Important Lessons about modeling writing from "America's Next Top Model"

  1. Know what you want to achieve and be "fierce" about reaching that goal

  2. You have to believe in your own abilities and be proud of what you've accomplished

  3. You're only as good as your last photoshoot (err...novel)

  4. Have fun with it. A sense of humor will get you far

  5. Be open to creative criticism

  6. Those who work the hardest will eventually be rewarded

  7. Remember that you're always selling something. Keep it up front and center.

  8. Don't get distracted by the hottie male model. He's really just a prop. (well, this one really doesn't apply to writing. Sigh)

  9. Mistakes happen. Roll with it.

  10. Negativity begets negativity

  11. Take responsibility for yourself, because nobody else will

So there you have it. Tyra speaks and the world listens.

*a life changing experience is not guaranteed


Check out my website this month for your chance to WIN A ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Who Needs Enemies When We Have Ourselves?

I have the job of my dreams, and I am still ready to lose my mind. Isn't it weird how we can talk ourselves into craziness?

I spent years working the day job and writing from 4am to 8am every day, plus lunches and nights and weekends. I was so determined to sell and become a published author with a sustaining career. I wrote 18 books in 4 years while working 50-60 hours a week at a draining day job. The stress was incredible and everyday I felt like I couldn't take it one more day, but each day I did it again until I finally reached my dream.

Now, I'm a full time author, and I'm so stressed I'm losing my mind! I have a book due 2/1 that's about 80 pages from being finished (first draft). No problem! Then two weeks ago, I sold two books to HarperCollins (which is awesome and I'm so grateful for the opportuniy, of course!), and the first one is due 1/15. Suddenly I have a whole other book to write in the time I was supposed to write only one!

And now I'm flipping out! I've worked out my calender and I have plenty of time, even if I run into trouble. I even can take Christmas off. My paranormal due 2/1 is in pretty good shape. Everything is going so well, but I'm so stressed that my neck hurts, my head is killing me and I can't even think straight. Why? Becuase I'm worried about missing my deadlines. Ridiculous, I know. I have plenty of time and they are still 5-7 weeks away. But I'm worrying about it anyway. Why am I doing this to myself? Why create stress where there is none? I have no idea.

So I finally left the computer at five o'clock today, hopped on the exercise bike and rode like a madwoman until I was too tired to be stressed. And then my head cleared, and I realized I working myself up into a frenzy for no reason. I had half the stress I used to have, but I had managed to amplify it to fill in the gaps so I could be fully stressed again.

No more.

I refuse to succumb. I will not get worked up about crises that haven't occurred yet. I will enjoy each moment of my day, enjoy the wonder of writing a story, bask in the career I worked so hard to attain.

Stress is everywhere around us, but it's up to us whether we let it get to us. So much easier to say "blow it off" than to actually do it, but the power is within us. It's within me, and I'm going to do it.

Just say "no" to stress! I will not succumb!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Can you tell us about your new book?

MIDNIGHT MAGIC (Warner Forever, December 2005) is the first book in my Magic trilogy. They are the stories of three sisters who find themselves in dire straits during a war in medieval England. What fun! MIDNIGHT MAGIC is Gwendolyn's tale. She's the middle daughter of a baron who gets himself killed, and Alberic, the bastard son of the earl of Chester, to whom King Stephen gives the baron's lands. Gwendolyn is also the guardian of an ancient spell which requires her to marry a man she loves for the spell to work, and that man just can't be Alberic.

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

Being forced to read several books dealing with King Arthur and Merlin (who is the creator of the ancient spell). I've always been interested in any book or movie that explores Arthurian legend. Writing this book gave me a terrific excuse to delve into the research. Not that I need much of an excuse!

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. They were so lovely together in Pirates of the Caribbean that I wouldn't mind at all if they paired up again in MIDNIGHT MAGIC!

What are you working on right now?

Book two of the trilogy - TWILIGHT MAGIC (November 2006). This is the eldest sister's (Emma) story. Her magic is visions. Another utterly fascinating topic to research.

Where do you get your ideas?

I've harvested a few out of history books. A topic will catch my interest and my imagination runs wild. With others I've "seen" a scene, or "heard" a line of dialogue that pesters me until I write something down. Not every idea has developed into a book -- yet :). I have a file folder full of notes and I'm not ready to retire, so one never knows.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Write what excites and intrigues you. If a story has you writing page after page to find out what happens next, it'll likely appeal to someone else, too. The problem is finding that someone else! Perseverance is a necessary quality in this business.

What is your favorite movie of all time?

The Lord of the Rings movies. Okay, that's three movies, but I could watch them back to back (the director's versions) as one movie.

Favorite book?

I have a bookcase full of books that I consider favorites. I will spare everyone a very long list.

Favorite television show?

Current? Law and Order - Criminal Intent
I also have the videos of the entire Cadfael series.

Favorite author?

Dorothy Dunnett. My copies of The Lymond Chronicals are well worn.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

My husband. He really is my best friend and is probably the only person alive who could put up with me. Besides, he's very handy and would know how to build us a shelter that wouldn't fall down!

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

Being a writer came late for me, so I've already done several things for a living. I'd rather not go back to any of them! However, if forced, I would probably go back to Administrative Assistant. I'm rather efficient at keeping other people organized. We won't discuss my own office.

What are a few of your favorite websites?
Google - I use it almost every day.
For research, I love and
The ladies at do a great job with my website and those of other authors.
For business, I have and bookmarked.

Visit Shari's website | Reach Shari by email | Purchase Midnight Magic

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Can you tell us about your new book?

The idea for GOOD GIRLS DON'T (Warner Forever, December 2005) came about when I read a newspaper article about alibi agencies and started pondering what kind of person would work at a place that helps spouses cheat. Then I asked myself what would happen if an alibi consultant ended up lying to a friend. That's when Colette came to life. She explained, "I didn't plan to work here long, only until I got my business going. And I never, ever planned to lie to Bill."

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I enjoyed researching actual alibi agencies, but my favorite part was creating a true friends-to-lovers story, where the good guy from high school grows up...and gets the girl of his dreams, and where the "bad girl" from high school finds that even her wildest dreams can come true...with the "good guy."

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

When I wrote the book, I had actress Charlize Theron in mind for Lettie and U.S. Olympic gymnast Blaine Wilson in mind for Bill. (I'm married to a gymnast, so several of my heroes are modeled after gymnasts.)

What are you working on right now?

Revisions for my next Warner release, Real Women Don't Wear Size 2.

Where do you get your ideas?

Newspaper articles, snippets of conversation, previous work experience, friends, family, life in general, you name it :)

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

The same advice I received from NYT Bestseller Linda Howard: "Don't settle for less than your dream."

Favorite television show?

Seinfeld, hands down.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

My husband, naturally :)

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

I'd love to be an artist. Given that I can't draw stick people, however, I'm betting I'd definitely be in the "starving artist" classification. But if I'm playing "what if" -- an artist, for sure :)

Visit Kelley's website | Reach Kelley by email | Purchase Good Girls Don't

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No, this is NOT normal...unless you're an author

I know, it's only the 29th of November, but my house is already decorated for the holidays. Little antique Santas everywhere, wreath on the door, most of the presents bought and wrapped. I even have George Winston's December on my iPod.

I am soooo ahead of the game this year.

No, this is NOT normal for me (I'm not sure it's normal for anyone). Usually I finish up all the Christmas prep...oh, right around New Years. But this year is different.

I have a book due February 1...and I have only written twelve pages. Twelve. No excuses... I am just a procrastinator.

But by tomorrow or the next day, the time crunch should be sufficently frightening enough to summon my muse. (Pressure seems to be the only language the wench understands.) Then, no coming up for air until the book is finished.

To do this, I will need to be completely ready for the holidays by December 1 at the latest (does anyone know what to buy a 66 year old dad who doesn't golf?)

This "must be ready" rule doesn't apply to the Christmas tree, of course. We're getting that this weekend. There is no substitute for the smell of real Frasier Fir. I don't even mind it when a pine needle punches through my sock and stabs my big toe. The smell of Christmas in the house is worth it.

So, in the spirit of the coming holidays, and since Shelley Bates mentioned it and has set off a wicked craving--I present my quickie recipe for Peppermint Bark.

Crunchy Peppermint Bark (start to finish, about 15 minutes-my kind of recipe!)

Note: White chocolate scorches easily. So, you can be "Martha" and use a double-boiler --or just check the chocolate's progress in your handy-dandy microwave. Guess which I do?)

Yield: Makes just over 2 pounds or one cookie sheet full


2 bags of Nestles white chocolate morsels (I've tried about every brand there is, and Nestles works best)
12 large candy canes
1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil (oil, not extract--find it at craft or baking stores with candy making supplies)
1 Ziplock freezer bag, gallon size

How to:

1. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a pinch, you can use aluminum foil.

2. Take the candy canes out of the wrappers and drop them into the Ziplock bag. (Freezer bags are thicker--but you can double up on a regular zipper bags if you like.)

3. Hand the closed bag to the kids and let them bang it on the kitchen counter until the canes are smashed into 1/4 inch pieces. (No kids around? Roll a wine bottle over the bag a few times. I like to use a good bottle of red --Pinot Noir is my choice--more festive, you know. )

4. Empty the white chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 60 seconds. Microwave strength varies, so watch carefully. Take the bowl out and stir well. Heat it for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If the chocolate isn't melted, continue at 10 second intervals to avoid scorching. (Note: the morsels hold form until you stir, so you can't just look in the bowl to check if they've melted.)

5. Immediately stir the pieces of candy cane and the peppermint oil into the melted chocolate.

6. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly to about thickness of 1/2 inch.

7. Refrigerate until firm, a minimum of 10 minutes. Break into pieces and eat some to check crunchiness (okay, just because you want to). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week.

Want another indulgence? This one is guaranteed to put a fire in your hearth-- "Good Girls Don't" by Kelley St. John.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Dark Night of the Sheetrock

First, a disclaimer: I held out as long as I could. I admit, I feared the blog.

What if I say something stupid? What if my writing is less than...writerly? It's what I do in my day job, so there's an added pressure to blog with excellence. What if one of my asinine remarks floats in cyberspace indefinitely, and fifty years from now it comes back to bite me in the rear?

But then I got over myself and joined in the fun. Somebody crack the champagne.

Lord, I hope I do this right and don't misspell my own name.

I find blogs a wonderful diversion from things I should be doing. Like writing my novel. Which I should be doing right now. I have a stack of edits on my desk, ready to key in and push my draft to the next level.

After a day like today I could use the diversion. While my husband cooks cheddar potato soup for dinner (yes, I know I'm blessed) I'm hiding in my office.

Why, you ask? Because of the brand new hole in my living room ceiling. It's a nice hole, with square edges. But did I mention it's in my ceiling? In the living room? Just in time for the holidays?

It started small, you see. A whisper of a shadow, hardly noticeable. Being type A, I noticed. "It's nothing," my husband assured me. And yet the shadow grew. Evil things, I believe, grow when untended. Especially when they're located underneath the children's bathroom on the second floor.

A plumber came out to battle our dark shadow, and sawed through sheetrock for closer combat. The rectangle birthed a new view into the guts of our plumbing system. Intricate bends and twists carrying unspeakable things to wherever unspeakable things go.

He found nothing wrong. Or, nothing he could fix anyway.

We thanked him, gave him a check and he disappeared into the night. I sat on the kitchen counter looking at the hole.

I cried.

After telling my husband I had one more assignment for today, I crept upstairs and wrote my first blog ever.

You know what? I still have a hole in my ceiling, crumbled sheetrock in my carpet, mysterious plumbing issues and a manuscript in need of edits.

But I feel just a little bit better.

Britta Coleman

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The season of good intentions

When I turned in my last book in October, I congratulated myself on having scheduled my calendar so cleverly that, for the first time in a couple of years, I wouldn't be working to a deadline over the holidays.

I was going to Take a Break. Rest. Do nifty things recommended by creativity books to refill the well. Honorable intentions, right?

Well, we know what happens to good intentions, don't we?

So far I have been laid off by my Big Four employer in Silicon Valley and taken on two new part-time jobs to make up the income. I have cleaned my office--twice. I have cleaned the house and the chicken coop, entertained at Halloween and Thanksgiving, and given to the needy.

Somehow this doesn't sound like refilling the well. In fact, a glance into its murky depths produces nothing--not the glimmer of an idea for a book or hope there will ever be another one.

So ... hubby and I took what Bridget Jones calls a "mini-break." We drove down the coast of California to San Simeon and camped by the ocean in glorious sunny weather. We walked on the beach at sunset. We saw Harry Potter and went to dinner afterward. Now, dinner and a movie is probably normal for most of you, but this is only the second time it's happened in 17 years of marriage. This is a Major Date for us. Woohoo!

I saw Pride & Prejudice (rev 4). My mom came for a week-long visit and we behaved like giddy girls. Hubby brought home peppermint bark (on my top ten list of favorite things to indulge in) and I ate it.

And suddenly the ideas began to bubble to the surface of the well. I had a dream last night that with a little tweaking could become a story. While doing the dishes, I got a flash of an opening scene that packed a lot of punch. My editor sent me an article that sparked a synopsis that sparked a first chapter.

Hoo boy. We're rockin' now. Maybe there's something in this filling-the-well stuff after all. Here's to good intentions!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Late, And Really Bad Excuses

I was supposed to post yesterday and forgot. The 25th of every month is my day and I like remembering, like doing what I've agreed to do.

Thankfully someone else remembered to post. Whew. The 25th didn't slide by forgotten.

So what was I doing yesterday? The leftover Thanksgiving dishes and then leftover Thanksgiving laundry, and then it was time to make a Thanksgiving day after lunch. And that was just until noon. In the afternoon there was Christmas shopping with the boys, and then there were the kids friends coming over, and later a Blockbuster rental of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That's my life. Not very literary, is it?

Truly, I haven't been writing enough, haven't been doing anything enough but being a mom and even then its apparently not enough as I get random emails from parents of kids at my sons' school. They write to tell me that my boys miss me and never see me because I'm always working. Sigh. I'm *not* always working. But I do sit at my computer a lot. I pay my bills online now. Have email. Google searches. Research. I book all my travel online. Do shopping online. And every now and then, I actually open a Word document and write.

I did write today. I wrote all day. I am very proud of myself. I started before nine am and finished after five pm and only took time away to shower, brush teeth, feed kids, settle boys fights, feed them again, and make myself ice coffee. I finished a chapter and wrote half of another chapter and when I returned after dinner to print my days work, I discovered I'd lost a chapter I'd written previously. The whole chapter 2 was gone. Vanished. And I'd never printed out chapter 2. Have no notes, no back up, no hard copy, no soft copy, nothing. Nada.

Okay. I cried. I fumed. I did search on my computer. I looked through all my old notes. Looked for anything to help me rebuild the chapter and its all gone. That's when I went and watched Scooby Doo with my youngest. It was that or cry some more.

Now it's time for bed and I only just remembered that yesterday was my official blog day. At least I remembered before it was absolutely too late. At least I tried to make up for my shortcomings.

And maybe tomorrow morning when I wake I'll discover that the Microsoft Word Fairy visited my house and returned my missing chapter.

And maybe I'll win the lottery.

And maybe I'll just go to bed and wake up and write the @$#%! chapter all over again like a good little writer should.

Jane Porter

Friday, November 25, 2005

A day late and but still thankful.

Yesterday was my turn to blog. It was Thanksgiving. I was doing the family thing and oops, forgot that it was my turn, but here I am, to make amends.

I love Thanksgiving because it is about being grateful. Expressing gratitude for our many, many blessings. It's something we should reflect on every day, not just once a year.

This year besides all my usual blessing, I'm also thankful for my cat.

See on Monday my husband went out to feed the ducks and my cat, Halloween, (Three years ago she shows up on our doorstep as a tiny black kitten, hiding in a pumpkin we had the front porch, the day before Halloween, hence her name) followed after him. She'd normally quite a well behaved kitty. She never ever goes out into the road in front of our house, that unfortunately resembles the busy highway from Pet Semintary (You can see where this is headed right?) But for some reason, this time, while hubby is feeding the ducks, Halloween decides she's going to explore that stretch of asphalt. My husband hears a car horn honk. He turns around in time to see a small compact car slow down, but still hit Halloween.

Black kitty is airborn, catapulted to the other side of the road. Hubby, knowing I will freak, prudently does not tell me what's happened. He goes across the road to retireve her little body, but the weeds are very high and the traffic is fierce and he's forced to give up the search.

Meanwhile I'm calling and calling and calling for Halloween. Hubby finally breaks the bad news. It's back out to the weeds. The grass is thigh high and filled with thorny things (We live in Texas where there's lots of thorny things in the weeds) We search for over an hour and can't find the cat's body. I'm sobbing and barely have the heart to finish the book I have due the next day, but it must be done, so I soilder on. Hubby puts away Halloween's things because I burst into tears every time I see them.

Then yesterday, as I'm running around preparing the Thanksgiving feast, I hear something at the back door. Yep, it's Halloween. Looking skinny, acting skittish but damn if she isn't a alive without a scratch on her.

So this Thanksgiving, besides all my other blessings, I'm grateful to announce that Halloween now has a middle name. Halloween Lazarus. But I have to ask, what is it with this cat and holidays?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sweet, Sweet Gluttony (Some Random Notes on Thanksgiving)

I have accepted the fact that nothing will ever taste as good as my mother's cooking. It might be delicious, but if it's not the way she did it, IT IS WRONG.

When I called my ninety-year-old grandmother to ask if she could give me her recipe for sweet potatoes with the marshmallow melted across the top, because I love the way she makes them and wanted to celebrate her with every sweet, delicious bite, she snorted. At me. "I don't know about any RECIPE," she said. Her tone suggested that even the use of the word "recipe" tagged me as both snooty and useless, and the fact that I thought I NEEDED a recipe? Clearly, I had failed her. "Take a coupla sweet potatoes, mash them up. Then throw some marshmallows on top. No RECIPE required." And then she hung up.

I don't care if you think creamed onions are disgusting. Of course they're disgusting; they're CREAMED ONIONS and are by definition disgusting. I LOVE THEM ANYWAY.

If there isn't a green bean casserole with fried onions on top, it might be a feast, but it's not Thanksgiving. This is non-negotiable.

One Thanksgiving when I was in England (and thus the only celebration in town that year, for obvious reasons) my college friend and I spent about an hour attempting to make said green bean casserole, with little success. My mother swanned off a plane, ignored her jet lag, took immediate control of my kitchen, and sorted out everything else from the turkey to the pie without seeming to break a sweat. The only mediocre dish? The beans, of course, which the two of us managed to ruin. It shames me even now.

Why are pastries universally translated as love with confectioner's sugar?

It is not coincidental that as dark comes sooner and everything gets colder, we have eating holidays. In fact, I usually give up shortly after the Halloween candy coma, and eat straight on through until January 2nd, when I roll myself into the bathroom, get on the scale, and vow that THIS TIME I will get into bikini shape for summer OR DIE TRYING. But January 2nd is some time and many cookies away!

Homemade gravy makes the travel, petty arguments, and longwinded drunken stories well worth it.

Most people I know have already started baking. And then plan to spend most of Thursday morning on the phone with their mothers, getting help and running up their long-distance bills trying to determine when they should baste.

Happy eating, people, if you're celebrating this week.

(And if you're not celebrating Thanksgiving, you could always go and see Pride & Prejudice several more times. I believe yummy Mr. Darcy qualifies as dessert...)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pride & Prejudice...& Obsession by Diane Perkins

I love a good love story. This is probably no shocking revelation coming from a romance novelist, but I really love a good love story. It is the only kind of story I want to read, and certainly the only kind of story I want to write. I also love the Regency time period, the era of stately country houses, ladies dressed in beautiful empire-waisted dresses, men in neckcloths and breeches or bright military uniforms. I have the best of all worlds writing Regency Historical Romance, fantasizing life in that elegant time period, dreaming up yummy heroes and spirited heroines, and then watching them fall in love. What a job!

So when the trailers for the new movie Pride & Prejudice started appearing online and on TV, I knew I'd love it. I loved the Pride & Prejudice television mini-series, after all. And though I could not imagine a better Mr. Darcy than Colin Firth, I was very optimistic about the movie, because it was clear that it would add an element of sensuality to the beloved Jane Austen tale. So I seized upon the opportunity to see the movie as soon as I could.

And, oh, I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful film. It is a wonderful love story! Matthew MacFadyen is a magnificent Darcy. From the moment he first sees Elizabeth Bennett, you can tell he is smitten. He is just so palpably in love, the kind of first love a young man does not know what to do with. And when he declares himself to Lizzie (played to perfection by Keira Knightly), he speaks the beautiful language of Jane Austen with all the passion that could be desired. And, if that were not wonderful enough, all this is set against the beautiful English Landscape. Sigh!

Needless to say, as soon as I got home from the movie, I searched the internet for more information about it. Looked up every photo of Macfadyen that could be found. Two days later I went to see the movie again, and loved it the same. Two days after that I badgered my husband to go see it ("You'll find out what I'm trying to do in my writing," I told him). He loved the movie, too. I have plans with my Regency Romance writing friends to see it again on Tuesday. And I have a contest going with my friend Carol to see which one of us sees the movie the most times. The loser has to treat the winner to another showing of Pride & Prejudice.

This is so much fun! I love being all caught up in a movie like this. It's like being a teenager again. It is like being Lizzie and Darcy, falling in love all over again.


See what I mean?

(Speaking of love, check out my other blog of this date, The Wet Noodle Posse, to see why this is the anniversary of the happiest day of my life)

Diane Perkins aka "The Obsessed"

Friday, November 18, 2005


I had a near-death experience this week when I received the revision letter from my editor for my next book, "YOUR BED OR MINE?." I had opened the e-mail with the subject line: "Revision Letter," hit print, and when the printer info box thingy popped up and said "Printing Page 1 of 4000 pages," I passed out cold.

Seriously. Passed Out. Fell Backwards. Landed flat of my back on the floor in my office.

As I was lying there, hovering between this world and the next, and knowing I preferred death to the revisions awaiting me, a loud voice boomed "WAKE UP CANDY HALLIDAY!"

My revision-weary spirit left my body and moved toward the light.

"God?" I called out. 


It was hunky Ty Pennington with his megaphone to his lips!

The design team was standing beside him, cheering and clapping. Paul gave me a big hug. Paige and Tanya had tears of joy in their eyes. Michael (I adore Michael) leaned over and kissed my cheek.

Ty put a supportive arm around my shoulder and said, "Candy, we know you were hoping you wouldn't receive those revisions until after Thanksgiving. That you really wanted to eat Thanksgiving dinner with your family this year."

"Yes," I sniffed.  "Yes, Ty.  That's so true."

Ty put his megaphone to his lips again and yelled, "DESIGN TEAM, ARE WE READY TO GIVE CANDY'S MANUSCRIPT AN EXTREME MAKEOVER?"

The design team yelled back, "YES, WE ARE!"

Holy megaphony! I wouldn't be spending Thanksgiving alone in front of my computer, after all. My family and I were going to Disneyworld! And when I returned, all I had to do was yell, 'MOVE THAT MOUSE!" and my revised manuscript would pop up on my computer screen, I could print it out, and zip it off over-night mail to my editor!

I really HAD died and gone to Heaven.

Or, had I?

As a test, I opened my eyes to find out.

Crap! No Ty. No design team. No Disneyworld. And worst of all, no extreme makeover for my manuscript. :(

Another voice said, "Is there any particular reason why you're lying in the floor?"

"Yes," I said, turning my head toward my just-got-home husband who was now standing in the doorway to my office. "Revisions suck. Ty Pennington isn't going to give my manuscript an extreme makeover. And we aren't going to Disneyworld."

Should I be concerned he didn't think that was a strange response coming from me?

Eat a big turkey leg for me. :)

Candy Halliday       

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Squirrel Wars

He, or she, is back. I don’t know and don’t care if it’s male or female, but that dang squirrel has got to go!

The squirrel started it. If it would stay out of my birdfeeder I wouldn’t have had to declare war. Granted, it’s winning several battles, but I intend to prevail.

Sure, I could end it all by taking down the feeder but with winter coming on, I’d prefer not to. The feeder is on the deck where I can see it out the patio door, and besides the juncos and sparrows and finches that brave our Wisconsin winter, so do the cardinals and blue jays. The feeder stays.

Naturally, I’ve tried chasing it out whenever I spot it. Every so often it gets sneaky and tries to hide on the other side of the feeder (yes, it’s a Big feeder), but I can spot a flickering squirrel tail from forty feet away. At first, it would respond if I rapped on the patio door. Now it just sits there and looks at me until I actually open the door and go out on the deck. It knows that soon several inches of snow will prevent me from chasing it in my sock-covered feet. Ever see a squirrel with an evil grin?

Did you know that there’s bird food on the market that claims squirrels won’t eat it because it’s coated with something nasty that birds don’t mind? Ha! This squirrel didn’t read the company’s guarantee because the nasty coating didn’t bother it one bit. It just sat there and munched away, keeping the birds from getting into the feeder and driving me crazy.

I even tried to accommodate the beast by getting it a squirrel feeder, filling it with yummy corn kernels (I don’t even make it gnaw the corn off the cob!) delectable sunflower seeds (in the shell, I’m not that desperate yet) and tantalizing peanuts (also in the shell, see above). The little monster loves the peanuts, likes the sunflower seeds, and tosses the corn kernels on the ground. Talk about ungrateful!

My husband has promised to stop at his parents’ home on his way home from work to borrow a live trap. Said fuzzy-tailed nemesis is about to move far, far, far away.

I’ve heard of abandoned dogs finding their way home. A squirrel can’t do the same, can it?

Shari Anton, obviously procrastinating from working on TWILIGHT MAGIC         MIDNIGHT MAGIC, December 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In which Julie natters on about Flaubert, crackers, spiders and the nature of originality

I read a Flaubert quote recently that got me all excited: "Be regular and ordinary in your habits, like a petit bourgeois, so you may be violent and original in your work." Gosh! I thought. How dramatic! What an inspiring ethos! I wonder if it works? And if it does work, is the reverse true? For example, if you're violent and original in your habits, say, does it stand to reason your work will be regular and ordinary?
So to test this little ethos, I did an inventory of my "habits"… and that's when confusion set in. Because, frankly, I don't know whether my habit of eating rye-sesame crackers over my keyboard while I'm writing is "ordinary," but I certainly do it so "regularly" that I just had to pry my "D" key up with a paperclip in order to free a sesame seed that was stuck under there and hindering the "D" key's ability to make "D's." And I certainly rather violently and vainly struck the "D" key a few times before I actually realized something was stuck under there and causing problems, but I'm not sure whacking the "D" key was very original.
In truth, it was kind of hard to test the reverse of this little ethos, because I'm not sure I really have any tendencies that can be remotely construed as violent…for example, last night I herded a spider the size of the first joint of my finger around in my bathtub with a Tupperware container so I could catch it and put it out on the back porch rather than squish it. I squealed the whole time I was doing it, granted, but I did catch it. See? I'm a pacifist.
Is my habit of letting the garbage get as tall as possible before I take it out "ordinary" and "regular?" See how difficult this is? Maybe Flaubert was just full of it.
So I thought I'd look at it from the reverse: are THE RUNAWAY DUKE, TO LOVE A THIEF, and BEAUTY AND THE SPY (out in March 2006—hello book plug! Can you blame me??) violent and original? If so, maybe my habits ARE ordinary and regular. Well, in looking at the three books, we have a little gunplay, some fisticuffs, a bit with a knife, but nothing too terribly violent. As for original…well, it's not like I reinvented the wheel or anything, but I kind of like to think they're all quite original, thank you very much.
So much for my new ethos. It's a nice idea, but I don't think it works that way—in other words, I don't think applying your energy sparingly to one part of your life builds up any sort of artistic reservoir that you can unleash at will. I think people who are compelled to create (whether it's a work of fiction or a painting or what have you) experience and interpret even the mundane elements of their lives in vivid, original ways, even if only in their thoughts, because they simply can't help it. And the seemingly mundane things—brushing your teeth, dropping the kids off at school—often fuel creative work. It's all of a piece.
In other words, I fully intend to keep eating crackers over my keyboard.
Julie Anne Long
March 2006

From Sarah McKerrigan...

From Sarah McKerrigan...
    My family thinks I make "too much of a big deal" over everything.
    My son shakes his head when I tell him I get teary, hearing him play drums for "The Star-Spangled Banner" before high school football games.
    My daughter rolls her eyes when I gush over her two-minute version of "The Daily Show" at her college campus.
    My even-tempered husband says I'm the Queen of Superlatives... best, most fun, saddest, craziest.
    With me, nothing is fine or okay or so-so.  My emotions come in vivid shades of ebony and scarlet, verdigris and eggshell.  Daily events are exhilarating, miserable, adventurous, heart-wrenching, fascinating.
    I realize this may be tiresome to people who would rather float along on an even keel.  Truthfully, sometimes I tire myself out with my wildly fluctuating emotions.  But that's what sleep is for.
    As the years have passed, I've learned to temper the outward exhibition of my feelings.  I no longer burst into tears at the movies.  I don't slam doors.  And I try not to scream on roller coasters (well, okay, once in a while, just for fun).  But that doesn't mean I'm not lit up inside with a rainbow of emotions a good deal of the time.
    I used to think it was a curse, especially in my teen years, when the slightest criticism could make me feel suicidal and having a crush meant such an intense devotion that it would have sent the object of my desire running for cover.
    But now I understand that sensitivity can be a blessing.  I'm a writer.  I need to be intimately in touch with emotions.  I have to be able to remember what it's like to have a broken heart, to feel the comfort of strangers, to be deeply in love, to weep like there's no tomorrow, to laugh with childlike delight.  Even more important, I need to speak for those who cannot remember or who have, because of their own vulnerability, shut down those feelings.
    So I embrace my emotions and let them loose to play upon the page.  My characters giggle and scream and lambaste and roar.  They scowl and smirk and choke on laughter.  Their hearts melt with affection and harden with determination.  Their spirits drown in despair and soar to the heights of ecstasy.
    And when friends and family tell me I'm too "over-the-top," I just grin and nod.
Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night.
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Glamorous Life of a Writer – or – A Day in the Life of Robin T. Popp

- 4:30 am - Alarm goes off, jerking me from a sleep so deep that it takes endless seconds to figure out A) how to shut off the damn noise; B) who I am and why I’m waking up so early and C) how to reset the alarm so it will go off again in two hours to wake my husband.
- 4:35 amDig through closet and try to find something to wear that A) fits, B) doesn’t have to be ironed and C) isn’t the same thing I wore yesterday. Move clothes and (hopefully) matching shoes to bathroom so as not to disturb sleeping husband. Stumble into kitchen and make cup of Stash’s Black Spice Chai Tea – the only beverage in the free world with enough caffeine to wake me up.
- 4:40 amDrink tea.
- 4:45 – 5:15 amDo hair, drink tea, apply make-up, more tea, get dressed, more tea. Finally, put in contacts – which is done successfully thanks to the tea.
- 5:15 amMake sandwich for lunch, grab purse and satchel, get into car and drive.
- 5:15 – 6:00 amDuring commute to office, listen to music, think about what scenes need to be written and sit at stop sign waiting for the light to change. Uh, yeah - well, maybe I should have had two cups of tea.
- 6:00 amArrive at office, thank various deities for my safe arrival as I have no memory of how I got there, go inside and say hello to security guard. Take the stairs to second floor, mentally checking “exercise” off my “to-do” list and walk to desk, located in open cubicle environment. Leave lights off as it’s nicer that way and resist urge to race up and down empty hallway waving arms and screaming at top of my lungs (because I don’t want to overdo the exercise). Dump my purse and satchel on my desk and proceed immediately to coffee maker and start a pot of coffee brewing.
- 6:10 amArmed with pocket pc, wireless keyboard, CD player, headphones and a cup of coffee, retire to private enclave where no one will disturb me.
- 6:10 – 8:00 amListen to music, drink coffee and stare at blank screen. Glance at clock and see time slipping by. Stare at blank screen. Wonder what family is doing at home. Stare at blank screen. Drink coffee. Tentatively start writing even though it’s bound to sound horrible and will need hours of reworking. Stop writing at 8:00 and realize that I have actually managed to kick out 5 whole pages. I have no idea what they say, but at this hour, I don’t care. However, I must be more productive during lunch.
- 8:00 – noonWork at day job, using any down time to think about next scene in book, doing internet search on my name or title of my book to see if there are any new reviews out there, checking sales rank, and reviewing the emails in my four different email accounts.
- Noon – 1:00 pmWith a good eight to ten cups of coffee in me, retire to enclave again with pocket pc, keyboard, CD player, more coffee and a sandwich. Write, write, write.
- 1:00 – 5:00 pm– Return to desk, feeling good about the five to seven pages I actually wrote and didn't just fantasize about. Do day-job.
- 5:00 – 6:00 pmCommute home, which now takes longer because it’s rush hour in Houston.
- 6:00 – 11:00 pmGo to game (three teenagers, all in sports, always a game going on), go to store, go to any fast food joint in town and ask for the "usual", make mental note (again) to start diet tomorrow, eat and spend the rest of the evening convincing children I’m NOT Jeeves – their father is.
- 11:00 pmDrag self to bed and attempt to read a book for pleasure.
- 11:05 pmPut book down because after reading same paragraph four times with eyes closed, it just ain’t happening tonight.
- 11:06 pm – 4:30 amSqueeze 8 hrs recommended sleep into 5 ½ hours.
- 4:30 amRepeat the above.

Robin T. Popp

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Michelle's "Theatre of the Mind"

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress. Not just any actress… a very, very famous movie star. (I mean, why aim low?) But since Ontario is a long way from Hollywood, I used my imagination.

I’d push open the front door to leave the house in the morning.



And walk to school.

If someone would call my name, I’d swing my (what I imagined to be) perfect long hair around and fix them with a movie star smile (braces optional).

I’m sure this all looked way more goofy than it felt.

But, strangely enough. stardom never came knocking on my door.

Then I decided that one day I’d be a writer. A passion which has lasted much longer than the passing fancy of acting. But writing comes with its own…side effects.

She walks into the store and sighs heavily. Long line up. Another long line up. But, after all this time, after all these years, she should be used to it.

Finally, she reaches the front, summons a smile to her weary face and speaks the words which will change her life for the better.

“Large double-double coffee,” she says. “Please.”

The Tim Hortons employee grudgingly goes about making the beverage. She can hear the tapping feet of impatient people behind her.

“That’s a dollar thirty-five,” the cashier says sadly.

No, not sadly. Don’t want to use that word. How does the cashier ask for the money? Grudgingly? No, hate those –ly words. Plus, I already used it in the previous paragraph. Maybe she’s tired. What’s the cashier’s motivation? What does she want?

“That’s a dollar thirty-five,” the cashier says as her gaze travels to the photo she keeps next to the cash register. Little Timmy. The child she had out of wedlock and put up for adoption. Only a few more years and she’d have enough money to find him.

No, wait. This isn’t the cashier’s story. It’s my story. Besides, splitting the point of view like that is bad and distracting to the reader. Also, what a sob story. Please. I write funny. Where’s the funny?

She snatches the coffee off the counter, peels back the lid and takes a generous swig of the ambrosia within. And starts choking.

Must remember not to breathe and drink at the same time, she thinks, as some tan-colored beverage shoots out of her nose and sprays the other customers.

Sometimes it’s fun having the endless inner monologue. Sometimes, not so much. I only wonder if other writers experience the same thing?

She reads her blog entry over, cringing slightly at how lame it sounds compared to Stephanie Rowe’s really cool entry about her socks, then presses the "Publish Post" button.

The End